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Strange Ways to Burn 200 Calories

It’s rather depressing to see how little food 200 calories actually is:

We Americans consume WAY too much and exercise WAY too little. So let’s look at the other side of the equation – what are some interesting ways of BURNING 200 calories? Here’s the answer from the same producer:

Don’t forget that 1 pound of fat is 3,500 calories – so that’s quite a bit of gum chewing.

Interesting AAPL Stock Trading Strategy

OK, folks, I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you a strategy I’ve been cooking up lately for stock investing.  This has NOT been tried yet, but I intend to the next quarterly earnings cycle.  It involves Apple (AAPL) and “betting on all the horses at once.”

Sound crazy?  It may be, but hear me out.  In the past few quarters, Apple has either a) blown out their revenue and income guidance and shares rise hugely, or disappointed “The Street’s” analyst estimates of how awesome they should be and shares fall like a rock for a day or two.  This happened in April 2012 when they reported earnings and shares rose about $50 / share, then again in July when they “only” had a 21% increase in sales year over year, and shares fell 3-4%.  In both cases, this massive stock movement happened the morning after they reported earnings.

This strategy depends on a) a stock like AAPL which trades in the hundreds of dollars per share (currently around $665), b) a pattern of huge movements up or down, and c) stock options which are about to expire, so you can leverage hundreds of shares with options contracts for a little money.  Here’s what I plan to do (prior dates are listed here):

  • The day of the announcement, buy the shortest contracts I can (if it happens on April 18, buy April contracts that expire a few days later).
  • Wherever the stock is 15 minutes before trading ends (4pm EST), buy a set of CALL options at that price, and an equal number of PUT options at that same price (CALL assumes the stock will go up, PUT assumes it will go down).  Say $1,000 each way.
  • The morning after the announcement, sell everything – one of them WILL vastly go up in value – so much so that you won’t care about the loss from the other.

Now, this will only make sense if the stock moves quite a bit, but it historically has.  Best times to do this are April (when iPhone / iPad sales are huge for the past few months) or July / Oct (when sales are typically lower in anticipation of the next iPhone in the fall).  I truly think this will result in a huge net gain for just a little invested.  Try it!

UPDATE: On January 23, 2013, Apple delivered it’s quarterly earnings report for the Oct-Dec 2012 quarter.  As of the morning of the 24th, it was down $60 / share.  So this strategy would have indeed worked.  Personally, I think the market overreacted.

Do Any Pitch in 15 Seconds

Often your entire business is dependent on your ability to “pitch” your business idea or distinguishing characteristic.  Here’s a great video on how to do so – watch and learn!

NFC: Near Field Communications – The Next Big Deal

This article is a brief introduction to something you’ll be seeing in mobile devices in a few months. NFC, or Near Field Communications, is a short-range radio chip being built into phones which allows it to communicate securely with a base station when in close proximity to each other. It’s kind of like an RFID chip, or Exxon’s “SpeedPass.”

In Asia, mobile phones with NFC are already being used to purchase items (for example: retail items, vending machines, or bus fares) with transactions added to the user’s cell phone bill, or a credit card associated with the user’s account.  But NFC hasn’t caught on yet in the US, mostly because retailers haven’t agreed on a standard.  Yet.

Above is an image showing a new feature that’s coming out on Apple iPhones this fall – it’s called PassBook.  PassBook allows you to store tickets, loyalty cards, & membership cards of various types on your phone in one place, which can be scanned on the screen, or if your phone has NFC, waved over a sensor.  This new feature will work with the new iPhone 5 being introduced with NFC in October, so get ready for it.  Google Wallet has been around for Android phones for a while, but the ubiquity of the new iPhone will give this feature the necessary push to become a US standard.

But this will become FAR BIGGER than mobile payments – NFC chips will be designed into appliances, furniture, even clothing, to communicate information to your mobile device in real time.  Imagine your refrigerator telling your phone to add milk to your grocery list because your milk is going bad.  Imagine trying out a recipe in your kitchen and your mobile device tells you what you do and do not already have in the pantry.  Imagine your clothing alerting you of high blood pressure or low blood sugar.  Yup!

Convenience comes at a cost, of course.  Location-based data is about to get even more rich for retailers – they will be able to track where you shop with finer detail than ever before.  But this is already being done to a much greater extent that you know – you think the whole loyalty card system for groceries and retail doesn’t do data mining on your favorite shopping locations?  It does.  Trust me, marketing firms know about you.

