ANNIVERSARY Countdown (Count-Up?)

Today is Friday, March 7th, 2014. We were married 986 days ago, on June 25th, 2011.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deus ex machina

I think I wrote about this some months ago, two and a half to be specific. But just in case you (whoever "you" are) don't have total recall, here it goes again...

I was driving through the BIG town where we do our grocery shopping and build meaningful relationships with the folks at the hardware store, when my car turned into the parking lot of a small third generation shoe store. I truly don't remember having any intention to shop for shoes. Remember the deus ex machina from high school English? Well the deus turned the steering wheel and there I was. I was pretty gimpy and so I slowly emerged from the car and hobbled into the store where I found myself looking at  a pair of sandals in a rather obtrusive blue. They were somehow suddenly on my feet in the appropriate size, and I found myself walking, nay, striding around  the store. By the time I was done, I had bought two pairs of Keens (Venice is a more subtle brown and Newport is the obtrusive blue-who names this stuff anyway?). I found myself walking the street in front of our house the next day, and walked myself up to five miles within a few weeks. Amazing what a comfortable supportive shoe can do. I truly felt like the proverbial different person. But then there was a week in Boston and my knee got worse, and I worried about taking too much Advil, and one thing led to another, and you know where this goes....

So flash forward...

I woke up a few days ago and realized that the plantar fasciitis that I have been coping with on and off, mostly on, for the past two years, was gone. And I still wear those shoes ALL the time. They seem to have "worked". And I happened to read an article in The New Yorker by Susan Orleans  about the growing competition between her husband and herself over who can log the most steps in a day, using something called a "fitbit". I don't remember much more about the story, but when I found myself at the local sporting goods store in something analogous to that deus ex machina experience, there in front of me was a "fitbit". It is a tiny oval piece of electronics that logs your steps, mileage, calories burned, the time of day, and has a smiley face that responds to the number of steps you have logged. It automatically synchs to your computer and makes a record of what you have accomplished and gives you "badges" when you reach particular milestones. It tracks your food if you want it to and will notify all your friends on Facebook or Twitter if you are so inclined. There is a version that will track your sleep habits, but that isn't something I particularly want to attend to with two cats, one of whom likes to stretch across my face in the middle of the night.

Yesterday, I walked 12007 steps. Full stop... Do you hear the cheering?

After about ten weeks of sedentary, self-indulgent, knee-focused behavior, I was back out looking at the leaves. Herb in what may be an increasingly worrisome trend, bought a fitbit of his own, one day after returning from his most recent consulting gig. I beat hm by... nah... that's not the point, right?

But I am struck by how our lives can be altered by these tiny techno changes, by the way there is some unseen current that influences our very physiological state. (Luckily, lest you call the guys with the white coats that buckle around the back, I haven't yet given in to the notion that the contrails above are monitoring our thoughts, though perhaps I should, given recent revelations about the NSA!)  I am struck by the way we can obsess unproductively (ok, I can obsess unproductively) for months without change and then something tiny comes from left field that makes a difference in the quality of life.  I am struck by how something so simple and childish as a techno-generated "badge" can make us healthier, and a smiley face on a piece of plastic can feel like a friend cheering us on. I won't be putting my achievements, such as they are, on Facebook or twitter, but this blog post isn't all that different, and there are probably Russian "bots" who are laughing in their own mechanical way.  I will probably be fielding ads on Google for running shoes and pedometers shortly.

There is of course, one downside to all of this. As I sit here at the computer, fielding emails, writing this blog post, reviewing my students' projects, there is that blank screen where the smiley face should be...Got to run!

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