Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter: A Wonderous Phenomenon

I've talked about this theme so often I forget that I haven't written it here.

Today I trotted down to my local bookstore (Books Inc.) and cheerfully paid full price (I think - I didn't check) for the new Harry Potter book. This is despite being offered it as a loan. The reason is that I so much want to support this endeavor.

Do you realize that kids are going crazy over a series of BOOKS! The Nintendo/Nickelodeon ADHD generation can't wait to get their hands on a book. How cool is that? As a bookworm, I must admit to being a little jealous, but honestly, they need this more than I or my bookish peers do and we take part anyway (and we don't have to harrass our parents to buy it.)

Now I need to find time to read this tome before someone gives away the details to me. Now that's one thing I'm really jealous of. Getting the time to read. I also regret having eyes that fatigue easier, but I will get absolutely no sympathy for that as I didn't need glasses till I turned 40 and was no longer able to compensate for an astigmatism in both eyes. The challenge for me now is to adapt. Accept that I can't focus as well and keep getting better glasses and stop fighting the issue. My father has demonstrated how pointless it is to fight reality and work with it instead. Too bad there's not a gym for your eyes, though my ophthalmologist seems to think that eye exercises don't seem to do a lot of good anyway.

Even more spam humor: Anatrim the ground-breaking

This is the very same spam as before, but they clearly had their top editor work on it.
Oh and I just love the claim that people write to them. Clearly not in English.

My fav is still the "world-spread community" Though "less eating insanity" is pretty
memorable as well.
Seize the opportunity! Anatrim The up-to-the-moment and most
delighting product for weighty people is now available As seen on Oprah

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Plenty of thanx to you for the awesome stuff & the first-class
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Check out Anatrim, and you shall add yourself to the world-spread
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Click right here to see unbreakable Anatrim deal we're so proud to propose!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Predatory Lending

About three+ years ago I realized that something like the following article I knew would be written and it still is heartbreaking.

LIVING THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE FORECLOSURES ON THE RISE: As the housing market softens, a combination of consumer naivete and aggressive lending means owners with subprime loans are increasingly getting sucked down a financial black hole

These aggressive lenders knew this was coming. They knew they were setting people up for financial ruin. It makes me angry that they were allowed to mislead people and I really think they should be rotting in jail for it. Sure there was consumer naivete (a lot of it in the Bay Area housing market that looked like it would never fall though you knew it had to), but there were lenders lining up for the chance to take advantage of them. How do these rip off artists live with themselves?

How do you tell someone that they shouldn't buy a house when there is some shyster telling them that they can and is offering the front money to make the dream possible?

They offer an adjustable rate mortgage with a super low starting rate and a monthly payment that is made to appear low, but it turns out that they're paying either interest only or less than that. In a rising housing market this is risky, but ok. In a flat or falling housing market this is financial suicide. If the value of the house drops, you will end up owning more than what you've been paying in as you have no equity in the house. All the while, the adjustable rate keeps adjusting upward towards market interests rates and the homeowner's payment goes up, and surprise the homeowner finds themselves trapped.

If the homeowner can afford the increases ok, but homeowners who can afford such increases are not using subprime lenders and risky loans. The "system" only works if the value of the house goes up (or if the homeowner's income goes up) and they can then refinance it to a better loan. This is the dream that the lenders sell them. And it's for this that I think they should have to walk over well heated coals. They knew this would happen. Grrrrrrrr.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Poker Strategy

Oh cool another boring poker post.

I think I've played enough practice poker play to come up with a basic strategy that works for me at least at the 5/10 No Limit w/ $300 Bet limit Cap per hand.

I experimented with generally staying in until the flop as long as it wasn't too expensive. This was I could see if a poor hand might turn into a full house, or three of a kind or even 2 pair. But honestly I seemed to over all lose more money that way that if I promptly folded poor hands. Sure I'd lose out on the occasional good hand but there were plenty of really good hands to be hand without the so-so hands costing me extra money.

Criteria for staying in (not folding)
  • a pair
  • at least one face card or an Ace
  • both cards same suit (potential flush)
  • both cards sequential or nearly so (potential straight)

Criteria for staying in for the Turn card and the River
  • Is there a better possible hand?
  • Is someone betting like they have it?
  • How expensive is staying in?

If there's some moron who's going in all the time even before the flop just sit out till they run out of money & go away. If this doesn't happen in 5 minutes go to a different table. Telling them to knock it off via chat sometimes works.

If I clearly have the best hand and it's only the flop, lure other bettors in gradually. Bet 10 to see who wants to play. Then next round bump it to 70-100. Those with a semi-decent hand will be tempted to continue. Now they've invested something in the hand. Go All-In. Wise players will fold, but once one has sunk that much money into something it's really hard to do and if one player calls, you will often get more than one and you walk away with a very nice pot, and folks are either impressed or making amusing comments about cooking the chicken in a pot or both. (Yoshi uses a chicken as an avatar.)

Though if it's only the flop, you can lose as there are still two other cards to be dealt. You really have to watch out for potential full houses as they beat regular flushes and straights. If you've already All In'ed then you just have to accept it which is why it's nice to wait till the River before an All-In.

More spam humor: Anatrim: the earth-shaking (?)

I decided to take a look at the text of one of those "Obesity is dangerous. Stop it!" spams.

