CSM Wellness Day

It’s been three years since I went the CSM Wellness Day events and been checked out. I figure this would be a good year to see how my health is doing:

  • 15.6% Body Fat – This is ideal for my age, gender, and weight
  • 4.54 Liters Forced Expiratory Volume (amount of air exhaled in the first one second) – 104% of predicted
  • 5.73 Liters Forced Vital Capacity (lung capacity) – 113% of predicted
  • Ratio of FEV1/FVC – 74% of predicted (this means I have trouble getting air out of my lungs)
  • Fusional Ranges:
    • 21.12 BI Break (Normal: >= 10 diopters) – Pass
    • 12.86 BI Recovery (Normal: >= 6 diopters) – Pass
    • 40.41 BO Limit Without Break (Normal: >= 20 diopters) – Pass
    • 40.41 BO Recovery (Normal: >= 16 diopters) – Pass
  • Accommodative Facility
    • Right Correct: 100.00% (Normal: >= 80%) – Pass
    • Left Correct: 100.00% (Normal: >= 80%) – Pass
    • Average Cycles/Minute: 30.17 (Normal: 12 Cycles/Minute) – Pass

I also have really, really flat feet. The flattest feet of the day so far with almost no arching. I have some basic arch support insoles for my shoes, but I may need to get some real, custom fitted ones.

I didn’t get my blood pressure checked this year, but every time I do I’ve always been told it’s excellent.

3rd Space Exploration Conference and Exhibition

The 3rd annual Space Exploration Conference and Exhibition was in Denver this year and we were invited to attend this invitation only event. One might think that invitation only events would be rather dull and highly boring, however I can easily say this was one of the best events I’ve ever been to.

NASA tasked Boeing with getting together the best of the best when it comes to space systems. And that’s what Boeing did.

When was the last time you stood next to America’s first liquid hydrogen fueled rocket engine, a Pratt and Whitney RL-10?

DSC_1868 (by Mr Ferguson)

In fact, Boeing still uses the RL-10 in their Delta IV. And of the three major rocket engines used in America (Boeing’s Delta IV, Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V and NASA’s Space Shuttle Main Engines), all of them are made by Pratt and Whitney.

Lockheed Martin had a robot there, Sprocket D. Rocket. Now originally, I thought it was just a simple AI robot. But then I listened to it talk and interact with other people and I thought it was just a remote controlled robot with a human behind it all. Later, someone told me that people would ask it esoteric questions in foreign languages and it would respond. If this is the case, then it fooled me and successfully passed my Turing test.

DSC_1854 (by Mr Ferguson)

The conference concluded with a panel of persons from all different aspects of the space industry, including a gentleman by the name of Pat Schondel who is the Vice President of Business Development for Boeing NASA Systems, a part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. After the panel was over, I went over and talked with him for a few minutes and picked his brain a bit about Boeing, what’s going in the space sector and internship opportunities in the in the space sector at Boeing.

Talking to Mr. Schondel turned out to be one of the highlights of my time since I’ve been trying find out about Boeing’s space interests for some time now, but Seattle really isn’t the place to do that. Mr. Schondel was able to fill in some gaps for me and give me the ever so slighest glimpse of what goes on down in Houston.

More Ways to Digest What I’m Thinking

From 143 subscriptions, over the last 30 days I have read 6,426 items, shared 52 items, and emailed 12 items.

That’s the synopsis from Google Reader. If you’d like to see what I share (i.e. what I find interesting), you can read my Link Blog:
Andrew Ferguson’s Link Blog.

It’s a good way to see what I know and find out what I’m interested. Especially since I really hate to create echo chambers. I really try not to post links to things here unless I have something substantial to add.

At some point (and depending on if I get any requests and how many), I may integrate the AFdN feed and my link blog feed together.

Glenwood Springs Hot Spring

Last month, we (Katie, Trevor, Logan, Tony and John) drove over to Glenwood Springs to go relax in the Hot Springs pool. I had never been there before and it was pretty cool to just be able to relax for the day.

There are two main pool areas open this time of the year, the small pool and the large pool:
From www.hotspringspool.com:

Our main pool, the “large” pool, is 405 feet long and 100 feet wide at the widest point. It contains 1,071,000 gallons of water, and is kept at about 90 degrees F / 32 degrees C. It has a diving area and exercise lap lanes.
Our therapy pool, the “small” pool is 100 feet long and contains 91,000 gallons of water. It is kept at a temperature of about 104 degrees F / 40 degrees C.

