Friday, December 31, 2010

Rampage Peak

I wasn't feeling Henry Coe. By doing a long day trip instead I'll be able to get more work done and I probably covered more miles than I would've with a pack (and without the commitment device of having to make it back to the truck.) So I ran a 35 or so mile loop I've been thinking of for a while--Redwood & Chabot Regional Parks and EBMUD land over Rampage Peak and all the way around Upper San Leandro Reservoir. Lower trails were annoyingly muddy, but it was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ohlone Wilderness

I did a long run on the Ohlone Wilderness trail east of Fremont last weekend. It was 40 degrees and raining with high winds, but I didn't die of hypothermia, so I consider it a success. I'm headed to Henry Coe State Park for an overnighter tomorrow in the few predicted days of sunshine this month.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

TNF 50, Bike Chain

Yesterday I rode my bike over to the Headlands to watch some of The North Face's 50 miler. There was significant prize money at stake, so it was quite a spectacle as far as trail runs go. I got there right as friend and fellow long distance backpacker Andrew Skurka (pictured) finished. I then went backwards on the course looking for Tattoo Joe, but I didn't want to ride home in the dark, so I turned back without running into him.

Today I went to the workshop and replaced my bike chain. It recently started slipping, and when I inspected it today, there was an obviously bad link that was the cause. I also replaced a spoke and trued the wheel yet again. The ride home (in the rain) was silky smooth, so all is well. Why is working on bikes so much more fun than working on cars?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cabin Trip: Mt. Rose Summit to Reno

It snowed all day, I was gassed by the time we got to the cabin, and I got gnarly blisters, but the trip was excellent.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I'm up in Truckee for the long weekend. I went snowshoeing with Bink, Krud, and Monkey to Frog Lake. (Anybody got 7.5 mil to spare?) Overnighter to an off-the-radar cabin in the Mt. Rose wilderness tomorrow.

I'm tired of radio silence, so I'm going to post a few blog entries to, invite only. If you want in, shoot me an e-mail.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


My roommate lost one of the bolts connecting the small and large front sprockets on his bike. The pressure of the chain bent the small sprocket, doubling it over completely, and rendering the bike useless. It was an old European three-bolt sprocket set with a cotter pin to attach the crank-arm to the spindle. The bike-shop didn't have the old parts, so my roommate asked me and we took it to the workshop today, found an old crank set with the exact same setup, and swapped it out. I wasn't familiar with the old cotter pin set-up (but I've never used a modern crank-puller either) but it wasn't that hard to figure out. So we saved a bike's life today. Good times. Now back to work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Press Blurb

I love this.

As you may recall, I gave a presentation on the Sierra High Route to 5 Bay Area REI's this summer. They later gave my name to an East Bay trail group, and in early September I gave my presentation to them at their big annual hike & ride fundraiser.

They just sent me their newsletter, and this is how the presentation was described:
"The entertainment that evening was a slide presentation by Garret Christensen, who has hiked all the major though hikes [sic] in the US. He talked about hiking the top of the Sierra Mountains from one end to the other – off-trail! He showed us slides of the beauty of the High Sierras, the exhausting work that it takes to hike it, and the pitifully minimal equipment he takes when he goes there. I think we all came away from that talk admiring his persistence and resourceful- ness and thinking: “Thank God I’m not THAT crazy!”"

Awesome. Support the Bay Area Ridge Trail. It needs to get finished so I can thru-hike it.

I Can't Sleep

NYT article on pushing your physical limits.

The Town was a great movie. So was The Ghost Writer. The Arcade Fire show at the beginning of the month was good, but I didn't think great. Conveniently it was at the Greek Theater 100 yards from my office so I had time for it, but I thought the jumbotron behind the band that showed live distorted video of what they were doing on stage was very distracting. You're standing right here in front of me, can't I just watch you jump around in real life?

Is it just me or are Dem's chances looking a little better lately?

All the Poisson regressions, county trends, and population weights are starting to work. Good times.

Electronic music is good to listen to at work as it's less distracting than my normal indie/folk. Thank you, Ratatat.

That's all for now.

Friday, October 08, 2010


Presented today. I think it went well. You know it's going horribly if nobody bothers to make comments, and I was worried about that at the start, but I realized that was just the part where I was talking about non-economicsy background stuff ("Here's how you join the military"). It got lively with lots of comments when I actually started showing results, and the faculty was dropping knowledge bombs all around. And the suggestions are stuff I can actually do, so that's cool.

I was exhausted, so I'm spending the rest of the day buying groceries, doing my laundry, fixing some bike spokes, and maybe watching Carrie or reading Harvey Pekar's adaption of Studs Terkel's Working. (And talking to a guy at RAND about the control functions approach to eliminating omitted variable bias.) The only problem is, I bought the freewheel removal tool (the Suntour 2-prong model) but I've only got an 8-inch crescent wrench which is not giving me enough leverage. At the community workshop they've got a huge wrench with a hex-slot in it, perhaps explicitly for this purpose, but they don't sell them at Missing Link and the guy there said he just uses a crescent wrench anyway. So it's off to the hardware store to buy a big-ass crescent wrench, I suppose.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time Travel

Well, it's been a fascinating few weeks. When research is going well I actually sort of enjoy insanely long days in the office every single day of the week with no time to even do my laundry or buy groceries. Or cook. Or eat. Today I have a minute to breathe, but only because I'm all the sudden really worried that my data are too good to be true in that they might exhibit evidence of time travel. (You see how I made "data" plural there? I hate that. Next I'll be speaking only in passive voice or talking about myself with the the royal we.) Obviously this means I've goofed or my model is mis-specified or something. Anyway, my birthday was a while back so I ran a fun midnight 15-miler up to Inspiration Point with Gazelle. I also caught a free sneak preview of the financial collapse documentary Inside Job. It's worth seeing, but if you already dislike investment bankers and have listened to the This American Life episode called The Giant Pool of Money, there's not that much new information.

That's all. Back to work.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Like I said, no more blogging.

Can anybody out-google me to a list of the names of those who died in the Persian Gulf War? Actually, I don't need names, I need service unit, home county/state of record, and date for all US military fatal casualties from Jan 1, 1990 to October, 2001. DoD press releases usually have this information, but they don't always issue a statement, and an incomplete set doesn't help that much.

Monthly recruiting goals by service branch from 1990-2006 would be dreamy too.

Otherwise, I'm 1600th in the FOIA line.

Friday, September 03, 2010

That's It

And with that, I probably won't be posting much for a while. I'm hoping to be on the job market this year, which means military labor supply research 12+ hours a day, 6.5 days a week for the next couple months. I'm signed up to present in a lunch seminar in a month, then if all goes well, job applications go out mid-November. I unsubscribed from a ton of blogs, removed a bunch of sites from my bookmarks toolbar, cook less, and run only enough to stay sane. Wish me luck, and if you're a potential employer, say, at a great school in a great location, I would be an awesome colleague and an excellent teacher and researcher.

Difficult and Meaningless

I read Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, and I shouldn't have bothered. Reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a few years ago was more than enough motorcycle-philosophy for one lifetime. First, I must admit, relative to other intellectual qualities I have, reading comprehension of philosophy is not one of my strong suits. Only when philosophy is reduced to near-math, or when it is very clearly applied to practical decisions in real life do I enjoy it. With that said, I still think Soulcraft is unnecessarily complicated, boring, and doesn't actually say anything that means anything. It's dense drivel.

