Category Archives: Weird Hobby

Product Review: Zombies, Run app

Whoops, it appears I have been distracted by life and whatnots and haven’t updated in quite a while.  But I do have something awfully neat to share for those who enjoy running, or even those who hate running but still push themselves to at least WALK.

ZR1I recently discovered Zombies, Run! (technically Zombies, Run! 2) which is a fitness app that works on both iPhones and Androids.  It’s been around for a while, but it costs money to download and I am so cheap when it comes to buying apps.  After reading a lot of reviews, I decided to give it a shot.

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Just one of the items you can bring back to Abel Township.

The basic idea is that you download these “seasons”.  Season One includes 23 “missions”, the first of which establishes the world you are entering.  There has been a zombie outbreak, and you are on your way to a fortified town called Abel Township.  You are labeled “Runner 5”, and become an important person to the town.  Characters speak to you through your earpieces, telling you what they see, or explaining what they need you to do.  Along the way, you may “pick up” items that will help you.  Each mission unveils more of the overall storyline, introduces more characters, or adds to the scenery.

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Yep, RUN FASTER!

All the while you are listening to this, the app is tracking your time, pace, and even mapping the route you are taking (if you are an outdoor walker/runner, make sure to have your GPS on, or you can use the Accelerometer to count your steps if you use a treadmill).  The app can be set to 30 or 60 minute sessions, and you can have it play songs from a specified playlist to keep you entertained between the story.  Additionally, if you download their Radio Mode, you can continue running for a while and listen to two guys chattering away in between songs.  If you’re an outdoor person and have the GPS on, you can even elect to have zombies randomly chase you…  if this happens, you must increase your pace (kick it into high gear!) in order to outrun them.  It’s a fun option that keeps you on your toes, makes you sprint for a little bit, and adds a sense of panic.

For Season 1, Mission 1 (S1-M1), I did not have music playing in between the storyline, which was fine.  I really wanted to see how the app worked without much distraction.  I went for a fast walk in my neighborhood, but kept having trouble outrunning the zombies when chased.  Part of it was that I hadn’t figured out how the program calculated your pace increase, and part of it was because my neighborhood is very hilly and I was ready to fall over and die if I had to sprint up a steep hill.  Since then, I have figured out what to do, but have mostly stayed inside and ran on my treadmill which doesn’t offer the zombie chase option.

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I know what I am going to be for Halloween this year!

I am now about halfway through Season One and can say that I would pay double…TRIPLE what I paid for this app without hesitation.  In 11 days, I have increased my runs from a half hour to a full hour, and improved my pace by over 2 minutes per mile!  I am so confident in my stamina that I have taken the leap to sign up for my first 5K, taking place in just about 2 weeks!

And the story…  it’s hard not to get sucked in.  Even on the treadmill, I may glance to the side before I can catch myself when a character warns me of zombies coming at me.  And I’m not ashamed to admit I have emotionally reacted to some of the story, particularly S1-M9 and S1-M11.  Every day, I wake up sore and tired, but I still get on the treadmill because I want to hear more of the story.

So if you’re in the market for something to keep you entertained while you walk, jog or run, I highly recommend checking out this app.  🙂

Weird Hobby # 581: DEPRESSION ERA COOKING!

Quite a while ago I stumbled upon a YouTube video starring this 90+ year old lady named Clara making a dish called the Poorman’s Meal.  It may sound boring, but I absolutely fell in love with her and her storytelling.  Much like TV chefs, she will spend time telling you what goes in the recipe, but will also throw in anecdotes and memories she had from the Great Depression.  After watching the Poorman’s Meal video, I proceeded to make it myself, and was really surprised by how tasty it was (I did modify the recipe a little… less oil, and it looks like she uses vegetable oil where I used olive, things like that).

So I went on to watch the rest of her videos.  What a treat!  There’s plenty of easy recipes, and if they aren’t quite appealing, just substitute with a different ingredient and chances are you’ll have something great to eat.  Clara is such a doll, and it’s wonderful to know that she’s been making these videos for 5 years and she’s still going strong!

Here’s the first video I watched (but check out her YouTube channel, which has everything!):

Weird Hobby #267 – COUPONING!

With the semi-popularity of Extreme Couponing, I wanted to share my own personal love of couponing.  I came to couponing several years ago, well before the TV show, and while I do not get the same kind of deals the people on TV get, I do save a significant amount of money.

First of all, please know that the people on the show are TRULY extreme cases (and achieved by some very extreme people).  That’s not to say it’s impossible to achieve those kinds of savings, but it seems like the stars all have to align in the just the right place for those kinds of deals to happen.  For instance, many stores have coupon limits, perhaps allowing you to only use up to 4 of the same kind of coupon per visit.  Or they have item limits, where you can only purchase up to a certain quantity.  Many stores also will not allow you to use expired coupons (some stores actually will, but they are rare).  And then there is the problem of having the items in stock.  When you have other people who shop at the same store you do who also like to coupon, you often run into shortages, requiring you to ask for rainchecks and running the risk of your coupon expiring.

BUT, there are some really great deals to be had out there every week, and despite the occasional negatives, it’s well worth the effort.

My zippered folder, bought cheaply at Walmart - I use the front pocket to hold pens, calculator and scissors.

