Friday, April 29, 2005

Who would have thunk it?

Mango is in the same botanical family as Poison Ivy.

My eyes itched a little yesterday, my left cheek had an odd texture, and my lips were kind of chapped. I figured that I must have had some bad wine or something at dinner the night before.

Well, I woke up this morning to find the left side of my face all puffy and irritated.

Mary thought it was Poison Oak (something I've encountered before), but that just didn't make sense to me because I didn't have any on my legs and I never got off my bike (let alone stuck my face in any plants) on my last ride.

Upon seeing my disfigured face, Mary did the kind thing and Googled poison oak. She found that Mango sometimes had the same effect.

And we've been eating a lot of fresh mango.


So watch out for the mango (just the cut skin actually).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Univega Update

This past weekend I added more stuff to the Univega. Mary wanted a basket, fenders, speedometer, that kind of thing.

So we went shopping, got some cute things - including a bell.

I spent part of an afternoon putting it all together (have yet to put the rack on - the girl's bike geometry means I need to get a couple little brackets). The shifting had to be adjusted because the basket attachment impeded the shifter's range of motion, but I got that all dialed in. The fenders fit nicely and will keep my sweetie relatively dry. The bell is conveniently located. And the basket is awesome - it's Mary's favorite feature.

Needless to say, Mary thinks the bike "rocks!"

She's ridden it to work 3 days this week, even when wearing a tight, full-length skirt. She's ridden it to the farmer's market, an appointment or two, everywhere. And, with the handy cycle computer, she even knows how far she's gone.

I've gotta take a picture of it.

Work has sucked lately.

Without getting too technical, work has really sucked lately.

First of all, my group had to make a few changes for the "global good" - which meant scrapping a good, working, system, for the crappy, universally used system. Imagine, if you will, exchanging your cell phone with the telegraph system. Horrible step backward, yes? That's what we had to do. Everyone else is using the telegraph system, and "yes", it can be made to work, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

And, I've lost the last two weeks converting my group from the cell phones to the telegraph system. Crappy.

'nuff said about the stupid system.

The other reason work has sucked is the customer. I don't normally hate the customer, but this customer happens to be an internal customer - as in "we're in the same department." We'd be first-cousins, twice-removed if the org-chart were a family tree. I'll leave names out in case any Intel folks read this.

But anyway, the reason I'm currently hating them is that they're not listening. They're not applying any analytical thought to the problems at hand. A "real" customer (a chip designer - someone my customer interacts with) wants to do something, so they're mucking with some numbers in a particular file. Fine, the designer wants to change our tool's behavior. Great, I'm happy to oblige. All I ask is, "Why are they doing X? Is it because they intend for this particular consequence? If that's the case, then why not use this well-defined interface?"

That's it, I'm asking for what the designer really wants. And, if it's what I think it is, they just have to do something a little differently. And for good reason.

To put it in English, and not vague terms. Let's say you're a tool manufacturer - you make hammers, screwdrivers, chisels, etc. One customer comes in and says, "This hammer is broken, fix it!" You look at the hammer, it appears to be in good shape. You would likely ask the question, "What are you doing with the hammer? What is it you want to get done?" Simple questions. But you only get back the answer, "It's not doing what I want it to do."
Around and around you go. Never getting an answer.

You have a sneaking suspicion that the customer really wants to screw two pieces of wood together, and the hammer just isn't doing the job that well. So, you politely suggest, "I think you're trying to screw two pieces of wood together, perhaps a screwdriver would be more appropriate? We've got this fine selection."

But there's no direct response to that question, only, "Get the hammer to work."

Seriously, it's that bad.

I've presented an alternative, nearly pain-free (just a tiny bit of education is needed) solution. I've asked several times for the customer's desire, and I'm just being stone-walled.

The best "answer" I've gotten so far is that "all the customers are going to use hammers, so you'd better get them to work."

It's just a one-way street, and all the shite is running down the gutters my way.

Dude, someone broke into my car...

Last Thursday I got up, got ready for work, and walked out to the rusting Mazda.

