Using the Apple Watch for Cycling

Apple’s new watch arrived on my wrist a few days ago (thanks, Jeremiah!). I enjoy it and while a lot has been written about it, it’s been written from the standpoint of pasty white guys. I’m a tanned white guy, because I cycle, and the fitness aspects are important to me.

The fitness apps and hardware of the watch are in the same vein as a lot of other tracker devices, like the Fitbit and Jawbone UP. I’ve since given up on those devices a year or more ago because I found the data they collected wasn’t easily manipulated or helpful. It was never helpful to see a graph of how many steps I took because it was really just a graph showing how many places I had to be that day. I, like most people, don’t wake up and say, “Okay, I have to walk X steps today.” Walking is not the end-all-be-all of exercise.

Apple Watch’s value to me is in the heart rate monitor, the ability to calculate calorie burn, and whether it can change the right kind of behavior.

I commute daily by bike. I do not set goals when biking, I just bike. Apple Watch puts the option to set a goal (either by calorie, time, or distance). Which is great if you actually set a goal. But at the very end of the workout cycling options is a “no goal” option, where you just start it and it go and when you’re done it stops and tells you what you did. This is a lot like Strava.

Strava vs. Apple Fitness

And speaking of Strava, the only thing Strava gives me that Apple’s fitness app doesn’t is a map of my ride. But my rides are boring because they’re always the same. So I don’t care so much about that which is why I’ve stopped using Strava. I don’t get much help out of the social aspect of it, either, since none of my friends bike nearly as much as I do.

If you care about the social aspect or mapping parts of Strava, stick with it. Otherwise, since Strava can dump data into Apple’s Health app and Health can also pull from the watch, you’re not missing much if you switch.

Apple Watch for weight loss

The kicker for anyone interested in weight loss is measuring calories in and out. Trackers like the Fitbit and UP can get close on calories, but only if you’re walking or running. When it comes to cycling they’re useless.

Because your wrists (or hips, in the case of Fitbit) are primarily steady on the handle bars or seat of a bike, they don’t record steps. Apple Watch, however, is crazy accurate between the phone’s GPS, its heart rate monitor, and the ability to know my current weight, height, speed, distance traveled, and processing power.

For weight loss and calorie burning calculations, Apple Watch is far and away superior. When it comes to calorie intake, I’ve long found that frustrating and hard and Apple doesn’t have a solution of their own. I’m currently testing’s MyPlate app. But it still runs into problems of how to calculate what a homemade taco is worth.

Battery life is a concern

Reviewers have mentioned they haven’t run into battery life problems with the watch, but the last couple of days I’ve been around 10% by bedtime. Last night I was at 7%.

I don’t cling to the watch all day. I use it respectably and about as much as any reasonable person who receives emails, iMessages, and phone calls would.

But because the reviewers have all mentioned they don’t do heavy fitness work, they don’t run into this problem.

I ride about 15 miles a day at a minimum. When I flip the watch into Fitness mode and start tracking my trip the heart rate sensor is working more heavily, which drains the battery quickly. If I spent time doing a really long bike trip, as I sometimes do in the spring and summer, there’s no doubt it’d quit on me before the end of the day.

For comparison, I get up around 6:30 and the watch is on me from 7 a.m. to about 9:30 p.m.

Walking is evidently exercise now

The watch tracks three activity types: “Stand”, “Move”, and “Exercise”. Standing seems somewhat annoying to me because at the :50 minute mark of each hour it’ll ding me if I haven’t stood up. It’s annoying, but I get it.

“Move” is actually a measure of caloric burn. It’s calculated with resting calorie burn and active calorie burn together.

“Exercise” is what it sounds like: a measure of how much exercise you’ve done.

You can’t change your stand or exercise goals. They’re locked at 12 hours and 30 minutes respectively. You can, however, change your “Move” (the calorie) goal. It defaulted to 400 calories a day for me but I’ve doubled it to 800.

Since I can’t change my exercise goal, I always blow past it every day. The 30 minutes would only be difficult to achieve if you drove every day to a job where you parked right by the door and sat at a desk all day. Which can barely be described as living anyway.

