Luca Belletti

Product Manager living in London (UK)

How to make your life rich rather than full

Have you been wondering if life could be easier, and if you could get rid of bad habits and develop new ones? Would you like to enhance your productivity at work? Do you want to feel better about yourself and be more present to your family and friends?

Do you want your life to be rich rather than full? I do.

For several months now I have been trying to figure out how to live with less (less possessions, less commitments, less worry), and one voice stood out from all the material I was reading about it: Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits.

I could not describe this website better than the way the author himself does on the Zen Habits ‘about’ page:

‘Zen Habits is one of the top blogs on the Internet, and covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugal, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits.’

I have been finding Zen Habits inspiring on several occasions recently, and full of tips for so many of the areas in my life demanding my attention. If you find yourself on a similar quest, I encourage you to head over to Zen Habits and start by sampling the most popular content listed at the bottom of the homepage.

Leo Babauta has recently written a book entitled ‘The Power of Less’, which tagline embodies exactly the kind of skill I want to develop:

‘the fine art of limiting yourself to the essential… in business and in life’

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta is out now on Amazon.com, and is available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk (publication date in the UK is 12 February 2009).

And if you order the book before the end of January 1 2009 you also get to choose a free ebook or audio podcast.

The publication of the book has also been marked by a the Power of Less New Year Challenge that you can join to commit publicly to develop a new habit next month. I have chosen to focus ten minutes a day on establishing and maintaining a badly needed bedtime routine, so that instead of falling asleep more often than not while reading or watching TV I will focus every night for ten minutes on:

  • taking out my contact lenses
  • brushing my teeth
  • flossing
  • laying out my clothes for the next day
  • …and going to bed!

I will report my progress daily here and on the Power of Less Challenge forum. I tried to pick up this habit last September but it did not last. I am now confident that committing and reporting publicly will help me succeed.

How to find what you look for in Outlook

Since moving all my personal email to Gmail a few months ago I have been spoiled with the power of Google search applied to messages. For a small price (knowing that Google bots scan every communication I send and receive) I get the pleasure of typing anything in a search field (with as complex a syntax as I want) and finding all the messages have ever sent or received that contained my search string.

Microsoft Outlook, which unfortunately I still have to use at work, is one of those cases where software got so complicated and riddled with options that yes, you can do hundreds of things, but sadly none very easily or quickly. Search is one of them.

Outlook’s simple search toolbar lets me down because:

  • it only searches within the folder you are in (not within subfolders);
  • it only searches content in the subject line;
  • if I perform a search, then move to another folder, I lose my search results.

The one good thing about Windows Vista is its indexing and search functionality, but we run XP at work, and unfortunately I am not allowed to install indexing software on my machine, so alas, no Google Desktop.

My solution (more like a workaround really): Outlook’s advanced search. I bring it up by typing Ctrl-Shift-F (this opens a new window), type my keyword(s) and press the Enter key. All results appear in a new window (so I can continue working in my main one), and subfolders are scanned by default.

This way you still only look for content in the subject line, but I am happy with that, because I want messages that deal primarily with what I am looking for, rather than mention it incidentally. The problem here is that very often the subject line is not representative of the content, such as ‘fruit’ or ‘Sharing is caring’ (real subject lines of non-personal messages I have received at work lately).

Fortunately, Outlook lets you edit the subject line of emails you have received. I therefore recently went through the messages I needed to keep for reference (not very many, I try and delete as many as I can) and added a few keywords to the original subject line, wrapped in brackets to separate them from it. So the subject lines above (real examples from my ‘archive’ folder) have become ‘fruit (character encoding info utf8)’ and ‘Sharing is caring (uxd brainstorming notes contextual navigation shared drive folder)’. I keep the original title so that if I need to reply or forward the message I can delete my own keywords.

I think I first read about this method on Lifehacker: Make Outlook email messages more searchable.

I have now developed the habit of changing the subject line when I am done with a message and I want to archive it (Ctrl-shift-V, then select the folder where you ‘archive’ read mail that you keep for reference), and every time I need to bring up old info, I can access it with a few keystrokes.

It feels good and efficient, and yet every time I do that, I wish that I could just use Gmail at work too.

How I live my cloud life

Over the last few months I have transferred most of the my data and tools (email, documents and applications) online. It was not a conscious decision I took one day, in fact I remember resisting it a bit, but in the end common sense prevailed and I figured out that I am prepared to trust third parties with my stuff, so that I can get ease of access and use.

I have not looked back once since. I just took a few precautions: just to name a couple, my Gmail account automatically backs up with Zoho, and I chose to use a paying service (JungleDisk interfacing Amazon Simple Storage) to back up documents and photos once a week.

