"It's never too late to start your life over."

You know how it is, you're just minding your business, doing whatever it is you are doing and all the sudden, something catches your attention, be it a car, or a woman, or an airplane at 30,000 feet and BANG, you aren't doing what you were doing before, you are distracted by said shiny thing. Yea, welcome to my life.
"I'm not stupid, I'm easily distracted."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I saw something that scared me today.


No seriously, they scare the crap out of me! I looked up this morning and I saw a bunch of clouds. The problem with clouds around here is that with clouds you get humidity. Most of you deal with humidity every day and know that it can make a warm day downright nasty. An 85 degree day with 85% humidity, is just not nice. I know this.

Today we had about 85% humidity. The high temperature hit 118.

I can deal with hot, but if you add clouds, it's just brutal.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A ride full of beautiful sights, almost perfect...

Keith and I set off just after 0530 this morning. We decided to ride far and fast today. We had both taken two days off and had fresh legs.

It was about twenty minutes before the sun rose and still fairly dark, but not too dark. We both rode without lights and with our sunglasses stowed. We started spinning down the road in front of the headquarters, dodging potholes and armored vehicles and cutting through road construction detours.

As we rode along and over canals, black forms swooped incessantly overhead. They were the barely seen outline of a hundred bats scooping up the bugs that habitually hover above the water only water source for miles.

On our right a nearly full moon greeted us blinking balefully through the occasional tree, obscured occasionally by the thrown up dust of a passing vehicle. This moon was tired and dropping rapidly, yellowing and fading as it dipped towards a hazy, dirty horizon chased by the magnificent view on our left.

On our left were the quickly retreating deep purples and reds that signal the coming of the sun. Every moment led to a brighter one and soon the glasses returned to their rightful perch on our noses, as much to protect from the sun as from the flying dust and stones. Before long, and entirely too soon, the sun peaked over the horizon, barely visible. The haze that had covered the moon also proved a worthy adversary to the rising sun.

We were treated to the sight of the sun’s battle with the haze as we had turned east after completing the entire north to south leg of the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq. Today’s ride was the first time I had tried to circumvent the entire complex. Keith had done it a week earlier without me and I had labored to convince him to do it again, not because of the difficulty of the ride but because of the poor quality of the road. We had only been riding for twenty minutes and both of our faces were already grimy from the flying dust and our hands tingled slightly from riding roads that closely resembled washboards.

As we got into the more populated portions of the complex we came upon a lake we had both ridden around ten or more times. Today we hit the lake at the perfect time. The sun had finally broken free of its bonds and was shining full strength at an almost perfect horizontal. The light illuminated several of the buildings in the center of a palace complex surrounding the free-form man-made lake. The light was fantastic, with great reflections from the lake, and highlights that clearly showed the intricate stone work on the edifices of the buildings and casting intricate shadows as it played across the “floating oases” randomly strewn throughout the lake.

We continued to ride past these sights passing runners and other cyclists, getting looks and exclamations as we scared pedestrians unaware of us due to our rapid progress. The temperature continued to rise, as did the pace. We maintained a pace that four miles into the ride I was sure I could only maintain for another few minutes. We ended up doing 26 miles in a bit over an hour and a half. I finished tired but extremely happy and I gobbled hydration drinks to replenish the lost water and the lost salt that was still encrusted on the sides of my face.

The best part about this ride was the pictures. The pictures I took are fantastic and I would love to share them with you but I can’t. The pictures are only in my mind. My point and shoot camera crapped out unexpectedly a few days ago.

So, like the title says, “almost perfect.” It only could have been better if I could have shared the pictures. Ah well, at least Keith has the same photos I do, I will share with him.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I took a nice cool shower today...

Ok, so two of those three aren't true. I'll let you guess and I will give you a hint: I took a shower.

It was neither nice, nor was it cool.

I went for a nice long bike ride this morning. After the ride, I gathered up my towel and headed off to the shower trailer. I turned on the cold water and let it run for a second. I turned off the cold water and turned on the hot water thinking that this might be one of those showers where the pipes were hooked up in reverse with the hot on the cold side and the cold on the hot side. I thought this because there is no was way that the water coming out when I turned on the "cold" faucet was actually anything even vaguely resembling "cold".

The water for the showers is stored in big tanks out in the open and the water is piped in to the shower trailer. Lets do some math. If the water is stored in outdoor containers in the sun and the outside temperature is 112 degrees for at least 16 hours a day and the lowest ambient temberature is 85 degrees, what is the lowest possible temperature that the water can get to after a full night when I am hot and sweaty and ready to take a shower?

