Tuesday, November 27, 2007

don't contact us

we are working on a proposal to develop an application that would require a paging service component. you remember pagers from the early 90s right? anyhow, i'm trying to contact what i believe to be the top 3 companies (usa mobility, american messaging, & skytel) in this industry & it's becoming almost impossible to get someone on the phone; not even a sales person will pick up. this is a common problem that i run into & i'm using today's scenario to describe what normally goes down.

these companies begin by hiding their "contact us" link on their website. usually this link brings you to a form that simply submits an e-mail to the "ghosts" that these companies call employees. if you are lucky, you find a phone number behind one of these links. normally this number leads you to customer service or even worse an IVR computer system that never drops you to a real person. for almost 3 hours today i've been clicking on website links, making phone calls, talking to droids for the most part, & sending e-mails that seem to never land anywhere.

the industry leader, usa mobility, has by far been the easiest of the three to get a hold of yet still very inefficient for me. after finally breaking past customer service, which required making two separate phone calls & talking to two different reps that lead me now where, i pulled a name from the company directory that i found online. the directory actually listed the cell phone number of a women, julie. i skipped the office numbers & called julie's cell number immediately & she actually picked up the first time! she was out getting coffee, but was still able to chat with me for a bit & get me the name & number of the person in the business development group, nancy, that i needed to talk to. i then called nancy & left her a vmail. after not hearing back for some hours i called her again & she picked up. after talking for a bit she, just like nancy, realized i needed to talk with someone else. she pointed me to bill in the reseller of services group. nancy then provided me with bill's direct phone number & then transferred me. unfortunately bill did not answer after i was transferred so i then left bill a vmail. it's been 2+ hours & i have yet to hear back from him. so while usa mobility has been the easiest of the three to get a hold of, i still am no where close to getting the answers to what i'm looking for.

why in the world do companies make it so hard? i'm not trying to complain about services, report a problem, etc. i'm actually looking to partner with a company & bring them business that would result in additional revenue for them.

is this just the result of the corporate bureaucracy that eventually leaks it's way into a large business? has the digital age we are living in resulted in no human contact? or are these companies just that ineffective in opening their doors to new customers?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the second amendment under review

keep an eye on this one:

the supreme court has agreed to decide whether the districtof columbia can ban handguns, a case that bears directly on whether the second amendment protects an individual right to"keep and bear arms."

easier to put in versus take off

on saturday kristin & i caught an impromptu spin class at the gym (www.pureaustin.com). our spin instructor, danielle, kept reminding everyone of their thanksgiving meals & what type of work it was going to take to work it off. she said, it's easier to put in (referring to calories) versus taking it off. how very true we all echoed.

i actually made out well this thanksgiving. on thanksgiving day kristin & i ran the turkey trot 5-mile race. the course was pretty hilly & given that the temperature drastically dropped 30+ degrees that morning it made it a lot tougher than your normal 5-mile run. we spent thanksgiving with kristin's folks here in town. kristin's mom was responsible for the turkey, which was awesome, & kristin brought the sides & the desserts. given that kristin has become so health conscious recently everything we ate was very healthy for us.

the weather continued to spoil work-out plans this weekend. on friday i slipped in 30 minutes on the elliptical & 30 minutes on weights. it rained & was freezing cold (just above 40 degrees) both saturday & sunday so T3 cancelled their road ride & their long run. as a result we ended up at the gym both days & worked in a spin class each day with a 1-mile run (brick workout) afterwards. i'm planning on getting up early tomorrow & getting my long run in with ed. the plan is to meet at the rock at 5:30 am & get 10 - 14 miles in. i know it's going to be a long & hard week at the office so getting that morning workout in is the only way i can guarantee myself some exercise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

where has the "thanks" in thanksgiving gone?

almost 400 years ago (1621) in massachusetts, the plymouth colonists & wampanoag indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is *acknowledged* as one of the first thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. this harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation & interaction between english colonists & native americans. although this feast is considered by many to be the very first thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest & giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. native american groups throughout the americas, including the pueblo, cherokee, creek & many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, & other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of europeans in north america.

thanksgiving does still bring family & friends together; just ask anyone on I-35 yesterday heading to dallas. however, what people talk about & focus on appears to be all about consuming as much food as possible & then gearing up to shop ‘til you drop the very next day.

how much food will we eat? americans will consume nearly 45 million turkeys this thanksgiving. 300 million (U.S. population) / 45 million = 1 turkey for 6.6 people (a typical family gathering). top that with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows, green bean & spinach casseroles, stuffing, & endless sweets (pumpkin pie, apple pie, cobbler, pecan pie, etc.). and you think it’s the tryptophan in that turkey that makes you tired… not true, just ask any nutritionist. you’d have to eat 2 – 3 whole turkeys for the tryptophan to kick in. after stuffing ourselves we can retire to the sofa for football.

