Category: Sports

12695000_10154281394497841_1631970154761970522_oSaturday morning it was cool outside, a forecast that looks to be the case for most of the upcoming week.  In the morning we went out to run errands.  Most of what we needed was picked up at Rural King including bird seed, top soil, and a few more odds and ends. After eating lunch I felt adequately ambitious enough to finally take on the brake shoe replacement on the rear drum brakes on the Tacoma.

I have had the new shoes at home for a couple weeks but I was in no rush to tackle the job.  I worked on the drum brakes of my Mom’s Rav 4 years ago and it didn’t go well.  I didn’t pay enough attention when taking them apart and as a result had a hell of a time getting everything back together correctly. The rear brakes on the Tacoma had not been touched for years and years.  I bet 100k miles have ticked by since they last received attention.

Recently the brake warning light on the dash has been coming on periodically and the pedal seemed to not be grabbing until it traveled a short distance, both indicators to me that the brake shoes on the back were probably ready to get replaced.  Of course I intended to video the entire job as my automotive maintenance videos are among my most popular on YouTube.  People seem to like my honestly amateur approach to the work where I am not afraid to show mistakes I make along the way so others can learn from them.

I took provisions this time to make sure I had adequate visual references.  I pulled the drums from both rear wheels so I could always refer to the other side if need be, even though it is reversed.  I also took close up pictures of each drum brake assembly to further assist me.  While this is helpful, there are parts of drum brakes that are not clearly visible when everything is put together.  Those aspects just needed to be mentally observed and noted.  As I started tearing down the driver side wheel I laid out the parts I removed on the ground roughly in their position in the brakes to further assist me in the reassembly process.

The most difficult part of getting the brake shoes off is the main long tension spring.  I used a combination of a flat head screw driver and my locking needle nose vise grip pliers to brute force the spring out of it’s mounting point.  Once it was removed the rest of the parts come off pretty easily.  The first thing I noticed on the old pads was they had more brake material on them than I expected.  After all they had been on the truck forever.  When I looked at them more closely later it appeared the pads were glazed over pretty badly which results in poor stopping power.

So once I got old shoes off I pulled out the new brake shoes I ordered online from AutoZone.  I immediately spotted a big problem, literally.  The brake shoes I just removed were much larger than the new ones I pulled out of the box.  Apparently I was sent shoes that are for non Pre-Runner Tacomas which are approximately 8 inches in length.  Pre Runners use shoes that are a little over 11 inches long.  My reaction when I see this was caught on tape and is pretty funny.

So I had no choice but to drive to the nearest AutoZone and swap out the pads.  I was worried they would not have them in stock.  Fortunately luck was on my side.  Not only did they have the pads, they were a couple bucks cheaper for some reason, despite their larger dimensions.  I headed back home with the proper part, eager to complete the project.

The 90 or so minutes it took to get the new shoes resulted in a few hiccups when I was putting stuff back together as I forgot how a spring on the back of the one shoe was positioned.  After some trial and error I got it figured out.  Getting the brakes back together was a bit of a grind, the biggest issues of course being reattaching the high tension springs which again I mostly used the vise grips to perform.  Tearing down and replacing the shoes on the passenger side went much faster after cutting my teeth on the driver side.

Drum brakes have a self adjusting mechanism.  Basically when you go in reverse with the brakes applied it is supposed to keep the brakes adjusted.  Normally you are supposed to manually adjust the shoes when you replace them so the clearance is tight and allow the self adjuster to take over from there.  In my case I only manually adjusted the brakes a little bit, hoping the self adjuster would take out any remaining slop.

I spent a couple minutes in the driveway pulling forward and backward to hopefully let the self adjuster do it’s thing.  However when I took the truck on the road in a steady rain I still felt too much pedal travel so I pulled it back into the garage.  I jacked up the rear end of the truck once again and slid underneath the wet and dripping undercarriage.  On the back of the brake assembly is a small adjustment hole covered by a rubber plug.   It gives access to the brake adjuster, you basically spin it with a small screw driver.

By this time it was dark outside so I was awkwardly trying to hold a shop light while I spun the adjuster.  Basically I spun the wheel, adjusted the gear and then spun it again.  I repeated this till I got just a little bit of resistance on the wheel.  On the next road test the brakes felt tons better, the best they have felt in years.  Sure in total I spent something like 5 hours (including drive for parts) getting the job done but it is another chapter in my growing book of successful automotive tasks.  If you have a half hour to kill you can watch the whole ordeal below.

On Sunday morning Cindy and I wanted to get out to do a run to help negate in at least to a small degree the caloric hit we were sure to take from the Super Bowl party.  I came up with the idea of running the loop down around King’s Lake, an area I ran years ago when Ali and I started running down here.  I knew the loop was somewhere close to 3 miles.  The temps were quite chilly in the 50’s with wind which I actually prefer to running in 85 degrees with 85% humidity.   The run was scenic and done at relatively slow pace but I didn’t really care.  It worked out to be a 1/4 mile short of 3 miles which was good enough for me.

We got home just shortly after Katie and her boyfriend picked up the second of my old furniture pieces.  It was the bigger sofa piece which had been sitting in the garage for the last few days.  I have been liking our new set from Rooms to Go but only time will tell how directly the correlation between it’s relatively low price and durability will work out.

Once we got home we got busy plowing into party prep.  While Cindy was inside I was outside trying to get the back yard in order.  The chickens have been on another hole digging kick recently, excavating a number of holes in the small hill by the pool border on the door side of the cage.  I bought top soil and a roll of green plastic chicken fencing to stop the behavior.  After back filling the holes I cut the fencing to length and laid it on top of the area, pinned down by heavy patio stones on either side.  It surely is not what I would prefer the hill would look like but it’s better than being filled with chicken created potholes.  I really wish we could come up with a way to permanently keep the chickens out of the pool border, they just make a mess of it.  When I see them digging around there I often will go set the sprinklers to fire off in the border to scare them off. Of course it works for a time being but in order for it to be effective we need to be more consistent so their little chicken brains associate digging in that area with getting wet.

12669687_951159784970300_1180290439153639016_nBesides taking a brief time out for lunch Cindy and I were busy pretty much right up to the arrival of the first party guest between 5 and 5:30.  There are just so many moving parts to hosting a party for almost 20 people.  Almost everybody showed up that we expected and they did so before kick off.  In the past we had some people screw around in the back yard before the game but the cold and blustery conditions curtailed that this year besides taking a few people out back to say hi to the chickens, since they are a new addition since last year.

At the party’s peak the great room/kitchen area was packed.  In addition to the two sofas we had our portable ottomans, dining room chairs, two bean bags and a couple large floor pillows in use to provide adequate seating arrangements.  There were so many people it was difficult to hear much of what was going out of the surround system, despite me having the volume cranked pretty high.  Between the noise and Cindy and I attending to party needs we got to focus very little on the game during the first half.

One of my main concerns was managing the betting board, making sure bets like first penalty, first td, first coaches challenge, etc… were all documented properly so the winners of each bet could be identified. After half time there was a mass exodus of people as most individuals were not as fortunate as I was to have taken off Monday from work to recover.  For most the second half of the game we only had maybe a half dozen people hanging with us so I got to pay more attention to the game itself.

Of course one of my core activities during the game was drinking.  I bet in total I knocked down somewhere between 7 to 9 Miller Lites.  Of course the generous consumption of alcohol lead to me consuming obscene amounts of food.  I sampled pretty much everything in the huge spread at least once with multiple trips to several items throughout the night. It was pure gluttony.

I was happy with the outcome of the game as I was really pulling for Peyton Manning to get a Super Bowl win to close out his spectacular career.  Peyton was really a minor player in the victory, it was the Denver defense that really controlled the game, battering Cam Newton from start to finish.  It reminded me of the way the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl teams felt.

Cam got chastised after the game for not diving on a loose ball after it got knocked out of his hand.  To me I think the criticism  is a bit overblown.  If you watch the play it seems to me Cam stopped himself from diving because he saw his offensive lineman already mid-dive in front of him.  Diving on top of your own player in a loose ball scenario rarely helps matters but evidently for appearance sake, the media thinks otherwise.

I was surprised to hear the negative backlash about the Super Bowl halftime show.  It was basically crucified but perhaps it was in a way similar to the Cam Newton thing.  Once a negative opinion gets legs  people love to pile on.  I am personally a Cold Play fan and even though I didn’t think there was anything spectacular about the halftime show I thought it was entertaining and well produced.  Apparently I am in the minority.

After the last people left Cindy and I dug into clean up duties, trying to get as much as we could done before retiring to bed.  As you can imagine there is all sorts of collateral damage when you have that many people jammed into a living space.  By the time we collapsed in bed closing in on midnight we were both exhausted.

