Safe backups – at home and in the cloud

I work at home, so my home office computer backups are critical. My main computer is a Mac and I maintain three backups:

(1) CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner). I highly recommend this software which does a daily backup of my internal drive to an external USB drive. In an emergency I can restore from that, or even boot from it.

(2) Time Machine. This is the standard MacOS hourly/daily/weekly backup of all changed files to another external USB drive. USB drives are very inexpensive these days. This is useful for retrieving old versions of files you changed if you want to revert.

Also note that neither Time Machine nor CCC will backup external volumes. In my case, my Photos library lives on an external SSD drive. Also, iCloud is not recommended for backups – it is a syncing app. And while I also use Google Photos I have the “optimized” option selected, so my full originals are not backed up there either.

(3) Backblaze. This is a backup in the cloud, that also runs continuously throughout the day. The monthly/annual fees are very reasonable and it supports unlimited backups of your Mac or PC, including all drives connected to your computer. Why have a cloud backup in addition to other backups? The other backups assume no problems at your home or office such as earthquakes (like the large one we had last week), or fires, or robberies, or broken drives. You can easily retrieve individual files or your entire drive. I’ve been using them for years now and their service has been excellent.

I unabashedly give you this referral link if you want to try the Backblaze service. If you use it, we both get a free month! https://secure.backblaze.com/r/01a6d3

Backup early, backup often. Just in case.

My most recent Backblaze summary screenshot

My new wireless, bone conducting headphones

First, let me start by saying I’m not exactly an audiophile. My needs are simple – I just want to listen to music during dog walks and when outside without getting all tangled up in cords. And I wanted to be safe and still be able to hear traffic and other sounds around me. And I wanted to be able to answer and make phone calls through a headphone and have it sound nice to both people speaking.

First I tried the Apple AirPods Pro. They are definitely nice. The sound is beautiful. But there were a couple of things which bothered me. One is that in the store, even in transparency mode, I couldn’t hear what the salesman was saying. And while it seemed to be the most comfortable of ear buds I have tried, I wouldn’t say they were really comfortable. I wasn’t confident about them staying in either. Version 2 are an improvement over the first version though. The stem is shorter, so you don’t stand out like some alien with them on.

There were a couple of others recommended by people on social networks. So I visited Akihabara last week and dropped by an earphone speciality shop on Chuo Dori.

First I tried the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds. All the Jabra earbuds have a great reputation, and people in forums highly praised these. However I found them to be (1) uncomfortable and (2) the surrounding sound blockage was too much even with the open mode. Still, they are high quality earbuds for people who don’t mind earbuds. If things in your ear don’t bother you, I think they can be recommended.

Another highly recommended model was the ADV Model Y – it doesn’t have active noise cancelation, and is a lot less expensive. But again, I found them uncomfortable. Still if you are looking for something very economical, and don’t mind earbuds, you might consider those as well.

I guess I’m really just not a stick-something-in-my-ear person.

But I didn’t want to carry around a bulky, heavy over-the-head, full headset for dog walks. I wanted something light and small and easy to just slip on and use. Something easier even than my Apple default earbuds (which seem to automatically tangle their own cords). And something safe to use while walking around.

While in the earphone shop I also tried another recommended headset, the AfterShokz Aeropex and wow! It was my first time to try bone conducting earphones. I was amazed.

First, the music I listened to sounded beautiful. If you look at true audiophile reviews they will caution that the music quality isn’t nearly as good as true professional headsets. Some recommend it for things like calls while driving and audio books. I get that. As I said, I’m not a real audiophile. If the bass is turned up I usually think music sounds great. So take my music impression with a grain of salt. They sound better than the standard Apple earbuds though for sure.

Unlike all the earbuds I tried, I could safely hear surrounding sounds.

While in the shop I tested with a phone call to a friend and we both heard each other perfectly. So I got them!

Out and about with my Aeropex bone conducting headphones – light and unobtrusive. Not in or over my ear!

I’ve also since tested with FaceTime calls to my sister (Cathy is awake 24 hours a day for this kind of tech support) and making phone calls and leaving myself phone messages to hear what they sound like. When on a FaceTime call with my sister it was like she was sitting here.

