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Low-Carb at Starbucks

Low Carb at Starbucks

If you like plain black coffee, then low-carb at Starbucks shouldn’t be too difficult. But if you’re cursed with a sweet tooth, it isn’t so easy to skip the sugar on your way out. But you can use Splenda at the condiment bar. And you can ask the barista to add Stevia. Yep, they have that.

If you prefer handcrafted drinks with 40+ grams of carbs, try this:

  1. Cold brew coffee (this is generally less bitter than brewed iced coffee)
  2. Heavy cream (a creamy texture can make up a bit for sweetness)
  3. Sugar-free syrup, such as Cinnamon Dolce or Vanilla (be warned that the sugar-free vanilla syrup has an ingredient that can cause a bit of an insulin response)

And this is less expensive than the high-sugar handcrafted beverages.

If you like to grab a bite to eat at Starbucks, then here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Try the Egg and Cheese Protein Pack. Just skip the little piece of bread. If you feel small servings of fruit will exceed your daily carb allowance, then you should probably skip this menu item.
  2. Try the Sous Vide Egg Bites. They’re quite satisfying.

While these menu items are relatively low-carb, they’re not super low. But they fit fine in my diet.

Are Star Wars Fans Ruining Star Wars? [Rant]

Star Wars: What's The Big Deal?

When Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters in December 2017, a lot of fans revolted. Now, summer 2018 sees the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story is released, and legions of fans have now lost their minds.

I think the fans are no longer interested in experiencing stories, and now they only want to see specific backstories of any characters they feel are interesting. And it better be the exact version of the backstory they expect. Any any story story advancement had better be exactly as expected, too. And we’d better see everything spelled out as expected for the original trilogy trio (Luke, Leia, and Han). If anything unexpected occurs, then there will be extraordinary fan backlash.

SPOILERS AHEAD

So we saw the demise of Snoke at the hands of Kylo Ren. That was a delightful twist, unless you were a Star Wars fanatic who badly wanted to learn more about Snoke. Like who his mom was, what public school he went to, and what intergalactic bully turned him into a deformed force-user bent on taking over the galaxy when the Empire couldn’t pull it off.

Um, who friggin’ cares? I want to see a story. I like surprises. And I feel the new characters deserve the primary focus of the current trilogy. Comparatively, there was nothing wrong with The Last Jedi (we all remember the trainwrecks of Episodes I and II, right?). And it was much more ambitious than the retread that was The Force Awakens.

And what’s up with the hate for Solo? Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover did excellent jobs with legendary characters. They brought a new dimensions to the characters of Han and Lando. Youthful optimism, smugness, and a bit of rivalry. And they went up against an interesting set of antagonists.

But the fans want Lucasfilm management thrown out. And even Disney stock has taken a hit. All of this hate over popcorn movies?!

C’mon, fellow Star Wars fans! Grow. Up. Please.

PS- I hear you. I have no idea why I take the time to write this stuff, either.

Why Start a Low Carb Diet?

Considering Low-Carb

Whether you call it “Low Carb” or “Paleo” or “Keto,” low-carb eating can provide undeniably good results.

What Fuels a Human Body?

Generally, human bodies use fuel from foods to make everything in the body work. The fuel comes from fat and carbohydrates. Carbs create blood sugar (glucose) that the body uses for fuel.

Why Eat Low Carb?

You can achieve your optimal weight. For most of us, that means we become leaner. For a few of us, that could mean gaining a bit of weight. Either way, optimal weight should provide health benefits by preventing conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Many people on a low-carb diet claim fewer arthritis flare-ups, lower blood pressure, and clearer thinking.

Why are Carbs Bad?

When carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream, it causes a human hormone called insulin to respond. Insulin converts carbohydrates into fat and quickly stores the fat in human tissue such as skin and even internal organs (aka, visceral fat).

The body will use glucose for fuel while insulin is busy storing what it can as fat. In a relatively short time, your body will become hungry again without using the stored fat for fuel.

Think about that for a moment. Stop and really think about that.

Your body will become hungry while it refuses to convert its stored fat into fuel.

