Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 & a Preverbal Slap to the Face

I was recently exposed to a story that went something like this...

"I heard there was a guy who was out camping and had to go into one of those 'wilderness toilets' you know, the hole kind! So he sitting down getting on with the business of pooping when a rather perturbed porcupine rockets up the hole and spears him in the balls...he died"

Why the teller felt the need to recant such a tale in a conversation regarding the eternal struggle between the fair sex's opinion of toilet seat position was beyond me. Like a train wreak however it is impossible one started to avert ones ears; I will be sure now to thoroughly check all 'wilderness toilets' for potential porcupines. Perhaps it was tales like these that the brothers Grimm collected on their journey through Europe, I am sure today that there is an App for such relevant folk lore.

The year that was '2011' passed in somewhat of a blur & it would appear that I now have both a life and a plan, at least in the short run. So far here is a preview of what is to come in 2012...

Start the season off right with 4 triathlons in 3 days at Triple-T teamed with Kory

Get back to where it all began with the Western Subaru Series Triathlons (5 Total)

Rock as many of the long distance swims as I can with VOWSA including the Bay Challenge

Return once more to swim in lovely Thetis Lake for 5km

Finally Finish the Summer off right with friends and family at Iron Man Canada

Oh and along the way I might actually get some career work done, so stick around and find out how far this sack o' meat will go in the 2012 Season!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Includes: Hot water, Hydro, and Internet?

Moving into a new place can be chaotic, thankfully the internet traditionally makes the transition easier by providing local information such as grocery store hours. Talking to my new landlord he assured me that internet was included, though he mentioned that it was localized to the living room window that should have been my first clue...

Sure enough coming in after class I popped my laptop open excitedly and checked my airport list, not knowing the SSID I tried a few of the available ones with the password I had been given; no luck. Thankfully I had great cell reception and after a brief conversation with the landlord I had an SSID to hunt for. Apparently my laptop battery has decided to work again so I was able to trot outside in the rain down the end of the house to pull up the network. One Nifty trick I discovered for identifying the quality of a connection was to [ hold option button + click on airport icon ] this revealed the severity of my problem.

{Picture of above}
View of the airport drop down window

Receive Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) -80 with a transmit rate of 1 ?!? Well at least it existed... Armed with this knowledge and a preferred network connection I popped open istumbler and began walking in a grid around my apartment. The living room and kitchen area had an average RSSI of -87 with the majority of the space failing to discover the connection at all. Similarly the bathroom was patchy, though the back of the shower produced a dazzling -75 for a brief period. At last near the end of my mattress a somewhat stable -80 zone appeared, it felt like going back to dial up but at least I could check my email. Suffice it to say this was unacceptable! Internet is a pretty major staple of my diet, far more so than the 'cable' that I could apparently connect into in the living room. So I weighed my options...
a) Complain to the landlord in the hopes that eventually he would do something -
b) Phone shaw and order service for my suite alone - high cost and delay
c) Ask to modify his router with a directional parabolic antenna - That's a hard sell
d) Find a repeater - High cost?

After a brief stint on google sitting out in the rain I pulled up information on converting your router into a repeater using DD-WRT via lifehacker Ideally I would have an old router lying around, but my recent mobile lifestyle has left me used electronics light. So of course option 2 is a involved a brief visit to craigslist.

This one looks good

Pulling up the specific model number led me to the WRT 54G v3 model DD WRT wiki as well as a wealth of supplemental information available at the bottom of the post. Sifting through the bulk of this was a great way to pass the time in class and by the end of the day I was sufficiently terrified of bricking the router to begin. Or at least that was my assumption...

While this post and similarly my internet should have gone live a solid week ago however I never would have guessed picking up a router would be a problem. My first clue as to the sceptical origen of the router I had selected came when my contact neglected to leave a contact phone number and instead told me to email him closer to the time. Finishing up my course work early I realized that I would be down at our appointed meeting location (the Starbucks at 330 W Broadway) a good hour before I had anticipated. No matter I dashed off a quick email informing him of this fact and would be somewhat early and proceeded down to the coffee shop.

