Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News Flash: Central Coast is Still Awesome

Happy holidays! In case you needed reminding, a weekend in SLO is never wasted at any time of year. And I guess this is where I tell you I'm quitting blogging since I successfully auditioned for Jackass. On the way up there from San Diego, for the heck of it first we stopped at Wee Man's Chronic Tacos in Redondo, and lo and behold the man himself was there:

(No word on what my first stunt will be.) Then right north of Santa Barbara on 101, at the U.S. 1 exit, we stopped in the little lot east of the highway and meandered the half-mile or so up to the hot spring. It's a nice little stop if you're taking 101 to San Francisco. (Many mini-hikes was the theme of the trip.)

After that we checked out La Purisima Mission outside Lompoc (pictures below not mine) and then visited the southern end of the Pismo San Dunes at Oso Flaco before getting to SLO.

Seeing frost on the grass Sunday morning, we headed up to Missions San Miguel and San Antonio, before taking the beautiful and precipitous Nacimiento-Fergusson Road up and over the spine of the Santa Lucias. Here's your loyal blogger on Mill Creek trail, low on the ocean-facing slope of the Santa Lucias in the southernmost part of Ventana Wilderness.

Picture above mine (duh). Picture below not.

The southern part of Ventana is where the very southernmost stand of redwoods is, which continue to recover from the fire a couple years ago. (We never found the campsite, the trail just petered out, as the folks who made this trail report said.) Finishing the hike ahead of schedule at least gave us extra time to see a typical spectacular sunset along Route 1.

We wanted some tacos by the time we got back down to Morro Bay, and tried to go to Taco Temple, which was closed for some reason. Apparently it was Christmas Day. This theme was continued in downtown SLO. Then again, one of the benefits of being in your late 30s is you no longer panic if it's a Saturday night and the dearth of entertainment options forces you to actually relax with people you like!

The next morning we screwed around on the dunes too long so we had to skip going to Big Falls (next time!) - although Chiquito Falls in Trabuco (Cleveland NF) was dry just a couple weeks ago, and we've had no rain since then, so maybe we didn't miss anything. Seeing as a certain anthropologist was too cool to be home when we were visiting, we headed first to the Coronado Butterly Preserve, where monarchs spend the winter (image not mine):

After that we went up and over the mountains behind Santa Barbara to the Santa Ynez river canyon. NOTE: Gibraltar Road is CLOSED, apparently always the case at this time of year. I like driving over those concrete things to go through the river so I was a little disappointed, not to mention that the Red Rock area is pretty cool. But still, the Oso campgrounds aren't bad either.

We finished off with a visit to Painted Cave before continuing south for some good Chinese food in Irvine. My only regret: I still haven't figured out a way to bottle the smell of Central Coast oak forest.

Film of San Francisco in 1955

Via Boing Boing, Check out this color film of a 1955 San Francisco (thank you filmmaker Tullio Pellegrini.) It's long, so here are the highlights of that differences from 1955 to 2011 that jumped out at me:

- 0:30, Pedestrian overpasses on 101 are missing
- 0:50, first exit (to right) off Bay Bridge to Fremont street doesn't continue turning right (it was rebuilt after Loma Prieta in 89)
- 2:30, I wish traffic on Van Ness were still that light
- Past 7:00, the Cliff House has more structures, but the real money
shot is the sky tram and waterfalls over the now-gone baths and amusement park
- 8:00, you can see a pier at the northern end of Ocean Beach
- 12:10, it looks like the dunes were lower than today.
- 15:45 has a view from Twin Peaks so you can see the relative lack of high rises
- ~18:45, just funny to me, an ad for a sukiyaki restaurant on the side of a cable car

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bears in San Diego County

There are some. What do you know! No I didn't see any, but i was just doing some research to see if there are any in the Ventana or Santa Lucia Wilderness, and according to DFG there are.

They're mostly in the mountains, but hey, this could still happen. From the Nine Commandments.

You SoCal outdoorspeople might be chuckling to yourself that I'm surprised by this, but what can I say. When I first looked at this map I thought the CA Department of Fish and Game's map, which I thought was being overenthusiastic - for example, they have all of Marin County as bear territory, and to my knowledge there was has been one unconfirmed bear sighting in Point Reyes in recent history.

But here are sightings, tree-ings and cooler break-ins (including Julian and Ramona) through 2000.

From CA DFG.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The BCS Bowls: Interesting Take By Two Economists

At Grantland there's a great article than answers why a system so unfair and unpopular as the BCS rankings persists, written by Kevin Grier and Tyler Cowen (you may recognize that last name from columns in the New York Times). Why economists? Because the answer is money, that's why. To be clear, this isn't a screed against college football - it's a screed against people who think the current system has been picking the best teams. Chances are your own team has been screwed by this, which led me to do this analysis of pre- vs. post-season rankings.

