Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011

This past month many people I know have taken the time  each day on Facebook to post a status update listing something they were thankful for. In the same spirit, I figured I’d write one very long post in which I thank specific people who have made my life the enjoyable experience I have to look forward to every morning when I wake up. Since I suspect this will take some time, let’s get started… Continue reading “Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011”

All-in-One Blog Backup Script

If you’re like me, you like backing up things to keep them safe. This blog is a great example – including my old LiveJournal posts which I imported a few years ago, I’ve got material here from 2004 on. I like to keep it safe, however since it’s a blog running on WordPress, I can’t just backup a bunch of HTML files and call it a day. My solution is to use the following script, which downloads a SQL data dump of the full database, then creates a compressed archive (using Tar and bzip) of the blog files as well as the data dump. If worse came to worst, I could blow away the “damaged” files and database, and use these files and the database backup to get back to where I was.

Here’s the script:

 DATE=`date +%F`
 /usr/bin/mysqldump --opt -h DBHOST -u DBUSER --password=DBPASS  DBNAME > `date +%F`-blog.sql
 tar -cf $TARFILE ./blogfiles ./`date +%F`-blog.sql
 bzip2 $TARFILE

To get it up and running, replace DBHOST with your database server address, DBUSER with the username for the database, DBPASS with the database password (make sure it’s right after the =, no space), and DBNAME with the database name. Then on the line that begins with “tar”, replace ./blogfiles with the path to your blog’s files. The end result should be a file with a .bz2 extension, which you can download to your computer for safe keeping.


Keep your Android Tablet Up To Date Daily With Increased Battery Life!

Recently I found that I had a problem with my Samsung Galaxy Tab (Although you might have the same problem with your Xoom, G-Slate, or any other Android / Droid device!). I would keep the WiFi radio turned off when I wasn’t using the device to save battery life (and since I didn’t have a data plan / cell connection, the battery life was amazing), however this meant that when I did connect back up, the initial sync took forever. Since Android has a bit of a problem doing anything else other than Synchronization, this meant that I had to wait a long time for pages to load, etc.. while using my Tab (at least for the first 10 minutes). I tried turning off auto-sync, however this meant that I never remembered to turn it back on while using the Tab, and missed important emails or messages since my hands were looking at a tablet, not my phone.

So to fix the problem, I wrote a few Tasker tasks and profiles that have been working quite well.

If you don’t know about Tasker, it’s pretty much the jack-of-all-Android-scripting-trades, and has some amazing functionality. My scripts aren’t too complicated, but you’ll see they all work in concert to accomplish the following goals:

1. Keep a semi-up-to-date gmail/calendar/contacts on my Tab, so that synchronizations every 2-3 days didn’t take forever.

2. Save battery life by doing things that I sometimes forgot to do (Namely turn off Wifi when I was done using the tablet)

3. Save me the trouble of turning WiFi on when I unlocked my tablet.

Step 3 was the easiest to accomplish: I simply set up a task to turn WiFi on, and a profile to run that task after the device was unlocked. Simple and effective.

Step 2 took a bit more effort. I wanted to have my Tab turn it’s WiFi off after itself, but didn’t want to wait for it to completely power back on if I put down the tablet, then a moment later realized I needed to look up one last thing. So I wrote a delayed WiFi turn-off task:

I then set this task to run after power-off. If you turn the device off then turn it back on, you can usually pull 1 or 2 pages before it turns the WiFi off, and by then if you’re going to browse for longer you can simply turn the WiFi back on again. You can also customize this with a longer time-out, say perhaps 5 minutes.

Finally, the last step was to build the nighly Sync task. This task waits until a certain time at night, turns on Wifi and just waits for a bit. The Tab automatically syncs up in that time. The script then turns off Sync and goes back to bed. Running this each night and using my tab regularly, I can usually get about a full week off of one charge. Fine by me. Here’s what it looks like:

Putting it altogether and you have a Tab that’s smart enough to turn on Wifi for you, smart enough to turn it off, and smart enough to keep an up-to-date copy of your info so that when you use it, you don’t spend hours waiting for a sync to finish! I’ve exported my scripts – if you want them, here’s the link!

A Subtle Endorsement of Dancing!

When I was young, I used to hear from my mother the story of how her and my father lost a huge amount of weight by going out to dance in the mid ’70s (actually, I still hear about it a lot, must be a fond memory). So this morning when I saw the following on my yogurt lid:


While listening to Don Henley’s “All She Wants to do is Dance”  it made me think of her and wonder if she and the weight loss dieties were trying to send a message! It’s nearly weeks end everyone, dance away!

