Saturday, October 22, 2011

How To Use Siri With The iPhone 4S To Create A Note In Evernote

Ok, I've got this working perfectly now, thought I would share.

The problem: I wanted a way to be able to add a note to Evernote completely HANDS FREE (i.e. when I'm driving).  The iPhone 4S and Siri make hands-free reminders incredibly simple (and useful), but I also needed a way to compose Evernote notes hands free.

With a little help from Google Voice, I've got it set up seamlessly.

For example, I can say to Siri...
"send a message to Evernote...Tim recommended that we stop by the lighthouse on vacation next month, do a little research on it"
...and within seconds, the note appears in Evernote.

Here's the overview of how I set that up: Siri sends a text to the phone number created for my "Evernote" contact, which is my Google Voice number.  Google Voice then forwards that text to my Gmail account.  Gmail then, via a filter, bypasses my inbox (so no email notifications are received) and forwards the message to the email address provided by Evernote.

Side Note: This would have been FAR easier if Siri had the ability to compose emails, or if Evernote gave us the ability to add notes via SMS.  As long as neither of those are possible, I think my solution is the best completely hands-free way to add notes to Evernote.  If you've got a better idea, let's hear it in the comments!

Here's the full step by step: 

Step 1. Make sure you have a free Google Voice account.  Write down your phone number.

Step 2. While you're in Google Voice, go under your voicemail & text settings and make sure you're forwarding texts to your email address.

Step 3. Write down your Evernote email address, which you can find on the account settings page.

Step 4. Create a contact on your phone for Evernote. Add your Evernote email address, and for phone number, put in your Google Voice number.

Step 5. If you're using Gmail, you'll have to add your Evernote email as a forwarding address.  You go to the Forwarding & POP/IMAP settings and click the "Add a forwarding address" button.

Gmail will then send a verification email, which (obviously) will appear in Evernote in a few seconds.  Go into Evernote, and click the link in that note to let Gmail know that the email address is valid.

Step 6. At the top of your Gmail account, next to the search bar, there's a link that says "Create a filter".

Click that, and follow the steps in the images below (you're creating a filter that will take all of the text messages sent to you by Google Voice and forward them on to your Evernote email address).

click next step after this....

Step 7. That's it, you're done!  Just ask Siri to send a message to Evernote, and she'll do it...completely hands free!

One note about notifications...if you have the Google Voice app on your phone as I did, you'll probably want to turn off notifications/badges/etc so you don't get a notification every time you create a note. For me, that was the final step to make it completely seamless, like it was built into the iPhone 4S from day 1.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Integrate iOS5 With Facebook

If you have an iPhone or iPad and you love Facebook, you're probably a bit miffed that Apple chose to bake Twitter into their new software instead of Facebook.

The new software release (iOS 5) makes it dead easy to tweet almost anything from almost anywhere inside of your iPhone/Pad.

Luckily, there are two pretty easy workarounds to use this "Tweet" button to post to Facebook.  Neither are perfect, but both work really well.

Option 1: If You Don't Currently Have A Twitter Account

Well, you're going to need one, so go sign up for one.

Then on Twitter, go to your Settings > Profile.  At the bottom you'll be able to connect Twitter with your Facebook account.

Once you've connected the two, again from Settings > Profile, simply check "Post your Tweets to Facebook" and you're good go to!
Now anything you Tweet in iOS will be automatically cross-posted to your new Facebook wall!

If you don't want every tweet going to Facebook, choose Option 2 instead...

Option 2: If You Already Tweet (And You Want To Individually Choose Which Tweets Go To Facebook)

You, my friend, need the Selective Twitter App.  Click that link and set it up by entering your twitter username.

Once you've installed that, any tweets where you include the hashtag #fb will be cross-posted to Facebook.  That way you can pick and choose what goes to FB and you're not flooding your wall with 20 posts an hour. 

Once you've set that up, you just use the "Tweet" function in iOS 5 and #fb to your tweet, and it will post to Facebook.

Both of those options work really well.  The only thing that you can't do with these iOS workarounds is post to Facebook without posting to Twitter...but considering the way those two websites are built to interact, that's probably not a huge issue for most people.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Secure Your iPhone or iPad

You probably already know that Apple offers the free MobileMe/Find My iPhone service.

You may have even set this up, so if your phone is lost or stolen you know to just go to to locate it.

What you may not realize is that a thief could easily thwart your defense by simply deleting the "Find My iPhone" app!

Here's what you need to do to make sure that doesn't happen.

First, Set Up Find My iPhone (this works with iPads as well)
  1. Install the Find My iPhone app from the App Store
  2. Go into the Settings app on your device, choose Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and under Accounts click Add Account . You'll use your regular Apple/iTunes ID and password to sign in, and then turn ON Find My iPhone/iPad.
  3. Test it on your device by launching the app you downloaded in step 1 and use your Apple ID/password to sign in.  Your device should locate where you are.
  4. Test it on your computer by going to and signing in with your Apple ID/password. That website should locate your device. (also note that you can click the blue circle and you'll be able to either display a message on your device, play a sound, lock it, or wipe all the data off of it...all right from your computer!)
Good job!  That's more than the average person does to protect their device, but even the tech savvy individual doesn't always think that you need to go a step further.

