Random (but not really)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Weakness and Darkness

One of the things I especially love about DS9 is how it willingly went into dark places with eyes wide open.

We just rewatched Nor the Battle to the Strong which is a favorite, even though it is one of the more difficult episodes to watch.

In the episode Jake is traveling back from a conference with Dr Bashir when they get a distress call from a colony under attack. Jake convinces Bashir that it’s more important to go help people than to get him (Jake) back safe to the station.

The situation quickly goes bad, and Jake is faced with how to deal with an attack without his father there to protect him.

In this show Jake sees precisely what triage means, he sees people die, and none of it is pretty or clean. (1) But most importantly, we Jake’s first reaction to being caught in a battle: to run away. That fear and terror is something you’d never see on the previous shows where everyone is strong and brave except for the occasional secondary character who exists simply to make everyone else look better. (2) Jake gets a second chance, but although he doesn’t run away, his fear is just as evident. He doesn’t magically become strong and brave—he remains terrified and unsure of himself. It’s a lesson very rarely seen (especially at the time the show ran): that war is loud and confusing and people don’t naturally react with bravery, and that people don’t get to walk away unscathed. (3)

I keep turning it over in my head. The shelling. Losing sight of Bashir. Running. And I keep trying to make sense of it all – to justify what I did. But when it comes down to it there’s only one explanation: I’m a coward!

As I said, it’s not an easy episode to watch, but like so many others in this show, it feels real. It’s dirty and loud and ugly and bloody and there are no easy resolutions.

More than anything, I wanted to believe what he was saying. But the truth is, I was just as scared in the hospital as I’d been when we went for the generator. So scared, that all I could think about was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Once that meant running away, and once it meant picking up a phaser.

I think what makes the show work so well is that Jake is so clearly a civilian. He has never wanted to join Starfleet, he has no training, and although he has been at the scenes of battles, he was sheltered and protected and rescued. He shouldn’t be expected to react with bravery, because in such situations he’s been trained to seek shelter and protection with other civilians.

I think Dr Bashir’s reaction is just as important, when he is berating himself for the danger Jake is in. He briefly forgets that Jake is still a teenager and doesn’t have the training he (Bashir) and the other members of Starfleet have. He may be taller now, but he’s still young. Bashir feels that he’s gotten Jake killed for that lapse, and more importantly, he doesn’t blame Jake, but reacts with concern and compassion.

Throughout the series, we see the members of the station and the Defiant constantly running battle drills—a reminder that it takes practice and work and repetition to keep things together during chaos. It says that heroism may perhaps be a state of mind, but it is also the result of hard work. That weakness and fear are just as (if not more) common and expecting otherwise is not just unrealistic, but foolish.

(1) These aren’t the first ugly deaths in DS9, The Ship also sees Dax, Sisko, Worf, and O’Brien watch a crewmate slowly die from his injuries because they lack proper treatment for him.

(2) Kudos to Cirroc Lofton for this episode. There was a lot to carry on his young shoulders, and he did an incredible job portraying Jake’s fear, anger, and shame.

(3) Another thing DS9 did really well was introducing secondary characters several seasons before they are killed. The character of Muniz had speaking parts in three different episodes in two different seasons before The Ship.

Written by Michelle at 11:15 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Movies & TV  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Family Matters

We’ve been re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine recently.

The first seasons we mostly listened to while we played on our computers, but we’ve reached the point where things are getting very interesting. And complicated

We’ve already watched several of my favorite episodes, and they’ve reminded me precisely why I love this show so very much.

Let’s start with what is, hands down, my favorite episode, The Visitor. (Chances are I’ll start crying as I write this, since I always cry when watching it.)

In the story we discover that after Sisko disappears in an accident, Jake has spent his life trying to figure out how to bring his father back. The entire story is based upon the love a son feels for his father, but what makes it so good is that you believe it. The episodes building up to this episode have all shown how close the two are, how much they mean to each other, but most importantly, how vital this relationship is to both of them.

Whenever we see the two of them together, Sisko is hugging Jake or kissing him on the head or generally treating Jake as a beloved child. We also see them bickering over typical misunderstandings. We see Jake rolling his eyes when his father tells him something Jake believes he’s outgrown. We see Jake choosing to spend time with his friend(s) over his father. And we see Jake getting into trouble and Sisko making sure he deals with the consequences of his actions.

All of which is why this episode works so well: because these are two people who very clear care about each other. I’ve read multiple reports that Avery Brooks became a father figure to Cirroc Lofton, and love that comes through clearly whenever you see the two together on the screen.

But more importantly, they are written as a father and son. One of the things that irritated me most about ST:TNG is that I never believed the parent-child relationship between Dr Crusher and Wesley. I don’t blame that on the acting of the two, but upon the writing of the scenes. It’s like they made an idealized parent-child relationship that had no bearing on any reality ever.

However, in DS9 not only do you have a strong relationship between Jake and his father, but we also see O’Brien doting on Molly (I love the scene where she throws up on him (Fascination)) and Keiko and Miles having the typical arguments you see in strong marriages—and how they work past those problems.

