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  • Toban Wiebe 3:19 am on June 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Dogs suck as indoor pets 

    It occurred to me the other day just how terrible dogs are as indoor pets, especially in the city (I can see dogs being good outdoor pets in the country). While pets all bring inconveniences, dogs stand out as egregious burdens:

    • Dogs stink. Fact.
    • You have to let them outside to relieve themselves, and then clean up their feces by hand
    • You have to walk them
    • You can’t leave them home alone for more than a day
    • They impose costs on 3rd parties: mainly barking and obnoxious behavior, especially since you have to take them out in public to walk them
    • And much more…

    I rest my case: dogs are objectively bad urban pets.

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  • Toban Wiebe 7:09 pm on March 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Simple, Cheap, Efficient Paleo Eating 

    Perhaps I’m just weird, but I always find paleo recipes to be way too fancy for me. I like simple foods; quantity over quality; calories over flavor. I don’t like eating out because the portions are way too small and fancy—all I want is a big, hefty pile of healthy calories to shove into my belly. I’m one of those people who wishes there was a simple pill with all the nutrients we need, so I could save time on making food. I eat a dead simple paleo diet that is very efficient and I love it. The added benefit is that it fits right into the simple foods framework.

    Here’s what I do: I eat two big meals a day to get my calories. There is very little variety in my meals: most meals are a big bowl of mashed potatoes soaked with lard and a serving of meat. This is a very efficient setup for me: I peel a few potatoes, put them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes, and mash them up with lard (which also cools them down to a tolerable level). Meanwhile, the meat cooks in the frying pan. I’ll also eat some fruit in the morning and after meals to clear my palette.

    While this monotonous diet may seem unpleasant, the trick is to use “the best sauce”: hunger! By eating two meals a day and not snacking in between, I work up a good appetite before each meal, and I always look forward to eating. It’s amazing how good that hunger sauce tastes! After several months I sometimes get tired of my staple meal (I’m still going strong on my potato regimen after 6 months) and find a new one, usually by experimentation.

    The benefits of this simple regimen are:

    • Healthy, simple, paleo foods
    • Cheap staple foods like potatoes and lard can make paleo eating far more affordable than the SAD
    • Efficiency: cut way down on food prep time and cleanup
    • Ali 8:19 pm on March 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I totally agree about the 2x day schedule (and that it generates less dishes). Some meat, some veggies. Saute, slow-cook, or grill. Done.

    • Jim Jozwiak 4:27 am on March 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I add raw omega-3 egg yolks for some choline,
      baking chocolate for more zinc,
      aged cheddar for Vitamin K2, almonds for more Vite E, and espresso for various nutrients and a fabulous caffeine jolt. Maybe not paleo, but not too far off.

  • Toban Wiebe 2:35 pm on May 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

    Keyboard ninja skills 

    A keyboard ninja is someone who uses the keyboard to do things that most people would use the mouse for. Keyboard ninja’s can get stuff done way faster than mousers, and sometimes it can be mesmerizing to watch a good keyboard ninja flying through a task at speeds you’ve never dreamed of.


    To become a keyboard ninja, you should be familiar with the basic Windows keyboard shortcuts. These work in pretty much all programs:

    • Control key shortcuts
      • Ctrl+a: Select All
      • Ctrl+x: Cut
      • Ctrl+c: Copy
      • Ctrl+v: Paste
      • Ctrl+z: Undo
      • Ctrl+f:  find/search
    • Alt key shortcuts
      • Alt is often used to access program menus (e.g., File, Edit, etc). Just press and release Alt and they keyboard focus will be on the menus. Navigate with the arrow keys or by pressing the underlined letters.
      • Whenever you see a single underlined letter in a word (usually in buttons, check box options), you can hold Alt and press that letter instead of clicking.
      • Alt+F4: close program
      • Alt+Tab: switch program. You can hold Alt and repeatedly press Tab to cycle through programs. Alt+Shift+Tab cycles backwards.
    • Win key shortcuts
      • Win+’search term’: the Win key opens the start menu and in Windows 7 you can start typing to search your computer.
      • Win+d: show desktop
      • Win+e: launch Windows Explorer (“My Computer”)
    • Tab
      • Tabbing is a very basic keyboard ninja skill, mainly used when better keyboard navigation is not available. In almost every program, you can Tab to cycle through the interface. Shift+Tab cycles backwards.
    Next, considering that you probably spend most of your time in a browser, let’s looks at some useful browser shortcuts:
    • Ctrl+l: select address bar (that’s an L)
    • Ctrl+t: new tab
    • Ctrl+w: close tab
    • Ctrl+Tab or Ctrl+PageDown: switch to next tab
    • Ctrl+Shift+Tab or Ctrl+PageUp: switch to previous tab
    • Ctrl+d: add bookmark
    • Alt+left/right arrows: back/forward
    • Backspace: back
    • F5: refresh/reload page
    • F11: fullscreen mode
    Many web apps are adding keyboard shortcuts for convenient navigation. If you use the app a lot, it’s definitely worth learning the shortcuts. They usually use the same basic keys so it’s easy to remember them all. And it’s standard for ‘?’ to bring up an overlay with the keyboard shortcuts, which is really handy for learning them.
    • Google search is now keyboardable using the arrow keys. Enter opens the link, Ctrl+Enter opens it in a new tab.
    • Gmail and Google Reader have great keyboard navigation
    • Hotmail
    • Yahoo! Mail
    • This website

