Saturday, December 12, 2015

XMAS 2015

Merry Christmas from Round Rock

Of course 2015 was another busy year, although we spent a bit more time having fun.

As soon as school let out in June we flew out to Pennsylvania to visit Curt, Kelley and Thomas. The trip included several swings into Philadelphia, a trip to New York, Boston and Salem, MA. The museums in Philly were terrific, as was Valley Forge. We stayed two blocks off of Times Square in New York – which was just as frenetic as you might imagine. In Boston we stayed near Faneuil Hall and had time to take in a “haaabaaah” cruise. 

Favorites from the trip: New York pizza by the slice, Chinese food in Chinatown in Philly, and ice cream from a working dairy near the Spanglers’ house. But the biggest highlight from the trip was our tour bus being hit by a NYPD car. The kids checked the box on visiting: NY, NJ, PA, CT and MA.

That was just a warm-up for the rest of the summer. Phil and Holly went to the water park a few times, and had friends from California come out and visit.

Holly spent the year on Music and Sports. She’s playing clarinet is symphonic select band. That means we pay a lot of money for private lessons now. We have been to several concerts, but a huge (Yuge!) all-day event at the Round Rock sports complex was the best. She is also in advanced Choir. She has found a true love for music.  

Holly has continued playing basketball, but decided not to try out for the 8th grade team this year. She will be ready next year… and will probably still be one of the tallest girls on the court. Jr High has certainly agreed with her. She is doing great in school. She scored in the top 3% for math on the Texas standardized test. She loved Boston so much she wants to go to MIT. (Retirement is over rated).

Phillip started the year off fast, with Boy Scouts, basketball and soccer. Funny, we left Washington to avoid the rain, and Phillip’s soccer season was entirely rained out – culminating in the Memorial Day flooding. Since school restarted he has spent lots of time honing his YouTube and Minecraft skills. He did get to host an epic birthday party – complete with video gaming truck.  He is doing well is school and has made honor role for the last three years.  Intelligence is not his problem, motivation seems to be hard to come by. He really is a sweet and loving boy. Holly and Phil are really close and that makes Christy happy.

Christy is working as a florist again and really loves what she is doing.  She is only working part-time, but booked about 1000 hours this year. It is good to see her so happy with what she does.  I’m trying to keep her busy because she talking about showing dogs again. 

She continued working on the house. More paint, flooring, draperies, wall paper removed from the kids’ bathroom… (It never really ends). Highlight of her year – a solo Trip to California, to spend time with her girlfriends, which turned into an impromptu road-trip to Disneyland. Her Garmin fitness tracker said she slept 4 hours over three days.

I spent the year as professional chauffeur, pool boy, and landscaper. If I could speak Spanish I think I could charge more for my service.  

Last year I was certified as a 4-H rifle coach, and this year I earned his pistol coaching certificate. Lots of time at the range means I can hit the broad side of a barn. Phillip and I continually discuss strategy for the zombie apocalypse. 

I am enjoying my job on the Mergers and Acquisition team at Dell. You may have heard – we have a really big deal going on. Christy says it much better being around me now that I am no longer with Microsoft.

Daisy, Meg and Olive are doing fine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Garmin Vivofit 2M Steps and Battery Change

Garmin Vivofit Review at 2,000,000+ Steps

I froze in horror when the Garmin Connect site said it was time to change the battery in my 18 month-old Garmin Vivofit. But, they provided a link to a simple, step-by-step video and the process only took a few minutes to complete. Now that it's fully recharged, here are my observations at the 2,000,000+ step milestone. 

Previous Posts: 

Garmin Vivofit 1000000 Steps
Garmin Vivofit 500000 Steps
Garmin Vivofit 400000 Steps
Garmin Vivofit First 300000 Steps

Garmin Vivofit on Amazon (Affiliate Link)


In 18 months I have only removed the Vivofit in order to dress a turkey. Just couldn't see getting all of that "ick" on the band. Otherwise, it has been on my wrist nearly 24x7. That's why I was so hesitant to change the battery. Waterproof? Yep. Water park, swimming pool, dishes, yard work, showers, baths, hot tubs, wading across the river, it just works.

The RED "Move Bar" is motivating without being annoying. 

