Nostalgia and Magic the Gathering

Oh boy, a long long time ago, I used to collect and play magic the gathering. Some of you may know what I’m talking about, and some may have no idea what that is. To put it simply, magic the gathering (MTG) is a trading card game (TCG). Perhaps you’ve already seen some fancy looking rectangular plastic bags selling on the kiosk near you, that’s probably a booster of MTG. Anyway, in case you’re curious, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page to give you some basic context on what I’m writing here about.

I remember collecting the money that my parents would give me every day to eat at school and buy boosters instead. The smell, the feeling of the cards from a freshly opened booster was just by itself a great experience, not to mention the usual thrill of sweeping through the cards hoping that you would be presented with some great rares. Those times are over now, ironically, I now have the money but I don’t have the time that I had as a younger. Oh well…like we use to say: “good old times!”.

Anyway, during the Christmas vacations, while surfing on Youtube, I stumbled upon a channel that brought me back those memories and reminded me how great MTG was great back in the time. Not to say that it isn’t anymore, but I do believe that the game has lost some of its charisma.

If guys have any interest in MTG, or are simply looking for a channel that not only provides great entertainment but does it while providing some great information on general investment decisions, I strongly suggest you check out the channel “Alpha Investments”.

Let me know what you think of it!

Cheers,

Marco

Goodbye 2016. Hello 2017.

Hey, everyone!

I know, I know…it’s been a while since I last posted in here, but this holiday season has been keeping me busy so I neededa time off from the computer to assist my family on other matters. Anyway, looking back to 2016, I’m sure that many of you may agree with me on this one: “2016 sucked”. Really. All the political turmoil in Europe with Brexit, Trump in the USA, and those horrific terrorist attacks really took a toll on us all. We even had to say goodbye to some of our favorite artists…

But that’s life, right? Let’s just hope that 2017 is more benevolent with our poor souls…

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone!

Hugs,

Marco

Do You Plank?

This weekend I went to the gym to do my early morning workout and I was amazed by the number of guys doing plank all lined up in front of the cardio machines. Really, there were like 4 guys doing it, and at that exact moment, I knew that I had to do a blog post about this famous exercise, that is so often badly executed. I’m honest with you, the lower ab muscles are not the easiest muscles to work out correctly. I see it all the time, people cheating while doing these. They use their lower back muscles to give a little help, but I understand it, I used to do this all the time too! It takes a good amount of experience to perform them correctly, and if you don’t have any kind of supervision to correct your posture, then you can perform them incorrectly for the rest of your life. Hence, here’s some tips to do a correct plank:

  • If you’re doing a side plank, try to keep one of your elbows and forearms (from the same side) on the ground completely stabilized. Then, raise your body so that only your foot, elbow, and forearm are keeping contact with the floor. It’s very important to keep your body in completely straight while doing these! Then, you just hang on in this position for as much as you can, but I recommend trying to get to the 45 seconds. When you’re feeling comfortable with this number, you can raise the challenge and try to reach 1 minute. It is really up to you, as long as it is challenging! Of course, that when you’re done on one side, you should do on the other side as well. Take a look at the picture below to understand the posture.

plank

 

If you want to, you can raise the other arm, or keep it close to your body as illustrated.

  • After performing the side plank on both sides, you should do a normal plank, which is similar to the description above, but you do it keeping both forearms on the ground, keeping the body in a straight line. Since this version is widely considered to be easier than the side version, you should aim to reach at least the one minute mark right off the bat. It’ll be challenging at first, I know, but as time goes by and with a little bit of persistence you’ll be able to easily surpass that mark. It is important to focus your attention on your core since that’s the area that you should be working on. If you feel that it is your lower back that starts to ache, then you should readjust your posture. Remember, this is a core workout, it isn’t a back workout.

As a complement to what I’ve laid out here for you, make sure to take a look at the following video:

Oh, and by the way, I would just like to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to a great friend of mine that loves sports and fitness as I do, well, honestly he’s more into bodybuilding than I am, but anyway, take a few minutes to visit his website. It looks great and definitely has a lot of great information there. So here it is, the website is called Beautiful Body Blueprint, and the address is http://beautifulbodyblueprint.com. Hope you enjoy it!

Hugs,

Marco

Is Solar Power Worth It?

Today, in a chat with a colleague at work, we were discussing the viability of leaving the electric grid and adopting solar power in our houses. Since I have been studying this subject for a while now, I would like to compress that knowledge into a blog post. Hence, I apologize for all the sports and fitness fans out there and I decided to make a pause from that subject and address the question “is solar power worth it?” instead. I hope it helps anyone out there making its mind on whether you should adopt this technology to power your place or not. So, without further ado, here it goes.

 

Is Solar Power Worth it?

