Smooth

Damn, Death Cab for Cutie’s latest album “Codes and Keys” is smooth and silky like butter. It’s been on shuffle/repeat all day (when I’m not scouring random Spotify tracks). Enjoy.

Trim

Time to cop to it in public- I gained a lot of weight while living up in the Bay Area.  Part of the root cause was simply taking advantage of the amazing San Francisco restaurants/food trucks/eateries, and another large part being the reduced amount of daily activity I engaged in after fast-tracking myself into the technorati circle. Although I worked from home a few days a week, it usually meant work spilled into home more than home was enhanced by a ‘on-location’ work environment, and I ended up working a LOT more than when I’d just keep office hours downtown.  A lot is said about the convenience of telecommuting and decentralized workplaces, but all I can really say from my experience with them is that:

a) Working globally at Silicon Valley pace will rapidly erode your available workout/activity time across a 24-hour span!
b) The long hours at a keyboard encourages your body to accumulate fat just as rapidly without a strong, bulletproof exercise regimen (my biggest problem).

Personally, these two points combined with my newfound urban environment to dissuade me from the regular outdoor exercise I used to get when working down here in Carpinteria last time (for MetaCreations in the mid-to-tail 90’s). Gyms have never appealed to me as the social aspect of exercise isn’t my bag, and if I can’t just go run/bike/etc out of my front door on real dirt – anything but pavement – then I’ll rapidly lose the motivation to move my butt.  Knowing we’d be moving back to Carpinteria – and I would be nearly guaranteed a healthier life just because of the context – I did some research into how a geek like me could ante-up the process a bit and make it more efficient.  Surprise!  Between hardware, software and the marriage of the two, getting (and staying) healthy is incredibly wired these days.   Here’s what I’m using today to help me keep that extra 25 pounds off.

Hardware

My choice: After looking over several monitoring options from the vanilla digital pedometers to the Nike+ Fuel Band and a whole range of biometric monitors that didn’t really apply, I ended up purchasing the Fitbit Ultra tracker, and it’s corresponding Fitbit Aria digital scale.   Reasons?  They covered not just measuring my general level of activity day-to-day but did it in metrics that made sense – calories, inches, pounds, et al (what the hell does a ‘Fuel Point’ mean anyway, Nike?).  I can track not just movement time, but my caloric intake, weight, body measurements, specific activities and rationalize them all daily – and both are network-savvy so all I have to do is use them and in return they sync seamlessly behind the scenes and I now have beautiful graphs I can check out online at fitbit.com to measure my progress.  Without opening Excel.  Downside- the pair cost in the $250 range together, but they work so well and simply I’m hooked and haven’t missed a measurement/update in over 6 weeks now.

The Nike Fuel + band, at least for me, was a bit odd.  It measured your progress/activity in a rather obscure metric – Nike ‘Fuel Points’ – which may be handy within the Nike world but didn’t really help me track the actuals, and/or use the metrics with other systems to measure, predict and improve my progress.  However, I’ll admit- Fuel Points are a dramatically simplified way to look at this which are a lot more interesting if you’re being social about your workouts and simply want motivation and challenge from your friends without sharing all the REAL statistics.   I’m more for the plain truth, frankly.  But my wife will likely gravitate towards the Fuel Band for exactly this reason- she doesn’t care about the details, just the generals.  Which the Fuel band does quite well, and if that’s your inclination, it may be a better choice.

I used to have a good Polar heart-rate monitor, but it became the odd-man-out once I switched to the Fitbit and tracking my stats got so easy.  With everything else saved by the Fitbit hardware into my fitbit.com account, there wasn’t even an easy way to track heart rates over the span of a workout, and I was just pulling the average BPM into a separate Excel spreadsheet… which lasted about a week until I gave up and stopped entering data entirely.   I’m currently evaluating a good HRM to use with this system, and it’s probably going to be the Polar H7 low-power Bluetooth monitor, which works fantastically with Runkeeper.com (more on that in Software below).

Software

There are only two to rule them all now on my iPhone 4S, Fitbit and Runkeeper.com.  I believe Android apps are also available for each, FWIW.   Alas, both apps are absolutely necessary for my needs as I’ve not found a good way to share data between the two, only one-way – Fitbit data is tracked and synced over on Runkeeper.com, but not in reverse.   I love Fitbit’s graphs on my stats/intake/etc, but Runkeeper is a better exercise tracker over time (as I ride a mountain bike and run as my primary sources of cardio) and keeps great maps showing my routes/paces/etc.  If it ever becomes possible for Runkeeper.com to share it’s exercise data back to Fitbit.com then I won’t have to track both separately – but currently I need to duplicate my exercise data back into Fitbit in order for the exercise to be graphed alongside my stats/measurements (which to me is critical).  Particularly as heart rate – a biometric I’d prefer tracked in Fitbit – is only available in Runkeeper with a supported heart rate monitor – and one of the most critical metrics for health/exercise effectivity in my opinion.

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing to amp up my fitness now that I’m back in the land of trails and big waves and not quite as tied to a desk 24-7-365.  How are you using todays digital tools to help keep you fit?   I’d love to hear some other stories from the trenches and compare notes – please leave a ping below if you’re so inclined.

Fresh

It’s my second Monday at lynda.com today.  I’m such a fresh n00b here it’s kinda funny.  I do the expected n00b things like show up in the wrong conference room at the right time, call people by the wrong name, and refer to Adobe as ‘us’.  All of which I’m expecting will smooth out in the next week, but hey- I haven’t been ‘new’ anywhere in 12 years so it’s all a bit fresh to me.

