I think most athletes that have been competing at their sport for a number of years feel like they're struggling to continue to progress. You can measure progression in some areas, you feel like you're improving, but results often don't match up. Competition is like that - if we're all improving and comparing ourselves with each other, how can we really see improvement?
This year, probably for a number of reasons, most notably avoiding injury for a long period of time, my fitness and ability seem to have kicked on to another level at long last. I'm able to get skinny & still train strongly, and my running has become better than ever. My cycling seems to have followed, at least on courses that test your power to weight ratio, and even though I'm swimming less, I'm swimming better. (I still don't understand swimming). I lost the TTG Gloucester Triathlon in May by only 4 seconds to Richard Wilder (again), but I ran and swam really well. I won the Welsh Triathlon Standard Distance Championships in June with a performance that surprised me.
Have you been keeping up with the TweetyPi bird box through its Twitter account? We had some blue tits nest in it and some eggs were laid a couple of weeks ago. Today two of them hatched! Wow, they're tiny.
Follow the @tweetypibirdbox here.
I went for a run with my Pebble yesterday. Being a geek and a triathlete I collect huge amounts of data from my training and have been using Garmin & Polar devices for many years, but as I was running with my iPhone anyway (something I rarely do but needed to be contactable) I thought I'd see how the Pebble works. Short answer - it works really well but it's very simple.
I used to use the Map My Tracks iPhone app to allow my family to see where I was when training and to see if I ended up in any hospitals (only once so far), although we just use Find my Friends now. The Map My Tracks app was still on my phone so I started it up and dipped into the settings as I knew it had Pebble support.
I finally got round to converting the iOS Skull Osteology app (and web resource) into an Android app, test it, and get it up on the Google Play Store. It should work on Android phones but I haven't tested it on tablets.
The aim of this app is to give students the key details of the anatomy of the skull, ideally while looking at a plastic model of a skull (or a real skull in the lab, if available). Working with physical items seems to be the best way to learn anatomy and remember that information, and virtual resources like this are intended to supplement the unlabelled models with helpful information.
I spent a damp morning taking photos at the Cardiff Triathletes' Try-a-Tri event today. I've been doing this for years and it never gets old. Even on an unusually rainy race day everyone seemed to be having a great time and overheard snippets of conversation at the finish line told of fun, a challenge, and personal competition. I wonder how many of these novice athletes will move on to more races, triathlon or otherwise.
Annabel and I got our prototype working for the bird box, and I ordered a cheap passive infra red (PIR) sensor for a couple of quid. I spent a bit of time wiring it up to the Pi's GPIO pins and used the Raspberry Pi Spy's excellent guide to work out how to trigger and respond to events. The first thing I played with was a small Python script that gave a little feedback on screen to what was happening but more importantly lit up a red LED when the PIR sensor detected motion. Its a great example of physical computing and a really good way to play with some programming. I was very pleased with myself when I made the LED light up when people walked into the room!
I bought an extra long cable for the Pi camera and tested it out. Annabel and I cut some wires the same lengths as the camera cable to wire up the sensor and LED, soldered some female breadboard type connectors to the ends and hooked them up. We covered the wires in a length of heat shrink tubing and shrank it down.
Today we talked about the anatomy of the lymphatic vessels of the lower limb, and the mechanisms by which lymph is transferred from lower limb tissues back to the abdomen, thorax and circulatory system. We used examples of elephantiasis (and the filariasis worm), peripheral oedema, exercise recovery (after running or cycling racing) and snakebite.
As we're midway through year 2 and students are close to having covered all of the human anatomy in the medical curriculum we were all aware of the purposes of the lymphatic system and some of the fine structure, but there was no harm in reviewing some of the smaller anatomical details to help understand the relations between structure and function here. For example, lymphatic vessels begin as small, open ended vessels into which fluid from a tissue can pass. This fluid is most likely to have come from the plasma of the capillary bed that perfuses the tissue, and not all of the fluid is collected on the venous side. Normally the fluid is returned to the systemic circulation by the lymphatic system but your foot is a long way away from your heart, so how does this work? The lymphatic system is a collection of vessels that drain into larger and larger vessels, but the flow is only in one direction, there is no pump attached directly to them, and the pressure within these vessels is very, very low.
Lymphatic capillaries (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).
I bought a Printrbot Simple Metal 3D printer at work. We've got a bunch of ideas of things we'd like to do with students in anatomy, continuing with the linking virtual and physical information theme. The technology is at the stage where 3D printers can cost £500 or less, and the plastic they print with (PLA, for example, costs around £18 per kilogram). It's pretty cheap, and it produces cheap things, cheaply. It turns stuff on your computer screen into real things. And it's mesmerising to watch. And plays a tune (unintentionally) thanks to the constant movements of its 3 motors. This also fits with our idea of making technology available for all teachers to use in teaching, not just the ubergeeks.
When you have a 3D printer you realise how much you can do with it. I've been printing Christmas decorations to help improve the adhesion of the first layer of PLA to the print bed, and Kim will never have to buy another cookie cutter or mould. Just pop to Tinkercad, work through the tutorials and design some cookie cutters in any shape you want. Download, print, bake.
Jack's bird box has been kicking around for ages and I'd like to make use of it. He enjoyed making it, and I asked him and Annabel if they'd like to gadget it up a bit and finish it off by adding a night vision camera to keep an eye on any birds that may choose to nest, and painting, draft proofing, and attaching it to the house. Annabel really liked the idea.
I bought a load of cheap bits and Annabel put together a Raspberry Pi computer after I'd set up the Linux operating system on the micro SD card. She plugged all the parts together herself, including the Pi noir camera that doesn't have an infrared filter, and powered it up.
Jack made a bird house a while ago with Scouts and while a great project in itself it hasn't yet been used. We have attracted a lot of birds to the garden, including a family of bluetits that nested in the eaves or attic of a house opposite our garden. We also have some robins and larger birds like jackdaws, blackbirds, magpies and the odd wren. Maybe we could encourage some to best in Jack's bird box.
I think we can take it a step further though and add a bit of gadgetry to get more out of this if some birds decide to nest. Annabel and I will have a crack at this on the weekend and I'll post some more photos and describe what we're doing then.