I found the door ajar and thought, "Shite, I left the door open. The dome light will have been on all night, and now the battery is dead."

I don't usually (ever?) leave the door ajar - the trunk perhaps, but not the door. But whatever, I'd made a mistake.

I open the door, check the light, it's off. Damn.

Wait, it's "OFF" - not out, but actually turned off.

eh? Why would it be off? The only reason I know is that it's turned off when people break into a car so they aren't noticed rummaging around.

Son-of-a-bianchi! Somebody broke in.

Well, they "opened-in" because I haven't been locking the Mazda, but seriously, someone got in.

I look around the car, the glove box was open, and most of the contents were on the passenger seat. Ok, nothing of value in there, and nothing missing as far as I could tell.

Ash tray? Still there. The $20 in change in the ash tray? Still there.

Stereo? Still there.

CD's? Still there.

I cracked open the trunk to see if they'd gone in there, nothing missing.

WTF? Somebody bothered to "break" in, and they didn't take anything?

How insulting.

Total disappointment

I had a craving, a craving for ice cream.

I'm trying to be good and eat less, so I went to the co-op to get some of Julie's organic sorbet (their ice cream is yummy too).

I picked up a couple of other useful things like yogurt and apples, and then I stood in front of the cooler, gazing at the myriad of choices.

Blackberry sorbet. That was it.

I reach in, grab a pint ... squish.


I quickly examine a few other pints, other flavors, other brands. All squishy.

Total disappointment.

I'd grown to expect this in Fred Meyer and Safeway, where moronic customers would stand in front of the cooler, the door wide open, spilling cold air onto the floor. I learned to avoid "sale" ice cream for that very reason. Too often I'd be lured by the reduced price, only to get home and find the ice cream was either hard as a rock (b/c it thawed and then re-froze into an ice cube) or it was terribly mushy.

But I'd expected more from my fellow co-op shoppers.

So I resorted to Jennies macaroons (no I'm not a no-carb freak).

Total disappointment.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What I Learned Yesterday

Do not leave your iRiver 799 plugged into the USB port of your computer overnight for it shall drain all life from the battery.

Seems like a dum "feature" to me, but at least I know now.

Monday, April 11, 2005

250 Gallons of Grass

We finally mowed the lawn this weekend. Yeah, I know, it's mid-April, but I started to feel sorry for Fysh (our cat) when she walked outside. She could no longer walk through the grass, she had to do that bounding thing that you see dogs do in the wheat fields.

Part of why we waited so long was that the lawn mower needed some work. Mary ran over the starter cord, then we didn't pick the thing up for a week or two, then we found that the plastic shielding next to the blade had come loose. The lawn mower dude said, "It's a Sears model? Cut it off!" Not real encouraging.

But I'm happy with our little mower. When using the bag attachment, it pretty easily handled patches of grass 36 inches high. Yup, I mowed through grass growing up past my knees, and sometimes at the top of my thigh. I've got to give a hearty thumbs up to the Craftsman 7.0 HP mower, it certainly does the job for us.

We must have about a dozen different types of grass in our yard. Some grew tall, some stayed about 3 inches high, some wide blade. There were spots where the grass had grown so thick that interior patches of grass died out and left bare soil. The grass was thick enough that, in places, I had to lift the mower over the grass because I wasn't strong enough to push the mower through it.

An hour and a half after starting, I finished and figured I'd mowed 250 gallons of grass.


250 gallons?


We have one of those yard-debris cans with a capacity of 98 gallons. I filled it about a third of the way into the back yard. One patch was thick enough that I could barely finish the 5'x5' square before I had to empty the bag. The only reason I didn't reach 300 gallons was that about a quarter of our yard is under black plastic. Because I like slip-n-slides, that's why. No, it's because we're killing the grass and weeds so we can put in beds of plants and a path/patio.

But, speaking of slip-and-slides, the two best slip-and-slide moments ever:

#2) Not so much for the slide itself, but ... my first girlfriend and I were walking around Reed college one summer when we noticed a huge slip-and-slide some kids had set up. It had to be 60 feet long, going slightly downhill. All in all, an impressive slide. Being Reed, there was a naked guy participating in the activities. But wait, that's not the good part. Down the hill and a little off to the side were an older couple (60's-70's). The woman was on her side, with her back to the action, but her husband was peering over her side using a camera with a telephoto lens - apparently taking pictures of the sorted affair.

