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I’m Done Being the Fat Guy

I’m eating a lot of beef jerky these days. A decent high protein, low calorie snack. I know it’s probably a net “bad for me,” with all the sodium, but I love it. I’m hooked on the [Worlds Kitchen brand, Natural style](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001EO6CLW/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001EO6CLW). All the other jerkys (jerkies?) I’ve tried taste like they’re coated in dried up ketchup or something else gross. This one is pretty close to natural, though there’s still a bit of residue. It’s $9 for a 3/4 pound bag at Fred Meyer, which it turns out, is a pretty good deal. It’s something like $13 a bag on Amazon and at Thriftway. I looked into subscribing to some on Amazon, just because I could, but it turns out I’d save more money just picking up a couple bags at Fred Meyer once in a while. I did subscribe to some [Nature Valley Oat & Chocolate granola bars](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032GMRBO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0032GMRBO) on Amazon, though. Those are yummy. Every month, Amazon’s going to deliver a box of them to my doorstep. What a wonderful world.

Why am I writing about food? I’ve been way too fat for way too long now. I’ve sworn to myself over and over that I’m done being that guy. The fat guy on the airplane that no one wants to sit next to. The one who sometimes has to ask for a seat belt extension. The one who is so fat his back muscles can’t let him stand up or walk anywhere for more than a couple minutes at a time without intense pain and lots of sweating. I’ve asked my doctor for help. I’ve considered surgery or medication or whatever magic wand treatment could make it better. I’ve felt entitled to some help from our modern technological world, and resentful when it didn’t materialize. And I felt incredibly stupid when I finally realized that I needed to take a data based approach to the whole thing. I’m a nerd. Why didn’t I figure this out before? Duh.

When we were in Medford, Oregon visiting family at the end of 2010 (our niece Erin got married, and all the aunts, uncles, and cousins were in town for the festivities), we all took a snow day to go up to the mountains and go sledding. Of course, I never planned to actually go down the hill. I doubted I could even make it up the hill. Initially, I just stayed in the car and screwed around on my iPhone. But I was alone with my thoughts, and the thought of my kids out there having fun without me, of me missing out on that special time with them, was enough to propel me out of the car and toward the hill. In between the parking area and the actual sledding hill, the snow was probably 4 feet deep. I was wearing my usual outfit of cargo pants, Nikes, and my Scott e-Vest windbreaker. I had some gloves, and I borrowed a hat from someone, but I was not exactly prepared to go muck around in the deep snow. What was I going to do when I got there? I couldn’t stand for very long, so I brought a little saucer sled to sit on once I got out there. I never made it.

About half way between the car and the hill (mind you, it was only about 100 yards away), I had already fallen down twice. I was so heavy that my feet kept breaking through the packed snow that everyone else was walking on with no problems. Finally, on my side in the snow, with snow all the way down my pants, up my pants, up my shirt, and other places, I conceded defeat. Not just to the whole snow endeavor, but to my weight. I had reached the point where I was so fat, I was practically handicapped. I could’t do the things a normal person could do. My kids had a handicapped dad that couldn’t play in the snow, or do much of anything else with them. I gave up. I was certain that I had to change, or be utterly miserable for the rest of my (probably greatly shortened) life. I weighed 350 pounds.

That’s how I came to decide two things that I’ve been forcing myself to do since the beginning of 2011. They’ve now become habits. The first thing I decided was that I was done drinking soda. No more bottles of Mt Dew on trips (I had my brother in law pick some up for me while we were in Medford, and it was stashed in the basement like some sort of drug). No more Pepsi when we went out to eat. No more filling up my bottle from the Mt Dew fountain at work 2 or 3 times a day. I have done it before, so I knew it was possible. So, no more sugary drinks. Not even diet soda (which I hate anyway).