It's styled as a philosophical defense of the trades, and starts out talking about how it's easy to pick up good used machine lathes and other shop tools off eBay, because schools have been abandoning shop in favor of "the knowledge economy." Then there's a interesting discussion of Frederick Winslow Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, Marx's theory of alienation, and Henry Ford's assembly line production. Crawford writes,
Thus, according to Taylor, "All possible brain work should be removed from the shop and centered in the planning or laying-out department..." It is a mistake to suppose that the primary purpose of this partition is to render the work process more efficient. It may or may not result in extracting more value from a given unit of labor time. The concern is rather with labor cost.
Basically, the goal is to hire cheaper stupid people. This idea of factories encouraging mindlessness interests me. If the skilled workers from a firm "go elsewhere" once production has been automated, where do they go once all production has been automated? What are the social implications of that? Can we really have an economy based entirely on selling each other stuff that was manufactured in China? These questions interest me as a person and a social scientist, so it's very unfortunate that Crawford didn't answer them. I can't recall more than one scientific study cited, or even a survey about happiness or pride in your work; it's all just Crawford's philosophical ramblings.

His ramblings are, thank goodness, interspersed with his personal stories of being an electrician, working on his VW bug as a teen, and repairing motorcycles. But if you can't already name every part inside a motorcycle engine, don't expect to understand anything, because Crawford is showing off. Crawford also got his degree in philosophy and worked some stupid desk jobs, one formulaicly writing scientific abstracts on articles he wasn't given time to read, the other for a conservative think tank where he was encouraged to reach pre-conceived oil-industry conclusions (he tries not to give details, but google tells me it was the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute--which actually weakened his argument in my mind--you worked for a polemic conservative oil-industry think tank and you're surprised that you found your work soulless!?).

Other than to say that the book's endnotes, when they are not direct citations, are laughably useless (e.g. "I grew up in a commune."), that's all I'll say about the book. Like many other people, I think about whether my job is useless. I can write statistical program code, but I can't fix a car (and they're making cars more computer-controlled and less human-friendly all the times--some new Mercedes don't have engine oil dipsticks.) Would I be happier if I did something outside or with my hands? Would most people? Does everyone need to go to college? As a nation should we encourage more vocational education so those who don't go to college can find meaningful (i.e. non-retail) employment? I think all these questions are important and interesting, but I don't think Crawford answered any of them.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Western Express Bicycle Map Comments (Wonkish)

I finally typed up my comments on the Western Express Adventure Cycling Maps for the AC cartographer who encouraged me to do so. I thought I'd post them here for the benefit of anyone who might google across them, as they're too long to just post in the comments of my original bike trip entry.

Here they are.

Map 2:
Is Pinto Summit 7,376 or 7,351 feet?
Is Pancake 6,521 or 6,517 feet?
Is Robinson 7,588 or 7,607 feet?
[I don't think these minor differences matter in terms of physical effort to get you to the top, but it's just nice to be consistent between sides of the map.]

Map 1:
The directions for map 6 in Placerville are wrong (and illegal for cyclists).

On the detailed map, the red line stops, but the black line appears to direct cyclists onto Route 50 briefly starting at Canal St. (Westbound). The written directions just say "Placerville. See Detail... Merge onto US 50. Matchline." However, at the intersection of Canal St. and Hwy 50, although there is a 4-way stop light, there's a sign on the shoulder of Hwy 50 saying no pedestrians or cyclists allowed. The legal was it to continue west on Main Street, which becomes Forni Rd, which has a marked bicycle lane and signs directing bicycles this direction. Forni parallels Hwy 50 for one more exit to Ray Lawyer Drive, where you go over Hwy 50. I mapped it here:
This also alters the directions on Map 5, because you don't actually get on Placerville Dr., you just cross it to get on Green Valley.

Also--is there a reason not to take Bucks Bar Rd. and Cedar Ravine into Placerville from Somerset? It's confusing while cycling because the road signs direct you to take Bucks Bar, your map clearly shows that they go to Placerville, and it's 4.4 miles shorter to go that way. In general this is the type of information that would make me buy more AC maps--I can see what road goes where with any old AAA road map--AC's comparative advantage lies in telling me elevation changes and cool stuff along the way. (I'd add operating hours of stores, "cyclist-friendly" hotels/diners, etc.)

On Map 5 there's another turn missing in Folsom. Westbound, after turning right onto E. Natoma, you have to turn left after 1.1 miles to stay on E. Natoma. Going straight takes you on Folsom Lake Crossing. Maybe it's AC map policy that unless specifically stated you make whatever turns necessary to stay on the street with the current name,
but that's not standard with google/mapquest directions, which I think a lot of people are used to.

Finally, the whole idea of taking a ferry from San Francisco to Vallejo is anathema to me. Bicycles are allowed on the I-680 Benicia-Martinez Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, so cyclists can legally and safely ride from Vallejo to Benicia, then Martinez to Berkeley and Oakland and take BART or the ferry from Jack London Square to San Francisco, or they could ride through Napa and Sonoma then over the GG bridge, and not have to do any ferrying. Both of these routes would be scenic and safe, as they are commonly used by tourist and recreational cyclists, and they'd entail less "cheating"
than a ferry to Vallejo.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"I am Supertramp, and you are Super Apple."

I just watched The Call of the Wild, a documentary about Chris McCandless, AKA Alexander Supertramp. I also re-watched Into the Wild for comparison. The latter I assume you've all seen and don't need to hear anything about; I liked it just as much the third time as the first. Pretty much the only thing I don't like is the font of the opening titles. Thanks for not blowing it, Spicoli.

The Call of the Wild on the other hand is a low-budget independent documentary by film-maker Ron Lamothe who re-traced McCandless' steps. Lamothe was born in 1968, the same year as McCandless, and was obsessed with the story even before Krakauer made it huge. For the movie he went to Emory during graduation, Lake Mead, Slab City, hitch-hiked to Carthage, South Dakota, drove up to Alaska, and hiked to the Magic Bus, getting swept downstream by the Teklanika River and temporarily ruining his camera. There's a fair amount of thoughtful introspection--he interviewed random Emory grads, all of whom were headed to grad school or Wall Street and none of whom seemed to be questioning like McCandless. Lamothe asked whether Generation X was really different from the current one, and he contrasted his own post-college wanderings in Africa with the life of a college friend of his who is a happy suburban LA lawyer who never questioned anything.

After watching Into the Wild I sort of expected Call to be a documentary of interviews with Chris' family, and the real-life versions of the Catherine Keener (Jan Burres), Kristen Stewart (not real), Hal Holbrook (Ronald Franz) and Vince Vaughn (Wayne Westerberg) characters. Lamothe did interview one of Chris' college roommates, neighbors from his street in Annandale, his high school track coach, and a few people who met him in Carthage, and this actually served to paint a slightly darker or more angry/upset/lonely picture of McCandless than I'd had in my mind. Lamothe interviewed neither his family, Franz, nor Westerberg, however. Franz (not his real name?) passed away, so that explains that, but Westerberg was apparently serving as a consultant for Sean Penn, who was shooting on location at the same time as Lamothe, and there were some issues with people in Carthage, SD not talking to Lamothe because they signed away the rights to their story. So Penn and co. may have prevented some interesting interviews from taking place, which makes it all the more disappointing that even though the Into the Wild DVD is a 2-DVD set, not a single one of the DVD extras contains one iota of information about the real people--they're just slightly annoying Sean Penn and Emil Hirsch talking head videos.