The watch is smart enough to figure out when I’m walking briskly enough to be considered exercise, so it flips into a quasi-fitness mode and does count into that. Today I took the bus downtown and just walking around it put me halfway to completion.

This is troubling to me because somehow walking shouldn’t count as an exercise unless you’re elderly or have some sort of ailment. I don’t even walk that fast (as many can attest to). In my world view you’re not exercising unless your heart rate is elevated. For me, my resting rate is around 67 bpm and my active heart rate is around double that, at 120 bpm. Walking puts me at 80 bpm, which seems weak.

Good for weight loss, clearly mass-market, will be better in time

I think the Apple Watch hits where Apple likes to be: the mass market. Since most people evidently don’t exercise much and have to be goaded into walking more than a block a day, this could change some people’s behavior. For me, it just gives better data points and an accurate calorie calculator, which I’ve always wanted. This week it’s apparent to me that I’m netting about 200 calories a day, which I never really knew before. Some days, like Monday, I was at an 800 calorie deficit.

Battery life is rough on my 38mm model, but I’m sure it’ll get better in future models. The 42mm is probably better, but I have small wrists.

If a vote is cast in the woods, does it alter an election?

The numbers keep shifting a bit, but something like 93% of Marion County didn’t vote Tuesday. It was as low or lower in every other municipality of the state. All told, it was one of the lowest recorded voter turnouts in Indiana in about 25 years.

This is fascinating to me. I didn’t vote, either, for a few reasons:

1. I’m not partisan and have routinely voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians on a slew of offices from local up to the federal level. Indiana’s closed primary doesn’t seem to let me vote.

2. I follow this stuff pretty closely and I didn’t even know who was running. The names are practically interchangeable and I don’t know anything about any of the candidates. Local media isn’t covering it, at least not that I can find, and there’s nothing for me to make an informed decision about.

3. It’s obvious the party has their preferred candidate in most elections and that’s that. Joe Hogsett was slated as the Democratic favorite for Indianapolis Mayor and Chuck Brewer for the Republicans and they both won handily. The other individuals running received so few votes they’re almost within margin-of-error territory.

Given that we don’t have an open primary election, we have to stop wondering why voters don’t turnout. the parties don’t ever promote all their candidates, and the local media wasn’t doing much of a job (at least here in Marion County).

This whole system doesn’t work for us anymore, and it’s broken. There’s a lot of talk about moving the primary or just having the parties slate their candidate and be done with it. There’s value in that, at least from a public funding standpoint. It cost about $15 a vote in some Lafayette races to hold the election.

Lack of caring from the candidates

I recognize that the candidates have a lot to do in addition to their regular day jobs. But there have been times I’ve emailed people, like Zach Adamson, who’s at-large City-County Council seat was removed by the Indiana Legislature (which is another reason local seats don’t matter, when the Legislature can just walk all over everything).

It doesn’t change the fact that candidates have been completely unresponsive.

A bigger problem

The parties are a bit like a mob, choosing their anointed ones and favored individuals. A regularly unheard-of smart person couldn’t just up and run and be very successful. It can happen, but once you hit the scale of Indianapolis, it becomes almost impossible.

I’ve long toyed with the idea of running for an office, but I’m not sure what I’d run for. If I ran for City-County Council, I face a ridiculously well-funded Republican opponent. He’d have to have a sex scandal or something to lose.

If I ran for State Representative I again face a tough challenge, but my would-be opponent is actually pretty solid, so I see no reason to run because I wouldn’t differentiate much.

If I ran for State Senate I’d be running against a woman who has been a Senator for longer than I’ve been alive. Which in itself is reason enough to run, but to mount a credible campaign it would require at least $75,000. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t convince enough people to give me $75,000 for a random Senate district.

And it’s because the parties “don’t hand out support lightly” (their words, not mine). How do you get support? Get in line, work the system, and presumably raise a lot of money.

That’s probably a feature, not a bug.

