Hurricane specialist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center tweeted that the world had never seen anything like the hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia -- three severe storms threatening land simultaneously. All the while it took more than two weeks for flood waters to recede in Houston, and more than a million acres have burned in Montana.

Many Americans have been forced from their homes, and they might not have homes to which to return. Even after the wildfires stop burning and the hurricanes dissipate, it could be weeks before roads are passable and utilities restored. There were reportedly 3.3 million Floridians without power Sunday night. And just because you can go home doesn’t mean you can live in your home. It could take months to rebuild and repair all the homes affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.

The increasing instances and intensities of these destructive weather events will further increase insurance rates, but technology can help victims of hurricanes and wildfires save money and save their sanity during most trying times. Here are five apps to help you recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

1) Waze

Waze is the best traffic navigation app out there. I tried it specifically because Google Maps kept recommending routes through construction zones that should have been avoided. Waze does a much better job avoiding construction and road closures because its users, called Wazers, help report those closures. When you’re trying to navigate a hurricane or wildfire, the last thing you need is to travel down a road only to be forced to turn around because the road is closed due to flooding or wildfires.

You might also need the assistance of police while navigating hurricanes and wildfires, and Wazers report the location of police officers, too. The best part about Waze is you can start your route using a Wifi hotspot or mobile data, and if you lose your connection, the app will still display your location and route. Wifi and mobile data services will most certainly be affected by the hurricanes, so having a GPS that will work regardless is invaluable to hurricane victims.

2) ParkAdvisor - RV Parks and Campgrounds

Insurance companies only offer so much money for so many days when people are forced from their homes due to flood or fire. The number of days and maximum payout will depend on your homeowner’s insurance plan, but it’s almost assuredly not enough, especially if you don’t have family or friends nearby with whom you can stay and are forced to pay for hotel rooms.

The ParkAdvisor app is free and provides a cheaper alternative to hotels. Plus, you can try to use this time away from home to take that family camping vacation you keep putting off. Camping will likely help you and your family restore its relationship with nature despite it testing your resolve. America has a lot to offer, and seeing it with your family around a campfire will take your mind off the rebuilding that will be required upon your return home.

3) Warmshowers

A foundation formed to help cyclists find places to rest their legs and get a warm shower, Warmshowers.org could really come in handy for hurricane and wildfire victims. If you rely on well water and have no electricity to pump the water into the well, you only have access to water until the well is dry. This happened to us in Eastern Montana after a “wind event” took out power for about a week. Since not all campgrounds provide access to water, getting a warm shower regularly can be one of the hardest things facing those recovering from hurricanes and wildfires.

4) Amazon

The mail is still delivered as soon as it can be delivered, so you can still order necessities online and have them delivered whether you’re at home or away from home. Say you need a solar panel to charge your mobile devices because power is still out at your place. You can have one delivered the next day. Depending on your location, you can have some items shipped the same day if you’re a Prime member.

5) Sortly

Victims of hurricanes and wildfires who return to find homes and furnishings destroyed will be required to take inventory of the items for insurance purposes. Sortly allows you to easily create and export lists, including photos, SKU, UPC or serial numbers, and notes on damage or original purchase price and date. You can even tag the items of your list so you can easily find them later.

Don’t recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma as you did Katrina or Sandy. Use technology to your advantage and help make hurricane and wildfire recovery easier on you and your family.

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Published in News & Information

I’ve been using the MyPlate app by Livestrong to log my daily meals and exercise for two months now, and not only have I lost weight (almost 13 pounds to be exact) and fit into my high school jeans, but I’ve hardly increased my exercise habits because of what I’ve remedied regarding my daily food intake.

I wrote a piece called “10 ways to enjoy losing weight” when I was just starting to use the MyPlate app, and the folks at Livestrong were kind enough to grant me access to the “locked” exercises that come with a paid membership. I haven’t used any of them yet and still managed to cut an inch off my waist and lose 13 pounds. This only affirms my hypothesis that nutrition is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight, and most of us aren’t consuming what we should and would be surprised by what’s in the foods we eat.

