Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Early End to My Soccer Season

I blink my eyes and time seems to sweep by in great bounding leaps covering weeks at a time. Better to be busy than bored, I think, and my family certainly keeps me busy!

I've been playing in my third season of adult soccer, and this season has mostly been injury filled and disappointing. Ever since my ankle injury in January of this year, my right ankle has just not been "right". When one part of your body is injured, you naturally try to reduce the amount of stress placed on that area of the body. Unfortunately, doing this can often times cause problems for the other areas of your body which aren't used to this new stress.

Since my ankle was injured, I haven't felt comfortable out on the field. Rolling an ankle increases the likelihood of doing it again, so it can become a fairly vicious injury-circle. I've tried doing some ankle strengthening exercises, and was beginning to feel better when I was struck down by another injury.

A few people on my team were scrimmaging against some local soccer coaches, and after about an hour and a half of a good scrimmage, I found myself attempting to make up on defense forthe sweeper who muffed getting the ball out of the back. I caught up with the striker and tried sticking a leg out in front to get a touch on the ball, when I suddenly felt my hamstrings go *sproing* (or something like that).

I went down immediately to try and minimize any possible damage beyond what was already done, and made my way home with an ice pack grafted onto my leg. It wasn't a horrible injury in regards to pain, especially compared to my previous calf muscle tears and ankle injury, but it was enough to know that I would not be able to play soccer for a few weeks.

After three weeks, I came back to the pitch to try and give it a go again after running on it a bit during my lunch hour. However, it was not rested enough and after one attempted sprint to close on another player during a game, I knew I was done for the season and took myself out of the game.

So here I am, three weeks from my previous attempt at returning, and now I'm trying a bit of jogging and plan to work my way back up to the sprinting one needs to do during a game. With my season over, I can now focus on taking it one step at a time to try and ensure that when the next season rolls around, I'll be ready.

P.S. Getting old sucks!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sumatra PDF Viewer

This will be a very quick blog post, perhaps more appropriately classified as a "shout-out". The PDF format is wonderful for preserving detailed formatting across multiple platforms, and is all over the web. Thus, we need an application to view these files.

Most people are familiar with Adobe Acrobat Viewer, as Adobe was the original creator of the PDF format, and hence had the first authoring and viewing tools for the PDF format. Unfortunately, their viewer application continues to increase is size and decrease in speed with each successive release. The later versions of the application go so far as to auto-run portions of the application at startup, to reduce perceived start up times later on when you actually want to view a PDF file (much like that bloated pig of an office suite - MS Office).

If you are looking for a lighter weight solution to viewing PDF files on the Windows platform, let me recommend the Sumatra PDF Viewer. It is light weight, clean, and functional. It does not contain all of the bells and whistles in Adobe Acrobat Viewer (like form filling), but then again, that is why it is so small and fast.

Give it a try and see if it does what you need - so far, it has exceeded all of my requirements and expectations!

P.S. I was using Foxit for a while, but had problems with it updating under Vista. Plus, all of the ads sort of soured me on the software.

Friday, August 14, 2009


At work this week, I've been looking at upgrading our website from the home-built effort that is looking fairly stale to something a bit more modern and up to date. I created the basic framework of the site many years ago, using Apache with PHP on a linux server.

The site is extremely fast, but it is difficult to edit existing content, or add more. Furthermore, there is no database back end for the site, which means no users with permissions approriate to their need.

In thinking about our site redesign, I realized that I should take a serious look at a well supported content management system (or CMS) which fulfilled the following requirements:
  1. Must support user / password logins and configurable roles for each. As an example, there should be an anonymous user role for random visitors to our site, an authorized user role for people who have successfully registered with the site, and then specialized roles such as "content creator", "administrator", "product user under maintenance", "partner", etc.
  2. For the above mentioned roles, different security levels and options should be available. Only users with the "partner" role should be able to access the "Partner Portal" of our site. Only users with the "product user under maintenance" role should be able to download an update to the product in question.
  3. Non-technical people should be able to create content on the site.
  4. It needs to support different visual styles (or themes), and I need to find one that looks good.
  5. Support for new stories, regular pages, and maybe even book-type formats will be needed.
  6. Allow authorized users to comment upon stories and pages.
  7. It has to be flexible.
After looking around a while, I decided to give Drupal a try. I was vaguely familiar with it in passing, but had not yet really tried to do anything with it, which is usually when the fiddly bits will show up.

I downloaded the Drupal 6 Turnkey Appliance ISO, and installed it on new virtual machine using Sun's VirtualBox (which is a great product). Over the course of the last several days, I have been planning and implementing the new version of our website, and have a few observations on Drupal.

First of all, there are many themes available for Drupal, which may be experienced by visiting the Drupal Theme Garden. I have selected a few that I like, with a definite favorite. If you want to know which one I selected, well you'll just have to wait until we roll out the new site!

I have found Drupal to be extremely flexible. It supports a module system where functionality can be added to the core system, taking it the direction you want to go. I have installed modules which allow for access control mechanisms (requirement #2 above), book style content, and a host of others which improve the look and function of the site.

