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Conserving Willpower

A little time management goes a long way.

At this particular moment, 90% of my projects are waiting on somebody else. Maybe it's a decision, or some data, or something I just can't do, but the work is idled just the same.  It would be easy to feel frustrated, but it's really an opportunity for gratitude.

First, I'm grateful that I can actually know where my work stands. The whiteboard in my workroom has a brief list of priorities, down the right side. All I have to do is look, and I remember the current status of that project.

Second, I'm working my priorities. Every day starts with me trying to move #1 forward. Every phone call or e-mail has me checking the list to see if I should switch to a higher level project.

Third, my willpower reserves are "pressed down and overflowing." Since my brain isn't in spin mode, trying to figure out what's next, my head is clear, and I don't have that feeling of an unknown task in an unknown state looking ove…
Recent posts

Summer Vacation

I took the summer off. Not sure exactly why, except that I couldn't find the perfect gusset.

That might be the strangest summer vacation story I ever heard, and I haven't even told it yet. But bear with me.

In case you didn't know, the gusset is the strip of material that gives a bag width. See Google for more on this. Making a really nice bag means sewing around the curve in three dimensions. That's hard to do, so most videos today demonstrate box corners, which make the bag round with a kind of rectangular bottom.

Box corners are weird to me for several reasons. First, you get these floating, short seams at the bottom. Second, these short seams are hard to sew straight and even, so they often look seriously homemade. Third, the top and bottom of the bag aren't the same shape, so there's some difference in how the bag feels – and carries – from bottom to top.

But mainly, I don't like it because it feels like a cheat. I know some people like these kind of b…

not goals

Sometimes, when you get sleepy early, it isn't because you're really tired, but because your brain needs the bandwidth to figure something out. 
Last night was one of those nights.

Yesterday, I was contemplating the difference between modern achievement theory and modern medicine. It wasn't an odd thing, because in my day job, I am in medicine, work for a medical services company, and maintain an internal wiki to educate people who support caregivers.
This morning at 2:30 AM, I woke up with a couple of epiphanies; thought I might share them here.
Goals are Broken When trying to achieve things, we set goals; then we measure deficiencies and set deadlines for changing those deficiencies into adequacies. If I make it sound dull and unexciting, that's because it is. It's a lot of work, and 100% of the time, when we're working toward goals, we are inadequate by our own measures.
One modern not-a-guru describes it this way: "A plane is off course 100% of the time! But…

getting good

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on deep work and how it applies to my sewing. After a busy season of stuff, and some random blog posts, it's time to commit.

I'd mentioned my hunger for a good Every Day Carry (EDC) bag, one that will keep everything with me. It was a rational response to caring for a terminally-ill sibling when I was growing up. My passion for self-contained organization followed the skills that developed from that difficult time. All this came together, recently, in a laundromat.

Preparation, Meet Opportunity
Our washer's out, so until we find a replacement we like, we're doing the coin thing. Very early Saturday is the best time; last Saturday, it was the very best time. A group of German students were in the laundromat, trying to get all their clothes washed up and stuffed in rucksacks for the rapidly-approaching flight home.

Since I speak German, and they were chattering nervously in their native tongue, it was fair to warn them that I under…

run fast, run deep

If you're not in a hurry, craft work can be deeply rewarding.

In one sense, there's the reward of praise and artistic respect which comes when you concentrate on high quality and unique, interesting design. There's also a sense of satisfaction in the work. After all, when it's done right, crafting is difficult, painstaking work. And there's the mental growth that comes from the hard, sustained thinking that goes into the finished result.

Focused thinking is usually associated with knowledge work. Craft work, being both spatial and creative, tends to meander. There are many people who take sewing down that wandering path, but it doesn't have to go there. Done well, crafting -- especially sewing -- can be as taxing as engineering, especially since they share some common principles (think analytical topology, for example).

Time, Cost, Quality: Choose Any Two From project management, I've learned that time, cost, and quality are the three-legged stool of stabl…

it's not that hard

Over the last couple of weeks, I've reread a lot of self help and motivational literature in my library. Most of it falls in the category of "shortcuts, get rich quick, wealth without effort." Some of them have good ideas, but no depth behind the ideas, as if the author lifted thoughts from somewhere else. But I found one author who seems to be the real thing: Brian Tracy.
Granted, he has a lot of books out there, and a lot of the messages are very similar, so I'll just focus in on what, for me, is his best work. It's a little volume called "No Excuses!" The theme of the book is self-discipline. There are really two deeper messages, though: Deep work is it, and deep work ain't that hard.
I won't go into quoting a bunch of passages and trying to sell the book. You can pick it up in most discount bookstores for six or seven dollars, and it's easy to find in electronic or audio form. Instead, let me just explain how I see these two messages embed…

strategic sewing

Enough diversions into the theory of motivation and how the mind works -- let's get it working!!

Trying to take a more strategic approach to sewing, I spent some time looking for a somewhat smaller bag pattern than my current one. Don't get me wrong, it's a great pattern, but it's larger and very hard to cut the pattern down. I found Kwiksew 4093 to be a very good, strategic choice:


This pattern supports two different size bags, both capable of a quilted "patchwork" look. The quilting doesn't just happen on the front, it can be extended to the sides and strap, as this diagram shows:
The pattern pieces are neat, with seam allowances assumed but not marked, which allows me to more easily reconfigure the parts. I can create:
a purse made from a single piece of fabric (if the pattern is symmetric along the grain), a quilted patchwork, or a standard front-back-gusset arrangement, all by combining pattern pieces before I cut.

In addition, this pattern uses a muc…