Friday, July 29, 2005

Contacts Contacts

I've been trying out Plaxo the past couple of days. I am an extremely lazy person when it comes to updating my address book and I usually just try to label emails with "Contact Information" if I get an address update. And I have a stack of business cards with a rubber band around them in my desk drawer at home..

Otherwise, my contacts are all over the place, in my email, written on scraps of paper, etc.

I also use Yahoo! Address book,but again, I'm super lazy about updating it.

So I decided to try out Plaxo, since I've heard good buzz about it and I'm not totally happy with Yahoo.

I only used the online version of Plaxo. I know the intent of the application is to have a downloadable toolbar that sort of adds on to Outlook so that you can sync your contacts with Outlook, but I don't really like to mix my work Outlook and my personal address book. Obviously the worlds collide very often, but I would prefer not to put the contact information of my best friend from elementary school into work Outlook.

So I imported my contacts into Plaxo from Yahoo! and the cool thing was that it immediately found about 20+ contacts and updated their information. That's really cool -- for example, some people that I had totally forgotten about had changed jobs or whatever and now I have their latest information!

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Plaxo is the tool for me. I like to scribble little notes about contacts in my address book. Since I have a bad memory, I'll write down things like how I met the person, what I thought of their service (if say it is a dentist or something)... but Plaxo Online doesn't let you search your notes!

For example, I'd labeled several people "headhunter" or "recruiter" by typing that in notes, but when I searched for "headhunter", nothing came up.

Another feature I wish Plaxo had was the ability to group contacts into categories, similar to what Yahoo can do. That way I can have a group for say "health services", "moving services", etc.

I'm not sure that Plaxo was built with these features in mind, but since I'm looking for the ideal address book/information manager, I guess I'll have to keep looking.

I am now considering switching back to Yahoo, since even though it's cumbersome to manually update contacts, at least I can group contacts and search easily.

How do you manage all your contacts? Is there a quick and painless strategy?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Theory vs. Practice

"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is."

Cool Shirt

  • Limited edition shirts [NYT]
    New York Times comments on the trend of one-of-a-kind, limited edition t-shirts with cool expressions... I feel like ordering some more t-shirts!

    A cool t-shirt site is Threadless.. they host ongoing t-shirt design contests and have pretty neat designs! I also really like the look and feel of their site. You can definitely tell some website designers were behind this company!

  • Sunday, July 24, 2005

    Links for Sunday

    • Amusing website dedicated to feeding Lindsay

    • NYC subway + Google Maps upgraded [onNYTurf]

      Like the other site, but this one connects the dots.. neat

    • Singer launches career on eBay [BBC]

      ""I kind of understood how the industry worked in terms of the royalties scheme, so I put up an auction as an individual saying that if you invest £3,000 in me, I'll give you a quarter percent of my life's earnings in music."


    • U.S. to offer Doctos Free Electronic Records System [NYT]
      Finally! Since doctors are so under-capitalized and most lack scale, most small physician practices are unlikely to benefit from spending large sums on information technology... I'm so glad Medicare is doing something about it! This should make the healthcare industry much more efficient and save lives; _if_ it gets implemented and adopted.

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

    Happy Birthday Disneyland!!! [Disney Blog]

    Disney Blog writes a letter to Disneyland... sorry this is a bit cheesy, but..

    "There's been a lot of celebrating going on. But I'm afraid the real real reason for the happiness has been lost amid the corporate boardroom battles, budget issues, marketing gobbledygook, and the need to appease the behemoth your legacy has become. But don't worry, we fans remember you. We know that it's your birthday and we still care... But it was only made possible through the vision of one man. One man who wanted to have a place where families could vacation and enjoy activities together. A place where the simple truths and hard facts about America and what it means to be an American could be explored and enjoyed. One man whose dream became reality and whose vision is now in our hands. "

    Another Look at Child Labor

    Research Changes Ideas About Children and Work [NYT]

    Fascinating article in the New York Times about child labor in developing countries.. you must read it!

    "When Americans think about child labor in poor countries, they rarely picture girls fetching water or boys tending livestock. Yet most of the 211 million children, ages 5 to 14, who work worldwide are not in factories. They are working in agriculture - from 92 percent in Vietnam to 63 percent in Guatemala - and most are not paid directly.

    "Most working children are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing establishments or other forms of wage employment," two Dartmouth economists, Eric V. Edmonds and Nina Pavcnik.

    "When he started working on child labor issues six years ago, Professor Edmonds said in an interview, "the conventional view was that child labor really wasn't about poverty."

    "Recent research, however, casts doubt on the cultural explanation. "In every context that I've looked at things, child labor seems to be almost entirely about poverty. I wouldn't say it's only about poverty, but it's got a lot to do with poverty," Professor Edmonds said."

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Thursday Reading

    Truly Personal

    "If any man stopped and asked himself whether he's every held a truly personal desire, he'd find the answer. He'd see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He's not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the secondhanders' delusion -- prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can't say about a single thing: "This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me." Then he wonders why he is unhappy. Every form of happiness is private. "
    - Howard Roark, Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Backpack It!

