Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Better late than never

I was quoted in the Post-Dispatch in an article about AB-InBev. I thought the article was good and gave a balanced view of the changes that happened in the first year after the takeover. The version in the paper had a small mistake that has since been corrected.

I still have a morbid curiosity about what happens at AB, even though it doesn't affect me any more. I still get occasional updates from people who are still there.

I am really enjoying my new job. I come every day and tell Helen that I had a good day at work. I don't remember the last time I was able to say that at AB.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bad news, good news

The Bad News
This morning I went to the consulting company that I will be working through for the job at Ameren. This involved filing out paperwork such as w-4, I-9, a contract with Ameren, and a contract with the consulting company. The agreement with Ameren was fairly typical. It included clauses saying that I would be a contractor (not an employee of Ameren), a confidentiality agreement, and that they own whatever code I wrote while I was there.
The agreement with the consulting company (who I have decided not to name) had a couple of clauses that I did not like. The first one looked like this:
Employee recognizes that (consulting company) has incurred expenses in pursuance of hiring Employee... Therefore, if Employee terminates employment with (consulting company) before six (6) months have elapsed, Employee will pay to (consulting company) the full amount of the agency fee incurred by (consulting company) in hiring Employee...
They said that this one did not apply because I was not hired through an agency. They did not have a problem with removing that clause. The other clause was more of a problem:
Employee agrees that during the term of his employment with (consulting company), and for a period of two (2) years following termination of such employment...Employee will not, in any way, directly or indirectly, for Employee's benefit, or on behalf of any other person, firm, partnership or corporation, solicit, entice, hire employ or endeavor to employ any of (consulting company)'s employees. Employee acknowledges that it would be difficult, if not impossible to compute the amount of actual loss or damage which (consulting company) might sustain by reason of violation by Employee of this paragraph and that any such violation would damage (consulting company) irreparably, and Employee acknowledges, accepts and covenants that the conditions of this Agreement are reasonable and necessary for the protection of (consulting company)'s business and that (consulting company) may enforce these terms by way of injunctive relief and/or money damages for any such violation.
I told them that I thought that this clause was too broad and for too long a period of time. I am not planning to become a head hunter, but I might recommend someone for a job sometime in the next two years. This would mean that a year and a half from now I couldn't suggest to someone that I worked with at AB to come work where I was working if they were employed by that consulting company.

They told me that they would not enforce the clause in that case and that they had never used that clause against anyone in the past. I suggested that they remove the clause or at least modify it to cover a shorter period (such as six months) and only to apply to people who I met through my employment with them. They were adamant that they would not change it at all. They suggested I take a couple of hours to think it over. I did not expect to change my mind, but I agreed just in case Helen told me that I was being an idiot.

I talked it over with Helen as she drove me to work at Asynchrony. She did not think that I was being unreasonable. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be working at Ameren, and at having wasted their time (and mine).

The Good News
The project at Asynchrony has been winding down. I told Brian that if he didn't need me to come in for the last two days that it was okay with me. I didn't want to be there if I was not contributing. I also told him that the 6 week project had fallen through, so I would probably be available at the beginning of December if they got the contract that they were bidding on.

Brian went to talk to his boss, and within an hour I had a job offer (okay, this time I buried the lead). They decided that they had enough work to keep me busy even if they didn't get the contract that they were bidding on. I accepted the offer with reservation. The were willing to have me start immediately, but I asked to take the rest of the week off. They were fine with that or even taking more time. I just wanted to take a few days off on purpose. You can't really enjoy having time off if you don't know when you are going to be working again.

I told Zac that I was either going to demand an X Box as a signing bonus, or that I was going to sneak out and buy one and tell Helen that it was a signing bonus. I didn't get the signing bonus, but don't tell Helen. XBoxes are on sale at Walmart this Saturday.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another new job

I interviewed with Ameren on Friday morning. The interview went very well and I expected to get an offer. Sure enough, the recruiter called that afternoon to let me know that Ameren wanted me. I told him that I would think it over and call him back later that afternoon.

