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You’re walking wrong!

Health

When you see someone in the shoes to the left, the words that go through your head are probably something like “Weirdo”, “Hippy”, “Hipster”, or something similar.
I thought that too, but as it turns out, there are actually multiple reasons for this choice of footwear. That type of footwear has two names it is typically called, Minimalist or Barefoot.
Now, while we can obviously see that it is not a bare foot, it is pretty close.
So minimalist may be a closer descriptor of the type of shoe.

Let me give you some background. Last year, I read the book 4 hour body by Tim Ferris (Fantastic Book!), and there was a section on this type of shoe, and he referenced a couple of brands like Vibram Five Fingers and VivoBarefoot. I read through it and while I found it interesting, I didn’t really give it too much thought as there were all sorts of nuggets of information in that book that I wanted to cover instead and try to implement.

A couple of months ago, my wife had asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I didn’t really have an answer. The truth is, we are very blessed and don’t “want” for a lot of things, but still want a lot of things. Typically my vice has a power cord or a battery and can do something that really wows people and can be found on Gizmodo at some point. But there wasn’t really anything out there that I wanted that fit that criteria. So I started thinking about other things I was passionate about and one of those things was health. So I decided to take Tim’s advice and get two things for my birthday.

  • A Kettlebell
  • A pair of minimalist (barefoot) shoes

The illustration that really stuck out to me is the one below.

The Heel

This illustration is exactly what is wrong with the shoes that most people wear right now. They aren’t actually made for normal people to walk around on all day. Yes they are cushioned and soft and protect your feet from harm, but are they really made for our bodies or do our bodies have to conform to the idea of shoes in order make the shoes comfortable? It’s amazing that no one has asked this really in the 1000 years that we have been wearing shoes like we have today.

As you can probably imagine, shoes are not a new idea. they all used to be flat soled, fairly thin, and were simply meant to protect the foot from both the elements, and foreign objects on the ground. But shoes that have heels can be traced all the way back to the 9th century, and were meant to help with keeping feet in the stirrups of horses. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Unfortunately that one specific function turned into fashion and became commonplace, and now all of our shoes either have the classic heel or the heel is simply higher than the toe area of the shoe, like in athletic shoes. The flat shoe is almost an oddity when you go to a shoe store and try to find one, unless you want to wear flip flops.

Not only did this fashion trend cause issues for us in terms of our joints, but it actually made us less stable than we were previously by putting too much cushion under our feet and forcing our toes to fit into a specific amount of space. Tom’s underground has a fantastic article focusing on the arch of the foot and why the arches in shoes actually make us less stable and are worse for our feet than flat soles.

The Toes

The picture on the left shows the feet of those who haven’t been constrained by shoes for 20, 40, 60 or more years versus those who have. Do you see the difference? I’m sure you can because the feet at the top aren’t “normal”. They are caveman feet, as my wife calls them. The major difference that you see right off the bat is the big toe. It is actually in line with the rest of the foot instead of being pushed to the center by conforming to the shoe’s shape.

The people without the curved toe will have better balance, and will be a lot less likely to have toe issues because their toes can grow naturally without being constrained by the shoes they have to wear.

So, with these two illustrations in mind, I started looking for shoes. I had a few criteria. The primary one was that my shoes couldn’t look anything like the picture above. I work in a typical workplace setting and I am pretty sure that if I showed up wearing something like that, it would sound some alarms throughout the building immediately. So I needed to find something that looked pretty normal. As I began looking, I found that this was harder than I thought. A lot of the designers of these shoes like to stand out and want you to notice that their shoe is different than the typical shoe. But that isn’t what I wanted. I read forum after forum about different brands and different things you needed to look for when you were doing this, and I found more information than I had ever imagined I would, but had a hard time finding normal shoes that weren’t ridiculously high.

The Criteria

So, like I mentioned above, I had pretty minimal criteria starting out, but as it turned out, after reading the forums, I had more specific criteria in regards to the way it was made and less about the design.

