Review Wednesday: Towards Better Eating

When I left Apple I was a mess, and so was my diet — it was pretty literally burgers and fries six days a week. Since then it has been that long, slow trudge towards a healthy diet, one salad or turkey sandwich at a time.

You don’t just wake up one morning and eat a healthy diet. You can try, but you’re fighting lots of ingrained habits, and breaking bad habits and rebuilding new better ones is stressful and hard. It takes a solid six weeks for a new habit to become something you’re really comfortable with — where you stop having to think your way through the behavior — and even longer before it becomes fully automatic. There are biological aspects to this as well; your stomach gets used to a certain amount of food in a meal, and your digestive system (and it’s inhabitants) get used to the type of foods you eat. Suddenly cut your meal portion by half and guess what? Your body keeps telling you its hungry, because it’s not getting what it’s gotten habituated to.

When I first started down this path I did some research and talked to my doctor, and the advice he gave me was pretty simple:

  • Make changes in manageable pieces.
  • It takes six weeks for you to get comfortable with the change, longer for it to become automatic.
  • The first few successes make future ones easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a step back, but step forward again as soon as you can.
  • STOP DRINKING SUGARED SODA.

One of the  tricks I taught myself along the way was if I knew I needed to cut portion sizes or remove a set of things out of my diet, to do it in pieces. Let your stomach adjust to the smaller meal incrementally. Another thing I found works for me: don’t get too tied to an eating schedule; if you always eat at 8AM, noon and 6PM, your body will anticipate that and you’ll get hungry as it approaches, even if you snacked at 4:30. Varying meal times within a range is a way to learn how to eat when you’re hungry, and not when the clock says its time to eat, and that was a big win for me.

It is a process, and you need to think of it as a series of changes that restructures how you interact with food. Imagine if you woke up and someone ordered you to become left handed (unless you’re already left-handed. If you are, your job is to become right-handed). If you try to do everything left-handed starting day one it’s going to get ugly fast. If you start doing some tasks and practicing and trying things out, over time you’ll find you can make the transition reasonably well. Any other set of body preferences/habits are going to act the same way. As long as you don’t have someone pointing a gun at you and saying “now. or else”, incremental changes over time is what seems to be the way to minimize risk of failure and regression. At least, it’s worked for me. (and yes, I’m fortunate. I had no health crisis pointing that gun at me and giving me no choice in the matter; then again, that’s a reason to start now, and not when the heart attack hits…)

Along the way I’ve run into a few things that have really been nice additions to life as I’ve searched for healthier options. I thought I’d pass along a few to you.

First is the CSA — Community supported agriculture. Laurie and I have tried a couple of “box of organic stuff on your porch every week” companies over the years, and generally let them lapse after a while because in the middle of winter, they ended up looking like the Kale of the Month club. But a friend of mine recommended one to us, and we’ve been using them now for a couple of years and we’re extremely happy with them.

Full Circle

Full Circle is more than a CSA, it’s sort of a delivery-service artisan grocery. They cover much of the west coast: Washington, California, Idaho and Alaska. They not only source organic fruits and veggies from small farms in the area, they also carry a nice supply of artisan items in all grocery categories. Some are better values than others: we’ve found that the meats and fish they sell are good quality, but priced such that they aren’t really a great value, so we rarely use them (but then, over at Stanford mall is Schaub’s butcher, so we have access to alternatives).

On the other hand, we now buy all our dairy and eggs through them, as well as various breads. A significant portion of what we used to go to the grocery to get is now delivered once a week to our porch, at a competitive price, and incredibly fresh. Their service has been incredibly reliable and the occasion we’ve had a problem (usually an item that didn’t get into the box), they’ve fixed the bill immediately without question. Very impressive customer service.

So if you’re tired of picking through the produce at Safeway for something you’re willing to eat (and you should be tired of that), they’re worth a try. Want a deal? Check to see if you’re in a delivery area. If you are, just follow these steps to get your first box:

  1. Go to www.FullCircle.com and click the ‘Join Now’ button
  2. Enter promo code REFERFC2013 and “Chuq Von Rospach” as ‘Referred by’ in step 2
  3. Enjoy your discount

That’s it. You’ll get 40% off your first order. I’ll get a $10 credit on mine. And you’ll eat better and support the smaller, local farmers and food-artisans and keep those dollars in the local economy. In various ways, we all win.

