Wheelmen Reading Notes

My raw notes from the book Wheelmen.

Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln


  • When Lance Armstrong admitted to doping after years of aggressively lying, he didn’t reveal the details of who helped him dope, where he got drugs, how severe his usage was, and the tricks he used to evade drug tests and anti-doping authorities.
  • Cycling was dominant in European countries. Until the 1970s, it was a working man’s sport. It was not glamorous nor did riders make much money.
  • When the U.S. got into cycling, the landscape changed. They commercialized it. Greg LeMond made cycling’s first $1 million salary in 1991. Armstrong earned $4.5 million in 2004, which was small compared to his endorsement deals.
  • There were a small group of Americans who wanted to turn the US into a major cycling player.
  • Armstrong was brought up in a comfortable, middle class home. He was self-indulgant. He craved attention, support, and reassurance. Lance reads extensively, including everything written about him.
  • In 2010, Floyd Landis exposed the US Postal team’s doping practices. Travis Tygart was the head of the underfunded US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and was responsible for going after Armstrong and his team.

Chapter 1 : True Blue

  • The author is showing an example of the power that drugs gave athletes thru an example of the 2004 TdF.
  • July 2004 – Armstrong 5 minutes behind the leader (Thomas Voeckler) on the most grueling day of the tour. After the first climb, they gained a minute on the leader. They were flying. Up the last climb of the day, they looked comfortable while other teams suffered.

Landis explained (in 2010) the doping process used by the US Postal team: * They started doing transfusions in 2001. * Two blood transfusions per tour. * Blood was taken from each athlete in spring or early summer. * In the weeks leading up to the tour, they did transfusions to improve training. * Blood was transferred into France during the race by car.

The people investigating wondered why Landis was telling them this: * Landis’ life was shattered. He went thru a divorce. * His relationship with Armstrong ended in a bitter feud.

  • The book opens in the 2004 Tour de France. They were on stage 13 – a tough stage. Armstrong was 5 min behind the leader. The U.S. Postal team flew up the hills and crushed the field. The fans were cheering, some yelling “doper, doper”. Landis was pulling for Armstrong. Even after Armstrong was well ahead in the overall standings, he still pushed hard to win the stage, beating a rider who was way back in the standings and just wanted a strong finish. Armstrong was proving he was tenacious or simply arrogant. Armstrong went on to win the TdF.

  • After one of the stages, Armstrong would leave his team and fly off with his girlfriend (Cheryl Crow) for the night. Shows he was arrogant, full of himself. Feeling above his team.

  • In 2010 Floyd Landis’ life was in rough shape. He gained weight, got divorced, and had a bitter break up with Armstrong. Landis confessed the drug charges and whistle blew on Armstrong.
  • They told a story about faking a bus breakdown to do blood transfusions – to evade the French police who accused the Postal team of doping.

Chapter 2 : A new beginning for American cycling

Eddie Borysewicz (Eddie). * Came to America in 1976 after a divorce with his wife who cheated on him. * He was a racer in the 50s and 60s. * Was mis-diagnosed with tuberculosis. The treatment left him weak and unable to complete in the Olympics. * He met Mike Fraysse, who was the top official in the 76 Olympic cycling events. * Started training cyclists – including Greg LeMond. * Fraysse made Eddie the US National Team coach.

In the 84 Olympics, the US started doping. They setup “informal testing” to allow the athletes to determine how long drugs stayed in their system.

Jim Ochowicz: * Started building a US pro cycling team. * Och was lympic speed skater. made the 72 and 76 Olympic team in track cycling. * Och met Eric Heiden – Olympic speed skater. Och got Heiden into cycling. * Built a team around Heiden. Started getting sponsors (7-11).

  • Eddie’s Olympic and Och’s pro teams were overlapping for the 84 Olympic teams.
  • Eddie and Och clashed – Eddie was a trainer. Och was a manager (sponsors, money).
  • Eddie was OK with blood transfusions. He thought it wouldn’t cause long term harm, like drugs.
  • Eddie was asked to coach a rich “masters” athlete named Thom Weisel. Weisel was a rich investment banker who went on to fund and manage many US teams.
  • Weisel asked Eddie to make him national track champion in exchange for Weisel making Eddie a millionaire. Eddie did it – Weisel won the masters track championship. Weisel didn’t quite make Eddie a millionaire.
  • After winning the masters championship, Weisel wanted to fund a national cycling team and compete in the TdF.

Chapter 3 : A Rage to Win

Introducion of Lance Armstrong. Lance started off as a triathlete.

  • Lance liked solo endurance athletics because he controlled his own destiny.
  • Lance’s mom had him at 16. She was poor – her parents wanted nothing to do with her.
  • Lance’s biological Dad left when lance was young. Terry, Linda’s second boyfriend, started bringing Lance to races. He was tough on Lance. If Lance started to cry, he told him they had to leave.
  • Lance was very driven. He taught himself how to swim.
  • Lance didn’t want anything to do with Terry.
  • Terry brought Lance and his two triathlete friends to races in Texas.

  • When Lance was 15, he met a sales rep from Avia, Scott Eder. Scott helped lance get a $400/month sponsorship from Richardson Bike Mart (and a free bike).

