Month: February 2013

10 Tips to Start Your Day


Being productive and generally awesome at your job requires a lot of energy and focus. Both of which are very dependent on how much attention you pay to nutrition and how well you know what works for your body.

It’s hard to be stuck at a desk all day, mostly because it’s draining and just plain bad for your health.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs I think how we manage our body is critical to our energy levels. It just makes sense to start on the foundation. The oldest parts of you from an evolutionary standpoint are parts of your brain and nervous system. Knowing this, a good starting point is looking at what we share with other animals, such as the need for sleep.




1. Sleep

Animals like it. Everybody needs it.

We really need REM cycles, in this state our brain is theorized as compartmentalizing and breaking down experiences, the hard data of your life is being defragged. Cycles typically last for about 90 minutes at a time. Waking up mid REM cycle will leave you feeling groggy. Devices exist that will monitor your brain waves to catalog when and how long you entered these states.

Hopefully you get a few REM cycles within 6-8 hours of deep sleep, you shouldn’t actually need coffee to get through the day, in fact try napping on the weekend instead of having more stimulants, and this will recharge you for the week ahead.  You should only need more sleep if your body is physically repairing and needs to build new tissue.

Circadian-rhythm-bodyTry to stay on the circadian rhythm, this is a system that is built into the very cells that make up your body, it is the “wireless sync” with the sun cycle. It’s the internal clock that tell us to fall asleep when it’s dark, and wakes us up at sunrise.  A typically ideal sleep cycle is 11pm to 7am.

There are all kinds of tips and tricks to falling asleep and having a good night’s rest but I found Onnit product New Mood to be particularly effective.




2. Mineralization

We often hear of a need for vitamins, but minerals are just as important if not more so because they can be harder to come by in our food supply.

The acid/alkaline balance of your body is “buffered” by trace elements, the more acidy foods you consume, the more your body uses up its elements to balance it out.
Your body tries to maintain a blood ph level that is slightly basic (alkaline) of 7.4. To put things in perspective, Tomato juice is about 4, beer is about 5.5, coffee is about 6, the ph scale is logarithmic meaning each number is 10 times more or less strong.

Himalayan or black salts, added to water will help buffer your system with trace minerals (small amounts of different elements ) over time, all you need is a pinch into a glass of water (shouldn’t taste salty).


Himalayan salts can be found locally at the Market on Yates, Lifestyles and tons of other grocery stores, look for the pink crystals. Online it can be found here




3. Hydration and Elimination

We’ve all heard how we should drink eight glasses of water a day.

I would dispute this, if I was to drink 8+ glasses of water after a tea or coffee (diuretics), I’m would start to deplete my minerals and electrolytes and as a consequence probably feel tired later. This could be because without adequate salts, I may lower the blood pressure resulting in feeling weak or light-headed.


A glass of water with a pinch of Himalayan salt crystals and a squeezed lemon wedge first thing in the morning  can also help kick-start hydration in your body and primes your system for digestion and elimination before having coffee or tea.  Really can’t stress the importance of a proper elimination to really put some spring in your step.




4. Body Mechanics & Mind Connection

“Starting the day with a measure of optimism and a clear intention of what you want to accomplish can give your day a boost.”

Most people feel like their body is extra heavy in the morning, like gravity got a whole lot stronger overnight. If you aren’t a jump out of bed by 5am be at the gym by 5:45am person, doing some breathing and gentle stretching is a great way to start.  I personally like this bio-energetic warm up routine from Elliot Hulse [youtube=] 


Doing some deep breathing oxygenates your system and gets blood moving which is good for bringing your brain online. I find it difficult to make it to a gym in the mornings because I’m simply not a morning person, but riding my bike to work in the summer is a great way to get blood moving. If that’s not possible, clearing some space to do some breathing, stretching, yoga or meditating is a great way to start the day.

All you really need is 5-15 minutes to feel a difference and add some clarity to your mornings.




