Friday, September 11, 2015

An old monarch

It's been a week for long-lived Monarchs.  On Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning British Monarch. Also on Wednesday, only nine days into the official start of spring, I came across this beauty sunbathing amongst the blossoms.

Monarch butterflies usually live for only two to three months and it's far too early for this one to be from this year's crop.  Most likely it's an over-winterer - a late autumn butterfly that has hung out in a cluster waiting for spring. Because their metabolism slows in the cold winter months, they live for much longer than the summer butterflies, waking ready to mate and lay their eggs. It must be a good day for old Monarchs.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Irene's view

Yesterday, I showed Tillie (The Sony RX100) our mountain. Today, it was the turn of Irene, the Canon Infrared.

I liked Tillie's take on the mountain but Irene, as usual, came up with her own unique perspective on the same subject. I think it's more graphic, the mountain more present. It's a good reminder that how something appears, depends as much on how we look at it, as it does on the thing its self.

Perhaps, when life begins to look a bit flat, we need an Irene who can look at the same thing and say, "Yes, but ..."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

God, I love this place ...

Sometimes it all gets too much. As serious as the world's issues are, I just need to walk away. How many heart-wrenching refugee stories, TPPA shenanigans, Claytons flag choices and unending newsreels of human misery is too much? I don't know. What I do know is that there are times when I need to turn my back on it all and experience something else - something that doesn't need me to cry over it or give it a good smack around the head.

Fortunately, we live on this street and we have our own mountain. It isn't a big mountain - it's of the sturdy, stumpy, variety; not exactly Kilimanjaro, but it does have presence. As you drive across the plains, you can see it sticking up like a knuckle on a clenched fist; no one is going to push this mountain or its town around. Like any self-respecting mountain, it can get moody - some days it pulls the clouds tight about it and pretends it's not there. It's best just to go along with the charade when it's feeling like that.

But not today. Today, it was wearing a dusting of snow, reminding me of one of those chocolate cupcakes mother used to make. Today, it was a happy mountain, basking in the morning sun and making it clear that not everything in the world is munted*. Today, it declared a holiday and I took the day off.

*munted: a Canterbury word  originally used to describe things that got broken during the Canterbury earthquakes. Now in general use to describe anything broken.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The quantified life

I had been dabbling. When I first got the Pebble watch, I loaded up the Misfit app and had a go at measuring my activity and sleep. But, who wants to wear a watch all the time? I certainly didn't want to wear one to bed at night. And so my experiments at quantifying these things, gradually faded and died. And yet, as I get older and my health becomes more fragile, there is value to ensuring that I get enough exercise (but not too much) and that the quality and length of my sleep is as it should be. The numbers matter more today than they used to.

Enter Misfit's latest gadget - the 'Link'. The Misfit Link is a small button on a clip. It weighs next to nothing and you can clip it to your clothing or just slip it in a pocket where it sits recording your every movement. Aside from clipping it on after the morning shower, the Link is very much a set-it and forget-it device and performs well as long as you don't think of it as a pedometer. Wearing the Link on the main mass of the body gives results that compare well with something like Google Tracks (which measures trips using GPS) but don't think it will accurately record every step you take. The results on the body were, however, much better than from a wrist-based device like the Pebble.

The Link can tell you how you are doing, with a series of lights that can show progress and even the time. But, if you are wearing it discreetly on the body you won't be looking at the pretty lights very often. So, you access the Link using the Misfit app on your phone. From the app, you can set your own goals, see your daily progress and chart activity across weeks or months. All this data is also uploaded to the Misfit server where it is available on your personal dashboard. Should you be so inclined, you can share your data and compete with your friends.

Aside from measuring your activity, the Link also has other tricks - it is a button that can be programmed to take actions you define. How about programming it to trigger an 'emergency' call to your phone when you are in a difficult situation? This, and a whole heap of other actions are available through (If This Then That) and you can assign different actions to a single and double press of the button.

Oh, and perhaps the best part, the Misfit Link is only US$20 and runs on a coin battery that lasts 4-6 months. Those are a couple of quantities that make the quantified life much more sensible.