Coping with early dark

I’m having a hard time coping with it getting dark so early. Fall being my favorite time a year, I wish it’d stay lighter later in the day so I could enjoy Fall ambiance in the evening. As it is, seems like the only way to take advantage of the daylight hours on weekdays is by doing so in the morning — say from 7:00 am to 8:00 am? Maybe during lunch?

At least as it’s the weekend, I’ll get a couple good days of brisk Fall daylight.

Mobogging India

In case you didn’t follow along, when my Blackberry was connected in India, I was frequently sending live pictures to my Mobog.

Connectivity plus photo-sharing (Admitting that cameraphone shots are poor quality) equals a great way to keep in touch with the folks you left back home. Examples:

Basically, camera-photo blogging while traveling makes for a lot of fun, and is much more efficient (a picture is worth a thousand words) than recanting your experiences over mass emails to friends/family.

I see a lot of potential for camera-phones being used in a blogging capacity. Snapping a quick photo and sending off an email on a Blackberry is just too easy and too quick.

Expect to see more adopt Mobog-like technology in the coming months and years.

Connectivity Issues while Abroad

Below is a comment I left for David D. Friedman (Law’s Order, Machinery of Freedom, Future Imperfect) in response to his post G1: The Saga Continues. “DDF” had taken a trip to London with his brand-spanking new G1 Android and was hoping to get it working while on the trip — he was unsuccessful. In India, I was faced with trying to get my unlocked T-mobile Blackberry 8320 up and running (and also a working USB modem for my laptop — I preferred the redundancy of EDGE/GPRS connections over tethering for ease of use and diversification of providers). Below is my response to DDF’s post, which relays my experience in depth and hits on a few observations I’ve made having made it through the experience.

Warning: unless global cell phone provider issues are a concern, this post is likely to be very boring to you. If anything, just read the bullets! I am including it below simply for the record.
Continue Reading…

Riding the Bull … er … Elephant

Don’t have time for a “real” post about my trip, but here is a picture of me going for an elephant ride on Minakshi at the Orange County Resort in Kibini, India (Karnataka near the Nagarhole National Park).

Ok one more shot of a baby/adolescent monkey (we see lots of these here) who was hanging out in this Bamboo park:

India Take Two

I first traveled to India in December of 2004. It was a two-week trip where I got to see New Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal), Baroda and Bombay. Had a great time and participated in a lot of wedding shopping.

Fast forward to last Sunday when we (Father-in-law or “FIL”, sister-in-law/”SIL”, wife and me) flew out of Atlanta. Our flight left around 5pm Sunday and arrived in Amsterdamn around 7am Monday (6 hour time change). We then had a flight out of Amsterdam at 10am (Note: security at Amsterdam was a pain) and arrived in Bombay at around 11pm (3.5 hour time change). Both of those flights were roughly nine hour dinkers. In Bombay, we had a huge layover with our flight to Baroda (Vadodara) which departed around 6am and brought us to our final destination at 7am Tuesday. Yeah, quite a travelling experience! I managed it all by reading the first couple
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
books, watching airplane movies (quite a selection these days!), fasting, entertaining other travelers and Bombay airport employees by wearing my Vibram Five Fingers (With new Injinji socks!), and attempting to sleep.

Okay, here is a map of India to help you follow along:


View Larger Map

Note: You can switch to the “map” view and you’ll see more cities, but the Terrain view is somewhat helpful for discussion and lack of map clutter. Baroda is a bit south of Ahmadabad (a two hour drive) and though the politically accepted name for Bombay is now Mumbai, I’ve found that most people here still refer to it as Bombay.

