Just released – “How Not To Diet”

I went ahead and bought Dr. Michael Greger’s just released, “How Not To Diet” (Kindle edition) after reading the free sample, even though there was an extremely weird passage about obesity skeptics (see below).

After all, “How Not to Die” inspired me to get back in the WFPB (whole food plant based) groove a year ago September, and I’m now down a total of about 104 lb, without about 14 lb to go to a “normal BMI.” And my blood sugar is normal, cholesterol fantastic, and things are going very well.

I’m looking forward to diet (s o r r y – “not diet” advice) to get me across my final goal. The free sample was overall interesting. I did want to mention my buying experience though.

  • You can’t purchase the Kindle book from inside the Kindle app.
  • You can’t purchase the Kindle book from inside the Amazon app.
  • You can purchase it from iPhone Safari at the Amazon site, but it’s like $25.
  • You can buy it from a computer web browser going to the Amazon site, and that way it’s $16.99, which is what I did. Why is it so much less expensive from my Mac’s web browser than it is from my iPhone’s web browser?
  • At the Amazon site, when making the Kindle purchase it says it comes with the free audio book. I don’t like audio books, but I figured, “If it’s free, why not?” So I chose that option. At which point the purchase price jumped to over $40! So I dropped that and just bought the Kindle version and had it delivered to my iPad.
  • After making the purchase, it said the audio book was available for free download now, so I clicked that. But it said there was a problem delivering that.
  • Then I opened the Kindle book, which works very nicely on my iPad. I noticed there was an audio play button at the bottom, and I touched it. Sure enough Dr. Greger’s (rather annoying) voice was narrating the page I was looking at in real time. So I have the audio narration anyway. So what was all that business about getting the audio book? Anyway, I turned off the narration because I’d rather just read it.

I’m reading the book now, but was just wondering – why all the confusion about how to purchase, and the vastly differing purchase prices depending on what device you are doing it on? Am I the only one to experience that?Anyway, the Kindle price is $16.99. So be sure you are paying the right price.

And here was that really weird passage about obesity skeptics I read in the free sample. It created quite a conversation in the Whole Food Plants Based group on Facebook:

Health at Any Size?

There are “obesity skeptics” who argue that the health consequences of obesity are unclear or even greatly exaggerated. They are a motley bunch of unlikely bedfellows, ranging from feminists, queer theorists, and new ageists to “far right wing, pro-gun, pro-America websites where the idea [is] that obesity alarmists are nanny-state communists who simply want to stop us from having fun.”

“How Not to Diet” by Dr. Michael Greger, page 47.

Strange, yes? Controversial language? He certainly could have written that better. But he just feels strongly about the health dangers of obesity and so I think was being intentionally provocative. Still, feminists and queer theorists (whoever they are) in bed with far-right gun nuts?

Anyway, I look forward to reading the book to see whether there is actually new, useful information in it as I am (very) slowly continuing my weight loss quest.

Politics, friends, family, sharing

Going forward as the new decade approaches, and we enter the presidential primary season, and then the elections, I always feel a need to post about politics.

Yet… yet… I feel many of my political posts to FaceBook friends, and here in my personal blog, are counter-productive, and even spoil the mood. I know some friends on FaceBook have not unfriended me, but have unfollowed me because of all my political posts. And basically all my cousins are Trump supporters for some reason I can’t fathom. Yet, they are really nice people as family, and very supportive! What can I say? Politics divides, but friends and family unite.

There are also some other people I’ve become very friendly with who are, I think, still reading my posts. Yet I know they are conservative and very religious, while I am neither. But they are truly, truly really nice people, and I value their friendship, and greatly enjoy the times we spend together.

So what to do? It’s like a mega version of one those Thanksgiving Dinners you hear about where everything can blow up if we’re not careful about what we discuss at the dinner table.

