Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quantfied Athlete

There are plenty of gadgets and apps which help track your movement and activity through a day.   My own path to quantifying my exercise was gradual.  I started with tracking distance and frequency and later became more about performance than measuring distance.

First a little background.  I was never a "runner". When I ran, it was part of another sport, such as soccer.  I was a swimmer, so I knew what putting in time doing the same thing over and over meant.   I started running after my second son was born and wife suggested we run a 5k.  

So when I started running, making it around the block was an accomplishment.  I was active, but not cardiovascularly fit.  It didn't take long for me to build up on my distance to the point where I could do a loop near my home consistently (still less than 3mi).

It was then that I started tracking my running.   Initially, I used the car to measure my distance and tracked time using an Ironman sportwatch.  I would track my runs using pencil and paper taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet. I gradually added other longer routes which I calculated using GMaps-Pedometer. It is a simple useful tool that allows you to map out a route and get the mileage easily.  You pick a point and continue to mark points as it tallys up the mileage. I still use this to do route planning when I'm doing longer runs.  It's light weight and easy to use.

Seeing that I beat a best time on a route was reinforcing, as was not hitting that mark.   Occasionally, I would use a an on-line calculator to determine my actual pace over those miles, though at this point, I didn't have much of a reference for what was "good" for my age and experience.  I wasn't worried about pace, but only whether I did better than before.  Pace is great to compare yourself to others, but I needed only to better myself. I've gradually realized that racing and running more about what is "good" for you regardless of what others are doing.

I continued to track my workouts on paper for a while, but tapered off that as my runs became more consistent and gains were not a dramatic.   I started tracking again when I started training for triathlons.   I started using a free tool called Map My Run (and later Map My Ride).  The benefit of this is that you can track your mileage and workouts in one.  You set courses which tell you your mileage, then can log a workout against that course.   If you use a GPS enabled device, you can also sync it with this instead of manually logging workouts.  Map My Run added another dynamic to my training.  It showed me my weekly miles and when I'd worked out (and when I didn't).   It was helpful to see the total mile for a week at the crept over 40 or 50 miles.

I later bought the basic Garmin Forerunner (forerunner 10) to see if I liked it.   At about $129, it's not a small investment, but not massive either as I'd been racing for about 4 years at this point.   This model does pretty much all I want.. It displays pace during the workout, displaying it every mile, total mileage, course using GPS, and can do intervals as well as remind you when you fall under a target pace, neither which I've used (at least not intentionally).

Where the Garmin really comes into it's own, is when it's synced with the computer using their Garmin Connect software.   You can then pull up a view of your workout, very similar to Map My Run, with elevations and the course, except that you can view your pace throughout that workout and see where you're falling behind.  How fast are your uphills and how fast are your down hills etc.  For running, pace is good indicator as I generally don't vary too much, however on the bike it's virtually useless unless I look at two workouts on the same stretch or similar incline/decline, because your speed can vary so much depending on the terrain.   One thing I absolutely love about the Garmin and the bike is that I can see my average speed and top speed for the workout.  It's always a bit of a game to see if I've broken my top speed (41mph) and how my average was.

I know, there are other tools for monitoring performance such as heart rate monitors (no interest) and power meters for cycling (too expensive for my needs).  These are just a few ways to get started quantifying the workouts your doing.   Frequency is one measurement, duration another, then there's performance.  As I became more involved (not necessarily serious) about training and racing, the performance piece became more important.  Decide where you are on the spectrum and get started.  The key is to start. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Libraries as Amazon Associates has a program (AmazonSmile) which allows you to designate a charity which can receive a percentage of the total of your purchase.  It has another program (amazon Associates) which allows people to promote products through their websites, social media, YouTube etc and receive a percentage of those purchases.

While this appears all well and good, AmazonSmile contributes.5% (yes that's 1/2%) to your designated charity, while the associates program pays roughly 5% of the purchase price (10 times what the Smile program pays).

