Building Houses and Building Software

June 5th, 2014 § Comments Off on Building Houses and Building Software § permalink

Building houses has a lot of the same problems as building software.

Requirements will change. Everybody wants an upfront design that’s set in stone. When it comes time to do the real work and you have something in your hands to touch, your “wants” will most likely change. The key is to be agile, flexible, and properly communicate expectations.

Hiring inexpensive workers can sometimes a pain in the ass. You have to explain everything you want to them, spell it out, and always have to recheck their work and never take their word for it. There are a lot of hidden costs when hiring inexpensive workers.1 When evaluating cost, be sure to include your own time required for the extra overhead.

Hiring high quality craftsman can be expensive. The hard part is identifying their expertise and skill set based on their word. An experienced person can identify their own expertise and is not afraid to tell you their shortcomings. They get your money’s worth when they are able to explain why they do things from their previous experiences.

Getting milestone/inspection sign off can be difficult, but find out where the expectation gaps are and address them as soon as possible. This is where scope creep happens:

  • Identify the gaps – this is the hard part
  • Make a decision to add/remove to the current phase – not the maybe pile
  • Come to an explicit agreement

Delays will happen, so prepare for them (damn you, Murphy!). You can’t be expected to think of every minor problem or worst case scenario upfront. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control the power to the office building. People have lives outside of work. Do not expect them to pick work over anything else in their lives – Brian Dyson said it best.

1 Thanks TomF for helping me out with this post!

Race Day: 2013 NYC Triathlon

August 2nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Race Day: 2013 NYC Triathlon § permalink

Personal Goal: finish the 2013 NYC Triathlon on a fixed gear bicycle. No goals for time – JUST FINISH!

I won’t go into much of my reflection of the triathlon and my training, that’s for another day.

Training is over and all my bike is setup at the transition area. It was a gloomy overcast the day before, but there was a promise of sun in the forecast.

2013 NYC Triathlon - Setup

After setting up my bicycle, I took a guided tour of the course; it cleared everything up! From where to go after the swim to get my bike and then later from bike to run. It sounds so simple, but without actually walking the course, I would have felt really uncomfortable knowing exactly where to go.

Race Day

On July 14th, 2013, my alarm went off at 3:30 AM. My brother and I got packed up and out the door by 4:00 AM to catch a cab and head to my transition area (red). It was dark and my half of the transition area was not lit up. I did as much setup as I could in the dark and we walked up to the swim start.

Despite how tired I was, I got to see the first transition group start which made me a little more comfortable. For some reason in my head, I thought the barge we jumped off was ten or twenty feet above the water. I was not excited about the thought of losing my goggles at the start of the swim!

Swim/T1

Five minutes before the second transition got started, I got into my corral and lined up for the jump. By the time I got to the barge, I was only worried about my ear plugs and goggles – they better not pop off! The horn went off, I jumped in, and swam freestyle.

2013 NYC Triathlon - Swim

I did not realize how tough it was to swim in open water and the opaque water screwed with my rhythm since I was always wanting to see where I was going. Swimming in a pool with visibility was much more comforting. When I looked up to see the 300 meter mark, I was completely out exhausted.

I backstroked the rest of the way, switching to freestyle when I caught my breath. It was quite relaxing. Toward the end of the swim, the lanes narrowed and got really shallow. Three feet of water with disgusting muck at the bottom did not help the fact that there were others all around me like a salmon run.

After getting pulled out, there was about at 150-200 meter walk from the swim exit to the transition area. My pansy feet were hurting from walking on the concrete that was littered with debris. I walked, others jogged. I had one goal: just finish.

Upon arrival of T1, I struggled to get out of my wetsuit and had to put on my water bottle cage on my handlebars because of the lighting issue earlier in the day. I fueled up, caught my breath, got ready mentally, stretched a bit, and finally walked Contessa out of the transition area.

Bike/T2

After hopping on the bike, there was a “steep technical turn and climb.” I was told to leave it in the lowest gear, possible, but I was riding fixed! I blasted to the top, passing a dozen people on super low gears, spinning their legs out. Lots of cheers after I got to the top with a “GO FIXED!” cheer too!

