Wednesday, May 08, 2013

My Journey to Fitness, a 5K, and my first Triathlon


At the finish line
My name is Brian and Sunday I became a triathlete. My journey started ten months ago when I decided to get back into shape after 15 years of being obese and out-of-shape with some yo-yo dieting in the middle. What changed? I'll get to that.

This weekend I competed in the first ever Rocketman Florida Triathlon which took place on the grounds of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. In preparation I lost 50 lbs and 12 inches from my waist. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm a huge space buff. As a kid I wanted to become an astronaut. I went to Space Camp in Titusville when I was 10. Before that, I saw my first shuttle launch at 7 while on vacation. It was the final launch of the Challenger. I've written about that experience. I've seen three other launches since then including John Glenn's famous return to space as well as the final launch that ended the U.S. Shuttle Program.

The idea of biking on the restricted grounds and getting closer than any civilian has to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building and Space Shuttle launchpads was too much of a draw to let my poor fitness stop me from registering. I found out about it last August from my coworker, Lisa, and on the morning of September 1st I signed up the moment registration opened! I had 8 months to get in shape! Uh oh.

Rewinding a bit, I had already started getting in shape so in total I actually had ten months. I had started preparing for my first 5K race back in July. So what inspired me to get fit?

I had a couple things that inspired me; feeling terrible and fat and unhappy, my sister-in-law who broke her pelvis was doing a 5K, my wife did a 100 day fitness challenge and later on told me it was to inspire me and I wasn't inspired and felt guilty, I saw an MRI comparing the legs of a 70 yr old triathlete to a 70 yr old sedentary person, and being a father of young kids I want to be there for them as long as possible. 

These were all great inspiration that kept me searching for the "thing" that would make me take care of my body, and sadly though those were all great reasons I still hadn't changed. The moment that clicked was during a visit to my sister and her husband's for my wife's birthday. We had spent the night and I was up early with my kids when I saw my brother-in-law, who is a big fit guy, go out for a run. That's when it clicked for me. "Oh, so people..like...go and workout." I know that might sound silly, especially since I've worked out before in my life. It was a different kind of epiphany for me this time. This time I realized it wasn't about the working out to burn calories, or to lose weight, or to get a great body. It's to have a different lifestyle. It's to stop delaying. It's to just do it because that's what you've got to do. Boring, but extremely enlightening to me when it clicked.

I took this picture of the Vehicle Assembly
Building as I passed by on my bike
So on July 13, 2012 I began a 120 Day Healthy Living Challenge to myself. I would exercise and prepare to run the 5K on November 11. I would do it as publicly as possible to keep myself motivated while sharing both my successes and my failures. It was sharing my failures publicly on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr that turned out to be the most motivating and helpful thanks to the support and encouragement I got from friends. I would lose as much weight as I could, I set my goal to lose 56 lbs and get back to 180 lbs. I would count calories and use portion control. This was important because I've used pills and fad diets in the past, and they would work but the weight always came back. I wanted it to be a change I could maintain, and I felt that eating the foods I love, just less of them, was what would work. I'm a self-described foodie and love eating great tasting, well-executed food, so not having the flexibility to eat what I love wouldn't work.

Counting calories is boring and tedious, or so I've heard. Well I'm all math-nerdy so to me its just another data game along with stock trading, Fantasy Football, and how many miles I ran. But even I'll admit the idea of staring at nutrition labels and entering numbers into Excel would make me go cross-eyed. So in this day and age of "there's an app for that" it turns out...there's an app for that. MyFitnessPal. It lets you scan bar codes and search for foods by name which populates from a crowd-sourced database. Data is wrong or missing? Fix it yourself! But rarely do I need to, from Applebee's to Zaxby's, most major chains' and brands' nutrition data is already there, making it fast and easy to enter.

