Tuesday, September 27, 2011

[Game] Implode! impressions for Windows Phone 7

IUGO Mobile Entertainment recently released their iPhone title, Implode!, on Windows Phone 7. I downloaded the demo, buying the game the same day. Obviously, my impression of the game is positive! But, obviously, I'd imagine you'd want more details than that.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Impressions of Left to Spend

Compiled Experience has come up with a handy new app for Windows Phone 7 called Left to Spend. I’ve been using it for the past week and find that its something well worth trying out.

Starting the app takes you right to totals page. While the app looks very well Metro, there’s no other pages to swipe to, and that really speaks of how to the point it is. At the top will be your current, remaining total of spending money and how often its replenished. Below that it’ll show the period of time it spans, date-wise, and the purchases entered are listed below.

Clicking on the gear icon on the bottom will bring up the settings screen. Here you can set how much you’re giving yourself and how often. For instance, you do like I do and set it for every paycheck to receive $x in spending money (my entertainment budget). Because you can set the amount and choose between daily, weekly, fortnightly (every two weeks) or monthly, you can really use it in the most practical means for you. The last option is to carry over balances; does the money evaporate when you’re done? Or does it roll over?

Once you’ve set that up, entering entries is very quick and easy. Simply click on the + icon and you’ll get to add a purchase amount plus description. Its incredibly quick and easy, which is nice, but more importantly makes it more usable. I used to try using Microsoft Excel that came with WP7, but its harder, more fidgity, and thus I stopped trying. Once you enter the purchase, it gets listed and your total is lowered accordingly.

As someone who uses his debit card for most things, this is really quite nice. I dislike carrying a checkbook around, and some merchants aren’t always the fastest at processing their credit card purchases. As such, this will keep a nice running total with me, along with where and how much I spent. The individual entries do not keep dates of entry, but they’ll be there conveniently enough when you add them to your checkbook at the end of the day anyhow.

One nice feature is seen when you click on the graph icon. The application will produce a nice chart showing your spending over the course of time, with the total remaining in the day and the amount spent. It does help visualize your spending, which is never a bad thing (especially for us impulse shoppers).

For $0.99, I think Left to Spend is pretty great, and well worth the money. Since taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and being introduced to the old fashioned “envelope system,” this seems to be the virtual “envelope” I’ve been needing for my debit card. Additionally, Compiled Experience has at least one update planned for the WP7 Mango update, which looks like will give the app a “full” Live tile. What that means exactly, I’m not sure, but I’m still interested!

If you’ve been needing something quick and simple, this is what you’ve been looking for. Go get the trial, and give it a spin. I think you’ll find it handier than you might imagine. Much like To Do Today, this has already found a spot on my WP7 start screen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Progress on health and fitness

Okay, first night with weights. Very simple, and very low weight, but I'm basically starting from scratch again. Better safe than sorry!


So, I've got two adjustable dumbbells at 20lbs each, and two plain dumbbells at 15lbs each. Given that I can't even get my 16k kettlebell (about 35lbs) up to do even start Turkish half-get up? Yeah, starting lower. Much lower. I'll need to see if we have enough plates to make it 25lbs or even 30lbs in the future - I do know we've got some big ones (25lb plates), but that'll be a while from now before I can use those.


I would like to find an Olympic bar for bench presses, but so far the stores I've seen only have standards. While the exercise machine/station thing has a bench press function, I'd much rather use free weights than that. More natural. I'll also do deadlifts with it, but first things first. I will likely use my kettlebell for weighted face-the-wall squats in the meantime.


Need to fire up the 360 at some point - the EA Sports Active 2 is fun for aerobic work :)


I'm a bit excited about things - thanks to reminding and pushing from friends, family and my doctor, I've been able to make some pretty positive changes to my lifestyle and health. I don't think I'll be looking like Jason Statham or Pavel Tatsouline anytime soon, but within the next five years I want to look, feel and be healthier, fitter and more attractive than I have the past 30+ years.

