Sunday, December 23, 2007

awesome game of Scrabble

I am not a Scrabble player. It's not a game I grew up with and I've always had a belief that I'm really not good at it. I don't know the tricks and all the two-letter words possible, etc. I honestly played only the second real game of my adult life tonight and I had crazy luck!

My first set of game tiles were H, H, E, E, U, U, T so my first word down was "teeth" off of "teen." During the course of the game, I managed to draw the Q (triple letter score), X (double word score off two words), Z and both blanks. I also happened to land two triple word scores. My opponents were being nice and letting me look through the dictionary since I'm a new player but I didn't end up using any of the words I found. The long and short of this story though is how I managed to win with an amazing final hand. My last set of tiles included the Z and two blanks along with M, B, O and S. I didn't see it at first but realized I had the potential to put down "zombies" and use all my tiles for an extra 50 points. I also saw a place on the board where I could lay it down with the "s" ending on top of the vertical word "pew" for a second word score with "spew."

As luck would have, when my turn came back around, that spot was still open and I put down my word for a score of 29 points on "zomb[i][e]s" and "spew" then add on the 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles for a round total of 79, the highest of our game! It was amazingly lucky; and I also found out that when you go out first with all your tiles (and no more tiles remaining in the draw bag), you get to add to your score all the points on the other players' remaining tiles (in this case 34) and they have to subtract the number of points on their remaining tiles from their scores. My final score was 253 with the next highest being 181. I'm guessing they won't be letting me read the dictionary the next time we play.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Week 4 Update

Not much progress was made this week. We've stopped doing the "morning exercises" all together. For me at least, it's partly in anticipation of the new exercise routine we'll be starting with the Body-For-LIFE program. Still need to finish reading the book! Just two more chapters left and the rest are appendices (FAQ, exercise breakdowns). I did find the daily journal pages for eating and exercising online and started a notebook to track progress. We're also considering joining the 2008 Challenge.

I have learned all of Choong-Moo and have been going to classes regularly. Tonight was really fun; we did combinations of forward and backward rolls, coming up into kicks. I plan to create and memorize my ho sin sool over the holiday break.

On the mental front, I have yet to start meditation either but have really begun my awareness practice. I can tell I am getting more in touch with separating feelings from learned behavioral responses to them. I even had a dream of being pregnant which I interpret to be my "rebirth" into a more mature and aware person. I've been feeling much more balanced an happy too on a daily basis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Week 3 Update

I am well into Body for LIFE and will be making some changes to the goals because some aren't really "goals" in the sense that they have measurable results. Anyway, the book presents several questions you have to answer before starting the program:

What are your reasons for making the decision to change?
I've felt the desire to change for years. I want to be a healthy person and I want to turn things around while I am still young. I want to feel good about myself and my well-being. I want to feel more confident and more energetic.

Five goals to achieve within 12 weeks:
  1. Lose 30 pounds of fat.
  2. Gain strength and muscle to where I can do 25 real push-ups.
  3. Gain stamina to where I can actually do 300 jumping jacks in a row.
  4. Have a healthy, defined eating routine that limits eating out to twice a week.
  5. Earn my senior red belt.
Three unauthorized patterns of action:
  1. Eating out all the damn time! Not cooking dinner.
  2. Going to bed too late and then not getting up to do exercise.
  3. Doing negative self-talk instead of having compassion for my feelings.
Three new patterns of action to help me reach my goals:
  1. Get up each day and do a workout.
  2. Establish a regular pattern of sleep - this includes weekends.
  3. Meditate daily to increase self-awareness.
So, I am pretty stoked to get started on this 12 week program. I hope to finish reading the book this week. It recommends reading and reviewing these goals and statements every morning and every evening during the 12 weeks. It also recommends taking a "before" picture and I'm pretty uneasy about doing that; I know it will be bad. But I suppose that's the point.

I did finish up The Depression Book (that's one goal accomplished this month) and am now re-reading it aloud. I am practicing awareness of my feelings to start breaking down some of those automatic behaviors and reactions to them. I want to start recognizing feelings for feelings and not making judgments on them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Week 2 Update

Well, this week was a little better. Still having trouble getting up early and doing the exercises, especially on the weekends. But, I did do them Wednesday, Monday and Tuesday -- even doing all 300 jumping jacks today (in 50 count segments). I also attended every TKD class and went early most of those days to teach/help out beforehand. Yesterday, I finished learning all the moves for my next form, Choong-Moo, which I'll need for my next test. Additionally, I need to start working up a ho sin sool and plan to practice that quite a bit over my 10 day break from work for the holidays.

