Friday, June 17, 2016

Wii Fit U Part 2 - My Personal Experiences

So, I bought a Wii U for the express purpose of playing Wii Fit U.  I was determined from the beginning to give it a shot, after all, what do I have to lose?  Only unwanted weight.

After doing all the initial setup stuff, it was time for my first Body Test, to see where I stood weight-wise.  I had a general ballpark that I was expecting my weight to be in, which was in the 270-280 range.  This cued my first bit of happiness, in that I was only 253 pounds.  Still, though, for my height (5'10"), this is enough to have a BMI in the mid-30s, placing me off the top of the game's BMI range labelled "Obese".  It became clear that I had a lot of work ahead of me.

I've heard from various sources that BMI can be flawed in some situations, but I'm not sure if that applies to me.  The game claims my ideal weight is around 150 pounds.  I've always thought it would be nice to be around 180 pounds, personally.

The other metric the game uses is calories.  It helpfully informs you of how it calculates calories burned based on the intensity of the exercise, measured in METs, and some other factors.  I can't really vouch for how accurate it is, because I don't know enough about these sorts of calculations myself.

I initially started out doing 30 minute workouts, but quickly jumped up to an hour because I noticed I was just getting going at the end of the 30 minutes.  An hour had me feeling pretty worn out, so I feel like that's right for me.

I went into this with an experimentative mindset.  I wasn't very active to begin with, so my first question was "how much can I get out of just increasing my level of activity by itself?".  After all, I'd had a prior experience while living in the apartment and doing contract work for Silverchair.  I basically ate whatever I wanted, parked somewhat far from Silverchair where I could park for free, and walked in from and back out to my car every day.  While still continuing to eat whatever I wanted, I noticed after a while that I wasn't completely exhausted when I got into the building, so I started taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

I will note that I didn't make stupid dietary decisions while eating "whatever I wanted".  I had a fairly regimented meal setup: breakfast was a bowl of Quaker Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal, supplemented with some coffee once I got into the office.  Lunch was a stir fry concoction of vegetables, buckwheat noodles, beef, and some sort of garlic+ginger sauce, all put on a 6" hoagie roll; supplemented with a Chocolate and Peanut Crunch Clif Bar and a can of Sprite Zero.  Dinner was one of three things: a Bird's Eye skillet meal, pre-made pasta (either ravioli or tortellini) with one or another Classico pasta sauce, or my usual at Bodo's, which is a whole wheat bagel with pastrami, provolone, mustard, and pepper spread.  I ended up in the habit of walking to a nearby convenience store around 2 or 3 in the afternoon to grab a snack, usually this was a bag of chips or pretzels and a 20 oz. drink.

Every now and then I'd go to Cook-Out or Sticks or something just to change things up, but my point is already clear: by simply increasing my activity level to above zero, I was beginning to feel better.

Well, the first week of Wii Fit U was a bit rocky.  I gained weight overall, and it spiked up and then back down twice.  But then, after the second spike, it kept going down.  Not as fast, but it kept going down.  It's had a couple of spikes since then, but I've already noticed that I can easily deal with the spikes by just sticking to my routine.

My diet was already quite good.  It's been low on fats and oils for a while now, and relatively high in fiber thanks to whole grain everything ever.  I did, however, make a minor and very easy change to my diet.  I have a hankerin' for some frozen snacks, and most if not all of these sorts of things are incredibly bad for you, or at least they are in the quantities that I was consuming.  I didn't get rid of the frozen snacks, but I did replace them with much more healthy things.  I've got a cache of lightly sauced frozen vegetable mixes and Campbell's Chunky Soup.  I typically eat the vegetable mixes along with a couple White Castle JalapeƱo Cheeseburgers, just to get some meat in there.  Even before I settled on this, I was enjoying Totino's pizza rolls in smaller quantities, basically just heating up one serving at a time instead of half the bag at a time, without it really affecting my weight loss.

Other than playing Wii Fit U and making that minor diet change, I've started taking walks around the neighborhood.  One of the only good things about Central Virginia is that it's very hilly terrain, which is great for burning some calories.  A lap around my neighborhood is about a mile and takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how fast I walk, which is pretty fast to begin with.  Recently I started being less winded after one lap, so I bumped it up to two laps.  If I start getting less winded after that, I'll bump it up to three.  I probably won't go any further than that, though, because I'll be pushing an hour at that point.  If I take the Fit Meter with me, I can keep track of all of that and get credit for it in-game, which contributes a lot towards me meeting my calorie goal.

