Thursday, December 15, 2016

Web Comic Recommendations

I am by no means a comic aficionado; I leave that stuff up to people like Patrick & Dad.  However, I do enjoy comics, every now and then.  I'm not sure yet whether I prefer the physical article or reading on a tablet - more and more lately, tablet is becoming much friendlier - but I've always liked web comics, for sure.  I've gotten out of reading them lately, which is unfortunate.

Anyway, a few months back I asked the aforementioned Patrick for some free comic recommendations and he turned me onto City of Walls, available via LINE Webtoon.  In addition to CoW, I've found a few other gems hidden in the app.  I find that the "popular" and "featured" comics on Webtoon generally do not have me in their target audience, so I've had to do some digging.

Here are my recommendations from LINE Webtoon, in no particular order:

City of Walls - 3.5/5
     I struggle with rating this one.  On the one hand, I really appreciate the art and level of detail; on the other, the writing leave me a little wanting.  Sometimes it's got bad pacing...other times it seems just right.  I like the overall story though.  I don't want to give away too much about it, so I'll just say that the protagonists are kids in a fictional Asian city.  The world building is just great as well.

Zen Pencils - 4/5
     Zen pencils is illustrated by Gavin Aung Than.  This is a series of stand-alone comics that are based on / inspired by actual quotes from real-life people.  Most of hte quotes seem to be about being creative or being true to yourself.  I do sometimes find it off-putting that lot of the advice about dropping everything and doing what you love doesn't present a realistic sense of balance...

The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn - 3.5/5
     Author/Illustrator: Tri Vuong (works out of the RAID studio in Toronto).  This one has gorgeous artwork.  The story is only okay - I like bits and pieces of it, but I mainly stick with it for the beautiful art.  The current story - "The Last Soldier of Somme" - is set in WWI and seems to be going somewhere, but pacing can make it hard to follow.  Vuong is admittedly new to writing so I'm willing to cut some slack.  Either way - the character design for Oscar Zahn is fantastic.  It looks like Vuong has had this idea floating in his head for a while now.

There are more, but I feel like I need to get caught up with reading some of them before I can properly recommend them.  Until then - enjoy those three!

Monday, December 12, 2016


I need to get some of the writings I've got in my notebooks out there - not all of them, but I've got a few things that I'm hanging on to that I think people would like to read.  This one is ratings and reviews of podcasts I've listened to over the last week.  I'm keeping tabs on what I'm listening to on a daily basis and writing things down (giving them a rating out of 5) so this kind of thing will pop up again to be sure.

I think the next thing I'll put up here will be relating to web comics.  On to the podcasts for now.  I'll try to group episodes under the same podcast title where I can to reduce the size of the list.  Notes in italics are notes I've added after writing it in my notebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

275 vs 0

I've been using MyFitnessPal since - I'm honestly not sure.  I remember using it when I had a BlackBerry.  Conservative estimates say at least 5-6 years.  I'm currently sitting at a log-in streak of 275 days, which consists of a mix of full food diaries and some not-so-full diaries.  For the last month they've been full diaries for a semi-accurate weekly calorie count.

I was recently tuned onto CRON-O-Meter - by accident.  The desktop / web version is free to use, but in the Play Store it's about $3 Canadian.  I had some Google Play credit - so I figured I'd give it a try.
I'm currently on Day 0 with CRON-O-Meter.  I'm giving it a rather large handicap - it's hard to overcome a 275-day streak, let alone 5-6 years of use for MFP.  Mentally I steeled myself for a different user interface than what I'm accustomed to.  I didn't want the app to lose points because of some aesthetic issue.

MyFitnessPal(MFP) Main Screen

MFP Food Diary

MFP Progress Screen

CRON-O-Meter (COM) Main Screen

COM Trends screen

COM Nutrition Reports

Luckily, I think they're about equal in terms of UI.  If I had to dock points it would be for the splash screen that loads for COM, but that's minor.  The trade-off is loading the app and waiting while it syncs with the server, etc.  I could always press the 'home' button and leave it open.

