I’ve been Nestified

Yesterday I made a big jump, I replaced the old hard-to-program programmable thermostats in my house with fancy new Nest Learning Thermostats.  They’re a snap to install and, currently, many energy companies are giving significant rebates when you buy one.  However, the real reason I got them was cause they’re freaking cool devices with lots of neat ways to interact with them.  Being able to control or check in on the temperature on your house from the phone is really very cool and the fact the Nest uses weather reports to help control the temperature in the house is even neater still. Once it’s been a few weeks I’ll write a little more in depth review about the Nest and if it is actually saving me any money on electricity bills. Until then, I’m saying it’s worth buying just for the tech alone. 🙂

Book Review: How to Light Up A Room

After reading the not-so-hot Who Moved My Cheese?, I picked a book on how to be more charismatic.  I feel I’m a very good socializer and communicator, but at the same time, I also know I can become introverted. So, any book that can provide a tip or a hint is a good thing in my opinion.  There are a few things that this book really has going for it.  First, it’s cheap, at $2.99, it’s hard to really go wrong.  Secondly, it’s short.  I read the entire book in under a few hours.  However, don’t let the fact it’s short put you off.  A short book can be bad or it can be great when it’s to the point.  And that is the third thing I like about the book, it’s to the point.  No building up, just all the information you need to know and none that you don’t.

Now with the introduction, let’s get to the meat of the review — which I’ll keep short and sweet — much like the book itself.  It contains a very small introduction about the 55 tips discussed inside of the book and then jumps right into the tips which are split into six different categories but fall into two major ideas: being upbeat and interacting with people.  Each tip is a simple sentence with a paragraph or two of explanation of how to use the tip in day-to-day interactions.

Chances are you’ll blow through this book in one sitting and to me that is fine.  It saves me from having to read all the other books about building charisma since this book has already summarized the majority of these books.  For the $2.99 that it costs from Amazon.com (or free rental if you have a Kindle device), it’s well worth it.

Book Review: Who Moved My Cheese?

As I’ve been thinking about my career I realize I have seriously neglected the business side for many years.  As part of my quest to learn more about the business side I’ve been finding lists of the supposedly best business books, adding them to my Amazon wish list, finding them at Half Price Books and buying them there, and then reading them.  I know my brother has been doing the same thing and I know if both of us are doing it, there are many other people who are as well.  This is what has gotten me to write a review about the books I’m reading in my copious amounts of free time (haha).  Anyway, this wonderful little ditty Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. has quite a following both good and bad.  Amazon’s rating (3.3 / 5) seem to show it’s split right down the middle. Some people have said it has changed their life and others view it as trite simplistic mush not even worthy of a first grader.  And, spoiler alert, I fall into the latter camp — I’m not a fan of the book.  I’m glad I got it at HPB for $4.99 cause at it’s $19.95 MSRP it’s a complete rip-off and even at $4.99 I was a little ticked off.  I will give Dr. Johnson props for making a boat load of money off this book of common sense.

I won’t bore you with the fable, but just know it involves Sniff, Scurry, Hem, and Haw as the characters and THE MAZE as the place they live and find Cheese.  If you have just a little bit of imagination you’ll know right away that

  • All four characters find cheese
  • When the cheese disappears Sniff and Scurry leave right away and don’t complain
  • Hem and Haw stick around complaining (obviously) until one realizes they need to be like S&S and find new Cheese in the scary maze
  • Eventually the other one decides to venture out from the original Cheese station and finds everyone else happy

Throw in some nice banal quotes about Cheese (metaphor for money or happiness) and you’ve got a best selling business book.  I’ll save you the money and give some real advice:

  • Things change, get over it
  • No use in crying over the change
  • Be sensitive to changes in the workplace, note what they are and start making plans
  • Always be looking for the next big opportunity
  • Leave on your timeline, not the business’ timeline for you
  • Spend the $5 it’d cost you for this book at HPB on a beer and the $20 it’d cost you for the full thing on a decent meal.  It’d be money better spent.

Review of my Honey Kolsch

Well, I finally got past the time of waiting for my honey kolsch to carbonate and tried one out last night.  I’ll be the first to admit that kolschs aren’t my favorite beer style, but it seemed like a good choice for a summer-time beer.  Now, to cut to the chase, here are my notes on it (poured into a pint glass):

Appearance: Translucent dark honey color in the glass and a nice thin layer of foam across the top.

Smell: I can’t say too much here, I’ve been suffering from allergies..

Taste: Crisp, smooth, and not very hoppy, with the exception of the hint of honey it tastes exactly like a standard kolsch (which is a good thing).

Mouthfeel: Like the taste, it is crisp and smooth.  A light to medium body and  it doesn’t really weigh down on your tongue or leave any aftertaste.

Drinkability & Notes: I initially poured this straight into a glass out of a bottle I’d been keeping in the fridge at 37F.  As it warmed up to a drinking temperature it definitely began to unlock the flavors and taste better.  The second time I tasted it, I took it out of the fridge and let it sit for about 10 minutes so it would come up to a more appropriate temperature.  It is a very refreshing beer and definitely great for the summer-time even though I am not a fan of Kolsch-style beers in general.  I should also mention, I got the beer ingredients from Austin Homebrew and used their standard recipe.  I have some plans for another batch of this that’ll be more experimental.