As new technology emerges there is always a question as to whether or not new products and services are worth the cost. Will they save us money? Will the benefits to the environment be noticeable?

When it comes to solar panels the answer used to be no. Long-term, it was possible to save money, but not probable. Additionally, unless everyone in a neighborhood was making the move to solar, and you lived in a smog-ridden community, then the benefits of cleaner air would not be noticeable either.

That has all changed. While yesterday’s solar panels offered a 5% financial return, and the life of the panel was not very long, today’s panels pay for themselves after 7 years, and perform at this 13% ROR for 20 years before they begin to degrade, but still offer some energy savings.

The question many people ask, though, is not if having solar panels is worth it overall. That answer is easy to find. What they want to know is if solar panels are worth it in their specific situation, such as when they pay cash, obtain credit, or lease out their roof.

 

The Value of Paying Cash for Solar Panels

If you pay for solar panels (and installation) in cash, the value you will find is an immediate drop in your electric bill.

Depending on the amount of energy the solar array is able to absorb it is possible to have a negative footprint and the electric company will send you a check for the energy that is put into the grid.

While this can be the case, the typical return is about 13%, meaning that the panels, which are currently built to operate at prime capacity for 20 years, will provide a financial benefit of 3x their worth.

If they cost $10,000, then they will gain $30,000.

This is definitely worth it. And the best part about paying in cash is that if there is damage from a storm or another issue, then there won’t be the added stress of having to think, I’m still paying for these things!

 

Buying Solar Panels on Credit

There are plenty of great financing deals on solar panels, and for some, it may be the right way to go. After all, even if they take 5 years to pay off, the value will still be there.

Using the example of a $10,000 installation that returns $30,000, the profit will be reduced due to interest costs, but there is still plenty of room to make a profit and do something good for the environment. Additionally, there may be added tax benefits.

Having said this, if one cannot afford to pay cash for the solar panels, it might be best to forgo borrowing and simply lease out your roof for a smaller, more immediate, return.

 

Leasing a Roof for Solar Installation

On any given day one can head down to Madison Avenue and see the lunch shops, storefronts, and various professionals milling about, many of whom work in the hedge fund industry. Among them they will find David Katz, a Columbia University graduate who heads up one of the most advanced divisions of SunRay Power Management, measuring energy absorbed into the grid and applying discounted billing to his customers.

SunRay, like many new energy companies, pays people for the use of their roofs, installs solar panels, and then sends them a discounted bill for the energy they consume.

For example, if a factory owner has a monthly energy bill of $12,000 per month and wants to have solar panels installed, but cannot afford the large expenditure, he would call SunRay Power and they would take charge of the project. The factory owner will then find that, at no cost to himself, he is now paying $11,000 while having to lay out nothing.

Additionally, if a storm hits and damages the solar panels, the leasing company has to fix it because they own the equipment, not the factory owner.

For those who can pay cash, the value of solar panels is glaringly obvious. Others who need to borrow to install them may want to look into leasing. Regarding leasing, it is the most hassle-free method, but the cost of having minimal involvement is a lower economic benefit, which is perfect for big business and building owners who don’t want to make solar panels their business.

 

So, that’s it! Hope I shed some light on this subject, and that you’re now able to make an informed decision. And to finalize this post in a great fashion, I leave here a cool infographics that I found on the web while searching for inspiration for this post.

is solar power worth it?

 

See you on my next post!

Hugs,

Marco

 

My Personal Tips to Improve Your Daily Water Intake

I know that some people find that water is completely and utterly tasteless, and they don’t like drinking it. Others are simply too busy to sit down and take a drink what feels like every couple of minutes. You’ve heard the basic rule of thumb: eight glasses of water a day, each one of them eight ounces or larger to keep your digestive system moving regularly and your metabolism at its peak level. If you’ve been training and your metabolism is like an F1 race car, you don’t want to slow it down because you’re dehydrated! For some people, even those eight glasses aren’t enough. To find out how much water is right for you, do this: halve your weight in pounds, then convert it to ounces. That’s the amount of water you should really be drinking throughout the day. Worried that you’ll never get it all down? Try this:

Invest In a Water Bottle That Stays With You All the Time

Keep it on your desk at work. Set it by your bed at night. You’ll be surprised by just how often your reach for that water bottle once it’s easily accessible. If you know how many ounces of water your bottle holds, it will also make it easier to actually measure the amount of water you’re getting. You may not even realize how little you’re drinking until you start counting.

Add a Hint of Flavor

Citrus fruit like lemon, lime, or grapefruit can add a tart taste to your water and even help get rid of extra water weight from bloating in your body. Other women find that a cinnamon stick gives them the extra flavor they need to keep tossing back those extra ounces of water. You don’t need expensive flavor additives to make your water taste better. Real food items that you might already have on hand provide exactly what you need.