The show has multiple families that behave like families: they bicker and nag and whine yet very obviously care for each other.

We get the same feeling when we see other family members of other characters: when Sisko visits earth, his relationship with his father (Brock Peters) is very similar to his relationship with Jake. He nags his father about his health. His father gripes about the nagging, yet we still see the affection.

Even more complex is an episode we haven’t re-watched yet, which is Bashir’s interactions with his parents. That’s another favorite episode, because that relationship is so very complicated, yet it still feels completely real—that actual parents would behave as Bashir’s parents did, sacrificing to give their son the best they could. And what is even more interesting is that complexity is glimpsed long before we meet those characters are learn about Bashir’s past. We see it in a throw-away line in season 4’s Homefront: O’Brien asks Odo to check on his parents, and when Odo asks Bashir if he would like him to check up on anyone, Bashir looks extremely uncomfortable and declines politely.

Even the relationship between Nog, Quark, and Rom matures as the show progresses and Rom steps out from his brother’s shadow, and although the initial episode with their mother is not one I particularly like, we still see complicated relationships between the three. And I adore the scene where Rom realizes Quark has sabotaged Nog’s Academy entrance exam. As well as the scene where Nog breaks down while explaining to Sisko why he wants to go to the Academy.

These are all characters who have depth and pasts and wants and needs and even if you don’t always see them on the surface, you still know they’re there. As flat as someone of these characters were in the first season, they all develop and grow and become far more than they first seem.

All of which means I ended up caring very much what happened to these characters, feeling their hurts and also feeling their joys.

It’s also one of the reasons why so many years later this show is still as relevant and touching as it was when it first came out.

Written by Michelle at 10:42 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Movies & TV  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Where Are All the Women Authors? Again with This?

It seems that yet another white male is saying there are a lack of female authors in SFF, so that’s why SFF movies by women just don’t get made.

No, I shan’t line to the original article, but here is the discussion I came across: Stop Erasing Women’s Presence in SFF

Interestingly, most of the comments are people boggled by the writer of the original article not being aware of, say, JK Rowling. And then the commenter goes off to list their favorite five or ten female authors. There are a LOT of different female authors listed throughout that thread.

So this is where I once again completely geek out.

I read a LOT. You know that.

I also love geeking out. You know that too.

So you might remember that years ago (good grief, 14 years ago) I started keeping track of the books I read, and then later started tracking various information about those books–the gender of the author, the genre of the books, etc.

That means that I have a LOT of data on my personal reading habits. Which I love to manipulate. (Because: geek)

I know this is a confusing chart–I’m looking at two different types of data so I pared things down quite a bit. Here’s how to understand what you’re looking at.

The stacked bar charts are showing the gender of the author: women on the top, men on the bottom, multi-author books in the middle. That pink slice? Women who write under male pseudonyms.

You can see that I tend to read more female authors than male authors in any given year, but that sometimes I read more books written by men, but at no time have less than 40% of the books I’ve read been written by women.

The lines are the genre of the book of read. You can see that I predominantly read fantasy (Green line), but I also read a lot of mystery (red line). As romance is predominantly written by women, that line is pink. (Don’t try to figure out the numbers here, a book can have multiple genres–FREX I have a have a deep love for supernatural mysteries.)

So what is the point of this? It shows you that I read predominantly female authors, and the majority of my reading tends to be fantasy (although some years mysteries win out.)

Yes, I do re-read books a lot, but I am not re-reading the same fantasy book by the same female author over and over again (I rarely re-read them same book twice in a year).

It also shows that genre and gender are relatively independent. Yes, romance novels are mostly written by women. Yes, most comics are written by men. But since most of my reading is of fantasy and mystery, those categories are gender independent.

I have also complied a list of female authors I have read, across all genres.

That list currently has 275 authors on it. If you’re looking for something to read by a female author, I think you’d be able to at least one book on that list you’d like.

So next time some guy says there aren’t any good female authors, you can assure them there are quite a few, and perhaps recommend one or twenty books for them.

Written by Michelle at 5:15 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Geek  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Books of 2016: Stats!

I love statistics and manipulating and Excel more than is normal, so when I have a data set, I love looking to dig into it for meaning.

Because: geek.

I read a LOT of books this year. More than any other year since 2003 when I started keeping track.

2016 – 189
2013 – 174
2014 – 167
2006 – 164
2012 – 160

That turns out to be an average of 15.8 books a month.
with a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 23 in a single month. Interestingly, nine has been the minimum number of books read in a single month for four of the past eight years.

Here is something that shouldn’t come as a surprise, and yet it does. I read zero mass-market paperbacks this year. Zero mass-market paperbacks.

Paperback : 0
Trade Paperback : 5
eBook : 173
Hardback : 2
Audio : 9

We got our first ereaders in December of 2010. It was a nook and I wasn’t especially impressed with it.

That changed once I got my first Kindle.

(The numbers are off by one because I finished the chart a couple days ago)

But even I’m surprised that I didn’t read any mass-market paperbacks this year.