The Sleep functionality was the biggest surprise. Watching sleep cycles over days and weeks gave me insight into long work weeks, crash and burn weekends (12 hours in bed?!?) and the train schedule - tossing and turning at the exact some time every night when the train passes by.  


I went on a long summer vacation and did not sync prior to leaving. The Garmin Vivofit keeps about two weeks of data. When I got home... I had lost a couple weeks of data. You have to get in the habit of syncing every week, and need to make sure to sync prior to any long vacation. The ANT stick required for sync should probably be replaced by a simple Bluetooth connection. 

The Vivofit also does not like shopping carts. When pushing a cart around a grocery store the lack of arm swing (motion) does not trigger step counts. I've been pushing carts with my right hand, just to allow the Vivofit to swing properly. 


The only "ugly" is that my model didn't have any heart rate monitoring features. Prices have fallen (a lot) and the basic pedometer functionality is just fine. But my MD was only a little supporting of my 1000 mile accomplishment. She said walking is just not enough. When I'm ready to upgrade I'll include heart-rate monitoring so I can demonstrate that yard work is aerobic exercise.      

The Bottom Line

If you need to get up off the couch and get started, the Garmin Vivofit at $50 is a good deal. It works as advertised, and provides enough subtle motivation to keep moving.  For the more active, the Vivofit doesn't do the all the things that a $250+ device can do... so look a bit higher in the feature and cost curve. 

BMW 328i 12000 Mile Review

BMW 328i - 12,000 Miles of Very Nice

Elle is 14 months old and has clocked in a bit over 12,000 miles. No, fuss, no muss, all very nice. In fact, a bit too nice. Texas roads tend to be wide, flat, fast with long, slow-sweeping curves. Mustangs, Chargers, Challengers, Corvettes, Camaros... they are all over the place. Texas roads are just fine for American muscle cars. Elle finds these roads boring. 

Old Posts: 

The Good 

Trading down from the inline 6 to the 2.0l proved to be a very reasonable trade. The new engine spins a lot more, but with the transmission in Sport mode it moves along just fine. With the addition of Auto Stop/Start the gas mileage is 5 MPG better than my older 328ix. I give the improvement almost entirely to AS/S. I've never been able to accumulate significant savings under ECO-Mode. Where my normal commute is about 20 minutes, it can stretch to 30 depending on stop lights. AS/S means I'm not burning fuel during most of that 10 minute pause. 

The Bad 

  • Eco-Pro Mode seems to be ineffective. With the exception of releasing the transmission to allow "coasting" this feature seems weak. 
  • AS/S yes, it provides fuel efficiency, but rough restarts and engine turn-offs while waiting for let turns are still annoying. Parking in the garage has proved exciting on several occasions when the engine restarted... BMW provides more than a few ways to defeat this feature, but some logic tied to engaging hand-brake when at a full stop wold be nice. 
  • The phone book and contacts feature forced me to reconsider and change my telephone usage. The trade-off of Stereo pre-sets for telephone numbers is merely OK.  See the links above for longer discussion. 

The Ugly 

  • There is not enough open road in the entire state of Texas. And, I don't have enough money to pay for any exercise of speed that would equate to "fun". 
  • I didn't get the xDrive. Totally blew it. Unlike Alex, Elle is willing to slide around under hard acceleration, especially in right turns - going uphill. In Texas we might go weeks between rain. Then we get inches of rain and the street become very slick. xDrive is the answer - probably my biggest disappointment.   
  • The engine Double-Tap to turn off - hate it. 

Bottom Line

Eagerly waiting for June 2017 to take European delivery of an M2 with xDrive. I want smaller, faster and more fun... will all four wheels on the ground.   

Monday, July 13, 2015

2014 BMW 328i - 10000 Mile Review

2014 BMW 328i - 10000 Mile Review

My current BMW, Elle, finally rolled over the 10,000 mile mark. Lessons from previous reviews remain (mostly) intact. I had the chance to drive a couple other cars - an older Pontiac G6 and  and new Jetta SE, while on vacation. This helped sharpen my opinion. 

First, the other cars: The G6 was one of the last, best Pontiacs. The seats were firm and deeply bolstered. The G6 has a smooth, strong engine, efficient transmission, and sporty suspension. On the curvy roads in PA it was a pretty good ride. 

