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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Now that is good photography

Ironman is a hard event. Ironman requires intense training in multiple disciplines including biking.

Look closer and you will see that this guy is multi-tasking. While biking, he is also spitting?

Of course. Every serious biker knows that you need a way to clear your nose and/or throat from time to time without losing speed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More Arizona Ironman Pictures

Grant Baird has a great website about triathlon. He has pieces of information on many of the racers and races. He either takes the pictures himself or finds other photographers willing to share some shots. He has featured a bunch of shots from several different photographers for Ironman Arizona last weekend including about 5 of mine. Take a look at his IMAZ November page and see some great shots.

It is always fun to watch the professionals, especially when you see the leaders really moving by. At this point, Joanna Zeiger was only about 13 minutes behind the lead men by my watch.

zeiger, joanna, 67, ironman, imaz, arizona, tempe

Feel free to drop by Flowing Desert Photography and see more of my pictures. If you like what you see, please feel free to rate your favorite pictures (at least a quick thumbs up is appreciated) and tell your friends about it.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thoughts on Life and Running

I am a runner. That is not the only thing or even the most important thing about me, but I fall into the runner category rather than the non-runner category. Or at least I do now. 4 years ago, I was most definitely NOT a runner. Since I am pretty new to running, sometimes I make discoveries that seem profound. Like one evening some time ago.

My schedule called for a 6 mile run. That was not a particularly long run given my fitness level at the time, but it is more challenging than a 30 minute "easy" run. I always try to stick to my schedule, since I have created the schedule with a goal in mind and each training event is a step closer to that goal. When I miss a goal, that can make the next step that much harder and easier to fall completely off the schedule.

This night, after about 20 minutes or so, my stomach started to give me trouble. Not just the usual "I might have eaten a bit too much at lunch" kind of rumble I get from time to time, but more of a "I think I might lose my lunch, breakfast and anything else I even thought about eating" kind of upset. The last time my stomach was that upset was when I tried out a new flavor sports drink for the first time during a marathon. Owww!

I kept my pace a bit easier than I had planned and kept going. As I got closer to home, I realized I was approaching a crossroads. I could turn right and be home in about 5 minutes, but that would leave me about a mile short of my goal. In terms of my overall schedule, that would not be a major setback and would probably not hurt my training in any measurable way. But mentally, I felt that I needed to push myself at least a little more so I turned left.

Every step I took was 1 step away from home, but I said "just to the first streetlight, that's not too far". When I reached that light I said, "just to that park a block away, then you can turn around and go home". Each time I pushed myself to go just a little further, I felt a victory and that lead me to push further.

When I had gone 1/2 mile past the crossroads, I turned around and headed for home. Then I realized that every step I had taken away from home was actually 2 steps closer to my goal! I finished my run that night having met 100% of my distance goal, but perhaps more importantly, I had accomplished more mental training than I had set out to accomplish.

The more I thought about that run, the more I realized that in many ways, running is like living a Christian life. Sometimes, doing what Christ calls us to do is a bit uncomfortable. But every time we do something that moves us toward out Heavenly Father, even though we feel like we are going away from home, we are making progress towards out eternal reward. So the next time you are faced with the choice to just shrug off an off-color joke, or pass along some juicy gossip, or anything else the world sees as normal, consider whether the discomfort from appearing different is in fact training you for a bigger goal.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2008 IMAZ November Edition

Well, April of last year I volunteered at IMAZ. I rode my motorcycle on the course in front of the lead male rider. It was a tiring day and I didn't have to pedal.

When April 2008 rolled around, it was my turn. I had done my training, established realistic goals and was ready. I had a tiring, but fun and successful day. I was proud to have finished my first Ironman, especially given the very hot conditions that resulted is one of the highest DNF rates of any Ironman in North America.

The organizers of the race decided to move it to November to try for better weather conditions. This weekend was the first of the new "Fall Edition" of IMAZ and I decided to head out with my camera to see Ironman from a new perspective.

