Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Intriguing injuries

Warning: Some of the pictures linked below are pretty gross, so if you click at work or in front of your toddlers, don't say I didn't warn you.

I think most rollergirls are kind of perversely proud of the myriad injuries they get from this crazy sport. Not that we seek them out... but you'll find an Injury Gallery on almost every roller derby team website. I was tickled pink when I got my first fishnet-patterned rink rash the other week (though it wasn't dramatic enough to warrant a photo, so you'll have to look at the Rat City Rollergirls' butts instead).

This week I'm trying to figure out what to do about bloody knuckles. In roller derby, you have to learn to fall with your fingers tucked in, because if they're splayed out there's a pretty good likelihood that someone will roll over them (I even know a girl who rolled over her own fingers... don't ask). But fingers-tucked-in means I'm catching myself with my knuckles instead, which don't have a lot of padding to absorb the force of my fall. I was just recovering from some nice bloody knuckles after biting it on the gravel trail a few weeks ago; and then this Sunday I took some hard hits during our scrimmage in the morning, and now I've got three knuckles that are turning brown and various degrees of sore (betcha didn't know that a hand bruise looks more brown than blue, eh?).

So has anyone ever heard of knuckle-padding solutions? I asked the internet, but the best it had to offer me (aside from the fact that knuckle pads is a medical condition) was motorcycle gloves. And I'm not sure how well those would work with my wrist guards (aside from looking totally ridiculous). Suggestions, anyone?

Dreaming of light rail

It's a ~35 minute drive from our house to the airport, and costs $22/day to park there. So I can't help but get excited about the proposed light rail connection from the airport to Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and/or assorted locations as funding permits. How awesome would it be to just hop on a train and end up at the airport? Very European. :)

The only problem is, I'm gonna be in my 40's before the thing is finished. Most of the estimates I've heard put the completion date in the mid-2020's, by which time I could be living in the south of France, or dead, or rich enough to helicopter myself to the airport, so this light rail isn't gonna do me any good.

This article I read today rubs it in even more. Apparently Russia can build a 3,700-mile sub-ocean tunnel between two continents in less time than it takes Sound Transit to connect the 25 miles between our house and the airport?? Go figure.

Hidden Link Between Global Warming and Daylight Savings Time

Someone has uncovered the hidden plot behind global warming!

You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Roller skating culture

Occasionally—on an off-practice night—I go to the local skating rink for a change of pace. It's a very different scene from a roller derby practice: most of the skaters are dance skaters (skate dancers?), so they're all jamming and swizzling erratically all over the place. Not that they're out of control (far from it); it's just that I'm used to skating around a huge rink with only ~10 other girls on it, all of which are skating more or less straight ahead; whereas at Skate King there are dozens of people on a small rink, and they're all swooping in and out of each other and twirling around and stuff. It's unnerving at first, but one girl pointed out to me that it's actually really good practice in balance and control. If you can learn to stop on a dime or swerve quickly to avoid running into the dancers, it'll help you when you're in a derby pack (swerving to avoid people who fall in front of you).

The thing that I find most interesting about Skate King is the people who skate there. More specifically, that there is absolutely no way to categorize them (or to describe the "average skater"). These are people who you'd never imagine seeing together in one place: the clean-cut skate dancer pirouetting in her flouncy skirt; the white trash girls in their tight jeans and hoop earrings; the guy who looks like my grandpa (big coke-bottle lenses, baseball cap, hands in his pockets); the ghetto guys with their oversized jerseys and sagging pants; the autistic boy who talks to no one but skates like a lightning bolt; the super-queer dancer showing off his perfectly sculpted thighs in Lycra; the fast-talking guys showing off their moves to the high school girlies. It's like a casting call for a giant diversity poster, only everyone's made the cut. And they're all perfectly happy skating together, exchanging words as they pass each other, racing each other for a lap or line-dancing together in the middle of the rink.

Who'd've though that roller skating—something most of my contemporaries seem to view as an elementary school fad—could be such a great equalizer?

RCRG Bout 3

Last night—on his birthday, no less—I dragged Nick out to his second-ever roller derby bout: Rat City Rollergirls, Season 3, Bout 3.

It was one helluva show. This season the league is trying something new: instead of having their four teams play each other at every bout (there are two games per event, A vs. B and C vs. D), they're inviting a visiting team to each bout; so you'll see two Rat City teams play each other, and then a third Rat City team playing the visiting team. At Bout 2 the visiting team was the Muñecas Muertas of Duke City Derby (Albuquerque, NM). They were good, but it was pretty clear from the beginning of the game that the Sockit Wenches were going to slowly crush them (which they eventually did).

Last night's visitors were the Bay Area Derby Girls' travel team. And they were good. They had a couple amazing jammers and really, really solid defense. The game was pretty close all the way through, but in the end they beat Grave Danger (I can't remember the score... I should start writing these down if I'm gonna blog them). I think the final point spread was < 10, which makes for a great edge-of-your-seat game all the way through.

The other game was between the Sockit Wenches and the DLF. DLF completely clobbered the Sockit Wenches; they pulled out ahead early in the first half and just kept growing their lead for the rest of the game. They won by almost 100 points. Along with some sexy jamming and all-around good skating, they pulled—twice—the most amazing thing I've ever seen on skates: a leg whip.