The second thing I decided was that I was going to approach my eating/weight like a nerd. To a nerd, everything is a system, with inputs and outputs, that can be learned. I decided to record everything I ate, no exceptions. I had played with several apps on my phone for helping with this, and I knew it was a popular and successful tactic for a lot of people. I wasn’t even tracking my weight before, let alone what I ate. How on earth could I expect to make changes without a way to measure them? Looking back now, three months in, that’s the part that makes me feel so stupid. I mean, what the heck was I thinking? No wonder all the advice I got from my doctor about “just eat a low fat, low salt diet” never worked. I had no idea what I was eating. I decided to try an app called [Lose It](http://loseit.com) for iPhone. It’s free, syncs with the web, has a decent food database (which I supplement with [DailyBurn’s FoodScanner app](http://dailyburn.com/foodscanner), or plain old Google searches when Lose It doesn’t have food data I need). I also bought [the companion book to Lose It](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1605290947/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1605290947). I can’t say enough good things about Lose It.

At a fundamental level, I knew that in order to lose weight, you have to take in fewer calories than you burn. Obvious, right? I remember reading about one of my Internet nerd friends, Jeremy Zawodny, losing lots of weight back in 2005 simply by tracking his weight and calorie intake over time with a spreadsheet (start [here](http://jeremy.zawodny.com/blog/archives/006836.html); there are several good posts linked from that one). He figured out how many calories per day he was burning by measuring his total calorie intake and weight, and based on the fact that it takes about 3500 calories to add 1 pound, doing the math and getting a starting point. From there, it’s just a matter of taking in less than that amount. That really was the key piece of data that made me feel like I could attack this with all my geek faculties. A system to be solved. Thanks, Jeremy, for sharing your experience.

In the beginning, I wasn’t even going to try to change what I ate. I was just going to track it. I had no idea how many calories I was eating per day. 3000? 5000? 6000? On January 1 I committed myself to logging everything in Lose It. A few remarkable things happened. First, I never really did get a good picture of how many calories I was taking in before, because the simple act of being mindful of how much I was eating made me reduce my calories. The first thing Lose It does when you start using it is ask you some questions about your age, height, weight, and goal weight. You can choose the rate at which you want to lose weight, up to 2 pounds per week (which, I’m told is the most it’s really healthy to lose per week). What I didn’t know was that Lose It was going to take that data and calculate a daily calorie budget for me. I didn’t know how much to trust it at first, but as I read the book, I learned how it calculates how many calories you burn just by existing at a very low level of activity (that’s me). It’s called your [Basal Metabolic Rate](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_metabolic_rate). It turns out that by knowing your weight, height, age, and sex, that formula can pretty accurate give you a baseline for how many calories you burn in a day. Bigger people burn more just from the extra effort of moving, breathing, and pumping blood around a big body. So, with all that in place, and a goal of losing about 2 pounds per week, Lose It told me that I could eat about 2500 calories a day and lose weight. As I logged the things I was eating, and my little calorie meter filled up toward the daily budget limit, I found that I really didn’t want to cross into the red, and took steps to make sure that I didn’t. I may never know exactly how bad my eating habits were, with all the fast food, candy, soda, and other stuff I’d eat every day. But I know it must have been bad.

The second interesting thing that happened was that I started to lose weight right away. I had to buy a scale, because I didn’t own one. Weighing myself daily is a critical data point. And the initial success I saw really gave me hope and motivation to keep going. I learned pretty quickly that over the course of any given week, my weight fluctuates within a few pounds. I had to learn not to be disappointed when I stepped on the scale in the morning and weighed a pound or two more than the day before. Here’s another place Jeremy Zawodny helped me. He warned of this, and said to focus on the running 5-day trend for your weight. If it wasn’t for that, I might have despaired and given up. I’m so glad I didn’t. The plateaus are still irritating (I’ve been hovering around 317 for two weeks, even though I’ve been well under my calorie budget every day), but it helps if I try to see them as an opportunity to learn more about the system by experimentation. Is it certain food types that make my weight stall out, even when I’m under my overall calories? Are there trends in my activity level that might give a clue that my metabolism is slowing down? There’s still so much about how all this works that I don’t understand. I feel like a newbie, because I am. But I’m building habits, and making progress, and figuring it out as I go along.