But you still need to SECURE it so a thief can't just delete the app or turn off the GPS!
  1. Go into the Settings app on your device, choose General, then choose Restrictions and click Enable Restrictions.  You will have to choose a 4 digit passcode.  Make sure you don't forget it!!
  2. Now you've enabled restrictions, but you haven't actually set any yet.  We are going to set 3 of them
  3. Under Allow, turn OFF the one that says Deleting Apps. This will ensure that a thief can't delete the Find My iPhone app.
  4. Under Allow Changes, click Location and then select Don't Allow Changes. This will make sure a thief can't disable your GPS.
  5. Finally, under Allow Changes, click Accounts and select Don't Allow Changes. This will ensure a thief can't delete your Find My iPhone account (the one we set up in step 2 in the first section).
That's all you need to do!  Your i-device is now secure.  If it is stolen, a thief will not easily be able to stop you from locating it.

Keep in mind that those restrictions will prevent you from doing some things you may want to do (delete an app, for example).  In that case, just go back into settings and turn the restriction off temporarily, then turn it back on after you're done.

Note: I know that a thief could potentially just wipe your phone clean and re-sell it or use it themselves.  NOTHING can stop that, but remember that a person who snatches an iPhone they see laying around probably isn't the brightest person in the world.  Following the above steps at least gives you a fighting chance of locating the cops and provide them the location so they can recover it.  This also ensures you can wipe the data if it really is stolen (as opposed to just being lost).  If you want some extra security, you should go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock  > Turn Passcode On and set it to Erase Data after 10 failed attempts.  You should also write down the IMEI number under Settings > General > About and report that to your carrier if it is stolen. They can blacklist the IMEI number which may also assist in locating it for you if the thief tries to get cellular service with it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beware of The Bluehost Ordering Process

I've recently been reading a lost of Pat Flynn's fantastic Smart Passive Income blog and listening to his equally great podcast, both of which I highly recommend.

He's inspired me to actually go ahead and start a project that I've had kicking around in my head for a while, and over the weekend I signed up for a Bluehost account on his recommendation.

I want to warn anybody who is thinking of purchasing hosting from Bluehost, their ordering process is questionable at best, and downright deceptive at worst.

The first thing you see is a large screen telling you that hosting is $5.95 per month with "no hidden fees" and an "anytime money back guarantee".

Sounds great!  Let's click through and get going!

On the next screen, you choose the domain that you want to use.

No problem here, type it in and click Next.

This next page is the one I have a problem with...

Under Package Information, you default to "24 Month Price - $5.95".  The other options are "12 Month Price - $6.95" and "36 Month Price - $5.95".  If you assumed, as I did, that you'd be paying monthly, these pricing plans make no sounds like you're entering a contract for a certain period of time.

But that can't be right, there's an "anytime money back guarantee", how can there be a contract?

After staring at that for a minute, I realized that you are paying up front for the entire term.  So what those plans really mean is:

"12 Month Price - $6.95" = you're paying $83.40 today
"24 Month Price - $5.95" = you're paying $148.75 today
"36 Month Price - $5.95" = you're paying $214.20 today

Because the default is set to "24 Month Price - $5.95" and because they got you there by advertising $5.95/mo, I guarantee you that a ton of people think they're being charged for $5.95 when in fact they are being charged $148.75. 

That's not even the REALLY deceiving part though.  The kicker comes next...

I switched the drop down to "12 Month Price - $6.95", entered my card information, and then clicked "Next".  Now if you've ever bought anything online from a reputable company, the next thing you will see is an order confirmation page with a summary of your order, the full amount that you will be paying, and some sort of "Purchase" or "Complete My Order" button.

Bluehost doesn't do any of that.  When you click "Next", they charge your card the full amount without ever telling you exactly what that amount will be.

I was shocked to see this screen saying I was done, and that I was just charged.

That was my first impression of Bluehost, and it left a REALLY bad taste in my mouth.

I'm sure that they're doing a ton of additional business by removing one entire step from their flow, but it's kind of an important step.  Their current system is deceptive and should be changed.  It's just not right.

In the interest of fairness I do have to say that once the initial shady transaction was completed, everything was INCREDIBLY easy and well thought out.

As someone who's only installed WordPress in the past via manual FTP and creating a database, setting it up with one-click on Bluehost was a breath of fresh air.

The cPanel backend has pretty much everything you would ever need to start any kind of website let alone for a simple blog.  And I've seen Bluehost recommended in so many different places that I have to assume that their uptime and customer support are excellent.

So if you want to get hosting through Bluehost, go for it.  They're inexpensive and reliable.  Just make sure you fully understand that you're paying all of the hosting up front!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Invest In A Startup For As Little As $25

It strikes me now that the title of this post is a bit misleading.

