Sunday, December 30, 2007

Background Music

The new music is borrowed from a site built by a friend of a friend. Lifehouse's Everything from their 2000 release: No Name Face.

What do you think?

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.12.29

Saturday, 12/29, GSX ODO 4661
Notable: The front tire does have a slow leak... down to 31 psi since the last ride. Looks like this was last ride of the year since the weather just gets colder from here for the next few days. Good to be out. Temps at 50 with wind chill at 50+ mph was pretty chilly, but not too much for a quick 11 mile run.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

BMW Performance Delivery

So, after seriously considering the 2007 BMW 550i and opting for the motorcycles instead, I finally broke down and bought the 2008 this summer. Our trip to Europe presented an opportunity that was just too good to pass up, so I gave it a shot.

Everything worked out spectacularly. European Delivery saved me a bunch, and enabled us to tour Germany and Austria in style for a few days. Details on that trip are still pending.

After dropping the car off with the shipping agency in Munich in early September, it finally made its way to the New Jersey shores in October, and was trucked to Spartanburg, SC. A circuitous route... but bare with me, and you'll understand the method to my madness.

Thursday, 10/25, I grabbed a rental car and headed for Greenville, SC (immediately adjacent to the BMW plant in Spartanburg, SC, braving 500 miles of rainy weather, traffic, and dark highways, praying that it would clear by the morning.

Cutting to the chase... The next morning, with a group of five couples, I headed to the BMW Performance Delivery center just a couple miles down the road from the hotel.

Upon arrival, what should we all behold but my car, proudly displayed in the lobby of the delivery center with placards reading "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH -- THIS IS A CUSTOMER'S NEW VEHICLE." With the second "comfort access key" in my pocket, it was all I could do to resist gently touching the door handle to deactivate the alarm and make the lights flash. "That's my car, baby!! ;-)" (But, I resisted the temptation to show off.)

After brief introductions, and a quick performance driver training session we headed to the track, and to copies of our cars ready for abuse.

Unfortunately, 550i Sport editions were in short supply, so I was stuck with an M5... a 500 BHP, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds monster! Yeah baby!

With heads-up display, paddle shifting, and various performance tuning controls set, I was ready!

First up, pushing the cars as hard as we could on a small portion of the race track. From someone else's "hot lap" experience, here's a rough idea of what it looked like from the inside; with Donnie Isley:

Then, it was time for ABS brake testing, and practice turning while braking:

And then, over to the skid pad. First, without DSC:

Then, with DSC:

I took delivery of my car; personally shown every bell and whistle by Donnie. After wrapping up, he drove it out of the lobby, and handed over the keys, BMW coffee and other goodies.

I had just enough time to zip over to the Zentrum museum, drive on the sidewalk (whee!) and park behind the row of 650is driven over by the rest of the group.

I sorta missed the opportunity to drive one of the 650is over... but with my 550i parked behind the group, how could I complain. Really!?

After a quick tour of the museum, and lunch complements of the delivery center, we headed back on the track.

While some of us waited for lunch to settle, Donnie ran hot-laps with each couple. Here's Donnie's final hot-lap for our group, from the outside:

I then headed over to the X5 course with Jim Davis.

The course really demonstrated that the X5 is a true four-wheel drive off-road vehicle. Nice!

After wrapping up the drive in the X5, and saying farewells to Donnie, Jim, and the gang, I was back in my shiny new 550i for the 500 mile return trip home.

I'd recommend spending more time in Greenville. But, even if you have to make the whole tour in less than 36 hours, I still recommend it! The experience of a lifetime!

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.11.21

Wednesday, 11/21, GSX ODO 4650
To Brambleton Plaza and back.
Notable: New 12V portable air compressor from Sears, and air in the tire: 36 PSI and holding. Weather today is 72 and sunny! Heavy Thanksgiving traffic, so I kept it short. And, kept the speed down ...just in case.

Sunday, 11/18, GSX ODO 4637
Err... nowhere.
Notable: Front tire 0.0 PSI. I noticed that turning in was particularly hard on the 11/10 return home, but figured that it was just my imagination. A flat!? ...or maybe my 11/10 trip to get air had the opposite effect! Bizarre.

Saturday, 11/10, GSX ODO 4637
To gas station for air, and back.
Notable: A chilly ride, but it was good to get out for a bit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Math Is Cool, Part 2

April last year, I blogged about math coolness I encountered while poking around the TopCoder member profiles...

Yes, I'm a math geek... who knew!?

In doubt that math is cool?! What would Halo 3 be without math... think on that one! So, maybe it's not math itself, but what can be done with math that's cool.... but then, aren't we just quibbling over semantics?

In fact, I was a fairly marginal math student all the way through school and much of the way through college; always a year behind the curve it seemed. But the August 1985 cover of BYTE magazine changed all that. [No luck finding an actual image of the cover online, but I did find this great link!] My discovery of Fractal mathematics convinced me that not only is math cool, but that I was in a unique point in history to be able to combine my love for computers with the power of math.

Anyway, I've been reading a series of books from SciAm Book Club (see note above) covering the history, math, and personalities surrounding Pi, e, i, Phi, and zero. Did you know that Pi, e, and i are all directly related to each other?! (While reading about Pi, I discovered why the Riemann Zeta function series contains primes... more coolness.)

