My favorite Android Apps for my phone

During January 2014 a Facebook friend said she just got a new android phone and wanted recommendations for apps. So here is a list ofAndroid icon many of the apps I use regularly on my phone. I will update it from time to time. Like ios, some many options.

But first, a link to recommendations of Lifehacker,

Here is my list, roughly in the order that I use them (note: I don’t do games on my phone; others might be interested in Pinterest or Instragram):

Daily or very regularly:

  • Any.Do or ReNotify – for your short “to do” list
  • Audible – to listen to books on my commute and when walking the dogs. See my page on this.
  • Chrome – web browser.
  • Facebook
  • Gmail and Gmail’s calendar app. Cathy and I share calendars so we can keep up with what is scheduled
  • Google Now – Android’s virtual assistant (Siri). Ask it any question. Get directions, sent a note to self, set an alarm, etc. do conversions, local movie list, etc.  For more.
  • Google Maps – an excellent program for locating an address, navigating you there (but it can use the batttery up so be careful if you do not have a phone charger.
  • Google voice – some work to set up.. But
  • Swiftkey – a keyboard that allows for more efficient typing.

Regularly:

  • Camera! – an upgrade from the version that is part of Android
  • Dropbox (if you are a dropbox user)
  • Google Keep – for keeping misc information. Easy to add; easy to search.
  • Logos Bible app (I have the desktop version as well; this gives me access to these resoures on my phone and tablet
  • NWS Mobile Weather and/or AccuWeather (I have both and use both)
  • OneNote (if you are a OneNote user on the PC..) or Evernote
  • Pandora – for streaming music.
  • Pocket – for saving web pages for later viewing
  • Quickoffice – allows you to open a word or excel file
  • Radar Now
  • RunKeeper (an excellent app for runners; it tracks your distance, time, rate
  • Smart Voice Recorder – dictate a note for later listening. I use this on my walks or drive.
  • Voxer (if you friends use it..). A walkie-talkie app.

Occasionally:

  • Brightest Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Crashplan – assess to my Crashplan backups.
  • Flickr – photo sharing and more.
  • PrinterShare – allows you to print remotely
  • Skype or Hangouts to connect with others video video
  • Time4Me+ – an excellent timer

Tablet apps (not mentioned above)

  • Flipboard or Zite – customizable magazine of web articles
  • Google Earth
  • Kindle – reading books

Audible transforms commutes, walks, more

A desire to learn more about nutrition 4 years ago took me to Topeka’s good library not far from work.  While there, I discovered their significant collection of books on CD and which transformed my daily commute from Lawrence to Topeka. After a couple of years, I began to have a more difficulty time finding books of interest and desired to listen to books on my two walks a day with our dogs. The answer: Audible.

David vacuuming and listening to Audible

David vacuuming and listening to Audible

While there are a number of way to get free book recordings, esp. of classic literature, Audible deliveries a great variety of classics and current best-sellers via purchase/subscription, conveniently and simply. Many of these recordings are excellent performances. For example I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an excellent rendition of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book I likely would not have been able to get through by reading.

The Basics

  • The most common way to use Audible is as a subscription service. The basic subscription if $15 per month. With it you get one credit per month, which is in essence, one  book per month. But this also allows you to buy any other book for a minimum of 30% off and to have access to other sales and specials (see more below)
  • Audible’s app is available for your smart phone, tablet, and computers. You can switch between devices and it keeps track of where you are.
  • As Audible allows you to have up to three phones or tablets connected to an account (as well a few PCs), you can share an account with other family members. I share my account with my wife and mom; I also pay for an account that my three daughters share.

Getting the most of your money

  • You can save 20% by paying annually rather than monthly ($150/year rather than $180 if you pay $15/month).
  • Sign up for their “daily special” email where once a day they deeply discount a particular book for 24 hours, typically at a price of $3 or $4.
  • I take time to read the reviews to see what others think of the book, both its content and the performance of it, to help me insure I am getting books I will enjoy.  Many of the classics are inexpensive and there are often multiple options.
  • If you buy a book that you end up not enjoying, return it. Audible allows you to return books you are not satisfied with for any reason for up to a year. .
  • Keep a wish list. Audible will let you know if any of these are on sale.

Getting the most of your time.

