BMI – The New Atkins Diet

June 30, 2009


I’m going to try to watch the ranting on this one, but I have no shortage of vitriol for the now-ubiquitous measurement of health according to BMI. In case you haven’t heard of it (that might be a good thing), BMI stands for Body Mass Index. And there are exactly two components that affect your Body Mass Index score: Height and Weight.

Let me give you a second to think about whether Height and Weight alone can adequately measure your level of health or fitness.

I hope you see where I’m going with this. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s BMI calculations Lebron James, freakish athlete and man-child that he is, is overweight. Using the height and weight listed for him on Lebron is in fact half way to being obese: 27.5, what a lardo! Ahem, clearly that is ridiculous. The new poster child for the NBA is anything but overweight or out of shape. This is why you can’t categorize anyone according to BMI, its numbers mean nothing definitive.

So next time you hear of some study of how healthy or unhealthy people are, or that being a little overweight can help you live longer, remember to check for whether that study used BMI as its judge for determining who is underweight/overweight. And if you’re like me, then you’ll promptly ignore it.

*Note: The reference to the Atkins Diet in the title is because I consider BMI to be equally useless and potentially damaging while its purveyors make bank off of people’s insecurities. Also, I hope it’s a fad like said diet.

How The G1 Can Save You Money

June 28, 2009
T-Mobile G1

T-Mobile G1

I am in need of a new car, so I spent my Saturday out and about test driving different cars. Now this is the first time I’ve had to shop for a car myself, so I was a little naive at first, to say the least. One thing I picked up on really quickly was how the car salesmen try to categorize you from the moment they see you. The way you dress is the first indicator they get, and just the tip of the iceberg. Then they proceed to the small talk and seemingly garbage chit chat that you take for granted at social functions you desperately do not want to be a part of.

You may or may not notice, but the salesmen will start slipping small, unobtrusive questions into the conversation that seem to be in line with standard “How do you do?” etiquette. But questions along the lines of, “So, RT, I see your area code differs from mine. Where are you living now?” and “Do you want some water? How was work this week?” The answer to the latter question is usually negative, because for some reason or another there appears to me to be an unspoken social construct that all people shall say work sucks, maybe because no one wants to be that one jerk who talks about how awesome his job is. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Back to the story: At this point the salesperson has just heard you had a terrible/great/ok/baffling/ weekend, so the person replies, “Oh that sucks/is interesting/sounds about right/whatever. What exactly do you do?” That last question is one everyone asks you, so it’s pretty trivial right? Maybe… and maybe not. That salesperson is not just trying to make a new friend with small talk. He/she wants to know if you can afford to pay for the car you’re eyeing. Finding out where you live is another indicator of what you might be able to afford (or your priorities in life, I suppose). So is seeing if you’re married, if you have kids, what you currently drive, whether you rent or own, and a million other questions really. It’s not that hard for them to peg you, nor should you really try to hide it.

I feel like I’m straying off topic again. Maybe I’ll save the rest of the car-purchasing experiences for future posts and just get to the point now.

So I’m talking to a salesman (let’s call him Bobby) and his phone goes off, which he promptly answers, and I see that he’s got the new(ish) T-Mobile G1. Out of curiosity I ask him if he likes it. FYI, Bobby has been cold to me since he saw me. I can tell he wants to get me the hell out of the way (I do not dress up or appear wealthy for this stuff). But all of a sudden, he goes off! “Oh MY GOD I love this phone! This is the best phone ever! I used to have a PDA before this and… yea… well, this thing is great, it even saves me money!” [italics mine]

Here are the thoughts that run through my head immediately:
-Hmm, he seems receptive to this question. Maybe he’ll be nicer now and we can have an enjoyable test drive.
-Does he know anything about phones? Because I know a fair amount.
-Last time I checked, this phone still cost at least a few hundred dollars. How does he save money with this phone??

