Archive for August 2006

There’s Never a Ruler Around When You Need One

August 31, 2006

I needed to measure something the other day and could not find my ruler. Of course, it doesn’t help that I have way too many stacks of papers on my desk and I never put the ruler away in, say, a drawer.  Either way, I was quite frustrated.

This site came to my rescue.  Therein lies a bevy of printable rulers.  They have your standard 1 foot ruler, metric rulers, large-print rulers, yardsticks and even numberless rulers for you masochists out there. They’re available in PDF and PS formats.  If you opt for the PDF format, be sure you have no page scaling options enabled.

Printable paper rulers are great even if you’re organized and keep your ruler in its proper place.  I printed one on cardstock, used a paper cutter to trim away the excess paper, folded it and placed it in my messenger bag.  Now I can measure things with my paper ruler while I’m out and about.  I’ll admit the times I’ve needed a ruler while, say, commuting to work have been rare, but I when I needed one, it would have been really nice to have it. 

Happy measuring from a random broad.

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A Random Broad Gives up Her PDA for a Week: The Aftermath

August 28, 2006

hpdasm.JPG  The great Office Survivalist experiment culminated Friday, close of business.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  That’s not to say it was great, but there was no loss of life, limb or liberty.  So, all things considered, I guess the project went OK.


I copied all my appointments from my Outlook calendar and our departmental calendar into my Hipster PDA (or PAA, if you like).  I also entered a few key contacts whose telephone numbers I can’t ever seem to recall.  Finally, I wrote down a few items from my Notes folder in Outlook—some codes, etc. to which I refer often.  Having downloaded what I thought I’d need for the week—or at least the day—I was ready to embark on my new analog project.

Fortunately, it was an unusually light day.  I did have two rather important meetings that I would have done well not to have forgotten.  I easily committed them to memory and also flipped to the calendar section of my PAA often, while checking the time as if my life depended on it.  Suffice it to say, I was early to one appointment and right on time to another.


Nothing much happened this day.  I made a few appointments for the project that was slated to start the next day.  I entered them in my Outlook calendar and then copied them into my PAA.  Even though I was only two business days into the Experiment, I could see this entering in appointments twice getting real old, real quick.  On one hand, it did make it easier to remember meetings and what not because I had to recall the details twice.  On the other hand, entering something into Outlook and knowing within seconds the meeting, including the reminder option,  will wirelessly sync to my BlackBerry is clearly the way to go. 

So far, I haven’t had to enter an appointment on the go, as it were.  I did have to check my Hipster PDA’s calendar to see if I was available for a meeting on Thursday, but the person for whom I was checking was going to send an invitation later that day, so there was no need to write down the meeting details at the time.  I mentally blocked off the time and, when I received the invite, copied the meeting information into my PAA.


I have to confirm several appointments for a major project we’ve got slated for tomorrow and Friday.  I needed to call someone while I was away from my desk.  It was a person who wouldn’t have been in my Outlook Contacts folder, so therefore was not in my PAA.  If I were using my BlackBerry, I would have performed a Lookup while in the Address Book, obtained the person’s number and called.  I improvised by using my mobile phone to call the main number and asking to be transferred to the person.  All in all, it was actually quicker than what I usually would have done.


The  Awfully Big Project started today.  As I was contemplating what shoes to wear with my kick-ass ensemble I had picked out the evening before, the thought of cheating crossed my mind.  It would be so much easier if I used my BlackBerry, relying on its precious, precious reminders to keep all my appointments.  Seeking solace in its cold, digital bosom never felt so tempting.

I had seven mission-critical, time-sensitive appointments today.  I kept all but one.  I failed to copy it into my Hipster PDA, as it wasn’t confirmed until late Wednesday afternoon.  This wouldn’t have happened if I had been using my BlackBerry.  Of course, this wouldn’t have happened if I had been diligent about confirming the data in both places were in sync at the end of each business day as was the plan when the details of this silly experiment were being hashed out.  Oh well, the dude was totally cool about it and we rescheduled for Friday.  Until now, I had been transcribing entries into my PAA in pencil.  I wrote this one in red ink, and used a Post-it note to flag the page so it would stand out as something that required my attention.


I checked my PAA’s calendar page today.  I was greeted with a sentence I forgot I wrote Monday: It’s almost over; today’s the last day.  Yay!  I reviewed my appointments.  As the day trudged along, I kept all my meetings, missing nary a one. 