So, I'm reading about Phi, now.

Did you know that Phi can be found in the five-pointed star? Measure the distance between two adjacent points, and divide that into the length of one of the long strokes... 1.618... Phi. [From my hand-drawn star, I get ratios between 1.42 and 1.59... maybe you can get a closer result.]

More later...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.21

Sunday, 10/21, GSX ODO 4632
To pickup hacksaw.
Notable: Hacksaw on a bike… not the smartest combination. But, it was a good ride. Beautiful sunny, pure blue skies with temps in the high 70s!

Saturday, 10/20, GSX ODO 4592
To Loudoun Motorsports for state inspection.
Notable: A sunny cool (low 60s) morning after a rainy night led to a hair-raising trip in, with cold wet/slick roads out of the neighborhood. Once on the dry, much better. Just impossible to get the feel for wet traction…

Beautiful weather on Thursday, but I drove in to work. Friday, I had hoped to take the bike in for its state inspection, but the weather said "no."

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Attending the New Paradigm Enterprise 2.0 All Member briefing last month, I was once again reminded of LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP5. Although I have an extensive "client" programming background, in the web realm, I'm a bit of a newb.

So, a few weeks ago, I got copies of Professional LAMP and Setting Up LAMP, and ordered a "cheap" Dell server.

The server arrived last Thursday. :-)

The entire locating the correct Fedora Linux build, download, verify ISO, burn DVD, install, test-run process took only a few hours... in spite of a few hiccups along the way. (My PC has a DVD/CD-RW... not a DVD-W/CD-RW. :-P)

Before starting the Fedora install, I also took a brief detour with the setup DVD included by Dell, which included a Linux variant. Unfortunately, after getting through the setup process, the install failed for lack of a "Disc 2." (The whole install seemed to be on a single DVD, and the other disc included in the package was docs only... so, no luck.) But, it's just as well that it didn't work out, because the Fedora release rocks.

I went for the full install, which includes not only web server and development tools, but also desktop apps: Firefox Browser, email, Open Office, GIMP (Open Source PhotoShop-like), Totem DVD player, games, and a lot more. It took a lot of restraint not to sell my MSFT shares right then and there! ;-)

This morning, I see a Wired article about the latest Ubuntu Linux Release. And, just as I was dropping a DVD into the drive, read about the problems with Totem DVD codec support. Installing the codec seemed to eliminate the error, but didn't yield any further success. But, the ultimate irony is that none of it mattered anyway... I bought this machine to be a web server / dev box -- not for movies or games... so, no sound card. :-P

So, as the install progresses from L to A to M to P. My study has begun with P. So far, looks very similar to Java. More later....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.17

Wednesday, 10/17, GSX ODO 4568
To Loudoun Motorsports and Market Station for lunch.
Notable: Still with AOL, but our team was hit really hard. Not happy. But, today, it’s an absolutely spectacular day with sunny skies, temps in the high 70s, and a light enough workload for a long lunch.

Ordered Scott Anti-Fog Lens Cleaner, Stomp Grip Tank Pad Kit, and Vortex Frame Sliders from Free shipping, too! Not ready for the track, yet. But, the Tank Pad will help me hold on better when stopping and turning. Hopefully will never use the Frame Sliders....

Monday, 10/15, GSX ODO 4539
To work and back.
Notable: T minus one day, and counting to AOL's October 2007 layoffs. Not happy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.13

Saturday, 10/13, GSX ODO 4524
To Target and back.
Notable: Still seems silly to ride a GSX-R into Target… but not as silly when riding out with eight shot glasses!

Friday, 10/12, GSX ODO 4506
Out for a hair cut, and back.
Notable: Sunny but chilly morning, so I drove in to work. But, after wrapping up work, returned home and rode the bike... the helmet’s not so good for the new haircut, but who cares?

Thursday, 10/11, GSX ODO 4480
Out to pick up spare contacts, and back.
Notable: Chilly and overcast, but good to get out for a quick ride. Saving gas!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.10

Wednesday, 10/10, GSX ODO 4468
To work and back.
Notable: The long way. Avoiding traffic, or just taking advantage of the weather. Unfortunately, I think I've peaked... not a beginning rider anymore, but not progressing much beyond "early intermediate" either. It's good to ride safe... but you don't learn as fast that way.

I took the Basic Rider Course (BRC) with the Apex folks. "Using your own motorcycle, you'll put into practice the techniques of managing traction, stopping quickly, cornering and swerving" is very similar to the BRC training, except for the "using your own motorcycle" part. I learned on a Suzuki Dual-Sport 250 and never made it above 25 mph. (Thought I was really flying, when I made it into 2nd gear!) So... with a 1000cc bike that has 168 bhp, does 0-60 in 3.0 s, and has a top speed of 186 mph, this class would be a new experience. But, Nov. 2 sounds cold. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, 10/09, GSX ODO 4433
To work and back.
Notable: Not enough to blog about. Still, the smell of the flowers along Claiborne is not something to take for granted.... I wish I could capture the scent! Has anyone invented the scent camera, yet? ...Apparently, yes:
CNN Transcript - Newsroom/World View: NEWSROOM for May 4, 2000 ...
A scent camera can grab the smell, then analyzes the elements of the smell and transmits the file to the television station. The broadcaster sends the scent ...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.08

