Culture Differences: US v UK

This is a bit of an off topic post from the technical stuff, but there’s a bit of a tie-in, so stick with me.

I had to get a tire fixed this morning. I actually owned a replacement tire, so I just needed someone to mount it on the existing wheel (the existing tire needed to come off). I stopped by Discount Tire this morning in Parker, and I had a quick conversation with the salesman, Brian. He arranged for the service, even gave me a discount, and told me it would take about an hour.

At this point I knew I needed to do some work, and at 9am, I wanted some coffee. I mentioned this to Brian, who said, “It’s a long walk to get coffee.”

He noted that Starbucks was quite a distance for a walk. Certainly it was a hot day, approaching 85F as I exited the shop with my laptop, but a long walk?

My friends and colleagues in the UK would laugh at this. I had to go down a busy road, and it was warm, but 0.6mi is “long”? I think not. Certainly no navigational issues following the blue dotted path.

2015-07-27 12_53_47-Starbucks, South Parker Road, Parker, CO to Discount Tire Store - Parker, CO - G

This struck me as strange as I walked along the road. Certainly I think lots of people in the US might see this as a long walk. They would perhaps ask the shop for a ride, or they’d stay in the store and skip coffee. I suspect that lots of people think any distance outside of the parking lot of an establishment might be seen as “long”.

Far too many of us in the US as lazy in this manner, not willing to move dozens, much less hundreds, of yards. I’ve seen people wait minutes for a close parking spot to a store, when there were plenty of parking spots seconds away.

I thought about this as I walked, and as I walked back. The thought bothered me a bit as I tried to answer some emails and check on SQLServerCentral. Why do we struggle with simple movement in the US? Are so many of us really wedded to cars that much? A summer morning is hot, but it’s a few minutes in the sun.

I was curious how far I traveled in terms of steps, so I checked my Fitbit before leaving Starbucks. It was around 3,100 steps for the day. I checked when I got in my car, and I was at 4,500 steps. That’s about 1,400 steps for a cup of coffee. Each way, of course, but just a mile.

When I think about how little we need to walk, it’s amazing. My job is worse than many in some ways. My meetings are at my desk. My commute is a few dozen steps. Getting lunch in the kitchen is maybe 50 steps. If I don’t make a concerted effort to move, I can easily spend a day at work and get to 6:00pm having traveled less than 2,000 steps.

That’s sedentary.

I do make an effort to exercise and move. Certainly I could do better with my diet, but I am at least attempting to move. That goal was one thing that kept me going on my running streak. I often felt refreshed and no matter how much time I’d spent in front of a computer, I at least ran a mile.

We can all make an effort to move a bit more, especially those of us that spend lots of time in front of a computer. Taking breaks, walking up and down stairs, parking far away, scheduling walking meetings at times, or just making sure we spend some time before/after work moving.

Many of you will have long lives, regardless of how you treat your body. Your career might not be affected at all by poor physical health. However the quality of your life is lower, in my opinion, if you aren’t taking care of yourself a bit.

In the past we often had daily exercise as we lived. We walked around, we had to work to grow our food, or transport it, or just to find social company. Today we can avoid much of that, but I’m not sure we should.

Find some exercise in the margins, find a sport you enjoy, or just take some long walks to contemplate life and enjoy your own, or a friend’s, company.

Information on the Go

I have been very interested in smart watches over the last couple years. I like wearing a watch that allows me to glance at it for the current time. While I can pull out my phone, and I’ve done that for little over a year, I preferred a watch. There are plenty of times that my phone isn’t easily pulled out.

After considering lots of watches out there, I eventually settled on a Pebble, which I wrote about after living with it for a few weeks.

Since that time, I’ve continued to use the watch and have enjoyed getting data on the go. Today I was traveling and getting a flight notification (priority email) through the watch as I was traveling through the airport was nice. I didn’t have to pull out the phone, and in fact, because it was in a low pocket, I didn’t feel it vibrate. Not that I would have had issues today, but there are times it would have been handy.

One the plane, I saw someone with an Apple Watch. In fact, I’ve been seeing them more and more. My wife had asked me if I wanted one for my birthday this year. I like Apple products, and it was tempting. However the more I’ve looked at the product and read about it, the more I agree with Troy Hunt. It’s beautiful and awesome. And pointless.

I want simple, quick information on the go. For me, that boils down to a few things I’m looking to learn without finding my phone while I’m walking, running, driving, or even talking with friends:

  • time
  • text messages – This is so I can decide if I want to, or need to, respond.
  • high priority emails – In the iPhone, these are my “VIP” people.
  • music – current song, play/pause, skip/restart
  • pace and exercise time

The last item is really nice. If I start a workout on the Map My Run app, it starts the display on my wrist

Photo Jul 17, 2 29 11 PM

There’s not much more I want to appear on my wrist. Having this track my steps  would be nice, but I haven’t seen a way to track this in the background, which is what I would need to get rid of my flex.

Responding to texts might be nice, but I can’t see how that would work smoothly, nor do I want to use speech. I don’t want to answer the phone on it, ala Dick Tracy, nor am I looking to play games.

Really, I’m looking for a little bit of data. The Pebble seems to be the best choice for me, with a long battery life, flexibility to control notifications from the phone, and get a bit of information in an easy to consume fashion.

Your needs might be different, and I’m sure some people would prefer a better device that does more, perhaps with GPS or other functions, but for now I haven’t seen a better device for me.

