This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 9, 2002

January 9, 2002 - New Years Resolution

A dozen years or so ago, I made some money on the side by writing software reviews. Once a month, I’d install some 5 or 6 programs on my computer, and put them through their paces. Then I’d crank out 2,500 words about them, and delete the software from my machine.

I formed a prejudice for something that rarely characterizes software anymore. I liked software that was small, fast, and did one thing well. In the DOS world, I liked programs that were 64K or less in memory. Often, such programs took up about the same amount of disk space.

Even these days, just as a hobby, I’ll roam around the Internet seeking classic software. Just recently, I found a program called WordEdit for the Macintosh. This little gem uses 606K memory, and about 503K storage space. What does it do? Well, it’s a little word processor. It does fonts, justification, tabs, rulers, and so on. It also has a built-in word count, dictionary, does headers and footers, performs alphabetic sorts, and switches the case of letters. Cost: absolutely free.

At that price, of course, it’s doomed. A free product that does just about 90% of what anybody who uses a word processor needs simply can’t compete with, let’s say, Microsoft Word, an expensive program with so many features most people can’t even find them. When I installed WordEdit, it made one tidy little folder on my hard drive. When I recently installed Microsoft Word on a Macintosh, it all but forced me out of my house.

But I’m not writing about computer software, not really. I’m writing about attitude. I’m thinking about my New Year’s resolutions. This coming year, I resolve to want less.

An example: I resolve to take the 8 or 10 piles of books next to my bed and give them to the library. The library will do one of two things: either accept them, catalog them, and keep them in good order on their shelves; or pass them along to community booksales. In either case, the books will no longer be in my house. I will have fewer things to dust, shuffle through, and otherwise look after.

What will I do with the space and time thereby freed up? Well, I could spend more time reading. But the more generic answer is: Focus on the things I do well. It ISN’T (alas) dusting, shuffling through and looking after lots of objects.

What do I do well? That’s an excellent question. It may be time to find out.

We can still learn a lesson or two from those old software programs: low cost, less memory, less storage space, more focus.

Happy New Year.

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