Going Walkabout - Embedded.com

Going Walkabout

“You slime!”

So started my email to Max Maxfield, blogger at Programmable Logic Design Line

Techies have a rep for being couch potatoes. Hunched in front of acomputer, the most exercise we get is in wielding the mouse. Obviouslythat's a stereotype as many of the engineers I know are more fit thanthe average American.

Except in my case it's true. I detest exercise. As Neil Armstrongonce said “I believe that every human has a finite number ofheartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doingexercises.”

It's boring to work out, run, walk or do anything just for the sakeof getting the heart racing. “Boring” is the enemy, especially in thisamazing world where there are so many interesting and compelling ideasto explore, and never enough time.

For many years I lived on a boat in downtown Baltimore. Everythingwas within walking distance: the supermarket, restaurants, theater,post office and more. It was easier to walk than to drive and findparking. But five years ago we moved ashore, to a house in the suburbswhere everything is a short drive and a very long walk away. As mydriving swelled my muscles have atrophied.

So when I read that Max had made a very public New Year's resolutionto walk 1000 miles in 2009 (http://www.pldesignline.com/212700346) myfirst thought was “yuk.” But he had planted a meme that kept surfacing.Maybe walking wasn't such a bad idea. Couple that with an ambitiousgoal ” a kilomile ” and my iPhone that has a built-in iPod, and perhapsit wouldn't be quite so horrible.

In “Qualityis Personal” Harry Roberts claims that “trying harder” is doomed tofailure. He says we must change something fundamental when we want toachieve some objective. As a result most New Year's resolutions failsince they're predicated on the same old goals and a promise to be moreresolute. Walking a kilomile in a year, and maybe using some technologyto entertain as well as track the walkabouts, feels like a new twist.

So I emailed Max and, after berating him for prying me from thekeyboard, offered a reverse bet: I'd take his challenge, and if eitherof us fail in our kilomile goal, we'd send each other a buck for eachunwalked mile, the funds going to charity. Minutes later he called andaccepted the bet. Though we broadened the parameters to includerunning, the thought of doing that makes me want to reach for abook and a martini.

Max straps on the Nike+iPod, which uses an accelerometer in one shoeto beam gobs of data to his iPod. That gets uploaded to nikeplus.comwhere his progress can be shared by all. That device apparently isn'tavailable for the iPhone, so I'm using RunKeeper which uses the phone'sGPS to track mileage and time, and the device's wireless capability toupload data to a web site. Librivoxhas a library of free audio books, so I've started off listening tosome old G. K. Chesterton stories.

What's your take on wasting heartbeats for the sake of exercise?

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embeddeddevelopment issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helpscompanies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .

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