binder clip header

Using a binder clip tripod to shoot time-lapse video

Instagram’s new Hyperlapse app is a lot of fun. It will allow you to shoot time-lapse videos. It will also smooth out the video with stabilization built into the app itself. I tried it out while walking and riding the Metro. Walking was too jarring for it to capture smooth video. But the Metro ride worked just fine. I’ve posted them to my Instagram account.

After seeing the hyperlapse video of Harry Mark’s morning commute I thought about other places to shoot some video today. While I don’t think I’m good enough to reshoot House of Cards, I did venture out to the Capitol Building and the Reflecting Pool there.

Before I went, I needed a tripod of sorts. Something to hold the phone upright and steady at the very least. Ideally, I wanted to angle the phone. I’ve been looking for a reason to buy an iPhone tripod of some kind. But I needed something now.

I looked through my desk and found two binder clips. They worked perfectly. I have no photos of the setup in action since I was using the phone to film. Here it is recreated at my desk.

iPhone held at an angle
Note the angle. This worked nicely for capturing the tall Capitol Building.
(Yes, it’s a portrait video. Deal with it.)

iPhone held sideways

It works nicely in landscape mode. I appreciated it more than the ducks did.

iPhone held upright
And of course, it will stand upright like a tiny soldier at attention.

Snippet Header

Text expansion makes support a breeze

I’ve used various apps to expand snippets into full words or blocks of text for years. It’s made my work in support roles easier and saved me from retyping the same things constantly. I’ve not written much about it until now. I read a post from Chase Clemons on the Be Snappy blog and left a comment there.

For instance, when I don’t have a customer’s name, I use the snippet “`ht” to trigger “Hey there!” I use snippets even down to days of the week and months. Instead of typing out September, just put that as a snippet with “xm9.” Every few seconds you save adds up.
My Best Email Support Tricks and Tips : Snappy

Chase offers some good advice for snippets to make customer support email quicker. I have some tips of my own. While I do less general support now that I’m supporting one application, I have my list of snippets to make my life easier.

Snippet Basics

For TextExpander(Mac) and Breevy (Windows), both of which I use and love. They sync over Dropbox, or via snippet export/import for environments where Dropbox isn’t allowed.

It’s good to choose a trigger character. This is something you’ll type to indicate you’re starting a snippet. It’s not required. But it does prevent words from being swapped for snippets when you don’t want them to be.

I use “Z” as my trigger character so everything starts with Z.

zname is my full name.
zphone is my phone number.
zmail is my email address.
zadd is my full address.

I have zdphone and zdmail for work since I work at the Department of Labor.

How many times do you type these out?

About the 50th time I mistyped Thank You I turned that into zty.
I also use zgm and zga for Good Morning and Good Afternoon.

What about filling in forms?

I also have a snippet that fill in an entire page to book closed captioning for events I run since most of the information is the same. (Shout out to Caption Colorado! Those guys seriously rock!)

Here it is in action:
Closed Captioning snippet

What questions do you often ask?

I have a snippet I use when I’m planning an event. In my current role, I support WebEx. I need some basic information to schedule an event with the desired options.

For this, I enter zplanning because it’s easy to remember. It expands to:

Name of Event:
Will you be using a Webcam?
What will you be sharing? Video? Slides?
Will you be taking Questions/Chats from the remote participants?
Are we recording the event?
Do you need Closed-Captioning?

I send this out along with any specifics for the event. I never have to worry about forgetting to ask something and I have it all listed out in one easy-to-reference place.

Email templates

I get a lot of email questions. Many of them are asking the same questions, so I’ve put together some stock replies.

How do I silence the beeps when people join a conference call?

I respond with zzbeeps.
This expands to:

Dialed in with the Leader code press the following.
*9 – to bring up the menu
3 – turns off the beeps
* – to rejoin the conference

WebEx won’t let me share my Word/Excel/PDF using Share File, but _____ can do it?

