Running update, day 181

This is the third post (see previous) on my running progress so far this year. 

Six months in, no sign of slowing down yet! My running pace is now regularly below 8:00/mile. Some numbers:

  • 645 – total miles this year.
  • 8:00 – average mile pace during the month of June.
  • 131 – total miles in June.
  • 27 – days run in June.
  • 147 – days run this year.
  • 37:27 – PR 5-mile time on June 28.

The only days I missed in June were days where I was in all-day business travel and literally couldn’t find an hour to run.

Combined with careful eating habits (but not too careful), I’m also down 40.0 pounds as of this morning. Feels great.

Running update, day 110

Following up on my last post about becoming a runner, I’ve made quite a bit of progress in the last 35 days:

  • I ran 33 out of 35 days.
  • Total distance: 153.25 miles.
  • Average distance: 4.64 miles.
  • Average pace: 8:23 / mile.

During this time, I set personal records in the 5K (22:18 = 7:19/mile pace) and 10K (47:29 = 7:39/mile pace). This is soooooo much faster than when I started, which was roughly 10:00/mile pace over three miles. This kind of improvement was … unexpected.

And my weight is still moving in the right direction: down 6.4 more pounds, for a total of 31.4 pounds since the beginning of the year. Less than 10 pounds to go. Yeah!

75 days, 25 pounds, 204 miles

I decided at the beginning of 2017 to become a regular runner, and lose the beer belly in the process. Today is the 75th day of the year, and my progress has been even better than I had hoped. I still have a bit of work to do, but I’m over halfway to my weight loss goal, and I have the running habit locked in. Feels great to run, and I look forward to my run each day.

I’ve been using a few apps on my phone to measure and gather data:

  • LoseIt. I track all food and meals here.
  • Nike+ Run Club. My phone is always in my pocket, and I’m tracking every run live.
  • Apple Health. Mostly as a step counter, but it also provides good integration between the Nike+ app and LoseIt, so LoseIt can give me calorie credit for my workouts.

Some stats:

  • I’ve run 53 times for a total of 204 miles (328 km) since January 6th. That’s 3.85 miles on average each time. Minimum 3 miles, longest 6.2 miles.
  • I’m eating an average of 1824 calories per day.
  • I’ve lost 25.0 pounds (11.3 kg).
  • My comfortable 4-mile running pace has dropped from 10:00/mile to 8:34/mile.
  • I’m earning an average of 649 calories per day with exercise. Which brings my net daily calories to 1175.
  • I’m averaging 11634 steps per day, including my running steps.

I try to be super-accurate with all my data entry in LoseIt. But even assuming I’m underreporting by, say 20%, I know I’m still way below what I used to eat on a daily basis. LoseIt is great. I know there are many apps like this, but this is the one I use, and it works well for me.

It’s winter here, so I’m running outdoors on roads and trails when the weather doesn’t completely suck and indoors on a treadmill when it does. About 60% of my runs have been indoors. Can’t wait for spring! I’ve played soccer a handful of times this year, but pretty much all my exercise is from running. I had an international business trip in February which limited my running for a week, but I was able to get lots of steps in on most of those days. I’ve been fortunate to avoid any injuries, although a mildly strained calf muscle slowed my running pace down a bit for a few runs. I’m not focused on running terribly long distances. Maybe later.

Going into this I was most concerned about my ability to keep the calories down. This has been surprisingly easy to do. I eliminated most calorie-rich carbs (potatoes, fries, chips, rice, etc.), got in to the habit of weighing foods to understand how much I was really eating, and just generally ate less. But I’m still eating three meals, having a small snack at some point during the day, and having a drink or two at night. Usually whiskey, but some beers like Guinness are pretty low in calories, so I mix those in too. IPAs have pretty much disappeared from my diet.

In the end, none of this is complicated. Eat less, and exercise. I hope to report even more progress soon.