Mom’s notes to me as a kid, from diagnosis to near death

When I was in 7th-early 9th grade, my mom would write me little notes in lieu of her actually being there. Sometimes this was because her 4 a.m. medications made her so drowsy she couldn’t get up when I did at 6:30 for school. Sometimes it was because she and dad were in Louisville getting radiation treatments. Because of time zone differences and my 4:30 school bus arrival, she was normally not home until around 6 or 6:30.

She didn’t know, nor did anyone else, that I started saving those notes sometime around 8th grade. I’ve had them in a cigar box and have moved them everywhere with me. I’ve never looked at them, never re-read them, or done anything with them until today.

I’ve scanned all these notes. I think I have them in a close chronological order.

Earlier notes seemed to center around me never wearing a coat (I’ve always hated wearing a coat). Many notes regarding plugging and unplugging things is a reality of living in a big empty field: anytime a storm came through we were one strike away from blowing every appliance in the house. Also, we had an air purifier because we had a wood-burning stove for heat, so it was necessary to have an air purifier and air humidifier nearby. Very Little House on the Prairie.

It’s pretty obvious that her once very nice hand writing and spelling were slowly destroyed by the brain tumor. Eventually she stopped because she became self-aware of her own inability to think of the proper words and she eventually went blind. I’ve written about that before.

January 18th is the 13 year anniversary of her death. These are her notes.




















Buying a wedding ring is like buying a used car

Have you ever tried buying an engagement or wedding ring? Good god does that process suck — especially for gay couples.

Here’s how it works for most men:

“Hmm, I think I’ll propose to my girlfriend. I’d better drive to a couple jewelry stores.”

“Welcome sir, can we help you today?”

“Yeah, I’d like to look at engagement rings.”

“Certainly, right this way. Would you like anything to drink?”

And the guy gets the ring, gets down on one knee, yadda yadda.

Here’s how it worked for me:

“I think I’ll propose to my boyfriend. …wait, how does this work?”

I went to the “typical” jewelry stores on the northside like Shane, Jared, Kay, etc.  When you walk in, you feel like you’re about to buy a car. People in suits and dresses that look like suits swarm to you. You’re not allowed to just look at things by yourself.

It was 4:15 on a Saturday afternoon and I walked into Jared. A guy in a suit immediately comes up to me and asks me if he can help. “Yeah, I’m looking for engagement rings.”

“Oh, what’s her name?”

I stopped. Two things ran through my head. First, I was dreading this moment though I had prepared myself for it, but I wasn’t prepared for the guy to be wearing a cross on his necklace. “Shit, this is going to be awkward. Now we have to have a moment. What if this guy reads Drudge? This guy looks like the sort of guy who listens to Limbaugh and screams “JESUS!” like it’s “fire!” in a crowded theater.” The second thing was, “Why did you just ask me that like a dad grinning about his 10 year old son’s first crush?

“Oh, uh, Michelle. Her name is Michelle.”

So there I was looking for rings for my girlfriend Michelle, and listening to this guy drone on about their work and what goes into diamonds. All I could think about was, “Who the hell wears these god awful looking “chocolate diamonds”? It’s a rock, not a Reese’s Pieces.”

So after 15 minutes I managed to say, “I’m just going to look around and if I need anything, I’ll holler.” Then I kinda walked around and noticed that nothing has a price on it, and nothing is labeled clearly for people who don’t really know what they’re looking at.

If there are two kinds of people in the world, those who look at a menu’s food and order what they want vs. those who look at a menu’s prices and order what they want to pay, I’m definitely in the latter.

This process repeated itself at three other stores. Then I went to Shane Co. in Fishers and at 5:01 p.m., when I got there, the doors locked. I guess the next worst thing to banker’s hours are jeweler’s hours.

Eventually I just came home with nothing. I didn’t even have an answer on how the process was supposed to work. Do I get two different rings? Just one? Two of the same? Shouldn’t the engagement rings be “lesser” than the wedding rings?

Ever try Googling “how to propose”, yeah, good look with that. Good luck even with “how to propose gay”. Seriously, don’t search for that last one.