I guess that's why they always say that you should come up with the title AFTER you've written the post.

It's not entirely misleading, just a little bit. I'm not talking about the kind of investing where you put in $25 and you own a little piece of the company and that company goes public and suddenly you're a millionaire sipping margaritas on your yacht.

If that's what you're looking for, you'll have far better odds "investing" $25 in Powerball.

No, what I'm referring to is finding small-time, just-starting-out companies and individuals who have a great new product or idea, and contributing your money to help them out. Only instead of getting a piece of their company, you get to be one of the first to have the product (and frequently some other goodies), and you get the immense satisfaction that comes with helping a new entrepreneur succeed.

I'm referring, of course, to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a "crowdfunding" website that enables anyone to help fund creative projects, either out of the goodness of your heart or in return for a "reward" offered by the creator of the project (rewards increase depending on how much you chip in).

Here's how it works: I've got an idea for a new widget and I've got the specs all drawn up and I've got a manufacturer sourced, but it will cost me $5,000 to put the first batch into production and I don't have the money. I head over to Kickstarter and post my project. I tell you all the details, and I set my rewards for levels of funding. For example, $40 will get you one widget. $100 will get you two widgets and your name on the website as a backer. $200 will get you 5 limited edition widgets. $1000 and you can come to the factory and watch them being made. You get the idea.

A nice feature is that you're making a pledge, but if the project doesn't fully fund, you aren't charged. So you could go ahead and chip in $100 for my new widget idea and know that you'll only be charged if I raise the full $5000 needed to actually produce it.

I'll occasionally browse Kickstarter and look for cool new things.

I feel kind of like a small scale version of one of the sharks on Shark Tank. In my opinion, the best part of that show is seeing all of the cool stuff people invent, and Kickstarter has that in spades.

I recently helped fund a Kickstarter called Pen Moto. It's this awesome magnetic ring that lets you instantly go from writing to typing without having to put down or pick up your pen. (as you may be able to tell from some previous posts, I'm a big fan of getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Saving seconds and minutes will really add up over time!)

Here's the video that explains it better than I could...

And here's the link to the Kickstarter page so you can see an example of what I'm talking about (this one has now fully funded). If you look down the right hand side, you'll see the different rewards that come with backing the project at various funding levels.

It's a win-win all around. I get to be one of the first to find out about and own a cool new product (which will improve my work efficiency), I get to contribute to the success of startup, and the entrepreneurs get the infusion of capital and the boost that they need to hopefully take their business to the next level.

If you enjoy keeping your money local, you can also browse Kickstarter locally by heading to their "discover" page and looking for where it says "search cities" down the right hand navigation. On a similar note, browsing Etsy Local is another good way to support local people making things (albeit usually much less "techy" than things found on Kickstarter). 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Guy Loves This Old Nerd

This Old Nerd is a webshow from Iyaz Akhtar.  Each episode features Iyaz solving a problem that I personally have.  That's what it feels like anyway.

A typical episode consists of Iyaz petting his dogs or holding his newborn while teaching you in plain english how to do things like set up a home media server, cut the cord on your cable TV, build your own  PC, or set up a wired network.

I've watched every episode.  I actually get excited to watch whenever I notice a new episode in my YouTube subscription list.  I can't say that about many webshows.

(PS - One of the best uses of the iPad is watching YouTube videos when you're laying in bed at night or when you've just woken up on a weekend morning. Truth.)

The only thing I can't figure out is why most episodes on YouTube have such a small view count.  I consider it a clear sign of the apocalypse that This Old Nerd has 300 subscribers and this toolbag has two million.

To keep my sanity I'm just going to assume that he gets tens of thousands of views on Finite Comedy, the ironically-titled main site that hosts This Old Nerd episodes.

(PS I just used the word "ironically" properly.  It doesn't mean what you probably think it means)

Check out This Old Nerd.  You'll thank me later.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giving Back To YouTube

9 months ago I bought a dump of a house.  It was a foreclosure, bank owned property that I bought directly from the bank.  I paid an incredibly low price, but it was a disaster.  We're talking mold, burst heating pipes, the whole works.  I had to literally rip out the entire kitchen and start from scratch.  Two bedrooms had to be ripped down to the insulation (ceilings too).  I had an in-ground pool that hadn't been maintained in over 2 years with black water and about 2 feet of leaves at the bottom of the deep end.

The house was a mess.

I say "was" because it's pretty much all fixed up now.  Sure, there are still some cosmetic things to take care of (trim, mostly), and I'm planning on redoing at least one of the bathrooms this winter, but it actually looks pretty great.

Except for some electrical work and some plumbing, I did all of it myself, and I didn't know how to do ANY of that before I started.

So how did I learn?

Simple...YouTube.  Believe it or not, that site has much more to offer than just corgi bellyflops and coning.

