Sunday, April 28, 2013

XR 650L Mods

So I have finally spent some money on the bike. I decided to start prepping it for both some more trail riding and longer distance riding.

I ditched the stock Bridgestone Trail Wing tires after 1700 miles. The rear was worn pretty flat with less than 1/4" of tread left in the middle. The front was only slightly cupped but I decided to go ahead and get a matching set and see how they wear. So on the bike now is a set of Pirelli MT21 tires and the first 70 miles on them have been great. I'm still leery about cornering hard on new tires after reading all the stories on the internet about people wiping out on slick, new tires. They corner great (in fact, they seem too good to be true) and really hook up on gravel, dirt, and grass. It feels like the back vibrates pretty hard when braking but I've not tried to pinpoint when that became noticeable and how hard I was on the back brake. Big ups to the guys over at for mounting the tires.

I also got a rear cargo rack from Moose Racing but unfortunately it only comes in silver. I had it powder coated matte black and am very happy with the results.

I decided to put some good hand guards on the bike that can take a lick (not just plastic deflectors). I was shocked when I saw the prices for bark busters but the folks over at Litz racing thought they had something that would fit but no dice. I ended up finding a list of mods on Thumper Talk that recommended a set of Tusk bars. They fit nicely, lots of clearance on the front brake's master cylinder and super easy to mount. They almost clear the ball ends on the stock levers, too. For the time being I have the bars tweaked so the levers don't hit (the levers are under the bars so I still have good hand protection). I might pick up some cheap shorties down the road...

I've ordered a Renazco seat which will be made in July... Can't wait to get something better on the tail bone!

Completed so far:
  • Pirelli MT21 Rallycross tires
  • Moose Racing Expedition Rear Top Rack
  • Tusk D-Flex hand guards 

Coming this summer:
  • Custom suede Renzaco seat
  • Rotopax gas cans

Monday, February 27, 2012

16 Pounds in 7 days

So I've been playing around for a couple months trying to figure out what really helps my weightloss and what doesn't.

This week I recorded everything I did and the results. I'll be repeating this experiment from 3/3-3/9 to see if the results are reproducible.

Saturday 2/19 - Ate anything I wanted, and, in fact, went way overboard to spike my calories (~3500-4000 calories).

Sunday 2/20 - Fasted until 8 PM and then had some carrots and 2-3tbsp of mixed-at-home ranch (see below). Drank 6 liters of water.

Monday 2/21 - Breakfast was 9 slices of bacon, sirloin steak (Steak Eze), 3 scrambled eggs. For lunch I ate about half a can (large) of chicken, a boiled chicken breast, and a big helping of Broccoli. Dinner was a baked chicken breast and green beans. Drank 4-6 liters of water.

Tuesday 2/22 - Friday 2/24 was the same breakfast (swapping steak with chicken a couple days) and lunch each day was 2 boiled chicken breasts, large helping of broccoli and a pretty big salad consisting of bagged mixed lettuce, 5-8 pieces of bacon, and 3 tbsp ranch.

Dinners for the week varied between more chicken, a big bacon salad, and steak and eggs. I usually had a snack of four little Slim-Jims while drinking a liter of water before bed (and watching some TV).

Sometimes I would eat 2-4 spoon-fulls of natural peanut butter for a snack if I wanted something "sweet". I eat Whole Foods 365 brand which only has 1 ingredient.

Saturday 2/25 I skipped breakfast altogether and had a garden salad with ranch, 10 oz filet mignon, broccoli, and brussel sprouts for lunch. (And I cheated a wee bit and had 3 fried mushrooms dipped in ranch, a small piece of dinner roll, and a large diet coke). For dinner I had 2 boiled chicken breasts and 6 or 8 Slim Jims. I drank 1 gallon of distilled water (because I had a ton of sodium all day) from 7pm - 1 am.

