1940s Guy Louis Spencer

23 April 2011

It’s been quite some time since I posted a picture from the Family History Archives. Today was a rather jolly Friday. In keeping with that theme here’s a picture of a rather jolly Guy Louis Spencer, my Great-Grandfather on my Mother’s side of the family. In this picture Guy is standing in front of his house in Lincoln, Nebraska. The picture was most likely taken sometime during the 1940s.

Happy Friday everyone!

1940s Spencer - Guy Louis Spencer

Nikon 9000 ED B/W Negative Scan, 4000 dpi.

Here’s a map of this location (5702 Walker Avenue, Lincoln, Nebraska 68507)

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Paper Receipts vs. Electronic Receipts - Episode 3

21 April 2011

Time for the final installment in my series on receipts. Just for catch up, so far I've discussed why I find receipts important (little pieces of immense amounts of data), companies trying to digitize and bring receipts into the 21st century, and the potential opportunities available to someone who can successfully merge receipts, loyalty programs, and social commerce. Today I conclude with a discussion of a hardware and software maker.

NeatDesk for Mac Box

I recently purchased a NeatReceipts scanner. I love it. The manufacturer, The Neat Company, has been making receipt scanners for quite some time. You may recall seeing their advertisements and their products in the SkyMall catalog in airplanes. I've always wanted one but have been waiting for an Apple compatible version. They now have an Apple compatible version and I'm a proud owner. I bought the NeatDesk, which is a document feed scanner.

You can load various documents (business cards, receipts, and regular documents) into the feeder and can scan batches and batches of paper. The included software, NeatWorks, helps you maintain a digital file cabinet. You can create various "drawers" (i.e. Receipts, Business Contacts, Home Mortgage Legal Documents, etc.), and can then scan and sort all kinds of paperwork. The software has Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which can recognize text and convert it digitally. The reason OCR is so important is that it allows you to search your collection for specific information. Using the Spotlight feature in the Mac's operating system you can search for specific terms, such at "Home Depot" if you're looking for a specific receipt for a return or a warranty. The other amazing aspect of OCR is that it can pull data out of your documents and then pre-populate various fields in the NeatWorks software. The software includes various profiles for different kinds of documents (i.e. Receipt, Contact, Document, etc.). If you are scanning receipts the software will recognize that you are scanning receipts, and will then pull data into a spreadsheet, including anything from Vendor, Date, Method of Payment, Total, Sales Tax, etc. You can then export all of your data as an Excel spreadsheet (or a Quicken file), or you can export your entire database as individual PDFs, images, or many other formats.

The scanner and software literally create an entirely digital collection that is searchable and manipulable. You can take your database and do anything you want with the data (i.e. overlay your receipts on a Google map, analyze where you spend the most money, determine how much money you spent on sales tax over a given period of time, etc.). Naturally, there are numerous tax preparation benefits as well.

So, as a receipt scanner and receipt digital manager I'm sold. Also, the other features (document feed scanner, OCR, and the ability to create and export numerous file formats including PDF), have me over the moon. I've scanned old family letters, large family history documents and research, various health care documents, important insurance information, and many other vital documents I wanted to create a digital copy of. As advertised, the NeatDesk literally creates a digital file cabinet. Now go get one!


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April 15, 2011 - Laura Veltz at The Bluebird

21 April 2011

Last Friday Laura played her first official writer’s round at The Bluebird Cafe here in Nashville.  For those of you who don’t know, playing The Bluebird is a big deal.  The place is recognized as one of the most important songwriter listening venues globally.  Important artists, songwriters, and music industry veterans have all either graced the stage, played a writer’s round, or mingled with patrons at the Bluebird Cafe.  The venue has been around for over 40 years and year over year plays host to a steady stream of promising and established songwriters and artists.  Laura and I have been to The Bluebird many times as guests, and Friday was the first time Laura was in a round.

Laura played in a round with Marcus Hummon (“Ready to Run,” “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Bless The Broken Road,” and many others), Lari White, Kelly Archer, and Kasey Musgraves.  Please click their names to see who they are and what they’ve written.  All are fantastic artists and songwriters in their own unique ways.

Here are a few pictures I snapped from my front row perspective - enjoy!  :)

Oh, I almost forgot, our friend Dean Berner came to the show and was asked by Marcus to join him onstage for a song they had written together.  Thus the picture of Dean playing the guitar next to Marcus.  :)

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

2011 04-15 Laura Veltz at the Bluebird Cafe

Here’s a map of where The Bluebird Cafe is here in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Paper Receipts vs. Electronic Receipts - Episode 2

14 April 2011

As promised, here I am with more to say about receipts. I can almost hear the fans screaming in the stands ...