when the game goes to commercial, the marketers are hard at work enticing us with “deals” in an attempt to bring us to the stores tomorrow, black friday they call it. some stores will actually open at midnight (tanger outlet mall in san marcos), while the majority will open sometime between 4am & 7am; still ridiculous shopping hours. the local news this evening was actually covering people waiting outside stores such as best buy as of 7am this morning. that’s 22 hours prior to the store opening tomorrow at 5am. all day long commercials are playing. we hear messages like, “get an early start tomorrow & save big.” can you imagine a world where the message was something like, “get an early start tomorrow & enjoy a long walk, read a book, get a workout in, or volunteer?” hard to imagine huh?

this isn't what this day is supposed to be about. today's isn't meant to be a day that we spend stuffing ourselves & then racing to stores the very next day to buy things in preparation for another popular day that attempts to turn us all into greedy consumers.

how do we simplify this day back to the way it started? how do we switch the focus back to gathering with our family & friends & being thankful that we can put food on the table, that we have our health, that we have out freedom, that we live in this great land, & that we have one another?

we can start by not running to the stores tomorrow. i can assure you that i won’t be playing their game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

just when you think you know someone

i had a rough day at work today & we also had plumbers in/out of the house all day (more to come on that story in a later blog). kristin got home a bit before 7:00 pm & i was still on the phone & making work calls. because of the additional hours, we both missed the spin classes we wanted to get to at the gym. since we couldn't cook tonight (no way to clean dishes since the sink is currently out of commission) we decided to race off to the gym for a quick (45-minute) workout & then eat at firebowl.

we sat down with cindy, the owner of firebowl, & talked about her business operations (kristin & i were entertaining a franchising opportunity with a new chain coming to austin called froots) & other small talk about thanksgiving plans. following a quick meal (kris got tofu tonight - she really is digging this vegetarian thing) we headed to the grocery store to pick up 3 things; we ended up leaving the store with a full shopping cart & we spent $100 plus bucks. on average we are spending $250 bucks a week at the grocery store. i blame it on the ironman :)

a few minutes into our grocery shopping i started to check out the peanut butter. we actually already have two jars of peanut butter at home, i just love the stuff & i'm always checking out the new brands. i made the switch to the natural peanut butter from my beloved jiff many years ago. the natural peanut butter was horrible to begin with, however, about 4 years ago the peanut butter making folks have gotten really good at making natural peanut butter that is capable of giving you that jiff swirl. regardless of my brand selection, i've also gone for the creamy peanut butter.

kristin walks over next to me & tells me to grab a jar of the central market organic CRUNCHY peanut butter. i was blown away... for a minute i thought i was going to need paramedics. as gasped for breath and asked, "since when did you like the CRUNCHY peanut butter?" she answered, "i've always liked the CRUNCHY peanut butter."

we've been together over 6 years now & not once have i seen kristin eat CRUNCHY peanut butter. in the past 6 years we've probably purchased 75 - 100 (we, mostly me, eat a lot of PB) jars of peanut butter & not once has she grabbed a jar of the CRUNCHY style. what gives i ask? how can she not even mention the fact that she liked the CRUNCHY?

i don't know if i am going to be able to sleep well tonight. if you understood how much i loved peanut butter, kristin too, you would understand why this puzzles me so much. i just don't get it. just when you think you know someone, they go & tell ya that they like the CRUNCHY & not the creamy peanut butter. i wonder if the vegetarian diet is making her go crazy... yeh, that's it - that's how i'll rationalize this one for now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

T3 trial period

this week i began my free workout period with T3, a local triathlon training group (http://www.austint3.com/). looking closer at the calendar, i probably should have started this trial period with T3 next week given that this week coming week is thanksgiving & they are only hosting a few practices.

i have some prior knowledge of T3 given that kristin & i took their swim clinic about 6 weeks ago. T3 coaches, maurice & chrissie, are top notch as far as swim coaches go. also, a few other CDA'ers (ed, jill, eryn, & noah) recently signed up with T3 in prep for CDA next year & have had nothing but good things to say about the program.

while i think i'm disciplined enough to follow a run/bike program on my own, i'm mostly interested in the swim practices with T3. while technique & form are important components for running & swimming, they are absolutely crucial for swimming. for that reason i want to the coaching expertise from maurice & chrissie. i need them to keep an eye on me & remind me of my form & correct what ever it is that i'm not doing right. not to mention that i just need to be swimming & i've learned that i'm not disciplined enough to get myself in the pool & do the laps that i need to do on my own.

