Hashemian Blog
Web, Finance, Technology, Running

Half Marathon 2007

by @ 11:23 pm
Filed under: running-hiking

My Half Marathon Running Shoe - nice Achilles holeMaybe it was the heat and humidity, or my pony tail, or my worn-out shoes, or my usual lackadaisical training, but the results of my 2007 half marathon was nothing to write home about.

This was my third annual half marathon race in a row in my hometown of Ridgefield, CT, and by far the worse performance of the three. Just like last year, I hadn't done much to prepare for this event, short of sending in my registration fee. I am an avid jogger, rarely, if ever, missing my every-other-day jogging habit. My regular distance is about 4 to 5 miles. On weekends I might push that to 6 or 7 miles. The only time, as of recent, I went farther than that was the Sunday prior to the race when I covered a 10-mile distance.

Still, there is a big difference between casual jogging and a long-distance race, specially one that covers 13.1 miles and where speed matters. I had thought that I might have a chance of breaking my personal time from 2 years ago, but that goal proved to be elusive this past Sunday.

I had a good rest the night before the race and, as this was my third race, I wasn't feeling much anxiety. I arrived at the starting point with just enough time to pick up my number and soon the race got on the way at 8:30. The first few miles were pretty typical for me. I'm not a morning person, let alone a morning runner, so it took some time for me to get comfortable and find my pace. I don't know about other runners, but for me it takes a few minutes for my body to warm up and then everything kicks into automatic. But around the 4th mile I started to feel some fatigue and had to downshift. A runner had collapsed on the side of the road and people were tending to him so I continued on. Soon I was hearing the commotion of sirens in the background; obviously the medics were on their way. There were still some 9 miles to cover.

Things were going okay but with every passing mile I could feel the fatigue growing. Finally around the 9th mile I had to slow down to a fast walk. Going into a walking pace is something I always dread, but I also realize that ignoring the body's signals could have devastating effects, least of which would be failing to complete the course. After about a 1/4 of a mile and downing some water at one of the water stations, I was back in jogging pace, only to revert to a walk again at around the 11th mile. Another 1/4 mile down the road and with the finish line within reach, I picked up the pace and finally crossed the line at 2:02:32. A devastating blow, having breached the 2-hour time, but nevertheless I had finished my third half marathon race.

As I guzzled down cold spring water and chewed on an apple at the end of the race I contemplated what I had done wrong. I could blame the weather, my old shoes, my age, or other factors, but in the end I knew it was my own lack of preparation that lead to the poor performance. Will I be better prepared for the next year's race? I don't know but, disappointed as I am, I know there's no sense in dwelling on this. The silver lining for me is that there will be no formidable personal time for me to shatter next year.

I'll be remiss if I didn't mention the great job the race organizers, Wolfpit Running Club, the volunteers, the police, and the sponsors did in this event. They have delivered superbly every time. And for the real good news, word has it that the runner who collapsed during the race was doing okay.

Here are my personal times for each year:

Year  Place  Age  Age Group    Time     Pace
---- ----- --- --------- ---- ----
2005 286 38 50 M 30-39 1:54:05 8:43/M
2006 287 39 66 M 30-39 1:55:52 8:51/M
2007 299 40 87 M 40-49 2:02:32 9:21/M

,,,,

Lucid, A Short Story

by @ 8:41 pm
Filed under: writing

After submitting my first short story to Answers.com's Creative Writing Challenge, I hadn't intended to write another one. But then one night, as I was jogging, my mind wandered off and I began formulating another short story incorporating the words from the second writing challenge. I usually contemplate software and programming challenges while pounding the pavement. But one mind-drift led to another and this story almost wrote itself over a few segments of my various routes, including the two cemeteries I often run through near the center of my town.


Lucid

The sun was flooding the room with its blinding rays, but it didn't matter. I was awake already and sitting on a bare floor. "Where am I?", I wondered as I rubbed my eyes. Yet I knew this place well.

