It’s been almost one year since I got my Polar Vantage M. Items like these always get a review after a couple of weeks of us; maybe a couple months at most. But it’s nice to hear how these devices hold up over time and shape our habits.
So here’s how I feel about the Vantage after 11 months of full time, every day use.
My wife purchased the white watch with the white band. Overall, the band has been very comfortable and I assume it’s comparable to the Apple Watch silicon band. The only thing that I’m noticing is the discolouration.
Daily use is going to have an effect on a product. Especially one that is against your skin and worn during exercise. So I’m not surprised at all to see a bit of a yellow tinge. However, it’s interesting to note that most of the coloring is happening to the body of the device, less so with the band. I had planned to pick up a replacement band, but it will look odd to be so pristine next to a yellowed watch.
Hardware aside, it’s the software I always care about the most. And what I’ve been most impressed with lately is the sleep tracking. Polar released an update this fall and it changed what the Vantage is tracking when you sleep and how it’s displayed.
Now you get two ratings for each night: an ANS charge and a Sleep charge. The first charge measures how well your ANS (automatic nervous system) calms down each night by tracking your breathing rate, heart rate, and heart rate variability.
The second charge measures your sleep structure by tracking how long you spend in the three sleep stages (light, REM, and deep).
Now, if you hear a skeptical voice in your head asking how a watch can possibly measure all of those things, I hear you. However, I would value its ratings better than a phone (so many popular sleep tracking iOS apps use the microphone to track your sleep — movement and heart rate have to be better). But still, I would love to hear from a sleep expert about how useful these kinds of devices are for this kind of analysis.
Subjectively, I can say that the days after a night where I score well, I feel more energetic and awake. The following night is one where I do things like get some writing done, rather than just fall asleep after putting down the kids.
A great device
Overall, I would still recommend the Vantage M to anyone looking for a casual–to–serious athletic activity tracker. If you’re training for an Ironman, maybe you need something higher end. But for everyone else, this is a more than solid option.
Alan Jacobs writes about Bibles in a recent newsletter. He mentions the Illuminated version of the ESV that was illustrated by Dana Tanamachi. That caught my eye as that’s the Bible I’m currently using (and thanks to an ordering gaffe, so is my wife — I bought two copies).
He very briefly gets into how it can be hard to mark up these nice Bibles that are works of art.
I myself own some beautifully bound Bibles, but I am always slightly uneasy about them. They are precious, but that’s a word with several meanings, and all of them are operative here.
But he is open to trying new things in a plainer version that focuses on reading:
For the last couple of years my everyday Bible has been this ESV Reader’s Edition, a plain hardcover that’s printed and bound like a novel or a work of history. I typically do not use highlighters, but I’ve been doing this little experiment in which I go through the Bible to isolate certain themes. For instance, the blue highlighting marks passages that relate to N. T. Wright’s comprehensive (some might say rather too comprehensive) account of the Big Story of the Bible; the green marks passages that deal with Christology. I also have been marking in a different color the passages that deal with what St. Paul calls the “principalities and powers,” a topic I am profoundly interested in. It’s nice to have a Bible around that’s marked up in this particular way. Perhaps later I will add new themes, and use new colors to identify them.
I share his struggles. I do underline some passages, but hesitate to add more. Part of this is due to my unsightly handwriting and lack of drawing ability. It’s also partly due that most of my more permanent notes go into a digital tool (Ulysses, for the record).
But my wife has no such compunctions. She’s add notes anyway, anywhere — and they look good (see below).
I admire her tenacity to work out the text on the paper with which she reads it!
If this topic is at all an interest to you, you might also enjoy Jacobs writing about Crossway and the ESV as well.
Pray without ceasing
I’ve long had a love–hate relationship with some of Paul’s directions to the various churches he wrote to in the NT. The love is for the blessing of the words God inspired him to write, for the feeling that comes when I really dig in. But the hate comes from my inability to follow the instructions.
Where I continually fail is Paul’s directions to pray all the time. Here’s a few examples:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
And from his own practice:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…
And the passage that I’ve wanted to improve on in my own life is from Philippians:
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What does it mean to pray without ceasing? To bring everything to God in prayer and supplication? Did Paul and other disciples we read about sit most of the day, kneeling before God and praying about all the people they knew? I don’t think that’s the picture we’re supposed to walk away with from passages like this.
After years of wrestling with these passages, I’ve come away with a general sense of how our lives should look. First, it’s a matter of heart. When issues do arise, when questions come, where do you turn first? These passages suggest our response should be to bring these cares to God.
Second, it’s a rhythm. Do your hours, days, and weeks reflect habitual patterns of seeking your Father? To pray without ceasing is akin to eating: I don’t eat all day long, day in and day out. But I do eat every day without a break (fasting aside). I eat without ceasing.