this saturday's ride was set to start at 9:00 am (meet up at 8:45 am) from kiker elementary school which is located in the circle C neighborhood down south. 9:00 am is a very late start time for a group ride, however, it's beginning to get cold & chrissie told me they are just hoping to make it easier on the team & have a better showing since the later it gets the warmer it should be. in total there were probably 15 riders including maurice & chrissie. the ride we were doing was called the "fitzhugh ride." nothing to crazy, 20 miles out & 20 miles back with the option to do as many 8 mile loops on south mopac as you wanted to increase your mileage. we started out pretty slow just getting out of circle C which was somewhat frustrating because i'd prefer to just ride & not deal with cars & lights. by the time we hit southwest parkway the group had broken up into 3 - 4 smaller packs. i remained with the lead pack which included some hard riders. we made it to fitzhugh pretty quickly & until we actually got on fitzhugh i was thinking that this ride was too easy. fitzhugh turned out to be a good 7 mile stretch with strong rolling hills. i got a good workout in on fitzhugh, especially because i stopped to put on my sun glasses & spent the entire 14 miles on fitzhugh trying to catch back up with the lead pack (consisting of 5 dudes). on the way back, ed & i were pushing it pretty hard & we got ourselves far enough ahead of everyone else that we couldn't hear them yelling to us when we missed one of the turns back. we didn't go that far before we realized that we had done something wrong. we never did catchup with maurice, sean, & the other dude in what was now the lead pack. we did however meet up with chrissie & two other guys. they were actually pushing it really hard & managed to catch up with all of us after stopping to fix a flat early in the ride. anyhow, we all made it back at different times for the most part & some folks did a quick brick & others left right away. i ran maybe 20 minutes, just to remind my legs what's in store down the road. all & all it was a good ride & best of all i got to sleep in on a saturday for once :)

this morning, sunday, we met at the rock at 7:30 & we were to begin our run at 7:45. i like how they structure the 15 minute gap between the time you are supposed to show & the time you actually start. it allows those that want to be early & get in their personal/stretching time in & those that need a little more time to get to practice are able to catch everyone before they leave. i'm getting much better at being on time actually & both mornings i was part of the "early" crowd. the plan was to do a 13 mile run. i had just run 13 miles last week & was actually thinking i should bump it up a mile or two. remember, i've never run a full marathon & for me the mileage is still a very mental thing. i took off with ed & jill & they suggested we do the 10 mile loop & then one 3 mile loop. i've never done the full 10 mile loop; i just loop the 3, 4, & 5 mile loops to get the mileage i want. the 10 mile loop actually turned out to be pretty cool minus a few rough patches around the power plant & then running down river side prior to passing over interstate 35. at about 4.5 miles i started pulling away from ed & jill. they weren't running slow & i wasn't running fast, i just wanted to stretch my stride out. i ended up passing the lead guy at about mile 6 & up until mile 8 i maintained that lead. then i stopped for a few quick gulps of water at the first water stop at 1st street. that's when i realized i should have been carrying some water & a gu packet of some kind. the lead guy was carrying both & i realized when he showed up to refill his water bottle how dehydrated i actually was. shortly after that water stop i passed him again & maintained the lead until mile 10. the site of the water stop & all those people stretching looked to good to be true & i couldn't resist stopping. i cashed in 3 miles early & accepted my 10 miles & the 1 hour & 20 minute time (8-minute mile pace) that went with it. shortly after i started filling up on water the dude i passed ran by to knock out his final 3. ed came running by about 3 minutes later & he continued on too. shortly after ed, jill came running in & like me the site of the water & all the people stretching were too much to say no to.

we hung out for a bit until ed came in. he ended up just running another 15 - 20 minutes of which he thinks he got in 2 miles - totalling 12. shortly after ed showing up, the lead dude came in after finishing his full 13 miles. i knew i should have continued on at that point & was disappointed that i didn't. i've got to get better about my nutrition! all i had in my stomach that morning was a small EAS protein shake. i need to stick to some cards: oatmeal, banana, etc. & then carry some water & a gu packet or two with me. i've learned my lesson today.

i'm not 100% sure about T3's plan this week. according to the training schedule there aren't any practices monday or tuesday, there is a swim practice wednesday morning, nothing thursday or friday, & things resume as normal saturday & sunday. my plan as of right now is to do some palates at the house in the morning & then some light weights & swim (yes, on my own) at the gym after work.

thus far, i'm a fan of T3 training & the group. prior to january, which is when "real ironman" training is supposed to begin, i plan to sign up for T3's swim training only & get in some weekend runs/rides when they say it's cool. then in january i most likely sign up for everything. if it weren't for the money, $150 bucks a month, i'd sign up now. the swim portion is only $85.


population pop quiz

i often goof population numbers. let's see what you know about our world's population in 3 quick questions.

1. world population?

2. united states population?

