Each year, I set aside some time in late December and early January to reflect on the events and the lessons learned in the preceding twelve months and to set a course for the coming year. I don’t make resolutions, per se. Rather, I consider what I would like to change about my life, realizing that some changes may take longer than twelve months.
One goal with which I have been particularly unsuccessful over the years is the maintaining of a daily journal to capture my life. My physical journals have taken many forms, but beginning in 2007, I standardized on pocket-sized, page-per-day Moleskine journal with either a red or black cover. It is an excellent tool, but several years passed before I realized that it was not the right tool for me: the 3.5×5-inch pages were too small for my lengthy entries. Beginning with 2013, I am using the A4-size, page-per-day Moleskine journal. The larger pages should give me enough space to capture my thoughts. In addition to paper journals, I have used a variety of computer-based solutions, with mixed success. While this blog may appear under-utilized for a person intent on recording his life, it is actually a relative success compared to most of the local computer and web-based solutions I have tried over the years. EverNote (www.evernote.com) has been a spectacular success for the short time I have been using it. The ability to store text, photos, audio files, and links in a single tool, all with geographical and topical tagging, makes it a key component (along with Gmail and Google Calendar) in my web-based “brain backup” system to combat the otherwise life-impairing retrograde and anteriograde amnesia caused by my medications. So far, so good.
In addition to a more suitably sized Moleskine journal and enabling software, I have added a couple of hardware implements to aid in capturing my life. For as long as I can remember, I have had an “all-in-one” printer that included a scanner with automatic document feeder. Very handy, if I happen to be working next to it. My latest all-in-one printer (HP OfficeJet 4500) is a network node, with both ethernet and wireless connectivity, and I use the latter. Combining the 802.11g adapter with Google’s cloud printing feature, I can print using my Linux netbook from practically anywhere. Scanning, though, is another matter. Wireless scanning using my netbook remains illusive; therefore, I have added a new portable wireless scanner (Xerox Mobile Scanner) to my toolkit. This battery-powered sheet-fed scanner converts scanned materials into either PDF or JPEG and stores them onto SD card, USB drive or a smartphone’s internal micro SD card via the phone’s USB cable. The SDHC card included with the scanner is an Eye-Fi card, which I have set to wirelessly send all scanned materials to both my smartphone and EverNote. The system is working great so far, and I am looking forward to using it to digitally store some 20-year-old journals I have found!
The last remaining piece to digitally capturing my life is storing verbal communications. Right now, the easiest way is to take notes, then write out a “memorandum of conversation,” which is emailed to EverNote and the other party. I am experimenting with an older Olympus digital voice recorder with a USB interface for the capture, and I am looking for open-source software to do speech-to-text transcription and OCR processing on the audio file. My goal is to duplicate in Linux the functionality of Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium. Alternatively, my wife’s Windows box is available to use with Dragon software and the audio files, emailing the text output and the audio file itself to EverNote.
I am experimenting with capturing current weather observations (unsuccessfully) and watches/warnings (successfully) from RSS feeds for ultimately appending that information to the daily log.
There are still obstacles to overcome, but they and their range of possible solutions are known. What started out as a digital adjunct to memory is rapidly developing into digital awareness of the kind that has been my ambition for YEARS, capturing the “outside world” through countless sensors – weather instruments, sea buoys, GPS, traffic cameras, commodities tickers, practically endless remote sensors – and feeding that data stream into my consciousness.
I shall save the potential applications for another post. 🙂