Are Emulsifiers Destroying Your Gut Microbiota?

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Research into gut bacteria is an interest of mine. I started occasionally reviewing the DNA of my own microbial boime over a year ago. I was curious if I’d be able to witness known research, or my own hypotheses, in action after dietary changes.

Last summer, after a simple diet change, I saw a very dramatic drop in bacteria diversity. At first I wondered if the DNA analysis was faulty, as the drop was huge, but later I read a study on emulsifiers and realized I had likely experienced the findings of the study.

Here’s a graph of my uBiome data.

Gut Bacteria Chart Showing Dip in Quantity and Variability During Summer

Each color represents a different category of bacteria. The dramatic dip in the middle shows the variety of bacteria in my system being dramatically reduced.

To understand why I’m interested in this topic, I should mention that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over 20 years ago, but have been able to keep it in remission using diet. The only thing that seems to trigger a reaction is cane sugar, so I avoid it as best as I can. Beet sugar, a common white sugar, does not trigger the reaction, and luckily I live near the heart of beet sugar production.

One item I could never find with beet sugar was ice cream. I tried various ice cream brands, and contacted multiple companies in my search. I typically made my own ice cream in a Vitamix, but last year I discovered a brand manufactured in Michigan that was readily available in stores. Since Michigan is beet sugar territory, I decided to try it. No bad reaction. I researched their ingredients and found that they used beet sugar for their cheaper regular ice cream, and cane sugar only in their more expensive all natural ice creams. Wahoo! I’d found ice cream I could eat!

Last summer we ate one to two boxes of ice cream each week, trying many of the flavors this company made.

It just so happened that I had done a DNA analysis just prior to the summer of ice cream. I decided to do another after many weeks of ice cream indulgence. The result was the dip you see above. I decided to cut out the ice cream, and over the next six months my gut bacteria levels slowly started rebuilding.

I wondered why this had happened? Was it the sugar? That would be odd, as I’d consumed beet sugar in my own cooking. Was it the dairy? I’d been eating dairy without issue, though I do have to take lactase supplements. You see, I’m the only person in my immediate family that is lactose intolerant. Lactose gives me headaches if I don’t take enzymes. I wondered if the additional enzymes could have been a problem?

Early in 2015 my wife passed me a science article. It mentioned that scientists had discovered that common emulsifiers found in processed foods destroyed the gut bacteria in mice. I decided to look at the ingredients of what we had consumed during our Summer Of Ice Cream, and what do you know, we had added large quantities of multiple emulsifiers to our diet, including the exact one used in the study, polysorbate-80. Everything lined up. It appears I had proven their study findings applied to humans as well as mice. It was the only ingredient in the ice creams we enjoyed that I do not normally consume.

Emulsifiers are used to blend ingredients that don’t normally want to mix together, for example oil and water. They can work similar to a detergent, breaking down the oil so it will mix into water. Emulsifier use grew when food manufacturers began the low-fat craze about thirty years ago. Ice cream didn’t originally need emulsifiers because real cream worked fine to create ice cream. When cheaper, lower-fat ingredients were introduced into recipes instead, emulsifiers and gums were required to emulate cream and stabilize these concoctions. Eggs are also a natural emulsifier, and thus baked goods didn’t need chemical emulsifiers, though some baked goods now use them as well. Sadly, based on the study, it appears these low-fat products may be partially responsible for an increase in obesity due to their disruptions to the gut microbiota.

Here’s an example ingredient list from one of the ice creams we ate:
milk, sugar, cream, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, skim milk, whey, buttermilk, coconut oil, pecans, butter, water, modified cornstarch, alkalized cocoa, mono and diglycerides, natural flavors, cellulose gum, palm kernel oil, salt, soy lecithin, hydrogenated palm oil, artificial flavors, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, guar gum, polysorbate 80, annatto (color), carrageenan.

This list contains many water and oil ingredients, along with multiple emulsifiers and gums. Polysorbate-80 was one of the two emulsifiers studied, carboxymethylcellulose being the second, that were proven to disrupt the gut microbiota even with low quantities consumed. Research will hopefully continue to determine which other emulsifiers are a problem. The above ingredient list includes two additional emulsifiers. Soy Lecithin is commonly used in chocolates. Mono and diglycerides are one of the oldest emulsifiers that has been added to processed food recipes.

