Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yosemite 4 Mile Trail to Glacer Point

Elf has done such an excellent job of detailing our Yosemite trip on 4 Mile Trail here:

Her Photos are here:

And my photos with my Canon Point and Shoot are here:

And let's have a photo geek moment...

Calling my Canon a Point and Shoot is a little unfair as I had it set in Program mode with the lens stopped down by a stop and a half or so. For those who had or have the old classic film camera the Canon AE-1 the top dial looks remarkably similar and you can find the exact same features (Program mode and also Aperture or Shutter Preferred modes) with some added goodies like Video of and of course there's the Auto mode which is usually a guarantee of mediocre photos.

You can get remarkably fantastic photos out of the small Canons. That said I'm really hard on mine and in turn it is cranky and unreliable and has been sent to the factory once for repair though the next time it breaks that's it. There's a short somewhere in the electronics and it will start taking black pictures. If I notice, I can twist the body some or give it the time honored whack and it will come back (This is not a joke.), but if I'm not paying attention I have a series of nothing, but grey streaks. Elf took of photo of me taking a photo of Yosemite Falls. That lovely photo never happened as I went for 10 shots until I noticed the series of nothing being stored by the camera which was irksome, but ok since I knew that Elf was checking every one of her shots. I should get another camera and will but for now my camera and I will continue our slightly dysfunctional relationship.

One more photo geek observation. I've gotten so used to preview on a digital camera that I was surprised that Elf's nice camera didn't have it. Took me a while to realize that the reason that it didn't have a preview is IT'S AN SLR. What you see in the viewfinder is what you're gonna get. Duh.

I've forgotten how fun it is to have someone else along stopping to take photos (unless it's raining or I'm hungry :). It means I don't have to feel guilty about stopping to take my own. The potential trouble is that for every photo buff along there's a time added factor. We knew this so weren't terribly concerned but it easily added over an hour to our ascent.

The trail hasn't changed much since I last hiked it 10 or so years ago (that long? Maybe not.) As Elf explained the remnants of asphalt that were originally put there are being left to decompose. In my experience, that means they'll always be little pieces left though it's already reverting quite nicely.

The squirrels are WAY too tame. The squirrels outside my backdoor are wilder. I think we should let dogs on the trail just to make the squirrels afraid again though dogs are allowed up at Glacier Point and the squirrels there are too tame. I even saw someone feeding them some of a popsicle. I just stared and didn't have the energy to confront her.

As this site: talks about there really is no better way to see so much of Yosemite from a trail than on this trail, especially if you want to see all of Yosemite falls instead of being drenched by it (which is also a total blast). The trail is carefully constructed not to be too steep, which means that it's considerably easier than Yosemite Falls and has less giant steps than the Vernal Falls trail.

Plus there's ice cream and sandwiches at the end so what's not to like? Unless you're a wilderness purist, but a purist wouldn't go anywhere near Glacier Point anyway. Plus you get to feel superior to those that drove up. (For the SF Bay Areaites this is true of Mt Diablo as well - though no ice cream there.)

And the fun of Yosemite is hearing all the different languages. I get so used to just hearing English, Spanish and a smattering of Asian languages, so it's nice to hear other languages wafting by. The only hazard is if they pass you on the trail and you understand a word or two, turn your head to listen more and fall over a rock. Oops.

And on the way down we were happily surprised to have a woman who we saw earlier catch up to us and ask to join us as she didn't have a light source and it was starting to get dark. Her name is Fides, and she's a 3rd year German medical student working/observing for a summer in Sacramento.