On Monday we both hoped to have a good portion of chill time available.  Somehow it didn’t work out that way.  I rolled out of bed feeling hungover but not horribly so.  I slowly worked on breaking down the table we had in the great room to house drinks.  I then worked on emptying the coolers which included giving away large amounts of beer to two of our neighbors.  The Miller Lites I have left in the fridge would probably satisfy my drinking needs for the next 6 months or more.

We headed out to get some coffee and hit the bank.  Once we got back I had it in my head I wanted to set up my recently refurbished inflatable arch.  You may recall I sent it down to a place in Texas for them to replace some sections and rebrand it for Green Machine Timing.  Even though I saw a picture of it inflated down in Texas I had not blown it up myself since getting it back.  I am going to be renting the arch in a couple weeks for a race so I figured it would be a good idea to blow it up as practice and to see the refurbish work.

12698622_10154279981957841_3865319142461957225_oCindy helped me get the arch up.  We both liked the new look of the arch with the new black/green color scheme with the GMT badging across the top and both legs.  I decided I wanted to pull out all of my race gear and take a few pictures that I can use on my web site to help promote both my timing services and equipment rental.  Right now I only have the stuff needed to time a small event.  My further acquisition of stuff will depend on how things progress.  I am certainly in no rush to rapidly expand my workload as for the near future I would like to enjoy not having anything race timing related to worry about or focus on.

Somehow despite our noble intentions to chill out a good portion of the day we instead kept busy for the majority of it.  I needed to tend to the automatic chicken door once again.  It was in the down position Monday morning instead of opening up at 6AM as it is supposed to.  I found out the fishing line we used to fix the door last time had snapped.  I went to the local hardware store and bought some more robust braided string to use this time around.  I think it will hold up much better.

I also gathered up all of my tax paperwork to submit to my accountant during the afternoon.  I am expecting a less exciting than normal tax refund this year because of more race timing revenue, $1000 in Google Ad dollars combined with my cashing out the dependent IRA I received as part of my mom’s estate to pay for the flooring upgrade.   I am hoping some of the additional race timing expenses I had during the year will help even things out at least a little bit.  I guess as long as I don’t have to pay in any taxes it is a win although for the last 15 years I have counted on my tax refund as an indirect savings plan that is normally used for some home improvement task/item.  Hopefully that streak does not end this year.

I had a horrible night of sleep last night, waking up first at 1AM and then rolling around restlessly for at least a couple hours.  It’s frustrating and a negative on my overall well being obviously. Despite the poor sleep, all in all it was a productive/fun 3 day weekend.  The best news is I get another one in four short days. 😉



12466181_10154236838182841_7434535693338582281_oSo with the bad forecast for the half marathon I came up with an idea on Friday to make timing in stormy weather more feasible, rent a box truck.  I secured a 16 foot truck for $35 a day and 99 cents per mile, far less than I expected.  With that size I would have plenty of room to set up two or three tables loaded up with the computer equipment used for race timing.  The only thing that would be left outside would be the timing boxes themselves which are able to be operated with their lids closed, making them pretty weather resistant.  I picked up the truck on Saturday after getting permission from the running club to do so.

When I rented the truck I had a funny interaction with the guy that ran the office.  When I walked in he had a gamer headset on and he appeared somewhat annoyed I interrupted him.  After I took a look at the monster PC he had on the desk which I immediately recognized as a gaming rig I asked him questions about it, letting him know my computer background.  Once he knew he was talking to a fellow computer geek the conversation flowed.  He told me about the specs of his big full tower box that he built himself which were impressive.

We exchanged stories of our gaming experience.  I found out he was an old WoW player and a quite high level one at that.  He played the game the first three years it was out.  I told him I have been plugging away for a solid 10 years.  In addition to completing the paperwork for the rental he took the time to show me some details of Fallout 4, which is what he was playing when I walked in the door.  It was a geeky interaction out of nowhere that I appreciated.

On Friday after work I went over to the running store where I stayed until packet pick up wound up at 7PM.  I worked on getting current with any entries that came in during the day. On Saturday afternoon I headed back down there to do the same.

Now of course the potential for bad weather was on everyone’s mind.  The weather forecast for Sunday was consistently bad but the time frame seemed to be shifting around.  Unfortunately it seemed like the worst weather was forecast to hit during the time everything would be set up.  The plan was to show up as normal and if the weather conditions were really bad we could slide the race start time back to accommodate it.  Cindy and I used the 16 foot truck to hold most of the stuff which was a good thing since I had the most equipment I ever used at a race with four timing systems and 24 one meter mats.  We went to bed early, hoping to compensate for the 3AM alarm I had set for Sunday morning. Unfortunately I wound up waking  up somewhere around 1AM and not really falling asleep afterward.  During my tossing and turning I heard several bursts of storm activity outside.

When we got up I immediately looked at the latest weather conditions.  I was not happy to see a tornado watch had been put in place that ran until 8AM.  I called the race director who was already in the process of setting up the course just to let him know about the watch and suggest we wait until that watch clears to start the race which was scheduled for a 7AM start. Cindy and I pulled out our race caravan with me leading in the box truck and Cindy following in the Tacoma.

On the way to the race I got a message that they were officially postponing the start until 8 to give the weather a chance to clear, a good move.  When we got there the roads were wet but it wasn’t raining and the wind was minimal.  However when I looked at the radar before leaving home I saw Naples looked to be on the tail end of a long line of storms that was moving northeast very rapidly.  It was not a matter of if the storm was going to hit but when.

Cindy and I started working on setting up stuff.  We dumped the timing gear at the start and finish lines.  I parked the big truck in position by the finish line and set up tables inside of it.  I looked at my temporary timing shelter with a weird sense of pride for coming up with a way to get the job done despite the very challenging weather conditions.  We started setting up the registration area over by the bank under a covered parking area that we hoped would provide shelter if the storm got really bad.  With the one hour delay we suddenly had a much longer window to get everything set up.

12573050_10205622586667196_4983391032435396285_nSo Chris, who was there to help me do data entry had his iPad along.  On it he had the live radar view on loop which showed the line of red was almost on us.  The wind started to pick up along with the rain so the group of us around the registration area took cover.  As the wind and rain picked up it started blowing in so we quickly pulled all the tables and computer equipment that I already had set up back as far as we could to minimize it’s exposure to the elements.

The storm was bad but didn’t seem like anything beyond a typical Florida summer thunderstorm, until it wasn’t.  All of a sudden there was a few minutes where the wind ratcheted up to an entirely new level.  The huge flag that hangs over Cambier Park sounded like it was ready to be ripped from the pole.  I stood up and leaned on the huge, heavy wood tables in front of me for fear they could actually be blown around.  The sound of the wind, which was reported to be 80+ mph,  was dangerous.

So we all huddled underneath the overhang for around 15-20 minutes while the worst of the storm blew through.  I honestly felt a bit exposed there and had my eyes scanning for any flying debris that could come our way.  We took a look at the race banner hanging over the start line in the street.  We saw a mangled mess as one of the tether lines snapped from the force.  When things started to die down we did a brief survey of our immediate area and things seemed more or less intact with just some palm fronds down at various spots.

Just as we were getting ready to start drying stuff off and resume preparations we got word from the volunteer coordinator that the race was now cancelled.  Evidently there was much more extensive damage on the course with not just branches but entire trees down, severe flooding and even power lines down.  There was no way the event could take place with those sort of hazards on the course.  Later we were told that this storm had the characteristics of something called a “meteotsunami”, which very quickly and dramatically pushed a wall of water from the gulf on shore which caused the flooding.  The hurricane force winds were just the icing on the cake.

After we were told of the cancellation I just sat there for a few moments, shell shocked.  There has never been a race cancellation due to weather conditions, for it to happen with the biggest event the club puts on just seemed unbelievable.  I immediately felt very badly for the race participants, many of whom travel from out of the area to be here for the half marathon. I thought of all the preparation that went into the event by both myself and others.  To have all of that nullified by a 15 minute storm seemed crazy.

With a race of this scope there is no rescheduling possible so basically people are just SOL as “acts of God” do not qualify runners for refunds.  While I was on site I remote controlled to my home computer so I could quickly get information posted to the official race website.  Luckily the majority of racers had been following the updates and did not show up on site.

So the undoing of the race prep began with the crew of volunteers and ourselves picking up everything that had just been laid out.  Luckily for me I had not fully set up all my stuff at that point.  We packed up the stuff we set up at the registration area and I then took down the tables in the back of the box truck.  We drove the truck back to the start line to pick up the timing equipment we set there.  I was surprised to see some of the very heavy rubber mats had gotten blown off the stack. As we were throwing the wet mats into the back of the truck a reporter from the Naples Daily News snapped a picture of Cindy and I as we were standing under the mangled half marathon start line banner.  That picture wound up on the front page of the sports section of Monday’s paper which was unexpected.