  • No height difference between the front and back of the foot, called “zero drop”. This is better for your back as having a tilt in your shoes is bad for your back and the joints in your legs and hips. Some of the shoes have just a few millimeter drop, which is a lot better than shoes we typically wear, but still not perfect. Ideal shoes would have the zero drop.
  • Something that has a large “toe box”. This is the term used for your toe area so that they can go where they want to go instead of being stuck pushed together. It’s better for balance and helps to keep you free of a lot of toe problems because your toe is getting pushed inward in all of your shoes right now.
  • A thin sole. This gives you more of the feeling of being barefoot so that you can feel what is under your feet. This is better for balance, as well as gives a form of reflexology to the bottom of your foot that is better for your whole body. So you get a mini massage when you walk over something that has contours to it instead of just feeling your shoe tilt and turn underneath you. People also talk about being “more connected to the earth” and things like that, which I don’t necessarily get, but I guess that’s a bonus.

The Find

I looked at a lot of shoes, and finally came out with the shoes on the right.  You can see them next to a pair of Vibram FiveFingers in that picture from Birthday Shoes. They actually look a lot like the clogs that I wear on a regular basis to work, primarily because they don’t have a back, so I can slip them off and on easily since I don’t like wearing shoes.

The shoes I decided on are actually similar to a moccasin where it doesn’t have a thick sole, and essentially just tighten around your ankle by way of elastic. They are called the Suede Roo’s, made by Soft Star Shoes. They have two different models of this shoe. One is a typical suede moccasin, and the other is a suede moccasin with a leather sole that is meant more for hard surfaces. I thought about how much I would probably wear them if I liked them and opted for the leather sole. It cost about $20 more, but I figured that if I wore them in public, I would appreciate not having to worry about the sole getting dirty or wearing out as quickly.

The Verdict

Let me just say that I absolutely love these shoes. It isn’t necessarily the shoes that I love, though I do really like these, but instead the change for my feet. I have been wearing these shoes for about two weeks now and can’t imagine going back to the typical shoe.

  • My feet feel better at the end of the day, instead of being stuffed into a tight shoe. I actually forget I have shoes on once I am home because it just feels natural. Almost like having house shoes on all day.
  • Oddly enough, my knees feel better, which I did not expect, because my feet aren’t being pushed forward, which isn’t hurting my knees as badly as regular shoes did. I still have bad knees, but just walking around the office doesn’t hurt them like regular shoes did. I just realized a few days ago that my knees hadn’t hurt in some time and the only change is my footwear.

And these are just the immediate changes I’ve noticed. I am sure I will notice more, and hope that my toes spread, at least a little, so that I can see if it does make a difference in the amount of stability I have compared to the way I usually am.

The Consequences

A couple of things I have noticed regarding these shoes is that once you go barefoot/minimal, it is hard going back. I have never been one to pay attention to shoes, but now that I wear these, I can’t help but think about my shoes, and what other people wear. Not only that, it makes me want more than just my one pair. I will have to purchase some that are more durable for the outdoors and for things like sports. I can’t imagine playing basketball in these, not because they wouldn’t be comfortable, but because they just aren’t made for it.

Another thing I have noticed is that when I walk a lot, my heel actually hurts. I looked into this and it is because I am walking wrong. I think a lot of people do it and don’t realize it. When we walk in shoes, we typically take very long strides that force us to put our heel on the ground before our toes touch the ground. This is actually incorrect. When we are barefoot, we don’t do that, so why should we do it when we wear shoes? I find that I do it most often when I am in a hurry. The way I should actually be walking is by taking less steps that are a little more calculated than striking my heel on the ground every step. I should either be putting the ball of my toe down or the outer edge of my foot to the ground before my heel touches. It should be more fluid and graceful than my typical caveman walk where I stomp around on my heels all the time. I think this may be part of the reason my knees don’t hurt like they did. I am forced to walk differently while barefoot compared to in shoes, so if I put my toe down first, then my knees don’t have a chance to lock back, hurting my knee further.  I still have a lot of work to do to make it comfortable and normal, but I am making progress and it feels more normal everyday.

The Links

I have read a lot of good articles and want to give you the same articles I have found to look over. There is a lot of research and hard facts in these articles, as well as a lot of personal testimony. I recommend at least scanning through them to get some info.

The Case for Minimalist Footwear

10 Reasons to go Barefoot Running

How to Walk Barefoot 

Why Minimal?