So Call ended up being half personal adventure of Lamothe (who Lamothe met hitch-hiking while making the movie) and half McCandless' life and adventure (minor characters McCandless met). Some aspects of the movie seem slightly conspiratorial or accusatory of either Sean Penn or John Krakauer for mis-telling the story (Lamothe thinks McCandless just starved to death instead of being poisoned). That aside, the moments of discussing the questions of why people like McCandless, Lamothe, me, Krakauer, etc., want to go explore and have adventures like this are fairly thoughtful and well done. Overall I'd give Call a B and Sean Penn's version an A. I bought Call off Lamothe's website, I don't know if Netflix has it, but it's apparently been on PBS, so maybe.

On a related topic--how great is the ItW soundtrack? If you, like me, deeply regret not seeing Eddie Vedder when he came through Berkeley on his solo tour playing many of the songs, you can find a bootleg here. The links at the top don't work, but the FLACs lower down appear to. Also, "Hard Sun" is a cover of a song by the band Indio off their album Big Harvest. They basically sound like Vedder with a slight accent. [YouTube link]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Internet Is Making You Stupid

Fine, the Internet is useful. It's also a huge waste of time and is making you stupid, so I dare you to read this whole post. In other words, I just read Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Carr is sometimes credited with starting this discussion with his article "Is Google Making You Stupid?" in The Atlantic a few years ago. The book goes into detail about how the brain is plastic (adaptable) into adulthood, and how using the Internet re-wires your neurons so that you're better at skimming than concentrating or thinking deeply. (When was the last time you made it through an entire NYT Sunday Magazine article online?) Carr cites numerous scientific studies showing that the distracting nature of hypertext and multimedia lead to lower retention and comprehension. These parts of the book are very interesting, just like any Malcom Gladwell-esque collection of interesting scientific findings.

The book is also part intellectual history, which was far less interesting to me. From Plato to Nietzsche and from the invention of paper to moveable type, all these thinkers had ideas about how technology affected man, and all these new inventions changed the way the brain works. It so obvious I can't even call it ironic, but I found myself skimming some of these chapters (thankfully, only chapters 3 and 4). A very interesting chapter covered Google, and Carr quotes writer Richard Komen regarding Google's book-scanning projects as saying Google "has become a true believer in its own goodness, a belief which justifies its own set of rules regarding corporate ethics, anti-competition, customer service, and its place in society." I was on board for Google Book Search, but since they recently sold out net-neutrality and left Al Franken and netroots the only things between Verizon and prioritized wireless Internet traffic, I'm reconsidering. One large company's ethics isn't necessarily a harbinger of doom, but it is evidence that flashy blinking lights are indeed coming to dumb down more and more aspects of your life.

My major beef with this book is that there is absolutely nothing in terms of solutions. Other than a three-page digression of a chapter about Carr's own terminating his twitter account while writing the book (but then buying a Blu-Ray with built-in wifi), there is literally nothing on practical measures one could take to avoid checking your e-mail every minute and a half. While reading the book, the scientific studies cited often have control groups who are not allowed to bring laptops into lectures, or who have to walk in a park while treatment groups use laptops and walk in crowded cities. So obviously, one realizes through reading the book that one will probably learn more if one doesn't bring one's laptop to class, even though one won't be able to read relevant wikipedia articles, because one will be concentrating better. But that's it--there's nothing on practical tips or suggestions, which I would have found very useful. (Do any of you have practical suggestions?)

Still, I'd recommend the book. You could also read a recent series on called "Your Brain on Computers". I won't link to it because you'd be distracted and retain less of what I was trying to say. I'd also recommend another older book I read in college, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neal Postman. It's another one of those quotes-Marshall-McCluhan-a-lot-and-says-technology-is-making-us-dumb type of books, only it's about TV. (Seriously, who watches TV anymore? More importantly, who watches TV without surfing the Internet at the same time?)

Anyway, that's it. I'll probably rant more about the Internet and simplicity and stuff again next week, because I'm now I'm going to read Shop Class as Soulcraft.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dirtbag Drop-Outs on Film

I just watched 180° South. Basically, some dudes take a trip to Patagonia, surf, climb mountains, and talk about conservation, and the meaning of life with Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins (the founders of Patagonia and North Face, respectively). It's sort of a re-creation of a trip Chouinard and Tompkins took in 1968 in which they drove south from California to climb Fitz Roy, then made a movie about it called Mountain of Storms (which now I guess I'll have to track down and see). 180° South was good, but I wouldn't say amazing. The surfing and climbing shots are of course beautiful. The soundtrack is very good, but a little too heavy on the Jack Johnson for my tastes. The discussion of dropping out/the meaning of life is fairly simplistic when it's from the point of view of the main narrator, but I think that Chouinard and Tompkins, given their impressive experience as both businessmen, dirtbags, and philanthropic conservationists, had more interesting and nuanced things to say. It should go without saying that the movie strengthened my wanderlust.

Trailer for 180° South
Trailer for Mountain of Storms

Friday, August 20, 2010


You know what I'm tired of hearing about? I won't even mention it because it's the only thing in the news for the last forever and I am so pissed that there's even a question about whether they should (be allowed to) build it. Of course they should.

Other than that:
Good runs. A little barefooting (by that I mean VFF), 10 miles in Briones Regional Park (to a part I've never been to), two trips to the EBMUD land near Upper San Leandro Reservoir (again to parts I've never visited before), new bushwhacking and super-secret-singletrack on campus property (following the Lab fence from the High-C, and a track that crosses the creek at the Firetrail parking lot then goes up the hill close to the Connector where you can bomb down to the pool parking lot), a run with Nano down the ridge-trail to Sibley, and 10 miles along the Charles River in Boston from Mass Gen to Harvard and back.

So by that I mean I went to Boston and Nano visited (twice). A+A got married and had a very cool outdoor wedding with a fun mix of Jewish and Catholic cultural but not religious traditions. Their wedding band was amazing, which is not really a thing you hear, but it was true. The lead singer had pipes. I'm sure it didn't hurt that she was gorgeous.

Nano passed through on his way to and from the Wonderland trail, a 93-mile loop around Mt. Rainier. We talked about future adventures and he gave me a great idea--forget Tierra del Fuego to the Bering Strait for a mid-life crisis hike, I'm going North Pole to South Pole. That must never have been done before, right? Skis to/from the North Pole, walk to TdF, then sail to the edge of Antarctica, then ski to the South Pole. Easy peasy.

I was an instructor to first-time quantitative social sciences GSI's at their training conference today. I'm going to (at least) Avett Brothers, K'naan, Mumford & Sons, Sufjan Stevens, and Arcade Fire concerts in October, and I signed up to present at the Labor Lunch October 8. Now to just do the research so I don't make a fool of myself.

