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Tracking exercise
June 9, 2009

I love to keep stats on how far I've walked, run, and biked, but it can be a bit time consuming. Sometimes it's fun to link to a Google map of where you went, but again, that takes time.

What I've realized is that devices that have an integrated GPS and wi-fi connection could completely automate this process. (ex. BlackBerry or iPhone)

Via the GPS, the device knows how fast you're moving, and so it becomes obvious whether you're:

Walking (Average speed of 2 km/h - 7 km/h)
Running (Average speed of 7 km/h - 17 km/h)
Biking (Average speed of 17 km/h or more)

The software would need to be smart enough to know that if the person was cruising along at 25 km/h and then dropped down to 12 km/h for a few minutes, that should indicate a hill, not that they got off their bike and started jogging, etc, but these are fairly minor challenges.

Thus, the device knows exactly when you're walking/running/biking, how fast you're going at any particular point, your average speed, what route you took, etc.

With the wi-fi connection, it could upload those stats once you're home, again, automatically.

With a nice web user interface, you could then do the following:

Given any day, week, month, year, or range of dates, see:

The total number of miles in each category
The total number of outings in each category
The total number of calories burned
Average pace
Graphs. ex. one bar per activity (by distance or time) per week (the possibilities are endless)

Given any particular outing:

Average pace
Maximum pace
Calories burned
A Google map showing the route

What I find so fascinating by this is that it doesn't require any work on the part of the user... just having their cell phone with them, which people usually do. There's nothing else to remember or do. Wow.

Using computers for meal planning
November 6, 2008

It strikes me that computers and home automation could be used to improve health and give people more free time if they were used for meal planning. Consider the following scenario:

"Grace, make a meal plan for this week."

The computer would have the following information at its disposal:

The family recipes, including ingredients lists, and therefore, nutritional value. Each recipe would have a rating to indicate how much it was liked.
An inventory of what food was currently in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards.
A record of what meals were eaten at home in previous weeks.

Using this information, a meal plan could be put together that would:

1.Be nutritionally balanced and not deficient in any important area.
2.Use foods more often that are already in the fridge, freezer, or cupboards.
3.Use foods more often that are in season, and likewise, foods that could be purchased from local producers.
4.Use recipes more often that are liked.
5.Not use recipes that were already used very recently.

There are a number of variables to optimize, but that's what computers do best: Crunch possibilities and come up with something that is optimum. Since different families would value different things, there could be "sliders" to adjust how important the different criteria were, such as how important it is to use local foods.

Another, related use case would be to ask: "Grace, recommend a recipe for tonight", which would take into account what foods were already in the house to plan a tasty meal, helping to use up foods that would otherwise go bad and reducing unnecessary trips to the grocery store.

October 22, 2008

On Saturday as I was organizing the house, I remembered that I still hadn't picked up a friend Kyle's road bike. Tara and Kyle are away in the UK for the next few years and Kyle had generously offered that I could use his pretty Trek road bike while they were gone. (What an offer!)

Driving down to the far southern edge of Kitchener only to have to turn around and drive back seemed like a lot, so I had the unwitty idea of running there! I hadn't run farther than 9.4k since the end of May, so this was going to be somewhat of an experiment in terms of how my body would hold up.

It felt great to hunt around the house for my various running stuff: Water bottle, Shot Bloks, shoes, etc. I think what kicked the whole thing off was emptying out an overflowing closet and finding my jogging pants which I trained in for a couple of years. Those pants carry a lot of memories!

As usual, I had some peanut butter and jam toast, and then headed out. The first few hundred yards were interesting as I closely monitored my legs, ankles, feet, and heart, but they seemed to be doing ok, so along I went. I was once again reminded of how much I love 10-1s. It just feels right to stop and walk for a minute after every 10 minutes of running. Your heart recovers, you get to stretch you legs out with a slightly different stride, and then you're ready to get going again.

Overall I had a great time. I was wonderful to be out in the fall colors, and when running I was warm enough to wear just a t-shirt. I ran all of the way down Fischer Hallman to Bleams, and it was neat to see all sorts of things that I've never run past.

When I arrived at my destination, I was feeling a wee bit tired, but not bad. What I did notice was ... chafing! I guess some of the 15 lbs I've gained since May has gone to my thighs because for the first time in my life I could feel my thighs chafing against each other, and it got a bit tender. Once I got home it was apparent how bad it was: A nice rash and very tender, pink skin. Ouch! Too funny that a skinny guy like me can suffer from such a problem.

I even stayed relatively high-energy the rest of the day, which amazed me! I came home and organized our messy garage... but the next two days my legs were quite sore and I was much more tired than usual. Still, not bad!

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