All posts by tim

Slowed down

Race Time Min/Mile
1 27:05 8:41
2 25:54 8:18
3 25:32 8:11
4 25:36 8:12
5 25:22 8:08
6 25:32 8:11

I guess I should view it as the best time for that course rather than worse than last week.

Feeling French

The Austinist yet again used the phrase “Calling Shenanigans” This irks me for some reason. Perhaps because I have some French blood and cannot abide the incorrect use of words. I don’t know.

Looking at the Wikipedia entry for “Schenanigans” it appears that we have Trey Parker and Matt Stone to thank for this bizarre mangling of a word.

Proper use of shenanigans from literature.

“I’ve put up with all your shenanigan I’m goin’ to.” – The Valley of the Moon by Jack London

“consider them all (and their owners) guilty (of “shenanigan”) until they are proved innocent” – Complete Letters of Mark Twain

“There’s some sort of shenanigan brewing, or my first name’s Peter” – The Days of Days by Louis Vance

You know you love my crazy, grumpy rants.

Getting there.

Man, I’m stoked about last night’s run. I thought I didn’t do very well, and the heat overwhelmed me and I even had to stop running for about 30 seconds on the dam. But my pace was still better than it has been and I’m pushing against that 8/minutes per mile mark. Gotta keep knocking out those seconds.

Race Time Min/Mile
1 27:05 8:41
2 25:54 8:18
3 25:32 8:11
4 25:36 8:12
5 25:22 8:08

Interesting Post on our Almost Neighborhood

Steve at the Austin Real Estate Blog has an interesting post about the Independence Neighborhood we almost bought a house in. Apparently even Realtors are confused about whether it’s a house or a condo.

UPDATE: Ah, this comment pretty much cements it for me (although it appears to be about the north version of the neighborhood):

Take it me from me – Parking is a Nightmare on these streets!

There’s no parking on the side with hydrants- opposite the sidewalk side, but that does not stop them from parking up and down both sides. And when that happens, you are unable to get in or out of your driveway! (grumble! grumble! grumble!)

And when the towing company tows cars that are illegally parked: the owners sue the HOA. Once the residents found out Williamson County Judges are not partial to personal property being hauled away in the middle of the night, no one follows the parking policy. My wife was president of the board when the judge decided against them in 2x cases. Oy! $1000’s in legal bills…

And don’t get me started on those with big trucks who stick out in the road…

One house is complaining that the FIVE cars/trucks that the THREE people in the family own can not possibly abide by the parking policy [they do not park in their garages either]. Why are they being disciminated against for owning FIVE vehicles?

Cure Concert Trolls

So I was wondering why so many Cure audience members were Grade-A a*holes, while you go to a Morrisey concert and the audience is better behaved than at the symphony. You’d think they would be basically the same audience. And I think by and large they are. But this ven diagram might help explain.

The Cure fans in the left hand column are able to make the whole experience pretty horrible. Also there seemed to be lots of what I call – “Flying Dutchman Concert-goers”. These are concert-goers who are generally under 5′ (although not always), who will spend the entire concert wandering through the crowd. Looking for the magical paradise where people under 5′ can see the stage. This is not all short people. In fact there were really only 3 groups like this I saw at the concert on Saturday. It’s just that they passed by me at least 6 times per party.

I’ve read a lot of blogs about the Cure and seen a lot of unkind words about us tall people. Most of us do stay towards the back. The problem is that we often go to concerts with people who aren’t as tall as us who want to see. So we try to find some middle balance where our friends can see, and so can the majority of the audience. We actually provide a service to short people. Next time you’re at a concert find a tall person. You’ll find that generally there will be a small pocket behind them where people are not standing. Position yourself about 1′ behind the tall person to the right or the left (directly behind is a dead end). Based on your height you may then be able to see the stage. See drawing:

Of course the only danger with doing this is that tall people attract concert trolls. Concert trolls are unable to see tall people. They will elbow, step on feet, and always insist on walking between tall person and any person directly next to them. Regardless of how close tall person is to their friend and how much free space is around tall person (see diagram above). I had a short woman standing next to me drafting a line of sight on Sunday night. She could see just fine. The problem was that the concert trolls would stand on my feet and throw an elbow in her face. Or they would stand directly in front of her while standing on my foot. And then there was the woman who got on her boyfriend’s shoulders directly in front of said short woman. Threating to topple and crush her. Apparently standing near a tall person confers blindness upon you too by the concert trolls.

