Lunar Cycle illustration by Little Tiny Fish.

Lunar Cycle: Ride your bike around the moon

At the end of the year I lamented that I didn’t feel like I got on my bike enough in 2013. I clocked in a total of 3,184.38 miles, which was exactly 1,815.62 miles less than last 2012 (in which I went out on New Year’s Eve to cap off precisely 5,000 miles).

I’m not a person who makes resolutions (or rather, I don’t make resolutions on only one day out of the year), but my brother suggested I attempt to circumnavigate the moon by bike.

6,784 miles around the moon / 365 days in the year = 18.59 miles a day, which is over twice my average commute. Considering that takes about 15 minutes, this seems rather do-able.

Even if I don’t make it all the way around the moon, hopping from crater to crater seems like a fun challenge for anyone. Plus, maybe there’s a chance to learn something, too.

Using Google Earth, I’ve mapped a route around the moon. It’s about 10 miles over the circumference (riding landmark to landmark instead of as the crow flies), so I may tweak it slightly to get it closer to the true circumference. Or you can cheat and subtract 10 miles at the end. Or you can be a bullhead and insist on this exact route. Whatever. It’s just supposed to be fun.

I imagine it would be fun talking with other co-workers about your progress.

“Last night I made it to Sampson.”

“Ah, really? I haven’t even gotten to Huxley yet. But I’m riding to Madison tomorrow, so I’ll catch up soon enough.”

Here’s the cue sheet if you want to participate. If there is enough interest, maybe I can scrounge up a prize for those who manage to complete the route:

# → Crater Mile Total Mile Km Total Km
2 Aldrin → Sabine 37.72 37.72 60.35 60.35
3 → Ritter 19.5 57.22 31.2 91.55
4 → Ariadaeus 32.4 89.62 51.84 143.39
5 → Rima Ariadaeus 72.12 161.74 115.39 258.78
6 → Silberschlag 26.78 188.52 42.85 301.63
7 → Boscovich 70.1 258.62 112.16 413.79
8 → Mare Vaporum 153.04 411.66 244.86 658.65
9 → Marco Polo 109.85 521.51 175.76 834.41
10 → Montes Apenninus 73.12 594.63 116.99 951.4
11 → Huxley 28.14 622.77 45.02 996.43
12 → MacMillan 93.73 716.5 149.97 1,146.39
13 → Timocharis 101.43 817.93 162.29 1,308.68
14 → Dorsum Grabau 68.72 886.65 109.95 1,418.63
15 → Sampson 11.4 898.05 18.24 1,436.87
16 → McDonald 72.93 970.98 116.69 1,553.56
17 → Carlini 80.38 1,051.36 128.61 1,682.17
18 → Luna 17 & Lunokhod 187.41 1,238.77 299.86 1,982.03
19 → Mairan 136 1,374.77 217.6 2,199.63
20 → Louville 57.51 1,432.28 92.02 2,291.65
21 → Dechan 297.06 1,729.34 475.3 2,766.95
22 → Rimae Gerard 206.23 1,935.57 329.97 3,096.92
23 → Schönfeld 187.33 2,122.9 299.73 3,396.65
24 → Bragg 78.09 2,200.99 124.94 3,521.59
25 → Lacchini 65.87 2,266.86 105.39 3,626.98
26 → Razumov 108.94 2,375.8 174.3 3,801.28
27 → Frost 65.75 2,441.55 105.2 3,906.48
28 → Douglass 69.42 2,510.97 111.07 4,017.55
29 → Kovalevskaya 148.18 2,659.15 237.09 4,254.64
30 → Foster 239.26 2,898.41 382.82 4,637.46
31 → Mach 168.25 3,066.66 269.2 4,906.66
32 → Zhukovskiy 380.97 3,447.63 609.55 5,516.21
33 → Krasovskiy 175.5 3,623.13 280.8 5,797.01
34 → Coriolis 249.22 3,872.35 398.75 6,195.76
35 → Dewar 130.11 4,002.46 208.18 6,403.94
XX Halfway Point 89.73 4,092.19 143.56 6,547.5
36 → Ventris 146.95 4,149.41 235.12 6,639.06
37 → Marconi 256.15 4,405.56 409.84 7,048.9
38 → Chauvenet 153.79 4,559.35 246.06 9,544.96
39 → Lander 118.81 4,678.16 190.1 9,735.06
40 → Fermi 181.13 4,859.29 289.81 10,024.87
41 → Diderot 27.83 4,887.12 44.53 10,069.4
42 → Koval’skiy 360.49 5,247.61 576.78 10,646.18
43 → Curie 174.95 5,422.56 279.92 10,926.1
44 → Hecataeus 203.09 5,625.65 324.94 11,251.04
45 → Balmer 171 5,796.65 273.6 11,524.64
46 → Holden 130.91 5,927.56 209.46 11,734.1
47 → McClure 230.82 6,158.38 369.31 12,103.41
48 → Magelhaens 129.93 6,288.31 207.89 12,311.3
49 → Armstrong 436.05 6,724.36 697.68 13,008.98
50 → Collins 23.82 6,748.18 38.11 13,047.09
51 → Surveyor 5 10.48 6,758.66 16.77 13,063.86
52 → Aldrin 19.46 6,778.12 31.14 13,095