But that’s reflected in the fact there were 50 books that I have in multiple formats. Nine of those were audio books, which means the rest were books I had in paper and got again as ebooks, so I could read them a second time.

Multiple Formats : 49
Re-read : 68

There are actually a LOT of books I’d like to re-read, but when I have the paper book, I’m not willing to pay $8-12 for a second copy.

Which means I don’t re-read those books.

I’ll note right here that the Shelfie app has allowed me to got reduced price ebooks when I own a paper copy of the book. So kudos to them–and I wish more books were available.

Genre-wise, mysteries came out on top this year, but not by a lot, though this is the second year in a row I’ve read more mysteries than fantasy.

Mystery : 87
Fantasy : 79
Romance : 33
YA : 7
Anthology : 6
Comic : 4
Cookbook : 3

If you’re curious as to that drop in the number of mysteries, Grandmom died in 2011, and she loved mysteries, so I didn’t feel like reading mysteries for awhile after that.

Now comes the bit I find super interesting: author gender.

Female : 120
Male : 40
Male Pseudonym : 18
Initials : 8
Joint + Anthology : 3

120 is a pretty big number, however, the actual number of books written by women is 146, once you add in women writing under male pseudonyms or their initials.

This is, I admit, a confusing graph, but it’s also the clearest way I found to look at both author gender and book genre at the same time.

And that should be the final geek out of 2016.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

Written by Michelle at 9:54 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Geek  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pedometers: Data Comparison!

Another quick reminder of what I’ve been testing:

Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices
The Software


I tracked the output of the various devices for three weeks, noting steps, kcal, and miles at various points of the day, including immediately before and after exercise or hiking.

Here’s what I found.



As I’d found previously, the FitBit overcounts steps. Accupedo and the Omron are generally pretty close to each other, and typically had lower step counts than the VivoFit and the One.


On days when I was doing things like cleaning house or baking, the VivoFit had a much higher count than any other device. (I also threw out the Accupedo data on several of these days, because I didn’t have the phone in my pocket for several hours.)

I’m not terribly distressed that the VivoFit had a higher step count on days when I was baking or cleaning, because I’m active during those times, just not moving from one place to another.

Calories Burned


Not only does the FitBit overcount steps, but it also generally overcounted how many calories I burned during the day.


Here you can see that during periods of exercise, the FitBit gave me a far higher calorie burn than any other device–including the Garmin Fit, which should also have been taking elevation and pace into account. (Note that for walks, the Omron and Garmin Fit had very close calorie burns, but for hikes (where we were in steeper terrain) the Garmin Fit gave a much higher calorie burn than the Omron. I believe the Garmin Fit data should which should be fairly correct, although I know that using the heart rate monitor would make it more accurate. But I find it uncomfortable, so you don’t get that data because I am unwilling to suffer that much for data.)

Putting that together, we can see how calorie burn and steps tracked for my lunchtime walks.


The step counts are all relatively close during these time periods, but the FitBit in general gave me a much greater calorie burn (I’m not sure what happened on that final Thursday–I’m guessing operator error in noting the counts.)

Yes, I do walk up and down stairs during my lunch walks, but I don’t think that’s enough to account for the FitBit calorie burn being that much higher.


And finally, because I can’t help myself, I compared the mileage calculated by the pedometers as opposed to the distance given by the GPS for outdoor walks and hikes.


GPS readings were from the Garmin Fit, which tracks mileage using my phone, and my Garmin Oregon GPS. I’ll note that the Oregon GPS does tend to give me a slightly shorter reading than is probably true, simply because I meander. So fractally, the distance I walk is probably longer than the distance calculated by the GPS, but not by a large amount.

Also interesting, the Vivofit seems to underestimate distance when I’m hiking and walking, as compared to other devices, but not consistently so, which could be due both to the terrain, and to how frequently I stop to take pictures when I hike.

And to be fair, hiking is quite different from walking, since one’s stride is generally not consistent.

So there you have it: The FitBit continues to overcount steps and overestimate calories burned, but the interface and community are so much nicer than any other device, it’s still my current favorite.

If you do outdoors activity, the Garmin Fit app is very nice, and I can definitely recommend it.

And if you don’t want to carry around an additional device, the Accupedo app is a very good alternative to a separate pedometer (assuming you can correctly calculate the sensitivity).

Previous Pedometer Geekiness:

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PEDOMETERS! Software, Websites, & Apps

Because everything is connected now, the screen interface between you and your data is important, so it gets an entire post.

Again, here are this year’s contenders:

Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices

Also tested:

Sense Me
Garmin Fit

Here are the various interfaces.


This is a phone app, so no website.


I like the Accupedo interface. It puts what I want to see right there, cleanly and clearly.

And I also like the widget, which comes in three different sizes.


Note that Accupedo is the only widget on my phone. That’s because the FitBit widget comes in one size–too large–and none of the others have widgets.


Here is the FitBit website Dashboard. It’s fine. It displays everything I want to see at a glance.

fitbit web

This is the FitBit app. Everything is there in a single glance, and the colors change the closer you get to your goal. I also like this app.