You’ve heard the saying “You’re fat because you overeat.” But if you eat a diet high in carbs and low in fats, then the reverse is actually true: “You overeating because you’re fat.”

How the Heck is Fat Better for Me?

Humankind has been on Earth for about 3.5 million years. During that time, the human body has evolved to fuel itself with (get ready for it) fat.

Yeah, I said “fat.”

For millions of years, our ancestors lived off the land: Mostly animals and seasonal vegetation when vegetables and fruits were available.

Consuming grains and sugars was introduced in our societies about 4,000 years ago. That might sound like a long time, but it’s an infinitesimal amount of time when it comes to evolution. Our bodies simply have not had enough time to adapt to the drastic change in fuel source (translated: going from fats to carbs).

So there’s some who believe that carbs are poisoning the human race. And with skyrocketing obesity and Type 2 Diabetes rates, there’s compelling evidence that this is true.

What About the Good Carbs?

To be brutally honest, there is no such thing as a good carb. All carbs turn to sugar. All of them. All sugars trigger an insulin response in the body. Insulin will store as fat all the sugar not immediately used to fuel the body. And the body will become hungry again without using the stored fat.

So that healthy orange you ate might have significant nutritional value, but all its sugars will metabolize the same exact way as a candy bar. Some nutritionists will contest this, but it’s a scientific fact.

Diet as Religion (a 2-Way Street)

I’m surprised how ingrained the low-fat diet has become in our society. Many people believe this diet like a religion. If the learn of your interest in low-carb eating, others might lash out at you for considering such a controversial (and dangerous) diet. They might even stop being your friend. I’ve seen it happen.

My advice is to avoid the topic if you sense someone will resist your argument for adopting a low-carb diet.

Meanwhile, you’re likely to encounter some who follow the low-carb diet very, very closely who might judge your initial efforts as lacking and “not good enough.” Kinda sounds like these people also believe in their diet as a religion.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Get into low-carb eating at your own pace. If you decide to take your diet a step or two further, then do so on your own terms.

Good luck.

Does This Wannabe Blogger Even Know What He’s Talking About?

I’ve done a ton of research, but I’m lousy at remembering where I heard (or read) what. Also, I can’t advise anyone how to eat. You might have conditions that make low-carb eating a bad idea. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV (or anywhere else).

I encourage you to learn more from more valid sources than me.

But here’s the book that changed my life and way of thinking:

Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes [Amazon]

Keyboard and Mouse Utilities For macOS That Windows Users Will Love

Finger at Keyboard

A year ago, I decided to move from Windows to Mac. As an iPhone user, this made sense. My mobile and desktop computing resources integrated very well and solved a lot of workarounds and incompatibilities that plagued me as a Windows user. And to be brutally honest, I got tired of fixing my Windows machine. Macs are not perfect (by a LONG shot), but they’re predictable which makes them more dependable.

Problem

Being a long-time Windows user, I brought a lot of muscle memory problems and habits with me as I started the Mac. Since I must use Windows for work, I have a KVM to share keyboard, mouse, and monitors. So I use a Windows keyboard and PC mouse with my Mac.

Here were my biggest problems:

  1. I like using the Forward and Back buttons on my mouse, especially for navigating websites. (On Macs, these mouse buttons are dead.)
  2. I prefer natural scrolling on the MacBook trackpad and directional scrolling on the mouse wheel. (On Macs, you are prevented from configuring these differently. It’s bewildering.)
  3. I like to press the Home and End keys to go to the beginning and end of a text line, respectively. (On Macs, these actions take the cursor to the top or bottom of the message body.)
  4. Closely related to the above, I like to press Shift+Home and Shift+End to select (aka, highlight) text to the beginning and end of a text string respectively. (On Macs, these actions take the text selection to the top or bottom of the message body.)

As any Windows user will tell you, Macs don’t work that way.

Solutions

I tried to get used to it. I really did. But in the end muscle memory won, and Mac lost. But not without some help.

Scroll Reverser

Scroll Reverser Preferences Panel

This utility is simple, and it’s free.

Scroll Reverser breaks the connection between the mouse scroll setting and the trackpad scroll setting. It allows me to have directional scrolling when I use mouse, and natural scrolling when I use the trackpad. Perfect!

