I wrote previously about using Azureus to help download television shows. I gave into the advice after I relocated and gave Transmission a try.

The result? Completely horrible. Transmission could not provide me with more than about 50 kB/s for all of the torrents combined. I figured it was our wonky Internet connection (we are pretty far from the central office), but on the exact same type of torrent files Azureus is maxing out at my configured 160 kB/s cap.

So it looks like I will be going back to Azureus until Thursday, when I will try to get rTorrent up and running.

As an aside, I am fairly frustrated by the frequent "REPACKs" on tvRSS.net.

That is all. More details about actual life in a future entry.
So Verizon apparently does not want us to have Internet access here in the apartment. Five phone calls later and I am still stuck with a DSL modem blinking uninformatively.

Going to go with Comcast, I think, although that will be next week before they can arrange an appointment to hook us up. RCN apparently cannot figure out if they can service our address.

How difficult is this?
Just a quick note to let people know that I made it to D.C. safely and I got the job working at the toy store. Verizon is being the normal pain when it comes to getting DSL hooked up, so the Internet may not be a stable thing in the apartment until Monday.
I have been without a television for several months now, so I have resorted to downloading episodes of shows I want to see. In the past I used Azureus and its RSS handling abilities. As the program has grown into the Vuze monstrosity, I have been moving over to other things if possible.

The first step was moving to an RSS downloader to automatically download .torrent files. With minimal work I got RSSDler working. Great, so now I have a folder full of .torrent files.

I tried several command-line BitTorrent clients, but I either could not get them installed or could not get them working effectively. rTorrent looks the most promising, but I never could get it to work. I will have to give it another try soon. The other option would be cTorrent, although I am not sure cTorrent supports a watch-folder, so a little more work would have to go into getting that to work.

In the meantime I have continued to use Azureus, set to watch the folder RSSDler is downloading to. It works, but moving to a non-GUI client would be nice.
Relocating to the D.C. area this coming weekend. Any job leads?
So I have been home from camp for almost a week now. Now that I have been able to get caught up on my sleep and have a little bit of perspective, I figure it is time to write my thoughts on my summer at camp.

I had a really good time and worked with some amazing people.

I paced myself much better than previous camps I have worked. I slept a lot more and tried to not do everything. People that have worked summers with me before will be surprised to hear that I was generally getting about 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. It was much easier to avoid getting caught up in things too much when I had a full night's sleep the night before.

This came at the expense of my running, however. These things happen, I suppose.

This was my first summer camp working a completely administrative/supervisory position. I would like to think I did a fairly good job at it. It was definitely welcome - I have finally gotten to the age where the idea of trying to keep up with a group of teenage campers is simply insane. I had an excellent staff of counselors in teen camp, and that definitely made things much easier for me.

I also had a wonderful group of LTs to work with. We had our personality differences at times, but it made for an excellent team - we were able to look at situations from all perspectives and come up with a workable solution.

And, of course, there were the campers. They were a good group to work with, and reminded me that I do occasionally like working with teenagers.

Look for a more complete entry on post-camp life later, but in the meantime a brief entry on my running so far since getting back from camp.

So as you, my gentle reader, are well aware, I ran the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon in April and then purchased a Nike+ sportsband to better track my running. I quickly realized that my training pace was coming in a lot faster than I thought it was (I was training at about a 6:50 mile, compared with thinking I was training at about a 7:20 pace).

I quickly started using RunnerPlus.com for the smaller and more tightly-knit community than the Nike+ site allows. I also started using TrailRunner to plot out my runs and keep much more detailed stats on each of my runs. TrailRunner really needs one or both of two items, though: A GPS and running the same basic routes over and over again.

Before camp I was running about 25-30 miles a week. Once I got to camp I ran a few times the first couple of weeks but quickly gave up. Now that I am home from camp I am trying to get back into it. I am a bit disappointed with taking the last seven weeks off, but that is how it goes. I appreciated the sleep much more, I think.

The Nike+ gives an interesting twist to getting back into shape. So I have all of these sub-7:00 runs saved on these various websites and software programs. I do not want to ruin my averages, but I also want "credit" for the runs I am doing these days. As a result I have been going out a bit faster than my normal "get back into shape" runs. I really do keep trying to slow my pace down a bit, but they continue to be a bit faster than I would probably like.
I will be in the Boston area this weekend, probably from late-ish Friday night until really early Sunday morning.

So yeah.

Yell if you want to get together.
What does Apple have against PHP?

First the default PHP install on Leopard does not include GD Library, then I learn that Leopard also does not include PEAR by default anymore, either.
On Saturday I competed in the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon [Warning: Annoying "Call to the Post" audio when that page loads.]

All in all it was a good run. My goal was a sub-1:35:00 race. I finished with a 1:36:50. I was 329 overall, out of the 9387 finishing the half marathon. All in all I am happy with the race.

