Editor on Vacation

Even on vacation, Rich Hall, managing editor for The HP Palmtop Paper, finds the Palmtop to be an indispensable companion.

By Rich Hall

Finally! A nine-day vacation to explore some of Chicago's excellent museums and the natural wonders of Wisconsin, and write an article about it for The HP Palmtop Paper.

Alright, I've developed a habit I cant shake. Whatever I do these days, I think about how I could use the HP Palmtop to do it. Then I think about writing an article about how I did it. We've had articles about business trips, but never about vacations. I though it might be fun to write one about my vacation it was. I though I might be able to deduct part of the vacation I cant.

Preparation for the trip

I made the decision that the trip was going to be a vacation without interruptions for me and my family. I would not call in to the office to check on things, or check my e-mail. Therefore, I didn't take a modem, cable or the like. I put a new set of lithium batteries in my Palmtop a day before we left. We would be gone nine days and I knew they would last the entire trip, and then some.

Trip itinerary in Phone Book

 I put notes on the trips itinerary in my Phone Book. I pressed (F2) to add a new Phone Item. In the Name field I keyed in two blank spaces followed by Vacation F3. This caused this entry to appear at the top of my phone list in the All Items screen.

Put Items at Top of PhoneBook (Graphic)

 Caption: Item with two blank spaces at beginning of Name appears at the top of Phone's All Items list.

 The F3 after Vacation reminds me to press (F3) to go to the full-screen view of the Notes field, where the trip itinerary is kept.

We planned to spend most of our evenings camping out in national and state parks, but reserved few nights in hotels. I kept reservation information, including addresses, directions, phone numbers, arrival dates, check-in times and reservation confirmation numbers in the Notes field. I also kept the phone number for American Express and the serial numbers of the travelers checks we carried.

My wife had done most of the research on entertainment. She kept a Memo file open on her HP 95LX, with information on the museums we would visit, their addresses, phone numbers, admission fees, etc.

I mailed several post cards on the trip, and use Phone Book in a more traditional manner, to look up names and addresses.

 Spreadsheet for travel expenses

I did a quick and dirty spreadsheet for travel expenses. I entered the dates as rows and the types of expenses as columns. The types of expenses included: Mileage, Fuel, Lodging, Food, Entertainment, Misc. After an unscheduled stop in Palatine, Illinois, I had to add a column titled Auto Repairs.

1-2-3 Expense List : Graphic

 I used the @SUM function to add the rows and columns and give me running totals on the days expenses, the total by expense type and the overall total. For example, column C stored the dollar amount of fuel purchased. The fuel purchase for the first day of the trip was stored in cell C4. Subsequent days purchases were stored in cells C5 through C11. The formula for determining the total fuel purchases was entered in cell C13 as follows: @SUM(C4..C11).

MEMO diary documents discoveries

I opened a new MEMO file and used it as a running diary of the trip. I kept notes on the places we visited, interesting people we met, places didn't have time to visit, for future reference.

I also used the diary to note down interesting facts and personal discoveries. In the Natural History museum I saw a skeleton of a full-grown Tyrannosaurs and realized that the Steven Spielberg had exaggerated its size in Jurassic Park.

Another discovery had to do with visiting Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a town I lived in 20 years ago. I loved Eau Claire and used to know the town like the back of my hand. (I drove a taxi cab and had to.) However, the town had changed so much it was almost unrecognizable. I was sitting on a bench outside a restaurant when I saw someone I though I knew I didn't. Some deep part of me was expecting to run into people I knew 20 years ago. They defined Eau Claire for me and they weren't there anymore. The Eau Claire I knew did not exist anymore. It was just another mid-west city in the U.S. , with a shopping mall, fast food restaurants and the like.

Appointment Book

I entered the oil change note directly in Appointment Book and scheduled to do it the Saturday following our return. I also found Appointment Book handy in a number of other ways.

 I used it as an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. My alarm is short, so Id set three or four alarms to go off in the morning, so Id get up.

 Appointment Book also saved me money in Chicago. The parking meters are more expensive than in small town I live in. And the fines for letting the time run out are huge. I set alarms in Appointment Book to remind me to go check the meter.

 There were a couple of things we wanted to make sure we saw in the Natural History museum the Tyrannosaurs was one of them. I set an alarm for about half an hour before the museum closed, to remind us about Mr. Rex and other important displays.

 There were a number of things I discovered I needed to do upon returning home. (E.G., call a person, change the cars oil and filter, take a flashlight back that stopped working on the first day, etc.) I set appointments to remind me to take care of these items.

And they say the U.S. doesn't have any culture!

The last place we stopped on our vacation was the Mall of the Americas outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. We made this the last stop on our vacation because we wanted to shop, have fun, and because I wanted to attend the HP Handheld Users Conference at the Malls convention facilities.

The Mall is like four large malls tacked together, shops, restaurants and all. In the middle of the Mall is Camp Snoopy, an amusement park. My wife and kids hit the shops and amusement park while I manned our booth and listened to talks at the conference.

The Palmtop came in handy taking notes on some of the more interesting presentations. I met a number of HP Palmtop Paper subscribers at the conference. A few of them had questions about the Palmtop, or about their subscriptions. I took notes in Memo on a couple of questions that Ill develop into Basic or Quick Tips for the HP Palmtop Paper. I noted down some subscription questions in my Appointment Book, and set an alarm to check them out on Monday, when I return to the office.

Meanwhile, back at the Mall, my son and daughter (and wife) saw lots of stuff they wanted buy. Unfortunately, we were already a couple hundred dollars over budget. Fortunately, I have their Christmas wish list on my HP Palmtop. Wish list is a PhoneBook entry that also appears at the top of my list because of a blank space before the name. I highlight the entry and press (F3) to go to the Notes field, where the wish list resides.

Whenever someone absolutely has to have a stuffed Snoopy, or a radio controlled car, or a jade necklace, I say, No problem! I whip out the Palmtop, open up the Phone Book entry and enter it on their Christmas / birthday wish list. When Christmas or a birthday comes along, I consult the list with the individual, prioritize their desires, and then go shopping. This technique is particularly effective with my children. It gives them the satisfaction of writing down their desire on a list. Later on they learn how to prioritize their desires.

Things I could have done but, hey! I was on vacation!

There's lots more I could have done with the Palmtop. As I mentioned earlier, I ignored the communications possibilities because I didn't want to communicate with anyone.

I toyed with, but rejected the idea of downloading to my Palmtop ASCII versions of some of the articles I was working for The HP Palmtop Paper. When I had free time, I thought, I would pull out the Palmtop and edit the articles. I didn't have any free time. Well, I did, but I chose to do other things with it. We took a large quantity of books and stories on audio tapes and listened to them during the long hours in the car.

I've seen some pretty intricate Lotus spreadsheets for tracking mileage, distance between two points, estimate time of arrival, and such. I chose the simpler spreadsheet described above.

Like any good vacation, I need another one to rest up after it. We spent days in the car, traveling through strange cities, lost in museums among dinosaur bones (me and the kids) and paintings by Monet (my wife). We spent nights in scenic state parks, adjacent to beautiful lakes, trying to get to sleep while the guy next to us played Bruce Springsteen on his boom box. We got to experience American Culture at its pinnacle in the Mall of America. It embodied prosperity (lots of stuff to buy), diversity (lots of people to bump into) and the pursuit of happiness (Camp Snoopy for my kids, and the Users Conference for me).

We had fun, and I got to write an article about it!