5. Nutrition

Nothing beats local soil, open air, sun grown food. – Carolyn Herriot

(see her awesome ted x talk video here)

Compost and grow some of your own food, even if all you can do is a parsley plant on a window sill, just do it.


The benefits of live food, especially brightly colored fruit and vegetables are filled with swimming chlorophyll and phytonutrients that are the essence of life itself. In lieu of eating like that all the time for lack of time. I have decided, after getting frustrated at the litany of vitamins in my cabinet for the following reasons to switch to whole food powdered vitamins (greens style) because;

1)      Whole food vitamins take up less space and are kept refrigerated allowing for probiotics

2)      My body recognizes the vitamins because they are derived from real food not synthetically derived in a lab

3)      Allows me to hydrate while absorbing vitamins




6. To Juice or to Blend

Homemade fresh juice can be great unlike canned or bottled juices which are far too sugary, acidic and pasteurized beyond the body’s ability to recognize nutritional value.

I have a juicer but don’t use it as much as I would like due to the mess it creates, as well as the drawbacks such as lack of fibre in the juice which is a huge benefit of having vegetables. I know I need a good better blender usually a vitamix or blendtec to liquefy the cellulose and get that fibre.


Stay away from most fruits, they spike your blood sugar and lead you to a crash later, dark leafy green veges like kale, parsley and celery will give you an incredible boost and help keep you system in the alkaline for most of the day. You can try adding a small piece of ginger and a slice of pear or apple or beet to make it more palatable.

Figure out what works for you, try different combinations of food, note how you feel, specifically how clear your mind is and how easy it is to focus on your tasks. In my opinion, nothing beats the long lasting energy boost of a homemade green shake.


Check out Joe Rogan making a huge green shake:

Get the Blentec Blender here






7. The First meal of the day

You will still want to eat some solid foods, for a lot of people we skip breakfast or think a muffin and a coffee will get us through the morning, and it usually will but it isn’t preferable.

A better breakfast includes high amount of protein/choline for brain function (eggs , the higher quality the better, yolks should be bright orange), animals fats from local and naturally cured meats like the bacon you can pick up at (cook st ) help digest sugars slower leaving us less likely to crash, even if we go for a cup of coffee with this meal we will probably feel a lot sharper and happier as dopamine is released into the system from a pleasurable meal while the animal fats and salts buffer your body from a spike in blood sugar or caffeine.

Eggs Benedict-3

Have some carbs for energy if you are biking to work in the form of some quinoa with nuts (unroasted raw, unpasteurized if possible). I’m not fully against breads but I have definitely cut back. Squash and even yams have become more prevalent in my diet as I keep shifting further into the spectrum of the Paleo diet.

As far as I know most Fruits aren’t great for you, unless they’re local and in season which has immune system benefits. If you have weight loss goals I hear good things about grapefruits in the morning. Kiwis are great if you want your vitamin c with less acidity and papaya has beneficial enzymes for digestion.


Here’s a video of Robb Wolf, one of the Paleo diets key advocates

And here’s a food guide for you based on the Paleo Diet:








8. Tonics

I usually start my day with a tea, I haven’t kicked the caffeine habit yet but I do take breaks from it from time to time.  I might also want a coffee by mid-day, it’s easier on the body to ramp up caffeine slowly and spread it out over time to avoid a crash, if you eat a meal with protein and animal fats (or coconut oil), and you may also notice a cognitive advantage.

If you need an extra edge to focus and help you feel like your neural system is more jacked in then a character from a William Gibson novel, allow me to introduce you to the world of Nootropics.

Now I’m not for the stimulant variety, but as with the theme of this article, I’m all about the supplements and making sure your body has what it needs. As it turns out the brains needs are very specific.


Products like Onnit’s ‘Alpha Brain’ are engineered to provide the brain with everything it needs to fire up neurons at full capacity. If you feel like picking and choosing supplements one at time, ginkgo biloba is a great vaso dilator which means it can help increase blood flow to the brain and ginseng is an adaptogen which means it plugs holes in your body’s endocrine and immune system.