I, of course, ask Bobby how exactly he manages to save money with a very expensive piece of equipment like that. You know what he tels me? The G1 has an application (either pre-loaded or downloadable) that lets you scan the bar codes of products and then compare its price to the price listed at other stores. I’d heard of it before from the Android Developer Challenge 1. So he went to Home Depot to buy a lock and decided, “Hey let’s see what this thing costs at Ace Hardware or Lowe’s.” Lo and behold, Ace Hardware was selling it for $4 cheaper. At this point a store employee comes by and asks Bobby why he’s taking pictures of a barcode, so Bobby shows the guy and says, “So I’m going to go to Ace Hardware now.” Not wanting to lose business, the employee counters by saying he’ll take 10% off the listed price. Winner!

To make a long post short: If you have a G1 go get that app, and the next time you’re shopping at a big chain store go see how much that store’s competitors sell whatever you’re buying for. If it’s cheaper, go tell someone. They might make you a deal. That was not Bobby’s first deal.

Expanding My Social Horizons

June 26, 2009

In college I had few responsibilities. As far as my actual degree goes, my only real responsibilities were to learn and get passing grades. Socially, I pretty much just played basketball and went out with my friends. And partying in our dorms was all fine and good… until we turned 21. And then we went out to explore the bars and clubs, and we spent boatloads of moolah on drinks and covers and the like. Please, stop me if this sounds familiar. Fiscally speaking, I like to think that it was an expensive hobby of experience collecting to check out the various alcoholic establishments in my fair city (and bolster my friendships).

Now, years have passed since I was but a budding twenty-something youth and my interests have changed a bit. The Girlfriend and I have picked up a new hobby: swing dancing. We both enjoy dancing, and not just that grinding club style, although that has it’s place too. ;) A great side effect of this dancing stuff though, is just having a cheap, social hobby in which we can meet people or just go to have some drinks and have some fun.

Let me give you an example. The Girlfriend and I recently went to Seattle. I have a friend who lives up there and she took us out to dinner one night. Lo and behold, the restaurant (The Tin Table, in the Capitol Hill district, was located in an old Oddfellows building that housed various other businesses. One of those businesses was in the Century Ballroom that was used as a nightly dance floor that had different music depending on the day. I’m talking older styles of dance, like east coast swing, lindy hop, salsa, tango, etc. So of course, we had to check this place out. On Sunday night, we stepped into the ballroom for the all swing dance (east/west/lindy hop, basically) night. At $7 a head, this was neither the cheapest, nor most expensive cover I’ve ever paid. But the dance floor was alive and kickin’ from 9pm until… whenever they felt like closing it seemed.

I think many post-grad twenty-somethings hit a point where they feel like their lives have become stagnant. As a friend of mine so elegantly put it (paraphrased) with regards to having a routine of working and having a few outside hobbies that you do all the time, “You’re ok with having a day-to-day routine. The week-to-week is acceptable. Month-to-month you’re sort of iffy on, but you’ll live. Year-to-year scares the hell out of you!” The only thing I can say about this is that a) It seems to be true for many twenty-somethings. and b) You have the power to change this.

Try expanding your horizons and looking into some activities you’ve never done before but find kind of interesting. Maybe you’ll even save a buck or two when you find a new hobby and stop bar hopping every weekend. And maybe you won’t. Big deal. As another friend of mine said, “money is for having experiences anyway.”

Just for fun, here’s a clip of some sweet Lindy Hoppers:

How the Other 99.9% Live – Japan edition

June 25, 2009

This is Vince reporting from sunny and rainy Tokyo – weather is a little fickle at the moment. I’m on a vacation around Asia, and I’ve decided to do a segment on some lifestyle/financial observations on this trip. This first segment is devoted to…

Fruit prices in Japan.

Yes, fruit prices. First and foremost, prices are astronomically high. Additionally, it is very difficult to find fruit. Convenience stores, the most accessible food supply store in Japan – one in every three stores in Tokyo seems to be a convenience store (Lawson, Mini Mart, Family Mart, 7-11, Newsday…) – do not supply fresh fruit. Instead, they are replaced by jello encapsulated fruit and fruit drinks. However, if you were interested in consuming a fruit, you could go to a small corner market or a restaurant. Large grocery stores mostly don’t exist either, since space is at a premium.

