Tag Archive | technology

The Machines Between Us

I almost got into a car accident yesterday. I turn left while a monstrosity of an SUV doesn’t realize there are two left-hand turn lanes. He blindly pulls into my lane, mid turn. Luckily traffic moves slow, giving him enough time to realize he is about to pummel my little red car quivering in his shadow. Rather than quickly pull away and drive off, the guy stops, refusing to move forward. The way our cars are now positioned prevents me from driving away as well. He wedges me in. He looks at me — an austere older gentleman with white hair and oils of entitlement seeping out of the pores on his nose, one wrist casually resting on the wheel of his car, the other cradling his chin like a philosopher. I make a stinky face at him and gesture for him to drive away. He doesn’t. I try an exasperated face. He doesn’t. His face doesn’t change. I realize he wants to talk. Why I wonder? His face betrays nothing — as stern as a judge. One of two things could happen. 1) He will try to blame this near accident on me, or 2) He will try to hit on me. He proceeds to roll down his window, giving the universal signal that he wants me to do the same. I oblige. “What?” I demand.

“Why you do this?” he asks with a thick but unidentifiable European accent.

“Why did I do this?” I reply with surprisingly firm incredulity. I add sarcasm. “Umm, I didn’t do this, sir. This is my lane to turn into. You pulled into MY lane.” I say the last bit like the world’s worst kindergarten teacher talking down to a child who can’t follow directions. I demean. I condescend. His face remains changeless, which surprises me. It’s at this point the opponent should respond with a tactic of either defense or offense. Daggers are met with daggers or bigger swords. But his face doesn’t change. He is neither defensive nor combative.

“Oh. Sorry,” he responds, lifting his hand away from his chin and raising his palm to me in a gesture of deference. No sarcasm, no strings. Okay, wow, he admits he is wrong. This is a first. Okay. I guess this is over. He’ll drive away now.

He doesn’t. At this point we’re blocking oncoming traffic. Cars honk voraciously, but neither my surprise nor the incessant honking do anything to change his face. What does he want now? Is this the point where he starts hitting on me? That can be the only other explanation for what else this man in a giant SUV could possibly want from me.

“I’m sorry,” he says again. He looks me in the eyes when he says it. He makes sure to look me in the eyes. I can’t help but soften. When he almost hit me that thing happened. You know the thing. The thing where the angst of the modern-driver melds with the primal instinct of defense. This is the alchemy that produces road rage, and a moment ago it gripped me. But he looks me in the eye, not to threaten me, not to chastise me, not to hit on me. To say he is sorry. To say he is wrong, made a mistake, and is sorry. To say he is human.

I have no idea if this white-haired ambiguously European man in a giant car intends to do all of these things with his eye contact. I have no idea at all why he responds the way he does.

But he does.

He looks me in the eyes and that simple contact tames my primal-meets-modern road rager. Our eye contact flips my empathy back on.

After a few strange moments of this he finally drives away, and I am so taken aback that my little rage monster inside tries desperately to rear it’s ugly head one last time. “Maybe get a smaller car next time!” I yell at him as he drives away. Not the worst combination of words to throw at a person, but a split-second later they make me feel more terrible than I’ve felt in a long time. It is mean. This man appeals to my humanity. He is not necessarily kind or generous, and he does indeed have a car that is much too big for non-giants, but he does something powerful. He breaks down the machines between us. And I am mean.

I’m not a mean person. Snarky? Yes. Sarcastic? Sure. Sassy? Preferably. But mean? I don’t believe in mean. Anger has its place, as does rage and despair and a myriad other “dark” emotions. To be mean to each other appeals to the lowest common denominator. To be mean is to erode another person’s humanity. The damage is grave on both sides.

When I get behind the wheel of my car and I feel someone has crossed me, I like being mean. At least I think I do. The rage monster has told me I do.

