Tracking personal stats on iPhone, with analysis

About the only way I can track any kind of diet or exercise regimen is if I track the stats as well. As long as there is some kind of visible progress, I can keep my motivation up. The trick is in finding a way to do this that doesn’t get in the way, and allows maximum flexibility for playing with the data later.

I always write it first in a notebook, out of habit and paranoia. I used to use a spreadsheet until it having a smart phone and an iPad meant I never had the latest version with me.

I looked around at other apps out there, and frankly, they’re all toys. Weightloss is an emotional topic, and unfortunately the associated software is designed to appeal to emotions. I want facts, and the ability to twist those facts into something I can call good news. I don’t need candy-colored fancy graphs and whatnot. I also want to calculate the lbs of fat and lean mass from percentages my scale gives me, and heartbeats per mile on my runs.

Turns out there’s a DataGlass app for iOS that talks to my database server (if you have a blog, you probably have one) and lets me enter and view data. I made a few views to do totals and weekly averages. The app even does basic graphs. Sweet!

Getting Rails Running

I haven’t posted much here lately (if we consider lately the last year or so ;-) because I’ve been focusing more effort on my two other sites, www.recordingthoughts.com and www.numberquotes.com. The latter is one that I actually have to write software for, and I’m developing the site in Ruby on Rails.

I originally wrote it in Rails 2, but after a while it was clear I would have to get it up to Rails 3. Between that, and the fact that the server that’s supporting all these sites is still on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (LTS means long term support, and the current version is 12.04 LTS) I figured I should start moving everything to the newer version of Ubuntu.

Yow! Installing Ruby, Rails, and the other various moving parts was no simple task. After trying several different methods and running into mysterious dependencies that wouldn’t resolve I ran across RailsReady.

Oh. My. God. After spending about 8 hours on the problem, to have it solved in just a few command lines is both extremely satisfying and frustrating. Why isn’t this technique more widely known?

If you’re trying to get Rails ( and ruby, RVM, Passenger, Git, etc.) running on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, use RailsReady.

Is there a book in your blog? Convert WordPress to Scrivener

I found this great post from Liz Strauss with a great idea: Look through the archives of your blog and see if there is a book in there. She suggests that if you have 200 posts, there’s probably a book. I have over 400 – maybe even two! But seriously, it’s a good idea.

I’ve just started using Scrivener, and that would be an awesome tool to pull this together. It has great features for managing chunks of text, including a corkboard for arranging them. But how to get the posts into Scrivener?

It was an interesting problem to solve and I figured it out. It brought the posts in just the way I wanted them: Separate files, with images intact.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use the wp2epub plugin to get the posts out as an .htm file. This is a subtle feature, but the htm file comes in the .zip file that is created with the epub file.
  2. Edit the htm file to replace the <h1 class=”main”> tag at the start of each post with the same tag but with ### on its own line in front of it.
  3. Import the .htm file into Scrivener. It will come in as a web archive, and images should be intact.
  4. Use Documents->Convert->Web Archive to Text to convert the file to text within Scrivener.
  5. Export the newly created text file as RFTD, rich text in Apple’s format.
  6. Import the newly exported file, but use the Import and Split function, entering ### as the split string.
  7. You now have your posts in Scrivener, each as a separate file with images intact.

A new cutting board

Like a lot of kitchens, we have a pull out cutting board underneath one of our counters. Our house is a 1960’s ranch, with a kitchen that is mostly original, as you can see from the counter top. Certainly the cutting board was. It was unusable as anything but a shelf when we moved in. It was made out of fir plywood, and the outer plys were all chopped away. It was nasty.

So I made a new one. I had large chunk of maple left over from another project, and after resawing it into planks I glued them up and breadboarded the ends. I finished it with mineral oil, and it’s a huge improvement over what we had. It’s smooth, and clean, and I can actually put food on it. At first I hesitated, since we have a poly cutting board that would fit, but there’s ample evidence that a wood board is no less sanitary, and possibly more sanitary than a plastic one.

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I was in the process of making a dress up island to hold the girls’ dress up clothes, but realized I’d gotten pretty rusty in the shop so I decided to do the cutting board to refresh my skills. I’m glad I did. The board was a bit of a comedy of clumsiness but it absorbed a few mistakes easily. It would have really stunk to have ruined the other project.

I always underestimate how much of fine woodworking is a skill that has to be kept in practice. I also always underestimate how cathartic it is to make something useful.