Sunday, September 30, 2007

quick weekend trip home

I'm averaging a trip home to DC/Baltimore/suburban Maryland every seven weeks or so. This time I went to see one of my cousins from England (as well as the rest of my family). My brother and I spent Friday evening at the Baltimore Book Fair, where we watched a grilling demonstration by the authors of Mastering The Grill (they marinated steaks in Scotch and then grilled them right on wood coals, blowing the ash off the top with a leafblower), listened to a few local bands, and shopped for books. I picked up a dog-eared copy of Dreadnought by Robert Massie, a 900-page volume about the arms race between Britain and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century that led to the construction of the first battleships. I also found DVDs of At Last, the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set, the two British TV series that were the precursors to Monty Python's Flying Circus. All of that material should keep me busy for the next few weeks and months.

Saturday and Sunday were for relaxation, visiting with family and hanging out at my dad's house. I watched about half of Lebron James on Saturday Night Live and reminded myself why I don't watch that show anymore. And I overate at every meal, so I think it's time to double my efforts in the gym and finish the cycling season in strong fashion with a few more decent rides.

I'm ready for cold weather now, in case the weather gods are reading this. I'm sick of schvitzing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The woeful Knicks sexual harassment trial

Bill Simmons provides a guide to all the stories surrounding Anucha Browne Sanders' lawsuit against the Knicks and MSG. I enjoyed his Gold Club trial guide a few years ago, and this one is almost as good. Unfortunately, this case is the best publicity the Knicks have had in years. Like Matt Millen in Detroit, any time I read a story about the Knicks, I wonder what Isiah Thomas has to do to get fired. He's already run the team into the ground so it's not like things can get any worse. When he ultimately gets fired, whether it's this year, next year, or five years from now, I hope the first question for James Dolan at the press conference is "why now? Why not five years ago?"

Friday, September 21, 2007


GOOD: Taking the morning off work
BAD: Taking the morning off work to wait for Time Warner to fix my cable for the 3rd time since I got the HDTV in April

GOOD: Playing Madden 08 while I wait
BAD: Losing 20-7 to Kansas City while playing as the Steelers (though I did beat the 49ers 34-14 last night)

GOOD: Most of my cable channels still work
BAD: Time Warner has to come back next Friday to fix the system for the entire building

GOOD: Eating lunch at home
BAD: eating it quickly because I found out at 12:15 that I had a 1 PM meeting in the office

GOOD: learning new things as the backup to the guy who runs the Unix servers & accounting systems in our office
BAD: getting invited to 3-hour meetings about upgrades to the accounting system (I have one on Monday)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A fool and his money are soon parted...again

One of the things I did this weekend was get myself to the Apple store on 5th Avenue to check out the new iPod Classic in person. I'd seen one at a Best Buy on Thursday, but it didn't have any music on it, so it was impossible to give it a proper tryout. On Sunday afternoon I had the chance to plug in my headphones and test the newest object of my tech affections. I spent about 30 minutes with an 80 GB Classic and another 10 minutes with the 160 GB version. Aside from a few issues with the Cover Flow feature (which Apple fixed in a firmware update this past Friday that had not made it onto the test iPods on the showroom floor), I liked the sound and the menu updates. I hadn't intended to spend the money on the new model yesterday, especially when I saw the serpentine line for the register and remembered that I had other things to do that afternoon. However, there was an Apple store employee standing behind a cart with a plastic box covering an assortment of iPod Classics. He looked like a guy selling watches on the street, but he was actually selling iPods right there. I saw another customer give him his credit card and ID, and the employee ran it through a PocketPC/Newton-like card reader and sold him an iPod. Well, when faced with instant gratification like that, I was powerless. $442 later, I was the proud owner of a new black 160 GB iPod Classic. It was exactly one year ago yesterday when I got my first iPod. My justification for this kind of foolishness is that I'd always planned to upgrade that iPod within a year, assuming that I'd run out of space. When I got home last night I copied my music and photos onto the new one, and I've been using it at work today. I have to be extra-careful with it for the time being, as I don't have a proper hard case for it yet. I'm carrying it around in the black slipcover that came with my 60 GB iPod.

So far, the sound quality is equal to my old iPod, and I like the new cover animations and menu features. It's an iPod, so the differences are minor. I'd like to sort my albums by album name in the cover flow screen instead of by artist, but I think I can fix that in iTunes this evening. There is a minor problem with the photos application. I can see all my photos in the preview mode, but I can only scroll through older photos with the scroll wheel. When I try to scroll through photos I've taken with the Canon SD550 I bought in April 2006, they don't appear. I can see them if I use the slideshow feature, so I know the iPod can display them. And I didn't have a problem with those photos on my old iPod. I read a few forum posts about the problem on Apple's web site, so I'm not the only one who's encountered this issue. I figure there's a firmware update coming that will fix this, but I can live with it for now.

Someone stop me before I buy a Macbook. I'm thisclose to blowing a month's rent on one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I am not in this video

None of these things has ever happened to me, probably because I'm not a dumbass who tries to jump off a homemade ramp or ride down a flight of stairs. Set to music, these clips of idiots on bikes are cringingly hysterical.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 NYC Century ride wrap-up

Despite having played the viola for five hours on Saturday and getting home at a decent hour, I somehow managed only three hours of sleep on Saturday night. When the alarm went off at 5 AM I jumped out of bed, but my initial burst of energy wasn't going to last. I got to the start at Central Park at 5:45 AM and left with a group of riders at 6:15.

As soon as I left the park my chain fell off the chainring, so I had to stop and fix that. That was not a good omen. The Manhattan portion of the ride went through Riverside Park down to 72nd Street, then down Broadway to Columbus Circle and through Times Square. I don't know who had the bright idea that we should go through Times Square, because even at 6:45 AM it was busy and confusing. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and took a different route to Prospect Park, through DUMBO and Fort Greene to Grand Army Plaza.

The next leg of the ride, to Canarsie Pier, was more difficult for me than in past years. My lack of sleep was catching up with me, and I seriously considered calling the ride organizer and telling her I was going to cut my day short and only ride 75 or even 50 miles. But as I approached the rest stop I got into a rhythm and forgot that idea. At the Mill Basin bridge, someone took the "Cyclists Walk Bikes" sign literally, and that caused a traffic jam and a 10-minute wait to cross the bridge.

The mileage between Canarsie Pier and Alley Pond Park is always the toughest part of the ride. It's usually the longest gap between rest stops, and there are some long climbs along that part of the route. In particular, the three mile approach to the rest stop at Alley Pond is psychologically the most difficult thing I face every year. I know I'm close to a rest stop, but I've got a long ride through the woods to get there. Also, the road markings on this part of the route were either non-existent or poorly placed. Some of the turns were marked after the turn, or in the middle of the intersection. Other turns were stenciled on the bike path in the same shade as the bike path stripes. And there had been some last-minute changes to the route, so a few turns were marked two or three times, with previous markings in the same color crossed out with spray-paint. I missed a few turns, though I didn't go too far out of my way on any of them. With the heat, my state of mind, and the length of the route, it took me almost three hours to get to Alley Pond.

I took a long break at Alley Pond to eat and rest my aching muscles. There was enough food for everyone, but not enough tables, so there was a long line to get something to eat. On the way back onto the route after the rest stop, I missed a turn and nearly fell off my bike trying to get back onto the path. I didn't hurt anything other than my pride, though I got a nasty red bruise on my leg where it hit the handlebars. After that point, the road markings improved and I don't think I missed any turns the rest of the way. I stopped to get more Gatorade and chatted with a disappointed bodega owner who had hoped for more business that day. I made up some of the time I'd lost on the previous section and I got to Astoria Park around 2:45 PM.

By this time I'd run into a guy I used to work with, and he and I rode the rest of the way together. Because of Farm Aid on Randall's Island, we crossed back into Manhattan before taking the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. I didn't have any difficulties in the Bronx. The organizers at the rest stop put the fear of God into us that we'd get nothing at the finish if we didn't leave immediately. It was 5:30, so we had about a half-hour to get back to Central Park. My friend said we'd "book it," and he wasn't kidding. We pushed it for most of the last eight miles, and we got back to Central Park at 6:20 PM, just over 12 hours later.

It ended up being a good day after all, but this was the first time I've done this ride where I've thought it was more like work than a fun day on the bike. I need to remember to get more sleep the night before, and ride more long training rides before the Century. Also, I'm starting to complain enough that I think I've earned "grizzled veteran" status for the Century. Eventually I'll have the gray hair and scraggly beard that goes along with that, but for now I'll have to settle for the state of mind.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Me wantee!!!

Apple announced a new lineup of iPods today, and I'm drooling over the new 160 GB iPod Classic. I don't care about a new Nano, or an iPhone without the phone (though it does look really cool). I want to be able to carry most, if not all, of my music collection with me all the time. Never mind that I can't listen to all of it at once, and that there are dozens of albums on my iPod that I haven't listened to in years. It's the principle. Plus, I use my iPod to back up my photos, so I've got that working against me as well. I've already had to take a few albums off my current 60 GB iPod to keep from running out of space. It's a good thing my entire weekend is planned out, or else I might find myself at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue buying one of these new iPods.