John Piper addresses this very verse when someone asked him what “praying without ceasing” meant. He used the example of Paul using this Greek word (adialeiptōs) in another verse (For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing adialeiptōs I mention you. Romans 1:9). He explains:
It doesn’t mean that Paul was verbally and mentally always, every second, mentioning them. It means that over and over, always, repeatedly, without fail, when I get on my knees, you are in my prayer. That is basically what I think he means by “pray without ceasing” — repeatedly and often.
This encourages me, for I do repeatedly come to God in prayer. And while I often feel like it could and should be more often, I’m already in the habit of doing so. For the rest of my life, I simply want that regularity and intensity to increase more and more.
If you’ve wondered what exactly is up with Apple TV, know that you’re not alone. I didn’t realize quite how bad the situation was until reading this post from Dustin Curtis.
Apple TV is a hardware device.
Apple TV is an app on Apple TV that curates content you can buy from Apple and also content you can stream through other installed apps (but not all apps, and there is no way to tell which ones).
Apple TV is an app on iOS/iPadOS devices that operates similarly to Apple TV on Apple TV. Apple TV on iOS/iPadOS syncs playback and watch history with Apple TV on Apple TV, but only if the iOS/iPadOS device has the same apps installed as the Apple TV – and not all apps are available on all platforms. Apple TV is also an app on macOS, but it does not show content that can only be streamed from external apps on an Apple TV or iOS/iPadOS device.
Sadly, the list continues — it’s like watching Inception for the first time (a dream within a dream within a dream, but instead a service within an app within a device).
Fortnite chapter 2
If you don’t have teens or video games are not your thing, you still may not be aware of the phenomenon that is Fortnite. But if you are aware, you may know that the creators of Fortnite, Epic Games, recently update the franchise to what they call Chapter 2.
After 2 years and 10 “seasons”, taking the gaming world by storm, and doing some very interesting things, they shut down their product for 36 hours before launching a revamped version.
And I love the update!
First, like most products, a revamp usually entails a slightly new look. And Fortnite follows suit here with a new map (the story shifts to a “new world”). The new location borrows a little from the first, but the overall look and feel has a little more texture to it. The water, the leaves on the trees, the entire landscape feels homey.
But along with that aspect of the game, Epic Games also update the UI. The location of items in the player’s HUD are slightly different, but so too are the mechanics for getting to your next match. Previously, once you were eliminated from a match or were the victor, you could spectate the person who eliminated you, or return to the lobby. From there, you could then start your next match.
In Chapter 2, this is greatly improved. When you’re eliminated, you can choose to spectate or return to the lobby. Or you can choose the new default option, which is to just head into your next match immediately. Not having to wait to return to the lobby and then wait while the next match loads removes the majority of the friction of playing.
After a couple of weeks of playing the game, my biggest takeaway was this:
In that vein, I think Epic would do well to make it a little easier for new players. Programmatically get groups of players in similar tiers/levels against each other so someone who’s played less than 10 times doesn’t wait 2 minutes for the game to load only to last 30 seconds before getting two pumped from behind by some person who's played since season 2… totally speaking from experience here
They really nailed this aspect in Chapter 2. After a couple of games, I felt like I was such a better player. So much so that I was compelled to dig into what had changed. And it was bots …
Now, the word itself causes confusion. When I first mentioned to my boys that the reason Chapter 2 feels easier and more fun is because of bots, they were confused. That’s because in their circles, bot is a word for a player who has purchased all the loot and looks like they’d be dangerous, but they really don’t know what they’re doing. There’s an entire vernacular for young people about this game.
But in Chapter 2, Epic Games added real bots As in, computer controlled players:
In the next Season, we are adding Bots to Fortnite. They will behave similarly to normal players and will help provide a better path for players to grow in skill. Bots will work in conjunction with the new matchmaking system, and as your skill improves, you’ll face fewer Bots. Bots will not be present in Competitive playlists. This is another system that we will continue to update and iterate.
Thanks to these changes, I finally achieved my first victory with 6 eliminations. And it felt sooo good. I’m pretty sure some of those six were even humans.
I enjoyed this long essay from Craig Mod on a handful of related topics. Most importantly, he touches on how habits define our identity and why most people would not want to be described as social media addicts. But readers? Yes, very much yes please.
We’re amicable to calling ourselves readers for the same reason we want to identify as rock climbers or marathon runners or exceptional parents or selfless children or humanitarians or folks who’ve written thoughtful and considered books — because these activities carry with them an implicit sense of self-betterment, typified by being active (as opposed to passive). To climb El Capitan requires dedication, discipline, focus — and yes, some insanity. To be a good child means taking care of a parent, calling, remembering, participating. The implied (and attractive) corollary of cultivating those qualities are that you’re a more perceptive, present human, experiencing and living life with a certain (healthy / obsessive) fullness.