Tag Archives: nerd-on

It’s Shiny And New, But Is It Squee Inducing?

So early last week my new office computer finally arrived.  I know, I’m excited about it too.

And of course, I know that it will come as no surprise that I decided to purchase a brand new shiny Apple. For this purchase, I opted for an Apple 27″ iMac.  And because I’m a real-estate whore, I opted to go with dual monitors.  That’s right, I have two 27″ monitors.  So much space.  So much shiny.  So much computer-y goodness.  I can’t not get my compu-geek-on every time I open up my office door.  I may or may not squee with delight whenever I glance at my glorious computer real estate.  The shiny-big-awesomeness that is my new computer is almost too much for me to handle.  Almost.

My newly rearranged office. The desk now faces the as-yet-still-blank-but-soon-to-be-not-so-blank wall.

To be honest, the monitors are so large that I was required to rearrange my office.  Part of this office rearranging was required for power supply reasons.  But mainly it was necessary because no one would be able to see me if they sat on the opposite side of my desk.  And how can I be an active listener if I can’t see with whom I’m conversing?  The answer is, I can’t.  I mean, I’m sure active listening doesn’t always require visual contact, but I know myself well enough to know that it certainly helps.  There is something about being able to see a person’s eyes when speaking with them.

Anyway, to get a sense of the size of the monitors in relationship to the desk and in relationship to any potential student that might be sitting on the opposite side of my desk, Almost-Dr. Sean graciously volunteered to assist me with a little demonstration.

Sean, demonstrating the communication blockade (also known as my dual monitor setup)

Here the term volunteer is meant to suggest that I volunteered him without his knowing, apart from me obviously taking pictures of him.   Clearly, if Almost-Dr. Sean is blocked by the monitors, lesser students wouldn’t stand a chance.  Something had to be done, and quickly.  Rearranging my office became not only necessary, but imperative.  If I didn’t rearrange it, students would suffer.  And suffering students are the worst kind of students.

Of course, rearranging my office had the added benefit of eating up a chunk of my day (specifically that portion of the day after lunch when I suffer from food-sketch and food-related head-bobs).  The added bonus of rearranging: it allowed me to cross off several items from my daily to do list.

  1. Set up new computer
  2. rearrange office
  3. write that paper I’ve been meaning to write
  4. write that proposal I’ve been meaning to write
  5. finish writing that report that was due yesterday

Since I could cross two items off my list, it meant my day could be called productive (even though deep down I scoff at such pathetic attempts of productivity).

My shiny new keyboard and trackpad. Trackpads are tres awesome.

But this post isn’t meant to be a running commentary on the ins and outs of rearranging my office.  It’s about my new computer and all of its shiny parts; including a shiny wireless keyboard, a shiny wireless mouse, and a shiny wireless trackpad.

The trackpad is my new favourite toy.  It is awesome!  Although it has taken some getting used to.  Specifically in the area of not touching it with my arm whenever I’m typing.  Because I apparently type like a bird; flapping my arms like they are wings or something.  This is the only way to explain why I end up hitting the track pad with my arm and moving the cursor all over the place.  Or scrolling rather quickly through a document.

My most excellent workspace. The monitors are large enough to fill the screens with two collages of photos from my trip to Hawaii. Because the blank wall behind the screens isn't nearly as fun to stare at as pictures of Rick and me adventuring in paradise.

Moving the cursor and scrolling through a document becomes problematic when the document scrolls and the cursor moves simultaneously.  Whenever this happens, I end up typing several lines of text somewhere I never intended to write said text.  Or worse – overwriting existing text.  This is especially problematic given that I’m not always looking at the screen on which I’m typing – as my dual monitors allow me the luxury of reading documents on one screen while I type on another.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Uncle Ben, Spiderman

Clearly I need to heed Uncle Ben’s advice.  The trackpad offers uber power, so clearly I must wield it responsibly.  That, or I just need to stop flapping like a damn bird whenever I’m typing.

What other changes are coming to my office?  Well, I’ve thought about what I would like to do and have a few thoughts, which I present to you dear readers, in list form (of course).

  • I would like to add a wall sized whiteboard to the wall directly behind my desk.  This whiteboard is necessary for the requisite writing of equations, crunching of numbers, and other professorly things I will need to do (such as mathematical and statistical nerdery).
  • Or, I might instead get an interactive white board mounted on the wall behind my desk for similar such writing, crunching and professorly activities as listed in the previous bullet.  This would also permit me the ability to work on a computer whilst standing.  Sometimes sitting is for suckers.  Of course, this particular addition to the office would require substantial funding (I’m looking at you CFI).
  • My duo monitor setup, and my wee 17" MacBook Pro. A happy little family.
  • I think any office worth its salt requires a comfy sofa or recliner.  Clearly my office is no different.  Why a sofa or recliner?  Simple; sometimes one needs to be comfy when reading a stack of papers.  Or marking papers.  Or taking a nap.
  • Clearly I need a new desk and new office chair as mine are dated roughly from the disco era.
  • Given that I suffer with food-sketch and head-bobbing on an almost daily basis, I clearly need a way to get my blood flowing.  This means I must have a yoga mat in my office.  Or stop eating.
  • Because I’m a real estate whore I am going to purchase a three monitor MacPro (the current computer on my desk will become a workspace for a student).  This is uber expensive, so it will also depend on funding.  But just think of the real estate I’ll have.  So much space.  So much shiny.  So much computer-y goodness.
  • I’ve also thought about other math-y/stat-y type decorations.  I was thinking of painting numbers or greek letters, or possibly equations all over the wall (or perhaps decals of such things).  Or maybe the digits of \pi.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  Once it has been fully ‘renovated’, I’ll of course blog about it so that you are aware of what I’ve done with my space.  w00t!