To learn more about Onnit products click this link.




9. Avoid too much Caffeine

“Nothing is for free, even the boost you get from coffee”


Unlike vitamins, minerals which generally replenish and allows your system to function at full tilt, stimulants and depressants burn up the body’s vital reserves.

I happen to really like coffee, especially a good locally roasted blend, usually from Café Fantastico, 2% Jazz or Discovery here in Victoria. Coffee that is locally roasted is dated this is good for a number of reasons which I will get into in a follow-up post.

The effect of coffee or caffeine that increase your productive capacity and mental focus come from a complex bio-chemical reaction happening in the body. Notably adrenal glands (endocrine system) ramps up your nervous system which trigger an elevate heart rate and can put you on the edge of fight or flight. On the upper end of the spectrum, usually this is experienced as anxiety and can actually cause productive to decline.

On the opposite spectrum, to reduce anxiety, Tulsi Tea (holy basil) or lemon balm can relax the body and nervous system which is awesome for feeling calm, clear and rested.




10. Keeping it all in Balance

Management of your energy levels is an integral part of self-management. Knowing what works for you can set you up for a more productive day.

Remember all of this is just advice, there is no ONE SIZE fits all approach, find what works for you and do it!

Stay tuned for the midday recharge tips and more about coffee

The Future of Free to Play

What is Free to Play (F2P) all about?

Back in the early days of PC gaming I can remember how coveted game demos were. Magazines often packaged a CD-Rom of current game demos as a value add to give you just enough of a taste to whet your appetite, hook you,  and get you to purchase the whole thing upon going gold (release). Traditional video games for as long as I can remember have hovered around the $50 mark.  Not today, some of the newest, highest production value games are free.

That’s right 0$

If you have the time but don’t have the money you can play a ton of games for free with either ad support or stripped of premium features. Faster game-play, better and additional items and goodies await you for nominal fee.

Getting you to pay for these features is the true goal of Free to Play which is essentially a Freemium model.

Does this work?

Yes , in the mobile space we’ve seen it work with Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, Draw Something and many other titles. One thing they all have in common is the excellent job they do of roping you in.


Draw Something in particular saw explosive user acquisition initially as everyone with a new smart phone had a friend they wanted to try doodling with, limited selection of colours and all.

The typical strategy of these companies is;

1. Acquire you

2. Retain you

3. Monetize you

Developers know the first 20 minutes are key. If they can achieve this, they will keep you interested for as long as possible and retain your business.

Past, present,  future


In the past a mere taste of a game was enough but with companies competing for user’s time a midst a sea of time killers, what model is guaranteed to generate the most revenue? Can ancillary items like important marketing information for advertising make the game developers more money than the initial cost of the game?

As it turns out, the F2p model does this well and more. By the end of the year , we will see a social enabled free to play game in virtually every genre and internet enabled gaming device. What defines “gaming device”?

Anything with a browser. Use your imagination. In the future expect to see a whole lot more F2P.

Friction is the key


Creating the right amount of difficulty or slow down with just the right amount of ability to progress in the game is what the ultimate free to play games strive for.

On PC I think Tribes Ascend has really nailed it. Great game engine and fun game-play with a ten-year legacy of Tribes players. You can play for weeks to upgrade a couple of your stats but you may be enticed to pay for different weapons sets or customization slots within days.  I expect to see the same thing with Hawken.

tribes ascend

On my phone you will find the excellent AOD army of darkness defense game (based on the movie with the same name). Free to play, spend money on coins if you wish to increase your stats and upgrade units earlier on. I found there to not be enough friction and I was able to beat the game without being tempted to spend any money. Still great fun and I am hoping for a follow-up from this studio, the more cult movie franchises tie-ins the better.


Another game I recently began playing is Clash of Clans. This game is a turn based city build/defend strategy game with social aspect of being able to join clans and attack other players. With this game the friction is almost too high, I know almost right away this game is going to be frustrating unless I give in to spending some money.


