Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hope Everyone is SAFELY Getting Exercise - COVID-19 Potpourri

Coronavirus tips, plus trivia, from a physician who loves being outside:

1) Now is not the time for intense exercise regimens. Keep up a gentle routine. But anything that really stresses you (long runs, lots of sprinting) can wait - it immunocompromises you, increases inflammation, and very likely will make your course more dangerous when you get coronovirus. (It's a matter of when, not if.) Look at it this way - pressure's off! Everything is canceled! Just relax!


3) It turns out that hanging around in your hood is not so bad. We're all trying to find silver linings and that's one of them for me! Here is a list of California superlatives. Pennsylvania is the most underrated state on the East Coast so wherever you are, make your own list. (Sort of like a combination of bucket list-making and gratitude exercise.) Check out Check out u/moxy79's southeastern PA hiking/exploring videos, and Scott's Odyssey for Central PA, on Reddit.


5) Get outside in a way that stays AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE, not these selfish idiots who endangered themselves and everyone else in Northern California.

6) I thought this was a really interesting story. Native heritage on the East Coast is not as culturally central, which is a big lose-lose for everyone. We can fix this. "These Native American Women Came to Philadelphia To See Their Ancestral Land."

7) Let's all be adults and not belly-ache too much about our missed trips. So far I have two trips, including one that was a planned mountain climb with other people, canceled. Know what's more important than that? My family and my health. Another silver lining: priorities become very clear when something REAL like this pandemic is happening.

8) I think our ideas of what animals can survive at what altitude are probably off. Here's the new world record for world's highest dwelling mammal, a mouse found at the summit of one of the highest mountains in Chile, Lluillaillaco, over 22,000 feet. Yes humans have summited Everest without oxygen but no one lives there - the highest permanent settlement with any self-sustaining economic activity (not research stations that would die quickly without outside support) is La Rinconada in Peru at 16,830'. In California at least in the Sierras from Yosemite to Tahoe or so, the received wisdom is that there are no rattlesnakes above 7,000'. This report (linked here) of a rattlesnake at the summit of San Jacinto (yes a bit further south) at 10,000' would take issue with that.

9) Some social distancing photos (Sonoma Coast and Sugarloaf State Park - snowcapped ridge in the distance in the last photo probably Snow Mountain in Mendocino NF.) All taken before parks closure, which I am obeying, and not joking about that. WEAR A MASK! WASH YOUR HANDS! STAY HOME! STAY ALIVE!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sea to Sky Trail, Sonoma County

Apparently I can't get enough of trails climbing from the ocean through scattered woodlands, so I visited Sea to Sky. Originally the pictures online made this trail look scenic but kind of boring - just a slog up a hill in open coastal scrub. That is not the case. The first two miles (on the Raptor Ridge side) are like that, but the view of the Russian River mouth (and the Pomo Canyon Trail area on the other side) keeps growing. Then you get to the top of the ridge and start descending through redwoods with lots of sorrel, a good sign of a healthy redwood forest. At the bottom you're at 4.3 miles, a little over halfway - it's 7.6 miles each way, making a 15.2 mile day. Then begins a 3.2 mike 1,816' slog up to the top of Pole Mountain which afforded views of Santa Rosa and Mt. St. Helena, Point Reyes, Mt. Tam in the distance, and of course the Pacific. Besides gophers, vultures, and crows, I surprisingly saw no wildlife, although as in most of Sonoma you're far enough north for bears on the coast. There were some flowers out but it is FAR too early - I can't blame them for being confused because Sonoma County has ominously had ZERO rain in February, and one or two 80 degree days.

Thanks to the Wildlands Conservancy for preserving this forever!

Above and below: area around the mouth of the Russian River, currently open to the ocean. There were two seals hanging out right there. I don't like when it's open because that means in theory great whites could get in to the estuary area and they do attack kayaks - and I'm planning a Guerneville-to-river-mouth trip. Maybe I'll wait until summer when the river drops enough.

Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz County

I've lived in the Bay Area 16 years, and not only have I STILL not been to all the parks, I haven't even HEARD of all of them - not even all the awesome ones, like Wilder Ranch. I took advantage of the unseasonably clear February weather (complete with summer-like night time fog worthy of the Lost Boys.)

And one building (where All Shook Up Vintage Clothing is located) has of all things, a hex sign. Nowhere is safe from Dutchmen!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

How to Measure Coaches

In college football, the "winningest" (coach with most wins) is a stupid statistic. It's much more a measure of quantity, not quality. If you coach a long time, even if you suck, you have a better shot at being winningest than a younger high-quality coach. It's a participation trophy.

What matters is your percentage of wins, right? Yes - but it's also true that teams differ in the strength of their recruiting. What I didn't know until I read this article at is that the strength of each incoming class is measured and ranked, just like teams are. Not surprisingly, there's a relationship: the better your incoming class, the more your team wins.

But it's not an absolute relationship (otherwise, why play the season out?) So if we compare class quality against the final record, this gives us a good way to measure the strength of coaching. For coaches, your input is the quality of your players, and your output is your win-loss record. Coaching is converting talent into wins. That's what you have control over. Not the strength of the rest of your conference, not how screwed up the ranking polls and CFP committee are. (A committee to determine who gets into the playoff? Ever wonder why they don't just use a transparent formula? It's so the bowls make more money. It only has to do with how good the teams are to the extent that if it's too obvious they're actually maximizing for revenue, people will spend less on bowls.)