Total: 6,778.12 miles or 13,095 Km

Edit: January 13, 2014: Added kilometers for all of my metric readers who know they’re on the right side of history. I also formatted the cue sheet into a table, where data belongs.

Edit:January 14, 2014: If you’re on Daily Mile, you can easily track your mileage through the Lunar Cycle challenge. If you’re on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #LTFLunarCycle.

Jason McDowell (aka Little Tiny Fish) as Banksy's "Flower Bomber."

A brief history of my Banksy “Flower Bomber” costume

It’s Halloween, so that means my “Flower Bomber” costume from four years ago has found renewed interest. This year’s excitement has been an interview with PBS NewsHour as well as being declared “brilliant” by Buzzfeed (take that for what you will).The reason I’m finally writing something about the costume is that it’s clear that it has become “a thing” and may it be the thing that I am most known for around the world, so I should probably give it some context. It’s been sitting in my Flickr feed for four years without much explanation. Another reason is that my image was also used by Buzzfeed without attributing the source.* The excuse is often “well, you know how the internet is.” The virality of photos and the ease of losing the attribution across the vast Tumblr sea is a problem, but when the Google search is as simple as “Banksy costume” you have to wonder how much effort-to-dollar ratio sites like Buzzfeed are expending. This should hopefully ease the burden of the next wannabe listicle outlet (I’m looking at you, TheChive).

PBS NewsHour and, more specifically, Victoria Fleischer were a classy outlet. They contacted me about the photo, asked me some questions and let me know when the article was posted. Good folks. They left 80% of the interview on the cutting room floor, so I’m just going to post the rest of it here:

1) How did you decide to dress up as Banksy’s Molotov man? What do you see in Banky’s Molotov man that made you want to bring it to life?

I created this costume a while ago, so I can’t remember exactly how I decided to make this costume. I had dressed up as assorted art-based costumes before and since–Tim Biskup’s Helper Monster, Transmetropolitan’s Spider Jerusalem, the large-legged cyclist from Triplettes of Belleville, Wallace (and my beagle as Grommit)– and I guess it just came to me. I hadn’t seen anybody try to recreate street art because it’s not explicitly a character-based thing. I thought it would be an interesting challenge. We also have a “Mandatory Dress Up Day” at my workplace, OnMilwaukee, and anybody who doesn’t participate “will be fired.” I don’t think this is actually the case, but so far nobody has risked it. It’s sort of a game for me to pick obscure costumes to baffle my co-workers. I often send out primers before we judge the costume contest so people can know, “Okay, this is what he is. This is a legit thing that he didn’t make up.”

Recently Banksy was in New York City selling original, signed art for $60 per canvas, but nobody believed it was him and so he only sold a few pieces. I briefly considered doing another Banksy costume this year which would have just been me with a table of his art with my signature, but somebody already beat me to it.

2) Was it difficult to create the costume?

It wasn’t too difficult to create the costume. I put on the clothes and loosely marked where the shadows and highlights needed to be. I probably spent only a few hours putting it together. I kind of wish I spent more time on it now, because it has sort of become my 15 minutes of fame (if you want to go that far) and I have seen other people do it better since I first did it. It just goes to show if you’re going to spend time doing something, you gotta do it right.

3) How long did you keep that pose for throughout halloween?

I did the pose long enough to get some pictures, but I don’t think most people knew who I was. I would just be standing there and people would walk by and be like, “Uh, okay?”

4) How was the respond to your costume? Did people recognize it?

Not a lot of people came up to me while I was in costume, but people definitely loved the idea when they saw it on the internet. It seems to come back every year, so I was definitely banking on the long game.

5) What is the significance of the art work or the artist to you?

Banksy was the first street artist to make me recognize that there can often be more to graffiti than a simple scribble or a defacing of property. There can be repeating themes and deeper social analysis, from small observations to grand ideas. I don’t know if it’s “real art” or if it’s worth zero or $1,000,000 but Banksy does have a knack for get people thinking about their surroundings.