  • At 15, Lance was placing high in international races against the pros.

  • Lance had a lot of attitude, anger. He acted like a spoiled brat.

  • Terry helped Lance, bought him a car, but Lance hated Terry.
  • Lance was VO2 tested as a minor – he scored really high.
  • When Lance graduated high school, he was cocky

  • Eddie B was told about Lance – went to see if he could recruit him. Lance was looking for money and wondered if cycling would be as lucrative as triathlon.

  • Eddie B trained LeMond, who earned $1m a year. Lance signed on with the “Subaru – Montgomery Team” – which Eddie and Thom Weisel managed. Lance would earn $12,000 a year.
  • Lance worked very hard. He was tough to talk to, wouldn’t listen. Lance didn’t like helping other riders, wanted everything for himself.
  • Lance raced for the US National team and pissed off the Subaru Montgomery team (Eddie B and Weisel).

Chapter 4 : The First Million

  • Jim Ochowicz landed Motorola as a sponsor and was looking for talent. Ochowicz went for Armstrong.
  • Lance competed in the 92 Olympics. He ended up 14th – disappointing finish.
  • Lance entered his first pro race and finished last. Armstrong trained hard and in 1993, won a 3-race $1 million race series.
  • In 1993, LeMond pulled out of the tour, he couldn’t compete with riders on EPO.
  • Armstrong became the youngest rider to win a stage of the TdF in 1993. And a World Championship.
  • Lance was tough to deal with. His Mom asked for help to deal with him. She asked LeMond to help – but LeMond didn’t know what to say. He knew Lance was tough.
  • LeMond retired in 1994. Lance didn’t give him any respect.
  • In 1994, Lance was complaining that other teams were using EPO. Lance wanted the Motorola team to use it too.
  • In 1995, Armstrong hired Bill Stapleton as his agent. Stapleton got deals with Nike, Oakley, Giro – and made performance based bonuses.
  • The 1995 TdF, a Motorola rider died. Armstrong finished his 1st TdF in 36th place.
  • In 1995, Lance met Michele Ferarri. Ferarri was a mastermind behind EPO and Lance’s drug program. Ferarri would coach Lance, was very into statistics (watt measurement and drug planning).
  • Lance was dating a lot of women.
  • In 1996, Armstrong had a great year – won a lot of races. He had two bad parts of 1996 – he finished 12th in the 1996 Olympics and dropped out of the TdF.

Chapter 5 – Teamwork

  • Mark Gorski – retired track cyclist – worked for USA Cycling. Re-united with Thom Weisel (they were previously friends). Weisel hired Gorski to help raise money for his team.
  • Gorski landed USPS as a sponsor starting in 1996. They projected the team’s first TdF entry would be 1998.
  • In the fall of 1996, Lance’s Motorola team was folding. Armstrong was given a 2 year contract by the USPS team for 1997 / 1998 at $1 million a year. Gorski also landed Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton.
  • In the fall of 1996, Lance started having pain in his testicle. He was diagnosed with cancer. It also spread to his head. He had brain surgery and the cancer was killed.
  • Armstrong was asked if he took drugs. He said he took EPO, testostrone, and others. Many of his friends were there – this would come back to haunt Armstrong in the future.
  • In January 1997, Lance was cured. He met his first wife, Kristin Richards.
  • Armstrong started his Livestrong foundation in 1997.
  • In 1997, the USPS team had a few drug doctors.

Chapter 6 : Sit ins and saddle sores

  • Armstrong thought about sex a lot – was with a lot of girls. He married Kristin Richard in May 1998, a few years after beating cancer. He was not into riding that year, but wanted to fulfill his obligations with the Postal team. He was not the lead rider and wasn’t putting in effort.
  • He thought about retiring. He did some soul searching and decided to ride again.
  • Anger drove Armstrong. He used anger to push him.
  • Armstrong was very into self monitoring and stats collection.
  • Armstrong was asked to ride in the TdF with USPS but passed.
  • In the 1998 tour, the Postal team’s assistant (Emma O’Reilly) helped them avoid getting caught with drugs by fending off the Irish police.
  • The TdF had rampant drug use. All teams were cheating. The French police were trying hard to catch the riders. The riders had to get more sophisticated. In 1998, the riders staged a “sit-in” to protest the French police.
  • LeMond was upset that Thom Weisel (manager / investor in USPS) supported drug use. LeMond didn’t trust him (Weisel wasn’t ethical) and broke all ties.
  • Weisel’s company was bought, so he got out of owning the USPS team.
  • Lance hired an ex-racer Johan Bruyneel) to be the team manager (head coach). A strategic thinker who convinced Armstrong he could win the TdF. Lance dedicated himself to winning the TdF. He worked hard and dedicated his life to winning in 1999.
  • Armstrong started to distance himself from his former friends. He seems to use people and leave them.

Armstrong trained for and won the tour in 1999. They were winning so big they stopped EPO mid race. * LeMond was trying to encourage Armstrong, but Armstrong was not interested in LeMond. Armstrong thought LeMond could not help him and was not necessary to have around. He was rude to him. * In 1999, Lance tested positive for drugs. He lied – saying he needed testosterone treatment for saddle soreness. He was let off the hook.

