December 21, 2014

A dinner at Lazy Bear

This past week we went to dinner at Lazy Bear in San Francisco.  It was one of the best fancy dinner experiences I've had.  I could attempt to wax eloquent about all the different ways in which the experience was awesome, but instead I'll be lazy and just refer you to a review of Lazy Bear on SFGate (published yesterday).  Many of the dishes we had were different from what was described in the review (since the menu continually changes).  You can see pictures of a bunch of the dishes we had here:

I've had a few other fancy dinners where some of the dishes were amazing, while others were ho-hum.  But here each of the courses was truly unique and tasty.  Aside from the food and the venue, two other things we really enjoyed were:

- A fantastic 2013 wine from The Scholium Project called "Prince in His Caves".  It was an orange colored Sauvignon Blanc that was fermented with the grape skins on and had a truly unique and great flavor.

- The great music selection (Cure, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, etc).

We were there from 7:30pm till 11:30pm and the time just flew by.  If you're looking for an exciting dinner out on the town I'd highly recommend it.

October 6, 2014

Levi's Gran Fondo Ride Report

I started cycling about five years ago and up till this past Saturday I had never done a century ride. (I had attempted the Primavera Century ride in 2010, but I gave up at mile 87 after 22 miles of riding in heavy rain.)  Earlier this year I decided that I should finally try a century ride so I signed up for Levi's Gran Fondo, a 103 mile ride with about 9,200 ft of climbing.

Unfortunately, the weeks leading up to the ride were pretty stressful.  I had assumed that committing to this event would help motivate me to train more and get into better shape.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen and I didn't do any more riding this year than I've done in past years.  Also, work was particularly stressful in the weeks leading up to the ride and I didn't do nearly as much last minute training as I would have hoped.  Then a heatwave decided to set in for the weekend of the event, with temps going up to 95 F, and I normally perform much better when temps are in the 60s.  Finally, since I've never done anything like this, I didn't really have any accurate way to gauge if my fitness level was sufficient for the event.

A couple days before the event I decided I should have a plan, so I started looking at my performance on long rides this year.  I noticed that for long rides (50+ miles and 5000+ ft of climbing) I was averaging about 12.5 mph.  So for a 103 mile course, going 12.5 mph, it would take me about 8.25 hours without any rest stops.  (And there were 6 rest stops on the course, one of which was a lunch stop.)  Looking at the schedule for the ride, it started at 8am and they would starting closing it up around 5pm with a final pickup for any remaining riders at 6pm.  That would mean you would want to finish the course in less 9 hours, with 10 hours being a hard cutoff.  Given this estimate, I was really worried about actually being able to finish the course in time.  Ronda pointed out that I could do the Medio ride instead (65 miles and 3800 ft of climbing), but I dismissed that option since I'm stubborn and my normal "long" weekend rides are more challenging than that.  I was going to try to finish the Gran or fail trying.

After looking at my past performance, the plan I decided on was to try and hit an average of 12.5 mph (with 13 mph being a stretch goal).  I was going to try and keep my heart rate down below 170 for most the ride (heat allowing) and I would try to keep my power in the low 200s for any climb or longer straight stretch.  I hoped that would allow me to survive to the end of the ride and finish before the course closed.

The night before the ride me and Ronda went up to Santa Rosa to stay at a small house on a farm about 5 miles from the event.  In the morning I got up at 6am, got ready, and biked over to the event.  The ride officially started at 8am, and when the starter’s pistol fired I immediately began rolling forward in a large mass of people (there are about 7000+ riders).  Then, just as quickly I came to a stop as we all bunch up together and couldn't move any more.  We all continued to inch forward until I finally passed the starting line at about 8:22.  Hm.  Not quite the amazing start I had expected.  (Also, when I crossed the starting line I was freezing since it was about 50 F out and I had lost all my body heat while standing around waiting to actually start riding.)

Once I passed the starting line the ride became much more enjoyable.  For the first 20 miles the road was closed to cars and filled with riders.  It was pretty fun riding with that many people and mostly I was just slowly negotiating my way forward past slower riders.  After the first rest stop (Monte Rio @ mile 20) I managed to get behind a group of about 5 fast riders that were pushing a pace slightly higher than I was comfortable with, but I held on for about 10 miles and we were trucking along at 20+ mph.  We passed lots of other groups.  Then when I looked behind me I noticed that I wasn't the last rider in our train, instead it stretched back behind me as far as I could see.

