Archive for May, 2006

Posting cool maps from Jodi’s Garmin Forerunner 305

As has been discussed on her blog, we got Jodi a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch a few weeks ago. One of the first things we were excited about was the way you can take the data/route collected by this device and make maps with it.

So, a bit of back-story… a few months before getting the 305, I had been poking around on the Interweb to see what we could expect to be able to do with this watch. In fact, since this was before the 305’s release, we were finding out what we could do with the older generation of the watch (the Forerunner 301).

When we got the 305 and I went back out looking for these sites, one of the first things I realized is that a lot of the websites and tools out there are designed for the older Forerunner models (and, as such, didn’t seem to work quite right with the new “Training Center” software and history data from the 305).

I tried offline software that purported to “split” the HST data file from the new training center into the individual runs (the file is a monolithic data store of all the runs in your training center, with no obvious in-band way to split them out). No love. The files was considered corrupted afterward. Ok.

I tried the online version of the log splitter. Again, no luck.

Now, your mileage may vary, but at this point I finally gave up on using the HST file data and moved on to other mechanisms.

I ended up at MotionBased. There was a flyer for this online analysis service for the Forerunner in the box, so it was a logical next step. Although they seem to be having growing pains (slow performance, etc), they offer quite a cool service — and way more analysis detail than the Garmin-provided Training Center software. For instance, based on the time/date/location of your run, MotionBased will provide you information on temperature and wind-speed/direction. Wow.

Ok, so after a bit of fidgeting (loading up the agent software, etc), I was able to get the data from Jodi’s first few runs up into MotionBased’s “digest”. The maps in MotionBased were pretty cool, but not quite what I wanted. My end goal here was to get exportable/reusable route-overlay maps that Jodi could post into her blog along with her training data.

MotionBased has two export formats available for the run data. I was able to create both a standard GPX file and a KML file for each of her runs.

At this point I stumbled a bit. My goal at this point was to end up with a URL link to a Microsoft Virtual Earth map showing the overlap (which I could, presumably, link to as an IMG SRC in the blog posts). Bam. Straight into a wall I ran.

Note to Virtual Earth folks: your satellite imagery is awesome — way better than that from Google for many areas — but there’s not any ready-made ways of using it with overlays (from a GPX file, for instance)… at least not that I could find. I’d love to be proven wrong here.

So, with a resigned sigh I loaded up Google Earth. For anyone not familiar with it, this is a software bit that uses Internet back-end satellite data to let you do lots of cool mapping stuff (including very flexible overlays, etc). And since I knew I had a KML file generated for each run, I knew I’d be able to do the overlayed maps successfully.

Sigh.

So, if you’ve read this far, you probably care about these last steps, and what is the final result. So, with the backstory behind us, here were the actual steps I took and what was the end result:

Preparation:

Steps to create a map:

  • Do your run with the Forerunner 305
  • Using the MotionBased Agent, synchronize the run into your “inbox”
  • Enter all the details for the run at the MotionBased website to move this run into your “digest” (I’ll leave it to Motionbased documentation on how to do all of this)
  • Drill into the run in your digest and export the run as “KML” format to a file on your computer.
  • Open up Google Earth, and then open the KML file. At this point you’ll see Google Earth slide the world around and zoom gradually in on your run overlay. Sweet.
  • Once Google has zoomed in on your run overlay, adjust the various other layers you want in your saved image (we use “terrain”, “populated places”, “parks”, “roads”, and “geographic features”… but salt to taste).
  • Note that your overlay is listed way down at the bottom of “places” under “temporary places”. You can enable/disable your overlay easily by checking/unchecking that box.
  • Suggest to turn off the “status bar” under the “view” menu, to reduce some clutter.
  • Then when you’ve set it the way you prefer — just File->Save Image and create your JPG.
  • Jodi’s then been using BlogJet to do her posting, and creating thumbnailed views of the map images so that they’re a bit more usable as inline images in her blog posts.

    They end up looking great! Have a look at these most recent couple weeks of her Portland Marathon training postings and you can get a sense of how these maps end up looking (and how cool it is to have maps from around the country if you run while you travel on vacation!):

    In any case, I hope this post helps others who have this great new device and are struggling with how to make great maps from the data!

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    Weekend Express Lane Directions

    From the blog queue – here’s a topic I’ve been meaning to write up for about two months. Today’s topic: Why in the world do they do that on the weekends?!

    So, let’s take a step back and lay down a disclaimer: I don’t know anything about proper traffic management, I don’t have a degree in it, I haven’t ever done it for a living. The total sum of my traffic management experience is empirically noticing stuff around Seattle and blogging about it when time permits.