Chatper 7 : Lance Armstrong Incorporated

  • After his 1999 TdF win, the media was all over Armstrong. He wrote his biography “It’s not about the bike: my journey back to life”. Nike was all over him.
  • The USPS was making a lot of money (which will come into play later, when USPS sues Armstrong).
  • Gorski and Weisel started “Tailwind Sports” to fund the team. They met with a bunch of CEOs and rich people to fund the team.
  • Weisel was managing inveestments for the UCI (Union Cyclists International) – administered drug tests and policed doping in the sport. The head of the UCI, Hien Verbruggen, had his investments managed by Weisel. Weisel and the postal team was also paying Verbruggen.

Chapter 8 : Hematocrits and Hipocrites

  • In 2000, the team had more money, better drugs, and ways to cheat tests.
  • He won the 2000 TdF. The team doctors were caught disposing medical waste, including EPO and testosterone.
  • LeMond was told that the postal team was doping. Also, the team paid $500,000 to Hein Verbruggen to cover up the 1999 positive drug test.
  • In 2001, Lance was almost found EPO positive in a test. The test was later ruled “too close to call”. Armstrong based people that used drugs – calling them cheats who wanted to bring down the sport.
  • Ferarri (Armstrong’s drug doctor) was convicted of trafficing EPO. Armstrong was forced to admit he was working with Ferarri in the past. Claimed Ferarri was training him, not offering drugs. Lance made up a story with his coach, Chris Carmichael and downplayed his role with Ferarri.
  • Lance new his relationship with Ferarri was suspicious. He defended himself by pointing to the fact he hasn’t tested positive.
  • Lance denied drug use to everyone. Even the president of his foundation.
  • Lance doubled the bonuses of his teammates.
  • In 2001, to get around random drug tests, the team started transfusions.
  • In his book, Lance described himself as a family man, offended by porn. Landis thought it was extreme.

Chapter 9 : Domestic Discord and the Domestique

  • In 2001, Landis made the TdF team without using drugs. The team forced him to use drugs.
  • The UCI was corrupt – paid off. It had no respect from riders.
  • Landis didn’t think of the drugs as cheating. They didn’t give him powers, but helped recovery. Also he knew everyone was doing them.
  • Lance’s family life was falling apart. His mom remarried. Lance didn’t attend his friend JTs funeral. He was dating other women. He got divorced in 2003.

Chapter 10 : A New Gear

  • He started dating Cheryl Crow in 2004. Nike executives got the idea for the yellow bracket from watching Kevin Garnett wear a bracelet.
  • Armstrong got a team from Trek to create highly advanced equipment. He didn’t end up using it.
  • Armstrong hired a professor to create a narrative that he was a physical specimen. This is the story that America was given on Armstrong. He was forced to admit to a few mistakes. Armstrong was controlling his image.
  • Landis was actually stronger than Armstrong.
  • David Walsh wrote a book called L.A. Confidential that detailed Lance’s drug use. Armstrong’s lawyers worked hard to kill the book.
  • In 2005, the French had a test for EPO. They retested Armstrong’s 1999 samples and he tested positive.

Chapter 11 : Adieu and fuck you

  • Landis won the 2096 tour. When asked about doping he said “I’d say no” – which admitted he was guilty. He now had to fight the charges or come clean. He was being pressured to not come clean. He lost his title.

Chapter 12 : The Comeback (again)

  • In 2007 he started a lot of business ventures. He tried to buy the sport of cycling, but couldn’t make it happen.
  • In September 2008, Armstrong returned to cycling. He was on a team with Contador for a while – then started the Radio Shack team.
  • When he rode with Contador, Contador won the tour. But Armstrong was pushing himself to win as well – which ticked off Contador.
  • Armstrong’s drug tests were more of the same : highly scrutenized, questionably off, and the UCI (who was paid off by Armstrong) defended him.

Chapter 13 : Betrayals

  • Landis denied doping for 3 years, went broke defending himself. Came clean in 2010 – speaking with Trais Tygert (USADA). Landis was the key whistleblower.
  • Armstrong was using underhanded tactics to persuade people from siding with Landis. Bribery, threats, proposed lawsuits.
  • Landis agreed to wear a recoding device to frame another questionable racing team (Rock Racing).

Chapter 14 : The Chase

  • Landis’ doping claims hit the headlines. Lance dismissed Landis as out for revenge.
  • Lance hired a bunch of lawyers to fight the charges.
  • From 2010 – 2012 A Federal Inquiry was took place. After 2 years, the federal investigators dropped their charges. Lance was not charged.
  • The USASA couldn’t press criminal charges, they have the power to strip Lance of his titles. They started an investigation.

Chapter 15 : Scorched Earth

  • In 2012, Lance started racing triathlons. He was strong – winning and placing high.
  • The Justice Department was considering joining Landis’ whistleblower lawsuit.
  • The USADA could take away Lance’s titles and ban him from triathlon competition. Lance tried to countersue, but the judge dismissed it. He said if Armstrong was truly innocent, he should go to arbitration and fight.
  • Lance did not challenge the USADA’s charges – saying that he was tired of fighting.
  • Lance verbally accused the USADA of a witch hunt, and beraded them.
  • The USADA made their evidence public on October 10, 2012.
  • Even after the report was released, his sponsors stodd behind him.