Monday, 10/08, GSX ODO 4420
To work and back.
Notable: Overcast and a bit chilly on the way in to work, light traffic... not a bad ride. The flowers are out again on Claiborne Parkway. Indescribable. Left work a few minutes early to avoid rush-hour traffic... stop for gas... very uncomfortable for the remainder of the ride home. Spidey sense? Or maybe, just foreshadowing of my near-miss in the car... backing up, I nearly ran over a neighbor's small dog while they were out for a walk. Oops!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Europe - Day 2 - Rome: Arrival and Acclimation

Disney Theme for the Day: All Roads Lead to Rome

The day began with breakfast at the Exedra buffet; a generous and generally edible selection by European standards. (During my last trip to Europe, I had considerable trouble finding palatable food for breakfast with each new country. It typically took a day or two to sort out a solution for breakfast. London was the exception, where the "
typical english breakfast" never really matched what I was looking for each morning.)

After breakfast, we gathered in the Exedra lobby to await James' and Davide's preview of the day and direction to the bus. We also met our roman tour guide for the next two days, Marlena, and our driver Nino.

We piled into the bus with snacks in hand (provided by James) and after a quick head-count, headed for the Coliseum, with a brief driving tour on the way.

With warnings of pickpockets and overcharging vendors, we marched toward the Coliseum and breezed through the line with all logistics in the care of our guides.

With only a few minutes wait, we began our tour. Interesting facts about the Coliseum, gladiators, and the lifetimes of the roman citizenry of the era abounded:
- not just slaves, but professionals and amateurs competed in the Coliseum
- holes in the walls are due to scavenging for metal (pins connecting the huge building blocks) that took place hundreds of years later
- several inches of sand over the wooden arena floor were used to absorb the blood
- gladiator training took place in several enclaves, including one just around the corner
- there are 76 numbered entrances to the Coliseum interior, four in the cardinal directions: one for the Emperor, one for Gladiator entrances, one for the victorious, and another ...for the fallen?
- the Coliseum was built on Nero's lake... or not... Nero died at AD 76. Building of the Coliseum began AD 80 and finished AD 89. (I suppose it wasn't Nero's lake after he died.)
- An earthquake in 1349 caused much of the damage seen today, resulting in the "cut away view" (which is actually quite handy for seeing all the inner detail of the Coliseum).

We walked the entire perimeter, and then moved toward the center.

From the Coliseum, we walked up the steps to the
arch adjacent to the Roman Forum. After some discussion of the inscriptions on the arch, and the meaning of SPQR, we headed into the Forum, the site of the ancient city center.

Ruins were everywhere, each with it's own story -- however, it was a bit of ancient-history overload for me. But, fascinating to be in the middle of it all.

With alternating sun and a light sprinkling of rain, we made it back to the bus. But, not before James and Davide had provided us with rain ponchos! (We didn't need them, but wow(!) these guys are prepared! ...there had been no forecast of rain until late in the trip, in Venice.)

We headed into the city for lunch at a local pizzeria... never-ending thin-crust pizzas of all sorts. I'm afraid that after salad, I ate roughly a pizza and a half myself, and then chased it with a Coke Light and dessert. Time for more walking!

The rest of the day flowed like something out of a Lizzy McGuire movie.
We headed to the Spanish Steps, passing stores along the way: Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bulgari, Prada, and arriving at the Barcaccia Fountain and a brief stop by Babington's Tea Rooms, a public drinking fountain, the fruit vendor, and on to the Trevi Fountain. For luck, we tossed coins over our left shoulders with our right hands. A quick run through the mall brought us to the MAGRIPPALFCOSTERTIVMFECIT (Basilica di Santa Maria).

Headed to the next stop, I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of a Yamaha YZF-M1 MotoGP replica racer patterned after Valentino Rossi's bike. Nice!

At the square, we were treated to gelato by our Disney hosts. As they say, the first one is free. For the rest of the trip, we were hooked, and made sure to have gelato for dessert at least once each day.

For dinner, we were on our own. We got directions to Target (a Roman restaurant, not the store) and headed to dinner. And, unlike dinner in the U.S., dinner in Europe, and especially in Italy, is expected to last for hours. The check is only delivered upon request, and even then, with no hurry.... it's not uncommon to wait for half an hour to forty-five minutes after requesting the check! Dinner is a social experience and, here, life is lived at a different pace!

[Ever since my early July 1,000 mile ride to Dayton and back, I had suffered from a stinger in my left shoulder/back... somewhere during our Italian journey, I forgot that my shoulder hurt.]

On the way back to the hotel, we grabbed more gelato.

Back in our room at last, it was good to drop back into our cloud-like beds.... ah!

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.07

Sunday, 10/07, GSX ODO 4407
To Best Buy and back.
Notable: $55 to spend, and the coupons expire in November.... so, Coldplay X&Y and PGR4, it is! Now, we just need our Xbox 360 back from Microsoft. Just made it to Best Buy at 6:59 in time to beat the OPEN sign being turned out. Rode home in the dark -- gotta love the bugs; they're out in force.

