Posts made in February, 2013

Bringing The Noise

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 in Improvements | 5 comments

Last night, following two restless nights caused primarily by NASCAR seeming to run down 66 (we abut the highway through a tiny forest, which is bare and reduces no noise in the winter and really, people lacking proper mufflers blast through at well over 100 late at night), I decided to do something about it.

We rocked out to brown noise (not to be confused with the brown note). ALL NIGHT LONG. What is brown noise? Well, you could click the link at the start of this paragraph… Or go with one of my quick and simple answers… It is noise with a focus on lower frequencies and a linear decline in power as frequency increases, whereas white noise is basically random and pink noise is a mix of the two (getting VERY basic here… so basic that I’m almost lying).

And I think it worked. Or it was a great placebo. Regardless, I think we might be addicted. Having gone to bed restless, I fell asleep near immediately after starting the noise and stayed that way. Note: I almost always sleep like a rock, but now and then I’ll have a week that’s off. Male period? I’m sure I have a few friends who would say I’ve been cranky of late, but I’d prefer to blame that on the recent product announcements from Google, Blackberry, Sony, and more of the usual raping of gamers from EA. If businesses would just stop SUCKING. GOSH. I digress… It’s just my period.

The tool used was the SimplyNoise app based on my knowledge of their site (a friend linked to it a while back), and spending far too much time wading through poorly executed “free” crap that required in-app purchases for anything you may actually want to use. I do wonder if my iPhone is the best producer of noise as I’m sure its frequency range is cutting off on both ends, but it’s what I had near and I’m not about to setup a serious noise generating system in the bedroom. Anyway, the app is very simply designed, tasteful, and $.99. What’s a buck?

We tried all the noise types before settling on brown at a low volume oscillation. White and pink were both too harsh and seemed to do a poorer job at blocking out (I know that’s not the technically correct term) what we didn’t want to hear. Your results may vary based on your location and the ambient noise you receive. For a highway? Brown all the way. The volume oscillation provided a nice variance; after a few minutes with it disabled (default), the constance began to grate on me. Oscillation was the trick, but not at the high or medium settings after they were too fast and too harsh. Again, your mileage may vary.

Anyone else use noise? What do you use to generate it? Have any links telling me that it is a severe health risk? Talk to me.

One Seven Four

Posted on Feb 12, 2013 in General, Improvements | 3 comments

First goal of the year: Accomplished.

At the start of the year, I set a bunch of goals that weren’t SMART. Knowing myself and how self-motivated I am, I knew I’d still push myself to reach them. As of this morning, I’ve accomplished the first.

On January 1st, I weighed 184lbs after having taken a month easy from my cardio work, eating nonstop over the holidays, and a weeklong cruise with the family. As of this morning, the scale showed 174 (wifey can verify). 10lbs lost in a 1 and 1/3 of a month. The goal was to do it by my birthday (the 15th) en route to a “race weight” goal by the start of the racing season in April. I’m well on my way and don’t care what Chris has to say on the subject (I kid… his post is very worthwhile; weight loss isn’t always the answer and is rarely a good measuring stick unless you’ve got odd goals like myself [race performance]).

How did I do it? Lose 10lbs when already skinny?