#1) The best slip-and-slide moment I've seen was after a trail ride in Washington (probably Lewis River). Sam and I were driving back, enjoying the beautiful weather with the windows rolled down. We were in the country-side and were passing a house with some kids playing in the front. They'd set up a slip-and-slide with a little inflatable pool at the end of it. One of the boys ran and slid right as we were passing by. He so much speed that he launched himself over the pool onto the grass. Sam and I hoot and hollered like a couple of rednecks, thinking it was awesome. I'm sure the kid heard us because he looked over at us in mid-flight. Best slip-and-slide moment ever.

Back to the grass. Our yard looks somewhat respectable now (ignoring the black plastic), and I'm not so embarrassed when I drive up.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Univega is now rideable

I put together Mary's Univega bike this afternoon. It needed a new bottom bracket, crank, pedals, front derailer, and tires/tubes. It's easier to change a cartridge bottom bracket than it is to adjust brakes - who would have thunk.

Anyway, after about two hours of putzing around, I hopped on the bike and rode down the street. Woo-hoo, our first cruiser bike.

And it even fits Mary.


Sam's 30th birthday is coming up real soon now. And we're going out on the town to celebrate. It's his 30th, so he gets to do what he wants (next year though, I'm choosing the activity, and it'll be knitting).

But, being the good brother I am, I'm always on the look out for new and exciting things to do. It turns out, that weekend is also the weekend that Oregon is hosting a rally car event, Oregon Trail Rally.

I don't know why rally hasn't picked up more in the U.S. It's got souped-up cars, racing around, often wrecking. Oh, right, they're not just going in an oval, and the cars don't look all exactly the same.

Anyhoo, we're going to check out the rally event before the party starts. Hopefully it'll be interesting. But then again, maybe all the rednecks will be right and NASCAR is where I should be spending my time.

(20 reasons why NASCAR sucks)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Toy almost makes running enjoyable

For my birthday, my parents got me an MP3 player, the iRiver iFP 799. My mini review is that it rocks. The controls are easy enough to use (though adjusting volume without skipping ahead/behind in a song can be tricky), and the functionality is exactly what I wanted. The radio reception works well, and the software to put music on the player is easy to use.

I took it jogging today, and at times I was able to (mostly) forget I was jogging and just listen to the music. The volume is plenty loud (Mary's MP3 player, MPIO's DMK sometimes doesn't go loud enough), and, thanks to the flash, it didn't skip a beat.

One feature that is kind of unusual is the playback speed control. You can adjust the playback speed in increments of 10% until the songs play about half or double the speed (Alvin and the Chipmunks or a drugged Barry White). I doubt I'll ever be using that, but it was fun to find.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Monday night I went to the unicycle club again. I was totally psyched to see how far I could take it this time. I showed up to find even more kids than normal, which is a bit intimidating. You see, the kids zip around like little remote-controlled cars - constantly dodging and weaving with no discernible pattern. This makes it very difficult to navigate for fear of crushing one of them under the my wobbly wheel. The session before, I took out a kid when my unicycle shot out behind me right in front of one of the kids.

The club organizer (Angela?) had a bunch of the kids in a circle, showing them the two basic free-mounts. Oh, how I wished to be in that circle. All in due time. It just didn't make sense to learn how to mount if I couldn't stay on the unicycle.

After letting the butterflies settle, I mounted the unicycle and pushed off the wall. 10 feet. hmmmm.... I'd hoped to ride in circles, wishful thinking. The second time I made it nearly half way across the gym. A few tries later, all the way across. Whew, I just might get the hang of it.

One of the kids (Stephen, I later found out) came over and asked if I could free-mount. I don't quite get it. The kids can see me flailing around, and yet they ask if I can do advanced tasks. I responded, "No, I can't even really ride yet." He said he thought I looked pretty good. Wow, a compliment. Little did I know, he was buttering me up for later.

