Category Archives: Pedometer

Revisiting Walker Tracker

In among the pile of random things that you find when you have a teenager in the house, I located on old Omron pedometer whose battery had run down. One quick trip to CVS later, and I have a working tool to measure my physical activity.

In the winter months it’s harder for me to get the outdoor exercise that I think I need. The days are shorter, the sidewalks are slipperier, and the excuses are more numerous to stay indoors where it’s warm. That all said, there’s no less need to be mindful of how much exercise you are getting when it’s cold out.

In days past, I was able to predict my mood rather accurately by checking how many steps I got on my pedometer. If the number was below 5000 you could count on me to be grouchy, and those rare days when the count exceeded 20000 were days when I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything except moving. There’s a seasonally adjusted optimum of approximately 10000 steps – minus a few in winter, plus a few in summer – that I think of as a target that if I happen to move that much in a day that everything else works out OK.

I’ve used Walker Tracker on and off since 2006, or so the stats tell me, and in that time I’ve logged over 7 million steps. Though the site interface has changed a little bit and my old crowd of fellow pedestrians has mostly moved on from the site, there are still a few familiar faces of people more industrious than I am in logging their activity. I’m looking forward to revisiting it and being a bit more diligent about getting out and about in the winter time.

Note to self: buy new mittens, ideally ones that let me have at least one index finger free to work my phone.

Note to self 2: the battery is said to last 6 months, whether you use the system or not, so be prepared to change it on the summer solstice.


Runtastic and Cardiotrainer for Android, a brief review

Runtastic is a workout tracking program for Android. It lets you keep track of where you have gone on your run, bike ride, or walk (or a bunch of other means of locomotion) and using the GPS in the phone makes some estimate of how far you've gone and how much effort you have expended. 

I've also used Cardiotrainer for this purpose, which has a similar reason for being.

It's really handy to have your device track where you go so that you get a nice map of your journey. Those trips where you're trying to find your way through an unfamiliar neighborhood generate a trail of breadcrumbs you can follow, and it's really helpful to have a good sense for how far away a mile is while walking. (For me, it's a mile to the Michigan Union.)

Both Runtastic and Cardiotrainer have a synthesized voice to give you details of your progress as you go. Runtastic is rather more sparing in its narration, which I find just fine. Both systems allow you to log your progress to a variety of online media like Facebook.

I started out using Cardiotrainer, and it wanted me to log a trip every day and keep track of myself. When I used to wear a pedometer, that was really easy to do, and I could type in a few numbers every few days and feel like I was keeping up with myself. It doesn't make sense to have any of these running all the time, and so I was fine with Runtastic keeping that detail in the background for me rather than the foreground.

Runtastic also has a feature, as of yet incompletely tested, that lets you know where your friends are right now on the map. That's actually the feature I want more than any to test out, because it points to the possibility that you could use this for something even a little more like a real time channel for careful coordination of where people are and what they're doing. I'm imagining getting lost and having this be helpful.



Both apps are free, and both have Pro or Paid versions that unlock a few more features.

Related articles

Walking on water
Gaming and intermittent reinforcement as ways of countering dropout in online systems
Tracking your runs and heart rate with Runtastic PRO for Windows Phone
Top Five Free Fitness Apps for Getting Into Shape
Tracking The Miles

Typepad on iPad, edited elsewhere

No support for rich text editing in safari, but otherwise performant. Kind of nice.

I’ll need to really learn markdown for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it descends from setext.

Ann Arbor

A2B3 lunch is Thursday as always.
Ann Arbor Parks did trick or treat today, Sunday, noon to 4pm on the Huron River.

Arborwiki makes a good companion as you go for errands around town.
Ann Arbor City Council elections and a millage are coming up. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has characteristically thorough coverage of the League of Women Voters forums.
Some project, not yet identified, has North Main torn up at Catherine. A second project has North Division down to a single lane. Expect delays.

No one was hurt in last week's fire on Harpst.
I'm trying a neighborhood LinkedIn group to see what kind of density I need to get enough people to make a group worthwhile; it might make sense to grab people closest first and then out by distance.

Metro Detroit

Tigers lost in the ALCS, and I’m looking forward to spring training.

Power outages from the Saturday windstorms were worst in Warren.


Occupy Chicago has had a lot of protest, via the Chicago Tribune which was on the scene.

Occupy Wall Street took over Times Square.


I am tracking steps with a pedometer again, thanks to Paul Resnick and a research group at UMSI.
Statler and Waldorf have taken over the Muppets twitter account. New movie due for Thanksgiving. Cue the Muppets.


The wind on Saturday made farmers market blustery. Squash of all sizes and varieties were there, and there’s nothing like a big old Hubbard squash to keep the corner of a table down. A farmer was doing the frost dance but said they had none at the last full moon. Traditionally, it’s said that the best way to open a Hubbard is to take an axe to it, or to throw it down into the cellar.


It’s hard to have great weird ideas when you are closing trouble tickets.
My new employer Nutshell has an office where my former employer Pure Visibility used to have it's offices.


Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Einar Steffrud.


Books moved recently include Kawabata’s, Snow Country, to be shelved on the Heikki Lunta shelf to prepare me for winter.


Pinboard now supports Gopher urls in bookmarks.


Michigan football lost to State. It was as good an excuse as any to call my aunt who went to East Lansing.


Wow, I have a lot of categories.

Walking Around: bonus points

I walked a lot more today than I normally would have walked, thanks to my new game Walking Around. Here's some of the bonus points I scored that I wouldn't have scored in my previous quest, Sitting Around Typing.

Pedestrian Path (+1). It's always good to find a way to get from here to there that's not on any map. The pedestrian path I found connects Needham Road to Amelia Place. I've added that little segment to Open Street Map so that I can find it again, and so that I can cut through one more neighborhood with confidence. My son and I took this route to his summer camp today, and he suggested one more point for Unfamiliar Route (+1).