Turn your old or broken Android phone into a home security camera

What to do with that old Android phone sitting in your drawer? You know, the three-year-old Moto G with the broken screen. That one. Here’s an easy plan: turn it into a home security camera on the cheap.

  1. [optional] Make sure you have anything of value copied off to a safe place, and clear off all personal data by resetting the device to factory settings. You probably should have done this before putting it into the drawer in the first place. Restart the device, get it set up, connect it to your wi-fi, and add a Google account so you can download stuff from the Play Store. If this is a real Google account that you use for email and such you might want to turn off all syncing.
  2. Install the IP Webcam app. There are other apps out there as well, and this has a Pro upgrade version for a few bucks which looks to have some nice features.
  3. Run the app and mount the camera in a place where:
    • it shows what you want
    • can be reached by a charging cable connected to a power outlet
    • isn’t going to be attacked by weather, kids, pets, etc.
  4. Note the IP address of the phone (the app will show you this), and play with the settings a bit. I turned on motion detection and video recording on motion. Consider enabling security features if that makes sense for your network.
  5. Access the video stream on the same wi-fi network. You can view it in a browser at http://phone-ip-address:8080. I’m using the VLC app on an old Android tablet to view the stream from my family room, connected to the stream at http://phone-ip-address:8080/video.

I mounted my camera in a window in a detached garage that has a good-enough wi-fi signal an a good view of the driveway. With blue painters tape and some cardboard. It’s not pretty, but it works!


ASP.NET vNext : on a Mac!

I use a MacBook Pro (currently running OS X, 10.9)  as my primary work machine, even though my company builds software for Windows Server. This means VMs (VirtualBox) and Remote Desktop for all Visual Studio work (as well as Visio and other necessary evils). BootCamp isn’t an option, for various company-specific reasons.

I read Scott Hanselman’s ASP.NET vNext announcement a few months ago, and while Mac support isn’t the main thrust of the project, the prospect of shifting even more of my daily work to the native Mac interface is appealing.

I never took the time to play with the vNext tooling for Macs until today. I like where this is headed, even though it’s at the duct-tape stage.

Getting set up is a pretty straightforward exercise, using the instructions here. Which boil down to:

  1. Install mono.
  2. Install homebrew.
  3. Install the K version manager. (Project K being the old code name for the ball of wax).
  4. Grab the samples, pull in package dependencies (via kpm restore), and run ’em. If done right, you get a shiny hello world:

It's alive!

Next on the to-do list:

  1. Write some custom code, following the samples.
  2. Sublime Text 3 integration. With detail here.

Find all NuGet references in your source tree

I have a source code repository with a bunch of Visual Studio 2012 projects. I just had a need to find all NuGet references in that repo. PowerShell to the rescue! This script walks the directory tree and spits out an array of strings containing the names of all NuGet package names, with duplicates removed.

# Given the directory tree at the current location,
# search recursively for all files named "packages.config"
# and select the ID of each package. Assumes that packages.config
# is an XML document with a top-level <packages> element with a nested
# collection of <package> elements underneath.

$result = @()
ls -r packages.config | foreach {
  [xml] $data = get-content $_.fullname
  $data.packages.package | foreach {
    # Brute-force shove into an array, we'll sort it out later.
    $result += $
# It's later! Sort, and unique-ify.
$result | sort -unique

SSD upgrade for 2011 iMac

I picked up a Crucial m4 256GB SSD as a second internal drive for my 2011 iMac 27″ with 12GB of RAM, the factory 1TB hard drive, and OSX 10.8.3. The SSD is now my boot drive, with all my applications and user folders on it as well. Performance is excellent — apps (Pages, Word, Excel, Photoshop, iPhoto, iMovie, etc.) all start immediately, and I can run whatever apps I want simultaneously. It just works.

Before installation, I made sure I had a Time Machine backup (on a Synology NAS) and a backup on CrashPlan’s servers. I used the SATA cable and installation tools from OWC, and followed OWC’s awesome installation video, below. The SSD mounts inside the machine using foam sticky tape just behind the DVD drive.

