12 twelve things for 12/12/12

Today is December 12th, 2012: The 12th day of the 12th month of the year 2012. Or 12/12/12. How could I resist making a list for such an auspicious day?¹ Here are 12 things featuring 12:⁴

  1. A dozen eggs: the standard number of eggs as they are sold, at least in the US and Great Britain. A standard egg cartons fit 12 eggs. (But they also come in other sizes.)
  2. A dozen roses: probably since they hatch out of eggs, roses are often also sold by the dozen. Rather than being sold in the egg carton packaging, which doesn’t hold up well to the egg sprouting, they are instead sold in bunches, and placed in vases.
  3. Cheaper by the Dozen: A biographical book by Frank Gilbreth about a family with 12 children, and subsequent adaptation to a 1950 movie of the same name. (The 2003 movie of the same name with Steve Martin is not based on that book, but also features a family with 12 children.)
  4. a dime a dozen: an idiom meaning “very commonplace.” As in: Those are nothing special. You can get them a dime a dozen. (Note that eggs, roses, and children all cost much more than a dime.)
  5. 12: the number of jurors on a US trial jury. 12 Angry Men (1957) is a movie about the jury on a murder trial. (Also remade in 1997.)
  6. Twelve Monkeys (1997): A movie directed by Terry Gilliam, and one of my personal favorites. It is not about 12 monkeys serving as jurors on a murder trial. That movie is called Twelve Angry Monkeys, and hasn’t been made. Yet.
  7. 12 days of Christmas: a period of festivities celebrated in many European Christian traditions that begins on December 25th. They are sometimes wrapped up by festivities on the 12th night, also known as Epiphany Eve.
  8. Twelfth Night: a comedy play by William Shakespeare.
  9. 12 step program: a program for addiction recovery.
  10. monklogo

  11. 12-hour clock: the convention of dividing the day into 2 12-hour chunks, a.m. and p.m. As such, 12 is the number of hours on a standard analog clock, and 12-hour digital clocks (as opposed to clocks set for 24 hours). 12:00 (12 o-clock) is noon or midnight.
  12. 12th grade: The final year of the American secondary school system, also called senior year. There are 12 numbered grades in the American school system, plus kindergarten, which isn’t numbered. (There are also 12 grades in many other countries’ school systems.)
  13. Little Twelvetoes: a song from Schoolhouse Rock about aliens with 6 fingers on their hands and 6 toes on their feet, and discussing the implications for counting (namely the use of base 12). The original song/cartooon was from 1973, but I quite like the cover version by Chavez from the 1996 tribute album Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks:

¹ In the past, I made list for 7/7/7, 8/8/8, 9/9/9, and 10/10/10. I celebrated 11/11 on multiple occasions, including 11/11/11

² I didn’t celebrate 6/6/6 with a list, as I didn’t yet have this blog. Like wise for 5/5/5, 4/4/4, 3/3/3/, 2/2/2/, and 1/1/1.³

³ I have to say that this post is the last post that I am likely to post according to this pattern. While I may well choose to make a list of thirteen things, it will almost certainly not be on 13/13/13. Unless, of course, the calendar gets radically restructured next year such that we have a 13th month.

⁴ Really, more than 12, if you want to get picky. But 12 items on my list.⁵

⁵If I have 12 12 things, does that make this list a gross one?⁶

⁶ This footnote is here because I didn’t have room in my list for a foot, which has 12 inches.¹²

¹² And this one is here just to have a footnote 12.

image credits: eggs, roses, clock, 12 Monkeys

Pomodoro: Using tomatoes for good (or evil)

Wondering why tomatoes have been on my brain? It’s because I have joined the Cult of Tomato.

Well, not really. But I have been using time management strategies that are inspired by the Pomodoro Technique. In the late 80s, some guy (not the tomato guy, at least as far as I know) developed a system involving using a timer to break down work times into manageable chunks. He named the technique Pomodoro, which is the Italian word for tomato, as the timer he used was a fairly standard tomato-shaped kitchen timer.

