Tour de France

Above is our new kitten, a eight-week old female. We have decided to name her Voltron. She is kind of skittish but enjoys some attention. Our adult cat seems unhappy about this and has been hiding under the bed all evening. We hope they'll eventually get along and be friends. For now we're going to keep her in a box when we're not interacting with her.

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Collegiate Nationals Photos

2007 TTT

Above is a photo of Tyler Ofstad, Me, Chris Nekarda and Alex Jarman in the 4000M Men's Team Time Trial. I've posted more photos from my camera on the UCSD Cycling website. Update: The website is now very different and those photos are no longer there.

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2007 Collegiate Track Nationals Video

Download Quicktime Movie

Above is a video I put together documenting the 2007 Collegiate Track Nationals. I put this race together over the last 10 months (along with a great deal of help from others, especially Chris Nekarda). Held at the San Diego Velodrome, over 100 collegiate cyclists from around the country competed over three days. My team, UCSD, did quite well, and at least one UCSD rider was on every podium.

Some notes: If I had planned my video a bit more before the event, I could have had done a better job (imagine that!). In particular, a few of my teammates are under-represented in the video, which was purely accidental. I would have liked to have a more even coverage of everyone.

More notes: I would have uploaded the video to YouTube, but there are too many copyrighted songs that would be blocked.

I hope you enjoy the movie. Thanks to Chris Schroeder for letting me borrow his DV video camera, and Chris Nekarda for a few still photographs in the movie.

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Looking Fast

Leader Track Bike

As you can see above, my bike looks fast! I just hope that looking fast will make me fast.

I finally have my Pro-Lite wheels on my track bike. The rear wheel has an interchangeable hub for road and track setups. It came with the road hub installed, and it was supposed to have come with the track hub part in the box. It didn't. It also didn't come with the front wheel skewer, and brake pads, which it should have. I am borrowing the missing parts for the the next week so I can actually ride my wheels.

Speaking of nice bike stuff, take a look at Anna Lang's new ride below. Her sponsors are having her ride a $9,000 Look 496 Track Frame, which is just plain crazy. She's a graduate student like me, so that's a large portion of her yearly income. There's no way she would be riding it on her own means. Here's an article about this unique frame.

Leader Track Bike

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Red Dragonfly

King Skimmer

While watering our neighbors garden, as they are gone to yet another wedding, Melissa and I saw this bright red dragonfly. It appears to be a male King Skimmer. Every minute or two, it would take off from its branch, hop around in a few circles, and land on the very same stick again.

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Tropical San Diego

La Jolla Dew Point

According to wikipedia and Weather Undeground, at 7:50 am today, the dew point in La Jolla was somewhere between "somewhat uncomfortable: and "quite uncomfortable." I would agree with that.

For over the last week San Diego has been subject to a flow of warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. The temperatures haven't been all that high in absolute terms, perhaps as high as 30C (85F), but the humidity has been unpleasant. Furthermore, my apartment is uninsulated and has no air conditioning – so the windows stay open 24 hours a day. By the mid-afternoon, it's often a few degrees warmer in the apartment than outside. And our neighbors smoke on their patio about dozen times a day, which is annoying. It gets worse: One of the buildings next to us is having its roof replaced and all week the smell of fresh tar has been wafting inside the apartment day and night.

I usually don't complain about warm weather, I actually like it. But, lately, I'm looking for a little relief from the sticky humidity, the cigarette smoke and the tar.

(P.S. Of my faithful readers, my brother Adam has it the worst, of course, being in Vietnam right now. It's much more humid and oppressive there. However, Vietnam is 20 degrees farther south than here, so that's to be expected.)

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Leader Track Bike

Leader Bike

Yesterday I got the replacement frame for my Broken Fuji track frame. I got an aluminum LD 735TR 61cm track frame and carbon fork for a very reasonable price, especially considering how short notice it was. I have several friends who are riding Leader frames and they are happy with them. Happily, this new bike has considerably less red than the Fuji.

If you look at the full size image (by clicking on the image above), you'll see that I've placed a piece of an old tube around the top tube using two green zip ties. This is there to protect the top tube from the handlebars, which tend to whack the top tube. Regular bikes don't need this as brake and shifter cables help dampen the handlebar swinging motion.

