Tying Knots

I think it is important to keep learning new things throughout your life, in order to keep your mind active, plus it also can be a lot of fun! Normally I think people would think of learning things like a new language, playing a musical instrument, or some new job skill. I think that is great, but I am talking specifically about smaller, more easily digestible skills. For instance, I recently learned how to tie some really useful knots! Yes, knots!

Maybe if you were a boy scout you know these already, but I was not a boy scout growing up. However, I do love camping, and these knots would come in handy at the campsite. Rather than telling you how to do them, I’ll just link to the page over at The Art of Manliness which has all the videos (they are simple and well-done). I learned how to tie:

  • The Bow Line: Create a super-strong loop at the end of a rope.
  • The Taut Line: Create an adjustable loop at the end of a rope. This would be perfect for securing your tent to the tent stakes, since you can tighten up the rope at a later time without having to re-tie it or move the stake.
  • The Sheet Bend: Great for tying two ropes together to make a longer rope.

These are pretty easy knots to learn but I think they are good to know. And it’s a great feeling to learn a new skill, no matter how small it may seem!

Taking Notes

I was chatting with a friend/coworker today about 2014 resolutions and goals. Not really work-related, but just in general. Besides the usual “eat healthier” stuff, we talked about quotes and words of wisdom and found that we were both collecting them. I’ve actually been doing this for several months now. I think it’s nice way to get inspired later on by reviewing all these notes.

A nice tool to help collect these nuggets is Evernote. The reason it is so great is that when something pops into my mind or I hear something cool in a podcast, I can instantly click on the Evernote widget on my phone and add a note which gets saved to the cloud. Or if I am driving, I can click on the audio icon and just make a voice recording. Later at my desktop I can organize the jotted down notes using the Evernote desktop client or Web client. I find that always having a (growing) collection of inspirational quotes is helpful to keep my life headed in a positive direction. Whatever note-taking solution you use, make sure it is easy to use and then you are more apt to take advantage of it. A note that just gets lost or forgotten is useless. Like I said, I use Evernote, but there are other great solutions out there like Microsoft OneNote, Springpad, or even a Moleskine and pencil. Just pick one and stick to it!

My next step is to somehow be able to display these notes on my tablet’s homescreen. Sort of like a random photo tile. I wonder if it can me done using Microsoft’s Siena app creator?

2013 Health

One of the changes that happened in my life this past year was general health improvement. There were basically three things that occurred:

  1. The big S: That would be Sugar. I am not talking about cutting out ALL sugar from my diet, but rather just the added sugary foods: candy, cookies, desserts, and sodas. This is probably the easiest healthy change for me to make since I never had a sweet-tooth to begin with. But I think this may have been the biggest benefit to my health. Once in a while I might have something sweet, but that is pretty much because of social pressure (how can I refuse a piece of birthday cake?). But the cool thing is that I don’t have any craving for sweets or sodas at all!
  2. Exercise: In January I joined a gym and have used it pretty regularly throughout the year. Overall, I’ve not really lost any weight, but instead replaced much of the fat with muscle. It’s kind of nice, but I think what I like most is that I have more energy and more endurance to do things like biking or throwing the football around with the kids. Speaking of biking, I’ve also been riding my bike a lot more during the year. We have some nice hike & bike trails nearby and it is good to take advantage of them. Also, exercise is a good stress reducer, and when I am finished exercising I feel a nice sense of accomplishment!
  3. Smoothies: In the summer, we bought a serious blender for making smoothies and other healthy foods. By serious, I mean one that cost a few hundred dollars. At this level, you have something that is the real deal. In our case, we got a Blentec model and it is fantastic! We are making “green” smoothies quite a bit now, and the nutrition and energy one of those drinks provides is great. The blender makes it so easy too (and cleanup is a snap). I have a base recipe I use, and then just add in different raw veggies, fruit, plus flax seed if we have it. They taste pretty good, and fill you up! The blender is one of my best purchases ever. Plus, it came with an 8-year warranty standard!

Lastly, I have to add one other simple change I have made: I drink a big glass of water as soon as I wake up. Besides re-hydrating my body, it helps to get the metabolism jump-started.

For 2014 I am going to continue these activities, but I am going to quit my gym membership. It is purely financial. But in lieu of going to the gym, I am going to bump up my running in the neighborhood. We’ll see how that goes!