I talked the situation over with Brian at Asynchrony. I would love to work for Asynchrony and I believe that Asynchrony would like to hire me. If they were guaranteed to get the contract they are bidding on, I would just wait for that and start there at the beginning of December.

Since that might not happen, I am going to take the job at Ameren. I will start there on November 9. That's immediately after I finish my current gig at Asynchrony. It finishes on Dec 18. There might be a position at Asynchrony at that time. The fact that Ameren is a short term position actually works in my favor.

If Asynchrony doesn't work out, there may be other positions available at Ameren. Or who knows, I may get a job at some other company that start with A. I have to admit that I've been very lucky. It seems that I've just been falling into great opportunities ever since I left AB.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bicyle commuting to the new job

I rode my bike to my new job for the first time today. It's actually a slight shorter commute than my old job (8 miles vs. 9 miles one-way). I haven't met any of them yet, but they are apparently a few other people who ride to work at least occasionally. It rained on the ride home. That gave me a chance to try out the shoe covers that I bought a couple a weeks ago. They worked great! My feet were dry even though it was raining heavily.

I really like working where I am now. It turns out that Carlos Brito gave great advice: go work for a technology company. I'm only there temporarily but I hope that it becomes permanent. I will actually be working next week as well so it's a two week gig instead of one week.

Tomorrow I have an interview for another temporary job. This one is for 6 weeks. I'm almost afraid that I'll get it. The good part is that it would be starting immediately after my current job ends. The bad part is that if I take it, it might keep me from working on the project that my current employer is bidding on. I guess I don't have to worry about that until I actually have an offer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Job Update

I've talked to a few recruiters this week and gotten some leads. One of the recruiters was a real downer. She spent a lot of time talking about how bad the job market was. She also was encouraging me to be submitted for a VB6 job. I decided that I wasn't that desperate yet. The other recruiters were much more helpful and I have been submitted at a couple of places.

I also found a one week temporary job. This is at the company where Zac works. I interviewed there a couple of weeks ago. The don't have a permanent place for me right now but they want me to help prepare a bid for a contract. If they win the bid (and they still like me after a week) there may be a position available for me.

I heard from a former coworker that links to my blog were widely circulated around the office. I guess that explains how "Glad to see you go!" found it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The end of an era

I'm not going to bury the lead: I was just let go by AB on Monday, along with about 40 other people from IT. I have been expecting this for some time and I'm glad to be out of there. I think that they could have handled it better.
The main problem that I had with InBev is that I am a developer and they don't do development. Carlos Brito, InBev's CEO, said that "if you want an IT career, go work for an IT company." This may explain why morale is even lower in IT than in the rest of the company. To InBev, it is very important to be aligned with the culture. The culture is about cost cutting, not questioning your superiors, and repeating the company line to your subordinates, even when you know it isn't true.

We have been told several times in the past that there would be no outsourcing. By the end of the year they plan to outsource several hundred jobs that are currently being done by contractors.

Earlier this year they claimed that they didn't cut the contractors pay by 10%. They claimed that they only cut the amount the paid the contracting companies by 10% the contractors. As if these two amounts were unrelated.

On Thursday my L3, (I was an L5 so that would be my boss's boss) to his entire group that he didn't know what would happen to the people who were not aligned with the culture. On Friday, they started letting those people go.

In the same meeting he said that they were going to start replacing people who left. I'll have to check with my former co-workers to see if they hire someone to replace me or anyone else who was let go. No one believes that they will.

I did not know it at the time, but I was actually scheduled to be let go on Friday. I had a touch of the stomach bug that has been going around so I stayed home. I checked my e-mail remotely and say a meeting invitation for a "private appointment" that afternoon. My boss was not invited to the meeting. I assumed that it was the meeting to ax me so I volunteered to come in. My L3 told me to stay home and that they would re-schedule it for Monday.

On Sunday, my boss called to tell me that he was pretty sure that the ax was about to fall. He knew that he was also not aligned with the culture so he would be let go too. I told him that I might not be that motivated on Monday morning so I'd be in a little late.

On Monday, I told the rest of the group what I knew. It was unofficial but that it was going to happen. Most of the news we here is through the grapevine so this is not that unusual. I kept checking my e-mail to see if they was going to be another meeting invitation. People started joking that they might drag this out a few more days. I spent most of the morning making sure that things were as organized as possible for a smooth transition.