Weight loss is simple math, the calories you burn need to exceed the calories you eat. More exercise? Great you get to eat more food! No exercise? Welcome to a diet of carrot sticks. It really helped keep me motivated to exercise, just simply so I could have decent meals. MyFitnessPal calculates my goal intake per day and accounts for exercise I enter to let me know if I've eaten too much, too little or I'm on goal.  

You can get fancier and focus on other data points, but calories is where you should start if you want to lose weight. Oh and get a food scale to weight your portions. I held out way too long and it turned out I was underestimating my food portions, robbing me of precious calories to keep the hunger at bay. 

You will get hungry. I was starving. I remember the first time I felt real hunger pains and thought I was sick. That made me realize just how much I overate if I never felt hungry. But to be fair, once I got used to the smaller portions the hunger pains went away. I get them from time to time still and I use that to guide me to a light snack like carrot sticks, (oh the irony).

Along with eating smaller, I needed to start running. Don't start with running, bad idea. Start with walking. I ramped up quickly, since my goal was to workout every day for 120 days. That was a stupid goal, seriously. I ended up hurting myself and needing therapy on my knee.  Try to workout 3-4 days a week, rest days are as important as workout days for your body, it needs to recover. For me I started with walking around my neighborhood and on the treadmills at the ESPN Employee Wellness Center. I use RunKeeper on my phone to track my run data. It's been extremely helpful for tracking my progress and keeping me motivated. It seems everytime I'm down on myself I get another email from RunKeeper telling me that I broke another personal record. For an analytical mind like mine, data is key to staying motivated because it lets me quantitatively measure my progress.

Even with my injury, I progressed to running a 5K within a few months and on November 11 I became a runner, completing my first 5K race with a pretty decent time of 27 minutes, 3 seconds and beating my fitness goddess of a wife to the finish line by 4 seconds. She has since trounced all my personal records as I turned the heckling up to maximum and motivated her as she had motivated me. With my 120 Day Challenge completed, I've continued to count the days. I'm not sure when I'll stop counting. Triathlon day was Day 297.

Once I had completed that first goal of the 5K, it was time to focus on the triathlon. I was excited I had set a goal for the following Spring to keep me motivated through the winter and holidays. I got a pass to the local high school pool and began swimming after my kids were in bed every week that I could.

For the bike, I decided to use the gym stationary bikes, which was a mistake in hindsight. After biking 36 miles on Sunday I now realized I should have prepared on a road bike earlier and with more determination since the race was so long. Lesson learned.

See most triathlons are organized in three legs with this order: swim, bike, run. As someone described it to me, you don't want to drown, you don't want to fall off your bike, and you want to be on your own two feet at your most tired so the order makes sense. Most events have several different lengths, often referred to as Sprint (shortest), Olympic, Half-Ironman and Ironman (longest, though there exist longer one) and each has standard lengths for each leg of the race. The Rocketman Triathlon had a non-standard length for the bike portion. This was to allow all competitors to get out and around the launchpads. So the "small" and "medium" courses had the same 36 mile bike course while the "large" Half-Iron had a standard 56 mile course. So when I elected to register for the "small" Classic+, I was electing to bike the same amount as the "medium" International+ competitors. Ouch. 

Even with months to prepare, race day came more quickly than I imagined. All of a sudden my Dad and I were in his RV loaded with my best friend's bike headed for Florida! We arrived Saturday, to check-in which included a mandatory racking of my bike in the transition area, which is the area where competitors would switch from swim to bike and from bike to running. I was nervous to leave my friend's bike but thankfully for the tight security through the night nothing happened.

Part of the bike route from the VAB to Pad 39A
Race morning I woke at 4:45am on sheer adrenaline alone, no alarm clock needed for me. I dressed, and we headed over and arrived just after 5:30am in the pitch black with a rapid-fire lightning storm off the coast that looked like it was filled with strobe lights. It was beautiful but I was focused on getting my bag of clothes and a towel over to my bike before the transition area closed before 6:15am. The first wave of competitors was set to start early and though my Wave 11 was to be in the water at 7:45am for an 8:00am start, I had to be here early. Next I got my timing chip, an ankle RF bracelet that tracked my movement on the course for the official race results. I was ready to go! 