  1. Exercise. I’ve always done this, but I usually slack off in the cold months. Not this year. I’m averaging over 100 miles ridden per week and about 5 run despite 1/3 of the year being zeroes due to my neck woes. A hidden bonus of cold weather work is that your body has to burn even more calories in order to keep its temperature.
  2. Eating smarter. When there is a healthier option, I’ll go for it. Forced to go out for someone’s last day of work? Have the grilled salmon and veggies instead of the burger and fries (note: if you’re eating at Ted’s, this actually still won’t be a healthy option). A lot of restaurants nowadays are listing their nutritional info in the menu. If not, check their website. Some of what I’ve found has been shocking.
  3. Not finishing her portions. This has always plagued me. After finishing my food, I’d wait around drooling in hopes that she won’t finish her’s and I’ll get to. No more. I’m done when I finish. This is 100+ calories a couple of times a week.
  4. Fewer sweets. Especially tough considering how much chocolate I received for the holidays. I’ve limited myself to a piece per day and stuck to it except for one or two binges. By “piece” I don’t mean a whole Hershey bar. I mean one square of it. It’s hard, but I’ve found it more satisfying to eat a small amount of chocolate every day rather than one bar once a week.
  5. Strength work. Typically, adding muscle battles against weight loss. It does, but ultimately increases your resting caloric consumption. Since the start of the year, I’ve done about 1000 pull-ups and 1500 push-ups (roughly 30 and 50 a day, respectively). I’m not keeping track like I normally do, which I think is keeping me from quitting… Casual works. It’s not heavy lifting by any means, but its all I need and doesn’t risk injury.
  6. Smaller meals, especially dinner. As long as you’re not waking up hungry in the middle of the night, you could stand to eat less. Eating less at dinner also has the side benefit of typically taking less time to prepare and cleanup. You don’t need a four course meal every night. Instead, make something simple or even snack most nights of the week. If you don’t feeling like eating at home, split a meal. What do the following have in common? Burrito at Chipotle, a 10″ pizza, a footlong sub, a single order of Chinese or Thai… That’s right, they’re all two meals. Save a buck, save a pound… Brilliant.
  7. Eat leftovers. Make more than you need, limit your portions, and eat the same thing the next day. Saves time, money, and calories.
  8. No beer (note: plenty of wine). Empty calories that I didn’t need. The biggest problem is that it’s rare to drink just one. I probably do limit my intake more than most (have one after a ride or one while cooking dinner and no more), but cutting it out altogether has been pretty easy. Unfortunately, by not consuming it (except for a happy hour at which I couldn’t control myself), it means we’ve been collecting it as I’m paid in beer for a lot of the favors I perform for friends. I suppose we’ll have to have folks over soon to get it out of here? Added bonus.
  9. No soda. I didn’t drink soda to begin with, but this is one that a lot of people could stand to cut out. Like beer, it’s empty calories, and a bunch of random chemicals going into your system. Save that $1.99 and drink water.
  10. Choose your battles. For a few weeks, I was drinking my coffee black. At 30 calories for my two teaspoons of sugar and another 30 or so for my half & half, the benefits didn’t outweigh the costs. I love coffee and I wasn’t loving it black. When you set a goal for anything, you don’t need to sacrifice everything to accomplish it. Pick and choose what works best for you. Being happy will go much further than saving those last 60 calories. However, know that there’s a big difference between a drip coffee with cream and the caramel bananafrappalatta you’re eyeing (by 500+ calories).

So that’s the gist of it. If I can drop 10lbs in a month, anyone can, but know that weight loss isn’t always the right answer.

Podcasts Filling The Void

Posted on Feb 4, 2013 in Tech | 0 comments

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I’ve tried them before, but always seem to run out of interest/steam after a few episodes. With most, there’s simply too much content and I feel I need to start with episode one, which sometimes immediately puts me several hundred sometimes hour long episodes behind just to get current. That’s a bear that I don’t want to deal with… That changed today (not the bear part, just the “podcasts suck” one).

Facing a six hour drive to visit the family, I spent the previous night planning my attack (yes, I’ve made the trip a million times before, but I wanted to improve upon it this time around). First, I took a serious look into books on tape (err audiobooks… no, I don’t have a tape player and have never even put a CD in my car).

I knew the name Audible, downloaded their app, and couldn’t do a thing. Not intuitive at all. I needed to login, but I didn’t have an account and couldn’t create one! Damn it! Who designed this? It turns out I had to make an account at their website before ever thinking about using the app. Can you say “terrible?” I can. I can also say “strikes one and two.” And then there are the costs… $15/mo to have someone read books to me. That might make sense for a lot of folks, but this is a service I might use for eight books a year (four roundtrip trips to the family)… that’s ridiculously expensive and a subscription-only model is clearly not the one for me.

