Category Archives: General Stuff

Thursday trivia #108

First, my thoughts and condolences are with the families of the pilots killed in the Westwind II crash at Huntsville yesterday. 
  • I don’t normally post on political topics here… but if you believe that six key IRS employees just happened to lose all of their email, at the same time, in a manner that’s not recoverable, then I have some hope and change I’d like to sell you. Government agencies and large companies pay large sums of money to prevent exactly that type of occurrence.
  • This looks pretty interesting: “Loss of Signal: Aeromedical Lessons Learned from STS-107
  • Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first successful demonstration of an autopilot. We’ve come a long way since then.
  • Having two teenage sons both driving has reacquainted me with all the reasons I don’t like auto insurance companies. Every six months, when I write that check, my dislike for them peaks.
  • I’m loving the World Cup, but oddly I don’t care much about soccer in general. Go figure. I must be an American.

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Thursday trivia #107

  • “Learned helplessness” is totally a thing, but perhaps some people are more prone to it than others
  • If I were critically injured, I would be totally OK with having my blood replaced with freezing salt water to “pause” my metabolism long enough for the ED docs to fix me up. 
  • In the past two weeks I’ve started watching 3 new shows: Longmire, Orange is the New Black (thoroughly enjoying it so far), and Halt and Catch Fire (atmospheric, but they muff a lot of technical details and the MacMillan character seems a straight ripoff of Don Draper). However, that’s all about to go by the wayside for two reasons: my “pre-order” list at Amazon is about to blow up with new books, and the World Cup is starting today.
  • Hopefully the airplane will be fixed in time for our scheduled trip to Perrysburg. If not, second prize  is the Fathers’ Day Weekend Inferno at Anaheim Chili.

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Training Tuesday: more of the same

[ I know this is a day late but the draft was sitting on my computer at home and I couldn’t post it yesterday. C’est la vie. ]

My weightlifting training should have been pretty easy: I had a daily eating plan and a scheduled list of workouts. All I had to do was stick with that schedule. The effort involved, of course, came from actually lifting the weights (and, sometimes, getting my lazy ass off the sofa and going to the gym). That is one of the key aspects of the Fleet Feet TRI101 program for me: the training schedule is laid out, day by day. In theory, all you have to do is follow it and you will, almost inevitably, get better at the individual events. But what if you deviate from it… for example, by mixing in races? I guess I’m going to find out. My first multisport event was on Saturday: the brand-new Mountain Deux aquathlon (a rather stupid name; it’s a ~5K trail run followed by a 200m swim).

I signed up for two more sprints, too: the Tarpon Tri in Houma (200m swim, 10mi bike, 5K run; super flat course but August in Louisiana, yikes!) and the RaceVermont Sprint in Shelburne, Vermont (where I’ll get to see Julie and her family, and for which I had to rent a wetsuit— Lake Champlain is cold!) I am a little nervous about the Vermont race because it’s a longer bike distance than I’m used to, and the swim portion is 500m of open water. It’ll be a fun challenge though.

Workouts since my last post:

  • Tuesday: in TRI101 class, we had a 40-minute group run scheduled. It was 88° when we took off, but I still managed 4.0 miles in 40:04. I’ll take it, but maaaaan, I was sweaty when we finished. I also had a swimming lesson, which went poorly— I am still having a hard time getting my stroke and breathing coordinated, and the drills Lisi taught me mostly just made me frustrated that I wasn’t doing them well.
  • Wednesday: I took a short ride to test my new cadence/speed sensor. Just under 7 mi in about 31 minutes.
  • Thursday: I had a root canal around noon, so I wanted to get a run in early. A local group of runners meets at Bridge Street for a 4.5 mile run, so I dragged out of bed at 0515 to join them. There were storm clouds building when we stepped off, then we started getting a really impressive lightning display about 1.5 mi into the run, so we cut it really short. 2.67mi in 23:14, which felt great— that’s very close to my “good” 5K race pace. The threat of getting zapped by lightning obviously helped, given my pace on the last part of the race. I love it that the watch gathers enough pace data to show the two (short) intervals when I took a walk/water break— those sharp downwards spikes.
    NewImage
  • Friday I swam 600m: in 3 sets:100, 400, and 100 again. I haven’t been doing the drills that Lisi prescribed, which means she’s been fussing at me.
  • Saturday was the Mountain Deux. See my full report here.
  • Sunday I had planned to do a brick, but wasn’t feeling well so I punked out. The schedule had a programmed day off anyway so I didn’t feel too badly about it.
  • Monday I had another swim lesson with Lisi. She introduced me to the notion of holding a steady stroke count, as well as giving me a whole bunch of drills. I swam about 450m, plus at least another 300m or so of drills. Then for fun, I took a bike ride through part of Limestone County— beautiful country scenery, followed by a big rainstorm once I was safely at home with the gear put away. This was the farthest distance I’ve ridden so far, just over 12 miles, and after finishing it I feel better about the Vermont distance.