So get ready – NFC is coming in a big way.  In the meantime, marvel at the accuracy of the 1993 AT&T “You Will” ad campaign, which features NFC / RFID tech at 2:00 – wow!


The Cloud – Rebirth of the Data Center

Remember mainframes? Those gigantic machines with vacuum tubes, reel-to-reel tape drives, and terminal stations with a huge printer / tiny screen staffed by technicians in lab coats? Those were the days – days which the technology industry triumphantly declared dead during the birth of the PC in the 1980’s, as computing power migrated to the home / office and everyone got connected to the “Interwebs.”

Well, those days are back! Not with mainframes and lab coats, but with blade servers, banks of hard drives, load-balancing routers and very tight security. Why should you care? Simple – those data centers can save you enough money every year to justify pulling the trigger and moving your stuff to the 21st century version called “The Cloud.”

Ooooooo.  Pretty Lights!

Cloud computing, via data centers, has enjoyed a renaissance because the ever-growing complexity of buying and maintaining server resources for your business can be handed off to a company that buys in volume and develops a maintenance ecosystem (so you don’t have to.) Just a few years ago, companies had to build out server rooms, buy servers, routers, battery backups, etc. – and the staff to keep it running.

But what if you didn’t have to do this? How great would it be to run the same software on faster, redundant hardware, accessible anywhere on the Internet, and get automatic speed upgrades for you as the Cloud gets upgraded for all? I submit to you that the time to rent your slice of the Cloud is NOW, and here’s why:

  1. Cloud hosting is more cost efficient for smaller businesses – No hardware to buy and manage is especially beneficial for “Mom & Pops” (cash flow savings).
  2. Maintenance of your software is someone else’s problem – no downtime caused by upgrades, database corruption, etc.
  3. Ubiquitous accessibility (with proper credentials) – Got internet?  You’re done.
  4. Fast setup, and fast changes – Pre-made server “images” can bring up an application within minutes.  Need a new user?  5 minutes.  Time is money.
  5. Reliability is improved – your app is run on data-center-grade servers, with power, cooling and security systems you can’t even imagine, much less afford.

So where to start?  If you have a software VAR (Value Added Reseller), ask them about moving your app to Cloud Hosting.  If you’re looking for a particular application, check the company’s website to see if it can be virtualized, or Google it.  If it can run on a server in your office, it can definitely be run in the Cloud.

Here in Nashville, we have several hosting companies that offer virtual server hosting.  The best known of these is Peak 10 – I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Saving Energy & Money in Hot Weather

You might live in the Arctic Circle right now – but if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and haven’t seen a polar bear wandering by, then you may be “enjoying” a record heat wave that has befallen us. It’s currently 105 degrees in Nashville TN, so everyone here is cranking up the air conditioning. This can result in huge utility bills – but you can do some simple things to keep those costs to a minimum.

  • Look for and minimize every heat source in your home

There are multiple sources of heat in every modern household, but most people don’t do anything to minimize them. Your AC has to work to counteract everything that is warming your house – let’s go through a few ideas:

  1. Turn off or down everything that uses electricity or generates heat – stereo receivers, computers, TVs, refrigerators, dishwashers, even lights! They all generate heat inside the home, so keep them turned off, use dimmers on lights, or use them at night.  Even shutting off the pilot light to your furnace helps.
  2. Cover windows where you get sunlight during the day – blinds, curtains, blackout shades, and other covers can prevent sunlight from roasting your interior. If you can’t do this, then move dark objects out of the sun’s path (they absorb heat).
  3. Seal your house – this may be obvious, but it has to be mentioned.  Make sure your windows are sealed shut, your doors (and AC vents) have no air leaks, etc.
  • Make your cooling equipment more efficient, and don’t push it too hard

This is the big one during the summer – air conditioners work by allowing a pressurized liquid turn to a gas (which makes it colder), forcing warm air through cold coils, then recompressing the gas back to a liquid outside (which moves out the heat).  These AC systems can vary widely in efficiency (and cost you money) based on a few factors:

  • The SEER Rating of the AC unit – higher SEER ratings mean they use less power for a given amount of cooling.  In 2006, the minimum SEER rating for new AC units was raised to 13 from 10 – if your AC condenser is 10 years old or older, you will save double or triple what it costs you to upgrade to a 16 SEER condenser.
  • The condenser itself – go outside and look at the box with the big fan on top.  This device compresses the gas into a liquid, then cools it by pulling air through a long coil.  If the coil is dirty or obstructed on the sides, the air can’t move through it.  If you’re handy, you can take the fan off the top, clean and straighten the coil fins with a wire brush, and spray out any debris with a water hose.  This really helps. If the air still isn’t cool enough, have an AC guy check the refrigerant levels (either older R-22 Freon, or R-410A Puron).  That can really affect cooling.
  •  Make your AC work less – having the condenser sit in the shade helps, but there’s more you can do to de-stress your AC: replace your air filter regularly, close vents to rooms that you’re not using (then seal them off), raise the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher (every degree below 78 costs you 3-4% more), and if you have cool nights, open your house up to the outside air during the night, then close it for AC in the morning.  Some even use alternative cooling, like a box fan with ice on it.

Here’s a good video that explains how to optimize your AC unit’s performance:

Maximizing Your Battery Life (iPhone/iPad Edition)

Maximize your iPhone or iPad battery!Battery life is always a trade-off between functionality and battery lifespan – the more you use it, the quicker it dies.  However, there are lots of things your device does in the background that really aren’t vital to your happiness, so you can tweak things to help your battery last up to twice as long.  This post will focus on battery saving tips for iPhone and iPad – let’s get started:

1.      Screen Timeout / Brightness / Locking: The backlight on the screen is probably the biggest battery drain of any one component.  Do the following:

a.      Go into Settings… Brightness and turn down the screen brightness as low as you can stand it – I usually do 35-40% with Auto turned ON (saves a bit more juice).  Manually adjust when needed.

b.       Go into Settings… General and turn Auto-Lock down to the quickest you can stand.  1-minute is good.

c.      Use the lock button!  This key is in the upper right corner of the iPhone or iPad – it locks the screen and turns off the screen immediately.  Use this every time you’re done with the phone, and even during a call if you use a headset – screen off = good.  iPads will keep playing music while the screen is off.

2.      Turn off radios you’re not using.  The second biggest drain on an iDevice are the radio chips that interact with the world.  There are a few things here that really make a difference:

a.      Turn off BlueTooth when not in use.  If you aren’t going to pair your iDevice with something over Bluetooth, turn it off!  Even if it’s periodic, only turn it on when you’re using it.  Go into Settings… General… Bluetooth and turn it off when not in use.  Use a wired headset and you can avoid Bluetooth.

b.      Turn off 3G data if speed isn’t vital.  This is a big one: using 2G mode instead of 3G mode doubles your talk time.  Really.  Go into Settings… General… Network and turn “Enable 3G” OFF.  If you’re a light data user, you won’t notice much of a difference.  4G models of iDevices (like the New iPad) have a setting to disable 4G and just use 3G, but there’s not enough data out yet to justify this.

c.      Airplane Mode is your friend.  Don’t want to get calls/texts while you sleep?  Turn on Airplane Mode and it will shut down all radios – it’s at the top of Settings.  You can still use wi-fi in this mode, if you want.  If your device is Jailbroken, you can use “iPhoneTool” from Cydia to do this automatically at preset times.

d.      Wi-Fi is better than 3G.  This is counter-intuitive, but the wi-fi chip actually uses less power than the 3G chip.  Hook into wi-fi wherever you can, and 3G will switch to it automatically.  TIP: If you use Siri on an iPhone 4S, it will be faster on wi-fi.

e.      Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use.  Go into Settings, Wi-Fi and turn it OFF if you’re not going to be around a trusted wi-fi source for a while, or if you don’t need data for a while.  This keeps it from constantly searching for hotspots.

f.       Turn off Location Services when not in use.  If you don’t lose your phone (or yourself) much, you can turn off the GPS radio and save a bit of juice.  This is under Settings.

3.      Turn off or adjust Background Services. This is the silent killer, so it’s vital you change these settings.

Email Push / Fetch: Most of us are not important enough to need absolutely real-time message delivery.  If you are – congratulations!  But if you’re like the rest of us, periodic “fetching” is fine, as opposed to being constantly connected to online services, waiting for it to be “pushed” to you.  This uses the radio constantly, and thus your battery.  This applies to email, not texts.

Go into Settings… Mail, Contacts, Calendars… Fetch New Data.  Turn Push OFF, then set Fetch to the longest interval you can live with.  15 Minutes or 30 minutes means data will activate, fetch your stuff, then turn back off during those intervals.  If you only need email to be refreshed when you open Mail, then set this to Manually.