One heading in the Grantland article is "Bowls often take money over merit when making match-ups". It links to an August piece by political and athletic oddsmaker Nate Silver, who shows that part of the reason for such an opaque system is that vested economic interests want their bowls to host teams whose fans buy tickets and T-shirts, even if those teams suck. There are plenty of objective figures to consider. BCS stupidity exposed here; BCS hijinx here.

[Added later: I spent way too much time making scatterplots out of BCS data compared against the annual undergrad college rankings from U.S. News during the 2006-2010 period. Guess what? There is zero relationship, either with the rankings, the academic scoring system, or the trends over time; that is to say, football doesn't help or hurt the academic rankings, but still, it seems kind of strange that an athletic team gets to use the brand of an academic institution that they seem to have zero influence on.]

Of course the Onion is not to be left out of the fun either:; this is just fantastic.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mini-Profile of Jenn Shelton from Born to Run

If you read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run about the Tarahumara, you'll remember Jenn Shelton as the party girl. That's an image she's trying to shake. I read elsewhere that she complained that McDougall's book romanticizes the lifestyle of the Tarahumara, which is in large part dictated by poverty. That doesn't sound like a party-girl thing to say. Profile here, which struck me because even top-notch ultra-runners are afraid of mountain lions.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chia Experiment

Southwest Indians are supposed to have eaten chia seeds on long runs when they started to get tired, and in Born to Run Christopher McDougall discusses the chia smoothies used by the Tarahumara of Chihuahua for the same reason. Yes, chia, the seeds for the stuff that grows on chia pets.

It pays to be skeptical of these claims (and the great blog Science of Running can help you with that). People always want a magic fix for things like this, and unfortunately most of it is nonsense being peddled by a profit motive - though there's nothing wrong with profit, unless you're B.S.-ing people about your product. And I wanted to try it out, so I decided to do a small and admittedly poorly-controlled study: I carried chia seeds with me, and started eating them an hour into my run. I did this five times, in flat to slightly-hilly runs, at temperatures ranging from 55 to 65 F. I could feel no difference in fatigue versus previous runs under the same conditions, and my times on the same routes were the same.

If you want more, then read this paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which reported that chia seeds showed no statistical advantage over any other form of carb loading.

Snow at Mt. Laguna

The cold weather in SoCal recently has been fantastic for running; also for scenery. I took these purty pitchers at Mt. Laguna, about an hour east of San Diego yesterday:

And here's a charming acquaintance of mine who came to visit from NorCal for some surfing, sun and warm weather in San Diego. He's clearly thrilled.

A Win-Win-Win Scenario: Do Away With the BCS Rankings

An article by Richard Thaler. Mathematic evidence of the sheer stupidity of BCS rankings here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Many Miles per Gallon Do You Get Running?

UCSD physics professor Tom Murphy does something I was always curious about and calculates the MPG conversions for walking and biking. The conversion is based on the energy density of gasoline burned in cars vs. food energy burned in muscle. "Long-haul" walking comes in at 40 MPG eating regular food; running will be less efficient than that. A Prius is more efficient in energy terms than a runner.

Note that of course this doesn't measure climate impact or dollars per unit energy. Murphy also points out that those kcal you're eating could either be trucked in from all over the place (burning more gas) or be grown closer to home.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conservatives For the Environment

"There is a small subculture on the Right, known as 'free market environmentalism,' that offers an alternate path toward environmental protection consistent with conservative principles, including respect for property rights, a strong preference for markets, and our congenital suspicion of government and regulation. The conservative movement would be well served to take those ideas more seriously."

- From Steven Hayward's call to modernize conservatism in Breakthrough Journal.

Running in Pennsylvania is Awesome

Autumn woods from my mom's back porch:

The warm Thanksgiving weather made PA's woods and fields and rolling hills even more fun to run in than usual, and even though the leaves are down there's a lot of green undergrowth to make it feel alive. The November air smelled fantastic. The one drawback to PA is its old geology and broken up granite and shale that give it the Appalachian Trail hiker's nickname of Rockylvania. Neversink's trails are a lot of fun and totally under-utilized, but a bit rocky. Fortunately the western shore of Blue Marsh, my new favorite place to run in Berks, is almost all soil rather than rock.

So is there any kind of a "Berks County Triple Crown"? I.e., you've completed the Thun Trail plus Blue Marsh circumnavigation plus Neversink? It's a neat interlocking trail system and seems ripe for something like this. There are cool races around those parts already like the Mt. Penn Mud-Run, how about an ultra for all those trails?

I had a side trip to Western PA but unfortunately didn't have any time to run - was going to do the Thousand Steps near Mt. Union but that will have to wait until my next trip to State College. I also had never heard of the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Trail until I drove under the pedestrian overpass across the turnpike. Coolly enough, there's already an ultra. Here's a video of the trail, one end of which is at Ohiopyle falls and rapids, which is in turn close to Wright's Falling Water:

Sports Stadiums Don't Help Local Economies

Sports are great, but private enterprise is better, so don't stick taxpayers with the bill for stadiums. And here's why: "Few fields of empirical economic research offer virtual unanimity of findings. Yet, independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development." A paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives covers the topic, further expanded upon in a current, concrete instantiation by Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing.