When I put my Pro-Lite carbon disc rear and aero front wheels (which should arrive soon!) on this black frame, it will look awesome! And that's what counts.

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Broken Fuji

Fuji Crack

Almost a year ago, during my return trip from Indianapolis, my 2005 Fuji Track Pro was dented due to the TSA improperly re-packing my bike box after inspecting it. I managed to parlay this into an almost $1000 check from the TSA after documenting their liability quite thoroughly.

The bike wasn't actually fatally damaged. It still rode true and there weren't any cracks, just a dent. Aluminum tubes are strong enough to use as long as they aren't creased with sharp edges (this is what I have been told). For the last five months I've been riding my Fuji with a dent in the downtube with no problems -- until now. Now, I'm afraid, the bike has made it's last lap of a velodrome. Yesterday I found that the dent has turned into a crack that you can see. The crack starts in the dent and works around the bottom of the tube to the other side.

In my Fuji's lifetime it has seen four velodromes: San Diego, Hellyer in San Jose, Northbrook in Chicago and Major Taylor in Indianapolis. My cyclometer has 2850 km on it, which works out to 1770 mi. Most of my time has been in San Diego, which is a 333 meter track. Major Taylor is also 333m, while Hellyer and and Northbrook are slightly longer. I'll simply use a 333 meter lap. That odometer distance gives 6800 laps. I'm sure the actual number is quite different than that, but you get the idea. 6800 laps is a bunch of going fast, and turning left. And not forgetting to pedal.

Goodbye good friend!

Now I need to find a new frame, soon. Hopefully the new one won't have any red on it, my one dislike of the Fuji. When that's all sorted out I'll post a picture of my new single speed steed.

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Las Vegas

This last weekend I drove to Las Vegas for a one night stay to celebrate Chris Schroeder's upcoming wedding. Las Vegas wouldn't have been my first choice for such an occasion, but I'm not getting married.

A nice rock formation

A nice rock formation

The drive itself is actually much more interesting than, say, the drive on I-5 in the central valley. Unlike that drive, there's lots of topography to see. The Mojave is surrounded by fairly high mountains and to get to Las Vegas you have to drive over them. The weather provided a point of conversation too. The desert southwest was in a heat wave over the weekend and we saw a high of 116 in Baker, CA. I'm sure my mother was happy to not be on this trip.

I went with three other people besides Chris: Paul and Shane, both physicists, and Francisco, a Portuguese bioengineering graduate student. He's Portuguese by nationality, not his studies. We stayed over Saturday night in Las Vegas at Binion's hotel on the old strip. The old strip of Las Vegas was the strip until about the 1950s. Since then, most of the development money has gone to the new strip which is farther South, outside of the Las Vegas city limits. Because the new strip is where most people go, the old strip tries really hard to attract tourist and gambling money.

One of the things the old strip has done to attract visitors is to convert the main street into the Fremont Street Experience. The road was turned into a pedestrian mall and a 5 block long canopy was erected. The inside of the canopy is covered in millions of LEDs which plays video throughout the night. It's all very excessive. The videos celebrate what's great about the USA: NASCAR, dancing ladies, loud classic rock and country music, and cool computer graphics. They also have free street attractions, like four motorcycles in a sphere.

There's other evidence of the USA in its finest form in Las Vegas. I was aghast at the number of people with small children with them at 11:30pm.

No good

Also the number of amazingly fat people. The convergence of so many temptations is unique too. My submission to temptation of gambling cost me $10. I did not submit to the other temptations which would have further emptied my wallet.

A fool and his money

Overall I found Las Vegas more interesting than entertaining. I have a strong enough mathematical background and not enough greed to find gambling worthwhile. I find nudie bars boring. The various shows in Las Vegas are out of my price range (most start at around $70). I suppose if I was a heavy drinker I could find all of the above compelling (or at least a good idea while intoxicated), but, alas, I'm not. It should be a while before I visit Las Vegas again.

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A Drive to Newport Beach

919 frames, 1h15m real time, ~5s between frames, my apartment to Newport Beach, I-5 to I-405 to CA-55, June 30, 2007

Here is a neat time lapse of the drive from my apartment to Melissa's maternal grandmother's house in Newport Beach. I set my camera up on the tripod in the rear section of my Volvo station wagon. I held the tripod down with a few bungee cords, but you'll notice that the camera moves slightly through the duration of the movie. I'll have to devise some sort of better securing mechanism for future efforts. In particular, I'd like to figure out a solid way of having the camera point forward on the dashboard. I cropped the images to remove the majority of the inside of the car as it isn't very exciting.

