Skip to main content

On Losing a Friend

2 min read

28 days ago my friend Jeff Kovatch suffered a brain aneurysm that transformed him from a rambunctious life loving guy. 28 days he has been in a persistent vegetative state. I've not been able to hear him laugh or tell a crazy story or cheer on Marshall or Pitt or see him being the amazing husband or fantastic father that he is. It's been a really horrible 28 days.

In my 44 years I've not really known death. I've been exceptionally lucky in that. More so, since moving to WV, I've been even luckier to make some amazing friends. Losing any of them seems unimaginable to me and yet, here I am, watching a wonderful family suffer the loss of a great guy. It really fucking sucks.

I didn't frequently hang out with Jeff but every thing I ever did with him was marked with fun. No matter the scenario, or the people around, I could count on Jeff to improve the event. He always had funny stories to tell, crazy capers to relate, and interesting knowledge to share. He had an uncanny ability to share joy in even inconsequential things - like shitty beer.

In this photo Jeff is on the right at a party with some of those other amazing friends. He'd just finished extolling the virtues of "Little Kings" a cream ale I'd never heard of.

Jeff was smart and funny and big and bold and vibrant and it sucks beyond description that he is leaving.

Just the Pants and nothing but the Pants

3 min read

I am always trying to find comfortable decent looking pants that aren't jeans and that offer good range of movement and utility. Shit's hard yo.

A couple years ago I found the Kuhl Revolvr. They're pretty comfortable and very utilitarian but they don't look that great (or maybe I just don't look as good in them as the model) and they've sort of aged poorly (maybe that's just my bad laundering skills though).

I do love the weight of them though. They are really light weight. I wear them daily and they are really comfortable. I also really like the side-leg pocket which perfectly holds my cell phone. It's much more comfortable than carrying the phone in my normal front pocket.

I actually own a heavier pair of Kuhl pants but they are actually "too" heavy and I end up being hot whenever I wear them (if I'm indoors). They are really solid pants though and I am sure they would hold up really well if I were doing some outdoor adventuring in the late fall/early winter.

The Revolvr material is just about the perfect weight for wearing to work. But, the price you pay for the light fabric is that they have worn out faster than I would like; (it's possible I have unreasonable expectations) especially in the seat. (maybe I fidget a lot at my desk?) Especially for the price you pay for the pant. So I've begun a new search for pants.

This past week I bought a pair of Eddie Bauer "Mountain Pants". They are pretty comfortable. Not as roomy in the pinchy places but they also look nicer on. Plus they have the side leg pocket for my phone. The material is somewhere between the weight of the Revolvr and my heavier Kuhl pants so I'm pretty hopeful for them in the long run.

I typically just get "khaki " colored pants. I'm pretty conservative when it comes to colors on me. These pants came in a tone called "Aged Brass" which is a bit darker and redder? than khaki but I actually really like the color. I never would have bought them if I'd gone into the store - I wouldn't have even looked at them - but buying online helped me not notice the color as much. They have a "saddle" color which is probably closer to khaki.

I'll probably buy a couple more pair - though I doubt I'll be so adventurous as to get the "Dark Slate". They also have a "mountain jean" but I think I'll pass on that as well. The mountain pant is more relaxed. My only complaint at the moment is I wish it were a little more relaxed in the thigh. On the flip side I really like the feel of the material used for the hand pockets. It's some kind of cotton I'd guess and it's quite comfortable.

The Eddie Bauer "Riverbank" pants actually remind me more of the Kuhl Revolvr. I might order a pair of those too. If I do I'll update this post with my thoughts on those pants as well.

Maybe I'll remember I posted this in a year or so and I'll post a followup on how the Eddie Bauer pants are holding up.

Luma - Home Networking made "Simple?"

13 min read

Unboxing

Yesterday I received my Luma 3 pack in the mail and I excitedly drove home to set it all up. We have a pretty large house and two rooms in it are basically network dead zones; both on the lower first floor; my daughters bedroom and my wife's office. It was my hope that Luma would solve the dead zone problem.

The unboxing experience was nice. Nothing special. I guess it is supposed to feel like an "Apple" unboxing - but now-a-days everything seems to feel that way. The main box has a half sleeve over it that is where the main graphics are. You slide that off and then you can take the actual lid off the box.

luma box unopened

Once you open the box you're greeted with a generic welcome message on a thick piece of card stock. It's sort of double thick and almost appears like you can open it for more information. You can't - so don't waste your time like I did.

luma box opened

After you get the unnecessary cardboard out of the way you see the three luma's nestled in the box almost like a white honeycomb. After you take them out you have another card stock insert which you have to get through to get to the power adapters and a single, short, Ethernet (network) cable.

honeycomb of luma

It's all pretty orderly and pleasantly organized. I thought the first bit of card stock was kind of a waste; or at least they should have re-iterated on it that you need the Luma app installed before you try to install any Luma's.

Installing

Honestly, installation is pretty simple. So long as you don't have any complications with your network, and so long as every thing works the way Luma wants it to you'll think it's a piece of cake. Almost anyone could do it.

However, things weren't perfectly smooth for me and I ran into several hiccups along the way. Some of them are Luma's fault and are areas where I think they can improve. I'll try to denote those clearly, via bold text as I go forward.

The Hub

One of your Luma's is going to act as "The Hub" - at least that is what their support guy referred to it as. Yeah, I had to talk to support later in the process. I'll get back to that.