The problem with such emulsifiers is they emulsify the inner lining of your gut, destroying the mucus lining where much of your gut bacteria thrive. This would also explain a cause of Leaky-Gut-Syndrome, in which consumed food and bacteria by-pass the protective mucus lining, triggering autoimmune reactions. People have been making wild guesses about what causes this syndrome for a while now, and I was wondering if it was possibly all foolishness, but here’s scientific research that describes that process.

We humans generally have a kill-them-all attitude about bacteria. When it comes to your gut, you need bacteria colonies doing their job. Good bacteria colonies help keep you safe by helping kill off bad bacteria. Bacteria generate certain vitamins. They help digest food. We have a symbiotic relationship, and destroying your gut microbiota by eroding the mucus structures that bacteria live on is not doing us any favors.

Alas, I’ve cut out store bought ice cream again.

Here’s a fresh-made ice creamy dessert we often eat instead. This makes a lower calorie, delicious, healthy, no emulsifier or other weird chemicals needed, ice cream dessert. (I always measure by eye and just toss ingredients into the blender, but these should be about the right measurements.)

(Big serving for one, so multiply as needed)

1.5 Cup Frozen Strawberries (Or Other fruit, like frozen mango.)
1/3 cup milk (Cow or non-dairy)
1 tsp sugar, if needed (or other sweetener as desired)

Toss in a blender that has a tamper. Blend, tamping the frozen fruit down, until smooth and creamy. It’s ready to eat. Optionally stir in chunky ingredients, like chocolate or nuts. Scoop into a bowl. Optionally add toppings, like whipping cream or sprinkles. Eat it up, yum!

If you want to experiment, place cut up fruit into ice cube trays and fill the remaining space with a mildly sweetened milk. Blend these frozen cubes, using a bit of milk if needed to get them started. One combination I like is pineapple and banana with coconut milk and a touch of coconut sugar for a piña colada flavor. Another is a cooked butternut squash with milk and maple syrup. Chocolate milk and banana is pretty good.

You can leave out the fruit, but the fruit makes it creamy without needing heavy cream (or emulsifiers and gums). If you just use milk and flavor (like chocolate or vanilla) it tends to be watery and melt quickly unless you use heavy cream.

When shopping for store bought ice cream, I’d suggest looking for brands that don’t use emulsifiers and gums, but stick with the original ice cream ingredients of milk, cream, sugar and flavor ingredients.


Last of the Pinched Nerve Discomfort Gone

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Until last month, I was still having some discomfort related to my pinched nerve of the previous year. Some mild nagging neck and shoulder pain that was aggravated while lying down. At night I’d constantly wake to shift to a more comfortable position. I couldn’t sleep on my right side at all. Swimming was keeping the stabbing pain at bay, but if I didn’t swim every few days the pain would start to return. During the day I sometimes had pain if I moved into the wrong position, like reached behind me to grab something without fully turning. Nearly all of this discomfort is now gone, and it only required one hour of assistance.

Back when I was suffering from a nasty pinched nerve, I realized there were two issues that needed handling. The hospital only dealt with one, the vertebrae where the pinch originated, yet I discovered that I received more relief from muscle and fascia release than I did from spine stretching. The hospital used a machine to try and open the vertebrae, which included no muscle pressure. The hospital’s only muscle treatment was to assign the patient some light exercise to do at home. The exercises were not effective. The only thing that worked for me was hands on muscle work.

I assume muscle work is not part of standard therapy because it sounds like massage, and insurance doesn’t pay for massage. When properly done, proper muscle treatment is not what most people think of as a massage. Properly done muscle work either hurts or feels like pressure. No oils. No incense. No gentle sleep inducing touch. The greatest progress I made from the beginning to the end of my pinched nerve always came after a muscle work session. Once it was after a hospital worker broke treatment protocol, and later after I hired  someone when the hospital refused to let me see that same therapist again. I’m fully convinced I could have saved months of physical therapy, and been more productive much sooner, if insurance and the medical system had included some skilled muscle work sessions.

