March 2009 Archives

Why I'm going to love this job

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Not only is Austin shaping up to be an awesome city, but the perks of working at Trigger Point are already paying dividends. Cassidy (the company founder/owner) bought and built a new bike - a Litespeed Archon, and was so excited to have it "finished" that he grabbed me and said, "Hey, let's go ride this afternoon."

So, we hopped on the bikes and hit the road. We did a quick 15-mile ride on the Southwest Parkway (a nice rolling road with wide lanes, moderate traffic, and great scenery), and got a chance to talk about work while not sitting at our desks. It was refreshing, and is just one of the invaluable benefits of working at a place like Trigger Point.

Here's Cassidy's new bike - it's seriously cool (Titanium frame, finished "in the raw"):

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And here we are in the parking lot, getting ready to go on the maiden voyage:

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We're all decked out in our Trigger Point Cycling gear (jerseys, shorts), which is another super cool bonus... we get cool t-shirts, clothing, and other promo items as part of our "deal." I really can't say enough good things about life here in Austin and at Trigger Point. I have such a good feeling about this.

I also had an opportunity to update the company blog - check it out over at Wordpress. It has full details about our ride, and some additional pictures of us getting ready to go our for our spin.

Bringing a Product to Life

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One of the great things about working at Trigger Point is having the opportunity to assist with product development, marketing, and all of that fun stuff. And today was a truly fun day - we got a ton of things accomplished and we spent a few hours shooting photos for Trigger Point's newest product.

The new product is called "The Grid" and it's pretty exciting. I don't want to spoil the details about it, so I'll share a few pictures from this evening. Cassidy's wife Carin was gracious enough to serve as our model; she was tasked with staying in various uncomfortable poses while we tweaked lighting, product placement, and camera angles.

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The green screen allows us to extract both her and the product from the photo, so that we can place the image on a "virtual" background. Here we are reviewing some of the shots:

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We wrapped our shooting at around 8:30. I hadn't eaten much (read: anything) today, so I stopped by Central Market for a salad. And since we're on the subject of food...

My friend Matt (from ANB) was in Austin last week, and we decided to visit Home Slice Pizza, which is located over on Congress Avenue (about 4 minutes from my apartment). Home Slice Pizza gets rave reviews, and apparently the reviews were spot on. The wait for a table (for 2) was almost an hour... here we are in the bar area:

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We were eventually seated and ordered garlic knots as an appetizer (meh). For dinner, we ordered a 14" pizza with sausage, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. It was spectacular. Easily one of the best pizza's I've ever had:

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Funny side story... Home Slice really only has locally produced beers available on tap. Matt and I had tried three of the four beers, so we asked our waiter for a Lone Star beer. He raised his eyebrow, rumpled his nose, and made a "yick" sort of face. We asked, "So, no go on the Lone Star?" And he said, "Only if you want to stay sick for a full day thanks to a few drinks from one of the worst beers on the planet."

We followed his sage advice and ordered a coffee with dessert.

And finally, I stumbled across the most glorious find in all of Austin:

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Culver's!!!!! And, it's about 1.4 miles from the apartment!! Ok, so that's actually a bad thing, but I've exercised tremendous restraint and haven't stopped in yet. More to come... stay tuned!

Howdy, y'all! Hook 'em Horns (or something like that).

So, you've all e-mailed me, and you've all left me voice mails, and you're all wondering what the heck is going on with me. Thanks for the concern, and apologies for not responding to your inquiries - I'm not ignoring you (well, I'm not ignoring most of you), I've just been super busy. I (drum roll) relocated to Austin, Texas last week, and have been immersed in my new job, the city, and all of that fun stuff.

"W-w-w-w-what?!" Yep, I heard you, and I saw you do that double-take-head-twist-thing that you do when you're confused. That's right, I'm in Austin.

"Where's Austin?"

Easy - it's in central Texas, about 2.5 hours south of Dallas, about an hour north east of San Antonio, and about 2 hours north west of Houston. Refer to this wonderful map that I made:

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Cool, eh?

