Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Blog Has Moved!!

My blog has moved.  Click here to go to the new blog.  

I just couldn't stand blogger any more.  Wordpress is where it's at for blogs I think.  Please change your subscriptions and bookmarks!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tron Legacy

The Christmas holidays went swimmingly, but all too fast.  Not enough time was spent with my Dad, Mom, and brother, although quality time was spent.  I got some really great gift coming mostly in the form of cycling clothing and a new razor.  I got Ally an Amazon Kindle, which I believe was the go-to gift for American shoppers, but nevertheless, she was excited to have one.  Ally really likes to read, and I hope this Kindle will at least save some trees, if not our bank account.  So far it has sat on the table.  

Over the holidays, Travis and I saw Tron: Legacy (in IMAX 3D), which was very predictable but super awesome.  I knew the whole storyline from the first 5 minutes, but the graphics and music continued to surprise me throughout.  I have always liked Daft Punk, so for them to do a full movie score was incredible. They even made a cameo appearance in the club scene!  I plan on buying the soundtrack soon (which is already out), but I'm afraid I won't be able to recreate the way the music sounded with 1 bigazillion watts blaring out at you in the IMAX Theaters.  Seriously, the movie was ridiculously loud.  If people were talking in the movie, I would not have known. Below is a video (just music) of one of the songs from the soundtrack. 

The graphics in 3D were great.  Motorcycle and light air-speeders look sweet in 3D.  You could tell the producers concentrated all their efforts into this instead of the plot line.  The plot was the only disappointment I had, because they could have, with a little bit of effort, made it so much better.  They could have concentrated more on the duality between Kevin Flynn and Clu, or Good vs. Evil in Tron, or imperfect perfection of Quorra (sp?).    Or they could have just made it all about the battles on the GRID.  

On a more serious side of things, NYTimes came out with an article a couple of days ago about the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, that really moved me and was very interesting. It's sort of long so if you have some time, you can find the article here.  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rest Week

This last week has been a cycling rest week for me.  After 4 weeks of at least 15 hours of riding each week, I was feeling like it might be time.  This left me plenty of time to catch up on YouTube videos, TV programs, and drinking beer.

Not only was this break good for me physically, but also emotionally. I feel like I am ready to "rage" on my bike again.  Rage means go fast and hard.  I will be doing five weeks of solid training before I have another rest week, and then the season starts! I will not be totally trained and ready for racing until March, but the early season races will help me prepare for this.

In other news, I convinced Ally to get a new phone, and NOT get an iPhone!  She ended up with an Android based phone, which is definitely the have to have phone of 2011. Plus Verizon probably won't get the iPhone until July of next year.  And the iPhone, while good, is not AS good as the Droid phones.  So now I have a DroidX and she has the Droid Incredible.  Hopefully she will still acknowledge my existence even though she has a smartphone.

I only work two days this week and then I am off for Christmas for 5 days. It will be nice to see the family and exchange presents. I am sad that I will miss skiing this year, but now that I don't have Christmas vacation for a month, it's harder to plan around a long trip.  Maybe next year, if I can still have vacation by that time!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tips for Night Riding and Commuting

Almost every morning since we moved to Houston, I have been riding in the dark to work. At 6am, there are not many cars on the roads, and only a handful pass me while I ride. Because of daylight savings time, I am now riding in the early morning light at 6:15am, but my commute home is at dusk and dark. This has proven to be much more unnerving than the morning commute. In the afternoon, it seems like everyone has to leave right at 5:00pm. The streets are horribly congested for 30 minutes, and then the congestion lessens again. From this night-time riding, I feel that I have learned a few rules of the road that people should follow when riding at night, more specifically for commuting.

Notice the 4 bike lights, reflective tape, light clothing, but yet still generally looking Pro.