The second car was a Jetta SE. The VW driving experience was tight, but the small engine always seemed to be hunting for the correct gear. On the freeways of PA, NJ, NY and MA the Jetta was much quieter than the Pontiac, and the VW handled the expansion seems much better. The Pontiac delivered a strong report at each seam. As a long-time VW driver I know that I have my bias, so add a grain of salt to my preference for the VW.

As an aside: Texas toll roads make sense - fully automated, wide-open, 80 MPH limits. Toll roads back east are crowded, poorly maintained, and have people in booths to collect $1.70 tolls(?). Advantage - Texas.  

Alex - my first BMW. 

The Good

The first 10,000 miles were totally uneventful. Elle notified me when her oil needed to be changed (about 8500 miles). Acceleration is still great, gas mileage is still great, and overall ride is still smooth and luxurious. Sport mode is fun. In fact, BMW should only ship cars with Sport Mode. 

2014 BMW 328i - previous posts: 

The Bad

Two features just need to be dropped from future versions. ECO mode isn't worth the savings. In one of my previous posts I called it "Corolla-esque", which might be disparaging to the Toyota. Much like the Jetta, ECO mode forces low RPM and a lot of shifting in heavy traffic. The second feature that should be dropped in the rotation of the passenger side mirror when backing up. It seems logical to want to see the curb, but most of my backing is not into curbside spaces.

When the seats are compared to the Pontiac and VW the BMW seats seem a bit flat and un-supportive. The seats in the 2011 328i were better. 

The Ugly

While Elle gets a clean review, Austin BMW does not. A basic oil change led to preemptive windshield wiper replacement ($100+). And the only part that I actually requested, the small circular sticker that holds the floor mat in place, is still outstanding -- 2 months later. 

Redmond BMW has their stuff together, Austin BMW still needs work. 

Bottom Line

Elle is a nice car. But I miss Alex. 

I'm not even a full year into the lease and I'm lusting after the new 340ix.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Consensus Fail

 Quakers, Occupy Wall Street, and Consensus

A few days ago I noticed that one of my favorite economics blogs " NakedCapitalism added an "I Support the Occupy Movement" banner. I blinked twice, reloaded the page, and checked to see if some misaligned advertisement or other glitch was responsible.

No, (sigh) and certainly confirmed after reading "Why the Consensus Process Has a Poor Track Record in Activist Movements".  Yves Smith posts an article by L. A. Kauffman from the Berkeley Journal of Sociology - The Theology of Consensus

Disclaimer: I attended U. C. Berkeley for 1 month in 1979, before transferring to a school run by "liberal" Jesuits, the University of San Francisco - one of my few great decisions of my youth. 

The Jesuits did a great job instilling my lifelong pursuit of learning, and the appreciation of different perspectives. I do not place NakedCapitalism outside of what I consider mainstream economic blogs, - it's on my Feedly "A" list. But the addition of the banner, and lack of any disclaimer in front of this article, has adjusted my understanding of their point of view.

That being said, the collision of the banner, the article, my previous blogs on Occupy Wall Street (OWS), along with the completion of a class "Converting Strategy into Action" from the Stanford SAPM program created context for this post. I will be pulling many quotes from the article - linked above - and will mark all in italics, my comments will be in bold. I have included links to many of my posts from the OWS period - it was a very productive time for my writing (ranting).

Consensus Fail

Kauffman provides historical context, and identifies the problem, but seems to stop short after recommending "apostasy" or renunciation of religious or political belief.  I would point out that the religious belief (revelation of God's Will) has been stripped from the activist playbook - Kauffman provides examples. So, are the activists to give up the political belief - which seems to be their more closely held "religious" tenant? 

Maybe there is another prescription.

My Two Cents

"A 1943 “Guide to Quaker Practice” explained, “The principle of corporate guidance, according to which the Spirit can inspire the group as a whole, is central. Since there is but one Truth, its Spirit, if followed will produce unity.” Consensus process will eventually yield a decision, in other words, because discussing, listening, and waiting will ultimately reveal God’s will. Patience will lead to Truth."

