Booth-Duty at TechEd Developer

IMG_1386 Uhl in Eagle, ID – I just got back from a week in Orlando, Florida for the Microsoft TechEd Developer conference. It was a somewhat of a short notice trip. Much earlier in the year I had filled out an application to work at TechEd, as working at conferences is a good way to touch-base with your customers. As a program manager Microsoft likes you to participate in a couple conferences a year. Well time passed and I didn't remember receiving a confirmation that I had been accepted. So, a couple weeks a go, it was a surprise to me when I received an email that I only had one day to make my hotel reservations!

I flew out on Sunday so I could make a short conference worker training on Monday. Since the conference didn't start until Tuesday and I'd have the rest of Monday free, Heather decided to come down with me for those couple days. She flew stand-by and lucked out by getting the last seat possible on the leg from SLC to Orlando! If she hadn't made it, she probably would have just gone back to Boise. The perils of flying stand-by!

IMG_1395 It was nice to have Heather there the first couple days. The hotel was really nice and we spend a lot of time together. We ate some yummy food at the Bahamas Breeze, who is known for their coconut encrusted shrimp, which we both enjoyed! We also split a delicious, Dulce de Leche cheesecake. Yummy!

Then on Tuesday Heather left for the airport super early in the morning while I got ready for "booth-duty". My job was to answer questions about our product at the PerformancePoint Server booth.

IMG_1419 Typically there were two of us at a booth at a time and I only had one, three-hour shift per day, except for one day where I had two shifts. Aside from that I attended sessions and then one night I went out to dinner with my team. Overall it wasn't a good experience but by Friday I was ready to come home.

No Chicken Dinner for You

Uhl in Eagle, ID – Even though yesterday's workout was encouraging, between my lack of real top-end power and some work I had to get done at the office, I decided to pass on the Chicken Dinner road race today. If it was a flat course, I probably could have hung on for a while, but I knew with the steep climb every lap and the strong winds, I would have been off the back in a matter of minutes.

It's nice to have a power meter to back this decision up: I know for a fact that the 337 watts VO2 power I was putting out yesterday would not have been enough to keep me with the main group. So chalk this one up as my first "DNS" of the season (Did Not Start). Maybe if I get all these acronyms out of the way early in the season, there'll be less of them later?!

IDVCP Trail Work

Img_1271Uhl in Eagle, ID – Heather and I helped out with some trail work at the Idaho Velodrome & Cycling Park and it was actually lots of fun. It was nice to do some manual labor for a change (cycling doesn't count). Dave Beck is the man who organizes these volunteer efforts and when Heather and I first showed up there were only a few of us. But we were shortly joined by a group of Boy Scouts and then more people showed up as work progressed.

Img_1276The main task for today was putting up a few sections of fence. That involved drilling holes for the posts and then setting up the log fence and tamping in the dirt around them. I worked with Dennis and Mark using the gas-powered auger. I had never used an auger so I was a little intimidated at first. Basically it's like a huge drill that takes two people to handle. It wasn't too hard to handle initially, but after a few holes your hands and shoulders get tired. So we switched on and off who was "driving" the thing. I was amazed at how easy that auger went into the least for the first Img_1282set of holes. But on the last section we had a few problem holes that took a bit more work. Even so, I was told it was nothing compared to the holes they dug last week; those took a lot more work. They were hitting all sorts of rocks and hardpack layers.

Heather was helping with setting up the fences and tamping in the dirt. By the time all the holes were drilled there were plenty of volunteers so the actual fence building went really fast. With less people would have taken much longer. At the end, Dave explained the different areas of the park. It was amazing to see how much progress had been done. The pump track is completed and two of the three "mini" downhill lines are completely done. The four-cross course is getting close and now with these fences in, the trail system that intertwines with the new Ridge to River Trail System is almost complete. Heather and I watched one of the kids go down one of the downhill runs and it looked like so much fun that we're probably going to come out and try it ourselves!


Back to Work

Img_0982crop_4 Uhl in Eagle, ID – I re-entered the software industry today after the Cycling Sabbatical I started in October of 2005. During the last two years I focused most of my energy on my lifetime passion of bicycle road racing. Though I didn't get the results I had quite hoped for, I did manage to break most of my bests as far as power goes. I also learned a lot about my physiological limits and what training works for me and, just as important, what doesn't!

The time away from "real" work also gave me a much needed break from the hectic pace of the software industry. While I did some light computer consulting and created cycling-related spreadsheets, I was able to decompress and have a much needed mental break. I now feel reinvigorated and look forward to my return to the tech sector. And what better place to do that than the mother-of-all software companies, Microsoft!