These big structures are typically built where the land is cheap, in out-of-the-way locations, ex-industrial zones or bad neighborhoods, and I don't think too many people stop to shop and eat after a game in those kinds of places.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Worst Things About the Sandusky Scandal

...at Penn State, besides (obviously) the fact that so many kids were hurt, and people didn't go straight to law enforcement over it, are as follows:

1. That the sincerity of the fans is being called into question. Yes, we're sad that our beloved team and institution is involved in this. Yes, we still like them, and no we're not personally responsible. (Those who were responsible will receive justice, too late for some unfortunately. That's how we do it in the civilized world, not by blaming all members of the same tribe for something they didn't do.) Yes, we're wearing blue on Saturday, a team color and the color of sexual abuse survivors. This is so terrible and phony? What's the morally superior action then? Should we pretend nothing happened? Should we all sit at home weeping in dark rooms or beating ourselves bloody in shame? No, we shouldn't, because here's a fantastic opportunity to get the message out that sexual abuse remains a horrible problem. If hundreds of thousands of Penn Staters do not wear blue this weekend, we've wasted that opportunity.

2. That some idiot students didn't realize the one thing they could do to further besmirch the school was to riot. Thanks guys.

3. That sports journos who always had an axe to grind with Paterno, and/or just see a chance to write a controversial article to get their name out there, are villifying the entire history of the man and the program. Really: as a consumer of sports media, I ask you to read these articles closely. If concern for protecting children is what this is all about (and it should be), then you'll notice that surprisingly, many of these articles are surprisingly devoid of all but the most perfunctory expressions of empathy.

4. That a team and figure not incorrectly associated with fairness and decency will forever have this association. Programs not nearly as clean as PSU will roll their eyes when they see how Paterno ended up and say, "See? All those years of throwing people off the team for getting caught with drugs or having bad grades amounted to nothing. Let's go take steroids and beat prostitutes." Paterno made a huge mistake, but I fail to see how that makes every act throughout his career evil, and I especially fail to see how villifying him will help serve justice or protect kids in the future.

Humans are often bad at moral thinking, and this scandal has exposed that - and unfortunately not just in decision-makers at Penn State, but in the public's reactions to it, and misplaced demand for shame in people who did nothing wrong and are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Penn Staters, our ashamed silence right now does not help anyone. There's nothing moral in sitting idly by and indulging the media's moral chest-thumpers who seem to think that the ruination of these kids' lives can be undone by impugning the motives of Penn Staters who had nothing to do with the tragedy. To put a point on it: imagine that after 9/11, a citizen of Jordan (where several of the hijackers came from) went on a U.S. speaking tour to argue for tolerance and non-violence, to show the world that the vast majority of Jordanians and Muslims are not homocidal maniacs. Would he have been insincere and immoral? What would have been the more moral act, for him to stay home and hang his head in shame just because he happened to share his religion and country of birth with a few evil men, or go out into the world and try to make things better and keep the same thing from happening again? I keep reading articles about how shameful it is that PSU's players are still focused on beating Nebraska. So what should they do? Forfeit the game? Lose intentionally? Would that take away these kids' suffering? And why just the football team, how about Penn State employees, like the facilities people who prepare the field every week, or the stadium janitorial staff, should they all shirk their duties or mope around with heads down while they do it? Would that help?

Once kids are safe and justice is underway, then there's nothing immoral about Penn State fans increasing awareness of the problem that caused this. Once kids are safe and justice is underway, there's nothing immoral about Penn Staters being concerned with the school's reputation. What's most moral now is making sure justice is served, and doing whatever we can to keep this from ever happening again. Part of that is increasing awareness of the problem, which the blue-out will do. Browbeating the team, the fans, and alums will not accomplish this, it will only distract.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joe Paterno

I went to Penn State. So did my dad. He was a Penn State football maniac. Despite his best attempts to reproduce this part of himself with frequent family trips to Penn State during the autumns of my adolescence, I have to admit that aside from the fun of tailgating and hanging out with friends, I never cared that much about football (or any team sport); although, tellingly, the one ranking system that I pay attention to is college football. That said, Penn State football was quite literally the closest thing I had to a religion growing up. At age five I began reporting to adults that when I grew up I wanted to be a Penn State football player. My room was blue and white. We had blue and white cars. My dad was the president of the county alumni association and I eventually arranged his funeral to be held in a Penn State conference room. So even though I haven't watched a single game since I graduated (other than ones where I was sitting in Beaver Stadium drinking beer with college buddies), it still hurts when I hear on the news that they lost, and it hurts when they lose a bowl game. And this scandal has really hurt.

