productivity

Trying to tackle budgeting or I Need A Budget.

It seems like over the past month I’ve started to make an effort to become a better version of myself. It wasn’t something I decided or planned to do, I think I just sort of fell in to it. I’m always trying to be better at everything I do, but lately I’ve been taking steps to actually accomplish that.

The biggest problem I’ve had over the last 10 years has been handling money. I’m just not super good at it. I can plan really well for it. I love math and can make out a great budget, but I never stick to it. My problem was always death by a thousand transactions. I never bought large things, but a bunch of small stuff. A book or movie here and there. Nothing really over $19.99. Those purchases add up over time. They are sort of like ants: one ant here and there aren’t too bad, but get 1,000 ants together and you could die!

So I finally broke down and got You Need A Budget. It’s been almost unanimously received as one of the greatest and simplest tools for making a budget.

Mint was too passive for me, I needed a service that made me work harder.

YNAB was it.

It took some getting used to, but once you figure out how the system works, it’s amazing. Keep in mind, I’m only a few days in, but I love it already.

YNAB’s main catch is that you can’t budget money you don’t have. They call that forecasting. So I can’t budget for next month because I don’t have that money. Seems simple, but it makes sense. I always wanted to budget in advance, but the problem is that it makes me feel like I have more money NOW. So I would spend more NOW knowing that more is coming behind it. YNAB says to only budget with the money that is in your account. It’s revolutionary for me. And so far it’s working.

I’ll update again after a few weeks to see how it’s going, but so far it’s really working.

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Apple

One small reason why iCloud can’t fully replace Dropbox for me.

I love Dropbox and I love iCloud. Recently iCloud made a random change that Apple usually doesn’t do. They became the cheaper option.

Right now I pay $9.99 a month for 1TB on Dropbox. It’s been great. No problems. It works just like I want it to. Apple just one upped them. They now have 2TB for $9.99 a month. Double the storage for the same price and you can even share that storage with family members. That’s excellent. Apple rarely makes themselves the cheaper option, especially with cloud storage.

But I have one small dilemma. I can’t share files easily with other people. Right now, in Dropbox, I have tons of photos I use for work. If someone wants a photo or a folder of my photos I just send them the share link and they download the files they want.

You can’t easily do that with iCloud. Some say you can copy the link in the safari browser and email that to people, but it doesn’t quite work right. And sure, you could mail drop a file to someone, but that’s not the best way for me to do it.

I’m sure this is something that Apple could easily implement and they are probably working on it as we speak. But right now, without any way to easily share a file with someone, I can’t get rid of Dropbox.

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Tweeting For A Month, Reorganizing Evernote, Baby Ducks Are Growing

Tweeting For A Month

As a social media manager, Twitter is a pain point. The engagement is virtually non-existant. Even on our best weeks the engagement is still, on average, 50 times less than Instagram despite having more followers on Twitter.

That’s sort of what Twitter has become now. It’s a barren wasteland where, instead of talking to each other, most people just send out tweets that they hope to get retweeted. It’s a bunch of people in a room yelling at each other instead of just talking to each other.

Some of this is a lack of clear direction from their CEO. Jack Dorsey has done nothing to help grow Twitter’s brand. So I’m going to start a project of Tweeting every day fora month. This will help me understand the current state of Twitter better as well as understanding best practices. I’ll be tweeting from my personal account. I already tweet from my business account with very little engagement.

I hope to learn if Twitter really is just near death as far as engagement or if there is still high engagement to be had.

We shall see.

Reorganizing Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for a while and I’ve been on Evernote premium for a little while. I like the redesigned Evernote, but there’s still something that I just don’t like. It seems like it’s too hard to get to my notes. With Apple Notes I open it up and bam, there are my notes. I feel like my notes in Evernote are in a notebook that’s in a stack that’s in an app.

I found that my problem was that I had too many notebooks. I read a post about using less notebooks in Evernote and it made sense. The post suggested to minimize your notebooks and leverage tags more. That’s how I use Day One. It would make sense to use Evernote the same way.

