Monitoring Resolution Progress

Maintaining a checklist may seem a bit over-the-top, but it does help.

Yes, I’m a geek. And yes, I’m somewhat compulsive about some things. But I really think it helps to stay on track with goals and objectives. Here’s what I mean.

The Weight Tracking Table

Back in 2012, when I finally got serious about losing weight and lost 45 pounds in four months, one of the things I did that I believe helped me to succeed was to create a weight monitoring chart. It was a simple list of dates with spaces to record a daily weight reading and body measurements.

Weight Loss ChartHere’s the first three months of my chart. I stopped tracking my weight on paper when I moved home to Arizona, but got all the way down to 149 pounds (from 196) by the middle of October.

Although most diet plans tell you not to weigh yourself daily, I did. And as the weight ticked down day after day, with minor upticks along the way, my success — clearly indicated on the chart I kept on the back of my medicine cabinet door — positively reinforced my efforts. Not only that, but I when I fed those numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, I wound up with a cool chart that showed my progress. (I told you I was a geek.)

I didn’t take body measurements daily. It was a pain in the ass to do. But the few measurements I did record show my progress and also helped reinforce my efforts.

My point is this: when you set a measurable goal, it might be a good idea to track it on paper (or in some other recording tool). This gives you evidence that you’re on target. And as you get closer to achieving your goal, you can feel good about it, not just when you reach that goal but at various points along the way.

Note that my weight chart shows upticks. Whenever a weigh-in showed me to weigh more than the previous day, that made me think about what I’d done that might have given me this setback. It made me work harder to stay on track. After all, with a goal like losing weight, the longer it takes, the longer you have to make sacrifices to reach your goal. It’s in your best interest to stick with it so you can minimize the time you’re making that big change in your life.

(And please don’t think that once you’ve reached a weight goal you can go back to your old ways. You can’t. Those old ways got you where you were. Just keep in mind that it’s harder to lose weight than to maintain a healthy weight once you’ve taken off the extra pounds. The main sacrifices come in the losing weight stage. After that, the “sacrifices” are fewer and must become part of your lifestyle. With me, that meant portion control. It wasn’t until I went back to my huge portions that my weight began creeping up again. I’m nipping that in the bud now.)

This Year’s Chart

Because I have five New Year’s resolutions this year, my chart is a bit more complex. It has multiple columns since some of my resolutions have multiple parts. Some columns get simple check marks. Others get numbers.

I created the chart in Excel, since it’s a grid, but I don’t expect to record the data in an actual spreadsheet. (I’m not quite that much of a geek.) Instead, I printed it out and put it on my bulletin board. Each morning, after writing in my journal about the previous day, I record the previous day’s results. As I look at the chart I have a concrete, in print record of how I’m doing.

Resolution Progress Chart
My New Year’s Resolution Progress Chart. I suspect that this will keep me on track — at least as long as I keep printing new charts and recording my progress on them.

Over-the-Top?

Is this approach over-the-top? Super anal-retentive? Evidence of an obsessive compulsive personality disorder?

Maybe.

But I think the reason many people don’t succeed with New Year’s Resolution goals — or any other goals, for that matter — is because they don’t have a daily reminder of what that goal is. It’s not in their face. There’s no one looking over their shoulder to make sure they stay on track.

This is my solution. The chart is in my face and I’m looking over my own shoulder, making sure I stay on track.

And, as always, I’m the only one that can ensure my own success.

Grammar Nazis Rejoice!

Microphone iconThere’s a new kind of typo in town.

Do you use dictation to enter text? Here are my thoughts.

