Meanderings of Z.

Location: United States

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Found a Runner Within

Once again there has been a huge gap in my writing.  I talked about obtaining the rank of Blank Belt back in April of 2011.  Since then I focused on learning how to be an instructor and became a certified instructor in September of 2011.  This past November I saw one of my first white belt students obtain the rank of Black Belt.  What a thrill; even more so than when I achieved it myself.

Back in 2013 I started running seriously again in preparation for testing for 2nd Dan.  The graduation requirements call for several physical challenges in addition to the curriculum.  One of these challenges is the ability to run 2 miles in 20 minutes.  Not a blazing pace, but a challenging one for anyone that doesn't train for it.  I found that I actually enjoyed it this time around and started to run far more than I was required.  Not only in terms of working on my time, but also my overall distance.

During the year I also changed the way I ate.  I focused on high protein combined with reasonable amounts of carbs and healthy fats.  I cut out junk food and empty carbs like chips and snacks, and really watched my sugar intake.  I didn't really drink anything but water so at least I didn't have to wane myself of sodas or other sweetened beverages.  As I ramped up my running and stuck with my new found food consumption I lost about 30 pounds.  My body shape completely changed.  I am in better shape now at 47 than I was when I left college.

By the time 2014 came to a close I had run 6 half marathons and multiple 5K and 10K races in between.  My half marathon time went from 2 hours and 32 minutes for the first race to 1 hour and 48 minutes on the last one.  Each half marathon race resulted in a new Personal Record (PR) throughout the year.

In the mean time, my wife (Trisha) has also started to run and to change the way she eats.  Being able to run together has really proven to be beneficial on many levels outside of simple physical fitness.  It is something we can share, plan and do together when we attend races.  We are awaiting our first Half Marathon together this March at the Biltmore house in Asheville, NC.  We are already talking about our first marathon next January 2016 in Disney World.  Trisha would like to do the 10K and the Marathon during that runDisney weekend, and I am targeting the Dopey challenge which is all four races over the four days (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon).  I am not sure if it is about seeing if I can simply do it, or getting the 6 medals that come with it.

As we continue on this journey I will try to continue to write about how our training and eating continues to evolve to adapt to our goals.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Time and Accomplishments

It is hard to believe how much time has passed since my last post; almost five years. Where do I begin? A while back I wrote a post titled "V4.0". It was about a change in jobs that I was about to undertake. Just over five years later now, I am on V5.0 of my career. After taking on a challenging problem for the National Archives (NARA) in the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) system, I have moved back into Commercial software development.

While I learned a lot during my 5 years on the ERA system, the overhead of government contract work, and the heavy processes of a federal integrator couldn’t take a back seat to the problem domain. Since the contract was winding down, it was time to find something new. And new, is exactly what I found. A commercial software company using bleeding edge technology to change the way people work. The next year is going to be really exciting.

But even with all the long hours at work over the past few years, I managed to achieve a goal with my two children that I have always wanted to attain; a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Ever since I saw my first martial arts movie and heard the commercials for Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do in the Washington DC area, I wanted to study. When my son came home from school one day after career day, and said he learned about a local martial arts school. I was instantly compelled to take him for the free lesson he had been offered. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the sign indicating that this was in fact a Jhoon Rhee style school. I was instantly transported back to 1978, sitting in front of a TV, watching his now infamous commercial.

After hearing about the program, I immediately sign him up. After making her wait a few months to make sure she was serious about it, I signed up my daughter. A few months after that I decided to stop being a spectator, and step into the role I wanted since the 70s; that of a martial arts student. This past April, we all tested for our 1st degree black belts, and passed. Part of the process involves writing an essay on our experience, and how it changed us. Perhaps I will post that here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where is my iPod!

There has been way too much going on for me to comment as of late. Long hours at work, a short vacation to Disney World, and the passing of my favorite season. Hopefully I can get to all of that soon.

But this article today struck me as absolutely hilarious. Steve Jobs and his amazing team at Apple have created a product so good, so necessary to own, that it is being used in political combat. Who would have ever thought that Apple would become so powerful and influential in world events?

U.S. Bans Sale of iPods to North Korea

Of course I am only concentrating on the Apple merchandise, but really, do the others matter? Well, maybe the Segway. I certainly don't see the ShitBrickPod being used in this manner anytime soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

One in Twenty-Six

That's all it takes. One small stupid mistake and your whole world is turned sideways. Upsidedown wouldn't be fair, but sideways seems about right. I can't walk without crutches, I can't cycle, I can't golf, and I find myself crawling around the house for a glass of water.

One small bone out of twenty-six and I am practically incapasitated. You would think twenty-six is pleanty. To the point that redundancy was built into the system. Or were we created so perfectly, with so little waste, that if you ruin one, you ruin the entire apparatus? That is what it seems like. After four days it feels like I don't even have a left foot; I can't use it. Man, I hate loosing control.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Tomorrow I start version 4.0 of my career. After nine years of various point releases in the v3.x sequence I figured it was time for a major overhaul. Stepping into the unknown is always a bit unnerving, but at the same time invigorating. I am excited about experiencing new challenges, meeting new people, and learning from new co-workers.

