Bull Riding

Written on March 31st, 2011 by

It has been a while since my last post. With the holidays and a couple large work projects, I have not had much time. When I have had time, I have been spending it relaxing from everything else. Work has been consumed by me leading releases for the largest and most complex applications my team supports. Given the past predecessors were not as diligent in their work, I am left with little technical understanding of the application as a whole, patchwork design, shoddy code, and minimal documentation. This makes each new feature or changes to existing ones a challenge. My area is behind the times when it comes to application development. As a result, I have been learning to apply automated unit testing using JUnit and EasyMock at an enterprise level, and then training everybody else. Along with that, I am working with a handful of others to bring Jenkins, formerly Hudson, into the process as well. Through using these two pieces together, we should be able to greatly increase the integrity of the existing application. Then it will simply be a matter of keeping on top of developers to make sure the low level design is solid rather than splurging more lines of code into an already bloated method.

Fortunately, I get time away from work too. A couple weekends ago, I took some extra time away from work. I conveniently aligned my time off with the start of March Madness. I also spent three days learning to ride bulls from a retired professional bull rider, Lyle Sankey. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, pictures are uploaded there. I should have videos uploaded on youtube eventually too. The highlight of the weekend was climbing down into the chute on top of the back of a bull, taking the bull rope, sliding up, and nodding my head to have the gate opened. I cannot describe how it feels, but I will try anyways. I had an extreme sense of calm despite the adrenline rushing through me. There are a lot of things to pay attention to when sitting on the back of a 1500lbs animal surrounded by a steel cage. I could have worried about what could go wrong, but that would have only led to something going wrong. Instead, it was a matter of focusing on the details, getting the job done, and getting on with the ride. It was a thrilling experience!

I can hardly say I know what happened during my first ride. I remember nodding my head, hearing the gate open, then things got really violent and I was on the ground. In watching the video afterwards to review the ride, I actually found out the bull reversed out of the chute. This means rather than turning with its head towards the arena and bucking straight out, it stepped out with its hind end first, spinning around before beginning to buck. If I had been asked immediately after my ride, I would have said it went out straight. The only thing different during my second ride was I had a better idea of what actually happened right after it ended. My third and final ride was by far the best. By sheer luck I got one of the more difficult bulls any of us got put on that weekend. One experienced bull rider who was there helping with the livestock told me it would have given him a run for his money. I put up quite a fight, but eventually it managed to throw me away from my hand after the first circle.

I feel disappointed trying to describe the whole experience because it simply does not do it justice. The only reason I do not foresee me actively pursuing bull riding is because it is such a violent sport. My life is simply too comfortable to be thrown around weekend after weekend seeing how long I can go before I receive a severe injury. There are a lot of things that can be done to reduce the risk of injury, but it is still far too easy to be stepped on by a bull at the end of a ride. That being said, I still recommend it those who have not tried it and are in good shape. It was a once in a lifetime experience!

Unless I decide to do it again…

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