Friday, August 31, 2007

Improving

Great workout last night.
Started with spin class with Amelia who is the only instructor who can push me into working at 90% (anaerobically - about 163 bpm for me). Normally I just automatically back off from that level and I've been trying to mentally get myself past that as my muscles can work that way - they're not failing at least not right away.

After class, I continued riding at 90-100 rpm for about 10 minutes, then took a break, changed shoes, and then used the weight machines that Dr. Greg Grant suggested I try to strengthen my right leg: The Calf Raise, and the Seated Hamstring Curl. I did 2 sets of 20 on each and then also did the Hamstring one for each leg.

Then still feeling great, I walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes at max incline (15 degrees).

Not terribly sore today though I did take a voltaren.

My resting pulse is down to 56 bpm - hooray.

What's really funny to me is that I'm getting in great shape, but my weight hasn't changed at all (not even my body fat %). What a hoot, and what a mistake to only focus on that.

Tomorrow I'm going to hike Rose Peak from Del Valle. I'm going to try to get there at 7am which means leaving at 6am - yikes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let's do Day "Hikes"

Apparently I can't let go of summiting Mt. Whitney. I've basically concluded that I'm going back next year on the main trail but I was checking what permits are still available for this year and there's quite a few day permis available for October. Well given that I'm comfortable climbing in rain and snow that sounds great (hope I don't regret saying that), so I went ahead and got a Day Hike permit for Sat. Oct 6th.

Now I've been on nearly all of that trail and I'm quite comfortable on it so traveling it at night will be fine. The only (ha) daunting thing is the distance: 22 miles, and of course my usual nemesis of AMS. The advantage of a day hike is no heavy backpack and I now know I can take the Diamox in much higher quantities (250mg 3x a day if necessary) and I can start 125mg 2x a day 3 days before I leave.

I think I need to do a couple of long hikes just to get a feel for how my feet will hold up, and I will be carting along a foot pharmacy to see what works in keeping them healthy. Things like moleskin and other blister padding, foot powder, towel, extra socks, maybe a knee brace just in case.

What's also nice is that I can take real food along with me. I'd love to be out on the mountain and just have a nice sandwich. You do have to be careful about mayonnaise (best to leave it off) as I've been ill off a good sandwich before that contained it, but the more palatable you can make food at altitude the better since appetite tends to disappear with the thin air. Cold pizza sounds good too.

I think I'll hike Rose Peak from Del Valle Lake at least once beforehand. This guy has good write ups on the hike, (http://www.coloniapress.com/hikes_trips.html) though he hasn't met the truly obsessed hikers that I have so I think he has a faulty idea of what is a death march. He's also under the impression that Mt. Diablo is hard to climb which I sure don't think it is.

--

Today I went to one of my Dr.'s (the one that has a lot of orthopedic experience) to ask about my hip pain and my dragging right foot. The hip pain is the biggest concern as I've been dealing with that for a couple of years now. He sent me off for an X-Ray and we'll meet back in 2 weeks. I need to remember to call ahead so I can pick up an X-Ray CD from Summit before that appt.

For the leg weakness he suggested using the 2 hamstring machines at the gym (the traditional one that I don't care for as it seems too large for me and one where you pull with your legs - will have to look for that one), and also the calf raise machine as it also exercises the tibialis too. If it gives me thunder calves then so be it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Road Home

In California if you have a ways to travel it can usually be as dull or entertaining as you wish depending on how much time you want to take. This time we opted for entertaining and went back via Santa Barbara and Monterey.

I did my undergrad degree at UCSB and I spent a total of 9 years there (it's a hard place to leave) and as a result have a fair bit of history there. Originally I wanted Terri and I to eat lunch at the famous Mexican food shack La Super Rica, but they were closed on Wed. This turned out to be quite fortuitous as then I tracked down where the Sojourner Cafe was, Some time ago the Soj was bought by a friend of mine Donna Mudge and I was thrilled to learn that not only did she still own it but that she was there that day. It was so cool to see her again, have her meet Terri, and spend a few minutes catching up (we of course exchanged contact info so we could continue the conversation when she's not working.) And the food was blissfully delicious. If you live near there I highly recommend it.

Since there is currently a major fire going on in the Los Padres forest Donna told me that she was telling others about our misadventures during the last major Santa Barbara fire. I stayed through that one and it's a whole blog entry on its own.

I also showed Terri what remains of La Conchita after a sizable part of the hillside came down on some of the houses there (very sobering sight), and where I used to live in Carpinteria and we walked out onto the beach there. There's an entire swimming area and ocean kayak rental place there now. I'm jealous. I swam there long before there was a swimming area and I would have loved to have a kayak available.

I also showed Terri Folk Mote Music though I was unsuccessful at trying to get her to buy a nice Kentucky Mandolin, and I showed her the elaborate Courthouse.

