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December 12, 2006

recycle those plastic bottles please

I am forever digging recycling out the garbage cans at home. Granted, we don't have the most obvious recycling system (I really need to put some labels up) but it is still a constant reminder to me of the challenges ahead if I can't even get my roommates, who know me, to recycle consistently (or enforce recycling with their guests).

So I wasn't surprised to read that although plastic bottle recycling is increasing, it isn't keeping up with the increase in plastic bottle sales. My roommates are convinced that aluminum cans are the only material worth recycling (and I still find those in the trash occasionally), despite my explanations to the contrary. I am not surprised that most other people don't make the extra effort to recycle that material. With bottled water sales through the roof these days, use of plastic bottles in public spaces is ever increasing. Until we can get successful recycling cans next to every trash can next to every public vending machine we'll continue to keep trashing plastic. Despite my roommates' apathy this isn't just an environmental issue; it is an economic and energy one as well:

Last year our bottle trashing habit cost the equivalent of dumping 18 million barrels of crude oil down the drain.

December 11, 2006


While in Tennessee, my niece got me hooked on Sudoku - that annoying crossword of numbers everyone seems to be raving about. Previously I could never imagine myself enthralled by a box of numbers. "Where is the meaning?" I kept asking. Even after I became hooked on them, I still couldn't figure out why my mind kept reaching back to that damn box.

However, while putting the last brush strokes on this report that has consumed my mind completely, I suddenly understand the connection. Part of polishing up this collection of words is checking my cross references. Does my conclusion match the body perfectly without being too repetitious? Does the analysis of the study lead up to the recommendations with out spilling into them? I have to constantly pay attention not just to the content but to actual word usage. How many times to I use description words? It should be often enough that they lodge firmly in people's heads but not so often that they feel like an annoying jingle.

In Sudoku all the numbers must weave together to create balanced quadrangle of figures. In this report all the key words and phrases are being woven together to create a fabulous fabric that is hopefully as balanced and beautiful as a sudoku box.

December 08, 2006


Lately I have been in report-land. Mostly it is heaven, sometimes it seems like hell but regardless it is all reports all the times. Some of these are one I read as a member of the board at the co-op. However, most of the land is made up of a single (but oh so beautiful) report I have been writing for work for way too long now.

Recently during my journey through report land I had an epiphany. Suddenly the world is not just the world but can be divided into two areas: process and content.

You can tell how much I am enjoying this adventure by how much that revelation awed me. Yes, we have already established that I am majorly geeky.

Yet despite this geekiness I have never divided the world this way and suddenly every thing seems so clear! In my report some bits are about the process - how we arrived at the data I am reporting on and other parts are content - the data itself. By clarifying the process before the content I am putting the content in context. Do you see what a marvelous tool this knowledge is?

It gets even better. By understanding the process of the entire report (why we gathered the data in the first place, where it is going, who is going to read it, what they are going to do with this information, why the company wants me to write it, etc) I have a much better idea what that content of the report actually needs to be! By understanding that larger view - getting that big picture from my manager - the report I am writing is put into context so I am easily able to discern what needs to be included and how it should be presented.

By understanding how process and content are intertwined and related I feel like I have a map to help me on my journey (which for a control freak like me makes the whole thing much more enjoyable). And to think I believed my traveling days were over...