YouTube is also a goldmine of DIY information.  Dominick DIY is one of my favorites.  That guy rocks.

Anyway, that brings me to the subject of my back to YouTube.  A couple weeks ago I installed an automatic chlorinator for my aforementioned pool (which is now all fixed up and are some before/after pics).

The first thing I did when getting ready to install it was search YouTube for a how-to video.  I was amazed that I couldn't find one, so I decided that it was my duty to give back to YouTube and I created my own video on how to install the thing.

It's not hard to do.  Just record the entire time, then get some video editing software and cut up the video to keep it from being too boring.  Record a voice-over explaining what you're doing and upload.  Boom, done.  Easy peesy, and I'm positive that it will help people out for years to come.

Here's the end result (warning: this is totally boring if you don't have a pool, but I can't just write a post and not include the video that I'm referring to. You've been warned...)

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Thoughts On Paleo Eating (After One Week Of Eating 100% Paleo)

Well, it's been a week of eating 100% Paleo foods based on The Paleo Solution.

I can't believe it's only been a week. It actually feels more like it's been a month.

Here are my thoughts so far, presented in Pro/Con format...

Pro: I feel great. The headaches and lethargy of the first couple days has long passed. I don't have anything scientific to back this up, but I would assume that most of that discomfort came from quitting caffeine cold turkey.

Pro: I've lost 9 pounds. Yeah, no kidding. In a week. Without counting a single calorie, just eating solely Paleo foods. I've been tracking my weight for the last 6 years, and I typically range between 190-210. Whenever I get near 210 I start to feel it, so I've always gone on a diet and gotten down to 195 or so, sometimes taking it down to 185. Then I relax and gradually gain it all back before starting over. That's happened 4 times in the last 6 years. I've always lost weight by counting calories, which for me has clearly not been sustainable. In the last week I've gone from 206 to 197. That's a lot of motivation to keep going. I'd really love to get back to my college weight of 175. I'm 6 feet tall, if you were wondering.

Pro: I'm becoming much more healthy. I can't exactly FEEL or SEE it, but I KNOW it to be the case based on all of the research I've done. I now understand that there's more to health than simply your weight. There's a lot going on inside of you based on what you're consuming and that directly contributes to your quality of life over the years.

Pro: The cost. No, it's not cheap, but it's not as expensive as I'd imagined either. Between myself and my wife, we've purchased food for 11 days and the total cost has been $214.74. We had to buy about $30 worth of things like spices (and Tamari!) that we didn't have before that will last for quite some time, so let's bring the total cost down half of that to about $200. That works out to about $545 per month. It sounds like a lot, but remember that is ALL of our food for two people. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks (fruit or nuts mostly). We're spending exactly zero on eating out, zero on buying lunch at work, zero on quick trips into 7-Eleven for a snack, you get the idea. $9/day each total. That's exactly the same price it would cost us to get a sandwich, drink, and fries from the Dollar Menu at McDonald's for each meal all month!  When you consider all of that, I'm putting the cost of eating Paleo squarely in the pro column.

Con: It takes a lot of time. I feel like our entire life outside of work has become nothing but preparing food. Or maybe that's just me since Rebecca regularly made home cooked meals long before we started eating Paleo. The difference I think is that if we come home and we're both exhausted, we still have to prepare all of the food for dinner and for breakfast/lunch the next day. We can't take even one night off and pick up something that's already prepared (not pizza, not sandwiches from the Sandwich Club, not a Wawa hoagie, not anything). I suspect this will become less of a con as we get more conditioned to making Paleo meals, but for now it is what it is.

Con: I really miss the instant gratification of eating and drinking a lot of non-Paleo foods. Ice cream, Doritos, beer, Diet Coke, Burgers and Hot Dogs (with cheese and BUNS), cheese and crackers, freeze pops, chips, pretzels, etc etc. I don't exactly live off of that stuff, but it's really nice to have it when you want it and a bit depressing when you can't. Our Paleo meals have all tasted good, but not as good as that stuff. The difference comes afterward...I feel good and full for hours after a Paleo meal. If I have a bunch of pizza and chips I'll feel stuffed for about 30 minutes and then hungry again. Paleo is the clear winner there. But the pizza TASTES much better and it's much easier to get. A lot of the key to Paleo seems to be delaying gratification, and that's not always easy.

There's a lot to love about eating Paleo foods. We've done the research and after only a week of putting it into practice, my wife and I have already been sold on the health benefits.

The question then becomes, can we keep it up? Can we take this from what it is now (a temporary diet) and incorporate it into our everyday lifestyle?

At this point I think the answer is "mostly yes". I think that what we are going to settle on is committing to a strict Paleo diet Monday-Friday while relaxing that standard on weekends and family events.

That feels like it would be sustainable. We can enjoy our weekends without being afraid to have a sandwich for lunch. If we get a craving for anything during the week, we'll be comforted in knowing that it's only a few days away (though in reality the craving will be long gone by then).