Speaking of the calorie goal, I've already noticed that it's not everything in the equation.  For the most part I've actually been falling short on my calorie goal and still losing weight.  So, just keep that in mind.

Also, with regards to weight loss, there are no "quick and easy" answers.  Anyone else who tells you otherwise is lying and probably trying to sell you something.  Healthy weight loss takes time and perseverance.  Once you begin tracking your values and working to lower them, you may not see a benefit immediately.  Recall that I actually gained weight in my first week of being more active.  All you need to do is find something that works for you and keep at it.  Whether that something is Wii Fit U, or a gym membership, or buying some weights and running shoes and whatnot, it's most important that it's something you feel that you can do.

I like Wii Fit U because it makes a game out if weight loss.  It harnesses the gamer's natural drive to want to do better at the game and get better scores, and it turns those better scores into weight loss.  I can lose weight while doing something I enjoy, which I'm quite pleased with.  I personally feel like the ability to get fit in a way that works for me was worth the $400 price tag for a Wii U, the Wii Fit U + Balance Board + Fit Meter bundle, and two Wiimotes.

Now, because the game supports taking screenshots via Miiverse, here's some images.  I've noticed that it's incredibly picky about your center of balance, wanting you to have exactly 50/50 balance.  While good balance is important, I feel like it's not as important to have it be perfectly in the center as the game makes it out to be.  It actually complains that your balance isn't perfect when it's 50.1%/49.9%...

Image showing my balance being 50.1% on the left leg and 49.9% on the right, which apparently isn't good enough.

Also, my workout is split up into all three of the routines you get under My Routine.  The first one is my warmup, then there's the actual workout itself, then finally the cooldown.  At the end of each, it updates you on a few things like how long you've been working out for, calories burned, and how many calories you've got left for your daily goal.  Well, I suppose it was inevitable, but this happened one time at the end of my warmup...

666 calories left for today's goal!

I will leave you with one more picture, which is an indicator of my progress so far in the one month I've been playing Wii Fit U.  The four red dots are when the game decided to ask me to explain why I'd gained the weight I'd just gained.  It offers you eight cookie-cutter reasons to pick from, none of which truly explained each gain, and all of which seem incredibly judgmental, so I just selected "I don't know" for all of them.  The bigger picture is that in the month that's gone by since I started playing Wii Fit U, I've lost ten pounds.  Miiverse refused to screenshot this for some reason, so I had to take a picture of this screen with my phone.

10 pounds of weight loss over the course of a month.

I'll probably do Wii Fit U check-in posts periodically, as I hit milestones and whatnot.  This is something that's very important to me, so it's gonna get done, dammit.

Wii Fit U Part 1 - The Game Itself

Wii Fit U does a lot of things right.  After each workout, it gives you a score based on how well you did during the workout.  Any gamer who sees a score is naturally going to want to make that score higher.  Video game numbers are better when they're bigger, after all.  This basically tricks the player into getting fit as they try to beat their high scores.

At its core, Wii Fit U is a set of exercises, categorized into Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, Dance, and Balance Games.  It gives you a variety of ways to meander about its set of exercises.  The simplest one simply just has you select an exercise, and then when you're done, it suggests two more and you pick one.  This is probably the easiest way to get acquainted with the exercises themselves, as you always have the option to go back out to the menu and manually choose another exercise even if it isn't one of the ones being suggested.  It's also the way to unlock longer, more challenging versions of the exercises.

If you'd rather have the game decide for you, there are two options.  One of them categorizes the exercises into various aspects of your life or physical wellness you might want to improve.  I honestly haven't tried this option.  The next is the Personal Trainer.  Here, you select either the amount of calories you want to burn, or an amount of time you want to work out for, and it picks the exercises to fit the goal you set.

Finally, once you become acquainted with the exercises available in the game, you can go into My Routines and set up a maximum of three exercise routines, by simply picking exercises from the list and moving them around until they're in your desired order.  Doing one of your routines is really simple, you just select one and hit the nice big button that says Start.

My only gripe about My Routines is that you can't unlock the more longer and more challenging versions of exercises while you're doing one of your routines.  The game still tracks your high scores, but My Routines goes for as little "press A to begin" and as few dialog box confirmations as possible, so you don't actually get presented with your high scores and any dialogs it does show will auto-advance.  I guess I'll just have to go back out and select exercises individually to unlock those longer and more challenging versions, and--hey waitaminute, this is another way the game tricks you into getting fit, because you'll end up wanting to unlock something, so you go and select that exercise to unlock whatever you can, and you get more exercise in the process.  I see what you did there, Nintendo...

