Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't trick me

Here's an instance in which I think a company should have done some more market research before implementing a plan. On Friday there was a message on our answering machine at home that said, "This is Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Company. It is imperative that we talk to you regarding pipeline safety in your neighborhood! Please call 000-000-0000 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday."

We have gas service through Atmos Energy, and I've never heard of Southern Star, but who knows, maybe they're a parent company, or maybe they actually build the pipelines or something. But it just sounded odd, and I couldn't do anything about it until Monday anyway. When Bob got home, I asked him to listen to it and asked him what he thought, and he said it didn't make any sense to him, either, and to just ignore it. He said, "If it blows up, it blows up."

Then when we got home last night, there was another message, the same message. Bob said, well, there was an Atmos truck on the street this morning, maybe there's something going on, we should probably call them back. We had this whole discussion about it, with me saying that when someone needs us to do something, I wish they would just tell us what it is rather than making us jump through hoops, but that I would call the next day.

So I wrote down the number and called them back this morning on my way to work, and the phone was answered, "Southern Star Gas Pipeline, how may I help you?" I told the woman on the phone that, "We keep getting messages about pipeline safety in our neighborhood." She said, "Oh, yes, we contacted you regarding a survey on pipeline safety, would you have time to take the survey now?" I declined, and she said she would take us off the contact list so we wouldn't be bothered again.

I know that I'm odd in various ways, but I, like most people, I assume, dislike being tricked, particularly in a way that makes you concerned or frightened. I have a bad impression of that company now, since that's all I know about them, that they tricked me into calling them by making me fearful for our safety. Obviously, they did it because if they called and said we should call them back to take a survey, we wouldn't, so they try to make us think it's a safety issue.

Bad plan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Evernote - it just works

I'm always on the lookout for the ideal productivity app, the one that I can use for everything, the one that deserves to reside on the homepage of my iPad. I've tried dozens of them. I've also purchased lots of note-taking apps, but haven't found one that really felt completely comfortable.

I seem to always come back to Evernote.

There are fancier, more elegant apps out there--Evernote is kind of utilitarian--there are apps where you can choose from several different kinds of paper, or even make your own. There are apps where I can create a lot of different "notebooks," and choose pretty covers for them. For awhile, I liked the note-taking apps where you write on the screen with a stylus, and those are fun to play with, and nice for temporary notes, but for keeping well organized notes, I always come back to Evernote.

The main reason why I'm sticking with Evernote is the ability to sync seamlessly between iPad, iPhone, desktop/laptop, and web. I can use the full-size keyboard at my desk and type effortlessly, instead of hunting and pecking on the iPad keyboard, type a note, and then immediately open up Evernote on the iPad, and the note is there. I can edit notes on the iPad, and the edits show up on the desktop version or web versions.

I'm all about things that I don't have to think about, things that "just work." Evernote just works. It's not perfect--for one thing, I wish that you could have folders and sub-folders, so that I could have a "work" folder and a "home" folder, and be able to sort things within those folders, rather than having them all mixed up in separate notebooks. Any topic becomes it's own notebook. You can sort using tags, of course, but that has never seemed to be logical to me.

No, it's not perfect, but it's the best thing that I've found for keeping track of virtually everything--travel itineraries, software manuals, knitting patterns, lists of books that I want to read, meeting notes, photographs of white boards. When you open your Evernote account, you can set up an email address that goes directly into Evernote, so if you have something that you want to be sure to keep a copy of, but you're not near your computer or don't want to be bothered at the moment, you just email it to Evernote. There are also a lot of apps that allow you to export into Evernote; like Dropbox, it's become one of those ubiquitous apps that everyone has.

The one other thing that it doesn't do is allow you to hand-write a note, or mark up a note, but there are other apps that do that, and you can just export them to Evernote to keep a copy. You can save photographs, PDFs, web clippings, and text notes; if you need to save really large files, or need to work with files when you don't have an internet connection, you may want to upgrade to a premium account.

The free account allows you to upload very generous 60MB per month. If you need more than that--maybe you upload a lot of PDFs or large photographs--a Premium membership is $5/month, and allows you to upload 1GB/month.

Crossposted from P3 blog

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What's in my bag?

It's time again for: "What's In My Bag?" Always a good fall-back topic. I occasionally try to limit the number of things that I carry, and I can do that for awhile, but then when I'm having a stressful time I start worrying about things, and find that it's comforting to know that I have the things that I may need in my bag, even though I may not need them every day.

