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Friday
Jul252014

Reliving 18: Front Row at Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails

It seemed like a concert I would stalk out tickets for months in advance but I let the joint Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails concert sneak up on me. A day or two before there were great tickets for cheap on Craigslist. Then a buddy from the Ten Club pointed me to a guy looking to unload a front row seat. Gee, OK.

The show itself was surreal in a few ways.

Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were obviously in the thick of the rotation on my Aiwa "stereo" in my teenage bedroom where countless ripped out magazine pages of hair metal gods had been replaced by a giant poster of Eddie Vedder leaning against Jeff Ament.

On March 8, 1994 as I breezed through senior year in high school, Soundgarden released Superunknown and Nine Inch Nails released Downward Spiral. On the same day. Can you imagine? So this tour really felt like it was meant to be…even if it was 20 years later.

From the front row, Soundgarden's sludge was overwhelmingly loud and I was thankful for earplugs. Towards the end though I had to ditch them. They played "Burden In My Hand" which is a favorite and that was good timing to adjust to the distortion as "Rusty Cage" followed. It was a bummer that Matt Cameron was replaced with Matt Chamberlain, but hey, I believe Pearl Jam comes first too. The drumming was not as crisp or as precise but Chamberlain gets the rhythmic stuff right.

Both sets were precisely timed. 80 minutes for Soundgarden, 90 minutes for NIN with 30 minutes for a stage change. In my youth I would have decried both acts for playing the "hits" and using the same stage sets, video montages and lighting they likely reuse every night, but damn if it wasn't entertaining and hit all the right spots of nostalgia for me.

I mean Trent Reznor came onto a bare stage in a SKIRT before leaning over his little digital doohickey to get their set going. Unlike Cornell who looks nicely "weathered" as he gets older, Trent seems to be trying a bit too hard to relive the past. Still, he had the chops of old and its still quite remarkable at how a band with so much digital leaning on record can rock out like they do live. And the stage set-up was mesmerizing at times too.

As I escaped the parking lot quickly, right after the 11 p.m. curfew-induced last note, I wasn't as giddy as 18-year old me would have been seeing two of the biggest bands of the day. Still, I was home in bed a little after midnight and could get some sleep before work in the morning all after seeing two near flawless sets by bands that have grown old quite well.

Friday
Jun202014

Garmin Vivofit: Dad Tested

If you haven't seen people wearing what look to be thin sports watches recently I don't know where you live and work because the ubiquitous Fitbits and Jawbones of the world seem everywhere to me.

That's why I wasn't surprised when Garmin reached out to me to test their version, called the Vivofit.

To be honest I didn't even know they made one, but I had looked into getting my wife a Garmin fitness watch a while back when she was looking for something to replace her Nike Fuelband.

The tester arrived a few days later in standard retail packaging like any buyer would get. But when I opened the box I was amazed to see - or not see - something that has been a bane to my existence since I can remember opening toys requiring batteries under the Christmas tree.

I've learned this zero-instruction trend includes Fitbit too as my in-laws just purchased similar devices.

You can get started with a computer or smartphone. I just went the iPhone route for ease of use and if I was a buyer of this type of device I'd want it working with my iPhone 5 not my fancy home computer that is only used to store music and photos these days.

The set-up was rather simple after downloading the app itself. You hold down the only button on the device until the readout says "Sync" and get started.

I strapped on the flexible yet strong rubber wristband and got walking.

At first the step count definitely seemed off, over counting steps. I'd count out 20 steps and it would display twice that. I had to do a Google search to find help, not from the non-existent troubleshooting guide that might've been included in the box.

Taking advice from the forums I found I changed my height from my actual height of 5ft 10in to 6 ft 0 in. That seemed to do the trick.

My wife still couldn't believe how many steps I was recording because she knows how hard it is to hit the 10,000 step mark which I topped easily the first day.

You see, I don't exercise much. I hit the gym once a week, twice if I'm lucky. Otherwise I work in a cubicle 8:30-4:30 with over two hours of commute time in a car on top of that.

But I also have two young kids and the weather has gotten nice. If it's a Saturday or Sunday I'm routinely smashing 10,000 steps as the kids learn to ride bikes for the first time, with me jogging beside them.

We also have a new puppy so there are a few more dog walks every day.

I tested the Vivofit for accuracy at the gym on the treadmill and using the mile display instead of steps it was .05 miles off what the treadmill was recording. I considered that an acceptable difference, especially since it was shortchanging me, not creating phantom steps.

In terms of technical performance I think the Vivofit does the job that most people are looking for.

The device fits well, is easy to read and lightweight.

The app is easy to use and easy to see how you're doing in terms of daily, weekly and monthly and daily syncs just require pushing that same button on the device and take less than a minute.

