Feb 23, 2014

First Milestone - XBee Project Retrospective

A. How long did it take you?

Saying it took a lifetime seems disingenuous(1), so I won't say that.  Practically, in the context of this project, it took about 6 months.  Roommate ordered the Pi's forever ago.  There was getting the Raspberry Pi online, via some config file configuring.  The XBee parts took a long time to come in.  Then there was the learning how to solder, the soldering, the Google flailing looking for how to connect a Raspberry Pi to an XBee.  Figuring out what a serial port is.  How a GPIO works.  What UART stands for. (I still don't know.)  Recognizing that I didn't have everything I needed.  That the XBees I had bought weren't compatible with the Raspberry Pi.  What's a volt?  More waiting while more parts came in the mail.  Realizing that making it work was beyond me.  More time spent staring at a computer screen, Googling things.  Triumph, and then static.  Asking for parts on a mailing list.   How do I get more current?  Or less resistance?  Ohmmmmm.

Unanswered questions (still unanswered) on Stack Overflow and the Digi forums.  A helpless email to tech support on a federal holiday.  "If I twist it really tight, that counts as soldering, right?".  Stripped screws, multiple trips to RadioShack.  (Always a different one.  Can't let them see you struggle.)  A phone call to Grandpa.  (Vacuum tubes?  Nope, none of those here.  But dust.  Lots of dust).  And then, illumination.

B.  What did you learn?

The difference between API and AT mode.  The value of persistence.  How satisfying hardware projects are.  That I am not done yet.

C. What are some open questions from this point?

I still don't know what a transistor is, why the xbee-python library isn't working as promised, what a hardware flow control toggle is supposed to do, or why minicom is still Offline.

But hey, the lights are on.

1. (Wow. No no, wait for it... nope.  That red line ain't comin'.  Spelled right on the first time)


Are you thinking of me now, Methuselah?

She bent her head down over the cradle, watching as her tears soaked ring-lets into the pillow.

Feb 2, 2014

Running tips.

Talking to someone yesterday about training for their first half marathon, I realized that there are some small things a beginning runner may not realize when starting to train for their first big race.  Here's just a few things that I find helpful when maintaining or getting to a point where I'm ready to train for something big.

Strive for consistency over distance.
Logging a consistent number of short runs is more helpful than a smaller number of long runs.  In a week, five days of 2 mile runs is worth *a lot* more than two days of 5 mile runs.  This is especially true when you're just starting out.  The goal is to get your body used to running, so more exposure in short bursts is way more beneficial than hitting any distance goal.

Early on, count your effort in minutes, not distance.
Depending on the day, a two mile run can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half hour.  A slow day, especially early in training, can be disheartening.  On the other hand, a stopwatch doesn't care how far you go.  If you're able to finish 30 minutes of running, five days a week, you'll be in great shape when you start ramping up for longer distances later in the training schedule.  This also means that you'll already be taking advantage of the next point, running farther on good days and not so far on bad days.

When you feel like running faster, run faster.
Don't worry that you won't be able to keep it up for longer than two minutes.  If you feel energetic, go for it!  Run faster until you're tired of running fast, then jog or walk until the end of the time you've set out.  Sure, your pace will be all over the place.  That's kind of the point.  It's early still, you just started training.  It's hard to figure out what your pace should be if you don't know how fast you can go.

The last 3 weeks of training are the most important.
If you're following a schedule to get yourself in shape for a race, it's ok to futz around with the first half of planning, as long as you're logging time consistently.  If you need to add some extra weeks or take them out, the first or middle half is when you're going to want to do it.  The last month or so on the schedule will usually include some of the longest runs, followed by a week or two of tapering.  These are the most important weeks to follow to the letter.  The build up gets your body exhausted and the tapering gives it a chance to recover.  Recover too much and you'll start to lose stamina.  Don't take enough rest and you'll be feeling that last long training run during the race.  Three weeks out is the time to be settling into a pace, pushing hard to get some good last long runs in and then relaxing before the big day.

What you eat matters.
Getting hungry after a big workout means that your body needs nutrients to replace the ones that you just sweated out.  I often find myself craving fruit juice, almond milk, rice and beans, kale, chips and salsa -- basically anything vegan GF.  (And a steak on Sundays!)  In my experience, sugar is the biggest destroyer of my ability to run well the next day, but maybe your mileage will vary.

Feb 1, 2014

My Bob

"Bob Dylan," you said "don't you know who that is?"

I did not.  I had no idea.  He's great, you said.  He's a legend.

I listened to Bob Dylan all the way out to SF, seven groggy hours of his gravel voice on my tinny speakers.  I made a playlist in Spotify of all his songs, ever.  Duplicates of the Titanic song and the one about a big brass bed.  And Orphelia, and Hamlet and Scarborough Fair.

Her only sin was lifelessness.

Bob kept me company on my month out West.  He sang to me as I jogged out to Land's End.  My constant companion on the longish bike rides to work - up over the Presidio and then along the windy coast.  He set the rhythm that my fingers knit to on the 38, westward bound from Embarcadero to the rolling hills of Outer Richmond.

His playlist is still on my Spotify account, like a forgotten, dismembered limb.  When I hear from him now, I feel chilly.  Cold to the bone, a chill that no amount of fuzzy sweaters or space heaters can quite combat.  There's a hint of yeasty, slightly stale sourdough that dances around the corners of every exhale and inhale, like the kind I lived on for a few weeks, topped with spoonfuls of honeyed almond butter.

sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can&...