So if a coach consistently wins less often than the strength of his recruiting class predicts, he's screwing up. If he ends up winning more often than the recruiting class predicts, he's taking silver and and turning it into gold, and he's a good coach.

The article I'm linking to shows scatter plots of programs from the Power Five, plotting number of wins from 2015 through 2018 against average incoming class quality rank for the same period. They don't give an r-value, but the curve does look sigmoidal. This is interesting, because sigmoidal curves often suggest network behavior, and the output here (number of wins) for each team is dependent on other teams. They also point out the relationship is weaker in basketball for a number of reasons including transfers.

On the plot below, the further above the line, the better the coaching. Bottom line: Mike Leach at Washington State is the best coach in the Power 5, with his team finishing 6 wins higher during 2015-18 than would be expected based on his recruiting class. Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, and Dave Doeren at NC State, all tie for second best coach in the Power 5, finishing on average 5 wins higher than their recruiting classes. These are the coaches who are converting talent into wins most effectively.

Which coaches waste the talent they bring in? UNC and Maryland (6 wins lower), along with Nebraska and Texas (5 wins lower.) The full list is available at the article.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Hood Mountain on a Rainy Day

What a difference 45 minutes makes.

Below: the view from the summit. Also from Gunsight Rock. Also pointing straight up in a random direction.

After this it started to clear, with the cloud deck lifting and fog dissipating and forest and vineyards coming out from behind the wisps that lingered along the ridges.

A good rule to live by is that if you can include pictures of San Francisco in a blog post, you should.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fires and Terrible State Parks

We recently evacuated due to the Kincade Fire. The text alerts from CalFire and the Sonoma County Sheriff were great, and sorting Twitter by latest for #Kincadefire was also very useful. I have never been this scared or anxious or felt I had so little control - and we got out with family and critters and papers well ahead of when the fire would have come, but waiting to find out if your house burned down is no fun. We love Sonoma County, but we don't love this aspect of it so much. Climate change is giving Sonoma County LA County's weather, and when you already have forests, they burn, which is how the landscape will gradually look more like LA County (or almost instantaneously, geologically speaking.) The natives who preceded people of European descent here set controlled burns every autumn (and this has been witnessed since before contact), but when you have this many people in non-mobile dwellings that can't be rebuilt in mere days, that's not an option. Low humidity plus longer rain-free periods plus heat and bad Diablo winds (our local foehn winds) are how this happens.

So, a thank you to the people who hosted us and our various critters or who offered and were ready; also to the men and women who put themselves on the line to hold this fire. Had it not been for you, many people would have died, and I wouldn't have a house right now. Take a minute to thank a firefighter, buy them a beer, send a card, whatever. There are few people whose work matters more than theirs, especially in California.

If you spend much time on social media, you will notice (especially on Twitter) Russian troll bots taking advantage of Trump's threat to abandon California even while he promises fire aid to Siberia. They do this by trying to stoke the fires of "CalExit", which may be the dumbest thing anyone has ever thought of (give Trump's party a permanent majority in Washington and dividing yet another of Russia's main competitors.) You'll recognize them when you see them - the one I clicked through on was full of pro-Brexit, pro-Catalonia independence messages, while curiously silent on the protests in Hong Kong or independence for Russia's neglected Far East territories. I wonder why? I Twitter-replied to this effect and my reply was deleted within a minute.

The following pictures were taken from China Camp State Park the following weekend. Fire is about 60 miles north at 75% containment but the smoke layer is obvious and Mt. Tam is still quite hazy. Bay pictures are looking east across the very top of the Bay (curved, with mouth of the Napa River) with Mt. Diablo just visible through the smoke layer in one looking southeast toward Richmond.

Next three below: you'll have to forgive my obsession with manzanitas. Their bark is the bubble wrap of the natural world. It peels like that as a defense against fungus; I wonder if, as uniquely woody members of the heather family (see ice plant here), this is more difficult for them than other plants, that have specific endochitinases to kill fungus (rubber trees and mangoes both do, but they're in the wet tropics. Incidentally it's this endochitinase that causes allergic cross-reactivity, ie why people allergic to latex are often also allergic to mangoes.)

Above: this picture was taken from the International Space Station, looking south along the Pacific Coast, with the Kincade Fire plainly visible. Below: fire-smoke sunsets are obscenely pretty.

As it happened, the weekend we evacuated we actually had a pre-planned trip which took us to Southern California, and I had all kinds of runs planned down there and of course while we were there, their local foehn winds came through and everything caught on fire there too. So no running in Topanga State Park for me. Instead I ran in Chino Hills State Park, which is the most useless state park I have been in. A cluster of oaks along the canyon bottom, and then the rest of it just brown curved hills covered with those scratchy sticks that poke you (my shins are still paying the price.) Gross. Feel free to skip these pictures, they suck. If you live there, I hope you didn't have to pay more for your property for living near this "natural resource", which I would put on par with the industrialized part of the North Jersey Meadowlands (and not even with cannoli.) Seriously, it's the ugliest state park in California, hands down. Good points: a) fine, I saw a tarantula (see below) and some wild gourds growing, b) it looks nice in the spring when it's green and you're driving past it, and c) I will never have to go there again before I die. The hikes listed on Nobody Hikes in LA are faint in their praise.