Interesting

Update on Treadmill Desk

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I’ve been using my treadmill desk now for two months. I am glad to report that my back pain has almost subsided. In fact, I went to the gym and lifted weights over the MLK weekend and felt strong and comfortable for the first time in several years.

Because I have a day job that requires me to sit at a desk, I am still sitting way more than what I think is healthy. However, I spend about two hours a day walking. This walking has helped tremendously. I’d like to get this number up to about four hours, but of all the things I’ve done, including physical therapy, road biking, and yoga, walking has been the most helpful.

I’m a big guy, 6’2″, 260 lbs right now. I used to be a big guy that was in solid, now I’m just big. Obviously, this has added to my problem, but even if I was thin, I’m convinced that we’re just not meant to sit down all day long. There are numerous studies that show the ills of a desk job, and not just for lower back pain.

I originally hurt my back lifting weights. This was over two years ago. I had done that before a time or two. In my previous experiences I would lay off for about a month and then start back lifting light weights. It seems like in the past it took about two months to feel back to normal. This last time however, I went six months without any significant improvement.

Finally, I went to a physical therapist. This did help a great deal, but I still had back pain. After that I started to road bike, partly to lose some weight and partly with the hope that the low intensity would help my back heal. Again, I saw some improvement, but I only really felt good right after a work out. Every morning I still woke up feeling very stiff. I also tried Yoga for about six months during this period, again, it helped, but I just wasn’t seeing the kind of recovery that I expected.

I work a day job as an analyst and when I’m home at night I like to work on coding projects. What that means is that I’m seated almost every waking minute. It finally occurred to me that if I didn’t change something, I was going to be in pain the rest of my life. I had heard about the benefits of walking/standing desks. It made sense to me that all the sitting was probably the root of my problem.

I wasn’t really willing to give up my hobby so, I decided that I needed a walking desk. I talked about putting that together in a previous post.

After two months my back feels better, almost completely better, and I think that if I can get my walking up to about four hours at home, I’ll be able to lose a few pounds. I am convinced of the virtue of the standing desk, I’d tell anyone who’s thinking about it, you should try it.

I am easing into it. I can go for about an hour before I start to get uncomfortable. I walk slow, about 1.5 mph and I’ll stop and stand at intervals to rest a little. Overall I feel much better. The biggest impact is that when I wake up in the morning, my back doesn’t hurt. I still have a ways to go before I would consider myself generally healthy, but the big problem that was plaguing my life, constant back pain, is mostly gone.

Amazing Memories

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I just found this 60 minutes spot on memory. I question some of the assumptions behind the anchor’s questions, mainly the need to find some liability in an amazing memory, but the piece is fascinating.

Recall isn’t the same as presence. The ability to look inward and call forth a memory isn’t the same thing as having a memory interrupt your train of thought. Why do we assume that the two are inseparable?

Everyone Needs to Watch the Fight Virgin

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Dan Krieg is going to train for a year and then compete in an MMA (mixed martial arts) fight. He is recording his progress reality TV style on youtube. Check out the first episode:

He has done about 5 episodes so far and has been at it about 3 months. In that time he has lost 12 pounds and has learned about a handful of techniques and taken his shirt off about 3 times.

A couple of things that make this podcast work is Dan’s sense of humor and his attitude about himself, “I have a proficiency for eating.” Dan is an everyman and I can relate to his ambition to better himself.

His goal is ambitious and his commitment is evident. I can’t wait for his next episode. I love watching this guy’s progress.

Dan is gonna fight in an MMA competition, what are you going to do?

Latest Inspiration

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I have been working on making games for an educational mobile game company that I am starting with some friends. I started reading ‘The Art of Game Design’ by Jesse Schnell. One of the points he raises is that games are at their center a human experience and thus a game designer must be familiar with many disciplines in order to design an experience that is deep and meaningful.

This idea has broadened my appreciation for things and as I have considered what I might look to for inspiration I have begun to recognize my own tastes and interests in certain things. I have paid more attention to what fascinates me as I have thought about the varieties of ideas that I could incorporate into an educational gaming experience.

This week I came across a couple of TED videos that talked about fractals, simple rules that repeat themselves to reveal complex and sometimes surprising outcomes, and I was inspired by this sculptor that creates machines out of wire and other objects that he finds. Here are the three TED videos that got me thinking and pumped up my imagination this week.

Benoit Mandelbrot – Fractals

Ron Eglash – Africal Fractals

Arthur Ganson – Happy Machines Scultor

Arthur Ganson also created the MIT Annual Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction where students are invited to design and bring a link in a Rube Goldberg Machine, then all the links are assembled and the machine runs. More about that here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same . . .

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I found this in my morning rotation via Brad Feld’s Feld Thoughts blog. It’s a video of an MIT professor explaining how the university used the IBM supercomputer. So many of the points he makes are the identical problems that designers and engineers site today. It’s quite interesting.

The question that comes to mind is, are these problems fundamental computer issues, or are they fundamental to our paradigm about computing machines. In other words, does the way we thing about computers constrain our ability to use them more effectively.

Virtual Chumby

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I have been seeing lots of ‘Chumby’ projects on Make’s blog lately. After doing some research I have learned what a Chumby is and I want one. A Chumby is basically a touch enabled computer that’s built into an alarm clock form factor. You would use something like this to listen to pandora or you’re favorite podcast as you get ready for work, have recipes or games in your kitchen, or you could have live sports scores next to your TV. Whatever internet content you might want in a small screen.

You can go to the Chumby website and create a virtual Chumby, a small bit of code to place on a blog or whatever that gives the same experience. Here’s my virtual Chumby.

I have sudoku, movie trailers, facebook statuses, chuck norris facts, and my twitter chosen as my content. It moves from one application to the next according to a schedule which you set. There are more than 1500 different chumby applications.

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