Learn more about Scroll Reverser.

BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool Configuration Panel

This utility is a fairly simple power user’s tool, and it costs $4.99 (or more if you wish) with a 45-day trial period.

BetterTouchTool (BTT) allows you to override default actions on your keyboard, mouse (including Magic Mouse), trackpad, MacBook Pro TouchBar, and even the Siri Remote. I leverage the keyboard and mouse functionality. My mouse navigation buttons work in any application with a navigation history (web browsers, Finder, etc.). My keyboard brings familiar behavior to the Home and End keys. What a relief!

Quick Tip: Like any power user tool, the interface could be confusing to some. When adding a new shortcut or key sequence, click into the text fields and then press the keys. BTT will record the key or key combination. As you click into the text fields, you are also offered commands in a pop-up list. At first, I thought those listed commands were the only ones available.

Learn more about BetterTouchTool.

Degraded Sound Quality on CarPlay When Using Waze

Waze, a Sad Face Emoji, CarPlay, and Music

Waze recently updated its app with several new features including a nice new feature where you can get the app’s attention by saying “Okay, Waze.” But it might have a downside.

I have a car stereo with Apple CarPlay, but I still prefer to use Waze rather than Apple Maps. Unfortunately, Apple does not allow third-party apps to draw graphics on the stereo’s screen via CarPlay. So I have a setup that allows me to see Waze on my phone while playing music or podcasts over CarPlay.

One day, I noticed that when I switched the phone to Waze, the music sound quality tanked. If I switched back to any CarPlay-enabled app, the sound became noticeably better. Finally, it occurred to me that I had updated Waze and enabled it to listen for “Okay, Waze.”

I turned off that feature, and the sound degradation issue ceased. I could switch to and from Waze without the sound quality suffering.

Granted, this is a fairly unique circumstance, but it might save someone somewhere a frustrating headache.

Sexual Harassment in Tech (and in General)

Sarah LaneI usually don’t post on topics like this, but sexual harassment is not a political topic and it’s not up for interpretation. It’s always wrong.

So many of my fellow males excuse their behavior with “Hey, I was just joking” or “She shouldn’t be so touchy about it.” That’s not the right way to look at it. It’s not whether the guy thinks the behavior is one way or the other, it’s how the person on the receiving end perceives it.

Just because you didn’t mean for it to be damaging doesn’t mean it wasn’t damaging.

Be sensitive. Be considerate. Have empathy.

Tech podcaster Sarah Lane recently published a thoughtful and very candid article on Medium (her article contains mature themes). It’s worth your time to better understand how some behaviors and remarks are received. And how our culture intimidates women who speak out about it.

Sarah Lane currently co-hosts Daily Tech News Show with Tom Merritt. They are a remarkable team, and the podcast is one of the best tech news sources available.

Allow Certain Contacts to Reach You During Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb icon above a starry night sky with the Phone app icon in a thought bubble

You probably want a some people to reach you even when your iPhone’s Do Not Disturb is on. You can easily set your Phone app’s Favorites to have this privilege, but it might not be the most efficient method. Each entry in your Favorites can hold only one phone number. So if one person has two numbers (for example, a mobile and land line), then you need two entries in your Favorites. This can quickly clutter your Favorites list.

There is a better way: Create a Contact Group and then allow calls from the group.

Doing this allows any phone number from that contact to call through. No more separate entries from cell and land line numbers. And adding a new contact to the group at any time means that contact can reach you even when Do Not Disturb is on.

The only catch here is that you cannot create Contact Groups on your iPhone. Sigh!

The setup process is not too difficult. You can use the Contacts app on your Mac or you can use the web-based iCloud.

Using Your Mac

  1. Open the Contacts app.
  2. Click the File pull-down menu from the Task Bar.
  3. Click New Group.
  4. Type the name of your new group. I chose to use “DND Allow”.
  5. Drag and drop individual contacts from All Contacts to your new group.