The second rest stop (Cazadero @ mile 30) was also the cutoff for the Gran route.  If you didn't make it there by 11:00 then you would get shunted off onto an alternate and shorter route.  I made it there by about 10:30, so I thought I was doing OK.  My average speed so far was about 15 mph, which was above my target (which made sense since we really hadn't done any climbing yet).  I was also comforted by the fact that there was a huge crowd there, which helped assure me that I there were lots of other folks going at a comparable pace.

Moving on from the second rest stop the climbing finally started.  My normal riding routes include a lot of climbing and I really like it.  I find it's much easier to gage and regulate my performance on a climb than it is on the flats.  So when the road started to go up, and it still wasn't too hot, I felt right in my element.  I managed to kept my power in the low 200s (as planned) and my heart rate in the low 170s, except in the sections where the road became too steep and I had to push a higher power to keep my speed at a decent pace.  Luckily those sections were usually shorter and I noticed that my HR was recovering quickly whenever I backed off.  Happily, this trend continued for the entire ride.  I was pretty surprised (and slightly encouraged) when I saw people off of their bikes and walking up the very first significant climb.

I really enjoyed the ride to the third rest stop (King Ridge @ mile 47).  Once the majority of the climbing was done we had rollers on hilltops through farm country, and it was really gorgeous.  The only unfortunate part was that I passed a cyclist who had crashed while taking a turn and seriously injured himself (this was just before the third rest stop).  There were lots of folks and staff around helping him, but he looked like he needed serious medical attention.  As it turns out, he wasn't the only accident that occurred.  After spending about 5 mins at the third rest stop I decided to move on, but at that moment they closed down the road.  Apparently two more cyclists had crashed just a bit further on (where there was an extremely steep descent).  The road was closed for about 40 mins while they brought in a helicopter to evacuate one of the riders, and the other was taken out in an ambulance.

During our 40 min wait at the third rest stop, many more people were arriving.  When they finally re-opened the road, once again there was a sea of riders moving forward together.  The most interesting part of this section was that it was an extremely steep and long descent being doing in a large crowd of riders.  About 3/4s of the way through the descent, the was a loud gunshot like noise just behind me.  It seems that someone with tubeless carbon wheels had overheated one of their wheels and it exploded.  Not a good day for them.

After this steep descent we had lots more climbing to get to the fourth rest stop (Ritchey Ranch @ mile 58) for lunch.  I was surprised at how good I felt when I got there.  The only discomfort I had felt so far was a tightness in my neck / upper back which had started at about mile 20.  But this is frequently something that happens to me when I'm stressed, and given how early it started in the ride, I attributed it to that.

I also had a really great appetite when I got there and I had to limit myself to just having one roast beef sandwich since I wanted to get going asap.  Part of my plan for the ride had been to stop at every rest stop to eat something, to drink, and to use the facilities to make sure I wasn't getting dehydrated.  But I still wanted to keep my time at each rest stop to a minimum to ensure that I still finished in time.  So after scarfing down lunch and re-applying sunscreen I headed out again.

The ride after lunch was awesome since we headed out to the coast and met up with Highway 1.  The temps dropped down to the low 70s, and once we got to Hwy 1 the riding was great.  Many of the previous roads we had been on were poorly maintained back country roads, where as Hwy 1 was in excellent condition and the sharp turns on descents were well graded and fun.  Not to mention the views were amazing.

I was feeling really good riding along the coast.  Hwy 1 had lots of rollers and I found that I still had the energy to get out of the saddle and power up the hills, and then my heart rate would quickly recover during the descents on the other side.  I was riding solo and I was still able to pass lots of other folks on the way to the fifth rest stop (Portuguese Beach @ mile 74).

Right after leaving the fifth rest stop I hit the final serious climbs, and once again, I felt pretty good on these.  Since these climbs were moving inland it was getting warmer. I made sure to keep my power in check to avoid overheating.  I was also rewarded with good views of the coast rapidly disappearing behind me.  I took a quick and unnecessary stop at the sixth rest stop (Coleman Valley @ mile 81) and then another quick stop at the seventh and final rest stop (Occidental @ mile 87).  At the final rest stop, I realized that I was still feeling really good and decided to try and push a stronger pace till the end.  For the next 9 miles I was pushing a strong solo pace, and then a group of 4 other riders flew past me. I jumped onto the back of their train and road at an even faster pace for the last 7 miles of the ride.

