Browsing the archives for the Current Affairs category.


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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My 5 week 4 hour body progress

Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Health

About 2 and a half months ago, i got Tim Ferris’ book  The 4-Hour Body, which, among other things, talks about his Slow Carb Diet.  It consists of putting a vegetable, meat, and legume at each meal and cutting out carbs and sugar in order to lose weight. That includes pasta, bread, potatoes, except red potatoes, as well as sweets and fruits. Even rice is off-limits on this diet.

At the same time, I have been listening to a podcast called Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott who said at the first of the year very definitively, “I am going to lose weight this year”. He never really went much further than that, but a few weeks later, he mentioned a book called Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, which is what he was basing his statement on, that pretty much anything white, potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, are not good for you, and that an overabundance of those things are what is making America fat.

Our culture has turned these cheap, white foods into the basis for all of our meals and snacks. If you look at pretty much any dish in magazines, there is almost always some sort of carb and/or sugar on the plate because that is what we see as normal, and it is cheap to produce, but in other cultures, only the poorer people eat a lot of potatoes, bread and rice because they are cheaper and filling. But just because they are filling doesn’t mean that they are good for you obviously.  And his book is, like the 4 hour body, based on scientific findings, not on exercising and fads.

But one thing that the 4 hour body allows is an anything goes, eat as much as you want of anything cheat day. So, about 5 weeks ago, on February 21, I started doing the 4-hour body diet, and placed Saturday as my regular cheat day each week. I am not going to say that it hasn’t been hard, because it has. There are many times that I would much rather have sweets or bread or pasta over what I am having, (I had someone today set 5 full size snickers bars on my desk as a thank you for some work I did), but I know that my goal is to lose weight and feel better. So I push on and look toward Saturday. Like I said, I started on February 21, and here we are at March 31, and I have lost 10.6 pounds. I went from 215.4 lbs to 204.8 lbs in 5 weeks. Not too bad huh? And especially since I am not that big of a guy, I just wanted to get back to a comfortable weight for me since I have put on my married weight.

But I don’t think I would have stuck with it as long and I would have fallen off the wagon much more if it weren’t for those Saturdays where I could eat the things I missed throughout the week.

One thing I wish that I would have done early on in this diet is to take my measurements to see how much I have lost in inches instead of weight, because that is a better gauge of how much I have lost. But oh well. I know it’s working because my stomach is a little flatter than it was and I think that my face has gotten a little thinner as well.

My goal is to get down to 200, so I am very close, but I may stay on a little longer to get to 190 if things are going well. But we’ll see how it all goes. I like the diet and think it actually is a pretty sustainable long-term diet, which really becomes more of a lifestyle.  Because of this diet, I will be making changes for the long term that I believe will help me in the long run. I eat more protein in the morning (eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and yogurt) instead of my smoothie (apple juice, strawberries, mixed berries, peaches, and keifer), which has helped me to regulate my blood sugar so that I don’t have a sugar drop in the afternoons like I used to.  And I now know that I don’t have to always eat bread with every meal or there are other options besides french fries when I go out to eat (asparagus is always a welcome change).

Overall, i’m very happy with it and will keep going with my diet for awhile longer to get to the point where I’m happy with my weight and feel good as well. I would recommend the 4 hour body to just about everyone because it doesn’t just talk about how to lose weight, but also how to gain weight, workout, sleep better, as well as lots of other things in the process. Plus it’s a very interesting read because the author, Tim Ferris, has done lots of self-experimentation in order to find what works and what doesn’t. And obviously he has found the easiest way to lose weight with the least amount of effort. Hopefully I will be able to keep most of these changes permanent, but if not, at least I have some headroom before I get back to 215.

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The Chumby One – Cheaper but just as wonderful

Current Affairs, Web/Tech

A few months back Chumby announced the Chumby One. We got ours in just before Thanksgiving and I am loving mine.