Chatper 16 : Not a Snitch

  • Nike was reported as contributing to the doping program. Nike denied the allogations.
  • Nike asked Lance’s lawyer to confirm nothing in the report was true. The laywer couldn’t, and Nike dropped Armstrong.
  • Lance was sued by people who insured his victories. They were suing Lance for their money back ($12 million).
  • The USADA encouraged the Justice Department to join Landis’ lawsuit – assusing Armstrong of economic fraud of the US Postal Service for $40 million.
  • Lance admitted to doping on the Oprah show.
  • The Justice Department joined Landis’ lawsuit.


  • The author’s badger the American people for believing and supporting Armstrong while he was clearly lying – until they had no choice but to accept Lance was a cheat. And once the public turned on him, they turned hard.
  • Lance could be back. He’s dedicated, determined, strong.


  • Lance considers himself a hero. A hero for beating cancer and helping people.
  • Some riders (Hincapie) are ticked that the USADA did this. He claims the investigation doesn’t help the sport.

Book Review : Wheelmen – Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever


A friend of mine recently finished Wheelmen and gave me his copy to read. Wheelmen is an extremely well researched and detailed account of US Cycling and Lance Armstrong’s persona, career, and doping practices. While Armstrong is on the cover and the focal point of the doping “scandal”, it’s really more a story of American cycling than it is of Armstrong himself. It covers the birth and rise of American cycling up to present day.

Lance Armstrong


Before I read the book, I knew little about Armstrong and less about American cycling. I knew of the mainstream story lines. Lance Armstrong beat cancer, won the Tour de France year after year, started Livestrong and sold yellow bracelets, was accused of doping, aggressively denied doping, came clean in a weird 2-part interview with Oprah, and retired disgraced.

My stance on Armstrong going into the book was fairly neutral. I enjoyed watching his run thru the TdFs, was disappointed to find him come clean, but realize that many in the sport dope. Doping is how the game is played. Before he admitted his guilt, I thought he brought a similar level of fame and attention to cycling that Michael Jordan brought to the NBA. Despite his doping, I thought the cycling community owed a lot to Armstrong for raising the visibility of the sport. I thought he should just have admitted he was guilty and move on.

The book was mostly all “business” – focusing on the history of US cycling and Lance Armstrong’s career in it. While some Tour de France races were detailed, the majority of the book was about the politics and the doping practices more than the athletics and strategy behind the sport. The book is well researched and goes into excruciating detail about the history of US cycling, the personalities involved, Lance Armstrong’s character and involvement, the business deals that drove cycling, the doping practices, the lawsuits, the rise and fall of Armstrong’s career, and Armstrong’s personal life. Its goal is to highlight what they deemed the “Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever” as opposed to the sport of cycling or the strategies and training regimen the teams took to win races.

After reading the book, I realized that some of my first impressions of Armstrong were completely accurate:

  • He is dedicated, talented, and an extremely hard worker. He was winning triathlon races before doping and he’d continue to win races today without doping. He’s a competitor.
  • He brought tremendous attention to the sport of cycling.
  • He hurt himself by so vehemently lying.
  • He is polarizing. He reminds me of LeBron James – loved and hated – no in between.
The most important lessons I learned were (if the book is true – which given the wealth of research most certainly is):
  • Doping is rampant in sport, which I knew, but this book made me realize that it’s really, really big. It’s a huge ethical issue.
  • Armstrong was really arrogant, deceptive, and used people.
  • It was amazing Armstrong was able to cover up years of elaborate doping – especially after he won a few TdFs – and with all this evidence he did it!
  • Armstrong’s lying and attitude brought him down. Had he come clean earlier, or not pissed off so many people, his legend may have stayed in tact.
  • People were obsessed with bringing him down – the authors included. They were obviously biased against Armstrong.
Other random thoughts on the book:
  • The history of US cycling was rather dull. I appreciated how the authors tried to weave all the pieces and history together, but it didn’t work for me. There were too many people, story lines, and interrelated relationships to keep track of. The story didn’t flow well for me.
  • The insights into the postal team and the methods of doping were fascinating, but a bit overdramatic.
  • I’m more into the grueling training and techniques of sport than politics. This book was about politics.
  • The Government lawsuit against Armstrong is legally correct but still a huge shame. The Government’s claim is that Armstrong defrauded the Postal Service by violating their non-doping clauses in their contract. While legally correct, they miss the bigger picture. The Postal Service made more money off Armstrong than anticipated or deserved. I see their stance, but feel they should call a truce and drop the case.
Thoughts on Doping


It turned out the most thought provoking, interesting issue in the book wasn’t cycling or Lance Armstrong. It was doping in sports. Wheelmen either solidifies or makes you question your stance on doping. I’m against doping in sports. I also realize that entire sports, like cycling, are doping. If you want to compete at that level, you’d be seriously disadvantaged if you didn’t. It’s a shame, but it’s the truth.