Naturebox

I want to eat healthy, but I don’t intend on eating like a hermit. I’m always looking for good and interesting things to add to the mix and that will discourage me from considering eating the bad stuff. Given that I am both diabetic and have various food allergies, finding useful and good tasting stuff to snack on that aren’t carb-bombs and which don’t have ingredient lists that sound like they belong in a meth lab is tough (I’ve talked about this in the past)

So I heard an ad for Naturebox on a podcast and I was intrigued. I checked out the web site, and I was impressed, so I signed up for a sample box. And the snacks rocked. I’ve since signed up for a regular delivery, and the biggest problem I’ve had so far is that last month’s box lasted two weeks. That is, as they say, a good problem to have.

Their snacks are healthy and look like the kind of things that would come out of your kitchen if you had a personal chef cooking snacks for you. The ingredient list is things that came off farms, not laboratories. For instance, they do various dried fruits, and the dried granny smith apple slices (which are amazing) has “Apples” as the ingredient list.

They are constantly changing the mix of snacks and cycling them in and out of the menu. My next box includes things like “Maple Habanero Pretzel Pops”, “Dutch Cocoa Sun-Crunch”, “Sea Salt Sun-Crunch” and “Sourdough Cheddar Pretzels”. They make it very easy to search their pantry for compatible snacks: I can set “no nuts” and only see things that are safe for me, you can also go for low-carb, no sugar, vegan, soy free, and other filters.

So far everything I’ve tried has been tasty. All have been well prepared. A typical snack bag is usually good for 2-3 grazings, and they have enough flavor and texture that I don’t find myself eating simply eating until the bag’s empty. This stuff isn’t loaded with salt or sugar or other stuff that tends to encourage binge eating, and I find I’m eating slower and enjoying more. I’ve only been on the service a few months, but it’s impressed me a lot.

And it all tastes good and is nice to eat. Far from the “celery and cheeze whiz” days, folks.

So if this intrigues you, give it a shot. If you use this link, they’ll give you $10 off your first box. On top of that, I have three special invites I can use that will give you a free box. If you want one, send me an email and ask.

My one wish is that I could set up the box delivery permanently into “surprise me” mode with a “no nuts” option, but right now, I have to remember to go in and select the box items every month. I don’t mind, since I’m still exploring all of the options…

And there you are — two interesting alternatives to the local supermarket overly processed crap that will help you eat smarter, eat better and enjoy it more. Both are worth checking out.

 

Posted in Review Wednesday

Three Dot Lounge for July 20, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

Protecting Your Photographic Memories. You Need to See This

Protecting Your Photographic Memories. You Need to See This

Are you computers properly backed up yet? Yeah, you, the person trying to sneak out the back of the room. What happens to your photos if your hard disk crashes or your laptop gets stolen? How many times have I told you to back things up?

And I’m going to keep harping on this until you actually do it.

Avatar

Avatar

David “Strobist” Hobby has some very interesting thoughts on your own headshot and avatar and how it’s an important part of your online branding. It reminded me that I was long overdue to update my headshot on Linkedin (so I did).

At the same time, people who follow me on the various sites will note that other than on Linkedin I never use a head shot of myself as my avatar. It’s always one of my images. This is by design, not just because I have a face made for radio, but also because to me, even though my branding (such as it is) is around my name for my photography, what matters is my images, not me, and so I want those images front and center, not my smiling face.

That, and I don’t want to make it any easier for stalkers to track me down than I have to. Because, you know, Stalkers haven’t discovered my Linkedin profile yet.

Confessions of an ex-developer

Confessions of an ex-developer

More interesting discussion on the whole “I am not a developer any more” from last week. I don’t code full time any more, and I haven’t for years, but I wonder just what “a developer” means, because I’m still doing site architecture and design for communities, and I still find myself elbow deep (and cussing) at HTML and CSS and even some javascript on a regular basis. “not a developer” doesn’t imply “not technical”, it’s just that the kind of technical problems I’ve shifted into solving are different, and in many ways, a lot bigger in scope and complexity than the ones I solved when I lived in a text editor and compiler.