Let me tell you what a Chumby is exactly. It is an internet connected, touch screen, wifi alarm clock with 1,500 different widgets you can add to personalize it and use however you see fit. Sarah got me a Chumby last year for Christmas and I have really enjoyed it, but it is kind of a pain to take it back and forth to work everyday if I want to use it in the office. Plus Sarah had stolen mine so that she could have multiple alarms at night when Lyla nurses without changing it every time. I wanted a digital picture frame for the office, but when I saw the price drop on the new Chumby I knew it would be a digital picture frame and so much more. So I told Sarah that the new Chumby One was only going to be half the price at $99 and it does pretty much everything that the old Chumby did. The only major changes they made were taking away one speaker, one USB port, and it is no longer a beanbag device, but more of a standard alarm clock look. Other than that, the functionality is the same, and they even added an external volume knob, and an FM radio.  You can see from the picture below the difference in the old and new Chumby’s. The old one is more of a play toy, but higher priced, and the newer one is cheaper, but the same insides for the most part.

chumby side by side

Sarah got hers early last week and I got my original Chumby back to use as my alarm clock, and mine came in the day after Thanksgiving. I have been using it at work all week this week and I couldn’t be happier. I can plug in my iPhone via the back USB port and listen to the music directly off of it while it is being charged. I can have a slideshow running on the Chumby’s screen from my Flickr Photos, or Facebook photos at the same time of my baby girl. I’ve also got it setup to listen to Love 89, Life 88.3, NPR, and TWIT.tv.  Not only that, but it has Pandora built in and lots of other streaming radio options.  It is a really slick device that I am getting more and more dependant on and really loving. And there are tons of other widgets you can add like webcams, games, news, mail, social applications, really whatever you need. It is an extremely cool little device that does so many things. Plus if you are the type that likes to go in and hack, it is totally hackable since it is really just a custom Linux build.

So, if you are looking for a gift for someone, or think this sounds like something you would like, then check out Chumby.com and see if it will fit your needs.

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Windows Home Server – My New Toy

Current Affairs, Web/Tech

I know i haven’t written in quite a bit, but I think I may have to start back up as I don’t see as many people as I used to, and I like to be the person who informs others of interesting articles or other findings.

My latest toy is my new Windows Home Server. Last week Newegg had a deal where you could get the HP Mediasmart LX195 Home Server for $199, which is half the MSRP. I talked to Sarah and she approved my purchase so I was off. I ordered it and it shipped from Memphis so it was here the next day. It took all of 10 minutes to install and since it was so small, I simply have it sitting behind some DVD’s on my entertainment center. It doesn’t use a monitor or mouse, simply a power cord and an ethernet cable and it is up and running.  You can see from the picture below, that i retrieved off of another website for scale, just how small the server actually is. It’s not much bigger than a couple of hardback books.

This device does all sorts of very cool things that are typically only done by either spending a lot of money or in big corporations. Here are the items that I find the most useful.

  • Media Collection – It actually goes out to all of our house computers and grabs all of the music, videos, and pictures and puts them in the appropriate shared folder on the server so we have a central shared repository for all of our media. Instead of saying ” is that on the desktop or the laptop?”, we just have to go to the server and grab the file.
  • Full Backups – It does full backups of all of the computers in the background. So if anything goes wrong on a computer, I just put in the connector boot CD and boot off of it and it pulls all of the information off of the server. So I don’t have to try to figure out how to get all of the information back, and don’t have to think about getting drivers or keeping the install cd’s.  Spyware doesn’t have to be a problem anymore.
  • Plugins – It has these things called add-ins that are additional programs that add functionality like publishing to Tivo so that i can watch TV or listen to music directly from tivo without thinking about it. There are also plugins for things like iTunes that will publish the entire music collection to the home sharing tab in iTunes. So no more finding what song is on which computer either.
  • Home Website – The home website that it serves up automatically and is viewable from anywhere has links for being able to get to files on the server from anywhere, as well as photo sharing, and remote desktop built in. So I can get to all of my stuff from anywhere and even listen to music from wherever I am.
  • Folder Duplication – In IT, there is a practice called RAID, which is when you take a bunch of hard drives and put the same data on all of them so that if one hard drive dies, you still have all of your information. But it is kind of hard to administer and over the heads of most laymen. WHS has a feature called duplication that allows you to add another hard drive through USB or internally that holds a copy of your most precious information so that if the server goes down, you still have all of your information on the other hard drive. Or if the house is burning down and you need all of your pictures, just grab the external hard drive, and you have everything you need. It is an amazing feature that all homes should have.
  • Search – You can even search across your home server and get all of the files that meet certain criteria. So if you are looking for that John Mayer song, you can search for it on the server and find it easily.

