Monday, December 31, 2012

Bristlecone Pines

This piece starts out with a brief mention of the cosmic microwave background from the Big Bang, so you know it'll be good.  (Cause that's cool.)  About the impact of climate change on the oldest trees in the world, here in California.

Meaning in Nature, from an Unlikely Source

David Allen is the Getting Things Done guy, so it was with surprise that in an interview with him I ran across this gem about how we filter, and how nature is information-dense but meaning-light:
Information overload is not the issue. If it were, you'd walk into the library and die. As soon as you connected to the Web, you'd just explode.

In fact, the most information-rich place in the world is the most relaxing: it's called nature. It has more varied horizons, more detail, more input of all sorts. As a matter of fact, if you want to go crazy, get rid of all your information: it's called sensory deprivation.

The thing about nature is, it's information rich, but the meaningful things in nature are relatively few—berries, bears and snakes, thunderstorms, maybe poison oak. There are only a few things in nature that force me to change behavior or make a decision. The problem with e-mail is that it's not just information; it's the need for potential action. It's the berries and snakes and bears, but they're embedded, and you don't know what's in each one.

People's Republic of Pennsylvania Demands You Buy Their Wine

For my PA readers: it's already bad enough that your alcohol is controlled by a North Korean-like state apparatus. (True story: when I was at Merck, I once ordered lab-grade ethanol from a supplier in New Jersey. First the the State of Pennsylvania had to buy it from the supplier, and hold it in a special warehouse for 9 weeks where apparently it would become less evil or something. Then they would sell it to Merck, who of course had to pay the warehouse fees.)

As if to revel in the absurdity, the monopoly holding State has now started selling its own brand of wine. Now, apparently one of the reason the State keeps the monopoly is because alcohol is bad, and Pennsylvanians must be protected from it. But now they're making their own...(sound of head-scratching)

It bears repeating that the PA liquor tax was enacted to pay for the cleanup after the Johnstown Flood. Yes, really. And last time I was there, Johnstown was doing okay. How much longer are people going to put up with this?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Backbone/Bulldog Loop in Malibu, and Not a Lat Injury

Despite a current injury, I relied on my low levels of common sense and did an awesome 15 miler (this trail with side spurs) in the I-can't-believe-I-haven't-run-here-before Malibu Creek State Park, in the Santa Monica Mountains. Some of the views would not be out of place in Colorado, except for the Pacific being below your feet of course.


There sure am be some green stuff back there, and the rock formations and sea views from the top of the ridge can't be beat.  Plus along the way I saw the MASH filming site.  It's only right now that I laugh out loud and realize I ran the aptly-named Backbone loop (and Bulldog).

Why is that funny?  Two posts ago I mentioned a possible injury to my lats that I got (I think) from bicep curls.  Despite knowing that something didn't fit, i.e. the location of the pain wasn't really where your lats are, I didn't update my belief.  Saying the same thing in medical language, I should have moved "lat tear/sprain" down my differential and thought about what to move up.

Long story short, there are many reasons to think that my current (and previous) pain are a disc herniation, rather than a lat injury.  I have contralateral pain at a different level that also fits the bill for herniated disc that's stayed with me for a year but I can tolerate it; this one has gone from comparatively much worse to almost resolved in a few days, and it's moved downward a little too (n.b., muscle injuries don't do that).

Fortunately, scary though it sounds, disc herniation is usually self-resolving or only causes mild discomfort, and can be managed conservatively with NSAIDs, heat, and activity restriction.  15 miles up and down hills didn't bother me too much; I guess I just need to find a bicep exercise that doesn't involve shock-loading my spinal column.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Redwoods in SoCal

Previously I attempted to turn San Diego into the Bay Area by planting redwood trees around my house and in a nearby canyon.  This has not come to fruition; after attempting even sillier techniques, I resorted to the correct way of doing it (and with the little kits you can buy), and even then wasn't able to make one grow.  But all is not lost.  Gary Valle reported last year on a grove of redwoods (planted by humans) doing well in Malibu Creek State Park, but also links to a short 2004 report documenting the rapid decline of landscaping redwoods planted in Ventura County, and broadly surveying their use elsewhere in the state outside their native climate.

The author blames pathogens rather than climate, although the latter could predispose to the former, and with a spotty distribution that's more intense in certain areas.  But hey.  At least the invasion is begun!

Above: Rose Canyon, two centuries from now.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lat Injury and Running

(As always, advice welcome.)  I've re-injured my left lats, most likely from bicep curls.  Last time I did this was 12 years ago and I couldn't run for 6 weeks, which of course were the 6 weeks immediately prior to the Boston Marathon.  This time it's immediately before my Christmas break, during which I was hoping to get in some serious mileage.

It isn't as bad as it was before so I'm going to continue trying to run but pay attention to it.  A 14 miler the day after the injury didn't seem to exacerbate it.  But DAMmit.  I'm starting to wonder if there's something about anticipating vacations that makes me hurt myself!

Snow and Bears

Went up to Angeles NF yesterday to play in the snow.  At the Baldy trailhead, the trail up to the cabin was (and thence to the summit) was pretty white, but we got started late so we just fooled around and then went back down.  Fact:  bears in SoCal do not hibernate in the winter.  Do we know what their trigger is then?  (Sun here too bright?  Too warm?  Not enough snow?)

And speaking of bears, now you can go camping without anxiety:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Taxpayer Money for Stadiums: Sports Welfare

If you missed the Craft Beer Debate in September - about whether taxpayer money should be used for new stadiums (hint: it shouldn't be) - then here's a great article about that infamous parasitic 47%, in the form of pro sports franchises demanding and getting your money. "... the team owners sitting in luxury boxes built with taxpayer dollars, charging PSL fees for seats constructed with the same. They’re the athletes writing off fines for bad behavior. They’re the multimillion-dollar professional leagues, Ozymandias-shaming college athletic departments and -- ahem -- charitable bowl games all enjoying lucrative and dubious non-profit status."

