Monday, September 20. 2010
It usually happens around a restaurant table following a run and after we've all consumed at least half our beer. Someone says something like, "We should all sign up and do x" (where x is a slightly more crazy than normal event). That's how it happened for the 2009 Goofy Challenge; I'm pretty sure that's how it happened when five of us (Melissa, Susan, Jim, Bill, and me) decided to run this year's Marathon du Medoc.
Several days in Paris. Several days in Bordeaux. A week in the Dordogne region. What could be bad about all that? Oh,...I almost forgot: it's that little 26.2 mile run that I'll have to survive during one of the days. Did I mention that there is wine served at every water stop? Did I mention that food (i.e., oysters on the half-shell, cured ham, grilled beef, and ice cream) is served on the course over the final three miles? I can tell you that nothing prepared me/us for the experience that is Marathon du Medoc.
On a day with a temperature forecast to hit 80F, the five of us set off with ~8,500 other runners (most of whom were in costume) to "run" through the Bordeaux wine region. That there are better ways to see the famous wineries of Bordeaux goes without saying. The sheer spectacle of event is what makes it the most unique way to see the wineries. As I perspired more than I ever thought possible -- enough to short out my iPod by the ninth mile -- some of the other runners were pushing homemade floats that measured as much as twelve feet in length and required a team of four to navigate. It was complete insanity and our group's finish times reflect that fact.
Melissa: 04:56:25; Jim*: 06:09:59; Bill: 06:14:51; Richard: 06:19:11; Susan*: 06:22:41
* Jim and Susan ran an extra 2 kilometers out-of-the way about half-way through the race. They likely beat my finish time as a result of the extra distance if you take total distance into account. The point is that nobody (except possibly Melissa) was running this event for time.
Tuesday, March 9. 2010
Melissa made a bet in October of last year (2009). She said that she would register me for the 2010 Napa Valley Marathon and pay the registration fee if I would actually run the race. Her wager was that I would owe her the entrance fee come March 7th, 2010 when the start gun fired and I wasn't anywhere near the start line in Calistoga, California. (She may have stipulated that I not only run the race but that I also train for it -- I don't recall the exact terms of the bet.) Her willingness to enter into such a bet could stem from my having registered for the 2009 Napa Valley Marathon and not having run it; or, that I'm a notorious for "running from the couch" (which is a polite way of saying that I don't usually train).
In my defense, I didn't run the 2009 Napa Valley Marathon due to an illness. Not just mildly sick -- I had lost my voice and part of my hearing. The fact that I wouldn't have run the 2009 race simply due to the horrid weather Napa was experiencing in Spring of 2009 somehow counts against me in Melissa's book. (Have I mentioned that I'm a fair weather runner?)
Well,...this year was a different story. Not only did I get some actual training in prior to the race, but the weather was perfect come race day. Blue sky; not too hot. Melissa, Heidi, Lily, Teresa, Susan, Jim, and I got up early Sunday morning and started the 26.2 mile jaunt down the Silverado Trail from Calistoga to Napa with ~2,300 other people. While Melissa and Lily ran faster than lightening (3:37:15 and 3:40:49, respectively), Heidi pushed me to achieve a personal best time of 4:51:50.
I now have one more shiny medal for my collection.
Monday, February 22. 2010
Although not supported by Apple's latest Boot Camp software (v3.0+), it is entirely possible to run 64 bit Windows 7 on an original MacPro (MacPro1,1). I'm running a MacPro1,1 with two 2.66GHz dual-core Intel Xeons, 8GBs of RAM, four 250GB SATA drives, a SuperDrive, and an SATA Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive. In addition to running Snow Leopard, I want to run the 64 bit version of Windows 7 -- rather than the 32 bit version -- so that I can take advantage of all 8GBs of RAM. Enabling access to the SATA Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive and the three additional, internal SATA hard drives is a challenge under any version of Windows on a MacPro. There are a few tricks you need to know to make everything work, but you're going to run Windows on a Mac -- why should extra work be a surprise?
This post isn't intended to be a step-by-step tutorial. Instead, I'm writing it to offer the necessary hints for a successful build. Knowing that it is possible is more than half the battle.
First, the 64 bit Windows 7 installer DVD will not boot on a MacPro1,1. You'll need to create a new installer that will boot on a MacPro1,1. See: Jowie's Blog post for details on how to do this. The new installer will work as you expect a modern Windows operating system installer should work. Difficulty Rating: 3 of 10.
Second, Apple's Boot Camp 3.0+ installer for Windows will not install its drivers on a MacPro1,1. Again, I'll spare you the various technical and conspiratorial reasons given for why Apple doesn't support 64 bit Windows 7 on a MacPro1,1. Suffice to say that it's still possible to install the drivers without very much difficulty. See: John Robbins' Blog post for details on how to do this. Difficulty Rating: 1 of 10.
Third, with the 64 bit version of Windows 7 and Apple's 64 bit Boot Camp drivers installed, you may start to experience the Windows Blue Screen of Death (a.k.a., BSOD). I haven't run across a technical explanation for why this occurs, but I know how to remedy it (as long as you're willing to give up access to your Macintosh partition[s] when booted into Windows). All you have to do is rename C:/Windows/System32/drivers/AppleHFS.sys and C:/Windows/System32/drivers/AppleMNT.sys. I do this by adding "-rm" after the name and before the dot-extension (i.e., "AppleHFS-rm.sys" and "AppleMNT-rm.sys"). Doing this will keep them from loading after your next reboot -- which you will want to do immediately. Keep in mind that each update to the Boot Camp software (i.e., v3.0 to v3.1) will likely undo that renaming. You'll need to remember to go back and rename those two files if you want to avoid the return of BSODs after updates. Difficulty Rating: 1 of 10.