Here in Baroda we’ve spent the week shopping as well as taking care of some familial obligations. My FIL and I have shopped less than my wife and SIL. One of the first things I set out to do upon arrive was attempt to get wireless for my Asus eee 900 as well as set up my Blackberry 8320 with a local sim card for data/EDGE. This required my FIL and our friend Malay as a resident to go to a local mobile provider, Airtel. Unfortunately, what we failed to realize at the time (And the Airtel employees didn’t know) was that the prepaid cards won’t get data working on your blackberry. D’oh! And getting set up on a plan requird committing to a year long contract.

We figured all of that out about 24 hours later upon our second trip to Airtel. This set in motion trips to Reliance (they can’t provide) and finally Vodafone. Vodafone was a near bust until we convinced them that we didn’t care about losing the 500 rupee (Rs) deposit if we cancelled after three months (or was it six?). 500 rupees is only about $10, which I’ve decided is way too low a deposit to affect any Americans behavior. But that is not an insignificant sum to locals, it seems.

Anyway, even after getting a Vodafone card, the instructions we were provided on how to activate the blackberry data on it were out of date. Calling customer service was fruitless. Another day passes.

Finally, on Thursday afternoon (day 3 of trying to get my blackberry up and running), we went back to Vodafone, explained that the instructions were wrong, and then were provided the new instructions that worked within five minutes. Yay! Emails started piling in (Boo!) and I could get onto google maps (triangulation works here!), Jivetalk/beejive, opera, gmail, everything — same as BIS in the states.

Fortunately, throughout all of this I had been hooked up with a TATA wireless modem that an uncle-in-law had set up on a previous trip and left here. That thing, in combination with my eee, has been a godsend, bridging the gap on not having my blackberry working for a few days, enabling me to still keep up with work (Implode business). My only gripe on it is that it is huge in relation to the eee (which is tiny). See here for what I mean. Otherwise, even at max speeds of like 10kbs, it is getting the job done like a champ. And god bless the linux community for ease of setup of a random wireless usb modem on a random wireless provider in India on ubuntu. Works like a charm.

So having completed a good deal of shopping, which meant getting some pimp Indian dress shoes plus some dhoti (“Indian hammer pants”) and a couple new kurta tops, dodging cow patties on Baroda sidewalks (SIL was hilariously unsuccessful in this regard), being stared at, observing the amazing anarchy that is driving/biking/rickshawings/carting/ox’ing/cow-dodging/walking on the streets of India (no traffic lights and lanes are entirely ignored) and eating Papa Johns and Subway (and ate some great Indian food, of course), we are moving on to the South for a week.

We fly out of Ahmadabad down to Bangalore and then drive to Mysore. This is a mountainous region that is apparently beautiful. And our stay will involve being in some sort of rain forest for a couple of days. Should be awesome.

There are a lot of thoughts I have on this trip. They range from observations about people, business, food, overpopulation, anarchy to the bizarre mix of modern times (mobile phones and computers) and age-old tech (you should see how they build stuff here — women carrying bricks on their heads, latticing at construction sites made out of rope-tied sticks) to abundant religious iconography to the omnipresence of cows. India is an amazing place on this planet.

In the meantime, I have to get ready to leave Baroda. If you want, please follow along on my mobog. This is where I’ve been posting pictures from my blackberry live of sites I’m seeing here. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep that up, but a quick review of my mobog will give you a good sense of some of the things I’ve alluded to above.

Anyway, hope to write more when I get a chance. After out trip down south, we’ll be coming back to Baroda in time for Diwali!

Mortgages are Forever

So a guy I ping emails with mentioned to me that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson made a great “Dr. Evil” considering his bailout bill had a pricetag of $700 BILLION. What really made the situation humorous, though, was that the bald Paulson appointed shaved-head Neel Kashkari to oversee the bailout. Thus, rather than obsess over the crashing market (1,000 point amplitude today on the DJIA!), I determined to mock up a movie poster:



This might not be funny to a lot of you, but I enjoyed making it. And after this week of atrocious market performance, even for a bear like me, I needed the comic relief!

New Chacos from Zappos (Updated)

Be sure to see my updated comments at the bottom of this post!