With all of the options and flexibility, starting out can be a bit daunting. Luckilly, the main Drupal website contains some useful documentation to help you understand, install, and then implement it. In my humble opinion, the investment is well worth it if you are looking at a website similar to the one I've outlined above.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Auto Repair Weekend

In preperation for my family's upcoming vacation to Cayucos, I decided to give our 2001 Chevy Suburban a tune-up and try to figure out why it was idling low and occassionally stalling at idle. My Saturday was fairly wide open, other than a practice scheduled for my daughter's soccer team that I would need to get her to.

I haven't done much work on the Suburban since we bought it (with 21k miles on the odometer), and now with 90k miles on it, the 'burban was due for some servicing. I installed a K&N air filter at around 30k miles, so it was time to clean and re-charge it. This was a fairly trivial task, once I purchased the recharge kit from the auto parts store.

Next, I decided to change the spark plugs. Most new cars don't need the plugs swapped out until about 100k miles, but since I was experiencing the idling problem, I thought it would be a good first stab at the problem. One thing nice about the Suburban is that the engine is fairly accessible compared to many other cars. I bought 8 new AC Delco Iridium plugs, and took out the old plugs and replaced them with the new ones, only losing around 5 pouds of weight due to sweat during the process.

Next up was a new fuel filter. I have replaced it once before on the Suburban, but it is always fun trying to squirm under the beast and disconnect fuel lines, etc. About an hour after I started and many expletives later, the new fuel filter was in and I could call it a day after I started her back up and gave her a test drive.

Unfortunately, all the work I completed had no effect on the low idle / stalling problem - argh! I was done working on the car for the day.

On Sunday, I decided to research the problem on the internet, and found that this is a somewhat common problem for the Chevy Vortec engines. The most common advice I found was to clean out the throttle body, and this would usually take care of the problem. The procedure couldn't have been easier. Disconnecting the air intake from the throttle body allowed me to take a rag with a bit of acetone on it, and clean some built up carbon deposits around and on the throttle plate. The job (which would have run me in the neighborhood of $50 - $150 at the dealer) took 15 minutes and cost maybe $0.25 in acetone, and the problem was completely solved!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Baseball Season Wrap-Up

The little league baseball season was wrapped up for my team (AAA division, mostly 9-10 year olds) this Saturday, when closing day ceremonies took place. After the ceremony, I found myself placed in a dunk tank, with my players eagerly lining up to dunk me with a gleam in their eyes.

Our regular season record was 10 wins and 8 losses, good for second place in the league. I had initially hoped for better at the start of the season, but no plan survives contact very long. We played the #1 team very hard on all but a few occassions, so my players can hold their head high and be proud of the progress made this year.

In the Vista City Tournament, we won our first two games convincingly, and then lost two games to finish tied for 5th place. Our first loss was against the eventual 1st place team, and we should have won that game except for the wheels falling off of our defense in one inning. And so it goes...

So now I will have to find something to do with all of the time with which I now find myself. I figured out that during the season, I spent well over 200 hours on meetings, practices, and games. This does not take into account time spent going to/from locations, nor the time spent at work planning lineups and position charts. Yes, I was kept very busy, and yes I will miss it!

Next year, my son will move up to the Major division, and I look forward to the challenges that it will bring, as well as the improved quality of game play. It is so very rewarding to see kids I have coached since tee-ball turn into smart and skillful baseball players!

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Quiet Around Here... Too Quiet

What can I say other than, "Life is very busy". I'll try to provide a few updates here, however.

Little League Baseball

The season is well into the second half, and it looks as if our team will finish 2nd place. We only play the #1 team twice in the second half, and have already lost both of those games. Thus, barring some kind of divine intervention, the Angels will have to be happy with a 2nd place finish. However, once the regular season is complete, we get to look forward to the city tournament! So the team is still practicing hard and trying to refine our game with that tournament in our sights.


My soccer team is currently undefeated, with 1 win and 5 ties! It seems that all 4 teams in our men's 35+ division are fairly evenly matched, which is good. My ankle injury has still not yet healed completely, which I find irritating. I am guessing that it will not be 100% good for a few more months, but it is good enough to play on now, so I do what I can.


The rest of the family is doing just fine. We camped at San Elijo state beach for 4 nights during the kids' spring break, and the weather cooperated with us fairly well for a majority of the time there. In July we are looking forward to a vacation in the Central Coast as well.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What's Been Happening in My World

It has been well over a month since I last wrote anything here, and as you may guess, I have been very busy. I'll try to catch up a bit with this post.

Ankle Injury Update

My ankle has healed up fairly well, and is probably back up to 80% of it's original strength after 6 weeks. I've played a bit of soccer over the last two Sunday afternoons, and it just isn't quite right yet. I have also had a large blister form both days on my right instep. I'm not sure if I am doing something awkward to compensate for the weakened ankle, or if it is th new shoes. Next week, I'll be playing back in my old pair of Copa Mundials and see if the situation improves a bit.

Our first soccer game of the new season is on Friday, March 6th. I'd like to be somewhere in the vicinity of "being in good shape" by then.