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Helicopter Gymnastics

It's been over a month since I flew by Blade CP. I've put it down because every time I pick it up, I want to spend money on it to make it fly better. But I don't actually want to spend money on it because I'm saving up for a nicer and more capable helicopter. In the interim, I've been playing with my simulator quite a bit and working on my skillz (with a "z").

Playing exclusively on the computer doesn't give me complete confidence that I can actually apply these skillz to the real world. There's no reset button in the real world. A confidence-builder is how much better I can fly the Blade CX2 now (which my father bought for Christmas last year). The last time I flew the CX2, nose-in (when the controls are backwards) flying was a bit sketchy - now I can fly in all orientations. To that end, check out the video below of some heli gymnastics.

The width of the skylight is about twice the diameter of the blades, so there's not too much wiggle room.

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Opening Yellow Flowers

25s playing time, 150 frames, ~40s between frames, May 28, 2007

Because there is so much going on here, I find it's nice to look at just one flower open up at a time. As the overcast conditions gave way to sunshine, intermittent clouds covered the sun, which lead to the change in brightness during the movie. As is the case with many of my time-lapse movies, the higher resolution version is well worth the download. Of course, either version is much better than anything you'd see on YouTube.

I also took some close-up images of the flowers, and the honey bees patronizing them. A couple of the bees had very impressive collections of pollen on their legs.


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Damn You May Gray

No, May Gray isn't a person, it's a Southern California phenomenon that happens during the months of May and June. In June it's called "June Gloom." Let me put it simply. Here is the Berkeley 5-day forecast off of Wunderground:


and here is the La Jolla 5-day forecast:


I miss the sun.

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Site5 Could Be Better

A week ago I saw a posting on digg about how Dreamhost sucks. It got me thinking about the problems I've been having with my account with Site5. Let me say that at no point has my experience been anywhere as bad as the one described in that link.

My hosting plan is on a shared webserver. Here is an informative page (broken link) about my machine, named iaso. It has four Intel 2.8Ghz Xeon processors, and four gigabytes of RAM. It runs Linux which is a solid server OS.

My big problem are periods when this very website is unresponsive. There are lots of other websites on the same computer. And by lots I mean on the order of 600 websites:

-bash-3.00$ cat /etc/passwd | grep -v nologin | wc -l<br />

The number of users with logins is not a one to one list of websites served, but it's probably a good estimate. All it takes is one of the 600 users with a bad webpage to clog up the machine.

Below is a plot of the load level for iaso over the course of 15 days last month. Without going into specifics, a load level of one means that there is one process needing a processor at any given moment. It will be many different processes, and that's fine. Practically, a machine can stay responsive with up to about a load of three or four per processor. So, on a four processor machine like iaso, a load level of 10-15 is about the highest comfortable level.


What you see above are many occasions when iaso went well above load levels of 25. The highest peak was a load of 230. In my experience, once the load reaches 25 my website becomes more than slow: it doesn't work anymore.

For comparison, below is a plot of the same thing on one of the nodes of the supercomputer I use, Datastar. This is the node where scientists do heavy-duty analysis on their datasets. For instance, I use this node to process my multi-gigabyte datasets using IDL. People also run Mathematica and other very computationally intensive tasks on this machine. It's got 32 1.7Ghz Power4 processors and 256GB of RAM (what do you have on your workstation, huh?). It runs IBMs AIX 5.3. As you can see below, for the first four days, the load level stays below one process per processor. In the fifth day something happens and it goes above 60 for a while, before the machine gets rebooted and things return to normal.


The kind of processes that run on the two computers above are very different. However, the supercomputer is supposed to run big jobs and get beat on. A webserver isn't. Anytime the webserver's load goes above 25, it's like the supercomputer's load shooting to 256. At no time did the supercomputer shoot to 256, while the webserver goes above 25 many times. Of course, I'm comparing 15 days to 5 days in the two plots, but I think the differences are clear.