There are a few other areas I could cover, but to finish the preliminary review, the most important aspect is the food database.  On the surface, it looks like MFP is still king here.  Looks like COM has a lot in its database, but is nowhere near as complete.  However, it's quite simple to add food, and you have complete control over food data when entering.  The interface looks quite a bit like the familiar nutrition labels (at least on the web version).  I haven't tried scanning any barcodes yet, but that's next.

I'm giving Cronometer a two-week trial, a week to train the app, and then another week to put it to full use.  I'll be using both apps so I should have a good base for comparison.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What's Going On?

My last post on this blog was back in May, but that wasn't a substantive post; it was a link to somewhere else.  My last "real" post here was actually April 1st.  Thought I'd provide some sort of update on how things are going.

The last thing I wrote about was a 'life reset' check-in; technically speaking, I should have provided another update back in June.  Well...I've kind of given up writing publicly about that.  I got the idea to write about it from Wil Wheaton, but I'm hardly a celebrity and don't really think it's that interesting to read about me.  Plus in thinking about it...I'm not sure why I even read Wil's updates.  It's great that he's doing well.  But they're not providing me with reasons why I follow his blog (which is, to exclude a few things, I like his writing, and enjoy his updates on his creative stuff).

That isn't to say that I've given up on the ideas behind why I was writing these posts.  Just works in progress, and you can chalk it all up to "self improvement".  Everybody does it, you don't need to read about it.

What else I'm doing:
- Reading, sort of.  You can see my Goodreads profile to catch up with what I've read recently.  I've reached my 2016 reading goal (8 books) but still finishing a few things.  I've had some trouble carving out time to read; partly because my normal reading time, lunch, is occupied by taking a walk.  Perhaps I could combine the two.  The most recent book I read was Fade In: The Writing of Star Trek Insurrection.  I really enjoyed it, and recommend tracking it down.  Watch Star Trek: Insurrection after.

- I recently re-watched Mockingjay parts 1 & 2 back-to-back with Vanessa.  When we first saw Part 2, I didn't like it as much as Part 1.  It's pretty clearly an inferior film, but when watched together with Part 1, it seems to work better the second time around.  Thinking that maybe the film would have worked better as one film, rather than split into two parts.  Make a few cuts here and there...and there we are.

- Writing - I'm working on writing more.  This post is a bad example, but for instance, I'm working on a piece about what I would fix about Star Trek Nemesis.  It's a pretty long piece so far, and not finished yet.  But as it's not time sensitive, I don't feel bad taking my time.  I probably won't get it finished until the end of September.

I've also been writing weekly posts on called Friday Playlist.  It started out on a whim, and except for last Friday, I've been doing it weekly.  I've had a lot of fun putting these together.  The most recent playlist was the longest one I've written.  Check it out!  I eventually will set up a pretty URL.  Probably

- Podcasting - until August I was doing a great job posting monthly episodes.  I have a playlist ready to go (songs picked out, at least) I just need to hit 'record'.  Just didn't set aside any time for this in August, so I missed a month.  No big deal.  Only 3 more episodes before I hit #100!

That's pretty much it.  Honestly, the impetus of this post was to talk about what I was writing.  Turned into a bit more.  Til next time!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sometimes, I write about the Blue Jays too

I had this idea for a post about the Blue Jays, and my first instinct was to write it here - but this isn't the right spot for it.  Instead I remembered that my brother and I sort of run a Blue Jays blog.  By 'sort of' I mean we hardly ever write anything.  But it exists, so here we are.

You can read it here:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Life Reset/Reboot Check-In

Full disclosure: I'm writing this a full 2 weeks early.  I'm starting it in one of my Moleskine notebooks, and transferring to Blogger via a neat new tablet Bluetooth keyboard.  That detail is unimportant, but super neat to me.

Since the curling season is coming to an end, I thought it would be a good idea to score myself a number out of 4 in each applicable category.

