All posts by Jeremy

Jeremy vs the Volcano (Haleakala)

The Setup

After looking a bit, one of the things that I really wanted to do while in Maui was a climb up Haleakala by bike. Haleakala is the volcanic mountain which towers over the eastern portion of the island rising to a height of over 10000 feet above sea level. One of the bigger “touristy” things to do while on the island is to actually pay for a van to take you up to the top of the mountain where they set you up with some sort of bike (a cruiser, a mountain bike, or something similarly simple) and let you ride down the mountain. But the thing for a real cyclist to do is instead to start at sea level with a bike and ride up to the top.

The first thing to do was to figure out a route. As it turns out, this is pretty straight-forward. There are a few accounts online including a really good one here. Routes are also on all the usual sites so I loaded one onto my Garmin. Most of the routes are right around 35 miles starting in the beach town of Paia and finishing at the summit. 35 miles, 10000 feet. This is starting to sound like a ride.

Getting a Bike

The second thing to do was figuring out a bike to ride. Option one would be to fly with my bike. The airlines have worked quite hard to make this a pretty infeasible option as they’ve increased the costs of flying with a bike. It’s really pretty sad and unfortunate as (from what I’ve read; this predates my serious riding) you used to be able to box a bike and fly with it pretty easily. Oh well. So it goes. A second option tends to be shipping the bike via UPS or FedEx. But being that we’re talking Hawaii, that’s really not much cheaper as you have to do air shipment rather than ground. That basically left renting a bike

Now renting a bike in a place where you’ve never been before can be a dicey concept. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to end up getting. When I was on the Outer Banks a couple of years ago for my sister’s wedding, I rented a bike and while it ended up being something I could ride, it wasn’t really that nice. A lower-end off-brand aluminum frame with a 105/Tiagra mix. From some looking around, though, it looked like West Maui Cycles rented pretty reasonable bikes. So I called them up and arranged to rent a bike for the week. In terms of road bikes, they rent Cannondales and I was told I’d either get a Six Thirteen or a Synapse depending on which had been returned by the time I got there for the pick up. And the price seemed reasonable too ($200 for the week).

So when we got to Maui, I headed to the bike shop to pick up the bike. I took my own helmet, pedals, shoes and saddle to help ensure I was as comfortable as possible. I also remembered to throw in one of the stem mounts for the Garmin so that I could follow routes. When I got there, the bike they had was the Synapse with an Ultegra/Dura-Ace mix and a compact crank. Not a shabby bike at all. The guys were even nice enough to go ahead and swap the saddle for mine and put on my pedals for me. I did a couple of test rides in the area closer to Kapalua to get to know the bike and until there was a day I had enough time to make the ride up the volcano.

When to Ride

Basically everyone’s account of the ride is that the weather can be a bit of a mixed bag on the island and especially on the way up the mountain so to try to give yourself as many days of a window for doing it as possible. I really didn’t want to go before Kara’s family arrived (Thursday) since I knew it would be an all-day trip and Saturday to Monday were likely to be taken with wedding stuff. So I really only had two possible days — Friday and Tuesday. I had decided to try for Friday. Then, on Thursday I began to track the progress of the hurricane heading for the islands… okay, so Friday is really my only bet now.

Day of the Ride

This of course meant that Thursday night, I slept terribly. Couldn’t fall asleep until later as my body adjusted to Hawaii time. Then, I got one of the random telemarketer + hang-up calls at 4 am. So I missed my alarm going off. I woke up at like 6:30 and had intended to be out of the condo by 5:30 at the latest. Oops. Some quick thinking and packing and I decided that even though it’d be a later start, I’d be okay and that I should still make a go for it if I was really going to have the chance to make the climb.

As I’m driving from Kapalua to Paia I start to realize the things I had left in the condo due to my very hurried packing. The first I realized was the heart rate monitor strap. Oh well, no big loss; I can just go on effort. More about finishing than pacing perfectly anyway. The second is sunscreen. This one’s a bit more important but I decide I’ll find some in Paia before I get started. So I keep driving and get to Paia a little after 8. I look for the best parking place and decide that the municipal lot off of Rt 36 right as you come into town is my best bet. I park and find some crappy sunscreen at a gas station so that I can be on my way. I’ve got the bike, spare tube and pump, GPS, two bottles (one electrolytes, one water), a tube of electrolyte drink tablets (these things are nice if you think you can only find water on your route), lots of Clif Shot bloks, a few clif bars, arm warmers and my knee warmers.

Off I Go!