Hometown Girl Hikes Appalachian Trail

"Hometown" as in Reading, Pennsylvania that is (the first third or so of my life). Kudos to Samantha Dalton for doing it. And kudos to the Eagle for summarizing her favorite parts of the trail. I still haven't been on a trail in the Smokies, which Samantha confirmed are as awesome as I've heard they are.

Baxter Creek Trail in the Smokies. From

Friday, December 14, 2012

Big Oil? Big Beer

Here's an article about how increasingly large beverage conglomerates are increasingly pressuring microbreweries. Though serious beer snobs will already know this, the golden age of American microbreweries was ushered in with a change in the law. But this is not enough to guarantee their continues survival. I just recently learned (direct from the founder of Stone Brewing at the craft beer stadium debate) that the giant breweries have exclusivity contracts with bars and other venues, like stadiums. That's why even here in San Diego it's harder than you would think to find bars and restaurants serving your favorite brews. Recently, century+-old breweries in Germany have been getting gobbled up by big companies. Did you read that? Beer in Germany is being damaged by this process. If that doesn't scare you I don't know what will! In most industries, this would be considered anticompetitive. That said, in many industries there are de facto arrangements between product-makers and distributors if the two businesses are separate. Case in point, big entertainment companies and radio stations. And that must be why music radio stations are the cutting edge of art for the serious music connoisseur, producing a high-quality product for a diverse range of discriminating tastes. Just like Anheuser-Busch.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cholesterol and Sunlight

If you do not like serious fitness-health geekiness, then won't you please look away now, madame or sir.

Humans make Vitamin D in our bodies when UV radiation (sunlight) strikes 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) molecules in the skin. These same molecules are used as precursors in cholesterol synthesis. One day while running in sunny San Diego I thought about this and wondered what the relationship was between cholesterol and vitamin D. And of course the whole reason we care about cholesterol is because high cholesterol causes heart attacks. (It's rare in biomedicine to be able to make such an unequivocal statement as that, but it's very well-supported.) So how might this work?

Possibility 1: if you have a lot of cholesterol does this mean you have a lot of precursor available and therefore will also have a lot of vitamin D? And does this mean that by taking a statin, you'll lower your vitamin D production? My excuse for geeking out about this is my own high cholesterol. Half of your blogger's LDL receptors have a glutamine instead of an arginine at the 3500th amino acid residue. (Thanks Mom!) Hence without pharmacologic intervention, my LDL runs about 160. So did I save myself from premature coronary syndrome more by moving to California and getting lots of sun during my runs, than by taking that statin?

Possibility 2: Can a blockade of one or the other pathway result in diversion of more precursor to the other pathway?  By that argument, (a.) people congenitally unable to synthesize cholesterol would have loads of vitamin D from all the piled-up 7DHC, assuming they get enough sun and that the reaction does have some kind of ceiling.
OR (b) the opposite - do people who don't get much sunlight have loads of cholesterol from all the piled-up 7DHC not getting turned into vitamin D?

For Possibility 2a above, it turns out there are people missing the enzyme to make cholesterol (7DCHR); the disease is called Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS), and people born with it have significant deformities and health problems. Most interesting for our purposes is that although they DO have piles of 7DHC sitting around (because they can't make cholesterol out of it), they do NOT have more vitamin D or D precursors than other people. The research team even matched patients for season of collection (to make sure we didn't get all winter samples from SLOS patients, and sunny summer samples from healthy controls.) We don't yet understand how they can avoid poisoning themselves with vitamin D, but somehow they're compensating.

Which brings us to Possibility 2b. In 1996 a British group looked at the relationship between sunlight exposure and cardiovascular disease. These plots show what they found.  (Click on them if they're hard to see, especially the first one with the countries, which is kind of cool.)

Note that they included a cholesterol plot but a) this paper doesn't investigate the direct relationship between vitamin D and cholesterol and b) consequently they can't show vitamin D to be in the causal pathway, despite the interesting figures. The relationship with sunlight exposure they show is definitely interesting but we already know that physical activity, diet, and genetic differences all definitely play an enormous, hence confouding role. It's tough to compare Japanese with Swedes and say that sunlight is a causative factor in cardiovascular differences, rather than diet, which as you might recognize all differ substantially!

Furthermore, the SLOS patients are able to "rebalance their accounts" with respect to precursor utilization, so it's not unreasonable to expect that a similar mechanism could be operating the other way in health, erasing any benefits that cholesterol-precursor-eating sun may have. (For a different opinion, you can read That Paleo Guy's take on this, which is where I originally found this paper. I do not endorse most of his opinions, so if you want a hint on how to weight our conflicting arguments, consider that I'm the one in medical school. Just sayin.)

My conclusion is that this is interesting and I'll certainly be reading any articles that come out on this, but for now we just don't have evidence that sun exposure lowers cholesterol and therefore coronary syndrome risk. And if your output in thinking about sun exposure is all-cause mortality, then even with a putative cardiovascular benefit, we're going to be looking at a U-shaped curve because there are other considerations, chiefly among them skin cancer of course. So if you're concerned about your cholesterol, exercise regularly and take a statin if recommended by your physician.  In the meantime, I'll be running in the sun because it makes me happy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santiago Peak, Orange County

Went up from Trabuco Canyon via Holy Jim trail.  I should qualify that and say I stopped a mile or so short of the summit since it was getting dark and there has apparently been a lot of kitty activity up there recently.  It was a lot prettier than I thought it would be. Despite the picture I chose below, it's not just SoCal scrub forest but actual patches of woods, and the last half mile of the trail before hitting Main Divide Road is pretty exposed and cool.

