Back in early March, our health insurance company sent me a free Fitbit Flex ($99.99 value or $79.99 on sale) for completing a health lifestyle survey.  Yesterday, I tried it out in conjunction with my simple ($19.95) pedometer to compare data.

  Fitbit Pedometer
Steps 2,300 2,477
Calories 1,146 105
Distance 0.97 mi 1.09 mi
Time 22 min 21 min

Considering that I was standing still in the same place when I put both devices on my body and when I took them off, the variations in data require some analysis.

The action of taking a step rattles something and makes a “click” sound in the pedometer.  Each click counts as a step (observable on the display screen).  Given my stride length and doing the math says I take 2,263 steps in one mile, assuming my stride length never varies.  Does the wrist-worn Fitbit track arm motion?  If it does, there should be an arm swing for every step.  I don’t know, and there’s no screen to attempt an observation.  Whatever the mechanism, and allowing for a varying stride length, score:  Fitbit–1, pedometer–1.

I’ve checked the route with the car and it’s 1.1 miles on the odometer, so the pedometer appears to be slightly more accurate for measuring distance.  Still, given a possible variance in distance due to the timing of the car’s odometer turning over, score:  Fitbit–1, pedometer–1.

I checked the time on the digital clock on the stove when I left home and when I returned.  Since I didn’t count seconds on the three involved digital clocks, that could explain the timing difference.  Score:  Fitbit–1, pedometer–1.

The Fitbit calorie counter might be its most motivating feature.  Since an average-size woman burns roughly 100 calories per mile running or walking, the Fitbit must suck calories out of my body while I wear it for me to burn eleven times that many.  That was nearly a whole day’s food burned in a one-mile walk!  Three miles and I’d be down a full pound at 3,500 calories per pound.  Not to mention that the Fitbit has been lying on my dresser since I finished walking yesterday and shows 821 calories burned so far today–without even moving it.  That’s a weight loss dream come true!  Score:  Fitbit–0, pedometer–1.

For me, convenience is a big plus.  To see the data on my pedometer, I look at the display.  All four categories of information are right there on a single screen.  With the Fitbit, however, there is no screen, so I can’t get my data unless I sync it with the Fitbit app on a bluetooth device.  Compared to the pedometer, it’s very inconvenient to need a second device to examine the Fitbit data.  Convenience score:  Fitbit–0, pedometer–1.

Total score:  Fitbit–3, pedometer–5.

Granted, my pedometer doesn’t track my food log, my goals, or the intensity of my activities, nor does it track my sleep patterns, but why would I want a device to tell me how many times I woke up during the night?  It’s bad enough just knowing I didn’t sleep well without having it documented!  All in all, I’m glad I had a chance to try a Fitbit without spending any money, but I’ll stick with my trusty, inexpensive, and easy-to-use pedometer.

Science + music = fun!

Tonight we attended Teddy’s second grade concert at his school.  The musical the kids presented was named “Bones.”  Some of the kids had white capes with pictures of the different bones in the body, and the other kids were in the chorus.  One of the second graders narrated the story line, complete with lots of bone puns, and punctuated with songs about bones.  The puns?  Try these:

The ankle speaks to the foot and leg bones and asks, “May I join you?”

The leg joint speaks to the leg bone and the thigh bone and tells them, “You knee-d me.”

The pelvis tells us he’s pretty hip.

Someone tells the weak and bent backbone he needs to grow a spine.

Songs in the program included Shake, Rattle Them BonesI’m a Broken Bone; and the ever-popular Them Bones, plus a few others.  It was a very enjoyable program and we’re so glad we could be there.

Teddy, waiting to begin singing

Teddy, waiting to begin singing


Teddy with some of the kids in the chorus

Teddy, with some of the kids in the chorus


The "bones" kids. Each one has a drawing of a bone on the his/her cape.

The “bones” kids. Each one has a drawing of a bone on his/her cape. Note: The “hip” pelvis is second from the right.

Shakespeare doodle

Today’s Google doodle pays homage to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  The circles represent eight of the 38 plays he wrote.  Can you name them?