Some of the highlights included seeing the lead bikes racing out of transition and getting a picture of the guy who finished the swim in first place and the bike in second place:
Ironman photography KIERAN DOE bike

Watching these athletes fly by on their bikes was both humbling and motivating.

imaz; nov; november;

While I will never compete with the pro's, I know that I could complete an Ironman faster than I did in my first one. It would require training. I would like to dedicate that much time and effort to making another run at IM and chopping some time off of my PR, but this is just not a great time for me.

Actually, there is never a great time for taking up a hobby that will require 20 hours a week and an endless store of support and patience from your loved ones, it is just something that you need to prioritize in order to do it. And right now, I am just not willing to prioritize IM above other things I enjoy (photography being a big one) and the other jobs that I have (dad, husband, etc) again. It was a great experience and I had the full support of my family, but I am not ready to make the commitment again (yet).

I will be continuing to work on pictures from this race and will be updating them on the Flowing Desert Photography site in the IMAZ 2008 November Gallery. Feel free to drop by and let me know which pictures you like with a "thumbs-up" or a comment. I am adding race numbers when they are legible, so if you know someone that did this race, try using the search field at the top of any page for their race number.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Pictures

I set out very early this morning to get some shooting done. I had heard about a place where I had a good chance to see some wild horses around sunrise. I left the house around 5:30 in the morning and drove out by the river.

It was starting to get a bit light by the time I got there and started to walk down to the river. I saw lots of evidence of horses like this on the road:

More pictures at Flowing Desert Photography

That one belongs in the "not my job" category.

Down at the river, I watched the sun rise over Red Mountain.

Red Mountain, river, sunrise, dawn

I also got some neat cactii pictures, but I haven't finished cleaning them up yet so I'll show them off another day. I've got a busy day planned for tomorrow. I'm going to go shoot another triathlon. Ironman Arizona is in town for a second time this year. Last year, I volunteered. This spring, I raced. Now I will photograph it. I guess that makes me a well rounded Ironman. I will try to get those pictures up by Tuesday, at least the first batch of them.

TV makes you sad

I just read that Unhappy People Watch More TV.

Cause and Effect.

Is this because happier people find other things to do than watch tv or because people that watch tv get depressed from all the negative garbage that can be found there? Or maybe a combination. I wonder if someone only watched positive and upbeat shows if they would still be less happy than someone that watched less tv?

The thoughts of other armchair shrinks is welcome in the comments.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Running Rules

I first heard about the rules of running when my oldest son and I started training for our first HM with Team Diabetes. The ones that stand out most for me are:

1. The 10% rule. Don't increase distance of your longest run or total weekly mileage by more than 10% a week.

2. Change your shoes when needed (300-500 miles or new soreness).

shoes running triathlon run race

3. Stretch and warm-up before running, especially before speedwork.

4. Stepback or recovery weeks are necessary for improvement.

There were more and I'm sure if Coach Dave sees this he'll remind me, but following these rules took me successfully to my first half marathon, then to my first marathon, then to my first Half-Ironman and finally to my first full Ironman. By successful, I mean that I completed those distances on my first try and without any significant injury. Learning what soreness to look out for almost stopped my first marathon attempt, but new shoes and a few days of rest and ice kept me in the game. I did all that in about 3 years while losing over 60 pounds. These rules work.

I just found out about some other commandments. These seem to me to be a great compliment to the above 4 rules. The 4 rules are mainly intended to keep runners from getting hurt and joining the "I used to run" club. The commandments appear to be as much about promoting social harmony (#'s 1, 4 and 7) as motivational (#2, 5 and 11) as well as practical (#8, 33 and 34).

Interested in the commandments? Head over to Frayed Laces and check them out.

For the record, I think #10 and 25 are my favorites. What are yours? Leave a comment with your favorites or any others you thing should be included.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Half Full or Half Empty?

