Month: November 2007

Friday tidbits

I haven’t felt the need to post weekly reviews. Things are going well. So here’s a random mix of tidbits.

Photo of Steve’s friend fly-fishing on the American river this past weekend:

Fly-fishing photo

Soil Interactions LaboratoryOne of the sites I worked on this year was for Jason DeJong’s research group at UC Davis where they “solve soil interaction problems” at Jason picked one of my web templates to start with, then provided the content for me to initially build the site. I then took him through a day of intense Dreamweaver training so that he could learn how to update the content himself with minimal guidance from me. An exciting moment came recently when part of Jason’s research was featured in Time Magazine as one of the Best Inventions of 2007! And also exciting to me, Jason ventured forth to use Dreamweaver to clean up the content on the site and add a note about the Time Magazine mention on the home page himself. I was so proud.

Of course I have to post another photo of Nutmeg sleeping. She was actually partially reclining on a puffed-up pile of blankets which made her look like a floppy-head baby in a carseat.

Nutmeg sleeping.

One of my goals this month has been to keep consistent track of my pregnancy weight. During the first trimester, I gained a normal/healthy amount of 4 lbs. Last month, I gained a normal/healthy amount of 1 lb. per week, putting me up another 4.5 lbs.

Now that I’m actually keeping daily track of my weight, it’s only natural that my weight gain would go weird! At least it gives me something to talk to the doctor about when she asks if I have any questions.

  • Week 1 (of this month): Gained 4 lbs.
  • Week 2: Gained 0 lbs.
  • 5 days into week 3: Gained 2 lbs.

It could be partially a growth spurt and partially becoming more lax about how many starches I’m eating throughout the day. Time to tighten up the latter!

That’s all for today… have a great weekend!

The 4 Hour Workweek: Wrapup

Through my other eight posts about The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, I’ve only covered about half the book.

The rest of the book talks about various topics for getting down to a “four hour workweek:”

  • Chapter 8: Becoming comfortable with outsourcing – whether parts of projects or even as a personal assistant. Each task that you delegate should be time-consuming (so that you don’t want to spend the time doing it) and well-defined (so that language barriers don’t get in the way.
  • Chapters 9, 10, and 11: Creating an income machine – Creating revenue streams that bring income even when you’re not “working.” The chapters guide you through the steps of picking a market and product, testing your market, and setting up a structure where you can be involved as little as possible using two side-by-side scenarios as examples.
  • Chapters 12 and 13: Working offsite and considering quitting or changing your job – Working remotely allows you to have the freedom to travel or do other things “while working,” and Tim gives some very specific tips and strategies for how to approach an employer.
  • Chapter 14: How to take mini-retirements – Why wait until you’re 65 to travel or experience the things you want to experience, learn the things you want to learn? If you like to travel, Tim challenges one to relocate for 1-6 months at a time to fully experience it and shows that it’s not as expensive as you think.
  • Chapter 15: Getting past boredom – Now that you have all this extra time, what do you do with it? Tim suggests that most people find it necessary to learn and serve, otherwise they experience depression because of a lack of purpose.
  • Chapter 16: A short summary of top mistakes made by people who are trying to do everything in this book.
  • The last chapter: Inspirational poem.

If any of these topics sound interesting to you, I’d recommend actually reading the book to find out more!

But this is where the train ends for me. I’m currently not interested in putting in the time to build an “income-making machine” and almost fully separating “work” from “income.” I’m wanting to put more roots down (e.g., starting a family, trying to buy a house in our town) instead of relocating to different places for months at a time. I guess this means that for now, I’m not joining the ranks of the “New Rich,” as Tim Ferriss calls them.

I’m still working through ideas of what “work” is and its place in my life. Tim’s book challenges my ingrained culture and work ethic, showing that time does not necessarily equal money and forcing me to look at whether or not my time is actually being spent on what I value, or if I’m just spinning my wheels. One of the ideas underlying this book seems to be that “work” has no value in itself — it’s something that should be minimized so that you can do what you really want to do. I wonder if the average person who reads this book (and does something with it) hates their career, job, or employer, and is looking for a way out. However, I find my current line of work to be interesting and fulfilling (and it helps that I’m my own employer). I’m not sure that I’d find running an income-making machine-type company to be as fulfilling (although I guess I won’t really know until I find out).