Rick suggested that we go out to lunch one last time as a group. Since there was a meeting scheduled for 12:45, we left a little early. While we were eating, Rick got a call on his cell phone. It was our L3 asking if Rick I was with him. He then asked for my cell phone number. Rick told me that our L3 with be calling me in a few minutes.

When he called, he said that HR was waiting for me in his boss's (L2) office and that I needed to come back right away. He also said that he didn't expect me to go to lunch so early because I had come in late. At this point it was almost noon and he was the one who scheduled the 12:45 meeting. If I had gone to lunch any later, I would not have had a chance to eat. I told him that I had ridden over with Rick so I did not have a vehicle. He said "Can you drive Rick's car back and have him ride with someone else?" I responded, "That would be up to Rick." He told me to call him back if I couldn't find a way to get back.

Of course, everyone at lunch said to keep them waiting. What could they do, fire me? , on the other hand, just wanted to get this over with. Rick lent me his car since he is a genuinely nice guy. I boxed up the remainder of lunch, said my goodbyes, and headed back to the office.

Once I got there, I met with someone from HR and my L2. Neither one really knows me so this was just the impersonal, bureaucratic process that you would expect. I didn't mind that part. After that, a different L3 walked me back to my desk to collect my personal effects. I asked if I could go change into my cycling clothes for the ride home. He said, "As long as you make it quick. I have a meeting to go to." Like I was the one who had scheduled this.

That evening, I went to a happy hour for someone else who had recently put in their notice. MY boss, who had also been let go, was there. Many of the people there were interested in hearing the whole story.

I mentioned earlier that morale was low in IT. Here are some numbers to back it up. These are from a survey that InBev did earlier this year. I have no reason to believe that these numbers have gotten any better (except that I'm gone).

(5662 people)
(444 people)
I am proud of the work I do94%90%
I am motivated to do what it takes to help the company win85%80%
I am satisfied with my line manager (direct supervisor)78%74%
I feel a real sense of ownership in the work that I do at AB InBev70%66%
I am proud to work for AB InBev72%60%
I am optimistic about the company's future64%57%
I feel that my opinions and ideas really count at work55%53%
A strong sense of commitment is shared by everyone in my department55%40%
I would stay at AB InBev even if I was offered another job at the same or slightly higher pay45%32%
I am satisfied with the training and career development opportunities at AB InBev44%20%
I feel informed about the changes the company has made, even if I don't agree with all the changes64%62%
Based on what I've learned about the new company's culture, I am or will be loyal to AB InBev61%59%
I am optimistic about my future with the company42%34%

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Have I mentioned that I hate my job?

I have been very unhappy with my job ever since InBev bought Anheuser-Busch late last year. The main problem is that I am a software developer working for a company that doesn't value software development. I have been looking for a job but haven't found the right one yet. There are rumors going around that more people might be cut in the very near future. If people are let go I expect that I will be one of them. Actually, I am hoping that I will be one of them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cincinnati Trip

It seems that whenever I go a long time with posting an entry it is because I have too much to say rather than because I have I nothing to say. I'll try to catch you up.

Last month, we all went to Cincinnati for the Teismann family reunion. We had been looking for an excuse to go to Cincinnati for a while and this was our chance. Helen had also wanted to take the kids to the Children's Museum in Indianapolis so we decided to make that part of the trip as well.

We left early in the morning on Thursday, July 16th. We stopped at the Ballard Nature Center in Altomont, IL to look for a letterbox (I'll talk more about letterboxing in another post). The nature center was really nice. We got to get out of the car and stretch our legs for a bit. We saw birds, various insects, and huge frogs, and we found the letterbox. The visitor center was larger and more interesting than I expected.
Ballard Nature Center

We made it to Indianapolis in the afternoon and went straight to the Children's Museum. It is very large and we had a good time going there. It was definitely too much to see in one day. Here are some pictures that we took. After that, we checked into out hotel. Nothing fancy, just a La Quinta.