And that was that. If you’d like to use the image for an article of your own, feel free. The photo is available for use through the Creative Commons Generic 2.0 license. All you gotta do is link back to this blog (preferred) or the Flickr image.

And a big thanks to Nick Barth, who took the photo. I couldn’t have done it without him…at least until another capable stranger walked by to indulge me.

*Buzzfeed later corrected their error and all was right with the Creative Commons.

Original photo by Nick Barth.
Original photo by Nick Barth.
A completely iced-over, impassable Kaddish Park switchback.

An open letter: Milwaukee’s paved trails must be maintained, even when it is “too cold” to use them

“Please find attached a current photograph of the switch back, just beyond the Marsupial Bridge at Kadish park.

I have often had to put forth a request to have the bike paths and recreational trails cleared after a heavy winter storm. When make the request I always ask why these trails are not cleared in an immediate way, considering how vigorously the streets are salted and plowed (though I could go on about the state of the bike lanes every year).

The response I usually get (if any) is that the city doesn’t plow the paths because they assume it is too cold for anybody to want to use them.

Well, here I offer you undeniable proof, in the form of rutted, iced over foot prints and tire tracks. People are using these trails all the time. Under every condition. In order for these prints to have occurred many, many people would have had to commute through our most recent weather system, which involved an unusual combination of dropping temperatures, rain, sleet, freezing rain (yes, sleet and freezing rain are different), ice, and snow.

You can see, despite Mother Nature’s hostility, people were still out in the thick of it. We can assume that if this many people were out on this path in the middle of it all, that many, many more people would like to be able to continue to use these paths when it is bright and sunny (albeit arguably cold).

These trails become impassable. They are both deeply rutted and extremely slick. Even someone who is as well prepared for any condition, with fat tires, low gears, slow speeds, and metal studs, I still find myself taking several spills on the way down.

By not maintaining these paths, they become impassable, with deep ruts AND incredibly slick ice. Then you get a self fulfilling prophecy wherein you assume people don’t use these paths, the paths then become too dangerous to use, and people then don’t use the paths.

This photo is proof that your citizens want to be out. Your citizens want to be active. Your citizens don’t want to sit in their houses for 6 months out of the year because it’s “too cold.” They want to beat the cold be taking the season head on. Winters in Milwaukee suck; the city should be doing everything it can to battle this monster and make people happy to live here.

Please, make it an official part of your policy that the trails you oversee are made available 365 days a year. Don’t assume that we are weak and lazy. If anybody complains, show them this picture and tell them, this is what the people want. Don’t give us an excuse to stop exercising and stop participating. Don’t take away from the enjoyment of the most beautiful parts of Milwaukee.

Jason McDowell
Clarke St, Riverwest

The Windows 8 Store logo

The inelegance of viewing app updates in Windows 8

Viewing app updates in Windows 8 is a pain in the ass. When you see a small number in the corner of your Windows 8 Store tile this means you some apps with new versions. To get started you open the Windows 8 Store and then click the Updates link in the top corner. Good so far, though Microsoft might want to consider making that number indicator on the Store tile into a shortcut in order to save a click. This would mean you’d be able to bypass the store altogether; at this point Windows 8 is pretty antsy for you to wander in and check out their goods once in a while, so this will likely not be the case for a while.

So now you’re in the updates section. Let’s say you’ve got at least two apps that need updating. In Windows 8 both start out selected to make in easy to hit the Install button and install them all in the quickest way possible.

But c’mon, this is a Windows crowd. We want the dirty details. You can’t tell me that an app is updated and NOT tell me what’s been changed.

To see those details you can only have one app selected; this is when a View Details button suddenly appears. Now you can see the release notes you’re looking for. So what is the click process for this?

  1. Click to deselect each app until you’re down to one app selected: numberOfApps – 1
  2. Click View Details. +1
  3. If there are more than a couple of lines of details, click Read More. +1
  4. Done? Click back. +1
  5. Click to deselect the current app. +1
  6. Click to select the next app. +1

When you’re done you then have to reselect all the apps again so you can install them all at once: numberOfApps – 1.

So the total number of clicks is: (numberOfApps -1) + 5 + (numberOfApps -1) or 2(numberOfApps) + 3.

If you’ve got 5 apps to update, you’re clicking 13 times in order to view all your updates.

Compare this to the Apple iPhone, which allows you to view details with 1 click and install all with 1 click. 5 apps = 6 clicks, less than half that of Windows 8.

I would imagine part of this problem is due to the horizontal scrolling that Windows 8 employs, instead of the traditional vertical scrolling. How do you toggle the update view (which includes far more information than simple bug fixes, like ratings, install info, permissions, etc) without throwing icons all around the screen? But it’s a problem the Windows 8 team in going to have to approach as the Windows 8 store offers more useful apps over time.

