In Loving Memory 

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Please consider making a donation to the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation, and support the tremendous work of Joseph Reginella.

Be sure not to miss Reginella’s other educational tributes.

That’s Just Busywork 

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

I’m always curious about who exactly it is that leaves trash in public places. In the case of one South Korean beach, the answer appears to be “the mayor”.

Go St. Louis! 

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Though the St. Louis Cardinals were just knocked out of the MLB playoffs last night, their home city is still tops in some ways:

  • St. Louis holds top spot in chlamydia and gonorrhea, STDs reach all-time high across U.S.

The article itself is a bit less celebratory than the headline, referring to this as a “dubious distinction”:

St. Louis has retained the dubious distinction of leading the nation in sexually transmitted diseases, ranking first in 2018 among counties and independent cities for the rate of gonorrhea and — after dropping to third place a year ago — regaining the top spot for chlamydia. The city was fourth for its syphilis rate.

Still, it seems strange to refer to this as the “top spot”, and “regaining” it.

Also, St. Louis, you’re kind of gross. Glove up before you love up, people!

Good Luck, Little Fiordland Penguin 

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Recently, the weekly “Good News newsletter” I receive included a story about a penguin who’d lost its way. This penguin was native to New Zealand, but wound up some 1500 miles away, in Australia.

A brave little penguin made its way back into the water after a 1,500-mile journey that left it struggling and underweight. [T]he Melbourne Zoo released the Fiordland penguin at Summerland Beach…off the coast of Melbourne last month after the flightless bird spent all summer at their facilities recuperating from its travels.

That seems nice enough. This unnamed penguin wound up very far from home, and the zoo helped it recuperate, then released it back into the wild.

“It’s a tough life out there in the ocean, but we’re hopeful this penguin will find its way back to New Zealand and eventually breed,” said the zoo’s head of veterinary services, Dr. Michael Lynch. “We’ve given it every chance to do so.”

I really don’t think they have. It was so tiring for this creature to make it to Australia that it needed months to recover. If the hope is for this penguin to have a chance to breed back in its native land, perhaps a ride back to New Zealand would be in order.

Eliud Kipchoge Flew

Monday, October 14th, 2019

On Saturday, remarkable runner Eliud Kipchoge did something no human being has ever done before: He ran a marathon in under 2 hours. Kipchoge’s final time was 1:59:40.2, almost 20 seconds faster than the desired mark.

Eliud Kipchoge, triumphant after his successful run

You may recall that Nike attempted this feat with a 2017 event called “Breaking2”. Kipchoge took part in that, along with Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese, but all came up short of the goal. Now, two years later, the Ineos 1:59 Challenge has met with success.

This is, quite simply, an incredible achievement, the distance running equivalent of Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile. Kipchoge’s accomplishment won’t change the marathon world record (which he already holds with a 2:01:39 finish in the 2018 Berlin Marathon), as this was not a sanctioned event. Nevertheless, it shows what’s possible. Just as the record for the fastest mile has continued to drop since Bannister’s 1964 run, I suspect we’ll see a sub-two-hour time in an official marathon in the coming years.

For now though, we should simply celebrate this amazing man, and his amazing achievement. Bravo, Eliud Kipchoge!

Previously in Eliud Kipchoge news: I Believe Eliud Kipchoge Can Fly

Koda the Turtle Dog 

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Dogs are used to find drugs, weapons, and now, turtles.

[Photo credit: Zoo New England]

Koda is an Australian shepherd mix, and she is gainfully employed tracking and finding eastern box turtles.

One All-Beef Mascot 

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Hey, do you want to see a ripped Ronald McDonald in his skivvies, with french fries for pubic hair?

Oh, no? Sorry.

Animated Yeti/Sasquatch/Bigfoot News You Can Use 

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Does it feel like the same Yeti and/or Sasquatch movie has come out two or even three times of late? Let Marissa Martinelli help you keep things straight.

Bad at Rounding and Writing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

After posting yet another tale of my Apple Dumbwatch on October 7th, I heard from several readers who correctly guessed that my screenshot might be from earlier in the month. In fact, I’d actually taken it on October 4th. Given that, it appeared that the Activity app might actually be doing live or live-ish updates to the required per-day average. Did that explain the seemingly bad math? It turns out the answer is yes, but it also exposes several other issues. Let’s have a look.

First, I looked back at a screenshot from earlier in the day on October 4th. This was snapped at 4:02 PM:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, this says “about 79”. I had 2,236 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (counting the 4th) remaining. How does that math check out?

2,236 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.86 minutes/day

Now, 79.86 minutes per day is sort of close to “about 79”, but it really ought to be “about 80”. Also, remember that at 4 PM, the 4th is already 2/3 over.

My original image was from 10:37 PM of that same day, October 4th. Here it is again:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, I’d done some more Exercise minutes since 4 PM. I now had 2,214 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (again, counting the 4th) remaining. The math on this actually works out to just over 79 minutes:

2,214 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.07 minutes/day

That certainly is close to 79, though again, if you do 79 minutes a day, you’ll come up short. Worse, at this point the 4th was nearly over, yet it was still being counted in the averaging. That seems like a problem.

Finally, I did a check on the 7th, at 11 AM. Here, you can see that the estimate has gone up, as I’ve fallen slightly off the pace:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

One more time, let’s check that math.

2,107 minutes remaining/25 days remaining = 84.28 minutes/day

As before, this is close enough to “about 84” for Apple’s purposes, at least. Clearly, Activity is doing live tracking as the month progresses, rather than just doing one calculation (2560 minutes /31 days = 82.58 minutes/day)). That’s a nice idea, but there are several obvious problems here. Specifically:

  • The current text fails to indicate that the estimate provided is for the remainder of the month. Something like this could be an improvement:

    “Get 2560 Exercise minutes this month to earn this award. You’ve earned 453 minutes so far, so you just have 2,107 left to go. That’s about 84 Exercise minutes a day, for the rest of the month.”

    That would make it much more obvious that this estimate is for the rest of the month.

  • Activity is counting the current day in its averaging, no matter when in the day you are. Surely at 10:37 PM, or worse, 11:59 PM, the current day should not be counted fully in the averaging.

  • Finally, anything over X minutes should be rounded up to X+1 minutes, to avoid ever coming up short. So, 79.8, and even 79.1, should become “about 80”.

It seems I was incorrect in maligning the Apple Watch’s math skills. However, its rounding skills could definitely do with some improvement, as well as its copyediting.

Return of the Apple Dumbwatch Part II

Monday, October 7th, 2019

As long-time readers and/or Apple Watch users know, the Apple Watch encourages wearers to be more active by issuing monthly activity challenges. While these challenges can be motivating, I’ve repeatedly found the Apple Watch to be bad at the math required to track them. I first noted this in November of 2017, and then saw it again in February of 2018.

It’s been 18 months since I last noticed such an issue, however, so I assumed that the problems had been fixed and the math was being correctly computed. Yet, like the living dead, these bugs just won’t stay down. Here is my October challenge:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

This challenge calls for 2560 Exercise minutes in the month of October, and then states that that’s about 79 minutes a day. I found the use of the word “about” alongside a not-at-all-round number like 79 to be rather strange. I guessed that meant I’d need a bit more than 78 minutes a day, and checked the math.

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

In what universe is more than 82 and 1/2 “about 79”? If the claim was “about 80”, that would still be rather wrong. Even “about 82” would be problematic, because it would leave you 18 minutes short of the goal at the end of October. But “about 79”? I can only conclude that the Apple Watch has fallen right off the wagon again.