We will be able to leisurely plan our our meals for the upcoming week and shop for them (pre-planning and buying exactly what you need really helps keep the costs down).

We won't treat those days like cheat days where we stuff our faces with chips and beer, but we also won't resentfully pass on a chocolate chip cookie at Christmas either.

I think that just might be The Perfect Solution.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How To Text From Your Computer

OMG my life just got awesome.  Thank you MightyText.

So I was wondering if there was some way to send and receive text messages using my computer.  A few seconds of Google Fu turned up an awesome free solution...MightyText.

I should stop here and say this is Android only.  I don't know of an iPhone app that has this functionality because Apple locks stuff like this down.  Yet another reason why I think everyone should have an Android cell phone and an iPad (that's my current setup).  Best of both worlds.

Setting up MightyText is incredibly easy.  Just download and install the app, then open up Google Chrome and install the MightyText Chrome Extension.

Yes, this means that you have to use Chrome in order to send/receive texts (I'm a Firefox guy all the way), but I actually don't mind this restriction.  I just open the one Chrome window and resize it to a small actually makes it feel like a desktop app.

I've tried it, I use it, it works seamlessly.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Paleo Weekend (Days 3-4)

After sleeping for slightly over 12 HOURS last night, I awoke still having a headache.

That isn't stopping me though...on to day 3 of paleo eating!

Our dinner tonight is consisting of pork loin, so Rebecca started getting that reading in the crock pot while I made some homemade salsa (which is going with our breakfast of leftover chicken).

Armed with this salsa recipe (I added green peppers) and my trusty slap chop, I got to work. Here are the results:

It was pretty good, but next time I make salsa, I think I need to take it a little easier on the onion and jalapeno...just a bit too much for our taste.  Next time I'll add those slowly at the end until I figure out how much is enough.

Our breakfast of chicken and salsa was very good, but I've got to say, it's definitely weird to eat that type of food for breakfast.

We then went about our day, for me that meant pool and yard work, Rebecca was cleaning the house.

Lunch was pretty basic, but very good...tuna and salad.

Rebecca has really been craving chocolate, so after seeing this "decadent fruit dip" recipe, we went out to a local health food store to pick up some coconut milk and coconut flour.  She followed the recipe exactly and made half white dip and half chocolate dip.  We put it in the refrigerator to get cold so we could enjoy it later.

At some point this afternoon, my headache mostly went away.  It's not pounding any more, but if I shake my head from side to side, I definitely still feel it.  For those of you keeping score at home, it's been about a day-and-a-half of pounding headaches. I'm also not nearly as lethargic as I was for the first couple days.

For dinner we had the pork loin that had been simmering in the crock pot all day (along with tomato sauce, zucchini, cauliflower, and basil) and it was AMAZING.

I think I'm going to start using Evernote to keep a list of everything we're eating on this diet (along with the recipe) and score them by both how much we like them and how easy they are to prepare. That will give us an easy list to work from for future meals beyond the 30 days (remember, we're following the 30 day meal plan in The Paleo Solution).

After dinner we each had a cut up apple with the previously mentioned dip.  I thought it was pretty great...the regular one tasted better than the chocolate one.

Sunday morning, for breakfast we had some scrambled omega 3 natural eggs and blueberries.  This was one of the best breakfasts I've ever had.  I know I'm saying that a lot...I don't know if my tastebuds are changing or if I'm just enjoying food more.

Lunch was leftover pork loin, and dinner was a salad with an Omaha Filet Mignon that we have had in the freezer for a while (seemed like an acceptable one-time substitution for tip steak)

The best part of the day was the steak.  And not just because it was steak, because we put Tamari sauce on it.

Tamari is wheat-free soy sauce.  It's very rich with a nice smokey flavor to it.  I've never had Tamari sauce before, and let me tell you...I'm never going back!

Previous to today, I would have bet my life that I would never consider anything superior to A1 for steaks.

Today, I would have lost that bet.

Tamari sauce.  Wow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Paleo Eating Day 2

It's going okay so far, I guess.

I was taking notes throughout the day and rather than overthink this post, I'll just give you my thoughts as they happened today...

7:10am - Halfway through the drive to work, I realized I forgot all of my food for the day! Damn it! Turned around and got it, what a waste of a half hour.

8:11 - Still have a splitting headache. It started around 7pm last night. I NEVER get headaches, and I've made no other changes except for my diet, so that's gotta be the cause. I'm sure it will go away when my body adjusts.

9:37 - Breakfast. Leftover salmon and green beans. Hit the spot.

11:30 - Snack. Almonds and Pecans. SO good. Feels like I'm cheating on junk food.

12:27pm - Still have a headache. It's amazing, it only took a day of eating clean for my body to experience withdrawal symptoms. Really makes me wonder just how bad my old food was for my body!

1:24 - Lunch time. I look in my lunch bag and see my salad mixed with walnuts plus the ground beef and decide to just have half of it now and the rest later. This meat is amazing, I'm savoring each bit like it's my last meal. I feel like I've never had meat before. This is tremendous.