At 8:15 (rather than 6:30 or so), I’m finally on my way on the route I had loaded onto the GPS. Right away I realize that this is no picnic as the road immediately slopes upward with a pretty steady 5% grade. No warm-up, no stretching… just climbing the hill.

At two miles in, I’m beginning to wonder “what the hell was I thinking?” as I slowly grind along. But at the same time, I’m starting to get into some sort of rhythm of spinning along. Seeing the first group of the downhill riders gives me a little bit of a push and I get even more into a rhythm. But it’s still definitely a rhythm of pain as I can’t quite get to an entirely comfortable position on the bike. Not to mention that it’s quite humid and the wind has picked up a bit. I keep going, just telling myself that I need to keep going until the Sunrise Market — regularly pointed out as the last place to get food before things begin in earnest.

At around mile seven, a couple of cyclists turn off of a side road onto the road ahead of me. They were maybe a quarter of a mile ahead, but it gives me some amount of drive and I begin to pedal faster and close in on them. I speak briefly with them as I reach them, but I continue on feeling strengthened by having seen some others on the road. I considered the idea of trying to stick with them so that I’d have some company, but I know that at this point, I’m better off keeping my own pace than trying to tie myself to anyone else.

But passing the two of them is enough to keep me moving for quite a while. The next section actually has tiny little sections of a brief downhill or flatness which helps me a lot as I can rest even briefly on them. The number of downhilll riders is also increasing. The leaders of those groups as well as the drivers of the vans following them frequently wave or give an encouraging word. So I make it pretty easily to the Sunrise Market at about mile 12 and around 3000 feet of elevation

Given that this is one of the three total places to stop for water, I figure it’s worth refilling my bottle and hit the restroom. By now, it’s hot out so I want to be sure I keep drinking. I’m not stopped that long, but long enough. As I get back on the road, I see a rider down the road a little bit behind me. I make the turn onto the road up to the national park itself and the guy behind me eventually catches up to me. We talk briefly and then he’s off. Again I consider trying to ride with him, but realize my own pace is better to keep.

I keep him in my sight for a little while, but the path of very sharp switchbacks takes him away from my sight after a while. I keep pedaling, looking to just notch off every 500 feet of elevation gain. As I pass the 5000 ft marker, I realize that I’m having to breathe a lot harder — the air really does get quite a bit thinner as you go up in altitude. I grit my teeth and keep going. At this point, I see an occasional car going down or get passed by an occasional car going up, but it’s mostly just me and the mountain. As I reach 6000 feet, it’s kind of cold as I’m now into the clouds (!). I pull out my arm warmers and put them on as I keep riding along knowing that the next stop of the lower ranger station isn’t that far away.
Entering Haleakala National Park

Finally, when I don’t know how much more I can go, the sight of the sign for entering the real area of the national park and the lower ranger station appears. I stop to take a quick picture and then pay my $5 park entry fee and ask the ranger if there’s somewhere I can get some water. He points me to the spigot on the side of the station where I gratefully refill my nearly empty at this point bottles. He also asks if I’m training for the Cycle to the Sun race in two weeks. I’m not, but the thought of that suffering helps to push me on again. Well, that plus the fact that I now paid $5 to enter the park 🙂

If the previous leg was hard, this one is mentally mind-breaking. The physical hardship is, at this point, mostly a dull throb. The real pain at this point is the mental effort required to keep pushing forward. I know that I have only about eleven miles to go, but I also know that I still have over 3000 feet of climbing in cloudy/misty/cool conditions while in the clouds. But I’m not going to let the mountain beat me. And so I continue on. My mind concentrates on very few things during this time. Pedaling in small circles. Keeping my eyes on the road ahead of me, but trying not to look up the slope much. That I want to beat the mountain.
Summit Road

As I continue to make my way up, there are now no trees lining the way and the hillside is scattered with just small bushes. In addition, you’re really starting to be able to tell that this is a volcanic mountain. The side is covered in the sort of rocky look that you just associate in your mind with a volcano. Or Mars. I think I zoned out a little and was delerious for a bit of this chunk of the ride. The guy who had passed me eventually passes me going down when I’m about 4 miles from the top and he gives an encouraging word as he passes.