I once joked that I felt silly when Metallica's bass player quit in 2001 just before the inauguration of George W. Bush, because my worldview was more shaken by a line-up change in a metal band than by the changing of the guard in the most powerful office on the planet. At the time I said the only thing that could shake the natural order more - the thing that would revert the whole universe to a primitive chaotic state - would be a Penn State football team without Joe Paterno coaching. And that was assuming that he would exit gracefully with adoring fans thronging him. It's not going to happen that way now.

This is sad for many reasons. It's sad first and foremost because of what happened to the kids involved. It's sad if people acted to protect the institution more than the kids, as also seems to be the case; and the justice system will find these things out. But what's also sad is that, regardless of any mistakes he made in this affair, Paterno is a one-of-a-kind who (to understate it) worked very hard to keep values in college football. Bad grades and behavior could and would get you thrown off the team. Really. And he no doubt lost games because of it, and he no doubt lost recruits who went elsewhere where they knew they could get away with bad behavior - but he was willing to make that trade. Where else in college athletics has that been the rule for a half century? Of course, whatever anyone did, none of that makes it okay.

Joe turned down opportunities to go pro to stay at Penn State. Huge amounts of his money have gone to the library and, mostly, to other non-athletic institutions. His house, just off campus, is well-known by students and, while nice, is certainly not huge or attention-drawing. And just two weeks ago he officially became the winningest coach in college football history. I had thought he would retire anyway, but now he'll leave under this cloud. I hope it doesn't pollute his whole legacy because he was an example for all of athletics, and I hope any mistakes were sins of omission. But ultimately football is a game, and real life - the lives of these kids - is more important. And justice will tell us what happened, and that's what I'm waiting for.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Finally! I Can Go Long!

Since a) I'm done with boards and a lab project and b) the weather is BEAUTIFUL (i.e. cold and rainy) I have gone for long runs for the first time in I don't know how long. And I don't even feel guilty for taking three hours out of my day without carrying an iPod to listen to lectures. Amazing. Simply amazing. Aerobic exercise really does have mood stabilizing properties!

The San Diego Blackout and the Sunrise Power Link

There's a great article at Voice of San Diego about the blackout we just had, and how the answer is not to depend more on foreign energy, but good ol' locally generated renewable stuff. It's really not a trade-off between cheap electricity (which is good!) and conservation (which is also good!), although that's the story we usually hear. In fact in this case it seems to have been a no-brainer, with all the bad stuff (loss of wilderness, fire danger, no improvement to power grid, increased dependence on foreign energy) all on one side.

...The problem began at a substation in Arizona, and a series of triggering events caused failures all the way to San Onofre nuclear plant on the coast. At the cost of an estimated $100 million in damages, and major inconvenience to millions of people, the San Diego region received a crash course about the fragility of depending on a grid that runs mostly on distant sources of energy.

But it didn't have to turn out this way. Four years ago a San Diego engineer, Bill Powers, published a groundbreaking report, San Diego Smart Energy 2020. The report was all about how to use off-the-shelf technologies in order to build and generate power locally to enhance the existing grid, and provide protection against these sorts of events. The report isn't a pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It uses affordable technologies that are available and ready to deploy. It's a practical guide that includes a 20 percent reduction in energy usage through existing efficiency measures and 2,000 megawatts of local solar projects. To back up the solar, which doesn't generate at night, Powers' report proposes 700 new megawatts of small co-generation facilities, similar to what is already in use at Qualcomm, UCSD, SDSU, and Children's Hospital, which are highly efficient users of natural gas.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bike Trails Improve Property Values

It turns out people are willing to pay a premium to live near bike trails (nine thousand smackaroos to be within a thousand feet). That is to say, if someone builds a bike trail near your house while you're living in it, when you sell, you get more money. Trails and open space = increased property values.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mountain Lion and Housecat Not Best Buddies

Needless to say, while San Diego is having the most awesome weather evar - that is, cold and foggy and marine layery, I can't run much because my big test is next week. Yeah. You read that right. I said that. San Diego's sun and warm weather suck. San Francisco is better. What are you gonna do about it?

Now that I'm finished perfunctorily insulting San Diego, enjoy this amazing set of photos of a housecat being visited by his cousin the mountain lion (through a sliding glass window. Not gory.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Coyotes in Rose Canyon

It's not a surprise to many people that there are coyotes there, but what's interesting is they seem to be there, or at least be noisy, at the same times of year. This is the third mid-October in a row that I've noticed there were a lot - a lot - at night in Rose, as revealed by their responses to a passing siren. I have yet to hear them at any other time. Maybe the bunnies are extra juicy in UTC in October.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Broad Daylight Robberies in UTC - Near Rose Canyon Along La Jolla Colony Drive

It's worth mentioning that there were two robberies reported on Saturday, in broad daylight at two and three in the afternoon, next to Rose Canyon near I-5. This is at the southwestern corner of what most would call the UTC area of San Diego. They were reported as being on Rosenda and Porte La Paz, so it may be that the robberies happened on those streets, or just near them, along the path next to La Jolla Colony Drive next to Rose Canyon. Either way it's worth knowing if you use that path or Rose Canyon.