Sunday 2/26 I had 2 boiled chicken breasts for breakfast and fasted for the rest of the day, drinking about 2/5 of a gallon of distilled water.

It's important to note that I was never hungry outside of meal times. Eating that mammoth breakfast took place within 30 minutes of waking (which is not enjoyable during the process). Forcing my water consumption to 4-6 liters a day (130-200 ounces) means a minimum of 16 ounces per hour for 8 hours. You end up so busy drinking water you don't have hunger pangs at all. For me, I believe I have been living in chronic dehydration and was never in any danger of water poisoning ( as I felt noticeably better all week. I should also note that I was drinking spring water not distilled so there were still trace amounts of electrolytes.

With that said- let's recap my numbers- Sunday night 2/19 I weighed 6-7 pounds heavier than I did on Friday 2/17 from the carb-overload and we'll call that my zero weight. Monday morning saw a predictable loss of 3 pounds through the night. By wednesday I was -9 putting me 2-3 pounds under my weight from Friday the week before. By Friday I was -12 and a full 5 pounds under the previous week's weight.

As of this morning I am -16 pounds from the previous Sunday night and 8-9 pounds under my weight on Fri 2/17.

I've been monitoring my ketosis through the week and didn't go in to it until Friday so today I will be overloading on carbs from noon till bed time to break the cycle. My weight should come back up 6-8 pounds by tomorrow morning and reduce 2-4 pounds by wednesday morning leaving my Friday weigh-in close to what I am now.

The Ranch

I found a great recipe for ranch at

It is truly great. Here's the ingredients incase she ever deletes her blog:

1 cup of full fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of water
1 packet of Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch mix (0.4 oz)

2012 Recap

Blue line is weight loss, red line is total inches lost, and yellow line is inches lost specifically from my torso.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Struggle With Reality

I've been putting off writing this post for some time...

I have been floating through the past few months in a daze; letting life pass by (and wash over me). I've struggled to come to grips with everything that happened in 2011.

I've been correcting the course of our finances and focusing on paying down our credit cards as quickly as possible. I've finally fixed most of my teeth which were in quite a state of disrepair after ignoring regular dental checkups all through college and for the first couple years in "the real world". Inevitably I needed some major restorative work (read: 3 root canals with crowns) and unfortunately I paid for this work with credit. I hope to never repeat that experience. So we've worked hard to cut out all major purchasing without proper planning and saving and we're doing good. Of course, I've always been a poor juggler and so my general health took a backseat to my career and home-life so I managed to put on all the weight I had lost. One step forward and two steps back.

But that's not what has been holding me back and it's not what this post was supposed to be about; I'm stalling.

In one year I managed to interview (and somehow flub up) with ALL of my dream companies. Really, in less than 9 months. I interviewed with Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Rackspace, and Google. I was flown to San Francisco three times for onsite interviews. Yet somehow I've messed up each time. Some of the interviews made my flaws painfully obvious (lacking a mastering of some of the core Python standard library) and others were both fun and challenging.

I think I'll follow up in detail on some specifics in a another blog post but here's how things played out and what I think went wrong:

ILM- The Post found out I was interviewing with ILM after they called my references. I imagine I was about to get an invitation to come out when the Post offered me a promotion to Sr Developer. Having a wife changes your priorities and I called ILM and removed myself from consideration since it would be foolish to leave at that point. They said they understood and didn't blame me but I have to wonder if I'm on a blacklist now...

Pixar- Speaking of blacklists, I may be on one at Pixar as well. After making it to my second round of interviews with Pixar I blatantly expressed that working for Pixar on their render product would be a dream come true. Maybe I didn't have what they were looking for (admittedly the interview wasn't very technical) and maybe you should never tell a company that they are your dream job. I don't know, but I didn't get a call back after that. Of course there are probably 100 "me's" in NorCal lined up the street and distance may have been a factor.