Oh it's good, even better than autogenerated nonsense poetry that some programs are so strangely good at. It even has the "attracting lose flesh" reference that's so, er, inspired. Bolding is mine as you might guess.
Profit by the opportunity! Anatrim The very up-to-date & most
attracting lose flesh product available

Can you count up all the situations when you told yourself you would do
any thing for being delivered from this terrible pounds of fat?
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earth-shaking, you can achieve healthier mode of life and become really
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I had always led a cool private life until last year my girlfriend
told me I was obese and in a great want of keeping eye on my health. ...

Click right here to scan invincible Anatrim bargain we are so proud to

One can only hope that this is machine translation (which I oh so dearly love) and not something someone actually wrote. The text of this email has survived for months which is amazing all in itself. Is there really truly no one around them that doesn't understand English well enough to see how strangely it's worded? I mean HTF does one even parse "attracting lose flesh product"?

However now that I look at it, machines don't usually confuse incredible and invincible unless it was spelled so poorly that the spell checker guessed wrong. In that light "attracting" may have been intended to be attractive. "Lose flesh" is still way loopy but probably was meant to be weight loss. But let's hear it for "attracting lose flesh" - that's priceless.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The BMI (Body Mass Index)

I must admit I dislike the BMI (Body Mass Index), which is a ratio of your weight vs your height ( It does not take into consideration how muscular you are or how in shape you are or you strength or what your body fat % is. A truly buff person (not me) will come out as obese. While I don't like the sites that talk about it as they're out to prove the obesity epidemic is a myth and I don't believe that - it is a problem. But this site ( among others lists several famous people who are technically overweight if you use BMI alone.

Now in all fairness, the BMI has me tagged correctly. I am slightly overweight. However as I get more and more in shape the BMI is not going to reflect that and in fact it may show it as getting worse as I'm gaining muscle and that's heavier than fat.

One site ( even says that the BMI is a calculation of your body fat %. Is that right? How could that be? Though the BMI computed for me now is not too far off the mark, when I gain muscle, my body fat % goes down (according to my Tanita scale), but my BMI goes up.

Now in all fairness, NIH does have a page talking about the limitations of the BMI here:

First Spin Class

I went to my first spin class yesterday. It was fun but I have a feeling the instructor was being kinder than is typical (Rick thought so when I told him about it). I definitely had a great workout and was definitely whooped, but for me, walking up a treadmill at full incline is more work. My criteria for that has become: when I sweat on my scalp - which is rare but consistently happens when I'm on a treadmill at either a run or a hike with full 15% incline.

The spin class approached that but didn't really hit it. Though my leg muscles were definitely tired and it's not like I felt I could do more

At a different time, I did spend about 1/2 an hour on one of the spin bike adjusting it and just getting used to it. I'm really glad I did that as there are at least four different ways to adjust it and I wouldn't have had time for all that during the class.

The pedals have clips on one side and cleats on the other and my cleats do fit it which makes the uphills so much nicer.

The work out featured lots of intervals, speed work, and hill climbing where you stand up in the pedals. There is a computer on the bike to keep track of you cadence and the instructor will often say what the target cadence is.

It's been about 20 hours and my arms are twitchy, which is making it hard to type.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Trash Talking

As I'm sure everyone in the vicinity has heard. Waste Magament, the trash/recycling contractor for the county I live in: Alameda County is in the midst of an ongoing labor dispute. Stories of people's trash not getting picked up for 2 weeks are all over the news.

What I find a little more than embarrassing is that our trash is getting picked up. So why is my trash somehow more deserving that someone's in East Oakland? Sure it's a mostly white neighborhood, but I think the important point is more of social class. Regardless of race, it's a professional, mostly white-collar neighborhood. Average income is while not stratospheric, is likely above average and it appalls me that money is what has the clout in this country. That with limited "resources" (I believe the correct term is "scabs"), somehow my neighborhood ranks higher than East Oakland. Happy as I am to have my trash etc picked up, that really bites and sends a horrible message. And what really sucks is that it 's not like there's a picket line that I can't cross or something.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Spam Humor

At work I have to check our spam filter for anything legit that gets caught in it. Also email to is only very loosely filtered, so as a result I see all sorts of goofy lost-in-translations.

I just got this one:

Hello my friend!

I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here ( are bad.

Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..

My dog and I are still alive :)

kill himself _and_ eat his dog? In that order? Impressive.

But that doesn't even come close to my all time reoccurring favorite:
Obesity is Dangerous - STOP IT!!
Oh terribly sorry - I'll stop it right now. I just hate it when I do that.
Who writes these things? This one in particular comes up over and over again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Dad should be a Blogger

My father should be a blogger. He's not, and never will be. He types poorly and his hands shake too much to even write with a pen much (likely Essential Tremor). He even dislikes writing checks which creditors do not like. But he loves to extemporize, theorize and solve the world's problems (something I don't do here - the most I ever do is solve dog problems and that's in the dogs' blog), and it would give him a place to rant instead of taking it out on innocent bystanders. It would do him so much good - sigh.

There are medications you can try, but his doctor didn't think they'd help much. There's a line in this reference that made me laugh:
All people have some degree of tremor during movement. This shaking normally involves mainly the hands. Stress, fatigue, anger, fear, caffeine, and cigarettes may temporarily worsen this type of tremor.
He has not one, not two, but Every Single One of those risk factors! Sigh.
Oh they left stubbornness out of the list. That should be the first one.

