Gas station without pumps

2019 October 18

Book progress update

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:33
Tags: , , , , ,

At the beginning of the summer, I set myself the goal to clear the 161 to-do notes from the draft of my book by the first of December, which meant doing about 1 a day.  I kept up for quite a while, but I am now a little behind schedule, with 48 to-do notes left, which would have me finishing on December 5, if I maintained one a day. The book is now 637 pages, with 315 images in 256 figures (many have subfigures).  I think I may be done adding figures, but the remaining to-do notes include adding a few pages of text (which may or may not increase the page count for the overall book, depending of how much white space there is at the end of the relevant chapters).

I was keeping pretty well to schedule over the summer, but I fell behind during the Santa Cruz Shakespeare trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. The trip was worth the time—I saw six plays: two very good (La Comedia of Errors and All’s Well That Ends Well), one well-acted but with a bit of a thin script (Mother Road), one well-acted but with awkward sets and strange direction that did not really work (Macbeth), one interesting but deliberately uncomfortable play (Between Two Knees), and one awful production (As You Like It) that failed in almost every way.  The original script for As You Like It is good, but the director managed to mangle it by rearranging speeches, assigning them to the wrong characters, cutting excessively, and generally making a hash of it. Gender roles were randomly reassigned, the wrestling match was played for laughs (like a video game), Touchstone was played very stiffly, and Jaques was changed from a melancholy character into a giddy one.  The costuming was also poor—I felt very sorry for the actors having to put up with such a poor interpretation of the play.

I’m on leave this quarter, so I don’t have to teach, go to meetings, or hold office hours, but I’m taking a physics course (PHYS 102, which is an introduction to quantum mechanics).  The homework for the physics class has been taking quite a bit of time, and I have been prioritizing it over the book writing. I brought my laptop with me on the Ashland trip, but I didn’t do any writing for the book—I finished the first homework for the physics class instead, as it was due the day after we came back.  Today I finished homework 3 for the physics class (due Monday), so I should work on the book this weekend.  Maybe I can get back on schedule? (Or maybe I’ll try mowing more of the back lawn—I’ve cleared about a quarter of it.  Creative Procrastination!)

I’ve also been wasting a lot of time reading news, humor, and a few subreddits on the internet—the physics class is only taking about 15 hours a week, so I can’t really blame the class for my being behind schedule on the book.

2019 September 14

About halfway through my 6-month break

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:52
Tags: ,

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 June 17

Grading done!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:04
Tags: ,

I’ve just finished about 3 weeks of all-day 7-days-a-week grading, and I’ve filed my grades for the quarter.  I’m now ready for a 6-month break before I start grading again.

This past week has been particularly stressful, as our water heater failed (again) on Tuesday, and I had to find a decent plumber as well as making doing with cold showers for a week.  The new water heater should be installed tomorrow.

I now have time to think about what I’ll try to get done this summer and fall, both personally and professionally.  Here is a partial to-do list, in no particular order:

  • Review senior portfolios for about 50 graduating seniors.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Design a senior project involving testing hearing aids—perhaps contacting faculty at the hearing-aid research center at DTU.  Maybe visit DTU in Copenhagen?
  • Visit my dad in Boulder.
  • Get a new range hood installed (I promised this to my wife last summer).
  • Get a new refrigerator (the old one is rusty and the interior light doesn’t work)
  • Get a new desktop computer and monitor—perhaps a Mac mini?
  • 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)
  • Clean solar panels
  • 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.
  • Mow the front lawn (easy! I can do it in an hour or two next weekend)
  • Mow the back lawn (probably impossible)
  • Sort all my old screws, bolts, and nuts by size and put them in accessible storage boxes.
  • Clear the breakfast-room floor of electronics, magazines, catalogs, … that have accumulated while I was grading.
  • Clear the bedroom floor of hardware, books, magazines, and stuff that has accumulated over the last decade.  But where will I put it all?
  • Replace the soap dishes in the bathroom (I like the design of one that has cracked, but I can’t find another like it).
  • Hire someone to haul the truck load of debris on my driveway to the dump.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Clean solar panels.
  • Clear leaves, twigs, and dirt out of gutters.
  • Install path lights, if I can find any that look decent.
  • Get my annual eye exam (6 months overdue).
  • Get a physical therapist or sports-medicine specialist to advise me how to run without exacerbating my hip osteoarthritis.
  • 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).
  • Repaint the garage door (scrape, sand, prime, paint)
  • Paint the book room door.
  • Fix or replace garage-door opener.
  • Spot sand and apply Danish oil to wood floor where old finish has worn away.
  • 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.
  • Find something useful to make with my 3D printer.
  • 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.
  • Figure out what charities (or political organizations) to give more money to.
  • Look for something interesting to do with other people once I retire (most of my hobbies are solitary).
  • Brew a batch of mead (I’ve not made any since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989).
  • Improve documentation for PteroDAQ.
  • Port PteroDAQ to new processors?
  • Temperature-compensated VCO.
  • VCO using one op amp and one FET (is it even possible?)
  • Torque-measuring rig for small gear motors.  Both stall torque and torque vs. speed.