Here are a few other important things I observed.

Advertising, culture, fast food, and society are a really bad path for your health. “Duh,” right? I never would have argued that any of that is good for you, but the fact is, I used to enjoy the hell out of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal (a Number 3, no onions, Large size with a Coke). When I looked at the calories contained in the stuff I used to eat, though, I had to stop. I was blowing three quarters of my daily calorie budget on a typical trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru. And any other restaurant is probably just as bad. It sounds cliché, but now I try to make better choices. A 10 piece Chicken McNuggets is only 425 calories. Still not exactly health food, but better than before. Now, I almost never eat at fast food places anymore.

I had to find snacks I like and not let myself get hungry. Besides the fact that it’s easier to pig out when you’re feeling starved, when you let your body get really hungry, you’re telling it “I live in a place where famine happens, so you’d better store up every last bit of the next thing I eat. It could be a while before we get to eat again.” I almost never used to eat breakfast – a bad habit I developed in high school (I preferred to trade sleep for the time it took to make and eat breakfast). Now, I make sure to eat at least something in the morning: a banana, a cheese stick, a hard boiled egg, etc. I try to get some protein in the morning, because it’s fuel for my brain, and makes me feel full longer. I make sure I eat a snack at about 10AM and 2PM, usually a Nature Valley granola bar (the crunchy kind, not the chewy candy bar kind). They’re only 190 calories for a 2-bar pack. I make sure to keep 2 or 3 of them in my [man purse](http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/300/TB0222) at all times. The [Oat & Chocolate](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032GMRBO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0032GMRBO) flavor is my favorite. It tastes better than a candy bar, still only 190 calories.

Find a way to deal with your sweet tooth. I am a candy lover. I have a reputation at work for the “candy drawer,” always stocked with something sweet to snack on. Pretzel M&Ms. Starbursts. Holiday candy, chocolates, and everything else you can imagine. People would come by to grab a handful, but most often, I’d reach down and have a handful or three for myself. I knew I couldn’t just cut out candy altogether. I discovered that Jolly Ranchers are actually pretty low calorie – only 70 calories for 3, or 23 calories a pop. So I’ve started buying [the big 5 pound bags of them](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001PNW85G/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001PNW85G), and making sure I always have a few in my bag, at my desk, and in my pocket. They last a long time, don’t taste funny like “diet” candy, and I usually only end up eating only 2 or 3 of them in a day. That takes care of my candy craving for now.

Since I gave up on soda, I’ve been drinking a lot of water. A LOT. Usually 2-3 liters a day. I picked up a nice [Camelbak water bottle](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0019DCD7U/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0019DCD7U), and it goes with me everywhere. I’ve talked with people who are trying to avoid soda, and they say they just can’t stand to drink water without some sort of flavor in it. They go for diet soda, or sports drinks, or whatever. Personally, I’ve always liked plain old tap water, so it suits me just fine. I don’t know if it’s done anything to my weight, but I know it’s good for my overall health, and it has the added bonus of making me get up and walk to the bathroom a few more times per day.

I am a creature of habit. Once I find a meal I like at a restaurant, that’s usually the only thing I order. Just ask the staff at the places I go – Monster Burger at Red Robin, Pad See Ew, mild, with beef at eSan Thai, Arroz con Camarones at La Fogata. At work, I’m the same way for lunch. There are two cafeterias at our campus, and even with all the choices available, I usually end up getting the same deli sandwich (if I eat at JF3) or a double bacon cheeseburger with tots (if I eat at JF5). When I started counting calories, I started making better choices in my sandwiches (whole grain bread, light mayo, etc.), but when I added it up, even that “lower calorie” sandwich was still about 700 calories. That’s when I remembered that my friend and coworker Jerry eats oatmeal every day for lunch. I decided to give it a try. I keep a couple of boxes of instant (“just add hot water”) oatmeal in my desk. At lunchtime, I eat a couple of those with a packet or two of raw turbinado sugar, and I love it. Fills me up, takes mere seconds to make (there’s hot water on tap at the coffee machine around the corner), and it’s only about 200 calories. It’s my new lunchtime habit. I try to keep some beef jerky and pretzels in my cabinet, too, in case I get hungry during the day, and my regular 10AM and 2PM granola bars aren’t cutting it.