I also tried to find my old place in Goleta where I went through the fire, but was a block off so didn't succeed and we have to get going north to Monterey anyway.

With Monterey the series of happy accidents continued as we found a room at the Cannery Row Inn with a very gracious and helpful host named Mark who found us a place to eat at 9:30pm (Skooners - yum).

We then spent most of the next day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and it was fantastic as I haven't been there in years so I hadn't seen the new open water exhibits or the penguins. Blogger now features a video upload and we'll see if it works as I just love the video clips that I wound up with.

I tried uploading a video and it failed after uploading the entire thing. Guess I'll just put them on my site and put links in.

I need to do a run down of the fish in the Kelp Forest but that's a lot of work. Ones that you see are:
  • sturgeon
  • leopard shark
  • bat ray
  • chinook (king) salmon
  • rockfish of many kinds
  • 7 gill shark (the big ones)
  • spiny dogfish (looks like a sleek shark.)
  • anchovie school (the shimmering silver in the 1st Kelp Forest clip)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Maybe I need a new obsession

Well a different additional one that is. I love to climb things and I grew up backpacking so that's one way I did it, but I never really set out saying this is what I want even though I specifically went back to it after taking a long break from it.

But the reality is that:
1. I get altitude sickness really easily
2. It's hard to justify backpacking as being very good on your body

1. I've been reading a lot about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness - use Google, there's a ton of refs on it). And the reality is that if I wanted to continue to do mountaineering without being ill all the time I'd have to learn to stick with the limits of not going up more than 1000' in a day (from my experience I can do 1500'), and that's just horribly impractical especially if you work for a living. I like mountaineering but I could get a lot of skiing or biking done in the 4 days that it would take me to go up Mt. Whitney without being ill. I know it's contrary to the idea that you should just enjoy the mountains, but reality does assert itself eventually and I think about all the other fun things I could be doing while I wait around for my body to acclimate. I will continue to do it every so often but I think I'm really going to refocus on rock/ice climbing, skiing, and perhaps kayaking or swimming or skating or mtn biking or something else entirely.

2. There's always been this idea that you should be comfortable carrying around 1/3 your weight and that it's something you should work towards (sort of like a fitness holy grail). Trudging up the Mountaineer's Route I was mentally doing the math and realized that in my case that's like suddenly gaining 50 pounds (ok, my pack was 44 lbs), and it was like instantly becoming 200 pounds which can't possibly be good for one's joints (mine were ok, but I could feel them working harder). I now have a very real reminder that if I want to remain healthy that I should never weigh 200 pounds as that would be too much for my frame That lesson became all the more clear on the very strenuous downhill that had large downsteps - and I did have trekking poles which I made heavy use of.

I asked Terri "So backpacking really isn't very good for one's body is it?" She responded by saying how emotionally good for her it was to get a few days away which all I could say back was: "So it really isn't very good for you huh?" She laughed, but pointed out how important the emotional aspect was. Well maybe to her. I like the physical challenge of climbing. I do love the views, but I really don't have a compelling need to escape humanity, or a compelling need to suffer - at least in this way. :) Maybe I find it easier to escape humanity as I'm often alone exercising in situations where I probably shouldn't be by myself (like when I crash my mtn bike and get a concussion or just fall running and rip my knee open and have to stumble a mile down Mt Tam - so I need more supervision than I get - I'm pretty good at misadventure unfortunately.)

Let's hear It for Plan B

Well the plan was to climb Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route.
As usual things turned out a little differently.

We did indeed climb the Mountaineer's Route up to Lower Boy Scout Lake, which is something we've done before (I keep forgetting what a tough climb and descent it is). But once we got up there Terri was ill and though she did recover, she wasn't looking forward to repeating the same scenario 2 or 3 times as we progressed up the mountain. I was doing so-so and could tell I would get more ill over time so I was agreeable to changing plans.

So instead we:
  • spent the next day at LBSL bouldering and scrambling (it's an unheralded bouldering paradise)
  • descended the next day and traveled back via Santa Barbara and Monterey
In short, it was surprisingly - a blast.

This will have to be a whole series of blog entries as if I try to fit it in in one go, I'll never finish.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

BiFriendly - Aug 14

We had a great BiFriendly meeting on Mon Aug 14.

Topics included

  • Bi men romancing bi men - why it doesn't seem to happen that often
  • Cautionary tale of stealing your neighbors wireless internet access - and us giving theories about what happened.
  • A photograph or an image is Artificially Induced Color Reality - and I feel very remiss in not remembering to bring up Magritte's painting Ceci ne c'est pas un Pipe
  • Chicken John running for SF mayor
  • Hi Tech Pen
  • Men marking territory
  • Lesson in writing Chinese charaters - traditional vs. simplified
  • Birthday greetings to Richard
And more. Hope you can join us next time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Off To Whitney

Tomorrow we leave for Whitney and I'm really excited about it. What's weird is for about a year I've been on the verge of giving up on mountaineering as I very easily get altitude sick (AMS) and I've been trying all sort of things to cope with it with limited success.

