What kind of person does only the minimum?

August 1st, 2015

Moira Weigel for The New Inquiry on fitness tracking:

In the Middle Ages, theologians debated about what bodies would be like in the Resurrection. If you had lost a limb, would it grow back? Would people copulate? Would they poop? Imagine a heaven, St. Thomas Aquinas exclaimed, that full of shit!

He was being sarcastic, because he thought our immortal souls would not poop. But the question was dead serious. It meant: How should a person be? Which human activities are essential and which superfluous? What are the eternally significant data about ourselves?

The Catholic Church says the essential data point is the age 33. We will be resurrected as we were, or would have been, at 33 because that's how old Jesus was. Activity trackers say that our true selves lie in a broader range of biodata.

This does not mean that they hold out more, or more flexible, ways to salvation. Only different ones. Fans of FitBit believe that we are essentially productive. The good life divides cleanly. We should strive to leave no remainder untracked. […]

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

Comments Off on What kind of person does only the minimum?

The Last Calendar

January 24th, 2013

As her father grew old and frail, Olivia Judson found a very practical way to keep track of how he was doing:

By the time he was 76, my father was frail. His balance was poor and he had trouble walking. He lived alone in Baltimore in a big house full of stairs, and watching him come tottering down those stairs was terrifying. […] When my brother and his wife invited my father to move in, the invitation was vigorously declined. And we lived in three different cities, far apart.

To try to cope better with this situation, my brother and I created a shared Google calendar – an online calendar in which we could both make entries from wherever we happened to be. Each time either of us spoke to our father, we marked it in the calendar – what time of day it was, how he sounded, what we spoke about. (If one of us called and he did not answer, we marked that, too. Yes, we both have an obsessive streak.)

The focus of the article isn't really about the technology, so much as it is the comfort Judson and her brother could draw from being able to effortlessly share what they knew about how their father was doing. 'Cause in the end it's not about technology, it's about what technology can do for you.1

[Via The Browser]

  1. As I read her article, the nerd in me was thinking that documenting her father's health in calendar notes as part of a freeform account of their latest phone conversation with their father wasn't very efficient. What you'd really want alongside the ability to write a general note is to have health-specific fields so that metadata about mood, mobility, diet and so on could easily be entered, then searched and summarised to allow the user to spot trends. Then I realised that in the age of the quantified self, there are probably umpteen apps for that. The only thing is, I'd imagine that most of those apps aren't geared up for multi-user data entry, since they're meant to be used for checking your own health, not having multiple users track someone else's health. There's probably a gap in the market there for someone to fill.

Comments Off on The Last Calendar


November 27th, 2010

Is this the most inhospitable smokers' lounge ever built?

Comments Off on Breezy


April 6th, 2010

Feeling lucky?

Comments Off on Small/humble/lucky

Introducing Secretary Chung

September 14th, 2009

Alexa Chung helps President Obama explain his health insurance reform proposals with a little help from Auto-Tune.

[Via James Fallows]

Comments Off on Introducing Secretary Chung

Berlin, 1939

August 31st, 2009

The event: a Town Hall Meeting on Health Care Reform. The place: Berlin. The year: 1939

Protester #4: Hey, what about the fact that Hitler combs his hair over to hide his democratic sympathies?

Nazi Rep: Well, I have to admit that that would be an extremely odd way for the Führer to hide something like that. But you can rest assured that he has no such predilections. He believes in totalitarianism and the power and judgment of the state. It's a wonder I'm even here right now, soliciting opinions and questions from you all. You can rest assured that nothing you say will make it back to the Führer.

Protester #4: What about the secret holes he has in his nose where he hides his boogers?

Nazi Rep: Those, sir, are what I believe are referred to as nostrils. Everyone has them.

Protester #4: And if someone doesn't – are they entitled to free health care under Hitler's crazy plans for reform?

Nazi Rep: No, it's my understanding that people without exactly two nostrils will likely be shot.

Comments Off on Berlin, 1939


July 1st, 2008

On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service, the BBC have put together a look at the service's early years.

On 5 July 1948, the National Health Service was launched with the proud expectation that it would make the UK the 'envy of the world'.

Here you can follow the early years of the NHS from radical plan through to triumphant birth and on to fully fledged but sometimes problematic service.

[Via MetaFilter]

Comments Off on NHS