October
17
Posted on 17-10-2017
Filed Under (Geeky Stuff) by Brian

My first home computer was a TI-99/4A. I enjoyed playing Adventure, Tunnels of Doom, Munchman, Car Wars, Alpiner and many other games for many years on this little machine. As a youth, it was these games that inspired me to embark upon the quest of developing my own game. I’m not sure how many kids asked for the TI extended basic cartridge for Christmas, but I did. That allowed me to make the ultra cool speech synthesizer say whatever I wanted it to.

From there, I was off to the races. In an effort to make an Olympics style sports game, I wrote letters to several different embassies requesting sheet music for their national anthems. Most of them complied. Unfortunately, Epyx beat me to the punch with it’s successful series of Summer Games, Summer Games II, Winter Games, World Games and California Games.

That experience, however, helped me learn algebra at a very early age and gave me the logic and problem solving skills that are now a huge part of who I am.

What did I miss out on?

Well, while I was busy trying to make my own game, many of my friends were playing some pretty cool games on the Atari 2600 and later the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. I was so jealous of them and they were probably so bored of me always wanting to play Castlevania or Excitebike every time I was over at their houses.

Fortunately, I have rectified that situation 30 years later. I built a retropie with my raspberry pi 3. It was so easy to build that just about anyone can do it. I wrote a step by step tutorial to help those who aren’t software engineers out. The result is a system that plugs right into my TV and lets me play hundreds of classic video games from the Atari 2600 to the classic Nintendo Entertainment system and even other consoles like the Sega Genesis, Super NES, Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 – all for less than $100.

I’ll admit that my standards for video games are a little higher now, but it’s pretty awesome to revisit these old classics. For the latest and biggest updates on your favorite video games, check out GameMite.

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October
09
Posted on 09-10-2017
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

The company for which I now work offers an incentive program for charity events. By participating, I get points that I can use for paid time off. Dan and I were looking for a way to get back into racing, so we signed up. One of my co-workers had an extra bib, so Raffi came along to walk with her. In retrospect, we were all pretty nonchalant leading up to the race. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of time to get to the course and the road leading to the parking lot was closed by the time we arrived. This led to some creative navigation to get parked and we arrived at the starting line just minutes before the gun went off.

Queue present tense race report voice (it’s been so long)…

Dan and I walk along the crowded starting corral. There are metal barriers and no obvious way to enter. The horn blows and the first wave accelerates across the timing mat. We find a gap in the barrier, but realize that it’s behind another barrier, so we back out and move forward to where the first wave has vacated the starting corral. The race director announces that everyone with a pink bib should have already started. We look down, note that our bibs are pink and find another gap in the metal barrier just as they lower the rope to let the next wave through. We slide into the front of that wave and we’re off!

I realize that Dan is running right next to me and briefly consider just sticking with him for the whole race. I decide to test my fitness surge ahead. The initial portion of the course runs alongside Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The course is crowded, but the pathway is very wide, so it’s not too difficult to move around the other runners without a whole lot of weaving. Without too much urgency, I methodically make my way through the pack, getting used to the pace of a race again.

Exiting the stadium grounds we make a right turn on to a major road, then another right. We approach the one mile mark surrounded by Buccaneers cheerleaders dressed in pink. The clock is approaching 9 minutes as I pass. It’s decent. Without a watch, I don’t really know the difference between the clock time and my chip time, but I’m estimating about 45 seconds.

I’m feeling good, so I go to work picking off runners in front of me. I accelerate, catch a runner or group of runners, hang with them for a while, then accelerate forward to the next group. The breeze feels nice and I’m breathing pretty well. We make another right turn, then a right onto a sidewalk and into a grass parking lot. As I pass the 2 mile mark, the clock is just under 17 minutes so I’ve run the second mile in under 8 minutes. With a goal of 25 minutes, I know I’m pretty close to the mark.

My breathing is still fairly steady, but my legs are starting to feel the pace. I haven’t even done a speed workout in over a year. Eventually, the loose sand of the parking lot yields to an asphalt path and this helps my legs. The pathway just makes a big loop through the parking lot, encompassing most of the third mile. As I round the loop, I see Dan entering the loop. He’s just a couple of minutes behind me.

“Go Brian,” he says.

“I’m tired,” I reply.

I’m in the home stretch, though. The pathway is heading back toward the stadium. I briefly consider going full bore, but decide to hold back a little. I’m not looking to break any personal records today. I just want to get the race feeling back. I surge past a few more runners and head into the tunnel entrance. I’ve always daydreamed about running through a tunnel into a crowd filled stadium, but today I’m just glad to be finishing. As I exit the tunnel, it is kind of cool to run out onto the field, make a right underneath the goal post and head straight to the finish line at the 50 yard line. The clock is under 26 minutes as I finish, so I know I’m pretty close to my goal time of 25 minutes.

After finishing, I grabbed some water and headed back to watch other runners exiting the tunnel. I expected to see Dan, but 10 minutes after my finish, I still hadn’t spotted him. I started to get worried. He was no more than 5 minutes behind me when we passed during the third mile. 20 minutes later, I knew he could have crawled the rest of the way on his belly and still made it in. After 30 minutes, I started to listen into other runners’ conversations, wondering if anyone was talking about some guy who collapsed on the course.