  • I listen on my commutes and my walks with the dogs.
  • I also listen when I mow the yard and vacuum the house. How? I use ear buds and the ear protection I wear when I mow the yard.
  • We equipped both of our cars with a mount to hold our phone (approx. $20) and an FM tuner/phone charger to allow you to listen to the book through the cars speakers (another $20).
  • We also spend $30 on a small Bluetooth speaker that allows her to conveniently listen to books which in the kitchen.

Hints:

  • Listen to a variety of genres. See some examples of our listening below
  • Don’t let listening dominate your thought life. We all need some in our lives where we are “processing”. If you fill every moment of every day with work, talking, TV, etc., etc., this important processing does not happen.

Our listening, starting with David:

  • Sci-Fi: Dune, Foundation, Ender’s Game and others by Asimov , Heinlein, Clarke, and more.
  • Classics: Hobbit, Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper and Huckleberry Finn (read by Elisha Wood), Sherlock Holmes. I am reading Don Quixote now (40 hours)
  • Health: several titles.
  • Christian: CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and more; Lawhead.
  • History/Biographies: John Adams, Bonhoeffer
  • Self-help: Now Habit and more.

Cathy loves Jane Austin and has listening to some of her book club choices when time was short.

Obamacare ACA information

Researching ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act)

Please send me helpful articles on the subject.  No politically-motivated articles, flaming  articles, etc. I want to understand how it will work so I can advise others who ask and determine what I can do to encourage its reform. I think we need healthcare reform. But it is apparent that the ACA has major problems. However, ut we need to work toward solutions, not excuses or political stonewalling.

Here are a couple articles that I have come across the help me understand ACA:

  1. http://www.kitces.com/blog/how-the-premium-assistance-tax-credit-for-health-insurance-impacts-the-marginal-tax-rate/

The article discusses the tax implications of ObamaCare.  Hopefully most of you understand marginal tax rates. As you make more money, you pay a higher % of tax on the additional income you make.  The first $17,400 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, the next $53,000 is taxed at 15%, and so forth.  Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay for the last dollars of additional income you make. The higher your marginal tax rate, the more likely you are to look for tax breaks.

Under ACA, insurance coverage is subsidized for many Americans on a sliding scale via the premium assistance tax credit. As you make more money, the tax credit goes down.   The effect is to increase the marginal tax rate. See the article for more clarify and examples.

  1. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/11/want-to-know-how-the-obamacare-site-should-work-three-programmers-made-a-functioning-version-in-days-at-no-cost-to-taxpayers/

    You have heard a lot about the problems with the health.gov web site. In this article and the link below, there is information on how 3 young people built a functioning web site to allow individuals to find out their options under the ACA,  how much it would cost, etc.  Here is a link to the site they built:
    http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/. The web site is nice, the premiums are not (but that is the cost of the American system).

Building websites

Here are tips on building your own web sites from my experience (there are many options; these work for me).

  • Define your purpose. It will shape many of the decisions that follow.
    • A personal blog. There are lots of free options (wordpress.com; blogger.com and more)
    • A web site designed around a topic of interest. For example, I am preparing to launching one on what I have learned on health.  So I am going to get a domain name and have a hosted site.
    • A business web site. Here you will likely want to go elsewhere for more help.

Note: The rest of what is belong explains my experience in the second choice above.

  • Get started
    • Decide on a domain name (e.g. dbarfield.org).
      • Give it some thought.  Unless it is really unique (like my personal domain, dbarfield.org) you may have to get creative in the name as there are a lot of domains already taken. In some cases, people register names to sell.
      • Is it available?  I have my domains registered at godaddy.com and they allow you to determine if your domain is available and if not, they offer alternatives that are.
      • For my health web site, I am going to register both a .org (as I am starting off with the idea of just sharing information, a non-profit reason) as well as the same name .com. There are two reasons: 1) who knows, some day I might want to use it for commercial reasons, and 2) many people might try the .com name when looking for my site; I want to keep someone else from taking it.
    • Register your domain name and find a host for the site.
      • These are separate tasks but I am listing them under one step as I do them both at the same place: godaddy.com.
      • Registering your domain. It usually costs about $15/year. Or if you do a .org and .com, it will cost you more like $30/year.
      • Hosting your domain .  With godaddy, I can host mulitple domains for about $50/year. Note you need one domain to be your hosting domain. Addiitonal domains are created as addin domains for purposes of hosting the files, but they will be viewed by the world as completely separate.
        • Web site Administration: I use cpanel. Godaddy has a simpler alternative. ….
    • Choose and install your web development environment. For hosted domains, I use WordPress.org, which godaddy allows you to install on its servers.
      • Installing.
      • Creating the user name and password for your WordPress site work (this is separate from the hosting above; once you set things up,  most of your work will be in worepress)
    • Start building your site (to come)

