I’ve written about my weight loss, and how that lead to being able to race cyclocross. Truth is, I’m still riding better than ever, and have started road racing–I’m sure I’ll do a post about that at a later date. I’m not impressive, but I’m sticking with the field. I still feel that being credible at this is a dream come true for me. Being able to stick with fast groups on training rides, or a pack at a road race, or any of the other things feels like, in a modest way, a measure of success.
I haven’t really trusted it.
There is always this thought in the back of my head that, at any moment, this could be taken away from me. Not in the sense that an injury could get me off the bike. More that I got to this place by rubbing a lamp or having a spell cast upon me. I could wake up tomorrow in my old, heavier body, averaging 3-4 MPH slower.
It has made me grateful to my wife, who inspired me to do this and continues to support me in more ways than I can count. It also has me pushing myself harder to squeeze out every little bit of this new-found strength, wanting to enjoy every moment before the spell is broken.
But, coming back from a great ride the other night, I had this revelation: this is not a spell. It’s not a wish from a genie. I worked at this. All the riding I do is a step in achieving this. Logging what I eat and keeping within a calorie budget is a step. Waking up at 5:15 in the winter to suffer before work is a step. There are things beyond my control, but I was making sure I was taking responsibility for the ones that are completely on me.
I suppose this seems more like magic than work because, individually, no one instance of any one thing is not that much work. Picking a small sandwich and baked chips over something with twice (or more) the calories is not that hard, one lunch at a time. Spending an hour on a stationary bike is not that hard, one day at a time. Both are as easily forgotten as the high-calorie lunch or sitting on the couch hours later. Only when I look back at my logs do I see just the effort I put in.
Chris Hadfield once wrote:
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
Hadfield was speaking of becoming an astronaut, but I think it can even apply to more modest pursuits. Many of us may be in a position where we can’t orient our entire lives to something. We have jobs and families and other things that have to take priority. However, we can look at the things we can control, and try.
In a way, I did that starting almost two years ago. I looked at every meal, and every act. As momentum built and I entered my first cyclocross race, I continued making choices. Today, there are times I consciously think I want to race bicycles more than I want the leftover pizza in the break room or I want to race bicycles more than I want that cookie. To be fair, there are times I ride my bike because I want to indulge, but that’s part of the same decision-making process.
Put another way: hard work is magic. While there may be factors that are limiting, by and large, I can continue this or not at my choosing. I can continue to count calories and ride hard, and stay focused on what I want. If I choose to let go a bit to make room for something else, that will be of my choosing. If there are external factors like work that put pressure on me, I can figure out how to adapt. I may not always be able to keep with a pack at 24 MPH, but, if I want to try to get there, I know that it will be my own doing.
It’s Yuri’s Night!
We need to make a bigger deal out of this.
(Pecan) Pi Day
Beso and his girl play on her iPad
People tend to leave monitors on at my office. I suggested they do something about it. They did.
Oops! Better late than never!
As I mentioned, my preferred text entry tool is a fountain pen. That doesn’t work on a computer. While I use a variety of email clients, Microsoft Word, and browser-based tools, my text editor of choice is GNU EMACS. Part of it is an appreciation of its heritage–this software dates back to the Seventies. It’s my choice in the long-running editor war with (the far inferior) vi. It’s multi-platform: I can use essentially the same tool in OS X, Windows, LINUX, and other operating systems. Designed in the days of VT100 terminals, it is as happy at the command prompt as it is in a GUI.
I appreciate the power. It can be configured to support different programming languages, or automate some processes. Hypothetically, I could use it as my email client (though I haven’t quite mastered getting it right), or act as a web browser. Some have compared it to an operating system.
The key configuration file is called .emacs (“dot emacs”). People spend years tuning and adjusting their .emacs file. I recently realized I was pasting in chunks from the various files on various systems. I wondered: in this era of cloud storage, could I have one .emacs to manage all my systems? For that matter, could I also use cloud storage to be the location for my extension modules. The advantage of this approach is I can ensure the settings are the same on each machine. Ideally, this also means that any modules I install will be present as well. There may be some tuning per machine, but, for the most part, it will be in common.