Friday, 10/05, GSX ODO 4385
To gym and back.
Notable: The weather is too nice not to ride. So, I ride and workout. Nothing notable about the ride, but during rush-hour around here, that's a good thing.

Thursday, 10/04, GSX ODO 4368
To work and back.
Notable: Fog in the morning! Good temperature, but a bit humid. Crap rush-hour traffic on the way home, again! But no incident... so for this week, that's something.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.03

Wednesday, 10/03, GSX ODO 4355
To work and back.
Notable: Nice weather, and a quiet ride in.... Crap rush-hour traffic on the ride home: 1st gear most of the way (loud) to make sure idiot drivers didn’t swerve into my line in a desperate attempt to get home 30 seconds sooner. (Lots of swerving action 50 to 100 yards ahead of me, across two and three lanes, but nothing near me.) ...until I was finally clear of the worst of the traffic... then, a
Honda Repsol replica racer pulled past me in the right lane, waved, crossed a little tight into my lane, and then pulled into a left turn lane as we passed. He cut off a turning car, and had to skid just past the bumper of the second car in line at the light. Oops… What is this!? Bad karma week for everyone around me!? I rode by like nothing happened, and didn’t hear the sound of the car he cut off running him over… but geez. Bet his adrenaline kicked up a bit. ...sigh....

Monday, October 01, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.10.01

Monday, 10/01, GSX ODO 4339
To work and back.

Notable: Holy shit! (Kindof an oxymoron, isn't that??), I'm just a minute from the office, and turning into the right-turn lane onto Broderick, and this woman in an Infinity G35 has just pulled into the turn lane ahead of me. She takes off like a bat-out-of-hell. As she rounds the corner, I realize that she must have spotted me in her rear-view mirror and has decided to show me a thing or two.... uh hunh.

I enter the corner following her, and notice that I really had to break -- she really was flying through the turn! I'm thinking, "Good for you -- I'm gonna take this corner a little slow today if that's alright with you." No sooner do I finish entry to the turn and begin pulling through the apex, then I'm able to watch as all four of her tires snap loose... so much for dynamic traction control!

From there, I'm watching in slow motion as I complete the turn, slow a bit more, and from a safe distance watch as she completes a 180 spin across three lanes (one of ours, and two of the oncoming). Thank God the lanes are all clear.

I continue to watch the slow motion slide play out, recalling my 180 degree spin across two lanes in my BMW M3 back in 2001. Somehow it feels like we are karmically linked.... through both my M3 spin, and my January crash on the gixer... on Broderick.

She completes the slide, nearly coming to a stop before slamming into the curb. Nearly. She slams into the curb with both front and rear right wheels. Wham!! (Ouch!!) I ride by, staring in shock in amazement, noticing her just-above-shoulder-length light brown hair.

After checking in at my office around the corner, I headed back to the scene to make sure she was OK. Apparently she was able to drive away... all that remained were four skid marks and the marks from her wheels' impact with the curb.

Sigh... another lesson learned the hard way!

Good luck to the girl in G35. I hope she knows a good Chiropractor and has great car insurance.

Otherwise, it was a beautiful day, and a great ride to/from work.

Ride safe! Stay up! ...and, drive safe!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Motorcycle Diaries 2007.09.29

Saturday, 9/29, GSX ODO 4323
To gym, Best Buy, work, and home.
Notable: 70 degrees and sunny, and light traffic. Why can't it be like this all year round!?

Blog Abuse

I actually have been updating my blog regularly, but you wouldn't know it, because... well, I've been abusing my blog. I haven't seen a "rules of blogging" (probably only because I haven't looked for one), but I'm sure that one of the rules is:

* When you make posts, don't return to make changes unless those changes are corrections or substantial updates to the status of the original post. When making these changes, they should be clearly highlighted as such at the top of the page.

I, on the other hand, have been using a few pages as my diaries, e.g., So, the updates are there, but generally aren't shown as "updates" by the RSS feed, and the like. If there is a "proper etiquette" in blogging, I'm sure this is a violation of the most heinous sort.

I could put each motorcycle entry as it's own blog entry... but... I don't know. Call me "old school"...

Does anyone care except me?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Europe - Day 1 - Arrival in Italy

Disney Theme for the Day: Benvenuto!

Having suffered the horror of watching the taxi meter tick past double the local cash I was carrying during my first trip to London years before, I was determined to have plenty of Euros this time! In spite of knowing that the arrivals area of the airport was probably the worst place to make this transaction, I paid the 11% "service" fee in exchange for the peace of mind that I wouldn't be cash-poor again! Of course, traveling with Disney, my concerns about money were groundless this time.

We were met by our first Disney escort as we waited for our luggage (waiting what seemed like hours for our bags).

Once the last piece of luggage arrived, we were on our way. Almost. Another wait (~10 minutes) was in store as we arrived at the curb. I think our driver had already left without us due to our luggage delay and was returning from dropping off the first gaggle of guests as we finally made our way outside the airport. However, we were reassured by our trusty Disney guide, Davide (dav-i-day), that our transport was on the way. So, we waited patiently. Our Mercedes van arrived at last. They loaded our many bags. And, we were on our way!

