iPhone replacement and how American Express saved the day

Extended warranties on Credit Cards are honestly something I never thought about. My mother and grandfather always told me “Don’t forget about the extended warranty,” but the truth is, I always forget about it. I often don’t keep credit cards long enough that the warranty is usable. But that may change thanks to American Express after my experience with replacing an iPhone 5.

I noticed recently that my iPhone 5′s power button would fail to register a press. Sometimes, it would take multiple presses to finally register. And it quickly became annoying and worse. Problem was, my iPhone wasn’t up for an upgrade until October, seven months away. The accessibility trick Apple showed me for enabling an on-screen lock button was driving me crazy and not a solution that would allow me to survive until October.

I had to find a solution. But $700 for an out of band replacement, knocked down to $269 by trading in the iPhone using Apple’s program, still is a lot. The lone good news is this didn’t affect my iPhone upgrade eligibility, but why would I buy two iPhones in one year?

Then I remembered…didn’t I buy this on my old American Express card? I searched and found the receipts. I did! But, that card was canceled a year ago. They wouldn’t honor a warranty claim, would they? I researched online and the results were inconclusive. Some folks claimed they successfully got paid on a claim despite a canceled card…well, it’s worth a shot.

I called American Express and submitted my claim. A couple days later, an email arrived saying it was closed and a check for $269 was being sent my way. No questions asked, even though my credit card had been canceled for a year. Today, just seven days after my claim, the check arrived in the mail.

I was so surprised, that I immediately signed up for a new American Express card. For now on, any technology purchase will go on this. And I won’t cancel the card again, I promise.

Hazel is the ultimate automated file management tool

For years I have struggled on maintaining PDF copies of various important documents (bills, statements, paperwork, etc.). I would occasionally have a day of organizing, but I was wildly inconsistent with how I named my files and folders. It was incredibly frustrating when I needed to find a particular file and had to search multiple folders & naming schemes to track it down.

Yesterday I began trying out a utility I had heard about over the past few years: Hazel. Created by Noodlesoft, it is the ultimate automated file management tool. I am blown away by what I can do now in a totally automated and consistent manner. In 24 hours it has supercharged my file organizing and archiving.

For example, if I wanted to download and save PDF copies of my paycheck, in the past I would do this:

  1. Login to the payroll site.
  2. Click on the link for the latest paycheck to view its PDF.
  3. Download the PDF (which is placed automatically in my Downloads folder by Safari)
  4. Navigate to the Downloads folder
  5. Open the file
  6. Find the pay date on the file
  7. Rename the file in yyyy-mm-dd – Paycheck (Chris).pdf format
  8. Move file to whatever my Paychecks folder I happened to find first.

Now with Hazel, I just do the following:

  1. Go to my payroll site.
  2. Click on the link for the latest paycheck to view its PDF.
  3. Download the PDF (which is placed automatically in my Downloads folder by Safari)

Then, without intervention, Hazel does its magic by monitoring the downloads folder and matching files with all of the following criteria in seconds:

  • The file name (my payroll site is very consistent with its file name format)
  • Whether my name or my wife’s name are in the contents of the file.
  • Searches the contents of the PDF for the word “Regular” so I know this a normal paycheck vs. something else (like a bonus).
  • Automagically figures out the pay check date by searching for the third date in mm/dd/yyyy format listed in the file. Thanks MacSparky for the tip on how to do this!
  • Renames the file to yyyy-mm-dd – Paycheck (Chris).pdf, using that pay check date from the step above.
  • Sets various tags (Paycheck, the current year (again, based off of that pay check date), etc)
  • Moves to a dedicated paychecks folder

Suddenly I have a huge automation win! I cut out at least 5 manual steps from this process, saving as many as 5 minutes per paycheck and now have the following:

  • My file names are all in a consistent, predictable format.
  • My files are all tagged properly.
  • My files are all in the correct folder.
  • My files are all dated properly.
  • My files are now very easy to search for thanks to the file name and the tags.

Now multiply this across the many different documents you download in today’s world and you can see how tens of minutes a week or even a couple of hours per month can be saved using Hazel.  Toss in some of this magic for documents you scan and suddenly this is a gigantic time & frustration saver. Not to mention the enormous frustration that is now gone of finding the right folder and file name format. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can add up quickly. Quickly enough I’m buying a license today.

A walk across a lake

Today my wife and I took a walk across Massabesic Lake, a beautiful and easy to miss spot in Manchester, just 10 minutes from where we live. How did we walk across the lake? We went snowshoeing! The lake is frozen solid and is perfect to walk across.

There were only a few people out on the lake today. Mostly ice fishing or snowshoeing.

Photo of Massabesic Lake

Ice fishing, snowshoers, and cross country skiing all sharing Massabesic Lake

We decided to hike across the lake to Battery Point, a favorite spot of ours in the summer.

Photo of Massabesic Lake looking towards Battery Point in the winter

Looking across Massabesic Lake towards Battery Point

Being perfectly flat, it took us about a hour from where we parked to reach Battery Point. We sat for a few moments, listening to the silence and nature that is the best part of visiting this lake. Despite being in Manchester (and Auburn), it is nowhere near the actual city (despite a 10 minute car drive) and feels as if it was a hour away. Heightening this feeling is that almost all of the land surrounding the lake is protected, as the lake is Manchester’s water source. Almost no houses exist on the shores of the lake. It makes this quite a special spot in Manchester that will never see million dollar homes being built on its shores.

Write and create something

I’m wide awake, several hours before I normally wake up.

The world silent around me, partially from the early hour, partially from the snowfall of yesterday dampening the landscape. Laying here in bed, without anyone expecting anything from me at this moment. I could aimlessly surf the web and my many apps. I could just lay there and not do a thing.

Or I can write and create something.

I had not kept up with writing over the past five years or so. Much of that was due to my career in customer service and sales engineering. I used every ounce of my writing capacity for years to craft words to help my customers. With tens or hundreds of correspondence over the course of the day that have to be written in a certain style, with no mistakes acceptable. And make no mistake, I was damn good at it.

Yet depleted any desire I had to write for fun. To think deeply on my own time and record it in “pernament” format, about any subject that came to mind. When’s the last time I got up early to write? I can’t recall. I’m sure if I queried this blog for my earliest in the morning posts, this would be one of if not the earliest ever.

What’s the conclusion here? I don’t want to end with a grand promise that I will almost certainly break. I’m just going to enjoy the moment and write some more.