Garmin Connect

Here is the Garmin Connect website, with the Vivofit panels.

vivifit web

I find this website frustrating. The panels never seem to stay where I want them–probably because I have different computers with different monitor sizes, and the panels shift around. The steps panel itself is fine–if only it would stay where I put it.

The Garmin Connect app I like better. It displays the same information as the website, and in the same manner, but it shows me what I want to see as soon as I launch it. No hunting to find the right panel.


The Garmin Connect website is ALSO where you view the Garmin Fit app data, (as well as where I view the data from my Garmin watch. (Which I do NOT love, because the buttons are non-responsive, so it’s nearly impossible to start activities and connect the foot-pod and heart monitor. But that’s something else entirely.))

Garmin Fit uses the GPS to calculate the distance, pace, elevation, and calories burned. It does NOT work inside, so this is no good for a pedometer, but it is VERY nice for hiking.

connect website fit

Same panels (and the same issue with the panels) but I do love the little map of my latest activity.

Here’s the app:


I like the display here as well, although it seems like I have to jump through one too many hoops to start an activity.

Omron Wellness Site

The Omron Wellness site is the new site where your data is uploaded.

omron website

I’ll be blunt. I am having major issues with the Omron Wellness site. It says it’s uploaded my data, but as you can see, my recent data is not there. I’m emailing with tech support, but I must say I really miss the old Omron software where everything lived on my computer.

I’ll update you as to how things go. Since they just rolled out the new site, I’m willing to cut them a little slack–but not much, and not for long. This is the only way I can view all my data (besides on the pedometer itself), and it’s not working.

SenseMe Pedometer App


There is no screen where I can get an overview of all my data at once. There is no widget. Plus, it’s inaccurate. Goodbye.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, March 23, 2015


Yup, it’s that time again, where I get ahold of multiple pedometers AND TEST THEM TO WITHIN AN INCH OF THEIR TRI-AXES.

Or something like that.

Here are this round’s contenders.

FitBit One
Garmin Vivofit
Omron HJ-323U

pedometers 1

pedometers 2


Accupedo is solely a phone app, so its size is your cell phone.

Accupedo tracks steps, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The feature that makes Accupedo so good is that it has a sensitivity setting. At the base setting, I found it was over-counting steps (dramatically so), but decreasing the sensitivity made is very accurate (when compared to the other devices).

The calorie tracking is only for activities. If you do nothing all day (or leave your phone sitting on a table) your kcal count will be zero. This makes it difficult to compare it directly to the FitBit and the VivoFit, since both of those calculate your calorie use on top of your resting rate.

FitBit One

FitBitThe FitBit one tracks steps, elevation, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The elevation is one of my favorite things it tracks, because I live in the land of hills, and I always take the stairs.

It’s small, and even if the silicone case fits easily in that little tiny pocket of your jeans, which is where I keep mine (which reduces the amount of incidental abuse it takes.)

It syncs over bluetooth with your phone, or over a dongle you plug into the USB port of your computer. I quite like that you have two different options for syncing, since I don’t generally leave my phone’s bluetooth on.

The One is a rechargeable device that you slip into an odd little USB dongle you plug into the USB slot of your computer. This dongle does not sync–it just charges, which seems like a waste to me, but what do I know?

The One is supposedly water resistant. I haven’t gotten this one particularly wet, however, this is my second One. The first One was accidentally put through the washer by Michael when I was sick (he was being helpful, so I can’t really blame him for not checking my pockets). It didn’t recover from the experience.

The silicone clip is quite sturdy, and I’ve clipped it onto the waistbands of skirts with no ill effect.

Garmin Vivofit

GarminThe Vivofit is a wristband fitness tracker that I got when Michael decided he really didn’t care for it. (He now has a FitBit One.)

The VivoFit tracks steps, kcal and miles and activity.

Although there is a website, the device syncs only through your phone’s bluetooth, and only when you tell it to sync. The later is nice, because it saves the battery. Instead of being rechargable it uses a watch battery. I bought the VivoFit for Michael at the end of October, and we haven’t had to change the battery yet, so it’s got a pretty decent life for what it does.

It is water resistant, and I’ve repeatedly splashed water on it, and no ill signs yet.

It displays the time, just like a watch, although to reserve the battery you can’t read it in low light. I consider that a feature, not a bug.

I find myself strangely pleased with the VivoFit, probably because I always wear a watch, so this does double duty. (I’ll note that I am VERY hard on watches, and regularly destroy them. So we’ll see how much abuse this can take.)

Omron HJ-323U

OmronThe Omron Activa is the third Omron pedometer I’ve had, and it is unfortunately my least favorite.

On the plus side, it’s smaller than previous Omron pedometers, and is built upon a USB stick, so to upload your data, you just remove the cap and plug it into a USB port on your computer. It’s also extremely accurate (assuming it’s in my pocket and not just dropped down the front of my bra, where it does not, in fact, count very accurately).

On the negative side, I don’t trust the clip, so I don’t wear it if I’m not wearing something with pockets, and I utterly despise the current software that comes with it. As in–the software doesn’t work for me and this makes me very unhappy.