Half Full:

100% of the votes in last weeks poll about making regular "good news" post every week said YES!

Half Empty:
There were only 2 votes.

So am I an optimist (half full) or a pessimist (half empty) kind of guy? Well, I like to think of myself as an optimist, but in this case, I am going to choose a middle ground. I will not commit to posting a dedicated blog every week about a positive story, but I will post a dedicated blog about positive stories every time I find one. I know there are positive stories all around. With just a little searching, I found this one:

Woman buys foreclosed home for stranger.

And talking about this next one always chokes me up a bit. You see, my youngest son was born with a cleft lip and pallet and while we are blessed to have had good insurance and were led to a great surgeon, many people do not have that chance. Operation Smile goes around the world donating the medical care needed to provide many kids with the surgery they need to have a normal smile. We realized that there is a bigger plan when we found out our son's surgeon had been to Ecuador several times with them. (for those that don't read here regularly, I was raised in Ecuador)

So when you hear someone talking about the economic troubles, the housing market collapse or any other negative news, tell them there are positive stories out there. Suggest they drop by here and then find somewhere they can help to make something good happen. There are needs all around, from radios for firefighters to christmas cookies for soldiers, to simply buying someone in need a breakfast sandwich or some groceries.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Backyard Discovery

Last night, my wife told me the dog was acting strange when she went out to say hi to him. I went out to check on him and brought a flashlight to see if there was anything amiss in the yard. Dog was fine but here is what I saw:


Do you see it? Almost dead center in the picture, in the rocks, you might see a little critter. Here is a better shot of him:

burrowing owl night animal AZ Arizona

He was amazingly slow to react to my presence and the dog was strangely either unaware of him or uninterested in him. That was out of character since the dog is part Border Collie and Labrador Retriever and typically does not allow any winged creature to land in his yard and will usually chase birds (and planes sometimes) just flying by.

After a few pictures as I got closer and closer, the owl flew to the fence and then the dog finally decided to bark at him and he left for the night.

After a bit of research, I think he was a burrowing owl, but I would be happy to hear any other ideas as I am not an exterienced bird watcher.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Sedona and Crown King Pics

Here are a few more of the shots that I took this past weekend. Hope you like them.

They call this mountain King Kong. Do you see why?

King Kong Sedona Arizona mountain

The pillars just make you wonder why they are still standing when the rest of the valley eroded over time.

pillars Sedona Arizona mountain

Visit my photography site for more pictures from this trip and others.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two Good Tuesdays

The news is all too often negative and it sometimes seems like there is not a whole lot of good left in the world. The only purpose for today's entry is only to point out a few of the good people out there trying to make a difference. The neat thing is that I consider both of these people friends as we are fellow members of a close-knit online running community called the 30-something's. Lucky for me they don't enforce the 30's part of the group.

Case Number 1
Larry is a volunteer firefighter. That makes him an example of good people right there by being willing to take personal risks to save others. That is not all. Larry is raising money to support his volunteer fire department department. That's right, he not only does NOT get paid to be a firefighter, but he is raising money to meet a need his department has. They do not currently have enough radios for each firefighter and that can pose a safety risk if all firefighters do not get a message in time or are not able to radio for help. Larry is running 4 marathons in 4 months to support this cause. Here is a clip about him from the news:

Case Number 2
Maureen is another friend that is running for a cause. Later this month she is running the Philadelphia Half Marathon. The cause she is running for is a great one. Back on My Feet is an organization that helps the homeless learn important life skills and self sufficiency through running, as well as working with partner organizations for job training, educational opportunities and housing expenses.

So if are sick of all the negative news stories you are hearing these days, here is your chance to help some folks that are a positive influence in their communities and help spread some good news. You can spread these good stories to you friends and if you can help these folks out, feel free to do so. Even a $5 or $10 donation will make a difference:

Larry's fund raising page.

Maureen's fund raising page.