In a probably over-simplified way, the basics of the technique are:

  1. Pick a task to work on (typically one that is large and will take a lot of time and concentration)
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (a “tomato”), and dig into the task.
  3. Stay focussed on the task until the timer runs out.
  4. I said stay focussed on the task!
  5. Once your 25 minutes of intensive, focussed work is finished, you get a break! Step away from your work for 5 minutes or so.
  6. Seriously, take a break. This part is important.
  7. Once your break is up, set your timer again, and dive back into the work.

I’d heard of the Pomodoro Technique before from a friend of mine from grad school, who successfully used it to actually finish her degree. I think it was about the time that she told me about it that I found and downloaded an app to use.

And that was as far as I got.

Fast forward about 2 years to the spring of this year, and I read a post Veronica wrote about her decision to start working on projects using a timer method. She asked if any of her readers wanted to join her, and I commented that I was game to try Pomodoro. And  try it, I did.

I liked it.

Using tomatoes has helped me in a few main ways:

  •  It has helped me stay on task.
    For 25 minutes, barring unforeseen interruptions, I work in a concentrated way on my designated task. If, in the course of this tomato, I have the urge to look something up or to check on something else or do whatever puttering around beckons, I put the urge on hold until the end of the tomato. I know that my break will come up soon, and I can dive into puttering then. (Admittedly I often take longer breaks than 5 minutes.)
  •  It has helped me recognize smaller chunks of time as viable for getting work done.
    My schedule is often broken by appointments or other obligations, and sometimes I only have an hour or 2 to tackle my work. In the past, this would lead to me thinking “no point in getting started with that now. I’ll barely have time to get started.” With tomatoes, an hour or two suddenly becomes 2 to 4 viable chunks of work time. Because I can be focused, I actually get more done in those chunks than in previous larger but more nebulously structured lengths of time.
  • It has given my work more continuity
    Since managing my time in this way makes it easier for me to keep going on projects even when my time is limited, I am more likely to work on the projects on any given day. Meaning that fewer days go by without me touching a big project. This helps quite a bit.

I use a little app called Pomodoro that seems to be largely defunct and no longer available, but I think it was free when I got it. There are a whole bunch of other apps available that do more-or-less the same thing. (The more that that I like from the app I use is that it logs your tomatoes. You type in your task when you start a tomato (or it leaves the last task in by default) and then it has a little log where you can see your tomatoes listed by date, with task specified. It helps me track how long some projects have taken. (Usually longer than I’ve expected.)

For more on tomatoes, check out the Pomodoro Technique website. (The full technique involves more than just the timers, but I haven’t delved much into it.) I also found this blog post from a couple of years ago to be very insightful, plus it gives reviews and descriptions of some of the apps that were available (and many that still are). A quick search for “pomodoro” on the Apple App Store shows more than a dozen apps available, many tomato-themed, and ranging in price between free and $19.99. (Most are under $5.) And if you want something more concrete, you can even buy a wind-up tomato-shaped timer.

I highly recommend trying out a timer-based time management technique for anyone who has struggled to deal with dauntingly large, nebulous projects. Like finishing a degree. Or plotting to take over the world.

stopping time

I’ve often found myself wishing that I could somehow stop time. As I’ve grown older, I’ve felt, more and more often, the sense that I am standing still and the world is moving around me. I want to stop time so that I can have a chance to catch up. (To catch up with sleep, to catch up with work, to catch up with all the things I like to do but don’t seem to find time for anymore.)

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a button you could press to stop time?

It turns out I’ve had such a button all along. Or at least for a few years. I just hadn’t noticed it:

Unfortunately, while I have found button (on my stove, of all places), I haven’t managed to work out the interface. I have yet to successfully stop time. I’ll continue with my efforts and keep you posted.

Meanwhile, it’s late and I need to go to bed. It’s time to stop.

Holy crap. I totally missed a decade.

It’s 2010, the start of a new year. What’s more, as you may have heard, it’s the start of a new decade. The 10s. This has lead to plenty of people reflecting on what’s happened in the last 10 years. How things have changed, how far we’ve come. What we’ve seen and done as individuals.

Let’s think back 10 years…

In the year 2000, way back then, I was in grad school.

Oh, wait. I’m still in grad school. Fuck.

