to the next level

I’m notorious for spending hours upon hours on the computer.  And as with the rest of my life, I want to make that time as efficient as possible.  This post is going to detail some of the programs and settings I use on my Mac in order to boost productivity.

1. Quicksilver

My favorite application launcher.  Quicksilver is essential to me because I love keyboard shortcuts and commands, as this allows me to keep my dock minimalist as well as reducing clutter.  I’ve got Quicksilver set up so that I press Command – Space to bring up the window above.  I wanted to use Quicksilver strictly for my most accessed programs and folders, so I only utilize a custom Catalog:

So basically, when I know I want to open up iTunes, I press Command-Space to bring up the Quicksilver window, and start typing i-T-u-n-e-s.  Because I’m not searching through hundreds of items in the catalog, I really only press Command-Space and then i.  iCal and iWannaSleep show up secondary because they aren’t opened as often.

Finally, Quicksilver also has all of my Firefox bookmarks cataloged.  In my first example, using Gmail, I just hit Command-Space and start typing G-m-a-i-l until it comes up (similar to iTunes, it’s the first because it’s the most used application starting with G).

Most people don’t understand Quicksilver or see the point, but I’ve yet to find someone that can move around the computer as quickly as I can.  There’s also a ton of other things you can do with the program, but those functions suit me the best.

2. Spaces

I played around with Spaces a few months after picking up my Mac and it’s become such an essential part of navigating my computer.  I have a 4 x 2 set up, with applications designated for individual Spaces.  The configuration is:

  1. Firefox
  2. iTunes
  3. Mac The Ripper/Powerpoint/Evernote/Transmission
  4. VLC
  5. Word/Excel
  6. Undesignated
  7. Undesignated
  8. Undesignated

Instead of minimizing windows, I keep every window opened in their respective Spaces.  For example, when I listen to music while surfing the web, I open Firefox via Quicksilver (it opens in Space 1) and open iTunes via Quicksilver (it opens in Space 2).

As a note, I can open any Space-designated application regardless of what Space I’m in.  For example, if I use Quicksilver in Space 8 to open iTunes (which is a Space 2 designated program), when iTunes opens it will automatically move me over to Space 2 and leave whatever I was doing in Space 8.

If I want to drag Space-designated programs into other Spaces, I just hold the click and hold on the top of the window and then use my command for changing Spaces (for me, this is Command – # of the Space you want to move to).  This comes in handy when you have PowerPoint and Word designated in two different Spaces but would rather have them side by side for a particular project (or any other combination of applications).

3. DropBox

I can’t recommend the free service DropBox enough.  For signing up, you get 2GB storage space that syncs across multiple platforms.  I keep a variety of files on there, but its especially key for school documents.

What’s great about this is that I keep all of my lecture notes, PowerPoint files, memos, etc. in my DropBox folder, and then I can access it from whatever computer I’m on.  You also can share folders with others, as shown by the folder with people in it (above, shown on RLST 110).  This means collaboration and sharing files is easy and you don’t need to send another email when a new file is created or revised.

Paired with the iPhone app and web interface, DropBox allows users to access their files from anywhere.  Who needs a flashdrive when you can have all your files stored online (and for free)?

4. Evernote

A buddy of mine put me onto Evernote as I was looking for a good program to keep notes.  I had a tried a few of them, and also kept a Moleskine, but nothing really captured and made what I was trying to do any easier.  I read a lot of articles online with recommendations, product reviews, etc. that I want to keep but not necessarily bookmark in my browser.  I also wanted a place to archive some emails without using GMail’s star system.

Here’s an example of how I use it.  I saw this Intelligentsia mug that I liked, but wasn’t really serious on purchasing.  I made a note of it in Evernote, and can reference it from the “What Ifs” folder when I’m looking through things I need to buy or for gift ideas.

Evernote also has a Firefox plug-in which makes things even easier.  All I do is press the little elephant button next to the home icon on my browser, and Evernote makes a note out of whatever page you were on.

And again, similar to DropBox, Evernote also has a fantastic website and iPhone app so you can access your notes on the go or from any computer.
As far as other programs, here’s a quick list of recommended apps (beyond the obvious):

  1. AppCleaner – gets rid of applications and associated files much better than just uninstalling or deleting them.
  2. GMail Notifr – not Notifier, Notifr.  Checks Gmail quicker than the Google branded version, looks good in the menubar.
  3. iTunesMenu – control some aspects of iTunes in the menubar, and utilizes Growl alerts.
  4. iWannaSleep – sleep timer for your computer to shutdown.  I use it when playing movies before going to bed so that DVD title menu music doesn’t play for 7 hours.
  5. MacTheRipper – my favorite tool for archiving DVDs.  Others prefer Handbrake, but I like the fact it makes a straight copy for archival purposes.

