What has been happening? – Part I

Here is a relatively brief update given the preceding period of silence –

I had a little alone time here in PA as my folks and grandpa went to Florida for Spring Break! It was an up and down week for me.  It should have started with a phone interview with “Big Consulting Firm”, but that did not happen, which made me less than positive feeling. I fell off of the regular exercise, I did not run for about a week, the weather went into the cold cold place again with touches of snow, and I got a little cold that I am still fighting off. I almost never get sick so I tend to fight sickness with denial!

Odd timing – my folks came home and I had the phone interview the next day.  That went very well and has my spirits lifted. I am still pursuing some other leads, but I would really be pleased if this one worked out.  I should know more within two weeks or so. I am still a bit under the weather, but I am doing my stretching and exercises and running again.

Running –

That week long break is going to disrupt my first set of goals, but I will keep going and simply make new ones after the 20th.  It is now impractical to meet my frequency goal, and my distance goal, but I might still make the pace goal.  The pace goal was simply 5 runs at or under 9’00/mile pace by 3/20. I got my first one on a two mile run about 11 days ago. Last night I ran 1.4 at a 9’00 pace.  I did not quite make it up the hill after the break and with the sicky feeling, but it was awesome to get out there and run through the first wall of discomfort.  But that gives me two runs towards the goal of 5 at that pace.  I walked for awhile and then ran the last .5 back to my house when “For Whom the Bell Tolls” kicked in.

Tech goodness –

My Lacie 2TB firewire 800 drive arrived and I am very pleased with it.

Lil' Lacie

This allowed me to move all of my data off of the Seagates and reformat those.  They were still formatted for Windows, and had some suspect sectors as well.  Now all my data is not just stored, but actually backed-up. I have not gone to the next next level with off-site back-up but this is good enough for now.

In honor of the new drive, I decided to take the time to learn how to rip my dvds. I am not interested in piracy or anything like that – I just wanted to back-up my tv shows and movies as i already have several damaged disks, and I would like to be able to watch my collections without carrying the disks, and being able to watch on the iPhone and (one day) iPad is also a plus.

I knew that I had the software to do this as I have started this process several times, but got confused and quit.  You need Handbrake, which is free (or something similar).

I finally found a decent enough step-by-step guide online to help me have the “Ah-Ha” moment. For me, the problem was looking at all the files on a dvd and trying to figure out “where is the movie, or episode”.  Even in Handbrake, with a dvd inserted, then mashing “source” you get the same kind of view as in Finder or Windows Explorer – what files to choose?

The “Ah-Ha” moment came in realizing that all I had to do in the source window was select the DVD and click OK.  Then Handbrake would read the DVD and give me new options. For movies, it is pretty simple, you select the longest unit.  For TV shows, you have to do a little leg-work.  Note the total time of the individual eps, then you can select them and get the right names or ep numbers with the right episodes.

Smart folks can probably do cool stuff with all the options, I just left the stock settings and mashed the iPod 5 support button and hit start.  Voila!

These import into iTunes as movies and thus are under the movies tab instead of the TV tab (another good reason for giving your new files good names.) But that is a small issue and they move right on over to the iPhone – which is lovely.

I have not done my whole collection (much of it is still in India) but I did a few seasons of TV and some movies and some comedy shows. Not since the era of cassette tapes and Walkmen have I been able to listen to the comedy stylings of Chris Rock while out walking, but now I can – again!

Lil' Lacie playing with all her Apple buddies

The new iPad has been released and I did have to fight the urge to go get it.  Several things made that simple to do.  That’s a lot of loot to put on credit without a better paying job than the ones I have now. They two key elements I was most excited about did not materialize – the bigger 128 GB HD (which is still very small to me, but much better than 64GB, and a method to access a USB external drive to move data without needing a computer.  That second part was not in the official plans, but I can’t be the only one who is excited about moving into a “Post-PC” world (to quote Steve Jobs).  I can’t go on the road for very long with just a 64 GB HD.  I can go longer with a 128, but it would be best if they just built/released/fixed the interface to allow something like Finder to work on the iPad to move stuff on and off via the USB kit.