So then I discovered the app Audiobooks. It’s free/cheap ($.99 for most books, it seems), but it uses readings that are freely licensed. That’s cool and all, but it means the narrators suck. FAIL.

Running out of options, I recalled iTunes having an “audiobooks” tab in it. Fired up the app from the nether regions of my “hide this shit” app group, hit that tab, and bam. BAM I SAID. Audiobooks galore. Except… HUGER BAM!!! A quality book is $20. Eff that noise! Literally and figuratively! I don’t even like being read to (I made it through a single book on CD back when I used to commute so many moons ago and didn’t particularly like it).

NO AUDIOBOOKS.

I gave one final go at having stuff read to me by searching for an app that would read my bookmarked “to read” websites, but drew a blank. Anyone know of anything? I’d be really happy with you and maybe buy you a drink! Or maybe this is my avenue to great fortune? I’m hereby claiming this idea as mine (MJC – February 4, 2013).

Alas, nobody was going to read to me…

So I dropped into the Podcast app (built-in Apple app). First searched for cycling stuff, which would surely put me to sleep. Brilliant! Subscribed to a couple of those, and then made my way through all the top podcasts in each category. When all was said and done, I’d subscribed to a dozen or so titles.

BVVVVVPPPPPPPP! That’s the sound of a record scratching when a show needs to jump backwards in time. I need to do that. Not in a show, but right here… on my blog. Go with it….

You might not know what a podcast is. If you’d like a really good definition, check out the article on Wikipedia and skip the rest of this paragraph. If you’d like my crappier explanation, read on… A podcast is basically a user-generated talk show that is published to the iTunes Store. I *think* they’re all free, but I’m probably very wrong on that. Regardless, most of them are made by people in their homes who have great ideas and apparently a fair amount of time on their hands [says the blogger]. Some are terrible, some are amazing. Some are a guy at a desk, and some are professionally produced in studios. NPR has a handful, 60 Minutes shows up, and… so probably does that weird guy down the street. I digress. Podcasts run the gamut on every possible characteristic, and the cool part is that the shows are 100% archived meaning you can start at episode one of a podcast that is currently hundreds of episodes deep just to get a feel for it and learn the background. You now know what a podcast is if you hadn’t previously.

So I had a dozen or so titles, was a little tired of my Spotify playlists by 4AM (I leave at the buttcrack to avoid traffic, get down there in time to work regular hours, and because the sun rising combats fatigue pretty well), and wanted some talk. Fired up the podcast app, and tuned into Simple Life Together (SLT). The show is a husband/wife duo who each week present some tips on getting ahead via making your life easier and more manageable financially, mentally, organizationally, spiritually, and all the other good things that we could all stand to improve on. They chat on a general subject for about half the time and then go into their “Things” segment where each espouses on a subject of their choosing from things (get it?) that really affected them in the past week, be it a link, a quote, a song, a person, etc. I’m a few episodes in and am loving it (aside from the wife saying “anywhos” far too often). Great ideas, great thought provocation, and really just… great. I’m always amazed at how talented “regular folk” can be. The best part (not really… it’s the content)? They only started late last year so I’ll easily be able to catch up!

So that’s that. Podcasts, which have been around for many, many years, and I’ve even tried before, are apparently now for me and an awesome way to pass the time in the car. If you haven’t considered them or checked out the offerings lately, you may want to; lots of good stuff out there. Heck, maybe you’ll find SLT to be a great fit for you?

Also noteworthy apps for long stretches of road are the following:

  • Ted – Amazing talks by amazing people
  • NPR – Duh
  • Stitcher Radio – A highly configurable podcast-like app on steroids
  • A Friend – They’re cool

If you have any suggestions, please share!