Today’s morning commute continues the theme of “let’s cut Rebecca off.” Car after car pull right in front of me driving about 10-15 miles per hour slower, forcing me to do the act despised by driver’s worldwide — put my foot on the brake. One car in particular drives me crazy (pun intended). A green Lexus (ugh, Lexus) in the fast lane carelessly slows down to 55 mph, then speeds up to 75 when I try to pass, then slows again for no apparent reason, rendering it impossible to get around. My primal road monster takes form once again and I am pissed. I finally get a chance to pass this green Lexus. Yes! Now I can give the driver a dirty look as I pass. I’ll show her. I put on my best stink face and make my move. I am going to punish you good! I turn my head. The driver is a woman, early forties, and she is sad. I can’t tell whether she is crying or not, but I can tell that her mind is full of darkness and it’s taking everything she’s got to focus on driving.

My road monster has convinced me she is slowing and speeding to be a jerk. To piss me off. To prevent me from passing. Me me me. All cars drive the way they do to make my life difficult, right? Because they are all jerks and idiots. My road monster is wrong, however powerful. She got some bad news this morning. Or maybe her car is driving funny and she doesn’t have the money to fix it. She’s thinking about the kids she has to feed, or the ailing parent she has to care for, or the spouse who doesn’t understand. She’s taking her beloved cat, who is sick in the back seat, to the vet, wondering if this will be their last trip together. She speeds to get there quicker. She slows to soothe her cat. She’s driving away from an unsafe situation, or driving to an unsafe situation. She is thinking about the dead Syrian child on the shores of Hungary. She had a nightmare she can’t shake. She is sure her boss is about to fire her. She is chronically depressed. She is human.

What is it about the machines we build between us that isolate our best parts of ourselves from each other? These machines should simply be tools but they so easily become weapons of cruelty. Why do we forget so easily that we are all human, and we are struggling? These machines are not just shields, they are instigators. They can not only block our empathy but invite the monsters out to play. I see it clearly in the meanness that erupts out of me only when I drive. I see it in the comment of every troll on the internet. The horrible, cruel, racist, sexist, derogatory things that people type into their handheld machines and send through the cyber-machine to reach the rage monster coming from the other side. When did we forget that at the other end of that other machine is a human being?

I love technology. I love social media. I love cars. These things in and of themselves are amoral and require drivers — human drivers. We must captain our technology with our empathy. If we don’t, the primal monsters of indifference and rage will gladly take the reins.

And you know the truly wonderful thing about empathy? It can’t be machinized. It is supremely human and sacred. It can only be seen in the look on a struggling woman’s face. It can only be heard in the sound of a desperate child. It can only be understood when two sets of eyes meet, beyond the machines, and invite each other in. It’s magical. Don’t you want to live by magic?

Get out of your machine today. Look each other in the eyes. Even the worst of all jerks has to take his beloved cat to the vet for the last time. Try to understand.

utne-editorial-illustration---empathy---rawtoastdesign

Advertisements

Movin’ on Up! Migrating to WordPress.ORG

The time has come to take Running to Tahiti to a new level. As I’ve become more active in the running blogger community, I’ve witnessed how much can be done with a website. A fascinating concept, I know. This internet thing never ceases to amaze me. It started with my desire to get running goodies out to my readers via special giveaways. I put the feelers out to a few companies to glean interest in donating products for a giveaway, and was shocked that I got a “Sure!” first shot outta the gate! (Thank you Yurbuds!!!) That giveaway is coming to your web browser soon, I promise; but I want to do it right.

I researched some third party sites that could host the giveaway and came across a great tool called Rafflecopter. They have a super easy widget you can use to run a giveaway on your site, which is fantastic, but the operable word being “widget.” WordPress.com has a handful of helpful widgets available for use (see right-hand side of screen), but you can’t install any third-party widgets. The world of widgets and plug-ins is all incredibly foreign to me so forgive my ignorance on the subject. I’m learning. I also like saying the word widget. If you say it enough, you can’t help but smile. Widget.

Long story short, I checked out a lot of other great blogs WITH cool widgets, and noticed that so many of them said “powered by WordPress” at the bottom of the site. Then a light bulb went off and I discovered the difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG.

