a fresh coat of paint will liven the place up

I still have drywall wedged in the tread of my shoe.

I bought a house with my fiancée on the last day of April. It was a several months long process that ended in a very underwhelming, “So here’s your keys and garage door openers, now go talk to your attorney”. No champagne, no triumphant you-just-reached-a-major-life-milestone background music, just some unceremonious document signing on the bottom floor of our lawyer’s office. A quick “congratulations” and we were on our way. Homeowners.

Our first action, once it was official, was to take a quick trip to the local home depot to acquire a new set of locks. Having found the “front door handle” aisle, we proceeded to spend half an hour trying to choose… a front door handle. A discussion or two later and we were on our way back to our house with the appropriate hardware (we thought) and a screwdriver. The deadbolt was replaced in the blink of an eye, but the handle itself proved to be more problematic. You see, we didn’t measure the installed door handle, and the one we purchased was an inch too long. Without the ability to drill a new hole and patch the old one, the old handle went back on the door and the new one went back in the box. Project #1 was half-finished, and lesson #1 was well learned (hopefully): Measure everything before you purchase anything. 

With our first full weekend with the house quickly approaching, we needed to come up with a plan for what other projects we’d start. We’ve come to learn through advice from parents and realtors that one of the quickest and least expensive ways to improve a room is a fresh coat of paint, so we (read: Amanda) came up with a color palate for the house. The main idea behind the coloration was that living areas were to be painted warm, vibrant colors; and that bedrooms would be painted cooler, more relaxed colors. We ended up choosing five main colors and one “neutral” that we’d splash around the house. In addition to paint, we’d noticed nearly all of the electrical sockets in the house were original, installed backwards, were painted over and were generally not consistent, we decided that we’d replace those as we painted.

Saturday morning, after a healthy dunkin’ donuts breakfast, we found ourselves back at home depot picking up all of the gear necessary to accomplish our ambitious plans. Eight gallons of paint, forty electrical sockets and a lawn mower later (among many other items), and we were ready to get to work. Lesson #2: Paint is expensive stuff. We removed all the old screws and hardware still left in the walls of the living and dining rooms, took off all the mouldings, caulked and spackled in all the holes and cracks, sanded away all the leftover imperfections and taped the ceilings and floors. Before we knew it, we were running out of daylight and we hadn’t even started painting. Lesson #3: Things take longer than you think. Despite this, we were both committed to going the job well, so we weren’t disheartened by the apparent lack of progress. At the end of the day, we’d gotten six walls painted and headed out to meet some friends at the bar.

Sunday morning we woke up and headed North to meet up with our friends again for breakfast. Conveniently (read: by design), our quickly-becoming-favorite Home Depot was on the way back to the house. Some sloppy wrecking bar work had left a few holes near the baseboards that needed a bit of love from some drywall mesh. That, some additional painter’s tape and some paintbrush cleaner and we were back to work. Between letting coats of paint dry, we took down the microwave hanging over the oven and removed a cabinet that has seen better days.

One of the “features” of the house was a wood-paneled hallway stair leading from the main foyer up to the bedrooms. The panels made the stairway feel cramped and the style was dated. In our infinite wisdom, we decided to take off the paneling along one wall to see what was underneath. Tragedy! The panels were glued to the wall! The underlying drywall, unsalvageable, met the back of my claw hammer an unceremonious and very dusty end. After our first meal in our new house (pepperoni pizza and a coke), we decided that we had quite a mess. One of the rules we’re trying to adhere to throughout all of these projects is to make the site as clean as possible before leaving for the day (or going to sleep), for a couple reasons: a messy site is a dangerous site, and we don’t want to start working the next day by having to clean up. Faced with the prospect of possibly violating that rule on the very first weekend, we set out – once again – for Home Depot.

Shopvac now in our possession, I made quick work of the smaller chunks of drywall and dust, while Amanda karate-chopped the larger pieces into sizes more suitable for a garbage bag. This bit of cleanup is the impetus for lesson 4: Shopvacs are amazing seriously go buy one right now I don’t know how I ever cleaned anything without one.

