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40 miles

Since today was a holiday and we had some time free, Michele and I took our road bikes out for a spin. We found the Gen. James A. Van Fleet Trail on the web, and while it's about an hour drive from our house, it's a long, flat trail with few people and practically no street crossings. So we were able to get in a 40 mile ride today.

I recently discovered that the Garmin running/cycling GPS watch I've used for the last couple of years can upload its data to their web site. So now I dump all my data in periodically, and you can see a map of where I've been and how fast I was going (here's today's ride). It's too bad I didn't realize this sooner -- the watch only has detailed GPS coordinates to hold several weeks worth of activities, so all my marathons and half marathons got reduced to summary information like the date/time and the overall speed and length. But it's nice to know this feature is there, and I'm uploading on a regular basis now.
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Michele and I just got back this weekend from a five-day vacation in Seattle. A while back, she was traveling for work on Airtran and volunteered to get bumped to a later flight in return for two free tickets. If you're ever traveling Airtran, you should definitely volunteer to get bumped if they're overbooked. Airtran's deal is the best of all the airlines -- you get two free round-trip tickets to anywhere they fly, even if they're just bumping you an hour later.

Anyway, we chose Seattle because it's about as far away as they fly, making it the most value we could get from the free tickets. And we picked last week because last Thursday (7/15) was our ten year wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe it's been that long (though if you see how young we look in the wedding pictures, it's a little more believable). Also, when we went on our honeymoon ten years ago to Victoria, British Columbia, we spent an afternoon in Seattle on the way there. So we thought it would be neat to go back ten years later.

One of the things I missed last time I was in Seattle was seeing the sculpture that inspired the name of the band Soundgarden. I didn't know much about it; I just knew there was some kind of sculpture that made noise in the wind. This time, I was sure to plan a visit beforehand. It's actually not as easy to visit as I had expected. Being a big Soundgarden fan, I assumed this would have some prominent place in the city. It's actually not in a city park at all, but inside the NOAA Western Regional Center. NOAA's campus in Seattle is so large they have some outdoor sculptures, and "A Sound Garden" is one of them. Luckily, anyone can visit for free. But you have to be there on a weekday during business hours, and get a pass from the guards (who searched my car, but strangely enough not my backpack). From what I've read online, years ago there was a lot less security, and you could even walk in from a neighboring park, which is probably how Soundgarden saw it in the first place. Click on the image for the pictures I took at the sculpture. We arrived around 10AM, which the guard told us was really early for Soundgarden fans, so there was no one else there. It was great to finally see the sculpture.

Speaking of Soundgarden, there's a music museum in the city as well called the Experience Music Project. It's mainly focused on Seattle music, of which there is a ton. For instance, I didn't know until I visited that Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle. In there, they had an exhibit on grunge music and some memorabilia, including some lyrics to Soundarden songs handwritten by Chris Cornell. Again, geeky, but to me that was very interesting to see.

While we were in Seattle, we rented a car one day and drove out to Mount Rainier. It took a couple of hours to get there, but it was worth it. Once we got part way up the mountain and started walking around, I was amazed that there was so much snow still on the ground in mid-July. There's even a picture of me standing next to a pile of snow that's taller than I am.

This trip also provided me an opportunity to try out my new camera which Michele got me for my birthday last month. It's a digital SLR, a Canon Rebel XS. I have always wanted to take better pictures, and a while back got a book on photography. I decided to step up to a "big boy" camera because most of the techniques in the book (like changing aperture size or changing shutter speed) can't be done with a basic point-and-shoot camera. I've been reading tons of stuff online and in books the last month or two on photography, and it was great to have a chance to get out and try to take some shots. It's harder than it seems, though, but I think the only way to learn is by trying. For instance, I've already learned several things not to do based on the pictures I took last week!
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The shell game

At work today, I found myself explaining why I use tcsh instead of ksh as my interactive shell. I've had this discussion a number of times over the years, as our shop has primarily ksh users, so I thought I'd write down some of my reasons.