It was my room in the house I had grown up in, nestled in a sleepy hamlet just inside the state line. There was a fresh coat of white paint on the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. There were no posters of simians swinging in the Sumatran rainforest on the walls, no bookshelves filled with my spy novels and stories of double-agents infiltrating fifth columns; not even a lamp. I slowly rose to my feet and walked a few steps to the window. The fields down below had a passing resemblance to the Kew Gardens.

Standing in the room where I had spent my salad days, I was reminded of my faithful dog, Lucas, buried out back, who once helped me abscond with my father's pocket knife, and my parents, also long dead now. The reflection quickly turned into sorrow and I felt my eyes welling up, but I quickly turned my attention to the matter at hand, which was to learn how I had ended up there.

The door leading to the hallway was closed. It had the same ghost white paint as the rest of the room. I turned the knob and pulled the door in. It opened with a frightening screech that echoed in the room. Horripilation set in. I froze, listening intently for any signs of life in the house. And then I heard it. Someone was coughing downstairs. The type wheezing cough that sounded so familiar, yet I didn't know why. I was a prowler in a strange house, only this was my house, at least the house of my childhood. It felt like a horrific opus.

Lucid

I passed the bathroom and saw the spiral stairway leading downstairs. Everything was white, even the house door. There was that cough again. I started my descent with my trembling right hand gripping and sliding over the banister. Sunlight was beaming in through the window panes above the house door. As I reached the bottom stair, I turned and squinted at the figure of a woman who appeared to be dusting the bare, whitewashed living room with a feather duster. She abruptly turned. "Oh, Jonathan, you scared me. About time you woke up." She appeared ashen and tired. "I left a bowl of gazpacho for you in the kitchen. Your father's been working outside since the crack of dawn. He could use a hand."

"Hello Mother", I muttered as tritely as a child greeting a parent in the morning and then I realized the gravity of the situation. A fug of dust was billowing out of the room. I couldn't quite see the details of her face but there was no mistaking the voice. Was this woman really my mother? Was this an apparition? Was I dead? I stood there agog at the ghost of the person I had just addressed as "Mother".

My mind was racing. "I'm in a dream. What do they call it? Yes, lucid dream. It's a lucid dream. I always wanted to have one. Now I'm right in the middle of it." I turned quickly towards the door and flung it open. The bright sunlight blinded my eyes, I could feel its warmth on my face. A man in a distance was hollering my name, "Jonathan, Jonathan". A barking dog was racing towards me. I felt my stomach muscles contracting, the way they do just before vomiting. "Lucas," I cried out.

I opened my eyes and tried to swallow, but my throat was dry and throbbing. My fiancée was sitting on the edge of the bed gazing nervously into my eyes. She appeared exhausted. There were bright lights overhead. "Hello Jonathan, how are you feeling?", inquired a middle-aged, bearded man wearing an unbuttoned white overcoat. "We're almost done. I just removed your feeding tube. You might feel a little dizzy or nauseous." He then turned to the attending nurse carting away the apparatus, giving her rapid-fire instructions.

The room was white and reeked with the smell of anti-septic. A heart monitor was blipping rhythmically above my bed. "Oh, Jonathan, you scared me. About time you woke up." I gave my fiancée a grimaced smile in response. "Who's Lucas?"

,,,

Keeping Humans in Space

by @ 11:33 pm
Filed under: space

NASA Image from Apollo 11Being a space exploration fan (hard not to be when you're a trekkie), I try to keep up with the news and commentaries on the subject. I was disappointed with this recent article in which an respected scientist criticizes manned space missions.

In his view, many of NASA's projects that revolve around putting men in space should be scrapped or at least robots should be used instead. He reasons that the cost of such projects do not justify the returns as the public is no longer dazzled or intrigued by seeing humans in space.

The argument does have some merit. Astronauts are no longer the hero celebrities they once were and their news are generally drowned out in the ocean of other headlines. To a scientist such as Steven Weinberg, only the tangible and the measurable can have any value. What he misses is that capturing people's imagination is just as important if we are to continue with the business of exploring the space.

