Track your Intermittent Fasting with Zero

Occasionally, you come across an app which does exactly what it promises, and does it so well you don’t feel like it should improve in pretty much any way. For me, right now, that app is Zero. It’s free, for iOS and Android. I am not affiliated in any way with the app or its makers.

Now, I won’t go into the merits of intermittent fasting, as that’s not really what this blog is about. However if you do subscribe to that practice, this is the app to have on your phone. The app itself is very simple, consisting of only four tabs.

First, you get to pick the type of fast you’d like to track. You can choose between a number of pre-made ones or make your own. Chances are what you’re looking for is already there.

Then, you have the quite self-explanatory timer itself. Start it and end it together with your fast. Given the type of fast you’ve chosen in the previous screen, you can choose to get a notification when your fast is done, so that you can start to eat again. You can also get one after each hour you fast beyond your initial goal.

I especially like the Apple Watch-inspired “circle” design: there’s just something about closing circles that clicks with me.

One handy functionality is the fact that you can change the starting time of your fast after the fact.1 This is useful, for instance, when you start your fast away from your phone. I’d just look at the clock and remember to edit it later on.

On the “History” tab you can see, well, your fasting history, but more interestingly also a bunch of statistics. You can also set it to read your weight from the Health app, if you wish to see it here too.

Almost all of the stats on this page are designed to nudge you to fast with more regularity. While the app does not “punish” you with aggressive design like red bars and Xs when your fast can’t successfully reach your goal, it does show it as gray on the graph, which is objectively a worse color than green. This, coupled with always seeing your longest fast and streak, makes you want to go faster, better, and stronger.

Lastly, the least-used tab (for me at least) is “Learn,” which contains a number of articles related to fasting and eating well in general. Now that I say it like that, I feel like I should probably start checking it out more often.

And that’s pretty much all there’s to it. That’s why I like it. The elephant in the room, for me at least, is how is this app financially viable? They don’t seem to really talk about it on their website, but one can assume the answer lies in the fact that users need to sign up for a (free) account in order to use the app. Would I rather pay a sum upfront for the ability to use it completely offline and without an account? Definitely. Overall though, the app itself feels smooth, it has an inviting and soft design and, most importantly, got me to fast with more regularity than ever before, which is why I recommend it.

Zero on the App Store and Google Play.

trms links #2

Here’s some more cool stuff from the Internet.

  • GTD in 15 minutes. The world of productivity on the internet is full of snake oil. There is a method, however, which is simple and has found success with many, me included. This website explains David Allen’s Getting Things Done method quickly, for free, with no tricks or things to sell you.
  • SankeyMATIC Beta. Sankeys are these graphs, like the one on the right. This website allows you to create one in a relatively quick and easy manner. They’re a good way to confirm your suspicions about where your money went this month.
  • The TeX FAQ List. I had a lot of fun a little ago writing this post about how to get started with LaTeX for beginners. This link is right up that alley, as the TeX FAQ List is, as you might surmise, a rather comprehensive list of all questions a (La)TeX user might have, answered in a clear and easy to understand way.
  • I Love PDF is a website I come back to time and time again. Anything you might want or need to do with PDF files, such as splitting, merging, or converting them, you can do there, for free. Sure, there are offline solutions, but this is pretty convenient.
  • OmniAtlas. I love maps. I love history. For people like me, OmniAtlas is a feast for the eyes, with plenty (currently 747!) of historical maps. Get on it.

A Gentle Introduction to LaTeX

Are you a complete LaTeX beginner? This post will arm you with the very basic knowledge you need to get started, and little more. My assumption is that you might have heard the word “LaTeX” at least once before, but do not know what it is or how to use it. By the end of this post, I aim for you to be able to create very simple documents and be prepared to further discover the world of LaTeX on your own.

Continue reading “A Gentle Introduction to LaTeX”

trms links #1

A collection of interesting things I find around the Internet.

Tech

  • nanoc, a simple, lightweight, open-source, extensible framework for small static sites and blogs
  • miraheze.org. Ever wished you could have your own Wikipedia? You can easily and for free at Miraheze, with no catch and no ads.
  • keybr. Touch typing is arguably among the must-have skills in the modern age. Keybr teaches you how to do that and provides you with a way to practice your speed, at any level. I’ve used it for literally hours. (proof)

Knowledge

  • Our World in Data, in-depth research about our world (literally!) using data. Their blog is immensely insightful and one I highly recommend following.
  • Books by People at Edge.org. Unsure about what to read next? This is a constantly-updated list of books written by people at Edge.org, researchers who are leaders in their field. (including Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker, and more.)

