The New Blog

I started a new blog about software development. The audience for this new content has very little overlap with the few readers of my personal blog, so I’ve decided to spare you all and not write about it here. Also, it will spare me the ridicule of Melissa, Cara, & Aimee. I will still update this blog.

Thew new blog is titled “/dev/ragfield” (if you don’t get the joke, you probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it). It is located at

The Masters Time Trials

Last night at Masters Swimming we had time trials of various events, just like the practice meet we had last December. I took some time off in December and January so I’m just starting to get back into the swing of things in the water, but that didn’t stop me from swimming a few events and having a good time.


Since I’m mainly interested in endurance events I chose to swim 500 yard freestyle. I also chose a couple other random events just to mix things up, 200 yard individual medley, and 100 yard breaststroke.

The 100 breaststroke came first for me. I finished in 1:26, which is frankly faster than I expected, though not terribly fast. Interestingly, it was my muscles that were holding me back. My breathing was barely elevated by the end.

The 200 IM came next. I’ve only done an IM this long one other time (last week in practice). My time of 2:57 was better than last week’s 3:07, though to put that in perspective, the guy in the lane next to me was almost finished just as I started the final freestyle lap. This took a lot out of me.

500 Free

500 freestyle start. I don’t know why my legs always separate as I jump.

After a short (too short) break came the 500 freestyle. Just as in December I was the only person swimming this far. Since I really only have one speed it felt kind of like a sprint to me. The good news was that the coach had a lap counting sign he stuck in the water after each lap so I knew how far I’d gone. I have a problem with losing count of my laps. The bad news was that after only one or two laps my upper arms and shoulders were burning with lactic acid. I swam as fast as I could and finished in 7:10, a good 17 seconds slower than in December. This was also a slower pace than I swam for 1000 yards last September, shortly after peaking for the national triathlon championships. It wasn’t great, but it’s still very early in the year.

100 Fly

100 yard butterfly

100 Back

my friend Scott starts the 100 yard backstroke

50 Free

the fastest 50 yard freestyle finisher tears through the water

The event was fun. To be honest I’d like to do this more frequently to be able to gauge on my progress (or in this case, lack of progress).

The Keytar

I was in 5th grade in the 1988. Sure, it was the late 80’s, but it was still the 80’s. MTV (which used to actually play music) was all the rage. The music was wild, the hair was wild, the clothes were wild, and even the musical instruments were wild. Nothing was quite as ridiculously excessive as a keytar.

A keytar is just what it sounds like, a cross between a keyboard and a guitar. More specifically, it is a keyboard, but it’s worn on a strap over your shoulder like a guitar. With a keytar in hand a keyboard player could look as cool as a guitarist (though clearly the keyboard player would never actually be as cool as the guitarist). Well, that was the idea at least.

I was channel surfing one day when I flipped past the Home Shopping Network. There on the screen was a beautiful red keytar, a Yamaha SHS-10. I had to have it. It was fairly reasonably priced. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was somewhere between $50-100, perhaps around $70. Regardless, I was a 5th grader and I didn’t have that kind of money. It was also a bit pricey for a random middle-of-the-year non-birthay non-Christmas gift from my parents, so it appeared as if all hope was lost.

Within a matter of days I was sitting in Mr. Gholson’s class at the end of the school day when the principal began some school-wide announcements over the intercom. The announcements were related to the school fundraiser we had just finished. As usual I had big plans to sell the more items than anyone else in the school, and as usual I didn’t. At the very end of the announcements the principal reminded all the students that everyone who sold at least one item had their names entered into a drawing to win $50 cold hard cash. It seems like I never win anything like this, so you can imagine my surprise when he read my name as the recipient of the $50. Jackpot.

With my $50 in hand I was able to convince my parents to use it to order the keytar for me from the Home Shopping Network. I loved that thing. It was so cool I even brought it in to school to show all my classmates what I bought with my $50 prize.


I started numerous bands with my friends throughout middle school where I played the keytar (poorly). Someone else would beat some sticks on buckets or something because nobody had a drum set. Everyone else just kind of stood around because they didn’t have any instruments either. But they were my friends and they were in the band. We had big plans.

I didn’t know very many songs, so I usually just hit the Demo button and it played by itself. The demo song was Wham’s Last Christmas, though I had no idea what it was at the time. I don’t recall ever hearing that song until maybe seven or eight years ago, at which point I exclaimed THAT’S THE DEMO SONG FROM MY KEYTAR!


