Monday, December 12, 2011

Writers Block...?

Last month was the first month in all of my blogging history where I did not post something to my blog. Believe it or not, it felt like a huge deal to me. It proved to me that blogging isn't part of my weekly tasks anymore. I used to read blogs at least once a week. I don't even do that anymore. I've not read a friends blog post in... months. :( I'm honestly not sure when I stopped reading blogs. I think it happened slowly as more and more social networking sites started taking over the internet. I mean with Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and everything else right now, the internet has just gotten too damn chaotic. Who wants to read big ass posts about something anymore. Most people just focus on the "now" with Facebook updates, Tweets, etc...

I have some new goals for 2012, so I'm sure I'll be posting about them shortly. I'd like to try the 100 miler again, I'd also like to build up a project that I've been putting off for WAAAAAY too long. I have a few new websites that I'm managing, but they are in their infant stages right now.

Right now, I have a full plate and all time spent on the computer is occupied by work or learning. I've simply not allocated any more time for writing anymore.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Vague JQuery Template Error

I have been getting an error in JQuery Template, and it's one of those errors that is impossible to debug. It's an issue that can only be fixed by intricately checking your code line by line, character by character. Here is the vague error that I'm getting:
Uncaught SyntaxError: Unexpected token return
Actually, here is the full "stack trace" (if that's what you want to call it) of the error:

I get no js compiler errors or anything, I just get this javascript error when I click on a radio button, but nothing more. My page loads correctly with no problem otherwise. Because of this fact, I was forced to inspect my code over and over and over and over... I removed code, I added code. I reworked my html a few times as well, but still got the error every time. I was literally going in circles trying everything.

The problem? I had an extra jQuery template tag in the very bottom of my script like this:


At one point I tried combining both states into a single template using {{if}} {{else}} {{/if}}, but then gave up on that idea... Clearly I missed the closing tag and then never bothered to look at the bottom of my script tag when things didn't work. I'ts kind of insane that so much time was wasted on such a silly oversight on my part... Oh the whoa's of a programmer. Back to the grind.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ruby On Rails Fan

OK, so I've been going through the online Ruby On Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl for the last few weeks in my spare time, and I'm a better programmer because of it. I've not taken any shortcuts and have learned quite a lot. The whole Model / View / Controller aspect of it came pretty easy to me since I'm a full-time ASP.NET MVC developer in my day job. Server side tags, module level variables, and helper modules are shared concepts from the ASP.NET MVC world (which I think they stole from RoR, but...). I'm really liking my new hobby.

I've learned quite a few tricks that make Ruby on Rails much more pleasing to work with than ASP.NET MVC. Namely, I like the built-in gem utilities (package manager for Ruby on Rails), I also like the command line utilities for defining database schemas, generating test records, and auto generating oodles of code. There are so many gems that work together to support testing controllers, models, and views on the fly as you code. I always thought of Unit Testing as a good thing, but it always felt like I was forcing myself to learn / practice TDD. I just never quite "got it"; when I would write unit tests I felt good about it, but as new features come into my project it is very easy to just code my projects without writing unit tests for every little thing. With Ruby on Rails, however, it feels very natural and is almost required due to the dynamic nature of the language. RSpec makes creating tests a breeze.

I'm currently hosting a few Ruby on Rails projects on Heroku, and even doing this is brain-dead easy. I literally auto-generated a Rails project from the command line, and then used the Heroku gem to "git push" my code to Heroku. It does the rest and builds my project and deploys it for the world to see.

Just the other night, I bought a domain and plan to run my very own Ruby on Rails project... I won't give away the domain name yet, but know that I'll be making a big deal of it within the next few months. In short, I love Ruby on Rails and everything that goes with it, including Vim (with rails.vim), Git, Autotest (with Growl), Spork, TDD, and everything else). I can now say that I'm a ASP.NET MVC developer by day / Ruby on Rails developer by night.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Testing the 'A' key

I came up with this while trying to test if I still had static electricity inside my board:
an alpha alligator almost ate annies apples after alfred asked again and again.
Figured I'd share it in case anybody else needs to test their 'a' key. :) Truthfully, I made it up on the fly, and impressed myself so much that I had to share it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Disabling Help

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm dealing with a new keyboard layout. My resolve to navigate around seamlessly with my new layout was to install ViEmu which would allow my VS text editor to emulate the Vim keyboard layout. I've been loving it. There are some inconsistencies inside Visual Studio (ie. CTRL+R is used for ReSharper, CTRL+Y is used for Vim, etc..), but for the most part, I really like it and feel right at home.

The one thing that was causing me the biggest problem though was that I keep reaching for the 'ESC' key, but continuously hit the F1 key. This of course brought my productivity to a screeching halt while it loaded. Of course, I would always wait for it to load, then close it immediately.

My resolve to that problem was that I disabled it. I disabled help. Call the authorities, report me, I've done the unthinkable. I never thought I'd live to see the day when anybody (let alone myself) would disable help. It actually made me feel dirty when I disabled it... Anyway, I free flying now!

I thought this was worthy of announcing on a blog post. I've graduated to the Google Help File.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Visual Studio 2010 + Resharper 6.0 + ViEmu + AutoHotKeys = Developer Bliss

I just got a new work machine. It's strictly for work, so my job paid for it. My boss helped me configure it and allowed me to get a few mods that make it even more bad-ass. It's a Lenovo ThinkPad W520 with 8gb of RAM, 500gb 7400 RPM HD, and he also got me a 128gb SSD drive that I plan to swap out for my main drive. It's already fast, but when I'm done with it all, it's gonna scream. :) Thanks Bob!!

My MacBook Pro is still the bee's knees, but it just wasn't cutting it for my day-to-day Windows programming solution. I'll absolutely be using it for all of my personal use and Ruby on Rails development. It has gigs of music, movies, and photos on it, along with my Quicken and lots of other personal documents and files. It will continue to be my Unix playground and I'm very excited to use it for just that... It has retired from the hustle & bustle of the daily grind, and plans to live the high-life now as a "personal computer". It's earned it!

