Random observations, teachings and musings of a well trained cubicle superhero.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lee 'Scratch' Perry
June 30, 2008

As a songwriter, performer and especially a producer, Perry has been at the forefront of reggae music since the late 50's ska movement. Practically the inventor of both dubs reggae (he produced one of the earliest all-dub albums, Blackboard Jungle, in 1974) and the “scratch” turntable effect used by DJ’s (his production of Charlie Ace’s “Cow Theory Skank” in 1973 became the first recording to use the effect), Perry’s studio innovations have influenced reggae, rock, punk, pop and dance music. Now, at 70 years old, Perry will release his new album “Panic In Babylon” (Narnack), and prove to be more relevant than ever. http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/WhatsOn/Music.cfm?id=80

June 27, 2008

Reprogramming your lazy summer

Tech Mate
techyJay, a.k.a. “The Cubicle Superhero”, is a self-professed tech junkie with a passion for music and culture Email Jay

On the way back from Japan, we had a brief layover in Detroit, Michigan. After having spent over two weeks enjoying the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and Kyoto, what struck me most about the Motor City was its, ahem, "size."

In North America, the populous is swept into exercise frenzies by fads like the Atkins and Southbeach diet, Thigh-master, or even Billy Blanks Tae Bo. As dreamy as Billy may have been, they were doomed from the start. In Japan, fitness and exercise is simply part of life. In the morning, you may engage in a bit of Tai Chi or basic exercise before beginning your shift, and meal portions, even at McDonalds, are far from supersized. Buying T-shirts in arguably the coolest shops I have ever entered was a crushing heartbreak as I tried on Japan's equivalent of a large, and nearly suffocated. I like cake.

A number of recent studies have highlighted a strong relationship between a person's overall health and their waistline. As Japan's population ages, and health care costs balloon, this seems to have caught the attention of government who has enacted legislation to help those tipping the scales meet their health goals. Under the legislation, citizens must appear for mandatory waistline checks. Failure to meet the target size (39" for men 37" for women) could result in fines or penalties for the employer. NEC Computers could face up to $19 Million in penalties if staff failed to slim down by the target date. NEC and others like Matsushita (who make my Technics turntables) have begun strong educational programs. Call it tough love, if you will, but I can certainly see it being more effective than throwing in a few veggie slices for your staff on Pizza Fridays.

Inspired by my new friends in Japan, I made it my mission to incorporate a healthier level of physical activity into my lifestyle. Since my quasi pacific deranged sleeping pattern had me waking up at 5 AM every morning anyway, I had the free time to commit. I just needed a plan. I found it with the help of some newly acquired Japanese video-gaming technology, the Nintendo Wii and its "Wii Fit" balance board.

The Wii system is something we've covered before, a diminutive (wee) little white box that fits snugly behind beside my TV. It sits upright and takes up roughly the same footprint as a few stacked DVD cases. The platform has already had some major hits with Big Brain Academy and the Lego StarWars and Indiana Jones. It uses a unique a sensor-based system that responds to tilting, pointing and shaking the remote controller. The Wii Fit Balance Board adds to this exceptional functionality.

The board is essentially an electronic scale with four sensors placed at its corners that interact with specially-designed Wii Fit games. Nintendo has plans to release future games for the balance board, but right now it comes as part of the $89 Wii Fit starter bundle. During games like Hula Hoop and Slalom Ski, the board senses when you lean to one side and moves your on-screen presence accordingly. With bite-size (around 2-5 minutes), highly entertaining games, you tend to work up a sweat without even knowing it. Before you begin, you plug in your height and age before running through a weight and balance check. This calculates your Body Mass Index and what they call a Wii Fit Age. I started out at 45, far above my actual age. My little Wii avatar or "Mii" looks like a latter stage Elvis. Again, I'd like to again remind you of my devotion to cake.

Results are tracked on a very simple line graph, so your progress is always clear. The program also provides the option of adding a Wii Fit Channel to the console to weigh in and track progress, whether you have the game disc in the machine or not. In the five days after my vacation, I managed to lose three pounds and lower my BMI. The result was a roar of applause from the game and a reward in the form of unlocking new games. What really works for me are the two-player running exercises. Although not the most visually stimulating, they give you a chance to work out with a partner rather than going it alone, challenging your best. Simply fire up a second controller and its motion sensor works as a pedometer, monitoring your pace with your onscreen trainer.

I admit I'm not normally one to stick to my exercise schedule. When my Blackberry goes off telling me I should be at the gym, I'm typically out somewhere hoofing down a sandwich. But the fact that your workout is a game with little goals along the way makes it more entertaining. It may not be for everyone, and at times you may feel a bit silly waving your hands in the air to catch invisible hula-hoops, but it certainly does the job.

Watch for the flyers. Wii Fit is available in short supply at most major electronics retailers now.

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