Category Archives: geeklife

when it rains it pours…ipads

Nearly 80 degrees on Christmas and we opened presents in tank tops and shorts: weird.  And this week it is flooding.  Like, literally flooding.  Roads are washed out.  The creek along the back edge of our property, usually about 20 feet across is easily triple that, past its banks on either side with water hip deep at the edges of the creep and a racing over-my-head current (not that I’ve tried) in the middle where the banks are usually twelve feet high.  It’s starting to look biblical out there, is what I’m saying.

Here is our big creek a couple of summers ago, almost no water.  Sophie and Henry are down in the dry bed.  Occasional puddles were all that was left.

2011summerwalk6Same creek today:

big creek floodedThe trench she is standing in in the first one is somewhere in the center of the second one, over where those bubbles are towards the right—that’s where the fasts moving stuff is.  Really fast.  Holy crap.

And did you hear that it got up to almost 40 degrees today AT THE NORTH POLE?  And the sun isn’t even rising at all there right now.  Plus: it was 45 in Los Angeles—glamorous people were dressed like it was the tundra, kind of funny.  Except that LA should never be nearly the temperature of the North Pole.  Not ever. Those should never be even close.  This is freaking me out.

But listen to this, distract yourself with our tale of absurd accidental Christmas abundance.  Our iPad 2, a Christmas gift from Grandma back in 2011, has been on its last legs, limping along.  We also got an iPad Mini the following Christmas, 2012, but it got wet last year and started acting like it was demon possessed, randomly zipping through websites and apps without anyone touching the screen.  I thought fixing up the big iPad would be a nice Christmas thing, reset it, update it, clear out the photos, etc.  Whatever.  So I fixed it up.  Wrapped it.  Put it under the tree.

Unbeknownst to me, Supercoolhubby had also identified the iPad as a Christmas-upgrade-needed situation.  Only he went the refurbished route and found an iPad 4 for $200 bucks.  (Score!) He didn’t, however, know I’d fixed the other one.  So, new-to-us iPad.  Wrapped.  Under the tree.

At the same time, my sister won a brand new iPad Mini in a raffle and didn’t need it.  She’s sensible and realized that one person only needs one tablet, and she already had one.  So she gave the mini to us.  Wrapped, under the tree.

Plus I got Sophie a phone this year, her first, Moto G (its water proof!), Republic Wireless, $10/mo for unlimited talk and text, seamless wifi-to-cell hand-off so you use way less cell data, no contract, in other words SUPER CHEAP phone, yay!  Wrapped, under the tree!  (I’ve been with them since the summer, fabulous, I highly recommend checking them out.)

So.  Christmas morning.  We just. kept. unwrapping. iThings.

And then old iPad Mini started working again!  Out of the blue!  Luc says he did an exorcism on it.

Are you keeping count?  That means Christmas day we went from two mostly broken iPads to FOUR working iPads.  Plus three phones, four computers (the two the kids and I built, and two Macbooks), and oh, Luc and I have old iPod Touches we still use for certain things…and a partridge in a pear tree.

See?  See?  Absurd!  We were cracking up, as it went on each present, no matter its shape, we started expecting iPads.  Another one!  And another!  We just stack ’em up like firewood around here.

ipad assortment(The hole in the upper right would be for my phone, which I used to take the picture.  Plus there is Husband’s old iPhone 3 that Sophie still uses as an ipod sometimes.  We didn’t bother to go through the rain to get it in the Noah house for the photo….)

Actually, we need some firewood, supposed to get cold next week.  My great aunt says thunder in winter means snow within ten days.  One of those old weather folk-sayings.  It surely was thundering today.  Maybe it will get cold again at the North Pole?

Either way, I can now check the weather on four tablets, three phones, two pcs, two macbooks, or two ipods. Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  It’s embarrassing.  Accumulation over years.  Generous relatives. And I guess we’re good about not dropping them.

If weird climate change is linked to ipad possession, I hang my head in shame.

garmin vivofit fitness tracker exit interview after wearing it for a year

I just looked up my old Vivofit review (with Ashtanga Primary heartrate chart! very cool) and realized almost a year has gone by since I got the thing. Wow, that was absurdly fast.  But the point is, the Vivofit has been on my wrist this whole time, and I’m about to replace it.  So, the burning question that I’m sure must be on everyone‘s mind: what turned out to be the best feature of the Vivofit (and therefore possibly, something to look for in future devices) that kept me using it for a whole year?

Was it the fancy heartrate monitoring?  Was it the sleek design?  Was it the accuracy of the algorithms?

Nope.  It was the battery life.  And being waterproof.

I did not expect that.

