Author Archives: Mitch

Bear parser

The Bear note-taking app has a new parser that downloads web pages, converts them to markdown, and strips out the clutter. It works quite well.

The DevonThink parser is, on the other hand, horrible. Worst part of an otherwise fine program. Unable to process an uncluttered view.

Devon Technologies needs to get to work on this; it’s a solved problem. Safari Reader, Instapaper, Pocket and the Mercury Parser are all great — no comparison to DevonThink at all.

I am breaking this blog in two (again)

Short version: Instead of posting everything to… first and syndicating to…, I’m going to start posting most of that stuff to… directly. I’ll save… for more infrequent, important updates.

I’m not making any changes, for now, to Twitter/@mitchwagner and Facebook/Groups/ThingsMitchWagnerSaw, and hopefully people who subscribe to my daily newsletter won’t see a change either.

Longer version:

I’m moving my ephemeral activity to…. That’s the vast quantity of links to news articles, memes, retro-ads, photos and illustrations, and other items of interest that until now I’ve posted daily to….… is going to be a low-frequency blog, containing only content I’ve created — posts I’ve written, and photos and videos I’ve taken. Those tings will also be shared automatically to Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and my daily newsletter.

And I’ll continue to post the ephemera to Twitter/@mitchwagner and Facebook/Groups/ThingsMitchWagnerSaw, as I have been, as well as to my daily newsletter. Nothing there changes.

What this means to you, dear reader

Nothing changes if you follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or the email newsletter.

If you follow me on… and you like all the ephemera, you’ll need to add… (or Twitter, Facebook or the email newsletter). For Tumblr, you don’t need to register, just bookmark that page. There’s also an RSS feed.

I post all the same content to all four places, but not always at the same time. So if you want to be sure to see everything, pick any one of those four places and you’ll be fine.

If you want to follow me in more than one place, well, have at it.

How long will this situation remain stable?

Forever, or until I get tired of it. I seem to enjoy fiddling with my social media setup as much as I do actually using it. I’ve switched to and away from Tumblr as my primary blogging platform several times over the years. It seems likely I will switch away again when I get distracted by something newer and shinier.

As for you, my dear readers; if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or the newsletter, just keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll be fine. If you follow me on…, and you want to keep seeing the ephemera, switch to one of those other platforms, and you’ll be fine.

How to Tip…

I only skimmed the recent Twitter controversy about tipping, but it has led me to resolve to get more conscientious about tipping. I’ve gotten sloppy.

I’ve gotten in the bad habit of stiffing chambermaids if I don’t have singles in my wallet. I need to get singles when I check in to the hotel and put those singles aside to tip the chambermaid.

I’m already routinely tipping 20% at restaurants, but I tip on the card rather than cash – time to go back to tipping in cash, though I do hate to use cash.

Also, I’ve read elsewhere you should tip take-out and counter service restaurants 10%, and I’ve been doing that for the past few months. On the card, rather than cash.

Gah, I’m going to have to make a habit of carrying around singles, aren’t I? Feh.

Calamity Jane

Martha Jane Canary or Cannary (May 1, 1852 – August 1, 1903), better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman and professional scout known for being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok and fighting against Native Americans. Late in her life, she appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. She is said to have exhibited compassion to others, especially to the sick and needy. This facet of her character contrasted with her daredevil ways and helped to make her a noted frontier figure.She was also known for her habit of wearing men’s attire. Much of what she claimed to have witnessed and participated in cannot be proven. It is known that she had no formal education and was an alcoholic.…

Here comes the screenless internet

This is really interesting: Farhad Manjoo experiments with the “screenless Internet” — doing everything by voice instead of computer or phone. He’s having a lot of success with it.…

I love to walk and have sometimes speculated that someday in the future I’d be able to do my whole job just walking around, talking and listening into AirPods. Manjoo seems to be doing just that — today. Or he’s nearly there.


Here’s what I do: Instead of writing, I speak. When a notable thought strikes me — I could be pacing around my home office, washing dishes, driving or, most often recently, taking long, aimless strolls on desolate suburban Silicon Valley sidewalks — I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone. Because I’m pretty much always wearing wireless headphones with a mic — yes, I’m one of those AirPod people — the app records my voice in high fidelity as I walk, while my phone is snug in my pocket or otherwise out of sight.

And so, on foot, wandering about town, I write. I began making voice memos to remember column ideas and short turns of phrases. But as I became comfortable with the practice, I started to compose full sentences, paragraphs and even whole outlines of my columns just by speaking.

Then comes the magical part. Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable. Through software, my meandering memos are turned into a skeleton of writing. The text Descript spits out is not by any means ready for publication, but it functions like a pencil sketch: a rough first draft that I then hammer into life the old-fashioned way, on a screen, with a keyboard….

I do the best of my research through interviews — somebody talks to me and I write down what they say. Additionally, I’m often talking with colleagues and writing down to-dos during the conversation. Hard to imagine going screenless for those things.

I recently realized I’ve been wearing my AirPods wrong. Well, I knew they were wrong before; rather than having the stems hanging down, like most people, I screwed the AirPods into my ears and the stems stuck out horizontally. But recently I realized that they were actually more comfortable if I wore them the regular way. They felt like they were going to fall out, but they are pretty secure. And they stay connected to the iPhone better, and respond better to touch controls.

Also, I can hear external sounds very clearly when I wear them properly. For many people, that’s a flaw in the AirPods, but to me it’s a feature. If I want to talk with someone standing in front of me, I can leave the AirPods in and talk with them normally. Indeed, if I have a few phone calls during the day, I sometimes just leave the AirPods in my ears.

So yes I can see the screenless internet coming, not far away. We’ll still use our phones and PCs quite a bit, just a lot less than before, just as we now use our PCs quite a bit but less than we used to since smartphones came along.

A nitpicky note on Manjoo’s column: I don’t understand what this RecUp app does that Voice Memos doesn’t do. I get that it lets you record without having to title your individual recordings, but you can do that with Voice Memos too. Just … don’t title them.

I found Manjoo’s column to be quite exciting, actually. So much so that I wanted to write this response right away. So I reached for the keyboard near the couch, propped up the iPad, and tapped out this post. Nope, we’re not at the screenless internet just yet.

Ramon Novarro

Ramon Novarro was a Mexican-American actor, singer, 1920s-30s Hollywood movie heartthrob, and closeted gay man, who was the victim of a brutal murder in 1968.

This is the last episode of the You Must Remember This podcast as it goes on indefinite hiatus. I’ve listened to every episode and I’ll miss it.…

Ed Boyden on Minding your Brain

On Conversations with Tyler, hosted by Tyler Cowen:

Ed Boyden builds the tools and technologies that help researchers think about and treat the brain, an organ we still know surprisingly little about. When it comes to how our brains make decisions, form emotions, and exhibit consciousness, there is still a lot we can learn.

But just as fascinating as the tools Boyden and his team build is the way in which they build them. Boyden employs a number of methods to design more useful tools, such as thinking backwards from the problem, hiring eclectic talent, practicing a particular type of meditation, waking long before dawn, or just trying the opposite of what’s already been attempted.

Would emulating the brain require emulating the entire body? Is consciousness fundamental to the universe, or is it actually just an illusion? Does a certain disharmony in thought lead to creativity? Why don’t people don’t feel comfortable talking about their brains? And why is it so hard for us to be empathetic with one another?…