I crossed the finish line 9 hours after starting and I felt surprisingly good when I did.  I felt like I could have continued riding without any problems.  I had an average speed of 14 mph (a moving time of 7:21), which was much better than I had expected, and I also felt like I left some performance on the table.  I think I underestimated my abilities and overestimated the difficulty of the course.  Had I known better and been willing to finish the ride with no remaining capacity, I could have definitely pushed harder and finished sooner.

Overall, the ride itself was beautiful and fun.  I normally ride by myself, so it was fun to get into a couple groups and fly along the highway.  It was also nice not having to stop anywhere and having police wave you through every light and stop sign on the road.  Finally, the scenery along the route was beautiful.  I'm used to riding through coastal redwoods forests, so I'm pretty spoiled when it comes to scenic rides.  But this ride was still impressive with forests, rolling hills through ranch lands, classic dry California hills, and coastal cruising on Hwy 1.  My main regret is that I didn't take a camera with me on the ride since there were countless opportunities to use it.

If you're interested in my stats from the ride you can find them on Strava here.

September 23, 2014

Severed fuel line.

Recently things have been busy at work.  So this morning I decided to get up at 6am (an ungodly time for me) and head into the office early to get stuff done before my meetings started.  While driving south on the 101 I hit some debris in the road.  I immediately noticed a fuel smell, my dashboard lit up, and my engine died.  I managed to get the car onto the shoulder, and when I looked under it I saw some shredded shielding and a hose leaking fluid onto the ground.

Needless to say I decided not to try and restart the car.  I called AAA and had it towed to my local mechanic.  He put it on the lift and we confirmed that I had broken hose assembly and fuel line.  After having my wife pick me up from the mechanic I drove into the office again and was only a few minutes late for my 9am meeting.

October 29, 2013

Oops. I fell while cycling.

Well, it finally happened.  After four+ years of cycling I finally had my first real crash.

This morning at 8pm I went out for my normal Tue/Thu ride (climbing Jefferson, Kings, and the West side of Old La Honda). While descending 35 / Skyline Blvd towards Skylonda (after climbing up Kings) I was going a little too fast for the conditions (which were wet and cold).  I hit a slick spot where all the chip seal had worn off the road and my tires slipped out from under me. I landed on my right side and skidded for a ways. I remember thinking "just relax" while I felt my head bounce against the ground a couple times.  Luckily there were no cars on the road and I got up quickly and moved to the side of the road.  I was happy to see that my biking shorts, shirt, and vest had no holes in them.  My left had was really numb, so i took off my gloves and saw that my thumb was pretty scraped up.  I also noticed that i was bleeding, at which point I found a hole on the inside of my right arm arm warmer where there was some not-so-pretty-looking flesh hanging out.  I then realized I was no longer wearing my glasses and I found them in two pieces on the side of the road.  After re-assembling my glasses I tried to call Ronda but there was no cell reception, so I started trying to fix up my bike to ride again.  I fixed my chain (which was off and wrapped around my pedal and shifter cable). I got my tires rotating again.  Then I noticed that my left shifter was scraped up and rotated inwards, so I straightened it out.  I also noticed that my rear derailleur hanger was bent so I took a note to avoid shifting to easier gear on the back (so as to avoid the rear derailleur getting stuck in the spokes).  I put my gloves back on and then rode a short ways to Skylonda, called Ronda, and waited for her to pick me up.  Looking at the data from my Garmin, I figure i was going about 28 mph at the time of the crash.

I went home, changed, and then went to PAMF Urgent care. They cleaned up the road rash on my right arm and x-rayed both my right arm and left thumb.  I may have fractured my thumb, so they put it in a splint and I have an appointment on Thu for them to look at it again after the swelling goes down.  I also have some minor scratches and bruises on my right hip and down my back, but those all seem really minor (although Ronda keeps warning me that I'm going to be really sore tomorrow).

I'm a lucky SOB.  First, there were no cars on the road when I crashed (it happened at a curve in the road and they probably wouldn't have seen me).  Second, I'm amazed at how little road rash I actually got (compared to other people I know who have also been in accidents).