There are plenty of ways the MyPlate app can help you lose weight, but here are the five things that helped me and opened my eyes the widest. 

1. Having a Specific Goal Really Works

Having a specific weight and timeline in mind is the only way you’ll achieve your weight loss goal. You can’t reach a goal without having one. Simply wanting to lose weight isn’t enough. You have to want to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain date and then want to keep it off.

The first thing MyPlate does when you begin to use the app is ask you your height, weight, age, gender and weight loss goal. That’s how MyPlate determines the number of calories you should consume each day.

I’m a 31-year-old, five-foot, 11-inch male that weighed 185 pounds, and I wanted to lose 1.5 pounds per week and get back down to my college weight of 170 pounds. MyPlate recommended a diet of 1,645 calories per day, and while that’s less than the 1,800-calorie-diet recommended for a man, I assure you it’s plenty, especially if you eat the right foods. I managed to average just 1,469 calories per day and never felt hungry once in the last two months. I would guess my actual intake was higher because I think we subconsciously think are portions are smaller because we want them to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if my daily average is actually more than to the lowest recommended diet for men of 1,500 calories per day. 

How active you are during the day also plays a big role in your daily calorie recommendation. Since I sit in front of a computer for a living, I don’t burn a lot of calories naturally throughout the day, which is why my calorie recommendation is low. I do, however, bicycle often and do a lot of walking when I take public transit downtown for a ballgame, so more often than not I met my goal of 250 calories burned per day. And when I didn’t, I still generally burned 100 calories. I averaged 272 calories burned per day over the first two months of using MyPlate.

I managed to do a pretty good job of meeting my net calorie goals, so, naturally, I lost weight. To maintain my weight, I can start consuming the 1,800 calories recommended for a man per day as long as I continue my exercise habits, which shouldn’t be too difficult since I hardly changed any of my exercise habits. 

2. Carbs are Killers

As I stated in my previous piece about nutrition, I knew cutting carbohydrates would be the key to reaching my weight loss goal. I’ve been known to enjoy an IPA or two and have a childlike love for Stauffer’s Animal Crackers. I love sourdough and garlic bread. I’m a snacker, too, so a lot of the crap I was putting in my body came between meals. MyPlate helped me manage my snacking by logging my carbohydrates and scaring the hell out of me.

While I’m still struggling to cut carbs due to a limited budget and the affordability of breads, I wouldn’t have come in under my goal as often as I did had I not known what my problem was. I managed to nearly cut microbrews out of my diet entirely. I think I’ve had six in the last two months, and two of them I drank yesterday, which accounted for almost 500 calories and 36 grams of carbs.

2. It’s Okay to Cheat Once a Week

The debate over “cheat days” has not been settled and likely won’t, but I can tell you that I feel best when I go slightly over my daily calorie limit once per week. You can see those days pretty easily on my calorie intake graph, and it’s something that happened naturally. My body wanted to consume more, so I abided. 

Restricting calories limits the body’s leptin production, which is the hormone responsible for maintaining our energy levels and weight loss. So while cheat days only raise your metabolism slightly the following day, the way I feel the next day makes it worth the extra calories regardless of the limited effect on my metabolism.

Yesterday was a cheat day for me, and today I woke up rejuvenated and ready to work. I’ll probably go work on my scooter engine after this, which wouldn’t have been the case yesterday, when I wanted to do as little as possible and fell asleep watching baseball at eight o’clock. 

Cheating doesn’t mean you get to eat whatever you want for a day, though. It generally means you can splurge during one meal, but you still shouldn’t eat more than your body needs at any time. I made that mistake yesterday at lunch despite finishing just half of a Red Cow blended burger and barely touching some fries covered in gravy. I felt pretty terrible the rest of the day. So while you can eat foods with a bit more fat and sugar on cheat days, it’s not a reason to eat until you feel sick.