When you start up the game, though, one of the first thing the game wants you to do is the Body Test.  This is basically a check-in sort of thing where it assesses your progress so far.  My only gripe with it is that it makes me too aware of my current weight.  I'd much rather just play the game and only check my weight every couple of weeks.  At the same time, it's nice to be able to see the gains and losses so you can try to equate them to things you either did or didn't do.  If only it would present its graphs with unlabelled axes.

The game has a calendar, and every day you do the Body Test, you get to put a stamp on the calendar.  After a while, the game unlocks additional stamps for you to use, which is neat from a graphical variety point of view, as well as from a "keep the player coming back" point of view.

In addition to the Balance Board, the game also uses a Fit Meter that clips onto the waist of your pants or whatever waist-level garment you happen to be wearing.  It tracks various things like steps taken, altitude change, and calories burned, and every time you play the game it'll have you transfer the data over so you can update all your graphs and whatnot.  There are two minigames relating to the Fit Meter, the Walking Challenge and the Altitude Challenge, where your number of steps and whatnot count towards walking around or up various cities or landmarks.  I don't know what metric they're using to convert the number of steps into distance covered, but they're neat regardless.  The Fit Meter's purpose is obviously to encourage you to be active outside of when you're playing the game, and every aspect of its design makes it suitable for that.  I often forget I'm wearing it.

An annoyance for me, since I do my workouts at 1 or 2 in the morning, is that the game really wants me to change one of its settings.  It has a setting that controls when it ticks over to a new day, and you can choose between midnight and 3 AM.  Well, considering that I'm often still doing my workout at 3 AM, and that logically speaking, the date changes at midnight and no other time, I'm leaving it at midnight, but the game just. won't. shut. up. about. it.

I don't necessarily advise you to use the Personal Trainer right away, especially if you're not very physically fit.  Some of the Yoga and Strength Training exercises are marked as "For Advanced Users Only", and require a lot of flexibility and body control that you're just not going to have if you aren't already physically fit.  Trust me, I had one ill-fated Personal Trainer run that had about six or seven of these, it wasn't very fun and I didn't really get a lot out of it.

If you're new to all this, or you're like me and buying the requisite console as well as the Wii Fit U box that comes with the game, Balance Board, and Fit Meter, you'll need two Wiimotes.  A fair number of the exercises will have you hold at least one Wiimote so it can use motion tracking or button presses or whatever.  Some exercises can also use the Nunchuck if you happen to have one, but anywhere a Nunchuck can be used, you can also use a second Wiimote.  I find a second Wiimote to be the better choice, given that not all exercises use the Nunchuck.  If you're going the Nunchuck route, you'll have to plug it in and unplug it as necessary, which I can see being a hassle.

I'm not sure why you'd want to play the game multiplayer, but some exercises (mostly the balance games) have two-player versions available.  Also, it's not just a single-user game, you can let someone else play on a guest profile, or have them register another profile so they can track their stats.  They'll need to buy their own Fit Meter, though.

One thing the game alerts you to straight away when you run it the first time is the existence of the Wii Fit U Quick Check application.  It's a small download that enables you to transfer over your Fit Meter data or do a Body Test, but not enough time for a full workout.  I generally don't use it, but I've got it there in case I do ever need it.

Overall: Wii Fit U is an excellent way for someone like me who's overweight and into video games to get fit, and we'll see what happens.  In my next post, I will cover my personal experience with the game in greater detail, and go on a bit about the psychological aspect of losing weight.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I feel old and I'm only 33

I'm already using expressions like "kids these days" and "back in my day".

Kids these days have excuses for everything.  They don't want to be exposed to anything negative, which they call being "triggered".  They just want to stay in their "safe spaces" and remain ignorant to the world.

To be fair, it's not their fault.  It's their parents' fault.  Parents of the newer generations have been engaging in wanton shielding of their children from reality, complete with the reinforcement that they're a "special little flower" and "unique".

Unique?  You mean, just like everyone else?  Come on.

This is why we have people insisting there are more than two genders.  This is why SJWs are a thing.  This is why cognitive dissonance is running rampant these days.

Sorry, did I just use big words?  Look them up and read about them for a while, maybe then you'll understand.

Freedom of Speech, one of the freedoms specifically carved out by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, is bigger than your feelings.  You now probably want proof, seeing as how you're in denial that your feelings don't matter more than others' right to speak their mind.  Fortunately for me, there's a handy little quote floating around, that goes something like this: (slightly paraphrased, of course)

"I may not like what my fellow man has to say, but I will defend to the death his right to say it."

