Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back East

Today is my parent's 38th Anniversary, and they kicked off the celebration by getting up at 5 am to drive me to the airport. ;) Fortunately, I had no problems getting there in time to catch my flight, so no juggling schedules around and spending the day at the airport.

Unfortunately, my bag suffered a bit of damage. Before, I had and used one of those TSA approved locks, and then one day my bag arrived with the lock gone. Great. This time, either the TSA people or more likely the baggage handling system managed to crush flat about half an inch of the teeth of the zipper, making it impossible to unzip the bag fully. On top of this there is a rip so the zipper needs to be fixed or replaced anyway, which would solve both issues. I plan to take my bag into a store and see about repairs, since my bag is a nice one, a Tumi ballistic nylon model. If I could squeeze into a smaller bag I'd do that and just carry it on all the time, to avoid lock thieves and bag crushers.

Since I had the day off, and it was clear, sunny and beautiful out, I hopped on my Trek 1000 and went for a ride through the streets and very modest hills of Heathrow. The Trek 1000 is my PC bike (powercranks) so it is a challenging ride no matter how far I go. It felt great to get outside and exercise after taking a week off. Total ride was 16.1 miles in 1:09.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Pet Menagerie

I didn't realize my parents bought two more birds after Mom's bird died a few weeks ago. That brings them to two dogs (a pug and a pekingese) and three birds (a maroon-bellied conure and two English budgies). When my grandmother came over and brought her own dog (a chihuaha), I felt like I was in a zoo! It used to be crazier, because before my parents moved to Texas, they also had a turtle.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Mom's pekingese. It isn't cold but this dog is wearing a coat for some reason.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Mom's pug. Yes, this dog is named after the robot from Star Wars. Who knew my Mom was such a fan? ;) R2D2 likes to play catch and dig in the yard, and is highly motivated by doggie treats.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Mom's chihuahua. This dog has a feisty temper and barks all the time. Since the dog bonded with grandma more than mom, Tarzan currently is living with my aunt and grandmother.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Dad's maroon-bellied conure. This type of bird is really for 1.5 people, meaning it will bond with one and barely tolerate another. It bonded with Dad and sort of tolerates me enough to sit on my shoulder for a while. But, it pecks at my neck.

Topaz and Sayang
Originally uploaded by klbarrus.
Mom's budgies. Topaz is definitely an English budgie, but we're not sure Sayang is (he has a slightly different head shape and isn't big enough). Mom trained her previous budgie Emas to speak, but that takes a long time. These two haven't been trained and are quiet.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Maccy Christmas

I set up the Mac Mini, and so far it is going over well. I myself am an OS X novice so I have to experiment to figure out how to do stuff. For example, I don't know how to enter an accented e in "Exposé", my favorite OS X feature so far. (NOTE: thanks to Mac expert John I can do it now!) I could use Exposé at work where I usually have at least 8 or 10 apps going. Instead, the Windows alternative is Alt-Tabbing through all running apps to find the one to switch to, and that isn't as fast or easy.

After using the computer for a few hours, I think it is really sweet: compact, attractive, VERY quiet, easy to use, powerful enough for typical usage. Argh, now I want to get one for myself! It is going over well with my parents, and I see getting my aunt and grandmother one eventually.

A pleasant surprise is DSL - now offered where my parents live, and they signed up for it. Since they have broadband I also bought them a wireless router. What a change, from dialup on Windows to broadband on a Mac!

The acid test will be if this computer resists spyware/viruses and generally remains usable months from now. Unfortunately my parents have spent way too much time, effort, and money keeping their old Windows machine creaking along.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Flight Delays

It took longer than expected to fly to Dallas, but the reality is that it was a self-inflicted problem... I got to the airport and just missed my original flight. I left in the morning with a razor-thin margin of extra time, and it took longer than expected to park.

Orlando airport has two terminals, with a satellite parking lot for each one. Unfortunately, the lot for my terminal was full, so I had to drive back through the airport to the alternate lot. I caught the shuttle soon enough, but by the time it dropped off passengers at the closer terminal and made it to mine, I had the sinking feeling I would miss my flight. With an extra 20 to 30 minutes I would have made it, but I lost that time with my parking issues.

I did find out something interesting. I've had to reschedule flights on the same day a handful of times, and I've never had to pay extra. But flights vary wildly in cost, so how could this be? I never really thought about it, until the very helpful agent told me what was going on. Airlines can make same-day flight arrangements and give them to you for the price you originally paid, even if the new flight would have cost a lot more, as long as those tickets are booked within three hours of the new departure. Basically, extra seats on flights can be moved around this way, but only within a three hour window of time. I had the option of paying an extra $450 to guarentee a spot on the next flight, or wait 15 minutes and trying again (it was 12:10 pm and I was trying to change to a flight at 3:25) with the small risk the flight would sell out. The agent did give a solid hint that selling out wouldn't be problem, so I chose to wait and got that flight. It only cost an extra $30 because this new itinerary stopped in Atlanta, where my original itinerary was direct, and the airline passes the extra landing fee on.

So I waited... and that 3:25 pm flight was delayed until 5:30 pm and then to 6:00 pm and then 6:15 pm. These delays made me miss two connecting flights so by the time I made it to Atlanta, I had to wait until 10:35 pm to fly to Dallas. I ate dinner in Orlando before departing, and in Atlanta all I felt like eating was a strawberry milkshake that tasted absolutely horrible. Not a great diet day.

Oh well, next time I'll add in an extra 30 minutes to handle holiday parking crowds.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Tyrian Adventures

With the extra time I have from my sports off-season, I picked up another hobby of mine: computer games. I crank up the PS2 occasionally, but over the past few weeks I've been pecking away at Guild Wars. I've played a total of 75 hours in 6 months on my main character, which probably breaks down to 15 hours in the first 3 months, and 60 hours in the last 6 weeks.

I reached a milestone in the game by completing all the missions for "Ascension", which basically grants me access to the last part of the storyline. In the mythos of the game, by Ascending I seek to prove myself worthy of fighting off the evil consuming the world of Tyria - standard game plot stuff, but there have been a few nice twists along the way.

About to Ascend

Here I am before the Ascension trial. Most missions require multiple players to finish (at the very least you can take along henchman which are controlled by the computer), but the Ascension trial must be fought solo.

Holiday Decorations

After winning the Ascension trial and finishing the next mission, I reached a new city that sells better armor. I dyed my earlier armor red (top picture), because I got tired of the default color; now that I bought a new and better set, I am back to brown (lower picture). Maybe I'll try a different color this time like green or blue. Some games of this type make you grind or farm for gear (i.e. repetitiously killing monsters for their loot) but in Guild Wars you can just buy the armor and the dye from in-game vendors.

For the holiday celebrations, a few cities in the game are sporting various holiday themed decorations: snowmen, gingerbread horses, decorated trees, candy canes, giant nutcrackers, and so forth. No gaming while I visit my relatives. Instead I'll read a book or two!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alarm System

I decided to activate the alarm system my house already has installed. Maybe I watched too many episodes of It Takes A Thief on the Discovery Channel - that show generally recommends everybody get AND USE an alarm system. Their point was an alarm dissuades a casual, opportunistic thief. Obviously, you can't keep out someone who is very determined, but an alarm system will make most decide it isn't worth the hassle and move on to some other victim. ;)

What was really interesting was how fast two experienced thieves can clear out a house. On the show, they would find a suitable target (and talk to the homeowner to get permission), rob the place, make security recommendations, and come back to check on the improvements. The interesting part of the show for me is the recommendation section, but the most exciting is the actual robbery, which they filmed for the homeowners and us to watch. Many times, they would zip into a house while the occupant was off doing some errand like grocery shopping or going to the post office, and essentially take 80% of the valuables in just 20 minutes. Jewelry was one thing, but these guys would also make off with big screen TV's, electronics off all sorts - one house had a small safe that wasn't bolted down, so they just took the whole safe! Another guy had a motorcycle collection and they just drove them onto the truck.

Anyway, with the alarm system I now have to visit the control panel every time I enter or leave the house. This really isn't too much trouble. Before leaving I shut all the doors, then type in my combination. Then I have about one minute to leave before the system is armed - enough time to exit and lock up. When I return and open the door, the control panel beeps, signalling I have about one minute to enter my combination before the security company is alerted. It really is pretty simple.

As for the show, I'm taking a break and not watching it for a while. It is interesting, but is also the kind of show where after viewing 4 or 5 episodes, you'll get pretty much all the info you need. Unless of course you just love to watch homes getting burgled!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Weight Loss

I'll probably jinx myself writing this before the holidays, but I recently hit a weight loss goal I've been pursuing for about 3 years.

After I bought my house in Kirkland in March 2003, I went to update my driver's license. At the DMV, the lady took my old license, glanced over it and asked "is all this info accurate?" I nodded in agreement as she read off: "height 5' 5", brown eyes, dark brown hair, weight 130..." She must have seen me grimace at that last phrase, because she smiled and said she could just leave it unchanged.

In those few moments, I realized a) I weighed 130 in college, b) that was about 15 years ago, and c) at 145 pounds (at the time) I was one of those people who had put on one pound a year after college! This despite generally higher activity than the average person.