After all was said and done, we got two rooms very nearly completely painted (two walls still need a second coat), did a little bit of planned kitchen hardware removal and spontaneously destroyed a wall in our hallway.

SPAAACE

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I’ve never been one to hold the state of Florida in high regard. Too many old people driving into buildings, too many contested elections, too many tourist traps. The last few times I’ve been to the state served only to reinforce those negative stereotypes in my head. This last week, surprisingly enough, has resulted in Florida gaining a few points in my book.

I landed under cover of darkness on Sunday night, and made my way to my destination on Cocoa Beach. The road was straight and the drive was fast, lit only by the moon and my headlights. Beyond the trees on the sides of the road, there might as well have been an abyss. When I finally got to Cocoa Beach, my worst fears were confirmed – it was a total vacation town. Beachwear shop after beachwear shop after surfing joint after over-commercialized facade… it wasn’t looking good.

I got checked in and was on my way to my eighth-floor room, after telling the hotel desk that I was working for NASA that week. Partly due to my unshaven face, partly due to my jeans and hoodie, I don’t think he believed me. Something about his body language when I told him. Oh well. Not the first time I’ve gotten the “yeah, right, kid” look when I’ve checked into a hotel. If you aren’t going to believe my answer, then don’t ask the question. Much to my delight, once I reached the room, the view was, in fact, of the ocean.

Bird

Bird

Walk to hotel

Walk to hotel

Walk to beach

Walk to beach

I had forgotten how much I missed the water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big lake or the ocean, there’s something about being on the water that I just find… right. Every time I go to New Hampshire for vacation, or every time I go to Jones beach on Long Island. Having the ocean so close, at the end of November, affected me more strongly than I expected it would. I slept soundly with the outside door open and the sound of waves lapping the shore kept me company all night long.

The next morning, I went to space.

No I didn’t- but I could have, had I been a few years earlier. My destination was, to the apparent disbelief of that hotel desk agent, the Kennedy Space Center, on a mission to install some video gear to help NASA monitor future launches. I met my contact outside the complex at the visitor center, got badged up and headed in. I am not sure why I wasn’t aware of this prior to my visit, but the whole center is very spread out, with miles between buildings. Along the sides of the roads, there were wide ditches to mitigate flooding, which were, according to my contact, inhabited by six-foot-long alligators.

NASA Patrol Gator

NASA Patrol Gator

Our kickoff meeting went without a hitch, and took place in a room that could have been copied and pasted straight out of the seventies – a narrow room with faux wood paneling, brown carpet and lighting which can only be described as retro. In a room with other people that I could only presume were rocket scientists, I felt a little out of place. Our agenda successfully planned for the week, we set off to our cars to head to a different building at the complex to get started on the job.

Off in the distance, I spotted one of the most iconic buildings as KSC – the vehicle assembly building. It’s over five hundred feet tall and is visible from miles and miles away. It’s the building that, for many years, was the tallest in Florida. It’s the building they have the giant American flag and the NASA logo painted on. It’s the building they assemble space ships in before they put them on gigantic crawlers and launch them into space. We were heading steadily closer. Of course, I was having a complete nerd meltdown. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But the building got closer and closer. We made all the right turns, and before I knew it, we were in the parking lot, the gigantic rocket assembly structure looming over us.

VAB

VAB

We went through a security gate, into a building called the “Launch Control Complex”, past a little exhibit with old launch consoles, and straight into their media control room. It was an impressive sight. Row upon row of seventies and eighties era video switching gear, with cut-to-length SDI cables connecting various inputs to outputs and routing video to wherever it needed to go. I’ve never seen an old analog telephone operator’s room in person, but I’d imagine this sight wasn’t too far off.

Later on in the day, maybe sensing my wonder and amazement that I was actually at the place where they launch space ships, my NASA contact asked if I’d like to go check out the launch pads. “WOULD I?!” I believe was my over-enthusiastic response. Of the two launch pads completed and used for missions, only one remained with the tower intact. The other tower and platform had been completely disassembled, with only three lightning rods in place – in preparation for the arrival of the ill-fated Constellation launch tower. The tower that was still intact, however, was an impressive sight. The images I managed to capture don’t do it justice.