During my transition to my new laptop, I was able to configure my development environment to be exactly how I wanted it. Since my new machine has 8gb of RAM, this allows me to trick my VS2010 environment out to the max without having to worry about slow downs. My biggest problem with Parallels was that I could only (safely) allocate 2gb of RAM to my Win7 VM. I had to disable the nice Aero / translucent theming, and lots of other goodness. Even after doing all of that it still came to a crawl whenever I'd be flying along with my coding. There were times when would literally just have to put my laptop down and walk away or else I would throw it against the wall. This new laptop should curb those impulses. :)

One of the main problems with switching to any new laptop is learning a new keyboard layout. This is especially important for programmers who rely heavily on hot keys, like CTRL, ALT, HOME, END, INS, DELETE, PGUP, PGDN, F[1-12] keys, and the 4 arrow keys. There is no real "standard" for these key locations, and it seems like every computer manufacturer has their own idea of where they "should" go. My personal opinion is that the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 nailed it! I actually own this keyboard and it has moved with me through a few different computers. The function keys were laid out perfectly; they were exactly where they were "should" be.

As you might imagine, it was a hard transition to move to the Mac and learn the key combinations. Especially since the mappings were even altered in order to pass through into Parallels. There was no DELETE key, no INSERT key, no HOME key, no END key, no PGUP, and no PGDN key!! I had to use a combination of other keys to get to those "functions" using Mac's 'fn' key (ie. the fun key). Even the function keys were different; for example I had to know that F[1-7] worked as expected, but F[8-12] required that I press the Mac's 'command' key. After 2 full years of learning these nuances and mastering the different key mappings, I'm now back to the beginning with a new layout of hot keys. Ugh!!

While I can't fully alleviate the pains of switching keyboard layouts again, I can take comfort in knowing that I'm a Vim junkie and Vim doesn't use most of the hotkeys for editing text.
  • [h] = {left arrow}
  • [j] = {down arrow}
  • [k] = {up arrow}
  • [l] = {right arrow}
  • [0] = {home}
  • [$] = {end}
  • [x] = {delete}
  • [ctrl+d] = {pg dn}
  • [ctrl+u] = {pg up}
  • ... and MUCH, much more!
I just needed to find a way to switch up my keyboard mappings to mimic the keyboard mappings of Vim. Luckily, someone has already thought of this!! There is a product out there called ViEmu that extends Visual Studio's text editor with all of the Vim goodness that I've so pains-takenly learned over the last year. I'm currently running an evaluation version of it, but I can already predict that I'll be forking over the $99 for a license very soon. It's simply genius! Thank you Symnum for this wonderful product. :)

Once I installed it, I had to re-enable my ReSharper keyboard mappings going to ReSharper - Options... - Visual Studio Integration - Keyboard Shortcuts and selected the 'Visual Studio scheme'. This allowed me to continue to use things like [ctrl+T], [ctrl+R+R], etc..). There are a few nuances that I need to work around, but in the grand scheme of it all, this is much more fluid than looking at my keyboard every 2 minutes for simple navigation. I'm loving it!

To help further keep my hands on the "home row", I found a post by another fellow-Vim'er by the name of Jean-Paul S. Boodhoo. Jean-Paul described how he used a tool called AutoHotKey to map various key combinations to be more "Vim-like". This way I don't have to use [ctrl+shift+alt+up] to move code up and down. The first three keys are easy (bottom right corner of every keyboard layout), but the [UP] key changes and takes my hand far off the home row. Instead AutoHotKey allowed me to map it to [ctrl+shift+alt+k]... Very Vim-savvy.

I finally feel comfortable writing code on my new laptop. Yesterday was a LOOOOONG day, because I was forcing the new layout onto myself and it slowed my coding down so much. I'm used to coding at the speed of thought, and felt crippled. With ViEmu and AutoHotKey both configured now, I'm flying. The last 2-3 hours have been simply painless.

Now if only Blogger had a Vim editor...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mikael Norman Ashcraft (a.k.a. Mikey)

A good friend of mine was killed in a fire two weeks ago and it's still hard for me to believe. Here are some of the news feeds that describe what happened:
Those headlines suck! It's been a hard pill to swallow. I can't imagine how hard it has to be for Mikey's wife, Katie, who's still fighting her fight from that crazy night. Jennifer and I are pretty good friends with his brother Tom and Tom's wife, Melissa. It was real hard to know that Tom's kids lost their Uncle Mike; they just loved him and he really loved them too. Mikey was still a little league all-star to his parents. And he will always be laid back "Brotha Mikey" to all of us. :(

Mikey and Katie

Mikey Ashcraft was a hell of a dude. He's one of those guys that didn't have any enemies. People say those types of things when tragedies happen, but this was the truth. Mikey was friends with everybody. In high school, he was friends with a lot of us "band geeks", yet he never played in the band. He was a football / baseball player, yet he hung out with all kinds of people. Most importantly, he was friends with me... and I was friends with him.

I won't put up all the cliche quotes about how Mikey liked everybody and didn't care where you came from. Nor will I go on and on about how he always put others first and that he found humor in every situation. I simply wanted to tell a single story about a great time that I had with Mikey...

Back in 2002, Jennifer and I had just had Lizzie and were at a point in our lives where our old "party days" were over. It was time to buckle down and raise a family. We were all huge Dave Matthews Band fans and they were coming to Ottowa, Canada for an epic 4-20 show that still goes down as one of the best DMB shows of all time by many DMB fans.

Mikey had to work late that night. He was employed by BlockBuster at the time, so Tyler and Drew were going to wait until he got off of work before beginning their journey. Jennifer and I, on the other hand headed towards Buffalo, NY to get checked in to our cabin at a KOA Kampground. Buffalo was the 'half way point' and they were all going to meet up with us later that night. We waited and waited, and eventually fell asleep with the door unlocked so they could all come in and sleep once they caught up with us... As it turned out, Mikey didn't get off of work until midnight and they got off to a much later start than they had anticipated.