On the drive home we saw all sorts of damage with tons of branches on the roadways along with a ton of uprooted trees.  When I saw substantial wind damage at the developments near our house I was quite worried about damage at our house, especially to the chicken coop.  We both breathed a sigh of relief that other than some smaller things scattered around the yard our property escaped basically unscathed.

I’m sure the chickens were scared to death. Having the shed/run pull through such extreme weather intact made Cindy and I feel good about the extra work we put in to make sure both structures were built to be as storm resistant as possible.  The one nuisance we did have to deal with from the storm was a power outage which lasted around half the day.

12487172_10154238544747841_152089865652134710_oBy the time we got home the weather seemed almost nice.  I pulled out the 24 wet mats and laid them out to dry, one side at a time.  We had some other stuff that needed to dry out as well.  All day I couldn’t help but feel weird about doing all of that prep and not actually getting to time the race.  After the huge timing disaster we had at last year’s half marathon I was really looking to make things run like clockwork this year, despite the conditions.  Since this was also the last half marathon I was timing for the club, not getting the chance to get that redemption was a little depressing.

The rest of our day Sunday felt incredibly long, a byproduct of starting your day at 3AM.  After getting all of the race equipment dried out and put away I turned my attention to the Tacoma.  While we were driving to the race Cindy told me the truck was acting weird and shaking.  When she first mentioned it to me I thought she meant just a tire vibration which I wrote off as no big deal.  I then got a clarification that it was an engine related problem.  The truck was missing and Cindy said she really couldn’t go any faster than 50 mph.  The check engine light had come on as well.

I hooked up my car computer scanner and got a P300, P304 and P304 error code which meant that cylinder three and four were misfiring.  I cleared the codes and took the truck out for a very brief test drive.  The misfiring was still there and the CEL came on again, great.  So I did some research about the issue on my phone as Cindy drove us home after we dropped off the box truck at the Penske lot.

The easy causes of the problem are stuff like bad wires, coil, or plugs.  Tacomas have a different coil arrangement.  Instead of having one coil there are actually three of them, each one drives two of the plugs.  The recommendation was to swap coil packs around to see if the problem follows the coil.  I swapped the coil pack on cylinder three assuming it also drove cylinder four.  After clearing the codes and doing another test drive the misfire was still present although I only got a P304 error this time.  After feeding these test results into Google it seemed like a more likely cause of the misfire could be a failed fuel injector, something very much in the realm of possibility for a vehicle with 186,000 miles on the odometer.  Unfortunately changing one involves pretty extensive tear down, similar to what I had to do to change the valve cover gaskets.  I called it good for the day with the intention to resume diagnostics on Monday.

On Sunday night we watched True Story, our latest Netflix rental.  With no naps during the day I knew I risked nodding off during the movie, which I did several times.  The drowsiness was not because of the movie which was interesting, seeing Seth Rogen and James Franco play very serious roles in a true life story about a man that killed his family.  I had Cindy help fill in some of the blank spots while I nodded off laying on her lap.  It added up to a solid B+ film that is a quality rental title.

Having Monday off was quite welcome after the events of Sunday.  We headed out relatively early to go pick up some oil change supplies.  Both the Prius and Tacoma were overdue for oil changes.    We also dropped off the left over race bibs from the race at the running store where runners were able to pick up race shirts and medals since they would go to waste otherwise.

I dug into the oil changes early Monday afternoon, completing both oil changes in the span of 45 minutes.  I then resumed my diagnosis of the Tacoma.  One of the things I did not do on Sunday was pull the plug in cylinder four to take a look at it.  When I pulled the spark plug wire something didn’t feel right.  When I looked at the boot of the wire something didn’t look right, the attachment terminal was missing.  A look into the spark plug hole revealed it was still attached to the spark plug.

This scenario was good and bad news.  The good news was that possibly the misfiring could have simply been caused by a defective spark plug wire.  The bad news was I now had to figure out some way to get the broken terminal off the spark plug so I could remove the spark plug itself.   This turned out to be a VERY challenging task that tested the limits of my patience.

At first I tried using a simple needle nose pliers to grasp the broken terminal.  Because of the lack of space it was impossible to get a grasp on it.  I then began a long and arduous session with a long flat head screw driver.  I stuck it into the plug hole and tried to work the terminal back and forth so it would loosen up.  I then tried to pin it against the side of the hole so I could pry it upwards.  After a couple dozen attempts over the course of 45 minutes I got it to pop off the top of the spark plug.  I was able to fish the terminal out of the hole with my retractable magnet.

I then confidently stuck my spark plug socket in the hole, ready to finally remove the plug after all that futzing around.  Despite removing the terminal it still felt like my socket was just spinning around on nothing.  WTF?  I brought out my stick light so I could get a better view down the hole.  What I saw was a circle of rubber on top of the spark plug.  Not only did the terminal of the spark plug wire break off, the rubber boot that normally surrounds it was down there as well, awesome.

This discovery lead to another incredibly aggravating session of trying to get the rubber removed.  I was able to spin it around with my screwdriver but not remove it.  I alerted Cindy to my issue and said I needed a small wire hook to snag the rubber.  She found an old wire plant hanger in the shed.  I was able to snip off one  of the wires and then bend the end into a very small hook.  As I stuck the wire into the hole my eyes were watering as I tried to focus, it was very hard to see.  Finally, finally I snagged the rubber boot and managed to lift it out of the plug hole.  Instinctively I said “f you” out loud to the remains of the spark plug boot as I removed it.  It was the end result of close to two hours of digging around in a little hole with no clearance and the wrong tools for the job.  I finally was able to get a socket on the plug and remove it.  The plug itself looked ok but I ordered a complete new set of plugs and wires on Amazon.  My hope is the misfire was all wire related and I can avoid ripping off the entire intake of the truck to do injectors.

12615226_1115058618507391_534867812883020341_oAfter the Tacoma work I suggested to Cindy we take out the mountain bikes out for their first test ride of Bird Rookery swamp, something we had wanted to do for a little while.  The cool air in the low to mid-60’s left us both feeling quite chilled on the 3 mile ride to the trail head.  Once we got off road both of our bikes felt good on the mostly grass trail.  In total we went around 2.25 miles into the swamp before turning around.

Doing the trail on a mountain bike is different than doing the same by foot.  You obviously cover territory at a much faster clip.  I think you also get to see less since you need to concentrate more on the ground under you to avoid obstacles while riding.  We stopped several times so Cindy could take some pictures of especially scenic locations.

By the time we started the return ride out we were both feeling some aches and soreness.  Mountain bikes are double the weight or more of the road bikes we are used to riding,  Riding them over uneven terrain introduces a new sort of effort level which also carries a discomfort penalty for your rear end, back, and hands.  By the time we rode the 3 miles back to the house we were BEAT.    Our eventual goal is to do the entire 12 mile circuit in the swamp which when added to the ride to and from the house will be around 18 miles.  The way we felt doing the roughly 10 miles yesterday makes me only imagine how we will feel when we take on the whole deal. The rest of our Monday, the little that was left of it was more low key with us enjoying a nice dinner and dvr’d tv content to wind up the 3 day weekend.

Of course I saw the news that the Eagles hired a new head coach, Doug Pederson, who was the offensive coordinator for the KC Chiefs.  I wish I could say I liked this hire.  Eagles fans remember the name Doug Pederson.  He was the starting QB VERY briefly right before the Donovan McNabb era began.  I remember feeling very unexcited back then when we were told that Pederson, despite not having much actual NFL play time, had been a back up in good programs which somehow meant he should be decent by osmosis.  Well the reality was he was extremely unimpressive  in his Eagles stint.  His starting record as  a qb was something like 3-14.

usa-today-8773028.0[1]Well Andy Reid always liked Doug and eventually brought him on staff as a coach.  First as an “offensive consultant” and later as a QB coach for the Eagles.  When Andy was fired from the Eagles he took Doug with him to KC and named his as offensive coordinator.  During his three years there the Chiefs offense was ok, but certainly nothing dynamic.  Plus since Andy Reid is very much involved in the offensive play calling, being an OC on an Andy Reid team means you aren’t really calling the shots.

