Speaking of Lists

I find the strangest things sometimes. I’m no Davy Rothbart mind you, just someone with a tendency to stare at the ground.

More often than not I find lists. One of my more recent finds was this scrap of paper next to the library catalog. It instantly made my typed inquiry of “Volvo repair, brake light” seem a bit prosaic. I tried to conjure a picture of the woman who wrote this: respectably edgy, tattooed, pixie-like PDX mama (recent mama) concerned with jump starting Junior’s cerebellum while traveling the globe in dodgy hostels full of “real” people. As the portrait became more and more vivid I realized that this fictitious hipster parent that I was creating said more about my perceptions of Portland than it did about the actual person who might have penned the list. Almost immediately I began to feel a tad arrogant. Portland isn’t just a hotbed of young, Leftist, caucasian urbanites, and only a blatant elitist would state such a thing.*

I turned back to my search for car repair manuals. Naturally, all the Volvo items were checked out.

* A blatant elitist or Dave Hickey, who proclaimed Portland the land where, “the White People won” at a speech he gave here a number of years ago. Every person in the audience was mildly outraged in a socially appropriate manner.


The Art of Efficiency

Everyone I know grapples with efficiency in some way or other. Efficiency is a slippery construct that promises more reward in just about every aspect of life if only we knew how to be more masterful with our time. Now, as many a sage person has pointed out, it is really our perception of time that is the problem, not how we micromanage it. As I cannot profess to being a particularly wise person I’ll just overlook that line of thinking and continue with analyzing efficiency.

It has been my experience that one only considers their efficiency when they are already overwhelmed. This would be an example of inefficiency. Caught up in the panic of potential failure lists are made, priorities set, and sleep minimized in order to realize the unreasonable. But the truly organized person rarely finds themselves in this state; they’ve already made the lists, set the priorities, and consequently enjoy a high level of operation with grace and time for sleep.

I’ve met a good number of people and most of them fall somewhere between hyper-efficient and criminally incapable. While the criminally-incapable are better fodder for scriptwriters in Hollywood I’ve always focused my attention on those rare ubermensch that I encounter. What is it that makes them so productive?

Thus far I’ve only come up with a few observations. The most efficient people tend to display these common behaviors:


“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” quoth Mr. Franklin who was, by all accounts, a powerhouse of productivity. Everyone I’ve ever known with remotely comparable intellectual prowess to Mr. Franklin has risen early and gotten straight to the day’s work. The flip side to that obviously being by 9pm they’re ready to pack it in, making them miserable bar hoppers and lightweights of late night conversation— but I hardly need to state the inherent disconnect between beer-steeped evenings and productive days, right?


Nobody wants to hear this but it’s true— the most productive people tackle the difficult tasks early on in the day when they’re most rested, alert, and capable. Every corpuscle of your being may pull you towards checking your My Space page upon first waking to see who has been at Your Wall, but really, shouldn’t you finish that business plan first and then reward yourself with some mind-numbing internet drivel?


Some people make lists and other write plans. A select few (whom I’ve never encountered) are rumored to keep every aspect of their lives neatly inventoried and prioritized in their head. Chances are you aren’t one of those people. Like other mere mortals you should write what needs to be done down. The simple act of committing your commitment to some tangible form, be it paper or pixels, grants it importance and helps establish what should follow what. Every highly efficient person I’ve met follows this rule in some form or other.

Now some people turn making lists and establishing priorities into yet another monumental chore that has to be done. I’m sorry for them but, if they have to be chores, then do these chores first (see THEY DO THE HARD STUFF FIRST above).


This one will be an affront to all cool, hip, and creative people out there but I’ll type it anyway: the most productive people seem to wear a sort of uniform. They find one outfit that they like wearing, or they find an outfit that will work for nearly any social occasion, and they stick to it. They buy many copies of this get-up and keep them together in one place. Like a chef or hazmat worker, they are all business. No time waisted shopping, browsing Cosmo, puzzling over what to wear, or sorting clothing for the laundry. It’s worked for personalities as disparate as Einstein and Pollack so it may work for you. Head on over to the craft store and purchase fifteen white tees for twenty five dollars to complement your fourteen pairs of pleated khakis—

It’s time to get productive.


Road Trip Proofs

Flickr and I have been strangers for too long. Therefore, I spent the morning culling a few images from my recent jaunt to the Bay Area and offering them up to the masses.

As I was traveling with adolescents I felt it safer to bring my hearty SLR with Lensbaby as opposed to my frail but versatile digital SLR. Such foresight was rewarded when my camera was mispacked atop a mound of duffel bags and fell out of the back of the van before we even left the school driveway. Twenty minutes of personal panic ensued when my shutter failed to work, but eventually I realized that the batteries had been jarred in their housing and needed to be reset.

One of the most amusing things about using only a Lensbaby on a trip is that you are constantly explaining to people why you can’t take a group picture in front of the fountain, forest, waterfall, wild animal, etc. Despite many profound insights into the history of lenses, the artist’s vision, and the ingredients of the sublime I’m inevitably given a frustrated “what’s the point” look that silences any further explanation. I’m not offended. People are welcome to want prosaic group photographs just as I’m welcome to photograph moss and lichen. In the end, who can say which will provide a finer recounting of experience?



After feebly attempting to coerce comments out of you and coming up with so little response you may have believed you’d been party to my leaving the blogosphere for good. No such luck! I have been absent, to be sure, but for many a good reason which I will present in brief:

1. I had to produce nine painted paper-mache Commedia dell’Arte masks.*

2. I was uncovering the mysteries of “layer styles” in Photoshop in order to finish my assignments for the dubiously named Photoshop Expert class I was taking. To date, I would characterize myself as more of a Photoshop user than expert.

3. I was planning a graduation ceremony.

4. For nine days I was part of a class road trip in which I guided eight adolescents down the state of Oregon and into the Bay Area.

5. I only just returned from a three-day teacher retreat on the Salmon River.

6. I was finishing a web site for a client that had to go live before any other computer-related activities could take place (such as writing this for you to read).

My hope is that these will all serve as adequate excuses for my absence. I wouldn’t want to set a bad example and have you decide to disappear for the next few months. After all, this summer has big things in store for me and mine— it would be a shame for you to miss out.

* With the help of family and friends who were guilted into service by a desperate and sniveling moi.