#GetHawt – The Summer 2012 Edition

Jen McCown started a #GetHawt set of posts last year and I think it went well. It must have, so she started an invitation for a summer competition. Silly me hadn’t been paying much attention, even though I’d seen the tweets. I finally caught up this last week, and decided to unofficially join in.

Update, I meant to publish this on Friday, but didn’t get it completed in time, so I’m sending it out today.

I’ve been running for some time. I keep a log (if you care), and today is day 1427 for me of running at least a mile every day. On the US Running Streak Association site, I’m #228 on the active list.

In all the time, however, I haven’t gotten in great shape. I’m fit, and I feel wonderful, but I haven’t been what you’d call Hawt-shape. Years ago I did the Body for Life diet/challenge with my wife and we got in great shape together. She wanted to try it again, and we started it back up a little over 3 weeks ago. I weighed 224 late last year, which was a bit heavy. I’d like to get lower, but I’m not overly driven by weight.

I weighed myself this week on my scale and it said 205. Note that 205lbs on my scale does not necessarily bear any relation to 205 on any other scale in the universe. We’ve had this old, analog scale since 1992 or so and I can only use relative measurements. I know I was north of 220 earlier this year, so I have slimmed a bit.

It’s going well, and I like it. In terms of the #GetHawt competition, it lines up OK. I drink a ton of water, exercise every day, eat 6 meals a day, get one day off each week to do anything. In terms of the points for last week for me:

Friday – Good day exercising with my son and running for 20. Good meals, with grilled, low fat foods for 30 points, lots of water, lots of sleep (I love summer), sticking with the habits of the new routine, but had a soda. 85 points

Saturday – Free day for me. Ate decent, but enjoyed myself with pizza, tortilla chips and a brownie desert. 20 points for running 3.5 miles, 6 points for one decent meal (it’s free day), 10 pts for water, 15 pts for sleep, for a total of 51.

Sunday – baseball and a 2mi run, water, good meals (6 small meals, no snacks), sleep, got back into the habit of chores. 95 pts since I have no teammates.

Monday – lift, run, water, eating all good. Talked my wife into lifting with my son and I, slept. Sticking to the good habits of the diet, and no soda (trying to cut down), so 100 pts.

Tuesday – Great run, more of the same, but no communication today since my wife was gone. 95 points.

Wednesday – Run, bike, etc. 20 points. Ate well, even threw some candy in the trash without eating it 30 points. water, sleep, 25pts. Communication with my wife and kid 5 pts. Special trip to get a diet coke, -10 points. 70pts.

Thursday – Not a bad day, but I missed the lifting today. I got busy, and ran but my exercise is a getting a bit off track. 20 points. I’ll call it only 18 points for food since the kids got me to stop after volleyball and have part of a burrito. 10 for water, and -10 for a large coke zero. My wife avoided me and I didn’t chase her down. 38 points.

Friday? Up early to fly to Sacramento for SQL Saturday #144. I’ll mostly stuck to the diet. I didn’t have any alcohol at the party, but couldn’t resist Will Meier’s pulled pork. I did mostly have vegetables, and had a good eating day. Call it 20 points for a run in the park, 24 points eating, 10 with lots of water, and 10 for avoiding diet drinks and beer. 64 points.

In a week, that’s 534 points. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I managed that on Fri-Thur. I wasn’t a strict dieter on the Body for Life diet on Sat/Sun, but I was pretty good.

Even with a double double from In-N-Out on Saturday on the way to the airport.

Bad Eyes

This editorial was originally published on Jan 9, 2006. Steve is traveling to the UK this week and we are reprinting a few older editorials.

It seems that most DBAs that I know are a little bit older and more experienced. It’s fairly rare that I see someone really young, right out of college, early 20s, etc., as a DBA. So when I saw this question on Slashdot about computers and vision, it caught my eye. I’m one of those “visually challenged” individuals that asked the question. And I’ve been working with computers pretty much since 1991 as a career. In middle school I slowly found out that my vision was failing. That was when my career as a baseball catcher ended. With glasses on, I couldn’t pull off the mask without pulling the glasses with them and ensuring that I’d catch the ball with my cheek instead of my glove :)

I’m not a 15 hour a day computer user, but I am a 7-8 or more user. Fortunately it’s not all at one stretch. Usually it’s early am, then a break, then most of the day until the kids come home, and then late at night. At least the last few years it’s been like that. Before that I was mostly a 7-8 hour stretch person and a little at night.

Through all that, including 5-6 years of working as a bartender in a late night, smoky atmosphere, I’ve had pretty much the same prescription for about 15 years. I switched to contacts in high school, but since college I’ve pretty much been the same, blind 20-400 in both eyes. I’m getting an eye exam today, so we’ll see if it holds for another year.

I think the person asking the question has other problems, 15 hours a day in front of the computer being the least of them, but it still is worth asking the question. Is a monitor bad for your eyes? Is it any different than staring at anything in a repetitive work environment.

One of the things suggested is a light source behind the monitor. That’s an interesting one. Especially for the guys that like to work in the dark. I’ve had a number of co-workers that insisted on working in the dark. Personally I’m an outside, ambient light guy. I like to sit on my shaded porch and work with the laptop in nice weather.

So do any of you have issues working in front of your monitor? Any suggestions to take better care of your eyes? I’m sure everyone in the community would be interested in this.

Steve Jones