Get Healthy - 2.3/4 (57.5% average score)

> Drink Less Beer - 3/4 (75%)

I've been fairly successful limiting my post-curling beer consumption to one night a week, with some exceptions.  I'm not drinking as much beer outside the weekend, either.  However, I've allowed a few too many exceptions, so I get a 3/4 on this one. 

> Better Sleep - 2/4 (50%) 

To be honest, I might be rounding this category up, a little bit based on a FitBit sleep report I just read.  As of the time of this writing, I've averaged 6 hours of sleep per night, per week, since Feb 1st.  But apparently this week I've increased my sleep time by 14 minutes.

> Be Mindful of Coffee Consumption - 2/4 (50%)

Okay for the most part - but just today I bought a large coffee.  Could be doing better.
I think I've done better than my average score shows.  In 10 weeks, I lost 3.6 pounds.  Since Jan 25, I lost almost 9 pounds.  My average score is 2.3, but I think my true score is 3.

Get Organized - 2.5/4 (62.5%)

I'm basing this on my Habit bull entry for updating my notebook daily.  Since I get a "check" every day that I use my notebook, this makes it easy to track. 
This number seems accurate, because I've had to do a reset within a reset.  At times I feel organized, and others, not so much.  2.5 is fair.

Get Creative - 4/4 (100%)

I've read some more, written some more, and released two podcasts on time.  I think this is the only category I feel good giving myself 100%. 

Overall: 2.4/4 (60%)

I'm doing well, but not great.  My goal for the 6-month mark was to be down 20 pounds; I've lost ~45% of that so far.  I'll consider the weight loss a success if I can drop another 2-3 pounds over the next two months. 

I just need tore consistency with daily habits and my score should come up.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review: X Files Season 10 (Spoilers Maybe)

I honestly don't know where to start with this review.  I guess it'd be best to open with that I enjoyed the 6 episode mini series.  Were I forced to give it an arbitrary rating, I'd probably go with a 3.25 out of 5.

I wasn't the biggest X Files fan while it was on the air, picking up only in the last season (which featured the infamous John Doggett).  I got hooked on the show in spite of itself, and enjoyed the re-run episodes that Space would show every night at 10.  Wish they'd pick that up again - the classic episode marathon they had back in January was close enough I guess.

For the most part, this season actually felt like a regular season of the X Files.  Being a mini-series, I fully expected to be watching a 6-episode story, rather than 6 stand-alone episodes.  I think this was smart - it meant that they were better able to stay close to the X Files tone.  It was pretty much a "Monster of the Week" peppered with shows that serve to drive the overarching story.

I think the very best episode of the bunch was "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster", which featured Rhys Darby as the titular Were-Monster.  I feel like this episode was written particularly to fit Darby's style.  Also funny to note that Darby played a werewolf in "What We Do In The Shadows", which is a must-see.  Werewolves, not Swear-wolves!

Unquestionably the worst episode was My Struggle II.  It didn't seem to fit with the rest of the episodes (even though it was a direct sequel to My Struggle).  Also, it featured a seemingly pointless re-appearance of Agent Reyes - that didn't really seem to serve any purpose other than to give us a familiar character to deliver plot exposition.

Here's how I'd rank the episodes:

  1. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster
  2. Home Again
  3. My Struggle
  4. Babylon
  5. Founder's Mutation
  6. My Struggle II
I'd probably switch around Babylon and My Struggle, but Babylon takes a hit for "Agent Einstein".  Also, I just looked up Founder's Mutation and realized that the director of this one also directed "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", an episode I watched recently and really liked.  Musings was the better episode.  

Other minor notes - both Aaron Douglas and Alessandro Juliani appeared in the season as guest stars, who both starred in Battlestar Galactica.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Clash of Clans

I got started playing Clash of Clans over the summer, mostly as a way to prevent boredom.  I was terrible at the beginning - and I'd say I'm probably just Pretty OK at it now.  But I log in to play (even if it's just to check in on my base) at least once a day; I'd say without a doubt that this is the most I've ever played a video game - and I'm including countless hours trying to beat Star Wars on the original Game Boy (oh man, that is an impossible game!  I never made it past the Death Star).

