Thursday, April 2, 2015

It Feels good to Be Home

So after a year with an Android device, I have switched back to Apple.  Everyone warned me up front, "You're not going to like it", "You won't be able to do everything you can with your iPhone.".  I feared the worse, I was surprisingly amazed that I ran into little issues, my entire iTunes library except for a few drama protected songs did not make the integration into Google Play Music.  Almost every app had an android version, I liked the folder structure, the ability to have a full alphabetical list of my apps.  Back button, I cannot believe how much I came to love having a dedicated on device button that would take me back a page.  Despite my being told I could move my iTunes videos over, I never quite mastered that ability, but I managed.

I made the jump and got the new iPhone 6 Plus, after carrying a Galaxy S5, the size difference was minimal.  The changes to iOS took a few days to learn the nuances.  Looking back at my old iPhone 5, it looks so tiny by comparison to both the android and apple devices.   It's nice to have the ability to FaceTime again, and iMessage.  I do have to say that I dislike googles approach to mail on the iPhone, of course since it's their os android handles it so much better.  The Gmail app for iOS is ok, but it's far from perfect.

I have my app essentials, those apps I cannot live without, weather apps, social media, Woot!, Netflix, IMDB, Groupon, Yelp, banking/finance apps,, 1password, dropbox.  The list goes on.

What are some of your must have apps, what's the first thing you install when you get that new phone out of the box?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dieting Is Hard

So, about a month ago, the significant other and I decided that we'd try a new stab a diet/weight loss.  We started Nutrisystem, first we sat down and did the math, the amount of money we were spending at the grocery/eating out was more than the cost of the plan for us both, so that helped.  So far its a great program, all your meals are shipped to you and labeled so its easy to identify when to eat what.  Oddly enough on the Diabetes plan I get an extra snack a day and an extra power fuel at lunch (usually I go with almonds or yogurt).  Top that with the Omega Chews I get which taste nothing like the fish oil crap i used to take and don't give the "fish burps".  Do I miss food, sometimes, I had a craving about a week ago for some cheese dip, but it passed.  This diet is forcing me to do one thing, eat more your allowed to eat an unlimited number of non-starchy veggies.  Also they want you to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, which isn't too hard to do, but its very hard to workout with your trainer doing bootcamp style workouts when you're only consuming about 1200 calories a day.  But I survive and move some things around so I have a nice protein filled snack prior to heading to the gym.

Water, oh man, for some reason it tastes better now...or maybe i'm just dreaming it.  I am consuming more water a day now and since I'm back in school, less Diet Coke.  I still love my DC, and its been hard cutting down, I had the caffeine withdrawal headaches the first week and half, they usually hit about 6 pm, which made the evenings fun.  So my favorite dishes so far are the Turkey Sausage and Turkey Pepperoni Pizza, the Ravioli, and the loaded mashed potatoes, oh and the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies are nothing to sneeze at (mind you all of this is only available with the frozen options - a slight price increase)

So we've done three weeks, I've been hovering around the 3-4 pound loss, its a start, but I wish it was more, but we'll keep going and I'll try to be more consistent and update you all more.  I have also been informed we can go do a health cheat for Valentines Day, so have to see how that goes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Shave at the End of the Galaxy, or My Afternoon at Aidan Gill

Say what you will, most men do not get to go out and have a "Spa Day" like their significant others/female counterparts.  I discovered the relaxing effects of the shave years ago at The Art of Shaving, where they still use the age old tradition of hot towels and straight razors.  Fast forward to this year, I had the opportunity to accompany my wife to New Orleans for a conference, years before she discovered Aidan Gill on Magazine Street and she was in awe of all their products, and said if I ever came down, I should get a shave.  So I called the week before our trip and set up an appointment for saturday for a shave, and needing a haircut, went ahead and did that too.  First off, the back areas are for men only, sorry ladies, you'll have to wait in the shop area and peruse the hundreds of products for men and women.  Upon arrival for my shave and haircut, I was greeted by a young man in a suit and bow tie (because first bow ties are cool, and second its the standard faire at the shop).  He confirms my appointment, and then offers me a beverage, water, soda, beer or scotch.  I opt for an Abita amber, which was handed to me in a pint glass, I can already tell this is a class joint.  I am offered a seat in the middle of the store in an antique barber chair to wait while a young man of 6 or 7 is getting his hair cut. The child's mother stands at the edge of the space between the retail section and the barbershop.  She is directing the cut from their, based on the discussion, the poor kid got a bad supercuts and needed it fixed.  I drink my beer and take in the ambiance of the old world styling of the shop.  Everything seems antique and classic.  Shortly after, about a quarter a pint of beer later, Nathan introduces himself to me and says he will be taking care of me today and guides me to the "chair", now this is THE CHAIR, the one that was in the playboy article, you know the article, the one that said this was the #1 barbershop in America, plus Hunter S. Thompson has been here as well, so you know this place is legit!