Basically, the history of my use of the Vivofit has been a progressively diminishing giving-a-shit about what the Vivofit can do.  Let me explain.  First I gave up on sleep tracking (no actionable data).  That only took a week.  Next I tossed the distance and calorie burns, because distance was too meta, and calorie burn was always pretty much the same: I’m a creature of habit, apparently.  My metabolism is boring.

Next—and this surprised me—I tossed the heart-rate strap, and therefore all the “work-out event” monitoring.

Wait, what?!  Heart-rate monitoring was why I bought the damn thing in the first place!

But it turns out I’m really annoyed by my heart-rate strap.  Especially in the winter (it’s cold when you put it on!) and besides that, it’s uncomfortable (especially when doing yoga).  I probably only used the heart-rate tracking for a month (maybe two?) before I quit.

Man, I should have just gotten a pedometer.

But tossing the heart-rate monitoring meant the app pretty much went by the wayside, too.  Not enough left to track to bother, and I was never into the whole competitive aspect of leader boards and such.

Which left steps.

Oh, and the watch.

But step-awareness, yeah, that has become a part of my life.  Kind of funny, really, because that was the thing I was least invested in to begin with…but it’s the thing I’m still doing.  Life is weird.  But yeah, I park the car in the furthest part of the lot so I can get some steps.  It takes about ten steps from a cold start to get the Viviofit to register, and so I have this idiotic behavior now where I add  a couple of steps (walking past the target and doubling back if needed) to get to ten or eleven when I’m moving around the yurt, or grocery shopping, or whatever.  I walk in wavy lines to get more steps when taking Henry down the drive for a quick pee (cheating? or genius?)(Henry hates this).  I also now know it’s 100 steps to the end of the drive, 100 more to the neighbor’s drive, 400 to the pond, 500 to the big creek, 1400 to the big tree and back.  And an all important 12 from the bed to the fridge.  It’s a game—or at least a mini-game—and I’m playing it.  Still.

And, as part of this, surprisingly, I do still try to get that red bar off the screen.  It’s the last remaining feature of the Vivofit that I still engage with. At least once a day I find myself pacing around or taking Henry out, just to clear that stupid red bar.  And it seemed like a silly gimme at the beginning, the least important feature.  (Besides the watch.  Which I’ve gotten used to having on my wrist now.  Never worn a watch before.  It’s actually kind of handy.)  Stupid red bar is stupidly effective all these months later.  Go figure.

But the reason I’m still wearing the Vivofit and counting steps and clearing the red bar?  It’s because the battery needs no charging, plus I can wear the dang thing in the bath.  Which means I never have to take it off or do anything to it.  Zero effort.

Zero effort turns out to be the Vivofit’s killer feature.

In fact, it’s more effort to take it off than it is to leave it on and keep using it.   Which I’m certain is why I still am.

The battery life seemed like a nice extra when I bought it.  Yet it’s turned out to be the most important thing.

But…..the label started peeling up last week.  And yeah, I’ve got a hard on for the Apple Watch even though I have no idea why or what I’d use it for—I don’t even have an iPhone so I couldn’t even use it if I got one.  But looking at the Applewatch led me to looking around at the State Of The Wearable Market and I found that the whole optical wrist heart-rate tracking thing has improved in the last year and…it makes me want to upgrade.  Not to the Applewatch (too expensive! too ridiculous!).  But something, maybe.  I like this game, I do. But it’s got to be something that requires no cold plastic thing strapped on under my boobs.

Anyway, thank you Vivofit for hanging out with me for a year and getting me to walk more, including my standing desk and running (jogging, really) a few times a week, and parking in the far corner at the grocery store.  It’s been fun.  Really.  It’s me, not you.

we’re snowed in so we built a computer, plus unschooling “screentime”

Forget a room for every kid: in the yurt we go by the 21st century axiom of a computer (and an internet connection) for every kid, as just basic life gear.

To this end, last year we built a gaming machine that…turned out to be Luc’s machine.  And after a year of being very cool about taking the old, lame computer, it seemed clear that it was Sophie’s turn to have a new, blazing fast computer.  She isn’t quite the gamer that Luc is, but she puts in hours a day doing her artwork using Photoshop for digital painting.  And two computers would mean no more scratching each other’s eyes out negotiating for time on the good machine!

HELL YEAH.

Like last time, we used Pcpartpicker.com to assemble a list of components and to track their prices over time.  When the total dropped under our budget ($700) we pulled the trigger.  Here is the pcpartpicker page for our new machine.  That site is so awesome!  You can look at other builds, read reviews, compare prices.  Really a terrific resource.

