Thursday, May 29, 2008

Microsoft SUCKS!

I'm just going off on a rant here. I'm working on a project for a client. It's not a difficult one, but it does happen to be in Microsoft Access. This used to be a nice programming system for those 'quick and dirty' applications. You could make it do quite a bit but then, they decided it should have more programming power. Then they shut off alot of the old functions that used to work so well. Then they changed the command structure again til it's little more than QuickBasic that I used to use 20+ years ago with a forms and report generator with a database backend. This is progress? This is what they want customers to blow several hundred dollars on every few years? I think Bill has been smoking something up in that high tech pushbutton command center of an office of his. The worst part is the people in the corporate world just keep going right along with the upgrade process. I have one thing to say for these people - Baaaaaaaa (how do you type out the sound a sheep makes?). When I take over the world econcomy and the corporate IT structure, we'll all be on a Windows 2000/XP pro desktop and a FreeBSD server. This is the general setup most of my clients have and you know, I just don't have the nasty problems some companies have with their computers and it's all done pretty inexpensively. Does the world need prettier pictures on the desktop? Some might, but for the rest of us, save the money and stick with what works and isn't a pain in the ass. Otherwise, just go buy a MAC. It's really FreeBSD behind the OS X window dressing. Steven Jobs, please send the check to this address.....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Up, up and into the ground hard

Just when I saw a resurgence in my form, I got shelled in 2 straight races. The first at BikeJam was totally my fault. It was the kind of course where you make no bones about getting to the front of the group as quick as you can in the first few laps and then recover and hold your position. From a back row starting position, I moved up about halfway and then started the recovery process. I just wasn't far enough up the line. In the space of 3 laps, I found myself several riders behind a split heading towards the sharp corners before the rise to the finish line. Since no one else was moving, I jumped across the gap and made it back on at the top of the hill. I made it just in time for an acceleration at the front. Damn, it was hurting now. Going through the tight turns again at the bottom, another rider almost bunged things up by shooting the inside of the corner. Some people just shouldn't do crits. It was a bit of a weird line, but if you were trying to keep the speed up through the turn, you had to delay going into sharp left hand turn so you'd then have no problem shooting through it and being up to speed with no major cost. These guys were diving into the turn, braking out when they realized they were overcooking it and then having to sprint out. I generally like to keep my efforts a bit more on the smooth side. A second effort to stay with the field made things tougher and up over the top, I just couldn't keep the speed up after the roundabout and was trying to tag onto other wheels who were having to make the same kind of efforts I was. In the end, we all lost as we got separated. One final burst got me back to the field heading into the turns at the bottom again, but I just didn't have the horsepower to stay there. I settled back into a group and a few of us started working together. Unfortunately, we were in the group of riders who were destined for that early finish. They didn't even give us a 'You suck' prime to sprint for. The second indignity of the day came a few laps later when the pace vehicle got close and we were pulled. 3 hours of driving to do a dozen miles. I gotta start getting to these things earlier. No warmup on a course like that just is not a good thing. I did get some good sun though and even was able to work on trying to overcome the cyclist tan while watching the women's and men's pro events. I also test rode a Stork bike there. This was a stupid light bike, but it certainly fit the bill as a good stiff racer. The price is a bit steep, but if you don't mind having a bike that will be lucky to survive a single fall, this is a good one. Who needs a house anyway? The race organizers did an ok job of trying to get vendors in too. It would have been nice to have more though. Maybe they need to learn from the St. Alban's crit people who incorporated a whole festival around the race. They get a decent crowd of the town's people there to see the races. And where else but in West 'by God' Virginia, would there be a 'Cornholing' Contest? That'll bring the crowds out. They sure know how to have fun down in them there hills.

On Sunday, it was time to try to erase some bad memories of a mountain bike race in the WVMBA series. It was in this race I learned two things. The first was 'DO NOT TO FORGET TO DRINK EARLY AND OFTEN'. When dehydration hits in a mountain bike race, it hits hard and there's no faking it after that. The second was 'Don't heckle Betsy Shogren when you catch her'. I got my ass kicked a second time for that. I tried staying with her and after the second climb, the effort as well as the dehydration brought on that wonderful host of sparkly lights and light-headedness that just ended my day. I had gone past the point of no return and bagged it. This year would be different. Well, it was different, but the same result. Two miles in, I could feel the back bitching already. Carryover from losing a battle with an 81 Malibu at high speed has a way of coming back and haunting one. On top of that, this was the first time I'd been on the mountain bike in two weeks where I'd had a near out of body experience when my brakes went out on a very big and rocky descent. I found I had zero confidence in going down the drops and it wasn't getting any better. After a while, I ran up the white flag and rode it in with another rider who'd also done the same. Getting passed by a couple on a tandem just made things worse. On the plus side though, I didn't get dehydrated. But I definitely have to get out on the trails for some skills training to help get the ol' confidence back. With no zip on those descents, there's not a whole lot of point in me racing and that's not a feeling I like to have.

Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned Al Oliver last post. I could be paying for that one.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Al 'I can do it all' Oliver

Well, these past couple weeks have been fun. I can add a few of these to my list of things I've done in life. Others are just padding to the existing entries on the resume. I'm feeling like Al Oliver from 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates fame. He was an outfielder who never really got his due, but was on the 1971 World Series team as well as several divisional championship teams. At one point, he did claim he could do it all, hence the nickname. That followed him all the way thru to his retirement. I never intend on retiring so if this follows me, I'm in for years of being hassled about it.

1. Hanging drywall - My brothers and I did an entire room for my mom this past weekend. It's a pretty big room, but we got the electrical wiring run, boxes in and all the wallboard up. It's also cable ready too! I might look into doing the plaster work as well. Happy birthday, Mom!

2. Plumber - This one, I'm not as thrilled with because it was unexpected and it definitely cut into riding time. The clog in the pipes seems cleared, but I'll probably run the snake thru again just to make sure. I've replaced water pipes before at the family store, but clearing the drainage pipes to the line hookups at the road is a new one. I don't think I'll look to do this professionally, but it did save a several hundred dollar house call by a real plumber.

3. Rumor monger/Conspiracy theorist. Now this one was fun. There is nothing quite like taking a bright young mind and adding to it a nice dash of paranoia and reality. I've actually done this before, but this past week, I think I might've sent the girls at Starbucks in Greensburg completely over the edge. By the time I was done with my brief lecture, they were pretty much afraid to use their cell phones, computers and even drive their cars down the street. All I did was to tell them what is capable of being done with the technology that we all take for granted in everyday life. There's now a few more people in the world who will be forever looking over their shoulders.

4. Political observer. This is another one where I've been practicing for a while, but can I pick them. I might have to get a job at Vegas doing the odds for this venue(They bet on anything there). I was able to pick up on the latest developments in the current election season and give accurate responses from the other candidates to the initial stories. Even down to the level of indignation they were dealing with. I doubt I'll ever have a serious job in this given my previous entry here, but I've gotten pretty good at reading situations in current events. I tend to be on the conservative side of things (please don't read that as Republican, there is a BIG difference) and just love having the little coffee shop discussions on world events and the hows and why of their developments. It never ceases to amaze me how most people are only able to look at one narrow view of things and just cannot break free from it.

5. Meeting girls at coffee shops. Actually, I've gotten alot better at this lately and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just the idea of not starting a conversation with the 'trying to pick her up' motive behind it. I remember over the years the biggest problem was the opening line. Without the pressure of 'hey, I'd like to get her number' it just seems much easier. Damn, I did forget to get Jessica's number though. I don't think I can put it down to just being myself. Refer back to number 3 here for this. I just have too much fun in that department sometimes. Maybe it's just I'm now more relaxed with myself. I'll have to go get a coffee and think about it.

All this and I make a pretty damn good cheesecake too!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Test Passed

Well, I did my first Tuesday night run to Cleveland for the Westlake Circuit race. There generally are good sized fields here. This week we had almost 50 riders. The main part I like about it is we usually get Paul Martin, the current national champ, and several of the Inferno pros including Jim Baldasare, a former criterium champ as well and 2 or 3 of the bigger amateur teams in that region. I felt good enough to go with alot of the breaks, though halfway through, I decided to hold off since Paul was in one of his moods that day. He'd let a break get up the road so there was a 30 to 60 second split and then go to the front and motor til we went past it. It's a bit depressing when you realize he's just goofing with you. He did get annoyed when after doing a 3 mile or so pull at over 30mph, no one else would follow through. I tried, but without additional help from the 3 other bigger teams there, there wasn't a big reason for me, all by my lonesome to do much more than take a slug at the front and get out of Dodge. It was also fun scolding other riders who are generally stronger than I am, to quit the ass scratching contest and get moving. Nothing like being a cat 1 and having a cat 3 shitmonkey like myself, telling you to start acting like you're racing. The good thing that I came away with was, I could handle going with and working in the breaks, even with the Inferno pros. I was also able to hop from the pack to breaks without too much difficulty either. The best thing was I was using wheels that were definitely NOT the best wheels to be using for a flat fast circuit. They were better suited to climbing, not for rolling on the flats a 30+mph. Unfortunately in the end, I got behind what I thought was one of the best wheels there in a sprint, Dave Chernowski. It was unfortunate because I didn't know he was riding with a broken cleat. One hard jump half a mile from the finish and he pulled his foot out, pinched me into the side and we lost all of our momentum. It was too bad, because I was real comfortable sitting there and if I even got a whiff of the front, I'm pretty sure I could've finished top 3 at least. Things are definitely coming around. This week, I'll be just out riding in the mountains and scouting a couple race courses. Low pressure but lots of up and downs. On the road course there are 2 7+ mile climbs which should give me plenty to think about. Put down the donut, Jay.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A hammer and a bit of patience