Is it weird that I’m excited about this?

I Am The Goo That Remains After Left And Right Brains Collide

I find myself sitting at La Guardia airport waiting to board my plane home.  This is the worst part of vacation; waiting to go home.  Would that I could travel all the time.  Sigh.

I had mentioned in previous posts (see I Ate New York, and I Ate New York, Again) that I was going to provide some further description of three aspects of our adventure in the Big Apple.  So, without further ado, I present to you my adventures at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the off-Broadway production of Freud’s Last Session.

American Museum of Natural History

Entrance to Journey to the Stars. Reminds me of the Death Star.

It should come as no surprise that we were all stoked to visit the AMNH.  Between the four of us, there are 2 Statisticians, a Physicist, and a Plant Scientist.  That’s right folks, a pinochle of nerds1, each with a Ph.D. in awesome.

On arrival, we quickly decided to purchase the super saver pass, which included 4 shows/exhibits; Journey to the Stars, The Brain, Butterflies, and Sea Rex.  I had an instantaneous nerd-on.

Prior to entering Journey to the Stars, we wandered around the Hayden Big Bang Theatre.  The theatre itself being a large globe that is used to put other items on display around it into perspective.  Starting at one end of the display, we worked from the very large to the very small.  Very large of course being 1026 metres, and the very small being 10-15 metres2.  In one case, the Hayden theatre was used to represent the size of the universe when compared to our galaxy.  At a later point, it represented the sun in comparison to our own planet.  Even later, it represented the size of hydrogen atom in comparison to a proton.  The amazing part of that comparison, was that the proton was a tiny dot smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.  I knew from what I had been taught in chemistry and physics that there was a lot of empty space in an atom, but this really put it into context.  Amazing.  I love science!

The Hayden Theatre - here indicating the size of the sun in comparison to the earth (bottom right corner)

During our journey through size, Alan noticed that one particular panel seemed a bit off.  When describing things at a scale of 10-1 metres (i.e., 10cm), the text read at this scale, the Hayden theatre is actual size.  Um, shouldn’t that be at the 100 scale?  Additionally, on the same panel it was discussing centimetres.  Centimetres, as we all know are 10-2 metres, not 10-1 metres.  Really AMNH?  Really?

The Journey to the Stars presentation was akin to something one would see at a planetarium, except Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg.  The movie itself was fantastic, engaging, and very visually satisfying.  Strangely there was no mention of the Big Bang theory, perhaps to avoid some sort of religious controversy?  Or maybe I’m not up on some new development concerning the birth of our universe.  Regardless, I left feeling very satisfied, what with my nerd-zone being fully stimulated.

Our next stop was the Brain exhibit, which was great despite being very crowded.  It was interesting to learn about the different layers of the brain; the regions where base functions reside, and those that are required for higher thinking.  I was particularly drawn to the part of the exhibit that focused on the eye; specifically ocular implants.  It gives me hope that I won’t need stupid eye injections to deal with my Macular Degeneration.  Also, the idea of being half man, half indestructible cyborg seems kind of appealing.

There were several other parts of the exhibit that drew me in; one that dealt with higher reasoning and logic, the other about memory.  The former including a board full of math-y looking equations, the latter including a small description about a brilliant man named Daniel Tammet who has the ability to remember \pi to 22, 514 digits3.  Crazy insane.

So many problems with this display, my head actually exploded. EXPLODED.
GAH. Just GAH!

I did, however, take exception to some of the equations.  As you can clearly see in the picture, there are a lot of problems.  Glaringly painful problems.  Didn’t they have anyone vet the information they were throwing up on display?  Or was this another case of ‘no one will notice because it looks mathy’?  Gah.  Gah I say!  Nothing annoys me more than when someone presents math because it looks math-y.  It’s even more annoying since this was on display in a Museum.  A MUSEUM.

So what is wrong with the math?  Where to begin?

  1. e=2.79?  Really AMNH?  REALLY?  I can’t understand how this one slipped past the editors.  Or is that supposed to be c, as in the speed of light constant?  Because if it is, it’s still wrong.  HEAD.  EXPLODING. ALL. OVER.
  2. \Sigma=n-1?  This is only acceptable if \Sigma is being used as a variable, and not in the standard summation notation form.  Poor form, at best.  Blatantly wrong, at worst.
  3. \frac{\Delta x}{\Delta y}=\displaystyle{\lim_{\infty}}\frac{\Delta x+2}{\Delta y-1}?  Notationally, I have no idea what the limit is with respect to; \Delta x, or \Delta y?
  4. x_{\frac{1}{2}}=\frac{b\pm(a-c)}{\sqrt{a}}?  My guess is that they were trying to write out the quadratic equation.  While this may not have been the intent, I worry based on all the other problems that it was, and whomever wrote this got it very wrong.
  5. The rest of the circled items just seem weird to me, mainly because they include notation that I’ve never seen (a plus with a tilde above it?), or seem to be missing notation (the natural logarithm of absolute value of x, but the right absolute bar seems to be missing).  I know this is picky but after I saw one problem I just couldn’t stop.

Anyway, despite this little hiccup we still managed to enjoy the Butterflies, and Sea Rex.  The butterfly exhibit was particularly cool given the hundreds and hundreds of butterflies floating gracefully over our heads.  I also got to hold a silkworm cocoon, which was crazy awesome.

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

The Museum of Modern Art was amazing.  This was my third visit; my second in the past year.  This time around, we were able to take in an exhibit of some of Warhol’s short movies.  Basically, he filmed celebrities of the time by themselves sitting in a room.  The resulting films are strangely intimate and personal, but also very awkward to view.  All that one sees on film are the celebrity faces.  The effect is very much like the living pictures in Harry Potter.