"Why Austin?" Lots of reasons, but most notably I found a great job here and was lucky enough to get offered a position. I've long wanted to live in Austin - there's just something about it - and things "worked out" in just the right order so that I could have that opportunity.

"What's so special about Austin?" Tons of things. But I won't bore you with history and details; you can check out the Wikipedia entry about Austin. Suffice it to say that Austin is a booming area - there are about 1.6 million people in/around the immediate area, the city has a ton of personality, it's very athletic-friendly, and it's not Arkansas. :-) I can actually shop at a store that isn't a Wal-Mart, and I can actually eat at restaurants that aren't chain restaurants. It's so refreshing. But more on that in a bit.

This is going to be another lengthy entry, so please click on the link to read the rest of this entry. Sorry, but we've got a lot of catching up to do!!!

Hell's Kitchen

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On a whim, and without much (read: none) planning, I decided to do a 20-mile bike race yesterday.

While at work last Friday, I was e-mailing with a friend of mine from Competitive Cyclist, and he asked if I was going to do the "Hell's Kitchen" race. I told him that I wasn't aware of the race, so he sent me some information about it.

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I decided to check it out... went back to the house on Friday night, hit the trainer for a bit, and then hoped for the best come Sunday. (Mistake #1)

Sunday morning came far too quickly, and the weather was just slightly better than miserable. It was cold (in the mid 40's), cloudy, foggy, and there was a light mist falling. The race location was about 10 miles south west of Fayetteville, and parking was hard to come by. There were cars lined alongside the road, in fields, and generally scattered everywhere. There were guys riding their bikes on trainers, next to their cars, effectively making the highway a one-lane road.

Found the registration "center" (an old, rundown church), paid my entry fee and bought a license so that I could enter future events. Total cost: $100. Got my number, and headed back to the car to get ready.

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I was shocked to learn that the start and finish lines were about 4 miles from each other... why can't any of the race organizers around here coordinate the start/finish line in the same spot??

I went to the bike race in Lincoln last year, and it suffered the same problem - the finish line was a good 2 miles from the start. My 5k race at the Pea Ridge Military Park had the same problem as well - the finish line was a good mile from the starting line. Is it *that* hard/impossible to mate the starting and finish lines? I guess so.

Moved the car to the finish line, threw on my gear, and rode the 4 miles back to the starting line. It actually worked out for the best to do this; the 4 mile ride was a nice way to warm-up and to make sure that all was well with the bike. I found my staging area and waited for the race to start.

The race was scheduled to start at 10:00am, and I'm assuming that it did - I didn't have my watch turned on at the time, but I saw the Category 1 racers take off in a pack, complete with a police escort. After about a 15 minute wait, Category 2 and 3 riders left. After another 15 minute wait, the Category 4 and Masters (40+ age group) took off. And finally, after another 15 minutes, our group was let loose.

And therein was the first problem... our group, Category 5 (novices/beginners) were released at precisely the same time that the Category 1 (pros) were completing their first lap. Category 1 riders had to do four (4) 20-mile laps; Category 5 had to do one (1) 20-mile lap. So, as we hit the first corner of the race course, the Cat 1 riders were merging in and amongst our group.

Well, everyone freaked out, and wouldn't you know it, but there was a bit of a snarl/mess, and some folks went down directly in front of me. I was able to stop without incident, but by the time I got going, the first half of the Cat 5 group was gone. I cranked along, trying to catch up to them, but it was more or less pointless. Mistake #2: starting the race in the mid pack... next time, I'm starting at the front, no matter what.

Here I am on the course:

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As you can see, I was all alone... well, not for long.... at about the 5 mile point, I was racing along at a nice clip - about 25mph, when out of no where comes this crazy dog, and he decides he's going to try to t-bone my bike. I swerve, slow down, then speed-up, yell at him, bark - but all for nought. He was intent on chasing me... so, I cranked as fast as I could, trying to lose him. I went around a slight bend, and there were 2 cars coming at me from the opposite direction, and thankfully, the dog decided to chase the cars instead, so he stopped (in the middle of the road), let the cars pass within inches of him, and then chased them. I LOVE - LOVE animals, but that dog isn't long for this planet... and his owner(s) need to be strung up for not taking better care of him... argh.

