It’s hard to believe that the first month of 2009 has come and gone! I didn’t manage to write during January, since I was busy working on my resolutions and goals for the new year.
The only resolution I have made any measurable progress towards is learning to play the piano. I have been taking lessons for 4 weeks now and practicing on my Yamaha YPG-625 digital piano. I have to say that this is one of the most challenging/difficult endeavors I have ever embarked on. There are two feelings that I usually experience while learning and practicing the piano. When I am learning a new concept, my brain hurts beyond normal description and the only way I can attempt to relate the feeling is to say that it feels like I’ve stuffed a grand piano into my head (like in the cartoons)! And when I practice playing a song from beginning to end, I find myself holding my breath and concentrating with such devotion that you’d think I was trying to levitate. Sounds like fun, huh? Actually, I know that with time I will progress and it will begin to feel more natural. Till then…
Without a doubt, my biggest time sink during January has been mentoring the Fairview High School robotics club as we build a robot in 6 weeks to compete in the FIRST robotics competition. I have found myself spending 20 hours a week after work and on weekends working on this project. In some ways we are making tremendous progress and in others, we are spinning our wheels. Although spinning our wheels literally won’t be one of them, since we have implemented traction control in our software system! I have to say that volunteering has also been a major challenge for me that has resulted in more than a headache or two. However, I really believe that when this is all finished, the students, the other mentors, and I will come away having learned about ourselves and working as a team at least as much as we learned about building a robot.
Finally, I have just begun to work in earnest on the Zetec engine conversion for my Westfalia van. Yes, this is usually a full time project without spending 20 hours a week building robots, having a grand piano stuck in your head while levitating, and playing men’s basketball (7 points last week, yeah baby!), but I am really excited about this project and hope to complete it by March. It is an ambitious goal, but I’m off to a great start! I received the donor engine for the transplant a few days ago and performed a Cinderella transformation on it from ugly, dusty, junkyard engine to shiny, 7345 mileage, reliable beauty! In order to keep myself on track, I’m using Google Notebook to track my progress and have shared the notebook with the world. Take a look if you are interested in such things.