For a little bit though I was growing a bit bored with the game.  The only thing keeping me coming back to it was that I needed to upgrade troops/buildings/etc and participate in Clan Wars.  I could see myself slipping away from the game eventually.

But Supercell, the company that makes the game, released a pretty major update about a month ago.  I won't go into full detail, but the biggest change was to add a daily 5-star bonus system.  The gist of it is that once a day you can collect bonus loot that gets added to a protected treasury.

Most mobile games have a daily check-in bonus to keep you invested in the game, but I think this is the best implementation of it that I've ever seen.  In most other games, you simply log in once a day and collect a bonus.  In Clash of Clans, you can earn 5 stars every 24 hours (and the 24 hour clock starts once you collect your first star - so if you time it right, you could start earning stars again immediately after your 5th star).

The genius part about this system is that it gets people attacking other clans outside of war more often by creating a bigger incentive.  Where before I might have attacked once or twice a day, I will attack 3-4 times in order to collect bonus stars.  The update also balanced the game a little more, so while you get raided more often - you don't lose nearly as much loot in comparison because you can gain so much more.

All that said - everything they put into this update has breathed some new life into the game for me, and is keeping me interested in it.  The update also showed some thought and care put into the game, and wasn't just a lazy code addition.  A job well done!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

X-Men Days of Future Past re-watch + Other observations

Last weekend I had a second viewing of X-Men: Days of Future Past.  I first saw it in theatres, and enjoyed it.  Apparently not everyone did?

Anyway, my only problem with the film was the opening exposition from Patrick Stewart / Professor X.  It felt very clunky and put in solely for the movie watching audience - doesn't it seem funny that none of the other mutants were already aware of Mystique's actions to fast forward the Sentinel program?  Other than that, it was a fast-paced film that works really well.  For pacing, it felt a lot faster than First Class - which I think is actually the better film of the two, so far.

Other observations

X-Files: No, not the new season.  Space ran a marathon of classic X-Files episodes the weekend leading up to the new season; I didn't watch the entire marathon, but chose a few to record based solely on the episode descriptions.  I picked some good ones so far!
- Squeeze I spent the bulk of this episode assuming it was actually the second episode featuring Victor Tooms, and was confused why neither Mulder nor Scully realized who they were dealing with.  Good episode, but the characters were a little wooden
- Ice I really liked this episode.  It was both creepy and suspenseful, and had a good sense of mystery around it.
- The Erlenmeyer Flask Really well done episode, and you can tell the writing team, director, and actors are all on their game at this point.  I had seen the pilot episode months before for the first time and appreciated the nice little bookend of the season 1 pilot and finale with the Cigarette Smoking Man in the Pentagon warehouse.
Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose The most recent episode, I just watched this one last night.  This episode was most representative of the bulk of the X-Files episodes I have seen - more monster of the week, scale tipping a little bit to the comedic side.  I really liked this one as well.

Weight loss

I've been trying an 8/16 fast - eat for 8 hours, fast for 16.  It's been going alright; there are times I feel very hungry, but I've been able to work through it.  Usually with water.  I'm into my second week of it now and I'd say I'm not feeling as hungry as I was when I first started it.  When I do eat, I feel full.  So far, it seems to be helping!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Get Creative

This is going to be part of a series of three posts about what I'm doing as of February 1st to get back on track with various things.  I wrote about it last week if you'd like to read more

Get Creative. 

This is the last part of my so-called life reboot.  It's not as important as the first two (Get Healthy/Get Organized), but I think it fits in with the others.  This is a pretty wide-reaching goal, but I've narrowed it down to two things.


I used to read all the time.  Last year I barely got anything read.  I just didn't make the time for it.  Now, I'll make some time for reading every day, even if it's only a little bit.

Write more. 

It doesn't matter whether it's non-fiction or fiction, private or public, I just need to write more.  The goal is to write a little bit each day as well.

Other minor stuff that aren't as paramount to this...
- Keep updating my podcast (Alternative Airwaves)
- Actually, that's about it.