The museum also had a movie on display known as The Kiss.  As I stood there watching what I thought were a man and woman passionately kissing, I found it very weird that the woman kept her eyes open.  As the camera panned out, I realized it was two men.  That didn’t bother me.  But it’s then that I realized how young they were.  That put me on edge.  They seemed far too young, and the result was very discomforting.  I’m guessing this might have been Warhol’s intent.

Wandering the rest of the museum, I saw works by De Kooning, Kandinsky, Seurat, Van Gogh, Miro, Pollack, Picasso, Modigliani, and many, many others.  Some of the works were, for lack of better terms, moving.  And of course, there were others that had no effect on me at all, except maybe to think Really.  Are you kidding me? For example, the canvas painted black.  Or maybe the solid blue canvas.  Perhaps the point being to challenge one’s concept of art.  Well played artist who probably made a name with these works.  Well played indeed.

I think my favourite part of the museum was the end.  As you leave the museum, an employee or volunteer asks you to write down your answer to I went to MoMA and…, and then post it on the wall.  Of course, I had to review some of them.  The following jumped out at me:

Clever. Very clever.
I had to agree with this. So many amazing works.
Hilariously inappropriate. Clearly it spoke to me.

Of course, I had to add to the collection :)

Yup. I did that.

Off Broadway Play – Freud’s Last Session

Last but not least, we decided to hit up an off-Broadway play.  In this case, Freud’s Last Session.  The play was fantastic and provoked much thought and discussion.  The idea is that Freud had a last psychoanalytic session with one C.S. Lewis.  Lewis, the author of the much beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, was also known for his religious writings such as The Screwtape Letters, and Surprised by Joy.  Freud of course was atheist.  So one can imagine how interesting a conversation would have been should the two of these individuals had ever met.

Both had great arguments supporting their beliefs, but I have to say I found Freud’s more compelling and logical.  Perhaps that is because I am far more logical than I am a believer.  That is to say, I respond to empirical evidence more than I do to faith.  That could be a shortcoming of mine, but that is the way I tick.  One might argue that this is the way God made me.  How circular is that?  HA!

Beyond being captivated by the concept, the dialogue and the actors kept me completely engaged.  And that is no small feat given that there were only 2 actors on the stage.

Anyway, I won’t ramble on any more about the play.  If you have a chance to see it, definitely check it out.  It is money well spent.

1 A pinochle being the term used to describe a group of nerds (like flock of birds, or pride of lions, except nerdier).

2 Do you notice something about the range of scale here?  The very smallest objects to the very largest cover 42 orders of magnitude (26+15+1=42, the extra +1 to include 100 of course).  And what is 42?  Only the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything4.  Coincidence?  I think not5.

3 His amazing story is documented in the film The Boy With The Incredible Brain. See it.  Seriously.  He will amaze and astound you, and you will be left inspired by what the human brain is capable of achieving.

4 According to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

5 Of course, a later part of the display also included magnitudes ranging from 10-18 to 10-16 (for quantum particles), hence destroying that theory of mine.  Sigh.  I knew it was too good to be true :)

List-O-Nerdidays: The Downloadable Calend-Nerd

Image from Natalie Dee

So given the interest1 in the List-o-Nerdidays that I compiled and published on February 20, 2011, I’ve decided that something more needed to be done.

“Wait, what list?”, you ask.  Only the list of holidays for nerds; the list which consists of various non-religious, non politically motived days that have been set aside by the academic and scientific communities to celebrate intelligence, academic achievement, scientific discovery, the search for truth, and most importantly, the nerd inside all of us.

And don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m writing about.  You know the nerd is in there.  Deep down, past the cool facade of fashion, business, sports, and every day life.  Past the ego that frightens you into thinking that you’ll become an instant pariah for knowing \pi, \phi, or e to more than 5 decimal places.   Beyond the belief that your friends will run from you for fear of being identified as having arrived at the party with you; especially after you begin a long-winded and one-sided conversation about stochastic differential equations, quantum physics, stoichiometry, or Bayesian analyses.

The nerd of which I write is the same one that is secretly excited at so much as a mention of mathematics or statistics in a television show or in a movie.  The exact same nerd that then shouts at the television or movie screen when they get it wrong or make something simplistic look like rocket science2.

You don’t do that? That’s just me? Really?

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to inform you, dear readers, that I have created a downloadable version of the List-o-Nerdidays.  You should be able to drop this calendar of nerdery – a Calend-nerd if you will3 – into Apple’s iCal, or upload it to Google Calendar.  I have no idea if this will work with Microsoft Outlook4.

To download this list-o-awesome, click here.

1 It is my second most popular post, ignoring my home page, scoring an average of 8.5 views per day since it was created.

2 I’m looking at you Good Will Hunting.

3 Calend-nerd, first coined by Almost Dr. Sean.

4 If you are a Windows user, could you let me know if this works?

Whiteboard Madness

I was scanning through my photos yesterday, distracting myself from some less-than-awesome things that have been happening around me since I got back from my epic adventure with Rick, and I stumbled on a bunch of math-y type pictures that I hadn’t seen in quite some time.  Most of the pictures were taken over the course of my Ph.D., although some were related to my Post Doc1.  Let me explain:

This is the only photo that I could find that has me even remotely close to a chalkboard or whiteboard. It was taken at the final trial run for my Ph.D. Defence.