Linking Quaker leadership practices to the Occupy Wall Street movement is almost too hard for me to comprehend… but, there it is, and Kauffman provides examples to other activist movements. I was not a fan of OWS, in part because of their agenda, and a lot because of their execution. The blog posts linked below are from 2001, but provide a great summary of my position.

My Occupy Wall Street Blogs (Oct and Nov 2011)

Theory and Practice - Reality Gets in the Way

"In practice, the process [Consensus] often worked well in small-group settings, including within the affinity groups that often formed the building blocks for large actions. At the scale of a significant mobilization, though, the process was fraught with difficulty from the start. "

"A similar dynamic played out in Occupy Wall Street almost a quarter century later, where the general assembly proved ill-equipped to address the day-to-day needs of the encampment. Though On Conflict and Consensus assured organizers that “Formal Consensus is not inherently time-consuming,” experience suggested otherwise. The process favored those with the most time, as meetings tended to drag out for hours; in theory, consensus might include everyone in all deliberations, but in practice, the process greatly favored those who could devote limitless time to the movement — and made full participation difficult for those with ordinary life commitments outside of their activism."

The irony, that some people would "devote limitless time" (read: limitless resources) to a movement that decried people with, well, limitless resources. In "theory"… resources are always limited, why would time be excluded? Irony #2 - those with the most resources tended to push their agenda on the OWS movement. Wow. Amazing.  

Sometimes, that forced groups to reckon with important issues that the majority might otherwise ignore, which could indeed be powerful and transformative. But it also consistently empowered cranks, malcontents, and even provocateurs to lay claim to a group’s attention and gum up the works, even when groups adopted modifications to strict consensus that allowed super-majorities to override blocks.

"Great decisions, great ideas, great innovation, always come from a mob." ~Ever, Noone

The prime appeal of consensus process for 40 years has been its promise to be more profoundly democratic than other methods. This promise has been repeated again and again like dogma. But let’s face it: the real-world evidence is shaky at best. Perhaps the reason why it has endured so long in activist circles despite its evident practical shortcomings has something to do with the theological character it carried over from Quaker religious practice, the way it addresses a deep desire for transcendent group unity and “higher truth.”
Profound democracy as dogma? Sorry, that really needs an edit. Socialism as dogma. Ah, much better. Image a perfect world where every single decision about every single thing was decided by every single person coming together to discuss, negotiate, come to consensus and move forward. What a perfect… disaster. So, we need a committee! People who are smart, empathetic, able to make decisions that everyone else will like… no, not like --- LOVE!
 Perfection does not sit well on a scale. 
If the forty-year persistence of consensus has been a matter of faith, surely the time has now come for apostasy. Piety and habit are bad reasons to keep using a process whose benefits are more notional than real. Outside of small-group settings, consensus process is unwieldy, off-putting, tiresome, and ineffective. Many inclusive, accountable alternative methods are available for making decisions democratically. If we want to change the world, let’s pick ones that work.
Oh, so close… admitting a problem is the first step, but Kauffman doesn't go any further.

A New Prescription

Step 1 - Pile a group of activists into a Nissan Leaf (it will be a small, but environmentally friendly  group)

Step 2 - Drive the 50 miles from U. C. Berkeley to Stanford University (don’t forget bridge tolls for "the man")

Step 3 - Pony up the money for "Converting Strategy into Action", take the class, study the concepts, and adopt new practices

Step 4 - Create a business plan (you know, hierarchy, roles, responsibilities) using the Strategic Execution Framework

Step 5 - Use the Strategic Execution Map to align Customer wants with your project based work.  (You do know what your customer wants - right? You may be surprised if it is not exactly the same thing that you want.)

Step 6 - Make sure your leaders have talent, your followers share a common vision, and take your best shot. (No worries, the failure rate is brutal, good effort is sometimes the best reward)

Bottom Line - Bitter Pill

Consensus and "Pure Democracy" might work just fine in a group of Late Cycle (See Moore's Adoption Cycle), religiously aligned Quakers. The Quakers have the discipline to wait for for their answers to be revealed. Revealed in the religious sense.

Applying that same process to a group trying to "Change The World" has proved, well, not efficacious. Being wrong on execution for 40 years is no way to advance your agenda, and may even be alienating potential "customers". Discipline is rare because political alignment is a myth.

