Visual Inventory – Wardrobe


Long story short: I was unemployed, mind-numbingly bored, and thinking a lot about things like materialism, minimalism, and purposeful living. This video is the result of those things.

I hesitated posting it here because, visually, it’s not the best (which is why it’s on the blog, and not in my portfolio). The apartment I was living in was practically a cave—a mucus-green-colored cave—and I didn’t have any lights. But I was tired of letting unideal circumstances stop me from being creative. The truth is, the timing will never be right. You’ll never have perfect light or the best camera or the sharpest lens or the slickest editing program or the fastest computer. You’ll never really be ready. You just have to begin.

Dear Brother Dear Sister


Remember that secret project I mentioned a while back? Well, it’s ready for it’s close-up. I’ve already shared it on Facebook (so you’ve probably already heard about it because, let’s face it, if you’re reading this, we’re probably Facebook friends), but I thought I’d write up a post here on the off-chance that a stranger passing through might be interested. So, without further ado, I present to you Dear Brother Dear Sister.

As you may have surmised, Dear Brother Dear Sister is a blog I write with my brother. I had the idea for it last summer when my brother mentioned that he might want me to build him a blog. I figured it would be more fun for both of us if we co-blogged or share-blogged (shlogged?), and so the idea for DBDS was born. As with most of my ideas, I figured this one would fizzle out and never move past thought into reality. I figured my brother wouldn’t even be interested. But to my surprise, he actually liked the idea. So one night, after I got back from Africa, I bought the domain name and started building. A week later, the site was up and running.

Anyway, the premise of the blog is very simple. We each post once a week (he on Mondays and I on Thursdays). There are two rules. (1) Every post must end with a question, and (2) if one of us is late writing a post or if we  forget to ask a question, the other person must assign the rule-breaker a writing challenge. There are no rules for challenges. We’ve written about a variety of things from pop culture to philosophy to personal stories, and we’re just getting started.

So, if you’re interested in hearing the ramblings of two underemployed former English majors who miss writing, check out Dear Brother Dear Sister. And be sure to leave a comment or send us a note. We’d both appreciate it.

Apps I Use: Pocket


(This is part 2 of my ‘Apps I Use’ series. Click here to see part 1 and read about Budgt.)

Pocket: Read Later, Read Better

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself increasingly relying on my phone as my first source for news. Sure, I still glance over an analog newspaper now and then, and sometimes I read news on my laptop, but I consume the majority of my news on my phone via apps like Pulse and Flipboard (which I will review later on in this series).

I do a great deal of my news reading in short bursts—during quiet moments at work, commercial breaks when Mad Men is on, or other brief spare moments. Because of the limited time I allot myself to read the news, much of my ‘reading’ is actually browsing. If I actually open an article, I usually just skim it for the relevant points rather than reading every word. Sometimes, though, I’ll stumble across an article that I want to read completely but that is too long to fit into one of my little news breaks. Enter Pocket.

Pocket is a great little app that simplifies your online reading experience by allowing you to save articles and pages to read later. It’s basically like DVR for online reading. The best part about Pocket? It integrates with all of the apps you already use. Twitter, Reeder, Flipboard, Pulse, and over 300 more—and you can even email things to Pocket or save things from your mobile browser. It’s so simple. With one touch, you can save an article. No more emailing yourself or favoriting tweets just to remember the links. No more trying to remember in which app you saved which article. Pocket makes everything easier by compiling the articles and pages you want to save in one convenient place.

Pocket - Main Screen

When you’ve got some extra time and you’re ready to read some of the articles you saved, just open up Pocket and start reading. Pocket syncs across devices, so you can read from your phone, iPad, laptop, or e-reader. If you choose to read from your laptop’s browser, clicking on one of the articles will send you to the original link. If you read on the mobile app, Pocket strips out the original styling of the article and presents the content in a simple, text-focused design. This is really handy on small mobile devices like the iPhone where styling often works against legibility (there is an option to view articles in their original format, but I never use it).

Pocket - Article

Pocket even gives you some basic choices in terms of styling. You can set your preferences for font size, serif, screen brightness, and display color, but I haven’t touched those options. Pocket’s defaults work just fine for me.

Pocket - Style Options

When you’ve read an article, you can either tap the trashcan to delete it or tap the check mark to archive it. Deleting an article removes it from Pocket completely; archiving it removes it from the main feed but saves a copy in the archive in case you want to view it again later. If you really want to get crazy, there are also options to favorite, tag, and share articles.

Pocket - Folders

Pocket is particularly useful for saving longer feature articles, like those you might find in The New Yorker or Longreads, but it also works well for saving web pages, videos, and photos. Pocket does have competitors—Instapaper, for example—but I have not used them, so I cannot speak to how Pocket’s features rate in comparison. But I do know of one area in which Pocket wins unequivocally: price. Pocket is free, while Instapaper will set you back a hefty $3.99. I don’t know about you, but I’m not big on spending money on apps if I can find a similar app for free.