5pm - Glancing around at the assembled patrons I can see no one likely to be hiding a router about their person. I checked behind the counter briefly in the hope that the barista was making some extra money on the side selling off Bell access points.

5:05pm - Squeezing into one of the tables in direct line of the door I pop open my laptop and take a quick nibble at my newly acquired cookie; no reply.

5:30pm - The dregs of my coffee are getting cold, ah well I guess he doesn't regularly check his email

6:00pm - A sketchy looking man enters carrying several bags of mismatched items; I look up eagerly trying desperately to catch his gaze. Glazed eyes drift over me as he shuffles to the back of the coffee shop. Not perturbed I call out the name of the contact i'm supposed to meet...nothing. Crestfallen I turn back to my laptop and fire off another email to him letting him know I was there and what I looked like (Tall, dark and unbelievably handsome!)

6:18pm - An older gentleman walks in purposefully his beady eyes rake over the motley collection of addicts, the eyes of a buyer. The sketchy gentlemen from earlier is away likely taking advantage of the free soap in the bathroom leaving his possessions huddled against the wall. "Are you looking for Graham?" I ask, perhaps he knew something more than I did about my mystery contact.

6:25pm - Nope! Well at the very least we were looking for someone interested in selling both a candelabra and a router, odd...

6:30pm - Returning from the bathroom the gentleman of interest is spotted by my new friend who trots over to ask him if he's got a candelabra. The man wags his head back and forth, some vague semblance of language dribbles out between cracked lips. Similarly defeated the man rejoins me to wait.

6:40pm - A third man walks in, cash in hand. I'm beginning to wonder if this is some elaborate social experiment to lure strangers into an awkward social bonding experience. Coming to the same conclusion as we had the third man approached the tempting collection of objects festooned around around the far table. "Graham?" we hear him ask. Without batting an eyelash the man reaches into one of his bags and pulls out a collection CD's and trades it for the mans fistful of cash. Observing this exchange in silence I match skeptical eyebrows with candelabra man.

For what ever reason Graham seemed to have determined that both of us were not to be blessed with a sale that day. Could he have thought we were undercover cops? Was he worried that I would have attempted to hurl him through the confectionary cabinet for wasting my time? Regardless there was no point in waiting around and after a few final attempts to coax a router out of this mysterious merchant I departed the Starbucks empty handed.

{Picture of the router, E cable, router, beer}
Resources required

For safety sake I decided to use firefox to flash the device

Additional Links
[1] Peacock expansive WW DRT forum thread
[2] DD WRT Installation guide
[3] Linksys WRT54G v3 wiki
[4] Parabolic Antenna Forum post
[5] Free Parabolic Antenna Template

Monday, November 29, 2010

Logging those hours

Last year Vince convinced me that it would be a great idea to keep track of my training hours for this season and provided me with a great link to the google doc spreadsheet he uses to track his own hours / distances. At first I thought it would be arduous to keep up and I would eventually fall of the logging wagon, however being able to compare hours and distances with my fellow triathletes is a great motivator. Therefore as the end of 2010 rolls around I find myself cleaning up and updating my 2010 log making it ready for the 2011 season. I thought therefore this would be a good time to offer up a copy to any of those who would like to start logging in the current season, or who are still stuck in the dark ages of Excel logging. The color scheme can of course be change for those who loath the one I have selected, I do recommend differentiating the colours in the separate Swim / Run / Bike columns to easily see where your missing out in your training.

Excerpt from my 2010 "Workout Data" tab

The interface is fairly simple, simply log your distance and hours in the appropriate format in the main "Workouts Data" tab and that information is referenced through to the: Overall, Swim, Bike, and Run tabs. Information presented in these tabs such as the distance / time per week is a great way to chart your continuing progress. Having a lazy week? A low bar on a graph has more than once inspired me to hit that late night Sunday swim slot.

