Friday, August 31, 2007
Yesterday was a bad day. We had a rendezvous qual, and we didn't pass one of the runs. It was a mess. We were each doing the opposite of the task we were good at.
Today was better. I had a rendezvous sim, and I think I did ok. Things are looking up.
Time for little vacation in the great state of Ohio...
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Lately I have been sucking at my job.
Today I sucked some more.
I'm tired of sucking at my job.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Last night was the second week of class at UHCL. As I mentioned last week, this semester I'm taking a lecture class -- the first class I've taken there that doesn't involve design projects and lots of computer work. Instead, the homework is almost entirely reading and then reporting on the reading.
It is an odd class. The first hour is a "viewing" of something related to communication technology, and the rest of the class is lecture time. Last night's viewing was a PBS special called Transistorized that covered the invention of the transistor and how it changed the world. It was very interesting. The lecture discussed digital and cable television, since those are the chapters we will be reading for next week. It was also very interesting.
However, the class is nearly ruined by incessant quizzes and busywork that make me feel as if the professor thinks I'm about five years old. We have not one, but two quizzes per class. We have one quiz when we walk in the door, which covers the reading we were assigned the previous week. Ok, fine. He quizzes us to make sure we did the reading. But then halfway through class we have another quiz, this time covering whatever viewing we just had. So last night we had a quiz about the PBS special -- which we had just watched. The professor was there and saw us all sitting there watching the special. Is a quiz really necessary? All it does is prove how well you can take notes -- or how good your short term memory is.
Our weekly assignment (in addition to reading) isn't much better. We have to find an article about that week's topic. Once we find a few, we have to email the professor with the headlines so that he can pick which single article we should continue working with. (That's the part that bugs me the most -- that we have to get approval from him on our article.) It has to be an 800+ word article, which we then have to summarize in 400-500 words. That sounds to me like I will be basically rewording the article with a lot of edits. Then we have to report on it in class. Sigh.
Maybe I was especially annoyed because I wasn't feeling very well last night. But it is so frustrating to me that a class with good content is being strangled by pointless (and endless) quizzes and 5th grade book reports. I know I'm going to sound like an educational snob again here, but I feel like I'm above all that. I have been to college. I have done the whole pop quiz thing. I have done the whole book report thing. I don't want to do busywork anymore, I want to be treated like an adult. This is a graduate level class. Is it too much to ask that he treat us like graduate students? That he trust us to read the material, and grade us on a couple tests and overall class participation?
Anyway. The good content means that I will suck it up and put up with the pointless busywork for the semester, but it doesn't mean I won't be frustrated every week. Rant over.
I am feeling a bit under the weather. Sore throat, slight congestion, general achiness. It is another of my typical "functionally sick" periods, it seems. I rarely get so sick that I can't continue with life -- working, going to class, etc. It just means that I spend a few days doing all my normal things but feeling really icky. It's no fun. And it popped up fast. I did speedwork on Tuesday night and felt fine. Later that night at the Astros game, my throat started hurting. And now here I am.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I realized last week that for the first time ever, I am poised to finish the year without using all of my vacation time. This is utterly appalling to me, and I am even more upset about it than I am when people tell me that oh, it's ok that they'll miss seeing the baseball game because they'll just Tivo it (which is to say, quite upset). Obviously this excess of leave means I have not taken enough vacations this year.
Sadly, I don't think this is a problem I'll be able to fix. While I have two (possibly three) more long weekends planned for 2007, there is no big trip this year. No Greece, no Machu Picchu, no Patagonia. To make up for this, I can look forward to not one but two very large trips next year.
Last week, one of Jose's best friends from college was in town to visit her fiance, who is a Ph.D. student in geology and was interning for Chevron over the summer. We had sushi up in town and Jose and Meryl got caught up on the three years of events since they'd last seen each other. She and James, her fiance, are both very nice and they're getting married next July in her home state. Did I mention that her home state is Alaska?
So next summer I will finally get to go to Denali. We're already planning to take a solid week off work and go to the wedding in Anchorage, spend some time in Denali, and take in whatever else there is to see. I can't wait!
The other big trip is a long jaunt to Japan sometime in the spring. We weanted to go this fall, but we just couldn't squeeze it in among holidays, already-planned activities, and the various shuttle missions and their possible slippage. Japan!
2008 is gonna be awesome.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Congratulations Christina and Ben! Aiden was born on Sunday.
Funny story. She emailed me on Saturday asking to see photos of my t-shirt quilt, because she'd decided to make one while she waited for the baby. I emailed her back with all sorts of info, and at the end I said "I will laugh if you go into labor immediately after beginning the quilt."
Then I read her blog which said something about signs. I immediately emailed again: "Ok, so I just read your blog and now I wonder if you're having the baby, like, RIGHT NOW."
Her response was "maybe I AM."
So it appears that Christina was checking her email while in labor, which pretty much makes her my new hero.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I'm staying at work late to observe a sim, so I took the morning off. It wasn't as productive as I'd hoped.
First, I went for my scheduled 40-minute run as planned, but it was hot and I was seriously lacking energy, and I struggled to maintain a 12:00 pace. I know I will be faster when the weather cools off, but it is pretty disheartening right now to feel so slow. Halfway through my run, I also got a little scared by a passerby. I was running on the road outside my apartment complex, moving from the sketchy apartment complex next door back towards my own complex. This random guy on a bike rode up behind me on the other side of the road, and slowed down to match my pace. I glanced at him and he was looking at me. I kept running, and he kept biking, and he still kept looking at me. By that time I was back at the entrance to my own complex, and as he turned his bike to cross the road -- smiling weirdly and acting like he was going to talk to me -- I ran straight into my complex. He didn't follow me inside, but the whole thing freaked me out a bit. The dude just gave me bad vibes.
After cooling off and showering, I headed over to Clear Lake Shores to take care of the speeding ticket I got a couple weeks ago. Their municipal court building is in a wooden shack, sharing space with a dentist's office or something. It made me angry all over again. Stupid square mile of a town.
From there I drove all the way across Clear Lake to get a second estimate on the cost of repairs to my poor dented bumper, only to find that the estimator was out to lunch with his father and he'd be back "sometime after 1:00." Sigh. I've only managed to get one estimate so far despite many calls and driving around, and it was for $500. About half of that was parts, and the other half was labor. After hearing this story when I got to work, my officemates told me that bumpers are one of the easiest car parts to replace, and that I should just do it myself. An online search told me that I can get the parts I need (a new bumper and bumper pad) for about $220. That doesn't save me much over the body shop, so what I'd really be saving is paying them for labor. And while I'm intrigued by the idea of doing some car repair on my own, I'm not sure that I wouldn't just rather pay the full $500 and have someone else do the dirty work. We'll see.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Jose's couch is much nicer than mine, with one side effect: it always makes me fall asleep. We've taken to jokingly calling it the sleepy couch, since stretching out on it seems to assure that if left alone, I will be asleep within minutes. On Saturday I spent about six hours on the sleepy couch, and I was asleep for at least three of those.