Seems to me that’s part of the natural progression as you age and move from a primarily tactical role of writing code to a more strategic role of definining what needs to be built. And that’s not a bad thing.

Morro Bay Drone Flight – Zebras, Sea Lions, and Oceans Oh My!

Morro Bay Drone Flight – Zebras, Sea Lions, and Oceans Oh My!

Here is a perfect example of why drones are going to be regulated and restricted. They can be very useful tools for people who use them with care, but in this youtube, you see this guy fly it through the Hearst Castle zebras, causing them to react and run off; he flies it over kayakers in the Morro Bay Harbor where if there’s a problem with the unit, it could crash on them.

It’s the lack of care of its impact on the others (human and animal) around the pilot that’s the problem; I haven’t even gotten into the fun of being in earshot of one of these things when they’re flown, or finding my own photography shut down because someone’s flown a quad copter up into the scene I’m trying to photograph for the third time.

Unfortunately, there are enough people who only care about what they can do and not enough about the impacts of their using these devices on others, and that’s going to cause them to be restricted and regulated, and that’s too bad because there are a bunch of really good and careful people doing a lot of fascinating stuff with them who will get nailed by the bad eggs.

Posted in Three Dot Lounge

When you open up the hood…

You can always tell the people who don’t work on web sites on a day to day basis. They are the people that think that

You can actually finish a web site, as opposed to ship it.

Think that the content is the easy part.

Like most people who do work on web sites, I keep lists of stuff. As much as I like this site and how it looks, it’s far from perfect, and I’ve always got this list of things I want to do “when I have some free time” (ha! ha I say!). Top on the list was to redesign the look of the Photo of the Day postings so they, well, don’t suck. Well, they didn’t suck, but they didn’t really present the images as well as I wanted. It was too generic. (and it kinda sucked).

So this week I decided it was time to take an evening, sit down, and design a better look for the POTD pages. So I fired up Photoshop, opened up the hood on the wordpress server, and…

Four nights later….

  • I have a new POTD page (and I think it’s kinda spiffy); it’s not overdone, but it lets me improve the linking off to other forms of the image, get a little more information out about the image in a structured way, and I think it shows off the image better.
  • I remembered that I really preferred the way that G Dan Mitchell handled his author bio compared to mine, and that in general I wasn’t really happy with the sidebar structure.
  • Oh, and I needed to change the language of the site copyright and update the date to 2014 before it became 2015. As long as I’m redoing the author bio piece, I might as well fix that.
  • Having removed the author info from the sidebar, it really looked lame and cluttered. Okay, even more lame and cluttered than it did before Hmm. If I moved that stuff down in the footer….
  • Digging into the site analytics, the last time anyone actually used that search box to search on the site was… um… the last time I asked that question and did a search to see how it showed up in the Analytics. So let’s just delete that damned box.
  • I have wanted to shift the blog away from the content/sidebar form to a full-width content for a while, because I’m limited to 600px wide images, and for really letting photos shine, that kinda sucks. I’ve nuked about half the sidebar content now, how hard would it be to….
  • Why am I using this SEO wordpress plug-in, anyway? Is it really giving me anything of value? what happens if I turn it off for testing?
  • Oh, wait… my page load time just halved. I guess I found why pages were so slow to load. Answered that question. Okay, what other plug-ins don’t I need?
  • Why is that on all my web pages? it just clutters things. Why did I think that was a good idea?
  • Wait a second, I killed that twitter account months ago. I’m still linking to it here?
  • Dammit, I thought I’d fixed that scrollbar showing up on the iframe on the front page. And why is it using that version of the copyright language? I fixed that.
  • I really hate the look of the navigation from page to page in the blog. But if I use this plug-in and a bit of styling, I can…
  • With the sidebar dead, how am I going to get people to know about the subscribe-by-email option I just created? Where can I stick that?
  • And what am I going to do with this comatose wallpaper stuff?
  • Now I have to re-do the size of the Amazon affiliate blocks. And they have this new XML-based widget that looks useful… (hint: it really is, I like it)
  • I really like this new full-width blog page look with the sidebar dead and buried. But, sigh, the POTD page isn’t quite right. I think I need to go in and redesign it for the wider page width, but I can set it up to use bigger pictures now…