So as you can see, it does quite a bit, and these are just the big ones. It has a lot of other capabilities that I don’t even want to get into cause most people won’t care. But I am absolutely loving this thing. It is quiet, small, and does a whole lot of fun stuff that I have wanted to do for a long time. It is great for our home, and would be extremely good for a small office of 10 or less machines as it would do all of the backups, and have all of the file shares that a lot of companies use Small business server for. Couple a WHS computer with something like Google apps for email and other business critical apps, and you would be all set for so much cheaper than your typical business, and you would have a lot more functionality as well.

These are the things that I do for fun. Most of you will turn your noses up and think, this is so boring, and the rest will think it’s pretty cool. Either way, wouldn’t you love if your home network was as well organized as your work network and you didn’t have to think about spyware and adware?

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How We Dropped Cable

Current Affairs, Television, Web/Tech

The Idea

A couple of months ago we started looking at how we could save money on the things we really didn’t need so we would have money for the things we really wanted to spend money on. One of the things we looked at and thought we could do without was cable television. We were spending almost $70 per month on just the cable TV portion of our bill from Charter. Between the regular cable service, the upgrade to digital, then the upgrade to High Def with the cable card, it made a pretty significant impact on our budget. So we decided we would drop all of that and go with over the air HD instead for all of our live shows. We decided we would keep the Tivo so we could watch what we wanted on our time frame.

The Change Begins

So, on April 15th, I twittered that I was about to drop cable and run far away from charter and it was twitter to the rescue. But a user named UMatter2Chtr2 sent me a message and asked if there was anything he could do to keep me as a customer. I told him that I would want to drop cable TV, but keep my phone and internet for cheaper than I would be paying if I went with someone like Bellsouth or TDS. So he dropped our service down to under $60 per month for both, with the 5 meg package for Cable, which is what I wanted. This way I didn’t have to worry about the change of providers and I have been relatively happy with Charter in everything but price.

The Antenna

The next step was to figure out how best to get the HD channels on the TV’s at our house. We first tried an RCA Indoor Amplified Tv Antenna that we had bought when we got our 20″ HDTV for the bedroom last spring. It got a few channels, but the reception was not that great so we would have lots of artifacts where it would skip and stutter. Needless to say, we were not impressed. Plus, that wouldn’t account for our larger TV downstairs in the living room. So I started doing research on how we could everything we were used to getting with the same quality. I found posts like this on Lifehacker that were great, but not quite what I wanted.  It gave me ideas on what to do for getting shows after the fact, but not live.  I then started looking on forums to see what my best bet would be if I were to buy a higher powered antenna. At some point I had found a post that talked about a homemade antenna that they had built that worked as good, if not better than some of the best retail antennas, and it only cost about $5. So I watched this video and it looked too good to be true. About a week later, I built the antenna and hooked it up to the downstairs TV and it actually did work as advertised. I was super impressed. It still wasn’t perfect just because of the location in the house, but it came in so much better and was a whole lot cheaper.

The Un-Tivo

Then i started thinking about how I could get all of the shows we had missed. I had an old media center computer that isn’t anything special (Athlon 64 3000+, 1GB RAM, 5 year old Nvidia video card) just sitting in our extra bedroom so I thought a good use of it might be to put it next to the TV and use it for watching videos, but wanted an easy way to watch those without having to deal with a keyboard and mouse most of the time. I also wanted to download shows easily so I could catch up on anything we might have missed. I have been torrenting for awhile, so the idea of downloading shows wasn’t foreign to me, but setting up the RSS feeds and remembering to look and see what has been downloaded and needs to be downloaded did not sound like a good time. I remembered Lifehacker talking about using TED to download shows automatically through your bittorrent client and thought I would give it a shot.  I use uTorrent for all of my torrenting needs. That coupled with the WebUI allows me to keep an eye on my downloads from anywhere I have web access. I started using TED and was very impressed with the amount of shows and the ease of use. So it looked like that part was taken care of. But I still needed to figure out two more issues, ease of use and 10 foot remote usability.

