Because I read a lot, I’m probably going to write a lot about reading. Because you subscribed to this letter, sometimes you’ll get to read what I write about what I read. Convenient! This edition takes a look at some cool reading options that have popped up lately.
- Amazon’s Kindle singles offering is a super handy place to find good stuff to read quickly. When it launched there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from, but I think authors and publishers are starting to realize there actually is a market for short, inexpensive, high quality writing. You don’t need Kindle hardware to read these offerings, but you’ll at least need the Kindle app for your computer or smartphone. I’ve read Lying and The Walk Up Nameless Ridge. Very curious about Do No Harm.
I’m on the road this weekend, and apparently I had a lot of travel-type stuff to say, so this edition is geared toward travel and a little bit of adventure reading. Believe me, two letters in two days will be an anomaly. As always, thanks for your attention to Attn:
I know some of you readers have serious road warrior credibility, but I’ve found a few little travel tricks and tips that are worth passing along. This breaks down basically into gear and tech. Gear first.
Today is Friday, November 9, 2012, and this is the inaugural Attn: newsletter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Email is not dead, and newsletters are cool
I have subscribed and unsubscribed from newsletters for as long as I’ve had email (*cough* 1994 *cough*). Here are some that I like these days. If you’ve know of other interesting newsletters, let me know!
- NextDraft: Dave Pell is doing good work on this general interest daily newsletter. He helped inspire Attn:
- The Ryan Holiday Reading Recommendation Email: Longest title ever, but he is a voracious reader. I pick up good book tips here.
- Photojojo: Focused on photography tips and tricks. They will also try to sell you stuff.
- Edge: Interviews with thinkers from many disciplines.
- Brain Pickings: Eclectic batches of themed interestingness. Maria Popova is inhumanly productive.
- CoolTools: Cool tools. Email subscribers see reviews first, but to become a subscriber, you must first submit a review. Yes, I have.
- The Listserv: Daily distribution. Many readers, one randomly chosen writer. Quality varies.
- Viewsource: Daily email of a a video you probably haven’t seen yet.
- The Scout Report: Aimed at educators, focused on STEM and humanities.
- Media ReDEFined: Jason Hirschhorn is a prolific aggregator of tech, entertainment, and media stories.
- This Is True: Long-running newsletter of unusual-but-true stories.
- TomDispatch: An alternative to mainstream media coverage. Think Bill Moyers, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, etc.
- The Straight Dope: Produced by syndicated columnist, author, and polymath Cecil Adams. A little of everything.
Learnin’ and earnin’
What I like most about the Internet is the opportunity to learn new things. I really love it when I learn stuff that I can put to immediate use at work. OpenCulture has a great (regularly updated) list of certificate courses available. This turns everything upside-down. Instead of falling asleep in a class you don’t care about, you can stay awake on your bed and learn something interesting. I enjoyed a pint of ice cream while watching a lecture about calories.
Buy the way
How do you decide on your purchases? Thanks to the largesse of my father-in-law, our household has been a long time subscriber toConsumer Reports. I like reading the magazine, but I can never find the appropriate issue when it comes time to make a purchase. Lately I’ve been using The Wirecutter and Decide. The Wirecutter is a blog that’s mostly technology focused. Their mission is simple: they just tell you what the best thing is, and why. Decide will cost money each month, but the quality and timeliness of their reviews is worth the expense.
A fundraising masterclass
I spotted a weird Twitter exchange between Obama advisor David Axelrod and Donald Trump. I kinda considered them arch enemies, but they were just chatting like old pals. I storified it so you could gawk too.
Lock it down
Good article this week from the NYT on password security. I think password security is one of the building blocks of basic Internet literacy. I use a combination of a password manager, and a unique passphrase that can be customized to the site in question. As a consequence I have 515 (and counting) unique passwords. Matt Haughey’s password tips from back in 2005 were super helpful for me back then, and I continue to refine the approach. If you are repeating even one password, take ten minutes out of your day and come up with a basic scheme for unique, easily remembered passwords.
That is all
Since this is the first edition, I’m keeping it short today. Hope you enjoyed it.
15 years! Looks like it’s time to repost the old poem (’02, ’05, ’09). Happy Anniversary, Amy!
Do you know,
I would quietly slip
from the loud circle,
When first I know
the pale stars are blooming.
Ways will I elect
that seldom any tread,
In the pale ev’ning meadows.
And no dream but this:
You come too.
–Rainier Maria Rilke
There was a time when I was a complete honk for Getting Things Done, aka GTD. I first read the book back around 1999 or so, when I was working in Org Dev for a megacorp. I’ve been implementing, tweaking, and falling off the wagon ever since. I still think GTD is the seminal work in the field of personal productivity, but there are other shining lights. Two of my favorite are Mark Forster’s Do It Tomorrow and Mark Hurst’s Bit Literacy.