Remember, before you can install the hub you have to have the app on your phone. You also need to make sure your phone has some kind of internet connection other than via the home network you're replacing. Once your app is installed and open you basically just follow the onscreen instructions for setting things up.

  1. You create a Luma account.
  2. The app will ask you where in your house your putting the first luma.
  3. the app will ask you to name the luma from a decent list of room names. It would be nice if I could have added an option to the list. I have a unique room I put my third luma into.
  4. You plug the Ethernet cable into your cable modem.
  5. You unplug your cable modem.
  6. You plug the ethernet cable into your luma
  7. You plug in your luma
  8. You plugin in your cable modem.

I might not have remembered those steps in the exact order but that's the general gist.

Before setup begins you're asked if you want to use bluetooth or wifi. I chose wifi which didn't work very well becuase my phone kept switching between the luma setup wifi network and the open xfiniti wifi network in my neighborhood. Bluetooth is the default option. You should use it. The app says to keep the phone close to the Luma during setup. It doesn't say how close. Stay within five feet according the support guy. The App should be that specific and state "Keep your phone within five feet of the Luma during setup and registration"

At this point the Luma's front face will light up with a swirling blue light ring and the app will tell you it's setting up. Eventually the setup will finish (after a couple minutes and the blue light will be a solid blue. The app takes a while longer to realize the Luma has finished setting up but eventually catches up and presents you with the option to "register the luma" or something along those lines. You do that and the blue light ring pulses and goes out a couple times before, eventually, coming back on and flashing green about five times. Then the front light turns off for good. The app tells you it will be done when the Luma flashes green but it takes the app a while to realize the Luma is done and then finally it too indicates you're done.

One of the things you have to do during the setup, that I didn't mention, was name your network and provide a password. My initial inclination was to re-use the network name and password I had used before. It turns out the tech support guys suggests not to do that in order to prevent confusion for your devices. This ended up being a weird problem for me later. The Luma app should tell you to use a new network name when you're setting it up. This would have prevented a little of my later trouble.

After the first Luma finishes getting setup you're offered the opportunity to install a second Luma.

Additional Luma Installation

This process is very similar to that of the Hub but you don't have to identify your network. Much as I did on the first Luma (since it seemed to register so well) I used the wifi option again.

During this setup something went wrong. I have no idea what. The App just says "something went wrong" and gives you the chance to try again. This happened a few times until it failed with a message of the "IP Address Pool is Full" or something and to contact tech support. It makes me nervous that I can have a problem with simple setup that requires me to contact tech support to resolve. I fear that if Luma were to go out of business I'm going to end up with three white paper weights.

I contacted tech support and the guy I reached was very friendly and patient. He cleared up the IP Address pool but we couldn't get the second luma to setup. He ended up having me unplug it and then go back to the Hub, reset it, and install it again. We ran in to similar problems.

Here is where the Luma ran into some technical difficulties I don't think it should have had.

Xfiniti @ Home and Luma Are Not Friends

My internet service provider (ISP) is Comcast. I get internet service, cable, and home security provided through them. Home security is a wireless network system that uses my cable modem and a special wifi router that I was told has to be the first thing plugged into my cable modem. The wifi router admin page is all encrypted and locked and supposedly very secure. But you can plug other devices into the router and have it do simple pass through of internet service to whatever is plugged in.

This is how my old wireless router was setup. It was plugged into the XFiniti@Home router and everything just worked. But, the Luma base kept getting disconnected from the Luma servers because of this middle man router from Comcast.

In order to get the Luma system to setup and stay working I had to remove the XFiniti@Home router from my cable modem and connect the Luma directly to it. Not a very good option considering I'm paying for home security and suddenly I can't use it just so I can have good network coverage throughout the house.

Back to the Hub

On the way back to the hub luma in order to check things out the tech guy told me it had gone off line (due to the xfiniti@home stuff I just mentioned). However, looking at the Luma I had no idea the front light was still out and there was no indication anywhere on it that it couldn't reach the internet. Plus, my phone was still connected just fine to my home wifi network - the luma was still broadcasting wifi signal but it wasn't able to communicate with the internet. Honestly the Luma should have something that indicates it's having a problem beyond opening the app and seeing "offline" Plus, in the app when it says "offline" it would be nice if you could click on the Luma with the trouble and get a bit more information.

So when re-doing the hub after resetting it I offered to remove the Xfiniti@Home stuff so we could try it with a clean setup. Everything worked okay. In fact, I was basically able to get through the setup of all three Luma's pretty painlessly. There were a couple hiccups due to the App either being updated too quickly (telling me the Luma was ready for the registration before it actually was) or the app not being ready (and never telling me the Luma was ready for registration but it was). But eventually they were both setup okay.

However, a couple hours after re-introducing the Xfiniti@Home stuff the Luma's stopped working properly. One at a time they slowly stopped being able to communicate with the internet. Again, I had no idea by looking at the Luma's - they all appeared to be dead (no light on them at all).

Great Coverage - When it Worked

Honestly, once I installed the three Luma's and everything was working fine the whole house had great coverage. Amazing coverage really. I was getting far better wifi signal everywhere in the house than I was previously right next to my older (but not old) wireless router. The hardware is pretty cool and clearly pretty powerful.

Of course, it not working with my home security system was pretty much a deal breaker. But I thought of a work around.

