My papers, business papers.

I try really hard to make my iPhone the single point of entry for all information I want to capture. Apps like Drafts make it extremely easy to send words from my brain into any app of my choosing. But what I’ve slowly come to realize is that some thoughts are best captured in other ways. Some thoughts need a few seconds or minutes to percolate, or to coalesce before they need to go anywhere. And sometimes you just need to write something down on a piece of paper.

So I ordered a few Field Notes notebooks. They seemed to be just about the right size (height, thickness, weight) to throw in a pocket and forget about. It’s worth mentioning that I’m also a huge Wes Anderson fan, so it was kind of an easy choice. It’s an experiment; a test to see if my need to have something tangible is a fleeting, transitory need or something more consistent that I just haven’t identified until now. I’ll still need to transfer this information at some point into my iPhone, but I’m willing to figure that out when I decide I need to.

For writing, my good friend Michael recommended the Fisher Bullet Space Pen and I will most likely pick that one up, but for the time being, I have a secret little pen stashed in my beloved Swiss Army knife, which is always with me anyway. I’m not sure that I’d want to write a letter with it, but for quick info dumps, I think it might be good.

Either way, I’m curious to see if this tangential offshoot of my normal activities sticks around. What do you think – do you prefer paper or photons? Tell me.

Rewiring my brain with Drafts and TextExpander.

Drafts has become one of my very favorite apps on iOS. Prior to this week, it was iPhone only, but a recent update has not only extended its usefulness on the phone, but added a new iPad app too. It’s not universal, but that’s no reason to overlook it. This app belonged on the iPad from day one, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s here.

I’m going to skip the review, since there’s already a whole bunch of those, and they’re far more comprehensive than I’d be. What I was thinking about is whether or not I could take a highly extensible app like Drafts combined with a tool like TextExpander and change the way I use my iPad.

Since iOS prevents apps from running globally in the background as they can on OS X, apps like TE have a hard time being as useful on the mobile platform. Sure, you can try to do everything in the app itself, but after years of training myself to jump between apps on my iPhone/iPad, it seems unlikely that I’ll be able to (or want to) live in a single new app and try to push text everywhere. TE can allow your snippets to be made available in other apps though, and this is fairly useful, but the app needs to expressly support it and not all apps do. However, an app like Drafts feels like it might work. It supports TE snippets, and I’ve already grown accustomed to using it on my iPhone. It’s worked its way into my workflow, being both an instant scratch pad and a brain dump for chunks of text that will end up in other apps. It’s highly configurable, clean, and fast.

On the iPad, the interface is very similar to a handful of other apps that I’m using right now (Byword, Writing Kit). There are a variety of attractive font choices and a few different interface color themes to choose from, as well as variable text sizes, word count, and some quick shortcuts to useful text insertions. The thing that’s making me really reconsider what I do on the iPad is that I’ve grown fond of using text snippets on my Mac lately (I know, I’m a little late to that geek party, but whatever). I want to do the same on iOS, but the limitations of the system prevent me from doing it smoothly. If I pair the functionality I want with an app I’m already using, can I rewire my brain to do a lot of my text entry from a single start point? Obviously, I’ll still need to jump into apps to read things like Twitter and email, but for things like quick bursts of creativity, blog posts and longer emails, it’s a pretty compelling option. OH. I almost forgot – half the reason I’m willing to try this is that Drafts 2.0 has added a sync option. So your text goes between your devices effortlessly. It’s not through Dropbox (awww) but it works phenomenally well in my testing (yay!).

I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll probably talk about how it works at some point. If you want to ask about it, feel free.

Looking back on a year of better living.

A lot of people have noticed the changes in my physical appearance over the past year and asked about it. Obviously the people in my life are aware of the effort I’ve been putting in, but among my friends and acquaintances online, it’s come up more than a few times. It’s been about a year, and I’ve been thinking of writing about it, so it seems like it’s time to do so.