Some points:
1) With 12,000 people running (split between the half marathon and the full length marathon), the start should have been handled better. The road we started on was not wide enough to handle that many people. The first mile or so I spent running *around* people more than actually running "my race".
2) That brings me to a second point: While signs were up marking different desired paces (signs on the side of the start listing "6:00", "7:00" and so on), apparently no one except me and a few others actually followed them. As a result my first mile time was pretty slow. Instead of the 7:15 pace I had been hoping for, my first mile was timed at about 7:45
3) I have no idea what my second mile time was since I never saw the clock at the two mile mark. I never saw the two mile mark, which might explain part of that.
4) According to the chip timing, I did the first 10K of the race (about 6.2 miles) in 47:03, or about 7:34 pace. A lot of that was from the first two miles, I am sure. The only real hills on the course were from mile marker 3 to mile marker 5, as well.
5) My 15K time was 1:09:39, meaning from 10K -> 15K took me 22:36. That works out to be a 7:16 pace, or right about where I wanted to be. So after I got out of traffic I was almost exactly at the pace I wanted to be at.
6) For those of you keeping track at home, that means I did from the 15K mark (about 9.2 miles) to the end (~13.1 miles) in 27:11, or a blistering 7:10 pace.

After the race I felt pretty good. I took two more days off and today I finally did another run, an easy five miles.
So there is a good number of runners here in the Athens area. As someone who has been running for 20+ years, I do have some advice for the runners I see out on the streets:

1) If you are running with a friend, good for you! But wearing your iPod headphones while running with them seems a bit rude.
2) If you really want music while you run, I would suggest that instead of spending $30+ on an armband for your heavy iPod Video, iPod Classic, or iPhone, you instead pony up the $49 for an iPod Shuffle. Imagine - an iPod designed with things like running in mind! Lighter weight, with a built in clip and everything!
3) It is an unwritten rule around tracks that slower people stay in the outside lanes. That means if you are walking on the 8 lane track, you should generally be in lanes 5-8. If you are jogging, lanes 3 and 4. Leave lanes 1 and 2 open for people who are doing speedwork.

Also - one of my biggest pet peeves is bike riders who ride on the sidewalks on roads where there are dedicated bike lanes. In addition, Any person who is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian.. This means if you are riding your bike on the sidewalk, you have to yield (get out of my way) to me.
A few interesting stories:
The US government is doing all of this on behalf of you, gentle reader. While you might think "the Republicans are doing this", remember that the outside world makes no such distinction. The outside world sees a budding dictator grabbing power, while pushing other countries around. The US is not beyond holding "prisoners" from other countries indefinitely, without trial, and while torturing them.

You, fair reader, are a US citizen. These things are being done on your behalf, in your name.

And $11.2 billion for some helicopters? That is simply insane.
So my sister and her husband have started running, and so we have decided to do the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon. Unfortunately my father has come down with some stress fractures in his knee and will not be able to run with us.

So I have 35 more days. Running so far has been going pretty well. I am annoyed at the hilly nature of my current surroundings, but what can you do? I basically live on top of a hill, meaning any run that starts and ends at my apartment is necessarily going end going uphill.

I have gotten into a good habit, going out every day. I am currently up to my long runs being about 6-7 miles. I started doing speed workouts a couple of weeks ago. I am right on pace for the half-marathon.

Anyway, I should be out. I have four miles to run today!
So on Tuesday the roommate and I headed up to Amicalola Falls State Park. We got into the park at about 11:00am. We quickly visited the Visitor's Center. I filled up on water and got the pack ready to go out. I left the Visitor's Center at about 11:30am.

After a little bit of initial confusion (the sign behind the Visitor's Center is *very* misleading), I was on my way. The first half mile or so of the trail parallels the park road, and then begins heading up 500+ stairs to the top of the falls. Carrying a full pack up the stairs was not fun, but it was blazed, so I was going to do it. After that the trail meanders a little bit in the park before going by the lodge and then hitting a big sign.

Hike Inn 4.8 Miles
Average Hiking Time
3 Hours One-Way
Springer Mountain
7.3 Miles
Average Hiking Time
6 Hours One-Way

I was headed to Springer, and actually the Springer Mountain Shelter .2 miles beyond. By this time I had already hiked 1.5 miles around in the park (bringing my total for the day to a hopeful 9 miles).

The Approach Trail is a fairly easy, if mostly uphill, trail. The hike to Springer was fairly uneventful. I saw probably about a dozen or so hikers in total after leaving the state park. About half were day hikers (or hikers staying at the Hike Inn), the other half were backpackers that I would guess were out for a night or two at most.

