• Category Archives day by day
  • This is the category closest to just being a plain diary. Places I go, things I do, people I see, what’s happening in my life.

  • Organization Man

    It wasn’t quite new-year’s-resolution level, but I’ve been having a sustained burst of productivity lately, or if not productivity then at least activity: I have been much better about cello practice; I’ve been more on top of bills, and housework, and exercise (i.e. morning calisthenics, not the biking); I’ve been making progress on learning SQL; and I’ve even chipped away at the greater part of my Flickr photos backlog. And I’ve managed to get all this done, to become my new, more organized self, through the use of my simple, lowly to-do list.

    I’ve written about my to-do list before. It’s basically just a text file; in the morning, or sometimes the night before, I’ll write what I want to get done at the top of the file, then as the day progresses and I do things I can mark the tasks done. If I don’t get to something it’s no big deal, it’s just not marked done and I can add it to the next day’s tasks (or not), but at any idle moment during the day I can see at a glance what I could be productive about, and the process gives me a chance to think about what I want to accomplish, what I ought to be doing, what might be more or less urgent, etc, for any given day. I also add specific appointments (a doctor visit, an afternoon ride with someone) to the end of the list, so I remember to budget my to-do tasks around them. The structure is pretty simple:

    Sunday 1/17/2021
    exercise (done)
    dishes (done)
      phone (done)
      gas (done)
      electric (done)
    study sql
    blog (started... running notes go here until it's marked done)
    @1:00 group road ride (done)
    Saturday 1/16/2021
    dishes (done)
    exercise (done)
    cello (done)
    study sql (done)
    flickr (done)
    work on bikes

    And so on.

    (I also keep a separate file, a spreadsheet that I call my “food diary,” where I keep track of everything I eat each day, but that does not get used nearly as much as the to-do list. It has a different pedigree, being something I saw once about behaviorist approaches to dieting, and has been much less successful in keeping me engaged enough to use it.)

    I find that I am more energetic in the late morning or early afternoon, but that may also be because the morning is when I’m selecting my day’s tasks, and therefore thinking more about them, rather than it being an issue of afternoon energy levels. The one thing that does sap energy levels — the thing that wrecks any given day’s remaining plans — is biking. Any day with a longish bike ride, nothing seems to get done after the ride…

    Anyway, here’s a product of one of my previous to-do lists: my first cycling video, posted on YouTube. The raw GoPro video quality is very high and the files are huge, so I spent some time learning how to process the clip into a format with reasonable values for both quality and file size. It looked great, but YouTube has taken to throttling quality to conserve bandwidth during this COVID-level use era. Here it is:

  • Looking Forward

    Morning weigh-in: 180#, 8.5% BF

    An official weigh-in!

    That’s not something I’ll be doing much going forward — I’ll weigh myself occasionally, but probably not be documenting it obsessively the way I used to. I put it here as a marker of where I am right now: back in November I was 172#, and I was pretty happy with that number, but that weight really was because of the gastrointestinal thing I was dealing with. I am back up to my “correct” current weight, which is way lower than it was a year or so ago, but I do want to see my weight — the real, “correct healthy weight” number — go down another 10 pounds. I guess that counts more as a wish than a resolution, but there it is…

    As for actual resolutions, I guess I’ll stick with my usual ones: bike more, exercise more, play the cello more. I also usually put in something about “use the computer less,” but this year I don’t think so, instead I’ll just resolve to spend a greater percentage of my computer time in more guilt-free, productive ways: learn some skills, do some mapping projects, that sort of thing. I what I really need is another hobby, like the mapping, that uses the computer.

    Speaking of being productive with the computer, I’ve been doing a lot of photo curating lately. Slowly but surely I’m getting them organized & categorized in my computer’s photo app. I’m now done through 2019, so I am now just about a year behind, which doesn’t really sound impressive but it’s a big improvement from the mess I used to have.

    The other part of my photo curation — where I upload my selected “best photos” to Flickr, and then give each one a title and description — that’s also moving forward. I now have uploaded photos through June 2019, though I’ve only got them annotated through April. Still, I am making progress. (By the way, I now have 9,925 photos on Flickr — I’m closing in on my 10,000th photo!)