When I started out, I joined a website called GroceryGame.com.  There are other couponing websites out there with similar goals, but I liked GG, it was easy to use and the people on the forums are always incredibly helpful and kind.  The program on GG is fairly simple – you sign up for stores you shop at in your area, the weekly deals are put together in a List, you choose the items you want from your List, then you print it and gather your coupons.  Each list will even tell you where to find the coupons for your items.

But gathering the coupons always seems to be the biggest challenge.  Sunday papers usually have inserts from several sources, most notably Redplum, Smart Source and Proctor & Gamble, and the spines of the inserts will tell you the date they were printed.  There seem to be two main ways to keep your coupons among the GG crowd – the Weekly Binder or the Baseball Binder.

With the Weekly Binder, you simply put each circular into a binder that can hold about 3 months worth of inserts.  When you print your List, it will tell you to look for a coupon you need in the Redplum insert printed on 2/26.  Then you pull out that insert, thumb through for your coupon and clip it.

The inside cover has these pockets, perfect for holding inserts I haven't cut up yet, or for holding coupons I won't use to give to others.

The Baseball Binder can be a little more time consuming, but I’ve found it so helpful that I use this method.  I have a zippable binder with baseball card inserts that are separated into two sections, and then alphabetically.  The first section is for food/consumable items, the second is non-food/medicinal items, and I alphabetize by brand.  When I get an insert, I clip all the coupons I think I would be interested in using, I sort them, and file them into the little pockets.  When my List is ready, I simply flip to the brand, pull the coupon, and I am ready to go.  The reason I find this method so much better than the Weekly Binder method is because I have, on occasion, found discontinued items or special markdowns that would not appear in a national grocery store circular (GG is very good about putting unadvertised sales on, but I am talking about a specific store’s “dent and scratch” discount area).  By being able to open my binder and quickly flip to the brand, I can decide whether or not it’s a really good deal for me.  Additionally, I do shop at non-List stores sometimes, and if I have my binder with me, I can take advantage of sales I find there as well.  If I left coupons in their original inserts, it would take me way too long to flip through them to try and find that one coupon I think I remembered seeing… not worth my time.

I used plastic pocket folders to easily separate coupons per store, and grabbing the coupons I need is easy with the alphabetical system

The goal of couponing is two-fold.  Not only do you want to save the most money by stacking weekly store sales with manufacturing coupons, but you also want to stock up on the items you use so you have them when they are not on sale.  Why spend $3.59 on a jar of peanut butter every 3 weeks, when you can buy 4 for $1.59 each and have 3 months worth for less than 50% off?  It may not seem like much money, but it adds up.  So why not save that money for something else?

If anyone has any questions, I’m happy to chat more about it – otherwise, go forth and SAVE!

Weird Hobby #723 – GEORGING!

Georging is probably one of the more out-there hobbies I’ve ever enjoyed.  I even used it as a topic for a Basic Statistics course I took, and I can’t begin to tell you the number of raised eyebrows I could see from the podium.

Georging is the brainchild of Hank Eskin, who began the website wheresgeorge.com as a way to track where cash travels.  The idea is quite simple – enter the year and serial number of whatever bill you have in hand (any denomination will do) as well as the zip code you’re in, mark the website on the bill, then spend it.  The hope is that someone gets the bill, notices the website, and re-enters the information and their zip code, and voila!  You have a hit on that bill, along with statistics of how far it’s traveled in how much time.  If you’re lucky enough, the other person left a short note – perhaps how they came about it, or what they think of Georging.  The picture with the bills includes a bill I recently found that was someone else’s bill on top (I left my own kitty stamp on it to help draw attention), and a bill I marked myself on the bottom.

When I first registered for the site back in 2005, I was writing the site name by hand.  I soon discovered that many avid Georgers used stamps to make it easier on themselves (and easier to read for those who might pick up the bill), and was directed to stamp-connection.com, who even has their own Where’s George stamp section.  I picked out a couple of them, and went to my local craft store to get stamp pads.  The important thing to look for is that the stamp pad have archival-quality ink, acid free, and waterproof.  If you’re going to stamp, you may as well make sure the ink will last a while. Here’s my collection below – it’s actually two sets (I misplaced one long enough to get irritated and get a second set), along with several picture stamps.

I’d enter, mark and spend a large bill or two, then repeat the process with the change I got.  Not long after starting, I got my first hit, then another.  It was kind of neat, every once in a while getting an email notification that a bill got a hit, and I was excited to log on and see where it had ended up.  Initially, they were all local hits – I spent my money in a deli and someone got it as change for their lunch.  But eventually they started traveling… other counties, then other states, and finally, some started seeing the world!

A side benefit to this was learning from the veteran Georgers about their own finds, fantastic stories, and just learning more about currency in general.  I even began collecting old bills – nothing terribly valuable but different enough from today’s cash that it’s interesting.

Sure there have been times when I lost interest and didn’t mark up my money.  But every so often I would get an email about a hit and the excitement of wanting to know where it ended up always got me back into it again.

Here is my most traveled bill ever!  It ended up in Australia.  Unfortunately it hasn’t been seen in about 5 years at this point, so it may have “retired” from traveling, but you never know who may have stuck it in a drawer to be found again!  Hope you find this interesting enough to try Georging yourself!

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