I ran 6 miles on Saturday morning with Bay Area Fit and it totally wiped me out. I fell asleep on Jose's couch while he planned his afternoon cross country flight (cancelled due to weather). Later that night after a pedicure and dinner with Becca, I fell asleep again while watching TV. Jose actually had to wake me up to watch a movie.
With all that sleep, you might think that I had a hard time falling asleep Saturday night. Not so! I slept another nine hours. It was a weekend of sleep.
Yesterday I was finally awake enough to be social, and we went sailing with Becca and Byron for the first time. There wasn't a lot of wind and it was pretty darn hot, but it was still nice to be on the water. I want to go again when the weather cools down.
Friday, August 24, 2007
On Monday, I got an email from the Tri One O One organizers saying that their venue in The Woodlands had fallen through and that they were trying to locate another venue in the Houston area. Today, their website has disappeared and now simply reads:
All Triathlon One O One events have been cancelled until further notice.
All participant entry fees and 2008 transfers will be refunded within the next two weeks.
That pretty much sucks. And it's a good lesson to all races to make sure you have all your ducks in a row (like having the venue secured) before you start taking registrations. They had four races scheduled across the country this year, and had to cancel two of them.
I was going to do the 50.5 distance, which is a bit shorter than the half iron distance. Now I'm wondering if I should just go for the half iron at Longhorn in Austin or Ironstar in Conroe. Those are both earlier in the fall, so I probably don't have time to prepare. Looks like I'll just finish the tri season with a few more sprint races.
Friday, August 24, 2007
My fortune cookie today said: "Action with a brain. Today you should proceed with caution."
Action with a brain. I have no idea what that means.
On Tuesday, I left work a little early to squeeze in some speedwork before leaving for the baseball game. I was supposed to do 12x60-60, which is 24 total minutes. Well, despite knowing that I needed 12x60-60, I kept mentally calculating only 12 total minutes. That meant I'd have a solid 10 minutes for warmup and another 10 minutes for cooldown before having to head home to shower and meet Jen to drive to the ballpark.
It wasn't until I started my warmup that I finally realized my mental math mistake. I had to skimp on my warmup and cooldown to fit the workout in, but it was so hot outside already that I decided it would be ok. I did 5 minutes warmup and 5 minutes cooldown, and I didn't stop sweating for the rest of the night. It was one tough workout, but I made it. Later, I looked at the schedule again and it turns out I was actually only scheduled for 8x60-60.
I didn't run on Wednesday night since it was the first evening of fall classes at UHCL. I am taking a class called Technical Foundations of Digital Media. It is one of the core classes for the school's new graduate program in Digital Media Studies. When my classes counted toward a potential humanities degree, I wasn't as interested in going all the way to earning a degree. I just wasn't interested in taking the three generic English classes required for a M.A. in Humanities. With the new Digital Media Studies program, however, I am much more interested in going through with everything I need to earn another Masters degree. This class will be my fifth at UHCL, leaving me with 15 hours at the end of this semester. That's almost halfway to a degree already.
Anyway. When the professor walked in on Wednesday and began going over the syllabus, I was immediately worried. There are tons of pop quizzes, and he asked everyone for their level of expertise, and spent a long time carefully explaining how the class was to be run. His manner conveyed that the class would be far too simplistic to me. The textbook (which I'd picked up before class) also looked very simple. I was worrying and getting carried away with myself when the professor finally finished the syllabus and started class. And class was actually good! It was interesting, and not too simple, and he had good lecturing style. He's obviously a stickler for grading and attendance and structure, but I think the class will be interesting. It is the first class I've taken at UHCL that's a lecture class (and not in the computer lab).
Hooray for Friday.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
My job does not often run on an even keel. There are weeks that are very dull, when I have little to do but sit in the office and use the downtime to clean out my email inbox. Then there are weeks when I have so much to do that I barely see my desk. Contrary to popular belief, it's the busy weeks that are the fun weeks. The satisfying weeks. Lately things have been very slow, as I lamented last week. Yesterday, however, was awesome.
The very cool space shuttle pilot training that I've been doing since June is sadly coming to a close. I am going to miss all the classes because let's face it: learning how to fly the space shuttle is like one giant video game. And I get paid to do it! If that weren't enough, the training has actually been hugely helpful in preparing me to do my job as a rendezvous flight controller. See, unlike most of the people in the control center, rendezvous doesn't own a system. We're not in charge of the computers, or the engines, or the life support, or any of that. Our system is the crew themselves. We "own" the people who are actually flying the vehicle, and we have to know what they're doing in order to do our job properly. That's why we go through the same pilot training as the crew.
Up until now we've been training in the dome, which has a copy of the aft cockpit of the shuttle and visuals of what you'd see out the windows. It's an excellent simulator, but it still doesn't feel completely real, and it's basically run by a couple desktop computers that simulate what all the actual shuttle hardware does. We've also been training in bits and pieces, concentrating on one small phase of flight per session.
Yesterday, all of the training came together and we did one huge session in the real simulator. We flew the entire rendezvous, all 5 hours from the final big course correction burn to docking. And we flew it in one of the best simulators we have: a full mockup of the shuttle flight deck, with real hardware and real wires and the same computers that the real vehicle has.
Flying a rendezvous requires a minimum of two people, and we had to divide up the tasks accordingly. The commander does the majority of the actual flying (i.e. hand on the stick), while the pilot makes inputs to the computer and ensures that everyone is on the timeline and that the checklist is being accurately followed. On an actual mission, there would be a third person handling the tools and preparing the docking system, but in training the commander and pilot shared those tasks. Yesterday we decided that Jose would be the commander and I would be the pilot. (Yes, we work in the same group. We did not work in the same group when we started dating, but we do now. No comments from the peanut gallery please. It has not been a problem thus far.) It worked really well. Jose is a little better at the flying and reacting quickly to failures, but I am the checklist queen. I am great at being a stickler for the procedures and making sure we stay on task.
It was a good day indeed. I have only two more lessons, both unofficial quizzes to test my knowledge, and then the pilot pool training will be done. I still have many sims to go before I am certified, but the pilot training in particular has been one of the most fun things I've done here.
(If you are interested in finding out what some of the zillions of switches are, there are notes on the photos if you view them on Flickr.)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Last night Jen and I dutifully headed downtown to the Astros game like good fans. I hadn't been to a game in a month, and haven't even been paying much attention to the team lately. Let's just say that their performance this season doesn't inspire a great deal of rapid game-watching on my part. Take today's news: Jason Jennings is having season-ending elbow surgery. We traded Willy Taveras and Jason Hirsh for him. Worst trade in Astros history.
I had fun at the game, but only because Jen and I got to chat and gossip the whole time without fearing that Jason's ears would fall out of his head from hearing too much girl talk. (He couldn't make the game.) The Astros were getting killed, and the game just wasn't very interesting. In the 7th inning, they announced the crowd as some like 34,000. I estimate that by that point there were about 5,000 people in the stadium. And that might be generous. I have never seen the stadium so empty.
