Seventy-eight days

The weirdest thing has happened to me. I didn’t plan it. There was nothing intentional about it at first. The first couple of weeks it was going on I didn’t think much about it. Then I started noticing and I wondered how long it would last. Then there came a day I had to make up my mind. Do I keep doing this? Do I let it end? That was probably the big day day. I decided to keep going. And I think it’s starting to change me.

IMG_0589I’m talking about my Apple Watch and it’s damned Move goal. I’ve got a streak of 78 straight days of hitting it going. I’m starting to become obsessed. I’d say I’m not sure that’s healthy, but I’m pretty sure it actually is. It’s kind of the point.

For those of you who don’t have an Apple Watch I’ll fill in some of the blanks. The watch has an internal accelerometer so it can measure movement and a sensor on the back face that can measuere pulse. It also picks up data from my iPhone to help with location and distance accuracy. That’s not all that important to me right now, but for a lot of folks that’s a killer feature. Unlike a FitBit or other fitness bands, the watch doesn’t track things by steps. It tracks steps, but that’s not the main data type. I don’t know the procedure and I’m sure there are people who consider it bullshit, but the thing actually tracks calories, both resting and active. How does it do this?  Don’t know. Don’t care. I don’t know if it’s calculations are valid. I’m guessing they’re probably not too far out of whack. I do believe they’re reliable. That’s to say I’m confident that however it’s calculating the numbers, it’s doing it the the same way each day. That’s good enough for me.  Even if the actual number is wrong somehow, I know that if I have a higher one today than yesterday, it means I probably did more. Again.  It’s good enough for me.

That diagram is a screenshot from my watch at 12:43 this afternoon.  The outer (red) ring is the “Move Goal.”  Every Monday morning the watch chooses a daily target number for the week.  You have the option of raising it or lowering it. I’m not going to say what my number is because, well, I don’t want to tell you.  Sufficed to say I haven’t lowered it in several weeks and it’s high enough that I can’t just lounge around the condo and expect to hit it. It’s higher than it was on December 31, 2015 when this streak started. I did some work out on the patio this morning and actually hit my daily goal before noon. That’s the first time that’s ever happened and sitting here right now I could cheerfully go to sleep at 7:30 PM so I don’t plan top make a habit of it. The middle (green) ring is the “Exercise” ring.  It wants you do do 30 minutes of exercise.  I’ve yet to see that ring filled in.  That’s a record there.  It’s not what I’m concentrating on right now, so that one remains meaningless to me until that day I actually get one completely filled in.  The inside (blue) ring is the “Stand” ring. It’s a bit of a misnomer because what it ought to be called is the “not motionless” ring.  Technically you’re supposed to stand up and move around for at least a minute 12 times a day, but almost everyone has found that you can fool it by moving your arms around while sitting. If you haven’t moved enough to satisfy the thing since the top of the last hour, you’ll get a prompt at 50 minutes past the hour so you have a chance to get that hour in. If you’re driving down the road at 10 ’til the hour and you see someone gesturing wildly with their arm, you’ve found an Apple Watch owner. Trust me.

It kind of started with the Stand goal at first. I was shocked at how fast an hour could go by. When I get locked in on the screen in front of me, I get locked in. I’ve had the watch for almost a year now. It actually came out on my birthday, though mine didn’t make it to me for a couple of days. I almost immediately started paying attention of the Stand goal and igorning everything else.   I’ve only had perfect weeks 7 times. If I miss it’s usually by one at the most and it’s because I found myself at a computer for a good part of the day.

I’ve hit the Move goal every day this year. I found out pretty early one that it will be happy to keep raising your goal every week until you just can’t hit it. I’m not at the highest total it’s tried to get me to, but it’s higher than it was when the streak started by a significant amount. My rule is that I’ll raise it when in a typical week at home I make it without worry. The streak is only meaningful if I’m having to work at it. At this point I still aim for the level I’m at.

Here’s where it gets weird. I was finding myself coming up short toward the end of the day, so I was coming up with all these quick and dirty exercises to get me across the line.  That’s fine as far as that goes, but a quick look at the activity graph and I could see that I was procrastinating. So I figured out what my hourly target ought to be. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but I can’t think of anything so foreign to me as “Oh, I must make sure a I move around this much each hour.” My spirit animal is the Giant Sloth for God’s sake. I’ve been known to collect dust on my glasses. While I’m wearing them.

That project I worked on out on the patio that put me over ridiculously early today? I started it because I wanted to “get ahead” on my budget so I could spend some time writing. The project wound up growing and then I was over, but that was an accident.  I’m just astonished that I’ve actually managed to convince myself that I ought to think about things this way.