2:57 - I'm feeling extremely lethargic.  Still have a headache.  This isn't like me.  It's Friday at 3pm, I should be looking forward to doing all kinds of things this weekend...instead, right now, I just want to go to bed.

3:24 - Eating the other half of my salad/walnuts/ground beef.

5:49 - Had my orange! Best orange ever.

6:30 - Dinner was AMAZING. Broccoli with lemon juice and ?? and rotisserie chicken.  AMAZING.

7:30 - I'm exhausted.  Still have a headache.  I crawl into bed and fall alseep.  Yes, at 7:30pm.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I've Committed To 30 Days Of Paleo Eating (Today was Day 1)

My wife (Rebecca) and I have decided to try the Paleo diet for 30 days and see what kind of results we get.

I first heard about Paleo when reading about Crossfit (which I'll be starting in few weeks).  Crossfit recommends eating the Paleo way, so I headed to Paperback Swap and picked up The Paleo Solution just in time to read over vacation.

For the last week we've been reading and talking about Paleo, and now we're giving it a shot.

I'm hoping to enjoy eating this way and get in better physical shape.  Rebecca is mostly hoping that her stomach problems go away.  Despite a bunch of doctors and tons of tests, she's almost always in pain after eating.  Robb Wolf (author of The Paleo Solution) mentions having mystery stomach problems of his own that were cured by Paleo, something which really intrigued Rebecca.

So, what exactly is Paleo?  There is an excellent FAQ here, but to summarize, it's eating when our ancestors ate for millions of years before the agricultural revolution.

The focus is on eating grass-fed meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, and nuts, and avoiding grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

Armed with the meal plans in the book, we went food shopping on Wednesday in order to get food for the first four days of our new diet.

We're planning on following Robb's meal plans almost exactly.

The reason we went shopping for 4 days worth of food is because it covered us from Thursday-Sunday, so we can go shopping for the following week anytime this weekend.

The total bill was $127, but in fairness at least $30 of that was was coconut oil/tamari/spices/seasonings/etc.  In other words, it's stuff that will last.  Based on that, I figure the onging cost will be around $130-ish per week, or $520 per month.  For all of our food.  That's not too bad, considering how well we'll be eating.

I should also mention that I ate horribly on Wednesday (my last day before Paleo.  My entire day's food consisted of a very large coffee with tons of sugar, a kit-kat, some chips, 4 slices of pizza, a bunch of watermellon, and two beers!

Anyway, the first day is now over, and it went pretty well.  My wonderful wife packed me breakfast and lunch the night before, and I went to work with a bag full of good Paleo food.

Mmy stomach growled a little before 10am, so I opened my breakfast.  Two hard boiled eggs and blueberries.  I also had almonds that I was pretty sure were for breakfast, but I ate them about an hour later.  At 1:15 or so, I attacked my lunch (salad with mixed greens, cucumber, and tomatoes topped with warmed up chunks of chicken and green peppers).  It was de-lish.  2 hours later I had an apple for a snack.

When we both got home from work, I made 4 quarter-pound burgers with ground beef on the grill (for tomorrow's lunch) while rebecca made salmon and green beans for dinner (and breakfast tomorrow).

We both had a bit of a headache tonight, but I think that's probably just a symptom of caffine withdrawal (I usually have a lot of coffee with a lot of sugar, and Rebecca has hot tea).

I'm sure the headache will go away within a couple days as our body gets used to eating this way.

1 day down, (at least) 29 to go!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Fantasy Football trophy is back from the engravers!

This year it's for real...I need to win this trophy!

Back From Vacation

Just got back from my first Hamptons vacation (fancy, I know).

Just okay. Not worth the price of everything.

My favorite photo I took was of the Montauk Lighthouse. It's $9 to get any closer than this. Everything in NY such a ripoff!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Miss The Mob

Such a short, but incredibly powerful video.

A lesson from the book "Anything You Want" by Derek Sivers

The world would be a much better place if every CEO watched this and took the lesson to heart:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My fantasy football league is going big time this year

Last year was the inaugural season for the fantasy football league I started.

It was also the first time I've ever played fantasy football.

If you've never played it, and you like NFL football even a little, I highly encourage you to join a league (or start one). It's way more fun than I thought it would be.

Anyway, this year I'm adding a League Championship Trophy for the winner:


Update 8/10/11: It's back from the engravers

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Most Used Android Apps

I got an email from my cousin today.  He just got his first Android phone and asked me for some recommended apps.  I started writing an email, and it turned into a blog post...

Before you do anything else, make sure to register your phone at - that way you can browse through the Android app store on your computer and with just a click of the mouse they will begin downloading/installing on your phone. Very convenient!

Okay, I digress.  Let's get to actual app recommendations. Thanks to app folders, I only use two out of the 7 available home screens (that way all of the apps I frequently use are just a click away...for me, that's faster than sliding through 7 screens).