At the end of the experiment, I wasn’t sure what to do with the Hipster PDA.  I mean, I was really looking forward to going back to using my BlackBerry.  It’s not as though I wished my PAA any ill will.  I just, well, didn’t like it.  Copying things twice just seemed so inefficient.  Clearly there was margin for error.  If the details of a meeting changed, updating it in Outlook is as easy as opening it and editing it or dragging and dropping it to a new timeslot.  Updating items in the PAA meant erasing and rewriting it.  That part sucked.  On more than one occasion, I opted to print a new calendar page and re-write the appointments so that the page looked neater.  Yes, I’m a wee bit particular—what of it?

I decided to archive my PAA.  It’s in my desk drawer, binder clip, stylus (read: pencil) and all.  It’s a reminder that, if I put my mind to it, I can rely on my memory and a few 3 x 5” index cards for work.  Of course, I’d rather not, but at least I know I can.

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How to Sort Sheets in Excel

August 11, 2006

You’re plowing through a project in Excel.  You’re averaging and adding and dividing and returning depreciations like nobody’s business.  You’re inserting new sheets and naming the tabs without even thinking about it.  Suddenly, it occurs to you that maybe, just maybe, it would be cool if those tabs were in alphabetical order.  No sweat, you think to yourself.  I’ll just mosey on over to the Data menu, select Sort and. . .hmmm.  It has to be in here somewhere.  Well, I AM working with sheets, you remind yourself.  Maybe if I just right-click one of these here tabs. . .  Nope, not there either.  You head on over to the Help section, I mean, one can’t be expected to know everything in Excel, right?  Hmmm.  No answer there, either. 

Annoyance starts to set in at this point.  Why on earth, you ask yourself, is it so #&@$ing hard to sort my worksheets?

Newsflash: Excel does not provide an option to sort sheets alphanumerically!  I don’t know what manner of insanity this is, but there is hope.  You can create a macro and sort sheets in ascending or descending or until your heart’s content.

1.  Click Tools –> Macro –> Macros.

2.  Name the Macro (Remember, no spaces! Try SortSheets as a name).

3.  Click the Create button.  This will open the Visual Basic editor.

4.  Highlight the text in the code window.  It should read ‘Sub SortSheets() End Sub’

5.  Copy and replace the highlighted text with the following code:

Sub Sort_Active_Book()  
Dim i As Integer  
Dim j As Integer  
Dim iAnswer As VbMsgBoxResult  
' Prompt the user as which direction they wish to  
' sort the worksheets.  
   iAnswer = MsgBox("Sort Sheets in Ascending Order?" & Chr(10) _  
     & "Clicking No will sort in Descending Order", _  
     vbYesNoCancel + vbQuestion + vbDefaultButton1, "Sort Worksheets")  
   For i = 1 To Sheets.Count  
      For j = 1 To Sheets.Count - 1  
' If the answer is Yes, then sort in ascending order.  
         If iAnswer = vbYes Then  
            If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) > UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then  
               Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)  
            End If  
' If the answer is No, then sort in descending order.  
         ElseIf iAnswer = vbNo Then  
            If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) < UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then  
               Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)  
            End If  
         End If  
      Next j  
   Next i  
End Sub

5.  Click File --> Close and return to Microsoft Excel.

Now run your macro by clicking Tools –> Macro –> Macros.  Highlight Sort_Active_Book and click Run.  When prompted, select Yes or No to sort your sheets in ascending or descending order. 

Nifty, huh?

The macro will only be available in the active workbook.  There are ways to create a template, save it to the XLStart menu and have the macro be available for all your workbooks, but you’d have to lower your macro security level or digitally sign your macro.

See the following Microsoft Office Assistance and Knowledge Base (MS KB) articles for my sources and more information:

How to Sort Sheets in a Workbook

How to run the sample code for the Office XP programs from Knowledge Base articles

About Excel templates

Happy sorting from a random broad.

Good luck and happy taking care of things from a random broad.

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A Random Broad Gives Up Her PDA for a Week

August 11, 2006

So after penning The Low-tech, Lo-fi Approach to Daily Organization, I decided to see what life would be like if I downgraded from a digital PDA (BlackBerry) to an analog one (Hipster PDA) for a week. . .sort of.