No, I'm not moving to Redmond, Washington, but rather, today I started my first day with Microsoft in the same building that I left two years ago! You see, ProClarity was acquired by Microsoft a few months after I left. Hmmm...were they waiting for me to leave?! Unlike some other Microsoft acquisitions, they didn't suck Proclarity up to Redmond. They left most of the R&D team here in downtown Boise.

Continue reading "Back to Work" »

Heather the Amassador

Boisechambergr Uhl in Eagle, ID – Ever since Heather started working as a financial consultant, she has been involved with the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. She's part of the Ambassador Program where she attends grand openings for local businesses and gathers feedback on chamber membership. It is a great way to meet people and network in the local community. There are quite a few ambassadors and each month they get scored by how many activities and functions they performed. Well, Heather won "Ambassador of the Month" in July...and November...and December! This led her to the ultimate goal of being honored "Ambassador of the Year"! This means that her picture and bio will be in every chamber newsletter that goes out in 2007 giving her great exposure. Way to go Heather!

Logo Déjà Vu

Img_0102Img_0099Uhl in Eagle, ID — While we were killing time at the Denver airport, we walked by this restaurant which had a logo that was uncannily similar to the one Scrn006used by Learnframe — a company that I used to work for during the .COM days. That is, before it went bust! Of course the Itza wrap! Itza bowl! logo didn't have the cool 3D, shiny effect the Learnframe "bug" had. But I was so stunned with the similarity that I had to take some pictures. I was also able to snatch the learnframe logo off of the Learnframe web site, which unbelievably, is still operational years after the company bit the bullet!

Mt Bike Ride and Nampa Crit #1

Uhl in Eagle, ID - Tonight was the first in a series of four training criteriums at the Idaho Center in Nampa. It is put on by the Snake River Cyclists and Lindsay's Cyclery. Since I knew the race would be short, I did a mountain bike ride with a buddy from ProClarity at lunch. I rode into Boise and met Tim at Camel's Back park and we proceeded to do a "dork" loop. I rode the Santa Cruz Blur to get used to it since I'm planning to do a couple of the spring mountain bike races. I have to say, I love that bike! Coming down Hull's was a blast! After riding my Yeti AS-X all last year I forgot how responsive the Blur is. After the loop I rode home the same way I came (on HIll Rd), but I tried out some trails by the Veteran's Cemetary. I didn't realize the trails were there until I looked at the updated map at the top of Hull's. It's a short trail, but it was pretty fun and all single track. It also allows you to ride more dirt on the way home from downtown.

NampaAs for the Nampa Crit...Klaas drove Ted and I to the Idaho Center. We all brought trainers so we could warm up. We were supposed to go for 28  minutes, but they said they'd shorten it if daylight, became an issue. I got a short warmup and during my pushes, it felt better than last week, but still not I wasn't hoping for much during the race. I lined up right in the front and went from the whistle. I hammered at the front for an entire lap and it didn't feel that bad. Then Matt from Hyde Park Cycles pulled through and I just tried to hang on his wheel. He's been winning all the local races and is fyling right now. I had a hard time hanging on during those first few laps. The course is a parking lot crit marked by cones so it also took those laps to figure out how to best take those corners. Finally, after we had been hammering for a while I look down at my computer and we'd only been riding for 7 minutes! We eventually formed a break of five riders; 3 George's, Matt and myself. There were attacks and things got split up, but all five of us lapped the field. I think I ended up getting 4th, but I'm not certain of that. They should have official results by next week. It was a good training race and it definitely hurt. The race only ended up being 17 minutes long, but it was hard and fast 17 minutes!

Cycling Sabbatical

Proclaritygoodbye_1 Uhl in Boise, ID - Despite warnings to the contrary, today I am quitting my day job! I have been working at ProClarity as a Human Factors Engineer for the last 3½ years and worked in the same capacity at other companies for over 13 years. After this long in the high-tech world, I was getting burned out. Heather and I have been toying with this idea for a while and now that she's doing so well with her new job at New York Life, it's time to make it a reality. Heather understands my passion for cycling and after having supported her for 10 years as she traveled the world as a professional cyclist, she lovingly agreed to give me a chance.

For the next twelve months I'll be focusing my energy on bike racing. ProClarity has been supportive of my racing during my employment and now they are letting me take a 1-year leave of absence with good intentions to hire me back after a year. Even though this is most likely temporary, it was hard not to have sad feelings on my last day. I will miss working with a bunch of great people with as much enthusiasm for what they do as I had. This photo shows the R&D group holding signs of encouragement to keep me motivated during my training. They framed this photo and gave it me so I have a reminder to not forget them and implied that if I don't return, they will find me!

