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Mar 1

Quantified Self – A sign of the times?

Posted on Sunday, March 1, 2015 in random thoughts

instantI stumbled upon an app the other day called Instant. It is a nifty little “lifestyle application” that measures your cellphone use by counting the number of unlocks you do through the day, the number of minutes you spend using the device, the number of minutes you spend on each individual application and the number of minutes of walking you do. The purpose of the app is help users achieve more balance between the time they spend on their digital device and the time spent interacting with the “real world”A.

Although not a complex app, in the simplicity of its measures a profound statement is made about our relationship with technology. It is an irony for the times, that we have come to a point where we are now using technology to manage our relationship with technology. The idea of the app stems from a movement called the Quantified Self.

The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical)

The notion of the Quantified Self is nothing new. We have been doing this sort of thing since we had the ability to count, whether it be for fitness, health, finances or other. If we could count it we did it. Where things have changed in recent years however, is with our ability to data mine out daily activities using the technology in our pocket.

Personally I am a big fan of personal data mining apps related to fitness. Apps such as FitBit, Strava and Garmin can harvest an astounding amount of data from my daily activity. With FitBit I can count the number of steps I take, floors I have climbed, nutrition in the food I eat and even my heart rate throughout the day. When I go cycling, my Garmin App collects data on all my rides including kilometers ridden, route taken, average speed, elevation climbed, cadence, heart rate and more. The amount of data I can collect on my physical activity is astounding and has been very useful in managing my health. If I am ignoring my health, (which I do between October 31 and January 1’st) The data makes it glaringly obvious how far in the tank I have gone and if I am training for something, the data is fantastic for helping me prepare.

The other thing I quantify is my spending and again this is nothing new. People have been budgeting for years but today using an app to track your spending, the metrics you can generate on that spending is astounding. By using a spend tracking app I have gotten my Starbucks habit under control, almost eliminated buying my lunch, along with a myriad of other spending ills that tracking with paper and pencil never managed to do.

The obvious question now is, how have we gotten to the point where we need to quantify ourselves in order to lead a balanced life? Well as much as I hate to say it, we are a society that is driven to imbalance through the demands of the jobs we have, the cost of the lives we lead, the crazy family life we create and the technology we use. If you want to be part of the “modern world” you no longer have the luxury to just be; to live in the moment or to live a simple unencumbered life. Sure there are places and situations where this is still possible but it isn’t a practical choice for many of the 7 billion people living in this world.

What I would like to think is that quantifying ourselves using the technology in hand, gives us the opportunity to take back some control of the crazy lives many of us are entrenched in. Instant is a perfect example of an application that helps us break free from our unhealthy, compulsive use of our personal devices. Perhaps it will be the beginning of regaining the balance in our lives we once had, moving away from being used by technology, back toward being a user of technology.

Quantified Self? Count me in!



Jan 6

The New Year Begins – 11 facts & 11 questions

Posted on Monday, January 6, 2014 in random thoughts

Well here we are, 2014 and it all starts again. As my followers know, I usually do a “Best Of” or “Predictions For” kinda post in the New Year but I was inspired by another idea.

The following post comes by way of Reema Faris, a West Vancouver School District trustee. I stumbled upon her New Year post, while squandering the opening minutes of the day as I usually do, sitting on the couch; coffee in one hand and iPad in another. I thought it was a cool little exercise for an end of the year reflection so my class and I are starting off the year doing our own 11 Facts & 11 Questions. I will post a compilation of the kids work at a later date.

As usual, I hope to stir the pot a bit with this post as I share some brutally honest fragments of my person and ask a little of the same from you. So without further adieu, I give you 2014 11 Facts & 11 Questions.

11 facts & 11 questions.

  1. I have an inherent distrust of authority. Not the police kind, I am a very law-abiding citizen and like civil order. My second fact will attest to this . The kind of authority I am weary of is the kind that wears suits. I can only assume this comes from my blue-collar, union rabble rousing up brining where the family mantra was “Never trust anyone wearing a tie.”
  2. I was almost a Sannich police officer. Actually I shouldn’t say almost… In my last year of university, I went through the initial interview process for the police force and was told “Great! We like you… come back when you have completed your degree.”  I never went back.
  3. I was dropped from Math 11 by my teacher after the first day of class. Somehow during that first 60 minute class, she decided I would be nothing more than a labourer and wouldn’t need math.
  4. I have always wanted to be a writer. Not sure if blogging counts ? Thinking not.
  5. I am fiercely independent. Think this collaboration thing is a crock and just distracts me from what I want to do.
  6. I am more comfortable with the role of functionary. Give me something to do and I do it. If asked to lead the charge I will do it but I am much more comfortable being a minion.
  7. I have been told on numerous occasions that I would make a great politician, which concerns me because I have never thought of myself as being corrupt.
  8. Wish I had become a visual artist.
  9. I was a mistake and my mom makes no bones about it. I got the last laugh though, because It took four kids to finally get it right.
  10. I was labelled as “learning disabled” long before it was cool.
  11. I am a punctuality FREEK! Hate being late for anything.

