Simplify It Sunday

bread bar jules

Just taking a breather here and thought I’d share some thoughts as I looked at my crazy Inbox this weekend. I switched to Gmail last year and things just keep moving down as they come in, until they turn the corner and head into the ‘older’ page (ie: Siberia). Where they get forgotten. So yesterday, I deleted a few messages. As in, a few hundred messages. I don’t even recall what many of them were about, or why I was saving them, but invariably a few likely got tossed that I probably should have answered. Drat.

There’s a concept I’ve been hearing about called declaring “bankruptcy”. It’s not about the global financial meltdown, but it’s about preventing another kind of meltdown by simply starting back again from zero, a blank slate. It’s an interesting idea and it’s nice to do a bit of spring cleaning now and then, even though spring is a few months away, unfortunately. (Although it did give me an excuse to buy a killer-stylin’ new overcoat for winter last Wednesday.)


We’re all so busy these days and folks who have blogs or who work online, like yours truly, get swamped. So I prefer to answer your questions in the comments of the blog, since I can keep it all rounded-up and focused there (I must’ve been a herding dog in my past life) and the comments often turn into an interesting discussion forum. So if you pose a question about a blog post or recipe on Twitter or Facebook, I’m not likely to answer it there just because I can’t keep track of all of them. (Often the question may have already been answered in the comments on the site, as well.)

I’ve been using Twitter quite a bit since it keeps me connected and I don’t have to click a million buttons to open, answer, and then delete. It’s just bing-bang. Due to the cavalcade of stuff that rolls in via Twitterific, which I use to manage my Twitterstream, if I don’t answer you, that doesn’t mean I don’t like you; it just means that I’m either unavailable, or am busy working and can’t. I try to see and read it all, but things just stream through like a conversation and sometimes I’ll jump in, and sometimes I won’t. Just like everyone else on Twitter. That’s just the nature of Twitter; it’s meant to be spontaneous. If you ask something and don’t get an answer, I’m working on a writing project, or The World’s Best Blog Post (or, more likely, reading FAILblog), so that’s why.

Similarly with Facebook. I’ve been posting links over on my Facebook page and there’s been some great discussions happening there. Often it’s topics that fall outside of the blog; perhaps they are political or celebrity scandals, freaky stuff or whatever. I jump in there as well and like reading the conversations that develop.

So I’ve been looking into ways to simply my workflow and am interested in hearing any of yours. A few are below, including one person who quit e-mail once and for all. Yikes.

Links

How and Why I Ditched My Inbox (Zen Habits)

Empty Your Inbox (MacWorld)

Let Me Google That For You

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (Lifehacker)

Smart Ways to Work (Odette Pollar)

The Anti-Social World of Social Media (The Punch)

How Successfuly Writers E-mail (Amateur Gourmet)

E-Mail Bankruptcy (Worker Bees Blog)

What to Expect If You Follow Me on Twitter (Wil Wheaton)

How to Get Started on Twitter (Food Blog Alliance)

46 comments

  • Excellent article David!

    I often comment on your Twitter tweets, but when you don’t write (or call etc haha) I don’t get offended :-)

    Seems like the social media interaction (twitter, facebook etc) is quite a long always-on stream of thought which is never-ending, but oft times thought-provoking and sometimes downright funny and makes me laugh.

    I too suffer from inbox-overload and use Gmail, and I’ve started setting up filters (categories) for regular emails which pop in, so they are already brightly tagged when they appear.

    I also set up TO DO and URGENT filters and flag emails with these as soon as I see (or open) them, and this has made my Gmail life a lot easier. I do agree though about Siberia rolling off the page though, out of sight out of mind, and every so often I get really brave and simply Archive the lot of it (and I shouldn’t say I let my inbox emails reach the giddying heights numbered in the thousands – oh my).

    Your way of managing questions etc via your Comments on your blog is a great way to track your followers. I turn each Paris-related email into a comment on my website, and answer it, which I’ve found is the best way to answer the question AND share it with other website visitors who might also have a similar question, so we’re on the same track there.