The typical barbershop chatter starts, how do you usually get your hair cut, how often do you get it done, now give me those glasses and we'll get started.  I'll admit I've never had a haircut while holding/drinking a beer, and must admit, its now a new guilty pleasure.  We discussed the usual, what brings you to town, how did you hear about us, and my question, I as of all citizens of NOLA (becuase you get a different answer every time) "Where do you go for a po'boy?"  Nathan spouts off three different places, because one place has better oysters, the other has better shrimp, and then of course if you want roast beef, go to Mothers, all the while over this 30 minute period my hair is getting shorter, and my beer is getting lower.  I am then guided to the back of the shop, to what appears to be the studio of the masters, the subtle, yet classic shave room, two chairs, from here it's very quiet for the next 30 minutes/7 hot towels and an ice cold one last.  Into position in the chair, its shave oil first massaged into the beard to loosen things up, then a hot towel, then shave cream to start to soften the beard, then another hot towel, this goes on once more, all this before the razor even touches my face.  I ask about the razor and am told for sanitary reasons, they are not allowed to use straight razors in Louisiana.  They use the Gillette Mach 3, which surprised me, but still made the experience no less amazing.  I was amazed at the use of 7 hot towels and then the ice cold, I wondered if my beard was so tough thats why they used so much, but was told no, thats the standard for every man who gets the shave.  Rather than bore you with all this, I'll take the excerpt from Mr, Gill himself...

"And so, we begin a timeless shaving ritual honed to perfection by Mr. Gill in his sanctum, beginning with the first application of shaving lather massaged into the beard with great vigor.
This is followed by wrapping the face in a hot towel, dispensed directly from Mr. Gill's own antique chrome towel steamer and wafted gently over the face before wrapping. Mr. Gill explains: "The hot lather and hot towels are applied three times prior to the first pass of the shave. We do this to soften the beard and the skin."

The astute will notice that Mr. Gill refrains here from the use of a shave brush, as this is necessary in the shop for hygienic purposes. At home, Mr. Gill advises a good brush as an indispensable accouterment to the perfect shave. A good shave brush, he notes, should cost its user between $75 and $200 and will last for 10 to 20 years. Not a bad investment for the face.

And now, the razor's first pass. Having previously softened the beard, its bristles surrender more readily to the razor. The face is kept moist with the application of shaving oil, meanwhile, to ensure the maximum closeness of the shave.

Since the days of the barber-surgeons there has been much spirited debate on the merits and perils of shaving against the grain. Mr. Gill advises it in subsequent passes of the razor, after a first, with the grain endeavor. "Shaving this close and shaving against and across the grain is now possible because of the softening effect of the cream, the hot towels and the hot oil," he says.

Upon completion of the shave, after shave balm is applied (which will maintain the softness of the skin and beard, thus preparing it for the next day's assault), followed by another hot towel, more shaving balm and a final hot towel. To rouse our friend from thirty minutes of silent, blissful reverie, we conclude the ritual with the final towel. Mr. Gill explains: "The last towel of the shave, the coup de grace, is plucked from a tub of ice water and applied to the skin with a warning for the customer to brace himself. The towel calms the skin, closes the pores and invigorates."

Upon completion, I am offered another beer and the opportunity to just sit and relax, which I do, my face feeling smoother than a piece of glass, I hate to say that I've never come away from a shave with so close and smooth skin without so much as a nick or cut.  Nathan, hats off to you sir, you are an artist and a king among men!

