Archive for the ‘Meta’ Category

July Update

July 8, 2010

This is just a quick update to let you know what is going on with this blog and why it hasn’t been updated recently.

A few months ago, I started suffering from RSI, no doubt caused by spending 60+ hours/week sitting on front of the computer for many years. I’ve done my best to reduce the number of time that I spend typing and using the mouse each day, but because that’s my day job, it mostly meant cutting on my evening and weekend side projects like this blog.

Based on information I found online and in books (this one in particular), I’ve started doing exercises and stretches, I made my desk more ergonomic and got a good chair, and I’m seeing a physical therapist next week. I’m confident I can heal, but this is something that takes a while, so I might have to stay away from this blog for a little longer.

I have no plans to drop it completely, though. This is just a temporary hiatus. I hope you’ll consider hitting the RSS button and subscribing so you automatically get notified when I’m back. Cheers, and read up on ergonomics and RSI before it’s too late. As they say, an ounce of prevention…

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Lack of Updates

June 2, 2009

Sorry about the lack of updates recently. This is the longest hiatus that this blog ever had.

I simply haven’t felt like writing here recently, and decided not to force it.

For those who are curious: The move to Ottawa went well. Mélanie and I have started to plan our wedding, which should take place during the summer of 2010 (we’d like August 21st, since that would be the 7th anniversary of us going out together, but we might have to settle for another date).

I suspect I’ll start writing here again soon. I’m getting the itch, but I’m not sure what to write about yet.

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

April 2, 2009

Beach in Cancun, taken by Michael Graham Richard

Moving to Ottawa
In a little less than a month, Mélanie and I will be moving to Ottawa. We’ve found a small but comfortable apartment, and it will be our first time actually living together.

While doing research to prepare for the move, I found many cool things that I think will help make our lives better. They are:

  • Dumping the phone company and going 100% voice-over-IP. I find Bell Canada’s prices for plain old voice phone outrageous in the Internet era, and felt it wouldn’t be right to support them out of inertia. The company I signed up with is Babytel.
  • Switching to a new ISP (TekSavvy) that can do dry-loop DSL, so that I can connect to the internet from a phone line that isn’t active for voice calls. This ISP doesn’t throttle traffic (unlike most big ISPs in Canada) and offers premium routing for better pings.
  • We bought a Mac Mini so we can use it as a media center (music, photos, films, TV series, etc). Plex is a free and open source app that allows you to do that and use a remote. This should replace a bunch of other electronics while also allowing me to do more scientific distributed computing.
  • I read up on the best air-filtering plants; NASA had a study on this, and one of the authors of that study wrote a book that I’ll borrow from the library as soon as we move. I like having some plants around, and figure I might as we get those that will have the biggest impact on air quality.
  • Mélanie has asthma and some allergies, so I did a bit of research on ways to help her breathe easier. Found some air vent filters that look like they could help some.
  • The apartment is small, and I tend to go to bed later than Mélanie… So at first I looked into air purifiers, figuring the noise they make could help her sleep better and we’d have better air quality, but my research mostly told me that these devices didn’t do a very good job. So instead I looked into white noise machines. This one sounds good (literally). I figure that if it gives us both better sleep, it’s worth the money.
  • I also want to get headphones in case one of us wants to read, and the other wants to listen to music or something like that. Not sure which model to get yet, but I’ve heard good things about Sennheisers.

Follow Up on “What You Can Measure…”
I recently wrote about some challenges I gave myself. I’m happy to say that it’s working well, possibly better than I expected.

On the fruits & vegetables side, I’ve kept to the “5 extra portions a day, what goes in regular meals doesn’t count” rule and since then (about 5 weeks ago) I’ve eaten 198 portions of fruits and vegetables (lots of carrots, bananas, apples, bell peppers, oranges) that I wouldn’t have eaten otherwise. That’s a big win for me, and I intend to keep doing it for as long as possible.

