Accidental diaries

Go to this Amazon page, click a few buttons, and recall your life. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Welcome to all of our new subscribers. It was a pretty big day for new sign-ups yesterday, and I’m very grateful. If you like Understandably.com (I hope you will!) please share it with others and encourage them to sign up too.


After-action report on the Bode Miller interview: I thought that went really well, and thank you to everyone who joined in on the call. The write-up is going to be very interesting. I’ll publish it soon.

If you sent me a comment during the event and I didn’t reply, it’s because I made a boneheaded mistake: I forgot that ending the Zoom meeting would erase the entire chat log. Sorry!

But, lessons learned. I want to host more of these. What do you think? What would make them better? Who else should I interview?


A helpful .csv

I broke my glasses recently, so I got a new pair. Then I thought: Maybe I should try to repair the old ones, at least enough to keep them in the glove compartment as an emergency spare.

I went to CVS in search of Gorilla Glue (and toothpaste; unrelated), only to find a checkout line 30 people deep. So, I walked home. En route, I ordered from Amazon on my phone.

It felt a bit wasteful, but if that was my biggest crime against humanity that day, so be it. Still, I wondered how much I’ve spent at Amazon like that over the years, and then I remembered that there’s an easy way to find out.

Just go here, make a few quick selections, and Amazon will put together a spreadsheet that shows everything you've ever purchased.

In my case, it worked out to $12,017.09, spanning 14 years. Looking through it all was unexpectedly cathartic; almost like a shorthand, accidental diary that I never got around to keeping.

Since we’re all probably using Amazon more than ever this year — especially during this holiday shopping season, shoveling money as quickly as we can into Jeff Bezos’s pockets — I thought you might enjoy checking it out, too.

Here are a few of my highlights:

  • January 2006. I think I’d been buying from Amazon before this, but it’s as far back as the data went. I bought a TON of books about Iraq then, since I was planning to head there as a reporter. Jackie Spinner's book, Tell Them I Didn't Cry: A Young Journalist's Story of Joy, Loss, and Survival in Iraq was the first purchase listed.

  • August 2008. I got a PlayStation 2 and FIFA Soccer 07. This turned out to be a bad idea, since I was on deadline to finish writing my own war book, and distractions were not ideal. I wound up giving it all to my neighbor's son. 

  • July 2009. I bought my dad a DVD for Father's Day: the 1973 Robert Mitchum movie, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. He'd told me about it for a long time before I ever got to see it. You should check it out. Also, somebody should remake it.

  • December 2010. By now, I was an uncle. Hence. the LEGO Ultimate Building Set and lots of children's books and coloring books right around Christmas.

  • January 2013. I got together with my wife, and moved to New Jersey. During the massive daylong Craigslist sale I held just before I left Washington, I read The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 while people bought all my furniture. Later, I bought her sleep headphones, as I allegedly snored.

  • June 2014. I bought some over-the-top USA flag sunglasses and other super-patriotic gear. Was this the 4th of July? No, I remembered; this was back when the USA actually qualified for the World Cup.

  • February 2016. By now we were parents. Biggest (and best) life change ever. Early purchases included sleep sacks, a baby monitor, and every imaginable product to get your infant to sleep through the night. 

  • December 2017. Instant Pot. I’d written a few articles for Inc.com (onetwothree) about how this product was such a big marketing success before my editor suggested she might want to try one. Wait, I thought, my wife and I should probably try it too.

  • April 2020. Pandemic purchases: a beard trimmer and two Intex Easy Set pools of different sizes. I got a third from Walmart.

I could go on, but we’re going to start to get into some of this year’s Christmas gifts, and a lot of my family reads this email. But if you’re still reading, here’s your reward: Get your own .csv.

Maybe let us know in the comments (assuming they work today) what’s the most interesting thing you found.

Leave a comment


7 other things worth your time

  • All of Gmail went down for a while Monday morning. It got fixed pretty quickly—but it’s a reminder that it has something like 1.5 billion users, and that a really concerted attack on any one of a handful of tech companies could bring a lot of people to a standstill. (Globe and Mail)

  • A Belgian nursing home had an outbreak of Covid, including one death, and officials are blaming “an error in judgment,” namely: the decision to allow a man dressed up as Santa Claus to visit the facility, after it turns out he was infected. (CNN)

  • Every state in the country has now certified its electors to the Electoral College as of yesterday, confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Some senate Republicans have now started referring to Biden as “president-elect,” although President Trump still hasn’t conceded. Separately, the attorney general announced his resignation, effective next week. (AP, Yahoo News, NYT $)

  • A new study from a Brazilian university says having high blood pressure for any length of time can speed up cognitive decline. (StudyFinds)

  • Pinterest is paying $20 million to its former COO to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit. (Adweek)

  • A bipartisan group in Congress introduced a $908 billion coronavirus relief package Monday. It’s called “a starting point for negotiations” and doesn’t include any stimulus checks like last time, but on senator called the fact that legislators are still talking, “a Christmas miracle.” (CNBC)

  • A student left a makeshift camera out for eight years, thus creating what might be the longest photo exposure in history: more than 2,900 days of the sun going by. (Boing Boing)


Thanks for reading. Photo is from Wikimedia. I explored this Amazon .csv thing on Inc.com a few years ago, too. (Back then: $9,588.64). If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers. 

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