Friday, April 27, 2007

Keeping Up With Technology

While waiting in the doctor's office this morning, I flipped through a somewhat recent edition of PC Gamer. It made me almost heartsick to think that I haven't had the opportunity to play computer games recently. In fact, I think it has been about three years since I've played anything. I'm totally out of the loop on the latest in games and game technology and, oddly, I believe my career suffers as a result. You see, computer games are one of the primary drivers for my enthusiasm for technology. When I geek out on computer games, I feel motivated to learn new technology and feel inspired to become a better software engineer. But I haven't pursued one single personal technology project in years. This worries me greatly. I'd hate to see my skills degrade or become obsolete.

Unfortunately, I don't know how to remedy the situation. Family life and family budgets both conspire to keep me from purchasing a new computer or gaming console. While I could probably squeeze it into the budget, other priorities would suffer. And even if I did buy a new gaming platform, when would I use it? The reality is simply that all my free time is spoken for. My only hope is that I'll be playing a lot more games when my boys are old enough to play them with me.

In other news, I've noticed some particularly interesting news from the world of science and technology...

Practical Holographic Video: By the time I start playing computer games again, this technology may be a reality. Not every game would benefit from such a display, but the idea of playing something like R2, 3PO, and Chewbacca played in the original Star Wars seem too cool for words.

Earthlike Planet Found: has an article about a possible habitable exoplanet found orbiting Gliese 581 C. It's only 4 times as large as Earth and seems to be in the narrow zone where liquid water is possible. The fact that is orbits a red dwarf is especially exciting because there are so many more red giants than yellow suns like our own. It dramatically opens up the possibility of aliens life existing somewhere out there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thank You Boston

I have returned from a long and very hard trip to Boston. Yes, I completed my first (and probably only) Boston Marathon. Before I get into the gory details, I'd like to give my most heartfelt thanks to the people of Boston. The Richmond Marathon bills itself as "America's Friendliest Marathon". After this weekend, I'd have to say that the Boston Marathon gives them a run for their money. Despite some seriously adverse conditions, the people of Boston never wavered in their hospitality and the race went off without a hitch. Every effort was made to make runners comfortable in the nasty weather and after the race, I was congratulated by countless random citizens on the street. Thank you Boston, you made a tough race a wonderful experience.

As for the race itself... well, it was humbling. The night before, with every sign that we'd be blasted by severe rains, biting cold, and impossible headwinds, I resolved to just enjoy myself and treat it as a race against mother nature. This continued to be my attitude throughout the long and uncomfortable pre-race period. But when it came time for the race, conditions improved enough to fool me into thinking that I could approach it with my seemingly realistic training goal of coming close to a 3 hour marathon.

Boy, was I in for a world of hurt.

My difficulties started with an extremely restless night of "sleep". I'm not sure why I was so nervous when I had resolved to take it easy, but I guess that I was just apprehensive about how painful the experience of running in these conditions could be. All night long, I heard the driving wind and pounding rain against the window. In the morning, I awoke to cold and damp. The bus ride out was comfortable and I was lucky enough to get a spot inside the high-school gym to keep dry. But their was limited space inside the gym and I didn't venture out to eat a proper pre-race meal. I'm certain that contributed to my difficulties.

There was also the issue of deciding on what to wear. Still feeling the morning's chill, I opted for tights and several layers of wicking long-sleeve shirts. I suspect that I was over-dressed, though it was probably the least of my problems. And after I stumbled across the finish line, I wished I had access to even warmed clothes right away.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the course, the race is a point-to-point race, starting in the western town of Hopkinton and descending for a good part of the race until a series of nasty hills starting around mile 16. This also proved to be my undoing. Running downhill fills one with a tremendous sense of overconfidence. Yes, I had heard all the pre-race advice to take it easy in the first half. But as the race started and I felt comfortable with an aggressive pace, I failed to consider how badly my leg muscles would be taking the strain of down-hill running. By the time time the uphill section it, my legs were already locking up.

So how did I do? I finished 5,776th among some 20,000 or so competitors. My time was 3:31:00, just over 16 minutes slower than my Richmond time. After the race, I felt bad about this. But then I saw that even the winner -- Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya was about 7 minutes off his winning time from last year. Lots of people were seriously impacted by the conditions and I am belatedly proud to note that I beat my expected finish (as indicated by my bib number) by 785. So, I'll take it. I finished in grueling conditions. And I am glad that I can move on to other challenges.

(what those challenges are remain undefined... I need to get through the birth of our second child before setting any more aggressive goals)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Post-Lent Update

Ok, Lent is done. That means I (sort of) have access to the Internet at work again. While I do do some occasional surfing now, I still feel funny about personal email and blogging from work, especially since my overlords purport to spy on my Internet usage. Not that I'm going to bad-mouth the overlords, but you never know what they'll find objectionable.

Speaking of Lent... it is kind of weird that I keep the tradition. The wife and I were raised Catholic, but neither of us attend Catholic mass unless we are home for the holidays with the extended family (and for me, I only do it because of social pressure). My wife has moved firmly into the liberal Episcopal camp. And while I like the liberal Episcopal politics, I'm still too agnostic to completely swallow the cool-aid. We'll be raising our sons in the Episcopal Church, but only by default. If I were religious, I think I'd prefer something with better rituals and traditions. The Catholic Church was great for that. As is Wicca, but I think that train has long since left on its last run to Hogwarts.

Since it's bee a while, I suppose an update is order.

On Monday, I am scheduled to run the Boston Marathon. I'm both excited and nervous. This is my third (and likely last) marathon training cycle. The first ended in injury before I could run. The second ended in bronchitis, but I still managed a good race anyway. This time, I've had no such ill-luck (knock on wood). I feel like I'm in great shape and I can't imagine being more prepared. Of course, anything could happen. I'm a little nervous since my little boy is going through his second bout of strep in three weeks. But I haven't got it yet, so perhaps I'll luck out and miss it.

Work is crazy. But I'm actually getting paid for the extra hours I work, so I can't complain too much. And I like the occasional crunch time. It makes me work more efficiently. I just wish that this crunch time was not at the same time as my race, my wife's travel season, and my little boy's illness.

Haven't done much gaming lately. We had a Dragonspire game... geez, over a month ago. I'm ready for the next one but finding time in the schedule's the hard part. Slaying Solomon is still going and I'm happy that other folks have taken over the director's chair while my schedule is so crazy. I wish I could be doing more gaming, but life is getting in the way. I can't wait until my boys are old enough for it, because I can use family time as an excuse for gaming (assuming the are interested). On that note, I can't wait until they start playing video games for much the same reason. I can't remember the last time I played a video game. Sigh.