New Big Project

For quite a long time, I have wanted to write a book and try to sell it. For a multitude of reasons, I haven't. As of yesterday, no more! I signed up for 30x500 to get started. I'm hoping to find out ways to determine if my idea will actually help people, thus making it worth doing. Am I sure about this? Absolutely not. Who do I think I am to write a book? I'm not an expert at anything. It will probably be the worst book ever and will sell zero copies. However, I've decided that this is something I want to try. I've decided that being afraid of failure is worse than failure itself. I want to give it a try. And the 30x500 class is a way to help me hedge my bets. It cost me $1900 and my goal is to make that back within the next three years. (Official date: March 8, 2020) Doable? I have no idea. But I'm going to put in the work on it. I've deleted everyone I follow on Twitter, except people that I know personally. So I shouldn't be wasting any time there. I've also deleted all the bookmarks for blogs I like to read and youtube videos I like to watch. Again to not waste time. Lastly, I've created a new account on my laptop to use for studying and writing. So all of the programs and things that I have on my laptop aren't available to this second account and thus I can't have them open while I'm working. I've created a website for it. Let's get started!

Early Year Projects

For the start of the year, I've been working on some little projects that I've enjoyed. I guess one of the projects was big. I finished three bookshelves for my cousins for xmas.

I made a midori style notebook, which I still can't decide if I like or not.

And to put inside I made some personalized notebooks, which I do like quite a bit.

Also note in the picture above is a homemade awl I made to poke holes in the notebooks for sewing. It was a good idea, but the needle is sticking out too far. So if I really push, the needle bends. So I could maybe cut the end of that needle off and put it in a shorter handle.

I used epoxy to get the needle in the handle and I had some left over. So I used that to fix some cracks in my shoes. The weather has gotten much nicer now, so I haven't worn them yet in any snow. But I think this will work nice and save me from having to buy a new pair of shoes.

Lastly, I think that the last chance of frost has passed, so I'm moving into gardening mode. I went out to look at my cold frame. And once it got a little warmer, the spinach started growing again. It's pretty indestructible apparently. The lettuce seems to have died, so I put some more seed out there. But I'm happy with how this looks now.

Compiling GEANT4

This one is strictly work-related.

This is what I used to compile GEANT4 on an RHEL6 computer. Note that first I had to install and compile a new gcc to be able to compile GEANT4.

Also be sure to create /etc/ and add /usr/local/lib and /usr/local/lib64 to it. Then run ldconfig -v.

# tar xzf geant4.10.03.tar.gz
# mkdir geant.4.10.03-build
# # cd geant4.10.03-build/
# cmake3 -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/code/geant4.10.03-rhel6 /code/download/geant4/geant4.10.03/ -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=/usr/local/bin/gcc -DCMAKE_CXX_COMPILER=/usr/local/bin/g++ -DGEANT4_INSTALL_DATA=ON -DWITH_ANALYSIS_USE=ON
# make -j2
# make install

I also needed to make geant4-9.6.4, here's the cmake command that I used. The other commands are basically the same. And I think that this probably has the options that I should use by default. (Can leave off specifying the compiler if the default one works.)


For RHEL7 systems, the gcc that comes with it is new enough, so I can leave those tags out.

# cd /code/src/geant4-src/geant4-9.5.2-build

January 2017 Checkin

Based on last year, I know I won't keep up with checking in each month. However, January is usually pretty easy. Let's go straight to the chart.

My no eating sugar looks pretty successful so far. The first week's failures were all because I didn't realize that bacon contained sugar. So I didn't eat much sugar on those days, but it was some. So they got changed to frowns after I read the package ingredients on Friday. Aside from that, there were only three days where I had sugar. The 20th was worst and I was a bit upset with myself on the 21st for not staying in better control. The 28th was a party for Ted's birthday and I had a piece of cake. Happily, it was a small piece and I didn't eat any of the other sugar that was around.