Just after the climb, there was the 79th street circle right by the Henry Hudson Parkway. There were lots of bumps and patches on the road: DISGUSTING.
Fallen water bottles and broken sunglasses were all over the place.

When I finally entered the freeway, almost everyone I passed during the climb flew by me. Talk about being humbled. I had a little trouble getting my Garmin setup, but right after I got it started, I saw a Texas flag draped on a camp chair. Ben, Shane and Chi were there cheering me on!

2013 NYC Triathlon - Bike

For the most part, it was nice, but hazards were equally bad. Lots of people pointing to hazards along the way. I never saw anyone fall and no accidents around me. The “worst” was on the way back south along the freeway when someone’s chain popped off. I offered to help, but he said it happened all the time – strange.

Anyway, there were lots of long rolling hills. I was not elevation prepared for the massive elevation. Apparently, I have super powerful thunder thighs.
They’re just not good for long hills with medium grade. There are two technical turns at the northmost and southmost part of the bike path. The lane narrows significantly and I was really glad I was not near a large group. I can see how dangerous this could get for the super competitive people.

I used up the entire outside lane and kept a good amount of speed. I even passed people on turns – that was fun. While climbing the hill after the north turnaround, another biker realized I was riding single speed and asked whether I was riding fixed. He gave me props, I gave him props, and then we hammered up the next hill.

Before I knew it, the I was riding back into T2. The entrance was a steep grade down, so others slammed on their brakes. I had to skid stop in order to avoid a crash. More people cheered my on and one dude yelled out, “the Texas guy is riding fixed!” I grinned, hopped off my bicycle, stood up tall, tried to take my first step and jell-o. It took a few steps to get my legs straightened out.

I switch shoes, fueled up again, and hydrated a bit. I walked through the transition as everyone around me were already jogging. I had one goal: just finish.

Run

I crossed 72nd street and there were lots of people, lots of cheering, and lots of motivation! It was great, lots of people recognize the great shape of Texas on my jersey! I jogged for a bit, walked for a bit, and heard a voice cheer my name in the crowd.

It was Anthony on his bike in the sideline. I jogged over to give him a high five, walked a little bit more and as I neared 72nd and Central Park West, I saw a Texas flag waving. Dammit, now I have to jog a little. I saw all of my friends there cheering me on so I slipped over to give them high fives! FREAKING AWESOME! =)

2013 NYC Triathlon - Run

Jog-walking along the west side of Central Park had shade, but by the time I got to the east side, there was little to no shade. It was tough, so I walked for a bit, but I knew I was not going for best time. I did not give a fuck; I had one goal: JUST FINISH.

It was the last leg – I jogged all the way to the finish line. Once again, I saw my friends all cheering me on with all their posters too. I went for another wave of high fives and did not realize they gave me a Texas flag to hold it until I found myself waving it around.

I crossed the finish line!!!

2013 NYC Triathlong - Finish Line

My Results

I finished at 11:39:22 AM, just in time for lunch!

If I had to give any advice to anyone who plans to do any triathlon, it would be to train. It sounds so simple, but the rigorous schedule eats up into your life. If possible, get with a team or just another person to help with motivation.

NYC Triathlon 2013
Division: Male 30-34
Division Place: 413/433
Gender Place: 2,190/2,374
Overall Place: 2,954/3,420
Total Time: 3:35:51
Swim: 25:15 – 1:31/100 yards
T1: 14:10
Bike: 1:31:20 – 16.3 miles/hour
T2: 5:18
Run: 1:19:49 – 12:52/mile

Thank You, Everyone!!!

Mom and Dad – supported me in everything I do in life
Ben – my brother, woke up early as hell to support me from start to finish
Shey – biking coach, also convinced me to get bicycle
Anthony – biking buddy
Mari – inspiring me to do a triathlon
Tom F and Ellen – long distance biking buddies
Jenn and Chau – running buddies, even if it was a couple times
Mai – running tips and making Ben fly up to support me!
Ginette – swim coach, even if it was just once at a horrible lap pool!

