Writer. Lives at the intersection of technology, security, and very bad intentions.
1195 words

Travel Documents & Standard Notes

The end-to-end encryption offered by Standard Notes opens up use cases that couldn't be served by other similar applications without exposing yourself to significant risk. One of those is using it to store details (account numbers, expiration dates, etc) and photos of very sensitive documents. Of course, you can do that with just any app - but you shouldn't.

Password managers have evolved to serve some of these needs but I really like being able to move that kind of information into my notes library where I can consolidate and organize everything in one place.

That one place is, of course, Standard Notes. I travel quite a bit and security is always a concern. I take quite a few precautions. Still, disaster or negligence can strike at any time and the last thing I want is to be stranded in some corner of the world without this information. Life will still be a mess if my documents are lost or stolen but being able to produce all of the details and photos of the originals can only be helpful. I also have to arrange travel on short notice so having my passport, Global Entry account, and other information at my fingertips saves a lot of time and hassle.

As always, consider the worst case scenario and plan for it.

Starting 2020 Right

As I mentioned in an earlier post I've been doing a very deep dive on where my money is going. Thankfully, I don't have to do this because money is tight. It isn't. However, I would like to hold on to more of it.

I've had a nagging feeling that I was a bit oversubscribed to digital services and boy was I right. I dug through my Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other places where second level subscriptions can pile up. I logged every recurring cost that I could find in a Standard Notes secure spreadsheet. Everything was revealed. It wasn't pretty. I decided to get aggressive.

12 accounts, good for a savings of about $1000 in 2020, are now gone. There weren't any difficult cuts here. I didn't scale back anything that was in use. These were mostly services or apps that I'd just stopped using and forgot about. What can I say? It was a busy year.  

I don't want this to get away from me so I have my financial spreadsheet pinned. All I have to do now is remain relatively diligent and add new accounts when I subscribe to something. Of course, it's wise to periodically rethink services you use as well. Are they really needed? Are they worth the cost? Are there better/cheaper alternatives? You get the idea.  

I was somewhat more proactive on another front - my car. My SUV's warranty just expired and that always ratchets up the baseline anxiety a little. I haven't had any problems with it but we all know car problems are inevitable. Why wait until I'm stranded somewhere to do some research? So I dug through reviews of towing services and independent mechanics in my area (where a problem is most likely to occur) and stored the addresses, phone numbers, and business hours of the best candidates in Standard Notes. It's a little thing that could make a stressful situation a little less terrible.   

When it comes to organization it's all about tackling the things that cause you stress first. Once that's done start thinking hard about the kinds of scenarios that could create problems for you and how you could prevent or minimize the anxiety. A little bit of thought and action can go a very long way. 

I did have some productive fun in the middle of all of this. I managed to build out a pretty comprehensive outline for a short story. I should be able to turn my full attention to it later this morning. Finishing it on the first day of the new year would certainly start things off on an optimistic note.

Staying on Top of Things with Secure Spreadsheets

Despite being a bit of a minimalist and not being all that indulgent I have tons of reoccurring subscriptions and app fees. We all do. I can keep a pretty decent handle on what's happening financially with services like Mint and I can track most of my memberships and subscriptions through my password manager but that's not quite enough. I have always found that listing reoccurring payments out in a spreadsheet is super helpful. It allows me to quickly scan the entire set, see the full financial impact, and keep track of important details like how each service is paid for. If you've never tried this it could have a massive impact on your financial awareness. Here's what I track:

  • Account name
  • Cost
  • Billing Rate (Monthly/Annually/Etc)
  • Method of Payment (Name of account or credit card)
  • Status (Open/Closed)

You could track other details but I find that this is enough. It can take a bit of work if it's your first go at this. You might have to dig into statements from multiple banks and credit cards to get a full picture (and to identify those services you're still paying for but have forgotten) but it's worth it. You'll likely end up saving some money in the process. And once you've done the full it's a simple matter to add new subscriptions to your spreadsheet as they're acquired.

24 Hours with Standard Notes

It's that time of year when many of us reflect on what we've been doing and how we've been doing it. That exercise resulted in a quick search for encrypted notes apps on my end. Trello has been my productivity app of choice but the security model meant that sensitive notes had to be stashed away in a password manager or ProtonMail or Keybase. That's not a great workflow. Luckily, I found Standard Notes quite quickly and it immediately stood out. You could say it was love at first sight. I bought a 5 year plan just a few minutes in.

24 hours later I have 80 notes sharing over 20 tags. Trello boards and email drafts have been migrated and deleted (I have a novel outline in Trello that might stay there a while). Secure notes in my password manager have been copied over. Everything has been consolidated and organized. It's perfect

It gets better though. In my fixation on the security and productivity features I failed to notice the blogging capabilities. I literally had no idea that those features existed as I rushed to set things up and migrate my existing content. It wasn't until that process was complete that I started thinking about what a great platform Standard Notes would make for selectively sharing content. I was shocked to find a fully baked solution already in place. This Standard Notes/Listed model is something that I have wanted for a very long time. I still have active Ghost, Wordpress, and Twitter accounts that I don't see going away but the relative anonymity and control here is liberating.

Imagine how much better off the world would be if the early internet had evolved with a strong focus on the principles that guide this platform instead of the rapid descent into neurotic hyper-sharing and hyper-connectedness on manipulative platforms that overtook everything shortly after the rise of the blogosphere.