Some exercise stats

I promised I’d refrain from posts of my boring exercise statistics but, naturally, I can’t resist. As my regular readers know I’m no longer living at my house and so can’t just go down in the basement, for many hours per day, to workout. Instead now I drive, sometimes, to a gym. I don’t mind working out at the gym,; in fact, I’m doing more intense but much shorter workouts. So how does this look in comparison. Well here’s my 2015 “home” data for biking:


That is my cumulative miles of stationary biking vs elapsed day, between 2Jan2015 and 12Sep2015, my last basement biking at “home”. You can see from the sheer density of marker points my biking was common, but the key point is the slope, 16.25miles per elapsed day, which counts any of my gaps (like vacations and such). My actual biking per day I bike is an average of 32.2 miles.

OTOH my gym bike alternates between treadmill days and biking days but that’s about the same as I was doing at home. But I now have enough data for a comparison:


First you can see all the gaps (even despite being a shorter timespan) so I just don’t do it as often. This graph covers 8Dec2015-3Feb2016. So there is a gap of about two months where I did no biking of any kind, but furthermore once I started again at the gym my rate, 3.97 miles per elapsed day is about 24.4% of what I was achieving at home, with the easy accessibility to my exercise bike. Wow, that means I’m now doing in a month about what I was doing in a week before! Big drop!

But how about walking. For a while, as the weather was good I sorta kept up walking outside before joining gym, but here again we can see a big contrast.


This covers 1Jan2015-11Sep2015 (my last day at “home”). The total miles, of course, reflects nearly five years of data but I’m only looking at the most recent year. I did treadmill a bit less frequently than biking but still it’s fairly steady data at 1.4miles per elapsed (calendar) day. Let’s compare to gym results:


Again there are a lot more gaps in the data, just fewer days (per week or month) at the gym than when I was at home. However, the number isn’t quite as bad as biking, 0.66 miles per ¬†elapsed day at gym vs 1.41 per elapsed day at home, or 46.8%.

Now to put these in perspective, had I continued at home I’d have (based on 2105 trendline) about, about 140 days since I left home, 2275 more miles on bike (vs 257 at gym, so I’ve only done about 11% of the miles I might have done) and 160 miles of walking (vs 45 at gym, so I’ve only done about 18% of the miles I might have done).

So, IOW, both the gap between home and starting gym and the lower numbers I achieve at gym (which is mostly just due to having a single couple hour visit to gym per day vs many, and shorter session, at home) I’ve only managed to keep up my exercise somewhere in the 15% or so, of what I was doing regularly at home.

What does this mean to you, Dear Reader? If you want more exercise (and calorie burn where I know I’m also around 20% of what I was doing at home) spend your money on exercise equipment, at home, and use it a lot if you want to get maximum conditioning (sheer number of miles) and also calorie burn.

Fortunately, partly due to less eating (bachelor style) my weight has mostly gone nowhere, only a small drift upward. If I have several days of “indulging” (eating like I used to and like to) I spike up a few pounds, but then a few days of semi-abstinence and I’m back down, so the much reduced calorie burn from much more limited exercise hasn’t really affect my weight. And my upper body workouts, which were nothing at home, have vastly improved.

So while I’ve lost thousands of miles of biking and hundreds of miles of walking (and I can feel that, no way I could do as long trail walks as I was doing 5 months ago) I’ve balanced that with a bit more reduced eating and a huge (only relatively) increase in upper body fitness.

There is a claim, by some walkers, that preparing for a long distance walk doesn’t need to emphasize distance (in training) but instead “core” strength (a real catchall and mostly meaningless term). So I guess I can say I’ve done that – somewhat great “core” (and especially upper body strength), but less endurance. So could I really still do a long walk?


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Great new “app” idea

I should be heading to the gym instead of writing this post but I just finished a questionnaire from the gym and casually suggested they should provide an app for records, but instantly I thought of something far better. Of course I’m a records freak (as are a lot of people, all those people wasting money, as I did, on personal fitness monitors which don’t work very well and aren’t very useful).

So, just with phone and the app, use the NFC for something more useful than paying (easy enough already, don’t need a phone to do it). When using a machine at the gym just do the NFC bump and the machine would send its id, which then triggers app to bring up your data, maximums, last few workouts, averages, goals, whatever. Then bump again to “start” your workout and bump again to end, recording the data, also instantly telling you how this major exercise session compares, to average, maximums, and goals, plus records all the data.