First off, I'm not talking about writing shell scripts (lest you try to point out that csh programming is considered harmful). I'm talking about an interactive shell. And no, I don't write scripts in csh, but more on that later.

I got hooked on tcsh when I first got started with UNIX by my old boss Steve Ulmer. It wasn't until I came to my current job (now more than 10 years ago) and saw everyone using ksh that I came to realize how superior tcsh is as an interactive shell. Here are some things I do with tcsh that ksh can't do:

  • Command history with one keystroke. Just press the up arrow to go back in history, down to go forward. Once you're used to this, pressing ksh's ESC-k sequence feels so awkward.

  • Deduplication of command history. If I want to run the same command ten times, I just press the up arrow then enter ten times. But if I then want to run the command I ran before that one I just ran ten times, I only need to press up twice. ksh would have me press ESC, then 'k' eleven times. This may sound trivial, but I do this a lot when waiting for something to finish.

  • More sane completion behavior. Aside from the fact I can complete with one keystroke (TAB, instead of the oh-so-natural ESC-\), tcsh lets me immediately see a list of possible matches, unless of course there are too many in which case it asks if I really want to see all N matches.

  • Programmable completion rules. I can (and do, thanks Steve!) tell tcsh that if I press TAB to autocomplete the first argument to 'cd', it should use only directories. The first argument to chgrp? Only groups. The filename I pass to 'vi'? Never a .o file. The hostname argument to ssh? A predefined list of my favorite systems. You get the picture.

  • I put the command history number in my prompt, so if I can see a previous command on my screen and want to re-run it, I can do so without scrolling through the command history to find it. For instance, to re-run command number 13 I just enter "!13" and I'm done.

Clever readers will point out that bash can do everything I've mentioned. That's why I'm not writing about how tcsh is better than bash, just ksh, as an interactive shell. I've thought about switching to bash, but it wouldn't really give me more than I have now. And also, after this long I kind of enjoy being the only person using tcsh at work. It's even somewhat of a security feature -- people who sit down at my shell usually quickly get frustrated because "it's not working right."

I mentioned earlier that I don't write scripts in tcsh, or csh for that matter. But I don't write them in ksh either. My philosophy (more of Steve's influence here, too) is that if you're writing a shell script, write it for the Bourne shell. It's the lowest common denominator, and every UNIX-ish system you'll run it on will have something that understands Bourne shell. You might not necessarily have a ksh. If you think that's always safe to assume, ask the programmers at my office who are recoding scripts because Red Hat switched from pdksh to AT&T ksh with RHEL5.

If you're writing a shell script and you need the extra features of ksh (like arrays, or doing math directly in the shell), you should really be using a more powerful scripting language like Perl anyway. Your users will thank you, too, when your scripts drastically increase in speed because you're not fork()ing a dozen times per second to accomplish simple tasks built into a more full-featured interpreter.
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Bird's nest

This bird has been painstakingly building a nest outside my living room window for quite some time. I think she's a cardinal, since there's a red male cardinal that is occasionally hanging out there as well.
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Michele and I went with a few friends last night to see Coldplay at the Amway arena in Orlando. I'm not the biggest Coldplay fan, but I've gotta say this was the most energetic, interactive concert I've been to. I normally go to smaller venues, so I was expecting the standard arena experience. Coldplay far exceeded my expectations.

Here's a link to some pictures from the show (not mine).

At one point in the show, the band ran out into the seats to a tiny platform that had been set up in the middle of the seats beforehand (I didn't notice) and did a couple of songs from there, in the crowd. And for the last song, they all came out in Orlando Magic jerseys that had the band members names on them. A nice touch, even if I don't care about the Magic. Coldplay seemed to be genuinely excited to be there playing, which is more than I get from a lot of bands.