During the many years that I spent getting all edu-ma-cated, I learned among other things that I love working at a chalkboard or whiteboard.  I’m not quite sure why this is the case.  Perhaps it’s the feeling I get when I stand in front of the boards, faced with a giant empty canvas on which to collect my thoughts.  Perhaps it’s the act of bounding from one board to the next, jotting down matrices, integrating functions, or proving theorems.  Perhaps it’s the overall Good-Will-Hunting-ness of the situation.  Or perhaps it’s a little bit of all of these things.  Or maybe, just maybe, I really, really like the smell of whiteboard dry-erase marker and chalk dust.

Honestly though, I think it’s the pulling-up-my-sleeves-and-getting-my-hands-dirty sort of feeling that I get when I stand in front of such a canvas.  There is something romantic about working at the board (chalk or white).  I don’t mean romantic in the hey-board-how-you-doin’ kind of way, but romantic in the sense of history, and nostalgia, and creativity, and inspiration, and possibility.  I would often wonder, when standing at the chalkboard-cum-mathematical-and-statistical-altar, what other minds had offered their ideas on the very chalkboard that I had selected as my scratch pad.  What great discoveries were made right there, on that blank slate?  I would fantasize that I might also discover something monumental, and that History would remember this chalkboard as relevant to that moment in time when I had my Eureka moment.  And then I’d think about all the minds and ideas that would come after me.  What might they contribute?

Anyway, the point is, I love working on a chalkboard or whiteboard.  I feel that it helps to get my creative mathematical and statistical thoughts a-flowing.  And truth be told, all of the major breakthroughs that I had with my thesis typically happened, you guessed it, at the chalkboard.

So why the pictures?  Well, it was often the case that my breakthroughs also came during periods in time when I was the most tired.  Less-than-4-hours-of-sleep-on-a-regular-basis tired.  Stupid tired.  Really, really, stupid tired.  During these times, there was no way that I would ever count on my brain to remember anything.  So you can imagine that any attempts on my part to remember how a formula was derived, what trick I used to solve an equation, or how I proved a crucial element of my Ph.D., would be futile.  It was definitely not a job that I would leave to the responsibility of my brain.  I think you see where this is going.  So as not to lose a single thought, equation, missed attempt, or satisfying victory, I took to snapping photos of everything.  As such, I now have a set of these math-y type photos in my collection.  I present some of those math-y photos to you now.

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Note that some of these photos represent equations/solutions that ultimately ended up in my thesis.  Others were dead ends; unsuccessful attempts at proving various things that required proving.  And others were just plain dumb.

1 Which was really a Pre Doc, as I worked on it at the same time as I was finishing up my Ph.D. Technically one can’t be post doctorate, if one hasn’t yet achieved the title of doctorate.

Your One Stop Shop For Y-Shaped Scars, Stupid Burning, And Sad Babies

As stated in my previous post, I am relatively new to this world-o-wonder that is WordPress blogging. Thankfully, the learning curve has been easy to traverse, so I’m feeling very comfortable with all that it has to offer. And I continue to learn, which is keeping it all very entertaining and exciting for me.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that when I learned that WordPress summarized various aspects of my blog using statistics, I developed a bit of a nerd-on.  That is to write, the Stats section of WordPress drew me in like a proverbial moth to flame. I find myself compelled to check how many views my posts have, and how they compare to each other.  I can’t help myself, I just love numbers that much.

WordPress also presents some of the data it collects graphically, as the visual representation is typically easier to swallow than a list of numbers.  The graph below is automatically generated by WordPress.  It summarizes the number of page views I’ve had per day since I set up Consumed By Wanderlust.  My busiest day was Thursday, February 3, 2011.  On that day I posted I’m Glad I Don’t Have To Sleep In The Wet Spot and This Is What Awesome People Do.  I’m guessing the title of the first post might have had something to do with the spike in page views, but I really can’t be certain.

Views of my blog, by day. Potential temporal patterns?

Being the nerd that I am, I will at some point, analyze the data that WordPress collects to see if there are any underlying patterns. Perhaps certain topics will pop out as being those that draw in the readers. Or maybe there will be some sort of temporal component to it all. Obviously, whatever information I find will be posted, if and when I uncover a pattern. Clearly this is the type of information that you the reader would want to know, right? Riiiiiight.

Anyway, WordPress also provides a list of search terms/phrases that readers would have googled, and on googling said term/phrase, were led to my blog. I find these all very fascinating, and present them to you (including the number of times each term/phrase was searched).  Note: by fascinating, I clearly mean hilarious (for example, pay attention to the highlighted items in the list below).

  • consumedbywanderlust 13
  • if you love me you’ll sleep in the wet spot 2
  • tour pineapple plantation in big island 1
  • “worst blog title ever” 1
  • flights from oahu to the big island 1
  • lamentably, no. my gastronomic rapacity knows no satiety. 1
  • lacerated nose 1
  • big island, hi flea market 1
  • lamentably no 1
  • forehead scar y-shape 1
  • my gastronomic rapacity knows no satiety. 1
  • picture of fat lady drinking wine 1
  • homer simpson my gastronomic rapacity knows 1
  • can overweight people climb diamond head 1
  • awesome wins 1
  • the stupid burns 1
  • catrina.hawks01@gala.net 1
  • stupid it burns 1
  • the man who can run 500 km 1
  • http://www.consumedbywanderlust.com 1
  • no stupidity 1
  • sad babies 1
  • somewhere out there hawaii 1

I love, love, love that 2 someones were led to Consumed By Wanderlust by searching if you love me you’ll sleep in the wet spot. I also love, love, love that someone found their way to this blog by searching about a y-shaped scar, stupid burning, and sad babies.  Also, why is someone searching for a picture of a fat lady drinking wine, and why on earth did that lead them to Consumed By Wanderlust?  Hilarious.

I can’t wait to see what other terms/phrases will lead people here.