3. Cutting out Fat is Easy

I managed to cut my fat intake after the first few weeks of using the MyPlate app thanks to a Ninja 900-watt blender. I realized the fatty foods I was eating were generally snacks and fatty meats. Replacing the fatty hamburger and pork with turkey, chicken and fish was easy, and while I still eat both pork and hamburger, I do so in much smaller portions.

The one thing I knew I had to do was eat more fruits and vegetables. Even when I tried to eat more fruits and vegetables during those first few weeks, I’d generally only do it for one meal per day (generally breakfast). Then I invested in a blender, and now I consume more than the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

I’m also replacing less-healthy snacks with healthy ones. I have up to two blended smoothies per day, usually containing three servings of fruits and vegetables each. Plus, I add two tablespoons of hemp protein powder in an attempt to reach my seemingly unattainable goal of 123 grams of protein per day.

4. There’s Sugar and Salt in Everything

I managed to cut into my sodium intake substantially, and I never put salt on anything! I was against salt more so than sugar going into this little experiment. I know where that salt has gone, too. It’s been replaced by sugar.

My substitution of fruit smoothies for crackers and other snacks has been a key to cutting my daily sodium intake. I’m a sucker for Dot’s pretzels (360 mg, 17% sodium daily value), Frito’s Honey BBQ Flavor Twists (180 mg, 7% sodium daily value), and Roasted Garlic Triscuits (135 mg, 6% sodium daily value). Those numbers are all per serving -- not per box -- and I can eat half a box, and in the case of Dot’s pretzels, half a bag. I used to be able to eat a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos -- and not one of those small bags. I don’t do that anymore thanks to my blender.

I have not been able to cut my sugar intake substantially, though. I’ve managed to come in under my recommended daily sugar intake of 33 grams a dozen times in roughly 60 days. I gave up ketchup and mostly cut out barbecue sauce in an attempt to cut down on sugar consumption, and nothing’s changed. I still go over my recommended sugar intake almost everyday.

 

The foods highest in sugar that I’ve eaten the last two months are sodas and juices I’ve used to mix with my smoothies and the fruits also in those smoothies. And if I cut out the three or four ounces of soda or juice I use in my smoothies, I’m still going over the daily recommendation for sugars. The only way I see a way around sugars is to eat nothing but vegetables and nuts and drink nothing but water, which I’m not ready to do. I focused on salt.

5. Logging Your Meals and Exercise is Too Easy Not to Do

Just because I can fit into my high school jeans doesn’t mean I’m done with the MyPlate app. I’ll probably never stop using it. It’s a part of my life now, and that doesn’t bother me. People use their phones for worse things than logging meals and exercise.

I’m still only using the free workouts, of which I’ve done five or so times over two months, and they really work. I did the 7-minute Cardio Sculpting Workout yesterday because it was my “cheat day” to eat, and my butt and legs are sore. I’m looking forward to really getting into the locked “Gold” exercises, which I’ll review in another two months. The 10-minute Abs Workout doesn’t require any gym equipment, so I’ll start with that one.

MyPlate even counts my steps, so if I walk or run a few miles or climb steps, the app automatically subtracts those calories burned from my net intake for the day. The amount of time you’ll spend logging your meals everyday amounts to a few minutes per day. If you can’t take a few minutes out of your day to learn about what you’re putting in your body, you’re not dedicated enough to your weight loss goals.

You can’t just get down to your weight and stop logging your meals and exercise, but the beauty of MyPlate is that it’s too easy not to use. Regardless of where I am I can log my meals and exercise. It might be harder to do when eating out, but that’s because restaurants that don’t have more than 20 locations aren’t required to post nutrition facts on their menus, or anywhere. You can still find a similar recipe for a restaurant menu item and add the ingredients one by one, though. Since using the MyPlate app I’ve been less inclined to eat out because I know those foods are less healthy by design. The foods from fast food chains and restaurants are designed to be addictive, and that’s just more sugars and salt I don’t need.

