Saturday, August 09, 2008

My life is so boring compared to the news

Well, we survived Edouard. It was nothing. We've had bigger thunderstorms. Yet, nobody was thankful that we weren't hit with a hurricane. Instead they spent all of Tuesday bitching and writing me emails about how unfair it was that they had to come to work when the mayor had said everyone should stay home. Although it did rain it was a rather nice day since very few people did go to work. My commute was only 25 minutes, which is amazing.

Is it just me or is there a lot of really crazy stuff going on in the world. First, there was the whole Caylee Anthony drama. Where's the baby? Where's the BABY?!!! Unfortunately, I'm 99% sure that the mom left her in the car while she was partying or something, the kid died, and then she ditched her body. The fact that she can't even pinpoint when the kid started missing though is a bad sign. She originally said she disappeared June 9, but then changed her story when Caylee was in pictures with her grandfather on father's day June 15. I know we have laws to protect people in this country, but seriously, it's time to stop feeding that girl and start slapping her around a few times a day until she comes clean with the real story of how she killed her daughter and covered it up or who these people who allegedly kidnapped her really are. You can say I'm a bad person for that, but knowing as many pathological liar early-20s club promotions girls as I do, a little waterboarding would be good for all of them.

Now what about this Clark Rockefeller guy? He's got money from somewhere. How did he earn it or scam it? He's got more identities than you can shake a stick at. Was he really a German foreign exchange student? Did he really murder someone years ago in California? Craziness.

But as if Clark Rockefeller didn't have a crazy enough story, that lady who had pitbulls cloned in South Korea is now suspected to be this mentally unstable woman that kidnapped and raped a male Mormon missionary in England back in the 1970s before disappearing. If she's the same woman, how did she change her identity and make enough money to clone puppies? Seriously, is the key to getting rich just to have several identities? If so, I need a few!

The Olympics have started. I spent the morning running ethernet cable from my router to my living room to set the Xbox 360 up as a Media Center Extender. Now we can get all of NBCs online streaming as well as what's on cable. However, it was a bit anticlimactic when I finally got it working because there doesn't seem to be any content available online yet. I was also disappointed to see that the Xbox doesn't recognize my online DVD library. Apparently I have to re-rip all the discs I've already put on there as DivX or MPEG if I want the Xbox to play them. That's totally weak. If the Xbox can play a DVD, it should be able to play a DVD from a hard drive. Too bad Microsoft has chosen to cripple the software.

The Olympics don't seem to be off to a very good start. China is in the lead for the Crazy Stabbing Suicide medal. That's not good. Then the fact that Russia and Georgia are deciding to go to war during the opening ceremonies is a bit distracting too. I like how the leaders of all the countries involved and making statements about the situation are in China watching sports while this is going on.

So with no alternate identities, hidden fortunes, raped Mormons and missing daughters, my life seems pretty boring. However, I did FINALLY find a good working HD video editing program. I was using Pinnacle Studio 11 Ultimate, and I still couldn't get more than 5 minutes of video edited without computer freeze ups. Yesterday I tried CyberLink Power Director 7. I can't say enough great things about this program. It doesn't have green screen effects or as many plug-ins as Pinnacle, but it runs perfectly. I have had zero freeze ups. It's slow and a bit laggy, but I can even edit 1920x1080 AVCHD on my HP dual core. It runs light lightning on my quad core. I'm still learning the ins and outs and I edit some video from my cousin's wedding a few weeks back, but this has been the major hold up in putting together some short films. I mean, when you can't edit a movie more than 5 minutes long, it severely limits your production possibilities. Getting my editing problems fixed was my last major hurdle. Well, it was that and cleaning my house since my house was WAY too dirty and cluttered to shoot anything. However, both situations are now remedied. I really want to get some stuff started this weekend.

I'm going to grab some lunch.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Anticipating Edouard

Edouard? Seriously? They couldn't just name this tropical storm Edward? Come on. I've seen people spell it 15 different ways today -- not to mention the fact that everyone is calling it Edouardo. Planning for storms is complicated enough without this ethnic spelling ridiculousness.