I described my experience with my pinched nerve treatment in a prior post. Once the stabbing pain was gone I had assumed I’d steadily recover. After a year I was still having some discomfort, as I mentioned. So I finally decided to dished out more cash for another rolphing session. The person I’d hired the previous year was on maternity leave, so I searched around and found someone that had been properly trained and had experience. Rolphing is normally done as a 10 session progressive series, but because this injury and a flood last year had impacted my income, I requested a single session that only targeted the area where I was having issues.

The session lasted one hour. At one point the therapist said the muscles over my scapula were not laying over each other correctly and he would try to correct them. He worked all through my left side: shoulder, neck, back, chest, ribs, arm. After the muscle work, some of it quite painful, he gave me some stretches to do at home and some posture tips.

I immediately found I was able to stand up straighter without discomfort I’d been having. The next time I swam my arm moved more freely, with none of the “crunching” sensation I would sometimes feel. I could now go over a week without swimming without the pain returning, though I have been keeping the swimming habit up to keep healthy. I could now also sleep on either side without waking to shift due to pain.

So, if you’re in pain, perhaps try some muscle work. The type of therapist I looked for was not a massage therapist, but a structural integration therapist, or Rolpher.

It’s been a month now and it still feels much better.


SOLVED: Printer Not Waking Up from Sleep Mode

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Green Ethernet Switch

A while back our color laser printer became annoying. Every time I went to print something it refused to print. I ended up having to turn it off and on again. Without an off/on cycle it would just sit there in sleep mode.

I don’t print hard-copy nearly as often as I once did, so it didn’t drive me too crazy at first. I just anticipated the step when I needed to print something.

Eventually my wife and daughter started printing a lot more often for work/school projects. Having to keep running to the printer to restart it had become an annoyance for multiple people.

I never did like our Brother color printer. It leaked magenta toner and left streaks. Plus, it was expensive to use: one of those good deals on the hardware, but they get you big time on the supplies. When I realized I was going to have to spend hundreds of dollars on maintenance soon (drum was near the end of it’s life, plus toner running low) I decided to buy a simple black only laser. Plus, I figured something was wrong with the printer as far as waking from sleep, so maybe a new one would save me the hassle of having to constantly hit the power switch.

What surprised me was the new HP printer also didn’t wake from sleep. Something else was obviously going on here.

My first thought was it must be a networking issue. The only piece of gear between the computer and the printer was a network switch.  An energy efficient network switch. And how do those switches save energy? They cut power on unused ports. You probably see where I’m going with this.

People all over the Internet are complaining because their printers will not wake from sleep. I found no solutions posted anywhere.

I decided to do some research on a similar topic. I found that people were having problems using wake-on-lan (WOL) with some green switches. WOL is a method of remotely waking a sleeping computer by sending it a WOL data packet. It appears some green switches would simply not send any data down a line with a sleeping device on the other end. Feature or bug? BUG! It broke the WOL standard. Luckily there’s a large enough hacker community that plays around with WOL for computers. That community debugged the WOL problem. My assumption was that if a computer wouldn’t receive a WOL packet while sleeping, a printer wouldn’t receive printout data while sleeping either.

I replaced the naughty trickster D-Link DGS-2208 with a business level HP ProCurve 1410-8G which was known to handle WOL correctly. The laser printers are back to printing instantly! No more power switching the printers. No more family screaming, “The printer’s not working again!”

The new switch is still an energy saving switch. It’s just a properly engineered energy saving switch. So, before you buy a green wired network switch make sure it’s WOL compatible.

2013, Year of the Pinched Nerve

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Pain takes over. It rules what you do during the day, keeps you from sleeping at night, and changes your day-to-day behavior. It tosses all your plans, replacing your to-do list with one line: “Stop the Pain!”

As you might guess from this seemingly over-the-top opening, 2013 was not one of my better years.

The first time I experienced pinched nerve pain was back in 2009. My primary doctor at the time insisted that pain pills and alternating hot and cold pads was all I needed. The pain pills did nothing to stop the pain, and there was no continuing relief from applying heat and cold. I was stuck in a chair with my arm raised over my head unable to move. I managed to do some activities on occasion by grimacing and just accepting pain as a fact of life. After suffering for a few months, out of desperation, I started seeking alternative treatment plans. These included seeing a chiropractor and various forms of traction. The pain lasted about six months total the first time. I slowly found relief after traction, and figured I had my future cure should it ever kick in again. This was not to be the case.

