We need to Own our Technology Again!

When I was a kid, Radio Shack was the coolest store. I didn’t understand most of what I saw, but there were parts for electronics and computers and stereos all over. You didn’t have to buy a computer, you could BUILD IT. Keep in mind, this was the late 70’s and early 80’s when the homebrew computer movement was still alive to a degree. People just knew how to do things like solder and measure amps and volts and manipulate them to make LEDs glow.

Quick, how many people under 50 do you know, who even own a soldering gun?

Sad isn’t it? I know the world has changed and computing has changed, but look at what’s happened to us! 30 years ago, if your radio broke, you either fixed it yourself or took it to someone who could. If your phone breaks today, what happens? Judging by the number of people I see with cracked screens, you suck it up and live with it till your contract is up. There are places that will do the repairs. often for a sizable amount. We’ve chosen to either live with it or dispose of it.

I ran into this decision last week when my iPhone stopped charging. Paying $600 for a new one was out of the question. I could get my old 3G up and running and have a phone for the next 6 weeks. I could do without. I could get the charging port replaced for about $100.

I didn’t like any of these. So I hit up YouTube and found this video.  Wow…that looked so easy!    I hit Amazon for some parts, new charging port for $5 and a new batter for $20, plus the tools.   For less than $30 I’d have the parts to replace my charger AND my 2 year old battery that never seemed to last long enough.   But, could I do it???

Yup.   Took about an hour, but the phone was back up and running and working just as it had been.  Charges, has a better (still not great) battery life, and reaffirms to me that our electronics should NOT be disposable.

There’s movement out there:  The Makers.  In a lot of ways, it reminds me of what I thought Radio Shack was…a bunch of people buying cool looking parts to make their stuff do even cooler stuff.  What it really is, though, is owning their technology and not being afraid of it.   Most of us took basic electronics in school, and promptly were encouraged to forget it because Mom and Dad were NOT going to let you crack open the VCR or brand new computer running Windows 3.1.  Schools don’t offer much more…unless your on a vo-tech plan.

Heck, if it weren’t for my Dad and 7th grade wood shop, I wouldn’t know how to use a table saw, router or drill press.

Ok, I’m trailing from my point.    Not everyone has the courage to crack open their phone and fix the insides.   But more of us should.  It’s not difficult; the internet makes it easier that it would have been 30 years ago (no circuit diagrams to figure out.)  If you don’t want to, you should know someone willing to.   There used to ALWAYS been that guy who could fix radios and toasters, etc.   Where are they now?

Break the upgrade cycle.  Break the disposable device cycle.  Break your device and learn how to fix it.   You’ll be a better person for it!





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PA Spartan Race: 2014 Thoughts

Sometimes, you need to sit on things awhile before you comment on them.   This year’s Palmerton Spartan Race is one of them.

IMG_1270Holy Crap on the Cracker!

One does not simply do a Spartan Race.  If you’ve done a Warrior Dash, the local YMCA mudrun, and a couple of benefit 5ks, you can finish a Spartan Sprint….but it will have its way with you.  Just being clear here…these things are tough.

This was my 4th race and  I knew what to expect.   Spartan Race has a ‘be prepared for anything’ attitude, and they mean it.   There’s always a new obstacle or 3, different layout of the course, and fun ‘challenges’ along the way…you know, like hiking for 2 miles up a double diamond ski slope.   You get to the top and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all downhill from there.  No, no it’s not.  It never is.  You’re going to descend through highly technical terrain, get wet, get muddy, scare yourself (if you’re lucky) and finish with the right to be REALLY obnoxious about it for at least a week.

Spartan Race, to me, has trouble balancing the “We want to get people off their couches” philosophy, with the “THIS RACE ISN’T HARD ENOUGH.  IMO DRAG A TIRE WITH ME” meatheads.   Some volunteers seem to want to mess with you, and they suck the fun right out of the race.   There’s one punk with a megaphone at the bucket o’rocks carry who was asking for an airborne bucket of rocks in his direction.  Then there were the volunteers yelling “You’re not going to do burpees on this.  You’re going to make it over, you can do it.”  They’re also cagey with the exact distance of the race.  Advertised as 3+ miles, I’ve been told everything from 4.9 to 5.5 miles.

None of the obstacles were THAT difficult.  I bailed on the rope climb because I was just SO tired.   I landed the spear for the second year in a row (my trick, just. throw. hard.)   The Hercules Hoist was a real challenge:  For a brief moment I wasn’t sure I could do it.  I’m disappointed there was no water slide this year.   The Tire Pull was fun.