Weight Watchers has been a tremendous help with my diet, and I've been working on integrating some of Body For Life's eating style into how I do things (ie, smaller, more frequent meals). If nothing else, its helped me avoid the after lunch "I need a nap" feeling from scarfing down too much at once. My cholesterol is good, my blood sugar is nearly normal (5.9% on a non-fasting AC1), and I’m feeling better overall.


Actually, having plans helps me a lot. For diet I've got Weight Watchers, and for execise I'll be going with Pavel's Power To The People, which is relatively simple. Can't do it exactly for now, but that's what improvisation is for. The biggest thing is it gives me something to look at and follow. In the past I've always tried to do it by myself, figure it out myself, and it can be pretty daunting, thus easier to bomb out of.


So, yeah, progress is good! Smile

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bought local

A few days ago I was having to decide between buying my Myoplex locally from GNC versus buying online for $10 less. Well, I made my choice, and went locally. I had a quick stop to Queen Ka’ahumanu Shopping Center, walked to GNC, presented my Gold card, and got the $50 box for just under $42, including tax. That’s a work-month worth of meals at about $2.10 per serving, which isn’t too bad.

Having thought about it a bit more, I did think of some other benefits to having bought it locally.
  • By spending it here, I paid local sales tax.
  • The business itself pays local taxes.
  • The employees will get more money (I’ve heard GNC has commissions), so that’s income tax plus them spending money, which will be sales tax.

With tourism still recovering plus the expectation that Japanese visitors will be declining in number while they rebuild, that’s important right now. The state and county definitely need the money. While I’m not a fan of everything the government does (federal, state or local), there are things my taxes pay for that I am thankful for, if not appreciative of.

Likewise, the better off my local community is the better! The more and better non-tourism jobs that are available, the happier I and others will be. While its not likely we’ll ever stop depending on tourism as a major source of income for the state, buying local helps other job and career options more viable.

Will I buy locally 100% of the time? No. Maybe I could do that on ‘Oahu, but not on Maui. But I have to say I’m a bit happier to do it now than before. There's more to a purchase than getting the lowest price, it seems.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buying local: rubber meeting the road.

One of the things I've been trying to do over the past few years is, when I can, to buy stuff locally. Even if I buy something from a national retail chain, I know that some of that money stays here and contributes towards the local economy. There are exceptions to this, of course, but overall I've tried to keep to that.

Right now I've got a case where I need to choose, though. The local GNC sells EAS' Myoplex Lite for $50. After my Gold Card discount that'll be $40 plus tax, so $41.67 total. At 20 packets/meals a box (enough for four working weeks), I'm paying $2.09 per shake.

But if I went through Amazon and subscribe to it (ie, they will automatically ship me more every month), I can get it for $30. They claim no shipping, so if that's true? That'll be $1.50 per shake and over a $11 per box. Over the course of a year I'd save close to $150.

So, the question is, what is that difference in price buying me? Like everyone else, I'm wanting to make sure I get a good value for my dollar. But what else is there besides the product itself?

  • Buying locally means more money for the workers at GNC (I've been told they're on commission), and for the GNC itself. I've worked in retail and know plenty of other folks who have and still do, so payroll is a big thing.
  • The GNC occupies a storefront in the local shopping center, paying rent. Should a store lose traffic or even close, the lowered amount of customer traffic can affect the other businesses (stores and restaurants) in the mall. Notice that most malls try to have at least one "anchor" business that can pull in people in hopes they'll go to other shops?
  • Since its already here, there's no more shipping stuff. Also, Amazon can sometimes over-package things - that's more junk and clutter in the house until it ends up in the landfill.
And yet, that $10 saved can go to more whole foods like apples, tangerines, oatmeal, etc., which I will have to buy locally. I'm not foolish enough to think that they'll be selling those at cost, but I'm sure the profit per transaction will be much lower than the Myoplex. Also, with the price of fuel going up, I might have to up my gas budget in then new future.