Temperature control

When I'm in bed and I feel too hot my natural inclination is to stick a leg out from under the covers. Unlike a lot of other folks this mostly just results in my still being too hot and I have a cold leg too. Conversations with other folks conclude that well it should work and you're just weird. Well ok.

I didn't think too much about it until a 60 minutes interview with the long distance cold water swimmer Lynne Cox ( (
and they said a researcher had a theory that she is able to tolerate extremely cold water as her body shifts more warmth to her core when the temperature drops. My mind immediately went back to being too hot in bed with a cold leg. If there's any truth to the shifting of body warmth, then I have my answer and maybe I'm not such a freak after all (or maybe I am).

After listening this I decided to try the next time I got too hot to tossing the cover off my core and that seemed to help better though still not perfect. Perfect is waking up enough to change covers.

[Aside] what is it with world class women athletes named Lyn/Lynn/Lynne? Lynn Hill is a famous world class rock climber ( I'm perpetually confused.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More FTP Poker

Now that "Yoshi" has some savings of play money, I feel more comfortable trying out various strategies. My usual style is to often fold, but it it's not gonna cost me over $50, I'll stay in long enough to see the flop (first 3 cards on the table) as once in a while you can get these fluke full houses and win with nearly nothing in your hand That works ok but only if I can really get used to folding good hands if there is a better one out there and they're betting like they have it (and you're pretty sure they're not blowing smoke)

I was playing at a Pot Limit table (no limit but you have to start with $1000 and you can't bet over what's in the pot already (in other words you can only double it which is usually just fine.) My generally decent hands usually lost out to better hands and I soon ran through the $1000.

Tail between legs I went back to my usual haunts of 5/10 no limit $300 Cap per round. Lost another $700 or so, switched tables and went back to folding often and bidding my time It paid off. Made over $2000 in one round. won some more and came out ahead for the evening.

It's tough having to be able to fold when you have over $100 in, but that means not losing another $200. No sense in making more of a donations than you need to.

It's all about patience and lots of it.

Yoshi got called a cockerel (mean rooster? I should look it up) - it was pretty funny.

Other people also have a tough time walking away from a hand they're invested in, so I've developed this style of starting the betting low and then incrementally increase it and then "all in" (or close) at the end. Many get sucked right into it (I know I have many times.) When it works it often pays huge rewards. It may take 200-300 of folding but it often pays off handsomely. Of course luck has a equal say in the matter. So being lucky helps.

One of the more clever sharks often seemed to take the first round up to 50 or so which makes the pot larger. That gets expensive though.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Full Tilt Poker - Beware of monkeys offering advice :)

I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but I've been playing fake money online poker at Full Tilt Poker under Corgi Yoshi's name and he's been doing quite well. You get to pick an "avatar" to represent you so his is, of course, a chicken. FTP is one of the few online casinos that have a Mac version of their program available.

You also can chat with the other players and that's just as much or more fun than playing the game. Especially that Yoshi is getting more well known in the tables we frequent (5/10 No Limit CAP Hold 'em). Calling a game with a $300 maximum per hand "No Limit" is something of a misnomer but the Cap keeps him from losing a ton of $ at a time, but when he wins he can still do very well (unlike in Limit games where we just seem to get slowly poor.)

He can also keep notes on other players so he can remember them when he seems them again. But people remember the chicken now (probably because the chicken does win often). But the chicken is learning to play poker properly so he folds a fair bit - probably not as much as one does in real money mode, but frequent enough to be noticed.

So last night we were playing, and in comes this monkey saying "I'm taking over now Yoshi" I didn't have any notes on him, but he was familiar and clearly knew Yoshi the chicken. Next hand I folded and he was saying "You folded!" "Er, well I had a bad hand." I folded the next one and the monkey started saying things like "Come'on play." The next one I had a playable hand (KQ) so stayed in for the flop and he was saying "Stay with me Yoshi." The turn card came up and it became immediately apparent that a much better hand was possible (more than one - there was clearly a possible straight on the table and the cards were low and not face cards) and I would typically have folded, but Yoshi had over $30k in "savings" so could afford to lose some for entertainment. I said "I am going to lose." He said "Stay with me Yoshi." I replied "I'm making a donation." Sure enough someone all-in'ed and just to humor monkey I called (and so did he). River card appears and someone else wins.

I told him "I'm sending you a bill for that" which amused several people at the table. He said "I saw your hand, it was good" "Yeah in a different universe." (One gets the impression that monkey isn't the best poker player). He said "you have to believe in yourself" I ask "what do belief and poker have to do with each other?" He said "idk" (I don't know). Thanks monkey some inspriational speaker you are (should have told him that.) This continued this way for the next hour or so. He called Yoshi a chicken and I said "Well I am a chicken" Someone else (I think a lizard who is a pretty good player) mentioned that other parts of the world consider monkey brains a delicacy (this is in reference to people threatening to eat the chicken), so monkey (we used his username actually) became known as Monkey Brain, and we continued to razz each other while we both lost money. I think I lost 1K total - actually it was considerably more until I got tired of it and started playing more correctly and gained a lot of it back.

