2015 Christmas Gift Guide

I’ve been doing these gift guides for a few years now and I really believe this is the best one yet.  Most gift guides either explicitly tell you who they are targeting (“gifts for dad,” “gifts for pre-teen girls,” or “gifts for wannabe athletes with bum left knees”) or are so general as to not apply to anyone.  Mine in somewhere in the middle, but I also think that’s what makes it fun.  If I had to label it I’d say, “Gifts for people (mainly guys) who like to play games, snowboard and cook, are addicted to gadgets and still want a little whimsy in their Christmas.”  And while there are certainly some mainstream items on the list, I really like unique gifts, so hopefully I’ve got something on here for that tough to buy for person on your list.  Some of these things I already have, some I want and some I don’t really want, but I think they’re neat and I’ll try to note that when applicable.  Without further adieu…

Apple Stuff & Gadgets

Anyone that knows me knows that I love Apple Kit.  I’ve had everyone iPhone since the first one, have only worked on Macs going on 10 years now, etc.  Two more Apple products made their way into my life this year and their both easy recommendations.

Apple Watch

Apple.com – starting at $349w38ss-mbbl-sel-201509_GEO_US
This is an easy one to recommend and it looks like it is going to be one of the top gifts of the year.  I’ve never regularly worn a watch, but I’ve been wearing my Apple Watch Sport since launch day.  It has two killer features: notifications and fitness.  Notifications are great because you can get them at a glance, which is both faster and more convenient that using your phone.  The fitness features are the real killer app though.  I’m obsessed with closing the activity rings every day and this has to be good for my health.  The direct messages with other Apple Watch wearers is pretty cool too.

Apple TV

Apple.com – starting at $149apple-tv-4-topic
I’ve only had the new Apple TV for about 2 weeks, but it is so much better than the old Apple TV and I liked the old Apple TV.  Again, it has two killer features: Siri and Apps.  Siri is remarkably good.  Just like on the iPhone, it is very accurate, rarely making a mistake transcribing what I said.  And continuing a search is great, like “show me James Bond films” and then “just the ones with Sean Connery.”  There still aren’t a lot of apps, but just the potential is exciting and I’ve found a few that are very entertaining.  It will be interesting to see what developers do with it.  The new remote is also a big improvement.

DxO ONE 20.2MP Digital Connected Camera for iPhone and iPad

Amazon – $599DxO-ONE-camera-for-smartphones
The iPhone has a pretty damn good camera.  While it is not DSLR quality, it takes very good pictures, but sometimes you want or need more.  And you don’t want to carry a full 2nd camera around with you.  That is where the DxO comes in.  It is a camera attachment for your iPhone that adds a much more powerful camera, including a 20 megapixel camera, better lowlight performance and more.  If you know someone that takes a ton of pictures with their phone and wants to be more serious about their photography, this might be the gift for them.

Toys & Games

I don’t really play with (non-gadget) toys or video games any more, so something has to be really spectacular to catch my eye in this regard.  I found two things this year.

Sphero BB-8

Amazon – $150bb8-charger-1_grande
It is a radio controlled Star Wars droid from the new movie.  ‘Nuff said.

Starwars Battlefront

Amazon – $59154507-L-LO
There are a few new video games out including the latest installments of FIFA, Call of Duty and Fallout and I’m sure there are gamers that will want those more, but Battlefront looks absolutely epic and the reviews seem to back it up.  This is the must have video game of the year and not just for Star Wars fans.

Snow

I always have a recommendation or two for those who like to glide down mountains on powdery white stuff.  This year, just one.

Demon 2015 Complete Tune Kit With Wax

Amazon – $70
Everything you need to tune your own equipment.  Sure you could just pay $20 once or twice per season and have a professional do it, but where is the fun in that?  Plus sometimes you just want to do things yourself.