Mango at a restaurant

Mango at a restaurant

So how much is a fruit at a restaurant? At a restaurant chain in Tokyo, about $5 for a third of a mango. Fruit prices at small stands aren’t much better…about $6 for four peaches, $1 for a banana, and $5 for an apple.

Maybe I’m shopping at all the wrong places, but so far I’ve yet to find a place that disproves the theory that fruit prices in Japan are high.


Is It Possible To Save Too Much?

June 21, 2009

Money can’t buy you happiness.
-someone long forgotten but considered wise

As a break from all the preaching we do about saving money, and watching where your dollars (or whatever currency) go, I’d like to take a moment to mention that it’s always important to actually spend your hard-earned money. Specifically, spend it on things that bring you joy. In regards to the quote atop this post, my response would be, “Yes, but money can buy you the things and pay for the experiences that bring you happiness!” I’ve held that little motto of mine for quite some time now. I mention this because I stumbled upon a study (via BadMoneyAdvice) focused on a mindset dubbed “hyperopia,” or excessive farsightedness, or more (un)commonly known as Saver’s Remorse. These are the people who penny pinch, and are frugal to an unnecessary, and indeed, irrational degree. But we can know ourselves and compensate accordingly, at least that’s what Ran Kivetz and Itamar Simonson have shown. Not including the chance that being ridiculously stingy can bring a person pleasure, I would say this is a problem just like being prodigious and whimsical with money is a problem. Clearly, this “problem” does not affect many people. But if you’re here and reading this post, you probably have a better chance of being afflicted compared to the average Joe (not the plumber).

Of course, I’m not telling you that everything you’ve ever read on this blog or other personal finance blogs about saving money is hogwash. I’m really preaching the same story I always do, which is to know where your money goes and make choices you can live (happily, I hope) with. Spend money lavishly on things you know you’ll cherish, but make your own lunches for a few days a week to save up that dough. That seems fair to me, anyway. Being financially responsible is kind of like losing weight: It’s not that hard; most people can follow a fixed set of rules and will be hunky dory. The hard part is commitment and discipline. Hmmm… like many things in life, no?

The More You Know…About BEER: Paulaner Salvator

June 19, 2009

Paulaner Salvator
By Paulaner Braurei (Schörghuber, Munich, Germany)
500mL (1 pt. 09 fl. oz.)
7.9% ABV

Paulaner Salvator

Paulaner Salvator

Commercial Description:
The Paulaner Salvator with its strong,typically malty taste is the original Paulaner. The bottom-fermented Doppelbock-Bier unites the finest hops and dark barley malt. The Paulaner monks served Salvator as a replacement for food at Lent. Their most famous brewer was Brother Barnabas, who was the head of the Paulaner monastery brewery starting from 1773. Its original recipe is today almost the same as it was in Barnabas’ time. In order to protect the original recipe, Paulaner had the trade mark “Salvator” patented in 1896.

Original wort 18,3%
alcohol 7,9%
calories 68,0 kcal/100 m

When I hear Doppelbocks, I think of one word: malty. Doppelbock means “double bock,” and this was coined by its Munich consumers. Before I get to Doppelbocks, let’s talk about its precursor, the Bock. Last week, we basically had tried a Smoked Bock (Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock). There are many stories where the word “Bock” originated from. I will only speak of the two dominant ones. First, many scholars believed it originated from the town it was created in, Einbeck. This town was well-known for this dark, strong, malty lager and the name “Bock” came from the corruption of the name “Einbeck” in the Bavarian dialect. Second, the word “Bock” also means “billy-goat” in German and you’ll see it used in logos and advertisements for this style. The Doppelbock itself is stronger version of the Traditional Bock or the Helles Bock, not necessarily double the strength.