Rackspace- RS brought me out twice. I've got to say, there are some mighty fine folks working in the new SF office and they may have been the hardest to impress. (Without a doubt more finicky than Google) I was considered for a position working on their flagship monitoring product (CloudKick) and later to work on the core of OpenStack, collaborating directly with the engineers at NASA. This is second only to Pixar. Who wouldn't want to work with NASA? I failed miserably on my first interview question (hint: itertools) and aced the rest of the interview which was all Django related. The second trip out for the NASA gig was a different interview experience with another team and the feedback I received was that my answers were too complicated. So strike two for over thinking the problem. Again, awesome people interviewed me and I managed to squeeze a code review out of them on some personal work.

Google- I actually interviewed with Google twice as well. The first time around I was bounced between several teams before receiving a loose verbal offer for a 6mo-1yr contract doing Django for a Google-related project. There's no security (or benefits) for moving a wifey across the country to a state whose job outlook for educators isn't great. So that was a no go. Google called me back and decided I might be a fit for a full time position and so I entered the "Google wringer" for the second time. If you ever have the chance to interview with Google you HAVE to do it. Without any formal education in computer science (and quite a way out of my league from teaching myself PHP by copying my girlfriend's homework) I made it through three phone screens and all the way to six on-site interviews (over 7 hours non-stop). Truly, without-a-doubt, the most interesting day I've ever had in my life. You have to sign an NDA but I think I can disclose a couple tidbits- I had pizza for lunch and they have some mighty fine pizza. I rode one of the infamous, little, multi-colored bicycles (I figured it was the only time I would be there so I took advantage of everything). Finally, all of the answers to all of my questions were given on the whiteboard in BASH, Python and with diagrams. That should say a lot about how far a Python hacker can make it and how far Python has come.

So I'm sitting here and now it's 2012. I had my shot at every company I've ever dreamed of working for and I've got a pretty awesome gig punching out code for National Geographic. How do I carry myself tomorrow? How do I keep going after staring in the face of every awesome tech company out there doing great stuff with Python? What's the one thing I was missing? Where did I misstep?

I'm pretty much driving myself crazy (and a bit down) trying to figure all this out. At the end of the day I'm getting a paycheck to do something I used to do for fun in high school built on ideas that were planted as seeds at a summer camp. That should be enough to get me out of bed and off to work with a smile on my face but I can't help feel like I messed up pretty big.

It was an honor to be nominated. That's what they say. Still a hard pill to swallow.

Here's to tomorrow and whatever that is going to bring... It's been a great ride so far.

"Welcome Home" - Punch Brothers
Welcome home
-If home it is and well you come-
We've seen the smoke and smelled the fumes
You went for broke
Then under over a couple bucks
Threw down the yoke and put up your dukes

Saturday, June 25, 2011

As the world turns

Well, all things come to an end. (Both the good and the bad, but not the ugly without plastic surgery.) Life's book has to have conclusions and chapters must end so the story can continue. The next chapter in my professional life will be as a contractor in DC with my first gig at National Geographic.

I have been very blessed in my life and was extremely fortunate to work at The Washington Post for the past 2 years. I thank God for the opportunity to meet and work with one of the best christian mentors I've ever had, Steven King, and everything that he did for me professionally, personally, and spiritually. I also enjoyed spending so many hours hanging out, err, *cough I mean working with one of my college buddies, Jesse Foltz. In that time I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming that I was actually being paid to both program in Python and use the Django web framework all while hanging out and working with world class people. I have, without a doubt, grown by leaps and bounds. The largest portion of my professional growth as a programmer is due to none other than Jesse for all the chop-busting :)

When I accepted the original job as an Innovations Developer (internally: Web Ninja) I had no idea that it would lead me to work for a strong Christian manager and eventually a position as a Senior Developer. I also never expected I would get to brainstorm and build just down-right awesome stuff with Jesse. I leave the Post with sadness that our team is no more. I didn't know that I would get to architect and build systems that would power mission critical roles. I certainly never imagined I would have 1 on 1 access to the system administrators and eventually count them as my closest friends. There has, unquestionably, been no other experience in my life that compares to the feeling like you have all the resources of a Fortune 500 company data center at your disposal and getting to use all the cool toys like Isilon storage systems and Splunk. But enough of the nerdy stuff... :D

