Gas station without pumps

2020 December 31

Forty-seventh weight progress report and 2020 year-end report

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

I’ve been putting on weight since my big diet of 2015, with occasional attempts to correct course.

This year has been a particularly bad one, with my weight reaching the highest value ever—touching the “overweight” range. I was doing ok in the first quarter—gradually dropping towards my desired weight, but once the pandemic started and I was staying home snacking instead of bike commuting up the hill to my office, I packed on the pounds at an alarming rate.

It probably did not help that I spent a good chunk of the summer and fall experimenting with bread recipes. A few of the experiments are recorded on this blog, but a lot of the more recent baking has not involved any recipes to post to the blog (making whole-wheat sourdough using minor variants of the bread-machine recipe), and I’ve been too lazy to photograph.

My exercise has been very limited—I averaged only 0.85 miles a day of bicycling in November and December and probably not much more in walking (about 80–87k steps per month—way down from 230k in January). Because bike commuting was my main source of exercise, I remain concerned about how I’m going to get fit again—exercising at home does not seem to happen, even when I promise myself that I’ll do some today.

I did get in some recreational bicycling today—bicycling up Empire Grade to see the dozer line at the top of campus (not really very visible any more, as the grass has sprouted) and even higher up to see the edges of the CZU burn.  I’m out of shape enough that I turned around after only 7 miles and 1150 feet of climbing.  There was not much to see—if I want to see the burned areas, I’ll either have to go further up Empire Grade or choose a different part of the burn to look at—perhaps taking a flatter, but longer, route up Highway 1.

Other milestones for the year: I got all the videos done and the closed captions edited for BME 51B, and I’m almost finished with the videos for BME 51A for Winter (only 10–12 more to go, or about 3 hours worth of videos), though the caption editing has barely started.  The videos are available on YouTube as two playlists: Part A (for BME 51A, 108 videos totalling 24 hours so far) and Part B (for BME 51B, 49 videos totalling almost 12 hours). I did get a new release of the textbook out on December 28th, in time for the new class that starts on Jan 4.  The book is available (as always) from https://leanpub.com/applied_analog_electronics, and anyone who has bought it in the past (even with a free coupon) can get the latest edition free by logging in with their LeanPub account.

I’ve also managed to keep my backyard mowed this summer (it used to always be a jungle of head-high weeds). I’ve almost finished clearing the ivy and blackberries from the area behind the garage—I’ve only got about 25 square feet left to clear—about one more week’s greenwaste can, though the rain may bring back a lot of the blackberries, as I can’t remove the roots from under the concrete. In March, I didn’t think I’d be able to get this far. 

My son and I acted together for the first time, doing a short promo video for Santa Cruz Shakespeare.  I’ll post a link to it when they finish adding the title and donation info at either end.

When compared to my to-do list from September 2019, my accomplishments for 2020 don’t seem so great—a lot of the stuff on that list is still not done.  Oh, well—something to do after I retire in June.

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?

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