Thursday, March 5, 2015

Preparing for Festival Season 2015

With SXSW and Coachella just around the corner, it is time to start preparing for Festival Season 2015! Whether you’re a diehard festival attendee, or you’re a noob, you can never be too prepared. Every festival has its own pain points, but here are some general tips and information that I’ve picked up throughout my festival career that I hope will help improve your experience.

1. Water: If allowed, bring a CamelBak or a reusable water bottle. Keep in mind that sometimes only festival branded ones are okay. I recommend different CamelBak sizes based on the festival. For EDC, I prefer the smaller size that basically only holds the bladder, whereas for Burning Man, I prefer the larger size that can hold the bladder and my gear. I highly recommend the mouthpiece cover, which protects the mouthpiece from dirt or being randomly touched in crowds.

If you don’t want to bring a CamelBak, then you can buy water at the event and refill the bottle if there are water filling stations. This is not a reliable plan since some festivals require that vendors keep the bottle caps. (Pro tip: Bring one or two bottle caps with you into the festival so you can cover your bottles in case this policy is in place.)

2. Food: This may sound silly, but remember to eat. Between pre-festival anxiety (it’s a real thing), trying to find your friends, waiting in security and bathroom lines, and juggling overlapping stage schedules, it’s easy to let half the day go by without eating something. Luckily, food has become a more prominent feature at many festivals, so you have lots of convenient and delicious options to choose from. My favorite festival food vendors are at the Lollapalooza Farmers Market, but many other festivals now also offer healthful options, such as fresh fruit.

3. Clothes and accessories: Wear whatever makes you feel amazing, but remember that you’ll be dancing your bootie off all day and will potentially encounter temperamental weather conditions. Sunglasses and a bandana are always good to have in case of a dust storm, and layers are also important if you expect temperatures to drop at night. For Burning Man, make sure to have goggles and a headlamp with you at all times. You never know when the next whiteout is going to hit!

4. Earplugs: Bring earplugs. The risk of hearing damage is surprisingly rarely addressed, but if you are at a festival, there is a good chance you are exposing yourself to harmful decibel levels. The three most common brands I see used among my fellow festivalgoers are V-MODA, Etymotic Research, and EarPeace. Of the three, I prefer V-MODA’s because they look sleek and have an attachable string, which prevents me from losing them if they fall out of my ear.

5. Sun protection: Sun exposure can get a little intense, especially during the summer. Remember to stay hydrated and to listen to your body. If you’re tired, try to find a cool and shaded place to rest. Other than that, stick to general sun protection tactics (e.g., wearing sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat).

6. Phones: Make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving home, and keep your phone on airplane mode as much as possible. Also, clear out your storage before the event. You don’t want to experience the anxiety you experience when you’re recording an epic set, then suddenly see the “out of storage” warning and frantically try to decide what photos to delete.

7. Security: Each event has its own security rules that often change from year to year. Double check the list of items that are allowed before leaving home, or you could end up losing that lip balm you just opened.

8. My Festival Checklist: In summary, below is a list of my festival essentials.

  • ID
  • Ticket
  • Cash
  • CamelBak
  • Earplugs
  • Pack of tissue
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm
  • Gum
  • Bandana or scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Piece of paper with my friends’ numbers written on it
  • Extra phone battery and battery pack

Have fun, and be safe out there!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mango Health gamifies medication adherence

The financial burden of poor medication adherence in the United States has been estimated to be between $100 and $289 billion per year. Mango Health's solution is to improve medication adherence using gamification. Its app allows users to earn points for completing tasks, such as taking their medication on time. These points translate into various rewards provided by Mango Health's partners.

The app includes other features that support medication adherence: a health journal, refill reminders, information about medications, and alerts about potentially harmful interactions.

Based on what I've read, I really like the app because the game aspect is really simple, and the additional tools address core issues related to medication non-compliance.

Full article: Mango Health takes aim at medication adherence with game design principles

Monday, March 3, 2014

Festival Season 2014 | Protect your ears

It wasn't until 2012 that it finally occurred to me to bring earplugs to festivals and clubs. However, it wasn't until last year that I actually bought and started using them.

Here are my two recommendations:
  1. EarPeace Earplugs ($12.95)

    • I bought these from They come in a really cute metal container that you can attach to your keychain or bag strap. They work fine and are great since they are reusable. After each use, just wash with warm soapy water and let air dry.

  2. V-MODA Faders VIP Tuned Metal Earplugs ($19.04)
    • A friend recently recommended these to me. I obviously got mine in Electro Pink, but they are also available in Gunmetal Black and Rouge Red. They come with several different sizes of earbuds to give you a comfortable fit and a detachable lanyard that allows you to hang them around your neck when not in use.
My vote is the for the V-MODA earplugs. The extra money is worth the convenience, comfort, and overall listening experience.

Festival Season 2014

I am extremely excited about Festival Season 2014! I have probably spent more than half of my waking hours on something related to festivals since EDC tickets went on sale in November.

I want to share some of my personal tips to keep your festival experience safe and fun!