Overall, Pocket is a great app. I’m definitely a fan. Come to think of it, I can’t think of one complaint. The app does what I want it to do in an efficient and beautiful manner. Who could ask for more? I’d recommend it to anyone who does a lot of online reading, especially if they regularly use one or more of the 300+ apps with which Pocket is integrated. Give it a shot. You’ll love it.

 

Apps I Use: Budgt


I’ve owned my iPhone for about a year and a half, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to download and experiment with many different apps. I’ve finally settled on a core few that I use regularly, and I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts about them with you. So, without further ado, I present to you my new series: Apps I Use.

Budgt: A Simple, Well-Designed Spending Tracker

I spent a lot of time looking for a decent money tracking app. I wanted something that would allow me to track my income and expenses on a monthly basis, and I wanted it to be simple and user-friendly. I’m not big into apps that are busting at the seams with features. I just want an app to do what I need it to do as simply and efficiently as possible—preferably in a visually pleasing manner. Because I currently live with my parents who generously don’t charge me rent (yeah, yeah, cue jokes here), I don’t have a lot of monthly expenses, but I wanted to be able to see a breakdown of where I was spending my money.

I did some googling and read a bunch of reviews, and all signs pointed toward Mint. So I downloaded it, but soon discovered that because I bank at a small local credit union, I couldn’t set up my banking information. So that was a bust. Next, I tried using Lemon for a while but never quite got into it. It seemed unfocused, overly-complicated, and poorly designed. Then I found Toshl, which I used quite happily for a while before it started crashing every time I opened it.

Finally, I found Budgt. I don’t remember the sequence of events that led me to this lovely little app, probably some suggestion on Twitter or recommendation by the App Store, but I’m glad I found it. It’s lightweight, simple, extraordinarily user-friendly, and beautiful. Let’s take a look.

You start off by setting up your monthly budget, which is organized into income and expenses. You can set items to either be recurring or one-time-only. As you can see, I’ve entered my monthly bills as recurring (indicated by the circular arrow). Because I am paid on an hourly basis and my paychecks vary from week to week, entering a recurring item for my income wouldn’t make sense, so I enter my income as one-time-only items when I receive my paycheck (which I have not yet done for the month of May).

Budgt Budget

Once your budget is set up, all you have to do is enter your daily expenses and Budgt will do the rest. It divides your budget by the number of days in the month and shows you how much money you can spend that day. When you enter an expense, you have the option to tag it in predetermined categories such as ‘Food’ or ‘Clothes,’ or you can also make your own categories. If you forget to add an expense on the day you incur it, you can simply use the calender to go to the correct day and enter the expense.*

Budgt Day

Budgt also has a handy month view that allows you to see how much you’ve spent so far this month, how much you have left, and also what you’ve spent it on.

Budgt Month

Budgt Month Categories

And that’s it really. There are more options in the settings menu that allow you to export CSV files or set reminders. And Budgt also had a travel mode that converts currencies and a month overflow option that adds or subtracts your leftover money from the previous month into the next month’s budget, but I have not used either of these options, so I cannot really speak to them.

Overall, Budgt is a great little spending tracker app. I would recommend it to anyone who has relatively uncomplicated finances (few monthly expenses) but wants to keep track of where she’s spending her money.

*My one qualm with Budgt is that you cannot go back to the previous month to add forgotten expenses. Your editing capabilities end at midnight on the last night of the month. When I figured this out, I was mildly annoyed, so I actually sent in some feedback requesting that they change it to allow previous months to be editable. A couple of hours later, I received a lengthy note from one of the app developers explaining exactly why they don’t allow this (it has something to do with the way the app calculates the budget; the math would get screwed up if they made previous months editable). I was amazed that he’d taken the time to respond to me. It made me love the app just a little bit more.

I Haven’t Forgotten About This Blog


As the title of this post indicates, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I’ve been focusing my energies on another (secret) writing-based web project for the past month or so and have not had time to write here. I’m pretty excited about this new venture; I think it has the potential to turn into something very neat. But I can’t share it with you yet. Having just launched on April 1, my co-author and I would like the site to get its sea legs before we present it to the masses to read and destroy.

I’m still figuring out the difference between this blog and that project. They are rather similar, so I need to decide what content is appropriate for which site. I will probably be writing more on the other site for now, simply because (a) my co-author is expecting me to and (b) the nature of that project demands regular attention. That being said, I haven’t given up on this blog yet. I just need to let the other project grow a little bit before I can determine what I want to write about on this here blog.

In the meantime, keep an eye out on this blog and/or my portfolio for an announcement about the secret project sometime later this spring.

P.S.- Want to know what else I’ve been up to recently? I just added a new project to my portfolio: a reel of my favorite clips from my trip to Africa. Check it out.