    Meanwhile, back in meatspace… I’ve been doing morning calisthenics, with some weights and yoga added in. The biking is pretty dead right now, though I’ve been getting out with Anne almost every day, for short rides around the neighborhood. Part of the problem, at least for mountain biking, is that it’s cold (and wet), but not nearly cold enough: trails are muddy and mushy.

    There’s also this: the bikes could use a little love right now. The Santa Cruz needs a bushing for the rear shock, and maybe some new shifter cables, and will need new tires soon especially in the rear, while the road bike could just use a good solid overhaul after this summer’s long rides.

    A few more for the to-do lists…

  • That Was The Year That Was

    Whew! Happy New Year’s Eve, 2020!

    I haven’t had much to say here, and still feel I don’t, but I guess I can do a little news update:

    • I bought us a new stereo receiver, which came today. It wasn’t quite a Christmas present… We’ve been without a stereo for more than a year, and I was messing with our system a few months ago and realized that the problem was that the receiver had crapped out, everything else still seemed to work, all we needed was a new receiver. And that’s the way I left it, until a few days ago when I finally ordered the one I’d selected back then. Some fussing with speaker wires — this was the closest I came to bourgeois Christmas assembly, probably ever — but it all went together and we are rocking out right now.
    • I got a GoPro video camera for Christmas from my Uncle Pat. I took it out on the towpath yesterday (my last ride of the year), and got one or two good videos at the start of the ride, but I must have banged the mount somehow because the rest of my clips were of the handlebars. I guess it’ll be a process…
    • I have not been outside for too much activity lately, but we got snow a few weeks ago and I managed to get in a few days of XC skiing. Twice with Doug & Lori, and once with Scott & Kellyn, all over at the municipal golf course.
    • I’m still working my way through those SQL courses. I’m almost done with the second one. In the meantime, I felt bad that I couldn’t even run my material take-off and header calculation programs anymore, so I got the code from my old laptop and got busy porting it to this machine. The MTO program worked out just fine, but I need to switch the header calc one to use Postgres instead of MySQL, which shouldn’t be too crazy.

    Anne got a bamboo steamer from her sister, and she’s making shrimp dumplings right now. We’re planning for some pork ones (with homemade kimchi) tomorrow, and that’ll be our pork & sauerkraut for the coming year. Tonight we’ll do jello shots to ring in the new year, and hopefully get in a bike ride tomorrow. Happy New Year!

  • Seven The Hard Way

    About two weeks ago, I managed to lose seven pounds in a week…

    It all started with the donuts. On our D&L ride, we stopped for a bite in Jim Thorpe, but every place was packed so we just grabbed some junk food at a convenience store. I got some chocolate milk, which I almost never drink, and a bag of those small chocolate donuts you can only get at gas stations, with the plastic “chocolate” icing, one step up from Twinkies. We ate our “lunch” near the new bridge — I ate most of the bag and a a whole lot of chocolate milk — and continued on our way home.

    I felt fine, if a little stuffed, when we got home, but by the next day I had serious GI issues: bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and it never let up. I looked online for possible causes — big mistake. I went to the doctor, who questioned and examined and prodded me, gave me an antibiotic (for what looked to her like an ear infection — no connection to the stomach), and advised Metamucil. So OK, Metamucil and an antibiotic.

    My GI situation kept up like that for more than a week afterward. I was in extreme discomfort, and with food going in but nothing going out I expected my weight to be ballooning up, but I actually lost seven or eight pounds over the course of the week.

    Then one morning, all of a sudden I felt like myself again. My body returned to its normal function over the course of the day, and the bloating and pain went away. I guess that whatever it was had worked its way through my system. I’m still taking the Metamucil “just in case,” and I am never, ever eating those donuts again…

    My weight has bounced back a little, but it’s now stabilized at about five pounds lower than it was. I’ll take it, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight-loss regimen to anyone.

  • Breathe

    What a week this was! The election was stressful enough but the follow-up was no better…

    We were worried about COVID so we applied for mail-in ballots back in August, but they took so long to come that when they finally arrived we dropped them off in person at the courthouse in Allentown. That was maybe 2-3 weeks before the election.