I have just come across one of the articles that originally sparked my curiosity in putting data out there: How To Live the Cloud Life, by Paul Stamatiou. It is a treasure chest full of tips and links to applications and services that will make it easy for you too to adopt this lifestyle.

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

Google Reader – Luca’s shared items

One of the best features of Google Reader is that it lets you very easily email or share with other people any post from feeds you are subscribed to.

Your shared items are then packaged together in their own feed that you can make publicly available, like the one I have been filling for several months with links to design ideas that are sometimes clever, sometimes wacky, always a bit out of the ordinary.

Google Reader – Luca’s shared items is full of the stuff that I would like to own to see and use every day.

Webapps are dropping like flies

The trouble with trying out every single new web application that becomes available (like I do) is that when the market suffers, most of them disappear.

Within the space of a couple of weeks last month I received a handful of emails informing me, dear user, that such and such service is closing (either for good or just until the big cheese that bought it decides what to do with it).

Fortunately, I seem to have stuck with services that are either stronger or more complete (or sometimes simpler, doing just one thing but doing it very well), and that are therefore doing OK. So I am sorry to see it go but I won’t miss I Want Sandy because I use Remember The Milk. And I will survive very well without Stikkit thanks to Evernote. And Pownce has never been but a promising but unused sort of Twitter on steroids, whereas the original thing (with all its epic fail whales) is still among my favourites.

7 things I did not know last week

  1. The number on plastic containers is a recycling code that tells which plastic has been used. The number 7 is for plastic that contains BPA (the chemical suspected to leak from plastic into the human body).
  2. The iPhone fart application pulls in nearly 10,000 dollars a day.
  3. Norad’s 50-year tradition of tracking Santa started because of a misprinted phone number in an ad that directed calls to Santa to the North American Aerospace Defense Command by mistake.
  4. You must be registered blind to work as a massage therapist in South Korea.
  5. The spoken verse in Madonna’s Sanctuary (from her 1994 album Bedtime Stories) is from Walt Whitman’s Voices.
  6. Cross-platform media player VLC can do much more than just play any video you throw at it: it also rips DVDs, encodes video in other file formats, streams media to other computers and plays ripped DVDs.
  7. The Spanish word for ‘nativity scene’ is ‘belen’ (= ‘Bethlehem’).

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

7 things I did not know last week

  1. A new cycle hire scheme is due to be introduced to central London in 2010.
  2. There are more slaves in the world today than at any time in human history. Via kottke.org.
  3. Adultery is a crime in South Korea.
  4. Kirk Douglas is into social networking and writes a blog on MySpace.
  5. The Killers’ Brandon Flowers is a practicing Mormon.
  6. You can reduce camera shake if you pull your elbows in and exhale completely before depressing the shutter.
  7. Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennett in Heroes) is dating her co-star Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli)

So that’s where all that bread is going

I snore. A lot.

And I eat. A lot. All the time. Day and night.

Surprisingly, although far from ever being skinny, I have so far never been obese.

I thought I simply had a a very active metabolism, but a team of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco suggests another explanation: snoring makes you burn on average 373 extra calories a night (the equivalent of a vigorous thirty-minute gym workout).

On the flipside, snoring also causes sleep deprivation makes you sluggish during the day (thus less inclined to exercise), and more prone to overeating (because of diminished willpower). Check, and check.

I had been considering visiting a sleep clinic to figure out if my snoring can be cured. However, not that it turns out that if I stopped snoring I would put on 3.2 pounds a month, the question is: have I got more chances of holding on to my boyfriend by stopping snoring or by maintaining my figure?

On a related note, Dr B. has recently coined an endearing term for me, I’ll let him tell you in the comments if he reads this. I’m not particularly fond of it but it beats being kicked in the shins in the middle of the night so that I wake up and stop snoring.

Luca’ll fix it for you

I have been dealing with something that needs fixing at work, so imagine my disappointment when I came home yesterday to find that the RSS feed for this blog had been broken since my last WordPress update about a week ago.

I removed some redirects from the .htaccess file and it is now working again and finally showing my last eight posts.

I should reinstall the redirects one by one to find out exactly where the loop was created (in very simple terms, when you ask for page A you get redirected to page B which in turn redirects to page A), but I have to shoot off to work… to find a fix for what is broken there.

I am so looking forward to five days of food, sleep and good company with Dr B.’s family over Christmas, where the most challenging technological task will be switching channels on Sky.

No more ‘heavy legs’ for the French

As you may remember, I was born and raised in Italy, went to school and graduated in the UK, worked in France for seven years, then Italy for another three and since 2002 I have been back in the UK.

I have therefore experienced healthcare (fortunately, as a fairly healthy individual) in three European countries. And in the US too, if you count losing a contact lens while on holiday and having to go see a friend’s doctor for a prescription to buy a new one (being uninsured, it cost me a small fortune).