Even if you’re in a similar place as I am, with no real intention of changing your current job or career or overall lifestyle, I think there is a lot of valuable material in the book that can help you to free up time formerly spent on non-essentials.

(If you’ve read the book and have thoughts about “the role of work,” or if you have any other comments or thoughts, please share below in the comments!)

This is my ninth full post with thoughts about The 4 Hour Workweek. View other posts related to The 4 Hour Workweek.

The 4 Hour Workweek: More efficient communication

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning from The 4 Hour Workweek is how to cut down on the volume of email by limiting back-and-forth situations. Here are just a few tips that I’ve come up with:

  • Offer specific choices.
    • Setting up an essential meeting: Instead of “what works for you,” ask “would 1 pm, 2 pm, or 3 pm work best for you?”
    • Obtaining client feedback: Instead of “what do you think about the navigation,” provide two options and ask “do you like the bulleted version or the box version better? If neither, can you provide a link to a site where you like their navigation?”
  • Use numbered lists. If asking a series of specific questions, break them up into a numbered list of questions. This also makes it easier for them to respond to you.
  • Set specific deadlines. Instead of “please send me the content,” use “please send me the content by Friday. If this is not possible, please let me know when you can send it to me. Thanks in advance!”
  • Don’t procrastinate. I’m guilty of sometimes sending back an email just to avoid performing any action by throwing the ball back into their court. To combat this, here’s my new motto: “Don’t be lazy.”

Please feel free to contribute more tips in the comments!

This is my eighth full post with thoughts about The 4 Hour Workweek. View other posts related to The 4 Hour Workweek.

Simplifying my life: Activities and Hobbies

One of the books I’ve been reading is The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James, chock full of applicable simplicity goodness. (It is actually three books in one volume.)

One specific way this book has affected my life is in the area of activities and hobbies. Elaine talks about the human tendency to pick up new activities and hobbies — and all the associated gear — just because we have the opportunity. But each new activity and hobby we add means that we 1) have more stuff and 2) have less time to fully enjoy the other things we have going on. This definitely hit home for Steve and I! Between the two of us, we have 20 separate activities/hobbies that we have “gear” for and spend time on or have talked about wanting to do at some point in the future. Here is the full list in order of “expensiveness,” and I’ve starred the ones that we’ve actually done in the past year.

  • Together:
    • Rollerblading* – up-front gear cost already paid.
    • Swimming laps – up-front gear cost already paid.
    • Cycling – up-front gear cost already paid; low maintenance costs.
    • Hiking – paying for gas, mostly, and shoes once in a while.
    • Triathlons – with free triathlons (where we volunteer in order to participate in future events), mostly paying for gas.
    • Backpacking/camping* – paying for gas and food, up-front gear costs already paid.
    • Exercising at the gym* – yearly or monthly fee
    • Stained glass (someday) – have some gear but would have to purchase more, then ongoing glass costs
    • Traveling* – paying for food, entertainment, and transportation
  • Just Steve:
    • Basketball* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
    • Fishing* – fishing license ($60), gear is currently borrowed, occasional purchase of hooks, etc., paying for gas
    • Baseball* – pay annual fee for league (about $300?), already paid for up-front gear costs, possibly some maintenance costs
    • Guitar* – paying regularly for lessons ($120/month)
  • Just me:
    • Reading* – library is free!
    • Drawing – very occasional purchase of gear
    • Cooking* – occasional purchase of gear, but food is in grocery costs anyway
    • Running* – shoes once a year ($60-$100)
    • Crafts (making cards, shadow boxes)* – purchase of materials
    • Photography (taking a class, etc., someday) – cost of class plus additional equipment
    • Harp* – expensive harp purchase ($5000-$10,000), lessons ($100/month)

This list does not include the activities that we currently do for paid work — computer/design stuff for me, carpentry stuff for Steve, both of which have their own significant expenses as well for gear.

Anyway, I brought up the idea of simplifying our activities with Steve, we made the above list, then we started crossing things off. (Italics indicate things we would like to do in a few years.)