Anyway, if you listen to the news reports Edouard is bringing the apocalypse. If you listen to the people at work, they could care less and are just itching for an excuse to take off work tomorrow. However, panic did reach the pumps as everyone bought up gas in true Rita fashion.

Half my day was spent just in meetings trying to decide what to do about Edouard. As of this morning, we were shutting the office down early and sending everyone home. By noon, with beautiful sunny skies still shining, that plan was scratched and debates raged as to whether or not we'd shut down tomorrow. If the storm hits hard and hits early, it's a no-brainer to shut down for the day. However, if the morning is clear, do you let everyone come to work and risk them being stuck there if the storm hits hard midday? But if it's clear in the morning, and you don't have anyone come in, what if the storm never hits, and you've wasted a full day of your client's time?

I can't say I've made any real preparations here at home. I put the hard top on my car. That's about it. I should probably secure the patio furniture in the old dog kennel, so it doesn't come flying through my bedroom window, but I haven't.

Anyway, I've got to get to bed as I have to be up around 4:30 a.m. to see what our office's final action plan will be and then call into our voicemail system and the local media to say whether the office is open or closed. I have a feeling that either way, quite a few employees have already made up their minds that they're not coming in tomorrow.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

More iPhone info

I found this site with detailed info about what each of the 30 pins in the iPod connector do. It doesn't particularly help me with my current dilemma, but perhaps I could start a new wire from scratch that would have the hook-ups I need.

http://pinouts.ru/Devices/ipod_pinout.shtml

Continuing my iPhone tests

To say that there is a lack of peripheral devices for the iPhone would be a gigantic understatement. There's shelves and shelves of iPod accessories, but even a year after it's launch, there's still virtually no iPhone approved accessories that allow you to listen to music without GSM buzz. In my car I resorted to using a Belkin Tunebase II.

tunebase

On the upside, it gives me a mount for the iPhone, it charges the iPhone, and it has a powerful FM modulator. On the downside, the mount gets a bit saggy after a while, and the FM modulator picks up all the GSM buzz from the phone every time you get email, a text, a call or change cell towers. It's not the ideal solution. Of course, it doesn't allow hands-free phone usage in the cradle unless you're wearing a bluetooth earpiece or have some other secondary bluetooth device hooked up.

The Tunebase does have a stereo line out option, so I ran a line between my car stereo and the line out to forego the FM modulation. This did put an end to the GSM buzz, but added a new engine whine in its place. Also, the sound quality is still as bad as FM modulation.

I had an old Kensington FM transmitter that didn't work worth crap, so I decided to hack that up and see if I couldn't splice together a direct connection from the stereo to the iPhone. Then I could get rid of the tunebase altogether and fabricate a more secure mount a little closer to the steering wheel, so that reading Google maps wouldn't be such an eye strain.

Unfortunately, nowhere online does it seem to have details of what wires are what on the iPhone cable. Apparently this is Apple's proprietary knowledge that is only shared with manufacturers licensing the tech for their products.

Here's what I set up to test it.

jumpers

I ran two jumpers from a stereo cable plugged into a guitar amplifier and checked each wire coming from the iPhone.

Here's the wires I had to test.

leads

This was a quick and easy way to find the music +/- wires. Just make sure and test every combo because I found if you had the + from the left channel and the - from the right, you'd still get music, but it was very quiet compared to the correct combo.

I can't tell you whether all cables will have the same colored wires inside, but in this particular cable I found:

Left channel
White Music +
Yellow Music -

Right channel
Green Music +
Blue Music -

Now the brown wire is also a music ground of some sort, but I can't quite figure out where it fits in to the big picture. It might be the video ground? Here's my other trouble, I can't figure out the power combination. Seems like Red would be power + and black would be power -, right? Well, I hooked those leads up to a 12 volt power outlet, but the iPhone didn't indicate charging. Then I tried the other black wire as ground. Still no indicator. Then I tried both black wires -- still nothing. Then I tried brown. I didn't get a charge indicator, but it killed the music, so I know that wasn't right.

If I had more money, I'd buy and dissect more products because I know if I bought an actual iPhone cable I'd also find wires for video, and obviously there's some sort of data line. I was hoping I'd find a simple mic-in line for the iPhone, but that doesn't seem to be there either. I know it's possible to add a mic since people make recorders that plug into various other iPods. I just don't know how to tell the iPhone to read an external mic as the telephone mic or if that's even possible.