    These fundamentals are enough to make you a pretty good keyboard ninja. But these next tricks will really help you take your skills from impressive to amazing.



    • Use an application launcher, this makes it super easy and quick to start a program or open a folder. I love Launchy.
    • If you’re really serious about customizing/creating keyboard shortcuts and automating just about anything, spend some time learning Autohotkey. It’s like playing god with your computer.


    • Open links using ‘find-as-you-type’ links mode (press ‘ and type). Enable it in Firefox (Options > Advanced). Download the extension for Chrome.
    • To take mouseless browsing to the next level, try a Vim-like browser extension. I swear by Vimium for Chrome, it’s very simple to use and incredibly useful. Pentadactyl for Firefox is more for experienced Vim users.


    This guide will give you a great start, but a good keyboard ninja keeps learning new moves to his skill set. Learn the keyboard shortcuts for programs you use frequently. And practice, practice, practice! Try not to use that mouse. Print yourself a cheat sheet. You need to internalize them.

    Did I miss any good ones? Let me know in the comments.

    • Marcus 8:33 am on January 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Another very useful TAB keyboard shortcut is Command-Tab (Mac), (Ctrl-Tab in Windows) this cycles through open applications on the desktop. A single Command-Tab flips to the previously active window and another Command-Tab flips back to the active window you just left – very useful for comparing/transferring data from one window to another if you don’t have multiple monitors or sufficient desktop real estate to keep both windows open simultaneously. Command-Tab TAB TAB etc., cycles through all running applications without having to reach for the mouse.

    • Marcus 8:39 am on January 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      In Gmail and Feedly (and many other applications that run in the browser) I use “J” and “K” all the time for next item, last item and the spacebar for pagedown in web pages and pdf documents

    • seodaz 2:40 pm on June 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      For those who code, and constantly need to select lines, the ninja combination [end > shift+home] is a great way of saving time normally spend selecting a line with the mouse (tripple clicking sucks really badly).

  • Toban Wiebe 4:52 am on May 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

    Algebra appreciation 

    We take algebra for granted, at least those who still remember it. But it’s not as obvious as we think (as those who don’t remember it can attest.) Consider Boolean algebra: it’s very similar to ordinary algebra yet we find it highly surprising (Boolean algebra is basically just algebra for logic). Boring old algebra is similarly surprising when you think about it.

    To be precise, I’m using algebra here to refer to elementary algebra. It’s the one we’re all familiar with: solving an equation for a variable (x).

    Algebra lets us solve problems that would be extremely difficult without. Easy equations can be solved trivially in your head: for example, say you have $8 and you give $3 to your son and the rest to your daughter. Obviously, you gave her $5, but you could also write out the equation and solve it: x+3=8Subtracting 3 from both sides we get x=5

    But when it gets more complicated, it’s much more convenient to use the rules of algebra to manipulate the equation to isolate x: for example, say you’re at an amusement park and the pricing is as follows. $12 to get in and $3 per ride. You have $30 and a 50% off coupon. How many rides can you afford? You could count it out, or write out the equation and solve it using algebra: \frac{12+3x}{2}=30This is tedious to solve without algebra. But it’s very easy to solve with algebra: multiply through by 2, then subtract 12, and divide by 3, yielding x=16.

    As you can imagine, when the equations get more complicated it becomes practically impossible to solve them without using algebra. Algebra provides a set of tools to systematically solve equations. We can even program computers with these rules so that they can solve equations for us algorithmically.

    Manipulating equations to solve them is extremely useful, and not intuitively obvious. Without algebra, we would be greatly inconvenienced.

    • Evolutionarily 5:55 am on March 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      What do you think about the concept that a human can have a fiendishly difficult time understanding and learning algebra, or a better example calculus, yet throw that person a ball and they solve a dozen simultaneous derivations in their mind to direct their hand to where they predict the ball will land? I am sort of channelling Stephen Wolfram’s idea here that most of mathematics are quirky of history and the individuals who created them, and if we reran history we may end up with a different type of mathematics to do algebra, or calculus? What is that separation to how our brains have solved all sorts of physical problems, and we are now relearning or rediscovering them using abstract language? Almost just talking out loud here haha

  • Toban Wiebe 10:08 pm on December 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Calories per dollar calculator 

    Continuing on the budget paleo theme, this post will help you get the most nourishment per dollar by giving you easy tools to calculate the real cost of your food in calories per dollar.


