Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Ate Rudolph

I head back to the aiport in a few minutes, but I did manage to eat reindeer for dinner before leaving!  Where I've been staying all week:

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Most of Today

Obligatory beach photos.  We were at Nova Icaria, right next to Bogatell.

Plenty of Jokes Here..

This is a giant sign atop an office building I just walked by (somewhere near the Espanya metro station):

Disabled person with a cane?  Asian man urinating?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brush With Greatness

Mohand told me earlier today how -- less than 2 weeks ago, when returning to Paris from our sales consulting meeting in San Mateo -- he sat next to a girl on a leg of his flight that had quite the story. He said she used to be a star tennis player, and then went to work on Wall Street. She picked up biking kind of out of the blue...and has done quite well very quickly. We did some Googling: it is Evelyn Stevens. She got second at the Route de France today, with a stage win yesterday!

The WSJ apparently covered her a few days ago: Evelyn Stevens, American's Next Great Female Cyclist

It looks like she didn't even buy a bike until early 2008. (!!!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

These Signs Really Exist(ed)

I saw a post on Mark Perry's (a UM-Flint professor) blog a few days ago. It includes a sign up in the parking lot of the now-demolished Buick City plant in Flint. Buick City is the one full car production plant that I've been on a tour of (other tours were AC Spark Plug and Delphi parts plants):

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Caffeine Deficit

When flying to Winnipeg last week, I read this in the the WSJ I brought along:

And Starbucks Corp., famous for saturating U.S. cities with its storefronts, has only four left in this city of 900,000 after closures last summer.

The full story is called Retailers Head for Exits in Detroit, and it details how it is kind of hard to make a city attractive to live in when there is a very small (and getting smaller) set of retailers actually still doing business. There is a good slide show (including one of the now-abandoned Starbucks) associated with the article: Detroit's Retail Exodus

Going to, it looks like Austin has nearly 50 locations (in a city of 650k).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stanky Leg Makes NPR

NPR is catching up to last year! Minutes ago, I heard All Things Considered doing some follow-up (in response to listener mail) about a piece they did yesterday ('Is YouTube The New MTV?') on how YouTube is changing the music industry. The example they used?

The Stanky Leg!

Jen and her girls heard this song last summer when driving up to Dallas to Patrick's lake house.  We've watched the video on YouTube many many times, along with a bunch of the resulting fan videos.  They must have heard it shortly after it came out: the G-Spot Boyz are out of Dallas, and we heard it billed as a 'brand new song' in other parts of the country months later.

I found it on Rhapsody months after the girls heard it, although it seems to be listed as the 'Stanky Legg' there.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Real Ale Mishaps

This past weekend was the annual Real Ale Ride, sponsored by (and leaving from) the Real Ale brewery in Blanco, TX.  I rode this last year for the first time, and really like it: it's very scenic and probably the most challenging ride in the area (at least that I have done) due to the hills.  There are plenty of them, and some nasty (short and steep grades, as well as multi-mile steady climbs).  Plus, the ride ends with catered BBQ and two Real Ale beers back at the brewery.

The problems started before the ride itself.  I tried let myself sleep in later on Saturday (it is nearly an hour drive to get there, and we were supposed to arrive by 7 AM) by loading up the car Friday night.  As I started to take off the front wheel, I heard some metal on metal clinking noise.  Looking down, I saw that one of my front wheel spokes was dangling free, totally unhooked from the hub.  I worried that it was broken (I wouldn't want to ride on it then), but it looked fine.  I thought maybe the spoke had loosened up enough to come unhooked, and that I could re-hook it, tighten it back down, and be all set.  Nope.  It turns out that it was unhooked because a whole chunk of the hub flange that the spoke hooks into was broken off.

I have no idea how or when this happened.  I hadn't ridden the bike at all since the Austin Cycling Association Armadillo Classic a few weeks ago, and it definitely wasn't this way then.  I assume it had fatigued to the point  of almost breaking, and the actual break must have happened when I was loading or unloading it after the ACA ride.  This makes me wonder about these Rolf Sestriere wheels, as I had to replace the back wheel 2 summers ago because of a crack in that hub flange, as discussed in this post from August 2007.