Mathy Valen-time’s Day!

Alternate title for this entry: “I Heart Function You Too” (G. Darlington, 2011)

Happy Valentine’s Day dear readers.

For those of you that celebrate this day, I hope you get to celebrate with someone you love – be that a spouse, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, golf club, barcalounger, rocket powered massager, hand-held calculator, or your very own self.

I am not one who tends to celebrate this day, unless celebrating includes someone buying me chocolate1, or pouring me a glass of wine. I will, from time to time, send out inappropriate Valentine’s Day cards2. In fact, any card I tend to send is typically inappropriate3. For example, I may have sent this to a friend during a Valentine’s Day past:

I sent this to a friend a few years ago. Amazingly, he still talks to me. HA!

I have also been known to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the mathy-est way possible.  How does one do that?  By plotting a Cardioid4, or a parametric heart5 of course.  Yes, I am that nerdy.

A Cardioid; drawn using polar coordinates.

These plots clearly indicate that Math is the language of love, despite whatever rumours you may have heard to the contrary.

A heart drawn using a parametric equation. Math, truly the language of love.

Anyway, the reason I decided to blog about Valentine’s Day, apart from the obvious fact that it is Valentine’s Day, is that I received an awesome card from Steph when I got home on Friday.  The card did three things at once, as detailed in this shiny list-o-love:

  1. It made me smile; something I very much-needed after a really long and painful week,
  2. It reminded me that I really do have the best friends ever. I love you too Steph! You’re pretty dino-rrific as well, and
  3. It reminded me that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, thus prompting this post.

Hence, you can thank Steph for this walk-on-the-beach-hand-holding-make-love-all-day-to-math style of post.

I am Dino-rrific!

I close with this dork-tacular tweet.  Mathy Valen-time’s Day all y’all. Mathy Valen-time’s Day long time.


So dorky, and yet so full of awesome.

1 Dark chocolate of course. All other chocolates pale in comparison.  Ha!  Get it.  Pale in comparison.  PALE.  Because dark chocolate is dark!  Hilarious. I kill me.

2 Via email of course. I’m far too lazy to actually go to Hallmark to buy a card6. Note: I do not buy cards from Hallmark, as they are far too appropriate.

3 Some friends have caught on to said inappropriateness. Take for example this card that Rick sent me for Christmas. So full of inappropriateness, how can you not love it?

Best. Christmas. Card. Ever.

4 The Cardioid can be drawn using the following equation (in Polar coordinates of course).


Polar equation for the Cardioid shown. So simple, and yet so pretty.

5 The parametric heart can be drawn using the following equation (where t=-1..1).

Parametric equation for the heart shown above. The heart has been scaled up by a factor of 3.

6 I will, however, pick up inappropriate cards from On The Verge located downtown Guelph, whenever I drop in. Inappropriateness such as what can be found here.

In other unrelated news, there is only 1 month remaining until Pi Day (March 14, 2011). I know, I’m excited too!

The Fancy-Pants’ing Of Number-Stuffs

Speaking of nerdery, have you tried out Daytum1 yet?  It’s another iPhone app that I use on a daily basis (website here).  The app allows one to collect data.  Any data.  Clearly this was an app built for me.  I stumbled on this late last year and decided that it would be perfect for tracking the time (in minutes) I spend this year

  • walking,
  • running,
  • biking,
  • yoga’ing (non-studio), and
  • yoga’ing (studio).

I also decided to use it to track the total distance (in kilometers) I travel for each of the activities above (excluding yoga), and my total sleep time.

Now, you might be wondering “Why would you do this, considering that you already use RunKeeper, and SleepCycle to track such things?”  Well, the answer to that oh vigilant reader, is threefold; 1) I have a huge nerd-on for data.  I can’t stress that enough.  Numbers have, are, and always will be my friend, 2) Neither RunKeeper, nor SleepCycle summarize the data like Daytum does, and 3) Daytum allows me to visualize the information differently.  And by differently, I mean awesomely.  With a simple button-click, I can produce summaries that have an awesomely awesome aesthetic appeal.  And if you know anything about me (other than the fact that I am nerdy and love numbers), you will know that I love aesthetically pleasing things.  But really, who doesn’t?  I’m pretty sure we are hardwired that way.

Why do I enjoy this app so much?  Partially, it is my belief that to understand data, they should be analyzed properly, and presented in a manner that conveys findings even to those who might not understand the methods used to analyze them.  In my humble opinion, findings are only useful if they can be effectively communicated.  This is where Daytum succeeds as an app, and makes me all warm and fuzzy in my nerd-zone.  While the analytical methods used by Daytum are not complex, the data are presented such that non-statisticians are tempted to explore further, to ask questions about the patterns that might appear, and perhaps offer up hypotheses to explain what they see.  Or maybe that’s just something I would do.

I also enjoy Daytum because it allows the user to visualize, inspect, explore, and hypothesize about data that are personal in nature, within an app that is easy to use, and visually appealing.  Of course, when I write personal in nature, I do not mean personal in the sense of deep, dark, private things2, but personal in the sense of ownership.  I record data that are about me, and relevant to me.  You could record whatever it is you want to record about you.  Daytum easily allows you to record, visualize, and interpret a collection of your personal data, which may allow you to discover things about yourself that you weren’t ever expecting to discover.  And I think that is exceptionally cool.

To give you a sense of what the app offers, I provide the following fancy-pants summaries, live versions3 of which are available on my Daytum summary page, here.

Total duration spent (in minutes), and distance travelled (in kilometers) exercising since January 1, 2011.

