I went to a ham radio swapfest on Saturday morning. It was a fine event, and I did buy a few items, of a sensible sort. Unlike my girlfriend who tends to end up buying kitchen appliances at ham swapfests, I got some radio stuff. I picked up a few adapters between SMA, BNC, and PL-259 connectors, and a little cheap magnet-mount antenna for car use. Lots of interesting stuff for sale. The really antique-y stuff isn't really the big thing I'm interested in, but it is fun to see some of it. Lots of people selling random-seeming vacuum tubes. A few old tube testing machines. I remember that back when I was a youngster, I saw tube testing machine in a store that was still in actual service, although by then it was a bit past the peak of people bringing in their tubes to test to try to fix their radios or TVs or whatever. I got to see and play with a few Vibroplex bugs, the mechanical Morse code keys that can send a string of dits with a mechanical vibrating thingie. My Morse is rusty as can be and learning to use one of those would be interesting, but it's a very cool mechanical device.
I did notice something about the people there. I've been lots of places, done lots of things, but whether it's a long track speed skating race, casual running, an organized marathon, a mass spectrometry conference, a show primarily oriented toward hunting and fishing, seminars in the biochemistry department, kayaking, trail running, gatherings of musicians, a room full of people soldering blinkies together at a con, or darn near anything else, the only place I can think of with a similar ratio of men to women is when I have to pee and pass the sign saying "men" and enter the room with all the urinals on the wall. On some rare occasions, even that room has a more equal balance.
Amateur radio operators have all sorts of diverse interests, and there are contests and various awards for hams who have the persistence and skill (and equipment) to achieve some goal. As one example, there is the Worked All States award for making contacts with people in all 50 of the states in the USA. I was just thinking, though, that not everyone shares the goal of demonstrating skillful and cooperative radio operation. Some people have other interests. After scanning the local repeaters(*) yesterday afternoon, I propose the Kerchunked All Repeaters award, for people who kerchunk(**) every single repeater in a three county region a minimum of fifteen times each in a single afternoon. I'm confident that lots of people would pursue a Big Lid(***) Award eagerly!
(*) A repeater re-transmits on its output frequency everything it receives on its input frequency. Normally it has a good antenna way up high in a good location, enabling people with less impressive antennas or hand-held radios to communicate over the entire city through the repeater system.
(**) Kerchunking the repeater is the practice of transmitting a few seconds of silence—and not giving your callsign, the sending of which is mandatory under the rules. This causes the repeater to fire up its transmitter, and then, when the few seconds of input is over, you get the burst of static, it sends a beeping sound, shuts back down (another burst of static), and sooner or latter it starts back up to transmit its callsign and possibly other info. A certain amount of this happens just by accident—when you have two different push-to-talk buttons and a tangle of wire stuff happens—but it pretty clearly isn't all accidental.
(***) Lid being ham radio slang (****) for an unskilled or rude radio operator.
(****) Hams have a lot of slang that sounds like the kind of slang that only an elderly white man would use. Um, probably just a coincidence...
It's time for the traditional Retroactive New Year Resolutions, things that I'm highly confident I'll have done last year:
- Spend a week living in a tent with my girlfriend and remain friends :)
- Enter speed skating races, set lots of new Personal Best times
- Spend enough time at the oval to become a better skater, and build the endurance and skill to skate a 3000 and like it
- Run a thousand kilometers
- Reset and reset again my half marathon PB, and run a marathon (first time is a free personal best!)
- Vent an Orbitrap Velos and pull off the top cover and take out the multipoles and lenses to clean everything, and put it all back together such that it actually works better than before messing with it.
- No high-speed crashes other than entertaining my fellow speed skaters with the usual long track no-harm-done-but-looked-really-cool falls and long slides on the ice. (They were teasing me for *days* after my last fall)
- Don't take up smoking. (But keep up with the drinking)
Apparently skaters like the term "Personal Best" (PB) while runners tend to favor "Personal Record (PR) for their best time in an event. Call it what you will, I set one in the 1500 meters yesterday at the long track speed skating time trials at the Pettit. My best 500 was at the very end of last season, and I was 0.07 seconds slower this time, at 48.81. My only other 1500 was also at the very end of last season, and I beat that by 1.9 seconds, with a 2:44.72.
There were a lot of skaters this weekend, which makes things go slower, but that's not necessarily bad. This is, after all, also something of a social gathering of like-minded crazy people. I had a chance to have some nice chats in between events with some people who I've known to varying degrees for a while but don't necessarily have much time to talk to. We see each other and wave and say hi, but generally people are busy working on whatever they are working on, or else are talking to their coach to find out what to do next.
You can't spend any time speed skating in Milwaukee without meeting coach Bob "Yelling Bob" Fenn, or at any rate, I guarantee you'll become familiar with the sound of his voice. He's a friendly guy and we chat now and then, and he can't resist giving out some advice from time to time. He asked me on Friday if I was racing, and he gave a few pointers and something of a pre-race pep-talk, which, since he is after all a professional at that, was nice. At the finish of the 1500 our announcer Jeff noted over the PA system that that was a PB for me, and as I glided from the finish around the turn to the back straight where Bob was sitting he called out "See! I told you you could do it!"