Comedian: Informative documentary. Jerry Seinfeld is not funny. My childhood was a fraud.
Baader-Meinhof Complex: Very interesting tale about, basically, the German version of the Weather Underground or the SLA. Bruno Ganz is a brilliant actor.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Good NYT article about getting rid of your crap and living simply. Except it seems like it's saying that instead of buying fancy stuff you should buy stuff that helps you have cool experiences (preferably social ones). I'd say that's a fuzzy line to draw, and I'd advocate instead for buying pretty much nothing. But part of me does like the claim that buying "equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles" makes you happier as this obviously helps me justify the four Rubbermaid tubs in the corner of the room as well as the 40-pound box of maps. Applied to today's situation, would buying the special tool I need to remove a bike's rear cassette (and eventually a bike stand and a wheel truing stand) and doing the work at home make me happier, or would I be happier riding down to the community workshop and fixing my three broken spokes there? My guess is the latter, since I get to interact with the shop guys, who're pretty remarkable in that they have no bike shop 'tude.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Suit

Alright Mr. Hope-to-go-on-the-job-market-this-fall, you can make me buy a stupid suit, but you can't make me like it. And you can't make me pay more than $15 for it.

And no, unfortunately I'm not running the Headlands Hundred right now. My friend couldn't get off work to pace me and it would have prevented me from accomplishing anything for the better part of four days and possibly weakened to the point where I caught a cold. So instead I got the cold before the race and am spending the better part of four days sick on the couch watching movies:

Breathless: sharp, but that's all it's got going for it.
Infernal Affairs: I'll take Marty's version with Marky Mark in hospital booties over the original.
My Dinner with Andre: One of the better two-hour long conversations about new-agey bulls--t that I've seen.
The Straight Story: Heartwarming and beautifully shot (Iowa cornfields). Sometimes the main character either had poor line delivery or acted like he did. I'm upset because now I have to add "ride a lawnmower across the country" to my adventure to-do list.
Insomnia: Definitely not heartwarming, but definitely beautifully shot (Alaska). Is anyone out there a close friend with Robin Williams and can tell him he's not funny but can actually act quite well?

Oh, and reading books: Quitter, by Harvey Pekar. Autobiographical account of his childhood and early years. Perhaps my favorite Pekar work.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Good Run Is Easy to Find (wonkish)

This one's for the running nerds.

My route: I went over to Marin county today and did a nice 6 hour run on the north side of Mt. Tam on Marin Municipal Water District land. I've hiked and run on Mt. Tam a few times before, but always on the southern/western/Pantoll side. I generally don't like to drive to start a run, but I knew I'd be out long enough today to make it worth it. Traffic through Richmond and over the bridge is generally not that bad, and parking was easy and free, so that's points for Tam over Diablo or anything in the South Bay or on the peninsula. I started at Natalie Greene park above Ross Commons, up Tucker and Indian Rd., down a ridge to Lake Lagunitas, up to Collier springs, on Upper North Side and Benstein to Rock Spring, down the Cataract trail to Alpine Lake, Helen Markt, Kent, Bon Tempe Shadyside, and Fish Gulch back to Phoenix Lake and back to where I started.

I liked the area. Not giant trees like in Muir Woods or even the French Trail in Redwood Regional, but generally a good amount of shade, and a good ratio of singletrack to fire-roads. (Definitely a better ratio than Diablo). There are hundreds of trails in this area, so as a newby I carried a map and had to pull it out every ten minutes to see which junction I was at. That's annoying but it's my fault, not the park's. I liked bombing down the Cataract trail a lot. It maybe wasn't Bald Ridge Trail on Diablo, but it's good, lots of steps and roots and rocks to jump off of. The Lagunitas Fire Trail ridge I went down earlier had too many sections that were fields of unstable rocks about the size of my foot for my taste--bigger and you don't set them in motion, smaller and you run right over them, but the middle size makes me slow down a bit. Helen Markt, Kent, and Bon Tempe Shadyside were all good too. They're just lakeside rolling contouring, but there aren't unnecessary ups and there's good shade--much better than the route around Briones reservoir.

My gear:
I don't usually think much about running gear, because I don't run enough as it is, so I just need to shut up and go do it, but I did a little thinking about it this time. I read Tony Krupicka's blog, and most of the time I think "Dude, would you put on a shirt already?" but sometimes I think "does that guy wear socks?" When I ran on Wednesday, I wore a pair of WrightSock cool-mesh lo-quarter socks and loved them. I was surprised, because I normally wear full quarter socks and have found no-show or low-cut socks to slip down and then my Achilles rubs painfully. (Do you build up resistance to this? Based on how raw this area can get on long hikes with full socks, I'm just imagining it getting progressively worse.) Anyway, these lo-quarters were fantastic. The extra inch or two of breathing room made my feet feel great, and they were just high enough that there was no rubbing. So I bought another couple pairs and wore one today. They slipped all the way off my heel and up to my toes and I was constantly having to pull them up, meanwhile they were soaking up blood from my raw Achilles. Wrightsocks always feel extra slick when I wear them before washing, so I'll give these one more try before I try and find another low or no-show sock with a tab that's big enough and will stay up.

Headphones. It seems that most companies have moved away from earbuds towards what I'll call "earplug" type headphones. I just got a new pair since my previous ones started cutting out in one ear, which is inevitable. I totally meant to keep the receipt since they often don't last their waranteed year, but I failed to do that. Anyway, I don't like them. They stay in my ear less well than the old bud kind (but they do have different sized plug attachments, so I need to experiment with that) and they act like ear plugs, so you can't hear what's going on outside, and your pulse and chewing food are now crazy loud. Are these better for my long-term hearing somehow? I think loud concerts are screwing me on that account anyway, so I just want something that doesn't bounce out, and I don't like the behind the ear do-dads because they're like grappling hooks and get caught on stuff when they're in my pocket/backpack.

My pictures:

Rock Spring

I took a pretty sweet header off a steep edge. Grassy landing, so no prob.

F--k It, I'm Going Vegan

I just read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. At times I found Foer's writing extremely pretentious (e.g., five pages of "Influence/Speechlessness" repeated over and over, consisting of 21,000 letters, which is how many entire animals the average American eats in a lifetime.) But in general I thought it was well written and enjoyable. I think Foer assumes to some degree that the reader agrees with (or at least doesn't virulently oppose) three ideas: factory meat farming is (1) inefficient (it takes from 6 to 26 plant calories to make 1 meat calorie), (2) environmentally horrible ("All told, farmed animals in the United States produce 130 times as much waste as the human population--roughly 87,000 pounds of shit per second. The polluting strength of this shit is 160 times greater than raw municipal sewage.") and (3) extremely cruel (cages are so small animals can't turn around. Watch Meet Your Meat if you need convincing).

A few chapters of the book are aimed at beating these points home, but most of the book seems aimed at the Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser-inspired "friendly meat" eaters--those who would try to eat mostly sustainably raised and ethically slaughtered animals--and looks at whether that makes any sense, or whether vegetarianism is the only way to go. (As an aside, I can't rule out the fact that the book does indeed spend a lot of time on the initial three ideas and I just found the more nuanced friendly meat/no meat discussion more interesting.) I found this discussion thoughtful and enlightening. I myself became vegetarian after reading a Michael Pollan NYT article (and having cows constantly poop in my water on the CDT). Even though Pollan doesn't advocate for vegetarianism, vegetarianism seemed a lot more logically consistent, and I knew if I was a grass-fed/family-farmed only guy, I'd still end up eating meat whenever I felt like it and contributing to factory farming practices. I think that's pretty much how Foer feels. Farms like those of Niman Ranch and Frank Reese (practically the only turkey farmer whose turkeys can actually reproduce on their own) are way better than those of Smithfield, but vegetarianism is even better. I've often said that if I move to Montana and my neighbor shoots his cow with a high-powered rifle after letting it live to a ripe old age after walking freely and eating natural grass on his land where it would be very inefficient to grow crops and then offered me 20 pounds to put in my freezer, I wouldn't find anything wrong with that. I still think that's basically reasonable, but I'm not looking forward to it.