Livestrong’s MyPlate app is a perfectly reasonable way to start losing weight. It’s doesn’t cost anything but the few minutes per day before or after each meal (I recommend before). I also recommend subscribing to the Livestrong blog. You’ll notice they have valuable information. Try MyPlate for two weeks without changing a thing like I did, and you’ll see what’s going into your body and want to change for your body’s sake.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Free Talk Live

Published in News & Information

A move to the city, any city, can be daunting. You don’t know where to go, what to do, and with whom to do what you don’t know. But you’re a local now, so act like it. These are the apps to make your move to the city easier

 Google

Of course Google is tops when it comes to apps. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered some of the apps listed below, and since Google utilizes the microphone you can use it relatively safely while behind the wheel of a car.

Whether you’re searching for the most affordable or best-rated movers, what your income tax rate will be in your new state, how to forward your mail or re-register to vote, or comparing internet and television packages available in your area, Google has the answer. It’s also the best at telling you the best route to your new home in the city.

2)     Google Maps

Google Maps is the king of map apps. Apple’s Maps isn’t even in the same league. With Google Maps you’re given the approximate time it would take to get where you’re going on a train or bus, bicycle or on foot. You also get the approximate price of what an Uber or Lyft would cost and the amount of time it would take to get where you’re going via taxi. You have to enable both the Lyft and Uber apps in Maps to do the same.

With Google Maps you can easily change the method of travel to view a recommended map and it previews the time it would take to get there. Apple’s Maps assumes you’re driving and doesn’t preview the amount of time it would take to walk, take public transit, bicycle or get a taxi. It’s a big mistake for a company that prides itself on ease of use.

While Google Maps still struggles with bicycle routes (it doesn’t take into account that a dead end road is still passable by bicycle), it’s still far better than Maps. Here’s why: when you search “parking near Target Field” in Maps (which you have to type because Maps doesn’t utilize the microphone like Google), the app shows you Target Field. That’s it. When I simply say “parking near Target Field” in Google Maps (a handy feature for use while driving since it’s usually illegal to use your phone and drive in most cities), I get a list and map of parking options near Target Field. The only thing missing is the price of each, which brings me to one of my favorite apps to make your move to the city easier…

3)     Park Whiz

While BestParking bids itself the #1 Parking App, Park Whiz had the Google SEO down, which is why I used them first. I fell in love immediately. There’s nothing better than discounted parking.

One of the best things about moving to a city is the increased access to great food and entertainment and the environment of downtown, but finding affordable parking that is near your restaurant or venue can be a hassle. Not anymore. When you search “parking near Target Field” in Park Whiz, you not only get a list and map of parking lots near Target Field, you get the price of each spot and distance from your venue.

It gets better. You ever pull into a parking garage and see an open parking space on the first level next to the exit and pull in to find it reserved? We all have, but now you can park in that primo spot next to the exit. Parking apps like Park Whiz and BestParking resell those reserved parking spaces when they’re not being used. Just hit the assistance button upon exit and give the attendant your confirmation code.

That’s how I ended up paying $7 and change on the first level of a garage right next to the exit a mile from my venue. I don’t mind a nice walk there and back, and I certainly won’t pay $20 to park for three hours. If I can drive a 20-mile, round trip and park for less than $10 between parking and fuel, that’s $5 cheaper than an Uber or Lyft and more convenient than a $5, two-hour round trip on a bus.

4)    Craigslist

I found the place I live now using the Craigslist app. I favorited the only two-bedroom apartment and garage I could find 20 minutes from work for $850, utilities included except for electric, which amounts to heat and air conditioning.