Kitchen & Bar

Earlier this year I was trying to figure out why I enjoy cooking so much.  The obvious thing is, like most people, I love to eat good meals or have a great drink, but it is definitely more than that for me.  I enjoy the entire process.  I enjoy picking out the recipes, going to the store or even better, the farmer’s market.  I enjoy all the food prep and I enjoy the look on everyone’s face when (if) they enjoy it.  But mainly I like shutting my brain off for a couple of hours and not thinking about anything other than avoiding chopping my finger off.  And the final piece is there are a lot of tech / gadgets that make everything even better and more fun.

Anova Culinary Bluetooth Precision Cooker

Amazon – $175b5dd641e-0364-40b7-98bb-2c95c860d755.jpeg._CB303826455_
This is the one kitchen gadget that I don’t have and that I really want this year.  There are a lot of famous chefs that are singing the praises of sous vide cooking and I want to try it.  The idea is you cook everything is sealed plastic bags in precisely heated water.  This apparently cooks everything perfectly evenly.  So instead of a steak that is more well on the outside and progressively more rare on the inside, you can cook the entire steak the same way, to the same temperature.  You can always add sear marks when it is over.  Throw in the fact that it connects to your smartphone and gives you notifications about the status of your meals and, well, you’ve got me.  I want to try.

Vitamix

Costco – about $400
I’m sure you can get it some place besides Costco, but that is where I found mine.  Let me say that it has been a revelation.  You think you’re buying a blender, but you’re buying so much more and I think it is safe to say that it is used at least once per day in my house right now and most days more than that.  Smoothies, soups or even wet chopping vegetables, it is basically up to any task.

Kitchenaid 7-Quart Pro Line Stand Mixer

Amazon – $550
I’ve wanted one of these for a long time, but as my wife points out, I don’t bake all that often.  That being said, I want to make my own bread and pasta and this is the champ.  I’m not sure when, but I will own this.

Miito

mitto.com – €189 (for pre-order)miito-water-boiling-without-kettle-600x315-c
Yes, that price is in Euro.  This is simply an induction kettle, used simply for heating water.  So you’re probably asking yourself why in the world you need to spend €189 for a kettle when there are stove top ones to be had for $5.  First, I’m a sucker for great design and this has that in spades.  It works by using induction to heat a metal rod that you place in the liquid.  This has two big advantages: 1) you only heat the amount of water that you need, and 2) you can heat it to the exact temperature you want it, rather than the old way of heating it up until it boils and then waiting for it to cool down.  It is extravagant, it is over the top, it costs way too much money for what it does and I want one.

Hot and Cold Soapstone Bowls

Another slightly over the top purchase, but again, very cool design.  You heat up or freeze the stone portions of the bowl to keep soup hot or ice cream cold while you indulge.  The wood bowls insulate you from the temperature of the bowls.  Should I get one set or two?

The Corkcicle Ice Whiskey Wedge

Corkcicle.com – $18Whiskey-Wedge-by-Corkcicle-5-600x420
If you want a whiskey on the rocks, you’re probably going to have whiskey and water before not too long.  A couple of years ago they came up with the perfectly spherical ice cubes that were meant to address that.  Now they have the Whiskey Wedge.

OXO On 12 Cup Coffee Maker & Brewing System

Amazon – $299
For the coffee snob in your life.  I don’t drink coffee, so that’s not me, but for people who enjoy a cup o’ joe, this thing is supposedly the bees knees.

Aeropress Coffee Maker

Huckleberry – $30
Another coffee gift, but this time for espresso lovers, especially those that love to travel, but complain about the coffee they get at the hotel, airport, Starbucks…

Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags

Have someone lazy in your life or perhaps that lives in a dorm room?  Wait, those aren’t mutually exclusive.  Anyways, two pieces of bread and a couple slices of cheese, put them in the special sleeve and thrown in the toaster.  2 minutes later you have grilled cheese.  Where was this 25 years ago?

Bin 8 Multi Kitchen Tool

Amazon – $11gody
Know someone with a small kitchen, but still wants to pull off amazing dinners?  They really need great tools that don’t take up a lot of space.  How about 8 tools in one that stores in the shape of a wine bottle?

Books

I like to read, but this year I only have food and beverage related books to recommend.  Go figure.  And I don’t own any of them.  Yet.