Anyway, these days I’ve kind of got my productivity schtick figured out. Not to say that it doesn’t need tuning from time to time, but I’ve basically settled on my toolset. Because of that I don’t really poke around the old personal productivity blogs or pay much attention to that space at all. Even so, the last week brought three interesting productivity-related items to my attention. Without much comment, here they are:
1. A drink company wrote a very thorough screed on using GTD with Evernote, called The Secret Weapon. Lots of people have taken a crack at this setup, but this is the nicest tutorial I’ve seen. Evernote really can be a universal capture tool for many people.
2. Mark Forster came out with a new time management system called Final Version. You can get the details by subscribing to his newsletter on his web site. I’ve looked at it, and it’s pretty straightforward. No special tools needed, and it can be easily implemented with pencil and paper. Might be worth looking at if GTD gives you fits.
3. Finally, speaking of GTD, David Allen has an article in the current NYT about the relevancy of GTD to today’s workers. Good reading.
If, like me, you’ve got one or more BAHA sound processors, you probably have searched for a decent direct audio input (DAI aka Euro plug) cord or cable to connect the sound processors to your iPod, iPhone, laptop, Discman, whatever. I’ve tried several and I’ve finally settled on the one I think is the best. I’m passing it along here because it’s probably easier to find than buried in the BAHA_PPL Yahoo group.
The one I’ve been using and enjoying the most comes from Oaktree Products and the item number is DPV1M. Here’s a direct link: http://goo.gl/HBsLz That link goes to the bilateral version. If you only need one side (monaural), look for item number DPS800 or here’s a direct link: http://goo.gl/DxtvJ NOTE: I’ve got no financial interest in either the manufacturer of the cable, nor the retailer. I’m just a happy customer.
The reason I think this is the best DAI cord/cable is that the DAI connector is gold plated and the sheath covering the wires is rubberized. I do a lot of physical activity which invariably gets sweat around the BAHA units. Typical cords have a silver colored connector and it quickly starts to corrode and need cleaning/maintenance. The gold plated connector resists this kind of corrosion better. The rubberized sheath is very similar to current iPod earbud cables, which resist tangling when coiled. They are very nice. The best part is that my binaural cord is cheaper than the monoaural cord sold by Cochlear.com. And Cochlear.com doesn’t even sell a binaural cord (as of this writing…I heard it’s in the works).
The one catch to all this is that the seller of the cables, Oaktree Products, is a wholesaler to audiologists. So you’ll need to either be an audiologist or have your audiologist put in the order for you. Their shipping was pretty quick–I ordered a couple of cables and had them within a week. These cables are so good that I never want to run out (in case of loss or damage), so I think I’ll be ordering up another couple pretty soon.
Runkeeper.com is a great service for tracking runs, but sometimes you want to create a new route based on a data file you might have. Currently (August 2011), there’s not an obvious way to do that. By default, Runkeeper wants you to physically map out routes using their mapping tool. That’s great for short routes on roads, but it’s less practical for longer trail runs.
Here’s the tl;dr version…there only five steps:
- Get your data file into GPX or TCX format.
- Upload your new GPX/TCX file as a new (fake) activity to Runkeeper.
- Go to your new activity and select “Create as route”.
- Delete the new fake activity.
- Go run!
Here’s the longer version…
- Get your data file into GPX or TCX format. GPS data comes in a lot of weird formats. Runkeeper will only consume two of them. Here’s a recent personal example. I was traveling to Boise, ID and needed to do a 16 mile run, preferably on trails. I found a run, but the format was Google Earth’s KML format. I just grabbed a copy, went over to GPS Visualizer and converted the format over to GPX. If you’ve got some crazy original format that GPS Visualizer can’t convert, try downloading GPS Babel and using it to convert your file.
- Upload your new GPX/TCX file as a new (fake and temporary) activity to Runkeeper. If you’ve used Runkeeper at all, this will be a familiar process, though not one that you’ve likely tried before. Just hit the big blue ‘Post New Activity’ button, as usual. Indicate your activity type and your equipment type should be ‘none.’ Hit next. On the following screen, select the ‘Import Map’ button in the center of the screen. You’ll see a prompt to select a file that’s located on your computer. Click the ‘Choose File’ button to navigate to your newly converted GPX file. If all is well, your screen should quickly change to display a map with what looks like your new route. Hit the ‘Next’ button. Here’s where you’ve got to fake out the system a bit. Input a time…use 1 hour just to be simple. You might make a note in the “How did it go?” field just to say this is a temporary placeholder. Hit the big blue Save button.
- Go to your new fake temporary activity and select “Create as route” from the bottom left corner of the map. Now go to your activity stream and select your newly added (fake) activity. Down at the bottom left corner of the map you should see a link in small blue text that says, “add to your routes.” Click it. Input your route info and hit save.
- Delete your new fake temporary activity. Now go back to your activity stream and delete your fake activity by selecting the activity and clicking the ‘delete’ text link in the upper right corner above the map.
- That’s it! You’ve just hacked Runkeeper to create a new route from a GPS file. Go run!