Last June I was at Shasta and was sick at 8000' and was really depressed about it as I was sure I had to give it up and move on. Then 24 hours passed and I was fine and was even able to hike up to 10000' . what's mysterious to me is that at Whitney last year I stayed sick for more than 24 hours but I didn't stay at the same elevation, and I went up more than 1500'. When I hit 1500' it was like hitting a wall and I should have stopped there but stupidly continued up another 500'.

So this time we are going to be changing elevation each day, but only in small increments (well sort of.)

Portal 8365
Lower Boy Scout Lake 10300 (big jump, but can't be helped)
Upper Boy Scout Lake 11500
Iceberg Lake 12500
summit day 14505 (new measurement)

Also though it's not supposed to be a factor in AMD, I'm in great shape as I've been attending spinning classes regularly. The only thing I haven't been doing a lot of is carrying heavy pack, but I've been rationalizing that by the fact that we're keeping the backpacking days short, and the spinning class does a lot of arm work.

Of course as I'm writing this I'm avoiding packing the pack though it's all laid out now.
Anyway I'm feeling very confident about the climb.

[unrelated]
Hurricane Dean is starting to sound serious. I wish everyone in its path the best.

Silly addendum:

Right after weighing my pack (40 pounds sans water - but with 12 pounds of food and bear canister) I opened a fortune cookie that said "You will be free from the heavy burden you have been carrying." Er, not for long. Maybe I should take that to mean free of the effects of MS or of AMS. Maybe, but honestly it was literally true, as I had just taken the pack off. I can already feel some muscles that haven't been getting much use are going to get a lot more over the next few days. Good thing it's mostly food as that will get lighter. Good thing the summit day is only with a light day pack.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Billboards - what were they thinking?

Maybe the title should be Car Ads - What were they thinking?

The one that drives me just nuts is the Chevrolet Cobalt ads where the car is yellow or red.

Cobalt while not blue naturally, turns blue under heat and there has long been a bright blue pigment called cobalt. (ref: http://www.chemsoc.org/viselements/pages/cobalt.html). Sometimes I think advertisers think they can just change the meaning of words just by using them repeatedly. Verizon claims again and again that it's the most reliable network and never has presented any evidence supporting that. They just proclaim it louder. In Chevrolet's case, they just keep making the non-cobalt colored Cobalt bigger and brighter. In my eyes, it just makes them look all the more stupid and they're working at making some Americans go along with them.

But Chevrolet isn't the only one with surreal marketing campaigns. Even my favorite Toyota is not exempt from putting lots of money into something really odd. In the SF Bay Area there are billboards that show a gas gauge with the needle on F(ull) saying "There's no E in Toyota." I have these visions of every driver passing that sign shouting "THERE'S NO F EITHER!!!" Who thought of that and are they just deliberately yanking our chains? (And would you believe Google has no matches for "There's no E in Toyota"? (Well there is now.)

Then there are the ad campaigns that are not stupid at all, but astonishingly brazen. SF is the gay male capital of the world if there ever was one. Abercrombie and Fitch is a clothing company that markets using just simply gorgeous, well muscled male models and A&F clearly gets a healthy income from gay men. For months/years on a very prominent billboard in SF, the clothing on the models got less and less and in recent months the clothing disappeared entirely and all you saw was a hunky male chest. Which was really funny. Whisps of clothing have returned less we forget that they actually are technically in the clothing business and not the skin trade (we think).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Predatory Lending - a detailed look

Like any homeowner, I get lots of refinance offers that I don't need. The difference is that before it gets recycled, I'm prone to read the fine print to spot the catch. Over the years these offers have been getting more and more outrageous the closer to bursting the housing bubble got. Now that there is no longer a bubble and foreclosure rates are increasing I'm still getting them and they are just amazing.

Personally these days I think it's safer to arbitrarily wander into any car dealership that deal with these loans as you don't have to be nearly as savvy. Interestingly though the mortgage lenders are taking a page from the car salesmen: Emphasize a low per month payment. The thing that makes these riskier than buying a car is that these are "teaser rates" they are going to almost certainly go up as only when the market interest rates are falling will the rates go down. What's really cool for the lender is that with Adjustable Rate mortgages that are tied to a standardized index, they can honestly say they don't know what the rates are going to do (how convenient).

