Monday, October 31, 2011

65 Miles

Last Monday, I started listening to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. The audio version fits my lifestyle really well since I can listen while walking. This book caused me to exercise a bit more than normal as there were several times when I reached my time or mileage goal and just kept on going to keep listening to the book. I finished listening this weekend so, for me, this book was 65 miles long.

The book portrays Jobs as a very intelligent person who needs to control everything and was incapable of empathy. And what strikes me the most was that he was unhappy, irritated or mad more often than not. What also strikes me is the contrast to other CEO types within technology companies such as Microsoft and Google. His skill seemed to be design and sat at the intersection of the arts and technology. This is in stark contrast to Balmer's marketing background and Page's engineering focus and this has a lot to do with his success. There were many quotes from friends, enemies, colleagues and competitors. Some positive but many more were negative and critical but all appeared to be accurate. Since I have been working in the technology field for almost thirty years, I was familiar with many of the stories and products but this book filled in many of the details.

There were several references to his BMW R60/2 motorcycle including that it was usually parked in the lobby during the development of the original Macintosh. He put it there to inspire the engineers and designers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winter Exercise Goals

It has been getting pretty warm during the days but never enough to really melt all of the ice off of the roads. I have all but given up on getting in one more ride this year and have the bike up on the center stand in the back of the garage. Instead, I have been focusing on getting more exercise and maybe even obsessing about it. Over the weekend, I needed to run to the store and I managed to convince others at home, who were also running into town, to just watch for me walking along the road. On the DailyMile, a social website focusing on exercise, I had left a comment about not being able to get my speed up since I did not seem to be able to run. It was suggested that I try jogging for 20 steps followed by walking for 20 steps then repeat. This seemed like a pretty simple suggestion that even I could do and I tried it last Saturday. I was amazed that it worked pretty well. I was able to keep this up for miles and actually increased my average speed. Maybe I can actually do this...

Since it has started to snow, my favorite walking area, the x-country ski trails which fill the entire upper left of this map, are now off limits. There still really isn't enough snow to start skiing yet but maybe in another couple of weeks. I was also told by the university hired health consultant to start weight training. The cardio work was insufficient and I needed to work on building muscle mass. Of course, they have been saying that for the last couple of years but I never seriously followed up on it. I started using the resistance machines at the local health club a couple of times per week. At the last meeting with the health consultant, she told me that I needed to do two loops through all the machines. The little DailyMile widget is on the left side of the page and reminds me of my weekly mileage (their week starts on Monday). My short term goal is to get back up to the six to eight miles per day average that I was managing back in 2009. And a longer term goal is to finish the Equinox Marathon again. Hopefully a bit faster than my 2008 time.

Revzilla's Contest

The folks at Revzilla are giving away $500 in merchandise in a contest described on this Posterous site. I'm in need of some replacement gear so here is my entry. Thank you to Fuzzy and the ScooterDiva for graciously bringing this contest to everyone's attention.

What does touring or adventure riding mean to you?

It started out as "this may be a good way to save a little money on gas..." but within a couple of weeks, that thought went out the window. Riding has quickly become more than just another transportation option. It is challenging and enjoyable and even the most mundane ride makes me smile. And though I used to really enjoy bicycle touring, motorcycle touring allows me to cover much more distance in the same amount of time so long trips are now an option. And for me, every ride is still an adventure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Probably the Last Ride of the Year

How many times have I said this already. The weather guessers were wrong again! Saturday was warm though not very sunny. I had a bunch of errands to run and ended up riding just over a hundred miles including some of my favorite "scenic routes". I didn't venture very far from home as it still looked like it was raining/snowing in the distance. Plus reports for the Parks and Elliot highways didn't sound too good. The lakes are now completely covered by a thin layer of ice. Here you can see that people have thrown rocks onto the ice to see how thick it was. Some of the rocks were pretty large and they didn't break through. This little pond is on the backside of the west ridge ski trails that I enjoy walking on and there is a nice trail along this road for a couple of miles. This is on the way out to the Goldstream Valley which received their first significant snowfall this past week. Today, most of it has melted and the roads were nice and dry. Since the leaves are off the trees, it looks pretty drab around here. Many are looking forward to the snow since it makes things look a lot less grey.

I suspect that this really was the last ride of the year. The forecast is for snow for most of the week and highs just below freezing. Actually, few are complaining about the snow as we really need the snow to insulate the ground. Very little snow allows the cold to penetrate deeper into the ground potentially freezing water and septic lines.

