This tool is halfway between a spreadsheet and a database and is the most user friendly software i think I have ever used. It allows non-technical users to create banks of data that is useful for them. It also allows techy type people to add interfaces, scripting and extensions that integrate with anything.
I built a database for this trip that includes everything I need – campgrounds, routes, camper inventory, appointments, gas expenses, the whole 9 yards and then does a nice job of summarizing things with not a lot of effort on the part of the user. Probably my #1 online favorite tool.
Another tool I’ve been using is ChatGPT by Open AI. It’s become invaluable by helping me arrange travel, come up with reasonable routes given my timeframe, making camping reservations and keeping me out of the cold weather (well, mostly). Check out a tidbit of a ongoing conversation I’m having with the tool. It’s helped me immensely.
Not only has it helped me with routing and reservations, it has generated all of the state images you see on the right side. These are original images that I created using ChatGPT and the Dall-e plugin. I keep the requests in the same chat window and everytime I request a state, a new image is created using the same style as the others.
Ever do a Google search and the results are inundated with pages from a site that you really don’t want to see? Google provides some not-so-widely used tools to help you hone down your results to something that is useful.
Today I was looking for a chimney sweep. No matter how I searched, the results were littered with pages from angi.com and homeadivsor.com, the same site for which I have had really bad experiences with. Although not the main topic of this post, this company purports to find you professionals in your area and has a wizard to get the info about the project and then finds professionals to help. Every time I have used this, it returns the message that there are lots of professionals in my area and asks for my contact info. Once entered, the message quickly changes to inform me that there are really no-one in my area to help me. But now, they have my contact info and subsequently spam me for weeks for other things. Needless to say, I don’t want to see results from this company when I search.
Google search provides a simple exclusion tool to leave these results out. Here’s my search syntax:
chimney sweep near me -angi.com -homeadvisor.com
The addition of a minus sign (-) immediately followed by a domain will exclude any result from this domain from your final results. Handy, no? You can also use the minus sign to remove specific words or phrases from your results. For example, if you didn’t want to see results that were located in Des Moines, you could add -“Des Moines” to the end of the search. The quotes around the exclusion phrase are necessary only when you want the exact phrase to be eliminated.
The quotes bring up an important point. By default, Google uses an AND between multiple words. In my search google is looking for pages that have both the word chimney AND the word sweep in them, but not necessarily the words chimney sweep together. To make it more accurate, the following syntax could be used to get at more specific results
“chimney sweep” near me -angi.com -homeadvisor.com -“Des Moines”
The above syntax should find chimney sweeps near me, eliminating results from the sites angi.com and homeadvisor.com and without Des Moines in the text.
For some strange reason, I like to start blogs. I have about 10 other ones that I write, most of them anonymously for one reason or another but I don’t think I’ve ever started one on my main website. Not sure why, but that is all changing with this.
The reason, I believe is because of the topic I wanted to write about tonight – it wouldn’t make sense anywhere else but this site. That topic? Other people named Jay Larson, and the black hole email address that I got when google first started handing out email addresses. I call it a black hole because very few emails that come to it were written to me. Spam, you’re thinking. Advertising. No, quite the contrary. I get emails meant for other people named Jay Larson in this inbox on a daily basis.
Now that you think I’m absolutely off my rocker, I will present the evidence and my theory on what is happening.
First a bit about gmail.com email addresses. Google made them so that certain punctuation in the email address is ignored. For example firstname.lastname@example.org is the same as email@example.com – messages send to both addresses will land in the same inbox. If you have a dot in the first part of your email address you try this yourself. Here’s an article written by google themselves on the subject: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/7436150?hl=en
For those of you too lazy to click, here’s the text of the article:
Dots don’t matter in Gmail addresses
If someone accidentally adds dots to your address when emailing you, you’ll still get that email. For example, if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, you own all dotted versions of your address:
Note: If you use Gmail through work, school, or other organization (like yourdomain.com or yourschool.edu), dots do change your address. To change the dots in your username, contact your admin.
