Adding the Warp Drive

I said once before that I would like to get a new Macbook Pro every two years. The last model I bought was in mid-2010. The new MacBook Pro with Retina display is a remarkable machine. The resolution is crazy, it is super thin, and has flash storage. It is also ridiculously expensive.

For fun I will see how much the model I would want costs. The base price for the 15-inch: 2.3 Ghz Retina display is $2,199.00. The 256GB of Flash Storage is not sufficient. I will upgrade it to 512GB and add $500. That comes out to a total of $2,699.00!

Earlier this year I doubled the memory in my computer to 8GB from 4GB. I did not see a great increase in performance. I came to the realization that it is the hard drive that is the bottleneck. The speed of Solid State Disks (SSDs) blows hard disk drives out of the water. They are considerably more expensive, but their price has declined over the past two years.

I am not so worried about having the retina display (2880 by 1800). My computer has a 1680 by 1050 display, which was the high-resolution screen upgrade at the time. It is also nice because it matches the same resolution as my external monitor.Although my current Macbook Pro isn’t as thin as the 0.71 inch retina display model, 0.95 inches is still respectable.

I bought a 512 GB Crucial M4 SSD for $400. It also is larger than my previous 320GB HDD, which was almost to capacity. Installation was easy enough; the package I bought came with a laptop upgrade kit. Using the data transfer cable and included SuperDuper! software, I cloned my HDD to my SSD. I then unscrewed the cover of my laptop and replaced the hard drive (I needed to buy a Torx screwdriver for the disk mounts).That was about it! I had boot camp installed, which lets you partition your hard drive and install Windows one of your partitions. I decided not to clone my Windows partition and went for a clean install.

HDD speeds

SSD speeds

The speed on my laptop is amazing. It feels like a brand new machine, everything happens near instantaneously! The SSD was worth the price, and my laptop can now last me for many more years. The booting up time is fast too. The icing to the cake is that I also upgraded to OSX Mountain Lion, and Microsoft Office 2010 on my Windows partition!


Try It Racing

I don’t know anything about NASCAR, but I like cars that can go super fast. This past weekend I was lucky enough to drive on the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. I got to drive 15 laps in a late model stock car with Try It Racing.

This was the first time I ever visited Old Dominion Speedway, and it is pretty interesting. It has an unassuming entrance, and seems sort of rundown when you approach the track from Dumfries road. Once you drive past the entranceway the space opens up and the short track lies to your right. On the way back to my car I walked past the Old Dominion Drag Strip. I hear that almost every Friday night from March to October there is racing; I would like to check it out one day.

I bought a groupon about a year ago, and decided to try it out. I think it is worth it if you get a groupon or a living social deal. If not, then the full price I feel would be too high. They did surprise me with a 30-dollar fee at the booth. The way it worked is that there was a pace car that I had to follow; at the same time there was a ride car zooming along the track. The ride car was driven by a professional driver and was being driven at about twice the speed of the other cars.

After getting in my race suit, selecting the proper helmet, and receiving safety instructions it was my turn to drive around the track. I quickly hopped into the car with my legs first through the side window. I was taught quickly how to secure my seatbelt, attach/detach the steering wheel, and how to turn on the car. This was all done very quickly and my adrenaline was starting to rush. Before I knew it I was on the track following the pace car.

As I started driving I was in complete focus, absorbing every detail around me. The steering wheel was stiffer than I was used to. I never drove a car with such a stiff suspension; I could feel every little bump on the road. In the back of my mind, I kept on repeating to myself “Whatever you do, don’t crash!” After the first 3 laps I felt more at ease. I was a little confused when I was told right before I took off that I shouldn’t use the brakes, because letting go of the accelerator on the turns would slow the car down enough. After driving I noticed how this was true. I practiced accelerating as I reached the apex of each curve. The advantages of having the short track is that is gave me more time to practice turning. In between curves there was only little room to accelerate; yet this was all that was needed to appreciate all the power the car had. I was gripping on so tight to the steering wheel, and the suspension was so stiff, that it was really starting to tire out my shoulders. I have grown a newfound respect for professional racecar drivers now.

For my second ride I got to go in the ride car with a professional driver for 5 laps. This was a whole new adventure. It amazed me how fast we passed the other two cars. We were so close that the driver could have reached out and touched the other car if he wanted to. The G-forces I experienced in the curves was crazy.


ride along car

Overall it was a really awesome exciting experience. I would like to do something similar again someday. Our safety instructor told our group that there are some pretty cool racing schools in Richmond.