Luma and Xfiniti@Home - Working Together

NOTE: Before I explain this I want you to know I don't know if this has any impact on your terms of service with XFiniti. However, XFiniti doesn't really offer any kind of loss insurance if your house is robbed anyway so take this all with a grain of salt.

I decided that I'd ignore the Xfiniti installer and I hooked the Xfiniti router up to the Luma's network out port. So my network diagram is sort of like:

Cable Modem -> Luma Hub -> Xfiniti Router

All hardwired together. The Xfiniti stuff all seems to work properly. All of the sensors in my house still communicate with the router and with the home touch panel and with my app. I can still remotely enable and disable the alarm via the app. Plus, Luma is working as it is supposed to throughout my house.

Overnight Update

The Luma supposedly got a firmware update last night. I don't know as I haven't been home and online at the same time since it happened to see if

  1. It Happened
  2. It Worked

The App

More than likely I'll have no idea if it happened because, quite frankly, the App kind of sucks at giving you information. I know they are trying to keep it super simple but there needs to be a way to at least access and see more detailed information about your network and the status of the mesh. Some kind of log in the app would be super helpful - even if it were secret and you had to jump through a hoop to find it. Right now the lack of transparency in the App is really disturbing and makes it very frustrating when things don't work.

I know there are updates in the works with the app. There needs to be! I can see devices supposedly connected to my network but I can't kick any off. Also, after resetting my hub and recreating the network; the new name I provided didn't get used - the old one was still used and, after everything was done, I had to go back into the app and rename the network to the new name.

Likewise, when I setup everything the third time (after the Xfiniti fix) the new name I used for the third Luma wasn't used; it ignored "Media Room" and kept the old name of "Basement". So even though I moved it (to a different part of the house and gave it a new name) the old name is still used. It would be great if I could rename a Luma after it's installed (edit: You can rename a Luma after it's installed). It would also be good if I could use the little house-map diagram to redefine the position of a Luma after it's installed.

Finally

In the end I spent about 5 hours messing around with the Luma's until I had them working (and my alarm system working) as I needed them to. 5 hours was way too long.

  1. I should never have to contact support about an IP Pool. Why do I?
  2. The Luma's shouldn't have to be able to talk to Luma HQ in order to work.
  3. The XFiniti router in the middle shouldn't have been a deal-breaker
  4. The Luma App should be refreshed via push notification faster than it is when you're installing/setting up.
  5. The App should give the option to see more detailed information about why something failed.
  6. Maybe while you're adding a new Luma to the mesh the other Luma's (or at least the Hub) should be steady Green so you know it's all good. You can't see the network status in the app while adding a Luma).
  7. The front panel light should be able to be manually activated from the Luma to get a status signal (red for not working, green for good to go!).

Not all was bad though.

  1. The support guy was super friendly
  2. The app is clean and easy to use
  3. The wifi coverage in my house is excellent
  4. The price($350) is substantially less than the primary competitor eero ($499).
  5. They are actively working on it to improve things.
  6. I actually like that the lights are off when things are working and good.
  7. The device is fairly attractive and looks okay sitting out in three different rooms of the house.

Hopefully, my fears about having paper-weights won't be tested (Luma going out of business or bought and product is discontinued). But for now I'm tentatively happy with the end result.

Luma

The Tough Mudder - Fun and Hot

21 min read

Tough Mudder II

This past Saturday, June 11th 2016, I along with Mike Brown, Stacey Welch, and Zach Garrett went to SPARTA!! Kentucky to complete the Tough Mudder. This was Zach's third, Stacey's first, and my and Mike's second tough mudder.

During my previous mudder experience it was about 40 degrees out, rainy, and generally miserable. I wore shitty shoes (Vibram Five Fingers KSO). This time it was in the 90-100 degree range, dry, and I wore Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoes. The change in shoes, I think more than anything else, resulted in a vastly different experience for me. During the prior one my feet were constantly sore and I had zero traction. I was pretty miserable and the shoes were pissing me off. This time, my feet were comfortable, I had pretty good traction, and I was in a much better mental place because of it. I think my improved mental state really helped me with all of the obstacles.

We left Huntington around 6:30 and it was about a 3 hour drive to SPARTA!!. Once there we parked ($20 parking fee was bull) and then walked about a mile to the event start area. It was already pretty damn hot out and after storing our bag ($5 fee) we waited in the holding area for about an hour before the starting gun went off. As you might be able to tell I wasn't a big fan of the fees. Especially considering the dearth of water stations during the first half of the course - and the basic absence of food for the first three quarters. That's all I'm going to say about it but, for the amount of money they charge for this event I was disappointed in the level of support they offer participants during the event.

It was already really hot and blazingly sunny when we started. I had applied a thick coating of sunscreen twice before getting in line, particularly to the top of my head and nose. By the time we got to the final holding pen I borrowed a staff members sunscreen to re-apply. Beyond the running and obstacles - sun burn prevention was the theme of the day for me. Once we started we were almost immediately introduced to a surprise obstacle.

Here is a page full of descriptions of the various obstacles. Just click on various parts of the image to learn more about each.

The Pond

The pond was just what it sounds like - a pond of water. We were supposed to swim across it but it was shallow enough where I could walk the whole way. I stayed on my tip toes so my shoes wouldn't get stuck in the mud. It was a nice cool down after the long wait to get started. After that we had to jog a little while before the next obstacle.

