Smart Redundancy April 29th, 2011
Look up the word redundancy and you’ll find a bunch of negative-sounding synonyms like repetition, duplication, excessive, superfluous, no longer necessary… but also a few positive phrases like ‘alternatives in case of failure’, ‘circumvent transmission errors’, etc.
True to the definition, redundancy is often perceived as something negative and wasteful. And it can be. But sometimes it saves your ass! I like to call those instances where redundancy is helpful and necessary cases of “smart redundancy”.
Electronics is definitely one of those saving places. I’m finding this a lot lately as I grope my way around putting LEDs on clothes. I’m a relative noob at this, having made only 2 LEDs-on-clothes projects so far. One thing I’m realizing is that to really make this work I need repetition and back-up-plans, because failure is just too likely in a number of ways.
For one, what you use to connect the LEDs to each other and to your power source and microcontroller could stump you. For both of my first projects I’ve used phone wire – already insulated, light-weight, and free because I already had a bunch on hand. But another good thing about phone wire is there are multiple strands of copper wire. A friend of mine tried a project with only single-stranded wire and found it flaked out on her all too often, plus the LEDs were not as bright.
The circuit itself is something else where I have yet to figure out how to work in the right type of redundancy. One LED shorting out can sometimes bring the whole thing down. Finding the problem LED(s) can prove difficult too.
My biggest dilemma is finding solutions to these sorts of problems. What’s the point of putting lights on clothes if the lights don’t work?!
Of course redundancy can have its dark side – such as supporting duplicative databases at a large corporation anxious to please its shareholders. But even then you’d better have a backup plan and sometimes you find hidden misconceptions and learn things you wouldn’t have known if you weren’t consolidating. You also need to decide how much redundancy is enough based on your situation. Being locked out of my garage because my backup opener failed tells me either I didn’t have enough redundancy and/or I shouldn’t have blown off fixing the first one!
26 Pounds Lighter April 8th, 2011
I lost a bunch of weight in 2010.
My #1 reason was that I just didn’t like how the extra pounds made me feel and made me look. But I was also bumping up against the overweight threshold on the BMI scale, and my doctor had even cautioned me about it.
I started out in March 2010 somewhere between 145-150 pounds. I rather un-optimistically wondered if I could get back to what I weighed just after high school (about 120), more realistically hoped I could reach 130, but in actuality felt skeptical I could accomplish much of anything.
My strategy was rather basic and traditional: reduce fat and sugar, be mindful of portions, exercise more.
At first it felt like the extra exercise was only in frustration: lots of sacrifice with not many pounds coming off. But at some point eating better just sort of became habit, and it helped that I realized many ‘bad’ foods actually made me feel lousy. Exercise was key as well – I got a road bike in late May of last year, and then proceeded to literally bike my ass off over the summer, culminating in a 110-mile ride in one day in October.
My rate of weight loss seemed to go in phases:
March – August 2010 (6 months): dragging along at 1.3 pounds / month
September – October: jumps to 5.5 pounds / month
November – December: moderates to 3.5 pounds / month
January – March 2011: GAINED 1.7 pounds / month
I blame most of my recent gain on winter cabin fever and a cold I got in early March. I think I will lose it somewhat naturally with the good weather boost that spring provides, getting me on my bike or out hiking more often.
I’ve heard it said that losing over about a pound per week is too rapid. I suppose it depends on your initial weight, but for me, I think it was good advice. But again, maybe the trick isn’t so much the speed as making it a habit so that you’re less likely to revert back to old patterns.
Some specific eating strategies I used or continued:
- Reduce or eliminate chocolate. This was probably my biggest weakness – I used to indulge myself with it at least once a day. I found I could still have it once in a while but I would take a really small piece of super-dark chocolate and suck on it instead of chew it.
- Avoid most dairy. It helped that I’m a bit lactose intolerant. (I’m a cheesehead who doesn’t eat much cheese.) Be sure to get your calcium some other way though.
- Switch to no-fat where you can. Smoothies are a great breakfast: 1 banana, 1 orange, about half-dozen frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup non-fat yogurt and blend. (One of few exceptions on my no-dairy rule.)
- Lighten sugar. After abstaining for a while, I realized sugar has an unpleasant aftertaste and I really didn’t want it so much anymore. I still have some in coffee but I don’t drink a lot of coffee.
- Avoid soda*. Get used to water or tea (plain or fruity – with no sweetener). Juice in moderation.
- Avoid chips and similar snacks*.
- Make more food at home.
- ¿Quieres Taco Bell? Go Fresco.
- Hungry and know you shouldn’t eat more? Drink a bunch of water.
* I was already doing these things.
My take on a few debatable recommendations:
- Don’t skip breakfast or you’ll eat more the rest of the day? After a smoothie I’m hungry in an hour or so. Cereal or bread makes me feel hypoglycemic a few hours later so I tend to avoid those. Protein is more filling but then you have to be careful not to have fat along with it. I end up making some sort of unpredictable choice here.
- Drink or don’t drink alcohol? I didn’t cut it out, though I debated it for a while. I read about a study saying those who drink have an easier time losing weight, not harder.
- Are diet drinks ok? On the one hand the sweetener could make you crave food, on the other my cousin Mark seems to live off the stuff and he’s pretty skinny. Unnatural sweet drinks make me feel a bit weird so I just tend to avoid them and can’t really provide too much first-hand experience on this one.
Somehow I did it! A few things I found after losing the weight: I really did feel a lot better. I’m sure I must look a lot better too. I suddenly could jog for several miles at a time instead of feeling agony after a half mile. I got a clean bill of health from my doctor and she was pretty impressed that I weighed 26 pounds less than I did on my previous visit a year prior.