Back in 2009 I realized the pinched nerve started up after having joined a gym. I decided weight lifting was probably not the best form of exercise for me. Luckily, the gym moved and required everyone to rejoin. I didn’t. All was fine pinch-nerve-wise for a few years until I did a charity photo shoot for which I lugged a bunch of heavy lighting equipment to and from a hotel. It was a bad move: I’d gone from months of inactivity to heavy lifting in the middle of the winter and the pinched nerve pain was back again.

When the pinched nerve struck this second time (insert dramatic music here) two weeks into 2013, I decided I would make the medical system work for me this time. I had changed doctors since the first time. I liked the new guy. I had high hopes for a quicker recovery. Many months later I decided this obedience had been a bad idea. Under standard medical care I made little progress.

As of today I am totally pain free. I’m convinced I would not have been had I relied on standard medical treatment. Instead, I would have been begging for surgery, and based on talking to others, it was likely that surgery would have been a failure. My positive outcomes all came from listening to what the medical expert said, some chance meetings, and figuring out different therapies than what the hospital was offering. The huge leaps in progress I experienced took place when I left their protocols and followed my own intellect.

I offer this as my observations dealing with my pinched nerve, explaining what did and didn’t work for me, just in case it’s of interest to others.

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Do Sugar Alcohols increase Lactose Intolerence?

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.


Last year I reported on how ingesting sugar alcohols, which are artificial sweeteners sold in stores and found in many low-glucose processed foods (the ones that end in -ol, like sorbitol, Erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, etc.), can cause health problems. Many people have intolerance issues with indigestible sugars, including myself.

At the time I noted the ability to digest lactose would fall into the same category since for many people lactose is an indigestible sugar, at least to some degree. Now that I’ve avoided all sugar alcohols this year, I appear to be experiencing this link to lactose intolerance in action. I’m back to being able to eat dairy without worrying about major headaches.

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Almond Banana Pancakes

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Such simple ingredients for such yummy pancakes.

Now, I’ve always loved myself some good pancakes. Pancakes soaked with real maple syrup, maybe a pad of melting butter. Thin pancakes. Thick pancakes. I like pancakes so much that I would tease my wife by playing the Marvin Pontiac (John Lurie) song “You Never Make Me Pancakes” and look at her with puppy dog eyes… and then go make myself some pancakes.

These days, though, I need to watch what I eat to feel my best, so I’ve taken to eating more simple, primal foods. No more big plates of carbo-grains drenched with liquid sugar. These banana pancakes are perfect. The ingredients are basic. The preparation easy. I happen to like the taste and texture. They need no added sugar, not even my favorite sweetener: maple syrup. They puff up fine without flour or leavening. I never feel rotten or sluggish after finishing a plate.

Let me also mention that I probably make them a little differently every time, yet they always come out good. So, add more or less banana to your taste, from as little as 1/2 a banana, up to two bananas. These are a great way to use up those really brown/black bananas. Add more or less nut flour to your taste, or use different nut flours, or use a few tablespoons of nut butter, or a tablespoon of coconut flour instead. Toss in some vanilla or cinnamon or chocolate chips if it’s your want. Drizzle with a tiny bit of maple syrup if you really need the fix, or cover them in sliced strawberries or bananas. Add a pinch of salt if you crave it. It’s all good.


Banana Almond Pancakes

2 Eggs
1 Ripe Banana
1/3 Cup Almond Flour

Heat a flat pan to medium.

In a bowl scramble up the eggs. Add the banana and mash it into the eggs as smooth or as chunky as you’d like. Add the almond flour and stir until blended into a batter.

Drop some butter or oil (coconut or grapeseed perhaps) into the pan. Pour in the batter to form small pancakes. I typically use about 1/4 cup each. Cook until puffed and browned. Flip to brown both sides. Eat ‘em up!


Scantily-Clad Pose-Off for Charity

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Jim C. Hines is a writer that’s been discussing sexism and the impossible-body-posing fetishism found on book covers. He’s been doing it mostly by personally duplicating book covers himself, posing and writing about how ridiculous and painful the postures are. You can check out his blog and see a bunch of his own crazy photo shoots.

