I read a whole bunch of books. You won’t believe which are my favorites. Number 3 made me laugh

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, thanks in no small part to Audible and Overdrive, which let me read while I am commuting, cooking, and working out at the gym.  So far, I have 46 titles accounted in my Goodreads account, and I am 171 days ahead of my annual reading goal. Granted, at least 10 of those are graphic novels (I had a mild Flash obsession going there for a bit.).

Here are some of my favorites so far this year, in no particular order.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store  by Robin Sloan – If you love quirky mysteries, Google, Helvetica, awkward protagonists, or glow-in-the-dark dust covers, this is the book for you.

The Stand by Stephen King – The forces of good and evil gather in a post-apocalyptic show down. This was the second of three books in a row that I read that start with a virulent pandemic.  That was not on purpose, and it stressed me out. I could not be an epidemiologist.

The Martian by Andy Weir – Fantastic science fiction.  There’s a movie coming out later this year.  I bought a second copy for my Mars themed bathroom.  XKCD described it thusly :

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman – This was the story of the first few years of my career at Ford Motor Company.  It was interesting getting the behind the scenes look at some of the things that happened.  It is also a fantastically well written book if you are interested in the auto industry in general.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I don’t rightly know how to describe this book.  Gaiman writes books that demand to be read but elude description of why you should read them. I put this one off for a long while, but I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.

What have you read and loved so far this year?

Midyear Goal Introspection

It’s the middle of the year, I’m stuck for a blog topic, and it’s an eep day to boot. Looks like it is time for some introspection about how my goals are going.  Here are my goals and how they seem to be doing:

[ ] Create more – I seem to be on track

[ ] Constellation Quilt: I’ve been a little stalled out on this one. Quilting isn’t a summer thing, plus I’m down to the stars on the section that I’m working on, and I really haven’t figured out to do those efficiently. But all in all, it has gotten a lot of work, and will get done.

[ ] Say Hey Doctor K video collab 1x/month : Oh yeah, this one is on track. Have you seen them?  You should watch them all! 

[ ] Blog 2x/month: Modified this to 1x per month, and I’m hitting that one. (If I get this published today, that is.)

[ ] Daily Diary: On track. It’s sometimes hard to find something to write down, but the fact that I am space constrained helps a lot.

[ ] Be kinder: Hard to measure. Anyone want to give me anonymous feedback. Am I doing a good job of being kinder?

[ ] Be more active – Seem to be on track, I derailed once on purpose in order to spend out on a relationship.

[ ] Symbolic Bike Riding Goal (tbd): The tbd is sitting at 500 miles at the moment. I haven’t really figured out what that symbolizes. I have logged 165.5 miles as of today.  I have derailed twice, paid my fine, and am on track presently.

[ ] More steps than 2013: On track, no derailments.  As of today, I’m sitting at 1.17 million steps for the year.

[ ] Do more yoga: Completely off track. I didn’t set up a beeminder on this one, and I haven’t really done any yoga at all. I’m kind of thinking of a monthly daily goal in August or September to try to remedy this.

[ ] Cook more – I am on top of this one. I have been on a cooking jag all year. I have days when I don’t feel like cooking, but overall, my habits have changed significantly.

[ ] Plan meals: Have I sung the praises of eMeals?   Oh, that’s right. If you listen, I have probably talked your ear off about it. I highly recommend it for people like me who have a hard time planning. It has taught me a lot about menu development. I have used the Vegetarian and Paleo meal plans, and like both of them.  I am spending more at the grocery store, but less for lunches at work, and I’m throwing away less food. Here’s my referral link: eMeals.com

[ ] More Vegetarian Meals: Thanks to eMeals, I consider this one a success, even if I am currently on the Paleo plan, which is very definitely not vegetarian.

[ ] Spend out: I feel like I’m doing ok with this. I spent out on a closet system that is making my life better. I got some art I love and some other tools that I am using (hello, new ice cream maker and dehydrator and shelves). Also, some concerts!

[ ] Plan better: This is a perpetual problem for me. I’m starting to get a system down at work, and need to transition that into my personal life.

[ ] Plant a garden: Planted

[ ] Eat what I grow: So far, the harvest has been green beans, sugar snap peas, squash and zucchini , and herbs. Yummy. Looking forward to / slightly terrified by the prospect of the tomatoes

[ ] Be ok: Yes. I am ok.

[ ] Be braver: I went to Nauvoo all by myself and didn’t know anyone. That’s brave, right?

[ ] Be a good Primary teacher: I think I’m doing ok. I just changed classes from the 9 turning 10 class to the 7 turning 8 class.  That’s a whole new ballgame, that is.

[ ] Deliberate practices – 1000 paper cranes: Paper cranes are all over my house. I have folded or caused to be folded 541 so far.

