Thursday, September 18, 2014

Considering a Moped

I just wrote a blog post on +RGV Life about riding to McAllen on the bus. I am a willing bus rider. I enjoy driving a car on occasion; but, most of the time, I don't really like driving. Even so, I think there is a place for having multiple modes of transportation available to you.

I'm not a hipster or save the planet type of guy. I am more inclined towards using the right tool for the job. If, for example, you need to go buy a six pack of beer at the convenience store, you don't need to drive your car or truck over there when you could just jump on a scooter and pppppppppp your way over there, and back.

If you want to visit somebody across town, you could ride your motorcycle over and back. Unless you are expecting to have a passenger, you don't need a four-wheeled vehicle.

To drive the point home, you use a bike, moped, motorcycle, or car depending on your particular needs. Using a car for everything seems to me like overuse of a single asset. You can reduce wear and tear on your $30K vehicle by using your $300 bike, $2000 moped, or $3000 motorcycle. And, if you spread the use out by actual need, you prolong the lives of each.

So, as a part of a family's multimodal arsenal, I think bus riding should also be an option. You save yourself the driving, parking, and maintenance troubles by riding a bus.

But, let's circle back to the moped thing. Biking to work is out of the question. It is too far to ride there without being drenched in sweat. You're damn right I'll get there; but, I won't be presentable. I can ride the bus; but, it takes 2 hours.

I don't want to drive our van to work because it's just me.

A motorcycle might work; but, I don't think I'll get the full benefit in stop and go traffic. A motorcycle would be great for highway driving, in my opinion.

A moped would be better for stop and go driving. The downside is that mopeds are slow and not suited for major streets. So, assuming that I avoid the major streets and take the back streets, I may be better off. The back streets have lots of stops, slow speed limits, and fewer vehicles. I think I could easily put-put my way to work on a moped on days that I need to divert from bus routes and schedules.

I don't intend to replace bus riding entirely. I just want an option. Having options isn't bad, right?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Apple's Tap to Pay Will Not Change Commerce

I believe that habits will ultimately make Apple Pay not so revolutionary as it is being made out. They are essentially repackaging what has already been done; but, beyond that, the reason it won't be ubiquitous is low tech in nature, human nature, rather.

+Google Wallet already does most of what Apple Pay proposes. The technology is different, given that mobile carriers did not want to allow access to a phone's secure element. Yada yada. In any case, my problem with Google Wallet, specifically tap to pay, has been that it doesn't work everywhere. I'll come back to this.

It is great that Apple has partnerships with 200K merchants and Target. The problem for Apple, however, is that I don't use Apple products, nor plan to use them anytime soon. Having merchant partnerships isn't compelling enough reason for me to buy an iPhone 6. There are millions of people like me who really don't care to enter the Apple ecosphere.

Given the reluctance of millions to use Apple products, there must be an alternative payment system available to us. I don't see a merchant turning my business away because I don't have an iPhone. So, this means that Apple Pay will only be an option for merchants.

This opt-in is what gives me trouble using Google Wallet. I do business with local merchants, mom and pop shops and restaurants. Not every business uses tap to pay of any sort. And, those merchants that do have a tap to pay terminal do not always have it enabled. This means that on the chance you enter an establishment that has a tap to pay terminal, there is a good chance you'll find one that doesn't have tap to pay service, only the terminal. You don't find out until you spent a little time looking like an ass trying to get it to work.

If you look like an ass trying to get tap to pay to work often enough, you stop trying. It's much more efficient to whip out your trusty old debit card and pay with that.

Apple Pay will be no different. 200K merchants sounds impressive; but, like Apple, they are most likely the overpriced and chain establishments, not the average local business that relies on the lowest common denominators, cash, check, and swipe.

I'm not saying Apple Pay will fail. I'm sure it will do very well among Apple fans; but, they will only have to look like an ass trying to tap and pay somewhere unsupported a few times before they become reluctant to whip out their phone first.

Telling you from experience, on the chance that you do find an establishment that has working tap to pay, it's not a compelling reason to return. I go to a restaurant because I'm hungry. I go to the grocery store because I need groceries. And, so on. I won't deliberately visit an establishment more often so I can use my Jedi payment trick.

Tap to pay is cool; but, it's not compelling. It doesn't make me spend more. It doesn't make me choose one merchant over another.

Having said that, what really has modified my shopping habits is having rewards cards on my phone. It makes it so much easier to take advantage of rewards programs to have them on my phone. I never used to sign up for them because I hated having to carry their stupid little cards in my wallet. But, now, I actually do sign up for rewards programs and use them when I shop.