As the discussion goes: Book sellers want skin and out-thrust bosoms and butts on their covers, so artists provide them by contorting their figures to crazy and impossible extremes. There’s also a tendency to wear ridiculous clothing, like all those nearly naked warrior women wearing metal bikinis in the snow. What does this say about us?

I became involved in the conversation when Jim proposed doing a group photo using science fiction authors to raise money for charity. If people donated enough he’d pull in some of the new big names in the science fiction field and do a group photo, reversing the genders. Well, the money came streaming in, three times what they expected was raised, and Jim contacted me to do the shoot at one of our local science fiction convention here in Michigan called ConFusion.

The models:

Within the fantasy and science fiction community these are all very well known folk. All are fun, generous, and active in the genre. All were also very willing to put themselves out there to raise money, join the discussion, and let everyone enjoy them stepping way out of their own comfort zones for a good cause.

Jim secretly sent us all the photo we’d be using. It was the cover art used for the Poul Anderson book “Young Flandry”, a James Bond styled action adventure in space novel. Jim gave everyone the option to say no way, but instead out came the cry, “Let’s do this!”

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Improving WiFi for our Smart Phones

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

One of the unexpected issues we had after upgrading to smart phones was that we suddenly wanted WiFi Internet access everywhere in our house and property. With our laptops we had specific places we sat to use them, and the access was fine in those places, but with our smart phones we were up and wandering everywhere. Suddenly we were discovering all the dead zones in the house. For example, when I tried taking my phone to the backyard in the summer with Bluetooth speakers to play music, I found I had to stay within ten feet of the house to maintain access to the local WiFi network. We also found ourselves getting disconnecting upstairs and in the farther end of our living room. Sometimes it depended on which direction we faced. Since our phones have data limits we wanted to save the 4G data use for when we were away from home. It was time to change-up the WiFi.

I loaded up a WiFi signal detector app on the phone and wandered the house. Not only was the signal dropping far from the router, but in the living room our neighbor’s WiFi signal was actually significantly higher than ours. At the time, our router was located in a corner of the basement. That was where the cable company had installed the cable modem. To get better coverage of the entire house I decided to move the router to the very center of the house on the main floor.

It just so happened that the center of our house is a hall closet. I had our entertainment system in this closet with long wires connecting it to the TV and speakers in the living room. I put it there because when I was a kid we pulled the channel knob off the TV (yes, it was long enough ago that we had knobs) and dropped paper clips inside, shorting the TV out. I’ve watched little kids try to put all kinds of objects into CD and DVD players. When our daughter, Coral, was born I moved our entire entertainment system to a top shelf in the hall closet to keep it out of her reach. Being eight years old now, I actually want her to be able to reach the Blu-ray drive on her own.


So, I moved the receiver and media PC to a cabinet in the living room, and moved the router into the closet. This did the trick. We now had WiFi coverage all through the house.

Of course, I couldn’t just stop there. My neighbor’s router was still stronger than ours in the living room! Looking online, I found they now had higher-powered and faster routers. I upgraded. My laptop can now connect at nearly Gigabit wired speeds. I walked our property from the street to the back fence: we have an excellent signal everywhere on our property. We’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and we don’t even think about WiFi access anymore because it’s always connected no matter where we are at home.

Next summer I suspect we’ll enjoy sitting outside in the yard with our networked music or radio streaming, checking mail, and posting to Facebook. We won’t have to limit ourselves to ten feet from the house. Having access to streaming radio and music will also make it much more enjoyable when I finally get around to cleaning out and repairing our old garage. It really needs it. Luckily it’s winter right now, so I won’t think about that chore any further.

Almond Flour Scones

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

Here’s a great recipe for those trying to reduce their carb load, yet who still want desert-like goodies to snack on. I brought the chocolate chip variation to a party the other week and they were gobbled up.

NOTE 1: Using butter or Earth Balance will give more of an old-school buttery flavor, while coconut oil will add a coconut overtone and a slightly harder texture. All three are good, just different, so use what you prefer or need for your diet. Coconut oil should always be used by those following a primal diet, but people not familiar with coconut oil may prefer the other options.

