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The Universal Dilettante

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New Blog; Goodbye LiveJournal [Sep. 14th, 2010|12:55 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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I have not posted on LiveJournal in quite a long time, mostly as an experiment to see if my life would be improved if I neither posted nor read LiveJournal. The clear result is that my mental state and my life are much improved by disengaging from LiveJournal.

I do miss long-form writing about my thoughts and life, and so a significant amount of it is moving to a blog at http://rhett.weatherlight.com. If you want to keep an eye on the crazy things I do, please consider visiting it and loading it into your favorite RSS reader.

Thanks for reading my LiveJournal for these many years, and I look forward to seeing you at the blog, or on Facebook, or in real life.
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[ORUTH] One month in [Feb. 1st, 2010|01:50 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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And so here we go again with a general report on Operation Running Up That Hill.

First, apropos of nothing, is the Kate Bush lyrics:

"You're like my yo-yo that glowed in the dark
What made it special made it dangerous
So I buried it and forget" --Kate Bush, "Cloudbusting"


Now, howamidoin?

Training report, cut in case weight is triggeryCollapse )

Fund raising reportCollapse )

Incidentally, if you would like to donate to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation on my behalf, you can do so by clicking this link.
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Make your own cult! [Jan. 27th, 2010|02:04 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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An easy, 12-minute instructional guide to making a cult.

Yes, folks, it really is just that simple.

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Arrogant, but I stand by it [Jan. 26th, 2010|12:36 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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So, I made a rather arrogant remark at one of our apps developers today, but as I often feel like I'm the only voice in the room even trying to reach for the brass ring, I still stand by it. I believe the "feature" we were talking about involved connected home and media streaming within the home.

Apps Guy: "This is just a geek feature. Our target audience is the soccer moms, and soccer moms don't need or want to do this."

Me: "Maybe. Or maybe whenever we call something a 'geek feature,' we're really just questioning our competence as designers. If we go back several years, we could have the same conversation about portable mp3 players. Before the iPod, no soccer mom needed or wanted a portable mp3 player. After the iPod, portable mp3 players became a soccer mom device. My mom has one, and she can barely use a computer. So, what was the difference? Basically, nothing, except that some good designers communicated the features effectively."


I probably wouldn't have said it if I wasn't in a room of peers, but I get tired of us discussing how to do last year's feature when we should be thinking about next year's feature. Next year's feature, though, is geeky or risky, and nobody seems to want to admit that, in an R&D group, we do nothing but risky products.
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Charlie Simpson, goddamned hero [Jan. 25th, 2010|02:23 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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I want to introduce you to someone. I heard about him on NPR today. His name is Charlie Simpson, and, like me, he is a charity cyclist. His current charity is the UNICEF fund for Haiti.

Charlie is also a stone-cold, earned-his-wings, goddamned, "Bob"damned hero of humanity.

Why? Not because of his athleticism. His charity ride, I believe his first of what will be a lifelong career, was a mere 5 mile cruise around a local park.

It's because Charlie is 7 years old and has raised 160,000 GBP on his charity ride. Just stop and think about that for a second. Here. Let me add a picture of the lad. This kid:



...has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for disaster relief in Haiti, just because he decided to find something he could do about the utter horror he saw on television. His parents, of course, encouraged him, which means they get the most awesome assist credits that could ever grace a cosmic stats sheet. Fuck it. The whole family are a bunch of goddamned heroes.

You can read the whole story here. I'm so glad to see parents encourage this in a child. My parents raised me with a sense of charity, and Scouting instilled in me the need for my civic, national, and global duty, but I feel I can very specifically sympathize with Charlie.

Why? Because the world is a really horrible place, and there's not much I can do. But I have a bike and legs to use it. I have a mouth and words to speak which my enemies cannot gainsay or deny. And goddamnit, I will use them.

Charlie did, and look what happened.
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Star Trek Online: server issues [Jan. 18th, 2010|11:05 am]
The Universal Dilettante
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So, I had some more time to play Star Trek Online. While my initial review was pretty strongly worded, I still stand by much of it. The space flight aspects get slightly easier with time, but only slightly, and I still find it hard to get a proper heading for launching torpedoes.

But...I've played only twice. Why? Well, because their login server is over capacity. I understand that the purpose of a beta is to tease out issues pre-launch. I understand that scaling issues are the exact sort of thing an open beta helps to tease out. But Cryptic gave out a fixed number of beta keys, so they should be able to plan for the load accordingly.

Fail.
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Star Trek Online hands-on review [Jan. 15th, 2010|04:32 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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Cut to spare my non-gamer friends.Collapse )
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My steel cables [Jan. 13th, 2010|01:31 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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On Monday, some of the guys from the QA group passed me while I was on my training ride. They're kinda my "office pals," in a way. One of them even spotted that I'm a Subgenius. He had an unfair advantage, since he used to work in the Berkeley radio station where Puzzling Evidence does his show.

Anyway, they honked at me and cheered and we chatted at the stoplight. They were going for pho. I was exercising and having a protein bar later. I honestly can't tell who had the better end of that deal, but now I suddenly am craving pho.

Come Tuesday, one of them (the edgy dude from Berkeley) walked up to me while I was getting a Diet Coke and said "So, how are those calves and steel cables today?" I was boggled...was this guy talking about veal production? Alien activity? What? Appropriately, I asked him what he meant. He responded "Oh, well, when we were following you yesterday, I was watching you ride, and you have these massive calves and they look like they're attached to your feet with steel cable under your skin."

Wow. Talk about making me suddenly feel good about myself. I thanked him politely and told him I was doing okay and told him about crashing on Friday. Then he asked me if I knew I was going over 20 mph when they followed me. They were following me to find out my speed. To me, 20 mph under favorable conditions isn't any big deal, but I forget others think it is. I smiled and thanked him again.

Again, wow. I like him, but it's not like we're personal friends, so it was certainly an out-of-the-blue pat on the back to hear.
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Bike wreck [Jan. 9th, 2010|05:02 am]
The Universal Dilettante
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On the ride home from work tonight, I crashed my bike.

I'll start with the most important part. I am absolutely fine. I have a skinned elbow, a skinned knee, two tiny cuts on one hand, and mild road rash on one knee and one hip. Also, I think I compressed bones in my hands, since my thumbs have been stiff and the place where the thumb meets the palm is tender to pressure. It's gotten better over the night, though.

There is a reason that my injuries are not more extensive. It's because I was wearing a helmet, goggles, and padded leather gloves. Interestingly, the pattern of major abrasions are the points of contact I'd have had doing a judo roll. Those are not a good idea on concrete, but it's in my muscle memory.

Also, the bike suffered no damage. The bike and I are doing so fine that I eventually rode my bike home.

So, what happened? Well, during part of my commute, there is a stretch of road where people leave their raked leaves and assorted lawn waste on the curb. I think this is beyond dumb, but it's a city ordinance. Well, I always make sure that I ride a car's width away from the curb so I don't hit these piles.

Well, someone left a pile much further out in the road than usual. Under normal conditions, I'd have seen it. Unfortunately, the city uses special lights that cause everything under them to look monochromatic. A pile of lawn crap looks a lot like pavement under these lights, and I often don't see the piles clearly until I'm right on top of them. This was a big fucking pile, too, and quite solid and full of branches and stuff. I hit it at speed, went airborne, and on impact, went over the handlebars, performing an impression of the Failblog logo.

A cyclist right behind me stopped and talked to me while the pain subsided. He offered to give me a ride home, promising to be back in 15 minutes. Two motorists stopped to make sure I was ok, too. San Jose people can be pretty decent. My pain was subsiding enough to make me functional and it was getting colder and colder and I'd gotten soaked from falling in a puddle. I needed to warm up soon, so I started to slowly ride home. I'm really glad to have an extra set of brakes on the handlebars, because the extra brakes are easier to operate without thumbs.