Ok, so now my legs are completely spanked, I'm rattled, I'm still riding alone, with no one to draft, and, I've got about 15 miles to go. Nice. Good thing there's a monster hill in about 10 miles that I have to contend with. The race is called "Hell's Kitchen" because of the monster hill that in previous years has caused portions of the field to quit when they reach it.

Well, I made it to the hill at about the 42-minute mark, and began the climb. They weren't kidding when they said the hill is pure hell - it really is. I swear it goes straight up, and it's about 1.2 miles long. My watch was yelling at me during most of the climb because my heart rate was too high... I checked the readings later, and it showed my heart rate was 237 bpm (beats per minute) during the climb. Sheesh!!!

With the hill behind me, it was time to motor to the finish line. I could see a few people in front of me, so I worked on catching them. One was a Category 1 rider, and 2 were Category 5 riders. I raced down hills - while they were coasting, I was pedaling as hard as I could (watch showed my top speed as 44.7 mph). My legs were on fire, my nose was stuffy, and my glasses were foggy, but I was going to catch them. And I did...

Here's me at the finish line:

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The finish line was also on an uphill stretch, just for good measure, I guess. I finished in about 1 hour flat; not bad for a 20-mile race with a monster hill. I was just happy to finish without incident - I had escaped a wreck, a crazy dog, and the hill from hell. So, all-in-all, it wasn't a bad race. I didn't wait around for the results to be posted, just took off and called it a day. I'm guessing I finished mid-pack at best. Oh well. We'll get 'em next time.

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Look Back/Live Forward

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Had the recent opportunity to get together with a bunch of my old ANB friends, compliments of a "License to Chill" party as thrown by Nancy and Camille. Nancy was in charge of our Internal Audit group, and Camille was the EVP of our Risk Department. In years' past, Nancy has always hosted a summer party, but with the events of last year, the party got placed on hold for a while...

Schedules were finally coordinated, and the party was held - a good time was definitely had, and it was great to see everyone and catch up with folks. I didn't take too many pictures - too busy chatting with everyone and finding out how things have been for the past several months. So, without further ado, here are some pictures from the event.

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As usual, I took a picture of the food. :-) It was all yummy, and I ate way too much of it.

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The party hosts: Camille, Peggy, and Nancy. Thanks for throwing a great shindig!


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Me, Cris (my old boss), and Matt. It was great seeing these guys!


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April, Shelly, and Camille. April is still at the bank, Shelly is with Tyson, and Camille is chillin'.


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Me, Debra, Mary, and Matt. Debra is chillin', Mary is with Pulaski, and Matt is with RWG.


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A group of folks chatting.


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Me saying "Thanks!" to Nancy for hosting the party. Good luck with school and the opportunities that you're contemplating with the two financial entities. Keep us informed with what happens!


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Me saying "Thanks" to Camille for helping host/coordinate the shindig. Camille is the mastermind behind today's blog entry title - she's got a knack for witty titles as well as fantasy football. I'll miss playing ANB Fantasty Football with everyone. :-(


And finally, Jasper (Nancy's dog) was present and really interested in the food that I was snacking on. And while I can neither confirm nor deny this, a piece or two of food might have fallen his way. :-) He was so sweet, and I'm such a sucker.

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Thanks again to everyone - it was a blast to see you all, and I wish nothing but the very best to each and every one of you. Apologies for not getting pictures of everyone that attended - I know I missed a bunch of you, but as I said, I got wrapped-up in chatting, and didn't take as many pictures as I should've. Please keep in touch, and be sure to check out geekysteve.com regularly! (shameless plug, I know)

Oye Como Va

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Hola, amigos! Que Tal? Acabo de volver a partir una semana hermosa de las vacaciones en Mexico. (Translation: Hi Friends! What's up? I just returned from a beautiful week of vacation in Mexico.)

