I think I want to bake my own bread. I’ve been curious about the concept of baking bread for quite a while now. Years, possibly. I think it started when the wife picked up a bread maker machine. She’s used it many times, and every time she makes delicious breads. But most of the time it just sits on the kitchen counter taking up space, waiting. I would look at it from time to time, knowing that there was a potential for awesomeness just sitting there, neglected.

But then this week happened, and my web searches and online shopping carts have now taken on the distinct flavor of one who wishes to bake. Two specific experiences this week triggered this rising urge. Pun fully intended. You’re welcome.

First, I read a post on Medium extolling the virtues of maintaining and using your own sourdough starter. This struck me as an extremely California thing to write about. Not that I’m anti-Left Coast, I’m just not from there. And I’ve never lived there. And let’s be honest, some Californians do weird things in the name of happy and/or healthy living. So I read the post, found it interesting, but just shy of interesting enough to trigger me to look into it any further.

But then my mind started working the idea over. I recalled a book that came out a couple years ago that had been sitting on my To Read list, Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. I loved his first book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and his novella, Annabel Scheme. I was interested in his second novel, but the topic never seemed to catch with me. How interesting could a book about baking bread be, after all?

How wrong I was. The Medium post put Sourdough back in the forefront of my mind, and I sat down Wednesday night to start reading it. I’d say I read the whole thing in one sitting, but it’s not quite true. I read in bed that night until I fell asleep with the book still in my hand, betrayed by my own eyes. When I woke, I rushed to get my son to school simply so I could come home, brew some coffee, and sit back down to finish. I didn’t even wait for sitting. I was carrying the book around in one hand as I got the coffee started with the other.

I consumed this book. As a side note, I was in the midst of a 36-hour fast (I don’t shun all health/fitness trends, as it turns out), so I read this entire book with no food in my belly. I was sustained on Sloan’s words alone. And man, was I happily full by the turn of the last page. Sourdough was a warm breeze blowing around me, filled with the scent of baking bread, and maybe a slight tinge of bananas.

I find myself latching onto one book every year that sets itself apart from all the others. I know the year is still youngish, but I already feel confident that Sourdough will be this year’s book for me.

It’s a book about baking bread, and about the San Francisco Bay Area, and neither of those things resonated with me when I started the book. I finished and immediately started researching how I could make my own sourdough starter. I don’t know if the bread will have smiling faces, but I know I do thanks to Robin’s wonderfully relaxed style of writing.

So what’s next? I think I’m going to give this sourdough starter thing a try. Maybe I’ll make a few posts about it. From what I can tell, it takes about a week to grow your own sourdough starter. So that’s where I’ll start. And I’ll let you all know how it goes. Stay tuned!

On Not Making Money

Hello again! I wanted to take a moment this week to talk a bit about what DBF is, and also what it is not. I’ve been putting up some app reviews here, and more are coming in the following weeks. I wanted to make clear that I’m not making money off these reviews. There are no referral links or affiliate codes or any of that. In fact, DBF has no monetization anywhere. I make a whopping zero ducats off of this thing. And I like it that way.

The way I see it, the internet has plenty of folks writing reviews for money, some of them actually very good. I pass no judgement. Everyone needs to make a living one way or another. But that’s not what I’m doing here. DBF is simply a tool for me to share things I’ve found useful. Maybe even help someone out who’s looking for something to help them out.

This approach has benefits and pitfalls. On the plus column, I have zero restrictions on what I write. In every review or comparison or rant, you’re getting my unfiltered opinion. The only caveat is that it is just my opinion. On the other hand, since I make no money on these reviews, I rely on you, the reader, to tell me if they’re worth your time to read them. There is no client to tell me if what I’m writing is working. Only you, dear reader, can keep me honest. I do encourage you at any time to drop me a line on the Suggestion Box page. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, what you had for lunch. All feedback is welcome.

So that’s where we are now, but what lies ahead? Well, some more reviews for the next few weeks. Once I’ve covered all the tools I’m using to get through the year, the review onslaught will come to an end and things will (hopefully!) get really interesting. Projects will begin anew. Things will be happening. Which is to say, hold on tight and prepare for awesome. Or maybe at least awesome adjacent. I don’t want to oversell it here. But I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.

And now I’ve taken enough of your time. The clever reader will know this for what it is, a bit of a cheat post. A sly way of keeping my weekly promise without delivering much in the way of goods. But while that is true, I also wanted to take the time to make it clear what my intentions are here, and embrace transparency. If ever I do include something that somehow benefits me financially, I will be up front about it. Bottom line: I don’t like reading ads, and I like writing them even less. So I don’t.

Next week I’ll be sharing with you my experience of using the workout app Seven. I’ve been using it every day this month, and I’m excited to tell you all about it. But until then, enjoy your weekend. I’m sure you’ve earned it. Until next time.

  • Ryan

Streaks: my secret weapon in building habits

As I mentioned last week, I’m working this year on building some new habits and maintaining others. We’re past the halfway mark of January, and so far I’m keeping up with it. This week, I wanted to share one tool that I rely on more than any other to make habits stick, my secret weapon to a better me: Streaks.

Streaks up front on my home screen. More on my screen layout another time.

At its core, Streaks is essentially a to do list for habits. It can track up to six habits on one screen, and allows up to two screens for a maximum of 12 habits to be tracked. Personally, I find this limitation to be a good thing. I’ve been using Streaks for a couple years now, and as habits become cemented in my daily routines, I remove them from Streaks to make room for something new. For me, I’ve found that I can’t really do all the things I want at once, so limiting myself to no more than six new habits at a time increases the likelihood that I’ll actually stick to them. That’s just me, but I’m guessing it applies to a lot of other people as well.

As for the habits themselves, Streaks can track whatever you want. And they provide a great selection of preloaded habits if you don’t know where to start. With Apple Health integration, tracking things like exercise or mindful minutes happen almost magically. If I go for a run using Runkeeper, Streaks catches it and adds the progress towards my exercise habit goal. If I do a 10 minute meditation in Headspace, Streaks applies that towards my mindful minutes goal. It’s a simple thing, but it’s one less friction point in building a new habit, and that’s a huge plus for me.

“Finally I’ll stop picking my nose. Kidding…mostly…stop judging me!”

Streaks isn’t limited to just building new habits, either. It’s also capable of helping you eliminate bad habits as well. Just select the thing you want to stop doing, and be honest every time you give in. It can even handle tasks that need to be repeated multiple times a day. Streaks is flexible enough to work in whatever way you need to help build and maintain any habit.

The best way to see what Streaks can do is to just dive in, so let me show you how I’m using it right now. I’m currently tracking six habits in Streaks. I have trackers for daily reading, idea generation writing on Monday through Friday, exercising five days a week, taking my one-a-day vitamin, daily flossing, and daily meditation. Here’s what that looks like:

With a quick glance, I can see what goals I’ve completed, what progress I’ve made in finishing others, and which are still left to get done. For example, here I see that I’m looking pretty good. I’m a bedtime reader, so I know that 30 minutes of reading will get knocked out when I go to bed. And the flossing will be done right before then. I still have four minutes of exercise left to meet my daily goal, but I’m not worried about that because I’ll be doing a seven minute workout with the Seven app as soon as this is posted. And the last task of mindful minutes will be done with a 10-minute meditation in Headspace before calling it a night. And that will be another successful day in the books.

The possibilities within Streaks are broad and varied. I’ve found this to be one of the first apps I open in the morning and one of the last I check at the end of the day. The habits I’ve built in the past and those I’m building or maintaining now would have been significantly more difficult to accomplish without something like Streaks. If you find yourself looking for a tool to assist you in building your own good habits, or breaking bad ones, then this may be the solution for you.

And that’s all for this week. The rain finally stopped here and it’s looking to be good beach weather for the weekend. Next week I’ll start diving into the new practices I’m tackling this year. In the meantime, my best to you all, and to all a good week!

  • Ryan