How can I give charitably? #Charity365

‘God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Acts 10:30-31

Recently, I checked off a to-do I’ve been meaning to-actually-do for some time: I added two local organizations to my charitable giving to complement my regional and international charitable giving.

I say this with some trepidation because I don’t want to attract praise for doing so–“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”–but what I do want even more is to encourage everyone to consider starting to give charitably so that we can help out those who really need it on an even bigger scale. We are wildly, fantastically rich, in all ways, in first world countries, start giving now and you will begin to see all kinds of personal benefits.

Start anywhere. Really, don’t sweat it.

It’s so easy to start. I started giving $10/month to three charities – less than one percent of my income. As I continued, and realized I could give more, I started increasing my giving and expanding the scope of those I was donating to.

This time around I want to focus on the immediate how-to because it’s so easy and so convenient and is so rewarding to know that, yes, while you are incredibly blessed in your country, you do want to help others and you are trying and you have tangible actions that show your heart is in the right place.

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How to Track Your Workout at the Gym as an Absolute Beginner

I started working out this spring for the first time at my local Good Life and one of the first things I knew I wanted to do was to know when I could ramp up my sets and reps. I’m a big user of the Apple iPhone Reminders app so I figured I’d put it to good use recording my workout:

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But why track your workout like this? Because working out is a long-term activity. Tracking your stats in a simple, easy way like this will help remind you where you’ve been, where you’ve gotten to, and provide a clear path of improvement so you’ll be on an upward workout trend and not plateaued or even going down (how would you know without tracking)? You’ll feel good about continuous improvement and more confident because you know where you’ve come from and where you’re going.  I think most people would find tracking their workout tedious on paper or they just don’t know what workout app to use, etc. So I figured I show how it can be done with an app that most people have already.

So, what you have above is a Gym tab in the Reminders app and I simply list all my exercises in the order that I do them. I also record any pertinent settings for the machine (like Level 12 and target heart rate 150 for the bicycle). Then I record the sets and reps (“10,10,10,10” – ie. 4 sets of 10 reps each). I record the workout count (“x4”) meaning how many times I’ve done it (usually indicates once per workout). I also record the weight.

See how compact and easy it is to review your current workout when you record it like that? And it’s in the Reminders app that I use for everything else so it’s easy and convenient to use.

For the record: I’m not a licensed gym trainer, physiotherapist or doctor. The ideas in this post are from my personal experience and I hope they can help some beginners as well.

Following I’ve included some personal thoughts, recommendations and anecdotes about my experience at the gym since I’ve started. I hope it helps someone out there get started as well!

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Audio Codecs – Enjoying Music vs The Audiophile Argument

In lossy compression formats, like mp3, aac, aac+, ogg, etc., everyone always tries a new format and listens extremely closely for audible quality problems. The problem here is how you listen to music normally and how you analyze music in detail.Everyone listens to music for enjoyment, not paying much attention to quality. But when it comes to thinking about an encoding format, everyone immediately becomes an audiophile and won’t let go of their high bit rate files.

In lossy compression formats, like mp3, aac, aac+, ogg, etc., everyone always tries a new format and listens extremely closely for audible quality problems. The problem here is how you listen to music normally and how you analyze music in detail. Everyone listens to music for enjoyment, not paying much attention to quality. But when it comes to thinking about an encoding format, everyone immediately becomes an audiophile and won’t let go of their high bit rate files.

The problem is that, yes, the average person can pick out subtle differences in sound quality if they listen extremely intently and repeatedly to a short portion of a song. But take that same music to your headphones as you’re walking down the road or in your car as you drive down the road and there’s no way you’re going to pick out the subtle differences, which may actually sound better or worse, subjectively speaking.

In real life listening scenarios, you don’t care about the little, barely audible quality differences. You’re just enjoying the music.

A few posts back I commented about AAC+. It’s an extension to AAC that provides some further data to enhance the main bands. A 32kbit clip matches the quality of one of my 192kbps oggs. At six times the space savings, that’s a game changing win.

It got me thinking and now, after a few weeks, I’ve re-ripped all of my CDs to lossless FLAC format and from those I generate any lossy format I want so I can put them onto small devices that don’t have a lot of space.

I chose 64kbit mp3s encoded with lame using its modern vbr algorithm. I would have gone AAC+ if it was supported on ipods. Anyway, I put the mp3s on my ipod and, in my car where I mostly listen to my ipod, it’s perfect. Two thousand songs on a tiny stubby ipod with great quality and, in the car, I’ll never be able to spot the differences.

So, next time you think about what format you’ll encode your music in, consider digitizing your music to a lossless format like FLAC and then trying out different bit rate formats. Just try listening to lower bit rate MP3s or AACs and I think you’ll learn to love your digital music collection again.

And, hey, if you do have a great listening space that requires quality, you have your FLAC files so go nuts!