The Food Lab

Amazon – $28
I really enjoy the science behind cooking.  You know, really understanding what is going on when I’m preparing my food.  This is the best new book of the year on that topic.

Drinking The Devil’s Acre

Amazon – $18
A drinking history tour of San Francisco?  Sign me up!

Larousse Book of Bread

Amazon – $27
Hey, I got use that stand mixer I’m going to get for something.  I need to make Viennese Chocolate Bread.  I don’t know why, but I need to.

Clubs

Sometimes the best gifts aren’t the gifts you get once, but rather the gifts that you get all year.  These are the types of gifts that you can get the person that has everything and here are two ideas for you.

Club W (Wine Club)

clubw.com – $50 per month for as many months as you want to give.
Everyone loves wine.  Ok, most everyone loves wine.  And unlike a lot of clubs, the recipient gets to choose which bottles they get every month, so you don’t have to worry about them receiving wine they don’t like.

Bespoke Post

Bespoke.com – starts at $55 per month
For guys who want a box of awesome every month.  The boxes are different each month, sometimes containing style products, food or kitchen stuff, life gear, cocktail related items, etc.

Random, Fun Stuff

Here is the whimsy part.  Some stuff that is a little different, a little out of the ordinary.  The stuff you won’t find at the mall.  The stuff that will make them love you forever (and by forever, I mean at least the end of the day).

Coolest Cooler

Coolest.com – $499Coolest-Sized
So I supported this product when it was being crowdfunded and waited two years for it to arrive, but let’s just say that I’m more than pleased.  It is a cooler.  With wheels that make it easy to take places.  With blue tooth speakers so you can jam at the beach or wherever.  With built-in plates, knives and cutting board.  With a built-in bottle opener.  With a battery that charges your gadgets.  With LED lighting so you can see inside when it is dark.  And a blender.  That’s right.  It has a built-in, freaking blender.  So cool.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Electric Guitar Player Pack

Amazon – $199
The chances are, you know someone who wants to learn to play the guitar.  Because playing the guitar is awesome.  I wish I played the guitar.  This set comes with a Les Paul electric guitar, amp, cables, tuner, etc. plus downloadable lessons.

Cardboard iPad TV Stand

Because watching a show on your iPad isn’t good enough.  You need to watch it on your iPad made to look like a vintage television set.

Scratch Map Globe

A 3D world map that changes color when you scratch it so you can check off all of the places you’ve been or where you’d like to go.  For the aspirational traveler in your life.

Bellroy slim wallet

Bellroy.com – starts at about $80
I’ve fully joined the slim wallet movement.  I’ve cut down on the number of cards I carry with me at all times and basically don’t carry cash anymore (or put another way, I’m married with three children so I don’t have any cash).  These wallets are perfect for carrying just what you need.  Everyone can use a new wallet.  Except for me, because I already have one of these.

Custom Chuck Taylor All-Stars

Converse.com – $75
Everyone loves old school Chuck Taylor All Stars.  Everyone loves them more when they’re customized.  I have a pair of UCLA All Stars and they are simply awesome.

Dinosaur Bone + Amber Single (Damascus)

Huckleberry – $90
Every self respecting man has a pocket knife.  In my case, I own a Swiss Army knife.  This knife makes an entirely different statement.  If I can’t have Valyrian Steel, then Damascus Steel sounds like the next best thing.  Plus it has real dinosaur bone in the hilt.  How awesome is that?  I’ve always known that I need to own a piece of dinosaur.

The Ultimate Beard Haircare Pack

Every guy is growing a beard now-a-days, so they may as well take care of it.

Attmu Outdoor Survival Paracord Bracelet with Fire Starter Scraper Whistle Kits, Set of 2

Amazon – $9
My last gift arguably prepares the guy in your life for the situation he dreams about most.  Every guy is convinced that one day he’ll find himself in a James Bond or MacGyver situation and every guys knows he’ll be up to the challenge.  It does help if you have some tools on your person and this just might do the trick.  With a built-in flint fire starter, scraper and whistle and a bracelet that can be undone to reveal 30 feet of rope, they just might pull it off.
I hope this helps you find a gift for someone that you may not have otherwise found.  Merry Christmas!