Look at how much fanfare comes out of China every time they send a man up. There's national pride, a feeling of involvement and accomplishment, albeit by proxy, and international recognition.

There is yet the private side of space exploration to consider. Manned space flights have paved the way for private industries to ratchet up their plans to make space flight a possibility for average citizens. As more money pours into the private sector, more research and more exploration could ensue. That's positive news for the space industry as a whole.

People who are bored with humans in space would be bored even faster with machines in space. And they would be completely disinterested in some esoteric contraption carrying out some incomprehensible experiment in space whose champions would be a handful of babbling and over-excited scientists. Cutting the humans out to save money for other space projects may end up killing even more of those projects as those budgets shrivel up due to lack of public interest and support.

,,,,

Seatbelt Trouble

by @ 11:55 pm
Filed under: social

click it or ticketIt was bound to happen again. After my first incident of getting snagged in Manhattan a few years ago for not wearing a seatbelt, I got caught again, this time in Westchester county. Not that I wish to get snagged. I almost hate paying the fine more than wearing the dreaded seatbelt, but I suppose I should have expected it.

I don't dispute for a moment that seatbelts save lives. Believe me, I have tried to play it safe and to buckle up a number of times, but every time I end up yanking it off to release myself from the bounds of this contraption. I have nothing against seatbelts. I embrace the fact that cars come equipped with them. My problem is with the oppressive law that forces drivers to wear it.

Sonny Bono lost his life skiing, so should we force skiers to wear bubble wraps? Christopher Reeve was paralyzed after his horseback fall, so should we force people to ride horses on mattresses? Runners have had heart attacks while running, so should we force them to wear heart monitors? Mountain climbers have had fatal falls, so should we set an altitude limit on the sport? I just don't understand this law as far as personal freedom is concerned. Wearing the seatbelt makes me a less safe driver. The constant irritation and pressure of the seatbelt distracts me from paying attention to my driving. I find myself constantly fiddling with the belt to get a little breathing room, and that takes away from being an alert driver.

The seatbelt law wasn't exactly enacted to save lives. That's a side-effect. Like many things in life, you'd have to follow the money to get the real answer. The insurance lobby has certainly played a part, and the municipalities use it to generate revenues.

At this point I have accepted that there is no chance the seatbelt law would ever be repealed. The money factor is just too strong. So I've decided to look at it from another perspective. That is, the occasional fines are a surcharge, sort of a convenience fee, I would have to pay to drive a car. There are a number of fees and charges we have to pay for the privilege of driving. There are registration fees, emissions fees, license fees, property taxes, parking fees, car repair bills, gas bills, and of course, the price of the car itself. The seatbelt fines are just another fee I would have to endure to be afforded that privilege.

Maybe at some point I'll force myself into buckling up and will eventually get used to it. Not because it's the law, but because it's a prudent thing to do. Or maybe I'll end up cracking my skull on the windshield, but at least I would have been more alert behind the wheel and that could have prevented harm to others. As long as I have to pay the fine every now and then, I'd consider it a fair trade-off.

,,,,

Joshua Tree National Park

by @ 9:59 pm
Filed under: health

Joshua Tree National Park - Ryan MountainIn my recent business trip to California, I took a couple of extra days to spend time with my sister. We both grew up in Iran at the base of the Alborz mountains and many weekends outside of the winter season, my father insisted that we accompany him on his hiking trips up the mountains.

I wasn’t exactly a fit kid, so I would try any excuse I could think of to get out of them. On those occasions that I couldn’t wriggle myself out I can describe the hiking experiences as a mixture of torture, sadism, profuse sweating, and exhaustion. Well, at least one of us (my sister) had my father’s pride most of the time.

Times have changed and my father’s semi-tyranny has paid off quite handsomely. If I see a mountain now, usually my first inkling is to scale it.