  • Together:
    • Rollerblading – can do this post-baby.
    • Swimming – we are knocking this out along with triathlons.
    • Cycling – ditto. Steve no longer has a “buddy” to cycle with, and I enjoy running more.
    • Hiking – can do this post-baby.
    • Triathlons – very unlikely that we could continue this. It was fun while we did it, but it would be difficult with kids to find the time to train together and participate in triathlons. (We could do it separately, but we’d rather spend that time together.)
    • Backpacking/camping – would like to do this as a family, but probably not backpacking until the kids are older.
    • Exercising at the gym – not sure about this one. We have a membership for several more months and will decide later if we want to continue or not.
    • Stained glass – would like to do this someday, but most likely not until we have our own home.
    • Traveling – not affordable for now.
  • Just Steve:
    • Basketball
    • Fishing – Won’t continue after this season is over; Steve is borrowing people’s gear for now, and it’s quite a time commitment — every Saturday morning during salmon season.
    • Baseball – Steve would like to continue this next year as he feels his “youth” is limited and he won’t be able to play competitive baseball for much longer. We have to talk about the cost and the feasibility of him playing while having a new baby!
    • Guitar – would like to take lessons again, but we have to work out the money/timing.
  • Just me:
    • Reading
    • Drawing – I’ll probably still “draw” occasionally, but I’m releasing myself from the expectation of wanting to do it regularly.
    • Cooking
    • Running – will pick this back up post-baby.
    • Crafts – similar to drawing — I can’t help but keep doing stuff, but I’m going to only buy what I need for an actual project (instead of buying stuff because “I might use it”) and release myself from the expectation of doing things regularly.
    • Photography – OK, I don’t need to be an expert in everything. There are other things I’d rather do besides becoming a professional-level photographer!
    • Harp – Someday! We’re slowly saving up money, and I figure I won’t have time for regular practice/lessons with a baby. When I actually have the money for a harp, I’ll figure out how to get lessons for myself.

I’m hoping that releasing ourselves from the expectation of “doing everything well” will allow us to really enjoy the things that we limit ourselves to. Making this list will also, I hope, keep us from jumping into new hobbies and activities as readily as we have in the past!

My next task is to post our bikes, bike gear, and my camera on Craigslist and see what takers we find…

Catching up from the weekend…

We had a great extended holiday weekend this year, spending time with lots of friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving. On the homefront, Steve and I rearranged our room to make a bit more room for the baby and also finally put together our free cylindrical composting “bin” that we got from the city which completes my Blog Action Day environmental action items. We had a fun time on Friday night chopping up all of the decorative pumpkins and gourds outside, me with a chef’s knife and Steve with a big cleaver, to mix in with the dead leaves in the compost bin. Squash guts and pieces were flying all over the place. We also picked out a Christmas tree with our housemates and decorated this weekend, including using some of the tree trimmings to decorate the mantle. This weekend felt like a refreshing mini-at-home vacation; delicious foods, satisfying interactions with everyone, lots of time to spend with each other, and zero time doing web work.

And now it’s back to work! I’ve designated today as a “catch-up” day, knowing that I’m not going to get much forward progress on projects done in the midst of catching up with email, processing my inbox, figuring out where the $65 difference came from in my finance accountings, reviewing spam comments, and cleaning up. But the rest of the week will be back to normal, so you can expect more posts on The 4 Hour Workweek, the books I’m reading, and maybe some pictures from my latest mass download from the camera.

Happy Monday!

Gratitude journal

Mike asked me for details about my gratitude journal

Mine is really quite simple… so simple that I’m a little embarrassed to be turning this into a blog post! But it seems appropriate as I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow…

I have a nice leather journal (that I use for jotting down other thoughts, things I’ve learned, etc.), but any notebook or piece of paper or digital file will do.

Each day, I write the date, then write down a list of five things that I’m truly grateful for. It takes about five minutes to do.

The more specific, the better, although once in a while things like “my health” or “my friends” will creep into my list.

Usually my list involves many things from the previous day that I’m thankful for, but sometimes a couple items are things I’m thankful for in general; “the best hubby ever” and “Nutmeg the very cute cat” are ones that frequently turn up on my lists.

There are some days when I really don’t feel very grateful about much. In that case, I don’t force myself to write down five things, but I write down what I can. Usually, however, I’m able to find five things that I’m truly thankful for!

My religious faith allows me to take this one step further. After writing down my five things, I pray a quick prayer of gratitude. This segues quite nicely into a daily time of prayer.