Now of course the machines themselves would have to have all this NFC protocol but they already have microprocessors (to control the machine, at least aerobics machines, no strength machines I’ve ever seen) and could add the NFC as well as some fairly simple software. So that’s chicken-and-egg problem, if the machines don’t do it, then the app won’t work, and without the app (and customer demand) the machines won’t add this.

But, there are other exercises that aren’t machines anyway (the various freeweights and special benches). So, fine, instead of a selfie stick or head mounted camera or Google glass, just have a little stand to put your phone in so it can watch you with its camera. A single 2D barcode sticker would be sufficient to identify the machine or apparatus, cheap to add to existing machines. Then let the app analyze the video streaming through the camera to make a guess at your workout (certainly could probably count reps, although getting resistance level might be interesting trick)

Anyway, for a data junkie like me, who’d almost rather analyze data than do the workout to generate the data, this would be great. And for me, and I believe others, a good motivator!

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Google vs Apple

I haven’t done any “rant” posts for a while (or really any posts since I’m so busy at my other blog) but this one I can’t resist. And it’s not really a rant anyway.

These two articles caught my attention: first, in the real way the winners and losers are measured this article shows how Google is getting strong and Apple weaker, i.e. how much they’re worth (I won’t violate copyright and post their graph here, but take a quick look at the linke), but second, in this article I think it shows why Google is winning. Google is all over the map trying all sorts of wild and crazy things. Apple, is coming up with a new color for a recycled iPhone. And that’s it, one is doing tech, the other is doing fashion.

When I lived in the Bay Area, like most technies, I was intimately involved in the ups-and-downs of the local tech sector (sorry, folks, Silicon Valley is still the Rome of tech, it may exist elsewhere but the Bay Area is still the center of the universe). I go back far enough to remember Apple getting started (and scoffing at them as a nobody, esp. when I lost a recruiting battle to them). Apple was just across 280 from my HP facility (they, like HP itself, were well out of the garage before they crossed my radar) but it was the silly upstart. Over the years I became an Apple groupie (after the Mac II, I saw the original Mac the day before it was announced (by one of their developers who had a prototype and spilled the beans) and wasn’t impressed). When the evil empire of Microsoft (of course, not in our center of the world, but in SiliValley wannabe, Seattle) began it’s claim it was all-out religious war, for me, the good guys and the bad guys, and of course Apple lost.

Google was just getting its legs when I left techRome, but I’d been involved, with my startups, with various players in the search biz (Inktomi was a lot more impressive, and I’d been trying to do a deal with the original AltaVista (when they were in downtown Palo Alto with a server farm that was huge by that time’s standards and nothing today)). So Google didn’t impress me and their “attitude” was offputting (a little too noble, as history has shown it was hypocritical and a lot too full of themselves (after all their original search idea came from a paper out of IBM that we all read)). But it was Google Earth (not Google, a startup they bought, but helped flourish) and then especially those StreetView cars and all the image processing that won me over. Plus, still a bit indifferent, I slightly prefer iOS to Android (still a fragmented mess vs the iron hand of Jobs controlling every aspect of iPhones, and thus also stifling innovation) over Android, but I do like that Google is making Android cheaply available to everyone, not just the exploitative fashion-conscious and closed iOS, that really only serves Apple’s bottomline.

But since leaving (it seems forever and it has been a while) and now I read about Silicon Valley (rather than absorbing it every day) just like everyone else, Apple is now the villain (especially as I warmed up to Microsoft in my last job, now beaten down more than they should be) and Google is the hero (for me, at least). Apple has become totally derivative, sitting on their past glories, just cranking out slight variations of their past hits (pretty much like the tail fin craziness of the auto industry in the late 1950s, no good real ideas, so change the styling). Plus I still have a bit of contact with insider politics and much of Apple is still the same dysfunctional mess it always (Google, is crazy, by design, and Alphabet is a good idea, Bill Hewlett (who I really did know) would have approved as he saw HP getting too bureaucratic and hindering innovation, so fought constantly against corporate control over divisions, just as Alphabet is doing; sure search pays the bills, but don’t let their political players stomp on the new good ideas, the paralysis Microsoft went through).