That next morning, Jennifer and I woke up to an empty cabin... nobody else was occupying the other bunks!? Did they make it? Where were they? Upon further investigation, we found a hobo sleeping on our front porch in a sleeping bag; it was Tyler. There was also a car nearby with large feet in the windshield; it was Mikey. Drew was probably sleeping in the back seat. I don't remember... The story was that they left Newark around 1am and drove through the night, driving about 40 miles past the exit, only to turn around and come back and sleep in the car for a few hours. We actually have some old video footage of Jennifer and I kicking Tyler's sleeping bag trying to wake him up. I can't wait to find it someday so we can laugh about how awesome that trip was. :)

One of the craziest memories from this trip that I remember the most was that Mikey wore a heavy knit hoodie, cut-off shorts, and open toed sandals. We were spending the weekend in Canada, and it was early spring! It's still very cold in Canada this time of year, and the concert was in a stadium.. OUTSIDE. Not only that, but we were also planning to drive down through Niagara Falls on our way back to Newark, and the mist is cold. When I asked Mikey about his attire, he just smiled and played it down. :)

This was Mikey. He lived very haphazardly and didn't worry about silly things, like warmth, or hypothermia, or frost bite. :) He just knew that he was taking a road trip with a bunch of friends to see Dave Matthews Band play a live show in Canada. Everything else was just petty details...

Mikey, Tom, Me, and Bub
October 27th, 2010

Last fall, Tom (Mikes brother), Bub (a.k.a. Tyler), and I drove to Columbus to visit Mikey for the day. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of laughs. We all sat around and talked about all our crazy memories together and just enjoyed each others company. I think I talked to him once or twice on the phone, and of course I wrote on his Facebook wall a few times, but... Last Wednesday was his funeral. I tried like hell to focus on celebrating his life. However, I struggled real hard. A few times I was consumed with mourning his death. He had touched so many peoples lives and it was obvious that he wasn't partial to once group of people. I feel honored to have called Mikey my friend. He was.

We are still saying our prayers for his beautiful wife, Katie. They hadn't been married long. Jennifer and I only met her once when they came out here to visit a few years ago. She was a perfect fit for Mikey and it was obvious that they were a perfect fit for one another. Unfortunately, Katie is still fighting her battle from the fire and we are all so happy to know that she is going to pull through this terrible tragedy. I've heard all kinds of stories about what happened that night, but only Mikey and Katie really know what happened inside that apartment.

We will miss you Mikey! Thank you so much for all the great memories. I'll see you again on the other side with a Camel Wide and cup of coffee in hand... :)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Time Machine and Parallels

I recently (like yesterday) converted my Windows 7 BootCamp partition over to a virtual machine. There were many factors that led to this, but ultimately it boiled down to the fact that I ran out of hard disk space on my partition and there was no way for me to increase the capacity. In the past I would have to go back and uninstall a bunch of applications. However, this was getting old and it was a never ending battle. I was living on the edge (of disk space).

My solution was to virtualize my Windows 7 machine and scrap my partition. This would allow me to give more space to my Windows 7 OS whenever I want to (along with other benefits). The whole process took about 2 hours. I started the process @ Barnes & Noble and then ended up driving home with my laptop open in my passenger seat. The process finished as I was driving through Newark. :)

One of the first things I noticed was that Time Machine was backing up my entire 50 gb image every hour. It actually did this 3 times (which is now hogging up 150 gb on my Time Capsule). I ended up having to "Exclude" my vdd file from the backup process and now my backups are normal again.

I feel much more confident about having my Windows 7 machine as a virtual hard disk now. I still have a lot of learning to do in regards to cloning a base image of it so that I can install other software without affecting my MAIN image. But for now, I'm just happy to be able to "Suspend" my image and free up some resources whenever I want now... without having to "Shutdown" Windows 7. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saying Goodbye to McAfee

Back in the day, I was die-hard Norton AnitVirus. If it was anything other than Norton, it was crap. My Dad was a die-hard McAfee user and swore by it. So, about 6 years ago, I switched to McAfee AntiVirus and have been a happy (and loyal) customer ever since. It didn't popup unimportant messages to me and I liked that. It just worked. A few times, I found it helpful when things would go wrong and I was able to track down certain activities of "suspicious" behavior over my network that made their way into my computer. I can't remember exact instances, but I do recall feeling fortunate to have the utilities that McAfee offered me when I got paranoid about other people hacking into my machine.

Recently, I've been spending most of my time OS X. There just aren't as many vulnerabilities that I can see with the Mac. Maybe I'm being naive in thinking this, but I feel more safe on my Mac. (?) Almost all of my daily use and personal computing has been done on my Mac in the last 2 years. I'm even trying to transform my dev skills to be more Unix-savvy so that I can (one day) rival my own Windows development skills. :) I live in OS X, and only use Microsoft Windows for work now. In order to use Windows, I have a separate partition setup and then I load the OS through BootCamp into my Parallels 6.0 application. It works great, and I'm even using a UI skin called "MacLook" to make my Windows dialogs look and feel like Mac dialogs. The problem with this configuration is that I have to allocate a certain amount of RAM to my VM. It can't just take all of my RAM and divy it up between my Mac OS. If it were up to me, I'd drop Windows and become a Mono head, but I can't; my job requires that I work with Microsoft .NET Framework. Therefore, I am forced to have Windows installed as a Virtual Machine. It pays the bills, and... well let's face it: Businesses run on Windows. In order for me to provide "business solutions" to "businesses", I need to develop applications on Windows. Period.