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meal preparedness.

There’s an old saying, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” No idea who said it, but its certainly true enough. I’m sure its tossed around for great and grand ambitions, a golden brick of advice for the next Donald Trump or Colin Powell. For me, on the other hand, its very down to earth, and is something I’ve been trying to implement with my weight loss.

I’ve been on Weight Watchers for about eight months now, and have lost 14.4lbs thus far. While not as impressive as the latest fad diet, that’s a steady 1.8lbs a month average, and a healthy rate of loss. That, combined with increased physical activity (thank you to everyone who worked on EA Sports Active 2 for the 360/Kinect) has been very good for me, even getting my blood sugar own!
One thing I’ve had to deal with is the simple fact that if I don’t prepare my lunches ahead of time, like the night before, I am very likely to cheat. I’ve eaten at Jack in the Box more than a few times wondering, “why can’t I quit you?” It slows down my progress and honestly isn’t that great for my wallet, either.

So, after putting some weight back on, I got juiced up again to get back on track. After dinner is done, I’ve been taking the leftovers and preparing my lunch then and there, adding in some veggies to help make it more filling without adding Points. Bagging some fruit means I’ve got snacks ready, too. On top of that I’ll get my breakfast ready ahead of time – putting oatmeal in a bowl along with some water means all I have to do is microwave it in the morning – nothing to think about, nothing to worry about, its just there.

A recent trip to GNC resulted in me buying a bottle of their Total Lean 25 shake. It tastes okay (chocolate), is fairly nutritious, and helps me keep on course. It makes a nice “dessert” for my lunch. I picked up a nice shaker bottle from Vitamin World that works wonderfully – a screw on bottom holds the powder until I’m ready to make the shake. From there its fill with water, add powder, then shake. Everything mixes well and I’ve got a nice, pre-measured boost to my lunch.

I remember back when I was in Georgia using Myoplex Lite and really enjoying that. Even have used generic diet shakes in the past as well. I think that's one thing I can readily recommend for guys - look into meal replacement shakes. They're expensive up front, but per-serving they're cheaper than fast food meals, you're getting good nutrition, they're quick, and you know exactly what you've got. If you've got a store that sells them by the packet, get a bunch and try them out. There's no sense in buying something purely based on the nutritional label if you can't bring yourself to actually drink it!

Mind you, have real food too. You need the fiber, the bulk, and honestly real food is more satisfying to eat with all those flavors and textures. But a shake is a lot better (and cheaper) than a McDonald's combo meal in the long-run!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From Centro to Focus

Its been about a month since I stopped using my Palm Centro and started using my Samsung Focus. Probably due to everything I read about the Windows Phone 7, the transition was quite smooth.

I never really knew (or trusted) where to get apps for the Centro. As such I never got to experiment with what was available, or see how that aspect of PalmOS went. Fortunately, the included apps were good, and pretty much what I needed. Moving over to WP7 I was quite happy to find replacements pretty quickly, and some of them included by default. Data Viz’s excellent Docs To Go was replaced by Microsoft Office, Palm’s calendar replaced by Calendar (and is syncable!), the to-do list replaced by To Do Today, etc. I will say that while the calendar is nice, I think what I’ve seen of the Palm Pre’s accordian-style calendar is a lot more slick and functional – less wasted scanning through things due to the efficient presentation.

Amusingly enough, the lack of multitasking in PalmOS has helped me not be too fussy about the lack of multitasking with WP7. Go figure.

The three most important improvements for internet connectivity were a more modern browser, speed and wifi. Blazer was functional, but Internet Explorer coupled with a higher resolution display worked a lot better. Sadly, there’s no option for alternative browsers/engines like Firefox, Chrome or Opera, but oh well. Doing anything online with the Centro seemed to go roughly at dial-up speed, which was frustrating since I’m so used to broadband at home. Even email took a few minutes to check and download from the server. Having wifi has been tremendously useful since it allows me to use my home or work wireless network instead of my data plan. Since AT&T tiers data plans (I have a 2g/month plan), this is big feature for me. No sense using up my data allotment if I can just tap into my home network to watch Youtube.