You Need a Quarterly Review

In this post I will tell you why you need a quarterly review and what one is.

Why?

I believe I can say with confidence that most of us are so deeply concerned with running our life on a day-to-day basis that we often forget about the long term. What is it that you are trying to achieve, exactly? Being productive every day feels great, but what are you ultimately working towards? I feel this kind of question should not be relegated to the back burner, and instead should be something we should aim to answer more often than we currently do. At the same time, however, we still do need to run our day-to-day affairs.

Extreme focus on the short term causes long-term blindness. Extreme focus on the long-term causes short-term blindness. We thus should aim to strike a balance of sorts, where we can still run our daily life while also being concerned about where the road is going. For me, this balance is satisfied by performing a general review of my life every three months. I will now show you what this review looks like, so that you may do it too, if you so chose.

What?

Put simply, every review, I answer a series of questions about my life during the three months that passed and the three months that will follow. This allows me to evaluate my performance in the past and make changes in the future to better align myself with my long-term goals. This is what some sample questions would look like (click or tap to expand):

Of course, the questions vary from person to person, and I would highly recommend you take the time to think about them. This is, I think, very much part of the process of understanding your medium- and long-term self. I like to make categories first, and then to come up with questions related to such categories. This is why I used a mind map (done with the excellent mind-mapping software MindNode,) as it allows me to visually branch out categories and questions.

As you can see, every question about the past three months is paired with a question about the next. This is crucial, as performing a quarterly review without thinking about how one could be better in the future is, I think, not as useful an enterprise.

If after reading this post you too start to do such a review, I would love to hear your feedback.

A Beginner’s Guide to RSS

A screenshot of the app Reeder in action, showing some articles.

In this post I will tell you what RSS is, why you need it, and how to set it up.

What’s RSS?

Imagine being able to see your favorite blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, news, and any other kind of Internet media from your outlets of choice in one single, solidified, consistent feed. This is what RSS allows you to do. You can think of RSS as a sort of Twitter feed, but instead of only following other Twitter users, you can follow pretty much anything on the Internet.

Indeed almost every blog, forum, YouTube channel, and news source has an RSS feed. What this means is that whenever something is added to their website or channel, if you have chosen to add it to your list of followed websites, you’ll see it pop up as well in your RSS app of choice.

How do I set it up?

The beauty of RSS is that it’s an open format, not belonging to anyone in particular. This means that there’s plenty of choice and a plethora of different apps allowing you to subscribe to and read RSS feeds. My favorite is an app for iOS and macOS called Reeder. On Android, I particularly like the design and usability of Palabre. On Windows, NewsFlow is likely your best bet. For this post I’ll use Reeder on Mac, but all apps are virtually identical for the purpose of what I’m going to be doing here.

After you have downloaded any one of the aforementioned apps, let’s assume you want to add this blog to your reader, so that posts will show up in your feed. Firstly, locate the link to the website’s RSS feed. In this case, it’s in the top navigation bar, and it’s this link. Copy that to your clipboard. Then, navigate to your RSS app and select “Add Subscription,” or that app’s equivalent function.

In the screen that pops up, simply paste the link you copied, and press enter or “Done.” That’s it! You will now see new posts from this blog on your RSS reader whenever you open it. Repeat this process for any website you might want to see.

Here’s some feeds for you of websites kind of like mine but better: MacStories, Daring Fireball, Ctrl blog, David Smith.

Appendix: Syncing your Feed Between Devices

Everything we’ve done so far is cool and all, but it’s limited to one device. In this day and age, where everything is synced between devices, wouldn’t it be nice if we could sync our feed as well? We can! With Feedly.

Quite simply, sign up for a Feedly account. Then, click on the “Add Content” link on the bottom left corner. From there, add RSS links much in the same way we did before. Then, in your RSS app, log in to your Feedly account. Not all apps support this function, but the ones I have linked to earlier do. You’re now set! Whenever you read something on one device, it will be marked as read on another. It’s pretty great.

I hope you find RSS useful. Let me know if there is anything I have missed.