Who is a greater promoter of books, movies, music and magazines than libraries?.  Why shouldn't they be given the opportunity to be treated like the promoter they are rather than a charity?    The idea is to ties user's library accounts and turn it into a purchasing platform and earning them up to 10% on some products.

The Idea

Library patrons can log into their library account and search for a book.   If the book is in the library's collection, they can request it and/or buy it. If it is not in the library they can purchase it.   Users can also go into their lending record and retrieve titles they've borrowed so that hey could purchase those as well.  For every sale made, the library gets a percentage.
Patron's credit card and address are on file and products are shipped (free) directly to the customer.   Free shipping incentivises people to purchase their media through the library rather than externally.

This would give libraries another (much needed) stream of income and blend a natural place for discovery of books and media to a way for people to own that media.  How many times have you taken out a book and thought that you'd like to own it or that it would be a great gift.  This would give you a way to easily buy it and benefit your local library.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Introducing MakerFreak

Letters FRK and below that the words Maker Freak
I've been interested in carving out my making in a more structured way for a while.  MakerFreak is that way.

I've started a new YouTube channel and will be posting things under the Maker Freak label. Projects will also be posted here on the MakerFreak page of

Why Maker Freak
My making doesn't really have a single focus.  While I do woodwork, I also cook, sew, home repair, electronics and general exploration and making.  The other part of making for me isn't just the technique, its the mindset and the process.

The mindset of a maker is bigger than just creating.  When I read or think about the skills which leaders need and what the future will require, the maker embodies these.  Makers are curious, willing to try new things, willing to learn, willing to fail.  Makers are explorers and artists.   They use critical thinking to understand how something works and create something new.  What they don't know, they learn by reading, researching, talking to others or experimenting.

The process of making is about being observant of the world around us.   Makers question.  The Maker Freak channel will be a reflection of that mindset.

Subscribe to the MakerFreak You Tube channel

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cribbage Board Build

close up of cribbage board top and four pegs
I’ve wanted to do something for the last 10 years with scraps of mahogany I’d salvaged from our house.   It was wainscoting from the dining room, though didn’t appear to be original from the house, so I didn’t feel too bad about not returning it to the dining room once the room was redone.   So, instead, it’s been sitting in my basement.  I’ve used small scraps over the years, but haven’t made a substantial dent in it.  You’ll see a little of the disassembly in the video.  Even after all of these years, those rails and stiles were very tight and I ended up using a circular saw to separate some of them because I couldn’t get the bond to break.
So, when I’d decided I wanted to make a couple cribbage boards as Christmas gifts, the magohany seemed like a good option.   I coupled it with some scraps of oak left over from redoing the stairs in the old house and used some old nails I’ve recovered from flooring removed from the house as well.   I painted the tips of the nails to differentiate the players, and gave them three colored sets and one natural. 
This was my first try at finger joints.  After getting the basics from YouTube, I’d decided I didn’t want to make a complex jig (one for adjustability and reuse), I needed only to get the job at hand done.   So, I built a small finger joint jig.  My first pass at the joints left them too tight to assemble and the second a little loose, but nothing which glue couldn’t fix. 
I’d thought about using a wood burner to draw the lines and other markings on the boards.   My past experience (as a kid) using  a wood burner  weren’t great.  I remember it being hard to achieve a consistent line thickness as well as a straight line.  I decided that keeping a clean board without the lines and without the risk was the best way to go.  (I did get a new wood burning tool for Christmas, so plan on replacing those old memories with some new skills.)
All and all, I’m pleased with the project.  It took far more time than I’d anticipated (when doesn’t it), but that’s fine as they were gifts.   I am glad to know a bit of our home is in their homes.

two cribbage board boxes closed with pegs in the board
Cribbage Board closed

inside view of cribbage board box showing two decks of cards and space for the pegs.
Cribbage Board open

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