Yearly Football Roundup

Posted on Feb 3, 2013 in General | 4 comments

Today the season ends so it seems only fitting that I’ve procrastinated the writing of this until now… Hey, at least it makes me feel better…

So the Redskins had a pretty awesome season. It was actually fun to watch them week after week. After years of spending far too much time and money on the team, I decided to stop going to games until things turned around. I think they have, and might head back to the stadium next year. Yes, RG3 is broken. No, he probably won’t be the same. Yes, the coaches are to blame. Yes, so is RG3. Given modern technology and the guy’s outlook, I think we’ll have him leading the way for at least a few more years. Maybe a step slower, but the guy can throw better than most too.

It was an equally successful season in fantasy for me.

I went against my better judgement and joined a second league, which was an organizational nightmare, and didn’t go too well. I wasn’t too negative on points, but ended with a horrible record. Luckily, I turned it around in the playoffs and finished respectably. I digress, that league is over, I won’t be playing in it again, and let’s talk about what went right instead.

Oh wait, before that I should mention I joined a survivor pick’em league and completely forgot about it after week 1 until around week 8. Needless to say, I had been eliminated 😛

Okay, for real onto the good…

BLING BLING!

The DouchecanoeToYouToo’s entered the season as a clear favorite, bringing back Arian Foster in the 3rd round and Rob Gronkowski in the 5th. The team played strong throughout (always 3rd or above) and finished 1st at the end of the regular season thanks to the first place team dropping a handful straight after going undefeated, and despite several guys not playing up to par (MJD was my 1st rounder and stunk, Hakeem Nicks was 2nd round and was hurt the entire season, and Gronk was on and off the field all year as well, but did amazing things ). Where I really made up for those injuries was with picking up RG3 in the 4th round, Michael Crabtree in the 10th, and grabbing Alfred Morris and Cecil Shorts off the waiver wire. Also helpful was going 2-0 in games decided by less than a point, one of which was decided on the final play of MNF and the other which was decided by a scoring correction later in the week… Things really went right.

I knew I was in trouble in the playoffs without RG3 and I was right. Luckily, I had a bye in week 1, and even more luckily, my opponent had a pretty terrible game in week 2. Into the finals, I really felt like I had no hope, and was correct. I got beat pretty handily early in the weekend and was able to concede before the evening games.

A good year since we award the regular season champion and 2nd place gets a nice chunk too.

Heading into next year, I’ve got some pretty good keeper options. They are listed below along with the round I’d be taking them in, their value based on where mock drafts say they’ll go, and my notes. I’m leaning a certain way already, but could be swayed.

Arian Foster (2nd, +1) –  After three years, might it be time to let him go? Only a +1 round value. Then again, having an elite guy is never a bad thing. I think this pick depends on where my pick is in the 1st round.
RG3 (3rd, 0) – Until shit hit the fan, this was nearly a no-brainer. Now? Still a no-brainer, but in the other direction. Thanks for the run, Bob, but I don’t mess around with injuries.
Rob Gronkowski (4th, +2) – Another #1 guy at his position, but the guy broke his arm TWICE this year. I’m sure he’ll be back in full force, but is his value really worth a keeper and 4th round spot? Given his points over other TEs, I think he probably is.
Alfred Morris (5th, +3) – This was also a no-brainer until RG3 went down. The guy is talented, for sure, but I think he has Bob to thank for a lot of that. Without Bob hot-stepping all over the place, AM has far fewer holes. I seem to be undervaluing him (based on all the mocks I’ve seen) and will likely have to go with him to be a good homer.
Russell Wilson (5th, +1) – He’s good, but not yet elite, and the drop-off on QB talent isn’t huge.
Cecil Shorts (5th, 0) –  Looks to be one of the top wideouts next year, but very volatile given his team’s terrible offense.
Michael Crabtree (5th, +1) – I’ve never liked this guy much as he’s never lived up to the hype. That changed this year, but I still don’t trust him. Maybe today will change my mind?

Looking at values, my choices are clear. Sure, it sounds great to get Arian Foster in the 2nd round, but looking at the bigger picture, it should be all about value. Ungh. Help!