In case you are interested, I ran across a link to this video on ADVrider in the Alaska section. It is a video of a trip from Fairbanks down to B.C. put together by the university. This is pre-Alaska Highway and the pair rode lightweight British bikes (since they knew that they would have to carry and push them), had to build rafts to cross rivers and hunt for their food along the way. Makes modern travel seem pretty cushy...

Near the end of the video, take note of the two bikes lashed together with a platform for the dog in between the bikes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quick Trip to Toolik Lake

This morning, I was on my north again to Toolik Field Station located about 40 miles north of the Brooks Range along the Dalton Highway. We left about 9:15 am and arrived around 4:30 pm with only a short stop in Coldfoot to pick up some fuel (last stop for ultra-low sulpher diesel) and some lunch to-go. This is a mountain south of Atigun Pass and it looks like solid rock. If you look closely you can see some frozen waterfalls which was the point of the photo. The other person in the truck had a friend that wanted to do some ice climbing in the area and was just wondering what conditions were like.

This is the view to the south as we were climbing Atigun Pass and as you can see, the weather wasn't too good. Lots of low clouds, snow and some fog. It looks colder than it actually was. I think the scenery is really stunning.

However, north of the Brooks Range, the weather was absolutely beautiful. Temperatures are in the mid-20s and there was a slight breeze. The distance between these two pictures was about ten miles.

I had forgotten one piece of equipment in my office the last time up here. A polarization mode dispersion analyzer to characterize the fiber optic cable we installed the last time I was up here. I figure it would take me about four hours to run the tests as well as collect the data on the tests I had run remotely. I still don't know how to transfer the data back to Fairbanks so I may just have to come up periodically to pull the data. Oh darn...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Still Riding...

I sometimes get the feeling like I am on borrowed time. We are having some beautiful, clear days with none of the white stuff that cannot be mentioned. The miserable weather that was predicted for the weekend never materialized except for a heavy drizzle early Saturday morning. This is an iPhone photo of Ballaine Lake using an app called Pro HDR. I pass this way just about everyday and on Sunday, I was on foot. I felt that I needed to make up some miles after slacking off with exercise while in Raleigh. So I decided to walk to town via a less than direct route (9.8 miles one way). The ice was just starting to form on the south shore of the lake and by today, Monday, it was about halfway across the lake and starting to look solid. This morning, it was a brisk 21°F according to the sign at the entrance to the university and I did ride the bike in to work. By mid-morning, it was all the way up to 26°F. I thought about trying out the grip heaters again but forgot about them once I got going. After about twenty minutes, the only part of me that was feeling a little chilled was my neck. I'm still wary about using the heaters due to the anemic charging system on these older airheads. I think it is rated at 280 watts at 4k rpm so unless I'm cruising down the road, I don't think that it would be a good idea to use them. I'm still planning on putting in an improved charging system this winter. Maybe the Enduralast system which puts out 450 watts but also gets rid of the diode board. Supposedly a weak point in the system.

Tuesday Morning - The weather was supposed to be cold and sunny. It was 23°F this morning when I rode in but it looked kind of overcast. By mid-morning it hadn't warmed significantly and the clouds were depositing a very light dusting of snow. Since I had several appointments around town, I returned home and dropped off the bike. I guess I don't like carrying around all my gear when reaching my destination. I had removed the cases earlier and put them away on a high shelf since I thought that they wouldn't be needed for a while. If it clears up later today I'm going to be annoyed...

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Not Snowing Yet!

I arrived home last night after having been up for almost 22 hours and in the air for 10 or those. I was happy to see that the roads were still dry and not a trace of snow or ice to be seen. This morning, I dug my bike out of the back of the garage and it felt great to ride in. Temperatures were in the low to mid-20's (°F) and my visor kept fogging up. I ended up riding with it mostly open. I need to try out that anti-fogging stuff I picked up.

This afternoon, I went for a walk through the woods behind the university. The "official" reason was to check on one of the geocaches we set out for the students and staff to find as part of a technology day. So far, 16 people have found the cache and picked up a token. Collect all the tokens and exchange them for a prize and be entered in a drawing for a better prize. As usual, I sort of stretched out the walk as it was a pretty nice afternoon. This is one of the ski trails called bicycle bumps and it is a lot of fun to ski on as long as you can avoid the trees.

Smith Lake is at the end of the bicycle bumps trail. As you can see, ice is just starting to form and soon, you will be able to ski right across the lake to the T-Field on the other side. My walk continued around the T-Field and at the southern end, there were two foxes watching me from the safety of the woods. One of these days, I'm going to remember to bring the camera with the telephoto lens. On the way back up the hill towards campus, I saw one more large fox sitting in the middle of the trail watching me trudge up the hill.