We hadn’t intended to visit the Joshua Tree National Park on this visit but on a quest to find a decent hiking spot, one road led to another and we ended driving to the park. We entered from the west entrance and almost from the start I was intrigued. This was my first time seeing Joshua trees with their think prickly leaves. The state park resembles the pictures beamed pack from Mars. There were huge boulders piled on top of each other everywhere in the desert and they extended all the way to the horizon.

Happily, the park was relatively devoid of crowds. On the advice of the ranger at the entrance, who collected the $15 entrance fee, we headed for the Ryan Mountain, but not before stopping for a quick walk in the desert. It’s an enthralling yet terrifying experience. There’s absolute stillness and desert beauty, yet you realize that disorientation due to heat and dehydration could lead to death. Who’s ever going find a lost person in that vastness?

Ryan Mountain turned out to be a good choice. We somehow missed the trailhead and wondered about for a bit but eventually picked up the trail further up. There are no real tall mountains in the park. Ryan Mountain, at around 5,500 feet, is probably one of tallest. It offered a relatively steep climb and at the top we were rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and an incessant but pleasant wind. Now I know why there are so many wind farms in the area.

I would have loved to spend more time exploring this splendid place, but time was short. The Joshua Tree national park is one of those places that leaves an indelible mark on your mind. It sure made a unforgettable impression on me, leaving me with the desire to come back again for another visit.

,,,

Google's GrandCentral

by @ 2:49 pm
Filed under: google,technology,web

GrandCentralThe other day I received an email from GrandCentral with the subject line: Invitation to sign up for GrandCentral.

Like everyone else I receive plenty of bogus invitations to sign up for this or register for that. It smelled like spam. "Who the hell is GrandCentral?", I thought. But before clicking the spam button, I decided to check the email. It started:

Good news! We are excited to announce that we are opening the GrandCentral private beta to some additional users and would like to extend you an invitation to sign up.

Then I realized that back in June when the news of Google purchasing GrandCentral had hit the wires, I had added myself to their waiting list. So I proceeded with the registration and got my own number.

This is a pretty neat concept. You get to choose a phone number and you can link it to several physical numbers. Then, depending on your choice, an incoming call will ring all or some or none of the numbers. It comes with voicemail, Caller ID, email forwarding and a number of other features. Most activities can be done online as well as over the phone. It's presence, call forwarding, and messaging all wrapped in one package. Best of all it's free, and you can keep the number for life. As things are with Google products, GrandCentral is in Beta and probably will be for years.

It remains to be seen how Google will fully monetize GrandCentral. There are some paid features, I believe, but I assume the majority of users, myself included, will only use the free services. So I presume, like most Google properties, GrandCentral will come to rely on advertising for a big portion of its revenues. That will probably include text ads on the site, voice ads inserted before or after playing voicemails, or ad links included in notification emails.

I wonder if GrandCentral future plans include free fax service. That would be a natural progression and it would position them against some long-established services like jConnect that offer free fax numbers and whom I have been a satisfied user for a number of years.

,,,,,,,,,

Google's GrandCentral

by @ 2:49 pm
Filed under: google,technology,web

GrandCentralThe other day I received an email from GrandCentral with the subject line: Invitation to sign up for GrandCentral.

Like everyone else I receive plenty of bogus invitations to sign up for this or register for that. It smelled like spam. "Who the hell is GrandCentral?", I thought. But before clicking the spam button, I decided to check the email. It started:

Good news! We are excited to announce that we are opening the GrandCentral private beta to some additional users and would like to extend you an invitation to sign up.

Then I realized that back in June when the news of Google purchasing GrandCentral had hit the wires, I had added myself to their waiting list. So I proceeded with the registration and got my own number.

This is a pretty neat concept. You get to choose a phone number and you can link it to several physical numbers. Then, depending on your choice, an incoming call will ring all or some or none of the numbers. It comes with voicemail, Caller ID, email forwarding and a number of other features. Most activities can be done online as well as over the phone. It's presence, call forwarding, and messaging all wrapped in one package. Best of all it's free, and you can keep the number for life. As things are with Google products, GrandCentral is in Beta and probably will be for years.