The Children

I actually found quite a few links talking about how it was much better for kids to be barefoot and how it would help them later. I couldn’t find a lot of those articles when researching for this post, but I did find some of them, and there is information in the list of links above also. Some of the things I found most amazing were items like finding that our feet aren’t fully formed until later in our adolescent years. They are actually made of cartilage and turn to the 12 bones in our foot later on. So kids have more of a chance to have less foot problems if we start them early. Plus, kids are more clumsy because they can’t feel what is under their feet because of the thickness of the soles of shoes. This causes them to fall or stumble more often than normal, whereas adults have gotten used to it and know how to recover a bit better, so we don’t notice it as much.

Get Your Kids Into Minimalist Shoes to Ensure Natural Foot Development

When it Comes to Kids, Minimal can be Affordable

Healthy, Active, Barefoot Kids

Summer Tips for Barefoot Kids

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Finding the right Router

Web/Tech

I have had the same router for probably 3 years now, which, in terms of routers, is a pretty good amount of time.

I bought a Linksys WRT54G in 2008 and it has been great for us in terms of speed and coverage, as well as reliability. Now, part of the reason why it has been so fantastic is because I have been using DD-WRT as the firmware on it, which is open source and adds a lot of extra features.

In Mid-December, it finally gave up the ghost and wouldn’t even turn on anymore. So off I went in finding a replacement wireless router. I could have gone with something that was pretty much the same, but I figured, if I am going to get something new, I want it to have some extra features and be something I don’t have to replace in another year.

I looked at all of the big brands and lines from companies like Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Asus, and a ridiculous amount more. And in each brand, they had quite a few to choose from, which made my decision even harder.

I finally decided on the Netgear N600. It was dual band Wireless N, had built in DLNA streaming by plugging in a USB hard drive, could work as a time machine backup for macs, could work as extra storage for TiVo, and could even share printers directly from the device. All in all, it was exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t near as reliable as I had hoped for the $130 price point. The wired network seemed to work pretty well and consistent, but the wireless seemed very likely to drop in midstream. I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but our Google TV streams DLNA over wireless, and it would drop midstream pretty frequently. With that, I decided to send it back to Amazon and eat the restocking fee in order to get something that actually worked.

As a replacement, I bought the Belkin N600. This router was also dual band Wireless N, worked as a print server, did backup, and worked as a UPnP server for videos as well. Again, it sounded great, but it was even more shaky than the first one. Not only was the interface extremely slow with every change I would make,  this piece of junk actually would drop wireless about 5 times in a single hour and a half movie. This drove us absolutely crazy. So I was off again to find a replacement and send this thing back as quickly as possible.

So, what I found was that the best option for me was the Linksys E3000. This guy has the same dual channel wireless, as well as the UPnP server for hosting video and music over USB. Plus, one of the coolest things, and something that I am very happy about, is that I can go right back to my old faithful DD-WRT firmware if I would like since it is supported for this model. This model has been the epitome of stability. It has actually been much easier to use as well. This is really the model I probably should have gone with in the first place, but I saw all of the cool features of models like the Netgear and Belkin routers.

I would highly recommend this model if you are looking for some of the same features I looked for.

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Documenting your sleep

Health, Web/Tech

I have written before about how bad my sleeping habits apparently are and how I do bad things while asleep.

I think sleep is very important, and if you don’t do it right, then you can really be in for a terrible time down the road. Ever since I read Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris, the true body hacker, I have been a bit more aware of my time sleeping. He has an entire section about Perfecting Sleep. In that section he talks about ways to track your sleep and tools he uses and has tried out to help you sleep better and learn from each night’s sleep.

That section had me intrigued because obviously it included gadgets. I looked at a few of the gadgets and I must say that I would love to have them all. Some of these tracking devices will track your sleep, others will wake you up at the perfect time. And some will track you all day too in order to track your activity and diet habits.

I thought I had found the perfect mix of all of these things in the Jawbone Up, but unfortunately the product had a manufacturing fault where many of the units became unusable pretty quickly. And because of this, they stopped manufacturing and you can’t buy any, and probably won’t be able to buy any until the summer.

So, here I am back at square one trying to decide on what I want to get for my sleeping needs. Below is the list that I have used for choosing how I would like to go about this.