Parts!  Once they all came in the mail (mostly from amazon) we just waited for a good day for digging into the project.  Nothing like a snowstorm to clear your calender.

2nd computer 1

Assembling!

2nd computer 2

That’s Luc and me putting in the video card (we got a nice one, WOOT).  We chose a tiny (micro-atx) case because of limited space under the desk—side effect, it was tricky getting things in.  Small hands were a big plus.

Here are the insides: SPAGHETTI MONSTER.  Yes, I hang my head in shame at this, and can only say in my defense that, in this tiny case, you can’t run any of your cords behind the motherboard, so they all end up under the drive bays.  Oh well, when we turned it on, it worked (we cheered), and that’s the main thing.

2nd computer 3

Here it is in its shelf under the desk.  Sophie say the blue lights give us ambiance.

2nd computer 4

And here we have the dueling machines.  No more fighting over turns, plus they can play each other in games with multiplayer modes.  HUGE WIN.2nd computer 5

We have friends who are “anti-screen” and I really like them, but man I don’t understand that line of thinking.  Limiting computer exposure seems like dolling out a huge handicap to people growing up these days.

Plus there is this focus on the device, and an ignoring of the activities being done on the device.  They see “screens” when the activities can be as diverse as reading a book, drawing a picture, talking on the phone, playing a game, etc etc.  If a gal did all of those things in one day (happens all the time), someone might say, wow, they did a lot.  If she did it all on a computer, a screen-phobic person might say “too much screentime!”   Yet, if she had done the same activities using a paperback, a sketchbook, writing a letter, and playing cards, would that say person say, “too much papertime!” ?

Why this preference for dead trees over pixels?  Look at the activity and the mind and happiness of the person doing it, not the interface, that’s what I say.

Anyway, hopefully these computers will last the kids for a few years.  Although even in one year, I can see the difference in power between the two machines.  The tech is advancing so fast.  Indeed, I’m super excited about the HoloLens and similar devices, and how other wearables are coming along.  It’s Marvel’s Ironman style computers (holographs you manipulate with your hands) only you wear goggles to see what you’re doing.  Very cool!

I suspect that in ten years such holographic glasses will be the standard interface, and “screentime” will be a moniker of the past.  Parents will have to freak out about limiting goggle-time I guess.

Listen, if there is any downside (what are the fears, addiction, social backwardness, isolation?) to kids having unlimited access to what they want to do (computer, video game, art supplies, books, tv, movies, manga, yada yada, we see them all as part of an array of Stuff To Do around here) then my kids ought to be exhibiting those problems.  But they don’t.  Therefore, screens aren’t the cause of those problems.  Basic logic.

GAH, one more rant: I hear parents struggling to find the right amount (an hour a day? three hours a day? none?) of computer time for their kids, but to that I say NO.  Wrong question!  The question isn’t the amount, it’s WHO IS DECIDING THAT AMOUNT.  And for whom.  You can’t figure yourself out if you can’t decide for yourself.  Better to get to know what works for you, on your own, when the stakes are low.  Not when you’re suddenly released into the wild at 18 and trying drinking for the first time.  Let ’em figure out their own “right amount.” Don’t presume to know someone else’s “right amount.”

Okay, enough soapbox.

Have fun!  Learn!  Make cool stuff!  Go at it full tilt if that’s what you love, the interface is not important. Playing is learning!  That’s my motto.

I’ll leave you with one of Sophie’s recent drawings, done on the new computer with a Wacom tablet.  She loves making characters like this from scratch, designing their clothes, their expressions.  Each one takes many hours of work.  Actually her work ethic on these (self-chosen) projects is amazing.  (How would it help her to keep her from her chosen materials by limiting her “screentime”?)

girl with ears and scabard on backSO CUTE.

Edited to Add: I inadvertently made a huge addition to this in the comments (about ipads), it makes a good continuation of the computer rant, if you’re so inclined to hear more.

Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker review…plus! heartrate and calorie burn of Ashtanga Yoga

[Updated 5/7/2015, one year of wearing the Vivofit.]

You know I’m a gadget whore.  So when I got a chance to play around with a Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker, of course, I got to experimenting, starting with several Ashtanga Primary yoga sessions.  This post will start with the Vivofit review, then move to what I found out about my yoga practice.  Proceed as you see fit.  And if you know Primary, definitely scroll down to see the cool graph.