The keytar has also has survived many years and many moves to different apartments and houses, much to the chagrin of my wife. I’ve tried to get rid of this thing, but it seems nobody I know seems to want it. I’m not sure why. This keytar is now considered vintage, and they’re going on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Now might be a good time to cash in. Who thinks I have the guts to go through with it?

The Riddle Run 10

Today was the 10th edition of the Riddle Run, a 28.35 mile ultra-marathon fun run. Last year I showed up fairly unprepared but I still cranked out a decent run. This year I felt much more prepared than ever before. I just ran a good trail marathon in December, and I’ve been doing a long run almost every weekend since then.

Sunrise at the Riddle Run

Sunrise at Lake of the Woods park

This year’s Riddle Run set another registration record with 125 people signed up, though I don’t think that many showed up. The temperature was similar to last year (20˚ at start, 33˚ at finish), but last year there was just a light dusting of snow on the ground (which melted during the run). This year there was about 4″ of mushy snow covering the entire trail. Running in mushy snow is quite the challenge.

Snow covered trail

But what was more concerning to me than the snow was that I badly bruised my shin while mountain biking last Saturday. I’ve run twice since then (Sunday and Tuesday) and both times my shin caused me pain with every step. As it turns out, my worries were misplaced. My bruised shin didn’t bother me the slightest bit.

Shortly after 8 a.m. the runners gathered to listen to Jeff Riddle (the run’s coordinator) give instructions. Then we were off.

Run coordinator Jeff Riddle explains the rules

Runners listen to Jeff's instructions

The snow was tough. I started slowly, chit-chatting with others for the first mile or two. I finished my first loop in 43 minutes. By the second 4.05 mile loop (of seven) the snow was packed down a little bit, and that allowed me to run a little faster. My second loop was around 40 minutes, as was the third. I ran the fourth loop with Chris (who recently whooped me a the Siberian Express) and Matt (last year’s Riddle Run winner). They both stopped at the end of the lap with 16 miles total, as they had both planned to do.

I was still feeling very good and I was running a steady pace. There were two other guys with roughly the same time as me (though we weren’t running together as we chose to run the loops in opposite directions at times). I stopped at my car to grab a bite to eat at mile 8, 16, 20, & 24. I drank a lot of Gatorade throughout. It worked, as I never ran out of energy. I took an Endurolyte tablet each time I stopped in order to try to avoid the muscle cramping I experienced at Tecumseh. This also worked, as my muscles never cramped.

Each of the last two laps I walked up two of the hills. This was the only walking I did the entire time, and it probably only slowed me down by a minute or two.

At 24 miles Jeff told me I had the fastest time so far by a couple minutes. Most of the runners didn’t run all seven laps, they stopped early. There was a crowd of these runners gathered around a campfire near the finish line. They all began to cheer as I began the final lap. I continued the same steady pace I had been running all morning. Then came the surprise of the day… something that’s never happened in six previous marathons/ultra-marathons. I picked up the pace the last mile as I approached the finish. Not just a little, but a lot. In fact, my last mile was the fastest mile I ran all day. I still had some gas left in the tank.

I finished. I was the first one to do so. The crowed cheered as I crossed the “finish line” and pelted me with snowballs. This wasn’t really a race, it was more of a fun run, but Jeff declared me the winner. The first place male in the Riddle Run gets a traveling “trophy” (which it turns out is a roll of toilet paper signed by each previous winner).

Jeff awards Rob the 1st place travelling trophy

Jeff awards Rob the traveling “trophy”

After the run I changed clothes, ate a delicious cupcake, and warmed up by the campfire.

Jeff's wife baked delicious cupcakes for all registered runners

Jeff’s wife baked a cupcake for every runner

Post-run campfire

warming up by the campfire

Ken and his dog Cayenne finished about five minutes after me. Then Jason was another five minutes behind Ken.

Cayenne was one of two dogs to run the full 28.35 miles

Cayenne was one of (at least) two dogs to run the full 28.35 miles

Pat Mills was pelted with snoballs upon finishingPat Mills was pelted with snoballs upon finishing

Pat was the next finisher. He too, was pelted with snowballs.

Just behind Pat were Becky & Ellen, the first two women. They were running together. Becky crossed the line first in a photo finish.

Becky & Ellen were the 1st & 2nd women to finish

Becky kicks Ellen’s ass (just kidding)

Jeff awards Becky the 1st place travelling trophy

Jeff awards Becky the women’s traveling trophy

The women’s traveling trophy is a little stuffed buffalo. It’s nice, but it probably couldn’t be used for wiping in an emergency, like the men’s trophy. Well, at least not more than once.