I considered bailing on the ride entirely, but Jen talked me in to still going, but riding my mountain bike.  Rather than doing the 85 mile route that I planned, I thought I'd step down to the 50 mile route.  I did the 65 mile route last year.  Jane was riding with a bunch of T3 friends, and they were planning on doing the 85.  The ride organizers published the routes on MapMyRide.  The 50 mile route looks like this:

The plan was to ride with Jane until the 50 mile route diverged from the 85 mile route, and then be off on my own.  Last year, the ride started markedly late -- late enough that the delay plus my slow riding forced me to do the 65 mile route, not clearing a checkpoint in time.  The 85 mile route was to start at 7:30, with each shorter distance forming its own wave, staggered by 15 minutes per interval (7:45 for 65 miles, 8:00 for 50 miles, etc.).  At 7:30, no waves had yet been sent.  It looked like the organizers were running a few minutes behind, as last year.  A bunch of people decided to go ahead and just go at 7:30 anyway, and we tagged along.  We cruised right along, making pretty good time.  The 50 mile route broke away from the 65 and 85 (Jane & Co. had decided to back down to the 65 mile route during this time) about 1 hour into the ride.  I bid them adieu and was off on my own.

I expected to be riding pretty solo for quite a while: I had left with 85 milers (so ahead of the 50 mile wave), in and 85 mile group that left ahead of when the 85 milers were officially sent, and the real 50 mile group would probably ride somewhat slower than people who do the 85.  Given this, I thought it might be a while before the fastest 50 milers caught up to me.  I rode...and rode...and rode....and then started to wonder if something was amiss.  I hadn't seen another rider in a long time (aside from a few individual riders that seemed to be random locals lacking numbers, rather than fellow Real Ale riders), and I also hadn't seen any Real Ale signs along the road.  I had been riding on the same road for a long time, and so thought that maybe there were no signs because we were just supposed to keep trucking along on this road out a long ways before being sent on some sort of loop back around.

After about an hour of riding like this, I concluded I had screwed up somewhere.  I pulled over at the next cross road and called Jen, who was still back at my house.  I asked her to grab the route map included in the ride packet (it was still sitting out in the kitchen), and and we tried to figure out where I was.  I could see that the cross street was West Ammann Road, but the road I had been riding on was not labeled.  Without being able to tell her an intersection, she was having a hard time finding me on the printed map or by playing on Google Maps.  I didn't even know what town I was in.  I asked a passing solo biker (not a Real Ale rider) if he knew what the main road was that we were on, and he wasn't sure if its name either.  By telling Jen roads I did remember seeing in the past, though, she concluded that I was well south of the official route.  I started back the way I came, thinking that -- worst case -- I would get back to where the 50 diverged from the 65 and 85 and find the real route that way.  Sure enough, several miles on the way back, I found the 50 mile route looping back onto the road was on, joining me up with the actual 50 mile route and other 50 mile bikers.

One downside to riding off route for so long was that there were no rest stops.  I didn't stop at a rest stop until I rejoined the 50 mile route, and this was probably 3.5 hours into the ride.  That was the only one I stopped at the whole ride, as I didn't want to waste any more time; I had no idea how far off route I had gone.  I eventually finished (3912 calories later, or so the HRM watch said), loaded my bike into the car, and made my way back to the food.  I had some brisket, sausage, potato salad, ice cream (given away free by some separate stand), some Sweat Leaf peach tea, and two Real Ale beers.  They produce several beers, including a few that I had never seen (as they are not available in bottles).  Their Rio Blanco Pale Ale is probably Jen's favorite beer, and they had plenty of that.  I tried two of the draught-only selections that I hadn't seen before: the Roggenbier and the Dunkelroggen.  Both were pretty good, or at least seemed to be after that ride!  They also had a small keg of Ginger Soda, from which I pumped a glass.  Pretty good drink for a sunny, warm (mid 90s, at this point) day.

When I got home, I messed around on Google Maps to figure out what I had done and how far off route I had gone.  When I doubled back, I never did see (for certain) the turn that I originally missed.  Looking at the route map back at home, I think that I messed up right where the 50 mile route diverged from the others in Kendalia: I took 3351, and it looks like I was supposed to take a turn for Edge Falls Road at roughly the same spot.  The route map shows riders taking Edge Falls in Kendalia, which loops back onto 3351 several miles later, which riders then take north to head back to Kendalia.  In my case, I never took Edge Falls at all, heading south on 3351 from Kendalia.  I rode past where Edge Falls joined up with 3351, but being so early, there were no riders around to see at that intersection; it was pretty much a ghost town when I rode by the first time.  On this map, I marked the excess south riding I must have done: from the 3351/Edge Falls intersection down to where I actually made it.  It is 8.1 miles farther south than the southmost spot of the real route.  Taking 3351 south looks to be slightly longer than Edge Falls, so I must have tacked on 17 or 18 extra miles beyond the slated 50...making my route longer than the next higher bracket (65).  Oops.