So I vowed to lose 10 pounds and have been working on it ever since. Last week, I tipped the scale at just under 135 for the second week in a row, so I consider this goal achieved. Now there is just the difficult problem of maintaining my new weight. :)

The interesting thing was that it took me about 1.5 years to lose half of my goal. I didn't really have a strategy for doing it other than eating better and exercising, but I had been doing that all along. Even during ironman training, my weight stayed at a very consistent 140-142 pounds, which was good since that meant I was approximately eating the right amount of food I was burning through exercise.

After my July break, I started up training again with a focus on speed. This let me drop another 2 or 3 pounds, and I consistently weighed in at 137-139 pounds. But those last few eluded me... until I got the laser focus of calorie counting. It didn't take many changes, just cutting out a few things from my diet and even then, goodies are OK in moderation.

I plan to take up a strength training program in January, so the irony is I might gain some weight and get right back to 140 pounds. Of course, if I do put on 5 pounds of lean muscle I won't mind. ;)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sad Day

This is a tough entry to write; I've been putting it off all day. Earlier this morning a friend David Fielding passed away from cancer... or complications arising from treatment of cancer. I'm not sure how much time passed from the original diagnosis, and I could go search through Gail's blog to figure it out, but it would likely be more sad news as it was definitely less than a year - more like 9 months.

If you read David's blog, you will get the idea he loved to fly. I remember last year when this picture was taken, he had just explained how to do a barrel roll in a small plane. He made it sound easy ("first, learn how to do an aileron roll"), like it would come naturally if you were at the controls. Later at dinner they passed around the rings he helped design, and we talked of how exciting 2005 would be for them.

Gail, David, Me

Dave, it was great to meet you and you will be missed.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Off Season Thoughts

I'm currently in my off season, which will last until January. I'm not completely taking off exercise, but I have cut back and am enjoying a little downtime. It is convenient timing since I've been busy at work lately.

In the early season, I typically do lots of easy miles. But this time, I will go about it a bit differently. Why? Well, part of that is a new training program I signed up for - the Track Shack's Five and Dime speedwork program, targetted to the 5K and 10K distances. This program is offered once a quarter, so either I take it now, or wait most of a year, because fitting it in the spring or summer would be too difficult. Plus, I'd like to see what organized speed workouts are like, and I should meet some other runners.

I usually wear my heart rate monitor while running and biking, but lately I almost never pay attention to it. I hardly even log my heart rate anymore - I just about only check my max and average after a race. That's my dirty little secret. Why is that? For biking, it is more important for me to keep up with the group rather than stay at a certain heart rate. If I want to target a heart rate zone, the trainer is a better way to do it. For running, I've gone from building endurance to run the distances I want, to wanting to get faster at those distances. So the HRM is only useful to keep me from going out too hard during my weekly long run.

I think that for shorter distances running events (half marathon and below) the way to go about hitting certain time goals is to actually train at that desired race pace. What is easier - to set a PR by figuring out what heart rate to keep, or by figuring out what pace to keep and stick to it? After many years of trying to break through my old half mary PR, I did it this year with simple math: my goal required an 8 minute/mile pace, so I stuck to that from the start. Granted, I have a larger exercise base and had been running at faster paces than I ever did before. The funny thing is, I set my previous PR the one time I didn't use the HRM - the strap was loose and it slipped to my stomach less than 5 minutes into the event. I ran that one by picking out other people and catching up to them.

Anyway, this is my philosophy as a self-coached athlete. I might crash and burn, but I should also notice that happening and make a tactical adjustment if necessary.

Later I'll add more on what I plan to do schedule wise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Corporate Confidential

I heard about this book by reading some of the comments on the Mini Microsoft blog. I went to look for it at a local Barnes & Noble, but they didn't have it in stock, so I ordered a copy from Amazon.

It arrived, and I started reading... and couldn't put it down. The reviews on Mini Microsoft's site and the comments on Amazon are all true, at least to me. The author, Cynthia Shapiro, has written an outstanding and revealing look at corporate politics and personnel policies. She was a former human resources executive, and logically and methodically explains the reasons for various unwritten rules, how they affect you, and how to work around them. I wonder if after reading this, I'll become a total cynic and say that HR exists solely to gather documentation to defend against lawsuits.

I'm only 50 pages into it, and it has been page after page of absolutely fascinating insight on how the HR departments at real corporations work, and what they do. I have to be careful about reading it tonight or I'll be up way too late again!

She explains that due to the legal climate, companies are very risk adverse and have to carefully sidestep issues and potential problems, and this is what blocks career advancement for the majority of people. She gives advice on what to do and what to avoid doing, and to always think of how the corporation would view things. I'm looking forward to absorbing the rest of the information.

I don't have any friends who are human resource specialists, or I'd ask them what they think of Corporate Confidential.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cult of the Mac

My poor parents are long-suffering Windows users. They recently had to take their computer in to have it wiped and reinstalled, due to all sorts of spyware and virus related problems. This is at least the third of fourth time it has happened, and I'm thinking long term, a different strategy might be needed: getting them a Mac.

My first computer was an Apple IIe. Actually, my first computer was a Sinclair ZX-81 (anybody remember those?) but it was limited. Unfortunately, I lost it during a move - it would make a great wall ornament or museum piece. I also owned an Amiga 2000, but other than that every computer has been a DOS/Windows system. Now might be the time return to the Apple family and get a Mac. I think the Mac Mini might be perfect for them.

Last time I visited, I installed anti-spyware software including Ad-Aware and Spybot-S&D. But, as Windows systems are prone to do without constant vigilance, it degraded over the last year and became unusable.

Having the store fix the computer is like having an axe executioner perform surgery. To be fair, sometimes all that can be done is a complete reinstall. After such a drastic fix, all their files are gone, all their applications need to be reinstalled, and worst of all, their system had Windows ME put back onto it (store policy is to use the install disk the computer came with) instead of the XPSP2 I upgraded them to.

If you are familiar with Windows ME you can already see the problem - returning a computer running some ancient unpatched version of Windows ME is disaster. My parents are on dial-up, and even if the first thing they did was go to Windows Update and try to patch their system, they would be reinfected again before finishing the download. In the past, I've found patches, burned CD's and mailed, but that is a long turn around time before the system is usable.

To cap it off, they got fooled by the Win Fixer spyware and have that running around already. The uninstall instructions are not something I can walk them through over the phone. I'm curious what the Hijack This log would say for their system.

So, I'm seriously considering the Mac. I'd set them up on Ubuntu Linux (which I run on one of my spare boxes) but I think that might be a little too much to absorb. No software is perfect, but with OSX there are at least an order of magnitude (or two) fewer problems due to better design. Things like not running as an Administrator (yeah, you can do that too on Windows but not with the default out-of-the-box install). If I order soon it can even be delivered for Christmas, and then I can set it up and play around with it!

I'm also interested in Apple's internet service, .Mac. I think my parents would really get some great usage out of some of the features: iDisk and Backup. I don't think anything of burning CD's and storing important files on multiple USB keys, but for them, having an easy place to store files would be wonderful.

I think most of what they need to run can be handled natively on the Mac (web browsing, email, PDF docs) or through Virtual PC for the handful of other apps they use.

If I like it, maybe I'll get one too. I'm just on Windows for the games. ;)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Touching the Void

I'm sure my friend Krisanne recently watched this movie, but I can't find her post on it. Reading her post made me queue it up in Netflix, since I found the book very interesting when I read it. The advantage of the movie is great scenery and commentary from the actual men involved. By the way, another great mountaineering book is Minus 148, about the first winter ascent of Denali. Those two, along with Into Thin Air will make you realize mountain climbers and all nuts and you are way better off taking up something tame like skydiving. ;) The thing that struck me in all these books is avalanche risk, how you are basically at the mercy of the weather and pure luck to not have one happen while you are in an exposed spot.

Touching the Void covers the famous incident in the Andes where two mountaineering friends got caught in bad weather during their descent. Joe Simpson fell and broke his leg, and his partner Simon Yates tried to lower him so they could continue. Unfortunately, while lowering him, Simpson again slipped off a cliff, and was suspended in mid-air due to the rope. Trapped like this, he tried to climb up slowly using his gear, but he dropped a crucial piece of equipment. After all, he was only dealing with the pain of his broken leg, darkness and bad weather, plus the freezing cold... and I can see where his fingers were frozen solid and something slipped.

Anyway, he could no longer climb up the rope, and Yates couldn't continue with his weight holding him down, so Yates did the very agonizing thing of cutting the rope, releasing Simpson into free fall and nearly certain death.

Simpson did survive the 100+ foot fall and live. Now he was faced with the struggle to climb out of a crevasse and back to camp, hoping Yates had not packed up and left, since that would have meant a death due to starvation/dehydration. He did make it, surviving against the odds, crawling like an animal over rocks back to the camp.

Watching the movie made me think of my own limited climbing experience. Since Mt. Rainier is so close to Seattle, it is a popular climbing destination. I was a little interested in joining a guided climb to the top, but over the years I grew less and less interested and now I have no desire to do anything more than a hike or snowshoe.

