Monday, May 30, 2005

Been lazy this year...

Today was the running of the Capital of Texas Triathlon. This is the first time in 3 years that I haven't participated. Strangely, for each of the last three years, there have been thunderstorms the night before the event. Because of this there are some concerns over water quality due to whatever crap gets washed into the water by the storm. In each case, the event went on as planned.

Two years ago, I did the "FirstTri" (note the bad pun) distance as my first triathlon ever. That time, I borrowed Austin's road bike. It was a little small, but I definitely appreciated the light weight. Also, since that race was so short, the size didn't really bother me all that much. Last year, I trained pretty hard and hit the Olympic distance one. That time, they billed it as "America's Triathlon." Well, it was Memorial day, so I guess it was appropriate. For that race, I modded the heck out of my mountain bike. I replaced the chainrings (for bigger ones), replaced the cogs (for tighter spacing), added cowhorn bars + aerobars, and changed the stem and seatpost for better fit. I had a good swim and bike. I remember hearing, while I was struggling up one of the hills, someone yelling "Go 1653!" I was like, "Hey. 1653. That's me!" It turned out to be the hottest day of the year to that point, and it just killed me on the run (walk). I'm thankful for the spectators who ran out and dumped water on me during the run. That's how slow I was going. Spectators could catch up to a semi-trained athlete. Of course, I was really tired at that point. Overall, I was pretty happy with my performance, though my run put me 10:07 off my target time.

Then again, running has always been the bane of my existence. I exaggerate of course, but only a little. Because of this, I think it would be cool if I could team up with both of my brothers to do a relay (you guys free next memorial day?). Greg or I could do either the swimming or biking (we'd have to race in practice to see who's faster at what) while Eric could do the running. Of course, I've fattened up over the winter and am in no shape to compete right now. I have started biking again, so that helps out. I'm hoping I can come back strong for next year's CapTex. If I train hard, maybe I'll even buy a real road or triathlon bike. I'd have to find a new swim buddy and probably a run buddy to keep my training honest though.

Ah... Next year...

What the Hell?

Was watching some TV tonight, flipping back and forth between the Suns/Spurs game and Hell's Kitchen. Now that looks like a reality show I wouldn't mind being on. These contestants just arrive, and that evening, they have to run the restaurant. Can you believe it? Some of these people have no restaurant experience. It's no wonder most of the customers went away hungry (and mad).

Oh, and did y'all see Amare Stoudamire's block of Tim Duncan at the end of the game? WOW!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Lemongrass?

How the heck do you use it? I found some in HEB the other day (w/ the rest of the herbs) and thought it would be cool if I could simulate the awesome lemongrass dishes (lemongrass beef, lemongrass tofu, ...) available at the many fine eating establishments around town. How hard could it be? Just chop up some lemongrass and toss it into the dish (I don't have any fish sauce handy though), right? Well, lemongrass is really like a big stalk of grass. The outside layers are tough and fibrous. I peeled off a couple of layers, chopped them finely, and tossed them into my wok and made a quick beef/pepper/onion stir-fry. Result? Not so lemony...

So that was a little bit of a disappointment. Well, the leftovers aren't going to eat themselves, so I took one in to work on Wednesday. Nuked it for a couple of minutes. Took a bite. WHOA! Super-lemony! I guess I was using it all wrong. All the flavor I want is in there. Now I just had to figure out how to extract it. I usually say that I don't use recipes when I cook. That's not the whole truth. Sometimes I do refer to recipes to figure out proportions of ingredients (like the ratio of sugar to vinegar to get a good sweet&sour taste, 1-to-1 btw, diluted with water usually) and to pick up techniques. Enter google. I use google as my personal recipe database. Whenever I'm looking for ideas, I usually start with a base and type that in, like "duck recipe", to see what looks interesting. In this case, I was scanning through the "lemongrass recipe" results. To sum up, for stir-frying or similar, I should have used the core of the lemongrass. The outer layers are better for soups and stews and things where you can cook it longer as a big chunk (bruise it first to help release the flavor).

