I am very lucky to be involved in the Sage Cyberinfrastructure project where I am kind of acting as “Chief Science Evangelist”. Basically I help motivate the hardware and software engineering with real world science use cases. Discussions with friends like Profs.
Eric Brunning and Tim Logan have led me to Lightning detection as an interesting problem and several folks in the team are big fans of Software Defined Radios. So I purchased one (and then three more!) and started playing. Several months ago I purchased ($169) an Ambient W2902B personal weather station. It sends signals to a base station via PCM @ 915MHz. The base station then sends data to ambient you can download via an API. Issue is you can only download 1 minute data and the head unit transmits every 16s. I was ok with that for the price. Well, enter the software defined radio! I knew the RTL-SDR 2832U unit I have can tune into 915MHz.. And looking on gqrx I cold see the pulses so I thought I could write some code to decode the data..
Well cool thing is I did not have to! As I always say to my students: Google that! I did and found this excellent blog. It was as simple as a apt-get rtl-433 or, on the Raspberry Pi4 compiling from source and you have a pulse code decoder that can read everything from a weather station to a tire pressure gauge in your car. I then simply set it to run with a nohup on my Raspberry Pi4 and save JSONs to a file. I wrote some simple code in Python using ACT (a module that builds on xarray) to visualize.. You can see so much more in the 16s data! Like the turbulence reflected in dewpoint and temperature data when the boundary layer builds. Now I want to include a Software Defined Radio in every Sage node so we can connect instruments wirelessly using the 915 and 433MHz standards. More on lightning detection later!
Back in Australia we had this great place in Canberra called the Dickson Noodle House.. It was a noodle house, in Dickson, about as unpretentious as you can get.. Well I loved two things from there… Laksa and the Char Kway Teow.. I have been trying to perfect my home cooking of both since moving here to the USA.. here is my VERY ROUGH recipe for Char Kway Teow. For those in the western burbs you can get most ingredients at Wholegrain market.
Bunch of kale, shredded
BBQ pork Char Siu, sliced
~1lb chicken thighs chopped (sorry, don’t substitute breast.. needs to be the naughty cut)
dark soy sauce
flat fresh rice noodles cut into ~1cm wide strips
your favourite hot sauce
First, lay all ingredients out.. This will be action cooking. Prepare the sauce by mixing ~2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tsp of fish sauce, 2 tsp of sugar and ~1tsp of dark soy sauce.
The rest of the cooking will be done in two batches in a HOT wok.. Heat the wok with oil in it.. Add 1/2 the garlic crushed, 1/2 the chicken and 1/2 the pork.. Once the chicken browns add 1/2 the noodles and stir fry until the noodles begin to brown a little. Move mix to one side of the wok and add an egg.. scramble the egg, thow in 1/2 the kale and a tsp of the hot sauce.. Continue to stir fry everything together! Once the kale is good and wilty/cooked splash in 1/2 the sauce mix and stir thoroughly. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat for the second batch… Once that batch is cooked add the first batch back to the wok and heat.
A few tips: First thing to hit the oil should be the garlic.. Keep it hot! there will be some charring but when you do the second batch this gets “absorbed” into the mix.. Do not cook for long once you add the sauce.. you do not want to reduce the sauce or the meal will become very salty..
Perhaps later I will add pictures 🙂 And here is hoping I did not forget anything 🙂 Happy quarantine-eating!
Training is going very well, Zwift has been a godsend and has really allowed be to ramp up my Chronic Training Load (more on that later). But the trainer can only do so much. With Louise starting a new job she has a near zero vacation balance. I, on the other hand, have been working hard and have plenty of time saved up.. So when the forecast for my Birthday looked… ok… I took the day off and decided to ride the number of miles I just turned (inspired by my friend Jeff Bolam). Route was a simple on out here in the Western Chicago Suburbs, wind my way down to centennial, enjoy the westerly push from Romeoville to Willow Springs and the struggle back against the wind home.
The challenge with winter (well early spring) riding is picking the time to head out. To early you freeze, to late, well let’s say school pick up time is a death zone. I took my first rest day yesterday in a long time. Legs were still pretty fatigued but managed to hold up well. Recent training meant 180 to around 200W was a very comfortable power output and at times the legs got happy and I was able to lift to 220+W for sustained intervals (mainly when I had a nice tail wind and felt the
speed! Centennial trail was so much fun, the ice has only just recently thawed on the trail so it was my first time there in a while. It is 19.6km of uninterrupted cycling goodness. No lights, very limited to no stopping. A great work out and a gem in the ‘burbs. Following the Des Plaines river and the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal you get a mix of lovely forest and interesting look at the mechanisms that keep Chicago running. After finishing on Centennial I had a lot of miles to make up after the nice tail wind assist. Rode back along German Church to Clarendon Hills road both climbing and pushing the wind.. It was slooooooow. After heading north up Clarendon Hills road I still needed ~8 miles so a quick loop along Burlington had me round out at 68.32km or 42.46 miles.. Strava entry is here.
