This video was requested quite a few times in recent months and I finally had the chance to record it this weekend, albeit in a somewhat constrained timeframe. Nonetheless, I was able to present general rules about picking ties and then demonstrate how I would pick a tie for one of my own outfits. I hope that it will be of good use to you!

Exercise

More about my Wonder Smoothie recipe

I got a really good question about my Wonder Smoothie recipe this morning, one that made me wish I would have included the info right in the original post. The question was:

“I was wondering if you would do a breakdown of your post-workout shake (reason for specific ingredients, e.g. baobab, alkaline water, methylsulfonylmethane, suma root etc.)”

To that effect, here are the main reasons I put each of those ingredients into the mix:

  • Chlorella/Spirulina: detox and protein
  • Mesquite: vitamins, minerals and lysine
  • Gynostemma: strength, endurance, digestion
  • Baobab: antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
  • Suma Root: muscle building, endurance and healing
  • Triphala: digestion and cardiovascular functioning
  • Rose Hip: antioxidant
  • MSM: joint health
  • Coconut Butter: healthy fats, metabolism booster
  • Hemp Seeds: healthy fats, bioavailable protein
  • Sesame Seeds: minerals
  • Alkaline Water: detox and recovery
  • Raw Honey: immunity, healthy sweetener
  • Raw Protein: high quality bioavailable protein from plant sources such as brown rice, pea, hemp, amaranth, quinoa and more

As you can see, my Wonder Smoothie is packed full of goodness to nourish the body, help it heal after workouts and support its growth.

I have to tell though, if you don’t get the recipe right, it’s going to taste awful. So play with the recipe until you get it to the point where you can drink this and then always make it the same way.

Drink the smoothie right away after making it — this isn’t one of those drinks that keeps for hours. It spoils after a half hour. And don’t drink it too often, otherwise you’ll tire of its taste and won’t want it anymore. Once or twice a week is enough.

Here’s to your health and continued growth!

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A Guide To A Good Life

How to pair shoes with pants

While it’s good to have variety in your outfits and to sometimes break the rules when it comes to choosing what you wear, it’s also important to know how things go together. As Picasso used to say, you need to know the rules before you can break them.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer you this video I put together recently, where I give advice on matching your shoes with your pants. In it, I’ll show you how to pair certain shoes with certain pants, what goes together with what and what you should avoid doing.

Enjoy! And here’s that same post on my Facebook page, which I encourage you to like in order to see much, much more content published several times a day.

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A Guide To A Good Life

Should you use shoe trees?

Question: I’m learning how to properly take care of shoes, and while browsing the web late this evening, I thought about shoe horns/trees. Now in the past I’ve found them, really just a sales gimmick, hardly worth my money. What do you think?

Shoe trees are worth getting, especially if you have quality leather shoes that you’d like to use for years and years. The general idea is to use them after you’ve worn the shoes and the leather has creased at the toe joints.

The important thing is for them to be made exactly for the size of your shoe. Look for ones made of cedar, they’ll absorb odors and sweat salts and make your shoes smell and feel better. You can leave these in whenever you’re not wearing your shoes. Woodlore makes some good ones and Allen Edmonds also makes them.

Woodlore Shoe Tree

Allen Edmonds Shoe Tree

If you’ve worn your shoes for a full day (12-16 hours) and you can see that the leather is damp, or if it’s been raining out, what you should do first is to air them out by hanging them onto an open shoe tree like the one pictured below for ½ a day or a full day, and only then should you insert a shoe tree in them.

Open Shoe Tree

This is because the leather needs to dry out, it shouldn’t be damp or wet. A shoe tree will fill the inside of the shoe and may promote mold, depending on the material out of which it is made. Once the leather has aired out properly, the tree will be able to do its job, which is to restore the shoe’s shape and allow the leather to remain that way as it dries out thoroughly.

Don’t get ones made for all sizes, particularly the inexpensive ones made with springs (like the pair pictured below). If you must get those, you can use them but you shouldn’t leave them in more than 2-3 days, because they’ll stretch the leather too much and the shoe will start to lose its shape. When I use these, I leave them in for a day or two at most, then I pull them out and allow the shoes to stay by themselves in the closet.