This week I need to focus on getting in the pool!

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Does getting a root canal hurt?

tl;dr: not as much as the tooth hurt before the root canal

For years I had one tooth that would, very occasionally, make a popping or clicking sound— very faint, but since it was inside my mouth I could feel it. I couldn’t figure out why so, as one does, I ignored it. Then last July, it abruptly became very sensitive to heat and cold: Toothmageddon. I went to my dentist, who referred me to an endodontist, Matthew Friedt, who told me “keep an eye on it.” It seemed to get better, so I left it alone. Then came “Toothmageddon II: The Revenge.” A couple of weeks ago, the heat sensitivity returned with a vengeance, along with the popping sound; eating anything above mouth temperature would make the tooth throb for hours. I immediately made another endodontist appointment, and yesterday was the big day.

I found a lot of contradictory and confusing information online about root canals, so I thought I’d summarize the process, at least the way my endo did it.

First, he took a couple of X-rays and confirmed, by using both heat and cold tests, which tooth was afflicted. Interestingly, the nerves that sense cold tend to be the first ones to die off, which is why I lost the cold sensitivity. The tooth was definitely heat-sensitive, and Matthew used an optical microscope to examine the tooth surface and saw a few small cracks. Once he had verified that he had the right tooth, he shot me up with plenty of lidocaine (or whatever the cool kids use for face numbing), let it percolate, and then started working.

The work phase was simple: he clamped a little metal ring on my back molar and used it to hold a dental dam and frame, which was a new experience for me. Then he drilled a hole in the top of the tooth and used a series of super-fine probes and drills to clean all the tooth-guts (that’s a technical term) out. Once he finished this phase, I got another X-ray so he could verify that everything was out. Then using the same series of probes, he filled the nerve channels in with some sort of rubber or epoxy or something, then added a cone-shaped plug that sealed the hole in the tooth and tamped the material down. That was it; I didn’t have anything stronger than topical anesthesia, and he didn’t prescribe any antibiotics or pain pills.

After I left I noticed that the entire right side of my face— all the way up to my right temple— was as numb as a steak; my jaw was super stiff from holding it open, and my neck and shoulders were tense from me tensing them. I went home, had a protein shake, took an Advil and a leftover pain pill from Toothmageddon I, and napped for a couple of hours, followed by a light dinner and some Netflix. Now I’m back to normal.

While I wouldn’t say it was fun it wasn’t as bad as I had feared, and it is nice to be able to enjoy non-room-temperature food without pain. I very highly recommend Dr. Friedt; he explained very clearly what he was going to do, then he did it efficiently and quickly (the whole process from arrival to departure took a little over 2 hours).

The More You Know™…

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Training Tuesday: slow progress is still progress

One of my fellow TRI101 participants shared this excellent article about building on your strengths in one event to bolster your weaknesses in another. I don’t really feel like I have any special strengths in running or cycling, other than “can complete required sprint distance.” But on reflection… that counts too. I definitely feel like my swimming is improving, though, and cycling the 10-15Km routes we use for training has been getting easier: an excellent sign that I need to go either farther or faster. The TRI101 program is scaled for participants who start at a low fitness level, but we are now at the beginning of week 6. If I stopped right now, I’m confident that I could finish a sprint triathlon, which is great news— now I just need to work on doing it faster.