The upper visitor’s center is a mile from the summit and 600 feet down. I pull over slightly and consider for a second stopping there. But I know that if I do, I will never let myself live it down and so I climb back upon my bike and slowly pedal my way upwards. It helps that at this point I’m above the clouds and can see the sun again. As I approach the parking lot at the summit, I get a burst of energy and stand to do some sort of victory yell as I enter the parking lotand I stand to dance on the pedals, unleashing my suitcase of courage with a scream as I enter the parking lot in victory

Four hours and thirty-four minutes. 35 miles. 10000 feet of vertical gain. The single hardest thing I think I’ve ever done on a bike, both in terms of physical effort required but even more from the amount of mental effort. It was like being dropped off the back of the field at a race but orders of magnitude more difficult.

The summit has a fair number of people and some of them look on with disbelief that I did the entire ride up. Some of the others had passed me multiple times as they stopped at scenic lookouts on the way and congratulated me. I pulled out my phone as I sat on the top of the world for some pictures and a brief rest before making my way back down the mountain.
10023 Feet
Holding the bike aloft
View from the summitAnother view from the summit

And then, it was time to make my way down. I stopped at the upper visitor’s center to again refill my bottles and use the restroom. I also pull on my knee warmers as I realize it’s a lot cooler on the way down given the fact that I basically am coasting in a high wind. As I make my way down, I also notice the third thing I had forgotten for the day — my long fingered gloves. Oh well. I start down and also sort of wish I had a wind jacket or a rain jacket as the misting picks up as I hit the cloud layer.
View from 5000 feet

The way down is pretty boring. It’s a mix between coasting, braking for the sharp turns that aren’t banked and feeling the fact that I’d been sitting on the bike for 5+ hours. Also, trying to pedal a little to keep from cramping badly after the difficulty of the ride up. I honestly don’t know at this point why anyone would want to do that much less pay to do it. But it’s definitely still a lot faster. Less than two hours for the entirety of the ride down, even when you include the stops I made including for pictures at 5000 feet.
Another view at 5000 feet

I make it back to Paia and navigate the now significant traffic in town to get back to the car. I gladly dismount and am glad. In the battle of Jeremy vs Haleakala, I beat the volcano.

After doing it and having a little bit of time to reflect on it, I’m even more glad that I did the ride. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done on the bike. I think it even can count for the use of the word epic. After looking at the times of the finishers in the race which the ranger had mentioned to me, I’m even more glad as I think that my time was quite respectable given that I was doing it solo and not as a race. I might have to do some of the New England hill climbing races as it was a lot of fun.

Equipment-wise, I think I was pretty well prepared. A compact crank was definitely good to have. I can see where a triple could help. Arm warmers and knee warmers was okay for August. I wish I had remembered my long fingered gloves for the way down. A jacket might have been nice, but having to carry it up probably negates the value of it. Leg warmers vs knee warmers is probably a matter of personal preference — it’s six of one, half dozen of the other for me until it’s quite a bit cooler.

Last of all, the route I used is below as well as a link to Garmin Connect where you can export the route to follow yourself if you find yourself in Maui and wanting to ride the volcano.
Haleakala Route Map

Maui, Days 0-3

Kara’s sister is getting married on Maui so we had a good excuse to head to Hawai’i. Even though the timing wasn’t perfect with my class schedule, we decided to take a little bit of extra time for a real vacation. Because if you’re going to fly twelve hours each way, you really should.

The trip started on Monday with a very reasonable flight time (11 am) out of Logan. Traffic wasn’t too bad heading to the airport and we checked in and had plenty of time. We also grabbed a sandwich to have on the flight since we figured food options would be scarce and we’d be hungry. We were right. The first leg from BOS to LAX was pretty uneventful. I read a fair bit without getting motion sick (yay!) and the time went by pretty quick. We landed at LAX and had a few hours until the next leg of flying. So we wandered around the terminal to stretch our legs and then got some “dinner”. Not great options, but the Chili’s was as expected. We then boarded the next plane a little late and were on our way to Maui (OGG). This flight was a little bit less tranquil — lots of early elementary school aged kids running around and yelling. I never quite realized that Maui was a popular destination for families, but apparently it is (now?). We landed a little later than intended, picked up our bags and headed to get the rental car. Not too long later, we were on our way to Kapalua and our condo. We made a quick pit stop for another meal and finally got to the condo at 10 pm local time. 4 am Eastern. After being up at 7. Long day. We quickly looked around the (nicely set up) condo and wasted no time in falling asleep.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at just before 6 am local time and caught the sunrise out our bedroom window. Was quite nice. Then I relaxed a bit, had a little bit of breakfast and waited for Kara to get up. Then we showered and headed out to pick up some supplies. We hit the grocery store and headed back to go down and check out the beach. While we can see the ocean from our condo, the beach is a short walk but it was nice. We sat there for a little bit and then headed out to find some lunch. For lunch, we ended up at the Cool Cat Cafe in Lahaina Center. Kind of cool with basically an open air covered deck for most of the seating with typical sort of diner-y fare. I had a Hula Chicken sandwich — grilled chicken with Hawaiian sauce, bacon, pineapple slices and cheese. Food was pretty good, the service left a little to be desired. Then we wandered around Lahaina a little bit.