I know there are more positive stories out there. Please share yours in the comments here so other people can be encouraged by good things happening in the world.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day Trippers

The family decided this past Saturday was a good day for a road trip. We packed a lunch and when everyone was ready, grabbed our cameras, jumped in the car and took aim on Sedona.

Partway up there, we decided to take a detour and head to Crown King. The last time I was there was several years ago and we had taken the back way up. That is a 4-wheel drive only way, so we took the "road" in. It was a bit slow going at times, with progress hindered by the road (bad in some places and only one car wide in others) as well as my willingness to stop anytime I saw something I wanted to get a picture of, even if it was just an old stone house.

More photos at Flowing Desert Photography

There were a few places where I really wished we still had the Durango so we could have gone to Sedona the rest of the way instead of back-tracking after our stop in Crown King to get some fudge.

As we got to Sedona, we stopped for the mandatory pictures at all of the scenic overlooks. Bell Rock was the first
More photos at Flowing Desert Photography

Several members of my family were willing to pose for a few shots. Including my wonderful wife:
More photos at Flowing Desert Photography

And my youngest also was willing to strike a pose:

After getting some shopping in, we drove around a bit more and found some nice views of the rocks light up with a great sunset, so I spent some more time with the camera out. (still doing some processing work on them) Then we stopped for a bite to eat. On the way home, we made a few more stops for some additional pictures. The starts were so bright up there that it was hard not to stay for a few more hours of shooting, but we had a bit of a drive to get home and a somewhat early morning to get to church, so I made this one of my last pictures:

Here is the recipe for a great trip:

Perfect weather, not a cloud in the sky.
Good traveling vehicle. We had the top down for a nice chunk of time.
Beautiful sunset.
Great family time with minimal squabbling.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Freedom is not free

More photos Flowing Desert

Freedom takes work. The work of our men and women in the armed forces is certainly one part of the equation. Another vital component is everyday citizens that pay attention to what changes are proposed and speak out loudly (but in a civil manner) and engage others in debate and dialogue.

Xavier posted an entry. I think the following excerpt from that is a key thought that everyone needs to be aware of:

Gun rights are about self protection, not hunting. ... We are not just hunters. We must stand up and say who we are. We are mothers and fathers. We are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents. We are black and white, yellow and brown. We are gay, straight, bisexual and asexual. We are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, and we live in every state in the Union. ... We have one common goal. ... the preservation of our right to self defense.

As a bumper sticker I saw said:

"God, Guns and Guts created this country. Let's keep all three."

Friday, November 7, 2008

School is Cool!

I probably never would have said that in middle or high school. I know I never said that about most of my college classes. I have finally found a school that is cool.

Digital Photography School is a great forum for photographers of all experience levels. I discovered it this past summer as I was considering getting a newer, better camera. It is a great place with a lot of areas. One of my favorite areas is the forums critique section. People post their pictures along with some information about what settings they used to take it and ask one or more questions. Then, other people provide feedback.

Generally speaking, this feedback is of a positive, supportive nature. Sometimes, that feedback means saying "I don't like it" but even so, that is done with a positive spin. Usually, someone providing that feedback will suggest something the photographer could do to improve the shot.

Usually though, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Not artificially so, but in a genuine and supportive manner. Even if you do not submit your own pictures, you can learn a lot about making good portraits or taking good action shots by reviewing other peoples submissions and the feedback they receive.

I think that the things I have learned from here have improved my pictures, but I'll let you be the judge. Stop on over to Flowing Desert Photography and take a look. One of my most recent favorites is a new picture of a local landmark, Red Mountain. I just love the colors and the shape of this mountain. I also love how it looks different depending on the season and time of day. The light when I took this picture was really good and I think really makes Red Mountain just come alive.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What is Beyond Beta?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was lucky enough to know someone who had a pre-release copy of a new version of an operating system that was planning on taking over the personal computing world. This was something called Windows and the release they showed me was 3.1 which promised huge improvements in usability and stability over 3.0. It was a rarity in those days, to get a glimpse into software that was "not-quite-finished" but was close enough to get a feeling about it. It was also fun to be on the inside of cutting edge technology. They called it Beta, indicating that is was not yet ready for sale, but was more advanced than Alpha. Beta was usually limited to the employees of the company producing the software and a select group of others.

