Website RSS Feed Update

Good afternoon dear readers!

This is just a quick update to let you know there will be some changes to the website in the next few weeks. The biggest change will be the use of Category Feeds. As longtime readers know this blog has covered a wide range of topics ranging from entertainment to games to politics, fitness & health and of course Adobe software.

Having individual category feeds will make the blog more useful to everyone. In the future you’ll be able to pick the category you want to follow, and you can ignore the rest of my ramblings. Given my schedule this is the best option versus starting another blog, or two, or three.

So there you have it. I’ll announce the updates when they’re online, and I appreciate your continued patronage of the blog.

iPhone App Reviews – MyFitnessPal vs DailyBurn

It’s week #2 of John P’s GetHealthy Challenge and I’m sitting here having lost 2lbs in about one week. That’s surprising given the fact that I cheated last week while in Oklahoma eating McDonalds not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES… the horror. However, in my defense I really only blew it once. After discovering my Double Quarter Pounder meal was over 1300 calories that was enough to make me think about just having a snack wrap the next time. I decided early on that if I was going to commit to this fitness challenge I would take advantage of any technical gadgets I could get my hands on. You see I love gadgets, and if I can find a legitimate use to buy/trade/download one then so be it. Today’s review is of two iPhone apps–My Fitness Pal & Daily Burn. Both apps do a good job of helping you track nutrition & exercise information which tie into the websites and online communities they support. That being said, neither app will work unless you sign up for a free website account. My intention is to primarily use the iPhone app as I hope to be moving around more, and sitting in front of my computer less. Also, given my schedule it’s more likely that my fitness diary will be entered on the go. Let’s get to the details of each app:

My Fitness Pal

The iPhone app and online web account are free.

The Good – My Fitness Pal has a well thought out interface. If you do not have an account you can create your profile directly from the iPhone app. You’ll be prompted to enter such info as current weight, goal weight, current height, activity level, weekly number of workouts planned, in addition to some personal info like your birthday & city location. The final step is to create your username/password and then you’ll be shown your calculated daily calorie summary. NOTE – I highly recommend getting the advice of your doctor or a professional nutritionist to calculate how many calories you need per day. My suggested calorie intake was a total of 1100 calories, which I found rather low. Fortunately, you can edit your profile info, so I changed the suggested number.

After creating my account I was able to jump in right away adding my first meal on record–Two Eggs Scrambled, Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage, Pace Salsa – 289 calories. The Home screen shows a Daily Summary with the “Add to Diary” button easily recognized in the center of the app. Scrolling the Home page reveals detailed nutrition information, calculated from the foods you enter.

When adding new entries you can search for foods by name or brand, choose from your last entries, or create specific foods & meals. That’s right, you can group a series of foods into a meal which makes data entry even easier once you get a few items entered. The process is straight forward, and I found it easy to edit items such as number of servings or create meals.

The Bad – the application requires an Internet connection via WiFi or cellular. Entries cannot be entered offline. The workout section could be improved to capture & provide more information. Compared to the nutrition section of the app, the workout implementation feels light.

Daily Burn

The iPhone app and online web account are free. There is a PAID version of the app for $2.99 that has more features, and the website also has varying subscription level services. Daily Burn is also supported by a 2nd iPhone app called Food Scanner which is currently on sale for .99 cents.

The Good – The application has separate screen page icons that display your fitness progress, workout and nutritional summaries. Nutrition entries include a picture of the item as well as a capture of the product nutrition label. The workout section includes popular programs–even the Wii Fit–allowing for detailed progress of your workouts. The body section provides a graph which allows for a larger detail view simply by rotating the phone. This application interfaces directly with the Food Scanner which is a slick application. I found myself going through my pantry scanning stuff I had no intention of eating. Nice if you don’t like to type on your phone.

The Bad – The application interface requires too many page changes to get to what you want. The free version of the app only allows you to save 20 food items, and you can’t save complete meals. When I searched certain foods–or even scanned them directly with Food Scanner–the nutritional information was wrong. (I can understand this with the Daily Burn app, but was very surprised to get mistakes with the Food Scanner). Constantly reminded in app (and on website) to upgrade to Pro version. As with My Fitness Pal the app requires an Internet connection to use.

Overall Comparison Summary

As I mentioned before, both applications are good for counting those calories. Daily Burn has an advantage when you pair it with the Food Scanner app, but I would have to say for regular use My Fitness Pal just works better. The fact that I can create meals saves more time than the ability to scan bar codes, and the user interface is clean, simple & easy to navigate. But don’t take my word for it, test drive the apps yourself. For me, I’m going to use My Fitness Pal for the rest of John P’s GetHealthy challenge.

Get Healthy or Die Talking About It

Good morning and welcome to my blog. I’m kickin’ off 2010 with a post on joining John P’s Health Challenge.

It’s been two years of talk, but so far no results in my plan to get healthy. As of this post, I weigh 215lbs, with a BMI 35.6, my waist is 42 inches, my stomach is 45 inches. I stand 5ft 6in tall. My neck is bigger than my biceps, and last time I bent over to tie my shoe I farted and scared the dog. You might be asking, “Just how in the hell could you let yourself go like that?” Well, if you’ve made a spontaneous purchase of fitness equipment during a 3am infomercial, only to refuse the shipment on delivery then maybe you understand. If you enjoy food, I mean REALLY enjoy food, then you’re speaking my language. If you’re busy doing other things then you might get it. To know me, is to know a highly motivated guy. I just haven’t focused my energy on my health. Shame on me. Here’s a quick timeline recap of my attempts to get fit:

May 31, 2008 – Wii Not Be Fit – view the cartoon fat version of me. My first documented attempt at getting fit. BMI 30.46, Weight 196.5lbs.