Monkey Brain doesn't actually know that Yoshi has over $30k (I only play with $2k or so, as $30k kinda gives lie to the chicken image). Maybe I'll tell him next time. He implies that you can't win if you don't take chances. I do take chances, but ones where I'm likely to win (choose your battles). And Monkey Brain is clearly taking the wrong chances.

One hard poker lesson I've learned is that you have to be willing to walk away from what would normally be a decent hand if it's clear someone else has a better one. Over time, you can learn if someone likes to bluff or not.

It occurs to me that a fun user name would be "poulette merde" with a chicken avatar, but FTP probably wouldn't let you have a name with merde in it. They wouldn't let me have yoshitrek as it contained "shit" which I didn't even realize until it told me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Whitewater Kayaking Class

This last weekend I was repeatedly dunked underwater, crashed into a bridge, and thrown from a cliff into a river with a throng of drunk, cheering spectators looking on. What a great time.

I was in a kayak and was taking California Canoe and Kayak's Intro to Moving Water. This was on the American River pretty much within the general Sacramento metropolitan area (hence the drunken onlookers).

First of all, I've spent next to no time around a river that's part of a major urban area. I'm originally from LA area where the "rivers" are concrete so we went to the beach. As such, I was unprepared for what an extraordinary party scene it is. Small flotillas of floating house parties. Huge inflatable rafts that I started calling inflatable yachts. And then us kayakers. Fortunately even though there was an inherit clash of cultures (?) - the paddlers and the alcohol imbibing floaters, the river was plenty big enough to accommodate all of us and everyone got along fabulously.

We also did our part to provide entertainment. The dunked underwater reference was part practice in what to do if your kayak capsizes. This is good that we did this as I then proceeded to capsize my boat 4 more times during Saturday. Since doing the classic rolling is a more advanced skill, they taught us first how to exit the kayak when underwater (there's a "spray skirt" that you have to detach, and secondly a "T-rescue" where you can partly pull yourself up on the bow of another kayak and then can snap your hips (seriously - it really works) to get upright again.

I was apprehensive about learning to do this and admitted it so they broke it down into steps for me. The first time they rolled me over and almost immediately rolled me back. I had neglected to put on my nose plug and had water shoot up my sinuses and I was very disoriented when he brought me back up. This did not bode well, but surprisingly it got easier. While practicing the nose plug did help but I realized that if I dumped accidentally it might make me feel constricted and panicky so I took it off after practicing.

There were two rescue skills that they taught.

The first one was how to exit the kayak underwater. While upside down, you have to bend forward to pull on the strap on the spray skirt to pull it free from the kayak and then you place you hands on the gunnels and push yourself away from the boat and then let the PFD (Personal Flotation Device) float you to the surface. I found that when upside down I had no idea which way was up (I would close my eyes usually), but the PFD certainly "knew" and would lift me to the surface.

The second was a tandem rescue or T-rescue. You capsize and while upside down raise your hands outside of the water and tap your boat. I felt like I should be calling out "Garcon (Waiter). Oh Garcon!." Then within about 5 seconds an instructor will have raced at Mach 9 over to your boat and taps your boat with his bow. This tells you what side they're on. You then reach up and grasp the bow and pull up enough to where you can rest you hands and head on the bow. Then you snap your hips towards the side furthest away from the rescuer and most times you will find yourself upright and feeling quite surprised. If you were to start to run out of air then you can always exit the above way.

I later capsized 4 times and got plenty of practice. Ironically this did wonders for my confidence though I did trade in tippy boat (a Kangaroo Ammo which is not supposed to the tippy (I think I could more successfully have paddled an egg), and then on Sunday used a Kangaroo Burn which was perfect and I did not dump it.

Before all that fun we started with the more pedestrian, but essential topic of paddling technique.
There is the
- forward stroke - the paddle is held nearly vertical you should be able to see a watch if you had one on the higher positioned wrist)
- sweep stroke (to encourage your boat to change directions - the paddle is more horizontal and enters the water slightly further out from the boat.
- stern backwards stroke the adjust the direction that your boat is facing (I did this a lot and automatically since I remember it from canoeing)
- forward stroke at an angle (usually used with "edging" see below)

What is an eddy?
Where two different currents meet. Cause the water to act somewhat unpredictably. Current that are not part of the main downstream current often flow somewhat upstream or in a circle.

Entering eddies (crossing eddies)
from quiet water to main current
  • maintain Speed
  • enter at an Angle that points the boat towards upstream without being straight upstream
  • Look (downstream) where you want to go when it's time to enter the main current and the boat will start to turn.
  • lift the upstream Edge
Exiting eddies
  • "moon the current" (point your butt slightly towards the eddy current it by lifting the downstream edge
  • turn upstream as you enter the eddy
  • I think of it as like a ski stop
Edge control
  • lift you knee and drop your opposite hip and the edge on the lifted knee side will lift and the edge on the dropped hip side will engage the river.
  • use it to move down the river
  • use it to turn (I am not good at this)
  • use it to keep boat from spinning (semi ok at this)
  • forward stroke paddle on same side as edge (this is counter intuitive and has to be done at speed to work.)
Moving down the river
As I said I dumped the boat 4 times and learned a ton
#1 being don't panic
#2 ask for T-rescue first if feasible
#3 after about 5-10 seconds just exit the boat and swim it to shore

Once out of the boat, if you find that you're being pulled down the river, go on your back feet first to keep from crashing into rocks (didn't get to practice this. :)

[continuing on]

Out of the 4 times I capsized on Saturday 2 were exit the boat and thw other 2 were T-rescues. The first one happened as we were practicing preliminary T-rescues and I hadn't gotten the T-rescue technique down yet (I'd successfully done it only once before), so I got to do my first exit the kayak and I was so thrilled that I could do it with keeping my wits still working and without panicking. I told them that I was very happy that they had gone over how to do that before starting the T-rescue stuff. Taylor said "believe it or not there is an order to what we teach and that's why."