3. in order, list the five most populated countries (hint, pakistan is the 6th largest country with 165 million people).


answers (all rough estimates):

1. 6.6 billion

2. 301 million

3. china (1.3b), india (1.1b), the united states (301m), indonesia (234m) , & brazil (188m)

these are good numbers to pay attention to.


productive arguing

leaders from 22 governments gathered this past week in santiago, chile to increase awareness & concern for social issues and poverty in latin america, spain, and portugal while at the same time much of the region is experiencing economic growth. the meetings should have been productive, but they turned south when king juan carlos I of spain turned to venezuelan president hugo chavez and asked, "why don't you shut up?" king juan carlos' comment has been getting a lot of attention (good & bad) this week. when reading more about the incident, i was reminded of an article that i read (& made it a point to save) from the BBC some time ago on productive arguing that i'm going to share with you.

i couldn't agree more with each of these suggestions provided in this article. disagreements are going to arise from time-to-time; it's what you make of those disagreements that matter.

productive arguing

differences of opinion are normal and healthy in adult relationships and learning to compromise is a skill required in many areas of life. you might want to print out this page and pin it to your notice board to remind you both whenever a disagreement arises.

1. stick to the issue in hand - don't bring up previous misdemeanors or other things you've been meaning to say.

2. don't argue over trivia - for example, arguing whether it was monday or tuesday that you forgot the milk. the issue is you forgot, not which day it was.

3. start sentences with "i" - for example, "i felt annoyed when you..." rather than "you annoyed me when..." and "i would like to go out more often," not "we should go out more often."

4. don't use absolutes - never say "never", "always", "should" or "shouldn't". they're irritating and often inaccurate. for example, "you never wash up" will almost certainly get a response of "what about when...?"

5. let your opinions stand on their own merits - don't be tempted to bring in other people's opinions.

6. try to stay sitting down, relax your muscles and don't forget to breathe - it's much easier to stay calm if you're not pacing around the room.

7. don't start throwing abuse around - calling your partner lazy, fat or paranoid isn't going to convince them to see your point of view.

8. be aware of your feelings and tell your partner these as well - saying "i'm scared you don't love me anymore" is likely to get a better response than "you don't act like you love me."

9. try not to block the conversation - don't interrupt, launch into a monologue or expect them to be a mind-reader.

10. agree to a code word for time out - if one or both of you feels you're getting overheated it's best to take some time away from each other to calm down before going back to the disagreement.

remember, who wins the argument is irrelevant if your relationship loses something. always try to confront the issue - not each other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

fly like an eagle

i read something many years ago that said if you want to excel in life surround yourself with people that are real go-getters (eagles). the idea was not suggesting that you feed off other people or that it's all about networking. it's the same thing our parents told us - if you hang around with punks, then you'll mostly like turn out to be a punk & if you hang around book nerds, then you're more than likely to be a book nerd (requires a bit of a brain of course). i've got a couple of buddies that i'm truly proud to know & in my opinion are some real go-getters (eagles).

i was talking with paul earlier today & he told me that he's going to pull the trigger on starting his own business. he's been talking about it for a couple of years now & i've known for some time that he's been spending a significant amount of time before & after hours in various libraries in houston working on a business plan. paul is by far one of the most reliable, honest, & hard-working individuals i know. we used to work together, so i know what i'm saying when i refer to him as a hard-worker. since he left the company & moved back to houston i've continued to work with paul & rely heavily on his expertise when it comes to server, storage, & networking systems. paul is the most genuine of sales guys & i know that he is more concerned with getting his clients what they need prior to him making a buck. he always goes above & beyond what is asked of him. i actually worry at times that paul goes so far beyond what he's asked to do that he's going to burn himself out. i was so happy when he told me a few years ago the he was taking up fishing, because i knew it would force him to take a break & get away from the phone & computer for a period time - i'm sure angie will agree with me on this one. anyway, paul has absolutely got what it takes to run a smart business & be successful. he & his partner, richard, are officially opening up partner one technologies (www.partneronetech.com) for business on january 2nd of '08. he just shared some potential logos with me (which are all really cool), he's currently working on having a web site built, & he & richard are also finalizing the last few logistics as to how they are going to set up their virtual office until they have their own space later in the year. i'm hoping that i can help him out by getting him started with some small business products (personal 800 number with call forwarding, vmail, & conferencing services) from jaduka.