And that, kids, is how a simple project like “let’s spend an hour or two designing a template for this page” can turn into four full nights of swearing at CSS and beating on random weird pieces of your WordPress installation. On the other hand, my blog is now full-width, and my images can now display at 900 pixels instead of 600, something I’ve long wanted. the Picture of the Day template is pretty spiffy. I’ve upgraded the navigation between pages (which is bluntly almost always one of the weakest aspects of a WordPress theme), but it could be better. The site loads a lot faster, I’m running about a third fewer plug-ins to no significant loss of functionality, the blog is now properly reporting new postings to Linkedin and Google+, and so a bunch of things that were on that “one of these days” list are done and deleted.

That’s why web folks shudder at opening up the hood for “simple” things, because so often they cascade. As soon as I realized I wanted to rewrite the author-bio bit of the sidebar, I realized I’d just decided to some serious redesign of the site look. I really, really like the result — but suddenly it’s a much bigger project than I’d started.

One reason I think the change from sidebar to the bottom block works is because it made me stop and think about what really deserved to be on the page; I had specific limits in mind on just how big it should be, and how much I could stuff into it at the size I felt made sense. That made me make decisions about what verbiage I could live without, and so it’s a lot tighter and to the point. It also let me use white space a lot more effectively than I did in the sidebar to help make the content visible — I felt a big problem with the sidebar was that I designed it not to fight the main content for dominance on the page, but at times, it seemed a bit too “wallflower”-ish and tended to get missed. By pushing that content below I can style it to catch your attention without it directly trying to take your attention from the real content.

That, and doing a “do you really serve a useful purpose to me?” to all of the elements on the page and removing those that couldn’t justify their existence lets me slim down the page and put the focus on the content and not have 37 social media widgets all trying to tear your attention away to them. it really does make sense to reconsider all of the items on a page and think about whether they server your purpose, or whether they’re making you serve theirs.

The one thing that continues that I argued with myself about is comments. I’m still on the fence here. I have little trouble with spam or trolls, but I’m unconvinced they earn their existence (and page real estate and design complexity and page load speed issues)  with the benefits they bring. Something I’ll continue to think about for a while…

Is the new look perfect? God, no. But the todo list is shorter. But I can tell you there are already things I want to do next time I open up the hood. The first is probably a change in text fonts. But for now, this is not just good enough, it’s better than it was, and pretty good overall…

I’ll take that. But next time you go to your web geek and say “Hey, can you make a quick change for me…” and they laugh at you, you’ll have some idea why…

 

 

 

 

Posted in Working on Web Sites

A Cute Smugmug Hack on Embeddable Links

Here’s a quick little hack I found while doing some tweaking on the blog the other evening. It turns out the images used to embed the image in the blog is versioned. Take this image:

Elk, Yellowstone

Smugmug gives you this code back from the share->get a link->embeddable link button:

<a href="http://chuqui.smugmug.com/Best-of-Breed/Best-Photos/i-2bLmTvm/A" title="Elk, Yellowstone">
<img src="http://chuqui.smugmug.com/Photos-by-Year-Taken/2014/i-2bLmTvm/5/L/140602_101423_chuq-L.jpg"
title="Elk, Yellowstone" alt="Elk, Yellowstone"></a>

See that ‘5’ I’ve set to red in the URL of the IMG? That’s a version number. Whenever you upload a new copy of an image or do some other operation that causes the display variations of that image to be regenerated, you get an updated set and the version number is incremented. This update also happens when you change your watermark, for instance.

Smugmug is taking some care to make sure these embeds keep working and continue to look as they did when you created them; it’s keeping a set of each version of the image around indefinitely (as far as I can tell). But that means if you’ve embedded the image and you make a change to it (like my recent watermark update), that won’t propagate out to the embedded images.

What if that’s not what you want? What if you always want to display the most recent version of an image?