Here's the only solution I've found to integrating the iPhone into my car stereo's non-bluetooth hands free system.

camcorder-cable

This is a shielded camcorder cable. Normally you have left/right music and a video line, but in the case of the iPhone, you can plug it into the headphone jack and get left/right music and a mic input. (Notice the adapter for the recessed headphone jack. That's a pain in the ass.)

By the way, when you have something connected to the line out of the iPhone and recieve a call, it mutes your music, but doesn't play the telephone audio through the line out. If you have something plugged into the stereo jack, that supercedes the line out. You can't have both plugged in and play music through both. If you're plugged into the headphone jack and you receive a call, it mutes the music and plays the phone audio through whatever is plugged into the headphone jack.

Long story short, if you want to use a wired hands-free system like the one in my car, you've got to plug into the headphone jack with a camcorder cable. You'll also have to run a seperate line to the base of the iPhone if you want power. There's also a phone call mute wire that runs from my stereo to the phone hook-up, which will mute the radio/CD player if you get a call, but I have no clue which wire in the iPod cable that would go to.

So that's where I'm at. As I have time, I'll keep testing and report back.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

How to service the buttons and LCD on a Porsche Becker CDR-220 radio

The CD player on my Becker CDR-220 quit working, so I picked a used one up for $100. The used one worked great, but the detachable face had a couple wonkey buttons. The face on my broken unit worked perfectly, but the lamination was coming off on the buttons. I decided to take the two faces apart and put the pretty buttons into the good detachable face.

The process is pretty simple. All you need are a couple tiny flathead screwdrivers for prying the various clips apart. While exploring the process I went past the point of just removing the buttons and also disassembled the LCD, so if part of your LCD screen isn't lighting up, you may be able to clean the zebra connector and put it back together, saving yourself the cost of a new face.

Begin by lightly prying the two side clips apart.

radiofacesideclips

With this entire process, be sure and use some finesse. Nothing should take too much pressure. Pry one side, then the other.

Once the sides are loose, gently pry open the three tabbed clips along the top of the radio face. This is best achieved by sliding the screwdriver in between the face and the backing. I tried depressing the tab with a screwdriver and pushing it from the back, but that resulted in broken clips. If you pry the crack between the face and back, the clips just pop open.

radiofacetopclips

Once you have the side and top clips open, the two halves of the faceplate simply unhinge from the bottom. When you seperate them you'll see the back of the circuit board mounted to the front of the assembly. To remove this, just gently pry around the edges everywhere you see a black dot. The black dots are the posts upon which the board is mounted.

radiofaceboardback

Don't unhook the metal retaining brackets unless you need to remove the LCD or service something on the front of the board. If you remove them, when you reassemble the unit, you'll need to rehook the bottom clips first very, very tightly, then push the top of the retaining bracket up and bend the top clips (one of which is indicated by the arrow) down. The pressure needs to be on the bottom side of the metal LCD retaining bracket to ensure that the zebra connector has good contact. Otherwise when you reassemble the face, there's a good chance that only random portions of your LCD will light up.

Now that you have the circuit board removed from the face plate, you can access all the buttons. They're simply held in place by plastic brackets with rubber strips that allow the buttons to travel up and down to contact the board.

radiolcdremoved

Gently pry out the retainers, and the buttons will slide right out for replacement. The plastic brackets on the backs of the buttons only allow them to go in one direction, so you don't need to worry about getting a put in upside down, but it is good to remember which button goes in which slot.

If you need to service or replace the LCD or the backlighting LEDs, here's a photo of what the board looks like with the LCD removed.

radiocircuitboard

While I had the units open, I cleaned all the connection points with contact cleaner. Like I mentioned before, when replacing the LCD, make sure you connect the bottom of the retaining cage first with it pushed in all the way. Then push the top side up and fold down the remaining three tabs.

It all just snaps back together. Be gentle and make sure everything is seated correctly.

In the face I took apart with the wonky buttons, I found that the rubber behind the buttons had just gotten pulled off center a bit. When I put it back together, I made sure everything was nice and in place, now it works perfectly as well -- although it has all the ugly delaminated buttons in it.