I respond with zzwdl.
This expands to:

To get all other files besides PowerPoint files to show up with the Share File option in WebEx you’ll need the WebEx Document Loader.

The application is found here:
It’s listed under WDL Installer/Uninstaller
Direct download link:
You will need administrative rights to install it.
You can verify it installed properly because you’ll see a printer listed as WebEx Document Loader.
Once it’s installed, start a WebEx session and share any files you like and it will work.

Part of my role is to reset passwords and manage accounts. As a result, I sent a lot of password reset emails or messages informing someone of a new or transferred account.

Please setup a new account for John Doe.

I respond with znewebex.

For this, I use some advanced features which I’ll walk through.

First, I need a subject line.

Your new WebEx Account%(Key Tab)

This gives me the subject of Your New WebEx Account and the %(Key Tab) is telling Breevy to press the Tab key.

Now I’m in the body of the email.

%fill%%| tells Breevy I want to enter something before the rest of the snippet runs. I type my greeting, then I press Tab to have the snippet continue.

A WebEx conferencing account has been created for you. Please use the information below to use your account:
Username: %clipboard
Password: Welcome!23 (you will be required to change your password on your first log-on)

Username: %clipboard tells Breevy to input the contents of the clipboard. Before I activate this snippet, I copy the username to the clipboard so it’s inserted automatically.
The password is always the same.

I have requested an integrated audio conferencing account as well. Once created, I will send you the account information and instructions to link your audio account with WebEx. You can still use WebEx with another audio account if you already have one until we get an integrated audio account set up for you.

To learn more about WebEx:
1. Log into your WebEx account
2. Click on Support (located on the left navigation bar)
3. Click on “Training”
4. Select the platform you would like to learn about (Meeting Center is the main platform and widely used). You will have a list of topics to select from for tutorial.

Feel free to contact us via Support Email if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Here is how it looks when I’m using it in Outlook.

New WebEx Account Example

Do you fill out weekly status reports?

I have a snippet for those too.

%A, %B %d, %Y Status

The %A, %B %d, %Y turns into the day and date. When I run it, the snippet looks like this:
Status Report

Finally, I close most of my support emails with zppp which expands to Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

These are some of the snippets I use to work better. I highly recommend getting Breevy or TextExpander. These applications will pay you back in saved time many times over.

Excellent Snippet Resources

Shawn Blanc has posted A Quick Guide to Common Miscapitalizations of Tech Names
. If you write the names of Apple products or other tech products like AirPlay, iPad, or TextExpander it will put the capitalizations in the proper places.

Brett Terpstra has an excellent collection of TextExpander Tools. I particularly like the iOSMarkdown and Characters collections.

I would also recommend looking over the TextExpander posts Brett has written. Brett is a wizard with a computer. By subscribing to his blog, your computer life will improve immeasurably.

David “MacSparky” Sparks has solved the problem of pasting text without formatting or styles. Pasting text with TextExpander. This simple trick will take anything with funky Microsoft Office formatting or a mix or bold or italics and convert it into pristine plain text without formatting.

Dispatch from the trenches #6

If you’ve never needed the welfare system, consider yourself lucky. If you’ve never needed to have strangers pour over your bank balances, had to pester your landlord for a letter about your bills, your friends and family to document their financial support, or had to face the stigma of trying to buy groceries with a food stamp card, you are lucky. Next week, if things turn for the worst, you could be waiting in line to have the same process happen to you. That’s the biggest problem of all: so many people are willing to support the welfare system when they need it, but when someone else does, they don’t—especially if that somebody is black, a single mom, or both. You can’t have it both ways.

A View From Inside the Welfare System

Soul-crushing read. I’ve worked in government for years at various levels and while government is viewed as good or bad, it’s all people. It’s made up of smart, hard-working people.

As Richard says, they’re overworked and underpaid and there’s no hope of that changing soon. I’ve seen the same thing. Budgets are cut. Money is sent elsewhere. The job of 5 people is now the job of two. Or one.