Spent the past 6 days in the Riviera Maya at the gorgeous, all-inclusive, Aventura Spa Palace and Resort. It was my first such experience, and as much as I enjoyed going on a cruise, I must admit that staying at a luxurious resort like the Aventura completely blows away any cruise. It was unbelievable.

This is going to be a lengthy entry, with tons of photos, so please click on the link to continue reading (and to see all of the photos).

There's a Yellow Rose of Texas

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...that I am going to see (well, actually I went and saw it this weekend).

That's right - spent the weekend in Austin, TX and really enjoyed it. To sum up Austin in one sentence, "It's like Madison with a southern accent."

Took off from NW Arkansas at around 4pm on Friday, and the first order of business was to stop at the McKinney, Texas Culver's. Nothing like a good burger, some curds, and some fries at 9:00pm.

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That's not really on the diet, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to cheat a bit this weekend. I've been increasing my run distances in preparation for doing a 70.3 (or "half-IronMan" as some refer to it), so consuming a few additional calories wasn't going to hurt too much. ...or so I try to tell myself.

Rolled in to Austin at around midnight, and stayed at a favorite hotel, the Hyatt Place. For those not familiar, the Hyatt Place is a "younger" Hyatt - the rooms feature a 42" LCD television with a media center, free wireless internet, and a big sectional couch with a big leather ottoman. The rates are reasonable to boot, and they've got 24 hour food service - you can stroll down to the lobby at 3:00am and order anything from a Caesar Salad to a Chocolate Chunk cookie with milk. Since they're relatively new, the rooms are fresh, and that's always a bonus.

I went for a run on Saturday morning - it was brisk to say the least - about 45F and extremely windy. The weather channel showed wind gusts of around 35mph; that'll slow you down a bit... after working up a great appetite, it was over to the infamous Magnolia Cafe for some breakfast.

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Their slogan is, "Sorry - We're Open" because they're open 24/7, and it seems like they're busy 24/7.... there was about a 30 minute wait at 9:00 in the morning. People were lined-up everywhere, but the Magnolia makes it easy to wait because they've got an agreement with a boutique store next door - when they call your name for a table, the store has a speaker in it so you can shop at the store and still hear them call you for your table. It's a great idea if you ask me. While at the store, I stumbled across a book called "The Fearless Critic" - it reviews the majority of Austin's restaurants, and it's brutally honest. Not terribly accurate in my humble opinion, but brutal.

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After spending time at the store, the table was ready and it was time to chow down. With my tummy rumblin', I ordered the breakfast tacos - a toasty flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, a little cheese, some Canadian bacon, and some red potatoes. Thanks to some confusion on my part, I only received one taco, but it was just enough to fill me up. To say it was delicious would be doing it a disservice - it was far better than delicious.

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While at the cafe, there was this little guy who posed for a picture - one of the great things about Austin is how informal and "down to earth" it is. No one dresses up for anything, and it seems to be perfectly acceptable to bring your dog into most places. Talk about cool.

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Breakfast was great, but I was still a tad hungry, so from the Magnolia, it was over to Ken's Dougnuts. Ken's was identified as "the best" doughnut shop by the Fearless Critic book, so it was worth a try.

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Looks good, right? Well, don't always judge a book by it's cover. The place had promise - it was small, located in a horrible location, had terrible customer service, yet earned rave reviews... unfortunately, Ken failed to deliver the goods. The doughnuts were greasy and had an "old grease" taste to them. The dough wasn't light and fluffy - it was damp and icky. What a disappointment. :-(

But, recovery was just around the corner - from Ken's, it was off to tour the various triathlon and bike shops in Austin. Austin is extremely tri-friendly thanks to the Barton Springs pool, Town Lake Park, and harboring an "outdoors-friendly" attitude. It doesn't hurt that Lance Armstrong makes his home in Austin, either...

First stop was at the infamous Jack and Adam's Bike Shop on Barton Springs Road. I've read about this place quite a bit online, and have heard a lot about it on the message boards, so it warranted an in person visit. It's a small place for sure, but they seem to carry a lot of great stuff.

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From Jack and Adam's, it was over to the Austin Tri Cyclist or "ATC" as folks refer to it. ATC is nothing to look at from the outside - in fact, I drove clear past it without even noticing it. How I missed this place is beyond me:

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I really liked the ATC. They had a ton of gear there - more carbon wheels than you could shake a stick at, tons of high end frames, a great selection of clothing and accessories, and a bunch of stuff you wouldn't normally find at any 'ole bike shop. I bought a few shirts and they even threw in a freebie t-shirt just for stopping by. That was pretty cool. While in the store, I watched as a guy spec'd out a new bike - a Cervelo P3C (which is about $4500 for the frame alone) and judging from the components he was looking at, I'm going to say his total bill was going to easily approach $10k.

From ATC, it was back to the downtown area for some bumming around and then I spent some time on the SW side of Austin. With dinner fast approaching, the locals suggested a place called Z Tejas. It's grown from a small house on 6th Street in Austin to a nationwide chain of restaurants.

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Once again, "Z" didn't disappoint - the little house looked, well, "little" from the outside, but it was quite expansive on the inside. They even have a "breezeway" that connects the original house to a larger, newer addition that's located next door. After a quick wait, the hostess called with a table. The margaritas were awesome - I'd highly recommend them:

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I'd also recommend the queso trio appetizer - wow. It was absolutely fantastic:

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And finally, the main course, a seared tuna steak with fresh veggies, was capital I-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. Oh so good.

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The tuna was supposed to come with a mustard/bbq glaze, but I asked for it on the side - I loved how they wrote "Z Tejas" with the mustard in the glaze. :-) The whole dinner experience was fantastic - there wasn't a single thing that could've been any better. The only regret was that dinner was over too fast.

The meal was so good in fact, that the cornbread, which looked amazing, went largely untouched - it wasn't until the end of the meal that I tried a piece of it. And, surprise - it was yummy!

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From Z Tejas, it was over to one of the most spectacular grocery stores on the planet - Whole Foods. For those not familiar with this grocery chain, there's no possible way that I can do it any justice by describing it. It's such an experience - they have everything imaginable at the store, from top quality meats and fair trade organic locally grown vegetables to Earth shoes, wine, and gourmet pastries.

The Austin store is the "anchor" store - you can go to cooking classes, eat a 5-star lunch/dinner, and shop for tons of kitchen gadgets at this culinary Mecca. I could only get a blurry shot of it, so apologies for the poor photo:

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After a busy day, it was time to hit the rack. Got up fairly early on Sunday morning with the intention of visiting the walking trails, but the weather was still chilly and breakfast sounded a lot more inviting than a walking trail. Back downtown, this time to Jo's Coffee for some grub:

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Got there just in time - a crowd assembled and people were waiting for a table immediately after breakfast was ordered. What was ordered?

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Migas! Migas are scrambled eggs, with tomatoes, corn tortillas, peppers, and onions. They're served with flour tortillas, black beans (these had cheese as well), and a side of potatoes. Yummy!

As filling as Jo's was, I still had a craving for a good doughnut, so it was time to consult the Fearless Critic. This time, the Critic suggested Mrs. Johnson's Bakery, and I must say, Mrs. Johnson, whoever she is, knows how to make a good doughnut. Ken - pay attention - Mrs. Johnson has got it goin' on.

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The place is open from like 9pm through about noon, and I got there at about 11:30, so they threw in 2 free doughnuts. I didn't complain, nor did my fat cells - they said, "Hey, thanks!!"

On the way out of Austin, the Jetta made a quick stop at IKEA - just to browse. IKEA is another one of those awesome stores that "does it right" - their store is well organized, the prices are fantastic, the quality isn't bad, and they've got tons of cool gear.

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It wasn't fun to leave Austin - the city was great, and the prospect of an 8 hour drive wasn't real attractive. Especially when you're cruising the open road... with nothing to see or do...

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So, to break the monotony of the highway, there was one more stop at:

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:-)

That made things a little better. Here I am, cruisin' down the road. Hope you all had a good weekend.

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