Clearly what I needed was a small, independent, jeweler. So I go looking for those and find places that also buy gold and probably sell you bail bonds all at the same time.

Clearly what I needed was a small, independent, jeweler … in Broad Ripple, Fountain Square, or Irvington.

So I found a couple of individuals: Nick Blum in Broad Ripple and Nancy Lee, just east of Downtown. Both were great to work with, albeit a little untraditional. But for this purpose, I like that. It was during this process I came to realize how awesome it is there really are no rules. I don’t have to do the dumb one knee thing. We don’t have to do a thing in a church with people sitting in rows. We don’t have to have some specific dress code or process. How awesome is that?

So the engagement rings came from Nick, and the wedding rings will come from Nancy, who did some initial drafts and ideas I liked so much I wanted to spend more time getting them right later on.

It’s no surprise that the traditional corporate suits at the usual places weren’t good enough.

An update on lousy reporting

I just read another piece of reporting that made my brain vibrate inside my head (go ahead, read it, I’ll wait. Now ask yourself how the people of Speedway, Beech Grove, Mars Hill, East 10th, or Trader’s Point must feel. Basically it’s a guy waxing about what he wishes his own neighborhood should be like).

I’ve been giving more thought and research to what a “new” news service might look like. My notes, while disparate still, are below.

For now, I’m just going to have to let this project go. Maybe someone else will pick it up and run with it and I’ll wish I had followed through, but it probably won’t happen.

My reasons are many. Like this:

Great ratings don’t come from eight-month special reports on Haiti, O’Donnell said. They come from the television equivalent of must-read newspaper columnists.  People tune in to see what their favorite personalities think. “When you get to 9pm in America … what they’re doing with their remote is ‘I want to know what O’Reilly thinks about this. I want to know what Rachel thinks about this.'”

Plus, I don’t have a big network of people. I’ve consistently foregone thousands of followers and Facebook “friends” in favor of something more realistic and manageable. I don’t have access to money and I have a disdain for debt of any kind.

I am unconvinced there are enough people across Indiana interested enough in paying, supporting, or even viewing much from a small team of people that can’t be achieved by an already existing network of blogs and (for now), Twitter.

I described it to someone yesterday like this: “A couple years ago a tornado hit Pekin, Marysville, and Henryville. Has anyone bothered to check back and see if those people stayed and rebuilt? Did they move, and if so, where and why? There was a flap in some counties that new construction was cost-prohibitive to do because old grandfathered-in septic systems now required more expensive updates. What happened with that? Did the State and FEMA do anything to keep or break their promises?”

I want a smart, slow-news source that asks bigger questions and delivers on some useful data and reporting.

I’m pulling a Jony and saying no to this project for now. Though if you’re reading this and want to bounce ideas or be of assistance, by all means contact me.


What does good local news look like?

Local and regional news outlets across Indiana generally report on egregious crimes (murders, rape, aggravated assaults, etc.), traffic accidents — particularly those causing death, and numerous opinion pieces with decidedly understood political biases.

The region lacks a news source that focuses on individuals, storytelling, and reader-friendly design. To name a few examples: TV news stations that have commercial-laden and buggy video playback, news stories limited by paywalls with arbitrary limits, click-bait headlines, ads in slideshows and the middle of articles, and otherwise amateur website layouts.

Readers deserve clean, fast-loading, easily shareable, and easy-to-read stories. Stories that inform, give perspective, and tell a balanced and fair account of conditions or situations.

Stories should include delightful and helpful features like one-page stories, no slideshow galleries (instead placing images in easy to skim thumbnails), estimated reading time, and responsible, scalable, layouts and typography.

What does the business model look like?

Readers should have a tie to their news sources like they do a local co-op grocery store, with minimal advertisements that are unobtrusive and relevant. News should be disseminated freely and treated like a public good, but because writers, editors, and other staff deserve to be paid fairly, readers should feel encouraged and ready to donate or sponsor.

Monthly subscriptions, possibly starting at $19 a month. Donation drives, sponsored posts written about staff.

What else is there?

A weekly one-hour long podcast with a panel of 2-3 people.


The news has no business being a business.