CloudHQ Export Emails to Google Sheets

First things first: I’m writing this blog post because CloudHQ has a promotion where if you write a blog post about them you can get the premium version of their apps free for a year.

But the corollary that is I’m willing to write at least 300 words and publicly shill because I want the premium version of the apps that much.

The only one that I’m using so far is Export Emails to Google Sheets, which I’m using for an ongoing research project on business communications related to COVID-19. That’s right, I’ve been collecting spam, promotion, sale, and closure emails – from several people – since March. It’s a really cool dataset, full of closure dates, reopening dates, messaging, personal reassurances from CEOs, and every company under the sun now selling face masks and hand sanitizer. It’s a dataset that, as of right now, consists of over 5300 emails.

As you might expect, I initially scoped the volume I’d be getting (mis-estimating by a factor of 10 and also several month), and decided that I wanted to automate as much as humanly possible. So I scoped out and tried multiple different Chrome extensions and apps that look at email inboxes. I even looked into learning enough Python to code one myself, because so many tools are aimed at wildly different things, like customer management or assessing productivity. What I needed, all I needed, but what I needed incredibly robustly, was information scraping and archiving.

The free version of the CloudHQ app does almost everything I need! It extracts the emails – with options to save the emails themselves as PDFS, fantastic for archiving – as well as the date, subject, and sender. In addition to saving the emails as PDFs, it scrapes the plain text into a field in the spreadsheet it generates. After having gone through and hand-coded some of the same data, I’m comfortable saying that it has already saved me hours upon hours of work.

The only challenge: the free version caps you at 50 a month. I . . . am not getting 50 emails a month I want to record. I’m not only getting far more than that, I have the massive backlog. I’m also really hopeful that the email support that comes with the premium version can result in getting some help with some of my more arcane data needs (since almost everything is forwarded, I don’t need the ‘from,’ I need the original sender). But it’s a robust extension with a convenient UI, and I’ve had a really positive experience using it so far.

Icarus documentary review

Icarus is a hell of a movieI was incredibly excited to see Icarus on Netflix, even before I knew what it was, because, hey, cycling movie! We don’t get nearly enough of those.

And then I read the synopsis. And then an article in The Atlantic. Someone accidentally stumbled into the heart of the Russian doping scandal that almost got all of Russia banned from the Olympics? And it focused on the cycling? Awesome.

Bryan Fogel was the filmmaker, and also a cyclist who wanted to try out doping – to see how people did it, how they beat the testing systems, and how much better he could do in the Haute Route,

Bryan’s first stop was Don Catlin, a prominent anti-doping scientist. Catlin happily talked about things, but didn’t want to get more involved, because his reputation had been so carefully built. So Catlin referred Bryanl to Grigori Rodchenkov. Grigori, a Russian doctor, headed an official anti-doping program – which meant he had a lab. He helped set up a doping program for Bryan that included testosterone and human growth hormone.

Later, Bryan asked why Catlin had referred him to Grigori. Catlin talked very carefully around not outright saying it was because Grigori is wildly amoral.

But that came soon after – Grigori was accused of being behind doping a ton of Russian Olympians.

He was at first dismissive, talking about the World Anti-Doping Agency snooping around, but seemingly largely indifferent and a lot more excited to come visit Bryan in LA. Part of the reason for the trip was so that they could smuggle Bryan’s urine to Russia for testing. Grigori had special bottles. Special bottles specifically for smuggling urine. Parts of Icarus get a little surreal.

Cycling en Haute

They got through to the Haute Route and Bryan’s doped-up performance, cool music making it seem like a cross between an action movie and a heist. And this was before things even really hit the fan. Before Grigori decided to go to the US and expose the whole state-sponsored doping program and talk to the New York Times and the Department of Justice in the same week.

The cycling ends up falling out of the film a bit as they get deeper into scandal, but Icarus is still a fantastic confluence of luck, cycling, journalism and scandal that shows some of the human effort behind the 2016 Rio Olympic outrage.



I may have to read 50 Shades of Grey.