Bullets and Beer

Bulletsak1Uhl in Boise, ID - As a team building activity for the project I work on in my professional life, it was decided that we would have a "bullets and beer" afternoon. I know this sounds really dangerous, but here's the disclaimer: No beer was drunk until AFTER using the firearms! And as for me, having given up alcohol long ago, I only drank Diet Squirt the whole time.

This activity was the brainchild of Micah, one of the team members who was in the Army. It also so happened that a few other team members were fond of firearms and even had guns of their own. So as an activity, we rounded up old, worn out computer equipment that was of no use anymore and took it out to the desert and gave them their last stand (a la, OfficeSpace). We also brought a large tarp to place under all the equipment so that we could easily remove everything we brought (and then some).

Bulletsafter3We had a huge HP plotter, a big screen TV, two CRT monitors, a computer chassis, some potatoes and a watermelon. After a lesson in gun safety and proper handling of firearms, the watermelon was the first to go with a single round from a rifle. I was amazed at how much damage a single bullet could do! The potatoes were hard to hit but it helped those of us unfamiliar with guns to get a hang of them.

BulletsWe had a couple pistols, a shot gun, an AK47 and an SKS. Each had it's unique characteristics and I personally liked the pistols the best. It was another hot day and in the middle of the desert, it was 120° in the sun! Without a tent, the weapons got hotter and hotter as we were out there and became harder to handle. The AK47, once fired, would "cook off" rounds unintentionally due to the heat in the chamber being so great.

Bulletsafter1_1 As you can see from the pictures, we blasted everything and like a bunch of over-testosteroned teenagers and enjoyed every minute of it. Here's a video clip of Mr. Bob shooting the AK47. Download Video Clip of AK 47 (8954.2K)

ProClarity Offsite

Golf-CourseUhl in Boise - For my job at ProClarity, I attended a leadership offsite up in Garden Valley, ID. It was a very productive offsite, much better than I expected. We even had some fun. On the first night we played Bunko, a lively dice rolling game. On the second night we had an incredible meal at the Danskin Station. I managed to get a good 3 hour ride the day before so I didn't feel so bad for not working out. Besides it rained a bit up there. Although, as you can see from the picture, the sun was out the first night.

2002 Winter Olympics

Heather in Salt Lake City, UT - Due to no income coming into the home, we had to look for work. I saw an ad for caterers during the Olympics through Kelly Services, which would pay between $8-13 an hour. At first I was going to apply by myself, then Uhl decided to apply. We went into the Kelly Services office and filled out the forms. Of course, they immediately loved us. They knew someone with a Ph.D. and someone with a computer job and professional background would make great employees. We had to get fingerprinted, because anyone working in the Olympic venues had to have a background check. Those jobs were the best thing that happened to us. We really enjoyed the Olympics. We worked for a company called “Culinary Expressions International.” It was a company formed by the merger of a New York company and a Utah company. They secured most of the catering jobs during the Olympics. They also have contracts to do the 2004 Athens and 2006 Turin, Italy Olympics. The company provided high class catering. They flew in most of their staff from around the country. It was really fun to work with people from all over the US and Canada.

Uhl scored a job working at the Nike venue. He received over $1300 worth of Nike merchandise. Plus Uhl worked 40 hours a week receiving $13/hour. Uhl got to associate with people working for Nike, plus he got to serve several Nike athletes. He saw Sasha Cowen, Derek Parra, Apollo Ohno, and many of the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Uhl also got to see the 5000 M women’s speed skating, so he cheered loudly as Clara Hughes won the bronze (Clara is a cyclist who won two bronze medals in the 1996 Summer Olympics). The other added benefit was all the incredible food we were able to consume. We always ate during our shift. Plus we could take home any left over food; it is amazing how much food gets wasted in food service. Uhl began taking a cooler to work and bringing the food home. We had a freezer full of food by the end of the Olympics, and it took us six months to finish it all.

I worked a lot of the USOC parties. I also worked at the Visa venue. I got to meet Kristy Yamaguchi and Alexi Yaguden. The Visa venue was right next to the Medals Plaza, so we could hear all the concerts each night. I also went to the Medals Plaza for the Goo-Goo Dolls concert. I must admit that the best part of the night was the medals ceremony. You don’t realize how much emotion is there until you actually witness these amazing athletes getting their medals.

I worked at McDonalds in the Paralympic Village during the Paralympic Games. Those athletes are so inspiring. Because there weren’t as many athletes, we got to talk to the athletes a lot more. So many of the athletes came to McDonalds for the fries. McDonalds was a great company to work for. They have researched how they prepare products, and it is a science; that precision guarantees that the experience at McDonalds is the same in California as it is in New York.