Wind Rose

I wanted to find a way to show which direction the wind normally comes from, but wasn’t sure of the best way to show that information. A histogram is close, but it would be nice it could be shown in a circular representation. I stumbled on exactly the type of plot I was looking for. Turns out that R has a nice package called “climatol” that has a function to show this perfectly.

US Air Force Marathon 2010

Last year’s Air Force Marathon was such a good experience that I chose it again for this year’s marathon goal. Overall, I am glad that I ran it again this year. I had some issues with last year’s event that I hoped could be improved upon, and this year I had some different issues.

It was a beautiful morning for a run, about 55° at the start. It grew warmer as the day went on, to about 75° by the finish. 

One of the most memorable aspects of last year’s event that made me want to participate again was the opening ceremony. The emotional rush from the paratroopers with their enormous flags, the pin-drop silence during the national anthem, and the F‑18 flyover were unforgettable. Unfortunately, due to the biggest snafu of the day, the opening ceremony and the start of the race was spoiled for many participants. I’m sorry to say it, but the traffic and parking situation before the race was an unmitigated disaster. 

Last year, we planned to arrive about an hour prior to the starting gun. We left the hotel 75 minutes before the start, and drove right onto the base, found a parking spot, took a short shuttle ride, and arrived with plenty of time to stretch, relax, get our minds in gear, and make that final pit stop before the race. It was as smooth as anyone could imagine, highlighting the best of what one would expect from military planning and logistics.

This year was a stark contrast. Our hotel was a bit closer to the base, so we chose to leave the hotel 60 minutes before the start. As soon as we turned left out of our hotel’s parking lot, we were sitting in a mile-long line of traffic that was going absolutely nowhere. As our safety margin quickly eroded, I asked Emily to continue ahead in the through-traffic lane and just drop me off at the next intersection nearest the gate, and I would run to the start. She did, and I jogged to the start, arriving just as the national anthem began. 

Meanwhile, Emily and David did manage to re-enter the line of traffic somehow to get onto the base. 

The cause of all this mess was anyone’s guess, but apparently only one of the three main gates along the south side of the base was open for people to enter. There were no parking shuttles this year (again, we do not know why), so they trekked across the field and old runway from their makeshift parking spot along with a throng of other runners and spectators. Emily reports that as they heard the announcer’s “ready” signal, there was a collective expletive all around her from all the runners who were stuck in traffic and unable to reach the start in time. I wish there had been some kind of warning that the traffic flow was going to be so different. What a disappointing way to start the morning.

Once we were underway, the day improved quickly. Again, it was a beautiful morning, and the B‑52 circling overhead was an inspirational kick in the rear to get moving. While it wasn’t completely effortless, the first several miles ticked past faster than expected. I was trying hard to control my pace and conserve energy because I did not feel well prepared for this race. I had missed a number of the longer training runs on my schedule due to travel, sickness, and self-inflicted injuries. Apparently being mindful of this helped, because it wasn’t until after the halfway point that I was aware of anything worth complaining about.

The crowds in Fairborn were great! Four buses shuttled spectators from the starting area to Fairborn shortly after the start of the race. Four buses does not seem like a lot, considering the number of people in the area, but Emily and David boarded one and headed to one of the few spots off the base that friends and family could see their runners. They enjoyed some hot chocolate while they waited on the pack to pass by. I’m glad I got to see them, and they didn’t even look too bored!

As with last year, I cannot say enough good things about the volunteers along the course. Since friends and family could not be along the majority of the course that was on the base, the aid station volunteers and safety personnel where just about the only form of mental support that could be found. They did an outstanding job. The Nerd station, alien station, 80s station, the ladies at the station near mile 16 yelling their brains out and having fun were all memorable and lightened the experience.

I was tapped out by the end of mile 20, near Huffman Prairie. I wound up walking on and off for the rest of the race, a little over a mile in all. Next time I will be better prepared (by not getting sick, cracking any ribs, or having any last-minute travel). Sounds doable, since I’m so firmly in control… sure.

The Dayton Daily News has a small gallery of photos from the day’s events. The Garmin Connect widget below has an interactive tour of my trackpoints. If it’s not visible, here is a direct link to the activity page, which can export to KML for toying with in Google Earth.

Color laser printer teardown

The old color laser printer at work gave up the ghost earlier this summer, and it has been sitting in the electronic waste recycling bin because it would have cost more to fix than to replace. I had been wanting to take it apart and take a look inside, and I finally got around to asking permission to fish it out. However, Emily will be pleased to learn that I saw a teardown of the same printer model posted on the web, so now I don’t have to clutter up the garage!

Aside from dozens of pictures of the inner workings of the printer, I enjoyed the insightful comment that “the first priority of every part of this printer is to sell more printer parts.” So true.

How many library books did we buy?