    It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in Sydney so I’m off to buy croissants for breakfast – love your blog!

    Cheers
    Teena
    http://A-Night-in-Paris.com | http://twitter.com/anight_in_paris

  • If you’re using Gmail, here’s a quick tip: use Archive, not Delete. Both move messages out of your inbox (i.e. out of sight), and with archive you can always go back and use the super-powerful search function (it’s ‘google’ mail after all) to find messages you might have overlooked – a indispensable feature for those times you’d like to prove something that passed your inbox but never bothered to read.

  • Oh, and use ‘e’ for quick archiving of messages; or ‘]’ for even niftier ‘archive-and-move-to-next-message’.

    Good luck keeping that zero-inbox sustained! :)

  • Nico: I just discovered the “Archive” feature on Gmail, which is great. I wish I knew about it before! Joe Kissell, who wrote the article I linked to, Empty Your Inbox, told me about it…via Twitter!

    Teena: Since I follow a lot of people, and vice versa, it’s impossible to keep up. But it’s nice to just read things in the Twitterstream and comment when possible, while keeping abreast of other things going on in life.

  • David, when I think of “social networking” I think of you as the perfect example of somebody who knows how to make his readers feel cared for and listened to. It must be draining at times, but your efforts truly are recognized and appreciated!

  • A very interesting post.
    I almost never delete emails. I prefer to move them to another folder (such as inbox-done). because now days almost nothing is printed and I think that’s the best ways to keep bot small memories and important documents.

    Mi,
    http://www.ask2cook.com

  • I can imagine that you have tons of email and twitter hits. I’ve only tweeted you once when you showed a picture of a failed cake that I could relate to and begged a tutorial on making one (a non failure one!) at the same time. I had no expectations of hearing from you, but thought it an appropriate place to seed a blog idea, if you were so inclined, in the event you even read it. Twitter moves so fast, I’m just glad you are on it for all of us to follow since I enjoy your sense of humor about the absurd. I have no Online application advice for I’m not in a position to need or use all the features that are available on the various communication applications…so good luck with that email ;)

  • In Gmail, I always use rules and colored labels.

    The messages that flow in my inbox come with their color mark in the title, already tagged with the chosen label(s). I can deal with them depending if they are urgent or whatever predetermined content/source I needed to sort and manage.

    The interresting thing beside the colors : because they already are organized in labels, I can check once in a while “all conversations”, and “archive”, with no regrets. I’ll find any mail I want grouped in each label if I need it (in addition to google email search) . Creating those rules and giving each label a color can take a little time for the first bunch of rules, but it’s a gain of hours each week for me.

    Many programs have email notifications available, I use them a lot : with gmail notifier, it’s a way to go exactly where you are needed at the second a message is posted. For example I have facebook and forums email notifications, and I have a sound and a little message with the first sentence of each email, showing down the screen. So I do not need to be on the said website tab to know that I have something to read or something that waits some answer. It gaves me the same relief than RSS feeds for blogs a few years ago :D.

    I use several browsers (maxthon/firefox) to be logged in several versions of some sites in the same time, for example personnal and professional facebook or two flickr accounts in the same time. With firefox, there’s a profile system to do this with one browser only (but I love maxthon).

    I use also a lot the feature “task list” in gmail : it is shown in the agenda too, and it’s instantly saved on their server, available everywhere. In the actions about an email in gmail, you can choose “add to task list” then the list entry is made from the email title, and several other nice functions. It’s a quick and convenient way to track “little things” to do without being annoyed by a heavy and unnecessary software.

  • Well, I for one think you are extremely responsive. Thank you so much for your lightning-quick answer to my macaroon/vanilla question earlier today!