The week’s training:

  • Thursday: 250m swim + swim drills. Slow, but better than nothing. I just wasn’t feeling it that day. As Karen, one of our coaches, pointed out, some days are better than others, and sometimes the best thing to do on a bad swim day is cut the distance short.
  • Friday: I swam 100m without stopping— a big deal for me, since I hadn’t been able to do that before— then 5 x 50m intervals, then another 100m. The intervals are 25m slow and 25m as fast as possible. It was a good workout, and I felt much better than I did after Thursday’s swim.
  • Saturday I did a short run/bike brick with a couple of classmates: 8.5 mi on the bike in 44:26 and 1.1mi running in 11:34. On the bike I spent a while riding slow circles waiting for all our party to catch up, so I didn’t take that time too out of sorts. I also went to the pre-race brief for the Mountain Deux aquathalon, which is this coming Saturday: a ~5Km trail run, followed by a 200m swim. Should be fun, except for the “trail run” part.
  • Sunday I swam with two TRI101 peeps: 100m warmup without stopping, 400m with minimal rest, then another 100m (which I did as 2×50, with the same 25m slow/25m fast). This was the first workout I logged with my new Suunto Ambit 2s triathlon watch.
  • Monday I had a bike fitting. That’s a topic for a post all on its own; look for it next week.

So, the watch. Anyone who knows me knows what a gadget nerd I am. I saw a mention on Facebook of a big watch sale mentioned at the DC Rainmaker blog, so I started poking around and was fascinated by the idea of a GPS-powered watch that could track my workouts for me— something I’d been using my phone for, with varying degrees of success. After reading his über-review, I decided to get an Ambit 2S. As much fun as it would be to have the barometric altimeter in the Ambit 2, it wasn’t worth the extra money. It arrived Saturday, and first thing Sunday morning I strapped it on and headed to the pool. Here was my reward: a more-or-less accurate record of my swim activity. I say “more or less” because I think it miscounted laps a couple of times, and the “total distance” column in the laps table doesn’t match the “distance” field at the top. I will be using it for cycling and running in the next couple of days and can get a better idea of how it works but I am most interested in the “multisport” mode for triathlons. I’ll be using that at Mountain Deux next week. The watch can pair with heart rate monitors, cycle sensors, and all sorts of other goodies that I will eventually add.

First swim

The upcoming week’s training should be good stuff— running tonight and Thursday, swimming Friday, and a bike/run brick Saturday. There’s a group that meets Thursday mornings to run a 4.5mi road course; I might join them to get a little distance in on the theory that if I can run 4.5 miles, it’s not that much of a stretch to run 6 miles, which means that I’d be in striking distance of running a 10K once triathlon season calms down some. On the down side, I also have a root canal Thursday (after running), so that may slow me down a bit. Hopefully I’ll bounce back in time for Mountain Deux on Saturday!

 

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Training Tuesday: week in review

I’m a day late this week; blame the Memorial Day holiday for throwing my schedule off a bit.

Last Thursday I had a big day: swim coaching, then a bike/run brick: 7.16 mi on the bike, followed by a 2.32 mi run. Neither was especially fast, but that’s OK. This was the first time I rode without headphones, using just the speaker on my iPhone for music. It worked fine and made me feel slightly more safe; I am super paranoid about sharing the road with cars since there aren’t any bike lanes out here in Limestone County, and not having my ears plugged made it quite a bit easier to hear vehicles behind me.

Swim coaching was a blast! On the advice of some friends from the TRI101 training program, I set up a coaching session with Lisi Bratcher. Over the course of about an hour, she spotted probably half a dozen things I was doing wrong. This is no big trick; almost anyone who’s ever swum a race could watch me and say “dude, you’re not supposed to do that”. The difference is that she taught me what to do about those things. For example, I am turning my head to breathe too late in the stroke, which means that I am working harder than necessary to get air, which explains my pitiful pool endurance. She also gave me some useful advice about my arm stroke, leg kicks, and timing. This week my swim days are Thursday and Friday, and I’ll probably sneak in at least one extra swim over the weekend, and I’m looking forward to putting her advice into practice.

I didn’t do anything Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Booo hiss. However, the TRI101 schedule (which I am trying hard to follow) had Saturday and Sunday as off days anyway, so no real harm done. I did work a volunteer shift at the packet pickup for the Cotton Row Run, where I bought a cheap triathlon kit at the race expo. I’ll eventually post pictures (of the kit, not of me wearing it), but it basically looks like just-above-the-knee bike shorts with a sleeveless quarter-zip top. The idea behind the kit is that you can wear one outfit for the swim, bike, and run, only changing your footwear. My practice swim suit would be fine for the bike but uncomfortable for the run, and my bike shorts (with their enormous diaper-like groin pad) would be terrible for swimming. I don’t have any opinion about the quality of this kit (it’s Nike) but it was cheap, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Monday morning Tom and I ran the Cotton Row 5K, both carrying our flags as we did last year. I ran it in 30:38, which was slower than my last few 5K races. In my defense, I was carrying a big ol’ Marine Corps flag. I ran with the race belt I’ll use during the triathlon; it was really nice to be able to grab a drink in between the water stations, although certainly not a necessity.