It turns out there’s an easy tweak: take that version number and set it to a large number, say ’99’. The Smugmug system is smart enough that if you give it a version number that doesn’t exist, it’ll return the version of the image with the highest version number. Tweaking this means you’ll get those version updates in your embeds automatically. Also, if you set the version to ‘0’ it will always return the first version of the image, if you want that for some reason.

It’d be nice if Smugmug made this a checkbox in your account preferences. Most of the time the existing setup is fine, but some of us would like to get the updated images. fortunately, it seems there’s an easy hack to make that possible.

(as far as I can tell, this isn’t documented anywhere by Smugmug, so I’m posting it for others that might find it useful. Of course, being undocumented, Smugmug might change it and break it at some point in the future, too. But if you find it a useful hack, let them know and encourage them to formally support it).

By the way, that Elk above just arrived as a 30×30 canvas print that I had done through my Smugmug print store via the Bay Photo people, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Soon to like proudly on my wall. Might look nice on your wall, too…. (hint. hint.)

BsoaR-8CIAA7Cjr

Posted in Working on Web Sites

Updating my online watermarks (and branding)

There’s a minor change I’m rolling out to the blog and my online sites — I’m updating the way I publish my images to include a new watermark and to include the logo I started using a few months ago on my site. This also allows me to standardize how I publish and display images on both my blog, twitter and Google+, where before, it was a mishmash of sizes and watermarks and information. (I am rolling this out to flickr as we speak. I’ll be using a slightly different one on SmugMug, since I need it to be added by SmugMug so it won’t show up on prints).

Here’s the new look:

Yellowstone National Park

Depending on the service I was uploading everything from 600 pixels long to 2400 pixels, using any of four different watermarks. Keeping all that straight was practically speaking impossible, and if I updated an image, it was rough getting everything back in sync. None of my watermarks used my new logo and branding I rolled out a few months ago, and some were dated, the oldest one still showing 2012. In other words, a mess.

I’ve standardized on 1200pixels long for the image size (‘long’ means whichever edge is longer, with the short side sized to whatever aspect ratio the image is made with). I’m not currently planning on going back and ‘fixing’ existing images that are already online somewhere, but I’ll be using this from now on, and I might do some strategic updates along the way.

The new export format uses a photo border frame. Yes, I know this is controversial with some. Mine’s been designed to be minimally invasive with only a bit of my new logo encroaching onto the image as a watermark. I also know, because I’ve heard from some of you already, that this is not a popular decision.

Here’s why I did this: image sharing is not going away. I’ve always encouraged sharing, because I see that as potentially useful marketing and frankly, you’re not going to stop it even if you try. Better to learn to take advantage of it rather than tilt at this windmill any longer — instagram, pinterest and all of the social sites where this stuff is passed around aren’t going to go away.

The problem, though, is that when these things are shared, the attributions are lost. No pleading, screaming, yelling, threatening or whining will get the casual image sharer to remember to (or bother to) stick attribution onto an image, and the sites built around sharing have never figured out a way to make it happen automatically in any usable way. EXIF? That’s magic bits 99% of the population has never heard of and never will, so assuming anyone will look in there is a bad bet — but you need to put it in there anyway because that’s an aspect if piracy protection. and note that sharing and piracy are different issues, even though both involve copies of your image.

So if you want attribution on your image, you have to put it there in a way that travels with the image when it’s shared. Photographers have been trying variations of this for a long time with transparent or semi-transparent watermarks (as I have, of course), and I’ve simply come to the conclusion that (a) they don’t work well, and (b) they invariably interfere with the quality of the image to some degree, which seems really ass-backward to what we as photographers want to be doing, which is showing the image off, not damaging it to try to stop something we can’t stop.

Either the watermark is so faint and indecipherable it serves no useful purpose for attribution, or it’s so visible and blatant it damages the image. Neither of these is acceptable to me.

So I’ve gone to using the border, and I’ve put my attribution info in there. I’ve tried to design mine to be minimally intrusive, using a color that I feel is compatible with my images without clashing or calling attention to itself. The logo intrudes into image itself just enough that someone can’t crop the frame off the image trivially, which is not to stop piracy, but to help prove it — you won’t stop a pirate, but you want to be able to show that they made a conscious act to do the piracy, whether by cropping off the identification info or by photoshopping out the watermark. But the new intrusion into the image, while not as transparent, is only about 15% of the size of my old watermark, and placed in an area where I almost never have ‘interesting’ content in an image.