In Italy and in France, when you go to the doctor you always leave with a prescription or a referral. You sort of feel short-changed if you don’t, as the BBC correspondent from France Emma Jane Kirby describes in her piece on this week’s From Our Own Correspondent. Her take on the French ‘heavy legs’ syndrome can be listened to on iPlayer until Sunday 21st December (skip to 17:02 to go straight to the segment), or read online.

In the UK on the other hand, three times out of four the doctor shrugs off your condition, tells you to get a grip and only to come back if the condition persists for a number of months. I have learnt to live with it and now I hardly mind it at all, unlike a couple of friends who go back to Italy for treatment when in need. And unlike most of the French who are now having a very hard time facing a new approach recommended by the government and very similar to the British attitude.

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

Sunday lunch: microwave Mexican slow carb omelette

I thought I discovered something extraordinary last week, when I put three egg whites in a bowl, loosely covered it with a saucer and stuck it in the microwave at full power for two minutes. Egg white omelette with no hassle and minimum washing up (if you eat it from the bowl itself.

I am however been told that it’s like the 101 of microwave cooking – a style of cuisine I only have recently discovered due to work being done in our flat making the kitchen out of bounds.

So today I would like to share with you my variation on Tim Ferriss’ three-minute ‘slow carb’ breakfast:

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • half a tin of red kidney beans
  • 1 small tin of carrots and peas
  • 2 tablespoons of guacamole
  • 2 tablespoons of salsa
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Break the eggs in a bowl
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. Beat the eggs slightly
  4. Cover loosely with a saucer or small plate
  5. Cook in the microwave for two minutes on high
  6. Remove from microwave
  7. Pour beans on eggs
  8. Pour carrots and peas on eggs
  9. Warm up in microwave (optional)
  10. Add guacamole and salsa

Christmas cards: you can’t win, can you?

If you send Christmas cards, you are not green because you chop trees.

If you don’t send any, you are a miser.

If you send e-cards, you are lazy.

If you don’t send charity cards, you don’t care at all.

If you print addresses from Outlook onto sticky labels (guilty!), you are lazy and impersonal.

If all you write is your name underneath the printed greetings, you could not care less.

If you include a long update on everything that has happened to you over the last twelve months, you have too much time on your hands and deluded that people actually care.

But if you include a personal wish, a few warm words that are tailor-made for your loved ones, you are a (Christmas) star.

Having said that, any of the cards listed above makes me happy. So email away at lucabelletti@gmail.com! I hear Critter Carols could be this year’s Elf Yourself.

7 things I did not know last week

  1. Igloos are built in a spiral pattern. Via Kottke.
  2. New year 2009 will be delayed by one second to correct atomic clocks.
  3. It is estimated that Google uses 21 times more bandwidth than it pays for.
  4. Amazon Mechanical Turk is only available to people with addresses in the USA.
  5. Martine Aubry (the new leader of France’s Socialist Party) is the daughter of former European Commission President, Jacques Delors.
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids make you feel full.
  7. Shoe feticism is also known as retifism (after French writer Nicolas-Edme Rétif). Via Tom.

Even Oprah can’t keep her weight down

So Oprah has stacked on the pounds again.

I have now following her yo-yo dieting for twenty-five years now, looked into every one of her new amazing weight loss regimes, and every single time I saw right through her achievements and found a woman with eating issues.

I have always been very interested in the image and idea of food that each individual has, be it because of family influence, body image unattainable goals presented by the media, or mind tricks that sometimes are not related with food at all but manifest themselves with eating disorders.

See, if even the most powerful woman in the world (according to many) struggles to keep her weight constant day in, day out, it must mean that weight management is a huge issue that is often underestimated and needs more attention.

Sometimes I am horrified at falling right into the trap the media are trying to set up and believing that overweight people simply eat too much and don’t exercise. Yes, that is the reason one puts on weight, but you can’t just tell people they are fat lazy pigs. What needs to be tackled is the reasons behind these behaviours, and we are not there yet.

How to live with occasional chaos

I have just read a brilliant post on Unclutterer that offers suggestions on Sharing space and dealing with moments of chaos.

To my horror, I realised that I am guilty of every single attitude that can only make things worse when someone obsessed with putting things away (me) lives with someone with a, how shall I phrase it, ‘more relaxed’ attitude towards tidiness (Dr B.):

  • I nag;
  • I get judgemental;
  • If I reorder myself, I either do it with a ‘How great am I?’ or with a martyr attitude.

Major fail.

The post offers some useful tips and also lists some ways to make joint tidying up sessions fun, but I just cannot see myself wearing the suggested maid outfit.