At this point you should have a perfectly functional MacPro running both Snow Leopard and the 64 bit version of Windows 7. You should be happy with this outcome -- there are plenty who will tell you that it isn't even possible. You probably should be satisfied that you got this far. The next step would be labeled "Here There Be Monsters" if it were on an ancient map. Be warned. I think I spent three full days getting it to work. It WILL work but you might just end up starting over from scratch several times if one of the steps goes wrong. So, why would anybody want to tackle the next step? Because they bought an SATA Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive that works under Snow Leopard but can't be seen by Windows. Because they have additional, internal SATA HDDs that work under Snow Leopard but can't be seen by Windows. The cause for both is the same: lack of support for Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) when booting into Windows. So, the final step in my checklist is to enable AHCI support. We'll pick up where we left off:
Fourth, your MacPro defaults to a legacy controller mode when installing/booting Windows. Not only does this result in your drive controller running at 100MB/s (instead of its 1.5GB/s capability), it also keeps Windows from seeing any devices connected to the other five on-board SATA ports. After trying several different step-by-step instructions without success, I finally came across the instructions posted on the MacRumors Forums. All you'll give up after successfully completing this final step is the use of the Boot Camp Control Panel under Windows. Booting into Snow Leopard will require rebooting your MacPro while holding down the option key so that you can select the boot OS. Difficulty Rating: 8 of 10.
That's it! You've tricked out your first generation MacPro with Snow Leopard and 64 bit Windows 7.
 I'm not kidding about this. By "scratch" I mean all the way back to wiping the boot drive and installing Snow Leopard.
Thursday, January 14. 2010
While in New Zealand I ran across a company that makes, arguably, the best umbrella on the market. I'm not saying that lightly. As a resident of Seattle, I have to give rain more respect than the average American. There are days when it rains so hard that just the splash-back will soak your clothes to the middle of your thighs. I've been through hundreds of umbrellas that performed more like a disposable trinket than a shield. Moderate wind would turn them inside out as if that were their natural state. The fabric detached from the ribs and the ribs crumpled like dry grass. Generally useless. The whole lot of them. Small, compact, golf-sized -- they all were designed with the lowest common denominator as a goal.
But then I read about the Blunt Umbrella in a magazine on my flight back to Los Angeles. Blunt appeared to have solved all of the failure points typical in existing umbrella designs. They attached the canopy to a set of ribs with expanding anchors inside of sown pockets -- not just a single thread snaking through tiny eyelet. The ribs are several times the diameter of those on a typical umbrella, and I can't imagine that they would buckle under any wind force still within a person's ability to keep hold of the umbrella. To top all that off, the Blunt Umbrellas are aesthetically pleasing.
I've been using one of the Blunt Umbrellas since late October 2009, and I couldn't be happier. Don't let the NZ$110 (~US$77) price tag frighten you away -- this will be the last umbrella you'll ever need to buy.
[Full disclosure: Although I've never received any monetary compensation for my product endorsements, Blunt gave me a second umbrella for free after I ordered and paid for the first one. The second, free umbrella was an unexpected gift for the help I provided them in debugging a foreign payment problem with their online storefront.]
Wednesday, January 13. 2010
We've all heard the predictions that one day our refrigerators and microwaves will be connected to the Internet. I've always been a little skeptical about the benefits in those particular cases, but the smart people over at Withings created an Internet-enabled bathroom scale that I really, really love. I've been using it for the past couple days, since UPS so kindly delivered it from Amazon. Once configured, you use it like you would any other bathroom scale. The pure magic happens when -- in addition to displaying the data on its built-in LCD screen -- it automatically senses which of the family members is stepping on it at that very moment and transmits (via WiFi) all of the readings (weight and body composition) to Withings' Internet service. The data is instantly available through an account at Withings and through an iPhone application (WiScale).
Why would anybody want such a device? If you're like me and you're working to regain some of the fitness lost after years of working behind a desk in the technology industry, the scale is a godsend. Trending data is extremely valuable and the only alternative is hand documenting each weigh-in. Plus, the data is now available for other Internet applications, such as Google Health and RunKeeper. Who only knows what future applications could use the data in life improving ways.
I've been remiss in my posts about races. Excuse: the 2009 Royal Victoria Marathon occurred shortly after the wedding and just before a three-week honeymoon in New Zealand. None-the-less, 2009 was my sixth metal for the Royal Victoria race: five half-marathons and one full-marathon. It is my favorite race -- there's just no question about it. As I have posted in the past, we make a weekend of the race event. At least six of the running crew went this last year. It's a time for the creation of found memories.
The other reason I felt the need to post about RVM is that a bunch of us are running another race this next weekend. I'd hate to end up with a log jam of race metals. ;) In all seriousness, congratulations to everyone who ran the RVM in 2009! I hope to see you all later this year (October 10th) in Victoria for Dim Sum, Lululemon shopping, carbo-loading at Il Torrazo, and the race.
Pick your poison now: 13.1 or 26.2.
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