To keep our 4‑year-old interested in his bedtime story routine, we borrow a lot of books from our local library. Our pattern for a while now has been to check out a dozen or so books every few weeks. That’s a lot of books, and being the analytical type, I started to wonder what our fair share would be — how many books represent our share of the library’s book purchases.

According to the Hamilton East Public Library’s 2009 annual report, here is where the library’s revenue comes from:

Property Tax                           $5,130,689  (55%)
County Option Income Tax               $3,469,910  (38%)
Financial Institutions and Excise Tax  $  254,505  ( 3%)
Fines, Fees, and Other Revenue         $  359,532  ( 4%)
Total                                  $9,214,636

So, property and income taxes account for 93% of the library’s revenue. I’m not sure what the “financial institutions and excise tax” item is, but I know exactly what our property and county income tax are. I will admit to paying a 25¢ fine recently for a book that was one day overdue. The librarian commented that it was the smallest fine that she had ever processed. I’ll just leave that fine out of the mix and trust that I’ll get to within 95% of the bottom line. Let’s look at how much the library gets from our property and county income taxes.

Property tax. According to the Hamilton County Auditor’s 2010 tax rate notice, Fishers residents pay 0.0615% of assessed property value into the library system. The Assessor’s office makes it easy to look up any property’s assessed value.

Income tax. The State of Indiana 2010 County Option Income Tax Distribution Report shows that Hamilton East Public Library gets $3,216,968 of the $99,862,358 tax dollars distributed, or about 3.2%. So, 3.2% of Hamilton County residents’ 1% county income tax goes to the library system.

From that, it’s very straightforward to see how much money you send to the library every year. Just check the Assessor’s website and your paystub. Multiply your assessment by 0.000615 and your county income tax by 0.032. How far does it go?

Referring again to the library’s annual report, here is where the library spends its money:

Salaries and Benefits                   $4,268,937  (50%)
Mortgage                                $2,443,293  (28%)
Utilities, Supplies and Other Expenses  $1,195,860  (14%)
Books, Materials, and Equipment         $  723,124  ( 8%)
Total                                   $8,631,214

Curious that the library spends just 8% of its budget on buying books. At any rate, 8% of the taxes we pay into the library goes to buying books.

In our case, that’s less than $7, or one copy of Cowboy & Octopus.

Stoplight controller details

It’s been a long time since I promised myself that I would post details of the stoplight controller. The controller is based on the Arduino Duemilanove, with a custom shield containing relays and connectors for the sensors.

The lights in the stop light itself are turned on and off by six 3A, 120V relays on the shield. The shield also has an independently controlled set of six LEDs and a few miniature buttons, mirroring the function of the main lights, switches, and sensors. The controller is housed in an 8″ plastic electrical box with a lexan cover. I have a bit of work to do yet to tidy up the wiring and strap down the transformer inside the box, but the  I cut a large hole in the side to hold the connectors for the sensors and button box, which use color-coded cat‑5 ethernet cables.

The distance sensors are Maxbotix LV-EZ1, which put out an analog signal that the shield passes along to the Arduino. The distance sensors fit perfectly inside these surface mount ethernet boxes with a 1/2″ hole drilled in them. Adding keystone jacks to the boxes makes connecting cheap cat‑5 cables simple and tidy. The sensors are mounted in front of each parking space. The Arduino runs a simple serial port interface program that can be used to program the controller with the threshold distances that change the light colors. The threshold distances are saved to the Arduino’s internal nonvolatile memory. The Arduino is positioned in the box such that the USB port is accessible from the outside, making updates and reprogramming simple.

The garage door open sensor is a C&K Components MPS80WGW magnetic switch. When the garage door opens, the magnet attached to the door moves away from the switch mounted by the door track, telling the controller that the garage door has opened. The controller then goes into parking mode, and changes the lights from green to yellow to red as the car pulls in.

A separate button box houses a couple great clicky arcade buttons that can make the controller perform some different light shows. The box is a simple 4″ grey plastic electrical box from the hardware store with a couple holes drilled in it, making it very durable.

Separated only by some years

Like father, like son, right?

American As?

Something seems out of place here.

National Running Day

In honor of National Running Day, David and I ran around the block together this afternoon. We also took the opportunity to start off his Kids Marathon, which he will hopefully complete as part of the Indianapolis Marathon this October. He’s very excited about earning his very own real marathon medal, just like mommy and daddy’s. Over the next 4½ months, we’ll keep track of how far we run together on his Kids’ Marathon Mileage Log. After completing a total of 25 miles before the event, the kids will complete their final mile on the same course as the grownups, even using the same finish line. This looks like a great program with meaningful incentives to help get kids interested in being active.