View Larger Map

The next day, I took my busted front wheel by Bicycle Sport Shop to see what (if anything) could be done about the front wheel.  A guy in service said that it would (in theory) be possible to replace the busted hub and respoke it...but that it didn't make much sense in this case, given that this wheel had been out of production for years, and so a replacement hub would be hard to find.  Plus, this is an 8 year old wheel with thousands of miles on it -- probably not worth going to heroic lengths to save.  So, I resigned myself to having to replace it, just as I had to when the rear cracked 2 years ago.  When the rear cracked, I replaced it with a Bontrager X-Lite.  I expected to replace the front with another X-Lite, bringing me back to finally having a matching wheel set again.  As it turns out, the X-Lite was redesigned (and improved) in 2008, so the new front will be a generation newer than the back one...but unfortunately also a different color.  The 2007 model on the back is black.  The current generation X-Lite is an anodized pewter color.

One thing that totally sucks: in searching for information on the X-Lite, I found an eBay listing for a previous generation (2007) Bontrager X-Lite clincher...being sold by Bicycle Sport Shop!  They were liquidating back inventory, presumably trying to rid themselves of the previous generation model.  Too bad; it was cheaper ($230) and still new, whereas the current generation has an MSRP of $400.  The coupon included in the Real Ale Ride packet for 20% off at Bicycle Sport Shop is going to come in handy...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Hit The Trifecta

I noticed this post from mid-March on Stuff White People Like.  The post talks about how white people love the show Mad Men.  Check out this section:
A proper reference to Arrested Development or the lending of a Wire Season on DVD are considered two of the easiest and most cost effective ways of getting a white person to like you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Almost Stepped On..

This is getting posted later than I planned, as I procrastinated in getting the pictures off the camera.  Check out what Joe almost stepped on when we were hiking in Buescher State Park last weekend:

That is a coral snake .  Check out this portion from the Wikipedia entry:

New World coral snakes possess the second most potent venom of any North American snake

Unfortunately, it also says:

The sole manufacturer of Eastern and Texas Coral Snake Antivenom, Wyeth, has ceased production of this product and it is estimated that all remaining in-date stocks of Coral Snake Antivenom in the United States will be exhausted between October and December, 2008

Absent the antivenom (emphasis mine),

Victims of Eastern and Texas Coral snakebite should be transported as soon as possible to a tertiary level hospital which can provide constant monitoring of neurological and respiratory symptoms for 24 hours or more and if these symptoms occur be ready and able to sedate, endotracheally intubate and mechanically ventilate such patients for up to a week or until neurological and respiratory paralysis resolves.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Imagine If This Were Population Weighted

U-Haul's list of top destinations (based on the number of inbound U-Haul rentals) for 2008:

Austin is #9..and if you notice, it's a hell of a lot smaller than pretty much every other city on the list.  Austin is slightly larger than Portland within city limits, but Portland's metro area has a significantly higher population.  Kansas City is the same story (smaller city, bigger metro population).  I'm actually typing this from #13.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pieces Come Together

I have plans to hop up in the attic (only when Jen is here, lest I fall and can't get up -- she made me promise!) at some point and wire a few rooms for networking.  Brandon did this a good while back, and had plenty of advice on what to do and not do.  I think my job would be somewhat easier, as my house is just 1 storey, whereas his is two.  I ordered a ton (1000') of Cat6 cable from Monoprice (cheap!), along with a bunch of 4-up plates and jacks from Firefold.  They arrived yesterday:

There is also a 100' spool of 12 gauge speaker cable that came with part of the order.  That is another project that would happen somewhat in parallel: I am going to add a pair of outdoor speakers on the patio, driven by my Sonos ZonePlayer 100 (it has an integrated 55 watt amp).  Crawling around in the attic is going to be unpleasant enough that I'll probably try to get all of this (wiring the network cable, wiring the speakers) in one major effort.

Sonos, by the way, is awesome.  Jen got me the first generation (ZP 80, ZP 100, CR 100) bundle for Christmas.  It works like a charm, and when it didn't -- the ZP 80 hooked up to my stereo amp kept disappearing off of the network after 1-3 days -- I filed a trouble ticket on the Sonos support site.  They said online tickets would be responded to within 24 hours.  They responded to mine in probably closer to 30 minutes.  They provided detailed instructions on how to run a particular diagnostic procedure, asking for the results (a simple blinking or non-blinking of the ZP 80's light after a sequence of button presses).  They said that if the result went a particular way (non-blinking, in this case), I should call the support number to continue.  I called, and was speaking to a human after a wait time of literally 5 seconds (maybe less!).  He asked me to run another test, and upon hearing the result, asked for the serial off of the bottom of the unit.  He said the test confirmed that it was a hardware issue, and they would send me a prepaid shipping label via email.  Once my unit was received, a new unit would be shipped to me.  The trouble ticketing system sent me an update when my unit was received at their returns site, and a replacement was shipped that day or the next.  I was without the ZP 80 for probably just a week, and the unit they sent is working fine (no issues at all).

