With all this construction going on by my house, it's simply not possible to walk by without snapping some photos. Here's the more interesting ones from today.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Wald #582 wire bike baskets seemed like an ideal way to add some cargo space to my bike. I figured unlike bag-based panniers, I would have these suckers on my bike at all time, which means having storage space even when I didn't think I would need it. The utilitarian designed seemed to be more focused on making an efficient tool, rather than creating something flashy.
From the Amazon reviews I thought installation might be a bit tricky. But I figured I could solve that issue by having my local bike shop install them when they were doing other maintenance to my bike.
And things went pretty much to plan: my mother-in-law was generous enough to buy me them for my birthday and the bike shop installed them (they didn't even giggle in front of me for me lack of manlieness know-how). Here's how they look installed:
They really are as handy and functional as the Amazon reviewers suggest.
Unfortunately, I quickly ran into two issues. First off, these guys are heavy! I did a quick measurement and in theory they both come to a weight of something like 6lbs, but they feel quite a bit heavier than that. My bike is by no means especially lightweight, but I was amazed at how heavy it had become with the additional of these baskets. The thought of schlepping extra weight up the numerous hills of Arlington just doesn't appeal.
Second of all, I was surprised at how differently my bike handled when I filled them up. Naturally they messed with the balance of the bike that I'm used to, and I found myself surprisingly unsteady. Apparently, riding with panniers is something that takes getting used to, and I just don't have the skills or confidence yet to make me comfortable tooling around with them.
Bottom line: panniers, and these specifically, are wonderfully functional, but be aware there's no free lunch. Opt for these guys and you'll be carrying quite a bit of noticeable weight (even when empty) and you'll need some time to get used to riding under these new conditions. Another plus for ditching the panniers in exchange for just a rack: it's a proven strategy for lightweight bike touring .
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
For the most part, I've been enjoying having a rooted phone. It's let me hack away in Tasker with wild abandon. When Shira received an OS Update from T-mobile that my rooted phone wasn't able to receive I started to think unrooting may be in my future.
Of late, I've noticed that my battery life is getting worse and worse. Today I did a little unscientific testing: I charged the device to 100% unplugged it and waited an hour. I was down to 95%. That's 5% of battery usage while just having the phone sit next to me (WiFi, GPS and the screen were off the whole time). I gave it another hour, and lost 4% more of the batter. Over the next hour I lost a whopping 10%. Recently I tried replacing the battery, but saw no improvement. My thinking is that one of my apps must be going berserk and using battery juice, but which one? Whenever I opened up the battery status menu it said all my usage was due to the screen and went so far as to list no apps..
Between my awful battery life and the lack of ability to get updates, I figured it was time to wipe the slate clean and start over. But now that I had a rooted phone, how the heck did I get it back to a clean slate?
The answer is to slowly and carefully follow every single step of this article: [GUIDE] How-To Completely Unroot Your Galaxy SIII |Zero Flash Counter|"Normal" Status. Just like rooting, there are many resources out there, and many of them are out of date and contain broken links. Finding a reliable guide is awfully tricky.
The above procedure is especially harrowing because of the state my phone was left in between steps 4 and 5. It just sat there with the Samsung logo gently pulsating. That's all it would do. I had turned my phone into a creepy looking paperweight. Luckily, step 5 brought the device back from the dead.
Be warned: you'll be starting with a totally clean slate with the above steps. I had to re-establish my Google accounts and re-install my apps from Google Play. You don't appreciate how many odds and ends are saved on your phone (alarms, podcast subscriptions, etc.) until you start fresh.
But, as exercises go, this is a good one to do every year or so. There's nothing like that brand new phone feeling that you get as a byproduct of a full reset.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The term Embracing the Shake comes from this TED Talk, and refers to an individual embracing their limitations to make something great. Here are three examples I've stumbled upon in the last 24 hours:
The Programmer: What do you if you're a programmer who realizes that creativity is essential for the work you want to do, yet don't have the resources to pay a pro? Naturally, you write software to be creative for you:
We are incredibly pessimistic about our own creativity. Yet, games clearly need some developer creativity to feel right: graphics, music, level design, etc. We cannot justify spending research resources on creating such content through traditional means: paying artists, musicians, and designers. Thus, we will restrict ourselves to using free resources (such as Creative Commons music and art) as well as algorithmically created content.
In fact, by using algorithmically created content---in particular, level design---we can learn more about game design itself. The best way to demonstrate understanding of something is to teach it to someone. The stupider that person is, the better a job you must do. There is nothing stupider than a computer, so procedurally generated content requires a great understanding of that content.
This will also help ensure that our games are playable by us. Since we can't pay anyone else to test them and we can't rely on others to be passionate about them, we must be our own testers. But if they had static designs---like most games---we would necessarily tire of them (as video game testers often express remorsefully.) But with procedural generation, we hope they will retain their excitement indefinitely.
Look at that: more testable software out of the limitation of not being able to hire a specialist.
All of the [A Train Plays] are set on the A train and created on the A train. The evening before the first performance, three librettists meet the producers at 207th Street. Picking a number between 3 and 5 to determine the number of characters, the librettists cast their show by choosing that number of headshots in a blind draw. Cast in hand, the writers hop on the A train and begin writing the books for three 15-minute musicals.
When the librettists reach the Far Rockaway stop, they randomly select, through another blind draw, their collaborative lyricists, composers and choreographers, who have been awaiting their arrival at a nearby McDonalds! Now teamed, the collaborators board the train to head back uptown.
[...more rules trimmed...]
