My Tweets

Thursday, January 31, 2008

New horsepower delivered

I just had my new bad a$$ workstation delivered to my desk here at work. Dell Precision T3400 with Core 2 quad / 4 gig RAM baby! I've had servers with less horsepower than this thing. The Core Duo / 2 gig configuration that we've been using just wasn't cutting it for like 99% of our team. A bunch of frustrated developers under tight deadlines is not a pretty sight.

Too bad I won't have time to build it up until I'm finished with my tasks for the current iteration; maybe a day or two until I can get around to it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The trade off - my day job

Ever wonder what other triathetes really do all day? I mean, we may know the profession of our friends, training partners and competitors but if your triathlete friends are like mine, we don’t discuss our day jobs a whole lot because it’s really secondary to our love of the sport of triathlon. So I thought I’d try to describe what it is I do during the work week which helps fuel my participation in the sport from a financial, logistical and mental perspective.

I say “mental” based on the adage that says “absence makes the heart grow fonder” (more fond, whatever). And certainly as I sit here toiling away the day, dreaming of warm summer days of training and the excitement and adrenaline of race day, I become more and more appreciative of the sport and the fact that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to participate and compete against myself and others.

I’ve written before on the how my employer supports the logistical aspect of training and how I feel it has made a crucial difference in my development as a triathlete so I won’t go into too much detail on this subject. All I’ll say is that, again, I’m blessed to work for a company that makes commuting by bicycle convenient, provides terrific benefits, provides onsite restaurant (we all know how triathetes eat) and workout facilities, body comp’ing, etc, and free entry into any of the races and events that we sponsor. For instance, I won’t have to pay a dime to race in the two 10ks that I’m running this winter or the 24 Hours of Booty ride in Charlotte later this summer. Now, if I could just convince them to sponsor the SCTS I could get out of all those darn triathlon entry fees. Not a bad idea actually.

So some folks may already know that I’m a software developer. I should say that I come from a long line of software developers, well, as long as a line of software developers could be. In other words, my dad started out as software developer also. He’s floated to the top of the technological food chain and no longer writes code, but he’s still a techi at heart. The term “software developer” is a very broad term. I mean, that could mean anything from the old school mainframe green-screener to the 12 year old kid designing the family website in their bedroom at night with the latest WYSIWYG tool.

Specifically, I develop a system called Harmony, which is Colonial’s web and offline enrollment system. Currently we're pretty much finished the web side of the system and so I’m now working on the offline system, which is considered a "smart client" and intended to enrollment capabilities on mobile computers. Basically, this means that it can run while disconnected from the Internet and later, when an Internet connection is available, sync with the main back end system used my the web version.

I’m using the latest “bleeding-edge” technology on the Microsoft platform. I’ve gone through several evolutions and introductions of languages and platforms and the latest is a mix of a new language call XAML (pronounced Zam-mel), based on XML, and a language called C# (pronounced C Sharp) which has been around for a few years, and SQL for database programming. Again, I have to give kudos to Colonial for the kahones it takes to build your most import systems on bleeding-edge technology.

I continually choose to position myself within the industry on the bleeding edge for several reasons. The first is a combination of marketability, exclusivity and financial. While there may be less wide scale demand for those with bleeding-edge skill sets, you are recruited at a much higher salary/bill rate than those whose only skill set is on the industry standard. As well, the majority of the time, tomorrow’s industry standard is today’s bleeding-edge which in my mind means that if you’re not on the bleeding edge you’re off the back of the pack in cycling terms.

Enough of that already. What does my workspace look like and what have I been building for the past few years? Here are some pictures:

My workspace, very blah (sorry for the blurry cell phone pic):

Obviously the system is much too large to give you an idea of all its capabilities, but here’s a glimpse of it through few screenshots from my local (development) build.

Harmony web system:

Harmony offline system:



I should say, that while I'm thankful for my career and all the benefits it provides me and my family, there is a certain distaste that I have for the "corporate machine". You see, no matter how good the company treats its employees and how much it does for charities and the community, the primary function of the company is to generate the almighty dollar. Now I'm not saying that making money is inherently a bad thing; not at all! What I'm saying is that by the very nature of the corporation in its zealous pursuit of the almighty dollar, employees such as myself are relegated to being nameless, faceless, resources on a project plan. In other words, a tool; a cog in the wheel of the machine. So it's a trade off that I've willingly opted into. In exchange for this money and all these benefits, I've submit myself to the machine. I've willingly offered my days as a sacrifice to their greed stricken goals so that in exchange I can take the money and benefits and provide for my family and explore my own capabilities in the sport of triathlon. Wouldn't it be cool though to be a pro triathlete?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Commuter bike project

Toward the end of last year I began feeling very convicted for driving unnecessarily when I could have been riding a bike. After all, riding a bike is better for me, the environment, the community, the country, and the pocket book. When I started commuting I quickly realized that I didn't like commuting on my Scott for various reasons.
The reasons included the following:
  • My Scott is expensive and so it would be devastating if it were stolen.
  • I ride tubulars on my Scott which are expensive to replace and with most of my commute to work being in a debris filled bike lane (which I'm very thankful for), it doesn't make financial sense compared to the cost of replacing tubes and tires on a clincher.
  • I have to store my bike outside at work and the Drew Center and I don't like the idea of my Scott baking in the summer SC sun all day.
  • I didn't like having to ride with a backpack to carry my stuff

So as a winter project I decided to build a commuter bike. Of course the first step was to find a bike to start with. My friend Tommy really hooked me up with the perfect bike for this. Most importantly, it was my size. It'd been sitting in his shed for a while and had definitely seen better days, but it was ideal for this build.

After some research I believe I was able to figure out the year it was made. It's a 1990 lugged steel frame Centurion / Diamond Back with down tube shifters and complete 7 speed Shimano 105 groupset. 1990 was the year that the Centurion name brand was phasing into the Diamond Back brand which had been selling well in the mountain bike space. They produced this bike with predominant Diamond Back logos and a small "Designed by Centurion" logo along the chain stay.

Here's how she looked:

Here's what I did:

  • Cut and sanded off 3 rusted cable stops that ran along the top of the top tube
  • Sanded off the logos and a few rusty areas
  • Spray painted the frame black
  • Added reflective tape to the frame
  • Replaced the wheels and tires
  • Replaced the cabling
  • Replaced the saddle
  • Replaced the handle bars with Urban Pursuit that I cut down some
  • Added a pair of Cane Creek TT brake leavers
  • Replaced the crankset with a barely used one from the same era and groupset
  • Added pannier rack and bags
  • Added some pink Speedplay pedals that can off my wife's old bike
  • Added a nice cyclocomputer from my wife's old bike

Here's how she turned out:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Run Epiphany

So I was running on the treadmill in the Wellness Center at work today and ended up with this massive blister on the bottom of my foot. It's gross, I know, but it's the best thing that's happened to me with regard to running in a long time. It's such good thing that I walked (hobbled) back to my desk with the most optimism I've had about running since I can remember.

If you follow my training you know that since the 10k earlier this month, the dreaded shin splints that I've always battled are back. So much so that I could only muster a 3 mile run on Monday before the pain became too much for me to handle. So I took Tuesday off from running and decided to give it a try today using an old pair of running shoes from this summer to see if it made a difference. Within the first quarter mile I realized that the shoes weren't making any difference. The pain was coming back again. I've done a lot of research on shin splints and have tried most everything I've read without success.

Lately I've been trying to work on my running form, thinking that my flawed and awkward form is the cause of my shin pain, and today decided to see if I could shorten my stride, keep my foot strike directly beneath my body, strike on the mid-foot, and get my stride rate up to about 90 per minute (which is considered the lower bound of a "high turnover rate").

Keeping my stride short wasn't too difficult but I couldn't get my turnover greater than 80 no matter how hard I tried. And the pain was steadily becoming worse. I was starting to get really frustrated again. Then, like an epiphany, a thought came to mind. "Take your shoes off". So I did. I kicked off the shoes and started running in my socks. Immediately the pain went away. I was really excited. I ran for a little while longer and then decided to take my stride rate again. 92 ... sweet. But I felt like the pace was a little slow so I kicked it up to a 6:40 mile pace. Still no pain and getting an even higher turnover. Very nice! It felt so good that I ran until it was obvious that the blister was coming.

So that's it. I have have a game plan. Since I can't run without shoes, I'm going start running in the Nike Free 5.0 or 7.0 shoes which will allow my feet to move as if you're running barefoot but still provide some protection. I hear they great for running without socks which makes them great triathlon shoes. The whole thing makes perfect sense to me. My muscles have already adapted to my awkward gate. They've been adapted since childhood. Running in shoes that mold my feet into a specific cast that doesn't support my gate is what's been causing the additional stress that normally would be absorbed by my feet to get pushed off on my calf muscles causing the shin splints.

Man, I hope this solves it.