Little League Baseball

A new baseball season is underway, and I am back at the helm managing my son's AAA baseball team, the Angels. The rain has interfered with practices a bit, so we've done the best we can. Opening day in on Saturday, March 7th, so we have 2 more weeks of practices to get some of the rust off of the ole baseball gears. I'm hoping for a good season - it always seems to come down to the pitching!

New Technology

I picked up a new Toshiba laptop on Saturday from Fry's. At $399, it was too good of a deal to pass up, and our old Dell 700m has been showing signs of aging for quite some time. The new laptop sports an Intel Core Two Duo T3400 CPU (2.16 GHz, 667 MHz FSB), 2 gigabytes of RAM, a decently size 160GB hard drive, and a nice 15.4" wide screen display (1280 x 800).

I've gone through and stripped out most of the crap that came bundled with the notebook (Norton begone!), and installed Firefox, OpenOffice, Notepad++, etc. Windows Vista Home Premium seems to work well on the PC (response is snappy, display is crisp), and it is my first experience with the OS. I actually installed the Windows 7 beta in a Virtualbox VM before ever seeing Windows Vista, and I can't say I see much of an improvement or difference between the two versions.

Windows Vista *is* a bit chatty with the UAC stuff, though, isn't it? Dialog boxes come flying at you during installation of new apps, but I don't mind it too much. I do believe that Windows 7 has improved in that regard. However, I don't see much that would compel anyone to upgrade from Vista to 7.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Late Christmas Gift - Not Broken!

Woo-hoo! I received some great news yesterday during my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. It turns out that the protrusion of bone on my lower fibula is, in the doctor's opinion, from a previous ankle sprain. My ankle is *not* broken - the x-rays were simply misinterpreted by the Urgent Care doctor, which can (and will) happen if they are not experts in the skelto-musculature realm of medicine.

So, the doc said that I should try putting weight on my ankle as I could, first with both crutches, then with a single crutch on the good side, and then with no crutches. When I got back home, I tested out my ankle and was able to put weight on it with two, then one crutch. Later that evening, I discarded the single crutch and was able to hobble around fairly well, even helping out with the preparation for dinner.

To cap off the night, I was able to ascend our stairs to the second story and actually tuck in my kids and sleep in my own bed for the first time in four days.

As far as further recovery is concerned, the doctor said that wearing a brace might be a good idea for the next few weeks, and to work on my range of motion in the ankle. Running is out of the question for about three weeks, but biking would be a good exercise when my ankle feels up to it. I am hoping to be back in soccer shape in fixe to six weeks - we'll see how things go.

I can not express how happy I am to be rid of those crutches! The four days I had to deal with them has given me a small dose of insight into what it must be like to permanently live with a disability. Just being able to walk and use my hands at the same time seems like an amazing gift to me right now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Epic Fail - My Broken Ankle

Ug. Maybe I should rename this blog to Alan's Place Where He Bitches About His Injuries...

Yes, a new year has come, and a new injury along with it. Up until this time in my life, I have been fortunate enough to have never broken a bone in my body. I was pure, as far as my calcified frame is concerned. Sure, the paint on the outside has suffered a few abrasions, burns, and general wear and tear over the years, but the frame on which it all rides was still in decent shape.

On Sunday, I play a pick-up game of soccer at a local park. After about 45 minutes of play, I was chasing down a ball and went up in the air for it. I landed with all of my weight on my right foot, which normally isn't a problem. However, when that right foot in turn lands on some kind of divot, problems can (and did) arise.

My right ankle rolled outwards as all of my weight bore down, and a 'pop' was heard by me and the player closest to me. I went down like a house of cards, to my hands and knees. I managed to crawl on my hands and knees off the field, where one of the other guys gave me some ice in a ziplock bag to ice it down.

After about 10 minutes of icing it down, I experimented with the joint a bit and found that I could move it around without much discomfort at all. I put on my flip-flops, and tested out putting some weight on it, and it seemed ok. Maybe it wasn't too bad after all?

I decided to call it a day, and then walked to my truck without too much difficulty. Some of the guys there asked if I needed any help, and I thanked them but said that it looked like it might not be too bad. One of them urged me to have it x-rayed, lest I wake up in the middle of the night with an ankle the size of a cantaloupe.

I almost dismissed the advice, except for the memory of the 'pop' sound. That was something new. So, I headed off to the local Urgent Care which was blessedly empty. After a few x-rays, the doc came in and said that it looks like there was a bone chip in my right ankle, and asked me if I had broken my ankle in the past? He said that he would consult with a radiologist the following day, and refer me to an orthopedic surgeon if it was a fracture.

The nurse splinted up my foot and calf, handed me a pair of crutches, a prescription for vicodin, and then I was sent on my way home. My wife picked me up, as I can not exert any pressure on the joint, and hence can not drive. Oh boy, this is going to be fun.

On Monday, I got an referral and appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon, which I will go to in a few minutes. More information will be forthcoming as it arrives. I am praying that no surgery will be needed, and that the break is minor.