The screen to the right of my home screen has three widgets: Aix Weather, Sportacular, and MLB At Bat 11.

My main screen has the Evernote widget and 8 app folders. (more on how I use Evernote here).

In my Messaging folder, I most frequently use Gmail, Handcent SMS (which I use to replace the stock android text app), and Voice (which I use for voicemail, replacing the standard Verizon voicemail).

In my Internet folder, I most frequently use the standard browser, Firefox and LastPass.  LastPass is my password manager and I use that when I need to log into a website and I don't know the password (which is frequently, because my passwords are all different and usually look something like this: X7s$sdd0@2U

In my Website Apps folder, I most frequently use, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, ING Direct, Netflix, Pandora, Reader, ReadItLater, Redbox, Wells Fargo, YouTube, and Zillow.

In my Utilities folder, I most frequently use Calculator, Calendar, Converter, Google Authentication (because two-factor authentication on my Google account is an absolute must), Market, and Quick Settings.

In my Camera folder, besides the stock camera/camcorder/gallery apps, I most frequently use Barcode Scanner, Google Goggles, Imgur, and QuickPic.

In my Music folder, I most frequently use Amazon MP3, Google Music, Pandora, and Shazam.

My Games folder is pathetic, I don't have any good recommendations.  I don't really play any games on my phone (but I do on my iPad).

So that's about it.  That's what works for me.  Am I missing any great apps?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Which Superhero Power Would You Like Most Of All?

According to the article here, of all the powers of all the superheros in all the world, film fans think the most impressive is the quick healing ability of Wolverine, according to a poll.

I'm sorry, but are you effing kidding me?   The quick healing ability of Wolverine won that poll?

I can literally think of 20 other powers that would be better.

How was Superman's FLYING not #1?  It wasn't even 2, it was third place.  Behind the mind bendy powers of Professor X! 

Who are these people?  Am I crazy?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Firefox Keywords Are A Time Saving Machine

I'm going to assume you're already using Firefox.

If you're not using Keywords, you're missing out.  It's the fastest and most flexible way that I can imagine to navigate around frequently visited sites.

To set a keyword, bookmark the site, then press Shift+Ctrl+B to open your bookmark library.  Click on the bookmark then at the bottom you'll see the attributes Name, Location, Tags, Keyword, and Description.  Whatever you type in "Keyword" will become your "shortcut text" to that website.  From then on, type that text in the address bar and hit enter and you go straight to that site.

For my most frequently visited sites I assign a one-character keyword.  For example, my keyword for Gmail is simply "g".  All I have to do is press "Ctrl + L" which takes me to the address bar, then press "g" and "enter".  It's just as fast to open it in a new tab: "Ctrl + T (opens a new tab with your cursor already in the address bar)" "g" "enter"

Whenever I find myself visiting a site over and over, I'll create a keyword.  Facebook is "f".  I have a keyword "phillies" which takes me to the Phillies schedule on Yahoo Sports.  When I was learning how to maintain my pool this summer (my first pool), I visited this site a lot, so I assigned it the keyword "pool".

I try to play "A Google A Day" everyday, and I assigned it the keyword "game".

With my hands on the keyboard I can literally open any of those websites in under half of a second (okay "phillies" might take a full second).

Give it a's a huge time saver!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Text Expander For Android

Oh shit, I forgot to mention this in my Texter post, so rather than expanding on it (pun), I thought I'd make it today's post.

Since I love my text expander so much, I wanted to find one for my Android phone.  The most frequent thing that I find myself typing over and over on my Droid X is my email address and that's a's 17 characters total, you've got to toggle back and forth to get the "@" just takes too long.

What I needed was a text expander.  I found one in Smart Keyboard Pro.  Once you install it, you go into the Settings > Text Prediction > Custom AutoText > click Add AutoText.  In there you put the text you want to type, and then what you want it to expand to.  (Hint: make sure that the text you use to expand isn't a real don't want to insert your email address every time you type the word "email!").  For me, all I have to do is type "wg" and it inserts my email address!  For me, that one feature is worth the price of the entire app.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Having LASIK Today

In about 6 hours I'll be having my eyeballs cut open and shot with a laser.  What are you doing today?

I've had horrible eyesight my entire life.  I've had contacts since probably 7th grade, which would have put me around 12 years old.  I'm 32 now, so if you're great at math like me, that's 20 years with contacts.

And it all could end in 6 hours.

There ARE risks.  As I understand it, these days they are pretty good at excluding people who aren't good candidates for the proceedure and minimizing risk.  But still 1 in 200 people don't heal properly after the surgery and their vision is pretty much messed up forever.  And by "messed up forever" I don't mean "will still have to wear glasses"...I mean  they get stuck with very poor vision uncorrectable by lenses.

So that gives me a 99.5% chance of success.

I'm playing Russian Roulette with a 200 chamber gun.

See you later!


Update 7/23: It's the next morning, I'd say that everything went pretty well.  It's not perfect.