I've been veg for about two and a half years, and I think it's about time I gave veganism a try. I never buy cow's milk or eggs for my own groceries, but I'm often OK with them if they get served to me or sometimes at restaurants, and I still buy butter and parmesan cheese. What would it take to change?
Eggs: no problem.
Milk: growing up without coffee I find it now makes me agitated and unable to concentrate, so fine, I can live without cream in my coffee, or coffee at all, or milk. Oh crap, milk chocolate. Suck!
Butter: bummer, this clearly tastes better than any substitute, but they make veg-oil spreads without any hydrogenated oils, so I'll have to try it. I'll miss it in baking, but I've seen shortening without hydrogenation, hopefully it works reasonably well.
Cheese: no problem.
Honey: buying honey probably increases demand for bees, which help other plants grow, so I'm still eating this.
Leather: After reading The World Without Us, I'm of the opinion that I don't like plastics and anything nuclear, because they essentially never go away. So I'm not convinced that a little animal use is worse than the polyester/petroleum alternative. I have no stats to back that up, but that's how I feel. Obviously, go with the plant-based alternative if one is available.
Down: See above.
Wool: See above. I wish cotton insulated when wet, but it doesn't. You can't win 'em all.(Any thoughts/tips?)

Two final minor things about the book. Foer discusses chicken and pig farming in detail (tiny cages, tons of shit, abuse, causing disease through overuse of antibiotics), but glosses over beef. He claims that the cattle industry is by far the least horrible type of factory meat farming, but he also couldn't get inside a slaughter house to witness anything for himself. His claim might very well be true, but if so, why is that the case? And it was still a little disappointing to read the less-detailed coverage.

I will end with a Foer's aside on fish, but first, aside-aside: Anyone read Paul Greenberg's Four Fish? It's on my list.

After describing how farmed fish are cruelly raised and how both farmed and wild fish are cruelly killed:
"Although one can reasonably expect that at least some percentage of cows and pigs are slaughtered with speed and care, no fish gets a good death. Not a single one. You never have to wonder if the fish on your plate had to suffer. It did.

Whether we're talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that's not the question. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That's the question."

Toshiro Mifune makes for a badass samurai.

One of my favorite memories from college was watching Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven projected on our living room wall and remarking how similar Toshiro Mifune's samurai character was to my buddy Nielsen, just by the goofy look on his face and how he strutted around and was always scratching himself and laughing, but occasionally morphing into alpha male badass when necessary. Tonight and a week ago I watched Yojimbo and Sanjuro, which are absolutely brilliant. Mifune doesn't play the same character--less goofy, more grumpy, but still badass--but the resemblance is still there, and the movies are absolutely must-see.

In case you're wondering, I've seen 10.5 Kurosawa films this summer:
  • Rashomon--brilliant
  • Drunken Angel--slow but good
  • Throne of Blood--very good, and the final scene is fantastic, but I didn't quite like it as much as many people do
  • I Live in Fear--slow
  • The Lower Depths--unwatchable (and yet I watched it?) I'm sorry, but I require a plot.
  • Ikiru--brilliant. My favorite existential film since Bergman's Winter Light
  • The Hidden Fortress--So annoyingly not funny that Jar Jar Binks makes this look good.
  • Seven Samurai--Brilliant. I've been meaning for 7 years to make t-shirts with the flag on them.
  • Yojimbo--See above.
  • Sanjuro--Funnier than Yojimbo, just as amazing.
  • Scandal--Seemed like a morality tale that was all hyperbole and no nuance; I left halfway.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Lazy Am I?

I listened to Scott Zesch's The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier. Meh. It's about nine different kids captured by Apaches or Comanches, and I could never keep them straight in my head. It did make me think of one interesting philosophical question, however--there's lots of mention in the book about Native American dislike for typical white European settler working life (which at the time obviously meant farming) and the children had trouble readjusting to settler life once their abduction ended and often never readjusted to the whole working/making money thing. So in what sense, if any, is that "laziness" (how it's referred to by settlers in the book), in what sense is it Native Americans being smarter and knowing that he who dies with the most toys definitely does not win, and when can I start living in a log cabin in a brutally cold place with no facilities and spend all day chopping firewood and growing my own vegetables during the two frost-free months of the year? Am I lazy with no ambition, or do suburban McMansions and the rest of the consumerism that goes along with them make me gag? Or is it that research is honestly difficult enough to warrant all the Internet surfing I do?

Regardless, even though I haven't read it, based on a decent Fresh Air interview, I'd suggest you read Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History instead if you're in the mood for Native American history.

Bike Links

Something else had changed up here, too. It takes nearly a day on these trips, John said later, but you always see it: Shoulders drop their tension. Eyes unpinch from their accountant’s squint. With every mile, the in-box and the BlackBerry retreat a little more in the rear-view mirror. People shed their daily worries, until their world reduces to the clean feeling of the right gear underfoot, and the blur of the gray road. As Mike put it: “I don’t have to think. I don’t have to do a damn thing, if I don’t want to. I get to ride my bike.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Hundred?

Something didn't work out like I'd hoped today, so I listened to Rage's Killing in the Name of, then fueled by a fresh dose of self-loathing left the office for an awesome 3 hours in the hills--up to the top, down to Orinda, and back. It's been far too long since I've run there; I live too far west now, so I need to get back in the habit of going from school so I can hit the hills nearly every day. The run was fantastic, so I'm sort of thinking about running the Headlands Hundred in a week and a half. I haven't been training, but since when has that stopped me? The course has changed slightly since last year, but it's still 4x25-mile loops, which doesn't excite me, nor does the $200 entry fee (despite my interviewing today for a one-day GSI training gig in August that pays $200). We shall see. I've got an open weekend, so maybe I'll do a long run and see how I feel.

Today was also the last of my 5 REI presentations. They were a pretty good experience. By that I mean people laughed at most of my jokes. I didn't get any numbers from intelligent outdoorsy atheist liberal chicks, so in that sense they were a failure, but in that sense my whole life has been a failure, so I'm inured to that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I Did This Week

Two REI Presentations: Pretty good reviews, with the inevitable exception from someone who clearly does not get my sense of humor. Three more this coming week.
Inception: I almost always disagree with David Edelstein, and thus I loved this movie.
Yojimbo: Badass
Capturing the Friedmans: Interesting.
American Splendor: Did I mention Harvey Pekar makes me happy?
Our Cancer Year: I really dislike the art, but the story is great.
An Unreasonable Man: Ralph Nader is cool. I wish I believed in something like he does.
Dead Weather live at the Warfield: Even from the nosebleeds, Jack White and his giant eyeball backdrop are phenomenal.
The Human Condition: Got disc 1 (of 4), haven't started yet.

Ran several times but wasn't really feeling it, gave my bike a decent post-trip cleaning, picked 12 pounds or so of wild blackberries, made two pectin boxes worth of freezer jam, baked fresh honey whole wheat bread, and will make a pie tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Bicycle Trip

I rode my bike 770 miles or so from Salt Lake City, UT to Sacramento, CA. I started Sunday morning at 8:30 and finished Friday night a little after 11:00 PM.

As usual, all during the trip, I imagine the wonderful, informative blog posts that I will write when I get back, full of helpful gear lists and vivid descriptions. Now that I'm back, however, I'm already bored, suffering from post-adventure let-down, wishing I were still biking, and thinking the Internet is stupid, so I don't really want to write about it. However, I'll force myself to do it now, otherwise it will never happen.

