Noom: For a lifestyle change

Noom is spooky sometimes. Great, but spooky. Noom is an app for your phone, one that introduces a healthier lifestyle. Not a diet app, definitely. It is specifically designed as a mobile app. You carry it with you. It never nags, but does put thoughts into your head. Good thoughts. It uses psychology. A lot of psychology. To come at you from every angle. But never too much (well, maybe once or twice in the last month). You get set up to recognize three categories of food. You log your weight and food intake each day, but it is a lot less onerous than other apps. They ballpark some, but it comes out close to reality.

Each day, they have 3-5 short lessons, broken into a half dozen screenfuls, with a light approach to ideas like attitudes toward food in general, then to attitudes to missing your targets, and how to reign in your id without strangling it. On top of all this, you they pick out a couple dozen people from around the world in a similar situation, or a complementary situation, and let you help each other out. And then you get a coach, someone to organize all the psychobabble, so that it just turns into good advice that is pretty easy to follow.

The scary part is like the time I skipped breakfast. The next day, I get a lesson on how getting 3 squares is a good option to follow unless you are a forager type. See how they get you there? They know I am not a forager by my logging of food. But set that way, I am motivated to get my 3 squares and limit it to that. Healthy without being too constrictive. Last night, I came in under my calorie ceiling, so I had a nice chunk of dark chocolate. Today, I get that as an example, saying great to have rewards, but make them intermittent, better reinforcement. Touche. I have been too regular there.

On their website you can see they are a young company, with lots of female input. Offices in Manhattan, Tokyo, and Seoul. Versions of the app in those languages and more. My daughter works in tech in Tokyo, and she instantly recognized the name when I mentioned it. She is guessing the format will get applied to other areas besides health and lifestyle once they have the blueprint down. Looks pretty well done from here.

This has given me some ideas for language teaching, but that is for another post.

Podcast Updates

I have been walking a lot lately, in competition with my friends to get as many steps per week. I now do about double what I averaged last year, now with 10,000 steps a day, plus the bike riding into work and back.

During these walks, I listen to podcasts, or music. Spotify lets me listen to Rosalía, a woman who mixes Flamenco and R&B. She grew up in the poor area of Barcelona where I had my first real job teaching English, in Llobregat. Good street music from the Andaluces who migrated north like the blacks in America, and were and are still treated similarly, but not quite as badly. But I digress.

I listen to podcasts more and more, as more channels pop up. So here is a list of my favorites. Top two: Political Gabfest on Slate with Emily Baselon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz. They all used to work together at Slate, but Emily is at the NYTimes Magazine, John Dickerson is hosting one of those morning shows, and David Plotz runs Atlas Obscura. But they get together each week to talk politics for an hour or so. Three topics. Emily has a screechy voice, but brings legal knowledge to the table, David is more conservative and promotes debate, John is the historian. They have a great rapport. Similar is the Culture Gabfest, with great conversation about things like Roma the movie, good music, reading and other reviews.

Rounding out news, the PBS Newshour with Brooks and Shields (10 mins) comes out on Saturdays (here) which is good because I can’t get the TV version. The Atlantic has a nice podcast, and I am just starting with The Argument at the NYTimes where liberals and conservatives debate issues.

I am terribly behind on music in the US, so Sound Opinions (like Siskel and Ebert) has two Chicago critics discussing the newest albums and tracks with an amazing depth of knowledge. For movies, a trio of young critics is both entertaining and informative on the Rewatchables. Great stuff.

Dan Carlin has slowed down a lot but what he comes out with in history is well worth listening to. Recently the Japanese part of WW2, in an installment about 4.5 hours long. Malcolm Gladwell and his Revisionist History bring new perspectives to events, challenging our assumptions. Did you know Brown did not want to integrate and didn’t want to fight the Board of Education, and that ultimately it was counter-productive?

Single-topic podcasts are really interesting too. Serial has 3 seasons now, the 1st and 3rd are great, the 2nd good. Each about 10 episodes of an hour. Shit-town is another great one. And of course, listen to the one that got all this started, This American Life.

So what you want to do is to go to a place where you can get these podcasts. Most people go to iTunes, but I prefer a standalone pod-catcher on my phone. But you can get podcasts on Spotify too.

Attention! is important

The first of the 5 Digital Literacies in Howard Rheingold‘s book Net Smart is Attention. At first, I thought this was just a warm-up to the other literacies, one to get things going to study Critical Consumption (crap detection), Participation, Collaboration, and Net Structure. Then I started teaching with the book. Then I started doing research, and have come to the conclusion that Attention is the most important of the five.

I have noticed in my classes that there are more kinds of attention. I have noticed myself managing different levels of attention. Managing your own attention is key to all of the others. Indeed, meditation shows both how and why.

I have been able to focus more as a result of monitoring my own (lack of) attention. Here are 20 Ways to Win the War Against Seeing by Rob Walker (Medium). They are great ways to practice Attention, and will help you manage your own. Here is part of a newsletter (called Noticing) by Jason Kottke about, well, noticing things.

So here’s the skinny. The book is called The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday, will be out in May 2019, and can be preordered from Amazon right now. Walker describes it as a practical guide to becoming a better observer, “a series of exercises and prompts and games and things you can actually do (or reflect upon) to build attention muscles or just get off your phone and enjoy noticing stuff that everyone else missed”.

New Year Passwords

Every year I update my passwords. That is a lot easier than it sounds.

I use a password manager to create a different nonsense password at every site I register. But I need 3 that I remember; my master password (for Lastpass.com), one for logging into my computers, and another for my phone.

For the phone, I usually use old numbers from my childhood (my address number on Cordova Road, for example). But for the other two, I use abbreviations of quotes.

For example Iyttt,ydhtra. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain. I like quotes with numbers in them, or easily insertable numbers, as that adds to the randomness. 80%osisu. “Eighty percent of success is showing up. -Woody Allen.

Best if you have all four elements: Uppercase, Lowercase, numbers, symbols. For example, (not a quote) you could make a password out of that last sentence. Biyha4e:U,L,n,s. Need more help?

Here is a short video too. 

The CommonCraft guy explains how to make a password.

For even more security, if you use Lastpass, you can limit the countries where you log in from (be careful to reset before traveling). 

And more important, you can set up Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for your main sites (I do it with Google, Evernote, Facebook and Microsoft. But more about that in another post.