In the year 2000, I was living here. The couch was less dented, the carpet less stained. But it is the same couch, the same carpet. It’s funny to think that there are probably things in this house that have not been touched in 10 years. There have certainly been projects on the to do list that have not been touched in 10 years.

Living in the same place has lifted the landmarks from my memory. The years have almost totally blurred together.

I can hardly remember movies of the decade. When I think back on movies I love, the more “recent” ones, I’m shocked to see that they are often years old. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Was from freakin’ 2000. I’ve hardly read any books in the past decade. Most of my music is from the 80s and 90s. (Hell, I probably still wear clothes from the 90s. I’m just getting the jump on retro chic.)

Anyhow, I find myself having trouble being nostalgic for the past decade. Because apparently I barely noticed it.

Oh, fine. I guess I did have some changes. I mean, 2000 was when I started grad school, so that was a change. And I did get a master’s degree. And I had 2 children. And I guess there were some other events and accomplishments along the way. I mean, hell, in 2000 I didn’t even have an iPod, let alone a blog!


In other news of nostalgia, I’ve been working on putting together a list of my favorite posts of the year. I may well put together more retrospective lists.

Speaking of which, Holly and I are going to be putting together a list of the best Just Posts of 2009. And we need your help! We’ll be taking nominations for the best posts of the year, orchestrating some voting, and even awarding prizes! We can’t do it without help, though, so let us know if you can help look back at a few of the posts of months past. To see the lists, you can check out the Just Posts category. To learn more about the Just Posts, check out the info page.

public display of procrastination

Sometimes I feel like that should be the title of my blog. Public Display of Procrastination. Actually, many blogs could fit that bill. Perhaps it could be a blog genre: the PDP.

How did it get to be past 11:00 again? This is the eternal question. At least the nightly question. I’ve been trying to make sleep a priority lately, as sleep can lead to general well-being. And lack of sufficient sleep (which is what I’ve largely been dealing with, or not dealing with, depending on your parse) can lead to the following: memory loss, crankiness, sloth, chocolate cravings, crankiness, low tolerance for the shortcomings of others (“crankiness”), low tolerance for the shortcomings of self (“crankiness”), chocolate consumption, ice cream cravings, chocolate ice cream consumption (which is odd, because I never even used to like chocolate ice cream), reduced productivity, decreased patience (“crankiness”), confusion, speech errors (“each sparers”), muddle-headedness, shorter tempers (“crankiness”), increased stress, distraction, nap envy and memory loss. Also, there is some chance of crankiness.

I was all gung-ho to get some work done tonight, after Phoebe got to bed. And while I’ve been busy since then, actual work has not happened. Here is what has happened. (And I have less than 8 minutes to write it before midnight, at which point my laptop will turn into a pumpkin. And lord knows I’ve got enough vegetables to deal with.)

  • I read a few blogs
  • I read some news
  • I pimped out a minivan with flames
  • I ate some ice cream
  • I wrote and sent a vegetable-related email
  • I wrote a list of bird songs
  • I ate some more ice cream
  • I put in some laundry
  • I wrote this

Time’s up.

the eleven-o’clock salad

lettuce.jpgIt’s just past 11:00 p.m., and I just ate a big salad. I realized that before you know it, it will be time for my next CSA pick-up, and I still had 3 heads of lettuce, plus lots of other greens, onions, and kohlrabi. You will be proud of me to know that I opted to make and eat salad rather than going right to the freezer to get out the ice cream which we bought earlier this evening. (Note that I have not yet forgotten the ice cream. Its time will come.)

The salad was good. I do like salad. Especially when it’s been tossed with the dressing in a bowl, so that the dressing is all evenly spread around. An equal distribution of wealth, as it were. (I like to eat a good helping of socialist metaphors.) And by the way: boy-oh-boy has our salad spinner been seeing a lot of action lately.

I keep feeling like I want to record more of my life, of our life. I’m not sure why, exactly. Part of it is that I like my life, and imagine that some day I’ll look back fondly on this time, and feel a bit sad if I don’t remember what my day to day life was like. My future self will think things like: “Back when I was a new mother, did I eat enough vegetables?” or “Did I get enough sleep when I was a grad student?” or “I wonder what I thought about pants when I was in my 30s?”