The Vivofit

The Vivofit tracks your movement with an accelerometer (super cool demo of how an accelerometer works) and your heart-rate if you pair it with an ANT heart-rate monitor—which I happened to already have, yay!  Between the two sensors, the device attempts to give you actionable data about your steps taken, distance walked, your sleep, and your daily calorie burn.  I don’t know how they crunch the numbers to come up with all that, but they give it a fair go.  The Vivofit also has some motivational “Move More!” features, like the Bar O’ Shame, as well as software to connect you up with people you know for competitive challenges, etc.  More about that in a minute.

First Steps. I think the whole concept of “steps” is not so much about the actual number of physical steps you take, but more an attempt to quantify movement. This makes some sense as the majority of people’s daily life centers around walking and sitting.  And in the gamification of fitness—which is think is one of the main goals of fitness trackers—moving more is the goal, the Vivofit is a score keeper, and “steps” are the points.  However “steps” aren’t the best or only way, of course, since, for example, cycling, swimming, and yoga (all my kinds of exercise, boo) use no steps, and so don’t get counted.

But steps are what we’ve got.

Having said that, the Vivofit’s counting of steps seems (1) very accurate if striding in a regular manner, as on a walk (100 steps will read as 99 or 100 or 101, or so), (2) accurate-ish if taken in a general sense over the course of a day, and (3) downright terrible if taken over a few minutes of start-and-stop walking as one does in the house while, say, cleaning up, or grocery shopping.  This is especially true if you have a small house (re: yurt) where you (and by you, I mean me) never really take more than seven or eight steps in a row (before coming to a wall) and often less.

The Vivofit also miss-counts if you are a ninja and sneak around a lot.  It is perfectly possible to take a hundred steps lightly and sneakily, and slip past the notice of the Vivofit.  Wake up, Vivofit!  Pay attention!

I think “steps” are best used as a number compared to itself, as in: did I move more or less than yesterday?  What’s my score?  For this, the Vivofit is pretty fun, as long as you don’t sweat the details.

Speaking of steps, let me jump over to one of the motivational features of the Vivofit that I find surprisingly effective: a red bar that appears over your step count if you haven’t moved (taken a registered step) in the last hour.  Oh the shame of it!  I’m surprised at how compelling this shaming is!  Much more than praising, a la fitness trackers that give you an increasing bar showing you how many steps you’ve taken and how close you are to your goal, like a glass of water being filled up as the day progresses.  I’ve found I have no problem ignoring those pat-on-the-back indicators.  (Tracker: “Come on, Maya, you’ve done so well, just a bit more!” Me: “Buggar off.”) but man, that red bar shows up, and I’m up taking Henry on a walk right away.  AH!  The Red Bar!  Quick, Henry, we’ve got to go!

Henry is so confused lately.  “Why are we walking again?” he says with his big brown eyes.  “Didn’t we just do this?”  “Yes, Henry, sorry to interrupt your nap, but there’s this red bar, you see….”

Distance is, I reckon, the Vivofit making a guess based on average stride length times your “steps” score.  Meh.  It’s kind of fun for a second to say, oh, cool, I walked X.Y miles today!  But I have no idea how close it is to reality and I don’t really care.  As with “steps”, it’s more valuable as a comparative than as an absolute value.  If you really want to know how many miles you actually walked, get a GPS watch.  But it’s nice, a bit of psychological lift, giving a physical distance to all those “steps” to try to make them seem more real.

For Sleep, you tell the Vivofit when you’re going to bed by holding down the button past the SYNCH screen and into the SLEEP screen.  You deactivate sleep-mode when you wake up.  While you sleep it tracks your movements…by which you can infer the depth of your sleep, I guess.  I don’t really get much from any of this.  Perhaps if it was really extreme in one direction or the other, lots of movement (“Oh, yeah, I really tossed and turned last night,”) or very little movement (“Slept like a log…”) it would be corroborative, but who cares?  I don’t see how I would use that information for anything, honestly.

Experiment time!  What happens if I sleep with my heart-rate monitor on?  Yes, I did this.  It was cool as far as it went—my heart-rate bobbed around 70 for about an hour and then zoom! shot up to 100 for about fifteen minutes…then back down.  A dream?

Unfortunately, the heartrate monitor quit after 90 minutes.  Maybe the contacts didn’t stay connected?  Bummer.  Maybe I’ll try again.  Duct tape?  No, that’s probably going too far….

Calorie Burn comes next.  The Vivofit gives a guess about calorie burn based on age, weight, and “steps.”  But an accelerometer just gives data about motion, it can’t tell anything about effort.  For example, lifting a feather and lifting a twenty pound weight are basically the same motion, even though one takes more work (and presumably uses more calories).   Same with yoga—holding navasana is nearly zero motion, but some serious effort…and the accelerometer alone can’t detect it.  Add the heart rate monitor, however, and the picture improves.  Now it can tell something about how hard my body is working and, presumably, the calories burned number gets more accurate.