    I just found this cool web app, Instacalc, and made a couple calculators with it for your convenience.

    In the first one, you enter the price and calories per unit: Calorie Cost Calculator 1

    The second one takes unit price, calories per serving, serving size, and servings per unit: Calorie Cost Calculator 2

    It’s not a perfect solution, but I was unable to find a simple web app for this (I could write a JavaScript calculator, but I’d much rather use a web app). WolframAlpha widgets looked promising but I couldn’t get enough control of it to handle this type of calculation.


    You might find it more useful to create a spreadsheet and enter all the data so that you can save it and compare many foods at once. This is what I did and it’s super handy. Make columns for ‘Food name’, ‘Price’, ‘Calories’ and fill in the data. Then create a fourth column to calculate ‘Calories per dollar’. In this case the formula would be calories/dollars, for example, =C2/B2. Just fill that formula down the column to get results for all your entries.

    Why should I

    Looking at calorie cost is an eye-opener: it reveals just how expensive vegetables and fruits are compared to fats. If you’re trying to keep your food costs down, knowing which foods are cheap—which foods to fill up on—is essential.

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  • Toban Wiebe 11:31 pm on December 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Technology   

    Make your dumbphone a bit smarter with J2ME apps 

    Most people think apps are only for smartphones. But did you know that pretty much all dumbphones can handle J2ME apps? If you have mobile web, you can download a wide variety of apps from getjar. But don’t get too excited: while the apps are handy, they’re also pretty slow—your phone won’t feel like a smartphone, just not as dumb.

    Here are the top apps you should get:

    • Gmail app
    • Google Maps app
    • Opera Mini – a much better browser than the one your phone came with
    • Snaptu – an app package with speedy apps including Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Weather, and more
    • Ebuddy or Nimbuzz – instant messaging apps

    You can find lots of other cool apps. I found one that lets me use my phone as a remote control for my computer via bluetooth—it’s great for watching videos since my PC is my TV. I mainly find it nice to be able to check my Gmail or the weather, and to access Google Reader with the Opera browser.

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  • Toban Wiebe 5:31 am on December 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    How to eat paleo on the cheap 

    Richard Nikoley recently discussed the need for paleo to be cheap in order for it to become mainstream. He courageously says what we’re all thinking, blasting “the apologetically motivated faux emphasis on f–king vegetables in the Paleo community” and forcefully insisting that “a proper diet is a meat based diet.” Richard is right: eating lots of fancy organic vegetables is going to make your diet ridiculously expensive, and it’s not going to make you healthier. Vegetables have practically zero calories in them, so they don’t fill you up—they just run up your grocery bill. They’re not even that healthy when compared to animal foods. Following the Faileo Diet is not only difficult but expensive.

    A real paleo regimen is heavy on fat, and plant foods play a minor role. Now, good paleo-quality meat is indeed expensive, but good paleo-quality fats are very cheap: I get pastured, organic pig fat for $2/lb and render it into lard, my staple source of calories. You can find cheap paleo meats as well: I often get bison hearts and livers for $1.50/lb. I get them ground so I can conveniently cook up a portion, and because ground meats can soak up more lard.

    To get an idea of real food costs, you have to look at the cost per calorie, not the cost per weight that stores put on the price tags. Consider the real costs of a few foods. (Note that this only accounts for calories, it doesn’t take into account the value of micronutrients or the quality of the food. I intentionally excluded meat because you eat meat for structural protein, not for the calories):

    • vegetables: 250-350 kcal/$
    • fruits: 300-400 kcal/$
    • potatoes, yams: 700-1000 kcal/$
    • coconut milk: 800 kcal/$
    • conventional butter or cream: 1000 kcal/$
    • paleo-quality lard: 1600 kcal/$
    • sugar: 4000 kcal/$
    • flour: 6000 kcal/$
    • canola oil: 7000 kcal/$

    As you can see, trying to fill up on fruits and veggies is a waste of money. Eating nutrient dense foods is the way to keep paleo costs reasonable: fill up on cheap fats and use starchy vegetables as fat vehicles. Potatoes and yams can soak up wonderful amounts of fat. The fact is, budget paleo is high fat paleo.

    Note also how cheap the 3 primary agents of disease are (sugar, grains, seed oil)… damn the government subsidies for those poisonous foods, and its regulations on healthy foods!

    I eat a simple paleo diet pretty affordably: cheaper cuts of grass-fed beef and bison, cheap pork (organic, but grain-fed) from a local farmer, lots of lard, carrots/potatoes/yams/canned salmon as fat vehicles, some vegetables to cook up with ground beef, salsa for flavor, fruits eaten with coconut milk. I don’t like to spend time cooking so my meals are pretty plain (but paleo foods are tasty anyways). My focus is utilitarian: I like easy meals that efficiently nourish me. I never follow recipes—I just improvise with what’s on hand, probably just as paleo people did.