Since a lot of foods have added sugar, what am I actually eating? Each day, for breakfast, I scramble one egg in butter, put it in a tortilla with some mozzarella cheese and eat that with a handful of blueberries. I have maybe 4 oz of orange juice mixed with water to drink. On the weekends, I may make some coffee which I drink with just milk. I'm not crazy about the coffee, but I'm usually cold, so I like the warm drink. For lunch, I've mixed things up more. A lot of days, I'd take noodles with mozzarella cheese on them for lunch. Lately, I've been just taking a tortilla and putting cheese in that. If I make some chicken, I've taken that too. I like the tortilla the best because there's no plasticware that I need to bring home to wash. I usually just take it in a freezer bag. And then I also take a bag of raisins and blueberries as well. I also have a container of macadamia nuts in my office. I've learned that around 9 - 9:30, I'm usually eating some nuts and blueberries. For dinner, I've been trying to get more protein, so I've been making meat. I bought chicken breasts, pork chops and some steaks. I clearly don't know how to cook a steak because they always seem really tough to me. Breading and frying the chicken and pork work out the best. The key? Paprika. Found that I like that a lot. I've also had some salad with a vinegrette, but I have to say I don't really enjoy that at all. I've been enjoying the pork chop the best and I'll probably be buying some more of those. My favorite thing to eat lately are triscuits with mozzarella cheese and raisins.

The good news is that I'm sure I've saved more than I paid for the Costco membership with what I've bought there. I eat about 5 lbs of mozzarella cheese every few weeks. I can finish a big container of blueberries in just over a week. Raisins last longer, but I buy lots of those as well. A container of macadamia nuts lasts about as long as the blueberries. All of that, I get at Costco. Other stuff, I get from Mariano's. And an added benefit for so carefully preparing my lunches and dinner is that I hardly use any cash. Not buying any meals, so I'm not spending $5-$10 per day.

I'm very happy with how things are working out. And I don't know why, but avoiding sugar has been easier than I thought. I've been reading some blogs about what sugar withdrawal feels like. The only really bad day that I had was one where I was just really depressed. It was weird in that I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on it. A day or two later, I realized that in the past on a day like that, I probably would have eaten a candy bar or something and have felt better. But without that rush of sugar, the depression lasted for basically 24 hours. I can laugh about it now, but I was just really numb on that day and didn't care about anything. Now I'm sort of curious if something like that will happen again. Interestingly, the day after that my weight went down 2 lbs after holding steady for about two weeks. Don't know if those things are related or not. Anyway, I'm happy with the month overall. I lost 3.5 lbs which I think is a good start to the year.

Awk notes

I love awk and use it a lot. Yesterday, I used it for something with multiline records. Awk on single lines is quick and easy to use, but I always have to look up what to do with multiline records. And I still don't exactly understand everything about multiline records, but here's what worked for me.

Say I had this file:

George Washington
1789 - 1797

John Adams
1797 - 1801

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

James Madison
1809 - 1817

I needed to reverse the order of the records like this:

James Madison
1809 - 1817

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

John Adams
1797 - 1801

George Washington
1789 - 1797

The first thing I needed to do was to create a file with my awk commands because they're going to be a little long to type at the prompt.

BEGIN { RS = "" ; FS = "\n" }
	print $1

RS = Record separator
FS = Field separator

And then I'm just going to print out just the name (which is field #1).

$ awk -f y samp.txt 
George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison

Ok, now I want to reverse the order and just print the entire record.

$ cat x
# The BEGIN section is run once at the start.  Here we just set up some separators
BEGIN { RS = "" ; FS = "\n" }

# The middle section is what runs over the file.  Here we're just adding each record to an array

# The END section runs once. Here we print out the array starting at the end and working back to the beginning
END {for (j=i-1; j>=0;) print a[j--] "\n"}

$ awk -f x samp.txt 
James Madison
1809 - 1817

Thomas Jefferson
1801 - 1809

John Adams
1797 - 1801

George Washington
1789 - 1797

First Book Down

I started it last year, but finished it in 2017. So "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas Friedman is the first book I read this year. It's all about how so many aspects of life are speeding up and how that's affecting people in different ways. I'm not sure that I agree with many of his ideas, but it was an interesting read. I have to say my favorite part of the book was when he described the town in Minnesota that he grew up in. I'm sure everyone didn't get the same sense of it that he did. But it was nice to hear about a place where different people worked together and weren't all just looking out for themselves. I like to think that most of the country is still like that, but it's getting harder and harder to do so. If nothing else, this book got me to go to a neighborhood advisory meeting and join the group. I'm happy about that.

I had another book from the library that I took back after reading about 10 pages. There are too many books that I want to read for me to suffer with one I don't find interesting. Now I'm reading another book by the same author of the one I just returned. This one is "Thinking in Systems" by Donella Meadows. I'm on page 17 and so far find this one much more interesting.