Answers, left to right:  Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, King Lear, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Today we made our dinner reservation to eat in the Eiffel Tower on July 15.  The dinner package includes a three-course meal, including wine, in the Eiffel Tower restaurant; tickets to explore the Eiffel Tower; and a one-hour cruise on the Seine.  Dinner will be at 6:15, so it will still be light and we’ll have a beautiful view of Paris.  After dinner, we’ll go on the cruise, and then we’ll go back into the Eiffel Tower to see the lights of Paris in the evening.

Paris, Eiffel Tower dinner, river cruise on the Seine, and Eiffel Tower views of the late sunset (9:49 pm) and of the night lights of Paris.  What could be more romantic?

Eiffel tower

I had a check-up with the foot surgeon for my toes today and had some bad news.  My toes are still swollen and don’t bend well, so I asked the doctor what he did in the surgery to correct them and if they will ever bend again.  The answer is “yes” and “no.”

Yes, my toes will bend at the first joint below the toenail and at the third joint where the toes meet the metatarsals; however, the correction required shaving a little bit of bone off each side of the second joint.  Then the pins were inserted so that the two bones could fuse during the healing process.  As a result, the second joint will never bend again.

All my life, I’ve been able to curl my toes around small objects to pick them up off the floor.  Then I bend my knee to lift my foot and I grab the object with my hand.  It’s quicker and easier than bending over.  It looks like I’ll never do this again.  Darn!  It was a handy little trick!  On the other hand, I’ll be able to wear shoes without getting blisters on my toes, so it’s probably a good trade-off.

Elvis Nixon Movie

Tonight was the opening night of the movie Elvis & Nixon.  The prologue clearly stated that there is no documentation of the events between Elvis’s decision to become a Federal Agent-at-Large and Nixon’s giving him a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) badge.  This allowed the filmmakers (Amazon) a lot of leeway in developing the plot, and provided some good laugh lines for the audience.

Kevin Spacey did a good job of portraying Nixon’s voice and his hunchbacked posture, but for a true Elvis fan (me), it was a challenge to believe that Michael Shannon was Elvis.  Still, it was an entertaining night at the movies–and educational as well.  We learned that the photo of Elvis and Nixon in the Oval Office is the most requested photo from the National Archives.  No surprise to fans of the King.

Elvis Nixon wide

Back in the 1970s, we took some ballroom dancing classes.  It’s been a good skill to have for events like weddings and anniversary parties.  We still remember the basic moves, although we’ve forgotten most of the fancy turns we learned.

The cruises we’ve taken both had dancing in the evenings, but we’re not that good at standing in one place and coming up with new ways to wiggle and shake.  Since we’ve got two more group trips coming up–one by land and one by sea–we thought it would be a good idea to prepare for the evening dancing by taking some swing dance lessons.

Who knew there are five different varieties of swing??!!  We’re taking East Coast swing at the community college.  I’d always heard how good the teachers were, and it’s true.  It’s fun and we’ll be ready to dance the night away on our European trip this summer, and then at Brandon’s and Kyle’s weddings this fall.

Last night, we went to a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concert at beautiful Powell Hall.  We originally had tickets for Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, but they were for the day after my foot surgery, so we exchanged them for Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The first time I heard this piece, it moved me deeply–especially “The Great Gate of Kiev” at the end.  This time, it was still excellent, but my favorite piece of the evening was Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.  The piano music was so beautiful!

I don’t really enjoy playing classical CDs at home, because the music is too intense and actually makes me a little crabby while I’m trying to do something else (and I’m always doing something else at home).  In the concert hall, however, there’s nothing to do except listen to the music, and I look forward to these evenings.

Symphony 04 16

I needed some labels, and I keep a started sheet in the in/out box on my desk.  I couldn’t find the labels, which are usually near the top of the pile, so I pulled out the entire pile and started going through it.  It’s no big shock that I ended up going through the whole pile–might as well clean it out while I’m at it–and I found a few things that made me smile.  Among them, some old birthday cards that I saved.

Here’s one from Tom and Jo.  A literary masterpiece, no doubt.

50 Shades

Then there was one from Jeff’s family.  It’s so “Jeff,” isn’t it?

Universal remote

And finally, I found one from Gary.  This is from way back when my car was new.  You got it right, Gary!