I think that for technology to be useful and widespread, it has to have some common denominator and even have alternative options. So long as we have swipe payments, I see those as being the predominant payment method because they work reliably and almost everywhere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Will Evernote and Other Apps for Android Kill Chromebooks?

+Google Chrome announced the first Android Apps ported to Chromebooks today. Personally, I am a big fan of +Evernote. Over the years, it has proven itself a great service where I can manage information. Naturally, when I read that Evernote is one of the first apps ported, I was excited.

I don't know if this is a big "however". In the past, I have not used the web version of Evernote because of the number of notes that I have in it, around 4,000. My Evernote database is somewhere north of 2 GB. This is not very much data, considering that I have hundreds of GBs of data in other products, especially +Google Drive. Back to my point, using the browser version is slow given the volume of HTML necessary to render my account.

The slowness is understandable. At one time, I experimented with single file Wikis that ran in an html file. They worked OK up to a point. As the HTML file grew larger, browsers struggled. I have a demo Evernote account that I use for workshops, which has fewer notes. It runs considerably faster than my own personal account on the browser.

The Windows and Android apps have been my go-to ways of accessing Evernote. Even the Windows Phone version is rather slick.

The Windows and Mac versions download your entire Evernote database and store it locally on your drive. This gives you quick access to all your information. The Android version stores thumbnails of your notes locally and downloads the data as you need it. This also means that you need an Internet connection to access notes that aren't cached, unless you select a Notebook to store locally.

Chromebooks and Android devices have similar problems in that they only have a few GB of storage available. My Android Evernote database is 500 MB. Presumably, the Evernote for Chromebook will also take up 500 MB on my Chromebook since it is a port from Android. And, as the database grows, it will take a larger percentage of my 16 GB SSD.

One of the options I mentioned earlier, is to allow a Notebook in Evernote to keep local copies of your notes on your phone or tablet. The Chromebook port also offers the option to keep local copies.

I can imagine somebody with much a much larger database than me will at some point choose to sync a multigigabyte database on their Chromebook. My full database is a meager 2 GB, so I'm still safe if I were to sync all my Notebooks. However, imagine shared Chromebooks in which users are also Evernote fans. If you have multiple users with Evernote installed, it can really eat up your local storage.

But, this can also apply to every other app you install on your Chromebook, as they become available in the future. As users, we will have to start buying larger SSDs and upgrading our Chromebooks to make room for the apps. Otherwise, we'll start seeing problems as our Chrome devices run out of storage.

In my title, I don't mean that running Android apps will kill off the Chromebook. Rather, I mean that there is the strong possibility that we'll bog down our machines with apps to the point that they become unusable. I certainly hope not. But, having apps on my Chromebook could mean a little more freedom from my other devices.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walking, aspirin, and vino for cardio health?

If your father had a heart attack before reaching retirement age, and suffered prolonged effects afterward, what would you do to better your chances of living to the current life expectancy? This is something that concerns me. My father is no longer with us. He left us before he could retire based on age.

Going over all kinds of information in medical journals and online resources dedicated to health, three things stand out as making some difference in helping one avoid a nasty turn in cardiovascular health. These relate to activity, taking aspirin every day, and drinking wine daily.

Walking and Activity


Apparently, living a sedentary life is bad for you. Most of what I've read says that you need at least 30 minutes of activity per day. There are also suggestions that 10K steps per day should be your goal. In case you are not sure which to do, or want to do both, it's much easier if you get a +Fitbit. This way you can track your progress wither way.

But, I've also read that High Intensity Interval Training is good for you in that it stimulates muscle growth and does things to keep you young. Think of it this way, like a kid, go out and play. Have moments of easy activity and spurts of ALL OUT effort like somebody is chasing  you in a game of tag. Apparently those moments of heart pounding activity stimulates things that are beneficial. There are also studies that say that too much of that just wears your body out. The intervals are the key, I take it.

I would say, try to do more than 30 minutes. Try a variety of activities. And try to increase flexibility. I throw that in because it's sad to see older people not be able to touch their toes or scratch their own back.

Daily Aspirin


Aspirin has long been known to help with reducing inflammation. It has also show to have benefits with respect to lowering your risk for heart disease and the type of stroke where you have blood vessel blockage. Recently, studies have shown that it also reduces some risks for cancer. However, the science is still kind of iffy. Researchers still don't know how much aspiring in what frequency is best.

