Gas station without pumps

2019 September 14

About halfway through my 6-month break

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:52
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In Grading done!, I posted a to-do list for the six months I have off until I start teaching again in January.  I’m now three months into that period, so I thought I would revisit the list:

  • Review senior portfolios for about 50 graduating seniors. DONE
  • Rewrite the Applied Analog Electronics textbook.  I have about 161 to-do notes left in the book from teaching the last two quarters—some from student comments, some from observations made while grading. I’m down to 70 to-do notes, so I’m a little ahead of schedule.  If I can maintain an average of one note removed per day, I’ll be done by Nov 24.  I’ve been wondering whether I should release an interim version of the book, with the additions and corrections so far, for anyone who need the book for fall quarter or fall semester.  I’ve not had enough sales to indicate that any class but mine has ever adopted the book, but if even one or two readers would benefit from a September edition before the December one, I could do another release.
  • Read the Student Evaluation of Teaching forms for both quarters and think about how to improve the class based on them.  This will probably require a beer or two, as I know that some of the students really hated the class (based on anonymous comments on Piazza).  I’ll wait on that until my stress level has gone down a bit, or I won’t be receptive to even the good ideas. I still haven’t done this—I should do it soon, as it could affect some of the book rewrites.
  • Design a senior project involving testing hearing aids—perhaps contacting faculty at the hearing-aid research center at DTU.  Maybe visit DTU in Copenhagen? I’ve not done anything about this, and it is looking unlikely.
  • Visit my dad in Boulder. DONE  (I’ll probably want to visit him again, but I’m not sure when.)
  • Get a new range hood installed (I promised this to my wife last summer). No progress.  I have a range hood selected, but installing it will require professional help, so I haven’t ordered it yet.
  • Get a new refrigerator (the old one is rusty and the interior light doesn’t work) No progress. I found a couple of refrigerators that would fit the space, but haven’t ordered anything.
  • Get a new desktop computer and monitor—perhaps a Mac mini? No progress. I’ve been using the “MacBook Air (11-inch, Early 2014)” machine that I use for lecturing from, even though one of the touchpad switches is broken.
  • Remove the ivy and blackberry vines in the backyard (that is a never-ending project, as the vines have covered about 50′ by 20′ to almost head height) I cleared a small area, and I’ve been keeping it clear, but it is only a tiny piece of the area that needs clearing.
  • Clean solar panels Not done yet, but something I could tackle tomorrow.  It has been really hot lately, so getting wet from using the hose and a squeegee on a 20′ pole does not sound bad.
  • Fix my desk lamp (the one I made)—the copper tubing has suffered from metal fatigue, partly as a result of the cat playing with it and bending it over.  I’m trying to decide between remaking the copper supports (out of copper tubing again) or soldering on copper pieces to splint the fatigued part. No progress.
  • Mow the front lawn (easy! I can do it in an hour or two next weekend) I’ve mowed the front lawn a few times this summer.  It doesn’t look great (the “grass” consists of many different species of weeds), but it is not as bad as in June.
  • Mow the back lawn (probably impossible) Still seems impossible, but I should at least blaze a path back to the compost heap.
  • Sort all my old screws, bolts, and nuts by size and put them in accessible storage boxes. No progress.
  • Clear the breakfast-room floor of electronics, magazines, catalogs, … that have accumulated while I was grading. I’ve done this a couple of times this summer.  Stuff keeps re-accumulating, though. I’ll probably do it once more before my trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so my wife can have a clean breakfast room while I’m away.  (She has work and can’t go up to Ashland, so I’m going with my son.)
  • Clear the bedroom floor of hardware, books, magazines, and stuff that has accumulated over the last decade.  But where will I put it all? No progress
  • Replace the soap dishes in the bathroom (I like the design of one that has cracked, but I can’t find another like it). No progress.
  • Hire someone to haul the truck load of debris on my driveway to the dump. I’ve added more to the pile, but not hired anyone yet.  This is way overdue.
  • Get an architect to design wheelchair access to my house (I don’t need it, and hope I never will, but I’d rather it were in place before I need it). No progress.
  • Get a new gate designed, built, and installed on the driveway.  The old one rotted away, so I’m thinking of going with concrete pillars and a steel gate this time, instead of redwood. No progress.
  • Clean solar panels. Why was this on the list twice?  I’ll be lucky to get it done once!
  • Clear leaves, twigs, and dirt out of gutters. No progress.
  • Install path lights, if I can find any that look decent. I bought some cheap solar path lights from American Science and Surplus, but they were a waste of money (even if not much money). My wife decided that they looked awful and they only stay lit for about an hour after sunset, so they are neither decorative nor functional.
  • Get my annual eye exam (6 months overdue). DONE
  • Get a physical therapist or sports-medicine specialist to advise me how to run without exacerbating my hip osteoarthritis. I had one appointment with a physical therapist, but I did not find his advice very useful. He basically suggested not running, gave me some stretching exercises, and chatted with his assistants—not a particularly valuable half-hour session for over $500. I have started working with a personal trainer at UCSC, for $24–30 an hour ($24 is the price for the 3-session intro package with a student trainer, $30 is the price for single sessions, with discounts down to $27 if you buy 10 sessions).  I’m doing the personal training once a week, with two other workout sessions a week on my own.
  • Join a gym and learn to use fitness equipment (for example, I’d like to learn to run on a tilted treadmill, so that I can do a stress echocardiogram test without fearing for my balance). I’ve got a membership at the UCSC gym, for $$22.84/month (going up in October).  I can’t use payroll deduction, because I don’t get a paycheck while on unpaid leave of absence. The gym has not been too busy during the summer, but if it gets super busy when the students come back, then I might discontinue the membership.