Each team only has until show time THE NEXT DAY at 8:00 p.m. to weave these newly-minted theatrical experiences into as show to be shared, fully produced and off book, with the audience at the Neighborhood Playhouse, 24 hours later.
So there you have it, a play written and performed about 24 hours later. I couldn't believe it, but NPR says it's true, so it has to be. Talk about limitations.
Embrace The Shake. In fact, it's among the best entrepreneurial advice I could offer.
Jay McCarthy's efficient implementation of Forth in 85 lines of Racket is beautiful. It demonstrates how you can integrate two different programming paradigms in one environment, and it does so with some impressive macro-fu. Consider his goals:
- We must be able to define functions in Forth that are callable from Forth, always.
- We must be able to give functions stack effect annotations to enable them to be called from Racket.
- We must be able to lift Racket functions to Forth so they are oblivious to the stack, like turning + into :+.
- We must be able to lower Racket functions to Forth so they can directly affect the stack, like writing :over.
- We must be able to enter Forth from Racket arbitrarily, such as to write testing forms like check-forth.
Meeting all those goals is an impressive feat.
As a functional tool, I'm not sure I see much of a use for it (yet). As a novel case study and series of examples, it's fantastic.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Today I had the pleasure of meeting one of my long time clients face to face for the first time. I did so by hopping on the Acela Express and making my way to NY.
While my trip was brief (I'm heading back now as I post this), it was an enjoyable trip.
It's always fun putting faces to names, especially after you've been working with folks for years.
NY is, well, NY. The skyline is gorgeous, the crowds overwhelming, and the pizza greasy (yum!). What's not to love?
This is my second trip on an Acela Express and I continue to be very impressed. Plenty of leg room, free WiFi and AC Power at every seat makes for a really productive trip. In some respects security couldn't be more laxed. Nobody checked my bags or person. On the other hand, the "see something-say something" campaign is really intensive. A pre-boarding video clip I caught was so thorough I felt like I was participating in a counter terrorism course (remember: there are no suspicious people, just suspicious behavior! Whatever that means.)
I walked away from the video feeling as though security was in my and other passengers hands, not in some central authority. It's an interesting approach, and I wonder how well it works compared to the airport model.
All in all, it was a great trip. I'm only sorry I didn't get more time to wander the streets trying to get more photos.
Farkle is a game I received for my birthday (thanks Elana and Shmuel!), and has quickly turned into my goto distraction when I've got a willing partner and a few minutes (or more!) to play. Heck, I tossed it into my coat pocket when we went out to dinner a few nights ago just in case we had time to kill while waiting for a table. In my defense, I have the pocket edition which is no bigger than an old school 35mm film canister.
The game play is easy once you figure out a few basic rules. Essentially you're rolling dice, keeping score and deciding if you want to risk another roll. It kind-of-sort-of reminds me of craps, though it's much simpler to play and doesn't usually involve betting.
Farkle is easy enough to play that our 8 year old can get into, yet it's intriguing enough that adults will want to play too. Speaking of our 8 year old, the game gives an excellent opportunity to practice adding fairly large numbers (between 0 and 10,000) and has been a great hidden learning tool. You can start a game in a minute or two, pause it, and return to it later, which makes it a great kids activity when you've got only a few minutes to kill. I imagine it would make a fun party game because you can play it in a group and it doesn't require a heck of a lot of concentration to play.
You can purchase an official Farkel set, but if you can track down 6 dice you'll have exactly the same thing. I've checked, and there are numerous electronic versions of the game for Android, and surely they exist for iOS.
If you get clever about using a book and a bookmark to keep score, the game can be played without writing, which makes it Shabbat Friendly.
Will Farkle be the last game you ever buy? Of course not. But as a casual game goes, it's hard to beat.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
I took another run along the C&O canal and the Archbold Trail this morning. I'm telling you, that trail is truly a bit of wilderness heaven nestled in fancy shmancy DC.
As I hit my turn around point on the trail I heard a sort of grunting noise. I paused trying to figure out what animal could be making that odd sound when it happened again in a different part of the forest. It took me about 5 minutes to untangle the mystery: it was two or more frogs croaking away. I didn't get any good photos, but trust me, it was a most excellent experience.
Here a few shots I took along the way.
Update: While I didn't have much luck capturing any photos of the frogs, check out this snippet of audio. You need to get about 20 seconds into it, but once you do, you an hear two frogs making a racket:
Friday, May 17, 2013
I do love gear lists, especially lightweight ones. Which is why discovering Ultralight Bicycle Touring was like hitting the jackpot. The site contains a series of articles that talk about how to do long distance biking with a minimum of weight:
For the impatient ones, here is a summary of my current cycling set-up.
- I have an entry-level road bike (weighing a bit less than 10 kg), which has eyelets for rear rack. Tyres are rather narrow, 25-622 to 30-622.
- I use ordinary pedals and light sport shoes (no clipless shoes/pedals nor clips&straps), no second footware.
- I don't use cooking equipment.
- I don't use panniers.
- I carry my stuff in stuff bag on the rear rack and in a little bag (a converted saddle bag) on the handlebar.
Much of the advice matches up with with ultralight backpacking, including the suggestion that you focus on a few heavyweight items first:
A common mistake that we all make as newcomers to ultralight cycling is to start with cutting the handle of a tooth brush. The prospective ultralighter, on the contrary, should start with thinking big. There are 7 big ones (in terms of weight or volume) which you should consider first:
- sleeping bag,
- sleeping pad,
- cooking equipment,
- and - last but definitely not least - clothes.
Definitely lots of helpful advice here. In fact, I'm surprised it's not considered more mainstream by now. But who knows, maybe it is.