Now I'm trying to decide if I'm going to pull apart the Becker unit with the broken CD player and see if I can't fix that. If I do, I'll post photos.

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's iPhone Day

The Apple WWDC is today. I couldn't care less about when the new iPhone will hit stores, but we better be able to update our firmware for added functionality tonight. I have been waiting soooooo patiently for the added functionality, and I want it NOW!

Friday, April 18, 2008

2008 BP MS 150, Houston to Austin


2008-Apr-13_MS150_Finish01
Originally uploaded by ffacker
It’s rare that my alarm is set for 4 a.m. There might have been a few times back when I was a rookie reporter, but it still isn’t a part of the day I normally see. However, Saturday morning my alarm even surprised the dog when it began chirping away at what could debatably be considered a “wee hour” of the morning.

The reason for the early alarm? It was Saturday, April 12, 2008 – Day 1 of the 2008 BP MS 150. And while last year I did show up in La Grange, Texas around noon to take photos of the Technip riders as they trickled across the day 1 finish line, this year I was one of those riders.

Being an Eagle Scout and accomplished outdoorsman I hadn’t bothered to pack yet. Packing is almost an automatic routine that takes approximately 15 minutes. It was even easier to pack due to the fact that we weren’t carrying our gear on our bikes – it was being conveniently trucked to La Grange ahead of us, so that our clean clothes, toiletries and sleeping bags would be ready and waiting whenever we rolled in. However, in my haste, I didn’t check the weather report. Well, actually, I did check the weather – in Houston. I didn’t check it for La Grange or Austin. If I had, I would have thrown in my -15 sleeping bag, not my 50+ bag – but I’ll get to that later.

The first challenge of the morning was getting to the office, which stemmed from the fact that I sold my SUV and bought Porsche Carrera Cabriolet last year as I was going through a premature mid-life crisis. Porsches and cycling are both fantastic hobbies, however, they don’t mesh together very well. The only way to transport the bicycle in the Porsche was with the top down and the bike wedged upside down into the small back seat with the handle bars hanging over the side of the car. This is not the ideal setup for bike transport down the freeway at 70 mph. I was a bit paranoid I was going to lose the bike before I made it to my office. However, I did indeed arrive to the Technip parking garage at I-10 and Kirkwood at exactly 5:30 a.m. to meet with my team.

My procrastinatory nature became evident when I realized I still hadn’t bothered to open my MS 150 rider packet, which included all of my numbers that had to be plastered all over my bicycle and my uniform. I sat there eyeing everyone else’s bikes trying to figure out which number went where. Luckily the twist ties for the bike numbers and the safety pins for the uniform numbers were in the packet. Otherwise I would have been SOL. Between the bracelet, the helmet sticker, the jersey number, the front bike number, the side bike number and the various other stickers that were for who knows what, it took me almost a full 15 minutes to get numbered up. Of course, it turns out those numbers really aren’t too important unless you’re riding the public buses home. Then they help identify your bike and bags. Otherwise they’re just for your identification by the professional photographers along the route who are trying to sell you photos of yourself looking haggard and sunburned while wearing spandex. I have my doubts as to the validity of that business model.

After loading the gear and snapping a team photo we rolled out of the Technip parking garage at 6:30 a.m. and pulled onto the I-10 Freeway feeder road – and into the wind. Oh, that wind. It was really just a bit of a breeze early Saturday morning. It was just enough to give you a bit of a chill as you rode and keep your nose running. I’m not good at balancing unless I have both hands on the handlebars. It has something to do with the narrowness of a street bikes handlebar setup because on motorcycles and mountain bikes, I have no problem balancing with only one hand while performing various tasks with the other. However, on my street bike, I cannot grab my water bottle and take a drink while riding, and I can’t blow my nose. I’m pretty sure I had snot all over my face from the time we left the garage Saturday morning until lunch in Bellville.

Despite the wind and the snot, I was fresh Saturday morning and had been resting all week for the ride, so I made good time and only stopped at Break Point 2 all morning, getting to Bellville around 10:30. There was a great band called Sleeping Rubys at Break Point 2 jamming some Johnny Cash as well as some great originals. It was nice to have some entertainment as I spent 30 minutes standing in line for the porta-potties.