It’s not just like this in the welfare system. It’s like this everywhere.

Even if you did go see it, you may have still missed it. The moment is fairly small but it’s completely deliberate. In the denouement of the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Trench” and Jet Li’s “Yin Yang” are canoodling at the team’s favorite bar when Sylvestor Stallone’s character tells them to “get a room.”

There are myriad reasons why this moment is noteworthy and they’re all worth mentioning: one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars being depicted as gay, a gay couple being a part of a crimefighting team, and also the subtle way the inclusion is slipped in — not a plot point, just a fact of life.

Yes, There Was a Gay Couple in ‘The Expendables 3′

I thought was interesting. It’s not a theme of the movie, but it’s there and under the radar. It’s a part of life. I like that it was treated as such.

Don’t simply focus on what you’re shooting — focus on why you’re shooting.


I’ve thought a lot of photography lately. I’ve resisted the call of new, better cameras. I shoot with an iPhone 5. I like shooting with it because I can capture what I want, without screaming **Look at me! I am a photographers!* I’m working on a daily photo project and another smaller set of photos.

I’m terrible about posting and sharing what I shoot, even when that’s my intention. But I’ll get it together because I really like what I’m doing because it’s fun.

I’m not great. I don’t pretend to be. But I’m having a lot of fun. My short-lived Bethesdoors project was born from the same idea.

Shooting something different and having fun with it.

If everyone starts calling themselves a gamer, the stereotypes will die out, the societal stigmas will fade and the dearly needed changes to games themselves and gaming culture will start to happen more rapidly. Let’s do this.

Let’s ALL be gamers, OK?

Games are fun. Play games to have fun. It shouldn’t be a hostile place.

Dispatch from the Trenches #5

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

How to Be Polite

There is so much good stuff here. While I have few friends, the ones I’ve made without the aid of geography or other people have been through listening.

I’ll sit and listen for hours. I’ll soak up information and stories without speaking a word, other than a nod or acknowledgment I am still listening and interested.

I don’t often have much to say. Unless you touch on a topic I (possibly unknowingly) care deeply about. Then the words come pouring out. Most of the time, I am happy to sit and listen. I love to listen.

I learn so much that way. Now if I could only retain half of what I’ve listened to. I could take over the world.

Charred man

The incinerated man stared back at Jarecke through the camera’s viewfinder, his blackened arm reaching over the edge of the truck’s windshield. Jarecke recalls that he could “see clearly how precious life was to this guy, because he was fighting for it. He was fighting to save his life to the very end, till he was completely burned up. He was trying to get out of that truck.”

The War Photo No One Would Publish

The face of war is ugly. Back in the early 90s in Iraq, this photo never saw the pages of media in the US. But not because of military censorship. American media did that just fine on their own.

The quiet scares me. So, I make my own noise, plugging little smooth white plastic buds into my ears to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and loud music. It helps me work, I tell my coworkers. It keeps me sane, I tell myself. It keeps the silence away.

The Silence and I

I will go to great lengths to find silence. I will see out quiet and solitude in even the busiest of places.
I will create it with headphones. I will sneak away to an overlooked corner or nook. I will wander off under (false) pretense.
I will linger too long in elevators or stairwells. If there’s a roof access, that’s a gold mine.
Silence is elusive. I arm myself and seek it out. It’s a better prize than any stuffed head on my wall.


On Depression

On Depression

If you are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Line.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Chat with them.
More comfortable in person? Find a local center.
How you get help isn’t important. What’s important is keeping you alive and with us.

I don’t know if I have depression. I don’t know if I ever have. I’ve never gotten help for it. I have been OK and I continue to be OK.

I have never thought about killing myself but I do struggle with sadness. Before I was married, I lived alone for much of that time. While I often enjoyed the quiet and solitude it gave me. There were some times when I needed to be near another human being.

I used to go see movies just to get out of my apartment and be near people. I would smile and chat with the cashiers and laugh and cry at the movie in the theater. I needed to feel something. I needed to share that feeling with other people.