  • Hello David

    This was a perfect subject to toss around, as I too am overwhelmed with emails daily. I’ve found that the only other solution to filing, is to delete altogether, and that feels “dirty”, but incredibly “satisfying” at the same time. I’ve tried to unsubscribe to many of the food related sites I’ve fallen in love with, but just like that bad penny, they keep coming back, and I’m drawn to them like a moth to fire. Thank God, that unlike yourself, I don’t have a zillion followers seeking advice on a daily basis. Then again, I’d love to be known as the creator of the “Chocolate Idiot Cake”. C’est le meilleur. Maintenez-le simple, stupide. I love that philosophy.

    Mark

  • While I have a twitter account, I have no idea what it is. I don’t actually DO twitter—I just use it as a means to share thoughts that aren’t big enough to become blog posts.

    As for facebook, I’m on it, but I don’t do it. It confuses me and overwhelms me and makes me get a headache.

    I also don’t have a TV or a cell phone. I have four kids and that’s enough of a distraction for this woman.

    And by the way, my mother bought me The Perfect Scoop for my birthday. I’m liking it, though I have yet to delve into the recipes, it getting close to winter and all. I’m thinking I want to blend the coconut and white chocolate recipes into one…

  • David I don’t know how you keep up with the blog, email, Twitter and Facebook and having a life! Since you have cleared things up, when will we be seeing photos of you modeling the new coat!

  • I’ve always been impressed with the number of posts and breath of topics you post on just facebook alone, and have wondered how you do it. It’s nice to know that managing all of these efforts are not easy.

  • Well aside from the email stuff… I love the picture.. The breakfast scene…the beautiful bread on the rustic table…is very serene and calming…if you stare at it long enough… Thanks David..

  • Hi David. We’re from the same school. You worked at Chez, I worked at Oliveto : ) I just read your post today, and I am hesitant to ask, you since you changed your pic on facebook, you asked for it! I MUST have that peanut butter cookie recipe. I want to eat your facebook photo! IF you have time, care to post it? I would appreciate it! I hope you’re well. As far as dumping stuff is goes, just do it, regularly. I don’t think any zen master would be proud of the way we handle our lives via the internet these days. Toss it! Then you’ll have more time to think about yourself :)

  • Susan: On all those things, I do take a look. That’s the great thing about Twitter; you can just shoot someone a quick message, they can take a look.

    Marie: I actually find it’s easier to respond when things come in because otherwise they move down the list, and pile up, where you think about them thinking “I need to get to this”. I aim for a good “turn-around” time, just to keep things moving.

    Francis-Olive: That super-moist peanut butter cookie recipe is from my upcoming book, Ready for Dessert, which will be released in April.

    Bernadette: My secret (which isn’t really a secret) is to do what I want to do, balanced with what I can. What’s manageable for me. I make it fun and if it’s not fun, I wouldn’t do it. It can get intense, and then it’s good to remember that we’re not curing cancer here, it just all be enjoyable and not feel overwhelming.

    ron: I was staring at it for a while. And you know what? It works!

    (Except then I got hungry…)

  • David, I don’t have an email overflow problem but I figured a comment on here might be helpful to your acquiring some food staples in the future. I was perusing some older post in which you lament the unavailability of certain mainstream American products. I’m sure you stock up any chance you get but in a pinch I might be able to help.

    I live in Stuttgart and have access to the commissary here. While most of the food is pretty dismal they are making inroads into organic fare. I can get Maranatha Organic peanut butter, butterscotch chips, whatever you need that they carry…at US prices! Stuttgart is just a train ride away and we’ll be coming to Paris again in the spring probably so start your grocery list and I’ll deliver. Cheers, Drue

  • I find that removing emails from the inbox (filing, archiving, etc) straightaway as they’re read helps to keep the inbox clean. I delete emails in Gmail as archiving unnecessary emails creates more search results to go through later on.

    I also have auto-filters set up to apply labels from various senders so once read all I need to do is archive away.

    Another thing I picked up from Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Workweek is to handle email in batches once or twice a day. Doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it frees up time from responding to non-urgent email piecemeal.