Despite the misinformation you may have heard, it's not from Voltaire.  Do your own research into the matter and you'll see who actually wrote it.  Don't cheat by asking someone else either, it's a really simple thing to just look up yourself.  It takes about five minutes, and Google, whether you like them as a company or not, has a very accessible search engine that will give you the proper result.

When you're done doing that, I've got a movie for you to watch.  Don't worry, it's a comedy.  From 1994.  Starring Jeremy Piven and David Spade.  It addresses, and pretty much predicted, the frivolity of this younger generation in a truthful, yet comedic manner.  Don't know the name?  Well, it's a cult classic, so I'm not really expecting you to already know about it.  Look it up.  There's a really good website full of information about movies that lets you see who's been in what, what genre it is, and a lot more.  I've already given you enough information to locate the title yourself.  Getting a copy of the movie, on the other hand, is a point of contention.  It may or may not be available on one or another streaming service.  I honestly don't know, so you'll have to search on your own.

Stop sticking your head in a hole and pretending that a problem doesn't exist if you can't see it.  Stop covering your ears and going "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" when people say things you don't agree with.  You have a choice.  Speak up and let your beliefs be known, or keep your beliefs to yourself and stay silent.  Regardless of which choice you make, be sure to consider opposing viewpoints.  It will make you a much more well-rounded individual if you can learn to see an issue from both sides.  Even when one side doesn't really have a leg to stand on, make sure you know why people are saying what they're saying.  Don't trivialize someone's viewpoint.  Don't generalize into easy labels.  Also, don't be pedantic.

Also, for all the wannabe activists out there: make sure you're actually willing to practice what you preach.  It's so easy to speak loudly on an issue these days, that people seem to be forgetting that in order to make change happen, it starts with the person proposing the change.  Learn what is and isn't constructive behavior.

I really feel old now.  Don't mind me, just gonna go play games on my Nintendo Entertainment System...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Just saying...

Twitter, or any social media really, is completely normal, for whatever definition of normal you have, under most circumstances.

Then once something terrible happens and starts getting 24/7 news coverage and whatnot, suddenly everyone's an activist.

This has not gone unnoticed.

And it's stupid.

If you want to be an activist, fine.  Be an activist.  However, you'll find that really being an activist involves being an activist all the time, instead of just when something bad happens.  You need devotion to the cause.

Social media "activists" pretty much ignore every cause they care about until it's suddenly in the news, and then they're all "if you don't agree with me you're a terrible person" and whatnot.

That's not how activism works.

I specifically avoided mentioning any one cause or terrible event, because this applies to all of them.

Thank you, and good night.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Having recently joined the "wonderful world" of smartphone ownership, and having been in the Nintendo ecosystem for a while with two 3DSes (and now a Wii U, not to mention the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, NES, SNES, and GameCube), I was interested in Nintendo's smartphone application, Miitomo.

They call it a game, but I'd hesitate to do so.  99% of it is just your Mii walking around a room.  The "gameplay" is answering questions and periodically changing your Mii's outfit.  Also, every single time you change your Mii's outfit, you have to deflect not one, but two requests to take a picture ("Miifoto") of your Mii in that new outfit.  No thanks, Nintendo, my phone has limited storage space and I don't want to fill it up with pictures of my Mii.

As I've just implied, the usefulness of Miitomo is limited, so even if you're in Nintendo's ecosystem and have a smartphone or a tablet or something that can run it, you may still want to pass it up.  The only thing really game-like at all about it is Miitomo Drop, a frustrating minigame where you drop your Mii in one of a few differently-laid-out boards in a mostly vain attempt to unlock new outfit parts.  Most of the time you'll just bounce all the way to the bottom and end up getting candy, which is only useful for when you're interacting with your friends.

The reason I don't have any information on how the friend interaction works is because none of my friends still play it.  There was an initial boom of activity, as there is with any new high-profile software release, but then it promptly died off, and took the application's popularity along with it.  Its only primary use is to get Miitomo coins for My Nintendo, so you can... wait for it... unlock more Mii outfit parts.

Because apparently having real money transactions in a smartphone application is something that can't be avoided these days, you can also use your hard-earned cash to buy in-game currency to be able to purchase more outfits or play Miitomo Drop.  It's completely overlookable, though, because the daily bonuses give you plenty of stuff, and none of the outfits and outfit parts are really "must-haves".  I've grabbed some stuff that looked neat out of Miitomo Drop, either through sheer luck, or using YouTube videos as a guide to know where and how to drop my Mii in order to get the thing I wanted.  I've also used my Miitomo coins to grab outfit items from My Nintendo.