Indianapolis Children's Museum

The next day (Saturday) we drove to Cincinnati. We had originally planned to go to the Cincinnati Children's Museum because we thought that they had a reciprocal agreement with the St. Louis Science Center. When we got there we found out that they didn't, but that the Museum of Natural History & Science did. That's where we went. This was also fun. We especially enjoyed the cave exhibit.
Cincinnati Museum of Natural History & Science

After that we went to our hotel, which had an indoor water park. We went there for about an hour before eating and collapsing in our room.

On Sunday we went to the water park in the morning and then off to the family reunion. The family reunion was small but a lot of fun. The kids loved playing with their cousins. After the reunion, we went back to the hotel for another hour in the water park.

On Monday we went to the water park one last time. Then it was off to the Newport Aquarium. The hotel package that we got included four tickets to the aquarium. The Aquarium was very nice but it was not laid out very well for what we wanted. Everything was laid out linearly so that you pretty much had to walk through the whole aquarium. This took about two hours. We would rather have skipped parts of it and only spent an hour there since we still had a six hour drive ahead of us.

We did not get home until after 8 and that was with the help of a time zone change. Luckily for us the kids are used to taking long car trips so there was not too much complaining. Of course the portable DVD player and Nintendo DSi helped as well.

This post is long enough so I'll have to post about my job in the next post.

Monday, July 13, 2009

City Museum

I took the kids to City Museum on Saturday. Helen wasn't feeling well so she stayed home. The kids and I had a great time and really wore ourselves. If you haven't been there, City Museum is hard to describe. It's not really a museum, it's more like the worlds largest attic. There are things to climb on and crawl through and slide down. Certain things were more difficult because of my hip but it I still had a good time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A little bit of hope

I haven't posted it about it much but I have not been happy with my job for some time. Last year, before the takeover, I told me boss that I'd rather be fired than work solely in support. When InBev took over I learned that what I wanted didn't matter (you would have though that I would have already known that).

About six weeks ago we had a meeting where we were told that it was up to each of us to find our own career path. After that meeting I immediately started working to get out of support and back into development. I had been (respectfully) pushing on the topic since then but I wasn't seeing any progress.

Just recently, I found out that there are some things going on behind the scenes that could lead to me getting what I want. Nothing is certain, and nothing is official, but there are at least possibilities. I should be hearing something relatively soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My daughter almost won the Preakness

She only missed by one letter. The winner of the Preakness was a filly named Rachel Alexandra. My daughter's middle name is Alexandria. She thought it was pretty neat when I told her about it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to avoid soda

Different people have different ideas about what kind of diet makes you lose weight but I think that everyone can agree that full-sugar soda is bad. I have been trying to cut back on the amount of soda that I drink. One time that I get into trouble is when I go out to lunch. Most fast food restaurants have combo deals that includes a soda. That makes it easy for me to rationalize drinking soda. Fortunately, something happened at Burger King to make me rethink my strategy.

A week and a half ago Helen, the kids, and I went to Burger King for lunch. We had just seen Monsters vs. Aliens. Rachel got a 6 piece chicken kids meal and A.J. got a four piece. The total came to a little over twenty dollars. That seemed high to me so I studied the receipt. I noticed that Rachel's meal cost $1.40 more than A.J.'s even though it included just two extra chicken pieces. On the value menu you can buy 4 chicken pieces for a dollar.

Later that week I went to Burger King for lunch with Steve and I decided to order off of the value menu. I got a Whopper Junior, small fries, and a cup of water. The total, with tax, came to $2.15. Steve got some extra thick Whopper combo and it was over seven dollars. Steve noticed that he could have gotten three of my meals for the price of his and said that he was going to order off the value menu next time.

The value menu has several advantages. First, it's cheaper. Second, I eat less. And finally, I'm not tempted to get a soda since it would increase the price by 50%. It's funny that thinking about my health didn't stop me from drinking soda at lunch, but thinking about my wallet did. I haven't had any soda since that twenty dollar meal at BK.

My weigh-in was 195.5 today. I am happy about that. I have also not missed any commutes and my streak is up to 19. I only consider a streak broken if I go to work but don't commute both ways via bicycle, so not working on Good Friday won't break the streak.