Now both companies have old business cash cows paying the bills (ads for Google search; iPhones (gotta have the latest one) and really iTunes (pure money machine). These are old businesses. But where does the huge pile of cash from these businesses (that will inevitably stagnate and die) get spent? Google is trying all sorts of things, some incremental stuff, some trendy stuff, so challenge rivals (Android vs Apple, Amazon) to prevent them from killing you (go play in their backyard since they’re playing in yours), but then some wild, pie-in-the-sky stuff. Hands down, Google is spending its cash treasure on cools stuff, most of which probably will fail, but at least they’re not afraid to try. Apple, well, let’s tweak iTunes to exploit more revenue from it, let’s even lock the gates and build the walls higher with more closed approach (won’t even follow standards for headphones they they can force me to buy Beats, come on, Apple, I’m not your slave), and tweak fashion a bit (blowing tons of money on PR and image and promotion, instead of R&D). Of course they’re still the darling of Wall Street (not so much lately as now they can’t keep hitting it out of the park, further each time, with entirely derivative “new” products, plus where is any new blockbuster, the watch, ha!) Soon they’ll be buying up unicorn (and failing) startups, probably even the latest game company. They’re all about trendiness, not risk-taking in innovation (people keep thinking they’ll have a new spectacular hit, but it’s been years since any of those).

With R&D spending dropping (largely due to anti-science attitude of the Repugs killing government funding, which after all DID create the Internet and the microprocessor and even much of software innovation) it’s up to the rich companies to keep it going. The U.S. vitally needs its tech sector, even if most of the jobs are in China. You stop innovating and you die. The biotech and nanotech sectors, yep, interesting, but they just don’t have the punch of digital technology. Robots, despite being feared, AI, despite being feared, these are the future and Google is at the forefront of them all, if not doing it, then hanging around to make startup founders rich when they acquire you. Facebook, come on, months of debate about new like emoticons, hardly going to change the world, but will undoubtedly make them far richer. Amazon, sure, lots of crazy stuff Bezos does, but he has his investors constantly harassing him for higher margins and less spending on wild-and-crazy stuff. Microsoft, well they’ve got their hands-full just staying relevant, plus they do stupid acquisitions like Nokia (but they’ve got great ground game, don’t count them out, esp. as tablets lose their undeserved luster). Chinese companies doing real spending, come on, Ponzi schemes still work too well in their libertarian unregulated stock markets, to cause capital to flow to innovation. EU, yep, doing great on green energy, but all those bonds and debts are bogging them down, plus when was the last time an EU company changed the world.

So I have to cheer Google on. They’re the primary player (and I don’t count Tesla, who I think is more scam than real innovative, despite their fancy rockets) and so they have to keep the ball rolling. Good for you Google. Now that I’ve endorsed you can I be a telecommuting intern (you don’t even have to pay) me with the maps crowd?

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My first completed image

I’m more interested in the programming, esp. how to get the program efficient (not necessarily “easy”) to use, with adequate features, and some cute (and I hope clever) ways to use software to achieve way more than a manual coloring process, I nonetheless have to do “testing” so I completed this entire image (sorta magical realism). I don’t claim my coloring is very good, but it is obsessed with detail and consistency in color selection. The original I found online was a crummy start as it was low resolution (thus blends fine detail into a pixel soup) and with numerous “defects” (probably it was a scan) I had to repair before I could even begin coloring. My real goal in my software development is to create the drawings not color them, but I have to do some of the coloring stuff to understand the requirements (better) for my drawing creation system.

This is probably 15 hours of work (with asides into fixing bugs in my program and/or adding a couple of “convenience” features).


Now that this is coloring the first time it is (or will be when I get more code done) very easy to just alter the palette to change the colors to something more pleasing or interesting or exotic. That’s the whole point of why I wanted software to do this, being able to iterate color schemes (as well as easily fix mistakes). The people who are part of this fad probably hate the idea of a program (instead of real tactile materials) but if you care about the end result, not just the process (and actually the program coloring requires great focus and obsessive attention to detail, just as real materials do), then a software coloring program, esp. a very strong one well suited to this task (as opposed to a general purpose painting program, many of which exist) can be a big help.