    Ok, that’s out of the way… so now I ask: Why in the world do they do that on the weekends?!

    Do “what” on the weekends, you ask? Reverse the express lanes, I answer!

    Yes, at least on I-90, and even on days when there is no obviously good reason to do it (ie – a game at Qwest or at Safeco), the express lanes are sometimes reversed during the day and are at other times letting traffic out of the city. Let’s talk about each of these in turn:

    Reversing the lanes during a weekend day, even if there’s no crush of traffic to warrant it – This doesn’t make any sense to me. Why would you reverse the lanes on a regular weekend day? The whole point of the reversible express lanes is to release the pressure of crush traffic during crush traffic periods. Now, there’s a whole different argument about which direction the lanes should be facing, and I’ll get to that in a sec. But for now, let’s just make the claim that the lanes should point into the city when we want to get lots of people into the city, and should point out of the city when we want to get lots of people out of the city. Pretty straight forward.

    So then, if there’s not a crush of traffic on the weekend (barring game days, etc), why would you ever reverse the lanes on the weekend? Good question.

    Letting traffic out of the city on a weekend day – This is the obvious follow-on question to the first observation. If you’re not going to reverse the lanes when there’s no crush traffic, which direction should the express lanes face? Some cities simply close the express lanes in both direction on times when there’s not a need for their use.

    But not Seattle. Seattle leaves them open pretty much all the time. That’s fine with me. What makes no sense and frustrates me (at least a little bit… enough to blog about it) is that we seem to generally leave the express lanes open and FACING OUTBOUND from the city on the weekends.

    I can think of absolutely no reason to have the express lanes facing outbound (ie – away from the city) on the weekends. I propose that it makes a lot more sense to flip the express lanes to be facing inward (into the city) at some point late on Friday night or early Saturday morning — after the Friday out-bound rush — and leave them facing inbound all weekend, and right up through the Monday morning inbound rush. This would make it easier (albeit only the smallest bit) to get into the city than to get out… which seems like a noble goal for the city.

    So, we’re just about done here, but there’s one more thing to talk about. Express lane directions overall.

    Most cities seem to have a very predictable set of traffic patterns during their rush periods. Ever Seattle falls into this category. The problem is that most cities have a very singularly targeted crush INTO the city in the morning and OUT of the city (back to the suburbs) in the afternoon.

    In Seattle, however (and remember, I don’t have the data here), the crush is fairly evenly spread into the city and out of the city in both morning and afternoon. Lots of folks who live in the suburbs, work in the city. But unlike many other cities I’ve had experience with, lots — and perhaps an equal number –– of people live in the city, but work out in the suburbs. Like me, living in Seattle and working in Redmond. And some not-so-small portion of the other 60,000+ people who go to MS campus each day. And lots of other businesses out on the eastside as well.

    So, at least for the East<->West commute, I would argue there’s some merit to having the express lanes turned OUT of the city in the morning and back INTO the city at night. I have no numbers to say that this is a good idea, but it’d make my commute a bit easier at the very least.

    So, to end that point, one thing that’s desperately missing BECAUSE we have these reversible express lanes is general HOV lanes going each direction. So, this means that if you’re coming into the city in the afternoon — even if you’re in a carpool — there’s no carpool lane to get you there faster (since the express lanes are pointing the other direction). This is something that’s set to change if-and-when the reversible express lanes are reclaimed for light-rail transit, and it’s something we’re desperately in need of ASAP.

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    Books and more books

    Two books today, since I’ve been queuing up my reviews…

    The E-myth revisited – Listened to this one over the few days before we left for vacation and then finished it up on the airplane rides between Buffalo->Houston and Houston->Seattle. I found this one a bit interesting, then a bit dry, and finally a bit interesting.

    In particular, I found the first section very interesting. This section of the book discussed some of the common mistakes made by small business owners who start their own business in an attempt to formalize some hobby or activity they are good at. I saw a lot of myself in these common mistakes, and it is definitely a set of things I will need to think about if and when I ever decide to start a business!

    The other section I found interesting was around organizing the set of responsibilities required to have a successful business. It wasn’t the specific list for YOUR business, of course, but rather a discussion of the process of putting such a list together and the imperative need to do so. Jodi and I had a good discussion about this section during our drive through Montana the other day.

    Freakonomics – Jodi and I listened to this one together in the car over the first two days of our national parks tour (ie – the Seattle->Yellowstone part of the drive). We started out this book by listening to the introduction, to which Jodi rapidly responded (and I’m paraphrasing here): yeah, but how does he make those claims. Turns out there was quite a bit of data analysis included in the unabridged book, so the overview in the introduction was later substantiated.