I mentioned earlier that I gave up beer for Lent. This was Rachel's idea. She gave up candy and said that I should give up beer. I decided to do it just to prove to myself that I could. I figured that it was easy, I should do it because it was easy. If it was difficult, I should do it because I needed to. It really hasn't been too much of a hardship. There have been times where I've wished that I could have a beer but I've never been tempted to cheat. There has even been a bottle of beer in the fridge that I see every day. If it was too much of a struggle I would have moved it to somewhere that I wouldn't see it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I've gotten a little frustrated lately because I've been comparing my riding stats for this year to 2007. That was my best year riding and my conditioning is not nearly as good now. I'm trying to concentrate on improving my current conditioning rather than comparing myself to two years ago.

There was a brevet today that I decided not to do. There was a 200K and a 300K option. It is very inconvenient to get to Edwardsville at 5:00 am. Since we have only one car, and since Helen needed the car today, I would either have had to find a ride or have Helen and the kids get up at 4:00 am and take me to the ride. I don't think that the 200K was worth that much driving. The 300K was pretty much out of the question because I don't know if I could do it. I certainly didn't to attempt 186 miles for my first long ride of the year.

Instead I decided to ease into the longer rides. I went on the ride this morning at Maplewood Bicycle. Only two other people showed up (Bill and Brian) but we had a good ride. We rode 35 miles which is not a long ride but it is my longest ride so far this year. I thought about riding some extra miles on my own but I decided to call that ride a win. This also makes my highest mileage week for the year (122 miles) since I commuted every day. Again this is not very impressive compared to 2007 but it's great compared to last year.

As I mentioned I rode every day this week. Last week I took 4 days off or work for the kids' spring break so I only rode one day. But that means that all of my commutes were by bicycle that week (one for one). That gives me a streak of 16 consecutive commutes.

My weight is not going down as quickly as I would like but it is going down (I think). In my last post I mentioned that my Wednesday weight was 197 but I thought it might be a low reading. This week I forgot to weigh in on Wednesday but my weight on Tuesday was 197 and on Thursday was 196. My my totally self imposed rules that makes my "official" weight for the week 197 but it gives me hope that I'm losing weight. We'll have to see what it is next week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bonus ride

I was moving pretty slow on Thursday morning since the previous day's ride had tired me out. I did ride in to work though. I wanted to keep my streak alive. After I got to work I realized that Rick's poker night was that evening. Usually, I ride to Rick's house from work and then ride home after poker. I considered riding home and then driving to poker to avoid a late night bonus ride but that seemed to inefficient. Besides I have a reputation to protect (a reputation as a crazy cyclist).

On the way to Rick's, I hit a rock and got a flat tire. There was a group cyclist that were doing a preview of the Thursday night Trailnet ride that will start later this year. One of them got a flat in the same place a few minute after I did. A few other riders stopped as well. I chatted with them for a few minutes while I changed my tire. If you're going to have a flat, that was a pretty good time to have it: still daylight, nice weather, some people to talk to. The mentioned a cycling meetup group that I will have to look into.

I got the tired changed and got on my way again. I picked up some food at Sonic and then headed for Rick's. Poker was fun as always and I even came in 2nd place in the tournament. Normally I would drink beer at poker night but I gave beer up for Lent so it was Pepsi for me. I should post more about that some other time.

I left Rick's about midnight. I was a little concerned about about being tired on the way home but I felt fine. I'm sure I'm going to be moving extra slow tomorrow morning, though. If I had remembered poker in advance I would have packed some extra clothing for the ride home. I was lucky and it was still warm (48° F) when I rode home.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Race against the clock

Helen called me at work a little bit after 5. She said that she didn't know if she would be able to make it to pick up the kids before 6. When Helen works, the kids stay in after care, but they need to be picked up by 6 or they charge $1 a minute. I said that I would do my best to get there before 6.

I shut down my computer and got changed. I ended up leaving work at 5:25. That gave me 35 minutes to get to school. I knew it was about 7.5 miles so that should give me plenty of time time as long as I didn't get slowed down by traffic or red lights. As I started out I also started to worry about the wind slowing me down. A cold front was moving in and it was very windy. And of course it was a head wind.

