Sunday, March 29, 2009

Firefox Add-ons

I've been using Firefox as an internet browser for a while now. I've stumbled on several Add-ons that have made my life easier or fixed problems, namely:

New Tab Homepage
This takes you to your home page when you open a new tab. It would seem to be something Firefox should already have, but OK.

Sidebar Bookmark Selector
The default bookmark setup is a bit busy/cluttered for my taste. This add-on allowed me to hide folders/items that I don't use but can't delete.

I recently discovered this work-around to make it easier to switch gmail accounts without logging out and logging back in each time. It seems a bit glitch-y but so far I'm keeping it.

I ran into this add-on when I started having problems with certain websites freezing up my browser (Firefox and IE both). It turns out that I can eliminate the freeze-up by disabling Javascript, for some strange reason. The add-on allows me to define which websites run scripts and which ones don't, which has made general browsing faster as well.

If you know of other useful add-ons, feel free to submit a comment! I love hearing from people :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Web page II - class complete

I've finished my second web page class, with a small page posted for each lesson:

Nothing spectacular, or even really very interesting...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Daily Photo in Austin

I recently discovered a blog to add to my Google Reader list:

Austin Texas Daily Photo

Quick, easy, nice pics - and useful for urban race scouting :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AT ORT (Aqua Terra Off-Road Tri)

Last Sunday Mike and Debbie of Aqua Terra held an off-road triathlon in Bastrop, TX. John was psyched to race in the solo division, so I begrudgingly agreed with the caveat that I somehow get a chance to run the river as practice before race day. 99.43% of my paddling experience is in a multi-person boat, and most of the remainder is on flat water. I borrowed Jason/Sheila's Pamlico kayak, a wonderfully stable tub that isn't quite as slow as you might expect.

We did manage a practice run last Friday, and I decided that the river was mostly easy and didn't require turning on a dime (not likely to happen in that boat) so I would be OK to race solo. I started in the back of the pack, managing to avoid all boats except one still waiting on the shore as the 2 women racers next to it were apparently even more concerned with the mass start than I was. One slight bump and I was on my way. Surfing the waves that trailed the gaggle of boats ahead of me was fun! Then it was time to dig in and get to work.

I tried to remember all the things Shaun had taught me during our many hours in a sea kayak at PQ Washington. If I got half of it back, I'm lucky, but at least it gave me something to focus on (push, plant, pull; relax the hands). I will always be a single blader at heart. I found a pace I could sustain, I watched everyone ahead of me, and aimed for the shortest path that stayed in deep water (unless there was more current at the outside of the turn).

The short bits of current were easy and fun. Except for the one large tree in the way, but there was a left channel option with enough water to avoid it. I watched one guy carry his boat away from the tree so he could get back in, while a bunch of solo paddlers wisely went left instead. More flat water, a bit more current, a short windy section, then there was the take-out. I could still see several solo women ahead of me, which pleased me. I had expected (quite reasonably, I thought) that I would lose 10 minutes on the 6.4 mile paddle, but remarkably the gap behind 1st place was less than 5.

A quick transition, then it was off to the dirt roads on my bike. I passed one guy who then sped by me, but he couldn't maintain the pace and eventually had to let me go on the first hill. I briefly caught sight of Tammy in a blue jersey, then she was gone among the twists and turns and ups and downs of Tahitian Village. Bryan the photographer told me I was 4th in the women's solo race, chasing 2nd and 3rd with a large gap to 1st. No matter, I was just trying not to lose too much time on the 11-mile bike leg. I figured I could make up a bit of time on the run course, but that was only 4 miles long so it wouldn't help THAT much.

The second half of the loop was flatter and faster, then it was back to TA for a quick run through the transition chute. As I was making my way to the exit, I noticed Kip talking with someone about me and the riders just ahead of me - looks like there was at least one woman not far ahead. It turned out to be Sheila, which was unexpected because she's an excellent mountain biker. On the other hand, there was hardly anything technical that would slow me down and give the real cyclists a real advantage. I passed Sheila going up a hill, and we both passed a guy that seemed to be chatting away like he had plenty of breath. What's up with that?

I was breathing plenty hard, aiming for the lines that worked for the first lap and improving my lines in a couple places, all the while trying to optimize my gears for the constant little hills. Running into TA, I quickly dropped the bike and pack and grabbed my water bottle. Just ahead of me I spotted Tammy who was chasing Helena onto the run course. We both had gained back time on the bike after finished several minutes behind Helena on the paddle.

Time to run! Well, sort of. I used to do triathlons, and the bike-to-run transition got easier with time, but it's still a difficult adjustment. All three of us women were breathing hard heading down the trail. Tammy stepped aside to let me and my noisy squishy shoes go past. I continued working on my recovery while following behind Helena until she slowed a bit. I passed her and suddenly I was in the lead.

I'm so comfortable chasing people down, that being in the lead of a running race is quite an adjustment for me. I didn't want to look back too often, but I also didn't want to relax and give anything away. The dirt road was a bit difficult for some reason, then the course returned to the beautiful river trail and I felt better. I got to cheer on John as he tried but didn't quite succeed at chasing down Bart for the overall solo win (missed by 6 seconds!). Going through TA for the final time, John let me know I had a big gap, which was good because I still didn't feel like I could speed up at all.

