Moleskine full – what to do? Make a Gridster PDA

I’ve been using a Moleskine pocket notebook for the past few months. I got it after reading Getting Things Done, which inspired me to externalize and persist the ideas, goals, todos, etc out of my head and onto paper.

I had been using a Palm for quite a while. When I was in sales, the original Palm Professional was really important to keep me reminded of all the appointments my sales guy and I had (I was an SE), all the people I had to contact, etc.

But over the years, I realized that it was pretty hard to enter information quickly into the Palm. The last straw however was when Graffiti was changed and many of the single-stroke characters I was used to became two stroke. So I’ve been steadily entering more and more things onto paper, but never systematically and I had been using large form factors, which made my notebooks not too portable (except while at the office). And if your notebook isn’t portable, you’re going to lose thoughts.

Enter the Moleskine, which is great. The only problem: they only have 192 pages. And I took 59 pages of notes at WWDC 2005, leaving me with one blank page. So my Moleskine is effectively full!

What to do now?

Well, I remember having read about this invention called a Hipster PDA. When I first saw it, I chuckled. But after talking to Ryan, I realized that I had been under utilizing index cards. Index cards have a nice property that they can be filed in a card box, are relatively inexpensive, widely available, and can be spread out spatially to say see what many of your thoughts / sketches at once. So during a recent trip to Staples, I picked up a big pack of regular index cards, some grid index cards, and some binder clips. And I assembled my first Hipster PDA, made of index cards. However, I found that the ones with the grid pattern were much better, since you can write vertically quite easily and it gives me some guidelines for doing 2D sketches of UIs, workflows, etc. I like to visualize things.

I actually put together the Grid-based Hipster PDA (maybe it should be called a Gridster PDA) before WWDC just to try it out. I did find it better for sketching. And I found that I wrote more and sketched more. The reason is because the Moleskine is so svelte and swanky, you start to think before you write or sketch: “Is it Moleskine-worthy?” And I think this is a bad thing… You don’t want anything to come between your thoughts and persistence, because thoughts can be quite fleeting. But index cards are so cheap, even the grid-based ones, that you don’t mind messing up and throwing it away (optionally tearing it apart), but you would never think about tearing out a page from a Moleskine.

Epilogue: At the WWDC Blogger Dinner, I met the incomparable Merlin Mann, the one who started off my journey into GTD, who blogs 43Folders. I showed him my Gridster and mentioned that I liked the grid cards. He pulled out his and voila, he had a Hipster with grids too! He mentioned that he liked writing on the white side, with faint blue grids to guide him. I like to write on the grid side myself.

Does your wrist hurt? Try using a Pil-O-Splint

I’ve got a bit of wrist tendinitis. I think it is somehow related to my compulsive computing. Also I’m a touch typer and like to type really fast, especially when I’m in the zone (usually with headphones on and iTunes keeping the beat) with design and code flowing out of my head, onto the keyboard, and into an IDE.

I went to one doctor and she thought that there was nothing wrong with me. And that unless my wrist was getting a bit bent out of shape while I was sleeping, then there was nothing she could do. Well I didn’t know if that was happening, so I didn’t get anything.

So the problem continues and I go to another doctor. This guy understands me and is the closest to being a General Practitioner for me (though I think he is officially an Internal Medicine specialist). He determines that yes, I do have some tendinitis and I should probably get a wrist splint when I sleep at night. However, he recommends using a rollerblading wrist guard. This was a step forward, but pretty uncomfortable. I tried some other ones and they were also uncomfortable.

Then I ran across the Smart Glove and the Pil-O-Splint by IMAK. They’re both designed by an orthopedic surgeon, meaning that the guy knows about wrists. The Smart Glove is good for helping me type during the day. I use it occasionally, when my wrist really acts up.

However, I still use the Pil-O-Splint every night. It’s like a special pillow for your wrist. It keeps your wrist mostly immobilized and allows it to heal overnight. I don’t type in my sleep (haven’t figured out how to do that yet), so restricted movement is no big deal. The only thing I’ve had to learn how to do is to adjust my blanket and pillow with my left hand, since my right wrist is the one that is weaker for me, probably because I’m right handed and use the mouse with that hand as well.