Well, back to the wok to experiment! Maybe I'll cook "??? Lemongrass" tomorrow to see if I can do better.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tidbits...

Here's some random thoughts from the past week:

Being internetless isn't all that bad, except for cleaning up my email inbox afterwards.

In St. Louis, if the thing to see is the Arch, what do you see when you go up the Arch? I didn't go up the Arch...

I can fit through a doggie door! Even on a full stomach!

Switch successful? Mom likes the Mac Mini. I'll probably get one for myself later this summer to match my new LCD monitor (which is SWEET! btw). The only problem is that she can't use the drawing pad to input chinese since we only have the software for windows. Thanks for setting it up Eric!

I like my new wok, but it's a little large. They were out of the 14" version when I went shopping for it so I got the 16". It is sort of stable on our burners. I'd like to set it up on a wok ring for extra stability, but the holes in the one I got aren't big enough. The fire goes out from lack of oxygen. Someone want to lend me a dremel? Hmm... maybe I should cut the wok down from 16" to 14" while I'm at it! Nah... if I find that 16" is just too large, I'll just order a 14" from acemart. At $8-10, I can afford to have two woks. I guess having the larger wok would be good if cooking for more people, but I don't think I have enough BTUs for that anyways.

Remember, "Hot wok, cold oil." Anyone care to explain the physics of this to me? During the seasoning proceses, I've heard that heating the wok opens the pores, letting the oil burn in and leave a protective coating. I've also heard that heating the wok closes the pores so food doesn't stick. Can it be a little of both? During heating, the pores may first open through expansion, then get squeezed shut due to even more expansion? Anyways, I don't know why it works, but it does.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

100% Digital Quality!

I've decided to get an LCD monitor to replace my CRT. GotApex lists a pretty good deal on monitors from Dell (this deal ends 5/18?). I decided to order the 1905FP. This one got pretty good reviews on CNET. All together, I got it for under $300 padded/taxed/shipped (padded meaning I had to toss something else in the order to use a better coupon). NTSB!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What do you mean "free"?

It's all free! pea gravel? firewood? golf clubs? iguanas? I have made it a habit of scanning craigslist to see if anything catches my eye. So far, the only thing that we've picked up (Anuj and Karl did, actually) is the aforementioned pea gravel. There were some super cute puppies on there, but I don't think I'm ready for that type of commitment yet. Anyways, it's pretty cool. If you have something that you want to unload, you can post it up on the board. As they say, one man's trash is another man's poison, so if it has any value at all, somebody probably wants it. Recently, I stumbled upon another venue for trading of stuff you don't want anymore. Freecycle is another community where people post both offers and requests. The only major rule is that no money changes hands for any of the transactions. It's a little harder to keep up with freecycle because there is a lot of traffic on the list. Just tonight though, I saw someone offering a 75 gallon aquarium with a wrought iron stand. That would go great with the free iguana, too bad that one's already taken PPU (pending pick up). In spite of all this, chances are that I'll take my stuff that I don't want to goodwill instead...

It's the new "Bridge"

According to the predictions of the Old Farmer's Almanac 2005, Mahjong is the new bridge. That I can understand. I mean, I've been playing more mahjong in the past couple of years and this year I bought myself a set off ebay. I even cut some 1" slats for blinds from home depot down to about 16 tile lengths to help push the things around. What I'm wondering is.... How did they know?

I mean... seriously. They have to publish this book at the beginning of the year, so do they just guess about trends in what's cool or not? I can understand generating tide charts and moon charts and stuff because they follow the laws of physics, which are rather strict masters I may add. Can we really predict human behavior, or at least societal behavior? And what makes old farmers think they can do it better? On the other hand, I wonder how far in advance they really print this thing because they said the new martial art this year is gonna be (no, not Tae Bo) Capoeira. I'm thinking, they are about 12 years too late for that. Anyone else remember Only the Strong? The year was 1993. I recall it like it was yesterday. I was working in the movie theatre when this movie was coming out, so I had to watch previews of it all day long. Well, at least the previews were better than those for Super Mario Twins. So maybe their predictions aren't all that incredible after all.

