eBayeBay is a wonderful site, and I was a regular (some would say obsessive) user of it for several years. Unsurprisingly, the main items I bought and sold on there were cameras and books.

This all ended rather abruptly when I packed everything up and shipped it all – myself included – back to Australia (actually I travelled via aeroplane, but you get the idea). There was simply no room to sort through everything and dispose of it accordingly.

The other night my dad mentioned that he had a few items to sell as my parents are doing a little home renovation. I suggested that I could use my account as everything was already set up, and my interest was re-discovered.

This morning’s routine was quite simple : open each box (I still have a number of things in storage, ready for their new home), and take out anything I didn’t really want to keep. These items formed a large pile; the sorting phase is next (rubbish, saleable, charity). Then the fun really begins.

If you’re thinking of embarking upon a similar journey, here are a few things to keep in mind :

  • Decide whether you want to keep something or not; sort the pile later. If you try sorting as you go you’ll end up putting a lot of things back in the cupboard / on the shelf, telling yourself ‘nobody would buy that’.
  • Once you have the items you wish to sell, begin with the cheapest ones first. If something goes wrong, you’re less likely to lose sleep over a damaged book than a damaged car. This also gives you a chance to establish some credibility (via positive feedback – assuming you sell goods as advertised, pack them well and ship them on time) before you get around to selling the larger items.
  • If you have thousands of books in the house but really can’t bring yourself to get rid of them (I can definitely relate to that), start by putting all of the duplicates in a pile. Once you see all of these together, everything else becomes a little easier.
  • When you’re sorting your ‘unwanted items’ pile into rubbish/saleable/charity (I’m including recycling in the rubbish category here), consider the approximate cost of postage. For small, heavy, inexpensive items you may be better off simply giving them to a friend, donating them to charity or holding a garage sale.
  • Don’t feel too bad if you’re tempted to buy something occasionally. After all, that’s what the site is all about. My personal rationalisation – if I buy one book for every 10 that I sell, I’m still a long way in front; and will have a smaller, better book collection to show for it.

Tomorrow the auctions begin. Looking forward to it.

Skinned GmailI love using Gmail; and have used it as my primary email application for a couple of years now. The reasons for this lie in its power and flexibility, rather than its appearance. For a great piece of software, it looks as though the front-end was an afterthought. And that’s being charitable.

If you find yourself in the same boat, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a growing community of users out there who are bent on tweaking the design. Same interface, different CSS. Simple.

Personally I’ve only tried this on Firefox – my weapon of choice. However, I’m sure it won’t be long before other browsers follow suit; and I’d love to hear from anyone that’s got everything working with one of them.

The process for Firefox is simple. Copy the code below, paste it into your favourite text editor, and save it as userContent.css (as plain text). Place the file in Firefox’s ‘chrome’ directory. Restart Firefox.

Log in to Gmail, and things should look quite different. Modify the CSS to suit your own taste, logout and restart Firefox. Repeat as necessary.

A note on the userContent.css – this was written by chezar, commenting on this article over at Persistent Info. Despite the article’s age, everything works just fine.

The code itself

Here is the CSS code. Just copy/paste it into a text editor and save it as userContent.css. Enjoy.

@-moz-document url-prefix(mail.google.com/mail/), domain(mail.google.com)
{
body{
background-color: #ebe2cd !important;
}

/* header image */
div#ds_inbox img {
display: none !important;
}

div#ds_inbox {
display: block !important;
background-image: url(http://skingmail.com/images/gmaillogo.gif) !important;
width: 143px !important;
height: 59px !important;
background-repeat: no-repeat !important;
}

/* regular links */
span.lk,
a.lc,
a.lk
{
text-decoration: none !important;
color: #9f3638 !important;
}

/* read/unread row colors */
table.tlc tr.ur {
background-color: #d3cbb8 !important;
}

table.tlc tr.rr {
background-color: #ebe2cd !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur td,
table.tlc tr.rr td{
border: 0 !important;
}