Launch Pad B

Launch Pad B

A man, no plan, a camera

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I’m on ibuprofen numbers five and six for the day. I think I had too much caffeine today, and not enough water. It wasn’t even that strenuous of a day. I had a meeting in the city to prepare for a project kickoff; it was shorter than I expected, only lasted few hours. I headed back to the hotel to get some work done because tomorrow will be a near total loss in terms of the other twenty-or-so work related things that seem to be constantly vying for my attention. Though I’m traveling for work, I took a little extra time this trip to I do some touristy gallivanting. While it’s been a glorious few weeks of bright reds, yellows and oranges up in New England, the foliage is just starting to turn down by the Potomac.

the trees are just beginning to turn in front of the Capitol

The nation’s capital is a strange place. I’ve never been anywhere like it: the multitude of seemingly-at-odds worlds colliding in such a tiny area. Other places that I love – New York, Shanghai, San Francisco, Toronto, London – they are all multicultural, complex, dynamic cities. DC has something that none of those do. It’s not necessarily a good thing. Washington feels like a facade – the pure white marble hiding a darkness underneath. During the week, there are suits everywhere. If you were to hop on a MARC train headed into Union station around morning rush hour, and you happened to be wearing jeans, you’d find yourself wildly out of place among the long black coats, suit jackets and ties. During the weekend, the suits are far and few in between. Fanny-pack toting families crowd around the monuments and memorials. Students and other city dwellers play frisbee and football on the mall, but you can walk a block and go from wall-to-wall people to tumbleweed in the streets.

segue tour #922537

soccer on the Mall

where is everyone?

I think the source of my unease, in addition to that strange dichotomy, is the omnipresent military . When you look around, there’s never a fort or a base far away. Uniformed personnel are a common sight. I’ve been on a number military bases for work, and they’re quickly becoming my least favorite places to visit. Seeing that culture mixed so completely into a civilian metropolis is simply unnerving to me.

no plan

I went on a rather long and winding walk around the mall area of Washington, hoping to take some photos and see some sights. Right around mile 3, I happened upon the Japanese American Memorial. At first, I didn’t know what it was, so I attempted to deduce the meaning from the text engraved on the walls. The realization dawned on me what I was looking at just as I read “Here we admit a wrong…”. It was moving. I paused here for a few minutes in quiet reflection.

A short while later, I happened upon the the National Gallery of Art, drawn in by the glass pyramids protruding from between the two buildings. My bag declared hazard free by the security guard, I headed downstairs with no particular destination or gallery in mind. I turned a corner and found myself staring at a Jackson Pollock “masterpiece”. One of those paintings where he basically stapled a canvas to the floor and threw paint around his studio. I stared at that painting, perplexed as to why it was hanging in a museum of fine art and not on the wall of some hipster’s studio apartment. “It’s like, ironic, man. Pollock is totally sticking it to the man, man.” Maybe that’s what he was going for. Maybe putting that in a museum is a total slap Pollock’s face. No sooner had I finished the thought when a tour group walked in, lead by a one of the most bombastic guides I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. She went on about how Pollock was one of the first artists to ever express himself in such a raw, visceral way; how the world had never seen anything like it before. How every spatter and hair and cigarette but and coin told a story of pure, unbridled emotion. I still don’t get art.

“a art”

My tour continued its meandering path to the Washington Monument, the wrong side of the tidal basin, the WWII memorial, the Lincoln memorial and the white house. Carrying my camera and being mostly alone, I was asked by no less than eight people to take photos of them parked next to famous locations. I happily obliged. Obviously; I don’t have those pictures because all those people wanted me to use their cameras for some reason, but here are some of the images I managed to capture using mine!

Music of the Moment: Oliver Smith – New Dawn

Catchy, upbeat, slightly gritty. Picks me up and puts me down. Makes me happy without feeling overly saccharine. Described in short phrases, like tasting notes on a bottle of wine. Serve with fresh fish or salty cheese.

a collision of autumn and winter

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The nights are steadily getting colder in New England. We had our very first freeze warning this week, and Connecticut is just entering peak foliage. Apple cider is on the shelves and chili is on the stove. I love autumn.