That said, I didn’t enjoy the concert too much. It was ok, but it was long, hot, and there were far too many irritating people. Reminds me why I go to SXSW. Say what you will about that, but it’s cool and by and large the audiences are pretty laid back.

I’m Green … as long as I don’t have to pay for it

UPDATE: So after reading and talking to people I’ve decided I’ll vote for Galindo. Morrison is too much in the neighborhood associations pocket, and one thing we don’t need are a few neighborhood associations deciding what’s best for Austin as a whole. Not that anyone votes based on my opinion. But just thought I’d put it out there. Still pissed off about so many people’s reaction to the “visibility” and “green home tax” issues.

We just got a mailer for Cid Galindo. It has me irritated. Especially to be sending it out in Austin. It basically says that his opponent – Laura Morrison is for the “Green Home Tax”. This refers to a proposed idea to have homes be required to brought up to current energy efficient standards when they are sold. The group working on a proposal to bring before city council has not indicated whether this would be paid for by the seller or buyer. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Austin Board of Realtors and talk radio from deciding that it would be the seller and making political hay.

If the buyer pays it’s an inconvenience, and realtors won’t like it since it might lead to lower home prices once the price of repairs is factored in. But if you’re a buyer buying a house from 1980, chances are that you already knew you were going to have to get a new AC, and rolling it into your mortgage wouldn’t be too bad a way to go.

Of course if the seller has to pay that would be a lot of money out of a seller’s pocket before they could put their home on the market. A lot of people couldn’t do it easily. Of course, more than likely the city would have Austin Energy provide more of their 0% interest loans for energy upgrades to make this simple to do without out of pocket expenses for the seller, but this isn’t keeping the issue off of talk radio.

And really I don’t care which side has to pay. Everyone in town says they want a green city, but no one seems to want to make the changes or pay for it. Pisses me off. If you can afford a 180k+ house (which is median in this city), you can afford to get your AC fixed so that it’s not screwing up the atmosphere and wasting huge amounts of energy.

And I’m not voting for Cid anymore, from point 2 of his Building the Greenest City in America plan:

2. Energy consumption matters. Per capita energy consumption should be at the heart of every major policy decision that we make as a city, from the light bulbs we use, to the grass that we grow, to the cars that we drive.

Austin – we want to be the greenest city, as long as we don’t have to sacrifice to get there.

Racing in a race

Whoops, forgot to update on this Wednesday’s race. This was the first time I’ve ever actually been competitive in a race. I was pacing myself against a guy in front of me for about 1/5 of the race. We started going back uphill and he slowed. All my running up and down Oltorf and Parker really paid off. The guy stayed behind me up until pretty much the 3 mile marker. He had a friend who was a much better runner trying to help run him in. I picked up the pace to stay even with the guy who was running him in and managed to stay ahead of both of them. We turned in pretty much the same time, but I beat him by a hundred feet or so. Here’s my race totals so far. All in all, I’m really happy with my performance this year. Even if I’m still 10th in my age group.

Race Time Min/Mile
1 27:05 8:41
2 25:54 8:18
3 25:32 8:11

The Way The World Works

I was quite interested to find a link to this article on the Austinist last night. Ward Road is pretty familiar to me.

I remember waking up the day after graduation around 2pm. We’d had one of those school sponsored lock-ins the night before to keep the kids from drinking. We were supposed to pick up our diplomas before noon, but I had chosen sleep instead. Around 2:30 I got a call from a gentleman at Chapparel Steel inquiring if I’d be interested in a summer job. Apparently, as part of the Advanced Placement program at my school I’d consented to have my information given to local employers who were interested in hiring bright kids for summer jobs.

My mom was always complaining about me not having a job so I jumped at the chance to get a job without any effort on my part. Plus they paid $6.50/hour! This was when when minimum wage was $4.25. That was a massive jump. I would have thousands of dollars in the bank at the end of summer. It would be awesome!