The perfect amount of friction has the player eager to play forward without discouragement while clearly seeing the value of a purchase as an immediate benefit and thus will be compelled to spend a little bit.

The value proposition of these games is tied inherently to the core gameplay mechanics.

In more complex scenarios like Valves, Steam exclusive DOTA 2 game can lead to complex economic systems that are self-sustaining and rely partially on user-generated content to make new items and customize your players load out, sound effects and more. This is a really interesting prospect because of the ability for users to generate revenue, trade and contribute to the creation of its own self-sustaining economy.


The Social Element

We know games like Draw Something and Cash of Clans draw in the friends of users, as does DOTA 2 (I was given 5 invites for the pre-release access). It is widely known that generally people like to play games with friends, and because of this Facebook has been a great game finding and playing platform as web browser technology ploughs forward and better games come through the pipeline.

For those against Facebook, or at least gaming through it and for those publishers not cool with the 30% cut Facebook takes of the profits, there are publishers and independents with their own free to play game platforms.


Kixeye, the bad boy of F2P has their own platform built into their website at


On their website platform you will find their premier titles War Commander and Battle Pirates which are MMORTS style games with true synchronous combat.

Kixeye is a pioneer of hard-core free to play MMORTS (massively multi-player online real-time strategy) style games with social elements and real-time synchronous game-play (instead of waiting for opponent to take a turn, the action happens in real-time on both sides) which is quite the technical feat with approximately 4.8 million users logging in monthly.

Having achieved commercial success through Facebook, Kixeye’s average player spends about 1.5 hours playing War Commander a day, with a 400,000+ DAU (daily average users) count.

As with many free to play games, the friction point of Kixeye games are primarily speed of play with base building taking the majority of the players time unless they choose to buy speed ups or purchase resources which many Kixeye players do. In fact Kixeye has one of the highest ARPPU’s (average revenue per paying users) in the industry at about $0.80 per paying user.


Then there are MAU/DAU (monthly and daily average users). This figure is essentially engagement, how many of the monthly users actually come back and play daily? After all, they can only spend money if they are in your game. Kixeye’s War Commander sees a very consistent 1 million active users per week (WAU) meaning they have an extremely high level of user engagement.

Kixeye will hope to repeat this success with a new exclusive F2P MMORPG later this year.

Now that I’ve bombarded you with a few of the industry metrics and bored you to tears lets refocus

Of course there are many more ways to measure your game’s level of success, but making a great game that people want to play has got to be the core you work from. There are more games of varying quality using this free to play model than ever before and likely more games to come. It is conceivable that after the bean counters run the numbers, traditional subscription modeled and $59.99 one time purchased games will become free to play.

My only concern with this trend is that game-play mechanics may not translate well to a free to play model. Critical friction points may be out of alignment with user value perception and result in lost opportunities and players more likely free to stray to another game. With an emphasis on building micro economies as outlined in Gabe Newell’s vision of the industry ( ) , there is a chance for creating longer running, organic, self-marketed and thus higher revenue producing games in this manner.

There are many games to play and  too little time to play them all. Let quality, variety, game-play and friction separate the wheat from the chaff.

rofl friction

Other free to play browser games can be found at:

If you are interested in learning more about free to play gaming check out:

The Return of TableTop Gaming


I welcome gaming with friends, it’s a great way to unwind, catch up, and have a few laughs.  Being of the video game generation , I never expected I would revert to board games.

I’ve owned everything from an old Atari computer with Basic and a floppy drive to load games, to a 286’s to Pentiums to the latest multicore systems of today. Along the way were consoles from Sega, Nintendo , Sony and Microsoft.

My PS3 has mostly become a Netflix machine connected to projector for large screen low definition movie watching and most of my gaming has shifted to free to play browser and steam games on the computer or *gasp Iphone.

My quad core workstation has a beefy video card if I need to push some frames but my 2010 MBP follows me to the couch and has become my companion.  When I burn out from watching all these glowing screens, I revert to my love of reading on my non backlight e-ink Kobo Touch.