Travel Shoe Tree

In case you’re a new visitor to my website, I’ve also put together a detailed video where I show you how to take care of several types of shoes. It’s called “All Season Shoe Care” and I invite you to view it.

I hope this has helped you!

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A Guide To A Good Life, How To

Hair care advice for men

Do you want to know how to get great hair and keep it that way? Tired of bad hair days, of dandruff, of itchy scalp, of putting up with what you think is the “norm” for your hair? Have a look at this video I made, where I’ll give you detailed advice on the matter and I promise you that you’ll gain valuable insight that will pay off down the road.

Here’s what I talk about in the video:

  1. Genetics
  2. Diet
  3. Haircuts
  4. Hair care products

I truly hope this helps you! Enjoy!

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How To

How to make sun-brewed coffee

With the warmer spring weather, I tried something different when making my coffee one day: I decided to brew it using the sun’s heat. I was hoping for a different, milder taste and I was right!

The basic coffee-making equation doesn’t change: use your favorite coffee, use as much or as little of it as you prefer — but instead of putting it in the coffee machine, put it in a glass pitcher and add cold, filtered water. Then, cover the pitcher to stop insects or dust from getting into it and set it on the window sill or somewhere outside, in direct sunlight.

Monitor it periodically. Once it gets hot to the touch, the coffee’s done. You can leave it out a little longer if you want a stronger coffee, or leave it less if you don’t. I live in a temperate climate and in moderately warm spring weather (18-25° Celsius), my coffee was ready in 1½ – 2 hours. If you live in a warm climate, it should be ready even faster, maybe even in 30 minutes or so.

The taste of sun-brewed coffee is unique: it’s mild with no bitter aftertaste and there’s a distinct caramel flavor to it.

A few pieces of advice:

  • Use alkaline water, it will make it taste even better
  • Use a French Press, it’ll make it much easier to pour the coffee out of the pitcher once it’s ready
  • Use regular filter-ground coffee even though you’re using a French Press… it doesn’t make sense at first, but know that the water temperature in the sun will only be about 40-50° Celsius as compared to 90-100° Celsius with boiling water. This means you’ll need a finer grind in order to get more flavor out of the coffee. 

Enjoy!

Sun-brewed coffee

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A Guide To A Good Life

Answers to your shaving questions

Almost three years after publishing my original wet shaving video, the views and comments keep accumulating: over 280,000 views and 700 comments at the time of this post. I thought it a good idea to gather the top ten questions — the stuff that gets asked over and over, and the things that I should have made clearer in the original video — and make a follow-up video. That’s just what I’ve done here, but wait, there’s more… 🙂

In addition to answering the top ten questions, I also made another wet shaving video, this time making sure to include all of the pertinent advice that came to mind.

Thank you for the views and the likes, thank you for the comments, and I’m truly glad that I could help you learn how to shave! That’s a big responsibility, because it’s something us men have to do pretty much every day for the rest of our lives once we reach adulthood, so if I’ve contributed in any way, as many of you have told me I’ve done, I consider that a wonderful achievement.

These videos are part of my new series, The Elegant Gentleman: a man’s guide to clothing, manners and the finer things in life. If you have any other shaving questions, please let me know in the comments below (or right on the video page at YouTube) and I’ll see if I can answer them.

The Elegant Gentleman

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My Watch Collection

A comparison of watch designs

Remember my video on watch bands? I intended to create a guide to watch designs and I got around to it last week. This video’s even longer than the last one; it’s almost 30 minutes! Get a cup of tea, sit down and get comfortable, because it’s going to take a bit of time to get through it!

Let me sum up my thoughts on watch design:

  • Elegant, classy
  • Simple, fulfilling its purpose as a watch, which is to tell the time and the date
  • Refined features that hint at the intricacies inside the case without flaunting them
  • Easy to use, easy to read: proper color contrast in the lettering and numbering
  • A joy to look at, makes you fall in love with it every time you see it
  • Sturdy, quality-built, lasts a long time (a lifetime even)

Watch the video for the rest of my thoughts and I hope you enjoy it and it’s of use to you!