I decided my approach would be to host my core .emacs and modules on Copy.com as my cloud provider, though I think it could be used with OneDrive, Google Drive, or a similar product. Each machine would have a local .emacs that would point to the shared one, which I’m calling dot.emacs, though it could readily be called shared.emacs or common.emacs. dot.emacs would set some common settings, as well as machine-specific ones based on the hostname (the name assigned to a given computer).
Most cloud storage services create a spot on the local hard drive to point the cloud files to. On my MacBook, it’s /users/mrguilt/copy; on the WorkTop, it’s c:\users\my.real.name\copy. On the cloud, I created a directory called elisp for all the EMACS files, including dot.emacs. A variable, cloud-dir, is set th point to the cloud elisp directory, so all the modules I use can exist there. The local .emacs looks like this:
;;;Creates a variable pointing to where the cloud directory appears on
(setq cloud-dir "~/Copy/elisp") ;;;showswhere the cloud elisp directory is.
;;;Hand-off to shared "dot-emacs" file (dot.emacs.el)
(add-to-list 'load-path cloud-dir)
dot.emacs does the heavy lifting of settings. Notionally, I divided it into four sections or subsections:
- First, I wanted to test if the GUI version of EMACS was being used, or a terminal version, and make settings based on that.
- Within the GUI vs. terminal sections, I wanted to make some per-machine settings. Primarily, this is about fonts and colors, though other local settings may go into that section.
- Set some basic parameters, like what mode to activate for certain file types, whether or not I want backup files, etc.
- Set up and load any extensions, such as a twitter client.
The dot.emacs, which needs to be named dot.emacs.el, looks a bit like this:
;;;GUI vs. terminal, and per-machin settings
(print "It's a GUI!") ;;; I like to have some feedback, for testing among other things
;;;General GUI Stuff
(tool-bar-mode -1) ;Turn Off Toolbar
(set-fringe-mode '(0 . 0)) ;;;Turn off fringe mode
;;; Checking what machine I'm using, and setting fonts and other local settings
(if (string= system-name "WorkTop")
(print "It's the WorkTop!")
(set-face-attribute 'default nil :font "Consolas")
(set-face-attribute 'default (selected-frame) :height 120) ;;;Make the typeface a bit bigger (120%).
(if (string-match "MacBook.*" system-name) ;;;Work-Around for 10.10's hostname bug
(print "It's the MacBook!")
(set-face-attribute 'default nil :font "Anonymous Pro")
(set-face-attribute 'default (selected-frame) :height 165) ;;;Make the typeface a bit bigger (125%).
(set-background-color "#8a9ff2") ;;;Set colors
(if (string= system-name "WinVM")
(print "It's the Windows VM!")
(set-face-attribute 'default nil :font "Consolas")
;;; Things for terminal mode
(print "It's a Terminal"))
;;;Common settings--these are mine; you may have something different
(setq make-backup-files nil) ;;; I don't want backup files.
;;; Auto Longline Mode for .txt and .html (blogstuff)
(setq auto-mode-alist (cons '("\.txt" . longlines-mode) auto-mode-alist))
(setq auto-mode-alist (cons '("\.html" . longlines-mode) auto-mode-alist))
;;;Here is where loading extensions and settings go.
(add-to-list 'load-path (concat cloud-dir "/twittering-mode-3.0.0"))
Adding machines is as simple as adding another if-then block.
One question might be, why not put local settings, like colors and fonts, into the local .emacs file. In fact, I had a note in the comments of my dot.emacs file asking that very question–my initial implementation became as much a game of “can I do this” as a practical event. Recently, the wisdom of putting local settings in the common file made sense: my WorkTop hard drive needed to be reimaged. I was able to sett this back up by simply copying the .emacs, as written above, into the proper place. In effect, all my systems also have the same local .emacs file.
I’m not sure if everyone has a need for such a crazy configuration, or uses as many different systems as I do. However, I think it speaks to the power of the EMACS that it can accommodate a shared configuration file.