The overwhelming consensus is the Pederson hiring is underwhelming.  I read an ESPN article that said out of the 6 coaches hired this off season, Doug is the least impressive of them. I assume that Jeff Lurie is hoping that somehow Doug will be Andy Reid-esque since he has been in his company for a long time.  We saw how that “greatness by association with greatness” theory worked out in Pederson’s QB career.  I have a bad feeling his head coaching career could follow a similar story line.  Hopefully I am wrong.


rumble99-9[1]Yesterday I was reminiscing with my good friend and volleyball partner extraordinaire, Rich about our 1999 Pottstown Rumble win in the BB division.  He asked me if I still had the write up I did about it.

The page that had the link to it had a 404 error so I manually found the write up and sent the link to Rich.  I reread the recap as well.  It brought back the magic memories of the day where we outlasted a field of more than 120 teams to take the top spot.  Well Rich, some 16 years later decided to write up his own recollection of that day along with a general overview of our days as a volleyball doubles team.  Rich is blessed with strong writing skills along with a pretty remarkable ability to recall minute details of events that occurred long ago, a gift I do not possess.

Well anyway, with Rich’s permission, I am posting his recollection of that epic day, enjoy.


Another Point of View – My Recollection of the 99 Rumble Win

Shawn and I had been serious partners the year before, and on various quads teams and sixes a year earlier, but it was right about here that we, through repetition, became very in tune to each other’s habits, coverages, and abilities as double’s partners.

I had various partners for tournaments prior to, during and after our run together with some success, but never was I to match up with someone who was so like me in certain game aspects, while so complimentary in others. Both these factors wound up being exactly what I needed to excel in the doubles game. Both Shawn and I at the time were tall, athletic types who took on volleyball later in life (for me, at age 28 or so), and subsequently didn’t have any formal training on teams to develop skills. Neither Shawn nor I was comfortable hand-setting, so about 90 percent of our sets were bump sets, even when there was a ton of time to square up to a ball to hand set. Neither of us, in spite of our height, was an exceptional blocker, and as a result, we would rarely commit to blocking, instead relying on quick reads and throwing block signals at the last possible moment, with the down person running a best guess defense. I would say in these years, we would block at most 25 percent of the time, falling out of blocks and doubling down at mid-court, challenging hitters to beat us that way. We never spoke of these unorthodox decisions; it just wound up being what we did, letting our reaction and athleticism dictate our success or failure. I’m sure we were unlike most any team our opponents encountered, and probably, if given time, could be dissected easily.

However we differed in fundamental ways that, as I look back made our play so interesting. Shawn, if asked would say his best feeling in a game would come when he smashed a ball down so hard it would bounce 15 feet in the air through whatever defense was put up. I on the other hand felt best when someone like Shawn on the other team would hit like that, yet I would dig the ball clean. He wanted to punish; I wanted to rob them of their best effort. That kind of chemistry was a magic that only we shared. I had good twitch reflex back then, and would play a step back and lunge forward. Shawn stayed back a bit more, and whereas I would cover more than half the court in the front, he would do so in the back. This resulted in digs for him that gave him time to run up on approach, and my digs would offer me little approach and become more a finesse game when I had to hit.

Shawn had a powerful outside hit. We were both lefties, and he preferred weak side. If his timing was on and the sets were there, he could hold his own against any hitter I remember us facing. He rarely did anything else, a slugger through and through. But when it works it works, and I would bump set and scamper to dig blocks which most always would come on my side anyway since he hit angle more times than not. But he was hard to block. I didn’t have near the strength or form. I could hit, but needed a better set, was more prone to be blocked and I’m sure I hit line as often as cross. I relied on placement to supplement, and this also kept my body a little fresher for running around like a nut. I was forced to watch how the other team played, and adjust my game as I saw habits. I can’t say this was strategy by design, rather it was to supplement shortcomings. Shawn was the stronger of us two, but as is the strategy in doubles, the weak person gets most of the serves and has to do most of the siding out, so it was always important to me that I at least looked as imposing as Shawn, so even if I didn’t have the raw power, it would take other teams at least a game to figure it out. Not that I was a slouch by any means, but that’s how doubles works.

Shawn was a competitor. He wanted to win badly always, and provided us the drive to win. I had more of a casual mentality, seeing games as more of a challenge than anything else, and whereas I liked winning, never had a killer instinct. I think maybe I did want to win just as much, but never had confidence in my abilities frankly, and pawned it off as if I didn’t care as much. I guess there’s some psychology to look into there. Sure, we would talk each other up when we got into ruts, as is bound to happen throughout the day or the season, but we were neither the type that yelled at each other (I had some partners like that, and my response to being yelled at was a basic, F you, it’s only a game shutdown) Shawn knew how to deal with me, and keep me interested in the win. I never thought we were the best team on the net; he ALWAYS thought we were. Looking back I probably was playing above my level in a way to prove to him that I could do it.

Finally, Shawn was a preparer. He had the tent, the cooler, the multiple balls, the Oakley’s and the spare Oakley’s ,the towels, medicine, bandages, braces, food, chairs, a case of water, and the wife who took pictures and movies all day and pretty much every comfort there was. He even registered us. I, in turn brought a towel, sunglasses and a spare shirt. I travelled light. I never thanked him for all that stuff. Thanks, Shawn.

I had a light stomach, when I played, which led to problematic fatigue if matches lasted too long. I would drink Gatorade and water, but normally any food would make me sluggish and feel worse. If events offered food, I would need to eat sparingly, and never unless we had some serious down time. I remember for the Rumble, I brought a bag of Smarties candy. That’s more than I usually brought, content on riding the day out and eating when we were done. Shawn and Ali packed enough supplies to eat for 3 days. I believe one of the secret factors on my part for the 99 Rumble was that it lasted so long..from 6 AM to 10 PM, and we had such a lull between pool play and playoffs, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 hours, that I actually had the time to eat a full meal, hydrate, and digest. Sure we were stiff from waiting, but the day was so hot and humid that it didn’t take long to stretch out again. And boy was it hot that day.

I’d love to write about our finals match being this epic, hard fought battle of attrition, but truthfully, it was anything but that. We really just played consistently, while the other team imploded. I can’t offer a reason why it happened, and frankly I remember in my eyes conceding the win before we began, as this team looked far better than any team I had seen all day, and our semi-final match was such a war. They were young guys who obviously played ball in high school and/or college, with soft handset ability and an arsenal of presumed tricks and power. I was running on a reserve tank of adrenaline by that time, and my effort was far more robotic. I remember telling Shawn before the game that we could be proud just being here this far, and that there would be no shame in losing. How’s that for a booster speech? He looked at me and gave me a “What the fuck, we can win it! Do you want to lose to them ?” reply which is just what I needed. I hated the other team. I hated how they looked, how they acted, and I hated their gaggle of annoying friends that stayed to watch them win. I wasn’t normally that way, so it took a certain attitude to make me delight in another team’s misery. And I remember, after one point we got, where I did a reverse bump at the net on a wayward ball that was at a hard angle and they didn’t even try for it, that, “Hey we’re at 7-1. It would really take us falling apart at this point not to win this”, and how confusing, somewhat frightening and surreal that felt. “Don’t over-think it, Rich….let them make mistakes…Shawn’s serving hard and in…just don’t fuck up, and play consistent”, that was what was racing through my mind. Consistancy…pass the ball as precise as you can..keep your feet light…be ready…I hope this is over soon….

The real game, the real finals was in fact our semi-finals match. We had just come off beating a team that we lost to a year ago, that I was proud to have beaten now in the playoffs, and anything after that point was just gravy to me. This new team was a wicked combo, of a 40 year old guy who had the skills of our friend Brian Eisele, a cerebral player (and well-respected mentor) if ever there was one, and a 20 something athlete guy who ran the back, played defense well, and could hit out of anywhere. The older guy happily fed the younger guy, and neither was weak so there was no better play in most circumstances. That, and the encroaching darkness meant that it was easy to lose points that otherwise we shouldn’t have, and the breaks didn’t start out going our way. We were asked if we wanted to move under the lights when it was about 9-6 and we were down. That’s only 2 points of wiggle room. And I remember at that moment, and only that moment ever in my career that I vowed to myself to play my absolute hardest. Without exaggeration, I believe we faced at least 12 match points during our comeback, and held up to the insane pressure that is on to execute perfectly to keep it going. We didn’t waver from our normal routine, we just tried that little bit harder, and that was what was needed.