The next time was during our practicing of crossing eddy lines (from eddy to main current). I had done this successfully several times but let myself drive further down the river and had to work pretty hard to paddle back to the group so I may have been a little tired. I paddled out towards the current and the kayak turned sideways in the eddy.

Before I had a chance to fix it I was knocked off balance by a wave and found myself upside down in the water. I raised my hands out of the water, tapped the boat and in a matter of a couple of seconds I felt the tap of a kayak bow. I reached up and grabbed the bow and pulled my head above water with both hands. I then rested my head on the bow, and then was reminded that I should snap my hips and after a couple of tries, did so.

By that time I was fairly far down the river so decided to just hang out and wait for folks as they were about to start heading down themselves. This departure was delayed a bit as I wasn't the only one to "take a swim," but they eventually got going and I rejoined them as we paddled down the river for basically the first time.

I found that every stroke the Ammo boat would spin slighly in the other direction. Now these are river play boats and as such they are designed to turn on a water droplet. The Ammo is a bit wider which should make it more stable but now that I think about it, the width made it very difficult for me and my short torso to hold the paddle vertical for the forward stroke, and as such was in effect using a hybridized stroke that wound up pushing the boat sideways as much as forward. So I zig zagged down the river burning lots of energy and noticing that others were having an easier time of it, but I was still having a great time.

Now all of this is on class 1 water. Class 2 is some movement and splash over the rocks and we were coming up on some The key in this type of water is to keep the boat straight with the current and commit to paddling through it. I got through this ok but then capsized at an eddy line where the water was acting strangely. Fortunately Taylor was right there and with some work at getting the boat perpendicular to his, I was able to right the boat. I was thrilled that I was able to do this but noticed that the boat had still taken on a fair bit of water so we went off to shore to dump it out but the shoreline was pretty hard to reach due to trees so he managed todumpe it out while on his boat by holding mine over his head (this is a pretty wirey guy which made it all the more impressive.

This put me behind the others so one the way back I unintentionally had an instructor (Taylor) all to myself. So we wended our way down and he pointed out the "take out" spot which was just beyond a car bridge and a pedestrian bridge.

Bridges can bite

Now there are several objective hazards on the river that we discussed:
  • rocks
  • trees
  • other objects such as fishing lines
  • other boats and swimmers
  • other kayakers
  • and they belatedly realized they neglected to mention: bridge pylons
And they also talked about something that I know well from mountain biking: Object Fixation and Look where you want to go. This means that if you see something you don't want to hit don't look at it but instead the place you want to go. If you stare at what you're trying to avoid odds are very good that you will hit it. Now I may know this on the ground but it doesn't always translate to brand new circumstances that are sort of inheritly interesting (wow, look at that) and don't appear to be a problem at first glance.

The car bridge supports were large and didn't change the current at all and presented no problem. Unfortunately this left me completely unprepared for the pedestrian bridge 100 feet later. The pedestrian bridge was supported by pylons that were vertical steel griders about one foot square. The effect of this relatively small footprint support was that the water was rushing around it and I of course looked right at it (wow cool) and found myself being drawn right at the pylon though it hadn't occurred to me that this could be a problem, and was pretty much immediately sucked down into a capsize.

There is another precept when dealing with hazards that I accidentally did correctly. Fall into the hazard (rock, tree, pylon) as if you get pinned against a hazard the other direction your boat is just going to fill up with water and you may not be able to move which could potentially be a Very Bad Thing. So "Love the rock/tree/pylon." I had grabbed onto the pylon and wasn't letting go as it was keeping my head above water (I'm sideways at this point).

Taylor in order to get me out, pulled me off of the pylon and I was instantly upside down in somewhat turbulent water. I'd had enough, so didn't even try asking for a T-rescue, but just exited the boat. I came up several feet past the bridge. Taylor took the boat, and then I got to swim to shore which was fun for the first 20 feet or so (even was swimming faster than Taylor was paddling though it sure didn't feel that way), but eventually I had to stop to rest. Taylor came back to offer to tow me, but I decided to keep swimming (after all he's not always going to be around and I do have a PFD on so I'm in no danger). I finally got to shore and then had to carefully walk/wade back the 30 feet that I had overshot the take out point.

Ironically though quite a few tourists saw this happen none of my classmates did as they were looking elsewhere while waiting for us. Bruce and Chris were kind enough to help us carry the boats back to the van and I reassured that I was ok and had a new respect for bridge pylons. Taylor was saying - oh yeah and bridge pylons - did I mention that bridge pylons are objective hazards?