You can sign up for SDPD's automatic emails here, and find out every crime reported within a mile of your front door, on a daily basis.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Continuing Decline of SoCal Fisheries

If you like to eat or catch fish from the California coast, read this. If you've ever read Mancur Olson's Tragedy of the Commons paper, also read it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Councilwoman Lightner's Office Responds RE Air Show

If you live in UTC, in 24 hours you won't need this reminder, but the Miramar Air Show starts tomorrow, and goes until Sunday. They're already doing practice runs. I loved watching these as a kid, when my dad (who was a Naval officer) took me to an airstrip to watch the planes - and that's key - it was at an airstrip, not over top of our houses - and he wouldn't have been happy if it was. Along with many other people, I don't love having them fly fast and at low altitude all day long over my house. The government never bothered to ask our consent for this. It would seem important to do so, after two deadly air show crashes, not to mention one deadly non-air show crash right here in Rose Canyon that took an entire family.

I wrote to Mayor Sanders (who hasn't responded) and to Councilmember Lightner, whose office did respond. They've asked the base officials to address the events of the last couple weeks as they pertain to us here in San Diego. I also just now emailed the University City Community Association to find out if this discussion is ongoing; I'm probably not the first person who's had these concerns.

Moving the Miramar Air Show inland to the desert would be a huge improvement, not just in safety and noise. Imagine the tailgating! Merchants able to set up in one place and sell food! Camping over night and beer! Best of all, no risk to non-consenting property owners. Let's not wait for a tragedy to occur to go through the moral motions. Let's do something now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tiger Sharks Eating a Whale Carcass

In Queensland (where else). For tigers those are some bigguns.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sub-Two-Hour Marathon in 2038

Inspired by Patrick Makau Musyoki's new marathon record in Berlin yesterday, I looked for trends in the marathon world records for each decade going back a century. I only included the fastest time in each decade. I expected a plateau like this, but I didn't expect it to be so neatly logarithmic. Explanation of the graph: the Y-axis times are in seconds, so 10,800 is a 3 hour race and 7,200 is a 2 hour race. The horizontal red line is a two-hour marathon, the vertical dark line is 2038, and the light gray prediction line is the trend for future marathons. (Note that the prediction line on the graph is for illustration only - the numbers come from the best-fit equation printed on the graph.)

Look at that R. That's a damn good fit. Marathon records are a very logarithmic phenomenon.

A whole crop of articles commented over the last year on statistically improbable sprinter Usain Bolt, who is ahead-of-trend by thirty years. In the same vein, looking at the marathon plot, we shouldn't expect a male human to break two hours in the marathon until 2038. And it's reasonably assumed that the incremental improvements we see in these times is a result of (decreasing marginal) improvements in training, nutrition, and running equipment. Therefore, if this record is broken significantly ahead of that (you can decide how to calculate standard deviations if you want to define exactly what "significantly" means) then I predict one or more of the following will have happened:

- A genuine new mutation and a recruitment sifting system that can deliver the talent to the field, as is presumably the case with Bolt in short distance (someone sequence this guy already);

- New technology allows undetectable doping, either to increase blood oxygen carrying capacity, muscular oxygen efficiency, or muscle strength;

- Deliberate breeding has occurred by nation states with long-term views and an overbearing need for international prestige (China, we're looking at you, and here's why);

- Most interesting possibility: a population of humans still mostly reproductively isolated and thusfar not competing in marathons, and that has gene variants which benefit them in this event. (Tarahumara, we're looking at you now).

Intrade doesn't have a market for this prediction. But they should.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2 Days, 2 Airshow Crashes, Here Comes Miramar Air Show

[Note: On Facebook? Look for "Move the san Diego Air Show Way Inland".]

Miramar Air Show is next month. There's no problem with an air show. What there is a problem with is the government placing risks on the people that live nearby without their consent. Those risks are real. A plane crashed next to Rose Canyon three years ago, killing four on the ground - not during the airshow, but it shows that it can happen.

Why not move the airshow out to the desert? Imagine the opportunity for merchants to set up in one central spot that we don't have when it's done over San Diego. Then you could tailgate out there and make a day of it, drink beer, drive around off-road if you want, go home at the end of the day or camp out. It would be a great time. Win-win for everyone!

Join the group on Facebook, and write the Mayor and your Councilmember.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beer-Lovers: Help a Developing Economy, Try Cassava Beer

Support micro-brewers in the brand-new country of South Sudan!

How we get their beer I don't know, but I bet here in San Diego a) lots of us would try it and b) someone knows how to do the importing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Times Change; Sobering

I just read Encounters with an Angry God, by Carobeth Laird. It details her time with John Harrington, an interesting character who did a huge amount of work cataloguing the then-dying (and now dead) languages of Southern California. Sobering to think that, in some cases, native languages vanished in the space of a century and he was the only person to write them down before they were gone. Laird's account of the man is interesting but is to be viewed with some suspicion, since after all they were divorced. (If this were fiction we would assume "unreliable narrator".)