At 7:30, I was at the dock in my neon green rubber cap that marked my fellow male competitors ages 35-39. We filed down the dock together and got in the lukewarm water while the sky was grey and misting which made it feel quite cold, especially for Florida! We got in the water, and kept moving to stay warm before the 8:00am send off. It was fun, we counted down to the large red LED clock at the end of the dock and then I was swimming! 

Toward a large red buoy, I had to go out and back for a total of a quarter-mile swim. Seeing the water froth from arms, bumping a bit with others in the crowd, but still the river water was a light brown with my goggles under the surface. It was a lot different from watching the markings on the bottom of the Newtown High pool! The hardest part was navigation and keeping sight of the buoy. Suddenly I was rounding the buoy, I touched it for good luck. It felt fast like it was flying by. I headed back to the dock where the ladder was. I started swimming hard, feeling I was close. I popped my head up to discover in my excitement I was headed in the wrong direction and was off by about 90ยบ! Oops, time to check my direction more regularly. Now that I was a bit flustered, the second half of the swim felt a bit slower. Then I was at the dock starting to climb the ladder when I felt hands on my back and a man shouting "Go, Go, GO!" I was startled and fell back in the water, and he pushed ahead of me. The ladder attendant called my urgent competitor rude and apologized to me so I guess that type of behavior isn't the norm. It didn't set me back, I actually found the man quite funny.

Now I was running up the dock and around the corner to the transition area! There was my Dad in the crowd shouting! Hi, Dad!! I rounded into the transition area and found my bike where I left it. I took a breath and started to dry off and get into my running socks and shoes. I only wore a regular men's bathing suit so I had to pull on a shirt. For my next triathlon I'll get the spandex shorts and shirts most of the other competitors had, but for my first it was overkill. Other competitors have special bike shoes, but I simply slip into my running shoes I've had for training the past few months. I put on a fanny pack with some food like an energy bar and some energy gummies. I put on my helmet, double-check I have everything I need and then I'm off!

I ran from the transition area with my bike to the orange line where I was allowed to mount it. I swung my leg over and there I was, pedaling toward the Max Brewer Causeway, a large bridge from the mainland over to Cape Canaveral. It rises about 500 feet and is the only "hill" on the entire Florida flat course. With fresh legs I made it over the causeway with ease and topped out at 28.3 mph thanks to gravity as I came down the backside. I know my speed because I was wearing a GPS watch and I had RunKeeper on my phone in my pocket tracking my progress.

For the next 19 miles things were looking good and I averaged about 17 mph, well above my goal of 15 mph. About 45 minutes later, at Mile 13, I reached the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's was wonderful, and I smiled for the professional photographer stationed there to take my picture. I went as slow as I could and even snapped a picture with my phone. I had made it! It gave me a second wind and I pedaled hard for the next big scenic view, Launchpad 39A which still has the tower for the shuttles standing upon it. It was awesome and could easily imagine a Space Shuttle Orbiter with an orange external tank and two tall white solid rocket boosters standing on the pad. I soaked in the moment. I was as close to this pad as I could get without being an astronaut or crew that get to go on the pad itself! The last big scenic point was the second Shuttle Pad 39B which currently has 4 tall lightning towers that look like radio towers, but the shuttle tower itself has been removed. It still was impressive to be that close to history.

It was at this point that I realized I was 20 miles in and had seen the major sights. I had a second pass around the backside of the VAB at Mile 23 but I was starting to hit a wall. And then the wind picked up. The sun has come out around Mile 5, but this wind toward the ocean hit just as I was losing steam at Mile 20 and it made it feel like I was moving through molasses. 