We were in the center court under the lights; the first and only time I ever wound up there. It was funny in general, earlier in the day there were literally thousands of people at the Rumble, with stands at center court, music blaring, announcements being made over the loudspeaker, and a ton to do and see during your down time. There were food stands, a massage tent, and an apparel stand for souvenir wearables. It was a carnival sports atmosphere; the biggest I’ve ever been part of. People would stop by our tent to check on our progress, we would go visit others as well…I even remember a friend of mine, Rod, swinging by to tell us he just completed his first skydiving jump there in Pottstown earlier in the day. Plenty of sight-seeing and people-watching. One by one though, as the day closed out, so did the people, and one by one coolers were packed up and drug out and well-wishes and good lucks were given, the tents were closed down, until now, the one time we were in the big time, center court, there were only about thirty people left in the entire place, and only about ten were paying any attention to us…the rest closing up shop, and readying for the co-ed day that followed on Sunday. Our division was huge, and by the time we were forced to play our best ball, we were left almost alone to do it on a hot, sterile, and totally quiet night. We were the only game playing anymore. If you were the type who played to showcase for the masses, this wasn’t the place to be. It was easy, in fact, to start wondering what the point of it all was, if you dared to stop long enough to reflect.

I’m sure there were many, many moments that were inspiring, but this was the one play that sticks out in my mind for me, if I could replay one in my life. Facing a match point, Shawn belted one line, or more line than normal to side us out…hell, maybe it was a bad set of mine and he poked it, and they came back over in one or quick two, over his head as he came down at the net, into the corner behind him. I don’t know if it was cheap or not, whether he hit it that hard and that was the result, or if they were trying to get things over with then and there. Either way, it was match point and would count. It was in the back 3 foot by 3 foot corner. If you’ve never played, when your partner comes down at the net and the ball is coming back over, that whole court is yours. And the court at that moment is a very big place. I got to that ball. I don’t know how we sided it out, if Shawn went over in 2 from whatever I did, or if we had time to set it up, or what. It wasn’t some crazy kind of sand dig that sent me diving or flying either, and if I bothered to look for it, I’m sure it wouldn’t be anything for a highlight film. My momentum took me off the court quite a bit and to the colored flags that surrounded center court. I remember as I was running to that ball, looking at Shawn for a split second when I started tracking it, and shoulders slumped as he was turning around, clearly the visible tell that he believed we were beaten. I would have yelled something like Go! Or Got it! normally, but I was running diagonally across the court, and when I did get wrists on the ball, hooked it high up and back somewhere, I barely got out a grunt, more like just a nasal Brahma Bull exhale. As I spun, I saw Shawn tense back up and come to life when he knew there was still work to do, and now it was on him. It was more the one moment I executed coverage on something unconventional and unexpected because I really, really wanted to win. “If we lose, I don’t want it to be on this ball…because the only reason would be because I was too lazy to run this one down.” (at least this is how I remember it….time has a way of playing tricks, and if this wasn’t game point, I’d be surprised, but not surprised…but it certainly did happen)

Anyway, the game raged on into the night, and finally I dug a championship point on their attempt to side out, but it wasn’t controlled and looked to be a high straight drop onto the net on Shawn’s side. And he reached up and knuckled it; a super smart move, just enough to make the older guy flounder. It was a brutal game, and one that I’ll never forget. We were so tired, and there was still one to go…

And then we won it all. It was a short lopsided game in comparison. We weren’t stellar. We were composed. We didn’t show off, or act up, or behave foolishly. We were tired, and that probably was a saving grace, as there was little left for me to have any real nervousness in a finals of an event this size. All that was left was the robotic approach of passing yet another serve, lining up to hit, getting back to position…looking at eyes and hand angles. But truthfully, they hit into the net a lot, couldn’t handle our serves, and I don’t really remember getting bombarded in any way. They didn’t have a finesse game, or didn’t break it out, and the one knucklehead lost his composure and cost them everything. His partner wasn’t great either, but couldn’t handle the other guys’ outrage and mistakes. The game point serve was Shawn’s crowning moment as a player. He changed up his serve to the rage boy and picked on his partner who was sliding over to help out.

To relive it, I was at the middle of the net, crouched and flashing some meaningless hand signal, both Shawn and I knowing full well I had no intention of blocking anyone and was soon to fall back.

“This”, I muttered.

Shawn replied “Yeah” so quickly, it was apparent to me at least that he wasn’t even pretending to be looking anymore, not that it mattered. So I stared ahead at their faces, watching the angry guy who was gearing up for the tough topspin cannon serve that was to follow. His buddy was a step away from center by now since his friend was having such trouble.

“Serve.”, I heard from behind me.

And then the strangest thing happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ball hit, at least 3 quarters in on the line to my left, at about half court on their side. I wasn’t even looking there. Shawn had floated one in; probably the first and only time all day. I was looking at them, and when I glanced at it, and back at them, they both kind of grimaced or smirked and turned around. My mind raced quizzically…Did I have the score wrong? It wouldn’t be that surprising. Back then in the sideout scoring days, it was easy to lose track. No. Weren’t they ready? Was there some timeout? They had seemed ready. Did the ball hit the net? I should have heard it more than anyone if it did. I looked back, bleary and said, “What?”

Shawn had this glazed look and a bit of a bemused chuckle. About as subdued and anti-climactic as it could be uttered, he said, “Dude, we won.”

There was no cannon going off; no chorus of cheers, no fireworks… just the quiet, hot night.

I was the last one on the court to know it was over, and I saw the ball hit. That’s how fooled they were.

I don’t think we bothered shaking their hands afterwards. There were no kind words for them. We won the night.

Shawn and I gave each other the double-high five, which is all the more two men can show that kind of congratulatory mood, although if I had to do it again, it warranted the back slap man-hug, but we were sweaty and who wants to remember that? I was proud, and it felt strange, and didn’t really sink in until I was talking about it on the way home. It wasn’t as if anyone saw any of this, and I knew no one would want to hear a self-serving recap (such as this); as a matter of fact, the only real reply we ever gave to those who knew we were playing, was “Yeah, we won it”, so this feeling would wind up being the reward. We each won volleyballs I think, which was pretty piss poor if you ask me for all the entry fees and teams. But trophies were made for us anyway, and I keep mine on my dresser to this day.

In closing, and this is more reminiscent of a brief volleyball career of mine in the rear view mirror, I like to think about something a friend of ours, Jim, recalled reading about the dynamics of teams, and how it affected me. He read that successful volleyball teams have unwritten roles for the players (we all played triples a bunch and quads), and we fit in these categories. The Stud (Shawn), who was the raw power guy other teams feared, who we lived and died by, the Field General (Jim), who strategized and used his knowledge of the game to work the team and exploit weaknesses, and the Stabilizer (Me). And the Stabilizer definition may not mean much to some, but became my mantra from then on in. The Stabilizer (or so I am paraphrasing) was rarely the reason a team won a match, or a tournament…..but he was never the reason they lost. I could not have been happier in that role, and hope that as we look back to those days of our wayward youth, that those who were in the mix remember me as just that.

I’d put this up there as one of my life’s favorite days.
















c9930c34464f67b8a40defbe5365a5dd[1]So as I mentioned yesterday, Cindy and I headed back to Home Depot last night to talk to the flooring guy about more exact numbers associated with options.  The first thing we did was go over the quote where the entire main living space would be done in the ceramic tile that looks like wood.  As we went line by line in the quote we started crossing off grunt labor prep work as Cindy and I had decided we would just bite the bullet and do that part of the job ourselves. We also committed to be the delivery service for the raw materials, saving $300 HD would charge us to drop it at our door.

By the time we were done crossing out line items of expense it added up to a whopping $3500 off the original estimate which was pretty amazing.  We then had to price out the three options we were considering which are wood looking tile in the entire main living area and carpeting the bedrooms, wood looking tile in great room area and a strip leading from the front door, creating a visual separation for the dining room and office (carpet), or just re-carpeting everything that is carpet now.  Option A is most expensive and option C is least expensive with roughly $3000 between the two.

Anthony, our Home Depot guy was very knowledgeable and thorough in explaining our options and the way things are handled.  We left there with all the info we needed.  I told him we had to think about which option we were going to go with.

So when Cindy and I got home we tried to envision the options.  Cindy’s gut reaction is just to tile everything in the main area since she is a Florida native and ceramic tile is more widely used around here.  Being a PA native I have always lived in homes where carpet was the dominant flooring surface and I prefer walking around with soft carpet under my toes.  Tile obviously has more durability and next to no issues with dirt/staining, a problem I obviously have had with two dogs in the house.

I had a very hard time picturing the floor with the tile and had anxiety regarding how it would turn out.   The logical part of me realizes it should look great and will dramatically change the appearance of the space.  The new carpet we picked out is a darker color too so even just laying that down everywhere would have a less dramatic but still significant visual impact.  After some further discussion Cindy and I agreed that tile in the main area would be the better option, now it was deciding between the two options with doing so, including or excluding the front office and dining room.