my other buddy, roland, has been talking about running his own thing from day one. we enjoyed many late afternoon runs to starbucks where we would discuss various entrepreneurial opportunities (amongst other things). because he's a damn talented graphic designer & marketer, he initially focused on starting a magazine. first an outdoorsman mag & then a more hip magazine like maxim, but local to texas (texmag). when the texmag thing fell through he went right back to the drawing board. for many months he was at einstein's each morning working on a new business plan for selling kayaks. while roland works on a mac & is more orderly than any man i know, he's a true outdoorsman at heart. i know one day, when heather gives in, he'll be living in the country next to a lake with a fishing pole in one hand & a beer in the other. those morning's at einstein's paid off & in january of this year roland went live with lakeline watersports (www.lakelinewatersports.com). months prior to this he was selling boats out of his garage using craigslist. once the website came online he got himself some storage space & quickly grew out of that. just recently he opened a shop off of pond springs road & business appears to be going well. it's so cool to watch him succeed & the business literally grow before your eyes.

eventually i think i'll run my own business. i know that right now isn't the right time & i'm quite happy where i sit professionally. because i can see myself starting something down the road i watch like a little kid as paul & roland make progress with their businesses. both of them have worked very hard to get where they are & i hope the hard work pays off for them & their families in more ways than one.

if you need some enterprise servers, storage, or networking equipment or maybe a kayak, tell paul or roland who sent ya :)


throwing in the towel

i've had enough of it. i tried folks, i just can't take it anymore. i was pressured into the myspace phenomena by friends. admittedly it was fun when i started. post a comment on a friends page to let them know you were thinking about them, maybe congratulating them on something they had completed, or wishing them a happy birthday, etc. it was also fun to get some attention & have friends posting on your page. i was able to hook up with a few really good friends for which i had lost contact with completely. for that, myspace was invaluable.

the myspace operators got lazy though... the interface in my opinion has always been clunky. remember, myspace was built for teens, so site usability was never a real concern. when news corporation (rupert murdoch) bought myspace for $580 million in july '05, myspace was reportedly the 5th most visited domain on the internet. as of september '07, the site continues to attract new users at a rate of 230K per day & myspace claims to have over 200 million active accounts from users worldwide. given that the world’s population is 6.6 billion, that means 3% of the world’s population is on myspace. while that number doesn't seem all that high initially, consider that only 1/6 of the world’s population has access to the internet. that means that almost 20% of all users on the internet have a myspace account. in more clear terms, myspace accounts make up 67% of the US population.

as a result of all these accounts/users, the site has become extremely slow. i would have suspected that when murdoch bought up myspace they would have put more horsepower (servers, networking gear,etc.) behind the site to speed things up. in my opinion it has gotten slower since the purchase due to all the added advertising messages & links to video. i've got one friend whose page takes over a minute to load; that's ages in internet time. that's assuming pages do load, who has encountered this error countless times? "Sorry! an unexpected error has occurred. This error has been forwarded to MySpace's technical group." despite just the clunky interface & slow loading pages, the inefficiency in using myspace is too much. here is a typical scenario of sending/receiving e-mail via myspace. this scenario is very similar scenario to sending/receiving comments.

1. visit myspace.com
2. login
3. skip advertisement
4. view friends
5. click on a friends page
6. wait for page to load

when walking through this example i got “the error” three times. when the error pops up i have to click on “home” which takes me to the myspace home page, & then have to click “home” again to take me to my page & then I have to repeat steps 1 – 6 again. given that the application bombed on me three times it took me 24 steps to get to step 7 which even 7 steps is too much.

7. click on “send message”
8. type a title to the e-mail
9. type body of e-mail
10. click “send”
11. now logout of myspace

now your friend reads their new e-mail & responds to you. now you get an e-mail in your in real e-mail that tells you that you have a message on myspace so you’ve got to:

12. visit myspace.com
13. login
14. skip advertisement
15. view inbox
16. click on e-mail link from friend
17. read e-mail & either respond, delete, etc.
18. logout

thus far i’ve described a clunky interface that is slow, breaks a lot, & is inefficient to use. while that should have been enough to make anyone throw in the towel that isn’t what finally put me over the edge. the SPAM is what finally broke the camels back.

each time i would login to myspace to send/read a message, update a profile, add/change a picture, etc. i would immediately start receiving spam messages. all of this spam not only results in spam in your myspace e-mail/page, it lives in your daily e-mail too. & you’ve got to go through steps 12 – 18 to look at all the crap you are being spammed with. it was seriously like clock-work; i would login & do something on myspace & in the hours following me logging in i’d get like 3 or 4 new friend requests. normally a chic with a normal name, maybe a name that i know so i think it’s a real friend. following login i’d find a pic of a chic half dressed leaving me a bogus e-mail or telling me to visit some website to chat.

on sunday i logged into myspace to upload some new pics & drop some friends a few comments. in the 24 hours following me logging out i received 40 SPAM messages. that did it, no more myspace for me. & now, i’m not going to start using facebook either people. i suppose i’ll just have to resort to e-mail, calling people, & god forbid actually meeting people face-to-face to talk.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

extreme outsourcing

every time google does something it's BIG news. i suppose that is what happens when your company name becomes a verb that everyone uses & your stock price closes at $660.55 (it was as high as $742 last week) a share. what has google done this time? it's what i call extreme outsourcing...