Before we get into the serious stuff, here's a list of the festivals I've been to and want to go to:
  • Holy Ship!!!
  • The BPM Festival
  • SXSW
  • Coachella
  • Mysteryland
  • Electric Daisy Carnival - Las Vegas
  • TomorrowLand
  • Lollapalooza
  • HARD Summer
  • Burning Man
  • TomorrowWorld
  • HARD Day of the Dead
What's on your list?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Systematically Heal Your Anxiety

How to Systematically Heal Your Anxiety is a great post by Charlie Hoehn, but probably in the TLDR category for most people. While Charlie had pretty severe anxiety, his tips are still useful for reducing normal levels of stress. Here are the main takeaways.

System 1: Replace Negative Content with Positive Content
  • Remove from your daily routine any information that induces anxiety. For example, Charlie realized that the news fueled his anxiety and decided to stop watching and reading it. His anxiety dropped within two weeks.
System 2: Optimize Your Sleeping Conditions
  • Make quality sleep a priority. Most important changes Charlie suggests:
    • Create a routine. Get ready for bed at the same time every night.
    • Avoid using cell phones and computers close to your bedtime.
    • Cover all sources of light (e.g., blinking lights on electronic devices, digital alarm clocks, windows to block light from outside, etc.).
    • Lower the temperature in your room to 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cannot do this, then wear less clothing to bed.
    • Install f.lux on your computer(s). It's a free app that warms the colors on your screen when the sun is down. I've found that it really reduces eye strain at night.
System 3: Guilt-Free Play, Every Day
  • Disconnect (i.e., turn off your phone), and schedule fun play activities with friends instead of killing yourself at the gym.
System 4: Eat Healthful Meals
  • While Charlie recommends (1) Protein + (1) Vegetable + (1) Healthy Side, I firmly believe different food combinations work for different people. My simple advice is to cut down on sugar and to increase vegetable consumption.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From food industry analyst to food crusader (Robyn O’Brien - TEDxAustin 2011)

As a former food industry analyst who was born in Houston, Texas, Robyn O’Brien describes herself as an unlikely food crusader. It was not until her youngest child had an allergic reaction to her breakfast that O’Brien became concerned about the food system. She started doing research, and being shocked by what she found, she went on to educate others about what she discovered. In her TEDxAustin 2011 talk, she describes many of the food-related issues we currently face in the United States.

While her initial concern about our food system was driven by health, she also makes a strong business argument. Compared to every other country in the world, the U.S. ranks number one in percentage of GDP spent on health care. The percentage of our GDP spent on health care has increased from 9% in 1980 to almost 17% in 2009. O’Brien shrewdly points out that this means we have fewer resources to use toward education and economic development, which diminishes our global competitiveness.

Below are some facts she shares in her talk:

  • Food allergies:
    • Between 1997 and 2002, peanut allergies in the U.S. doubled.
    • One out of every 17 children under age three has a food allergy.
    • From 1996 to 2000, there was an average of 2,615 hospital discharges per year with a diagnosis related to food allergy among children 0 to 17 years. From 2004-2006, the average jumped to 9,537 (more than a 265% increase).
  • National Health
    • The U.S. has the highest rates of cancer in the world.
    • 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women are expected to get cancer.
    • 1 out of every 8 women has breast cancer, but only 1 out of every 10 of breast cancers is genetic. This means that 90% of breast cancer cases are environmentally triggered.

Starting in the early 1990s, new proteins were engineered into the U.S. food supply to maximize profits, but no human trials were conducted for safety.

In 1994, the U.S. dairy industry introduced a genetically engineered synthetic growth hormone (rBGH) to be injected into cows to produce more milk. The injections made the animals sick, and led to increased use of antibiotics. Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and all 27 European countries do not allow use of rBGH because of the potential health risks. However, in the U.S. we allow it because it has not been proven dangerous. Furthermore, elevated hormone levels are associated with breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Soy and corn have also been engineered and are used in some form in most processed foods. Soy was engineered to withstand increased doses of weed killer, and corn is now engineered so that it releases its own insecticide as it grows.

Our tax dollars subsidize the growth of crops, such as soy and corn. On the other hand, organic farmers must prove that their produce follows the “organic” criteria and must also pay to have their foods labeled as such. This additional cost is the reason why many farmers at your local farmers market are not “certified organic” even though they may have the same farming practices as certified farmers. However, it is not all rosy on the conventional side. Because of companies like Monsanto, farmers must now pay royalty, licensing, and trade fees to plant patented seeds, which is a huge financial burden.

O’Brien ends with a message of hope. The products distributed by Coca-Cola and Kraft in countries that ban genetically modified foods are formulated differently than they are here. This is living proof that we as consumers have the power to effect significant change.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Know yourself, and you will never be lost

In this segment of A Minute with John Maxwell, John talks about the power of knowing your own values and what makes you who you are. Once you articulate this, you have a compass to guide you in where to go, what to do, and who to meet. I see getting to know yourself as an iterative process, and the first step is to pay attention to what makes you happy or unhappy and why. I think that many people struggle with knowing themselves because they are surrounded by others who inhibit self-discovery and who try to dictate who they should be. I will leave you with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "He who has a why can endure any how."