Thunderbird and Lightning

It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the state of calendaring with Mozilla Thunderbird (e.g.: Mozilla Calendar, Sunbird, and Lightning). I was hoping that they had made amazing strides in that time.

Well they’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s not stable yet. I installed a Thunderbird 3.0 nightly trunk build and a Lightning 0.1 extension on my PowerBook with OS X 10.4.6. Fired it up and now there was a nice little calendar in the Thunderbird UI. Cool! Let me import my calendar from a remote iCal file via WebDAV. Worked! Cool! But then it popped up 20 or so windows for past-due alarms. Clicking the “Dismiss” or “Dismiss All” button crashes Thunderbird. Every time. Sigh. Maybe I’ll check back in a couple of weeks.

I should probably also take another look at Chandler, which was butt ugly and not very useful last time I looked at it, but maybe it’s better now.


PyGTD, by Keith Martin, is an interesting little Python command-line program for GTD. You input your projects, tasks, and contexts into some specially formatted files and run this program and it spits out a todo.txt file which is your reference. As you complete tasks, you update the todo.txt file and run the program and it syncs the changes back to your context files.

This is cute and might be the ticket for certain die-hard Unix command-line freaks, but I found it a bit too complex and cumbersome. And for me, if it’s not drop-dead easy, I will end up not doing it in the heat of the moment when it’s a busy day and I have things flying at me from all directions.

As it happens, I’ve been playing a bit lately with my own homegrown Python-based command-line GTD setup. Mine I think is pretty simple and thus tenable as something that could be used on a daily basis, but I’ll have to test it in the real-world for a few weeks to see how it “scales”. If it goes well, I will be sure to post about it.

Managing waiting for/delegated emails with procmail

I have a new approach for streamlining the management of things that I’m waiting on something from someone. My particular implementation uses procmail, but the approach could easily be adopted to other types of mail systems – basically anything that offers rules-based filtering.

Let’s say I’m composing an email because I need to setup a meeting with someone. In the past, I would CC the message to myself and then the message would be in my Inbox the next time I check and I’d drag it to my @Wait folder. The prepended “@” sign is a convention that I use with my commonly used folders to make them sort to the top in my email client – this is a classic David Allen/GtD trick. This worked pretty well but having to receive the extra email and drag it to the @Wait folder was a bit of a drag, especially for something that I might do 10 times per day. And knowing that the message was sitting in my Inbox 5 minutes after I sent the message, this seemed to make it even more tempting to interrupt myself and check my email so that I could file it in the right place. I don’t need more reasons to tempt myself to check my email more often.

Being a geek, I wanted to optimize out the manual filing part. So here’s how I tweaked the process…

Now, I CC the message to The important part here is that I can use the +foo syntax, which is legal according to RFC 822.

In my .procmailrc, I have something like this:

# CC myself => @Wait folder
* ^CC:.*

(note that I store my mail in Maildirs because I use the Courier IMAP server – that is why my folder name starts with a “.” and ends with a “/”. The “@” sign, as I previously mentioned, is part of the folder name.)

Now the mail never even shows up in my Inbox. Instead, procmail immediately routes it to my @Wait folder.

Possible Future Enhancements

I’d like to try CC’ing messages to a more elaborate address like:

and then I’d like to hook my procmail rule up to a Perl or Ruby script which could parse the address and do additional processing like queue up a reminder that gets emailed to me on the specified date and/or add an entry to my installation of Tracks.
I still haven’t decided exactly what I want and I’d have to figure out what the email address syntax will look like, which means that I’d need to have another look at RFC 822.

The effect of stress on the brain

Fascinating stuff on how stress can affect the brain. The most interesting part for me:

Gary Evans and environmental psychologists at Cornell found that low-level noise in open-style offices seems to result in higher levels of stress, and lower task motivation.

Forty experienced female clerical workers (average age 37) were assigned for three hours to either a quiet office or one with low-intensity office noise (including speech). The workers in the noisy office experienced significantly higher levels of stress (as measured by urinary epinephrine, a stress hormone), made 40% fewer attempts to solve an unsolvable puzzle, and made only half as many ergonomic adjustments to their workstations, compared to their colleagues in quiet offices.

Interestingly, however, the workers themselves did not report higher levels of stress in the noisy office.

“But just because people fail to report that environmental conditions are negative, we can’t assume that there are no adverse impacts,” Evans says.

via LifeHacker