We also don’t live in a perfect world. Everyone is a “doper” to an extent. We all can and do take different drugs and enhanced substances that can improve performance. Where do you draw the line between acceptable use and doping? If you take vitamins, are you a doper? Caffeine? Ibuprofen? Protein powder? Supplements? Creatine? Testosterone? EPO? Blood transfusions? At what point in that chain should we consider someone a “doper”? Where do you draw the line? I can see the other side of the argument.


Wheelmen’s detail on the history and politics of US Cycling and Lance Armstrong’s career is impressive. The authors put almost too much detail into the book and made it hard to follow. If you are seriously into cycling or want to know more about the history of US Cycling from the 70s until the mid 2000’s, you’re not going to find a better researched book than this one. If you are interested in sport, competition, training techniques, or the athletics involved in cycling, skip this book.



Evan Doll : iOS Tools at Flipboard

Evan Doll of Flipboard fame explained the tools they use in Flipboard development in a 2014 NSConference talk. What I like about Evan and his talk is his honesty and straight forward approach. There is no hipster framework name dropping, cat pictures, or other side shows – just an honest look into the tools and techniques they’ve used to build a very successful iOS product.

Here are my notes from the talk – which you can find here – iOS Tools at Flipboard


Evan Doll – Prior to Flipboard worked for Apple doing video / photo software. Also iOS system apps / UIKit. Stanford course instructor.


  • Automation – avoid crap work.
  • Squash bugs – add hooks to improve debugging.
  • Tools – Give yourself superpowers
Automation – avoid crap work
  • Jenkins for automation.
  • Pretty generic discussion of build automation (build / tag / upload to HockeyApp).
  • Run clang static analyzer.
  • Automatic beta distribution.
  • Provisioning : black magic and swearing involved.
  • Spolsky : can you make a build for testing purposes in 1 step?
  • Stamp app icon with version – easy to identify.
  • Multiple bundle IDs for different versions of apps. Allows multiple installed builds per device.
  • App Code – unused code detection, additional warnings that clang will not catch.
  • Hockeyapp
  • In-app debugging – tools to expose app internals for debugging – turned on in debug builds via flags.
  • Cocoa Lumberjack
Squash bugs – add hooks to improve debugging
  • View hierarchy debugging.
  • Gesture based tools / issue reporting. Double pressing the up/down volume button press to trigger the debug UI. Similar to Google’s “shake to report bug”.
  • JIRA – “the least bad of the bug trackers out there”.
  • Global keyboard shortcut handler. Flipboard hooked up a global event listener to globally listen for keyboard events to trigger actions. They use this for debugging in the simulator. Subclass UIApplication, override sendEvent to extract GSEventRef, posts NSNotification. Example : Cmd-L to send logs, etc.
Internal feature switches
  • Feature switches (debug only) to customize / streamline the debug experience. i.e., skip the login screen.
  • Feature switches for UI – toggle between UI modes to determine which UI is better.
  • International testing – override the default language via a defaults config value.
  • Pseudo-localization – writing your own “language” to verify your views are handing variable string lengths and strings you’ve forgot to localize.
  • WebTranslateIt – shared localized strings between iOS / Android.
Tools – Give yourself superpowers
  • Push as much app logic can server side to workaround bugs. For example, a JSON dictionary to configure the device at runtime.
  • Changing help files / strings / etc.
  • Add generic hooks into the app to allow you to update the app w/o deploying an app store update.
Communication tools
  • Pivotal tracker
  • Github pull requests (in-progress code)
  • HipChat
  • Dropbox
  • Google Hangouts
  • GitX + email

RACifying Non-Reactive Code – Dave Lee’s Presentation Code

Dave Lee gave a talk titled RACifying Non-Reactive Code for GitHub Reactive Cocoa Developer Conference in June 2014 (about two weeks after Apple’s Swift WWDC announcement). His presentation is a no-nonsense, fast paced ~25 minutes of walking thru the multitude of ways in which objective-c, cocoa, and the Apple frameworks present events and how to translate those events into RAC (e.g., RACSignal).

One of the first things every newcomer to RAC learns – perhaps the first “a-ha!” moment – is that cocoa presents a multitude of ways in which events are passed and received. It’s eye opening to realize how much these seemingly different event mechanisms have in common. When learning about KVO for example, you don’t consider the commonality KVO has with another eventing mechanism such as delegation or target/action. But stepping back to look at these event paradigms together, to understand what they are ultimately trying to solve, makes you realize they indeed are all doing fundamentally the same thing – an event source is providing events to another object observing those events.

Now, this is one of the fundamental goals the RAC authors are trying to achieve : abstracting the 20+ years of cruft and ugliness built up in the various Objective-C eventing patterns into common, modern, and functional abstractions (i.e., RACSignal, RACSubscriber, etc). While their implementation is not perfect (“hot” vs. “cold” signals, a non-generic type system preventing you from clearly seeing what type will be delivered with an event), it goes a long way towards writing clear, concise code with less state (win, win, win!).