When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I joined the Mountaineers and took some of their classes: navigation, snowshoe, scrambling. You might wonder why you need a class for snowshoeing - well the Moutaineers are pretty serious about safety. The are very dedicated to safety and education, so the classes are very informative. The snowshoe series involved map/compass navigation, ice axe arrest, avalance beacon rescue, and snowcamping. The most interesting of these was avalanche beacon rescue - using beacons to search for teddy bears buried in tupperware containers. It was fun, until you realize in a real avalanche, you have ~30 minutes to find a buried person before they asphyxiate. Avalanche rescue is one of the few situation where going for help is the wrong thing to do; victims will die before you get back to them. If they have any hope of living, YOU have to start searching immediately.

Scrambling is non-technical climbing, which means getting to the summit without having to use ropes or other gear you attach to the mountain. Of course, there are peaks that can't be scrambled and must be climbed.

What I found out from backpacking is that for me, dragging around all the gear needed isn't fun. I went on two backpacking trips on the Wonderland Trail (which encircles Mt. Rainier) plus a trip to the Hoh Rainforest, and for those trips I had to take about 45 pounds of gear: backpack, tent, clothes, food, supplies. If I were a mountain climber, I'd have to take all that stuff PLUS heavier boots, cold weather gear, climbing axe, crampons, rope, etc. Net result: less enjoyment for more risk. Hm... let me think about about that... The views are great, but then you can get most of that benefit from some of the nicer and safer hikes and snowshoe routes available. Towards the end of my time in Washington I would only do day hikes.

I wound up leaving the Mountaineers - they are a great organization very serious about teaching and safety - but I just wasn't having fun doing anything more than hikes and snowshoes. Instead, I got into triathlon, where I can easily get my gear fix. ;)

Monday, December 05, 2005


One TV show I really enjoy is Medium. The premise is Allison (Patricia Arquette) can communicate with the dead and occasionally see glimpses of the future. This may sound cheesy but the show is very well written. CBS liked it enough to imitate for their own show Ghost Whisperer.

I couldn't put my finger on why I like this show so much, until I realized that unlike many sci-fi shows, where "not changing events that are to happen" is often a millstone worn around the neck of the plot, this show is all about doing that. In an episode a few weeks ago, Allison had a vision of a young woman threatened and knifepoint and then killed, and also one of the ex-con who was arrested for it.

Sounds good right? Well there are a few twists. In order to head off this crime, Allison and Detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) go visit the ex-con, to ask him some questions. He sees them and runs off, straight into a car and is hospitalized with major injuries. At the hospital, the young woman visits and Allison and Lee realize these two are dating. It also comes out that the young woman's ex-husband is a psycho, very jealous, and he's the true killer - the ex-con boyfriend was to be wrongfully convicted. So the killer Allison saw in her vision was the ex-husband, and Detective Scanlon arrives just in time to save her from murder.

Most of the shows are similar - Allison will have a mysterious vision and then spend the rest of the episode trying to make sense of it. Detective Scanlon was originally an extreme skeptic, completely unconvinced about the psychic abilities of Allison. He prefers the usual detective work, but has seen how she has helped so many times, he now is more than willing to follow up hunches she has, even though not all pan out. The Assistant D.A. Devalos (Miguel Sandoval) is similar - he wants any advantage he can get so he asks her to help out with a variety of cases.

Now, an item of concern. Last week's episode was a very gimmicky 3D episode. I think the show is good but when they resort to stunts like that it makes me hope it is a stumble and not a sign the show has turned for the worse.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

OUC Half Marathon


It's about time I had a "perfect" race: well paced, well executed, and I hit both my time goals. I finished in 1:42:28, and I was extremely pleased with how it went.


Yesterday I hydrated with 56 oz of Infinit, ate a chicken/pasta lunch, and lasagna for dinner. My own mini carbo-loading protocol! During the race I brought 2 7 oz fuel belt bottles of Infinit - I like to take a sip of sports drink more often than the water stations.

Race Strategy

My previous half marathon PR was 1:50:22, set in December of 1999. I felt like I could improve on that time, since I've been running more, have a larger exercise base, and have been speed training.

My strategy was to hold an 8:00 minute/mile through mile 10, and then take stock and re-evaluate how my race was going. My primary goal was to beat 1:50:22, and my secondary stretch goal was to come in under 1:45:00.

The Race

I seeded myself near the front - even though I'm not that fast by running standards, my experience here is that lots of people are wildly optimistic in their own placement. I just wanted to dodge fewer people - again, I'm not that fast, but I knew any more than 20 or 30 seconds back from the start would be a nightmare for the first mile.

I kept it right around 8:00 through mile 5. It felt like I was running a lot slower than I could have, but I knew that this was necessary for me to hold the pace the entire distance. No use going out hard only to run on fumes at mile 10!

Things were looking really good when I came to mile 10 at 78 minutes, 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I decided 1:45 was looking good so I picked it up slightly.

I had minor delusions of finishing under 1:40, but I was not able to hold the necessary pace from mile 10. Maybe that will be my next goal.

Unfortunately, my footpod was way off at this race - it measured 12.7 miles. That is a 3% error which is pretty big. I replaced the battery recently, but what I probably need to do is recalibrate the footpod at a track, while running 8 minute miles, in order to get as much accuracy as possible.

Overall, this race went very well and I'm going to treat myself to a nice milkshake this afternoon. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Daily Show

I watch Comedy Channel's Daily Show all the time now - it is a great satire on current politics. I haven't been able to get into The Colbert Report, a spinoff, but the original is just great. Yesterday was a funny skit with Samantha Bee on the vote of No Confidence in Canada:

SB: The no confidence vote forced by the three opposition parties leaves Canadians in many ridings wondering...

JS: We Americans don't really know a lot about Canada, could you back up that explanation just a tad?

SB: A riding is like one of your Congressional districts...

JS: Sam, a little further.

SB: Parliment is like the Canadian Congress...

JS: Sam, further!

SB: A former monarchy, our representative democracy arose...

JS: Sam! Where is Canada?

I found that so funny for some reason. I know my Canadian friends won't hate me for it either. ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lost Turtle

I drove home to drop off my bike - despite the beautiful weather we're all too busy to ride at lunch today - and a block from my home I spotted a turtle struggling mightily to cross the street. It was most of the way over but having a tough time negotiating the curb.

Once home, I grabbed my camera and jogged back to find it. Gail would probably tell me "this is why you should ALWAYS have your camera with you!"

The turtle did successfully scale the curb, and was at a neighbor's entryway, clearly lost. So close and yet so far from the small lake...

Lost Turtle

I got closer and the turtle started to click a bit, and then withdrew into its shell. That made my job easier - I picked it up and walked it over to the lake. After I set it down on the grass a few feet from the water, it poked its head out and then eagerly waddled into the water.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fat Intake

The interesting thing about fat intake is that unlike the other nutrition which is spread throughout everything I eat, fat usually comes in one giant chunk. Most of the time, the offender is one single food that contributes the bulk of my recommended daily intake, which is about 54 grams of fat per day.

For example, looking over my food diary:

  • A strawberry milkshake is about 23g of fat - 43% RDI.
  • Half of a sierra turkey sandwich at Panera is about 27.5g of fat - 51% RDI.
  • A regular classic Italian sub from Quizno's (with dressing) is 60g of fat - 111% RDI (!).
  • A cup of Thai chicken curry is 23g of fat - 43% RDI.
  • One slice of a supreme pizza is 27g of fat - 50% RDI.
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut butter is 32g of fat - 59% RDI.
  • A 7 oz bag of corn tortilla chips is 65g of fat - 120% RDI (!).
  • 4 tablespoons of pesto sauce is 29g of fat - 54% RDI.

Carbs might be everywhere, but fat is concentrated. In theory, it should be easy to moderate my fat intake to the recommended levels... by simply cutting out the one food item per day (on average) that contributes the most.

However, there are some relatively easy things I can change. I can have the Quizno's sandwich without the dressing. According to the food database, the dressing alone is 27g of fat for the regular sized sandwich. While I love munching chips with salsa or queso, I have to moderate that as well. I didn't expect this, but corn tortilla chips make french fries look like health food. Another easy change is not having the pesto sauce with QDoba's poblano pesto chicken, or eating something equivalent without the pesto sauce.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chasing Lance

One benefit of the Discovery Channel sponsoring a pro cycling team is that the Discovery Channel makes documentaries. They have slipped a bit over the years, with shows like American Chopper ;), but they still turn out the occasional winner. One such series that plays on the HD Discovery Channel is Chasing Lance. I'm sure part of Discovery's sponsorship agreement includes making documentaries about the team. I think yesterday's show was the last one, because it was a summary show.

The series covered much of the team's preparation, from an early winter training camp near Solvang, CA, to the Spring Classics in Belgium and France (including a lot of coverage of Hincapie's 2nd place at Paris-Roubaix), to the warmup Tour De Georgia. We saw race tactics, Johan Bruyneel on the radio with Lance relaying information during events, bike maintenance and washing, the European equipment garage jammed with spare parts, the chef preparing meals, warmups on trainers, stretching, and so forth. Major competitors and other team members got good coverage as well, in the stage highlights of the Tour itself.

Some of the tech segments were very interesting. Trek did a lot of wind tunnel testing, Nike supplied time trial jerseys with dimples like golf balls, Steve Hed (of Hed Cycling) consulted on aerodynamics, and so forth. Trek even was curious how hot the wheels got during braking so that added temperature strips.