    Of course, the most interesting discussion in the book was probably around the relationship of crime and abortion legalization (his causal-relation theory says roughly that the huge drop-off in crime in the early 90s is directly related to the legalization, and rapid increase in use, of abortion after the Roe vs. Wade case). There sure seems to be a lot of good data analysis to support this theory, and it’s one I had not previously heard.

    The book also had a number of other interesting analysis/comparisons, such as the description of a anti-bigotry journalist’s infiltration of the KKK in the 40s. Very interesting read, and not too terribly long.

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    National Parks Trip 2006

    Jodi and I, after returning from the graduation trip(s) to Buffalo and to Houston, loaded up the car and headed out for a week of national park touring and camping. Here are the daily summary descriptions from the photos posted at Doddsnet:

    Tuesday – May 16, 2006

    Jodi and I left Seattle and headed east. Today was mostly a driving day… we stopped for lunch, but almost all of the rest of the day was spent in the car, aiming at the Lewis and Clark caverns in Montana. We didn’t quite make it that far (we were worried it’d be dark and hard to set up the tent if we went the whole way) so we ended up at a campground near Missoula instead.

    Travelogue:
    Start 0916, 51048. Gas stop 0919, 51050. Lunch 1148. End lunch 1213. Gas stop 1428, 51367. Stop – Clinton, MT, 1845.

    Wednesday – May 17, 2006

    Jodi and I woke up in Clinton, MT and hit the road toward Lewis and Clark caverns. We arrived at the caverns, but decided not to take the two hour tour and to press on toward Madison campsite at Yellowstone instead. We arrived at Yellowstone and headed down to see various geysers, hotsprings, etc. Then we camped at Madison. There are lots of photos here, and that’s still after deleting the bad ones and only posting a portion of what remains!

    Travelogue:
    Start 0730. Gas stop 0854, 51654. Stop – Yellowstone (Madison Campsite).

    Thursday – May 18, 2006

    Jodi and I woke up in Yellowstone and drove up to Mammoth Springs campground straight-away (no reservation at at that campsite and Madison was probably 100% full on Wednesday night). After securing our campsite, we went back south and viewed a bunch of stuff back down to Madison Jct. Then we went over to Canyon Village for some lunch. Then down to Fishing Bridge (where, ironically, you can’t fish). Then we drove back to Mammoth (a truly mammoth drive from Fishing Bridge) and camped at Madison. There are lots of photos here, and – again – that’s still after deleting the bad ones and only posting a portion of what remains!

    Travelogue:
    Start 0805, 51862. Stop – Yellowstone (Mammoth Campsite).

    Friday – May 19, 2006

    Jodi and I woke up in Yellowstone and drove up to Salmon Lake State Park, via Missoula. We were a little bit disappointed by the changes to Missoula since our last visit (in 2000). It seems to have doubled in size, and not in a good way. Lots of traffic and strip malls, etc. Ugh. Salmon Lake State Park was very nice though. We had some rowdy/loud site neighbors who clearly can’t read and thought “Quiet Hours” meant “be really loud”. Plus we had our first thunderstorm; quite a big one!

    Travelogue:
    Start 0904, 52019. Gas 1020, 52078. Lunch 1400, 52324. Stop 1615, 52368 – Salmon Lake.
      

    Saturday – May 20, 2006

    Jodi and I woke up at Salmon Lake and drove up Glacier National Park. When we arrived there, we discovered that the “Road to the Sun” is still closed until mid-June. Drat. So we were only able to go about 15 miles  up the road and had to turn around and go back out the entrance. Then we did the same thing at the north-east end of the park. So I suppose we’ll need to come back at some point to actually see the whole road. We were ahead of schedule, so we decided to drive on to Waterton Lakes National Park and camp there. Unfortunately, once we got there we discovered that all of the campgrounds at this Canada national park were full. So we ended up camping just outside the national park at a privately owned campground. It was very, VERY windy.

    Travelogue:
    Start 0837, 52391. Gas 1012,52483. Lunch 1033,52492. Gas 1533,52673 – (outside) Waterton Lakes.

    Sunday – May 21, 2006

    Jodi and I woke up early at Waterton and started our drive home. Having braved the wind of Waterton the night before (it was VERY windy), we were interested to see all of the wind turbines as we made our way through Alberta. We had both breakfast and Lunch in the car, and decided to skip both Coulee Dam and Yakima (which we had earlier considered stopping for) in an effort to get home sooner. We were both feeling a bit homesick. 🙂

    Travelogue:
    Start 0620,52740. Lunch 1210,53085. Gas 1310,53087. 1702,53378 – HOME!