Pool Betas best (by Mr Ferguson)
Tony says, “The pool is round and ball is that way.”

On the way to the Hot Springs, we had to make a couple of stops. Just outside the local KMart is this awesome ride. Only 50 cents too!
Andrew and Bulldozer (by Mr Ferguson)

Random Space Needle Fact

The Space Needle is 184 meters tall. Despite its height, the center of gravity is only 1.5 meters about the ground.

From en.wikipedia.org:

The earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured when a hole was dug 30 feet (10 m) deep and 120 feet (40 m) across. An army of cement trucks (467 in all) took one full day to fill it up. In fact, the foundation alone weighs almost 6,000 tons and there are 250 tons of reinforcing steel in the base. With this concrete base weighing the same as the above-ground structure, the Needle’s center of gravity is just 5 feet (1.5 m) above ground level. The entire structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each bolt being 30 feet (10 m) long.

See also: Seattle’s World Fair 1962 picture postcard

New Toy

My brother got me a Bogen Super Clamp for Christmas. It was on my wishlist, so I was pretty pumped to use it. What I didn’t realize is that it didn’t actually come with all the hardware that I needed to use it. This was my fault.

After doing a bit of research on exactly what I would need and want, I finally ordered a swivel-bracket with umbrella mount and a 5/8″ snap-in pin.

I used B&H photo, which is the same company I ordered my tripod and head from. I can now take cool photos like this:

DSC_1761 (by Mr Ferguson)

In reality, I’ll be able to put my flash just about anywhere now:
From strobist.blogspot.com:

The bent arms of the clamping jaws make it particularly appropriate for clamping onto a variety of shapes. Pipes, railing, doors, shelves, tables, tree branches, electrical conduit running up the wall in a high school gym (not too tight…) are all no problem.

Automating SVN Tagging

I’ve been using the SVN version control system for a couple years now to maintain the code for the WordPress plugins I write. Using a version control system is a fantastic tool that allows me to write and release great code. However, this post is not about how SVN is spectacular and everyone should use it whenever they write code of any sort (although they should). This post is about automating SVN tagging.

But first, a quick overview of SVN and how things are done. There are three main directories for each plugin that I write: trunk, tag, branch.

‘Trunk’ is the main code area and is where all primary and active development of code occurs. The latest version of any plugin can be found in the Trunk folder.

‘Branch’ is similar to Trunk, however it’s mostly used for side development. It’s actually exactly the same as Tag, except that development continues in a Branch.

‘Tag’ is where copy of milestones are kept. For me, this means versions of plugins that I release. You can browse the tag folder and find all the versions of a plugin I’ve created and download them if you wanted. It’s similar to a Branch, but development is not continued.

I rarely create branches. I think this is mostly because I’m the only official contributor and there are not other developers working on them at the same time. So other then committing changes to the trunk, the only other operation I perform on a regular basis is tagging. The issue with tagging, though, is that it’s a tedious and repetitive process that should be automated in SVN for large sets of files, but isn’t.

This annoys me.

So I created a solution. I downloaded the SVN command line version and then wrote the following Batch file:

:input
set TAG=
set /P TAG=Version Tag: %=%
if "%TAG%"=="" goto input
echo Creating the version %TAG%
set BASEURL=http://svn.wp-plugins.org/countdown-timer
svn mkdir %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/ -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer.php
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer.po
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer.po
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer-es_ES.mo
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer-es_ES.po
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer-sv_SE.mo
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=afdn_countdownTimer-sv_SE.po
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=fergcorp_countdownTimer_java.js
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=readme.txt
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=screenshot-1.png
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"
set FILE=screenshot-2.png
svn copy %BASEURL%/trunk/%FILE% %BASEURL%/tags/%TAG%/%FILE% -m "Version %TAG% tag"

It’s not terribly pretty, in fact I’d argue that it’s downright ugly. But. It does get the job done. One of the things that I want to do is figure out a better way to do the “svn copy” part of the operation since it’s repetitive. However, Batch files don’t appear to handle arrays at all. Although they do handle loops (I believe) and I could just pass the file names in as parameters. I may end up converting the thing to VBScript or write little C++, although it’s been ages since I’ve done either.