And finally, the Otterbox defender case will not be ready for a while yet. As cool as the new little magnetic cover they built is – that is not enough protection to me. I am not sure for whom that would be enough protection.  So, hopefully the universe will align and I will get a new job and Otterbox will release the defender case at about the same time!

Let’s here it for the Goals!

(If you read that to the tune of a little song from Footloose, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa – we are simpatico!)

Last night’s run was awesome.  I had another tech sort of day, followed by some job-hunting tech issues, some more networking, filing some applications, lots of dog walking

Lucas ready for the ride to Hotlanta for T-day 2010

(my normal walks with Lucas and some extras to help a neighbor), and despite the dark and the temp (28!) it was super to finally be free and run at the end of the day.

2.04 miles, 8’55” pace

Iron Maiden, another Ratt two-fer, and then RPG “Paralyzed” to get me into the neighborhood, and T-Rex to smooth me on past the two-mile mark.

The conditioning, regular running schedule, incremental but steady increases in reps and distance, is definitely beginning to pay off. I felt stronger while running, and i felt better after the run. I could feel my muscles working, and i do believe that there is less jiggly stuff on my frame already. I will wait at least a month to do the next set of photos for comparison, but i can tell you that i am feeling good.

I am on track to at least meet, if not overcome my frequency goal – only 9 more runs by 3/20.

I am a little behind on the distance right now, but i calculated for 2 mile runs, 14 times by 3/20. This was my first 2+ mile run since i began these challenges.  Perhaps i will make up the difference, perhaps not. I do think i can meet the goal, but not exactly as planned. I will probably have to do at least one extra run to close the gap. We shall see…

Probably my favorite milestone is the pace. I set a goal of 5 runs at 9’/mile pace or better by 3/20 and this is my first notch on that post. I am not doing anything intentional pace-wise during the runs. I do what feels good, and i do try to keep it somewhat even on the hills. But the rest is just instinct.

I want to keep up the program and build steadily and sustainably – but i think i am nearing one of the key goals: at least 20 minutes of cardio exercise at my active heart rate. This last run was about 18 minutes. I was probably at the target heart rate for 12-15 minutes of that. Based on that, it looks like i need to build to at least 3-4 miles at a pace between 8’45”-9’00” to really hit the zone.

Anyway, it feels good and i feel good too.

User Error, or Eat Your Words Fool!

Voice Over on the Shuffle – it works great.  I was terribly wrong.

You know what really helps hardware work correctly? Downloading and installing the proper software!

Somehow, i did not fully activate Voice Control before i dissed it as having a limited capability.

I fixed that and it works great.

In my defense, i did fix the printer yesterday…

I have uploaded the new version of the resume to RAI for view and download. Yesterday’s task – struggling with the one remaining “working” Windows system we have at RAI to review the MINDS and RAI websites.

The Last RAI Windows machine

I never use Internet Explorer, not even when i only had Windows computers, but loads of the people will view these sites that way, so it is potentially worthwhile to ensure that the sites do not look too bad.

Sadly, my old Dell died so i have to use my dad’s which has his customizations and the system hog Norton/Symantec suite and a bunch of other less than useful Windows garbage clogging up the works…

A terrible thought has been in the back of my mind for almost two years now, as the Dells began to die and we began to move to Apple. It is possible that i may have to buy another damn Windows computer just for checking out website designs! I know about some of the alternatives, but i am not putting Windows on my Mac, it is bad enough that i am forced to use Word and occasionally PowerPoint.

Pardon my frustration release but i fought with this half of the day.  One of the little things that just pisses me off royally about Microsoft is their total lack of responsibility or acceptance of the issues they refuse to fix. Without getting into that whole can of worms, here is an example of the attitude to which i refer by way of a brief story.