I keep meaning to update the Phoebe Blog more frequently. Phoebe keeps growing and changing, and well, doing things. Again, things that I feel like I’ll want to remember. My memory fades so quickly, and the days blur together. Hell, the weeks and months blur together. I just managed to post a bit to the Phoebe Blog last night, but there are gaps. It’s strange this feeling that I need to record all of it. I don’t think my parents recorded too much about me, or even my sister (the first-born). I wonder if it’s partially my packrat tendencies making me want to store things away. (The packrat in me badgers me to squirrel things away? Can I fit a rabbit into this somewhere?)

The trip plans are coming along moderately well. I have squared away an apartment in Paris. I have filled out the form from the conference organizers to get a hotel room in Saarbrucken, who seem to have reserved every last hotel room in the town so that you must go through them. (Which means you may not actually get a choice about which hotel you’re going to stay in. Which may lead to some difficulties, as we have special public transportation and crib needs due to travelling with a toddler. I sent an email. I think I’ll be known as a troublemaker to the conference organizers. Because I also questioned their request to have a letter faxed from “the head of my institution” stating that I am a student in order to get the student discount for registration, in addition to sending a scan of the student ID. They claim that such a letter should only take “2 minutes” and is standard procedure. Which is a load of hooey.) I also still have to look more into trains.

And I keep thinking it would be nice to watch a movie. It’s possibly been weeks since I watched a movie. Oh yeah, and I’m supposed to be doing work. Oh wait. Now I’m supposed to be sleeping. Crap.

And you know how I felt compelled to write more 7 lists? Well, as I anticipated, I didn’t have much time. Phoebe’s nap ended, followed by needing to get her a meal, and get her dressed, and who knows what all, resulting in a time lapse of two hours. Then we went out a shopping excursion to get a birthday present for John’s aunt. (We’re going to her 80th birthday party tomorrow. Possibly not the 80th such party that she’s had.) We didn’t get home till 8 or so, then it was time for Phoebe to get a bath and get to bed. It was 9 by the time she was in bed. (Way past her bedtime, but she seems to have her parents’ night owl proclivities.) So, no time to work on lists. But since I don’t want to throw them away, or toss them into the compost pile with the beet greens, I’ll lay them on you here.

So, here are some sevens (and sevenths) I thought about incorporating into some lists.

More than seven more seven things.


  • The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (I haven’t read it, but it seems to have a Phoebe.)
  • The Seven Dials Mystery, by Agatha Christie
  • The 7 habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey (Not that I’ve read it. I have a low tolerance for self-help books)
  • Seven Spiders Spinning, by Gregory Maguire (one of his kids’ books)
  • Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, a young adult novel by Barbara Cohen, based on an Iraqi folktale.
  • music:

  • Seven and the Ragged Tiger, an album by Duran Duran
  • “lucky number 7 passed me by,” a line from Cracker’s “Lonesome Johnny Blues”
  • “Love is the seventh wave,” a song by Sting
  • A line from “Monkey Gone to Heaven” by the Pixies:
  • If man is five (if man is five…)
    and the devil is six (and the devil is six…)
    then god is heaven (then god is heaven…)
    this monkey’s gone to heaven

  • There are also seven days in a week, seven deadly sins and seven wonders of the world. You can be in seventh heaven, you can get seven years of bad luck if you break a mirror, or you can sail the seven seas. Agent 007 is Bond. (James Bond.)
  • If you’ve got more 7s for me, toss them my way. Toss them like a salad.

    I shouldn’t drink coffee

    I’ve been up since 4 a.m., and this time it’s not directly due to Phoebe.

    I’ve just come out of a really hectic stretch of days working on a class assignment, working on editing paper that I’m co-authoring with two of my bosses, and preparing a demonstration and presentation of some soundfile and data processing tools for my advisor and two other professors I work with. All of this was while dealing with trying to re-adjust to East Coast time, and even more difficult, trying to get Phoebe back on an East Coast schedule. Then on Tuesday, I was counting on having a solid work day, as Phoebe goes to daycare. But the daycare provider had a nasty virus, so we kept Phoebe home, leading to a loss of 8 or so productive hours. Then we had a rough night where the furnace shut off and Phoebe woke up cold and screaming, leading to an additional loss of sleep and productive hours.