My Triathlon Training

July 20th, 2013 § Comments Off on My Triathlon Training § permalink

Personal Goal: finish the 2013 NYC Triathlon on a fixed gear bicycle. No goals for time – JUST FINISH!

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a bicycle about one year ago (22 Jul 2012). Later that year, I entered myself in the 2013 NYC Triathlon lottery (8 Nov 2012) in order to hopefully win a spot to attempt my first ever triathlon. After just five days, I was notified that I was selected to race the “2013 Aquaphor NYC Triathlon!!!” This gave me about half a year to get started with training.

If you are curious, an Olympic triathlon is:

  • Swim: 1500 m, 0.93 miles
  • Bike: 40 km, 24.85 miles
  • Run: 10 km, 6.21 miles

To be honest, I did not know until after I won the lottery.

Training “Schedule”

Obviously, since I love riding my bicycle, I did it as much as I could. I did not start hardcore training until one month before race day – hindsight, NOT a good idea at all.

Here are some highlights from my training “schedule”:

  • July 22, 2012 – My first bike ride
  • September 30, 2012 – My first run
  • June 4, 2013 – My first brick (bike/run)
  • June 8, 2013 – My first four full bike laps (25 miles) followed by a 6.5 mile jog
  • June 29, 2013 – My first swim in a tiny hotel pool
  • July 9, 2013 – My first five full bike laps around Central Park

Swim Training

My parents took my brother and I to a YCMA when we were really young to learn how to swim. Apparently, my first swim lesson when I was three months old. I recall spending many days at the pool during summers and even invited to join a swim team. Needless to say, I am very comfortable in the water.

My first swim to prepare for the triathlon (June 29) was at a hotel in Rochester with the Texas crew which also consisted of the B(A)RST_R crew. I did a few laps and got reacquainted with the water. It was tons of fun, but definitely not qualified as a training session.

My second swim (July 8) was a little more like a training session – Ginette was my swim coach for the day! We found out that I have a really good freestyle stroke, but horrible leg kicks. Ginette explained to me that I was trying to kick my legs like I do with my bicycle, so she taught me how to swim with my core. It’s really tough!

I wasn’t too worried about the swim. In fact, with the Hudson current and my wetsuit, I had the notion that I could just float my way down the river. Probably not the best idea.

Bike Training

Shey was my bike coach. From helping me pick out my first bike in NYC to picking the right tires, he taught me most of what I know about riding/tuning/maintaining my bicycle, especially fixed gear. After my first ride, I was immediately addicted.

The numbers represent the number of hours spent on my bike each month. The lines represent each day's time spent on my bike.

The numbers represent the number of hours spent on my bike each month. The lines represent each day’s time spent on my bike.

My first big ride was with Tom (Foxtrot) at the Twin Lights Ride ridden out in New Jersey on September 30, 2012. It was as 58.5 mile journey with lots of hills and gorgeous scenery. Foxtrot, Ellen, and I also did an Ad Hoc Tour de Queens on June 16 – 44.8 miles!

The biggest ride to date was on March 23 when we headed out to New Jersey and attempted to head as far north up the 9W – 63.2 miles! Anthony, Mari, a random Meetup member, and I braved the cold to get spicy soft tofu in Fort Lee and ventured into the Palisades. What an adventure!

On a weekly basis, Anthony was my biking buddy. Morning coffee rides, Central Park laps, and wandering along the West Side Highway were the typical activities. Lots of miles were spent wandering around New York City, getting a workout in, and ending with something to eat.

After Hurricane Sandy tore through NYC in late October, the lower Manhattan shut down and a bicycle was the best means of transportation. I was one of the few that had a bicycle, so I took it around to check up on friends and even rode down the FDR for a bit since it was shut down to car traffic!

Shortly after this, the bicycle crew got started. Everyone pretty much got a bike, if they didn’t have one already: Anthony, Chau, Chi, Ellen, Ginette, Jenn, Joseph, Mari, Mike, Patrick, Shane, Som, Tom (Foxtrot), Tom (me), Victor, and Yuwi. What an awesome crew!