extreme outsourcing involves outsourcing work with zero liability, overhead, & possibly zero costs? you don't have to involve any HR, contracts, SOWs, management overhead, etc.

how is this possible?

a company, such as google, creates a contest that results in people doing & turning in work. in return for that work, the person/group is hoping their work will win them the contest which usually results in a large monetary payout. of course, if the company decides they don't like your work, they get to keep your work & don't have to pay you anything. they owe you nothing.

google just created a contest with various payouts totalling $10 million for new innovative applications for their new phone that they are hoping to release in Q1/Q2 of next year. for more info about the google (android) challenge: http://googland.blogspot.com/2007/11/g-calling-all-developers-10m-android.html

another big name practicing this notion of extreme outsourcing is netflix. they've had a contest going for some months now for which they'll award $1 million dollars to the team (person or group) that can make their movie recommendation system 10% more accurate than their existing system. ya know, when you check the "star rating" of a movie you either like or dislike? behind all those stars that you are checking is a very smart application that is calculating the probability of what movies you would like based on what movies you do & don't like. as a result, every time you add a new movie to your queue, netflix is constantly popping up movie recommendations for you. they want to make their recommendation application even smarter that it currently is so that you'll keep adding movies to your queue that they've recommended & as a result you remain a loyal & more importantly paying subscribing to netflix. netflix has actually paid out $50K of the $1 million they are offering. for more info about the netflix challenge go to http://www.netflixprize.com/index. click on "leaderboard" to see the teams that are winning. a lot of smart dudes at various universities across the world are in the top 10 ranking.

now how do i come up with a challenge that would result in someone taking care of our lawn, washing our cars, & cleaning our house for free :) if you've got any ideas please share.


Monday, November 12, 2007

where did all the flags go?

i can remember the days, weeks, & months following that horrible day in september back in 2001 when almost every car on the road had an american flag on it. whether that flag was in the form of a real flag hooked in the window & flapping in the breeze or a magnet flag attached to the actual car they were everywhere. today you may see one or two; even the yellow ribbons are disappearing.

i'm just as guilty as everyone else on this. two things going on here in my opinion.

1. we are all sheep & just follow the person in front of us
2. we don't value what we have until it is gone or threatened

while i do believe we often fall victim to the "sheep mentality" i'm leaning to towards the idea that we don't value what we have until it is gone or threatened.

i drove to work today & saw more UT stickers & longhorn symbols than anything else. number two on the list of things people stick on their cars were anti-bush messages & pro-green solutions. on a high note, i did see two trucks with the marine corps eagle, globe, & anchor (EGA) & another with a semper fi sticker. at least our marines know what to be thankful for.

to close, i'm not suggesting we all need to run out & buy flags to put on our cars again. in all honesty, i'd prefer to see zero bumper stickers. i am suggesting that we be thankful for what we have & for what sacrifices so many before us have endured so that we could enjoy this freedom. with that, please take the time to find ways to show your support for our country & our troops.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

two for two

this is the second sunday in a row that kristin & i have enjoyed dinner at casa de luz (http://www.casadeluz.org/). while i'm excited about eating at casa, what's really awesome is that kristin & i are able to cash in on our weekends early now. in the past, almost every sunday night for 6+ years, we (especially me) have run around like crazy people finishing those last minute weekend chores that should have been taken care of saturday morning. you know what i'm talking about --- take out the trash, clean the cat's litter box, make BIG dinner & clean BIG dinner mess, vacuum, wrap up laundry, finish those proposals & e-mails for work, do the checkbook, mow the lawn (actually, i haven't had to do this one for 3 years now - lawn care, what a waste of time), pack your bags for monday, etc...

it's not like our weekends have turned from 48 - 72 hours & we sure don't have less to do. with me beginning to gear up for next year's triathlon season, kristin & i both preparing for the 1/2 marathon in january, both of us biking, & our expanded (for kristin new) job responsibilities we have anything but time to just sit around. did i mention it's football season too :) bears suck this year, nothing new i know, so i've given up on caring about the season.

so how have we've been able to enjoy a stress free sunday night? by both sharing the responsibilities, communicating more, & more importantly focusing on those "to-dos" that really matter vs. the ones that don't.