It was a good time. The run was hard. The times were slow. My winning time was 4:56, the second slowest winning of the 10 Riddle Runs. I’m moving around now better than ever before after a run this long. I take that as another good sign. Now that I’ve survived the Riddle Run I took the plunge and finally registered for the Illinois Marathon. I’ve been planning to do it, I just hadn’t registered yet. Now I just need to avoid injury for 2.5 more months.

Interestingly, the Riddle Run winners were also awarded the chance to register for the 30 mile Clinton Lake Ultra in March, even though that race is already full. It’s a nice perk, but I’m probably going to pass on it. I’d love to race Clinton, but it’s two weeks before the Illinois Marathon, which is my primary objective for the first part of the year. I wonder if this award is transferable, and if so, how much I could get for it on eBay… Just kidding, Chris.

The Camel Clutch

Watching TV a bit ago, my story ended and professional wrestling came on next. I haven’t watched pro wrestling in 20 years, but 20 years ago I watched it a lot… mostly with my brothers. There was a lot of un-professional wrestling that took place in my house growing up. Being the youngest, I usually got pounded. I did have a few chances for revenge, though. I recall giving my brother Travis an unusually harsh camel clutch hold one time that he didn’t like too much. The camel clutch involves laying your opponent on their stomach, sitting on their back, and pulling their head back by the chin. If it were real, it might actually hurt.

Camel clutch

While working for ASP 10 years ago I made friends with a boy named Tim, who liked pro wrestling. Here is a photo of the sexy hermit demonstrating the camel clutch on Tim in the summer of 1998. Don’t worry, it was fake. It’s all fake.

The Scary Face

Little Miss C. & E-man show their “scary face.”

Little Miss C. & E-man got stuck in an infinite loop wanting Unkie Rob1 to take photos, then immediately look at them. Being November 1st, many of the photos were Halloween themed. This was my favorite.

1 Disclaimer: I am not their biological uncle.

The Carpenter Park Cyclocross Race

Photo by Eric Smith, all others by Melissa

On Sunday Melissa and I headed to Carpentersville, a northwest suburb of Chicago, for the Carpenter Park Cyclocross race. This race is #4 in the Chicago Cyclocross Cup, a weekly series of races each fall.

Cyclocross is a fascinating type of bike racing. It began a hundred or so years ago as a way for road cyclists to maintain their fitness in the off season. The race organizers go out of their way to make the race as hard as possible. The races have…

bumpy grass,

steep hills,

lots of turns,

barriers to run and jump over,



Riders make loops on a relatively short course for a set amount of time, kind of like a criterium. Cyclocross bikes are kind of a cross between road bikes & mountain bikes. They basically have the frame of a road bikes, but wide knobby tires and cantilever brakes to allow mud/grass/leaves on the tires to pass through.

This particular event had multiple races for different categories of riders. I raced twice, first in the Masters 30+ race in the morning, then later in the category 4a race in the afternoon (this is why I’m wearing long sleeves in some of the photos and short sleeves others).

The masters race lasted 45 minutes and it was exhausting. Cyclocross is anaerobic–a 100% effort the entire time. I started towards the back of the pack and moved up several places during the race. Passing is a challenge, because there are so many tight turns. I ended up 19th out of 31 riders in the 30+ division. My friends Greg & Gene raced at the same time, though in different divisions. Gene was 18th in the 40+ division and Greg was 4th in the 50+ division.

Between my two races we watched our teammate Anona finish 4th in her first cyclocross race, the womens category 4 race.

The mens category 4a race was much bigger, with 52 people starting at the same time. I got off to a bad start and spent most of the race wasting energy passing people. Fortunately this race was only 30 minutes, and it went much faster. I finished 29th. Two other local riders fared slightly better. Nick was 7th, and Dan was 18th. They both intended to ride the cat 3 race, but they arrived too late and rode the cat 4a race instead.

After the 4a race we checked the results and we were about to leave when I looked up and saw Erik the Bike Destroyer riding the cat 4b race, so we stuck around and chatted a bit with him as he collapsed onto the ground after the finish. Ah, cyclocross.

So, I wasn’t terribly successful, but I finished both races (unlike my 1st cross race) and I had a great time. I’m still pretty new to this. These were my 3rd and 4th cross races and they were good learning experiences for me. I’ll probably try some more this fall.

After the race we made the obligatory stop at Veggie Bite in Chicago. We met my cousin Scott and his lady friend at the Wicker Park location (to which we had never been). It was much busier than the south side location where we’ve gone before. The BBQ tofu was fantastic.