The other day, my Windows VM came to a screeching halt and I wasn't able to do anything on it without inferring a 15 second delay of every action. This went on for about 3 hours or more. Amazingly, my OS X environment was working great and was still very responsive. I was only running Visual Studio 2010, Total Commander, and FireFox (to debug my ASP.NET project). I had just installed a new tool to allow me to interface with Microsoft Office from inside my C# projects, and after doing that, my machine became incoherent. I checked and made sure that McAfee wasn't running a full virus scan, and it wasn't. I couldn't make sense of it!!

Eventually, Bob and I had to do a GoToMeeting and I had to give him control of my Visual Studio environment. How embarrassing!! My machine was behaving like a 1990's Tandy T1000, and he had to wait for simple operations like I had been doing for the last 3 hours. He and I decided to find the problem... Low and behold, it was McAfee's "Real Time Scan" feature. Since I'd downloaded all these new tools, Real Time Scan was going through and making sure there were no viruses on them. Not sure why it took so damn long and required so many resources, but it did. I decided to turn off the Real Time Scan feature, but as soon as I did, I began getting all kinds of red prompts stating that MY COMPUTER IS AT RISK! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!... Is that really necessary? C'mon! I've been putting up with all of the slowness from this thing, and now when I try to turn it off, it annoys me even more with false panic prompts.

Once I disabled the Real Time Scan, my VM started to respond better. After voicing my frustrations to Bob about this happening more and more lately, he pointed me to a free alternative called Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free and it doesn't hog up resources like McAfee does. Yesterday, I took the plunge. I uninstalled McAfee (only 1 month left on my subscription anyway), and installed Microsoft Security Essentials. So far, no big red prompts and I've not had the "bog down" problem yet.

We'll see...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Soundgarden and Dalai Lama 2011

Last weekend me and a few friends traveled to Chicago, IL for a Soundgarden concert. Soundgarden is a grunge band that was real big when I was in high school (back in the 90's). They took a 20 year break and are now touring again with a new album soon to follow. I've always loved their music, but I'd never seen them in concert. When I learned that they were coming to Chicago this year, I was so excited to get tickets and see them live finally.

The trip was far from relaxing, but was amazingly awesome. The plan was to drive to Chicago, check in to our hotel, visit the city, rock out to Soundgarden, wake up, see His Holiness - The Dalai Lama, then drive home. Notice how I didn't give much attention to seeing the Dalai Lama. Initially, I didn't really care much about seeing His Holiness live, but that was because I didn't know anything about him. That changes later in my post, and I was so happy to have a chance to see him speak. Anyway, here's how the whole trip unfolded...

Saturday Morning
We all met at Dan's house around 8:45am and left sharply at 9am. I brought my acoustic bass, and Dan brought a djimbe so that we could rock out in the van on the way up and back. Our collaboration was to be known as "Luc and Dan's Jam Van Band". We played all kinds of songs (including Mario Brothers theme song, and many others). The drive was pretty uneventful, but when we got to Chicago, the fun began...

Arriving in Chicago
We arrived in Chicago around 3pm (CST) and found some food. Dan and I ate at Al's Beef. It's a restaurant that serves gooey beef sandwiches. At first, I was a bit disgusted by the look and texture of the sandwich, but once I had a few bites, I found the beauty of it. :)

After eating, some of us took a quick nap before the evening events began. While napping, Tyler went out and bought some "fun passes" for all of us. A fun pass is a 24 hour ticket good for traveling around Chicago through public transportation (trains and busses). Upon waking from my slumber, we had a few beers, and then headed to the venue (via the subway).

Ok, so Soundgarden ROCKED! Period. They played about 15-20 songs (set list), and we had floor seats. Basically we stood about 20 yards from the stage and was able to see all of the band members. Chris Cornell (lead singer) has grown his hair back out and was sporting a scruffy beard to boot. Matt Cameron was sporting his business-man look, but with drumsticks in his hands his attire was very fitting (all business). Kim Thayil still looked like a rockin hobo. He has a 12" gray beard and a toboggan hat that covered his head scruff. Ben Sheppard stood to the right and rocked out like a professional rocker. No matter what words I put here, the music can only be described as... well awesome.

Post Soundgarden
After the show, we ate at a local Irish Pub. I had key lime pie. Mmm. From the pub, we walked back to the hotel and crashed hard. On the way there, we had a little scuff between Dan and I about man drama. It was not cool, but I attribute it to the excess beer and tiredness of the day's events. Regardless, I'm still a bit upset about how it all came to a head the way it did. Apparently things aren't all twinkly in twinkle town like I thought they were, and words flew hard and fast when it was brought to my attention. What was supposed to be a simple gesture of just how we interact turned out to be a big mistake. I've not had anybody talk to me the way that Dan talked to me in a verrrry long time... Even then it didn't come from someone I considered a "good friend". Not cool!

Sunday Morning
The next morning, I woke up around 8:30am and took a nice 5 mile run around the city by myself. It was very hot and very sunny. I went down to the water's edge and ran along the path the goes around Grant Park. I was able to take lots of cool pictures of the public art that was on display and chilled out by the dock for a while watching the boats and yachts in the water. It was pretty amazing to see so many boats in one place. Chicago is a beautiful place!

Breakfast and City Touring
For breakfast, Tyler, Liz, and I walked around looking for a cool place to eat. We went to various places, but they were all slammed packed with 30+ minute waits. We settled on Subway flat bread sandwiches. :) Yum... After breakfast, we went to the Sears Tower to try and take a ride to the top and get some pics from the skybox way high above the city. The wait was 30 minutes and we didn't have enough time to do that before checking out of the hotel. We opted to go back to the room and get things packed up instead.

Pastries on the Outskirts of Chicago
Tyler and Liz knew of a place on the outskirts of town that was known as the "Best Italian Bakery in Chicago". As it turns out, they closed early on Sundays and they were closing shop when we got there. DARN!! It was a hot day and we exerted a lot of energy to get there. No worries though, we opted to just head strait to the venue and get in line for the Dalai Lama event.