Mud Mile 2.0

This is a long (not a mile) swath of muddy hills you have to climb over and slide down. You need to work with others to scale some of them. I was pretty well coated in mud by the end of this one. Unfortunately I felt like my shorts were full of mud as well. It was pretty unpleasant feeling but it didn't cause any trouble so I was glad for that. I made sure to tighten my shoe laces before going into this one. It was some thick nasty mud. Here is a video from another event

Devils Beard

This is a huge rope net you have to crawl under. It starts on flat ground then goes uphill. WHen you on the lower part you need to crawl on hands and knees but when going uphill a bear crawl is a better way to go. It was a little tiring but overall a pretty easy obstacle. Here is a video from a different location.

Bale Bonds

Another easy obstacle. It's a pile of hay bales you have to climb over. I just ran at it, planted a foot and sort of ran up the pile and climbed over the top. Probably helped to be a little taller. I didn't even need my hands. It took about 3 seconds. Here is a video from a different location.

Skidmarked

This is a backwards leaning wall that you just have to climb over. It's kind of tall and you can't use your feet much, You can use the support boards in the middle if you want. It's about a ten foot wall but I don't think the top was ten feet above ground. Someone helped me get my leg over the top of the wall and I think it was here that I bashed up my right bicep a little. It left a nice bruise. Here's a video from folks in Arizona. I was actually pretty surprised at how well I did on these walls. I remember having more trouble last time - though I think it was called Glory Blades before.

A while after this was the first water station.

Kiss of Mud 2.0

This is just a low crawl under some barbed wire. Keep your head down (and turned sideways) or you'll cut your head (I nicked mine a little). Keep your but down too. Mostly this just gets you muddy and isn't particularly difficult. A video from somewhere else.

Hero Carry

Throw your buddy on your back and carry him a hundred feet or so. Not too bad. I carried Mike fireman style. At first he was a little low on my back so I had to "shift" him up. I'm sure he didn't enjoy that. It was actually just as bad being carried. Kind of made me nauseous being up there. Mike, about halfway through carrying me decided to run. It felt like we were going to fall the entire time. He didn't though and we "beat" everyone else in the obstacle.

Berlin Walls

These are some tall, black walls, you just have to climb. Once you're on top you can turn around and help others. I helped a couple younger fit looking guys but then a pretty heavy person approached so I let young guys take over. Wisdom is the better part of valor or something. Here's a vid. Pretty straight forward.

Block Ness Monster

This was a new obstacle to us. Pretty interesting really. There are big rectangluar blocks that you have to spin and ride on to get through a pond. When you're on the block you should shift your weight and pull as you go down. It's probably easier to understand by watching a video. I got to this a bit fast so I helped a lot of people on the first block and my shoulders where burning by the time I rolled over it. I didn't help anyone one the second block; my shoulders were used up. Nobody in this video did the pull as they got off making it harder for everyone on the other side.

Hold Your Wood

Stacy and I partnered for this. You basically carry a big long around a loop; maybe 200 feet? I don't know. It was pretty easy. No video for this one is needed.

Pitfall

This is a pool of muddy water you walk into and you carefull proceed through because, at times, the bottom has pits in it you will fall into. Zach hurt his calf a little on this as it tighted up when he fell and he cramped. This just seemed like an obstacle designed to hurt people. Here's a video.

Funkey Monkey 2.0

This is monkey bars with a twist. The first half is a monkey bar ladder that is angled upward so you have to pull up and swing on each move. Back in 2013 I didn't get to the middle. I lost all momentum early and had to drop into the water below about halfway up. This time I completed the upward ladder. In the old version you then went to a downward ladder. In this one though you transition to a swing with your hands (like a trapese swing) and then switch from that to a railing that swings from pivots left and right. You then do a hand over hand thing to get down the railing. I was almost done with the railing when the guy to the right of me flew off his and went down right in front of me hitting the water below me so I had to stop and make sure I didn't fall off and land on him. I held on for a bit as he swam away and then had to make a decision. Try to finish and possible fall off right over the edge of the landing platform (hurting myself) or just drop into the water then and swim out. I chose to drop and avoid potential injury. I was pretty happy with myself for getting so far. I think I would have finished it without the long pause at the end. Video

Ladder to Hell

This is a big ladder maybe 20 feet tall.. You climb up it, go over it, and climb down it. The line here was long but Mike noticed we could probably climb up the middle between the two lines. As we went to the middle they said it was for expert climbers. I jumped up, climbed, went over easily, and went down. I guess I'm an expert. This was the easiest obstacle of the day for me probably. I'm kind of a bad-ass. Okay, it was a pretty easy ladder. Video Ours was much narrower (only room from three people total) and a bit taller (I think a couple more rungs higher). But you get the idea.

Arctic Enema

This changed a bit but was the same basic idea. You have to get in a long dumpster full of ice water and fully submerge yourself. In the past you could jump in, then swim under a wall, and go to the end and get out. Now you have to slide in under a cage until submerged, climb over a wall, fall back in, then go to the end and get out. I was not excited about this obstacle and I held on to the cage support for a bit before sliding in. The staff person told me "Sir, you need to let go." I did, I got cold, i flopped over the wall, got colder got to the end and got out. I don't enjoy being cold. This was my least favorite obstacle this time. When we did it last time I as already freezing so I didn't really notice the coldness of the obstacle. This time I did. Video. Unlike the guy in the video I didn't hang out to encourage others.