Dan trotted in about 10 minutes later. He thought we were running the 10K. Kudos for the extra distance and welcome to the blog. It’s an inauspicious debut, but better than the Restroom Relay, I suppose.

While Dan was letting the race directors know he ran a different race than he signed up for, I checkout my chip results. 24:50. Goal achieved. What’s next? I don’t know, but it felt nice to be out racing again. Dan and I have talked about a half marathon in the spring. If we can get our butts in gear, we’ve got time to make that happen.

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October
06
Posted on 06-10-2017
Filed Under (It's all about me) by Brian

Back in ancient times, when television shows were consumed one episode at a time, it was not uncommon to gather in front of the TV to enjoy one’s favorite television show only to find the characters sitting on the couch, in a bar or the coffee shop (I’m looking at you Friends) reminiscing about things. These episodes rarely advanced the plot and seemingly served no purpose other than satisfying some requirement for a “new” episode while allowing the producers to save money by reusing old footage.

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, this is just like one of those episodes. The only difference is that I’m not saving any money. I still have to write this post. Also, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any long term readers left so I guess it serves as a good “catch up” for anyone who just happens to stumble by.

Yesterday, I pulled up this blog for the first time in a very long time and for some reason clicked on the first post. I started reading. It drew me in. I clicked on the next post and kept going. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud to say that I proceeded to read each and every post.

It was a trip down memory lane to be sure. It was emotional. I actually started to cry a little bit when I read my post about the 2008 Walt Disney World marathon. I was so incredibly proud of the contrast between that post and my redemption at the 2009 Walt Disney World Half-Marathon. I remember being in good shape by the time I peaked at the 2010 Walt Disney World Half-Marathon, but now I know why. Looking back at all of those workouts, I wonder where I found the energy.

There are some great stories and great friends in there. I’ll never forget the restroom relay with Richie and Justin, or the day I got lost in Rainbow Village and missed my daughter Alice tripping over a hurdle in one of her first track meets. Speaking of my 12 year old daughter Alice, she ran most of the way through high school, but developed an injury senior year. She’s 20 now. My 11 year old daughter Wendy is now my 19 year old son, Elliott. Many things have changed. I now work for an insurance company and I haven’t run a race in nearly 3 years. You could say the one constant in my life has been Raffi, who I’ve been married to for almost 21 years.

There are some surprising things that never get mentioned too. Around the time I stopped posting regularly, I started running with Dan. I’ve run with him most Saturdays for the last 5 years and he’s become one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He gets no mention in the blog, though. There’s also Katie, who ran with us for at least 2 of those years before moving out of town. She also gets no mention in the blog. If someday this blog were all that was left of my memories, it would be sad that they were left out. The long runs, conversations and fun trivia nights with them have been important parts of my life.

Some things from my early running days made me laugh. I referred to my watch as a “chronograph” and always did a 1 mile warm-up before all my training runs. This was especially counter productive when it was near 100 degrees outside. I took an ice bath after a 6 mile run. I often did long run and race reports in present tense, and then made fun of myself for doing it. I kept doing it and probably still will. My readers seemed to enjoy the race reports (and to be honest, I guess I did too).

There were some lofty goals never met. At one point, I had a goal of 1:15 in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, but I was pretty ecstatic to peak at 1:29. I even said I was running the Goofy Challenge and then never mentioned it again.

I wrote a post pondering the identity of M.H. Alderson, who was quoted as saying “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average”. Three years later, his family members started commenting on it, letting me know what and awesome guy he was. I’m still amazed about that.

Reading through all the posts, I was a able to put a lot of those memories into my life’s context. Running really helped me through the last few months of finishing my Ph.D. A meme from another runner made me ponder how I would live as an independently wealthy runner. Then, I actually pulled it off even though I wasn’t independently wealthy. I started a website, brought a bunch of people together to run relays, met a whole lot of great people (and some crazy ones). I am so grateful for that time because I was able to travel, meet new people and see a lot of the country at a time when I otherwise would not have been able to afford it. I miss it sometimes, but when I walked away from it, it was the right time.

I’m not the runner I once was and this blog is no longer all about running, but “A Runner’s Blog” is still appropriate. Over the last 10 years, running has been a lot of things for me: a fitness activity, a competition, a social outlet, therapy, a job and more. I hope it continues to be in the future. Over the last three years, I’ve embarked on a more traditional career path. There’s a lot I like about it, but some things I don’t. I’m striving to get back to the “independently wealthy runner” lifestyle within the context of my new career. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work more from home and though the circumstances that led to that opportunity were not entirely positive, I’m happy to be in a more flexible environment. Spending less time commuting (especially during my most productive morning hours) has made a huge difference in my mental state. I’m grateful to have an employer that is willing to be so flexible.

So, I’ve started running more. I hope to start blogging more. Even if no one reads, I think I’ve discovered that this journal helps me to look back and put my memories in context. Often when I remember good times, I forget the obstacles I overcame to reach them. During the challenging times, this blog is a reminder that I’ve been there before and come out on top!

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