    I've been using for the past couple weeks, and I have to say, I love it! It's so useful and convenient to be able to organize all my to-do's for projects.

    For example, I was recently trying to find a new apartment and I was able to use Backpackit to track my preferences, list the names and phone numbers of brokers I was dealing with and organize photos of apartments I'd seen (using of course!)

    You should definitely check it out if you haven't already... in addition, the interface is very pretty and responsive. It's nice to have a tool that feels and looks good.

    To compare it with pbwiki, which I also use extensively, I'd say that Backpackit is much better in terms of organizing. I find that once a page gets too long in pbwiki, it becomes very hard to edit and figure out where I am on the page. Whereas with Backpackit, you can lots of little mini-notes or entries so it's easy to just zero in on one thing. Plus, Backpackit just has a prettier interface, which is sort of a trivial reason to like something, but... it's true!

    The Right Place for Me

    Great quote from investment manager extraordinaire, David Swensen, the six years he spent on Wall Street early in his career:
    "I liked the competitive aspects of Wall Street, but -- and I'm not making a value judgment here -- it wasn't the right place for me because the end result is that people are trying to make lots of money for themselves. That just doesn't suit me."

    David manages Yale's endowment, growing it from $1.3bn to $14bn over his 20 year tenure.

    Get a Life

    Article on living in SF vs. New York City.. [SF Chronicle]

    Cool quote:
    "One day, I happened upon a commencement speech by Anna Quindlen, a graduate of my New York college: "You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are," she said. "Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger."

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Honestea and Education

    PC Tea [NYT]
    "Launched in 1998, Honest Tea now sells more than a dozen varieties of bottled tea (and some bag teas as well), had revenues of nearly $6 million last year and expects to hit $9 million this year, according to the company.

    The easiest answer is that Honest Tea is part of the ''organics'' category, which has lately been quite popular with consumers. "

    When Instructors Don't Intervene on Content [Bright Mystery]
    "So the problem wasn't Pat's skill with the material so much -- the processing skill was the problem. Accordingly, when Pat would ask me a question such as, "Can you tell me how to do problem 7?", I would say: Let's start by asking the right questions. What are you being asked to do in this problem? What information is given to you in the problem statement? And what do you know from the course, your reading, or your work on other exercises that will help get you to the goal? I made it a point to NEVER give Pat explicit help on content unless it was a last resort -- Pat absolutely HAD to cut the apron-strings from me an learn how to approach, analyze, and solve a problem alone, or else Pat's chances for success in a future career or even making it through college didn't look good. "

    Googlers Taking Over Atherton?

    Looking for a home in Atherton? Watch out for Googlers! [WSJ]

    (Password required to read full article.)

    "Manuel Henriquez wanted a house in Atherton, Calif., last fall, but he knew time was running out: The Google money was coming.

    "So late last year, Mr. Henriquez, a private-equity executive, bid more than $7.95 million on a 10,000-square-foot Atherton house then under construction. Too late: David Cowan, a venture capitalist, had the same idea and won the house for $8.2 million. "I wanted to buy before the Google lockups expired in February," says Mr. Cowan.

    "Meanwhile, Mr. Henriquez finally broke his losing streak last month when he bought a 7,400-square-foot Atherton house for $7.4 million, according to the assessor's records. The 41-year-old says he is relieved the "ordeal" of buying in Atherton is over. "I know another 15 to 20 Google families who are still looking to buy here," he says."


    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    On Terrorism

    Interesting article in the NYT regarding terror:
    "That's the same situation we're in after the London attacks: it's clear that no one can stop terrorists from killing. Spending billions on airport security has simply diverted them to transit systems, and spending billions on transit systems could at best divert them somewhere else: stores, restaurants, sidewalks. Terrorists don't even need bombs. They could simply adopt the snipers' technique for spreading fear.

    "President Bush briefly admitted last summer to Matt Lauer that the war on terror couldn't ever be won, but he got so much criticism that he promptly backtracked. It was a textbook Washington gaffe: perfectly true but terribly inconvenient."

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Tuesday Reading List

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Going round and round

    My uncle came to visit NYC this weekend -- from Singapore no less -- so I took him on a short tour of NYC.

    First, we went to Chinatown and ate at NY Noodletown. This place has delicious and inexpensive noodle soups and rice porridges. We also had their "famous" fried soft-shell crab.

    Then, we proceeded to Times Square where we got on one of those double-decker red buses... I've always hated the Times Square area because it's full of tourists, but walking around, seeing it as a tourist would kind of made me feel differently. I sort of felt likte I was on vacation in my own city. (Pretend you're in Vegas or something.)

    Anyway, so we paid $37 per person to ride around on the bus. I thought it would be cheesy, but it was actually really interesting seeing hearing about all the sights of the city and being taken there on the bus.

