Sunday, 29 September, 2002

Bicycle Training Recap

Perhaps more difficult than finishing the ride yesterday was getting on the bike this morning to do a short recovery ride.  It turns out that the body recovers from a hard ride much faster if you follow that hard day with a slow and easy ride.  It's hard to convince yourself of that, though, when sitting on a bicycle seat for even five minutes seems like it'd be cruel and unusual punishment.  But the pros are right, and I felt a lot better after Debra and I went for our ride.

For the sake of completeness, here's my mileage from this week. 

Monday 18.2 easy
Tuesday 0 (lazy)
Wednesday 0 (scheduled)
Thursday 10.4 easy
Friday 5 easy
Saturday 103 (the BIG ride)
Sunday 10 easy
Total 146.8


All told, I rode 1,170 miles on my bike since August 12.  It sounds like a lot, but it works out to only 10 hours per week.  I'm simply astonished at the results from that relatively small commitment.  I'm a much stronger rider, I've lost almost 15 pounds (and I wasn't actually trying to lose any), I'm more alert, feel more alive, and am happier than I've been in quite some time.  10 hours a week sounds like a big time commitment, but I don't even miss those hours I used to spend watching TV. or staying up late surfing the Web.  Mom and Dad were right:  you really can do anything you set your mind to.

Saturday, 28 September, 2002

Waco Wild West Century

I was up at 4:00 am to get ready for today's ride.  I had packed most things last night, put the bike on the truck, and had my clothes laid out.  Breakfast at 4:30 (toast and a banana), and I was on the road.  The start of the ride was 85 miles from the house.  I got there in plenty of time to pick up my packet, reassemble the bike (just put the front back wheel back on), stretch, and warm up.  The ride started promptly at 8:00 am.  And then my brain fell apart.

I've been riding regularly for 8 weeks now, learning how to do everything right.  I know how much water and Gatorade I'm supposed to drink, how much I'm supposed to eat during a long ride, and what my heart rate monitor should read as I'm riding.  When the ride started, all that went out the window.  I took off like a shot along with the fast riders, and completed the first 8 miles in about 20 minutes.  I slowed down a bit, but still averaged 20 MPH for the first 35 miles, and with an average heart rate that was way too high.  I finally slowed down and began to get my heart rate under control, but by that time the damage was done.  The next 30 miles were very slow and painful, partly because I had burned so much energy early on, and partly because it was almost all into the wind.  I got my "second wind" at around 70 miles, and was able to finish the ride with some energy to spare, but not at all with the strength that I had planned for.  I finally crossed the finish line about 7 hours after I'd started.  I could have finished sooner, had I not spent so much time enjoying the rest stops.   I'm happy to have completed the ride, but a bit disappointed that I lost my mind there at the beginning.  Oh well, next time I'll know better than to do that.

Sunday, 22 September, 2002

Last Long Training Ride

This morning I rode from home down to the Einstein's Bagels (about 13 miles) to meet with some other cyclists for a group ride.  I've been wanting to get a little group riding practice in so that I can team up with other cyclists during the ride next Saturday, and perhaps do a 5-hour century.  Imagine my surprise when the route the leaders took brought me right back by my house on the way to Georgetown, Hutto, and points beyond.  70 miles of back roads covers a lot of ground.  It was a beautiful day for a ride, except for that 20 MPH north wind.  I got my group ride practice in, and had a good time chatting with the other riders.  Up to this point I'd been doing all of my long rides (and most of my other training) entirely by myself.

The ride is in Waco on Saturday.  The coming week will be easy rides and lots of stretching to keep the legs limber.  Carbo loading starts on Wednesday.  I'm ready.

Monday 17 easy
Tuesday 22 pace
Wednesday 29 fast
Thursday 0
Friday 20 pace
Saturday 31.1 pace
Sunday 77 pace
Total 196.1

Saturday, 21 September, 2002

Busy With Training -- No Entries

I'm keeping busy with my training and a few other things here, and haven't taken the time to write diary entries.  The century ride is next Saturday, after which I'll have a little more time for notes.  So, yeah, I guess the diary is living up to its name:  Random Notes.

