October 10th, 2008


Geek help wanted (non-technical!)

Various posts on my flist where people are summarizing their experiences of Yom Kippur. For my part, it was generally a positive day.

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It's become clear to me, partly because people were good enough to point it out directly, that a lot of where I've let people down this year is in not answering emails. I several close friends with whom my main interaction is by email, and quite a few other long distance contacts I'd like to keep in my life, and I am letting connections slip because I don't get round to writing the emails I intend to. Not to mention that it offends people, and may well annoy them if the emails contain practical details that need sorting out. I'm also bad at keeping up with the answering emails part of upholding my various responsibilities.

For one thing, if you're in the category of people I promised to write to and then fell down on it, I'm sincerely sorry. But a lot of the point of YK is that regret isn't enough, you have to do some fixing. So what I'm asking for is advice on how to manage emails sensibly. I've seen various methods and websites recommended; does anyone have any personal experience of methods that work? It's partly an aspect of the larger question of how I manage my time, which is a major, major problem for me. Still, do you have any suggestions for making sure to get to emails in a timely fashion? I've tried setting aside time, which I don't seem to be able to keep up, I've tried some methods of sorting emails and making to-do lists and such, but I haven't found anything that really works for me.

Another YK thing is giving to charity. I've donated to Kiva, which coordinates microloans to people in developing countries. This is the kind of charity that really appeals to me, partly because it's very individualized and grass roots, and partly because it's helping people to set up businesses and become independent, rather than dropping gifts of emergency aid on them, which can be harmful in the long term. But I tend to give very haphazardly; I see that YK is coming up, or think, oh, I haven't given anything to charity for a while. Do any of you have any good systems for making sure that you give a reasonable amount to charity (what constitutes a reasonable amount?) on a regular, systematic basis? If you'd like to recommend favourite charities, I'd be happy to hear about them too. And ideally I want to contribute effort as well as cash, which means something local, and I'm not sure how best to do that. Well, that's partly cos I am an expat and I don't know how things work here, but partly it's cos I just haven't got organized.

Thirdly, and connected to consumerism and not at all to religious stuff, my Beau is helping me acquire a new shiny eee. I have been hesitating whether I want a tiny baby computer, or a dedicated ebook reader, (or indeed a decent digital camera). I decided that the most useful geek toy would be the tiny computer, especially when I found a 701 (low spec but decent battery life) on ebuyer for less than £150. It's slightly scary that this computer is cheaper in absolute numbers than the BBC Micro we had when I was a kid, and indeed cheaper than quite a lot of cutting edge mobile phones. Anyway, it needs a name; my naming scheme so far has been G&S references (the two most recent computers I've owned were called Silver Churn and Sally Lunn), so does anyone have any good suggestions? I'm absolutely blanking on anything from G&S that refers to smallness, but I'm sure there must be something. Preferably with the same beat as the previous names, cos I'm anal like that.