I pushed hard and made it to school at 5:56. They were the last kids to be picked up be at least I made it on time. Helen got there just a couple of minutes after 6. Now we had a dilemma; My bike won't fit into her car and I really didn't want to ride home along Manchester Road. If it was a nice day I could have wandered around on side streets and found an alternate route, but I didn't want to do that with thunderstorms on the way.

We had been planning on buying a bike carrier do we decided to just go ahead and buy it then. I locked up my bike at the school and went to Maplewood bicycle. While I was buying and installing the carrier (with help from the staff at Maplewood), Helen got the kids some dinner at Jack in the Box. After that we went back to school and picked up my bike. We got home just as the first few drops of rain started to fall.

I felt exhausted that evening. Even though my commute was actually a little shorter than usual, it felt harder. Fighting the wind and hurrying against the clock really wore me out. On the bright side, that makes 8 commutes in a row without missing one. My weigh-in that evening was good as well at 197. That may have skewed a little low so we'll see how the next one goes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A good weekend

I rode every day last week. I even rode to Zac's house Friday night. He had just bought Resident Evil 5 (a video game) and invited me and a couple of other people over to play it. It was fun, but I stayed up way too late. I didn't leave his house until after 2 am.

On Saturday, I was incredibly tired. Riding every day when you're not used to it and being short on sleep really wear on you. It's only a little over 7 miles round trip to Zac's house but miles ridden after midnight count extra. I ended up taking a nap after breakfast.

Helen took Rachel to the History Museum for some St Patrick's Day storytelling. A.J. and I walked a few blocks to Yale Park for him to play on the playground. Helen and Rachel were driving by as we were walking there so Rachel joined us. I mostly just read my book while they played.

After that, I worked with Rachel on learning to ride a bike. For now she has just been working on balance and steering. I had taken the pedals off her bike and lower the seat. I give her a push to get started and she rides down the driveway with me running alongside. She is doing well and is starting to get excited about riding.

On Sunday, the kids and I picked up lunch and took it to Rocket Ship Park. This park has a much bigger playground as well as a sand area to play in. Helen has a big basket of sand toys that we take whenever we go there. That way we have plenty of toys for sharing. It usually starts out with Rachel and A.J. playing in the sand area. Then another kid or two will come by and I'll encourage them to share the toys. Eventually more and more kids gather. At one point on Sunday there were probably a dozen kids playing with our toys. The toys don't cost much and if we occasionally lose some it's not a big deal. It's neat to see the kids (and a parent or two) building sand castles and having fun.

Later the ice cream truck came to the park. It was the first ice cream truck of the season so the kids were very excited. I bought Rachel and A.J. some ice cream but didn't get any for myself. While they were eating, A.J. told me "Next time we come to the park, I want to bring my allowance. That way I can buy you ice cream because you don't get ice cream much." I told him that he didn't have to do that and I just didn't want ice cream that day.

I worked with Rachel on riding a bike again. She really wanted to pedal so after a few tries without pedals, I put them back on and raised the seat. I also put the train wheels back on but raised them as high as they would go. She did well like that except she hasn't got the hang of using the brakes yet. Her bike has coaster brakes which means she has to pedal backwards to stop.

Since it was such a nice day we grilled brats and hot dogs for dinner and ate outside. All in all I'd have to say that it was a pretty good weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New tire

Yesterday, I had a puncture going up Mount Sappington* on the way to work. It was a fairly fast leak but it wasn't a blowout so I rode a little farther and then pumped it up enough to last for the rest of the ride. I swung by Sunset Cyclery but they weren't open yet.

I had previously noticed that my back tire was pretty worn so I decided to replace the tire as well as the tube. After lunch, I pumped up the tire again and went to Sunset Cyclery and bought a new tire.

On the way home, I felt very tired and slow. There were probably several reasons for this. It was cold and I was slightly under dressed (I had a jacket with me but I wasn't cold enough to stop and put it on). I was a little short on sleep. I gave blood last Wednesday. And it was my fourth consecutive day riding.