NOTE 2: There are two reasons to choose between maple syrup or agave syrup. First, there’s your taste preference. Second, and more importantly to me, there’s the glycemic-index. Agave is low-glycemic and considered better for diabetic conditions, while maple syrup has less fructose and is better for fructose malabsorption conditions. I use maple syrup.

NOTE 3: With only walnuts you’ll have a very mildly sweetened scone and the walnuts will add a nice variety in the taste and texture.  Adding Chocolate chunks/chips makes these into something more like a chocolate chip cookie. I’ll  switch between the two, sometimes using half and half depending on if I want more of a dessert or a snack. I personally find a full cup of chocolate chunks/chips way too sweet for my taste, so I rarely go over 1/2 cup if only I’m eating them.

Almond Flour Scones

2 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil, softened butter, or Earth Balance
1/8 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Up to 1 cup walnuts or dark chocolate chunks/chips, or a mix of both

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients except for walnuts or chocolate until smooth. Stir in walnuts or chocolate. Form 10-12 scones on cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly browned.

Almond Flour Chocolate Cookie

Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and an additional 1/8 cup of syrup to the above recipe to transform it into a chocolate cookie. The sugar load is a bit high for me, but I wanted to include this variation for those looking for a way to twist the recipe further into dessert territory.

Alternate Sweetener Substitution

I don’t tolerate many artificial sweeteners,but if you need to totally cut out all sugar you can adapt the recipe by substituting half of the butter/oil with grape seed oil and using 4 packets of any alternate sweetener like Sweet ‘n Low or Stevia instead of the syrup.


Setting Up the New Android Phone

Originally published at Primed for Synergy. You can comment here or there.

We just upgraded our phones to Android Smart Phones. It’s like having another computer to setup! We finally settled on the apps we like, and life seems easier, especially now that I’m no longer constantly messing with the device.

Last week I was at the world science fiction convention. Instead of my laptop, I only brought the phone. Doing this was an experiment. Would I miss the bigger screen and keyboard? I didn’t! Only having the phone was great. What really impressed me was being able to load, process, and post photos from my big honking DSLR camera on this small device. It was so fast and easy. I’ll post about my photography setup another day.

For now, here are my favorite general apps yet so far:

Swiftkey 3
I now consider this a mandatory keyboard replacement for touch devices. I switched to it right away, while my wife continued to use the default keyboard. After a few weeks I convinced her to try it. Took, oh, about a minute for her to be totally won over. It’s one of those word suggesting keyboards. As you type it tries to guess what word you want and displays it’s best three guesses. Touch the word and it’s inserted with a space. The phone’s default keyboard had this feature as well, but the logic behind the word suggestions is leaps ahead with SwiftKey. It effectively samples and learns your words choices and makes better guesses. I discovered you can also enter words without apostrophes and it’ll suggest it with the apostrophe, thus avoiding that extra step of accessing shifted characters. It also recognizes when you backspace to a word and suggests different forms of the word, like adding “ed” or “ing”. This keyboard makes typing longer text messages on a tiny touch keyboard a reasonable task. Yet so far, I was only caught once by it accidentally inserting the wrong word, and that was because I didn’t realize at first that the best thing to do is always touch a suggested word instead of pressing the space bar, as the space bar inserts the center suggestion, which is not always what you want. After a few days it all started feeling natural, the software had learned my style, and no more wrong word picks. Highly recommended.

This app is also mandatory for me. With my old phone I was always putting it in vibrate mode for meetings or shows, and then forgetting I’d shushed it. It would often vibrate unheard in another room until I remembered to turn the ringer back on. Shush automatically allows quickly and easily setting a time period that the phone should remain in quiet mode. Go into an hour long meeting, set it to one hour. Go to the movies, set it for two hours or so. It’s easy to use, as it automatically pops up the Shush time selection screen whenever you use the volume rocker to set the volume to zero. Highly recommended.