I’m sure I’ve left a dozen things off that list, but there is no way I’ll get even half of it done in the next six months anyway.

2018 October 23

Book progress

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:15
Tags: , , ,

I’m on sabbatical this fall, working on my textbook.  I hope to have the next edition out on LeanPub in early December, at which time I will raise the price by 20% (from $10 suggested, $5 minimum to $12 suggested, $6 minimum).

At the beginning of the summer I had something like 100–120 to-do notes scattered through the book.  Some of them were small wording changes, some new sections or new chapters, some new figures, some additional examples or exercises.  I’ve been slogging through them, but I realized a couple of weeks ago that I needed to up my pace, as I still had 80 to-do notes left.  I’d cleared more than 40, but new to-do notes crept in.

I have now set myself the goal of reducing the number of to-do notes by two a day, seven days a week. My goal is a net change, so if a new to-do note is added, I have to remove three old ones.  After I’ve gotten my net two for the day done, I might work some more to get ahead, but I can stop and do other things if I don’t feel like more writing.  Getting ahead does not buy me time off (except at the end of the process), but if I fall behind I have to make it up the next day, not pushing off the deadline.

Earlier in the summer I was being systematic about which to-do notes I worked on, doing the major rearrangements, new chapters, and new sections, then starting from the beginning of the book.  Now I’m being more arbitrary—I pick a chapter, look to see whether any of the to-do notes in it seem doable now, and tackle the first ones that seem feasible.  On different days my energy for different sorts of work varies, so some days I end up doing figures, some days adding exercises, and some days writing/rewriting explanations.

The new approach seems to be working—I’ve been running slightly ahead of schedule and now have only 50 to-do notes left, 16 of which are not in the book but in the solutions manual.  Of course, I may end up slowing down as I get closer to the end and there are no “easy” things left to do.

Other than clearing the to-do notes, there are few other things I need to do:

  • Decide whether to submit the book to a conventional publisher.  A textbook publisher would charge about $80 for the book (rather than the $6–12 I’m charging), and I’d get 12% of net (which comes to about the same as I make on a $6 sale).  The big question is whether they would do enough marketing to justify their taking the lion’s share of the proceeds.
    I did get a request from a Springer editor to submit the book to them (he’d seen the title on LeanPub), but I’m not very happy with Springer as an academic publisher, so their offer would have to be really good for me to go with them.  I’ve got a copy of their submission form, but I’ve not decided whether to fill it out and send it.
  • Decide whether to self-publish through IngramSpark.  Selling paperback color editions through them would require a price of about $35 a copy, in order for me to make $6 a copy.  That price point includes only a small 20% wholesale discount—enough for on-line sales, but not enough for bookstores to stock it.  I don’t know whether I could still sell the PDF through LeanPub—LeanPub certainly permits it, but I don’t know IngramSpark’s rules.
  • Look for other self-publishing companies.  I doubt that there are any that provide as wide a possible distribution as Ingram, except Amazon, and they won’t do a color paperback this long (and if they did their minimum price would be $64—almost as bad as a conventional textbook publisher).
  • Decide whether to change the title and open up the book to a bigger market.  I’ve been calling the book Applied Electronics for Bioengineers, because that is the focus of my course.  But there aren’t very many bioengineering majors in the country, and most bioengineering curricula don’t require analog electronics, so the market is rather small. I’ve been considering something more like Applied Analog Electronics: a first course in electronics, which captures the focus of the book fairly well and should have a wider appeal.  There is some introductory material in the book that would have to be updated for the change of title, but the amount of rewrite is pretty small.
  • Figure out how to make my book visible to professors who might be willing to teach the course.
  • Figure out how  to make my book visible to individuals (probably makers) who would be willing to buy it for themselves.

So, dedicated readers, should I change the book title?  Should I go for a print edition this year?  How should I gain visibility for the book?

2013 January 5

Updating to-do list

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:40
Tags: , , ,

On 2012 Nov 1,  made a to-do list for the circuits class: Notes for things to do on circuits course, and on 2012 Nov 20 I updated it: Updated things to do on circuits course.  The time has come for me to check that list and see how much of it I’ve gotten done, now that the course is about to start.