Pyramid Scheme

Another new obstacle to us. On this you walk through a watery muddy trench, then climb a giant whiteboard that is set on an angle. The whiteboard is about 20' long and around the halfway point is a strip of sandpaper you can use for traction. It is impossible to just walk up this wall; you need to use other people to help you get up. At the bottom of the whiteboard is a thing, 1-2" thick strip you can stand on and others can then climb up your body. When I approached a guy had been there on the strip helping people by himself so I offered to take his place so he could move on. I got on the board, he climbed my side and I extended my arms and he used my hands as a platform to get to the texture strip.

Another guy did the same thing then someone else suggested we build a ladder of people and folks would just climb the ladder and go over. So the ladder formed with me as the base. I am not a great base. Two guys, both at least 175 were above me in the ladder then people would climb up the right side of me, use my hand/arm to plant their foot and then climb the next guy and so on.

The first person to try to climb the ladder was Stacy; he's closer to 230. He got near the top but slid back down so had to climb again. I wasn't really thrilled to see him at the bottom again. For about fifteen minutes people climbed our ladder until I announced I wasn't going to help anymore people. My back was getting tight and I had a big cramp in my left ass-cheek. Some little woman tricked me though; she was already on the white board and asked to hold my hand real fast for support. As soon as she grabbed my hand she pulled herself up and climbed the ladder. It was funny but I made it clear to those waiting that nobody else was going to fool me. The ladder then disassembled (first Mike left the top of us, then the other guy) and then I climbed another ladder of people. Once off this I had to stop and stretch out my back; it was super tight. This obstacle took A LOT out of me and really made the rest of the mudder much more difficult for me. Video.. If that dude in the video was the base for 40 minutes he's a bad-ass.

Rain Man

We did something like this before. You basically lay on your back in some muddy water and pull yourself through the obstacle via a chain link fence above you. The water and fence get fairly close together so only your face is not submerged. However, this time it also had pipes pouring dirty water down on you at intervals so you had to close your eyes and hold your breat a couple times. On the previous version you went under tarps a few times I think so you were in darkness. That was gone this time except for a tarp you could hang out under and cool off for a bit if you were a legionnaire (someone doing a mudder for the second or more time). Mike, Zach, and I took advantage of the cool down pool. Video

King of the Swingers

This replaces the "Walk the Plank" obstacle. Basically, you go up on a big tower and have a choice - either jump into the water directly (Walk the Plank) or jump and try to grab a metal bar swing, swing to the end, and try to hit a bell before letting go and dropping into the water way below you and then swimming out. Mike, Zach, and I all tried for the bell. I missed by a foot or so. Zach swung about halfway and thought he could fly but dropped like a stone, and Mike hit the bell. Stacy opted to "Walk the Plank". Video. The swing looked further away that it was when I was standing there thinking about jumping. I wasn't sure I'd be able to grab it but it was pretty easy to get on the swing. The bell was too far away for my poor swinging technique though.

Backstabber

This is a peg board like they had in gym class. You have some big wooden dowels that you put in the holes in the wall. The difference being there are some notches along the side you can put your feet in to help you. If you're a legionnaire they have a special version where you just get one peg instead of the standard two and one straight vertical line of holes. It took me three tries to get a foot into a notch. The first time it just slipped out. The second time I couldn't quite get my foot up. A guy offered to help me but I said, "let me try one more time and then I'll be exhausted and you can help." On the third try I used the peg with my left hand and the foot track with my right, pulled up, and put my right foot in the notch (previously I'd tried to get my left foot set). After getting both feet set I used the peg one more time then realized I could reach the top of the wall with my hand so I threw the peg back to the ground and just pulled myself over. Mike used the empty holes with his other hand instead of the foot track and got over in one try. Zach tried six times before walking around. Stacy got to do the easy two peg option and completed it. It was pretty tough. Video

Birth Canal

This was a bit weird but not very hard. You basically had to low crawl under some big bags that were heavy with water. Each bag got a little lower and a little heavier. I just laid down, turned my head to the side, and used my right leg to propel me under all of them. Funnily after getting past the last bag I tried to get up and when I was kneeling my hips got stuck under the structure holding the bags so I had to kind of unstick myself. Video

Quagmire

This was sort of like the mud mile. It's a big muddy pit with a super slick wall of mud you have to climb up to get out. It usually takes teamwork to get out. Somehow I walked right down, through, and out of it. Remember, I'm a bad-ass. Video

Everest 2.0

This is a huge wall you have to run up - sort of like on American Ninja Warrior - but curved at the top so you need someone to grab your hand at the top to help you over the lip. Two big strong dudes were at the top when I ran and it was like I never stopped running.. They grabbed my hands and I was over the top in stride. I then turned around to help Mike finish and then let the big guys help Zach and Stacy. I did much better on this with the run-up than I did last time - there was no water on it as opposed to the video depiction. Sadly, a lady in front of us fell badly and separated her shoulder. Video

Frequent Flyers Club

There were actually two obstacles here. For newbies to a Tough Mudder the classic "Electric Shock Therapy" waited. Electric Shock Therapy is a big lane of bumps and mud that have wires with 10,000 volts at 0 amps hanging down ready to strike at random. This was the final obstacle for Stacy. He walked around it. When we did this back in 2013 it turned Mike off briefly and knocked the rest of us to the ground because we were stupid and linked arms.

