Benji Is 7

Seven years ago today, Benji entered our lives.

Benji a few months old.

I can honestly say that nothing has been the same since then.

He’s grown into a curious, silly, imaginative, friendly, caring boy who loves reading, making lists, watching videos with Ian, anything Pokemon, and playing made-up games. Sometimes he wants to be a chemist when he grows up.

I look forward to seeing where we go from here.

EIAE Update

A while ago I wrote extensively about the arterial disease in my leg, EIAE. This is an update on how it’s going and what I’m doing about it.

In my original post, I said that I was going to try to live with the disease as best I could, changing my thinking and expectations accordingly. At the same time, I continued to train for the Whistler Gran Fondo, my big event of the season, since I’m still able to ride somewhat.

Now I’m reconsidering my total opposition to surgery. Not only is the surgery becoming more common as more athletes are diagnosed, but for myself, I find it nearly impossible to imagine the rest of my life without some kind of vigorous athletic activity in it — and EIAE, in my leg at least, stops me from running as well as biking. That eliminates nearly all sports that include a running component… Which is nearly all sports. Continue Reading >>

Sartorially Speaking

We have 10 people in my department at work, including our intern and one person in our Raleigh office. Yesterday, five of us wore striped shirts. I insisted we take a commemorative picture, because what are the odds?!
We blend right in with the herd.

Wahoo Replacement Resolution

A week ago I mentioned that my Wahoo ELEMNT battery was dying, and I didn’t find any of the new options very compelling. As part of my due diligence, I contacted Wahoo, on the off-chance that they might offer a discount on a new one for returning customers. They did better than that: Wahoo ELEMNT has a replaceable battery! It has to be the last modern device that allows the user (or anyone, for that matter) to replace the battery, and when I found that out, I can’t express the joy I felt. I want to fix my things, not replace them, whenever possible. It took some (rather slow) back and forth, but over the course of a few days I confirmed I wanted a replacement, sent them my address, and paid for it plus extra for two-day shipping. They also sent me a detailed document describing how to replace the battery and, although I think I could have written it better, I appreciated that they had it at all. The new battery arrived on Thursday. Ian and I promptly unscrewed the approximately zillion screws to remind the back of the case, taking care not to lose any of the microscopic washers associated with each one. Then we just carefully popped off the old leads and popped in the new ones — I let Ian do that; might as well amortize the engineering degree a bit! — followed by screwing a zillion screws back in. The moment of truth proceed a relief: The device turned back on! It retained all my data! On Saturday I gave the new battery a real workout with a seven-hour total time ride up Mt. St. Helens. It held up beautifully, with charge to spare. So I am delighted.

Deck Improvement Woes

For Christmas this year, I bought Ian a wood-burning fire pit. We have this handy cement pad, and it’s perfect for a fire pit now that Benji’s old enough not to fall into it (probably).

The first s’mores on the new fire pit!

What this highlighted, however, was that we could really use some better seating and, better yet, a roof around that area so we could use it in inclement weather.

I started talking in January with the contractor who did such a glorious job on our fireplace, to start adding seating and maybe a cover to the deck. After a brief break, we sat down in May and made a plan. Continue Reading >>

News Flash: Antimicrobial Boogers Replace Neosporin

Ian and Benji watch a lot of YouTube videos together. Sometimes they’re mindless things like marble races, but other times they are educational, like TedEd videos. Watching all these TedEd videos has given Benji quite the store of random facts.

For example, one time we were at a park looking at mushrooms, and he said, “Did you know mushrooms cause rain?” Skeptical, I looked it up later, and sure enough — the spores from a forest full of mushrooms, all released at once, can provide places for water in the air to condense, causing rain. Continue Reading >>

Garmin vs. Wahoo

The battery in my current GPS bike computer, a Wahoo ELEMNT, has started failing. It never had an excessively long life, but it’s dropped to under seven hours. Most of the year that’s ample, but right now I’m doing extremely hilly rides that can take seven hours of moving time, plus stopped time.

When the ELEMNT dies, it doesn’t warn you — it just shuts off, and won’t turn back on again, come hell or high water. Then, when you get home and plug it in, it starts the ride up again, recording time and distance miles from where it died. Sometimes the route is corrupted, so you lose most of the ride data, too.

In short, not only does the ELEMNT die unexpectedly, but it does so inelegantly. This has plagued me the last two weeks, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to use it for my big ride next month.

So I’ve started looking at a replacement. I see two potential options:

The way I see it, it’s really a choice between hardware and software.

Garmin is, at heart, a hardware company. They make maps and devices to display maps. Their bike computers grew from mostly displaying maps to offering all sorts of other features, some of them very cool. They excel at maps and routing, and produce a very solid quality piece of hardware. But Garmin has always struggled with buggy software and putting out features that kinda work sometimes, but sometimes not. You have to manage some stuff, like routes and third-party syncing, through their companion website. Additionally, their configuration and screen setup is all on the device itself, a cumbersome method that requires a lot of taps to navigate through menus at times.

Wahoo, on the other hand, is a software company. Their first bike computer was unashamedly a smartphone peripheral, requiring a smartphone for data processing and essentially just being a screencast for the smartphone app.

The ELEMNT really is a stand-alone GPS device that processes ride data itself, but where Wahoo really innovated was on the setup paradigm. Instead of tapping through a zillion menus on the device itself, you manage and configure screens, user profile data, sensors, and integrations on the ELEMNT though an elegant and friendly smartphone app. I switched to the Wahoo after one too many Garmin failures, and the app blew me away. I also liked the fact that I don’t have to log in to some other website (like Garmin Connect) to add peripherals, load routes, or sync routes with third-party sites. Once configured, syncing happens automatically through wifi – super handy.

The actual device, however, was several steps down from Garmin. It has a plain black and white screen, which, although easier to read than a Garmin, looks old-fashioned (I’ve heard the ROAM introduces color, but sparingly). The maps and on-device navigation, frankly, stink or are non-existent. I handle this by loading RideWithGPS routes, which provide all the street and elevation data for the ELEMNT to display.

Now, I bought my Wahoo something like three or four years ago, so some things that were cutting-edge then are standard now. I know Garmin has continued to improve their devices and offer more cool features and integrations. Wahoo… not so much. The ROAM is their next big thing, and everything is the same except they added color and dipped their toes into mapping and on-device route generation. From what I’ve read, these features are decent, but not at the price point Wahoo wants.

Even so, I still prefer the Wahoo paradigm. I don’t want to go back to Garmin’s klunky UI. Frankly, I’m not excited about either the Garmin or the Wahoo. I don’t care to replace my current GPS for the price and features of either new device.

In conclusion: Meh. Maybe I can baby my current Wahoo along long enough for something really compelling to come out.