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?