Epic Fail
As we got in line for the Dalai Lama, I realized that I had left my ticket in my Franklin Covey Planner... which I left with concierge back at the hotel. I had exactly 20 minutes to go back to the hotel, get my ticket, and return. The hotel was 4 exits away from the venue, so I booked it. It took me about 30 minutes to do this, but I arrived back at the venue just as the Dalai Lama was coming out on stage. Awesome! I did feel bad for the person sitting next to me though, because I was a sweaty mess. It was about 90ยบ F that day and I was sweating profusely. :)

Dalai Lama
Amazingly, the Dalai Lama was to talk in the same venue as the Soundgarden show. Therefore, the venue workers would have about 12 hours to break down the stage, clean the venue and prepare for the mass amounts of people that next afternoon. Epic.

Watching the Dalai Lama speak was really cool. I had no idea who he was before this trip. For example, I thought his NAME was Dalai Lama, and I knew nothing about what he stood for, let alone the history of him hiding in India for the last 50 years as a refuge. Once I learned a bit about who he was and what he stood for, I was excited. To see the Dalai Lama chuckle and laugh was worth the trip entirely. His laugh is contagious. When he laughs, the entire audience had no other option but to laugh along with him. There were some difficulties with the sound and it was very hard to hear him speak at times. Not only was the sound low, but his broken english didn't help. I had to really pay attention to what he was saying at all times. After he spoke, the crowd gave him a huge standing ovation and he watered a few trees that would later be planted around Chicago in his honor. This turned out to be a very inspirational trip for me. I almost enjoyed watching the Dalai Lama speak more than I enjoyed Soundgarden rock out. Not sure which I liked more still...

Homeward Bound
The drive home was really cool. We ended up picking up one of Tyler's cousin's friends and bringing her back with us. We introduced her to "Luc and Dan's Jam Van Band". Between rocking out to our huge collection of music and jamming out on our instruments, the drive was colossal. At one point, Tyler played the horn (ie. the steering wheel horn). Liz played the cell phone. Maeve played the "Nutter Butter Maraka's, Dan played the bass. And I played the Djimbe. Everybody had an instrument and we were rockin! We arrived back in Newark around 1am.

The 2011 Chicago trip was in the books, and was a huge success.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hot New Running Buddy

Jennifer took a run with me yesterday! :) First time, ever...

It was more of a slow jog / walk, but I loved it. It was my first run since Mohican, so it was supposed to be slow. It felt good to get back on the trails. The pace was perfect for Jennifer. She was huffing up the hills, and it sounded great. :) She got to see why I like trail running so much. I think she liked it too! She even said that it was much nicer running through the trails than on pavement. <3

I'm hoping that she will continue to join me on random runs. I don't expect her to join me on my 10 and 20 milers, but the little 2 and 3 milers would be great. As a testament to her enjoyment on the trails yesterday, she woke up early this morning and ran 3/4 of a mile up on our hill! :) She got some nasty blisters on her toes from her new VFF's, but that comes with the territory I think.

Anyway, I just wanted to express my joy of having a new (hot) running buddy. I may try to sneak her out the back door tomorrow for a short 3 miler. ;)

Code Jams and The Columbus Ruby Brigade

I've been dabbling in Ruby quite a bit lately. I've worked my way through the Ruby Koans (twice now), and I've been reading like crazy (in my free time) trying to learn Rails. It is a very easy technology... once you learn it. That's where I'm at now; I'm just trying to learn it.

Things that would take me 2 hours in C# and ASP.NET MVC, take only seconds or minutes in Ruby and Rails. The big difference is that I'm familiar with all the complexities of the .NET framework and the tools that I use. Whereas I'm trying to dumb my skills down to learn something totally different now in a whole new environment. Ruby doesn't have a tool that allows me to do the rafactoring that Resharper allows me to do in C#. The doesn't have all the shortcuts that I'm used to that Visual Studio offers me. I can't step through my programs, I can't jump to files as easily (yet). Everything is command line, and this is very new to me!!

The biggest struggle so far has been moving away from the Visual Studio IDE. My new IDE is a simple green and black terminal screen. There is no intellisense, no syntax highlighting, no pre-compilation warnings, no nothing. I'm trying to learn all of the Unix commands that go along with managing source files. For example, if I need to make a solution wide change across multiple files, I can't just say [CTRL]+[R] / [CTRL]+[R] anymore... I have to run a grep command and manually inspect each file, one by one. I'm sure it will get easier with time, but for now, I'm struggling...

Anyway, tonight I'm attending a Code Jam that was announced on the Columbus Ruby Brigade website. The meeting is in Columbus, OH and I'm hoping that someone will sit down with me and show me some tricks. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mohican 100 Mile Race Report

DNF: Did Not Finish

I went out to run 100 miles at Mohican yesterday in the annual Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run. I ran very strong and steady for 38 solid miles; no real issues. Around mile 38, nausea kicked in and I couldn't get my stomach back together. I made it to mile 60 where I had to drop out of the race. It was a hard thing to realize that I couldn't continue, but I was happy to crawl out of the woods on my own, rather than be carried out with the help of others. Basically, nothing was staying in my stomach and my energy had dropped to 0% before I officially threw in my towel. I simply couldn't continue. It just wasn't my time. Mohican had beaten me down.

I'm telling my story so I remember it the way I experienced it. Also, I'm telling it for those mere mortals that don't run, or who don't run long distances, or for someone who might just want to hear the wave of emotions that go into pushing their body past the normal limits of everyday comfort. It started off as a curiosity project and adventure for me, simply to see if I could run 100 miles in one fail swoop. It ultimately turned into an emotional battle with my own body to keep moving forward.

