Category Archives: Blog

23 Hours with a Samsung Galaxy S8

This years marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone by Apple. I’ve owned the iPhone ever since beginning with the original one. Then I had the 3GS, 4S, 5S and 6S. Before the iPhone and the advent of smartphones I had 3 different Nextel phones. I don’t recall the model name of my very first cell phone but it was a Nextel and resembled a small brick. Then I had the Motorola i730 flip phone and the Motorola i830 flip phone. The i730 was my favorite because it was silver in color and had that neat little colorful disco ball thing on the front and had a nice looking blue outer display too. It was kind of fat for a cell phone compared to today’s ultra thin phones, but it still felt good in the hand. After those phones and getting my first iPhone I’ve had no other phone in the past decade.

I like to consider myself a techie of sorts and it’s even my job to be an IT person. I have no trouble switching between the various platforms of computers and other forms of technology. Even when it’s not work related people come to me with their tech problems and I’m usually good at helping to resolve them.

After the past decade with iPhone and iOS I thought that perhaps I’d try out a new smartphone platform this time. To me there was nothing wrong with the iPhone and it has done everything I needed and wanted it to do and has worked superbly all along.

Perhaps it was out of boredom and complacency that I decided I wanted to try another smartphone. Since the Android operating system is pretty much the only other mobile platform out there it kind of limits my choices. Windows mobile is officially dead as Microsoft has just announced that it has been discontinued.

Apple has recently announced their new phones for 2017/2018 in the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X (pronounced ten). The prices for these phones are quite expensive and the iPhone X has a starting price of $999 round that off and it’s $1,000. The iPhone X also has this fancy new display and edge to edge screen with a “notch” at the top where they added their camera’s and face detection sensors for their new FaceID system. They’ve done away with a physical Home button and TouchID on this new phone. The iPhone 8 still retains the same form factor as the 7 and 6 before it with some changes in the material and of course new and upgraded options. It was because of this new $1,000 price tag and FaceID that sort of helped me gravitate toward trying something new. $1,000 for a phone? Sheeesh! I really don’t want to be paying that for a phone no matter how great they are. FaceID is pretty cool and the work they put into developing it and making it possible is amazing. However, I doubt its practicality in my life as being useful. I’m quite accustomed to the Home button and very often I will leave the iPhone on a table and just press the Home button to either see notifications or unlock the phone to do something quickly without needing to pick the phone up. Based on the keynote demonstration of the iPhone X it appears that you have to pick it up, look at it and then swipe up to unlock it. For me that’s not as convenient as the Home button with TouchID. Plus did I mention it costs $1,000 to start?

On the Android front there are numerous different phone makers out there and they all put their own little touch, or flare, into them on top of the base Android OS. The only one that keeps Android pure are the phones made by Google, the maker of Android. I wanted to experience Android as Google intended it to be just as I have iOS with Apple. Of course, iOS and iPhone are all made by Apple and there are no customizations made to it by other manufacturers – because there are none – so the experience on iOS is a pure one.

I admit I don’t know a lot about Android but over the past month I’ve been learning a lot. I decided to go with the Google Pixel which was first introduced in late 2016 and I learned that the Pixel 2 was set to be announced soon, so I would wait until then to make a decision on what I was going to do, if anything. In the meantime I was trying to do my homework on it and Android in general.

I mostly decided to go after the new Google Pixel 2 which is as pure as Android can be since it’s all made by Google. But after a lot of reading of various forum comments, watching YouTube videos and blog articles about Google’s ability to deliver on the hardware front of the original Pixel and the Nexus line before that it gave me cold feet a day before the big announcement. I was ready to try a different experience other than the iPhone this time around and wanted to try Android. Because of the reputation of Google having supply and demand issues for months at a time I decided to get a Samsung Galaxy S8 instead. I stopped in at the ATT store after work one day and they gave me $300 for my iPhone 6s! That was $100 more than Samsung was going to give me if I bought from their website, so I said sure why not.

I went home with the Samsung Galaxy S8 that day and began to go thorough it and set up my various apps and accounts. Learning the new OS was also a major task of mine as well. It is very different from Apple’s iOS.

This Samsung phone from AT&T not only had Android on it (of course) but it also has an integrated layer of Samsung apps and it also has a layer of AT&T apps on it as well. This was something I was trying to avoid when going the Android way, but I knew it was all going to be there on the Samsung phone.

To keep a long story from getting any longer, I was unhappy with the layers of apps and compatibility between them. I was banging my head against the wall for hours trying to get Google Photos (which works great and I like) to sync with Samsung Gallery (their photos app) which only works with their Samsung Phone/Contacts app in order to sync my contact’s photos to it. I finally figured out a workflow to accomplish the task the next morning.