See that? That’s Stratton Mountain, in Vermont. Today. I think the white accentuates the leaves beautifully, don’t you? It is a bittersweet scene: the snow hails the end of the downhill mountain bike season for much of the Northeast, but the beginning of the ski season. After last year’s lackluster season, I’m hoping this is the start of much more to come. This year, Stratton, Okemo and Sunapee have expanded their SOS pass offering from college students to anyone 29 and under, which means I was able up my season pass for three hundred bucks. Ski season seemed a long way off at the time, but this early snowfall is a reminder that it’s fast approaching and I couldn’t be more excited.

While we’re on the subject, I’m changing up my method for navigating down the slopes this year: That’s right, my ten year hiatus is over. I’m going back to being a skier.

Gasp!

It’s been a season or two in the works, but I feel like I’ve come close to my skill limit on a snowboard, especially given the types of terrain I really want to start tackling. On a snowboard, it’s not impossible to do glades, but it’s sure easier on skis. Moguls of any kind are right out on a snowboard as well; more out of respect for skiiers than anything. Its hard to navigate bumps without leaving a path of destruction in my wake. I’m getting tired of being scared do a hard heel-side turn for fear of taking out someone behind me. Of course, those skis are twin tips. Something about dropping into kickers backwards or something. Anyway! Next week the training starts: squats and box jumps. I’m going to have quads of iron this season.

I shamelessly borrowed the idea for including music in the post from and so he spoke and beezypedia. I’m not even close to as good at describing musical things as they are. Check them out for eloquent descriptions of aural bliss.

Music of the Moment: The Glitch Mob – Fortune Days

It’s excellent to drive to. And ski to, I presume. I don’t know, just listen to it.

Killington in the Summertime

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Two weeks ago, at the invitation of one of my best friends, I rode my bike down a mountain. A proper mountain. Killington. Five times. I got thrown off my bike several times, fell off when I least expected it, got four flat tires ripped holes in my shirt and shorts, broke the visor on my helmet and was sore for a week after. I loved every second of it.

what i think i look like

Call me a glutton for punishment, whatever. There’s something visceral about barreling downhill with rocks and trees on all sides. It’s something you’ve got to get good at, quick, or you’ll probably end up hurt. I consider myself a pretty good skier/snowboarder and I’m familiar with double diamonds, steep hills, glades and chairlifts, so driving up to Killington and seeing the gondolas running in the summer was both a familiar and strange sight. People were milling around near the base lodge on bikes and t-shirts (strange) . Having gotten a lift ticket (familiar) for free, (thanks Dave!) I bought myself some elbow pads and we made for the lift.

The bikes went on hooks on the outside of the gondola and we rode up to the top of K-1. We did a little last minute check of our gear and we were off. Ten seconds later, I hit the ground. As I discovered the hard way, gravel is not a very good surface for making turns on. Both wheels had slipped out from under me and I was down. The fall wasn’t so bad, and I was on back on the bike and back on my way.

The first real challenge (for me) was the first actual section of terrain. It was a downhill right-hand turn on what I thought was a really rocky and rooty drop. There were two lines to pick, and I picked the wrong one. The drop turned into an even steeper drop really quickly, and before I knew it I was cartwheeling over my handlebars to the horror of two hikers who happened to be in the area. I got up, dusted myself off, tried to assure the hikers that I was fine and hopped back on the bike. It was going to be a long day.

Fast forward to a few runs and several flat tires later, and I’m starting to get the hang of this. I’m not wiping out on gravel anymore, and I’ve sort-of mastered that first turn. The top of the mountain features a really twisty, fast section of rollers and banked turns, which I’ve started to take with more and more speed. I’m still falling off the bike a few times a run, but my confidence is at an all time high. Suddenly, on the fourth trip down the mountain, on a particularly steep and rocky section, the realization of what the hell I’m doing hits me about the same time a little fatigue starts to creep in. My front wheel gets trapped between two rocks and I’m thrown, violently, into the ground. The bike landed on top of me I can tell I’ve whacked my thigh harder than I had all day.