The Player

I have always been a big VLC fan just because it will open almost any file format you can imagine without having to fool with codecs, but I didn’t know much about using VLC remotely until I saw the VLC Remote app in the iPhone app store. At that point, my brain started churning to figure out how we could use that in our living room. I downloaded the app from the app store, then installed the setup assistant from here.  At that point, we were off and running. And not only could I control it from my iPhone or Sarah’s iPod touch, but it could be controlled from a browser window by just putting in the right URL. It was a beautiful day and it worked really well for us for the first couple of weeks we were living a cable-less life. We felt so liberated just to not be relying on Charter for watching TV anymore.

The Online Shows

Then we had a few times where we would want to watch Hulu or ABC.com or CBS.com to catch up on something that wasn’t in the Torrent RSS feed yet, but we wanted to catch. So I started researching to find out what was out there that I could use to watch shows like this from my couch. I thought about using something like Boxee, but I didn’t want to have to think about doing things on Linux, and the Windows version of Boxee isn’t available quite yet so I was kind of stuck and we still would have to futz around with a keyboard and mouse.

The Interface

About a week later, I just happened to pickup this post from Treehugger that showed how to turn your old laptop into a media hub. I watched the video, and wasn’t as amazed with what they did, as I was with a piece of software that they were using.  They were using an interface I had never heard of called Zinc TV. It was, and is, amazing. It works using a Media Center Remote and Receiver to navigate, but is capable of watching all of my downloaded shows, as well as stuff like hulu, cbs.com, abc.com, youtube, and lots of other internet videos. And it works extremely well. We even got rid of our Tivo Subscription it is working so well for us, because the torrents and the web videos pretty much encompass everything the Tivo could do before, but without the monthly charge.

The Antenna (Again)

We are still using this interface, and have been for over a month, and love it. So it looks like it may be here to stay, which is fine with me. The last thing I needed to figure out was how to get the best reception to all of our TV’s using this homemade antenna I had made. It wasn’t the prettiest thing so Sarah didn’t want it in our living room. And with all of the coat hangers hanging off of it, it wasn’t exactly safe, especially since we are planning on having a baby in a few months. So I talked to a friend at work and we batted some ideas around as to how to distribute the antenna signal throughout the house and came up with this as my preferred method.

The Setup

I would put the antenna in the attic where it would get the best reception and then distribute that signal throughout the entire house. Sounds simple enough right? Well, almost. The problem is that we have a 2 story house, and all of the cable inputs are on the other end of the house. So that meant I was going to have to send the signal from one end of the house to the complete opposite.  It meant I would have to get a pre-amp and an amp to pump up the signal. I bought a pre-amp that would sit within a few feet of the antenna. I bought a Dual Output Amp so that I could send one end to the upstairs tv directly, and the other to the rest of the house via the distribution box. I also bought a 4 Port Amp
that would sit at the distribution box and feed the rest of the house. Those items coupled with 50 feet of coax cable and some ends is all I needed to get this project going.

The Finale

Yesterday the finale of this whole project came to a close as I finished things out and got it all up and running. It is working amazingly well and Sarah is extremely happy with how it works. The only thing she has to do now is flip to a different input on the TV whenever she wants to watch live TV versus anything through the media center. But with our Logitech Harmony Universal Remote that I had never really used a whole lot, it is all setup to automatically change inputs on both the TV and the receiver by pushing a single button.

It is all working great, and I am really happy with the way it has turned out, plus it is saving us about $80 per month. I did have to buy a few things along the way, but since I had a lot of the electronics already like the computer and the remote, it still didn’t cost me more than a month of savings from our charter bill.

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Pregnant

Current Affairs

Yep, the word is out. Sarah is pregnant. We are both really excited and nervous at the same time. It’s going to be an exciting next…18 years.

