Mike's Blog

Blah, blah, blah.

Today is a somber day for me as a dear and beloved friend was layed to rest in Miami.  It was with great sorrow that I learned of the passing of my friend Doug Carroll who was tragically shot to death July 19th.  Doug was my best friend in high Doug and I at our HS graduationschool and the best man in my first wedding.  He was honestly one of the nicest guys I've known, always smiling and loving life.

I met Doug in the 11th grade at Miami Norland Senior High School through our mutual participation in the Key Club.  We became very good friends quickly and with some other Key members became a group of goofy kids known as the "Pendejos", spending many a late Friday night hanging out at Wag's after a movie or other activities.  Doug was in the band while I played soccer, but aside from that we were similar in so many ways; we pretty much did every thing together.  To that end, at some point we both ended up working at the local Pizza Hut and even transferred to another location when our favorite assistant manager was promoted there.  We were, without a doubt, best of friends.

After high school we both attended Miami-Dade Community College (now just Miami Dade College) while continuing to work together, this time at Office Depot.  Doug was pursuing a education and career in music; the man could play the hell out of his alto saxophone.  We remained very close for the next five or six years.  In 1993 I joined the Air Force and after basic training I was shipped off to Monterey, California for 15 months; San Angelo, Texas for 6 months; and finally ending up just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where I am to this day.  We remained in touch those first couple of yeas after I enlisted and in fact when I returned to Miami in July 1993 to get married, Doug was my best man.

Sadly after the wedding I had to return to California immediately and after that the business of life and distance led to Doug and I to fall out of touch.  A few years ago when I got on FaceBook, Doug was one of the first people I sought out.  We reconnected and exchanged several chats, catching up on each others' lives.  I learned that Doug has gone on to graduate from the University of Florida and was teaching high school band.  I also learned that he had a son and was in the process of trying to get a custody arrangement.  We talked about getting together, but unfortunately life, and time, conspired against us and it never came to be.

One of the news articles I read about Doug's death had a quote from a police officer on the scene who indicated that they "believed" this was a drug related shooting.  I hope that the investigation will disprove this statement because I am 100% certain that there is no way possible Doug was at that house for any drug related purpose.  I never knew Doug to use drugs and in fact, due to some of his life's circumstances, he detested drugs and those involved with them.  To point, Doug and his family lived in an apartment complex (which incidentally now appears to have been bulldozed and replaced with a community park/center according to Google Maps) that was a drug haven.  Whenever I would drive Doug home my car would be approached several times by people attempting to sell us drugs as we drove through the complex; it honestly scared the hell out of me and Doug knew that.  He would always offer to let me drop him off at the corner, but there was no way I was letting my friend do that.

Doug was truly was one of the good guys and undeserving of such a brutal and tragic end to his life.  I regret never having been able to get together with him in person after we reconnected; I know we would have had a great time catching up and telling the stories of our lives.  I will miss him immensely, but I won't be alone.  Doug touched so many lives through his humor and love of music.  The number of former students of his who have posted on his Facebook page since his death is truly astonishing.  I hope that the legacy of his love of music and teaching will live on through them and be passed along for generations to come.

Rest in peace my friend.  I will love you always.

Douglas Steven Carroll: September 21, 1970 - July 19, 2012


So this past week I took an unexpected trip to Florida to help my mom out.  She was scratched on the hand by her cat and spent almost seven days in the hospital, culminating in surgery.  Long story short, surgery was successful and she is recovering well, but is pretty much down to one (non-dominant) hand to conduct her life for the next couple of weeks.  I went down, drove her where she needed to go (doctor, grocery, etc), helped her with some chores and just  generally tried to get her setup to be on her own, in the house, for a couple of weeks.

Incidentally my Florida friends, if you ever need to go to the hospital I recommend avoiding Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation.  The care my mother received here was abysmal. She requested a diabetic menu and, when they decided to bring her a meal, was consistently served meals loaded with carbohydrates and sugars.  The day after her surgery no one put in the change to remove the "Nothing By Mouth" orders so they neglected to bring her a lunch until I called and inquired.  Even though she controls her diabetes at home with diet and one medication they wanted to give her insulin shots during her stay and stopped taking her sugar measurements when she refused because "what difference does it make, you aren't taking the insulin anyhow".  The board in her room contained the instruction "elevate L(eft) hand"; the surgery was performed on her right hand.  Those are just he screw-ups I noticed; I'm sure there were many more that went unnoticed.

This was the first time I'd been to Florida in probably seven or eight years, and if I took one thing away from this trip it was that I can never, ever move back there.  Now, my mom doesn't live in a major city like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, she lives in Lauderdale Lakes which, compared to Eldersburd, Maryland, is an apparent metropolis.  The number of people there is obscene as was the density of retail space which seemed to be at ~80$% occupancy.  Public transportation is plentiful yet it seems that nearly everyone drives and driving, for me, was extremely stressful, to the point where I just didn't want to do it.  The vast majority of the drivers were rude beyond belief.  As an example I witnessed a funeral procession moving down a fairly major road in the same direction I was traveling.  It was a long procession with all vehicles using their hazard lights and they did have a police escort getting them through intersections without stopping when they encountered a red light. At one point the procession made a right hand turn onto another road and as they slowed to make the turn one of the vehicles exited from the line of cars, turned off his hazards and continued on his merry way, having utilized the free police escort to its fullest extent. Completely rude and disrespectful, but not unusual from my observations.