If you worked this out, I believe the answer you would come up with is: this place sucks.

So here's a problem that most people will never have to deal with. There was no cold water today. Neat.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oh Come On!!! You have got to be kidding!

As you may be able to tell, when I don't really have that much to talk about, I revert to the weather. It isn't as though I am weather geek or anything, I don't have the weather channel playing in my room or anything, I just well, simply, it's god awful HOT here. As an example I will show you the weather forecast from my computer. I took this screen shot just after noon, before the hot part of the day. Please pay particular attention to Monday's weather. I envision birds flying along and simply bursting into flames. Should be fun. I will try to take pictures but I expect that the camera will melt.

Unless you have experienced this you just can't understand (I love that line). Seriously though you can't even think when it is this hot which is probably why I don't have much else to say.

I did run this morning. It was a run at your own pace and distance thing. I did three miles which was plenty since I plan on riding about 24 tomorrow morning. When I started riding one of my coworkers opined that my run times would get worse. I knew better. Two and a half weeks of riding and I have dropped 15 seconds per mile at any distance at a lower heart rate. I think I'll keep riding.

I'll be sure to update you on the ride tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Well, clearly I should have known that...

Remember this for later: Function-Option-F11. This is something I should have known.

So I have been riding more lately. I have also been generally working out more too. One of the things that I like to do is quantify my workouts. There are lots of devices available now-a-days to help you do that. One of the best solutions right now is the Garmin Edge 305 or Garmin Forerunner 305. The Edge is a bike mounted GPS that not only gives you distance and speed but also includes a heart rate monitor and an optional pedal cadence sensor. The Forerunner 305 is similar but smaller and watch based designed for running. It too has a heart rate monitor and you can still add the pedal cadence sensor if you use it on a bike.

Both of these things are really cool but don't really come into their own until you download the data to some computer program. Garmin runs a website called Motionbased which allows you to put your recorded GPS track on a map of nearly any type, topographic, overhead satellite shot, whatever. And then you can integrate your heart rate data and get descent and ascent rates and all sorts of other data. Really cool. Especially for a data geek like me.

I however, don't have either of these neat toys. I have a Polar S625X Heart Rate Monitor. This thing is designed for multi-sport athletes and has a foot-pod that tracks how far your foot moves and through this gives you distance and pace while running or walking. The watch has a pressure and temperature sensor that tracks altitude, it has the option to also run it on a bike where you can add a bike speed sensor, cadence sensor, and power meter that all feed data right back to the watch. You can then load all of this data onto your computer and analyze it. You can see your elevation track, and heart rate tracked against speed and elevation and temperature and time. Lots of geeky data for me. Of course you can only do that if you have Windows because the software doesn’t work on a Mac.

Well, that’s annoying.

Fortunately, the Mac is the coolest computer ever. I can boot up in Windows with a free program called Boot Camp!

So, I got the Polar Software sent to me by my dad and I have been using it for a few weeks. It works great. I wanted to share a ride with everyone today. Not for any real reason or because it was neat or difficult or I did really well, but because I can. Then I realized I can’t.

Turns out one of the easiest ways to share one of these graphs with people is through a screenshot. Then I realized that the Mac is missing a crucial key on the keyboard that every Windows based computer has: Print Screen. Well after quite a bit of searching I found out that after updating Boot Camp to version 1.3 I will be able to take a screenshot by hitting…

Damnit, what was that key combination. I really should have written that down.

Oh, yea, Function-Option-F11.

Why didn’t I know that?

Postscript: The screenshot of the ride will have to wait until later, I just don’t have the energy right now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I am an inveterate tinkerer.

I simply can’t leave well enough alone. I bought a Subaru WRX when they came out in 2002. It was fast, it was fun, and within months I was modifying it. It was fine but I felt the need to modify anyway.

The same is true with my computer. Once I get it running nicely, I add something to either the hardware or the software because I simply can’t leave well enough alone.

This of course brings me to my bikes. Yes, plural. For those of you who don’t know me, I have many. For those of you who don’t know me but are serious cyclists your next thought after reading that was probably, “Well of course you do!”

I can’t stop modifying my bikes. Right now of course I am only talking about my Specialized Hardrock XC that I purchased from Mountainside Ski and Sports in Mechanicsburg, PA. They were kind enough to ship it all the way here to Iraq where it arrived a few days later. The bike was perfect, so of course I started modifying it. So far I have added a Garmin GPS, a Polar Speed Sensor, P1 Overendz Bar Ends, water bottle cages, and the crown jewels: Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedals.