I have found that the transparent watermarks do zero for helping someone find your site when they see a shared image; I’ve long believed they do nothing to inhibit casual or intentional piracy, either — the fact is, give me an image with your watermark, and in 5-10 minutes, I can probably remove it well enough to make your image publishable. don’t believe me? Play with one of your watermarked image in photoshop with content aware patching and see what happens.

So the whole idea of watermarks as a piracy prevention tool is a failed idea, and has been for a while, unless you make your watermark blatant and intrusive enough that you effectively destroy the image. If you do that, it’ll stop piracy, but not because of the watermark, but because the image is now ugly and nobody wants it. Not exactly how I want to promote my photography online.

I think photographers need to think about how to enable the sharing ecosystem in a way that you can take advantage of — and the only way I can see that does that while leaving the quality and integrity of the image intact is to do go the border. At the same time, I understand how a massive and complicated frame can overwhelm an image and damage a user’s reaction to it, so I think you need to keep it small and simple.

And that’s what I’ve done: my name, my web site, a copyright sigil, and my logo. Saying you see reshares of your images as free marketing only works if you get marketing from them,  and the old setup I used did nothing. It was a lost opportunity.

So I’m going to try this, use it for six months or so, and evaluate the reaction and whether I see any changes to how people find my site or react to my images. And if it works, I’ll keep it. If it doesn’t, I’ll try something else.

I do think the day of the transparent watermark is long gone, and photographers need to realize that. So are the days when you can pretend you can prevent copying or sharing of images across the multitude of sites that encourage and enable it. It’s not going away, you should find ways to take advantage of it rather than fight it. And so that’s what I’m trying to do.

But… What about piracy?

I see piracy as a different thing than the sharing ecosystem. I realize some of you feel that any use of an image without someone paying you is piracy, and if you want to keep fighting that fight, good luck. I think that ship has long sailed and is well over the horizon. The sharing ecosystem isn’t going anywhere, adn you can’t stop it. I think you’re wasting time and resources — and stress — if you try. Things that should be productively put to other purposes.

Piracy is another issue, and my definition of piracy is someone who uses your images against your stated wishes and receives something of value in that use. That can be a publication that uses it without paying you a publication fee, but it can also be using it on a web site without attribution and instead of an image that should have been bought through stock (or wherever). My commitment to sharing my online images via Creative Commons (they still are licensed using the non-commercial attribution license) hasn’t changed, the excuses about not understanding about attribution have gone away because it’s now hardwired into the image.

You remove the attribution, you’re in violation of the license. It’s that simple.

For what it’s worth, I long ago realized that watermarks and their cousins do nothing to stop image piracy, so if you’re designing your watermarks to stop that, please stop. You’re doing it wrong, and it isn’t working. What watermarks do is give you an objective factual thing that helps you prove that someone took a conscious act to pirate the image — proving willful violation instead accidental.It gives them fewer excuses when you lawyer up on them. And you don’t need to destroy an image to do that. The the frame and logo I’m using, there’s enough information that if someone does a crop and patch, I’ll be able to prove it in court. That’s what matters for a case of commercial piracy.

The executive summary

So, in summary, here’s why I’m doing this:

  • Finding a way to work with the sharing ecosystem instead of fighting it
  • Make sure my attribution and contact info doesn’t get lost and when image gets shared, because nobody else will take the time to do it.
  • Keep the image the most important thing, not the marketing or the watermark.
  • Maintain the integrity and quality of the image
  • Understand I’m not going to stop commercial piracy, but give myself the data I’d need to prove that violation was a conscious action and not accidental.

I think the new format is the best way I know how  to handle the compromises implied by all these things today. Maybe I’ll learn from this and improve it over time. Maybe it’ll fail miserably and I’ll try something else. But if you don’t keep trying new things and exploring options and opportunities, you fail by standing still as everything moves around you and leaves you behind.

I’m curious your thoughts on this. Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Photography