Because the Nationals scored a lot, the game was excruciatingly slow. Both Jen and I had to be at work at 8:00 this morning, and we continually moaned about it. Finally, when Jen looked at the clock and commented that "geez, this game is going to go till 11:00," we both realized we'd had enough.
"I wouldn't argue if you wanted to leave now," I said. "Really? Because neither would I," Jen said.
So we left. At the end of the 8th inning, we left. I felt bad about it. But only a little.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
One of the guys in my division had a cruise scheduled for this week. Its destination? Cancun. I'm not sure if he'll still be going, given that Hurricane Dean is currently slamming the Yucatan peninsula. We obviously escaped even minor impact here in Houston, which is good for us...but don't hurricanes just plain suck? If they don't hit us, they still hit somebody else.
On Saturday night, Jose convinced me to go to the grocery store to buy some water and canned food. I wanted to make fun of him, but then realized that it's pretty dumb to make fun of someone who just wants to be prepared. The local media was hyping the storm so much that it made me want to run in the opposite direction: do absolutely nothing in the way of preparation. But I guess that's my problem with the media in the first place. I don't mind them talking about the storm, and telling the public to be prepared. It's the "Hurricane Dean, a possible Category 5 killer, is very likely headed our way" talk that bugs me. Preparation is a good thing; panic is not.
Jose had a good point when he said that now if one does come our way, we won't have to join the mad rush to the store. But now I have a few gallons of water and a few days worth of canned food sitting in my apartment. I put it in the back of my closet, where it will sit for the rest of hurricane season. At the end of the season, I'll have to throw a "we didn't have a hurricane" party. The menu will be water and spaghettios. You know you want to come.
My friend Leila has started biking with the goal of doing the Livestrong Challenge in October. Check out her blog if you're interested!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Ironbabe Sprint Triathlon Race Report
This race was awesome. Just awesome. In fact, it may be my favorite of all the triathlons I've done. A lot of tris are well-organzied, and a lot of tris are fun to do. But no tri that I can think of has had a course that I enjoyed as much as Ironbabe.
Jose decided to come along, and it was extra cool to have him there. We left Clear Lake at 5:30 and arrived at Deussen Park a bit after 6:15. The road signs were very hard to see in the dark, but we managed to make it with only one wrong turn. This was my sixth triathlon of the summer, which means that by this poing I've pretty much got my transition set-up routine down to an art form. Rack bike hanging from the seat. Fold towel such that it's long and thin, and lay it down to the right of my bike tire. Leave a spot at the front to wipe my feet on when I get there from the swim. Behind that, bike shoes, velcro undone so I can slip them on easily. Helmet sits on my bike seat so that I must touch it (and thus put it on) before removing the bike from the rack. Sunglasses are stuck between my handlebars and the brake cables, and I put them on once I'm riding. Running shoes sit behind the bike shoes, with quick laces. Race belt and hat underneath the shoes to grab and go.
When I first started doing triathlons, I had so much junk with me in transition. Now I've pared things down so much that I always have a nagging feeling that I've forgotten something!
The race started a couple minutes late because so many people had trouble finding the turns in the dark, but soon enough we were off! There was no Athena category (one of my two, and very minor, complaints), so I was racing with my age group -- but that meant I was finally in the first wave of a race! Woohoo! I love being in the front, because it means I get to see a lot more people on the run course.
The swim in Lake Houston was a straight out-and-back -- a line of noodles and buoys was set up to go 150 yards out, swim around a buoy, and 150 yards back in. I don't like out and backs for runs, but I loved it for the swim. It made sighting very easy, and luckily I swim pretty straight to begin with. I never got off course, and the crowd wasn't too bad since I'd started near the front of my wave and stayed there. I did get one hard kick right in the face with about 75 yards to go that almost knocked my goggles off, but thankfully they stayed in place. The water was pretty murky, but it's a big enough lake that the water has stayed fairly cool all summer. I did the swim in 6:50 and saw Jose as I came out of the water. Not bad, though I can do better. The cool twist, however, is that since I was in the first wave and since I'm a decent swimmer, I came out of the water in 10th place overall. It didn't last long, but it happened! :)
The bike was awesome. We rode out of Deussen Park to do two loops around Eisenhower Park before heading back in. The course went down smooth roads through tall trees and shade with a couple small hills, and the whole thing was so pretty that I could've done two more loops and still been perfectly happy. On the first loop, I rode mostly alone since I'd come out of the water early in the first wave. I passed one or two people, and a handful of people from the next wave passed me. When I started the second loop, there were a lot more racers around and they must have inspired me to really race, because I seemed to find another gear -- I flew around the second loop picking off riders as I went (to be fair, they were still on their first loop). A few more fast cyclists passed me, but overall I averaged 18.1 mph and finished the bike in 36:24. Jose just missed me coming back from the bike -- I'd told him to expect me in 40-45 minutes, so he was just walking over to transition when I was leaving on the run! Oops.
I was 10th in my age group in the swim, and 13th on the bike. Alas, I still had to run, and this is where I always lose ground. That said, I had a pretty good run for me. Though I did a lot of run/walk intervals and suffered some pretty bad jelly legs at the beginning of the run, I felt better and better as the run went on. I finished with negative splits of 11:32, 11:09, and 10:35 so even though I didn't manage a sub-11:00 pace, I was still happy with the run. The course was out-and-back, but again the scenery made up for it. The second mile was especially pretty along a shaded dirt and gravel forest road. I ended up 40th in my age group for the run.
I crossed the finish line in 1:19:03 and was 24/50 in my age group overall -- woohoo, I squeaked into the top half!
The post-race party was excellent, with plenty of food including breakfast tacos (my favorite) and Marble Slab ice cream! Since there was no Athena category I didn't get a chance to take home any hardware, but the prizes looked nice -- coffee mugs imprinted with the race name and date. I'm always a fan of functional prizes.
Overall, it was a great race and now ranks as one of my favorites. I will definitely be doing this one again next year!
Saturday, August 18, 2007
So if you don't live in Houston, you may not have heard that there is a very large hurricane brewing in the eastern Caribbean. Almost Category 5. Hurricane Dean. Yep.
If you do live in Houston, you know this, because the media has been talking about it non-stop since Wednesday. As Jose and I drove back from the museum district this afternoon, the highway signs were announcing "Hurricane forming near Gulf. Keep gas tanks full."
Now, hurricanes are nasty things. I don't want to be here in the middle of a Cat 5 storm. Heck, I don't want to be here in the middle of a Cat 2 storm. But let's take a step back, people.
This storm hasn't even hit Jamaica yet. It is something like 2000 miles away from Houston. Yes, it is headed in our general direction, but can we hold off on the hype?
There may be a time for panic, but it is not today.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I come home just now and walk in the door. My apartment smells slightly like paint. "That's odd," I think.
I put my mail down on the table. I get a glass of water. I go downstairs and bring my bike upstairs so I can ride for an hour on my trainer. I go into the bedroom to get my cycling shorts. I go into the bathroom to get a hair rubberband, and suddenly I notice:
There is a GIANT HOLE in my bathroom wall, backing up to the shower plumbing, and covered by a trash bag.