While the Spring Classics were taking place, Lance would ride in California. He'd ride off with Bruyneel following behind him in a car, just out climbing hills all day. They'd pull over and check the map, Lance would wave his arm down a road and say "Let's go this way for a few hours" while munching on a bar. No definite route, just him and a support car! His preparation included previewing the entire route, sometimes riding important sections multiple times. He said he used to be the only person there so early, but now more and more teams are doing the same thing - riding important stages at least. The crew showed a squad of T-Mobile riders and later some Phonak guys, all out riding various sections.

I think this series was interesting enough that people who aren't into cycling would enjoy it. All in all, the series was great... and in High Def to boot. :)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ben and Bev's Visit

I hosted my first out-of-town friends last night: my friend Ben and Bev and their two kids Dylan and Sam. They are here on their way to a Disney Cruise family vacation, which departs from Cape Canaveral. I'll see them again in a week after the cruise is over.

Jet Lagged Sleepy Kids

It was tough to get the kids up, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with the 3 hour time zone change. That all changed when I started up a Playstation 2 game Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. That brought Dylan running and he wanted to play! I started a new game for him, and as we began to watch the opening cut-scene which sets the tone of the quirky humor in the game, Dylan wanted to skip it. "Show me how to move and kill! Move and kill!!" he insisted.

Breakfast at Panera's

After considerable effort peeling him off the PS2, we drove over for breakfast at the Panera Bread company. Dylan, still excited from the game, offered to help me past the level I was on, noting "you just need to double jump to kill the helicopter guy" and "robot are so dumb". Ah yes, the joys of video games...

Me, Dylan, Sam, Bev

Bev said they'll just take their next vacation at uncle Karl's, since I have a swimming pool, unlimited video games, and a big screen TV. ;)

Now they are off to the cruise. I'm curious what is in store and I'll ask when they return. Before they had kids, Ben and Bev took six months off and traveled the world - I went to meet them in Europe in 1997. Back then they cruised in the Greek islands so I'll ask how this compares.

Bev said they picked this week to go because it was the cheapest cruise, due to the holidays and the fact they had to pull the kids out of school for a week. I think Dylan is in Kindergarten and Sammy is in pre-school, so that isn't a big deal. The total cost of the trip is around $3,000, including airfare, and that is only because they chose the 2nd cheapest rooms. One of Bev's coworkers took the same cruise during the summer and picked the fanciest room for their family, and the cruise cost $8,000! Bev joked "Wow, I guess it is a choice between the cruise or sending a kid to college."

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Dave, a friend in the Orlando Running Club, invited me to Thanksgiving brunch. I was a little hesistant to accept, since I thought it was a family gathering and I don't really know him that well, but he insisted it was OK. As it turned out, he did have some relatives there (his sister, uncle, and grandmother) but everybody else there was connected in an interesting six-degrees-of-separation way that traced back to... being neighbors in a condo complex years ago.

It made me think, of the years I lived in Seattle and Kirkland, I barely knew my neighbors at all. In the apartment near Green Lake, I barely talked to two of the other four units. In Kirkland, I only ever met two of the four others on my cul-de-sac. I certainly never visited my neighbors in their home or anything like that.

Anyway, brunch was great and there was plenty of food. I was stuffed and we left after chatting a bit. Two of the people there raised horses on a farm, so I listened to them talk about the work involved. I'm too lazy to get a dog, much less care for a stable of horses!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Car Maintenance

I hadn't taken my car in for scheduled maintenance since I moved, so I got that out of the way. My car is at 117,800 miles, close enough to the 120K major service I just had that done.

Naturally, that wasn't all my car needed. In addition to the stuff they did for 120K miles, my car needed something or other done with the "left front CV axle" and replacement of the front brake pads. The total was $1020... after I elected not to replace an oil seal, somewhere so difficult to reach it would require removing nearly everything and cost and additional $1100 (mostly for labor) just for that (!). The dealership said the seal replacement was optional; I will just need to pay attention to the oil level. Sounds good for saving $1100.

My last few major service visits have run about $2000 each. That is annoying, but it is also much less than having a car payment every month. ;) Still, there is a good chance by the end of 2006 I'll buy a new car. Mine has served me very well but it will be 10 years old.

I'm leaning towards a hybrid. It will be icing on the cake if I can fold down the rear seats and fit my bike into the trunk.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Horrible Hundred

The Florida Freewheeler's Horrible Hundred bike ride was this morning, so I drove out to Clermont to participate. This ride is the big end-of-year event, and the long route covers all the "mountains" in Central Florida.

At the start, I saw a few people I know from the YMCA bike group, but I lost them in the crowd. I biked my registration packet to the car, and by the time I rode off the start, 2/3rds of the people had left. That's OK, I decided I would just take it easy and ride along at my own pace.

Random start crowd

Florida Biking in November - all short sleeve jerseys and shorts :)

Three routes were offered: 38 miles (1910 feet of climbing), 74 miles (4273 feet of climbing), and 102 miles (5080 feet of climbing). As a comparison, the Kirkland Centennial Century ride was 7203 feet of climbing. So there is some decent climbing available in this area. Wait, I think I just heard Sandy choking back laughter... ;)

Fresh Fruit

There were SAG stops, but you could always pick some fresh fruit too!

I checked the routes and saw the three hills I wanted to be sure to do (The Wall, Buckhill, Sugarloaf) were on both the 74 and 102 mile route, so either route was fine with me. When I came to the 74/102 split, I made the tactical decision to do 74 miles; after all, there is a fine line between an enjoyable event, and biting off too much and being miserable. Today, I just felt like 74 miles - after all, this is supposed to be the offseason. The ride went very well. It was windy and overcast, but in the low 70's so it weather was quite nice.

Green Moose Cafe

Francesca's Cafe in Monteverde was closed this Sunday. The little sign by the door says "Welcome to our hideaway. Moosey on in..."

We got a T-shirt for the event, and afterwards I decided to buy a bike jersey as well. It is neon yellow and pink, with a flamingo riding a penny farthing bike. The flamingo does have a bike helmet, promoting safety. Nice! It is missing a palm tree and gator, to really be an authentic Florida jersey.

Bike Jersey

I did 74 miles in 4:40, for a 15.9 mph average. Maybe next year I'll do the century!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Diet Update 2

I've now logged a solid week in a row of nutrition, and I've come to a few conclusions. I am basically neutral on net caloric intake, but that is only because of exercise.

I decided to increase my protein intake, since I need that to repair muscles. I wasn't concerned about carbs, fat, or fiber, since I felt modifying more than one thing at a time would be difficult. One night for dinner, I essentially ate half of a supermarket bag salad plus a can of tuna (2.5 servings, thank you very much), trying to get more protein. Yesterday, I treated myself to sushi (sake, maguro, shiromaguro, unagi) in an effort to eat more protein. On average, I was able to eat 90% to 95% of my suggested protein intake, but I felt like I was chomping a lot more meat than I am used to. Interesting!

I got the YMCA running group talking about nutrition on Tuesday, and heard some interesting options. One woman said she often ate protein bars to work more into her diet.

Fiber is something I am deficient on. As in, roughly 50% of my suggested intake. I'd like to think I don't need to supplement with Metamucil... so I need to find some high fiber foods to eat as an alternative. ;)

Carbs... it is mind boggling how easy it is to eat carbs in modern U.S. society. I suspect the very air we breathe has carbohydrates! I effortlessly eat 50% too many carbs, without even counting sports drinks or gels. However, I'm not going to worry about this yet, until I can balance protein, fat, and fiber first.

After logging for a mere 12 days, I can now appreciate the difficulty people face trying to lose weight. I don't think it is possible without exercise. There just isn't anyway that doesn't involve serious discipline. If I want to lose one pound a week I'd need to run a 500 calorie deficit per day, and that means roughly eating 30% less food per day (without exercise).

I branched out and tried another nutrition tracker - Fit Day. This offers a free online account, and an offline program for $20. The cool thing is FitDay is the very powerful graphing and reports. This program will monitor your intake of vitamins/minerals and tell you how you are doing versus the %RDI! Unfortunately, the food database isn't a good as Calorie King's, which makes food entry more tedious. Still, I will try to get up to speed with FitDay because now I'm curious if I get enough Vitamin E or whatever. On the other hand, maybe a multivitamin will take care of this so the extra work to track with FitDay wouldn't be worth it.

FitDay also offers a nutrition search, where you can look for foods high in certain nutrition content (e.g. fiber, vitamin B12). I'll see what it turns up for fiber, but I suspect since I'm 12+ grams short every day, I'm going to supplement to make up the difference. 12 grams of fiber is 6 medium sized bananas or 2 packages or raw spinach... seems like a lot to eat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I enjoy the military/intelligence agency shows, so I've been watching this one which is new this season. The show is interesting, but it not quite as believeable as Threat Matrix, or my favorite, The Agency. I haven't watched enough episodes of NCIS, but that one looks OK too. Of these, only NCIS is still on the air.

E-Ring's basic premise is Major Jim Tisnewski (Benjamin Bratt) spends the first half of the show convincing a Pentagon committee to sign off on a special forces mission. There is no tension if everybody agrees immediately, so he winds up brow beating, outwitting, end running around, black mailing, or arguing persuasively to get approval. Or, just does it anyway on his own. The other half of the show, the special forces are deployed to their mission.