The only reason i needed to do so much web work is because Internet Explorer does not display webpages/code the same way every other browser i am aware of does.  I commonly check my work in at least three browsers – firefox, safari, opera and/or chrome. So far, things always look the same in each of these, but something is always off when i check IE. Granted, i am a much better developer than designer, but if i can make it look right in 3 or 4 others what’s the problem over in Microsoft town? So, i am reviewing lines of code trying to see if i can even figure out why things are mussed and i notice this little button on iE i have never seen before. I hover over it and it says something like “Compatibility mode – websites designed to look good in older browsers may not look right in IE.”

The balls on these frackin’ guys! Older Browsers! The other guys’ old products just can’t keep pace with the innovators over at Microsoft! I hear that the crack team of code monkeys over there are about to fix some of the security flaws in Windows 3.1!!! Seriously, IE is one of the oldest browsers on our planet. Sure, they do update it, but so does everyone else.  Firefox, Chrome – older than IE?  I don’t think so you bullet dodging, pass the buck, we hide our code so you can’t see how terrible it is…people.

I don’t bag on Microsoft just because it is easy, or because i am a Mac guy, or because it is popular, or anything like that. They have all the money in the world and still refuse – simply refuse – to make software and particularly Operating Systems that work.  If you are one of the people who thinks vista or “7” is great and finally has Windows on-track – let me ask you this? Have you been able to replace the sound card on a one-year old system without fighting IRQ problems for hours or weeks? OK – i am done for now.


Anyway – i finished (for now) with the RAI site. There are still some tweaks i would like to do (that list never ends) but i did clean things up a good deal and updated some info. It looks pretty good on “older browsers”.

The left-hand menu spacing is still fracked up in IE, but it does look better over there than it did before…

Running into Fire(wire)

We have cold, rain, and snow in the local forecast this week.  Yesterday was chilly, but sunny and i decided to sneak in another run.  Three days in a row at this stage is probably not the best idea, but i did ok and feel fine. I did have to stop a little shy of the mark i hit the previous two runs, but all-in-all, a good run.

1.83 miles, pace 9’04” – these numbers mean i am making good progress towards the goals i set.

Techwise, i am up against a space crunch, an improper/incomplete back-up system, and a sincere desire to take advantage of the speed and capabilities offered by my Mac.

My 1TB external Seagate drive is full. My 500GB external Seagate drive is about half full.  My 320 GB external Seagate drive is full (and still in India). The 1TB is all movies and tv shows, and it is not backed-up, it is simply storage. The 500GB does replicate critical stuff from my HD so it does serve as a backup.  Both of these are USB 2.0 drives.  Not the fastest things out there and they take 2 USB ports. While i do/have travel/ed with one or both of these, they are not the most portable things out there.  I usually wrap them in towels inside my luggage.

I have never played with firewire before, but i do know a little about it and what has always been the most attractive feature to me – even more than the fast transfer speeds – is the ability to daisy chain the drives together.  You plug your first firewire drive into your computer’s firewire port, and the next drive gets plugged into the first drive and so forth

After loads of research, i have this drive from iomega on the wish list.  It got super reviews and survived amazing amounts of damage and still functioned. Seriously, watch the video on that link. The firewire 800 version is almost $200 for a 1TB model. That is a big chunk of change to throw down to not meet my back-up needs.

Which led me to the old stand-by – Lacie. After some interwebs research, and then a check on all the local stores, i made an online purchase last night that gives me great pleasure – the Lacie 2TB Quadra External Hard Disk Drive!

I will be able to back-up all my current files, and have a little room to grow as well. By the time i need more space, i should be able to get another 2TB for less than $100, or 4TB or more for about the same price. And hopefully, by the time i am in need of a small, portable, rugged external drive for travel, the iomega w/firewire will have a larger storage capacity.  If not, 1TB to travel with should be fine, and it can plug into the Lacie Quadra!

