The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio
The Investor's Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between
The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created
Check out my lens on the subject of index mutual funds on Squidoo.
Yesterday, for the first time ever, I had to fire an employee.
Not going as we'd plannedGoing to have to let you goHere's what's going to happen:
- Today will be your last day
- Final check will be mailed to you
- Info about COBRA will come by mail
- My card/contact if you have any questionsNow let's go gather your personal items.This is not a good match.This is really better for all of us.Don't try to fill awkward silencesDIGNITY
I forgot to mention this in my previous paean to Evernote.
Ever since I got my first computer (a late 80s Radio Shack Tandy), I've been completely obsessed with archiving and search. I typed document after document and then lay in bed, eyes wide, terrified that my precious words would somehow vanish, zapped into the ether. I experimented with every archiving and search tool I found. They were primitive, promising very little functionality. Because they seemed so limited I held back from fully committing myself to any digital format. I slowly acquired a number of legal pads and binders stuffed with the products of my creativity.
Eventually, after undergrad and during my graduate work, I transitioned to a primarily digital archive. However I didn't take the necessary precautions to secure my files (see The Saga of the Crashed Flash Drive for more on this). The sheer volume of the losses I encountered led me to a place I'd never been before -- existential angst. A complete unwillingness to write anything anywhere -- even on paper. How can you keyword-search your hardcopy?
At long last, I've found a tool that seems to offer everything I need: Evernote.
Evernote offers a fairly basic service: online storage of your rich text files. Evernote supports tagging and keyword search, and allows the user to set up separate notebooks or folders of notes for strategic organization.
Now, you may think, "I can do this with Google Docs." Or even Google Desktop plus whatever Office-like software you use. Or even your own personal Mediawiki install, or a hosted service like Jotspot. Evernote offers a few advantages.
The key features that make Evernote awesome include:
Optical character recognition of images
Upload an image to Evernote, and an automated OCR service inspects the image for text. Later on, the image's text becomes indexed along with whatever plain text you post. This is a fantastic feature for the graphically-oriented, or those too lazy to type the name of their favorite beer and prefer to snap a photo of the label. The OCR has been robust, in my experience.
Dedicated email address for notes or images
Out in the world? No access to a computer? No problem. Each Evernote account can generate a unique email address. Send a text email or an attached image to your Evernote email address and the text or image is added as a mailed-in note. Super-handy for when you're on the go.
Security and redundancy
Evernote offers a desktop application that allows you to not only interface with your hosted account on your laptop but to export an XML file that includes your entire database of notes. Ideal for those who've been burned in the past!
OCR of PDF documents
I have a love/hate relationship with PDF documents. They're universal and relatively secure. On the other hand, their proprietary format means that they're difficult to export to any 3rd party reader. Keyword searches of PDF documents usually leave me frustrated.
Evernote indexes the content of attached and/or uploaded PDF documents. The desktop app also includes an integrated PDF reader, so you can flip pages without even loading up an Adobe app. To me, this is awesome. I routinely email PDF documents to Evernote and then keyw0rd-search them -- just because I can.
Dedicated apps for smart phone
Yes, there's an app for that. Specifically a very nicely put-together iPhone app that allows graphic browsing of notes (similar to the browser-based interface).
Because I have an old-school BlackBerry, my version of the Evernote app has all the personality of a MS-DOS 3.2 text-only interface. But the iPhone version is lovely. And even my rudimentary BlackBerry app is functional, if ugly, distasteful and cumbersome (everything my BlackBerry is).
Other cool stuff
In addition the Evernote team has some more advanced tricks up their sleeves:
EyeFi is an SD card that stores images but also uploads them to your Evernote account.
Shoeboxed is a receipt-scanning service that scans and organizes your receipts before uploading them to Evernote.
Pixily is a document-scanning service that will upload PDFs of any hardcopy docs to Evernote for you, enabling keyword-search (exciting!!).
So far, the only downsides I've found to Evernote is the desktop interface. I find the PC desktop app to be a little bit clumsy and obnoxious. When I have trouble with it, I simply compose my document in Notepad or Word and paste the results into an Evernote note before titling and tagging it. You may not find this necessary, but sometimes it's easier for me.
In short, I highly recommend Evernote for storage of any information you want to be able to find again. Evernote offers a free level of service. So far I have only used the free service and have found that it more than meets my needs. I plan to use Pixily as well in the near future.
Perhaps soon I'll finally realize my dream of a fully-digitized, searchable archive of all my own work. Then what will my next excuse be?
To me, this level of response is simply incredible. On the one hand, it implies an astonishing level of resources available to come to the aid of a potentially lost and desperate hiker. On the other hand, it represents a huge investment of resources with an extremely low return on investment. (Perhaps the ROI is tied to the reputation of the area -- that a location in which lost hikers are never heard from again gets a lot less tourist traffic?)SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — After being lost in Desolation Wilderness for three days, a 26-year-old Pollock Pines man was located by rescuers in good health on Tuesday.