The last 16 miles were the hardest thing I have done in my life. It took me a little over an hour to do the first 20 miles. It took almost another two hours to finish the last 16 miles. Thankfully other cyclists were very encouraging as they passed. Many shouted things like "you've got this!" while others offered advice like "drop your gears and it will be much easier". I thanked every one and heeded all advice, but 16 miles is 16 miles. I hummed, I counted, I focused on the pain in my knees, I distracted myself with daydreams. Around Mile 25, near the exit of the restricted area, I remembered I had food. I might not have been thinking clearly since it took 5 miles of exhaustion before I realized it.

Checking in on Saturday at Space View Park
I ate the energy gummies (like candy jellies with vitamins) faster than I've eaten anything in my life. I started salivating profusely as I ate and realized how much I needed nutrition. At Mile 26 I approached the second water and Gatorade station. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and drank it like it was the nectar of the gods. I was getting a third wind, and being out of the restricted NASA area was a milestone of the end was coming, but I still had 10 miles to go. It wasn't an eventful 10 miles until I got to the causeway again.

When I reached the causeway for the second time, it looked like it had grown by a thousand feet. I kicked my 26 speed bike into its lowest gear, looked down and just...kept...pedaling. I resolved not to get off and I didn't. There was a woman cheering for everyone at the top. She may be my favorite stranger ever. Using her as the light at the end of the tunnel I kept going as hard as it physically was, and when I reached her, I thanked her and coasted down the causeway to the bike dismount point.

I hopped off my bike and what I thought would be sweet relief turned into legs of Jell-O. If I hadn't had the bike to hold on to I would have hit the ground, no question. My father was there (he has the preternatural ability to find me in crowds) and he has the video proof of my near spill. It's quite funny to watch.

I jogged my bike back to its rack, took off my helmet and I was off again! My legs were asleep. You know that feeling when you lay on your arm and it not only gets numb but also is paralyzed? That's what my legs felt like.  But I willed them to start jogging, and I rounded the corner out onto the running course with my Dad cheering me on again (seriously, preternatural).

The run was definitely my strongest leg. Crazy since I was so exhausted at this point, but I love running and my training over the past 10 months has focused on running the most heavily. I hit the halfway point, which was also a turnaround point and was feeling great. I was even averaging a good pace, a 9 min mile which is a usual treadmill pace for me these past few months. And then the cramp hit. My left hamstring seized. I had read about cramps and knew it was a possibility, but I still wasn't prepared. I stopped, stretched, tried to make it let go. I had to keep moving so I went peg-leg and started walking funny. I was disappointed that I can't claim I ran this whole 3.2 mile leg of the race. I started to lose motivation and thought I might walk the final mile.

Then I saw two little girls giving everyone who would pass them a high five. I thought, these girls are reminding me I can do this. My leg uncramped enough for me to start jogging and I ran up to them, gave high fives and thanked them for getting me running again.

As I approached the finish line I spotted my father. He was positioned at the final bend with a banner made by my kids attached to the nearest palm tree. He was fumbling to get his camera phone recording while also holding the banner up for me to see. I got near and realized he wasn't ready, so I jogged in place. He started recording and we laughed and I started jogging for the finish. A family of spectators just up ahead saw what was happening and the father said "well now you need to sprint for the finish to make up for it!" So somehow I found my last reserves and I sprinted as fast as I could the last few hundred feet to cross the finish line, hear my name and town announced, and to receive my medal.

In the end, it was all worth it. I finished without injury, which is more than I can say for some of my fellow competitors. I saw sights I've dreamed of all my life and got closer to them than any non-NASA employee can get. I pushed the limits of my body further than I thought they could ever go. Seriously, I'm just a fat computer guy that sits in a chair all day. I am a stereotype. Not anymore. 

I am a triathlete.

Oh and how did my Dad and I celebrate?

"Brian Jackson, you just completed the Rocketman Florida Triathlon? What are you going to do next?"
"I'm going to Disney World!" 
And we did, about an hour later.