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The Saturday Links for 8/15/15

I’m going to make some slow cooked, 10 hour black bean soup today, so wish me luck. Today’s links:

  • I’m all for hearing both sides of an argument and hear is an argument from law enforcement arguing that strong encryption is dangerous: NY Times Editorial.  Here is why they are wrong: 1) Tech companies are offering encryption because they’re customers have demanded it AFTER our government behaved badly, 2) You can’t regulate or ban math and encryption is simply math, 3) Law enforcement seems to think they should have access to anything new that comes along.  Or put another way, their authority and/or access always grows, but never shrinks.  If we invent a device that can record our thoughts (think mental diary), should they have access to that too?  No law enforcement person ever stands up to argue for less access. 4) Any backdoor into encryption makes the entire system weaker by definition and allows bad actors like repressive regimes or pissed of spouses to have a chance to go where they shouldn’t be able to go.  For more on this, read this excellent piece: The rise of the new Crypto War.
  • I’m a believer is business and have no problem with big businesses.  In fact, one of the biggest in the world and largest in terms of worth (Apple) is one of my favorites.  However it is stories like this that give you pause.  DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception.  My question is this: not one person involved, and it seems like there were many, had a conscious and chose to blow this whistle?  This potentially effected the healths of thousands of people and there wasn’t one person?
  • This human interest piece includes references to math and UCLA, so you know I’m going to be interested.  The Singular Mind of Terry Tao.  If you enjoy stories about geniuses (that word gets thrown around a lot, but Terry Tao is a rare talent), you’ll enjoy this.
  • Having grown up in an airline family, this story interested me greatly.  When I was a kid and flying for free, you could make a flight 80+% of the time because planes weren’t as full then as they are today.  Well clearly things have changed.  More Than a Million People Are Getting Free Flights—and They Hate It.
  • As someone who got married young by today’s standards, I find studies like this interesting.  Bad News: Waiting Too Long to Get Married May Increase Your Risk of Divorce.
  • This is for Seinfeld fans, like me.  For a Show About Nothing, Seinfeld Changed a Lot Over Its Nine-Year Run.
  • To say getting our education system right is important is an understatement.  Educating children relies tremendously on good teachers and there are good teachers and bad teachers.  How do you measure them?  It turns out that this has always been a difficult question to answer.  We’ve always tried to do this with data and numbers rather than by subjective evaluation, but teachers and their unions have always resisted this.  This is a fairly balanced article talking about research into measuring teachers.  The Science Of Grading Teachers Gets High Marks.
  • I’m a big proponent of legalizing drugs because 1) people should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies as long as it doesn’t harm others, 2) prohibition never works (for evidence of this, research anything that has ever been prohibited) and 3) we end up incarcerating way too many people for non-violent drug crimes which results in ruining their lives and costing tax payers an exorbitant sum.  After one year of legalized marijuana, the state of Washington has released their tax revenues from its sale.  Washington state gets $65 million in first-year taxes from marijuana.
  • I know first hand the irrational cost of higher education in this country having gone through college and graduate school myself and now having a son in his senior year of a private four year college.  This is a separate topic, but this is clearly one instance where it would be better to live in Europe.  One of the biggest problems facing graduates and their parents is the soaring cost of school and the resulting debt.  And it is bad even if you got to a great, reputable school.  It is a tragedy when the school doesn’t improve your job prospects like what happens at a lot of for profit schools.  And it should be no surprise that these for profit schools end up on a list of schools that contribute the most to total student debt.  These 20 schools are responsible for a fifth of all graduate school debt. Now there are some really good schools on this list, but there are also all the schools that are part of the education industrial complex.  And then there is USC which is neither for profit, nor a good school🙂
  • Want to learn more about the dark web (like Silk Road) and the inefficiency of allowing pharmaceutical companies to charge different prices to different countries? Great, you’ll love this piece: Why I Had to Buy My Wife’s Inhaler on the Dark Web.

Song of the week: Born under a Bad Sign performed by Gary Clark Jr and John Maher.  This is from the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony when they inducted Albert King.  A classic blues song with ridiculous guitars.