Excerpt from 2010 "Swim Graphs" Tab

The "PB's" or Personal Best's tab is a good way to track race and personal goal improvement over a single discipline. Similarly the "Races" tab allows you to analyze your races over the season without having to comb back through Champion Timing data. Gear information I really have yet to find a use for, but I hope to next year go through my gear and figure something out... Finally the "Current Totals" Tab was created to link to a blog as explained in this post.

Excerpt from 2010 "Overall" tab

So what are you waiting for? Make yourself a copy of the "Training Log 2011" and start logging in the new year!

Honda CB125S - Breaker points

Due to a cracked wiper ring kick starting the engine over a few weeks ago resulted in the removal of the complete head assembly yet again (At least i am getting very streamlined at the procedure now.) Reassembling the breaker points for the umpteenth time called for a more exact measure of checking the firing point.

Contact points plate diagram

An extended overview can of course be found on wikipedia, however the principle of operation is simple. As the rotation of the crank shaft drives the cam shaft at a 2:1 rotation conversion for the little 4 stroke engine the asymmetrical end of the camshaft lobe presses against the spring arm of the breaker causing it to on the compression stroke 'contact' the grounding point. At a set point ideally just prior to Top Dead Centre the pressure from the cam on the breaker arm is released causing the points to separate and the resulting sudden change in current across the inductor of the ignition coil induces a voltage spike v(t) = L(di/dt). This spike is large enough to break down the dielectric strength of the gas-air gas mixture and the gases become ionized allowing electrons to travel across the spark plug gap igniting the fuel mixture at ~500-800C.

The procedure Honda prescribes for determining plate rotation requires that a) you have the engine mounted on the bike b) you have a 6v test bulb.

Honda's Recommended breaker alignment procedure

Unfortunately I have neither a, nor b so rather than hunt around for a multimeter it was far easier to modify the families emergency flashlight. Thankfully 4 years of labs left me with a wealth of spare wire and aligator grips, so in not time at all and using an excessive amount of packing tape I had come up with a rudimentary conductivity tester. Evidently the contact points are connected in the following picture as the bulb is illuminated.

Connection tester alligator clipped to breaker spring (red wire) and grounded to case (black)

To determine the separation point of the contacts the two adjustment screws on the contact plate must be loosened and the plate rotated such that the light on my conduction tester goes off when the F point on the crank shaft aligns with the index mark on the stator during the compression stroke. This is accomplished by rotating the crankshaft with a 14mm wrench until the F line and the index mark align, then using a flat head screw driver gently rotate the top plate CCW's until the bulb turns off. Once aligned tighten down the adjustment screws and check to see if the point is the same, I had to redo this a few times as the tightening causes the plate to shift. It was interesting to note that the pervious wear on the contact plate indicating where the plate had previously been tightened down was significantly off from the newly realized plate rotation. Perhaps this was the reason for wiper ring crack?

Crank plate (14mm bolt) with T (Top dead center) and F (Fire) marked

Sunday, October 3, 2010

1974 Honda CB125 - Completion

Soon hopefully I will get around to documenting the process that culminated in today success...

All that's missing is a sunset to ride off into!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Swim Touring - Part 1

There are many words that can be found before 'touring' in a google search: Bike, car, even camel. I mention this because usually when I want to try something that I've never done I turn to google to offer me some advice on how such a thing might best be accomplished. Unfortunately Google seems to have fallen short when it comes to adding 'swim' to 'touring' or in fact any permutation of phrases related to traveling long distances in water with gear. If google has never heard of it I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that what you are about to read about is an activity so revolutionary even the internet has not yet heard of it! 'Swim touring' can be thought of as the love child of canoe touring and distance swimming. The principle is simple: select a suitable loop involving land and water, throw on wetsuits and fins, strap your gear to a floatation device, and get paddling...