I'm really confused about how my left thumb and shifter ended up damaged.  I was in the drops when I went down, so I was thinking that my handle bars must have shot to the left and twisted my thumb outwards (riding over the top of my left thumb and skinning it in the process).  But that doesn't jive with the damage to my left shifter.  The cover plate from the top of the left shifter is missing and it's badly scraped up on the top front.  Given that I slid on my right side I have no idea how or when it came into contact with the ground.  


I snapped a photo at the top of skyline (before i fell), thinking I'd post it to my blog today.
Me at PAMF enjoying morphine and classical music (j/k about the morphine, even though they offered...)

Me all cleaned up (except for the helmet hair).

November 11, 2012

Weekend summary

1) Watched the new Amazing Spider-Man movie streaming from Vudu.

2) Went for a 20 mile bike ride with Ronda.

3) Installed one Romik running board on my Subaru Forester (on the drivers side).  I'm not totally thrilled about how it fits.  The Forester was obviously not designed for running boards, since when you try to stand on it your toes hit the bottom of the body.  Also, while i think it's securely mounted it does flex down when you stand on it, which makes it feel less than secure.  Now I'm consternating about either installing the other one or giving up on them.

4) Tried Himawari in San Mateo.  It's a nice restaurant (lots of jazz records on the walls and jazz playing) with some very tasty Shio Ramen (the Chicken Karaage is tasty as well).

5) Bought two small framed prints of "Party Daleks" by Genevieve Santos that were on display at Sweet Breams (also in San Mateo).

6) Read up on how to avoid contribution limits for Roth IRAs.  I wish I had known about this in 2010 when if first became possible.  I also spent some more time reading some other postings by Meyers Wealth Management.

7) Hung up the "Party Dalek" prints and a decorative metal sign reading "Black Dog Inn; Martini Bar" in the guest bathroom.

8) Created a 6" tall splash guard for the dogs water bowl so that when Rye drinks water he doesn't end up splashing it all over the bathroom floor.

February 5, 2012

walking on ice: my mom's first novel

my mom, maria pilatowicz, has just published her first novel called "walking on ice."  it's a story about a young girl growing up in poland under communism.  the official "in print" release date is 2012.04.10, but you can get a digital copy (pdf) from tate publishing today.

August 14, 2011

an introduction to the google android app store, aka the "market"

the google android app store (aka the "market" application) allows you to download android applications to your phone.  amazon also has an android app store (and to access it you have to download the amazon app store program) but i'm going to focus on the google app store here.

first off, you can see all the applications you have installed from the app store by starting up the "market" application, hitting the menu button, and then selecting "my apps". note that this isn't a list of all the apps on your device, it's just the apps that were installed via the app store.

not only can you download apps from the market, but updates to apps are also delivered via the "market".  to make sure that you always have the latest version of an application, after you finish installing an application you should go the "my apps" list, select the app, and select the "allow automatic updating" option.

to find new apps you can search for them via the "market", or you can do it online at (make sure to login with the google account your phone is connected to).  the online web market will allow you to browse and install apps directly onto you phone.

in general, one thing to keep in mind when installing apps is that there is really not much quality control for apps before they get added to the market.  so there really is nothing to prevent malicious or dangerous apps from being added to the app store that can steal your personal information.  so when searching for and installing new apps, you should be cautious and pay attention to a few different things, for example:
  • does the app get good reviews from lots of people?
  • how long has the app been around?
  • does the developer of the app have other applications in the market or just one?
  • does the developer of the app have lots of other small stupid apps?
  • does the developer name/company sound suspicious? (if an app said it was by "g00gle inc", i'd be suspicious that they want to trick people into thinking it's an app made by google.)
  • what permissions does the app require, and does the app want access to any of your online accounts.
the last point about permissions is important.  before you install an app, the market will show you information about what permissions the application wants once it's installed on your phone.  this can include access to things like like: location information, the phone book, making calls, sending txts, the sd card, etc.  pay attention to what the application wants to do.  if you're installing a calculator application that wants the ability to send sms text messages, you should be wary.  lastly, once you've installed an app, it may request access to accounts that you have registered on your phone. (you can see these accounts by going to Home -> Menu -> Accounts & Sync).  once again, if a calculator is asking you for permission to access your gmail account, you might consider uninstalling it and finding a different calculator app.