This time around, because we were veterans we had the choice to do the Frequent Flyer Club. In this you climb a tower and then jump out trying to hit a variety of what can best be described as wind chimes. You then fall into a big stuntman balloon. They suggest you land on your ass. When we climbed the tower there was a lady up there who was discovering that she was afraid of heights. She had skipped the King of the Swing because she couldn't swim. She spent quite a while almost jumping. Mike and I got in a different line so we could go while she waffled. Mike went first, hit the third wind chime out and fell down into the bubble landing on his backside as instructed. Then it was my turn. I'll admit I was a little nervous simply because I wasn't sure what the bubble would feel like.

I jumped without hesitation though as I didn't want to be up there waffling with the lady. I hit one of the chimes, I'm not sure which, because after hitting it I looked down and noticed my legs were fully extended and I was going to land like I was standing. It was about 20' down to the bubble. I told my legs to pull up and I tried to lean back a little. I landed on my feet. My legs told the rest of me, "screw you, we're done for the day". The bubble was very cool. It just collapsed and embraced me. It was amazingly gentle. It was harder to get out of the damn thing because it really did embrace you. Eventually I wiggled out and met up with Stacy and Mike. Zach was still in the wrong line waiting behind Ms. Waffle.

Stacy, Mike and I then went to the little end point and got our new headbands, tee-shirts, and other things. Then I went back to see if Zach was ready to jump yet. He had finally switched lines and was about second in line to jump. Ms. Waffle was gone so I asked a volunteer if she'd jumped. While I spoke with her I stopped looking up and, as the lady told me she didn't know about Ms. Waffle, Zach Jumped and I missed it.

I waited while Zach collected his gear and then we wobbled over to the beer tent for our free beer.

The Finish

I am pretty sure I was on the verge of heat exhaustion at the end. I grabbed my beer and went into a big tent area, took a seat, and slowly drank it. Mike was eager to leave but I would not be rushed. Then we went to the rinse station and tried to clean off the mud some.

After I rinsed I kind of blindly wandered towards the changing tents not really paying attention to where I was going. Fortunately, a lady came out of the flap just as I was about to open it. I had nearly walked into the woman's change tent. While that might have been briefly titillating I imagine the beat down I would have received from all the women would have made it not worth my while. I'm glad that lady saved me from my own stupidity.

I then went and changed and then we walked the apx mile back to our car and headed to Cincinnati.

Stacy at the end claimed he would not do another but he's already changed his tune two days later. I don't know about Zach but I know Mike would do another. I'm undecided but strongly leaning towards no. I don't mind the event but it's really expensive and kind of hard to justify that kind of expense to go run for about 11 miles. The whole weekend between the ticket, gas, hotel, food, shoes, etc. cost between $300-500/person I'd imagine.

Some Final Thoughts

The course was marked as being 10.7 miles. My Garmin measured it as 11.86. Mike's measured 11.5. They also claim the elevation gain is 1468 feet. Garmin says it is 764 feet. Here is my full data dump via Garmin and here is the data sheet from Tough Mudder - scroll to page 2.

The shirt this year was made by Merrell and is pretty damn comfortable. Previously it was made by Under Armour. It's a close battle to determine which is more comfortable though the Merrell head hole is a bit snug for my massive noggin. Overall I'm really happy with both shirts.

The beer this time was a Shock Top. We had three choices. I picked the Belgian White. I didn't really taste my beer in 2013 as I spilled most of it while shivering. I didn't taste this one much either even though I drank it all and slowly. I just wasn't really mentally available.

I felt surprisingly good on Sunday and played in a kickball game Sunday afternoon. I thought walking might be tricky on Sunday. I was glad to find out I was wrong. The whole weekend was pretty good; then I found out about Orlando.

It sucks when the Onion is right

4 min read

The Onion, a satirical news site, is usually just funny. But, sometimes, they are right and it isn't funny at all. You've probably seen the Onion article before - "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says only Nation Where This Regularly Happens'." Every time there is a tragic mass shooting in America this article is posted on Facebook. I used to kind of sadly chuckle but I don't anymore. It's a pattern. With each subsequent event the article just becomes more and more accurate.

I don't really have anything new or useful to say about the Orlando shooting. My talking about it isn't going to help anyone, but me, deal with it. Yet, I still think I need this cathartic release. I hear that some people refuse to accept this is the new norm. I think they are deluded. It is the norm. Someone, either medically diagnosed as mentally unstable, or someone religiously mentally unstable; goes out, gets some guns, and kills people for no real reason. It is America. As American as apple pie and the subsequent argument about why any and all efforts to stop them are the liberal lefts attempts to shit on the constitution by wanting better gun control.

Social Media makes these events far worse for me. I end up seeing the cold heartless posts about how great guns are while there are still people dying in the hospital. I see that by not posting some meaningless message about hopes and prayers for those in Orlando that I am not a worthwhile human. I see that this was all caused by us living in a "Godless Society". I see all sorts of shit. None of it means anything; just like this blog post.

I don't really mind, too much, that average citizens have useless comments about the tragedy. I figure they are just trying to understand it just like I am. But our politicians; those who are supposed to lead us - they need to shut the fuck up and do something. They need to stop making sure the Onion is right. There are ways to prevent this kind of shit from happening. We should all be pissed that they aren't. But, of course, we NEED our guns right.. I mean, if only everyone in that club had been carrying then only one or two people would have died! That is, of course, complete bullshit.