I hope to transition into a true desktop system at home and an iPad on the road with no laptop.  The jury (and the capability) is not yet in for how the iPad will be able to interact with portable external storage without recourse to another computer. Maybe that issue will be resolved before it comes up for me as well.

I will be listening for official news about the iPad2, which should come out today! (The official news, not the device)

Who loves the Postman?

I DO!!

The goodies from Emirates Air arrived today (Monday Feb 28)! The umbrella is surprisingly cool, but the highlight is definitely the two iPod Shuffles!

I showed my pop how to set his up and reviewed playlist creation best practices – manual and “smart”.

I went through the same thing with mine and tested it out on a dog walk. So far mixed feelings about the “voice over” feature. I guess tech has to start somewhere and it can’t know the names of all my playlists, but having a computer say to me “playlist 1, playlist 2…” and so forth, was less than helpful. This is my first iPod that does not have a visual interface for data selection, and I imagine that this “voice control” is the first way that “works” that they came up with to help you have any navigation options at all. I will probably stick with one giant “running” playlist and leave it on shuffle.

Dog walk you say? I could not let that stand. I went for a dark and damp run about 9 pm. Sweats, light rain jacket, headband thingy and headlamp – and the new shuffle.

The thing is so tiny you forget it is there.  Once you get used to how to attach it to your clothes without mashing all the buttons, it is simple to use. Running hands-free was great and eliminated any unwanted cord movement problems as well. I really enjoyed this vs carrying my iPod classic. I got hit with a little Sabbath during my stretches, Pixies, back-to-back Ratt, RPG, and Nirvana for the cool-down.

I made it back into the neighborhood and a little further than yesterday. I did feel like i could easily make it to 2 miles+, but i was beginning to have some heat in my legs and i decided to hold back.  Hopefully this means that tomorrow i will feel as awesome as i felt today and be able to run again instead of being laid out from overreaching…

1.89 miles, pace 9’12”

The Pretty Lil' Devil

Who Loves The Sandman? Me, me!

Lil’ Agnes (the new thermarest) is really super. I had some minor hesitation when i had to buy this instead of simply replacing Big Agnes. Yesterday before sleep-time i had a brief email chat with my dear bud (and personal AT through-hiker) Jake. Jake was excited that i was done with Big A and into the thermarest.  How much more of an endorsement do you need than a vote of confidence from someone who walks most of the AT every summer? How about a second commendation from a professional caver?! Rene gave thermarest the big thumbs up and praised its endurance.

I not only felt great stretched out on it for some pre-sleep reading, i had fantastic dreams and woke up refreshed and excited.

One more piece of the puzzle may be the addition of one of these bad boys. This product is so simple, but what an awesome idea!

If you have a sleeping pad, or other inflatable gear, watch this demo!

Back to the Run – and other news

I ran 1.8 miles, pace 9’17”. It was a nice experience to be back out there. The weather was confusing. We had a lovely bright and sunny day in the 40s that could even feel like 50 when the wind died down. As soon as i was dressing to run, clouds rolled in and blocked the sun. I dressed warm and was fine half the run and hot the rest. Them’s the breaks.

The shuffle feature worked out well for me today with a dash of T-Rex to start things off, into Soundgarden 4th of July, into Fugazi Faucet Squared. I was hoping to get to 2 miles today, but i did make it all the way back into my neighborhood. Not too shabby after an unintentional break.

When i uploaded to nike i decided to check back in with the goals section.  It is actually kinda neat. I only have two data points since establishing the goals, but it tells me at a glance how i am doing comparatively.  I am only one run behind, though almost 3.5 miles behind.  The pace goal may also be tough to meet – but if i keep up with the conditioning, i might make it.  If not, i will keep striving for it.  As a refresher, the pace goal is 1 mile, under 9′ pace, 4 times, by March 20.

