Archive for September, 2014

Scottish Motorcyclists

I did not know there was such a large contingent of Scottish bikers. Or maybe they’re Irish.

I see guys on motorcycles, and they have shirts or bumper stickers that say “Loud pipes save lives.”

I’m glad these people like their Scottish heritage and all, but I’m confused as to what lifesaving quality bagpipes contain?

Loud enough to wake the dead? I suppose that would qualify.

image of a bagpiper with the saying loud pipes save lives

Next up – someone needs to make aftermarket motorcycle exhausts that resemble bagpipes, complete with a chanter for different notes.

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were [a]thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.

Exodus 19:16

Marathon Summary

No photos of the weekend, because I didn’t want to carry a camera with me.

Here are some of my thoughts and observations from my participation in the 2014 Air Force Marathon.

I prefer to say I participated in the marathon, rather than ran in the marathon, because my pace doesn’t qualify as a run. Jog maybe, run no.

  • First off, packet pickup is held offsite and the day before the race, in order to simplify logistics on race day. It does do that, but it is complicated by having the 5k race during and at the packet pickup. Marathon, half marathon, and 10k are Saturday at the air force base. The 5k is Friday evening, at the venue where the packet pickup is, and at the main time when all the marathoners are trying to pickup their stuff. If you are going to participate in the AF marathon, be sure to get your packet before 5pm Friday.
  • The expo was large and you couldn’t short-circuit it. It’s in an arena, and you can’t just go to the pickup table and get your stuff. You must walk around the entire arena – the entrance and tables are setup such that you must walk past each and every vendor before you get your stuff. I suppose that lets them charge more for the vendor spaces, since the visitors are guaranteed.
  • Shuttle buses. Given how bad the parking and traffic were Friday night, I was worried that having every arrive at the expo center for shuttle buses Saturday morning would cause equal congestion. But it didn’t. Must have been the 5k. I had no problem getting on the bus, although it did seem to drop us off about a quarter mile from the start line.
  • The starting area was marked well, with flags for various expected finish times to space people out and keep things organized.

    A few minutes before the start, they had the big wigs, both from the Air Force and from the sponsors, get up on stage and make the necessary announcements and acknowledgements. They had a microphone, but it was not very effective. Since none of the runners could hear them, no one paid any attention. But then the national anthem started, sung rather well by a female member of the AF. Her voice at least carried well enough to be heard and, being on an active base, everyone respected the song. The flag was shown on the screen, when the screen was not showing the singer. There are some sporting events where people don’t care about the national anthem. This was not one of those.

  • The start was interesting, as I was expecting a starting pistol or a horn. What we got instead was more like a cannon blast – a deep, booming starting shot. But at least there was no question about it. Also, I heard they used to do a flyover before the start but, due to budget constraints, there was no flyover this year.
  • As far as courses go, it is one of the less-scenic courses. Unless you like pavement and chain-link fences. Because that’s what most of this race seemed to be. And I expected that, based on what I had read.
  • The day was nice and sunny, surprisingly warm for the second half of September. But the wind more than made up for that. The wind was fierce. And since the base had a lot of open areas and long straight stretches, we got just about all of the wind.
  • Main interesting thing during the race: barefoot guy. Did I mention it was pavement the whole way? And this guy (wearing a white and dark blue jersey with a verse from Isaiah on it) was running barefoot the whole way. I stuck with him and his brother for the first several miles, then they dropped back.
  • Since there were not many spectators (an active military base is not open to the public), there were not many signs. But in one of the few spectator areas outside the base, I remember only one sign as being amusing: Seems like a lot of work for a banana.
  • The pace team captains were a varied lot. The one I tried to stick near – the 3:55 finish time – was quieter. But the 4:00 finish time lady was not. Her voice carried across most of the base.

    Here is a conversation that played out behind me somewhere around mile 1:
    4:00 lady: WHERE Y’ALL FROM?
    Some female runner: Alabama!
    4:00 lady: WOOHOO! ROLL TIDE!
    Some female runner: WAR EAGLE!
    4:00 lady: ROLL TIDE!
    (at this point, I was thinking things could get ugly. But people swallowed their words and were quiet for a bit, after which this happened:)
    Some male runner: Michigan. Go blue!
    Some other male runner: No, Air Force Go Blue!
    at which point several other runners erupted in cheers.

  • The finish is the longest mile ever. I thought it would never end. The wind didn’t help. I normally have a decent finishing kick. People were cheering at the 1/2 mile-to-go mark, so I tried to pick it up for the last 1/2 mile. But I was spent. I managed a decent kick only for the last 200 yards.
  • This is one of the only races I know that hands out pizza slices as part of the post-race food at the finish line. But that was also the slowest part. I had my bagel and banana and water, so I didn’t feel like waiting behind 20 people for pizza. My leg muscles would not have let me stand in line anyway. So I skipped the pizza.
  • I am going to have to stick to half marathons or under. My body can’t handle the full marathons. You know those encouraging, inspiring slogans such as You can achieve anything your mind can believe ?

    They’re wrong.

    My mind believed I could run that marathon in under 4 hours. My leg muscles did not agree. Guess who won the argument?

  • Through most of the race, there were signs that said Alert Level: Low. Or maybe it was Threat Level. Either way, runners were not suspicious.