A pre-Kerouac California road trip. And Harrington was documenting more than his partying.

The book's best value is probably as an artifact preserving what life was like in California a century ago, and this is why I'm mentioning it in my outdoors blog. In 1915 the travails of crossing Tejon Pass were still considerable, and even by car, a trip from San Diego to what is now the Grape Vine was not undertaken lightly. To this day our knowledge of the language of the people that lived there is so scant that we're not even sure what language family it was in. We think it was Uto-Aztecan, i.e. related to Aztec, Paiute, Luiseño and Shoshone.

Can you imagine if two centuries from now, somebody finds your drivers license in some rubble and dusts it off and says, "What language is this?" And all anyone can say is "I don't know. It looks like it's related to Finnish. Or maybe German." How times change.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Possible Snakebite Death at Mission Trails

Not confirmed, but be careful out there! Here's the story. Below is a video from The Running Fat Guy so you know what a rattler sounds like, if you've never heard one. Here's how to avoid getting bitten.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Controversy About USC TV Show

FOX has canceled a show that "mocks" USC students who didn't know anything about football.

A clip from it is below. But I'm confused. I'm not tone deaf to the ethnic basis of people's reactions to it, but seriously: how is this clip mocking the students? These folks are clearly interested enough in learning and working hard and building a future and saving money and having good credit (unlike many sports fans) that they couldn't be bothered to care about a bunch of idiots in colored pajamas chasing a ball around like cats. If you go to USC, you should be proud to be in school with these guys and gals (or even better, to be one of them.) The only guy being mocked in this video as far as I can tell is the dude in the tie who's implying that stuff is important. Who probably has a lot of debt and struggled for C's in all his science classes. Way to create value there bud.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Sound of Mountain Lions Mating

Yikes! In Rawah Wilderness in northern Colorado, courtesy Jeff (who was there with his son):

He told me he actually saw them and they went on like this for a half hour.

Sunset During Long Run, Labor Day Weekend

Monday it rained in Southern California, which some of us actually like. There was even a little thunder. The air smelled great and the sunset was superb. It was an excellent day for a 16-miler. Pictures taken looking WNW toward the ocean across Torrey Preserve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Neat Bits from Medical Journal Article about Crocodile Attacks

From an article in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine (Caldicott DG, Croser D, Manolis C, Webb G, Britton A., "Crocodile attack in Australia: an analysis of its incidence and review of the pathology and management of crocodilian attacks in general." Wilderness Environ Med. 2005 Fall;16(3):143-59.)

Crocodilian hemoglobin has 12 unique bicarbonate binding sites, allowing far more oxygen to be released from the molecule for a given oxygen tension than from the human equivalent. A hybrid human-crocodilian hemoglobin (Hb-Scuba) has been developed and has potential as a synthetic hemoglobin.

In the only reported Australian series to date,77 cause of death was attributed to either decapitation or truncal transection (Figure 2). It should be assumed that massive blood loss90 and drowning are the cause of death in a large number of crocodilian attacks. Assessing the actual cause of death can be complicated by the fact that bodies are sometimes not found, have been eaten, or are decomposed to an extent that makes cause of death difficult to ascertain. Mercifully, death appears to be swift, with little or no bruising seen on postmortem examination.

The power and size of some animals are such that, if not lethal in the first instance, injuries can be as severe as those seen in major road trauma or in the military arena.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shark Sighting Near Children's Pool, La Jolla

Great whites eat seals. That's why it's not good to swim where the seals are. So it's surprising that it's taken this long for a shark sighting at Children's Pool.

One local expert says this shark was big enough to do some damage, he thinks the harbor seals near the Children's Pool may have attracted the shark to shore, and have surfers now keeping an eye out for fins...It was around two Wednesday afternoon that lifeguards say four boogie boarders spotted a 12 inch dorsal fin poking out of the water. What does a 12 inch dorsal fin mean to you?, we asked shark expert Doctor Jeffrey B. Graham, and he responded "well it means a shark at least, 10 feet long".

Friday, August 26, 2011

Join Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park

A group of citizens is forming to preserve Palomar Mountain State Park in the face of its imminent closure. Join and become part of the solution! Direct link here; More information here.

From wildrecovery.org

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Solution to Keep Tomales Bay State Park Open - Blocked

I have a neat story about Tomales Bay S.P. (most people who've been there do). It's right next to Inverness and Point Reyes National Park, about an hour north of San Francisco on the rugged Marin County coast. My girlfriend and I had begun a tradition of going to parks on Superbowl Sundays when people were inside. So we went kayaking at Tomales Bay. And within 20 minutes of putting in what did we see, but a healthy-sized bobcat on some rocks at the water's edge, staring down into the depths. When we rowed over to get a closer look at him he was in no hurry to scramble back up the cliff either; he just looked up and glared at us with those yellow eyes as if to say, Hey, I'm fishin', and you're botherin' me. I think a place like that is worth preserving and keeping open so other people can enjoy it.

