Wildcat Canyon Circuit

22-mile solo training ride around and through Wildcat Canyon today, gearing up for Tour de Cure! New personal best – averaged 13.78 mph, taking into account uphill, downhill, photo breaks and stop signs.

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Wildcat Canyon Circuit

Crestmont 4/5 Sound Science Fair

Wonderful watching and hearing the fourth and fifth graders explain their audio science projects this morning – such a broad topic, and every kid had a completely different take. Recorded some random audio samples this morning while meandering from theremin to echolocation demo to analog amplifiers to oscilloscope to homemade stethoscope to foley demo… the variety was fantastic.

For a taste, start the audio, then start the slideshow and choose the Full Screen option.

Flickr Set

The Modest Case for Atheism

Quite good article at exchristian.net, which kicks off by making an important distinction that most people unfamiliar with atheism overlook. In a nutshell: Contrary to popular belief, very few atheists are certain (in the mathematical sense) that God does not exist; rather, we believe that the very notion of there being a God is implausible. Since it is unsustainable to hold implausible beliefs, we are atheists. It really is that simple.

Most of the time people have this impression that atheists are absolutely certain about the non-existence of God since they claim to know that God does not exist, however this impression is misleading. While there are atheists who claim to be absolutely certain that God does not exist, not all atheists are like this. Most atheists are not committed to the view that the non-existence of God is some kind of axiomatic or self-evident truth… What most atheists would agree is that the belief in the existence of God is implausible, hence unreasonable belief. Most atheists do not feel compelled to produce and reproduce absolute proof that God does not exist; it would be self-defeating and futile to even try. This is because most things in life cannot be shown to be true by absolute proof, especially in science.

Chico Wildflower / Mildflower

My introduction to distance biking happened Sunday on the 31st annual Chico Wildflower Ride, though I actually did the 65-mile “Mildflower” loop rather than the full 100-mile Wildflower. But given that my previous longest ride had been 40 miles around Wildcat Canyon, it was vigorous enough for starters (though not as intense as I had imagined it would be). I had blown it up in my head, thinking it would be one of the most physically challenging experiences of my life – but once you get into a rhythm, the miles fly by quickly.


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Wildcat Canyon Fail

Attempt to find a 25-mile route all the way around Wildcat Canyon pretty much failed. Turned from San Pablo Dam Road onto 24 West, then signs said I had to exit the freeway. No where to go, totally stuck. So ventured onto EBMUD land and ended up hiking with the bike three miles up a muddy path, pushing the bike. Road bike brakes got totally clogged with mud, had to take the wheel off and clean them out by hand at home. Has anyone done this? How the heck are you supposed to complete the circuit cleanly?

Building LED Flashlights in Altoids Tins

I spent a couple of hours with my son’s fourth/fifth grade classroom today, teaching them to build LED flashlights in Altoids tins. This project was both simpler and more complicated than last year’s Bristlebots project – fewer parts to manage, but we went deeper into electrical and electronics concepts. The students learned about voltage, insulators, conductors, circuit load, diodes, polarity, and various types of switches. And had a great time! Every single kid finished with a working flashlight. Some even enjoyed the process so much they stayed after school to build a second one.

I started with this recipe from Instructables.com, but modified it a bit (we used a single LED and battery to reduce wiring and to eliminate the need for resistors, though we did talk about resistance).

One of the biggest challenges for me was figuring out how to drill clean holes in aluminum – every attempt with a punch or standard drill bit resulted in sharp, ragged, non-round holes. Finally figured out that what I needed was a “graduated” drill bit. Happily, I found one from the 1940s in a toolchest that I had inherited from my grandfather. So not only was the bit we used ~70 years old, but I later learned that my grandfather made all his own bits! He would have been proud to see us using his tools this way.

Sorry I didn’t get more photos of the process – no shots here of drilling or soldering, or of the kids playing with their finished flashlights in a dimmed room,  but was bit busy…

View the Flickr set with captions, or check the slideshow version below.

Photo365 2011

On January 1 2011, I made a commitment to take at least one photograph every day of that year. Now, 365 days later, I can proudly say that I’ve actually accomplished a New Year’s resolution for once. And despite my trepidation at the start of the year, it wasn’t a chore at all,  never grew tiresome. In fact, the process became an obsession. As the year progressed, I found my habits changing. Rather than photographs “leaping out at me,” realized I was learning to scan the environment subconsciously, always on the lookout for “that moment.” And I developed a Pavlovian response to that little time window after getting the kid into bed – time to study the day’s images, delete the duds, and upload the pick.

Yeah, there were days when the busy-ness or the same-ness of everyday life made it hard, and yes, some shots are weaker than others. But seldom felt like I had to cop out and just shoot for the sake of the project – there’s always something out there waiting to be found. Other days, had the opposite problem, where selecting just one out of many possibles was the real challenge. Definitely feel like the first 100 images are so are weaker than the later ones – felt my eye improving as the year progressed.

Only regret is that I was using Instragram heavily in the first few months, and Instagram leaves you with low-rez originals (or at least it used to). Over time realized  I was almost always better off shooting with the phone’s native camera app, and filtering/processing later with Analog, FX Studio, or Photoshop if I thought the image needed a little goose.

Check out the Flickr set to see the images with captions, or click the grid below for the slideshow (go full-screen!).

Many thanks to Richard Koci-Hernandez for the inspiration – I wouldn’t have gone for it if not for him and his bottomless inspiration. Enjoyed the process so much that I’m planning to do it again in 2012.