A bit of history first: at some point in my mid-20s, I made the implicit agreement with myself that I’d probably drop a few pounds in the warmer months when I was more active (surfing) but then I’d put the weight back on again in the winter. Summer body vs. winter body. It was a joke for a while. I’ve never been dangerously overweight, just enough to dislike myself. Last June, I looked at myself and decided this summer would be different. This summer, I was really going to try to lose weight –for real– and keep it off. I’d never actually made a real effort to do this; it was always some half-assed thing that didn’t hold up. I knew this time had to be different. I would have to fundamentally change myself from the ground up in order to make this work. It was a radical, multi-faceted approach, the kind of thing people say is unsustainable because too much of your life is in flux and changing. I made the agreement with myself this time that I wasn’t going back.

June 2011

The regimen begins. I change my diet, eating huge amounts of vegetables (mostly salads, since they’re great in the summer). I drink tons of water. I go for walks. I try a standing desk. I substitute a few things. I’m a huge dessert fan, so instead of eating a pint of ice cream, I eat a few bites. Or I eat a 100 calorie almond milk ice cream sandwich. The first part was all about getting through the gate quickly and getting motivated.

The hardest part of all of this is the self-control involved. Everyone knows this, but it doesn’t make it any easier. To have a plate of food and not eat everything on it, no matter how delicious, is tough. But your body doesn’t need all the food you can ingest – it needs a fraction of it. Once you learn this, and can control your mind in spite of what your body thinks it wants, you’re on your way. It’s surprising how much of a mental change this all takes. You have to basically reset your physical expectations based on a new mental model of what you know to be true. After years of eating yourself sick, stopping halfway and having tight portion control feels so bizarre. But it’s the thing that makes the most difference. It cascades into the rest of the process, but it’s very hard to see that when you’re sitting there staring at your plate.

Throughout the summer I was pretty hard on myself. Substituting fruits and nuts for other snacks. Eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of gorging. Basically being acutely aware of everything that was going in and what I was doing to make it go out. However, contrary to how most people do this, I chose not to weigh myself or count calories. I know that’s a familiar metric that people like to use, but I based this entire thing on how I felt as opposed to the numbers. It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll get (at least I did) a lot more satisfaction out of looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling good than knowing you’re exactly three pounds lighter. For me, obsessing over the numbers would have just slowed my progress and focused me in the wrong places.

As I headed into the fall and winter, the challenge became not putting the weight back on. By this point, I’d spent a few months following my regimen, continuing the walks, the good choices, the water (you really can’t believe how beneficial water is to this effort). This winter was going to feel different already; I could tell. I kept going as strong as the summer – in fact, I redoubled my efforts and made sure that I was still as vigilant and observant as I was when I was wearing less and more aware of my body.

I still allowed myself the things I liked – I just didn’t do it in nearly the volume I did before. For instance, since I was a kid, I loved eating cereal in the morning. Well, I love eating super sweet cereal in the morning. So I made my cereal the tradeoff for the day. Cinnamon Toast Crunch and 1% milk to kick it off, good choices throughout the day. Having something to go to like that is nice, because you don’t feel like you’ve completely abandoned yourself. It’s like a little life raft of comfort. And if you’re gonna cheat, better make it breakfast anyway, when you have all day to burn it off, and your metabolism is chewing at you for something after a night of sleep.

It was around this time that I needed to start buying new clothes. That’s a great feeling.

Throughout the (thankfully) mild winter we had, I walked. I walked in the snow, too. Every day, more on weekends. (1-2 miles on weekdays, 3+ on the weekends. Podcasts are your friend.) I continued to impress myself by eating sensibly, when in the past, I would shovel down burgers and pastas and all manner of heavy foods in the cold. At this point, the habits had taken hold. I’d changed enough of my daily routine and been doing it long enough that it had supplanted what I thought I would do with what I actually did.