We shall call her Lil' Agnes

In other news, i had a great experience at REI today.  I came to REI late, mostly because they were never located nearby.  But after doing some outfitting there last summer, i am converted. I took leaky Big Agnes with me and a clerk and i inspected it together and agreed that it was the valve. I did not have my receipt, but they found the purchase through my member number. They did not have any more of the same model, but they did have a similar product by Thermarest. I was initially bummed as the Thermarest was an additional 40 beans. But, i have been on the floor for two nights and wanted that streak to end.  If i don’t like it, i can take this with me to another REI on my next NOVA trip and exchange it there and get my loot back.  That’s good service!

After many hours of creation, my dad and i finished editing my new, four page resume tonight. I have sent it out to the necessary parties and am excited about the next steps.  The finished product is actually pretty good.  I like it better than the one-pager by far. I will change out what is on the RAI website and make this one downloadable as well, but i do not have the mental energy for that tonight. If you are burning with curiosity, let me know and i will put it in your hot little hands!

Perhaps i shall have some more time and energy to write tomorrow.

Sleep well people of the interwebs!

More odds and ends

I do have several substantive posts either brewing in my head or shaping up in outline form – but have not had/used the time to get that stuff down. Brief highlights follow…

I had an awesome meeting in the DC region with a family friend high up in “Big Consulting Firm”.  I got some excellent practical advice on the job hunt in general and pursuing a job with this company.  Also got some great intel on other good possibilities with firms that we know are hiring right now. This firm wants a fairly exhaustive long form resume, so i have spent the past few days turning my one-pager into a 4 pager.  Final edits to happen momentarily and then get sent out.

I may have to position myself somewhere in NOVA/DC for a week or so to be more prepared/available for meetings, and i have some things in the works for that – though input an/or floor space is appreciated.

Speaking of floor space, Big Agnes has an undetectable leak somewhere 🙁  It has been getting worse the past week and Thursday, when i woke up at 4 to get ready for the trip to DC, my back was killing me.  She is less than a year old.  She has been backpacking twice and spent a grand total of 2 nights in use in the woods. She has acted as my portable mattress for about two weeks. I cannot find the receipt, but hopefully i can still get some help at REI.  That trip will happen today after the resume edits.

Big Agnes looking after some of my books

Another time sucker – i found where you can play the Original Legend of Zelda online! I loved this game and spent many many hours playing it with my dad back when it came out around 1986.  But i think the Nintendo folks have a Microsoft bias even in online gaming!  I have not gotten the game to load in Chrome. I can play in Firefox, but the graphics are just jerky enough to get you occasionally killed. It works very well in Seamonkey.  But – in all of these, the java applet mechanism that allows you to save your game and quit your browser and come back in later – that does not quite work out.  I can see a java screen flash momentarily with the save code, but it goes away very quickly and i have not been able to actually recover a prior game.  I tried just leaving the game on pause.  This worked out well on the overnight in Seamonkey. (The Mac still goes to sleep and manages the power well.) I have not tried Safari yet – but i might, just as an experiment.

The brief return of snow put a kink in my renewed running.  I was eager to go, but the roads were a little too slushy/icy.  It looks good for today though! I have kept up with the daily stretching and at least once daily (though frequently twice daily) floor exercises.  I have been increasing my reps as well.  I am up to 18 push-ups, 55 crunches, 55 leg lifts, and 50 twisty crunches.  I am still weighing in at 187.

Hope you all out there participating through the series of tubes are rocking out.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abe Lincoln – via Mike Birbiglia

More Running and Gadgets!

Despite a return to colder weather and loads of wind, i nabbed another run late this afternoon.

1.7 miles – 9’15” pace

I did slow down going up the hill, but i made it up and made it almost back into the neighborhood.

While running, it was my breath that felt taxed near the end.  My legs felt great.  As soon as i switched to walking, my breath was fine and my legs began to burn a bit.  But the cool-down walk and then stretch session calmed that down.