Graduate School Superstars

Late last week, a friend of mine forwarded me something he’d gotten from a third, mutual friend (gotta love email). It was this list, taken from the Marian College Psychology Department’s handbook, a basic “how-to” for graduate students on becoming so-called “Superstars”. The list is an excellent resource for incoming graduate students in psych (and other fields as well), and echoed a lot of my own personal goals and personality in grad school. I figured I’d post on it and point out a few anecdotes.

  • When I was in graduate school, I was in the office 3-4 days a week, and made it a point to say hello to people, roam the hall a bit, poke my head into other’s offices to see what was going on, etc.. I did this mostly because I was tired, bored, or a combination of both. However this made me highly visible in the department. Other students I knew for a fact were in 5-7 days a week, working many more hours, did not do these things (In fact, they were annoyed at the suggestion they should). When they were tired or needed a break, they’d surf on their computer, go somewhere outside the department (the union) or just close their office doors and pretend they weren’t there. While this gave them the same temporary unwind as I got from wandering around, it also made others go “so-and-so is never around…”
  • The list notes that “superstars listened, learned, grew, and produced through close working relationships with faculty” which I apparently did without realizing it. I believe I enjoyed a very close and mutually beneficial relationship with my advisor, J.D. Jasper, which helped him both get work done and evaluate my progress, while also allowing us to become friends. Still, I never tried to take advantage of this, knowing that while we were friends, until the day I defended, I was still his student. In the years since, during my postdoc, I’ve realized that this is not the norm – most graduate students I observe at Columbia are detached from their mentors, have multiple mentors that they see perhaps 1-2 times per month, and generally don’t check in unless prompted to. Even worse, I’ve also noticed a few students (who shall remain nameless) who take advantage of the detached mentoring style to do subtle things that, if their advisors were to know about, would not be tolerated. How in the world are you supposed to build a good working relationship with people / a community of researchers if you make it clear that you don’t care to form any sort of social interaction with them? Your advisor can be your friend, within bounds, and should never be considered “just my boss”. This is why you went into academia in the first place – to have a boss that cares about more than just the bottom line.
  • Speaking of “taking advantage” of a faculty relationship. Shortly after I defended, I began to wonder how it happens that students fail their defense (Mind you, I was worried I’d fail mine, which in retrospect seems a bit like worrying that a tornado could strike my house – possible, but not plausible). I found a few threads that talked about how defenses were failed, and one story stuck out in my mind. It was of a student who failed simply because she felt that she’d been around long enough in the department that she was on level with faculty. I suppose I can understand how this happens. During my time at graduate school, we hired new faculty who, while 5-6 years advanced in their career from me, were still “new” to the department and thus it could have felt like I had “seniority” in some odd way. I can especially see this in situations where graduate students are teaching a “faculty” level load, have been doing so for a few years, and have a brand new tenure-track person come in who hasn’t taught in years due to a postdoc.

Anyway, I think it’s a great list for anyone advising students, or new students coming into a program. Graduate school is meant to be a time of learning, exploration, training, and even fun. Why some choose to treat it like a dreary boring job where they tred water for 7 years and then get to leave, I’ll never know!

First Goal Hit & Thoughts on Owning a Scale


Note: I totally meant to write this last week, however other tasks came up that stopped me. So this is actually two entries at once. The bold part is what I’m writing today, and the part that begins “Nearly 4 weeks ago” was started last week (albeit finished today). Before we get to thoughts on owning a scale, let me talk about the graph above. It’s my weight loss pattern for the past month that I’ve been keeping accurate records. As you can see, for the past 2 days I’ve been under 400lb. This was my first goal. Next goal will be 380 or so. We’ll see how long that takes. Of course, I’d have no idea what my weight was if it wasn’t for this: Continue reading “First Goal Hit & Thoughts on Owning a Scale”

Public Service Announcement

So a full RCIP update will be coming later this week, but until then, here is Jon’s public service announcement for those of you thinking of trying to eat healthier breakfasts on the go:

Dannon Light and Fit 60 calorie yogurt containers should have “fragile” written on them

On a related note, I’m glad I don’t carry much in my bag’s front flap. Oh, and if you need tips on cleaning a Galaxy Tab which may have tried to eat some yogurt, ask me around 8:30 this morning 🙂

Like I said, full update coming soon. Nearing a major milestone!