The Doppelbock was first brewed in Munich by the monks of St. Francis of Paula. The modern versions are more well-attenuated (drier, fermented out) than the historical versions, which were sweeter and lower in alcohol levels (hence the term “liquid bread” by the monks). I bet some of you have noticed that most breweries that make Doppelbocks will end the name of those beers with the suffix “-ator.” That is either as a tribute to the prototypical Paulaner Salvator or to take advantage of Salvator’s popularity.

Paulaner Salvator’s Doppelbock pours our reddish-copper to light amber. The head is tan-colored and has tightly formed creamy head with moderately-low retention. Malt profile smells of caramel, plums, and dates and a slight hint of grapes. Despite its high alcohol content, the aroma is quite smooth without any fusel (high alcohols found in distilled beverages) warming. No hop aroma is present. Initially, toasty plum/raisin-like malt flavors dominate but is finished but a moderate floral hop spiciness giving it a moderately dry finish. There is a smooth alcoholic warming but isn’t harsh or astringent. The low spicy hop character helps detract from the heavy malty sweetness but doesn’t quite balance it. This beer is definitely full-bodied and has a low level of carbonation that is subtle but perceivable. A very big bold malty lager with lots of malt complexity. The sweetness comes from low hopping, not underattenuation (incomplete fermentation). Probably the most classic example of a Doppelbock. I would find this to be most enjoyable on a cold summer night or even as a desert.

Category 5C: Doppelbock
Aroma: 11/12
Appearance: 3/3
Flavor: 18/20
Mouthfeel: 5/5
Overall: 9/10
Total: 46/50


NPR – Not just for nerds anymore

June 18, 2009

When I was a kid, my dad used to drop me off at school before heading to work. And the one only radio station that he would listen to? NPR. Back then, I would whine and complain about the nonsensical ramblings, interrupted only by the distint three-bell tone which separated the news from traffic and weather. I didn’t understand why he – or anyone – would listen to this instead of the new Hammer or Ace of Base song.

Not much had changed, until recently. I was perfectly content with hearing Jamie Foxx croon about how its all about the a-a-a-a-alcohol and Kings of Leon whine about their sex on fire. But music gets repetitive – especially given how often radio stations play the same songs again and again and again and again and again. So instead, I made an effort to educate myself during my 30-45 minute commute to work each day. At first I tried  learning a foreign language, which worked in the mornings but would be life threatening on the way back home after a long day of work. Something about repeating “ni shr mei guo ren ma?” ten times in a row doesn’t keep you awake. However, it led me to NPR. And NPR saved my life.

NPR isn’t just about news. In addition to business, world, and local news, there’s also personal stories, musicians, and many other segments which are broadcast throughout the day. Each hour is devoted to a different show, so there is quite a bit of variety, much like any TV channel. Mornings are devoted primarily to business and world news – “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” – while afternoons have arts and interesting stories – “Fresh Air” and local station programs. And you will find shows you look forward to.

In terms of detail, NPR is between reading an article and watching coverage on TV. It’s detailed, but still manages to entertain through interviews and visual descriptions.

In addition to listening over the radio, many NPR shows can also be downloaded as podcasts, including local shows from other cities. My favorite, by far, is This American Life (based in Chicago). Each episode revolves around a theme, then stories and narratives are then used to give insight to this theme. This show is oftentimes the best hour of my week. A good financial podcast is NPR’s Planet Money. The show offers a unique perspective on financial news – the hosts act as detectives who interview politicians, economists, lawyers professors, corporate executives, and others in order to better understand what is going on. Their ongoing coverage of the TARP program and auto industry bailout is second to none. This show is both detailed and comprehendable (unlike most coverage out there). Best of all, the half-hour program is great during a lunch break.

So I lied – NPR is still for nerds. But if you find yourself tired listening to T-Pain for the tenth time that day, switch it over to FM89.X (the last number changes based on the city you’re in) and you might hear something you like.