Now, if the idiot who killed those poor people had just had a knife only a couple people would have, maybe, died. Or, more than likely, he never would have gone to the club in the first place because he wouldn't have felt empowered to kill people. A knife just doesn't give you the same sense of confidence in your hand as a gun. I doubt gun advocates will admit it out loud but when you have a gun in your hand you feel pretty fucking empowered. I've never felt particularly powerful sitting over a steak getting ready to slice it up with a sharp knife.

It doesn't matter though. Nothing is going to change. Sure, there will be gnashing of teeth and rending of garments or other public displays of anger but that's about it. Then, in a month or so some other group of people are going to be killed (maybe it will be in the news, maybe not) and we'll continue to carry on with the status quo because that's what we do.

Trump will continue to talk about blocking Muslims from coming in the country (which would have had ZERO effect on this event), Obama will continue to say he is pissed off, people on facebook will continue to say "Guns are Great!" and others will say "Ban Guns" and nobody will actually do anything and more people will die. It is the new normal.

Love doesn't conquer hate. Love doesn't go into a club with a gun and kill people. Hate does. Hate kills love every fucking time. If love was ever going to win it would have by now. The people in that club were love and hate showered them with bullets.

It seriously sucks that the Onion is right.

Trump Loves Veterans?

1 min read

Trump claims he loves veterans but he thinks POWs are losers and lies about donations raised/given to veteran groups.

That's a strange kind of love; like spousal abuse type of love.

The Tallest Man on Earth in My Hometown

1 min read

The other day I was driving along and a song popped up by "Sagres" called "The Tallest Man on Earth."

It's a pretty good tune but.... Well, just listen.

The music was very familiar to me though I'd never heard the song before. As I listened to the song my brain just automatically identified the music and suddenly I was siging, "My Hometown" by Bruce Springsteen and not really hearing the lyrics to this song anymore.

My Favorite Video Game of 2015

4 min read

I don't play many video games so take this with a grain of salt. In fact, this year, I played 6; GTA V (ps4), InFamous Second Son (ps4), Star Wars Battlefront (ps4), Rocket League (ps4), Carcassone (phone), and Small World (phone).

I have enjoyed GTA V but, at times it is a real grind and gets kind of boring. If I don't have people to do heists or jobs with I lose interest pretty fast. I've certainly spent more time playing this game.

InFamous Second Son was a pretty fun game that followed a pretty normal end of stage big boss battle formula very successfully. I liked this game quite a bit. While I didn't get as many hours of play out of it as GTA V I probably had more fun playing it than GTA.

Rocket League was a "free" game that comes as part of my play station network account. This is basically 3-v-3 soccer with cars. I grabbed it a few months ago when it was offered but didn't get around to playing it until last month. This is a seriously fun game that you can play in 5 minute batches. It's frustratingly difficult at first but it does get easier. Plus, if you are watching someone else learn along side you it is hilarious to watch them miss easy shots (by missing the HUGE ball completely). Some people you see playing online are insanely good. I'm infinitely better than I was last month and I'm still pretty crappy at times. It's still a blast to play though. This is my favorite game of 2015 hands down.

Star Wars Battlefront is an okay game but not as much fun as I'd hoped. Mostly this is because I suck at it. More than half the time I'm being killed by someone I can't see at all. I rarely end up with a 50:50 kill:death ratio. I seriously suck at this game. I like the theme (duh) and the mechanics are okay. I think I'd probably like this better if I could play on a PC using my mouse and keyboard. The fine twitch stuff just doesn't translate well for me on the PS4 controller - especially strafe and mouse-look. It's also pretty limited in terms of content and it's missing a story mode which I would have really liked.

Small World is a board game that has been converted to online play. It's sort of like Risk - but simpler to learn, faster to play, and never results in a board being flipped in anger. The electronic version is a little buggy but still well executed. My co-workers and I played this to death and we haven't played much in the past few months. I imagine we'll get back to it before too long.

Carcassonne is another board game that was converted. The board game as a bunch of expansions and only some of those are implemented in the e-version. However, the e-version works very well (I've not encountered any bugs) and it is a quick way to enjoy the game without having to clean up the many pieces when you're done. It's fun with just two people even; Lisa and I occasionally play.

TLDR:

For those of you who don't want to read the entire post - my favorite game of the year was :

Rocket League

It's fun, quick, and easy to sneak in a game or two without dedicating yourself to long gaming sessions.

uDisc -vs- Easy Scorecard Pro : Battle of the Disc Golf Scoring Apps

7 min read

Updated 3 Nov 2015

I've used Easy Scorecard Pro for a long time and, while I've been very happy with it, I was convinced to shell out the cash and try uDisc+ with the accompanying cloud storage option. Now that I've used uDisc+ for a while I figured I'd give a run down of the two; their pros, their cons, and name my favorite.

Let's start with the one I've used the longest: Easy Scorecard Pro

Easy Scorecard Pro

There is a light version I think but I've had the paid version for a long time because I liked the light version enough that I felt the app was worth paying for. I've never felt like I didn't get my money's worth.

While the app did stop getting support in November of 2014 it is still very feature rich and I've never really needed it to do something other than what it does.

Pros

  • supports both disc golf rules and ball golf.
  • you can download course layouts if you have the pro version.
  • you can back up your results to dropbox very easily.
  • supports teams (doubles)
  • you can define your own course layouts.
  • customizable scorecard generation
  • easy to share your scorecard image
  • tons of stats you can slice, dice, and filter in all sorts of ways.