The silver lining of my strange fit of common sense?  This leaves the peak for my future 22-mile A-to-B where I go up Holy Jim from Trabuco, gain Santiago, cross the saddle and gain Modjeska before descending to Silverado.  Hopefully next week if I can talk a certain person into shuttling me...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Running A Lot Doesn't Hurt You

That seems to be the conclusion of a study to be published in the British journal Heart next month. The press release published by the WSJ spins it differently though, stating that running a lot later in life eliminates the mortality benefits. With the tone they take it's hard not to be tricked into thinking the evidence being presented is that running hurts you, but nowhere (in the summary piece at least) is this claim made.

It's a strange article to say the least. "Danger! Danger! Doing activity X that you enjoy doesn't harm you!" doesn't seem to be a crucial finding. To quote Kenneth Cooper in the article: "If you are running more than 15 miles a week, you are doing it for some reason other than [physical] health."' Agreed! (Qualifier mine.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ohio State and BCS Rankings: Always Transparent, Meaningful

From the "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!" department, a team that can't possibly go to a bowl because of sanctions ends up outranking Florida. I'm not a Buckeye or Florida fan but I like it because it makes a mockery of the whole system. I'm waiting for a good Onion article, which has consistently led the way in BCS-pointlessness-highlighting.

A Fake Marathon. No, Not The Running Of It, The Actual Race Itself

Some goober has created a website for a marathon which is admitted on its face to be fake; maybe s/he is hoping a real event will grow out of the online presence. For the Borges fans out there, it's a sort of Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius of endurance events. The internet abounds in such opportunities!

If you haven't yet read it, this New Yorker account of a Michigan dentist's much more deceptive faking of marathons is fascinating.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Humans Have Brains For Running

Why do humans have brains so much bigger than our bodies, relative to other animals?  As it turns out, maybe not so we can be so smart.  Most theories have to do with the physiology of bipedalism.  You may have heard of similar hypotheses before (the most famous being the radiator hypothesis) but the go-to guy for "human brains are adapted for (bipedal) running" theories is Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard.  Both transcript and video at link with him explaining this increasingly well-supported theory, it but unfortunately the video is not embeddable. 

Brains are very costly. Right now, just sitting here, my brain (even though I'm not doing much other than talking) is consuming about 20- 25 percent of my resting metabolic rate. That's an enormous amount of energy, and to pay for that, I need to eat quite a lot of calories a day, maybe about 600 calories a day, which back in the Paleolithic was quite a difficult amount of energy to acquire. So having a brain of 1,400 cubic centimeters, about the size of my brain, is a fairly recent event and very costly.

The idea then is at what point did our brains become so important that we got the idea that brain size and intelligence really mattered more than our bodies? I contend that the answer was never, and certainly not until the Industrial Revolution.
What is the answer then?  Bipedal locomotion over long distance.  Remarkable that this is part of what made us able to start asking other questions about our existence.  There's a lot more but here's another telling passage.

The other reason we often discount the importance of brawn in our lives is that we have a very strange idea of what constitutes athleticism. Think about the events that we care about most in the Olympics. They're the power sports. They're the 100-meter dash, the 100-meter freestyle events. Most athletes, the ones we really value the most, are physically very powerful. But if you think about it this way, most humans are wimps.

Usain Bolt, who is the world's fastest human being today, can run about 10.4 meters a second, and he can do so for about ten or 20 seconds. My dog, any goat, any sheep I can study in my lab, can run about twice as fast as Usain Bolt without any training, without any practice, any special technology, any drugs or whatever. Humans, the very fastest human beings, are incredibly slow compared to most mammals. Not only in terms of brute speed, but also in terms of how long they can go at a given speed. Usain Bolt can go 10.4 meters a second for about ten to 20 seconds. My dog or a goat or a lion or a gazelle or some antelope in Africa can run 20 meters a second for about four minutes. So there's no way Usain Bolt could ever outrun any lion or for that matter run down any animal.

A typical chimpanzee is between about two and five times more powerful than a human being. A chimpanzee, who weighs less than a human, can just rip somebody's arm off or rip their face off (as recently happened in Connecticut). It's not that the chimpanzee is remarkably strong, it's that we are remarkably weak. We have this notion that humans are terrible natural athletes. But we've been looking at the wrong kind of athleticism. What we're really good at is not power, what we're really phenomenal at is endurance. We're the tortoises of the animal world, not the hares of the animal world. Humans can actually outrun most animals over very, very long distances. 
The marathon, of course, is a very interesting example. A lot of people think marathons are extraordinary, and they wonder how many people can run marathons. At least a million people run a marathon every year. If you watch any major marathon, you realize that most of those folks aren't extraordinary athletes, they're just average moms and dads. A lot of them are charity runners who decided to raise money for some cancer cause or diabetes or something. I think that proves that really your average human being can run 26.2 miles without that much training, or much ability to be a great athlete. Of course, to run a marathon at really fast speeds is remarkable, but again, it just takes some practice and training. It's not something that's really extraordinary.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oct 20 - Riparian Habitat Restoration With the US Bureau of Land Management

Last October volunteers planted coast live oaks in the drainage of a canyon in the BLM's Sycamore Canyon area, off Highway 94.  This area was hit by both the Otay Fire in '03 and the Harris Fire in '07, and the BLM needs the public's help bringing back the oak, willow, and sycamore trees that supported the wildlife in this remaining natural area.  The history is pretty cool - Rancho Jamul was used by the Kumayaay Indians for thousands of years for forage and living purposes, Spanish missionaries for grazing land (using the Kumeyaay Indians for labor), then owned by a series of private individuals, most notably Pio Pico, the last Mexican Governor of California. Prior to acquisition by DFG, the property was used for farming and grazing by the well-known Daley Family of San Diego.