It's kinda neat, I guess, but as long as the main gameplay only involves answering questions and turning down photo requests, I don't think it's really worth playing for very long.  Miifoto is kind of neat, but just like the rest of the application, it's a novelty that wears off rather quickly.

I will leave you now with the only Miifoto I've ever taken that I'm reasonably proud of.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Day of Racing 2016 (late post lol)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hate watching races with my dad and his friend.  They ramble on the entire time about one thing or another, and most of the time it's unrelated to what's happening on screen.  Then they miss things because they're so involved in their conversation, and meanwhile I'm just trying to watch the damn race.

My dad in particular seems to have fallen so in love with DVRs that I don't think I'll ever get to see an event live again.  That's why I don't tweet about races much anymore, because by the time we're actually watching them, the race is already over.

So, anyway.  Memorial Day weekend is always host to three auto races, spaced out so nicely for us in the US that you could call them the breakfast, lunch, and dinner of auto racing.  I always refer to it as The Day of Racing, just because.

Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco

In the morning, there's the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, an iconic track for a variety of reasons, and also one of the most difficult to pass on.  This year's F1 season has been kinda boring, to fix it, just remove Mercedes.  Then we'll have real races with actual competition and whatnot.  It rained between qualifying and race day, which made things interesting just because there's always that point you reach where it's time to switch from full wets to inters or from inters to dry weather tires, or in Hamilton's case, just say "fuck it" and stay out on full wets until it's time to change to dry weather tires.  A dubiously legal blocking maneuver by Hamilton and a pit stop gaffe on the part of Daniel Ricciardo's team sealed the victory for Hamilton.  Ricciardo wasn't terribly pleased, but Sergio Perez scored a podium for Force India and was pretty happy overall.  Hamilton managed to work his signature "blessed" thing into the post-race interview, just after he shared the victory champagne with Justin Bieber.

Indianapolis 500

The Indy 500 has way too damn much pre-race.  I know it's an event with a lot of history, and being held on Memorial Day weekend means it ends up with a bunch of pre-race events honoring war veterans and whatnot.  Then there's the national anthem with the flyover, the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, the releasing of the multi-colored balloons, then the most famous words in motorsport, and then about twenty minutes of parade laps later we finally get racing.

Things stayed pretty civil this year, no completely bonehead maneuvers to speak of, except for pit stops during yellow flags.  For whatever reason people were ignoring the fact that there's two lanes to the right of the pit boxes and just darting straight towards the rightmost one on exit, without any regard as to whether anyone's already there.  Thankfully, they were vigilant about handing out the penalties for it.  The first one to get hit with a penalty was Will Power, which basically put him on a sub-optimal alternate strategy that ended up seeing him go a lap down at one point.  Cue sad trombone and picture of the room of those who care.

My eternal pick to win, Tony Kanaan, was in the mix as always and led a few laps, but ultimately had to stop for fuel with nine laps to go.  As could be expected, fuel basically dictated the race win, and Alexander Rossi pulled off some amazing fuel savings by coasting on parts of the last lap to win, only to run out of fuel during the victory lap and have to be towed back to the pits.  He did a few races of last year's F1 season with a backmarker team, so perhaps having an Indy 500 win under his belt will increase those prospects a little bit.  After all, Jacques Villeneuve winning the very first Indy 505 kinda kick-started his F1 career.

Coca-Cola 600

I'm always on my own for the Coke 600 because my dad is an old man and just wants to have a martini (made with gin, as one correctly makes a martini), and go to sleep. I went to B-Dubs like in previous years, except that this year some Florida baseball game had priority and they were playing music instead of TV audio, so it was a silent NASCAR race.  NASCAR apparently re-branded their "phantom debris caution" as a "Competition Caution", which came out early in the race.  Partway through the race, by coincidence, a friend of mine showed up just to get something to eat, so at least I had someone to talk to.

I missed good portions of the race due to the lack of TV audio, but it was mostly a missable race.  No huge wrecks or anything (that I noticed, at least) and Truex led 392 of the 400 laps, making this NASCAR race more of a parade than the Monaco GP was.  I was making jokes the entire time about how if the Jimmy John's car wins, the first sentence of the post-race interview should be "Man, this Jimmy John's car was Freaky Fast™ tonight." and how it should be Jimmie Johnson driving the Jimmy John's car.  But Johnson didn't win lol, and neither did the Jimmy John's car, so it's all a moot point, I guess.

The food I had was pretty good.  I got a chicken wrap with the Parmesan Garlic sauce, with a side of chips and salsa, eight boneless Thai Curry wings, and a tall Yuengling.  Later I had some Dr. Pepper, which I wasn't even charged for.