My favorite notetaking apps

C.J. Chilvers wrote about the pros and cons of popular notetaking tools. Out of the four he features—Apple Notes, Evernote, Ulysses, and Bear—I have used two previously, and none currently. So, having already examined my favored podcasts and newsletters, here’s a look at the tools I do use and why I use them.

Paper

The once and future king of all notetaking apps. I keep a plain, pocket-sized Moleskine in my backpack for odds and ends, a larger journal as a daily diary and scrapbook (previously a Moleskine classic hardcover and currently a Zequenz 360), and a good ol’ composition notebook for my filmlog.

WorkFlowy

Dynamic, lightweight list-making with blessed few bells and whistles. Perfect for hierarchical thinking, tasks, and anything else you can put into a list. It’s built for marking tasks complete, but I use it mostly as an archive for reference, split between Work and Personal. Plus a To Do list at top for quick capture of tasks.

Simplenote

Good for taking quick notes in plain text. I often use it for first drafts of blog posts, taking book notes, and whatever else I need a basic text editor for. Helpful when trying to remove formatting from text you want to paste cleanly elsewhere—”text laundering” as I call it. Clean, simple, works well on the web and mobile.

Google Drive

For when Simplenote isn’t enough. Good for collaboration and as a document repository. Among other things my Logbook spreadsheet is there, as are lots of work-related docs, random files shared with my wife, my archive of book reviews, and my Book Notes doc filled with (at present) 121 single-spaced pages of notes and quotes from 108 books.

Apple Reminders

Used mostly for sharing shopping lists with my wife, because it’s easy to regenerate lists from completed items. Unfortunately it doesn’t sync well between devices without WiFi, which is a bummer when we’re out shopping.

Google Calendar

Google, don’t you ever get rid of Calendar. I mean it. Some former Google products had it coming, but you’re gonna ride or die with Gmail and Calendar, ya hear?

Dropbox

Essential for quick and easy file backup. Through referrals and other incentives over the years I’ve accumulated 5.63 GB in free storage on top of the 2 GB default. I’m using over 95% of it.

LEGO my DeLorean

Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of LEGO?

While rearranging the apartment in advance of Baby, I was sorting our small games collection and stumbled upon the unopened LEGO Back to the Future set my dad got me a few years ago. I gotta say, it was super fun to put together:

I haven’t encountered LEGOs in years, maybe decades. Even a relatively small project like this one had several bags with hundreds of small pieces. But following the directions made it come together pretty quickly. Much respect to the engineers who create these designs.

Paper Only! No TVs

This sign is posted in the parking lot outside my work. Why “NO TV’s”? A while ago someone left an old TV next to what they thought was a dumpster for trash but is actually a dumpster for paper recycling. But only people who had seen the TV there before it got picked up will understand the odd specificity of the sign.

It’s still a great sign without that context, because paper is the far superior technology.

Päntsdrunk, baby box, Moomin, and Finland’s other official emojis

God bless Finland, my ancestral homeland. First, there’s the new book Pantsdrunk (Kalsarikanni): The Finnish Path to Relaxation (Drinking at Home Alone in your Underwear) by Miska Rantanen. From the publisher:

Danes have hygge. Swedes have lagom. But the Finnish secret to contentment is faster and easier—”kalsarikänni” or pantsdrunk—drinking at home, alone, in your underwear.

When it comes to happiness rankings, Finland always scores near the top. Many Finnish phenomena set the bar high: the best education system, gender equality, a flourishing welfare state, sisu or bull-headed pluck. Behind all of these accomplishments lies a Finnish ability to stay calm, healthy and content in a riptide of endless tasks and temptations. The ability comes from the practice of “kalsarikanni” translated as pantsdrunk.

Peel off your clothes down to your underwear. Place savory or sweet snacks within reach alongside your bed or sofa. Make sure your television remote control is nearby along with any and all devices to access social media. Open your preferred alcohol. Your journey toward inner strength, higher quality of life, and peace of mind has begun.

Second, Finland’s official Ministry of Foreign Affairs produced a set of 56 emojis to “explain some hard-to-describe Finnish emotions, Finnish words and customs.” I can and cannot believe these are real:

“pantsdrunk” personified:

kalsarikannit_m.png

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The famous Baby Box:

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The Aurora Borealis:

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“Finnish Love”, which is so emo:

finnishlove.png

The concept of sisu:

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The sauna:

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And of course, the OG cell phone, the Nokia (which they call “Unbreakable”):

unbreakable.png

Download the app or the image files for more pantsdrunk-ing pleasure.

Denver Crush Walls

Got to visit Denver for the second time this year for a friend’s wedding. While there another Denver friend brought me on a walking tour of the Crush Walls urban art festival in the RiNo neighborhood, where we saw some really cool graffiti:

Know Wonder

I’m sad I missed the TEDx event this year at my alma mater, especially because of its great theme and logo:

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OED can you see?

A used books and records store in my town just moved even closer to my place. Today I stopped by and saw a two-volume Oxford English Dictionary Compact Edition. It comes in a case and with its own magnifying glass, because they weren’t kidding when they called it compact:

I exercised enough self-control to pass on it, but one day…

Fly the L flag

On my way to a concert last night, I noticed the flag-like design of the Chicago L train platform and tracks when viewed from above:

Track, platform, and the space in between. “The space between” being, in essence, what public transportation is.

Make the interrobang banal‽

99% Invisible (a personal favorite podcast) just did a typically great short history of the interrobang and its fight for survival:

Today, the interrobang is just barely hanging in there. It has its own character in Unicode, the common directory of symbols which all computer fonts must reference. But Keith Houston points out that it still hasn’t cleared the biggest typographical obstacle of all: “I think that in order to really consider it to be a real mark of punctuation, people have to use it without thinking about it.” In other words: a truly remarkable mark of punctuation must be unremarkable.

I strongly believe in the interrobang. For my part, I created an iOS text replacement shortcut that replaces ?! with ‽ in my texts. This doesn’t pass the ease of use test, and it’s not available in every typeface. But it’s what I can do to help make the interrobang ubiquitous enough to save.

See also: Shady Characters

Ain’t no road just like Lake Shore Drive

And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore Drive heading into town
Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound

“Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah

I’ve had occasion to drive into or through downtown Chicago several times recently, which is unusual. A few times it was for medical reasons, another for a conference in the Loop, and last Friday for a morning seminar at the University of Chicago.

Each time I do it I’m reminded of how beautiful Lake Shore Drive is.

If you’ve never been to Chicago: the city sits right next to Lake Michigan, and Lake Shore Drive runs north-south along the lakeshore. Except some museums, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, and one swanky skyscraper, it’s mostly beachfront and parks the whole way, so whichever direction you drive it (or bike or run it) will give you an amazing view of Chicago’s famous downtown architecture and the expansive lake at the same time.

On Friday I drove almost the whole stretch of the LSD, from the far north side to the far south side and back. Heading southbound, I think the scenic part of downtown begins at the Oak Street bend where the Drake Hotel sits. (Which to me always calls to mind the crucial Bible from the Drake Hotel in Mission: Impossible:  “They stamped it, didn’t they? Those damn Gideons.”)

And northbound from the University of Chicago it’s scenic pretty much the whole way. You can watch the skyscrapers get bigger and bigger until you’re almost among them.

I don’t know how many other cities have anything comparable to Lake Shore Drive, so I’m happy to have it.