Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life - Promoting?

It's been a while since I put anything up here. I realized that when someone referred to Junior as Junior - I only do that here, and I sort of forgot I did that.

Obviously the big thing for me is that the Bethel Spring Series is coming up. The races start Sunday, Sweep Day is Saturday, but the whole promotion thing has been going on for a while now.

Each year it's about small improvements. Sometimes we get a big break, like when we first headed indoors at Navone Studios. Other years it's just a refinement on procedure, nothing major.

This year there were a number of things. First we had a slew of changes on the back end, stuff that's not really related to racing but more to the entity that promotes the races (i.e. the legal me). This all started last year and we're scrambling to finish stuff for Sunday.

Next we've moved our registration area over a couple doors. This also required some paperwork (and I just realized I have to do some more of that said paperwork). I put hints in the linked post but I want to let the racers experience the impact like I did, it's a cool space.

There are the tenants in the park of course, and they need to be assured that they'll have access to their offices, that we won't prevent them from getting to work. This involved a couple drives down to the course. It used to be easier when I lived a few towns over, not a couple counties away.

There's all the regular stuff, permits and such. That's sort of normal stuff.

Personally it's been tough this year. Of course we have Junior now so we don't have quite the time that we did before the stork dropped him off. More significantly he's been building up his immunity by catching colds at daycare, and in doing so he's been affecting me too.

I had quite the winter, from before Christmas until now, plagued with regular flu type illness, a sinus infection that got bad enough that I was yakking when I coughed (first time for me), and, to top it all, my back went out.

That may not sound like it's related to Junior but it sort of was - see, when Junior was cough-yakking he slept better when he was a bit more upright. I got into the habit of getting up when he cough-yakked (at 11PM or 1 AM or whatever) and then holding him while I sat in a recliner.

He'd fall asleep, breathing heavily.

I'd fall asleep too.

A few weeks of doing this somewhat frequently and suddenly I had a hard time getting out of the recliner when Junior woke up at 5 or 6 in the morning.

During all this I was trying to train a bit. I got some good hours in during January but fell apart going into February. I think I rode 4 or 5 times this month so far, due to illness, fatigue (like if I wasn't able to sleep through the night), and my back.

You know you put off training and Bethel stuff a week here, a week there, and suddenly you're talking some real time.

So Thursday and Friday are huge, huge, huge push days. No training probably but a LOT of getting ready for the races. Everything has to be ready by Saturday at 8 AM which is when I need to leave the house for Sweep Day. I won't be back until after Sunday's race so everything has to go, and I mean everything. It'll be interesting to say the least.

For now, though, bed.

Tomorrow we push.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Life - Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day started with canceling dinner because Junior hasn't been feeling well. We didn't want to burden our friends who would be babysitting him. He reaffirmed our decision by getting violently sick this morning but then seemed to recover nicely.

I've been sick too, for a few weeks, enough to use up virtually all the Dayquil, Nyquil, and over a bottle of new Robitussen type stuff. My back also went out, bad enough to warrant a very unusual doctor's visit a couple days ago, and that's consumed all the Advil in the house. My drive down to Bethel last week to do some race stuff was bad enough that I didn't think I could drive the car because I couldn't push the clutch pedal down.

And so I didn't drive again until today, when my back felt just a bit less pain than "white hot poker stabbed through my kidneys". In other words I can finally drive again. With me driving and Junior babbling and playing it seemed safe to take him to day care. He goes two half days a week and he really likes it so I dutifully trundled him down there.

Once back at home I started working on Bethel Spring Series stuff, ate a late lunch, chopped a huge block of ice off of a roof/gutter area (ice dam two years ago), and started to gather all the stuff Junior messed up in the morning. Then I got the emergency call at 4:30-ish to go pick up Junior. He'd gotten sick and so he needed to get picked up.

When I got there I learned he had projectile vomited on one of the staff, the "feeding" rocking chair, and a decent portion of the floor around the chair (4-5' radius, semi-circle pattern).

(This is the first time I've connected the term "projectile vomit" with what he's been doing semi-regularly for maybe the past couple weeks. It's usually once or twice in a day, then he's okay for a bit, then a day where he gets sick again.)

As soon as he spotted me he held his arms up to hold me, kicking his legs like he does when he's happy (he was in a high chair thing).

