Switching to Gmail Web-App

I recently made the switch to the Gmail web-app.  I have had a Gmail address (or two) for a long time.  However, I have always used a local application to access my email.  For years, I used the standard mail app that comes with OSX.  Recently, I had switched to Sparrow.  However, after Sparrow was acquired by Google, I knew it was a matter of time before I needed to find something else.  In the last few months, Sparrow was having some glitches that bothered me enough to start looking around and make a switch once again.

I looked for a few weeks, and where I ended surprised even me.  I really don’t like the web interface for Gmail.  But in the end… functionality was what won the day.  The biggest gain for me, was that once I get the Gmail interface set up the way I want it, I can access my email in that EXACT interface from anywhere. First, I forwarded ALL of my emails to my Gmail account, and then I set each email up to send from there as well.  Gmail can automatically respond from the same address that a message was sent to me on… so now I don’t even need to know what address a message comes in on.  If I respond, Gmail responds from the correct address (you do have to select this setting).  Still, I set up labels for each of my emails, just so I can keep track of where conversations are happening.

Over all, it has taken me a few weeks to get things the way I like them.  Now I have my labels and filters set up in a way that works for me, and I am slowly getting accustomed to Gmail shortcuts.  The final step for me, was to clean things up.  I turned to Gmelius for that.  Gmelius allows you to take out adds and clean the interface up a bit (but only in Chrome).  Of course, If I access my Gmail from someone else’s computer, it won’t have the final touches that Gmelius adds. The functionality will be the same, though, and I can live with that.

Now that I am on the flip-side of having made the switch… I can hardly imagine going back to a stand-alone email app.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Google (and all super-huge mega companies that are trying to rule the world), but the functionality they offer for email is fantastic for my usage.

 

Moving things over…

After a bit of work with a new theme, and moving all my content over, it’s time to get started on the new site. I began this blog at embracerefrain.com.  When I started that site, it was for writing and reflecting about a year long project of fasting and embracing new habits.  That year has long since past, and though I still blogged occasionally, I never really kept up after the first year.  I wanted a fresh start, and more generic domain name to post about whatever it is I am thinking about / reading / etc.   So workysworld.com it is.  I wanted to keep all of my content from the previous blog, just in case one of my 10 readers ever wanted to refer back to it!  So here is to a fresh start!

Office View

I was sitting down with my coffee this morning, reading through my RSS feeds. This is a normal morning routine for me, and one of my favorites feeds caught my eye, as usual: Offscreen magazine does a “desktop” series where they feature five inspiring workspaces each week.  They find some amazing, and usually minimal workspaces, many of them with amazing views.  You can check out the series here.  The first workspace picture for today, had a long skinny desk up against a large window with a fantastic view into the woods.  I found myself longing for a view like that.  Then I realized: I already have it.  My primary job is a stay at home dad, where I often go hiking with my son during the day.  Essentially at that point, my office has fantastic views and I get to share them with my son (and sometimes my daughters if they are not in school).  For my secondary job as a web designer / developer… I’d still like to have  a fantastic office someday.  It’s funny though, if I end up with a great view into the woods, I’ll likely be longing to go hiking with my family!

Lent

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the Lenten season as an opportunity to practice both an embrace and a refrain for 40 days.  However, I was having a bugger of a time figuring out what to do!  Our church is practicing a daily prayer and lectionary reading during Lent.  I was planning on incorporating this into whatever I decided, but I was really struggling with the rest.  Thankfully, Rachel Held Evans wrote a helpful post yesterday:  40 Ideas for Lent.  I took a couple ideas from there and came up with a plan:

  • I joined the Lenten Wilderness Meditation Practice:  Spend 10-20 minutes each day outside in prayer / meditation / just being (rain, snow, or shine).  What a great idea, and it will work perfect to do alongside the daily prayer and lectionary reading. 
  • No Meat:  From RHE: “Traditionally, Christians abstained from eating meat during Lent, so consider joining millions of Christians around the world in this fast. It’s a great way to feel connected to the historical, worldwide church.”  I have been thinking lately that I would like to reduce my consumption of meat anyway, mainly for the health benefits.  This will be a good opportunity to move in that direction as well.

 

The Sparrow “ding”

Sometimes small details can really make a difference in our ability to be present and focus on what is in front of us.  When it comes to working on anything related to a computer, my ability to focus is, well, almost scary.  The world could be coming to an end, and I might not know it if I am in the middle of building a web site.  However, when I am playing with my kids, or doing some chores around the house…  I can be focused at times, but certain things will throw me off.  The biggest one:  the classic “ding” sound from Sparrow letting me know I have a new email.