So, what do I think of bicycle touring? I like it. I certainly still plan to do a longer trip someday (preferably with Marcus, since marriage is no excuse, buddy.) But do I like it as much as backpacking? It's different, that's for sure. It's more like hiking the Appalachian Trail than the CDT--it's a cultural experience, not a wilderness experience. I was on roads the entire time, and with skinny tires, I was on paved roads at that. So I was passing through towns the entire time. Thus it seemed the natural thing to do to chat it up at gas stations, to camp in RV lots or not-intended-for-camping public parks, and sort of soak up the small-town folksy Americana stuff that you don't get in the mountains. I really enjoyed getting breakfast from a deaf Mennonite lady at the Pony Express Deli in Eureka, NV or talking to an overweight biker chick wearing a hockey mask and reading a romance novel at a gas station in Austin, NV. However, I still need adventure. In my mind, the solution to this is to just go f---ing fast. If I ride across the country, I think it would be a great challenge to try and do it in under a month. That's pretty crazy given that scenic bike routes can be about 4,300 miles long, so maybe I'd be happy with doing at least 100 miles every day. Who knows, I've only done one short trip and things might be different on a long trip or one with friends.

RESUPPLY: You're passing through towns multiple times every day. It seems obvious to me that you should experience your locale and carry little food and instead eat at the greasy spoon diner with limited vegetarian options that makes you pine for the amazing cuisine that you take for granted in Berkeley while reading the crazy libertarian posters on the wall and admiring the slutty beer posters in the bathroom. Despite all-day rides, I did not get as hungry on this trip as I did while hiking. It's also more difficult to stop riding to take out food (or to take a picture) than it is while hiking. I think a bounce box or frequent post-office use on a bike trip would be completely superfluous. I think part of the adventure of a long bike trip would be not even having a resupply person at home and taking care of any issues by yourself along the way.

GEAR: Go light and fast. I carried a lot of tools and spare parts and stuff. Weight matters less since you're on wheels, and maybe I was lucky that I had zero flats and zero mechanical problems (well, the chain was getting gunky by the last day so I did have small issues), but I think I could pare this down a lot. For clothing tops I just wore a regular bike jersey and that worked out fine. I had a t-shirt, a long-sleeved jersey (overkill), and a wind-shirt as well. I brought flip-flops so I could get out of my bike shoes (good since you'll probably take hostel/RV showers and don't want to catch fungus). I had two bigger water bottles on my bike with two 2.5-liter platypus bladders in my saddlebags. Even for 80-mile no-services stretches on 100-degree days, filling all these up was overkill.

BUTTS: I assume that butts are to cycling as feet are to hiking. I got no rash whatsoever, thanks to liberal use of Chamois Butt'r. That didn't prevent my butt from getting really sore/bruised. But I was carrying both bib shorts and mountain biking shorts, both with chamois. I started out wearing the bib, and when they got dirty, I switched to the shorts and realized their padding was much better, so I wore the shorts the rest of the way.

MAPS/ROUTE: To the best of google's abilities, this was my route (I was actually on a bike trail for the final 25+ miles). My route was determined by where my friends live and where I live. That happened to coincide somewhat with Adventure Cycling's Western Express route, so I bought two of their maps. I like the idea that there's a company designing routes and selling maps and encouraging bike touring, but I thought the maps had major problems. There were typos in the narratives, the contour lines are only every 1000 feet (although they include a helpful elevation profile), conflicting elevations are listed for the same place on the same map, and there isn't much detail on resupply services. I think the value added of having a popular route predetermined is knowledge of local businesses. Which restaurant owner is cyclist-friendly? Are you allowed to camp in the public park? AC does have something called the Cyclists' Yellow Pages on the website, but long-distance hiker stuff is way better in this department.

Anyway, the next time I do a long bike trip, which would either be fast-as-I-could-go coast-to-coast along the northern part of the US or a mountain biking trip along the continental divide, I'll probably use AC's maps to get a general idea, but get a few regular road maps to figure out my own thing.

Which brings me to: What's next? If I had to predetermine my fate right now, I'd go on the job market this fall, graduate next spring, spend a month paddling the length of the Yukon River (BF, wanna go?), then do a long road-trip through the dirty south (JS, don't get famous too soon) then move to whatever dreamy mountainous liberal arts college I'll be teaching at and see how much adventure it's possible to have while still getting tenure. So it might be a while before I bike Cairo to Capetown. But I'm sure a shorter trip will pop up sometime. We'll see.
start, SLC


the shoetree

home state

from near Carson Pass

finish, Sacto

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

All done. Rode 160 today despite diarrhea and heat and chain giving me grief, making me eat it a few times. Train home tomorrow from Sac.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Plus, can i maybe do state cap to state cap in one day? It would be big, not quite sure how big.
Super 8 in carson city. Don't know why i got another motel room, maybe it was the 109 degree temps and tons of traffic and sprawl. 112 for day.
Not far from fallon. Butt very bruised, have to switch btw saddle positions every 3 minutes and crank standing, which is less easy w saddlebags. Still ok tho

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

133, camped at the shoe tree! Hot and flat after austin.
Austin nevada. 70 or so done. Aiming for carson city tomorrow night. Think it will get a little lower and hotter till tahoe. Finally got whole bottle vitamin i.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did 126 to get to eureka. Everything closed at 8 so i am still buying vitamin i by the 4 pack at gas station. Camping at rv park. Mennonite breakfast tomorrow.
Made 108 yesterday. 20 this morning. Would love 105 more to eureka. Slightly cloudy, which is nice, but burning off.

Monday, July 12, 2010

90 miles so far today, 100 degrees, one tree. Only one more state named nevada to ride through!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why does my body crave processed nacho cheese after a long sweaty day? Did i sweat out all my mono and diglycerides with the sodium hexa meta phosphate?
120-plus miles from slc to delta on my first day, first long ride ever. Cheap hotel and ice in order if i want a chance to do it again tomorrow.
Crappy gas station microwave burritos in eureka utah, 65ish in. Damn i love the open road.
Elberta utah. Jct w hwy 6. Feeling good. Neck tired from holding head up.
45 minutes in, waiting out my first storm for a couple minutes.
Here goes nothing!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

start tomorrow am. Sent most stuff home with friend, will have to carry a few things to po on monday, no biggy. Delta tomorrow? I don't know how far that is.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mile 0, Day -2

At Paul's in SLC. Him and Kate have all the tools I need and a bike stand, so that's a huge help. I tried to tune the front derailleur but I can't quite figure it out and I'm out of patience, so I'm just going to take it to REI where they said they can probably squeeze it in while I wait. I like to think that I'm somewhat competent with bike mechanics and that I enjoy it to some extent, but I'm definitely not an engineer/tinkerer type. I managed to fix my commuter's front derailleur last week just fine (except for the lack of tools at the place I was house-sitting), but my fancy new one with STI shifters is a whole new ball game. Other than that, I think I've got everything I need except for spare nuts/bolts for my rack. Now I just have to decide what I'm actually bringing with me and what I'm sending back with a friend.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

REI Presentations

I am doing 5 Bay Area REI Presentations in July. If you're able, please come to one or more and heckle me by shouting out embarrassing personal information from my past.

Here is the blurb the REI organizer wrote, along with dates.