Since it's summer there are more trips to the pool and the waterproof capabilities are unclear. I'm pretty sure it is water resistant but not up for swimming so I've been removing it more than I'd like and sometimes forget to put it back on after a shower or swim.

The battery lasts a year it says but I'm unclear what the heck I do when it runs out. There are no charging instructions either of course.

I also haven't bothered with the heart monitor that came with it. You have to strap it to your chest and I don't do heavy enough exercise to really get use out of it.

To me the added benefit for light exercisers or folks looking to lose weight is the psychological impact of wearing the Vivofit.

This would likely be true for any of these devices, but as a non-watch wearer this not-only reminds me of how handy a watch is versus reading the time on your phone, but it doubles as a scarlet letter. A letter that says "I'm here to remind you that you could skip that free donut at the office." Or "It's 8 p.m. and you're at 6,000 steps, why not take the puppy for a nice walk?"

Red — yes, a deep scarlet red — bars appear across the top of the device's display the longer you're sedentary: One long bar after 30 minutes and four more to fill the rest of the hour...or longer.

I told my kids that when they appear it means daddy is being lazy and this amused them of course. Now they keep checking it asking if its red or not. And if they see it red they'll tell me I'm being lazy. Thanks Garmin.

I'm three weeks into wearing the device and don't see why I'd stop wearing it. It's unobtrusive and I like the scarlet letter impact more than I thought I would.

It isn't cheap. At $129 (on Amazon) without the heart monitor (a $169 bundle) that's a decent chunk of change for a dad with new puppy costs. The Fitbit Flex is $99 but doesn't have a display, just lights that illuminate. I think I'd pay the extra $30 just for the clock display since I've already added something to my comfortably nude wrist.

I will promise to update when I stop using it and why as I've done in past reviews.

Editor's Note: Garmin provided a test-unit to facilitate this review. No other compensation was provided.

Tuesday
Apr222014

There Were Cars for Dads at the 2014 New York Auto Show

I covered the 2014 New York Auto Show for Cars.com last week but I did want to post some photos I snapped with my phone here since there were some big debuts for families. 

Click here for the full gallery

To me the most significant was the 2015 Subaru Outback since we own a 2010. The changes are just enough to make me want to upgrade...in 2016. 

Kia has a cool new minivan... still named Sedona though. And Nissan's new Murano (above) is as radical as production cars can get. Shoot me questions you have about any of them -- or any family cars -- in the comments. 

Thursday
Apr032014

Should I Let My Kids Name Our New Dog?

My wife and I are having a slightly hard time figuring out a name for our new dog. The fawn boxer you see here is coming home to join our clan the day before Easter and we’re haven’t a heck of a time naming him.

One of the problems is that he is indeed a boy. We had already picked a pretty good girl name, Lucy, but when it came to pick out our new canine from the litter it was this guy who won me over.

Now we're stuck picking a name and the kids aren't helping.

The prevailing sentiment from my son is the name Dukey, named after the dog from the horrendous cartoon Johnny Test. My wife really likes the name, spelling it Dookie after the famed Green Day album.

I'm not too pleased with naming the little guy after poop myself.

We named our nine-year-old boxer Roxy which is the most common boxer name on earth. Duke would be the most common name for a boy that’s for sure.

On the drive back from picking him out I thought of Barney because the brown coat and black face remind me of an old cop show where the grizzled detective's only friend is a sad-faced dog. Hence, Barney Miller (not sure if he had a dog on the show but Jim Rockford wasn't going to work).

We also like/d How I Met Your Mother so he'd be a Barney Stinson too.

But my wife just associates the name Barney with the purple dinosaur.

Then she suggested Mookie, as in Mookie Blaylock. Pearl Jam's original name. That I like.

The kids don't get it though and are still split between Dookie and Barney. Which way do we go?

If we disregard the kids’ feelings on this – they're six and soon-to-be five – will it be a mistake since it will be their "childhood" dog?

Tuesday
Feb252014

Dear Time, Stop Flying… My Son Just Turned Six 

Today is Carter's sixth birthday. Another milestone for him, another moment for my mind to slowly acclimate to the idea that we’ve raised a child to this point with little scarring.

The picture on the left above is from when he was sixteen months old. Baby photos to me don't really show the maturation quite as much as this image. The shot on the right is from last month. It's not a portrait but I think shows Carter focusing like in the other photo. He's just focusing on math workbooks now instead of whatever toy we were holding to get him to sit still for the photographer.

Tonight, it is on to California Pizza Kitchen for his favorite mac n' cheese and family celebration and Friday is his big bash with buddies playing Skylanders. Hopefully, he remembers it all fondly. Me, I'm getting sappy just writing this short post.