Dictated Corrected
First, there were the typos and legitimate spelling and grammar errors that we made when using keyboard. First, there were the typos and legitimate spelling and grammar errors that we made when using a keyboard.
Then there were the typos common Austin “aided” but auto correct, to deliver often hilarious text messages when we attempted to key in text on our phones and mobile devices. Then there were the typos common , Austin often “aided” but by auto correct AutoCorrect, to deliver often hilarious text messages when we attempted to key in text on our phones and mobile devices.
And now, there are the typos and other Errors generated buy are growing use of dictation on our mobile devices and our computers. And now, there are the typos and other Errors errors generated buy are by our growing use of dictation on our mobile devices and our computers.
Are used dictation quite frequently on my iPhone and iPad. Sometimes, the device clearly understands what I’m saying and in exactly what I would’ve typed. Other times, it gets things completely screwed up to the point where it’s impossible two even imagine what I might’ve been trying To say. I’m trying, more and more, to use dictation on my computer. I find that I don’t type quite as well as I used to and I’m not sure why. It seems to me that using technology to get the job done should be a good idea. But every once in a while, I let some text go without proofreading it. The results could be something like what you’re seeing on the left side of the stage–raw, Dictated text. I found it necessary to provide a translation in the right column. Are used I use dictation quite frequently on my iPhone and iPad. Sometimes, the device clearly understands what I’m saying and in enters exactly what I would’ve typed. Other times, it gets things completely screwed up to the pointwhere it’s impossible two to even imagine what I might’ve been trying To to say. I’m trying, more and more, to use dictation on my computer. I find that I don’t type quite as well as I used to and I’m not sure why. It seems to me that using technology to get the job done should be a good idea. But every once in a while, I let some text go without proofreading it. The results could be something like what you’re seeing on the left side of the stage page–raw, Dictated dictated text. I found it necessary to provide a translation in the right column.
Of course, sometimes the errors are so minor that they really do resemble typos. For example, this morning I dictated a text message to a friend of mine and I used the word to. The version of the word to that I meant was T00, but my phone typed in TW oh. If I hadn’t caught and fix that and if my friend or a grammar Nazi I give him ammunition to rip me. Of course, sometimes the errors are so minor that they really do resemble typos. For example, this morning I dictated a text message to a friend of mine and I used the word to too. The version of the word to that I meant was T00 TOO, but my phone typed in TW oh TWO. If I hadn’t caught and fix fixed that and if my friend or were a grammar Nazi, I I’d give him ammunition to rip rib me.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: when you see a grammar error on screen, consider that it might not have been the person entering the text who made the error. Instead, it may have been the machine taking down his or her dictation. So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: when you see a grammar error on screen, consider that it might not have been the person entering the text who made the error. Instead, it may have been the machine taking down his or her dictation.
This column was dictated on an iMac running OS 10 Yosemite using the built-in microphone. This column was dictated on an iMac running OS 10 X Yosemite using the built-in microphone.

Thoughts?

50,000 Tweets

A milestone.

Today, at 4:24 PM, I posted my 50,000th Twitter tweet.

Before After
Tweet count, before and after.

I had been watching the tweet count as I closed in on this milestone. I manage to capture screenshots of the count before and after I sent the tweet.

I spent a lot too much time thinking about what I would say to mark the occasion. It came to me the day before. I’d mention @andypiper, the very first person I followed on Twitter.

Back in 2007, Twitter was just a year old and have such a small user base that it was still possible to see the full Twitter timeline — in other words, every single tweet posted as it was posted. As I watched the tweets go by, I seemed to zero in on Andy’s tweets and I followed him.

Years have gone by. There are now millions of Twitter users and no way (that I know of) to follow the full stream of all tweets in one place. I’ve authored four courses for Lynda.com about Twitter, including the most recent, Up and Running with Twitter . Andy, who lives in the U.K., now works for Twitter. This past spring, when I was in California for business, we met in person in San Francisco where we shared an excellent Dim Sum meal, coffee, and a lot of conversation.

A lot of people just “don’t get” Twitter. That’s okay. For the people who do, it’s a great social networking service to bring people together.

Creating Time-Lapse Movies

How I do it.

I’ve been fascinated with time-lapse photography for as long as I can remember — and believe me, that’s a long time. I love the idea of compressing a series of still images into a short movie. But what I love more is the way it speeds up the process of things that happen slowly: clouds moving across the sky, shadows changing with sun angles, and things being built or moved. There are a lot of time-lapse movies on this site; click the time-lapse tag to explore them. I do want to stress that my time-lapse movies are very simple. If you want to see something amazing, look at the work of a master like Ross Ching’s Eclectic series.

I rely on certain equipment and software tools to create my time-lapse movies. Since I’ve been sharing daily time-lapse movies of the construction of my home, I thought I’d take a minute to explain how I make them.

The Camera

Hero HD
I use my old Hero HD for most time-lapse work these days.

The first thing you need to create a time-lapse movie is a camera capable of snapping an image at a regular interval. These days I use a GoPro. Although I have three of these great cameras — Hero HD, Hero 2, and Hero 3 — I tend to use the oldest (the Hero HD) for this kind of work so if it’s lost, damaged, or stolen, it’s not a huge deal.

The GoPro has an interval or time-lapse mode that I use quite often. Because the process of building my home is relatively slow, I set it to the most amount of time between images: 1 minute.