  • A lot of what krysalia said. I use Firefox, and there’s an add-on called Better Gmail 2 which helps organize things. Folders, Filters and Labels are your friends. I even have a folder called Lebovitz, where emails from a certain website go.

    And of course Gmail isn’t tied to an ISP, which is nice if you hate the bastards you’e currently with. ;)

  • See, David, you should move to Montreal where Twitter does not exist via the cell phone…nor does any does any video stream outside of Youtube…The CRTC which regulates Canada’s airwaves put out all these negative beam ions and so all we have are our computers…life is so much easier even if it is the nineteenth century STILL.

    Ahh email; could I really exist without hearing from Bloomingdales or Marks and Spencer? Let alone the lovely emails I get from Simply Recipes…(on my website)…

    How come I never see your ‘food friends’ comment on each others blogs? It’s like you are all friends, always talk about each other and yet I never see comments from one another even on the posts where you guys mention each other?. What’s up with that?

    That ode to Adam to come to Paris is hysterical and so true.

    I know your time is limited, but isn’t it the same for all of us? What is a blog without comments and if we all were too busy, which we are btw, how would you know any one is reading?

    Hey it’s Sunday I am about to drive 6 hours to Toronto to see daughter in the sound of music and tomorrow is Monday – theatre is dark on Monday and I still get to spend all my bucks shopping For Her….AND Susur Lee hasn’t left New York yet …

  • First, photos of the overcoat, please.

    When I started reading your blog I was surprised at how often you replied to people’s comments, not just on your blog but on FB too. You do a great job! You may want to read an article that came out in last Sunday’s NY Times magazine, “Stop Your Search Engines”.

  • I think you do an amazing job of keeping on top of things so thanks for being honest about your “Older” mails (Love that “Siberia” because it really is – you never see them once they move there!) and deleting them en masse. Starting over sounds like a great place to be. I get overwhelmed and I am only a tiny blogger in a sea of bloggers so I can only imagine how you must feel overwhelmed at times. Good for you for simplifying things. Doesn’t it feel better now?

  • Hi David, Good for you! It’s good to clean that stuff out and get into a productive online routine. Don’t know if you’ve read it already but I highly recommend reading the book Getting Things Done. Some people take it really far but in terms of getting a handle on all things to-do, it’s really a great way of life.

    Good luck!

  • I was going to say what krysalia already did. I know it seems difficult to grasp at first, but over time I set rules and labels in gmail to mark my messages. I run two businesses and am heavily involved in the arts and volunteering Over time, I have rules set to color code (labels) and file (in rules it’s ‘skip the inbox’ but not marking it as read).

    So, general emails get in the inbox, and on the left side of my gmail tab I see a list of categories with new messages in each. So if I wanted to see potential posting for one of my art blogs – it’s there – and yet it’s not mixed in with my gourmet food emails. Truly, it’s the best function I’ve ever had with email and you never have to think about it.

  • Funny you should bring this up today. I just tackled my gmail inbox yesterday and feel like a great weight has been taken off my shoulders! It’s amazing how invisible, digital clutter can have the same kind of effect that solid stuff does. I still deal with those painful moments clicking “delete” that I do when I toss old stuff out. Like a few others have mentioned, I’m a devotee of the rules and labels-method. It has helped me get a handle on my own “siberia.”

    Besides that, I just wanted to say thanks for the consistently inspiring blogging. I’ve been a long-time reader but since coming to France, your photography and writing have really struck a cord with me.

  • David: Great post – timely subject! As someone who blogs, runs a business (bed and breakfast) that has lots of internet traffic and reservations, has a work email, and has kids who’s school schedules also appear on-line, I’ve found it helpful to have a day a week (Thursday) where I don’t turn on the computer. No Facebook, Twitter, email, or even cell phone.

    I always have a ton of stuff to check and answer on Fridays…but its surprising how much of it is just distractions and crap; not much that’s really important. And, after a day off, I’m much more likely to set up a message rule or use one of the many tools that cut down on the clutter anyway.