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

  • English to French, Italian, German & Spanish Dictionary – WordReference.com
    ‘The WordReference Dictionaries are free online translation dictionaries. The most popular dictionaries are the Spanish Dictionary, French Dictionary and the Italian Dictionary. Search with the form below or the box above.’
  • Catapult Fitness: Circuit Training With A Deck Of Cards
    ‘The premise of the workout is to use a standard deck of 52 playing cards to dictate the exercise to be performed and the number of reps for each exercise. First, you assign an exercise to each card suit. […] The goal is to work through the entire 52 card deck as quickly as possible.’
  • Interactive Video Object Manipulation on Vimeo
    ‘This demo illustrates our research to bring interactivity to video editing: Our system analyzes videos using computer vision techniques, enabling interactive annotation, browsing, and even drag-and-drop composition of new still images using video footage.’

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

  • Runners’ Medical Resource
    ‘This website is a good resource for runners who may want some guidance in preparation for – and on the day of – a big race. ‘
  • gwap.com – Home
    Games With A Purpose: ‘By playing our games, you’re training computers to solve problems for humans all over the world.’
  • BBC – Archive Project – The Genesis of Doctor Who
    ‘Here, we tell the story of the creation of ‘Doctor Who’ from the very beginning, starting with a report on the possibility of making science fiction for television and leading up to the moment a new drama series is announced in the pages of ‘Radio Times’.’

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

7 things I did not know last week

  1. The tallest building in Europe (the 268-metre Naberezhnaya Tower) is in Moscow, where construction of an even taller building was stopped this week.
  2. Ping.fm also lets you update your (Twitter, Facebook, etc) status via IM.
  3. You can skip typing ‘www.’ and ‘.com’ in the address bar if you press Ctrl and Enter together. Found out in Chrome but checked and it works in Firefox, IE7 and Safari.
  4. Greasemonkey’s founder, Aaron Boodman, works on the Google Chrome team.
  5. Illy coffee and Coca-Cola announced a global joint venture to produce a premium ready-to-drink espresso in October 2007. My caffeine days are over, but I am curious to know if this is out yet, or if it has flopped before even being released.
  6. Music producer and songwriter Felix Howard (who wrote, among other things, Stronger for the Sugababes) was the child dancer in Madonna’s ‘Open Your Heart’ video.
  7. If you copy some text and paste it into a folder, Windows will create a ‘Scrap Object’. I accidentally found out at work using XP, then tried it at home but the paste option does not seem to be available on Vista Home Premium.

7 things I did not know last week

  1. Mr Smith‘, the alien computer in The Sarah Jane Adventures, is voiced by comedian Alexander Armstrong.
  2. You can easily get the higher quality version (if available) for any YouTube video by sticking &fmt=18 at the end of the URL (or &fmt=22 for highest quality).
  3. Cyndi Lauper‘s mother, Catrine, played herself in the ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ video.
  4. In Google Chrome you can right-click the top of the browser window, or right-click the taskbar tab to access Task Manager.
  5. In Lichtenstein women were granted the vote in general elections in 1984.
  6. The word galore, meaning in abundance, descends from the Gaelic (Irish ‘go leor’ and Scottish Gaelic ‘gu leòr’) expression meaning enough, plenty.
  7. The largest fully functional WiMAX network in the world is in Pakistan.

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

7 things I did not know last week

  1. Leonardo DiCaprio’s mother is German.
  2. The record for most voices recorded on an audiobook by a single person is held by Jim Dale for his 146 voices in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows.
  3. Apple released a games console (the Apple Bandai Pippin) in the mid-nineties.
  4. The Google Reader shortcuts to add subscriptions and email items are respectively a and e.
  5. Wile E. Coyote’s middle name is Ethelbert.
  6. Wile E. Coyote is a pun on the word ‘wily‘ (shrewd, cunning) – a word I have learnt this week.
  7. The origin of the name London might be traced to the pre-Celtic Old European ‘Plowonida’ meaning ‘boat river or flooding river, river too wide to ford’.
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My week on the web

Here are the websites I bookmarked into my del.icio.us account over the past seven days:

7 things I did not know last week

  1. Benicio del Toro was an extra in Madonna’s La Isla Bonita video (you can spot him sitting on the car at 3:14).
  2. You can now link to a precise point in YouTube videos. If you have not done so already, click on the Madonna video link above to check it.
  3. Rudyard Kipling had a swastika on the covers of his books until the ancient Indian symbol was appropriated by Nazism.
  4. If you hit the Shift key five times you can turn on ‘Sticky Keys‘, an accessibility feature that lets you type multi-key combinations with one finger.
  5. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen prefer not to be interviewed together.
  6. Gwyneth Paltrow has a website called Goop.
  7. Davina McCall is Britain’s favourite gym buddy.