Then go into Advanced from there and set every service to Fetch.  This is my recommended setting for everything in iOS 5, because it allows background syncing.

4.      What about charging?  Your built-in lithium-ion battery will last longer if you charge it properly.  Tips from LifeHacker (where the picture above comes from) on this can be found here, but the short answer is: Don’t let it discharge to 0% every time, don’t keep it plugged in and charging past 100% for long periods (days), and keep it cool.

Create & Deliver A Great Presentation

Everyone has to sell themselves at one time or another – selling your idea, the company or product you represent, or even you as a prospective employee.  Along those lines, most of us in the business world have to deliver a presentation at some time during our careers, and this activity strikes some people with sheer terror.  But fear not!  It doesn’t have to be that way.  There have been volumes published on this topic, but let me distill it down to a few key tips so that your presentation is effective and memorable.

Start With An Outline

I cannot stress this enough – in order to convey a message to an audience, start with the message itself.  Most people remember only a few concepts from a presentation, and they remember it better if small points lead into big conclusions.  You cannot expect to leave the audience with a cohesive set of ideas if you do not organize them into a “flow” that makes sense.  So make an outline of your content FIRST.  Here’s an example:

  • Agenda (usually this outline)
  • Introduction to the problem
  • Why this affects YOU, the audience
  • How does this affect you (what is, and how big is, the “pain point”?)
  • Propose a solution
  • Explain why the solution works
  • Summary and Next Steps (give your audience a “call to action”)

The above example tells a story about a problem, then suggests a way to fix it, then asks them to act in some way to make it a reality (buy my product, adopt a strategy, etc.)  People will remember it better because it flows from one logical point to another like a story does.

Plus, notice how I structured the content.  You tell them the story three times:

  • Tell them what you’re about to tell them (Agenda)
  • Then  tell them the story (Content slides)
  • Then tell them what you just told them (Summary & Next Steps)

If you repeat your message in this way, retention (and action) goes WAY up.

Less Is More – A Lot More

When creating slides, some people list out numerous bullet points on a single slide, then stand there and read them all to the audience.  Do not EVER do this.  Some slides merit a few bullet points, but keep the text on the page very, very minimal.  Otherwise, the audience is squinting at the slide, trying to take in all the text – and they won’t be listening to you while they do it.  Keep each slide to a few words, and they will read the slide, get the idea, then turn their attention right back to you and listen to the detail.

Spreading out your key points into several slides, and moving through them quickly, will also make the presentation more engaging – maximizing audience interest.  Also, use Google Images to find the highest resolution pictures you can to convey your idea.  Don’t use Clip Art unless you a) absolutely have to, or b) want to bore your audience.

Also, a note about animation: keep it subtle.  Don’t have ANYTHING flying around your slides.  It adds nothing to the meaningfulness of your message – only a distraction.  If you want to hide a portion of your slide/content, then fade it in with a mouse click when you get to that point, go ahead – that’s a good way to increase audience focus.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Put your completed (and saved) presentation into Slide Show Mode and pretend you’re giving the actual presentation to an audience.  Rehearse what you want to say in each slide, and go through the entire thing – make a note of your time spent.  Adjust your content or your delivery to fit within the time allotted for you.  Do this 2-3 times!

When you have to do the presentation, keep a second copy of your file on a USB thumb drive (or online).  You don’t want some disaster to wipe out the only copy.  Also, make sure your projector is connected correctly and focused beforehand, or if using an HDTV, make sure it’s set up correctly.  If using a TV, I would recommend you change the size of your slides to a 16:9 ratio.  You may want to point the laptop screen at you (so you can see the slides while looking into the audience), and use a remote mouse clicker if you have one – they really help!

Delivery of the Message

All of this preparation and creation of great content is all well and good, but what if you don’t like to speak in public?  Public speaking was recently ranked as the thing Americans feared most.  More than drowning!

Remember when you were a kid, and you asked your parents for something you really wanted?  You learned very quickly how to phrase things to get them to react.  This is no different, except no whining this time.  You want to speak to the audience as if you’re only speaking to one person, and you’re asking them for a favor, or telling them a joke, or justifying your attitude about something (video tips on public speaking here).  A passionless delivery will get you nowhere.  What I’m saying is: make it personal to them, because when they are listening, THEY make it personal to them.

That’s it!  More tips can be found here: – plus, the video below contains some hilarious PowerPoint tips from comedian Don McMillan: