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

The reeling Boston Red Sox are doing everything they can to hold off the New York Yankees in the American League East playoff race, including cheating. The Yankees have long suspected the Red Sox of stealing signs, and according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Red Sox have finally been caught “red-handed,” or in this case, red-wristed.


 

This was originally published on FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters and bloggers.


 

The Yankees suspect the Red Sox have been using an Apple watch to relay signs from the video room to the dugout. A member of the Red Sox organization reportedly watched video of opposing catchers flashing signals to pitchers. That person quickly decoded the sequence that signifies which pitch would be thrown. Then the information would be texted to Red Sox assistant trainer Jon Jochim’s Apple watch, who relayed the information to Red Sox batters. So with a runner on second, the Red Sox runner would look in at the catcher and relay to the batter what pitch was coming. The most common response on Twitter was the surprise that the Red Sox had found a use for the Apple watch, but the results are no laughing matter.

Keep in mind that the only thing making the Red Sox guilty is the use of technology to steal signs. Had the Red Sox successfully stolen signs without the Apple watch, they’d be revered in baseball circles. Instead, they could be facing a fine, the loss of a draft pick and possible suspension of their assistant trainer. That’s a paltry penance for a team who could win the pennant thanks to its cheating.

A game in Boston on Aug. 18 could have been decided because of the transgressions of the Red Sox. During a pitching change, Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez, who was at second base, reportedly received signs through Jochim that he relayed to the Red Sox batters. The Red Sox would go on to score four runs in a 9-6 comeback win over the Yankees at Fenway Park. The Yankees are just 3.5 games back in the AL East, and could be 2.5 games back or less had it not been for the Red Sox cheating.

Did the sign stealing work for the Red Sox in any other games? It’s difficult to determine, but judging from the numbers, it seems the Red Sox didn’t bother changing their ways while the investigation was ongoing.

Olney reported that the Yankees filed their complaint against the Red Sox all the way back on July 18. The Red Sox couldn’t hit anything with a runner on second base over the first nine games against the Yankees, going 2-for-43 through July 16. Overall through July 18, the Red Sox were actually worse (.381 OPS) at the plate with a runner on second base than without (.417 OPS). But after July 18, the Red Sox team OPS with a runner on second base was .463 compared to .389 when there wasn’t a runner on second. So the Red Sox could have very well won multiple games thanks to cheating.

The AL East could come down to that one game the Red Sox stole on Aug. 18, and if the Yankees and Red Sox finish the season separated by just one game or less, the Yankees should be allowed the option to replay the Aug. 18 game at Fenway Park. It will be a nice addition to the schedule since Major League Baseball didn’t think anyone would want to watch the Yankees and Red Sox play in September. The Yankees could end up winning the division and forcing Boston to play the Wild Card game. New York holds a 11-8 record against Boston this season, so an AL East tie would break the Yankees’ way.

Demanding the game be replayed could end up hurting the Yankees if they are indeed out of the AL East race and have to play a Wild Card game immediately after the replay game. So offering the option to replay the game is the best way to reward the slighted Yankees and punish the cheating Red Sox. If the Yankees decide against replaying the game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can still fine or suspend the Red Sox or take a draft pick or two. But an instance of cheating that could have decided multiple games deserves a more immediate punishment than the St. Louis Cardinals got for hacking the Houston Astros’ player database. That didn’t decide any ballgames or a pennant race.

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Democrats and Republicans agree on something. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton defended current first son Barron Trump, who was bullied by the Conservative publisher The Daily Caller, for wearing a T-shirt and jean shorts aboard Air Force One. Melania Trump, whose big First Lady focus is to put an end to bullying, thanked Clinton for defending her son on Twitter.

Why a publisher bullying a minor is wrong

First of all, a media outlet, and a Conservative one at that, publishing anything about any of the President’s children is not just in bad taste; it’s wrong -- and not because they’re the Conservative President’s children. Historically, the President’s children have been off limits to the media, but the only minors who should be targets of the media are high school athletes and high school achievers.

The only time a minor warrants a published word is when said minor has done some good for her community. No one wants to read about how poorly the home team played or which minors were caught in possession of drugs the day before the game. You can still publish that athletes were held out of lineup as punishment for poor behavior, but a sports reporter’s focus should stay on the field or court and with the kids who did show up to represent their high school that day.

People want to read about how the kids hung in there despite overwhelming odds, and how much money the volleyball team raised for local cancer survivors, or how well the Mathletes did at State. It’s the “good news” in the newspaper that helps small newspapers survive. More than anything, parents want to read about their child’s accomplishments and feel proud. They want to clip their kids’ pictures out of the paper and hang them on the fridge. The last thing they want to see is their child’s name in the paper for doing something wrong. That’s when they don’t even bother putting on clothes and just rush out the house to the newspaper office to rip into the editor about how their child’s a minor and her name shouldn’t be in print or on lips.

Minors get the benefit of the doubt from both journalists and the judicial system because they’re minors. They don’t have the experience to know what they ought and ought not do, so society cuts them some slack so they can figure it out. The Daily Caller cut Barron Trump no slack for his lack of slacks. They thought it was “High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.” Barron probably wishes his father would act like he’s in the White House. See, now that’s proper bullying.

Bullying the President is protected by the Constitution

The Daily Caller or any other publisher or person in this country can bully the President all they want thanks to the First Amendment. While attaining his “experience,” Donald Trump made plenty of mistakes, and he still does things that warrant a published word or billion. He’s not afforded the societal benefit of the doubt because he’s 71.

Trump’s 11-year-old son doesn’t have to dress like he’s in the White House because he’s 11 years old. His only focus should be being 11, and 11-year-olds wear jeans and T-shirts everyday. If your crazy old man was the most powerful old man in the world you’d want to be comfortable, too. Also, imagine graduating high school when your dad’s 78? How difficult it must be for Barron to connect with his father. There’s a multigenerational gap there.

End bullying for good

There’s no gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to bullying. It’s decidedly bad, and cyber bullying has exacerbated the problem. Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to be depressed than victims of traditional bullying. According to a 2010 Archives of Suicide Research study, “Youth who experienced traditional bullying or cyber bullying, as either an offender or a victim, had more suicidal thoughts and were more likely to attempt suicide than those who had not experienced such forms of peer aggression.” While suicidal thoughts and behaviors were more strongly related to those bullied, the bullies themselves also suffer, and the act of bullying is a coping mechanism.

Cyberbullying is like traditional bullying, except the bully is always there. Now that every parent issues mobile phones to their kids as a means to keep tabs on them, bullies can keep tabs on them, too. Back in my day, there weren’t mobile devices in high school, so all the bullying was done in the traditional manner. Now kids get bullied in school and at home, with no refuge in sight.

If you thought bullying would end as soon as some kid died as a result, it not only didn’t, but more kids are dying. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 24 years old. A study done in Great Britain found at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. Wikipedia even has a wiki dedicated to some of the most notable suicides attributed to bullying. Most recently, 12-year-old Katelyn Davis hanged herself from a tree in her backyard while live streaming it on Live.Me.

With bullying, the First Lady chose an honorable challenge despite the irony that engulfed its announcement while her husband was bullying Hillary Clinton, quite literally. You can’t go wrong attempting to save the children, but what can really be done about bullying?

Anyone who has ever been a victim or offender of bullying knows how to put an end to it. You must stand up to the bully but do so without resorting to violence. Experts say a violent response is not advised. So you don’t even have to be successful in the fight. You just have to show you have fight.

I grew up in the only state without anti-bullying laws (Montana), and I was bullied in middle school for one day. I decided that was the first and last time anyone would bully me. I didn’t throw one punch, didn’t attempt one kick. I just told the bully to hit me. He never did, but he did drive my nose into a metal railing at the top of a stairwell, and while bloodied, it wasn’t broken. I just kept repeating, “I’m still standing” until my mother arrived on the scene. (She was a teacher at the school, and her classroom was furthest from the action if that gives you an idea of how little teachers are doing about bullying.)

I didn’t have a problem with that bully or any other after that day, and I didn’t have to win the fight. I just had to prove I would be a frightful pain in the ass and not worth the bully’s time. The same tactic will work for cyber bullying as well.

Putting an end to cyber bullying takes a bit more dedication than getting the traditional bully off your back, but the principle’s the same. Stand up to the bully every time. Sure you could ignore the bully or block them, but then they just move on to another victim. Don’t let a Facebook comment or Tweet fall through the cracks. You must respond and respond quickly to all attacks on your character and that of others, but you must do so in a manner that reveals to the bully her reason for bullying without actually calling the bully insecure. You must be a social media psychologist.

How to be a social media psychologist

The most important thing to do as a social media psychologist is listen, which you can’t do if you block the bullies. In the case of cyber bullying, read deeply into every word your bully writes and calmly respond -- so calmly that the bully could never read malice into your response. They should be surprised by your lack of emotion and somewhat bored by it. Don’t try to be too smart or you’ll risk your cyberbully turning into a bully bully. While confidence is key, it’s more important to convey that you don’t care what your bully thinks.

Sometimes seeking out common ground can help. Instead of waiting for the next attack, be proactive and respond to something the bully posts on social media that you both like. If the bully knows you like some of the same things she does, it can go a long way in humanizing her thought of you. You might even end up friends.

For persistent bullies it might take the assistance of some friends to put an end to the bullying. The more people who stand by the bullied and speak on the bullied’s behalf, the more likely the bully is to stop bullying. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t hesitate to help others who are bullied. If all the bullies and all the bullied teamed up for war, the bullied would win the day. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Bart unites all of Springfield’s bullied against Nelson? There's a lot of truth to that.

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Despite recommendations to resign his post, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions is preparing potentially the largest bust in the history of the online, drug trafficking market and has vowed to go after the “criminals and transnational criminal organizations” involved in the billion-dollar drug trade on the darknet.

What’s the Darknet?

The darknet is a version of the internet reserved for people who take special measures to protect their identity online. In fact, admittance requires users to be completely anonymous. Users most commonly gain access to the darknet by shielding their IP addresses with The Onion Router (TOR) and running virtual private networks (VPNs). Even the money is untraceable, as Bitcoin has allowed for anonymous, online transactions. You don’t have to be as tech-savvy as you think to access the darknet, either.

 

But how do TOR and VPNs conceal the online identity of darknet users? Usually when you type a link into your web browser, your computer accesses the server of that website directly. TOR creates an onion network that bounces your signal around a bunch before communicating with the website’s server. Think of how Shrek describes himself: ogres have layers, which makes them hard to read. The same is true of an anonymous online identity. This onion network conceals the users’ IP addresses so no one knows who or where they are. Naturally, businesses selling illegal goods and services flourished on the darknet -- until now.

The AlphaBay Shutdown

The combined efforts of U.S., Canadian and Thai law enforcement resulted in the shutdown of AlphaBay, the largest darknet website known to be a marketplace for illegal drugs. But the shutdown didn’t stop its users from trafficking illegal drugs. The darknet isn’t so unlike the internet. There are plenty of other websites, so sellers and buyers jumped to another known darknet site called Hansa. Unfortunately for all of them, Hansa was now the bait in a Dutch sting operation.

 

Three weeks before the shutdown of AlphaBay, Hansa’s secure servers were acquired by the Dutch law enforcement -- in secret. So if you used Hansa after AlphaBay went down, Sessions is coming for you. “You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you,” he said.  

 

But all those people were using TOR and VPNs, so how can law enforcement find them? The cops don’t know their identities or their locations, right? Short answer: not necessarily. It takes a lot more than fancy router firmware and a VPN to remain anonymous online. AlphaBay’s alleged founder, who apparently hanged himself in a Thai prison, was in that Thai prison because of an unprotected email sent in 2014, according to Security Gladiators editor-in-chief Ali Qamar.