Easily add Ö ø ß æ ä ü or å to your keyboard without learning the complex Alt codes.

Create a new Keyboard Layout with the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator

One of my big endeavors last year was to learn a new language and here I am learning two. I am planning a blog explaining the path I took to dive into both languages, and review a myriad of apps that have helped. But that is for another time. My two new languages, German and Norwegian, have characters that are unique to their languages that we don’t find in English. Instead of switching between two keyboards with two different layouts, you can build an entirely new keyboard with the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4.

By far, the easiest way to get the keys you’re looking for is to add languages from your control panel and swap between the layouts you’re looking for. However that may require you to learn a new layout, or your keyboard may be incompatible.

Microsoft does have a free keyboard builder. This can also be useful for people who are learning two languages and require a couple of different character sets. I’m in a unique position of learning two different character sets PLUS I use the Dvorak keyboard layout. So basically all my letters are totally rearranged. I’d like to keep using Dvorak while accessing these unique characters, so that’s where the Keyboard Layout Creator comes into play.

The Keyboard Layout Creator lets you map keys to Ctrl, Ctrl+Shift, Ctrl+Alt, and Ctrl+Alt+Shift among a few other functions. Once you’ve added your languages, Windows 8 makes switching keyboards a breeze (WinKey + Space). There are hot keys for language switching in Win 7/Vista/XP but it isn’t quite so elegant.

Anyway, installing the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator is easy and here are some instructions for setting up your own custom keyboard.

Start by download the EXE file here:

  1. When you open the file, immediately go to File > Load Existing Keyboard
  2. Choose the keyboard you like. If you want to keep QWERTY, but add additional characters, you’ll want to load they keyboard called “US.
  3. Immediately select File > Save Source File As… and save it wherever you want to save your keyboards.
  4. Next, go to Project > Properties
    a) Name can only be 8 characters
    b) Description is the name of the keyboard you will see most often
    c) Choose the language that makes the most sense. Since my keyboard is MOSTLY English, but with Norwegian and German characters, I decided to leave mine as English.
    d) If I’m not mistaken, the third check box at the bottom allows you to switch the direction of type.
    e) Click okay.

Okay, now you’re going to start adding characters. When you click a key, it’ll ask you what you want to replace it with. If you want to keep your normal native language keys, but add extra symbols, you can tick the boxes on the side to map the keys to map the keys to blank entries, like CTRL+B.

If you don’t know the Unicode ALT keycode for your special character you can open the Character Map program that comes with Windows.

The difficult part about choosing where you want your shortcuts to be is if you try to replace shortcut keys that already exist it seems to want to perform that shortcut instead. For instance CTRL+S will try to save the page you’re on, so you can’t put the German esset in it’s place. CTRL+A is commonly “Select All,” so you can’t replace it with the Norwegian A with the ring over it. Furthering the problems, in some web browsers, like Google Chrome CTRL plus a number will switch to the browser tab that corresponds with that number.

Ideally you want to be able to use this keyboard in as many diverse situations as possible. Sadly, this means you’ll probably have to relegate your quick keys to a CTRL+ALT+SHIFT situation, which is quite a handful, but it’s a little easier to remember than ALT+0230.

If anybody has a good, practical way of avoiding the CTRL+ALT+SHIFT handful, let me know. (Does CTRL+ALT+[Number] ever do anything exciting?)

[UPDATE: After using the custom keyboard for a while it seems using CTRL+ALT+[Number] is the least disruptive way to include special characters. As a bonus, you can add +SHIFT to capitalize those characters, if you want.]

So once you’re satisfied with your layout:

  1. Project > Validate Layout
  2. Project > Test Keyboard Layout
  3. Project > Build DLL and Setup Package
  4. If you really screwed around with your keyboard layout, you can File > Save As Image… to print out as a reminder.
  5. It should ask you if you want to open the directory. If not, you have to navigate to where you initially saved your keyboard. You’ll find a folder with the Title of the keyboard (the 8 character title you selected earlier).
  6. Click Setup.exe and follow the instructions. It’ll tell you your keyboard was installed successfully, but you won’t be able to use it until you restart.
  7. Restart the machine.
  8. Once the machine is restarted, you should be good to go. As I mentioned before, on Windows 8, you just have to hit WinKey + Space to switch between the two or more keyboard layouts.
    a) You can to go back to your language settings to see how everything looks.
    b) If you saved your keyboard as English, click the box labeled English (United States).
    c) You should see the new keyboard sitting in there.

If you have any suggestions for making an ideal custom keyboard layout, email them to me. I’d be happy to update this blog and include worthwhile ideas.