I have not done very well on my goal of riding every day. There has been a lot going on so there have many days were I wasn't able to ride. There have also been a few days where I could have ridden but didn't. I've ridden to work every day this week so far and I am planning to ride today so I guess I'm doing a little better.

My weight hasn't been great either. My weigh-in this week was 199 (I am using Wednesday as my official weigh-in day). This is down some from the beginning of the year but no as much as I would like.

* Mount Sappington isn't really a mountain. It's just the steepest hill on my way to work. I gave it that name when I first started riding.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Helen's father

Helen's father passed away last Monday. She has had to deal with that as well as the stress of dealing with funeral arrangements for the past week. This has not been an easy time for her or the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy birthday to me

A lot has happened since my last post so I'll try to cover it here.

The neighborhood progressive party was on January 24. It was a lot of fun. The brown's were the first house of the evening. They also offered to have their older kids watch everyone else's kids for the evening. Rachel and A.J. had fun playing with the other kids. Helen and I had a good time going from house to house. I left to pick up the kids at 9:00 and ended up going to bed after I put the kids to bed.

It snowed on the 27th and 28th. The kids didn't have school either day. You know that they enjoyed that. The snow was too dry to build anything with, but Rachel made a snowman on Thursday the 29th.

Helen and and did not do a big anniversary celebration. She just picked me up for lunch and we went to Dewey's Pizza. I did manage to ride home from work without getting hit by a car this year.

Saturday the 31st was a busy day for the kids. Helen took Rachel and A.J. to the Science Center in the morning. After they got back I took Rachel to sell girl scout cookies. A.J. can with us too. In the evening Helen took Rachel to a sock-hop. It was a Hawaiian themed dance at the school. Rachel won a prize for being the girl with the best costume.

On Sunday it warmed up quite a bit. It was close to 50 degrees. Rachel's snowman melted enough to fall over so she tried to carve an igloo out of the base. That didn't work so I decide to build one. We have a plastic container that is designed to make snow bricks with. We had never used it before. The snow was very wet so it packed down very well. Rachel and A.J. both ended up helping me. It was weird because all of us were wearing gloves and none of us were wearing coats. I was a little worried that it would collapse before I finished but it ended up being pretty strong. It was only big enough for one of the kids to go into at a time but I think most of the fun was in building it.

I started getting a cold during the week. I ended up staying home from work on Wednesday and Friday (and should have stayed home on Thursday as well). The next weekend (Feb 7 and 8) had nice weather too.

On Saturday we went to Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center. I wasn't really up to doing much but I knew that if I didn't go, A.J. would want to stay home too. He's a home-body by inclination so I like to encourage him to do things like this. He usually has fun once he gets to an activity. Sometimes it's just hard to convince him to go. The trail that we ended up walking was only 1.2 miles but it was very hilly. We saw robins, chipmunks, and deer. A.J. was pretty tired by the end. After the walk we went into the nature center. I had been there before but I had never gone through the whole thing. Rachel ended up dragging me all over the place. It's actually very impressive. The kids would probably have liked to stay even longer but I was ready to go home.

On Sunday, Helen took Rachel and one one of Rachel's friends to the Botanical Gardens. The boys (A.J. and I) stayed home. Actually we decided to walk to Jack in the Box for lunch. A.J. was very proud that he didn't stop to rest on on the way there or the way back. It's a bout a mile each way so that's actually an impressive feat for a five year old. Since Rachel wasn't there he got to walk at his own pace and I think that helped.

Monday was my birthday but I didn't do anything very exciting. We just had a quiet dinner home. I did ride home in the rain and get a flat tire though. Even that wasn't too bad since it was sixty degrees.

Today I went back to my hand surgeon. I've been having pain in my thumb since the accident even though there were no broken bones in the thumb. The doctor diagnosed it as osteoarthritis. He gave me a splint to wear when it is bothering me and suggested Alleve. There's not much he can really do.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's cold in the big bad world

I woke up Wednesday morning not feeling well. I ended up not going in to work, so obviously I didn't ride on Wednesday. Helen made spaghetti for dinner so I was heavy when I weighed myself that night: 204. I re-weighed myself Thursday night and it was 202. When confronted with two different scale reading I do what everyone else does -- I assume the lower one is correct and that the higher one is an anomaly.