Here's Tomales Bay:

If you live in California and love the outdoors, you already know that many of our state parks are going to be closed (see here and here. These parks are one of the reasons many of us choose to live in California.

There's an unfortunate narrative in open space discussions, which constantly tries to portray public lands and private ownership as opposing forces. This is just about exactly bass ackwards, but it persists because there are vested interests on both sides of the discussion. Private landowners often (in fact, usually) benefit from adjacent open space; and public lands benefit from partnerships with private ranchers or concessionaires. Win-win.

And that's exactly what's being proposed now in Tomales Bay S.P., and what has been discussed for many others. Tomales Bay Oyster Company has approached Tomales Bay S.P. with a deal: give us a few tables in the park where our customers can eat oysters - we won't even sell them there, we're just asking for a place for customers to sit and eat them. In exchange, Tomales Bay Oyster Co. will pay for the upkeep, open and close the gate - in short, the stuff the state can't afford to do anymore. Similar solutions have been discussed for Annadel State Park in Petaluma, and I wish they were available for San Diego's own Palomar and San Pascual, which are also on the chopping block. If the deal up in Tomales Bay goes through, the park stays open for us Californians and gets maintained, a local company gets to expand its business - win-win, right?

Unfortunately, other local interests have allowed dogmatism to get in the way of keeping the parks open, and they've asked the park not to accept this deal. Doing this is at this point is the same as saying you want the parks to close.

So let's look at our options:

1) Close the park, prevent public access, and allow the infrastructure
to decay, to be re-opened - when? On what plan?

2) Keep the park open at zero cost to the state, in exchange for some tables and probably a little more traffic. And not even any product sales inside the park.

Am I the only person who can't understand why everyone isn't enthusiastically signing up for #2?

By all means, look at the additional visitors and the impact, but don't let that delay implementing this deal to keep the park open. The damage to the park system will be greater if the park closes, not to mention to us outdoorsy taxpayers who want to enjoy the parks. At least in this case, no one who even pretends to want to preserve the parks should be obstructing this solution. It's very frustrating. It's really just plain knee-jerk dogmatism that is blocking a solution immediately at hand.

(If you haven't already written your Rep and Senator, do so - links and template letter here. Both Fletcher and Davis wrote me back. And thanks to Thurston for the pointer.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mountain Lions in Connecticut?

One was hit and killed by a car last month. Interesting summary of DNA detective work here, showing how this animal is related to others in the Black Hills and elsewhere. I had earlier predicted that mountain lions would be reestablished in my home state of Pennsylvania by 2025. Now that this has happened I realize I have to more clearly define what I mean by "reestablished". I wouldn't count this one because it's still debatable whether it was caught and released.

Pretty soon there will be PA mountain lions made out of more than just stone.

So: "reestablished" means once there is good mountain lion documentation of two separate animals in Pennsylvania. Physical specimen for DNA evidence is best, but video is fine too as long as there's some way to be sure there are two different animals. Of course if it happens twice in a surrounding state it's just a matter of time, and PA is prime mountain lion country, so probably not much time at that. There's already one in Indiana.

So, even with my definition of "reestablished", would anyone bet against this? On one hand I like that a wilderness animal is returning to my home state's ecosystem; on the other hand I kind of like going for a run in the PA woods because I know nothing is going to jump out at me, unlike in CA.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

San Diego River Foundation

Last weekend I found myself at the OB Fair and met some very nice young ladies from the San Diego River Foundation. They gave me a cool map of the watershed, running all the way from Cleveland National Forest to where the river meets the Pacific between Ocean and Mission Beach! They were so nice I told them I'd give them a plug - so you should check them out - there are lots of trails along the river and they're doing a great job helping to preserve open space.

Photo from San Diego Natural History Museum Website.

New Awesomest Blog - Science Based Running

Excellent! Visit them here. Maybe they'll start complaining about Art Devany in my stead.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Woman Visiting All Soon-To-Be-Closed CA State Parks

Read her blog here and subscribe.

Castle Crags, one of the ones on the list.

"The Hypocrisy of Lebron James Hatred"

What a great article this is. The Lebron James story has really provided a great window into the psychology of professional sports fans. More really fun, vicious stuff here specifically about Lebron James; more here about how we impose narrative on sports stories (both during the game and after) where there is none.

La Jolla Children's Pool Seal Legal Updates

Two going the right direction:

- Seal disturbance ticket thrown out

- The seal rope at the beach is being kept down

Angeles National Forest - Annoying Road Closure Near Chantry Flat

Yesterday I drove all the way up to Angeles National Forest from San Diego to start a hike from Chantry Flats, my new favorite spot in the whole National Forest, only to be blocked at the top of Santa Anita Avenue by a sign that said ROAD CLOSED. There was a car that had hit a very large tree branch stuck there, and a bunch of kids standing around with the driver; they told me the road was blocked off for brush clearing. Given the nature of the vehicular mishap (the driver was okay), I had to wonder if this was coincidence. I don't know - but it would have been nice to know what was going on. Emergencies happen and sometimes the Forest needs to close roads, but as it was all I knew was that I'd just driven 2.5 hours, to get turned around by an unannounced closure of unknown purpose. Suck!