Ken’s Golden Rules of Night Riding /Commuting
1. Never leave the office right at 5:00pm.
That is when all the cars leave the office, and is the most dangerous time to ride during the winter. People are on the smaller bike friendly streets because they are not on the highway in traffic yet. Everyone wants to get home and they don’t care about anyone else’s safety. Time is their main concern. They are calling their spouse to see what they are up to and if they have left the office yet. Leaving at 5:15 or 5:30 will make you life so much easier. It also shows to your boss that you have commitment, if you leave later than they do!
2. Have at least two sets of lights.
If the car hits you because you can’t be seen, then you were asking to get hit. One single light can easily be mistaken for a street lamp in the distance. Two blinky lights are weird and people take notice to things they are unsure of. I have two front blinky lights totaling to 5 LED’s and two red blinkys in the back. It is best to have lights on the side so that you are projecting light out of every direction. I am going to use a battery powered Christmas light set to help with this.
3. Don’t be pro
Night cycling is not the time to be pro. During the daytime, you would NEVER catch me dead in dayglo. Dayglo cycling kits are not pro at all. They look ridiculous. But during the night, I want to be seen, because getting run over because you can’t be seen is not pro either. Wear reflecting clothing, gloves, vests, ankle bracelets, whatever it takes to get noticed. This goes for reflectors as well. Reflectors are not pro in normal training situations, but at night this is acceptable for safety reasons. Besides, if you WERE pro, you wouldn’t be riding at night because you would have a real job during the day. Damn…..
The only exception, IMO, is a rearview mirror on the bike or helmet. This is so ungodly NOT pro that I cannot bring myself to buy one. And they don’t work either.
3. Know your route.
Night riding is not the time to discover a new route, mainly because of potholes. Things that you can see from 50 yards out to you in the daytime might be only visible for 5 yards at night, equating to a half-second reaction time. Ride your route during the day, taking mental notes of all obstacles in the road and a way to know where the obstacles will be in the dark. For instance, when I pass the Churches Chicken on my ride home, I know that there is a giant pothole about 100 yards up the road that I will crash into if I don’t avoid it.
4. Be obnoxious, not timid (never ride on the sidewalk!!!!!)
I have been honked and yelled at for being in the street while riding my bike. The common trend between all these people is that none of them have hit me! I know that if they are honking, they have seen me and are avoiding me, and all I have to do is stay calm, and they will go away. The two times I have been hit, the driver said “Oh sorry man, I just didn’t see you!” Don’t be afraid to take up a lane, or ride a little out of the bike lane so that cars will not get too close to you. Legally you can always do this. The worst thing you can do is get scared and ride on the sidewalk. Cars will not see you and will definitely turn into you.
5. Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re crazy
When you tell people you ride an hour each way, the response you get 9 out of 10 times is, “That’s crazy, I would never do that in Houston!” Don’t be surprised by this. Houston, like most cities in the US, is completely set up around cars, so much so that people can’t imagine another form of transportation. They can’t think of a situation of why it would be a priority to ride a bike to work. They think that it is incredibly risky. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I have seen numbers that show that the rewards of lower cholesterol lower heart disease rates, lower obesity rates clearly outweigh the risk of getting hit by a car. And that’s with not even mentioning the fact that you are not stressed out by driving in traffic. I think people get jealous as well. I get to spend 2 hours a day riding my bike instead of an hour of sitting on the 610 loop in stop and go (mostly stop) traffic.
6. Use Murphy’s Law
There might be situations where something goes wrong, and you should be prepared to get out of the situation. For instance, if I get a flat, I can fix the flat, but I don’t carry supplies for getting 2 flats. But I do have some extra change to catch a bus back to my house. Also, the weather might say one thing, but it could change fast. You need clothing and supplies to adjust to that.
7. HTFU!!
Harden the %^*& up. Just go out and ride your bike. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark, rainy, and cold. Don’t let that keep you from something you love. Remember that if you don’t go ride now, you’ll be one day older when you do! I know a lot of people that like the idea of riding to work, but stop at just actually going and doing it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Training for 2011!!!! (Actually NO)

I had everything completely reading for Operacion Training 2011 (J/K!). Yearly training plan. Bike Upgrades! New chain. Year supply of EPO (wait... wut?) Ready to go like never before. Motivation at 201.45%. Last Friday was my first real day back on the bike.... and then I get sick! Sicker than a dog, sicker than Guru Nanak Dev. Well not that sick, but sick enough to keep me off the bike for four very painful days.

Ally was telling me the whole time to wait and not ride, that I was going to make it worse. Of course she, in her infinite wisdom of all things medical, was right, but I wasn't about to let her know it. She decided that tough love was the answer as well, telling me to stop whining and that I'm not really that sick, to suck it up. In hindsight I appreciate her rock hard attitude of not letting me just sleep all day, but nevertheless karma (thanks Nanak, ole' buddy) decided that she was in the wrong and she is now sick with exactly the same symptoms I had. Who's whining now, eh? I think the tough love should be warmly but firmly reciprocated.

It's Wednesday now, and I'm ready to ride, with just a minor hick-up in the training year.