  • Your deleted messages are likely still in the trash bin… but… you can retrieve them and put them into the archives! Good luck!

  • Although I know Gmail keeps deleted messages in the Trash folder, that feels too drastic for my “you never know when you might want that email” nature. So I have a to delete folder where I dump messages I think I’m done with. Actually, it’s called ‘ato del’ so it’s at the top of my Inbox folder list.
    But that’s not a cure-all–I have a screen and a half of messages hanging in my Inbox…

  • I’ve been thinking about e-mail bankruptcy ever since Elisa mentioned it at Blogher Food. The idea terrifies me, but frankly, I’m so behind anyway, I’m not really keeping up with it.

    At this point, people are figuring out the most immediate way to reach me is via Twitter—including my former high school English teacher (we’ve kept in touch the last 20 years!). Knowing the reply is limited to only 140 characters take a lot of pressure off.

  • I really want that bread.

  • LOL. I love the above comment about the bread. Simple. One sentence.

    Maybe it’s envy as I really do not roll that way and wish I could! (Profuse comment follows, heh.)

    Hmmm, maybe it is something about the full moon coming up, or something in the Parisian air — or the Collective Unconscious at work? — for we just yesterday switched to Windows 7 and reformatted the entire computer. It feels wonderful to have that “clean slate” feeling you allude to in the post! There were some hitches. The good thing about the reformat: I have computer bankruptcy! Ahh, so nice to have the fresh start. Bad thing: files I thought had burned to CD had not, photo files, and I know I have lost some things I did not want to lose. The good side of that is that I upload to my Flickr Pro account with great diligence, so over 80% is saved. I forgot one of the cardinal rules of *always double check the disk after burning.* I really should know better. Maybe this is the universe’s way of lightening my load, though. Sounds like email bankruptcy has done that for you, too. I guess I would say in the trying to organize and keep up with everything, do a backup regularly and in multiple places/formats so that nothing important is lost.

    Y’all are convincing me that maybe a grand switch to G-mail is a good idea. I already use Google Reader for keeping up with blogs, and I am starting to bookmark in Google Bookmarks. I love Google Chrome, too! Those web-based tools help me keep bloggy and correspondence things straight. I use email filters in Yahoo! mail to sort out correspondence and I have folders set up into which I can drag and drop messages from people who regularly email for the stuff I want to keep. I also have more than one email account – two Yahoo and one G-mail which I use regularly, but depending on what task it is I am doing (online ordering, signing up at sites, etc.).

    I want to echo other comments here in appreciation for keeping up with your fan base through the online tools you use. I am very impressed with the diligence and care you show towards your readers and this is one of the reasons your blog is such a joy to read. You treat your readers well. Thank you.

  • Hi All: Thanks for your comments, especially those concerning Gmail. I’ve been learning to use more of the features, including Google Documents, which actually saved my butt this weekend when I couldn’t find something and realized it was on a Google Doc.

    Twitter gets a bit of derision as a lot of people navel-gazing, but in truth, it’s a good way to keep in touch quickly. The link that I gave to Zen Habits, he says that’s what he’s going to reply on to keep in touch with readers and others.

    The new “cloud computing” theory, where you get everything off your computer is interesting. Moving pictures to Flickr and getting things off your desktop is bound to make things cleaner for all.

    Do check out some of the essays by Odette Pollar, who I’ve also linked to, who offers a lot of practical ideas for keeping on top of it all. I’ve found a lot of her tips to be pretty on-the-mark.

  • speaking of “getting things off the computer”, i recommend dropbox (getdropbox.com) which is an online flash drive, basically. you start out w/ 2GB of storage and then as you invite people, you can “earn” more storage. this has saved my simple ass many, MANY times b/c i always forget to print out assignments until i’m sitting in class. no problem: i log on to dropbox, and bam ~ it’s there. i also like that you can share folders w/ people so it’s quick to drag and drop docs/pics/movies, etc, to my friends.

    also, try getting an invite to google wave. it’s MUCH easier to keep up w/ conversations and add people in to the email discussion. it’s like a combo of email, twitter, and a real-time conversation. i had some invites last week, but unfortunately, i already gave them out. as more people get on wave ~ and it comes out of beta ~ it’ll be even more useful.