For dinner, we went to Whaler’s Village and ended up eating at the Hula Grill for what has so far been our best meal. It’s really sort of two restaurants in one — one being outdoors and on the beach and the other being a more normal dining room. We ate at the outdoors portion and I had a spicy roasted fish which was delicious. Perfectly prepared and the fish was clearly very fresh. We also had much better luck in terms of the service we received. Atmosphere was also kind of cool with lots of tiki torches, a little band playing Hawaiian music and just being beachside (even though it was dark by then). While we waited to be seated, we also got to see the sunset over the water which was pretty nice. After that, it was back to the condo and another night of turning in early.
Sunset in Maui from the Hula Grill

Wednesday morning I again woke up at around six. Spent a little bit of time prodding the wireless router in the condo and finally sort of got it cooperating. Makes uploading pictures and writing blog posts a lot easier! Then, we decided to set up and go on a tour of a Maui Gold pineapple plantation. This was awesome. The driver/tour guide (Carlos) is an employee of the company but basically is in charge of the tours. He either knew a lot of Hawaii and pineapple history or he was really good at making it up 🙂 Out in the fields, we got to taste pineapple straight off the bush at various levels of sweetness/ripeness. Usually you’d wonder if your tour guide got off the bus with a machete, but in this case it was a very very good thing. We also got to pick pineapples of our own (two each to take back plus one to take back to eat while we’re here). All in all a very good time.

In the afternoon, I went out for a quick little ride on the bike I’m renting. I rented from West Maui Cycles and ended up getting a Cannondale Synapse with an Ultegra/Dura-Ace component mix. Maybe a year or so old? In any case, a pretty nice bike. I headed out west on highway 30 and into the West Maui mountains. Got in a good 26 mile ride with a significant amount of climbing — there’s certainly not climbing like that at home!

Then for dinner, we headed back to Front St. This time, we ended up at BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria as it had pretty good reviews as far as pizza in Maui. I only later realized it was a chain. Was pretty good though. We then grabbed some shave ice and headed back to the condo after walking around a fair bit.

On Thursday, I again woke up pretty early and this time went out on a ride when I woke up. Headed out the same way trying to see how far I could make it before needing to turn around but hit a pretty weird storm with heavy rain and wind not that far out. Rather than ride through it and end up soaked, I figured I’d turn around and ride east/south towards Lahaina in the more “urban” area. Was fine, but nothing to really speak of.

The afternoon was pretty low-key and then Kara’s parents and one of her sisters + husband + six month old got in. So we went over and talked with them for a bit. Then we went to dinner at Kobe — a teppanyaki place. It was your pretty typical teppanyaki place. But a good time and the food was definitely good. Then it was an early night to turn in as I was planning to get up extra early to head out and ride up Haleakala on Friday. But that post will have to wait for later.

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. On the way back in from the ride today in Lexington, I had a run-in with a car. It was the intersection of 4/225 and Mass Ave (right by Wilson Farms). The driver of a large pickup truck was pulling out to make a left turn and we were moving along Mass Ave. There were six of us, all in bright green and blue. He stopped and then started to pull out again and then stopped again. I wasn’t sure if he was going to keep going at that point or stop. Scott managed to get around the front, but I basically aimed for the softest landing I could.

That landing, as it turned out, was slowing a lot, hitting the front wheel against the front corner panel/bumper and then somehow bouncing back off the hood (I somewhat remember my hands pushing off the hood) and landing on my feet. Unfortunately, in the process, I managed to chip two of my front teeth.

911 was called and Lexington’s emergency services were very quick to arrive with a fire truck, a paramedic, an ambulance, and a police officer. After landing on my feet, I stayed on the ground for a minute or two to make sure all was okay and then moved to the curb. As the paramedics came over, I was pretty sure I was okay and eventually just did the “refused service” with the ambulance. They looked and didn’t see any protrusion or obvious things other than the chipped teeth.

The officer was very nice and took my information. Apparently he’s citing the driver. I have all of the driver’s information and plan to follow up with his insurance before long.