/* message hovering snippet expansion */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover{
background-color: #ffc !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover td,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td{
border-width: 1px 0 1px 0 !important;
border-color: black !important;
border-style: solid !important;
vertical-align: top !important;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover .sn,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover .sn{
display: block !important;
white-space: normal !important;
}

/* and email address display */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span {
display: block;
}

/* labels should still be inline */
table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span.ct,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span.ct{
display: inline;
}

table.tlc tr.ur:hover td span[id]:after,
table.tlc tr.rr:hover td span[id]:after{
content: attr(id);
display: block;
margin-left: -38px; /* hack to hide “user_” id prefix */
color: #b6af9e;
}

/* sidebar links */
div#nav table.cv,
div#nav table.cv td {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
}

table.cv td.tl,
table.cv td.bl {
height: 0 !important;
}

/* both current and other */
table.cv td span.lk,
div.nl span.lk{
display: block !important;
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border: solid 1px #b5ae9f !important;
-moz-border-radius: 6px !important;
padding: 2px !important;
margin-right: 5px !important;
}

/* just the current one */
table.cv td span.lk {
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border: solid 1px #b5ae9f !important;
}

/* unselected ones */
div.nl span.lk {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
border: solid 1px #ebe2cd !important;
}

div.nl span.lk:hover {
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
border-color: #b5ae9f !important;
}

/* hide “New!” super-script */
div#nav sup {
display: none !important;
}

/* side border */
div#co div {
border: 0 !important;
}

/* top/bottom bar */
div#tc_top table,
div#tc_top table td.tl,
div#tc_top table td.tr,
div#tc_top table.th,

div#tc_bot table,
div#tc_bot table td.bl,
div#tc_bot table td.br,
div#tc_bot table.th{
background: none !important;
}

div#co div#tc_top,
div#co div#tc_bot {
border: solid 1px black !important;
-moz-border-radius: 8px !important;
padding: 2px !important;
margin: 5px 0 5px 0 !important;
background: #d3cbb8 !important;
}

/* selection links in bar */
div#co div#tc_top span.l,
div#co div#tc_bot span.l{
color: #9f3638 !important;
}

/* mailbox contents */
div#co div#tbd {
background: #ebe2cd !important;
border: solid 1px black !important;
-moz-border-radius: 8px !important;
padding: 4px 0 4px 0 !important;
}

/* labels */
div#nb_0 {
background: none;
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
border: 0;
}

div#nb_0 div {
background: none;
padding: 0px;
margin: 0;
border: 0;
}

div#nb_0 div div {
border: solid 1px #56765e;
-moz-border-radius: 6px !important;
padding: 0 1px 0 0 !important;
}

div#nb_0 div div div {
border: 0 !important;
padding: 0 !important;
background: none !important;
-moz-border-radius: 0 !important;
}

div#nb_0 div.s,
div#nb_0 div.h{
padding: 1px 3px 0 3px !important;
background: none !important;
border-bottom: solid 1px #56765e !important;
-moz-opacity: 0.5;
}

div#nb_0 table,
div#nb_0 table td.tl,
div#nb_0 table td.tr,
div#nb_0 table td.bl,
div#nb_0 table td.br {
background: none !important;
}

div#nb_0 table.nb {
background: #d0e7c5 !important;
-moz-border-radius-bottomright: 6 !important;
-moz-border-radius-bottomleft: 6 !important;
}

div#nb_0 table.nb div.lk {
text-decoration: none !important;
margin: 3px 0 0 3px !important;
}

/* edit labels links */
div#nb_0 table.nb div#prf_l {
margin-right: 50px !important;
-moz-opacity: 0.7 !important;
}

/* hide invite link */
#il {
display: none !important;
}

/* hide footer */
div#ft {
display: none !important;
}
}

MellelI do a lot of writing, or more accurately, typing (although the occasional pen + paper combination does arise). Until recently – yesterday, in fact – I relied solely on the simplicity of a text editor for the bulk of my work (I’m using TextEdit right now).

