Nike+ Fuelband Review


The swoosh makes you faster.I’m not typically an early adopter, but I made an exception for the Nike+ Fuelband. 6 months ago I replaced my old classic iPod with an iPod Nano (6th Generation) and fell in love with the pedometer mode that keeps track of steps towards a daily goal. Syncing the iPod uploads data to (which is currently inactive) where steps are translated into distance around routes through real world cities. Along the way you would see the sights and compete with others to see who can get through the fastest and finishing one city would unlock others. Basically, it’s the gamification of fitness and it motivated me to take more steps. The downside was having to carry my iPod everywhere and having the pedometer on 24/7 would significantly shorten battery life. So when Nike announced that they would be creating a wearable device to capture movement data, I was sold.

The Fuelband is basically a souped-up pedometer with fantastic design. Many people have compared it to a LiveStrong wrist band, which it’s kind of like, but it is also thicker and more rigid. There is one button that calls up the LED display and cycles through the various counts of Fuel, calories, steps, and time. The clasp hides a USB plug which allows you to charge it and sync data to a computer. And that’s really all there is to it. This is elegantly designed and simple technology that serves you rather than you serving it. No monthly subscriptions, no accesories. The Fuelband stands on its own.

Rather than just counting steps like the Nano, the Fuelband uses 3 accelerometers to monitor movement in the arm. This makes sense, if you’re doing an activity like throwing a frisbee, you’re not just moving your legs. Thus movement is captured and data translated into something called “Nike Fuel.” Nike Fuel is a proprietary measurement of activity and the idea is to level the playing field among different activities and different sized people. It’s a measure of movement and doesn’t really have any applicability outside Nike hardware or websites..

A daily Nike Fuel goal is the main feature of the Fuelband. When you hit the button a series of 20 colored LEDs mark your progress towards the goal (you can bring up your actual number as well) and I find myself checking it fairly obsessively through the day. There are no tangible rewards to meeting your daily goal, but there is a feeling of accomplishment and syncing my Fuelband to the free iOS app or to let’s brings up my accomplishments and analysis of my data. For instance, the site and app have a graph that shows activity level hour-by-hour and breaks down Fuel earnings by time of day. That makes it real obvious when I’m active and when I’m not so I can make adjustments.

Just like the Nano and its game, this works for me. Last week I set hard goals and about 10 pm realized I wouldn’t hit them. This meant impromptu dog walks and carrying the baby around the house while feeding her to squeeze in some last Fuel before bedtime. I’m currently on a 7 days streak of meeting my goal and feel pretty good about the extra movement that has inspired throughout the day.

The one drawback to the Fuelband is accuracy. One afternoon I started up the Nano as well to compare its step count with the Fuelband’s. After about 6 hours the Fuelband recorded 1383 more steps than the Nano. My feeling is that the Nano is pretty accurate and the Fuelband was off as the distances my Nano registers for walks seem to be pretty accurate. I’ve also noticed I tend to get more Fuel per day than others in the Nike+ community without trying very hard. I called customer support about this and they seemed to think it was normal enough. Some will find this inaccuracy to be a big problem, but I don’t see it that way. As a pedometer the Fuelband stinks, but it definitely works as a way of tracking how active I am. While it may not be accurate to the world around it, it is accurate to itself. I can go on the site or the app and know that the scores I am getting are consistent to each other. If it’s late in the day and my Fuel score is in the pits, it will motivate me to go do something. If I’m at 5,000 in the evening, I know I have hit a fairly active day and can go to bed with a clean fitness conscience.

So, to sum up the Fuelband: I am loving it. It is a seriously cool piece of exercise technology that really is helping me to commit to more activity. The app and site both greatly improve the experience and the site will be rolling out more features this summer and fall (and hopefully bringing back the city game!). It’s going to be interesting to see how the Fuelband evolves as there are still plenty of things to improve, but as it stands right now the Fuelband great at motivating me to move more.

On Tebow, Tressel, Paterno, Yoda, and Calvin


I’m emerging from my blogging hermitage for just a few moments because the two trending topics in Facebook right now are, oddly enough, Christmas and Tim Tebow. Now the first thing you need to know about my relationship with Tim Tebow is that I am an Ohio State fan and watched with anguish and heartache when The Ohio State University began a troubled relationship with the SEC, which includes Florida. Tebow seemed like an exception at the time with his philanthropy and just general good-guyness and I gave him the same pass that I now extend to Urban Meyer. Come on, it’s college football, part of the fun is that secondary and tertiary allegiances change every single week.