  • Schedule the lecture. Requested 2012 Oct 27, obtained 2012 Nov 9.
  • Schedule the lab.  Requested 2012 Nov 1, obtained 2012 Dec 4.
  • Advertise the course. I’ve sent e-mail to all the bioengineering students and made a few flyers to put up around campus. Here are the two ads as PDF files: ad1 and ad2.
  • Make a template for the lab handouts. I’m using LaTeX, and the graphics is not as painful as I feared.
  • Start making lab handouts. Three done—only seven more to go. My co-instructor is not dropping any of his other 3 courses, so the handouts are pretty much up to me.
  • Get a university credit card for ordering parts and tools for the student kits that the students will have to buy. Can’t be done. Lab fees would have had to been approved last Spring, no “Pro cards” are available, any orders would have to go through Purchasing anyway, who were closed during break, and several of the vendors are not “qualified” vendors. I put up my own money: 20×$65.50=$1310, not counting the extra parts I bought “for myself” to bring the numbers up to 25 when that was a good pricing breakpoint.
  • Make the parts list and tool list for the student kits. Done: see the parts list.
  • Start finding sources for the parts and tools. See the draft and the final orders.
  • Try out the modified pressure sensor lab. Done see Pressure sensor boards arrived.
  • Redesign the instrumentation amp protoboard. Done. I don’t think I ever blogged about the new design, though I finished it 2012 Nov 26. I bought 50 of the boards, so each student gets 2 and I have 10 left over.
  • Decide whether to include a transistor lab and what it should be. We’re going with FETs and a class-D amplifier, but I’m still working on the FET characterization lab. (See FET modeling lab looking complicated, Class D instead of class AB, and Class D works
  • Come up with a photodetector lab. Still no good ideas here.
  • Try to line up a biologist who can give a guest lecture on excitable cells and action potentials before the EKG lab. Not even looked for possible candidates yet, but we need the lecturer near the end of the quarter, so there is time still.
  • Figure out how much to teach about volume conduction for the EKG lab, and how to teach it.
  • Get lab tech staff to install gnuplot, Arduino, and Python 2.7 on lab computers (unless they are already installed). Done, though my son and I had to go around to all 12 machines and finish the installation for Python and the Arduino drivers.
  • Get son to finish his rewrite of data logger code and test on the lab computers (will require getting him access to the lab over break). He’s released beta versions of the code (see Data logging software for circuits course working).
  • Assemble and test Adafruit data logger shield—considuer using it for course. Assembled and tested, but we’re not going to use it this year.
  • Assemble 12 pressure sensor boards.Assembled 2012 Dec 28, Tested 2012 Dec 29.
  • Order parts and determine price for parts kits.See the parts list.
  • Make up part kits to sell to students.Done—except for the comparator chips, which should arrive Monday or Tuesday.
  • Think about a simpler first soldering project for the students.The hysteresis lab is now the first soldering project.
  • Cut out a dozen wire holders for the Ag/AgCl electrodes.Done. Using the laser cutter was fun.
  • Cut and assemble a dozen stainless-steel electrode pairs.I’ve drilled and cut the plastic for the separators, but I’m waiting for some bolt cutters that I ordered on-line before cutting the stainless steel welding rod.

I still have lots to do:

  • Web site for course. I’ve started the web page for the course, but I have to decide whether to move it from my personal web pages to the traditional location for web pages.  That would allow my co-instructor access, but would mean moving over all the files I already have (not a big deal, really). There is still a lot to do on the site.
  • Design homework problems. I hope my co-instructor has some good ideas here.  I’m willing to put a lot of weight on the lab writeups, but there should be some more problem solving than just the lab design exercises.
  • Write midterm and final exams.  If I’m bad at writing small homework problems, I’m even worse at writing timed test problems.  In most of my courses I avoid tests in favor of lots of big projects (computer programs or papers), but the labs in this course don’t test all the skills we’d like checked, so I think we’ll need exams as well.
  • Write up the other 7 lab handouts.
  • Urgent: Design a sampling and aliasing lab (probably using my co-instructor’s PC board) that is appropriate in size and scope for a 3-hour lab. This is lab 4—the first one that I don’t have a handout for.  If the board is only used for part of the lab, the few copies we have can circulate among partners while those without boards work on other parts of the lab.
  • Design the FET and phototransistor combined lab. This is lab 7, so not quite as urgent as the sampling and aliasing lab.
  • Try to line up a biologist who can give a guest lecture on excitable cells and action potentials before the EKG lab.

 

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