Sure enough, I was getting better. I crossed the gym several times, getting more and more consistent each time. I got to the point where one out of every other start resulted in a trip across the gym. Yay!

Then Stephen swooped in for the kill.

"I'll race you."

eh? One of the zippy kids was going to race me? I must be moving up in the world.

I have to admit, my wheel is larger than his (means less revolutions), and I probably outweighed him by 5X. But I felt up for the task.


We lined up on the wall, he said, "on your mark, set, go!" And off we sped. It was neck and neck all the way to the end, both of us tapping the far wall at the same time. I wasn't exactly in control at that point, but I'd tied him.

So, we raced again. The second time I was going too fast and lost control, he made it to the wall, I didn't.

The third race he said he'd spot me two seconds. I said I didn't need it, so we split the difference. 1 second. We raced and I bailed out on the account of a little girl who peddled into my path, risking life and limb. I bailed out and demanded a rematch. He gave me the rematch, and still gave me the 1 second start, and I crushed him. No, not literally, but I beat him by several seconds. Victory was mine.

At the end of the night (I was one of the last to leave), I was crossing the gym almost every time I got on the unicycle. I now consider myself a unicyclist. One that needs a support to start, and one that can only go (sort of) straight, but a bone fide unicyclist.

Next time, the free mount.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Beaver Freezer Stats

So the results of the race were on-line last night. I placed 107th overall in the road race (men and women) with a time of 1:15:17, out of 234 finishers (not including the two who were disqualified). Out of the men, I placed 73rd (out of 121), and I was 7th (out of 9) in my age group (Men 30-34). Out of everyone, in all age groups, genders, bike styles, everything: I placed 111th out of 276 total racers.

Obviously, in my class, I fared poorly. But, considering the fact that the top three finishers overall were in my class, I think I should be cut a little slack. My time was around the middle of the pack, and a minute or two difference would change my standings by 10 or 20 places.

I took a look at the numbers and broke down my results a little more. There were basically 5 parts to the race, the swim, the bike, the run, and the two transition times. After looking at the breakdown of my race (see table below), I can see that the dreaded run is by far the worst of my legs. Any improvement there would really help bump me up in the standings. My transition times were also sub-par. I mentioned I couldn't find my spot on the rack after riding the bike, and it showed with a slow transition.

Here's a breakdown of my race, showing position in the race of each stage, and after each stage:

Trey's Race
StageTimePace Place in StageCumulative TimeCumulative Place
Swim 8:151:39.0 86 8:15 86
T1 2:37 120 10:52 95
Bike 36:1619.9 62 47:08 72
T2 2:12 142 49:20 73
Run 25:578:22.3 150 1:15:17 107

So there you go, more details about the race then you ever cared to know.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Beaver Freezer

I just finished my first triathlon ever, the Beaver Freezer. My goal was 1h30min, but I kicked ass and came in at just over 1h15min (unofficial time - my watch). I did way better than I expected to, and had a great time.

Sam got a flat (his first in months) and was unable to finish, Nick and Reyna finished - though Nick wasn't happy with his run. I also ran into Paul, a friend and former boss of Mary's, who was competing as well.

Because my heat was so much later than Sam's and Nick's, they were there to cheer me on during my bike-run transition and during the run. Mary's mom also showed up and was there for the entire race which was very nice. Mary, on the other hand, was busy helping a couple deliver their baby at home, and didn't get to see me in my glory.

The swim went pretty well, I was the slowest in my lane according to our self-reported times, and the fastest guy did pass me about 3/4 of the way through. Another guy (some dude with a OSU Beaver outfit) talked about finishing the race in 1h05min and riding at 22mph turned out to be slower than me (7:45 500 my ass), and he didn't pull over when I swam into his feet. That was a bit frustrating, mostly because he was the big talker. But, no big deal, I swam about the pace I wanted and finished with plenty of breath left (unlike Sam who flew and was the first in his heat - only to be passed on the way to the bike because he couldn't jog).