Juice Defender Ultimate
One more mandatory app for me. One problem with smart phones is they can be battery hogs. This app allows setting schedules for power hungry connections and syncing, and setting times of the day to automatically enter a sleeping quiet mode. It helps control screen brightness, and generally just helps make the battery last longer. Work very well, though some apps still can drain the battery in less than a day if you spend way too many hours with your eyes glued to the screen. It also handles automatically switching to your regularly used Wi-Fi connections based on learned GPS locations, thus avoiding overuse of the 4G or 3G data links without constantly having to choose a Wi-Fi connection. Highly recommended.

ES File Explorer
I’m a computer guy. I like full access and control of my system drives. This file explorer gives me that. It makes it easy to open, copy, move, and rename files between various storage locations. It gives me fast access to the main drive, the external card, plugged-in devices, LAN drives (like my networked Synology Raid), FTP servers, etc.. A Favorites feature makes it easy to jump to often used folders. I can now easily use the phone to manage files without having to connect the phone to a computer first.

Evernote is an easy to use list and note taker that keeps notes, photos, recorded notes, and attachments in cloud storage. It’s interface is good because it’s made for small screens and allows easy sharing. There are also lots of plug-ins available for browsers. Good way to maintain notes and to-do lists.

This is the calender program I settled on. The main reason I chose it was how well it synced multiple Google Calenders. It allows me to quickly toggle which of many calenders are shown on the phones calender, both those you can modify and those you can’t. This allows me to sync my wife’s schedule, my daughter’s schedule (my wife and I both maintain this one together), and my schedule, along with overlaying a holiday calender, 5 day weather calender, and birthday/events calender. With a single press I can toggle between just my schedule and everyone’s schedule together. It’s not as graphically pretty as some calender apps, but I actually like that because it uses every pixel for data, and that gives you more detail when looking at a month calender on a small phone screen. Now that we have a single calender with everyone’s schedules on it there should be fewer surprises, like those late school meetings my wife would forget to tell me about.

I’ve been using personal email servers for a long time and have multiple e-mail addresses. I also like to download all my e-mails for searching and archiving rather than trusting them on a cloud service like Gmail. So, while my wife just uses the built-in GMail client, I decided on MailDroid. It just works more like a good old mail client. It also allows archiving e-mails into your own folders, and flagging emails, including as spam. The feature that probably won me over was how it handled advanced email viewing: it automatically downloads only the text, but turn the phone to landscape and press one icon and it displays the email full screen with all graphics and formatting. Makes for very easy reading on a phone. This is not a program I think everyone will love. GMail users will likely want to stick to the GMail client, and others may prefer a simpler programs with a prettier interface, but it does what I need very well.

MX Player Pro
Plays back many video file formats and includes multiprocessor support. Just a good video player.

Find Me Gluten Free
A program to find restaurants that can handle gluten-free diets. Easier to use than the Yelp interface.

Out of Milk
My wife and I use this to update the grocery list. We maintain one list and update it whenever we think of something that should be added. You can cross items off with a swipe as you pick them up, and it includes a barcode scanner. A simple one purpose tool without being overly complex.

Smart Tools
These are a set of tools including a Flashlight, Compass, Level, Ruler, Protractor, Sound Meter, Vibrometer, Distance Measuring Tool.

A remote control program for Windows, which I can use to control the computer connected to our TV. Includes additional menus for media playback and web browsing. Gives me some access to the living room’s media computer when the mini-wireless keyboard is missing.

MDScan & CamCard
MDScan is an easy way to take photos of documents and have them stored as a single PDF file. It does a good job of very quickly straightening and cleaning up pages to make them readable. CamCard is a similar program except specifically for business cards. I like these, but the phone is too new to tell how often I’ll ultimately use them.

And here are some more apps now on the phone:

  • Amazon Kindle
  • Amazon Mobile (for buying stuff or price lookups)
  • Dolphin Browser (a better phone browser than the default)
  • Dropbox
  • EJay (LiveJournal App, for checking the blogs of the last holdouts)
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • Goodreads
  • Google Maps
  • Google Sky Map
  • Google Voice (we mostly use it for free texting when needed)
  • Groupon
  • IMDd
  • LivingSocial
  • NetFlix
  • Pandora
  • Recipes
  • QR Droid & RedLaser
  • Skype (works very well on my phone, but a data and power hog)
  • TuneIn Radio Pro
  • Twitter
  • WordPress
  • Yelp


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