Now, I just need to get an iTouch to use as an additional controller.  The Sonos controller application for the iPhone/iTouch: slicker than the CR 100 unit itself!

AeroGarden First Use

A few posts ago, I put up a picture of the AeroGarden and all of the herbs growing like crazy in it.  As of now, it looks like this -- note the center back row:

The herb that has been radically trimmed down is the basil.  Jen harvested 2 cups of leaves off of it to make a recipe for 'sweet basil noodles'.  Here is Jen, kneading the dough.  Note the use of a step stool just to work at the kitchen island!

They are laid out to dry and harden before being used.  We let them dry last night like this:

To see if they worked at all, we boiled a few of them last night after about an hour of drying.  Not bad!  They are all sealed away in a plastic bin at the moment, waiting to be used...

Getting Dumber By The Day..

I had no idea I was already a decade past my mental peak! :(  From Open Education :

According to the research of Professor Timothy Salthouse of Virginia University, the slide towards old age intellectually begins as we reach our late 20s. Salthouse found that our mental powers actually peaked at age 22 and that both speed of thought and spatial visualization skills begin declining at age 27.

At least Jen is just barely on the down slope!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elvis' Vicar

I had the pleasure of having dinner on Monday night with my old college roommate, 'the' Mike Cavino.  He is well.

Mike has also been indulging his love for another artist (Bruce Springsteen) via membership in a Springsteen tribute band: Lost In The Flood

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chocolate Doggies

Jen picked up chocolate version of Lucy & Ethel at a new chocolatier on 2nd Street, Teuscher .

I haven't been in there yet myself, but looking over their website, I am curious to finally try somewhere with the Clover .  I read a while back about Starbucks experimenting with the machine, but it seems they only have it in a handful of shops in 4 cities (Austin not among them).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Green Thumb (Hopefully)

I haven't ever grown anything edible at home until quite recently.  I almost bought Laura an AeroGarden as part of Christmas: I had seen it at Costco for $170, but including some extras (an extra seed pod pack and an extra set of bulbs) that were not included with the same model when I saw it at Bed Bath & Beyond for basically the same price.  I didn't end up buying it then.  Shortly after the holidays, though, I saw it at Costco again...for $99!  This is the AeroGarden 6 Elite .  It has been in my kitchen, stocked with the 'Gourmet Herb Seed Kit ' since probably the middle of January.  Here is it as of now:

A few days ago, Jen and I saw a TV commercial for the Topsy Turvy .  It's basically an flexible cylinder in which you can grow tomatoes (or several other things) upside down, hanging from a normal hanging flower basket hook.  It was being offered for the standard '2 for $19.99', but the As Seen On TV section of my local Walgreens had it as well (a single for $11).  I now have two tomato seedlings (a Big Boy and a Bonnie Select Hybrid) growing (hopefully) on my back porch:

I was on an infomercial rampage: I even picked up Aqua Globes !

Spring is Nearly Here...

My Bradford Pear tree is starting to flower...

During this past Saturday's Pedal Thru The Pines ride, Jen and I spotted our first bluebonnets of the season as well..

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Austin Grand Prix

I'm trying to volunteer to time in the Friday AM session of the Austin Grand Prix.  This meet is part of a series put on by USA Swimming to:

The USA Swimming Grand Prix Series serves as an opportunity for athletes to race against top-notch competition as they continue their preparation for the 2009 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis and the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome. The last two stops of the Grand Prix series are in Charlotte, N.C., and Santa Clara, Calif.

The prelims are SCY, with finals LCM.  Even though it would be nice to see 'who wins' each event in the finals, the prelims would be a lot more interesting for me to watch, given that I have so little LCM experience.  Short course yards (SCY) is the format (25 yard lengths) that is used in high school and college; long course meters (LCM, 50 meter lengths) is used for international competition and part of the year for USS club competition.  Watching people this fast swim long course is really cool, and it's crazy how fast they are going...but it's nice to be able to directly compare how crazy fast they are when they are doing SCY.  

A bunch of big names (no Phelps, though) will be there.  Several are mentioned in the press release: Torres, Piersol to Compete at Austin Grand Prix

Knowing I wasn't going to be able to make evening practice today, I went to the noon session instead.  We were in the diving well, and swimmers in town for the Grand Prix were getting some warm up in over in half of the main pool.  Towards the end of workout, I spotted Bob Bowman giving direction to Katie Hoff...