I took issue with the cargo net monkey bars at the end.  You’re suspended about 10 feet over water (maybe 3 feet deep?) and mud.  Hand over hand it across the cargo net and ring the bell; then drop.    First, that’s a scary drop.  I wonder how many injured ankles came out of there.  Second: it’s one of the last obstacle in a very tough race.  It’s where the spectators are….you don’t want to fail in front of your family.  When I let go, I was mad at myself and Spartan Race.  Finally, if most people are failing the obstacle, AND the obstacle is at the end, maybe it’s not right for the homestretch.

I limped to the finish line thanks to some leg cramps.  Surprisingly, I saw a TON of people with cramps this year.   I emptied my Camelbak twice, had 3 GU packs plus electrolyte tabs.   I was greeted with a medal (1/3 of the Trifecta medal is attached this year), plenty of water, bananas, power bars, protein shakes and my lovely wife, daughter, and good friends Ed and Darlene.

Spartan Race needs to beef up their after-race party.   Props on the choice NOT to make the free beer Miller Lite (like last year.)   They have to give people a reason to stick around afterwards, though.  They need a better party/festival atmosphere.   For spectators, I’m told it’s brutal.  Once you check out the handful of vendors, there’s NOTHING to do.  For the price we pay, and the fact there’s a steep spectator fee, there really should be something more than  ‘watch out for the muddy people.’

Am I doing it again?  Of course.   That feeling at the finish line energizes you in a way you have to experience to understand.   I’m a Spartan, and that means something to me.











PS:  Check out my Spartan Race 2014 Video

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Wine Snob Training

This past weekend, my wonderful wife and I celebrated out 10th wedding anniversary in NY’s Finger Lakes region.  We hit many of the local wineries, had an amazing time, and picked up some fun memories.   A lot of the wineries tend to blur together…partially due to the wine, but partially due to how they don’t really stand out from one another.   But, there were a few and I’m going to digress from the usual tech and fitness stuff and sprinkle in a few posts about wineries that really stood out for us.

Maybe it’s because I’m a trainer, maybe it’s how I’m wired; I’m always looking at how information is conveyed.  I’m observing how I or the crowd is being taught.  I got to see it done brilliantly at Silver Thread Vineyard.

You’ve heard people say “I don’t like wine” or “I only like red wine.”   You’ve probably also seen a stereotypical wine snob taste a wine and tell you where the grapes were grown, the type of soil, etc.  Silver Thread helps get you past the first, and strangely enough on the path to being the second!

How?  A Riesling Flight!


One of their options is to taste 4 of their Rieslings, each from a different vineyard.  One vineyard has a lot of mineral content, another is close to the lake, another is from a commercial vineyard and I don’t recall what (if anything) was unique about the other.

If you say you don’t like wine, chances are you haven’t had it in the right circumstances.  You had cheap stuff, maybe someone’s grandfather’s homemade jet fuel (not that THAT’S a bad thing), or one of the big 3 out of California: Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot.   (I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of Cabs or Merlot.  I thought I wasn’t a wine drinker because of them.)

When you taste the first Riesling, you taste Riesling; usually a bit sweet, crisp like a tart apple, maybe some pear flavors or a floral aroma.  Then you taste the next and HEY!   How’s that a Riesling from here when it’s clearly a different wine!?!?   That’s where the magic starts to happen.  You taste the first again…Hmm, this is almost citrusy where (sipping the second) this one isn’t.  Maybe it’s the minerals you’re tasting?  Move onto the third.  Okay, now you’re just completely messing with me!

You just tasted 4 of the exact same wine variety, from the same winery, but from different vineyards.  You can taste the difference from vineyard to vineyard and know why they taste that way.   You’re on the path to being a wine snob.   Never thought THAT would happen, did you?  When you think about it, it does make sense.  Do all burgers taste the same?  Does every vanilla ice cream taste exactly the same?  No, and why should wines?

Silver Thread is a small winery that does a huge service to its customers; it teaches them something about wine.   So many wineries shuffle you through like cattle, giving you whatever they can pour as fast as they can pour, it’s a treat to visit a place that wants to make good wine and good wine drinkers.

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“App-y” Days are Coming

This may sound conceited, but a lot of things come easy for me.   I challenge myself and am generally pleased with the results, review, and see what I can do better next time.  Mud runs, wine and beer making, I’m never perfect the first time, but I get better.

Coding is a whole other ball of brain-burning, eye-gouging, face-melting-like-someone-just-opened-the-ARK, wax.