When I first heard about WP.org I assumed it was some kind of non-profit branch. Hey, what can I say, I work for a non-profit so I see .org and I assume there’s a 501(c)3 involved. It wasn’t until I really started digging that I discovered that WP.org exists for self-hosted blogs and has a LOT more functionality than .com. In other words, .com is like blogging for Elementary Schoolers, and .org is like graduating to Middle School and beyond. I’m ready to graduate. I think.

Luckily my step-dad is much more of a wizard than me when it comes to websites and the interwebs. He’s going to help me move on over to WordPress.org. I thought it couldn’t hurt to also put the subject out there to my readers. Any advice? Have any of you migrated a blog or website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. I would really love to hear how it went? Please share in the comments below.

 

In runDisney news, 24 days until the Dumbo Double Dare at the Disneyland Half Marathon!! How do you like my new little countdown widget in the sidebar? The colors are awful but I can’t change them. Again with the limited functionality. Even with the ugly grey and pea green color combo, who doesn’t love a countdown?

Inaugural-2013-runDisney-Disneyland-Dumbo-Double-Dare-Facebook-Cover-Photo

the only review of running apps you will ever need to read

Technology has contributed to advancements in almost every field. Running is no exception. Now thanks to these little gadgets we call smartphones, we can say goodbye to the days of antiquated running watches or fitness journals and actually get some useful and comprehensive data on every run. It’s truly awesome. It’s also driving me insane.

Technology gives us infinite possibilities coupled with extreme limitations. That may sound like a contradiction but you know it’s true. I have access to more specific details and stats about my running than ever before, but having so much information available to me and in so many different forms is overwhelming and makes me very difficult to please. With so many options available to us at all times, our standards for perfection have skyrocketed through the roof. If I only had one running app to choose from, chances are I would be very satisfied with it. The best way to set someone up for disappointment is to give them lots of options.

I can’t deny that I sort of miss the days when I just ran out the door with nothing electronic on my person. Nothing but my keys tied to my shoelaces and maybe a walkman. It was freeing. Although I sometimes miss that, I can’t go back now, knowing that I can track my pace on every mile, how many calories I burned, my personal records, my exact time. I’m a prisoner to my Android and since that’s the reality, I may as well find the best running app out there. Shouldn’t be too hard right? Think again.

There are a bazillion running apps in the Google Play Store. You’d think that I would be able to find ONE that does all of the things I want it to do, especially since my requests are meager. But no! Apparently not. So first, I’ll provide a list of the not-too-much-to-ask features I’d like in my running app. Then I will go through and tell you which apps do and don’t deliver. Hopefully by the end of this article we will discover together, the best running app… in the world.

*Sidenote: I have an Android, so the following reviews are going to be of apps on that platform. I think all of the same apps exist for iPhone, but they aren’t identical, so take note*

I have 5 major criteria that I deem my “must-haves.” I will assign one “sneaker” point for every category. The app with the highest score wins. Hopefully we’ll be able to find one with 5 out of 5 sneakers. 

Rebecca’s Must-Haves:

  1. Split Tables – I really like to be able to see a simple table that shows my pace at every mile. I particularly like it when there’s a little rabbit next to my fastest mile and a little tortoise next to my slowest.
  2. Calibration – I live and run on the beach. GPS can be spotty. Sometimes the signal gets wonky while I’m running and all of a sudden my app is telling me that I ran 12 miles instead of 9 miles, and puts me at a 7:00 min. per mile pace! Admittedly I don’t mind that accident but I hardly think anyone will believe me. I would really like a running app that lets you edit or calibrate your run after it’s over so you can change the recorded distance to what you know you accomplished.
  3. Voice Feedback – Definitely want my app to talk to me. I like to hear how I’m doing every once in a while. I really want this function to be customize-able. Some days I want to know how I’m doing at every mile marker, but perhaps on other days I want to hear how I’m doing every 5 minutes. Wouldn’t hurt if the robot voice had a sexy British accent, but that’s icing on the cake.
  4. Pizzazz – In techno speak I would describe this category as interface, but to me it’s so much more than that. I like a little bit of style and inspiration integrated into the app. Some days it’s hard enough to get the sneakers on and get out the door, and it helps to have a motivational, sleek, and stylish running app to get the engines going. These apps turn your phone into a mini robot coach. I want a coach with style. May sound silly but it makes a difference to me. I’m a very aesthetic person. I want the interface to have… pizzazz.
  5. Bonus – This category is reserved for any additional or unique features that an app may have that I don’t see as vital, but are really frickin’ great.