Yesterday we had our scheduled TRI101 class; this week the topic du sémaine was cycling again, so we met up outside the Redstone gate and rode an out-and-back circuit. I rode just under 15Km in just over 35 minutes, which was decent for me. I wasn’t pushing especially hard; my pace was roughly on a par with my brick ride from last week. I am getting more used to using the special pedals and shoes on the bike; this week I didn’t fall over, and my mount / dismount mechanics are better. I still need to take my bike in and get it fitted to me though. I did like riding on the Arsenal because it has a lot of big, wide roads with relatively few cars (during this particular time), so I’ll probably use it as a venue occasionally from now on.

Five weeks in! August is looming closer and closer…

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Welcome to Training Tuesday: Triathlon Time

Last summer, I went through a rough personal patch after moving here, and that motivated me to restart the exercise habits that had been so valuable when I was in Pensacola. Using Fitocracy regularly got me interested in lifting, which got me involved with the two coached programs I participated in (I’ve already written about them a bunch before, e.g. here). But I’d been thinking that I wanted to choose a goal race, so I decided to train for a sprint triathlon, as I mentioned in my 2014 goal list. As soon as registration opened, I signed up for the Huntsville Sprint, then signed up for the Fleet Feet TRI101 program. So far we’ve had the kickoff meeting; our first group class was cancelled because of severe weather, but I’ve started to work my way through the 16-week training plan. As I progress, I’ll be sharing more observations about the training and my progress, usually on Tuesdays (hence the “Training Tuesday” label).

First: I am super impressed by the Fleet Feet coaches and training program. I had heard that they were good, but I didn’t realize how good. They have been uniformly supportive, effective at motivating us, patient with questions, and generous with sharing knowledge. I don’t really know any of the people in my training group yet but there’s a great mix of ages, sizes, and prior experience levels; we’ve got some accomplished half marathoners and marathoners, some complete noobs, and lots of people in between. It’ll be fun getting to know my fellow future triathletes.

Second: I am a lousy swimmer. Yesterday I swam 400m freestyle in 16 minutes, 29 seconds. The current world record, set in 2012 by Yannick Agnel, is 3 min 32 seconds. So I’ve got some room to improve. However, I am improving. As our coaches like to point out, the only way to improve your swimming is to swim. You can’t buy gear to make you faster, and you can’t just bash your way through with increased effort. The TRI101 program includes four coached swims, where you show up at the pool and work with a coach; this has been really helpful so far but I may end up working on my own with a coach some as well. If I can keep my swim time around 15 minutes or less I’ll be happy; that seems like an approachable goal. My plan to get there is never to swim less than the 400m distance required for this first triathlon, and to go longer when I feel like it. We’ll see how that works out.

Third: there is a ton of gear that even a newbie triathlete needs that I didn’t have. Let’s start with a triathlon suit (which I still don’t have; I just got this racing swimsuit instead), which allows you to wear one suit in the water, on the bike, and on the road. Here’s one example. To prevent a reprise of my MEC appearance, though, I think I’ll be extra careful about posting photos of myself wearing the suit once I get it.

More prosaically, I needed a swim cap, which Fleet Feet provided as part of the class, and goggles. Since I didn’t have swim flip-flops, I bought a pair of those too. I already had a bike, with clipless pedals and appropriate shoes, but I needed a rack to carry it to and from riding locations, plus a reflective harness so I don’t get smashed by a truck. Even my trusty running shoes weren’t immune; I swapped to a pair of Lock Laces (motto: “Win, never tie”) to speed up transition times. Triathlons have two transition periods: T1 is when you move from the water to the bike, and T2 is when you move from the bike to the run. The transition areas have all sorts of rules to keep things more-or-less organized, and your T1 and T2 times are measured separately, so being able to jump out of the pool, run to your bike, walk it out (no riding in the transition area, of course), and then get on the road fast can make a big difference. I am thinking that my transition times are probably the least of my worries so I’m not planning on putting a whole lot of emphasis on buying stuff to shorten my times.

Fourth: this is not the same kind of bicycle riding I did as a kid. Riding in bike shorts feels like wearing a diaper, for one thing. Plus, maintaining a steady cadence takes practice and skill, because it involves shifting gears. Doing it while drinking from a water bottle is even harder. Throw in the fact that your feet are attached to the pedals and it can get tricky. Which reminds me, I should take my bike to have it fit— the seat, handlebar, and pedal positions on my bike can be adjusted to best fit my arm, leg, and torso lengths but I have no idea what the “right” settings are. Bike fits consist of getting on your bike on a trainer and riding it while the bike shop folks watch you, then they adjust a few things, then you ride some more; rinse and repeat. I like riding, and have even briefly entertained the idea that I might like riding a metric century, but I’m not quite to that point yet.

The current training schedule calls for 3 runs and 2 swims per week, with 2 off days; we’ll start working the bike into the schedule in a couple of weeks. Astute readers may note that I haven’t said anything about lifting so far; I plan to keep lifting on my two off days (or maybe on swim days) but will be sticking with the basic big lifts: deadlift (or variations), back squat, and bench press, with a few shoulder exercises thrown in for swimming. I intended Sundays to be brick days— a brick is the triathlon term for multiple-activity workouts, such as bike + run or swim + bike. I’ve gotten in one bike/run brick so far and plan to do them at least once a week, even before the schedule calls for them, but we’ll see how that goes.

Should be an exciting journey!

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Thursday trivia #106

Busy, busy, busy. Just a few quick hits this week:

  • Great article on Mountain View, my former home in California. I agree with its characterization of MTV as “Googletown,” and anyone who’s been there for more than about 15 minutes can testify that the traffic problems mentioned in the article are a) real b) worsening and c) largely a result of Google’s campus location and size. 
  • Could Columbia have been rescued on orbit?
  • MEC is just a few weeks away— I need to get to work on my slides. 
  • I note that all 3 panes of the animation now showing on the MEC home page talk about Office 365 and none mention on-prem. I’m sure that’s just an oversight.
  • My most recent cross-country trip put me over the 250-hour flying mark, with 141 hours as pilot-in-command and nearly 101 hours of cross-country time. Not much, but it’s a start.

 

 

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Getting ready for Lync Conference 2014 (bonus Thursday Trivia #106)

So, first: here’s the view from my second-floor home office:

PaulR  Dell 20140213 003

Actually, I had to walk across the street to get this particular shot, but it was worth it. We got about 4” or so of snow in my neighborhood; I got out of Raleigh just in time to miss their snowmageddon, which suits me fine. The boys and I had a good time about 10pm last night throwing snowballs and watching big, fat flakes fall. The roads are passable now and will get better as it warms, but tonight it’ll be cold again and they’ll probably refreeze.

I’m making my final preparations for Lync Conference 2014 next week. I’m presenting a total of four times:

  • VOICE401, “Deep Dive: Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013 Unified Messaging Integration”, is on Wednesday at 1pm in Copperleaf 10. This session will cover some of the internals of Exchange UM; it’s targeted at Lync admins who may not have much knowledge of Exchange but are already familiar with SIP signaling and the like.
  • SERV301, “Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013: ‘Better Together’ Demystified”, is on Tuesday at 2pm in Copperleaf 9, and there is a repeat scheduled for Wednesday at 430p (also in Copperleaf 9). This session covers all the places where Exchange and Lync tie together so that you get a bette experience when both are deployed.
  • On Tuesday at 430p, I’m taking part in an informal session on Exchange-y stuff at the Microsoft booth in the exhibit hall. This is super informal, so it’s probably the best place to drop by and say hello if you can.

Dell has a pretty heavy presence at the show; Michael Przytula is presenting a session covering the Lync device ecosystem (Wednesday, 230p, Bluehorn 1-3) that I think will be pretty neat, because who doesn’t love shiny devices? George Cordeiro and Doug Davis are both doing sessions around how to identify the actual ROI of a Lync deployment, which is something customers often ask about before deployment. Even if that doesn’t sound interesting, the Dell booth will be staffed by some of our hotshot Lync guys (including Louis Howard and Scott Moore), and we’re giving away a Venue 11 Pro and a bunch of very nice Jabra and Plantronics headsets.

Now, your trivia for the week:

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MEC and Lync Conference 2014 session list (partly) released

The fine folks in charge of organizing the Microsoft Exchange Conference have released a partial list of the sessions that will be on offer, as well as a list of speakers (oddly enough, the speakers are in alphabetical order by first name… ooops). There are some surprises in the mix, and I expect a few more once the full list of sessions is released in the near future.

First, there’s clearly a heavy emphasis on panel-style discussions: there are no fewer than 8 “Experts Unplugged” sessions featuring product managers from the Exchange team. I’m moderating the UM panel session, which should be a good opportunity for people to have their in-depth UM questions answered by the PMs who own the features in UM. In addition, the support team has a session called “Experts Unplugged: Exchange Top Issues – What are they and does anyone care or listen?” that I can almost guarantee will be worth your time. Amir, Jennifer, Scott, Shawn, Tim, and Nino did a very similar panel at the MVP summit and it was extremely informative— plus they’re a fun bunch to talk to. I expect the other panels to be of equal quality, and the fact that there’s one per track is a good sign that the Exchange team is interested in getting two-way feedback from the community.

Second, there’s a nice mix of topics covered: a number of sessions promise to compare or contrast the on-premises and service environments (I’m particularly looking forward to “Engineers vs Mechanics”), and there seems to be a balance between architectural-focused sessions that explain design principles and sessions focused more narrowly on how to administer, manage, or use features such as RBAC (presented by Bhargav Shukla, who taught RBAC for the late lamented MCM program) and archiving. This balance between explaining why features work a particular way and how to use them was a hallmark of MEC last year, and I’m pleased to see it continuing in the sessions this year.

There are a couple of sessions whose abstracts are missing or incomplete. For example, the “Enterprise Social” session promises to “discuss Social experiences in the MSFT suite beyond e-mail.” I’d bet $5 that this is a code phrase for “talking about Yammer,” but we’ll see. As we get closer to MEC, expect to see more detailed abstracts, as well as additional sessions.

Turning abruptly to Microsoft’s other major unified communications conference: I’m speaking for the first time at Lync Conference (which lacks a catchy acronym so far: I suggest “LyC”, pronounced “like”). The session list is worth a careful review; I don’t know if there are more sessions forthcoming, but the ones that are there focus much more heavily on on-premises topics than the MEC sessions do, and there’s an entire track titled “Business Value” dedicated to helping attendees identify areas where Lync can add value to their environments and then squeeze that value out as rapidly as possible. There is also a “Lync Online” track shown in the track selection pulldown but it shows no sessions right now— I’m sure they’ll appear in the near future. It looks like the content for the developer-focused track will be super technical; it will be interesting to see how the level of detail in those sessions compares to the developer-track session at MEC. I get the sense that there will be more admins-who-are-interested-in-development at MEC and more developers-who-write-code-every-day at LyC, but I could be wrong.

My Lync Conference session is a 300-level look at integration between Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013. It’s nicely complemented by Jens Trier Rasmussen’s 400-level session on the same topic; we’ll be working together to coordinate topics. The Lync Conference also features sessions presented by sponsors; Dell (or, more precisely, Michael Przytula, my boss) will be presenting one. I’ll have more to say about its contents when we get closer to showtime.

I’m looking forward to both shows— meeting with the community is always really energizing, and both shows have a great session lineup. If you haven’t already registered for one or both, you should strongly consider it while early registration is still ongoing. What you learn in a single session can easily save you (or make you) enough money to make the entire trip worthwhile, and the social and community benefits of attending are icing on the cake. See you there!

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Thursday trivia #104

  • Last week I had a fantastic visit to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, bracketed by perfect flying weather. It was great to see my mom, grandmother, uncles, and cousins.
  • Next week I’m headed to Dell World in Austin, where I’ll get to meet my boss for the first time, help run some nifty hands-on labs, and see a number of family members and long-time friends. I’m also looking forward to Elon Musk’s keynote.
  • It amazes me that PayPal continues to prosper with as many problems as their back-end systems have. For example, my account contains ship-to addresses going back at least four years and there’s no way to remove them except by calling support. Ooops.
  • This article about what it was really like to fly commercially in the 1950s was fascinating. I know that I am much happier with the navigation and communications technology available to modern pilots than I would have been using the 1950s equivalents. 
  • My friend Glenn posted a photo to Facebook of one of Amazon’s new drones labeled “Amazon drones: Skeet Shooting With Prizes”. Yep.

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MVP Summit wrap-up

I’ve just returned from the 2013 edition of the mostly-annual Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Summit. I say “mostly-annual” because Microsoft normally holds a Summit about every 12 months. The previous event was only 9 months ago, but for various logistical and product lifecycle-related reasons, they decided to return to the tradition of holding the event towards the end of the calendar year.

This year’s Summit was probably the best that I’ve attended in terms of both logistics and engagement from the product groups, at least for the sessions I attended. The transportation, housing, and events all ran very smoothly, with few delays and plenty of the delicious oversized cookies usually served in the afternoons. The product group mixer, which is an opportunity for each group of MVPs to mingle with various folks from their product teams, was nicely organized and well attended. I met a few Exchange MVPs I didn’t already know (such as Germany’s Norbert Klenner, Ratish Nair from India, and Damian Scoles from the US, a first-year MVP) and was able to spend time with many that I have known for a while, including Michael van Horenbeeck (whom Tony had previously christened “Michael van Hybrid”), Jeff Guillet, Michel de Rooij, Jason Sherry, my Santiago homeboy Jorge Patricio Diaz Guzman, Magnus Björk (now known as “Magnus Availability” after asking one too many questions about Managed Availability), J. Peter Bruzzese (who for some reason doesn’t yet have a snappy nickname; I am thinking that maybe “Mailbox Pete” would fit?), Siegfried Weber, Serkan Varoglu, and too many others to list.

The session content was generally excellent. Overall, the Exchange team did a solid job of both telling us about upcoming changes and improvements and asking for our feedback. There is a lot of exciting stuff coming in the recently-announced Service Pack 1, and from both the formal and informal discussions it seems clear that the product group has a clear vision of where they want to invest effort— product quality being one of the key investment areas— as they deliver new capabilities. Many of the sessions were held in a panel format that allowed full and frank discussion between MVPs— always an opinionated bunch— and the people responsible for designing and building Exchange.

Although the content was all 100% NDA, I think it will probably be OK with the NDA police if I close by saying that Navin Chand and the rest of the Exchange team have some exceptionally cool things planned for MEC that they will be talking about in the not too distant future. If you haven’t already registered I would give very serious consideration to doing so. Navin told me that there are more than 180 session slots available during MEC— compare this to fewer than 40 session slots allocated to Lync and Exchange together at a typical TechEd and you can see just how much more material will be available at MEC. What kind of material? Well, the Lync Conference team announced their session selections this week, and their conference is in February. If one were to extrapolate, one might assume that MEC will be announcing their sessions in January-ish given that the event is in April, so I think we’ll be finding out relatively soon. (Note that I don’t know the real dates, even under NDA, so this is just a SWAG).  

My thanks to all the people at “big Microsoft” and in the Exchange and Lync product groups who worked to get content together for this year’s Summit. They set a very high bar for future events.

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Thursday trivia #103

  • This was a big week! I spent the first part of the week in Redmond for the annual Microsoft MVP Summit. It was amazing— great content (all under NDA, at least for now) and a wonderful chance to catch up with my MVP peers. While there, I found out that my session proposal for the 2014 Lync Conference was accepted, so I’ll be presenting to an audience from what Jeff Guillet has started calling the “Skype Pro” community.
  • I’m also going to be working in the hands-on labs at Dell World. No word yet on whether I’ll get to take Michael and Elon Musk out for BBQ but it will be neat to catch up with family, friends, and coworkers in Austin.
  • Just bought John Ewing’s Concise Guide to IFR. I’m looking forward to reading it. I haven’t spent as much time studying for my instrument written as I need to, so I grabbed the Sporty’s Study Buddy app as well.
  • I sold my Surface Pro because I had planned to take advantage of an MVP discount on the Surface Pro 2 that Microsoft was going to offer at the Summit… then they withdrew the offer. I can’t decide if I want to buy a Surface Pro 2 or a Dell Venue 11 Pro; they seem similar in specs in most respects. The original Surface Pro was a great device for me but if I can get an employee discount on the Venue 11 Pro that might tip the balance in its favor. (I also like that the Surface line is starting to grow an ecosystem of accessories, too.)
  • Weather permitting, I’ll be flying to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, probably with a side trip to Texas. Have airplane, will travel…
  • This is very well said: weightlifting gives you the serenity of the iron. I certainly find that when I am lifting or running (not as much for cycling, meaning I’m probably not doing it with enough intensity) that it clears my mind wonderfully well.