I can read it, I can follow it and see what’s going on.  Don’t ask me to write my own.  I struggle getting past 10 PRINT “Sean”  20 GOTO 10.

Not a big deal, as long as your brain doesn’t see cool app-ortunities (groan) at least once a week.   I have 3 right now that are screaming from within my head to get out.  It’s nice that they overpower the other voices, but they’re still annoying.  So, I have to learn IOS development (I’m an Apple dude…no hating on Android or Windows…one thing at a time.)

For 2 years I’ve struggled through numerous books (I like the Head First and Big Nerd Ranch books) and tutorials on Lynda.com.  Then, 2 weeks ago I found a tremendous deal on a Udemy course.  What’s better is a friend started taking it too.  (best text message ever:  “(expletive deleted) coding!  Live and die, mostly die, by the semicolon.”)

The classes on Udemy are really solid, and I love the way concepts are introduced.  Some stuff throws you right into coding and says “we’ll explain later.”  Others give you all the syntax but little context.   Udemy, for me, is finding the right mix; build something, write some simple code.   Make one screen, add a text box, add a button, add a field.  Hook up the button to change the field to whatever you put in the text box.   Basic feature I’m sure I’ll use 1000 times.

So, I’m excited.  Watch a couple of short videos each day (there’s over 300) and take notes on what’s going into my first app.   Not going to say a lot about it just yet; saving that for a launch page and introductory blog post.   Since I want to launch by late summer at the LATEST, the wait shouldn’t be too terribly long.

Smart I am, but I am not a developer yet.   You can bet I’m going get there, this year.

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How I Train: New Ground

A few weeks ago, in this post, I discussed the hows and whys I work out at home.  I’m going to say right now:  I’ve never had George Lucas call me and say ‘Sean, come hang at the ranch for a week or two.”, nor has Tim Cook emailed me to say “Sean, I’d like to match your current salary +50% for 5 years, so you can focus on being an IOS developer.”  Bruce Springsteen has DEFINITELY never showed up at my house saying “heard you were a fan, mind if I crash on the couch for a few days?   Let’s throw a huge block party this weekend; I’ll play, and buy the beer.”  I doubt those things will ever happen.  (wink wink)


At the end of a chain of events I never saw coming, my lovely wife and I checked out a new Crossfit gym near our house.  We loved it.   That’s important…WE loved it.   With sandbags, I’ve been doing modified Crossfit for a few years.  I’ve read the pros and cons, winced at the meatheads on YouTube and the ones who can’t be EXTREME!!!! enough.  I’ve seen the average people make amazing changes.   I’ve always been open to it, but needed that push.  She gave me that push.

What did I see?    I saw a coach who walked us through each exercise and stressed form.   The workout was ‘Fran’, 21 reps of thrusters then ring rows (or pullups if you can do them), then 15 reps, then 9 reps….all for time.   I saw it modified in such a way that we both nailed the workout and we NEVER encouraged to take on more than we could.  In fact, it was suggested we do them with PVC pipe and not the barbells.   We decided to do the barbells.

I also saw a subtle psychological trick.  I do sandbag thrusters with an 80lb bag.  I had the 45 lb bar and looked for some 10 and 5 lb weights to put on it.   All I saw were ‘plates’, which I assumed were the standard 45lbs.   They weren’t!!  They were rubber, and some we 10 lbs.   They also had 15 lb bars that looks like 45 lb ones.   Once could grab 10’s and put them on the light bar and look like they’re lifting 135 lbs to an average gym goer.   It’s the illusion of putting up a lot of weight.   That’s powerful!!!!!   You walk into a gym, haven’t done the workouts; you’re nervous.   You don’t want to look like a newb.    If you’re putting up 35 or 55 lbs next to someone doing 135….and your bars look similar, you’re going to feel less self-conscious.

What didn’t I see?   The jacked up, over caffeinated, super shredded, ‘brah’s’.   I also didn’t see any 3/4 naked women with 2% bodyfat, parading and flexing.   I saw people that looked like us; hopeful, encouraged AND encouraging.  I didn’t see ANYONE push anyone to do more than they could do.  I didn’t see form sacrificed.   I didn’t see ANY unsafe activities.

Hey, I’ll be honest, I’ve been injured because of bad form.   I’m not going to encourage my wife to do ANYTHING that could hurt her.   If I see someone encouraging time or reps over good form, that’s it…done.

This is new territory for me.   I’m excited.   I’m doing this with my best friend; someone who’s going to inspire and motivate me.   We’re going to have something new in common, something new to talk about;  Changes we’re making together.