Sunday, 15 September, 2002

Training Update

The century ride is in two weeks.  Today I rode 80 miles on a mostly flat (as flat as you're going to get in this part of Texas) course, and felt strong enough to continue when I was finished.  I continue to be surprised by my progress.  My improvement over the last 5 weeks of training is astounding.  5 weeks ago I rode 50 miles at an average speed of a little under 16 MPH, and was very tired afterwards.  Today I averaged over 18 MPH, and then finished mowing the lawn.  The training program works!

Monday rest
Tuesday 20 pace
Wednesday 27 fast
Thursday 9.7 (2 flats!!)
Friday 20 (trainer)
Saturday 30.4 pace
Sunday 80 pace
Total 187.1

Friday, 13 September, 2002

DNS Woes

This is my week for fighting Internet problems.  Last Thursday we set up a new web site to demonstrate features of our latest product.  On Wednesday we got reports from several clients who said they can't get to the site.  Why?  "Host not found."  It seems that many DNS servers still haven't updated the inquisite.com zone, so they're reporting very old information that does not include the new address.  I went 'round and 'round with my system administrator on this one, convinced that he'd made a mistake in setting up the new record.  But, no.  Our name servers report the correct information, as do many others that I've tested.  Some ISPs, though (Austin's Road Runner included), either have mis-configured DNS servers, or they've configured them to keep stale information in their caches.  Either way, it's been over a week and I still can't get to that site reliably.

I've heard before of DNS server configuration errors causing sites to be unreachable, but I thought that those problems were limited to errors on the site's primary name server.  The sad thing about all this is that I have to contact the DNS administrator at Road Runner and wherever else the system can't be reached, and tell them that their DNS isn't updating zones properly.  Isn't there some way that the DNS servers could diagnose and correct this kind of thing automatically?

I got the following message from my company's email server today when I tried to send a message to a client.  I've removed the client's name and company:

Subject: FW: Inquisite 360
Sent: 9/10/2002 2:59 PM

The following recipient(s) could not be reached:

'name_removed@client.com' on 9/10/2002 3:02 PM
Your mail system could not find a way to successfully
communicate with the destination system. Please notify your
administrator.
<cerberus.catapultsystems.com #5.5.0>

I scratched my head over this one for a couple of hours, trying all kinds of different things to get the message to go through.  Somebody finally suggested that I zip up the Microsoft Word document that I was sending as an attachment.  Presto!  The mail went through.  Apparently the destination server is rejecting .doc attachments by returning a fatal error.

This isn't the first one of these I've gotten.  OnDecember 7 last year, I reported a similar message from another client's mail server.  We've checked those files every which way, and have found no virus.  I think some administrators need to take a better look at their configurations.

Monday, 09 September, 2002

A New Twist On An Old Scam

I've seen variants of this scam for the last year or two, but this one adds a new wrinkle.  Here's the letter, exactly as I received it:

From:  femi douglas <femidouglas@yahoo.com> 
Subject  ATTN: Mischel
Date:  Mon, 9 Sep 2002 03:53:33 -0700 (PDT)
To:  <femidouglas@yahoo.com> 

Barister Femi Douglas.
Morgan Partners.
Ahmed Onibudo Crescent,
Victoria Island,Lagos-Nigeria.
email: femidouglas@yahoo.com

Dear Mischel ,

I am Barrister Femi Douglas ,a solicitor at law. I am the personal attorney to Mr Mark H. Mischel ,a national of your country, who used to work with shell development company in Nigeria. Here in after shall be referred to as my client.

On the 21st of April 1999, my client, his wife And their three children were involved in a car accident along sagbama express road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives.

Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy to locate any of my clients extended relatives this has also proved unsuccessful.

After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to track his last name over the Internet, to locate any member of his family hence I contacted you.

I have contacted you to assist in repartrating the money and property left behind by my client before they get confisicated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this huge deposits were lodged.

Particularly, the finance company where the deceased had an account valued at about US$3,500,000.00 dollars has issued me a notice to provide the next of kin or have the account confisicated within the next ten official working days.

since I have been unsuccesfull in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased since you have the same last name so that the proceeds of this account valued at US$3,500,000.00 dollars can be paid to you and then you and me can share the money. 60% to me and 40% to you

I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. all I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this deal through.