I am not enthusiastic about this.

I have heard that it is Twilight fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. This is an issue for me not because of any opposition to fanfiction, but because of an awareness of the common tropes of fanfiction, vast tracts of which exist only to have characters kiss.

I have heard small sections of it read aloud (not safe for work), to dawning horror and helpless laughter.

I have heard how it treats BDSM relationships. Stories that feature BDSM relationships that are creepy and abusive and push boundaries are even more culturally abhorrent than the never-ending stream of coming-out YA fiction. The only mainstream stories featuring gay youth being coming-out stories is boring and repetitive. The only mainstream stories about people in BDSM relationships being about really questionably abusive relationships is detrimental to things like submissives being able to safely go to the police if their safeword has been violated, resulting in assault. If all media representations of BDSM relationships (with the exception of Dan Savage’s column, of course) have issues with consent and none of them draw crystal fucking clear boundaries between acceptable play and creepy abusiveness (you know, the kind of boundaries that exist in real life), then it makes the world less safe. This is a problem. I have heard that 50 Shades of Grey contributes to this problem, and also that it attributes interest in BDSM at all to psychological trauma.

But I don’t want to judge it without having read the source material. It is the entirety of the context I am missing, and I want to fill that in and not just pass on judgements based on hearsay.


This is the part of the post where I remember that my parents read this sometimes and I curl up and die a little on the inside, but am too angry to leave it alone. Mom, Dad, Sara, come back next week for something else, okay?

So I purchased 50 Shades of Grey, and read it in something like three days. I’ll say this for it: it has really phenomenal pacing after the rather slow start. Once the main characters start actually macking on each other, it alternates rather neatly between plot point and smutty bit.

Except for the majority of one chapter that was a contract.

I discussed the book practically incessantly with anyone who didn’t overtly tell me to shut up about it while I was reading it. They didn’t even have to be listening, just not fleeing in the other direction.

The only person I discussed it with who’d actually read it liked it, and said they liked it mostly after they remembered that it was only a book.

Remembering it is only a book would probably be key to me enjoying it, but I had issues doing so. Key to my issues with it is that I felt it insulted and demonized anyone who is a sexual dominant, thereby insulting and demonizing several nice, bright, conscientious people about whom I care a great deal. They are soldiers and nurses and students with jobs: people who contribute to society and have healthy interactions with varied social circles. Normal people who happen to have sexual preferences that run to dominance. Having Christian Grey presented as this quintessential dominant is like presenting sharks as quintessential fish. Yes, they both swim, but one of them is a predator and hardly typical of everything in the environment. Yet 50 Shades presents Grey’s deepseated psychological issues as not only a contributing factor for his interest in BDSM, but as the entire basis of it.

I had a very useful conversation with one of my many rant-victims about the things that bothered me. Paraphrased, they put forth that anything that normalizes BDSM is probably positive for the community. My response was that this would be true of anything representing a relationship that even shared a zip code with healthy, but that the relationship in 50 Shades was controlling, borderline abusive, and did not present the potential submissive with the initial option of adding hard limits.

Jokingly, they asked where’d I’d been when Twilight normalized stalking and abuse.

I replied: angry.

He’s also controlling and introduces power play elements to their sexual relationship before she has formally consented to power play elements. In mainstream culture, this is (stupidly, horribly) accepted to some extent, but he has already indicated to her at this point that he is interested in power play and that extended contact with him will involve explicit power exchanges. He proceeds to initiate power exchanges without her explicit consent. This is not okay. This is never okay. Consent is important.

