Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'health'


I have a theory (I know, I am full of them). Like most of you, as I have gotten older I have also tried to improve as a person. I am not just talking about being better at what I do with my career and hobbies, but I want to be a genuinely good person across the board; a good husband, father, son, friend, colleague, and dude who you bump your shopping cart into when buying milk. My theory is that people fundamentally improve by (a) making mistakes and (b) understanding and learning from those mistakes to not only prevent making the mistake again, but to also uncover the cause and effect of why the mistake was made, thus improving your life.

Now, the (probably illogical) logical continuation of my theory is that to make improvements (a) you need to make more mistakes (which opens up the opportunity for learning), and (b) you need to develop CSI-like capabilities in assessing those mistakes and their root causes. Continuing the theme, if we can figure out ways to identify ways of triggering making more mistakes in a way that doesn’t get you arrested and we can identify ways to help us understand why we screw up the way we do, we should have a golden ticket for rocking our lives. Incidentally, this theory was boiled in my head while driving out to pick up Thai food on Saturday night, so this is no Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity in terms of completeness.

While I am rather thin on the ground in terms of what is the next logical part of my theory, I suspect that the way in which we invite more none-life-threatening mistakes is to break out of our molds and take more risks; if we never take chances, we lower the opportunity for risk and mistakes, but also lower the opportunity for learning. Likewise, for the latter understanding our mistakes part I suspect the key is not figuring out ways to prevent the mistake (“I got angry and shouted at my dog today so I will try to keep my cool”) but more about understanding the cause of the mistake (“I am stressed from work and bringing that stress home and taking it out on people and animals”). Much as I love dogs, the goal here is not to stop shouting at the dog but to repair the root cause. So I ask you, dear friends, does my theory wash with you, and if so, how can we increase the number of mistakes and the quality of our self-assessment of those mistakes?

Read more

Erica and I just spent a busy few weeks visiting family and friends over in the UK, and it was wonderful to see everyone. My family all get on wonderfully with each other, but my two brothers and I have always lived in different places and this Christmas was the first time we have all been together for Christmas in about 20 years.

It was awesome. I feel privileged to have such a wonderful and caring family. We miss them all, but are happy to be back home in California after such a hectic trip.

So here we are at the beginning of 2012 and many of us are in the frame of mind about new ambitions for the coming year. Some people have been sharing their new year’s resolutions, and I wanted to share a few of mine outside of the obvious passion to put my family first and be the best husband, son, and brother I can be. I am blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people, and I want to be there for all of them in the best possible way.

In terms of new resolutions, firstly I want to get fitter. I am not particularly out of shape and have a reasonably healthy diet, but I want to amp it up, get healthier, practice a regular exercise routine, and tone up. I will be tracking this with the awesome Fitbit, who assure me that Linux support for syncing data is coming, although their have gone a little dark when I ask when. Come on Fitbit, show us some love. :-)

Me in 2012.

Related to this in part is my second resolution that I want to learn how to cook. I am a terrible cook. I want to learn how to cook some healthier food, but I am particularly interested in continuing to learn how to grill. Grilling is a big cultural part of California, and I started learning how to cook steak, kabobs, veggies, and some other things last autumn, but I want to ramp this up to the next level. I am particularly interested in learning how to smoke some brisket.

This image has not influenced my resolution at all. Honest.

2012 is going to be the year of Ubuntu. 2011 was a year filled with great progress, tough decisions, and renewed focus, but 2012 is going to be where we really shine. Speaking personally of my team at Canonical, we could not be stronger; we have the unstoppable Daniel Holbach, Jorge Castro, and David Planella, and we will be joined by Nicholas Skaggs and Michael Hall to complete the line-up. The team is raring to go, we have a strong strategy in place, and 2012 will all be about growth, efficiency, and continuing to grow and a fun and inspiring community.

Finally, 2012 will see the new Severed Fifth album released, the second edition of The Art of Community and no-doubt plenty of other fun (and some likely slightly bonkers) projects. I have a few charity projects I am interesting in doing in 2012 too that I didn’t have the time for last year. Who knows where the year will take us?

Anyway, enough rambling, let’s roll. :-)

Read more

Getting Older

Tomorrow I will turn 32.

I have noticed that ever since I got into my thirties, whenever people of a similar age know it is my birthday, the conversation is always amusingly similar. They suddenly turn into the four yorkshiremen, rattling off progressively worsening examples of the ailments of age, about how things ache more than they did, I just don’t have the energy I once had, hangovers last longer, married life is different, and is a young man/womens game.