No one else gets your emails
No one can take your username
Your Gmail address is unique. If anyone tries to create a Gmail account with a dotted version of your username, they’ll get an error saying the username is already taken.
For example, if your address is email@example.com, no one can sign up for firstname.lastname@example.org.
No one sees your mail
Your account is still private and secure. Emails sent to any dotted version of your address will only go to you.
For example, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org are the same address and go to one inbox.
What to do if you get someone else’s mail
Adding dots doesn’t change your address, so dots aren’t why you got someone else’s mail. Instead, the sender probably mistyped or forgot the correct address.
For example, if someone meant to email email@example.com but typed firstname.lastname@example.org, the message went to you because you own email@example.com.
Notify the sender
If the email seems irrelevant but not suspicious, reply to the sender saying they have the wrong address.
Report a suspicious email
Do not click any links or share personal information. Report the email as spam or phishing.
Unsubscribe from newsletters you didn’t sign up for
Note: Unfortunately, we can’t prevent people from accidentally or maliciously using a dotted version of your address to sign up for subscription emails.
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Sometimes dots matter.
I have other emails from gmail that work exactly as described above. I also have one that makes many of the statements above a lie. I’ve sent help requests to google, reported the issue to the senders, taken all of the suggestions above and yet I’m still getting emails with very personal information send to me. I don’t want it, I’m not asking for it but can’t stop it.
How do I know they just weren’t meant for me? Here’s a good example of an email I received on Monday.
My name. Looks like me at first. I actually freaked out, thought I may have had too many shots of jager one night and made plans to go to Palm Springs. I do like to go there after all.
Well, here’s my confirmation number.
And my rewards club number.
And my points balance.
Hmmm… could I modify this reservation? Let’s find out.
The answer is yes. I can change the check-in or check-out dates, the room, the rate, hell I can even cancel this. How can we be sure it’s really a real reservation?
I called customer service and although the shoved me to about three different departments, this is indeed a real reservation made by someone that has a credit card that is not the same as mine.
Not a bid deal though, right? I mean I’m not going to go cancel his reservation, I’m not an asshole.
And for him, it’s a good thing. From other email I’ve gotten from his employer, his benefits department, his neighbors, the place where he got his car, his dentist, his doctor – the list goes on and on – I am certain that I know more about him than his wife does. If she knew what I know, she wouldn’t still be with him. I mean considering some of the sites he is a member of, she’s not really his type anyway.
I know his birthday, his place of employment, his social security number, his employee number, his health plan, his prescription for eyeglasses, need I go on? His cable provider is Century Link (I have his 4 digit authentication code). His daughter plays soccer. He goes to a church where volunteers as a deacon. He was born in 1984 and has two kids. One of them Rose, plays softball and soccer. He like to golf and enjoys photography and outdoor recreation. He’s lived in Grantsville UT, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Amesbury, MA and Indio California – all of which I have full addresses. He goes to Spectrum eyecare. His coworker Trista asks for help from time to time. He been a member of NENA (Nakomis East Neighborhood Association). In 2017 I received a 7 minute video from his friend Angela, who was very sad. She evidently is deaf and was signing most of the message so I’m not sure of the story behind that.
His deposits go to his Chase account ending in 4990. He was eligible to buy a new Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, or Ram for 1% below factory invoice in 2016. He submitted his taxes to H&R Block on Feb 2, 2017, it cost him $19.95. On Tuesday, January 10, 2017 he went to Nokomis Chiropractic and either had Roasted Pork Loin or Penne Pasta when his friend Mitch got married to Miss Kong during the summer of 2016.
More recently, someone named Elizabeth had a wreck in an vehicle insured by him. Geico is the company. I have the claim number and all of the details about the refund from Uhaul he just got for $27.76.
Have I reported this to google? Yep. Their answer? Dots don’t matter.