22 September 2008

Instructional hockey skating links

A friend of mine is starting to learn hockey and he asked me for tips on skating. Here's a nice collection of (free) links I found.

Forward stop

http://www.sportskool.com/videos/turning (video)

Backwards skating
http://www.sportskool.com/videos/backward-skating (video)


Quick start

Videos on skating (general)

If you're willing to spend money, get Robby Glantz's skating DVDs.

17 September 2008

Link of the day: RescueTime

Lifehacker mentioned the computer usage tracking software RescueTime almost a year ago, but I didn't try RescueTime until now. [Note: The Lifehacker post is a little old so I recommend visiting the RescueTime website to see the current features.]

As long as you're not too worried about privacy or installing yet another application on your hard drive, RescueTime seems like a nice piece of software. It tracks what applications and web sites you're visiting, then transmit that information to a central data server where you can log in and see how you actually spend your time. It's sobering to see that you thought you did six hours of work, but actually only three. Of course, this doesn't work very well for off-computer time like updating my research notebooks.

In my first week of usage, RescueTime seems like a killer app and I recommend it. I'd like to write a more detailed post on RescueTime at some point (maybe a few weeks or months from now?)

10 September 2008

Song of the day: "Superman" by Lazlo Bane

OK, I've decided that "A Little Respect" is one of the most annoying pop songs I've ever heard, up there with the Backstreet Boys.

Back to the song of the day, this one is the theme song for Scrubs. It was supposedly suggested by show star Zach Braff. He thought that one of the core theme of Scrubs is the fallibility of the characters.

"Superman" is much better than "A Little Respect." I think alternative music pays more attention to lyrics than pop. Is it me or is the reference to 405 from Los Angeles?
Out the door just in time
Head down the 405
Gotta meet the new boss by 8 am

The phone rings in the car
The wife is working hard
She's running late tonight again

I know what I've been told
You gotta work to feed the soul
But I can't do this all on my own
No, I know I'm no Superman
I'm no Superman


You've got your love online
You think you're doing fine
But you're just plugged into the wall

And that deck of tarot cards
Won't get you very far
There ain't no hand to break your fall

I know what I've been told
You gotta know just when to fold
But I can't do this all on my own
No, I know I'm no Superman
I'm no Superman

That's right
== harmonica solo ==

You've crossed the finish line
Won the race but lost your mind
Was it worth it after all

I need you here with me
Cause love is all we need
Just take a hold of the hand that breaks the fall

Well I know what I've been told
Gotta break free to break the mold
But I can't do this all on my own
No I can't do this all on my own
I know that I'm no Superman
I'm no Superman
I'm no Superman

Someday we'll be together
Someday we'll be together
I'm no Superman

09 September 2008

Song of the day: "A Little Respect" by Erasure

No particular reason for this song except that it played a major role in the story line of Scrubs episode "My Best Friend's Mistake." Scrubs is an awesome show -- a real pick-me-up for those low times, especially when you can't fall asleep. To be honest, when I listen to pop music, it's as filler, catchy background music.
I try to discover
A little something to make me sweeter
Oh baby refrain from breaking my heart
I'm so in love with you
I'll be forever blue
That you give me no reason
Why you're making me work so hard

That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no

Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby please give a little respect to me

And if I should falter
Would you open your arms out to me
We can make love not war
And live at peace in our hearts
I'm so in love with you
I'll be forever blue
What religion or reason
Could drive a man to forsake his lover

Don't you tell me no
Don't you tell me no
Don't you tell me no
Don't you tell me no

Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby please give a little respect to me

I'm so in love with you
I'll be forever blue
That you give me no reason
You know you're making me work so hard

That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no
That you give me no

Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby please give a little respect to me

Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby please give a little respect to me

07 September 2008

A tale of two super brothers (sisters)

This is a tale of two brothers (sisters).

The two brothers (sisters) love each other very much. In fact, they share a house together. Ah, they live the American dream -- a house complete with a white picket fence and a "green" pipe for getting around (the siblings are environmentally conscious).

Notice that the house has the name of the older brother (sister) on it. Of course, Mario (qmechanic) is much more famous and important that his (her) younger sibling.

Mario (qmechanic), being the wiser and more mature brother (sister), frequently travels far from the house. When he (she) gets home, he (she) always sits down with bro (sis) Luigi to retell the adventure. This is one of the few times when Mario (qmechanic) talks more than his (her) brother (sister). When the siblings talk over the phone, Luigi is usually the loquacious one. To be fair, Luigi also goes on adventures, but the tales he (she) tells are so ridiculously exaggerated, who knows what happened? Just ask Luigi's partner, Blooey.

The house is decorated with white walls, as young Luigi favors a minimalistic scheme. The plant is probably not Enitsirk...

Note the bunk bed. Both brothers (sisters) enjoy sleeping. Their favorite lullaby is sung by Crazee Dayzee: "laaaa la la laa laa laa laaaa dink!" Though Mario (qmechanic) admits that Luigi's expensive gift of the sun clock also works very well.

