"Um, you don’t know who Paula Radcliffe is?"

This morning I completed my fourth run in five days. The Nike+ System is working well. Today’s run was both my longest (3.51 miles) and fastest (11’55” miles). I was excited while listening as the female voice recapped my stats when I finished running. I was surprised when I heard pre-recorded congratulatory remarks from some woman introducing herself as Paula Radcliffe. Ms. Radcliffe congratulated me on my longest run yet. I didn’t know who the heck she was but it was a nice touch. Fast forward about an hour and follow along as I recap a phone conversation I had with TB (my wife and the marathon runner in our household) who was returning home from the hairdresser:

TB: “Hey, I was calling to make sure you were up and getting ready to head out for our flight.”
Me: [Laughing] “Yeah, I’m up. Actually, I just got back home from the gym.”
TB: “Oh, you worked out?”
Me: “Yep.”
TB: “That’s great. How was your workout?”
Me: “It was good. I ran farther and faster than before. It felt good.”
TB: “Cool.”
Me: “In fact, the Nike+ system apparently has a feature where people congratulate you in their own words when you reach certain milestones.”
TB: “Huh?”
Me: “You know how after I finish a run, a computerized voice reviews my distance, speed, time and calories burned?”
TB: “Yeah.”
Me: “Well, today, since I ran faster and longer, some woman named Paula, I think, congratulated me for setting a new personal best. I have no idea who she is but it was kinda cool and unexpected.”
TB: “Who?”
Me: “Some chick named Paula. Ra-. Radcliffe, I think. I think she said her name is Paula Radcliffe.”
TB: [Chuckling] “Um, you don’t know who Paula Radcliffe is?”
Me: “Uh, no. Who is she?”
TB: [No longer chuckling] “She is an elite runner. She holds the women’s marathon world record.”
Me: [Crickets]
TB: “You know Paula. Paula RADCLIFFE? She has a distinct running form?”
Me: “Naw, I don’t.”
TB: [Crickets]

At this point in the dialogue, I mentally picture TB shaking her head partly in sheer disgust and partly in disbelief.

Shoot, I didn’t know Nike+ has a Trivia Pursuit feature as well. :sarcasm:

Anyway, a few Wikipedia articles later, I am now educated. I know who Paula Radcliffe is. She is indeed a phenomenal runner. Thanks, Nike+…and TB (sike!)

We’re heading back to the frozen tundra of the Midwest for the holidays. I plan to keep running and have already scoped out a few gyms since I am not an outdoor or cold weather runner yet. Here is a screen shot of iTunes which shows my Nike+ running stats so far.

Keith's workout results as of 12-19-2007

Happy Holidays!

When Low Motivation Meets High Tech

As of this morning, I had gained 6 pounds since November 4th. That’s a pound a week. Yikes!

There are many excuses and explanations I could give, but I won’t. I knew I needed to get it together shortly after Thanksgiving, but get it together I did not. My motivation to workout regularly has been low and my success sticking to a balanced diet has been even lower. I have decided to do two things to motivate myself to a healthier lifestyle:

  1. Go high tech. Nothing motivates a gadget geek like electronics so I am investing in the Nike+ running system.
  2. Report my results. Public scrutiny is a highly effective behavioral adjustment tool and I will periodically report my running (and other exercise) progress here on my blog—I have created a new “Lifestyle” category to make future posts easier to find.

4GB 2nd-Generation Silver iPod nano Despite Apple’s iPod nano being the center of the Nike+ system, I must admit it is extremely cool and very well done. Being a Zune fanboy, I decided to stick it to Apple by purchasing a discounted, refurbished, 2nd-generation nano instead of buying a new 3rd-generation nano at full price. I bought a 4GB refurb, silver nano direct from Apple. It cost $99 (reg. $199) and came with a one-year warranty.

Nike+ Sport Kit sensor and receiver Next, I bought the Nike+ Sport Kit which includes the sensor that goes in one running shoe and a receiver that plugs into the nano. The Nike+ Sport Kit costs $29 from Amazon. I already have a pair of Nike+ running shoes which have a compartment specifically designed to hold the Nike+ sensor.

