Food inflation

All around us we see patterns of products and software designed to influence our habits and purchasing decisions. As mentioned before, I’ve got a pet peeve with syrup containers. A while back I read a great book on the topic of habits and getting connected with the products we use, explaining the cycle we run through when we become a user of something.

Apart from syrup containers and the over-sized pouring spouts, another thing that’s bothered me to no end is yogurt containers. I’m a huge fan of soy yogurt from Silk, the blueberry flavor in particular. I steer towards non-dairy when possible, so this is my favorite yogurt on the planet. Granted, the sugar has something to do with that. Still, opening up one of these yogurt containers, cleaning off the inner foil lid, and diving into the thick creamy contents is an amazing experience. This is one of my favorite snacks. It seems we can never keep enough of these around. Something’s happened though, in the years since I started eating these. The containers themselves have changed. As far as you can tell from the outside things look the same. It’s still the general yogurt shaped object I grabbed from the refrigerated section as a teenager. However, on the inside the total quantity of food has been reduced; I’m almost sure of it.

I haven’t dove in yet to research the extent of the problem, but the false bottom of the yogurt drives me nuts. Based on my completely unscientific research, I’d estimate that the yogurt containers are designed to look close to 8 ounces, or a cup in American measurements. That’s a decent size amount, and worthy of enjoying on its own; or with the granola of your choice sprinkled in. However, because of the oversized false bottom on the container, the actual amount of food you’re getting to consume is far less than it appears at first glance. The total food inside is 5.3 ounces, a travesty in my opinion.

Whether rising food prices, inflation in general, or a number of other factors, Silk has chosen to keep the perceived size of the container the same as a dozen years ago, while pushing up the bottom on the inside. It frustrates me to no end, and I wonder if this is a way of hiding the cost of food inflation without consumers noticing.

There are far worse things in the world to be stressed over, but this is a little thing that just bothers me, and I wish Silk would sell a standard cup sized yogurt, without resorting to what I perceive as dark patterns. This is no way reflective on them in particular, I just complain because I like their food so much. This happens across the board with so many food products, and some times to a point of being ludicrous.

Anyway, enough ranting on that. I’m going to go buy some more yogurt.

Upgrading phones for the camera

The latest release of the iPhone this year has me thinking about my phone again. My previous model, the iPhone X, was chosen for its camera. Portrait mode blew me away. I bought an iPhone 12 Pro Max last year with one purpose in mind, to get a camera that could handle better low-light situations. As a father of two small children, I try my best to capture pictures of my kids in as many environments as possible. They’re getting a little older, 4 and 8, so asking them to hold still for a moment has become easier. Still, there’s something about being able to pull out my camera, press a button, and have a decent picture most of the time. My phone does that, and I love it.
Over the past year I’ve managed to take a lot of photos, and several dozen are images I can say that I’m quite proud of; some are of landscapes and outdoors shots, and the rest are of my family. Those are my two main purposes for wanting a phone with a great camera.
With that said, my current phone is massive. Even after a year I still feel that it’s a large phone, much more than I need. When I picked between the four available I went with the one that had the best low-light camera.
This year, with the iPhone 13, both pro models have identical cameras. And, based on reviews so far, it seems like a decent incremental upgrade over what I have today in terms of camera. In my mind I always run the decision tree of need versus want. This is absolutely a case of wanting the latest tech, but having something now that is more than sufficient.
So, first world problems and all, I’m at a bit of an impasse over whether to upgrade. Before I waited three years, and now I’ve been planning to wait two years. A funny thing starts to happen though, as my phone gets older. In the first year of purchase I take more photos and start to play with the latest changes. As time passes I take less. This is fine, I have so many great photos of my kids. However, I like to incentivize myself to take more and capture those moments. Each years the tech gets a little better and pushes the limits of what I can take.
I’ve all but stopped carrying around my DSLR. Granted, it’s a lower end model, but for years it caught the kinds of pictures my phone could only dream of. Now, based on my knowledge of the devices and the ease with which an iPhone allows capturing a shot, I’m often happier with what I can take on the phone, especially with it always being on me.
Since my goal is to get great pictures of my kids, and fun new technology enables that, I don’t feel too bad about the upgrades.
I may try and figure out a way to sell my phone and upgrade, but it’s a bit of a nightmare since I’m still on a plan through my phone carrier.

Focusmate

I’ve tried just about every productivity hack, tip, and methodology. Over the past decade and a half I’ve researched tons of methods for improving my ability to get stuff done. Some work, some don’t, all of them wear off.

At the end of the day my ability to get something done comes down to a combination of personal energy reserve, technical ability to complete the task, collaboration with team mates, and one other crucial ingredient. Over the short term I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. However, over the long term, my ability to show up day to day and keep pushing on a project is directly related to the level at which the project pushes me. If something is too easy it’s hard to stay excited and motivated. If something is too hard I feel blocked and overwhelmed.

This ability to find something just hard enough, just at the level of challenge, enough to engage me – frankly, that’s something I live for and search for.

When all of these components line up I’m able to enter a state of flow, and that is a beautiful thing. I’m a designer for a variety of reasons. I love the outcomes of my work, seeing things grow and bring joy and value to others. But there’s another component that’s equally important. The act of doing, The Practice, the showing up each day, matters. I want to get into a state of loving what I do, of striving to learn, of forgetting time for hours on end and pouring over ideas to create something better. If a third of my life is devoted to work I want to enjoy that work.

So, to bring that full circle to my point, I listened to a recent Focused episode, interviewing the Founder of Focusmate. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m blown away. I’ve heard about Focusmate before, had it in my mind as something to try eventually. Thanks to the episode I gave it a try and dove in. Now I’m 3 sessions in and ready to throw a bunch of superlatives out there and tell everyone how amazing it is.

Granted, this is new, and perhaps this will wear off as well. However, there’s something special about meeting with another person, telling them for a moment what you plan to do, then having them as an accountability partner over the next 25 minutes. I love it, and I’m hooked, and want to explore where this goes over the coming days.

Writers Write

The past two years have been a blast. Six days a week, 1,000 words per day. This was the minimal guidance that Stephen King suggested in On Writing, and I took it to heart. On the majority of days I add to the books I’m writing, and push them forward a half chapter, or a full chapter, one day at a time.

On my off days I’ll write anyway, and just not add to my books. This may be a personal journal entry, or a blog post. This decision, knowing that I’ll write no matter what, has been such a positive one. I’ve completed 7 novels, three of which are published, and am in the start of an 8th novel.

I’m a writer because I write, not for any other reason. The joy comes in the doing, that’s the reason to keep moving forward; or at least the biggest reason.

Building trust matters

Every now and then I need to duplicate a WordPress post or page. It’s not a built-in feature, and requires adding a custom plugin to my site. For those who aren’t familiar with WordPress, the plugin ecosystem is a strength and weakness. Thousands of amazing plugins, built by caring and hardworking developers, focused on solving problems.

The challenge is adding plugins can cause problems. The WordPress.org plugin team works hard to ensure that every plugin is reviewed and meets security standards. However, with 59,111 free plugins available, there are bound to be problems; especially if you don’t keep your site updated.

So, imagine my relief when I go to look for a duplicating post plugin and see a top result from the team at Yoast. I’ve grown to trust Yoast over the years, and have an expectation of a more rigorous vetting process from their internal team. Because of that I don’t hesitate, I grab their plugin. Building trust matters and extends in many positive ways.