OK, so in 2 months...I'll have an update on everything and what I'm doing to accomplish each goal.  It'll be a lot more condensed so only one post, instead of 3.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Life Reboot #2: Get Organized

This is going to be part of a series of three posts about what I'm doing as of February 1st to get back on track with various things.  I wrote about it last week if you'd like to read more.  Read my first entry, Get Healthy, to catch up.

Get Organized.

This is something I always struggle with, and something I want to improve upon.  Before the new year, I started keeping a notebook in a hybrid version of the Bullet Journal.  At Christmas I got some brand new Moleskine journals that I really love, so will be using those going forward for my journals.

This part of the process isn't nearly as involved as getting healthy, but still pretty important.  Here's what I need to do (or keep doing).

Stay up to date with notebooks.

A no-brainer; this notebook system is only as useful as I keep it updated.  Previously I was going several days in a row without updating it, and some days I'd check it every day.  I need to be checking it every day.

Write down important things. 

Another no-brainer.  If I don't write anything down, I won't remember them.  If I'm not able to write down what I need to in my main notebook right away, then I need to write it on anything available - scrap paper or my cell phone.

That's it!  Last entry coming Friday.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Life Reboot #1: Get Healthy

This is going to be part of a series of three posts about what I'm doing as of February 1st to get back on track with various things.  I wrote about it last week if you'd like to read more.
I've done some thinking and brainstorming about my life reboot, initially thinking I'd focus on 7 things I want to fix or adjust.  I broke it all down to three major categories:

Get Healthy
Get Organized
Get Creative

I'm used to a pretty rigid reporting structure and having things fall under neat packages, so this structure is going to work well for me.  I have different priorities outlined for each of the categories, and a 6 month goal for everything.  I'll be checking in every two months on my progress.  

This week I'm just outlining what my goals are and what I plan on doing to achieve them.  Today, Get Healthy.  Wednesday will be about Get Organized, and Friday for Get Creative.  

Get Healthy

This is my number one priority.  This is a pretty broad goal to achieve, so I've decided that the measure of success here is dropping some weight.  My goal is to drop 20 pounds in 6 months, and to do that, I need to work on a few things.

Drink less beer.  

I think this is the number one thing on the list holding me back from losing weight.  I curl three times a week, and I end up having at least 1-2 beers each game.  I need to limit this to one night.

Better sleep.  

I haven't bothered to look into all the research, but I've heard that getting proper sleep is important to keeping healthy.  There are two things I want to do with this: 1) Stop hitting the snooze button; and 2) Go to sleep at a more consistent time.  

Be mindful of coffee consumption.  

I wouldn't say that this is a problem, or is contributing to my lack of progress, but a recent discussion with a friend reminded me that restaurant portion sizes for coffee are, to put it mildly, out of whack.  The solution here is that I'm not going to drink a cup size larger than what my Keurig machine can brew (which is about 10 ounces; by contrast, a McDonald's large coffee is ~19 ounces).  

Notably missing from this list is the usual "exercise more" option.  I purposefully left it out, because I feel like I already get enough exercise.  The issues I'm having are more in the diet and lifestyle areas, rather than exercising.  I'm too quick to be lazy and grab a fast food dinner rather than taking the time to prepare something at home on the weekend.  It's easy to grab 6 new beers to try from the LCBO.  

For exercising, I frequently choose walks at lunch time instead of reading.  I've conditioned myself to a point where I want to go out walking, even in winter.  I curl three nights a week.  I play lead, which means a ton of sweeping (especially on night we only play with three - I do a LOT of sweeping).  Generally I try to stay active, so that's not the problem I'm having.  

Get Organized is coming up Wednesday.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Reset Button

Original photo by flickr user Lucky Larry, 2010
One thing a lot of people do around the start of a new year is set resolutions.  Occasionally, I will opt to pick something arbitrarily that I want to change (such as last year's goal of texting less and calling more; this did not stick).  Other years - like this one - I don't really stress about it so much.  However, I'm at a point right now where I feel very disorganized.  I recently moved, and there are papers and boxes everywhere that I haven't found places for yet.