another two for two - each visit now to casa i've enjoyed 3 plates of food & each of us have enjoyed a dessert. maybe last week i didn't need that 3rd plate, but this week after running 13 miles i could have used a 4th plate. to note i've eaten vegan all day today. also, 13 miles is the most i've run since i did my first 1/2 marathon (the 3M) in january of '05. the afternoon & three days following the 3M race i could barely walk. today, i'm feeling great & expecting to have nothing more than "tired" legs tomorrow. given that i biked 49 miles yesterday & followed that up with a brick workout of 3 miles (of which i bonked on), & then got out there today & did a 1/2 marathon rocks for me mentally. now only 13.2 to go, 112 on the bike, & 2.4 in the water :) tomorrow i'm planning on some yoga, swimming, & maybe some upper body weights.

obviously something to be said about good training. back in '05 i didn't prepare in any way for the 3M. my buddy greg called me up in mid-november after i just returned from italy & was like hey you want to do a 1/2 marathon in january. i figured if greg could do it, then why not. by the end of november greg had twisted his ankle & bowed out of the race. i had already paid my entry fee & figured what the hell. i ran a max of two 7 miles runs during the next two months. no wonder why i could barely walk afterwards. seriously, i was pitiful. i recall kristin making me a bath after returning home & me just feeling like crap.

i will fill you all in following the upcoming 3M race for which i plan to rock. i finished just under (by like 3 seconds) 1 hour & 58 minutes in '05. next year, i hope to finish between one hour & 30 & 1 hour & 40 minutes. i am expecting kristin to do really well too. this will be her first 1/2 marathon & she's been putting in the training time which i failed to do for my first one. if she can manage those nasty shin splints that have been bothering her then she is going to totally rock too. i'm looking forward to drawing her a bath like she did for me after my first 1/2 marathon.

now the best thing about being able to take it easy on a sunday night - getting to bed early!


freedom is not free

when logging into blogger this morning i planned on talking about dinner last night at vespaio with kristin & trevor. i wanted to share what a good time we had, how we learned to order off the menu, & how we capped off the night at home with cheese desserts & wine.

and then i was reminded why i'm able to enjoy such luxuries... we have men & women deployed in lands across this world fighting for our freedom. when we can all be at home talking about starbucks putting out their christmas stuff to early, who has the right-of-way on the run trail, & whether we should have our wine tasting party in dec. or jan. is when you know that our troops are doing their job & protecting us from the cruelty & severity of war.

about 5 years ago i threw in the towel on morning & evening TV news casts (thank goodness for NPR). there was such little focus on actual news. i don't care about brittney spears & how she raises her kids, or that conan o'brien has a stalker, or ways to keep your kids in check, or what to wear to compliment your shape, or some horrific story about a child that locked his/herself in a dryer. i want to know about things that are affecting the structure of our world & economy. inform me of decisions being made in congress that will have a lasting effect on future generations, inform me about medical research that is able to save lives & prevent diseases, teach us about our genetic make-up, & explore history & show me new ways to think.

so why is it that most of us woke up today & didn't acknowledge that we are at war? much has to do with the media, but much more has to do with the fact that those men & women are doing their jobs so well that you & me can wake up this veteran's day & talk about brunch plans with friends, decide what time we are going to go to the gym or get a run in, & cross off those last couple of things on our to-do list for the weekend.

let's all be thankful for the sacrifices that our men & women are enduring for our freedom. it goes beyond those that have lost their lives or have been physically & mentally injured. every man & women in uniform (especially those currently deployed) are giving up the simple joys of waking up in their bed, enjoying a real shower, going to a nice dinner with their spouse, helping their children with homework, etc. it's those little things that mean so much & require a type of dedication & discipline that most of us do not have or have yet to realize we have.

as you walk around today, where ever you are, consider why it is that you get to enjoy what you are enjoying. please join me in honoring our men & women in uniform today, nov. 11th 2007 & every day to come.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

reality of the ironman

i'm constantly reminded of what it's going to take to finish my first ironman. to be honest, i don't want to simply finish, i want to finish strong & with a good time. what that good time is, i really don't have a clue. sub 12 hours for sure. maybe somewhere between 10 & 11 hours...

anyhow, i didn't work out much this week. i got one spin class in on monday, i got a good 5-mile tempo run in with ed & jill (they are also preparing for CDA - their first ironman too) around the lake tuesday morning, & either tuesday evening or wednesday evening (i obviously need to start logging my workouts) i got in some weights & maybe 1000 meters of swimming. to note, i need to be swimming 3 - 5 times a week & getting between 6000 & 9000 meters in. i loath swimming & i know it's my weakest sport of the 3. so i need to really kick it in & focus on the swimming. i'm very close to pulling the trigger & signing up with T3 (a local triathlon group who rocks when it comes to swim training). another reality of the ironman - $$$. they aren't cheap, the gear alone, assuming a nice tri bike, will run ya $2,000 - $3,000. now add a wet suit, goggles, helmet, gloves, bike shoes, socks, tri suit, running shoes, a visor, & sun glasses & you're some where in the neighborhood of another $750 - $1,250. then add in the nutritional supplements & amount of food you'll consume, the cost of race entry ($500), flights, hotel, bike shipping, & the costs of other races to prep for your BIG race & ..... wait a minute, this isn't where i was going to go with this blog entry. so the point is that tri races are expensive. they are also very rewarding & down right fun. so forget about the money.

