Archive for June, 2009

Some Thoughts

So this blog is getting updated a little more frequently – hopefully, you are finding some useful tips. At this stage, I’m still a mere squidling (undergraduate), so you’re getting a lot of redirects to other awesome things instead of novel ideas, but that’s how life works. Hopefully I’m guiding you to the right places.

My elbow is healing up gradually – I can rotate my wrist almost entirely and my arm can almost straighten. Twisting my arm remains difficult. The progress is promising, but I still can’t lift more than two pounds. Perhaps in two weeks I can meet up with deCycles in Lexington and finish the last 3 days of the ride.

It’s not too bad being back in Bloomington. This weekend I started earnest work on the paper for InPhO. Right now I’m articulating how AI should be used to augment human feedback, without superseding it. I’ve also been working on some user interfaces and came across a really good Google Tech Talk, “Don’t Make Me Click“. Aza Raskin does a great job of emphasizing the importance of minimalist design and of doing as much as possible for your users. I found it worth the hour.

I’ve also been researching polyphasic sleep. Basically instead of sleeping 8 hours in a row, you have a shorter period of “core sleep” and then take 20 minute naps throughout the day. There are variations ranging from 6 hours of core sleep with a 30 minute nap in the day (Biphasic) to no core sleep and 6 20 minute naps throughout the day (Uberman) and a bunch of middle ground (Everyman). The less extreme versions are more pretentious ways of explaining what people do anyways, but the uberman concept is a fascinating extreme. Steve Pavlina has an interesting journal on adopting the uberman (day 30) (day 120) (going back). My roommate seems to have accidentally adopted the everyman system last year.

This month, I’m going to adopt biphasic sleep as my “thing” (although it seems this is how I naturally react to the school year). My only concern with adopting a true polyphasic sleep schedule is physical activity. No reports seem to have a regular exercise routine, and with 150+ miles of biking per week, I think core sleep may play a larger role in muscle recovery. For more findings on sleep, monitor my sleep tag on Delicious.

Some (public domain) visualizations of sleep patterns from Wikipedia:

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Firefox Extension Mania!

This month I discovered Firefox extensions! I really hate bogging down my browser, but these are incredibly useful. Know any others? Link it in the comments!

LeechBlock (extension)
This is the best productivity extension ever. It allows you to list a few domains to block (,,,, …) and set up a time period to block them. BUT it also has an option to allow limited access. I have it set up to allow me on my sites for 10 minutes an hour. This keeps me on task, but allows reasonable distractions to clear the mind. It is important to check the “Actively block these sites” option, as that will redirect any already open tabs to these timesinks. I like redirecting to this undistraction page.

GreaseMonkey (extension)
GreaseMonkey is one plugin that I’ve actually stopped using, because it does tend to slow down browsing and can be used maliciously. However, some people may find FB Purity useful. It hides all the annoying quiz applications from showing up in your Facebook newsfeed!

KeyConfig (extension)
KeyConfig is a small extension that allows you to rebind and create new keyboard shortcuts. Things I have done:

  • full screen to F2 – much more convenient placement
  • Evernote Web Clipper to Ctrl+E – much quicker note-taking, see more on Evernote below
    Add new key with this code:

  • sidebar to Ctrl+B – quick distribution of cool sites through Twitter
    Add new key with this code:
    content.location = “javascript:var%20e=document.createElement(‘script’);e.setAttribute(‘language’,’javascript’);e.setAttribute(‘src’,’’);document.body.appendChild(e);void(0);”

  • any bookmarklet can be added with:
    content.location = “(bookmarklet code)”

Since I got my netbook, my cloud computing presence has grown exponentially. Syncing between the Sweetness and Little-guy just takes too long to set up and introduces an administrative task I don’t want to deal with. The following extensions increase the utility of the cloud exponentially.

Delicious (extension) (official site)
Delicious replaces my bookmarks menu with an easy to use tagging infrastructure and note taking system accessible through Ctrl+D. By putting my bookmarks on the cloud, I can access them from any computer (useful for continuing research projects in the library). The social networking aspect didn’t seem like a big deal to me, until I started actually using it. Typically our friends share our interests, so it’s not surprising that we would find their bookmarks interesting.