Undeterred, I headed down the hill to retrieve my bike and finish out the run. Last run of the day, the sun was starting to get behind the mountain and the trails weren’t as well lit as I would have liked. Took that last one real slow and only fell once. Having survived the day, the three of us got some celebratory beer and had dinner at a fantastic bar-b-que place.

Damage total: various scrapes and cuts on legs, bruises on knees and thighs, big scrape above knee, scrapes and cuts on left elbow, scrapes and cuts on left shoulder, bruise on left hip, cut on right pinky, hole in left leg of shorts, hole in left shoulder of shirt, cracked visor on helmet, four flat tires, and a body more sore than it’s been in a long time. I can’t wait to go again!

what i probably looked like

Round Trip to Minnesota

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End of June, I was out in Minnesota for a day. I don’t remember much about that trip aside from the fact that I got three days worth of work done in one day and high-tailed it back to Connecticut. I’d just recently purchased a mountain bike (see previous post), and I was jonesing for a ride. Side note: WordPress does not recognize “jonesing” as a word, and the dictionary wants to correct it to “ingression”.

When I got back from Minnesota, I went for a ride at Wadsworth State Park and went down the creek path for the first time. The creek path is, so far, my favorite mile and a half stretch of biking in the area. It starts with a downhill on a dried creek bed, and as such is completely covered in rocks. Not gravel; these are baseball-to-cantaloupe sized rocks for a good two hundred yards. At the bottom of the rocky hill is a sharp, left, uphill turn. In order to even stand a chance at making the turn and getting up the hill, you’ve got to come into it with some speed – which is challenging, given the rocks. The single-track path continues along for another hundred yards before coming to a mini-laguna-seca-corkscrew. If you’re not familiar with the (in)famous cork, it’s basically a left-hand turn over a hill leading into a right hand downhill turn. Anyway, the mini-cork on the creek path leads immediately into a two-foot wide bridge and another steep, snaking climb, which, again, requires some momentum to get up, and momentum is difficult to build over the cork and the bridge, because I’m not quite good enough to take the terrain with speed yet. The path continues over some roots, down another right-to-left snake-drop through roots into an uphill, and at the top of the uphill is a foot-high log. Staying on the current theme of having momentum at the correct time, the log requires a bit of speed to hop. I’ve yet to get over it smoothly. Towards the end of the creek path is a two foot drop in to an awesomely fun, wider, twisting downhill section. The rest of the ride is mostly doubletrack in order to get back to the start of the creek path.

After Minnesota and my ride, I got right back to work on Friday June 29, flying to the UK to help a law firm install their company-wide video system to watch the Olympics. The idea here was that the customer knew their employees were going to tune into live video streams on the internet to watch the games hosted in their fair city, and wanted to try to mitigate the impact that five-hundred video streams would have on their internet bandwidth. The system I would be integrating would allow the customer to bring in video over their cable tv system, encoder it into network packets and distribute it to the employee’s desktops in a manner that they could manage, while blocking live streaming to the internet. In this way, the customer would simultaneously relieve the internet bandwidth issue, and control the video content available. Win for the IT guys, win for the employees in that they would have a much higher quality video available than if they were all fighting for limited pipe. Anyway, with the Olympics quickly approaching, we had to start working on Saturday. The project chugged along until we hit a major snag on Monday afternoon, which basically resulted in a standstill for the next three days. With support in the US not coming online until 2pm UTC, I was on my own for most of the time I was on-site. I think I read more KB articles over those three days than I have in the past three months. Making matters worse, one of the days we were stuck happened to be July the 4th, where we had no support at all. Compounding the frustration caused by the lack of progress was the fact that I had sprained my ankle on Sunday whilst walking about town, so I couldn’t even blow off the added stress of failure with a run. I had to leave the site on the following Friday with the system not completely operational. Luckily, the support and engineering teams were able to resolve the one outstanding issue that was open when I left – it happened to be a Microsoft certificate problem. There are people whose sole job is to sort out Microsoft certificates, so I don’t feel too badly that I wasn’t able to figure it out with no previous experience in the area.