Details: meet at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve at 8:30a.m. for orientation. Wear long pants, a hat, and sturdy shoes. Bring water and a water bottle if you have one. Water and snacks will be provided. To RSVP, and for directions or for more information contact Cathy Chadwick, Be sure to let her know you heard about the event here at MDK10outside!

General Location: Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve is located in the eastern part of San Diego County between the towns of Jamul and Dulzura; Rancho Jamul can be found by following Eastbound Highway 94 (AKA Campo Road) from Spring Valley.

Directions: Directions from Downtown San Diego are as follows: I-5 south to I-94 east, follow Highway 94 east through the town of Jamul and look for a Rancho Jamul sign immediately following the Rural Fire Station. After approximately two miles, you will find the entrance on the south/west side of Highway 94.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Baseball/Football Ratio Predicts a State's Political Orientation

I know you're not already getting enough politics so here's the article. What's really interesting is that polls move in concert with people's ticket purchases, ie when baseball ticket sales rise in a state, the party favored by baseball improves at the polls. (Have to read it to find out which is which. Too bad Americans can only afford two though.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mountain Lions

At Point Reyes:

Amazing one from earlier this year in Yosemite:

But sometimes they're just damn cute:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mount San Miguel

Saturday I ran up to the top of San Miguel Mountain from Rolling Hills Estates on the south side. Imagine something halfway between Black Mountain and Woodson, probaby closer to Black Mountain. The hill itself is little-known, like of a lot of San Diego south of the 8 - if you've been in Hillcrest Hospital and looked southwest and noticed a peak with radio towers on it straight past the opposing toward of Scripps Mercy, that's it. (That's why I wanted to run it.)

The mountain itself is not particularly pretty, BUT the views of downtown and the bay are excellent - reminded me of San Francisco actually - AND the place is just deserted. For being equidistant from downtown as Cowles and closer than Iron or Woodson, that's kind of cool. I felt like I was in old California driving out there.

Scorpion Hunting Fail

Part of my bucket list is seeing certain critters in the wild. I have yet to see a manta ray, great white shark, gila monster, or wolf running around loose. But one I thought that would be easier to cross off was scorpions. So thanks to James who went in halfsies with me on a UV light, I set out to Mission Trails one night last week to find some. Fail! Scorpions love hot weather and needless to say, after this ridiculous hot summer and fall, that night San Diego decided to be cool and overcast. The first time I've ever wanted it to be hot here!

As a final insult, while I'm out tramping around the sage in the dark, buddy Garron finds a Centuroides (bark scorpion) right in his office.

But the lesson here is that all living things have a defense mechanism. Mine is a vanishingly short attention span. Scorpions are now off my bucket list. That's one way to do it! In the meantime enjoy this Arizona fellow who was more succesful than me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

San Diego Foundation Preserves North County Land

$651,000 to a number of organizations to assemble protected areas. Trails and preserves! Great job, thanks guys!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

This Will Make You Feel Good

Marines in a triathon carrying a kid whose prosthetic legs failed during the race:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yet Another Baby Rattler

Shouldn't be surprising after this hot summer, but I saw another one, this one up in Carlsbad. I've been seeing them all around 630pm on sandy/dusty sections of trail adjacent to grassy areas.

Have you seen one too? Add your encounter to the rattlesnake map! (Below.) Plus it's always available at right if you click on the snake.

View Rattlesnake Encounters in San Diego County in a larger map

It's Still Hot Out In That Peninsular Range

Went up to run Noble Canyon yesterday in preparation for doing a litte group hike there the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Nice run with some actual ferns, but the bugs were bad in the wooded sections and I forgot how annoying the trail is in the upper half.  As in, going every direction but the direction you want to go to avoid minor terrain obstacles, until in the last mile it inexplicably goes up the steepest remaining incline.  Still hot up there!  Take water!

From lanesbike.

Pundit Tracker Shows Best Baseball Predictors

Pundit Tracker keeps those talking heads on TV honest by actually looking at the results of their predictions - and here they are for baseball. The results are about what you'd expect - "The pundits’ collective yield over the three-year period was $0.80, meaning that betting equally on all their picks would have resulted in a 20% loss. Only three of the fourteen pundits generated positive payouts."  More information at the link.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prevention and Treatment of Lightning Injuries

Mark Tanaka helpfully posts a link to a review paper, with evidence classifiers. (If lightning hits you, it's doubtful you'll end up as lucky as this guy.) In SoCal it might not be as scary as in the Colorado mountains in the summer, but it's still useful to know if you spend time outside. You might be the one to save someone's life!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another Rattler, This Time in Marian Bear Canyon

Saw one during my study break (ie nightly 7-miler) on the trail in Marian Bear Canyon, between Genesee and Regents, about 715pm.  Not surprising after a hot day like today.  Another baby one actually, although compared to the last one I saw a week or two ago, this one was having none of my tomfoolery and went into full-on defensive-posture when I gently kicked dust at it to get it to move.  I added it to the Rattler Map, which is starting to get filled up with people's rattlesnake encounters around San Diego.  Seen one?  Put it on there so we can see where we run across them, and avoid harm for both them and us.

View Rattlesnake Encounters in San Diego County in a larger map

The Stadium Debate Wrap-Up

I was thrilled to be present at the inaugural official Craft Beer Debate. Thanks to Omar Passons for conceiving and organizing! To be clear, the question under scrutiny was whether there should be taxpayer funding for a new (privately owned) stadium. The points I reproduce below don't represent the whole discussion - for that go to the Craft Beer Debates website, where they will soon post video. Even if this discussion isn't your thing, Passons has big plans for serious local topics to be discussed at future events, so get on his mailing list!

Greg Koch, co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing, moderated. Consequently there were lots of pointed questions for the pro-stadium side about the poor beer selection at the games. (Myself, I enjoyed a Scotch ale during the discussion.)