 

I’ve seen Snowden, so I assume just about anyone who bought or sold illegal drugs using Hansa after the AlphaBay shutdown can be found, prosecuted and convicted. If every AlphaBay user committed a transaction using Hansa while being monitored by the Dutch, that’s potentially 240,000 criminals in the short-sighted eyes of Sessions. That’s more potential prisoners than every country in the world except six, and would be more than a 10-percent increase to the U.S. prison population. So is there room in American prisons to house these drug offenders and how much would it cost?

The Darknet Drug Bust by the Numbers  

According to the Justice Bureau of Prisons, the average cost of incarceration of federal inmates was $31,977.65 in 2015. That’s $7.675 billion, divided by roughly 138.3 million American taxpayers in 2015, equals $55.50 per taxpayer per year.

 

But Donald Trump’s budget has to boost funding for federal prisons, right? Wrong. The U.S. Department of Justice requested $8.5 billion in total funding for fiscal year 2015, and Donald Trump’s budget proposal would cut funding for federal prison construction by a billion dollars in 2018. The cuts would result in a 17.9-percent decrease in funding for the federal prison system and detention trustee program over the next decade, which means fewer and fewer prisons built and fewer and fewer beds to go around.

 

The number of available prison beds in America changes daily with people bonding out or being released on parole or probation. We can, however, use 2015 Bureau of Prisons data to draw a conclusion. There were 196,455 American prisoners under federal jurisdiction in 2015, so it’s safe to say that more than doubling the federal prison population is impossible given the number of prisons operating at or over capacity.

 

In 2015, 18 states and the Bureau of Prisons met or exceeded the maximum capacity of their prisons. Eight more states met or exceeded the minimum number of beds allowed in their prisons. While the U.S. prison population has decreased 14 percent since 2013, the 1,500 to 2,000 more additional beds for which the Bureau of Prisons is requesting $80 million next year won’t be enough room for the nearly quarter-million criminals Sessions is pursuing on his drug-sniffing steed.

Will Sessions Resign as Attorney General?

Sessions might not lead the posse very long. It seems just about everyone agrees Sessions should resign if it’s indeed true he withheld information from Congress regarding his involvement in Russia’s attempt to alter the 2016 Presidential Election. The prior two U.S. Attorneys General forced to resign were in similarly hot water, but neither were linked to an attempt to alter a Presidential Election. And Sessions isn’t on Trump’s good side, either.

 

So the biggest bust of drug offenders in history might not be enough to save Sessions’s job, but that doesn’t mean his potential replacement won’t continue his work. While law enforcement’s initial focus should be on sellers who can lead them to the drug lords, that won’t be where it stops, regardless of who serves as Trump’s attorney general.

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Published in News & Information

Facebook has already lost the battle, but it’s reorganizing its troops and attempting an all-out assault on fake news after its security team admitted in a new report that “fake personas were created on Facebook...to amplify news accounts” and spread fake information online during the 2016 United States Presidential election.

Facebook has since taken action, “killing” 30,000 fake accounts in France. It’s also drafted users like you to report fake news, implementing a little button in the upper-right-hand corner of posts to activate the counterintelligence to vet the misinformation.

That counterintelligence is conducted by some of the most trusted news agencies -- Associated Press, ABC News, Politifact, FactCheck, and Snopes. ABC said they aren’t being paid for its efforts despite devoting six journalists to it full-time, and I’d assume the rest are “volunteer mercenaries” as well, which makes me feel all patriotic for American journalism.

But fake news is paid news, so waging war against it requires paid fact-checkers. But Facebook is putting its own boots on the ground, directly in front of its massive algorithm, and it has counterintelligence that shows who it should target. Facebook claims that users who post more than 50 times per day are most likely sharing spam or fake news. So Facebook can now limit their distribution as if it were destroying railroad tracks, airports, bridges and highways.