Apply business principles, a bit of entrepreneurial leadership, account for future organizational growth… and create customers by drawing them to an attractive product. 

Yes, I know, a bitter, bitter pill.


Friday, May 29, 2015


The Crowdfire App (Formerly JustUnfollow)

My Twitter Feed was feeling a lot like Facebook. Sure, I was following a lot of people, most for very good reasons, but the noise level was finally drowning out the signal. Promoted Tweets were not helping, and I had reached the "why am I doing this moment". I needed a Twitter reset.

How can an application change from "JustUnfollow" to an application to grow your engagement? Crowdfire makes the transition, and here are the steps to leverage their tool. 

 Opening the Kimono - My Twitter Stats

Click for larger image.
Twitter provides a unique platform for communication. But when the communication channel gets crammed with noise, it start to fail. Ever have a conversation in a noisy restaurant? Well, my feed was like having a conversation at the Indy 500. It was either give up, or make significant changes. 


The JustUnfollow app on a tablet provided the ability to see "inactive" users. Click to discover if someone had not posted a Tweet in 30+, 60+ or 90+ days. This was reasonably handy, but it was limited to the people that you follow. This is a great place to start - with a simple premise: if someone has not posted in more than a month, they are not really communicating. 

Spring Cleaning Process

My goal on Twitter is not to have a million followers. That would be nice, but communicating with impact to a million people is not where I want to be. Reading Tweets from celebrities and other media types is boring - a total time sink. 

Even the mainstream news people on Twitter are boring. They are unlikely to break news via Twitter - when they are paid to break news on their broadcast or cable channel. "Catch my show at 9:00", "My Special Guest is Joe Expert", "What did you think of the XYZ package?" Yes, I want to see the conversations, but they do not need to be in my normal feed. (Texas people: ever go to a BBQ place and have them hand you a full loaf of white bread with your order? Same thing - a slice or two is nice, but an entire loaf just distracts from the main course.)

Politicians are also pretty boring on Twitter. Inability to speak from the heart on a platform with a microphone, becomes dyslexic, tongue-twisted torture in 140 characters (or less). A mistake at a gathering in South Carolina will hit the airwaves for 2 minutes, on Twitter it echos... and takes on a life of it's own. 

Action Item: Move all Media People and Politicians to Lists, then Unfollow.

Twitter Fans on Crowdfire

I follow plenty of people that do not follow me back. [Hello: @CondoleezzaRice. Follow me, maybe?] I scrub new followers to remove the "Buy Followers", "Please Fund Me", "Check Out My New Photos" Twitter-trolls. Crowdfire provides a quick list of "Fans" - people that follow me, that I do not follow back. The count was surprising (356!), some had dropped from Twitter, they would not be in the Inactive User List, some were doppelganger accounts (yeah, some of my favorite accounts end up in Twitmo on occasion), some accounts were just odd. 

Action Item: Scrub the "Fans" list 

Manually reviewing 350+ profiles forces the tough decision making process. Why are they following me? Do we have followers in common (is that enough to keep a fan)? Review their stream, are they posting stuff that is important to me? Are they posting original thoughts, or just re-tweeting noise? Verdict -- 356 fans reduced to 52. Some were moved to lists, some were followed, but the vast majority Blocked. Twitter does not have a elegant way to force people to unfollow. (Sorry)

Action Item: Scrub the Followers list

This is a total pain. Not only is the list longer, but the clicks required to block any follower is monotonous. First - remove inactive accounts. Crowdfire includes a small data element showing when the account last posted. If you haven't posted in the last 30 days, you're off my list. Second - if your posts are in a foreign language, and only occasionally in English, sorry. Finally, if you are solely on Twitter to promote a business (of any kind) and are not providing content that I need, bye-bye. 

Question: How many times can I read the "10 Ways to Improve your LinkedIn Profile" without seeing anything new. The Tweep that has supporting content stays on my list. 

270 of the 1570 followers were cut. Pretty close to 80/20 Pareto Perfection.

Bottom Line: 

My feed is much more focused, signal to noise has been improved dramatically, and Tweeps that I really care about are getting more of my attention. I added a couple of items to my Twitter task list:
  1. Review Lists (Politicians, Media, etc.), as needed, for content
  2. Build Lists in specific areas (Central TX, Technology and OneNote, Education) 
  3. Build Community (Writers, Authors, Publishers)
Crowdfire changed their product offering from JustUnfollow - it really helped me to prune my Twitter account. Now, onto building my community. 