Ebay and Freecycle

A great way to start the New Year is to go reorganize your stuff. That way you reduce clutter, find things more easily, and maybe earn yourself some cash or save the world!

How can you do this you ask? Well as you reorganize your stuff create a big pile. This pile will consist of things that you will not use in the next 3 years (time period can be adjusted to fit your psyche). Done? Good. Now split your monster pile into two separate piles. The first 1 consists things that people will actually pay you to get. The second pile consists of things that people might want, but are hard to sell or ship, or wouldn’t be worth the effort (maybe only fetch a few bucks).

Do a quick brain scan to see if any of your friends or family might want any of your cool stuff that you don’t use. Maybe they have a birthday coming up? You can set those items aside.

For pile 1, I recommend Ebay or Craigslist. I usually use Ebay for smaller items that are easy to ship. Craigslist is great for larger items that can be picked up easily. For example I sold my old subwoofer and amplifier through Craigslist. Here is what I posted on Ebay today…

For pile 2 you can try donating to charity, or Freecycling. The Freecycle network is made up of many groups around the world. It is a network were people post things they are giving away for free. It is all about reusing and keeping stuff out of landfills. I subscribed myself to it. Unfortunately it isn’t the easiest system to use, but once you get the hang of the routines it is rather easy. The frequent e-mails might annoy you, but you can adjust these setting if you like. Several years ago I got a CRT computer monitor, but mostly there is nothing that interests me to take. I tried posting several offers on the site this week and it has been working great. People are really quick at responding and taking my stuff! Haha.

My recent Freecycle Post

Good luck starting 2012 on the right track!


Marine Corps Marathon 2011

The Marine Corps marathon I ran this past Sunday was a great success. I am entering the recovery phase with a great sense of accomplishment. I completed the marathon in 3 hours, 29 minutes, and 31 seconds. Not too shabby. More importantly, with the help of family and friends I reached my goal of raising over $1500 to support people with disabilities!

start of the race

It was snowing the day before the race, fortunately it warmed up a bit for race day. I was prepared for the conditions with pants, under armour, gloves, and a beanie. I am still debating whether the pants were too much clothing or not. I started the race near the beginning of the pack, in the past I have started in the middle. The first part of the race had a decent hill, after that it was pretty flat until the end of the race. I was doing awesome during the first half of the race, if I kept the pace I could have run the marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Unfortunately I started running out of gas and had to slow down for the second half of the marathon. I don’t know if I like starting near the front, because a lot of people started to pass me after the halfway mark. Even with the crowd, support and the Washington Monuments around me, my strides shortened. Crossing the George Mason Memorial Bridge to reach the 20-mile marker was one of the hardest parts. After the bridge I felt that all my energy stored were depleted, so sheer willpower carried me through to the finish line.

The marines did an excellent job of organizing the race and making sure everything went smoothly. It wasn’t noticeable to me that so many people were in the race, making it the 5th most popular race in the US. It was great connecting with my fellow runners after the race in Charity Village.

My plan for the next few weeks is to rest a lot, and that includes eating a ton for Thanksgiving!



What is tapering?

No it has nothing to do with a tape worm. It is basically just resting before a marathon. No this doesn’t mean sitting on the couch for three weeks and eating potato chips. During the tapering phase it is good to run a few days a week, but those runs should be shorter and slower than usual. A diet high in protein is good as well.

It is important to rest your body before and after a marathon. Several experts say that this is the most critical part of training.  2-3 weeks is recommended for tapering. During your training you are elevating the distance of your long runs every week. This type of endurance training depletes glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones. I think of tapering as filling you tank to full before the big race!

In my first marathon I tapered for three weeks. It ended up working out well. This time I am going to experiment tapering for 2 weeks. Part of the reason is that I want my last long run to be 21 miles, at the rate I’m going I will run a 20 mile long run this weekend and the following weekend will be my last long run of 21 miles. A well thought out plan will lead to a rewarding marathon.


New Shoes

Recently I got new running shoes. The shoebox says that years of research on fit, ride, comfort and biomechanics, and an almost frightening obsession with every last detail go into these shoes. That makes me happy : )

My new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11 shoes

When I first started running I didn’t think too much about running shoes. In fact I wore these ones that I bought for less than $30 bucks at Marshalls. Eventually when I progressed to the point where I could run more than 14 miles, I started noticing towards the end of my runs I felt pain in my lower back. I shrugged it off, dismissing it as one of the costs of being a hardcore runner.

