Ever since leaving social media last year, I can say that my focus has definitely increased. Nevertheless, I am always looking for ways to stay, or become, more focused. Perhaps some of you suffer from issues of focus, too — particularly due to digital distractions. I ran across this infographic and thought that it was worth sharing. As with most advice, not all of is practical or something that you can, realistically, implement; but it’s worth thinking about how much you can work into your daily routine.
Source: Mind Map Art
Do you have a particular technique, habit, or practice that you employ when you need to really focus? If so, please share. I think that it might be good for me to revisit Leo Babauta’s book Focus. (Click here for a downloadable PDF copy.)
Though not really a New Year’s resolution, I started working on my health and fitness since the beginning of the year. Given then I am a tech and data nerd, it should come as no surprise that I found way to track my health & fitness activities with apps and online tools. I tried working with a trainer on FitOrbit for a while. After a month, I found that the experience really didn’t meld well with my style. I took a lot of things that I learned from FitOrbit and went back to the gym. Stay tuned for a post about my progress toward specific weight and nutrition goals.
After I moved on from FitOrbit, I wanted to find a program and/or app that would allow me to keep track of my food intake as well as daily exercise. There are a lot of apps and online tools available, but I decided on My Fitness Pal. In a nutshell, MyFitnessPal has a huge database of food (both raw ingredients and prepared foods). I enter my the components of each meal throughout the day, and all the calories are displayed. I also enter my cardio and/or strength activities and MyFitnessPal makes caloric calculations, showing a complete picture of my intake and calories spent. If you like data, particular at the granular level, a service like MyFitnessPal will serve you well. If the idea of manually entering information about each meal and exercise is synonymous with fingernails on a chalkboard, these tools and the fitness bands, discussed below, might not be for you.
I use the MyFitnessPal app daily. That account is synced to my FitBit account, because I have a FitBit Aria wireless scale, which I love! The scale automatically uploads my weight and BMI directly into my account wirelessly, using my home WiFi network. All of that data between FitBit carries over to my account with MyFitnessPal. Conversely, all of the food and exercise that I enter into MyFitnessPal shows up in FitBit. To make it all work, I only rely on FitBit for weight, BMI. Everything else is handled by MyFitnessPal. It takes someone dedicated to entering food and exercise regularly to make apps like FitBit or MyFitness Pal really work for you. I am, admittedly, a bit obsessive, so entering all of that information is not a problem. Carla, on the other hand, doesn’t want a device that requires a lot of manual input. Thus, the Jawbone UP wouldn’t work, simply because of because of the manual sync requirement. She might like the Flex, but only for the daily steps and sleep data. However, she already has a pretty advanced pedometer, so unless the sleep data is really important to her, I don’t know if it’s worth purchasing.
Legitimate Fitness Tool or a Glorified, $100 Pedometer?
The Flex arrived last Wednesday. After a nearly a week with the band, I am trying to decide whether to send it back. It’s not that the device is doing less than what was advertised. I guess that having it on my wrist and looking at the data collected feels more like a novelty than something actually useful in my pursuit of fitness and nutrition goals.
The Flex band tracks your steps, and it will also provide information on your sleep patterns. You can set step or distance goals using the online Dashboard or the mobile app. The band has a small series of LED lights that show how you’re doing, 20 percent per light, toward your goal. The lights also provide a visual confirmation when you tap the band to start or stop the sleep mode. The Flex also has a silent alarm, that must be set online or through the app, that vibrates. I usually wake up before the alarm goes off, so I can’t say that it’s something that would wake me for a deep slumber, or sleep walking (see the next paragraph). The JawBone Up has an “idle” feature that will vibrate the band if you don’t move for a set amount of time. That’s a nice “get off your ass and walk around” feature.