As a phone it seems to be about the same, which is fine by me. I’ve found the speaker phone to be quite good, although the menu interface while calling isn’t immediately available like it was on PalmOS. Not a huge deal, but its still a ding against WP7 in that regard. Working with my address book is considerably better on WP7 though, and honestly makes adding people seem like a pain anywhere else, including online or via Microsoft Mail.

Battery life is pretty good, although I have to admit that my usage of the phone has it plugged it more than my Centro. Why? Because I’m constantly fiddling with it somehow! When I’m not using it as a phone I’m quite likely to be using it in some other capacity – media player, mobile gaming, surfing online, alarm clock, etc. As such, yes, its plugged in more often than my Centro was due to simple usage. I did find that I had to get a charger to take around with me, but this seems consistent with every other modern smartphone owner I know.

What is interesting is that I’m now a lot less likely to actually use my desktop PC. If I’m not working on a project or playing a full-powered PC game, I’d normally be on Facebook, various forums, reading newsites, etc. Not so much anymore since I can do all those things on the Focus. I find that some sites are actually improved by going to their mobile versions. Of course, some sites don’t have mobile sites and adjust poorly, but them’s the breaks.

All in all I’ve got to say its been a very worthy upgrade from my Centro, and I’m quite pleased with it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zombie Attack 2 impressions

There seems to be no lack of zombies in games these days. Be they gruesome and frightening like the ones in Left 4 Dead, or cute and whimsical in Plants Vs Zombies, they’ve become a rather popular enemy for people play against. So, the proliferation of zombies in tower-defense games shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
What do I think of IUGO’s game? Not too bad, actually.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

“To Do Today” impressions.

One of most useful tools for a busy day (and life) is a to-do list. And, arguably, the to-do list is one of the ubiquitous apps for PDAs and now smart phones. While I never much used my old Palm Centro’s Tasks app, I’ve used to-do lists almost daily at work. There’s something very satisfying about ending the day and seeing that list (long or short) with everything crossed off! Of course, if nothing or very little is finished, well, that can be a bit disheartening, but alas, not every day ends well.

One of the first apps I got for my WP7 phone was a to-do list, in this case Compiled Experience’s To Do Today, and I’ve used the paid version for about a week now. How’s it working out? Pretty well, actually.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Castlevania Puzzle for WP7 impressions

Konami recently released Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night for Windows Phone 7 and iPhone/iTouch. I picked it up recently for my Samsung Focus, and thought I’d share my thoughts thus far.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Impressions of Dave Ramsey’s “Act Your Wage” board game.

Only available via his online store, Dave Ramsey and his crew have produced a board game for 2 to 4 people, ages 10 and up. I ordered it recently, and finally got a chance to play two games this week.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey, he’s a Christian financial type with a strong focus on getting a plan for your money, getting out of debt, and living on less than you make. Right now his most popular book is The Total Money Makeover, and some AM stations will carry his radio talk show.
So, what do I think of it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slimming down progress


10/15/10 measurements:
Right Upper Arm - 14"
Waist - 42"
Hips - 45"
Right Thigh - 26"

1/18/11 measurements
Right Upper Arm - 13.25" (-.75)
Waist - 41" (-1")
Hips - 44.25" (-.75")
Right Thigh - 25" (-1")

Thank you Weight Watchers! Still working towards my 5% goal, but so far so good! :D

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Retired: 3rd Lieutenant Nigel Wilcox

Tonight my friend Jonathan ran the finale game for Man of War III, a Napoleonic-era British Navy role-playing game. It was the culmination of a ten-year arc of three campaigns (Man of War I, II and III), tying up loose story ends and officially retiring the game. It was a very enjoyable game, especially because Jonathan always did a lot of research into historical events, ships, military, etc., to set the tone for the game (truth be told most of the players are history buffs anyhow).