It runs off a watch battery, and the battery lasts quite awhile, so no complaints there.

But as I said, the software is currently abysmal and non-functional for me. And although the design is smaller than previous versions, I don’t particularly trust the clip, so unless I have pockets, I don’t wear it. (If you are female, you understand that this happens quite frequently since women’s clothes are STUPID.)


So design-wise, I like the VivoFit and the FitBit One, as I find both unobtrusive.

Written by Michelle at 7:11 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

For Fellow DS9 Fans:

The local college radio station jazz show was playing an old standard, and I found myself thinking, “that’s why the lady is a scamp!”

Written by Michelle at 1:10 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ark!

We went to Frostburg to have dinner for my Dad’s birthday, and I talked my parents into stopping by The Ark!

Look! Here we are!


Ta DA!


We’re in luck! Clear skies!


It’s large, but it’s not THAT large. Guess that’s why the dinosaurs couldn’t fit.



I’m guessing this is the ramp for the animals to go down into the hold. Not much headroom for the elephants and giraffes.


All the cement is crumbling.


The footers (again, crumbling) were poured for a much larger structure than the existing steel super structure.



There you go! A closer look at the Ark, a structure that has provided hours of amusement over the years.

There are several more pictures if you click through to Flickr.

Written by Michelle at 8:54 am      Comments (5)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Non-Sequiturs,Photos  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days

I believe I’ve talked before about participating in the Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days program at WVU.

I’ve done it every year since at least 2005 (that’s the oldest record in the Excel file I used to keep track), and except 2010, when I broke my ankle, I got way over the minimum every year.

What I find fascinating (because I am a huge geek) are the pattern differences from year to year.

Here is a chart for last year:


Here is a chart for this year:


I’m thinking that the Saturday change is due to the number of rainy Saturdays we had this year, where we couldn’t get out and go hiking. But I find it just as fascinating that my peak walking day during the week shifted from Wednesday to Friday. Most likely because Wednesday is the day I’m most likely to go out to lunch with friends.

And if you’re curious, the number of miles I walked this year during the program was 477 (longer than the distance from Morgantown to Fayetteville, NC). Only 176 (just a bit longer than the distance from Morgantown to Charles Town, WV) of those counted towards the program, because you can only count 12 miles/week for the program, and that’s pretty much the max you can get.

So, it was fun. Both the walking and the tracking.

(And my team? We walked 1972 miles, which is longer than the trip from Morgantown to Denver, CO (1465).)

Written by Michelle at 6:26 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Non-Sequiturs  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pedometer Testing: The Results

Now! (drum roll of wooden pencils on a desktop) the uber geeky results!

Pedometer Testing: Round II – Revenge of the Pedometers
Pedometer Testing: Data Tracking
Issues with the Withings Pulse & Elevation: Part I: Dissed by the Pulse, Part II: Withings Pulse Doesn’t Track Elevation for Crap and Part III: THIS IS NOT HOW MATH WORKS

First, the pedometers:
Omron HJ-720
Withings Pulse
FitBit Ultra
Omron HJ-323
FitBit One
Noom Walk

Essentially, if a pedometer gave me a measurement, I tracked it, and compared it to other pedometers that measured the same thing.

All pedometers measured step count (of course). I knew from previous testing that the FitBit Ultra over-counted steps, and that held true this time. The FitBit One, however, seemed far more accurate, or at least closer to the average.

To see how different activities affected step count, I noted the step count at various points in the day. I then averaged those measurements, and plotted how far each pedometer was from the average for that time period. (I did this for every day, but I chose Thursday to show here, because it was easy to read, while being a good representative of what I saw over the course of the testing.


Here is a look at how each pedometer differed from the average over the entire 11 day course.

Difference from avg steps over time

Even those these measurements are against the average for each time period, you can see that the FitBit Ultra gets more and more inaccurate as the day progresses. My observation is that it over-counts when I am at rest, as I tend to doing most of my running around in the morning, and stick closer to my desk in the afternoon (and in the evening, plop my butt on the couch).

The Noom Walk step count was quite off from the average–it was always higher than another other pedometer, so I didn’t count those steps when calculating the average, although I did add it to the Thursday chart, so you can see how far off the average it was.

This chart is showing how each pedometer performed over the entire time period as compared to the average.

difference from avg step count

The first section shows whether the step count for each pedometer for 11 days was over or under the average. The next section is the minimum–the most each pedometer under-counted. The third section is the maximum–the most that each pedometer over-counted. You can see that the Ultra and the Noom had the highest over-counts.

That chart is essentially showing you both consistency and accuracy. (The Ultra consistently over-counts. The Omrons consistently under-count.

Most converted your step count into miles (the Noom Walk didn’t).

I compared the pedometers against each other (I took the average mileage (throwing out the Noom, which was an obvious outlier) and saw how each pedometer did compared to the average.


mileage-gpsDon’t hold that 3/15 data against the pedometers. We took a bike ride that day, and pedometers don’t do well with bike rides (unless you tie the pedometer to your shoe, which I was not willing to do).

I also compared mileage over a period of hours with the mileage generated by my GPS.