There’s no way for me to know how accurate, of course, but, as with “steps,” it’s probably valuable in relation to itself.  The Vivofit told me last night that the hour of easy biking on the trainer while I watched Veronica Mars burned 400ish calories.  That’s a heck of lot more than it’s telling me I’m burning sitting here typing this.  I mean, duh, I already know that, but putting numbers to it gives it heft and weight and lets me put it on colorful, motivating graphs.

I love colorful, motivating graphs!

Which brings me to the Garmin Connect software.  It works, I haven’t had any problems.   Synching is very easy, either with my ipod 5 or directly to my Macbook.  As for the social part, I couldn’t care less about competing with anyone else or posting my “steps” or activities, etc., so that component doesn’t do anything for me.  But the software does make some nice graphs and pie-charts, for example, the heart-rate graph that I post an example of below.  I like me some graphs.

What would make the Vivofit better for me

Biggest one: if there was a way to pair the Vivofit data with something like LoseIt, an app for tracking calories IN, that would be cool, and much more useful than just the calorie OUT info that the Vivofit offers.  Calories expended is, after all, only half the picture.  It’d be compelling if I had both in one place, with more of those colorful graphs.  Maybe they are working on it.

Second, if there was a way to get some “steps,” that is, some “credit,” some POINTS, for swimming in my pond, riding on my trainer, or doing yoga, that would be a big plus. To have a relatively complete picture of my daily activity, it really has to include these things.  Yes, I can put on my heart-rate monitor for improved calorie tracking during these times (except the swimming), but still.  In the game of Vivofit, I want my points, people.

But here’s what I realized:  I already know I’m active during those times.  After a week on the Vivofit, the All Mighty Graphs have shown me that 30% of my time is spent sleeping (or in bed awake), 10% of my time is spent “lightly active” by which I think it means walking around, and 4-5% or so is “highly active” by which I think it means my heart rate is elevated zone 2 or beyond.  It’s the remaining 50freaking% where I’m sitting on my ass, reading, writing, hanging with the kids, and driving, that could use some attention.

I mean, I do all this active stuff….but that still means I’m 50% sedentary.   Crap!  To the rescue comes the Red Bar O’ Shame and walking Henry or something comparable, once an hour to break up the physical inertia.  As a result, I’m definitely moving more.  And possibly upping the amount of low-level daily motion is, in some ways, more valuable than increasing the intensity of the hour or two a day I spend exercising.

A few bits and bobs.  The Vivofit doesn’t need to be charged!  Big Plus!  It runs on a coin battery, which should last a year.  Also, it’s water proof, so you can swim/bathe in it.  These two together mean you really can pretty much put it on and leave it on.  It’s a watch, too, so that’s useful.

It doesn’t have a backlight, which might bother some.  For me it’s irrelevant.  The only time I’m in the dark is when I’m sleeping and I don’t need to know my step count then.

Bottomline: For tracking actual hard-data numbers for various activities, the Vivofit is pretty bad.  But for addressing that sedentary 50% and getting me moving more during those non-exercising, sedentary parts of my day, the Vivofit is pretty good.

Having written that, I can’t help but think of people who do physical labor for subsistence living and I imagine how NUTS this whole thing must seem to them.  Rich, fat Americans wear devices on their wrists to remind them to moveWhaaaat?  Yeah.  We kind of do.  It’s fun, a game we play with ourselves.  I can’t explain it.

Anyway.  ON TO THE YOGA.

Ashtanga on the Vivofit

Having just said that the Vivofit numbers seem relatively iffy to me, I’m still going to give you some.

Context.  I’m a 43 year old, 115 pound woman doing an easy-going, full Primary series with 5 years of Ashtanga experience and conditioning under my belt (so it isn’t killing me to get through it any more, if that makes sense).  I don’t work super hard because I’m concerned about injuries (at my age they take forever to heal)(and I’m also lazy), but I work hard enough to feel tired and a bit rubbery at the end.  I do not do vinyasa on alternate sides (to save my wrists), something I picked up from David Williams.  But still, I have to keep it moving pretty briskly to get through all those asana in 60 minutes.

Note: Ashtanga is a meditative practice, a breathing practice, for some a spiritual practice.  For me, too!  But it is also a physical practice and sometimes it can be fun to look at it from that angle.  So don’t get weirded out by me looking at ashtanga as exercise for a few minutes.  I’m not saying it isn’t all those other things.  /end note.

Okay!  Given all of that context….