There were ship battles, espionage, trading, diplomacy, blowing up those darn Frenchies and more…

Friday, January 14, 2011

And I'll be going with... the Samsung Focus.

Well, after enough mulling it over, I'll be going with the Samsung Focus.

Just to recap my bigger reasons why:
  • The only thing I’m really worried about the Quantum is the slider keyboard. I’ve never had a phone with one before, so I’m worried about wear and tear. The Focus is one piece – no mechanical mechanisms to go awry.
  • The Focus’ screen is nicer than the Quantum’s, and is a bit larger to boot. That would be easier on the eyes.
  • The Focus has been called the best WP7 phone available for AT&T right now, and I’ve seen one article call it the second best phone for AT&T after the iPhone.
My worries over the physical keyboard ended up being a deal breaker. Given my Centro's performance I fully expect the Focus to last more than my two-year obligation (which is more than I can say for the normal cheapy, "free with contract" phones I used to get). But the Centro is very simple, mechanically, unlike the LG Quantum. That slider is just one more thing that can go wrong in my opinion, and frequent use would only make it worse.

Which is a pity, since it seems that LG has a very nice speech-to-text app for their phone. Won't work with Word or Excel from what I can tell, so its not too big a loss for me.

Because the Samsung Focus can have its storage expanded, I'll be picking up a 16g micro-SDHC card to go along with it. That'll bump the storage up to a comfortable size. More than enough space for my files, music, etc. What's quite nice is I just found an app that might be ideal for audio-books. That'll be good, especially if/when Kobo gets around to making an eReader for WP7 (I buy my eBooks from Borders).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Choosing my next cell/smart-phone

Well, its been a few months of thinking and pondering, but I’ve finally made up my mind about what kind of phone to get next. I have to admit, the market is full of options that would be great upgrades from my Palm Centro; the iPhone, Android, the Palm Pre, etc. So, come March, I’ll be getting a Windows Phone 7… er… phone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Easy tip/share calculator

At work we’ll sometimes go out to eat for birthdays, splitting the check at the end. At the end of the meal we have to go through two steps; figuring out the tip, then everyone’s share (joys of going dutch). Sometimes everyone fends for themselves, but the birthday boy/girl gets their meal for free, with the rest of us splitting the bill.

a b c d
1 Bill Tip % Amount Total
2 format as $ format as % =a2*b2 =a2+c2
4 # of people $ per
5 1 =d2/a5

Its easy enough. Things are laid out the way they are so its easy enough to adjust. You put in your bill into a2, the percentage you want to tip into b2, and the rest gets figured out for you. If you’re splitting something, change the 1 in a5 to however many people you’re splitting by.

For instance, if me and two friends of mine went to eat, with the meal costing $24 and is wanting to tip 30%?

a b c d
1 Bill Tip % Amount Total
2 $24.00 30 $7.20 $31.20
4 # of people $ per
5 3 $10.40

Easy enough! Again, its one of those things I’ve seen apps for but if you’ve got a spreadsheet on your smartphone? No need to buy or download one (important if you don’t have a data plan currently!). And, before you say that nobody has a smartphone without a data plan, keep in mind I was without one for almost two years, plus there are people who have had to turn off the data service to save money! A smart phone can be very useful, even without the data plan!

Plus, there is the iPod Touch to consider, too! There are a few spreadsheet apps available in the app store, after all :)

The more I mess with spreadsheets, the more I find how useful they are. The fact you can carry one around with you in your pocket, as opposed to needing a laptop or desktop, means you’re not chained to your desk. And, ultimately, that is what a smartphone is all about.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy debit card balance tracker.