I rode to work on Thursday even though it was 4 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the house. By the time I got to work my toes were painfully cold. That's the coldest temperature that I've ever ridden in (the previous record was 6). By the time I went home it was 12 degrees and that made a big difference. I was much more comfortable.

I did have one problem on the way home. My rear derailleur cable broke about two miles from home. When this happens the bike shifts into the smallest gear in the back and makes it very difficult to go up hills and to get going from a stop. On the bright side, I was only about a mile from Maplewood Bicycle to I made it there without too much trouble.

They always take good care of me at Maplewood Bicycle. I got there at 6:20 (they close at 7) and the had the cable replaced by 6:40. They only charged me $18. This is one of the advantages of supporting your local bike shop. They weren't very busy because of the weather but I wasn't the only customer in the shop. They were impressed that I was riding in the cold.

On Friday, it was -2 when I would have left for work. I decided that this was cold enough for me to have an excuse not to ride. There's a fine line between being tough and being crazy. Helen drove me to and from work.

I only rode 3 days this week but I think I had good reasons for the days I missed so I'm not too disappointed in myself. There are too many daily fluctuations in weight for me to judge my progress there yet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bonus Ride

My friend Rick has a semi-regular poker night about once a month; typically on Monday night. I used to ride to the poker night at his house and then ride home afterward. Originally, rain was predicted for Monday night so I has planned to ride home and then drive to Rick's house. The forecast changed during the day on Monday so I decided to ride there.

Rick's house is only 7.75 mile from work so the distance is fairly easy. Traffic is a little heavier than I like and there are some hills as well. Temperature was in the 30's. Poker night is always fun. The downside is that it's too much fun to leave early. I changed back into my cycling clothes and left Rick's house at 11:40.

The ride home from Rick's house after poker is always an unusual ride for me. It feels more like a brevet than a commute. Late at night there is almost no traffic on Big Bend so I have the road to myself. It's been a long day and although I haven't ridden that many miles, my legs are tired.

On that night it was still relatively warm when I started the ride, probably still in the 30's. It was fairly windy but it was generally a tailwind. The first part are the ride is fairly hilly. The climb up from Valley Park always seems to take forever. Once I passed Sappington Rd. I was back on my commute route so it felt easier. A little later a front must have moved in. It got colder and started to snow. The snow wasn't too heavy and was actually kind of pretty.

I made it home in about an hour. When I came inside I was that mixture of hot and cold that you get after riding in cold weather. My body and head were warm, but my skin was cold. After a little bit of cool down time I went to bed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I have two resolutions for the the new year:
  1. Get back into the habit of commuting every day
  2. Lose some weight.
Once I was able to start riding after the accident I started easing into regular commuting. I started riding a few times a week with the intention of gradually increasing my riding until I was riding every day. The problem is that it was too easy to find an excuse not to ride. I looked back at my records and saw that there were only 5 weeks in 2008 where I rode both to and from work. One of those was in January (before the accident, of course), one each in August and September, and two in October. Weeks with 4 round trips were fairly rare as well. Now there will be the occasional day that I can't ride, but I have only been riding about half the time, maybe less. This is what lead to my first resolution.

I actually rode all 5 days in the first week in January and I was tired at the end of the week. Riding in cold weather is more difficult but my lack of conditioning is part of the reason as well. I hadn't ridden at all in two weeks. The extra weight that I'm carrying doesn't help either.

That leads into my second resolution. I am way too heavy right now. I weighed myself on Wednesday and I was 203.5 lbs. and 26% body fat. This is about 30 lbs. heavier that what I weighed in 2006 and 2007. It's even about 18 lbs. heavier than where I was when I started riding in 2005. On good thing is that it is still 30 lbs. lighter than what I weighed in 1999.

I don't have a specific plan for losing weight. Riding more and not eating like a pig are part of the equation. I know that losing a pound a week should not be too much trouble for me but I'm not setting a specific goal. I do plan on posting my weight here every week or so to keep myself honest. I will also post whenever I don't ride to work.