Monday, April 13, 2015

Sig Sauer Mosquito - Sour Taste

Sig Sauer Mosquito - Sour Taste

The internet is always right… most of the time.

Last year I purchased a Sig Sauer Mosquito (22LR) for two specific reasons. First, I wanted to have a pistol that was easy to handle, reliable and not over-powering - so that my wife and kids could get accustomed to  shooting. The second reason was to provide home defense since we lived a full 30 minutes from any police response.

The allure of the Mosquito is the compact size - scaled at 90% of a regular pistol, and ability to shoot 22LR - which is really cheap - under 10 cents per round. Several YouTube videos made the specific point that the Mosquito: is easy to handle, does not have much recoil, and uses cheap ammunition, which makes for a great training gun.

Over the winter we put several hundred rounds through the Mosquito, will deteriorating results.

See our previous blog: Shooting Log

Sig Sauer Mosquito FTF
Low confidence for use in home defense.

Problem: Ammunition - Reliability and Availability

Several YouTube videos pointed to problems with Failure to Eject and misfeeds. Crappy ammunition was blamed. Our initial experience with CCI Mini-Mag showed flawless performance. Ammunition by anyone else, well, not so much. The availability of 22LR is a problem, and the availability of the good stuff (CCI) is even worse.

The spouse and the boy got used to clearing a misfeed, which is fine for the "training" part of our goal. After all, any pistol can have a misfeed or misfire which requires intervention. But this behavior is a total "fail" for home defense requirements.
Pointing a pistol at an intruder might discourage a few intruders. A single, well-placed round of 22LR might discourage a few more. But not being able to dissuade a motivated intruder by unloading an entire clip is a big problem. 

Range Experience

Red's Indoor range has a lead control solution that requires cold outside air to be pumped into the range. The cold air flows from behind the shooting line down the entire length of the lanes. When it is cold outside, it's cold inside. And, when it was cold the Mosquito performed very well.
Once the weather started warming up, and once we tried to use less expensive ammunition, we started seeing the ejection and feeding problems. My cleaning routine does not leave a pistol wet… clean - yes, lubricated - yes, but wet - no. After two shooting and cleaning sessions in April, I am convinced that dirt (and lubrication) is not the issue.


I'm torn about the solution. We shoot 22LR in both the Mosquito and a Henry Golden Boy. Unlike others at the range, we often run through a couple hundred rounds -- for under $20. The ease of handling and low cost make range time very productive. But for home defense the Mosquito does not inspire confidence.


  • Move to a new platform (9mm?)
  • Find a solution to the Mosquito misfeed
  • Find a supply of CCI and keep it for home use only
  • Other (Hey, I'm open to suggestions)

Bottom Line

Meatloaf was wrong… "two out of three" is horrible.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Wisdom of Crowds - NCAA March Madness Version

March Madness and the Wisdom of Crowds

You don't have to look far to find tear stained brackets from the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Millions of people created brackets and millions were wrong. The question continues to deserve inspection:

Which advice is better, the advice of an expert, or the advice of a crowd?

Did the Crowd get March Madness right?

Cow-ontology, Bracketology and
The Wisdom of Crowds 

Why is Bracketology Important?

Chris Godfrey (@DaWordOfGodfrey) provides an enlightened reasoning:
"As an added bonus, the winner of the Busted Brackets from Busting Brackets Tournament Challenge (copyright pending) will also receive — a man’s hat.
Allow me to explain. In college, my buddy Sam (a frequent contributor to my mailbag and a future member of the Order of Canada) would annually organize a bracket pool where the winner would receive a random item. For example, one year a stuffed rat was involved. It was our college basketball answer to the ridiculousness of rivalry game trophies in college football where teams play for random stuff all the time (boots, skillets, bronzed pigs, a slab of bacon, etc.).

The most coveted item we ever competed for was a man’s hat. I can’t tell you why the hat meant so much. We literally found it on the ground outside of our apartment. However, I would have killed a man for that hat. It was our grand prize.
It was a man’s hat.
It was special.
This year I nominate this snazzy number as the hat that will go to our winner."
Clearly the answer is: Brackets are important because they are.