My convertible

It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.     –Yogi Berra

Yesterday we had an email from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about our problems with PNC Bank.  The bank has notified the CFPB that they have cleaned up their error (failing to file our paperwork) and the accompanying mess they made (keeping the account open, charging account fees and late fees, assessing a lien against our house, and notifying the credit bureau that we were delinquent on the account).

Question 1:  How could we be delinquent on an account that we closed?

Question 2:  Since I brought the whopping $50 error to their attention and filed duplicate paperwork on the same day I received the bill for the account fee, why didn’t they just work with us to correct the simple paperwork error instead of reacting like we’d committed the Financial Crime of the Century?

Question 3:  Isn’t it amazing that they “misplaced” the paperwork we signed on December 23 (the PNC letter doesn’t mention the original paperwork we signed on September 1), but “found” it and processed it on January 27, just five days after being contacted by the CFPB?  Hmmm . . . a little authorized clean-up going on inside the bank to cover their backsides?

PNC’s letter to the CFPB indicates that they have “instructed” the credit agencies to “remove all references for a delinquency” on the account.  Literally, that doesn’t mean the credit agencies have restored our credit rating.  I called the CFPB about this syntactical detail and Maria suggested I make use of my legal right to a free annual credit check with the three major credit agencies.  If I am unsatisfied with the result, I may contact the CFPB and dispute the action of PNC within the next 60 days.

As I said before (March 1), in PNC’s place, I wouldn’t want to mess up an action that’s being monitored by my federal oversight agency.  Yes, I think that’s the fat lady singing.  Tra la la!

Awhile back, I was reflecting on my volunteer tutoring with Ted and his need for extra time for learning.

Ted seems to catch on to things fairly quickly and can do math in his head, so I asked him why he failed so many courses.  He said he thinks the teachers just went too fast for him.  Isn’t that a shame?  How hard would it be to give the guy a little extra time or a little extra help before he fails the class?

Today, I was working with Ted again when I found the teacher who will do this.

As Ted and I were working, his social studies teacher came up to us.  She offered to talk with Ted’s teachers in his other classes (those he’s taking and hasn’t yet failed).  If he is willing to stay after school, Mrs. L. will help him finish his work in those classes before the end of the school year so that he won’t get an incomplete or a failing grade in them.  When Ted replied that he doesn’t have a ride home if he doesn’t take the bus,  Mrs. L. immediately offered to drive him home after they finished their work together.  Ted agreed and Mrs. L. will talk with the other teachers.

Since I work mainly with Ted now, I offered to adjust my volunteer hours as needed to help him finish.  I will also take him home if he needs a ride.  After all, he lives near Kari, so I could stop in for a quick “hello.”

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

I’m reading a different book today.  It’s nearly Thanksgiving in New York City and the big parade is coming up.

“Talk about crazy,” says the lead character.  “Who wants to jump into that crowd?”

“Thousands,” replies her husband, “or it wouldn’t be a crowd, would it?”

In keeping with the March Madness national college basketball tournaments, The Daily Show developed its own tournament:  Third Month Mania.

Beginning with 64 issues that make Americans mad, the issues were divided into four categories (see below–People, Issues, etc.) and the winners of the four categories faced each other in the playoffs.  Viewers voted online six times, just like the six rounds of basketball competition, and results were reported each night on the show.

Of all 64 issues, what makes Americans the maddest?  Trump supporters!

Note:  To see all 64 entries, go to  Winners are in white.

Most maddening:  Trump supporters!

Most maddening: Trump supporters!


Thank you, PNC Bank (not!), for totally messing up our credit.  We’re still waiting for the report that our credit rating has been repaired after the mess following PNC’s failure to process the paperwork we completed to close the account last September.  Thanks to their error, they reported us to the Credit Bureau as delinquent.  (They have until May 11 to fix that.)

Today, I got a phone call informing me that “one or more” of my “financial agencies” has reported that I am “eligible” for a debt consolidation loan.  (The only debt we have is our monthly credit card bill, which we pay in full every month.)