Along the trail, there are some plastic flowers "planted" next to a utility pole. They are about the only bright color in the area. I believe that they were brought out by a runner to mark distances. The ski team had already been out and marked the trail around the field every 200k.

If it's still nice out, I'll take the scenic route home and the weather guessers are saying that we are going to get snow and/or freezing rain this weekend.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Raleigh, NC

The majority of Sunday was spent in the air or in airports. I left Fairbanks at 1:25AM and arrived at my hotel in Raleigh, NC, around 8:00PM. The first leg on Alaska Airlines was fine though subsequent legs on Delta were cramped and crowded. The first thing that struck me was all of the green. There isn't even a hint of autumn. Even when passing through Minneapolis, I was astounded by all the lush, green foliage. I guess I though that since our Fall has ended everywhere else must have at least started.

I am here attending the Internet² Fall Member meeting. The Fall meeting gets moved around the country as it is hosted by different member institutions just as the University of Alaska Fairbanks hosted the Joint Tech meeting last July in Alaska. This year the meeting is hosted by MCNC, the operator of NCREN (North Carolina Research Education Network.) We are meeting just a few blocks south from the capitol building and last night, a couple of us headed that direction looking for dinner. We found the Oxford gastropub a couple of blocks down the street. I had not heard the "gastropub" term before but I the food selection was absolutely phenomenal. Since I have no pictures, I won't go into their wonderful offerings.

This evening, a group of us found a Lebanese restaurant and I must give them credit, they took our group immediately without a reservation. The food was also phenomenal.
I had the fatteh with lamb. Stewed lamb over white rice, crispy phyllo triangles, pine nuts, whipped yogurt and garlic. This is in addition to a bunch of cold and hot appetizers shared by the table. This was a great end to a great day. All of the sessions I attended were varied and interesting. There was some controversy on whether Internet² should even be in the software development business as there is no long term roadmap or business plan and many institutions rely on the software products.

Wednesday Afternoon - I must admit that I am feeling a bit like a slacker. So far this week, I've only walked about 12 miles and I can't use weather as an excuse. The weather has been really pleasant and there are no hills to speak of. This evening, there is an NCREN reception at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History and that may be a mile away or so. It should be a nice walk. Last night, we had dinner at a small restaurant serving "local cuisine" and it was pretty good. Fried chicken, turnip greens, fried eggplant and rice with gravy. All finished off with some sort of berry cobbler. Fortunately, the servings were small (as was the price).

It has been great to visit with colleagues from all over the country and hear about what new things they are working on. During one of the sessions this morning, I noticed that they were setting up some sort of Lego displays for an upcoming conference. We thought that maybe we need some sort of Lego mascot for this organization. Maybe initiatives such as IPv6 will get more attention...

Thursday morning - Yesterday evening, MCNC and NCREN hosted a reception in the Natural History Museum of North Carolina. Pretty nice facility. I finally found out what MCNC stands for or at least what it used to stand for. Microelectronics Center of North Carolina. Since the name is now almost meaningless, they retained the acronym but dropped the name. All three floors of the museum were open to the attendees and they had whales hanging from the first floor ceiling. I don't know the species but was reminded of the Heritage Center in Barrow where they also had a whale hanging from the ceiling.

The second floor had the mammals with a section highlighting the very early days of the museum with hundreds of small animals, reptiles and fish floating in some sort of liquid in glass bottles. That's how things used to be preserved. A short talk was given by Dr. Meg Lowman. the new director of their new Nature Research Center still under construction next door. Fascinating talk about the huge number of species discovered in the last 25 years. Lots of food and drinks provided with music provided by a jazz combo from the Durham School of Music for most of the event.

During breakfast this morning, Doug Van Houweling, the former CEO of Internet², joined us and started telling Steve Jobs stories. Most of the stories were from the '80s and '90s starting with demonstrations of the Mac before it's release trying to generate interest in the higher education community. And the introduction of the Next computers which were focused on higher education and research. As you may be aware, there was not wide scale adoption of the workstations though the University of Alaska Fairbanks did set up a Next lab in cooperation with the Computer Science and Math department. I must admit that I enjoyed using them and they were much more stable that the Apple and Windows platforms of the day. Interest in doing anything with higher ed ended with the failure of the Next. After that, the primary focus seemed to shift towards the consumer.