The Lose It app allows you to log any and all exercise you do during the day, and counts it as “negative calories”. That is, if your daily calorie budget is 2500 calories, and you do 500 calories worth of exercise, you can eat 3000 calories (2500+500) that day, and still be on track. Plus, tracking calories burned presented another opportunity to get a new gadget. I looked at pedometers, the [FitBit](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0031P3HY2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0031P3HY2), [BodyBugg](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0049POHK6/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tinyscreenful-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0049POHK6), and more before I finally decided that I wasn’t going to log my exercise. That does NOT mean that I’m not exercising – in fact, I’m walking more than I ever could before. After losing thirty plus pounds, my back doesn’t hurt so much when I stand or walk. I actually enjoy walking now. I decided not to log the “negative” exercise calories because the net result would be giving myself permission to eat more. I figure exercising but not logging is sort of like getting a raise, but pretending you didn’t, and putting the extra income straight into savings instead. Hopefully, it will manifest itself as speedier reduction in pounds.

Another thing I learned very quickly is how many people I know are already using Lose It (or something similar), and how positive their experiences have been. I didn’t go around announcing what I’m doing, but in conversation, I’ve discovered about a dozen people that are Lose It users, and in some instances, we’ve been using the social features of the app to monitor and encourage each other. It’s been a great help and morale boost. If you’re a Lose It user, and we know each other, drop me an invite.

So what now? This is only the beginning. I’ve got a long way to go until I hit my goal weight (185 by next summer, if everything stays on track). I know there will be bumps in the road (I’m already starting to get discouraged with a “plateau” I’ve been fighting). I didn’t want to write about this until I was actually doing it; until it had become a habit. I’ll probably post updates occasionally, but since this is a lifestyle change, rather than a temporary project, I’m not going to be going on and on about it, any more than I’d bore you with the details of what shoes I wear day to day. Thanks for reading this whole thing. I hope it was at least entertaining. I’d never presume to think that it will be inspirational, but it was quite therapeutic for me to write. Drop me a note, or write up something of your own if you have thoughts to share.

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Remembering My Best Friend, Jack Wright (1977-2011)

If you follow me on the various places I post online, you may remember I shared some sad news a couple of weeks ago. My best friend since school, Jack Wright, passed away unexpectedly. He just turned 34, and left behind his wife Alana, and their three wonderful kids. Jack was more than a friend to me – I called him my brother. I figured it was easier explain our relationship that way, than try to impress the depth of our relationship and love upon whomever I was speaking with. We lived together after high school, served LDS missions at the same time (him in Spokane, WA and me in Curitiba, Brazil). I was the best man at his wedding, and he was the best man at mine, As we started our own families, we stayed close. Even though we lived in different cities (us in Portland, and them in Seattle, L.A., and finally Texas), I still thought of him as my brother. His wife Alana became a sister to me and my wife Rachel, and we love their kids as nephews and a niece.

Jack came down with a leg infection about three years ago, while living in Seattle. It was so bad he was hospitalized, and we came to learn about a terrible antibiotic resistant strain of staphylococcus aureus called MRSA. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Most people have a benign form of staph bacteria living on their skin at any given time. It’s been humankind’s companion for ages. But in recent decades, strains have developed an almost malicious resistance to antibiotics, along with cruel new ways to cause damage. I’m in the middle of reading a terrifying but enlightening book about MRSA called Superbug, by Maryn McKenna. It’s scary stuff.