The Vivofit says the calorie burn for my one hour primary varies from 180 to 240.  (These numbers from four tracked primaries this past week).  (Number does not include basal metabolic burn.)

So low!  Seriously?!  Because if you’ve done Ashtanga, you know it’s an intense freaking practice.  You might be as surprised as I was by these low numbers.  Is this a casualty of the intensity problem, i.e. asana are motion-less, even if you are working very hard, and so don’t read as “high effort” to a tracker?  Maybe.  But this data was gathered while paired with the heart-rate monitor, so it should be more accurate to effort.  (“Steps” are irrelevant, obviously, although the Vivofit registers a hundred or so.)

So what about that heart-rate?  I’ve crudely tracked heart-rate during Primary once before, but that was me writing down my HR at various points as the practice progressed.  Here we can get a continuous line graph….

Heartrate during ashtanga primary

Isn’t this a cool graph?  I find it cool, anyway.

And I can start to see why the calorie burn might be lower than I thought.  During yoga, we see my heart spending some time at 120 (hopping up for each vinyasa, for example), but it spends just as much time below 100 (dropping down for each forward bend).  Let’s compare that to the bike trainer ride I did last night, about 60 minutes at a fairly steady heart-rate of 120 while I watched tv, or twice as much net time at 120 as the yoga practice.  The Vivofit says an hour of 120 bpm cycling on the trainer burns around 400 calories for me.  Twice as much.  Twice the heart-rate, twice the calories?

(And then there are rides where I do intervals that pop me up to 170…haven’t tried one of those on the Vivofit yet.  Maybe tonight…?)

What’s interesting to me is that despite this apparent difference in calorie burn and heart-rate, I get off the bike energized (if sweaty), whereas after my yoga practice, I’m relatively wiped and have to recover.  I wonder what’s going on there?  Are all these numbers bunk?  Or is yoga more exhausting for some obvious reason I’m missing?

So there you have it.  My experiment this week attempting to quantify my yoga practice. I’m going to call it…inconclusive.

Oh no!  Since I’ve been writing this, the RED BAR OF SHAME has popped up!  Come on Henry, quick!

become untethered! LG Tone cordless bluetooth headsets are awesome

I went looking for cordless earbuds because I wanted to hear my yoga videos without having to negotiate jumpbacks with a cord dangling about my person.  I also wanted to cycle (on a trainer with TrainerRoad) to my beloved Sufferfest videos without a cord going from my ear to my  laptop, probably resulting in me pulling the laptop off the shelf by my bike and crashing it to the ground, whereupon I would have to commit hari kari because, as a writer, I cannot live without my laptop.

Anyway, I found several cordless earbud setups out there, but most were $100 (too much for me) and didn’t give the option of dangling one earbud out without destabilizing the whole deal.  The LG Tone Wireless Bluetooth headset is around $50 (hmm, seems to have gone up to $60 since I got mine) and has this odd neck portion that acts as a homebase for the earbuds, a system that works surprisingly well.   I may have purchased these earbuds for my athletic pursuits, but I like them so much  I find I wear them all the time for audiobooks, podcasts, and music…I even find myself wearing them when I’m not listening to anything at all, but might want to later.  Which is…kind of weird.  I guess I like to be prepared.

lg tone headset and momoIsn’t this a cute picture of MoMo?  Sophie took it.  I’m listening to a Japanese podcast through the LG Tone thingies (it’s kind of stupid name, I dunno, I feel stupid saying “LG Tone.”  Whatever).  Okay, see around my neck, that black, shiny thing?  A short, black cord goes from that around-the-neck-thing up to each earbud.  On the neck-thing there are volume controls and skip-forward/skip-backward buttons, which is nice.  It connects through bluetooth to the ipod in my pocket.

Cool feature: the yellow tips of the neck-thing are magnetic, so when you don’t want one or both earbuds actually in your ears, you can pull ’em and they suck into the neck-thing where they are magnetically held in place.  This is great for me because I often want to be able to hear the kids with one ear while I’m listening to my ipod with the other ear.   This is such an improvement over the old strategy of tucking one or both earbuds into my bra strap where they would inevitably end up in my armpit.  Magnetic earbud holders for the win!

lg-tone-wireless-bluetooth-stereo-headset-black-alternate-view_2Although the neck thing is a little dorky looking.  All winter it was completely concealed because I tend to wear a scarf around my neck from November to March.  No one knew I was wearing the neck-thing on under there.  But now that it’s warming up, the neck-thing is much more visible.  Not sure if this will matter to me, although I’ve noticed people looking at it curiously in the grocery line.