Over the weekend, I started reading Body-for-LIFE meaning I got through the preface and forward. I am trying to read like four books at once! I'm also about halfway through The Depression Book which is another title from Zen teacher Cheri Huber. I'm really enjoying her approach to depression (What are you depressing?). For a long time I've wanted to practice mindfulness and I find her methods help with that pursuit.

I don't think I've lost any weight yet (I don't have a working scale anyway) but I am feeling stronger and my back problems have lessened quite a bit.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Apheresis PhD Program for 2008

PhD logo "life is in your hands" tagline

Today I made my first eligible platelet donation during the PhD Program at the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas. It's completely unclear in the Center's documentation as to why it's called the PhD program (it merely states that "PhD represents apheresis donation"; but with a little research I believe it's meant to stand for Personal Hemodialysis, which is the type of device used to separate platelets from whole blood.

During the duration of this program, Hands of the Donor members will have their donations tracked and posted in the donation center lobby at 4300 N. Lamar, Austin, Texas, starting in April 2008. Donations for the month of December 2007 will also be counted towards the total so I am on track to give a total of 27 donations for the period; donors are able to give platelets 24 times each year. I don't know that there is a particular prize beyond a little notoriety, but I'm happy to participate and I hope to convince others to donate as well.

If you are interested in donating blood in the Austin area, please visit the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas Web site. The site has lots of information on the various donation programs as well as information on blood and how it's used. You can even schedule an appointment online!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Week 1 Update

I am getting off to an abysmal start. I very nearly removed this blog and gave up yesterday. I did well last Tuesday and Wednesday but then did nothing Thursday through Sunday :( I went to class last night though and got up this morning and did crunches/push-ups. I have to keep telling myself that my goal is where I want to be in six months, not what I can do now.

The reality is that I can do about 25 crunches or 5 push-ups at one time so I've been doing a small set of crunches alternating with push-ups until I reach 150 crunches (a mere 30 push-ups). But I can't even do one true push-up at the moment so I am having to work my way up! It will take time (I have to keep reminding myself of that.). I mean, I really am in quite bad shape, especially compared to where I was one year ago. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do 150 push-ups but that's the goal.

The 300 jumping jacks goal has proven extremely difficult. I've attempted it once--after being forced into it in class unsuspectingly the night before--and it tore up my calves. I was only able to do 150 and that was by doing three sets of 50. I was so sore the next few days that I partly blame my lax attitude to the project on to that.

Yesterday, I got the book in the mail so I need to read through that and start in on the 12-week diet/exercise program. The reviews I've read of the book say it has a lot of good stuff in there but some is just silly random crap so use what works and chuck the rest. I need to start incorporating weight/resistance training into my routine and this will help with that part at least.

Is it bad to say I'm looking forward to DoubleDave pizza rolls tonight? I mean c'mon, they're 2 for 1 on Tuesdays. It's so tasty...

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's time

I'm the type of person who tends to internalize a lot of my frustrations until I get to these breaking points where I feel trapped, angry and miserable, unable to do anything to change it. But I am an optimist (I couldn't have made it this far if I weren't) and I do believe I can change; I just haven't found the right way or the right time.

I am a person who has a need to document things so I thought starting a blog and tracking the changes and transformations I want to make might help me. This morning I did a Google search for "training for black belt" because I am in sorry shape and wanted to find some sort of program that might guide me over the next few months up to my black belt test in Tae Kwon Do. I read about this program called the Ultimate Black Belt Test that seems quite awesome to me with a lot of good ideas and I intend to use it as a basis for my own personal growth. I would even like to go through this program one day but I am not at that point yet (never mind the needing to be a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu). Life is a journey and I'll get there one day.

I really think one's goals need to be written (or typed) so that they are a reality. Just having thoughts in my head hasn't proven to be very productive. I need concrete goals and a time table. I am starting with six months (182 days including today). What can I accomplish by 19 May 2008?
  1. Lose weight: 50 lbs. I am hovering around 200 lbs which is very disappointing because last year I lost about 20 lbs and have gained it all back. I have been struggling with being overweight since I was about 20. In weeks I have started having major back pain because of the weight of my breasts.

  2. Get in shape. I just purchased the book Body for LIFE by Bill Phillips. It's a twelve week program for diet and exercise.

  3. Crunches and push-ups - 150 every other day. I know the benefits of these exercises!

  4. Jumping jacks - 300 every other day. My TKD instructor, Chad, suggested this one. It's a good way to get the heart pumping.