After three years, untold suffering, pain, nerve damage, expensive treatment, and hospitalizations, Jack passed away on the morning of March 1, 2011. After talking with the medical professionals involved in his care, it appears he died of fever-induced Brugada syndrome – sudden cardiac death.

It’s cliché to even say it, but the news was a terrible shock. We knew he was really sick, but no one ever expects the worst. The pain was magnified by my heart breaking for his sweet wife Alana, my sister, and the three kids. Almost immediately, I remembered a conversation during a nighttime drive around our hometown of Springville, UT when we were 17 or 18 (we had our best talks while driving). Amidst plans for building our future homes next to each other, so our kids could play together (we called it “the Castle”), we talked about what would happen if one of us died. We promised each other that if one of us died, the other would take care of his wife and children. So while I miss Jack terribly, and it hurts so much to let him go, I have tried to devote my energy and attention into taking care of Alana and the kids. Just like I promised.

Rachel and I made plans to fly to Texas for the funeral, and to stay a few extra days to help with anything we could. We wanted to be there for Alana, and the kids, and I’ll always remember those few days we spent in Texas as an emotional, solemn, sacred time. There was pain and loss, but there was also comfort and love.

Jack was a remarkable person, making strong friendships quickly, fiercely loyal, and inspiring love and dedication in those he met. I know there are many people in his life that would have done anything for him, because we knew he would have done anything for us. The week of the funeral, I heard so many stories and met so many people who Jack touched that I knew I had to find a way to document those relationships, and those memories. Not only for those of us who miss him, but for his children, so they can get to know a father they lost so early, as well as his grandchildren and the rest of his posterity.

Being the nerd that I am, of course my solution to that problem is to make a website. So that’s what I did. Remembering Kirk Jack Wright – http://kirkjackwright.com – is an online memorial to honor and remember him for as long as the Internet still has bits. I’ve already begun to collect stories and memories from people who knew him, and I’ll be the curator of those memories.

I’ve also set up PayPal donations on the site for those who would like to contribute. A memorial fund has been set up for them, and everything collected will go to cover funeral and medical expenses, as well as providing for Alana and the kids’ needs. I’ve already been touched by the great generosity that people have shown, and I really hope that there are enough people out there that can contribute, even a small amount, so that we can lighten the load on his family.

Jack, you will always be my brother, and my life has changed more than you’ll ever know for my having known you. I literally would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for you, and I’ll love you forever. I’m watching out for Alana and the kids, just like I promised, and just like I know you’d have done for me. Be good, and I’ll see you again someday.

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Compare iPad 2 720p HD Video to iPhone 4 720p HD Video

Watch fullscreen and select “720p” to see it in HD.

This is a video Brian and I shot yesterday while messing around with my new iPad 2. It’s just a short video, about 10 seconds shot on the iPad 2, then 10 seconds shot on the iPhone 4. It’s well known that the still photo capabilities of the iPad 2′s cameras are much lower than the (very nice) 5MP sensor in the iPhone 4. But for video, the specs are the same. They both shoot 720p (1280×720 pixels) HD video. We wanted to see if there was any noticeable difference.

The verdict? To my untrained eye, I can spot the difference in the two videos, but it’s hard to definitively say that one is better than the other. I’d give the edge to the iPad 2, but the iPhone 4 shoots good video, too. One thing we noticed: the live “viewfinder” view on the screen while recording video on the iPad 2 was really grainy, and honestly looked pretty bad. But the actual recorded video looks much better when played back.

Side note: I imported the iPhone video into the iPad using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit, then used iMovie on the iPad to string the two videos together and add the titles/lower thirds. I then uploaded to YouTube from iMovie. The whole process was pretty slick, and only took about two minutes. I can’t wait to dig into iMovie on the iPad.

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Updated my “About” Page

I finally updated my “[About](http://www.tinyscreenfuls.com/about)” page here. It was blank for a long time, but now contains a bio and history – basically, a place for me to brag about some of the cool things I’ve done. :-) Check it out!