I’m down to about 7 notebooks from like 25 or so.

I’m going to get that down to 2 or 3 eventually. I already like it much more.

For some reason I also hate that Evernote notes have a title and then the content. It feels like splitting up my notes in to two notes for some reason. I don’t know why I don’t like it. Just give me my note, I don’t need a title.

Baby Ducks Are Growing

Remember the baby ducks at work that were born? Well not they are getting older. It’s crazy how big they’ve grown in just a small amount of time. Take a look:

 

Why can’t they stay baby ducks for like 6 months or something? This was like a week later.

Also, we have a blue heron at work that is like 4 feet tall. I was walking over this small bridge and apparently it was underneath it and flew away and nearly gave me a heart attack. It flew straight up to the top of the building to hang out for a bit. I thought it was going to kill me for like 1 second.

 

-Woody

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Star Wars Night Pictures, Suntrust Park V Turner Field

Star Wars Night Pictures

Star Wars night was excellent. We got to the park a little later than we wanted, but still early enough to walk around a little bit. I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I wanted because I had my 50mm lens which on a cropped sensor really is closer to an 85mm lens. That’s why I’d like to move down to a 35mm equivalent or a 50mm equivalent. Here are my pictures and read below the pictures to see what I thought about Suntrust Park vs Turner Field.


Suntrust Park V Turner Field

I’ve been to quite a few games at Turner Field. I went to Smoltzie’s 3,000th strikeout. We went to Bobby Cox’s last game. We’ve been to a few. We even went to this game:

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/47072280/v27209709/must-c-crushed-justin-upton-launches-a-grand-slam

That was the longest home run I’ve ever seen.

But when it comes to parks, Turner Field was just alright. It had horrible parking, it was a pain to get to, and it was made for the Olympics and then turned in to a baseball field. It may have always had Turner Field in it’s mind, but it was made as an 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium.

It was a good park. It was solid. Food wasn’t bad and it was big. When the chop was going, it was a killer park. But living in the suburbs meant taking the hike to the stadium. It could take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours. I hated driving down there, especially knowing that Atlanta has the 8th worst traffic in the world. Which is also why saying, “Well, Suntrust will have bad traffic” is ridiculous. All of Atlanta will have bad traffic, but Suntrust won’t be as bad.

Suntrust Park is way better than Turner Field to me. Putting aside all the controversy surrounding how Suntrust is being paid, those concerns are justified, the park is everything Turner Field was not. Here’s what the AJC said about what Turner Field was hoped to be:

Turner Field, about 2 miles south of Centennial Olympic Park, is not really downtown — but rather south of downtown. Surrounded, even cut off by highways, the area doesn’t blend into the city. And the communities around Turner Field never flourished as hoped.

The lack of easy access to public transportation was an ongoing, nagging issue. The Braves shuttle was far from ideal.

In addition, the Braves wanted to control and develop city-owned property around Turner Field in hopes of turning it into a mixed-use development that would buzz with activity even when the ballpark is empty.

The area around Turner was empty. It never flourished. The area around Suntrust is buzzing already. I left in rush hour, on a Saturday night, to a sold out game, and it took me 48 minutes to get to the park. That would have been an hour and 48 minutes to Turner Field.

Suntrust Park was built from the ground up for one thing: baseball. It shows. The park is beautiful and has so many little details. The lineup card is at the entrance:

The clubhouse store is huge. There are tons of places for food. Good food. Ton’s of things for kids. And there’s parking. Oh boy is there parking. 14,000 spaces compared to around 7,500 for Turner Field. We parked and walked over 75 to get to the park. It was an easy walk.

And then there’s the Battery. You’ve got the Roxy, tons of store and more restaurants coming including:

wahlburgers-better.jpg

Yeah, they’re bringing a Wahlburgers. Marky Mark himself even said they’re excited to come to The Battery.

If you haven’t been to The Battery or Suntrust Park, go. It’s excellent. You’ll love it. It reminds me of Downtown Disney.