The Middle Ages Return!

From the 'it would be funny if it was an Onion story', I meant to refer to this a few weeks ago when I first saw this.  I kept procrastinating, and now find myself in sitting in Pacha with a few minutes to kill before a 6:30 happy hour.  Apparently, indulgences are making a comeback: For Catholics, A Door to Absolution is Reopened

Check out this awesome circular rationale:

“Why are we bringing it back?” asked Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who has embraced the move. “Because there is sin in the world.”

I hadn't realized that it was actually John Paul II that brought them back (in 2000), but it is Benedict who is really opening the gate further.  I suppose this is no surprise, given Cardinal Ratzinger's rep as a conservative traditionalist, and his pre-papacy role being something akin to a 'doctrine whip '.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bad Company To Be In

I saw this interesting link on Secular Right about a group challenging some Arkansas law still on the books (not generally enforced) barring nonbelievers from holding elected office.

I thought to myself 'well, it is Arkansas!'  Unfortunately, the same link mentions that similar laws are also on the books in Tennessee and...Texas.  Ouch!  Volokh has a deeper dive on the same topic.  There, I learned a bit more about the Texas case: it's in the state constitution!  The official link for the Texas Constitution shows Article I (Bill of Rights), Section 4 (Religious Tests) as:

Sec. 4.  RELIGIOUS TESTS. No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

Whack.  I had no idea it was enshrined in our state constitution!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snuggie Pub Crawl

If we're lucky, maybe the concept will come to Austin as well.  Laura sent me this link from Chicago (a fellow Lincoln Park resident, no less!): Snuggie Pub Crawl Coming

This quote in the story is right on the money:

"This is so wrong, but it feels so right," one commenter gushed on the Web site.

More at the official pub crawl site...In other As Seen On TV news, I just saw a box (8 large, 8 small) of ShamWow! at my local Costco ($27.99, for the curious).  Wikipedia even has an entry on Vince from the commercials!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Women Get Bigger, Playmates Get Trimmer

FlowingData had a reference to a Wired graphic that shows the trends (1954-2008) in the body mass index (BMI) of 20-29 year old women in the general US population versus the trending of the BMI of Playboy Playmates over the same span.

This small image is a bit hard to read, so the full Wired story has it as a Flash graphic that supports zooming.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Glad Jen Isn't One!

A NYT story called It's The Economy, Girlfriend is both entertaining and revolting reading.  I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for the guys or not, as they would have known what they were getting themselves into with these women.

A brief few lines from the NYT story, to give an idea of the content:
In addition to meeting once or twice weekly for brunch or drinks at a bar or restaurant, the group has a blog, billed as “free from the scrutiny of feminists,” that invites women to join “if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life.”
Theirs is not the typical 12-step program.
Step 1: Slip into a dress and heels. Step 2: Sip a cocktail and wait your turn to talk. Step 3: Pour your heart out. Repeat as needed.
About 30 women, generally in their mid- to late-20s, regularly post to the Web site or attend meetings.

It's a quick 2 page read, go check it out and barf.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Snuggie is a Hit

We first saw ads for this shortly before Thanksgiving.  It was in heavy rotation on Thanksgiving itself -- we saw it many times while at Jen's parents.  The Snuggie is basically a fleece blanket with arms, one size fits all.  The infomercial has plenty of images of whole families sitting around in Snuggies, looking very much like a cult.

USA Today has a piece on it: Snuggie Gets A Warm Embrace From Pop Culture

I should order one for Jen (which means ordering one for me too, since you get 'one for free'!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Screws Galore

In trying to look for an obscure screw online (I think a stainless #6, 1/4", beveled Phillips head; I need it to replace the one I stripped at the bottom of my shower door), I came across a page detailing all of the different types of screw heads.  I though Phillips was Phillips.  Wrong, apparently.  There are a ton of variations, along with some exotic ones that I've never seen or heard of.  

I would have guessed pretty different precentages..

I came across this Microsoft-supplied graphic in a Lifehacker story yesterday:
Microsoft says that the above is the relative proportion of power sucked up on the typical Windows laptop.  I think I would have guessed that the panel uses the most (I wonder how much LED backlighting changes this?), but I wouldn't have guessed the chipset would use more than twice what the CPU uses.  Perhaps this is due to the SpeedStep (Intel)/PowerNow (AMD) CPU throttling?  I also would definitely not guessed that the chipset sucks up 4x the power of the hard drive (I might have put that 2nd or 3rd when guessing)..