 

It seems there really isn’t a perfect option out there unfortunately. The above list is a modified version of the list that Wakemate has on their site, so if it looks a bit skewed towards them, that’s why.

For me, the silent alarm is a major want because we have a baby on the way in the next month or so. So that pulls out almost all of the different sleep tracking options out there. And with the Jawbone not shipping, it really only leaves two options. The Lark looks nice, but considering the sleep assessment costs an extra $60 per year, and the alarm simply wakes you at a specific time, and not at the best time, that kind of takes it out as well. So that leaves the Sleep Cycle App for iOS.

I have been trying out the app for the past week, and while it works well for tracking the sleep and being able to see the sleep graph, I have tried out the silent alarm, and since it doesn’t actually touch you, but instead sits under the fitted sheet on your bed under your pillow, it hasn’t worked for me yet. Now, the actual alarm does work pretty well as far as waking me up, but I don’t notice any real difference in my energy levels or how I wake up since it just so happens that I am moving at the time so it feels the movement on the mattress. One thing that is interesting is that I can see the points where I typically am moving around the bed, or my wife is.

20120213-212226.jpg

And that brings up another issue with the app. Since it isn’t actually attached to me, it can’t differentiate between my movement, and my wife. Of course, it probably isn’t that big of an issue because if she is moving that much, then I suppose it probably wakes me up as well. So it’s probably not too far off course. I have seen other reviews of the app, and it seems that most single people’s charts show that it is pretty close to deep sleep for most of the first part of the night, and then get closer to awake as the morning comes. But most married people have a lot more spikes because it gets a lot more movement from two people, and especially when one of them is pregnant.

I am definitely not sold on the app, though, like I said, I do like seeing the graphs of my nights and seeing the statistics, but as far as the actual alarm function, I am sure it doesn’t work as well as the actual dedicated devices for waking you up at the right time.

I am definitely going to keep looking, and will maybe check eBay to try out more than one for a cheaper price. I’ll definitely write another blog post as I try out more of these products.

 

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The best uses for Google TV

Web/Tech

20120209-180900.jpgLast July, when Logitech put the Revue on sale for $99, I jumped on the opportunity and bought one. I wanted a way to watch web video on my TV without hooking up my laptop every time. I waited patiently and got it 2 days later. It was a really neat device, and I was somewhat happy with it for specific functions, but it still didn’t do everything that I wanted. But with the 3.1 update to the device in the late fall, it became so much more useful, and it gets used pretty much everyday at our house. Here is a list of some of the ways that we use Google TV at our house.