My other challenge was to read at least 4 pages a day from a molecular biology textbook (on top of the other things I read — yesterday I finished reading a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, for example). The reason was that while I loved reading it, it was more arduous than the other books I was reading, the textbook is big and heavy… I was always finding excuses to avoid it and wasn’t making good progress. At the rate I was reading it, it would have taken me years to go from cover to cover.

Well, in the past ±5 weeks I’ve read about 155 pages, and I’ve only missed two days (completely forgot about it). This means my real average is higher than 4 pages a day, and I should hit the back cover in about 6-7 months. I consider this another win, and plan to keep doing this – or something similar – with technical books (and maybe also with online video lectures). The goal is to avoid the “hay fire” trap, where I start with really high motivation and burn out quickly and kind of forget about the book (even if when I do actually pick it up I find it fascinating).

Reading on the beach in Cancun, taken by Michael Graham Richard

Trip to Cancun
In February, Mélanie and I went to Cancun, Mexico, to visit her grand-parents for a one-week vacation. It was my first time south of New York City, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. The first photo in this post was taken on the beach there, and the second one shows what I spent a lot of time doing (in this case, reading a compilation of letters by Richard P. Feynman).

Space Telescopes Post Reaction

May 21, 2007

WordPress.com MGR

Welcome to all the new readers. I’m impressed by all the interest in that post. It actually got more traffic in less than 24 hours than this whole blog in the past 30 days combined, and I thought I was doing pretty good. The post boosted my ranking on WordPress.com to featured blog on the frontpage, to #1 in the Top Posts list and #6 #5 in the Top Blogs list.

My interests are eclectic, but I’ll definitely keep writing posts in the style of the Space Telescopes and Asteroids ones. As a reader, I really like it when someone takes the time bring together – in a newbie-friendly way – a lot of scattered information about an interesting topic. I’ve become interested in many things after reading good introductory articles, so that’s what I try to create. At the same time, I learn a lot researching and writing, so it’s clearly win-win.

First Two Weeks of This Blog

April 28, 2007

Since I haven’t been involved with a new blog in a long time – not since when blogs were just starting to become more mainstream – I’ve been wondering what the launch of a new one would look like.

Here are the stats for the first 2 weeks of this blog. I’ve written 7 posts including the short introduction one, and have gotten about 1,900 visits so far. That’s an average of 317 visits per post if I don’t count the short introduction, but as you can see from the graph below, it wasn’t evenly distributed.

Traffic for MGR, first two weeks

The first peak is mostly due to my Near Earth Objects and Asteroids post which generated some inbound links, a mention on a podcast and some Google traffic; the post about Carol Dweck’s theory got a lot less attention though Guy Kawasaki sent an email saying he liked it; Paul Graham’s Economic Theory sent over some Reddit and Google traffic, but not tons; the two posts about Craigslist (one, two) didn’t generate the public discussion I was hoping for even if it was interesting to get a direct response from Craig Newark and Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist’s CEO; finally, the other big peak came from my First Potentially Habitable Planet Outside the Solar System post, which I published a day before the story broke on CNN and other big media channels — that can probably explain the extra attention.

So far it would seem that astronomy posts are the most popular, and that’s cool because I intend to keep writing about that topic, but I also have ideas for more posts about psychology and sociology, security and cryptography, and various other things. Stay tuned, stay curious.

Moving in

April 14, 2007

I’ve been blogging under a pseudonym at Blogspot.com since 2003, but that blog has turned into mostly a public bookmark for interesting articles and videos I come across. I have decided that I needed a new home for my non-TreeHugger writings.

I have acquired a few domain names that will point here:

  • MichaelGR.com
  • MichaelGrahamRichard.com
  • Michael-Graham-Richard.com

I hope that I will be able to generate enough posts to make this place interesting, but TreeHugger is my first love and it is taking a lot of my time and energy, so posting will most likely be sporadic.