Upon arriving back in the United States, I kicked into vacation mode, with a week in New Hampshire with the family and friends to look forward to. The vacation was… unfortunate, to say the least, but I tried my very best to stay upbeat and positive. I finally lost control snapped midway through the trip, which didn’t help things. I tried to make the most of the last few days – I got in an epic kayak ride and a hike up Red Hill in ninty-degree heat with my brother, and I got a mini, out-of-order triathlon in with Danielle. We went mountain biking first, then for a short run, then swimming to cool off.

Right. Snapped out of vacation-mode straight away, I was off to the rust belt for an installation at a school district. Education installations are always a crapshoot, some schools have extremely sharp IT teams, and some have a closet with a two post server rack, hundreds of thousands of dollars of core switch gear purchased with e-rate money and a hot water return pipe above it all. This particular school had an audio-video guy on the lead, who did not understand networking beyond “the internet plug goes here”, which made for a challenging installation. It was draining, having to explain the same thing over three or four times in different ways while not losing my patience. (Thanks for all the practice, mom). The reseller was capable enough, but I soon discovered that all of the prerequisites I had so carefully laid out were not complete. Set back to almost square one, I helped the reseller and the customer make sense of what they purchased, the best way to deploy it, and got the system installed and running to the customer’s satisfaction. Along the way, the most severe electrical storm I’ve ever seen rolled through town, knocking power out for a few hours – making working on servers and video appliances an impossible proposition. Even though I finished the job, the challenges weren’t over. Southwest had sold out of flights for the day I was coming back, so I (stupidly) bought a direct flight back to Hartford on US Airways. I got to the airport early for my 6:30am flight, got a bagel and settled in at the gate. I chatted with a girl who was on her way to Hartford. She’d left Phoenix the previous day; the summer storms had her routed all over the country. She’d been through North Carolina, Dulles, Chicago and finally here at this airport. She’d had four flights cancelled, and boarded one plane only to have that flight cancel on her. I told her I’d wake her up when we were ready to get underway.

The plane showed up late, but we still managed to get on board. Then we waited. The pilot kept fiddling with one of the ailerons on the left wing. Then a mechanic with a ladder and a flashlight came out, and started poking around. And we waited some more. The mechanic came on board and spoke with the captain. After some time had passed, the captain let us all know that there was a hydraulic leak in the aileron control system, and we’d all have to get off the plane as they waited for a part to be flown in from St. Louis. We’d be getting underway as soon as they got the part replaced, an hour or two. Three hours later and no updates, US Airways cancelled the flight, but didn’t bother to update the departures boards or tell the gate agents. The next departing US Airways flight to Hartford was filling up fast as everyone on our plane scrambled to get a seat, and with one seat left, I made sure that poor girl from Phoenix got mine so she wouldn’t have to spend another night at an airport. I ran over to a different terminal, to my old standby, Southwest, and got a standby ticket to Baltimore and then to Hartford. I got on the flight to Baltimore with no problem, but as we were boarding, yet another massive summer storm blew in. We sat on the plane at the gate for an hour before they were allowed to let us take off, and we got to BWI around 5pm. There were three flights from BWI to Hartford, all full. I put myself on the standby list for all three and started stalking around the gate of the earliest one. The standby list for the early flight must have had ninty people on it, and I had no chance. The storm that held up my departure to Baltimore had made its way east, and ended up ravaging BWI, further delaying the remaining two Hartford-bound flights. With a departure time now approaching midnight, I settled into a corner at terminal B and got comfy. Flight finally took off around 12:30, and I got to my apartment around 2am.

That weekend, I slept in.

Saturday afternoon I went to my first full-field 11 on 11 soccer game since high school. I found a bunch of people who play pick up soccer (thanks, internet!) and decided to go check it out. The teams ended up being picked so that one team was loaded on offensive talent, and one was loaded up on defensive talent. As a result, the game was probably one of the most lopsided I’ve ever played in; it was like two seperate games: one which was played between a bad offense and a bad defense in one half of the field, and one epic battle on the other end of the field. I played for the team with the good defense, on the left. We played an aggressive offside trap, so whenever we had the ball, we were pushed up to midfield. This took a lot of the pressure off the goalie and prevented the other team from cherry-picking long clears. Whenever the other team managed to get a long lead pass into our half of the field, it was a dead sprint between us and their strikers to get to the ball first and prevent the shot. It amounted to two hours of suicide sprints, but was a blast.

