Friday, January 3, 2014

Fitbit Is It

I'm a sucker for a simple app.  A simple device?  Maybe.  Something that encourages constant motion?  OK I'm listening.  Fitbit ( succeeds where other fitness devices fail - it's so easy even a runner can use it.  Ha!

First and foremost, Fitbit is NOT a replacement for a runner's GPS devices.  The smartphone apps for running (RunKeeper, EndoMondo, Nike+ Running, etc.) come with more bells & whistles than Fitbit devices, and with built-in GPS technology in your smartphone, are more accurate.  Fitbit, however, is more than a running tracker.  Just put it on and it will track your daily steps (or with some of the devices, your sleep habits as well).  This is the beauty of Fitbit, you may forget you're wearing it, and you don't have to push any buttons or swipe any screens, unless you want to...Sitting on the couch watching TV? - the Fitbit won't record any steps.  This is a motivator.  Typing this blog right now I'm not getting any steps tallied.  Also, the Fitbit will reset to 0 at midnight.  No buttons to push, no screens to swipe, it all happens within a very simple device.  Don't worry, all your numbers are being tracked, and shared with others if you so desire.

Just how accurate are those steps and miles traveled statistics that Fitbit produces?  A quick Google search will show many results and discuss the Fitbit's accelerometer algorithms, all quite impressive.  I'm not sure that even matters, however.  You'll quickly figure it out for yourself when you go for a walk.  Push yourself a little and you'll see more steps.  There's your baseline, there's your goal.  Now try meeting that every day.  Then increase your step goal.

My wife bought me the Zip, to see the statistics I can use my phone or log on to the website.  Or, I can tap the face of the device to scroll through the current numbers.  From the company's web site:  Fitbit products continuously sync your stats to your computer and smartphone. Get real-time access to your progress and reminders throughout the day without having to plug in.  I have the client app installed on my Android, where's it's able to sync with the Fitbit "base station" connected to my PC.  Other smartphones may sync automatically via bluetooth.

I will try to update this post in the near future as I become more familiar with Fitbit's capabilities.  The folks at Fitbit set 10,000 steps as my initial default daily step goal.  Depending on your stride length, etc., this may fall between 4-5 miles.  Remember, all of your steps around the house are being tracked.  So keep moving!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I've read all the news articles and personal notes on the passing of George "The Boomer" Scott.  The man who called homeruns "taters" has gotten very little mention for the swing that once caused a storm in Hull, Massachusetts... 

It was July 2nd, 1975.  A day that went down in Helen Street history.  The venue was the English family summer home.  On the first floor was a TV perched in the corner.  3 boys sat transfixed, glued to the action.  Others came and went periodically, but for the most part, it was 3 cousins who never left the couch... 

The Boston Red Sox were battling the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston's pitcher, Rick Wise, was putting goose eggs on the scoreboard.  The first game of a doubleheader... no runs, no ---- (still can't say it), no errors... nothing but zeroes.  It was a surprising effort by the bespectacled right hander.  On the couch sat my cousin Tim, as big a Sox fan there ever was... from the 6th inning on, it was "he's going to do it!  he's going to do it!" Tim said over and over, 7th inning, still no -----, my brother Sonny agreed, "this is history!"... always the naysayer was me, who said after the 8th inning... "nah, the Boomer will break it up, the Boomer will hit one out of here!"... 

The Boomer, as you know by now, was one George Scott.  A former Sox player (and future one too, it turned out), George was a legend, even to younger Sox fans who'd never seen him play.  The legend about his bat, *Black Beauty*, and his golden first base mitt, strung together year after year with new laces, were known by all the hard core fans.  And of course, the shark teeth he wore around his neck, which he once joked to a reporter were "the teeth of a second baseman I took out during a slide..."  only added to his lore...  the Boomer had a great personality, beloved by fans and foes alike... he was truly larger than life.

Anyhow, back to Helen Street.  The living room hit a fever pitch as Wise retired the first two batters in the ninth... one out to go.  Only one roadblock remained... #15... yes, the BOOMER. "Here we go guys.. !" I shouted.  Tim was heard to say, "don't pitch to him, walk him!!"... but it was too late... I remember the Boomer looking real comfortable at the plate as he held *Black Beauty*... it wasn't a bad pitch from Wise, but there was no doubt -- as soon as the ball left the bat -- the BOOMER hit it a country mile, the no-hitter was no more, and I was about to feel the wrath of cousin Tim... 