    I have been doing mainly upper-body exercises at the gym, but I’ve also been practicing running on the treadmill.  I just noticed today, though, that I’ve been training at the wrong pace.  What I’ve been doing is upping either the incline or the pace every 30 seconds until I can’t take the pace any more, but I’ve been keeping the numeric values of the %incline and mph roughly the same—starting at 5mph at 5% slope and gradually increasing to around 7.5 mph at 7% or 7.5% slope.  But the stress test I took in December had me stopping at 4.3mph and 10% slope.  So I should probably be working at a slower pace and greater slope (maybe aiming for 5mph and 15% slope).

    The Bruce protocol calls for 3.4mph and 14% slope in stage 3, but that would not get me to my maximum heart rate.  I think I can manage stage 5 of the Bruce protocol (5mph at 18% slope, 14 METs) for a short while, because I can sometimes sustain 14 METs for 30 seconds (7.5mph at 7% slope), but I’ve not tested myself at a slower pace and higher slope.  One problem I have is that the protocol (both the Bruce protocol and the modified one my cardiologist used) calls for a long time at an awkward pace that is between a brisk walking pace (4mph) and a slow jog (6mph).

    I’ll probably switch my treadmill training to staying at 5mph and just increasing the incline by 1% every 30 seconds.  That will help me feel balanced on the treadmill, even at the awkward pace, which was the main limiting factor for me last December.  I do know that the test was stopped well below my maximum heart rate, as I’ve been routinely seeing heart rate over 170bpm on the treadmill, and the cardiologist had me stop at 163bpm last December.

  • Repaint the garage door (scrape, sand, prime, paint) No progress.
  • Paint the book room door. No progress.
  • Fix or replace garage-door opener. No progress.
  • Spot sand and apply Danish oil to wood floor where old finish has worn away. No progress.
  • Do some robotics—perhaps continuing work on the bot I started for the mechatronics class, perhaps a balance bot, perhaps making a board for precisely positioning the gear motors that I have, perhaps a drawbot, perhaps a true digital clock with mechanical digits. No progress.
  • Find something useful to make with my 3D printer. I don’t know whether I’ve found anything useful, but I have done some fun 3D printing this summer.
  • Do some weaving—I’ve not woven in over a decade, but I still have a lot of yarn and looms taking up a big chunk of the house. No progress.
  • Figure out what charities (or political organizations) to give more money to. My wife and I sat down and made a list of charities to give to this year, and came up with amounts to give.  I’ve only written a couple of the checks so far, but I’ll do more in the next couple of months.  I’ll probably want to take some money out of my 
  • Look for something interesting to do with other people once I retire (most of my hobbies are solitary). No progress.
  • Brew a batch of mead (I’ve not made any since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989). No progress.
  • Improve documentation for PteroDAQ. No progress.  More important is to move PteroDAQ out of the Mercurial repository on BitBucket, since Atlassian is trying to get rid of all their Mercurial customers.
  • Port PteroDAQ to new processors? No progress.
  • Temperature-compensated VCO. No progress.
  • VCO using one op amp and one FET (is it even possible?) No progress.
  • Torque-measuring rig for small gear motors.  Both stall torque and torque vs. speed. No progress.

