George Saunders on life & kindness

August 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

George Saunders’s delivered the convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013 and I’m certain you will not regret the 5 minutes it takes you to read the entire speech.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

I know you are curious, go ahead and read the rest.

I was turned on to this speech by the excellent Dave Pell who pens the always interesting Next Draft newsletter. Also, I shamelessly used his pull quote (sorry Dave, it was just too good).

Leave a comment

McDonald’s Theory

May 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Jon Bell’s trick for expediting the intractable lunch destination debate.

I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s.

From Nike to Apple this goes far beyond just lunch.

Leave a comment

Fixing your iPhone dictionary without resetting it

June 26th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

My iPhone dictionary picked up a very annoying habit recently.

Damn yiu!!!!

I heavily rely upon it’s ability to auto correct but it had somehow gotten the idea that the word yiu was a valid word. This meant that unless I typed the word “you” perfectly the first time it would not auto correct. It would even auto correct something like “uiu” to “yiu”. I’m not sure if it’s a saving grace or further insult to my injury but it would then underline the word in red letting me know it was misspelled. Tapping the word would give me the option of changing it to you “you”, “yin” or “yip”.

The only official way to fix such an annoying bug was to reset your dictionary. Being a nerd I have a general dislike for the nuclear option in such situations preferring a surgical strike to correct the problem without collateral damage. Collateral damage in this case the 4 years of work I’ve put into teaching my phone what words I like to use despite them not being in the O.E.D.1. After correcting yiu for the 4,254th time it dawned on me that there was a better way. Keyboard shortcuts.

Shortcutless shortcut

I already love this often ignored feature of iOS 5 and commandeering it to fix an annoying iOS flaw just endears me to it further. If you haven’t guessed already the hack is very simple. I setup a keyboard shortcut that converts “yiu” to “you”. I can now sleep better at night and hope you can too.

  1. Oxford English Dictionary []
Leave a comment

My favorite iPhone/iPad feature that you aren’t using

April 23rd, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

If you have ever tried to type “omw” on an iPhone or iPad you may have been surprised that it was replaced with “On my way!”. This is the default keyboard shortcut that came with iOS 5 when it launched last September alongside the iPhone 4S. Given the slew of other features and the esoteric history of “keyboard shortcuts” it is no surprise that they didn’t get much attention but I have come up with a few that I find incredible useful.

iOS Shortcuts

iOS Shortcuts 1

The ones on top are not terribly interesting. “np” being replaced by “No Problem!” fixes an auto-correct that was the bane of my existence for a time. Someone would text me with a “thank you” and I would reply “np” and hit send. Since “p” is right next to “o” auto-correct would ever so helpfully change it to “no” right before it sent the message which is kind of the opposite of “no problem”. I replaced “lol” with “that is hilarious” because typing lol is very easy but being something of an old school nerd I can’t stand that phrase anymore. I rarely use fmin because I don’t remember it.

The most useful shortcuts are “@@”, “1321” and “sb”. Using “@@” to enter your email address is a great time saver and it ensures that you don’t mistype your email address. It wasn’t until I added this shortcut that I realized how often I have to type my email address. If the form was built properly you will even get an @ key on the first screen of the keyboard. No “shift” required. “1321” is great because I don’t have to remember it. I just start typing my mailing address and bam! “sb”, “la”, “sf” & “nyc” are great city replacements as well. I almost made one for my zipcode before I realized it would save me nothing.

How To

To add your own shortcuts do the following on your iPhone or iPad

  1. Tap Settings on your home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Scroll down to Keyboard and tap it
  4. Tap Shortcuts and then the + button in the top right

One thing I found confusing at first was that you type the phrase (eg: 1321 Main St) first, and then you type the shortcut (eg: 1321). Perhaps this makes perfect sense to you but for me it was completely backwards.

  1. This isn't what the screen actually looks like, I stripped out all the ridiculous address book type organization so I could fit it all on one screenshot so to speak. Looks better don't you think? []
Leave a comment

Setup Gmail as an Email Command Center

January 25th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I have a boatload of google accounts and even more email addresses. To avoid having to log in to a myriad of accounts and sites I’ve setup my primary Gmail account to check and send emails from all of these accounts. Now you could setup your non-primary accounts to simply forward all of your emails to your primary account but I recommend that you instead setup your primary email account to fetch emails from your non-primary account. It seems like a subtle distinction but this has three advantages

  1. If you respond to an email sent to a non-primary email address the recipient is completely unaware that you are checking your email from a different account as gmail is smart enough to respond using the email address that the recipient originally wrote to. This can be quite useful if you have one or more professional accounts to setup.
  2. Along those same lines you can also setup distinct signatures for each account. Again it looks more professional.
  3. All emails from non-primary accounts can now be labeled so they stand out and are automatically categorized.

Now there are a couple disadvantages to this system that you should be aware of.

  1. Since your primary account has to fetch emails from your non-primary accounts it can sometimes take a while (up to an hour) for the emails to show up in your inbox. Fortunately there is a refresh button at the top that will force Gmail to fetch new emails right now god damn it!
  2. You won’t be able to mimic this behavior anywhere but in Gmail. If you use your phone or Outlook to check email all the emails will show up but unless it supports Gmail and it’s wacky (but awesome) label system you won’t be able to be able to tell which account an email was sent to and any replies will come from your primary email address :(

Ok, so are you still on board? If so then I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the steps needed to set this up look very long and intimidating. The good news is that it looks a lot worse than it is. Some steps are literally “click next” so don’t be scared. I just wanted to make sure I covered all the steps, even the obvious ones.

Add an account to your Gmail command center

  1. Log in to the Gmail account that you want to be your Command Center
  2. Look in the top right corner and click the gear icon
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click the Accounts tab at the top
  5. Click Add a POP3 mail account you own found under the “Check mail using POP3” secion
  6. A popup window should appear prompting you to enter your email address. Do so and click next.
  7. If you are doing this for a service other than Gmail then the settings on the next page will vary depending upon your email provider. I suggest you google “[provider name] pop settings” where [provider name] is the part after the @ symbol (eg: “hotmail pop settings“)
  8. If you are setting up for a gmail or a domain hosted by google account then you want the following settings
    • Username: your full email address (eg: or
    • Password: the password for the email address above
    • POP Server:
    • Port: 995
    • Leave a copy….: unchecked
    • Always use a secure connection ….: checked
    • Label incoming messages: checked though I like to shorten the label a bit.
    • Archive incoming messages: unchecked unless you don’t want to see emails from this account in your inbox
  9. The next part asks if you want to send mail from this account, I always choose yes.
  10. Enter your name and click Next Step
  11. If your secondary account is a gmail account then I recommend you select the 2nd option1 on this page and use the following SMTP settings:
    • SMTP Server:
    • Port: 587
    • Username: your full email address (eg: or
    • Password: the password for the email address above
    • Secured connection using TLS
  12. Click Add Account
  13. You can now close the popup window and go back to your primary gmail account but you have one more step
  14. and click on the gmail refresh button
  15. This will pull all the emails from your newly linked account and at the top of the list should be an email from google (or your domain) with a subject similar to “Confirmation – Send Mail as”
  16. Open the email and click on the link

Phew! You are all done. Now you might want to customize your new label so that it stands out better by changing the color2 but that’s just icing on the cake.

  1. actually I always recommend the 2nd option because it reduces the likely hood of your email showing up as spam and hides the email address for your primary account. If you are not setting a gmail account then simply google [provider name] smtp settings to find the relevant settings []
  2. hover over the new label and click on the arrow to the right []
Leave a comment

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the life hacks category at Thomas Paine Rants.

  • Rants in your Inbox