So I get this offer from "Customer Service Center" (won't even use their real name - hmmm)
in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

What caught my eye immediately is that they capitalized the word "FIXED." Now if you're familiar with these offers they almost always are Adjustable Percentage Rate (APR) as that way they can make the payments low to begin with, Fixed Interest Rate loans are almost always more expensive looking to begin with as they don't change over the life of the loan. Could this really be a Fixed Rate offer? The answer is "Yes, BUT(!)"

The Program is called "FIXED Pay" and it quotes some essentially meaningless guesstamated percentages on the front. Turning over the p age and looking at the fine print tells a very different story that makes you want to hang a "DANGER: Go Back!" sign on it if you could.
This is a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. [that's good so far] Initial payment and APR are set for 5 years only [Er, WHAT?] After the first 5 years, rate and fully amortized payment are based on the fully index 30-year fixed rate [it doesn't specify if they mean today's rate or the rate in 5 years]. The initial payment rate and payment reference is a minimum payment option which is fixed for the first five years and will result in deferred interest. (!!)

That's just totally scary. It's one thing to do that with a student loan (I did that) but this means that the longer you pay the minimum, the more you will owe on a house that is probably too expensive for you anyway. You are basically building no equity in the house. You are essentially renting it while still taking on the risk and hassle of ownership with none of the payoff. This would only work if the value of the house increases in the next 5 years and it ain't gonna. After 5 years, your payments will be more than what you would have paid if you'd been able to get a fixed rate loan. The lenders win and you lose big time.

Financial Butterfly Wing Flapping

I've been meaning to post a detail rant (it's my blog and I can rant since nobody pays attention anyway) about a Predatory Lending offer that I received (my revenge for them sending them to me), and I probably will still do so but this is growing beyond a simple ripoff. Entire economies are teetering because of the foreclosure rate and I had no idea until it started to happen (I'm no economist, I just get pissed off when I see people being ripped off.)

Here's one ref:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_financial_crisis

and a better one:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6943083.stm

Because these lendors got home buyers to go for a loan they simply could not afford when the rates went up, the default rate has gone way up. Easy to see but a lot of that debt got repackaged and resold around the globe. I guess that's one way to share the pain but it's likely to have an effect on the perceived value of any US obligation. Ok that's an overstatement, but it's quite a lesson on how one's own selfish/selfserving actions can cause real harm to a whole lot of others.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reality Complicates

I've been working on a blog entry that is from some amateur observations of human behavior at the online internet poker table. It's been really fascinating and a little disturbing, and the curve ball (and what makes it completely amateur is that I got included inadvertently and it's messing with my little theories. So I'll continue working on the post but there's a new twist that I'll need to account for.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tilting at Avatars?

Full Tilt Poker is a fascinating place for psychology. Seriously.
I've been enjoying a particular group that hangs out at the Play Money 5/10 Pot Limit level. They're very friendly and talkative an occasionally get around to playing poker too. However there is one guy (an assumption) that shows up that has a really short fuse and gets into arguments with people at the table. Actually arguments is not the correct word. He starts spewing virile and threatening people One time it got to the point that we all agreed to "mute" him so we couldn't see his typing. It was like a group shunning and it worked very well.

But that only goes so far. The other night he was yelling at the perceived women at the table calling them some really hurtful things and any perceived male that intervened got of course called a f.a.g.g.e.t [sic] (how anyone gets the time to include periods in their name calling is really beyond me.)

What's interesting to me is that while there really are people behind the pictures/avatars, one really has no way of knowing who they are and yet it's really easy to make some completely unjustified assumptions about them. Female avatars and female names are assumed to be female and male ones similar. I really like the guys (a fair assumption) who start flirting with the very busty female avatars. Hello? Those are pictures - you're flirting with a picture, one that the person did not even create.

This guy is behaving in such a classic alcoholic/abusive way as after he has an explosion, he then apologizes and makes nice. There's even a very talented young woman (I know she's a woman) who will listen to him, take his shit and forgive him and even talk us into unmuting him. Can you say codependent? I don't think they know each other in real life (or at least I hope so).

So last night (hope I finish this today) things took an unusual (in my eyes) turn. It's common for the chicken (my avatar) to be threatened with being turned into dinner and another avatar who is a kitty started teasing the chicken. "Here chicky chicky" This was all pretty amusing and this guy started to defend the chicken, puedo threatening the cat to stay away from the chicken. (Yes really this is at an online poker table in a little itty bitty chat window - you can create a world out of anything I swear.)

Now WHY would he defend the chicken? The only things I can think of are (a) the chicken is perceived male and the cat could be perceive female (b) the chicken is now known and well liked at the table - though the cat's known too (c) he was seated in between the two avatars and it seemed like the thing to do.

This does complicate things for me as now there's something of a "relationship" though I have no idea what it is. The next time he goes off the chicken may actually be in a position to talk sense to him or he will be even more angry at the chicken for not being loyal. (I'm going to have to brush up on my male bonding code.)