To get started, I downloaded the Hipster PDA template kit from D*I*Y Planner, selected the pages I thought I’d need in my daily life, printed them onto 3″ x 5 index cards and clipped them together.  Printing them was a little tricky because Acrobat’s page scaling was set to print to printer margins.  Once I turned off page scaling, I was in business.  My printer still cut off a small portion of the left and top edges of the images.  As a result, my 2006 calendar is missing a few Sundays, and some of my other daily calendar pages are missing their hourly time delineations; not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things.

Back to my plan.  Next week, I plan to pretty much ditch my BlackBerry and use the Hipster PDA.  I’ll still use my BlackBerry to generate, reply to and forward mission-critical email items, but I’ll abandon its Calendar, Address Book and Tasks features in lieu of the Hipster PDA’s pages.  During the day, I’ll only take my analog PDA with me.  I see a lot of people, sit through a bunch of meetings and make plenty of appointments.  I rely heavily on my BlackBerry device’s Calendar (especially the reminders), Tasks and Address Book.  To make matters worse, I’ll be working on a project that will put me in front of some pretty high-level people in my company.  Timing will be everything.  Yesterday, I seriously considered postponing my plan (which one co-worker dubbed Office Survivalist) for a week.  Steeling my resolve, however, I decided to stick to my guns and, for reasons still not quite clear to me, turn my life over to, what amounts to be, a stack of index cards clipped together with a small binder clip.  Hmmm…  When it’s spelled out like that. . .right there in front of me. . .suddenly, I feel a little afraid.

So I need to think of the best way to make this work for me.  Already I can see some potential pitfalls.  What will I use for a stylus and where will I keep it?  Palm and iPac devices have convenient, built-in compartments for their styluses (styli?).  Also, the stylus is typically slightly shorter than the length of the device.  Because the fields on the Hipster PDA cards are so tiny, and because my handwriting isn’t exactly the neatest, I’ve opted for a mechanical pencil.  My pencil of choice–the PaperMate Synchro 5.0, if you’re interested–is a little bulky.  I may have to upgrade my binder clip to a larger size so that I can clip the pencil to the PDA.  Even then, it will extend nearly 2″ beyond the length of my analog PDA.  I’ll have to locate a shorter stylus; one with a thinner barrel would be a ideal.

Another issue will be keying data into, er, make that writing stuff onto my PDA.  One of the great thing about the BlackBerry is when I need to key something in, I simply remove it from its holster, scroll to the desired module or folder, click on it, key in whatever I need to and replace the device in its holster. Fun!  When I need to write something onto the Hipster PDA, I’ll need to unclip it, flip to the appropriate card, find some place to put other the cards, preferably locate a writing surface (I’ve never been good at using the palm of my hand as a writing surface), write into the teeny-tiny field(s), reassemble the cards (I’m pretty anal, so it has to be neat) and clip them back together, hopefully remembering to clip the stylus back in, too.  Not so fun.

Finally, my biggest worry will be how on earth I’ll remember to keep all of my appointments and meetings.  I pretty much keep my brain clear of when and where I need to be at any given time because I check my BlackBerry device’s calendar religiously.  I probably open it a dozen times a day to make sure I’m not about to make a conflicting appointment or see how long I can work on a task before I have to be somewhere.  Also, it’s calendar synchs wirelessly with my Outlook calendar.  This means if I make an appointment, I only need to key it in once–either in my BlackBerry device’s calendar or Outlook’s.  The analog PDA system will require me to write down appointments that are in my Outlook calendar onto one of its calendar pages–I still haven’t decided which one(s) I’m going to use–and/or key into Outlook any appointments I set while out and about.  I’m not so sure I’m disciplined enough to do so.

My punch list from now until Monday:

  •  locate a more suitable stylus
  •  possibly reprint the PDA onto larger cards to eliminate trimmed edges of images
  •  develop better handwriting
  •  get disciplined
  •  do something about the waves of nausea, panic and fear that hit every now and again as D-Day draws near

**Update**  I got around the trimmed edges by rotating the page 180 degrees and printing it on the same sized card.  This way, the image was still trimmed, but because it was rotated, the bottom and right edges were trimmed instead of the top and left ones. 

The Low-Tech, Lo-Fi Approach to Daily Organization

August 7, 2006

With every Tom, Dick and Harry reaching for their Palm, iPaq or BlackBerry, why not take the road less digitally traveled and use an analog PDA?  Between PocketMod, the Hipster PDA and D*I*Y Planner, keeping your life organized sans electronic devices has never been easier. . .or more fun.


