Archive for January, 2010

Rewards for the Cyclists

There’s a management idea of push versus pull.  I like to think of it as:

  • Push: “You better finish that ____, or you’ll be in serious trouble.”
  • Pull: “If you finish that ____, I’ll give you an extra ____ for doing so.”

Some people operate better in a push than a pull, but I think most people like the woohoo idea of the latter.  This morning I came up with a pull method for cyclists.

The ingredients are 2 of those weight sensors (currently used for cars) especially in the left turn lane. These particular weight sensors would be calibrated to a range of sensitivity to >50 lbs and <500 lbs.   I figure most riders+bike will be more than 50 and less than 500 lbs.  Also, the average car weight is 3000 lbs (wikiAnswers), so half the weight [in the bike lane] would be 1500 lbs which is less than the upper specification of 500 lbs above.

With two of those weight sensors and the same controller that decides to change the light for the left turning cars, the controlling system could calculate the average speed of the cyclist and have the light turn green for him right as he would want to enter the intersection.

Ideally this would entice more people to bike commute by drastically reducing any waiting time at lights, which is more of a mental downer than it is one on’s commuting time, regardless if you are in a car or on a bike.

Of course the idea is the easy part of doing it. . .


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A Walk in the Woods

We did it; we got the finisher’s patch, for the first time in four attempts.

I steal this description of the race from Rooster:

POCAR is an orienteering race that is put on by Purdue Outing Club. It’s held every year in southern Indiana on MLK weekend. Most years, only about 10-20% of the teams finish the race. For most, the only racing is that of trying to finish before the cut off time (48 hours). . .

. . . Our 2010 POCAR stats include hiking 50 miles, locating all 23 check points and being out for 40 hours (3 hours of which were sleep). The race was held in the 200,000 acre (over 300 square miles; all of which were fair game) Hoosier National Forest.

read more

In addition to the physical exertions, the race requires translating numerical coordinates to a topographical map then finding them using any or all of: roads, trails, ridges, creeks, and compass bearings.   The points are the size of a wind sock and have a reflector on top, to find in the dark.   The rules only allow a compass and map; items not allowed are GPS, altimeters, etc.

We finished the race.  At the moment I knew we were going to finish, I didn’t know if I wanted to finish.

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You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

The elusive tale of the “unfinished” race just change directions to the race we finished once.  For whatever reason, it was a weird gulp take.  I think part of this feeling is due to my personal experience during this 2010 race where my colon decided to cleanse itself during the first six hours of the race.  During that time, I was the weak link: brain dead and slowing progression.  But, I persevered, and everything came together, as they say.

Around 3am on the Monday morning of the race, I wanted nothing more than to stop walking, stop the intense searching, and finally stop my body’s fight for sleep.  Yet at the same time, I wanted to see if it was possible to get my pants any dirtier, my clothes any smellier, and continue the camaraderie of our long friendship.

Instead we went to the final check-in and went through the most anti-climatic finish chute of all time: a bunk house of sleeping volunteers, an IOU for the patch, and a choice of race shirts that didn’t have the size I wanted.  So, at least the race prevailed with more social currency.

My confused feeling about finishing was that of a turning point.  I think what made this turning point harder is the weird confounding emotional response that happens when you combine intense physical efforts along with enduring mental exertions.

Usually, this emotional response is pure happiness.  However, this time it wasn’t.  It had a mix of roller coaster — up’s and down’s — which I think are due to my initial start.  It’s okay; I know that big picture it’s another victory.  Not just the finisher’s patch, but our friendship and health.

My immediate conclusion the morning after the race was: It is one thing to find a group of friends willing to hike with you for 48 hours in a mid-January Indiana winter; but, it’s a kinship to unanimously and immediately decide to sleep two hours in the middle of the woods in only the clothes on our back because we were temporarily lost.

Since it took multiple attempts to figure it out, here’s what I’ve learned about this race.

  • Sleep is very important in the race.  Not a lot is needed.  We slept three hours this year.  I think rest is just as important mentally, as physically.  The pale, distraught look of some teams shows how important a little rest is, to me at least.
  • Combine all maps onto the detailed topo map.  With physical fatigue comes mental stupidity so KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Investing 30 minutes of the race to combine maps prevents mental hang-ups that you can create by mentally overlapping multiple maps.
  • Obey the contours of the land.  Walk in creeks and atop ridges, instead of just shooting a bearing.  It’s a path of smaller resistance and a way to match the contours of the map with the land, to keep from getting lost.
  • Develop the will to get the fucking patch.  What started out as a joke became a sort of clause that no matter what, we weren’t giving up.  There will be setbacks, but keeping the mental goal in mind will help overcome the setbacks.

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Report of Stolen Thunder

This was my first thought Saturday when I saw dre whiz past us for the finish chute to PR a half marathon by 9 minutes, breaking the 2hr barrier.  If I’m an optimist, I think it is only because I am a reformed pessimist.