    Then on election day and after, there was a lot of talk about not counting those kinds of votes, so Anne made signs and we went to the courthouse to make our voices heard. We did that Wednesday and Thursday, and on Thursday we met others who also wanted every vote counted, and we joined them for another demonstration in Bethlehem. Friday looked much calmer, vote counting was moving forward, so we stayed home.

    On Saturday we did a bike ride up to Jim Thorpe from Slatington, and just before we arrived at the trailhead we heard that Pennsylvania, and therefore the election, had just been called for Biden. The ride would have been good “nature therapy” for recent stress anyway, but it was such a relief to have that burden removed.

    Things aren’t over yet, and a lot of damage has been done (with more possibly to come) which might never be undone, but I think the end is in sight.

  • Clean Bill of Health

    I got my colonoscopy today, a rite of passage I’d delayed for years. Fast and purge yesterday, then into the hospital for about two hours. I was pretty nervous, but the whole procedure was painless, even the “purge” part yesterday wasn’t as bad as people joke (though I wasn’t happy about the “fasting” part), and now I’m good for another 10 years.

    I just pounded down a turkey & cheese sub, and I think I’ll go take a nap.

  • Infrastructure Fun

    I got in a few rides these past few weeks, and some good cello time too, but my major focus has been on “infrastructure” projects:


    The Santa Cruz, after four years of that “new bike feeling,” is starting to show some signs of age. Nothing bad, just things like shifting problems in the highest gears, so I might need new cables and maybe housing, and some trouble with the tire valves: I’ve got a slow leak in the rear tire caused by a torn o-ring, and a gummed up valve up front.

    For the tires I got a “valve repair kit” from Saucon Valley Bikes. The tubeless tire valves are pretty easy to take apart and work with, so I was able to replace the rear o-ring — I can’t be sure if it worked perfectly, but it’s working enough for now — and have new valve innards on deck if the front tire becomes too annoying. The shifting seems sort of OK for the moment after I did some serious derailleur cleaning, but I can tell I’ll have to deal with those cables sooner rather than later.

    Meantime, I noticed a slight creak coming from the bottom bracket…


    For my website I’ve been using an SSL/TLS certificate from Let’s Encrypt, which I obtained using SSLForFree, since Let’s Encrypt is pretty difficult on its own. These certificates need to be renewed every 90 days, but when I went to do it the next-to-last time, I found that SSLForFree had been bought out by ZeroSSL, who use their own certificates and who intend to charge for anything beyond a limited number of free ones. I used them that time, but spent the next three months looking into a better option.

    The ZeroSSL certificate expired a few days ago, but I had already replaced it with one from Let’s Encrypt, using a rather laborious process on yet another website. It’s very doable, but I think I’ll continue looking for a better method.

    Towpath Amenities

    This is a bit of old news, but I’ve added the amenities and access points along the towpath between New Hope and Morrisville. I have about 10 miles left to add, the section from Morrisville to Bristol, and I have all access points and amenities I could find added to my database. All that’s left is to ground-truth some of the info, then I can update the map. This last addition will make the map complete, but that won’t make the job done — this job will never be done

    I started thinking about my method of routing the other day: the routine finds the point on the road network closest to my access point (the start) and the point on the network closest to my amenity (the endpoint), then finds the shortest path through the network between start and end points. But what if the start and end points on the network are not particularly close to their respective access or amenity points?

    I originally assumed that this would not be an issue: access points were basically intersections of the D&L with the road network, and almost all amenities should be very near some road or path that customers use to get there. Then I figured out a way to check…

    Most amenities were within about 25 yards of their route’s endpoint, the distance being mostly open space like a parking lot or driveway. I figured that this was acceptable, but I also found a few amenities that were more than that distance, between say 25 and 50 yards from their endpoints. Again they were on the far sides of parking lots and such from the ends of their routes, but these distances seemed a bit too large to leave be, so I added service lanes and driveways as necessary — I’m not sure why these weren’t already a part of the network, but they are there now; I updated the routes to the offending amenities and all was well.

    There was a third group of amenities that I found, and these were the ones I had been worrying about: the ones where the database has a route, but in real life the route’s endpoint is nowhere near the amenity, and maybe the amenity isn’t even accessible from the endpoint. (One example could be a store along a roadway I’d deliberately excluded from the route network, such as a fast food place along a highway. The routing program would find a path to the closest point still on the allowed roads, and leave the cyclist to connect the endpoint and the amenity “as the crow flies,” crossing freeways or God-know-what, and I’m back to square one.)