Fast foreword and the Beta versions of more programs started getting wider distribution and the exclusivity started to wear off in some cases. The wider distribution provided the developers more free testers to identify more bugs and hopefully fix them earlier in the process and reduce the support burden for the company and in increase customer satisfaction. I think the jury is still out on whether the quality of software has gone up as a result of larger scale Beta releases.

Then one day, about a decade ago, Google started a new web-based email application they called GMail. It was strictly an invitation-only program. By accepting an invitation, you acknowledged that this was a Beta program and you may experience crashes, downtime, missing mail and could do nothing about it other than report the error to the Google team and hope they fixed it quickly.

As Google started expanding their Beta program, existing users were given a finite amount of invitations that could be emailed to people so they could give GMail a try. These invitations were extremely sought after to the point that some people were even seen listing them for sale at online auction sites.

Eventually, GMail became accepted as a mainstream provider of free webmail, but the word Beta still remained on the site. Downtime is minimal and I have yet to notice a missed message sending or receiving (but how would I know if I missed an incoming message?).

They have applied their formidable search power to the GMail interface and allow you to keep an astronomical amount of email (over 7 GB for my account) which you can search nearly instantly. Some of the features that GMail uses are revolutionary and were a bit challenging to get used to. The concept of using labels instead of folders was a paradigm shift, but once you accept it, you can become very productive with it.

So where are we now? The label Beta is still attached to GMail, but there are a huge number of people using GMail on a regular basis. Now, Google has introduced "Labs". Labs are what used to be called Beta features. Some are really useful and eventually make their way into the mail configuration as a regular (albeit Beta) feature. Others will remain in Labs indefinitely and maybe some will be dropped altogether.

So first there was Beta. Now Beta is the standard for some apps and in the case of GMail, beyond Beta is "Labs". What is next? Will companies expect users to put together the design specifications for a new product, find programmers to start writing it and then "allow" people to use it as a Beta release?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Visitors from the internet

I think that the statistics for the past 30 days for my little blog are pretty interesting. I have had visitors from 10 countries:

Czech Republic
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

A while back I had noticed that I had a visitor from Finland. I have no idea who it was, but I thought it was an interesting coincidence since my Mom is full-blooded Finn.

In the USA, I have had visitors from at least 33 states. I say "at least" because there are several that are listed as "not set". Maybe this can be my first "50-state club" and I can get people to visit from the missing states. The western-most states that I am missing are Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico. If you know anyone in those states, see if they will drop by once and represent their state.
I'll update the tally soon and see if this might work. Next time I'll list all the missing states and see if any of my loyal readers can help me fill in the blank areas of my readership map.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Daily News

Well, I voted this morning, so that was a good start to the day.

I went to a Microsoft Road Show. Those of you that know me might be surprised, but my job also requires that I support SQL*Server in addition to Oracle so I went to try and learn a bit about upcoming versions. I learned that there are some new features that will make things easier to manage, but usually only if you use the more expensive "Enterprise Edition".

Took care of some stuff at the office and then hit the gym with DS#1. It was our first night on the weight machines. We gave the legs a good workout. The gym was busy, but not over-crowded.

Watched election returns and heading off to bed to dream about buying some new guns before they are banned.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Photography lessons

I found this video showing a neat camera holding technique video. It is a bit hard to use at first, but it makes sense and is a good idea to keep the camera more stable and help get sharper pictures, without a tripod. A tripod is always a good idea, but there are times where it is just not practical to use a tripod (busy areas or fast-paced action) and this is a good way to get the best shooting stability possible.