Really, I should be happy to have an additional form of inspiration in my life.  But at the same time, a 3 second PR sounds like monkey poo compared a 9 minute PR . . . just as much as when she cut 16 minutes from her half marathon time the same day I cut 16 minutes from my marathon time, making her feat seem twice as awesome.

I’ll get over it, and I really am happy for dre, as well as myself.  Besides, it’s not always about the bragging rights.

Now, back to the focus of this blog, narcissism.

In my mind, my one year goal seemed to mentally register as more of a journey.  That is I see remarkable progress, in only three months so far; progress I was not expecting so fast into the training.

The last time I placed a PR for a 5k was during a running phase where I was enamored with the 10k race.  My training was much different.  I was probably running 15 to 25 mile weeks.  In hindsight, I was going about the training somewhat ineffectively, with only one track workout per week accompanied with exploratory urban runs in anticipation to set awesome hash courses.

This past Saturday when I laced up for the SoCal Half Marathon 5k, my goal was to run under 20 minutes.  As far as my performance goes it felt good, but not great.  That is, I can tell that my training focus is not the 5k distance, nor was I set to peak (which is good for my goals).

I was proud that during the race I looked at my Garmin 4 times, only.  jeff called me out on a tempo run recently, which helped me realize that I was not using my Garmin correctly as a tool but rather crutching on it.  His terse “Stop looking at it!” comment made sense right away.  A tempo run should focus on perceived exertion.

The Garmin was nice to look at after the first quarter mile, during the excitement that follows the gun.  It felt like a hard pace, but a 5k isn’t meant to be a stroll.  My Garmin let me know that I was on a bonk-promising, pack-excited 5:00/mi pace.  My second look at it during the half mile confirmed I was in a better spot, 6:20/pace.

It also boosted my pace after the 2.5 mile mark when the pack I was in slowed to a 6:40/mi pace.  I don’t know if I would have set a PR without my Garmin, and I will never know because of the flux of time.  I was happy for my progress in this state of time, regardless of my personal records.

Extrapolating my races in my most recent roadie era with a McMillian Calculator and then extrapolating even more with an exponential regression, we get this fun graph, which implies a slight ridiculous amount of assumptions, but showing that my chances for qualifying for Boston aren’t as much of a dream as they somewhat appeared to me a few months ago.

The major assumptions in the model that I think are ridiculous is that once you start building mileage, you leave behind the same potential for aerobic improvement.  Trade-off’s.  Also, I want to stop the intensity of training after the OC half in lieu of some summer ultra running and/or something more like this:

Thunderclap, jeff's son, playing in the street while anticipating dre's finish.

Another victory for my progress in fitness, learning about building speed in the roadie world, and claiming my own damn piece of thunder.

rumble rumble crack ga-BOOOOOOOOOOM

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Mandatory High School Curriculum

Since my high school reunion invitation didn’t ask me, I post my suggestions on how I think we can change high school curriculum, here.


I think English and Math are important skills.  Poor English can only adds to the case that you are indeed a moron.  Algebra is also a nice skill to have, since I don’t think anyone wants to get ripped off via a bank statement or a restaurant bill.

However, one skill I wish I had was water cooler talk, office politics, brown nosing, and the ability to more naturally quantify my work.  I think this would fit well into second semester junior social studies, and in addition to proficiency can bolster job performance.  Yes, this is quickly realized in the first months in the real world. However, I don’t think corporate training can start too early; that is actually part of the first course of corporate training.

To teach the course, there needs to be a specialization added in The Schools of Education: Dogbert.

Personal Finances

The university system is the first step of the rat race for many.  By dumb luck, the interests of math and science, and a little elbow grease, I made it into a couple programs to exit college debt-free with a professional job offer in hand.  But, to note it was mainly dumb luck.

After going separate ways, I’ve reunited with a few high school classmates in the past few years.  By this point in our quest through life, those peers and I realize what debt amounts to.  Not just a payment schedule, but the psychological burden of servitude to something we’re not always passionate about.

It is weird to see some of the smartest kids from the class that sunk the deepest in debt.  Although, the smart kids were the ones learning what the teachers tested on . . .

While in college, I saw a drastic change of a 100% tuition spike; however, the college experience (of personal and intellectual growth) stayed the same before and after the spike.  What changed was a nicer campus appearance, financial focus on research, and an initiative to recruit more out-of-state students.  The transition from an attempt at a learning utopia to a business.

I value my learnings in future value calculations, annuity payouts, and the magic of compounding interest.  A higher education is cool, but so is [financial] freedom.  I think an advanced society would provide their young to better understand, as well as the capability to calculate the payback period of a cool liberal arts education.  I’m not trying to knock liberal artists.  If anything, I’m jealous of their four years developing crazy ideas.

I just think it would be more fair to have our young apprentice in society, either saving up some money and/or earning “credits” for classes while deeper contemplating their career. I always value buying something after earning it, as opposed to abstractness of debt.

History as Research

I remember having an “aha!” moment reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present.  It was the first time that I learned history, like all other subjects, is open to human error.  Perhaps, Wikipedia is already opening this door.

How to Pack Heat Under a Trench Coat with Your Friends

Just joking.

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