Tent, sleeping bag, drop bags, and race supplies

Check In
The day before, I had Jennifer give me the "Ultra-Luc Mohawk" in the garage. The girls got to watch and thought it was pretty cool to see daddy with a rad do. Once the hair was prepped, we all headed up to Mohican so I could crush this thing... Yes, confidence was very high by this point. Jennifer and the girls were driving me up and help me setup camp. They were going to come back up on Sunday to see me cross the finish line, and then help me break my site down again. The idea was that I wouldn't have been in any condition to drive home by myself after running so far with no sleep.

We arrived at the campground around 6pm, and got all checked in. We all enjoyed a nice pre-race dinner just hung out. It was Jennifer and I's 11 year anniversary, I loved the way it turned out; I got to spend my time with her and the girls and just relax. The girls got to play on the jungle gym at the campground, and we all stole cookies from the local church group that was supplying dinner. J/K they were paid for. :)

Nick doing what he does best, drinking beer. :)

Girls being monkeys

Around 8 o'clock, I called Farley and learned that he had just arrived, so Jen packed up the girls and headed back home to leave us boys to our beer. Almost as soon as Jennifer left, the sky cut loose and it poured down rain. It rained for a good hour or so. Everything got wet and it got me pumped for the race actually. Farley and I stood in the rain (me in my poncho, him with an umbrella) and drank beers and caught up with one another. Around 10:30, I headed to my tent to try and get some sleep before my 4am alarm clock. My insomnia kept me awake until around 1:30am. I heard Farley go to his tent around 11:30 and he was snoring way before me. Grr... Alarm's set 4am sharp.

Starting Line
When the alarm went off, it felt like I'd just fallen asleep. I got all my race gear on, and started my walk down to the starting line with my poncho, two empty water bottles, my headlamp, and an apple (ie. breakfast). The campground was pretty quiet and dark, but I could see headlamps coming from every direction while other runners were making their way to the starting line.

Once I got down to the starting line, the atmosphere was awesome! Runners were all jazzed up and ready to run. I ran into a lot of people that I typically run into at these events. It's amazing how small the ultra running community is around here. We all traded our well-wishes and got set for the gun. The race started at 5am sharp.

Miles 1 - 27 (First Loop)
My first few miles, were very easy. It felt so good to be running after the long 2 week taper. My legs were fresh. We all ran in a huge convoy through the woods for a steady 2 hours. There was a long line of head lamps illuminating the single track trail in front of me, and behind me. I tucked into a cozy spot where the pace was a slow jog through the hills. The first couple of aid stations were very quick for me. I was in and out with only a handful of snacks and some sips of fluid to keep me hydrated.

I ran with a lot of amazing people. We all played leap frog through the forrest, and each time we'd pass one another we would trade words of encouragement and sometimes run together for a few miles and share stories to pass the time. I caught up with a few people I knew from previous races and also met some new people along the way. Even at the aid stations, I saw some familiar faces who were volunteering and was able to catch up with them as well. I'm beginning to feel like a veteran, even though I'm only 3 years into this sport.

It was really neat to see the forrest come to life from darkness to daylight. What started out as a quiet and dark jog down a narrow path in the woods, turned into be a dewy haze of morning dew through a beautiful forrest. The birds began to chirp and the leaves that were hovering over the trail would brush against me as I weaved through them. I really wish I would have had my camera on this loop. It was very soothing and relaxing. As the early morning turned to late morning, the sun had heated up the woods and made things very sticky. There were very few spots where we were directly under the sun, but the heat was mostly humid air, much like a rain forrest. It was just "thick and wet heat", basically... I can't think of a better way to describe it.

I was still feeling very strong after the first 27 miles. 3 more loops to go!

Miles 27 - 38
When we got back to the start/finish, I ran into more familiar faces and was able to relax for a minute to get my feet right. Lindsay helped me take care of my blisters with some Desitin (who would have thought? Desitin?). I cleaned off my feet, put this miracle cream over my blisters, and covered them back up with fresh socks and they felt great. I changed into a dry shirt, refilled my water bottles, and off I went for my second loop.

I was still feeling strong and made my way to the first aid station with zero problems. Legs were fresh. Feet felt great. Stomach was not causing me any problems. My confidence was very high. Once I made it through the first aid station, a girl by the name of Bethany caught up with me. I'd met her on the first loop and we ran for a few miles together. We got separated somewhere in the first loop, but now we had caught back up to one another. She felt strong and I felt strong, so (not saying anything), we both started to push forward a bit. I led the way and we passed quite a few runners. We were probably doing 10-12 minute miles for a good 4 miles. We made it to the MTB Parking area and felt great. We pushed hard to this point. I was still feeling strong, but I was pretty worked from the hard running. We stood around for about 5 minutes rehydrating and getting some food. I got to meet her family and we just hung out for a few minutes.

Mid-day heat had arrived. Mostly sticky humid heat, but heat non-the-less!

We decided to slow it down after this aid station and recover a bit. We made our way through the purple loop and had a good old time trying to take some pictures for her 11th grade class that she teaches (funny story). We seemed to have a pretty good pace and told each other that we'd try to stick together through the night section so that our pacers could keep our pacers fresh so they could pick us up on our last loop. At one point, I decided to stay back, but told her to push on; I'd catch up to her later. As it turns out, about 2 miles later, my stomach flipped on me. I was never able to catch back up with her, but learned that she kept on going and finish her race (also her first attempt at the 100 mile distance). Congratulations Bethany!! :)

Houston, We Have a Problem
I made it to the Covered Bridge aid station feeling "OK". I stood around and ate some watermelon, and had a few sips of Pepsi. I wanted to get in and get out, but then I decided to sit down for a minute and let my legs have a little rest. Once I sat down, my stomach got sour. I sat there in the sun for about 2 minutes, and my skin got cold, my spit got watery, and I had to puke... now. I made my way over to a tree and let it go. There was a family that was visiting Mohican near by (not affiliated with the race) that witnessed the whole thing. They had a little boy with them, and after my first purge I heard him yell "EWWW!!". I just turned my head and smiled... Sorry... "BLAAAAAHHHHHH". :)