It remains to be seen how Google will fully monetize GrandCentral. There are some paid features, I believe, but I assume the majority of users, myself included, will only use the free services. So I presume, like most Google properties, GrandCentral will come to rely on advertising for a big portion of its revenues. That will probably include text ads on the site, voice ads inserted before or after playing voicemails, or ad links included in notification emails.

I wonder if GrandCentral future plans include free fax service. That would be a natural progression and it would position them against some long-established services like jConnect that offer free fax numbers and whom I have been a satisfied user for a number of years.

,,,,,,,,,

IP address and Host name Scripts

by @ 9:41 pm
Filed under: computers,web

As some of you know, this site contains several utilities in the tools section. One of these tools is JavaScript Visitor IP Address and Host Name. It's a simple JavaScript block that can be placed inside any web page and it displays or prints the visitor's IP address and host name.

As is with the rest of the tools, this one was also born out of necessity and I decided to share it with everyone. But some people are not comfortable putting my scripts on their site. That's cool and I don’t blame them, they don’t know me. So here I am going to explain how to display or print the user's IP address and host name using a number of server-side technologies.

The keyword here is "server-side". That's right, there is no way you can glean that information from client-side JavaScript. Even my JavaScript utility uses server-side calls to obtain the data and then packages it up in JavaScript format and streams it back. If your site supports server-side scripting, then chances are one of the following will do the job for you.

  • Perl:
  • print "IP: $ENV{'REMOTE_ADDR'}<br>Host: $ENV{'REMOTE_HOST'}";

  • SSI:
  • IP: <!--#echo var="REMOTE_ADDR"--><br>Host: <!--#echo var="REMOTE_HOST"-->

  • PHP:
  • <?= "IP: {$_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR']}<br>Host: {$_SERVER['REMOTE_HOST']}" ?>

  • ASP:
  • <%= "IP: " + Request.ServerVariables("REMOTE_ADDR") + "<br>Host: " + Request.ServerVariables("REMOTE_HOST") %>

  • ASP.NET:
  • <%= "IP: " + Request.UserHostAddress + "<br>Host: " + Request.UserHostName %>

  • Python:
  • print "IP: " + cgi.os.environ["REMOTE_ADDR"] + "<br>Host: " + cgi.os.environ["REMOTE_HOST"]

  • Ruby:
  • print "IP: " + ENV["REMOTE_ADDR"] + "<br>Host: " + ENV["REMOTE_HOST"]

  • JSP:
  • <%= "IP: " + request.getRemoteAddr() + "<br>Host: " + request.getRemoteHost() %>

  • Java Servlet:
  • out.println("IP: " + request.getRemoteAddr() + "<br>Host: " + request.getRemoteHost());

    A common issue with the above calls is that in many cases host names may be returned as IP addresses or nothing at all. In some cases that is because no reverse record for a client's IP address is available. But if this issues occurs all the time, it could mean that reverse resolution is turned off. This is generally done for performance reason, to save on server resources.

    You can ask your hosting company to turn that service on, or you could configure reverse lookup yourself if you have access to the server configuration files. Here’s how reverse look up is switched on for Internet Information Server (IIS) and Apache.

  • IIS (execute at command line):
  • adsutil set w3svc/EnableReverseDNS TRUE

  • Apache (edit httpd.conf file):
  • HostnameLookups On

    By the way, if you ever wanted to run a simple reverse lookup on an IP address, here's a Reverse Whois tool for that job.

    Before I end this post, here's one more piece of information for those who might wonder where parameters like REMOTE_ADDR or REMOTE_HOST come from. Those are part of a collection of parameters known as environment variables that web servers are expected to make available to the scripts. Want the gory details? Read here.

