Email: Embrace The Chaos

02/21/2020

Really enjoyed this piece by Rachel Kramer Bussel:

 Not for the first time, I considered declaring email bankruptcy: mass-deleting all the newsletters, marketing promos, Google news alerts, and notes from friends, family, and work contacts that accumulated over the years. I’d give myself a blank slate, one that allowed me to actually notice the professional opportunities that came my way. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to nuke my inbox entirely. What if I wanted to reread a note my late grandmother had written to me? Or look up which Black Friday promos a company offered in 2016 to better inform my shopping this year?

I long ago learned to stop worrying about my email. We all get a ton of email, and if you’re a grownup, you probably have 3-4 different email accounts that you are responsible for patrolling. My work account has 48,322 unreads; my primary personal account has 2,805; secondary personal (the one where the volume of junk is so high that it exists only for shopping receipts; everybody has that one account) is at 95,776. Collectively, it’s a lot but it’s not impossible.

Here are my tips for managing the chaos:

Turn off unread flags.

If you are determined to leave behind that “inbox zero” silliness, then this should be your first step. Go into your email app or notification settings, and turn off the unread counts/flags. I’m referring to the “14,778” number that appears on the icon of your email app, which signifies the number of unread emails therein. Turn that shit off. That number is meaningless, and it just causes anxiety.

Search is your friend.

Don’t bother filing emails into a labyrinth of folders and sub-folders. It takes too much effort and it won’t really help you find anything any faster. Use the Archive function if you must, but the Search feature is your best friend in taming the chaos. The search function in most modern email apps is fast and accurate. Need to find that one email from HR that they sent six months ago? Type in a few keywords and scroll the results to the correct time frame…there’s the email you wanted.

Flag the vital stuff

If it’s an email that you will absolutely need to reference or respond to later, go ahead and flag or star that bad boy. This is particularly important if the sender or content isn’t memorable or unique enough to easily surface in a search.

Never Delete

Most email takes up very little actual storage space, so there is rarely any benefit to deleting something — especially if there’s any chance of you needing it later. Again, search is your friend.

Just wait.

If you receive an email that gets lost in your chaos and it needed a response, just wait. If it’s truly important they’ll email you again.

“…no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys”

01/13/2020

Apple responds to AG Barr on phone unlocking: read the full statement here:

Earlier today Attorney General William Barr called on Apple to unlock the alleged phone of the Pensacola shooter — a man who murdered three people and injured eight others on a Naval base in Florida in December. Apple has responded by essentially saying: “no.”

“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation,” the company said. “It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours,” Apple added countering Barr’s characterization of Apple being slow on its approach to the FBI’s needs. However, it ends the statement in no uncertain terms: “We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys.”

Apple’s position is the correct one. If you create a software backdoor or a weakness in encryption, it will inevitably be exploited by bad actors. How do we know this? Because even the NSA can’t keep its top secret tools and methods out of enemy hands.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella also got in on the debate:

“I do think backdoors are a terrible idea, that is not the way to go about this,” Nadella said. “We’ve always said we care about these two things: privacy and public safety. We need some legal and technical solution in our democracy to have both of those be priorities.”

Challenges and Opportunities

04/18/2019

Sometimes I write for other sites:

> All of this is to say that the privacy landscape is changing. For consumers, these are changes for the better. Proper regulation of the collection and protection of private information is probably long overdue. For marketers, we have a new challenge — how do we comply with these regulations and remain effective, without risking legal repercussions?

I tackle privacy and more in a post for my day job.

MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

03/19/2019

(Revised 2019-07-06)

There are many lists of Marvel movies, but this one is mine. There’s no particular criteria for my rankings, though “rewatch-ability” is very important. Here is the Definitive Ranking of Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (in order starting from least favorite):

  • Thor: The Dark World — This movie just kind of a mess. It’s like a less-good remake of Thor (which itself wasn’t great.)
  • The Incredible Hulk — The forgotten MCU movie. This is the most optional of the films, so feel free to skip.
  • Thor — I think of it almost like two movies. The first movie is all of the “sword and board” action and royal politics. Most of these scenes are a snooze fest. The other movie takes place on Earth, and it is really fun. Sadly, there is too much of the former to overcome the latter.
  • Iron Man 2 — It’s Iron Man and it’s fun, but it’s the weakest of the trio.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — This movie felt overly long and I never quite understood the motivations of the antagonist (voiced by the always great James Spader.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A visual spectacle, but this movie has always seemed like one of the least necessary entries in the MCU. Other than advancing Quill’s daddy issues, I’m not sure what this film did other than set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
  • Doctor Strange — Our introduction to the mystical side of Marvel, this was a fun film. Stephen Strange is an arrogant asshole, but his origin story was great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate this film. I think this is one film where having an understanding of the origin of Captain America really helps you understand why this movie was actually pretty good. Though if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
  • Ant-Man — I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were great.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable. This was the first Marvel film with a female hero to receive top-billing. 
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 of the big payoff for all of these films. It’s still hard to believe that they managed to center this film around an entirely CGI character and make it work so well.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home — So much fun. They masterfully balanced the humor with the post-Endgame sadness. 
  • Captain America: Civil War — Almost an Avengers movie, there was conflict, politics, and solid action. This also introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — This was the point where Marvel really started flexing. Up to this point, their films had been headlined by relatively established characters. Guardians was something else. With it, they absolutely nailed the introduction of a new universe of characters who were virtually unknown to non-comics readers. The script was hilarious and the casting spot-on.
  • Iron Man 3 — A slight shift in tone and stakes from the other two entries, but a solid film. Ben Kingsley steals the show.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming — I love this iteration of Spider-Man (long my favorite comic character) and what Tom Holland brings. So great.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers — The gang finally comes together. Fun action, though I still think helicarriers are dumb.
  • Captain Marvel — The first solo MCU movie with a female protagonist. Loved every minute of it.
  • Iron Man — The first film. This one set the stage and the tone for the MCU. Somehow they lucked into casting Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is cinema history.
  • Black Panther — This was the first MCU film that actually felt important. Black Panther had things to say about race, isolationism, oppression, and family. An incredible film that could stand on its own outside of the MCU.
  • Avengers: Endgame — What a ride. This movie pays off ten years with fan service delivered in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted that Marvel could pull off, but they did! 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I loved everything about this film. I think it had the best action scenes of any MCU movie to date, and echoed some of my favorite thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top. 

End of Watch

02/14/2019

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission – The New York Times:

Opportunity, the longest-lived roving robot ever sent to another planet, explored the red plains of Mars for more than 14 years, snapping photos and revealing astonishing glimpses into its distant past. But on Wednesday, NASA announced that the rover is dead.

“It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said at a news conference.

I wasn’t around for the moon landings, but space exploration has captivated me my entire life. I follow every mission, every discovery, every grainy photo from distant probes. The Mars rover missions have easily been my favorites. Not just flybys of distant objects, these were actual up-close exploration. Crisp, beautiful shots of an alien landscape. The rovers represent some of the best of what NASA can do. 

Essential Apps

05/10/2018

This is an ordered list, but it really has no particular order. I use all of these apps every single day and are essential to my productivity.

  1. 1Password: I addressed this app earlier in the week.

  2. Bear: A note-taking and writing tool. I’m using it to compose this post. I use it to take meeting notes, write memos, and blog.

  3. BBEdit: I’ve been using this app since at least 1996, making it the oldest program I use (yes, this dates back to classic Mac OS.) This is just a text editor, but what a text editor it is. I use it for composing HTML, CSS, and editing Python and JavaScript. It handles very large text files with speed that few other editors can match. It has powerful find and replace functions (want to do a find and replace with regular expressions? Want to do it across dozens of text files simultaneously? With BBEdit, you can.)

  4. Soulver: This is the best calculator I have ever used. It allows you to work through math functions just like you would do on paper — building out your functions and calculations, and even giving them text annotations and headers. It fills a niche for me that would be cumbersome with a spreadsheet. I use Soulver dozens of times per day to calculate advertising spends for my clients. I use it on my Mac and on my iPhone.