The Age Group National Championships

I travelled to Portland, OR this past weekend to participate in the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race. The Olympic distance triathlon (1500 meter swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run) took place at Hagg Lake, just southwest of Portland. The race venue was absolutely gorgeous. Even after this, my third visit to the Pacific northwest, I am still in awe of the region’s beauty.

The race venue can be seen across Hagg Lake

I arrived in the early afternoon on Friday, the day before the race. I had to pick up my race packet and check in my bike before 7 pm. My flights, car rental, and hotel arrangements all went off without a hitch. As I drove on part of the bike course on the way to the race venue my initial feeling of awe and wonderment for the beauty of nature around me slowly turned into a feeling of uneasiness as I saw how hilly the race would be. I live in central Illinois, quite possibly the flattest place on Earth. I trained long and hard for this race, but I simply didn’t have access to this type of terrain. History has shown that I’m surprisingly good at riding uphill for a flatlander, but would I be good enough?

The bike course curved through the woods around the lake

I picked up my packet and was quite pleased with the swag, both in terms of quantity and in terms of quality. Many races typically hand out some crappy 100% cotton t-shirt and a few small trials of some company’s products. This packet had two high quality technical shirts, a nice hat, a nice towel, good race shoelaces, a poster, and (after the race) a nice jacket. I swear half of the Portland airport was wearing that jacket the next day.

I unpacked and assembled my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket (including aerobars and Speedplay pedals) before taking it out for an easy spin on the 20 km loop around the lake. I was eager to see exactly how difficult the course was going to be. Did I mention it was really hilly? At this point I was glad I chose to bring a bike with drop bars rather than my TT bike with bullhorns. I knew I would spend a lot of time with my hands on the brake hoods while going uphill, and a lot of time with my hands in the drops going downhill.

The Pocket Rocket in a Zipp Disc wheel sandwich

After the ride I checked my bike into the transition area with all the other (bigger wheeled) bikes. As I was walking in a complete stranger wanted to take a picture of me with my “cool” bike. This was just the beginning. I must have talked to at least 20 different people at the race about the Pocket Rocket. There was a lot of fascination with it. Even during the race several people made comments. As I was passing a woman uphill I heard “Oh wow, that’s cool!” Or as some dude blew by me downhill he’d look over and say “Nice bike, man!” Now imagine how that sounds with a Doppler Shift.

It was a long day of travel and race preparation. Back at the hotel I loaded all my race gear into my backpack while watching my favorite pre-race movie, American Flyers (once you get past the cheesy 80’s veneer it is a really great movie).

I woke up at 4:15 am the next morning and headed back out to Hagg Lake. Of course, it was completely dark at this point. The 1200 race participants and spectators all had to park in a grass field outside the park boundaries because the roads were all closed for the race. They had school buses hauling everyone from the parking lot to the transition area. I arrived with plenty of time before the race started so I was able to properly prepare everything. It was a nice change from being been way too rushed in all my previous triathlons this year.

The swim course went clockwise around the yellow buoys

The air was cool, in the low 60˚s. The water was slightly warmer, but it sure didn’t feel that way. It was no San Francisco Bay, but it was no temperature controlled swimming pool either. Swim waves started every four minutes. My 30-34 age group was the 10th or so wave. 44 of us lined up in the water next to the dock and before I had time to take it all in the starting horn sounded and I was swimming like crazy. Fortunately, it wasn’t very crowded, so I wasn’t getting kicked or elbowed (or hit with a stick).

The group split up pretty quickly. About 2/3 of the pack pulled away from me, while the remaining 1/3 fell behind me. I spent most of the swim by myself in between these two packs. About halfway through I found another guy and tried to swim with him for a little while. I was swimming hard, but well within myself. I’ve been doing a lot more swim training recently, so I felt more comfortable in the water. I knew I was going to improve on my time of 28:10 from the Evergreen Tri, but I didn’t know by how much. I checked my watch as soon as I exited the water and I saw 25 something something (officially 25:17), which was about as good as I could have hoped.

Next I had two challenges almost as daunting as the swim. No, not biking & running (not yet, at least). I needed to get out of my wetsuit and run up a long hill to the transition area. You see, I’ve only worn my wetsuit in one other race in the past five years and it didn’t quite work out the way I planned. I had a really difficult time taking it off and I lost probably 45 seconds just fighting the neoprene cocoon. I practiced two or three times at the pool recently, and steadily improved. Luckily, I had no problems getting it off during the race.