Last year during the cross season, I thought I totally screwed my Zipp 404s. After look at several ways to try to repair the rims that was severely dented, last nite I finally said the heck with it. I pulled out the hammer and just started whacking at them. I had to temper the strikes to make sure I didn't make it worse, but after about half an hour of hammering, then looking at the rim, then hammering some more, they came out pretty good. Sometimes all the high tech gizmos in the world just dont match up to that classic tool, the hammer. It's good on cars, computers and toasters too!

Monday, May 12, 2008


I got up Sunday for WVMBA #4 at Cooper's Rock. It was a nice steady rain that greated me as I left. I'm getting tired of this. It rained most all of the day before too. Luckily, it stopped for the start of the race and only started in the last half hour so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, my bike gave me a never ending headache this race. I thought I got the chain tensioned well enough. Then I used too small a gear. Then I was still a bit shot from the day before . . . .Can someone get me some cheese for this whine? There was another long road section to start. I didn't lose too much time but I was still well back through the field. Once we hit the trail, I started rolling. I felt good, but dammit, the chain just flew off. I got going in again and rolled through the group of riders again and really was feeling the course well. I caught up with Thad Kelley who is one of the race organizers in WV. We've usually wound up racing against each other. Today was one of those cases where I just wasn't going to win it. Mechanicals just kept getting worse. After the 6th time the chain flew off, I finally said the hell with it. I stopped and adjusted the bottom bracket to snug it up. Then after riding a bit, I found I didn't quite get it tightened down enough and it was moving around. Is there no end to the misfortune? Well, you shouldn't ask questions you don't want the answers to. Blowing down one of the final descents, I suddenly got to feel what real fear was like. I was coming down the hill fast and it was a very rocky descent. A squeeze of the brakes produced nothing. I was now going much faster. Ummmm, Houston, we have a problem. The only effect of the brakes now was to not let me pick up as much speed. I was bouncing off the trail but keeping the bike up. I was now going faster on a rocky descent than I ever had before. There were a few riders up ahead. Damn, please let there be a break in the drop soon. I could control the bike with just me on the trail. With others on the trail, I was screwed. It might get ugly. With the riders 20 yards ahead now, I finally got what I really needed. I popped up over a slight rise in the trail and got slowed down to where I could get the bike stopped. Man, that was close. I got some brakes back after goofing with the adjusters. I was still shaking a bit from the cold but more likely the fact that I just dodged a major bullet. Once that was done, I was able to finish in. 11th place considering all that I had to deal with wasn't bad, but it all amounted to in the range of 10 minutes lost. I'm making the notes for next year. Bigger gear and make double sure everything is down tight. My next race is the one where last year, I was up with the very front of my race and riding through the expert field. I was going well right up to the point where I caught Betsy Shogren and started heckling her. That lasted for a bit and in trying to stay with her, I completely blew to pieces not long after. This year, keep my damn mouth shut. It should be a good one since it's a really good single speed course.

West Virginia : One bitchin hill after another!

Well, I got my first taste of racing in the bigger hills this year. It started off with some fast decents. I rolled off the front without really trying. I wasn't attacking, but I didn't want to be in the pack in the beginning twisting descents with riders whose ability I was unsure of. One thing I did know is my wheels did not disappoint. God were they fast. Without even trying I was rolling away from everyone in a coast. They worked pretty well uphill too, though I'm still just a few pounds too heavy for climbing this serious. I had a teammate marking the eventual winner who in turn got a bit annoyed with Aaron sitting in. Eh, tough toenails dude, this is racing. Just wait til we get to the races where gravity isn't quite as big a factor. I worked him over in a sprint last year, I'll do it again this year. I got cracked off within a couple hundred yards of the top of the first really big long climb. It started with a quick punch up a steep hill then a long winding steady climb. after a few miles of that, it finished with another steep punch and I just didn't have it. I rolled back to them on the descent, but unfortunately, there was another 1/2 miler that was fairly steep. a couple hundred yards into that and I knew I was done. I also knew that there was a fairly good rip down to the halfway point. I was working with another rider who'd been yo-yoing off the back on the climb. He could give me a break on the flats, but just didn't have the power to do much there. I came within spitting distance of the front group of 3 riders (mixed classes). Unfortunately, we turned into a headwind and that was pretty much it, or so I thought. In the end, I finished up riding in with a rider who came up to me and we both were pretty blown out. The rider up front must've really had some issues, because we came in less than 30 seconds down. A bit more agression and we might've been able to take him. He wound up bailing on the mountain bike race the next day so maybe he really did cook himself. I guess a second place isn't too bad, but I'm still a bit disappointed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Smooth rolling wheels!

