Monday, June 29, 2009

Post Number 103: And now for something completely different

This time I'm posting two things that I have nothing to do with -- besides really enjoying them.

1) The TED Blog posted an excellent illusion the other day that really blew my mind. Check out the spiral below, and then try and wrap your mind around the fact that the blue and the green parts of the spiral are actually the same color. That's right, there's no blue and green, just a single blue-green color.
The BLUE and GREEN are actually the SAME color.

Honestly, I didn't believe that the blue and green could be the case, so i went about trying to verify it for myself. Click this link to see the time-lapse proof that I created by animating the removal of some of the stripes. (Cover up part of the screen with your fingers) And let me know if your mind was blown, please.

ps. I just viewed the comments, looks like someone did the same thing, so I just linked to theirs.

2) This second bullet is the best piece of software that I've used in a while: MWSnap. It allows you to take a screen capture (something I need to do with my 3D modeling at work on Solidworks quite frequently) in the easiest possible way.

Did I mention that it's free / donation only?!

Basically, I have it set up to load (minimized to the tray) when I start Windows, and when I use a keyboard shortcut (ctrl+shift+4), crosshairs pop-up allowing me to select the region of the screen that I want to save. Then it automatically saves to a new, numbered file, in a directory that I named (the desktop). Download it here.

Thank you, Mirek, you wrote some excellent software!

ps. Mac / OS X users -- fear not, this is built-in to your operating system! Just hit the Apple+Shift+4 and you'll get some cross hairs that do the same thing!

More to come on the unicycling front, great progress is being made! (But: I can't turn right!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unicycle: Day 10

Another excellent day on the concrete today, folks. After a few false starts by starting off over-confident, I drew back, got down to basics, used the wall for a few mins, and then headed out.

I went down the street to the middle school and hopped the fence and started my first experiments in FLATLAND. It's really nice to have such a big area (2 basketball courts, a flat painted map of the USA, and a lunch area) to just roam around in. I did a few speed-runs from end to end of the basketball court, and then tried to make laps. On my third try, I was able to make 4 (yes! FOUR) full circuits of the red line below, using the blue dots as waypoints.

I think next up will be experimenting with the other turning direction, and I'm not too confident in turning to the right. We'll see.

And then there's the whole goal of starting to ride without leaning on a post, tree, or wall -- seems literally impossible, despite what I've seen (click for video).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unicycle: Days 8 and 9

Day 8 was good, but not great. Went back to using the same old full coverage shoes that I had been learning on, before the flip-flop accident, and that seemed to help. I did something non-traditional at this point, however, and relocated to a new venue! The Balboa Sports Complex in Encino was my classroom for about 20 minutes as I tried riding in the open spaces along pathways, and open tarmac -- complete with tree-root-induced bumps! Longest straight ride was a new record, on smooth surface, of about 50 feet. Mixed success, but new pictures!

(Photos courtesy (again) of MAS. Thanks for dealing with a nervous and skiddish subject!)

Day 9 -- back home in Monrovia, and excited to have a free evening after work. I headed out into the alley (my original stomping (okay, unicycle-stomping) grounds) and found a carport with poles to ride between (about 16 feet apart, and on a slick, smooth concrete surface). Pretty good. Not great, and impossible to turn tight enough for figure 8s, but good enough to ride between them.

Then I decided to get brave! I rode down the length of the alley, and *fully* around the block. Falling multiple times, yes, but still, riding the entire 4 length sides of the block. Really got tired of falling off on bumps in the walkways where tree roots were cracking the cement.

Turning - had partial success rounding the corners -- which is impressive, as they dip for wheelchair access providing a challenging angle to ride on. (At the start of the turn, you're trying to make a right turn on the sidewalk, but the pavement is falling away to the front, and left, making the unicycle turn left, and accelerate -- and immediate reversal of both upon passing the halfway point!)

More to come! Very excited about this!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Unicycle: Days 6 and 7

Well, as they say (more in walking than in riding things, I guess), two steps forward, and one step back.

Day 6 of self-lessons on the unicycle was incredible! I accidentally rode away from the wall that I usually hold on to, and just kinda went with it, and ended up riding about 20 feet! I honestly didn't control direction at all, just marveled that I was successfully riding.

Feeling strong, I decided to go from my apartment's dumpster to the next apartment's dumpster -- about 30 feet. AND. I. SUCCEEDED. FOUR. TIMES. ... And it was really fun! (Okay, I only barely made it each time, and wasn't *fully* controlling direction, but really only had a width of 15 feet to work with, so I'll count that as a win.

Then there's the one step back: Day 7 was a complete bust, I wasn't even able to ride 10 feet next to the wall without touching it. I was, however, dumbly experimenting with flip flops, something I probably won't do again for a while. (And I raised the seat which reeeeeally helped. I'm now at my max seat height, allowing me to give advice to others: if you're taller than 5'10", don't get a 20" CyclePro Unicycle -- it probably will be too small.)

And this is just a random google image that I thought folks would like!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New HoBby for HB

Let this post serve as an accountability tool for my newest endeavor: learning to ride a unicycle! When you check in with me next, inquire about how my self-teaching lessons are going, and ask what my current struggles are!

My end goal isn't to join a circus, although the thought hasn't entirely left my mind.
(The above picture was taken in Wellington, New Zealand, Feb. 3, 2008)

Here's my first unicycle: a 20" wheel, road tire, CyclePro brand. Picked up off Craigslist, sans one part, for $50, up and running for $65.

In the 1 week that I've been riding, I've done 5 lessons, roughly 30 minutes each, and I'm just now starting to let go of the wall that I ride near, for very short distances (less than 5 feet).

(Sorry for the terrible sound. I'm just saying I ride roughly 30 minutes a day for the past week.)

If I get a bit o' feedback, I'll continue posting (better) videos of my progress.