Going on the hunch that canoe tourers had some pretty good ideas regarding water loops we hunted around the local area to find a suitable location for our inaugural foray into the sport (Activity?). Sure enough we soon came upon a number of older posts on a route known as The Nitinat triangle which sounded ideal for out purposes. Hunting through what information we could distill from various blogs and forums we plotted out what we felt was a suitable route that was short enough to swim, but long enough to get a quality adventure in. Our proposed route would take us from the Knob point campsite down Nitinate 'lake' about 4km where we could cross over land ~1km into Hobiton lake which we could then swim down to find the trail up to Hitchie lake to camp.

There are several unique challenges to swim touring some of which we guessed at prior to departure: keeping gear dry and afloat, towing something while swimming, and keeping relatively warm. Most of the critical gear (Sleeping bags, stove, food etc.) we managed to cram into my 30L SealLine bag. The remaining two backpacks were double packed into rather flimsy garbage bags with the hope that most of the water would be too lazy to penetrate through to our gear. Lacking an appropriately streamlined craft and wanting to ensure that our gear stayed as high and dry as possible we lashed our bags to the top of an inner tube. This was not the ideal solution as our gear developed a nasty habit of trying to abandon ship if we hit a particularly vertical patch of water, but it worked.

Keeping warm when your planning on jumping into a freezing cold lake is significantly more of a challenge; in the end we settled on a pair of shorty wetsuits that were flexible enough to hike & swim in while providing a measure of protection against the water. The idea being that once we had reached our destination we could strip down and huddle inside warm dry sleeping bags. Matching swim caps also prevented excessive thermal loss from our scalps while providing an incredibly streamlined profile in the water.

Not surprisingly there is very little information available on how to tow a tube through the water without having to hold onto it, consequently much of our preparation time was spend designing and then constructing swim harnesses. After a number of sketches and string based mockups we came up with a set of belts that could be easily removed in the event of a seal attack and that fastened together onto the inner tube (the emergency whistle was integral!)

Feeling very proud of our handy work we hitched up the tube and trotted around the lawn in a land based simulation. Whether due to the initial perfection of the design or the dissimilarities between grass and water we struggled to find anything wrong with our creation in the land trials.

Collecting together most of our gear we tossed everything into the tiny back yard pool for some 'sea' trials. It didn't take long to find an appropriate length for the tow rope connecting us and to discover that at the speed we were moving the tube offered surprisingly little resistance. So far the plan was coming along swimmingly! It could be argued that the three strokes across the pool were as effective as the BC ferries sea cat trials, though again they failed to identify any major flaw in our plan. Feeling very proud of ourselves we crammed all of our gear into the car and drifted off to sleep content in the knowledge that we were completely and undeniably prepared for the days ahead!

Next installment; The Adventure...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Embedding Google Spreadsheet data into blog side bar

Frustrated with having to manually update my training data I spent more time than I would like to admit automating the process...

Step 1: Log in to your GoogleDoc Spreadsheet that you want to share. For my purposes I wanted to share only my totals so I created a new sheet and collated my overall training data to make it more visually appealing.

Step 2: Click the little down arrow beside the share button at the top right hand corner of the sheet and select "publish as a web page" from the drop down menu.

Step 3: Select the spread sheet that contains the data you want and click "Start publishing" Once that is done you should have a screen similar to the one shown in the picture above. Under the "Get a link to publish" header select "Webpage" , your sheets name, and the Cell range within the sheet that contains the data, in my case A1:C4.

Step 4: Highlight and copy the link that is generated, this will be used in the iframe parameters later.

Step 5: Log in to your blogger dashboard and access the design section of your blog.

Step 6: Click on the add gaget table in the location you would like to insert your spreadsheet. Select a "HTML/Javascript" gadget
Step 7: insert this HTML code with a '<' bracketing the iframe command on the first line (Note if this is added in bloggers composer it executes the framing command in the post hence why I have excluded it)...

iframe frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="50" border="0" style="border:0;width:195px;height:108px;"
scrolling="no" allowtransparency="true">

replacing the orange text with the html link you copied from your GoogleDoc spreadsheet. The red text can then be adjusted to fit the cells you desire. I would like to credit Viti-Vino. Le Blog de prac for this handy piece of html code.

EDIT 2012: Publish to web can now be accessed via the File menu