Cons

  • the app is no longer supported so the online database of courses could go away at any time
  • it's ugly
  • defining your own course layout seems a little overly complicated
  • not available at all on iPhone
  • no disc stats

Honestly, I have a hard time coming up with solid complaints with this app. It does everything I could need a scorecard app to do. I am disappointed that the online repo of courses could go away but at least I know my backup of past rounds never will since I store it on dropbox and thus sync it to my desktop etc.

The lack of iPhone support doesn't affect me but it's still a problem for many people looking for an app.

uDisc+

uDisc+ is the big name on the block in disc golf scoring apps. It is supported on both android and iPhone. It also offers an annual subscription service that uploads your scorecards to their cloud for about $4-5 a year.

Pros

  • it's actively being supported on both android and iPhone though I think iPhone tends to get features first.
  • Has lots of courses built in.
  • the cloud feature is nice for comparing your rounds with others in the area that also use the app.
  • easy to share your scorecard
  • disc stats
  • easy to mark "OB"
  • speech prompt for tee-order by honors

Cons

  • it's ugly
  • i haven't seen a way to define my own course layout; if it's in there it is well hidden. update, it is well hidden! See bottom of post for more info
  • can't backup to Dropbox or anywhere else that I can see. update, it is also well hidden! See bottom of post for more info
  • can't customize the final scorecard
  • interface is a little clunky
  • doesn't support ball golf rules or courses (not the scope of the app but I still miss it)
  • distance measuring tool is pretty unreliable (dev says this is all based on the phone gps. I wonder, now that I think about it, if there isn't a helpful API that also uses cell tower positioning etc to help improve precision?)
  • final scorecard is ugly
  • no ability to define doubles teams

uDisc works - but it is a little cumbersome to use before you start a scorecard. Once you're in the scoring part however it's really nice and easy. I don't really use the disc stat feature - it just seems like too much effort for little reward; but I could see how some people would really like it. I'd say my favorite feature is being able to see how my recent rounds stand up against how others in the area are doing via the optional subscription service.

Conclusion

I play a lot of singles but I also play a lot of doubles. The lack of team support in uDisc+ is a real pain in the ass. I've been switching back and forth between the two apps so I can really give uDisc+ a solid try but every time we play doubles I'm forced back to Easy Scorecard.

Further, the final scorecard generated by uDisc+ is just kind of lame. On the bright side uDisc+ has a much better interface for actually entering players scores on each hole and the social aspect is pretty cool.

Here is an older scorecard from Easy Scorecard Pro (which you can customize the colors of, remove the history section, remove the holes won section, add other sections to, etc).

Meanwhile here is a scorecard from uDisc+

The Winner

In the end, however, only one of the two tools actually works for me and that is Easy Scorecard Pro. If you don't play doubles or are on an iPhone then uDisc+ is the way to go - but if you're on Android Easy Scorecard Pro is an easy choice.

It's hard to really describe how much more I like Easy Scorecard Pro. Navigating around the app is much more intuitive (though I do wish it had been updated to Material Design at some point) and the stats are so much richer and easier to filter. Finally, the scorecard at the end is vastly more readable to me. I don't have to count "tick" marks to find all my penalties and I can track our doubles rounds.

Here is a sample scorecard for a doubles round:

Updates After Speaking to the Developer of uDisc+

Defining a Course Layout

You can define a course layout. You have to go to the course info screen.

  1. Open uDisc+
  2. Open Side Menu
  3. Click on "Find Course"
  4. Find your course and click on it a couple times to get to the course info screen

The course info screen is blue, shows the course ratings and location. There is a field called "Description" near the bottom of the page.

To add a course layout or edit an existing layout for review by the uDisc folks:

  1. Click on the "Description" field on the course info screen
  2. A confirmation box appears, click "Yes"
  3. An alert box appears, click "OK"

At this point you can either edit/fix an existing layout or create a new layout for the course. If you are going to edit an existing course read the uDisc+ FAQ for directions. Honestly, I don't really see the instructions for editing the holes on an existing layout and I can't figure out by just clicking around but the app does urge you to read the FAQ so I'm echoing it here.

Well, actually, I just found out how to edit individual holes!

Editing Individual Holes

  1. Start a score card on your course
  2. Go to the hole in question
  3. Tap on the "Distance" box in at the top of the hole page
  4. A satellite map appears
  5. Tap on the Menu icon (three vertical dots)
  6. Tap Edit in the Menu

It crashed when I clicked on Edit but that appears to be the process. If your app ever crashes make sure you report it so the developer gets as much info as possible which will help him fix it.

Exporting Your Data to Dropbox (or G Drive, etc).

  1. Open uDisc+
  2. Open Side Menu
  3. Scroll the menu down to the bottom.
  4. About five from the bottom is the option "About uDisc" click it
  5. In the top right corner is a button, "Export" click it
  6. Pick the service you want to backup to.

NOTE If you ever restore from a backup it will fully replace your existing local data; it will not "merge" the two.

Team Play

The author of the app suggested I just create fake players with names like "Team1" or "Bill+Sean" which is a decent work around at this point. He said he is working on adding real team support in the future which, to me, will be a very welcome addition.

Amazing Dancing

1 min read

This whole video is incredible. I think the team in all black is better but damn they all do amazing things.