Politics really is just one part of who I am. Yet it’s been a part for as long as I can remember, getting involved in presidential elections since I was a McGovern volunteer in New York City was I was 15 years old! I worked the switchboard, manned the souvenir shop, and sat at pamphlet booths outside the campaign office. I still remember the theme music, “There’s a new world coming, it’s just around the bend…” I still can’t believe McGovern lost. After all, everybody I knew voted for him. 🙂

Anyway, I’ve made a decision to tone done politics here in my blog, and also in my personal FaceBook feed. Besides, everybody I agree with politically already agrees, and I’m not going to convince everybody else. So it just adds to noise to some extent.

But I do want to stay involved. So, instead of my FaceBook feed, which is private, I’m taking my political/election posts to a group I created, “Victory 2020 – How to Defeat Trump.” That is a public group for people who want to defeat Trump next year. People are welcome to join if you are on that side of the political aisle, and also share it so get others to join. People who like Trump can just ignore it! 🙂

I also have a political-based blog/newsletter I created at https://unitednewsreports.com, which I’ll be using more for general ranting about politics as time goes on, separate from my main blog. You can sign up for it or not. It’s just a hobby for me.

Here, in my personal blog, and in my personal FaceBook feed, I’ll talk about important, yet less divisive things like Monta, animals, diet and health, Japan, St. Louis, culture, language, photography, tech talk and other things I find interesting. And I will share some things which might be of a social nature, like climate protection, and about how we treat immigrants, and basic fairness and equal rights – which I think should be bipartisan.

There are so many outlets these days. And I definitely don’t want to leave it all with FaceBook, so that’s why I continue my personal blog here at https://lerner.net. 

We now resume regular programming.

Spark – an email app for your iPhone and iPad

The latest version of Spark, from Readdle (a great developer of apps, including Scanner Pro and Documents) is a substantial improvement over previous versions. In almost every way it is much better than iOS Mail. The personal version is also free.

Filing Mails

This is what got me started initially looking for a new mail app for my iPhone. Filing emails in standard iPhone Mail is a miserable task. I have accumulated tons of folders/mailboxes over the years to organize emails from work, different tasks, finances, friends, family – lots of different folders in multiple email accounts. Some of the accounts are Gmail, some are standard IMAP, and I also have an iCloud email account.

In Spark, I love the way you can file mails in folders so easily! The recommendations are very good (better than iOS Mail) plus you can start typing a folder name for filing and the folder choices quickly narrow down to the target folder you want. That is a feature completely missing from iOS Mail, and one I really wanted.  I can’t tell you how much I love this feature. In Spark it works amazingly well, and makes dealing with all my mail easy and enjoyable. My work-flow has gotten much easier since I started using Spark on my iPhone.

Search 

Search results show folders, in addition to contacts and emails, so you can get into folders more easily. That part is also true with standard iOS Mail. But with Spark’s smart search feature, you can also type certain keywords to start with. For example, “PDF” finds PDF files, or “in” limits search to just find folders, etc.

These features are all really convenient for people with lots of folders, which have accumulated over time.

That said, I have found a bug with folder search, where opening a folder spelled a certain way shows no content. I reported it to Readdle. They were able to reproduce my bug and are working on a fix. Readdle tends to be very responsive.

Useful FAQ

Reading through their FAQ you can pick up a lot of interesting tips like the keyword search. For example, it wasn’t obvious to me how to select multiple emails for actions (e.g. delete a bunch of newsletters at once). But their FAQ is really very clever, and I quickly learned how to do it. The method for triggering multiple select (long touch on any email)  is actually very nice.

The FAQ itself is very cleverly written. Unlike most FAQs it’s actually useful and useable. While reading an item you can, with a tap, switch between the answer for their Mac, Android, and iOS versions. 

Better Message Threads

Message threads also work better than in Mail. For example, my response to a thread shows up immediately, while it can take quite a long time in regular Mail. And the threads are all extremely readable, and much clearer than in iOS Mail. You even see the old content and new content clearly divided when reading a thread. And you don’t see those long “loading…” messages which drive me crazy in iOS Mail, so the caching system must be better.