Whenever I have the best things to share I am at my busiest.. And I don’t post.. Life has been good and busy. Some very exciting things are happening like NSF giving us 9M for Sage. And a chance I can get into active storm tracking (it’s so cool when you hear folks are as excited about a subject as you..). More updates coming soon.. Open source, radar, science, cycling and.. A SKI TRIP TO WHISTLER! Bring it.
August starts a health kick. I managed to loose over 40 pounds in April/May in a lead up to the Barry Roubaix 2019. Unfortunately I put 15 of those pounds back on as I transitioned to a new management role and also got very busy with proposal development. Louise and I made a blank chart for tracking weight and I started using the two techniques I know work for me for weight loss: T
racking calories (religiously) and cycling. Luckily the start of August saw a change in the weather in Chicago, gone were the rains here were low humidity sunny days.. When I
first moved to the are I bike commuted every day of every week. I have fallen out of this habit which is good for me and good for the planet. So the week of the 5th I committed myself to doing the commute (8 miles each way) every day even if I started to get tired and sore.
I think the main difference between then and now (besides being older) is I ride a lot harder.. I started riding on a Kona Dew commuter set up with panniers and a simple garmin now I ride a Trek Madone, carry the bare essentials for work and have a top of the line power meter (well it was.. the Vectors are showing their age)… A sunny week of great weather made riding the 143km
very pleasant.. And to top it off I finally decided on my new mountain bike purchase (more on that
later) leading to 25km of fun times at Palos on the weekend.. So 168km or 104 miles.. Nice consistent miles. How do I feel, well I have already lost (back) 5lb despite enjoying a few craft beers on the weekend. Fatigue is really kicking in but I am finding by moderating my commuting efforts (telling myself it is ok to ride at 150W) I can start to actually recover on my commutes.
Most noticable is the drop in my resting heart rate.. Ever since I had my blood pressure medication reduced my resting heart rate has been around 60.. Now I am back down to around 56 overnight. And waking up feeling great… Now to keep it up as I get busy again. The most notable number is, according to Strava, I burnt 5126 Calories the bike.. Now you can go nuts reading websites on how calorie deficit you need to lose a pound but commonly the answer is around 3000-3500 calories.. So, an extra 5126 calories burnt getting me to work has me feeling fine!
Quick blog post! I am just finishing off Scipy2019. I will post in more detail later on this but IT WAS AWESOME. I was a bit slack with my hotel booking so I ended up at the Sheraton ~1 mile from the conference center.. I had planned to do a mix of Uber and walking. But something happened since I was last in Austin… There are these scooters EVERYWHERE. So after dropping my bag off at the hotel on the first day and heading to the reception dinner I decided I needed to give it a go. It was all integrated into my Uber app and super easy.. Took me a while to realize the motor does not kick in until you get it up to ~3-4 MPH by scooting.. Here are a few take aways, first the negative:
They most definitely are a form of visual pollution.
Finding safe routes were tricky.. If I was on the bike and doing 12-20mph I would be happy to integrate with traffic anywhere. On the Scooter I was doing 6-15mph and there were certain streets my velocity difference was too great to the traffic.
Took a while to get the hang of braking.
Now the positives:
They are fun.. honest to goodness fun. Great for mental health.
Being able to walk out, grab a scooter, ride it, park it anywhere was crazy liberating. This is the way of the future. I could see something interesting and finish my scooter ride.. Check it out, walk a while and pop on another scooter. This, in my opinion, will mean folks will range further and be good for business.
I replaced all commuting with scooting.. My carbon footprint from this trip will be reduced (albeit small compared to flying from Chicago).
A big advantage of scooting over share bikes: No sitting on a seat.. No dirty greasy marks on pants etc..
I got just the right amount of exercise. Scooting off, powering along, occasionally scooting up hills to help the power assist meant heart rate hovered between 90 and 120.. I did sweat, it was 95+ degrees, but it was not a full on work out..
The Barry Roubaix is the worlds largest gravel bike race. It sells out at 3,500 riders. 2019 was my third time racing the Barry. I first rode it back in 2016 when my fitness was good and my weight was “ok-ish”. 2016 was when I was training for Ride Across Wisconsin, a 175 mile road ride. My time for the 36 mile Barry route was 2:35 on a dry, warm and dusty course. I had a blast! I signed up again in 2017 but bailed as it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit and raining. In 2018 my health went downhill in a big way.
