Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm slow and I'm okay

At the end of the Reaper Ride today (which was filmed by a man known to one of the reapers.... perhaps it will be on youtube soon), my buddy Chris and I discussed what transpired. He asked if I was able to outsprint Damian, and I answered no. Of course Damian easily came right around me about 100 yards from the Tijeras city limit sign. I was trying not to collapse from the pain in my legs and lungs and was feeling pretty good that no one else was within 200 yards of me. Somehow Chris was surprised by this because, as he said, sprinting is my best bike racing skill. Damian's greatest strength is climbing, but he's so talented that his weakness dwarfs my strength.

Chris, a fine climber himself, feels discouraged that despite his best training efforts, he'll never be as fast as Damian. So far it hasn't caused him to give up the sport, but this attitude troubles me. As long as I'm getting better and approaching my ability limits, I feel pretty good regardless of the number of better riders. Maybe I'll someday beat Damian (so far I'm 0 for 3 in mano a mano sprints), but probably not. I'll never be a world-class bike racer, but I just love to ride and race.

My boss occasionally comes to my office to look over the code we're working on. He makes changes to the code and runs it before I understand what he's doing/done. He searches the code and types the changes brilliantly fast, and then he's out the door to work on some other project. Then I spend the next 30-60 minutes trying to figure out what he did. I used to think I was pretty good at altering computer codes.

There's a place for bike racers like me (category 3, right now), and I hope that there will be a permanent job for me at the end of my temporary one. Not a superstar, not a genius, just another guy with a little talent and some skills that God gave me. What drives me is to honor Him with the way I use His gifts.

Next race: Sept 23 in East Mountains. Next day at work: tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two good, thick books

Bleak House by Charles Dickens is a new favorite book of mine. It reminded me of War and Peace, possibly only because they're both thick and include a lot of characters. This set me to thinking about what I love about War and Peace compared with what I love about Bleak House.

I love War and Peace because the characters are so complex, changeable, capable of deceiving themselves -- just like myself and the people I know. And characters drift in and out of the story like people come and go in anyone's life. I'm interested in these people because I've met each of them, or someone very like each of them.

I love Bleak House because a few seconds after you meet any character you have a perfectly clear picture of her/him in your mind. They're not that probable, but they're fascinating to watch. And every character, and every setting, has got some part to play in the plot. Everybody's a bit exaggerated. I've never met these people in real life, but I'd like to.

And, since one can't help but compare oneself to the heroines of books, it's like this: I'm something like Natalia of War and Peace (selfish and generous of heart and smart and silly all at the same time), but I'd like to be something like sweet, sincere, hard-working Esther of Bleak House, with a little bit of the practical, wise and efficient "old girl" thrown in.

There's an enjoyable miniseries of Bleak House, done by the BBC in 2005. Our friends Todd and Leigh recommended it. We got it over the last week and a half in mailed installments from Netflix. Chad says that when we came to the end of the first disk, with the second one not yet in hand, I made an "ugh" noise as if I'd been punched in the gut. This even though I'd just read the book, and therefore was in no suspense about the plot.

Further note:
The picture-perfection of Dickens characters means that the miniseries may provoke other exclamations, like:

"Mr. Skimpole should look older and more endearingly clueless."
"Sargent George should be taller, and have darker hair."
"That's really not Mr. Turverydrop at all!"
"Where's Mrs. Snagsby, peering out from behind corners? Where's Mr. Jellyby with his head leaned against the wall? Where's the old girl, and her umbrella, and her whole family?"

The BBC can't be blamed, though. The pool of British actors not famous enough to play a grown-up in a Harry Potter movie is limited, and then there's the time-crunch of the 7 1/2 hour (15-episode) miniseries.

Friends and peach pie

Always fun to hang out with the Polkadot family. They were over for dinner just before Polkadot Mom and Dad went on vacation in Maui.

There were also string tricks, cup stacking, and dancing!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Silly conservation actions by yo

This is not to say that the world is going to end tomorrow or that I have solutions to all environmental issues (though I am a doctor :). Here are a few things that I'm doing, mostly for fun, that might result in less energy waste/consumption/ etc. etc. Feel free to pass along any other swell ideas you come up with.

1. This has been mentioned on the blog before, but here goes again. I collect the rainwater from our roof in large trash cans so that I can use it later to water our yard. We live in a desert. I hear that the midwest is pretty dry this year.

2. I've almost completely given up using either paper towels or hand dryers after washing my hands in public washrooms (that's a Canadian phrase, eh?). We live in a desert, so my hands dry quickly. Also, I don't have coworkers in the traditional sense (this, I think, would be people that an employee interacts with multiple times in a given day. Perhaps I'll write a post about my job experiences to date that will explain my ignorance on the topic).

3. Our bikes, not car, are parked in the garage. When I leave the garage, and sometimes when I enter it, I allow the garage door to open between 1/2 and 2/3 of the fully open position. Then, when the door closes, it has less distance to travel as well. This requires some ducking to exit/enter, but no troubles so far.

Looking forward to a bright future,

Monday, August 6, 2007

These guys are smart

It's not so much that they can model fluid flow using the lattice Boltzmann method. But they speak such good English! And that makes me feel ashamed of myself that I don't speak any of their languages.

My brother Matt tells me that in Sweden (and probably in plenty of other places), they have a joke:

Q: What do you call a person who speaks only one language?
A: American.

There are notable exceptions. Jason Bourne, for example, finds it useful to speak Russian, Spanish and French. But since government brainwashing is expensive and not yet widely available, I'll have to study a little less efficiently. Of the three languages that I speak very little and badly (French, Korean, Spanish), Spanish is the most spoken in Albuquerque and at Matt, Lupita and Ricky's house. So I've started reading Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban. I'm getting through pretty much a page a day, so that'll be on the "Jill is reading" list on the sidebar for maybe a year or more. And I'm looking for a friend with whom to do a Spanish/English language exchange. Feel free to check up on my progress, or to write comments in Spanish.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Business trip

My boss requested that I go to a conference last week. Usually, I don't look forward to them -- listening to 7 hours of scientific talks in day is not super fun -- but this one had a little more promise. So Jill decided to come also. Banff, Canada, there we went. Perhaps the biggest difference between Banff and ABQ is the amount of water. There's a lot up there -- due in large part to warm temps that lead to melting glaciers. The pic below is the Bow River near the famous Banff Springs Hotel. The conference was located at the Banff Park Hotel, a less costly option.

One perk of conferences is meeting people from all over the world. Below there are 2 Brazilians and a Japanese guy. Fun group!
We flew in to Calgary and spent the first night there before going to Banff. We stayed at the Ramada Inn in downtown, seventh floor. Pretty fun.

The conference adventure was a trip to the Columbia Icefield. Several glaciers grow from the icefield, and we got to walk onto the Athabasca Glacier. This is quite a bit more difficult to do than it would seem. It involved a bus ride down a road with a 30% grade (I'd love to try this on a bike). The driver told us to not cross the blue cones because one might find oneself falling into a crevace. Brrrrrrr.

There are streams of water that flow along the top of the glacier. We scooped some into our water bottles. It was pretty good, exceedingly cold, but I doubt it could sell for more than any other bottled water.

Here's a bad pic of the bus we rode onto the glacier. It's a little hard to get the lighting right with all that ice.

I did attend the conference every day, skipping only a few hours on Wed and Thurs. My talk, about imbedding sharp interfaces between two fluids in the lattice Boltzmann method, went okay. Ask me about it any time.