I hope you learned a thing or two from this and maybe even implement some of these strategies.  With more and more time spent on the computer by people in general, I think we owe it to ourselves to make that experience as quick and efficient as possible.  Any questions or thoughts – leave a comment!

epic in every way

Initially, I wasn’t sure about Sade’s “Soldier of Love” track.  I gave it a quick listen through and didn’t see what all the hype was about (as it appeared on two of my frequented music blogs).  When I saw it on the mainstream blogs getting recognition and I somehow had amassed a few copies of it in my iTunes library, I gave it another listen.

The real gem to me is the snare drum.  I understand the connection between a snare drum and the military, but it just fits the song so well.  And if I’m not mistaken, people are continuing to take notice.  ABC is even using the track to promote the final season of Lost.

Sade’s album drops February 9th and if this track is any indication, we’ve got a strong contender already for album of the year in 2010.  I’m having a bit of trouble posting the video but you can check it out at The Smoking Section.

required reading

Books have always held some sort of fascination with me, as if all the questions in the world could be answered in books. During elementary school when those monthly student book order forms came out, I always wanted at least a dozen books.  Luckily for me, my parents were usually happy to order me a book or two (certainly nowhere near what I wanted) and I think this is where my love for reading started to grow.  I even read 100 books during 4th grade in order to win a special prize from my teacher.

Admittedly once I entered high school and definitely in college, I read for fun much less.  As a student I have to read plenty of academic articles, studies and textbooks, but I don’t get a chance to read very many novels or anything just for fun.

As mentioned in other posts, I read about 1000-1200 RSS feeds each day.  Anytime I see a reputable blog post about a book I am interested in, I instantly add it to my Half.com wishlist.  Unfortunately, I add books much more frequently than I buy books, so I’ve got about 120 different items on my wishlist right now.  With Christmas coming up, I thought this could serve as a good “book gift guide”.  Books can give some of life’s greatest treasures – inspiration, knowledge, and personal growth – and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia

I actually ran across this infographic filled book in Real Simple magazine’s gift guide.  Infographics make looking at data and statistics actually fun – and often make the realities of the conclusions much more apparent.  Definitely a book that will hold your attention cover to cover.

ABC3D

It might be easier to show a video clip as opposed to explaining why this should be on your gift-giving list.  Children and adults both can enjoy the detail in this:

Phaidon Design Classics


I’ve had a love affair with this three book set for quite some time now.  Each book details 333 industrially manufactured products, ranging from Chinese bonsai scissors from the 1600s to the present day.  Everyone, young and old, will bound to learn some interesting facts about items used in everyday life.

Candida Hofer Libraries

Strictly for images such as these:

Stunning.  Leave this one out for everyone to page through.

Simulacra and Simulation


Simulacra and Simulation is the brainiest of the bunch, but there’s a reason why it’s on the list.  The Matrix featured this work – Neo hid his illegal software in it and was even required reading for Keanu Reeves before shooting the movie.  I’d attempt to explain what the book discusses, but Wikipedia can do it much better than I can and in fewer words:

Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of images, signs, and how they relate to the present day. Baudrillard claims that modern society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that the human experience is of a simulation of reality rather than reality itself. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are signs of culture and media that create the perceived reality; Baudrillard believed that society has become so reliant on simulacra that it has lost contact with the real world on which the simulacra are based.

Save this one for when you want to be challenged or give it to someone you want to impress with your intellect.

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook

This is the boss of cookbooks – 10 pounds with the box, four silk ribbons, over 500 pages and costing two Franklins and a Grant (that’s $250 in case you didn’t pick up on that one).  According to reviews on Amazon, this isn’t just a cooking book.  One reviewer said:

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook is itself a work of art, combing a luxurious package with striking page layouts and artwork. Its recipes are almost the least of its appeal: Blumenthal’s accompanying essays are the meat of the text and make for a fascinating 500 pages of reading.” – Metroland (Albany, NY)

This book would work just as well in a kitchen as it would on your coffee table.  However, a paired down version is available if you’re interested in just the recipes.

Wisdom

What could be more insightful than advice from 50 of the world’s great writers, actors, artists, designers, politicians, musicians and religious and business leaders of our time?  It’s like having 50 grandparents giving you advice, if your grandparents are Clint Eastwood, Nelson Mandela, Lou Reed, the Dalai Lama and Willie Nelson (let me guess, smoke more weed?).  A great concept and I’m sure the information inside is not to be missed either.