Contacts on Mac

Using iCloud

  1. Log into your iCloud.com account using your web browser.
  2. Click or tap into the Contacts app.
  3. Click the plus (+) symbol at the bottom of the left pane.
  4. Click New Group.
  5. Type the name of your new Contact Group. I chose to use “DND Allow”.
  6. Drag and drop individual contacts from All Contacts to your new group.

Contacts on iCloud

Remember: You will need to maintain the Contacts in this group using iCloud.com or your Mac.

Configure Do Not Disturb on Your iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Swipe down and tap on Do Not Disturb.
  3. Swipe down to Phone and tap Allow Calls From.
  4. Under Groups find your new Contact Group and tap it. A checkmark should appear to the right.

Do Not Disturb on iPhone

That should do it. Best of luck!

Freeware: Scroll Reverser

Scroll Reverser Logo

There’s a difference when you want to use your mouse scroll wheel and your MacBook’s trackpad. I use my MacBook Pro as my main computer, connected to dual monitors and external keyboard and mouse. When I disconnect from all that, I use its keyboard and trackpad. And I want to use the trackpad different(ly).

When I spin the mouse’s scroll wheel down, I prefer the window contents to go downward. When I use two fingertips and swipe upward, I prefer the window contents to also go downward. It’s just natural to me, and it keeps my muscle memory in line with my required usage of Windows.

Apple disagrees. If you set the trackpad for natural scrolling, it also sets it for your mouse. You know, for convenience… In other words, macOS prevents you from mixing these settings even though they are separate settings. Grrr.

Scroll Reverser Settings

Scroll Reverser is the solution. The settings are simple. Then use your mouse the way you want, and then use your trackpad the way you want.

And Scroll Reverser is free.

Holding Off on Apple’s iPhone X [Updated]

iPhone X

Apple worked too hard to get the iPhone X ready.

When the company couldn’t roll out the iPhone X with the iterative iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models back in September, that was the first sign. When KGI Securities guru Ming Chi Kuo kept releasing pessimistic supply chain reports, that was more bad omens. When, on October 25, Bloomberg reported this:

“As Wall Street analysts and fan blogs watched for signs that the company would stumble, Apple came up with a solution: It quietly told suppliers they could reduce the accuracy of the face-recognition technology to make it easier to manufacture…”

I doubt I was the only person who sold Apple stock that day.

So on iPhone X pre-order night, I slept. And I plan to just go about my day on November 3 when the iPhone X hits stores.

Why? I predict a ridiculous level of hype. I predict short supply until January or February 2018. I predict quality production issues. I predict Face ID problems (I’ll be happy to be wrong). I predict the iPhone X will be smoothing out by March 2018, and that’s when I’ll consider buying one.

Or not. I keep looking at my 6s Plus and thinking there’s nothing wrong or lacking with it.

Update (Nov 5, 2017): It seems my concerns about the performance of Face ID was overblown. Most reviews are decidedly favorable on this new technology. Meanwhile, I found Nilay Patel’s remark about Face ID in bright sunlight amusing:

Recent Apple products have tended to demand people adapt to them instead of being adapted to people, and it was hard not to think about that as I stood in the sunlight, waving a thousand-dollar phone ever closer to my face.

Add Outlook.com Email to macOS

Outlook and Settings Icons

The process to configure a connection to Outlook.com in macOS is not intuitive for whatever reason only Microsoft and Apple know. I found several outdated and unhelpful articles that had me going nowhere.

So here’s the magic solution: Use App-Specific Password. Create that first, then configure macOS.

To generate an app-specific password:

  1. Go to account.microsoft.com and log in
  2. On the Account bar (or tap Account on you mobile device), and click or tap Security & privacy.
  3. Find the link titled More security settings and click/tap it.
  4. Under App Passwords, find and click/tap Create new app password.
  5. An app password will be generated. Use this to log into Outlook.com email service from within macOS Mail.

How do you do that? This is how:

  1. In macOS Mail, click Mail in the task bar.
  2. Click Add Account…
  3. Click Other Mail Account and click Continue.
  4. Enter the Outlook.com email address and then enter the app-specific password you generated in the previous steps. Click Sign In.

After a few moments, you should be good to go.

PS: Why is it a breeze to set up an Outlook account in iOS but such a mystery in macOS?