But first the physical and drug test at the company doctor in Midloathian. I know. Red flags should have gone off. But I didn’t listen to country music at this point in my life. This involved the most invasive drug test I’ve ever had. The nurse actually came into the bathroom and stood on the other side of a shower curtain. Right on the other side of the shower curtain. Needless to say, I couldn’t perform that day. This was holding up my start date, so I didn’t pee the entire night, or next morning and headed out, ready to burst. After two attempts I was able to check my first drug test off the list. And I think the nurses were only extremely frustrated with me at that point.

I drove out for my first day of work. Starting at 7am. They got me to fill out a ton of paperwork. I had to have an ear test (so they could see how badly they’d screwed up my hearing). Then they got me some ear plugs, 2 pairs of fire retardant pants, 2 pairs of fire retardant shirts, hard hat, and gloves. I got changed and they took me out to the floor of the furnace where I’d be working. I was getting introduced to people on the floor when they dropped some barrels that had a little water in them into the furnace and it flared. A flare I later found out is not that big a deal. But the ceiling of the furnace room is probably twice as high as the furnace and flames shot out above the building. So I think I can be excused if I found it a bit dramatic.

The heat was intense. I ended up turning away because I could feel my face burning a little. The heat keep intensifying and I could feel pain on the back of my ears that were still exposed. The heat eventually got to a point where my boss decided we’d be better off inside the air conditioned control room. We headed in and I felt the back of my ears. They felt a bit like pork rinds. Nice and crackly.

A few minutes later one of the workers came in. He was completely wet and covered in soot. He’d been cleaning next to the furnace when it had blown and was just a tad crispy. He was laughing. Ah the joy of being in a non-unionized steel mill. Workplace safety is for chumps! Those locking procedures are completely optional!

And so began my first week working in a steel mill. I would wear long johns under my clothes to protect me from the furnace heat. This was in 100 degree Texas heat. You’d go out into the sun to cool down. The rule of thumb was that if you felt hot you need to stop, drop and roll because you were already on fire.

It was a 12 hour shift, and the first week I worked M-F 7am to 7pm, before beginning my real shift which started rotating Saturday night at 7pm. So my first week was 7 days of 12 hour shifts, at which point I had 2 days on 3 days off, then 3 days on, 2 days off. Each block alternated between a day shift and a night shift.

We’d work for about 15 minutes on the hour. We’d take a long probe on a pole and put it into the middle of the furnace to check the temperature. Then we’d spend the next 45 minutes awkwardly. I’d read something like Zora Neal Hurston while the guys I was working with read the same 3 pornographic magazines. I still have no clue how they didn’t go completely insane. We’d talk about their personal watercraft. And they’d tell me that I should go to college. It was like one of those movies where the college boy gets a job with the blue-collar workers. Except that awkward scene happened every hour for 45 minutes. 12 times a day. I’d like to say that like some cheesy eighties movie we had a break through where we became fast albeit grudging friends, but these guys were much like some of the programmers I’ve worked with. They just don’t do anything interesting. They’re not really interested in movies or television or camping or anything. It had nothing to do with class. They were by and large just boring people. There were a few interesting people to talk to, but they all worked on the opposing shift.

The second week they shut down the furnace and we did cleaning. I was mostly cleaning up the scrap yard. The same scrap yard that is currently on fire. I remember being out in the sweltering heat at 4am. The whole world quiet, and then watching the sun come up, and the heat staying the same. It was a surreal experience. Like being on the moon.

After working 7 – 12 hour shifts my first week, and 3 night shifts and 2 day shifts my second week I came to a realization. If I worked that job all summer I would never see my friends. I would never go to a movie. I would just work a 12 hour shift. Come home. Collapse into bed, and wake up for my next shift. Even when I did have days off my schedule was so screwed up by the rotating shifts that it was as though I had the worst jet lag ever. So I quit.

Sure two weeks sounds like a short amount of time to give a job. But I did work 144 hours in those two weeks. Which if you consider that a normal part time job is about 20 hours/week, I basically gave it 7 weeks. Which is almost the entire summer.

But it was definitely an experience that made me determined to stay in school. And after the number of frightening near misses and things caught on fire, it made me very appreciative of unions.