Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pony Express Has Been Run

Outside reports on Karl Meltzer's accomplishment. I and some other under-medicated individuals had done the last leg of the route, from Martinez to Oakland, twice a few years back. And Karl didn't do that part...what do you say Karl? Meet you at the train station in Martinez? :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Did You Participate in the Great Shakeout?

I posted about it before, and then I completely forgot about it until today. It was last Thursday. Information here (about how it went, and more importantly earthquake safety.)

Sounds of the Intermontane West

I have some sound files from my roadtrip this summer I'm only now posting. These are from Glacier National Park in Montana, and one from Cedar Breaks in Utah. My iPhone can't capture video but recorded soundfiles of water and wind and footsteps. There's something that I actually like more about having sound and discrete stills; somehow it captures my memory of the experience more closely.

Meltwater Creeks in Glacier National Park, 1 of 2

Meltwater Creeks in Glacier National Park, 2 of 2

On Trail in Glacier National Park

Wind and Glaciers at the Top of the Trail, Glacier National Park

Wind Through Pines in Cedar Breaks, Utah

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thanks for Blogs Like Bikesd.org

Kudos to Thomas at bikesd.org for following up on an important story. Most of us outdoors bloggers are opinion jockeys bragging to the world about how awesome our runs or rides are, whereas Thomas is very actively pursuing a story of a cyclist who was struck and killed by a police car at the intersection of Governor and Genesee, a story which neither the SDPD nor the local press seem to find interesting enough to follow up. To do this takes time and cojones.

He and his blog are a real asset to the outdoors community in San Diego, and I just wanted to take a minute to publicly say "thanks".

Connecting Mission Bay With Northern San Diego With Trails and Canyons

This is great news. The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition got a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to study a trail connection (see the possibilities here). This will further protect the canyons and open spaces. Full article here.

With the rain, it's fascinating to run along these creeks, full of crawdads and frequented by bobcats and coyotes (which I now know firsthand!) and think that just 3 miles south at the Grand Avenue bridge, you can watch stingrays searching the shallows for food underneath the careless webbed feet of ducks.

Get involved:

Rose Creek Watershed Alliance
Friends of Rose Canyon
Marian Bear Natural Park Recreation Council
San Diego County Bicycle Coalition

Snowy San Gorgonio

Pics of a wintry San Gorgonio can be found on the always-excellent Nobody Hikes in LA blog:

I was trying to figure out if they were taken recently, which means that San Gorgonio got snow already in October since I was up there. With this rain and beautiful cool weather, probably not surprising.

Felis Concolor Coveting His Neighbor's Food

We had lol cat, shocked cat and ceiling cat, and now we have...hungry glaring cat.

Forgive in advance my silly animal voice, which (you'll have to trust me on this) is much more entertaining in person than in print, but: I wonder what iss guy sinkin. He sinkin, "Hmmm. At elk taste good wiffout seasoning. At hunter guy might need some pepper. Aw."

Perhaps a better caption: "You gonna eat that? You gonna eat that? I'll eat that. And YOU." Get it? Because the mountain lion is going to eat the dude! Ha!

My humor is both subtle and nuanced.

More Evidence of Paleolithic Grain Consumption

In PNAS. The data is becoming abundant enough now that I'm going to stop posting it (I discussed this previously, here here and here).

Alcohol and Intelligence

If this is true then I am Einstein.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are College Football Rankings Path-Dependent?

This is a question with a definite number-based answer, to be computed by someone with more time and who cares more about college football rankings. (As always if you run across this post and someone has already done this, let me know - mdcblogs@gmail.com.)

By this I mean: take team X and team Y. They start out ranked adjacent; they play a schedule of equal difficulty. Team X loses their first two games in a row and wins the rest. Team Y wins everything except loses the last two games. For both teams, they lose to teams of similar rankings; it's not like Team X gets upset by losers by Team Y loses to damn good teams. The only thing different about the two is when the losses happen.

I predict that Team Y will end up with a substantially higher ranking, even with all other variables equal, including their final record. The press and coaches will write off Team X after the first two losses, and even though they improve and fight their way through games for the rest of the year, they can't recover. Team Y has established their reputation and, since that's really what the coaches' and AP polls are about, they can coast for the last two games.

I don't have to convince too many people that the college football rankings system is stupid and dysfunctional, but this would be a nice quantitative proof of one aspect of that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trail Maintenance in Tecolote Canyon Nature Center, 10 October

More information here. Use the canyon a lot? Why not get out and exercise some different muscles, meet some people, and do San Diego some good?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We're No Longer Hunter-Gatherers

Humans are strange things, or at least some of us are. Sitting in my office or these days at my desk studying, I've often thought that paradise would be cruising around North America, camping wherever the mood strikes me, seeing national parks and forests and swimming in rivers and running trails and climbing mountains. If I won the lottery, I used to think, I'd buy some property, put the rest away, and take off into the wilderness with no set return date, like some best-of-both-worlds modern synthesis of post-industrial man and hunter-gatherers. In fact I'm lucky, and I've had the chance to do exactly that, several times, often with absolutely no financial constraints. That last part isn't as true now that I'm in school as it used to be during my past life, between consulting gigs.