Sunday morning I went down to Tyler Mill, a different state park in Connecticut, to mountain bike with a bunch of people in the woods. I found a bunch of people with bikes on their cars and followed them to the park. Turned out that two of the guys weren’t privy to the group meetup, but one guy was. The other two thought it was cool we wanted to ride, so the four of us set off to tackle the most aggressive single-track trail I’ve ever been on. Lots of narrow tracks, narrow bridges and technical terrain mingled in with steep climbs and a two-foot drop in. We split after a little more than an hour, and I went back to my apartment. The rest of the group had gone to a different parking lot, and one of the riders in that group broke a leg and had to be carted out on an ambulance. Kinda glad I didn’t end up with them, that would have been such a downer on such a beautiful morning.

In other news, car tires are expensive. My car is about to hit 50,000 miles and the folks over at the shop recommended new treads.

Last weekend already seems like forever ago, and all the stuff up there is ancient history. I had a chance to hang out with a friend I made more than a year and a half ago at Tahoe on a shortish ski vacation, three of her friends and Amanda. We ran the New England Color run together, and it was a blast. The tagline for the race is “the world’s happiest 5k”, and for us, at least, it probably was. Along the course, at every kilometer, they have a color station set up, where volunteers basically just throw paint at you. It’s mostly cornstarch with some dye in it, but it sticks to sweaty white shirts and skin pretty well. Because our friend lives in the area, we were able to walk to the start of the race and back to her apartment after – which allowed us to bypass the cluster that the shuttle transportation became as an accident on 495 routed traffic onto town streets. Lots of unhappy people couldn’t get to their cars, but we carried on in blissful ignorance. I didn’t even know there was a problem until I got the apology email from the race organizers the next day.

Nope.

Now I’m back where this post started (in Minnesota) and I’m pretty sure Americanized Chinese food is poisonous. I went to a restaurant specializing in the bastardized cuisine in with the customer I’m working for, at their suggestion. They all spoke highly of the restaurant, so I went along for the ride. I should have known better when we walked in and there was a subway-style layout with bins of variously-sauced, breaded chicken, some ride and noodles. I ended up getting the “spiciest” chicken they had, and noodles, and man did I end up regretting it. Immediately. Greasy noodles and uber-sweet fried chicken bits caused a headache and that gross, fever-like feeling that lasted for a few hours. I couldn’t drink enough water to get the sticky-sweet feeling out of my mouth. I think I’d be okay with not having Chinese take-out again.

Zen, Trees, and Speed

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There are few things in life, that can compare to the feeling of complete bliss that I get when traveling down a mountain covered in snow and ice with both feet strapped into a slippery board. I think it’s a combination of the adrenaline rush of moving that quickly while possibly dying – but not; the stinging of the wind whipping my face and a touch of the self-gratification that what I’m doing as a result of of years of practice that really does it for me. It’s one of my all time favorite things to do in the middle of the winter; when I’m cruising down a wide open face or weaving through glades, I fall into almost a zen-like trance. I’m completely devoid of the stresses and strains of day to day life, focused only on not losing my edges and navigating the next feature on the trail.

I’ve got a road bike that I’ve taken for a spin a few times, and it’s great fun. It took some time to get used to clipping my feet into the pedals, and the lightweight frame, low handlebars and high seat were things something to which I was also not accustomed. When road biking, I’m constantly scanning the ground for potholes, ramps, loose gravel or other clutter that could potentially ruin my day. On my road bike, I feel every single stray bump in the road due to the stiff nature of the frame and the highly pressurized thin tires. Excellent for speed, not so much for comfort. But i don’t ride for comfort.

Coinciding with my new found fascination of cycling, I recently had the good fortune to try out riding a cross country / all mountain bike at one of my good friend’s house, and even though i only took it for a few loops around the yard, I knew I was hooked. Fast forward a few days, some research and a few emails on a cycling forum, and I found myself on my way down to philadelphia to buy my first real mountain bike. it’s a used giant trance x4, and it’s a few years old, but after riding it four or five times and a quick tune up, I (with the help of David) think I picked a winner.