So, as expected, most of the possible summer projects have shown no progress.


  1. I bought a copy of your ebook. I personally am waiting for a ‘final’ edition before printing. No hurry on my account.

    I’m an IT consultant so every 24 months I have to take a federally ‘mandated’ break (to prove to the IRS I’m not a de facto employee) so similar to you I’m about 4 months into a life of leisure. Like you, I’ve achieved a whole lot less than I had hoped at the beginning of my vacation. I am eligible to return back on 8/26 but the normal organizational SNAFU is delaying my return.

    In the meantime on 8/29 I pass out due to hypoglycemia and dehydration so I’m gimping about on crutches due to my fall. Going up and down stairs to the MBR is a royal PITA (pain in the ass) so I’m fiddling with adding a MBR addition on the main floor of the house, and BTW, might as well trick it out to be wheelchair accessible as it looks like that’s a distinct possibility in my future.

    Prior to 8/29 I had been walking 4.5 miles a day over a very hilly path and reaping the benefits of extended, elevated heart rates. I’ve still got a deep bruise in my gluteus so I can’t walk more than about 20 paces without muscle cramps in my butt. In the meantime, it appears the rainy season has come early to the PNW. I hate walking in the rain so i’m seriously contemplating getting a rowing machine (Concept 2) instead for rainy weather cardio. My son had one that I used occasionally but I find it boring. Thinking about using it while I watch news on my ipad. Wish my son had left it but he took it with him when he relocated to SF.


    Comment by Rich — 2019 September 15 @ 10:06 | Reply

    • Sorry to hear about your fall. Is the rowing machine going to work if you have a bruise in your gluteus? You might want to try one out before investing.

      As for the “final” copy of the textbook—I don’t know when that will be. There will be a version with few (hopefully zero) to-do notes by the end of December 2019 (maybe mid-December), but I’m sure students will uncover more problems using the book January–June 2020, and I’ll spend next summer improving it yet again.

      I’ve been of two minds about how often I should release updates to the book. Part of the time I lean towards an annual update cycle so that students can have a stable text that does not change page numbers or exercises during their course, but I had 4 releases in 2018 and 3 so far in 2019. Part of the time I lean towards a frequent update cycle (maybe monthly), so that purchasers can get all the typo corrections.

      At the moment, my plan is to have a release in December 2019, with no changes until June 2020 (that is, for the duration of the BME 51A/B course) unless a major error is found that justifies an interim release. Of course, I had a similar plan last year, but I did 2 releases in December 2018, then in Jan and Feb 2019. The December and January releases were because I was running behind schedule and needed to get something into the hands of the students, even if corrections were not finished. The February release was because of a major typo in a math formula, found by students. I’m hoping that this year I can have just one December release, with no need for January or February releases.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2019 September 15 @ 10:45 | Reply

  2. “Clean solar panels. Why was this on the list twice? I’ll be lucky to get it done once!”

    don’t !

    Cleaning solar panels often not worth the cost, engineers find
    31 iul. 2013 – Cleaning solar panels often not worth the cost, engineers at UC San Diego find Researchers found that dirty solar panels only lose about 7.4 …

    engineers at UC San Diego-no east coast/west coast problem here!
    do u approve the assasination of gen.Qasem Soleimani?
    write to potus!
    it will get u on a verry special list… here:

    who needs an antfarm for the kicks? snooping on ordinarily americans is easy….

    Comment by bmu — 2020 January 20 @ 17:43 | Reply

    • I cleaned the ones that were reachable from the ground with a long pole, but not the ones on the other side of the garage.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2020 January 20 @ 18:03 | Reply

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