We talked about places she'd seen, places she might consider going to. She told me me that this week she's going to be in SF doing the touristy things and she is definitely going to Alacatraz and we made sure that she was going to be taking the audio tour where they have you walk in a cell and you hear the sound of the cell closing (heebeejeebee), she assured us she was. She also mention that she was going to be staying in the youth hostel there. Slightly alarmed, I asked "Er, which one?" "Not sure, it's north of that main street [which is Market Street]." Ok, I'm not a parent of human children, but believe me I can worry with the best of them as I'm realizing that the area she's describing is the high crime Tenderlion and they're just going to love having a sweet young German woman appear. I tell her about the area and she assures me she'll be careful and hopes she doesn't have to use her Jujitsu skills. [Via email later she gives me the address which is at Ellis and Larkin - Egad.]

Since I had a willing expert at my disposal and we still had an hour of downhill to go I asked her when I finally get to Germany what should I see? She then descibed the Rhine river and how you can take a trip down it and then get off and see some of the surrounding towns. I fortunately had her write these places down when we got back to the car and I need to find that piece of paper and get them written into my Google Docs area.

Elf asked what other places in the US she'd been and the most amusing one was her being taken to Dollywood in Tenn. which of course led to finding common ground being utterly baffled by the far too easy targets of US Southerrn accents and the Swiss German language.

Somewhere I found myself giving the routine reality check that Hollywood is oh so not glitzy, but more gritty and grimmy and the real Hollywood is not in Hollywood at all. That the studios are in Burbank, and the stars live in Berverly Hills, Bel Air, Hollywood HILLS, Malibu, and Santa Barbara. She had heard correctly that you can't actually see most stars homes anyway, and I added in that you'd have a much more fun time going to the UCLA college town of Westwood and I'm realizing now that I should have said go to West Hollywood which is a totally fun place regardless of your sexual orientation (which didn't come up in our brief 2 hour conversation.)

As dark descends on us Elf wisely requests that we get out lights. I blissfully had not brought a headlamp (note to self - always bring one) but of late I've been putting small Princeton LED lights on all of my jackets and I use them all the time including right then and it worked great.

Fortunately in the growing dusk the only wild animals we saw were quail and it was just light enough for us to be able to show them and their cool crests to Fides.

We gave Fides a ride back to her car and Elf and I headed back to the Bay Area, and we managed to get back to the Fremont Bart station without winding up at either of our houses first (Elf was driving so the risk was me ending up in San Jose though I think I might have noticed that "Hey, Hwy 101 is not on the way." or something like that.) This is Elf's story to tell, but driving my manual transmission for just over an hour (Oakdale to Fremont BART) was enough to completely undo 8 years of only driving an automatic and learning not to stomp on the brake thinking it's a clutch. She is recovering, but it wasn't immediate as she drove only stickshifts for years and when she started to drive it was like she'd been driving then exclusively all this time.

All in all a marvelous trip and I'm hoping that we manage to find more time for such adventures.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Yosemite Glacier Point - The Prequel

So one of my agility friends (also named) Ellen, (I'll call her by her nickname Elf), has been doing more hiking of late and has been enjoying it and had told me that she's interested in doing more.

From time to time I do these slightly outrageous day hikes (or ski trips) where I drive a fair distance to an incredibly gorgeous place and do a hike and then drive back. We all seem to have this internal gauge that you're supposed to spend more time doing your chosen activity than driving. When I started letting go of that assumption, I started having these totally fun mini adventures. The idea for it was planted when a friend in college told me that her and a friend drove from New England to Florida to go dancing. Ok, that's a little much, but then I noticed that places like REI's Outdoor Schoool and Bay Area Ski Bus do day trips, and those are great and I do them, but they don't always follow MY schedule (hmph), and also my Southern California family did long day trips for fun, so I then got the maps out and figured out what was possible.

I live in the Bay Area and if you draw a half circle around it that approximates things that are under 4 hours away, you find that you cover quite a lot of territory. Yosemite and Tahoe and even Lassen (sort of) are in that semi circle. And it's really not a circle as things that are near a (semi) major highway can be further away because you can go at higher speeds. And yes, this is not very ecological and I'm leasing my dog/ski mobile Scion in hopes that an affordable (well one can hope) hybrid version of it comes out - in the meantime, it gets 28 mpg.