I think those things sound not only like reasonable requests, but really great features. Why WOULDN’T you want to have all of these functions in a running app? I’m finding it darn near impossible to find that holy grail that features everything listed above. I mean seriously developers, get with the program.

The Apps:

Endomondo – This app is close to perfect, but not quite close enough.

Split Tables – 1 sneaker point. It gives you tables with a cute little rabbit and turtle for  your fastest and slowest paces, respectively.

Voice Feedback – 1/2 sneaker point. It talks to you, but unfortunately this function is not customize-able. A non-British female robot tells you your distance, average pace, and time at every mile, but can’t be adjusted to talk to you in intervals of time.

Calibration – 1/2 sneaker point. It does NOT let you calibrate or edit your workout on your phone, HOWEVER, you can log on to Endomondo.com and edit your workout from the website. Nice that that option is there, but honestly it would be much better to be able to edit right from my phone. Most of the time I’m not going to remember to take the extra step to log on to the website.

Pizzazz – 1 sneaker point. This app is definitely close to first place in this area. I love the interface. It’s styled with bright green colors. The icon is some sort of strange sprinting Android head. It’s a fun and weird word to say, Endomondo, and up until a recent update, when you started to run the non-British female robot would shout at you “Free your endorphins!” I loved that! I guess I’m in the minority with my eclectic taste however because that went bye-bye with the last update. Now she just shouts “Go!” *Snooze* But even without the freeing of my endorphins, I love the look and feel of this app.

Bonus Points – 1 sneaker point. It links to your music library, so you can play your favorite running playlists directly from the app. It tells you how much water you need to drink in order to re-hydrate. It has LOTS of other outdoor sports besides running, so this app would also be great for cyclists, rollerbladers, cross-country skiiers, windsurfers, fencers, dancers, etc. And it has a really nice website to accompany the app.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Endomondo – 4 sneakers

MapMyRun+ 

Split Tables – 1/2 sneaker. Don’t see ’em. Maybe they are on the app somewhere but in my opinion if they’re this hard to find, they don’t count. There are split tables when you log on to the MapMyRun website however, so it gets 1/2 a sneaker for that.

Calibration – 1 sneaker. You can edit your workout directly on the phone AND on the website.

Voice Feedback – 1 sneaker. You can customize the voice feedback to talk to you either by time or distance. 

Pizzazz – Full sneaker deduction. As much as this app has going for it, it’s just plain boring. The interface feels very outdated. The style is definitely lacking. I don’t feel motivated AT ALL when I use this app. This is a huge bummer because it gets points in almost all other areas.

ugh, so boring, makes me want to crawl into my bed and sleep… not run like a rockstar

Look at the design wonkiness! Terrible. And what’s with the gray? Gray is a terrible color for the computer.

Bonus –  Zero sneakers. Other cool things not on the must-haves: it’s got a very nice website with a spectacular feature. You can trace routes on their online map and see exactly how far your routes are. Hence the name, “Map My Run.” So if you’re not sure if the run you just went on is actually the 5 miles your phone told you it was, you can go on MapMyRun and trace the route and it will give you the exact accurate distance. Very cool and very useful. But you don’t need to use the app to take advantage of this. It also has a food journal on the app. Might be useful for some. I much prefer MyFitnessPal for that so I haven’t used it, but maybe you’re an all-in-one kinda person and would be glad to have your food tracking in the same place as your running app. Major downside to this app is its wonky GPS. I’m not sure what causes it, but take a look at the route it tracked on my last run. I did not, in fact, run straight out into the water, nor did I run in loop-de-loops. 0 bonus points.

the running route of a crazy person

TOTAL SCORE for MapMyRun: 2 1/2 sneakers

RunKeeper – This is probably the app you’ve all been waiting for me talk about. It is definitely the one I hear the most about. I’m not sure why, as I have some major issues with it. Let’s go through the details:

Split Tables – 1/2 sneaker. This is the biggest disappointment for this app. It is very streamlined and very sleek. Not a lot of bells and whistles, it just gives you your basic running stats in a clear and clean way. So why on earth doesn’t it show me my splits!!? This is only true for the Android FREE version. My boyfriend has the iPhone version of RunKeeper and it is his app of choice. On his platform he can see split tables right on his phone. On Android, sorry you’re out of luck. As with the other apps, however, you can see your splits on the website so it gets 1/2 sneaker for that.

