Childhood memories

I have a vague memory of my younger self – cuddled in the far corner of the bed which was in the far corner of the bedroom in the corner of my home, with a book in my hand and eyes deep into the said book.

The best ever gift my dad has gotten me is the membership to the small library shop – with the old and new copies of Tinkle (& other comics), Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew (and also M&Bs which I tried but didn’t interest me at all!!) and more.

Until I was allowed to cross the busy Arcot road on my cycle (I think I was allowed from 6th standard 🙂 ), dad used to take me every 2 days in the evenings to pick up my books. I was allowed two books at a time. Usually, a Tinkle Digest (more volume) and an Enid Blyton would be my choice. And then the far corner used to happen. During the summer holidays, it was very easy for me to finish these two books in 24 hours instead of the 48 scheduled hours between my trips across the main road. And then I used to try my luck asking mom / dad another trip to the library. Now, a comic would cost us 50 paisa and a book about Rs.1 or 1.50 – the costs can add up quite quickly if I was allowed every day trips. My hobby was a luxury that my parents encouraged, 2 days at a time. I still crib about every damn thing they refused to spend on me in order to save for gold, but I (now) know how difficult it is to manage a household budget.

I remember my childhood as school, volleyball, riding around on my cycle and my books. When I was happy, I was in the corner with my books. When I was angry or upset, I was in the corner with my books. That’s how my parents remember me. That’s how I remember my younger self.

I don’t know when all this changed – was it the rigour of board exams and college admissions? Moving far away from home to the new found freedom in the Pilani hostel? I still used to spend my Saturday mornings in one of the corners of the Bangalore Forum Landmark but life had too many other distractions. And then Hyderabad, Bombay, London… life has been busy and I forgot my childhood friends.

I want to get back to my corner… deep inside the book without the distractions of the to-do list, the dog, the husband, the work stress, the worries and life.

New Year Resolutions

I believe in starting on New Year Resolutions in December – if I am still on them on Jan 1, I know I will continue through the year 🙂

1. Read more books
Given my meagre reading in the last decade(!), this is one area I really want to get back to my younger-self and has been a resounding success.

Christmas break reading:

The Book Thief – my first 500 page book in years!
The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances – compensated for the above by finishing this short and sweet one in a couple of hours

Jan 2015 reading:

Faster than Lightening
Born to Run (will finish this weekend)

2. Get back to learning and speaking Spanish – and keep at it
My on-off relationship with Spanish has to be taken to the next level. I did spend a fortune flying to Peru a couple of years ago and I could have a conversation with the locals there and even started reading some children’s books etc., but without practice, all is forgotten faster than the learning. We hope to go to Cuba sometime this year and I want to be able to speak the language there and want to continue beyond this.
All I have managed this month, is getting back on Duolingo for 10-30 mins every day (actually, still trying to do this every day – but I do manage 2 lessons on most days). Need to step this up with all the material I have from Bombay and Cusco.

3. Strength training and speed work for my runs
I will write about my running in 2014 in another post but the focus this year is to run faster. I think I can do a half marathon – scheduled my first official one on Feb 28 but I really need to work on my speed – I am just really slow. End of last year, I learned to do strength training and I know I should be doing intervals but need more commitment to do more than the current 4 workouts a week – 1 swim class, 1 spin session, 1 gym (strength + cardio) session and 1 long run over the weekend.

4. Learn to Swim
I am scared of water, scared of drowning in a 5 ft pool.
I am spending too much money on this but I am not giving up. I know my confidence is growing a tiny tiny bit every time I get into the pool. Hopefully during the year, I will get to swim 25m non-stop in the middle of the pool.

5. Read more on the WWW (yes, the world wide web)
I installed the gReader and cleaned up my TheOldReader feed (the back-up I took when Google Reader shut down) and I am now reading the few people who still write blogs among the umpteen people I used to follow almost a decade ago. I cleaned up my Pocket feed and now using it a lot more on my chrome.
It is a smaller success but I hope to continue and increase the breadth of topics I read.

6. Write / Blog more
This is my fifth post this month – Not bad eh?

7. Watch less TV
Exercise, Books and Duolingo fight for time that TV inevitably loses out. Somehow A has also stopped watching all those weekly shows which has helped. We do listen to a lot more music these days, which is a good substitute 🙂

8. Be more organised
Even though I am Monica-ish on how I like things to be planned and organised, the last year or so has been disaster in this regard – my paperwork is awry and my organisation and planning skills have been in a coma! I should get this back on track. Still not much of a breakthrough yet.

9. Find a new job – to find something I enjoy doing more
No, this is the worst of the list – I really need to do something about this – but again not focussed yet.

10. Wake up early
Don’t ask – Disaster, with my boss traveling on work, I go into work a good hour late these days – I better correct this before she gets back!