My training has taken a turn for the better.   There’s something new and exciting on the horizon.    I’m going to be tracking progress here.   If you’re curious about Crossfit, I promise to do my best to be an objective source.

And, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Cook and Mr. Springsteen, feel free to message me right here.


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Do We Hate our Heroes?

“I’ll give them heroics. I’ll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone’s super… (chuckle) no one will be.”

~Syndrome.  The Incredibles

Among my circle of friends, Man of Steel has created a LOT of discussion.  The common thread was a lack of ‘heart’.  All the parts were there, but it committed the sin of taking itself too seriously.  Make no mistake, the plot, characters and motivations were spot on.  The direction was solid.   It was just so serious.   Not a giggle, not a laugh, just bleakness.

This is a story about our ideal; a man with god-like powers who is completely uncorrupted by it.

We hate that and we have to bring it down.   Have we stopped looking up at what we can be and instead look up to see what we can pull down to our level?

Don’t believe me?   Read the news.   Who are our heroes?   Do we have any left?  While I don’t condone making sports figures heroes based on their actions on the field, do we have any left?    We’ve got a few hundred thousand (maybe more) military heroes, and we don’t cover their heroics.  We cover PTSD, the ones who crack, the ones who failed in their homecoming.   Go watch TV; the big shows, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, A Game of Thrones.   The heroes aren’t always good guys, the bad guys aren’t always bad, and message is just so muddied.  Writing this, I can’t think of any ‘common’ literary heroes.

Even listen to a DC fan and a Marvel fan argue?  “DC heroes are too powerful, they’re boring, Marvel heroes are flawed, like the rest of us.”   “Marvel heroes forget about the joy of being a hero…I worry about paying the rent, I don’t want to read about Spiderman not making ends meet.”   Let’s not forget that it too FOUR X-men films before you saw characters showing off their powers to one another for fun.  Make Batman suffer, make him the villain in Gotham City!  Strip ’em of all but the pain…that’s what we want to see.

Is it the economic conditions of the past few years?   Is it a 24 hour news cycle that requires something newsworthy every 20 minutes?  Is it the peanut gallery dynamic of the internet? Is it the reality of “everyone gets a medal’?  Everyone gets to be ‘super’, so that no one really is.  When someone truly is a hero, it makes us uncomfortable, makes us question ourself…and we hate feeling like someone’s better than us.

Screw that.   Someone’s always better.  We need them to be!   If there’s any hope for our society, we need to have role models…we need to have people who do the things that make them better than the average folk.  We need to have someone who us what we can be!  Will they have human failings, absolutely!   Will they be a shining beacon of purity in all facets of their being?  No way.  Will they show us how strength, courage and hope can guide you out of the darkness?  You bet.

Do we hate our heroes?   I want to think we don’t.   I want to think that we hate the parts of us that don’t measure up, and choose to close that gap by finding common ground, or some flaw we can exploit  Sour grapes, nothing more.  “Nobody can be THAT successful in athletics without steroids.”  “All those stories were written when he was high as a kite.”   “Clark Kent is how Superman sees humanity.”

Heroes are our goals.   For anyone that’s EVER achieved ANYTHING, was it possible without a goal?

“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way.”

~Jor-El, Superman

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How I Train Part 1: Sandbags

I joined my first ‘gym’, my HS boiler room, when I was 16.   I belonged to a gym in one form or another (college gym, YMCA, Fitness Center, etc) up till 3 years ago.   I was a tough break; I really liked the gym I belonged to, but I had a newborn at home and my wife and I were balancing work, family, etc…and working out became difficult.  Mind you, the TIME to workout wasn’t tough.  ANYONE can find 30 minutes most days to be active.  GETTING to the gym was the hard part.

So I started looking at home gym options.  I had to be able to do everything I did at the gym.   I had to have enough weight/resistance to build and maintain muscle.   It had to have a small footprint (not a lot of room in the house at the time.) It had to be ‘real’ equipment, no fads or gimmicks.  Finally, it had to be affordable; no $5000 supersystems with tons of specializations.

That’s when I found BruteForceSandbags.

It actually started with bodyrock.tv (kinda’ not safe for work…but solid fitness material.)   Their trainer was throwing around a sandbag and my interest was sparked.   Could this be the solution I was looking for?    I did some searches and ended up at Brute Force’s site.