Back home, I got out of the wet clothes and had to do a lot to warm up and stop shivering. I've showered, taken some anti-inflammatories, and relaxed. My thumbs are finally back to their usual range of motion.

All told, I'm pretty pissed. I think it's really freaking irresponsible for debris to be in the road like that, especially when it's under lights that make it practically invisible. I think a letter to my city councilman is in order.
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[ORUTH] Week 1 Report [Jan. 8th, 2010|04:43 pm]
The Universal Dilettante
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I'm not going to give a training report every week, but finishing my first week is enough of a milestone to document. I'll start this as I intend to start all of them-- with a wholly unrelated quote from a Kate Bush song.

"But every time it rains, you're here in my head, like the sun coming out. Oh, I just know that something good is going to happen. I don't know when, but just saying it could even make it happen." --Kate Bush, "Cloudbusting"

Training: The purpose of my first week was largely one of "drilling the pilot hole." The goals for this week were to get back to my daily routine after two weeks of sloth, gluttony, and World of Warcraft, to get in the habit of spending extra time, generally my lunch hour, on a training ride, and to get my nutritional habits adjusted to the new daily schedule and to some of my training goals.

I was successful in doing a training ride every work day. I can fit a pleasant 12-mile circuit, plus time to change, into an hour, and this is going to serve as the backbone for my weekday training schedule. My commute and training ride together give me a distance of something like 27-28 miles. I have full confidence that the extra 2-3 miles aren't a huge factor, so I call it "roughly 30 miles." That's effectively a double of what I normally ride. I'm actually quite happy with the pace that I'm keeping, too.

The first question that was sticking out in my mind was how my body would react to the training load. I've certainly had my share of feeling a bit more tired. My legs are markedly more sore, too. What's interesting is seeing how this does and does not affect my rides. I've watched myself slowly lose climbing power over the week. There's an overpass for the Caltrain tracks I use as a measure of how my climbing power is doing, where I note which gear I'm in when I get to the top. When everything's right where it should be, I can often find myself at the top, blasting along at 18 mph, in my 8th gear. I'm happy when I can do it in 6th. Yesterday, I got down to 2nd. It's mostly just climbing power I've lost over the week, though. My sustainable paces are mostly unscathed. I decided, based on my soreness this morning, that I wouldn't go above 6th gear on the uphill ride to work. I still ended up turning in a great time (largely due to hitting more green lights). I also took today's training ride easy due to fatigue and wind, but ended with a ride time not appreciably off from Monday.

Subjectively, after my final scheduled training ride for the week, I feel pretty good. Depending on how I feel Saturday morning, I may or may not take it as a recovery day. If I don't, it will likely be an "active recovery" day where I intentionally keep my pace very low. I think I could handle more, but I shouldn't push it when I have another week of training rides ahead of me...especially when I consider how the fatigue seems to come in waves, so I'm great for a while and then sore for a while.

Nutrition: Changing around when and how I eat has me on a more "rationed" process and focusing on low calorie lean protein. This, combined with the increased training load, is already having measurable changes on my body. I won't speak about weight specifics, but one of my loose goals is to get some of the fat off my body if possible, since I really don't need to carry extra pounds to a ride with climbs. I seriously need to get some protein bars and some l-glutamine drink to have for after the training ride. The prices at the company cafeteria are atrocious.

Fund raising: I've been blessed with very generous friends (and I still owe two of them thank-you letters). Thanks to their efforts, I've already raised $700! I still have a long way to go, but my goals are suddenly starting to feel believable.

For now, there's more baseline training to do, and in a couple of weeks, weekend training rides to phase in. The current system is 5 days on and 2 days recovery (with 1 being active recovery). Next comes 6 days on, then increasing mileage on the 6th day. Later, 6 days on with an active recovery day.
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