So here I am with all this electronic technology never expecting to actually enjoy a board game again.

As a child I had my fill of Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue with family and friends before video games completely eclipsed these. The Original Social Games.

With my friend’s encouragement and frankly no choice but to play with them, I was coerced into becoming a Settlers of Catan player. A simple game of resource management, dice rolls and every changing strategy and diplomacy. Simple yet nuanced.

Sitting around the upside-down cork-board at my friends bachelor pad with four others to play a board game seemed weirdly anachronistic at first. Probably because we were used to playing Quake 3 over the internet on our own servers from the comfort of our own homes. When we were in the room together Gears of War was usually the choice for split screen cooperative play on massive projector screens.

Remember the poker fad from a few years ago? That was probably the only other analog experience we had as a group.  Interacting on a competitive level with your friends without the intermediate of technology is a shockingly refreshing experience. No need for to be mic’ed up on Ventrilo to hurl some insults, just say what’s on your mind, no need for emoticons, your face will do.

Then there are the “Feelies”, with Settlers of Catan, physical objects such as roads, settlements and cities are little plastic pieces with an air of quality and metaphysical as well as real weight to them as they get placed on the board.


A particular arrangement of roads and cities popping off the board in physical space becomes somehow more striking as a symbol of attrition, perhaps as intimidating as scouting an enemy nuclear silos in StarCraft or a fleet of Protoss carriers coming your way. The development cards which you can buy as tech tree like skill boosters in many games, sometimes stack up to grant extra points or powers like taking all of one resources out of your friends hands (the monopoly development card).

My question is, with the resurgence of board games like Settlers of Catan, are we going to see a new half digital – half physical mash up of the genre?

Let’s look at another classic board game, Monopoly – consider all the different versions and interpretations of it. Pretty cool, but you need a new set for each one. I don’t know many board game hoarders with multiple versions of the same game. Personally I have a Star Wars version of Monopoly, but that’s it.

With newer multi touch interfaces, tougher glass like Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2, and a decrease in screen costs as they scale larger and larger, it only seems logical that we will see a shift towards rediscovering board games in the digital realm.

Sure we’ve all seen the crappy digital versions of classics like Monopoly where you pass the tablet around to the next player, but something is lacking in the experience. Since all board games are turn based , passing along the screen from player to player kind of works, but it also kind of sucks, there no central focus for the group, the experience is numbed without the central source of attention and without seeing what individual players do as they are doing it. Worst of all, these experiences are made more ethereal without the presence of Feelies in your hand or on the board

So we lack holographic technology, but we have tablets that are foresee-ably going to be cheap and large enough to cover an average coffee table, powerful enough to display high end graphics, be connected to the internet and playback sound effects.

But the digital versions of the board games suck compared to playing the real thing!

As 3D printers come online, and new NFC technology gets even cheaper, old and new school game designers and hardware developers have an opportunity to do digital board games right. Half physical with printed pieces tagged with NFC (near field communication) codes for software identification and half digital with animation, sound and the ability to load infinite variations of game sets, brands, publishers, spin offs, mods, and more. Imagine playing a Settlers of Catan version modded out based on HBO’s series, The Wire (I’ve given some thought to it)

Everything that’s great about software gaming brought together with physical intermediary of game pieces to tie the experience together in a corporeal and social setting.  I think we are still a few years away, but we will start to see some leaders emerge with a standard sized multitouch tablet and a great viewing angle that will become the standard delivery method for these games. What pieces you can’t get sent in the mail or purchase from your local hobby stores will become 3d printable downloadable designs that will carve itself a niche with a new set of hobbyists, artisans and hackers to push the community forward and eventually make it mainstream.

Check out the links below to see one of the emerging leaders (Epawn) in this upcoming market.

You can clearly see from the video the benefits of the digital experience being brought to the analog turn based gaming age, move a piece, and watch the animated attacks flow over gorgeous textures!

More to come on gaming as I follow-up this article with a look at the free to play market and the future of casual gaming.