Mon, 30 Jun 2003

Weight spike

There is a considerable spike on my weight chart today. It's the result of my first big meal since April 18th. Yesterday was Jenny's birthday, and we celebrated at Red Lobster. Rolls, mozzarella cheese sticks, Caesar Salad, steak and shrimp, and Bananas Foster Cheesecake seriously derailed the trend line.

I'll be back on the bike and back to restricting calories today to see if I can make a quick course correction. So, what's a typical meal plan?

[/personal] [link]

Sat, 28 Jun 2003

Model of efficiency

This week, I saw a superb example of efficiency. A roofer, working alone, and making progress at an astonishing pace.

He was putting a new roof on an office building across the street from Spokane Software Systems where I work. For the three days prior, three men had worked to remove the old roof. At about ten-thirty on this particular morning, however, there was only one worker, and he was already a third done.

I had just looked away from the computer screen for a moment to give my eyes a break when I noticed him. He was opening plastic wrapped bundles of tar shingles. Somehow, he'd pick them up, flip them over, releasing the shingles from the wrapper which he then twirled like a towel. Just at the point where (were it a towel) you'd expect him to snap an unsuspecting victim, he brought his hands together collapsing the wrap in to a tight, plastic ball and discarded it in a box.

He repeated the unwrapping process on several packages of shingles in just a few moments. Then, without a pause in the action, he began shuttling stacks of freshly unwrapped shingles down to the edge of the roof, placing stacks diagonally up the roof where the new shingles he had already laid met bare tar paper. Each time he placed as stack of shingles, he would fan each end of it like a deck of cards.

The pace was incredible. He was just short of running from the pallet load of shingles at the peak of the roof to next pre-staging point, moving up the diagonal on the roof, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.

When the pre-staging was complete, he began nailing new shingles in place with an air powered nail gun. Bam-bam-bam…bam-bam-bam…bam-bam-bam, perhaps one every two seconds. In no time, he had completed a march up the diagonal front to the peak of the roof. Then, he turned, and on his way back to the bottom edge of the roof, flipped each bundle of pre-staged shingles over, marching them toward the advancing front.

You could literally watch the line of new shingles advance across the roof.

I had only watched a few minutes, and in that time had seem him lay three or four new rows of shingles up the roof. Amazed at his efficiency, I turned back to my own work re-motivated.

About a half-hour later, I looked up again, expecting to see significant progress. I was surprised to see virtually none perhaps only one or two rows of shingles had been laid down since I had stopped watching.

I quickly spotted the problem. There were three workers on the roof, now. One was handing the original roofer shingles, but he was no where near fast enough. And instead of pre-staging them so enough were within reach at every point along the way, the helper ran to the peek and grabbed a new stack each time they ran out.

Bringing up the rear was another roofer. He was laying shingles in a second advancing line, but without assistance and without any pre-staging. So he was constantly setting his nail gun down and fetching more shingles. When the first roofer reached the peak and returned to the bottom edge of the roof for another pass, the two roofers had to deal with their tangled air lines. The beautifully efficient work that I had witnessed earlier had collapsed in to a chaotic stagger.

The addition of two people to the job slowed progress to a crawl. Seeing it reminded me of The Mythical Man-Month. Apparently the principle holds true in disciplines other than software engineering.

[/general] [link]

Thu, 26 Jun 2003

Two weeks, two incidents

Tomorrow marks my second full week riding to work and back, this year.

As a cyclist, sharing the road with motorists can be challenging and dangerous, especially when sharing it with the ignorant and the hostile. I’m accustomed to the “Get on the sidewalk!” shouts and other, much more threating actions from the latter group. So, I wasn’t surprised the other morning when I pulled up to a stop light to make a right-hand turn and encountered a hostile motorist on my tail.

See more …

[/cycling] [link]

Fri, 20 Jun 2003

Summer Solstice

There was some discussion at work today, on a break, about the Summer Solstice. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year in our neck of the woods.

I thought I had a reasonably good understanding of the earth’s tilted axis and it’s effects on the Sun’s path through the sky from my observation point here at 47.63 degrees north latitude. But someone asked, “Is it the longest day of the year everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, or just everywhere north of the Tropic of Cancer? And, if it’s the longest day of the year at some dividing line, how can it be the shortest day of the year just on the other side of that line?”

It wasn’t until I got home and found a few quiet minutes to close my eyes and ponder the question that it all made sense.

Yes. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and conversely, the shortest day of the year everywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. And you can stand on the dividing line between the two.

Right on the equator, every day, year-round, is the same length. Twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness. A few feet north, the days get just a little (as in infinitesimal fractions of a second) longer as the North Pole tilts toward the Sun, peaking at the Summer Solstice. The farther from the equator you get, the more pronounced the effect, until, at the North Pole, the Sun does not rise, or set. It circles sky, the 23 degrees above the horizon.

At the equator, although the Sun makes a northward arc as it travels across the sky, it rises due east and sets due west. At our latitude, this time of year, the Sun rises is the northeast and sets in the northwest, arcing southward as it travels across the sky. It’s the extra time it spends morning and evening, north of us, that gives us the extra hours of daylight.

Now that I’ve resolved my own confusion over the matter, I should be able to get a few hours sleep before the long day begins …unless I start worrying about when North, South, East, and West should be capitalized and when they shouldn’t.

[/science] [link]

Wed, 18 Jun 2003

This Hacker’s Diet

A few years ago, I went from about 220 pounds to 160 pounds with a low calorie diet and plenty of bicycling.

In the years since, for a variety of reasons (…excuses?…) I put all the weight back on, and more.

Then, referenced in a slashdot article I found John Walker’s on-line book, The Hacker’s Diet.

Reading it gave me just enough motivation to finally start taking the pounds off again. I wrote a couple of simple perl scripts to log my weight and graph it. I try to keep it updated, daily, for my own reference and to thumb my nose at a few friends who are now fatter that me. <g>

[/personal] [link]

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This site is the personal weblog of Marc Mims. You can contact Marc by sending e-mail to:
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