The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

June to March in 12 hours

The Tribune has a graphic up demonstrating how Chicago temperatures dropped 20°C in one day. We went from a high temperature of 28°C at 4pm Monday down to a morning low of 7°C by 7pm Tuesday.

I should mention that I had several windows open Monday night, and closed them around 4am. That helped a little, but it would have helped more had I turned the heat on.

Despite the colder weather, through yesterday I've had six consecutive days of 15,000+ steps, including two of better than 20,000. Today looks promising as well. Fitbit also has a new feature that awards a pip for each clock hour in which you get 250 or more steps, the idea being to get you off your ass. I've got my app set to count from 8am to 9pm. Since Friday, I've had 13 of 13 hours four of five possible days—and today looks pretty likely as well. (The trick is to take Parker for a walk at 5 minutes before the hour, which gets me two pips in 10 minutes.

Fitbit reports the damage

Scroll down and you'll see that I did not achieve my goal of 25,000 steps on Saturday because (most likely) I ate contaminated kefta kebab on Friday night.

My Fitbit did provide some interesting data, however, that underscores how disappointing the trip turned out to be.

Sleep: I average 7 hours a night, generally. Friday night, more because I had absolutely no responsibilities than anything else, I slept in, getting 9:34 total. But then the sleep chart goes almost full-circle as the Fitbit recorded all my naps. Total sleep from Friday night to Saturday evening: 14:11. Total sleep in Bend: 20:41. (Given that I was only in Bend for a little over 40 hours, I slept through more than half of it.)

Steps: Instead of 25,000 on Saturday, I got 11,633. That includes the one-hour hike Saturday morning when the symptoms first hit me, and a shuffle to the nearest Walgreens to pick up some Gatorade. Do you know how much I hate Gatorade? Less than I hate serious dehydration, but only just.

Resting heart rate: My RHR usually hangs out around 63. Give me a good, painful illness, and that goes to hell: 65 on Friday, 68 on Saturday, and 70 yesterday, despite yesterday being spent mostly in transit.

Weight: Well, here's the silver lining. My body mass has remained frustratingly stable about 3 kg over where I want to be since mid-November. While I expected that to drop some as the weather got warmer, as it has every year, I didn't expect to drop all 3 kilos in one weekend. This may have something to do with me having no solid food from my bagel Saturday morning until I attempted (successfully!) some pretzels, saltines, and a hard-boiled egg yesterday afternoon. I also had a bit of success with a container of steamed white rice when I got to O'Hare. It turns out, water has no calories, and Gatorade has just over 200 calories per liter. So altogether, I had perhaps 1,000 calories in two days, at the same time my body was shedding every gram of food and water that got into my system from Friday night on.

Don't worry, I'm hydrating. I might gain a kilogram back in the next day or two. On the other hand, my appetite hasn't fully returned, so I might keep it off for a while.

Anyway, other than being pissed off about spending my one day in Bend asleep or on the pot (and not the pot one would ordinarily want to be on in Oregon), I seem mostly recovered. It's going to be a beautiful day in Chicago, so I plan to get another 20,000 steps today. And drink a lot of fluids.

Warm, but still a miss

Yesterday's temperature at O'Hare got up to 21°C, which we last hit on November 5th, and is the normal temperature for May 15th. It was quite a lovely day, in fact. Tom Skilling pointed out that this was the earliest 21°C day in 16 years, and was 3 weeks earlier than the average date of its first occurrence based on 145 years of data.

I tried, I really tried, to hit 30,000 steps, but...well:

Crap. I missed 30,000 by 225 steps, and missed my record by only 721:

2015 Apr 26 30,496
2016 Mar 8 29,775
2015 Jun 15 28,455
2015 May 2 26,054
2015 Sep 5 24,771

Note that on September 5thalso missed a goal by almost the same amount. Quite irritating. Still, yesterday's step count was fully 4.86 standard deviations above my mean daily count of 12,660, so it was a pretty good effort. (At this point today I'm already up to 9,534, so the week is looking pretty good.)

And Parker got over 90 minutes of walkies.

Back at the Remote Office

Man, I have missed this:

I had lunch with a friend here at the Duke today (and I walked, getting me to 15,000 before noon), so why not stay and write some documentation?

I've also decided on a new rule. I gave up beer for February because I think there's a correlation between me drinking beer and me staying consistently 3 kg over my target. Well, not much changed, and I missed beer, so my New Rule is that I can have one beer per 10,000 steps (or fraction thereof). And I think I'll aggregate this over the week.

The President's gadget

President Obama and I have the same fitness tracker. His, however, has some customizations:

What counts as must-have features for many people — high-definition cameras, powerful microphones, cloud-connected wireless radios and precise GPS location transmitters — are potential threats when the leader of the free world wants to carry them around.

And so using the latest devices means more than merely ordering one on Amazon for delivery to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It means accepting the compromises imposed by White House technology experts, whose mission is to secure the president’s communications, and by the Secret Service agents who protect him.

He has not given up, though. Mr. Obama is the first commander in chief to regularly carry a specially secured BlackBerry. He reads briefings and checks scores from ESPN on an iPad (the first of which was given to him by Steve Jobs before its public release). And recently he has been seen wearing the Fitbit Surge, a fitness band packed with all the latest technology, on his left wrist.

The article goes on to speculate (because neither the Secret Service nor Fitbit will comment on presidential security) just which features, exactly, they've removed. And my friend request has so far gone unanswered...

Do Fitbits make you sad?

Duke University business professor Jordan Etkin found evidence they might:

"In general, tracking activity can increase how much people do," Etkin said. "But at the same time, measurement has these pernicious effects. Enjoyable activities can became almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun."

In another study, researchers had 310 participants read for eight minutes. One group read additional text that described reading as fun an enjoyable; for another group it was described as useful and educational — more like work. A third group received no additional information. In all three groups, some readers were told how many pages they had read as they went, others were not.

The readers who could see how many pages they had read reported that reading felt more like work and less enjoyable than those who could not — but not among participants who were told the project was more work-like at the start.

"This doesn't mean we should stop measuring our daily activity," she said, "but we need to balance that increased productivity against our underlying enjoyment. For activities people do for fun, it may be better not to know."

Finding out that my Fitbit might make me sad makes me sad.

Of course, this could just be a horrible example of bad science reporting, which Deeply Trivial just blogged about yesterday.

Missing my Fitbit numbers

For the last couple of days, I've missed my 10,000-step goal by 100 to 500 steps. This is why:

Yesterday Chicago got its biggest November snowfall in 120 years; today it's well below freezing. Walking is treacherous at best for bipeds and uncomfortable for quadrupeds. So today might also be a miss.

I haven't missed three days in a row since March 5th-7th—when, not coincidentally, we had a miserable, snowy week. Winter is hard on fitness.

New colors

So the masthead is blue now. Any thoughts?

Parker and I managed to go for a one-hour, five-kilometer walk earlier today, as hoped. So my lazy Sunday hasn't been entirely lazy. But just on principle, I think the rest of the day will involve a nap and some time at a local bar with a book.

A year of FitBit

I forgot that I picked up my FitBit a year ago this week. So how am I doing since 24 October 2014?

  • 4.76 million steps (13,000 per day)
  • 4,081 km (11 km per day)
  • 4,557 floors (12 per day)

By FitBit's reckoning, that puts me somewhere around the 90th percentile of FitBit users worldwide. It also means I've walked the entire length of Japan and climbed enough stairs to reach the normal cruising altitude of a commercial jet.

And Parker and I are about to get more steps in just a few minutes.