-Woody

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Star Wars Day & Finn’s Name, Polarr App, Scanbot App

Star Wars Day & Finn’s Name

So today is Star Wars day, May the 4th, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about how Finn got his name.

The day that The Force Awakens came out, Jenn and I still had not decided on a boy’s name. We had a thousand girls names that we agreed on, but for boys we just couldn’t agree on one. We had a shared Wunderlist of boys names that was 15 names long and we couldn’t pick one.

There’s little Finn!

While we were watching The Force Awakens on opening night with a BFF (boys can say that too right?) we felt Finn kick for the first time. I knew he would be a Star Wars fan! But during the movie I kept hearing Poe talk to FN2187 or Finn. I kept hearing that name and just loving the way it sounded. Jenn had put the name Finley on our list. I never really stuck with that name, but hearing Finn sounded great.

A week had gone by and I couldn’t get the name Finn out of my head. So we were driving down the name and I turned to Jenn and said, “Let’s name him Finley. We can call him Finn.” She was ecstatic. We decided to choose my favorite name, Truman named after my Grandfather, as his middle name.

This was last year. Finn with his hunk of junk!

So we didn’t directly name him Finn after Finn from the movie, but Star Wars was the deciding thing that pushed me to go with the name Finn. So Finn has close ties with Star Wars. He even has a small plush Millennium Falcon that he loves to play with.

So that’s our Star Wars day story.

Polarr App

If you haven’t heard of the app Polarr then you need to go check it out. It’s a photo editing app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It edits RAW and has about every single option for editing that you can think of. It even has the ability to do local adjustments with the Apple Pencil on the iPad which is what many photographers have asked for.

My one hang up is the UI. I just don’t really like it. Swiping through the filters, which aren’t super great, is horrible. It’s such a pain to navigate most things too. Compared to Snapseed it’s a chore to do anything it seems. Snapseed seems so natural to use whereas Polarr just is not that great. Now, it’s super functional. Don’t get me wrong. It has everything you could want, but it isn’t beautiful.

All the buttons at the bottom are just too small.

One thing it has that I just discovered is the ability to save a preset. Even Lightroom doesn’t have this option. So I edited a photo tonight and saved the preset and used it on other photos and it works perfectly. It even syncs between devices. That’s pretty hot.

So I’m trying to use it more for editing, but not for it’s pre-made filters. I just don’t really like them. I don’t know why, but they seem a bit more extreme. VSCO, RNI, and Filmborn’s filters are a bit more subtle which I’m seeming to like more now.

I’ll keep giving it a try this week and report back on if it makes it to my first page of apps.

Scanbot App

Scanbot is an app you need. I don’t care who you are, but this is an app you need. It’s just a simple scanning app, but it works perfectly. Any, I mean absolutely any, important paper I get that I don’t want to forget I immediately scan it in to Scanbot. Scanbot has the best scanning technology and it immediately turns it in to a PDF and pushes it to iCloud and Dropbox as well as keeps it in the app. It can then use OCR (optical character recognition) to read numbers and text for you to copy. It’s insane.


Recently Scanbot added the ability to fax from the app. Yep, you can now fax something you scanned in. Jenn and I have to often fax papers in for Finn’s medical bills and what not. This will be helpful. We haven’t tried it yet, but I will be trying it tomorrow.

There’s something super comforting about scanning in every piece of paper and always having it with you. Business cards, bills, packets of information, everything. I scan it all in. We get lots of packets of info regarding Finn every time we go to the Cystic Fibrosis Center downtown. I scan them all in. I will then go in to Dropbox and take them out of the Scanbot folder and store it an the appropriate folder.

Scanbot is the app that I never knew I needed, but now it sits on page 1 of my iPhone and I use it all the time. It’s an app you definitely need. Go check it out now.