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Exercise

Let’s change the way we think about Training to Failure

In August of 2001, around the 1-year anniversary of my website, I wrote two articles. The first was titled “How to Keep Your Exercise Goals” and the second, “Finding the Right Resolve for Exercise“.

I wrote the articles after working out seriously and regularly for over 7 years (at the time), so the insights I laid down in them were solid. As good as they were, I was to discover another great insight about exercise, which was to affect me years down the road. It relates to both topics (exercise goals and the resolve to keep them).

It’s about the principle of weightlifting known as “Training to Failure“. You can watch the video or you can read the script (with some slight modifications) below.

I started doing this while in college, as I tried a lot of things in order to grow. I would train to failure on all sets (other than warm-ups) or just the last sets of my workouts, depending on my stamina and my drive on a given day.

Training to failure yielded results, no question about that. Pushing yourself to the limit often helps you discover new limits, beyond what you thought was possible. Coupled with good nutrition, plenty of rest and a proper, serious workout schedule, training to failure will yield results.

In part, it was responsible for my impressive gains in muscle mass and strength. Here’s what I looked like in September of 1994. There’s no way to get around it: I was a pencil-neck. I’d done a lot of swimming in high school and while it’d made me taller, it didn’t add any bulk at all to my body.

In September of 1994, just starting college.

And then here’s what I looked like in May of 1998.

In May of 1998, after a workout.

Big difference, right? That was an increase in weight from 135 lbs. to 195 lbs. and strength gains that went through the roof. I should clarify that I did not take steroids to look like that. I worked out to my limit and beyond, every workout, ate a lot and rested a lot (when I didn’t pull all-nighters to study for exams).

So, training to failure is a good thing, right? Not so fast.

As a practice, it’s a wonderful thing. You’re pushing yourself to the limit. Great! As a name, it’s bad.

Why? Because it’s insidious. The term “Failure Training” or “Exhaustion Training” crawls into your brain and slowly but surely, it begins to affect your attitude toward going to the gym and lifting weights. It takes years, but it’ll happen.

Unless you’re aware of what I’m telling you here, you won’t know why, but workouts and weightlifting will start to become boring to you. You’ll find yourself saying, “What’s the point? I’m lifting these weights up and down, it’s the same movements all the time, I repeat them till I can’t do any more, then I rest for a while and start over again. This is useless, there’s not future in it.”

I’m here to tell you that’s not you talking. You’re doing your part. You’re going to the gym, you’re lifting the weights, you’re eating right, resting, staying informed; you keep at it, but you’re discouraged.

What’s going on is that you’ve got faulty programming in your mind. You’ve gotten so used to the “failure training” that all training has become a failure for you. That’s how your mind now thinks of exercise, and you’re in a terrible situation.

Whoever called it “Training to Failure” made an unfortunate decision. Thankfully, we can fix it, but it’s going to take a bit of effort.

First, let’s start referring to it as “Expansion Training” or “Growth Training“. Make up your own name for it if you want, but it’s got to be something positive, something that encourages you to go on and is a good thing for your mind to recall. It’s got to help you visualize the results you want.

Think about it. Does “Failure Training” help you visualize big muscles or more strength? Not likely. But does “Growth Training” help you see more, bigger muscles? How about “Expansion Training”? Does that help you visualize breaking limits, expanding what you thought was possible?

There’s nothing wrong with the practice of training to exhaustion or to failure. It’s a wonderful thing. We just have to change the way we refer to it, and once we do that, a lot less people who are currently using the technique will get discouraged long-term.

I am currently in the process of trying to change my own thinking on it, after finding out the hard way why I lost the drive to work out years ago. This very thing was one of the reasons.

You may not think simple words can have that sort of power, but when you combine them with effort, pain, visualization and time, those insidious words can have an awful effect. That’s why a positive name change is so important, and it should have been at the top of the list when this technique was invented (or named).

Every time the term “Exhaustion Training” or “Failure Training” comes to your mind, replace it with “Expansion Training” or “Growth Training”. Every time you employ the technique and you push your body to the limit, visualize the positive: your muscles are growing, your body is getting bigger and stronger (or leaner if you want to lose weight). Don’t think about the micro-tears, don’t think about the pain, the exhaustion, and most certainly don’t think about failure. Think about how much you’re improving and how you’re keeping your body in shape, and how good it’s going to look. See yourself leaner, muscular, stronger — all around better.