In preparation for my trip to India, I ordered a new pair of Chacos from Zappos. They are the Chaco ZX/2 in black:

My first pair of Chacos were bought back in 2003 in preparation for a trip to Italy. They have served me well over the years, and there is still plenty of Vibram sole left in them (particularly in the front, less in the back). However, I’ve been convinced almost since the second week I bought them that they were one size too big. Chacos don’t come in half sizes and I am typically a 10 and a half. I had gone for 11s back in 2003.

This time around, I ordered 10s in the new ZX / dual-thin strap style, still electing to have the toe-strap.

So far, I like them. The 10 is definitely a better fit for my foot. And the dual-thin strap of the ZX makes them much easier to adjust. They are also a smidge lighter than my five year old, one-size bigger Chacos. Here’s a comparative shot (apologies for my ugly, long toes):

See how well my old Chacos have held up? Over that same time period, my Milano Birks (God bless them) have been worn through to the leather upper!

I like Chacos for their smart design: the one-strap cuts out any need for velcro and makes for a very clean look. The Chaco footbed is heavy-ish, but quite durable — definitely much more durable than, say, Birkenstocks (I’m a big fan of Milano and Boston, being on my second pair of both in the past 10 years). I’m a big fan of Vibram soles, too (See my review of Five Fingers). Interestingly, I’ve thrown my old Chacos in the dishwasher to clean them. Works like a charm!

As for Zappos.com, all I can say is, “wow”. I ordered my Chacos on Monday mid-day and they were delivered by UPS Tuesday afternoon. That was with the $7.00 rush processing (Note: no other shipping or handling fees at all, meaning had I not gone for rush, it would have been free shipping — oh and no sales tax!), but even so, that is impressively fast. If you know what you want (I.e. size and style of shoe), how can you go wrong? Oh wait, even if you don’t like it, they offer free return shipping! Impressive.

So we’ll see how these new Chacos hold up. My plan (presently) is only to take my FiveFingers and Chacos to India. Now all I need is some injinji socks!

Afterthought: Some of you might be thinking I’m a bit crazy for blogging reviews on my footwear. You just have to understand that I’m a huge fan of being able to wear as little shoe as possible (I have to wonder if this is some primal instinct — a throwback to the countless human generations who never knew shoes. Furthermore, I hate packing multiple pairs of shoes on vacations. To me, the flexibility of Chacos, particularly these ZX/2s in black which combine utility with a bit more “dress”, win out over the comfort-factor of my Birkenstocks, which don’t hold up well to lots of walking, inclimate weather, lots of standing or hiking. And the FiveFingers, well they are incredibly packable and great for long plane rides.

Update, 11-12-2008: The ZX/2s performed beyond expectations on my trip to India where I wore them almost exclusively for three weeks. Of note, whereas the ZX Chacos had a nasty habit of “scissoring” right above my big toe where the two straps crossed over, which caused irritation and a blistering-effect when I wore the Chacos for extended periods (i.e. when I wore my ZXs almost exclusively back on my Italy 2003 trip). Thanks to the interlocking-at-the-crossover double strap of the the ZX/2s, this effect was entirely eliminated. I had no irritation there whatsoever.

My wife thinks the ZX/2s are a bit “strappy”, which is to say, “feminine.” However, I think they’re more stylish, less granola and beyond all, much more functional than the single strap ZXs. Assuming the style is acceptable to you, I highly recommend the ZX/2s over the ZXs.

Now, one drawback of note. I found the soles of these new Chaco’s to be slippery in wet conditions. I expected a bit more “grippiness” from Vibram soles, so this was a slight disappointment — a minor gripe though.

Seasteading Institute T-shirts

Though I have little to offer the Seasteading Institute in the way of funds, I was able to contribute some services. I helped the Institute by producing a t-shirt design for their upcoming conference. Here is a side-by-side mash-up of the front and back of the shirt.