National University economist and major sports fan Eric Bruvold spoke for the no-taxpayer-money side and quickly made the point that stadiums are black holes. Even if you use them as more than just football stadiums, they don't bring dollars in from outside the region, and they certainly don't offset their cost. There have been peer-reviewed studies by economists showing this to be the case.

Mark Fabiani spoke in favor of taxpayer dollars funding the stadium, not surprisingly, since he's the lawyer that works for the president of the Chargers. I reluctantly admired his mastery of rhetoric. For instance, one of the best arguments against a taxpayer supported stadium is that if it's ever justified to use taxpayer money for a private venue, it certainly isn't now, when the city is broke! Before this point could be made, Fabiani co-opted it by saying that old Qualcomm is costing us money already (ahem, sunk cost fallacy) and since the city is so broke, we can't afford NOT to build a new stadium! (He didn't explain why the new stadium will also not cost us money to maintain.)

At one point the pro-taxpayer money for stadium side said that the area around PETCO used to be pretty bad, but now it's redeveloped. During the audience question part, I asked how he knew that downtown San Diego's improvement happened because of PETCO, and wasn't just part of the national improvement that happened in just about every city's downtown during the 1990s. He said he just didn't believe that. Up to you to decide if that's a good argument.

I don't think the audience was overwhelmed by the taxes-for-Chargers argument, and what's more interesting, both Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio are opposed to it. But overall it was a fun night with a lot of good beer and spirited by civil debate. I'm really looking forward to future events!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Background for Craft Beer Debate - Chargers Stadium

The Inaugural Craft Beer Debate about a new Chargers stadium is this Wednesday 12 September, at 6:15pm at Slater's 50/50.

Thanks to reader Thurston for sending me a great link, an interview of an expert on the economics of professional sports, Roger Noll. Note that this is a pro-free-market podcast, EconTalk, at the Library of Economics and Liberty, so these aren't people that have anything against money or sports. Early in the interview Noll says this:

Baseball and football stadiums...there aren't any that have been substantially subsidized where the local community has received anything remotely resembling a reasonable return on investment. They are financial black holes. Especially football stadiums...What you've created is something that essentially sucks the blood out of a neighborhood...indeed, they create slums.

Wow.  This isn't some opinion jockey.  This is a Stanford economics professor who has spent his career studying these questions.  [Later edit:  I wasn't even looking for it, but the day after posting this ran across another article, "Stadiums Are A Bad Investment".]

The whole interview is worth listening to. Hope to see you Wednesday night, although this event will fill up so go to the Debate website and register.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rattlesnake Encounter Map for San Diego

Most of us who spend time on trails around here have seen a rattler or three. I just saw one tonight, a cute lil baby one on the side of the trail in Los Penasquitos Preserve. Most of the time our sense of where to be most cautious is informed partly by anecdotes, but if we share this information systematically, eventually we'll start to see where the hotspots are (and at what times of year) and both species can stay out of trouble.

The map is up and right now the oonly thing it's missing is YOU, i.e. it needs more user-generated data. If you've seen one or two or ten on trail or in your yard, take 20 seconds to go to the map and add your own.   The community appreciates it!

View Rattlesnake Encounters in San Diego County in a larger map

Dehydrated Beer Mix for Hiking

By Pat's Backcountry Beverages in Alaska.

America is great.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Craft Beer Debate Sept. 12: Fund the Chargers Stadium with Taxpayer Money?

Craft Beer Debates is a great idea - providing a venue for people to discuss important questions in a passionate but friendly way. Importantly, over good beer. Per the title, here's the first topic to be discussed, with some good links. (Hopefully the companionship that drink creates will overcome the zealousness.) The first official debate will be at Slater's 50/50 off Rosecrans near Point Loma on Wednesday September 12th. The debgate will be moderated by the CEO of Stone Brewing.

Those are all the details I have right now, but I'm planning on going. Say hello if you recognize me from the blog. Be not confused, for I no longer have a goatee.

An open debate like this is a real nightmare for the proponents of the new stadium, because these kinds of deals usually go on well out of view of the public, since they benefit politicians and franchise owners at the cost of tax revenues sorely needed for schools and services. Build whatever stadium you want to. Just not with taxpayer money. Other people don't have the right to demand our money for their sports teams. Imagine if the city wanted to support a Mexican Soccer League expansion team with your cash. Not so great? Agreed! And this applies to ALL private enterprises, sports or otherwise. What's worse, building a new stadium doesn't bring in economic benefits to the city.

Marathon Cheater Article in New Yorker

Amazing article, highly recommended.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Link of the Day

If you're bored of normal tourist destinations, check out Atlas Obscura. They end up being mostly outdoors and natural things. Nature is usually more unexpected than things other humans do. Except when it's not, because one of the articles on the front page is about an island in the Canaries where the pastoralists have developed a whistled language.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

San Diego Needs Public Transportion, But Coaster Sucks

I thought it would be fun to head up to Carlsbad for some wine-tasting today and since I've lived here 3 years and never used the Coaster, I thought today would be the day. Like many urban "transportation" systems, the Coaster likes to put obstacles in the way of people who want to use it.

1) The cost-benefit, on all fronts, comes down on the side of driving. (See table below.)

2) The last train south from Carlsbad is at ***6:40pm***. Great! Let's have dinner at 3pm so we can plan our day around Coaster! Said nobody ever, much to the chagrin of Carlsbad merchants (and people who want to enjoy Carlsbad without risking a DUI.)