Pfft... Curling is the next hockey. As if. At least not in Texas it isn't. Unless they mean that curling is going to be the next sport that implodes due to labor disputes...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Zip Ties can do anything!

except pass motor vehicle inspections. Well, let me rephrase... except pass motor vehicle inspection more than 1 year in a row (I knew I should have used duct tape instead...). I am now the proud owner of some used headlights from ebay. They even work and stuff. Installation was a breeze, though it would have been easier if my arms were 1/2 as thick as they are. An extra elbow joint would have helped too.

Note to self - don't wear white while working on your car. Also, don't reach in pockets of white shorts with greasy hands to answer phone.

Mini Me?

What is it about mini things that make them cool? Mini Cooper, iPod Mini, Mini me... I think it's a response to the bigger is better mantra that governs much of American culture (e.g., everything's bigger in Texas).

Some of you may have heard me threatening to buy a Mac Mini. I finally broke down and ordered one. Unfortunately, it's not for me. Apparently, my parent's computer is in such bad shape that it can't even connect (dialup) to the internet anymore. Phone tech support and remote administration is well nigh impossible and coming home a couple of times a year is not enough to keep the thing running. So I admit it. "They" have gotten to me. "They" have beaten me down enough with their viruses and spyware and whatever bad mojo they come up with.

In response, I'm doing two very American things. 1) throwing money at the problem (buying a new computer) and 2) passing the buck (since I won't be home, it'll be up to my brothers to install and lockdown the thing). As they (some other "they") say, "an apple keeps the black hats away". Thankfully, Eric has said (I'm going to share an excerpt from our private email correspondence with my lucky readers), "I'm excited to finally get to touch a mac mini." I hope his enthusiasm will carry the day. And who knows? If this works out, I might finally make good on my threat and get myself a Mac Mini also! If thing really work out well, I might get myself an iPod Mini and Mini Cooper also, though I think I'll leave Mini Me for Dr. Evil.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Queuing Behavior (part 2)

The inside of the terminal provides an interesting case of human behavior. It seems that the queues to get on a plane have been specifically designed to restrict through traffiic. Here's a diagram of how this works.

Style 1 Queue  Posted by Hello

Note that there is plenty of room to bend the queue along the direction of the main thoroughfare on the side closer to the gate, rather than extending across the thoroughfare before bending. The way the queue was set up left only room for single file traffic, including trash bins, food delivery carts, and wheelchairs(!!). It was so bad that people would have to wait for an opening in opposing traffic, then try to reverse the flow. The worst part about this setup is that these were gates for flights on Southwest Airlines which employs "open seating." Open seating means that the closer you are to the front of the queue, the better seats you will receive. This motivates people to queue up early, often blocking traffic for 1/2 hour or more at a time.

Walking through the terminal, I noticed that sometimes the gates were set further back, away from the main thoroughfare. In these cases, two flights would sometimes gang up on the poor members of the cross traffic. Since the gates are further, the people queuing up see no reason to bend the queue at all, extending straight out into the main thoroughfare, ensuring that they overlap with the queue for flights leaving from the opposing gate.

Style 2 Queue Posted by Hello

The funny thing is that nobody cares! The people who have queued up do not care about the traffic constriction because they are already at the place they need to be. The people walking by do not fix the traffic constriction because that would take more time than squeezing through. The employees don't care enough to fix it. In the end, I guess that means everyone is satisfied with this wonky system, preserving the status quo because it is in nobody's personal best interest to fix it.

I tried to passively bend the queue I was in by lining up offline and slightly turned to see how everyone would line up behind me. It didn't work. ;)

Queuing Behavior (part 1)

I usually don't like to be late so I got a really early start on my way from Pasadena to LAX. Good thing I did. I'm not sure if security was slow or whether there were an abnormal amount of people, but the queue to pass the security check and get into the airport was really really long. How long? It stretched from

terminal 1 Posted by Hello
all the way to

terminal 2 Posted by Hello
What they really needed was an amusement park sign that said "Wait from this point: 2 hours, You must be this tall to ride."