Very important: it’s super comfortable.  As in, I completely forget I’m wearing it.  It is a bendy, soft, wire, not a hard loop.  It just drapes around your neck, no bother.  I often find I’m taking it off when I’m getting into the bath, after having worn it all day.  Ready to ipod at a moment’s notice….

It plugs in to get a charge—I’ve never had it run out of charge so I’m not sure how long it lasts, but it seems to be several days of on/off use through the day.  The sound is good—I’m no audiophile, but it works, no crackles or hissing, music is enjoyably clear.

Most important: For cycling, the LG Tone is perfect.  For yoga, it’s pretty damn good.  It’s stellar for vinyasa.  It flops around a bit for standing forward bends (when your head goes upside down), although hasn’t come off yet and it works fine, I just notice it flopping at that moment.  It disappears for standing poses and the seated poses and the jumpbacks between them.  But it has to be tucked into my tank-top strap for a minute, or taken off completely during backbends to keep from falling off, and it tends to fall off for inversions, so I usually take it off for Finishing.  Nothing’s perfect.

Still, it definitely solved the problem I bought it for—a comfortable, cordless alternative to regular earbuds that I stays on for (most) of my active stuff.   I’m pleased.

Sidenote for phone users: you can answer calls with it, and talk.  That seems pretty cool, as you wouldn’t have phone rays zapping your brain.  I don’t have a phone so I can’t comment on quality.

Tech note: I have paired it with all our ipods, ipads, and my Macbook, no problems, although sometimes I have to turn things off and on again to get them to repair if I’m switching to a new device, or press and hold the phone button while turning on the headset to get it to pair to additional devices. The ring around the phone button will flash blue, which is kind of stupid since your finger will cover the lighted ring when you’re pressing down. But even so, it’s easy. And I f it’s the same device as I was using last time, I just make sure the headset is switched on and go to setting to tell the device to connect.  No bother.

Recommended!  I haven’t used my regular earbuds since I got these.   Except when my daughter is using them and won’t give return them.  “They’re just so much better,” she says.   Yeah, gimme those back, kid.

internet orgies are good for you. really.

I woke up this morning with the song of angels in my head.  I took Henry out for a poop and the whole world looked gorgeous, the birds sang, the dogwoods bloomed, spring sparkled…I felt so grand I put on party clothes, not the cocktail party kind, not the birthday party kind, but the internet party kind: pajamas.  Specifically my cupcakes lounge pants and my semi-translucent (i.e. can’t wear it out of the house) dragonfly tank-top with the dragonfly stamp that Sophie made when she was seven, that’s right I’m wearing pink cupcakes as I type these words, because the majestic internet has returned to me, blessings be to the almighty web.pants2

Looking back on our near month of no internet, I see that I fell into a depression.  It can be summed up in two words: why bother.  I felt dumb for being so affected by such a dumb first world problem, but I was.  I was on the cusp of giving my Japanese study (no kanji SRS), my yoga practice (no yoga blogs, no how-to videos, no inspiration), my writing was suffering (full of XXX where I needed to do a piece of research), home schooling life was on hold (no looking shit up 100 times a day). etc, and by the end I said to Paul, “If this goes on much longer, I’m just going to have to give up my old life.”  Because I couldn’t do my old life without internet and it was too exhausting to try to limpingly keep it going with internet cafes.  I was pathetic, it’s true.

I wonder what new life I would have come up with?  Maybe I would have grown vegetables and learned calligraphy.  Maybe I would have Walked the Earth.

But now we’ll never know because I’m texting, I’m emailing, I’m blogging, I’m looking shit up, one of my favorite activites—information and art, give it to me now!  Shovel it in till I’m groggy and bloodshot!  The new interent connection is 12 Mbps, wow, it is so fast, videos load in a second, it’s amazing.  Now finally I will find out the etymology of umbrella, where you punch someone to kill them in one hit, and why backbendspring2011rainbows are curved.  These are some of the questions on the long piece of paper the kids and I added to every time we wanted to look something up but couldn’t.  Today, we will start working down the list.  There are 127 items to go.

Here’s a question: why do the fuckers at internet tech support goad you by saying in chirpy recorded voices, “for faster service, check our website at ….”  WHEN YOU’RE CALLING BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO INTERNET???

But who cares because today, I’m so happy I could sing.  Sophie says, “What’s with you?  You’re wearing pink.”  Luc answers, without looking up from his ipad, “It’s cause of the internet.” Knowing nod.  “Oooh.”   Is this stupid or what?  Maybe it’s addiction.  I kind of don’t believe in addiction, but maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is it.  If so, Imma gonna die addicted.  They can pry my internet out of my cold dead fingers.

