Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Snowy Shuffle

Snow for Shamrock Shuffle
Originally uploaded by bentley79.
It may officially be spring-time in Chicagoland, but you wouldn't know it from this morning. It was the 30th running of the Shamrock Shuffle, and as I've done for the past four years now, I was running.

Last night and this morning also brought a lot of snow to Chicago. Which is definitely weird for this time of year. (It was 70 here not so long ago!) I woke up super early this morning and took a look outside and almost went back to bed. They hadn't gotten to plowing my street and the forecast said that the snow wouldn't let up until well into the afternoon.

But I thought that it might be fun after all and certainly an experience I wouldn't soon forget. So I got ready and put on many many layers of clothing and got out there! The drive to the city was pretty bad with cars spun out on the freeway every few miles. But I got there and made my way to gear check to leave my bag. The show was pretty heavy (this was around the time the picture was taken) and they were handing out plastic bags, which I definitely loved. I threw that on and was able to stay a bit warmer in the 1/2 hour until the start.

This year I was up in starting corral B which is really close to the front! (I had a really good 5k time last year from the runway race at O'Hare) I made my way into the corral and waited for the start. The corrals were full of snow and slush and just pretty nasty overall. As we all made our way to the starting line once the race began everyone's feet were just soaking wet. From standing around for 1/2 hour in the snow and 30MPH winds my feet were pretty cold.

Crossing the starting line, I realized that my feet were indeed pretty cold. It felt like I had numb bricks on the ends of my shoes for the first few blocks, but I was starting at a pretty nice pace so I quickly warmed up. The street was not well plowed at all though and it was a slushy mess the whole way with lots of giant puddles.

I made it through mile 1 in about 8:30 which was a great pace, but one I knew I couldn't sustain...especially in all the slush. But I was feeling great and kept on going! Mile 2 was a little less than 9 minutes and I was still feeling great. My feet were all warmed up and I was definitely in the groove at that point. I ran right past the first aid station...definitely not in need of a cold drink at that point!

Miles 3 and 4 were also pretty easy. I got a little gatorade at the mile 3.5 aid stop but otherwise kept moving along. My pace slowed down a bit (especially since Jackson St was not plowed at all and was a giant slush puddle for 3/4 of a mile!). But I made my way along!

As I turned up to Roosevelt with 0.2 to go, I saw that this street too was filled with slush. It was a tough "climb" up Mt. Roosevelt, but the end was in sight! I came in a little cold, but feeling great! My final time was 45:30 (9:09 pace) which was a PR for me in this event. It's amazing how 5 miles feels like nothing after having trained for a marathon a few months ago! If the weather would have been nicer, I really would have had a great finishing time!! I ran into Jen's sister in the finishing chute which was fun (and random in a race with tens of thousands of runners!).

Gear check was annoying as usual. The bib numbers go in order of start corral and so do the gear check tables. So all 1,000 runners in the 4,000 rage will finish within 5 minutes of each other and all want their bags at the same time. It's just silly to do things that way :) But they never learn!

I grabbed my free post-race beer and then made my way up to Schoolyard for beers and food with Zack and Marissa. I really love their black bean burger with hummus! Such a good idea!

Shamrock was definitely a race to remember. I've done this race in the 70s and now with windchills in the 20s with blizzard-like conditions. And it's always a good time! Let the Chicago outdoor running season begin!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

busy and about to be busier!

It's been a busy few weeks around here. Last week I was off to Boston again to teach and to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It was fun to hang out with my friend Susan and as always wonderful to start the day with some Bagel Rising!

The next few weeks will surly be busy. Next week I'll be at the NCTA Cable Show in DC showing off what I've been working on this year (on the main floor!!!). From NCTA, I'm taking the Acela (yay!) up to Boston for CHI. I'll be around the 4th-9th if anyone wants to get some veggie food or a drink sometime. I'm really looking forward to CHI as it should be a nice break from my crazy schedule at work and it's always fun to see old friends there. This is the first year in a while where I'm not presenting at the conference proper (I have a workshop paper), so it should be a fairly relaxing week.

Random things:

I went to the CSO for the first time since 2003 last weekend. It was great! Even the flutists, which didn't make me cry :)

I'm running the Shamrock Shuffle 8k this weekend. If you are too, let me know and let's meet up after the race!

If you're in the LA area on April 10 and have an iPhone/iPod Touch/N95/ZN5, let me know. You might be able to help me with something.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Diebold's UI issues...

As I was driving up the 405 the other day there was a great story on KCRW about a particular button on the Diebold voting machines in use in CA and other states. Apparently on the management screen, there are three buttons in a row: "Print" "Save" and "Clear". After an election, they are supposed to print a log and save it to disk for future use. But that third button, well, it happens to clear out all records of voting having occurred with no prompt like "Are you sure?" just click and poof, no election ever happened here.

The KCRW show was awesome in that they talked in detail about usability and all of the issues with that little button - from where it was placed, to what it was named, to the lack of confirmation needed to do something really bad. Oh, and the worst part is, since it deletes the logs, there's no log of the deletion of logs anywhere!

In previous elections, some polling places have accidentally hit this button and all votes were lost. So the voting machine is officially illegal because under CA (and most others states) law you can't have a voting machine that erases logs. So how did it get through inspection?

Anyway, just thought it was interesting that there was this detailed discussion of usability on (sort of) mainstream radio. And sad that this is what our country relies on when it comes to elections.

More here in the wired article.


Sunday, March 08, 2009


The title was my travel itinerary for last week and yes, it was a bit crazy! But it turned out to be a wonderful week and I'm in such a great mood right now and ready to dive into another long week of work back here.

The week started with a trip out to MIT. I had my colleague JoEllen in to guest lecture a class on mobile design which went really well and the students really got into...which is always a challenge with such a fluffy topic at MIT :) I really think they're beginning to see how all of this human centered design stuff works which is awesome! While in Boston, I made a quick trip to Grasshopper for some awesome "chicken" fingers and No Name with Susan! So great to see old friends and eat good food!

From Boston, I drove up to Dartmouth to give a talk at their CS Colloquium. I talked about our Ambient Communications work and the general process we use for ideation and prototyping. It got people talking which was good, as was dinner with Andrew and Tanzeem. It was a bit cold up there though! While at Dartmouth, I made it over to see the Orozco murals, including the skeleton giving birth to knowledge.

A quick stop in VT for coffee, and then I was back to Boston to catch a bit of the Boston FIRST regional before heading to the airport. I ran into an old WildStang student on the way in which was a bit crazy, but fun to catch up with her! Then I hung out with Dawn who was the pit announcer while watching TJ^2 move around and the MIT robot stand around as usual :) A quick lunch/dinner at Wagamama and I was on my way home!

I stayed in chicago for about 11 hours and was on my way out again, this time to LA to test a system for work out at UCLA. It was a fun trip, the system worked, and it was good to see it in action again! On Saturday, I made it down to Carlsbad to see my friend Stacie and go to Legoland. We had such a blast (pictures coming soon!) and I even got a picture of me at the (lego) Obama inauguration!

Now I'm back in Chicago and definitely ready for sleep. Super early meetings tomorrow at work. To all of you that I got to see on this trip, it was so totally wonderful to see you all!!!