    Luckily, I only found a few of these, and they all were total outliers: places that were in the database, but were too distant and isolated to be considered “accessible.” For now I’m leaving them in the database, but I guess I’ll eventually have to remove them. I’ll have to look more carefully at the relationship between new amenities and the road network in the future if I add any more, to make sure they actually connect.

    Network (the other kind)

    One last piece of infrastructure activity: we are switching our internet provider, from DSL on Verizon to RCN cable. I bought a cable modem and a wifi router, and called RCN the other day; the cable installers should be here this afternoon.

    I got us the slowest package, 10 Mbps, which is about four times faster than what we have now and costs about $20/mo less, before even considering the cost of the landline we’ll be abandoning when we get rid of Verizon. (If we need it we can upgrade our package, but we’ve been making do with DSL for so long that 10 Mbps will probably seem blazing fast.)

  • I Ply The Fire With Kindling Now, And Pull The Blanket Up To My Chin

    Weatherman says it’ll heat up again in a few days, but it’s been trending much cooler this past week — comfortable days, nights in the low 50’s. Good sleeping weather, as the saying goes.

    We went to a friend’s house for a porch visit yesterday evening, and I was actually chilly once the sun went down, and when we got home we closed some windows and put the comforter back on the bed. The temperature dropped into the 40’s overnight. Summer is coming to an end.

  • More Photo Blogging: Round Valley

    These are from several weekends ago, when we met Joe and Laura for some kayaking at Round Valley. I have not been there in years, and I’d never been on the water — it was always bicycling. Awesome day, and I had fun trying to make correspondences between what I saw from the kayak and where I rode years ago. There were a lot of spotted lanternflies on the water though, which was an unpleasant surprise since we didn’t know they were already in New Jersey (or that they liked water).

    In other photo news, I’ve been doing some more curating of my Flickr photos, and finished uploading the last of them from 2017. Now I am only three years behind.

  • Low Energy Week

    Not much riidng this week (so far), it’s just been too rainy. The Delaware towpath is actually closed in many places due to flooding damage, and sections of the Lehigh towpath suffered damage as well. I slipped in a towpath ride (and some lawn work) on Monday when it turned out to be a nice day, but I’ve done nothing since. Tomorrow we’ll try for a long-ish ride west of the Valley, it looks like it’ll be a beautiful day

    In the meantime, there has been a lot of lounging around, reading. I am almost done with The Mirror and the Light, which I’ve been dragging my feet on, and I am re-reading The Rook, and I’ve perused some Python texts… Most of the time I’ve been just staring at the computer like it’s a TV or something.

    (Speaking of TV’s, we finally tossed our old one last week. It’s been sitting in our living room taking up space for years, we couldn’t remember the last time we watched anything on it and it’s now long obsolete — wrong format, not digital. Any TV we watch is on the computers, so Anne brought down her old office desktop with the giant screen to take the TV’s place, and we put the TV on the curb with a “FREE — it works” sign. It sat out through at least some of the rain so that’s probably no longer true, but someone took it — most likely the garbage man.)

    I did get my map updated with trail amenities down to New Hope, and I’ve also had some learning experiences with both Python and SQL. I also have been updating the genealogy stuff.

    We’re thinking that after COVID (which is starting to sound like “after I win the lottery”) we may put together a trip to Germany, possibly like the Ireland trip we did years ago. Anne has German ancestors on both sides of her family, and I have a few as well, so there should be some places we can visit (discoverable through some genealogical homework), that have connections with our ancestry.

    My uncle and cousin did a lot of research on that part of my family a few years ago, which I have but never really looked through until the other day. A lot of it is Ireland, but there is a bit about my mother’s father’s paternal grandparents, who had come to the US separately from different parts of Germany, and met and married in Manhattan’s “Little Hanover.” My great-great-grandfather Heinrich Barth was from Leese (near Hanover) and my great-great-grandmother Helene (Euchen) Barth was from Mehring (just outside Trier near the Luxembourg border).

    Well, bedtime. We’re getting up early for tomorrow’s ride.