Travel through Rome is an adventure all by itself! Scooters and motorcycles lane-split (or filter, as they say in the UK). Speed limits and lanes are only a suggestion. And the traffic is dense. But, we made it into the city center without incident. The Arch of Constantine greeted our arrival, and we circumnavigated a good 120 degrees of the Coliseum in awe: a glimpse nearly 2,000 years back into history! A few more turns and a narrow street or two brought us into the vast plaza, and to the front of our hotel, the Exedra. Beautiful! Five stars, and then some!

We left our luggage behind with no thought of tipping or payment for the trip (all covered as part of the Disney tour) as James (our other Disney guide) greeted us, introduced us to a couple of our fellow adventurers, handed us a room key, and directed us to the elevator while explaining the European custom of numbering the first floor as zero ("0"). We were all amused to see that there was not only a "0" but also a floor "-1". ...must be the influence of all the great Italian mathematicians of bygone centuries. ;-)

Arrival in our Exedra hotel room left everyone in awe: Two floors with hardwood stairs, electronic lighting and drapery controls, a two-story view onto the plaza fountain, and a bathroom to make even the best U.S. hotels proud: vast space, marble tile all around, separate toilet / bidet area, dual vanity, walk-in shower and a large tub. Wow! This is not your typical European hotel! Although it was a local time around noon, we had eaten enough on the plane that the first order of business was to shower and sleep. Just a siesta, as we would join our group of 29 for dinner at 5:30PM.

Waking at 4PM, the few hours had helped us all a bit -- a welcome relief for tired eyes and bodies, after being awake since 7AM the day before..... 23 hours prior to our arrival at the hotel. The bed and pillows, again, set the benchmark for the best of the best. We were all lavishly accommodated in beds we would all have been happy to have at home. Soft but full pillows, and warm duvets covering a soft, firm mattress... like sleeping in a cloud.

We arrived at the VIP lounge dressed for dinner, collar shirt, slacks and dress shoes for me, dresses for the ladies. We were, perhaps, a trifle overdressed, but our introduction to our fellow Disney adventurers and guides was an up-scale affair with red and white wines (both quiet good), fancy and tasty aperitifs, and a range of snacks and drinks for the kids, including bottled water, both sparking and "still."

James led introductions, discussing the outline for our next nine days, and highlighting some of the key events/places we could look forward to. Davide talked about Rome, and led us through the "meet & greet." We began with introductions of each family, provided -- in most cases -- by very precocious children (including our own). But, to further break the ice, James and Davide handed out treasure-hunt-like forms with questions that would soon be answered by our fellow adventurers. I found that I was better at being interviewed than at interviewing, but met a few new people and some of the kids (Junior Adventurers). I was just a bit disappointed that after the effort to gather all that information, that we didn't each share a bit of what we learned about each other with the group... but, dinner called!

With assigned seating and the restaurant to ourselves, the Disney-experience continued. Dinner and drinks were tasty and served in an "home-style" fashion that reminded me of movies of royal dinners. The girls had earlier remarked, as chocolate strawberries were delivered to our room, that they felt like princesses. A very pleasant experience for all!

After dinner, we explored the ruins visible through the glass floors on floor "-1," then strolled around the plaza, marveling at the hotel from a distance. After sitting by the fountain for a bit, we returned to our room, anticipating sinking back into our plush beds for a much-needed night's sleep.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Europe - Day 0 - Departure for Italy

My first travel to Europe several years ago was a five-cities-in-twelve-days adventure that involved planes, trains and automobiles, four languages, and six currencies. This time, we arrived at the airport anticipating an adventure of a different sort.

Traveling with Adventures by Disney, the itinerary for this trip called for us to stay in three cities over nine days, with stops in two more cities along the way. [In fact, we would see a total of six cities and two countries before finishing our tour.]

Having packed only the day before, I had spent nearly zero-time on preparation for the trip. This was somewhat of a leap of faith, except that past experiences with Disney left little doubt that our Italian adventure would be meticulously choreographed and flawlessly produced. ...we would not be disappointed. [I wrote this while recovering from jet lag at 2:30AM, the night after our arrival. By the conclusion of the trip, we would find that "meticulously choreographed and flawlessly produced" were the perfect words... the trip couldn't have been better.]

We departed IAD in the afternoon, anticipating an arrival in Rome the next morning. For someone who has sworn "never again" about red-eyes, this was just crazy.

Our last-minute decision to upgrade to United "Economy Plus" was worth its weight in gold -- not only did we secure the extra legroom (which at 6'3", I really need) but we also were lucky to gain the entire center row on our 777 (5 seats) for the two of us.

I didn't bother trying to sleep. So, the evening/night/morning was a blur of movies on small screens, with brief intermissions to eat and read
Fast Bikes. The food was passable, most notable because this was one of the rare non-business/first-class flights where we didn't have to pay for our choice of meals. After Perfect Stranger, The Waitress, Blades of Glory (the end only, thank god), Fracture (beginning and end) we made our descent into Rome with the Tyrrhenian Sea on our right.

Monday, September 10, 2007

European Adventure 2007

Back from a two week trip to Italy, Germany, and Austria with over 1,800 pictures, and experiences in 12 different cities in as many days.

We traveled with Adventures by Disney for the first leg of the trip. The weather in Italy was nearly flawless for the whole adventure, and the overall experience was just about as good as it gets. We spent time in Rome, Orvieto, Tuscany, Florence, Vatican City, and Venice.