After we got home he had a bit to eat (technically he drank formula and some electrolyte stuff). He promptly projected that stuff too. Exhausted, muttering and fussing, he fell asleep. He woke up twice so far (with at least 2 false alarms), before 11 PM, fussing, muttering, but not really eating much (2 ounces between the two wake-ups instead of the 4-8 ounces he has each time he eats).

It seems "not so romantic" for Valentine's Day, especially for the Missus. No dinner out, no whispered sweet nothings, fussing because he's hungry or his stomach hurts or his throat hurts or he's hot or he's cold or he's exhausted.

After you get through with me then you have Junior doing all that too. Ba-dum-bump.

Seriously though it's not been really romantic in the "flowers and chocolate" sense.

Then I think of what's happened today, what we did, how we did it. Junior looks to us for comfort, literally reaching out when he's so upset he can't do anything else. He cries and looks at us and holds his arms out and leans towards us. Then he melds into you when you hold him, melts into your shoulder or chest or arms, curling up in his parental security blanket.

It's not just one of us either. The Missus tries to cover when I'm tired, and I try to cover when she's tired. She can tell when my back is bugging me and she steps in to give me help. She can see when I have things in hand so she'll step back and let me work things through. I try to help her when she's tired, when Junior's status seems to stagnate, but I let her do her thing when she's making progress with Junior.

We both have our parenting styles. They're not better or worse, just different. I learn a lot from her. She surprises me with things that Junior can do or can handle. We counter each other well, balancing a conservative approach with one that pushes a bit more.

We're working together as a team, like a well honed cycling team works together. We take our pulls and pull really, really hard. Then we accept shelter to recover without asking for anything more than just some shelter to catch our breath. We give space to each other to let each of us parent but offer a hand when it gets a bit difficult.

There's a lot of love here in this house.

Well a lot of love and a few germs flying about.

So Happy Valentine's Day to us. And to all of you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life - URT "Green Wine" show clip


One of the common themes in the SDC helmet cam clips is the music. In case anyone missed the memo, the music has one thing in common (save a few samples from early on in my clip-editing life): they're performed by bands associated with one of my two brothers. Between the two of them they could be a band - they compose, sing, and play guitar, bass, and the drums.

Inevitably riders will ask one another what kind of music each listens to when pedaling on the trainer. I can honestly answer that my brothers' music has been motivating me for years and years and years - I listen to them in the car, on the trainer, and when I watch, well, the helmet cam clips.

Ultimately I made them using my brothers' music because that's what I find inspires and motivates me.

Unfortunately I only ever managed to video one brother at one of his band's last gig in Chicago, IL. Because of a mistaken assumption, I thought I'd have a clean recording of the sound (via a third party). However this wasn't the case, and since I didn't worry about sound quality in my own recording, I never took into account sound quality when videotaping the show. For example, for parts of one song i put the camcorder on top of the amps lining the stage.

Obviously that didn't do well for the sound.

It was worse when I reviewed the clips - the muddy sound was terrible, the volume just overwhelming the tiny built-in mic.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. But there's only one take in life, and in this case the show sound was pretty bad.

Frustrated, I gave up trying to make a clip out of the very long, very awesome, very emotional show. I had no way of fitting the two together, not well anyway, not with the applications I had at hand.

Then along came iMovie on the Mac, with all sorts of high end editing capabilities. Suddenly the sub-second synchronization required of a music video came within reach. I found I could synchronize the live footage with a studio recording of the same song.

Although I find that there's some lag in playback (compared to the "master" in iMovie), it's still a lot better than I could ever have dreamed.

The show video has a limited harvest capacity. After I did "Deepest Knife" I went to do another and found, to my dismay, that somehow things just didn't work out. I seemed to have forgotten all that I learned while doing Deepest Knife. I also happened to pick a song that closely matched the studio recording, making compiling the video much easier.

Disappointed I set the whole URT thing aside. I still had the imported clip in iMovie but thought it hopeless to create another clip.

When I had the issues with iMovie I moved back to the old machine. My old projects were there including a few optimistically created and named URT clips, projects that existed in title only.

I picked up Green Wine because I really like the song and because someone in the audience was yelling "Green Wine!" until they played the song. I started editing it and things started flowing. It took a number of edits but it's about where it'll get. To make it more... complete, for lack of a better term, would mean sacrificing other "harvests", borrowing significant footage from songs I hold hope of completing one day.