Change Your Habits

Drink a glass of water before you sit down to a meal. Not only will it keep you from overeating by making you feel full sooner, it will also keep you better hydrated. Drink a glass of water right before you go to bed at night. Make a habit of stopping by the water cooler at work every time you leave your desk. Before you know it, you’ll be drinking the amount of water that’s ideal for you and not even noticing the effort!

And that’s it, guys, I just wanted to drop some hints on this important matter. Oh, and by the way, while writing this post I just came across this video on Youtube that clarifies this question pretty well.

See you in the next post!

Hugs,

Marco

 

Gear up!

Yesterday I wrote about Crossfit and the possibility of giving it a try somewhere in the near future. For that matter, after publishing that post I noticed that I don’t actually own any type of gloves or Crossfit grips to protect my hands from the calluses that inevitably appear when weight lifting.  If you have ever went to the gym and used dumbells or any type of bars you’ll immediately recognize of what I’m talking about. Working out with your bare hands is never a good idea, and unless you wish to have the palm of your hand feeling like the plant of your feet, I would strongly suggest you go for some kind of protection. For that reason, I went on to Amazon and decided to take a look at what they currently have for sale there. I searched for “CrossFit grips” since this type of gloves have the back of the hand exposed, letting your hands breath and assuring that you won’t end up your workout session with your hands all sweaty. I use traditional gloves when I go out cycling, and I know how messy my hands turn when the weather is hotter. For that matter, I wanted to try something different this time around.

As you may presume, there’s plenty of options there, and some of them seem like copycats of one another differing only on color and/or brand name. And, of course, you’ll find for all prices too! If you’re on a budget and wish to go for something cheaper, you can get a pair of gloves for just under $10. However, I would recommend going for something a little better, as you run the risk of breaking them in your first training session with them.

After spending 10 minutes looking around, reading some reviews and comparing prices, I decided to go for these grips from FIT++:

crossffit grips

 

They seemed to be just fine, and they were running a promotion on the large size, which happens to be my hand size.

Hopefully, I’ll be receiving them in a couple of days! I admit that I’m a bit skeptical since they’re on the cheap side, but let’s hope they survive a proper weight lifting session.

Hugs,

Marco

Should I join this Crossfit thing?

Ok, I’ve been entertaining for a while the idea of joining a Crossfit gym. As a sports and fitness aficionado, I am, perhaps, willing to give it a try. I know that many of us have watched a colleague of a friend that was really out of shape, get ripped in like 3 or 4 months doing Crossfit. Yeah, I know, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here on the timeframe, but you get the idea. For those of you that don’t know anything about Crossfit or even heard of this word before (seriously, where have you been!?), I would like to clarify that Crossfit is simply the designation of a cross-training, mixing concepts of resistance training with muscular and cardiovascular endurance training. But don’t wow yourself there, this whole thing has been around since man has been practicing exercise and if you thought that it was something completely new on the spectrum of fitness, then your wrong. Crossfit is indeed a brand name, but it’s core concepts are not new.

Now, since we’ve understood that Crossfit contemplates the integration of cross-training principles into your workout, I would like to stress that it is essential to have an element of cross-training in whatever training program that you’re following or your personal trainer has built for you. In fact, I wouldn’t ever consider one training program complete unless it has this element. At the same time, I’m an advocate of integrating flexibility, speed, functional and stability training into your exercise. And that’s exactly what bugs me on Crossfit. It only focuses on cross-training!

You might be saying now: “but wait, Marco, you just told that cross-training should be present in whatever training program to be complete”. Sure! And I really mean it! But you see, Crossfit only focus on that element, and neglect pretty much the rest (as far as I see it), and that’s my problem with it. Of course, you’ll get a ripped, and by no means, I say that you won’t experience results. But considering what I’ve stated above, you won’t get an all-around training if you only do Crossfit.

If we even consider here the injury factor to which you’ll be exposed to, then perhaps I’ll convince you to completely drop that idea of enrolling in a Crossfit gym. During a Crossfit training session, you’ll be working out with extreme loads at a relatively fast pace (check the video below to get and idea). It’s not that hard to miss the form during one repetition and completely mess yourself up. If you doubt me, just do me a favor and do a google search. Big G will show you the truth!

Ok, so, to wrap everything up, I would say to stay away from Crossfit if you only plan to go for a single fitness activity, and instead, try to integrate some cross-training elements into your training plan. However, if you already do this and would like to experiment something “new”, I say to give it a try, but bear in mind the potential dangers of it.

So that’s it guys (and gals), this is my hello world post, hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more!

Hugs,

Marco