Picture 3

Unexpected Lunch Companions (+2). If you wait for the bus at a bus stop near a restaurant, and if someone you know happens to be driving to that restaurant, then not only can you have an unexpectedly pleasant lunch but you can also get a ride downtown. Thanks to the Toziers for the happy coincidence and for a beginning of a discussion of annexation and township islands.

Picture 4

Urban Foraging (+1). Juneberries are in season, which means that a carefully selected path will take you past some delicious snacks, right out there in the open, where thousands of people walk each day but none notice except the birds and a few brave souls who appreciate Amalanchier. For more berrypicking ideas, I follow Linda Diane Feldt's @wildcrafting Twitter account. For lots more detail on Amalanchier, the 1946 American Species of Amalachier has ranges and keys for native species.

Picture 5

Park Benches (+2). If, at the end of your trek, you stop to wait for the bus – then it's useful to note that sometimes the bus stop is close to a park which has a park bench in the shade. Douglas Park is a nice place to wait for the #4, especially if you have RideTrak running on your cell phone to tell you when to get up and walk to the stop 1/2 block south of the park. My walk the next morning circled around all the way back to this park bench.

North Star (+1). A nice night walk on a clear night gives you all of the directions you need when Polaris is visible in the north sky. The drawing is from H. A. Rey's The Stars, my all time favorite book about the night sky.

Picture 6


How do I come up with this bonus point structure? If you walk around enough, something that you see or do is bound to make you happy. Give yourself points for those happy places, and know where they are so that you can revisit them.

Walking Around, a new urban walking game

I'm inventing a new urban game called Walking Around. I'm sure that someone else has invented it already, but reinvention is part of the process of creativity. Here's how it's played.

First, you play with a pedometer, which tells you how far you've walked during the day. There are a number of systems already for tracking your pedometer usage, including Walker Tracker, Steps, and a bunch of others. Use whatever system that gives you, or just a spreadsheet, to take care of the basic structure of making certain that you count steps daily.

Second – and here is what is novel, at least to me – is that there's a bonus structure in the game designed to award bonuses for when you have accomplished tasks. The first bonus award that I'm awarding myself looks at constructing a walk so that you make an orbit around the biggest possible chunk of territory; that is to say, repeated walks along the same path will get you zero bonus, but going out of your way on a detour will add to your score, and trekking through unfamiliar territory in a big loop is the best.

So far this is a pen and paper game and I haven't fully worked out the point structure. I have a notion that you capture territory every time you orbit it, so that you might win a park by going all the way around it, and you might win a political ward or precinct by capturing a loop around it. To simplify greatly, since I am trying to keep record of this in a small book, I'm just drawing a graph with destinations rather than tracking every street.

Some idea sources:

Riverwalks Ann Arbor is a book of walking loops along the Huron River, written by Brenda E. Bentley.

Lake Trek is the weblog for   who wrote A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach about her circumnavigation on foot of Lake Michigan. I don't think I'm going to beat that top score.

Tom Graham wrote about Walking The World, and his quest to walk every street in San Francisco, in 2005 for SF Gate; his web site is SF Walking Man.

The AADL Summer Reading Game has points for reading books and badges for doing various other tasks, and the gamers there know how to make a game that will make you read. There should therefore be points in my Walking Around game every time you complete part of a circuit that connects to a library.

All City New York is the work of Moses Gates, whose game board includes the challenge of visiting all of the census tracts of New York City. Thanks to Ruth Kraut for the link. 

In Tacoma, Brian Kerr is getting bonus points in his version of the game for elevation.

Now pardon me while I connect some dots in my game map.


How far away is “within walking distance”?

Done chronologically, based on a question by Ryan Burns.

London, 1859. 

Of these the unsentimental Gaylad was exceedingly enamoured and indeed there were few northcountry feasts within walking distance — that is to say within fifteen miles each way – whereat the whole of the reading party did not make their appearance in order to witness "the sports"; and not always to witness only.  (The Foster Brothers, James Payn)

Harper's Magazine, 1884

Frazer Falls and the Chute are within walking distance, being each about five miles from the hotels while the wonderful Trou is four miles farther off and is popular place for picnics.

Ann Arbor, 2010

What hotels are in the area and are they within walking distance of Michigan Stadium? 
There are no hotels within walking distance. The Campus Inn and Bell Tower are directly on campus. (note: Campus Inn is about 1.5 miles away.)

a2b3 non-summary for Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

Attendance: 19. I had the udon noodles, which are new on the menu at Eastern Accents and quite good.

My list of things to note from the day includes, but is not limited to:

  • Google’s proposed fiber to the home project, and how to get it to Ann Arbor
  • Susan Crawford is back in Ann Arbor from a stint in DC and teaching cyber law
  • I’m not sure that I wouldn’t rather have a Droid phone than a Blackberry
  • There is a super-nifty Droid app which is an exercise tracker w/maps
  • Searching for low RPM motors that run on 2 AA batteries
  • Next Dow Aud. at UMHS a meeting on FDA regs for social media and medicine
  • Census is hiring and training workers, $14-18/hr
  • a2geeks
  • Ignite 3 is coming up
  • Earth Day is Garlic Mustard Day; I need your recipes
  • next Tuesday is Paczki Day, I need your jelly donuts
  • Ann Arbor Government Documents Repository continues to collect local govdocs
  • Gelman Sciences has released some new docs on their pollution plume & cleanup
  • Google Buzz is out
  • the DDA is doing a survey on parking
  • the hot pepper flakes are called “Ichimi Togarashi”

This list deserves hyperlinks; when I get them I’ll go back and edit them in.

Thanks to everyone who came, see you next time.