So there it is, one more thing I can say without a doubt everyone who goes to NOLA needs to try,  Stay away from the one by the Casino, take the bus (it's an experience all to itself) head down to Magazine Street (the original) get a shave, get a haircut, get both, buy some supplies and then take the wife/significant other out on the town for dinner and then  just kiss her with that smooth face and she will tell you that it was worth it!  Oh and from what I hear, Juan's Flying Burrito is a couple doors down and pretty good!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Taking A Big Chance

So by know all you readers know that the iPhone 5 is coming, and well we all knew what it was gonna look like, thanks to all the leaks.  While I dont really know what all iOS 6 is bringing, they claim over 200 new features, but hell I'm sure I dont use all the features of iOS5.  That being said, the wife and I are both eligible and she needs an upgrade badly, so I did some research and thanks to @evolvedmommy, I went to Gazelle earlier in the week and locked in a great price for 2 pristine iPhone 4's (not 4s), that deal was $235 each, basically for two years use I lost $64, or I am getting a $235 discount on each phone.  But I did not pre-order via apple or AT&T, I'm going local this time, we have a reseller in town that seems really good and has waaay better customer service, and I'm 20th on the list for 2 new phones.  Fingers crossed they get enough on day 1 to take care of me, but if not its ok.  I'm not gonna stroke out if I dont have it right away.  I think the feature I'm most excited to play with is the new maps/navigation and passbook, you all know I already love the KeyRing app, so I will be interested to see how much was borrowed by apple.  I will try to keep you all posted as to my status, in the mean time, please enjoy this video showing how people really pay no attention!

Friday, August 31, 2012

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why it Makes Us Happier)

All the credit for todays post goes out to lifehacker and Leo Widrich at Buffer (Thanks you guys, love your work!).  This is some Good stuff, sorry its so wordy!  There's a picture in there too to help with the words....

Most of us are aware of what happens to the body when we exercise. We build more muscle or more stamina. We feel how daily activities like climbing stairs becomes easier if we exercise regularly. When it comes to our brain and mood though, the connection isn't so clear. Leo Widrich, co-founder of social media sharing app Buffer, set out to uncover the connection between feeling happy and exercising regularly.

What triggers happiness in our brain when we exercise?

"Yes, yes, I know all about it, that's the thing with the endorphins, that makes you feel good and why we should exercise and stuff, right?" is what I can hear myself say to someone bringing this up. I would pick up things here and there, yet really digging into the connection of exercise and how it effects us has never been something I've done. The line around our "endorphins are released" is more something I throw around to sound smart, without really knowing what it means.

Here is what actually happens:

If you start exercising, your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases, the brain thinks you are either fighting the enemy or fleeing from it. To protect yourself and your brain from stress, you release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This BDNF has a protective and also reparative element to your memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. That's why we often feel so at ease and like things are clear after exercising.

At the same time, endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, are released in your brain. Your endorphins main purpose are this, writes researcher MK McGovern:

What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why it Makes Us Happier)"These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain, and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria."

There is a lot going on inside our brain and it is oftentimes a lot more active than when we are just sitting down or actually concentrating mentally:

So, BDNF and endorphins are the reasons exercise makes us feel so good. The somewhat scary part is that they have a very similar and addictive behavior like morphine, heroin, or nicotine. The only difference? Well, it's actually good for us.

Don't do more, but focus on when

Now here is where it all gets interesting. We know the basic foundations of why exercising makes us happy and what happens inside our brain cells. The most important part to uncover now is, of how we can trigger this in an optimal and longer lasting way?

A recent study from Penn State shed some light on the matter and the results are more than surprising. They found that to be more productive and happier on a given work day, it doesn't matter so much, if you work-out regularly, that you haven't worked out on that particular day:

"Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning."

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Reynolds wrote a whole book about the subject matter called The First 20 Minutes. To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity in every day life peaks:

"The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk - all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active."

So really, you can relax and don't have to be on the lookout for the next killer work out. All you have to do is get a focused 20 minutes in to get the full happiness boost every day:

"On exercise days, people's mood significantly improved after exercising. Mood stayed about the same on days they didn't, with the exception of people's sense of calm which deteriorated."(University of Bristol)

Make it a habit

Starting to exercise regularly or even daily is still easier said than done. At end of the day, there is quite a lot of focus required to get into the habit of exercising daily. The most important part to note is that exercise is a keystone habit. This means that daily exercise can pave the way not only for happiness, but also growth in all other areas of your life.

In a recent post from my colleague Joel, he wrote about the power of daily exercise for his every day life. Coincidentally, he follows the above rules very accurately and exercises daily before doing anything else. He writes:

"By 9:30am, I've done an hour of coding on the most important task I have right now on Buffer, I've been to the gym and had a great session, and I've done 30 minutes of emails. It's only 9:30am and I've already succeeded, and I feel fantastic."