By tracking this type of information, I have been able to establish some goals.   While my 2011 distance goals are outlined in a previous post, today I focus on duration.  Specifically, my goal for 2011 is to spend at least

  • 18, 000 minutes walking,
  • 2, 500 minutes running,
  • 6, 000 minutes biking, and
  • 20, 000 minutes practicing yoga (studio and non-studio, combined).

To set these goals, I simply multiplied my average kilometrage4 (thank you RunKeeper and Excel spreadsheet) by my distance goals.  The result; I plan to spend 46, 500 minutes in 2011 exercising.  Put another way, this is slightly more than 32 days, or 1 solid month plus a day, of pure, exercise gold.  Hmm, perhaps I should consider feasibility, as I have logged only ~7.64% of my total time goal at this point.  Extrapolating to the year would suggest that I might only hit ~68%.  Perhaps I’m biting off too much?  I’ll know more at the end of the year, when I can review my Daytum summaries and learn what I have accomplished.

Time spent sleeping every night. On those nights where I can't record my sleep with SleepCycle, I assume 6 hours of sleep. This is definitely an overestimate.

At this point, I have not set any sleep goals.  I simply want to track my sleep to see what the patterns might be.  Perhaps there is a particular day of the week where sleep tends to elude me.  Who knows?  At the moment, my average daily sleep is about 298 minutes.  This is just slightly less than 5 hours of sleep a night.  Strange, I was convinced I was averaging 5.5 hours a night.  Now I know, and knowing is half the battle (thank you G.I. Joe)5.

Finally, I provide you with some fancy-pants graphs.  Aren’t they pretty?

This plot shows my total time sleeping per day, since January 1, 2011.
Clearly I spend most of my time walking. Because I'm cool.

Not sure what to track?  Consider these nifty examples by other Daytum users:

Hmm, perhaps I’m weird to track exercise and sleep? Nah, that can’t be right.

1 You can download the free app here.

2 Although, I guess one could record data about deep, dark, private things if one were so inclined.

3 Where live=up to date.

4 Average kilometrage values were rounded off to: 10min/km walking, 5min/km running, and 3min/km biking.

5 What is the other half?

Dear Sleep, You Had Me At Zzzzzzzzzzzz

If science has taught us but one thing, it is that repetition is key to the process of learning about the world around us.  With that thought now sitting at the fore of your mind, let me begin this post with the following statement: I am a huge nerd.  I am a huge nerd. I am a huge nerd. As evidence (you know, beyond the evidence offered here, here, and near the bottom of the post here), I offer the following Consumed By Wanderlust entry:

Some of you may be aware that I do not sleep very much.  In fact, I sleep far less than the recommended 8 hours per night.  I’m generally up until at least 1:00 am, although usually it’s more like 1:30 am. And since returning from my trip, I’ve pulled several 3:00 am and 3:30 am nights, because obviously I can sleep when I’m dead.  Further, I wake almost every day by 6:00 am.  Even weekends (although I will grant myself an extra hour or two from time to time on a Saturday or Sunday).  Point is, I rarely ever sleep more than 6 hours in one sitting, unless I’m sick, dying, or dead.  This is nothing new.  That is, I’ve always been a needs-little-sleep-to-function type of person.  So much so, that I’m often annoyed with myself if I sleep longer than 6 hours in a single go.  I always feel like I’ve wasted my day.  Clearly, I’m insane.

Now recall if you will, that on my Not-So-Bucket-List list, I had added the challenge of going to bed before midnight for 2 weeks straight AND getting at least 6 hours of sleep (item #73).  I set this challenge assuming that after 2 weeks, I might try to continue getting 6 hours of sleep – you know, try to be more normal.  Long obvious story short, it so didn’t take.  I was back to my regular habits once the challenge was satisfied.

But, the challenge awoke something inside of me1; my Sleep Nerd. Long he had laid dormant, until the possibility of tracking sleepy-time data was placed at his feet. But how to track my sleep data? I mean, I’d be sleeping. Clearly I couldn’t do it.

And then the Sleep Gods shone down on me2. Specifically, they brought a little iPhone application to my attention. The app is called Sleep Cycle. You can learn all about it by reading their website (as I’m too tired to actually write a lot of detail at the moment). Further, for those that wish to try it out, you can purchase it for a bank-breaking-sum of 99 cents in the AppStore here. And honestly, I highly recommend that you do. It is AWESOME.

But what, pray tell, does it actually do?

This is where the application is full of so much nerdy awesomeness, that I can barely contain myself. It tracks my Zzzz-time, to the point of identifying when I am in various stages of REM sleep. It does so by monitoring my movements; learning the patterns, and using them to estimate which stage of sleep I am experiencing. If I’m in a lighter sleep cycle, and the current time happens to be close to whatever time I have set to rise, the program slowly begins to wake me. If I’m not in the best cycle for waking, the program will still act as an alarm; waking me at the best possible time (in its educated opinion). Regardless of when it wakes me, selecting a time when I’m in a lighter sleep cycle is theoretically better for me. That is, I should wake up less groggy, and full of a ready-to-take-on-the-world attitude.

It also, to the satisfaction of my nerd-centre, records how long I have slept; providing an average based on all the data recorded. And since I fall asleep almost immediately, I’m not worried that the getting-to-sleep time will bias my results.

How does one app do all this?

You might suggest that “the app could be using previous sleep movement data as some sort of Empirical Bayesian Prior to inform the sleep model, thus providing an updated Posterior Distribution to estimate the best time to wake up”. Sounds reasonable to me. Of course, I have no idea if this is the case. I just know that it works.