I hope you enjoy this clip. It's a fun song, yes, but it also represents a significant amount of work on my part. Sub-second synchronization doesn't matter in bike race clips but when dealing with a live concert it matters a lot.

My apologies in advance for any synchronization errors, weirdness with guitar or bass playing stuff, etc. That's all me, in my editing.

With that caveat please enjoy:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Helmet Cam - 2012 CCNS Kermis, Aug 24

This year I got to do a few new races, at least to me. I count any course I haven't done more than once or twice to be new to me. It's different from doing the races at New Britain, for example, where I have some fond memories of doing the course up to eight days a year for the last 30 years.

Relative to a once-or-twice race is refreshing to say the least. It's fun to see a new course, a new tactical map, a new corner or four.

One event, the White Plains Crit, was a race I'd never done before, and for two pretty good reasons - it was the National Championships the first time it happened and the second time it happened it was the Empire State Games aka the NY Crit Championships.

Another one was the CCNS Kermis. The host team and promoters, CCNS, took a seemingly lighthearted approach to the whole race. On race day though it was a lot more serious than I expected - big signs marking the course, light trailers for the last race, vendor tents, and the fun atmosphere I expected. The race itself didn't necessarily go well for me but it was absolutely the best course I've raced for eons.

Actually I can't think of a more fun course.

Okay, I can think of courses that suit me better (Bethel anyone?), ones that were more difficult technically (a Tarrytown NY crit comes to mind as well as a one year Norwich CT crit), and which have more elevation changes or more turns.

In terms of a real fun course though this one takes the cake. The only thing is that it's flat so the climber-types won't like it. Otherwise it gives opportunities to the rouleurs (time trial types) and sprinters both, punishes poor cornering and poor fitness, and makes for an honest finishing order.

The second CCNS Kermis is set to take place on August 23, 2013. Until then you can use this clip to preview the course if you missed it last year. If you did it then you know what I'm talking about - let this hold you over until the kermis.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

Helmet Cam - 2012 NE Crit Championships M40+

Back on August 18, 2012 I did the New England Crit Championships, promoted by the Northeast Masters Cycling Association (NEMCA). I raved about the race back then, the fluent riding, the deliberate tactics, and, for me, a successful race in that I lasted more than 5 minutes.

Of course I wanted to do a clip of the race. It would illustrate some smooth and fluent riding, a couple tactical moves, and, yes, I actually finished the race. A 5 minute "then I got shelled" clip isn't any fun for me or for you.

On the other hand it's taken a while to get the whole business of producing clips straightened out, what with the new iMovie unable to import my clips such that they exist in iMovie, the time required to produce a clip, and, finally, our internet connection getting hosed in the wind storm a little while ago. I worked on the clips once I figured out an iMovie workaround (use an older version) and I have a few clips in near-completion status.

The NE M40+ race took me a while to produce, following my now-somewhat standard way of producing these clips. Unusually I had three major revisions requiring three different exports out of iMovie, each one a time consuming process. With the clip basically done I put it aside to simmer - this gets me away from the clip for a bit so I can go back and review it with a fresh mind. I focused on doing more stuff for the Bethel Spring Series, doing stuff around the house, and of course the internet connection thing.

I wasn't impressed with the clip when I finally reviewed my almost-done rough draft. It took two more iterations before I felt it "okay", making it five versions in total. Then the upload took all night but hey, that's life. Here's the clip.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Helmet Cam - Sept 16, 2012 White Plains Criterium, Cat 3-4

In September I had the privilege of helping out at the White Plains Criterium. I also got to race it, the Cat 3-4 race. It's a great course, great venue, and the promoter is hoping it returns in 2013, hopefully in mid-May.
The course really accentuates a racer's cornering skills, much more so than a Bethel for example. My race ended up a lesson on cornering which gets reflected in the clip I made from it.
This clip has much more of an instructional feel to it, a little less of the "psyched to race" mood-only feel of most of my other clips.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Life - Internet Connection

Whenever I think of the Internet being down I think of one of the funniest clips I've ever seen. A colleague sent it to me in my IT days saying that, minus the Halo gaming, it reminded them of what they saw me doing at work.