What Is The RCIP?

RCIP is the abbreviation I’m using for something that is definitely not a diet. No sir, no way, it’s not a diet at all. Diet means, at least to me, that I’d deny myself parts of my life that I find highly enjoyable in the vain goal of looking better. Diets are what stick-thin people already do because “I have to lose that last 10 pounds” or “I’m sooo fat… I’m like 130!”. Diets are exercises in restraint with lofty dreams of future compliments.

RCIP, or a Reduced Calorie Intake Plan, is not a diet. It’s a choice I made 2.5 weeks ago, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with looking better – it has everything to do with survival. You see, I simply can’t stay the weight I am now, or I’ll be dead sooner than I like. I’ve known this for some time, but over the last few months I’ve decided I care enough about it to do something. You see, diets are about controlling urges, RCIPs are about rejecting apathy.

So starts a new series of blog entries, for anyone who cares, which will talk about where I am, what I’m doing, and how I’m trying to lose weight to get down to a healthy size. Size is relative, because while I believe I can definitely lose fat around my midsection and on other parts of me, I doubt I’ll lose my broad shoulders, large hands, etc… And that’s fine – as long as I can look a MD in the eye and have them tell me that I’m doing alright weight wise, even if that weight is what some might think of as “fat”, I’m happy. I figure that’s somewhere between 200 – 250 for me, so my goal is to investigate it more fully once I get down to the upper bounds of that range. In the mean time, the goal is simple, lose weight quickly but safely.

I posted a few weeks ago that I knew my weight for the first time, and invited anyone who cared to ask me for it. Admittedly my first weigh-in was at the wrong time (i.e. it was just after dinner, fully clothed, etc..), but the number didn’t change much over the next few days. My starting weight was 419.2 lb on Friday, March 18, 2011. However for comparison and for the “official lb lost” count, I’m using 415.6 on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. Since that day I’ve lost 12 lb, taking me to this morning’s reading of 403.6.

I’ve been losing by counting calories (using both and which has an infinitely better menu db), and using the fitbit tracker which has helped me see how many calories I’ve burned. I generally burn around 4k a day, and try to take in around 2500. A severe drop in what my body was getting, something I realize. However I do splurge on occasion (in fact tonight I’ll be visiting a favorite restaurant that I could “over do it” at, although I’m going to attempt not to!). Largely I’ve done nothing other than limit my calorie intake. My eventual goal is to incorporate exercise sometime this summer, although I want to get to a weight where the stress on my body isn’t as severe, perhaps around 360 lb.

So follow along if you’d like to keep track of my progress. Let me know tips if you have them, make comments if you’d like, etc… I hope to write on a number of topics over the next few months, including my thoughts on “control issues versus apathy”, caloric equilibrium, meal sizes/times, and more.

Seamless Mode in VirtualBox Plays Nice

Last I checked, Seamless Mode in VirtualBox was buggy, and really annoying to use. I’ve recently switched to my Macbook full-time (My big Windows Machine stays plugged into the LAN and is able to be remotely turned on via LogMeIn in case I need it), which means that I’m good for most things, but certain items on Windows are still essential. One great program is WIndows Live Writer, which I haven’t found a free Mac counterpart. Recently I figured I’d try installing it in my Win7 Virtualbox machine, and then try out Seamless mode. The result is the following screenshot:

Screen shot 2011-04-02 at 9.53.05 AM

You’ll notice that’s an IE window, a Live Writer screen (With this post) and a Windows Taskbar on the bottom of the screen above OS X’s Dock.

When I last played with Seamless Mode, on a WIn XP Virtual Machine a year or so ago, it had a lot of issues with rendering properly (artifacting, etc..), however I haven’t had that with Seamless on Win 7 & VirtualBox 4.0. Nice setup for those of us not committed to one platform Smile

Westfall’s World: My Eye on The World Through Twitter



If you follow me on the Twitter, you’ve probably seen tweets like this lately:


Nightly my automated newspaper is generated, and shows what I’ve been reading over the day via the intelligent people I follow on Twitter. In a way, it’s a way of seeing what I’ve already seen, and perhaps catching something you yourself missed. Oh, and if I follow you and you write up something particularly interesting, it’s a way to get promoted yourself (Much better than #FF in my opinion!).

Anyway, if you’re interested, the way I found out about this was through Todd Ogasawara, who has been using to publish The toddogasawara Daily!