I felt better. I was amazed at how much crap was in my stomach actually. The main problem now is that I had no food and no fluid in my stomach anymore. I wiped off my mouth, grabbed a couple of snacky items and refilled my water bottles with icy cold water, before heading back into the woods. This next section was tough for me. It was uphill for the first 2-3 miles, and I had spent a lot of energy on my little "chuck fest" back at the aid station. My stomach felt fine through here, but my energy was depleting fast. I found myself wanting to sit down on the trail about every 500 yards or so. At one point, I sat down for about 5 minutes and tried to cool my body down. I poured about 1/2 of a water bottle full of ice water over my head and let it take my breath away a few times. Eventually, somebody came along and kicked my ass to get up. I'm very grateful that they did. Once I got moving, my energy came back a little bit. Thank you Jeff and Sheila. :)

On my way to Hickory Ridge, I had another little puke session, but it was mostly just heaving (no solids). It took a lot of energy out of me, and I felt like crap after this one. The first one helped me to feel good, this one just drained the energy out of me. I slogged my way to the Hickory Ridge aid station (about 2 miles). This was the longest 2 miles of the race for me. I eventually made it to Hickory Ridge, but had very little energy left in my tank. I sat down and let the volunteers rejuvenate me with more ice water. Food was simply not possible at this point. I knew that if I put anything in my stomach, it would come back up. I just sat for about 10 to 15 minutes. I could feel the cut offs catching up to me by this point. All the progress that I had made on my first loop and even on the first half of this second loop were now void. I'd lost all of my time trying to recuperate from my earlier spurt of energy. Damn!

While at Hickory Ridge, I ran into two gentlemen by the names of Dan and Frank. Frank was ready to drop right there at Hickory Ridge. Dan was also feeling bad and was wanting to drop as well. While we were talking, I assured them that I was NOT about to drop, and was going to keep pushing forward (sorry Mom). I told them that I would be walking a lot through this next session, so they decided to walk with me and drop at the start/finish instead. Perfect! At least I would have someone to be with me if I ended up passing out in the woods. :) Their company was just what I needed. We walked for a good 2 miles, and eventually, I was able to jog again. Frank wasn't feeling it, so he gave Dan and I his assurance that he was OK. We wished him good luck and pushed on. Dan and I jogged and walked for the next 2 miles til we got back to the campground.

As we were coming out of the woods and into the campground, I saw brother Farley at the trail head cheering us in. Seeing Farley actually got me psyched up. He walked with us up a steady hill to our campsite. Dan decided to push through the night loop with me, and he wasn't going to drop anymore! Awesome!! He thought it would be best to push on to the start/finish, whereas I had to hang out at the tent for a few minutes to try and get some energy for the last 2 mile hills-from-hell section. While at the campsite, I sat down again and tried to sip on some gatorade... That didn't work. PUKE!!! Damn. Farley was awesome, he gave me some great advice on things that I might try. He was a rock star of a crew captain, and I'm glad he was here for me. He tended to my every need, and was shotgun-ready to go when I needed him. Thank you Farley!!

Me @ mile 52

Eventually, I pushed myself up from the chair and did a half-ass jog to the next trail head towards the hill section. Energy level: 2%! This was at mile 52, and I had 2 more hard miles to the start/finish. This section was mostly walking for me and it was very demoralizing. As soon as I would round a corner, I would be faced with a huge hill that went up and up. At the top of each hill, I was faced with an equally huge downhill. This went on for 2 miles.

By the time I made it to the start/finish, I was (yet again) spent. It had been about 15 solid miles by this point with no food and no water. I was at mile 54 and night had set in. I sat down again!! This time, I tried crunching on some ice cubes. Dan's crew captain gave me some warm chicken broth to see if that would help, but I only feared that it would bring on another purge fest. I settled with just a cup of ice instead. I bandaged my feet again, changed my shirt and socks, and off I went into the night with Dan leading the way.

Miles 54 - 60
As we left the start/finish line, I was feeling pretty low. The cut off times were catching up with us, and my 2 hours had dwindled down to just under an hour by this point. My energy was at an all time low, night had set in and I was just drained of all energy. Any thought of running was out of the door until I could get some food into me. Unfortunately the next food stop was miles away... would I even be able to keep that down though...? After a long and quiet power walk through some hills with Dan, I decided to speak up.
I don't think I can go on...
I tried to let him talk me out of it, and I just asked for some of his advice. He's an 8 time 100 mile finisher. He had amazing advice, and it all came down to the fact that I hadn't had any food or any (significant amount of) water over the last 20 miles. He didn't talk me into dropping, nor did he talk me out of it, but he laid the facts out for me in black and white. After hearing him state the obvious, I knew I was making the right decision... We shook hands, and he pushed on into the night without me. I'm glad I was able to convince him not to drop, and that I was able to take some of his wisdom with me.

Post Race
My legs are pretty sore, and my spirit took a bit of a hit as well. A lot of training got put into this race. My legs could have carried me the distance, and (as a professional insomniac) my mental state could have held up to the challenge as well. It's the one thing that I couldn't train for that did me in: my stomach. I tried to push too hard, too soon. I was never able to fully recover from my energy boost @ mile 30-35; I didn't stop to consider the distance that I still had yet to run.

My girls still think I'm a rock star, and that's all that matters!!

The cutest cheering section ever!

Daizi's sign reads:
Daddy, you have a mohawk!
You're running a hundred miles!
Run, Daddy, Run!

Father's Day Fun after Mohican

For now, I'm going to do more research... Yes I will try this distance again!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Preparing for Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run

T minus 5 days until the Mohican 100.

Ok, so I'm kind of nervous... Actually, my emotions switch back and forth from being nervous as hell to complete panic mode to spurts of confidence.

