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The only Blue Apron review you need to read: How three years of subscribing saved me time and money *Updated October 2016


From Amateur Cook to Well-Fed Amateur Cook

***Update 3***

Hi there! Welcome to our site and Blue Apron review which you probably saw on Facebook. We’re all out of free week trials and since there are 30+ people on my list already and I’m unlikely to get more than a few free trials to give out a month, I’m now closing the list. However, Blue Apron customer service was nice enough to send over this link for $30 off your first order (which is 50% off for the two person kit). Enjoy!

***Update 2***

Ok, so this Blue Apron review may have gotten a bit more popular than we intended. We went from about double digit organic views to over a thousand views (5/16 update: 17,000+ and counting!) in the last three days. So as a result, I’m all out of free trials to give away.

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What I learned about my brain after I peered inside my skull

I get by with a little help from my friends

A few months ago, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Philadelphia contacted me out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to participate in a study. I was in the middle of writing a paper so I wasn’t that interested at first. However, the pitch was that I would be helping them investigate some key health issues. I was an ideal candidate for them because I’m relatively healthy and had some “combat exposure” (no hero stuff here, just a few rockets and IEDs). I wound up volunteering for a fairly lengthy experiment that included two overnight sleep studies, an fMRI task, multiple blood draws, a battery of surveys, a task where you got intermittent shocks (you got to set the setting), and a two-week long experience sampling survey. I did get my brain scanned as part of this study and right around the time that my study as wrapping up, my friend Chris who is in the cognitive neuroscience side of our department (they look at brains and do “real” science) got his own brain 3D printed based on a scan. He told me that he could do the same for me if I got my MRI data from the VA. Man I was really excited. I filled out some paperwork at the VA to get my data released and a few days later I had a DVD in my hand that had scans of my brain.

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Structural MRI images of my brain and 3D model, image taken from 3D Slicer software

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How to Find the Right Golf Ball for You

Remember the time you put that brand new Titleist Pro V1 on the tee and pulled out the big stick ready to smash the longest drive of your life? Then as the ball duck hooked or sliced into the woods never to be found again you realized you just threw away about $5. Golf balls can be pricey (heck golf is expensive in general) especially for mid to high handicappers who are still prone to those random shanks and hooks. I’m an avid golfer and I’m always on the lookout for deals, whether it be for apparel or golf balls, and fortunately I stumbled on

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Polar Bottle 24 oz. Insulated Water Bottle

I’ve been training for a sprint distance triathlon. Part of the training has been going on long bike rides. Staying hydrated during these rides, especially as the weather gets warmer, is very important. Rather than wastefully pick up a Poland Spring bottle for each ride as I’ve done in the past, I decided to invest in a proper water bottle.

I never gave much thought to a water bottle. I’ve collected a few free ones over the years from participating in century bike rides, but I never liked how they made the water taste plasticky. I prefer using my Sigg bottle, but its small size and twist-off cap make it less than ideal for drinking while riding.

At a bike shop near my apartment, I came across Polar Bottle. The one at the store was 24 oz. in size, which I thought was ideal for my needs. It’s also insulated with a lining around the bottle, which keeps the water colder. I didn’t really like any of the color options there, so I picked one up with a patriotic theme. It cost $11.99.

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How I got faster at bootstrapping (hint: my lab got me a Macbook Pro)

Maximizing Efficiency

I’m very lucky to be working in a psychology lab that has a lot of resources and leadership that wants you to succeed. Last last month I had the opportunity to trade-in my nearly four year old MacBook Air for a new retina 13” MacBook Pro. MacWorld UK did a fantastic write-up of what great features the new MBP has so I won’t repeat all that. I want to focus on what I did to personalize the computer and also how much of a change in efficiency I’ve felt since getting it.

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Science on Swole: BCAAs (A skeptic’s guide to supplementation and training)

As the resident meathead in most of my friend circles, I’ve gotten more than a few questions about supplements. As a skeptic/sort of surgeon/sometime scientist, I’m going to explain my rationale.

The baseline rules:

  1. Primum non nocere – is the supplement going to kill me or make me poop myself? (I’m looking at you Jack3d and NO-Xplode)
  2. Efficiency – Is it cost/time beneficial versus anything else?
  3. Efficacy – Does it do what is advertised?

For the last few years I’ve been traveling to different locations in monthly blocks. Since carrying tubs of protein is space inefficient and often accompanied by some derisive bro-related remarks, I usually end up running to the local shop and grabbing something. My go to is Scivation’s Xtend BCAAs for drinking while I’m training.