I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law.

please get in touch with me by my email to enable us discuss further.

Best regards,
Barister Femi Douglas esq.

It's an interesting twist on the corrupt minor African government official who desperately needs somebody to help him spirit an embezzled fortune out of the country.  What surprises me the most about this letter is that it's so poorly written.  You'd think that somebody wanting to appear as a lawyer would have impeccable grammar and spelling.  Perhaps it's calculated to sound like an especially stupid and somewhat corrupt lawyer.  After all, he is trying to stick it to me by taking 60% of my supposed inheritance.

I understand that people are falling for these types of scams regularly.  Somehow they get talked into giving up critical bank account information, and the scam artist cleans it out.  I may not be the most worldly person, but I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday.  Sometimes you just shake your head and move on.

Sunday, 08 September, 2002

Bicycle Training in a Tropical Storm

Tropical storm Fay is making my century training interesting.  Friday's planned mountain bike ride (my first real trail ride in almost 2 years) almost got canceled, but fortunately some people showed up.  It rained a bit, but that just makes mountain biking a little more challenging.  We had a grand old time slipping and sliding around in the mud, and drinking beer afterward.  Yesterday I spent an hour on the stationary trainer pedaling like mad and not getting anywhere.  Few things are as mind-numbingly boring as sitting on that trainer.  Rock and roll at high volume helps tremendously.  It was raining again this morning, and I was dreading a four hour stint on the trainer.  It stopped raining at about 10:00 so, optimist that I am, I hopped on the bike and headed out.  I got dumped on intermittently for the first 90 minutes or so, but after that it was just cloudy and humid, with a stiff wind from the east.  I followed the rules this time (good diet, proper hydration), and didn't suffer the same ill effects as last week's ride.  I won't say that the ride three weeks from now is going to be a breeze, but I do think I'll be able to finish it with strength.

This week's mileage:

Monday 14 easy
Tuesday 19.2 pace
Wednesday 27 fast
Thursday rest
Friday 20 (approx) mountain bike
Saturday 20 (trainer)
Sunday 76.5 pace
Total 176.7

Saturday, 07 September, 2002

Linux From Scratch System Complete

I finally got time to finish going through the Linux From Scratch book (see September 2).  Throughout the week, I would stop by the machine and enter the commands to build a few utilities, and today I finished.  I'm not done building the system, as I still need to add ftp and http servers, but I've completed the basic LFS configuration and now have a functional Linux system that I built 100% from the sources.  It's something of a tedious process, typing all those commands to build the 50 or so packages it takes to get a working system, but it's an excellent educational experience, and you get a working system out of the deal.  I learned a heck of a lot about what's going on under the hood, and seeing it all go together gives me something of a road map to the things I need to learn more about.  I highly recommend LFS for anybody who is interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of Linux.  And, no, you don't need to be a programmer in order to build an LFS system.  Some prior experience with Linux would certainly be helpful, but not strictly necessary.  Well worth the effort, but not recommended if all you want is a working system.

Tuesday, 03 September, 2002

Charlie Update

Charlie went in for his weekly dip today, and for the first time tested negative for the mites that cause demodectic mange (also called "demodex," after the mite, demodex canis)  If he tests negative next week, that will be his last dip.  The scabs and bald patches evident in the pictures of July 14 and July 29 are almost completely healed.  There is one small scab on his side that is yet to heal, and the hair on his chest is still a bit thin.  He looks like a completely different dog than the one who wandered into the yard 7 weeks ago.  He's a healthy and happy dog now.  Three weeks into obedience school, he's learning how to pay attention, and he's become much calmer.  He still wants to chase the deer—something we've been discouraging since he caught a fawn a few weeks ago.  For exercise he likes to play fetch, and we take him for runs down the block to the stop sign and back (1/2 mile each way)—us on the bicycles and him running beside us.  He's a very well behaved puppy.  The vet's age estimate is about 11 months.  Tasha the poodle has learned to get out of his way, and Kameeke the cat has learned to tolerate him.  He's fully part of the family now, and we're happy to have him.