The porta-potties were much cleaner than the ones you’d find at a county fair or whatnot because the cyclists were very respectful of them, but for the first day, there just weren’t enough of them. To avoid marking your territory along the side of the road you had to spend anywhere from 15-45 minutes standing in line at a Break Point. However, it was evident how many riders had already dropped out of the ride on Sunday because there was practically no wait for the toilets. By Sunday afternoon, there was no line at all. I don’t know if that was because I was just slow and behind the crowd or because that many people had quit. However, I did hear that if you were planning to squat on Sunday it was a crap-shoot (pun intended) as to whether or not you were going to find paper.

So after my brief recharge and discharge at Break Point 2, I rode on to Bellville for lunch. Lunches were well organized, especially considering how many riders had to get through the lines. It was your choice of a turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jelly in Bellville. I had caught up with my teammate Alex just before we arrived, so we ate our sandwiches together, and he mentioned that it would be a good time to put on sunscreen. It would have been a good time for me to have listened to him. Instead of stopping what I was doing and applying the 30spf Banana Boat I had brought along, I agreed that it was a good idea and decided I’d do it after I visited the porta-potties. Forty-five minutes later when I got back to my bike, I had forgotten all about the sunscreen. I’d be regretting that later.

The Saturday afternoon ride was hard. The wind had picked up, and my butt was getting tired. We had also started to move into hill country, and while it was nothing compared to the hills to come on Sunday, I hadn’t trained on hills at all, so I was not enjoying it.

Fayetteville was a real pick-me-up as people were lining the streets cheering us through town. There were quite a few MS patients in wheelchairs thanking us as we rode by. They had music playing and bubble machines going. If it hadn’t been for Fayetteville, I don’t know if I would have made it through the ride on Saturday. As it was, by the time I stopped at Break Point 5, I was asking myself how in the world I was supposed to do this again on Sunday. I didn’t think there was any way my body could make it through two days of this torture. However, I just kept my head down and kept pedaling for La Grange.

It felt so good to cross the finish line Saturday evening, and as I rolled to a stop I was greeted by volunteers with bottles of cold water. Of course, I had no idea where the Technip tent was, so I wandered the fairgrounds for half an hour before stopping at an info booth and discovering that it was at the other end of the field. Once I actually made it to the tent, I was greeted by our great support team and treated to a massage, some great food, and a cold beer. It took me almost two hours to recover enough to get my things together and to go take a shower. After I got back from showering, my boss and I wandered the fairgrounds a bit just to see what all was going on, but apparently by 6 p.m. they were pretty much shutting everything down for the evening. By 9 p.m. our team was asleep on cots in our tent. I made note that if I want to party more next year I need to have a faster pace.

About 2:30 a.m. is when I woke up and realized I was absolutely freezing. The temperature in La Grange had dropped to 38F, and the entire team was unprepared. We spent the remaining hours of the night shivering in our sleeping bags until music came on the fairground loudspeakers at 5 a.m. I had brought a pullover, a rain jacket and a fleece jacket, so I at least had a few layers to throw over my spandex, but I wished I had bought track pants or leggings for the trip. However, I was better off than most of our team who didn’t have jackets of any sort. It was a rough morning. I didn’t feel my fingers or my toes until around 10 a.m.

We were under the impression that we could start the ride to Austin at 5:30 a.m. I have no idea who put this idea in our heads, but TxDoT wouldn’t let anyone leave until 7 a.m., so we went up to the pavilion and had the pancake breakfast and some coffee. I’m so glad we did because thanks to the dozen or so gas griddles in that building, it was the only warm spot on the fairgrounds.

I was surprised that despite the cold, I was feeling quite energetic and recharged Sunday morning. All my thoughts of not being able to ride had vanished. In fact, when we finally began the ride at 7 a.m., I decided to head left out to the Park Route instead of turning right and taking the shorter Express Route straight down the freeway to Austin.
The ride out to Buescher State Park was cold yet beautiful. There was steam rising off all the farm ponds, which was just an amazing sight. I heard the sound of bagpipes in the air as I climbed a hill and was surprised to find a piper in full Scottish regalia playing his heart out at the top. I stopped and shot some video. Then I was mad at myself that I didn’t stop and get some footage of the steaming ponds to cut in with the piper footage, but it wasn’t like I was going to ride back the other way to get that. I had originally planned to mount my camcorder on my handlebars and just periodically turn the camera on and off when I came across interesting thing. Unfortunately, I never came up with a good mounting system, I was scared to expose my camera to the dangers of the elements and crashes, and I found that even if I had mounted it, I was not coordinated enough to control it while riding – maybe next year.