It is a boy

As is detailed in a blog post on Cathy and my blog at the link below, Cathy and I became grandparents for the first time recently.

http://dcbarfield.org/2013/07/08/a-surprizing-first-grandchild/

A sonogram at 18 weeks said that our first grandchild was supposed to be a girl. But the first words from our daughter Betsy was, “It’s a boy.” We thought she was kidding but Matt immediately said, “No, it’s a boy alright.”  See Now the grand-parenting fun, spoken of by many of my friends, is here.

Christmas letter and updated recipe and exercise pages

FYI, Cathy and I posted our 2012 Christmas newsletter  on our web site: dcbarfield.org.  It includes highlight from our full 2012 and our big anticipation for coming year: we will be grandparents (expected in June).

We have also and updated our page on healthy recipes, adding many new recipes and organizing them better.

Finally, we have also updated our list of favorite at-home exercise routines at http://dbarfield.org/healthdiet/exercise/.  The benefits to heart, muscles, brains and overall health are profound and well worth it.

Next time: a bit about my work.

2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting

2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting

The First 20 Minutes, a book review

Driven by a family history of heart disease and diabetes and a job that is both high stress and low in physical activity, I have made exercise a regular  part of my life. I started with 20 minutes a day and gradually built from there. Even though a regular part of my life, it is not always easy to get up and get it done. Is it worth it? How much exercise do I need? What type of exercise do I need? Not easy questions with all the competing information out there.

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, tackles these important questions. Ms. Reynolds seeks to provide today’s best answers to these questions by reviewing what science is currently telling us about exercise. She reviews what science says about its benefits, how much we should do, and what type we should do. And she uncovers a number of surprises uncovered by science in recent year.

In doing so, she has written a book that has helped me hone my exercise program and encourages me to keep it up.

While I think the book is worth buying and reading in its entirety, the greatest benefits will be gained in reading first chapter of the book (which may take more than 20 minutes).

While I hope to write more specifics later, here are some of the big ideas and specifics I got from the book:

  • We get significant benefits to our longevity from regular activity and/or exercise, esp. from “the first 20 minutes”.  So, “Move More” .
  • There are profound additional benefits to our level of fitness for going beyond the first 20 minutes, and esp. with moderate intensity aerobic and strength training workouts. Recommended amounts of exercise for fitness is 150 minutes low-intensity exercise OR 75 weekly minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise plus weight training twice a week.  You can split them almost any way you want. I am doing the later (bolded) approach.
  • For the more fitness and athletic-minded, you must push yourself. Yes there is a point where additional activity yields little in the way of benefits to health.
  • High-intensity internal training provides a way to health benefits in even less time. Recent studies indicate there is little value in stretching (“flexibility is overrated”) nor extended warm-ups.  Instead brief dynamic stretching is more effective preparation.
  • Diet and exercise – The book confirmed my notion that there is no pill (or powder) you can take to get in shape or that will contribute significantly to fitness. You just need to eat well.
  • Drink when you are thirsty; don’t over do it.
  • In regard to the relationship between of exercise and weight loss: if you are exercising to lose weight, you are likely to be disappointed. Instead,  exercise for the health benefits, not for weight loss. Research however, does find that regular exercise benefits weight control as most people who keep weight off, exercise regularly.
  • In regard to strength training and workouts, the book provides two primary lessons to me:
  1. Our form matters. For example many damage their backs by doing core training, and esp.  crunches, incorrectly. I do my strength exercises with a DVD with a trainer who leads a workout consistent with best practices. (see my recommendations).
  2. It is good to take care in activities to prevent injury as you are much more likely to get injured if you have been injured before.
  • Exercise also provides very significant benefits to our mind and mood. The chapter is definitely an encouragement to me to exercise when I don’t want to (for more on this see my review on Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain)

Again, there is much more and I hope in the coming weeks to provide more specifics from the book. In the mean time, you might pick up a copy from the library and read at least the first chapter.