Here's that cost-benefit.  All numbers are round-trip for two adults:

Train Drive Winner
Cost $25.20=$22.00 train+$3.20 gas* $7.50=$0.00 train+$7.50 gas DRIVE
Time2h09m=1h39m train+30m drive*56m=0m train+56m driveDRIVE
Must go home super-early?YesNoDRIVE
Must plan ahead/constantly watch time?YesNoDRIVE
*It's ridiculous that both of the asterisked numbers are not zero or very close to zero.  30 minutes driving and $3.20 in gas to use the train?  How am I supposed to take this system seriously?

So, Coaster is asking me to spend $17.70 more money, an hour and thirteen minutes more time, all so I have to leave by 6:40pm after nervously glancing at my watch all day.

I really want San Diego to have better public transportation. But the Coaster is not it. Realistically, it's very hard to expand (let alone begin) a train system in an expensive developed area.  On the other hand, a real bus system is not that expensive or difficult to put in place, which is why it's so mystifying that to get to my house (in non-isolated UTC) from the airport, it involves two bus rides and a 1.5 mile walk between two stops. So San Diego:  if you want people to take public transportation seriously as an option, and I do, you have to stop making it difficult to use, and at the very least make it go where and when people need it.

Why Lie About Your Marathon PR

An important question, relating to a (suddenly much more) public figure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Paleo Theory Takes a Hit

[Added later: turns out caloric restriction doesn't extend life either, at least in primates; it's just unpleasant. And if you're reading this, you are one. Don't bother telling me about rodent studies.]

As nice as it is to see people trying to unify theory with action, it's even better to compare actual data against your theory, and when the theory doesn't fit the data, you fix the theory.  (Not the other way around.)  Or at the very least, you decrease your certainty about it.

Recently, Pontzer et al published a paper in PLoSONE (and Pontzer summarized it in the NYT here) about metabolic rates in a group in Africa.  Meet the Hadza:

The Hadza live in simple grass huts in the middle of a dry East African savanna. They have no guns, vehicles, crops or livestock. Each day the women comb miles of hilly terrain, foraging for tubers, berries and other wild plant foods, often while carrying infants, firewood and water. Men set out alone most days to collect honey or hunt for game using handmade bows and poison-tipped arrows, often covering 15 to 20 miles.

Paleos par excellence! A paleo wet dream! It doesn't get better than this without a time machine. So what did the researchers find, carefully measuring metabolism using two separate isotopes?

"...average daily energy expenditure of traditional Hadza foragers was no different than that of Westerners after controlling for body size." That is to say, "We found that despite all this physical activity, the number of calories that the Hadza burned per day was indistinguishable from that of typical adults in Europe and the United States. We ran a number of statistical tests, accounting for body mass, lean body mass, age, sex and fat mass, and still found no difference in daily energy expenditure between the Hadza and their Western counterparts."

There are two aspects to controlling one's physique: exercise and diet. The paleo evangelists of the world love to tell us endurance athletes that we're bad, bad people for doing long-term cardio instead of being miserable for short bursts in gyms. It turns out that side of the equation is less important than we all thought, judging by this research (which doesn't exist in isolation - look at the references). What it does mean is that diet becomes even more important.

Evolutionary Economics takes issue with the conclusion and also refers to Razib Khan's point that metabolism has undergone differential adaptation in humans who settled different parts of the world, and ate different things. (No kidding - for one extreme example, look at the fat distribution on the now very multi-ethnic sumo wrestler corps in Japan and this cannot be disputed.) That being the case, I would also argue that different populations of humans might respond differently to varying diets and exercise regimens. There has clearly been selection in muscle proteins, that your partly-sequenced blogger has found himself and his ancestors subjected to.

But most importantly, I hope the paleo exercise people start to settle down in the preaching.

Wild Parrots in San Diego

I saw a flock of 10 in Hillcrest this afternoon. I thought I'd heard them before in Balboa Park but now that I've seen them it's official. To help you in your own urban birdwatching, they have a fairly distinctive talkative squeaky sound like this:

Ranchers Conserving the Open Wilds of Southern Colorado

While I was driving through the amazingly empty southern Colorado/northern New Mexico area on my awesome trip a few weeks ago, I got curious about the mountains to the west of I-25.  It's an interesting ecological area, the border region between the Chihuahuan Desert, the high plains, and the Rockies, and among those empty mountains are 14ers and dinosaur tracks.

You've never heard of any of these; they're kinda sorta the Front Range of the Rockies but way down in southern CO, called the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. From

Turns out the army is trying to expand their little-known base there, and in a familiar theme, the local private landowners, ranchers, environmentalists, and outdoors types recognize they actually all have a common interest to work together.  The story here is a fascinating (and useful one) on multiple levels.  Here's the Summitpost entry for one of those peaks (Culebra), some of which are privately owned - but accessible thanks to the owners.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Algodones Dunes Marathon: Or, the Rare Triumph of Common Sense

After a scouting trip to the desert, I decided to take a pass on my brilliant idea of running the Algodones Dunes from I-8 to 78.

Running this for 22 miles? No thank you sir.
That's actually one on of my worse ideas,
which is saying something.
Even driving it like these guys would suck.

As if to emphasize the point that this is a blighted land, while we were passing through nearby Brawley on the way to the Blythe Intaglios, the Earth delivered up some nice earthquakes.  The timing couldn't have been better.  I had to put down the coffee I was preparing and ran out of the convenience store.  I went back in to finish it and another one hit. 

But a bad idea that I still think is good is the San Diego coastal relay! 78 miles, 10 runners. Who's in? Main problem to solve, running along the shipyards and whatnot along the east side of San Diego Bay would be much less pleasant than running along the Silver Strand, but how to cross over from OB/Point Loma to Coronado - add a kayak leg?

