One of the most inspiring things I’ve heard from Barack Obama

We watched President Obama's interview on David Letterman's new Netflix show last night. There were several great moments throughout—listening to Obama is always enjoyable—but this quote from his explanation of the Obama Foundation's focus struck me more than anything:

We were talking earlier about the whole issue of racism and the silence that some people, who probably knew better, felt, and so, they just let things continue as they were.

The interesting thing is the reverse happens.

'Cause we're social animals, and if we see others who are volunteering… we'll think, "Well, maybe we'll volunteer."

If they see others voting… "Maybe I'll vote."

If they feel as if there's a community around them that says this is the norm, for us to feel like we have a say in our lives and we can connect with people, even if they don't look exactly like we do, or worship in the exact same way, or have the same sexual orientation, but we have these common interests involved, and that's the habits of the heart that we've developed… you know, it works that way, too.

So, that's what the Foundation is going to try to promote in a systematic way.

Barack Obama

I'm very excited to see what the foundation is able to accomplish over the coming years.

A semi-quantified self

I've had a Withings "smart scale" since January of 2010. There are a few periods where I lapsed, but for the most part I have 8 years of data tracking my weight, fat mass, and BMI.

Looking back, it's kind of crazy that I spent $160 on a freaking scale. But fast forward 8 years and it's pretty impressive that some earlyish IoT device was able to survive a half-dozen moves, a few wireless routers, the acquisition of it's manufacturer, and still sync data to a cloud somewhere that generated a fun long term graph.

In January of 2012, we got our first Fitbit trackers—18 months after I sent Michelle an email with a link to their website titled "This looks pretty cool".

Daily use seems to wear these out faster than the scale. That, and the release of new trackers starts giving you feature envy. I got a Fitbit One in August of 2013 and then upgraded to the Fitbit Charge 2 in December of 2016.

There are a few periods where the battery ran out, but for the most part I have 6 years of steps logged somewhere showing me how active I am.

Previous Fitbit trackers required a bulky wrist strap and the manual start/stop of your sleep time so that it could determine sleep quality while you told it you were asleep. The Fitbit Charge 2 changed that for me. It's easy to keep on your wrist almost 24 hours a day and it tracks sleep without any manual trigger.

Early last year it was fun to wake up and open the Fitbit app to see what it tracked. It quickly became the first thing in the morning routine.

After several months, I probably started relying on that number too much. Michelle would ask how I slept the night before and I would reply that I hadn't checked yet. 🙃

It would also be confusing from time to time. I would get what I thought was a great night of sleep, then open the app and see that I was supposedly awake for an hour and a half. This is fine, as I'm not expecting this $150 watch to really act as a replacement for actual scientific sleep monitoring equipment, but it did make me wonder what my purpose for tracking this was.

In addition to the inaccuracies, I recently had trouble sleeping a few nights. I laid awake in bed for hours a couple times, which is something I've never (thankfully) had trouble with. One of the things I focused on during these hours was how I could always feel the Fitbit on my wrist. My brain would then start wondering about the constant Bluetooth, etc, etc…

Anyhow. A couple weeks ago I finally slept without my Fitbit on for the first time in a year… and I slept amazing!

This is all anecdotal, but for a couple data-free weeks I've slept through almost every night and felt better about my sleep in general. Go figure.

So I'm switching back to a semi-quantified self.

I'm still wearing the Fitbit every day to track steps and heart rate, but I'm done wearing it through the night. It seems interesting enough to have paid attention to sleep for this long and I think it's good to focus on getting the right amount of sleep, but there are probably more effective things I can do than monitor that data.

There's a good chance I'll find a new reason to change my mind or try a different device/method for tracking sleep—especially if I learn that it's more accurate.

Quantified self is fun, but semi-quantified is just fine. 🙂

Root soup

In preparation for the root soup I've been planning to make for the last week, I looked up the notes I wrote to myself on January 3, 2016 in Simplenote while making my first version of it. After re-reading, I decided it should be a blog post instead. Apparently I even took a picture beforehand! 🙂

FWIW, I don't think it matters much what roots you use or the quantity, but here's my standard grouping:

  • Rutabega
  • Turnip
  • Celeriac (celery root)
  • Parsnip
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Change that list based on what looks good when you're buying roots.

And now – my notes! All of the times are in real time, so yeah… uh, start cooking at 1:40pm.

The leek water

8 cups water on medium heat with top of the leek from 1:40 until 1:53, then add 7 twists of ground black pepper and increase heat to medium high. Keep covered except to stir a couple times until it hits a low boil around 1:58. At this point, take off the lid and stir with vigor! Your onions are almost ready in the other pot.

The soup pot

1/2 cup water on low heat in big pot with onions and garlic from 1:45 until 1:55, then notch up the heat a bit to low medium so that onions and garlic start sizzling. Stir to keep from sticking. At about 2:00, it's time to start thinking about adding the leek water. Steam is coming off the bottom of this pot and your onions are more and more translucent.

Let's combine!

Turn the burner on the leek pot down to medium at 2:03. Remove the large pot from the burner and start scooping leeks from the leek pot into somewhere else, leaving a dark brothy water behind. Once that's mostly clear, transfer the water into the big pot and move it to medium heat. Make sure your other burners are off, the leek pot is done!

At about 2:06, add the large mass of root vegetables in various cube like shapes to the big pot. Things are going to be crowded, but that's okay. Add 8 more cups of water and cover. Turn the heat to medium high. We'll now wait for it to boil again.

While waiting for things to boil, get the spices ready to go. I decided on fresh cilantro, since we had it and it smells so good. I also have cumin, which can do no wrong in most pots. A few dashes of cayenne will work, and of course… Salt!

I'm making this up as I go, so let's see what happens.

I hit rolling boil at about 2:26, so I took the cover off and stirred before turning things down just a touch to stop the boil while keeping a simmer.

I then stirred in the cilantro. I dashed (twice) some cayenne and stirred. I dashed (several times) cumin and stirred. And I measured a quarter teaspoon of salt and stirred.

Heat is now down to a medium-low at 2:33, things are calming down quite a bit and I'll cover it after stirring one last time for the next 20 minutes or so.

Or hour.

I stirred a few times while slowly reducing the heat over time. Things went from boiling to simmering to still simmering to really, still simmering to a calm when I finally planted the dial on low at about 3:20. I then added the more edible white leek, another dash of cumin, another dash of cayenne, and a smidge of salt. Stirred, and then covered. The root veg are super hot right now, so I'm thinking of removing it from heat entirely so that it's nice and tasty and edible right at 5.

Eating at 5:20!