In this case, the pedometers which gave a slightly higher mileage are probably closer to true, because as anyone who has every walked with me can attest, I wander all over the path/sidewalk.

Only the Omron pedometers counted aerobic steps. For the Omron, aerobic steps are when you have been walking for ten minutes without stopping.

Active TimeThe Omron HJ-720, Withings Pulse, FitBit Ultra, FitBit One, and Accupedo all gave measures of Active / Aerobic time. These were all slightly different, and FitBit and Withings both gave you measure of different levels of activity.

I used only Very Active and Intense Activity for my comparison data. Because there are different activity levels and measurements, the different pedometers had very different measures, although they all seemed to be consistent within themselves.

To be honest, I don’t pay a lot of attention to Active Time. I’m measuring activities I’d be doing anyway. I’m not looking to break any records or train harder.

Calorie count was very interesting.

CalorieFirst and foremost, FitBit gives you your total calorie output, including the calories you expend just because you’re breathing and your heart as beating. To get a comparable measurement, I arbitrarily decided FitBit was giving me a BMR (basal metabolic rate) of 1600, and subtracted that from the daily totals.

The results were… odd.

The FitBit One and Accupedo were closest to average, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most accurate. Just that they were similar. Why were the Pulse and the Ultra so high? I would guess part is because the Ultra consistently has a higher step count than any other pedometer.

If you’ve been reading along, you’ve seen that I have some serious issues with the Withings elevation count.

As in, it doesn’t seem to be reality based, or even based on any math system with which I’m familiar.

I figured the best comparison would be to take what the pedometers gave me over a set period of time (when I was walking outside) and compare that to what the GPS gave me.

Because the Withings data was so cracked out, I chose the elevation counts generated by the website, because they seemed to be the closest to reality. But as you can see, that didn’t make them very accurate.


The 3/21 data was a walk into town and back. The 3/22 data was from a 4 3/4 mile hike at Coopers Rock.

I fully expected the GPS to have a higher elevation gain than the pedometers, because it counts all elevation, even slight rises that aren’t really noticeable when you’re walking (such as walking up High Street). I was surprised at how close the FitBits were to the GPS readings for our hike at Coopers Rock. Perhaps the steep terrain made them more accurate.

So what does all this mean in the long run?

From a practical point, I’m going to use the FitBit One, so I can monitor whether I’m getting enough exercise to justify eating dessert. I’m also going to keep the Accupedo app, because it’s surprisingly accurate. And for now, I’m going to keep wearing the Omron HJ-323, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep wearing it.

I hope you found that useful, and if you have any questions, I’ll be delighted to answer them. I can also share my raw data if you’d like to see if you trust my manipulations.

But I fully admit that I did this solely because I am a tremendous dork and love doing weirdo things like this.

Written by Michelle at 7:01 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pedometer Testing: The Contenders

I wore five pedometers and tested two pedometer apps.

Yes, I really am that much of a dork.

The five pedometers were:

Omron HJ-720
Withings Pulse
FitBit Ultra
Omron HJ-323
FitBit One

I discussed four of the five in an earlier post, so I’ll only talk about the FitBit One in this post.

The two pedometer apps were:

Noom Walk

I hadn’t used a pedometer app before, but quite liked one of the two I tried.

First up, the FitBit One. (For perspective on the size of the FitBit Ultra, please see this post.)

Here’s what you get:

Front view, including wireless dongle, and charging dongle:


Back view, with same as above:


The two shiny bits are where the One matches with the charging dongle to charge.

Unlike the Ultra, the FitBit One is a single piece, so the device shouldn’t chip the way the Ultra did. It is also supposed to be water resistant (not water proof). We shall see about that as well.

The protective case/belt clip is silicone, with embedded metal bits. I have concerns about the silicone case tearing (this happened with the silicone case of the pulse) so I’m going to try to avoid removing it from the case except to charge it.

Here is how the FitBit One (in its silicone case) compares in size to the FitBit Ultra:


They’re basically the same size; not at all bulky.

It also comes with a wristband for slipping the One into while you sleep. As I always wear long sleeve sleep shirts, I can just clip the One onto the hem of my sleeve for the same thing. I can also clip it into the old wristband for the Ultra. This saves me from having to pull the thing out of the silicone case every day.

The FitBit one fits perfectly into the little square pocket in your jeans, so that’s where I’ve been keeping mine. It’s unlikely to fall out there, and it’s protected from the other things in my pocket (currently, that would be four other pedometers, though I also carry a multi-tool for work).

You can sync the FitBit One in two different ways: via the tiny dongle that fits into your USB port, or via Bluetooth on your phone.

The old charging stations don’t work. Bluetooth on a computer doesn’t work. But, if you have a bluetooth phone, it’s easy to turn on the Bluetooth, open the FitBit app to sync and then turn the Bluetooth back off. It syncs smoothly and quickly, and I didn’t run into a single transfer hitch the entire time I’ve been using it.

The bad thing is I only have three USB ports on my laptop, and one of those ports already holds the USB dongle for my wireless mouse. Yeah, not a huge issue, but if you’re short USB slots on a laptop, you might want to make sure the Bluetooth works with your phone.