ANYWAY, I asked Elf if she wanted to join me on a trip I'd been thinking of to go just past Tuolome Meadows out Tioga Road and climb Mt Dana. Elf being Elf, looked up the altitudes (10,000' up to 13,000') and politely (and smartly) declined. (That may prove to be a bit much for me as well though I'll probably try it one day.) Not being dead set on Tioga but knowing that she wanted to hike in Yosemite as she hadn't been in a while, I asked about starting out of Yosemite Valley which would move the starting altitude to a considerably lower 4000'. She liked that, and suggested maybe up to Nevada Falls or hey look we could take the 4 Mile Trail and climb 3200' up to Glacier Point ha ha ha. Now Elf is also a blogger and I'm sure she'll let us know whether she knew she was deliberately dangling bait or not. I then tell her that I've done the 4 Mile Trail though it's been a while and that the trail is well within her ability, and I'd love to do it if she was up for it or we could just go up part way as it's just an out and back trip.

To my happy surprise, she said yes. I was prepared to tell her that the trail was carefully designed not to be horribly steep and that it wasn't a race and we could take our time (I did tell her that part). Turns out she'd already read that the trail wasn't as steep as Upper Yosemite Falls Trail (a steep, but highly rewarding trail.) We agreed on a date a couple of weeks out that we both miraculously had available and worked out rendezvous details and that was that for a while. Being a much better blog writer than a reader I didn't realize until later that she was stressing about it some here and here, and she made this great apples/oranges comparison to climbing the trail and climbing the Empire State Building here. (During that time I did comparatively dull climb on an inclined treadmill sessions.)

Somewhere along the way I realized just how much it broadens my experience to have someone else there experiencing it with you. The other person notices things that you didn't and it really makes a huge difference. I love it and need to do it more.

I set out to write about the trail and haven't even gotten there yet. I'll make that a separate entry.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Demos need to Control the Healthcare Message Better

(Dragged back into political blogging as there's something I'm not hearing much yet.)

One thing the more out there Republicans are really good at doing is boomeranging political conversations into complete side shows.

The healthcare "debates" being the latest shining example.

Obama presents his heathcase proposal and is called Hitler. The last thing Demos should do is respond in any variation of "He is not." Stay focused on your message.

What I'm not hearing much and what I'd like to hear more of is Demos being more confrontational.

If someone with insurance opposes the public option then they should be directly asked

Why do you think the uninsured don't deserve insurance?

I think they owe us all an explanation and shouldn't be allowed to hide behind rhetoric.
I think they should be properly called Heartless and Despicable as I'm pretty sure they haven't thought it through.

Why is this such an issue? How have insurance companies gotten people to fight for them???
We have more than 5 working models of other countries insurance systems (Canada, France, Sweden, England, and, yes, the very non-Hilteresque Germany - my source is NPR On Health).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Hate My Wired Phone Until ...

I hate paying for my wired phone service.
It's expensive, those phones mostly just sit around so we can ignore sales calls (oh yeah, we also pay for caller id) and we don't even use it to dial long distance since it's cheaper to use the cell phone.


- the power goes out (and I even have to keep a non-powered, non-portable phone so that will work)
- I need to dial 911 and don't want to have to explain exactly where I am
- the cell phone isn't working which happens more than I like

Guess I'll keep it. I know if I were in college a cell phone is all I would have but I can afford it and I know what I'd be missing if I didn't have it, so I'll just complain about it instead.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Home Maintenance Misadventures

First of all all parties are fine.

I was in the house working on a web page and Terri was outside working on the garage, and I heard this loud CRASH. Shit. I grab the wired phone that happens to be beside the door and run outside. I grabbed that phone so I could call 911 and they would know exactly where I was without having to explain much. My criteria for whether to call was: is she on the ground. She was, so I dialed as I ran up to her. 911 and I reach her at the exact same time and she's got dirt all over her and telling me she's ok. Not yet believing her, I tell 911 that my wife has just fallen off a ladder (turns out she was climbing over the short fence and her foot caught. "Do you need medical attention?" I relay that. Terri tells me: "No, it's just my knee." This time I mostly believe her as I've had a chance to see she's not bleeding. I tell her and the operator that I'll take her to Kaiser and grateful that she wasn't hurt worse, rang off from 911.