  5. Daily meditation - 15 minutes every day. This is another thing that I know has great mental and physical benefits but I have not been doing.

  6. Read at least one book each month. I've been saying for years that I want/need to read more but haven't been doing it. Admittedly, I've read one book this entire year and I have a book that's been sitting on my shelf here at work since June.

  7. Attend every Tae Kwon Do class ~ four classes per week. Last year I went to TKD religiously but have let it slide to the back burner this year. In part I have gotten bored with the curriculum. But if I want to improve myself, I must improve my situation and mold classes into what I need them to be.

  8. Journal daily. This is something I started a few weeks back and need to continue. I'm keeping a personal journal with entries about my feelings.

  9. Blog weekly. At a minimum, I will write here about my progress each week.

  10. Improve my diet by cooking dinner. No more fast food! I must make every effort to plan my meals better and eat more fruits and vegetables. At the moment, I eat an apple at breakfast and grapes at lunch. Now I need incorporate the veggies.
Let's see where this takes me!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Capacitor Requirements

Now that we have our power source determined, we can figure out what size our capacitor needs to be. First, we need to get the impedance value for our power source so we can plug that into the equation for calculating capacitance:

Formula for Impedance
  • Output voltage (V) : 12000 volts
  • Output amperage (I) : 0.03 amps
  • Calculated impedance (Z) : 400000 ohms (Ω)
Next, we'll plug the Z value into this equation:

Formula for Capacitance
  • Frequency (f) : 60 hertz (Hz)
  • Capacitance (C) : 0.0066 micro Farad (μF)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Transformer, Check!

I unexpectedly procured the keystone piece of the project today while driving back to work from lunch. Going down Lamar, Wes pointed out that there was a neon sign store. We turned around to check it out and discovered a very cool, local mini-manufacturer and repairer of neon, Hayward Neon.

large neon sign transformer with high voltage wire
Neon sign transformer for Tesla Coil project
We made acquaintance with the owner's assistant, Mitch, and let him know that we were seeking out a used transformer for a Telsa Coil project. Lucky for us, they happen to have an old-style unit (sans GFCI) that was about six years old but in great working condition rated 12kV @ 30mA. He had us come back into the workshop area to show us the unit while he tested it so we could see for ourselves. He offered to add on a plug, switch and wires while we chatted about how he came to work in a neon shop.

Final cost for this first piece was $64.95, much less than what I was finding online for the same power rating and he said we could bring it back and exchange it towards the cost of a 15kV unit if we decide to make a larger one in the future. Not the free, throw-away I was aiming for but this unit will definitely give us enough power to make a sweet, first coil!

side view of neon sign transform where high voltage wire attaches
This is where the wires attach

close up of neon sign transformer specs: 12000 volts at 30 mA
12k volts at 30 mA

Friday, June 29, 2007

Basic Pieces of a Tesla Coil

Apparently, there are numerous upon numerous ways, methods, plans and so forth for creating a Tesla Coil. These depend on the power source and materials used just for starters. They can be very personalized! I read a fascinating walk-through on creating a coil made just from items this guy could find dumpster diving.

Anyway, here's the breakdown and it gave me much insight into the basic components that make up a Tesla Coil. My first one is going to be on the very small-sized scale, so keep that in mind.
  • Primary Power Supply
  • Capacitor
  • Spark Gap
  • Primary Coil
  • Secondary Coil
  • Secondary Ground
  • Toroid (transformer)
I'm now into the phase of researching just what size power supply I want to use and that will start to affect what I do/use for the other pieces. I posted an ad on CL looking for a used neon sign transformer in the 7-12 kV at 30-90 mA range.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Want to Coil!

It's been a long time since I called myself a "newbie" about anything, but in the area of high voltage projects, I am practically infantile. I've been interested in electricity and have actually wanted to become a residential electrician for a long time. However, that's where my knowledge of current ends, with basic household projects like flipping a circuit breaker or installing a new light switch.

After watching the (horrible) movie, The Prestige, which highlights some of Nikola Tesla's achievements, I became interested in constructing my own Tesla Coil. I love to learn (and believe I can learn almost anything) but my particular learning style requires that I have practical application. Good a abstraction I am not. So this seemed like an easy way to get myself started down the road to improving my understanding of electrical current, circuits and, well, math.

I've been doing A LOT of research on Tesla Coils, examining others' designs and getting a grip on the basics of "coiling." My favorite bit of knowledge so far comes from the awesome resources available at

Tesla Coils are VERY VERY LOUD!!!