  • Youtube – We don’t watch a lot of it, but we do watch it. When our little girl wants to watch Mickey Mouse, and there isn’t any on the Tivo, we can flip it over to the Youtube app and stream our favorites, playlists, and search for everything else on Youtube.
  • DLNA video – I have a Windows Home Server that has Tversity on it, and creates a DLNA stream across the network. So, I can go to the Logitech Media Player app and it sees everything that is on that server for video, music, and pictures. And since I have ripped most of our DVD’s to file, we can watch whatever we want without putting in another disc.
  • Streaming Music- There is a Pandora app that comes pre-installed on the device because that is the big name. And we do use it, though my personal streaming preference is Mog. And since Mog is just a web app, all I have to do is just go to the Mog site and find what I want to listen to. I can do the same thing for Amazon Cloud music too. It will start playing whatever music I would like just as quickly as it would on my laptop through the Chrome Browser. And not only that, it also has a real Google Music app that works fantastically if you have all of your music in the cloud.
  • Airplay through AirTight – This is a recent addition to my arsenal of apps on the Google TV, and one of the only ones I have paid for. It was $.99 and was totally worth it. It runs in the background on your Google TV, and if you have an iOS device like an iPad or iPhone, when you have a video or picture on your device that you would like to see on the TV, you simply have to choose to push that item to the Google TV of your choice. Then it shows up on the screen, but leaves the control on the device itself. It works fantastic!
  • Universal Remote – We typically use a Logitech Harmony remote to control almost everything in our home, but I had an older H688 that died on me on Sunday, so I had to bring out the dead, remotes, and put batteries in them all so that I could control each piece of hardware separately while I waited on the replacement. But one thing that the Logitech Revue does, that the other Google TV’s don’t, is it acts as a universal remote as well. So I change the volume on my stereo, turn on and off the tv, and change channels on the Tivo, all from my Logitech keyboard or my smartphone. It is a really neat extra feature that doesn’t get much praise typically from reviewers of the device.
  • Discussion Notes – We have a small group of people from our church over each week to pray and have bible study, and the Google TV makes it really easy for everyone to have all of the information in front of them without having pieces of paper around them. We have a Google Doc for each week that has prayer requests and any questions/notes for the week. We can have the Youversion site up on the screen for looking at scripture, and since we are going through A.W. Tozer’s Pursuit of God, I can actually put the Amazon Cloud Reader link in and pull the book up on the screen with my notes attached. This works great so that everyone can see the same thing.
  • TV Guide – There is an app called TV & Movies that actually pulls guide data for your local TV channels, so for the Google TV in our bedroom that doesn’t have a built in guide, this is a great way to find out what is on and coming on soon.
  • Picasa Picture Viewer – Since we push all of our photos to our Google accounts, this is a great way to get them on the big screen. it is a really nice photo viewer and my daughter loves seeing herself on the big tv, both for movies and pictures.
  • Netflix – Just like with everything else, Google TV has a really nice Netflix app. it has the updated interface where you can search, browse by genre, or check out recommendations without getting on a computer.
  • Amazon VOD – In addition to Netflix, it is also fantastic for Amazon Video on Demand. Any new movies that we want to watch at home, this is the best way to watch them. It works fantastic on the Google TV because, unlike my Tivo, there is no download time. It is just, turn it on and start watching. And if you are an Amazon Prime member, then that means you have a few thousand films and tv shows that you can watch for free too.

And as I said above, we liked the first one so much that we ended up buying a second one for our bedroom, which works amazingly well for watching stuff from the bedroom.

Now, even though it is a fantastic device, there are a few things I either plan to add or wish it did.

  • Placeshifting – I know that Slingbox just announced a web app that is compatible with Google TV for watching a Slingbox from your Google TV. That is fantastic, and something I am looking into, but I hate that it only works with the newer, $175 and up models, of the devices.
  • Timeshifting – I do wish that it had some sort of tuner and recording functionality. We have a Tivo, and I would love to be able to get rid of it, even though it is the best DVR out there.  But having that built in and having to watch TV through the HDMI port is a little different.
  • Network TV – Since it doesn’t do timeshifting, it would be fantastic if it could do some kind of streaming from the big 4 networks or Hulu. Initially it was allowed, but after a couple of weeks, they disallowed it and cut off Google TV devices completely. There is a hack for one of the networks, but the rest don’t work at all. This would be the killer item if it even had Hulu+.
  • Video Chat – I would love it if it had video chat. I know that the Revue has a webcam you can hook up, but it only works when chatting with proprietary software or other Revue’s. It would be best if it worked with facetime, Skype, or even Google Video Chat.

Overall, it’s a fantastic box, and quite cheap, especially for what it does. It’s not perfect, but it’s much closer than the other boxes I’ve tried. If you have $100 and want a streaming box that does a lot, then I would say dive in.

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Why I support Ron Paul

Political

Ron Paul
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gage Skidmore I am not one to typically talk politics, but this latest GOP field has me more on the edge of my seat than any other political contest to date. Maybe it is because I am getting older and find it more interesting. Maybe it is because I see that the only way things can change is by putting someone different in the white house. Or maybe it is because there is someone running that I can truly stand behind and not consider “the lesser of two evils”.

In the 2008 election, I watched things every now and then, and saw this person in the Democratic party start emerging, he was eloquent, very well spoken, and had me snowed. Then I actually looked at the issues and found that he was completely contrary to my beliefs, so he wasn’t going to get my vote.  Whereas on the Republican side, I think most people knew McCain was going to get the GOP nomination, and I was hopeful that he would, even though he was probably the worst candidate the Republican party could have gone with, win in the Presidential race. So I voted for McCain in the presidential election. He wasn’t the ideal candidate, but he was better than the alternative.