But now Tebow’s righteousness and/or self-righteousness is at the forefront and everyone has an opinion. I’m not going to take that bait however. What I want to take up is an article I read yesterday that came to the conclusion that Tebow is a good guy but it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll prove to be the hypocrite that so many Christians and professional athletes turn out to be. I’m going to ruin the suspense: Tebow is a hypocrite and the real question is whether or not he’ll be a hypocrite in some big, public way or a smaller, more personal way.

How do I know this? What is my proof? Well, it comes down to this oft-cited and oft-forgotten critique of all humanity: “Nobody’s perfect.” We pretty much universally acknowledge that one, right? Nobody’s perfect. We know that. But somehow we’re all pretty surprised when someone turns out not to be perfect. That’s where coaches Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno come in. Both men are heavyweights in college football. Both men have a legacy of victories but also integrity. Both men then made bad decisions that landed them in trouble and we all acted surprised and offended when it all went down.

Tressel, prior to May, was a sweater-vested saint: “The Senator.” “In Tressel we trust.” This is partly an image he cultivated, but it’s also just part of who he is. At no time did Tressel ever claim he was perfect and I’m reasonably sure he would never claim to be. Same with Paterno. But both men, being humans, are not perfect. Prior to their separate scandals they weren’t perfect either. They had screwed something up, just not as publicly. But still we somehow felt betrayed and angry. It really doesn’t make much sense when you think about it.

One of the charges leveled at Tressel and Paterno is that they are hypocrites, that they talked about integrity and doing the right thing, but when it came down to it, they didn’t do it themselves. And I agree, that makes them hypocrites. They are men who held themselves to a higher standard and they fell short of that standard. But, if we understand that nobody’s perfect, that makes everyone who holds themselves to a higher standard a hypocrite eventually. The solution then becomes to either hold yourself to an incredibly low standard or just acknowledge that everyone is going to be imperfect and a hypocrite and move on. I think the choice here is pretty clear: people who hold themselves to low standards do not make responsible or good leaders. Our leaders need to be people of high standards, standards that none of us can actually stand up to, because that is the only way we learn and grow.

But it goes deeper than nobody’s perfect. Much deeper, and that’s where Yoda comes in. In The Empire Strikes Back Yoda is talking about the dark side of the Force and Luke asks the astute question, “Is the dark side stronger?” Yoda sagely replies: “No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” Don’t miss this: Yoda is saying that the dark side is our default setting. The dark side is as easy as falling into bed; it’s the light side we have to work at. We take this at face value because the Force is something that George Lucas made up, but I don’t think George is talking about the Force here. He’s talking about human nature. The Force isn’t the issue here, it’s what our nature feels comfortable pursuing, basically our own wills and our own desires, rather than the higher and more difficult calling of a greater good.

To bring this back to the real world a bit, we find a similar notion in Christian theology with a wholly depressing name: “total depravity.” It basically means that humans aren’t perfect and we’re all hypocrites. In more detail: humans are completely separate from good, which comes from God, and any good in a person comes from God, not the person. It’s not a happy thought, but it does describe what we see going on around us with Paterno and Tressel and all the rest of us hypocrites. We can know everything there is about morality and what the right call is in each situation, but we are still fully capable of screwing it up. Anyone following the situation, including Joe and Jim, have probably wondered how they could be so stupid. But it’s not an issue of intelligence or even of the brain, it’s a heart issue and our hearts, to be blunt, are flawed.

This is why I don’t doubt that Tebow is a hypocrite. I know for a fact he’s screwed up and I know for a fact he will screw up again, and I don’t think he’d mind me saying that. My hope and prayer is that it won’t be anything too devastating or public, but that’s not guaranteed. And the same goes for me. My hypocrisy is boundless and I am going to mess it all up bad one day, so consider this my confession in advance. I hope it’s nothing too public and too awful, but I know what I am capable of and I hope it doesn’t come to that.

But just as I believe in total depravity because it describes the human condition, I believe in something else that prescribes the cure. If I am the problem, I can’t be the cure, the cure has to come from outside of me. So it can’t be more knowledge and it can’t be modified behavior. I need a heart transplant, and that is exactly the promise that Christ makes each of us. If we accept the gift of grace, Christ does the work and fixes our sin account for us. That is the lifeline that I’m sure Tebow and Tressel and Paterno and I are clinging to. There are many voices that will say we are beyond forgiveness, but there is one Voice saying we’re not, and that’s the only one we need to listen to.