I made it to the top of Springer Mountain, snapped a few pictures, and then headed down to the shelter. I was concerned it would be full - mid-March is a popular time to start the AT. I did not need to be worried; when I got there I learned I was sharing the shelter with one other person. It was 3:30pm at this time, so I had done the entire 9 mile hike in about four hours.

Apparently a lot of the GAMErs (Georgia -> Maine northbound through-hikers) spent the night in their tents. This is different than my experience on my hike in 2005, when the vast majority of northbound (and southbound) hikers spent most nights in shelters.

Anyway, spent a chilly night (got down into the low 30's/high 20's) in the shelter and got up about 8am the next morning to some pretty brisk winds. Took down the bear bag, got packed up, and was back on the trail, headed southbound, by about 8:30am. Going downhill was a bit easier - churned out the first three miles in a little over an hour. Made it down to the visitor's center by about noon.

All in all a good hike. Anyone in the Atlanta area should definitely check out Amicalola Falls. Even if you do not go all the way to the top of Springer in one day, there are plenty of places to camp along the way.
So a guy on facebook was asking about being an RC. I wrote him back saying he could ask me any questions. He sent me a few questions, and then I rambled on some answers.
I'm tossing between an RD job at a university and a RC job at IMSA.
What is the institution like as a workplace? Are they truly receptive to change or my voice?
What sort of a leadership role did you have? Was it necessary to be an enforcer, checking beds, etc.?
It strikes me that there might be a vibe of arrogance amongst the faculty and students, is this the case?
What is the best/worst part of you job?

A few answers:

As a disclaimer, I have been gone from IMSA for four years, and there has been a bit of a change at IMSA during that time (new president, slight change in the Res. Life staff), so my experiences should be taken with that in mind. That said, I do not foresee IMSA having changed some of the things I will comment on.

In addition, my experience prior to IMSA was not in Res. Life, it was with gifted/talented student. This put me in the minority in the Res. Life staff, as most came from higher ed. Res. Life.

1) The institution, in my opinion, has one big problem: It has been too successful for its own good. It has completed its mission of improving math/science education in Illinois. As a result, it is suddenly not the only place for a student to go to get a good education in Illinois. As a result, IMSA is facing applicant shortages and therefore has to face difficult questions like "Do we take less qualified applicants in order to keep our enrollment up?", "If we take fewer students, how do we justify our budget to the state?" and so on.

This directly effects any employee who works "front-line" with students. A student who probably deserves to be kicked out (and sent home to his/her home school) might not be - IMSA cannot afford to lose too many students. Power dynamics, which I will go into a little more detail later, shifts dramatically, as suddenly parents and students have a lot more power and say in the school.

As an RC you have very little say in the overall issues facing the school. The Res. Life staff has quite a bit of latitude when it comes to "small picture" changes, but some of the larger "This is an issue that is effecting all IMSA students, and needs to be changed at high levels" will be largely ignored. To some degree the Res. Life department is treated as a compartmentalized box within the institution, and not really integrated into the institution. Again, this was under the older President, and things may have changed with the new one.

2) As I said, my background was working with gifted/creative teens in a variety of settings, including residential settings. As a result I was used to what my day-to-day job requirements were. I did see some people with higher ed. Res. Life backgrounds come in and have a pretty serious shock.

As an RC, you are in charge of a wing of 20-24 students. These students will generally be broken up into equal parts sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Most of the students in your wing will be fairly self-sufficient. They will be able to get themselves up and showered every morning, and will get to class. They will generally do their homework, and get reasonable grades. You will still be a lot more involved with their lives, however, than you were in a higher ed. position. If you are working, you will be checking each night to make sure they are in the building. You will be talking to them about bad exams, and you will be used as a resource a lot more often when they are having issues with their girlfriends and so on.

The sophomores (first year IMSA students) will require some "training" to get themselves to be self-sufficient enough to be able to do that routine without someone over their shoulder. Your involvement in their lives will be more significant as a result, at least for the first few months of the school year.

In all it is a much more hands-on position than in a college residence hall. That said, you are really not tucking them in at night, and you are generally only there to correct things they are getting behind on. They do not report good grades to you, but each week you will get a list of all your students who have done poorly that week (be it not turning in homework, failing an exam, or falling asleep repeatedly in class). It is then your job to follow up with the student, talk to him, and either come up with a plan of change between you two, or direct him to the numerous resources IMSA offers students (be it academic or otherwise).

3) There is definitely a vibe of arrogance. Students all think they are going to go off to MIT and be a leading scientist. Each year a couple will do that. The other 150+ will go off to the University of Illinois and lead fairly routine lives. A good number will fail out of the U of I, having been burned out on academics at IMSA. Students will think they are smarter than you are. At times they might be academically more intelligent, but the students will assume this means they are also more common-sense intelligent, and more real-world intelligent. Obviously this is not the case.

Faculty think of themselves as more college professors than high school teachers. There are some exceptions, but by and large they leave academic assistance up to "someone else". In general they are supportive, but aloof.

When it comes down to it, there are several blocs all vying for power at IMSA. There is the "main building faculty and staff" (employees not in Res. Life), there are students, there are parents, and there is Res. Life. Each is trying to exert power over the others. Res. Life is definitely at the bottom of the totem pole in this struggle. Anytime any two of these groups gang up on another group, they win. For example, anytime parents and students agree on something, in general the administration will cave, at least a little bit. It seems strange to say it, but there is definitely a bit of faculty vs. Res. Life struggle, as well, and more often than not Res. Life walks away the loser in that one.

4) I realize thus far I have painted a fairly negative picture of IMSA. I actually generally enjoyed my time working there. My favorite parts were the students, and my coworkers. I worked with some amazing Res. Life staff members, and I worked with some amazing students. I am still in touch with a number of students. Some of them are going off to graduate schools now. It is amazing to look back and realize "wow, for three years I basically raised these kids."

They come to you when their girlfriend dumped them, and they come to you when they are giving a presentation and want you to be there. To large degree you are their older brother / parent for three important years.

I suppose, looking back now, that it was too easy to get caught up in the "larger picture" issues at IMSA. When I simply concentrated on the students, things were going pretty well. Of course part of the position is being an advocate for your students, and that requires sticking your head up and trying to get things done.

Anyway, that is my little ramble. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Anyone in the Nashville, TN area want to give me a place to crash tomorrow night (Tuesday, 4 March 2008)?
This weekend I spent at Hungry Mother State Park, in western Virginia. While there some friends of mine and I went and did an out-and-back dayhike along a section of the AT near Mount Rogers. We saw the famous wild ponies, and had lunch at the Thomas Knob Shelter. It was a short hike, about 6.5 miles total.

The next day we hiked to the top of Molly's Knob. About 1.5 miles each way, for another out-and-back hike.

Future plans:
My roommate has a conference in early March at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. I think I am going to hitch a ride and then do a simple two-day up-and-back along the 8.5 mile approach trail to Springer Mountain. Nice 17 miles in two days.

Later in March I am going to do the Georgia section of the Benton MacKaye Trail. It is about 92 miles from Springer Mountain to the US Hwy 64 crossing. Should be a nice week out on the trail.

More information about the BMT:Ahh, the sweet freedom of unemployment...
The roommate and I were talking about finding friends in the Atlanta area who were going to be having a Super Bowl party we could crash.

What say you, Atlanta readers?
So how did I spend my Wednesday?

Went to the Department of Driver Services trying to get a new driver's license. Passed the written exam (missing only three questions out of 40 - who knew that the exam would say it is alright to pass on the left [EDIT: should have been "pass on the right"] on a multilane highway, and that a car should stop at first sight of blind person NO MATTER WHAT?) and then waited around to be able to take the road exam.

Unfortunately I was not able to take the exam before leaving for my dentist appointment. Last week I had a really bad toothache and needed a root canal on tooth #14. Today was the big day. Fun in a dentist chair for an hour, I assure you.

Tomorrow I get to go out and practice some parallel parking and three-point turns. Oh the fun. It is just like I am 16 again.

And of course my sister went into labor early this morning, so in all likelihood I will have another nephew by the time you read this.
So we learned yesterday about Heath Ledger. I am somewhat amazed at the responses I have seen from people. Disbelief, outpouring of sadness, and everything else. I suppose, more than anything, I have been surprised at the amount of emotions displayed about the news.

I suppose this is where Uncle NoWalmart takes a seat in his rocking chair and says "Back in my day..." and other "Ehh, I am old!" sort of things, but I feel the need to say them.

I suppose each decade sees a fairly well known figure die before his/her time, and each teens/20-somethings cohort takes it as its own. Some are obviously bigger than others - the deaths of JFK, RFK, and MLK in the span of a five years, for example, were much more culturally significant that any group of people who died in the 1970s. The 70s did have at least one very notable death - Elvis Presley.

The 80s started off with a bang, seeing John Lennon shot to death less than a year into the decade.

The 90s had its fair share - JFK Jr. Jerry Garcia. Princess Diana.

For me, however, the celebrity death for me was 8 April 1994. I even remember where I was when I heard that Kurt Cobain was dead.

That first celebrity death did have an impact on me. As time went on, though, celebrity deaths meant less and less to me. The death of a stranger that I only knew from the skewed perspective of the mass-media? Really meaningless to me at this point. I feel bad for his family and friends, but no more than any other individual who died before their time.

I suppose I should not be overly surprised by the emotion and attention surrounding Heath Ledger's death - the first decade of this millennium has been somewhat lacking in celebrity deaths.
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