Obviously Barrack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won the election, and we are deeper in debt than ever. More people are out of work than ever before. And the personal control he has over the governmental system and is continuing to gather is getting more and more scary.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way, and the GOP candidates know this as well. This is the reason why these are the issues that are brought up at every debate and in every ad.

As I said before, I am not a political person, and I am sure that each candidate on the republican side will fare better than our current president, but I do definitely have a preference. Ron Paul.

When you look at the field of nominees, they are fairly similar on most things. They are politicians who don’t keep their word and say what the world wants to hear, whether it is their own beliefs or not. But that’s not what I want in a president. I want a president who will stand up for what he believes in no matter what obstacles he sees, and who has always been consistent. I want someone who is a lot smarter than I am, who can make informed decisions that will benefit our country at the right times, instead of worrying about that next election.  I want someone who will make cuts to our bloated government, and give business owners the opportunity to capitalize on this by growing jobs and helping our economy. And above all, I want someone with Christian ethics and values that values life and my choice to worship Jesus Christ.

When I look at the field, I see bits and pieces of each of these traits in the different GOP candidates, but I only see all of them in one candidate. Gingrich is a brilliant man. He is extremely smart, seems to have a memory like a steel trap, and values human life, as long as it doesn’t mean bringing our troops home, and he may be the most similar in my beliefs as far as religion goes. Romney seems to be a very shrewd business man, and would probably be good at helping with some of the economic issues we have by giving more control to business owners, especially since he is probably invested in many of them already. And Santorum seems like a typical politician who has changed his opinion a million times depending on what is popular at the time and might give him extra votes.

But the one person who embodies all of my wants; consistent, intelligent, frugal, Christian, and a value for life, is Ron Paul.

He was an obstetrician, so he obviously cares for human life and has been in a field that knows how the process works, and knows that there is nothing more valuable and innocent than a child. And because of this, he wants everyone to know where he stands, and I definitely stand with him. Not only was he an obstetrician, but he was also a flight surgeon in the Air Force and Air National guard. So obviously he knows a little about the military and what is best there. He wants to bring the troops home. We are so worried about what other countries are doing, we don’t worry about how it affects families at home, or think about what would happen if we actually were to get attacked here in the states. How would we defend ourselves when the majority of our military is spread out all over the country trying to make decisions for groups that they don’t know from Adam? The amount of lives we have lost by doing this “nation building” has been far beyond what anyone twenty years ago could have imagined.  Not to mention all of the money that we are spending on these trips overseas for all of our military personnel.

He is also the only candidate who has a solid record of voting consistently on all of the issues, not just certain ones. If you look at his voting record, he is consistently saying no to all of the spending that the rest of Capitol Hill so easily says yes to because there is extra money in their pockets for each yes vote. When you look at his economic plan versus the rest of the candidates, he is by far the most fearless. He knows that changes need to be made in order to save this country from economic meltdown, and he knows that those changes are not going to be small, unlike the other candidates who make trivial changes that won’t impact the overall economic health of the country.  He has put forth a plan that would cut $1 trillion in just the first year, compared to the other candidates who talk about a couple hundred billion over their entire term!

And Ron Paul is a Christian, which is the most significant trait in a leader. This means he would look to God for guidance, instead of thinking that he is above the law and think that he can make all of the decisions on his own. And this is where all of the above traits come from. He values human life because God created it. He tries to be frugal, because God calls him to it as a servant. And he is consistent, just as God expects us to be. I am definitely not saying that Ron Paul is perfect, no person is, especially, it seems, in politics. Such as his stance on drugs which I don’t agree with, but I understand where he’s coming from, so it makes sense.  But Ron Paul is probably the country’s best hope for a turn around. By turning to a Christian man who is intelligent, consistent, and God fearing, we could make this country more similar to its foundational roots than it has been in at least a century.

I think the major hurdle for Ron Paul is that he doesn’t get the coverage that the other candidates do. He gets a tenth of the coverage that the front runners, Gingrich and Romney, seem to get in each show. If his name is mentioned, it is a win, if he gets an entire segment, it is a miracle. The mainstream media doesn’t give him the coverage because they don’t want him in office. Why they don’t want him in office is because change is possible under him, where they know that it is much less likely with the other candidates.  I believe that he has the best chance of winning the presidential race as well. I have more than a few friends who are die-hard democratic voters who have said more than once that if Ron Paul won the nomination, then they would vote for him as well. They all have different reasons, but they all feel that he would be the best person for the job. This is a testament to how people actually feel about Ron Paul, instead of what the polls and media keep feeding us day to day.