At Disney's Wilderness Lodge to celebrate


During all of this I've been journaling my progress on Tumblr so please check out my posts there: http://jaxzin.tumblr.com

Also if you're data-driven like me and interested to see my race data....
From RunKeeper (on my phone, didn't capture every leg of the race).
Bike > Run

Swim > T1 > Bike > T2 > Run

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Paperless

I've been slowly going paperless over the past decade. The first step on my journey started in 2000 when I signed up to use a payment service, PayTrust, to receive my incoming bills, scan them, and put them online for me to pay. The next major step was probably when I got a digital camera to replace my traditional film cameras. It might not be considered a "paperless" use case, but it has lead to very little hardcopies over the years as monitors and HDTV with screensavers and AppleTVs have become so beautiful.  Back to the paperless office, my next big step was eFileing my taxes but that didn't come until about 5 years later. Then suddenly about two years ago, I hit a real shift in my desire to go completely paperless when I got my iPad and installed Evernote.

digital notes...


If you aren't familiar with Evernote its an excellent app, available on all the major desktop and mobile OSes, that makes note-taking and organizing really simple. The killer feature is it keeps the notes in-sync across all instances, from my iPhone to my iPad to my multiple PCs.

So when I got my iPad and discovered Evernote around the same time, I realized how going paperless was finally a reality. The only problem is that I have a file cabinet full of paper! I tried to just keep up with the incoming paper in our lives using our all-in-one scanner, but sitting in my office just isn't my idea of a fun time, and so that project has stagnated and the paper continues to go into the file cabinet.

Then last week a friend on Facebook posted how he was going paperless and so I asked him his secret. He was nice enough to share that he was use a Doxie scanner. It was the first I had heard of it, but when I looked it up I knew it was exactly what I needed.  After convincing my wife that it was perfectly valid use of my unspent Christmas gift money, I ordered a Doxie Go.

portable scanning to the cloud...


My Doxie Go came four days later, yesterday. Unboxing it, I knew it was what I have been waiting for. It is small, light and battery powered. I already had an Eye-Fi X2 Connect card so in about 5 minutes I had them set up to upload all scans directly to a new Evernote notebook I created and called Import.

The reason I created a new notebook was two-fold. First, the Eye-Fi doesn't let you set which notebook it should add new scans to, and just uses the Evernote concept of a "default" notebook. So instead of having  to sort through an existing notebook for scans that need organizing, it will all go to a staging area for me to sort through.  This decision also affects the "forward an email to Evernote" feature I often use, so having both sources go to the same place for me to sift through isn't a bad thing.

a family affair...


The second reason for a new notebook, is I can share it with my wife and we both have access to new scans. Seeing the size of the Doxie Go, we'll definitely be leaving it in the kitchen so my wife can scan all incoming mail. A shared Evernote notebook means she also gets instant access to the scans without a PC and without me in the way.

Speaking of keeping it in the kitchen, I'm really excited that we have our U-Socket installed there since the Doxie Go doesn't come with a wall charger. I'm sure an iPhone charger would work too, but having the USB socket right in the wall for the Doxie is pretty cool too.

lickable...


I can't speak highly enough of the user experience of the Doxie Go, from the first impression of the site, to ordering, to unboxing and installation; the experience is buttery and wonderful. They have definitely taken a page from Apple and made everything "lickable". About the only thing I could nit-pick about to this point was the order confirmation screen was the dull grey from some third-party payment service.

...the ugly...


So nothing is perfect right? And the Doxie Go is no exception. Where it falls down is trying to bulk import a lot of paper. I have that file cabinet right? So I had planned to sit for 3 hours a night while I'm watch TV or something, bulk scanning everything we had for the next few months. Sadly the Doxie battery gave up about 40 scans after its full charge. So I said, fine I'll just keep it plugged in and stand at my kitchen counter. No go. The Doxie Go only pulls juice from the internal battery and won't stay powered off just the USB power. So I was able to scan for about 10-15 minutes, and will have to wait 2 hours for it to charge again.  This is clearly not the use case it was built for.