When you finally make it to Buescher State Park, you have the option of actually continuing into the park or chickening out and bypassing the park. I watched quite a few riders decide to skip the actual park as I made my way to the entrance. Let me say, I definitely like that park. I’m going to go back and camp there this summer. While the hills were draining, the park was definitely my favorite part of the ride. When it comes to public roads, there’s certain grades and guidelines that the government tends to adhere to – not in parks. They just throw some pavement straight up the hill as cheaply as possible. There were actually two hills that I had to stop and walk my bike up. The first one was due to riders stopping in front of me, which in turn, caused me to stop, and there was no restarting on that incline. The second hill was just too massive. But on the upside, there’s a downside … to all those hills, and it was a blast speeding down them.

I guess it was somewhere in the park where my sunburn must have started looking really bad because strangers were approaching me to ask if I needed sunscreen. I had sunscreen and was applying it every stop, but the damage had already been done. The park was nice and shady with thick trees and vegetation surrounding the road and blocking out the sun and wind. I wish the entire ride could have been that way because once I exited the park and got back to the freeway, I could feel the sun bearing down on me.

It was an easy ride from the last Break Point in the park to lunch because the freeway seemed so flat and smooth. However, lunch didn’t come a minute too soon because I was starving. They were serving turkey sandwiches from Subway. I think they could have served me just about anything at that point, and I would have eaten it and been glad to have it. I lingered at lunch a little longer than I probably should have as I was hoping my legs would come back after all those hills in the park, but the afternoon ride was still brutal. From the lunch break point on we were riding straight into the wind with the sun blaring down on us. I had to stop at every Break Point the rest of the ride because I could feel myself succumbing to dehydration and heat exhaustion. By this point, the crowds at the break points and the lines at the porta-potties were non-existent. There were still quite a few people, but nothing like the crush of riders on Saturday.

The cruelest part of the day came as I was nearing one of the last break points, and where the break point should have been there was a sign that said, “This break point has moved – just 4 more miles!” Talk about a disheartening moment. I could deal with 1 more mile signs. One more mile was 10 minutes at the most, but in that wind, four more miles could have been close to an hour. I was really down as I willed myself through the next few miles. Then as we were passing along a deserted stretch of highway there was one old car parked to the side. An old man was sitting on the trunk holding a piece of plywood painted with the word “Heroes.” I’m not going to say whether or not I cried, but there was a lot of wind in my eyes during that particular stretch. If that man hadn’t been sitting out there in the middle of nowhere, I might have given up and taken the SAG van to Austin, but after seeing him, quitting wasn’t an option.

Somewhere towards the end of the park ride one of my gears had started acting up. It was slipping in and out. I thought that sooner or later things would click back into place, but it just got worse and worse the longer I rode, and unfortunately, it was my favorite gear. At the last Break Point I finally broke down and took my bike to the service tent to get it checked. The mechanic adjusted a few things and tightened the derailer, but as I continued into Austin the problem lingered. It was a bit annoying, but I’m so thankful I never had to deal with a flat tire or something more time-consuming and serious.

The ride into Austin is both exhilarating and frustrating because aside from the park, it’s got the most hills of the entire ride. However, I found that either through all the stops I’d made or through pure adrenaline, my legs were back, so I was pumping by long strings of riders wearily trying to make it up the hills.

Having never ridden the course before I wasn’t sure of where the finish actually was. I kept pedaling harder and harder hoping to catch sight of it as I turned each corner. Once we were diverted onto the freeway and started descending into town, I knew we were close. The crowd was amazing. People were lined up 6 deep on all sides. As I finally approached the finish line, I heard someone shout, “TECHNIP!” I don’t know who it was, but it felt great knowing somebody was there rooting for our team.