I loaded the nano with music and registered on the Nike+ site. TB is the runner in our household and she was kind enough to join me this morning as I rediscovered the gym for my first high-tech workout. I spent the first half of my workout calibrating the Nike+ system using the built-in configuration assistant. I then ran on the treadmill for another 20 minutes. Here is a neat Nike+ widget showing the speed vs. time plot of that second half of this morning’s workout captured by Nike+:

I will add a couple Nike+ widgets to the sidebar to track the results of my most recent runs and latest challenge. I will start by challenging myself to run at least 12 times over the next 4 weeks. Wish me luck…

Zune Desktop Software vs. iTunes

Here are some screen shots of the Zune desktop software showing its various modes for managing music, pictures, videos and podcasts on the device, the PC and in the Zune marketplace/store. (Click each thumbnail to see a larger image.)

00-Zune-Software-Device-Music 01-Zune-Software-Device-Playlists 02-Zune-Software-Device-Videos 03-Zune-Software-Collection-Pictures
04-Zune-Software-Collection-Podcasts 05-Zune-Software-Device-Status 06-Zune-Software-Marketplace-Music 07-Zune-Software-Marketplace-Podcasts

While this version is still significantly less functional than iTunes, the Zune software has a much better user interface with its cleaner, less-cluttered methods of transporting various media on and off the device. iTunes, by comparison, looks and behaves more like a sluggish spreadsheet on my machine. You be the judge:

00-iTunes-Library-Music 01-iTunes-Library-Podcasts 02-iTunes-Store

My biggest gripe with iTunes is it doesn’t recognize album art stored in folder.jpg files. Despite all its capabilities, this reason alone places iTunes in the “sucks” category—I’d rather use Media Monkey.

My biggest gripe with the Zune software is the removal of auto-playlists and removal of folder.jpg album art in this version—both worked before. The auto-playlist support is painful but I’m using a utility a co-worker created for exporting auto-playlists created in Windows Media Player to the Zune software in its .zpl format. It’s a great workaround in a clunky, non-automated kinda way. The folder.jpg issue is bizarre since the software does recognize album art stored in ZuneAlbumArt.jpg.

A quick command-line utility is all it took to create corresponding ZuneAlbumArt.jpg files for the 1010 albums currently in my collection by copying the existing folder.jpg files. Keeping multiple copies of the same file is wasteful but a necessary evil since Sonos, Windows Media Player, Media Monkey and Windows Vista all recognize folder.jpg.

This only matters to people like me who still buy entire albums and adhere to a well-defined Artists/Albums/Tracks organizational structure where the folder.jpg convention makes sense. If you buy individual tracks from iTunes or the Zune marketplace you probably prefer having the album art embedded in the same file as the song. What’s baffling is there is no technical reason iTunes and the Zune software cannot support both methods. Bummer.

Dallas Cowboys 28, Detroit Lions 27

[update: It didn’t happen. The Patriots dominated the Steelers and appear to be on the road to a flawless season. Well done.]

How ’bout ‘dem Cowboys?! I thought only one thing could happen today to make NFL week 13 one to remember: Pittsburgh defeating New England thereby putting a major blemish on the otherwise amazing Patriots season. I am still cheering for the Steelers after the refs made their presence known in the Baltimore Ravens’ near-win against the Patriots in week 12.

What I didn’t expect was my favorite team, the Cowboys, to struggle as they did against the Detroit Lions today at Ford Field. Given the Cowboys’ amazing, come-from-behind victory, week 13 will be memorable for me regardless of what happens today in Foxboro. Here is a summary of the scoring drives courtesy of Fox Sports (note the game winning touchdown pass with 0:18 left in the game). Go Cowboys!

NFL 2007 - Week 13 - Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions

It’s official, I hate Ford Field. Oh, I also hate regional restrictions on televised games. Who cares about the Seahawks playing the Cardinals anyway?

My Zune 80 Original Has Arrived

Talk about service: My Zune 80 order from Zune Originals arrived direct from China five days early! The devices were shipped from Zhuhai, China on December 3 and arrived in Kirkland, WA on December 5, via FedEx. That’s amazing considering shipping & handling is included. (I can’t ship anything to Spokane, WA in 2 days for free.)

Opening a Zune 80 original is unlike any electronics experience I have ever had. The unboxing alone should secure the innovative Zune Originals a slot on Oprah’s Favorite Things—I don’t watch Oprah. :ashamed:

Here is a gallery of pictures I took during the opening ceremony.

TB was humored by the whole unboxing thing. She thinks I’m a nerd.

My first impressions of the new Zune experience (player software, desktop software and the physical device) have each been largely positive. I need to use the device for a while before reporting back on the overall good, bad and ugly.

Stay Zuned…