Stress, over eating, drinking too much (self medicating) all leading to frankly disgusting weight gain. In 2018 I had a blast riding Barry but clocked in at 3:01 26 minutes slower than 2016. When entries opened for the 2019 edition I decided to target the ride. Having two times meant I had a great metric and a goal to aim for. Starting in November last year I started tracking my weight and I used the only weight loss technique that works for me: Religiously tracking calories. In addition Louise and I decided to do a month without consuming alcohol in the lead up to the April 13th event, something we dubbed “Mapril”. In addition I rode, a lot. Starting indoors on the trainer (Wahoo Kikr) on Zwift and, as the weather allowed, increasingly outside.
As the event drew closer I did multiple three lap rides of Waterfall Glen (9.3 mile crushed limestone loop) a similar distance to BRX. This allowed me to mentally prepare for a solid 2-3 hours in the saddle riding at race pace. And using a power meter allowed me to both manage my effort and ensure I kept the power up. As training progressed it got easier and easier to hold a power around 210W for extended periods. Periodically my Garmin head unit would prompt me to update my FTP (power sustainable for an hour, basically power at over which you start consuming energy reserves, your lactate threshold). I estimate I started training at 225W FTP and finished at 256W. I also lost an astonishing 39lb. This meant my power to weight ratio went from 1.8 to 2.3 W/kg.
Start finish line
Fitter and happier
The day of the event was cool, a little windy (15mph out of the west) providing a bit of a wardrobe challenge. The event is, as always, run spectacularly well. Its no easy feat organizing 3,500 gravel grinders keen to ride! The course conditions were great, a few areas of mud but the ground was generally very firm and fast. And I felt great! I went out to hard as usual smashing the three sisters. Eventually I dialed it back keeping it around 200W on the flat, rising to ~300W climbing with the occasional coast and recover on the downhills.
Pacing was great.. I passed 1/2 way at just over 65 minutes. Two great thing about Barry is the landscape and the people. The landscape is rolling and wooded, the people on the bikes are all characters and good natured and those off the bikes were cheering and creative! I rode the most technical part of the course, Sager Road, probably the best I have, only putting a foot down twice (and one of those was because some one fell in front of me). Sager is full of sand traps, rutted stony climbs… Awesome! The MAD WALL is the last (and hardest) climb but also signals that the 36 mile route is coming to the end.. I felt good so I upped my power to ~220W.. About 5 miles out the legs were really signing, at risk of cramp but I got tied up in a killer paceline (22+mph).
In the end I finished at 2:20:16, a remarkable improvement on my 2:35 in 2016 and another world compared to my 2018 result. Even more remarkable is I ended up 42/74 for my age group (40-42) compared to being 68/73 in 2018. Next year, sub 200lb, and 270W FTP and I will see amazing results.. What a blast.
Ouch! I am SORE! March was an epic month for training despite a cold that knocked five days out of the month. Plot to the right shows a performance management chart from Today’s Plan. Each day is given a Training Stress Score which is an integral of a function involving power and your functional threshold power. Basically the longer you spend at higher percentages of your FTP the greater the TSS. A TSS of ~60 is a good workout, 120+ generally needs some good recovery time, and 200+ is epic! Yesterday I did a 68km ride in wind and cold and hit 210 TSS.. I was toast.
From the above you can see the 491km I did in March was nit just big for March, it was big for the pathetic 2018 I had! In a nutshell March was a good training month. Now here comes the kicker: in order to be ready for Barry Roubaix, which contains lots of climbing (The Sisters and the Killer Wall!) I am also loosing weight. I have been calorie counting since the 22nd of November last year (starting at a disgusting 270lb) and in order to supercharge fitness, weight loss and wellness I am abstaining from alcohol for the month leading up to the ride. That’s right! Since bedtime on the 12th of March I have been 100% Alcohol free.
The plot above shows my weight as a function of time. You can clearly see the change in gradient when I started abstaining from Alcohol. Now the astute amongst you will exclaim: a gradient of -0.59 lb/day is dangerous and unhealthy! I concur completely and I am as shocked as you. But be assured I am consuming at least 1400 calories a day, aiming for 1700 a day. However, I am getting an obscene amount of exercise.
For example, according to Garmin, I burnt 2010 calories on yesterday’s ride (solo ride = no one to hide behind). I consumed 2641 calories (indulgence: two delicious brats for post ride refuel!) leaving a deficit of 1069 to my target of net 1700.. Now 1700 allows 600 calories a day for weight loss (1lb ~ 3000cals, note 1cal -> 1kcal) so I had quite the calorific deficit.. What is a sustainable calorific deficit? You will find as many opinions as web pages on that! In any case I am gaining in power and loosing weight. I updated my FTP from 223 to 246W (at the urging of Garmin) two weeks ago so now my FTP power to weight ratio has gone from 1.8 to 2.25 W/kg! A hell of a March indeed! I need a beer 🙂