Who am I.  What have I done with myself?

I will cop to feeling better. I will cop to my knees not hurting so much (though these knee braces I’ve been wearing have helped on that score, too). I have no idea whether I’ve lost any weight because I’m not paying any attention to that.  it’s not the point. I suspect it’ll happen. I suspect I’ll start paying attention to it sooner or later.  But not yet.

I have no idea how long the streak will last. It just kind of happened accidentally. The first two weeks of the year were nuts, then getting my replacement for my old job kept me going into the office. Let’s be clear.  I’m not running marathons here. All I have to do is something resembling what someone in shape would do on days they aren’t in a coma and I’ll hit the goal. It was only when I was done at the job that I had to make up my mind to keep on the streak going. I plan to keep it going for as long as I can. Between my already lousy fitness and a year with A-Fib, I pretty much sat on my ass for the last couple of years. I’m breaking that cycle.

The streak will end.  It wasn’t today, though. And I have no plans for it to be tomorrow either.

An ode to my bar

Carla and I have some travel coming up and chances are I won’t have a chance to get out the laptop and post something thoughtful every day. As if what I post most of the time is all that thoughtful. Anyway, I’ve only used the WordPress mobile app intermittently and I want to get more comfortable with it. 


Me in my natural environment
Since I’ll be posting from where I am at the time the inspiration strikes, I decided to go that route today. So let me wax poetic about my favorite bar, Hebron Brew Haus. 

In many ways it’s just a bar. Pizza. Wings. Various deep-fried appetizerss. All very good. But they also have 22 taps. Only four are macro breweries and one other is usually an Angry Orchard cider. The rotating taps are all over the map, anything from Leinenkugel to Zombie Dust. The thing is there is no pretentiousness allowed. You can come in and get a serious craft beer. You can get a Bud Light. No one’s judging either way. 

The thing that makes Hebron for us is Tuesday nights. It’s buy-one-get-one on craft beer from the rotation taps. Appetizers are half-price before 7 PM. The staff is great. The regulars are great. I really feel like I’m missing something if we have to miss a Tuesday. There were folks missing tonight and I hope they’re ok. We’ll be gone next week. We let TJ the bar manager know so she wouldn’t worry. It’s not a mistake we want to make again. 

It’s just a bar. But it’s my bar. And I’m thankful I have it. 

My latest conversation with a gas pump

Do you have a loyalty card?     No

Credit or debit?          Credit

Enter Billing Zip Code:     41005

Would you like a car wash?     No

Would you like a receipt?     No

Would you like to buy a gallon of milk?     No

Would you like a coupon for ice cream?     No

Are you registered to vote in your state?     Yes

Do you still possess a childlike sense of wonder?     No

Are you a patient person?     Yes

We both know that’s not true, don’t we?     Yes

Am I annoying you?     Yes

You’re going to keep answering questions, aren’t you?     No

You’re lying again, aren’t you?     Yes

Don’t you feel better now admitting that?

Please Enter Response:

Please Enter Response:

Please Enter Response:

Credit Card Charged: $142.50.

Thank you and come again.

Please Swipe Loyalty Card or Credit Card.

Rescue me

Today Carla and I met with the folks from our local animal shelter to talk about plans to assist them in training volunteers. We have two very good reasons why this is important to us. Dunkel and Miss Mia Milkstout are littermates rescued from the attic of a doctor’s office. Neither of them would be in our lives without the wholly remarkable group of people who make the Boone County KY Animal Shelter the special place it is. It is a privilege to be able to give back to a place that has given us so much. 

Miss Mia Milkstout

Curling One to Life

I got in touch with my inner Canadian yesterday. Carla and I went to the Cincinnati Gardens Skating Center to join fifteen or so other folks who’d backed Braxton Brewing’s Kickstarter campaign a year ago. One of our rewards was a “Learn to Curl” session with the Cincinnati Curling Club. Since the ice can only be maintained in the cooler months and Braxton’s first year has been a whirlwind, it took a little while to get it all to come together.

It was absolutely worth the wait.

My knees are pretty much crap nowadays from carrying around too much weight for too long. That lunging move you see when people launch the stone? Yeah, that’s not going to happen for me. It turns out they’ve come up with a cheater stick that old fat guys like me can use, and I spun a few stones down the ice. I’m going to say what everyone who ever plays the game for the first time says: it looks a lot easier than it really is. And it’s even more fun than it looks.

After about an hour on the cold ice my knees were screaming at me, so I shot some video on my phone. I decided to finally give one of those iMovies templates a try so I this edited on my iPad this morning1. Here’s what I came up with. Two explanations of things in the video: Braxton’s motto is “Lift One to Life” so that’s where the title “Curl One to Life” comes from. People who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign are “Braxton Builders.”