Dave’s talk was interesting since it showed concrete examples of the various objective-c patterns and how they translate into RAC. As I was watching the video, I was frequently pausing it, thinking to myself “oh, I can use that in this project – I need to copy this code down”. After stopping a few times, I realized I should just start over, copy all the examples down, and keep them for reference. The objective-c patterns he converts to RAC are:

  • Blocks
  • Delegates
  • Notifications
  • Errors
  • Target-Action
  • KVO
  • Method Overriding

Dave’s talk is highly recommended for anyone new to RAC. Without further ado, here’s the code:


Spotify : Mac and web app comparision


For Christmas, I was gifted a year subscription to Spotify. Up to this point, I’ve purchased all my music. I’ve used Spotify in the past using a free account to try it out, but never committed. I didn’t really get into the service much – I found my playlists got stale quick and didn’t invest time to make new playlists, listen to the radio or find new music.

Now that I’m a subscriber, I want to fully understand the software and community. To this point, I used the Mac client. Features being equal, I’d rather use the web client and avoid maintaining software on my macs. So I did a comparison of both apps.

First of all, let me say that I have respect for any company that supports all the major desktop, mobile, and web platforms. I live that reality and fully understand the challenges trying to accommodate all of them. It’s a huge effort – from engineering to support.

Their Mac interface isn’t terrible. It’s not purely mac, but it’s ok. Buttons aren’t Mac buttons, table views don’t bounce, etc. But it does the job. Looking at iTunes isn’t any better. Looking into Spotify.app, they are embedding Chromium, use C++, boost, Lua, SQLite, Flash (really? for ads?), Growl, have a few helper applications (for web, ads, it appears), run their helper under launchd, nothing too out of the ordinary here.

Spotify appears to be really OSS friendly. Much of their architecture is freely available online. One of their engineers, Gunnar Kreitz, posted a few papers that I’ll probably read to better understand their design.

I did notice Spotify took the chrome route and are forking multiple child processes to presumably handle plug-in “apps” or web views. They are aggressive with their subprocesses.



All things being equal, I would rather use the web version. No installation, no upgrades, no maintenance. And quite honestly, Spotify did a nice job with the web interface. Featurewise, it’s nearly identical. I listed below the list of differences I saw – most of them are minor.

One thing that stuck out – you can’t sort playlists on the web. The main function of any subscription music service is to discover and play music, right? The ability to discover, create, manipulate, and share playlists is essential. It’s eyebrow raising – here we have a cross platform music streaming service cut from the cloth of seemingly very solid computer scientists that lacks the ability to sort a playlist.

A quick google search later and it turns out this is a 2 year old new idea. I’m shocked it’s a known, unsolved, and 2 year old issue. I can sort a playlist on my iOS device, but not the web? Has web development stopped? Does nobody use the web client?


As far as the rest of the Mac/web differences. App Finder might be nice depending on what the apps have access to within Spotify.

I’m going to give the web player a try and use my iOS device for sorting. We’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to using the service in 2015!

Main differences

  • Native app has USB device sync. Does anyone need this?
  • Native app has “App Finder”. Might be nice for discovery, recommendations, or analytics.
  • Native app has Local Files section (surely for offline playback). (not relevant for web). I don’t need this – all my offline needs are handled on my iOS device.
  • Playlist sorting, song sorting within a playlist.
Minor differences
  • The left sidebar options are different: * Native app – contains “follow”, “top lists”, “messages”, “play queue”, devices” * Web app embeds most of this under the “browse” item.
  • Your music : * Native app has a section in the left sidebar (songs / albums / artists ..) * Web app has a single “your music” icon on left, all content is broken out as submenus on the “your music” page.
  • Right sidebar differences: * Native app – “activity feed” – can hide. * Web app – player + related items.



Merry Christmas! Our son, Cole (8), master of the photo bomb, is this year’s star on our Christmas card. #gettingalumpofcole made us laugh – it’s the perfect hashtag to accompany the card and the young man himself.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous 2015!



Living the Bible in the workplace

This March, I attended a Men’s fellowship / breakfast with guest speaker Bill English who delivered a great talk titled “Living the Bible in the Workplace”. It was a fantastic presentation. Experienced engineers and scientists know that while computers are important, the most important skill we can master is dealing with people. Bill’s talk challenged us to think about we treat people at work, how we want our professional legacy to be remembered, and how we can focus our daily activities towards achieving success with our work and with our professional relationships.

Oh – as it turns out, Bill is a tech guy – a Microsoft SharePoint / Exchange trainer and author here in Minneapolis. You can find out more about Bill and his company here – Bill English – Mindsharp

Bill English – “Living the Bible in the workplace”

  • How will you be remembered for your work? What will you leave behind in “your wake” (boat wake):
  • What did you accomplish?
  • How did you treat others in the process?
  • Before you can be an effective teacher, you must earn respect from others.
  • Steve Jobs : accomplished a lot, didn’t always treat others well.
  • Tony Dungee : accomplished some, was great to others.
To earn respect, be Integrated with people
  • Connect authentically. “Lean in” to them. Listen before talking.
  • Orient toward the truth. High achievers face reality and deal with it.
  • Resolve conflict. The Bible clearly states we will have problems. If you want to help people in their relationship to God, you need to resolve personal conflict.
  • Delivers results & finish well. Don’t be mediocre. Human tendency is to do just enough to get by. Fight the temptation to coast. Fight the temptation to blame others for mediocrity.
  • Orient toward growth. Own your work. Don’t check out, check in.
  • Be transcendent. Sacrifice yourself for the greater cause.
Ask yourself
  • Do you take risks? If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of your boat (comfort zone). There is always risk. Take on risk.
  • Are you coasting? Are you holding back?