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Plugins I Used in the Feb. 2011 TinyScreenfuls.com Redesign

Since a couple of people have asked, and since I like to “narrate my work”, here are the WordPress plugins (and theme) that I used when I redesigned the site yesterday. I have to admin, I really like it. I can’t stop looking at it. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment on the redesign.

The site is running WordPress 3.1, which was released yesterday. I’ve been a big fan and WordPress user for years, and the latest update continues to impress. The auto-update functionality in recent versions is killer – it’s so painless to stay up to date (and avoid security holes).

The theme is Twenty Ten, which is the new “default” theme in WordPress 3. I’ve disabled the header image, and I’m using a couple of sidebar and footer widgets. I especially like the 4 separate footer widget areas.

##Plugins

* [Akismet][1] – Been using this one for ages, it’s essential for spam control. Although now that I’m using Disqus (which uses my Akismet API key), I could probably disable this plugin.
* [Clicky for WordPress][2] – I’m an experimentalist, so even though I use and love Google Analytics, I wanted to try out Clicky since they’re local (Portland), and have a cool iOS app. They also provide some interesting metrics that Google doesn’t.
* [Disqus Comment System][3] – The plugin to integrate Disqus, letting it handle all commenting duties on your WordPress site.
* [Feedburner FeedSmith][4] – Handles the redirects to send subscribers to your FeedBurner feed (so you can get metrics) while still letting the FB spider get your feed content.
* [Google Analytics][5] – An easy way to include the GA script in all of your pages, so they can be measured. Funny note: I apparently forgot to configure this plugin when I did something on the site about 8 months ago, and wasn’t gathering any metrics data (I was watching Clicky instead). Oops.
* [Google XML Sitemaps][6] – Generates an XML sitemap so crawlers like Google know what’s on your site, what’s changed, and can generally crawl the site better. Aids in search performance.
* [Markdown for WordPress and bbPress][7] – I’m a huge fan of the Markdown language, and use it everywhere I can (I’m writing this post using Markdown).
* [PuSHPress][8] – Supports the PubSubHubbub protocol, which makes published posts appear in people’s feed readers faster.
* [Readability Widget][9] – Provides the “Read Now/Later” button you see in the sidebar. I had been doing this manually, with a code snippet, but I want to move away from editing any of my theme files. I’m also signed up as a Readability Publisher, so if any of you are paying Readability subscribers, and read my posts in Readability, I get a cut of your donation. Which so far, has been nothing, but it’s just an experiment. :-)
* [Twitter Tools][10] – I had been using this to generate a daily tweet digest post. Yesterday, I discontinued that, and switched to just displaying my most recent tweets as a sidebar widget.
* [Wordpress Connect][11] – This does a whole lot of Facebook integration, but I’m only using it for one thing – the “Like” button on each post. Again, this is easy to do with a snippet of script code, but this way, I don’t have to modify theme files.
* [WordPress Database Backup][12] – Does regular backups of my WP database and emails them to me.
* [WP-DBManager][13] – Does a whole lot more than I really use it for, but this blog is over seven years old, any my database is larger than average. It can periodically optimize the database. Not sure if this has any real impact on performance, but it’s not hurting anything.
* [WP Greet Box][14] – Displays a greeting box to new site visitors based on a staggering array of referrer URLs. Will suggest actions to new visitors based on where they came from (e.g. upvotes if from Reddit, subscribe to the feed if from Google, etc.).
* [WPtouch][15] – Provides a Mobile theme for visitors on smartphones (iPhone, Android, etc.). Very customizable (enter your Google Analytics code and AdSense affiliate ID, and it will track visitors and insert mobile ads if desired). I see a lot of sites using this plugin (or something very like it) to provide a nice mobile view for smartphone visitors.

