Saturday, June 27, 2009

Become a confident photographer in seven steps

Ah, photography... Who wouldn't drop a boring office day job to get lost all day behind a trusty camera, and give people a showcase of the world as we see it? If only we had the confidence to take great photos...

Fortunately, photographer Natalie Norton has put together a list with 7 steps in Digital Photography School that can help you to feel less intimidated when taking pictures. This is the most important of them all, according to the author:
If you really want to gain confidence, you should be out shooting as much as you possibly can. Perhaps it’s every day on your lunch hour. If that’s the only window you have to consistently squeeze it in, fine. Just be out shooting frequently and consistently.

As a clean installer, I find equally important the one that talks about setting goals, because we should have clear objectives about what we want to achieve, specially in something as vast and self rewarding as photography. What do you do to show confidence in your photos? Write about that in the comments.

7 Steps to Becoming a Confident Photographer: a Beginner’s Guide (Photo by Nanynany)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Day Grid helps you balance your own life

Graphic designer and productivity scholar David Seah has published a new free form named The Day Grid Balancer, built for you to try and organize all about the most longed balance in modern human history: the one between work and life.
Unlike some of my other forms, The Day Grid Balancer is not intended to track time very accurately. You can use the various grid boxes, as I've described them in the earlier 24 boxes and asymmetric grids post, to note when you spend an hour doing something that seems to fit in the balance diagram.

At first the form looks a little complicated, but the instructions show you precisely how to use it to track your various tasks, and to see how well work and life are coexisting. Give it a try if you feel like it, and write about your own experience in our comments.

The Day Grid Balancer, via Lifehacker.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: How I use Wesabe to keep track of my money

One of the skills I’m trying to develop for my own clean installing is the ability to control how well money enters and leaves my pocket. This is of course a not so easy task - even more if you have almost zero background on financial education. Many would say relationship with money is somehow like sex: you end up learning about it almost on your own.

However, nearly every personal finances program will instruct you on a task that is fundamental for success in money managing, yet is perhaps the most difficult both on a practical and motivational level: keeping a spending log.

That’s where Wesabe comes in, at least for the practical side of this task. This free online tool helps you with the chore of keeping track of your income and expenses, allowing you to check at a glance how are you spending your so hard earned money. I’ve been using it for two months now and can say it is very useful to uncover some truths about your personal financial life.

A snapshot of your money

When you log into your account, a main dashboard shows you several things. The line and pie graphs are the most prominent, and show you the relationship between income and expenses, and the category tags that are taking the heavier hits. Personally I find this a great way to get into your senses every time you ask yourself where it all went.

In order to follow your spending trends, you must create accounts. These can be linked to your bank reports – providing Wesabe supports the bank. Since I have all my money in Venezuelan banks that don't provide any means to link to external applications, I can’t fully enjoy the benefits of it. Fortunately Wesabe has the option of creating a cash account, and this approach fits perfectly with the financial program I’m currently trying.

Keeping track and keeping in line

Adding transactions is a relatively easy task. You provide a date, a merchant name an amount, and one or more tags to categorize it. You can see these transactions on a list, but there is one drawback here: navigating between transactions limits to two back-and-forward links. Granted, you can search your transactions, but the only way to look at tag totals is by clicking on Spending Trends, which isn’t always an intuitive way.

You can add spending targets to any tag you choose, which is another way to call budgets. However, as I’ve learned, budgets don’t always work at your advantage, so I’m not setting any spending target, but you could find them useful if you think so.

Another feature you could find nice is its ability to add transactions via Twitter. I’ve used it very few times, and find the syntax a little awkward, but can be of great help if you don’t want to spend a full afternoon transferring your spending from your paper notebook to the website just because your ISP failed for two days in a row.

Speaking of Twitter, Wesabe makes an emphasis on its social features. Basically you get access to groups of members around some financial topic – a forum, in essence. I think it’s nice to read people who have some common goals with you, but I really don’t hang there too much.


I think Wesabe has a lot to offer just because it is very basic and straight in its services, and it has worked for me. I remember trying to set an Excel worksheet to make all these things, and got bored after half an hour. Of course there are another free online tools for these tasks, but if you want a direct approach to keeping track of you money, Wesabe can handle the task.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Get a fitness look with the MANS diet

Bodybuilding blogger Mark McManus has lots of fans thanks to what he likes to call his MANS diet. According to him, this free program is the reason why he looks like he does (combining it with a strength exercise routine, of course). McManus claims this natural nutritional strategy will give you results that mimic at a certain degree what you could get using the controversial anabolic steroids that have gotten into trouble so many athletes in the modern sports world. Words from the author:

So how can this nutritional strategy produce massive muscle gains? There is a way to increase anabolic (muscle building) hormones in the body in the same way that steroids do. The only difference is, it’s safe and natural.

After reading the program, I can’t help to make comparisons with the well known low-carb diet. I was on that one some years ago and can say it worked, but it’s very difficult to stick to it in a world full of flour and sugar. This variant is heavy on some fats, also, but if you are sure you can live without your daily piece of bread and like to pump up some weights a couple of nights per week, then you can find this helpful to build some extra muscle.

The MANS diet at

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paul Potts: from cellphones to Passione

Today my father is receiving Passione, the new album from Paul Potts as his Father’s Day gift. I remember Dad’s face when he first saw him through YouTube, and remarked his amazament with a “How wonderful!”. Every time I watch this video, I agree with him a little more.

I think Potts has to be remembered as one of the greatest clean installers of all time. Before his appearance in Britain’s Got Talent, he had been a low self esteem, bullied kid at his school that grew to serve as an elected member of the Bristol City Council. He later took very expensive singing classes that included none other than the late and very missed Luciano Pavarotti, using all of his savings for it. When he auditioned for Mr. Simon "I'm-so-hard-to-impress" Cowell on national TV, he was working at a mobile phone store as its manager.

And now, he’s a professional opera singer with two international albums. It seems investing time and money along with taking risks to get where you always wanted can actually work, huh?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I need to format myself

"Every day there's a boy in the mirror asking me: 'What are you doing here?'"

Those are words from Kings of Convenience's Homesick. I remember having listened to it for the first time during some messy months. Lots of work at the office kept me busy more than ten hours a day, traffic jams in Caracas had become sort of an apocalyptic beast, and it was difficult to remember when I had played my guitar or drawn something recently.

Then I realized I had been asking that same question for a long, long time, but I didn’t know I was. I had begun to feel extremely tired, and any small inconvenience was more than enough to anger me for the rest of the day. It would have been difficult at that time, but now I realize those were the ways I was asking myself why I was doing something I didn’t enjoyed anymore, and, more important, why I wasn’t doing the ones I loved so much.

Of course, anybody who knows how difficult is to try and make a living in Venezuela can tell you the reason: “because of money”. Living in a country where inflation rises every year at an average of 30 percent doesn’t really gives you lots of space to pursue an uncommon, artistic career. You have to grip to something that let you avoid starvation. You have to accept it and live with it.

Or so I thought. And, fortunately, I can say that in past tense, because I now believe the most difficult step in doing a clean install of your life is stop thinking we don’t have choices. And trust me: we all have plenty of choices.

That’s why I’m writing this. I want to track somehow my own rebooting process, find resources that teach me the best ways to do it, and share it with people with the same purpose. Let’s format ourselves, choose the life apps you really wanted in the first place, and do a clean install! It would be at least fun, I assure you all.