I actually forgot my Pil-O-Splint at my hotel at WWDC 2005, so I had to decide recently whether or not to buy one. Well I tried to without it for a few days, but noticed my wrist was getting bent uncomfortable while sleeping and was sore. So I ordered it yesterday from Amazon for almost half price of what I originally paid for it (retail from the manufacturer’s site). I paid for ground, but amazingly, it arrived this morning USPS Priority! Thanks Amazon for reading my mind. Now it’s off to rest my wrist in my brand new Pil-O-Splint…

How to find out what you like to do

When I was in 5th grade, I took a test in school that would tell me what career I would be best suited for. My top two results were Radio DJ and Engineer. I’ve never been a DJ, but I do like music. I don’t consider myself an engineer, but a programmer. I guess that was close enough. In retrospect that seems like a strange way to do this, especially when you’re so young. What if my top two results were Janitor and Astronaut?

I think I’ve stumbled upon a good way to find out what you like to do, much better than some multiple choice test that is based off of some statistical sampling (even though that sounds good in theory.)

What’s this way? Three words:

Go on vacation.

You can look at how someone spends his free time and figure out from there what he likes. However, people’s schedules can be filled to the brim with activities that there isn’t much free time left over. So the observations can be skewed.

However, when you go on vacation, you basically take all this free time and package it together into one nice big chunk. You also free yourself up from some of the daily chores that were taking up some of your valuable free time (like feeding the dog or doing laundry.) In essence, you are doing what you would do if you “won a million dollars.” Well, except you’ve got a limited budget and you only get to do it for a week or two at a time (at least in the US; Europeans are probably chuckling right now.)

So next time you’re on vacation, take along a little notebook and write down what you’ve done each day at the end of the day. You may be surprised at what you actually like to do.

Me? Well, I’m writing this blog entry from vacation, so I obviously like doing that, along with reading blogs. I’ve been spending time with my wife, playing with my kids, seeing some sights, and taking pictures. I think those are universal. What’s different is that I also like designing and writing software… on vacation. I’m not working on work stuff, but rather on apps that satisfy my personal needs (and hopefully others as well). Along the way I’m learning new frameworks and techniques that I’ve been interested in like Core Data and Cocoa Bindings. I also like reading books (currently about Cocoa and about business.) And for some reason, I like to watch the NBA Playoffs.

Nerds don’t have to be unpopular

Graham lent me this great book Hackers and Painters which I just finished reading. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to program. Or if you want to understand how programmers think. It is interesting that Paul Graham chose to use the word “Hacker”, which has bad connotations nowadays, but back in the old days it meant that you were a great programmer. The kind of programmer they describe in Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (another classic book on programmers) that programs 10x the average programmer. Also known as GrandMasterProgrammer.

The first chapter was completely unexpected. This book is published by O’Reilly and it is one of those ones without an animal on the cover, which means folks are writing about stuff at a high level. But this was unlike any chapter of any O’Reilly book I’ve ever read. It was titled “Why Nerds are Unpopular.” In it, he describes the typical experience of nerds in the US: they’re unpopular, they get picked on and have a generally miserable experience in high school.

But I don’t think it has to be that way.
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Nice graphic on the cycle of blogging

I blog. I read blogs. I upload my blog posts from my PowerBook to a TypePad server via MarsEdit. I retrieve blog feeds from various web servers via NetNewsWire.

Here’s a great graphic that shows this cycle of blogging [via Ranchero]. It is from a presentation that Pat Chanezon is going to give at JavaOne about syndication.

By the way: I highly recommend using a dedicated blogging client for writing blog entries. Yes, it is nice to be able to author blog posts in a browser, but my friends and I have experienced the “Back Button of Death” that effectively kills your post. I highly recommend MarsEdit on OS X. On Windows, I’ve heard ecto is good. For Linux users, I highly recommend vi. ;)

Tips for giving blood

I like to give blood. Its a great way to help other people. I highly recommend it.

It always seems like there is always a shortage of blood, which I’m guessing is because only 5% of the population actually donates. And there are people who need blood all the time due to accidents, surgeries, etc.

Since I’ve given quite a few times now, here are some tips to make your blood donation experience better:

1. Eat a lot before you donate.
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