Not a great start

So I thought I was doing a great job avoiding sugar last week and it turns out I was mistaken. I think it started with my Costco run where I thought I was buying food without sugar. I swear that I read all the labels and didn't see sugar on what I bought. But I should take my reading glasses with me when I shop because two of my purchases have sugar. I ended up eating a chicken pot pie because I already had it in the oven when I reread the label. I wasn't going to throw perfectly good food away. The second one was a pot roast and thanks to the chicken pot pie incident, I reread the label before I even turned the oven on. That one sort of pissed me off because I don't think there's any need for sugar in it. And because I love pot roast, grrr.

The second issue was with bacon. I am, apparently, the only person in the world who didn't know that bacon had sugar in it. I'll be honest, I didn't read the label because I thought it was just meat. What bummed me out more was that I only added bacon to my breakfasts because I thought it would be good to eat a little more food in the morning so I wasn't so hungry at lunchtime. Anyway, this mistake caused me to turn all the smiley faces on my calendar to frowns. Taking my mistakes into account, this year, I've only had one day so far where I haven't eaten sugar.

I'm not going to beat myself up about this. Even if I didn't avoid all sugar, I have avoided a lot of sugar. (Except for yesterday...definitely fell of the wagon then) New day, new start. I'll see if I can finish out the month better.

Hello 2017!

Happy New Year!

I made it to 2017, so things so far are great! As always, I want to make some plans to get the most out of my year. Though, I really need to start thinking more long term. Bill Gates has the great quote "Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." I think that's very true. And I think I sort of due that here. At least I have my bucket list for things I want to do over my life. My idea of tracking something on the calendar is mainly a way for me to build a new habit that I'll hopefully have for the rest of my life. And so far, it seems to be working. I'll keep doing my yearly resolutions and hope that they end up being lifelong habits. Let's get started.

Sugar - My focus for the year is going to be reducing the amount of sugar that I eat. I did this for about a month last year and I noticed enough changes in me that I think it's a worthwhile goal. This is what's going on my calendar this year. It's a simple yes/no question. If I ate something with sugar, black frown goes up. If I avoided it, red (if I can find the red marker) smiley goes up. And much like when I was trying not to use my car two years ago, I'm not going to be a jerk about this. If someone invites me to a birthday party, yes I will eat cake. I'm not asking anyone to make food special for me. Just when I'm home or on my own (which is most meals), I will try to avoid sugar. This means that I need to have food in my house to eat instead. I went to Costco the other day and bought a bunch of fruit, cheese, nuts and some frozen meals that all don't have sugar. There may be some foods that I stop eating altogether. For example, I'm having a cup of coffee and oatmeal right now. I much prefer both of these with some sugar and a few chocolate chips, respectively. If that was the only sugar that I ate all day, it would probably be fine. But it still gets a frown because I'm avoiding all sugar. Those are the rules.

DIY Projects - I love to make stuff. I love to watch other people make stuff. This probably isn't really a resolution, since I already do this. But I'd like to do things more regularly and post information. As an example, I went to the store the other day to buy myself a calendar. I couldn't find a calendar I liked, so I decided to make one for myself. I have a printer and paper and very little design talent. I made simple calendar with quotes about life that I like. Here are what some of the pages look like.

Pretty simple, but it was fun to make. I have some ideas for binding books and making traveler's journals. I also have some woodworking projects to finish and some new ideas. And I'd like to get another sewing machine (more on that later) for a couple of sewing projects that I have in mind.

House - It's time to get back to work on the house. If nothing else, I'd like to have at least the back half of the upstairs gutted by the end of the year. Taking down drywall should be far less messy than the plaster and lathe removal of the downstairs. It'll still be messy, but I'm hoping I can control it a bit more by hanging some plastic to contain dust. I'd also like to finally bury the electric line that goes to my garage. If I install a new one, I can then put in another line and add more lights to my garage. That would be great. I'd also like to add some outdoor plugs which would be great for when I cut the grass and helpful for my garden.

Skills - As always, I would like to learn how to weld. And I'd like to learn how to design/build some simple electronics. Not to be able to do anything at work, but just to be able to create some ideas that have been floating around in my head. I did some soldering last year and while I was eventually successful, I wasn't comfortable doing it. That's just because I need to practice more. That's the case for a lot of the things I want to do: sewing, woodworking, bookbinding, etc. I need to do some simple projects just to get good with my hands. Once I'm comfortable with the basics, I can move on to trying to make my more difficult ideas. I guess the resolution here is that I'm going to work on any skill at least two or three times per month.

Read Books - I read a lot online, but I'd like to get back to reading more books. Online reading is really just skimming things for ideas and I want to get back into deep reading which to me means books. My goal is to read one or two books per month.