Most of the widgets in the sidebar and footer of the site are either come from a plugin or are self explanatory. The exception to that would be the Facebook Activity Feed widget over there (called “Your Friends’ Activity). I could have used the WordPress Connect plugin to create a widget, but I wanted to experiment with creating my own directly from Facebook. It shows your friends’ activity on my site, without you having to log in (the data never hits my server – it’s all generated in your browser on your computer). I’ve also configured it to show recommended posts based on your Facebook friends. I think it’s pretty cool (and yes, it’s a little creepy. But only a little. :-)

Anything else I missed? Any questions about how I did anything? This isn’t super complicated, and like I said, I’m an experimentalist, so this is all subject to constant change and tinkering. I use this site as a place to get experience with all the tools and technologies out there, and I share what I do in case it’s helpful to my readers, or someone who stumbles across it in a search. Thanks for reading, and drop a comment with any feedback or suggestions you might have!

[1]: http://akismet.com/
[2]: http://getclicky.com/goodies/#wordpress
[3]: http://disqus.com/
[4]: http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/help/wordpress_quickstart
[5]: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/googleanalytics/
[6]: http://www.arnebrachhold.de/redir/sitemap-home/
[7]: http://mitcho.com/code/
[8]: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pushpress/
[9]: http://nio2.com/resources/readability-buttons/
[10]: http://crowdfavorite.com/wordpress/plugins/twitter-tools/
[11]: http://www.scibuff.com/2010/06/07/wordpress-connect/
[12]: http://austinmatzko.com/wordpress-plugins/wp-db-backup/
[13]: http://lesterchan.net/portfolio/programming/php/
[14]: http://omninoggin.com/projects/wordpress-plugins/wp-greet-box-wordpress-plugin/
[15]: http://www.bravenewcode.com/wptouch

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TinyScreenfuls.com Redesign: Cleaner, Simpler, More Facebook

I started messing around with a couple of things on my blog this morning, and one thing led to another. I’ve ended up with a new theme, new design, and some features I’ve been wanting to play with for a while. I wanted something cleaner and more elegant, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the result. The page also weighs a *lot* less, and loads much faster than before.

New features includes Disqus unified comments, Facebook “Like” buttons and the Activity Feed (over there in the sidebar – it shows what your Facebook friends have been doing on the site), and a few more tweaks. Under the covers, I updated to WordPress 3.1 this morning, and I’m really liking the Admin bar (though viewers won’t see it).

Everything is based on the new Twenty Ten WordPress theme and plugins – I wanted to get away from doing custom code/modification of theme files. I ran into several occasions during the past few years where I had to modify my theme (K2) to get exactly what I wanted.

If you’re reading this via a feed or elsewhere, consider dropping by, and letting me know what you think. This concludes the navel gazing for the day. :-)

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Trying Disqus for Comments on TinyScreenfuls.com

I’m going through a phase. I have a bunch of stuff I want to experiment with, so of course, here on TinyScreenfuls.com is where I’m going to do it.

I had recently added Facebook Comments and “Like” buttons to my posts, but I didn’t like how fragmented it made everything look (one of the things on my list is a theme makeover that goes way back over on the side of simplicity and elegance). So I’m giving Disqus a try for comments.

If you’ve never heard of Disqus, I bet you’ve seen it. It’s a centralized comment system that lets you log in with your Facebook, Twitter, or other account (it supports a bunch of different logins) or no account at all. I like how it lets me track my comments across various sites (like RWW, people’s blogs, etc.), and I also really like how it nicely integrates stuff like “likes” and other sharing options right into the comment form. And it works with the WPTouch mobile theme I’m using, the 500 or so of you per month who come here on an iPhone will get to use it, too.