One thing the shows gets pretty well (so I think) is the buck passing between various branches of government. Many times someone will bring up needing to go through proper channels, waiting for the Secretary of Defense to get approval from the Attorney General or President, or carefully navigating legal issues. Of course, the red tape doesn't stop the military planning - that proceeds on the assumption approval is forthcoming.

E-Ring took a major turn over the last few weeks by killing off Tisnewski's girlfriend, and adding the squad he used to command to the show (they all got recalled from Iraq). I'm not sure if this will be good or bad...

The reason I liked The Agency the best is because it seemed most realistic. None of the characters were superhuman, and the show had a half dozen or more characters that had to work together. The most important supporting characters were the artists Terri Lowell (Paige Turco) and Joshua Nanik (David Clennon). These two spent all their time making fake documents (train tickets, passports, diplomas, official seals, you name it), photoshopping pictures, and forging signatures. Many episodes revolved around the artist's work: having the correct fake passport stamps to enter/exit a country, correct throwaway documents (e.g. train ticket stubs), faked pictures to show to interviewees to convince them something happened and they should cooperate, etc. I remember one episode Lowell painstakingly created a replica of an ancient middle eastern ceramic pot and painted it so it could pass as a museum piece, all so the CIA could plant a bomb in it and deliver it as a gift to some terrorist. Another episode had them matching wallpaper for hours so they could disguise a bug, and so forth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

City of God

I saw this movie recently, and it was really good. The movie mostly follows the story of Rocket (Buscape in Portuguese) who lives and grows up in a slum of Rio De Janeiro named "City of God" (Cidade de Deus).

Rocket dreams of being a photographer after some local thugs give him a gift of a camera. But first, he has to survive his childhood, which is no easy task since there isn't much economic opportunity in the slums except to become a gangster (rob utility trucks) or deal drugs.

The lives of several others are interwoven into the story. One of the most interesting and shocking is that of a friend Lil' Ze (nee Lil' Dice), who starts as the lookout for a trio of small hoods, and later becomes a murderous drug lord controlling various zones of the city.

Fernando Mierelles also directed The Constant Gardener, which I am now eager to see.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

10K and 5K

  • In the morning I ran the Founder's Day 10K, a race in the Track Shack grand prix. The event is also known among local runners as the Celebration 10K, since it takes place in the community of Celebration (a Disney master-planned community).

    I lost or misplaced the mounting bracket for my polar footpod, so I used my Forerunner 201 instead. It measured the course at 6.34 miles... it is ironic I get more accuracy out of the footpod than the GPS system! I would expect the reverse to be true.

    I finished in 46:03. Dang it, I was hoping for better, especially since I ran a 45:45 at the Dawg Dash just a few weeks ago, and this course was easier - more turns, but no hills. But, I've been slacking this week, due to my business trip.

    My tradition is to wear the event T-shirt to work on the Monday after the race. I'll delay that since the T-shirt was a long sleeve, and it just isn't cool enough yet. ;) Fortunately, I got a short sleeve T-shirt at the next event...

  • In the afternoon I ran the Fall Classic 5K. I don't normally stack two events on the same day, but the timing just worked out like that. My company is a co-sponsor of this event, so as part of their community outreach program, employees could enter free (plus families or one guest). Basically, the free T-shirt and food drew me in.

    I decided to go as hard as I could and did 22:42 according to my watch. Official time was 22:44 - this event was only about 300 people so I could start close to the line. This event was non-chip and non-scored, so these times are from my watch and the official clock at the end; results won't be published. The food afterwards was fantastic - catered by three local restaurants.

    Anyway, this is my new 5K PR, by 10 seconds! I'm very pleased I was able to eek that out.

Total running today was 15K in 68:45, or 9.3 miles at a pace of 7:23. I'm beat and ready to cool off in the pool, shower, eat more, and have a milkshake. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Be My Neighbor

There is a unique opportunity to be my neighbor, because BOTH of my next door neighbors are selling their homes. That's right, in only four months, I've driven them away! ;) Just kidding. At least one neighbor is moving for work - he is a partner in a small pool heating business, and is moving to open and oversee a new store in Ft. Lauderdale.

The double sale gives me a chance to evalute my property value, something of interest to all home owners. The asking prices are eye-popping. I bought my house for $325K in early July. My home is about 1820 square feet (does not include the garage), and has a pool. My old home in Kirkland was supposedly 1850 square feet, but that must have included the garage (or was just flat out wrong) because this place is definitely bigger.

The neighbor at 784 Pickfair Terrace is asking $360K. He has about 200 more square feet, an extra bedroom, and a larger lot since he is the corner. Like his home, I have a zoned sprinkler and a security system as well.

The neighbor at 792 Pickfair Terrace, who is moving to open a store, is asking a mind-boggling $426K! He's got about 150 more square feet, a bonus room, and a three car garage. I see from the pictures the home has hard wood floors, where I have ceramic tile. In the little slideshow, picture 8 shows the patio - you can glimpse a tiny bit of my home behind the fence on the right! ;)

All of our kitchens look about the same. Our homes are by the same builder and all were built in the year 2000. All I can say is WOW. I thought homes in Florida were supposed to be cheap. I guess you have to move further away to get the bargains now. There are two or three other homes for sale in this subdivision as well - I bet some people are cashing out before the property bubble bursts. In the meantime, rising property values is good news for me, since I'm not planning to move anytime soon.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hungry Squirrel

I startled this little guy getting into the car after eating breakfast. He/She was clearly stocking up for the winter - see the large nut in its mouth? I tried to get closer but the squirrel spooked and darted up the tree, to stand on a branch and eye me suspiciously.

Hungry Squirrel

Thursday, November 10, 2005

In-N-Out Burger

After my short run, I decided to try out IN-N-OUT Burger, a chain I've heard so much about from various friends, chiefly Krisanne. :) I used their helpful store locator, and found one VERY close by... 0.2 miles from the hotel. The address gives a hint: I was at 190 E El Camino Real and the In-N-Out was at 50 W El Camino Real.

I decided I would be humiliated to drive such a short distance for fast food, so I walked, thus getting in a tiny bit of exercise to help burn off the lunch I was about to eat.

I had a single with cheese, and it was in fact really good. However, I think Red Mill Burgers in Seattle holds its own. Any small burger place would probably be able to serve up a very competitive burger. To be fair to IN-N-OUT, they are a larger chain, and as far as comparing quality among large chains, they blow away all the national brands. I'm amazed the burger was as good as it was, keeping in mind they are a regional chain.

What I found interesting were the french fries. I love fries. I recently finished The Botany of Desire and the chapter on the potato was very interesting, maybe I'll talk about this book later. As I looked at the fries, I read a little notice that informed me IN-N-OUT Burgers prepares the fries from fresh (and never frozen) potatoes, in 100% cholesterol free vegetable oil. Well that sounds great! So I dug in...

And found the fries were a bit different. They weren't salted, which was probably healthier. The texture was hard to describe, but they didn't crunch like I was expecting. They had a bit of a grainy texture, and this will sound grosser than it is, but it reminded me of chewing lima beans. The fries tasted good, but even that was a bit muted - the potato flavor wasn't as strong. I puzzled over this and recalled a passage from Fast Food Nation that said fast food restaurants have essentially engineered the food to taste and look a certain way, through various additives. I think the different fries at IN-N-OUT (i.e. no crunch, blander taste, different texture) were an example of how I, an occasional fast food french fry gourmand, had been conditioned to my expectations of french fries. Confronted with fries cooked fresh and with fewer chemicals, I thought they tasted odd and different.

Now I'm bummed, I would rather eat the fries from IN-N-OUT knowing they are fresher and less doped with chemicals. I am sure I would come to prefer them.

The final part of my meal was a strawberry shake, which was decent. I think the shakes at Burger King or even Jack-in-the-Box are as good; these are all actually made with real ice cream and milk. The Frosty at Wendy's is good but almost too thick for me, plus it is only available in chocolate. Certain other large national fast food chains make really lousy shakes - they taste 100% artificial. Fortunately that was not the case here.

Anyway, my first trip to IN-N-OUT was a success. Dang good fast food for $5.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

64 Advantage Program

The reason I'm in Mountain View is to attend the 64 Advantage program, hosted by Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft wants to sell 64 bit OS'es, Intel wants to sell 64 bit CPU's, and both need applications that run on them... so I'm here on behalf of my company, which hopes to sell 64 bit apps. A three-way symbiotic relationship. ;)

Last week when I returned from my Seattle trip, my boss sent mail that said "hey, sign up for this". I was too late for the Boston session, which would have been nice since I have never been, but I did squeeze into the Silicon Valley session. This is fine since I've got a few friends in this area also.

I went through the registration process, which didn't ask for much beyond my name, work phone number and email address, but it did require a password. So I created a throwaway password which I forgot about 15 minutes later. I received an email and a phone call from a lady at Microsoft confirming my registration.

Forgetting my throwaway password came back to haunt me, because the website has zero useful information "in front of" logging in. Check it out, tell me if you can find out where the program is held (something more specific than "Silicon Valley"). Well you can't, and I tried the "forgot password" link but nothing came back after a few hours. So I emailed the nice lady at Microsoft who was in charge of this and essentially asked "where is the program held? And what time does it start?" She was understanding and mentioned she wasn't sure why all the useful info was hidden.