Run Training

My first run was with Jenn and Chau – they are super good runners. I could barely did not keep up with them during the 4.5 mile jog. I was pretty disappointed with myself and my right knee was strained a day later. I was a little scared about how my body reacted to the jog.

The next time I put on my running shoes was a couple months later for my first two consecutive bricks (back-to-back workout) – in this case, bike/run. Each day started off with two laps around Central Park and then a ride over to Roosevelt Island. After each bike ride, I did a 5.0 mile jog on June 4 and June 5th. Again, my right knee was slightly strained a day later. I sucked it up and on June 8, I decided to attempt to complete the second and third legs of the triathlon. Success: 25 miles of biking, 6.5 miles of jogging/walking!

With my confidence boosted and right knee strains becoming less painful, I got in a few more laps around Roosevelt Island while the tennis crew played a few matches. I felt much more excited about the triathlon.

Taking a Break

For about two months leading up to the race, I pushed as many hours as I could on a bicycle. Morning, afternoon, evenings, whenever I found time. On average, I found myself on a bicycle for eight hours a week!

The hardest part of the training was the break – from both working out and alcohol. I’m no alcoholic, but I do love my beers and scotch. I promised myself that I would stop drinking the morning after the July 4th celebration.

A college friend of mine, Joseph, had a birthday party the evening of July 5th. I broke my fast in no more than 24 hours, but after that, I can proudly say that I was 100% sober up to race day.

The other tough part about the break was the sheer boredom. July 10, four days before the race, I did my last laps around Central Park in the morning. Sitting in my apartment doing nothing got old really fast. I saved myself by watching a few more episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Workout and Diet Progress Report

June 19th, 2013 § Comments Off on Workout and Diet Progress Report § permalink

Just over a year ago, I had no plans to go on a diet, no urge to work out, but I did plan to start tracking my food consumption. Now, I find myself eating stupid healthy, working out a few days a week, and cycling a bunch, of course. I just reviewed a year-long chart of my progress and I’m quite surprised. It was such a gradual change, I almost didn’t even notice!

Logging and Tracking

Moleskin - Exercise

On May 2, 2012, I started using MyFitnessPal to see how many calories I was throwing in my body. I learned how much one single portion was with a variety of foods and realized I was definitely over eating. Portion control seemed like the obvious start.

After about a month, I stopped using MyFitnessPal. It’s simple: eat less. But simple isn’t always easy, so drinking lots of water helped curb my appetite, but more importantly I had to stop listening to my body. It always told me I was hungry, so I was always over eating.

Just a few days after I started using MyFitnessPal, I also bought the scale that measures my weight, body fat, muscle mass, body water, and bone density. My only goal was to keep track – I had no weight target, no body fat target, and definitely no muscle mass target. I just wanted to know how food affected my body. Volume affected weight, healthier food affected body fat – so fucking simple, but it’s so damn hard to change.

One tip is to weigh yourself at the same time and state. For me, it was every morning before eating or drinking anything (water or coffee was okay) and after my #1 and #2. I even kept a log in my Moleskin! From there, I would transfer the information to Google Spreadsheet and make charts from the data.

Contessa and Strava

Exploring 5PTZ.com

I listened to a really good friend of mine, Shey, bought a bike, and went on my first ride around Central Park on July 22, 2012. As you all know, her name is Contessa. I decided on a fixed gear so I could get a work out and didn’t realize what I got myself into. I’m addicted, and that’s an understatement.

Strava was another helpful app I used on my phone to keep track of my rides. It’s the best way to review and keep track of not only your rides, but also runs! I’ve set goals and challenges, but more importantly it shows my progress and improvements. I recommend this to anyone who rides or runs!

Anthony is my biking buddy here in NYC and we can see our rides on Strava which helps motivate me to ride more!