I ponder this for a moment. What the heck is going on? Why is this trashbag secured by screws? Why are pieces of my wall now sitting on my floor? Does my shower still work?
Finally I notice the piece of paper on my sink, stating in nearly illegible handwriting that something related to the tub was leaking into the apartment below me, and that the maintenance guy will be back tomorrow to repair the sheet rock.
You know, I really like this apartment complex. It's nice, it's safe, I like the location, etc. And I understand that you can't control when things need to be repaired. But you'd think they would have the foresight to call me and at least let me know that they're cutting into my walls! I hope the shower still works because I'm going to need it in about an hour...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Eastside Sprint Triathlon Race Report
On Sunday morning I raced in the Eastside Sprint Tri, held behind a Honda ATV and jet ski dealership on I-10 in Baytown. It was a strange location -- racing next to a major interstate -- and I was apprehensive about the course, not to mention the hot, humid weather.
After driving over to pick up my packet on Saturday, I was still uncertain of what the course would be like. The feeder road that we'd be biking in and out on was under major construction west of the race site, and the idea of racing on a single lane of feeder next to cars was not appealing. Fortunately, the race was able to have the police shut down the feeder during the event, so traffic was not a concern on that portion.
I arrived at the race site with plenty of time to spare. The transition racks were open, meaning you could rack anywhere you wanted. This was a bit disappointing, since the race instructions had said that racks would be assigned by number, and discovering that they were open meant that all the good spots next to the bike exit were taken. Oh well. Since I can still jog reasonably fast in my bike shoes, I went with the next best thing in my opinion and racked my bike right next to the swim entrance and run exit.
We had to walk a few hundred yards over to the swim start. The swim was in a nice little pond behind the Honda dealership where I assume they test-ski their jet skis. The water was uncomfortably warm (nothing to be done about that -- it'd been hellishly hot all week), but very clear. I entered as an Athena and was thus in the very last wave, as usual. I hate how Athenas are always placed in the last wave!
After watching five waves start ahead of me, I was finally in the water and started the race! Now is the time to mention that oh yes, did I tell you that I had run 7 miles the previous day? I knew going into the race that I'd be just racing for fun and not to PR, but I don't think I realized how much the 7-miler would take out of me for the race. Yeah, I'm pretty thick-headed sometimes.
The warm water immediately made the swim tough. I felt more winded and tired than I normally do, and as I looked around, I saw that I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. The swim is the one event that I can usually hang in the top third, so I was a little bummed. I kept going, even though I did a fair amount of breaststroke. In the last 200 meters, the swim course became extremely challenging as it turned such that we were swimming directly into the rising sun. I couldn't see a thing! Sighting the buoys was extremely difficult, so much that I actually paused a couple times to shield my eyes with my hand just to make sure I wasn't too off course.
My final 500 meter swim time was 10:43. I didn't know my time until I saw the results, and I was actually quite pleased. I expected to be slower based on how I felt. That time was 87/204 overall, which is still in the top half of all racers, men and women. Woot.
I spent 1:16 in transition and headed out on the road. I never really felt great on the bike, and it's where I first began to feel the effect of the previous day's 7-miler. My quads began aching within the first couple miles, and never really stopped. Despite my issues, the bike course itself was nice. Miles 4-9 were especially pretty, following a country road with tall trees, some shade, and a couple rolling hills. At one point I was mesmerized by the sight up ahead of a cyclist pedaling through the visible rays of the sun passing through tree branches. You could see the rays of light in the air, and it was really pretty.
Miles 9-13 were pretty nasty, solely because the road surface was unsealed asphalt. It was uncomfortable, and it slowed me down by 1-2 mph. I had been tipped off about the road conditions by a post on the HRTC forums, but it didn't make it any more enjoyable. After mile 13, I saw some racers ahead of me continuing to ride on the unsealed shoulder of the road, but I moved onto the main road, where the pavement had been there long enough that there was a strip of asphalt that had been somewhat smoothed by passing cars.
I finished the bike course in 56:49. The race said 16 miles, my Garmin read 15.5, but either way I was under an hour so I decided to be satisfied enough with that. I really would've liked to average above 17 mph, but I didn't quite make it. I blame the asphalt! :)
I spent a quick 1:03 in transition and headed out on the run. Immediately, I knew that I would be run/walking, as I felt completely zapped of energy, and the heat was not helping. The run was entirely on grass and dirt (well, mud) and was basically an extremely zig-zaggy out and back around the U-shaped pond we'd swum in earlier. Because of an isolated but heavy rain storm the night before, the original race course was partially underwater. They'd had to design a new run course that morning -- which explained the zig-zags. They also had to cut the course from 3 miles to 2.5 miles, something that I was certainly not complaining about at that point.
I had forgotten to take my Garmin off my bike, so I had no indication of time or pace. I just ran, then walked, then ran, then walked, over and over. It was by far my worst run in a triathlon this year, and maybe ever. That said, I did manage to cover the course in 28:48 for a pace of 11:31. I had been certain that my pace was over 12:00 so I was actually happy to see the result.
My final time was 1:38:39. It was good enough for 1st place out of three Athena entrants, despite the fact that it was not a great race for me.
You can check out my race photos here. Just click on "next" to scroll through them. Tri shorts do nothing to minimize my giant hips, that's for sure.
I'd consider doing this race again next year, although I'm not certain. I liked the swim course -- except swimming into the sun was horrible. I liked the bike course -- except the road conditions were awful in parts. I liked the run course -- except for the zig-zags and mud. The course is what it is, and the race can't do anything about the sun and the road and the run course being underwater, but I wasn't thrilled. The race organization, however, was great and post-race was fun.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Do you ever have those days or weeks where time seems to slow down? Sometimes this is a good thing, but sometimes it's incredibly annoying. Because when time slows down, you get tired. You feel generally blah. You get bored. And though you know that things are bound to pick up again at some point, it feels like that point is very, very far off.
Work has been mind-numbingly slow over the past week. It's no one's fault; it's just a factor of circumstances. Half of my office is working the mission, meaning half of my office isn't here. The mission also means that there are no sims, so I'm not getting to practice any real-time ops. I had my one pilot pool lesson for the week this morning, and only a few lessons remain. I will miss those classes, since they have been a lot of fun. I am assigned to many upcoming missions, but none of them has any outstanding work at this moment, at least not where I am concerned. Boil all this down and I am left with reading. Studying. Thinking. Reading some more.
Even the evenings have been slow. The HARRA website is finally at a reasonable level of self-sufficiency. My graphic design class for fall doesn't start until next week, and for the first time it will be a non-hands-on class from what I can tell; it looks like it will be more reading and discussion oriented. I am running, but obviously I don't run all night. I am tired of TV, as there is rarely anything good on. I have no websites to work on, and no little design projects to tweak. I find myself feeling bored. This is a very unusual feeling, since I am usually very good at entertaining myself.