Alamo Drafthouse: Off-Center Beer Festival: Blazing Saddles

Ok, so I don’t know how much cooler this could get. Awesome craft breweries from around Texas and getting my picture taken with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery and then watching Blazing Saddles on a wonderful Thursday night with a cap gun to shoot at the screen.

First up, lets talk about the beers.  (512) Brewing brought an amazing Pecan Porter with toasted coconut, died cherries, and Mexican Vanilla; I had four 6 0z. glasses of the stuff.  The other breweries that were there there all had beers that were very, very good, but not as stand out as the (512) Pecan Porter.

Jester King brought a new beer, Beer Geek Rodeo, which is an oatmeal stout brewed in collaboration with Mikkeller (a Danish brewery).  I’ll be picking up a few bottles of Beer Geek Rodeo when it finally hits the store shelves.

Thirsty Planet also came through with a nice smoked coffee Belgian Dubble called Jittery Monk.  It was very smooth and had a good coffee flavor.  As the person working the tap said, this is more beer than coffee and he was right.  I just wish Thirsty Planet would figure out a way to get all these weird experimental beers out to the public because I’m not a total fan of Buckethead and Yellow Armadillo Wheat.  Where is Smokey the Beer and Jittery Monk Smoked Coffee Dubble on tap?  They’re better, more interesting tasting beers, in my opinion.

The only beer that I can say that I really disliked, but really wanted to like was the Twisted X Fuego.  Any beer that has been infused with Jalepeno has to be awesome, right?  Unfortunately, it didn’t have any of that jalepeno twinge or heat that I was expecting.  It tasted a little skunky and barely tingled the back of my throat at the very end for a few seconds.

My only complaint with the beer vendors is that Dogfishhead only brought Indian Brown Ale; I was hoping they could find it in their hearts to grace us with some wonderful 120 minute IPA or another concoction that is hard to find in Texas.  But, I guess they had to save all the interesting beers for the Once Upon A Time in the West feast at Alamo South Lamar.  Oh well, I suppose I need to get myself a trip up to the north east United States again.

The movie, of course, was awesome, and it was made even better by the fact that it was a quote-along.  Not that I needed the quotes scrolling across the bottom of the screen to yell out the lines (yes, I’ve seen it that many times).  As a side note, the food was quite tasty as well, although I have an issue with what they called a torta.  It should have been called a cheesesteak (but I’m not gonna nitpick on a day like this.  I’m just glad there are companies that can still put on a kick-ass mini-beer fest and movie without messing everything up).

Juicing for health

A few months ago I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix (yes, I restarted my Netflix account after not having it for a while) and after watching it got really interested in juicing.  Being the type of person I am, I did some quick web searching to see what people were saying about it.  Most people seem to think it’ll do everything: make you faster, better, more awesome, prevent and cure cancer, reduce the onset of old age, and generally save the world.  I however, don’t feel this way.  I think it is a great way to get all the fruits and veggies I need for the day in a single easy to drink glass.

I started reading up on juicers and picked one that wasn’t too expensive so if I found out that I disliked juicing it wasn’t like I was out a load of money.  I ended up buying a Cuisinart CJE-1000 from the local Fry’s and after pulling it all apart and learning how it works, it was off to the grocery store.  At the grocery store, I grabbed all the typical fruits and vegetables people juice: kale, cucumbers, carrots, celery, apples, and blueberries.  As a side note, if I had realized how much I was going to be juicing, I’d probably purchase an Omega 8003 juicer; but for now, I’m good with the CJE-1000.

My initial juice was a lot of fruit and a few veggies.  It was significantly sweeter than I expected and it hid all the flavors of the veggies.  However, the more I juiced the more I removed the amount of fruit I was juicing and added more vegetables into the mixture.  Within a few days I was juicing all vegetables and a single apple.  Now my go to juice is: kale, cucumber, celery, carrot, and apple.  Based on what I’ve heard from other people who have begun juicing, this is how it seems to go: you start out with something significantly sweeter then slowly remove the sweet stuff from the mix.   It also gives a weird energized feeling after drinking the juice which I think is the fact that my body is getting all the vitamins and whatnot right away instead of digesting all the fiber, etc. that is normally associated with the fruits and vegetables.  In the end, juicing also doesn’t make me feel as bad when I eat lunch at work and don’t eat the healthiest meal that I could (I tend to do low carb to no carb for lunch).

Of course, I also need to mention that lunch is now the only meal that I really eat out anymore.  I’ve been cooking and making breakfast at home and taking it to work so I can eat breakfast when I’m actually hungry (I get into work really early) and drinking juice for dinner.

I’ve been juicing at least one meal a day for about two weeks and while I can’t say that it is curing cancer or whatever else, I do think it is filling a void in my eating habits since I’m now at least getting all of my vegetable and fruit servings in a single drink each day.  If you haven’t thought about trying it, I say give it a shot, you don’t have to go all in and drink fresh vegetable juice for all meals for 60 days like in Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  Just use it once a day as a meal replacement and start working on eating healthier on all your other meals.  I can say it’s helped me a lot, especially combined with working out, it does do a great job.