With no further ado:

1I think back to ’91 or ’92 when I got a call from a guy at Adobe who was bragging that they had hardware and software that could digitize video at something like 12 frames a second at (I think) 320×240. It might have been 160×120. And it’d only take about an hour a minute to capture. I can’t remember how much it cost because I was laughing so hard. And now I’m shooting on a phone and editing on a tablet. Kind of nuts.

Two codas

Sunday is going to be spent driving home again.  The weather is going to be nice and we’re going to take some back roads. It adds a little time, but the extra 20 minutes or so are worth a change of scenery. Things are going extremely well with my father-in-law, but I don’t like to talk too much about it so the man has some privacy. There are a few more trips to make, then we can get back to a more regular schedule. This will be a brief post because, frankly, I’m very tired. Two things happened, though, that are worth mentioning since they have bearing on the last two posts.

In Friday’s post I talked about driving and made an off-handed comment about how many Interstates can trace their history back to animal trails. One of the rituals we’ve developed on our many visits here over the last few months is making the 14 mile trip east over to Paxton, IL to go eat barbecue at The Humble Hog.  It’s really quite good. I’d call it Chicago-style on the pork side and leaning more Kansas City-style on the brisket. The sausage reminds me of what I used to be able to get back in Texas. The sides are really, really good, which is all-too-rare at most barbecue joints. It’s a must-visit for us. Their menu is the one I used as the picture in this post (and a meal there that day inspired the post itself).

This story is not about the restaurant, but something we’ve seen every time we drive back and forth. A month or so ago Carla’s brother Neal, her dad, Carla and I went over to Paxton.  A couple of miles outside of town there’s a big red barn that has the words “Ten Mile Grove” on it. Neal mentioned that he’d always wondered what the grove was ten miles from. Nothing really matched the geography as it stands now. I filed it away and decided it was going to be one of those things that just bothered me. It never occurred to me to Google it. It’s easy to forget stuff like that works out here.

Anyway, the last time we were here (or maybe the trip before) I noticed that there was a historical marker on the side of the road opposite the barn. I figured it would provide a clue.  Turns out it did more than that.  Neal was with us today on another trip to the Humble Hog and we stopped to get this picture:

Click to embiggen
Click to embiggen and read

Turns out Route 9 follows a prehistoric trail. Go figure. At least it’s been paved since then. And Ten Mile Grove is named for being ten miles from someplace that isn’t there anymore.

The other coda for the week is provided by our old friend, short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. You remember Donald, right? The man who got the vapors when the Pope pointed out that views he’s espoused might not be rightly called “Christian?” He seems to have gotten over his whole “no man should judge another’s faith” thing.

His supporters won’t care, though. They’ve already constructed walls around their humanity.

Out of the mainstream

You kids are welcome to get off my lawn
You kids are welcome to get off my lawn

I watched about ten minutes of the Grammy’s last night. With the sound off. Carla really wanted to see the Hamilton performance and, truth be told, so did I. The DirecTV app wouldn’t allow us to set it to record, so I thought I was stuck watching an award show. I hate award shows. They’re tedious. Luckily we were able to record it once it started, so I was saved. We watched the Hamilton part later.  It was very good.

Back when I was in grad school I was on a Peabody Awards screening committee. One of the perks was being able to go to the awards in NYC at the Plaza. The pre-show reception was awesome. I met Charles Kuralt, Jim McKay, Ed Bradley and, briefly, Ryan White, the young man who became the face of AIDS in the mid-1980s. Rooney Arledge was a being honored for Monday Night Football. I saw Howard Cosell briefly.

The awards themselves? Boring.

But that’s how it is with me and pop culture. I’m pretty much where it goes to die. I was one of eight people who never watched Roots when it first ran. I’m pretty sure my parents watched it. I listed the fact that I’ve never seen Saturday Night Fever as an accomplishment for my ten-year high school graduation. This year will be 35 years and I still haven’t seen it. I’m also unlikely to go to another reunion.

That’s not to say I don’t join in with the cultural zeitgeist now and again.  Like all white people, I watched the last episode of M•A•S•H. I still watch The Simpsons, which either makes me trendy or not trendy.  I have a hard time keeping that one straight. Yes, Season 4 was a work of art.  If it hadn’t existed my vocabulary would be 12% smaller. But I still laugh at it now. I think that ruins my credibility. That’s how I hear it, anyway. I loved Community. I was one of those people.

