Gas station without pumps

2019 September 30

Thirty-ninth weight progress report

This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

My weight is almost the same as a year ago, showing a steady increase since classes ended. This does not bode well for my retirement years.

The pattern for this summer looks the same as for last summer—I’m going to have to try to drop my weight this fall, and not wait until January.

I’ve been exercising more this summer than last year, cycling up the hill to work out at the OPERS Wellness Center about three times a week. I’ve been averaging 3.77 miles/day for August and September. That exercise does not seem to have affected my weight gain, though. I like to kid myself that the exercise has increased my lean body mass while reducing the fat, but one look at my waist disabuses me of that notion.

I think that being home and having available food at all times makes a bigger difference than exercise in failing to control my weight (I say, having just eaten a chocolate-chip cookie my wife baked this afternoon). Not only are the way too many chocoloate-chip cookies in the house, but my son and I will be baking a big batch of Shakespeare shortbread cookies tomorrow, also, though we’ll be giving most of them away on the bus trip up to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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.

2019 July 31

Thirty-eighth weight progress report

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:54
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

My weight has been about the same as a year ago, but I hope that I don’t put on as much weight as I did last summer and fall.

My exercise level has been a bit low, averaging 3.4 miles a day of cycling in July.  This is a little misleading, as I have started doing some weight training, treadmill running, and elliptical machines at the “Wellness Center” on campus, though not as frequently as I should.  It also does not include the walking I have been doing, which is hard to keep track of.

When I was young and skinny, I did not realize how difficult it was to lose weight once one put it on—in those days my problem was trying to increase my weight, to keep from looking like a skeleton.

2019 June 30

Hip osteoarthritis is a pain in the butt

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:44
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As many of you know I stopped running in April after getting a diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis.  This week I went to see a physical therapist to see what I could do

  • to prevent further deterioration of the hip joint and
  • to learn to run without doing further damage.

The half-hour appointment cost me $503, which counts toward my insurance deductible, but no fraction of which is otherwise covered.  I was prescribed five stretching exercises to do daily to prevent further deterioration, but not given even a hint about whether I could run without doing further damage.  I’ll do the stretching exercises, but I’m considering not bothering with the followup appointments (one of which is already scheduled)—the price seems a bit too high for the small amount of information gained.

If I were on the UC Care health plan, rather than the UC Health Savings Plan, some of the physical therapy would probably be covered, but that plan would cost me an extra $337 a month (an extra $1101 a month while on leave without pay), so I’m still better off with the low-price plan that lets me save money in an HSA account.

So far, the best advice on running with hip osteoarthritis seems to be from

If you have been diagnosed with mild to moderate hip OA, Apex Clinic recommends the following tips to help prolong your running life:

1) Reduce your land based running frequency to two or three times weekly and reduce the distance.

2) Substitute road running with running on a softer surface such as grass, bark, sand or treadmill where possible. The higher shock absorption of these surfaces is kinder to joints.

3) Change your running style to a forefoot to midfoot strike, to reduce the load coming upwards to the hip and reduce your stride length to reduce load.

4) Change to a maximally shock absorbing shoe and consider a shock absorbing insole. Whether shock absorbing insoles are effective or not is debatable, but we hear from runners that they appear to help.

(They have eight points to their recommendations—go to their site for the whole story.)

The big questions are

  • whether I can change my running style to a shorter stride and a forefoot strike and
  • whether that is enough to avoid further damage.

I suppose I can practice changing running style on a treadmill at OPERS, since I want to learn how to run on treadmill anyway—the only treadmill running I’ve done is a few minutes for my stress electrocardiogram test last December, and I felt unsteady on the treadmill, even when I had not gotten up to full speed.  I’d like to get more familiar with treadmill running so that the next stress electrocardiogram I get will be one where I can put out full effort without worrying so much about balance.

Thirty-seventh weight progress report

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:59
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

Except for weeks when I’m making a deliberate effort to diet, my weight seems to increase about 7 pounds a year.

I’m now back to about the same weight as I was a year ago, but I’m going to try not to repeat last summer’s and last fall’s weight gains.

Because of the days (weeks!) I spent staying home grading, I only averaged 3.03 miles/day of cycling in June, and I’ve had to stop running (at least for a while, see Running hiatus), so my exercise level has been low.

As I said in last month’s report “The end of Spring quarter and the beginning of summer seem to be bad times for weight gain—I think that the heavy grading load results in less physical activity and more snacking. Then the lack of bike commuting kicks in and my level of physical activity drops even further.”

I’m still thinking of paying UCSC $22.84 a month to use the OPERS “Wellness Center”, so that I can do low-impact running-like motions (treadmill and elliptical machine).  (The rates go up to $30/month in September.)  I’ll probably check that out tomorrow.


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