-Woody

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Fixed Lens vs Interchangeable Lens & Freedom In Restrictions, Star Wars Night

Fixed Lens vs Interchangeable Lens

I’ve been trying to make this decision for a while. I’m saving up for an every day carry camera. You know. That one camera that will never leave my side. Sort of like my iPhone, but a full camera. My iPhone is always with me, but there are certain limitations with a super small sensor.

Too many choices can be a bad thing. I worry too much about choices.

So I’m trying to make the decision between a fixed lens every day camera or an interchangeable lens every day carry. I’m leaning towards fixed lens. I feel like having an ILC (interchangeable lens) camera would make me want to get more lenses and I wouldn’t be focusing on just taking photos, but rather I should buy a new lens or not. I wouldn’t be completely content with what I have. That brings me to a second point…

Freedom In Restrictions

I often find that I can have more freedom when there are more restrictions. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I like having rules. I used to work in retail, Aplle Retail, and there were tons of rules that we had to follow. I didn’t realize how much I liked the rules until I started working at a more corporate style salaried job with very few rules. It seemingly has more freedom here. I make my own schedule, I work where I want, I make my own rules. Turns out that it’s really hard to create your own rules and follow them, lol. Having all the rules of Apple, more restrictions, allowed me to just worry about work and working with the customers. I actually had less to worry about. One style isn’t better, they’re different.

It’s the same with cameras to me. Having a camera with more restrictions, fixed lens, would allow me to stop worrying about lenses and bodies and focus more on taking pictures. That’s why I’m leaning towards a fixed lens. Imposing restrictions will give me greater freedom because I can stop worrying.

The X100 is one of the most beautiful cameras around.

I’m mainly leaning towards the LX100 or X100S. The RX100 is still an option because it’s so insanely portable, but I would rather have a sensor larger than 1″.

Star Wars Night

Not much to say here except that Jenn and I are going to a Braves game this Saturday at the new Suntrust Park and it will be Star Wars night. I’ll definitely be bringing my A6000 and will be taking some good pictures. I will post them here when I’m done.

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Baby ducks, The iPhone As An Image Editor, Shooting In JPEG

Baby Ducks

There’s something pretty fun about seeing baby ducks. I don’t know why, but it seems like something from a book for kids, lol. We have some ducks that were born at work in our lake. It’s great walking in to work and seeing them. I mean could there be anything cuter than a baby duck?


That’s all I really have to say about that. I love ducks.

The iPhone As An Image Editor

The iPhone is becoming a very capable image editor. It can process RAW photos and in many ways is comparable to some, not all, desktop solutions. Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile, RNI Films, Max Curves, and Polarr are all extremely good editors that are getting better.

Tonight I took a few pictures of Jenn holding Finn and used Snapseed to edit them. Because Jenn was sitting by a light, I used the camera app to lock the exposure and focus and then lowered the exposure so the light wasn’t as harsh. You can recover shadows, you can’t recover blown highlights. I then took the photos in to Snapseed and was able to create a much better image. Here are the before and after.



It went from a dark image to a more dynamic image. This is also the type of image that would best to not use a filter with. Some images that are well lit are much better to use a filter on, but with a photo on the iPhone that didn’t have much light, adding a filter can often show more noise.

If you shoot JPEGS on your camera or only need light editing, I would definitely use the iPhone. If you are doing a lot of editing of RAW images, than you might be able to use the iPhone, but it won’t be quite as good as desktop software. But it depends. I could probably be ok using Snapseed, Lightroom Mobile, or Polarr, but it would take some adjusting. Which leads me to my next topic.

Shooting In JPEG

I’m going to start shooting mostly in JPEG. I’m doing this because I love editing on my iPhone and I’m going to start editing some more on my iPhone. Unless I know I’m going to be shooting in low light situations, than I’ll be shooting in JPEG only. For work I think I’ll shoot RAW+JPEG, but for personal I’ll mainly be shooting JPEG. Sony has great JPEGS, but from what I’ve heard Fuji has the best JPEGS which isn’t hard to believe considering what I’ve seen. I’ll let you know how it goes.
-Woody

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