It is not a bad start, but I have not been crazy busy at work – hopefully I will still be doing most of these when work gets kicking (soon) and also pull my socks up for the few that I am lagging on.

A day in London

Yesterday, I had to go to Paddington for a work related meeting – this was my first trip to central London in the new year (actually, the first since the girls day out in November!). Living in the countryside means, a very early morning start (for my morning standards) on a cold winter day to get to a 9.00 am meeting. I was looking forward to enjoying the hour long commute on public transport and reading on the Kindle.

My drive back home from work has been getting increasingly painful. I am tired at the end of a work day and my eyes and head get stressed with driving on the country roads with oncoming headlights making me blind by the time I finish my 50-60 min drive back home. And for this specific reason, I have been thinking of looking for a job in central London. And today was supposed to be a test of that journey.

It didn’t begin so well when SWTrains cancelled my train due to signalling problems and my 35 min train journey became a 70 min one. Through the day, I had to use the Jubilee and Bakerloo line (in non-commute direction) and even though the tubes themselves were manageable, the tube stations were swarming with people – the crowd – that reminded me how much I like my space in my car. After using the trains, I hate being underground (the nightmare of the hot summer days on the jubilee line) with no internet (no the wifi that comes up only in the tube stops doesn’t count) and I can’t stand breathing into all you tall guys’ armpits!

It was another tiring day (the good part, I exceeded my target steps on my Vivofit on a weekday 🙂 ) but with all the driving mileage I have been accumulating for almost 3 years now, it is time to get back on public transport – and maybe I can use the bus and bike to avoid the armpit scare we short people have to endure.

Chicago weather

I spent 24 hours in Chicago for a work trip in Nov 2013.

Every year in the UK, I dread the month of November – I consider it the most depressing month. With the day light saving time change at the end of October, the sun starts to set way too early for my liking and winter properly sets in. Work is at its peak and the weather is gloomy. It is grey everywhere.

And then when I went to Chicago*, it was very cold but it was beautiful sunshine. 2 degrees that made me feel like it was 15 degrees in the UK. I had a big fat smile on my face. From then on, I have always remembered that day whenever the sun shines on a cold winter day in the UK – like today 🙂 and I call it the Chicago weather.

* it is another story that all I saw was a hotel where they gave me a suite with 3 rooms and 2 showers – with a view of the motorway and the office in the middle of nowhere.

Garmin Vivofit

It has been 2 weeks since I started using my Garmin Vivofit – so my first thoughts.

Vivofit

I like

  • I don’t need it take it out of my wrist at all. It doesn’t need charging and it is water-proof, so you wear and can forget it exists.
  • It is light weight and comfortable, I don’t have any issue sleeping with it (even though I would prefer one device to do both my run-cycle-swim tracking and my activity / sleep tracking, I am not sure that would be comfortable to sleep with).
  • I have a love-hate relationship with the red bar. On a weekday, I love that it reminds me every hour to get out of my desk for a 2 min walk. It just helps to not let those knees lock-up and get blood flowing to the glutes and the quads before sitting to stare at the computer for the next hour. Even with this constant reminder, I barely do 6500 steps on a working day.
    On the weekend, I go for a run or walk the dog, do household tasks – clean, cook, grocery shopping etc. and I walk almost 30k steps between the 2 days, but the red bar is up there a lot more. After doing that 10k run, I would stretch, cool down, take a shower etc. and sit down to eat and there will be the red bar asking “what have you do for me in the last hour” – and that is when I stare and curse and go back to taking care of my hunger and then reluctantly walk lounge – kitchen – bedroom and back a couple of times (with the dog on my tail wondering what is mommy up to, sometimes the husband too!) to get that dreaded bar to disappear.
  • I can now wear just the Vivofit with my HRM and track calories for my spin class and the gym work – no more guestimate. And for my run, I can use my Forerunner and my Vivofit at the same time and Garmin knows to sync between the two and count only once.

Things I don’t mind but some may

  • There is no activity tracker that gives you the number of steps walked with precision – the device is trying to determine if each movement of your hand is a step or not – and sometimes it is right and many a time, it counts my showers, driving etc. as steps. So as long as you know, when it displays 7000, the actual steps is somewhere between 6500 – 7500, that is fine. (Doing jumps in the spin class does mess up the count a lot more!)
  • There is no back light and there is no vibration – these two features, if available will take away the ability to wear the tracker 24/7 and will become like most of the other devices which need charging every week. So I don’t mind that I have to switch on my side lamp to switch on sleep mode before I fall asleep. And I use my phone alarms and Sleep Cycle to wake me up.

Activity and Fitness Trackers

End of last year, I had been looking to buy an activity tracker to track my steps, sleep etc. and also possibly measure non-outdoor running / cycling exercises like spinning, gym work etc. The usual DCRainMaker has all the information needed on these devices and also helps with product comparison tables, but did not have a recommendation on what I should buy – no, that is not right, if you go down this page to Activity Trackers, you will find his recommendation.

