Friday, June 30, 2006

It's official: I'm a geek

Were not my geekhood already assured and well-known, the recent acquisition of a new gadget would cement the status. I’m speaking of the Garmin Edge 305, an insanely complex and configurable GPS-based cycling computer that allows the user to dissect, fold, mutilate, spindle, slice, dice and julienne a dizzying array of data in a staggering variety of ways.

Not only does it include the regular stuff like distance, time, speed and heart rate, but the 305 also includes GPS mapping, GPS and barometric elevation profiling and the ability to overlay courses on Google maps. It also allows you to download other people’s routes and race against their pace via a virtual on-screen partner. The virtual partner can also be based on your own previous rides or a computer generated pace setter.

The whole package can be integrated with included software and an on-line companion site called Motion Based which allows others to see (if you wish) your workouts and download them as well. I’m pretty sure you can also play Atari 2600 games, toast bread and do a bunch of other stuff I haven’t yet discovered.

Thankfully, the GPS tracking is much more reliable than it’s been on similar devices in the past. I had a Timex GPS setup a couple years ago and its performance under tree cover was so awful, I returned it within a week. The Garmin uses SiRF GPS chipset technology which thus far has proved much more reliable.

In any event, I’ll be going to the hardware store to get more tape for my glasses at lunch, but if you wanna check out my rides, see the window below or click here for the 'dashboard' on this ride or hit the “My Training Log” permalink to the right.

*Currently the system is a bit more compatible with Windows, but it will eventually be fully Mac compatible as well.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shamrocks on fire

I had a dream the other night that my high school had burnt down, the result of an unattended laptop computer getting too hot. While I know many people who would cheer such a thing, I wouldn’t be one of them. And although the fact that St. Pat’s is an all-boys, Catholic high school, I can say from experience that it rises above the clichéd baggage piled upon such institutions (plus there was an all girl’s school down the street with lots of nubile plaid-skirted lasses to keep us from going nuts). In short, I loved my high school experience—so much so that I actually returned after college and worked there for five years.

But back to the fire…upon waking after the dream, I hurried on the internet and found that St. Patrick still stands and the only thing that caught fire was the Shamrock baseball team who rallied from a lackluster 15-18 regular season, to go on a tear that would take them all the way to the Illinois State High School Championship Game. While they lost the title game, state runner-up is a remarkable result for a team that finished eighth in conference with a 4-14 record.

So my high school hasn’t burned down, but I’m hoping for another fire dream come water polo season.

A Berlinetta ruined my morning

I got pulled over for speeding on Highway 17 the other day. It was my first ticket in more than five years of commuting over the Hill to work. I have to say I’m kind of pissed off. I mean I know from a macroscopic perspective I was probably due…that I can accept. I can also, though marginally, accept that I was doing 65 in a 55 and got nailed right after the speed limit dropped 10 mph.

What really frosts me is that I got pulled over by a cop in a Camaro. A FUCKING CAMARO. I mean a motorcycle is one thing and I’ve even got respect for a Crown Vic, but an ugly, lumbering F-body P-O-S?! Isn’t the ticket punishment enough?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Road to Demo reopened

This is a follow-up to my previous post here regarding the closure of Highland Way on the Santa Cruz Mountains summit. The road, which leads to Soquel Demonstration Forest, has now been reopened. The passage is narrow and the road is rough and damaged, but it is passable.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Celebrity Update: Maybe not so awkward

No sooner do I write an entry about the strange nature of my brushes with the famous than do I have two completely innocuous such occurrences.

In Milan’s noted (and perhaps overrated) Fashion District—next to the duomo and in the Galleria which houses original Prada store, established 1913—we had paused at a café, as one rightly does, when musician Carlos Santana himself takes a load off and settles into an espresso. Like anyone in Italy having afternoon java, he is utterly normal, though not unrecognized nor unnoticed by passersby and patrons. It strikes me that he looks somewhat like Otto, the bus driver from the Simpsons, but better dressed.

In the San Francisco airport I spy actress Andie McDowell with what I assume are two of her children—and apparently another on the way—casually checking out sunglasses in a shop. She either exudes that fabled glow of pregnancy or is simply lovely all the time…or both. I see her again in the sushi restaurant in the International Terminal and miraculously don’t trip, stumble into her or smash into anyone else.

Italigram #1: The Bathrooms

I was briefly back from holiday in Italy but am on my way over the Pond again, this time to Spain on business. While I’m in the air, I’m writing the first of an undetermined number of entries on the Italian experience. Since I’m lacking the creativity to make this a narrative, here's a list:

Four things you never knew you needed to know about Italian bathrooms:

1. Showers
Mirroring the rest of your accommodations, bathrooms in Italian hotels are usually efficiently small. Even more so the shower. I believe our bath in Varenna was the prototype for the rest of the country. It had a two foot-by-two foot shower with a plastic shower curtain designed to cling to you like Glad Wrap on leftovers. All the showers are equipped with a pull-chain that, if pulled, tells the front desk LifeAlert-style that you’ve fallen and can’t get up (in Italian I’d guess). But because the chains are either errantly pulled by unknowing guests or used as laundry lines, almost every one of them is tied off to the shower rod, making it impossible to reach if you actually fall. Which is extremely likely as the porcelain that lines the floors of all Italian bathrooms is impregnated with Teflon, coated with pig fat and waxed to a friction-free shine. And then you get it wet.

2. The Bidet
The bidet is perhaps the greatest invention of all time, and, like football (aka soccer), it has inexplicably never caught on in America. People don’t like to talk about these things, but the truth is that many times when you go number two little pooplets, or Klingons, stick to the hairs of your butthole (don’t recoil with shock, it happens to everyone). Like a fire hydrant on a hot day, the bidet gently blasts away these little shitlings, leaving the citizens of Taintville feeling clean and refreshed. Ahhh.

3. The Squater
Even in remotely located toilettes, automation is standard when it comes to the faucet, soap dispensers and hand dryers. Get your mitts within three feet (1.7 meters) of these apparati and you get squirted, glopped or blown, respectively. All of which makes the fact that they still have the stand-and-deliver—AKA Turkish—toilet in fairly high use, even more ironic. “We can deliver an effortless hand cleansing experience, but your gonna have to do a quad-burning Roman chair to pinch a loaf.”

4. The Floor Flusher
Nearly as ingenious as the bidet and actually much more practical is the use of floor pedals to actuate the flushing of toilets (and, where it’s not sensor-activated, to turn on the water to wash your hands). Truth-to-tell, I almost always use my foot to flush in public restrooms. I’m not a germophobe or anything, but I really don’t want someone’s poop on my hands—even if I’m gonna wash them in a minute. In many Italian restrooms there are either car-style pedals or what look like half-raquetballs on the floor that you tap with your foot to flush. I may still have poopey fingers from wiping, but at least they’re MY poopy fingers. And it’s just for a minute till I wash. And it’s my poop. Poopey poop poop. Poop.