Bracket Busting Metrics:

Not only was Warren Buffet's Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge killed (damned lawyers), but it's clear that he knows how to offer an un-winnable bet.
At the end of the NFL Season I posted a blog with several important questions about my success, and the general success of players in the Yahoo Pro-Pickem pools: NFL Pro-Pickem - Wisdom of Crowds.

If the Crowd is so Wise, Why can't the Crowd win?

My brackets are dying. A slow death by a thousand paper cuts. Four of my first round eliminations were decided by a single point. The Second round was equally soul crushing.  
  • Purdue (1 point game)
  • Indiana (5 point game)
  • Oklahoma State (6 points)
  • Baylor (1 point)
  • VCU (3 points)
  • SMU (1 point)
  • Iowa State (1 point)
  • Providence (13 points)
My East bracket is dead (Villanova), and if Kentucky, Wisconsin or Gonzaga fall, I could be watching Professional Curling on ESPN-Canada-4. I certainly won't be glued to the TV to see my teams in the Final 4.

Clearly the answer is: The ability to of a crowd to guess the weight of a cow is not the same as asking thousands of people to predict a perfect bracket.

More Data Please

In my previous post I asked if a math wizard at Yahoo Sports would take on the challenge to explain why the Crowd lost. 

The ask was for:
  1. What was the mean Pickem selection?
  2. Would Yahoo Sports create a "player" with a Pickem profile to recognize the exact mean picks
  3. Would they recognize the people that made the best tail picks - the least likely (most standard deviations away from the mean) picks -- that were correct.

Bottom Line:

I predict that someone will earn a PhD and will write a commercially successful book based on the failure of crowds to win at Bracketology, Pro-Pickem and other pools.
And, I predict that I will continue to challenge the Wisdom of Crowds.
 Also, I predict that climate-deniers are correct.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rant Do Us a Favor and Don't

Rant - Do Us a favor and Don't

Disclaimers First 

  1. We have three dogs
  2. I'm the VP of our HOA
  3. I walk about 10 miles a week in our HOA and the adjoining HOA
  4. Both of the HOAs provide bags for picking up dog poop. (See example below). 

Common Courtesy and Uncommon Stupidity

It doesn't take a genius to understand the concept. Both HOAs would like people that walk their dogs to be responsible for cleaning up the mess. 

But for some reason, we have a few idiots (I was going to say %!#$**-wipes but my spell checker kept correcting to wet-wipes), that:

  1. Leave their house to walk their dog without a baggie
  2. Decide to use the baggie from from the HOA provided station
  3. Pick up the poop, tie the bag 
  4. Drop it on the grass next to the sidewalk
  5. Expect the magic poop fairy to come and pick up their poop 

Magical Poop Reclamation

Please notice that there is another version of the Dog Clean Up Station. It is outfitted with a garbage can. 

I guess we could provide a garbage can at each station. And, we could pay someone to come take away the poop. We would have to pay them... this is not a "volunteer friendly" type of chore. Are you willing to let me raise your HOA dues to pay for this additional service? 

Also, call me a cynic, unless the idiot's dog poops right in front of the station, it's unlikely that the bag will actually get into the garbage can. Please note my exact position on this subject: dogs are not idiots, stupid %!#$**-wipes owners that don't take responsibility for their dogs are idiots. 

So What is the Rant?

You own a dog (I can appreciate that). You walk your dog (bravo!). But you can't seem to understand that wrapping dog poop in a plastic bag and throwing it in the grass is just idiotic. No one driving by is going to stop and pick it up. No one jogging by is going to pick it up. No one walking by is going to pick it up. 

Why go half-ass on doing the right thing?

Let's make a deal... If your dog poops on the sidewalk, please clean it up and take it home and throw it away. Your mess, your responsibility. 

If your dog poops on the grass, don't tie it in a plastic bag that will take 3.4 million years to biodegrade, or that will be shredded by the landscape company into hundreds of bits of plastic that will take 3.2 million years to biodegrade. I'm willing to let nature takes it course.

Just do us both a favor and don't... half-ass your responsibilities. 