I doubt he has the ability to get the nomination, because people tend to get their information from the media instead of doing the research themselves. This is like being spoonfed dirt, when there is a feast in front of you that you simply have to dig your hands into. I am sure that very few people will read this post, and if they do, they may not like what I have to say. But I feel it is my job to inform people of the differences, especially for those who haven’t done the research and kept up with things as much as I have.

 

I have turned comments off because this isn’t a discussion, but more of my forum on the matter. If you want to talk about it, then you can do that in another way.

 

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Happy All Saints’ Day!

Uncategorized
Media_httpcdnchurchma_abswb

How do we forget about this every year? This is a much bigger deal than Halloween!

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How to make a budget

Uncategorized

You know, there are those things that I wish was a class in high school that they just don’t teach you and you have to find out later. In my opinion, budgeting is one of those things. Christian Personal Finance has an article on how to create a budget that is very good. http://christianpf.com/how-to-make-a-budget/

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My thoughts on Google+

Web/Tech

For almost 2 weeks now, I have been using Google+ as my primary social network, only checking in from time to time with facebook since, right now, that’s where the users are.

What is it?

Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook/Twitter. Now, typically I would compare it to one or the other, but the truth is, it’s a competitor to both because it has features of both networks. You have the public aspects and the ability to follow without being a friend, and then you have the privacy and intimacy of keeping certain updates between you and your real friends. So, it actually is very much a competitor to both services.

How is it different?

Well, if the two major networks had a love-child, for the most part, it would be Google+. Not completely, mind you, but for the overall concept, it is definitely a mixture of the two. You have the publicity and the ability to follow famous people that Twitter has, but you can use something called “Circles” to create friend groups to keep things private, and even share specific posts with only a subset of your friends. So if there is a certain group of friends that are interested in tech, like me, then you could create a circle of friends called tech folk and share technical articles with them, because other people will just glaze over when they see the words Linux or PHP in something. It also separates your news stream into these circles. So if you want to look at only your family’s updates, then you can click on your family’s circle and it will show that group only.

It’s also got a skype or webex competitor feature called Hangouts. Hangouts are a group video chat. You can either create a public hangout, where you turn on your webcam and tell anyone who wants to come and video chat, to come and video chat. Sometimes there is a specific topic, sometimes it’s just to shoot the bull. Then you can create a private hangout where only specific people are invited and can see when it starts. It switches to the person talking automatically, and even allows for everyone to watch a Youtube video at the same time. A very cool use that we’ve seen in these last couple of weeks is that celebrities are having public hangouts where 9 people can come in and talk face to face with them to ask questions or have a conversation. Even Newt Gingrich had a Hangout with some people in order to talk about issues. Completely impromptu and with some great conversation.

It also integrates some of Google’s other services directly into the interface.

Latitude – If you check in to a latitude location, it goes directly onto your wall with whatever visibility you want, public, or other circles.

Chat – Chat shows up on your home page with the ability to chat with your gchat contacts that used to only show up on your Gmail. It gives you an opportunity to chat with those people you are used to chatting with and if you start a chat in that window or another window like gmail, then it keeps it open while you navigate through Plus.

Picasaweb – This is what Plus uses as its photos hub. So if you have already shared photos or a photo album with someone and they are your friend on plus, then they will be able to go to your profile and hit the photos tab and see things no one else can, or you can make albums public. Picasaweb is my favorite online photo tool, and the integration here is extremely tight.

Profiles – Google accounts have had profiles for a long time, but they haven’t really been used for anything. But now your plus profile is a much nicer version of the old product, and it is actually useful.

Buzz – If you have a buzz account and anything shared to it, then it shows up in your profile under a buzz section.

+1 – If you have +1′d any sites, then a tab shows up on your profile that shows a few sites that you like and approve of.

Is it any good?

It’s very good, and this is just the beginning.