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What I learned after four months with Amazon Echo (updated Nov 26 2015)

*Update (November 2015)

Many people have emailed me or asked me questions about the Amazon Echo since we wrote the original post back in May. The original post is also one of of the most popular on the blog! We thought it would be valuable to provide an update as the Echo continues to garner great reviews, such as Wired’s endorsement that the Echo is 2015’s “perfect lazy gift”.

I’m happy to report that we continue to be very pleased with the Echo’s performance. Amazon added Pandora integration and the voice commands grow ever more capable of understanding nuance. Say, for example, you’re at a family gathering and the kids are making a lot of noise. You can now say “Alexa, play music for kids” and the Echo will automatically start playing kids music.

Amazon is also expanding Echo’s capabilities through Alexa “Skills” (which can be found inside the Echo app) which appear to be widgets created to add functionality to Echo’s already impressive voice command category. You can now ask Alexa to check Bitcoin prices, calculate someone’s age by giving Alexa their birthday, get Fantasy Football News, generate a haiku, tell knock knock jokes, and a ton more (including getting stock prices, a feature some people have asked me about before). It appears that Amazon has released an Echo developer kit so that anyone can create and submit new features. That seems like a game changer to me: with the Echo gaining traction and its nascent ability to integrate smarthome features such as WeMo lights, the ever-expanding repertoire of capabilities is going to put the Echo in more and more homes. One of the differentiators of Apple’s closed-universe product line is the access to millions of apps that comes with staying inside the universe. If Amazon is able to follow suit with a capable in-home device, I can see them very quickly becoming a big player in the home automation world, perhaps unintentionally (at least, given the original focus and design of the Echo, which was to play music and enable purchase of products through Amazon).

*Original post follows

Alexa, write this blog post for me

In mid-January 2015 I was one of the lucky (or just very willing to have my privacy completely compromised all the time) few Amazon Prime members to get Amazon Echo. The day Echo was publicly announced, I signed up via the Amazon website, which is probably why I got it so early. Some good friends of ours are still waiting for one.

Demand for the product must be pretty high. Amazon initially offered the Echo for 50% off to Prime members ($100 for a retail $200 product) and now the price for members is $150. There is also a brisk secondary market for new and barely used Echos on Craiglist / Ebay going for or above sales price.

Is it worth it? Is it a life changer as the sort of weird Amazon commercial implies? (I mean really is the whole family going to yell stuff at this HAL2000 looking device?)

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A Faster New Router for the Home: The Best $20 Spent in a While

For years, my wife Melanie and I suffered through slow Internet speeds. We cursed Time Warner and lamented that Verizon FiOS didn’t exist in our area. I sometimes had to switch over to my cellular data to watch YouTube videos because our Internet connection was so terrible.

Even after we got our new cable modem to replace the one we had for 8 years, there was no noticeable change in speed. We cursed Time Warner some more.

A couple months ago, I happened to be having lunch with a client whose company makes computer hardware. We had just finished working on a smart home security product website with him. He was part of a small team within a large corporation whose speciality was in routers. I asked him if router technology had evolved much in the past 5 or so years. I told him I had used the same router for the past decade. “Uh, yeah, there’s been some change in router technology since then,” he told me.

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How I Bought a Little Piece of Etsy

Tomorrow, Etsy (ETSY), the online arts and crafts outlet is going to IPO. When I hear IPOs I still think back to the dot-com boom-bust days. Knowing that IPOs could be quite unpredictable I mostly just watched the news about Etsy from afar. I didn’t even know that I could, as a retail investor, get in on the action. Recent IPOs by companies like SolarEdge (SEDG) and GoDaddy (GDDY) have raised lots of capital and made underwriters and company insiders very happy with the initial IPO bounce. To be honest, I don’t know if Etsy will do the same. I actually thought about writing this post tomorrow, after the IPO, in case the stock tanked, but that’s no fun right?

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Running with Flat Feet

I never got a dual citizenship (US and Taiwan) because I would’ve had to serve in the Taiwanese Army. At least that’s the reason my parents provided. Now I’m not so sure I would have been able to serve anyway because I have flat feet. My feet are so flat in fact that I feel the pain on long runs and walks. Now that I know this I’m not exactly sure how I survived running cross-country during high school. That being said, I’m training for a duathlon and two sprint triathlons this year even though running with flat feet can sometimes feel awful.

So to combat the lack of arches in my feet I followed a friend’s recommendation and got fitted for some running shoes. We went to the New York Running Company at Columbus Circle and went through a series of tests including a pressure sensor that indicated your shoe size, arch height, and how you distribute your weight on your feet. This leads to an insole recommendation and for me it recommended the aetrex L420 orthotics which provides boosted arch support. Next up the shoes.

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