My old shoes

Then at the Virginia Beach convention center the day before the 2010 Rock and Roll half-marathon Brooks had a cool carnival-themed display area with games and prizes; they also measured peoples’ gaits. Before this I didn’t even know what a gait was. In humans gait is the way locomotion is achieved using human limbs. Different gaits are characterized by differences in limb movement patterns, overall velocity, forces, kinetic and potential energy cycles, and changes in the contact with the surface (Wikipedia). The guys at Brooks measured my gait with a slow-motion camera while I ran on a treadmill, way cool. Turns out I am a mild pronator.

So they recommended a stability shoe like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10, which I bought. The grey area of the sole is the medial post, and is made of a denser material. This provides greater support. Training with there shoes turned out to be one of the best things I did to improve my running. My form improved, my efficiency improved, and my back pain almost completely disappeared. Now a year later I have the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 11. Another weapon in my arsenal to help me tackle the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon!


Shamrock Marathon 2011 Results

I believe I set a new record for not posting anything. I have been really busy with work, school, and running for the first half of 2011. Still, I think that is not a great excuse for not posting anything.

In March I ran my first marathon, the Shamrock Marathon!

I had to stay disciplined training throughout the whole winter. Looking back it was pretty fun running in the cold weather and even through the snow a few times.

On race day, it was 42 degrees with 10-15 MPH winds. I was able to hangout in a nearby hotel before the race started and stay warm. I was worried it might be a bit too chilly, however after the first 5 minutes I warmed up a felt great. To be honest I never really noticed the headwinds. I kept a good consistent pace throughout the whole marathon. I started a little bit behind the pack than I originally anticipated. The advantage though was that I was able to pass a lot of people throughout the race. I really like running in Virginia Beach, the courses is flat, and the supporters are amazing! My goal was just to break 4 hours. I ran a clock time of 3:26:43!

After March, I really have been taking it easy on the running front. It is scary to run when it is 100 degrees outside. I don’t know the next time I’ll run outside, maybe in 2 weeks? I have an important new race announcement I’ll soon post about.


Hyperspectral Imaging

I feel much more relaxed now that my semester is over. Classes and work have been keeping me very busy in the fall. I thought I would write about my final paper in one of my classes, Hyperspectral Imaging.

Hyperspectral Concept

This is basically straight out of one of the questions on my midterms…(I’m lazy)

When we use a regular color composite image it is made up of three wavelengths: red, green, and blue. Looking at the Electromagnetic Spectrum we know that there are many other wavelengths that we can detect. The range from which hyperspectral sensors can detect range from .4 to 14 micrometers, this includes the near, mid, and long wave infrared parts of the spectrum. In comparison, humans can only detect light from about .4 to .7 micrometers.

A hyperspectral image cube has many bands; it is common to have over 200 bands. The fact that the bands are narrow and contiguous enables users to extract a spectral signature from a certain pixel and use it to match other pixels. Hyperspectral imagery is useful for finding objects and detecting materials in a scene.

In the beginning of the semester around the time I received the final paper assignment, I found out that the department actually has a hyperspectral ground sensor. I thought it would be a great idea if I could combine the two, I’m glad it ended up working out.


The scanner was a SOC 700 by Surface Optics Corporation. The system basically came into parts, the scanner and a processing computer. The images were 640 X 640, 120 bands, and utilized the spectral band from 0.43 – 0.9 microns. It was easy to initially set-up the system and start taking scans. The tricky part was saving the images to a format where I could open them in ENVI, the image processing software we used in class. Fortunately, someone at Surface Optic was able to help explain the settings to me as well as walk me through the steps in converting the radiance cube into reflectance. This was done two days before the paper was due, so luckily I was able to do the last scans in time and finish my paper!

SOC 700

SOC 700



I took scans all over my front yard, mainly of cars. The white sheet taped to the cars is acting as the calibration panel. After I obtained the samples I was able to compare them to an above ground dataset I had. The results were mixed, one of the best results I had was using the asphalt spectral signature. Below is the result of using Spectral Angle Mapper:

asphalt detection

asphalt detection

As you can see from the bright spots in the image, it did a great job of detecting the roads and parking lots in the scene.