    Anyhow, I had the meeting to talk about the file-processing things yesterday, and was so tired from the sleep deprivation of the previous few days, I stopped for a coffee at a Dunkin Donuts on my drive in. (And no, I didn’t get a donut. I was strong.) I don’t drink much caffeine these days, as I know it keeps me awake at night. But I figured falling asleep while driving would be a bigger price to pay than another largely sleepless night. Which is true. But I am really tired, and strangely wired. Even now. Over 12 hours over finishing the coffee, which was supposed to be half decaf, but I’m suspecting really wasn’t. Or maybe it’s just stress. In either case, I was too tired to do much of anything last night, but too wired to sleep.

    I’m hoping to wind down soon. Because I’m still too tired to actually concentrate on work, and I still have a lot to do. And I probably shouldn’t spend the day blogging…

    wearing my late-night cranky pants

    We’re down in New York again, to visit John’s parents. John’s father has been in and out of the hospital since July, when he (re)broke his hip. So we’ve been coming down here to visit quite often. (Actually, this summer, we estimate that we spent more time here than at home.) I’m glad that we are able to come down here pretty easily, as it’s only a 3 and half hour drive for us. And it’s so important to be with family, especially in difficult times.

    Anyhow, John’s father is back in the hospital again, and here we are. To offer help and support. My main job is to offer Phoebe, who offers much cuteness and huggage. Never underestimate the power of distraction.

    But, while I’m glad we can be here, and even pushed for us to make this trip down this week, I also (selfishly) am going batty. Because I have even less time to myself than I have at home. I don’t know why I expect to get things done on these trips. I had in mind all sorts of work I’d get done, and packed accordingly. Book to read for my class. Stationery for writing the last of my seriously overdue thank you notes. Soundfiles on my laptop for annotation. Microphone to do some recordings for work. Articles to read for work. But the days slip away with socializing with John’s mother, visiting the hospital, and caring for Phoebe, who is going through a tough teething period. The most I’ve gotten done of my work was to start the reading for my class, and then get distracted

    And once again, here it is really freakin’ late at night. And rather than sleeping or getting to any of the work I should be doing, I sit here with my laptop writing about the work I should be doing and the sleep I should be getting.


    The passage of time seems to be a recurring theme in my life these days. Or perhaps a running theme. I always seem to be running late, or otherwise running behind schedule. (At the same time, I do very little actual running. Since I’m mostly sitting on my behind.) (Sorry, I can’t resist a pun. It’s a sickness.)

    So here I am. Doing my reading for my sociolinguistics class. Which is not until Tuesday. It’s Friday night. So that means I’m way ahead of the game, right? Well, I should be. I mean, I’m reading the right chapter for this week. But here’s the deal. I’m reading from an old edition of the textbook. So far, it hasn’t been much of an issue. But now we’re reading the chapter on Language Planning. And it’s a little bizarre to be reading about language policies in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia “today”. So you see, even though I’m a couple of days ahead, I’m still more than a decade behind. This edition came out in 1992.

    15 years ago.

    This has lead me to reflect upon a number of things.

    As I mentioned before, the class I’m taking is mostly full of undergrads. Probably mostly around 20 years old. At that time my edition of the textbook came out, I was 20 years old, and an undergrad. At that time most of the other students in this class would have been in kindergarden. In 1992, they would have been reading, what, Dr. Seuss? Books in the “I Can Read” series? The Berenstein Bears?

    And what seems particularly striking to me, as I read this outdated chapter, is that these folks probably have no firsthand memories of the existence of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. And they grew up without knowing the Cold War.

    Anyhow, I don’t have much time to write more about this now. The reflections I’ve had about growing up in the Cold War era. About the impact of the Cold War on U.S. culture and pop culture. But at some point I may write more…and maybe even make a list.

    Ok. Back to my reading. And I wonder why I’m running behind?