I had seats on the floor, toward the back, but they were still good. This is probably the most I've paid for a concert (tickets were $97.50 each plus all the extra Ticketmaster charges), but I felt like Coldplay was doing everything they could to make it worth everyone's money. If you have the chance to see them sometime, definitely do it.
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Modest Mouse

I saw Modest Mouse last night at Hard Rock Live. I really like that venue, and I really like Modest Mouse, but this show left something to be desired. I don't fancy myself a music snob or audio engineer, but the sound quality was not that great. The mix sounded muddled -- Modest Mouse plays a lot of instruments (they've even got two drummers), but everything sounded just mashed together. It was difficult to even hear the vocals on most songs, they were so far back in the mix. And there was rampant feedback, not just in between songs but even during some of them.

I chalked it up to either the venue or someone having a bad day at the mixer, but then I read this review of a Seattle show last year. It's basically the same thing. And if you read the comments, people say the same thing about shows in other cities.

As much as I enjoy listening to Modest Mouse, I think this will be the last live show of theirs I attend. And if they're traveling to your town, save your money and stay home.
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Last Tuesday (5/6), Michele and I saw Radiohead in Tampa at the Ford Amphitheater. I bought the tickets from Radiohead's site on presale a couple of days before they went onsale at Ticketmaster, and as a result we had incredible seats. We were in the front center section, 14 rows from the stage. These are the best seats I've had for any concert ever. Click on the picture for all the pics I took at the concert. Needless to say, it kicked ass. This is the third time I've seen Radiohead live, but the first time I've been to the Ford Amphitheater in Tampa. Parking was free, and they didn't care if people brought cameras, or even chairs for the lawn seats. It's like they didn't talk to any of the other venues so they didn't know they're supposed to be dicks about all that stuff.

If you're interested, here's the setlist from the Tampa show.
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Marathon pictures

Michele and I both took pictures with our phones during the race yesterday, and they're online here. They're not fantastic quality, and some are a little blurry.

I'm taking the day off work today to recover. We're both pretty sore from the race. I've run as much as 20 miles a couple of times before this, so I was expecting this kind of soreness in my legs. But today I'm also sore in my shoulders and back. I'm not sure how that happened, as I don't recall running on my hands at any point.
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The Walt Disney World Marathon was today, for which Michele and I have both been training for over six months. We both finished and got medals (everyone who finishes gets a medal). Michele finished in a little under 5 hours, and I finished in a little under 6 hours. We each were planning to finish about a half hour sooner, but the combination of large crowds on the track (there were about 18,000 people racing today) and the heat slowed us down.

This was our first marathon. I'm not sure if we'll do another; we both promised not to decide that until well after we were done with this. I'm very proud of both of us, and also to be finished with the seemingly-endless training program. Finishing this race, even with a slow time, is the greatest physical achievement of my life. I remember when I was a pudgy kid in junior high that I couldn't even run one mile. And now I've run over 26!

We took pictures with our phones during the race, which I'll post later. There's a lot to see on the course, which goes through all the Disney parks. But for now, I just got a shower and I'm off to bed.
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Chris Cornell

Some friends and I saw Chris Cornell last night at Hard Rock Live. Noah tipped me off a couple of months ago the day tickets went on sale, and I bought them thinking he'd probably be playing stuff from his latest solo album, and maybe I could catch a Soundgarden song in there somewhere.

Well, the man must know what the fans want to hear because he's playing almost all old stuff. Soundgarden, Audioslave, and even Temple of the Dog. Check out the set list from last night's show -- they played for over two and a half hours! I'm sure johnmcelroy will notice "Pushing Forward Back" on the list.

Going into the show, I was half afraid he'd be sleepwalking through it -- just grinding out some of the old hits to collect some cash. I couldn't have been more wrong. I can't believe he can still scream just like he used to all these years later. The band he's assembled was great as well. If you closed your eyes, you'd swear it was Soundgarden. This show was so great it makes up for me never having gotten to see Soundgarden back in the day.