The weather in Germany and Austria was marginal, but the purpose of our trip made up for the less-than-perfect weather. Fortunately, the clouds parted long enough during each day to support exploration of Rothenburg, Salzburg, Vienna, Berchtesgaden, and Königsee.

I'll follow-up shortly with a blow-by-blow daily diary of the grand adventure, including selected pictures.

Vacation Diaries:
Day 0 - Departure for Italy
Day 1 - Arrival in Italy
Day 2 - Rome: Arrival and Acclimation
Day 3 - Rome: Vatican City
Day 4 - The Journey to Tuscany via Orvieto, and a Tuscan welcome!
Day 5 - Tuscany: Pasta Making, the Pool and Italian Dodge Ball
Day 6 - Tuscany: Shopping in Florence
Day 7 - The Journey to Venice, the Grand Tour, and Dinner
Day 8 - Venice: Mask Making, and the Tearful Farewell
Day 9 - The Journey to Munich and Frankfurt
Day 10 - Recovery in Munich, and the Journey to Berchtesgaden via Salzburg
Day 11 - Berchtesgaden: Day Trip to Vienna
Day 12 - Berchtesgaden: a Day in Salzburg
Day 13 - The Return to Munich, and Home!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Most Played 2007

About a year ago I blogged about my iPod Top 25 Most Played list. No surprises this time, but a few on the rise, a few falling, and a couple new tracks. Overall, a great collection (I think):

Catch the Sun - Doves - Lost Souls
Par Avion - Mike + The Mechanics - Mike + The Mechanics
Erase-Rewind - The Cardigans - Gran Turismo
Muzik - Knoc-Turn'al - The Transporter Soundtrack
More Than This - The Cure - The X-Files: The Album
You Look So Fine - Garbage - Version 2.0
Claire De Lune - The Philadelphia Orchestra - Ocean's 11 Soundtrack
Atomic - Blondie - Best Of Blondie
When You Kiss Me - Shania Twain - Up! (Red Disc)
You And Your Friend - Snake River Conspiracy - Sonic Jihad
How Soon Is Now? - t.A.T.u. - 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing - Garbage - Version 2.0
How Soon Is Now? - Snake River Conspiracy - Sonic Jihad
Burnin' For You - Blue Öyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper: The Best Of Blue Oyster Cult
All We Need Is A Dream - Cheap Trick - Lap Of Luxury
Hysteria - Def Leppard - Hysteria
Casualty - Snake River Conspiracy - Sonic Jihad
More Than Love - Snake River Conspiracy - Sonic Jihad
True Companion - Donald Fagen - Heavy Metal
It Really Doesn't Matter - Electric Light Orchestra - Zoom
A Day Without Rain - Enya - A Day Without Rain
Milk - Garbage - Garbage
My Elastic Eye - The Chemical Brothers - Come With Us
Let Me Be The One - Def Leppard - X
Hella Good - No Doubt - Rock Steady

What's your Top 25??

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Blood Diamond

I'd been avoiding this movie for weeks, knowing that the subject matter would be tough to watch -- but having seen it now, I have to rate it five stars and was inspired to write my first review on NetFlix:

"Blood Diamond is a disturbing portrayal of man's inhumanity to man, balanced by the story of a father's (Djimon Hounsou) love for his family, and the redemption of a gun smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) who finds his true calling. Both stories are intertwined in the chaos of 1999 Sierra Leon in a way that is both terrifying and beautiful."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogging Again

My faithful readership has been clamouring for an update... all two, err, one of them. I've either been busy, or lazy, or both. Lots to keep up with lately:

In May, I was in Banff, Canada for the WWW2007 conference; I still owe one of my co-workers a writeup on the semantic web sessions I attended. The Fairmont hotel was spectacular: a medieval castle, with a 21st century suite for the weary traveler. I hiked four to eight miles each night, rode horseback and visited Lake Louise on Saturday for lunch at the hotel and another four mile hike. After falling twice on the ice into deep puddles in the middle of the trail, I was a bit soggy for the drive back to my hotel.

A couple weekends later, I headed to the Andrews Air Force Base Air Show. The F-18 demo was spectacular, but the F-22 demo was unbelievable -- literally, more like a dream than watching a real plane. I rode there and back; doing 80 mph I was passed by SUVs and other bikers... 495/95 is crazy!

In June, I headed to New York City for a one day conference, and then stayed through the weekend. It was great to catch up with the guys at IndustryNext on Wednesday night. Then, I was incredibly fortunate to meet some terrific people at the conference, and had a great evening out on Thursday night. Friday, my wife drove into town, arriving just before midnight. We spent the next two days touring the area, and eating way too much (Pigilla, Cafe St. Barts, Rain and more...) During my five days in town, I walked 24.7 miles! Also visited a couple art galleries, made a quick run through the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday night, and then caught the American Museum of Natural History presentation of Cosmic Collisions before heading out on Sunday... truly breathtaking.