This was the end of Saturday.
Sunday is where we learned more finessing of strokes, entering eddys, judging white water, portaging, and entering the water from places considerably above the water line.


Today I asked to switch boats and was trying to decide between the Recoil or the Burn (all Kangaroo river kayaks). This prompted Brett to put the Recoil, the Ammo, and the Burn side by side and upside down to talk about them. The Recoil is actually a higher performance boat with less of the kayak in the water so it's quicker. Chris said he had one yesterday and is switching as it was too squirrelly. The Burn is a slightly longer boat that tracks in a straight line but it harder to turn. The Ammo is a wider more stable hybrid. More of the kayak is in the water than the Recoil and is even wider than that Burn (though shorter). I think the width of the Ammo combined with my short torso is what made the Ammo unstable for me. I had to lean over more to get the paddle properly in the water and it put the boat off balance.

So I went with a small Burn and was very happy I did so. There were 4 separate occasions where I was leaning as much as what would have dumped me over in the Ammo but the boat righted itself like I would expect it to. I did have to argue with it some to turn it so I wouldn't mind if they came up with a shorter Burn but the lack of width was a huge boon. I could finally paddle properly and I wasn't zig zagging down the river. I didn't dump the boat at all which is almost a shame as it's such good practice. But I figured that the 4 times yesterday was enough and I wanted to work on something else.

Before we left for the river we spend time with a whiteboard and Brett using a smurf kayaker as a model of entering and exiting eddies. The main thing when entering an eddy is paddle upstream at an angle and when your kayak enters the main current look downstream, keep the upstream edge lifted, and let the current turn the boat while paddling on the downstream side.
(We worked on this yesterday also).

They also introduced a way of crossing the river called a "ferry" where you face somewhat upstream and lift the upstream edge, paddle normally and let the river surf you across. (this was fun when it worked.)

Every so often my boat would want to go so well I would find myself in a position where I had to really work at paddling back to the group. Taylor mentioned to me that the easiest way to do this is to ride the eddies on the edges back as those currents are mostly going upstream. He was right mostly. It was still work, but it was easier.

We then headed down river and paused before a rougher water section. Brett said that when going through taller waves it's useful to put your paddle right into the wave and power the boat over the wave and ride it into the trough. This did work but I found myself wanting to do it several times to get the feel of it.

We then broke for lunch and watched the house parties float by. One even stopped to ask if we were part of the beer club. "What? Oh of course we are - what do you have?" A beer club what a great idea. Too bad they were only drinking Budweiser. I now have seen a "Beer Bong" in use. It's a rubber tube with a spigot on one end and a funnel on the other. The beer is poured into the funnel (spigot closed) and then someone puts their mouth over the spigot and it's then opened. Truly a class act (not). Quite amusing.

The rules say that everyone on the river has to have a PFD/life vest. Similar to dog muzzles in Italy, it doesn't say you have to wear them, so a lot of vests spend a lot of time tied to the raft. I don't know what the accident rate is there, but it's likely far lower than it deserves. :)

We're doing what?

Then we were back in the boats for a short while and then pulled over to the shore and people started carrying boats up an embankment (I was behind and hadn't heard the instructions - it just looked like we were practicing a portage - we were in a sort of twisted way). Now the Burn is longer than me so me carrying it the classic portage way with the seat back over your shoulder was a bit of a joke as the nose was dragging and I had to struggle with lifting it slightly sideways in order to carry it but I was determined to muddle through it.

I noticed Linda seemed to be struggling too and then I saw that she wasn't wearing booties, but instead was barefoot. She turned back to where we stopped saying that the small rocks were too hard on her feet and that she didn't want to do the jump off a cliff thing. What? I could see the folks ahead setting up in their boats on the edge of a 10' embankment by the river with a vertical drop off. Oh. My. God. I looked back at Linda considering. Clearly I could opt out and just paddle around. I looked back at the group on the mini-cliff. Now absurdity really does appeal to me. It was highly likely that I would survive this encounter (liability release non-withstanding) as I hadn't heard anything on the news about kayaker sacrifices on the American River. And most importantly, it will make a great story (in the "live to tell about it "sense.)

Giggling that nervous in-over-one's-head sort of giggle, I lugged the boat (which now felt like what a crucifix must feel like) up the rest of the embankment. By the time I got up there, the first kayaker, sitting in his kayak, paddle at the ready, had been ceremonially shoved off and came crashing down into the water to the cheers of many onlookers who would have surely been seated in a Roman coliseum in antiquity. I took careful note that the kayaker had landed perfectly in the water and was completely fine though laughing that I-can't-believe-I-survived stress laugh.

I asked "Why are we doing this?" and Brett said that sometimes there isn't a water's edge available and that this is the only way into the water." "Oh, I'm so sure" I thought. If I couldn't find a launch point then that means to me to keep looking. But I'm not going to wuss out now. 3 others went and seemed to be ok. Now it was my turn. I decided to just not worry about it any longer and just go with it. Brett shoved my boat out into the air and it and me hit the water perfectly level and then for an instant I was completely underwater (still level) and then just as fast was back on top of the water and paddling and I could just then hear a very loud crowd roar. I couldn't see a thing and pulled my glasses down so I could wipe my eyes. Well glad I could provide crowd entertainment. Brett then managed to push himself off and since he's much larger and his boat is smaller so he also when completely underwater.