A PocketMod is a piece of paper cleverly divided into eight sections.  You can select what module appears in each section by dragging and dropping the ones you want onto one of eight pages.  The modules include a shopping list, a food diary, a tip table, SuDoku, a check register; there are more than two dozen from which to choose.  Once you print the paper, follow the handy folding guide or even watch a video on how to fold your PocketMod.

You can also download a PDF to PocketMod converter.  It will convert your PDF to the PocketMod template.  The possibilities are limited only to your imagination when you use the converter in conjunction with the your PDF files.

Hipster PDA

The Hipster PDA (Parietal Disgorgement Aid) is a data management system whose components are, quite simply, a stack of index cards, a small binder clip and a pen.  You write your notes, calendar appointments, contact information, to-do lists, etc. on the cards.  To transfer data to other users, simply write it down, unclip the card and give it to the other person.  Try using colored cards as separators to create instant directories, er, sections.

D*I*Y Planner

A collection of official D*I*Y Planner templates and user-submitted templates await you at this site.  You can modify, assemble and print planner pages in various sizes at the site.  All you need to get started is—in addition to a computer and printer, of course—a planner, heavy-stock paper, a hole punch and a paper trimmer.  The site even has templates for the aforementioned Hipster PDA.

Is the paper-and-pen revolution afoot?  I wouldn’t go that far, but I was intrigued by the idea.  I configured a PocketMod with the following pages:

1. Cover page

2. Appointment timesheet

3. Appointment timesheet

4. Full Year 2006 calendar

5. Simple list

6. Simple list

7. SuDoku

8. Blank



My PDA of choice is the BlackBerry.  I’ve been using one for years and have no intention on giving it up.  I did supplement my device with paper and pen last year, though.  I purchased a pack of Notes on the Run from Planner Pads, Co.  The notes are very handy; one side has a Things-to-do list on the top half and a Reminder section, subtitled Who should I see, call, write or thank today?, on the bottom.  The other side is a list titled Thoughts/Ideas.  The cards are 3″ x 5, so they’re very easy to carry around.  Even though I have a BlackBerry device, and three computers at my disposal, I still find a little piece of paper comes in handy for check lists, notes, reminders, etc.  I used to rely heavily on Post-it notes for these items.  I still do, but the Notes on the Run cards make it easier to keep tasks that may span multiple days more accessible. 


I do use Outlook and I’m aware that it has many printing options which can include Calendar and Tasks items.  They can be configured and printed so that they can be planner pages, too.  None of the options are configured to print like the PocketMod, though.  I did download the PDF to PocketMod converter and will toy around with printing Calendar and Tasks pages to a file, converting the file to a PDF, converting the PDF to PocketMod pages and incorporating them into my existing configuration.

So if you’re looking to organize your daily life, consider a few low-tech options.  Happy printing. . .and folding from a random broad.

Good luck and happy taking care of things from a random broad.

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Windows XP Wallpaper Fun

August 1, 2006

Are you tired of cycling through XP’s limited selection of wallpaper images?  Check out these links:

DJ-Designs =-= This site features a collection of tranquil, computer generated wallpaper.  Be sure to view the 4 Elements; Wind and 4 Elements; Earth selections.

RPETERCLARK.COM =-= While there isn’t a huge selection here, what’s available is pretty cool.  XP Glossy is slick and super shiny looking.

deviantART =-= This site has an extensive selection of user-submitted wallpaper images.  The categories range from Fantasy to Minimalistic; from Science Fiction to Photo Manipulated. =-= This one’s my personal fave.  Mark Harden’s Artchive isn’t just a collection of scans of the world’s most famous paintings, drawings, etc., it’s also educational.  Like Caillebotte’s Fruit Displayed on a Stand?  Take a few moments to read about the man behind the painting.  If you find yourself visiting this site often, make a donation, please.  They need your help and, let’s face it, you were only going to spend that money on a Yanni CD anyway.

Finally, you might want to download and install Microsoft’s Wallpaper Changer for Windows XP.  This handy little application, which only works with XP, will change your background for you as often as you’d like it to.  While this program comes with a selection of winter-themed photographs, you can easily use your own digital pictures by dropping a folder with your images in a subfolder of the My Pictures directory.  You can also have the Wallpaper Changer display the digital photos of your choice on special days such as your pet gerbil’s birthday or the anniversary of your first Yanni concert.  The Wallpaper Changer is included in Microsoft’s Winter Fun Pack.  You can download the Pack (6.73 MB .msi) by clicking here.


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