 

our interent is BACK, thanks to awesome tech guys who ROCKED

Okay, yesterday I complained about AT&T and the god-awful process we’ve had of getting our internet turned on.  Today I am going to go the other way and sing the praises of the three tech guys who worked for two long days to solve a crazy list of problems and finally got us the near-impossible high-speed internet out here in the boondocks.  They were all kinds of awesome.  Thank you guys, Eddie, Robert, and Danny!!!!  Seriously they went way above and beyond—when it looked like it was going to be a no-go, after three weeks of waiting no less, they got some new ideas about how to make it work and they did it.  Tramping through the woods, finding buried cable, installing a new high-tech card that could push the signal further, I don’t even know what all else.  Totally terrific work from them.  Huge kudos and thanks from us.

And I’m back!!! Man, it’s like sliding back into a tub of hot water, my muscles relaxing, dry information antennae uncurling and opening out….

three weeks of NO internet and counting

Today, three weeks (!!!) after AT&T insisted that we cancel our old internet service in order to initiate the installation of our new internet service, we had our very first visit from an actual live technician.   No, he was not able to get our new service set up (because “the box is a mess” meaning the large steel box about a mile and half from here that is apparently the central hub for the area), but progress was made (“Yeah, the progress was that I discovered a big problem.”).   I was so happy to have an actual technician finally come out, I didn’t even care.

AT&T has stood us up for every appointment they have made with us, except that last one, and never called back any of the times they said they would call.  Honestly, this process with AT&T has been the single worst customer service experience I have ever had with any company, ever, in my forty-three years.  While 9 of the 10 individual people I have dealt with have done there darndest to help me out, “the system” has persistently blocked them, messed up, canceled appointments, etc. Indeed, this very morning when we were waiting for the third appointment for a tech, I decided to call and double-check that someone was really coming…and the gal said, “I have no record of that appointment being made.”  Unbelievable!  My head nearly exploded!

Why the heck are we switching?  Our old company could only offer 1.5 Mgps and AT&T lured us with 12 Mgps (for half the money).  1.5 to 12 is a big freaking jump.  If we ever get it.

But whatever, finally a guy did come.  Maybe he’ll return in the morning to finish the job?  I’m sitting here at the internet cafe across from Sophie who is drawing a chicken.  I feel completely disconnected from my life.  I’m shocked at how many people say things like, “Oh, I wouldn’t miss it,” or “I bet you’ll be glad for the break by the time you get it back,” or even, “must be nice!  You can engage with the real world!”  A hearty NO to all of those thoughts.  Seriously, I kind of want to punch these people, all of whom have internet….

Sorry for the rant.  Maybe I’ll be back up and running in the next day or two.  Maybe then I’ll be less crabby.

all right, who was it?

After two and a half weeks we still have no internet and none is coming until May, can you believe that absurdity, in this day and age, all because AT&T lies.  But that’s another rant post.  Instead, I’ll tell you about one non-internet way to spice up an evening: the handy dandy whoopie cushion.

That’s right, poot jokes, FTW!  After the second appointment for the Great Internet Restoration was also canceled (not by us!) and the new appointment was a further two weeks into the future, depression would not be too strong a word for the mood around the yurt.  It was an emergency.  Enter the whoopy cushion and and endless stream of one or the other of us saying, “Oh, I think I’ll just SIT HERE and [activity of choice]…” PHTTHPPPTHTH!!!!

Giggle, giggle, giggle.

Okay, after and hour of on and off poot jokes, it was getting pretty tiresome.  But there we all were, doing our various non-internet related activties, when the cushion goes off.

We all look around.  There was no set up, no overly loud “I’ll just sit right here…”, no giggling.  Who was it?

That’s when we realized.  IT WAS HENRY!!

That’s right, our adorable dog sat, of his own free-will, on the abandoned whoopie cushion and then looked around like, “huh? what was that?”

HAHAHAHAHA.  We were DYING we were all laughing so hard.

 Henry and the whoopie cushion

He’s so cute.

In between whoopie cushion usage, we’re continuing to make daily treks to internet cafes, libraries, and various hot spots for a hour or so of connectivity, where I cram in as many tasks in as possible.  It’s starting to be the new routine.  If my calculations are correct, a month of no internet at home will cost us about $60 in gas for driving to wifi.

Crazy.

 

still no internet

One more week!!!! Can you believe that?  How can I not have internet for 15 entire days?  I feel like such a tool for being so annoyed about this when some people have bombs dropping on their cities, or are hungry, or have kids with fatal diseases.  I’ll be back soon, though, I promise.  Regular internet returns next Friday, or so they are now promising. *grrrrrr*