All in all I was glad I did it (good confidence builder) and didn't chicken out but I don't see me making a habit of it.

We then stopped again to get a view of some rapids. Brett talked about how rapids were divided by rocks into channels, and he also mentioned that the shape of rapids was a V shape (at least this one was. Basic advice was to stay to the left of the V and then cross into it if you chose. It turned out that I was having trouble getting the spray skirt properly on and after several minutes of struggling (I should have pulled the boat further onto shore) and drifting closer and closer to the rapids I finally gave up and went down the easy way without the spray skirt on and then pulled to the side to dump the boat out. I sort of missed going through the rapid, but it was clear this was just about the end of the day and that if I wanted rapid running practice I should take the River Running class so I wasn't too put out.

We then proceeded on the the take out place and then waited for the van to come by.

All in all it was a great experience and I very much want to take subsequent classes and trips.

How into this do I want to get? I'm not quite sure. Unlike skiing or mountaineering the fit of the equipment isn't nearly so critical so I see no reason to actually purchase a boat and the small mountain of equipment that accompanies it. Renting a boat actually includes the paddle, spray skirt, over shirt (or whatever it's called), and helmet.

River kayaking unlike sea kayaking is also a large logistical undertaking as there is always a beginning point and an ending point. (Unless it's a very calm river where you can start by paddling upstream and then turn around and go down stream like the Big River in Mendocino). Which involves two vehicles, and at least one of them has to be able to carry the kayaks.
Personally, I'm all for someone else managing these details so while I want to do more kayaking (I can totally see skiing in the winter and kayaking in the summer), I think when it comes to river kayaking (instead of sea kayaking) I'll just pay to go on trips.

Another thing that surprised me is that while kayaking is great muscular exercise, it is not an aerobic exercise unless you're going fast. This is both good and bad. It's not going to help you keep in shape for other sports (except for perhaps arm wrestling), however it is something that someone who is semi fit could do in retirement. Terri pointed out that beside the 15 year old in the class, I was likely the youngest one there. I think a light fast sea kayak could be a good aerobic exercise - will have to try that in the estuary.

I also got to see how different subgroups use language (this is not exactly a tangent I swear). A woman was renting a sea kayak that weighed only 28 pounds which intrigued me. I was looking at the boat and I noticed the word "Epic" on it. "Who decided to call a kayak 'Epic'??!'" "Oh that's who makes the kayak." an employee said. I decided that I was in a different crowd and it would take too much explaining. In climber/mountaineer parlance an "Epic" is a serious climbing misadventure often including risk of personal injury or worse - though at least one person has to survive to tell the tale. (Think "Touching the Void"). I really like that kayak, but it would take a lot of mental gymnastics to get past that name, as I don't need help having misadventures.

I'm totally sold on a kayak vs a canoe. I've rented a canoe twice and was forever struggling with it zig-zagging and always having to do the compensating "J-stroke" to help it track in a straight line. Terri and I also went sea kayaking with my sister in law up in the San Juan islands and that was gorgeous. But I wanted to try whitewater and I think I want to do more whitewater too. (Sea kayaking vs. Whitewater is kinda like Cross country vs. Downhill skiing - I happen to like them all.)

All in all it was a great class. California Canoe and Kayak's website is:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

BiFriendly - 9 July 2007

Had a fun time at BiFriendly on Monday evening. It was just Richard, David and I (Terri was out of town), but we had a great conversation.

Topics included:
- David posting BF on Craigslist and it got pulled (?)
he also posted on Squidlist but we didn't see anyone from there.

- We talked in depth about the different communication styles that occur between two men vs. two women. It was pointed out to me that women like commuicated via talking whereas some men prefer doing. I was incredulous that 2 men could work on a project all day long and only exchange a few words related to the construction (and that that's ok). I said that when I'm working on something with another women (or man for that matter), the conversation just flows. It's like the work is the lubricant for the conversation serving to increase the bond.

Other topics were:
- how tough it is to be a FTM who's attracted to guys (queer FTMs often end up with each other)
- other publicity thoughts
- the challenges of printing a large hi res black and white image using color equipment
- various personal bi stories that I can't go into detail about as I don't have permission.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More fuel truck roulette

Argh. It wasn't widely reported, but we had another fuel truck attempt to take out the Maze. this time the tractor separated from the load, took out a guard rail and spilled a bunch of fuel and throughly tied up traffic (me included as we were coming back from Santa Rosa from herding training). About the only difference is that there was no fire and it was on the 80->580 connector instead of 80->880.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

More on oxygen

It appears that only plants can pull oxygen out of water (I've misplaced the reference) animals - not even fish - don't. Animals depend on the plants to secret oxygen similar to plants waiting on us to give them CO2. No wonder I find myself thanking plants and trees as I start to come across them during a decent when I'm above treeline and really hurting from the lack of air pressure.

This of course doesn't stop some bright folks from selling oxygenated water. Wonder if it does any good? The only problem of course is that water is heavy. It's actually lighter to carry O2.

Maybe I'll just carry a plant with me - I'm sure weirder things have been done. :)

I was also toying with the idea of getting an inexpensive oximeter, but it seems like to get one that works at all I would have to spend about $200. There are claims that the $60 one aren't accurate at all. (Not sure if I believe that.) While it would be interesting, I don't really feel like I need it.