And you know what happened? Each and every time? I got bored. Within a week and a half. It happened again this summer, although by now I kind of expect it. Not that I started actively disliking the sweeping, soul-expanding spaces I was trying to memorize and ingest and inhale - but there's always something that just didn't sit right about the structurelessness of my time. A coworker told me that before she met her husband, he was a contract programmer, who would drive around to parks in the U.S. and Canada and only stay in motels or campgrounds that had WiFi, and he could work out of his tent. He did this for over a year. I would love to do that, or so I think as I sit at my desk while I'm supposed to be studying. On top of it, now that I'm old, some switch seems to have been tripped and I no longer get a kick out of beating myself up with pointless endurance exercises and generally making myself uncomfortable in nature. Yes, a lot of my time in nature as a younger man was to prove a point, and I realize this isn't universal. But just this weekend when I hiked up San Gorgonio, by the time I got back down, I was glad I was going back to civilization. And to think I once considered doing the Pacific Crest Trail. Are you kidding me?

While I'm reflecting in public, I should add that traveling in the developing world is no longer so thrilling for me either. The most practical consequence is that in most places, you won't have a smartphone that tells you where you are (or indeed locals who know directions more than five miles away); you might not even have roads, period. More importantly, it's often not safe. Here in North America, we take for granted that we can wander out into a canyon fifty miles from nowhere and not get robbed or kidnapped. Still not true in half the world. I was most acutely aware of this two years ago when I would have loved to go running on the volcanoes around San Salvador. But I generally like to keep my body habitus intact, so at the strong urging of locals, I didn't.

I used to feel guilty about not wanting "adventure" anymore, but in a way it's a relief. Ironically, now I can just head out to a park for a day and do what I feel like.

Diamox Doesn't Work?

"...at these fast ascent rates, there was no evidence of a protective effect of acetazolamide or a single rest day." That's from Jackson et al in High Altitude Medicine and Biology, studying climbers on Kili. I've only taken acetazolamide during a climb once (on Orizaba), and I got double-vision and the weird taste but also a headache. Then again I'd never been to that altitude before, or since.

Here's What a Rattlesnake Sounds Like

The Running Fat Guy posted a video of his "friend". This is valuable because there are plenty of people out there who haven't ever met such a friend and might not be sure what a rattlesnake sounds like, laying off to the side of the trail where you can't see what's making the noise. Now you know. (First rattle at 10 seconds.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

San Gorgonio Done

I'd had this mountain on my to-do list for awhile and finally got to it today, via the Vivian Creek trailhead. My Peakware entry will be on this list of summit logs for Gorgonio (not approved at time of this blog posting). Advice:

1) Get your permit way ahead of time, and get them to send it to you so you have it in your hand. I tried all week to get hold of them and they were either closed or wouldn't answer their phones. I finally talked to someone and they told me to send in my application, which I did, only to find it still not available Sunday morning. Fortunately they had a late-arrival permit available.

2) There's a temporary re-route of the main trail, going up the wash for the first half mile or so. If you pass the ribbons, you've gone too far, even if you still see footprints in the sand (that's from people heading up to see the falls). Most importantly, as you're heading up the wash, it's a **left** turn to head up the side of the canyon, unlike what many online resources say.

3) it's colder at the top than you might think. I went up just wearing shorts and T-shirt (with fleece in my pack), laughing at the SoCal wussies coming down from the summit with hoods up and gloves and long pants. It took about five minutes at the summit before I had that fleece on.

All that said, pine trees! Lush grasses along the high creeks! Clouds and cool wind! That's what I went up there for. Apologies for the picture quality below (here's the whole album). From the summit you can see the Salton Sea. To the west there was smog and some clouds coming in. San Jacinto is right across due south and Big Bear Lake is quite clear to the northwest, and the wind turbines along I-10 north of Palm Springs are right below you. Of course none of these came out well on my dirty iPhone.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mountain Lion Confirmed in Indiana

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a mountain lion, southwest of Bloomington. I'm not familiar with the area but the warning was issued for a region adjacent to Hoosier National Forest, which would make sense.

At this point the safe bet is that within the next ten years the whole East Coast should be considered mountain lion habitat again.

Why Do We Have Airshows in Populated Areas?

I'm going to say what everyone else around my neighborhood is saying. Why do we allow airshows in populated areas?

1) Main complaint - noise. Not everyone in northern San Diego wants to see or hear the airshow. Solution: have it out in unpopulated areas near the Salton Sea or El Centro. (Similar solution for other airshows at least in the American West.) Families that want to go can make a desert field trip of it. Parking is no problem.

2) Important but neglected complaint - safety. Is the government's PR effort really that much more important than the safety of individual Americans? Accidents do happen at airshows, and a plane crashed into a house less than 2 years ago, less than a mile from where I'm sitting - and they weren't even doing stunts at the time.

To make this point:

Shout Out to Tap Hunter

Just a quick shout-out to say I met Flash from Tap Hunter last night, and it was truly an honor. Of course I can't name the venue because it was very exclusive and the unwashed masses aren't allowed. Fortunately for me unwashed medical students are allowed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

More Paleolithic Carb Consumption

In New Guinea, 43,000 years ago. Summary by John Hawks here. No, it's not grain, like the sorghum tools found in East Africa 100,000 years ago, but it's still paleolithic carb usage. Whether we'll ever have a clear idea of whether this was typical of diets in these areas or for humans in general I don't know.