Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My new Traveling Office Solution

Many know that I’m usually working full-time whenever I’m on extended travels with the View.  It’s the perk I enjoy most about my job, and I’m very grateful for the flexibility to “change the view out my office window” as often as I want.

I’ve made a couple of enhancements over the years to make extended living in the View more comfortable, but it never has been as comfortable to work in as my home office with it’s nice big swivel, rocking office chair.  That is….until now!

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I decided that I was fed up enough with working from the uncomfortable booth dinette and table that was too large and too high.  I started seriously considering removing the dinette entirely, but that posed it’s own set of challenges--- the furnace is located in the rear bench seat, so I’d need a new heating source; and if I removed the front bench seat, I’d need to find a way to close up the existing baggage door, find a new place to store my Lafuma outdoor lounge chair and the additional miscellaneous items currently stored beneath the seat.  Removing the dinette would also have eliminated an extra sleeping area (which still comes in handy when my mom or friends come camping with us).

So, I decided to do a “temporary” mod and just remove the dinette table.  It’s nicely stored in the garage now and can easily be re-installed later at resale time.  In it’s place, I now have a folding table and a small, rocking/swivel office chair.  For the life of me, I don’t know why I waited 3 years before doing this mod—my mobile office is now every bit as comfortable as my home office!!!

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The table is a lightweight, but large folding “tv tray” called the Table Mate I.  It’s the big brother version of the Table Mate Classic I’ve been using for the past few years.  The unique thing about Table Mates is that the legs don’t criss-cross underneath the table (so you still have plenty of legroom).  Unfortunately, it looks like these larger-sized (and wood-colored) Table Mates are now on closeout, as the manufacturer only seems to be selling the much smaller white plastic version now.  So, if you’re wanting a solution like this, better jump fast on the ones TVTraysEtc is selling!

The chair is a Zeal II from OfficeMax (and wouldn’t you know, it’s now showing up $20 less than what I bought it for!)—very comfy and the brown leatherette goes nice with my interior colors.  It’s also small enough to fit thru the coach door (bigger office chairs can’t without disassembly).

Instead of a big, bulky “all-in-one” printer/scanner/copier, I have 2 small, lightweight gizmos that do the job quickly and then stow away nicely in one of the View’s overhead cabinets:

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The silver Canon Pixma ip100 printer is about the same size as an iPad (but thicker of course).  It prints very quickly and does well for photo printing too. The ultra-tiny black stick ahead of it is the Fujitsu Scansnap S1100 high-speed scanner.  

I still dutifully bring the printer on longer trips, but rarely find the need to print anything anymore.  Mainly because I use a combination of the Fujitsu scanner, my iPad/iPhone, and cloud-based document storage solutions to capture and store any documents I need (see more details on that below).

When my workday is done, I can easily pack up my office gear and the Table Mate now serves nicely as a dining table

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When mealtime is done and more floor space is needed, the table easily flips down.  This is also great for when we’re in driving mode and need to stow the chair, but still might want access to the table again at rest stops.

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The final mod left to do is to create some wood bed slats to fit between the benches so that the dinette can be used as a bed.  I did a similar mod with my old T@B trailer and it really worked out well.

My Updated Paperless Workflow:

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Paperless in Paradise”  and reviewing it today—it’s way overdue for an update!  So, here’s what I’m currently using to work without paper:

  • In place of a paper notepad and pen, I use my iPad with an app called Penultimate along with a rubber-tipped Targus stylus.  My notes stay backed up automatically in the cloud to my free Dropbox account so I never need to worry about losing them.  If I wish to search/read these notes later via my laptop or iPhone, I can easily export either a single page or an entire “notebook” as a PDF file.
  • For any incoming paper I’ll need to refer to later, I scan it into a PDF document using either my Fujitsu scanner or a nice little iOS app called Scanner Pro.
  • All of the solutions above have auto-exporting features to Evernote, which continues to be my primo electronic file-cabinet of various documents and web-page clippings.  Evernote has free and $45/yr Premium solutions, and allows easy document searching, viewing, and organization from a PC/Mac or web browser, a smart phone (iPhone/Android), or iPad.  Probably the coolest feature of Evernote is that it can search for text within images (such as my handwritten scrawl from my Penultimate notes or a photo taken from my iPhone while out shopping or exploring when I find something interesting  I want to remember for the future).
  • I used to use a Wacom tablet and PC software to annotate PDF files (e.g. to initial and date expense receipts or put my signature on documents), but iPad apps have improved tremendously in this area over the past year, so now, I just use my iPad and stylus to annotate.  My favorite app for this at the moment is Good Reader as it also has nice integration to Dropbox and Google Drive (Google Docs) if I happen to have a PDF stored there that needs annotation.

Nearly every small RV has storage space and cargo capacity limitations, so not hauling heavy paper files around (or bulky all-in-one printer/scanners) really helps!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Newbie Nutritarian

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It’s been nearly 2 months since I’ve been home after snowbirding in the Southwest all winter.  Transitioning from one home to another is always the opportune time to try doing something a bit different and not simply falling back into the the same old routines.  So when I got home and stared at my empty fridge and pantry, I knew this was the ideal time to to make a major lifestyle change— to become a VEGAN!!!

Meeting fellow View owners, Evelyn and Steve, this past winter, I started learning more about their recent change to a plant-based “nutrient-dense” vegan diet.  Evelyn also introduced me to fellow RVer, Tessa, who Evelyn had been getting lots of tips and information from.  They encouraged me to get the book “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and watch the video “Forks Over Knives” to learn more about this way of eating.

After failing so many diets in the past, and feeling totally helpless to control my weight (or my ever-worsening cholesterol, BP, and glucose numbers), I knew I had to do something radically different if I wished to slow down or reverse the pathway that I was on towards diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Over a year ago, I stopped eating most meat (but continued to eat fish and dairy).  I thought this vegetarian diet was a step in the right direction, and it probably would have been had I not ate so many sweets and salty frozen/fast-foods in place of the meat!  Consequently, becoming vegetarian wasn’t enough of a change to reduce my weight or improve my health.

But a quote while watching “Forks over Knives” really stuck with me. The doctor said that while many Americans think moving to a vegan diet and eating only whole, unprocessed food is “radical”, they don’t seem to consider how radical it is to have their chest opened up and undergo bypass surgery as a result of abusing their bodies with the “standard American diet” for so many years!  The movie compared our health statistics to many other countries and the results were sobering—our diabetes and cancer rates are off the charts compared to countries that eat primarily plant-based whole foods.

So after a bit more web research (and continuing to only find positive feedback on this kind of eating), I decided to give it a try.

I’ve now been eating this way for 1 month, and with no changes other than the food I’m eating (i.e. absolutely zero exercise this month), I’ve already lost 12 pounds!

Now that my body is finally getting real & sufficient nutrients, I’ve got a ton more energy and “mental alertness” and no longer suffer the “yo-yo effect” of sugar levels spiking up and down all day long.  Best of all, my 3 meals a day are now providing so much nutrition density, I no longer get hungry in-between meals and no longer crave sweet or salty snacks.  Since there’s no sense of deprivation, this is truly a way of eating that I can stick with for the rest of my life. 

This month, I’m starting to re-introduce exercise again.  But now, I can pick and choose activities that are fun since I know I can control my weight-loss with food alone (rather than having to do lots of slave-driven boring repetitive exercises just to lose weight).

Evelyn and Tessa have been fantastic coaches for me throughout this transition, and my success has apparently been motivational to them as well!  The 3 of us RVers have started a blog called Vegan Vagabonds to track our progress and serve as a spot to store the book/video/web resources and recipe’s we discover.  We also have a Vegan Vagabonds Facebook page to share daily news stories and collaborate with readers. 

If you’re interested in giving this “nutritarian” way of eating a try and regaining your health, give the blog’s Getting Started and Resources pages a look!

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