They are light – just 26 grams – and fit very comfortably, even with me wearing glasses and a mask. One huge improvement over AirPods is they have an 8 hours use time with a 10 day standby. I’ve only charged them one time since getting them, and currently when I turn them on the headphones say, “Power on. Charge medium.”

They charge with a USB connection, so I believe on a very long airplane flight it would be easy to recharge. AfterShokz provides two special charging cables. On the headphone side the connection is magnetic so it’s super easy to connect.

The controls are also very simple for things like pause, skip ahead, answer calls, change volume, pairing, etc.

Just slip them over your ears – not in them – and you hear sound via bone conduction.

This part was almost dreamlike. On dog walks not only do I barely notice they are there, but when I listen to music it’s like I’m in a movie and it’s my background music. The feeling is one of calmness and a certain elation. Almost like feeling high (in a Colorado Rocky Mountain High sense). I’m discovering more music lately as well with my three month trial Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.

Other specs are: dual noise-canceling mics for clear calls (I’m amazed how well those work, considering how far away they are from my mouth); IP67 Waterproof Rating – Completely sweat and waterproof earphones for workouts, fitness and running. I even saw some videos on YouTube of people dropping them in water.

Anyway, as I said, I’m not an audiophile. What I am is a typical daily user, dog walker, and somebody who wanted to make more use of music on my iPhone while out and about. I wanted something lightweight, without cords, unobtrusive, that wouldn’t fall out, wasn’t outrageously expensive, and something I didn’t have to stick in my ears.

I find the AfterShokz Aeropex great for that. Maybe for very long international plane flights I’ll consider something over-the-ear with extremely long battery life later (it’s a 14 hour flight from Narita to Boston), but for day to day use I find these great so far.

Disclaimer: When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission.

Oh boy, Doug food again!

Caution: Boring note ahead if you are not interested in dieting and healthy eating. Yes, you, Muttle. 🙂 So feel free to skip.

Note: Originally posted 3/31/2021, Updated 9/12/2021 with current weight, MyFitnessPal streak days, and some different things I’ve added to my typical daily diet. I also updated my before/after photo after getting a haircut and some new clothes in June.

What I Eat Every Day

The reason I posted this is because recently I’ve been talking with someone I met on Facebook in one of my diet groups. As you might know, because of Facebook bugs/issues I cannot create new posts in more than half my groups, but I can comment in all of them. I commented, he noticed what I wrote, read about the success I’ve had with my way of eating, and we struck up a conversation. He asked me to lay out my weekly meal plans. I explained I don’t have a weekly meal plan; I basically eat the same thing every day. In fact I basically eat the same thing all day long. I’m not opposed to variety, I just find I don’t need it so much. And I don’t like spending time in the kitchen cooking. Plus I don’t have great cooking facilities. I’m happy keeping it simple. So this post is more about what I eat during a typical day, which is what I eat almost every day.

If you look at my post from November you’ll see the great health effects I’ve achieved from eating Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB). My blood sugar is down from dangerously high levels to a completely normal range, and I’ve been off blood sugar medication for almost 2 years now. My cholesterol is in the “heart-attack-proof” low range. All my tests are great, and my doctor is very pleased. As is my nutritionist.

I’m at my lowest weight in my adult life – currently 65.4 kg = 144 lb. That’s a total weight loss of 63.6 kg = 140 lb. My BMI is 21.6, well into the normal range. My doctor says I don’t need to lose any more weight, and I’m trying to maintain now, and want to focus on upper body resistance training if I ever get around to it. Even though I’m maintaining I’m still losing weight, though at a very slow rate and keep making minor adjustments. I enjoy what I’m eating. I think it’s healthy any satisfying. I don’t feel deprived at all.

A New Before and After Photo

Here’s a before/after photo showing me a few years ago, and in June, having a (safe, sanitized, socially distanced) birthday lunch with two friends. I got some new clothes finally. The shirt is an ordinary Japanese L size, and is comfortably loose on me.

In an earlier post I described the kinds kinds of foods I eat. You can read many of the details there. I won’t repeat them all here. It’s basically vegan, no oils, and no nuts. In that post I wrote about Dr. Michael Greger’s “Daily Dozen” recommendations, how calories do count (whether you count them or not), the impact of nuts on weight loss, Chef AJ and her discussions about low calorie density, “sequencing” (going from non-starchy vegetables to more satisfying starches to finish meals), fruits, things I like snacking on (like carrots), healthy fats (not oils!), how I do not do intermittent fasting, and how I continue to log every day with MyFitnessPal (today is streak day 3,401!).