[ ] Host more dinners: 6 so far, my favorite was a waffle party.

[ ] Invest in relationships: I’m trying, but I sometimes let my emotions and Eeyore side get in the way.

[ ] Take a class: I’ve taken 2! Both at Zingerman’s. I may need an intervention, and/or enablers and gift cards.

[ ] Do things I’m not good at: I’m not sure. I’ll have to introspect on this one a bit more.

So, that’s where I am at. I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I’m most happy about the Be More Active and Cook More goals, plus the collab goal with Kara for Say Hey Doctor K. Those three seem to be my brightest successes.

Here’s to the best of the rest of the year.  How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Snap Judgement: Fitbit One vs Jawbone Up24

It is no secret that I enjoy self-quantification.  Well, if it is a secret, it shouldn’t be.  I enjoy self-quantification.

I have been using a Fitbit since 2011, so I’m starting to get a wealth of data out of it.  One of the ways it has been most useful is through its integration with Beeminder, which charges me money if I don’t keep up an average of 6500 steps a day. (Which I sometimes struggle to do)

Last year, I told my friend Abe (who is gainfully employed by Jawbone) that I like the concept of the Jawbone Up, but I wouldn’t get one until it had wireless syncing and integration with Beeminder.  Late last year it got both, but didn’t have Android compatibility, so I waited.  This spring, it finally did get the Android app we have all been waiting for, and I decided to try it out, to see what I liked and didn’t like about it.

I’ve had a Jawbone Up for about a month now, and I have thoughts about the differences and benefits of each.  Which I am now sharing with you.  Because I can, and because why not?

Step Tracking

Well, the Jawbone and the Fitbit are tracking different motions to estimate steps, so there are bound to be differences in the step counts, right?  The Jawbone tracks on the wrist, while for me, the Fitbit is on my hip.

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How do they compare?  The Fitbit is almost always higher. On average, if I exclude Saturdays from my count, the Fitbit is on average 1086 steps per day higher.

 

[Why do I exclude Saturdays? Two reasons: #1 I usually grocery shop on Saturdays, and if I am pushing a cart, the Jawbone does not pick up steps reliably (given that my wrist is fairly stable). #2 I have been going to the gym on Saturdays and riding a stationary bike.  Because I keep my Fitbit in my pocket, I pick up a ton of “steps” that the Jawbone doesn’t see.  Last year when I was rowing on the erg a lot, the Fitbit didn’t pick anything up.  I kind of wonder what the Jawbone would do with an erg.  (I did discover that kneading bread is a great way to rack up Jawbone steps.)]

Winner: Neither has an obvious advantage here. I think that if you are consistent, you can estimate your activity level with either.  They aren’t directly comparable though.

Sleep Tracking

The Jawbone has a distinct advantage for Sleep tracking.  I absolutely hate the way Fitbit does sleep tracking. I have to get out my special velcro wristband, and fumble around after I’ve taken my contacts out to get the Fitbit in its special pocket, and then try to push the button, and then hope that the Fitbit doesn’t fall out in the night.  Then when I get up, I have to log on to a website to see the details of how I slept. You can imagine I haven’t tracked my sleep with the Fitbit in a long time.

With the Jawbone, because I am already wearing it on my wrist, all I have to do is push a button to start the sleep mode, and push a button to stop it when I wake up.  The data is (almost) instantly sent to my phone and I get a notification in the app showing me how I did.  It is easy as pie to use.

I like the silent alarm feature on the Jawbone, which allows me to set a regular alarm and/or set a smart alarm which will wake me when I am not in deep sleep, up to 20 minutes before I need to be up.  I have used the silent alarms on the Fitbit, but not for waking up, so I don’t have a direct comparison.

Winner: Jawbone, by a long shot.

(I also have the capability to integrate my Jawbone with my SmartThings house using IFTTT, so when I indicate that I have woken up on my Jawbone, the light in my room also turns on, so I don’t have any excuse not to wake up.)

Form Factor

The Fitbit One is a small fob that I generally keep in my coin pocket. No one has to know its there.

The Jawbone Up is a bracelet that sometimes doesn’t play nice with my sleeve cuffs.  Anyone who is paying attention knows it is there, although they might not know what it is.  Is there an etiquette yet for asking people about their self-tracking devices?

Winner: Fitbit for inconspicuousness

App Experience

In my opinion, the Jawbone’s app really shines.  It just has a friendlier interface, and I think it does a good job bringing the data you need straight to the user’s attention.  I particularly like the cards that pop up every day giving me information about how my habits stack up and how I can improve them.  On the downside, the Jawbone App tends to be a bit crashy for me.  Don’t know if that is just me and my phone, or if it is a common problem for others.