The bike was ridable for the 2 miles to the shop, but the frame is shot — there’s a huge bend in the top tube and in addition, the rear shifter is destroyed. Pictures in the future. As far as the truck — not sure if there was any damage; I kind of doubt it.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. At this point, the worst pain is that my teeth are a bit sensitive and eating promises to be exciting as I can’t really use my front teeth. I’ve got a small scrape below my right knee and a little bit of soreness in my left knee and my right elbow, but I’ve already started the ibuprofin for those. And I’ve spoken with a dentist and he said it sounds like nothing that needs immediate attention, so I’m to call him first thing Monday morning.

The driver’s insurance should, especially given the citation, cover the dental work as well as the bike work and hopefully without a fight, but I’ve already put in the first contact to a local lawyer who specializes in bike accidents. Good guy and former president of MassBike and also previously helped Kate in an accident.

Witnesses included Scott, Jen, Barb, Brian and Suraffel.

And now, I’m starving, so I’m going to go find some food to cut up into tiny pieces and chew in the back of my mouth. I’m intending to go out tomorrow on the Merlin to unwind a bit and still am planning on doing Seacoast Safari next weekend. And I’m still looking for people to support me on that ride. Hopefully by then with intact teeth!

Repeating the cycle, time to kill rhpl

Continuing on the historical vein, once upon a time there was a package included in Red Hat Linux called pythonlib. One of the things I helped do was to finish killing it off. We went along and then a few releases later, wanted to share some python code again. Thus was born rhpl – the Red Hat Python Library. It started out simply enough — some wrappers for translation stuff and one or two other little things. And then it began to grow, as these things do over time. Some of the things made sense, some less so. Over time, pieces have moved around into other things (including rhpxl — the Red Hat Python Xconfig library)

Fast-forward to today and it’s a bit of a mess with things contributed by various people and used in one config tool (or two) and barely maintained. Also a lot of the things being wrapped have gotten a lot better in the python standard library. The gettext module is leaps and bounds better than the one from python 1.5 and also the subprocess module is awesome for spawning processes.

Therefore, I think it’s time to continue the cycle and kill off rhpl for Fedora 12. I’m starting to make patches and file them for packages using rhpl to transition them over. Help much appreciated from anyone that wants to join in.

For the rhpl.translate -> gettext case, you generally want to replace the import of _ and N_ from rhpl.translate with something like

import gettext
_ = lambda x: gettext.ldgettext(domain, x)
N_ = lambda x: x

Stress, sickness, productivity

The summer semester has been a bit stressful so far — supply chain taking six to nine hours a week just for class has left me with little time to think or breathe, but luckily that ends next week.  As a result, I think my body decided it had had enough and didn’t really fight off whatever the summer flu going around is.  So to add to the busy factor, I was pretty worn down and sick for a few days this week.

Today, I finally started feeling back to myself and got a lot of productive stuff done. Finally caught up with a lot of bug stuff, got around to updating the machine that I host everything on past Fedora 9 (!), and even sat down tonight to wrap the handlebars on my CAAD9 with new bar tape. Hadn’t done a bar wrapping job before and I think that it came out okay. There are definitely places it could be better and I learned a few things as I went to use next time, but it seems like it’ll work just fine. And as an added bonus, I’m now fairly comfortable that I can do it myself and not have to always get it done at the bike shop.

Looking forward to getting out tomorrow for a ride — I only commuted one day this week and other than that, it’s been a week since I’ve been on the bike. Longer than I’d choose usually, but I also know when not to push with getting back on the bike to avoid staying sicker longer.

A request for some simple testing

Another thing that’s been on my list to look at that I’ve finally had time to sit down this week is the new isohybrid support in syslinux. This lets you take an ISO image, post-process it and then be able to either burn the ISO to a CD or write it to a USB stick with dd. Given that we stopped making a disk image form of boot.iso a couple of releases ago to save on duplicated/wasted space, this is obviously kind of cool.

The problem was that the first time I tested it, it looked like it overwrote the checksums we use for the mediacheck functionality in anaconda. It turns out I just wasn’t thinking — we need to implant the checksum *after* we do the isohybrid modification.

So without further ado, I’ve built a test version of the Fedora 11 boot.iso that is usable in this form. Testing of it would be much appreciated!