Cindy’s initial reaction was to just tile it all.  I was wishy washy about it.  I was more of a proponent of a tile walkway leading from the front door to the great room area, creating a visual separation from the office and dining room which could still be carpet.  Since I like the feel of carpet and I spend such a good chunk of my time in the office, having new rug in there makes sense to me.  Yes, having carpet in the dining room where food is normally served is not ideal but our dining room is actually utilized for eating meals once or twice a year, tops.

Of course I have to think about the dogs as well.  From an owners perspective, tile is the way to go as it won’t care what sort of excrement is expelled upon it as well as not trapping the incredible amounts of fur that comes off the dogs.  From a dogs perspective it is mixed.  During brutal summers Nicki loves to lay on cool tile but she also loves soft carpet as well to sprawl out on a good deal of the time.

After some back and forth pro’s and cons with Cindy we agreed on the idea of the tile strip from the front door with the dining room and office getting new carpet.  As I am typing this out, as well as getting feedback from Randall and Jeremy, both of whom are in the “all tile in the main area” camp, I find myself pushed back into the pool of uncertainty.  Carpeting the two front rooms also has a price advantage of over $1500 but that is not the driving factor.  I just want to make sure that I am not choosing a flooring layout too heavily based on resale value as opposed to comfort and personal preference since I have no near term plans to sell my home.

kiko-lesean-trade-bad-podcast[1]So I was shocked to see the headline about the Eagles having a trade of Lesean McCoy to the Bills pretty much locked up.  The trade would send him to Buffalo in exchange for a young linebacker from Chip Kelly’s old school of Oregon, named Kiko Alonso. (never heard of him)

When I read the details of the proposed trade I didn’t feel much better.  Yes the driving force behind the deal is to clear salary cap space since McCoy was due to make almost 10 million dollars this year. But WTF, McCoy is one of the premier running backs in the league.  Alonso had a strong rookie season but missed ALL OF LAST year with an ACL tear, an injury that you never know how an athlete is going to recover from.  It almost seems like trading a Corvette for a Camry.  Sure your monthly payments are less but you are losing a lot of performance.

Yes McCoy underperformed last year, especially during the first half of the season where he did next to nothing.  However to trade him away for a 3rd year linebacker that spent his entire second year on IR seems pretty damn looney to me.  Some proponents of the trade will say this move as well as a few other cuts the Eagles announced (Trent Cole) will free up a bunch of cap space so the team can be aggressive in free agency.  My question is exchanging value for value.  Is dumping McCoy worth 10 million dollars in cap space?  I personally don’t think so.

Chip Kelly seems very interested in getting former Oregon players on the Eagles roster.  In addition to Alonso, rumors have been circulating that Kelly is trying to do whatever he can to get in a position to draft Marcus Mariota, the Oregon QB, despite the Eagles drafting in a position way too low to get him.  The speculation is Kelly is willing to practically give away the farm to get him which again makes me nervous.

Although statistically Nick Foles was not great before he got injured last year, he was still leading the team to wins, something Mark Sanchez was not as good at.  I think to dismiss Foles and mortgage the future for Mariota would not be very smart based on the long and fabled history of highly rated college QB’s falling on their face once they reach the NFL.

The Eagles off season is shaping up to be quite an interesting soap opera.


nfl_u_jackson_ps_200[1]This was interesting enough that I don’t want to wait until Monday.  Desean Jackson, the pompous, showboating, inconsistent punk of a wide receiver was cut today by the Eagles.  The move came as a big surprise.

The reports the Eagles were looking to trade him that have popped up in the last week or so were surprising enough, to cut him outright is pretty shocking since statistically he was pretty good last year.

The report I saw at the gym mentioned something about gang affiliations that Jackson has.  I had never heard this before but based on his attitude it isn’t all that surprising.  Apparently whatever was discovered was serious enough that the Eagles were willing to part ways with Desean, getting nothing in return.

My dislike of Desean Jackson is well documented in the blog.  Sure he is fast and has made some big plays but he also is wildly inconsistent with one good game typically being sandwiched between two or three where he absolutely disappeared.  His taunting, showboating attitude drove me insane.  He is sort of a present day Terrel Owens.

I can’t tell you how many times I screamed at the tv when he would run backwards, losing yardage, trying to elude defenders.  He was successful in doing so very infrequently.  With Chip Kelly’s offense I have absolutely no concern with filling Jackson’s shoes. I have a feeling we will all be saying “Desean Who?” sooner rather then later.

Adios, idiot.


1535761_10152026071633649_1584278306_n[1]Randall had originally predicted an arrival time Friday night of about 7:30PM.  I know Randall well enough that I immediately dismissed that time as being accurate.  He rolled in about 8:30 which was fine since I had plenty to keep me busy with prep for the race.

Once he showed up Cindy, Randall and I hung out for a little bit but we didn’t want to stay up too late since the plan was for a very early 4:30 AM departure the next morning for the race.  Luckily the forecast for the morning had moderated somewhat, from the low 40’s to the upper 40’s which is still cold but more bearable.

In the morning I dressed warm but not with quite as many layers as last week. We got on site right around 5AM, there was already a lot going on as Humane Society staff had showed up even earlier.  Randall and I hung parking signs, dropped off the equipment for the start line and then headed back to the registration area.  Once we were there we set up everything we could until the GCR truck showed up a little before 6.  It felt cold but tolerable, especially as we were moving around constantly.  By the time the truck showed up we only needed a few things to complete the registration area.

As the sun started to rise the participants and their dogs started to show up.  Having nearly 200 dogs participating meant for a VERY busy and fun registration area.  Prior to the race I sent out an email to all participants warning them that they needed to pick up their packets early to avoid long lines on race day.  My warning seemed to work as somewhere around 75% of the people did pick up early, however another problem arose.

People that picked up early still had to pick up a timing chip on race morning.  Well evidently a lot of pre-registered participants didn’t show up until around 7:30 (race at 8) .  In a very short period of time we had a MONSTER line of people waiting to get their timing chip.  It made it pretty clear that using disposable timing devices for next years race would make more sense where people could pick up their timing device early as well.

Once daylight hit Randall jumped from equipment set up help to his event photographer role, shooting hundreds of pictures using Ali’s nice camera.  I was basically overseeing the day of race entries as we had two other people doing them to free me up.

About 7:45 I told Ali I was ready to head down to the start line, I was taking the Tacoma to make my commute to and from the starting area as fast as possible since the distance between start and finish causes me logistical problems.  As we were on the road I swore loudly, I forgot to grab the laptop I use to pull the timing files from the box, shit.  Ali called back to Christy who was in the registration area and asked her to run the laptop down to me, thank goodness.

I had the club’s new portable PA system in the back of the truck for Ali to make announcements.  One of the important things to announce was people with dogs were supposed to be at the back of the start line group and that they were supposed to wait to start, so non-dog runners had a chance to get ahead.  Unfortunately the crowd size and noise made it impossible for people towards the back to hear.  We wound up having to try to stop a few people with dogs that shot off with the main pack of runners.  It was a bit of a mess.

Even with driving back to the start line I still had precious little time to get everything set up.  Luckily this year the first place runner was slower than years past, clicking in a little after the 18 minute mark.

Timing the event went smoothly except for a power malfunction.  As I was sitting there I heard the motor for our blow up finish line cut out.  In a split second I shot out of my chair and started sprinting towards the building where we were tapping power from.   I instantly suspected the two coffee machines that were tapped into the line as being the problem.  I quickly unplugged those and then ran into the building with an extra extension cord I grabbed.  I hooked it to the existing cord and plugged into a jack on a different wall, hoping it was on a different circuit, it was.  As I walked back outside I saw a number of people standing under the finish arch, supportting it as it was half deflated.   It started to slowly rise, crisis averted.

The rest of the event went well, lots of smiles of both the human and canine variety were seen everywhere.  I got off site between 9:30 and 10. Ali thanked Randall and I for our contributions to the race which clicked in with 750+ participants, the second highest amount ever.

On the way home we picked up some DD coffee to help stave off the inevitable drowsiness that comes with such early morning alarms.  I spent a couple hours working on stuff after the race.  After doing so Randall came with me to go pick up the girls at Ali’s place.  They were quite excited to see Uncle Randall as always.

We both agreed that taking a nap would be a wise decision.  Randall headed into the bedroom around 2:30.  I wanted to quickly uncover all of the landscape stuff that was wrapped in cold protection cloth since it looks like the short term threat of cold was over.  Well it took longer than expected, I didn’t get into the bedroom to shut my eyes until 3:30.

I told Randall that we could nap until around 4:30 since we had tentative plans to go to the movies Saturday night.  I set my alarm and got up at about 4:45 even though it felt like I could have slept much longer.  When I came out Randall’s bedroom door was still closed.  I knew he said he didn’t sleep great the night before so I just let him go.