In July, we headed to Dayton, Ohio. I rode my bike for the 1,000 mile round-trip, with speeds ranging from 80 to 95 mph through the mountain highways just to keep up with the pickups and SUVs. My mantra: "ride safe - stay up!" Fortunately, nothing particularly eventful happened on the trip out. Not much on the trip back except for a stinger in my left shoulder and one sweeping left turn at 75 mph where the bike didn't want to turn in... a bad time to panic! Fortunately, my reading (and practice) paid off: passive steering (pushing into the turn) and active steering (pulling on the opposite side) brought the bike into the turn... not a good time to rely on intuition about how to turn a bike (your intuition would be wrong, and you'd run off the road at high speed). At the end, it was good to be home!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Static Friction

What about Static Friction, you say? I thought you'd never ask....

Static Friction is the measure of friction of an object against a surface when the object is, well, static, not moving. The coefficient of friction for a moving object (slipping against the surface) is less than the coefficient of static friction; that's what Anti-lock Breaking Systems (ABS) are all about.

It turns out, that the point of maximum friction is at the crisis point between static friction and kinetic friction. Here's a lovely little picture:

So, decades ago, a friend, investor, co-worker and mentor who happened to really love trains, explained that locomotives were actually the first beneficiaries of early Anti-lock Breaking System technology. Control in turns is obviously not a factor. Instead, the goal with trains is to break at the point of maximum friction: the crisis point between static friction (wheels not slipping) and kinetic friction (wheels slipping). This is, of course, important to locomotives which tend to pull large numbers of incredibly heavy cars loaded with even heavier materials and goods.

Googling for "train locomotive breaking" yielded a variety of results, but no specific detail on the rail-wheel interface, or the systems responsible for adjusting breaking to optimize stopping power....

However, there's another, more novel application in widespread (relatively) use today... wait for it.

Yes! You guessed it, motorcycle racing. Specifically, MotoGP!

In MotoGP, although they do have advanced breaking systems, the novel use of static friction is in the firing sequence used to accelerate the bikes.

It turns out that under hard acceleration, the rear tire is unable to generate maximum traction, because the high speed at the interface between the tire and ground is always slipping -- it's never firmly planted. In 2006 and even more so this year, the MotoGP gurus have realized that by delaying the firing order of each piston, they can tune the application of force at the road to manage optimum traction under acceleration.

Instead of a sequence of fire-rest-fire-rest-fire-rest-fire-rest, which never gives the tire a chance to gain maximum traction, they now have tested a variety of schemes, with one of the more successful being fire-fire-fire-fire-rest-rest-rest-rest. It has got to be hard on the motor, but it helps with traction on the tire, and enables better acceleration, for some....

SpeedTV writes: "Ducati has abandoned the ‘Twin Pulse’ or ‘big bang’ firing order and gone back to their original and conventional 360 degree V4 with symmetrical firing order...’screamer’ style."

So, who says that physics can't be cool!?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Static Friction and Loop Detectors

The May 2007 issue of Motorcycle Consumer News has great coverage on loop detectors. What's a loop detector you ask? Ah! Newer drivers won't have noticed, but those of us who have been driving for a decade or two will recall a time when lights became much "smarter" -- they just seem to know when you've arrived at the intersection!

So, you've probably noticed the cuts in the pavement, in large box shapes, situated near the stop line in each lane at intersections, right? The physics geeks among us know (or at least, suspect) that these lines in the pavement are where wires are buried in order to use magnetic fields to detect the presence of cars. This is the loop detector. Or actually, this is the loop, the detector is housed in a control box on the side of the road.

The basic principle is that a current runs through the wire loop under the ground, and when a car approaches, the metal in the car, and the car's alternator disrupt that magnetic field in a way that can be measured by the equipment in the box on the side of the street (the detector).

MC News has the details from the City of Irvine, "Loop detectors are three loops of 12 or 14-gauge copper wire, buried 3" under the pavement. An electrical current is sent through the loop, making it an electromagnet. Once a car or motorcycle drives over the loop, the metal on the vehicles underside causes a disturbance in the magnetic field, tripping the detector and sending a signal to the traffic light to turn green." Lovely.

Of course, those of us who ride motorcycles know differently. The detector does a fine job of detecting the mass of cars. Not so much, with motorcycles. The rule of thumb is that revving the motor of your motorcycle will generate enough of a field to have an effect -- you may have seen the guy at the light doing this before; no, it's not just so that he sounds cool. Because those of us who ride motorcycles also know... that doesn't always work. Then, we get to sit through another cycle, or wait for a car to trip the light.

A suggested solution for motorcyclists is to attach a strong magnet to the underside of the bike to disrupt the field. No more revving, no more missed lights. But another answer is to brush up on physics, or read MC News, because it turns out that proper positioning of the motorcycle is the key to successfully disrupting the field.

I had a hell of a time in my Electromagnetic Field Theory class, so it's no wonder that I'd forgotten -- instead of sitting within a few inches of the line in the ground, I have tended to place the bike in the center of the loop. For a car, that's just fine. But, the true physicists among us (and those who have read up lately) will know that the electromagnetic field is strongest immediately adjacent to the conductor, and falls of as a function of the distance from the wire. So, the middle of the loop is just about the worst possible place to sit with a motorcycle. Near the wire, better.

Now if the crazy April weather around here would just cooperate, I'd go test the theory!