New Skateboard Graphics

I’ve always felt that the artwork done on skateboard decks was mostly forgotten or ignored.  Seeing all of Rob Dyrdek’s decks in his Fantasy Factory made me think of just how many skateboard decks have been made.  Luckily, this book covers some of the most innovative work from nearly 40 manufacturers.  Unfortunately – tracking down your favorite decks you discover in the book will be infinitely more difficult than just getting the book.

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

With low cost being the basis of most people’s buying decisions, from groceries to clothing to furniture, there have been numerous effects on the economy and culture.  As a firm believer in buying quality once as opposed to buying numerous disposable goods, this sounded particularly interesting and something that every consumer can relate to.


top 5 classic furniture pieces

I’ve got a habit of saving any pictures on the internet I like.  This wouldn’t present too much of a problem for most people, but I’m on the internet a lot.  And this means a lot of photos.  In the past year I’ve amassed over 2000 pictures of home interiors that I particularly liked.  I’ve got a bunch of ideas when it does come to finding furniture and decorating, but it’s a pain looking through all the pictures to find one.

What I’ve discovered is that any interior I like is usually based around a few key pieces.  I’m not exactly why I like these pieces or even mid-century furniture in general, but it seems the most timeless to me.  Here they are in no particular order:

Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (LCW)

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I think the LCW chair might have actually gotten me into mid-century furniture.  Previous to that, my style was “whatever looks good”, and while I suppose that’s what everyone’s style is, I can now narrow it down a little better to styles/time periods.  I got a chance to sit in this at Design Within Reach and while it isn’t the most comfortable chair (it’s all wood), it’s absolutely stunning.  Palisander or walnut would be preferred colors (I believe palisander is pictured).

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Eames Hang-It-All

Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 7.54.27 PMMy wonderful girlfriend likes to poke fun of the fact that I like this because she claims it belongs it a kids room.  And I think that’s part of why I like it – it would work in an entryway, a kids room, pretty much anywhere.  Nothing really elaborate, just simple construction from steel and maple.  I imagine it working like this in a home:

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George Nelson Platform Bench

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Again, a very simple design.  When I was at one of DWR’s locations, you walk in, head up stairs and take a right at the top to see the rest of the offerings.  Placed right at the top was this piece, and had I not known what it was, wouldn’t have given it a second glance.  I really like that it could work as seating or as a coffee table.  However with my love for coffee table books, I might end up needing two if somebody wants to sit down.

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Emeco 1006 Navy Side Chair

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Noticing a trend?  Classic, and yet functional.  The 77 step process that makes each 1006 chair has remained unchanged since 1944.  The result is a lifetime guarantee on the chair and an expected life of 150 years.  And if you’re looking for something flashier, Phillipe Starck made a polished version as well as the brushed version seen above.

Eames Lounge and Ottoman

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Piper Building

Another classic piece from Eames.  Designed to look like a well-worn first basemans baseball mitt, there is nowhere else I’d rather be after a long day.  All the individual components are replaceable which means it can be repaired and restored for generations to come.

I’m no expert in design, but I do know what I like.  And these five pieces round up to me essentials in an apartment/home I’d like to live in.  And I know I left out some really great pieces, but I had to limit it to five.  The Barcelona Chair, Sapien bookcase, Noguchi table and Eames Management Chair were close seconds…

break it off

If you checked out Gary Hustwit’s latest film Objectified, you may remember a scene about toothpicks.  Andrew Blauvelt of the Walker Art Center explains that the Japanese toothpick actually breaks off towards the end, to signal that it has been used and also to create a rest for the toothpick.

As usual, Design Within Reach has got you covered.  While they don’t explicitly state that they are the same as described in Objectified, they do state that “he refillable holder comes packed with cedar toothpicks that have a decorative groove at one end.”  At $12 it might be worth it to pick up just for the Hinoki cypress toothpick holder.

Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 7.31.31 PMI really appreciate cultures that appreciate these simple, yet formal gestures.  Americans seem to always be on the go and very rarely do we enjoy relaxing after a meal with dessert or coffee/tea.  Regardless, any restaurant that offers these toothpicks to patrons is going to receive 5 stars in my book.

in my bathing apes

While the online store for Bathing Ape has been up for a couple months now, you probably haven’t heard too much about it.  The new releases aren’t marked by an email or RSS feed, so you have to hope you’re online at the right time for exclusive drops.  That being said, I’m not sure when these scarves released, but I’m a huge fan already.