My cooking facilities and interests

Basically none. I don’t like cooking. I’m not interested in cooking. Recipes are boring to me. I don’t have a lot of cooking facilities – basically just a pot and pan, a stove top, a microwave, an air fryer I haven’t used in over a year, and an InstaPot I bought two years ago and still haven’t plugged in. I have no regular oven or blender.

The friend who asked me to write up a “weekly menu” didn’t seem to get it. I don’t have a weekly menu. I eat basically the same thing every day (like the dogs in the cartoon).

[Note for visually impaired friends: The “featured image” is an old “Far Side” cartoon. A woman is opening cans for her dogs and one dog excitedly says to the other, “Oh boy! … It’s dog food again!” Thus the title of this blog post.]

Like the dogs, Doug doesn’t seem to need much variety. There are some foods I enjoy, and I don’t mind eating them day in and day out. But I promised I would write up the details of at least what I eat every day, and what I avoid.

Trigger foods (including fruits)

Some foods I like, but are trigger foods, so I don’t eat much of them. This includes most fruits. For example, I love bananas. But if I buy a bunch of 4 and eat one (it takes about 30 seconds to eat a 100 calorie banana), it isn’t filling, and it triggers me to eat the rest of the bunch.

Same with apples. If I buy 6 Fuji apples, I will eat them all in one day. It’s sort of a waste of calories.

I do better with bags of frozen blueberries. A 200 gm bag is only 98 calories, and it takes a long time to go through. So I usually limit my fruits to at most a bag of frozen blueberries a day. Lately I’ve been having some watermelon and Asian pears, being careful to weigh them so I don’t overdo it.

Nuts to nuts

Dr. Greger recommends nuts in his Daily Dozen and claims that in certain amounts they don’t seem to hurt weight loss. Many WFPB people have discussed this, and many, including me, disagree. My final word on nuts I wrote in this blog post. I respect Dr. Greger and his suggestions, but he isn’t God. It’s important to note that he talks in statistics. 65% of people experience this. 80% experience that, etc. It’s not always 100%. That’s how I feel about nuts. I tried his Daily Dozen recommended servings of nuts and it was definitely hurting my weight loss. Why? The calories were just too high. Calories count, which is why I log calories. So there are some things I disagree with him about.

That said, his book, “How To Not Die” was a really big inspiration to me. It got me back on WFPB eating and I’ve been on it now for over 900 days. The effects have been fantastic for my health: blood values, blood pressure, weight loss, etc. I’ve gifted the book to friends and family. My doctor is amazed. It’s the basis for how I eat – with some input from other people in the field, and variations.

I think of Dr. Greger as a great place to start. And the same thing with the Daily Dozen. But in the end you have to see what works for you and tweak as necessary. Because as I said, nothing is 100%. Dr. Greger’s research analysis shows that. I don’t think he anywhere says 100% of everybody will experience such-and-such if they eat 3 extra servings of fruit a day, or things like that.

It’s important to note that his book is not a diet book per se. It’s a healthy eating book. So I have to take into consideration overall calories too. He did write a followup on weight loss, “How To Not Diet,” which I found less informative, though there are a couple of hints there as well. Still, calories count. That’s the bottom line for me.

So to me, Dr. Greger is a great start. But in the end you have to see how it goes and what works well for you, and what needs to be tweaked more. Some WFPB people are completely no salt and no sugar. Greger is not. Some WFPB people are completely no nuts. I’m basically the same. Nuts are dangerously high in calories and for me, at least, it hurts weight loss. In WFPB groups we’ve had lot of debates about nuts.

Anyway, the book is an inspiration and Dr. Greger is a fantastic resource, and I recommend it highly to everybody. But after you try things you might have to tweak this-and-that, and that’s what I’ve done.

OK, so what is a typical day’s menu for me?