A new book, however, might just change that.

My primary reason for using text editors rather than word processors is their simplicity; it’s very much a black and white world with little or no formatting. It encourages writing rather than tweaking.

This reason can also be a limitation. For a 1,000 word article I really don’t mind typing things in full, repeating headings and inserting the occasional hyperlink manually. In fact, in a strange, slightly controlling way I quite enjoy it. It’s all part of the process; part of the fun.

However, a 100,000 word non-fiction volume is quite a different proposition. There are more people involved (whether they’re co-writing or simply reviewing your work) and this brings a much greater need for organisation. Page numbers, footnotes, indexes and so on.

I spent some time yesterday looking at the various word processing options for OS X. The one that caught my eye was Mellel (Hebrew for ‘text’), an application developed by Israeli company RedleX. It has some glowing reviews, and after a short play around with it I can see why.

Quite simply, it does precisely what I need (and much, much more).

As with any new piece of software I use, I’ll give it a solid run for a week or so. I’m certainly not expecting any problems though; so far it looks great. As long as it holds up OK, the Script Frenzy should be a good way to really put it through its paces. Now, all I need is an idea.

Chris HowardA few weeks ago I received a gift from my brother – a collection of CDs from ‘the Richard Branson of personal and professional development‘, Christopher Howard. Whilst I was excited about the idea – having heard several great things about Chris Howard from a number of sources – I was swamped in work at the time and put these on my ‘to do’ list for a while.

Last week I had a chance to begin the course (there are 7 CDs, and 1 per day seemed reasonable), and I quickly wondered why I had put them off at all. Quite simply, they’re brilliant. Having completed the course yesterday, I’m amazed at the insights that can be gained from having someone ask you the right questions.

And ‘asking the right questions’ is very much at the heart of it. Based on the idea that everyone is capable of achieving more than they currently are – in any area of their life – the course really encourages you to think carefully about the way you go about things. I feel as though I have been driving along with the handbrake on, and someone’s finally pointed this out to me. It’s a fantastic feeling.

A final thought : one of the things that clearly distinguishes this from other material I’ve come across (whether as a book, article or audio such as this) is that I go back to the earlier CDs and listen to them again; review my notes from the days of the course. If anything, I’m now looking forward to his September seminar with even greater anticipation.

If it’s anything like the CDs, it’ll be superb.

Script FrenzyIf you enjoy writing, chances are you’ve got at least one of those ‘novels you’ve been meaning to write for years’ tucked away somewhere deep in your brain. At least I have.

Accordingly, I jumped into last year’s NaNoWriMo (a challenge to write a 50,000 novella in only 30 days) with all the mad enthusiasm I could muster.

I lasted about a week.

The problem was not the amount of work involved (I love writing, so it never feels like a chore); simply that the rest of my life was not organised enough to handle having much of it ‘on hold’ for a month.

Script Frenzy – run by the same group of people as NaNoWriMo – sounds much more achievable. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a 20,000 word screenplay / stage play in 30 days. Sounds like fun.

WritingCompetitions are always great; especially when then involve both writing and prizes. Copyblogger currently has one that does just that. Very interesting.

Incidentally, the starting point for the landing page is this one for Straight to the Bar. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Simple SavingsMy recent list of 5 ways to reduce your car’s fuel consumption (and save you money) – part of this month’s Problogger Group Writing Project – brought to mind another great money-saving site, Simple Savings.

I’ve been receiving the Simple Savings newsletters for a while now, and they always have a great idea or two (the latest piece talks about saving money on your energy bills – definitely a subject near the top of the list here). The regular podcasts are similarly packed with great money-saving ideas.

If you haven’t already checked out the site, head over there now. Make your life a little easier.