How to test

  1. Download the test image
  2. Try to burn it to a CD like you normally would. Ensure that it still boots normally. You don’t have to go through the full install, just boot it. Extra points if you can test mediacheck
  3. Find a USB stick that’s at least 256 megs that doesn’t have any data you care about on it. Now try to write the test image to it using dd (dd if=test-isohybrid-boot.iso of=/path/to/device bs=1M). Again, you don’t have to install, just boot into the installer. Note that we won’t automatically find the second stage and you’ll get asked where to find the installer images.
  4. Let me know the results in the comments (including type of machine).

Assuming this works, I’ll get the changes in so that we do this by default with boot.iso and then probably also try to make it so that the loader can automatically find the second stage image on either the CD or the USB stick. I’ll also consider doing similar for the livecds, although there’s more value with liveusb-creator / livecd-iso-to-disk there as you also want to set up persistence in a lot of cases.

Boot tales, woo ooh!

(Take the title in the context of the theme from Duck Tales and maybe it makes sense?)

There was a long and rambling discussion last week about the version of GRUB that’s shipped in Fedora and specifically the fact that the support for ext4 did not land in the version we shipped in Fedora 11. Now, as was said on the thread, this is because the patches weren’t reviewed and ready in time for beta (there are a couple of different ones… so which one is right?) and so we didn’t feel comfortable putting them in after beta, especially as with the way GRUB works, the same filesystem code gets used for ext2, ext3 and ext4 with the patches. A little unfortunate? Yes. Would it have been better if we had gotten them in so that you could do an install of Fedora 11 onto a single partition? Sure. But that’s one of the costs of a time-based release schedule.

In any case, one of the things that came out of the thread was that I gave a history of the version of GRUB in Fedora. For posterity, I’ll repeat that here, with some edits.

So, the gory history for those who might be interested. Eight years ago (!), we decided that the advantage of not having to rerun lilo after changing the config file as you can just read the config file off the filesystem with grub was worthwhile. We had, at that point, been patching lilo for quite a while to have a graphical menu. Therefore, keeping a graphical menu was a branding requirement. Connectiva at the time had a patch to grub that worked. We picked it up, shipped it, and it (mostly) worked. Efforts were made to integrate upstream, but they were largely uninterested. Along the way, significant changes to the graphics patch had to be made as grub evolved and a few other efforts were made to push it upstream. Eventually, the answer was “no, we’ll do something in the next big version of grub after grub 1.0”. Then the main developers went away and we were basically left maintaining a (large at this point) fork. As there is no upstream for grub 0.9x left, we’ve been left in a position of maintaining it and we’ve added some real features that have been needed along the way as grub 2’s progress has been slow at best and we were initially unhappy with some of the direction taken

So, that’s where we are today. We essentially ship a fork of GRUB 0.9x with graphics support, support for a lilo -R type functionality (so you can reboot once into a single kernel), EFI, and some more little things that I’m not thinking of right now.

With that in mind, I sat down and spent some time with a current snapshot of grub2. Overall, it’s made a lot of progress in the time since I last looked at it (a year ago? maybe a little more?). It was actually able to successfully boot for me in KVM and there’s equivalent graphics support to what we’re carrying in our grub 0.9x package. That said, there’s still quite a bit of things to verify exist before we can switch. And just in my look, there are a number of small things that would need work, especially around the way the config file gets created and updated. And with the very short runway for Fedora 12, I don’t think there’s really time to get it into shape in time. But I do think that it makes sense to look at for Fedora 13. So I’ve started a feature page to track as some of the things get tested and worked on. Then hopefully we can make the switch pretty painlessly early in the Fedora 13 cycle.

Night at the Boston Pops

One of the SDM 09s sent out a note to everyone mentioning that MIT was putting on a small conference to celebrate the forty years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The closing little event was a concert put on by the Boston Pops performing Holst’s The Planets with a narration by Buzz Aldrin. It seemed like the sort of opportunity not to be passed up, so I got tickets for Kara and I.

We showed up at Symphony Hall and I was expecting a program that would basically just be all of The Planets. So I was quite surprised and pleased to look at the actual program. As I mentioned to Kara leaving, it really appealed to my geek-ness on a few levels: music geek, space geek and sci-fi geek. The selections were the following.