Then, the finger print sensor is in an awkward location on the top of the back next to the camera. I had a heck of a time getting my finger on it properly to read it and half the time I’d flip the phone to the side so I could see where I was placing it on the sensor. So I wasn’t too pleased with that.

Another thing was the USB-C charger cable would come disconnected ever so slightly if it was nudged and I’d nudge it again and it would connect back up. It wasn’t that the cable was coming out of the phone, it just had sloppy tolerances for mating with the phone.

I decided that all of that stuff and some other things were too much for me to live with and I went back to the store and returned it. They gave me back the iPhone 6s I gave them and they reversed everything and put it all back the way it (my AT&T account) was. The only thing I am out is a $45 restocking fee.

Then my plan was to pre-order the Pixel 2 like I originally wanted. But while I was restoring my iPhone back from iTunes, I decided against that. This kind of change is too much for me!

I said screw it and I ordered an iPhone 8 Plus 64GB directly from Apple. I paid for it all up front, plus a black leather case for a total of $898.88. I had almost all of that already saved up which I was going to spend on the Pixel 2.

In the end I still spent nearly $1,000 on a mobile phone and I didn’t get the Pixel 2 like I was planning. Had I been a little more patient and waited one more day for the Pixel 2 announcement I might have bought that and probably would have been happier than with it compared to the Galaxy S8. But, I still have the nice new iPhone 8 Plus which does everything I need and want and I don’t have to worry about it.

Since I own the iPhone and don’e owe Apple or AT&T anything for it, perhaps I’ll still buy a Pixel 2 down the road and just have two phones and swap the SIM card between them. Who knows? We’ll see.

Motivation Towards Fitness

Getting motivated and staying in that frame of mind once you get there isn’t easy to do, at least for me. Clearly everyone is different when it comes to this and I’d like to talk about what its like for me.

When it comes to fitness its like work to me. I have to exert myself and work against the laws of physics, particularly the law of conservation of energy where the total energy of an isolated system remains constant—it is said to be conserved over time. To me in this context it means that I’d rather be doing as little as possible and not expend excess effort thus working up a sweat and heating up my body with an increased heart rate. Again that’s too much like work.

However, the physical benefits I gain from exercise do outweigh my desire to do as little as possible. Beating back diabetes has to be at the top of my list of benefits followed by a host of other medical maladies that are associated with being overweight.  Plus there is the psychological aspect of how you look in the mirror as it relates to overall confidence in yourself. I feel a lot better mentally about myself when I see that I don’t weigh 260lbs like I did when I was at my worst 11 years ago.

Getting to the point of my message here is that the motivation required for me to engage in and accomplish fitness goals only comes from within me. Other people find motivation by watching and speaking to others who are at a place they wish to be at, or with friends and family who are on the same journey together to get fit. It could be that others derive their motivation from watching top fitness professionals and amateurs alike on TV, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook et al. and aspiring to be like them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as the individual sets reasonable goals for themselves that they are likely to achieve. Setting an impossible goal will only lead to failure and disappointment. Mitigate your expectations and take them in small steps, one at a time on the road to your goals and you’re more apt to achieve them.

I’m one of those people who cannot derive motivation from others around me, or on the view screen. Watching others attain their goals or work toward them does nothing for me. I’m happy for them and encourage their continuation toward their goals, but it won’t motivate me to get moving toward my goals. Rather, I have to want the desired effect of fitness more than I want to sit around conserving energy as much as possible. It’s a desire to out balance the benefits of fitness vs. the consequences of obesity and the health risks that come with it. That’s what motivates me to continue exercising and to stay as healthy as I can.

Staff Sgt. Antonio J. Curry, a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot

Nothing short of an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor will motivate me to do what I need to do to stay fit. Even someone playing the part of a DI, an actor, or a civilian led “boot camp” DI can’t do it for me. I’d have to be in USMC Boot Camp all over again to be motivated by an outside force to do what I know I need to do.

One thing that helps me continue exercising beyond the health reasons I’ve covered already is finding a routine or program that I enjoy doing. For years I was strictly lifting weights and doing bodybuilder type of stuff. The exercises to grow my muscles large and look like the guys at the Mr. Olympia contest. Though, I am not, nor have I ever come close to looking like them, but it was something I was doing as a means to get fit. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lifting weights and building large, strong muscles. But I was finding that it wasn’t helping me get to where I want to be physically with my body. For a while, on and off, I’d do about 30 minutes of cardio on an elliptical machine before or after my weightlifting routines. I found that when I was doing that combination that I was going in the right direction towards my goals. But doing cardio, the same thing, for 30 minutes straight really sucks. It’s tiring and more to the point, boring. I had stopped doing the cardio portion of my workouts over a year ago just because it was so boring and I hated every minute of it.