Calibration – Zero sneakers. You can’t edit anything on your phone. You can edit workouts on the website but only the total time and start time. You can’t edit the distance which is the thing you’re most likely to need to edit.

Voice Feedback – 1 sneaker. Totally customize-able.

Pizzazz – 1/2 sneaker. While it’s got a very streamlined and user-friendly interface, I also happen to think it’s just plain boring. It’s not 1997 boring like the MapMyRun+ app. At least it feels like it’s entered the 21st century, but I just don’t feel motivated by this interface. Runkeeper makes one snoozer of a coach. Look at what you see when you finish a run:

What are those white bars supposed to be telling me? I can’t click on them and they don’t report any actual data. How is that helpful at all. Snoozer.

Bonus points – Zero sneakers. It has a pretty decent website with some cool features. Probably the biggest chance for a bonus sneaker would come from its sheer popularity. For whatever reason, it seems to be the most-used running app on the market so there is more opportunity to integrate with friends on the RunKeeper website. For me, however, that’s just not enough. No bonus sneakers for you, RunKeeper!

TOTAL SCORE for RunKeeper: 2 sneakers

Runstar – This is the little app that could, almost. So many great things about it but it falls just short of perfect.

Split Tables – Zero sneakers. This app doesn’t have a companion website like the other apps, other than a site that is just for promotion and information about the app, so you can’t see your splits anywhere.

The purple and blue squiggles are cute but how am I supposed to read them? Just give me split tables!

 

Calibration – 1 sneaker. You can edit your distance after a run right on your phone.

Voice Feedback – Zero sneakers. Apparently this is only available in the FULL version, not FREE.

Pizzazz – 1 sneaker. Love the design and interface of this app. It’s just fantastic! Very colorful, fun, playful, streamlined, and simple. Love it!

animated stretching runner while waiting for the gps… cute!

great simple colorful design

Bonus Points – 1 sneaker. Has a cool feature called a Power-Up song. You can select a song in your music library as your designated Power song. If you’re feeling sluggish on a run, just hit the Power-up button and it will automatically play your song AND change all the colors on your app to bright orange. Pretty cool. With that, and the above and beyond design, I give this app one bonus sneaker.

Total score for Runstar: 3 sneakers

Runtastic – 

Split tables – 1 sneaker. Got some nice split tables in this app complete WITH a cute little rabbit and snail next to your fastest and slowest paces, respectively.

Calibration – 1/2 sneaker. You can’t edit your workout on the app, unfortunately, but you can log on to Runtastic.com and edit there.

Voice Feedback – Zero sneakers. So bummed about this! Voice feedback is only available in the PRO version. Heartbreaking because this is a very important feature, but everything else about this app is great. Who knows, maybe I’ll spring for the PRO version. That’s how much I like everything else about this app. There is one upside to the voice feedback, if you do get it in the Pro version… sexy British accent!

Pizzazz – Definitely a full sneaker in this category. This app is not as playful as Runstar or Endomondo, but it’s definitely got its own style. Lots of electric blue and silhouettes of people running like rock stars. The interface is sleek, easy to use and comprehensive.

Props for the graphics. I want to run through an electric finish line!

Bonus – 1 sneaker. They’ve got a great website with lots of social opportunities to connect with friends. Also, kudos for the graphics and information you get to save when you complete a workout. You can make a note of how you felt that day, what terrain you ran on, and what the weather was like. Very cool. 1 bonus sneaker.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Runtastic – 3 1/2 sneakers. 