Surprisingly I didn't experience rudeness where I most expected it, or at least where I tend to get it back home: customer service.  With perhaps one exception (excluding the hospital), every cashier, server or other retail employee I encountered was friendly and helpful, even in the Jamaican restaurants!

A few other observations from my trip on the local environment:


  • 90-95% of Honda products are Civics or RSXs
  • 90-95% of Civics and RSXs: (a) are lowered, (b) have an annoying exhaust, and/or (c) are pretty well wrecked
  • All public buses have bike racks and they were almost always in use
  • 90: the minimum sum of one wheel from each of the first three donks I have ever seen in person, all seen within the first 15 minutes of crawling behind the wheel
  • Turn signals are apparently an option on every vehicle sold


So today was our office bike race up Ilchester Road in Ellicott City.  If you are unfamiliar with this road, the portion we "race" is about 9/10 of mile long with an average gradient of ~8%.  It starts out at 18%, levels out a bit before pitching back up to 12%, and then leveling off to more sane gradients to the end.  Why we torture ourselves with this is beyond me, but because we do I have decided to rename it the 4DG Challenge, or Four Dumb Guys Challenge.

The participants of this race are myself, Scott S., Bob M., and Mike F., co-workers of mine.  The first two of this group are avid road cyclists; the latter two are avid mountain bikers.  How this all began is a bit of mystery to me but from what I have gathered Bob said "Road bikers suck. Hulk Smash!" and in doing so challenged Scott to a race up Ilchester.  I'm not sure how this venue was determined but I would like to kick one of them square in the nutsack for choosing it.  Another uncertainty is how myself and Mike got dragged into this, something which undoubtedly also requires some nutsack kicking.

Before today we had done this race one time: October 4th 2009.  On this fateful day we all suffered greatly and Bob, self-named 'The Destroyer', won with a time of 6 minutes 15 seconds.  I was 27 seconds behind him and Scott was another 30 seconds behind me.  Mike came in sometime before we were all ready to leave.  In 2010 we could not agree on a date that would work for all of us and so the race didn't happen; no one shed a tear.

Enter 2011.  Sometime a couple months ago we agreed ton June 4th at 9am.  Almost as soon as we had firmed up the date, the smack talking began and did not let up until a couple of days ago...Thursday to be exact.  Why Thursday, you might ask?  Because Wednesday I went out to Ilchester and rode the hill; no one was impressed and my times were well below those of 2009.  To my credit it was over 100F with the heat index and I had done a pretty hard ride the day before, but still my resolve and confidence were broken.  I attempted to throw in the towel, asking my compatriots to allow me to bow out gracefully and without penalty (i.e. ridiculing) but they would not agree.  So now I had two days to consider my fate, one which I was certain would not be good.  At all.

Thursday I did an easy ride and Friday I rested.  My plan for Saturday was to get to the be ready to ride at 8:30am so I could get in a nice 30 minute warmup.  Unfortunately I was running late and only managed about 15 minutes of a mediocre warmup, and my legs, they did not feel good.  We lined up and Mike counted down for the start.  I will let the video below tell the rest of the story.



As a training note, I had new 1-minute and 5-minute power personal bests during this event.  I also won a free Indian buffet lunch!  Thanks to my compadres for pushing me to do my best.


Seeing the caller ID was the house, I answered and had the following conversation:

Me: "Hey, babe." (thinking it was Karrie)
Brady: "It's me, dad."
Me: "Hey buddy, what's up?"
Brady: "I went poop and wiped my butt all by myself!"

It was a proud moment for sure.  My little man is growing up.  Bring on the skid marks!

Kind of at the last minute I decided to do this race in the small little town of Smoketown, Pennyslvania, about 20 minutes east of Lancaster.  My teammate Tom also decided to do this race and after Karrie and the boys decided they would go watch, I booked rooms for us at Spruce Lane Lodge and Cottages since the early start time necessitated us spending the night in order to be on time.  The cottage we had was really nice and as a bonus, I could walk out the door, turn left, walk 50 feet and be on the airport's perimeter road.

The weather for this race had been looking iffy the last couple of days and on race morning it was wet and sprinkling.  Tom and I headed over, registered and set up our trainers in one of the hangars to warm up.  Karrie and the boys showed up just prior the race start.  One of the reasons this race appealed to me was the relative flatness of the course; a one mile circuit of the airport's two runways with a 180 degree turn on one end and a couple of smaller turns to navigate the other end.  The start side was the longer of the two and was slightly uphill.  The category 5 race was to be 15 miles and they started us off with a neutral lap behind the officials' vehicle.  Once the gun sounded we were off and pace was fast.

I only managed to stay attached to the lead group for four laps before getting unhitched.  Every lap I went by, Karrie and Brady could be heard yelling encouragement to me, which was motivating, however the elastic snapped and I was off on my own.  About five laps later I was caught by a group of three other racers and the four of worked together to the end where I was beaten by half a wheel in the sprint of our group.

Overall I was not dissatisfied with my 18th place finish of about 50 racers, even though only 31 showed in the results; I'm guessing they did not include DNF'd riders.  I think this is one I will definitely do again next year, maybe adding some time to see of the sites in the area with the family.


My attempt at talking politics.

Thoughts on being a dad


Random Rant