My iPad Review Or: I Really Miss the iPad Already


There are thousands of iPad reviews out there and I probably won’t say anything new about the device itself. So, I guess it would be more accurate to say that this is a review of how the iPad has changed my computing life and how I’m missing it terribly three days into its absence as Lisa has taken it to Australia. (I swear, I miss her more.) Read the rest of this entry »

On the Dead Bunny Near the Sliding Glass Door


My dogs have this curious notion that they are criminally underfed which leads to extreme begging from the time we get up to when we feed them and from about 4:00 pm to when they get dinner. It also means that they stare excitedly at squirrels running around the backyard and consider them elusive food sources. Then when evening comes, it also means that any rabbits trapped in our fenced-in back yard might also prove to be food. So, on three occasions now Maggie and Sydney have managed to trap a rabbit before Lisa and I could save it. The first time it was still there in the morning. The time after that it was gone. Last night, in a moment of pride and generosity, Maggie brought the screaming and crying rabbit to the sliding glass door on to the deck and that’s about the time that Lisa called me hysterically to help pull the dogs off the rabbit. Read the rest of this entry »

“Unearthly Desires Pt. 1″


Since some folks have asked for it, I’m making available the sermon I preached last Sunday (January 9th, 2011) entitled “Unearthly Desires Pt. 1.” Why “Pt. 1″? Well, there is a part 2 and a part 3, but I don’t preach regularly so I don’t know when anyone will hear them (yes, I started a sermon series with no definite plans to continue it). Anyways, here’s what you were looking for:

The sermon text is John 13:34-35, 14:1-7.

Some supplementary material:


  • “That Where I Am, There You . . .” by Rich Mullins (2nd hymn)
  • “This Is Home” by Switchfoot (offertory)
  • “Big House” by Audio Adrenaline (closing hymn)
  • “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 (postlude)

Thanks to Ben Acton for lots of advice in putting this one together, Quail Holla’s  youth for leading worship as liturgists and musicians, and the QHPC congregation for letting me up there in the first place!

The Most Political Show on TV


The show I’m referring to has been throwing around these words and phrases in the last few episodes: “deregulation of the banks,” “debt,” “infrastructure,” “health care,” and a few others that clearly demonstrate that the show’s writers are paying attention to modern American politics. The West Wing is off the air, so what show could it be? None other than Cartoon Central’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Don’t let the fact that it’s a cartoon or on Cartoon Network fool you, this isn’t exactly a kids’ show. But it’s not really an adults’ show either. It’s caught somewhere in the middle and that may be indicative of the meandering focus of the series. Really the only word that characterizes this season so far is political and that has proved more than a little divisive among the show’s fans as expressed by what I’m hearing on the Clone Wars Roundtable podcasts produced by the excellent ForceCast. The inspiration for this post came from the latest podcast discussing the episode “Pursuit of Peace.” Jason, the host, voiced a considerable amount of frustration with the show, not because of the politics, but because of the way they are presented: the good guys eschew these policies and the bad guys twirl mustaches and espouse other policies. But also on the podcast were two Star Wars artists who were much more ambivalent towards the politics because, as one of them put it, he agreed with the opinions of the show and the job of an artist is to express opinions.  Clearly he is of the same mind as TCW’s writers, but divisiveness isn’t a quality of the Star Wars films that I have loved my whole life. In fact, it’s just the opposite: those 6 films represent an amazing span of common ground that I share with Lisa’s first graders, the middle and high school youth I work with, most of my friends, the parents of those kids and children, and even my own parents. So, if the movies did something very right to be loved by so many, what is the show doing wrong to gaining some fans and alienating others? Read the rest of this entry »

How I Convinced Myself to Like Running


Running has never been my thing, including and most especially when I was doing cross-country and track sophomore year (it was really only because my friends were doing it, notice I only did it one year).  In fact, every time I did try to run I would feel like this was the stupidest thing I could possibly be doing and I really should be doing something else.  It wasn’t like I had an angel and a devil on each shoulder bickering back and forth about the merits of not running v. running, I basically had two devils who extolled the virtues of everything except running.  So, up until the last couple of months, the most consistent running I’d do was maybe once every 4 months and that’s really not a beneficial frequency.  But something stirred in my soul in mid-April and since then I’ve actually been running 2-4 times a week.  Which is completely unprecedented and unusual.  So, I spent some time thinking about what made it stick this time and I have a few thoughts I’d like to share with those who feel they are hopeless runners as well.  This is not expert advice.  This is just what worked for me, a seemingly incurable non-runner.  Try it and see if it works for you and modify to fit your own personality and context.  If there’s hope for me, there’s most likely hope for you.  For those of you who like to skim, I’ll bold the really important bits. Read the rest of this entry »


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