the reality that hit me today centers around training. so as mentioned above i worked out maybe 3 times this week & my diet was sub par (not bad food, just too much food in general). for example, kristin made vegan cookies this weekend & i ate the entire batch after eating 4 - 5 chicken tacos. i planned a hard ride for this morning with sean (this is his first year competing as well & he's won his age group (25 - 29) in the 4 or 5 races he competed in) & his buddy grady. the idea was to go long & hard. so we left from J&A's just after 7:30am & headed south on mopac to southwest pkwy. when we hit bee caves (coming up 71) grady was toast. so he went one way & sean & i continued on to do what's referred to as the mansfield damn loop (620 - 2222 - 360). we rode pretty hard & took every hill quicker than normal. just prior to hitting 360 we decided to add on some nasty hills before we called it a day. so we took a right on city park (just off 2222, prior to 360) & then a left on to west courtyard for three tough hills. now the view at the top of the highest hill of the three is amazing. you're parallel with the lake & you can see all the way downtown. the rest of our ride went really quick. sean ran out of water & i was running low, so rather than stop we just raced it back to J&A's.

when we arrived (probably between 10 - 10:30am) i bumped into some of my TNT buddies from this season who had also trained for cap-tex (don't even get me started - freakin rain). many of them were now signing up with TNT again for next year's wildflower tri. the wildflower tri is one of the toughest 1/2 ironman's in the US, maybe the world. i don't think i'll ever race this one given that you've got to camp for a couple of days prior to the race. i prefer the most posh accommodations prior to a race. to note, i'm still shopping for a house in coeur d' alene (CDA) rather than live out of a hotel room for 5 days. yeh, the locals in CDA sort of take advantage of the race participants. the cost to rent a house, hotel, etc. basically doubles & there is a minimum of a 5-day stay.

finally to the point... after getting a mini lara bar in my system & drinking the last drop of water i had, i hit the trail for a 3-mile run. they call biking & then running a brick workout because your legs feel like bricks after getting off the bike. i was quickly reminded of why i need to do more of these workouts. the 49 - 50 hard miles on the bike wore me out & by mile 2 of the run i bonked. my calorie/nutritional intake the day prior & today was not good & i didn't have it in me to keep running. it's been a long time since i've had to take a break & walk during a run. anyway, that last mile consisted of running & walking. oddly enough i was still passing folks on the trail. i suppose because it was saturday just around 11:00am & i was surrounded by mostly joggers & strollers rather than other runners. to note, it's november 10th & it's 83 degrees out (i'm not complaining).

ok, i'll have to learn how to post without writing a novel in the future. now to relax & watch the final UT home game vs. tech while taking part in saturday house cleaning :(. tonight kristin & i are going to vespaio (http://www.austinvespaio.com/) for dinner with my boss & our good friend trevor. trevor just returned from stuttgart, germany & should have some good stories about the piece he & katalin are collaborating on.

Friday, November 9, 2007


it's about time i say hello to the world in more ways than one. blogging... huh? what will you find here? anything & everything i want to communicate :)

so where to begin? september 14, 1977 in a small town in illinois - just kidding - not going to start that far back. while i know we are all told to never look back, i'm sure "my past" will emerge from time to time.

so why radar hill brian? radar hill was located in kaneohe bay, hawaii. every so often we would run up radar hill. it was by no means the tallest or the most difficult of hills to run; heck there are much steeper & higher elevation hills here in austin. regardless, it was one of the first hills that i ever ran & it felt good when you reached the top. it was difficult to get to the top so when you made it, especially when you made it there fast, it felt good. don't forget it was hawaii & we were right on the water, so the view at the top of that hill was amazing.

radar hill is a constant reminder for me that sometimes things are going to be tough. no matter how many times i ran it, the journey was always unique. some days i would make it to the top so quickly you'd think i had mini rockets attached to me feet & other days it felt as if bricks were tied to my shoes & i'd wonder why i was doing this? the answer always awaited me at the top. that feeling of finishing something tough & knowing that you pushed on through & made it. better yet, the view was there to enjoy.

i think this same thing exists everywhere in life. sometimes you've got to push on through, even when it hurts & you think you've got nothing left in the tank. when you do obtain what you set out to accomplish no one can take that feeling away from you.

remember, it all starts with that first step. in the case of this blog, those first words. stay tuned for what's to come.