Meanwhile if you want to know more about this project, as I won’t do many posts about it here, head on over to my other blog, a mixture of images (and their issues) and software development issues and history and progress.

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Blogging as a “virtual” design review

Over in my other blog,, I’m doing a number of posts about my design thinking and progress and problems/issues I’m encountering. And no one is reading them partly because if anyone looks at that blog my types of that type are really boring. But doing the posts still helps me.

It took me a long time to get used to having to submit to design reviews (gracefully) and realizing their value. It’s hard to be subjected to a lot of questioning and keep your personal instincts of viewing that as “criticism” out of it. The review really does help you and the questions asked, sometimes rather pointed, prevent mistakes that would be painful to discover after you’ve built the thing and THEN discover it’s wrong.

I wasn’t very good at submitting to reviews myself because I hadn’t learned this lesson. The “help” others were giving me seemed too much like criticism and I was too thin-skinned about that. But I learned my lesson once when I was discussing a review with one of my hardware engineers. Now I have no background in hardware, but eventually found myself managing hardware projects. At the time (1970s) hardware, at least at HP, had fairly rigorous reviews while software largely didn’t. So my background in software hadn’t prepared me, as the grunt engineer, for reviews.

Anyway my hardware engineer was subjected to a withering storm of questions, actual (but helpful) criticism, “suggestions” and in some case downright skepticism whether the whole thing would work. This went on for the better part of an afternoon. When it was over I took my engineer aside and complemented him for remaining calm and carefully addressing the points his peers had raised. But he had a simple answer, “what if I didn’t listen, built $10,000 worth of prototype circuit boards that didn’t work, and had to come back and tell you I’d wasted that money (and the considerable delay, in those days before modern rapid prototyping techniques) – what would you be saying in my review?” Good point! A lot better to have your mistakes (or failure to consider something) noticed when the design is still on paper than months later after expensive fabrication.

So I began to institute more rigorous software reviews patterned on the well established hardware review methodology. And then, when I was the subject of the review, I forced myself to take the attitude my hardware engineer taught me. And in the many reviews I’ve had since I’ve (mostly) succeeded at getting ruffled when hard questions were asked.

See, really the point of the review is not so much that your peers will find your mistakes. Instead it’s knowing they will find your mistakes, which is embarrassing, and instead finding them yourself, by very careful and impartial evaluation of your design before even going to the review. The review process makes you be more careful and thorough. If you’ve done this right your peers will be hard pressed to even find any points to raise! And so the purpose of the review has been accomplished.

Now recently I’ve been following my favorite skeptic, Orac, denounce the granting of a PhD in Australia for a thesis that was total BS. He was contrasting the process he went through for his thesis defense. You don’t just walk in that room to be grilled without being thoroughly prepared. Not only would your thesis not be approved (and your degree delayed) by shoddy preparation but it might even jeopardize your position. So you work hard, for months, and with a lot of mentoring by your adviser, so nothing that happens in the defense is really a surprise and you have an answer for everything.

And again that’s the point. Knowing you’ll be subject to careful examination means you’ll do that same examination, as best you can, of your work before the thesis committee (or peer review) even happens. And, of course, that is where Orac finds considerable fault with the Australia university for ever approving a BS thesis as it’s not just the crappy thesis itself that is a problem, but really undermining the entire integrity of the whole university and PhD process.

So what does this have to do with my title and my other blog? The answer is, while a bit more casually than a design review (or especially thesis defense), I’m using the blog, exposing me (and my mistakes) to public scrutiny. It doesn’t actually matter than there isn’t really any scrutiny. Just as long as I think there might be and some reader would scribble some comment about what a fool I am and how stupid my ideas are forces me to think things through (a bit more) before launching either into the coding or even just making claims on the blog. I’m using a virtual audience in place of a real one.

Now I do this because during my professional life, now ended, I did work in the context of a team. The architectural reviews I went through were a terror. The chief architect was very smart and very knowledgeable about our technology and could ask some really tough questions. And my peers, the other architects, while they are purely supposed to be “helping” me are also my competitors (for promotion someday to chief architecture or CTO; or just for budget money, or even just for ego). So they could be tough too and not always for the best reasons. So before any review I spent many days, not just on preparing my pitch and all my Powerpoint slides, but really making sure I’d dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, hoping I got them all and no one would find my flaws.