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Getting in Shape: Gadgets & Apps

The Gadgets

I don’t know if shoes can be called a gadget, but they are so advanced that they kind of are.  I don’t recall ever owning a pair of running shoes.  I’ve alway run in soccer shoes like the Adidas Samba.  And I generally wrecked my feet every time I did this so I invested in a pair of Adidas Glide Boost shoes and let’s just say they’re a revelation.  They’re so comfortable that I’m wearing them at work.

Next, I already mentioned my Apple gear earlier.  I’m using my Apple Watch and I’m taking the time to calibrate it correctly.  It is nice to have heart rate, calories burned, distance covered, elapsed time and more on my wrist while I’m running.  The iPhone is great because it has GPS, Music and can run apps that work a lot better than just using the Apple Watch apps.  The only thing I don’t like about running with an iPhone is it swinging back in forth in my pocket, so I also got a cheap arm band.

Finally, I’ve invested in a pair of Jabra Sport Pulse headphones.  They’re supposed to be one of the best fitting headphones on the market, which is great, but I bought them because they are purpose built for fitness.  They’re bluetooth, so no wires need to be connected to the phone.  I hate running with wired headphones because it seems like at least twice during every running session I tug on the wires accidentally and the headphone comes out.  Bluetooth also means I can connect them to my watch.  Next, they have a pulse oximeter built in, so it gives me another heart rate monitor.

Apps
Jabra Sport.  This app has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to putting it through the paces.  It has also the basics you would expect in a running app in that it will track your heart rate, distance, calories, route (via GPS), etc. But it also has a few other functions which are great.  The first one that I’ve been playing with is a heart rate zoning training program.  It pulls your heart rate off the headphones and then gives you spoken instructions like, “speed up (or slow down) to reach your target zone.”  This should make it a lot easier to reach your goals.  It also has other great functions like Target Pace, Interval Training (where you can program your own intervals) and Cross-Training.  The last one is very cool.  You can program it to walk you through a gym session, like 3 reps of 10 pushups, 3 reps of 10 sit-ups, and it will tell you (via spoken prompts in your headphones) what your next exercise is and what to do.  Very handy.  I’m going to do a more in depth review of this once I’ve used it more.

Apple Workout & Activity Tracker.  These are built in and unlike running or fitness apps, they monitor my movement all day long, which is very useful.  They visualize that data in three circles, move (calories), Excersise (time spent moving) and Stand (you’re supposed to stand for at least 1 minute in 12 different hours during the day).  When you have a health monitor on during all your waking hours and that monitor has a heart rate monitor, you learn a lot of interesting things.  More on that in another post.

Strava. I used Strava before and it is very good, so I may give it a go again, although due to the tight pairing with the headphones, I’m more interested in using the Jabra Sport app.

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I’m Getting in Shape…the Geek Way