I'm really looking forward to this climb. I'm in shap for it (assuming I don't completely slack off this month) and I have the climbing skills to get up the steep class 3 section of the route near the summit, and I have the time to chill for a day if I need to.

The only thing left is to figure out food.

A Letter to My Siblings

From a letter to my siblings (context is that my brother had described my father's new short(er) fuse and impatience):

For the record, I called a couple of days ago (Sunday or Monday), not today (July 4).

So what are the chances that there's something physical going on like thyroid or something?
And no I'm not volunteering to try to talk him into seeing a doctor based on the fact that he's acting crazy. Though in a way I almost wish he would act this way around me as then I would point blank tell him that he's acting like a maniacal caged animal. (Bet that would be a sight to watch - from a distance.)

By the way, any opinions on when I should come up to say hello to them? Something in between our August Whitney trip and ski season would work well (say Sept or Oct.).

PS Mother is intrigued with the restaurant that I took a group to for my birthday: Buca di Beppo. As you might guess, it took 15 minutes for me to spell it out to them.
While there are two in Washington ( I can guarantee that Dad would hate, hate, hate it as they sort of encourage noisiness (it's great for groups). But just to note, the food is surprisingly good even bordering on excellent.

Researching Blood Oxygen Levels

I just love google and wikipedia. I've learned something important that I had no idea I should know about. I'm trying to find ways to increase your blood oxygen level. Apparently hyperventilation is not really one of them. It appears that all those breath holding games we played as kids were in a way playing with fire as it increase your tolerance of CO2 without increasing your O2 level. Yikes - glad I didn't know this when I was depressed and semi-suicidal.

What started this is that I'm wondering if there's any connection to water drinking and blood O2 levels. In other words I'm wondering if the O in H2O crosses over to the blood - not likely, but worth checking.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Talked to Dad on the phone

We had a nice conversation and I told him that I'd been thinking about University House (this is true - it's been on my mind lately) and wondered if he had any additional thoughts about it He of course said no and asked why? I mentioned again that I really liked the environment and thought he'd be happy there as I was able to just walk up to folks and start talking with them and I know (from repeated personal experience :) that he loves to do that.

He said if it came to the point where he truly couldn't take care of himself, then something like University House would be the way to go. At this point I decided to tell him that every time I tell someone the scenario where someone else is making the decisions and the meals and arranging for health care they say "Sign me up!" He laughed in acknowledgement, and said "Well you know your father has always been fiercely independent."

Now once in a while when I'm talking to him, some wild inspiration hits me and I channel someone who actually makes sense (can't decide if I'm channeling a therapist or a spin doctor.) I said "You know I was thinking about that, and honestly I think you've earned a break. Why not let someone else take the burden now? You really have earned it. I mean that." He heard that, but said "but it's so hard to fight that ethic" (paraphrase - I don't remember the exact wording.) and I said something like "Why try to convince yourself? Just let it happen." I mean it's not like some grand supreme court decision has to be made first (I didn't say that but only thought of it now.) I do think he heard that and I think I'll use that as a theme for the future. "Let us help you - you've earned it." Of course if it was me I'd say that I also have every right to be contrary which is quite true but things get dicey when you're talking about Mom's care.

Earlier in the phone call, he also volunteered before I ever said anything, that he is getting help for Mom so he could get a 4 hour break on Friday. I said "Great! Who's the agency." He said it was an individual. I knew he meant Gina but got him to say it anyway. I asked if Gina was really ok with that as she's been having trouble with her back. And he said that they were able to negotiate that. Gina won't have to lift Mom or anything. (I didn't ask who is going to help Mom with baths.) I asked if Gina could then in turn find someone to help herwith Mom if she needed it, and he said "Yes."

I or Anne or Tom should probably call Gina to make sure she's really ok with this.

Dad's also figured out (Tom actually point blank tells him) that Tom and Anne put me up to convincing him of things and he actually thinks it's funny and freely acknowledges that I can talk him into things that they can't. Though I did mention for completeness that this phone call was my idea and not theirs. :)

More Whitney MR thoughts

After some perusal of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, Terri figured out that you could make a lightweight temporary harness with a sling and a carabiner. I was going to buy slings anyway for top-roping so it worked out perfectly. So we're going to bring:

2 slings (120cm)
2 locking carabiners
1 belay device
30' of 8mm rope (I would have taken 20 but this was a precut length)

I was going to just bring some of my prusik cord, but that's only 6mm and iffy in the belay device. What's cool is that we can also use this setup to lower packs down the ledges.

I'm also bringing some personal oxygen to see if that helps me with AMS symptoms. It's a little more weight to carry but after years of struggling with this it seems worth a try. I'm also really encouraged to see that if I spend 24 hours at a location then I'm much better off. This plays hell with group climb schedules but when I'm going it myself it's fine. For this climb if I'm not doing well at LBSL then we can stay another night there (Oh darn, another day in paradise.) Just need to plan for another day of food.

I'm still a little concerned about only bringing the stretch polartec, and the wind shirt. The stretch polartec is great but since it fits close to your skin it doesn't trap as much body heat. Fortunately, we will only be climbing during the day, but those evening trips outside the tent may be a touch cool. I'm thinking I should go test this out at the beach some windy evening.