I was in the middle of laughing and saying "told ya" when a hand quickly wrapped around my neck!  I ran from the room yelling "BOOMER" as Tim leapt over a chair in hot pursuit, cursing my name... I thought it was all in fun but Tim was angry...  the waves pounding the Hull Fire Station didn't come close to the storm from my cousin that day [think George Castanza: "the sea was angry that day"]... Tim chased me all around the house... it most likely ended with laughter, and I'm sure all three of us (ok, two of us) were pretty disappointed that Rick Wise didn't get his no-no... the memory still dials up that fateful day whenever a pitcher has a no-hitter going into the 9th...

Alas, the Boomer soon returned to Boston in exchange for Cecil Cooper, and all was forgiven.  Rumor has it Tim dons a #15 Red Sox jersey whenever he returns to Hull.  

RIP BOOMER.  Larger than life.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tweety Bird

This year for Lent I gave up Facebook. I had no idea it would be this difficult. Sure, laugh, but I admit I'm a social animal. I'm perservering though - I didn't give up Twitter. While I've missed the personal social interaction that Facebook provides, Twitter continues to meet more of my daily information needs. As I learn more about it, the Twitter world grows more appealing as it merges the world of instant messaging, blogging, emailing, and search.

With Twitter I follow people who send out short tweets, no more than 140 characters in length. The tweets may contain a link to more information: a picture, video, or article. I send tweets myself as well, but for the most part I use Twitter as an information tool. It's especially handy to follow specific events. For example, last month the state high school basketball tournament was held in Massachusetts. I came across a tweet that mentioned @BostonHeraldHS and @BHallESPN would be tweeting from various tournament games. So I went to their profiles and started following them. Following someone on Twitter is easy - so long as their profiles are public, it's just a matter of pressing the Follow button. Some Twitter users have more security, and you need to get approved as one of their followers (I usually avoid those tweeters, as I'm not looking for the personal social experience on Twitter).

Back to following specific events... that night, unable to attend the Franklin vs. Madison Park playoff game (I was at my son's 5th grade tournament game), I monitored my Twitter newsfeed to see if there were any updates from the Franklin game. Once I saw one, I went to that user's profile and started following his tweets. Believe it or not, it was exciting, tweets were sent out on this user's profile rapidly - his followers responding as well as sending their own updates. I could see every tweet that originated from @BHallESPN or included him in other tweets... amazingly enough, via Twitter, I was at 2 games simultaneously (one in person) with many basketball voices giving descriptions of what was going on in my head. After my son's game ended, a few of the other parents huddled around me and asked for updates from the Franklin game... scary, eh?! My son read the tweets to me while I drove home... he was into it, responding with oohs and ahhs before reading them to me while I drove (let's be careful out there - don't tweet and drive!). Back in the day we would've waited for the paper the next day to read about the game. I have to say this was much more entertaining.

I receive music and spiritual updates from Twitter as well. I attended @Springsteen's first concert virtually, and get many updates from various people tweeting about their faith. Twitter is handy for following specific members of the news, sports and weather media. I've never been more up to date on weather and current events. Of course, the more I use it, the better I get at weeding through the noise and false data that's posted... there are some trustworthy and informative posters out there, and some entertaining posters as well.

Twitter also provides an interesting search engine. Consider this: Twitter servers are handling greater than 1,000 tweets per second. It is mining an incredible volume of real-time information on any given topic at any time. Currently over 12,000 queries per second are processed by Twitter. You can read about Twitter's search engine technology. People are actively searching trends and # hash-tags that are added to many tweets. Trending occurs with the tracking of tweets on certain topics. Where else will you get real-time data like this?

I've also used Twitter to contact companies. I had a problem with a software product once that was quickly answered via Twitter after no response from my attempts to contact them via email and phone. I'm not surprised companies are monitoring Twitter - they don't want any negative information about their products to be out there for long periods of time. Information spreads rapidly in the Twitter world.

Twitter is perfect for the mobile platform. Since the tweets are short, 140 characters or less, a good mobile app can display many tweets on the screen. I access Twitter on my Android phone using the Plume app. There are many apps available for all platforms. Are you ready to start using Twitter? Here's a nice short guide to get you started.

I've read where Twitter can be a tool to improve the education experience. I would have scoffed at the notion a few months ago... now I'm not so sure.

By the way, you can follow me on Twitter @ralphfyoung.