Add to this that I've been closely following Wil Wheaton's Life Reboot posts, which began sometime in...November I want to say.  Wil set some realistic goals (SMART goals, you might say), and is keeping tabs on his progress.  I think this is the key element missing from most run-of-the-mill resolutions: follow-up.

February 1st, I'm going to push that reset button, and give myself a little Life Reboot.  I'm going against my own "rules" by not starting right away, but I want to take some time and figure out what I want to work on.  I have some basic ideas, but I want to hit the ground running - and I'd like to have some kind of a plan in place.

Next Monday, I'll have an update and a plan in place.  I think I'm going to try to narrow it down to 7 things, ala Wil Wheaton.  Also, based on the recommendation of my good friend Sarah, I will give the app HabitBull a try.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ficly Making a Comeback + Mount Doom Status Update

"Mount Doom Status Update" sounds both ominous and awesome at the same time!  I'll keep it quick so I don't bore everyone - basically I have the project working as expected on a daily basis and runs like a charm.  I'll make a full post sometime on the weekend (when I get some time) and share the full project files and everything; I'm kind of thinking of tweaking it to tell me only when I've hit major landmarks - but more on that later.

The other day, my good Internet friend (from a considerable distance) Wil Wheaton re-posted a story he had written, at the time inspired by listening to Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars; this time, inspired by the death of David Bowie.  It's a pretty good story for 1024 characters.  I enjoyed it, and so did many others - his post inspired people to write prequels and sequels of their own in the comment section.  I haven't read through them all yet - I'm going to have to try to catch up with them and read them all later.

I posted at the end of 2015 about the ficlets that I wrote back in the day.  For reasons I won't get into right now, I had to delete my External Monologues podcast - I have all of the audio files, and I'll get around to re-posting them.  But I don't think I'm going to continue with it, at least not for the moment.  Apologies, if somehow you were following it.  Bringing things back on point, I just find it odd that some of these things that I've dug up are floating back to the surface at another completely different point on the web.

Apparently, there's a new website called Ficlatté.  I haven't browsed around it very much, but I think it's something I'd contribute to.  I expressed a desire a while back to get back into writing these, but I feel more apt to do it when there's a built-in audience already.  I think I'm going to just personally label 2016 the Year of The Ficlet.  Let's see what I can cook up in the next year.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Update on the journey to Mount Doom via FitBit

I know I just posted about this yesterday, but I've put some more work into this (while procrastinating other things, naturally).  To recap from yesterday, this is what I wanted to accomplish in "Day 2":

  1. Figure out where IFTTT adds the next row of data (i.e. above or below the first row?)
  2. Confirm the distance in miles from Hobbiton to Mount Doom in Miles, convert to Kilometres
  3. Take the task I started yesterday, and put it together with a task to tell me how many kilometres I've travelled, and how many I have left to go.
I'll tackle these in order here...

#1 was important because I needed to determine how I was pulling the data from Google Sheets.  In my task yesterday, I was just pulling R1C6, which in my spreadsheet translates to F1.  IFTTT adds the next row of data below the original row, rather than pushing it to the top (see here).  So this means my task works for January 8th - but for the 9th, I need to pull R2C6 (F2), R3C6 for Jan 10th, and so on.  

So I created a test sheet with 10 rows of data to use.  Then I created a task to add 1 to a variable (%Rownumber).  Without going into too many details, I set a variable called %Frow to R%RownumberC6.  I set %Rownumber to 0 initially so that the first time it runs, I'd get R1C6.  Simple!  

For #2, I found this website (appropriately called Nerd Fitness).  I don't know where this person got their numbers, but a second source confirming 1779 miles is good enough for me.  There's also a breakdown of how many miles between each stop, and number of miles for the return journey - but I need to get to Mount Doom first, so I'll come back to that later.  1779 miles = 2863 kilometres.  