I successfully made it out of the pool (I saw some people who almost fell back in and I was fearful that might be me) - I even almost made it look good. I just swam up to the edge and w/out pausing, lifted myself onto the deck - looking as smooth and sexy as Bo Derek in 10. Anyhoo, I had plenty of energy to jog to my bike and begin to make the transition. I tried cracking a joke (relatively funny) but nobody was in the mood.

The ride went smoothly, though I didn't have a cycle-computer (battery died two years ago) so I had no idea how fast or slow I was riding. For most of the time I rode behind a guy with a really awkward ride (his shoulders bobbed with every pedal stroke). I tried to catch him several times, but he kept a good pace. Finally, on the flat back toward campus I was able to get by. My only real pass (the couple others were going way slower).

Three notable things happened on the ride. The first happened early on, a guy was trying to get his water bottle (or something) and crashed right in front of me. Fortunately, my quick reflexes saved the day and I bunny hopped over him ... ok, so I got lucky because I was grabbing my water bottle at the same time and happened to be pointed to the right of him - reflexes factored in a little, but I got real lucky. Next, some dude flew past me wearing see-thru spandex - not cool. I considered stopping just to let him out of eyesight, but I continued to race. There were a bunch of flats, and the first guy I passed looked fairly serious and I felt for him. I needn't have worried because he fixed the flat and nearly caught me on the ride (he passed me during the run). Turns out, he spent a summer working in a bike shop for some resort where 90% of the work was fixing flats. He was fast.

I had trouble finding my spot on the bike rack (need my shoes), so next time I think I'll bring a flag of some sort - it cost me several precious seconds. But I made the transition pretty fast, and headed on the dreaded run. Nick came out just of the finish area just as I was beginning my run, and Sam and Gin both cheered me on as I started my 3 laps around the quad.

I finally felt the dreaded bike/run transition feeling. My legs were heavy and I could only take short, choppy strides. I'd practiced the transition on my own, but this was the first time I actually had a hard (harder than normal) time running. So I settled in for the long haul and watched as people passed me right and left. Other than the really heavy legs, the worst part of the run was a short hill that just sapped my energy.

Oh, the hill and the fact that I'd never practiced drinking water out of a cup while jogging (I can't really say I was running). I almost drowned myself trying to get some water down. The next time I found the trick of pinching the cup so the water comes through a narrow opening - much easier to drink that way.

Right about the third lap I realized I was doing pretty well. My brain didn't work so well when I first started running, but I started to comprehend that I had a chance of breaking the 1:15 barrier right about the beginning of the third (and final) lap. Yeah, I just called it a "barrier", as though I have a bunch of experience doing this. I lengthened my stride a bit and tried to pick up the pace, which worked pretty well down the back stretch. Every time I realized I was reverting to my choppy stride I'd pep myself up, telling myself I only had to keep it up for a few more minutes. I even "flew" up the hill (almost collapsing at the top). I gave a good push, sprinting at a zippy 9 mph or so into the center of the quad to cross the finish line. Sam, Nick and Gin were there, taking pictures and asking if I wanted to run another lap.

My unofficial time was 1:15:25, we'll see what the real time keepers have to say.

All in all, I was very happy with the result. The run went tons better than expected, I enjoyed every minute of the race (thanking every one of volunteers who stopped traffic for us at the intersections). Big kudos to the race organizers.

Now it's time to find the next triathlon.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Big day tomorrow

Well, the triathlon is tomorrow. I've been training for it since December or so, though the trip to Puerto Rico was a big void in the training schedule.

Sam and Nick are also doing the triathlon (Nick and his wife, Reyna, are tag-teaming it), and we're all aiming to finish at about the same time. Sam's biggest hurdle is his slow swim time (he guessed poorly), and Nick's biggest hurdle is his mountain bike. My hurdle is the fact that I'm a slow runner.

So, the big question is who can finish first. I'm rooting for myself, but I've a feeling that Sam will pull through and win on the run. I don't think Nick will be able to overcome his mountain bike handicap.

My goal is 1h30min, which would put me toward the end of my age group (comparing to 2003 results), and about 80 percentile overall. Hmmm.... I've got to get in better shape.