It sounds like a lot of running, and we’re very cautious not to force David into it at such a young age, but in this case, the enthusiasm all comes from him. After last week’s two-block Rookie Run, the smile on his face all the way from the start line to the finish line was just great. He was excited about getting a medal, but just as excited about getting his own bottle of cold water. Whatever does it for him!

Today, he ran (and walked) six-tenths of a mile, alternately sprinting and dragging his feet, picking up pine cones and jumping on them to pop them. I stayed a step behind his lead, wearing the GPS, just to see the result. I had a good time looking at all the points where he got distracted and stopped to look at something. At one point, he looked back at me, veered off the sidewalk, and tripped as he got back on. He landed on his hands and knees, and decided that was enough, “but there is no blood, so it’s okay.” So we walked back home after that. After crossing the street one last time, he forgot about tripping and sprinted the final two house lengths on his way to get his ice pack out of the refrigerator.

At this rate, he’ll earn his medal in no time. We’ll see how this plays out!

In other outdoor activity news, National Trails Day is this Saturday, June 5, and National Get Outdoors Day is next Saturday, June 12. We’ll be on the Monon Trail this weekend, and possibly Ritchey Woods the next. See you outdoors!

Sand Digger Honey Wheat

If you ever find yourself stuck with undrinkable beer, like, oh, maybe Miller Lite, after, say, a visit from your in-laws, it turns out that it can still be useful. Apparently beer makes good bait for garden slugs.

If your wife’s stained glass hobby does not leave enough broken glass around the garage on which to impale unsuspecting bare feet, then homebrewing is a decent way to add to the broken glass content of your house. This batch’s casualty: my third hydrometer. I think I’m just going to either stop measuring the gravity of my beer, or use an antifreeze tester, ha! These questionably named BrewBalls look like a nice unbreakable alternative, but they are very expensive, and imprecise, at that.

With that introduction, the latest batch from Barking Spiders Brewery is conditioning: a wheat beer, modified slightly from past years’ recipes, including local Indiana honey. Who knows where in the world the rest of the grains came from, but I can attest that the honey is the real deal, made by nice, honest folks.

We’re looking forward to sharing this batch with friends and family during our upcoming short vacations this summer. I still need to convince myself about the safety of homebrew in relation to border crossings, but maybe some creative labeling can prevent any trouble.

I’m also looking forward to entering the final three remaining bottles from a previous batch, the Big Wide Smile Bourbon Barrel Porter, into the Indiana State Fair Brewer’s Cup competition. I’m intimidated by the fact that last year’s competition drew 559 homebrew entries, but it should still be fun just to enter.

Geist Half Marathon 2010

Sometimes the bear eats you. 

The first half of this spring, the IU Mini, was rainy. The second, the 500 Festival Mini, was very windy. So, I was hoping for the third half marathon of the spring to make up for the bad weather of the other two. Unfortunately, this time around, the factor that gave me trouble was the heat. We have had such a mild spring for training that I found the heat and humidity to be especially challenging, despite having brought extra water with me. Runners were given good warnings to start off easy — good advice. Even so, I had a lot of difficulty preserving my energy. 

During the first couple of miles felt so good to finally be moving that I did feel like I was restraining myself. Later, I realized that I should have tried harder to hold back, because I was going faster than my goal pace for the entire first 5k, when it is important not to waste energy. Maybe I was rushing to pass my family, who was waiting for me to pass them in front of Scotty’s Lakehouse, where they ate breakfast after I got to wave to them. I’m glad they had a chance to have a fun breakfast, but I would like to have been able to join them! 

Shortly after that point, I started to go downhill. I started feeling tired, and never seemed to be able to find any energy boost. Slowing down helped, but even that can be an effort because it requires concentration. At the halfway point, which was at the southern end of the reservoir, I threw in the towel. Courageous Drive has a rather steep, long hill, and I just could not live up to the name of the street. I took the first of several walking breaks until I reached the top of the hill. And once you take the first walk break, your pride is so shot that it’s hard to keep going. After that point, it is too easy to say I can’t do any more hills, and then just walk all the rest of them. Which is pretty much what I did. Oh well. At least I finished! 

I was passed by a lot of kids from Belzer Middle School. These kids show up at all the local races, and it’s really cool to see them, even when they blaze past you. Their parents wear bright T‑shirts and cheer loudly for their kids. I’m proud of them too, and I always wish I had started running sooner, like them. More good programs like theirs are what Indianapolis needs to get out of the unhealthy slump we’re in. This morning’s news cited the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual list of the cities with the healthiest lifestyles, on which Indianapolis fell embarrassingly from 36th to 44th place.

While my own effort was weak, the race was well run. The medal and shirt were nice (last year’s shirt was weirdly defective, with misproportioned dimensions and unmatched sleeve lengths), the volunteers were friendly and helpful, and hey, who doesn’t like starting off a race with SpongeBob SquarePants waving at you from a boat?