#3 was a bit easier, since I already had the task to pull the data completed.  I just changed "R1C6" to "%Frow" - which means that it will change to R2C6, R3C6, etc. as needed.  Another task called "Distance" does a couple things: 

  • Sets the distance travelled (%DistanceTravelled) to "%DistanceTravelled + %Kms" (%Kms is set in "Get Kilometres", which is the task I described above)
  • Sets %RemainingDistance to "2863 - %DistanceTravelled"
After that, I put it all together into one task called "Display" that runs each task in order, and then sends it to a notification.  Here's a screenshot: 

I'm going to have to change the message to say "yesterday" instead of "today" - since it's not in real time (it would be if I could directly access the FitBit API...).  I don't know where that leaf icon comes from but it's a built-in icon, and I thought it was appropriate for this.  

Next on the to-do list: 
  • Figure out how to automate this process (I get a notification when IF updates the spreadsheet, so that could be the trigger)
  • Figure out how to incorporate the distances between towns (i.e. Hobbiton to Rivendell is 737.1km, etc.).
I think once I get those two things done, that's pretty much where I'm going to leave it.  One thing that I could do for posterity is add each update to a text file.  That's a pretty easy thing to do - I think I might just add that step tomorrow when I test the automation process.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The nerdiest thing I could think of to do with my new FitBit

Vanessa gave me a FitBit for Christmas - specifically, the Charge HR.  I've done some nerdy things with it - like figure out how to send more than just phone call notifications to it.  So far I can send text messages, and when activated, sports scores.  Fantastic!

I thought that was the end of my fiddling with it for now; I figured I would probably play with it a little more here and there, but for now, I'd use it as intended.  But then I saw this thread over at Reddit's Loseit community.

Now, I'm not a big Lord of the Rings fan; but I thought that this would be something fun to try and put together using Tasker.  To summarize, the goal is to walk the distance from Hobbiton to Mordor over the course of at least 366 days.  The distance is apparently 1779 miles - I'll have to substantiate this number, but that translates to 2863 kilometres.

Using a spreadsheet to track this is great and all - I've tracked fitness stuff via spreadsheet tons of times.  But I thought I'd go one step further, since part of why I like the Fitbit is that it automates some of the data entry for me (tracking exercise, etc.).  Enter Android, Tasker, IFTTT, and Google Sheets.

It took me a while to get this set up - mainly because I wanted to use the FitBit API to pull the information via Tasker, but I haven't been able to get that going yet - but I have IFTTT sending daily status updates to Google Sheets.  It gives me the date, total steps taken, flights of stairs, elevation (in metres), and the most important piece to all of this, how many kilometres I've walked.

Now, the fun part - pulling the data from Google Sheets.  It's a bit of a pain, but this guide from Peter's Tech Notes was pretty easy to walk through.  So, now in Tasker I've successfully pulled the number of kilometres I've walked from my FitBit data: 6.11 kilometres on Jan 8th (only 2,356.89 km to go to Mordor!).

But I'm not done there.  I still have some more tests to run, because I need to figure out how I want to use this information.  I have several thoughts - the easiest way to go about it would be to create a daily notification at the start of each day telling me how far I've gone, and how far I've left to go.  But that's kind of boring.

I bet there are some complicated ways I could go about incorporating a graphical interface with this.  But that'll come - the first steps will indeed be to set up a daily notification to tell me how far I've walked and how far I have left to go.  I'll start small first - basically, it will tell me the distance between how far I've walked and the total I have left (so this morning I'd see 2356.89 remaining).

The next step would be to break it down further, and show all of the stops in between.  The next step after that would be to try to incorporate some graphical element, if possible.  Or at least something to make it look nicer.

The last step would be figuring out the return journey - I suppose it would just be a matter of reversing everything I did in the first bunch of steps.

This will be a work in progress, and something I'll keep updated here.  I'll share my Tasker profiles as I go, for anyone interested.  Note that for this to work, you'd basically have to substitute all of your own data for the Spreadsheet part, but other than that, it should work as expected.

Here's the test I wrote up - you'll have to download the Snackbar Plugin for it to work, but you could easily just change the last part to one of Tasker's built-in notification options.