also worth noting is that after you install an application and select "allow automatic updating,” an app which changes the permissions it requires in an update will not automatically update.  instead the market will notify you that is a new update available and that you have to explicitly say "yes" to updating it again because the permissions have changed (and once again it will show you the new permissions required by the app).

now, before jumping into the apps themselves, there an important and REALLY STUPID item i have to mention.  as you've probably already noticed, android phones come pre-loaded with a bunch of apps.  (think google maps, facebook, etc.)  the stupid thing though is that there are usually newer versions of these apps available in the app store, but until you download them they won't automatically update to the latest versions.  so essentially, before downloading any new apps, the first thing you want to do is go to the app store and re-install a bunch of apps that you already have.  once you do this you'll get updated version of them as they are made available.  to make this doubly annoying, if you ever get an full android OS upgrade, that upgrade will undo these updates so that you have to go back and re-install the bundled apps.  it's an incredibly stupid bug.  so here's a list of apps that were pre-installed on my phone for which the market has newer versions:
  • Books - by Google
  • Car Home - by Google
  • Facebook for Android - by Facebook
  • Gmail - by Google
  • Google Goggles - by Google
  • Google Maps - by Google
  • Google Search - by Google
  • Google Voice - by Google
  • KickBack - by Google
  • Music - by Google
  • SoundBack - by Google
  • Street View on Google Maps - by Google
  • TalkBack - by Google
  • Voice Search - by Google
  • YouTube - by Google
so, when it comes to apps, i'd recommend trying out the following apps which are publisher by google:
  • Earth - by Google
  • Google Sky Map - by Google
  • My Tracks (by Google) - by Google
  • Shopper - by Google
if you use the online google reader as your RSS reader, then i'd also recommend:
  • Google Reader - by Google
then, i'd recommend the following application that allows you to set phone preferences based on location. For example, you can set your phone to enable wi-fi at home and at the office, but to be disabled in between thereby saving battery life.
  • Locale - by two forty four a.m. LLC - $9.99
another fun app that allows you to scan barcodes (and works with other apps like google shopper) is:
  • Barcode Scanner - by ZXing Team
if you have a limited data plan on your phone, then it's handy to keep track of how much data your applications are downloading/uploading.  you can track this with:
  • Traffic Counter Extended - by Carl Hopf
if you want to access maps when you don't have any cell phone coverage, try out:
  • MapDroyd - by OneStepAhead AG
personally, i think that the built-in android music player isn't that great.  if you are going to store and play music on your phone, you should probably try out this music manager:
  • Cubed - by Filipe Abrantes
here's a list of games i have installed on my phone:
  • Angry Birds - by Rovio Mobile
  • Shortyz Crosswords - by Robert "kebernet" Cooper
  • Wordfued FREE - by hbwares
  • WordUp! - by Anthrological
here's some other applications i have installed on my phone that you could check out:
  • Adobe Flash Player - by Adobe Systems
  • Advanced Task Killer - by ReChild - utility to kill processes
  • AK Notepad - by Snaptic - create files with notes
  • Android Agenda Widget - by Everybody all the time - home screen agenda widgit
  • Astrid (task manager) - by we <3 astrid - todo lists
  • ASTRO File Manager - by Metago
  • DoggCatcher Podcast Player - by DoggCatcher - $6.99
  • Fandango Movies - by Fandango - movie reviews and times
  • GPS Status - by EclipSim - gps data
  • GPS Test - by Chartcross Limited - gps data
  • IMDb Movies & TV - by IMDb - lookup movies on imdb
  • Mobile Banking - by Bank of America - find an atm nearby
  • Movies - by Flixster - movie reviews and times
  • NetQFree - Ads - Netflix Queue - by SporadicSoftware - manage your netflix queue (better than the netflix app)
  • OpenTable - by OpenTable - make resturant reservations
  • RealCalc Scientific Calculator - by Brain Overspill
  • Speed Test - by Ookla - test your download bandwidth
  • Twitter - by Twitter, Inc
  • UltraChron Stopwatch Lite - by The Spinning Head
  • WeatherBug - by WeatherBug Mobile - get weather forecasts
  • Wifi OnOff - by CurveFish - home screen widgit to turn wifi on and off
  • Wikipedia Encyclopedia - by Wiki Apps - search wikipedia
  • Yelp - by Yelp