Now that I’m married, I always have someone nearby. And that’s a comfort. Sharing a life with a warm, loving woman has been the height of my life. Knowing she’s near and she loves me helps to keep the ugly feelings at bay.

But there is still sadness. I struggle with it when I’m alone and I’m up late. It comes in the night to take away my joy.

My goal is to fall asleep before the sadness comes. Before it can talk to me and remind me of all the things I’ve done wrong or could do wrong.

Volunteer Counselor

I’ve never had suicidal thoughts. I’ve talked with people who have. I used to volunteer at a teen chat site my freshman year of college. It helped to keep me sane as much as it did those I talked to.

I would often hang out in the chat room at TeenAdviceOnline (TAO for short) at all hours of the night. I didn’t sleep much, I never have. So I would sit at my desk and chat with other people who needed a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.

I will never forget the night I helped someone from my school.

While we were all anonymous through the chat, the IP addresses were logged and visible to those of us who volunteered. It helped when we needed to try to get help to people offline.

I was chatting with a woman one night. It was late, as it always was, and I noticed her IP address was very similar to mine. It was on the same network. She was at VCU just as I was.

In the course of talking, I learned she was a freshman too and having a really hard time of things. I could relate to her on so many levels. We were both struggling in our own way. But she had some other stuff going on. I don’t remember the specifics, as it’s been over a decade since this happened.

But after hours, I learned she was in a dorm across a small park from me. It was only a block or two from where I was living. I tried to get her to meet me in person to talk.

Midnight Meeting?

She agreed and I logged off and walked across the park to the other dorm. I didn’t know who she was, what she looked like or even what room she was in. But I had described myself and what I was wearing.

I sat and waited in the lobby. I perked up every time a woman came downstairs. But none of them were her, at least none of them admitted as much.

They ventured out with friends, or to meet people and invite them up. They collected mail or food. I waited for her. I waited for an hour. Then, realizing she was not going to come and it would be morning before too long, I told the guard at the front desk why I was there and what little I knew.

I wasn’t able to give much detail and I don’t know if it mattered at all. But I did what little I could.

When I got back to my room, I logged back on to see if she had returned. She had not. I asked the other volunteers if they had seen her or anyone from a similar IP address as me. No one had.

She told me she was leaving school and would be better at home. I hope she did. I hope she got help and her life got better. I will never know what happened to her.

I don’t often think about her, but I do sometimes. And wonder whatever became of her.

I hope she’s still alive. I hope she’s happy. Or at least content in her life.

Why am I telling you this?

I write this not to extol my value or that I deserve praise. I write this to share how we can all make a difference. I write this to share that we all need somebody. We all have our own darkness. Our own pain. We all have days we feel will never end.

We all need help. We all need someone to listen to us. To help us through the darkness. To help let the light shine back into our lives. Some people are down and need time. But other people need help. They’re not going to simply snap out of it. They’re not having a bad day.

I try to be as open as I can to people in my life that I am here if they ever need to talk. I extend that invitation to anyone within sight of these words. If you need to talk, talk to me.

I want to help

Write me an email:
Leave me a comment.
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and
Message me. Talk to me. Let me be your shoulder to cry on or ear to listen.

I want to help. If not me, find someone you know, online or off and talk to them.
If not them, call the National Suicide Prevention Line.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Chat with them.

Even if you do not call, look through the ideas and resources on the site.
Even though it may not feel like it, I can guarantee you someone in your life cares very deeply about you. They may be too afraid or shy to act on it. But they care for you. They want you to be OK. They want you to be alive. They love you.

I know these words seem hollow and when the clouds roll in, it’s hard to see the light.
But the light is there. It’s not hopeless.
I love you.
I want to help.

Get Help

Call the National Suicide Prevention Line.
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Chat with them.
More comfortable in person? Find a local center.
How you get help isn’t important. What’s important is keeping you alive and with us.