Sunday, January 25, 2015

Garmin Vivofit 500000 Step Review

Garmin Vivofit - 500,000 Step Review

Click any graphic for
a larger view
The Garmin Vivofit that I purchased in November has been tracking all of my steps - with the exception of a single day when it stayed on the side table and I stayed in bed. 

Garmin Vivofit - 400,000 Step Update 
Garmin Vivofit - First 300,000 Steps

What I Have Learned

First, you need  a few measured loops, simple walking loops where you know the exact distance. 

  • 500 steps to the bus stop and back
  • 2000 steps to the lift station...
  • 4000 to GH Street...
  • 7000 to the elementary school...

At the beginning of the day when the Vivofit picks the target, these numbers are not overly useful. After all, a 9000 step target is not going to be satisfied by any of these. But at the end of the day, when you just need  a few steps to meet your goal, having a few pre-measured loops will keep you from wandering the neighborhood like a hobo.

Second, comfortable shoes matter. I switch back and forth between a pair of mid-weight hiking boots and a pair of very light-weight running shoes. The running shoes allow for a faster pace, and the extra heel cushioning is terrific. The boots give great ankle support, at the cost of a more jarring stride. I still rotate between the two because I wear the boots when hiking (not on paved roads or sidewalks) so I need to feel their weight and support. But, for the longer loops I try to go with the running shoes. 

Third, you have to have good music on your MP3 player. Hit "Random" and start walking. 

What I Need to Work On

I need to work on a strategy for crappy weather. I was able to bundle up (layers) for cold weather down to 32 degrees. But cold and windy and damp are not my favorite combination. Once you get warmed up, the layers start working against you, and any attempt at relief was rewarded with chills. 

Did I really miss my December target by 315 steps?
Yes, Yes I did... 
I need to figure out how to relate to the Garmin Vivofit. Sure, we have come to an agreement on daily targets (the Garmin picks). And, I know that I am going to miss my daily target - my longest streak in 11 days, all during the Christmas and New years Holidays. In fact, I only surpass my target 69% of the time. 

But, I missed my December monthly target by 315 Steps! The sum of the daily targets for the entire month is recorded and reported. Imagine my surprise and disappointment. In January I had a couple of very busy days and missed my daily target. I have been working to catch up. 

I have not found a way to reset the daily target - which is randomly picked, but seems to trend higher every few days. My goal requires 8440 steps per day, which is well below the random picks. 

Finally, I need to find time for the additional steps. I have increased my pace from 1600 steps per 15 minutes to 1800+ per 15 minutes - which is about 3.5 MPH. Much faster and I would need to start jogging. My morning routine and typical work day scores about 3500 steps. So I need to find reliable time for the other 6000 steps or so -- after taking care of wife and kids, and sports and band and scouts and... 

I don't always have an hour a day to dedicate to the road. 

Green Bar = High Activity
This chart shows pace of 1787, 1830, and 1828 steps per 15 minutes.
Click for larger view. 

Bottom Line

I started tracking my steps with the Garmin Vivofit during the week of November 23. Since Thanksgiving I have lost seven (7) pounds and my blood pressure and HbA1C are back to normal. 

I have recorded >535,000 steps, with no injuries - not even blisters. It takes me about 2071 steps to cover a mile (my score today: 14,522 steps, 7.01 miles). 

Aches and pain sure -- because: old and fat. But, I suspect that jogging ~260 miles in 65 days would have been physically traumatic. Injuries limit exercise.  

Walking is working for me. The Garmin Vivofit is keeping me honest and working hard.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shooting Log

Shooting Log

After consultation with several experts on Twitter (Jason, Carrie, Amanda and Dane), I took the advice to keep is simple and created the following shooting log to track our family results. has as Shooters Journal on their site if you want something very formal. 

Data Collection 

My solution (confession, I'm an IT geek) is a spreadsheet with information stored in ranges so that I can pick them quickly. And, to keep it simple, a couple of free-form columns for notes. The columns in YELLOW are list driven (I have to choose from a specific list). This makes the reporting work. 

The GREEN columns can take any data. For example, I made a note for a session right after Christmas. We shot indoors -- in freezing temps. We could see our breath at the firing line. Why? The range pumps outside air down the lanes in order to keep lead away from the shooters. We also shot archery indoors at Cabela's - with an instructor. I felt this was an important milestone as Tot4 moved from leather glove to a trigger release. 

