As I wrote earlier this week after the Cambridge Analytica event came to light my nagging feeling that I needed to get off these Facebook, Google, etc. platforms crossed a threshold. It was no longer something that I thought I should do but something I was going to actively do. In one week I’ve made progress in pretty much every dimension (scroll down to the bottom if you just want my list of alternatives).
I’ve had my moments in the past where Facebook pissed me off and I tried Google+. That didn’t work out too well so I went back to Facebook after they addressed some of those problems. I had my moments in the past where I was concerned about the amount of tracking Google does in searches so I went to DuckDuckGo. That’s still my main search engine but sometimes I need results that come out better in Google so go there. I also use the Google platform for my e-mail, documents, etc. The concept of them selling my data in exchange for giving me free service has bothered me to varying degrees over the years, but seeing how greedily it was manipulated recently is really amping that up to me. The amount of information available to the highest bidder has always been a known quantity to me but these recent stories are just putting that up to eleven. It’s not just the Cambridge Analytica story. There is also the story about Facebook and other companies forcing users to turn over their keys, so to speak, so they can look at any and all their personal data as a condition for working for them. There is the way they exploited that data in difficult discussions.
For years now I’ve been an amateur bread baker that keeps trying the new and upcoming thing that runs across my computer. In the 90s I started with a focaccia recipe I found on USENET and Julia Child’s baguette recipe scribbled out of my mom’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In recent years I’ve picked up no-knead recipes, sourdough recipes and the like. I’ve also taken to radically changing some recipes with expectations on specific results. I see others doing the same thing in my groups. As we move around and try things the question becomes: “What makes a successful bread experiment?” Obviously if it turns out exactly as you intended that’d be a success but is that really it, or do we sometimes see a success staring right back at us but we don’t know it.
There are lots of write ups and studies which are showing more and more the negative effects on our perpetual stimulation by social media. This is everything from the negative effects of not giving your brain a rest, negative emotions from the perpetual stream of information, all the way to it being potentially an addiction. One simple way to get around this is to just uninstall every app, log out of the sites, and be done with it. That’s not always practical since these ecosystems are often how we tie into events, stay in touch with friends, and are helpful conduits to information we are looking for. The real problem is not having control of what and when information is presented to us once we enter these ecosystems. This is a byproduct of two features: alerts and newsfeeds. Eliminating and/or getting control of these is the key to getting control of and crafting your social media experience into being sane again.
Since I’m no stranger to starting fitness routines over again it’s always the constant reminder of how far I’ve fallen when I start back up a fitness routine again. Of course with each passing year the threshold drops further and further on the fitness levels at the beginning of each phase. On this particular startup phase I started up this week with elliptical cardio. Yes, I’d like to get back to running long distances again, but I’m still very early in the building phase and I know I have lots of body strength symmetry issues I want to work through. It was shocking and disappointing when after ten minutes of a thirty minute “easy” elliptical workout that I could feel the burn in my quads and calves. Because of some stuff around the house I have to get done I couldn’t risk having rigor mortis for the rest of the day so at that point I switched off to do an additional ten minutes of medium-speed walking on the treadmill. My heart rate which was in the high-160s to low-170s during the “easy” elliptical routine was now in the 110-115 range. That’s a perfect sustainable pace.
I’m sure I’ll be able to work up to much greater cardio levels over time. I’ll have a similar problem with my strength training as that kicks in. But it’s better to do the build up as baby steps rather a huge burst and then a crash and burn. It’s easy enough to lose focus with a sustainable pace much less with a crazy fast one.
Anyone who’s been following along knows that I have hardly been a model of fitness and healthy lifestyle here. At the same time I’m (hypothetically) trying to be proactive at avoiding health problems that creep up in later years. It’s not lack of knowledge or following trends but instead a lack of execution. When it comes to watching loved ones around you that are in the midst of having health problems that are caused by or substantially exacerbated by lifestyle choices that everyone knows are bad what can one do?
While I’ve mostly been absent from writing to the blog, and my fitness routine has only been slightly less absent than that, I have been able to maintain one thing completely dialed in over all this time: fitness tracking (as usual). With all of that data together I decided to create my first annual review post. I’d say compared to the average American I had a very normal year. Unfortunately I don’t want to have the fitness level and longevity of the average American, so while I’m not going to say things were bad they weren’t where I want them to be either.
Being the new year is almost upon us and I’ve spent most of the last year lamenting my lack of progress on health fronts (besides that sweet spot in the summer) I was looking forward to dialing in my lifestyle and diet over the next month and into 2018. It wasn’t going to be anything more structured than 2017, which may or may not have led to more or less the same results, but I was going to be focusing in on the same core Blue Zones lifestyle elements that I’ve previously highlighted. It was therefore a bit of a coincidence when I received an e-mail from 23andMe about enrolling in a genetic weight loss study they are doing.
According to the study they are looking at coming up with up to 100,000 volunteers to try three different combinations of diet and lifestyle changes to see if it can create weight loss over a twelve week period of time. They are then going to use that data combined with our detailed genetic data to find correlations in weight loss and the various lifestyle changes. That type of thing sounds fascinating to me in its own right and I certainly would love to contribute to that body of work, so I decided to enroll.
Their initial survey information lined up exactly with all of the things I currently track religiously: food patterns, sleep patterns, sleep quality, stress patterns, exercise level, meditation patterns, and trunk body measurements. Sadly most of those elements they were looking for a weekly survey on. That’s obviously heavily skewed by the holidays. I want to e-mail them about that. Also sadly is that my current levels diet and exercise are about as piss poor as they could ever be. They would be improving anyway (hypothetically) but perhaps that gives them a better baseline to start from. Based on the diet/exercise recommendations I may have to tweak what I was planning on doing into the start of the new year, the study beginning sometime in January, but I think doing that for 12 weeks is a pretty small price to pay (assuming I get accepted for the study).
I almost never wait in huge lines for anything. I camped out once for football tickets in college. Once. I also once waited six hours for an iPhone 4 when it first came out. It was my first smart phone and I had been putting off getting one way too long. That was it though. Yet I know people who have waited in ever decreasing lines for each iteration of the iPhone. The reduced lines are definitely part of the sizzle wearing off and the iPhone being just another smart phone. Yet even at 8 pm last night there was a line for iPhones outside our local Apple store. It didn’t wrap around the mall like in the iPhone 4 days but the end of the first day still having a line for an iPhone 8 was pretty telling to me.
It was just a few months ago when Ubuntu announced they were killing off Unity, their main desktop option. Many people were wondering if this was part of their larger pivot towards more profitable ventures and thus they would be leaving the desktop behind. I too was filled with worry about that potential outcome but calmed myself remembering that I was not locked into one vendor for my OS any longer. In the intervening months however it has become clear that Ubuntu is not killing of the desktop, far from it. In fact the strides they are taking with Ubuntu 17.10 and Ubuntu 18.04 look like they are about to put out the strongest desktop offering to date. Not having to carry the weight of a phone platform, their own desktop environment, etc. has allowed their team to focus on giving positive contributions to Gnome proper. I’ve had the opportunity to play around with the Ubuntu 17.10 betas and have to say that I don’t think I’d be missing anything from my current Ubuntu experience. I look forward to upgrading to 18.04 when the time comes and no longer worrying about if one of my desktop baselines was going away.