(In the past, I’ve used a Pclix intervalometer — that’s a time-lapse timer that triggers a shutter release on a camera at a preset interval — attached to an old Canon G5 digital camera. Again, the camera was old and worthless so if someone walked off with it, no big deal. Losing the intervalometer would have been worse.)

Skeleton Housing
The skeleton housing gives me access to the USB port and SD card on the GoPro.

Power is an issue when you run a camera for hours on end. I use the GoPro Skeleton housing around the camera so I can run a USB cable to it. The cable then feeds into a window on my RV where it plugs into a power source. The added benefit is that I can remove the SD card without opening the housing and changing the camera angle. I use electrical tape to cover up the two sides of the housing to keep dust and rain out.

The Camera Mount

For time-lapse photography, it’s vital that the camera be held still (or moved smoothly, if you’re going for that kind of effect). That means a tripod or camera mount.

Pedco UltraClamp
This is a must-have mount for anyone with a GoPro or lightweight digital camera.

I routinely use a Pedco UltraClamp with my GoPros. I can’t say enough things about this clamp-on camera mount. With a GoPro, all you need is a tripod mount adapter and you’re good to go.

For my construction project time-lapse movies, I clamped it onto one of my RV slide-outs, pointing at the construction site. Easy.

The Software

Okay, so the camera has been running for hours and it has collected hundreds of images. Most of my time-lapses run from 6:30 AM to 4:30 PM. That’s 10 hours with 60 shots per hour. 600 images.

The images are 2592 x1944 pixels. That’s way bigger than I need. In addition, I want a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is better suited for video projects these days. So I need to do some processing.

EasyBatchPhoto IconThe first thing I do is run the images through a program called EasyBatchPhoto. (Remember folks, I’m using a Mac.) I have the app set up to crop the image to 1920 x 1080 — that’s standard high definition. This basically crops away the edges of the image, focusing on what’s in the middle. The app also slightly sharpens the image and applies a date and time stamp watermark based on the EXIF data saved with the original file. It then saves it as a medium-high quality JPEG in a folder I specify. I do this for only the images I want to include in the movie; no reason to process them all. The rest of the images are discarded when I wipe the SD card.

EasyBatchPhoto Settings
EasyBatchPhoto can process huge batches of images at a time.

I should mention that you could probably do all this with another app. This happens to be the one I use. I’m sure some readers will share their solutions in the comments.

QuickTime Player 7 IconOnce I have the images in a folder, I open up QuickTime Player 7, which I’d updated to the Pro version years ago. This is an old version of QuickTime. The current version does not have the feature I need, which is the Open Image Sequence command. I use that command to get a dialog box prompting me to choose an image. I select the first image in the folder containing all of the images for the movie.

Choose the First Image
Use this dialog box to select the first image in the folder of images for the movie.

Image Sequence Settings
Use this dialog box to set the frame rate.

I’m then prompted to set the image sequence settings — basically the frame rate for the movie. There are a lot of options on that pop-up menu. After some experimentation, I decided on 15 frames per second for this project. That compresses 10 hours worth of images into about 40 seconds. Any faster and you miss a lot of the action. When I click OK, QuickTime makes the movie and displays it in a window. After taking a look at it, I save it to disk, usually in the same folder as the images.

Why YouTube?
I was really pissed off to discover that Viddler, the site I used years ago to host video, has made my videos unavailable for viewing. I think it’s because they expect me to pay for hosting, which just ain’t gonna happen. This screwed up a lot of embedded video on this site. Because some of the videos are very old, I can’t find the source files so those videos are gone forever. So I’ll use YouTube on a go-forward basis for all video sharing. It’s free and very easy to access.

The last thing I do is upload the movie to YouTube. I do this with the current version of QuickTime. I just double-click the movie’s icon to open QuickTime and use the share command to share it on YouTube. QuickTime prompts me for a movie description and tags. Within minutes, it’s online and available to anyone who wants to see it.

The entire software process takes about 5-7 minutes and is mostly automated.

If you make time-lapse movies and use a different set of software tools, please do use the comments to share your process. It’s always nice to learn about new software that might make things easier or just plain better.

MacVoices Interview Now Online

Watch it!

Chuck Joiner & Maria LangerChuck and me through the miracle of Skype.

Chuck Joiner interviewed me recently for his excellent MacVoices video podcast. We talked about flying, my Twitter courses for Lynda.com, and social networking with Twitter and Facebook, and working with Lynda.com.

Chuck is a great interviewer and he really knows what to ask to get me talking!

You can see or hear other interviews with me on my Appearances page.

MacVoicesYou can also go to the Show Notes page to get the free 7-day pass for Lynda.com that I mention in the interview.