After installing this drive, I used SuperDuper to replicate the stock “Macintosh HD” volume to the SSD, then used System Preferences –> Startup Disk to change my startup disk to the SSD. I also picked up the app TRIM Enabler, and turned on TRIM support. Upon rebooting, I also unmounted the Macintosh HD volume using Disk Utility, just to make sure I wasn’t accidentally using files on that volume. After a few days of using the new SSD and verifying I have no problems, I will erase the original Macintosh HD volume and use it for whatever.

256GB is plenty for the OS, my apps, and docs. But it is not sufficient to include my photos, music, and movies. All that stuff is on external drives anyway, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

This is also posted as an Amazon review.


Angie and I recently took a trip to Zihuatanejo, a lovely beach town on a bay in Guerrero, Mexico. My friends Darrell and Todd & Kathy had been there before and provided recommendations, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I was already a bit emotionally attached to the place before ever going there, through the references in Shawshank Redemption.

TL;DR version of this: Zihuatanejo is awesome, and you should go there. Oh, and there’s pictures of food below, so there’s that.

Some of the photos below were taken by me on a Nokia Lumia 920. The best photos were taken by Angie with some real photography equipment.

Viceroy Hotel

We spent eight days in Zihua, bunking at The Tides The Viceroy. Which is an excellent place to stay, and as long as you take their cheap room, is an excellent value as well. It’s not cheap by Mexican hotel standards, but it’s not anywhere close to the cost of typical resort hotel (you know, the “all-inclusive” types that ensure you never leave the place).

Panaroma of the beachfront at The Viceroy.

The Viceroy is smack in the middle of Playa La Ropa, the main tourist beach on the bay. It is within a short stroll of several restaurants on the beach. If you’re into this sort of thing, you can rent jet skis, kayaks, sailboats, and harness up to a parasail right there on the beach. We did none of that stuff, but there were plenty of others doing just that.

This hotel has a long stretch of beachfront, with dozens of palapas with beds and lounge chairs in a de-militarized zone between the hotel buildings and the public beach. Being sectioned off was important, as there are many vendors on the beach who want to sell you stuff you don’t need at yankee prices. It’s great to pick up some local arts and crafts and support the community, but I want to do it on my own terms.

We often got lost in reading books under a palapa, listening to the waves, and enjoying a steady stream of Coronas being served by the super-attentive-but-not-overbearing waitstaff. Juan was our bartender on most nights … a wonderfully-friendly fellow, with excellent English, and strong tolerance for my terrible Spanish.

Some of our best days went like this: read books, beer, guacamole, read/beer, beer/read, sunset, dinner. Really, just perfect stuff.

Did I mention that this was all on the beach?

And then there was this: the most unexpectedly-awesome part of the hotel was the coffee service. By 7:30 a.m. every day we had an insulated pot of hot coffee and a few pastries waiting on our semi-private patio outside our room. It was sooooo nice to be able to wake up slowly, and enjoy coffee and chat a bit at our room. So wonderful.

Our room rate came with a daily restaurant credit, which we took advantage of. Typically covered cost of lunch and a few drinks during the day, which was a nice thing to count on.

Dinner at the hotel was fairly expensive, but the food was great and the setting was absolutely perfect. I mean really, can you top this?

View from dinner at The Viceroy at sunset.

Well, maybe you can. After dark, the dining area looks like this:

Dinner at The Viceroy, after dark.

Food & drink

Speaking of beer, we treated it like water. Had a lot. Needed to, as the weather was quite warm and humid. There’s really just something awesome about a cold lager beer in hot weather. And, it was roughly the same price as water. The hotel charged a lot more than other places (captive customer, you know), but that’s to be expected.

Darrell had recommended a few places for us to try, and we did, as well as hitting up some other spots. All the below are highly recommended.