  • Also sprach Zarathustra — what a great way to start off a concert. It does a really good job of pulling everyone in
  • Blue Danube Waltz — continuing on the 2001 theme 🙂
  • Selections from The Planets (notably Mars, Venus, Uranus and Jupiter). This was accompanied by a short little film and the narration by Buzz Aldrin. Very very well done. The little films were neat and provided a good backdrop to the music.
  • Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind — now we really get into the “Pops” part I guess. I really need to get to one of the Pops concerts with John Williams actually conducting.
  • Premiere of a short film to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing that was commissioned by MIT and accompanied by a John Williams piece I didn’t know. The little film was cool and hopefully will end up online somewhere.
  • Theme from the original Star Trek followed by the music used for the closing credits of the new movie. This was a nice touch as the original series went off the air just before the Apollo 11 mission and the new movie is right at forty years later. And apparently, Keith Lockhart was (also) a big fan of the new movie.
  • Theme from Star Wars. A piece which needed no introduction.
  • And what was the last thing in the program, in fine Boston Pops tradition, a sing-along. In this case, various moon-themed or moon-based songs. Always fun, impressive how many of the things chosen weren’t well known. I didn’t know half of them.
  • Not in the program was a performance of John Lennon’s Imagine accompanied by the Boston Children’s Choir. This was a good touch and would have been a perfectly good way to end the concert
  • But they finished off with the Stars and Stripes Forever. Which was also a good way to end the night

As always after going to things like this, I had the thought I should do things like this more often. It was a great performance and we had a great time. There’s a reason why the Boston Pops are as world-reknowned as they are — they put on a great show and appear to have fun in doing so.

Spring Semester Wrap-up

My original intent was to do a post for each course from the spring, but since summer classes have now started, I don’t see that happening. So I’ll try to do a quicker post with all of them. I ended up taking 3 classes for credit in the spring and one as a listener. Unlike previously, most of these weren’t with my original SDM cohort — only one was a required class and it was one that many people took last spring. I did get to meet and work with some of the SDM 09s, though. I also had a Sloan course and a Kennedy School course.

System Optimization

One of the required courses in the SDM curriculum (although actually it might be one of the options with the new curricula), on the covers this sounded like an interesting course. Unfortunately, it ended up being largely about using Excel and its built-in Solver to do what boil down to linear programming problems. Certainly important for certain fields and positions, but not so much for me. Luckily, it was just half a semester 🙂

Organizing for Innovative Product Development

The second half of the semester, I took Tom Allen’s course on organizing for innovative product development (15.980). The class was organized basically as a discussion around some slides and research that Dr Allen has done in his lengthy time with Sloan. It was a fun class overall with some interesting insights about how organizations can be set up to succeed both in terms of the hierarchy, hiring process, etc as well as things like focusing your usage of space.

One of the really cool things in the course was Gunter Henn’s discussion of how he used some of the work he had done with Dr Allen in building a BMW design center in Germany. The big idea being that you want everyone to be somewhat focused on the same things and so the center of the building is all glass windows and looking down on an area where prototypes of the vehicles are built. It also tends to lead to congregation of people around the vehicle when trying to work through an issue.

The downside is that some of the findings here are hard to apply — while it’s true that communication happens best in sort of flat (physical) structures and when you’re close by, how do you do that when you’re in an already existing building with a structure that you can’t change? Another question, at least to me, is how to apply some of it in the highly disconnected area of open source development. Clearly one of the takeaways is that conferences where people get face time are still very, very important. Something to think about as we change the structure of FUDcons and FADs.

Evolution to Web 3.0 and the emergence of Management 3.0

How’s that for a buzzword worthy title? The course was taught by Professor Stuart Madnick as a Sloan course and this was the first time it was taught. My primary reason for taking it was to get some exposure to the more “typical” MBAs from a technical background. I was also somewhat interested to see what was being proposed as “Web 3.0”. It turns out that the main thing being proposed was the move towards the Semantic Web. Even after the course, I’m a bit skeptical 🙂

Overall, though, the course was interesting. I switched to listener (audit) status, but still did most of the readings/work/etc. The first half to two thirds of the course I think actually could make a very compelling course if the content were fleshed out a bit more — in it, we covered a lot of sort of emerging trends in the web / online services. The biggest problem, perhaps, was the fact that a few of us within the class had a much deeper knowledge of the area than the professor and we didn’t really get into the interesting bits.

As we got into the last third of the course, we switched to talking almost exclusively about semantic web technologies. And this is where things got pretty weird as we started to get deeper into details of XML and RDF schema. The lack of consistency in the level of technical depth had to have been frustrating for some of the class, although some of us took it in stride.

All that said, I’m still glad I took it as a listener. Good to see what other people are thinking about in that sort of area. Also, met some cool people some of whom are going on to do cool things as they after graduation. And I was able to wave the “open standards are important” flag a few times.