Nike Training Club and Equipment

Nike Training Club

Around mid January 2013, I downloaded the Nike Training Club app to find workouts I can do in my apartment. The workouts I did were Fighter Fit, Crunch and Burn, Shawn Johnson – Stretch Guide, and Jeanette Jenkins Ab Blast. The workouts were pretty tough, but that just means I’m out of shape. I also have an exercise mat to help cushion the floor exercises on my body. It only took a month before I stopped doing these and dedicated more time to just biking.

I also bought some weights, but haven’t found a good habit for this yet. I need to take notes of these on a daily basis like my weight and maybe that will encourage progress. I put them next to my desk with hopes that I will do one set every time I pass by them. I really need to get a good rhythm going for it, but I’m not that dedicated to it just yet.

Quantified Progress

My pet fat

From May 9, 2012 to today, June 19, 2013, my median weight was about 166.8 pounds, so that’s roughly 5.47 pounds of fat off my body replaced by 4.75 pounds of muscle. If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is!!! The picture above is an image of one pound of fat. Imagine five of those things shed off my body!

  • Lost 12.13 pounds
  • Dropped 3.28% body fat
  • Gained 2.85% muscle mass

chart-daily

The first chart above shows my daily progress. It doesn’t look like much of a change, right? Slight fluctuations mainly due to my vacations where there was no limit to food consumption. Surprisingly though, I learned what “full” was, despite the fact that I knew I could eat a ton more.

chart-change

I wasn’t too pleased to see such small progress. It’s actually demotivating, so I averaged each month’s progress and graphed the overall change in the chart above. This is what amazes me! I can clearly see my weight drop, body fat and muscle mass diverging, and that I really don’t care about my total body water or bone density.

Triathlon Challenge

This will be saved for the next post, after the triathlon. Yes, I’m doing a triathlon. What have I become?!

Reading is Hard – Regaining Focus

January 22nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Reading is Hard – Regaining Focus § permalink

I thought I didn’t like reading, but I found I have a hard time focusing for long periods of time. Whenever I find myself sitting in one spot and truly focused on reading longer than thirty minutes, I impress myself. That doesn’t happen often.

Here are a few things that have significantly increased my ability to focus while reading. No drugs here – just devices, apps, and plugins. No techniques either – I’ve tried them all with little to no improvement. This is what works for me.

Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is great to keep me focused on just the page I’m supposed to be reading rather than peeking ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter. Yes, I do this – doesn’t everyone? The built-in dictionary also helps me stay focused. I can’t count how many times I’ve got lost browsing the Internet for an hour in order to look up just one word.

Pocket

I used this when it was originally called ReadItLater. Pocket is a one stop shop for cleaning and saving an article to ReadItLater. The Chrome extension makes it even easier to just throw it in my list of things to read.

Evernote Clearly

Who knew Evernote made a tool to help me read? Clearly cleans up websites, big time. I’m not distracted by ads, other links and articles, comments, and other “squirrels” flooding the browser. Best of all, I can just save it and read it whenever I want later on, like when I’m on the subway. Again the Chrome extension here is freaking awesome.

MagicScroll

I found this on Hacker News a while ago. It’s a response to the way scrolling really sucks at displaying text. Just go read it. I’ve only recently used it for longer articles that I read directly on my computer, but it’s so hard to just read while on my computer. I have to move away from it and get my hands to a less Internet-connected device.

Audible

I need Audible to read me my bed time story before I go to bed, definitely not the built-in TTS from Kindle. For the first week, I’ve been able to listen to and following along one chapter of Game of Thrones before I find myself nodding off. I got through two last night since the action started picking up.

It’s a great pairing with the Kindle, but I can’t wait until they merge and map the reading location with what is being read to me, just like karaoke! Imagine reading on your own and whenever you need it to be read to you by Audible, just click play, or even just putting the text down completely. That’s the future and it should already be here.

As you’ve noticed, all these are ways to get away from my computer in order to read. Maybe it’s time to look into getting some Pomodoro thing that kills my Internet connection or throttles it during the productive time and back to normal during the break period.

    • Thanks for my first yoga class in Omaha David Itshellip