Other information, such as nutrition, and physical activities that can’t be tracked by the Flex (cycling, swimming, etc.) has to be entered into your FitBit account manually. Speaking of entering information, the FitBit can sync with your account through your computer. There’s a small USB wireless adapter that comes in the box with the Flex. You simply plug the adapter into one of the USB slots on your computer, and as long as the Flex band is within 20 feet of the computer, it will connect. I opted to sync the band with my phone. The other way to sync the data from the Flex with your FitBit account is through the mobile app. The FLex uses a low-power Bluetooth 4.0 connection to sync with the FitBit app on your smartphone. The Flex will sync automatically if you keep the FitBit app running in the background, otherwise you have to open the app to force a sync.
As it stands, the only real additive feature of the Flex to my health & fitness is counting my steps. I typically workout twice a day (Monday-Thursday) and once on Fridays and Saturdays. I was looking to capture the steps I talk all day — hoping that it would motivate me to walk more during the day, and take public transportation to work instead of driving. I have fiddled with the calibration on the FitBit dashboard, but still can’t seem to get an accurate reading of my actual steps. For instance, this morning (it’s almost 10 am), my dashboard shows that I’ve walked about 800 steps, but I have only been milling around the house. There’s no way I’ve walked 800 steps. It’s clear to me that the Flex is less accurate than the FitBit one, solely because it resides on my wrist. I wear the Flex on my non-dominant hand. You can go into the settings for the Flex to indicate which hand you’re using to wear the Flex. You can also manually enter your stride to calibrate the steps. I found that fiddling with the settings has made a difference in the data collected and presented.
Tracking my sleep data is something that made the Flex more compelling than the FuelBand, or some other bands/trackers on the market. Again, after a few days, I find myself a bit let down, or even incredulous, by the data presented. I am at a loss to figure out how the Flex (or the Jawbone UP) knows when I am awake throughout the night. I can see the differentiation between restless and deep sleep (presumably because I am still), but how in the world does the band know that I am awake? Apparently the Jawbone Up will cancel the sleep mode when it detects steps. Working on the assumption that I am not a sleep walker, I am calling BS on the some part of the Flex’s sleep stats. FitBit’s presentation of the sleep data is a bit crude. I like Jawbone Up’s interface much better. I don’t mind granular data. In fact, granular is desired. I find it a bit too convenient (read inaccurate) that I had intervals of restless sleep — all 11 minutes in length. That, or I am an amazingly consistent with my restlessness.
As for the physical band … My first impression was that I don’t care for it that much. Even though it’s on my non-dominant hand, it kind of gets in the way — particularly when I’m typing. The metal snap that connects the two ends of the band is right in the middle of the underside of your wrist (read: right where your wrist contacts a surface). In fairness, it’s not as bad today as it was the first couple days.
Other than a wedding ring, I’m not much for jewelry. I used to be a big watch guy, but now I don’t wear one. Perhaps because I don’t wear a watch or any other type of bracelet, the Flex, initially, was quite noticeable; and not in a good way. It is definitely a challenge to snap on. However, barring deep water diving, you’ll only have to take it off once a week to charge. If you are used to wearing watches, a rubber “cause” band, or something on your wrist, you’ll probably be ok — other than fighting to get the band securely fastened. After five days, comfort is less of an issue. It’s also worth noting that bands look like they will show wear pretty soon. Additionally, the little plastic “screen” on the Flex band that shows your LED progression lights can scratch rather easily. Fortunately, the Flex is really a rubber wrist band that houses a pretty small tracker, and you can purchase other bands. I saw a three-pack of Flex bands on Amazon that gives you the option to change the band color. That’s pretty cool. You’ll need to be careful with the USB charging cord that comes with the Flex band. It’s the only way to the charge the device. The charge contacts on the Flex track are proprietary.
In the end, I can see how a number of people view the Flex, UP, or FuelBand, as novelties or fitness fad items. There’s some truth in that, particularly since none of the bands have heart rate monitors or GPS built in. However, these bands could serve as a visual and vibrating reminder or motivator for many to get up and out. For some people that’s needed.
I am pretty self-motivated, but I love data. I’ve shown that I am willing to drop some coin for a device, the Aria scale, the automatically syncs data that I could very well enter myself. However, I must admit that I am rather let down with the Flex, so far and it just might be headed back to FitBit. I think that I will give it another week.
Do you use a pedometer, fitness tracker or band? If so, please share what you use and your experience.
I decided to return the Flex.
I was listening to the weekly Vergecast last Friday. During the broadcast, the panel started to discuss a story and a familar name popped up. Adria Richards. My attention was immediately, and intensely, piqued. (I had breezed by a couple of story headlines toward the end of the week, but I was behind on some tech news.) As the situation was discussed in more detail, my heart sank. After listening to the Vergecast, I started to comb through the stories.
I will leave it to you to read through the stories.
This is Adria’s blog post about the whole thing.
I know Adria, and consider her a friend. This whole thing troubles me deeply. I feel for my friend. Even with that, I know that that she has some culpability in this mess — namely by tweeting the picture of the guys at the conference. The guys making the lewd jokes also bear responsibility for their actions, though. There is blame to go around.
Here is the rub for me. I am bewildered, and even sickened, by the reaction of so many men, and some women, to this dust up. There is absolutely no place for the abusive, vitriolic language, not to mention rape and death threats, directed at Adria. Could she have handled this differently? Probably so, but it is always easy, after-the-fact, to see things more clearly and offer a calm assessment of how you would have handled being in the same place.
What really gets me is the repeated statement by many guys that what Adria overheard at the conference were “just dick jokes.” She should just “get over it (and herself).” This is utter, and complete, nonsense. Who am I, or anyone else, to tell Adria or any other woman, what is, or is not, offensive? It’s analogous to men saying to a woman “you are overreacting!” I’ve learned that each person has a reaction, and he/she is entitled to it. I find, too often, that men are quick to put a woman’s reactions and sensibilities in a box. If find it just as offensive that people are telling, or suggesting, that Adria what should, or should not, be offensive.
Why should have Adria hunkered down and dealt with dick jokes? People seem to be getting hung up on semantics. “The guys weren’t talking to her.” “The jokes weren’t sexual in nature.” “The jokes weren’t directed to her.” If someone was behind me telling nigger, Jew, gay, or (fill in the blank) jokes, I would be hot! I can’t say how I would deal with it. My first thought is that I would address the people directly. However, if I didn’t feel comfortable, because of the environment or disproportionate number of people involved, I may have taken another avenue to voice my outrage. The bottom line is that I am not, nor should I, have to sit somewhere — particularly a conference — and accept offensive words or sentiments. From where I sit, a lot of true feelings seem to be coming out. Adria is being attacked for being a woman, black, Jewish. For all of the people scouring twitter and the blogosphere for statements by Adria — painting her as a hypocrite — one need look no further than the hundreds of comments under just about every article about this mess. Most of the comments attack Adria, calling her a bitch, a cunt, a “diversity hire,” or much…much…worse, and suggesting that she should kill herself. All the while these same people are shedding tears for the guy with three kids who got fired from his job.
Actions have consequences. Irrespective of one’s opinion about who’s right and who’s wrong, it appears that both Adria and the guy at the conference paid the price for their actions. What seems to be getting lost in this whole thing is the real issue of women in tech. It’s unfortunately that this scenario played out the way it did, because I fear that the underlying issue of how women, and people of color, fare in the technology industry won’t be adequately addressed. People love controversy, to most people’s attention will stay on dick jokes and people getting fired. I’ll steer clear of using the word victim because it too much of a powder cake. It muddies the water. Whether you side with Adria, or not, on how this situation at the conference was handled, I would hope that the discourse could get beyond the who lit the match and focus on the fuel that feeds this raging fire.
Unless you just stepped out of a time machine, it’s pretty likely you aware that Apple officially lifted the veil on the iPhone 5 yesterday.