Screw that.

I have never been happier. I have wonderful wife, beautiful home, the best job in the world, incredible friends and family, and while I admittedly have Bon Jovi Knee, my early thirties feel great. There is a world of people fitter, smarter, and better looking than me out there, but I am happy, and I am thankful for that.

Mind you, I do find myself enjoying comfortable trousers more than I did. Uh oh.

Read more

As some of you might remember, I have expressed concerns at times about the physical health of some folks in our community. Some of us are overweight, spend too much time in front of a computer, have less-than-stellar diets, get little exercise, and boast about drinking too much caffeine. While I am not a health nut, and I am not trying to turn everyone into a health nut, I sometimes worry about the physical health of folks in our different communities. I want people to contribute to Free Software, but would never want them to develop unhealthy habits in doing so.

I feel really fortunate in this regard in that my wife, Erica, is a health nut. Before I met her, I used to eat like crap, rarely exercised, and I didn’t really know a lot about health and nutrition. I didn’t know a lot because I didn’t want to know a lot. Some of you may be aware that Iam a fairly social animal, and I didn’t want to be eating salads and sipping on tonic water whenever I was socializing. I am happy to be healthy, but I didn’t want to live a miserable life in the pursuit of it.

Ever since I met Erica, she has taught me heaps about how to stay healthy. It turns out that you can eat tasty food, have a good time socially, and still be healthy by just knowing a little bit more about what your options are. This is one of the many reasons I am so glad I met Erica, she not only gives me a reason to stay in shape, but she has also explained how to do it.

As such, I keep an eye on what I eat during the week, and try to eat below 2000 calories a day, I try to work out at least three times a week (a combination of metal drumming and an elliptical trainer), and try to do ten minutes of ab workout each day. At the weekend I throw caution to the wind, eat what I like, and don’t worry about working out.

Having visibility and measurements is useful when doing this. Knowing how many calories are in different foods and weighing yourself is handy, but there is another really interesting way.

The FitBit

While at OSCON this week, Erica and I got chatting to a friend about the FitBit. The FitBit is simple; it is a tiny device that looks like a clip that you clip onto yourself during the day and when you sleep. The little thing measures a stack of things:

  • how many steps you take each day and when.
  • how far in total you have walked.
  • how many calories you have burned.
  • how long you have slept and how often you wake up, giving you a good idea of the quality of your sleep.

Our friend is an enthusiastic user, so we bought a few.

I have only been using it for a day or so now, but it is really interesting. The way it works is that there is a small base station that you plug into your USB port and the little FitBit clip regularly sends it’s data to the base station, which then uploads it to the FitBit website. The website has a stack of different metrics and data analysis tools and you can use it to track your calorie intake, exercise and other additional elements. It provides a complete overview of your health, and your FitBit clip automatically updates it with what you are doing.

Supporting Linux

I think it is a neat idea. There are though a few wrinkles for Open Source fans such as ourselves. Unfortunately, there is no Linux client for FitBit to allow you to update the site from Linux. I did though find that a guy is working on a tool called libfitbit and he has some code in GitHub.

He says about 90% of the tool is feature complete in terms of updating the site with your details, but he has been side-tracked with other work to finish it. He also says that the current libfitbit is written as more of a proof of concept in Python, and he would like to re-write it in C. This would then provide a means to get the data off the FitBit clip and feed it to applications.

This got me thinking. Firstly, I would love to see FitBit fully supported in Linux. I would love to see it packaged, and whenever the data is sent to the site, a little notification bubble lets you know it was successfully transmitted. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Going back to my previous points about worrying if members of out community are getting unhealthy, I think the FitBit could be an awesome motivational tool to help geeks get fit. What do we like to do as geeks? We like to know about numbers, and metrics, and details, and the FitBit can help us to hack our health.

I could see all kinds of potential here. People could write Free Software apps that are based on FitBit data (imagine all the potential graphing, and health programme management apps), we could have an Ubuntu/Fedora/GNOME/KDE health community in which we have competitions for who works out the most on a given week, we could hold charity walks (imagine hooking FitBit up to Kickstarter to generate revenue based on how far you walk), and people could work together to motivate each other to stay trim. Essentially, we could crowd-source the idea of getting healthy, and base it on automated data from the FitBit.

I just wanted to throw out some of these thoughts and see if anyone is interested. The first step would be a C implementation of libfitbit, and I have reached out to current author to see if he is interested in making one. Would anyone be interested in helping him? If that happens would anyone be willing to volunteer to package it for Debian/Ubuntu/Fedora?

Read more