My new friend asked me what I ate exactly. So here are details from a typical day. Actually, the day I chose, yesterday, I ate a bit more than usual. But it didn’t hurt weight loss. And I stayed within my net calorie goals of 1500 calories (eaten, minus exercise calories). Note that I started with a net calorie goal of 1800 calories a day, but as I lost weight I needed to adjust it downward a bit to keep losing. This is net calories though – so if I exercise more I can eat more.

Breakast (512 calories)

  • Doug’s Healthy Salad
  • Potatoes (436 g, about 1 lb)

For potatoes, I usually have two or three medium-to-large sized potatoes in the 400 to 600 g range. I scrub them, stick them 4 or 5 times with a fork, and heat them in the microwave at 900W for 14-15 minutes. Then I mash them, add spices to my liking (things like smoked paprika, chili powder, turmeric, ginger powder, black pepper, a Japanese spice mix called yuzu shichimi), sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top, and add some soy milk to moisten it.

My salads are made from bags of pre-washed, single-serving salad veggies from the supermarket or 7-Eleven. My favorites are a spinach and green salad mix with a few soy beans it it, and a bag of coleslaw with some kernels of corn in it. Each bag has 125-130 g of salad in it and has 35-40 calories. To that I will add some cherry tomatoes, a sliced up cucumber, and a teaspoon of flax seeds for my healthy fats.

For salad dressing I make “Doug’s Healthy Salad Dressing” for each salad. This is my only “recipe claim to fame.” In a measuring cup I add 100 cc of soy milk, a squirt of grated ginger, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast, stir it, and then add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar which magically thickens the dressing. The dressing has a substantial amount of calories (about 75), but it has lots of protein and fulfills my legumes quota for the day.

The soy milk I use has exactly one ingredient: organic soy beans. Also, the okara (soy bean fiber) is left in it making for a creamier, thicker soy milk.

The nutritional yeast I use is Now Brand nutritional yeast flakes I get from iHerb. They deliver free to Japan in just a few days! Nutritional yeast is tasty (a slight cheese-like taste) and is fat-free and has loads of protein, and is very low calorie. It’s also fortified with vitamin B12, the only vitamin missing from a vegan diet.

Between the soy milk and nutritional yeast I meet my protein requirements for the day, though everything I eat (all the veggies, and the potatoes, and everything) also have protein in it. So there is definitely sufficient protein eating this way.

Lunch (282 calories)

  • Doug’s Healthy Salad (see details above)
  • Japanese mixed vegetables

Usually I just have my salad and soy milk based salad dressing for lunch. That’s my busiest part of the day, and it’s just a few hours since breakfast, and Pao is waiting for his walk. So I typically have a small lunch (about 140 calories) and save my calories for later in the day when I feel like snacking and eating more. Sometimes, like yesterday, I might also heat up a bag of frozen veggies in the microwave and sprinkle some nutritional yeast on it.

My go-to frozen veggies are 300 g of either western style veggies (99 calories for the whole bag) or Japanese style veggies (141 calories for the whole bag).

Dinner (495 calories)

  • Doug’s Healthy Salad
  • Potatoes (417 g)

See the breakfast section for how I prepared everything. Dinner is basically a repeat of breakfast with maybe a different salad combo, and a different amount of potatoes, and different spices added to the potatoes. Like I said, not much variety. I’m not philosophically opposed to variety, I just don’t feel like spending time achieving it. I don’t mind eating this way.

Snacks (368 calories)

After I get back from my dog walk, and before dinner, I do snack. Here is what I had yesterday.

  • A carrot (163 g) sliced up, heated in the microwave for 3 minutes, and sprinkled with some nutritional yeast.
  • Another carrot (217 g), prepared the same way. I love carrots. I think I’m becoming a rabbit.
  • An extra “Doug’s Healthy Salad” because I felt like it.
  • Yet one more carrot (174 g).

As you can see, I also don’t have much variety in my snacks. I might have a bag of frozen blueberries instead of one or two of the carrots. A 200 g bag is just 98 calories.

Note: Since originally posting this in March, I tend to snack more on things like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers (plain). They seem refreshing and are also very low calorie. I might also have bags of frozen green beans – just 60 calories for a 200 g package, microwaved and sprinkled with spices and maybe some nutritional yeast.

My three meals totaled 1,657 calories.