Ultimately, I know I've trained as hard as I could have trained with out pushing myself to injuries. I'm confident that I can do the mental aspect of it. I'm also confident that my body can do the physical aspect of it. I guess I'm nervous about all the things that are outside of my control: Will it be scorching hot? Will the night be too chilly? Will my stomach cooperate? Will I get lost (new course)? Will my girls be at the finish line? What about blisters? Chaffing? Dehydration? Sleep deprivation? Hallucinations? etc...

Then I yell at myself: SHUT UP!

I can only trust that the training I've done up to this point will allow my body to finish. I can also put trust in knowing that I'm a stubborn mule when it comes to finishing something that I've set my mind to accomplish. I push myself too hard sometimes, and I think it is for this reason that I love running ultra marathons. Go hard or go home.

My Training
These last two weeks have been my taper weeks, so I've not run hardly at all. Usually I hate taper weeks, because I just want to get out and run. However, this time I was actually looking forward to it... I was starting to get burnt out trying to find time for my runs and planning my weekends around my long runs. In my peak weeks, I was running 50 - 60 miles a week. That's more than I've ever done before. I felt strong on those weeks, but was ready to bring the mileage back down.

My family has been doing my training with me. While I'm out on my runs, Jennifer's at home with the girls. I didn't feel so guilty when she was out on the town with the girls, because I wouldn't have to just up and leave while we're all sitting around enjoying each others company (yes, we actually do enjoy each other's company). :P I do feel sometimes that I've had to separate myself from the family a bit while training for this race. It's the one thing that I don't like so much about ultra marathon training. I'm sure there are ways that I could have fixed them, but ultimately it becomes a part time job. For this, I have to thank Jennifer for putting up with me and all those times that I said, "I'm going to go run". Which meant, "You're on your own for the next 2 hours with the kids". Thanks babe! <3

I did find that running early-early in the morning was the best all around answer for everybody. It helped me get out of bed and got my blood flowing immediately; it was a great way to start the day. I didn't have to try and squeeze my runs into the late morning or early evening hours, which meant they were open for "whatever". However, my biggest problem with early-early running is that I'm a complete night owl. I suffer from a mild case of insomnia. I can lay in bed for hours and be soooo tired, but never sleep. If you've never had this problem, trust me, it sucks! Therefore, running in the morning was hard sometimes because I'd go to bed around 10pm, fall asleep at 2am, and then still try to wake up at 5:30am and run for 2 hours before work. I did this for a while, but it put me into a zombie state after lunch. I must admit though, morning runs are very therapeutic and I will be doing more of them. :)

My Plan of Attack
The only way I can think to break this race down is to run the entire race in 6-7 mile increments. There is an aid station every 6-7 miles, and I know that I can 7 miles in my sleep, even on my worst day. If I keep this mental state throughout the entire run, there's no doubt I'll finish. I'm going to carry two water bottles at first, and then ditch one if it becomes too much of a hassle. I'm going to have a drop bag at the Covered Bridge and at the Start/Finish. In there I'll have fresh socks, vaseline, a thermos of home-brewed coffee, and a few other small things. I trust that the aid stations will have most of the things I would need (bandaids, food, water, etc..).

I'm running in my New Balance Minimus shoes for the entire race. I'm packing my VFF's just in case my body tells me to switch, but I'm leaving my Cascadia's at home. All of my training has been in my VFF's and my NB Minimus (more like running slippers). The fact is that I've not ran in "real shoes" in a long time, and my body has adapted to my new running style. Running in shoes actually hurts. I'm a minimalist runner, and I want to know that I can make the 100 miles as a minimalist runner. The longest distance I've ran in my VFF's was 38 miles. Last fall, I ran Oil Creek 100K in an old pair of Brooks Cascadias, but in hind sight I could have ran in my VFF's just the same. Fear won that decision and I opted for shoes... This year, I'm not letting Fear have a say. (remember: Stubborn Mule)

To make sure that I make it through the hardest miles, I've recruited the best pacer in the World: Jamie Farley. Farley is an up and coming marathon runner from the great state of Michigan. He and I are old college buddies. We are both hard-core metal-head / party animals, turned barefoot trail running geeks. I ran with Farley on his first 1/2 marathon back in September. He rocked it! I told him that if he signed up for it, I'd drive to Michigan and run it with him. He returned that favor and said that if I signed up for the Mohican 100 miler, he'd drive down to Ohio and pace me. Well, here we are! He will be helping me through my "unknown mental state" miles. He's probably going to join me around mile 75 - mile 80. I'm not quite sure who I will be by then, but his job is to keep me awake and focused on the finish line. When I cross the finish line, it will be a direct result of him pushing me and kicking my ass on the trail. Can't wait to run with this guy!


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Warrior Dash 2011

This was fun. I'd not treated this race as an actual "race", but more of a fun thing to do. I went into the run with ZERO goals, other than to have a good time and get muddy. The idea is that you pay money to go through a bunch of obstacle and drink beer. My kind of event!

The course features muddy water crossings (chin deep at times), tire obstacles, tunnels, fire pits, barbed wire, mud, rope walls, cargo climbs, and hocking hills trails. I was pretty excited to do it. As it turns out the entire family went. Jennifer and the girls came and Lizzie got to bring one of her friends (Lucy) along with us. We met up with Tyler and Liz in Brownsville, then drove the hour down to the event in Logan county.

Everybody got a team shirt and we ran the race as the "Running Dirty" team.

I stuck the entire race out with my buddy Tyler. He and I just slogged through the course at a walking pace most of the time and approached each obstacle as a challenge. By the end of the run, we were covered in mud. The girls thought it was pretty cool to see me crawling in the mud under barbed wire. :)

After the race, all the runners got sprayed off in a fire hose. We stuck around for about 20 minutes afterwards and I got to eat a turkey leg like a true viking warrior. I also drank my free (watered down) beer. We had a great time, and the girls got to see that there are other people out there that are just as crazy as their daddy. :)

Here is the finisher photo of me and Bub: