Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stuck in the LAX Hilton. F You American Airlines!

American Airlines severely overbooked my flight home for Christmas. Not enough people wanted to take the $300 voucher and free hotel (imagine that, people actually wanted to get to their destination on the flight they had originally scheduled) so they had to keep people off the flight involuntarily. Of course, had I known that from the onset of the ticket purchase, I would have picked a different airline! Anyway, I got bumped from the flight and had to kick it for the night at the LAX Hilton. I also received an $800 voucher for an airline that I never want to fly again, fantastic.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Go Redskins!

My father and I got a hold of field passes for the Redskins game against the Giants. It was pouring ran pretty much the whole time. We were only on the sidelines for a few minutes before the game started. Quite a few players seem to make it a habit to get pumped before the game by slapping hands with the folks on the side though. It is exciting to see them that close up, in their moment. It beats HDTV.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

2008 Piedmont Thanksgiving Hunt

Every Thanksgiving morning the Piedmont Hunt group organizes a fox hunt. They typically hunt every Thursday and Saturday, so of course Thanksgiving always overlaps that schedule. However, I think more folks come out for the turkey day chase. Today was a particularly good day. The weather was clear and brisk, my California butt was cold. It was a good hunt for spectating though, since the fox decided to run right by the spot I staked out.

This morning's event began at Oak Spring, the Mellon Estate which is apart of Rokeby Stables in Upperville, VA. The venue was conveniently just around the bend from my folk's farm. My father usually rides in the hunt too, but he's been sidelined with a shoulder injury like myself. He decided to fall off a horse and break his clavicle at the same time I opted for surgery. He claims he will be back at it next week...

I finally made use of a Flickr account and setup a set of pictures:
Piedmont Thanksgiving Day Hunt

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Bull Drifting World Championship

This was just a teaser. I will post up more photos when I get through the editing process. It was a busy weekend. I must sleep!

I made a Flickr set:
Red Bull Drifting World Championship

Nissan 370Z Uncovered, Inside Line Puts Me on the Spot

Last night, Inside Line more specifically, and Nissan North America invited a few enthusiasts to check out the new 2009 Nissan 370Z ahead of its scheduled release at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show. Somewhere around two minutes after I arrived the crew from Inside Line walked over with their camera and requested a few thoughts on the sports coupe. I had hardly seen the car in person, no more than photos online, but I rolled with what I could. The result can be seen on the Inside Line 370Z Party Page.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

6 Weeks Out, I Can Streamline

I am just over 6 weeks out from shoulder surgery now. I can finally get my arms in a decent streamline position again. I still have 6 more weeks to go before full swimming again, however. Until then I keep it up with kicking and breaststroke. Right now is when it is really paying off to be a breaststroker. The ability to throw a bit of breaststroke in with the never ending kick sets is keeping my sanity in check.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Week of Change

I am glad this election is over. I am extremely tired of the pessimistic attitude that this country has had for the past few years. No matter who your elected leader is, childish name calling is low. I can understand arguments backed up by substantial factual evidence, but the personal attacks have been infantile and demeaning. I was no fan of the Clinton regime, but I respected the man for his position. I have a lot of respect for Barack Obama as well, and I know that his powerful ability with words, along with his physical appearance, gave people a sense of new direction. However, no matter what the nature of the aura surrounding him, I never warmed up to any of the words coming out of his mouth. Working as an engineer at companies of very different sizes I have really come to understand that economics are at the center of EVERYTHING. For that reason I have failed to see how Obama's promises could lead to any sort of economic stabilization, much less growth. I currently don't see support for competitive world markets in his agenda. I am curious as to what a revised plan will look like from him and his chosen team, but with most of the names currently being thrown around, I think I might just be sitting back and holding on for a bumpy ride.

With the events of the past two years of campaigning I have at least been inspired. I am now driven to become even more active in my own community, especially since now I am a home owning and property tax paying individual. I also want to advance my education to enhance my engineering degree. I have been considering a masters in economics, but I think my current position in life is more conducive to getting an MBA. I feel that I have responsibilities later in life where I will need that education. I owe it to my parents to show that respect for their life's hard work.

Unfortunately all the uncertainty of this week is not yet over for me. Tomorrow morning the CEO of my employer is addressing the workforce with what will most likely be historically horrendous losses along with "important changes." There are all sorts of rumors flying around. I guess I will find out in the morning and hopefully GM can pull through... although there will most likely be enormous casualties.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I got NOS

Important Presidential Election

A very important Presidential election is less than a month away. This week has subsequently seen the Stock Market head off on a continued downward spiral. Given these events I tuned into the Presidential Debate on Tuesday night hoping to possibly see the candidates spout off some new plan adjustments to work with recent changes. However, it seems, that all the words that get spoken these days come from the same rhetoric that was written months ago. Both candidates need to sit down and really reevaluate what their policies mean for the world economy. Sadly though, I don't think the general public would understand it if they did reinvent themselves and it would likely give their advisers heart attacks. I think the world will have to wait out for a real plan until next year.