Last night I decided to play with my camera and take some pictures. Here are the pedals. You can probably tell where the name comes from.

Postscript: A further update on “Ouch”: I have two more days before I am supposed to do any physical activity with my hands. Today, I ran and did push-ups, tomorrow I am going for a ride. (Yea, I’m an idiot.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

An update on "Ouch"

So I went to the medic this afternoon. It all started well because the first thing she told me was to take off my shirt. Woo Hoo!!! (Yea, I'm an idiot.)

She asked me what I did and I told her I had crashed my bike. She is clearly a cyclist because the next question was, "Is the bike ok?" I told her that it was fine and then she asked me what I had done. I told her again that I had crashed my bike. I didn't really feel like explaining that I was screwing around and got hurt doing it and there wasn't even a camera there to record it. Besides, at this point I had my shirt off and I am feeling rather vulnerable.

She asked again, "No, what did you DO and how did you LAND?" So I got to explain that I flipped my bike over backwards trying to do a wheelie and somehow didn't manage to get my feet down but did manage to get my hands down. Then she laughed at me. (Yea, I'm an idiot.)

So the bottom line is that I hyper-extended my wrists likely causing some slight tendon damage in the form of tearing. Whoops. I got some ice packs, some Advil (mmmm, wonder drug), some stretching exercises, and some instructions on how NOT to fall off my bike. (Yea, I'm and idiot.)

I was also told not to ride for about three days. Damn.


So I wanted to ride this morning. I didn’t.

I was playing around on my bike yesterday. I was just riding around in circles, over bumps, across wooden planks, over large concrete barriers, through water ditches, really just working on my balance and cornering skills.

Unbeknownst to me I had also decided to work on another skill: falling.

At the end of the ride I decided to try to do some wheelies while riding back to my room. From a technical standpoint wheelies are easy. You simply pull up on the handlebars, lean back, and pedal one time hard to rotate the front end. Oh yea, don’t forget to use the rear brake stabilize yourself to keep yourself from flipping over backwards.

I did all of the things accept for the last part. I was riding along at a moderate pace, I pulled up, I leaned back, I pedaled once hard, I flipped over really fast and hard. “Oh yea, the rear brake.” I landed on my back with my hands down and the bike on top of me still attached to my pedals.

I guess I’ll go see the Doc later today. I can move my hands and fingers. I can put weight on my wrists as long as they are straight. I just can’t put any weight on them if they are bent. They may be a bit hyper-extended.

So I missed my ride today. I was really looking forward to it too, so that hurts. Add that to my wrists that also hurt and you have the makings of a pretty crappy day.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

How about a nice swift kick in the groin?

It’s another beautiful day in Baghdad. No really, today it is about 46 minutes (see previous post for my new measurement system). The heat isn't too bad, though you still feel like a turkey.

The kick in the groin is the wind. It is blowing at about 20-25 MPH. It is blowing so hard that flags don't wave, they simply stand straight out.

It feels like a huge hair dryer got turned on and you get to stand in it. I don't know if scientifically there is an opposite to wind chill, but I tell you, from anecdotal experience, there is. It is really sad when the wind adds no cooling effect, only a heating effect.

Going to the porta-john is an adventure. Three things happen. First, the door is glued shut by the wind, so you have to yank on it. Then, as soon as it starts to move it catches the wind and flies open nearly jerking your arm off. Finally, you recover and have to try to close the door, which of course resists at first until you really pull on it, and then slams closed flinging you into the back of the porta-john. All you can do is hope that someone put down the lid on the toilet because if they didn't, it could be touch-and-go there for a while.

So today I am simply living the dream. Tomorrow should be better. I am going for a bike ride in the morning and that is always a good time. And the temperature is usually below 95 degrees, bonus!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

So, what are we cooking today?

Today is probably the hottest day we have had since, well, ever. It is brutal. Strangely, the thermometer doesn't seem to agree, but I did see the glass melting and the mercury draining out the bottom, that may have something to do with it.

I asked a friend of mine how hot it was. He replied, "Oh its a hundred and..."


So here's the thing. Once it gets beyond 100 degrees it is no longer weather, it's cooking. Seriously, the difference between 104 and 116 is just this: At 104 you wish you would die; at 116 you actually do. I prefer 116 because at least that way the pain stops.

I think, in a god forsaken country like this, a much better way to measure temperature is how long it would take to cook something, like say, a turkey.

The temperature today is about 48 minutes.