I ran up the hill, perhaps faster than I should have. By the time I mounted my bike after the first transition I looked at my watch and noticed my heart rate was 180, which was a bad sign. I feared this would be a repeat of the Dairyland Tri (Racine, WI) in 2003. In that race my heart rate started too high on the bike, I never recovered, and I had a terrible run. So I intentionally started the bike a little slowly to allow my heart rate to drop. The whole first lap was a bit of a struggle for me. Five miles into the bike I reached the big hill. I ascended at 8 mph. 8. miles. per. hour. And as slowly as I was going, I was actually passing people.

By the end of the first bike loop (of two) I was feeling much stronger so I was able to pick up the pace a little on my second loop. I ascended the big hill at a whopping 9.5 mph the second time, again passing people. I got into the habit of passing many people on the uphill sections and then getting passed by a few of those same people on the downhill sections. And I wasn’t going slowly on the downhills (max speed 38.6 mph).

I finished the bike in 1:08:38, somehow managing to average 21.7 mph on a very difficult course. Again, it was really as good as I could have hoped. The Pocket Rocket performed amazingly well.

Finding the correct transition area out of 1200 proved more difficult than I anticipated

My second transition should have been super fast, but it was almost a complete catastrophe. I ran down the wrong row and became slightly disoriented when I couldn’t find my transition area. I ended up wasting close to a minute. My slow transitions were the one aspect of this race that clearly needed improvement.

This photo doesn’t do this hill justice. It was steep.

Heading out on the run there was a short, steep hill. Then another. Then a longer hill. Etc. The run course was hilly as well, and again, I don’t train on hills. Like the bike, I started out a little slowly. I could tell right away that I felt better at the beginning of this run that I did at Evergreen Tri, but the hills were going to be challenging. Still I was able to slowly ramp up the pace to run negative splits. My first mile was around 7:00. Next was 6:55, then 6:58, 6:47. I really picked it up and ran the fifth mile in 6:20 and finished very strong. My run split was 42:24… faster than at Evergreen Tri (which was completely flat). Again, it was the best I could have hoped to do.

My final time was 2:20:34. I finished 28th place out of 44 in the 30-34 age group. My time was 20 seconds faster than it was for the same distances at Evergreen, but this course was much harder and it had longer swim->bike transition. Individually, compared to Evergreen, my swim was 3 minutes faster, my bike was 1 minute slower, and my run was 30 seconds faster. All things considered, I had a great race.

This photo sums it up pretty well

About 20 minutes later my friend Martin (who started later than me) crossed the finish line. We’re generally a pretty good match for each other, but he said he had a bit of an off day. He had some troubles breathing on the bike & run and that slowed him down a little bit. He finished in 2:23:41. His swim was 6 minutes slower than mine (ouch!), his bike was 5 minutes faster, and his run was 3 minutes slower.

Martin & Rob post-race

Competing in the Age Group National Championships was a fantastic experience. And now that I know there’s an Age Group World Championship race… I guess I’ll need to figure out how to drop 13 minutes off my time in order to qualify for it :)

The C4[2]

This past weekend I travelled up to Chicago to attend a Mac software development conference called C4. This was the third year the conference was held (named C4[2], the previous two editions were C4[0] & C4[1]), though it was the first time I attended it.

It shares much in common with WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference, yet there are many stark contrasts. WWDC has been growing at an unmaintainable rate. This year there were around 5000 attendees. This C4 conference had 170 attendees, including many well known and respected names in the world of Mac software development. Both conferences include technical presentations on various development topics. WWDC sessions are presented by Apple engineers, but C4 sessions are presented by other application developers.

C4 is not widely publicized and I just happened to find out about it by reading other developers’ blogs and Twitter posts. I quickly became excited and signed up a few hours after registration opened, which was fortunate because it filled to capacity a couple hours after that.

The trip started last Friday morning when I rode the Pocket Rocket to the train station in Champaign. Melissa accompanied me on her bike to see me off. When we arrived at the station I folded up the Pocket Rocket, put it in a big nylon carrying bag, walked in, picked up my ticket, and sat down in the waiting room. The Amtrak train was almost an hour late, but before I knew it I was showing the conductor my ticket and boarding the train. This was a somewhat new and interesting experience for me, as I had never ridden on a train around these parts.

I arrived in Union Station in Chicago and headed straight to the food court, as it was past lunch time by now. I lucked out to find a Mexican restaurant, where I could get a veggie burrito, connected to a Cinnabon.