In summary, the FitBit One has been a surprising pleasure to use. The site is exactly the same as for the Ultra, so no surprise there. But the app has been updated and gives you relevant data at a glance.

As I said before, I’d never installed a pedometer app previous, mostly because I didn’t know they existed. I knew programs like Runkeeper etc existed, but they generally use GPS, do don’t work for indoor walking, of which I do a lot.

The Noom Walk is very bare bones, and (as you’ll see later when I look at the data) not particularly accurate.


It really wants you to socialize, and I really had no interest in doing so, I didn’t much go into the app. You see there’s also a huge push to get you to use the other apps.

No thanks, I’ll be deleting Noom Walk as soon as I finish up these reviews.

Both the Noom Walk and Accupedo had widgets, which is how I checked my step counts. The Noom Walk displays only step counts.


The Accupedo has several widgets of different sizes. This is the 4×1 widget that displays step count, mileage, kcal burned and active time.

The Accupedo, on the other hand, was surprisingly wonderful.


It has a number of inputs to personalize your profile, including height, weight, age, stride length, and number of consecutive steps before it starts counting.

It ALSO (most importantly) has a setting to decrease or increase the sensitivity. I discovered that I needed to reduce the sensitivity, but when I did, the accuracy was very close to what the other pedometers were giving me.

There is a start time, end time, and pause option. This allows you to turn off the pedometer at night, and also when you’re doing activities where you aren’t walking, such as riding in a car.

You can also have it notify you when you’re reached your daily step goal.

I currently have the free version, but think I might splurge for the “pro” version, because I really like the app, and like to support people who create things I like.

So those are the contenders. Next up, results.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Ramblings: Coopers Rock, Scott’s Run Trail

For our Saturday hike, Michael decided we should take the Scott’s Run Trail, which we had not taken before.

It was gorgeous.

It was also subtly educational, although I doubt most people would notice. We started from the main entrance and ended at the camp ground.

The beginning of the trail was, essentially, a muddy water run-off track. Some sections were muddier than others, and I’m glad I had my hiking stick, because the ground was often rocky and uneven.

Then, the run-off track turned into a small creek.


From here, to the bottom of the valley, the trail was mostly along the side of this creek (I’m guessing along an old logging trail)–you were rarely out of sight (or at least hearing) of the water.

Other springs and run off areas join in, and the creek now occasionally has small pools.


Soon it looks like a “real” creek, and you need a bridge to cross.


There are now deeper pools, areas that look like they would have water even at the height of summer’s heat.


At the bottom of the trail, multiple springs and run-off areas have created this shaded stream that continues on.


If you continue on the trail, it’s all uphill to the camp ground, and you see more springs that run down the side of the mountain to feed into the stream in the valley.


The end of the trail (or the beginning if you were starting at the campground) is again a rocky muddy water run-off area. (This part was less fun, as I was already tired and I had to be careful of my ankle on the rocks.) If we did this hike again I believe I would instead stop at the lowest part of the trail and backtrack form whence we came.

Of course there were a couple random things that caught my eye.


My theory on this is it dates back to when the forest was logged. That a truck broke down, and when they brought the replacement part, the just dumped the old part in the woods, because no one cared. Now, it’s an oddity, and a glimpse into the past.


Some woodpeckers went NUTS on this tree.

If you click through to Flickr, all of the above pictures have their GPS coordinates, if you’d like to find a specific spot yourself.

ADDENDUM the First:

I’ve started playing with the GPS data, because I’m a geek. Here’s a map of our hike:


(via GPS Visualizer)

Here’s the elevation change:


And here are the stats:


Written by Michelle at 9:52 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Morgantown,Photos,West Virginia  

Friday, March 21, 2014


I’ve thought from the start that the Withings had a wonky way of measuring elevation, but I pretty much ignored it.

But today I decided to take the GPS on our walk into town, and compare the GPS elevation rise to what the pedometers were giving me.

Now, from everything I’ve read, the FitBit gives you ten feet of elevation for every floor climbed. That’s easy enough.

But the more I looked at the Withings data, the less sense it made. So this evening I decided to sit down and try and figure out just what the hell the Withings data was trying to tell me.

For my walk, I wrote down the starting elevation and the ending elevation.

My numbers were 1619 ft and 2026 ft, which gave me a change in elevation of 407 ft.

Then I asked Michael to see if he could give me his elevation gain from the website.

His number was 95 ft.


So, I go to the website, and get the elevation gain for each 30 minute time period.


Can you read that number? The time is from 6:30 to 7:00 and it gave me 92 ft and 30 floors. Adding the numbers for the three 30 minute periods (16/6, 0/0, 92/30) I get an elevation gain over 90 minutes of 110 ft.

100 != 407

So, I note flights and elevation for every 30 minute time period [(14, 2, 13, 2, 6, 7, 1, 8, 35, 24, 4, 20, 9, 3, 3, 2, 6, 30, 5, 1, 8, 4, 1 flights) and (44, 7, 40, 8, 19, 22, 4, 25, 105, 74, 14, 60, 28, 9, 10, 7, 18, 92, 17, 3, 25, 12, 3 feet)] and I get a total of 646 feet and 208 flights of stairs.