And it works well. I wake up far more refreshed now than prior to using the app. And that is true even when I get 4 hours or less of sleep. Additionally, I don’t require a blaring alarm to wake me. The music that Sleep Cycle plays is very soothing, and the volume is gradually increased, thus waking me in a much more civilized manner. Finally, I don’t have to hit the snooze anymore (where anymore should be read “as often”). I could hit snooze; the option is present in the app, but I don’t find that I need to. Clearly this app is magical.

As further evidence of the nerdiness of this program, I offer some screen shots of the application in action (from this past week).

Note my average sleep time of around 5h 40m per night. This fits with my usual 1:00/1:30am bed time, and 6:00am wake up. Also note the total amount of sleep I’ve posted in the past week (although I’m missing a day because I forgot to turn the application on – GAH): if my math is correct, I’ve posted 26h 26m in 6 days3, or approximately 4h 24m 20s on average per night. Plots are provided on a daily basis to give a sense of when, during the night, I am in various stages of sleep. Now, if only I could have these plots overlap to investigate movement trends; that would be uber cool.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a huge nerd, right? :)

1 Ha, awoke. Sleep humour. AWESOME. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

2 The Roman Sleep God was known as Serta, while the Greek Sleep God was known as Sealy. Or perhaps I made that up, and the true names were Somnus and Hypnos, respectively.

3 Nerd Alert: I find it awesome that 26 appears twice in my sleep total. And that I would have a full house if these were cards in my hand.

Under the category of full disclosure, be it known that the title of this post was stolen borrowed and then modified from a tweet that I sent into the twitterverse over the weekend. Because my tweet was so awesome, it had to be used again. Or because I’m tired and can’t think of anything near as clever. Not to say that the tweet was altogether clever. It wasn’t. But it’s the best I have right now.

The Radius Of Stupidity

So I’ve noticed that my scar, in a manner that I can only describe as what Harry Potter must experience, tends to tingle when I’m surrounded by stupid people. True story. Okay, maybe that’s a lie, but how cool would that be?

Anyway, I imagine that it should tingle/burn/hurt whenever I’m surrounded by stupid people. I also imagine that the intensity of the feeling would be directly proportional to the quantity of stupid people within a particular radius1, and the magnitude of their collective stupidity2. I write this because stupid people happen to be my very own personal he-who-must-not-be-named-but-I’m-going-to-anyway-because-I’m-clearly-bad-ass-like-that Lord Voldemort.  That is, stupid people are the bane of my existence. They stand in complete opposition to what I stand for.

I further imagine that the tingling/burning/hurting of the scar would look something like this, but with 50% more awesome:

For awesomeness like this on a t-shirt, go to http://www.cafepress.com/thestupidburns. You shant be disappointed.

It should be noted that I have no particular reason to write a post about stupid people3; at least, not at present.  I have fortunately not had to deal with any of them this week, and I just returned from a 16 day adventure with Rick who is as far from stupid as one human could possibly be.  Granted, if stupid people happened to enter my radius of stupidity in the past 23 days, they were either low enough in number, or their collective stupidity was of such small magnitude, that I hadn’t noticed.   Regardless, this is where my brain went when I sat down to update ConsumedByWanderlust.  Aren’t you glad you decided to read this?

Speaking of my Harry-Potter-like scar, I thought I would present a timeline of the healing process for all y’all that are interested in such things.

The face that may have, but likely didn't, launch a thousand ships (i.e., pre face-smash)
Day 1 post face-smash. I have beer, hence I am happy.
Day 3 post face-smash. Some very clear swelling.
Day 4 post face-smash. Still swollen, and apparently stoned?
Day 15 post face-smash. Looking more Harry-Potter-like every day.
Day 15 post face-smash. A close up of my lightning-bolt-shaped scar. Eat your heart out Harry Potter.

As you can see, I’m almost back to my normal charming self.

1 We shall call this radius, r, the radius of stupidity. Note: a Google search for the phrase “radius of stupidity” yielded no results. As such, I’m claiming this phrase as my own. You read it here first folks! I’ve just been informed that the phrase can be found on the interwebs. So “you read it here first” should be replaced with “you read it here recently”. Sigh.

2 I imagine the intensity, I, could be defined as follows:

Intensity of scar-tingling, given the radius of stupidity r, and set of all stupid people (including their individual contributions mi to stupidity) falling within a circle of said radius.

where we clearly have a logistic-type curve:

The logistic curve describing the Intensity equation.

And yes, I actually graphed the general shape of the function, because I really am that much of a nerd. Carrying on, we have that r is as defined in footnote 1, Ni are all stupid people (i=1, 2, 3, …)4, and mi represents the iths persons stupidity magnitude. Finally, Ni ∈ C(r) is the set of all stupid people that fall within a circle C centred on me, with radius of stupidity r; that is, my neighbouring idiots. The idea being that the intensity would remain low so long as the number of stupid people within the radius of stupidity was low, or the magnitude of their stupidity was low, or both, and it would climb quickly to some sort of threshold. Clearly at the threshold, I’d pass out from the quantity and magnitude of stupidity that fell within C(r).

3 I should also add that by writing about stupid people, I am not immediately excluding myself from this group. I know I have my moments; you know those moments5, we all have them; when you say or do something of such immense stupidity that you wonder if someone out there is planning to sterilize you so that you don’t produce any stupid progeny. I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy. As such, I know that I have on certain less-than-stellar-days invaded someone else’s radius of stupidity and caused their version of a boy-wizard-scar to burn. For all those cases, past and present, let me apologize now.

4 I’d like to assume that there exists a maximum value to i; that is, there exists someone out there that represents the last stupid person. However, I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. I don’t think life quite works that way. Hence, I stand by my use of the dot, dot, dot.