Or, you might consider upgrading your dog!
Our poodles are smart enough not to poop on the sidewalk.
And, we're responsible enough to take care of our own poop. 

Garmin Vivofit 1000000 Steps

Garmin Vivofit 1,000,000 Steps 

How to walk 1,000,000 Steps in Less than 6 months - Lessons Learned

The First Lesson is simple: You have to get up and walk. I have had peaks and valleys since I started wearing the Garmin Vivofit on 11/24, but stepping out of the front door is always a good step towards victory. 

Daily Chart of Steps
Notice the valleys about 2-3 after the 14000+ peaks
(Click on Chart for a larger version)

The Peaks: 

  • My longest streak for beating the target was 17 days in January, and my current daily average is 8949 steps per day (about 4.5 miles). At 1 million steps I will have walked 500 miles in under six months. 
  • Lesson #2 - If you hit your target early in the day, the rest is gravy. My biggest day was on a Boy Scout camp-over. I walked early in the morning to reach my goal, then spent the afternoon and evening hoofing around camp - running up an 18,000+ step day - or about 9 miles. 
  • Lesson #3 - Good shoes matter. I switch back and forth from running shoes to a midweight hiker. I can definitely tell the difference the next day. The hikers give better arch and ankle support, but I can feel the harsh "slapping" on the balls of my feet. The running shoes are very light, and provide a soft heel-strike. Good music matters too. 
  • Lesson #4 - My glucose scores have fallen as my step count has gone up, and they are in a tighter range. While I have not lost a lot of weight (a mere 5 pounds), my waist size has fallen from a 42 to a 38. And, I have a pair of 36" waist pants in the closet that I can squeeze into. 

The Valleys:

  • I'm trying to find a way to meet the "spirit" of the Vivofit. If the goal of the Red Status Bar indicator, for being idle, is to get me moving... it's not been a good match. My work schedule includes a lot of back-to-back one-hour meetings.  I tend to squeeze my steps into a long, single walk (3-4 miles in one fell swoop). 
  • I have not been able to figure out how to take a day of rest. That is not to say that I have not rested. In fact, after several of my biggest walking days there is generally a day where I just can't get to the target. 
  • Bad weather days (cold and rainy) are still a problem. I have gone to the YMCA a couple of times, but treadmills are still a mystery. The step count seems to match up, but the jarring and soreness seems much worse than walking outside. And, it doesn't appear that the pace reported by the treadmill (3.8 mph) is any better than my normal walking speed (about 1750 steps/per 15 minutes or ~3.5 mph). Again, the steps match, but the speed (and distance?) do not.   
  • I was out of action a couple of days in Jan and a couple in Feb - nothing big, but it cost a few thousand steps. And, I can report that I've had no injuries due to walking (just a bit of old-man soreness). Getting back on track was not as difficult as I would have expected. 

Daily Glucose Scores - The Proof is in the Score

My average daily Glucose score (dotted line) has fallen from 135 to under 120.
HbA1c from 7.3(H) in Oct 2014 to 6.6 in Jan 2015 to 6.2 in Feb 

I reached 800,000 steps on Feb 22, two days after I tested for an HBa1C of 6.2 - which is well inside the standard range of 4.0 to 6.8% While my doctor still has me on medication, I'm in a much better place. 

Click for Larger View

The chart above combines the blood glucose scores (blue line) with a 14 day trend line (green) compared to my daily steps (orange line, with steps divided by 100). My Glucose score should be below the top black line - 120, and my steps above the bottom black line 100 (*100=10,000). Notice that when the step count crashes, the glucose score spikes. 

I also track days where I miss my medication (metformin), which happen to coincide with days where I was out of action ("non-walk") days. My blood sugar score will spike if I miss a dose, so I'm not out of the woods (yet). But it seems clear that >8000 steps a day helps keep control. 
March 14... 1,000,000 Steps

Bottom Line

On March 14th, 110 days after I started wearing the Garmin Vivofit, I passed 1,000,000 steps. I still need to work on taking more steps throughout the day, and still need to figure out how to get steps in bad weather. 

It's a huge win! For the cost of a $90 Garmin Vivofit from Amazon I've been able to push my HbA1c score down, my waist size down, and my legs are very strong and shapely for the first time in a long time

Now, time to attack the scale and get into those 36" pants.