Joshuah Bearman, Epic Cofounder


Cool Tools Show 174: Joshuah Bearman

Our guest this week is Joshuah Bearman. Josh is Epic’s cofounder and CCO and has written for Wired, GQ, the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and is a regular contributor to This American Life. Josh has written about meteorite hunters, deranged private investigators, jewel thieves, surfing smugglers, and the metaphysical implications of being the world’s greatest Pac Man player. He was a finalist for the 2014 National Magazine Awards, and his work has been anthologized in various Best American series. The movie Argo was adapted from Bearman’s 2007 Wired article, “The Great Escape.”

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Show notes:

Adios email scheduler
I suffer from the tyranny of the inbox like everyone else. And I try all these various systems to manage it right. Like, “Okay, I’m going to be an inbox zero person,” which I did achieve once … The paradox of it was like satisfying to know that there was not much email in my inbox at any given time; however, it requires this constant maintenance. So I was like, “I wonder if there’s a way to set it, so that it only sends you email every so often. So that you basically unwire your neurological pathways to seek the constant influx.” Because I feel like over time, your brain gets rewired to be looking for a certain kind of stimulus. And then that sort of affects concentration and also identifies a certain constant input into this machine that you’re sitting at. … This is Adios — you can log it into your Gmail accounts, and then specify times, and you can do as many as you want So then you don’t have any email until the appointed time, and then it all shows up. And the effect is very quickly, it’s really interesting, within 48 hours, you just forget that there’s email coming at you all day until the quality of mind sort of returns. And then all the email shows up at once and then you dispatch it in 15, 20 minutes and deal with everything and that’s it. And also by then, half of those emails are just threads, so that by the time you’re seeing them everything’s been resolved. And so it has become a very effective concentration tool.

It’s an app. And I got into this because I was on a residence, like an artist residency, which is where my first email sabbatical experiment arose. And I was out in the woods and it was late summer, and there were wild flowers everywhere. And I was like, “What are these flowers?” I always fancied myself as the type of person who knows Arboriculture and like horticulture and can pick out Queen Anne’s lace from across the meadow or something, which now I can, thanks to iNaturalist. You just use the camera, you go over take a picture and then you get the petals of a flower, I think maybe even leaves too, but I’ve only done flowers. And then it searches a database. It was probably using some kind of machine learning algorithm to recognize this in relation to all the other flowers. And then it gives you a suggestion says, “I think is probably this.” And for the most part, it’s correct. … I’m looking at it right now on and it does look like it has birds and insects, which is exciting.

Kuretake Zig Cocoiro Letter Pens
Kuretake Zig Cocoiro Letter Pens ($6)
This is a Japanese pen, and it’s sort of the modern version of a felt tip pen, but it’s not a ballpoint. And it’s got a very narrow tip or nib or whatever it’s called and stylist. And this came about because I started — sort of related to my avoidance of email — keeping a written journal. And so I experimented with a lot of writing pens. I also had really bad handwriting — my crazy chicken scratch. [This pen] males it a little bit more legible. And they’re also refillable. They’re a little bit like a fountain pen where you can change like a modern fountain pen with a bladder, but with a little cartridge, and so you can swap them out. And they’re pink. At least the ones I have are pink. Although I didn’t really realize that because I’m slightly colorblind. A lady was like, “I love your pink pen.” I was like, “Really!” I thought this was tan. No idea, I was like sort of doing a performatively, adolescent girly thing like writing in my journal with a pink pen. So the Zig pen, it’s just a great little writing device.

This Is Ground Bags
This Is Ground, is sort of just one of the many, many, many, many companies nowadays, making leather doodads and bags. They’re sort of a proliferation of these, where it’s like toiletry kits, and the tech place for all your cords and a little clasp for your iPhone, headphones and all that stuff. I have a bunch of the Dopp kits. When I’m traveling, what I do is I have one that sort of just has everything in it, like doubles of all of my chords and stuff and it’s just sitting there in my bag always, so that I don’t have to remember to take it. I also have a little briefcase, but that’s for my iPad Pro, and it’s got inside all these little slots for the stylus and notebook and all those little things. I like really things that have pockets where everything goes in its place. And This is Ground bags are those types of bags, where there’s all these little… It’s kind of like the Wall All of the ’60s, where it was like this plastic thing on the wall that has all these little pockets that you put all your stuff in.


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