Jawbone App

Jawbone App

I don’t have anything bad to say about the Fitbit app, but I don’t have anything great to say about it either.  It is functional, it does what it is supposed to do.

Fitbit App

Fitbit app (can you tell I biked today?)

Winner: Jawbone

Other Stuff

Little things I like about the Jawbone Up:

  • Inactivity alarms – they  wake me up at work and remind me to get up and move around
  • Powernaps – when I need a quick nap, it will rouse me in about 25 minutes. Perfect!
  • Integration with IFTTT – Makes getting data into Google Docs really simple, plus SmartThings integration!

Little things I dislike about the Jawbone Up:

  • For the life of me, I cannot get the Stopwatch mode to fire consistently.
  • It doesn’t have a website where I can check data. I don’t like being constrained to my phone. Also, no tablet app?
  • I can’t get instant feedback from the device about step count without going to the app
  • This is tiny, but I hate that for Android it has to display a permanent notification that it is syncing via BlueTooth. I understand why it has to be, but I don’t have to like it. My notification space is precious to me.

Little things I like about the Fitbit One:

  • The Fitbit website has your data visible and you can do crude analysis there. I like the previous version of the site better than the current iteration.
  • Chatter – When I pick up my Fitbit, it greets me by name, tells me , and sometimes tells me that it loves me. 😀 Who doesn’t love a pocket computer that cheers you up?
  • Instant feedback – If I want to know how I’m doing, I just pull it out of my pocket and push a button.

Little things I don’t like about the Fitbit One:

  • It is hard to get the data out of Fitbit’s greedy little hands. It is doable, but it is not easy.
  • Until recently, it required a computer connection to sync. That was annoying if I was travelling and wanted to make sure I didn’t hit a Beeminder eep! day.  Now it will sync with my phone.
  • It is super easy to lose. I have never washed it, but it has fallen under my bed and gotten temporarily lost on numerous occasions.

Winner: Tie, probably.

Overall

At the end of the day, both of these devices seem to be good activity trackers.  They both have their quirks, and they both approach the question of self-quantification from different angles.  The only place where there is a clear outstanding winner is with Sleep Tracking. If you are interested in that, Jawbone Up is the way to go.  Otherwise, it really comes down to personal preferences.  Each does some things better than the other, but I don’t think there is a clear standout.

2014 Resolutions

I’ve been putting this off.   Here goes, it is largely based on last years goals:

[ ] Create more

[ ] Constellation Quilt
[ ] Say Hey Doctor K video collab 1x/month
[ ] Blog 2x/month
[ ] Daily Diary

[ ] Be kinder

[ ] Be more active

[ ] Symbolic Bike Riding Goal (tbd)
[ ] More steps than 2013
[ ] Do more yoga

[ ] Cook more

[ ] Plan meals
[ ] More Vegetarian Meals

[ ] Spend out
[ ] Plan better

[ ] Plant a garden

[ ] Eat what I grow

[ ] Be ok
[ ] Be braver
[ ] Be a good Primary teacher
[ ] Deliberate practices – 1000 paper cranes
[ ] Host more dinners
[ ] Invest in relationships
[ ] Take a class
[ ] Do things I’m not good at

Update 2/28 – Finally figured out what I want my 2014 Theme to be: Engage

2013 Resolution Wrap-up

So, wrap-up time.  My 2013 resolutions were a thing. Given the nature of my goals, some of which were more of a becoming thing than a doing thing, it’s kind of hard to know exactly how I did.   I’ll try to give my thoughts about how they went, and some thoughts about how I want to proceed in 2014. Look for a new post with those as I finalize them (still considering how I want to approach them. I’m thinking of doing an RPG style game/goal this year.)

[ ] Create more  – I’m gonna give this a Fail. I don’t really think that I specifically created more this year. Although I tried a little, it wasn’t as much of a focus as I wanted it to be.  I did work on a model airplane for a while at the beginning of the year, I never really finished it.  I had wanted to do some video blogs, but never really got anywhere with that. 

[ ] Be kinder – With a few notable exceptions, I think I was a little kinder this year. I have to continue to work on it. I’m not very patient sometimes, and that leads me to do things that are unkind.  Pass, with continuing efforts.

[ ] Be more active – I’m going to say I achieved this goal. It probably could have been more measurable.  I can use my step count as a fairly good surrogate for my activity level.  In 2012, I recorded 1,880,902 steps.  In 2013, I recorded 2,198,161, a 16% increase.  On average, I took 6211 steps per day in 2013, compared to my long term average of about 5499 steps.

Here’s my step Beeminder goal this year.