  • Chapter 4 of Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst addresses taming your e-mail. The whole book is an eye-opener, but worth the price just for the e-mail chapter.

  • If you want to start getting into a whole different issue on note taking – you should look into Evernote. It’s ‘ubiquitous’ cloud computing for notes and information.

    I have it on my iphone (it also works on blackberry and other ‘smart’ phones), my mac laptop, my home server and has replaced everything from my recipe box to my scrap book. I keep notes for work, for my projects, for food, restaurants, travel, family, and even my passwords (there is an encryption feature).

    I started using it as part of my year to ‘unclutter’ but it’s a writer’s dream.

    Yeah, this is going to turn into a ‘you should try XYZ program/application/software’ but seriously have a look-

  • Ohhhhh!! *shivers, in a good way*

    I just checked out Google Docs, and started having this total GeekGasm of pleasure at it. Oh wowwwwww. That is so cool! I swear, Google is God. I have been saying it for years, but I am really convinced now. I can’t wait to start using it!

    I checked out Evernote, too, and boy howdy, is that a comprehensive tool or WHAT? Just reading a little on it made my head spin, but I agree, if I can figure it out (it is almost overwhelming in all it can do), it looks like a writer’s dream. Thanks for the 411 Terry.

    (While I love that this blog is about the food, I also love how it is not JUST about the food.)

  • I’ve always thought of Twitter, and described it as, a room full of people. If you happen to be there you’ll know what’s being talked about. If you leave the room then you’ll miss out on some of the conversation. I miss most of it, just pay the most attention to my “mentions”.

    The only time I’ve ever purged my inbox was against my will in a computer crash. That’s only really happened twice in twelve years, so not too bad :) While I’ve never really purged the actual “inbox”, I have craploads of folders that sometimes I just go in and delete.

    It’s hard working from home. I think it’s a lot harder than working in an office. I know, I did that for may years too. The freedom you get when working from home is phenomenal, but the discipline you have to possess is far beyond anything that you need in the workforce. When you go to the office (outside the home) each day, you can close up your desk and go home. That never seems to happen when you work from home. ;)

    I don’t have any advice. I’m just empathizing with you. It’s good to know that if a reply is needed, the best place to post is in the comments. Guess I will have to figure out how to subscribe to the comments then as I don’t see a link for it. :-/

  • I have four email addresses, all gmail. They are designated for certain things. There is one for my current job search, my original personal one, a writing-related one, and the one seen here, which is related to my blog. A friend of mine has an email exclusively for commercial/subscription/junk matters, which I think is a great idea. Something for all the stuff you may be interested in, but don’t need to address. Not sure if this idea was mentioned above or not, not a lot of time to read the numerous comments.

  • Well, I guess I’ll see your 4 poker chips and raise you 2. I’ve watched my friends drown because of Twitter and Facebook and who spend our evenings out texting or checking e-mail. So I DON’T subscribe to Facebook or Twitter. I open personal e-mail maybe once a week, which doesn’t mean I answer everyone right then and there. I read rather than stay glued to the TV every night (although NOTHING will make me give up Tom Welling in Smallville). And I walk to the markets and local movie theatres etc. instead of driving, which forces me to slow down my life. I love it.

    And I cook. Last weekend I tried making lemon cookies with olive oil instead of butter (came out fantastic). So with that, four cats, and an understanding husband, my hair is falling out on schedule, not ahead of schedule.

  • I actually read Leo’s book The Power of Less and although his stance is extreme, it has made me become more conscious of how much time I spend on email. Evernote, already mentioned above, is a great tool that I use more and more. It’s great for people with multiple interests or freelancers (like me) who multi-task among various projects.