The El Dorado County Sheriff's department began the search for Matthew Kinney after they were notified he did not arrive at the Horsetail Falls parking lot as scheduled on Saturday morning, said El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell. Kinney had left for a three day hike from Loon Lake to the waterfall on Thursday, but became lost, Lovell said.
About 60 volunteers from more than a half dozen local and regional agencies assisted in the rescue, which included 15 ground teams searching the more than 63,000-acre wilderness area. The teams were inserted into the wilderness on Tuesday via a California Highway Patrol helicopter, Lovell said.
Rescuers located Kinney, who was described by Lovell as an experienced hiker familiar with the area, disoriented but unharmed at about 3 p.m. near Lake Schmidell, Lovell said.
The area where Kinney was found is near the area he was scheduled to spend his first night, Lovell said.
Lovell recommended that backcountry travelers hike with a friend if possible and stick to a detailed itinerary of travel plans they leave with a friend or relative.
I was in Lake Tahoe recently, where I saw at least 5 search and rescue units, plus a helicopter, plus an HQ/basecamp consisting of 2 full-time people, all dedicated to tracking down a single overdue hiker (overdue for 24 hours).The short answer is this: although it is much higher-profile, and easier to object to, it might economically be more efficient to search for the lost hikers than to insure that all are prepared. Search and rescue is probably cheaper than running orientation and basic skills classes for hikers.
In one sense I agree with your thesis -- if one goes wandering in the wilderness, one must be prepared. But it seems to me that the folks responsible for actually enforcing this have made a decision. They have decided that it's easier, and perhaps more cost-effective, to engage in these big and risky search efforts for overdue hikers and lost city folk and the like THAN IT IS to enforce a minimum level of preparation among hikers.
Think about it -- it cost $120k to save these lost souls. On the other hand, it might cost $750k per year to man the trailheads with trained rangers who will inspect the gear of potential hikers and approve or deny them access to the wilderness. Plus, access to the wilderness is fairly porous...
Even though it's distasteful, it's very likely much less resource-intense to start a search for a lost hiker than it is to prevent unprepared and underequipped hikers from entering the wilderness.
I should've known something was wrong the first time my flash drive didn't save a file properly. I'd been working all morning on my reworking of the Robert Howard story The Fire of Asshurbanipal and when I hit CTRL + S, my laptop spat back an error: Drive not found.
I shrugged and saved the draft to my desktop.
The same thing happened intermittently for the next couple of weeks. I finished the story and felt really happy with it. A few days later, on a Wednesday after work, I plugged the flash drive in to print a copy of the story. Nothing. No flashing blue LED, no recognition on my computer, nothing.
I thought it had to be the USB port so I tried another. Nothing. I rebooted because sometimes Windows can lose a data port (why? no idea). Nothing. I tried another computer, a USB 1.0 port, NOTHING. I took the flash drive to work and plugged it into three different computers. NOTHING.
I had to take a lot of deep, slow breaths. Here's what was on that flash drive:
- The latest draft of my first novel
- The only drafts of my second novel
- The short story I'd just finished
- At least eight other short stories I've written in the last two years
- Freelance projects I've worked on
Four days passed.
During these four days, I very conspicuously didn't drown my sorrows in booze, even though I really wanted to. I kept reassuring myself that I'd be able to recover all the data somehow. eProvided might come through. I looked through my backups and saw that I hadn't archived anything, anything, since March 2007. I thought about Hemingway and the lost briefcase full of stories (except I'm no Hemingway, and I didn't lose a briefcase, and in any event I couldn't lay the blame on someone else) and how that lost briefcase made him the writer we remember. Maybe everything on the flash drive I lost could be retroactively labeled juvenalia and safely consigned to the maw of digital entropy.
On the fourth day I couldn't stand the wait and emailed eProvided -- "Did you get my drive? Can you save me, please?"
I got back a note requesting $30 via Paypal as an analysis fee. I paid it.
A week later -- seriously, a full week with not a single bender! How did I do it? Mostly, I distracted myself with the stock market. I wanted to follow the business news because it seemed as though something disastrous happened to some company or other, or some national economy, or some zaibatsu or currency, every day. I had no interest beyond prurience and a vague desire to become a millionaire by looking at MarketWatch.com eight or ten times every day. Instead of thinking about writing, I thought about its antithesis: money. A week later, I got a phone call.
My cell phone rang around noon. I was at work and went into the kitchen to take the call. Bruce, the owner of eProvided, introduced himself. He had a slow, calm voice suspiciously absent of accent that made me think he was either from a square state or maybe had been raised an Army brat.
"Well, I've got some news for you," he said. I noticed right away he didn't label it good or bad.
"What's the prognosis?"
"Well, this drive is totally trashed. Most of the circuits are broken and I haven't even put it under the microscope yet but there's some kind of corrosion that's eaten away just about everything."
There was a long pause. Finally, I asked, "Can you save it?"
"Maybe. But it ain't gonna be easy, and it ain't gonna be cheap." (Maybe he didn't quote Quint from Jaws but this is how I remember it.)
"Well, there's analysis, and I'm gonna have to see if I can rebuild this thing from scratch basically, you think you can get another one of the same lot? It'll take me a couple days at least. I'd say, hmm, $600."