For Thanksgiving, Ally and I will be traveling to San Antonio to hang out with my extended family that is coming in from all over the place. Some I have not seen in a REALLY long time, and I am looking forward to catching up, except..... We have a well in Atlantis (that's the field I work in the Gulf of Mexico) that may or may not start up on or around Thanksgiving. Awesome. Atlantis has a history of being ready to go at the most in-opportunistic times, such as holidays. There is only one holiday in November, but it wouldn't surprise me if I found myself offshore in Fire Retardant Clothing. At least on the rigs they are supposed to have incredible food on holidays....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time for Fall

Today was one of the first days in Houston where it did not go over 80. It was rainy and dreary and reminded me of the summer Anchorage when the weather is bad.

I haven't ridden my bike in over 2 weeks because it is currently being repaired for the 2011 season. Phil Shama is hooking me up with some great new gear to go on my bike. I decide to go for a power meter to try and take the training to a new level. Because I am so time limited lately, it is important that I use whatever time I have to train to the fullest. Training with power is sure to help with this. I am also getting new bars and replacing all the cabling and housing. It should be pretty sweet and ready to go for training this winter. Training will start next week, starting with long easy miles in the base period, as described by Joe Friel's Blog.

One thing I still have to figure out is how to keep my bike clean! Living in an apartment is not optimal for this: I don't really have access to a water hose. The one time that I have cleaned my bike since JULY is at a car wash! It did a pretty good job, but it took a lot of time and money. Hopefully I will figure out a better way....

Another travesty of the winter is now I definitely ride to and from work in the complete dark. As my co-workers pointed out, the ride home is more dangerous than the ride to work because of teenagers being on the road. The only people on the road at 6am are coffeed-out 9-5'ers driving to work.

A GREAT part of the winter is skiing. Hopefully I already have the first ski trip planned the weekend of Dec 10-13! I'm planing to go with my buddies Brian and Paul, flying in and out of Denver. I'm trying to decided whether it is more economical to buy or rent skis.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sailing with Dad.

I call my parents about once a week, which I think is good for a guy. My mom has been out of town (Dallas) for about 3 weeks, so I called my dad and talked to him about how great the Rangers were doing and how excited we were for them. Soon the conversation switched to when mom and dad were planning on coming down to Houston, the trip that we have been planning since August. Finally I just suggested that he come tomorrow, and dad couldn't really think of a good reason not to, so he said he would pack his things and come down for a day so that we could go sailing.

The last time I had been sailing, the whole family went to Galveston. We sailed around the bay in a 30 ft yacht for the day, with a captain and everything. I still remember him with a huge beard and a captain's hat, but no parrot, to my dismay. This trip would be a bit different. Once I started looking at the costs of renting such a boat, I soon decided that a 16' luger with no outboard motor would be plenty for Dad and I to mess around with in Clear Lake and/or Galveston Bay.

Sunday morning we drove down to the dock after sleeping in until 9am (super late for me!). Dad got some sandwiches at Subway while I checked out the boat and payed the charter dude for the sailboat rental.

We chatted with the charter dude for a little bit about Dad’s racing days and how it would be good to get back out on the water. We were loading the boat up and about to shove off, but I suppose Dad “shoved off” a little too hard and lost his balance, falling over backward in to the water! He was unhurt except for his pride and soon got out of the water and on to dry land. The funny part was to see the demeanor of the charter guy get a little bit more nervous about letting these land ‘lubers take his boat out!

It was very difficult to get the boat out due to the strong wind that was coming straight from the direction we wanted to go. This meant that we had no way to get the sails up before the wind would take us straight into another boat in the dock. I paddle as hard as I could while Dad messed with the sails that weren’t put up correctly. Because of the wind, I couldn’t paddle hard enough to keep us from hitting parts of the dock and other boats around us, and my anxiety quickly grew. I kept thinking to myself, “Maybe the old man has forgotten how to do this, and we are screwed!”

After about 15 minutes of knocking around and messing with the sails, we got the sails up and started on a port tack. The wind was pretty gusty and Dad was not used to the boat yet. Because of this, he kept laying the boat over just a little too much, and water would rush over the gunwale and onto our feet. My anxiety at this point started to increase exponential, as described by the chart below, which shows # of expletives coming out of my mouth vs liters of water in the boat. I thought we were about to capsize!!

Soon we had the boat under control and I took a turn at the rudder. I was slow at first, being very cautious with how much list I would allow, so we crawled around the bay, even though the wind was pretty strong. Soon I became comfortable enough to let the boat go and we started to have a lot of fun.

During our cruise we also got to see a neat air show, with 5 jets flying around, looping and twirling in what looked to be an impossibly tight formation. AS the sun was setting, I felt like this was a great day with good father/son bonding. It was good to have him down!