I've spoken lots to Joel about his habit of exercising and here are some of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for success and make your daily exercise fun:

  • Put your gym clothes right over your alarm clock or phone when you go to bed: This technique sounds rather simple, but has been one of the most powerful ones. If you put everything the way you want it for the gym before you go to sleep and put your alarm under your gym clothes, you will have a much easier time to convince yourself to put your gym clothes on.
  • Track your exercises and log them at the same time after every exercise: When you try to exercise regularly, the key is to make it a habit. One way to achieve this is to create a so called "reward", that will remind you of the good feelings you get from exercising. In our big list of top web apps, we have a full section on fitness apps that might be handy. Try out Fitocracy or RunKeeper to log your work outs. Try to have a very clear logging process in place. Log your work out just before you go into the shower or exactly when you walk out of the gym.
  • Think about starting small and then start even smaller: Here is a little secret. When I first started exercising, I did it with 5 minutes per day, 3 times a week. Can you imagine that? 5 minutes of timed exercise, 3 times a week? That's nothing you might be thinking. And you are right, because the task is so easy and anyone can succeed with it, you can really start to make a habit out of it. Try no more than 5 or 10 minutes if you are getting started.

The highest level of happiness happens at the beginning

As a quick last fact, exercise, the increase of the BDNF proteins in your brain acts as a mood enhancer. The effects are similar to drug addiction one study found. So when you start exercising, the feeling of euphoria is the highest:

"The release of endorphins has an addictive effect, and more exercise is needed to achieve the same level of euphoria over time." (McGovern)

So, if you have never exercised before (or not for a long time), your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Leo Widrich is the co-founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share on Twitter and Facebook. Leo writes more posts on efficiency and customer happiness over on the Buffer blog. Hit him up on Twitter @LeoWid anytime; he is a super nice guy.

Image remixed from Julien Tromeur (Shutterstock).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Flatten Your Wallet (no not by giving me all your money)

In this age of membership cards, reward cards, and anything else that needs a barcode, if your like me you hate having to keep up with all those damn cards.  We men hate when our wallet looks like Costanza's, and we all know what happens then...  So along comes a not so new iPhone/Android app (trumpets sound), Key Ring.  It rediculously simple, you take all those cards, scan them in, most even have a lot of the company data preloaded, but whats even cooler, it doesn't even have to be a reward based card, your library card have a bar code, load it in manually.  Free you wallet of all that extra plastic.
Now I'm not getting any money from this, but this is one of those cool pieces of tech that I think everyone should know about.  The other cool thing is that the app will let you know if a company has an offer, like just know I checked and I can get a free cheese dip at On The Border, hey who doesn't like free cheese...especially in dip form.  So I hope you check it out, you can find it via tha app store just search for Key Ring or click on this link or here if your on android.  And you can follow the @keyringapp on twitter.

On a side note, week three of the new diet lifestyle, I'm down 8.5 pounds, and my blood sugar has been consistently in the 120's, down from the 200's.  :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life...

So, I'm working again, which is reeking havoc on the toddlers schedule, she hates getting to daycare too early b/c the kiddos have to all play in the gym till 8 and the big kids are scary.  So from past posts, sporadic as they were, I mentioned that I have type 2 diabetes.  Well, just got more good news with my latest lab work, I have low testosterone, a vitamin D deficiency, my uric acid is too high, and my cholestorol was bad.  Yippee, more meds!  So, in addition to all this, I met with a diabetes educator and got put on a 2000 calorie/day diet as well as limiting my self to 17 carb units a day (a unit is 15 grams), the weight loss program has me on an appetite suppressant (another pill) plus weekly b12 shots.  So in addition to tracking everything on paper, I'm going to try to keep up with some stuff here, I know its not tech, but I hope you'll all support me through this.  So day 1, starting weight 263 pounds, BMI 42, average blood sugar 190.

Speaking of blood sugar, I got a free new meter, which is nice, it logs it all and then you can upload it to your pc or you Mac, thats right they support Mac, awesomesauce!  So we'll see how it goes, the lancet that came with it is far less painful than the one that came with my accucheck, but I dont like loading a needle everytime.

Wish me luck, I have two beautiful ladies to take care of and I need to stick around.