We went to Aruba in March, and I had to buy all new shorts and board shorts. Again, exciting. Polo shirts I hadn’t worn in months suddenly fit better. T-shirts I had long since written off were now fitting. It was working – hell, it had worked – I kept the weight off all winter. I was in the home stretch.

August 2012

Here we are. In the past year the following has happened.

  • I downsized from a 38 to a 34 inch waist
  • I lost approximately 30-35 pounds (remember, I wasn’t really counting, but I did weigh myself once or twice along the way)
  • I no longer have any of the digestive issues I would occasionally experience from overeating (reflux, indigestion, etc.)
  • I sleep better
  • I feel better when I get up
  • I prefer motion to sitting around
  • I actually can’t eat crap anymore (my body craves and prefers healthier foods, more veggies, less grease – really)
  • I added other light exercise into the routine. I do push-ups or light (20 lb) curls in the mornings on weekdays; I’m using this app and I’m up to 97 in a single session as of this writing.

There’s nothing special about me. I hate going to the gym. I’m not obsessed with fitness. I made some simple yet tough choices. I chose to not feel like crap every day. I chose to be mobile, because I want to remain so into my old age. I chose to moderate all intake into my body, and the net result is that my body has paid me back in the healing it’s done.

Anyone can do this. It’s slow, but it’s worth it. Like most things worth having, you have to work at it. I didn’t think I was capable of sustaining it, but it’s permanently changed me. Better late than never, I guess. It wasn’t easy; in fact, it was very hard. Now that I’ve lost weight, I’m more focused on the parts of my body that still need work, and while the rest of the world sees this tremendous effort, I’m seeing flaws. The change in myself has been infectious but in a good way – I’m certainly in no danger of developing an eating disorder, I just think my metabolism plateaus at certain levels and I need to up my activity or restrict my diet a little more to kick it into the next phase. But I’m eating and enjoying life – a healthier life – and I wouldn’t go back.

Thoughts? Let me know.

Putting your money where your mouth is on App.net

Yes, I backed App.net.

In the eleventh hour. After it had long since been funded. After everyone had done it. Right before the end.

Because I was conflicted. I was conflicted because on one hand I didn’t want another social network that I had to deal with and keep track of, but on the other hand I wanted to put my money where my mouth was. Like many people, I don’t like what’s happening with Twitter and I want to see something different come to fruition. Unlike many people, I am not clamoring for yet another network that I have to keep track of.

I realize that the network effect will not take place for a very long time, if at all, but I am prepared to make the jump if and when it becomes viable. In the meantime, I plan to stay on Twitter and do all the things I have been doing because Twitter remains the place where my information is piped into my brain. My friends are there. My colleagues are there. I finally got my sister there, damn it. I just thought that at this point in my life, it was worth something for me to actually put money behind all the complaints that I am liable to make against free services and the business choices they make.

I have no delusions of grandeur about App.net’s potential for success. Nor do I really want to stop using Twitter. Admittedly, a small, selfish part of me wanted to just grab my username. But a larger part of me wanted to actually throw some support behind a handful of guys who are trying to make something good come out of nothing. Twitter’s recent post about API changes and the effect it will have on third-party apps is, to a lot of us in the space, the death knell for the service as we’ve grown to love it.

Why did it take me so long to make the choice? That’s a deeper question. Part of me wanted it to fail. Not to be right, but because I was hesitant to make a change. Because change is hard. And part of me (I think) still likes a struggle. Still likes to feel like I’m fighting out from under a weight. Twitter has been instrumental in the last few years for me because of what it’s become and what it’s allowed me to do. It’s changed the Internet for me. Forever. But I’ve changed with it. And now that it’s changing, I don’t know quite how to feel. And that leaves me with even more questions. Like, where exactly do I draw the line with the service and the value it provides for me? Where do I say enough is enough? And where and when do I jump ship for something else?

As I said, change is hard. But new stuff is fun. But the people you like are there. But you want to be over here. I don’t know (none of us do) what’s going to happen. I just know that I don’t want to sit around complaining anymore. I want to do whatever little I can to change.