Another nit-pick, the marketing implies the Doxie Go has OCR built-in but its actually a software feature. So when you scan directly to Evernote you lose those additional features like auto-contrast and OCR. But its pretty moot for me, Evernote already has OCR that's pretty great.

final thoughts...


In the end, if all my incoming paper can be scanned and thrown away immediately, that's a huge improvement on what we have now.  For the file cabinet, I'll have to break it up into batches of 25 pages or so and slowly scan them over the coming years.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Riddle: When isn't free space free?

So tonight I discovered my hard drive was slowly being choked by some mysterious process writing gigs and gigs to it. So I moved 75GB of files to an external drive only to come back a few hours later and discover my free space was back down to 23 GB.

Where did 50 GB of files come from in just a few hours!?

Idea #1

Rogue process downloading large files...*cough*iTunes*cough*

I had NetUse Traffic Monitor running and it clearly showed that there was definitely not 50 GB of downloads in that time period.

Idea #2

Rogue process writing lots of log files

In my investigation of what to move to the external drive I used GrandPerspective to get a visualization and catalog of what was on my drive. Thankfully I hadn't closed that window so I could rescan and compare what had changed.  Here's the next head scratcher, it showed only a 4 GB total difference in used space between the two scans.

Idea #3

It was something on my wife's side which GrandPerspective couldn't see since it didn't have permissions to her files.

Nope, she only had 24 GB of files on her side.

Idea #4

Google for "mysterious hard drive full"

Surprisingly this got me some new ideas, like it was hidden files, or bad Time Machine backups to a non-existent external drive. Sadly they were not the problem. I even found someone with the same problem but no solution.

Idea #5

Run 'du' to show what GrandPerspective can't see

A this point I realized that GrandPerspective was reporting 104GB of "miscellaneous used space". So Googling for more info, one of the posts I stumbled on lead me to a page about Mac OSX Tiger Problems which introduced me to the BSD disk usage command 'du'. So it seemed like a lower-level command that would take some time, but would show me what GrandPerspective supposedly couldn't. Sadly it didn't and agreed with GrandPerspective that 804GB of my 931GB drive were being used while 'df -kh' agreed with the Finder that only 23GB were free. So four tools were giving me two different answers, that I had either 23GB free or 127GB free depending on which you asked.

Idea #6

Ask Google why 'du' and 'dk' can give different answers.

Sure enough, Google had an answer to why 'du' and 'dk' can differ. Turns out a process can hold onto a deleted file and the file will be unaccounted but the disk space will still be considered used. So at this point I gave in (sorry, never figured out who the offender was) and restarted my computer. Sure enough, after the Finder came back up...I had magically cleared up nearly 87 GB of hard drive space.

Moral of the story

Try restarting first, even for disk free space issues apparently. #facepalm

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For that rant you read...

Yesterday, I saw a stranger ranting about how my local town doesn't consistently use their call system to notify people of snow delays. He then went on to list at least four other alternative sources he could choose from and was finally "forced" to find out from the local TV station.

His rant was amusing because it reminded me of the comic Louis CK's bit about how everything is amazing, yet nobody's happy. It got me thinking that I wish someone had created a landing page that I could link a ranter like this guy to. Something in a similar tone to http://dearrecruiters.com and http://lmgtfy.com.

So that's what I did last night, I created http://yourenothappy.com

Monday, October 10, 2011

A year like no other

Today is a significant marker in my life, the first anniversary of the passing of my mother-in-law. Her death was sudden and I was unprepared for it. While shocked and sad, after the week of mourning was over, I expected life to return to normal quickly. In many ways it did, but in retrospect I'm amazed at how much flux there was throughout the following year.