Tamales y Atoles Any

Tamales y Atoles Any is a tamal and pozole joint on a busy intersection in el centro de Zihuatanejo. We went there twice for lunch. Angie got red and green pork tamales for 25 pesos each, and I got a medium-sized serving of pozole (yes, on Thursday!) for 90 pesos. By medium-sized, I mean giant, massive, took me an hour to eat it all -sized. Ohmygoodnesss this was tasty.

As you can see, it was a rather warm day.

Really just a great restaurant, with good simple choices and good prices.

Seeing the state police pull up outside with their automatic weapons and set up a defensive perimeter while one of their crew went to the ATM across the street was a nice bit of cultural immersion, too.

Los Braseros

Just a couple doors down from the tamal place was Los Braseros. Ordered the alambres de pastor — a new dish to me. Sort of a beautiful love child of fajitas and Philly cheese steak. Tasty!

Alambre dish.


Famous for their coconut shrimp, and for good reason. Shrimp stuffed with cream cheese and breaded & fried. Go light on the coconut dipping sauce, it’s basically straight sugar with a dash of coconut milk. Lety’s is located just over the footbridge just west of el centro, along the harbor inlet.

Coconut shrimp at Lety’s.

We also tried the chile relleno at Lety’s, which was just OK. Basically, too rich and too much going on. Would have preferred a simpler dish. No picture of that one :).

Paty’s Marimar

Paty’s is a beachfront restaurant just north of the Viceroy, and has a moderately-priced menu. Definitely tourist prices, but not hotel prices. Shrimp tacos were 90 pesos, whole garlic-fried red snapper was 150 pesos. Both were wonderful.

Shrimp tacos at Paty’s.

Sights & sounds

If you do nothing but relax on the beach, you have won. That said, we ventured out a bit. Walked into town a few times (30 minutes or so each way), which included a stroll up and down some steep roads.

Downhill to the beach.

El centro is lively and buzzing with activity. Near the waterfront you have to deal with vendors trying to sell you stuff at every turn. Head away one block, and you are in town, and free to move. Which we did. A lot. Found a nice tequila shop and bought a small bottle of Chamucos reposado tequila for less than 100 pesos. It was nice to sip that on the beach later on.

Wall mural

This tree, near Playa Principal, seems rather resourceful.

Might be undermining the foundation’s strength.

The emotional highlight of the trip was being by ourselves on the beach late at night under the full moon, and watching a mama turtle come out of the waves, build a nest just a few feet away from us, and lay her eggs. All told, it took her about 30 minutes to dig, lay, cover. The light from the photo was the ambient light from a walkway light on the beach at the hotel behind us.

La tortuga madre

We ended up seeing four turtles lay eggs while we were there. On one occasion, a local conservation official collected the eggs as the turtle was laying them, and took them to a breeding facility on the south end of the beach. 81 eggs in all!

So, what happens to the turtle eggs? I’m told a couple months later, they start popping out of the sand and make a run for the beach. We were lucky to see that too, obviously from a two-month-old nest:

Turtles coming out of the nest.
Making a run for the ocean. We helped this one along.

On the south end of the bay is Playa Las Gatas. How should I say this? How about: don’t go there. Really. Complete and total tourist trap, lined end to end with restaurants trying to get your business. It’s kinda isolated, and most people take a water taxi to get there. We walked. The views are nice, but it’s just not fun. Too cramped, too many vendors. If you don’t have a hotel on the beach, maybe this is an OK place to visit, but we really didn’t like it.

Panorama from the pier at las gatas.
Playa Las Gatas, looking south-east

You can rent snorkel gear and check out the little bay at las gatas, but the water looked very murky. Can’t imagine that the snorkeling would be any good there.

Supposedly you can walk further west past the beach, around the point, and see the lighthouse. Read about that afterwards, would have attempted that if we had known.

Then again, the giant iguana was kinda cool …

I said, this is my beach.

OK, so it was just somebody’s pet. But still cool!


Zihua is a great place. Go there, eat well, and live well.