    But at the finish line, the signs said Alert Level: Moderate. Apparently spectators are a problem. But at least now my kids have had the experience of being wanded at a checkpoint.

then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead.

Genesis 31:23

School Work

I know people have criticized the newer math sections in elementary schools, due to the way they comply to Common Core.

One of my kids’ math sheets illustrates one of the absurdities:

image of a math problem that asks the student how he knew what to do, how did you figure this out

It’s the “How did you figure this out?” part that would aggravate me if I were still in school.
How did I figure this out? You just spent hours of classroom time teaching me how to figure this out, that’s how.

I would guess they get a lot of nebulous answers – with math, by writing the numbers, etc. I liked my son’s answer: “using my knowledge”. That is how it’s done, after all.

But the people who dismiss this question as useless are missing the hidden agenda.

It’s not a math sheet – it’s subtle career projection test.

In my years in the industry, I have found that audits – not financial audits, but business process audits – ask similar questions. I think these math sheets are secretly trying to gauge which students would make good process auditors and place them on the appropriate career path.

A general business process audit question would be something like “How do you know how to do your job?” To which my default answer would normally be something like “Well, I went to college and then the other people here at the company told me how our product is supposed to work and then I used my knowledge.”

But since the how-to-survive-an-audit pamphlet said not to answer in that manner, my default answer now is something like “I follow the engineering process workflow document, which is located at this intranet web address. No, I do not have any paper copies of it, because that would be bad.”

They are all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge.

Proverbs 8:9

Ferrous Wheel

image of a ferrous wheel - a Ferris wheel made of iron (Fe) and a non-ferrous wheel - a Ferris wheel made of aluminum (Al), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), tungsten (W), mercury (Hg), and silver (Ag).

Next up, a ferrets wheel. Or maybe a Paris wheel.

only the gold and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin and the lead,

Numbers 31:22

Crying Wolf

There once was an IT manager who tended the computers at a business on the outskirts of town. He was bored, because things were running just fine.

To amuse himself, he sent out a company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: all employees must change their passwords immediately. Every password must be at least 8 characters long and contain at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, and one number.”

The employees scrambled to comply with the new directive. To those who asked if it was critical because passwords had been stolen or compromised, he replied with a laugh, “It is in keeping with industry best practice!”

“Don’t cry ‘critical security issue’ if it’s not critical,” the employees said as they slammed the door behind them.

The next week, the IT manager was bored again.

To amuse himself, he sent out a company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: All employees must use Internet Explorer only. Any other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and others) will be automatically uninstalled.”

The employees scrambled to comply with the new directive, and to understand it. To those who asked if it was critical, he replied with a laugh, “It’s in the best interest of the corporate network to reduce security holes.”

“Don’t cry ‘critical security issue’ if it’s not critical,” the employees said as they slammed the door behind them. “And why choose IE as the preferred, no – required, browser if the goal is to reduce security flaws?” they employees wondered, to no avail.

The next week, someone outside the company had posted financial documents that were not yet published, and the IT manager could see there was a lot of unusual network activity occurring.

The IT sent out an urgent company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: All employees must disconnect their computers from the network due to a security breach.”

The employees didn’t even see the email, since they had all setup a filtering rule in their email software so that anything from the IT manager went straight into the virtual trash can.

The IT manager noticed there was no effect on the network activity, so he shut down the servers and took everyone offline. The employees, being the resourceful creatures that they were, enabled their phones’ internet sharing capabilities and worked off that, or left for a coffee shop, or went home and worked remotely – all the while keeping their work laptops connected to the internet. The IT manager sat helplessly as all the company secrets flowed into the public.

The next day, the big shots called the IT manager into their offices, wanting to know why all their files were gone.
“Didn’t you read my email about logging off yesterday?”
“No, your emails full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
“But that one yesterday was important.”
“Corporate policy states that email communication must be professional and accurate. Labeling everything as ‘critical security issue’ doesn’t strike us as accurate.”

Since the company had to spend a lot of money on the subsequent damage control and lawyers, it didn’t have enough room in the budget for the IT manager. He was laid off, but eventually found a job as a headline writer for a major news outlet.

The End.

He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

John 10:12

Parenting Caution

Kids learn language easily. The parent asks “Do you want to eat?” and, soon after, food appears. The child learns that eat or food means the end of his hunger.

Same thing with drink and his thirst. And so on.

But then there are some more complex or vague concepts that they don’t always catch. Sometimes, the parent needs to explain what he means. Otherwise, the child’s way of learning language – associating a feeling or result with the word or phrase uttered just before that – might not work.

For example, the phrase Be Careful.

As a parent, you should never say that phrase. Instead, say something specific. What, exactly, do you want your child to do or not do?

Here is an illustration of why be careful is ineffective.

image of a parent saying be careful and the child hearing what you are doing is fun

If you, as a parent, always say “Be careful!” when your risk-loving child is about to do something risky, he will interpret that phrase as meaning “what you are about to do is fun and thrilling!”.

Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it.

Proverbs 8:33

Vacation Recap, Minnesota, Part II

Day 4

Church in the morning, then some downtime inside due to rain.

photo of a rain-soaked window look out at a lake

I think the boys watched some car racing on TV and read.

After lunch though, the sun came back out and the boys went fishing.

photo of boys fishing off a dock