It turns out the program is held at the Microsoft Silicon Valley campus, right off Highway 101. Today's agenda was 2/3rd presentations and 1/3rd lab work. Overall, the presentation were really good, all kinds of stuff about mixing 64 bit and 32 bit code, which is a large chunk of my job!

In the evening I met up with my friend Jimmy. We were coworkers back at Compaq in Houston... 10 years ago now. Wow. I caught him up on my big news of this year (IMCdA and moving to Florida) and in return I found out Jimmy is getting married next year!

Monday, November 07, 2005


I have a business trip to Mountain View, CA this week, so I did a bunch of house stuff yesterday in preparation. I'd really rather stay in town this week, but no such luck. At least I should be able to see some Silicon Valley area friends this week.

My original flight left at 7:30 am to Phoenix, where I would have had a mind-numbing 3.5 hour layover before continuing to San Jose, arriving at 4 pm. I managed to shift that flight to a 4:30 pm departure, with a much shorter pause in Phoenix. The new flight got me into town about 9:30 pm.

San Jose airport (SJC) is clearly from another era, and can barely handle the volume of traffic it now gets. It has to be the busiest airport in that nation that makes you walk on the tarmac. The terminal is cramped, and there aren't as many services offered (e.g. behind the security checkin there is no food) in the terminal. One service usually offered in the terminal is rental cars - at least the counters are there so I usually start the rental car paperwork while waiting for my bag. At SJC, I had to take a shuttle to a nearby offsite location. No big deal, except this forced me to wait for my bag first, and then wait through the rental car shuttle line and ride, and by the time I did all that, the rental car office was closed. I must be spoiled by Orlando airport, which easily accomodated this situation, undoubtedly due to the massive tourist volume for the area's theme parks.

Last time I was here, there was all sorts of construction at the airport, especially in the entry/exit to the airport. It still looks the same; I'm not sure there has been any progress in the construction.

Since I couldn't get my rental car, I had to take a taxi to my hotel (which only has wireless internet and I don't have a wireless card for my work computer, another annoyance). Tomorrow, I'll have to return to the airport in order to pick it up. What an inconvenience.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Five Day Diet Update

I completed logging five days of my food. My diet next week will be atypical because I'm traveling, so I thought I'd take a checkpoint now. I've just eaten what I normally do, with no effort to game or skew the results positively - which of course would be bad. After all, anybody can log a perfect diet over one week, I'm more interested in what I'm really eating.

This nutrition diary and logging effort is very interesting. How'd I do? Okay I suppose, but there is room for improvement.

5 Day Diet
RecommendedWhat I Ate
Carbs216.4 g455.6 g
Fat53.4 g74.9 g
Protein114.0 g93.5 g
Fiber25.0 g18.3 g

This was a major jolt of reality! I'm way over on carbs and fat, and not getting enough protein or fiber. It looks like a dietary disaster, except for the fact that I also burned an average of 1055 calories per day through exercise (as estimated by the diet diary). This means instead of a daily surplus of 1041 calories (i.e. gain a pound every 3.4 days), I am barely under by 14 calories (i.e. lose a pound every 250 days). Since many of the counts depend on volume estimates, I'm not sure I can log to that precision. The good news is that it appears I am eating and exercising to maintain my weight, more or less.

However, I need to juggle my diet and get more protein and fiber, while cutting back on fat. Carbs will always be in surplus because those are what give me energy for exercise.

I'll keep logging and get a good month of data before I look into sweeping changes. For now I'll just try to eat healthy, and think of decreasing carbs and fat while increasing protein and fiber. Nutrition tracking is so interesting!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Specialty License Plates

Florida offers a dizzying number of specialty license plates - not vanity plates where you choose the numbers/letters - but plates with a fancy background design. Check out the list of current offerings - 91 of them! (No I didn't count, this was from another page that listed them by popularity).

One of these is the "Share the Road" design, which I have. Part of the money goes to Bike Florida which uses the money for awareness and events that promote bicycling.

There is currently a contest for the next iteration of this plate, so I took a look at the various designs. Note the site makes fun of Florida voters at the top. Too many choices! Argh!! All I can tell is I don't like designer #4's plates, while designer #2's look really cool to me.

OK, I decided on design d2c. I think that one looks the best: nice colors that a license plate from Florida should have, palm trees, sun, blue skies, bikes in FRONT of the car on the road (and of course the car sees them and is sharing!). It was a close choice between d2c and d2e for me, but I like the idea that the bicyclist is with a friend in d2c, and not all by himself/herself, as in d2e. I like the speed blur on d2b, but overall I like d2c better. The road is more accurate in d2f, but I think the green border in d2c sets off the "share the road" message better. Finally, designer #2 gets my nod because all the bikes have front and rear disc wheels! ;)

I'm voting once for each email address I have. :)


We had a group outing to the movies this afternoon, and our choices were: Jarhead or Chicken Little. One person chose to see Chicken Little while the rest of us including me, went to see Jarhead.

Krisanne recently read the novel and liked it, and that makes me curious if the movie is as good.

The most interesting thing is the odd sense of disappointment felt by Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is trained as a sniper. The marines are whipped into a frenzy during training ("I just want to see the pink mist" he says as he practices shooting through the head of a target) and while seeing war movies as a group. In Saudi Arabia, they are bored, playing football with their protective gear on while practicing removing imaginary mines and patroling against imaginary targets. The men are disillusioned and are almost envious the Air Force guys are getting all the kills. One fellow marine complains the enemy retreats faster than they can follow, so the Air Force is the only branch that can keep up.

In one scene, he and his sighting partner are sent to shoot two high ranking Iraqi officials, but at the last moment, they are called off in favor of an airstrike. His partner flips out and is angry they are denied the kill - he asks if they could shoot right before the airstrike hits, and nobody would have to know.

Jamie Foxx does a great job as Staff Sargeant Sykes. When Sykes and Swofford are sitting alone, he confesses he'd rather be here than at home with his family, working as a partner in his brother's business, because he's loves this job. He mentions that nobody else sees the things they do, and then the camera reveals the landscape: night in the desert, raining oil, with several wells on fire. I think it was supposed to look a bit like hell.

The movie closes with them returning to camp to find everybody celebrating the war is over. Six months in the desert, four days of war, and he didn't even fire his rifle in combat.

As far as war movies go, it was OK. It doesn't rank up there with Platoon or Full Metal Jacket.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nutrition Tracking

Over my weekend Seattle visit, I found several friends were planning to track their nutrition. Of course, I don't want to be left out of the fun, so I decided I would try it as well. I suppose this could be considered rising to new heights of obsessive compulsive behavior. ;)

I looked at HealthEtech and Calorie King. Both have an online version, where you can publish your nutrition to the world (woohoo!!), and both have an offline program. I decided to go with Calorie King because it had a free 14 day trial, and is cheaper on top of that. I'm not sure I'll subscribe to their service and post my nutrition info to the web; I'm really just looking for an offline program to use.

After filling in the initial profile, Calorie King told me a good daily diet is:

  • Net Calories: 1802 cal
  • Fat: 53.4 g
  • Carbs: 216.0 g
  • Protein: 114.0 g
  • Fiber: 25.0 g

This will maintain my weight, given my job is mostly sedentary. The important thing is this diet excludes any exercise... to fuel myself for workouts I'll eat more.

Logging will be a challenge, because I am bad at estimating food volume. Plus, it is time consuming, although I'm sure I will get faster at entering the data. I want to log for at least two weeks, preferably longer, just to see where my diet stands. Maybe I'll find it fun and keep it up even longer. During the logging period, I plan to eat like I normally would - I don't want to skew the results by putting on a special eating behavior.

Tonight I made a simple dinner: fresh green beans, deli section whole wheat ravioli (Monterey Pasta Company brand), marianara sauce (Bertolli brand), and a caffeine free diet coke. Doesn't it look good?


Dinner took ~15 minutes to prepare (boil water, boil ravioli, cut green beans and steam with my microwave steamer, heat sauce) and probably twice that to count the calories. I'll rely on the Calorie King software to do this for me in the future, because it is really tedious doing this by hand.

November 2nd Dinner
Ravioli Sauce Green Beans Diet Coke Total
Calories 600 120 42 0 762
Fat 17.5 3 0.2 0 20.7
Carbs 80 24 8.2 0 112.2
Protein 30 4 2 0 36
Fiber 7.5 6 3.8 0 17.3

I'm not sure how this dinner stacks up. It looks good to me, in that all the numbers are less than what I'm suppose to have for the entire day. The interesting thing is portion size - I had 2.5 servings of the ravioli, 2 servings of sauce, and I guesstimated 2 servings of green beans. It looks like I'm eating for two people!

This is the result of all the food I ate today:

  • Calories: 2274/1802
  • Fat: 68.5/53.4
  • Carbs: 302.1/216.4
  • Fiber: 20.9/25.0
  • Protein: 117.0/114.0

I'm over on calories, fat, and carbs. Very interesting.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


On Saturday, Francesca and I wanted to relax. We had biked with Mike and Alexandra and loaded up on Red Mill Burgers, so I suggested we see a movie. But a search of what was currently playing proved fruitless - every movie out that we hadn't seen looked horrible. Netflix is cool but doesn't satisfy the "see a movie immediately" requirement, so we went to Hollywood Video.

After checking out what was available, I suggested Troy. I was sure I saw a moment of glee in Francesca's eyes but she hid it well. ;) It came down to that or Meet the Fockers and I went with Troy.