For those of you not in the know, a "whip" (or an "assist") is when one skater reaches out for another skater behind her and then pulls/propels that skater in front of her. It's a great way to help your jammer get some extra speed or shoot ahead of an enemy blocker. Not a terribly difficult move, but it does take some balance to stay on your feet and keep skating while whipping someone ahead of you.

But now, imagine doing that with your leg instead of with your hand. I had never even heard of this until I saw it last night... Check out the clip below (pilfered from Frenzy Lohan), or watch this video of it from last year's Bumberbout to see it in context (the leg whip happens ~45 seconds in).

D-Bomb gives a leg whip

This morning PFM (the squad I skate with) was lucky enough to get to share some rink time with the Rat City boys who are preparing for the Boy Bout (May 6 @ Bellevue Skate King) and some B.A.D.Girls who came out to scrimmage with us. Almost everyone was hung over from last night's post-bout after-party, but we got some hard skating in and had a good time. I've gotta say, there's nothing like skating w/ real rollergirls to teach you how much you've still got to learn about derby...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Carbon-neutral web hosting

Those who know me know that I'm not an activist. All things being equal, I would pick the most socially/environmentally conscious option; but all things are rarely equal, and when they're not I'm not particularly likely to go out of my way to promote the environment or feminism or whatever the issue of the day is.

Today, though, I received some good news for a lazy liberal: my web host is now a carbon-neutral company! From their newsletter:

Climate change is an issue that WebHostingBuzz takes very seriously. Whilst we do not want to enter the global political debate about climate change, we do want to help where we can. As a result of this, we have partnered with the International Tree Foundation. Trees take in carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen during photosynthesis and help maintain a healthy level of these gases in the atmosphere. Our partnership with the ITF means that we are sponsoring a number of worldwide tree planting projects, which offsets the carbon dioxide produced during the generation of electricity used to power our servers. If you'd like to learn more about the ITF or how you can help, please visit http://www.internationaltreefoundation.org.

If you're looking for a good host, I highly recommend them: Web Hosting Buzz. They have plans starting at $3/month [edit: $4/month] for a good amount of space, and their customer service and technical support is really good (very quick response time).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

SES New York

Last night I got back from four days in NYC at Search Engine Strategies (SES). SES is a conference that's held several times a year all over the world, where web people get together and talk about search engine optimization and related issues. I was there representing Google (!!); technically I was a speaker, I was on a Q&A panel, though I only answered one question ("What is a TLD?"). The conference was a lot of fun and I'm so glad I got to go.

It's kind of amazing how people treat you when they know you work for Google—especially at an industry event. Aside from being really excited to talk to you, they'll ask you every possible Google-related question, regardless of what you actually do for Google or whether you know anything about search/rankings. I found myself saying, "Well, I don't actually work with that product/service at all, but..." way more than "Oh yes, I know the answer to that." By the end of the week I was learning to answer questions at least somewhat usefully. There's a surprising lack of overlap between what you need to know about a product to test it, vs. what users want to ask about it...

I also met some new people (including more SEOmozzers!), and went to a bunch of great sessions. The sessions were probably the best part for me; I know these conferences are all about networking (read: getting drunk), but this was my first one, so I figure it's okay for me to start with the actual conference content, meet a few people in the sessions, and work my way up from there (especially since I'm more of a bookworm than a barfly these days). And especially since, unlike the conferences at my last job, this subject matter is actually of direct personal interest to me.

So I learned about SEO. And keywords. And creating good content. And usability as it relates to SEO (the more user-friendly it is, the more search engines will like it). And the importance of <title> tags. And linkbuilding. Et cetera, et cetera. By the end of the day I'd be really jazzed up and itching to get my hands on one of my website projects. I want to try an experiment, building a site from the ground up (which I've done before) and then employing some of these tools and methodologies that are out there to actually see what happens to it after I put it on the web (which I haven't done before; I've just put together sites, handed them off to the people who requested them, and never looked back). I want to install Analytics, use Webmaster Tools and Website Optimizer (both of which I work on, incidentally!), do keyword research, etc. It'll be a whole new side of the internet for me, which is kind of silly/ironic given that I work for Google; but a good learning experience, or so I hope.

I did go on one fairly decadent social outing—the Vintage Tub & Bath dinner party—but it's late and I'm jetlagged (I was just getting used to that NY time zone!), so I'll save my one photo for a later blog post. Vive SES!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Daylight Savings Time: revolutionize our energy spending or "a total flop"?

Speaking as someone from the tech sector DST is a pain in the butt. So imagine trying to compute, for example, timecards. You clocked in at 12:00am and clocked out at 6:00am. Looks like 6 hrs on shift. Not so on March 11, 2007 2:00am-2:59am never happened! We went straight to 3:00am from 1:59am.

So all these technical systems have special logic that say timespan = end - start UNLESS it's the 1st Sunday in April. But wait, Congress steps in and changes all of that. So we all patch our systems, try and figure out how to fix this mess. And for what?

As far as the purpose[—energy conservation—]of the move is concerned, that appears to be a total flop
And it seems as if some of us techies screwed up.
if you're wondering why some of your colleagues showed up late for work yesterday, it's because many devices-even patched devices-shifted an hour ahead Sunday, when the change would have normally taken place.
This is not surprising since there are hundreds, thousands, no, millions of places we do this kind of calculation