Mainly my concern is that Barack Obama keeps spouting off his same tax plan. While I could write a book about what further damage Obama's policies could mean for the economy, I don't have to. My father, and more recently his business partner, already took care of that. My father's views can be found in his academic works. To sum it up though, I found a good article from the Wall Street Journal that went up yesterday. Creating big tax increases for the top earners in this country will stifle the very investment needed to turn around the economy. With the government shoving money at failing company after company big investors are needed to keep fueling the market. The government will then get returns on their investments to keep this country running. That will promote growth, new businesses, more job, etc. More jobs then means more tax income for states and the country. Taking more taxes from the top end will only dampen investments in American business, discourage upward movement, and send tax revenue decreasing due to increased job losses. Somehow though, I don't think Obama will let go of his socialist leaning. All the signs I see around LA for Obama say hope, but with him, I honestly don't see it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My dad's business partner wrote a book

My father's business partner, David Smick, has written a book about a bit of their adventures in economic advising on an international front. The publishers had impeccable timing on the book's release. I am over halfway through now and my only complaint is that I wish Dave had elaborated a bit more on the economics he discussed, through supporting examples of bad policy decisions, etc. However, that would have made it a massive read that, most likely, would have put me to sleep.
Find it on here: The World is Curved

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Just a couple little stitches

My right shoulder has three scars from surgical incisions. My left shoulder only got two. Hooray for improvements in technique! This time I didn't get a recording of the surgery either, not that I want to watch it... The Vicodin gave me terrible hiccups. I am not a big fan of pain killers, that just made me more apprehensive. Now I get to gradually start gaining back my range of motion. By the end of the week my arm should be able to reach over my head again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I can't feel my arm

This morning Dr. Neal ElAttrache poked into my left shoulder and cut out the bursa. He stated that I had impressive bursitis and old damage had left my shoulder beyond the ability to fully heal without the surgical cleansing. Everything went well and, thus far, it looks like the future is bright for my left shoulder. Now it just need to get the feeling back in it...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Andy Worhol in Troy, AL

The first exhibit at the new Johnson Art Center in Troy, AL... Andy Worhol. I believe the new center will give many others to experience the inspiration I have felt through my many visits to Troy, AL. It deserves a distinction that proves it is a unique place unlike any other.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The only way to fly

The easiest why to get to Troy, AL is to fly into its tiny air strip. They are working on a new terminal at the airport. Surprisingly it has more character than the cheap mass production steal structures that get used for every other new building around.

Building Dedication

A new center for the arts just opened in my parent's hometown of Troy, AL. Thanks to a donation by my parent's foundation the center received its namesake after my grandparents, Holman and Ethel Johnson. Through my lifetime the downtown section of Troy, AL has seen the highway steal its thunder. With all the popular businesses like Wal-Mart building up along the main thoroughfare, there is no reason for passersby to visit downtown. With the old town post office, a spectacular Greek Revival building, sitting vacant, the mayor hopes to safe it and give it new life with the creation of a cultural draw. The idea for the Johnson art center is to bring new visitors into Troy. I really do hope it will be successful. The old downtown has so much potential to build a cafe and boutique filled downtown unique to rural Alabama.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Equinox

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Equinox

Recently I finally got the chance to drive the Chevrolet Hydrogen Fuel Cell Equinox (try saying that 5 times fast). Sitting still in the parking lot the vehicle emitted noises one did not expect to hear from an automobile, at least not yet. It produced a quiet whir and a bit of clicking from the power electronics. All it all it wasn't very audible over the sound of traffic driving by. Once inside though, with the doors closed, the exterior noise was blocked out. I took the passenger side initially, while a coworker took the wheel. I used the opportunity to poke around at buttons and listen to the vehicle. Mostly the interior followed that of a normal Equinox. Although in place of a tachometer sat a kilowatt gauge. As a reminder that this wasn't a typical vehicle, or even a mundane hybrid, the shift knob featured the GM water droplet badge and the navigation screen displayed the fuel cell power flow. When leaving the parking lot the Equinox accelerated up to the speed of traffic with no drama. The ride was also very smooth, no jarring shift points. After a few minutes of driving I swapped spots with my coworker and took over the helm.

Being an Equinox the vehicle was significantly larger than what I am used to. For just that reason I did not expect it to perform anything like my BMW 335i. Pulling out into traffic I got on the accelerator and, while by far not the fastest thing I have driven, it wasn't the slowest either. It weighed somewhere in the range of a decent mid-sized sedan in terms of get up and go, meaning I wouldn't fear for my life merging onto the 405. I stayed on the pedal for a little bit and it hit me that I had lost a connection to the vehicle. I am tuned to feel for speed through gear changes and audible rpm. However, a fuel cell vehicle does not have such feedback. The sound of the electric motor was somewhat audible, but with music playing and people talking it just wasn't enough of a factor. I had to glance at the speedometer to get my bearings back straight. The smooth, uninturrupted, acceleration was a great experience though. The one possibel downside was that when coming to a stop, the brakes required more input that I was used to. The system transitions from regenerative braking to mechanical braking depending on the amount of depal depression. I probably would have been more comfortable with the braking if I had not come from mainly driving a sporty vehicle with a stiff and sensitive pedal. The brakes were in line with those of a standard Equinox, not that that is necessarily a good thing.

In the end I wish I could have had more drive time. Maybe then I could have found some Priui (plural for Prius) to drag race.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shoulder Surgery

Los Angeles Laker's player Kwame Brown has had the same shoulder problems as me. That is why I am going to see the same orthopedic surgeon for my procedure:
If I don't do something about my left shoulder now, I will seriously regret it when I am 70. I already see the example with my aunt having enough shoulder problems without the athletic background. I should be go to go again come next year. I am eager to get to the rebuilding phase as opposed to the try not to break it worse and just hold out for a few more weeks phase...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bad Shoulder

I have been a bad blogger lately. That is my fault though because I push myself pretty hard and I have to let something give most of the time. I let the writing slip when I need a break because I would rather not spend my life stuck behind a computer or television. I feel guilty for only spending 9 hours at work most days. I also get down on myself when I am too drained to spend a couple hours at night scouring the internet for interesting automotive news to post on Autoblog. I am too busy during my day to keep up with all the posts and news going on, so I have to spend time catching up before I can even begin browsing for items that have yet to be covered. Now I also have two pets (the new one is pictured above) I don’t want to ignore. They grab my attention for a significant period every night. I have me time scheduled in everyday in the form of swimming or gymnastics after work though. Generally my workout time keeps me on my toes and re-energizes me for the evening. It is amazing though how everything can turn sour when things don’t go well in the pool anymore. For the entirety of the summer my left shoulder has been killing me. It has gotten me feeling a tad dejected.

My left shoulder problems first surfaced when I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. It was hard to process the injury back then because the pain wasn’t so apparent. I just got to a point where I could hardly get my arm to keep turning over in order to make it through a 200 freestyle. My time kept going backwards and I was so devastated. The more I tried to push, the slower I would go. I was lucky enough to find a sympathetic physical therapist however. She had been a competitive swimmer herself. She was amazed I could even move my arm because my shoulder was so impinged and inflamed. Working long and hard though, we managed to get my left shoulder back into working order. In the end it ended up being my right shoulder that I eventually had surgery on in order to relieve inflammation (internal bleeding… no big deal…).

With all my shoulder experiences every doctor has commented on my shoulder geometry. I have pronounced protrusions coming out of my shoulders that are the connection points of my clavicles. This setup apparently naturally pulls my shoulders forward, reducing the size of the pocket available for joint rotation. Of course all that easily disposes me to impingement and inflammation. The fun part is that a tiny bit of inflammation can offset a chain reaction that takes weeks, even months to recover. Since having my right shoulder cleaned out in the middle of college, it has been going pretty strong. My left shoulder is a different story though. Lately it has been causing me agony. It seems that increasing my shoulder stretching, and thus increasing my shoulder flexibility, has awoken some old scar tissue. Tendons can’t move where they wanted to, they have become inflamed and of course that has created more scar tissue. Without taking action to break up the scar tissue I am stuck in an endless cycle. That is why, despite the cost, I have said screw this and have paid a few visits to various doctors.

I am currently in the midst of my 4th week of therapy on the shoulder. Thankfully I have been able to find the exact type of treatment I had hoped for, due to the recommendation of fellow Long Beach swimmers. Over this period I have been able to get back from crawling pace to cruising. I still have no speed though and that is very frustrating. Anytime I really try and grab the water pain shoots down the side of my shoulder. It takes a few strokes to recover from that jolt in order to find the right pace again. I had sights set on many ocean races this summer, but all have been put on hold for other years. I just want to glide through the water again without extreme calculation every time I place my left hand in the water. I am giving it until the end of August to further improve its condition. If not, then I think it is about time to send it under the knife. It wasn’t difficult for my right shoulder to recover, so I know what it involves. It just sucks getting dressed for a couple weeks and driving might be a tad difficult…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Article on FLUENT use for Speedo LZR Development

ANSYS, the company that makes CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software FLUENT has an article in their promotional magazine on the development of the Speedo LZR. You can read the article for yourself here.

As I suspected Speedo utilized New Zealand's University of Otago for their water flume and NASA for use of a wind tunnel. The media likes to play up NASA's part though, which really casts shadows the real development effort behind the suits. Also, with all the suit controversy, many people need to understand that the only real controlled modeling that could be used for the suit development was of the body in the streamline position. All the drag benefits are maximized for that position because when a swimmer's moving arms and legs are brought into the equation things get very very complicated. Once a swimmer begins swimming, it can't be certain what is going on with the fluid flow. It will be interesting to see what sort of things can come about once people start tackling the modeling layout of the different strokes at different velocities. That could take a long time though, in the automotive world there are books of papers on the subject of modeling simple parts in CFD. Regardless, there may one day be a different suit for every stroke, that would make an IM suit very interesting...

Monday, July 7, 2008

First USA Swimming was acting rediculous, now its Formula D

There is an on-going discussion on about the rules of the Formula D drift series. The discussion specifically revolves around the rules pertaining to suspension details. After an interested party submitted a link to the thread through the Autoblog suggestion e-mail I wrote up a post on the matter. As well, I have written my own reply on the issue. However, I chose to post it here and not within the original thread. I do so because I would rather not jump in on page 22 and get drowned out by the core posters.

The majority of replies in the thread have not grasped the real issue at hand. The issue is not the fact that Formula D determined the Skyline contained illegally modified suspension. It just happens to be the event that best exemplifies the ambiguity of Formula D’s rules and that is why it is referenced. Too many egos have taken hold and replies have become all about defensive measures to protect one’s character. The real discussion has gone by the way side. Use the thread was initially intended to be a call for competitors and fans to express their opinions on the vagueness of the current rule book. Formula D wasn’t established by seasoned racers, their formula isn’t perfect and there is no reason it can’t be improved upon. Their rules made sense when it was unknown what to expect from vehicles that would turn up to complete in the new series. However, now with a few seasons under the belt and most competitors returning from season to season the rules can be clarified to encompass the verity of cars the series has produced. No one may have the best answer on how to do this, but intelligent discussion can at least offer worthwhile solutions.

Anyone apart of a team that runs in the Formula D series, or even apart of a team that strives to participate in the future, should be very interested in the details of this matter. Currently the rules dictate that any aftermarket suspension components must be approved by Formula D. Any deviation from the OEM suspension design must also be approved. Therefore, according to the rules, every competing vehicle has received an approval from Formula D to run their setup. Going by the wording of the rules, any team wanting to swap parts between seasons, events, or even track sessions should get Formula D approval before doing so. If the organization is really tied up running events, how much time do they have to go around approving parts? In crunch time do you really think a team wants to deal with that hassle as well? If it only takes a phone call and a quick ok from a person on the other end, then what sort of approval system is that? How can a team be assured that their approved change is documented and communicated on the Formula D side? An approval shouldn’t happen in minutes. A suspension change request should be compared to other competitive allowances and evaluated by multiple parties before being accepted. How can a competitive field be maintained if an organization gives unbalanced, at the whim, allowances? The current means seem like an awful burden on the Formula D end, babysitting all the suspension modifications of every competing vehicle every second of every event. It doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t want to put some effort into streamlining the process. Some people want to offer a less complicated solution for all parties and that is the intended purpose of the discussion.

No other motorsport series leaves all suspension modifications up to sanctioning body approval. From club racing like NASA and SCCA to established professional series like NHRA and Formula 1 there are guidelines to work around and any deviation from the published rule book is illegal. Any allowed exceptions, due to proven competitive hardship, are published in appendices to the rule book. It would really benefit Formula D and their tech inspection process to simply better define the setup of the vehicles running in their series. The inspectors would only have to learn one set of rules and enforce them via measurements or templates rather than digging through a mystery list of approved changes. A competitor could also better protect themselves as they would have the knowledge to catch a competing vehicle bending the rules to their advantage.

Again, the whole discussion is not meant to be a blow at anyone’s character. It isn’t an attempt to bring down the organization of Formula D. It is simply meant as a means to gather opinions about improving upon the flaws of a young series. Those that can best adapt to change will survive the longest.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Only in Southern California

I am a nut for the Olympic Games. For so many athletes the ultimate goal is just to participate in this one international competition that only occurs every four years. There are very little to no financial incentives, it is simply the thrill of the challenge. The empowerment of knowing you can rise up over others and compete for the top place in the world is quality very few people can rightly posses. If you want to get close to the Olympics, no matter what the year, there is really no other place like Southern California. The area is the home to many of the best training centers in the world. It kind of boggles my mind how, in my typical week, I rub elbows with all sorts of world class athletes.

Southern California has been a swimming mecca forever. The competition level available here is the top at all age levels, from age group through masters. Growing up on the East Coast, there was the occasional swimmer to rise through the ranks and make it to the Olympic Trials, but it was an experience for so few that it all seemed unreal. There were not many examples of the path to the sport's ultimate goal, for that reason the education to lead athletes along the best path was not readily available. Los Angeles is a different story however. There are meets taking place year round with top levels of competition. Many club teams have taken multiple swimmers from average athlete, to Olympic Trial competitor. Just hopping in the pool for a master's swim practice you can find yourself surrounded by many folks with impressive swimming resumes. Swimming in Southern California keeps me on my toes, and training amongst so many top athletes reminds me that I could have achieved so much if only my health had been on my side.

Southern California isn't just a swimming mecca, it is also a haven for water polo. During the weekends, when I want do a pool workout of my own design, I stop by the local pool for a little lap swim session. The key element happens to be that the local pool is the U.S.A. Water Polo National Training Center. I've shared the water with the USA Olympic Women's and Men's Water Polo Team training squads. It is also interesting to note that many of the women happened to have attended USC. Thankfully they haven't taken up to stealing my towels again... It is inspirational to observe the team workouts in their run-up to Beijing. The passion and drive they emit makes you want to go out and work harder in all your everyday activities. I don't even know much about the rules to water polo, but it will be riveted by the games none the less.

The days of the week I am not in the pool I head to the gym. To satisfy my curiosity about what would of happened if I had stuck with gymnastics over swimming, I hit up an adult gymnastics class a couple times a week. I am just there to learn some new tricks, but many of the team girls training there have Olympic aspirations. After all, the name of the gym is All Olympia Gymnastics. The name derives from the fact that the head coaches are former Olympians (does that term make sense? are you a former Olympian or always an Olympian?) from Eastern European countries. Perfection is key in this gym. Watching the girl's team train is an illustration of the best form in action. Just getting a skill around isn't enough. The highlight is watching USA Gymnastics National Team members Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro train. While Samantha happens to be too young for an Olympic bid, Mattie has made it all the way to the final Olympic Team selection training camp. Her floor exercise at the Olympic Trials really got the media and audience's attention. I've been trying for a long time to do things as effortlessly as she makes them look. Her mom is wonderful as well, always inquires about how things are going. That family is riding on cloud nine right now. Go Mattie!
Check out her rocking FX:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Eff a Tumor

With Senator Kennedy’s diagnosis all over the news, tumors have been getting a lot of attention lately. It has encouraged me to detail a bit of my own story. I hope my experiences can provide some insight for others, as well as educate people on a rather mysterious topic.

The other night I caught a bit of the Discovery Health special called 200 Pound Tumor. It got me thinking more about tumors and how the difference between a benign diagnosis and malignancy can be rather slim. A fast growing benign tumor may be self contained, and not spread out or eat away at other parts of the body, but it can grow like wild fire and steal resources from the rest of body just as well. Not to say that supposedly benign growths may also morph into malignant tumors without too much warning. The key part is, that regardless of the nature of the tumor, they are usually annoying, uncomfortable or quite painful. Having experienced a few surgeries to remove tumors from my own body already, the 200 lb tumor woman, Lori, peaked my interest. Her story reminded me that I still was not clear on what the final diagnosis was for one of my last surgeries in 2004. I decided to dig up my medical records and look more closely at the terminology.

Just a few months ago I had a very pesky swollen lymph node removed from the left side of my groin area. I had originally thought it was my second enlarged lymph node occurrence, the first being in my chest back in 2004. However, a knowledgeable doctor informed me that the location of the scar on the left side of my right breast was not in a spot with nodes. With that revelation I realized that I did not know what the mass was that was removed from my right breast in 2004. Making it a habit not to dwell too much on my life’s medical issues, it would make the day rather depressing, I kept putting off digging back into my medical reports to take the complicated terminology to heart (aka do some quick Google searches)

Having already previously experienced two incidences of fibroadenoma excisions in the right breast (one in 2001, one in 2002), I was already aware of how to distinguish that kind of benign breast tumor. Those masses showed up clearly during ultrasounds (as illustrated in the top image). Their edges appeared very smooth and they were easily distinguished from the surrounding tissue. They were both very fast growing and bothersome tumors though. The second one was even quite a bit of a pain at times. Unlike my past experiences though, the 2004 mass did not show up on ultrasound, indicating that it was not the tumor I expected. All I knew was that it had to go. Since fibroadenoma was ruled out, I chalked it up to a swollen lymph node at the time. However, I should have paid more attention to doctor’s words when I was still half drugged on anesthesia, as it seems the mass removed was actually intraductal papillomatosis. That is what is listed in my medical records, along with words like sclerosing adenosis, hyperplasia and microcalcifications. It really helps to keep copies of your own records, something I hadn’t been doing until more recently. It has really helped me understand my own issues and has given me the ability to articulate past experiences accurately to different doctors. Plus, then you can spell things correctly for Google research purposes.

Doing a bit of internet research on the subject I have seen that an intraductal papillomatosis tumor consists of benign growths in the milk ducts. Symptoms for the condition appear to consist mainly of nipple discharge, but I did not experience that part. I experienced the debilitating pain part, which isn’t really a noted symptom. I will touch more on that later though. Without my own body’s pesky warning system, and my acute athletic awareness, it was apparently a condition that might have turned sour if it had been left undetected for too long. I am glad my body insisted on nothing short of a surgical excision. I have also learned threefold on the importance of breast exams. You know your body best and if something feels off, then it probably is! Relying only on tests to find abnormalities is not an ideal method. In my time I have had to keep prodding in order to get straight answers to my ailments. With my enormous family history and all the complicated medical terms indicating that I have a significant increased risk for developing breast cancer, I know not to let any little bump go unquestioned. Also if anything prohibits me from functioning as I wish to on a day to day basis, I want it gone!

When it came to the intraductal papillomatosis, it was a pretty rough and tough experience. At the time I was in my senior year at USC and I was competing on the swim team. I was hoping to improve after coming back from shoulder surgery (one among a few others…). I had an extremely tight schedule between living off campus, training and studying mechanical engineering. The last thing I wanted was to deal with a significant health issue. Maybe I was being too selfish in wishing for my body to allow me to make it one year through college without sending me under the knife. Anyway, the first symptom I experienced was mild chest pain while breathing. The pain radiated all over my chest too, left and right sides. I had a lot of trouble pin-pointing its source, at least while the pain was in a fairly mild state.

After I felt the initial onset of pain, it did not go away within a couple days, so the USC trainers suggested I had an intercostal muscle strain. I started icing down my chest after workouts, but I only got worse. Chest x-rays revealed nothing wrong with my ribs or lungs. An MRI did not hold specific clues either. After all those angles turned up nothing, somehow I knew it was related to breast issues. I kept poking around, but I couldn’t find a mass. All the while, the more I swam, the more pain I took on. It eventually came to a point where I ended up curled into a ball on the pool deck after climbing out of the water because my chest felt like someone was stabbing me with knives. It was not how I wanted my last semester of NCAA eligibility to go down. I spent a lot of time bent over in the shower and in the training room with ice pilled on my chest. I could hardly sleep because any time I tried to slightly twist my torso, sharp pains radiated through my ribs. Driving my manual transmission Civic was also quite a challenge. Just breathing was uncomfortable.

I believe it took me about a month’s time to finally discover the pea size tumor in my right breast, just around the area where the ribs met the sternum. I couldn’t believe that relatively tiny thing could cause such discomfort. I had to completely lay off all activity for three weeks for the pain to subside. Then I had to maintain a minimal training level in order to manage the discomfort. Swimming breaststroke caused me great misery, but I got through it regardless, just not at the best speed. I eventually accepted the fact that there was nothing I could do to help my situation in any timely matter, so I enjoyed what little swimming I could get through.

It was January ’04 when I first experienced chest discomfort. In the end, it was May ’04 before surgery was scheduled. The months in between were filled with searching for answers, monitoring of the situation, scheduling availabilities and medical tests. Even though it compounded the situation, I found solace at the pool. The USC swim team was pretty great. For the shy new transfer that hadn’t spent much time with them, they were very understanding. I had teammates accompanying me to the doctor and a coach who forced me out of the pool when I was too beat down. I like to think that maybe my passion to continue was a bit of an inspiration… although, at the time, I really felt like I was letting everyone down.

I am still thankful for Mark Schubert for being a tough, but understanding coach when I really needed one. I went to USC from Kenyon College where the coach couldn’t seem to grasp my issues. He had discussed with me his desire that I leave the swim team due to my health issues, at that time the breast hadn’t even come up yet; I was just dealing with inflamed tonsils. When I walked on at USC Schubert had other swimmers to worry about. It was an Olympic year and there was a lot of medal potential in that pool. Regardless he could still see when I was pushing myself too much and when I needed stern encouragement. In the summer of ’04, when I was coming back from surgery, he still let me hop into his workouts even though my eligibility was done and I was still fighting through pain. The atmosphere in the build up to Athens really strung me along. In the end though I had to step back and slow down my recovery. It took about a year to get back to feeling normal. I watched a lot of people I once shared a pool with pick up a lot of hardware at the Athens games though, no tumor could ever take that away.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Save ASU Men's Swimming

ASU Cuts Athletic Programs
Yesterday Arizona State University announced the end of three men's athletic programs. The sports on the chopping block were men's swimming, tennis and wrestling. However, they somehow managed to save diving despite dropping the men's swimming program. While budget reasons were given for the cutbacks, all removed programs had to be male due to Title IX regulations.

Too many men's Olympic sports have gone the way of the dodo bird. No prestigious program is safe either. UCLA knocked off its men's swimming and gymnastics programs, two teams consistently in the running for NCAA titles. I can see the appeal of pouring all of the men's athletic budgets into big media sports like football, basketball and baseball though. I am sure top performing teams in those areas equal greater general student interested and increased enrollment, meaning more money for the school. It just hurts to see schools stuck in a vicious cycle of funneling all revenue back into the same programs in order to make them grow, while in turn neglecting the real needs of an institution. Turning your back on the core structure that got you through to where to you stand, does not make for a lasting relationship. I don't see these economically challenged institutions sustaining high level programs in the future, since their ineptitude lead to improperly balanced athletic budgets in the first place.

I seriously feel great sorrow for the ASU program. For a bit of time I had a roommate who was an alumni of their men's swim team. In the past I visited friends at the school, swam in their pool and enjoyed the hospitality of their team. Aside from my own USC crew, I really enjoyed the ASU team atmosphere. This whole thing just blows chunks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New House and Dog

I have neglected blogging over the past few weeks due to the fact that I completely up rooted my life. It happened very quickly, from finding the perfect home, to moving in, straightening up and acquiring a pet. I found a well preserved mid-century modern that will now suck up a lot of my time. I am so very thrilled to finally have a stable residence I can decorate as I choose. I no longer have to wonder whether the furniture or items I want to purchase will work in the near future. I plan on staying put for a long time.

Now to ward off the neighbor cats I have a big German Shepherd protecting the property. His name is Rusty and he is a California rescue dog. He is extremely lovable but could really stand to put on more weight. I'm working on that... He thinks he is a lap dog though and that can get a bit difficult when you sit down on the couch only to find a 70lb dog pouncing on you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speedo LZR

The LA Times ran a story today about the new Speedo LZR suit. The suit is a technological revolution a long time in the works. Its release coincides with the run-up to the summer games in Beijing of course. The suit is approved by FINA for competition use however, it is still causing a stir in the swimming world. A lot of people feel violated by the invasion of high technology into the sport, but I love it. I have yet to see this suit in person, but hopefully I will get to try it out in the not too distant future. In fact, I would love to try out/test all the new suits from the varying manufacturers. I find them fascinating. In future posts I will look into the details and engineering behind all the designs, but right now I don't have the spare time. One thing I do know though is that the LZR features ultrasonically welded seams. You might know those from the giant plastic bubble packaging you get when you buy anything from a memory card to an electric tooth brush. It is what makes those packages so damn hard to get open.

The Australia Olympic trials are currently in action and it is prominently featuring the suit. Swimmers are smashing world records left and right. It will interesting to see what happens at the U.S. trials although we have a good bit of time to wait.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tired of Tendonitis

Beginning about a month ago my left shoulder began giving me trouble. Actually, it wasn't so much the shoulder as the clavicle (collar bone). Having previously gone through two years of extensive physical therapy on the shoulder during my teenage years, I was prepared to handle it. I starting with icing the shoulder (unfortunately I am allergic to ibuprofen), but it still seemed to feel worse over time. I think a lot also had to do with the fact that I kept poking at the area. Sitting at work I kept cracking my sternum and shoulder. I finally made it to the doctor yesterday to see if my feelings of a manageable tendonitis flare were correct, or whether the problem was worse. X-rays confirmed no issue with cartilage and my pain was diagnosed as sternoclavicular tendonitis. Pretty much the joint where my clavicle meets the sternum is extremely pissed off. It has caused a lot of discomfort in my shoulder, pulling it forward and causing huge knots in my traps and neck as well. Now at least I also have some anti-inflammatory drugs to take that don't cause me to bust out in severe hives.

I kept out of the pool for a week while trying to rehab the shoulder/clavicle. I kept my workout going by running a lot. I've run many in mile in my day without issues, so I wasn't going overboard, at least I thought. It seems that now my right achilles tendon has decided to join the tendonitis club. I've had plenty of tendonitis issues with that foot, in the top of the foot and ankle, but the achilles has never before been too sore to function. Although, the tendon has always made me twinge a bit when doing calf raises. As of yesterday though the tendon is too uncomfortable to even attempt to stand on the tip toes of my right foot. I couldn't even stand the pressure of my shoe on my heel throughout the day. Not wanting to face the same fate as University of Georgia gymnast Courtney Kupets I have now decided to take a break from everything.

Right now I have too many issues that need to heal. I also have a lot going on with planning a move into a new house. Hopefully it all won't take too long to straighten out and I will come back stronger than before. It just isn't worth it when you have to compromise your technique for injuries. It causes much more harm than good.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Map of Southern California Pools

I will be moving from Marina Del Rey to Long Beach in a few weeks. While researching potential places to swim in the area I decided to just record my findings with a Google Map. I know I have not encompassed every pool around, but thus far, I have listed ones that make sense for me. They all have lap swim times and/or masters swim teams. Scanning around with the satellite view of Google Maps makes finding new pools pretty easy as well, especially in Southern California where they are almost all outdoors.

View Larger Map

Sunday, March 9, 2008

USA Swimming Needs a Wakeup Call

In recent years Web 2.0 websites delivering new media content such as Blogger, My Space and You Tube have shaken up the status quo. Many traditional media outlets and corporations have been unsure how to react. Some have resisted change by shunning and criticizing new media sources, one example being NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. Others have been quick to realize the monetary benefits and have thus acquired popular new sites, incorporating them into their existing methods, like AOL/Time Warner’s acquisition of Weblogs Inc.

More and more institutions are attempting to ride the Web 2.0 wave. However, the potentials of new media are still difficult to grasp for most. For that reason companies hoping to develop their own media presence are relying on consultants or other outside entities. The problem is that most deals are made simply for the money. The consulting companies might know a bit about marketing and media delivery, but they don’t necessarily know the inner-workings of the industry with which they are getting involved. They apply similar templates to each client without the core knowledge of what features their audience really wants. The most credible and successful new media sites have risen through the ranks because they are run by industry insiders. They are not journalists required to write about a wide array of topics, they are passionate individuals working at the heart of the topics they cover.

Recently there has been a deal made between USA Swimming and Wasserman Media Group. This union falls into the previously mentioned category of the miss guided institution teaming with the media consultant. Wasserman has a range of sports experience, but by no means are they swimming experts. Normally this sort of contract would not illicit much attention from the industry insiders, but the devil is in the details. As put forth in an interview with USA Swimming Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, and , the contract between USA Swimming and Wasserman gives the organization 50% of the revenue, but it also gives Wasserman 100% control. Traditionally communications groups, such as Wasserman, act as a middle man between the organization and the media. They package news items and deliver them to the right media outlets. This particular deal however, sees Wasserman become the one and only media outlet.

Resulting from the deal, Wasserman intends to produce a website where all swimming media content will be published. The site,, has yet to be launched, but is currently available for viewing in alpha release. In the meantime USA Swimming is already receiving great flack for the handling of the union. Independent swimming media sources are feeling left out in the cold by the organization. Long existing news reporting entities such as Swimming World Magazine and see a huge conflict of interest potential. New media entities such as bloggers like Tony Austin of the SCAQ Swim Club Blog and Garrett McCaffery of, are even being sufficiently hindered in their reporting abilities due to shady tactics in the restriction of fair use laws.

During a the recent Missouri Grand Prix swim meet Mr. McCaffery received media credentials from USA Swimming to gather interview content. The issuance of the media credentials also came with severe restrictions. One of those restrictions was the taping of any swimming footage. It just so happened that while filming a poolside interview Natalie Coughlin chose that moment to break a world record in the 100 m backstroke during the preliminary heats. Part of the race was captured in the background of the interview. After the footage was uploaded to USA Swimming issued McCaffery a letter of cease and desist. They also revoked any future privilege of media credentials. The actual discourse is available for reading on the blog .

Without a doubt USA Swimming believes their actions to be for the betterment of the sport. However, it seems that they are merely naive about new media technologies. Sports become mainstream successes because of their potential for many individuals to make money. The USA Swimming and Wasserman deal leaves potential for only two entities to generate significant revenue. There is no information provided as to whether any finances float down to the swimmers or national team members as well. A system that strong arms the competition and expects the team members to work for peanuts does not work, just ask the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

GM Next Gen Mild Hybrid

Today in Geneva General Motors announced the second generation belted alternator starter mild hybrid system. Now I might just know a little bit about this project... or I might not... It is very interesting to read people's opinions on the announcement though. It seems that it is perhaps too early still for people to really grasp the concept of the system. I try and read everything I can when it comes to feelings about GM's mild hybrid systems and I also try and find all the information I can about competitors. Not to say though that it might have any effect on future developments... Perhaps I've said too much already.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Caution Wet Floor

In case you didn't notice... showers make the floor wet.
I caught this picture in the locker room of the pool. I found it amusing that it was necessary to inform people that the floor might be wet in the vicinity of the showers.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Picking Apart and Putting Together R35 GT-R

Today I had the opportunity to poke around at bit at two R35 Nissan GT-Rs. As far as I am aware they are the first two GT-Rs in consumer hands in the United States, they are JDM models that were shipped over from Japan. While the JDM models are interesting. There might be more changes in store for the US market (Nissan wants to make sure the car is ridiculously fast). Even still the Japanese get DOT glass and headlights. It looks like Nissan saved money on parts by making things to US standards from the get go.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Automotive Forums R34 GT-R at Time Attack

Woo I was on tv... The piece aired on Redline TV which runs on the Speed Channel. The footage is over two years old.

This was also the event where I managed to brand my face with a brake rotor. Lesson learned... do not lean in too close when adjusting tie rod ends immediately after the car gets off the racetrack...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Love Cookie Monster

A friend sent me a link to an NPR interview with Cookie Monster. It was a cute video to watch. I have quite a bit of Cookie Monster related merchandise. I earned the nickname Cookie Monster in high school and he was always my favorite Sesame Street Character. I also call my blue BMW 335i the turbo Cookie Monster because the blue color reminds me of CM's blue fur.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Gift

My mom sent me a silly Valentine's Day gift. It is a fuzzy pink winged dragon thingy. I am a sucker for adorable stuffed animals so I find it to be a very cute present. When the left foot is squeezed the wings flap about as fast as a humming bird, it hums a little tune and blows kisses. Since I brought my USC Fight Song playing Traveler horse (another gift from the mom) to work in order to bug my UCLA graduate cubicle mate the dragon thing has taken its place atop my television.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Need More Time

Between working, swimming, gymnastics, eating, writing and sleeping time is hard to come by. I particularly need to cut out some of the time spent sleeping, rearrange my swimming schedule slightly and spend more time on the work thing. I figure if I start waking up super early and hit up morning practice I can get more time in the pool and also spend more time at work which would show great commitment on my part. Maybe then I will need to bring a pillow to work to take naps during lunch time as well... My supervisor spends about 14 hours at work every weekday. It is hard to match his level of commitment. I think it is just my competitive nature to try.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Leaving the Gym