The Sierra High Route & Beyond: A Thru-hiker’s Dream:

Since 2002, Garret Christensen has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (a yo-yo thru-hike), and more. Tonight, Garret will share slides and stories of his most recent adventure–a 450-mile summer traverse of the Sierra, from Olancha north to Tahoe City . Join Garret as he travels the spectacular Sierra High Route, a 195-mile route (half-cross country, half-trail) above 9,000 feet, which showcases the best of the Sierra. Then, follow him the rest of the way on the Tahoe-Yosemite and Tahoe Rim Trails. Come learn pointers on ultralight packing, route planning, route finding, and safe backcountry travel. Find out how this thru-hiker extraordinaire covers 20-30 miles each day, carrying a base pack weight of eight pounds.

7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, July 20 at REI Berkeley
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, July 21 at REI San Carlos
7 pm–8:30 pm, Monday, July 26 at REI Saratoga
7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, July 27 at REI Fremont
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, July 28 at REI Corte Madera


I'm packing for my trip. I've been buying some accessories and gear the last few days. If I can I'll try to buy a new digital camera tomorrow morning. Friday I hope to ride the Alpine Loop (around Mt. Timpanogas) with Marcus, preferably all loaded up as a test run.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Runs

Marcus had a layover from 8PM to 6AM the next day, so we went on a long night trailrun through Tilden. Mostly my innards were trying to explode so I just sat and dry-heaved while M swam in Lake Anza at 3AM. M also provided a wonderful epiphany--since I'm a cynic and believe that all organizations are corrupt and the system is rigged and will always be so, my best chance for lasting happiness is to become evil and abuse the rigged system. Previously I'd thought my best option was to live in a remote cabin and chop my own firewood.

Yesterday I started to run all 136 sets of urban paths/stairs in the Berkeley hills. I got about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through in 3 hours and realized it was pretty boring, so I bailed. Too much backtracking and pavement and stuff. Pretty great stair workout though.

I finished reading Ted Conover's Rolling Nowhere, about a college anthro major who rode the rails to see what it was like. Apparently all hobos are short-tempered violent racist toothless alcoholic thieving welfare mooches. Way to shatter my dreams, Ted.

Toy Story 3 is amazing. I cried, of course.

A decent Salon article about a family biking from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

My bicycle is on the roof of a yellow Mini Cooper on its way to Utah. I'm flying there on July 8th for M&S's wedding. Then I'm riding home.

It's going to be ridiculously hot, I've never ridden further than 30 miles, and I really need to be doing research, plus I'm also disappointed to be missing Sweetgrass at its only SF engagement on July 11-12, a Kurosawa double feature at the PFA on the 14th, and a restored print of Seven Samurai on the 17th.

My expected route is to head down the west side of Utah Lake then take 50 west for a long time. I ordered a couple of the Western Express route maps from Adventure Cycling, so maybe I'll end up doing some of that. Hiker friends did something similar a few years ago and trailjournaled it. Who knows. I'm not guaranteeing I'll do the whole thing (did I mention it's going to be hot?), but I've got to get out and do something so I don't go crazy. Like the man said, buy the ticket, take the ride.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Angel Island

My day was not quite as epic as originally planned, but it was still fun. I paddled from Berkeley Marina to Angel Island (7-8 miles), ran two laps (17K) around the island, one on the perimeter road and one on great single-track to the summit of Mt. Livermore, climbed around the old military buildings, paddled home with big scary waves at my back, then went for a 14 mile bike ride.

I've come to the conclusion that for me, kayaking is a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. It gets me to interesting islands, but getting out of the boat and exploring the island is the best part. Today was easily the hardest kayaking I've ever done, with 20-30 knot winds and a small craft advisory in place. (I didn't know this until just now, and I didn't know anything about conditions other than the tide schedule until I parked at the marina at 5:30 this morning and saw that it was already choppy.) The way to the island was difficult as I was headed out against big waves, but on the way back it was even more difficult with even larger waves coming at me from behind. It's fun to be able to ride them and go fast, but it's hard to not see them coming yet keep the bow pointed where you want to go. As I get lifted up by a wave, the bow leaves the water and can easily swing almost 45 degrees in the time of one stroke. And you can't get into any paddling rhythm because you're constantly bracing or steering, or you try to do a stroke, and whoops, the water is far closer/further than you expected. It was tense and a tiny bit frightening when waves crashed all the way over the cockpit, but I didn't capsize or anything, so it wasn't that bad. Mostly I just think that the view doesn't change very much, so it's a lot less fun than running or cycling.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Is My 500th Blog Post

What a huge waste of time. Or not. Maybe it's a humorous creative outlet for my sarcasm and a way to keep in touch with people. Today, it's three youtube clips of folk/country musician John Prine, to whom I was recently introduced to by the movie Big Fan, Fresh Air, and a friend on facebook. Listen and enjoy.

"Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore/they're already overcrowded from your dirty little war/now Jesus don't like killing, no matter what the reason's for."

The Fresh Air review of two new albums.
His set at Bonnaroo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Living the Dream

National Punch a Banker Day

Just now finished reading Michael Lewis' The Big Short. It was absolutely amazing. Can I be him when I grow up? Failing that, can I at least run into him at Berkeley Bowl and say hello? Seriously, this book is great. It's an entertaining tale of three groups of Wall Street outsiders (a one-eyed neurologist with Asperger's and some dudes living in a shack in Berkeley, for example) who foresaw the subprime mortgage meltdown and made a fortune by betting against the CDO's.

I'm too excited about this book to really respond clearly, so here are random thoughts: Investment banking is worthless, but betting against the system is somehow fascinating. The system is totally rigged. Also, the Black-Scholes equation and the fact that people systematically underestimate the likelihood of very bad events occurring (behavioral economics!)

Fascinating, huh?

Also, I can't wait to read the next book in this non-trilogy (with Liar's Poker as the first and Short as the second), because this one basically ends with the bailouts, and somebody (Lewis? Sy Hersh? Bethany McLean?) needs to write a brilliant expose on how ridiculous it is that the same d-bags who bankrupted the system are still running it, with even weak reform yet to pass.

I'll end with a bit from the first chapter when I knew I was in love with this book:
"The guest speaker was Herb Sandler, the CEO of a giant savings and loan called Golden West Financial Corporation. "Someone asked him if he believed in the free checking model," recalls Eisman. "And he said, 'Turn off your tape recorders.' Everyone turned off their tape recorders. And he explained that they avoided free checking because it was really a tax on poor people--in the form of fines for overdrawing their checking accounts. And that banks that used it were really just banking on being able to rip off poor people even more than they could if they charged them for their check."
Eisman asked, "Are any regulators interested in this?"
"No," said Sandler.
"That's when I decided the system was really, 'Fuck the poor.'"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Does the set of all sets which do not contain themselves contain itself?

Because if it does, then it doesn't, and if it doesn't, then it does. Or did I just blow your mind, Bertrand Russell style?

I just finished reading Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, the graphic novel by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papdimitriou, and it was f---ing brilliant. It's about Bertrand Russell and his search for a logical basis for mathematics. Yes, it's a comic book about the history of math, philosophy, and logic. It reminds me of the epiphany-packed Journey through Genius.