The elation of crossing that finish line was indescribable. I did all I could to soak in the cheers and the crowd. Once again we were greeted by volunteers offering cold water as soon as we dismounted. And once again, I could not find the Technip tent, so I wandered through several different areas before giving up and looking for the information booth.

If you ever ride and make it Austin, make sure and find the Rider Reward booth. They give you a certificate and button for riding. I saw the booth, but didn’t bother to stop, so I missed out on getting mine – otherwise it would be hanging on my wall right now.

When I finally found my team, our captain greeted me with a wet towel, which felt excellent on my extremely burned face. Then I sat down and had a sandwich and a Diet Coke. It was already 5 p.m., so we shot a few pictures in front of the capital building, and then started packing the bus for the drive back to Houston. It was about that time I got a call from my boss who had left on the first bus at 3:30. The brakes on the bus had apparently locked up, and they were broken down about 30 minutes outside of Austin. We finished packing our bus and went to their rescue.

We found them blocking the right lane of 290 with one police officer on the scene trying to keep motorists from smashing into the back of the bus. All of our teammates had unloaded their bikes and gear and were sitting a few yards back from the road in the shade of some trees. We pulled in behind them and had their gear loaded in 10 minutes, but our driver decided that he couldn’t just leave the other bus sitting on 290. His first thought was just to push it off the road with our bus. That would have been great if our buses’ front bumper had lined up with the other buses’ back bumper – but it didn’t. That’s when our drive decided to make a giant three point turn all the way across 290, stopping all traffic, to line up the buses rear bumper to rear bumper. He then back our bus into the other bus repeatedly until finally shoving it off the road. That was really just a small success considering we then had to sit through another harrowing 3-point turn across all four lanes of 290 to turn back around towards Houston. However, we survived it and were soon on the road again, but now with bikes stacked on top of bikes on top of the seats.

We made it back to the office about 9 p.m., said a few quick goodbyes to our teammates and some thank yous to the volunteers, but everyone was packed up and out of there fast. I stopped by Burger King on my way to the house for a gigantic triple cheeseburger. I got home and devoured it. Then Ben, Jace, Jessica and I played some celebratory rounds of Rock Band. It was too cold, and I was far too exhausted to deal with cramming my bicycle upside down into my topless car again, so it’s actually been living in my office for the past week because I still haven’t taken it home.
I made it until 11 p.m. before just absolutely passing out in an exhausted, sunburned heap.

It’s funny because during the ride I distinctly remember promising to myself that I’d never do it again, but there’s no way I’m going to miss it next year.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tour de Houston


DSCF1579
Originally uploaded by ffacker
I had my first real ride on Saturday when I participated in the 40-mile Tour de Houston. Having only been training a week I was a little worried about my endurance, but I made it with no problems -- aside from an achey butt. (I still can't decide if I'm going to be able to toughen up or if I'm going to have to buy a new seat.)

We left town hall at 7:30 a.m., and made a trip up the Hardy Toll Road out to the Humble area and back. It was actually quite fun going up and down the roll road flyovers and overpasses.

There's now 4 weeks left to train for the MS 150, and as long as I can keep this pace up, I'm going to be ready. However, I still need your donations to reach my fundraising goal. If anyone would like to help the cause, you can donate at http://www.ms150.org/edon.cfm?id=214824

Monday, March 10, 2008

Please help me in the fight against MS as I ride in the BP MS 150

Hello to everyone. I hope you’re all doing well.

I rarely ask anything of my friends and family, but this year I’ve taken on the challenge of riding in the BP MS150, a 150-mile bicycle ride from Houston to Austin, which raises money for Multiple Sclerosis research. The ride takes place April 12 – 13, and I may have a camera crew riding with me, so hopefully I’ll have some great footage, which captures the spirit of this event to share with all of you.

Due to my recent tonsillectomy, I’ve gotten a late start on my training, but I’m back to 100 percent and hit the trails all weekend. Along with my training, I’m looking for sponsors to help us meet our 2008 combined goal of $14 million dollars. My personal goal is $400.