I’ve used the gratitude journal tool on and off for the past several years. When I’ve stopped, it’s because I’ve found myself treating this as routine — just writing down five things because “that’s what I do” but not taking any time to really savor each thing I write down and to feel grateful for them. I prefer to physically write the items down in my journal, instead of typing them, because it forces me to slow down at least slightly and think more about what I’m writing.

Here are a few recent entries from my own journal:


  1. Didn’t sneeze much yesterday (I sneezed pretty much non-stop on 11/17)
  2. Felt “fed” at church
  3. Time I got to spend with Steve
  4. Made homemade bread successfully
  5. Watched Ratatouille


  1. Good time talking with Steve yesterday
  2. Went to gym, finally!!
  3. Good work day
  4. Got Christmas newsletter almost done
  5. Chatted with Jenni for a little bit


  1. Got to hang out with Lucy
  2. Had lunch with Steve
  3. Got lots of exercise
  4. Yummy dinner — brussels sprouts cut from the stalk, chicken, rice
  5. Good night of sleep (I was especially thankful for this because I had woken up at 2:30 am the night before and couldn’t get back to sleep)

I’m definitely curious to see how this impacts your overall level of positivity, Mike, as well as anyone else who has been trying this!

(I thought this would be a super-short post. “Write down five things you are thankful for.” But as I’ve said before, I can be wordy…)

Frugal heating system

Our house is older, not well insulated, and has big windows. We haven’t turned on the heat yet, so it’s quite cold in the mornings and evenings. As I work, I usually have a big mug of hot tea to help warm me up. But hot tea only stays hot for a limited time, and I can only drink so much of it!

We do have a space heater, and although I haven’t worked out the numbers, I think that running it all morning, every day, would defeat the frugalness of having the house heater off in the first place.

Yesterday, I filled a gallon-sized ziplock bag half-full of white rice (I get rice in large quantities so it’s pretty cheap) and microwaved it for two minutes. Then I sat with it in my lap. Ahhhhh.

The rice was so hot, I had to move it around. It became a nice soothing back pillow for a little while.

I was warm for the rest of the morning.

Reading: Born on a Blue Day

I read through several back issues of Pregnancy and FitPregnancy magazines that friends had given me, so that took up the bulk of my reading time this week.

Finished reading:

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet – I vaguely remember flipping through a random book at Borders about synesthesia, a neurological condition where one sense is connected to another sense (okay – wikipedia says it much better: “a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway”). Daniel Tammet, in his memoir, allows us to enter his experience as someone with Asperger’s syndrome who because of his synesthesia is also a mathematical savant. Daniel describes his childhood and growing-up in a quiet, precise manner, and his story is inspirational because of how he learned to function and eventually exceed all expectations in his personal and professional life (one example: Daniel holds the European record for memorizing pi to over 22,500 digits).

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • The Simplicity Reader by Elaine St. James
  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • Who Lies Here? by Ellis Peters
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
  • So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamero

Weekly Update: Internet-less

I’m taking tomorrow off for a family event so this is a short week. It’s also been a week without internet at home, so I’ve been working at coffee shops and in the office for a few hours in the late mornings and trying to do work offline at home in the early mornings and afternoons. (Apparently our cable line got cut through by the neighbors, so our cable internet is down for at least this week and maybe more.)

This has actually been a good opportunity to try to use the Tim Ferriss method of only checking email at limited times! Unfortunately it’s been hard to cram all my online work into a couple of hours so I’ve been suffering in other work-related areas.

As is typical with the week immediately following Groundhog Day Resolution review day, I’ve gotten off to a great start; exercising (defined loosely — biking/walking to the coffee shop has counted!), eating a healthy lunch, keeping my gratitude journal, weighing myself, and having morning devotional time has all happened for four days in a row. 🙂

Thanks to comment-makers: Angela Yee, Holly, Penny, Gilda, Melissa, Katy, and Kate Davis.

Nutmeg sleeps.

Somehow I ended up with a bunch of photos of Nutmeg sleeping in my last camera download…

My favorite way to find Nutmeg: with her paws curled over her face.

Nutmeg sleeping.

Steve folded the blanket over Nutmeg, and she kept sleeping.

Nutmeg sleeping under the covers.

Nutmeg sleeping.

We had pushed all the covers down to the foot of the bed, and Nutmeg climbed on top and curled up in the pile of blankets.

Nutmeg sleeping