Book Review : Born to Run

While on vacation earlier this year, I ran across (see what I did there?) Born to Run at my cousin and fellow marathoner Chad Allison’s house. Of course I was curious. Was he getting a leg up on me for the Twin Cities Marathon this year by learning a few new tricks? I certainly couldn’t let that happen. Also having a little extra motivation for this spring’s races couldn’t hurt – so I bought a copy. Overall, I enjoyed it. I picked up a few tips to improve my form and improved my motivation for spring. Enjoy the review!






Born to Run

tl;dr : Born to Run is a story about the “secrets” of a Mexican tribe known for being world-class ultra runners. It also discusses the history, diet, industry, and medical aspects of ultra running.

The actual book review is below. I think the most important part of this review is the main points about running mentioned in the book. If I end up losing you before the end of the review, I want to make sure you read these – so here they are!

Running Lessons


  • Runners do it for love – there is no money in the sport. They (probably) don’t dope since they don’t have any fame or money.

  • The Tarahumara secret was they “loved to run”.

  • Jurek’s tip : “You can’t hate The Beast (fatigue, pain); the only way to truly conquer something, as every great philosopher and geneticist will tell you, is to love it.”

  • “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running” – Jack Kirk, 96 year old ultra marathoner.

  • “If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four hour run, you ain’t getting them”


  • Low protien, high carb diet. The more primitive the better. Makes you realize just how bad the American diet has become.

  • Jurek eats a very low protien, vegetarian diet. Lots of nutrients in low calorie meals that settle quick in the stomach.


  • The surge for minimalist running started around 1997.

  • Running technique tips : straight back, short steps, on your toes, “easy, light, smooth, fast”

  • Barefoot running, minimalist shoes are the real deal. Bashes Nike, Bowerman.

Joe Vigil (legendary coach) running tips:

  • Practice abundance by giving back.

  • Improve personal relationships.

  • Show integrity to your value system. (You have to become a strong person before you become a strong runner.)

  • Run like a kindergartner. Feet land under your body and they push back.

  • Kenyans have super quick foot turnover. Short, quick strides are more economical than long, powerful ones.

  • Run like you’re running on hot coals.

  • “Nearly all runners do their slow runs too fast and fast runs too slow.”

  • Teach your body to use fat by staying under the aerobic threshold.


  • Evolution : early tribes hunted by running. Humans were slower than animals, but much longer endurance. McDougall makes the case that humans were “Born to Run” and attempts to prove it by human body characteristics and early hunting.

  • Living a happy, peaceful, life like the Tarahumara is what Western cultures strive for. Western cultures value materialism and self-centeredness which prevent them from achieving that lifestyle.

Corporate Influence

  • American running : “Overpronation” and other running jargon didn’t exist in the 70’s, before Nike and the shoe companies. Americans in the 70’s were fast. A handful of people ran 2:12 marathons. 20 years later, nobody did. The Kenyans didn’t get faster, Americans got slower. In the 80’s, when cash and shoe companies entered into the mix, we slowed down. The fun was replaced with money.

  • Bill Bowerman started advocating a new kind of running style that required his shoes. He asked “what if you stepped beyond your center of gravity to lengthen your stride”. Thus – you needed his shoes. Completely wrong advice, but he marketed it well.

  • Bowerman created a market for his product, then created the product.

  • The real test that heel landing is incorrect is if you run without shoes. It will hurt to land on your heel. Bowerman’s advice was actually hurting people.

  • Bowerman’s mentor, Arthur Lydiard, advocated a barefoot running style. After Bowerman died in 2002, they asked Arthur for advice. He advocated a barefoot style. Nike researched barefoot running cultures and created “Nike Free” with the slogan “Run Barefoot”.

  • So Nike created an artifical market for running shoes based on Bowerman’s scientifically incorrect theory that thick soled shoes reduce injury, then after 30 years realizes they were wrong, created Nike Free.

  • Nike held a practice of discontinuing shoes periodically and bringing them back a few years later. Why? Money. To motivate people into buying multiple pairs of shoes at a time before their favorite model was discontinued.


  • Dr. Daniel Lieberman, anthropologist at Harvard “Many running injuries are caused by our feat being weak. Before Nike in 1972, people ran in thin soled shoes and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries”.

  • He claims that if running shoes didn’t exist, more people would run and less would die of illness due to being sedentary. * There is no evidence that running shoes prevent injury.

  • Astronauts, when returning to earth, return with weak bones / muscles, have depression, atrophy, all because they haven’t moved their muscles in days. Humans need to run for survival.

  • The American diet is truly killing people. Diets high in fruits and vegetables (little meat) severely reduces cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other American diet related diseases.