As much as they love each other, they have the usual sibling rivalry. One day, Mario (qmechanic) found Luigi's diary.

First page:
Once again, my brother went on an exciting journey. Once again, he went alone. It's so unfair! I remember the carefree days when we played Golf and Tennis and had Parties. I remodeled the house and made a secret basement. My brother has no idea! It's the perfect place to write in you, my secret diary. I heard that a ghost appeared in Toad Town today. It was big, really big. And it had red eyes, a giant, gaping mouth and a mustache.
Second page:
..........Because you're my secret diary, I'll tell the truth: Yaaaah! I hate ghosts!! What will I do if it appears at night! Come back, Mario! I'm scared! Yikes! I can feel something behind me. Ahhh! I'm sure it's there, but I can't look back! No! No! Get away! I think I'll be safe if I don't freeze with fear. I'll just shut my eyes and take five steps back, and then I'll jump and dash into bed. Here I go!
Although Mario (qmechanic) used to beat up on his (her) brother (sister) when they were younger, Luigi secretly looks up to Mario (qmechanic).

In the later pages of the diary, Luigi writes of his (her) wish.

The wish had been written in pencil and subsequently erased, but the letters were still faintly legible.

Despite being ordinary plumbers (grad students) in their day jobs, they moonlight as superheroes. Hopefully, they will go on an adventure together in the near future!

Footnote: A few corrections are in order. Okay, we don't live in a house together yet, but we have thought about it. Despite the picture, qmechanic is actually taller than her sister. Also, qmnechanic's sister says she prefers red over green. It is true that qmechanic's sister lacks coordination. Remember all the times her character fell into a pit or into water while playing Thousand Year Door?

And just kidding about the diary. But wait... qmechanic better check the floor boards...

02 September 2008

Amateur computation

I finally got around to reading Brian Hayes's essay "Calculemus!" from the American Scientist. The essay and many of Hayes's other works are available on bit-player.org.

Hayes talks about making computation more accessible to laypeople so the average computer user can do "inquisitive computing." He gives some examples of inquisitive computing from mathematics, for instance, perfect medians. A positive integer m is a perfect median if it satisfies the equality 1 + 2 +... + m-1 = m+1 + m+2 + ... N for some number N.

Inquisitive computing is a cool idea. I have often thought about becoming a better programmer by challenging myself with little problems. I don't have the kind of personality to work on mathematical puzzles, but I would like to learn enough so I can write scripts to solve tedious everyday problems. For example, a week ago, I wanted to import my calendar file to Yahoo. The support staff at Yahoo told me that in order to safely import my 16,000 line CSV file, I should divide it into 1000 line chunks. If I hadn't been so lazy, I should have written a Python script to read the CSV file line-by-line and spit out a 1000 line CSV file after each 1000 line chunk. I was lazy because I don't know Python well enough yet.

These types of problems come up all the time and I'm always really impressed when I see a person post a script solution on a computing forum. One of my goals is to someday become that person -- the scripting guru.

01 September 2008

Weightlifting routine - September 2008

After reading Starting Strength, I made a number of changes to my workout.
  • I'm doing five sets of five reps (5x5) for the heavy full body lifts (e.g. squat, press), so I can focus on learning form.
  • Pendlay rows are a new exercise I'm using in substitution of the power cleans recommended in Starting Strength.
  • I dropped pullups and lateral raises from my upper body program. There were too many exercises and I couldn't find a way to do assisted pullups with a full range-of-movement. My gym is not pullup-friendly to short women.
  • Bicycle crunches are a core exercise, not a leg movement. However, I stuck them with the leg workout so I can get a bit more ab work in.
  • I'm pretty lazy on the cardio right now -- 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. By lazy, I mean that I could do that workout half asleep. Maybe I should increase the resistance. Another idea is to try the rowing machine. Personally, I find it difficult to do an intense workout on an elliptical or cycling machine if there is no one to push you but yourself.
Monday: Upper body and cardio
Tuesday: Legs
Wednesday: Core and cardio
Thursday: Upper body and cardio
Friday: Legs

Squat 5x5 [45 lb]
Deadlift 5x5 [35 lb]
Hip abduction 3x8 [36 lb]
Hip adduction 3x8 [36 lb]
Rotary hip [50 lb], all four directions, both legs 2x8
Seated calf raises 3x8 [90 lb]
Leg curl 3x8 [36 lb]
Bicycle crunches 2x10 [body weight]

Upper body
Bench press 5x5 [45 lb]
Press 5x5 [15 lb]
Assisted dips 3x8 [-60 lb]
Tricep extensions with EZ bar 3x8 [20? lb]
Barbell curl 3x8 [25 lb]
Barbell wrist curls 3x8 [9 lb]
Barbell reverse wrist curls 3x8 [6 lb]

Pendlay rows 5x5 [25 lb]
Leg raises 3x8 [body weight]
Broomstick twists 3x8 [body weight]
Back extension 3x8 [body weight]
Dumbbell shrug 3x8 [2 x 7.5 lb]