    I sort of felt like $37 would be a total rip-off (hehe, as you can see, I had a lot of doubts about taking this tour), and I guess it sort of was, but its convenient and "easy". No thinking about how to get on the subway, where to get off, how to find the sight, etc. etc. The bus takes you right there and you can get off and get on any place you please along the route. The ticket is valid for 24 hours and there's a "guide" on the bus who talks you through history, building architecture, etc. The guides didn't seem all that professional, but again, the easy factor comes into play. It's nice just to have someone tell you about something without having to do all the legwork to find out.

    It started pouring rain in the middle of the tour, right around when the bus go to Ground Zero. My uncle wanted to take a closer look there, so we'd gotten off at that stop. Well, then we sprinted into a Staples store and I ended up buying a giant umbrella so we could walk around. Then, we tried to get back on the red bus, but just imagine crowds of wet tourists and just one bus full of hoards of wet tourists (carrying American Girl Place dolls) -- not very fun. They did provide giant white plastic "ponchos" to shield us from the rain though.

    Anyway, we did somehow manage to get back on the bus and the rest of the trip was uneventful.

    Now that I've done this, I feel like I should check out more "touristy" sights in NYC.. I mean, I know I've been here for a few years, but I still haven't walked across the Brooklyn Bridge!

    Sunday, July 3, 2005


    Check out this neat online social network called Audioscrobbler -- its a sort of social network for music.

    Once you sign up, you can download a plugin which will transmit to the site a list of all the songs you've listened to today and how many times.. You can create a list of friends and see what they've listened to.

    I think the coolest part is the recommendations part of the site... say if you like the song "Talk" by Coldplay, you can see other people who listened to that song and what else they've listened to. I think its a great way to find other cool songs to listen to.

    Gosh, I guess social networking is taking over the web!

    Long Weekend Reading List

    • How to start a startup
      Supposedly, you only need three things (1) good people, (2) make something customers want and (3) to spend as little money as possible. Sounds simple, but hard!

      Hmm, the author also seems biased towards technology startups, specifically ones that create tools for IT departments. There are all types of businesses out there though. To limit the world to IT seems a bit silly.
      [As an aside, do you think this guy's website is hosted by Yahoo!?]
    • How much did VC's pocket on Google? [Burnham's Beat]

    I guess this is "social networking week" at Super Jellyfish.

    Try this cool website called 43things. The site is a social network for aspirations.

    Once you sign up, you can list up to "43 things" that you what to do with your life. Some things other people have listed include:
    • Live passionately
    • Get out of debt
    • Have better posture

    Once you list your own items, you can see which other list the same aspirations as you. You can also post entries about the progress you've made towards your goals or lack thereof. Most popular goals are listed in larger type on the main page and you can also check out most popular goals of the day.

    The site was created by The Robot Coop and funded by Their next big release is something called 43 Places -- a social network for places you want to go.

    You know, every time I look on the Internet, I'm amazed by the amazing things a small group of dedicated people can create. Its truly incredible and exciting! (And, I'm also impressed by the number of neat things that Amazon has funded.)

    Update on Evernote

    I noticed that Evernote is now officially no longer beta and is available as a purchase-able release!

    That's great and everything, but I don't think they've fixed a number of bugs that sort of annoyed me with the beta version. The main thing that annoys me is the inability to print pages without having the right side cut off!!

    When I travel, I try to clip out a bunch of articles I've been wanting to read and lately I've been using Evernote for this. Unfortunately, I can't print out all the notes I've clipped without missing parts! :(

    Since Evernote expects users to pay money for this product, I sure hope they get this feature fixed soon!

    (Oh and to add to my list of complaints, how about removing the words "Evernote" on the top of every single note printed? I mean, when you use Microsoft Word for notes, you don't see Microsoft on every single printed page, do you?)

    Overdue, Again!

    As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of the New York Public Library. I love being able to reserve books online, walk a few blocks to the library and pick up wonderful delights to enjoy at my leisure.

    One thing that I have been terrible about in recent months is paying attention to when books are due. Usually, I get so busy and overwhelmed with all the millions of things to read (on the Internet, magazines, etc.) that I usually don't get a chance to finish the books I borrow.

    I usually try to renew the books, but oftentimes, someone else has made a reservation so the book is really, truly DUE.

    So in the past six months, I've paid at least $20 to the library in fees.. I sort of justify it to myself by saying, well, I should think of it as a donation to the library right? They need more money! Public aid's always being cut and for an institution as worthwhile as the NY public library, its worth it!

    But... I mean, if I want to donate, shouldn't I just donate? Why be **forced** into donating because of my own disorganization??

    Sigh. So maybe I should stop checking out books from the library, especially if I don't have time to finish reading them. :(

    For example, I checked out Guns, Germs and Steel 3 weeks and 2 days ago (ahem its overdue) and I'm only 1/3 of the way through. Its a fascinating book, but... I haven't had the chance to finish it!

    Should I just buy and resell books instead? Ack.

    Does anyone have an idea for a calendar/to-do list reminder utility? I would use Outlook, but I don't like to mix my personal life and work life -- isn't everyone like this?

    Saturday, July 2, 2005

    Great Believer in Luck

    "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." -- Thomas Jefferson