Please don’t feel obliged to give, but if you would like to donate, you can give online at http://www.ms150.org/edon.cfm?id=214824

Thank you for your generous help in supporting the fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

E-Donate Link:

http://www.ms150.org/edon.cfm?id=214824

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You're never as strong the day after

Ever notice how when you get all fired up about something controversial and you make a big stand about it, you're never as strong after the fact. The second guessing starts, and you wonder if you really did make the right decision or if you just made the biggest mistake of your life.

I was pretty proud of myself when I texted my ex's boyfriend to tell him that she was cheating on him. I knew she'd never speak to me again, and I didn't care. I knew it was the right thing to do to let the poor bastard know she was screwing around. But it's been about 48 hours since then, and now ... not so great. It finally set in that her not talking to me anymore really means I'm not going to hear from her anymore. When you've waited five months to finally have someone talking to you again, kissing you again, holding you again ... it's pretty rough the suddenly have it jerked away again. I know, it's pathetic, but it's the nature of humanity.

Of course I broke down and wrote her hoping that some magic combination of words paired with the outpouring of my heart would be enough to actually change her mind and bring her back. I don't know why I ever think that will work because I've been pouring out my heart in loveletters since around age 13 and never once can I think of an instance where a letter or a poem or a song or any gesture I've ever made has been enough to bring a woman back once she decided to leave -- which seems to be a popular trend among women in my life.

It's strange, up until I graduated college, I could never even get women to go out with me. Then I don't know if I just got more confident or outgoing or better looking or what, but suddenly it was no longer a problem of getting them to go out with me, but a problem getting them to stick around after they went out with me. I don't know which is more torturous.

Despite the emotional torture, today was the best day of my recovery thus far. I did wake up at 4:30 a.m. just unable to cope with the pain, but after taking the pain medication this morning I was able to just take Tylenol the rest of the day. I also ate pancakes, grilled cheese and pasta. That's a huge improvement over jello and jello. It does get rough trying to finish an entire meal though. It seems like they should be able to give you some sort of rubber insert sleeve for your throat, so that it guards your stitches from the food you eat until they're healed. Then again, I think your sinus cavities should just be sealed off with latex, so most doctors would find my ideas a bit too "progressive" for modern science. Anyway, I was able to stay up most of the day. I finally crashed around 5:00 and took a nap due to the pain and exhaustion. But I got back up at 6:30 and went to the grocery store and video store with my mom. Even though I only took Tylenol all day, she still wouldn't let me drive.

I rented Eastern Promises. Overall I enjoyed the movie, but I seriously could have gone my entire life without seeing Vigo Mortenson have a naked knife fight. After that I watched In the Land of Women. I like that too. I connected a bit more with Adrian Brody's character since I am a writer whereas I've never been in the Russian mafia or had naked knife fights.

Anyway, I was joking with my friend Jennette when she stopped by the other day that without any women in my life and with all this time on my hands, I should focus on deep-thinking and come up with a wise monk-like thought for each day. Well, I can't promise I'll ever have one again, but here's today's thought: If you're unhappy with the state of your life, it's time to pick up and move to the next state.

I have no idea how that applies in your life, but it's pretty obvious how it applies to mine. I ended up a newspaper editor 9 months out of school. In under a year I went from a guy who did nothing, but play guitar in a band, hang out and drink to a guy who was running a business, hiring and firing people. I took on a lot of responsibility fast. Ever since I left that job, I've been thankful I'm not in charge and I've been shirking responsibility. Well, the time has come to stop shirking that responsibility. It's time to stop putting things off and saying, "Someday, I'd like to do this or that."

I've been saying for years how I want to make some short films. The problem is, I've never written one single script. I keep putting it off because I think my ideas aren't good enough or not fleshed out enough. The thing is, any idea that actually makes it to paper is worth a million times more than the best idea that never leaves someone's head. Half the absolute crap out there only got made because that person had the gumption to write that crap down. I need some gumption.

It's almost 1:30 in the morning, so I guess I'm going to stop rambling and get some sleep. I try to time my bedtime with the time I take my pain medication to maximize the sleep I get, but it always seems like I take it and get to doing something. Then I get mad at myself because I know I just cheated myself out of sleep. I think it must be because I actually feel decent enough to do something, so I subconsiously keep doing other things instead of going to bed. I'm going to bed now though.