Friday, December 30, 2011

Motivating Myself for 2012

It is that time of year that people look back on the year it was.  I look back and I'm pretty pleased with how it went down.  I've gotten some things done that I've been meaning to get done for a long time, I have challenged myself to learn new things, I have had good success at work, and I like to think that I am a little better person than I was when 2011 was about to roll in.

It is said that one way of making sure you carry through on something is to tell other people what you are doing.  The more people you tell, the more people you are letting down if you fail to follow through.  With that thought in mind, and with 2011 drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to look ahead and set some goals for 2012 in a couple different areas.

Working Out

I have been working out pretty diligently over the past four years or so and have become decently strong on a few lifts.  This despite having the frame of a Japanese schoolgirl and the fact that the testosterone train left the station long ago (i.e. I'm old).  I'm not expecting huge gains in muscle mass but I do think I have the capacity to put on a few more good pounds if I eat enough and don't get hurt.

My best lift is the deadlift.  Pick a weight up off the ground and put it back down.  Simple enough.  I can usually do something like 350lbs to 365lbs for five or six reps depending on the day with a bodyweight in the low 140lb range.  Not bad.  This should translate into a 415lb+ one-rep max.  Should, but probably doesn't, at least for me.  I find that my body doesn't seem to obey the basic predicted formulas for one-rep max

one-rep max = weight / (1.0278 - (.0278 * reps))

and that my reps go down sharply as the weight goes up.  So...

Goal #1: Deadlift 405lbs for a single rep.  That's four wheels a side.  This goal should be doable.  I just have to do it.
This is 495lbs, but you get the idea
One of my weaker lifts is the squat.  Yesterday's workout was 235lbs x 4 for a calculated one rep max of 256lbs.  This lags well behind my deadlift.  I feel my hamstrings are letting me down and will work to strengthen them up.  I really need to build up my bottom position strength before I see some decent gains here.  Because this lift sucks for me, I'm thinking...

Goal #2: Squat 280lbs for a single rep below parallel.  285lbs - 290lbs would be even better, as this would be 2x bodyweight.

 I get mistaken for Tom Platz all the time

My other lifts are decent enough, so I'd be OK with basically maintaining them as I bring these others up.  I can pretty easily Military Press my bodyweight, and I can do weighted chinups with an extra 77.5lbs of weight (around 55% bodyweight) hanging off a belt for 5 reps or so.  Bench press?  Screw it.  It has done my shoulders far more harm than good in the past.  I might play around here a little bit, but pushing serious weight with them isn't something I'm planning on.

Work

Work isn't really something I talk about this on this blog, so I won't.  Suffice to say I just hope I'm not putting in crazy amounts of extra time that would take substantially away from all this other stuff I want to do.

Hacking

This year we went away for a few days to spend Christmas with the family.  We had our neighbor check in on the place while we were away.  You never know if the furnace might go out or a pipe springs a leak or something like that.

Actually, you can know.  And it isn't that hard.  I've spent a bunch of time researching this lately.  There are a multitude of ways that data can be collected and made available so I could know right away if my furnace stopped working or a pipe sprung a leak.  Then I could just make a phone call for somebody to check into it rather than having them waste their time when everything is fine.  One strategy would be to collect the data with some JeeNodes from JeeLabs and the incomparable Jean-Claude Wippler.  JeeNodes are a kind of Arduino clone with built in network capabilities and an emphasis on low power such that a single remote node ran on a single LiPo for a year without breaking a sweat.  More here.  And did I mention that these things are crazy cheap?

Now, that data has got to get onto the net, so why not just hook up a JeeNode to my router and write a script like that used to collect data from my weather station and push it out on to the web?  If only there was a site that was willing to store all of this data for me and make it easy to get to.

It turns out that there is.  Pachube is happy to take all of the data I send to them.  They have an open API.  Look at the data from their web site or pull the data into a Google gadget and display it on a web page.  And you can retrieve the data whenever you want in three different formats.  All for free.  So how about...

Goal #3: Get some basic home monitoring going by Christmas 2012.
This is what I have in mind.
One more thing that I have been playing with for some time is trying to understand how the Davis Weather Station outdoor sensor suite is monitored by the indoor console.  What I'm working towards is some means of building a standalone receiver that could listen in on its transmissions and collect the data without depending on the console.  I had initially proposed a Pretty Pink Pager for this task, and indeed, I was playing with this just the other day.  Unfortunately, I'm struggling with some kind of problem with my GoodFET where it doesn't want to talk to the IM-ME, and this is slowing me down.

There is a problem with this approach though.  The number of people that have a Davis Weather Station, an IM-ME, and the means to hack it is a number one less than two.  The IM-ME is a good prototyping platform for this kind of thing, but it isn't an accessible solution for others.  The biggest problem is the CC1021 chip in the console is not exactly hacker friendly.  The documentation is great, but actually building a board around this thing is not: the components are tiny and a good layout is critical to decent performance.  Development boards also tend to be either expensive or very expensive.  Then I came across the XRF module from Ciseco that puts a CC1101 processor (CC1021 RF compatible) onto an XBee form factor board for just £10 plus another £2.50 for shipping.  What a deal!  This leads us to:

Goal #4: Get a standalone receiver picking up the transmissions from a Davis outdoor sensor suite by the end of 2012.
Let's Do This.  You and Me.  Mano-a-Mano.
Wrapping Up (Finally)

Well, that is enough for now.  There are still a lot of other things I want to get done this year, such as
  • I have a bunch of landscaping to get done.
  • I'd like to get a little hydroponics setup going so I don't have to wait until fall for a decent tomato.  Life is too short for shitty tomatoes.
  • I'm going to keep working at improving my breadmaking skills.  Incidentally, this Sourdough Rye bread is outstanding.
These things lead me to...

Goal #5: Keep this blog going, share the adventure, and enjoy the ride.

What are YOUR goals?  What do YOU plan to do?  We live in a great time where pretty much anyone can learn about anything.  The greatest threat to this is a lack of motivation.  Don't waste the opportunity you have.  Get started today.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Mad Scientist Labs.

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