There’s the old joke, “I’m already in shape.  Round is a shape,” but I don’t want to get in shape because of how I look.  I need to get in shape because I tried to run three miles miles on Saturday and I had to stop for a walking break about half way.   I’ve been an athlete since I was 5 years old.  In my mind I’m an athlete.  I’ve always been an athlete and I’ll always been an athlete.  Therefore I’m able to do athletic things whenever I want, however I want.  Well the that jog tells a different story.  A depressing story.
I still play soccer 2-3 times per week and I’m noticing that I can’t last as long as I’d like.  I walk more than I should.  I don’t play as much defense.  I get into situations where I see something in my mind that I think I should be able to do easily and I’m a step slow.  And to be clear, it is not a speed thing or a quickness thing, but rather an energy thing or a I’m too tired thing.  More damning is I’m not as in shape as I was even a few years ago so it’s not an old man thing either.
To understand where I’m going, I think it helps to understand where I’ve been.  Let’s be clear, I have never been a good distance runner or someone you would hold up as the epitome of cardiovascular performance.  So what did my cardiovascular peak look like?  Well, I look back to specific moment in time.  When I was 19 years old, I had a soccer coach that made the entire team run 3 miles in some time.  Now, I honestly don’t remember the exact time, but it was somewhere between 18 and 21 minutes.  So either 6 minute or 7 minute miles.  The fact that I can’t remember the time perhaps points to other issues🙂 but what I clearly remember was the coach counting down the last 10 seconds and I was still about 50 yards away from the finish line.  Whoever didn’t make it across in time had to do a 5 mile beach run the next morning at 7:00am.  I really didn’t want to do that and so I pushed and made it with about a second or two to spare.  Maybe that’s not much, but I can’t remember a time when I was in better shape than that.
And I get that we deteriorate over time.  I’m not looking to relive my glory days, whatever those were, but I can be better than what I am now.  I’m going to be better than I am now.  So I did what I lot of people probably do: just started running.  Not like Forest Gump or anything, but targeting three miles and that is when I discovered I couldn’t even go two miles at a decent pace without stopping.  My plan was to keep running three miles every day, or at least every day where I didn’t have a soccer game, until I could.  I would then increase my pace rather than my distance until I could consistently run 8 minute miles.  Once I could run 8 minute miles, I would revisit my plan.
I did this for a few days and then it occurred to me, why am I designing my own running plan when I have no training or education in this and there is this thing called the Internet?  After doing less than ten minutes of research it became immediately apparent that I was doing it wrong and, in fact, dangerously.  But let’s start with the research.
It started with this article:
Which in turn led me to these NYT Well Blog articles:
In case you’re not clicking through, here is the TL:DR; version: it is really important to understand your personal heart rate performance, your goals and the target zones that will allow you to achieve your goals.
The longer version is this: start by calculating your maximum heart rate.  The complicated way to do this is to pay for an advanced treadmill test with a exercise physiologist.  This easy way is: 220 – your age.  I chose the easy way for now.  I’m 44, so my maximum heart rate (MHR) is 176 beats per minute (BPM).  No exercise I do should cause my heart to beat faster than that.  (Note: there are some athletes where this doesn’t apply.  Professional, olympic and college athletes, etc. may have good reasons to exceed this rule of thumb and can do so safely.  Sadly, I’m none of these).
I’m using the Heart Rate Reserve method to determine my optimal workout plan, so the next step is to figure out my resting heart rate (RHR).  I’ll go over in another article how I figured this out, but my resting heart rate is 52 BPM.  My heart rate reserve is MHR – RHR or 176 – 52 = 124.
The final step is figuring out what you want to accomplish.  Depending on who you read, there are different zones that will accomplish different things.  Something like this:
  • 60% to 70%: recovery or fat burning zone
  • 70% to 80%: aerobic zone, i.e. increase your heart’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen
  • 80% to 90%: anaerobic zone, i.e. work on your body’s ability to deal with lactic acid.  This is good for people interested in running really long distances or increasing their speed.
  • 90% to 100%: speciality zone for elite athletes
As I already mentioned my initial goal is to increase my stamina and general heart health, so my training goals should be to stay in the aerobic zone as much as possible.  To do this, you take your HRR and multiply by the lower and upper bounds of your zone and add back your resting heart rate.  My calculation looks like this:
  • Lower zone: (124 * 70%) + 52 = 138.8
  • Upper zone: (124 * 80%) + 52 = 151.2
Now there are other methods to calculate what my proper training zone should be, but they are all going to come out to something roughly similar.  Because the numbers are so dependent on my MHR, it may be worthwhile to do the more in depth testing at some point in the future, but for now this will suffice.
The final thing was to go back and look at how I had done to date.  I bought an Apple Watch when it first came out  so I’ve had heart rate tracking on me for the past couple of months at all times other than when I sleep. Conveniently it syncs all of its data to the Health App on iOS, but this is also where the first giant red flag appeared.  In my initial jogging sessions where I was just trying trying to get through three miles I generated some alarming numbers.  I routinely exceeded my training zone max of 152 BPM and on three instances, I exceeded my MHR, hitting as high as 180 BPM.  This is simply dangerous and unacceptable.
The bottom line is this: I need to do things correctly.  And think this is actually the first major problem a lot of people face.  I see over and over in business that everyone thinks they know an answer based on experience and gut instinct and then after looking at some data, we realize we were all wrong.  This has crept over to my fitness mind.  So my final resolution is not: I’m going to get into shape.  My final resolution is: I’m going to get in shape the right way.
I led off this post saying I was going to take a geek approach to this.  That means data and gadgets and I’ll cover those in my next post.