Especially for those of you who live in Google products, it is great. My typical browser usage keeps a few tabs open all the time, and then the rest change all the time. Reader, Gmail, Facebook. But Facebook has been supplanted by GPlus, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I still go to Facebook to look around a little, but then I come back to Google Plus and check things out cause I know I have missed some very good conversations.

What tips do you have for everyone else?

Create circles, but not too many. Limit yourself to less than 10 circles, because in the end, you probably won’t be sharing with more than a couple of groups of people, or to the public.

Mute this post can be used similar to Mark as Read. So if there is a conversation that you have looked over and just aren’t interested in any longer, then hit the arrow on the post and Mute it.  That’s how I manage my feed, especially since, as of right now, if there is a new comment on a post, then the post jumps back to the top of your feed. This makes it difficult to keep up with what is actually new.

Get an Android Device. The Google+ app is fantastic, and even includes a nearby section so you can see conversations that are happening around you using latitude’s coordinates. Plus it has a really nice group messaging app called Huddle, which works very well if multiple people need in on a text messaging type conversation on mobile phones. It also automatically uploads, to a private album, all of the photos you take, automatically if you want, so you can put them on your plus page easier when you get back to your PC.

Dig through the settings. If you don’t, then you won’t be able to find out what settings you can tweak to make it better. And keep checking the settings to make sure nothing has changed that would make your experience better.

How can it improve?

It is new and has a ways to go. The Google team has been fantastic at crowdsourcing the next features and changes for the service from the beta testers, even going so far as to have hangouts so people can explain their ideas and problems in person.

Speaking of hangouts, if you could share your desktop, it truly would be a webex killer. Free 10 person meetings with screen sharing would be absolutely amazing, especially for Google Apps customers.

Google Apps customers do not currently have access. You have to actually have a gmail account to get in right now, but we have been told that is going to change, and Google Apps customers may find this a very useful tool in the long run.

Shared Circles could be a great addition. What if I could have public circles for things like tech posts, so the people who wanted to follow my tech news could just see that and wouldn’t have to see posts about underwater basketweaving or whatever else. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Business pages are another item that they haven’t gotten into yet. They will need something similar to facebook pages so that brands can build their pages and have multiple admins handling the account. And with Google Analytics on board, it would be extremely useful for large and small businesses alike.

There is a section called Sparks which is supposed to be news you are interested in that you can share, but it would be more useful if it was my Google Reader articles, especially since I have already, obviously, defined my interests through it.

Events page. I would love to see a full featured events page so that people could have a wave-like page that included calendar invites and docs integration. It would be great for having multiple people plan an event.

I wish there was a way to be able to see everything that I have commented on or interacted with. Kind of my personal activity feed. As of right now, you can only see items you’ve posted, not everything you’ve commented on or done.

There isn’t currently a super easy way to import your Facebook friends or info into Google Plus, but if they could figure out a way to use the facebook export to import specific info like photos, updates, friends, and everything else. That would be fantastic, especially if Facebook keeps blocking plugins that connect to Google Plus.

Conclusion

I really could talk about this all day, but no one would read it. :)

It is a fantastic site with a lot of potential. There is going to be a point down the line where people will start coming en masse to the site, but it could be awhile. It has a lot of features and integration, but it will keep some people from joining simply since they have to create another email address, and if they don’t have a gmail address already, then they may not want to go through the steps.

The features for me, are great, and extremely useful, and much more of what I want. If it would get rid of the use for Facebook AND Twitter for me, that would be absolutely fantastic. It’s on its way, and it is still in beta!

In a few months, it could be a completely different ballgame and Google Plus could hit critical mass with people leaving Facebook in droves once they see just how great it is.

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Don’t kill yourself to sleep

Current Affairs, Health

I am a hardcore sleeper. I love to sleep, though not as much as some other people. I always thought I had great sleep habits. I went to bed at reasonable hours, I didn’t sleep with the TV on, so I don’t have to have background sounds. I don’t even have to have it completely dark. So, I am a pretty adaptable sleeper. The one thing I didn’t factor in was the position that I slept in. I would sleep on my back, front, sides, whatever was comfortable because if it was comfortable, then that means I that’s how I should sleep so I can get the best rest, right?

Apparently not.

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