Write a Book - I still want to work on my book. It will be technical and I doubt that I'd sell many copies, but I'd like to do it just to see if I can.

Tune My Tools - I have a table saw that I use quite a bit. However, I don't think that it's set up properly. I haven't done any tests, but I don't think the fence is completely parallel to the blade. If I want to get serious about woodworking, I need to make sure that all of my tools are working correctly. So I need to research what to do to check and what periodic maintenance I need to do to make sure things are working properly.

Language - I've been swearing a lot more of late. I need to watch my language and cut it out. This is going to be hard, but it's something I need to do.

Things I want to keep doing
More bike, less car - Since this has been my focus for the past two years, I think it's already something I do a lot. But I just want to note it so that I remember it. I plan on going for a bike ride today because I can think of no better way to start off the year and it's a nice sunny day with temps in the 30s.

Work on financial independence - Last year put me in a much better position financially that I had been in for a while. So I'd like to keep working to financial independence, which is still a number of years away. But I think I'm doing the right things and I just need to stay the course.

Travel - I still like to take my bike to new cities and explore. I had been doing big rides around cities, but I think I may stop doing them. I signed up for a number of them last year and then didn't go because of bad weather. So now, I may just throw my bike in the car and drive to a city and ride around myself. Or look up interesting trails and go and ride them. I'm already going to go to Sedona this year. And I'm thinking that it might be cool to go to the finger lakes region of upstate New York.

Rewards - There are a few bigger ticket items that I'd like to buy for myself, but didn't because I was being financially responsible. Now I'm thinking that it would be a good idea to use these as rewards. Say if I don't eat sugar for 75% of the days in a month, I get a reward. Or if I do take all the drywall down from the back of my house, I get a reward. So here are the things that I'd like to get:

New bike - Totally don't need this, but very much want it. Test rode this bike last year and it was so nice to ride. Planned on buying it last year, but didn't because I was being responsible.

Sewing machine - After going through a few used sewing machines that were given to me, I decided that I wanted to get one that I actually want. And what I want is an industrial sewing machine. First because they really only do straight stitches and that's the only stitch I've ever done. Second because they'll be better at sewing through heavy material, like canvas or leather. I have zero interest in ever sewing clothes, but I would do curtains, bags and maybe even get into upholstery. I've been watching Craigslist to see if any used ones come up. Otherwise, this one with the 3/4 hp servo motor is the one I want.

Camera - If I want to start posting videos of me making my projects, I think I'd like to get a good camera. I have a little point and shoot camera that I've used in the past, but the battery doesn't last very long and it doesn't hold much video. I haven't researched these too much because this would definitely be bought after the above items. But I was thinking that something like this camera would be pretty nice. If I do decide to get a new camera, I'll have to do more research.

Tools - There are a few more tools that I'd like to get for my workshop. I'd like to add a drill press and a bandsaw. Here I should just keep an eye on craigslist or start going to the flea market by my house to see what they have.

That's it, my plans for 2017. I think for now, I'll start the year by trying to install a new light over my stairs before I head out on my bike.

2016 Year in Review

2016 was a year of extremes for me. It didn't start off great with the passing of my Aunt Lu, who was one of my favorite people. However, it also included my brother's wedding which was the nicest wedding I've ever attended. Like most years it had good and bad parts.

I very much believe that you can't change things you don't measure. So I tend to track a lot of what I do throughout the year. Let's see how well I did this year.

Calendar - I had intended to track four things on it, biking, working out, eating healthy and driving. I can tell you now, that was a ridiculous idea. Tracking healthy eating was dropped first because it was just too much of a pain to do. And working out was dropped soon after that. Tracking bike and driving were the only two I did because they took about one second each. Calendar tracking works best when it's a simple yes/no answer and that you don't have to think too long about this answer. Healthy eating was dropped because I had to think about each meal and if I ate ok at each. Working out was dropped because I would consider whether or not my bike ride was an actual workout. That was just too much thinking for me. The bike and car were easy. Did I bike or did I drive? Yes or no and mark the calendar. So that's all I ended up tracking. I've also learned that I should really only track a single thing. I'll take that into account next year.