Also, I'd like to note that the very young man who was paired with me in the 1500 took a moment to introduce himself and shake my hand before the race, and congratulated me afterward. Also, he was faster than me. His parents and coaches should be proud. ( random photoCollapse )
My second long track speed skating time trials of the season went much smoother for me than the first, as you'd hope.
You know, my first thought, driving in the pre-dawn darkness in the rain, is that someday I'm going to start the Early Afternoon Sports League, where we will hold our competitions in the early afternoon after the sun has fricking risen.
I had a minor bobble in my first few steps starting the 500, which happens. One of the Real Athletes I know says that he wants to practice starts so much that he can do every practice start perfectly and thus save up the screw-ups for the actual races. Me, you should see some of my practice starts! Anyway, first 100 meters in 12.87 seconds, the flying 400 meter lap 36.18 (that's 39.8 km/hr, which feels mighty fast on ice, yet of course if I did this paired with one of the Serious Athletes he'd disappear into the distance. The young kid I was paired with was faster than me, too.) Total time 49.05. I did a 48.74 at the end of last year, so not too bad considering my start.
My 1000 was a new personal best, 1:44.33, 0.07 better than last season's 1:44.40. That's why we have all this timing technology, to measure those hundredths. First 200 in 23.44, first full lap 38.77 and second 42.12 (yeah, tired...). This was another example of how the smoothest, best laps you do are not the ones where the timer is running. Still, new personal, that always feels great.
The other thing I was thinking, while wandering around between races dressed pretty much like everyone else—brightly colored skin suit half off, the top half dangling from my waist, shirt and jacket on, yellow and gray shoes, hat—is that for those of us who have an impaired sense of fashion and who maybe dress funny, this is the perfect sport. You just literally cannot stand out as dressed funny among this group. We make runners look normal. You never see a runner with sleeves and a top with hood dangling from his waist. (The skin suit is cut for the skating position and isn't so comfortable standing around, plus you have to peel the thing down to pee—men too, the zipper doesn't go down that far.) ( gratuitous photosCollapse )
Both of these devices can produce a lot of numbers for you to record and graph and calculate exponentially-weighted moving averages of. The Garmin, in particular, can export numbers in bulk quantities to your computer, which you can then upload and plot and share on Facebook so your friends can "like" your workouts and so on. Neither of them can calculate your worth as a person. You need to look inside at other things. Are you filled with seething hatred for nearly everyone else? Do you drive people away from you with your burning desire to make others miserable? Those are things you might really need to work on.
Your weight, and if you have one of these Tanita bioelectrical impedance analysis scales, the approximate composition numbers, have their uses. It can be handy to have an early heads-up that the trend isn't going the way you expected before you get to the point that your pants don't fit anymore and realize that that might be a sign of something.
The heart rate data is endlessly interesting, for sure. Especially when you start turning into and older person and are happy to see you can still reach the upper-190sin a good way, not the other way!
If you are the sort who enters races, the number
that counts is the one on the stopwatch (or, you know, in the timing system). The number on the scale does not get you extra credit. Complying with weird and freakish notions that your thighs should be tiny won't get you a good time in a speed skating competition. (If you are a speed skater, having huge thighs will either intimidate the other skaters or cause them to have happy thoughts, or possibly both, depending...) You know what, though? You can still be an obnoxious jerk who has a really good time. The fast time can't compensate for that.
My first long track skating race of this season was this morning's time trials at the Pettit. The waking up before dawn on Saturday morning aspect isn't so fun, but other than that it's a fun experience and it's great to be back in the skating season.
I would describe my 500 meter experience as "wow, it's been a long time since I last did this!" After the false start...my start went OK, but somehow I ended up settling into a really high position, so much so that it was obvious to me during the race (I must have basically been standing up straight) but, you know, 500 meters goes by pretty fast, and I didn't settle into a better position. My 1000 time was pretty poor, but it went a lot more smoothly for me.
Overall, between this being my first race in a bunch of months and that I've only been skating two weeks this season, it went well enough, and it's always a learning experience.
I have this smallish, but not too small, bag, that I can use to carry things. Among the things I use it to carry, depending on what clothes I am wearing and thus what pocket space I have, include my keys, wallet, phone, Kleenex, Chap Stick, and possibly Kindle and little camera. So, what do you call a bag like that?
Well, according to the manufacturer, this is actually a "Technical Lumbar System." It has a big Mountainsmith logo and actually has a pretty subdued color scheme as these things go, being mostly black recycled plastic fabric with just some bright, bright yellow zipper pulls and yellow elastic "rigging" with retro-reflective stripes. It is festooned with straps, buckles, clips, and rings, to compress or expand the pack, or on which I could, as the manufactures always word it, "lash" additional gear. It's got "low profile" water bottle pockets and a "Delta Compression System" load-adjuster. I can strap it to my waist, sling it over one shoulder, or replace the plain shoulder strap with a complicated double-strap and wear it like a weird low-riding backpack.
So, yeah, it is a purse, but I'm hoping the masculinity patrol will let me pass.