While I’m retired now and not part of a team. I work on projects for fun. There isn’t any club that might act as my reviewers. But the issue is still the same. If I just get too enamored with my own ideas and start building the thing I may discover I’ve wasted a lot of time going down the wrong path. And it’s my time and my “money” if you will I would have wasted.

So while my design posts may be totally boring reading for casual visitors to the blog they are a valuable effort for myself. So thank you, Dear (nonexistent) Reader for imposing this discipline on me. A blog post is a lot less effort (even if it’s crap and gets discarded) than weeks of programming. Even in this blog, which gets a bit more attention, I put more work into posts (it might not seem like it) than either casual conversation and/or emails. Knowing someone might read the post and think “what an idiot” keeps me (a bit) more careful about what I write. Not much help with the volume in the post but perhaps the quality is a bit higher.

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Deja vu, all over again

I was thinking about getting on my rant soapbox again and jumping on this post, some Oregon rancher (can’t find the URL in my history, sorry), a reasonable guy defending the gun nuts out in Oregon taking their stand against the evil gubmint for demanding what it is owed and that convicted criminals face penalties. His basic point is that (most) ranchers are hard working types supplying the rest of us with beef at cheap prices and getting little in return and then the government slaps them in the face by taking lands owned by the U.S. (that is, you and me) away from people who live next door and want to claim them without paying for them (so much for “free market” economics).

But it turns out I can’t rant about this because I already did in this post. I didn’t remember this and I doubt you will, Dear Reader, but it’s a simple point. The government stole the land, fair and square (irony intended) for the aboriginal peoples and now hold it in trust for all of us – you, me, the ranchers. So if they’ll let the ranchers use it at all they want to charge fees (yee gads, capitalism at work). So this rancher, probably a good guy, is ranting about having some nearby federal acres upgraded to a wildlife refuge and he might not be able to graze his cattle there.

Now actually I’m sympathetic, but not entirely. I like people holding on to a way of life, standing up for their virtue of hard work and effort (and I don’t doubt, for a second, the work that rancher does). But we live in a world where all sorts of hardworking people get screwed by the global economy capitalist, who move money and jobs wherever they want to get the most. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to this.

In fact, cattle raising has gone the same way as everything else – high efficiency, low cost. The Nevada and Oregon ranchers just barely manage to compete with Nebraska beef producers (surprisingly to me the second largest in the U.S.) Sure grass fed beef, the darling of the 1% set, tastes a bit better than factory beef but more than likely you, out there, have mostly eaten beef (if you do) from a feedlot, not the nostalgic scenes of the Marlboro Man ranches.

So a small group of people are getting screwed because their subsidies have been curtailed (or, horrors, they have to actually pay for them) and high tech is beating them out. Yes, I’ll miss cattle who moves a few miles from where they were born instead of living in pens. But LOTS of people in the U.S. have suffered the same fate and I don’t hear those gun-toting ranchers making a case for them (as they shop for Chinese goods in their local Walmart).

The land the U.S. government owns, yes concentrated in the west as accident of history, is being controlled by that government, the same government that represents you and me. If I want to do some recreation on some of that land why does some nearby rancher hold more claims than me! His contribution to beef supply is so small (so no economic argument for the rest of us) that some feedlot in Nebraska can increase their penned animal herds in minutes to make up for his contribution, just as Chinese workers make iPhones instead of people in Santa Clara County. He’s getting screwed (sorta, paying fees for my land is not “screwed”) but so are lots of other people.

This land is our land, when it comes to Federal lands – not the ranchers’ land, not the oilman’s land, not the loggers’ land – it belongs to all of us. And if our government decides to take some portion of that land, to preserve species and public access, so be it – the greatest good for the greatest number.

But surprisingly I’ve said most of this before in my previous post. My readers may not look back in my old posts but sometimes I do so apologies for beating the same drum again.

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Try some of my new stuff

I started cluttering up this blog with posts about some software and new “hobby” of mine, but it’s too much to stick in here and more interesting to organize it altogether (thank you, for allowing multiple blogs).

So take a look:

I promise I’ll avoid rants and boring statistics there and try to stick to more graphics.

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