Bike and Car - Looking at my Cyclemeter stats, I found that I biked 1,720 miles last year. That's good, but quite a bit less than I did in 2015 (2,252 miles). Here's the breakdown, month-by-month:

Bike Drive
January 18 days 14 days
February 6 days 22 days
March 17 days 18 days
April (thank you 30 Days of Biking) 30 days 14 days
May 25 days 16 days
June 23 days 14 days
July 14 days 14 days
August 22 days 14 days
September 17 days 18 days
October 12 days 20 days
November 7 days 25 days
December 4 days 25 days

I did ok during the summer months, but was a giant wuss when the weather got a little unpleasant. I really have no excuse for that. Clearly, I haven't taken "Frostbike" to heart and celebrated winter. I need to dig out my winter riding clothes and try to make up for that in January.

I just checked the odometer on my car and it reads 44,416 miles. At the end of last year, my odometer was 33,788 miles, so I drove 10,628 miles for the year. I'm actually quite pleased with that. That seems reasonable to me. If I biked a bit more to work, I think I could get that down under 10,000 miles for the year.

Overall, I'm happy with my biking and driving amounts. I don't think I do too much unnecessary driving (though I am being lazy about going to work in the cold) and I do usually grab my bike for short trips to the grocery store or library. I think that tracking this information over the past couple of years has changed my behavior and I don't think I need to monitor it so much now. I'll still use Cyclemeter on my phone to track my longer rides so I get an overall mileage count for the year, but I'm not going to worry about short trips or how many days I drive. Now that I have a target for my car mileage, I should be ok.

Health - I went to the doctor last January because my knee was really sore. My doc sent me to therapy for about eight weeks. That was great and it helped a lot. My knee is much better though not great yet. After I quit going to therapy, I got very lazy about doing all the stretching exercises. I need to come up with a way to make myself accountable without having a therapist to see. It would also definitely help my knee if I lost some weight. I have been weighing myself every morning as soon as I get up since 2011. I know many people say you shouldn't do this, but I think it's a good idea, as long as you don't judge yourself on the number. My weight does fluctuate a lot and while some of it depends on what I've eaten, it can also move based on how late I ate dinner the previous night. Looking at my weight from January 1st until today, I see I've lost 4 lbs over the year. That's going in the right direction, but it should be better. Below is a graph of my weight over the year. Earlier this month, I actually hit my low of the year. Interestingly, I quit eating sugar around the end of October and kept it up until Thanksgiving. I think that's reflected in the downward slope of the line during that time. Anyway, I'm happy with the overall result, but I know I can do much better.

Build Up Savings - Here's my one great success over the year. I use a program called Banktivity for my checking account and they have a summary page that compares your current savings rate with your previous year. This was great and very motivational. Here's how it looks today.

I'm quite pleased with that. I'm also pleased because I don't think that I was a freeloader in any way. I think I was generous with my family members and made all my usual donations to charity. I just didn't do much frivolous spending. My largest category of expense this year was cash, which is probably something I should be tracking better. But the second one was my property taxes, which sounds about right to me.

In December 2014, I opened an account with Betterment to try to save $10,000 as an emergency fund. I'm happy to note that as of Tuesday when my transfer goes in, I'll have reached my goal. Yay! I'm much more prepared now if I need another emergency roof. đŸ˜‰

Travel - I think I did pretty well this year. I went to Nashville with friends for the Tour de Nash in May. I went to Vancouver and Washington state for my brother's wedding in July. Took a quick trip to Pittsburgh for Pedal PGH in August. I visited some cousins in LA with my Mom and brother in November. And took a quick trip to Toronto to visit a friend in December. Aside from LA and Toronto, I biked around all those places, so I also met my goal of exploring by bike. (Though I didn't get to Montréal which bums me out a little.)

House - I didn't do much work on the house, except finish up the trim in my kitchen. I actually laughed out loud when I saw that my intention was to have a room upstairs done. Not only did I not do anything up there, I actually moved my bedroom up there, using it as is.
Welding - Nothing. Priced some welders, but didn't do anything.
Map game - Didn't even think about it.
Volunteering - I went to Working Bikes for a couple of months, but then stopped. It was fun, but I didn't like that I always drove there. I gave them a donation yesterday because I do think they're a great organization.
Book - I've thought about this a lot and even sort of started doing an outline. But it's so little that I don't think it should count.
Get out of the house more - I'm pretty much still a homebody.

That's it. I'm writing this early in the morning on the 31st, so I could possibly still go for a bike ride today or drive my car. A good friend just got out of the hospital, so I may go and see him. If that's the case, I'll have to update this post a little. But for the most part, I think this is a pretty good summary of my year. I'm happy to say that I can still say "Life is good". Here's to 2017 being even better!