Well isn’t that just super!

Well, dammit. I just managed to delete my entire MySQL database for this website. I'm going to post my old posts using Yahoo!'s and Google's website cache, but I feel stupid.

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North Korea

I have been reading all kinds of travelogues about North Korea recently. I find it an incredibly interesting place, it's kind of frozen in time since the Korean War. It's very Orwellian, the way China and the USSR used to be. I find the utter ignorance to the outside world of the average North Korean fascinating. And Kim Jung Il is always amusing (10cm lift shoes!), except when he's allowing his people to starve by the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions).

See what the CIA thinks about North Korea.

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Today I installed a cantenna on the roof of my apartment building. A "cantenna" is a highly directional, high-gain microwave antenna made out of a can, like a soup can. The most common application is for long distance wireless internet links (802.11x). I made my cantenna out of an old Maxwell House coffee can.

The cantenna points towards the UCSD Cancer Center, which is roughly 325 meters away from my apartment. This is outside the usual range for wireless internet. My apartment faces Southeast, while the center is Northwest of my building, meaning I cannot see the building at all from inside my apartment.


After getting permission from the apartment maintainence supervisor, I put a 16" long peice of 3/4" square pipe on the facia of the building. On top of that I screwed on an old flag mount, one you would attach to the side of your house on independence day. The flag mount has a part that has one pi steradian movement, allowing me to have a good measure of freedom to aim the cantenna. The cantenna is wired to a Linksys WET11 which lives in a plastic box under the cover of my porch ceiling. From there an ethernet wire goes inside through a small hole in the screen door frame.


It was amazing how easy it was to get a strong connection! I had already done some simple tests, holding the cantenna up on the end of a broom. But nothing was guaranteed until I actually installed the thing. All I have to do is make sure the trees stay pruned back!

While it isn't the fastest connection ever (~300 kb/s max) it is very cheap (free-99). I estimate I've put about $100 into materials. My own DSL/Cable connection would cost that much every two or three months. It's especially fast to campus computers, where I send most of my data back and forth.

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Yay! More Photos

Let me start by saying that film is dead for amateur photography. The photos I took below are from my nice 35mm Minolta SLR camera. It's a much better camera than my digicam, and it was a joy taking pictures with it. The reason why film is dead is this. The film took over a week to be developed, and it cost $14 for only 24 shots + a CD. That's highway robbery, especially considering how long they took to come back.

Moving on, here are some photos from a Padres game on May 15, 2005, and some photos of my new apartment.

The Padres new park is nice:


It's built on an old rail yard, of course:


My new Mesa apartment, which will save me lots on rent over where I was before:


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Old Old Photos

Some time ago I came across some old slides of photos I assume my father took. They appear to be from the mid-1970s. I scanned them but then kind of forgot about them. I was poking around on my archive DVD of photos and came across them. Here are my favorites:

A pretty sunflower:


My parents old kitchen, and one of their malamutes.


All I can think when I see this photo is "What a nice road to ride a bike on!";


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Funky Bike Mount

The Garmin 301 Forerunner, which I've mentioned before on this site comes with a velcro wrist band. Which is great for running but when I cycle I prefer to have nothing on my wrist. Whatever I have on my wrist tends to slide down and rest against the top of my hand (because my wrist is bent upwards holding the handlebars). The skin then gets pinched whenever I go over a bump -- which is often.

But my anal-retentiveness doesn't stop there! Simply putting the unit on the handlebars wouldn't suffice. I prefer to have nothing at all on the handlebars because I shift my grip over the entire width of the bars. I wanted the unit front and center, where it belongs, anyway. I knew I had to be creative!

I have faced this problem before mounting a Polar HR unit in front of the handle bars. That time I built an aluminum mount that was wedged between the stem and faceplate. That has since broken (it wasn't the best design anyway). I wanted something similar.

So here it is, a funky bike mount:

GPS Mount

I used a Polar HR mount with a piece of PVC pipe stuck inside of it. I then used four zip ties (two in tandem at a time) to attach the mount over and under the handlebars and around the stem. I also used some pieces of rubber to make the whole arrangement thicker so the watch band would be tight. Luckily for me there was a small hole between the polar mount and the front of the stem where I could fit a band:

GPS Mount

The 301 uses the normal wristwatch style attachment with the pins, so I just bought a cheap drug store plastic band a cut down one side so it could fit through the hole pictured above. You can see that the band has been slimmed:

GPS Mount

The mount isn't the most steady -- the unit does shake. But I think it's pretty sturdy and I'm confident that my gadget won't go flying.

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Garmin Forerunner 301 & Mac OS X

I recently bought a Garmin 301 Forerunner, a nifty wrist-sized GPS unit with a heart rate monitor. The premise is pretty cool -- I can see my heart rate next to the elevation profile of my route, along with an interactive map showing exactly where I went (once I upload the data to a computer, of course). I've been without any kind heart rate or cyclometer for almost 6 months since my old Polar S510 decided to croak. Apparently my sweat is so caustic that I rusted one of the buttons stuck and I lost some functionality. Then the battery died. A perfect excuse to upgrade, right?

Even before I bought the 301, I knew that it would have some problems. Specifically, Garmin is one of those block-headed companies that refuses to acknowledge Mac owners as more powerful than their market share suggests. We spend more money and buy more gadgets than Windozes people; see the iPod. I purchased the 301 anyway; I have an unconditional satisfaction guarantee with REI in case I give up on this project.

My hope was to to be able to use the 301 with a Windows Virtualization Software. This is one of the first GPSes to use USB, rather than the antiquated serial that manufacturers still cling to. So I figured it may just work with VPC. However, no luck. It seems like it almost works -- when I plug the GPS in Win XP recognizes the device and loads the Garmin USB GPS driver. The GPS shows up correctly in the device profile. I can install the Garmin software perfectly too. However, the Garmin software refuses to connect to the GPS. Very frustrating.

I verifed how it should work by using a regular PC, and I had no problems. Both the Garmin and MotionBased software works.

MotionBased is also annoying. The upload program is only Windows. The main interface is entirely web-based, but has poor Mac support. It makes Safari crash and I have had middling success using IE or Firefox. They have a free account option with limited functionality, and for $100/year the full suite of analyses. It's unlikely I'll be shelling out any money to them until they improve Mac support.

Right now I'm leaning to keeping the 301. I have enough access to Windoze machines to be able to use it. But I'll keep it begrudingly. Garmin is a big enough company to put some time into Mac OS X.

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UCI Track Worlds

Last weekend I attended the UCI Track World Championships in Carson, CA (basically LA). It was awesome. It's amazing seeing such good riders because they make going fast look easy. When I'm going hard (which doesn't equate to fast) I don't look good, not like these riders. Of course, I took photos. Highlights:

ADT Panorama

A not very clean panorama, but it gives you the general idea. The turns have a banking of 45 degrees. The track is 250 meters at the sprint (black) line. The track is made out of special siberian pine – so special that the whole arena is at a positive air pressure with constant temperature and humidity. There are about 6000 seats. It is by far the best facility in the United States. More Info.

Chris, Tona and Megan. Megan flew out from Colorado to spend her spring break with us dorks in San Diego

The Madison was insane!

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First Post

So here is my attempt at some kind of, thing. Like the title suggests, this whole thing will either: 1. Distract me too much 2. Waste my time 3. Get neglected and suffer rare updates.

I didn't want to make a whole website from scratch and I wanted something a little slick looking. And I've heard about this blogging thing. Although I don't think I'm going to blog, per se, I think this software has some advantages over alternatives. I like to play, too.

I guess my main goal of this site is for my own purposes. I'll post things here that interest me. I think it's primary purpose will be to post notices when I add new photos. Let's see what I do with this, huh?

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