As stated yesterday what I want to see is a simple, elegant, digital solution that will finally eliminate paper receipts and usher in a new era of e-receipts. I envision a world where all you have to do is log in to an e-receipt service provider's website to access an entire digital record of all your consumption. That day has not arrived yet. Right now you may be saying to yourself, who cares? Well, here's why I care.

If there were a central location to monitor, track, and aggregate all of my consumption behavior you would have a pile of data worth a lot of money. With that data you can do really incredible things. The tip of the iceberg includes stuff like plotting a map of my expenditures, aggregating purchases made at a specific location (not just at a particular retailer), identify what items I purchase most regularly (not just where I shop most regularly). All of this information can come in handy with regards towards maintaining warranties, identifying trends in consumption behavior, etc. I buy a lot of groceries at Kroger and every time I checkout I swipe my loyalty card. Kroger knows an awful lot about what I buy and how often I buy it. They then can take that data and target me for specific coupons and/or promotions on products I buy. Why can't we figure out a way to do this for EVERYTHING we buy? I want that data! With data like this you could start offering promotions/coupons/deals to people backed by actual, relevant information and behavior.

So far, there is no single entity offering a service like this. There are, however, several trying. Intuit, maker of Quicken, TurboTax, and acquirer of mint.com, had a program called QuickReceipts. The only retailers they had in their system were Best Buy and The Container Store. And, Intuit just announced they'll be pulling the plug on the program this upcoming April 30. I guess retailers may be hesitant to offer their consumer purchasing data to a third party service provider. That's a shame. If a big player like Intuit couldn't make it happen it must mean it's challenging. Or, maybe they were doing it wrong.

There are also several apps in the Apple App Store that offer consumers the ability to easily and quickly digitize receipts. Most of them are comprised of a system where you use the phone's camera to take a picture of the receipt and then manually input the relevant information. Most of these apps are intended to help manage business expenses, particularly for tax purposes. There's also a company called shoeboxed that offers digitization of receipts. You mail them your receipts (or email copies) and they manually input the relevant data into a database for you. Again, most of the focus is on business expenses and taxes. Also, shoeboxed charges a monthly fee.

Finally, there are at least five companies (that I know of) endeavoring to offer an online digital receipt solution. All five aim to work with retailers so as to offer a single location for all of your receipts. I haven't been able to decipher who among this pack is in the lead - they all seem to be at similar stages of development. You can check them all out below:



Seamless Receipts


Global Lane

So, that's what I have to say about receipts today. Tomorrow (or in my next post, whenever it comes to me) I'll discuss a hardware manufacturer who offers a receipt scanning solution for personal use. Oh it's gonna be so much fun!!! :)

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Paper Receipts vs. Electronic Receipts - Episode 1

14 April 2011

This shall be the first in a series of posts on receipts. Don't get too excited - I know it sounds absolutely thrilling :)

Here's the deal. I'm a meticulous person. I'm the guy that always asks for a receipt - I don't care if it's a donut, paperclips, or a brand new television - I want my receipt. I like having a record, both as a financial record and as a journal of what I was doing / acquiring. I like how they actually have quite a bit of data on them - time, date, location, store, items purchased, method of payment, rebates, warranties, etc.

The problem, of course, is all those pesky, annoying, bunched up, paper receipts. They get stuck in your wallet, in your wife's purse, in your pants pockets, in your jackets - they end up all over the place. So, I started brainstorming with a buddy and we couldn't help but ask, why hasn't this been digitized? You can get a PDF receipt emailed to you if you buy anything at the Apple store. Why can't others offer this? Or, better asked, why aren't they doing this? It seems like it would be easy to implement, would offer better customer tracking/loyalty opportunities, and would be cost effective (no more paper receipts, printers, rolls of paper, etc.). In subsequent posts I'll talk about companies that offer paperless receipts, service providers that digitize receipts for you, and hardware manufacturers who sell receipt scanning equipment for personal use. Of course, none of those companies would matter if the retailers themselves offered a electronic/digital solution.

So, here's where I end my first post. Congratulations and kudos to Wells Fargo! I needed cash tonight so stopped at a Wells Fargo to hit the ATM. I was a little surprised that at the end of my transaction there was the option to have my ATM receipt emailed to my email address on file. Cool! I opted to go paperless and within seconds had a digital copy on my iPhone. One less piece of paper, one more piece of data, and one happy customer. I look forward to more pleasant surprises from innovative and forward thinking retailers and service providers.

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March 28, 2011 - Sandhill Crane Migration Panoramas

13 April 2011

My sister just posted several pictures from our most recent trip to Nebraska on her Facebook page.  Her pictures have inspired me to post the below panoramas.

I like taking immersive panoramic images when I travel.  I think it’s nice to dive back in to where you were when something happened.  So, in honor of Emily’s pictures, here are three immersive panoramas to highlight where we were when we were taking pictures of those thousands of Sandhill Cranes.

To start, here’s a map of our location:

Now, here are three different perspectives taken around this location:

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