Although I will be staying in the software arena, I will be moving into large scale government and commercial solutions focused on digital libraries. The amount of information that flows electronically is mind boggling. The need to preserve it, centralize it, control it, secure it, and search it has never been more challenging nor more necessary. Personally, when I heard about this work I was intrigued by the complexities of bringing together data from heterogenous systems into a single repository. The whole project reminds me of a comment I read once on the future of miniaturization. That at some point in our lifetimes we will have devices as small as a watch with the contents of the library of congress at our fingertips. But if you can't find what you are looking for what good is it?

I am hoping that my experience in commercial software development, UI design, human factors, software architecture and my love of searching technologies and everything Google will serve me well. I have had the pleasure of working on some really amazing systems in my career. I feel certain that this is the next one.

Of course with any new challenge there are sacrifices. The largest of which is the completely insane commute that I will have to trek everyday. My hope is to work at home a few days a week or out of a more local facility once I get involved in the project. They seem to have vary understanding telecommuting policy based on other employees I have talked with.

Well, time to get things together for the first day of the rest of V4.0.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Benefits of Disruptive Technology

The phrase disruptive technology was coined a while ago by someone who’s name escapes me. Disruptive technology is a technology that is not necessarily new, but has manifested itself in such a way that it can profoundly change how something currently works, the cost of a current good or service, or even access to goods and services.

An article in CIO Magazine mentioned one such incarnation of this phenomenon with regards to photography and the internet. The internet is by no means “new”, but it is still changing how we purchase goods, interact with friends and relatives, our access to information and in fact has become as natural as “looking out the window”.

Specifically the article mentioned a web-based service called iStockPhoto that provides high quality photos, flash, and graphic designs to the masses. Normally corporations marketing departments, PR companies, greeting card companies, or anyone looking for specific photos, design work, or even multimedia would have to hire a professional. A specific example in the article was the hiring of a professional photographer to take stock photos that could be used in a marketing campaign of a large company. This can run hundreds of dollars an hour, plus the cost of the photos purchased.

iStockPhoto provides a digital marketplace where everyone from professional photographers and graphic designers, to the hobbyist can upload their photos for royalty free purchase for as low as $1. Although this certainly has an impact on professional photographers and the prices they can charge, it opens up the doors for smaller companies to create higher quality marketing materials at a fraction of the cost. Some of the photos are of high enough quality that they could be used as artwork (some of the black and white photographs are amazing).

The last time I logged into this site they had approximately 2 terabytes of photos and other multimedia files available for purchase. The site requires that every file that is uploaded be approved for quality, marketability, copyright infringement, and proper legal documentation (such as model release forms when people are visible). This helps protect all three parties that are involved (iStockPhoto, the artist, and the purchaser). This is obviously a time consuming requirement, but the general quality of the available items reflects its value.

The variety of photographs that are available run the gambit. Everything from portraits, to landscapes, to the quirky can be found. You can even find pictures of hot dogs with varying toppings. Clearly someone is going after Oscar Meyer.

Of course I had to sign up and give this a try. Since the acceptance of my application (this is also reviewed by the site including samples of your work) I have had about 5 photos approved for posting on the site (I have about 6 more awaiting approval). So who knows, someone searching for photos of Megan’s Bay or St. Thomas may put one of my photographs on a postcard.

Update: 23 June 2006

I sold my first photo! Whooo hoooo! Of course, it is only a dollar, but now I need to be on the lookout for a large pile of steam crabs that looks familiar.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Roadrunner and the Hyena

The roadrunner makes his way over the abrasive ground as though he is slightly levitating. Each left and right change made with purpose and intensity. Clearly he is looking for something. Or perhaps he has found it and is pursuing it across the landscape beyond my ability to visualize it.

As I watch the chase I am amazed as the speed at which this bird can run. It isn’t clear why it is running around after his prey instead of flying, but it is entertaining never the less. As it turns out I am not the only one. In the distance I can hear an odd sound that resembles a laugh. Not a deep, loud, belly laugh, but a high pitched, pointed, almost shrieking laugh. The sound of it alone is enough to make me join in the jocularity.

As I continue to watch out the window I see movement in the distance working its way closure. Turns out a hyena wanted a closer look at the roadrunner weaving its way around the landscape. I am not sure of the purpose of this close visit. Is the hyena simply interested in the entertainment value as am I, or is he looking for a late night snack? What do hyenas eat in the wild? If not the roadrunner, is he interested in the morsel the roadrunner has been pursuing for the past 15 minutes?

In the distance are the most spectacularly naked mountains I have ever seen. Jagged figures thrusting up from the otherwise flat horizon, with their red-orange color in sharp contrast to the blue sky acting as their backdrop. With no vegetation on their surfaces every detail of their carved features is visible. Shadows tracing the various facets acting as a sun dial as the shadows move across the mountain.

When I look back down, I find the roadrunner and hyena have both moved on. Looking back up at the mountain I expect to see a trail of dust and small nuclear explosion caused by a failed use of an Acme explosive device against the roadrunner.