Site5 pays a third party to monitor their webservers, with results listed here (link broken). iaso (link broken) has 99.8% uptime overall and 99.4% over the last month. This is bad enough that apparently I'm due a 5% credit on my next billing cycle. iaso isn't even living up to Site5's own service standards.

Every time I catch my website being slow, I contact Site5 tech support. I know that this is a common problem with shared hosting. I'm sure that Site5 is aware that these outages, and does what they can when they happen. But, when it does happen, it's annoying. It shouldn't happen in the first place. Sometime this summer, Site5 is changing their hosting solution which may help with these problems. We'll see.

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Ethics Course

I guess the UC system has been working it's way down the ladder of the compensation scandal hierarchy. I thought they had forgotten about that sweetheart deal I gave to absolutely no one. I finally got my invitation today to learn how to stop myself from doing absolutely nothing again. I've decided to include you with me as I clean up my act. Off we go!

Page 1: What? No pig latin? Utbay tsiay hatway mIay ostmay omfortablecay ithway!



Page 2: It's our President, Robert Dynes, with a video message. From the video it's clear he's not used to the talking head bit. His eyes are a good 15 degrees away from the camera the whole time. My favorite part is when he says "I liked it" when referring to taking the ethics course himself. If he really did enjoy it, he's disturbed.

Page 3-5: Blah blah blah. Introductory text, a short outline of the course.

Page 6: This reminds me of Dilbert comics I've seen before. The last one below has me thinking -- when was the last time a graduate student really felt like their dignity was being respected? I suppose in the end we only have ourselves to blame since we got ourselves into this mess.

We are committed to the following principles:

Integrity. We will conduct ourselves with integrity in our dealings with and on behalf of the University.

Excellence. We will conscientiously strive for excellence in our work.

Accountability. We will be accountable as individuals and as members of this community for our ethical conduct and for compliance with applicable laws and University policies and directives.

Respect. We will respect the rights and dignity of others.

Page 7-8: I'm given the "Standards of Ethical Conduct." In summary, except for the financial reporting bits, it's pretty much the same thing you might get in your high school welcome book. Respect others, respect yourself, do right for yourself, snitch on others. That sort of thing.

Page 9: Oooh. We're finally getting relevant to me now. We're going to follow the ethical decisions of "Edna" the Business Manager of a large department. This describes my position and responsibilities as a physics graduate student.

Page 10-13: Uh ohs, Thuvan (a name I've never heard before) is taking perks from hotels. Thuvan schedules large conferences and chooses hotels which will receive this business. Thuvan is spending all day hanging out at hotels getting free food and services. It looks like Edna has to talk to her about following ethics rules.

Edna Tim

Page 14-17: A professor just got a big grant, and wants to hire the department chair's wife for a position, but without doing a proper job search. Tim wants to play along so there's no trouble from the professor, but Edna knows better. It looks like Edna has to sit down with another employee. Notice the slick graphics to help me visualize the situation.

Page 18-22: A professor has found a desirable, young and grant-rich researcher at another institution, and would like to hire her. But in order to do this, her salary would be higher than university standards. Oh no! Do we follow the rules or ";make a secret promise to raise the salary in a year?" We follow the rules, of course.

Page 23-45: I'm going to be nice to you and speed you over the rest of Edna's ethics situations. She really has got a bunch of lousy employees. The only things I learned that apply to me are: Don't steal lab equipment (no one will notice a super computer missing, will they?) and don't gossip to the media when your lab-mate gets arrested (I'll just do it anonymously, guys).

Page 46-48: Just use common sense, dammit! Well, it didn't say dammit, but it should have.

Page 49-51: Here they're just insulting me. They give an example of a campus gardner who used what he learned from an online ethics course in a few sticky situations. They're attempting to show that even low-level employees have ethics choices to make. But even here, this gardner has more power over facilities and purchasing decisions than I do. I want them to give the example of an employee like me that applied what he learned. The problem is, I have power over nothing. No one is going to put me in a sticky situation because I have nothing to offer in return.

Page 52: Regent Parsky gives me a video message thanking me for taking the course. No, thank you Regent Parsky.

Page 53: An offer to provide feeback and a certificate of completion!!! Whew. Now I feel validated. This is going up in my office so everyone knows my ethics are unreproachable.

I'm ethical

Congratulations to you if you read this far.

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