It is early to speculate, but i think that having a more dedicated and slightly more rigorous program is helping this time around. I must say that the music is definitely helping as well.

I do not expect that this will have an impact, but i did set some goals inside the nike+ online thingy where your numbers go.  I just set the same goals there that i have in my head, but we’ll see.

The big reveal – i want to run at least every other day – so 14 times in 4 weeks.  I want to be running a minimum of two miles – so 30 miles in 4 weeks.  I want to run better than 9 minute miles – so 4 miles under 9 minute mile pace in 4 weeks.

Them’s the goals for now.

Back to the tunes. Today also started out with RPG “Right On”.  This is the first track on the running playlist, so each run starts with it before the shuffle thingy kicks in.  At least i think that is how it works, today is only the second time i have ever used shuffle.  But i am ok with that.  I love all the RPG songs, and this is one they played back in my era also.

I had to skip a few tracks (too slow – need to edit list) and then “Like Suicide” kicked in. Not just a good song, lots of great memories.  I went to a show at American University in DC during the Superunknown tour around 94(?) with one of my good friends/love interests. Let’s just call her Marie.  I was desperately hoping for them to play “4th of July”, which they did not but they did play “like suicide”.  The “sad” songs always call to me.  They do not make me feel sad, depressed, or suicidal or anything like that.  They just resonate better with me.  I think it may be similar to the Metal effect for me.  People used to ask if playing loud angry metal made me extra aggressive.  Truthfully it has the exact opposite effect on me.  I left all that at the show and got filled with peace. Anyway – it was a great show and has many great memories attached to it.

Earlier in the day, my dad told me about an email from Emirates Air.  He had qualified for one of a few free flights or some really nice upgrades, but they all expire on Feb 28th. The stuff on Emirates is all business related and we are partners and my pop is a nice guy, so we looked at the options together.  Neither of us can use this before the 28th so we looked at the other ways to spend the miles.  The cash equivalency is always poor, but you can get stuff you want for “free”. In 7-10 days, 2 iPod shuffles will arrive. My pop wants his for the gym and i will love to clip mine on for the running.  Thanks Emirates!

Doin' the Shuffle

PS – i highly recommend that you go back and re-listen to Ratt!  Both Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy really stand the test of time!

Fitness Update

It was beautiful, but i skipped the run yesterday in favor of a leg rest. I feel good, but a few of my leg muscles are a bit stiff. It was like this in the beginning back in October as well. Hopefully it will pass. I did of course still get in about 6 miles of dog walking.

Instead of the run, i doubled up on the floor exercises – morning and evening – 15 push-ups, 40 twisty crunches, 40 crunches, 40 leg lifts.

I also did three long stretching sessions to stay loose.

187 on the scale – already in better shape than this guy…

Yosemite - Valley Floor Loop - Spring 2009

But i could still climb…

Descent - Yosemite Falls - Spring 2009

Today i have a two and half mile walk and the morning session of stretching and exercise knocked out.  Again with the 15/40/40/40.  It is lovely outside, but quite windy.  Should be a fun run afternoon…

The Weight

As i have said – the numbers are not important of themselves.  Even with the current state of flab, i am not in too bad of shape.  I want to lose some of the extra cushion around the middle, and tighten up the legs, arms and buns.

I did hover around 197 over the winter, but i did not weigh often, nor under the same circumstances each time.

For the sake of geeky dedication to detail and fascination with data – i weighed myself after a shower, after morning exercises, and in the birthday suit on the 16th – 191.  On the 17th after a shower, after the run, and in the B-day suit – 189.

I think i have 5-10 pounds of flab.  I am about 6 feet tall, so even 200 or 210 could be fine depending on if that was muscle or fat.  I expect that after a good season of exercise and running i will probably be about 185, but will have converted flab to muscle.

We shall see…

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