About a month ago I finally came to the point that what I needed was a change in what I was doing. While my muscles were getting stronger and bigger with the weightlifting, my body fat percentage was creeping up again. Weightlifting for me doesn’t get my heart rate up high enough, and on the few occasions that it would, its not sustained for any significant period of time. The key to burning fat is getting an elevated heart rate and sustaining it for a while, or short periods with a short break in between, like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training.

My gym, Anytime Fitness, this year came out with their own Workouts app that is filled with pre-made programs of all types. There is a program for just about any fitness goal one could want and allows you to create your own as well. It’s very nicely designed, elegant, intuitive and easy to use, I really like it. As I was pursuing though it I decided to try their fat loss pre-made routines which, so far, is mostly all body weight cardio exercises and has had no dumbbells or barbells incorporated into it. I’m now into phase two of the plan after a month or so of doing it and I’m quite happy with it and it’s doing what I need it to do which is get my heart rate up, sweat a lot and burn some fat. The numbers don’t lie either as my scale measures weight and body fat percentage and I’m seeing my numbers drop as I wanted them to.

Additionally, since I don’t want to lose too much muscle mass while doing all this cardio-type exercise, I’ve incorporated a second program from the Workouts app with kettle bells. It’s a lot of cardio exercise as well, but with strength exercises too. I’ve never used kettle bells before and I’m finding that I really love using them. It’s vastly different from dumbbells and barbells in how they feel and how to use them. Best of all I can do these exercises at home without having to go to the gym. Obviously that means I have to have my own set of kettle bells with which to use. I’ve been slowly building up my kettle bell collection and it’s coming along nicely. My gym does not have any kettle bells there which I think is unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. So what I’ve been doing is the fat loss program 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then kettle bells on the other 4 days of the week. I go to the gym on the fat loss program days because there are some things there that I need which I don’t have at home. There are also a lot of exercises that require me to be jumping up and down. I live on the third floor of my apartment building and I don’t wish to be rude to the neighbors by jumping and making a lot noise while I workout. Lastly, there are my gym friends that I like to see and talk to while I’m exercising and that’s why I go in several days a week too.

The combination of body weight cardio exercises and kettle bells is showing dividends for me and is steering me on the path that I want to be on towards my fitness goals. These programs take the boredom out of exercise that I get when I run on an elliptical for 30 minutes and helps time pass more quickly as I punish myself in the gym, or at home.

According to the Achievements app on my iPhone, which is paired to the Apple Watch, I am now at 28 consecutive days of exercise of 30 minutes or more. In a few hours from now I’ll make 29 days in a row.

In addition to the changes in my workout routines, I’m also tweaking my diet a little here and there so that I can get to where I want to be. A proper diet is essential to the whole fitness thing. You can’t out train a bad diet as they say.

My motivation comes from my desire to be healthy verses my desire to do as little as possible. Having an exercise routine that I enjoy helps that a lot and having a flexible, but sensible, diet also contributes to my successful motivation.

National Coffee Month (2017)

Well it’s another year to celebrate our favorite drink. For the last couple of years the only thing I’ve been drinking is coffee and plain ol’ water. The diabetes made sure that I gave up soda pop and other sugary drinks for good. That’s when I turned to coffee and went really all in with it.

In the last year I’ve added some new equipment to my coffee arsenal. I’ve pretty much switched away from using a French Press to using a V60 Hario pour over at work and using the Chemex pour over at home. I’ve found that I actually prefer these methods over the French Press because they use a paper filter. In my tastes I’ve found that the paper filter helps to cut off that edge of acidity and creates a more smooth tasting coffee that I had experienced before. Now I still like the French Press and still use it occasionally, but it’s not my go to method anymore.

I also still use my Expobar every single morning for espresso and I just love that thing. I did add an electric timer to it so that it turns on and off on a schedule I set so that when I get up in the morning the machine is already warmed up and ready for me to make an espresso without having to wait.

Recently I acquired an HG-One manual hand grinder for my espresso making needs. When I learned about this beautiful device I fell in love with it and wanted one. But at about $1,000 it was going to be an expensive thing to want. I was able to buy a used one for a bit less from a very good friend of mine who was no longer using it. he kept it in great condition and it works beautifully. I’ll be making a review of it soon to post here on my page.

The HG-One is a wonderful grinder and after getting it dialed in I get great espresso out of it in conjunction with good beans and the Expobar. I smile each time I pass by it in the kitchen.

Here’s to another great year of coffee!