This has been a bit of an odd winter. I was able to get out and ride a lot in January–about twice what I did last year. February looked promising, until mid-month, when I wasn’t able to get out and ride one weekend…then the next. When last weekend looked to be the third in a row, I felt I had to do something. I can handle going to suffer on a stationary bike several times a week, and even both days of a weekend once in a while. I couldn’t take three weeks in a row–really a month before the next possible opportunity. I was going MAD!!!!
In the past, I’ve looked into ways to try to drive to better weather. Unfortunately, the climate is such that getting to warmer-enough weather generally requires a drive of several times what I would ride–each way. However, a new option appeared in Louisville in February at the Louisville Mega Cavern that seemed to be a hack. This recreation complex is located in an old mine that stretches under the city, including the zoo. For years, they have had a zip line and a ropes course, along with tram tours of the mine itself. In February of this year, they opened what they describe as the largest indoor bike park in the world.
It’s billed as a “mountain bike” course, with lots of single track and cross-country paths to follow, which I could handle easily on my cyclocross bike. Other areas were designed to allow mountain bikers to get speed, and perform amazing jumps. The big advantage: the cave is a constant sixty degrees.
My ‘cross bike doesn’t have a wheel sensor–I rely exclusively on GPS when I ride it (I also worry, during a race, the sensor would just be a place for mud to accumulate). In a cave, you can’t get GPS signals, so I can’t really give an accurate measure of how big this is. It was easily a mile or so in circumference.
On the day I was there, Morpheus bikes was there, giving demos. I had been watching the folks who do gravity jumps, and was curious. So, I decided to try one out. The folks from Morpheus were quite nice, even if they teased me a bit about being the only one there (at the time) in lycra. The setup is completely different–the saddles are quite low, and mostly, you stand to control your body as you run over the ramps. I rode it for about an hour, and got pretty good on the beginner run getting good air and not falling. By the end of my session, I was thinking about adding another discipline to my cycling.
While I was acting half (or less) my age, my wife and daughter were doing the Mega Quest ropes course.
They said they had an awesome time.
We had a great time at the Mega Cavern, and made mental notes for “next time.” While, for me, it was not the long, stead distance I want to prepare for TOSRV, it definitely was a great way to get out of the gym. I also enjoyed the opportunity to challenge myself on different terrain. I’m also grateful that Morpheus Cycles let me try out something new.
Supplies for a cold Saturday Morning:
Fist Paw Bump!
With Radio Shack filing for bankruptcy, lots of geeky toys may go with it. Yes, the TRS-80 may be long gone, but so have most computers of that era. The thing I remember playing with was their electronics kits. These were simple introductions into circuits. Using spring terminals, you could build an AM radio, or morse code key, or 150 other projects (or more, depending on the exact set you got). About half mine actually worked, but it was a good way to spend an afternoon.
The spirit of this lives on, however, in Snap Circuits, which my daughter is even more fascinated with than I was the Radio Shack kits. Rather than a box of loose parts and springs you have to connect, each component is encased in plastic, with connections made with snaps. While it means you don’t actually get to hold a resister, you’re less likely to lose the part, and the projects seem to have a higher success rate–it’s not as finicky as the spring terminals. Many of the old projects of the Radio Shack kit are present, and some versions even have a computer interface. It’s a great toy to encourage an interest in STEM fields, not that I have much trouble encouraging that with my daughter.
My wife related a story where she was not the only one exploring electrical engineering.
Beso is a watcher. He likes to sit off to the side and observe what my daughter does. I often wonder if he has a notebook in which he jots his observations about life, in a manner like Thoreau. A week or so ago, my daughter was playing with her Snap Circuits. As pictured, Beso sat in the box lid, intently watching what she was up to. She made a circuit which had a switch, and an electric motor that turned a fan. She flipped the switch a few times, and had the fan spin, then stop. She then got up for a minute, leaving her project.
Beso took the opportunity to walk over and examine the breadboard. He sniffed around the motor, then put his paw on the switch and pushed. He wasn’t quite catching it, but it was clear he was paying enough attention to determine that’s what made the fan go. He tried from one side, then the other, only giving up when my daughter returned.
I’m not sure you’ll have the same result with Snap Circuits with your cats. However, I can certainly endorse it as a great education toy for the girls they love.