This is one corner of the gym where I spend my Tuesday and Thursday nights each week. I snapped a quick pic when we all cleared out to close up for the night. This place is the training ground for some AMAZING gymnasts. So much extension and artistry it is very inspiring. Two junior elites on the National Team call this place home. However, one is now old enough for senior eligibility and thus is in potential running for the 2008 Olympic team. Rumor is that she impressed the national directors during a recent training camp. I hope she can put together a fantastic year and really give it a shot.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fuel Cell Equinox

The picture above features a Chevrolet Fuel Cell Equinox. The vehicle is part of GM's Project Driveway program. 100 fuel cell Equinoxes get to be tested by the hands of general consumers. The vehicle recipients are in varying parts of the United States, but at least have access to hydrogen fueling stations.

The fuel cell vehicles are interesting. The powertrain has significantly less moving parts than a traditional ICE powered vehicle. However, of course that means trades offs to more exotic materials and newly developing technology. I love improving emerging technology though. That is why I do what I do... I hope this Equinox will teach me some new things too.

Monday, February 4, 2008

7lbs of Cake

Thank you Costco for the 7lb chocolate cake. I was told by the person that bought this that they got me a present that weighted 7lbs, it was liked by everyone and it was secured in the backseat of the car with the seatbelt. I thought it was something like a puppy. No, it was a big ass chocolate cake. Thanks!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Swim Practice

I have spent about 19 years of my life swimming competitively. Although there have been a couple significant periods of time where I only hit the pool to stay fit (or more like recover from surgery). Even when I didn't take the time to race others, I was still competing with myself so I believe it still falls in the competitive swimming category. Anyway I hardly have any digital evidence of all my swimming efforts. I have a few videos of swimming from age group through college. However, it is all on VHS. I have put some on DVD now, but I digress. I particularly lack any underwater swimming shots though. That is the good looking stuff too. I really can't say that I know all that much about what I look like swimming underwater. At USC I did some underwater stroke analysis, but I don't have copies of any of the footage. That is why I was excited today when fellow masters swimmer Lauren was taking shots at practice. I asked her to send me photos so I had something for the memories. The images below are what she captured.

Next time she is going to try and capture some video for me. I really need to get a lot of underwater breaststroke footage... just for my own analysis benefit.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bad Hands

One of my favorite things about gymnastics is swinging around on the uneven bars. Unfortunately combining another one of my favorite things with the uneven bars does not make for the best situation. While weight lifting, working on cars and swinging on bars has built up tough calluses on my hands, swimming seems to keep a lot of moisture in the skin, like pockets of water under the calluses. That makes for a lot of bad rips. I file down the skin but it only slightly prolongs the period I can swing before a rip. I would absolutely love to be able to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time playing on the bars. I can only do so many kips before missing a piece of skin from my hand the size of a quarter, much less attempt to do a toe-on shoot to the high bar or even a giant. Maybe I need to more finely sand the leather on my grips... they are pretty rough.

I attempted to get a picture of my palms. However, it is rather difficult to get the camera to focus and have two free hands to photograph. I settled for one hand, but the details are still fuzzy. The shadows of old healing rips can't been seen too well and my latest rip, underneath the middle finger, doesn't look like much. It is sufficiently deep though as a rather thick bit of skin came off. I know... so lovely right. Sometime I wonder if people notice when I shake their hands.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Like many large corporations GM asks its new employees to become familiar with the company's history and product lineup. That means the GM web is vast full of interesting information, and I am actually supposed to kill time browsing through it all. However, of course I got myself off on a bit of a tangent focusing on the history of small projects I find fascinating. One such project is the Chevrolet Cosworth Twin Cam Vega. Not only do I like limited edition vehicles, but Cosworth USA happens to be located just around the corner from the GM facility at which I work. I also have a few friends that work over there. In fact this blog post is inspired by a recent post made by Cosworth employee, Eric Hsu, on his blog.

To me it is no surprise that the Cosworth Twin Cam Vega came to fruition during the tenure of GM General Manager John Delorean. Delorean had a hand in some of the greatest designs to come out of General Motors. He was always the type of engineer to not compromise his vision just because it did not mesh with what was considered publicly acceptable. That also led to his ultimate demise in the auto industry. Anyway I digress...

In 1969 GM had the plans for the 1971 Chevy Vega in their sights. The vehicle was intended to fight the small imports beginning to invade the United States. The engine was to feature a new block design. An all-aluminum, high silicon content, 4-cylinder engine block. Keith Duckworth of Cosworth fame was approached with the design to detect interest in a possible racing application, he was intrigued. By 1971 Cosworth began testing their first editions of the race engine. It wasn’t long before inherent weakness in the engine block lead Cosworth to develop a street version of the engine as opposed to an all out race application.

The Cosworth Twin Cam Vega engine featured a DOHC 16 valve head developed by Cosworth of course. It also had electronic fuel injection as opposed to the standard carburetor. It even featured a stainless steel exhaust header. Unfortunately the engine’s performance was significantly hindered by then new CAFÉ standards and EPA requirements. The power output was only 110 hp.

The car itself had unique features. It came in only black with gold striping and gold cast aluminum wheels. It had special interior trim such as instrument bezels, steering wheel, serial number plaque and limited fabric choices. The total production run was only 3,508 vehicles with a rather different marketing approach. The slogan for the Chevrolet Twin Cam Cosworth Vega was, “Cosworth, One Vega for the Price of Two.”

More information can be found at The pictures also belong to the GM Archives.