Finally, the Delicious plugin allows you to sync quicksearches across computers (tag things with shortcut:). I have a quicksearch setup to search my delicious bookmarks and to bring up my bookmarks by tag, dramatically increasing the utility of my bookmarks by limiting my search domain to sites I have already flagged as useful. (my quicksearches – feel free to save the interesting ones to your Delicious 🙂 )

Evernote (extension) (official site)
OneNote is a program that Microsoft just got right. Unfortunately, it’s Microsoft and I’ve switched to the Linux world. OneNote was integrated into every part of my computng life – anytime I would put a note into a little text file, it would get tossed into my OneNote instead (phone numbers, quotes, observations, guitar tabs, letter drafting, etc.). Win+N (new note) became my most used shortcut. It is sorely missed – but Evernote has done a respectable job of replacing it.

Evernote is like Onenote in a lot of ways, but it uses a tagging system in lieu of tabbed notebooks and is more ubiquitous, with native clients on almost every platform (Win, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Web). Unfortunately, there is no native Linux client (the Wine version works, but it’s got some ugly buttons). How is it useful to have evernote on your phone? Notes on the go, recording song ideas for later use, taking pictures of receipts or things you want to reference later – the uses are legion.

Back to Firefox though – the web clipper is an awesome extension, as you can highlight any section of a site, click the elephant, and voila! it’s been added to your notebook with a link to the original source. Great for compiling research.

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New Feeds

Here’s some new RSS feeds:

Cognitive Science
Neuroantrhopology – Fascinating articles on brain and body. The Wednesday Round-Ups are an overload of awesome articles.
TED Blog – Blog from TED Talks with more information on talks and generally cool stuff

General News
Boston Globe: The Big Picture – The best photojournalism, about 3-4 slideshows a week.

LifeHacker – High volume blog filled with cool programs and ideas to help boost productivity
The Simple Dollar – Great blog on personal finances. Make sure to check out his free eBook – “Everything You Ever Really Needed to Know About Personal Finance on Just One Page”

For pruning, I’ve unsubscribed from Glenn Greenwald‘s excellent blog. Sometimes you have to recognize when you aren’t actually reading articles. Despite the moral importance of declassifying torture memos, the articles weren’t directly giving me relevant information for this point in my life. Adam should keep sharing the good ones though.

For future reference, I created a master subscription list.

New to RSS or Google Reader? Check out the newly updated How I Do Google Reader

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Bike Trip Blues

On June 20th I left for deCycles – 3 weeks, 1600+ miles. no modern comforts. It was going to be my summer… that changed on Monday 🙁

The group was riding in a tight paceline of about 20mph to get to the last break of the day. The girl in front of me kissed wheels with the person in front of her, lost her balance and went down. I ran over her and flipped onto the pavement. The colonel fishtailed into both of us. Everyone got out of the road as quickly as possible and started washing their wounds.

With my bike out of commission, I hopped in the wussie wagon 🙁 When I got into the van I realized my right arm had no strength and was in serious pain. Norm looked at it during the break, and diagnosed it as the radius. We tried to get me back on the bike but I couldn’t stretch into a riding position.

The last 30 miles in the wagon were torture! Monday was the first day I had the right amounts of nutrition, water, and sleep. I also pulled for 10 miles. We were only 3 miles from the last break, and 30 miles from the churh. I had just gotten my second wind and was ready to go.

When I got to Portsmouth, another of the ride leaders dropped me off at the ER. After 3 1/2 hours the diagnosis was a radial head fracture. The hospital was packed, but they noticed I was bonking and got me supper – two sandwiches, a salad and a slice of cherry pie. After 80 miles of riding and no food in 7 hours, I was extremely grateful!

Mom freaked out when she heard about the accident and drove to help me. The next morning we saw a specialist in Portsmouth who said it wasn’t fractured, which contradicted the earlier diagnoses. Bloomington Bone & Joint looked at it today and confirmed the radial head fracture and got me set up with physical therapy. No cast, because setting the elbow would freeze the joint and the fracture is stable.

My elbow is going to need six weeks to heal, so I would’ve spent the rest of the trip in the van. That wasn’t going to happen – it’s torture when you’re well. I’m back in Bloomington for now and would love to see people. If I recover quickly, I will rejoin the ride from Lexington to Bloomington.

As for the others: The girl was bleeding a lot, and now has a really bad case of road rash down her left side. The colonel just toppled and may have done something to his wrist. Both are on their bikes and still riding.

There were 2 other wrecks on Monday. The other people look more roughed up. Cricket got run over and one of the bikes from that wreck now has a pancake wheel. Fortunately, there are two doctors traveling with us and the others seemed to be fine, aside from road rash. Not the best day for cycling…

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