And get this – you can also save an entire message thread as a PDF! Really cool!

Better Notifications

The smart notifications work better than regular Mail too, with per account settings for all emails or just contacts, so you don’t get bombarded with notifications popping up about ads and newsletters (unless you want to). 

Great Customizations

There are also nice ways of customizing options, like swipe actions, and which actions appear in the toolbar (e.g. I prefer Move rather than Archive, so was able to change that easily). These options are not available in standard iOS Mail.

Better Composing Options

Formatting is nicer too. When composing email, there are formatting options right there, which don’t even exist in iOS Mail.

HTML Signatures

You can edit per account default signatures with HTML. And it’s easy to switch between signatures when composing, or delete the current signature with one tap.  That’s also not available in iOS Mail.

Reasonable Defaults

I haven’t even barely dipped into all the options yet. And you don’t have to. The defaults are very usable. Setup is also super easy. Even with my non-Gmail accounts I didn’t need to mess with server name settings. Spark was able to find and set the needed server settings with just my address and password.

Multiple Devices Accounts Sync

I went ahead and installed the new Spark on my iPad and was pleased to see that all the accounts and settings I had set up on my iPhone synced with my iPad, so there was nothing to set up.

Note from Spark FAQ: “To provide you with the sync option, we encrypt the information about your accounts and preferences and store it on our secure servers. If you want to learn more, see the Spark Privacy Policy.”

Forwarding emails looks nice

If you look at an email you forwarded to somebody with comments added on top, it looks very nice. The forwarded contents are set off with a gray background, and it’s very easy on the eyes and clear to read. It’s another thoughtful touch.

Adding Photos to an Email

Adding inline photos has improved with this version, so you have better control over image sizes when sending email to somebody.

One Important Missing Feature

One important feature is missing though – the ability to share photos from the iOS Photos app and have them show up inline when composing a new email. Shared photos in Spark currently end up as attachments. In regular Mail they show up inline, which is really important. This would normally be a showstopper for me, if not for all the other great improvements. 

Here is one practical example of why sharing from Photos to a mail inline is important:

I teach a volunteer class on Sundays. I take photos of the participants, then I send the best ones to the member who makes a weekly newsletter. I usually send about 20 photos, with some comments. 

So being able to select the best photos, add inline comments, and change the overall size to medium is really vital. 

Spark also doesn’t have a “mail resend” feature, which exists in iOS Mail. It’s sometimes useful for resending the same email to different people, with slight differences. Or even just resending an email as a reminder.

But everything else in Spark so far is a 5 rating to me! And I haven’t even tried many of the features yet, like email templates, and all the integrations with other services.

Note: I did try quick reply. It’s cute, but unfortunately doesn’t include the message you are replying to, as regular replies do. So the recipient is likely to have no idea what you are referring to. 

Conclusion

With this version have actually switched to using Spark. Yes – it is Spark in my Dock now! I’ve been using it for a week or so, and it truly makes using Mail on my iPhone, and iPad, much easier and more enjoyable.

But… I will also keep my accounts in standard Mail for now, and share photos to Mail instead of Spark until Spark can do inline sharing from the Photos app. 

Finally, for those interested or concerned about the security of 3rd party iOS email apps (a hot topic), this article is a very good read: https://thesweetsetup.com/3-troubling-trends-we-see-in-ios-email-apps-2/

Milestone report – in the 170s

Forgive me. I love any excuse for a milestone report, be it in lb or kg.

Today is MyFitnessPal streak day 2,750.

As of this morning I went under 180 lb. My new weight is 179.5 lb = 81.4 kg.

Total lost so far: 104.9 lb = 47.6 kg.

Total to lose to “normal BMI” is now just 6 kg = about 13 lb.

I’m hoping to get under 80 kg by the end of the year.

It will be close. I’m ok either way though.

And onward.