Dec 11, 2008 – It’s Not About Weight It’s About Getting Healthy – I use the phrase “two tugboats bumping”, laughter ensues. BMI 31.57, Weight 196.5lbs.

Jan 25, 2009 – Fit Photographers Update – My last documented progress report about a week after hospital discharge. The fitphotographers website has since gone offline. I’m hoping they stayed motivated where I did not. BMI 31.57, Weight 202lbs.

I encourage you to read those posts, it will give you some insight into how I managed to reach my current condition.

So what’s different now? At the moment nothing–I’m still a fat ass typing up a blog entry–BUT I’m hoping to execute my fitness plans better this go around. Step #1 is trying to follow the plan outlined by my friend John P over at One Man’s Blog. Part food, part fitness, it’s the social media support system that will help maintain discipline in my routine. That and a strong competitive streak might just keep me inline. Look for daily updates via Facebook & Twitter, and a weekly blog update on this topic of fitness. Step #2 is getting with my pal John Hays who’s all about being fit with Team Beachbody. He’s motivated enough for the two of us, which is good seeing as how I’m typing this and still have doubts.

“You can’t quit quitting.”

Heard that once, thought it was stupid, but then I’m the guy with the 45 inch waist…

Fit Photographer Update – Progress Month 2

I’ve realized that I miss the structure of my youth. (My Dad just rolled over in the grave hearing that) The benefit of childhood is the worst thing in your life was chores & homework. Oh how we wish we could grow up faster until we realize how easier things were before.

My independence has gotten the better of me because frankly, I’m lazy. You, my loyal readers may think, “How is this possible? A.J. is freakin’ busy ALL THE TIME!” but alas it’s true. The laziness I speak of is not so much a sloth-like behavior as much as it is a lack of action or execution of an organized plan. The laziness I speak of is a cunning imagination that uses my busy schedule as an excuse in for not getting things done–things that should be considered more important that whatever has my attention at the moment.

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Have You ICEd Your Cellphone?

“Always be prepared.” is an idea so easily set aside in today’s hurried society. It seems in this age of technology, the cycles of change are only coming faster. Consumers are faced with a decision to either keep up with the each new wave of gadgetry or ignore new tech altogether. I was surprised to learn roughly 20% of American households were not so tech savvy.

In terms of preparedness, if you’re reading this blog, then I assume you’re tech savvy enough to backup your computer. Whether you’re a photographer, graphic artist, music lover, or just “Joe Consumer” you probably have at least one piece of data you’ve copied someplace for safe keeping.

Today, I want to talk about another kind of disaster recovery. If Katrina (and the threat of Gustav) have taught us anything, it’s that there are more important plans to consider than just backing up your computer data. Here are some quick thoughts for building your own disaster recovery plan:

1. What do you absolutely need?
In the event you have to evacuate your home immediately (fire, tornado, etc.), you don’t have time to gather up everything. Make the decision ahead of time about the necessary items, your family, pets, clothes, money, water, food, etc. Build a disaster kit, and make sure household members know where the kit is located. I use clear plastic storage bins purchased from WalMart for our home. Easy to see stuff without opening everything.

2. Keep valuables offsite.
Items of value rarely used should be kept offsite if possible. Jewelry, art, photo albums, items that you only pull out on occasion, but would be devastating if lost. Consider public storage or safe deposit if an affordable option. How about an offsite backup of your computer data? I have external drives I physically rotate to offsite storage, and I just started using Google & MobileMe for redundancy.

3. Weather proof storage.
If there are items you choose to keep in the home, consider a weather proof safe or filing cabinet. I say weather proof because “fire proof” does not mean the unit won’t suffer water damage. We have several Sentry safes & cabinets in our home.

4. ICE your cell phone.
My ICE CredentialsDisaster planning is not limited to large scale catastrophic events. What happens if you’re in a car wreck? If you have a personal accident in the home? Will the paramedics find identifiable information on your person to assist you? ICE is an initiative creating awareness by making emergency contact info readily available on your cell phone, and a free ICE website also provides laminated wallet emergency contact cards (cause what happens if your cell phone is broken). Click the image thumbnail to see an example of the ICE wallpaper I use on my iPhone. The image displays when the iPhone powers up until my passcode is entered. (That’s right I passcode protect my cell phone. Don’t you?)

5. Know your escape plan.
Having everything in place doesn’t mean anything if you panic during a catastrophe. One way to reduce panic is by practicing your escape plan. Fire drills and the like sound silly, but in a real emergency you’ll spend less time thinking (panicking), and quickly get out safe.

The items I’ve mentioned were mostly in the context of disaster planning, but they can also be applied to home/personal safety. I use something similar to the ICE card for my credit info. I have designated disaster kits in case of a home robbery. The escape plan for a fire is not the same one used for a tornado.

UPDATE 01/20/2010Terry White reviewed the quick & easy ICE application Close Call for the iPhone.

Bottom line, preparing for disaster is time well spent, and if you think you’re rushed now…