So, I am open to suggestions as to how I should spend my free time over the next few weeks until things speed up again. All suggestions will be considered unless they involve training for an Ironman, spending an obscene amount of money, spending extensive time in the crappy construction-slowed traffic, or evacuating in advance of a hurricane. I may not have control over that last one, but I can hope.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
One of the many happy side effects of spending so much time with Jose is that I'm now familiar with all sorts of indie music. He really loves music, and on top of that, he loves spending time finding good music. This is very convenient, since all I have to do is just listen to his stuff, say "oh, I like that" and then he burns me a copy. Why bother trying to find it on my own when he is so good at it?
Now that I know the bands and the songs, I recognize them in commercials. (Yes, despite owning a Tivo, I still watch a lot of commercials because I still watch live TV. Also, I actually sort of like commercials.) The following examples come to mind:
+ Morningwood's "Nth Degree" playing in the background of a Mercury(?) car ad
+ The Outback Steakhouse commercial that not only licensed Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games" but rewrote the lyrics: "Let's go Outback tonight, life will still be there tomorrow..."
+ The Friskies cat food commercial that I saw last night with a very familiar soundtrack that turned out to be Lemon Jelly's "Spacewalk"
Those are only five of many examples, and I guess you could argue that indie bands are "selling out." After all, aren't they indie because they're not supposed to care about the mainstream, or the corporate, or the popular?
But I don't know if I agree with that idea. It doesn't really bother me to hear their songs in a commercial. I figure it means that more people will be exposed to their music and if they like it, well, they probably would've liked it regardless. They don't like it just because it's in a commercial; they just discovered it that way. Not to mention that I'm sure the bands are willing to sell their songs because it earns them quite a bit of money. One online article quoted Of Montreal as saying that selling their song to Outback gave them the money to go on tour.
Jose, on the other hand, still thinks it's a little bit of a sell out. Mainstream music, he says, is like fast food: it's tasty enough, but overall it's bad for you.
I probably don't have enough "indie cred" to be entitled to an opinion anyway. Heh.
Monday, August 13, 2007
As weekends go, this one was not the best.
On Friday night, Jose finally got a chance to do the long night cross country flight that he's been trying to schedule for weeks. It kept getting rescheduled due to weather, the plane being down for repair, and his instructor having to cancel. But on Friday night, the weather was finally perfect, the plane was back in working order, and his instructor was ready to go. Off they went, with Jose having told me to expect him back around 10:00.
At 9:15, he sent me a text message from Brenham, so I knew that he wouldn't be back when he had predicted. Nevertheless, I inexplicably started to worry as the clock passed 10 and kept ticking. Worrying is absurd, because I don't really think that anything is going to happen. Jose is a good, if beginning, pilot and he's very careful with his flying -- not to mention that Jeff, his instructor, has thousands of hours in the air and is arguably the best instructor in the area (from what I've heard). But I still worried, even though I knew they were ok. Jose finally called at 11:30 to say that he was on his way home.
The inane worrying kept me up later than planned, and the thought of getting up at 5:30 to meet BAF for running made me tired, so I slept in on the condition that I would get my run done before noon on the treadmill. I kept my promise to myself with a trip to Gilruth where I did 7 slow dreadmill miles while watching the little league world series followed by some HGTV. I found it absurd that on Saturday morning, the Gilruth keeps two of the seven TVs tuned to CBS and NBC -- both of whom are showing kids cartoons. Sorry, but I didn't really feel like watching Trollz, or whatever that show was. I think it was a cartoon based on those little plastic dolls with all the hair. Weird.
As I was leaving the Gilruth, I backed up too far and bumped my car into a concrete pole. GREAT. It was about 3 feet tall -- or, just short enough that I couldn't see it out the back window of my Xterra. Yes, I looked. No, I did not back up without looking. I just couldn't see the stupid pole. Despite my slow speed, it made quite a bang. I didn't want to look at it right away, so I drove home hoping that it was the bike rack that hit, and not my bumper.
No such luck. It was my bumper. It was all bumper, so the good news is that it will hopefully be easy to bang out since it didn't touch the body of the car itself. The bad news is that it needs to be fixed soon, because while the damage isn't that bad, it crinkled the bumper upward by about an inch -- which is just enough to block my trunk hatch from opening. So I can't get into the back of my car. Suck. I felt like a complete idiot.
All the body shops I called closed at 2, so I decided to just forget about it for the rest of the weekend, and I headed out to pick up my packet for the Eastside Sprint Triathlon. I love triathlons, but I have one major beef: they very rarely offer race-day packet pickup. This means that I have to drive 1.5 hours round trip the day before the event to pick up my packet, and then do the same drive the next day for the race itself. I decided to take Beltway 8 on Saturday, only to discover that part of the beltway was entirely closed with all traffic being routed onto the feeder. UGH. In addition to that, something was burning on the other side of the highway which caused all sorts of rubbernecking.
I've come to the conclusion that you cannot drive anywhere in this stupid city without getting stuck in construction-caused traffic. Which is lots of fun when it's 100 degrees outside.
The rest of Saturday was a lot better, and I got to bed at a decent hour to rest up for yesterday's Eastside Tri. I'll post a better race report later today or tomorrow, but my time for the 500 meter swim, 16 mile bike, and 2.5 mile run (the course had to be shortened because rain put the original course underwater) was 1:38:39. That was good enough for 1st place Athena (out of 3 in the category) despite the fact that my bike was only so-so and my run was my worst tri run of the season.
Sunday was looking up. I had a yummy lunch at Panera, and Jose and I spent the afternoon running errands at Best Buy and Fry's. I got a new external hard drive -- which means I can now get rid of my desktop entirely! It still works fine, so I'm not sure what to do with it. Maybe see if I can get a couple hundred bucks on the swap shop... Jose finally got a printer, a refurbished Epson for half price. It does borderless prints! And they look great. I may abandon my printer (which I've had since college, though it does print good photos) in favor of using his.
I had a soccer game in the evening, which was hot and frustrating. I'm tired of losing all the team. My team is just not that good. We are a very defensive team; we lose all our games by scores of 0-3, 0-1, 0-2, etc. Our problem isn't that the other teams score. Our problem is that we never score. We end up playing defense for 90% of the game. And when you end up playing that much defense, the other team will score. It's not a matter of if, but when. When the game ended I was frustrated, sweaty, and absolutely exhausted.
I drove back to Clear Lake, ready to have a relaxing dinner with Jose. I was a mile from his apartment and talking to my mom on the phone for the first time in weeks when I noticed flashing lights a good distance behind me in my rear view mirror. I kept driving for a bit, not realizing that the flashing lights were apparently for me. I hung up with mom after telling her that "I think I'm getting pulled over." I still had no idea why. I looked at my speedometer and saw 50 miles per hour. The speed limit is 45. Was I really getting pulled over for going 5 mph over the limit?
The cop parked behind me and left her extremely bright lights shining into my mirror, forcing me to slouch down in the seat to avoid being blinded. She walked up to my window and shined her flashlight directly into my eyes, forcing me to turn my head away. At this point I'm wondering if someone in a red Xterra has kidnapped a child or something!