That’s the way you should approach every “Expansion Training” set and for that matter, every workout, and you’ll be amazed at the results! 

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How To

How to avoid nightmares when upgrading your Drupal install

I had some real “fun” today (about a full day’s worth) after upgrading one of my Drupal installs from 7.7 to 7.8. The whole site went awry: the template no longer showed, I was only getting text, I kept getting either 404 or 500 errors when clicking on links, and nothing I did seemed to make it better. Even restoring from a backup yielded the same garbled pages. It’s fixed now and working perfectly (well, not perfectly, because some modules are still in beta and there will always be some errors, but it’s working as expected, let’s put it that way).

If you’re only here because your site is garbled after an upgrade, let me save you some time. There are two reasons (I know of ) for it:

  1. You have Clean URLs enabled and your .htaccess file got replaced. That means the RewriteBase rule is now commented out. Don’t bother to turn off Clean URLs, there’s no need to do that. Uncomment it, refresh your site and links should be working properly.
  2. If your theme is now messed up and you only see text, plus you can’t navigate around your site, you have your site cache and compression turned on, don’t you? Yeah you do, and now the new version of Drupal doesn’t know how to read the cache files, because it didn’t write them. So do yourself a favor and turn the cache files off. You’ll have to use the “dirty” URLs if you can’t navigate to the admin panel, so instead of example.com/admin you’ll need to type example.com/?q=admin, and so on and so forth. Disable the compression and the cache, and delete all the cache files. Presto-change-o, your site now looks normal again!

So, what can you do to avoid having the same crappy day I did? Let’s take it by the numbers, shall we?

1. Put your site in maintenance mode.

2. Always, always back up your site and your database before doing a core upgrade.

I would recommend doing a backup even before upgrading modules. Don’t rely on backup modules. Do the backups manually, and just so you won’t panic when something goes wrong, test your backup method by restoring from it to a separate install, to make sure you’re doing the right things. This is especially important for database backups, where it’s REALLY important for you to be able to restore from a downloaded SQL file.

Before doing the core upgrade, do a full backup of the entire site, not just the sites folder. And just to make it easier for you to restore the sites folder afterward, do a separate backup of that folder, and of the .htaccess file at the root level of your drupal install. And back up the database, that’s really important! If you do this right, you’ll only need to use the database backup.

3. Turn off all site caching and compression and clear the site cache. This is really important! If you don’t do this, it’s quite likely that your site will be just as garbled as mine after the core upgrade.

4. Create a new site folder on your server, because you’re going to do a brand new install of Drupal (whatever the latest version is). Inside that folder, wget the latest drupal tar.gz file and untar it.

Okay, now comes the fun part.

5. Delete the sites folder in the new Drupal install and copy over your old sites folder.

6. Make sure any changes done to your .htaccess and robots.txt file are reflected in their counterparts in the new Drupal install. Or, it’s quite likely that the old thing that you need to change in the .htaccess file is to uncomment the Rewrite Base line. Find it and uncomment it.

If you don’t uncomment this line and you have Clean URLs enabled, your site will either give you 404 or 500 errors when you try to access the admin interface or alias URLs, so this is quite an important step!

7. Restore your database from the SQL backup. That is, create a new database on your server and through the web interface or through SSH, restore your database backup to it, to get an exact copy of your live Drupal database.

8. Now run the database update script. Browse over to your Drupal install + /update.php and run it to make sure the database upgrade is also completed.

9. Now you have some choices to make. Once you do this, you have two working installs of Drupal: the old, reliable install, which you’ve been using, and the new install, which should be working, but who knows what bugs there might be in the code, that you’ll only discover as you begin working with it.

So now you have two choices: you can either map your domain to the new directory or rename the old directory then rename the new directory to match the old. In other words, you’ll want your domain to point to the new Drupal install. Or, you have the luxury of saying “Forget this new version for now!” and keep using your old Drupal install, until they work out all the bugs (that’ll be the day…)

That’s it! Pat yourself on the back. This should have taken about 15 minutes or less, not a whole day…

I hope this has been helpful!

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