  5. Things: My second brain. All of my tasks, to-dos, shopping lists, and projects go in here. An email comes in that I need to act upon? It gets forwarded into Things. We need more dish soap? Into the shopping list in Things. I receive a Slack message that requires a follow-up? Thanks to Zapier I can star the message and it will be automatically dumped into Things.

Passwords

05/05/2018

Via: The Verge

Like sunscreen, it can be a hassle to apply, but it’s an easy way to stop yourself from getting burned.

The reasons are simple: you need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these , or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked ( like they do all the time ) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.

The Verge needs to pin this article to the top of their site every month as a reminder for everyone: do not use the same password for everything.

I’ve been a user of 1Password for 5 or 6 years. All of my passwords are stored there. If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you the passwords for any of my email accounts, my Amazon account, or the dozens of others that I might have to use in a week. They are all unique and very secure.

I have a single password that unlocks my 1Password information and then the software does the rest whenever I need to log into something. I can rest easy knowing that if any of those services are compromised that it won’t mean the rest of my accounts are also in peril.

If you are using the same 1 or 2 passwords for everything that you do online, then your information has probably already been compromised. That is no exaggeration. Do yourself a favor and get a password manager, and start living a more secure life.

PCXL Magazine November 1998: Ping-Free Partying

03/03/2018

via Donde Quake 2:

Who Needs Online Gaming When You Can Lug Your Kit Around Town to Shout Abuse at Complete Strangers? Online Gaming is Dead. LAN Parties Are Where It’s At.

In retrospect, online gaming was just getting started, and most kids today can’t tell you what a “LAN party” is, but this is still a fun look back.

The LAN party culture of the late 1990s and early 2000s defined the multi-player gaming we enjoy today. I was in college during these years, and LAN parties were a huge part of my life. Lugging my computer to another dorm, or to another apartment, and gaming until the next day. Online gaming is certainly more convenient, but there is something incredibly satisfying about staring down your opponent after a victory.

Those were fun times.

Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium

03/02/2018

via Popular Mechanics:

Four decades ago, less than 5 percent of American were cremated when they died. Now that figure stands at nearly half. This is how cremation actually works, and the story of what happens to a culture when its attitude about how to memorialize the dead undergoes a revolution.

Really interesting article. I had a surface-level understanding of this process, but they really dig in with some interesting details about the cremation process.

The cremator’s rule of thumb is that 100 pounds of human fat is the equivalent of 17 gallons of kerosene. If you have a body that weighs 400 pounds, at least 200 of it will be fat that will burn rapidly. If you put that person into a very hot machine, as the cremation unit tends to be at the end of the day when it’s been running for hours, the chamber may emit smoke and odor out of the stack.

I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing older or simply growing up, but I do find myself thinking about death more often these days. I suppose I should have a plan in place for what to do with my remains, but I have no idea what to do.

Email is your electronic memory

02/15/2018

From the FastMail Blog:

Yesterday, Google announced that Gmail will use AMP to make emails dynamic, up-to-date and actionable. At first that sounds like a great idea. Last week’s news is stale. Last week’s special offer from your favourite shop might not be on sale any more. The email is worthless to you now. Imagine if it could stay up-to-date.

More:

Over time your mailbox becomes an extension of your memory – a trusted repository of history, in the way that an online news site will never be. Regardless of the underlying reasons, it is a fact that websites can be “corrected” after you read them, tweets can be deleted and posts taken down.

I agree with FastMail here. I look to my email as a source of “truth”. I can count on it to be static and unchanging. I have an archive of emails stretching back to around 1996, and I count on all of remain unchanged forever, safe in my archive.

Also not to be discounted are the legal ramifications of dynamic emails. I work in politics and, while not frequent, my emails have had to be turned over for discovery in litigation. That entire process assumes that the contents of emails have remained unchanged and will be turned over in the same state. AMP tosses that entire premise out the window.

AMP for email is a bad idea.

Also, if you’re in the market for a new email provider, FastMail is fantastic. I’ve been using them for a number of years and they are absolutely the best. Fast, reliable, trustworthy, and inexpensive. Visit this link to sign up.