Nike+ RunningThis app is the biggest heartbreaker. It’s so close to perfect, it’s painful!

Split Tables – Zero sneakers. Not only are there no split tables on the app, but when I log on to view them on the website, they are completely wrong. According to my last run on Nike+, I can run a mile in 10 seconds. Rio 2016, here I come! I have no idea what kind of bug Nike has in their software that’s causing this but it’s pretty ridiculous considering what a major player they are in the world of sports.

This is the closest thing you’ll get to split tables in your summary. If you click on the mile markers it tells you your time. Though as you can see from my slowest and fastest paces, their report is hardly reliable.

Check out my fastest time. 1:29. Not bad, for an amateur.

Calibration – 1 sneaker. This app is actually how I even learned that one could edit workout details at all. When the GPS got off and said I only ran 9 miles when I knew I ran 11, what a great discovery to find that I could edit the mileage to reflect the correct distance. Well done Nike. Not sure if you’re the first company to think of this, but you’re the first place I noticed it. Props.

Voice Feedback – 1 sneaker. Everything is very customize-able. I believe this is also where I first discovered that voice feedback could be customized.

you can even choose if you want a male or female voice

Pizzazz – 1 sneaker. Great UI. It’s Nike after all. They are the kings of branding and much of that is owed to their sleek and bad-ass style. Same goes for the app. It’s not too fancy and pretentious, but it’s easy to use, and it’s got rockin’ motivational energy. There’s a lot to explore throughout the app but it’s not so much excess detail that it feels overwhelming. 

Your home page, showing some great total details

list of all workouts

They give you all kinds of cool badges when you make a personal record. As you can see, this one is quite impressive. I ran a 5k in 0 minutes and 0 seconds. I don’t even think Superman could do that. If this function worked, it would be really cool.

 

Bonus – 1 sneaker. This app has amazing bonus features. I love all of the things it can do. One thing you can do is challenge yourself. You can start a workout based on your previous distance, and the app will show you where you’re at, and how much farther you need to go to beat your last distance. You can also do time and pace challenges. 

It’s got great integration with social media. Easy ability to post to Facebook and Twitter. Also it features the same graphics in the Runtastic app where you can make note of how you felt, what terrain you ran on, and what the weather was like. When you’re done working out, a famous athlete like Lance Armstrong (though perhaps he’s not so motivational these days. I stand by you Lance!) or Paula Radcliffe will give you a little pep talk. As shown above, you get badges every time you hit a milestone like a personal record, or working out for several days in a row. One of the coolest things you can do is tag your shoe on every run. That way you can keep track of how many miles you’re putting on your shoes so you know when to get new ones. Brilliant idea from, surprise surprise, a shoe company. And on top of all that, it’s got a great companion website with lots of features to get you motivated. This app definitely earns its bonus sneaker.

TOTAL SCORE FOR Nike+ –  4 sneakers. So close!

That puts Endomondo and Nike+ at a tie. So what will be the tie-breaker? Endomondo had 1/2 point deductions in two categories, whereas Nike had a full point deduction in only one. So even though they got the same score, there is less that would need to be improved on Nike to make it perfect. If Nike could show me some split tables and give me an accurate minute per mile report, I would have no other complaints about the app. Endomondo would need to add voice feedback customization AND the ability to edit workouts from the app itself. Then again, those are both available in some capacity in the app, just not the ideal capacity. And then there’s Runtastic! If I splurged and bought the Pro version, that would give me voice feedback and put that app in the leader position for 4 1/2 sneakers.

So believe it or not, there’s no such thing as the perfect running app. Clearly, if I were an Android developer, I would know exactly what to put in a running app and I would make a million dollars. Hopefully the big kahunas at Nike or one of the other companies are reading this and making notes. 

I’ll probably just vacillate between Nike+, Endomondo, and Runtastic for awhile and see which one feels right. When it comes right down to it, you have to go with your gut. 

Thanks for reading this epic review. These are the apps I have been using for awhile, but there many more I haven’t even tried yet. Perhaps we’ll do a part 2 in the future.

Do you have a favorite running app? Is it listed here? Share in the comments below.