A plot summary would be pointless because surely everybody has heard of the Trojan War. Or read The Iliad. I hope it isn't a spoiler to mention the Greeks snuck into Troy by hiding inside a giant statue of a horse they built? ;)

Instead, I'll comment on the fighting. I understand that Brad Pitt worked out for months for this role: weight lifting and weapons practice. Well it paid off because I thought the fight scenes were really well done. He fights in a "god like" fashion (after all he is Achilles) which comes down to being faster and stronger than his opponent. The long one-on-one battle with Hector (Eric Bana) was a treat, it started with shields and spears and eventually was sword versus sword. You could see Hector knows he doesn't have a chance but he can't be a coward like his brother Paris (Orlando Bloom). So he fights and is methodically out maneuvered until he falls.

Achilles is substantially arrogant, self-centered, and definitely has a "what's in it for me" attitude. Sean Bean plays Odysseus, who has a small role in Troy - he is the only other Greek that Achilles respects and listens too. Achilles doesn't think much at all of the Greek King Agamemnon, and basically doesn't care what the King has to say.

Overall I really enjoyed Troy. I'm sure students of the classics and of the era would find tons of little details where the movie departs from the book, but the whole thing is a legend anyway.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dawg Dash

Francesca and I met up with Mike, Alexandra, Christina, Rod, and Jen near Husky Stadium before the Dawg Dash. This is a fun run on a fairly technical course (hills, lots of turns, stairs, a 10K course that partially overlapped the 5K course, plus it is baby stroller and dog legal) so it isn't the best choice for trying to set a PR. But I thought, what the heck, lets push the pace and see how well I can do. After all, I came all this way! ;)

I'd like to get to a 22:30 5K and a 45:00 10K eventually, so I was very pleased with the 45:45 I ran (so far the times are unofficial). I picked it up as hard as I could for the final stretch, which was on the track in Husky Stadium. Francesca and Christina saw me at the end, but I was so out of breath I couldn't even respond, for fear of nausea! After catching my breath I met them along the finish chute.

My footpad measured the course as 6.17 miles, so once again I am impressed with the accuracy. The footpod was 0.48% off, and that is assuming the course is accurately measured (I have my doubts it is THAT accurate since the course changes slightly every year). My mile times were:

  • Mile 1 - 7:49 (lots of traffic to weave around)
  • Mile 2 - 7:38 (up some stairs)
  • Mile 3 - 7:21 (pushed it up a hill)
  • Mile 4 - 8:02 (wound around the library, another hill)
  • Mile 5 - 6:56 (nice downhill!)
  • Mile 6 - 6:50 (mostly flat so I picked it up as best I could)
  • Mile 0.2 - 1:12 (going as hard as I could)

Miles 3 and 4 were the tough part of the course. They encompassed a hill, downhill, gradual climb and an aid station (where I stopped just briefly for a sip of water), a portion near the library with a few stairs and turns, and another hill. After that, we were near the high point of the course so it was mostly descents or flat back to the finish. It was a great race for me and I am confident I'll be able to hit my goal of a 45 min 10K soon. As it happens, this is my 10K PR so I am doubly pleased.

Afterwards, we gathered at Francesca's for delicious waffles, fruit, chatting and hanging out. It was a great morning!

Fellow Dawg Dashers

Christina, Mike, Alexandra, Francesca

Friday, October 28, 2005

Property Flipping

I drove by my old house, just to see what the new owners have done to it. To my surprise, I found it for sale! My realtor told me she thought the purchasers intended to make the home a rental property - she could tell from the financing paperwork. So I was a bit surprised to see it for sale.

I drove up and noticed the roof had been replaced. Instead of another cedar shake roof they went with a nice looking composite roof. The front yard looks the same, but they've planted more flowers along the walk to the front door. They painted the front door white to match the rest of the house.

I saw a stack of real estate pamphlets, so naturally I picked one up. I was stunned when I saw the new asking price: $475K, marked down from $485K! I just sold this home 4 months ago for about $373K?!

Those of you have have visited my previous house can check out the MLS Listing, while I can comment, since I have a unique perspective on this property.

They redid the main level - hardwood floors all throughout the kitchen, living room, and dining room. (See the main photo). The kitchen had hardwood floors before, but those were redone to match the rest of the level.

They updated the kitchen appliances and cabinets, moved the refrigerator to where the pantry used to be, and blocked the original hallway entrace to the kitchen with a wall. This new wall is where the pantry is, and what used to be the entrance to the kitchen is now a hall closet. The original hall closet was a floating island in the entryway. Also, they retiled a counter to make a breakfast bar, which looks out over the dining and living room. (See photos #4, #5, #6). They also updated the appliances, and added a microwave oven.

The master bathroom got an overhaul also: new double sink, new tile flooring, and they tiled shower unit. (See photos #10, #11).

The pamphlet said they also updated interior doors, put in all-new carpet, and added a new water heater. The new furnace I can vouch for, because I had that done when I lived there. ;) They also painted various walls and updated the fireplace mantel. If I had been able to go into the house, I would have!

I know kitchen and master bathroom upgrades are pricey, and roofs aren't cheap (but I received a bid of ~6500 to replace the roof so it wasn't that bad), but trying to sell for over $100K more? They probably put $40K into the house and are looking a quick profit of $40K or so after real estate fees. Not bad for 3 months of work and investment.

The thing is, I think they have priced themselves out of the neighborhood. Even if the home is actually worth that now, it would be a huge amount over any of the homes in the area. But, maybe the crazy real estate market will support that. A few nearby brand new townhomes were selling for about $420K as I remember. Still, those are new homes and my previous house is nearly 25 years old. Also, I think one home across the street sold last year for $410K, but that one had even more renovations, including new ceilings, and it had one more bedroom.

Good luck to them for trying to sell the house for that. I'm curious what the final selling price will be. I might ask my previous realtor to check when a sale finalizes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Seattle Surprise

Francesca invited me up to Seattle to attend our bowling club "reunion", and run in the Dawg Dash. I thought about it for a bit and decided, what the heck - time for a little vacation! It would be fun to see everybody, laze around for a long weekend, and participate in the Dawg Dash. So I requested a few days off work, bought tickets, and flew up this afternoon. We decided to keep my visit a secret, just so I could surprise people at the bowling alley.

I wound up flying Southwest Airlines, an airline I rarely use. One problem is the multiple stops they make for flights of any distance, and another is competition - Alaska Airlines offers a direct flight from Orlando to Seattle, for example. Even flying to Southwest's HQ in Dallas (near where my parents live) is inconvenient because Southwest Airlines uses Love Field instead of DFW Airport, and has to operate under the Wright Amendment, which restricts direct/non-stop flights to neighboring states. However, this time Southwest had the best last minute fares and the most convenient times, so I chose them.

After a brief stop in Kansas City, the flight continued on to Seattle, where I was greeted by a low 50's overcast slightly drizzly day. Exactly what I expected. ;)

I bought dinner for us at Zao's, a Asian restaurant in the University Village I really like. After eating, we stopped by the Pro Sports Club to squeeze in a treadmill run and then showed up at Sunset Bowl in Ballard. Mike and Alexandra saw me in the parking lot first, and then once inside Eric, Krisanne, Wendy, Josh, et. al. were suitably shocked I was there. So it went over just great. :)

Originally uploaded by krisanne.
The Unholy Rollers, courtesy Krisanne

After a warmup game, Francesca schooled us all by bowling a 178, a game that included 4 strikes in a row, and 6 total. I was pleased I broke 100 and managed a 147.

Proof of Francesca's bowling dominance!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Weather Change

I'm not sure if the cold front that accompanied hurricane Wilma is responsible, but the weather has been quite different ever since it passed over. It is a good 10 or 15 degrees cooler, and 20% less humid... basically now the daily highs are in the mid 70's, the lows are in the low 60's, and it is "only" 60% humid. Along with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine, this is some really beautiful weather!

I thought the change from summer to fall in Seattle was abrupt, but this was even sharper. Yesterday was almost chilly, and for the first time since I moved here, I dug out my jeans, socks, and a long sleeved T-shirt (!). I had my first hot beverage as well: a grande mocha, non-iced. :)

Today was warmer and I wore a short sleeved shirt instead. It looks like the fall will be a bit like summers in Seattle, and I am looking forward to mild weather until late Spring.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Panama and the Amazing Race

Tonight's Amazing Race took the teams to Panama City, Panama, which I got to visit in the year 2000. It was a fun trip and I recognized a few landmarks. The pit stop for this leg of the race was the Miraflores Locks, which I visited.

miraflores locks
Miraflores Locks

The afternoon I was there was the one time a month the locks were closed. Talk about bad timing. The reason the locks were closed was the Panama Canal authority was dredging the channel to clear silt and widen the canal downstream, so no boats were allowed through. It turns out today's supertankers are too large to fit through the Panama Canal, so the country is busy widening the canal as much as it can, while also building replacement locks for an eventual switch over.

The race also took teams to the Casco Viejo part of the city, which I visited as well. That is where the Presidential Palace is:

presidential palace
Me, in front of the Presidential Palace

I was on a tight schedule that day and only had an hour or so to wander around. I took a picture of a very pretty church I walked by:

Iglesia de San Francisco

I need to plan a trip somewhere in 2006, I'm getting the travel bug!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hurricane Fringe

Wilma was a little delayed getting here, but it finally arrived. I am on the fringe of the storm here in central Florida, but we are definitely getting part of it.