Craigslist would be higher on this list if the community was more thoughtful when it comes to correspondence. I drove 40 miles to score some first-come, first-serve book shelves that were posted that morning. I emailed the person to see if they were available, but since he had the stuff in his driveway, a passerby who got there first scored them just before I arrived. He didn’t send me a message to let me know they were gone until after I had pulled out of his driveway. I did, however, discover two great places downtown to get food and see live music and eat really good ice cream or drink espresso exploring the area with Google Maps .

“Free Stuff” is the best category in the Craigslist app and probably my favorite thing in the world besides Google, Google Maps and Park Whiz. I scored a free wooden, queen-sized bed frame complete with six drawers that slide in underneath and a headboard with three separated shelves for books, alarm clock, smartphone, etc. I scored a cheap entertainment table for my new 4K Ultra HD TV and stereo amplifier from the same folks.

I also scored a Yamaha 5.1 surround sound stereo with subwoofer and 220-watt amplifier for $60. It’s the same amplifier for which I paid $120 and sold for $60 along with the 5.1 surround sound speakers and subwoofer. These speakers aren’t as good as those, but there aren’t many home theater surround sound stereos with 220-watt amplifiers. What results is the loudest home theater system I’ve ever heard. My buddy, who was an aspiring DJ for a while, DJ Make it Rain Coate, was the only person I knew who has ever had a stereo louder than my old Yamaha.

I could have scored a free desk, but got a better, smaller option from a friend. I can still pick up a dresser if I want, but I fear it will shrink my tiny bedroom even further.

My second favorite category on the Craigslist app is “Tickets For Sale.” I’m a big sports fan, so getting a great deal on tickets that impress the scalpers puts a big smile on my face. It rarely happens since Minnesota sports teams have been pretty bad these last few years, but I sense things are turning around.

I’m also a theatre buff and enjoy a good concert, too, and the Craigslist app is the first place I go before Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek or Gametime. In fact, I’ve only ever used SeatGeek and Gametime to get the discount for signing up for their newsletter.

Generally people on Craigslist are looking to get face value for their tickets. Avoid any of the posts that are in all capital letters or use a generic photo of a logo and not a photo of the view from the seats. If you follow this rule you’ll avoid looking at a bunch of listings meant to redirect you to a reseller’s website.

5)     Amazon

I didn’t take advantage of the Amazon app until after my move to the city, but I could have had all the essentials to fill my new home waiting for me when I got there. Amazon offers a pantry service to Amazon Prime members, and it really does have the best deals on all your pantry products. When it comes to non-refrigerated food items, cleaning products, garbage bags, toothpaste, etc., I’ll never have to make another trip to the dollar store or Wal-mart. (Amazon and Wal-mart are in quite the price war, which is great for you, the consumer.) I was forced to stand in line at Wal-mart while I could have been simply opening boxes at my house and starting dinner.

 Honorable Mention: Groupon 

Because I didn’t have food sent to my new home ahead of me, I could have taken advantage of Groupon. The discounts are deep, and from now on I probably won’t eat at another restaurant unless I have a Groupon. If you love sushi, Thai, Indian and Italian food like me, you know it can get expensive. Well, I’m seeing up to 45 percent off restaurant food on Groupon.

From comedy tickets to spas and massages to dental care and plastic surgery, you can find a Groupon for it in the city. Even psychic readings are cheaper on Groupon. It’s an app too easy not to use.

 SINGLES ONLY – Match

Sure you could continue swiping left with the free Tinder and OKCupid apps, but Match is where it’s at whether you’re looking for respectable folks for friendly encounters or searching for your life partner. I appreciate how Match considers political and religious preferences when matching people because that’s what smart people talk about.

While Match is expensive ($25 per month for the three-month package), I can honestly say it works. I haven’t found my life partner yet, but I have met people I enjoy and that’s worth $25 when you’re alone and new to a city. My mother met her husband on Match, and apparently Match is responsible for the most first dates and second dates amongst online dating sites. You can try it for seven days for free and cancel anytime. 

So those are the apps to make your move to the city easier. Don’t make the mistake I did and discover them too late. Use the apps early and often.

Published in News & Information

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