In hindsight, I now see how depressed I was for several months after her death. It feels silly to say that, since I'm generally a happy person. The idea of me being depressed for a day let alone a month feels very out of character. But I was and it affected the decisions I made and blurred my focus, both personally and professionally. I've been searching during most of the past twelve months and it took a while to find myself again, as my wife has so patiently endured.

My productivity at work took a nose dive for a while, partially because I became extremely disinterested in what I was working on. My disinterest led me to entertain notions of leaving ESPN. As the old cliche goes, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my own life. I considered starting my own company and began working to that end. Around the same time I was contacted by Zynga, best known for the Farmville and Mafia Wars games on Facebook. I was flattered but the idea that I'd pickup my family and move seemed a bit crazy, so my thoughts turned to, "well if I'm really considering this, what is exciting in the network of people I already have and commutable?" This led to a string of interviews in the city at some great places like GetGlue and foursquare.

The interesting thing is that these interviews, while they didn't lead to job offers they led to other interviews. My interview at foursquare led to an interview at a stealth-mode startup. And that interview led to another interview where I got an job offer. In the end I didn't accept that offer but it's been a surreal ride to experience how the NYC tech startup scene works and how tightly-knit it is. The connections I've made have been pretty amazing, and I hope they will end up helping me someday when I start my own company. But that's for another year...let me continue.

While all this was going on, I got an interview request from Apple. That ride took me from a clandestine interview hidden away in a New York hotel, to a trip to the Cupertino mothership, all the way to a job offer that nearly turned my family's world upside-down. We were "this" close to uprooting my wife and kids to the Bay Area, a continent away from everything we had ever known. In the end, leaving everyone we had ever known was too great a hardship to accept, and that was one of the biggest lessons I learned this year. I took me quite a few extra months to learn it after I began reflecting on my own mortality, but for me, family and friends are too important to allow ambition to pull me away from them. I would have loved to have worked at Apple, lived in California, and have that notch on my resume, but I love seeing my kids playing with their grandparents more.

So though my path doesn't lead to One Infinite Loop, it doesn't mean my ambition has ended with that journey. I can take an East Coast path to get where I want to go. Amazingly, it looks like that path stays at ESPN. On the exact same day, actually in the same hour that I got my offer from Apple, I got news that ESPN wanted to create the role for me that I had been asking for for years, as a build engineer. I started that new role last week, and I haven't been this happy professionally in a while. It's exactly where I want to be right now, which brings me to my second cliched lesson, everything happens for a reason. If things had played out differently, I would not have been at ESPN to accept the new role.

With all that happened, Joanne hasn't been out of my thoughts for very long. I miss her, and I hope she is at peace. I know that right now, I am too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Simplifying logging with Maven and SLF4J (Part 2)

So in my previous post I explained how to simplify your logging with Maven and SLF4J. If you haven't read it yet, please do before reading more.  Since then I've discovered an easier and cleaner way to remove the secondary frameworks from your Maven dependency tree.

Here's a revised overview of the steps:

  1. Decided which logging framework will be your primary, aka who will actually write to your log file.
  2. Define the dependency scope of all the secondary frameworks to be 'provided'.
  3. Configure your project to depend on drop-in replacements of each secondary framework from SLF4J.

Define secondary frameworks as provided


Use the dependencyManagement section for this. Its used when you might have a dependency transitively.

Add dependency on SLF4J

Add the following to your pom.xml

Conclusion


So now in only 3 steps you can redirect all your logging to your primary logging framework without changing a line of code!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Newly open source

Well its about 10 years too late for some of this stuff but I figured I'd open the source to my dead projects I have lying around. Some are pretty raw, like my flocking applet from a college course, while others are completely functional and dare I say beautiful code, like my X10 Java library.

  • FlockingApplet - a graphical applet that simulates the flocking behavior of birds.
  • handlecheck - a web app that searches the web to see if your favorite username is taken.
  • gwt-common-widgets - a collection of Google Web Toolkit widgets
  • x10-java - a Java library for home automation.