    There you have it. If you can put any of the above scripts to use instead of using my JavaScript utility, I'd appreciate the bandwidth savings. And to those who continue to use my utilities, your trust and confidence are appreciated.

    ,,,,,,,,,,

    Answers.com Creative Writing Challenge

    by @ 11:17 pm
    Filed under: writing

    2nd place in the Answers.com writing challengeI'd almost forgotten about this, but an email notification from answers.com reminded me that I had entered the first-ever answers.com's creative writing challenge a couple of weeks ago.

    The rules were simple enough. Take ten words, pre-selected by answers.com, and write a prose, a poem, or an essay in your blog or web page. Hyper-link the words back to answers.com and submit the entry. And so, I decided to post a short story and to enter it in the challenge.

    My family liked the story, but of course there's a touch of bias there. Yet surprisingly this past Monday I was chosen by the judges as the runner-up and got a link back to my blog from answers.com's Hall of Fame page, and a $50 Amazon gift certificate to boot.

    Of the ten words, the only one I had no idea about was "melissophobia" which means an abnormal fear of bees. That's okay, Word's spell-checker doesn't know that term either. So in the end, the writing challenge was fun, educational, and, considering the $50 gift certificate, profitable.

    Answers.com is running another contest now. I may enter again, but better yet, I might ask my kids to take a shot at it. At worst case they will expand their vocabulary and hone their writing skills. Sounds like a win already. Of course, all those backlinks don't hurt answers.com either.

    ,,

    Internet Network Storage

    by @ 10:35 pm
    Filed under: google,web

    Google, Amazon ServicesWe've got hard drives in our desktops and laptops. Then there are NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network) that we use at work. There are USB thumb/flash drives, SD and microSD memory cards that we use at home. And there are the myriad access protocols, whether local or network, such as SCSI, IDE, SATA, RAID, SMB, CIFS, NFS, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, etc. Storage seems to be everywhere and it’s dirt cheap, at around 20 cents a GB these days, and always dropping.

    The one area that's still being developed is hosted storage. Remote storage is a tricky matter. Unlike local or even LAN storage, there are a number of things that can go wrong, chiefly circuit outages and bandwidth limitations. Imagine clicking on a drive letter and having to wait 5 minutes for the content to show. You get the picture.

    Still there is no denying that the trend is pointing to remote storage. I know, this whole thin computing thing got a little ahead of itself, but I still think Sun's slogan still holds true, the network is the computer, or more appropriately, it will be the computer.

    Rumors of Gdrive, Google's hosted storage have been circling for a couple of years now. While Gdrive rumors continue to persist, Google has begun to offer additional storage for some of its existing services like Gmail and Picasa. The additional storage comes in several sizes with annual fees, like $250/year for 100 GB. Gdrive might indeed be in the offing.

    The front-runner in remote storage is Amazon.com who has had a hosted storage service for a couple of years now. Known as S3, it can be used to store anything and the interface schemes are the familiar SO (Service Oriented) protocols such as REST and SOAP. The cost is measured by capacity and bandwidth in 1 GB increments. $0.15/GB for storage, $0.10/GB for upload, and $0.18/GB for download.

    These are good starts, but don't quite aspire to be simple drive letters on one's PC. The question now is when will the king of desktops, Microsoft, come up with such a service and tie it up to Windows? Monopoly concerns aside, one has to believe they are working on something. It could prove to be a lucrative venture. It's a win for consumers too. Imagine never having to worry about crashed drives, backups, running out of room, or being able to use your drive from anywhere. It may be closer to reality than we think.

    ,,,,,,,,,,

    « Newer PostsOlder Posts »

    Powered by


    Read Financial Markets  |   Home  |   Blog  |   Web Tools  |   News  |   Articles  |   FAQ  |   About  |   Privacy  |   Contact
    Donate Bitcoin: 1K9TzBvQ2oaEb4tX9t2vKDtZouMcpfV6QF
    paypal.me/rhashemian
    © 2001-2020 Robert Hashemian   Powered by Hashemian.com