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I would probably wear a lot more BAPE if it weren’t for the price.  I can’t justify $73 on a graphic t-shirt, much less the $200+ for sweaters and $500+ for outerwear.  Even as it stands, you’re better off having basic outwear and save bright colors/patterns for your accessories.

That’s why a camouflage scarf would be perfect.  Wear it with a tweed blazer and go for the Kanye look or throw on your heaviest parka and bundle up.  Yes, it’s camouflage, but it’s not military surplus looking.  And the best part is that it costs just as much as a t-shirt from Bape: $73.

Info: 10 inches wide by 63.25 inches long, available on BAPE.com

And while you’re on the camouflage kick, upgrade your home as well:

Toolkit

Toolbox_Camo_

Dust pan/brush

Camo Brush & Pan set

Plunger

Plunger_CamoCamouflage home products available from Seltzer Studios

christmas 2009

A few people have approached me in the past with the request that they needed to buy a gift (usually for a guy) but had no idea what to get.  Commonly, people end up buying what they know – cologne, shirts, maybe simple jewelry.  All that stuff is well and good and needed, there’s only so much of it anyone can use.  So here’s a few (okay, a variety of) ideas for gifts this year.  It’s a compilation of things I’ve ran across on the internet in the past year that have remained relevant in my mind.  Take it for what you will – and even if you don’t decide on one of my picks, I hope you are successful in your Christmas shopping.  I know it’s cliche but spending time with friends and family should be the greatest gift of all…and it’s the thought that counts.

Stanley Limited Edition Bottle 1.1 Quart

43325_1I’ve been using a thermos recently for water and while a lot of my friends think it’s stupid, it works well for me.  If you fill the thermos with ice cubes and water, you’ll have a drink that stays colder much longer.  It also isn’t another plastic bottle in the landfill because it’s refillable, and unlike Nalgene and other water bottles, it can hold tea or coffee just as well.  There’s also regular versions of the Stanley thermos and they all come with lifetime warranties.  Available from Blackbird.

Hand Blown Oil, Vinegar and Dressing Bottles

ichendorf_2lgMost oil & vinegar and salt & pepper shaker combos are either a little too playful or way too expensive for my tastes.  These bottles range from $24 to $28 and look good to be sitting out at all times.  Available from Abodeon.

TI$A x Starter Hats

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Show your love for your favorite teams come playoff time with this collaborative hat between Starter and Taz Arnold’s brand TI$A.  They’ll cost you more than a New Era, but you won’t see anyone else wearing one of these at the game.  The Spurs and Lakers are some of the best – yellow corduroy?!?  Email TI$A (tisavisiononline@gmAil.com) and check out the rest of the hats here.

Bell & Ross BR03-92 Phantom

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If you were waiting for the big guns to be pulled here, here it is.  “All black everything” on a watch made by Bell & Ross.  Simple and devoid of extras, it’s functional and still stunning.  This particular one is limited to less than 200 pieces, and carries a fitting price tag of nearly $6,000 on eBay.

Help I Need Help Kits

Screen shot 2009-11-07 at 7.07.03 PMThis was a concept that had blogs on fire towards the middle of the year.  Great for stocker stuffers and much better looking than Tylenol or Advil containers.  If you’ve got a lot of problems you can also pick up all six for only $28.  Available direct from here.

Rock Pillows

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Such a cool concept – soft cushions that actually look like rocks.  The largest is 13” x 25” x 25”, and you’ll need a few in each size to create the illusion of rocks, but it’ll be fun for all.  Not sure on pricing but you can contact the manufacturer Ronel Jordaan.

Kiehl’s x Kaws x RxART Creme de Corps

_5948557One of my favorite artists, Kaws, teamed up with RxArt and Kiehl’s to create this limited edition label.  Inside is Kiehl’s famous Creme de Corps lotion and 100% of the net profits are going to RxArt which is, “a nonprofit national organization committed to fostering artistic expression and awareness through the challenging yet rewarding task of engaging young patients through contemporary art in pediatric hospitals.”  Do some good this Christmas season.  Available in three sizes from Nordstrom.

Filson Pullman Bag

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If you aren’t going to go with a luxury bag, stick with a quality and go with the Filson Pullman.  Measuring 22” x 15” x 9” this will more than cover you for a weekend.  And the best part of all, this bag will get better with age which means that receiving a well-used Filson from a relative may be even better than getting a new one – But you’ve got to start somewhere.  Available from Blackbird.

BMW M3 GTS

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?  450 bhp, carbon fiber roof, 7-speed M-DCT tranny, and out of reach for most at $170 grand.