    • Richard Nikoley 1:45 am on December 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great addition to the conversation, Toban. Just tweeted it.

    • Richard Mohorovich 1:12 pm on April 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Good morning, I have a friend who goes to UFM for comp sci. I feel if he had access to lard and the bison offal meats you have access to it would greatly benefit his health. And heck I could mission it up there myself I possibly take advantage of such resources. Care to share your sources for the lard and bison offal meats? haha whole foods is killing me with $10/lbs for ground bison.

      • Toban Wiebe 2:45 pm on June 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Hey Richard, sorry about slow reply (better late than never). I have just found local farmers for my animal products (try searching with I get my pork fat from this guy: McDonald Farm

  • Toban Wiebe 1:13 am on September 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply


    Steven Pinker on the irrational fear of genetically modified foods (from The Blank Slate, pp.  229-30):

    Genetically modified foods are no more dangerous than “natural” foods because they are not fundamentally different from natural foods. Virtually every animal and vegetable sold in a health-food store has been “genetically modified” for millennia by selective breeding and hybridization…. Plants are Darwinian creatures with no particular desire to be eaten, so they did not go out of their way to be tasty, healthy, or easy for us to grow and harvest. On the contrary: they did go out of their way to deter us from eating them, by evolving irritants, toxins, and bitter-tasting compounds. So there is nothing especially safe about natural foods….

    A blanket fear of all artificial and genetically modified foods is patently irrational on health grounds, and it could make food more expensive and hence less available to the poor.

    • Amir 3:10 am on September 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      What are your personal thoughts on GMO food as a libertarian and Paleo?

      • Toban Wiebe 2:05 am on October 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        As a libertarian, I’m fine with GMO: anybody should be free to modify genes. As a paleo, I’m suspicious of deviations from what we’re adapted to evolutionarily, but I think the complete rejection of GMO is crazy. There’s probably a lot of scope for GMO to be beneficial. After all, breeding is a form of genetic modification.

  • Toban Wiebe 2:10 pm on September 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    Latex foam mattress 

    Mark Sisson, in a recent post about bedding, wrote: “In the last couple of sleep posts, commenters praised latex mattresses. Since I’m inclined to trust my readership, especially when they reach a consensus, I would suggest checking out latex mattresses if you need a change.”

    I second that. I’ve been sleeping on a latex foam mattress for 4 years. I’ve been quite pleased with it. It’s very comfortable.  One of the big benefits is that they don’t wear out—mine’s still like new. I’ve also been using a latex foam pillow, which has also been great, though it took some time getting used to.

  • Toban Wiebe 8:38 pm on September 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    University Hack 

    First year university courses suck. Chances are you’re in a huge class with at least 100 other students and the lecturer is a grad student whose English is hard to understand. These classes are pointless: you could just as easily watch a video of the lecture, or better yet just read the lesson and skip the lecture. Lectures are a terribly inefficient way of sharing information. Lecturing is a tradition that dates to the middle ages, before the invention of the printing press, when the best way to share information was to lecture to a class of students who would take notes. Nowadays, this method is horribly inefficient: the instructor reads his notes while the student attempts to both listen and write down what he says. Needless to say, much is lost in transmission. Sadly, while the rest of the world enters the information age, university courses are still taught with the ancient lecture method. The university still hasn’t fully adapted to the printing press, never mind the computer or the internet.

    So what is one to do? Simple: take distance courses. Online or independent study. It probably won’t save you much money, but it can save you a load of time and effort. First, if you’re a fast learner you aren’t wasting any time in lectures aimed at slower students. Second, you completely avoid lectures and note-taking, and you’ll learn that much better. Third, you can work around your own schedule and if you can get all your courses by distance, you can completely avoid living on campus or commuting.

    You’ll need to be self-motivated and disciplined, because it’s all too easy to neglect your coursework. If you’re a strong student, you’ll love it.

    • Valtsu 3:12 pm on October 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I have been thinking that I’m the only one with these thoughts. I just finished high school and IMO most of lessons were waste of time, it was just very suboptimal. Now I’m doing non-military service but after that I should apply to university and the idea of wasting 1-2 hours every day to transportation and a lot more hours to some unnecessary lectures doesn’t really fascinate me… I hope there will be some way to do a large part of those university grades self-studying.

      Vladimir (or Valtsu) from Finland. I just found your blog, you have interesting articles.

      • Toban Wiebe 3:24 am on October 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Definitely check into distance courses, they’re totally worth it if you’re an independent learner. If you can’t avoid the commute, try to get some good studying done while commuting.

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