Could I do everything I did in the gym, with a sandbag?   Almost.   Olympic lifts, squats, shoulder presses, rows, and most all other power moves could be done with a sandbag.   How much weight?   I went with the Strongman which goes up to 120 lbs.  Not the 300 I was looking for, but it was a start.   I soon learned that 120 lbs in a sandbag is significantly harder to lift than 120 lbs of barbell.   How was the footprint?   The size of a duffel bag, so, smaller beyond my expectations!   Is it ‘real’ equipment?   3 years later the bag is in great shape and is the cornerstone of my resistance training.  What about price?   They’re not inexpensive, but more so than 120 lbs of weight plus a barbell.  When you put it in perspective, it’s about 3-4 months membership at a gym.

It was love at first workout.   I replicated my standard workouts and found that I felt better after the sandbag workouts.    4×5 of cleans then 4×12 squats, romanian deadlifts, bent over rows, shoulder presses and then pushups and pullups.

It was then that I found Sandbag Fitness.   Matt, the guy who runs it, is pretty passionate about sandbag training and has provided, FOR FREE, some truly killer workouts.    He’s also written THE BOOK on sandbag training.

Before you think this is just a plug for Brute Force’s and Matt’s sites, let me assure you I’m merely assigning credit to those who’ve inspired me.    In these 3 years, I’ve seen gains in endurance and fitness that I never had in the gym.   With a sandbag, you have to train in a different way.   You use your core and stabilizer muscles much more.   You find things like lugging some mulch around back, carrying groceries, and, if you’re a Spartan Racer, the Sandbag Carry, so much easier.   They’re ridiculously versatile: do a traditional 3×10 or 4×12 or 5×5 workout.   Do Crossfit-style workouts.   Do just about any exercise you do with a bar, and then some.

I’ve since added 3 more sandbags, the Athlete and Heavy Hitter.    The Athlete is awesome for taking out on runs, doing sandbag burpees and high rep cardio workouts.   The Heavy Hitter currently has about 150 lbs in it and goes up to 300.   It gets a TON of use for bear hug squats and, my favorite: Pick it up and get it over your head.

So, did it change me into a muscular, ripped, Adonis?   Heck no….I eat too much.  No equipment is going to do that unless you eat right.   Do I miss the gym?  Never.   Would I give up my sandbags for a lifetime membership to whatever mega-gym?   Nope.

Sandbags did for me what I’d hoped for:  Gave me versatility, functionality and ease of use for (now) under $500.   I’ve never been so pleased with a fitness product.

So, there’s what you need to know if you’re interested in using sandbags in your workouts.   Any questions, feel free to ask, or ask the experts in the links above.



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Testing out the WordPress app


I gotta post something more than tech and how this site is being built. Here I am kicking the tires on the WordPress mobile app for iOS.

Pic, check

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November 23, 2013 · 2:08 pm

Site Updates

I hate my toolbar.  Just going to put that out there now.   I want you to click Family Fun, and get everything I post about Family Fun.  But out of the box WordPress doesn’t let you.  You can make a menu, set up categories, put posts into categories and have them accessible from the menu.  Go hover on Tech Stuff and see what I mean.  A second Tech Stuff appears.   I don’t want you to have to hover.  I’m that kinda’ guy…you know?

Anyway, got some books, some online tutorials and I’ll crack this nut.  Part of this learning how to customize the templates and make the site I want.

2 updates tonight.  About and Tech Stuff now have landing pages.   More to come!

~ Sean

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The Tech behind Seannanagins

This site has been stirring around in my head for a while.   I’ve launched a few blogs in the past and got bored really quickly.  I can’t talk about just one thing;  I’ve always got 10 things running around in my head.

So in the past few weeks I started building this.   I had 2 real choices, Squarespace and WordPress.


Slick and gorgeous!  I mean, seriously.   I had a site that looked so much better than this does (so far) in about 2o minutes.   Triva:  The Hawaiian shirt header was meant for the Squarespace site.   The downside is that it’s pricey: about $200 a year.  Granted, you get more than what you pay for.


Some stats say that WordPress runs 1/6th of the sites on the web.   It’s a mature, popular, well documented and supported application.  It’s also free, but you gotta have a server to put it on.  It also doesn’t have the beautiful templates that Squarespace has.

The decision:

1: It’s November.  Christmas is coming.  Do I really feel like racking up a $200 bill for a year of who knows what on the internet?

2:  I’m so intrigued with learning something new.  I catch onto tech pretty well.  As cool as Squarespace is, WordPress skills are marketable.

3: I like the story:  Geek buys 2 domains and build a really cool website, while documenting how he built that site.

4: Lifehacker.  They ran this deal.

5: This is an experiment.  With the Lifehacker deal, one extra domain and WordPress, I’d be in the hole about $30.

WordPress was the only choice.




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