View Larger Map

Friday, August 24, 2012

The San Juan Mountains Are Neat-O

So I survived the three months of my surgery rotation only by imagining the promise of the San Juan Mountains in my future, and what a promise it was. Somehow all my wanderings around the Western U.S. had not taken me to them, and last week with trusty pal Dorothy I finally set off to correct this. Interestingly, my neglect of the San Juans and CO Rockies generally seems to be shared by my fellow Californians - we noticed a dearth of CA plates, but no shortage of TX, OK and KS. The route, which was every bit as awesome as it looks:

(Geek point: to figure out the best trip, I prioritized what I wanted to do, then used an online Traveling Salesman solver and added nodes sequentially, seeing where there were significant jumps in travel time. Not surprisingly, there was a jump in travel time for paying my respects to Caballo Blanco by going for a run in Gila Natl Forest or going to the Oklahoma Panhandle just because.  I will definitely be planning future roadtrips this way.)

You will notice on that route a visit to Flagstaff, a cool town that people are unfortunately finally discovering; Wupatki Ruins (including the ball court and wind cave that I forgot about) and finally entered the Navajo Nation, which I seem unable to permanently escape. There we saw easily the most amazing rainbow of our lives. We stopped for the obligatory fry bread and passed through Monument Valley and Mexican Hat. Notes: don't eat fry bread with honey while driving. Monument Valley is oddly unsettling at dusk. Mexican Hat has a little restaurant (the Olde Bridge Grill) with great lamb dishes overlooking the San Juan River near the famous goosenecks. And finally: the Four Corners area does in fact close at night. But eff 'em because it's not really the Four Corners anyway.

Wupatki Ruins, north of Flagstaff.
A ball-court at Wupatki.
A double-rainbow in Navajo Nation. 
We seemed to be driving into the base of it for 30 minutes. 
I didn't ask what does it mean.
From there we passed through Cortez on the way to Durango. We decided not to go back to Mesa Verde and Hovenweep Natl Monument. Cool though they are, especially the coded steps, my travel companion told me that where she's from there are thousand-year-old dwellings all over the place so she wasn't so impressed anyway. Durango bills itself as a Four Corners-area town but SW Colorado is the outgroup of the four states that come together in that region. Because it's higher it's greener; Durango just looks different. Once arriving in Durango we recognized that it apparently has a law that only awesome things are allowed to be there. The mountains and trails around it are of course spectacular, plus there are brewpubs and fun restaurants, plus there's a hiking train (!) plus just randomly one day there was a plane taking off with a glider in tow right next to town.  Even the flea market is awesome (see the scorpion-lamp below):

Scorpion Lamp by Ron Howell.  Check out bracelets, lamps and more here
He's a cool guy and he only makes dragon and scorpion stuff.  Ron doesn't screw around.

The only downside is that my Jeep Liberty kicked the bucket in February and there were a number of trails we couldn't get to without a 4WD.  It's not like California dirt roads (i.e. getting to Holy Jim Falls and Santiago Peak in the Trabuco Unit of Cleveland NF) - when Coloradans say 4WD-only, they're serious.  The first day: Engineer Peak, starting at Coal Bank Pass. Every day we got chased by thunder. In California we don't usually have this problem, but in Colorado every year people are killed by lightning. Lesson from this trip: when hiking Colorado peaks in the summer, start early. Early early early!

Famous image of a woman on a mountain observation deck. 
Lightning struck within minutes of this picture being taken, badly injuring her. Don't put yourself in this position in CO in the summer, start early! 
Here's one guy who got off easy.

Post-glacial kettle-pond On the way to Engineer Peak.

A rock glacier on the north side of Engineer.

Landscape with sasquatch.


The area north of Durango, around Silverton where we did most of our San Juan explorage.

Afterward we headed into Silverton, a town which I absolutely fell in love with.  Why am I so smitten by this struggling mining town full of eccentrics?

- It's full of eccentrics.
- At over 9,000', only Leadville is higher.
- It has its own 100 miler (the Hardrock 100), most recently won by Hal Koerner. (Go there for photos if for no other reason.)
- Of course it's surrounded by amazing hikes and climbs.
- As if to lure me in, the first business I walked into (an old Victorian Hotel) was showing Blade Runner, my favorite movie of all time.  (Actually it kind of spooked me.  Reminds me of that one bit from Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.)
- Finally, this tiny town has not one by two restaurants that serve Rocky Mountain Oysters. (More later.)  One such establishment helped me trick my travel companion with a Jackalope, while serving us Durango Brewing Company's excellent blueberry beer.  (Does anyone know where we can get this in CA?!?!)

Rocky Mountain Oysters, which we euphemistically called "nuts".  Someone (not me) insisted on coming back a second night in a row for these, so delicious did she find them the first time -
which led to me on subsequent evenings to sleep uneasily in a protective position.

The next day, still in the San Juans, we headed up to Ice Lake, which may have been my favorite of the trip.

 If you told me the world was created starting from this place, I might not be surprised.

It was during this hike that my companion advanced her controversial theory that people of Germanic descent enjoy and are better at trail-running and hiking in temperate or boreal forest because we are after all a post-glacial forest people. My counterargument to her: say no to drugs.

This fellow was insultingly relaxed. 
As in, he actually relaxed at us seemingly to prove a point. 

The lake was pretty cool, so we took some video, although we dared not dawdle due to the hail and thunder.  Don't ask me what those people were doing camping up there.

We also took video of a less-relaxed marmot who lived by the lake and who was telling us what's what.

The next day we went up to Ouray (pronounced by locals "yeRAY" - people in Denver, take it up with them, not with me), where we hiked to the Bridge of Heaven.  Not as high as the area around Silverton and a little drier - this was actually in Uncompahgre National Forest.  Ouray is where much of the original True Grit was filmed.  It was also the inspiration for Galt's Gulch in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, although there was no solid gold dollar sign hanging over the valley.  (I did once see one near Cholame, CA once, but that's another story.)   A great brewpub, real live cowboys, and of course more trails.  Ouray seems to have developed better than Silverton.