Also, I read The Full Burn by Kevin Conley, about Hollywood stuntmen. I judge lots of entertainment by whether it makes me want to be that when I grow up/wish I had studied that in school. Logicomix definitely passes that test; I totally wish I'd taken Math History my last semester in college instead of Pop Culture. Burn didn't really make me want to be a stuntman, although it did make me google amazing stunt scenes from movies, and I did imagine pretty cool altercations between myself and a car while riding to school today.

Went to the A's/Giants game Saturday and got to meet the umps and go on the field during batting practice through a charity thing. Sunday I went kayaking in Richardson Bay. Lots of seals and house boats. Hopefully my pictures will turn out--the display is completely broken so I can't tell what I'm taking a picture of. Still hoping to track down a bike kayak trailer for this weekend.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Busy Day

I ran a 50K on Mount Diablo today. It took me 7:57, which is slightly ridiculous, but it was about 85 degrees out and the course climbs straight up and down Mt. Diablo twice with 8,900' of climbing, so I finished about in the median like normal. Last fall with a worse knee but better weather I did this course in 7:19. I'm disappointed in myself for making excuses not to ride my bike the 27 miles to the start of the race, but I'm happy with the run given the heat for which I am not at all conditioned. But I'm to the point where running 50K is not a big deal, so if I'm not in good enough shape to be setting PR's, then at least I can add a bike ride or extra miles to mix it up (and save the planet some carbon). Speaking of, I'm still tentatively planning on paddling to Angel Island for a run in two weeks. I'd given up on biking my kayak to the marina, since I didn't want to spend $300 buy a trailer, but today a friend suggested I just ask around and borrow one, so we'll see if that works out.

In addition to the regular This American Life and Fresh Air podcasts during my eight hours of running today, I listened to a couple good Radio Lab episodes, one of which managed to explain both why I'm not that fast a runner and why I sometimes get pretty not-happy with life. Fast forward to 47:00 and start listening. But first ask yourself this question: do you ever enjoy your bowel movements? No, seriously, it's science. Awesome science.

Finally, I just got back from a Matt & Kim show. There's no other word to describe it than "FUN." Also balloons, lasers, jumping up and down on the drum/keyboard kit, crowd member vs. Kim dance contest, and covers of Sweet Child of Mine and The Final Countdown. An absolute blast.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Contrite Blog Post: Taking Newbs Backpacking

I'm packing up to move today. I'll be moving into probably my seventh place in Berkeley, but it could be more depending on how you count friends' couches or "the woods." Regardless, hopefully this will be the last move until I graduate (hopefully next year). Other than my having been distracted lately, research is going well. I was busy grading exams, I may have to file a FOIA request, bla bla bla.

The cool stuff: I went to Ventana Wilderness for three days. I took two friends from high school, one who lives in SF, and one who's visiting from Chicago.

Here they are at the trailhead on Hwy 1 near Kirk Creek.

We didn't get to the trailhead until 7PM, so we just did three miles or so to the first campsite. We made a big campfire, which was only the third time I have built one in all of my 10,000+ miles of hiking since 2002. I set them up with lightweight gear (we all used ULA packs), and I mostly had enough lightweight non-cotton clothing to outfit all of us. We ate my homemade energy bars (admittedly not the best batch I've ever made, however), lots of dried fruit, and dehydrated beans and corn-chips. The second day we did 7 or 8 miles through Vincente Flat to the Cone Peak lookout and down to Trail Springs campsite. My friends were exhausted when we got there, so we set up camp and I set out to explore, taking off on the North Coast Ridge Trail, then getting my cross-country fix by following a ridge back to Cone Peak. It turned out pretty gnarly and there were a bunch of small rock-slides when I bailed off the ridge.

The ridge and Cone Peak lookout

The last day I suggested we go out via a loop (the Stone Ridge Trail) to avoid repeating what we'd already done. I'd read something online about this trail being "impassable," but the people who wrote it got through, so that means by definition it's not impassible, so I thought it'd be fun. It very well might have been had I been by myself, but my friends were not amused, which pretty much made me feel like crap. The trail was in horrible shape. It burned a few years ago, and is very overgrown, often with poison oak. Eventually we decided to give up on the trail and bomb straight down to the highway. I likely would have done that early on had I been by myself, but I was worried we'd run into a steep dropoff that would make things worse.

In the end everybody ended up OK. I was in the front, so I was the one that stepped over the rattlesnake (of course I've encountered dozens before, but I can't remember having stepped on or over one stretched out across the trail), and when we dropped off the trail, we very quickly found an old roadbed that led all the way to the highway. And so far no one's face is covered in oozing poison oak sores.

I think this is only the second time I've planned a trip to take friends backpacking. Neither have been completely positive experiences. It's hard to find a balance that suits everyone. I don't build campfires, I don't care what I smell like, and I think cold beans and corn chips taste great a million days in a row. Apparently not everyone agrees. There's definitely something to be said for masochism over sadism. If I take a guidebook route that's overgrown and very difficult, I get annoyed, but if I pick the route myself, I feel an awesome sense of exploration. So I'm sure my friends, who were just following me and not paying much attention to the map, were not really getting a great sense of adventure, and I wasn't getting it either since I was worried that my friends were miserable, might get hurt, or might have their eyes swollen shut with poison oak later in the week.

I like this way more than my friends

View from the Cone Peak Lookout

Vincente Flat Campsite

Where we came out on Hwy 1

The start of the old roadbed we found

So that's it. In the end hopefully it'll be type II fun for everyone involved. I definitely liked the Ventana Wilderness itself; the ocean views and wildflowers are beautiful. Some day maybe I'll string together a 75-ish mile route from end to end.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I just learned to roll a kayak. I took a lesson from the UC Aquatic Center, with the same instructor who taught the basic class I took last fall. I assume it will be harder when I (1) go under accidentally instead of deliberately (2) go under in the cold ocean instead of a heated pool, or (3) go under in my gigantic sea kayak instead of a tiny whitewater boat, but for now, I'm pretty stoked about the C to C roll (on my right side, and actually, more just "righting myself" instead of a complete revolution).

Jurek in NYT

Scott Jurek is crazy, awesome, and vegan.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Redwood 50K

Ran the Redwood 50K in 6:03 today. It rained pretty hard for almost the first hour, which made the mud pretty fun and the chafing pretty not-fun. I had hoped to ride my bike the 11 miles there to save carbon and get a better workout, but I slept pretty crappily and I thought it wouldn't be a good idea with the rain. now has a pretty decent results page for every ultra schmoe out there, including me. They show 20 of the 23 I've run. A better person's list to look at is this one.

Let me just end by saying there are few better feelings in life than to have an uplifting episode of Fresh Air end and an amazing rock song [see below] come on your iPod, and all the sudden have the endorphins flowing and all the sudden start running twice as fast when you're 3/5 of the way through an ultra.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Wouldn't you go to prison to help end this war?"

Just watched The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsburg and the Pentagon Papers. Great movie.

Somebody put caltrops or nails on the PCT near Tehachapi, so watch your step.

Outside magazine article about the Berkeley grads arrested (and still imprisoned) after accidentally hiking into Iran from Kurdish northern Iraq.

Last weekend in the midst of trying to buy a bicycle I went for a run in the Marin Headlands while the Miwok 100K was going on. Yes, it's pretty over there.

Rodeo Beach

Wolf Ridge

Tennessee Beach

I'm running my first ultra of the year tomorrow, a 50K in Redwood Regional Park. Whatever. Maybe it's the fact that it's 1:30 in the afternoon and I'm still in bed, but mostly I'm excited about riding my bike there.