This isn’t one of those “I just don’t understand how you people can like this stuff” posts. I’m the weird one here. I know that. My approval isn’t necessary to validate how you enjoy spending your time, but it’s not like I’m judging you either. I don’t get it. The fact that you might isn’t a character flaw either.

I think it was sometime in the mid-1980s I decided whatever views I held were probably in the minority. I saw nothing in that ten minutes of the Grammy’s I watched that changed my mind about that.

So it goes.

My two days with Tony

I saw the news about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia while sitting in a bar drinking a beer. An Urban Artifact Scythe. Quite tasty. My first thought was “holy shit” and my second was whether anyone had put Clarence Thomas on a suicide watch yet. You have to figure the man is going to insist on being buried in the same grave. I never had a personal encounter with Scalia other than living through the disastrous ramifications of Bush v Gore like the rest of the country. I did have a two day period, through, where his whims had a direct personal impact on my life, however trivial.

Justice Scalia came to Cincinnati on March 4-5, 2002 to speak to a Law School Alumni group and a general address to students. At the time I ran what was called the Streaming Media Project. We were physically based in the College-Conservatory of Music and relied on the resources of the Electronic Media Division to operate.  We were actually a unit of the Office of Information Technology. That’s who I worked for and that’s where the money came from. We did a lot of webcasts for the College of Law. Looking back on my time there — I left in 2005 — most of the memorable webcasts I remember producing came out of the Law School.

Photo from UC News.
Our main contact was a librarian in the Law Library by the name of Joe Hodnicki. I always loved it when he called. I’m not being sarcastic here. I really did. As I said, the vast majority of the stuff they asked us to do was pretty interesting. I always knew when Joe called that the deadlines were going to be pretty tight. It was (rarely) his fault. He was the designated middle-man over there and people didn’t usually include him until late in the game.

I wish I could say I remember the conversation we had this time, but the truth is I don’t remember much in great detail. I think he called the last week of February to say that there was a possibility we’d be asked to stream a talk by Scalia from the Corbett Auditorium in CCM the following week. I remember that the first time we talked about it he said doubted we’d actually get to do it.  Scalia was notorious for not liking his speeches broadcast. There was nothing nefarious about it, it was just that the guy didn’t make his arguments in soundbites and didn’t like them being presented that way.  I doubt I would have thrown up any red flags from my point of view. Corbett Auditorium could be reached from our offices without even going outside. We had a network drop in the back of the house we could use to get the stream out. It was an easy gig. That probably wouldn’t happen.

It might have been later the same day, or maybe the next, when Joe called back to ask if it was possible to record another speech. He’d be speaking off campus at The Phoenix banquet space downtown the night before the Corbett event. I don’t think we’d done a gig off campus at that point and I was more than a little suprised. Joe was still pretty doubtful the we’d be allowed to record either event, but he’d been asked to check feasibility.  We knew there was no way to get a network connection down there, but they just wanted the speech recorded for posterity.

This was 2002. On one hand we were less than 6 months from the events of 9/11 so everybody had security on their minds. On the other hand, it occurred to us that there was a good chance he and his handlers had absolutely no idea what “streaming media” was. We’d put together a mobile production rig that was relatively advanced for its day, but now reminds me mostly of that scene in Wall Street where Michael Douglas is talking on that massive cell phone on the beach. The three cameras were small and remotely-controlled, so we figured there was a decent chance it wouldn’t trip anyone’s “Hey! We don’t like video! Cut that out!” response.

So we hauled our gear down to the Phoenix on a Monday afternoon and set up in a balcony overlooking the main ballroom floor. We dropped the cables down the side and kept the cameras out of the way as much as we could. That was the day I found out that the U.S. Marshall’s Service handles security for Supreme Court Justices. I remember this extremely tall guy coming into our makeshift control room and looking around. It was pretty cursory, but I remember that his badge looks exactly like the badges in old westerns. It was kind of cool.

We spent the evening sure we’d get the plug pulled on us, but we didn’t. We tore down late that night and set up again first thing the next day back on campus. This time we were going out live and we really expected to get shut down. But we didn’t. Other than what Joe had mentioned about Scalia hating to be recorded, I’m not sure it was really ever an issue anywhere except in our own paranoia. Paranoia was big then.

I remember little of the speeches. I remember him really enjoying talking about how the US Constitution wasn’t a living document, but a dead one. Those speeches were recorded nearly 14 years ago and the links on the press release from then are dead. I found other links that I suspect are equally dead. We did everything in Windows Media format back then, and that’s as good as dead. I’m guessing Windows Media 7 at best, but maybe older. And now the man is dead, too.

I remember him being funny. I remember disagreeing with him vehemently. What I mostly remember is that we managed to pull it off.