Game Theory at HKS

I covered this more in-depth already, so no need to repeat myself

Lake Auburn Road Race 2009 Recap

Yesterday, I raced in the Cat 4 men’s field of the Lake Auburn Road Race. Unlike last year, the weather was much better and I had a much better result.

Instead of going up the day before, I woke up extra early to drive up. Picked Kate up and got on the road basically on time. The roads were empty and as it got light, there was quite a bit of clouds. Right as we crossed into Maine, there was a little bit of drizzle and I was worried that we were going to have a repeat of the rain from last year. But it let up after about five minutes and then the sun came out and the cloud cover burned off.

We got to the course start with lots of time to spare and actually had the time to pre-ride a lap of the route. Even more shockingly, the rest of the team (minus one person) had made it there with plenty of time to spare as well. So we headed off as a team to recon the course and jog our memories from last year. It was good to do as little things like “landmark for the turn before the hill” doesn’t stick with you for a year… but half an hour before the race start it certainly does.

The race itself was to be three laps of an 11.5 mile circuit. It started with a quick downhill followed by a little bump and then a steeper little climb. Then a few turns and a mile or so with a slight downward grade to the back half of the course which was about six miles and pretty much flat. This was thus a bit on the fast side. The course then took another turn and began going back up towards the finish with one steeper and then one longer and more shallow section to a bit of false flats for the final kilometer or so. Total of about 600 feet of climbing a lap. Pretty much good pavement for the entirety of it, well marshalled, etc. Honestly, it’s a great course and I was looking forward to coming back and doing better.

Map of the Race
Map of the Race
Course Profile
Course Profile

In the Men’s Cat 4 field, we had six people in the field out of a total of somewhere between fifty and sixty — myself, Jim Gomez, Charles Wescott, Nessim Mezrahi, Kenton Eash and Andy Tucker. My personal goal was to finish with whatever the main pack ended up being and from a team perspective, we were hoping to get someone at least in the top ten. The race started on time and it started out pretty quick. I was at the front and was able to maintain my position through the fast descent in a nice improvement from last year. The first lap continued pretty quickly; I know I saw an average speed of above 25 mph at one point on the back stretch. When we hit the big hill up to the finish, that dropped a bit. We had definitely started to drop some riders off the back, though.

The second lap was much of the same and I realized that hanging on was really about all I was going to be good for. I did get in some good work with moving up in the pack and raising my comfort in doing so. It helped that the peloton for the field was pretty smooth overall. The exception was that for every corner, the speed dropped somewhat dramatically and then people accelerated like hell on the other side of the corner only to let up after 100-200 meters. A little annoying, but I kept with it. Andy and Nessim spent some time during the lap attacking and trying to weaken some of the stronger riders in the field. I was content to just sit in and let things happen.

By the third lap, I realized that the only Quaddies who were left were Nessim, Andy and myself. I talked briefly with Andy and he said that Nessim was going to try to set him up with a lead-out. I didn’t really have anything to add to the effort, so just was going to keep my head down. I also noticed at this point (not far into the lap really), that there was a rider a little ways up the road and that the pace car seemed a little further away. Not that I was going to be able to do anything about it. As we started up the hill for the finish, though, the gap dropped — by the time we were cresting the second hill up to the finishing flats, we passed the guy who had jumped off the front and this was when people really cranked it up a notch.

With a little more than a 1km ago, someone decided to start pushing for the sprint and I decided I had done enough to accomplish my goal. So I sat up and got passed by 6 or 8 people coming across the line about 26th although I did make it look like I was sprinting for something. Andy ended up with 7th and Nessim was somewhere in the pack between 15th and 20th. All in all, a respectable day by the Quaddies.

A sprint for the photo at least
A sprint for the photo at least (photo courtesy Charles Wescott)

By the numbers:

  • 34.7 miles, overall average of 24 mph
  • Second lap was the slowest by a small margin, first and then the third was the fastest
  • Pretty usual race heart rate for me averaging 170. Max was only 193, though, which is a little lower than usual for me in races
  • Cadence only averaged 80, although maxed out at 132. Low average is probably as I got to do some decent coasting sitting in the pack and the Garmin averages in those zeros
  • 1750-ish feet of climbing and some of that was serious grades. Not long climbs though

So overall, a very satisfying result from my point of view. I finally feel like I’m getting back the right level of fitness for racing. Also, a pretty good team result with the seventh place plus we also had two women in the Cat 4 women’s field (Nancy Labbe-Giguere and Kate Leppanen) who finished fifth and sixth out of a field that was probably about twenty deep.