12713_10152751131677841_968066963_n[1]It turned out that Cindy was stuck working too late to make going to the movies viable so I continued to let Randall slumber.  He didn’t come out until around 6:15PM.

We spent some time outside with the Phantom.  After I got the quadracopter in the air I handed the controls over to Randall to let him see just how easy the thing is to fly.  Randall was amazed at just how easy it was.  Within a few minutes of flying it he said he would definitely be getting one.

Instead of hitting the theater we had a good in home night.  We drank some beer, enjoyed a fantastic grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner Cindy prepared, played some Xbox Kinect Sports 2 and then watched the latest Riddick movie.

Randall and Cindy were surprised that I never saw the first two Riddick installments, it seems like the type of movie I would like. I don’t think coming in late really affected my digesting the movie much.  The flick was pretty good.  I was not a big fan of the animal violence, especially the dog like creatures.  The action through out the flick was steady otherwise and delivered a solid B+ viewing experience.

Our Sunday morning started on the slow side, with everyone sleeping in somewhat.  Sadie was the alarm clock when she started whining to go out.  We had plans to go do the long Ave Maria ride but were in no rush to start early, hoping the pretty chilly temps in the low 50’s would go up a few degrees.

1545679_10152028578213649_1803264589_n[1]Cindy and Randall really bundled up for the ride.  I did not, wearing just shorts and a t-shirt.  Although the air felt chilly, the sun felt warm so I thought it would be ok, it was.

The ride out there was not easy, it felt like we were working into a moderate head wind for a most of the way.  I was looking forward to having that wind push us on the way back in.  Randall had brought his GoPro with and had it mounted to his handle bars.  It made for some interesting perspective when we watched it back.  The wide angle and superb video resolution really makes for some sharp video.

Randall had also used the GoPro for some mountain bike riding, I was surprised how relatively smooth the video was just using the stock GoPro mounting system.  I had plans to later try the camera on the Phantom.

After fueling up at the Ave Maria with chocolate milk we headed back home.  I was quite disappointed when I turned back onto Oil Well Road and felt like I was still working against a head wind. Damn it.  We let Randall pull for awhile.  On the ride back we encountered riders doing an organized event, some of them riding as far as 100 miles total, no thanks.

Cindy hit something on the way back and got a flat tire which we fixed by the side of the road.  She wanted to do as much of the repair herself as possible, she just likes to fix things herself if at all possible.  She had a tiny, sharp metal shard in the tire that Randall discovered when it pricked his hand. For the 30 miles we averaged a very tough 17.5 mph.  My legs felt pretty dead by the end of it.

1621672_10152753271707841_227005845_n[1]After eating lunch we headed outside to play around some more.  I took out the Phantom and attached Randall’s GoPro to it.  I shot in total something like 20 minutes of video.  The quality of the video was much improved over the rigged FlipCam video I shot before.  There was some of the “jello” effect which is common with aerial video but not enough to be too distracting.  It cemented my desire to get a GoPro of my own.  I’ll be posting the edited video of the flights this week.

I also tightened up the slackline so Randall could take a shot at it.  Cindy, Randall and myself took turns crossing the line.  As expected, Randall struggled mightily at first and got better as time went on, even getting almost all the way across on one attempt, albeit in a mad dash manner. Cindy’s daughter and her friend stopped out during our session as well.  Unfortunately we only could get Cindy’s daughter up on the line for a single attempt before she called it quits.

Randall had mentioned he wanted to head out sometime during the afternoon but he also wanted to stock up at the local Trader Joe’s before doing so.  I suggested it would be a good excuse for he and I to take the SSR out.  We both filled up our respective carts with TJ goodies and had to make an auxiliary stop at Publix for me to grab a few other items.   On the way back I gave Randall a demonstration of the SSR’s burn out ability.  It was a pretty good one.

Once we got back Randall had to pack up and head east.  It was a fun weekend. The fun may be repeating next weekend since Randall is going to try to head back over for the Super Bowl party I am hosting.








1549406_10152694331832841_203740829_n[1]I forgot to mention that I finally got around to getting nightstands for the master bedroom again.  Ever since the split some 20 months ago I have had a flimsy, small shelf on my side of the bed that was loaded down with remote controls, magazines and books.

At first I looked into getting the matching set from Rooms To Go since that is where the bedroom furniture came from.  They no longer had that style of furniture and any nightstands they were selling were between $200-$300 each, more than I was looking to spend.

Well as has often been the case, Amazon once again came to the rescue.  I found $70 stands that appeared to be a close match to the wood color of the existing stuff.  All I had to do was grab two metal knobs at Home Depot to mimic what is on the RtG furniture.

Assembly of the nightstands was straightforward and despite the low price, they seemed to be pretty high quality.  The finished stands felt solid and looked good.  The color match with the old stuff was very good as well.  To the casual observer, they may even think the nightstands were part of the bedroom set.  Their addition to the room added a completeness that was missing.  The only in house item that I need to reinstate is a king size bed in the guest bedroom.  Hopefully that will be a 2014 item.

On Saturday I had various things I wanted to get done.  I mowed the big section of the backyard and then ripped apart the dash of my SSR for seemingly the 100th time to adjust the gain on a potentiometer in my stereo system.  When I last ripped it apart to redo the ground I turned down the gain.  Well I turned it down too far, so far that with the stereo set at max volume it was hard to hear during topless highway driving.

I also needed to check the clutch fluid on the truck, shifting was feeling different.  Well the reservoir was very low.  The question was where did the fluid go?  I opened the remote drain line while refilling the clutch fluid tank to fill/bleed it.  I am hoping that possibly I just didn’t have the drain plug on tight enough, causing the slow leak.  I will need to keep an eye on things.

So back to the stereo.  I ripped the front dash cover off, something I am quite adept at by now.  I turned the dial up on the potentiometer and turned the key enough to flip on the radio.  It was loud with volume to spare, sweet.  I put everything back together, happy to have completed the project.

Well I wasn’t happy when I took the truck to the movies with Cindy Saturday night.  When I started the truck I immediately heard the annoying as shit electronic whine that follows engine RPM.  Evidently I cranked the knob too far, enough to once again pull that noise into the system.  When I tested it during the day I stupidly didn’t turn the truck all the way on.  So sometime soon I will be ripping the dash apart yet again, fantastic.

The movie we went to see was 47 Ronin, an action movie set in ancient samurai times starring Keanu Reaves.  I was SHOCKED when we walked up to the box office and saw a line of 30 plus people at Coconut Point.  This theater is never, ever this busy.  Evidently I must have never gone there to see a movie between Xmas and New Years.  Luckily the long line moved quickly.  The line at the food stand was equally long and unfortunately much, much slower.  By the time we got into our seats we were well into the previews.

I thought the movie was good, not great.  It was nice seeing Keanu back in an action film.  I’d give the flick a strong B+, bordering on an A- depending on my mood.

Perhaps my rating is negatively biased from the fat, zit faced kid that was sitting two seats to my left during the film.  Every few minutes he felt the need to light up his phone, just to make sure he didn’t miss some social media, text message or other brainless activity.  When I see individuals that are so connected with their electronic devices that they can’t even sit through a movie without interacting with them it sickens me.  It makes me feel badly for even owning a smartphone myself.  As I was waiting in the hall after the movie, 75% of the human beings in the hall with me had their heads down, making virtual love to their phones.  It just bothers me.

1513238_10152696767502841_1884907183_n[1]When we got home we had to light up a vanilla birthday cupcake for Nicki, celebrating her 11th birthday.  Both Sadie and her LOVED their sweet treat.  Sadie was pushing the dish across the floor, trying to lick up every last speck of icing.  Tonight I get to repeat the process since it is Sadie’s bday.

Sunday was a very slow/lazy day for me.  It was off and on raining for most of the morning, scuttling our tentative plans to do a bike ride.  Late morning we headed back up to Coconut Point to the ATT store.  We had stopped there before the movie to look into replacing Cindy’s aging Iphone 4S.  I had made the suggestion that she looks into breaking away from her Iphone heritage and look into a Samsung Galaxy S4.  Since playing with my Galaxy Tab 3 Cindy bought me for Xmas I am more and more impressed with the Android environment.

The S4 hardware is superior to what Apple offers as well with a better camera, dramatically larger screen and release from the typical Apple shackles, allowing you to do things like add a memory card and swap out the battery yourself, GASP.  Cindy wanted to go back to that particular store because she had a soft spot for the kid that helped us. He had a pretty noticeable stutter, something difficult to deal with in the sales field.