Touring and talking horizontal drilling in Kansas

I left this morning (October 2, 2012) before sunrise and returned after sunset. I toured, with other state officials, Ford, Harper, and Kiowa Counties, looking at some of the horizontal drilling (fracking) that is occurring, but mostly talking to local officials in these areas about the impact to their community and what needs to done to prepare for its growing influence. This including, of course, how we deal with insuring that the water needed for both fracking and potential future growth of these rural communities can occur in a way that protects other water rights and the environment. An interesting day. I saw a lot of windmills as well.

Oil and gas produced from horizontal wells is still a very small part of the total (well under 1% at this point), but it has doubled over the last 6 months and will continue to expand at a significant rate during this “exploratory” phase. But from what I could see, it seems it is here to stay; the question is the scale.  For more information see the links below.

Picture of a drill in Ford County

I think Kansas is fortunate that the development occurred in North Dakota and Oklahoma first as we are learning from their experience. The rate of growth is also manageable so far. Time will tell if this remains true.

For more information:

My current workout: the Supreme 90 day

My journey to health of the last 3 years has included regular exercise, including both toning and cardio (mostly running with the dogs). The toning has progressed from easy to more and more challenging (see http://dbarfield.org/healthdiet/exercise/ for what I have used in the past as well as what Cathy has and is using).

But variety and changing up once in a while is good.

One day Cathy came across this system of 10 separate toning routines at our local grocery store for under $10. She took the chance that I could get that much value from it (you can get it via Amazon still for under $20.) If you want a solid, challenging, toning program you can do at home, with variety and minimum equipment, this set is a great value.

You don’t necessary need to keep up with the “athletes/models” on the video. As the instructor says over and over, challenge yourself with what you can handle in terms of weight and pace.

Below is a summary of the 10 CDs and how I use the system. I use 7 of the 10 CD’s, alternating with running (or using our elliptical in the winter).

Most of the workouts can be done in about 30 minutes; a couple of them are 40 minutes.

All the equipment you need is free weights. I current use 8, 10, and 15 pound sets. I may eventually get 20s. Women are challenged to get beyond light weights.  Occasionally the routines use a large Swiss ball, but they provide alternatives if you do not have one.

The day will come when I will likely move on to something else, but for now, this is a great place for me. I have been reading more on exercise lately and these workouts seem consistent with current best practices in exercise.

Here are the 10 DVDs and their time outlines.

  • Warmup (4:19): The warmup includes ab work (the core) & is (at first) like a mini-workout. At over 4 minutes, all of the DVDs except Tabatha Inferno has this warmup.
  • Cool-down (5:57): These are stretches. All of the 10 DVDs have the same cool-down.

1. Chest & Back (32:30 total)
Workout (22:14): At over 22 minutes, they move fast on this first DVD.

3. Tabata Inferno (43:42 total)
Workout (37:45): This is long and tough but I like it. It includes moderate and tough aerobics, with some weight training. The exercises include jumping variations, core work, and the circuits don’t seem to end.  When I am in a hurry, I leave out the last 5 minutes or so.

4. Shoulders & Arms (43:05 total)
Workout (32:49).  This one makes my triceps very sore for a few days. It is getting a bit better as time goes on.

5. Cardio Challenge (41:22 total)
Workout (31:06): A good, challenging, cardio workout, alternating 30 seconds of aerobics, followed by 30 seconds of rest, followed by 30 seconds of using moderate weights in an aerobic fashion, followed by 30 seconds of rest, and then repeat the same pattern.

6. Legs (33:17 total)
Workout (22:51): This is not only leg work, including a fair amount of ab (core) work.

7. Total Body (33:33 total)
Workout (23:17). As the name implies, a good all-around workout.

8. Core Dynamics (28:22 total)
Workout (18:06): At just over 18 minutes, this is the shortest workout.

CD’s I do not use (and my substitutes)

2. Ultimate Ball (40:49 total) [I use Core Dynamics instead]
Workout (30:33): This uses the large Swiss ball. I just did it without the ball.

9. Back & Bi’s (56:38 total) [I use Shoulder/Arms instead]
Workout (46:22): This is the longest workout, at over 46 minutes.

10. Chest, Shoulders, & Tri’s (45:18 total) [I use Chest/Back instead]
Workout (34:52):