TITLE: Early Lessons on the Job AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: August 12, 2005 12:06 PM DESC: I am learning small lessons as I come into contact with the basics of my job as department. They are not Big Ideas, just ones that make up the substrate of sufficiency necessary to do the job. ----- BODY: After a couple of weeks in the Big Office Downstairs, I've been reminded how important some elements of human psychology are to group dynamics: A close friend of mine is police chief of a small town back in my home state. When I was visiting him a couple of weeks ago, he shared some of his experience as an administrator. He jokingly said that his job consists in three roles: manager of budgets and schedules, leader among his staff and community, and daycare provider. We both knew what he meant. Neither of us really thinks of our administrative jobs in such a condescending way, but it is clear that working with people is at least as important as the "paper pushing" elements of the job, and in some situations can dominate. That said, the paper-pushing side of things creates challenges, too. I am already finding the constant flow of information -- new things to do, new items for the calendar, new ideas to try out -- to be overpowering. In response, Remind and VoodooPad have become my friends. (As has the Remind widget.) Remind is a plain text Unix calendar tool. I considered using iCal for a while, but my preference for plain text data and low-frills interfaces pushed me toward Remind. After only a week, I was quite happy. I can add new entries to my databases with any editor, and I can script other applications to add them for me. The one thing I'd like is a better way to view weekly or monthly calendars. By default, Remind prints out days in fixed-width columns that result in the squashing and breaking of words. Of course, that's the beauty of a plain-text tool: If I want a different interface to my data, it is straightforward to write one. (I feel a student project coming on...) VoodooPad is just way cool. I tried OmniOutliner for a few months after first accepting my new position, when I was busily creating list of ideas and to-dos. I liked it all right, but it never felt natural to me. VoodooPad makes it easy to create links to new pages, using either CamelCase or command-L on any text selection, so I get the effect of collapsible sub-lists in wiki form. The program is also integrated with other OS X apps and services, such as Address Book and Mail, so I get free linking to my other on-line data and can launch an e-mail message with a single click. In one tool, I have a note taker, a wiki, a to-do list manager, and a decent text editor. There's a reason that VoodooPad is one of MacZealot's top 10 shareware apps of 2005. Using great tools means that I can eventually focus my energy on the Big Picture. I say "eventually" because, right now, mastering some details is the Big Picture. -----