Facebook doesn’t even have to consider what the trains, planes and automobiles are carrying. The link between spam and fake news and those sharing more than 50 times per day is so strong, Facebook doesn’t even need to consider the content. “It’s one of the strongest signals we’ve ever found for identifying a broad range of problematic content,” Facebook’s vice president in charge of News Feed, Adam Mosseri told Recode’s Kurt Wagner.

The problem is Facebook has to cover its ass and allow for freedom of speech and the press -- you know, those First Amendment rights. So if Facebook thinks you or its algorithm has found fake news and wants to blow it out of the water, it has its counterintelligence team of journalists fact-check the story. Even then, though, Facebook can’t launch torpedoes. It sets phasers to stun and flags the post as “disputed” if two of its counterintelligence communities finds a problem with the news. And while disputed stories don’t show up as much in the sea that is News Feed, they’re still out there -- seeking, and eventually destroying, a gullible target.

Facebook has even taken steps to assist the gullible targets by asking them if they’re sure they want to share the trash upon which they’ve stumbled. Nothing’s stopping that fake news terrorist from tossing that bomb into the Facebook-sphere, though.

The one thing that would make a difference on the fake news front doesn’t seem to be figured out yet. Facebook says it’s going to make it harder for fake news publishers to profit from fake news, but they haven’t revealed how. In their new report, Facebook calls this phase of the battle plan as “disrupting economic incentives.”

Fake news publishers are practicing guerrilla warfare already, though, moving from network to network in order to keep the ad revenue coming. And as long as there are gullible targets willing to click on fake news, there will be fake news. The best defense against fake news is through an educational campaign that limits the number of gullible targets to the point it’s no longer profitable for fake news publishers. That’s the weapon Public Data Lab and First Draft are working to create, and until that information bomb is complete, fake news will continue to sail the Facebook News Feed seas. It takes a new propaganda campaign to end the current one.

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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

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Doesn’t it always seem like your smartphone battery starts dying when you’re due for an upgrade? Same with your car, right? Once the warranty is up something goes wrong. Well, fear not. There’s a way to make your smartphone last longer than you will. A little website called iFixit.com that started as a mine for DIY tech tutorials has grown into the DIY tech preservation tool and parts shop. It’s the first shopping experience that’s nearly brought me tears of joy.

 

I’ve long been a user of iFixit but seldom had reason to pay them. All I needed was information. I once revived a long dead Apple iBook and managed to do some of my favorite writing on it thanks to the tutorials at iFixit. I used iFixit again to repair my dad’s theater projector. It just needed a good cleaning, and iFixit told me exactly what I needed to remove and in what order to thoroughly clean it.

 

Now iFixit is not only supplying DIY tech tutorials online but the tools necessary to preserve your technology. I have an Apple iPhone 6 and just blew off Verizon after a dozen years as a customer. I got a month’s worth of Straight Talk and figured I’d deal with it on a month-to-month basis for the first time. Verizon did its best to retain my loyalty by lowering my bill to $55 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk and text. Straight Talk is $45 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, albeit at slower speeds after 5 GB. Straight Talk also doesn’t allow tethering, which means you can’t get on the web with your laptop using your phone as a wifi hotspot. I did that a lot with Verizon, and apparently it does a number on your battery’s life. Now there’s no reason to worry.

 

I simply started by checking prices for iPhone 6 batteries on Ebay. Everything was under $10, so I was immediately excited. But then I Googled “does iFixit have tutorials for replacing an iPhone 6 battery,” and then I was nearly moved to tears and raised a fist in the air – just like the iFixit logo, minus the wrench.

 

It was the most beautiful catalog photo and product I had ever seen. Sears has nothing on iFixit. And the transaction was most enjoyable because the order form uses Doc Brown’s address in Back to the Future as an example. The only thing that could have been better about the transaction is if the billing address example was Marty McFly’s address in Hill Valley.

 

This little box with the big fist is delivered to your door and includes everything you need to replace your iPhone battery for $45 after shipping. You might remember I told you the cost of a replacement iPhone 6 battery was under $10, but the tools necessary to replace the battery are invaluable and most certainly worth $35. Then, when your battery goes bad again in two years, you can replace it for less than $10 rather than spend $750 for the trendiest phone that’s exactly like the last one, and the one before that.