[ ] Row the length of the Huron – Nailed it.  This was a symbolic goal (I did very little on the actual Huron this year, I think one float on Labor Day…), so it was really to pull 21,000 strokes on my rowing machine. Going into this, I wasn’t sure if I could do this. In the end, I probably could have doubled it, if I had really tried.  I finished up at the end of November.  I had a few eep! days, but I never fell off the road.  Here’s my Beeminder graph:

[ ] Cook more – I don’t have a baseline to compare to, but I think I did do a better job after I got several talkings to by my doctor.  Vegtember helped a lot, since it is very difficult to find vegetarian meals in the frozen food aisle.  I’ll give it a win.

[ ] Spend out – This one was one of those becoming goals.  I defined it as a reminder to not hoard, to use, to be willing to spend on quality.  It’s one that I need to continue to work on, but I feel like I’m remembering to spend out. (Now if I could just convince myself to replace my ragged work shoes with quality!)

[ ] Take a real vacation – I’m going to give this a double win.  The purpose was to take a vacation to a place I wanted to go and see things that I wanted to see on my own. In April, I visited Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival and in October I headed down to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.  Both were incredibly cool. (I was playing with the idea of Costa Rica or Orlando for the October trip, but I delayed planning too long for both of those. Maybe this year!)

 

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Me at the Cherry Blossom Festival in  DC

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Mammoth Caves – Rainbow Room

 

[ ] Plan better – I’m going to give this a Fail.  I was terrible at it this year. I think I did ok with the planning for our Family Reunion in December, but that was about the only thing.  Both of my vacations were fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experiences, and I missed out on a conference I wanted to attend because I didn’t plan far enough in advance.  Could use some better planning at work too, although for routine things, it went alright.

[ ] Plant a garden – Winner.  I planted a great garden. I struggled to keep up with it, my squash failed to thrive, and I regretted not planting green beans, but it was a resounding success. This year, I plan to expand my raised beds (I converted my non-raised bed into a bulb flower garden), and do a better job of eating what I grow!

[ ] Be ok- This one is a hard one to measure. I’m going to give it a pass though, based on one experience.  In the late summer/early fall, I could tell I was slipping back into depression (stupid brain not doing what it is supposed to!). My sleep was disordered and I was finding little joy in life. I asked for help, and got it, and am doing much much better now. That qualifies as being ok, I think.

[ ] Be braver – Again, a hard one to measure. I’m going to mark this goal as one to keep working on. I can’t think of anything that says I failed, but I can’t think of anything that says I didn’t fail, either.

[ ] Be believing – This is one of my major struggles. I’ll keep working on it.

[ ] Deliberate practices – I struggled here too.  I’ve got a few ideas for deliberate practices for the new year including keeping a diary and possibly folding paper cranes for the sake of folding paper cranes.  Possibly some meditation.

[ ] Host more dinners – I hosted a few, including my first Thanksgiving at my new house.  I don’t know if I hosted more or less than in prior years. I don’t feel like I hosted enough dinners specifically, plenty of parties and get-togethers (and Rob did a lot of the planning for those…). I have a specific goal to host 12 dinners (at least 1 a month) in 2014.  That way I will know if I accomplished it or not.

[ ] Invest in relationships – I did alright with this one.  I’m doing better with my family relationships, especially now that most of my immediate family have begun to text more frequently. (Got to maintain favorite uncle status! I have a nefarious plan for that in 2014! Watch out, other contenders!)  I’d like to do better outside of my family. I’m considering The Friends Game to help myself in 2014.

[ ] Dress better, take better care of my appearances – I’m going to give this a win.  I bought (and used!) a can of spray starch, I made certain to iron my shirts, I invested in higher quality clothes, especially dress shirts. (I have one with a monogram on the sleeve now! How fancy is that?)

[ ] Take a class – A win, but kind of a combined win-slash-maybe I’m cheating.  I took a yoga class… See next goal.

[ ] Do more yoga – Yep, Winner. I took a yoga class, which I really enjoyed.  I should have re-enrolled, but I didn’t. Guess there’s always this year.  Also, Yoga X from P90X is intense. I can making it through the dynamic standing poses, but by about 45 minutes in, when it gets to static poses, I die, every single time.

[ ] Shave with a razor – Winner. I don’t think I used my electric razor more than once or twice while traveling this year. I don’t know why I never went with a regular razor before. I can get away with only shaving every other day, and my side burns have never looked better.  Also, so much smoother!

[ ] Do things I’m not good at – I’m going to go with Fail on this one. I think it slid off my radar, and I continue to avoid doing the things that I’m not good at. I’ll have to try again.

In addition to these resolutions, I also did a series of monthly challenges, although not every month got one.  I for sure won February, March and Vegtember.

So, mostly successful in 2013.  I’ve got some things to continue to work on.  I’ve got some goals for 2014, which I am still mulling over.

How did things go for you?  Did you win 2013?