December 8, 2004
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Every year I attempt to update our address list, especially in order to send out Christmas cards. The original database of addresses I created is gone; I can’t remember what I originally used. Last year was too choatic to do anything. This year I decided to create the list from scratch. In fact, I decided I would just write out addresses in an address book.
In the end, though, I had a brainstorm. I used Google’s phone book search to look up names and phone numbers. (For example phonebook: william fitzgerald kalamazoo). I estimate that about 75% of the time, this got me to a correct address and phone number. Since I’m notoriously bad at transcription errors, this helped ensure I got the addresses and phone numbers right. Of course, Google’s address database isn’t perfect, but it was pretty good.
I then cut and pasted the address into an Emacs buffer, eventually deleting the extraneous links to maps. More search-and-replace allowed me to put in tab field delimiters, and I then slurped the data into Excel, where I cleaned things up a bit. Creating a merge document in Word was then relatively simple.
When personal computers were first coming out, and people asked what they were good for, one of the standard answers was ‘keeping an address book.’ You’d think it would be obvious how to do this, and dead simple as well. Who knew that PCs would be really for video games, email, and blogging?