In theory, I like having an audible notification that I have a new email.  However, when I am eating dinner or reading a book with one of my kids and that little “ding” goes off, it’s all I can do to keep from checking.  All of a sudden, my email has a tyrannical hold on my thought process.  The sound sits in my head until I check the darn thing.  Our family computer sits in our great room, where we spend most of our time.  If I am home, I’ll likely hear the sound.  Of coure, I usually end up checking it to make sure it isn’t anything important.  Thing is, I rarely have an important email of such magnitude that I would need to check it out right away.  Almost never, really.

I am not sure why I let this go on so long.  Such a simple thing… I turned off the sound notification on Sparrow the other day.  It makes a huge difference.  I still check my email quite often.  But now, I wait until after dinner, or after I am done reading or playing with my kids.   I love it… I changed one little setting on my email client and my ability to be present is better.  Not perfect by any stretch, but better.

1st year in review…

Well, it’s been over a year since I started embrace/refrain.  I definitely faded down the stretch of 2012, but that is mostly due to starting a web-design company over the last couple of months.  Still, I did 9-10 embrace or refrain projects and wrote around 60 blog posts.  Not terrible for year 1.

Some thoughts on the past year:

  • Starting new habits is hard work, but definitely worth pursuing.  Taking habits that are beneficial, but not part of your routine…. to part of your daily or weekly routine takes patience and persistence.  A month gives you a good start, but many times it isn’t long enough to get something fully ingrained as part of your daily life.
  • In our over-stimulated, thing-driven western culture, fasting (or refraining) from things like foods, entertainment and typical conveniences is a great practice.   My favorite project of this past year was staying away from wasting time on the internet.  I got so much done and spent my time so much more efficiently that month.  At first, I kept a lot of that momentum, but after awhile, my old habits crept back in.  I probably need to do that fast at least once a year.
  • Writing is hard work.  I give a ton of credit to bloggers who post creative, original content on a weekly basis.  It takes a ton of time, determination, and creativity.  I thoroughly enjoy writing, and find it incredibly beneficial, but it is still difficult.

And moving forward….

  • I really enjoyed doing this experiment of 1 project a month over the past year.  However, there were months that life was just a bit crazy to be pursuing an embrace or refrain project and writing about it on a regular basis.  So I was successful with it some months, and others not at all.  In light of that, I plan on continuing this year, but on lighter schedule.  My hope is do to 5-6 month-long projects over 2013.  I’ll start them when it works as opposed to figuring out a project for the beginning of each month.  I’ll probably get my first one going in the first couple weeks of February.
  • My second favorite project of the past year was the month I attempted to blog everyday.  That month forced me to write about a greater variety of interests beyond the original embrace/refrain idea.  Since then, I have continued to to do that on a sporadic basis and I’ll continue that in 2013.

Iceman

This past weekend, I raced in the Iceman Cometh mountain bike race.  It is a 29 mile race that starts in Kalkaska, MI and ends near Traverse City.  This year it was appropriately named, as we had fresh snow on the ground at the beginning of the race and encountered flurries along the way as well.  The course was muddy and slick in spots, and sandy in others.  This is my second year racing the Iceman, and it was much harder this year than last.

I was pretty disappointed in my time.  I finished in 3:03:35, where as last year I finished in 2:42:51.  I actually felt stronger and in better shape this year.  Some of the difference is attributable to the conditions and adjustments made to the course because of logging.  It definitely didn’t ride as fast as last year, and it felt like it was a little longer.  I also had a bad seeding, which put me behind a lot of riders who were out there for the first time.  There were several locations on the single-track where we came to a dead stand still, and others where the pace slowed to a crawl.  There was a lot of grumbling out there, some of it mine.  It is frustrating to train for a race and have traffic jams really slow you down and kill your momentum.

Despite the frustrations, it was still a blast.  I was fortunate enough not to have any flats, broken chains, etc., and I made it through without injury as well.   I am amazed at how many bikes you see broken down on the side of the trail, and my wife had to give a few injured riders a lift to the finish.  It has to be a huge bummer to train for and travel to a race and not be able to finish due to breakdown or injury.

There is something awesome about being out there with 4700 other riders on a cold, snowy, November day.  This year, my family was able to come out to the race as well.  They were there cheering me on at the midpoint, which was a huge boost to my morale.  Overall it was a fantastic day.   I hope they fix the seeding issues, but either way, I am looking forward to next year!