October 31, 2016

Back When I Was Young

There was a time when the Simpsons was actually good.

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October 24, 2016

Surprisingly Little Blood Was Involved

Genetics testing is amazing.
It takes just a few milliliters drawn from the mother to isolate enough fetal DNA to screen for chromosomal abnormalities and other problems.
Really, we're living in the future.
Let's make sure it gets even better from here on.

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October 11, 2016

++

It is with great pride and some apprehension that I announce my wife and I are expecting our first child, due at the beginning of May.

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October 05, 2016

Time and Place

Turns out there's a time and a place to exercise one's First Amendment rights.

The place isn't a library, and the time isn't during a question-and-answer session with a government official.  At least according to Kansas City.

For bonus points, when the librarian objected to the off-duty cop arresting the patron, the off-duty cop also arrested the librarian. The librarian, naturally, was the one that had hired the off-duty cop to be there was security anyway. I hope he paid the invoice, or heaven knows what'll happen next.

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September 26, 2016

Debate

I haven't watched the presidential election debates for the last few cycles. Anything actually substantive will be covered by tomorrow's news. The rest of a TV debate is deceptive– I care about positions and decisions, not about body language and eye contact.

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September 13, 2016

Cool Helicopter External

Here's a fun video filmed in Buffalo earlier this year. There's some good helicopter piloting.

Also a car, if that's what you're into.



For those who haven't seen the previous videos, this guy is a professional rally driver and that's his actual rally car. There are no visual special effects– everything you see the car doing, it actually did.

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September 08, 2016

Apparently I Need Extrinsic Motivation

I've been slacking off on running and riding recently. There are a bunch of reasons, but one of them might be that I don't have a goal to be working towards, other than the ill-defined desire to be in better health.

But a little trash-talking has popped up on Facebook, so next year I'll be doing a rematch half marathon, and perhaps another triathlon. It's time to lace up the shoes and brave the summer heat.

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August 15, 2016

Race Report: BBC vs BTC Time Trial 2016

Last week I was proud to bring my team victory in the 2016 BBC vs BTC Time Trial.

Let me explain. The BBC, in this case, is the Buffalo Bicycling Club. The BTC is the Buffalo Triathlon Club. Every year they have a club-vs-club time trial, with the proceeds going to charity. The trophy goes to the winning club to hold until the next year.

I should probably explain what a time trial is, too. It's one of the disciplines of cycling. Most road races are "mass start" with the cyclists forming into a bunch ("peleton") for aerodynamic reasons. The less common road race is a "time trial" where racers start one at a time, with a standard time gap between each one. (Perhaps 30 seconds, perhaps 5 minutes, it depends on the race.) In a time trial, riders are forbidden from cooperating– you can't ride along in the slipstream of another rider. If you catch up to someone that started before you, you pass them and keep going.

Anyway, as noted, this time trial is between a bicycling club and a triathlon club. The former have the advantage, because they are specialists, while triathletes split their training time three ways. But the BTC has more members. So this race has an interesting scoring system. First, we're divided into six categories:

  1. Masters Men (age 50+)
  2. Masters Women (age 50+)
  3. Open Men
  4. Open Women
  5. Cannibal Men
  6. Cannibal Women.
For each class, the fastest finisher gets 25 points for his club. The next gets 24, then 23, etc. Everyone gets one point, for finishers below 25th place. That means there's an incentive for each club to bring as many riders as they can; the slowest guy there doesn't hurt his team, rather he gives it at least one point.

I was in the male cannibal class. Because I like to eat long pork.

I kid! Yes, I am an evil person, but it actually refers to the bike you are riding. Open class is for people with time-trial specific bikes. Such bikes have disc wheels, wind-tunnel-tested aerodynamic frames made from carbon fiber, and the handlebars have forearm rests so the rider can get down into a low-profile tuck. The cannibal class is for people not using such bikes. It's a fairness thing, because aero bikes are very expensive and not everyone has one. Such bikes aren't allowed at all in mass-start races, because the aero tuck position reduces maneuverability and that leads to crashes in races where riders are bunched up.

(Why "cannibal class" you may be wondering? Is it because those of us that can't afford to drop $5k on a bike are savages? No, it's a reference to the greatest cyclist of all time, Eddie "The Cannibal" Merckx. He retired from cycling just as aerodynamic bikes were being developed, so the previous kind are nicknamed in his honor.)

Enough backstory, this is a race! I didn't get to the event site until registration had been going on for a while, so I was racer number 57. The organizers were starting people at 60 seconds gaps, so even once the race started, I had lots of time to chitchat. Eventually I got to the front of the line, the marshal counted me down, and off I went! The course was a simple out and back, starting into the wind and uphill. Which sucked, of course. By the time I left the sun was already setting, but the course is largely north-south so it was never in my eyes.

I'm not a time trial kind of guy. I've done a triathlon, but then I was already exhausted when I got to the bike segment. Here it was just me and the road. The key is to dig deep but not overdo it, of course. So I kept an eye on my heart rate monitor. I tried to keep my HR between Zone 4.4 and Zone 4.8.  Heart rate zones are themselves a whole rabbit hole of research, so suffice it to say that Zone 4 is 80%-90% of your calculated max heart rate and is "hard aerobic", while Zone 5 is 90%-100% of max heart rate and is "anaerobic". In short, I was trying to keep it to the point where I felt like I was going to die, without actually dying. Looking at my race data, my HR peaked at 178 bpm and averaged (once I was warmed up) about 164.

It hurt. Boy did it hurt. I covered about 13 miles in about 45 minutes. Both in terms of time and distance, that's a short ride for me. But at the end I could barely walk, my butt was so sore, because I never stopped peddling to stand up and stretch.

I'm proud to say I beat the oldest person there, a 84-year old. You might not be very impressed by my beating an octogenarian, but that dude went to the Olympics for cycling. He also was a repeat US national champion. He may be twice my age, but I fear the old lion more than the young.

How did I do? Well, I won the event for the BTC! That is, I finished dead last in my category. But I earned one point for the BTC. And the final team scores were BBC 503, BTC 503. A tie! I'm dead serious. The tiebreaker was the number of riders for each club, so BTC has claimed the trophy for the first time in several years. And it is no exaggeration to say that if I hadn't raced, my team would have lost.

Hooray! Now I just want to be significantly faster next year. I'm creeping towards the Master's category myself, so I'd like to prove something to myself before I get there.

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August 12, 2016

Badminton Is a Serious Sport, People

I quite enjoyed taking two university PE classes in badminton. Americans know it from messing about in backyards, but there's a reason it's a serious Olympic sport.

Anyway, here's a video from my favorite TV show. I especially liked the QA testing at the end.

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July 26, 2016

Ah Yeah, That's the Stuff

Today was my first day back at work after two weeks of vacation. At 3 PM my boss called me and said "Welcome back. Audit is all over us about [a program I run]. I'll send you all the emails. There's a conference call to get us back on track tomorrow at 2 PM. Expect to do most of the talking."

OK, I exaggerated slightly… my boss didn't say the first two words of the quote.

That said, for the last year of my Marine career I was the guy giving the audits, so I know how these things work. I expect I've got this. At least I expect I've got it well enough that I don't need to polish up the ole' resume quite yet.

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