If You Happen to Be in NYC Tomorrow: Radio Lab Premiere Listening

After my entry two posts ago on Continuous Partial Attention and my ever so slight mention of Radio Lab1, David Bukszpan, the publicist for WNYC Radio, sent me an email:

I see you’re a Radio Lab fan. I also see you’re out in Seattle, so you won’t be able to make it, but wanted to let you know the Season 4 Premiere Listening takes place tomorrow (Thurs) at the Angelika Theater in NYC.

More info at www.radiolab.org & www.wnyc.org/events/93353, in case you have readers in NY you’d like to tell about it.

So I know that at least a few of you are in New York, so I thought I’d pass this along.

And in case that wasn’t enough, check out scientist tickles rat in flattering red lighting at the Angelika Film Blog.

Perhaps Jad Abumrad or Robert Krulwich will call2 me next.

Update: See also: http://hughmcguire.net/2008/02/20/radiolab-live/

1 It was a footnote mention that said, “See also”
2 My number is on the right column of the blog

Countdown Timer v2.1.1

After dilly dallying around for a couple months, I finally got serious about pushing the 2.1 version out the door. A couple of reasons for this actually.

First, the WordPress 2.5 is coming out end of March/beginning of April and I wanted to get out one more release (this one) before the next version of WordPress hits the streets.

Second, it’s fits with my development flow; releasing every few months when I can.

Here are the list of updates in Countdown Timer v2.1.1:

  • Fixed i18n translation issues where mo file would sometimes not be loaded
  • Updated UI (note: Based on UI code from Google XML Sitemaps)
  • Removed code dealing with recurring events (which has not been included for a few versions now)
  • Added js countdown ability to admin example (which doesn’t have wp_footer hook?)
  • Updated the link to the JS file to make it dynamic in case a folder gets renamed
  • Fixed a bug in the JS file that caused dates to be calculated incorrectly
  • Append a letter to the beginning of the unique id (as per XHTML requirement)…who knew?
  • Added two language files: Swedish (thanks to Mattias Tengblad) and Spanish (thanks to Google Translator)

The biggest change user will notice is the new UI. It’s based off the code from Google XML Sitemaps which I’m assuming is based off the code from WordPress itself. The great thing about the new design is that you can collapse, expand and move around the boxes to fit your work flow.

All the other changes are ‘under the hood’ and deal with code changes to make things work better in a larger variety of situations.

The Countdown Timer plugin is about three months shy of its third anniversary of public release! I’ve basically been maintaining it since the end of freshman year in college, which is when I switched to WordPress.

The first public version was v0.6. It had about 50 lines of code and used a text file to store the data. There was also no UI at all.

Version 2.1 is about 950 lines of code. Storing data in a text file is gone, instead using the WPDB. There are also several support files, including the javascript port of the countdown mechanism which is another 150 LoC.

Since the beginning of last March, there have been over 8700 downloads, which would almost pay for a semester of college if everyone gave a $1 (wink wink)!

Read more or download version 2.1.1!

Update: Had to increment the plugin to version 2.1.1 because of the way that WordPress does version numbers. In short, v2.01 is the same as v2.1. So I had to release this as 2.1.1.

Continuous Partial Attention

Multitasking is out. The new thing is Continuous Partial Attention (CPA):

From radar.oreilly.com:

With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we’re connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive.

Linda Stone is the one credited with coming up with the idea.

Quirks and Quarks1, a CBC podcast that I listen to, just had an episode that dealt with Multi-tasking.

There is some interesting research being done to discover why there’s a bottleneck in in the brain and why the brain can then only work on one thing at a time.

A good analogy are computer processors. Until recently, most computers were single core (one processor). This meant that they could only perform one operation at a time.

However, most modern operating systems are multithreaded. This means that the computer can do (or at least appears to be able to do) multiple operations at once. It accomplishes this by creating threads of processes (task) that each take a turn using the single processor. In short: multitasking.

Nowadays, many computers have multiple processors on a single chip. This allows for for true multitasking, assuming your program of choice is designed to use multiple processors. The most common applications that take advantage of multiple processors are video and photo editing software. Why? Graphics often need to be generated and this just happens to be a perfect task that can be split up and parted out to multiple processors.

1 See also: This American Life; Radio Lab