Exercise

I took two walks yesterday: a 55 minute walk in the morning to run some errands and do some shopping, which my Apple Watch told me burned 93 calories. And after lunch I took Pao for his afternoon walk, which was 74 minutes and burned 185 calories (I walked further during the Pao walk). So I burned a total of 278 calories. Not so much, but it gives me a nice calorie buffer, and it’s good to get out and move.

My total calories for the day was thus 1,657 calories eaten – 278 calories burned = 1,379 calories net, which is below my goal of 1500 net calories for the day.

And that’s how a typical day/week/month goes.

Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen

If we’re looking at Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen I satisfy his beans quota every day with my soy milk and the few soy beans in my salads. I often, but not always, satisfy the berries quota with bags of frozen blueberries. I rarely satisfy the other fruits quota because I find them to be “trigger foods” and higher calorie than you might think and I tend to overdo them if I get started. I satisfy the cruciferous veggies quota in my salads and frozen veggies I heat up. I satisfy my greens and other vegetables with my salads and snack carrots. I satisfy my flaxseed quota with the teaspoons I add to each meal salad. I do not satisfy the nuts and seeds quota (see above) because I just think they are too high in calorie, and many WFPB people agree with me. I satisfy the herbs and spices quota easily. And for the whole grains quota I eat lots of potatoes, which aren’t grains, but count, and are lower calorie density than rice or other grains. Sometimes I might heat up microwave rice instead of potatoes. It’s higher calorie per 100 grams, but sometimes I don’t even feel like going through the trouble of cooking potatoes.

And I satisfy the exercise quota by lots of walking. I do feel I need to do more resistance training, which I never seem to get around to doing, but at least I move around a lot.

I also don’t eat late at night. I tend to finish up eating around 7 pm. Dr. Greger does recommend that in his 2nd book, and I take that into account, but mainly I just feel eating late at night doesn’t feel healthy and can lead to problems like acid reflux which I haven’t had for years now.

And that’s about it. I hope my new friend, and maybe some other people, find this useful, simple as it might be.

Memories of 9/11 – Twenty Years Later

I’m sitting here thinking back on twenty years ago today. I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel strange that twenty years have passed. On the other hand, there will be adults today who weren’t even born then. That feels just as strange.

I was at home, at my house in Hounanchou, where I lived before moving to Shinkoiwa in 2007. It was evening, and I was tired and getting ready to go to sleep. I was in the living room. Tao was sleeping on the floor. The TV was off. A friend at that time, Murao-san, was visiting and was upstairs on my computer.

He called down for me to turn on the TV. This was after the first tower was hit, and before people really knew what was happening.

My sleepiness vanished. The 2nd tower was hit and it was obvious there was an attack. While trying to follow the news, I went upstairs to my computer and tried to access the CNN site. It took a long time to come up, and it was chilling to see the bare bones page there.

It was still early in the morning across the U.S., and nobody really knew the extent of what was happening, how many cities would be hit. I called and woke up my parents in Columbia, MO and told them to watch the news. They were shocked. I phoned my former boss in San Francisco, waking him up, and suggesting he may want to leave the city. After all, nobody knew.

I feel teary-eyed even now as I think of the horrifying images of people leaping from the top of the World Trade Center to escape the inferno behind them.

I remember sending an email to the State Department offering my services in any intelligence operations they may need. I never got a reply, but that’s how I was feeling then about what happened. If there was anything I could do…

We all know how things changed after that. The tight security at airports. Before 9/11 security was so loose I could travel with a Swiss Army knife and all they would do was take it out of my pocket, put it in my backpack and request I not take it out of the backpack during the flight.

And then endless wars. Wars that are perhaps just ending now. Memories of Buddhist priests outside train stations beating drums softly, protesting against war.

9/11. New York. The Pentagon. United 93 crashing in Pennsylvania. The skies being cleared of all air traffic. Friends and colleagues who were on flights letting me know where they were stranded. The air traffic controllers chilling radio communications. The last messages from passengers on the flights reaching out to loved ones. Friends in New York contacting me to let me know they were ok. A cousin who was on his way to a meeting at the WTC letting me know he missed it. Endless circles and mazes of events that linger in our memories to this day, as I sit here at home on 9/11/2021 thinking about it.

Hoping for a peaceful world and a better future for all.