Do me a favor and help me try it out? Post a comment, like, and otherwise exercise what you see down below in the comments area, and let me know what you think, or if anything breaks. Thanks! :-)

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Added a Readability Button to Posts on TinyScreenfuls.com

Just a quick note that I’ve added a Readability button to posts here on TinyScreenfuls.com. Right now, it only shows up when you’re looking at a single post (permalink page). It looks like this:

What is Readability, you ask? It’s a service that strips a page down to just the good stuff – the text (and images) you want to read. It’s extremely clever about what to display, and it’s one of my new favorite things. I’m signed up as a “contributor”, which means I pay them a few bucks a month, and distribute that among the sites that write the articles I like to read. It integrates with Instapaper, another of my favorite things. Besides being elegant and beautiful, I love that Readability gives me a way to pay for the writing that I read and enjoy. In the spirit of transparency, you can see what I’m reading/contributing to here.

As an experiment, I’m signing up as a Publisher with Readability, so that means (theoretically) if you are a paying Contributor, and you read any of my posts with Readability, I’ll get a small slice of what you contribute. I don’t expect to see much, if anything, by way of money this way, but like I said, it’s an experiment. I’m fascinated by the way writing and journalism are changing because of the web, and being the consummate early adopter, I just had to toss my hat in the ring for this one. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

Update 2011-03-30: I removed the Readability button, as almost no one was clicking on it. Was a fun experiment, and it remains an awesome service. Just one that none of my readers use, apparently. :-)

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Stuff I Want to Write About But Haven’t Made Time

The build process for our new ISN Studio, especially the 6-way Skypeasaurus, of which I’m particularly proud. Recent favorite app reviews. My new favorite podcast, Back to Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin. The MacBook Air (no, I don’t have one, but I really want one). Launchbar. Markdown. Writing itself. Google Voice. “Where’s the Gem?” Quora. Instagram/Picplz. Josh’s Theory of Social Gravity. What makes a technology successful. In defense of fanboyism. Email forwards. Worrying more about tools and gear than doing and creating. How Reeder and Instapaper changed my world. What I read before I even get out of bed in the morning.

Lots more. Putting some of it out there as a teaser and a motivator. If you have an opinion, what questions or topics would you have me write about? I find that answering questions is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Many times, a response I’ve written to a question in email or in a comment becomes a post on its own. So, let me have it. And thanks!

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Gran Turismo 5 Hides a Full Blown DSLR Photography Simulator

Gran Turismo 5 Hides a Full Blown DSLR Photography Simulator

I’m going to be writing a lot more about Gran Turismo 5, the racing/driving simulator for which we long suffering nerds have waited 7 years. It’s finally out, and I’ve been playing it for a couple of days, but I’ve not even scratched the surface of the level of intricate, obsessive, and gorgeous detail included. I can’t even call it a “game” – it’s so much more than that.

One small example: Last night, after staying up for “one more race” until WAY past my bedtime, I decided to play around with the “Photo/Travel” option. I had just purchased one of my dream cars, a 2010 Subaru WRX STi (I have an 02 WRX in real life). I’d driven it around a few of the arcade tracks, then taken it into the shop to give it some mods (high flow racing air filter, ECU tuning, high flow cats, etc.). I took it to the maintenance area and got the oil changed (no idea what this does in the game, but it’s fun) and took it to the car wash. Since it was shiny and clean, I decided to take some photos with in-game screenshot tool.

That’s when I discovered that the “screenshot tool” is SO much more than that. After choosing a location (Kyoto Gion) and positioning myself and the car, I found a complete array of DSLR-type camera controls at my fingertips. I fiddled with the lens aperture, exposure compensation, white balance, shutter speed, and ISO. I took a few snaps, including the one above (f/2.8, focused on the front of the car, +1EV). I then exported the image from GT5 to my PS3, and from there onto a USB stick.

Being a video game geek, a car geek, and a photography geek, I’m giddy that Polyphony went to the effort to put such a feature rich (yet easy to use) photo feature in a game that’s already packed with SO many other detailed types of simulation.

Gran Turismo 5 is a masterpiece – a true love letter to people who love cars (and games, and photography, and who knows what else I’ll find). I sense a lot more late nights in my future. :-)

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