    My husband and I just relocated from Seattle, WA to Paris for work. We’ve been here three weeks and already it is fascinating to compare “working” styles between the French and Americans. Face-to-face meetings and phone calls produce better results than most emails here. There doesn’t seem to be such a prevalent “inbox” management obsession here. Maybe it’s because with all the formalities and “règles” in written French business correspondance, no one wants to bother with the gray area of what is proper and not proper email communication. I’m curious to hear your impressions.

    I also want to say thank you and to mention that my husband and I read your book “The Sweet Life of Paris,” before moving here. We are constantly having “ah ha” moments of “David warned about this,” or else celebrating small victories when we escape a bank or post office situation unscathed.

    So far in Paris, I too have found myself addicted to the galettes de sarrasin but recently have been craving Seattle fare, namely great vietnamese or thai food. Would you be willing to post a list of your favorites here in Paris? A Taiwanese friend here said that the 13th is the place to start but couldn’t name specific places. I’m willing to help out with the research for the list!

    We appreciate your ongoing insights about life in Paris, the ups and downs. When EDF starts to wear us down, we think of Denise Acabo and Bernachon and remind ourselves where we are…small victories. Merci à vous.

  • I just finished your book and had to laugh at your frequent use of brownies as bribes. I did the same thing when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. I worked with a group of indigenous women who wove and sold their traditional textiles in a small store. Our store was far from the center of town. We had no advertising budget. We had no budget, period. So I would bake brownies and take them to the tourist office, along with small fliers promoting our store and ask the tourist office to hand out the fliers and talk up our store.

    I would also give brownies to the guys at the inter-city bus company that brought my mail from the Peace Corps HQ (where all our mail from the US was sent) in Santiago once a week. Sometimes, they weren’t so concerned with making sure they delivered it to me and I wanted to make sure I was top of mind. This was in 1993, before email, and I was always starving for those letters from home.

    When my friend Lenore came to visit, I had her bring ziplock bags, peanut butter, crisco (although I later learned lard is just fine and indeed I use it now that I am back in the States), and chocolate chips.

    Chilean bureaucrats are just as concerned with triple-stamping everything as French ones are. And they heat the heck out of buildings. Or don’t. But you’ll never know until you’re actually inside, so how do you dress? What is it with these Latins?

  • class factocum: Ha! Glad to know it’s universal. I also think part of it is that people don’t give baked goods and gifts freely, like Americans do. It’s our tradition to give cookies or a cake. And it always takes them by surprise. But yes, it’s amazing what a few brownies will do. Perhaps we should go into business, selling brownie-bribe kits online. With the global expat community, I think we’d be quite the hit.

    Erin: Glad you liked the book… I have some ethnic restaurants I like, but if I give up the goods, then I can’t get in! ; )

  • I think the kit idea is great, although American ingenuity may overcome the need for it. My friends were Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia in the 60s and she said they made brownies over the campfire. The Peace Corps nurse said female PC volunteers gain weight in every country because they figure out how to make brownies no matter where they are. But maybe not everyone is as smart as PCVs and David?

  • David, you seem to manage to do so much! I’m amazed! I have three different e-mail accounts (yahoo, gmail, and one linked to my blog). Does anyone know if there is a way that I can have access to all three in just one box? I am having a hard time remembering all the different passwords.

  • Hello David,
    A Paris-based technology startup might be of interest to your readers: http://www.kwaga.com

    We’re working to bring clarity to email by semantically analysing the text and automatically identifying meeting & task requests, telephone numbers; a sort of email assistant. The idea is to help email readers see the important bits in the vast sea of infomania.

  • I’ve been using Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann. It has revolutionized my email. Instead of an inbox of 2000 messages, I now have under 20 at all times. I highly recommend it. In fact, all of my friends are now using it too and LOVE IT!!

    http://inboxzero.com/video/