Ah! And a word of warning to all, especially those in CA: "Emergency vehicles (fire trucks, ambulances and police) are equipped with a device called an Emergency Vehicle Pre-empt Emitter, which uses either infrared signals or a strobe light to turn a signal green when rushing to a call. In Irvine, as in other cities, a cylindrical receiver sits on top of the traffic signal arm to receive these signals. ... Remember that fact when you hear a siren approaching, as the traffic light that just turned green for you may immediately turn red to let an emergency vehicle pass. Be prepared."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

You Can Do Anything

After eight weeks of physical therapy, ending last Wednesday, my penultimate check-up went well. According to the Dr., "You Can Do Anything." I haven't put this to the test, but it's good to know. ;-)
Speaking of being able to do anything. Have you read The Secret or tapped into the flurry of media coverage surrounding the book. What do you think?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again!

Today, it's a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low to mid 60s. The streets are dry and much of the salt and sand (but not all) has been washed away.

Technically, I'm still under doctor's orders: "No skiing. No riding." But, it's been a couple of weeks (yikes! three weeks!) since then, and it was a short ride. And, as they say, "better to ask forgiveness, than permission."

So, after far too many nights away, the bike, she is home again.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Good Ol' Days

A couple weeks back, a friend at a conference in Seattle wrote, "The speaker is Anders Hejlsberg, the inventor of the C# programming language. He also invented Delphi when he worked at Borland. He is so much smarter than me that I can barely understand what he is talking about…"

For better or for worse, I'm now old enough to reminisce about events nearly 20 years ago:

I really enjoyed hearing Bjarne Stroustrup talk about C++ in 1987. I wasn't able to really use C++ until 1996, but because of the early introduction really felt like I had the inside track on what it was all about.

Attending Meltdown '96 in Seattle, studying Grady Booch's Object Oriented Design with Applications, and talking with the early DirectX crew (Alex St. John era) was a seminal moment in my tenure with Legend Entertainment. And, in hindsight, in my career as a whole.

My work in 1987 concluded with an "Advanced Systems Development" project, leading a group of expert consultants specializing in problem domains including Unix / VGA graphics drivers, OOD, Unix networking, platform architecture and design (before we even really understood those terms), and requirements analysis. Out of that experience, I concluded that I wanted to work with a team composed of members who were each expert in their own domains, working together to achieve something that went far beyond what I could understand or complete on my own.

In 1996, I worked with just such a team to help Legend make the leap from DOS to Win95 development, and from C to C++. It was an exciting time, one which culminated in the port of a Mac product, originally developed in C to Win95/C++ implementation based on the library our small team had designed and built in the first half of the year. I estimated the port would take two months, and was able to leverage the library to complete the work in one month. It wasn't the most glamorous work ever, but I still remember it as one of my favorite times working with Legend.

Ah, the good 'ol days.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Half a Cat

So, the surgery went well and my shoulder is back together again.

It was cool to see the bandage taken off a couple days later -- the two inch incision was stapled closed, and looked like something out of Star Trek -- I looked like mini-Borg. Fortunately, the 20 or so staples came out very easily.... no, I didn't take pictures before or after.

Today's second check-up went well. I am now approved to lift half a cat. Either that, or a whole cat, using both arms. No skiing. No riding.

For now, the focus is on range-of-motion. Then, in two weeks, I'll begin strength training. I'd intended to focus on "getting into shape" in 2007... I guess this was one way to start! ;-)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thank You for Not Bleeding

Updated: Parts are on order for the bike; less than $180 to put it back together myself. Unfortunately, I can't do the same thing for my shoulder. Reconstructive surgery is scheduled for next week. Woohoo.

They say that there are two kinds of riders: those that have crashed, and those that will crash.

I am now among the former group.

I have a dislocated shoulder (
AC Separation, Grade 3, to be exact) and the Gixer has a few scars as well. Fortunately, both of us will mend.

Special thanks go out to my guardian angel who stopped his SUV in the lane to stop vehicles coming around the corner from running me or the bike over.

With a little help, my reading on how to upright a bike paid off. And, as I rubbed my sore shoulder and wondered about whether I was in shock or not, I debated about whether the bike was in good enough shape to ride home. (It was, almost, I wasn't.)

Wisely, I chose to nurse it back to a parking space in the garage at work, and called The-Best-Wife-Ever(tm) for a ride to the hospital.

Waiting in the ER seemed to take a long time, but was actually pretty brief. Thankfully it was a quiet Wednesday night in Ashburn. The triage nurse appreciated my wife's exclamation when my shoulder was revealed. "I sometimes want to do that, but I'm not supposed to," she said.

I was back at work this morning, running a little slower than usual, but not totally out of commission. (I've even learned to type with both hands with my right elbow properly supported. ;-)) We stopped by the bike this morning. It was a relief to us both to see that the damage to the bike was relatively minor.

This is the second time I've had to learn that cold tires don't grip well when turning. The first time, I totaled my BMW M3. With only two wheels, motorcycles are less forgiving. Cold tires on a cold road, always a bad combination in high-performance vehicles with lots of torque.

My new rule of thumb, which The-Best-Wife-Ever(tm) heartily endorses is: if I have to wear three layers of clothing, it's too cold to ride.

Hopefully the bike and I will be back in shape soon -- just in time for more nice weather!

Oh, and The-Best-Wife-Ever(tm) says, "Thank you for not bleeding."