Well her loyalty came with a price.  The cost was at least 60 minutes of standing around, waiting for Nathan to get free.  We had the misfortune of showing up while he was in the middle of replacing phones for an ENTIRE family, four phones in total.  By the end of the 60 minute wait I was right on the verge of consuming my last grain of patience.

Finally he finished up and took care of the swap which was pretty easy.  Cindy converted over to the ATT Next plan which allows you to swap out your phone more often for less up front money.  I was skeptical of the plan since when you break costs into monthly increments you always wind up paying more than if you just bite the bullet and pay it up front.  However in her case the numbers made sense.  Instead of paying 199 up front for a new phone, her upgrade fee was 40 bucks and will remain 40 bucks in 18 months when she upgrades again.  With a 10 GIG shared data plan (her daughter is on her account), her monthly bill only went up roughly 10 bucks.

Cindy was scared to leave the comfort of her Iphone but I convinced her after the transition phase which is sure to be frustrating at times, she will be glad she made the switch.  I know multiple Galaxy former iOwners that LOVE their Droids once they switched.  A good portion of the rest of Sunday was spent fussing with the S4, migrating data from her Iphone to it and exploring/learning/configuring things on the new phone.

I sort of felt like a lazy bum during the afternoon, surely due to the lack of any organized exercise during the weekend.  It wasn’t like I was laying around watching tv and drinking beer but still, my mental health requires physical effort.

1482880_722728657740391_1857136686_n[1]I had the Phantom in the air a number of times over the weekend.  Each time I was amazed at just how ez the thing is to fly.  I had so much confidence in it’s stability that I even let Cindy fly it around the yard quite a bit.  As long as you make sure you are away from/above any potential obstacles you are good to go.  Crashing it would require an act of extreme negligence.  I’m not quite sure what the range is of the radio but I have had the sucker quite high, to the point where it was a small red/green blip in the sky.

Wow, the Eagles did it.  They beat the Cowboys to win the NFC East, delivering a huge interception at the very end of the game to secure the win.  The game was great, just what you would want for a contest deciding the division champion.  The Eagles never trailed but were only holding a very narrow lead for most of the game.

For Dallas it had to be a heartbreaking loss, akin to what the Eagles experienced losing three or four NFC championship games in a row.  You see for the past three years Dallas had a chance to win their division on the last game of the season against a division opponent.  For three years in a row they have gone down in flames, losing to the Giants, the Redskins and now the Eagles.

The Eagles winning the division is part of a dramatic turnaround that I never would have predicted a couple months ago when the team seemed destined to be in the midst of a rebuilding year, sitting at 3-5.  I am very happy to pronounce myself mistaken in my analysis of the team back them.  Nick Foles meteoric rise at QB and the defense playing better resulted in 7-1 finish, putting the Birds at 10-6 for the year.

Even with the great finish I am still not taking anything for granted.  I have no idea if they can make any headway in the playoffs or if the Saints will come in to one and done them.  It doesn’t really matter though to me, it’s all gravy at this point.

Not a fan

So I read the Red Sox won the World Series last night.  Not only did they win it, they won it at home, the first time that has happened since 1918. I was happy for both Shane Victorino (ex-Phillie) and the city of Boston as a whole after the tragedy that went down at the marathon earlier this year.

However this World Series and most recent playoff seasons that did not involve the Phillies confirmed that I am just really not a baseball fan anymore.  I did not watch one pitch, not one second of the World Series or any of this years playoff games for that matter.  I just don’t have interest in major league baseball for whatever reason.  It’s an odd thing since much of my childhood revolved around baseball and my dream to make it to the big leagues some day.

Although I missed the game, I did see the highlights from it which spotlighted a recent trend that annoys the shit out of me, ski goggles in baseball.  David Ortiz had his largely branded Oakely helmet and ski goggles on before the game was even over.  He is out there on the field hugging everyone looking like he is ready for the Winter Olympics, it was stupid as hell.

Then in the post game locker room celebration every person in the room is handed Oakley ski goggles/helmets as well to “protect” themselves from the horrible, acidic champagne that is splashed around the room.  I mean what the fck?  How did professional athletes from the past 75 years manage to have champagne celebrations without Oakley ski goggles? What a hardship that must have been….

Of course this is all just a sell out to Oakley who surely has thrown down a nice pile of cash in order to have their equipment used in this unnecessary and unconventional manner.  It certainly doesn’t make me want to run out and buy any of their gear and makes my alienation from baseball an even smaller bump in the road than it already is.

So I went to my mom’s place after work to pick her up for dinner.  She had asked me if I could look quickly at her toilet which was having a problem, taking forever to refill.  I figured it would be something simple like a leaking flapper or a float adjustment.  The odd thing is the toilet was only around a year old, far too new to have hardware problems typically.

After looking at all of the components, it all looked practically brand new, I was baffled.  So after further inspection I determined the problem appears to be with the water valve itself.  It appears to only be shooting a trickle of water into the holding tank for some reason.  I did not have the time or the tools to rip it all apart further since we were meeting Cindy for dinner.  I told mom I would try to get back later in the weekend to dig into it further.

Mom also showed me the new fridge her landlord provided her to replace her two decade old unit that had problems.  She was excited about her new kitchen addition.

Since the toilet analysis took longer than expected Cindy wound up getting to Carrabas a few minutes before mom and I.  Luckily the restaurant wasn’t that full and we were able to sit right down.  The three of us had a very nice dinner.  Cindy and my mom seemed to get along great which was good to see, not that I expected otherwise.

This weekend is looking to be very full.  I have a small 5K to time tomorrow and then on Sunday morning I am heading down to Marco Island super early to help with equipment set up in a triathlon that Cindy is competing in.  The two events will basically chop my weekend free time in half.

bgtdI just realized the other day that 2013 is shaping up to be the first time in 20+ years that I have not played ANY organized volleyball, not a single game.  This hasn’t been a deliberate act on my part, it’s more just a culmination of circumstances.

My free time is now pretty consumed with various other activities that have supplanted the space volleyball used to occupy. Plus my main volleyball partners down here, Randall and Jeremy really don’t play tournaments anymore, making it even easier for me to forget about the sport that was such a focus for me for a solid 10 years.

It’s not that I wouldn’t play.  Physically, I think I could still hack the grind of doubles beach volleyball although I am sure my skills would be very tarnished from lack of use.

Maybe next year….

I forgot to mention some Eagles related items.  I was disappointed to hear Jeremy Maclin blew out his ACL in training camp. Last year Maclin was clearly the Eagles best wide receiver, delivering much more consistent performances than Desean Dipshit Jackson.  This certainly isn’t the way I wanted the Chip Kelly era to kick off.  It will be interesting to see if they bring someone in to try to help fill the WR slot.

  The other Eagles news was that Donovan McNabb was officially retiring, as an Eagle. To be honest I was kind of surprised, I thought he did already officially retire since he didn’t play at all last year.

It’s a nice move by the Eagles and I think it will be cool when they honor him during the KC game, when Andy Reid will also be in town.  I expect both men to get a warm welcome from Philly fans, despite the love/sort of dislike relationship both had over the last decade or so.

Both Donovan  and Andy, in the big picture, delivered many years of winning football which any football fan can appreciate.  However both were also involved in some crushing disappointments, that in many fans eyes at times, almost outweighed the success.  Yes we loved getting to the NFC championship so many times but the pain from losing again and again when the ultimate victory was in grasp built some sort of perverse resentment from fans, myself included.

For years I lamented some of McNabb’s shortcomings like his poor accuracy.  His ankle high, 3 yard passes became almost legendary. His sucking wind as the game wound down during the Eagles Super Bowl appearance was another image that is not easily washed away. His mouth also became troublesome at times when he would seemingly create issues where none needed to exist.

I got sick of hearing every year how Donovan spent the off season reinventing himself.  One year he came in bigger and stronger than ever.  The next he would come in lean and mean. Every year there were reports of how hard he worked on his throwing accuracy in the off season.  I have no doubt he worked hard in the off season to get better, it just seems like throwing accuracy for the most part is something you just have or not.  McNabb, was blessed with many physical gifts but hitting a guy consistently in the numbers was not one of them.

I felt sort of bad for Donovan after the Eagles unceremoniously sent him packing.  He had a pretty embarrassing lack of success in both Washington and Minnesota before he wasn’t even invited to a roster in 2012.  If anything it confirmed to me that much of his success as an Eagle was the result of Andy being able to utilize McNabb’s strengths and hide his weaknesses to a large degree, something his subsequent coaches couldn’t figure out how to do.

So anyway, I’m happy the Eagles are giving McNabb a proper send off.  Despite his warts, the guy deserves it.  He brought the city a lot of happy fall Mondays.