Taking aspirin daily has some drawbacks. As I mentioned earlier, it helps with strokes where you have blockage in your blood vessels. This is because aspirin is a blood thinner. So, if you bust a blood vessel for your stroke, aspiring makes things worse. However, you could achieve the blood thinning via regular blood donations to your local blood bank without taking any aspirin.

I have not found any definite research that says that it's definitely the blood thinning that helps you avoid heart attacks. It may very well be aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties that do the trick. Sugars tend to irritate the blood vessels, which make them more susceptible to plaque attaching itself to them. Thus, reducing the inflammation reduces the plaque that chokes your arteries.

You see some corroboration to this theory with heart patients who have their teeth removed. The theory is that bad oral hygiene causes inflammation in the arteries, which leads to what we mentioned earlier. So, as a preventive measure, some patients have their teeth taken out.

Going back to the drawbacks, aspirin can also cause stomach bleeding when taken for prolonged periods. Thus, the recommendation is taking baby aspirin until the correct dosage is figured out by researchers. It's not that baby aspirin is THE recommended daily dose, it's just that they haven't figured out how far up they can push it for the benefits without killing you by bleeding you out.

Vino


Wine is supposed to be good for you too. Red wine is supposed to be good for you, more specifically. White wine won't cut it. This is where we know God is a man. Two glasses of red wine per day for men. Only ONE glass of red wine per day for women. Any more than that and you undo any benefit you derived.

Regarding undoing the benefit, being an alcoholic is definitely bad for you. Forget killing your liver, the process of killing your liver is where the action is. Before your liver takes a poop, it starts to build up fat bubbles from metabolizing the alcohol you drank. You end up with what his called, drumroll please, FATTY LIVER.

It turns out that sugar and carbohydrates in general, alcohol is a carbohydrate, are metabolized similarly by your liver. And all this may end up leading to higher cholesterol. There are arguments about all of this, so go do your own research. It couldn't hurt to limit your alcohol to 2 glasses of wine or less, and cutting way the hell back on carbs. It won't help you to be mindful of alcohol if you're going to blow it on other carbs.

I'm going to detour a little here. Carbs in general seem like a bad deal. Think of cattle. Cattle are fattened up with corn. When feed got really expensive, cattle were being fed old candy before being slaughtered. Why? To fatten them up. Corn, candy, flour, and other carbs like rice behave the same way in your body. They stimulate insulin production. The ONLY function insulin has in your body is to turn sugar in to fat. This is how alcohol becomes fat and you end up with an alcoholic's fatty liver. Speaking of fatty liver, how about veal and pate?

Regrouping here. I don't know for certain that the aforementioned amounts of alcohol are beneficial. I haven't run across any articles one way or the other that spell out the pathway in which alcohol is actually healthy. It may simply be that it could be a blood thinner of sorts. This is me speculating, by the way. Blood is an organic fluid, which requires an organic solvent. Or maybe not. I might be thinking of polar an non-polar solvents. Never mind. The point is, I have not found anything that explains to me how alcohol is actually good for you.

Don't take that to mean that being a drinkie isn't beneficial at all. Simply, I don't know HOW alcohol is good for you. Studies have shown that people who drink moderately live longer than people who abstain. They also live longer than people who drink too much; so don't get carried away. Again, I revert to God. He loves us and wants us to mellow out with a glass of wine every day. It's good enough for me.

Tying it all together


So, how do we tie this all together? For me, it takes the form of gulping down an aspirin in the morning. In the evening, I do my walking. If I'm stocked with a bottle of wine, I make it my reward for walking. If I don't have wine, I incorporate the walk to the store towards my 10K step goal, and drink some after.

I have figured out that a 750 mL bottle of wine is the equivalent of 4 glasses of wine. This means that one bottle should last two days. This keeps me walking to the store frequently. I'd go daily if my wife could drink red wine. Unfortunately for her, she gets migraines, which red wine seems to encourage. I try to drink daily if I can; but, some days I do not feel like imbibing. Other days, especially the weekends, I make up for that.

So, to recap, aspirin in the morning, evening walk (includes walking to buy wine), and a glass or two of wine after walking.

Will any of this help? Who knows? But, in the meantime, I'm pain free, get some exercise, and feel great in the evenings. This is a life worth living.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer Chalk Art

My two youngest played outside with colored chalk earlier in the Summer. They drew some figures. It seemed appropriate to save it in photos. 

They start school tomorrow, so I don't know if they will have any more sidewalk art this year.

Io's Flower

Magnus

Ladybug

Butterfly