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Bible in a Year

Christianity, Current Affairs

This year Sarah and I are trying something new. We are going to read the bible through from cover to cover. It is something I have always wanted to do, but have never had the consistency to actually stick with past the third week of January.

But this year I am determined to stick with it. So, here is the way we are going to do this. We are going to use bibleinayear.org as our resource for what to read each day. We are doing the email based program that actually sends you what you are supposed to read in email each day. It has multiple versions, as well as multiple reading orders to choose from.

We decided to go with the chronological order since it makes the most sense to keep in continuity with how things actually happened.

We are almost a week in and really think this may work for us, at least I hope so.  And it doesn’t have to start on New Year’s day, it can start any day you want. You just put in your email address and they send you a confirmation link, then the next day you get your first email.

Also, if you don’t want to do it by email, you can print off the list of what you should read each day. So for those of you who don’t check your email each day, you can just check your sheet and move on.

So if you don’t have a new years resolution, this is one that i would highly recommend. And this isn’t the only game in town, there are lots of websites who will help you in many ways do the same task, this is just the easiest one for what we want.

And Happy New Year.

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Updates

Current Affairs

Well, i figure it is time for a few updates on things to let everyone know what’s going on.

It’s summer-time, so we are looking at vacation later this summer, so we are stoked about that. Luckily we have a nice neighborhood and a dog/house-sitter, so everything is already taken care of.

Sarah is working hard on Southern Living. She is doing a great job too. She gets more and more excited about it every time she has a Southern Living meeting.

I got a new title a couple of months ago that people may not know about. I went from Systems Administrator to Senior Business Systems Analyst. Adds a layer of complexity to my job functions, as well as takes away some of the desktop support, emphasis on some. I get to look at processes and how our company can best be productive through technology. I like that part.

I am going to start writing on here again at http://aaronlmyers.com.
I have been writing on constantlythinking.com, but I kind of want to write about a lot more than tech, unless I am getting paid to write about it of course.

So, expect to see stories about what’s going on with me, stories about movies, as well as technology, because those are the things I love.

Also, you will notice that on the right side there are a few things that you can read that weren’t there before. The first is the Tweets, which consist of kind of quick updates of what is happening with me at that very moment through twitter. Also, you will see the upcoming news stories section that is all of my shared news stories that I have read that I think might be of interest to others. So, if you are bored and want some good news and articles to read, just click on through and check out the stories on that page. There is really some quality stuff there.

Anyways, just enjoy the site. It will still filter into my tumblog, so if you just want to follow along there, then you can still do that.

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Another Blog

Current Affairs, Weblogs

I know, I know. Another Blog is not what you want to read. But I promise it will make it all better for those of you who keep up with me. You know that I am writing for Comicbookmedia. Plus I am putting videos and personal stuff on this site right? Well, I also have Flickr photos that I put up, and a digg username that I use to mark items that I like. So if you wanted to keep up with me, what would you do? You would normally have to go to each site individually and see what was on each page, or have all of the feeds in your RSS reader to keep up. Well, I will do you one better. I have started a Tumblog that grabs all of my content from all of those sites and puts them into one feed so you can keep up with what I am doing at a constant basis. It grabs all of the stuff going on with all of my sites and puts them into one pretty feed. Plus it makes posting quick little snippets a lot better as well. So if you want to keep up with what I am doing all over the web, then go over to http://aaronmyers.tumblr.com. It is really cool and works really well. If you don’t like it, then you can always go back to the other way and see what is going on with each site individually.

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Projects

Current Affairs

I like the whole web design thing. I especially like wordpress. I have used it so much on this site, as well as on comicbookmedia and featureconversations. Then my buddy Brandon is using it over at constantlythinking.
So I have been doing most of my websites in that format. This includes my latest endeavor, which is my dad and Rita’s website for their class. HealingHealthAlternatives.com. I think it looks pretty good too personally. I didn’t have to do too much either, which makes things a lot easier.
There is a small learning curve when it comes to the posting and navigation of the administrator page, but once you get it down, it works amazingly. So if you are ever looking at needing to build a website quickly, and it being able to scale, then I would highly recommend using WordPress.

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