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Audible is a membership-based audiobook service from Amazon.

How My Audible Membership Improved My Health, Intelligence, and Leadership Skills

Audible is the audiobook service offered by Amazon. I’ve been using Audible almost daily for the past couple of years, and I can sincerely say that it’s been a life changer.

A little bit about the service and what you’re actually buying with a membership:

  • It’s $14.95/month for the Gold Membership and each month, you get 1 credit that you can use to buy a book. You’ll notice that some books are quite expensive if you were to buy them without a membership, climbing to the $50+ territory. (use this link to get two free audiobooks when you sign up)
  • I make frequent use of their refund feature (go to Audio Purchase History and you’ll be able to return books). When I finish a book before I get the next month’s credit, I opt for a refund of the book and use the credit to get the next book. I’ve done this more than ten times now and it hasn’t posed any problems for me.
A view of the Audible Library screen.
This is what my “Library” on Audible looks like.

I’ve always felt that reading books is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. I keep a running list of books that I want to read, constantly scour for new books on blogs and book review sites, and ask people if they’ve read anything interesting or helpful recently.

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Darn Tough Socks: Merino Wool

Darn Tough: Best Wool Socks for Winter and Great Gift Idea

After spending most of my life wearing cheap cotton socks, I’ve become an evangelist for wool socks. Starting with Smartwool and Wigwam socks from CostCo. a couple years back, I immediately felt the benefits of wool socks. They were more durable, odor-free, and kept my feet warmer than cotton socks. In New York, where I live, the winters can be brutal, and having the right socks on can be a huge boost to daily comfort.

Last year, I stumbled upon a brand called Darn Tough. Based in Vermont, Darn Tough was conceived in an effort to keep the family-owned Cabot Hosiery Mills in business. They specialize in making high-quality socks and they also offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. All you have to do is fill out a form and send your socks back and they’ll replace it, no questions asked (I have a couple socks on their way because my dog chewed holes into them — update 12/14/15: see the end of the article for what happened).

Retailing at $15-20/pair, Darn Tough is not cheap. However, if you factor in durability and the lifetime guarantee, I think it’s a pretty fair price. I opted for the Merino Wool Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks in black. I thought it was a good-looking sock and the length seemed just right. Here’s the mix of fabric:

  • 61% Merino wool
  • 36% Nylon
  • 3% LYCRA spandex

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I Got 12 Buncha Crunch Boxes for Under $12

Sometime last year, they stopped selling Buncha Crunch at BAM Rose Cinemas, where I usually go to watch movies. Instead, they sell Ritter Sport Chocolate bars. I’ve been super bummed, and the last time I went, I settled for popcorn with Pepsi.

Buncha Crunch is my go-to candy whenever I go to the movies. There’s something very comforting about the waxy, 540-calorie treat. It’s got a nice crunchy texture that I prefer over the softer Goobers. I also find that it’s not as sweet as M&Ms, which I find to be too sweet when consumed by the boxful. Coupled with a Diet Coke, it is a delightful combo to partake while at the movies. Most of the time, I’ll finish the entire box by the time trailers are finished.

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Peanut Butter & Co.'s Dark Chocolate Dreams and The Bees Knees

Tasty Peanut Butter and Eating 30g of Protein Within 30 Minutes of Waking Up

Since January, I’ve been pretty disciplined about eating a hearty breakfast every morning. Since reading this blog post (based on Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Body) on eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, I thought I’d try it out. The overarching principles of this “slow carb” diet include the following:

  • Avoid “white carbohydrates”: bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, and any other carbs in these categories
  • Eat the same few meals over and over again
  • Don’t drink calories: stick mostly to water and unsweetened tea/coffee
  • Don’t eat fruit (I like this because I’m allergic to most)
  • Take one day off per week (eat whatever)

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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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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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Probar Base Protein Bar

PROBAR BASE Protein Bars: Pretty Tasty Stuff

I saw that someone at work had a box of PROBAR BASE protein bars on his desk. I asked him about it and he told me that he liked the taste. The flavor was Cookie Dough. I hung around his desk for a tad bit longer hoping he would offer me a bar to try, but he said nothing, so I went back and looked it up on Amazon.

I’ve never been much of a protein bar eater. In fact, protein bars remind me of high school when the PowerBar was all the rage (remember 36-pack boxes from CostCo?). They were pretty nasty and I only ate them when I was deathly hungry before football or track practice.

PROBAR BASE protein bars appealed to me because they’re coated with chocolate. I’m a sucker for chocolate, and I was also in the market for something healthier than a Snickers bar. The other limitation for me was that I can’t eat almonds (I have oral allergy syndrome), which rules out a good number of healthy snack bars out there. PROBAR BASE does have traces of almonds, which makes my mouth a tad bit itchy, but after eating over a dozen bars, I don’t even feel it anymore. The 20 grams of protein that the bar proudly advertises on its packaging comes from soybeans.

I started off with a 4 Flavor Variety Pack from Amazon to see which flavors I would like best. It turned out that I liked Mint Chocolate, Brownie Crisp, and Peanut Butter Chocolate but rather disliked the Cookie Dough. I found the bars to be the tastiest protein bars I could remember. They’re on the sweet side (14-17 grams of sugar per bar, which I think is on the high end) and the texture is not too mealy or crumbly like other bars. At $31.99 for the 12-count variety pack, they’re a bit on the pricey side at $2.67 per bar, but I find myself enjoying it rather than seeing it as a fuel-only snack.

I do my toughest workout of the week on Mondays, so I make sure to eat a bar a couple hours before I go to the gym. I also pack a few bars with me whenever I go golfing. Rather than buying a pack of M&Ms from the cart girl, I find that a PROBAR does a good job in keeping my hunger in check. A couple of downsides:

  • The flax seeds get stuck in my teeth sometimes, so you might spot black flecks if I flash a smile.
  • The chocolate coating might melt a bit if you leave it in a warm place. I had a bar in my jersey pocket when I went for a long bike ride and the chocolate was starting to melt when I took it out to eat.

I’m game to try other protein bars, but I like that I’ve found one that appeals to my sweet tooth and gets the job done in giving me an energy boost.

In case it matters to you, the PROBAR BASE protein bar is non-GMO, organic, and gluten-free, as evidenced by this graphic on their website:

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 9.48.06 PM

Nutrition info and ingredients can be found at the PROBAR website.

Smuttynose Hayseed: A Simple Farmhouse Ale

I got home after a long day at work and wanted an easy-drinking beer. I went across the street to the corner bodega and browsed their beer selection– a Smuttynose Hayseed caught my eye.

I’ve always been a fan of Smuttynose, a New Hampshire based brewery. I’ve grown to dislike IPAs in recent years, but if I had to choose one, their Finestkind IPA would be near the top of my list. This past winter, I found myself repeatedly getting their Winter Ale, an amber ale that has fruity and spice-laden aromas.

Today, I came across Hayseed, which they describe as “a country table beer.” Whenever the weather gets a bit warmer in the springtime, a nice saison / farmhouse ale always gets me in a good mood. This one, with a low 3.8% ABV seemed like a good choice. I paid $2.25 for it. They ran out of quarters, so I was handed a bunch of dimes. All good.

I drank it while eating soba noodles and avocado. The beer was light, refreshing, and quickly gone.