Nope. Apparently the police department of Clear Lake Shores -- a "city" that is about one square mile in area -- had nothing better to do last night. It turns out that for the 0.25-mile stretch of road through their pinhead of a "city," the speed limit drops to 40. I never knew that. In five years, I never knew that. So she wrote me a ticket for going 50 in a 40. Clear Lake Shores! A "city" that is so freaking tiny that I didn't even know they had a police department! When I told my coworker this morning (a League City volunteer fire captain) about it, he laughed and said "which one pulled you over -- the chick or the old guy?" The "city" has exactly two police officers. "Yeah, and pulling people over is their sole source of income," he said. In five years, I've never seen anyone pulled over on that stretch of road, so who knows -- maybe I've just been lucky. Now I'm just glad that I managed to fix my broken tail light last week. I'm sure she would've loved to give me a ticket for that too.
I was so mad. In the 3+ years I've been driving my Xterra, I have not been in a single accident or gotten pulled over. And in one weekend, I got both.
For once, I was glad to see Monday arrive.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I would talk about how hot it was during my tempo run last night, but I think you already know how hot it was. I ran a slow 15 minute warmup followed by 15 minutes at 10:55 pace followed by an even slower 15 minute cooldown. I was quite happy to discover that I could hold sub-11:00 pace for any amount of time in this weather, so it was a good run. I covered about 3.75 miles total.
I continued to sweat for over an hour, since I had a softball game immediately after my run. I played catcher, which turned out to be the equivalent of following my 4-mile run with an hour of squats. My legs hurt today.
Tomorrow is a 7-miler with BAF. I'm a little worried about making the distance. I'll follow it up on Sunday with the Eastside Tri, which I'll obviously just be doing for fun and exercise and not all-out racing since it comes a day after the afore-mentioned 7-miler.
STS-118 pulled off a very pretty rendezvous with the space station this morning. Everything went like clockwork. It's a funny thing about this business: you practice over and over and over again working through all sorts of hellish simulated situations, but when you get to do the real thing, nothing goes wrong and it all seems horribly boring.
Boring is good.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Speak of the 200-mile running relay you plan on doing next March, and the New York Times publishes an article the next day about such events. That's me. Tipping off the New York Times. Oh yeah.
STS-118 had a beautiful launch yesterday and will be spending the next two weeks circling the earth. I'm not working this mission so I simply watched the launch from the conference room down the hall with a few coworkers. However, this is the last mission in a long while that will have no Sarah involvement. I'll be working the launch of STS-120 in October, and working the launch of STS-122 in December. I'll be helping my trainee work her first launch for STS-123 in February. Things will get extremely busy in April, when I work the launch of STS-124 and then work the rendezvous two days later. Later in 2008, I'll be working one of the "off" shifts for both STS-125 (the Hubble flight) and STS-126; by "off" shift, I mean the non-rendezvous shift. That means my work will be minimal, but hey, I'll still be supporting.
That means I won't have a mission off until STS-127. Then, if all goes well with my training and with the flight schedule, I look to be in line to be assigned as the lead Rendezvous GPO for STS-128 sometime in 2009. That's when you will finally get to see me on TV. It will be my one shining moment before the shuttle program goes away. 2009 seems far away, but I suppose it will get here eventually.
Until then, I have a lot more reading to do.
I saved this until last so I can sneak it in: I officially upgraded from the half to the full marathon today. I signed up for the Half a couple months ago before I'd thought about joining BAF. Now, it seems hypocritical to say I'm training for a marathon when I'm only signed up for the half. I hesitated for a bit, because after my first marathon in 2005, I told myself that my next one would be somewhere else. Not Houston. But I guess I was wrong. I am officially signed up for Houston. It will be my second marathon.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
After checking out this month's edition of Stridelines and seeing the photos from the Reno-to-Tahoe relay team, one thing has become clear: I definitely need to find some of those Texas flag running shorts between now and March 1, 2008.
Why do I need shorts, and why do I need them by March 1, 2008? Well, for the Texas Independence Relay, of course. It's a 200-mile relay race from Gonzales, Texas to the base of the San Jacinto Monument here in Houston. I will be running with 11 of my running blogger friends as part of the awesome Battling Bloggers of the Texas Republic team, and we'll be having a casual competition (at least I'm going to think it's casual) with the Texian Road Warriors team of Woodlands-area runners.
I've been interested in doing one of these large, multi-day relay races for some time, so I'm really excited. Tons of runners, cramming into a van, sweaty, smelly, running through the night...what's not to love? I'm the slowest person on the team at this point, which is a little depressing, but I've still got 7 months to improve my times.
While I haven't been biking or swimming much lately, I have increased my running, even though I haven't been posting about it as much. I did 6 slow treadmill miles on Monday night, and the BAF-prescribed 8x30-30 speed session last night in the oppressive heat. I won't say much more, as they were pretty uneventful runs. The 6-miler was very slow. 12:00 pace. I was going for distance, not speed. Yesterday's speed workout was excellent, but hot. Good grief was it hot. Very, very hot. Did I mention hot? No? Well it was hot.
I've also signed up for a few more races, after planning to run last Saturday's Maribelle's 5K and having to bail when Jose and I decided to go to Corpus. This Sunday I'll be racing in the Eastside Triathlon, next Sunday I'll be racing in the Ironbabe Triathlon. Both of those are sprint distance. September is up in the air, since I'll be out of town two of the four weekends. In October I'll be doing the USA 10-Miler for sure. And in November I signed up for a bit more of a challenge. No, not another half ironman, but somewhat close: the 50.5-mile race being held in November as part of the Tri One-o-One series in The Woodlands. The 101 distance is somewhere between a half and full ironman, and I wasn't ready to tackle that. So I chose the 50.5 distance: .93 mile swim, 40.3 mile bike, and 9.3 mile run. It should be a great event.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Very strange: my iPhone battery went from 70% to 0% while sitting on my desk while I was at lunch. I am not sure what happened.
Last week, the powers that be decided to do every repaving project on the list -- all at once. The main road into work is half closed, but that's not the big problem. No, the big problem is that both of the parking lots I usually park in are under construction, cutting off at least 150 parking spaces until they are done. This means I have to park even farther away than normal. And it's the hottest week of the year. I broke a sweat walking the half mile from my car to my building. Seriously, can't they just put Houston under a bubble for half the year? It worked in the Simpsons movie...
Jose and I spent another weekend in Corpus Christi to belatedly celebrate his mom's birthday. She wanted to spend the day on the Texas Treasure, a casino cruise that leaves from Port Aransas. I had never gambled before in my life (at least not with realy money) so it was an interesting experience. The boat was certainly not what I imagine Vegas to be. It was a little dark, a little smoke-stained. There were slot machines galore, but only one fairly small area for table games. A buffet lunch was included in the ticket, but the food was mediocre -- like you would find in a cafeteria.