Icehouse Canyon, where I ended up. Still manages to make this NorCal boy homesick. From the Rambles in the Brambles blog.

I ended up hitting over to Icehouse Canyon instead and still had a nice hike, but Angeles NF is starting to seem pretty opaque in its closures (first the confusion and delay in releasing information and maps covering the fire-restricted area, and then this personal snafu.) Dan Simpson, whose SoCal hiking website is an amazing resource, also passed along this link with scheduled closures - if you hike in Angeles, bookmark it to avoid the same irritation.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Solutions Discussed to Keep State Parks Open

In Petaluma, a group met next to Annadel State Park (one of the parks on the chopping block) and floated the option of a partnership between parks and private non-profits. There are already lots of private organizations operating in parks in California, and if this keeps the parks open (and relatively inexpensive to use) it's the best option anyone has suggested.

In Hendy Woods State Park, one of the parks slated to be closed.

A point of criticism for the media in general: these articles rarely say what it would mean to "close" the parks. I have a lot of respect for journalists who knock on politicians' doors and ask hard questions, and even saying that they asked but didn't get an answer would be an improvement for most of these articles (there's no discussion of what "closed" means in this one either.)

If you want to write your representatives, I included the text of the letter I sent here. Notably, if you live in northern San Diego, then both your state senator and representative (Christine Kehoe and Nathan Fletcher) are running for mayor of San Diego. Make it clear to them that how they vote on the parks issue will affect whether you vote for them for mayor.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sponsor a Student in Guatemala to Conserve Natural Resources

Want to help save the rainforest AND educate kids?
The Peten is the northeastern part of Guatemala, a mostly-flat rainforest that contains many of the famous ancient Mayan city-states, and an amazing amount of biodiversity.

The Volunteer Peten School of Natural Resources desperately needs your help to sponsor students. Volunteer Peten is a growing NGO that is making an obvious, undeniable difference, by giving kids a shot at a real education, improving the economy, and preserving the natural environment of the country. I've seen what they've done and they were even nice enough to let me teach these kids some chemistry, even if it was only 10 minutes-worth. AND sponsoring a student is only $350. Isn't that like a weekend trip in California? A couple days at Disneyland? If you're up for it, instead of donating you can even volunteer yourself! (You can talk to previous volunteers by email too.)

Meet the kids here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Horny Toad

I finally saw one of these critters and yes, I'm very excited about it. I actually keep a list of varmints I haven't yet seen in the wild and this was one of them. Taken about 2pm yesterday on Chiquito Trail in the Trabuco unit of Cleveland National Forest, on the way up about halfway between the lower creek and Chiquito Falls. He was digging a hole right on the side of the trail. He wasn't that shy; once he got into the brush he just stared back at the trail. I briefly considered trying to catch him to get him to squirt blood out of his eyes but it would have been wrong to harass the little dude just to get him to do a trick.

Note, if you want to do this hike, best directions and video from at Frank's CA-hiking.com - link in this article.

Paleo Workouts: Running and Lifting Outside

"No no, let's move him this way. I've been neglecting my delts this week."

Move Naturally (MovNat) seems to be kind of a hybrid of middle-distance running and high-impact gym-type workouts. More importantly, it looks fun. I might try this. The idea that
is probably a useful vehicle for thinking about fitness, but it has holes, and people aren't consistent iin the way they think about it. Case in point, the subject of this very article talks about eating paleo but then gets inspired by the Tarahumara of Mexico. News flash: the Tarahumara are about as non-paleo-diet as you can get! They get HUGE portions of their calories from corn.

Still, this is the first time I've been intrigued by a trendy work-out philosophy. Because you can do it outside. And it's fun. And it would also seem to correct the deficiencies decried in lifting-oriented exercise (by endurance types) as well as in endurance exercise (by lifting types).

Previous entries on the paleo/lifting vs running debate:

- Paleo Running in Kenya and Mexico Highlands

- Paleolithic humans did eat grains - #1, #2, #3, #4

- The endurance vs. lifting jihad, in paleo terms: #1 and #2

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Do Not Ever Eat Jolokia Peppers

No matter how much people named Garron pressure you, do not ever put these in your mouth. They are bad. For your family, be stronger than I was. Jeff Gordon from Tap Hunter was in evidence and he wisely spared his palate the ravages of uber-capsaicin. You, too, have a long life ahead of you. Don't throw it away so carelessly.

[Added later: Razib Khan is very brave to admit his capsaicin problem. My friend isn't nearly this much of a freak.]

Which leads to greater pain? It is a mystery.