We’ve got most of the boxes unpacked now – at least upstairs in the main condo – and one half of our two-car garage packed full with the remainder of the moving van.  Although everything was labeled carefully, we’ve now reached that awkward part in a managed move where that ‘one thing’ you need is not in any of the boxes that seem appropriate, so we’re now putting off the inevitable – unpacking everything else, sifting it out and seeing what stays and what goes.  A few items are still unsighted yet, including my two guitars (a 7-string Schecter and the tried-and-true modified Fender “Super Strat”).   Were I still in Oakland this would be cause for concern, but this is Carpinteria and people don’t really walk off with things – or break in and take them outright – down in these parts.  I’m reasonably certain if I left the garage door(s) open all day the only ill effect would be my next-door neighbor calling me on poor form.   A far cry from having to double-check windows and doors every time I walked out for even the smallest errand, and expecting to see anything not locked up or bolted down stolen at the earliest possible convenience.

It’s so odd to feel so comfortable here, and unthreatened in the least.  Now sure, I had come to know most of the sketchy folks in my old neighborhood and broker an uneasy peace there, but Oakland is not where you want to live if being paranoid about your home and safety is unwelcome.  Just being here 2 weeks I feel as if a huge load has been taken off my shoulders – part of which I’m sure is the complete change of job/career/home, but part of which is most definitely feeling less watched than before.  Less scrutinized and inventoried.  And feeling much less anxious as a result.

Fresh.  It just feels fresh.  Which is totally awesome.

Momentum

Things are moving quickly now. We have a condo down South, movers scheduled to shuttle our belongings down to it, but have not yet sorted out renting our home in Oakland- which is proving to be a bit more challenging than I’d hoped. If we can close this game of property manager phone tag this morning, the last push to Santa Barbara county should gain momentum and carry us through to August, and settling down thru the remainder of the summer.

Who needed a real vacation, anyway? 🙂

Home

Friday afternoon I turned in my ID badge at the guard booth as I pulled out of the Adobe garages. “Oh, sorry” said the guard, making the safe assumption that like pretty much everyone else who leaves the ‘country club’ at 600 Townsend Street I just got handed a pink slip. I felt a bit fake in just giving the nod of thanks and not correcting him, but it did little to dent the elation I had that moment, metaphorically passing across the threshold of job security into the unknown.

I spent Saturday morning in penance for the hubris of my prior evening, nursing a hangover and cursing the silence of our empty house. Picking up Desiree and Devin at the airport was the highlight of Saturday, as every other waking moment I wallowed in self-doubt and criticism. By the evening I’d decided I needed a few days to sleep things off, just let myself decompress and catch up with the events of the last month or so. The relative quiet from my phone and email only amplified the emptiness I was feeling inside at the thought of leaving my home behind, my job behind, my security behind. It was time to look ahead.

Sunday morning we woke up, packed a few bags and drove to Carpinteria so we could catch the evening sunset on the beach, and then spend the next few days looking for a place to rent in the area before heading back and renting out our own house in Maxwell Park up north. Even though part of me really just wanted to curl up in a fetal position and sleep for a few days before sorting everything out, I think what I really needed most of all was to force myself forward.

Little guy gets it on in Carpinteria for the first time.

And forward we have gone. I’m typing this now on my iPad in a Carp hotel room while my son sleeps in the bed behind me. As his eyes fluttered asleep a few minutes back, he muttered “this was the best day ever, Dad. I want to live here.” I flashed back a few hours to his shock of red hair coming alight in the sunset as we dodged the waves at Fourth Beach, the gleam in his eyes as he played in the seaweed and foraged for shells and rocks. He felt then what I felt when I first came to this place some 17 years ago.

This is home.
We just haven’t gotten back down to it quite yet.

Apprehension

Today I wake up to begin my last day at Adobe. I’ve known this day was coming for a long time, but never really expected I would feel this way when it did- a little nervous, a little excited, and a whole lotta anxious. It’s a bit like the morning before your last day of school when you know the people and places you see today are ones you’ll remember the rest of your life, but they won’t be part of your day – to – day life after this evening, for the first time in 12 years.

I’m preparing for my day by packing up a laptop I won’t return home with, attempting in vain to clean out an Outlook inbox I’ll never reach the end of once today’s over and my Adobe accounts are disabled. Rifling through a neatly – ordered closet of clothes that will all get yanked down into boxes in short order. Wondering if I remembered to do that one last thing, for that one last time, before the light goes out in my offices and I move my family six hours away from this place – and I’m pretending as if it’s just another day.

So many small routines that you get used to over the years, small comforts that support you you throughout your days, your weeks, your months, that become an imprint on your life after 12 years. All to change as of tomorrow morning, much as if I had time-warped back to that last day at college, facing a summer vacation with no end and the need for myself to think life all over from scratch again. It’s a little bit scary too, I’ll admit. One foot before the other, though– I’m going to enjoy this last day of routine no matter how difficult it really is for me inside. None of my schools even lasted 12 years, though
– these people, places, sights, sounds, and smells are part of me now. I never really acknowledged the separation anxiety I’d face leaving Adobe until now, with it staring me in the face so brusquely.

This isn’t going to be easy– I never thought it would, of course. But it’s certainly going to be a bit more difficult than I expected. I guess starting afresh never is.

Well, here I go.