I need to make a couple of minor adjustments:
  • The Date column needs to be Date/Time
  • For 3P shooting, I'll need to add a column for "Position"
Click on any graphic for a larger image.

I went back and logged the 2200+ rounds (archery, pistol, and light rifle) from the last six months. As we move forward this report will start showing scores and trends. Again, the theme is simple... 

This report shows Shooter, Firearm, and Rounds. 

Why Track Ammo 

When we added a Nikon scope to our Henry Golden Boy, the scope pointed me to the Nikon Spot On BMT Site.  This site provides a calculation of bullet drop to match the reticle in the scope. It is ammo specific - just click a few boxes, and it provides the chart on the right.  

Just a few hundred rounds using CCI, Remington and Federal proved the tool to be really useful - dead on at 50 and 75 (or 50 and 69+ a bit of fudge). 

I'm also tracking ammo because of our Sig Sauer Mosquito. More than a few sites and YouTube videos say the Mosquito is prone to jamming with cheap ammo. Several claimed the pistol is a piece of junk. 

Well, I can confirm that CCI shoots just fine, and that the Mosquito has not shown any major issues with Remington. I have not tried Federal so far.

Bottom Line

We have the log, we have the commitment to shoot, now we just need to start keeping score. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NFL Pro Pick-em Strategy - Wisdom of Crowds

Yahoo! Pro-Pickem Strategy - Fail?

Click for larger image. 
It always pays to evaluate the success (or failure) of your strategies, and base assumptions... but I would love for Yahoo! to some data to support the evaluation.

Are Crowds Smarter than Individuals 

My final results for the 2014 Pro-Pickem season were a marked improvement over my standing from last 2013. Overall improvement was from ~2 games missed per week in 2013 (28 games out of first place), to 12 games missed over 17 weeks. That is, Niam Knows! won this year with 186 correct picks, and I only had 174.

Strategy Changes from 2013 to 2014

Previously, I would watch the Pick Distribution and do a gut-check on my perception of the game. For 2014 I also made a couple of simple rules: Always turn in a pick list (in 2012 I missed a week, which doomed my score), and always review the pick list just prior to game time. I didn't make many changes through the year, but a simple trick - watching for injuries to the starting QB - probably saved me 4-5 games. (RGIII and the Redskins hurt that strategy as well).

Something Happened

Business Insider has published an article: Las Vegas Screwed Up - by setting a bad line for the Super Bowl.

... "In the case of the Super Bowl, that didn't happen. About 80% of the bets on the Big Game in the first 24 hours were on the Patriots, according to

What is even more intriguing about this big swing is that the early betting action is typically done by the more seasoned and often professional gamblers making big bets (AKA "sharps") while Joe Public typically waits until a day or two before the game or even game day.
This means that the usually smarter gamblers felt the opening line with the Seahawks favored was a terrible line and immediately put a ton of money on the Patriots..."

Below is a screen clip from Yahoo Sports Pro-Pickem showing the pick distribution for the Super Bowl as of 1/20. It clearly shows the Patriots as the favorite. So how did Vegas miss? And, was the early money correct, or not? How do the "sharps" adjust for any injuries over the period between Divisional Championships and the Super Bowl? Doesn't uncertainty decrease... as you get closer to game time? 

Bottom Line

The Business Insider article indicates that smart money bets early. In Pro-Pickem, the early bets tend to be homers - people picking their home team. The distribution gets more accurate over the season as the wheat is separated from the chaff. As the season wears on the ability to make up ground on the Pick-em leaders gets more difficult as picks become more obvious and upset games are widely missed. In effect, the leader board becomes self-governing as everyone reflects the tendency towards average.

Is the final Distribution (right before game time) accurate? Is the Crowd more accurate than the individual? 

Wisdom of Crowds - More Data Please

Yahoo Pro-Pickem could really provide a cool data element called "The Crowd". Simply create a player called "The Crowd" and assign all of the picks from the weekly Distribution to this player. For the tie breakers: take the team picked most often for high and low scores, and the average of the numeric scores. (Or, just put Oakland as Lowest Scorer).

Step 2 -- Create a player for each affinity "Fans of San Francisco", "Fans of Dallas" etc. and rank the average "affinity" score. This would provide proof that specific fans know their football, and other fans are just junior varsity. (We all know who you are - rookies!)

Step 3 -- Find the "tail" you know, the guy that makes the outrageous picks... and is correct! Identify the guy that has the most correct picks against the average.

Somewhere at Yahoo! is a math geek that can work this out.