I'm moving on to a company called Celerity to help start their web practice (which has a strong focus on Django) and, again, my first spot is Nat Geo. Can I just say that it is awesome to walk through halls that have domes that light up like the galaxy and scale models of the Grand Canyon that fill the ceiling space in the elevator lobby? I am very much at home there :)

My new supervisor, Drew Engelson, is a fantastic guy and has years of experience with Amazon's cloud services and large Django systems (he was chief architect at PBS previously) so I can't wait to see what kind of growth opportunities this will provide. I actually took the job to work for him since I figured it wasn't every day that you get to pick your mentor.

I started full time last Tuesday and my gut reaction about Drew is spot on. Top notch, very bright, and considerate. I truly hope I have the opportunity to be more involved directly with him and the growth of our part of the company.

Here's to tomorrow! Cheers :)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Suffering Saturday

I've been on the bike 4 times already this year but today is the first ride I've done for fun (not commuting). I did 27.18 miles in 2:40:52 for an average speed of 10.22 MPH. The terrain was a lot of fun and had its challenging (to me) spots. Definitely nothing like the rail road grade W&OD.

I'm bummed at my average speed but I gave it everything I had. I don't think my legs have had this kind of workout in the last 6 months. Covered a lot of new ground (very scenic).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Red is my favorite color

I can't believe I have put off blogging this for so long (but March does include race'n in TN). I sold my Jeep and bought a motorcycle! Happy birthday to me :D A no-frills, fun-in-the-mountains, street legal dirt bike. A Honda XR650L.

I walked into Carmax on a Friday and sold my Jeep to them, went to the airport and rented a car, and drove to Mom's house in KY and bought it the next day from Ashland Cycle Center (who, by the way, gave me an amazing deal).

Of course, the main reason I got it was because it was red. And because the oil is in the frame (called, you guessed it, an oil-in-frame (OIF) chassis) it doesn't have an oil cooler. I looked at a Suzuki DR650 but considering that I am learning how to ride I figure this bike will spend some time on its side at some point and the oil cooler on the DR looked like one more thing to break.

Surprisingly I haven't missed my vehicle at all. I remember one of my professors telling me to sell my Jeep when I moved up here and while it wasn't practical at the time it certainly isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Without further ado...

On the trailer when I picked it up

At the country store after riding US 421 "The Snake"

Back at my in-law's house

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bike Commute

The first step to riding 80 miles on the bike in one session is to get back in the groove. And that means if the weather is above 55-60 then I have NO excuses for not being on the bike. So I headed to work Friday morning and snapped a few pics to and from. 30 miles in one day after a 4-5 month hiatus is respectable in my book.

It all started at 6 AM with a protein shake that by 7:15 when I was out and on it desperately wanted to come up for air :-/

My first stop was to snap this picture of the sunrise where Cameron Run meets the Potomac.

Trust me, these photos do NOT give this spot justice. Gravelly point is the best hidden gem in the DC Metro area in my book. You would be hard pressed to find another location in the US where you can stand on the center line of the approach path for a metropolitan airport at slightly higher elevation than the runway with an amazing view. With a Northern wind you are almost guaranteed the chance to be buzzed by a 737 or A320 screaming in at 150 kts just 80-100 feet over your head. Add to that the often cross winds and the fact that this is one of the hardest approaches in the world with 20-30 degree right turn just seconds before landing and you have an experience anyone from hard core plane geeks to the average tourist will enjoy.

Riding by the White House on the way into work is always a refreshing sight.

Finally, the sunset from the bridge where I took the sunrise photo where I495 merges with US 1 and crosses the Potomac.