Answers to Reema Faris’s 11 Random Questions 

  1. When you think back to your time as an elementary and/or high school student, what’s the one thing you wish had been done differently? … Not listen to my teachers. I wasted far too much of my life living down to their expectations.
  2. What’s your favourite movie and why?… Star Wars IV, no reason required the movie speaks for itself.
  3. If you were asked for one piece of advice to offer a first year student at a post-secondary institution, what would it be? Since drop-out would be frowned upon by my superiors, I will say… Make sure you travel and work extensively in the third world for at least a year after university and get a real education.
  4. What was your favourite song of 2013 and why?… Don’t got none
  5. Who would you say serves as the best role model for young people today?… Me!
  6. Think about the work you’re doing now. Is it part of a career you had planned on or are you doing something you had never thought of doing when you were younger?… Planned but I am not sure it is what I would be best at.
  7. If you could pitch an idea for a television show, what would it be?… Reality show on today’s schools. Stories from behind the pedagogical curtain.
  8. On a sunny day, do you make every effort to get outside or do you sometimes prefer to stay at home?… I hate inside. If I am still in the house by noon I go stir crazy.
  9. If you had to choose one animal to best describe who you are, what would it be?… Sea otter.
  10. What do you think is one thing we could do to encourage more young people to vote in municipal, provincial, and federal elections?… Give them a life. We have stolen our kids adult lives by suspending their adolescence well into adulthood. If we don’t let them grow up, why should they vote.
  11. What is one change you hope to make in 2014?… Change? I am change. I get bored with doing the same thing day in and day out. It is one of the reasons I have stopped blogging. Lost interest.

11 Questions For You

  1. Pick one celebrity you think you look the most like?
  2. What would like to do in your next career? (retirement counts as a career)
  3. What is the most annoying thing about you?
  4. Is there any situation under which you would condone and participate in civil disobedience?
  5. Where is your favourite place on the face of this earth? (Other than home)
  6. If you had to choose between living in sweltering heat or freezing cold, which would you pick?
  7. Where can you trace your family roots to?
  8. If you had to pick one for the rest of your life: Sweet or Savoury?
  9. Who are you most like, your mother or father?
  10. Name of the one colleague you most respect?
  11. If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be?

I Challenge the Following People to do their Homework:

Anyone and everyone who wants to play, along with three of my favourite twitter followers.

Sep 8

Now For Something Completely Different – A Presidential Wordle

Posted on Saturday, September 8, 2012 in random thoughts

How can you tell I am bored? Creating WORDLES on a Saturday night, might just win me the geek of the year award but I don’t care. I figure I am breaking new ground here, analyzing the words of Barak Obama & Mitt Romney.

I know, I know… I am a sad sad little man.

Would it help if I told you I am enjoying a nice Shiraz while I am writing this?

For those who don’t know what a WORDLE is, it is simply a collage of words, displayed in a graphically pleasing if not interesting way. They were all the rage in teaching circles a couple of years back, you couldn’t walk down the hall without some teacher showing you their WORDLE. “Look! Does’t my Wordle Look GREAT?!”  I generally would avoid eye contact, pretend I was deep in thought and keep on walking.

Fortunately WORDLE mania has passed but they do serve a pretty cool function when you have to analyse the text of a short story, poem or in this case a speech.

All you have to do is go to, click on Create and then paste your text into the text box provided. When you hit the generate button, the website performs some wacky internet magic and spits out your WORDLE. IF you take a look at the WORDLES below, you can see the words are all different sizes and those sizes are dependant on the number of times a word is used within the text. If you look at the Obama’s and Romney’s Speech WORDLES, you can see just how much certain words were emphasized in their respective speeches.

For example: Romney used AMERICA more than any other word  in his speech because it is really BIG, so someone who looks at his WORDLE might assume that he was talking to a bunch of people who weren’t sure where they were? Conversely, the smallest words are the ones used the least and even that could mean something, like in Obama’s speech. The words Schools and Teachers are really small, so it might be a sign that if you are considering being a teacher in the US of A… RUN! To Finland, where their word for education “koulutus” is really big in their head of state speeches.

The WORDLE is a really cool tool for interpreting text. Sure you can read all sorts of things into them but then again, there is a TON of enlightenment that lies within.

Now if you will excuse me, a second glass of Shiraz awaits.



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Was just informed that the New York Times did a similar thing on the Words Being Used at the Republican and Democratic Conventions