Immediately after the surgery there was a significant amount of "fog" in my vision which they said is normal.

The surgeon said it would mostly go away after I took a nap and should be fully gone by the next morning (this morning).  He was right about's almost all gone, but there's definitely still some fog in my vision.

Other potential side effects of LASIK are the "Starburst" and "Halo" effects:

When I look at a light in a dark room (for example the white clock on my DVR in my "man cave" or white text on a black tv screen) I currently see a decent amount of Starburst and a significant amount of Halo.

They do say that it can fade as the eyes heal, so I'm hopeful for that!

It's also a little annoying to look at the computer to type.  Not nearly as sharp as it was before with contacts or glasses.

To be sure, though, my vision is dramatically improved.  There's no way I would have been able to sit down and type this without any contacts or glasses.  I can see very well in general, and I currently don't regret the surgery at all.  I have a follow up appointment this evening, and hopefully it will just continue to get better!

Update 8/1.  I can basically see perfectly.  The starburst and halo are almost totally gone, and whatever is left isn't really noticeable anymore (it's still there, but it seems normal now).  I can't believe I can see this well without contacts/glasses.  Amazing!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How To Stop Time

I know we can't technically stop time (yet), but if you can figure out ways to accomplish your tasks quicker without sacrificing quality, that's really the same thing, isn't it?

Assume you have a task that takes 10 minutes.  What's the difference between stopping time for a minute (thereby completing it in 9 minutes) or figuring out how to get that task done in 9 minutes?  Answer: No difference.  Just as good as stopping time.

Just like compounding interest creates huge gains over time, saving small amounts of time every day adds up huge over the long run.

That's where one of my favorite programs, Texter, comes in.  Texter is a free text expander from LifeHacker that lets you create key phrases (called hotstrings) that - when you type them - automatically expand into more text.

If you have anything repetitive that you find yourself typing over and over, you need to check this out.  For example, without getting too specific, at work I'll frequently get all kinds of financial files and I'll review the investments for suitability.  Once reviewed, I'll shoot an email to the necessary parties with instructions for what to do next.  As you can probably imagine, there's a lot of the same words being typed again and again.  So I set up a shortcut in Texter...whenever I type "529email" it will instantly type out my entire email (about 4 paragraphs) and I just have to fill in a few specifics (account numbers mostly) and click send.

I've been using it for a few months now and according to the stats, I've saved myself from typing 58,877 characters.  I'd say that's definitely worth the 2 minute install and maybe a half hour to get used to it, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Love Evernote So Much, You Don't Even Know...

I have just about the worst memory in the world.

Okay, that's probably an exaggeration. but it's not that far off.  My grandfather has a terrible memory, my dad isn't too far behind him, and I can tell that it won't be long before I'm in the exact same boat.

I think it's accelerating with each generation.  If I ever have a son, he'll probably have Alzheimer's before college.  It's depressing!

Does this sound think of something you need to do, and then NO MORE THAN 5 SECONDS PASS and you've completely forgotten what that was.  No matter how hard you try to remember, it's gone.

Welcome to my life.

I tried a lot of different ways of keeping everything in one place...I tried storing files on Dropbox (which I love, btw).  I tried emailing myself everything I wanted to remember.  I tried calendars.  I tried all of the different to-do lists online and nothing quite seemed to work for me until Evernote.

Rather than go over the features like a step-by-step tutorial, I'll just tell you how I use it...let me know in the comments if something doesn't make sense or if you have questions.

I spent about an hour and a half per day in the car driving back and forth from work.  I have a LOT of thoughts during that time.  Since I'm driving I can't exactly send myself an email or write anything down, but that's where the Evernote Android app shines.  I just tap an icon on my phone and it starts the voice recorder.  I just say whatever I want (keeping my eyes on the road) and when I'm done I tap the Save button.  It's instantly uploaded to my inbox for me to review later.

It also has a one-tap button to take a photo, and any text in the photo becomes instantly searchable in Evernote.  If you either don't have a scanner or you don't have one handy, a quick photo accomplishes the same thing since you can search the words in photos.  If you see something in a store that you want to look into later, just snap a photo into Evernote, it will be there next time you open it up.

For me, I spend all day putting things into Evernote (voice notes, photos, text notes, emails, etc) and then the first thing I do when I get home is look in my Evernote "inbox".  Anything that requires action I do or put in a queue, everything that's for future reference gets tagged and put away.

For example, anything I buy, I'll download the user manual for it, tag it as "user manual" and forget about it.  That way if I need to find a part number or something 2 or 3 years from now I'll be able to find it with no problem.

Another handy use is anytime I have to call into a company, whether it's my cell phone provider, the local electric utility, or scheduling an appointment with the vet for my dog, I just open up Evernote and start typing the details of who I'm speaking with, what time it is, and what we discussed.  Then I tag it and forget it.  If I ever need that information, it's right at my fingertips wherever I am, thanks not only to the desktop app but all of the mobile apps they offer.