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    Meeting new people

    I had to rush to post the photos and blog post yesterday in a few free minutes, but today I wanted to talk about something else that was sort of interesting about both Buffalo and about the first part of our time here in Texas…

    It has been so great to meet some new people on this trip!

    We had the great pleasure to meet Martha’s BF Adam for the first time during the Buffalo part of the trip. He’s a towering fellow (he really is as tall as he looks in the photos), and he’s a great guy! Jodi and I really enjoyed spending some time with him and with Martha as we went around to the museums and such on the morning of graduation. And thanks for driving us around most of the day also!

    Then out in Texas, we got to meet Donna — David’s (father of the graduates) sister — and her husband Don. Although I’d met all the rest of the family who were here a bunch of times before, I hadn’t ever met this part of the family. Donna is a nurse practitioner in a neo-natal unit, and she and Jodi had a lot to talk about. Very fun!

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    Buffalo, NY

    Our vacation started on Wednesday with our (very early morning) flight from Seattle to Buffalo (via Cleveland). Flight was relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that we got great service *AND* were served breakfast. And I don’t mean peanuts and water for breakfast… we got actual breakfast. Yay Continental, you’re my new favorite airline!

    In Buffalo we spent time with the family on Wednesday night, went running along the trail Jodi had been planning for on Thursday morning (Catherine and I took a photo-walk), had breakfast, went to the Albright-Knox museum to see the Tanguy (our entrance was paid for by Bank of America, sweet!), then to the science museum, lunch, and graduation. Then on to some games, bedtime, and early breakfast the next morning.

    Whew, whirlwind-tour description of our buffalo trip in one paragraph. See the various photos at Doddsnet here. I took way more than are displayed, but I cut out the ones that were irreparably blurry or redundant.

    Now, this morning I’m rushing out the door right now for breakfast and then up to Sam Houston State for more graduations today. I’ll write that up later on.

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    Josh comes to visit us in Seattle

    Josh took the train up to visit us here in Seattle for the weekend. We had a great time: hit the wineries, Ballard locks, Green Lake, etc. See the photos at Doddsnet.

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    Deano’s Renamed

    We noticed the other night, while eating Cinco de Mayo dinner at El Gallito’s, that Deano’s club has been renamed to Chocolate City. That triggered in my mind a Slog posting I had seen a few days earlier and I dug it up to show to Jodi.

    I found particularly funny the “suggested names” for the new Deano’s. One in particular had me in stitches, and it would have been a good dig at both the historic nature of the establishment itself and the city/community members who are always trying to get it to close.

    The suggested rename for Deano’s was “Notice of Proposed Land Use Action”. The idea of having this as a name banner posted for Deano’s is just hilarous to me.

    For anyone curious about why this is funny (and presumably not from Seattle), the short version is that these are the signs posted all around town by the Department of Planning & Development when they’re about to tear down a building and/or revitalize a neighborhood site. See this earlier post.

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    Douglass Truth Library

    The Douglass Truth library renovation is well underway and I’m super-excited for when it will reopen and we’ll have a library 2 blocks from our house (not that I don’t love driving a couple miles down to Columbia City and never finding parking). 

    Charles Mudede blogs about it (with pictures) at the Slog. I need to get out there and get some of my own photos!

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    Two books at once

    Friday I finished “reading” two books in the same day. I had been listening to one from Audible while at the same time reading one that had come up on reserve for me at the library. It was a bit interesting reading these two books at the same time, since they’re both (sort of) two angles on the same problem and they made some complementary points…

    • Chain of Command by Seymour M. Hersh – Interesting read, although a bit depressing. Details the obsession of the Bush administration to justify the start of the war in Iraq by any means necessary before (and particularly after) 9/11. Lots of unnamed sources (their authenticity is discussed in an interview with the author after the core book is over) point out the single-minded obsession with getting it done in Iraq, and how this led to all sorts of abuses (Abu Ghraib, etc). Sad, but I have few doubts it’s very true, given all else that happened in the last 5 years…
    • The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney – They didn’t have this one available at Audible so I had reserved it from Seattle Public Library a few months back and just got it at the end of April. The principle, and terrible, point of this book is that there is a lot of good science and science process out there — and that the political administration of GWB has done more to politicize it (ie – squelching science that doesn’t suit their policy desires and trumping up weak and contrarian science that meets their needs) than has ever been done in previous administrations. This reality should surprise nobody who has followed the various science decisions made by the current administration (ie – kyoto/global warming, planB emergency contraception, stem cell research). In each of these and many other examples, the administration has ignored overwhelming peer-reviewed science analysis in favor of one or two “sound science” contrarian, often industry or religion supported, science papers that agree with their desired policy position.

    Sad. Sad. Sad.

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