The front will feature the Seasteading Institute logo on the left pocket area (Not my design but a well done logo!) and the top-ten list on the back (design mine, list as voted on here).

Anyway, I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’m hoping to come up with some more designs in the future.

Gauging Insulin Sensitivity

I originally read Lyle McDonald’s article on Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss a number of weeks ago, but I just stumbled upon it again and wanted to jot down, for my own record, his comments on gauging your own insulin sensitivity:

However, in practice, there are signs as to whether you have good insulin sensitivity or not and possibly whether you oversecrete insulin. Here?s two very simple questions to ask yourself regarding your response to diet.

  1. On high-carbohydrate intakes, do you find yourself getting pumped and full or sloppy and bloated? If the former, you have good insulin sensitivity; if the latter, you don?t.
  2. When you eat a large carbohydrate meal, do you find that you have steady and stable energy levels or do you get an energy crash/sleep and get hungry about an hour later? If the former, you probably have normal/low levels of insulin secretion; if the latter, you probably tend to oversecrete insulin which is causing blood glucose to crash which is making you sleepy and hungry.

I’m not sure where I fall on his second test (other than saying that I don’t get sleepy though I do get hungry), but I know where I fall on the latter, which is that I feel bloated. I didn’t realize this until I quit most heavy carbs. Now, when I backslide and load up on carbs, I actually feel my belly distend! Not fun.

This all reminds me of how I’ve thought about where to put my carbohydrates in my meal. For awhile, I thought I should stick them at the end of the meal. I was reasoning that, at the end, they’d take longer to digest, which would further slow the glycemic load.

I don’t think it works that way, however. I recall reading somewhere (I think on Eades’ proteinpower.com) that there could is a significant delay between when you eat carbohydrates and when your brain gets the fullness signal, which is why you can pound a dessert even after you couldn’t eat another bite of steak. Thus, if you put your carbohydrates at the end of your meal, you may feel hungry even after eating a full meal. As a result, I’ve started putting my carbohydrates at the beginning of the meal — and for the record, by “my carbohydrates”, I mainly just mean any fruits or vegetables I am going to eat.

It’s an experiment, so your mileage may vary.

Standing can improve sleep?

Stumbled on a strange idea just weird enough to warrant self-experimentation: standing to improve sleep. I found it thanks to a shared Google reader item from Patri Friedman. It was part of some notes taken from a meetup meeting:

Change in breakfast caused early awakening to get worse. This was the first thing that had made a difference. Led to discovery that any breakfast hurts; supported by rat research. Later found that standing a lot improved sleep. Had to stand at least 8 hr to get effect; no effect of 6 hr of standing. Great sleep when stood 10 hr but really hard to do. More recently discovered that standing on one leg to exhaustion helps. Do twice in one day. Same effect …

Told you it was a bit different. I’m working on hacking sleep a bit, and am immensely curious as to if this experiment would prove out for me. I sit at a desk and start at three computer screens all day, so the one-legged standing to exhaustion will be the method I try.

Stay tuned.

Sidenote: I already skip breakfast most days, preferring to wait until lunch before I break my nighttime fast.

Update: Seth kindly responded to my request for additional information on what he means by standing to exhaustion:

Justin, what I mean by “standing on one leg to exhaustion” has nothing to do with balance ? I usually touch something to make it easy to balance. I mean I stand on one leg until it becomes difficult due to muscles getting tired. I never actually endure pain or even discomfort but I go right up to the point where I would start to if I continued. In the beginning I could only do this for 2-3 minutes; now it’s up to about 11 minutes. At the moment the “whole regimen” is what you call one set: standing on each leg to exhaustion once. In other words, left leg once, right leg once.

Got it – and so the experiment can start!

Update 2: Finally got around to trying this out this evening. I still had some standing stamina at 10 minutes, so I just stopped there (per leg). We’ll see how the sleep goes tonight.

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