The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Polar Vantage update

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.

Discolouration

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.

The white band is fairly yellowed

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.

Sleep tracking

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 Vantage measures your ANS charge

The second charge measures your sleep structure by tracking how long you spend in the three sleep stages (light, REM, and deep).

And your sleep recharge

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.

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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.

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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!

What’s better

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.

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