All last night I could hear the wind howling and a heavy rainfall. This morning when I peeked out I saw lots of yard debris in lawns and streets. The level of my pool is quite high, less than half an inch from the lip. It has stopped raining for now but if it picks up again I may drain the pool (into the side yard) a bit to avoid having it spill over. There are drains around the edge of the patio, so I don't think I'm at risk of flooding or anything, but I might as well take that minor precaution. I noticed another frog in the pool, but I'll leave him/her be for now. ;)

It is really windy - the forecast says gusting winds from 30 to 40 mph. I was unbalanced a few times just walking around so I'm glad it isn't any higher than that! I was also surprised to find out how cool it is - currently 64 degrees according to my outside thermometer.

Windy Day

My front yard trees. This pic doesn't quite capture how windy it really is.

I drove into work and found an empty parking lot. This can only mean that the office is closed, but since I was there I went in for an hour or so. Sure enough, the office is closed and we have the day off, so after checking a few things, I left to grab lunch and come home.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Post FC Thoughts

As I write this, the pain of the run is fading and I've thought about what went wrong and right. First, for having such a tough run I only missed my goal by 17 minutes, which means it is quite reachable under better conditions. Second, my bike split was very good for me. A few things come to mind why I had such a hard run:

  • Low run volume.
    Quite simply, I am not running enough miles per week to expect good half marathon results.
  • More bricks.
    I haven't done any at all since the very few I did for IMCdA. I need to do some, just to better find out if my nutrition and fluid intake on the bike is correct.
  • Under hydrated/messed up nutrition on the bike?
    I felt just fine on the bike. I had three bottles of sports drink, and two gels. This fueled me for the bike but may have not been enough to carry into the run. I am still trying to find the right level of hydration.
  • Weather?
    It was overcast, but still warm and humid. I also had plenty of company grinding out the run - I walked and chatted with three of four fellow athletes in the same situation. We all remarked on the conditions, which thankfully weren't worse.

As for what to work on for next year, that is simple:

  • Bike volume.
    This will sound crazy, but for now I am as fast as I need to be on the bike, to reach my modest goals. Certainly faster is better, but for now, just working on bike volume and building more bike endurance is key. Bike endurance translates to covering the same distance/speed but leaving more in the tank for the run.
  • Run volume.
    I've been dogging the run lately, by focusing more on speed for short runs, rather than endurance for long runs. A 2:15 half marathon works out to about 10:30 min/mile pace; this has nothing to do with speed and everything to do with endurance.
  • Swim.
    I'll just maintain it, which currently is twice a week at 45 mins to 1 hour each time for approximately 4000 yards. Yes, that is low but the fact is spending another day swimming doesn't make sense right now. I'm time limited and I would be way better off spending that time doing a run of some sort: a brick or a regular run. What would I hope to get out of a 3rd day swimming? 5 mins off my half iron swim time? Where an extra run could realistically net me those 17 minutes I missed plus even more.
  • Half iron and olympic triathlons.
    I see the half as a more enjoyable distance for me, so I'm going to stick with that until I can do a 6:30 half and not suffer through any of the legs. ;)

In the meantime, after taking it easy for a few days, I have a half marathon in early December to focus on. My goal there is to run 1:45.

Florida Challenge Half Iron

The quick answer is: I missed my goal by 17 minutes. I finished 6:47:07, 46/59 in my division. Still, I am very happy with my bike split, and now the tri season is over and it is time to think about next year. After I zone out for a few days.

There was a lot of activity, since a full iron distance, half iron distance, and sprint were all going off. I got there early, setup, and then waited on the beach for my wave. The water temp cooled down to 78 degrees, so this was a wetsuit legal race, and I brought along my sleeveless. Technically under 84 degrees is wetsuit legal, but between 78 and 84, wearing a wetsuit disqualifies you for age-group prizes. Not that I have this problem. ;)


Not much to say about the swim, other than it took 45:24. I was hoping for a few minutes faster than that, but I am pleased. Realistically, my swim isn't holding me back.

Exiting the swim

T1 was 4:34, an excellent time given that I removed my own wetsuit, slipped on bike shorts over my racing shorts, and didn't rush at all.


My strategy on the bike was to try to average 18 mph: spin up hills, and strategically coast and rest when appropriate. It was overcast so we got a break from the direct sunlight, if not the humidity. The first 30 miles or so are flat with gradual inclines and declines, and then the course turns onto the "Mammas and the Pappas", a hill before Buckhill Road. Buckhill features four hills, which are annoying because they are spaced far enough apart you can't take any speed or momentum from coasting down one into the next. Plus, the second hill of the series is the tallest, which hides the last two. I've ridden this before and knew of the extra hidden hills, but your mind plays tricks on you when you crest one hill and see just one more to climb. A few people were off their bikes walking up, while others choose to veer all the way across the road and back. Fortunately with my compact chainrings and 10 speed cassette, I was able to spin up pretty well!

I made pretty good time, and pedaled along, knowing the next major hill was Sugarloaf. This was tough, I switched into my lowest gears and spun as best I could, all the way up. I happened to notice it took me 2 minutes 30 seconds to climb Sugarloaf. But, no getting out of the saddle, no veering back and forth, and no walking, so I felt good. After that it was just a few rollers back to transition.

My bike ride was about 3:10:03 which I am extremely pleased with. I averaged 17.9 mph on a reasonably hilly course, and even better, had moderated my fluid intake so I didn't spend any time in "T3" (so to speak). I went through three bottles of sports drinks and 2 gels. Unfortunately I probably undernourished.

Almost done with the bike

T2 was 3:02, another good time for me. I am methodical about transition and don't rush for fear of forgetting something.


This is where it got ugly. At this point, I was 4:03 into my race. I needed a 2:27 half marathon to finish at 6:30. This is normally very realistic for me, but it was not to be today.

After about 3 steps outside transition, I picked up a minor side stitch that I just couldn't get rid of. I ran along as best I could, and hit the 3 mile aid station in almost exactly 30 minutes. I decided to take stock and do a hydration test. I'll spare the details but lets just say it wasn't good... crayola yellow. I walked back to the aid station, carefully sipped some Gatorade, and then jogged off to the course turnaround, about a half mile away. At the turnaround, I was forced to walk, because the side stitch became a general abdomen tightness plus some aching back muscles joined in. I decided to walk back to the aid station, let my heart rate come down, and regroup with some water and electrolyte tabs. I managed to get to the 5 mile mark at almost exactly 5:00 into my race. So I had 1:30 to go 8.1 miles; again, quite reasonable.

But, I wasn't feeling good at all. The side stitch on my left side wouldn't go away, I felt slightly bloated, and got the occasional cold chill. I know feeling bloated is a sign I took in too many fluids, past the point I could process them. I also know getting a cold chill while running in 85+ degree weather at 90% humidity is a sign of something bad. ;) Since I never felt dizzy and my legs were OK, I continued on. I found a pace that was slightly faster than walking, that held the various stitches and stomach cramps mostly at bay. Except, they flared up once in a while and I had to walk for a bit anyway.

I decided to try for the 6:30 finish, but see how things were going at mile 10. So I hoofed it (so to speak) and got to mile 10 at 6:05 in my race. At this point I realized 6:30 isn't realistic anymore - I can run a standalone 25 minute 5K, but that wasn't going to happen for the final 5K of this half iron. By this point I had to breathe shallow, otherwise I would cramp up all along my side. I shuffled along, picking up sponges and water and gatorade at the aid stations. I drank a mix of water and gatorade, walked, and continued on. With about a half mile to go I picked it up and finished at 6:47:07.

To recap: first 3 miles were 10 min/miles; next 2 were 15 min/miles; next 5 were 11 min/miles; last 5K was 42 minutes (~13:30 min/miles).

This was by far the most difficult run I've ever done, standalone or in any event. I never felt this bad during the marathon at IMCdA! I was a bit disappointed I couldn't even manage a 2:27 half marathon, but I know I tried as hard as I could, getting to 10 miles by basically grimacing in discomfort the whole way.

Starting the run


The good news is I didn't need medical attention - just some stretching, fluids, a little bit to eat, and I felt a lot better. My legs were sore but not cramped. I collected my stuff, then returned to the finish line to see the GFT winner, Joe Bonness, an age group legend. This guy is 50 and did the full iron just under 10 hours, winning it outright. Last week he did IM Hawaii and came in 2nd in his age group. Next week he'll be at IMFL where he hopes to qualify for 2006 IM Hawaii. Whoa! He's friendly; we shook hands, spoke briefly, and then I went off for a massage. :)

I did enjoy this event and thought it was very well produced by Sommer Sports. For an independent iron distance (and half iron) race, it had the same level of course support I saw at the IM's I've attended. The only difference I noticed was the expo was smaller and the finisher's chute wasn't as jammed with people. But hey, friends and family are really what a finisher is looking for. My only complaint would be about the 3 or 4 mile section of the run course near the end, where there is no shoulder and the road was fully open to traffic.

Elevation Profile

The course wasn't completely flat. Granted, the elevation here varies from 100 feet to 300 feet, but still, the last half of the course had plenty of small hills and rollers.