Scroll to the bottom here and click on the video for Episode #1, "Sales Guy vs Web Dude". May not be totally safe for work (sound and visuals) and this is funny only if you're a geek or work in IT support of some kind. Or, as my colleague said, you work with someone who does IT support of some kind.

Anyway that's a minor segway because I was thinking about our internet connection.

In the last few weeks I managed to work around my iMovie issues where I simply could not import clips into iMovie. Ends up the newer version of iMovie doesn't work right so I'm using an older version.

This means I can finally work on clips again. I've been busy importing movies just before I go to bed (it takes 4-8+ hours), editing, then publishing when I have time (it takes about 1-2 hours to make an iMovie project into a .mov file), and then re-editing and re-publishing them as I find errors or weirdness.

A common error I get is the text I put in a text box disappears and it reverts to the default text and font. This happened twice in the clips described below in the credits, a real pain because I have to redo the whole cast, music list, and the various notes and shout outs. It happens less often with the smaller text boxes within the clip although I found a few so far where  the font changed back to the default.

To avoid errors I've been restarting the machine as soon as I notice the text boxes lagging or any other performance drops in iMovie. By then the app is taking 2 GB or more of memory and seriously faltering. Restarting iMovie usually works but sometimes other apps grow in size also, taking up the limited 4 GB of memory on the machine. At that point restarting the machine is the best option.

Finally, when I'm satisfied with the clip, I upload it. That takes 5-8 hours on our slow-ish connection, depending on a bunch of factors. The clips are generally over 1 GB in size so quite substantial for an upload.

I started a number of clips and realized that for one reason or another I didn't want to produce the clip, at least at this time. This took up about 8-10 clips worth of effort. I guess the good part is that I've imported the raw footage. The bad thing is that this took many nights and delayed the work on the other clips.

I did get one clip out so far, one from @TuesdayTheRent, because it was a mainly neutral clip. It has some tips in it and a fun finish. That one went together quickly, only two iterations and I put it up.

Next up in the queue I have a clip of the 2012 White Plains Criterium, a sort-of new race. It existed twice before, a long time ago, but disappeared until a new and enthusiastic racer made the race happen once again. It's a great course, a rare middle-of-downtown thing, very exciting to race, and I think it'll be a big race in the future. My clip offers some tips and observations and initially I hesitated in putting the clip up. After some feedback I decided that it should go up - I offer constructive criticism and I hope that this helps everyone who races. I've already made three iterations of the clip and I think after the 4th it'll be ready to go.

After that I'll be uploading a race at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, RI. I uploaded one clip from there in 2010 but I ran out of memory in the ContourHD because I didn't clear out previous clips. This meant I only captured 15 minutes of the race. Well, this clip is the 2012 M40+ New England Crit Championships. It's the best race I did last year in terms of the field's skill, experience, and tactical astuteness. I left the race raving about the skill level of the field in general. This clip also has some good stuff in it. I've done two iterations of this clip and need to make a few corrections before I upload it.

The third race that should be going up is the first year 2012 CCNS Kermis race. A fantastic course, one of the most fun courses I've done in a while, with a lot of tactical thoughts and comments in the clip. I'm just finishing the initial iteration so it's sort of the rough draft. I expect to need to make at least one more version before it's ready to go up.

Finally I did a clip of URT in concert back in 2002, playing one of my favorites "Green Wine". Although I'm already on the second iteration I see some major flaws in it. I expect at least one or two more versions before that can go up.

I don't have more clips in mind immediately at the forefront at this point. I want to upload everything before the Bethel Spring Series really kicks off so I need to do some serious uploading in the next four weeks. After that I'll hopefully be uploading Bethel clips for 7 of the next 8 weeks.

I was thinking of fixing and uploading the White Plains Crit this weekend but then something happened - we lost our internet connection.

We're currently on our backup wireless broadband connection but it's awfully slow - we can't even watch YouTube clips. I'm not going to clobber our already limited bandwidth uploading something for 10 or more hours.

So either I'll find someone with a fast and unused connection or I'll wait for our connection to go back up. In the past I could use a work internet connection and kick off the job in the off hours. Unfortunately that option doesn't exist anymore so I'm a bit stuck.

Anyone in my immediate area with a monster internet connection, please feel free to contact me :)

Otherwise it'll be a day or three before the next clip goes up.