The second lap on the run went great, then it was over and I could breath again. Winning the women's solo race was quite a surprise, but I'll take it! And no, I'm still not inspired to improve my solo paddling...

The splits:
Paddle (including transition to bike) = 1:12:07 (4th of 8 solo women)
Bike = 51:52 (1st solo woman)
Run = 37:37 (1st solo woman)
Total = 2:41:36

Fun race!

Urban Dare Austin - race report

Continuing a recent trend on this blog of links to race reports, here's another one:

This time Kip is the racer/author. I was Jason/Mike's phone contact, which was hectic but lots of fun. Planning routes on a map is easier when you're not the one that has to run them. Especially when your city map doesn't show the contour lines :)

Congrats to Kip and Dave!

Friday, March 20, 2009

This American Life - live show in theaters

On Thursday April 23, "This American Life" is hosting a live show that will be broadcast in theaters across the country:

We've got tickets to the showing at the Metropolitan in South Austin ($20 each). Let us know if you'd like to join us in watching one of our favorite podcasts :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NetFlix fun

Kip introduced us to NetFlix awhile back, and it has kept us entertained. I've discovered that I really enjoy watching great TV shows that I never saw when they first aired.

For example, I watched The West Wing from start to finish. What a great show and even somewhat educational! It seemed especially apt at times, comparing the fiction to current politics.

My friend Kathy suggested the lesser-known Ballykissangel, and I'm now enthralled. Come to think of it, she probably started me thinking about watching The West Wing, so I really should pay attention to her recommendations.

John and I get huge kicks out of The Office and Monk, even though each can make us uncomfortable for the characters in different ways. They certainly make us laugh, and I love watching John laugh.

Not a NetFlix item (because Kip loaned me the boxed sets), but I'm nearing the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Also *loved* the short-lived Firefly series. Big Joss Whedon fan here! (Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, anyone?)

Biggest praise: Ability to change your address whenever you like. Our NetFlix envelopes follow us to Montana, Colorado, etc...

Biggest beef: Most seasons of The Amazing Race aren't available. Why not? I'd watch all of them! We missed the first few years when we lived in France.

What has been in your queue that you particularly liked?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Race report - HTA Houston


It was a cold, wet, and yet enjoyable day in the rain:

Houston's a fun city to run around in!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eco Lonestar race report

Dave wrote a race report from last weekend, posted here:

Thanks Dave! It was great fun racing with you and John :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eco Lonestar race

Last weekend John, Dave, and I did the Terra Firma Eco Lonestar race. This year the race venue was moved to the Lake Conroe/Stubblefield area. I like the area for the nav challenges, not so much for the prickly vines (there's a reason we don't do the Stubblefield O-meet anymore).

Shaun Bain and Bob Talamini designed the course, and they made it fun and interesting. All legs required navigation (yay!), no more "follow the ribbons" trail running or biking. We appreciate that.

We got to run on the Texas Lonestar Hiking Trail again - seems like a really nice trail, maybe we'll explore it more someday.

The paddle was really fun - figuring out the channels and the topography to plan our route, gliding around and sometimes over all these dead tree trunks standing in the middle of the lake, even the strong wind wasn't overly difficult. A special test of a "blind orienteering challenge" was right up our alley.

We then had the "wonderful" opportunity to bike on the dirtbike trails that criss-crossed the forest. The trail maps worked well. My ability to bike in the sand, not so much. I tried to figure it out, with a bit of coaching. Sometimes it felt like I actually knew what I was doing (I think Dirt Derby may have helped a bit), then I'd hit a deep sand pile and that was that. Once my Energy Output to Speed ratio went over a certain limit, it was off the bike for me!

Thankfully we weren't required to stay on any particular trails, just find the CP's, so a bit of dirt road riding and powerline riding made the second half of the bike section easier.

One last section - trekking through vines and crap to locate the final CP's. We didn't run this section cleanly, but luckily we had time to spare and still managed to finish the race in first place. Sweet!

Unfortunately, the only reason we could relax in the last section was because Leslie from Team MOAT fell off her bike and broke her collarbone. That SO sucks. Sorry Leslie!

Our team will get more of a race report out in the coming days, probably.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Houston observations

I spent several days wandering around Houston this week (yes, on purpose even!). Some things I noticed:

* You can see the effects of the hurricane, mostly in damaged signs (McDonald's arches seemed to have a particular problem holding up) and skewed street signs (making navigation occasionally interesting). But if you aren't looking closely, things seemed pretty normal.

* I met some very nice, helpful people. Just about every time I pulled out the map to inspect it, someone asked if they could help me find something.

* Wow, do a lot of people smoke.

* I saw a large number of homeless people, more than I've seen in other cities I've walked around in. I also saw a huge number of cops.

* There are a bunch of interconnecting tunnels under downtown, going from building to building and to the underground parking lots. It seems they are there mainly for business folks working during the weekday, and it occurs to me that there sort of a subculture (not that I really know what the term "subculture" means) in the tunnels. Smartly-dressed people hurrying to lunch and to meetings.

However, the smokers always ended up outside instead.

* Traffic is an absolute bear in Houston and I would really not enjoy that if I lived there.

The coolest thing to do:
Go into the JP Morgan Chase building and ride the elevator to the 60th floor for an awesome view.

The best deal:
$2 coffee and muffin in the morning at the public library cafe