Category Archives: General Stuff

Test of my Havana setup

This is a simple test post to see how well my planned tech setup works. I’m typing this on a Logitech K380 Bluetooth keyboard, with my phone in a Stump stand. Wifi and cellular data are turned off. Here’s an embedded picture:


Why am I doing this? Well, Cuba doesn’t have much of an Internet infrastructure, both by design and by lack of investment. There are public wifi hotspots operated by ETESCA, the national PTT, and a functioning cellular data system. However, wifi access is limited to about 200 hotspots nationwide, and roaming data on AT&T is $2.05 per megabyte. My plan is to write blog posts and email while offline at la casa, then find a telepunto to upload and download once a day or so. I’ll still be able to send and receive ordinary texts and phone calls, but I don’t plan to given the expense. 

It’s an open question which real-time communications will work– I’ve read that consumer Skype and FaceTime are blocked, and that WhatsApp works. I don’t know about Signal, Facebook Messenger, or Skype for Business. My working assumption is that I’ll be reachable through at least one of these methods while I’m in wifi coverage, but if you really need to get a hold of me, use email.

1 Comment

Filed under General Stuff

2016 in review: my reading list

Inspired by my mom, last year I started keeping a list of the books I read throughout the year. (See 2015’s list here). This year, I did the same, and I’m publishing it now in case anyone out there needs last-minute gift suggestions for a reader on their list. As with last year, I’ve added a brief summary for most of the books. Unlike last year, I’ve separated the books into categories, including a new “top 10” category. Although my list started in chronological order, unlike last year’s, it’s more or less random now.

Top 10

  • Boys in the Boat tells the story of the team that captured the Olympic men’s rowing medal at the Nazi-run 1936 Olympics. I never cared about rowing as a sport before. Riveting.
  • The Hybrid Athlete: the bible for concurrent strength and endurance training
  • Tyler Dilts‘ “Long Beach Homicide” series: A King of Infinite Space, The Pain Scale, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah, and Come Twilight. Superb writing and resonant, memorable characters.
  • Don Winslow’s two novels about the Mexican drug cartels, The Power of the Dog and The Cartel, are epic, almost literally (they aren’t poems, but they chronicle a hero’s journey). Except the hero is more of an anti-hero. Not light reading by any means, but rewarding.
  • Stephen King‘s Bill Hodges trilogy: Mr Mercedes (excellent audiobook, if that’s your thing), Finders Keepers, and End of Watch. This is King’s best stuff in a while— on a par with 11/22/63. King gives a master class in plotting, dialogue, and characterization throughout the 3 volumes.
  • Being Mortal: a difficult and thought-provoking read. Summary: we all die, so how can we make that process less wrenching for ourselves and our families?
  • Frozen in Time: combine the story of a doomed World War II bomber crew struggling to survive in the Arctic for months and the effort, 60 years later, to find their crash site, aircraft, and remains. Masterfully told.
  • Dave Hutchinson’s Europe trilogy: Europe in AutumnEurope at Midnight,  Europe in Winter. If you liked Gibson’s The Peripheral, you’ll love these. They’re far too rich and complex for my poor summarization skills to do them justice. Just read the first one, and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Redeployment: Phil Klay’s incredibly hard-hitting collection of short stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be required reading for everyone who’s ever put an “I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” magnet on their minivan.

Nonfiction

  • You Are An Ironman: inspiring, but ultimately formulaic, chronicle of six athletes who train for the 2007 IRONMAN Arizona race. Still worth reading.
  • The Next Hour: The Most Important Hour in Your Logbook: if Richard Collins writes it, I want to read it. Not only is he an excellent writer, he is an extremely experienced pilot and this book taught me a great deal.
  • Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats: a memoir that juxtaposes the story of the author’s family disintegration and the growth of Rocky Flats… and the terrible pollution that followed.
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman: a classic. I wish I could have met Feynman.
  • Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany: I know a reasonable amount about aviation history, but until I listened to this book, I had no idea about the realities behind the bomber war in WW II. I am now doubly thankful for men like my grandfather, who flew and fought in an environment few of us can even imagine.
  • Thinking Pilots’ Flight Manual: interesting and useful collection of magazine columns. Some of the material’s not relevant to me (I won’t be landing ski-equipped airplanes any time soon) but there’s a lot of good stuff here.
  • Doper Next Door: summary: ordinary athlete starts testosterone replacement therapy. Hijinks mostly do not ensue. The author comes across as a self-involved man-child.
  • To Hell on a Fast Horse: meticulously researched history of the real story behind Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Pretty much everything I thought I knew about those two turned out to be wrong.
  • The Red Circle (audio): memoir of a Navy SEAL sniper. Tiresomely self-promotional and overall not nearly as good as I was hoping.

Science fiction

  • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: one of Heinlein’s final books; sadly not as good as I remembered it
  • Farmer In the Sky: a Heinlein juvenile that holds up quite well 50+ years later
  • Imhotep: surprisingly enjoyable… think “A Connecticut Yankee In Pharoah’s Court”
  • Crux: terrific, complex thriller with tons of plot twists
  • Fold (audio): this narrowly missed my year’s top 10. I wish the protagonist were a real person so we could hang out.
  • Written in Fire: final volume in Sakey’s “Brilliance” trilogy. Superb.
  • Exigency
  • Going Dark: third volume of the Red Trilogy
  • Chains of Command: for my money, Marko Kloos writes better military science fiction than anyone else since Joe Haldeman
  • The Forever War: hasn’t lost any of its bite since its debut. People will still be reading this book in 50 years.
  • Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight, Dead Man’s Debt: Can’t pay your student debt? Join the military to work it off. Not as good as Kloos but not bad.
  • Ctrl-Alt-Revolt: skip this. Now I know I don’t need to read any more Nick Cole books.
  • Slavemakers: what if there’s an apex predator that threatens humanity’s survival? Gripping.
  • The Black: mysterious deep-sea life form emerges, starts tearing stuff up. Nice mix of horror and tech.
  • Flex: “interesting” is the right word to use here.
  • Year’s Best SF: a mixed bag. Three stars at best. Loved some of the stories, while others were super tedious (if I never see another Aliette de Bodard or Kelly Link story in this anthology, I’d be delighted).
  • Dave vs the Monsters: Emergence: completely implausible, featuring a crude and unpleasant anti-hero. Birmingham is a better writer than this would indicate.
  • Dave vs the Monsters: Resistance: worse than the first one.
  • Anomaly: more like a philosophy lesson than an SF book.
  • Something Coming Through: if aliens appeared on earth and said “we’re just here to help,” would you believe them? Should you?
  • Windsweptsurprisingly enjoyable tale of a labor organizer on a faraway planet. She’s a badass.
  • Extremes: tedious second novel in the Retrieval Artist series. Liked the first one, but probably won’t bother with the others now.
  • Stalin’s Hammer: Paris: novella set in the “Axis of Time” universe. Good, but too short.

Thriller / spy

  • The English Spy (audio): Silva never disappoints, and the narration on this is terrific.
  • The Fall of Moscow Station: I hope Mark Henshaw writes more books, and very soon. Terrific spy thriller.
  • The Wolves: Berenson’s yearly John Wells thriller. Reliably good.
  • Darknet: meh
  • Little Sister: if James Bond were a hacker, this might be a Bond novel. Enjoyable but lightweight.
  • Unforgettable: what if a weird quantum effect made it impossible for anyone to remember your existence? You could be a spy. But you probably couldn’t have a girlfriend. A clever idea, well executed in this book.
  • Tier One: a decent thriller, if predictable.
  • Ghost Fleet: naval and cyber war with China. Not nearly as good as I was expecting based on its hype. Poyer’s two Lenson novels dealing with the same topic are far better.
  • Traitor’s Story: a deceptively quiet but clever book
  • Disciple of the Wind: Steve Bain’s latest “Fated Blades” novel. Just as good as the others.
  • The Low Bird: novel of USAF pararescue operations in Vietnam. Quite good.
  • Onslaught: Navy Captain Dan Lenson and USS Savo Island are back on the job. Excellent depiction of battle at sea in the modern Navy.
  • Red Sparrow: very good debut by a former CIA officer. I look forward to more from him.
  • Lights Out
  • Hard Road

Mystery / crime

Other fiction

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends & Family, General Stuff

Nifty new auto-vacation feature for Outlook on the Web

This is a great example of Microsoft bringing useful innovation to end users by deploying new features in Office 365:

Outlook on the web now makes it easier to clear your calendar and automatically decline meetings before you head out for some time away from the office. When you set an automatic reply in Outlook on the web, Outlook will offer to do the following on your behalf:

  • Block your calendar so people know you’re away.
  • Clear existing meetings on your calendar by declining/canceling them.
  • Automatically send a response to incoming invitations while you’re away.

Of course, Outlook and Exchange have long had the ability to automatically send an out-of-office (or “OOF”, from “out of facility“) message when you specify the dates when you’ll be away. These new features extend the traditional OOF behavior by adding some business logic to the OOF process– after all, when you’re out of the office, it is logical to assume that you won’t be accepting appointments during that time, and that you want new invitations to be automatically declined. (There are exceptions, of course, which is why you can turn this business logic off.) I’m not in love with the fact that this feature requires you to set your  works in Outlook on the web, but I’m hopeful that it will make it into other versions of Outlook at some point.

Apart from the specifics of this individual feature, it’s really encouraging to see the Outlook team invest in innovation like this. Given the large feature gap between Outlook on the web and Gmail (the only real enterprise competitor to Exchange/Outlook) it would be easy for the Outlook team to coast. Part of the ethos of building software at cloud speed involves iterating rapidly, and that in turn means sometimes you build something that turns out to get a lukewarm reception because it’s not as useful as first thought. (Tony argues that this is the case for Outlook’s support for likes and @ mentions.) However, sometimes you build something that turns out to be really nifty, and I think this feature is a good example– I look forward to seeing it roll out more broadly.

(for another time: I know not every tenant admin will want this feature turned on for their users without prior notice or permission, and Microsoft has a lot of room to improve the way they deliver features so that administrators can control user access to them.)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General Stuff, Office 365, UC&C

I’m coaching Tri201

I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be volunteering as one of the coaches for Fleet Feet Huntsville’s Tri201 program. It’s designed to take people who are already at an intermediate level of fitness (including people who haven’t done a triathlon yet but have completed 10K or longer races and meet the de minimus swim and bike distance requirements) and prepare them to successfully complete the Rocketman Olympic triathlon in August. After completing Tri101 in 2014 and Tri201 last year, I’m really looking forward to share what I’ve learned in my short triathlon experience with a new group of athletes. If you live in metro Huntsville and are interested in triathlon, come check us out!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Training Tuesday: just call me Sir Paul

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my plan to seek Knighthood. That’s how I spent Saturday, March 19th: on a bike, communicating with my fellow CHP athletes (including Rafe, who wrote his own Knighthood recap) via Skype and Facebook, and pedaling. A lot.

(Side note: if you don’t know what I’m even talking about, you might want to poke around the Sufferlandria web site, which explains the culture, customs, and traditions of that mysterious land.)

I set up my bike on the trainer in my living room, using a dog crate to hold my laptop (for communications), my iPad (for streaming video from the Sufferfest app), and snacks. It was cool outside, so I opened several windows and turned on the ceiling fan; one of my gripes about riding indoors is that you don’t get the cooling breeze from forward motion because there isn’t any.

The Sufferfest videos are organized into a few general categories: racing, endurance, climbing, and so on. They feature a mix of sustained riding at a predetermined pace, intervals at specific power levels, and race simulations (which include both). There are attacks, breakaways, climbs, and all sorts of goodies.

Here’s what happened, as best as I remember.

I got up, had a cup of coffee, checked all my equipment, and had a banana and a protein shake. The night before, I’d laid in a huge cache of supplies, including Oreos, beef jerky, M&Ms, and a bunch of other stuff I wouldn’t normally eat. I weighed in at 199.3 pounds, got dressed, and headed towards Sufferlandria.

(n.b. Cyclists take note: each of the video links below includes a description, a short trailer, and a ride profile showing the intervals and intensity levels.)

We started promptly at 0730 my time with The Rookie (55 minutes). This video’s theme is that you are the newest rider on the Giant/Shimano team, so you start riding as a domestique but actually get to lead a breakaway by the end through 3 10-minute race intervals. I rode this scaled to 75% of my FTP, so my threshold was 146W, and the app was smart enough to scale my performance targets accordingly. The ride went well– I felt good when I was done. Refreshed, you might say.

Next up was 48 minutes of The Wretched, the overview of which starts with “Perhaps one of the most difficult Sufferfests, The Wretched is the tale of a Sufferlandrian who has fallen from Local Hero to Zero.” The conceit here is that you’re simulating a stage of the Tour de France, so there are attacks galore. This one went well too; after finishing I had a few handsful of trail mix and a few Oreos, along with another shake (consisting of 1 scoop of Karbolyn and 1 scoop of Optimum Nutrition vanilla protein powder; I nicknamed this a “pain shake” after the famous Sufferlandrian beverage).

Video 3 was A Very Dark Place (51 minutes). I definitely felt this one.  It featured 5 4-minute high-speed intervals, each with a different theme (solo breakaway, holding onto the race leader’s wheel, etc), which provided pleasant variety in the midst of the pain. I hadn’t done this or The Wretched before, so it was fun experiencing them for the first time while watching Rafe, Todd, and Torrey suffering on Skype.

Power Station, video 4, is 50 minutes of climbing– low cadence, high-power climbing that will burn your quads to a crisp. I’d ridden it before so I knew what to expect. It’s a tough workout, especially after the preceding three, but I am lucky in that I have really big quads and hamstrings relative to the rest of my legs (or my entire body for that matter). That makes me a crappy sprinter and a comical rider at 100+ rpm cadences, but I can handle hard low-cadence work.

I had some more snacks. In fact, you should assume that I snacked in between each video because that’s exactly what I did.

Video 5 was Angels, which I hadn’t ridden before: 3 8-minute climbs, which were not fun even a little tiny bit. I had just saddled up when Dana came over with the kids… and more snacks. They kept me company through both Angels and Nine Hammers, the following video. Both were tough but the company made the time pass much faster than I would have expected. Lilly drew me two signs, one for each video, and Dana made me what I must say was the best PB&J I have ever eaten.

Coach Alex prophetically said “this will be the worst part of the day” about video #7, Hell Hath No Fury… 75 minutes in which you race 2 20-minute race intervals against professional female cyclists. a 20-minute race interval is no joke; two of them back to back even less so. I was certainly feeling the burn by the end of this one. By this point, I was starting to have some persistent discomfort in the IT bands of both knees, as well as an occasional twinge in my left ankle. My legs were burning more or less constantly. I’d been taking Sportlegs, in which I am a firm believer, and they helped, but I found myself muttering Jens Voigt’s famous mantra: “shut up, legs.”

Video 8 was Do As You’re Told (47 minutes), which I think was the first Sufferfest video I ever rode. Familiarity didn’t make it any more pleasant; this video is all intervals / sprints, so it was punishing. I hung on, grimly, and used every second of the 10-minute break to refill my bottle, snack up, and stretch out my aching quads.

Video 9 was The Best Thing in the World (48 minutes). This is a flat-out lie, as it contains two 13:30 race simulations, which are not even close to the best thing in the world.

We closed with Blender (1 hour and 40 minutes). That’s right: 100 minutes of various intervals at the end of the quest. Many of the folks in the Knighthood-attempt Facebook group were horrified that we finished with this instead of doing it earlier, but that’s how Alex rolls. I was really dragging during some of these intervals; the recovery intervals weren’t nearly long enough to suit me. However, I managed to struggle through, finally dismounting the bike after successfully completing Blender, to loud cheers from the cat.

I staggered around the living room for a bit, then sat down. This was a bit of a mistake, because it was mighty hard to get up again. Luckily Dana and her kids brought me a pizza, which I gleefully consumed along with a Belgian beer I’d been saving for the occasion. After dinner, I filled out the Knighthood submission form, and earlier today I was rewarded with mail from the Minions containing this beauty:

PreviewScreenSnapz001

I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of the Knighthood swag I’ve earned, including some custom bike decals. More than that, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to raise nearly $3,000 for charity along with my CHP posse, and to have completed the single most challenging athletic event I’ve ever attempted. Many thanks to all who donated or who supported us with moral support, snacks, drawings, or PB&J sandwiches.

On to my 70.3!

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Training Tuesday: get knighted or die tryin’

I have become a big fan of the cycling training videos from The Sufferfest. They provide high-intensity workouts with a nifty backstory: you are a citizen of the nation of Sufferlandria, a cycling-obsessed country with a completely unique culture. The videos present various entertaining scenarios, such as riding high-power intervals for an hour and forty minutes or trying out for the Giant-Shimano cycling team. The videos are well-produced, feature great music, and are damn challenging.

One feature of Sufferlandrian culture is their titled nobility: Knights of Sufferlandria earn that title by completing 10 of the videos, back to back with no more than a 10-minute break in between. This totals out to between 10 and 13 hours of riding, depending on which videos you choose. There are some other rules, explained at the link above, but the bottom line is that you have to Suffer, ideally while raising money for charity, in order to earn the coveted title. Only about 600 people worldwide have done so… so naturally, when Alex Viada suggested that we do a group Knighthood attempt at CHP, I was all over it.

On Saturday, March 19, I will undertake to earn my Knighthood (along with Alex, Kelly, my lifting buds Derek and Rafe, and about a dozen coaches and athletes). Our team is spread all over the US and UK, and we’ll all be riding at the same time. As a team, we chose two charities: Oxfam and Puppies Behind Bars. “Who?” you ask. Here’s what PBB does:

Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and explosive detection canines for law enforcement. Puppies enter prison at the age of eight weeks and live with their inmate puppy-raisers for approximately 24 months. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it. PBB programs bring the love and healing of dogs to hundreds of individuals every year. The dogs bring hope and pride to their raisers, and independence and security to those they serve.

I am excited by this opportunity and look forward to Suffering for a good cause. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a live stream put together, too. I invite you to consider donating– 100% of the proceeds are going 50/50 to our two target charities.

For more details on the event, and to donate, please visit this page.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Why I donated to the Sanders campaign

So here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: I just gave Bernie Sanders’ campaign some money, despite the fact that I disagree with many of his specific beliefs and policies. Why did I make a campaign contribution?

  1. Sanders has a high degree of personal integrity. I would rather have a person of character and integrity with whom I disagree as our President than someone who’s politically closer to me but lacks those attributes.
  2. Hilary Clinton is fundamentally, thoroughly, reflexively corrupt and dishonest. The thought of her becoming President, and thus sweeping her equally corrupt clique of advisors and hangers-on into positions of power, repels me. If giving Bernie money helps keep her out of office, I’m ready to write a check.
  3. If elected, I don’t believe that the non-interventionist Sanders will be actively dangerous to our country. I can’t say the same about Clinton or any of the Republican contenders except perhaps Rand Paul– and let’s face it, there is no chance in hell that Paul will win the nomination. Sanders’ economic policies are unlikely to get broad traction in a Republican Congress, so I’m not concerned that he is single-handledly going to destroy the economy and the American way of life.
  4. None of the existing Republicans have shown that they deserve my support. Most of them fail on points #1 and #2 above, and the few who don’t (Kasich and Paul, maybe the somnolent Carson) have no chance of beating Clinton in a general election.
  5. In fact, the entire Republican party leadership has shown that they don’t deserve my support as evidenced by their shameful failure to recruit and promote good candidates. If you could take the list of current Republican candidates and their resumes back in time and show it to Eisenhower, Reagan, Carter, Johnson, or Kennedy they would be horrified.
  6. Because of the way our electoral system is currently structured, early money has a bigger leverage effect. If Sanders wins Iowa and/or New Hampshire, that will make him much more competitive against Clinton on Super Tuesday.

I’m definitely soft on Bernie. I’d love to see a last-minute convention miracle on the GOP side (or a well deserved, but unlikely, federal indictment of Secretary Clinton for mishandling of classified information), in which case I’d reconsider my support. But until then, I’m in for Bernie.

3 Comments

Filed under General Stuff

Flying Friday: a sample of instrument flight

Bonus! Two Flying Friday posts in one day (here’s the other one.)

There’s a difference between flying under instrument flight rules (IFR) and flying in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

When you fly IFR, that means you’re flying on an instrument flight plan, along a defined route, in communication with and under positive control of ground-based air traffic control.

When you fly in IMC, that means you are flying “primarily by reference to instruments,” as the FAA puts it. That basically means that you can’t see a discernible horizon. You can fly IFR in good weather or bad. If you’re flying in IMC, you must do so under IFR. If you’re flying in visual meteorological conditions (VMC, what normal people call “good weather”), you can fly under visual or instrument flight rules.

Actually, I should clarify just a bit– VMC isn’t necessarily good, it’s just that IMC is defined as “weather worse than the standard VMC minimum visibility and/or ceiling.”

This whole post is basically just an excuse to post a short video showing one example of flight in IMC. I took it while en route from Decatur to Tampa Executive; on that 3h40min flight I was in the clouds for just under an hour.

You can’t see a visible horizon, although the sun was semi-visible through the clouds. (If you take a look at the iPad screen, you’ll see why it was so cloudy.)  Surprisingly, on a sunny day, the inside of the cloud can be very bright with diffuse light, leading to the somewhat odd behavior of wearing sunglasses while flying inside a cloud that blocks the sun from the ground.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under aviation, General Stuff

2015: the books I read

I read a lot. This is both a feature and a bug. At any given time, I’ll usually be reading 3-4 different books, in a mix of electronic and physical formats. Inspired by my mom’s example, about this time in 2014 I decided to keep a book journal. Below you’ll find my list of all the books I finished in 2015, more or less in the order in which I finished them.  I omitted any book that I gave up on before finishing, as well as those that I’m still working on. I didn’t think to jot down a short review for each book as I finished it, and I’m not about to take the time to do so now.  I have embedded a few notes for books that I thought were particularly good. Or not.

That’s it. Time to start working on my 2016 list.

5 Comments

Filed under General Stuff, Musings

iOS charging woes

I have been meaning to write a long article about why I moved from Windows Phone back to iOS, and the good and bad parts of the transition, but I’ve been too busy to bother. I do have time for a quick rant, though: damn, I am tired of having charging problems.

See, Apple has this logo certification program called “Made for iOS.” Join it, and your devices (which might include chargers, cables, etc) can be certified as compatible with Apple devices, and you get a cool logo. Sure, it costs you a few bucks to sign up and get certified, but it’s cheap insurance. Nice line of chargers and cables you’ve got there. It’d be a real shame if anything happened to it.

On my last two road trips, previously-working cables have suddenly started producing the infamous “this accessory may not be compatible” message. Once that happens, it’s game over. The phone (or iPad) will no longer charge from that cable. If you happen to be on a road trip, well, too bad. Luckily I had a spare, but I am now nearly out of working cables, and there’s no guarantee that the name-brand cables I bought from Amazon (all of which were from vendors who claimed to be MFi certified) will keep working. Of course, because it’s Apple, there’s no way to override this dialog, ignore it, or force the device to talk to a tainted cable– once the cable is blacklisted, it’s no longer usable with that device at all.

The worst part? I’ve seen many reports of this happening to people who bought cables and chargers from the Apple store. Since I am unlikely to ever do that I’m not too worried, but I hate the precedent, and the inconvenience factor has been pretty stunning compared to my easy prior life of using micro USB cables with my Lumias. While I understand Apple’s desire to protect the IP embodied in the Lightning interface, and while I even believe that part of the rationale behind blocking non-certified devices is to prevent bad customer experiences, the whole thing has left an unpleasant taste in my mostly-discharged battery.

5 Comments

Filed under FAIL, General Stuff, General Tech Stuff

Training Tuesday: Rocketman Olympic Triathlon (23 August)

This time, it was personal.

See, last year, I signed up for the bike leg of Rocketman and failed to complete it when my bike broke. Then this year, I lost my Olympic virginity at Renaissance Man with a disappointing time. I was highly motivated to finish this year’s Rocketman well… so I did.

Pre-race and setup

Rocketman is legendary for being well-organized, so I expected all the race logistics stuff to go smoothly, and it did. This was the first year on a new course, after many years of doing the race at Redstone Arsenal, but the race director did a great job of posting the course maps early, marking the course, and generally communicating what the changes would be. Matt and I went to Fleet Feet on Saturday, grabbed my race number and swag bag, and then headed home so I could pack.

WP_20150822_001

That looks like a lot of stuff, and it is. At the bottom, you can see my race number (attached to my Fitletic race belt), watch and heart rate monitor, and Garmin bike camera. My ancient iPhone is running the Wahoo Fitness app so I can watch my heart rate, cadence, and power on the bike; then there are two pairs of (large) shoes, my helmet and swim cap, and 3 water bottles. Not shown: all the stuff I normally take to eat and drink during the race. (Hint: it wasn’t shown for a good reason!)

I packed my bag, loaded the bike on the car, and went to bed. When I woke up, a scant 5 hours later, it wasn’t because my alarm went off. It was because the cat was burrowing under the covers because of the thunderstorm outside. Not a good sign.

wp_ss_20150823_0001

I was a little apprehensive about the weather when I went to bed, with good reason. The picture above shows the radar picture as I was loading the car; what it doesn’t show is that the line of storms was moving directly towards the race site. I loaded up and headed out to the race site in heavy rain, not a little wind, and occasional lightning– and it was getting worse the closer I got to Ditto Landing. Luckily, by the time I got there, it was only raining, but the damage had been done (at least to the parking area, which was thoroughly inundated and had turned into a swampy, muddy mess).

While driving, I had my usual shake (50g Karbolyn + a scoop of vanilla protein), at which point I realized that I didn’t pack all the nutrition stuff I meant to bring. Alas. I had mixed up a batch of Mercury and then frozen it in my run and bike bottles, but didn’t bring any gels, waffles, or (my current favorite) Uncrustables.

Setup

I picked up my timing chip and got my body marked, then learned that there was a 30-minute delay. This gave me enough time to brave the bathroom line and get everything set up in transition. Because it was overcast, I decided to leave my sunglasses in my transition bag, but stupidly put my eyeglasses in there too. They chased us out of transition and over to the swim start, where two long ramps (probably 25′ or so) were set up to get us into the water. This was a great alternative to picking our way down the rocks on the shore or jumping feet-first off the nearby dock (also about 20-25′ above the water), the other two choices. The race organizers thoughtfully put carpet down on the ramps to make them less slippery. Then… it was time to wait, and wait, and WAIT because I was in swim wave 6. Luckily there were plenty of familiar faces around, including friends from both last year’s Tri101 and this year’s Tri201. One of my favorite things about triathlons is the huge and welcoming tri community in Huntsville, so I always enjoy seeing my posse at local events.

Swim

The swim was just OK. I got down the slide with no trouble, then waited near the start line for a wave start. The water was warmer than I expected (and warmer than the air!), which was nice. I didn’t especially like having to tread water while waiting for the start, though, as I worried that it would tire me– I need to work on more efficient treading. The swim itself went pretty much just like the RenMan swim did; I maintained a steady pace, didn’t swim exactly a straight line, and finished with 1646 yards (on a 1500m course, that means I swam about an extra 6 yards– not too bad) in a little over 41 minutes. This was a bit disappointing since I had been breaking the 2:00/100y pace barrier in the pool. However, I finished the swim with plenty of energy, which is always a plus. I feel like I could do the half-Ironman swim distance at this same pace and still be capable of continuing the race.

rocketman-swim

Bike

It had stopped raining before the swim start, but I knew the roads would be wet so I had planned to be conservative on the bike. I got a good start out of T1 (despite having to go grab my eyeglasses out of my transition bag); I had a dose of Chocolate Outrage (that’s a Gu flavor, not a philosophy), saddled up, and rode out. At the halfway point, I was just under my PR time for the 40K distance, so I figured I would come in close to a PR time.. but either the ride was longer than I thought, my math skills are poor, or I inadvertently lessened my effort because I was still about 10 minutes over that time. I finished the bike in 1:38, which kinda sucks. I know I can do better than this. Speeding up my ride is going to be my primary focus going into my next race, I think.

T2 went quickly. I couldn’t find my second Gu, and I didn’t have anything else to eat, so I just swapped out my shoes, put on my 2014 Rocketman visor, and hit the run.

Run

The run was my big success for this race. I ran the 10K course in about 1:01, which is (it’s true) 5 min off my PR for a standalone 10K but almost a 9-minute improvement over my Ren Man time. The cool weather definitely helped; we had a bit of drizzle on the outbound leg, which was a nice addition. The course was flat and fast, although by about mile 4 my legs were pretty tired. On the last half-mile or so I went as fast as I could, so my finish line crossing was more of a shamble.

Post-race
The post-race setup was decent and pretty standard for races in Huntsville: free pizza, fruit, and a welcome tent set up by Fleet Feet for the Tri201 program participants. However, I have a major gripe: race entrants were promised two free Rocket Republic beers, and by the time I finished there was no more beer. After motivating myself with the thought of a tasty brew at the finish, this was a major disappointment. I did, however, get one of the coveted finisher glasses, plus a nice glass from the Tri201 coaches.

Summary
One of the things I most enjoyed about this race is that the announcer stayed on station and called out the name of every finisher. Hearing “Paul Robichaux…. from Madison, Alabama… YOU. ARE. A. ROCKETMAN!” was pretty thrilling. My gun time was 3:30:09, so nearly 10min better than Renaissance Man but still a good ways off from my goal time. Still, it’s only my second Olympic-distance race so I have a lot of potential for improvement.

 

https://connect.garmin.com/activity/embed/875236231

Onward!

2 Comments

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Renaissance Man Olympic triathlon (12 July 2015)

Executive summary: this was my first Olympic triathlon. It went better than I expected but not quite as well as I wanted.

Pre-race

This is the second year of Renaissance Man. Last year, my friend Laura (who was in Tri101 with me) did it as her first Olympic, and she spoke highly of how well the race was organized and how much fun it was. I hadn’t planned to do another Olympic before Rocketman, my goal race, but I decided to do this as a checkpoint to assess my fitness and race readiness. I wanted to try to complete it in under 3:30. The last several races I’ve run have been out of town, so one of the things I wanted to see was whether racing away from home has been slowing me down. Another thing I wanted to check out was whether my new race nutrition plan would make a noticeable difference. My coach has me eating a target number of calories (with specific targets for protein, fat, and carb intake) each day. The actual target amount varies according to that day’s planned activities.

The big question: exactly how hot would it be on race day? The other big question: how would I perform on a 1500-meter open-water swim in the scenic Tennessee River?

Setup

I should have taken pictures of all the crap I had set up before the race because it was pretty epic. Apart from all the normal contents of my triathlon bag (bike shoes and helmet, running shoes, race belt, towel, transition mat, sunscreen, and so on), I also had food strewn all over the kitchen counter. My coach’s recommendations were for ~ 50g carbs and ~30g protein an hour or so before the race, and I knew that I’d want plenty of Mercury (the hydration drink I use). I mixed all that stuff up on the counter the night before, strapped my bike on the back of the car, and packed my bag the night before.

Race day dawned and I was up and rolling just before 5am; the race venue is about an hour’s drive from my house and I wanted to have as much time as possible to get set up in transition and have a warmup swim. After a totally uneventful drive, I found the place, parked, got my race packet, and started setting up in transition… only to find that I didn’t have a race number for my bike. Yikes. Under USA Triathlon rules, that would result in a 2-minute time penalty if the refs caught me. I went back to the packet tent but they couldn’t make a replacement, so I decided to brazen it out, set up the rest of my stuff, and headed to the beach for a warmup swim. Not, however, before taking this panorama:

WP_20150712_06_21_18_Panorama

My warmup swim went well, the pre-race briefing didn’t contain any surprises, and the singer who performed the National Anthem was terrific. TIME TO RACE.

Swim
I’d been fairly nervous (for me, anyway) about the swim. I’d swum 1500+ yards in a single workout, but never without stopping, and never more than about 600 yards in open water. I really felt good about the swim after the easy 600 I did on Thursday– that was just supposed to be an easy cruise without stopping, and that’s just what it was. After a quick warmup, which was really just some splashing, I lined up to wait for the time trial. This race featured an

SafariScreenSnapz004

My target time was 45min, and I ended up swimming 1637y in 41:10. If I hadn’t done such a poor job of sighting, I would have been under 40min. If you look at the course plot on Strava you’ll see what I mean. Still a lot of work to do here but I am überproud of myself for swimming that distance without stopping— that’s a big milestone for me.

T1
Just a shade over 5 minutes, which is far too long. I’ve got to practice this more so I’m not so damn slow. In my defense, I had to go back and get my helmet sticker out of my bag, which was off to the side. I also put on my run belt so I’d have a visible race number–  I was paranoid about our local USAT ref, who is a real stickler. (My friend Tony got a 2-minute penalty for obstructing, so the struggle is real). I also took 200mg of caffeine here.

Bike

The ride was pretty decent. I rode about the first half of it in the small chain ring because I’m a dumbass; on one section of flat road, I was doing about 110rpm and couldn’t get above about 20.5mph, and then when I figured it out, boom. My average speed went up after that. (Takeaway: pay more attention). My sustained cadence still needs work but this was very close to a 40km PR for me— my previous PR was done on a group ride (so drafting) with two breaks en route. I actually passed a few people, which was a real treat for me. Had ~40oz of Mercury on the ride + 1 Gu. I probably should have had a third bottle; that’s on my shopping list, though it means I need a new bottle cage.

Paul-RenMan-bike

 

This was my first race with my new Stages power meter, about which more later. It wasn’t super useful to me, apart from being able to see my average and instantaneous power. I am not yet at the point where I can produce a consistent power output on demand, nor where I can figure out what power output I should be targeting. But I’ll get there.

T2

I got into T2 and out again in just over 3min, which is decent for me. During that time I scarfed down a Honey Stinger waffle, swallowed 4 SportsLegs with a swig of Mercury, swapped out my helmet for hat, and off I went. Next time I need to eat my waffle on the run.

Run

“Trudged” is a word I might use here. The run was miserable. It was my slowest-ever 10K, at a 13min/mi pace. Coming out of transition my legs were leaden. It didn’t help that the first half of the course had lots of rollers and zero shade. I never even saw the famous lions at the University of North Alabama. I guess I was too busy suffering. I had 2 x 8oz bottles of Mercury with me and the first one was gone inside the first mile. Luckily there were aid stations about every mile, although the first one was out of water when I got there! I was pounding water like it was free beer. My quads and calves were both equally bad; I think I need to work on my swim kick, among other things.

I’m really disappointed by this aspect of the race, frankly, because I know I can run a 10K faster than this.

Side note: the hottest I have ever been in my entire life was when I stopped to use a dark green port-a-potty in downtown Florence. Never in my life have I experienced such a temperature.

Race organization

Registration was simple, packet pickup was efficient, and the volunteer support was superb (especially the Borden Dental ladies at body marking and the Listerhill Credit Union staff who manned a drive-through aid station on Court Street, complete with music, food, and ice water). I was disappointed that by the time I got to the finish line, they weren’t still announcing finisher names and times, and that there was nothing other than half-bananas to eat post-race (though some pizza did eventually appear). Overall, you expect these kinds of glitches during a race’s first few years, so I’m sure next year they’ll have them sorted out.

The big takeaways

53 weeks ago, I had never run a triathlon (nor a half-marathon, nor any distance over five miles). On the one hand I am delighted by my progress– I ran an Olympic distance triathlon, something I never would have guessed I could or would do as recently as 54 weeks ago. On the other hand, the gap between how I want to perform and how I do perform is pretty clear. I’m setting some aggressive goals for my next race and will be working hard to hit them.

5 Comments

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Europa Orlando powerlifting meet

“Try a powerlifting meet,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

That’s pretty much what happened and you know what? They were right. I did, and it was.

After working with CHP for a while, I started noticing my fellow athletes doing these things called powerlifting meets. The basic meet is simple: contestants get three attempts for each of three lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Meets are usually organized according to weight class and age, and there are various federations with different rules on which age groups and weight classes are used, what kinds of equipment you can use, and so on. Everyone who competed seemed to enjoy it, and I was told multiple times about how much I could learn from going to a meet and just watching, even if I didn’t compete.

I thus made a mental note to find a meet that I could go to. I found that there were several powerlifting books on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service. I read through “From Gym Lifter to Competitive Powerlifter” and found it super educational, but I still wasn’t quite ready to make the leap. As it turned out, Matt had a choir trip lined up at Disney World, so when I learned that one of my fellow CHP athletes was doing his first meet in Orlando the weekend of Matt’s trip, I took the plunge and signed up for the Europa Orlando meet, organized under US Powerlifting Association (USPA) rules. The plan was that Tom and I would fly down Friday, I’d compete Saturday, we’d pick up Matt on Saturday night, and then hit Legoland before coming home.

With the planning done, I settled in to lifting, a lot, and worrying, more than I normally would have. My goals were simple: I wanted to complete the meet well.

As the meet approached, I started getting nervous about three things. First was my technique: each lift has specific performance criteria you have to meet. For example, on the squat, when you’re all the way down, your hip crease must be below the level of your knee (this is known as “breaking parallel” on the squat). Each lift is overseen by three referees or judges, each of whom can signal that the lift was good or bad by switching on a white or red light. You need two or three white lights for a lift to count. I was worried that my squats weren’t low enough. There are also specific verbal commands you must follow in sequence; I’d heard of people getting red-lighted for returning the bar to the rack before the command, for instance. I didn’t want to screw up, but I realized it was a distinct possibility.

Second, I had to get used to the gear. In general, most federations separate lifters into three groups: raw lifters use nothing more than knee sleeves and a weight belt; single-ply lifters can use special shirts and shorts that are, basically, Spanx; and multi-ply lifters can use special thick suits for the bench and deadlift. (These latter two groups are known as “geared lifters”.) I had knee sleeves, but needed to get a weight belt (which was a shopping adventure all its own; topic for another time) and get used to it. (For gear fiends: I ended up with an EliteFS 13mm single-prong belt, which I am gradually getting used to.)

Third was weight: both the amount I was going to be lifting and the amount I actually weighed. I could say “oh, I’m strong for a triathlete,” or maybe “but I’m fast for a powerlifter”; the fact is that I am still pretty new to both so I was intimidated by being around a bunch of seasoned competitors who would be lifting a lot more than me, and I realized about two weeks out that I was not going to make the 198lb weight class without extraordinary measures. I decided that rather than try to drop weight I’d just move up a weight class– which turned out to be a really good decision.

Soon enough, it was time to pack up and go. Was the hay in the barn? I’d soon find out. The Monday before the meet, Alex had me test a few weights for openers, so I had a decent idea of what I wanted to try. On the advice of fellow CHPers, I packed a gear bag with my stuff, snacks (protein bars, Fig Newtons, turkey pepperoni), a spare roll of toilet paper, and a few other odds and ends. Tom and I had a great flight down, with good weather and a smooth ride, and landed at Gilbert’s Winter Haven airport (HOVA, the FBO there, took terrific care of us throughout our stay– I recommend them highly.) We had planned to meet Rafe and Derek, two fellow CHP athletes, at the convention center but we arrived later than expected and they had other commitments, so Tom and I had a delicious dinner at the hotel and hit the bed.

Normally, weigh-in for meets is done the day before. Because I didn’t arrive until after weigh-in closed, I had a 7am weigh-in time Saturday morning. I showed up on time and waited. And waited. And waited. The meet director showed up about 830, weighed me in at 205.6, and asked me for my initial attempts. This requires a little explanation: no matter what federation, age, or weight class you’re in, the basic structure of the meets are the same: lifters are separated into groups called flights, with the lightest weight being lifted first. The first lifter attempts a lift with whatever weight they want. Then the second lifter attempts his lift, and so on until everyone’s done. Your total score is the total number of weight moved for the best attempt in each lift. In addition, something called a Wilks score is calculated to measure how strong you are in proportion to your bodyweight.

To sequence lifters into flights, the organizers need to know what weight you’re going to try to lift for your first attempt. You can go up any amount on each subsequent attempt, but you only get three tries so there’s quite a bit of strategy involved in choosing good attempts. David Dellanave’s strategy guide was very helpful. I texted Alex my attempts and wrote them down: 115kg to open in the squat, 75kg for the bench, and 147.5kg for the deadlift. I was lifter 4 in flight 1, reflecting my relatively light opening weights. On a positive note, this guaranteed me an early start so I could get a lift in and then adjust as needed after watching the other competitors. In the flighting system, all the lifters in a flight do all 3 attempts before the next flight starts.

Rafe and Derek met me back in the weightlifting corner. If you’ve ever been to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, you know that it’s a perfect specimen of the large, ugly, dehumanized conference center species. The Europa expo floor was up front, with lots of bright colors and noise, but the powerlifters were tucked into a back corner, with bare concrete floors and loud music richocheting from the adjacent kids’ play zone and Zumba demonstration stage. Anyway, they were both very encouraging and we had a great time chatting while Rafe and I got oriented and got our gear together.

The meet officially began with a quick rules briefing, covering everything from the flight sequencing to what kind of underwear is legal under the required lifting singlet: “tighty whities or commando,” the meet director said, and he meant it, because sufficiently compressive shorts might provide a performance advantage. After the briefing, the MC began calling lifters to the platform for their lifts.

My squat opener went really well, despite a brief frisson of worry when Derek corrected my math mistake and told me that 115kg was not, in fact, about 230lbs– it’s 253lbs. I nailed it anyway. My second attempt went equally well: nice and smooth, with good depth. One judge red-lighted me for depth, though. I should have paid a little more attention because on my third attempt at 140kg, I got the dreaded two reds– one of the judges pointed out that my depth wasn’t sufficient. Derek, Rafe, my coaches, and I all agree upon video review that I broke parallel, but that’s no matter. The judges were tough but consistent, so I didn’t feel like there was any basis for complaint. 140kg was a new PR for me, so I was happy to get it even if it wasn’t a good lift towards my final score. Key learning: if you really bury your squat deep, so that there’s no question about whether you broke parallel, you have nothing to worry about.

Once my third lift was done, I watched the other flights squat. Rafe nailed his lifts, and then the heavyweights started theirs. Interestingly, we had a mix of ages– I think the youngest lifter in the meet was 15 and the oldest was 57. There wasn’t any real correspondence between age and lifting weight, either; some of the older guys (including the overall “best lifter” winner) were as old, or older, than me. It’s pretty amazing how much some of those guys could squat– I don’t remember what the heaviest weight I saw was, but there were 2-3x bodyweight squats being dropped like it was routine.

After all three flights finished squatting, the organizers needed time to shift the equipment around. One very nice thing about lifting in a meet is that other people rack, spot, and set the weights for you– a nice contrast to the traditional gym environment where you do it all yourself. While they were doing that, Tom and I went to walk around the expo floor a bit, then it was back for the bench, one of my weaker lifts. I have big legs and a strong back, but my arms and chest are small relative to the rest of me, so I wasn’t expecting huge numbers here.

I hit my first two attempts easily at 75kg and 80kg– a new PR. Derek pointed out a couple of technical adjustments to the lift during my warmups that really helped– I need to focus on squeezing my shoulder blades together, and on the press movement it’s actually more efficient to press slightly down towards the waist than straight up. I decided to try 85kg for my third attempt and just couldn’t quite lock it out, getting three reds for a failed attempt. Still, I didn’t feel bad about it given that I’d already hit a PR. I can definitely see that my 2015 goal of being able to bench my bodyweight is in striking distance.

Tom and I made another loop around the expo and took a quick food break. Convention center food being what it is, I decided to stick with the snacks I’d brought. Then it was time to go back for the deadlift. If the squat is the lift I think is my worst, and the bench is the lift that is actually my weakest, the deadlift is my favorite. I’d deadlift heavy every day if I could. I opened with 147.5kg, easily hit 157.5kg for my second, and decided on 165kg for my third– in retrospect, I wish I’d gone a bit heavier because I felt like I could have hit it easily. Once I was done, I was able to take off some of my gear and relax to enjoy the show as the rest of the lifters did their thing. By the time the biggest guys in the third flight were lifting, Rafe, Tom, and I were in the spectator area cheering and howling as we watched the big pulls– several over 700lbs. It was really impressive to watch.

I stuck around for the awards ceremony because I figured Rafe might have won in his division. Turns out, he did.. and so did I.

WP_20150502_019

In fairness, this was because I was the only person in the 220lb 45-49 division, not because I lifted a massive amount of weight. On the other hand, I did lift a hell of a lot: 370kg, or 818lbs.


WP_20150502_014

That’s a good 50lbs better than my previous 3-lift total, good enough for a Wilks score of 238– just a hair below “intermediate” ranking and good enough to move me pretty close to class IV according to the USPA’s guidelines (at least at 198lbs, where I will be within a couple of weeks). This would have been an unthinkable amount of weight for me a year ago, so I am really thankful to Alex and the CHP coaches, the community at Fitocracy, and especially to Rafe and Derek for their on-site support, so to speak.

Takeaways:

  • I had a blast.
  • There is a surprising amount of technique in these lifts, but unlike football or baseball, the technique is mostly invisible. For example, knowing that part of a good bench is squeezing your shoulder blades together is impossible to spot
  • In triathlon, the gap between the winners and me is often so great that I find it discouraging– the magnitude of improvement required to be on the podium is sometimes so large that it seems out of reach. That wasn’t the case here; the huge amount of weight that the top lifters were moving was motivating and inspiring, not discouraging at all. I may never be able to deadlift 700 pounds, but seeing it done at the meet makes me want to deadlift however much more I can.
  • Tom is super excited about going to the gym and starting to lift. I am excited for him and can’t wait to help him get started.
  • When’s the next meet?

2 Comments

Filed under Fitness, General Stuff

Disney and Universal 2014 wrapup

A few more-or-less random thoughts about our recent trip to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida:

  • Universal is a see-it-once park, I think. We enjoyed it but there was nothing so compelling that I think we’d want to go back again in five years. On the other hand, all four of us had specific things at Disney that we looked forward to doing (among them: turkey legs, the Winnie the Pooh ride, Tower of Terror, and Space Mountain).
  • Having said that, the Harry Potter attractions are superbly done: decoration, character acting, costuming, and all the little touches come together to provide a very immersive experience. Just don’t expect to be able to drink a whole mug of butterbeer. (And don’t be surprised if the Forbidden Adventure ride leaves you nauseated for a couple of hours afterwards.) Getting early access by virtue of staying in a Universal property was well worth it.
  • We didn’t buy, nor did we miss, the front-of-the-line ride access benefit that Universal sells for $60+ per person, per day.
  • Disney’s MagicBands system works extremely well and made paying for things much easier– which, I suppose, is the point.
  • The FastPass+ system takes a little getting used to because you can get multiple passes at once, but there are limits on which rides you can stack passes for. Read up on it before you go.
  • We stayed at two “value” hotels: Universal’s Cabana Bay and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. Both had nicely equipped, clean “family suite” rooms. Both claimed to sleep six: Universal provided two double beds and a twin pull-out sofa, while Disney provided a queen, a twin sofabed, and two single fold-out sleep chairs: not ideal for six-foot teenagers, but workable.
  • Disney’s on-property wifi was great at the parks, as was Universal’s. However, the Disney in-room wifi was unusuable– worse even than the worst of the Microsoft conference hotels I’ve had to use in the past.
  • EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival was going on, so we got some primo foods when we ate dinner there. I’d like to do the festival again, but with more time to savor the food.
  • Tom, Matt, and I all ran into friends at the parks. It’s a small world indeed.
  • We didn’t rent a car, so we used Uber for the move from the Kissimmee airport to Universal, then a cab from Universal to Disney, then Uber again. Orlando’s taxis are about a million percent cleaner than in most other cities, but Uber was cheaper and faster.

Overall, a successful trip (good flight, too!) but boy, am I glad to be home!

 

1 Comment

Filed under aviation, General Stuff, Travel

Thursday trivia #108

First, my thoughts and condolences are with the families of the pilots killed in the Westwind II crash at Huntsville yesterday. 
  • I don’t normally post on political topics here… but if you believe that six key IRS employees just happened to lose all of their email, at the same time, in a manner that’s not recoverable, then I have some hope and change I’d like to sell you. Government agencies and large companies pay large sums of money to prevent exactly that type of occurrence.
  • This looks pretty interesting: “Loss of Signal: Aeromedical Lessons Learned from STS-107
  • Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first successful demonstration of an autopilot. We’ve come a long way since then.
  • Having two teenage sons both driving has reacquainted me with all the reasons I don’t like auto insurance companies. Every six months, when I write that check, my dislike for them peaks.
  • I’m loving the World Cup, but oddly I don’t care much about soccer in general. Go figure. I must be an American.

3 Comments

Filed under General Stuff