5 A certain face-smashing moment comes to mind.

Four Fifths The Man I Used To Be Means My Awesome Is 25% More Concentrated

I started using RunKeeper in December of 2008. Since that time I have used it to track my runs, walks, hikes, bikes, and such.  Being a big spreadsheet nerd, I also started tracking my yoga1 in January of 2010.  Of course, I’m not always religious with tracking, in the sense that I don’t use RunKeeper to monitor all activities. And in some cases, such as when I’m on vacation, I have to ballpark my distances as best I can. I try to be reasonable about these types of activities so as not to make myself look better than I am. That is to say, I purposely underestimate a lot of my exercise when I can’t actually track it.

Having that in mind, I was blown away when I actually took a peak at my numbers today. Being a numbers person it’s amazing I haven’t really paid too much attention to this previously. Not only was I amazed at the Calories burned over time, but also with the change in activity level in just a few short years.

According to RunKeeper, as of February 1, 2011, I have

  • burned at least 102, 439 Calories,
  • performed 315 activities, and
  • covered at least 2, 916 km.
Summary of my RunKeeper data since 2008

What exactly would 102, 439 Calories look like?  I wondered that too.  So I googled it.  The verdict: 102, 439 Calories is equivalent to consuming approximately

  • 640 tall vanilla soy lattes from Starbucks2 (mmm, soy latte),
  • 190 Big Macs3,
  • 11.382 kg of fat (equivalent to about 25 pounds), or
  • 27.317 kg of white sugar.

Of the 315 activities, 19 have occurred so far in 2011, 269 were recorded in 2010, 22 were recorded in 2009, and 5 were recorded in 2008.  Of course, 2008 wasn’t a full year, and I don’t recall how much I actually recorded any exercise I might have done during 2009.  However, I have no memory of being overly active then given that I was in the depths of my Ph.D., so these numbers might be representative.

Ultimately it has paid off.  At the end of 2008, I was weighed by my doctor during a routine physical.  Apparently, during the course of my Ph.D. I had ballooned to 185 lbs.  Yikes!

This is me circa 2008, at the Annual Math & Stats Christmas Party. Pork-meister extreme.

It was shortly after this time that I developed a sliding hiatal hernia (the same type of hernia that recently sent Charlie Sheen to hospital), which affected my appetite (in the sense that eating hurt, and I was throwing up a lot).  Clearly this had an effect on my weight.  That is to say, it dropped pretty quickly, as evidenced by the following picture.  Give that man a sandwich.  Ew.

This is me in September of 2010. I clearly need a sandwich.

To compensate for this unhealthy weight loss, I decided to start exercising more.  The rationale was that any further weight loss could be attributed to ‘healthy living’.  It made sense at the time.   The hernia still remains; to be fixed via surgery sometime in June/July.  Anyway, throughout the past year and a bit, I’ve had to learn how to eat enough, so as to maintain the level of exercise I want to perform, but also to prevent myself from further losing weight, and in such a manner as to prevent an episode of intense pain brought on by acid reflux; a major side effect of the hernia.  It hasn’t been easy.  This is not the norm for me; I typically can gain weight just by looking at a delicious slice of cake-y goodness.  Or thinking about one.  True story.  In October of 2010, I was down to 137 lbs (attributed to the hernia, a 30 day challenge at the yoga studio, a lot of biking, about 5 km of daily walking, and training for a half marathon).  Crazy stuff.  Since then, I’ve actually managed to gain some weight.  I’m up to 145’ish, which is a weight that I’m happy to be.  Now I just have to maintain it :)

Anyway, getting back to the data,  in 2010 I:

  • walked approximately 1, 491 km,
  • biked approximately 1, 557 km, and
  • ran approximately 347 km.

“But how can that be, since 1, 491 + 1, 557 + 347 > 2, 916?” you ask. “Good eye” I reply. But to really answer your question, we need to note that for several months in 2010, I didn’t actually use RunKeeper to record my daily walk to and from the school. And I’m too lazy to back input the information. The missing walks would have totalled approximately 540 km of the 1, 491 listed above.

Prior to running the 2010 Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon
Post running the 2010 Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon (1 hour, 50 minutes)

My most active months were June through October, where I covered on average 13.52, 17.78, 15.23, 11.60, and 13.15 km per day.  During these months I also spent anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes daily on average practicing yoga. Crazy stuff.

Speaking of yoga, in 2010 I managed to log 14, 840 total minutes practicing.  That’s 247.33 hours, or 10.31 solid days of bendy goodness.  Clearly I love bendy goodness.  Even if sometimes it means I smash my face into the ground.

Posing with a pineapple on the black cliffs below our house. Because it seemed like the thing to do.

Of course, being a numbers nerd, I can’t help myself but to set up new goals for this year.  And yes, I know it’s already February so I’m a little late to the setting of goals for 2011, but I’m not one to follow rules unless they are mathematical in nature.

So here is my plan/goal for 2011:

  • Walk 1, 800 km,
  • Bike 2, 000 km,
  • Run 500 km, and
  • Spend 20, 000 minutes practicing yoga.

So far this year, I have:

  • Walked 176 km,
  • Biked 0 km,
  • Ran 15 km, and
  • Spent 955 minutes practicing yoga.

Clearly I need to step it up a notch if I want to reach my goals.  I’ll have to try to remember this next February 1, to see how many Calories I have managed to burn between now and then.  Wish me luck.

1 I practice yoga both at home (typically 30-60 minutes now per day in the morning), and at Moksha Yoga Guelph; check it out if you want to do something AWESOME for yourself. You won’t regret it.

2 Based on a 160 Calorie tall vanilla soy latte made in Canada (the US version has 180 Calories for some reason). Full nutritional information here.

3 Based on a 540 Calorie Big Mac made in Canada. Full nutritional information here.