Using Evernote to file correspondence

As I was trying to find a letter the other day, a letter I hadn’t yet filed, it occured to me how useful email is form a retrieval perspective. Every email system has search built in, and even if it’s really lousy search, it’s still search.

No search for pieces of paper.

But actually there is – Evernote. It’s not exactly news that Evernote makes scanned documents searchable, and lots of people have posted on this. I’d even toyed with scanning all the pages of my journals and uploading them in the past. It just seemed like it might be a good fit to photograph letters and putt them in Evernote, for a few reasons:

  • One of the challenges in letter writing is keeping track of what’s been sent to people. I don’t want to bore people with news they’ve already read. Evernote should let me see both their last letter and my previous letter to them, and see what we’ve discussed.
  • I can carry my complete file of correspondence with me. Always.

So I photographed all of my letters and their envelopes, and have nearly all of them tagged. Some observations so far:

  • I found that scanning took way too long. Photographing in a shady spot on a sunny day worked much better. I found a good exposure setting, set the camera on manual, and made very quick work of it. Photos are also more pleasing to the eye than scans.
  • Reading a photographed letter on an iphone screen is not real fun, but it does work.
  • This is a workflow that requires discipline. I’m not sure I’ll remember to photograph my own letters when I need to.
  • I think I’ll try using .unanswered and .answered tags to keep track of who’ve I’ve replied to. Otherwise I’m tagging only with the person’s name.
  • I’m keeping all of the correspondence in its own notebook.
  • The search capability works pretty well.

Have any of the rest of you tried this? How’s it working for you?

New Pencils & Highlighters from OfficeMax

It seems like OfficeMax has been quite interested in writing instruments lately, as they contacted me about another batch of new products. They have a new highlighter, gel pen, and mechanical pencil. They sent me some samples to try, and promised another set to give away to a reader – stay tuned!


Thickish body, but not as thick as a typical fat magic marker. The label promotes that the ink is liquid, and sure enough, the body is full of liquid ink which is visibly sloshing around in the pen. No more wondering whether it’s got any ink. Multiple colors are available: Yellow, orange, blue, green, pink, purple, and blue.

The point is a ubiquitous chisel, and makes a line 1/8″ wide with careful alignment of the point on the paper – perhaps not wide enough if your the type who wants the whole line of text covered in highlight – and less if you’re not diligent about how you hold the pen.

The colors are vibrant but not super flourescent. Really only the yellow is flourescent to my eye, the rest are just bright. It is pretty waterfast, losing some of its intensity when washed, but papers that have been highlighted will not be de-highlighted by rain or spilled water. The blue loses the most, as expected.

The cap clicks on with a solid feel, and the clip grips pretty firmly, but with not much capacity. Reveal is about half an inch of very tapered cap-tip, so pulling it out of a sleeve is going to be a bit tricky. Not that it’s going to fit in all sleeves, being fairly thick.

WARNING: Do not leave the cap off. I’ve done so, and that pen now does not write. I’ve put the cap back on in the hopes it will come back to life.

Gel Pen

Rubber grip, overall very similar to the Pilot G2 style of pen. The point comes with a blob of sealant, which suggests maybe the ink is water fast. Sure enough, it is. Not quite fully black – black enough for most uses, but next to, say, Noodler’s black it’s distinctly dark gray. Line width measured .5mm on index stock. The rubber grip is average diameter, grippy without being sticky, and pleasant to hold. Reveal is 5/8″, with some helpful ridges molded into the top of the pen to aid in removing it from a sleeve.

A nice pen. My only beef with it is that it’s a .7mm instead of .5mm.

Mechanical pencil

Eraser on the end, which is nice, but it’s the abrasive rubber kind rather than vinyl, and I thought it would be a poor performer but I was actually nicely surprised with out will it erased. Three leads are included, although more could be added to the tube by pulling the eraser out. Lots of reveal at 1 1/8″, and the cup holding the eraser provides a nice solid grip for pulling it out of a sleeve. The lead is surely HB, but I find this too hard. I can’t blame the manufacturer as everyone uses HB, but 2B or even 3B is a lot more hand-friendly.

The problem with the pencil is that the grip is too high. I suspect they tried to place it where it would be on a wooden pencil, but the thing is, the grip on a wooden pencil is there because of sharpening, not because that’s where people want to hold the pencil. I can only speak for myself, but I dislike holding the slippery tapered part below the grip of any writing instrument. Other than that, the pencil is quite nice.

A tough crowd

The challenge with products like these is that there are a lot of them. All the major brands have at least one variety, if not a few. Now the house brands are coming on strong as well, and it’s hard to find a strong reason to buy one over another.



The NSA really screwed up

Once upon a time there was a product manager for a consumer products company. He was approached by an inventor in the early days of aerosol products, who had a great idea for a product. It was a thin oil that would displace water an put a protective film on metallic surfaces. It also provided some lubrication. The product manager didn’t really see any use for it, and turned the guy down.

The product was later produced, and is called WD-40.

The product manager, ¬†who was my father, obviously saw his mistake once WD-40’s success was apparent, but sometimes when opportunity knocks we just don’t listen.

I think it will be the same with the NSA.

For those who are looking for evidence that the government is out of control, and democracy is being destroyed the NSA could hardly have provided more evidence. Obama has recently tried to address the issue (pathetically, in my opinion) in an attempt to restore the broken trust.

BUT, If the NSA had done things just a little differently, they would have not broken our trust and made a mint in the process. It goes like this:

  • Create a subsidiary in silicon valley. Keep the NSA tie-in, but make a separate brand.
  • Create a product that promises to automatically archive everything you do on the web, storing it for prosperity, making it indelible, backed up, and easy to share if desired. Really, this is just Evernote with some added functions.
  • Emphasize that all of the content is encrypted, so it is safe. Use some typically funny marketing language to make it seem like the NSA can’t break it while not actually saying that: “All of your data is encrypted using an algorithm that has even the NSA in awe – ‘I wouldn’t want to be the guy responsible for breaking¬†that code!’ said NSA Chief of Data Security, Jeff Birdsplat.”
  • Offer this service for FREE to the American people, and watch them sign up.
  • The next time congress needs a few extra bucks, just start charging $45 a year for the service, and watch captured users pay up.

Ka-ching! All the data they want, collected more easily, voluntarily, and getting paid for it.

Catching up

Wow. It’s amazing how easily one can get crushed, and by things that seem almost invisible.

So back in April I started a new job. It’s a great job – more pay, more engaging work, etc., but quite predictably it crushed my ability to post here and other places. Eventually I started to regain capacity as I got more acclimated to the new gig, but something else was working behind the scenes and not in a good way. A grim reminder on how unfinished business can bring one down.

Long story short, between a vacation to see some family and taking care of the demon unfinished business, I suddenly found myself full of the energy I’d lost. Not only that, but a flood of post ideas for Recording Thoughts including new stuff from OfficeMax to review, some thoughts on how the NSA has really screwed up, and a paper you won’t want to leave out of your collection.

Let’s hope it lasts!