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The Saturday Links for 6/27/15

I haven’t posted links in a couple of weeks, so I have more than a few articles for you.

Song of the week: Joel Jorgensen from Angels doing an acoustic cover of Maroon 5’s She Will be Loved.

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How the World Views Us

Pew does an annual survey of how people from one country view the government from other countries.  The US is incredibly partisan and you’ll often here some people say they don’t care what others think of the US, but I do care.  And I find it fascinating, especially the changes over time.  Pew has research back to 2000.  First the results:

Pew Research Center: America’s Global Image

Interestingly, the Philippines is the country that views us the most favorably, with 92% of respondents having a favorable view of the US.  Other strong scores come from Italy, South Korea and Ghana.  Russia and predominantly Muslim countries have a much lower opinion.  Go figure.

For me, the first big result is that the world does not agree with our use of torture after 9/11.  I agree with this completely.  It tarnishes our image overseas, we lose the moral high ground and worst of all, it doesn’t work.  In fact, only four countries polled had over 50% of the people surveyed agree that the methods were justified: the US, Israel, India and Uganda.  Not exactly a quorum.  This is despite the fact that the world overwhelming supports our role in dealing with ISIS.  So they’re clearly not against our policies in the Middle East, but rather some of our more deplorable tactics.

The next result is comparing Bush to Obama.  I know this will get some people fired up, but it needs to be pointed out.  Of all the countries polled that have sufficient data going back to 2000 or 2001, our favorability rating dropped under Bush in all measured countries except for Russia and South Korea.  Under Obama, our favorability rating has improved in every country except for Russia, Jordan and Lebanon.

There’s also some great info on the world’s view of China and Asia.  Definitely worth a read, if for no other reason to understand how our policies abroad effect the perception of the United States.

Katie and Denton

A shout out to a couple of friends.  They had a couple of projects they needed help with, so here I go.  Greek Life Consultant and Premier Coffee Consultants of New England.

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Why I fly the way I fly

For the past year I’ve been flying a lot between San Jose, CA and Providence, RI.  Both of these things have a couple things in common in that they’re both important cities (one is the 10th largest in the US and the other is a state capital) and they both have medium sized airports.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no direct flights between the two, which leaves me two choices:

  1. Go to bigger neighboring airports like SFO and Logan and take those non-stop, or
  2. Use the San Jose and and Providence airports, but make at least one connection.

When I first started I chose option number one, but for the last ten months or so I’ve exclusively chosen option number two.  My rationale for this is simple:

  • Once you add in travel time to and from the bigger airports (SFO and Logan), you add about an hour of drive and/or train time to the total transit time.  This is an hour on each side of the flight, which adds two hours to my total transit time.
  • If I can find a one stop connection that is less than about 1.5 hours at the connecting airport, I actually spend less time in transit.
  • The smaller airports are just WAY, WAY easier to deal with.  There is less traffic getting in, shorter walks in the airport, shorter lines for food, etc.  Just about everything is better at these airports.

Today, fivethirtyeight released a new post that supports this idea even further.  Basically in addition to all the other crap you have to deal with a larger airports, the flight delays are much bigger there than smaller airports.  It seems as if there are three major factors that go into whether your flight will be on time: the airline you choose, the typical weather at your chosen airport and how much flight traffic that airport gets, but worse weather effects larger airports more.

So my strategy is simply this:

  • Fly into smaller airports whenever possible, even if that means needing a connecting flight
  • Fly a good airline.  Lately I’ve been taking Delta and it has been great.  The fivethirtyeight article seems to indicate this has been a good choice.
  • Avoid bad airlines.

And yes, those two examples are over 5 years old, but I will never forget and I will use every opportunity to bring them up again.

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