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Thursday trivia #102

Whew. Back from Chile and trying to catch up. Entropy always increases.

  • Upgraded my MacBook Pro to Mac OS X Mavericks (which I still think is a clumsy name) yesterday. So far I don’t notice any major differences in my workflow but I haven’t really had time to explore.
  • If you’re an Exchange designer or architect, I’d appreciate your response to this short survey on Exchange site designs.
  • Burn down the farm? That’s a radical approach.
  • It takes a special kind of crazy— the good kind— to build your own fully functional Boeing 767 simulator.
  • I’m starting to get more and more excited about the release of the Xbox One.
  • From the “industry on parade” department: here’s a really interesting analysis of how Apple builds the new Mac Pro. I have no need for one, but they sure are purty. 
  • Because ROCKETS.

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Santiago, day 2

It’s a measure of how much I’ve been working that I am just now getting around to posting a travelogue from last Sunday. This week has passed by in a blitz of activity, which is good. My team has gotten a lot accomplished, which, after all, is what we came here for. But before all the work started, I had the pleasure of having a day to explore.

I’d planned to meet my coworkers Todd and Dave at the hotel after their flight arrived, then drive to Valparaiso with fellow MVP and well-known Chilean Jorge Patricio Diaz Guzman. Unfortunately, Jorge had a work emergency to tend to, so I kept the rental car I’d gotten on Saturday. I rented through the hotel by asking the concierge to find me a rental car, because this seemed to be the fastest way to get a car. Sure enough, within 20 minutes or so Maxima had delivered a car to the hotel: a tiny Chevy Spark with a manual transmission and almost enough room for 3 adults. (It has 4 seats but it is wishful thinking to imagine that four normal-sized American men could fit into it; luckily we only had 3 people.)

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they see me rollin’, they be laughin’

After Dave and Todd arrived and had a few minutes to unpack and freshen up, we set out for Valparaiso. The route to get there is very straightforward: get on highway 68 going west and keep going for 120 km or so until you hit the ocean. It’s a lovely drive, with two large tunnels and some long up- and downhill grades that our car could barely handle. The speed limit ranges from 70 km/h to 120 km/h, but no one except American tourists and people in underpowered cars like hours follow it, especially not big trucks. We made it to Valparaiso but decided, since none of us had any firm plans to do anything there, to go back to a restaurant Todd knew of in Concon, another 20 or so km down the coast. The weather was pleasant and there were great views along the coast, so off we went, braving significant traffic along the way. Both sides of the narrow coastal road are packed with restaurants, shops, and rental property but there is little parking, so we spent lots of time waiting while other drivers maneuvered in or out of parking spaces. We also made frequent stops for photos, both on the route out and back.

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a view of the coast while standing on a rock in a tidal pool (Nokia 920)

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ocean view (Nikon D5100)

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action shot! rock climbing + sailboat

Eventually we made it to the restaurant Todd had recommended, Punta del Este. It was well worth the trip– think Dave’s Cajun Kitchen, or your favorite hometown restaurant for those of you who aren’t from Houma, and you’ll get the idea. We had an appetizer platter of razor clams, conger eel, and several kinds of fish. I had tilapia with shrimp sauce, which was also excellent. Then we drove back, stopping at a few different places to take pictures; there was one gorgeous house that Dave was particularly smitten with.

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We haven’t picked out a name for this other than la casa de Dave

On the way back we needed gas, so we stopped at a highway rest stop that would be familiar to anyone who’s ever traveled the New York or Ohio Turnpikes. Fuel here is expensive, but at least you get full service at the station in exchange for your hard-earned CLP$. After returning the car (a simple matter of giving the keys back to the concierge), we walked over to Costanera Center, the nearby mall, to find dinner. We had an excellent meal at Le Due Torri, an Italian-and-seafood place that delivered very well on both fronts, then back to the hotel. e were all pretty worn out by that point but it was an interesting way to spend the day. I’d love to come back to the Vina del Mar/Concon area during the Chilean summer; the views are gorgeous.

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