Look back at the image. It’s giving my total elevation gain for the day: 2190 ft. None of those numbers seem to have any relationship to each other.

I fully admit that simple math is not my strong point, but I don’t see how my daily elevation gain total can be three and a half times higher than the sum of the individual time periods.

I’ll also note that the 646 ft measurement is much closer to what the FitBits gave me, (assuming 10 ft elevation rise per flight of stairs) an elevation gain of 640 or 670 feet (64 and 67 flights of stairs) for the day.

This… this makes no sense. And even assuming the sum of the individual time periods give me the correct elevation gain, the flights of stairs it gives are ridiculous, unless the Pulse things that a flight of stairs is only three feet high.

So, now I truly, deeply doubt the information the Pulse has been giving me–at least anything beyond basic step count.

Written by Michelle at 9:56 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pedometer Testing: Peek at Busy Day Steps

Yeah, I continue to find this fascinating.


Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Monday, March 17, 2014



I carried the GPS to work today, so I could determine precisely how long the walk to work is.

The walk to work was 1.0 miles, the walk from work was 1.1 miles.

But what amused me was the elevation graph.


It’s ALWAYS uphill.


Over the past year and a half I managed to put on enough weight that I stepped on the scale and read: 155.* That is more than I feel is healthy for me, so I need to lose at least 15 pounds. (Hence the pedometer testing.) Because of its integration with MyFitnessPal, I decided to get a FitBit One, not to track steps as much as to keep track of my calorie intake / outtake.

The FitBit One was waiting for me when I got home, so of course I immediately set it up.

Because I am a dork, this amused me:


And of course I’m adding the FitBit One to my pedometer tracking.

I can’t wait to find out of the One overcounts steps to the same extent as the Ultra.

(rubs hands together in glee)


* While I was clawing my way out of the pit of depression, I essentially stopped weighing myself, because I didn’t need one more thing to feel bad about. I believe that was the correct decision. Unfortunately, I was also been binge eating, so now my pants are too tight and it’s time to pay attention to what I’m putting in my body again.

Written by Michelle at 8:56 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Pedometer Testing: Peek at Some of Saturday’s Data

Here’s a peek at one of the charts I made from Saturday’s data.


It looks at the count differences during different periods of time. You can see that biking was problematic for the pedometers–which I knew it would be. I think I’d have to put the pedometers on my shoes to make them count accurately during biking.

But you can still see the tendency of the FitBit to overcount steps, regardless the activity.

I tested the Accupedo pedometer phone app yesterday, but the step count was so far off, it skewed my calculations. Badly.

I turned down the sensitivity (the better phone apps I looked at had a setting for changing the sensitivity), and today’s counts were much more in line with the other pedometers.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pedometer Testing: Withings Pulse Doesn’t Track Elevation for Crap

The first part of today’s activities I knew would be problematic for the pedometers: we went biking at Coopers Rock. It’s amusing how far off each device is from every other device.

But, I had my GPS, so I got all that information.

Then I realized that when we walked to dinner, I should take the GPS! Further proof the Withings Pulse can’t calculate elevation for shit!

First up, what Withings recording for me elevation today, all day:


From the time period of 3:30 to 5:30, it gives me an elevation gain of 119 feet.

And now, what the Withings recording for Michael. Keep in mind that we spend the entire day together.


Now here’s what the FitBit recorded for Saturday:


Then numbers aren’t directly compatible, as the FitBit displays the data is flights of stairs. But you can see the trend.

Here’s the route recorded by GPS:


According to my GPS, my elevation gain for the entire trip was 310 ft. So the Withings gave me about a third of the elevation I actually had.

So, compared both to the FitBit and to actual GPS measurements, the Withings Pulse has been giving me only about a third of the elevation it should if I’m climbing hills (versus climbing stairs–it seems to get the stairs fine).


Oh, in case you were interested, here was our elevation from our biking at Coopers Rock:


And here’s the route:


Written by Michelle at 8:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Pedometer Testing: I Really Am Dorking Out

Here’s a quick peek at my data collection file.There will be charts.


Written by Michelle at 3:35 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pedometer Testing: Dissed by the Pulse

I’d noted previously that the Pulse had dissed me on elevation.

Pedometer fail.

Well, today I got further proof that the Pulse is screwing me on elevation.

Michelle’s Fitbit:


Michelle’s Pulse:


Michael’s Pulse:


At noon, I climbed stairs during my lunch walk. At ~5PM, Michael walked home from work, which is mostly uphill.

At ~7 we walked home from dinner, which is also mostly uphill (Essentially, we live at the top of a hill, so it’s always uphill). The FitBit shows that as the greatest elevation of the day. The Pulse seems to give me almost no elevation, but Michael’s Pulse gave him credit for walking up University.

Needless to say, this irks me.

Written by Michelle at 10:45 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  
Next Page »

Powered by WordPress

books main pictures cats e-mail