I had started looking for a checkbook program (not seriously) for my phone to use for my debit card. My Palm Centro is an older, now discontinued, entry-level smart phone, so a lot of folks have moved on, developer-wise.
In a "why didn't I think of this before?" moment, I fired up my Centro's spreadsheet (provided by DataViz’s Docs to Go) and whipped up a quick and dirty way to keep track of my expenditures!

  a b c
1 =sum(b:d)    

Its basically a one-cell formula, usable for any spreadsheet. Cell a1 gets the equation to show the current balance, with columns b, c and d getting the number entries (deposits are positive, purchases are negatives). A1’s result is bolded to help it stand apart from everything else.

  a b c
1 37.77 50.53  
2   -4.67  
3   -8.09  

So, while there is room to improve it? My current balance is there, all quick and convenient like! Its no substitute for good tracking of your money, but for me its better than trying to keep a checkbook registrar with me.

Also, when I was thinking about it, it’s a good example of something that’s useful in a real-life way so I won’t have to buy an app for it. While you can say they’re cheap, I won’t have to try a bunch, deal with poor ones, etc. What’s also nice is this one little formula is portable, so it’ll make the jump when I upgrade from my Centro to a Windows Phone 7 smartphone in March. Something that an app can’t do.

Next lunch-break project? And spreadsheet that calculates tip at a restaurant, plus figuring out shares for splitting a check.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pondering my strategy with money.

"The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable." - Sun Tzu

While not incredibly well-read or knowledgeable, I think I'm starting to find finances more interesting now than I have ever before. Maybe I'm at "that" phase in life. Certainly, it started when I finally got tired of making my money and having nothing to really show for it. Thanks to that I went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, which has probably been the best $92 I've spent on myself in a long time.

I've tried reading Richard Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad, although have never made it through the thing even after trying for close to a decade. The idea of debt as a tool seems dangerous to me - a bit worrisome. But, I can see his points, and there is the whole risk/reward aspect to consider. That aside, though, there's a definite self-reliance he spoke of; look for opportunities. Be creative. Go out and get it instead of being complacent and satisfied. Create your own security.

I have started reading The Millionaire Next Door, and its definitely got me thinking. Some of the terms aren't familiar to me (unrealized income? what is that?), but last night's chapter (Frugal Frugal Frugal) resonated. A lot of people trade in financial security for a high-consumption lifestyle, but lament they can't get ahead, that they're not financially secure. That's been me for my adult life. But, a majority of the millionaires they studied? Frugal. They trade a high-consumption lifestyle for financial security. They define wealth a bit differently - not so much how much you earn so much as how much you keep - but that's reassuring in a way.

More achievable, even.

Looking at this, I'm beginning to wonder how I should plan my future. Thanks to Dave Ramsey, I've been able to lay some groundwork, a foundation for myself, financially. Now, I'm still adjusting to it, trying not to fall into old, bad habits. Still, when I get paid my money (albeit broadly) goes where I tell it to. Its elementary, basic, but is good for now. In the future (likely this year), I'll have to get some things done with greater thought and granularity.

Looking at my reactions, its clear I favor "defensive" financial strategies. Defensive money handling is basically protecting what you get. A budget is the simplest, most basic tool here. This is well and good, as I'v gotten to the opinion that you can out-earn your negligence for only so long. As such, I will definitely continue to work on developing, refining and furthering myself in this area.

But that's only half the equation.

"Offensive" strategies earn you money. This can be as simple as getting a job. But one thing that's I've heard repeatedly, in various forms, is don't put all you eggs in one basket. So, what happens if I lose my job? Right now my day job is my only "offense." Personality wise I seem to favor defense. Can I think of more ways to make money (including getting another, part-time, job)? Yes. Have I done any of them yet? Err... nope.

Its something I want to do this year - figure out what I would actually do to bring in more money. I have to admit its a little murky right now... one thing I've learned is that I do value my free time. To earn more requires time and effort that I've been terribly reluctant to part with. But, if one was to go by Brain Tracy's 40+ rule, right now I'm just treading water (working 40 hours/week). If I want to succeed, to advance? I need to work more than that.

And so... I ponder.