“roads? where we’re going, we don’t need roads”

My mountain bike is the complete opposite of my road bike. It’s big and bulky with thick, low-pressure tires. It’s got compressed air suspension on not only the front fork, but also in the back just above the drive train. It’s got large disc brakes in the front and the back to allow for quick stopping. The handlebars are straight and wide, not the curved like the horns on my road bike. The entire back of the bike is on a hinge governed by the back suspension, allowing for the bike to flex in the middle, useful for absorbing shock when riding over things like curbs or downed trees in the woods.

Yep. Curbs and downed trees. Exposed roots. Rocks. Water. Gravel. It took a little bit of getting used to, my first time riding on a hiking trail I’d slow down and gingerly approach obstacles that would destroy my road bike, and cross carefully over them to find no ill effect. Now, I’m launching over them without even giving them a second thought (first thought yes, still thinking about them). The freedom to make my own trail is something I simply can’t do when road biking. Does that path on the side of the road into those woods look interesting? Yes? Here i go!

The constant process of evaluating the terrain, navigating hills and turns, picking the right gear and recovering from silly mistakes is extremely familiar to me. My first time out on a real trail cut for biking, I felt right at home, even though I’d never ridden off road like that in my life.

I think mountain biking is becoming my summertime snowboarding.

Beach, Foot, Golf, Eight

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The most red ones are shellfish. D’oh!

What do all of these have in common?
Types of balls!

Ready to try another?

Dust mites, Cats, Shellfish, Grass Seed.
Things Jon is allergic to!

I finally went to the allergy doctor after years of prodding (has it really been years?) and I now have a definitive list of things that make me go boom. As a result of my food allergies, my allergy doctor highly recommended that I procure myself some epipens that maybe aren’t expired. Two prescriptions in hand I scooted over to the supermarket drug store to get them filled.

Once happy discovery was my lack of a reaction to scallops and calamari. Guess what’s for dinner on Friday?

Om nom nom

SAIL

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Ever since two weekends ago I’ve had a really hard time getting this song by AWOLNation out of my head. It’s called “Sail” and it’s featured on a Jeb Corliss video that my friends David and Kerry showed me called “Grinding the Crack”. You can find it on youtube really easily; it’s basically this guy (Jeb) jumping off a mountain in a wingsuit and coming within a few feet of the ground at some stupidly fast speed. Anyway, that song is in it, and I’m addicted.

Amanda and I went to the Big Apple BBQ this past weekend and got our fill of authentic BBQ from all over the country. It was really, really crowded; some of the lines looked like they stretched two city blocks. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Whole hog on the smoker

Ribs on the grill

After we ate way too much pork and beef, we thought it would be a good idea to try to tackle the New England warrior dash in Thompson, CT. It’s basically a 5k on a trail with mud pits, obstacles, streams, climbing walls and a fire pit to jump over. Which sounded AWESOME. And it was! I couldn’t get into the same heat as my friends, so I ran with Amanda in a later group (they had groups starting the course every 30 minutes).

The course started out immediately with a stream crossing, so my feet were immediately soaked and my shoes filled with mud and rocks. Shortly after, on the muddy trail, were some mud pits that were way deeper than they looked, and I quickly found myself waist deep in mud. The next obstacle was a steep, slippery wall with a cargo net to climb up, then a hill in the woods. Around the one mile mark we came across a series of four waist high walls followed by one-foot gaps to crawl under. The over and under really took a lot out of me, but thankfully there was a water station right after that one. Next was a muddy uphill to an overlook of a tire course with some smashed up cars we had to run over. The middle of the course was a series of hilly, grassy bends with some climbing obstacles, a tightrope water crossing and the last, sixteen foot wall to scale. The course culminated with three last challenges: the fire jump, a cargo net climb and a crawl through a two foot deep mud put with barbed wire overhead. I finished the run in 33:42, which wasn’t too bad considering the terrain, people in my way and course challenges.


It was a hot, sunny day, and I had war paint on for the occasion… and I ended up coming away from the event with some funny looking sun burns. My shoulders are still pretty red with a very white hand print on my left side. I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.