Despite that, it was fun. The ship cruises 10 miles offshore and then stops dead in the water while all the casino games open for business. Jose's mom and aunts headed straight for the nickel slots, which were by far the most popular machine in the house. Jose and I blew $5 each on the quarter slots before heading upstairs to the table games. We played roulette for an hour or so, and I did enjoy that. I know that the house always wins, but I decided that I could get pretty good chances on the roulette table by following a specific strategy. The minimum bet was $5 on the table, but you could split it up into $1 bits. I would throw five $1 bids out on the table, each bid covering 4 numbers. That way, I covered 20 of the 38 numbers -- more than half -- on the wheel. If it hit one of the 18 number I didn't have, I lost $5. But if it hit one of the 20 numbers that I did have, I got $9 -- a net of $4.
This seemed to be about as even as I could hope for, and it did work out well. Overall, I ended up about $5 ahead for the day playing roulette. In all, I ended up down about $20, $15 of which went to never-never-land within minutes on the slot machines. I have since decided that slot machines will inherently take your money, not to mention that I don't trust them because I don't know what the odds are. The remaining $10 ($5 plus the extra $5 I had from roulette) went to playing bingo and buying food.
All in all, it was a fun day, even if I concluded that yes, I still think gambling is dumb. I don't mind losing $20 because hey, I was entertained for six hours. But I don't understand the people who leave having lost hundreds.
Monday, August 06, 2007
From this morning's section meeting minutes:
Round the horn…. acquiring several copies of FreeFlyer - open invitation to grow a brain on lunar trajectory….New RCS failures CC was accepted at OFTP with strings attached - do a “Phase II” to tweak the existing GPC/MDM Failures cue card to better segregate Rndz & Prox Ops items…..Sarah is about ready to quit after seeing two FDO evals in her first three sims….124 Load checkout on 8/8….NGSMS is coming starting with 122….all the normal things happening on 120 thru 125…..
Monday, August 06, 2007
After ignoring the initial hype and the first month of its release, I bought an iPhone. I've had it for a week now, and thought I'd share my impressions. I feel like it will take at least a month or more before I'm ready to give a truly thorough review, and by that point, it probably won't be worth it, as so many other people have already written in-depth reviews. So I'll give you my one-week impressions. It's a long blog post, so read it at your whim.
It's interesting to note that this phone has gotten more backlash (as in "I think the iPhone sucks" reviews) than most phones or even most electronic devices in general. This is not because it is a poor product; this is because it was heavily hyped and as such, open to heavy criticism along with the accolades. Apple is one of those companies that garners strong opinions. People either love their products, or hate them. There aren't a lot of people out there who feel indifferent about Apple, at least not within the tech community.
I, however, am someone who falls in the middle. I'm not a fanatic, but I like Apple. I like their products. I like their attention to design, and to making something both useful and pretty. I have an iPod, an iPod Shuffle, and now an iPhone. I do not, however, have a Mac laptop or desktop. I've used their computers (mainly in college working for the newspaper) and liked them, but it hasn't been practical for me to switch. I have thought about switching before, but I have quite a bit of imaging and design software that was not cheap the first time around, and would not be cheap to replace with Mac versions. So I use a PC at home by choice, and I use a PC at work because that's what they gave me.
I read more reviews about the iPhone than about any product I've ever bought. Because of that, I knew what I was buying. I knew about a lot of its shortcomings, and I knew which would affect me the most. Knowing that, I still bought one, and I still think it is a very cool device.
My officemate just got a new phone that runs Windows Mobile, and he ragged on the iPhone a lot, listing the typical major faults: non-replaceable battery, fixed 4GB or 8GB capacity, no cut-and-paste. He also showed me all the things he could do with his phone, and all the things you can add to it via third party applications. I have to admit that it was very impressive. I have never had a smartphone until now, and I was very tempted to get the same thing he has because wow -- look at all the features and all the potential!
And yet potential is nothing if you're not going to use it. Or, to put it more accurately: my phone needs to do what I need it to do. Not what every other person out there might need their phone to do.
Take email, for example. His phone pulls his work email from JSC's Exchange server. My iPhone cannot do that, since I don't have adminstrative privileges on the server. Seems like a major issue, until you realize that I don't need to get my work emails on my phone. I've never needed that capability in the past, and I don't need it now. In fact, I don't even want it. I don't want to check my work email while I'm away from work. So what might be a problem for a lot of users is not a problem for me. The iPhone has no problem pulling my personal email from Gmail and my own domain, which I did want. If I do decide to check work email away from the office once in a blue moon, I can use the webmail interface.
All that said, here are the top issues I have with the iPhone. None of these are new; they are simply the issues that affect me.
(I should state that none of these caught me by surprise.)
+ It is overpriced. Probably by at least $200. This was the single biggest factor that kept me from buying one for the first month. Though I could (and eventually did) afford the $599 cost for an 8GB model, I wasn't sure that I wanted to. I looked on eBay, which could have saved me up to $75 if I was patient and bought a used-for-a-month model, but decided that $75 wasn't enough of a savings to justify me taking the chance of not buying directly from Apple (and thus having them behind me if I had problems.) I also thought long and hard about waiting for version 2, which undoubtedly be both cheaper and better if the evolution of the iPod is any indication. I didn't wait, so I'll probably just upgrade.
+ Inability to send a text message to more than one recipient. It is a feature that I rarely need, but when I do, it's very annoying not to have it. Makes it hard to send, say, a single text message to 5 people suggesting "Simpsons movie, 4:00 at the Cinemark." I hope this can also be fixed via software update, and soon.
+ Lack of cut-and-paste. As expected, it does bug me. Not a lot, but occasionally. I hope that Apple can fix it in a software update.
+ Necessity of iTunes. This is a more minor complaint, but I do wish there was a way to sync my Outlook calendar and contacts without having to start iTunes, or even without having to have iTunes installed on my computer (talking about my work computer here; I like iTunes as an application). My PDA used HotSync software that was activated by simply pressing a button on the cord, and that was nice.
+ Non-replaceable battery. Yep, it's bad that I can't replace the battery myself, since everyone knows that rechargable batteries will eventually start to go bad and lose their ability to hold a charge. Yes, I wish I could replace it. In buying the phone, I decided to simply cross that bridge when I get to it.
+ Required two-year AT&T contract. Nobody likes to be tied down.
+ Lack of Flash and some Java in the Safari browser. Actually, this doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would, however, I do wish I could see weather radar animations.
Issues That Bother Other People That Haven't Bothered Me So Far
+ Difficulties with Microsoft Exchange email servers. See above. I can easily sync my calendar and contacts via a physical cord connection when I am in the office, and that is all I wanted.
+ AT&T's EDGE network. For the first few hours that I was exploring the phone, I was using the wrong password protocol in trying to log on to Jose's wireless network. As a result, the phone defaulted on EDGE. I've also used it while out-and-about and not under the cover of any WiFi. EDGE is slow, yes, but reviews had led me to believe that it was practically unusable. I have not found that to be true. Sure, it could be faster, but it's very usable.
+ Camera shutter button. Reviews complained that it was hard to take a self-portrait, and that they wished the whole screen became the shutter button, or that there was a dedicated shutter button. Those are good ideas, but the current implementation seems ok to me.