Monday, 02 September, 2002

Linux From Scratch Progress

I had hoped that by this evening I would have a bootable Linux From Scratch system.  Unfortunately, building the system is taking quite a bit longer than I expected.  Saturday I downloaded the LFS software archive (105 MB), and Sunday I started building the system.  In a nutshell, here's how it works.

  1. Install Linux from one of the widely available distributions, being sure to include the "development" packages (gcc, make, patch, etc.).  When you install the system, be sure to leave some empty (non-partitioned) space (as much as possible) on the hard drive.  On my system, I created an 800 MB partition for SuSE Linux, and a 200 MB swap partition.
  2. Following the instructions from the Linux From Scratch book, create your LFS partition, and download the software to the directory that they recommend.
  3. Here's where it gets kind of interesting.  You unpack and build the minimum software required to unpack and build a fully working Linux system.  It's similar to bootstrapping.  The idea is to build a minimal development environment that's segregated from your "real" Linux system.  They call this the "static" system, because all of the tools have the libraries statically linked, rather than using the dynamic libraries that are more common with Linux systems.  Seethis page for a discussion of why they use static linking.
  4. You then use the chroot command to start the shell using your static system's partition as the root partition.  This, in effect, gives you a totally new environment in which to work.  All of your commands (ls, gcc, etc.) are being executed from the static binaries that you created in Chapter 3.
  5. Build the software required to create a minimal bootable Linux system.  In this step, you will re-build all of the tools that you created in step 3, but dynamically linked.  You will also build other tools, and the kernel.
  6. Configure some software and make the system bootable.

Right now, I'm about halfway through step 5 above.  Some of those packages take a very long time to build on my old P200.

I can hear it already:  "Why would you want to do that?"  After all, there are plenty of perfectly good Linux distributions available.  Why go through all the work of installing one of them, only to build a bunch of software twice and end up with a system that is less functional than the one I started with?  In my case the answer is simple:  education.  There's nothing like building something from the ground up if you're wondering what makes it tick.  It's better even than taking something apart to figure it out.  Other people like the LFS approach because they end up with a system that has exactly what they want—no more and no less.  There's something to be said for knowing every little thing that's installed on your system, especially if that system is critical in some way:  a DNS, HTTP, or mail server, for example.  There's no chance of some weird package interfering with the server's operation or causing some security breach.

At any rate, I've been taking copious notes, both on my experiences as I install stuff and some thoughts about improvement to the LFS documents.  I'll summarize those here at some point—after I get the system up and running.

Sunday, 01 September, 2002

Bicycle Training / A Hard Lesson

What's so hard about training to ride 100 miles on the bicycle?  You just get on the bike and ride every day, right?  Follow a training program and you'll be good as gold, right?  Not hardly.  Once you graduate to longer rides you have to start paying a bit more attention.  You have to drink water, or better yet something like Gatorade (have to maintain that sodium level), on a regular basis (but not too much!) while you're riding, and if you're going more than 50 miles or so you'd better be eating while you ride.  Otherwise you're going to "bonk".  What's worse is that your diet in the days before the long ride (especially the day right before) makes a huge difference in your performance.

I knew all of that, but got a very painful review lesson during today's 66 mile ride.  I didn't pay attention to my diet on Friday and Saturday, and failed to drink enough water during the early part of the ride today.  As a result, I started fading at about mile 50, and it was all I could do to finish those last 10 miles.  I ended up with very sore legs and severe muscle cramps.  I'll probably have to take it easy the next 3 or 4 days just to let my body recover.  Very dumb move.

If you're interested in nutrition for cyclists, two good places to start are the Training pages at Ultracycling andBicycling Magazine.

This week's mileage is below.  I've moved my long rides from Saturday to Sunday, because we're taking Charlie the Slobber Dog to obedience classes at noon on Saturdays.

Monday 13 easy
Tuesday 17 varied
Wednesday 26 fast
Thursday rest
Friday 19 pace (stationary bike)
Saturday 24 varied
Sunday 66 pace
Total 165.5