I may be coming down too hard on Apple, but throughout the announcement I had a very distinct feeling. Yawn! I was underwhelmed.
Perhaps part of the blame falls on my nerdiness. I read a lot of tech blogs, and iPhone 5 photos and specs were leaked left-and-right. When Apple revealed the iPhone 5 on stage yesterday in San Francisco, there were no surprises. It became clear, from the leaks, that Apple was going to stick with the iPhone 4/4S design and merely stretch it out to make room for a four inch screen.
I think the other part of my frustration with the iPhone 5, in my opinion, falls squarely on Apple. It’s clear to me that Apple opted for safe over daring with the design. I have long admired Jony Ives, and the beautiful industrial design that he’s brought to Apple. (Mind you, a lot of Apple’s designs seem to draw “inspiration” from Braun.) In fairness, I can’t say that I really blame Apple for how they treated the iPhone 5. As much as daring, out-there design has its place, Apple is still a business with strong customer base. Paraphrasing Ives, in a new video, he didn’t think that Apple should mess the design. Ives said that the iPhone 4 and 4S were so popular that he thought the best thing to do was improve upon a good thing, not upturn the Apple cart. There’s merit in that, and I thought about how certain designs become iconic, such as a Porsche 911. I just don’t think the iterations of the iPhone 4, over time, will prove iconic on that level. Check out this interesting piece on TechCrunch that addresses the issue of Apple not reinventing the wheel.
Of course, all of this could change when I get my hands on the iPhone 5. From the photos and hands-on videos I’ve seen, the device — particularly the black model — looks beautiful and well-crafted. I guess that I was just hoping/expecting Apple to take the slab smartphone to another level. I have been exhausted by all of the lawsuits between Apple and, seemingly, every manufacturer that makes Android devices. I was willing to put all of that to the side, for the moment, and bask in the glory of Apple’s design prowess. It’s worth adding that aside from revolutionary (Apple’s favorite superlative) hardware innovation, Apple would have created much more buzz if they overhauled it’s mobile operating system iOS. It’s looking rather long in the tooth, particularly when compared to updates to Android and the Windows Phone operating systems.
To be perfectly candid, I was hoping that the iPhone 5 would end months of hand-wringing about my next phone. I don’t often rely on sports analogies, but…I wanted Apple to knock it out of the park, but they merely hit a sacrifice fly to advance a runner.
I am not wed to one platform, and will more than willing to move from Android to iOS if the iPhone design proved to be compelling. Apple didn’t help as much as I had hoped. The recently announced Nokia Lumia 920 builds on a very interesting design. (I see a trend developing here.) In about a month, if rumors hold up, Google will announce that it has expanded its Nexus program (Google’s flagship Android device) to allow several manufacturers to introduce new Nexus devices this fall (usually in November). Here is a chart comparing the iPhone 5, Galaxy SIII, and the upcoming Lumia 920. My wife recently upgraded from a Motorola Droid X to the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and she seems to love it.
One thing that is rather interesting to me is seeing the devoted iPhone camp do their best to mask their disappointment. I think that a good amount Apple loyalists released heavy sighs yesterday. I checked out a number of Apple blogs, and the mood seems to be rather reserved. People are doing their best to put a positive spin on yesterday’s reveal. Like me, I suspect that a majority of people were hoping that the leaked photos were a slight of hand by Apple’s PR shop. What happened to Apple “doubling down” on security? Fail!
Of course, Android fans were doing back flips. (rolling my eyes) I wrote a comment on an Android site, imploring people to keep it classy and be a fan of tech.
I am a fan of technology…period. I use an Android device, but I also own and use Apple products. I kinda like the division of labor, if you will. With that, I refuse to allow myself to become so entrenched in one camp, or another, that I start to take things in this arena personally. I get appreciating your favorite brand or system. What I don’t get are people who take their preference (allegiance?) to a device or brand so far as to run anything else into the ditch.
Sure, I get the whole Apple vs. Android thing. You’d have be to blind not to. I question whether Apple was run by a megalomaniac, and everyone — even subsequent to his death — appears committed to that same bullshit “everyone is out to get us” paranoid path. Maybe this has cause Android camp to develop a pretty large chip on our collective shoulders, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Calling out Apple for it’s practices would be a lot more convincing if Android OEMs didn’t blatantly copy (Yeah…I know the reverse arguments, so please don’t recite them.) and fans of the OS and ecosystem didn’t mirror the same myopia that sadly shackles so many fans of Apple.
Objectivity is the key word for me. I want all tech to be cool and interesting. This means that I can applaud and acknowledge when Apple makes something compelling, be that the hardware or the software that runs the device. It means that love of great design is not exclusive to Android and the OEMs that produce Android devices. If that were the case, I’d have a lot of pent-up self-loathing for the shiggity products Motorola keeps pumping out. (Sorry Moto fans.) Interestingly, if all of the leaks and rumors about the iPhone 5 are true, I think there will be a rather tangible sigh release from people, even the most ardent fans of Apple, who were hoping for something more…ummm…intriguing. Merely stretching out a phone doesn’t equal innovative design. I’ve come to expect more from Jonny Ives.
Look…we all (Android, Apple, Windows fans) need to come up for air, and just following the mantra of “Do you.” Let people do their thing. Stop trying to beat someone/something down in order to elevate yourself or your “thing.” Perhaps, the most important thing, in my estimation, is to stop personalizing all of this stuff. It’s just not that deep. It really isn’t.
The whole Apple vs Android debate is too much like the Hatfields vs. McCoys for my taste. It’s ridiculous. There’s just too much vitriol over “stuff.”
Ok…enough belly-aching that the present under the tree was not exactly what I wanted. The iPhone 5 is a nice looking device. It’s just not a game-changer.
For the longest time, I was almost contrarian when it came to Apple. I never had an issue with the products, but I didn’t (and still don’t) like how a number of Apple users become members a cult-like tribe. It’s a turn off. My closest like-my-brother friend, Dotch, has been using Apple computers since we were in college. His house could very well be an Apple store. (Love ya Dotch!) At the end of 2010, I put aside those concerns, vowing that I would never become a fanboy, and took the plunge with two Apple computers — a MacBook Pro and an iMac. I sold the MacBook Pro to a friend and picked up another one. A couple of months ago, I gave my son that 13″ MacBook Pro.
I have been using the time without a laptop to see how I would function. In that time, I picked up the Google Nexus 7 tablet. After a few weeks, I came to the conclusion that the Nexus 7 was just too small for me. It’s a great device, but I guess that I have grown accustomed to a larger screen. I’ve used my wife’s iPad2 from time-to-time. The screen is larger on the iPad (Interestingly, all the rumors these days point to the release of a mini iPad this fall.) I probably could get by with an iPad in lieu of a laptop, but I don’t like typing on the screen of the iPad and I have yet to come across an accessory keyboard for the iPad that I like. What became clear is that I like a laptop. However, one thing that bothered me about the 13″ MacBook Pro was it’s weight. Don’t like the sleek design fool you, MacBook Pros are hefty. So, with weight being an issue…I was really only left with one choice, in the Apple family that is.
It’s hard to believe, given my history, that I am becoming such an Apple person. So far, the I have been holding off on getting a new smartphone, because I’m interested to see what Apple does with the next iPhone. I’ve seen several “spy shots” of the new iPhone, and I must admit that I’m not overwhelmed. Maybe a ho-hum iPhone5 will keep me from becoming completely sucked into the Apple ecosystem. We’ll see. It could become a full-blown family affair. My son’s in (he has an iPhone now, too.). Carla was using the iMac quite a bit this weekend and I caught her eye-balling my new MacBook Air. I may have to drop a line on her from a classic (read: cheesy) 80s commercial.