+ Virtual keyboard. Maybe this doesn't bug me because I've never used a physical phone keyboard and thus don't know what I'm missing. In the web browser, when turned on its side for landscape mode, the keyboard is very easy to use. In email and other applications, when squished into a smaller space, the keyboard is more difficult to use, and I'm still practicing. The built-in spelling/word correction algorithm seems good though, and overcomes most of my mis-types.
+ Hard limit of 4GB or 8GB. I could be wrong, but most other smartphones take some kind of micro SD card, which are available in comparable capacity -- but not more. (My officemate mentioned getting a 2GB card for his new phone. That's 6GB less than my iPhone.) I'm sure micro SD cards will improve in capacity in the future so at some point I'm sure a Blackberry will be able to handle more than my iPhone, but at the moment, 8GB storage seems extremely competitive against other products on the market. And it's plenty for me.
+ Activation. The phone was a snap to activate. It was fully functional and capable of making outgoing calls within 10 minutes of plugging it into my computer. I activated on a Saturday night. I did have to carry around my old phone for a couple more days until it was able to receive calls, since my number wasn't fully ported until Monday, but I'm guessing they need a business day to do the transition.
+ It is just plain cool. Many people will scoff and say that "coolness" is not a legitimate thing to list as a positive, but I disagree. Good design is important, and to me, having something that is functional and beautiful is worth more than something that is functional but ugly. The iPhone is just a cool device. It is comfortable to hold. It is pretty to look at. It is fun to use and I enjoy having it. These intangibles are just as important to me as the technical specs.
+ It consolidates the amount of stuff in my purse. Again, people will scoff as this not being a legitimate positive, and I know that any smartphone could accomplish this. Regardless, Razr + PDA + 30 GB iPod has now become iPhone. I will still carry my iPod on occasion, as I cannot fit my entire music collection onto the 8GB iPhone. However, 8GB is more than enough room to carry around the music I happen to be listening to this month.
+ Google Maps. The application and implementation here is great. I don't know if other smartphones have the same interface or not but even if they do, I doubt it looks as nice. When Jose's car battery died, I just went to Google Maps, zoomed in to League City, and did a search for "auto." It popped up the nearest NTB store. I tapped on that, which gave me its website and phone number. I tapped on the phone number, and it dialed the store. Awesome.
+ The Internet looks like The Internet. Not a stripped down mobile version of the internet.
+ Screen. It's big. It's bright. It's awesome.
+ Battery life. I have already listed the fact that it's non-replaceable as a negative, but on the flip side, battery life is good. Better than expected, granted that it's only been a week. I do expect it to deteriorate; what remains to be seen is over what timeframe. On a full charge, the iPhone lasted 48 hours before dying (I let it run all the way down). This was with moderate to heavy use, including making and receiving calls, surfing the web, sending text messages, taking pictures, and checking email -- and remaining in standby (i.e. not powered off) when not in use. I was impressed.
+ It can use the same cord as the iPod. The supplied iPhone cord has a slightly smaller connector in terms of the amount of plastic on it, but the connector itself is the same. This means I don't have to buy any additional cords, since the extra iPod cord I already have at work will also connect to my iPhone. Apple doesn't have the best history of keeping stuff like that consistent between products and models, so I was excited.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Snape, Snape, Severus Snape
This cracked me up.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Houston Urban Adventure Race Report
I'm long overdue on this race report, but better late than never! Debbie and I did the Houston Urban Adventure Race on July 14 for the third year in a row, and it was a lot of fun. This was the first year we've done it that the race did not start on the field at Minute Maid Park (probably because the Astros were on the road), which was actually a nice thing because it meant we raced in the morning instead of the oppressive late afternoon heat. This was also the longest course of the three Houston urban races we've done.
The race started downtown at 9:00 a.m. with the entire group gathered in a bunch in the middle of the square. One racer from each team was sent back to the transition area and at the "GO!" yell, the remaining racer had to sprint to a corner of the block where a volunteer waited with maps and instructions. I headed to one corner only to discover that it was the one corner with a bogus volunteer -- no maps! I quickly ran down the sidewalk to the next corner and secured our map and list of checkpoints. I ran back to transition where Debbie and I began to plan our route.
We first had to get to David Adickes's studio (he's the guy who made the Sam Houston statue and is now doing giant presidential busts) almost 2 miles away. The catch? One person had to run, while the other had to bike. And we had to stay together.
We started with Debbie running, me riding. It made sense, as she is the faster runner and doesn't like biking as much. With her running along and me offering encouragement on two wheels, we made it to the studio 1.75 miles away. After gathering the washer to put on our bolt that we got in the bag at the beginning of the race (you usually have to carry something along and pick up an additional item at each checkpoint to prove you were there), we dropped the bike on the ground. We were both supposed to run to a specified street corner. We plotted our route and jogged there to find another washer in the bottom of a water-filled garbage can. With that in hand, we headed back to the bikes.
I assumed that I would have to tackle the run back to transition while Debbie biked, but she offered to run again! She's always been a little crazy. I felt a little guilty, but I let her do it. She ended up running the entire way back to transition while I biked along next to her. Just before entering transition, Debbie stopped at the porta-potty and immediately after coming out, she realized she no longer had the bolt that we were supposed to be carrying. It fell out somewhere! We looked all around the porta-potty and finally decided that it must be in the porta-potty. Ewwwwww. So we continued without. We knew we might be disqualified, but hoped that the race organizers would have a good sense of humor about it.
We grabbed Debbie's bike and headed out for the bike leg, riding all the way from downtown to the intersection of South Braeswood Blvd and Stella Link where Planetary Cycles has their store. That was a long way -- much farther than the bike leg in previous years! When we finally arrived, we had to use a zip tie to link one person's wrist to the other person's ankle and walk around a short course. That was pretty funny. It turns out that the "easy" way to do this was for one person to carry the other on their back, but Debbie and I didn't figure that one out. Instead we walked the course with me hunched over. Funny.
We rode our bikes all the way back downtown and dropped them in transition to being the last leg of the race, a run around downtown that included having to climb to the top of a 12-story parking deck. Oh man, that was tough!! We crossed the finish line in about 3:30 and the race organizers were nice enough not to disqualify us for losing our bolt. We finished in 9th place among female teams, and since the awards went 10 deep, we each got a medal! Woohoo!
Google pedometer produced the following distances for each leg of the race:
Run/bike to Adickes studio - 1.75 miles
Run to Oxford and back - 2.70 miles
Run/bike to transition studio - 1.75 miles
Bike - 16.5 miles
Run around downtown, up parking deck and back - 1.80 miles
So Debbie ended up running 8 miles and biking 16.5, while I ran 4.5 miles and biked 20. What can I say -- Debbie rocks! I would've really struggled to make it 8 miles that day.
Of the three Houston Urban Adventure races we've now done, I struggle to say which was my favorite. I like the Minute Maid Park start, but I like being able to race in the morning instead of the afternoon heat. I think the first year may have been my favorite, primarily because it had more than 10 checkpoints. This year's race only had 4 checkpoints -- pretty disappointing. The checkpoints and mystery challenges are what make adventure racing really fun.