He said something about Radio Shack and something about micro-soldering but I stopped listening. In my entire life, I have never spent $600 or more on any single purchase other than my 1996 Dodge Neon, Princess, who is now no longer with us. To put this in further perspective -- the last fiction sale I made paid me $450.
Here's the time to wheel and deal, I thought. Maybe if I explain how I'm nothing but a lowly fiction writer he'll have mercy and cut me some slack. "Listen, Bruce, here's my situation. I'm a writer and everything I've ever written is on that drive. My first novel, my second novel, bunch of short stories... So I need those files. I really, really need them. If you can save them for me I'll be eternally grateful."
"Well, I'll do my best to get everything for you but there's no guarantee. There's a $90 assessment fee and if I can't recover any files then that's all you have to pay, so at least you don't wind up paying for something for nothing."
"Okay." I told him how much I appreciated his hard work and efforts and expertise, still hoping that my words could work a little magic on him and get me a deal.
Instead, he told me, "Well, I work with a lot of people and I have to tell them stuff like this pretty regularly. I have to say you sure do take it better than most."
I couldn't think of any good answer for that. He still didn't back down on the price.
Ten minutes later I sat down and Paypalled him $90. I had to know if I could get my files back or not.
The sun rose and set. Around the world, nine people died of H5N1. Presidential candidates spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning. I read MarketWatch.com some more. I spent about 15 straight days in a state of suspended animation -- going to work, coming home, waiting for Bruce to email me.
One night I was speaking to my buddy Jeff when call waiting beeped. It was Bruce.
"Good news," he told me, and started reading the names of directories. I just about wet myself. I went on and on about how great he was, how much he'd helped me, even made sure he read the directories containing my 2 novels. Huzzah! I buttered him up to the best of my abilities. Then gave him my credit card number so he could charge me another $690 for the recovery. It hurt -- it hurt real bad.
I'd spent a total of $820 on eProvided.com's services. If I can sell two of the stories Bruce recovered for me, I'll at least break even.
I offered to pay for overnight shipping so I could get a CD of the files right away, but Bruce told me he'd just send them the normal way. Which turned out to be first class mail.
Yesterday, the envelope arrived. A single CD with an eProvided.com business card. I ran to the computer and popped the CD in the drive.
Bruce managed to save the following:
- My first novel
- My second novel
- The short story I had been working on when the drive started to fail
- The previous 3 short stories I composed
- Notes for my third novel
- A copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.1
- A bootleg of an Elliott Smith concert (zipped)
- Two journal entries
- My freelance work
- A set of Dell printer drivers
- At least 10 completed but unpublished short story manuscripts
- Approximately 50 journal entries
- Drafts of 2 screenplays I've worked on
I've gotten so used to infinite archiving, to having multiple early drafts of things to look at, that this is a personal disaster of a magnitude I can barely comprehend. Even though so much was saved, so much more is gone -- and not just misplaced, but gone. Extinct.
As much as I moaned about paying $820 for getting these files, I would've paid three times as much to get everything back.
So, let my experience be a warning to you: BACK UP YOUR FILES. If you don't it will cost you a pile of money, emotional trauma, or both.
I've been a huge MST3K fan since the middle 90s. I've been debating whether or not to buy the entire series here, but $200 is still considered a major purchase in my household.
Then I stumbled across this. So far I've only watched 2 full episodes and a couple of shorts, but it's much more satisfying than waiting for Netflix to deliver my DVDs. Enjoy!
Books marked with an asterisk are books I reread this year.
The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential*, by James Ellroy
Sun of Suns, Permanence, by Karl Schroeder
A Fire On The Deep*, A Deepness In The Sky*, Rainbow's End, by Vernon Vinge
Shatterpoint, Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
Sharpe's Tiger, Sharpe's Triumph, Sharpe's Fortress, Sharpe's Trafalgar, by Bernard Cornwell
The Good Soldier*, by Ford Maddox Ford
Dead Man's Walk, Lonesome Dove*, by Larry McMurtry
Dark Gods*, by T.E.D. Klein
Hardboiled Cthulhu (anthology)
The Imago Sequence, by Laird Barron
First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, by Colleen McCullough
Your Movie Sucks, by Roger Ebert
On Killing, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
Mothman and Other Curious Encounters, by Loren Coleman
The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
Empire of Ivory, by Naomi Novik
Wall Street Noir (anthology)
Aggressor Six*, The Fall of Sirius, Bloom, by Wil McCarthy
Ancient Shores, by Jack McDevitt
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. 1 and 2, by Alan Moore
Valentine's Exile, by E.E. Knight
Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming
Spin Control, by Chris Moriarty
Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, The Knight, The Wizard, by Gene Wolfe
Master and Commander*, Post Captain*, HMS Surprise*, The Mauritius Command*, Desolation Island*, Fortune of War*, The Surgeon's Mate*, The Ionian Mission*, by Patrick O'Brian
Confederacy of Dunces*, by John Kennedy Toole
King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard
Neuromancer*, by William Gibson
Silence of the Lambs*, by Thomas Harris