This is just a summary of my research into these devices – hopefully useful for someone like me looking to buy one soon.

I am Garmin biased as I own 3 of their devices (Edge 500, Forerunner 220 and Vivofit) – so I would always recommend their products (really, is there anyone else who makes their variety of sports trackers?), but that also gives me the insight into what all is wrong with them (loads!) and why they are better than what the market has (for me).

Do you want a pedometer only or something that tracks calories for all activities?
1 Pedometer only
Really – just buy one of those £20 ones off Amazon
CXS Walking 3D Pedometer
Omron Walking Style III Pedometer
2 Glorified pedometer with some jazz like reminders etc and also website / apps where I can track food, weight etc. and compare with my friends
Do you want a wrist based pedometer?
1 Fitbit Flex (£60) No display, only shows progress to GOAL with lights
No reminders to walk every hour
Recharge every 5-7 days
2 Garmin Vivofit (£69) Displays steps, goal, calories, time, date etc.; Not back-lit;
Red bar indicates inactivity for an hour (telling you to move);
Has ability to track other non-step activities and part of Garmin ‘Connect’ family.
Coin battery (lasts 1 year) – so can wear 24/7
No, a Clip on pedometer
1 Fitbit One (£70) Rechargeable every 7 days (for 3 hours), has alarms, measures stairs climbed and measures sleep
2 Fitbit Zip (£45) Coin battery (lasts 6 months) – so can wear 24/7, no alarms, no stairs, does not measure sleep but great value and good budget option
3 Hey, I want a pedometer but do other stuff too (but don’t have money for all those cool wearables)
I run and also want to track activities and steps
1 Garmin Forerunner 15 (£110) No bluetooth auto upload to phone – have to connect to laptop! Recharge every 4-5 weeks
Do you want to measure calories in the gym, exercise classes, spin sessions etc.
Do you want to measure calories for your run / cycle but not really interested in detailed metrics / analysis
Do you mind wearing an heart rate monitor while exercising? Choose between the two based on which family you are in:
2 Garmin Vivofit (£69) ANT+ heart rate strap; Coin battery (lasts 1 year), so can wear 24/7
3 Polar Loop (£65-75) Bluetooth heart rate strap; recharge every 5-7 days
No, I want a device with optical HR (even though the recordings wont be always accurate)
4 Basis peak (£170) Expensive! Has touchscreen and Smartphone notifications will be enabled in future
4 Who wants a pedometer, I do the ‘real stuff’ (and have some money-money-money)
1 Only Run — Garmin Forerunner 220 (£188) if you are in the Garmin family; else Polar M400 (£156)
2 Only Cycle — Garmin Edge 500 (or 800 / 810 depending on your needs)
3 Only Swim — Garmin Swim
4 Run and cycle — Garmin Forerunner 620 (£278)
5 Run, cycle and Swim — Garmin 920XT, Garmin Fenix, Garmin Epix

So as I promised, a few bad things about Garmin:

  • Their mobile website sucks! Real time sucks – one of the worst. So use their desktop website or their Garmin Connect app.
  • The app works fine for me, but can go a long way in improvements – I heard the competition does a better job, but I haven’t used anything else, so can’t say
  • Server up time – don’t be surprised if you can’t sync / upload once a month on a weekend! And it has been worse the last week or so with sync failures every day! (we can’t understand why a company of this size can’t keep their servers running all the time but A says Polar’s uptime is even worse!)
  • Their heart rate monitors don’t work underwater (no optical HR), so you can’t measure calories earned while swimming (you can measure calories with other metrics like time, laps, distance etc.)

Living in the mountains – Part III

Hahaha… Look what I discovered in my drafts from 2 years ago 🙂

I like being called senorita 🙂 They also call me amiga, but most people generally call this chica as senorita and every time they do, I do a wild dance (invisible to every one)!
I have visited umpteen ruins by now and in every one of them, I have been told about how much gold was here and how the Spanish looted it – I keep thinking about the British in India but then we didn’t have churches built on our temples with depictions of how you would go to hell if you didn’t believe in catholism! Another interesting fact – even though commissioned by the Spaniards, the churches were built by the local workers and they tried to hide as much of their beliefs in this christian work – the result, a mixture of depictions for historians and us the tourists to interpret 🙂
Pachacuteq is a household name in this part of the world – he ruled the inca state for 104 years! and is known to have built everything and anything related to this empire… still 104 years?!
Cusco’s perros i.e. dogs – they are everywhere – almost every house has a dog that is mostly on the streets or in the front garden. And many more on the streets. Anyone who knows me, knows about my fear of dogs. And still I survived perfectly fine out here – thanks to the well behaved perros! yes, well behaved calm ones, even the street dogs!