I was thinking about that this morning. I had washed my hair on Sunday, but didn't dry it, just let it air-dry, didn't do anything but comb it out, and hadn't put any product in it, so on Monday it was kind of fly-away, especially after I took off my microfiber fleece jacket. If I had been at home, I would have put something in it, but didn't have anything at work, of course.

So this morning I stuck a little travel-size tube of Redken "Outshine" ("anti-frizz polishing milk") in the bag. And then, if I do that, I think, well, I should also have moisturizer for my face, especially in the winter, and I've been feeling a little paranoid about people being sick, so I should put in a little bottle of anti-bac.

I guess it's a function of my mild OCD or my suggestibilty -- it's like needing to go put on a cross when I'm reading a vampire novel, making sure the batteries are fresh in my flashlight when I read a book where the protagonist gets stuck somewhere dark, or needing to clean the house after watching "Hoarders" (which I did Monday night). So here's the current list.

  • Purell Hand Sanitizer
  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion
  • Generic ibuprofen
  • Clinique Stop Signs Hand Repair handcream
  • Glasses
  • Vera Bradley eyeglass case
  • Emergency reading glasses (tiny fold-up pair)
  • Botanial Nutrients wooden hairbrush
  • iPhone in leather slip case
  • Little Phillips zip case with earbuds and my "Square" credit card reader
  • Vinyl folder for coupons, receipts, stamps, return address labels
  • Leather 3x5 card holder with Levenger personalized cards (I bought them years ago, enough to last me the rest of my life!)
  • Small notebook
  • Tiny Japanese zipper pouch with spare earrings
  • Thumb drive
  • Plastic nail file
  • Orly nail oil
  • Screen cleaning cloth
  • Tissue purse pack
  • Bandaids
  • Business cards
  • Pens - A Pilot Precise V5 recycled rollerball and a bank giveaway ballpoint
  • Clinique lip gloss in "Whisper"
  • Softlips lip balm ("Sparkle Mint")
  • Hair bands
  • Clinique gift-with-purchase lipstick mirror
  • Keyring with loyalty cards
  • Keys on the "jean ring" heart-shaped keyring I've had since high school
  • iPad stylus
  • Wallet with credit cards, cash, insurance cards
  • Pocket flashlight
  • Swiss Army knife (tiny one with scissors)
  • Baby nail clippers

Lot of stuff in this little backpack purse (Tignanello Multi Pocket Backpack in black leather)!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What's in store for next year?

Every year about this time I start thinking about the new year, about how it always seems like an opportunity for a fresh start. Since reading tarot cards is one of my hobbies, I naturally turn to them at the first of the year, looking for insight into what the new year may bring. Several times in the past I have looked for tarot apps for the iPhone or iPad, and have downloaded several, but they were always disappointing. I have a couple of apps that are beautiful, but if you don’t immediately remember to save the reading, it’s lost forever. I have also seen ones where the card meanings are poorly translated from other languages, or where the interface is unattractive or clunky.

This weekend I spent some time looking through the apps in the app store again, hoping to find something new, and I was thrilled to find that Lo Scarabeo, the Italian publisher well known for beautiful tarot cards, has created three new tarot apps, and they are wonderful! There is a free app called LS Tarot Lite, which gives you a two-card “Daily Insight” reading, and gives you a feel for the complete app before you spend any money. The second is a $4.99 app called LS Tarot, which contains six spreads and one deck, The Universal Waite. The LS Epic Tarot, for $9.99, contains twelve spreads, and allows you to download five additional decks from a selection of around 50.

There are all kinds of customization options–you can choose to use reversals or not, you can change the background to one of the many that they offer, or you can set it to an image from your photo gallery. All of your readings are saved in a reading history. You can delete a reading from the history if you wish, but all readings are saved in the history by default, you don’t have to remember to do it ahead of time. You can also write down your own thoughts about a reading in a reading journal, and print or email a reading to yourself or to someone else. You can choose to use reversals or not, something that many other apps don’t allow–either they only use the upright position, or they include reversals even if you don’t want to use them. The interpretations are written by Jo-Anne Penn-Kast, and can be accessed as full interpretations, or as keywords.

I honestly can’t think of one thing that they didn’t include, or anything that could be done differently, or better. At $9.99, it may seem a bit steep compared to other apps, but in my opinion it’s worth every cent. All three apps come in both iPhone and iPad editions. Unfortunately, they aren’t universal, i.e., if you want it on both an iPad or iPhone, you’ll need to buy both versions. I purchased the $4.99 one for my iPhone, and the Epic version for my iPad.

If you’re looking for a sophisticated, beautiful tarot app, this is the one.

Cross-posted from Propaganda3's blog.