“Painful Truths”
  1. The best running shoes are the worst. Runners wearing top of the line shoes are 123% more likely to get injured than those in cheap shoes. – Univerity of Bern (Switzerland)

  2. Feet like a good beating Impact is actually lightest when you don’t have cushioned shoes.

  3. Humans were designed to run without shoes. Our feet were designed with an arch – which gets stronger under stress. “Putting your feet in shoes is like putting them in a plaster cast” Kenyans have very elasticity in their feet.

Scott Jurek

  • He has a true spirit and passion for running, not attention or stardom. He is the real deal.

  • Scott believed the reason he raced wasn’t to beat people, but be with them.

  • “It’s easy to get outside yourself when you’re thinking about someon else” – great advice to keep yourself motivated on a long run.

  • After being beat by Arnulfo (the fastest Tarahumara runner) in Caballo’s race, he bowed to him. Classy.

The Review

Born to Run is a true story about the author’s adventures into the highly secluded Mexican Copper Canyons to learn about an Indian tribe of “super athletes” called the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara were legendary for their ability to run straight for days at a time, in sandals, on a primitive, vegetarian diet.

While the primary story is about the Tarahumara, Born to Run weaves in rather fascinating stories about the evolution, fundamentals, science, diet, and commercialization of ultra running. The story begins with the author, Scott McDougall, a casual athlete, trying to find a cure for his foot injuries and pain caused by running. He visits multiple American doctors who recommend drug treatments, expensive equipment, and eventually to quit running and take up biking. He didn’t quit, but he listened to the doctors. He bought expensive equipment, took cortizone shots and medication, but nothing worked.

After reading an article about the Tarahumara, he became curious. He wanted to find out how the Tarahumara could run for days while he, with Western culture’s best doctors, medicine, and equipment, could not. Runner’s World magazine, where he worked, allowed him to research and travel to Mexico to find the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara lived deep in the Mexican Copper Canyon mountains – a place surrounded by drug lords, gangs, and crime. He met locals along the way who helped him navigate the tough terrain to eventually meet the Tarahumara.

The Tarahumara are a very hidden, peaceful, healthy, tribe. They eat a very low protein, healthy diet which includes a corn and chia-rich paste called pinole. They enjoyed running games and would literally run together for days at a time. They wore very minimalist homemade sandals which allowed them to keep a natural stride while protecting their feet from the mountainous terrain.

A central figure in the story is Caballo Blanco (“White Horse”). Caballo is an American who met the Tarahumara by crewing for them in the 1992 Leadville 100 race. He liked them so much, he went down to Mexico to live with them. He’s portrayed as sort of a mythical figure who roams around sort of nomadic in Mexico running and living a carefree, simple lifestyle. Caballo’s dream was to hold a race between the Tarahumara and a hand picked group of US ultra marathoners. He admired Scott Jurek, who agreed to race. Jurek was interested since that was his life’s goal : compete and beat the best in the world. Caballo invited Jurek because he had the “right spirit” (not driven by money, like Karnazes and others).

Besices Jurek, Caballo invited a few other ultra athletes to race. Jenn Shelton and Billy Barnett – 21 year old couple tearing up the East Coast ultra races ran w/ Jurek and the Tarahumara in Caballo’s race as did “Barefoot Ted” – Vibram’s first endorsed athlete.

He also invited McDougall, who trained for and eventually raced with the other athletes. He went from a hurt weekender to an ultra runner by going back to tribal practices and learning running fundamentals. He ran with proper form and equipment, ate a primitive diet, and was able to finish the 50 mile race.

The majority of the book involved Caballo’s race, which took place in 2004. The training and preparation the author put into the race, the logistics and personalities of the athletes in the race, and finally the race itself was the main story line carried throughout the book. Interleaved throughout the story were truly great background stories of distance running – some of the main points I’ve highlighted below. These various aspects are applicable to everyone and the advice is fantastic. The main conclusion is rather predictable – the best runners in the world are those who do it because they love it. Like anything in life, passion drives success. The same goes for distance running. After passion comes diet and fundamentals.

Born to Run convincingly links the American diet to disease, stress, obesity (and thus diabetes), and other painfully horrible medical conditions. This book advocates for and shows how a primitive, “tribal” diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in protein is proven to power ultra running success.

The book offers up a brief look at the corruption Bill Bowerman and Nike caused the running community. Bill invented and sold a running style that required his shoes. By claiming that reaching your feet out further, you could lengthen your stride and thus speed up. The problem is lengthening your stride will cause you to land on your heel – an unnatural, painful, and injury causing form. Bill sold this style because it required cushioned shoes – Nike shoes. The book describes Nike’s influence and links the slowing of American distance runners to the time Nike entered the market. Interestingly, after Bowerman died, Nike launched a minimalist line called Nike Free – to attempt to capitalize on the growing number of “minimalist” athletes who were fed up with cushioned shoes.

Born to Run struck a good balance between the story of the Tarahumara, elite athletes and general background information on distance running. It gave me motivation to clean up my stride and diet, which alone is worth the price of the book. I can’t highly recommend it, but I think it makes for an easy to read casual book endurance athletes or aspiring 5k’ers will enjoy.