I was sure glad to get above the gritty urban hustle and bustle of Ouray.  (Above, lower right.)

 The camera didn't believe how green these trees were.

I took a couple videos getting up near the top. When I was coming back down I decided to record a little bit of the run (sorry for the Blair Witch motion-sickness-prone among you). I had to stop and tie my shoe so as not to take the fast way back down to Ouray.

After we came back down we chillaxed by the car at the stream and looked at trees and clouds, after which time we headed up to Montrose.

Before leaving the San Juans, a geography note: Shotgun Peak in Rio Grande Natl Forest in the southeastern side of the San Juans looks very strange geologically.   See all those valleys east-southeast of the msa?  If you run across this article searching or by a news alert, and you have some clue, drop a comment - I'm curious as heck what's going on there.

Things change when you get north of Ridgway. You're out of the San Juans, and it gets very dry and flat and you feel like you're in New Mexico or Utah. Black Canyon of the Gunnison is there, and it is, as one hotelier put it, "'s a big canyon." If you're in the area see it, but I wouldn't go out of my way.

It is at this point you will notice a dearth of (good quality) pictures - because Dorothy lost her phone at the Mt. Elbert Trailhead (if you see it email me! LOL!).  The upside is that there are few pictures of me with a beard, which she made me grow.  The only record is me at the summit, which a nice fellow on top took and sent to me.

So I've bagged the #1 and #2 peaks in the lower 48.  SWEET.  I also saw a pika during the climb, way above the tree or even the grass-line.  We ended up racing back down as dark clouds gathered.  Why?  Thunder.  Start early!

From there, we headed to Boulder to see friends Dave and Jacqui. It was really good to catch up with them (thanks guys) and good to experience some actual heat. On the way from Elbert to Boulder we realized we'd never hike all the NFs in Colorado. For that matter I still haven't been to Rocky Mountain Natl Park! But Dave took me on a nice run up the Flatirons right next to Boulder.

This is the knife that cut Joe Simpson's rope - i.e. the guy from Touching the Void.
In Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder.

From there, someone was too good to drive back to San Diego, so I took the Princess to DIA, leaving poor me all by my lonesome. Actually there was cool stuff on the way back. I finally got to drive up to Pike's Peak (wanted to see how the car did at 14,000'; would've run but no time); checked out the Garden of the Gods (red rocks below); and then drove the amazingly empty strentch of I-25 from the Springs to Santa Fe. There are two things out there, Jack and Sh*t, and a whole lot of 'em at that.

A special note on Santa Fe:  what a cool little town.  Again, somehow I'd passed by or quickly through this place in the past, in retrospect to my detriment.  The old town and Plaza Mayor are gorgeous and Maria's New Mexico Kitchen is in the coolest little-big adobe with the tastiest food ever.

A church door in Santa Fe's old town.

It was damn hot south of Albuquerque even at night, so I shouldn't have been so surprised to see that sidewinder crawling across the highway in my headlights. Sorry guy.

At daybreak I got off the highway at Socorro to head over to the Very Large Array (VLA), a radiotelescope installation I've been obsessed with for a while.  If you've seen Contact or 2010 or Terminator Salvation, you've seen the VLA.

This was a wall of post-it notes from visitors who wanted to leave messages for the astronomers who run the place.  Below:  this was my own helpful note, after having seen Terminator Salvation. But I think I was too late because the place was completely unmanned. I didn't see a single person the whole time I was there, even in the (open) visitor center.

Originally after the VLA I was going to head down to Gila NF to pay my respects to the late Caballo Blanco, but there had just been a fire there and it's out of the way anyway; I'll get there some other time. I'm not sad since I ended up being amazed by the greenness of western NM/eastern AZ at this time of year. This is probably the most surprised I've ever been by the way a part of the U.S. looks. They also have cool (weird) names for towns. Right after this one, I went through Omega also.

After that I paid a visit to the Mogollon Rim in Sitgreaves Natl Forest, Arizona. It was so green that there was a fern-filled valley in one place (sorry, no pics) and plenty of awesome trails; I got in one last run on my last day.

Above:  the Mogollon Rim is that green stripe. It's the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The running was fantastic but pretty hot (90 F) even at 7500'; then again, let's not get carried away complaining since after all it was Arizona in August.

During the run I saw a fire starting on a distant peak, which by the time I was getting out of the Natl Forest toward Mesa had blossomed into a full-on fire. There was dry lightning all around. The way back included normal Phoenix traffic, the endless emptiness of I-8 west of Phoenix, a sandstorm in Yuma, the fires in the mountains here, and almost hitting a flying owl on I-8. It was like a fantasy novel or something. I fought the demon horde, then crossed the Empty Quarter, survived the smothering sands, then braved the land of fire and darkness. One does not simply drive into Mordor.)

Yuma. It might actually look better when you can't see it. 
Imagine all that grit in your teeth, which is what happens when you have to get out to pump gas.

Coming up the east side of the Peninsular Range on I-8.  The fires to the left (from my vantage point, south in the range, in Mexico) were much bigger than what remained of the San Diego County fires at that point, although they were less reported here.  The sunset they produced was spectacular.

This trip was a blast and was exactly what I needed to unwind after surgery.  Thanks to Dave and Jacqui for putting us up/putting up with us on Friday night, Jason for hiking tips, and Dorothy for being the best road trip buddy EVAR!

[Added later for your enjoyment if you travel in the area as well as my own later consultation:

- Dave Casler's blog, which has a huge amount of SW Colorado information.
- The Excellent 4 Corners Hikes of the Ancients.
- An amazing gallery by Matt Trappe from the 2012 Hardrock 100 Miler around Silverton.
- Hal Koerner's race report from his victory in that same race.

Thanks to those of you who put this information online to help the rest of us enjoy the area!]