 

iFixit is changing the game with this product offering. I suggest you take advantage of it. You can find parts, tools and tutorials for Android devices, Apple computers, iPads, iPods, Amazon Kindle, GoPro cameras and game consoles. Don’t let a corporation control your pocketbook. In fact, grab the nearest tool and put a fist in the air to let them know your dollars will be awarded to those who allow DIYers like us to take advantage of our willingness to do the work. Take back your right to repair.

 

Editor's Note: This article has not been sponsored by iFixit. An update follows.

 

My iPhone 6 battery replacement kit arrived in a reasonably-sized box with all the necessary tools to complete the battery replacement, but some scary information was also included. A card inside the box said my state (Minnesota) is considering "Right to Repair" legislation. I was scared because at first I figured corporate lobbyists had convinced crooked politicians to make sure we can't repair our devices. Then I wondered why we as consumers would need to pass legislation to protect our right to repair. We paid for the product. What we do with it after paying for it is our prerogative and ours alone. But, of course, corporations would love to force us consumers to buy one of their new devices every two years or so. I can understand a corporation voiding a warranty for opening a device. Apple is famous for this. There was a warning on my old Mac Pro about opening the case. I proceeded to open it anyways and add a 1 TB hard drive.

 

"STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO REPAIR," the card reads, asking me to visit repair.org/stand-up. Doing so disturbed me further, as eight states were listed as considering Right to Repair legislation, which again, I feel should be unnecessary. Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee were all listed as considering Right to Repair legislation. Some Right to Repair legislation has already passed in Massachusetts, and some legislation has had strong opposition from corporate lobbyists in New York. I urge you to visit this site regularly to easily tell your state's representatives why you support the right to repair your own stuff.

 

Now, back to the task at hand, which is replacing my iPhone 6 battery. I had to let my battery's charge get below 25 percent in order to start working on it because a fully charged battery is more likely to catch fire when punctured. The folks at iFixit made this very clear, and since there was no tutorial included in the box and I only had access to the iFixit website through my iPhone, I took screenshots of each step of the iPhone 6 battery replacement tutorial and uploaded them to my offline laptop.

 

Once the battery's charge was below 25 percent, I removed the two screws at the bottom of the iPhone near the Lightning power input. In no time at all I had access to the guts of my iPhone, and with the removal of just a few screws, which I was sure to keep in separate plastic bags labeled with their correct location. The whole task would have taken less than an hour if not for one of the adhesive strips under the battery ripping. I had to buy a $10 hair dryer at Walmart and heat the back side of the iPhone directly under the battery because I didn't have an iFixit iOpener. It worked wonderfully, and the battery gave way after just a few seconds of heating.

 

The hardest part was applying the new adhesive strips to the knew battery, but I managed to install the replacement battery with no trouble. I followed iFixit's instructions to calibrate my new battery by using it to lower its charge below 30 percent. I then plugged my iPhone in and let it charge uninterrupted until it was fully charged. Then I did a little research into how to preserve the life of my new battery.

 

Business Insider provided a great guide for battery preservation, revealing that leaving your battery plugged in after it's fully charged is really bad for your battery. I and most of you probably charge your battery at night and unplug it in the morning. Don't.

The story also warns of letting your battery's charge get too low because charging from 0 percent to 100 percent puts a lot of stress on the battery. In fact, you should never charge your phone's battery to 100 percent, with the initial charge being the exception.

The revelation that rocked my world the most was that it's not bad for your phone's battery to receive partial charges throughout the day. I was under the impression that lithium-ion batteries had a lifespan consisting of a certain number of charges. That is not the case. It's actually recommended that "charging your phone when it loses 10 percent of its charge would be the best-case scenario," according to Battery University.

 

Editor's Note: If you purchase something at iFixit.com and enter the coupon code GOGONZOFIX you'll receive $5 off your order. This discount is brought to you by Go Gonzo Journal.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Tech Night Owl

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