I just did some maintenance on my stupid light wheels for the High Rollers race in West By God Virginia tomorrow. I use a special lube on the bearings and it takes a couple rides to work in to the races and bearings, but DAMN, what a difference it makes. By giving my front wheel a spin to 28kph (roughly 17.5mph), that sucker spun for well over 2 minutes(just off 2.5 minutes) before finally stopping. The rear spun for about 1.5 minutes and this is with a very light weight rim and tire so the rotation factor isn't quite as great as it is on the Zipp 404 clinchers I have. Who the hell need ceramics when your wheels can do that. Plus, the lube I use costs only a couple bucks a tube and just requires patience before it's battle ready. I just hope my body is working as well as these wheels are tomorrow. I'd like to win the race and get a good start to defending the 40+ series title for the team. It also looks like we've got a couple ringers in the other classes as well. All we need is a few women on the team and we could make a go at a full sweep. GO WVU HealthCare!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Well, it was time for the annual trip to Poolesville, MD. It's as close to a Paris-Roubaix event we have in this region. I've done well here over the years, but haven't had a team to be able to deal with the race properly. 74 fun miles were on tap for the day. It's a fairly easy course until you get to the graveled road section. It's a fight to be one of the first few in and if you are unlucky to be in the middle or back of the pack, you have to deal with all of the bumps and rocks that you cant see, the choking dust (if it's dry as it was this year), and the wrecks. My race lasted about 5 miles. I knew every year I've come down here that the extreme right side of the road is the best. There are fewer holes to dodge and less of a chance of dropping down into the poison ivy and other crap that is there. I was on the right. Wait, your other right, Jay. Dammit, I've done the race around 5 times and never had the misfortune of flatting. Right after the cycling gods were having a good laugh about my launching water bottle, all of a sudden, POW. It was one of those rifle shot type POWs. The kind where you know that not only has your day ended, but that sewup, so lovingly glued and centered on the wheel is totally screwed. Then, I guess the wheel van doesn't stop for everyone. Maybe you had to throw a water bottle at them to get them to stop, but I only had 1 to spare. Well, I'd paid my money, so I road back to the car on the flat, got the spare, popped it on the bike and was just getting out to the final turn of the course to start a new lap and I saw the field cruising through the corner and they were open for business. This was just getting worse. I didn't even have enough time to catch the follow vehicles and try to draft up thru to the pack. I dumped it into the 12 tucked down in and ratcheted the pace up. For the next 4 miles, I kept the bike meter pegged at around 50kph. Looking up, I made up no ground. This was starting to hurt. The philosopher inside the head started talking. Have I mentioned that it gets crowded in here sometimes? It was time to make it a good training ride. I continued a decent pace, though I did back it down a couple of notches on the ouch meter. I road through the womens field that was breaking apart. I came up on one rider from the cyclocross fields who was looking like she was hurting. I coaxed her along and was very resolute about saying, 'NO QUITING ALLOWED'. She wound up sticking it out. After the race, she said she was almost crying, but she rode it in. Good girl. As for me, I popped onto the back of what I thought was the 123 field after about 20 miles of solo effort. I later found out it was the 3-4 field. I stayed on the back and even though there were a few big accelerations, I was pretty much sitting at the back scratching my butt. A couple riders who didn't have anyone handing them off bottles went dry and I tossed them one. It's always good to make friends. The second time thru the gravel section with them was a bit of an adventure. The line went right down the middle (see above). I stayed on the right. There seemed to be only 1 or 2 other riders who saw what I knew. The right was the easy side. Without really pushing too hard, I rode past half the field and was feeling pretty good when all of a sudden, the rider about 5 yards in front of me did a nifty pirouette and a sideways endo. Luckily, he was just stunned and had a bit of a fold on his top tube. The bike was shot, but he was ok. I made sure he was ok on the ride since I wasn't really racing anymore. Then, to add insult to injury, he got a flat in the same way I did earlier. I'm just sure the cycling gods were laughing their asses off by now. At the end of the day, I found the strength is there. The positioning is there. The ability to react to acclerations is there. The only thing missing was luck. Tomorrow, I'll go ride the opening road race of the WV series I'd won last year. There are several new races this year and I think I'd like to defend the 40+ series rather than be too ambitious in the 123s. Besides, we've got two riders on our team who'll kick my butt into next week. Why not have the team go for both series?