I suppose now we’ll get calls from every cheesy debt consolidation company–all because of a $50 fee that we never owed.  And, even though we paid off my car loan several years early, PNC was apparently eager to report us as “delinquent” for their minor $50 error, rather than simply correcting the error when I pointed it out to them.  Never, never bank with PNC!!!

In the book I’m currently reading, the women are getting ready to attend a movie premiere.  One tells the other, “Trina’s got this idea for my hair, and this whole new eye pallet.”

She’s going to look strange at the premier with a mattress or a wooden platform on her eyes!  My advice to her:  find a makeup artist who will use a palette instead.

Preparations are moving forward for the teacher training I’ll be doing in India.  John and I had a strategy planning meeting last night to discuss how we will meld the elements of adult learning, critical thinking, and teaching strategies into our presentation.  We are going to outline four trainings to be presented over the next two years.  When we have that ready, we will meet again with Dr. P. to discuss our plans with him.

One of the teachers at the Success School where I volunteer is from India–not too far south of where we’ll be going.  When I told her I will be going to India, she was eager to share information about the people, the area, the climate, etc.  Among the things she told me today:  (1) people will want to touch me because I am so light-skinned and blonde that I will be unusual to them; (2) I should ask for food to be prepared in a less spicy way or I will sweat for hours after eating it; and (3) if we go in August, it will be so hot we will need to shower several times during the night to stay comfortable enough to sleep.  I think she’s going to be an essential element of my well-being while I’m in India!


Where we’ll be:

Location:  (village) Martur, (district) Prakasam, (state) Andhra Pradesh.  It’s on the southeast coast of India.

School:  Sri Sarada Niketan Public School

Teammates:  Dr. Subbarao Polineni, Dr. John A. Henschke


A Fox News report described Donald Trump’s plan to pay for his proposed U.S.-Mexico wall by cutting off the flood of money being sent home by Mexican immigrants and using that money to build the wall.  The screen caption read:  “Boarder Wall Funding.”

So Fox thinks there will be housing accommodations within the wall?  Aaarrrggghhh!!!  Given my experience with ESL students, I’m willing to bet they speak (and spell) better English than Fox News.


Or . . . think of three other friends who might be more unbalanced than the first three.

Brown’s son joined Brown’s company, so Brown decided to change the name of the company to “Brown and Son” and to have a new sign made for the shop.  When the sign maker showed Brown the new sign, Brown complained, “It’s too crowded.  There should be more space between Brown and and and and and Son.”

Thanks, Steve, a fellow grammar nerd.

Outside of a book, a dog is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

–Groucho Marx

St. Charles Community College will celebrate its 30th birthday, beginning on April 4. The celebration will include free food, games, prizes, and other activities, including a giant birthday card to be signed by students, staff, and community members.  Additional special events related to SCC’s 30th birthday will be held through June 2017.

And to think Dean likes to tease me about my birthday month!  I’m going to have to find ways to expand my birthday celebration in the coming years!

The pins were removed from my toes this morning and, for the first time in four weeks, I put on a pair of socks and a pair of shoes.  My right foot is still a little swollen, and the shoe is snug, but it’s not a boot, so I’m pretty happy.  The most surprising part?  Both the doctor and the nurse asked if I wanted to keep the pins!  Apparently a lot of people do.  What do you think they do with them?

I am under doctor’s orders to put on a shoe every day as soon as I wake up and to keep it on until I go to bed.  This will keep the swelling down.  I may start walking today, going up to a mile, then I may increase the distance by a half mile each week for the next three weeks, when I go back for a re-check.  Other than that, showers are OK, but no soaking my foot in water; and I’m allowed to do only upper body exercise for the next three weeks, since my toes are still healing.

I may disregard the doctor’s orders at the risk of injury and needing to repeat the surgery for repairs.  If I’m a good girl (aren’t I always?) and do what I’m supposed to do (don’t I always?), he promised my foot will fit into regular shoes before we leave for Europe in late June.  Yea!

These are the pins that were in my toes with the nurse's finger for scale.

These are the pins that were in my toes, with the nurse’s finger for scale.  (Note:  I didn’t keep them.)


Look, look! Matching shoes and no boot on my foot!

Look, look! Matching footwear and no boot on my foot!