For anyone who fell in love with the idea of a sexy prince, here are some things to know:

  • a significant other who wants to be able to contact you all the time and tries to enforce this (by demanding you answer phone calls or email, or by buying you expensive communication devices) should have red flags go up. 
    • Knowing your every move is a right reserved for parole officers.
      • And also everyone you have as a friend on Foursquare.
  • negotiation ideally occurs for every scene. Unless and until you are completely comfortable with a partner, you should know what you are signing up for once a power exchange of some sort occurs, because it can be super-hard to renegotiate mid-scene. 
    • It’s like Prom. 
      • “Wanna go neck in the car?” 
      • “Definitely! And it’ll only be necking because I want to wait.” 
      • “Hey, I know we said just necking, but is it okay if I undo this bit of your outfit?” 
      • Later: “Oops, I think one of us is imaginary-pregnant, even though I said I wanted to wait, because I make super-awesome decisions when high as hell on hormones.
But the BDSM itself was not horribly portrayed. I was happy about that. There are safewords, which is really important. The major issue for me with the BDSM aspect remains the ascription of psychological damage to anyone who is sexually dominant.

Probably the thing that freaks me out the most about the portrayal of BDSM and dominants in particular is how much it has boosted interest. Apparently Fetlife, a kink social network, has had a huge boost in interest and membership. Then there’s this article from Salon, and this article from Pervocracy referencing a really terribly thought out article from Cosmo. 50 Shades is encouraging people into BDSM without encouraging any kind of outside reading or research. I have read more socially responsible fiction on erotica sites. You know what would be neat? If, instead of giving Ana a car, Christian gave her SM 101 (Amazon link, perfectly safe for work, unlike most of the rest of this post). Then not only would she be more informed, it might be contributing to a cultural narrative where people do their research before letting people tie them up (even in toilet paper). Informed consent is sexy consent.

On to those things which are not ranting about BDSM.
Despite being original fiction now apparently, the number of times they make comments about wanting read each others’ minds (mostly him saying it) was annoying. In fanfiction, this would be a reasonably entertaining nod to the original canon. In ‘original fiction,’ it’s those places where someone got sloppy with the metal file and left part of the serial number intact.
It also revisited some themes that I found frustrating in Twilight, but enraged me here. A lot of the things that enraged me are the things we’re supposed to grow out of. Things like accepting compliments gracefully. Yeah, it’s a skill. If you don’t have great self-confidence, it can be a hard-won skill, but it’s still as fundamental to wider social interaction as ‘please pass the salt.’
My feelings on how Steele is about accepting gifts are ambivalent. On one hand, accepting gifts without trying to throw them back in people’s faces is also a basic life skill. On the other hand, someone I’ve know for like a week buying me a car, no matter how rich they are, would send me screaming irretrievably for the hills. With my GPS turned off.

Steele’s complete lack of self-worth also annoyed me. Yes, I understand that some people feel that way, and it’s always good to have characters one can relate to. But just once I’d like to see a romance novel heroine who has some sense of self-worth, or can observe that practically every dude they meet throws themselves at her and use logic to extrapolate that, irrelevant as looks may be to their general self-image, they are apparently fairly attractive. And it’s another layer on the ‘normalizing stupid things’ cake: I do not particularly look forward to a world in which stalking, controlling relationships, and crushing lack of self-worth are all considered the norm.
The writing itself was not monumentally execrable. Again, pacing was excellent. The vocabulary employed was not entirely puerile. The vocabulary employed were mostly Australian ex-pats. This is a situation in which the author could possibly have spent some of the time they spent on Washington geography on, oh, finding out that very few people refer to tank tops as singlets in North America. Seriously. Regional vocabulary is not hard to research, and the internet is really helpful.
And there we go with 1500 words of why I need to stick to reading things which are recommended to me instead of things which are popular.

Beautiful Red

I just finished reading Beautiful Red by Darusha Whem. Whem has made it available in hardcover, numerous electronic text, and audio form; the latter two available free under Creative Commons licensing. The new-wave distribution ideology suits the subject matter; in the future, corporations literally run everything, and everyone is plugged into the everywherenet – the new internet – by skull-implanted chips.

Well, almost everyone. The story follows Jack as she runs into a group that is radically against machine integration. It’s a fascinating look at how reliant we are on technology; some of the imagery really hit home for me. People on the street slack-jawed and vacant as they log into their virtual worlds – how different is that from staring intently at a smartphone?

The story was hauntingly real, and the world was such that, aside from a few incidental heinous crimes, I would love to live there.