After partaking in the delicious meal I headed outside, unpacked my bike and rode off. I had a little time to kill before the start of the conference so I took a quick trip over to the lake shore path. Next I hit up the Michigan Ave. Apple store. I arrived at the hotel where the conference was to take place plenty early and waited around for a few hours. Lots of other conference attendees were arriving during this time and I chatted with a few of them. The conference started with a dinner and a couple opening sessions. It was after 11 pm before the conference ended. I whipped my bike back out and rode about four miles north to my cousin Scott’s apartment, where I would be sleeping. Or so I thought.

I arrived. We caught up a bit and talked about bikes. I met his friends. It was now approaching midnight and his neighbors were still having a raging party upstairs. The music was unbelievably loud and people were literally jumping up and down. I finally fell asleep somewhere between 1 am – 1:30 am. The party was still going on. Thank goodness I can sleep through anything.

I woke up bright and early at 6:15 am. At some point Friday evening a bicyclist from Chicago I knew from races we have done together contacted me and suggested I join his team for their Saturday morning training ride. I hadn’t been expecting to do this sort of thing, so I was a little unprepared, but I like to be spontaneous. I met riders from the XXX Racing team at Wicker Park and we took off heading north.

Chicago has ridiculous traffic, lots of stop lights, and plenty of potholes. I had been wondering how these guys trained in this and I got a crash course (not literally) in big city training. A group of nearly 60 (3-4 times the size in my normal training rides) rode about 25 miles to Highland Park. It was a pretty easy pace on the way up. Half (including me) turned around and headed back to Chicago. The ride back was a lot crazier. It basically turned into a road race where 20 or so riders were all jockeying for position at 28 mph. Meanwhile traffic was all around us. We had to slam on our brakes for a couple stoplights. It was a little more dangerous than my typical training rides, but it was never out of control. I handled it pretty well on my little bike and I got lots of surprised comments about how well the bike did. I love this little thing.

I ended the 50 mile ride back at Scott’s, then showered and biked back downtown to the conference. There were more interesting talks all afternoon. Between talks, during meals, etc. I met lots of really interesting people who were working on a wide range of projects. There were developers who worked solo in their spare time, people from small, 3-15 person companies working in small teams, people (like me) from medium, couple hundred person companies, all the way to people from Adobe, which employs thousands.

That night was a pizza party, where I met more interesting people. Again I rode back to Scott’s late. Again his neighbors were throwing a wild party. Again I fell asleep despite them.

I slept in slightly longer before Scott and I took a ride down the lake shore path all the way to his office at the University of Chicago. We almost went past Barrack Obama’s house, but Scott couldn’t remember which street it was on. I tried out his fixed gear bike and he tried out the Pocket Rocket. It was an interesting experience. After my recent purchases, a fixed gear bike is really the only kind missing from my collection… but I’m not in any real hurry to get one. It was a little too weird for my tastes. I never really felt safe and secure on it the way it do on… well, any other bike.

I attended more conference sessions on Sunday afternoon. The conference ended with a coding competition, somewhat similar to the defunct MacHack conference. Eight or so developers showed off simple iPhone programs they had written using GPS/location functionality with the theme “paranoia.” There were apps detailing crimes that had take place near you, all the way to a “spy” stealth distress beacon. The eventual winner was a little off-topic, but was technically interesting so most attendee voters overlooked that detail. Somehow it combined an iPhone, a Wiimote, and a Mac to build a simple gesture based drawing program. The contest winners were awarded a MacBook Air, and dozens of software applications donated by conference attendees (including a free copy of my application Mathematica).

The conference had ended a few hours before my train was to depart back to Champaign so I rode around downtown for an hour or two.

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

The Sears Tower

After my joyride I returned to Union Station, packed up my bike, and went straight to the food court… only to find everything closed. What? It was 6:45 pm. In a panic I went back out and walked a couple blocks, lugging my heavy backpack and my bike in its bag with me. I found several restaurants. All were closed. Ridiculous. Time was running out so I went back to Union Station, bought $10 worth of overpriced junk food, and boarded the train home. The Fig Newton’s were good, but I would have preferred dinner.

The ride home was fairly smooth. I fell asleep pretty quickly in my exhausted state. When I woke up a short while later I set an alarm on my phone to ensure I wouldn’t sleep through my stop in Champaign. It worked. Another short bike ride later I was finally home and very quickly fell asleep in my comfortable bed.

So that was my weekend, and as Melissa speculated, I was rather proud of myself to have done the entire thing without the assistance/hinderance of an automobile.