She tries to get up, I tell her not to move. She says something like: "No really I'm ok." and I tell her to stay still, she asks something very much like "Why?" and I respond mostly because it's still novel to me "Because I'm your wife. Stay still." To my somewhat surprise, she actually relented momentarily. She had bashed her knee quite nicely, and it was swelling fast so we decide that we need to get her pants off and she says that she really would much rather do that in the house. She's not dying, and we have a little time so I agree. The shortest way in is via the back door and that's locked, so I leave her a second and go in the side door and out the back door so that it's open and unlocked. She's standing up, I indicate in some fashion that I'm a little less than thrilled about this, but she's then uses it to say that she's not dead yet. I open the fence (which is what she should have done in the first place, but we often don't bother since it's a Corgi sized fence which is actually a modified trellis turned sideways and with extra slats added), and I help her up the steps and get to the bedroom where she can take the pants off and we can get a good look at balloon knee. Then get her to lay down on the hide-a-bed, elevate it and I put an ice pack on it and hand her the phone to call Kaiser to ask what to do next.

After asking questions about what happened and what the knee looks like, the Kaiser Nurse has her go through some basic self tests (for lack of a better phrase) and it appears that nothing needs to happen today (Sunday), but she should consider coming in on Monday. Despite her blood pressure medication frowning on it, she was ok'd to take anti-inflamatories (in the non-prescription realm we had Aleve and Ascriptin - she chose Aleve).
While this is proceeding Trek is being very clingy and concerned looking. It's all very sweet until I realize that it's 5:30pm and all she wants is dinner and Terri usually does their meals, so it was more worry about the food dispenser being broken. I fed them and the dogs went away for a little while, but to their credit they did reappear.

I have a trekking pole with a right angle grip that with a tip added doubles very nicely as a really cool cane (I found this out after opening my knee up on Mt Tam some while back), so I dug it out and adjusted it for her (another thing that makes it a really cool cane - much lighter than a cane too). So now she's hobbling around and scaring the dogs and in general doing ok though I have yet to find out how she's getting to Kaiser or if I'm driving her there.

I'm just glad she didn't fall off a ladder as part of the project she's working on does require being on a ladder part of the time.

Update: her knee is looking better and she's delaying going to Kaiser until the swelling goes down so they can evaluate it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

580 Bridge Murders

The suspect in the 580 bridge murders has been caught and the mixed messages continue thus proving that we're all still messed up humans.

Here's the SF Gate article

in which Nathaniel Burris kept interrupting the judge saying "I did it ... Just give me the death penalty,"

Which brings up all sorts of observations the first is that you are guaranteed the right to a fair trial - whether you want it or not. Now you can screw it up by representing yourself as he seems to intend to but I get you this ain't gonna last.

This guy is obviously not stable (the family of the victim didn't think he was even before this happened) and most certainly deserves to be put on trial and have the rule of law work out to whatever it's going to be.

But I'm really struck by the I want to live / I want to die mixed messages.
- he ran - for hours - yet didn't really try to evade the police
- he did not shoot himself, yet he currently says he wants to be executed. He lives in Richmond. Point a gun at a gang banger if you don't believe in suicide, they'll be happy to take care of you.

This story has just started to come out.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Murder on 580:The Understatement of a Freeway Sign

It's funny in that unusual way just how much import you can get from a Freeway status sign. It's more what it doesn't say.

Tuesday we were driving North on Interstate 80 (technically it is 80 West but it was on that weirdo area where you are simultaneously on 80 West and 580 East, but you're actually going North.

Wait stop, it was before that on 880 North, and the Highway status sign just simply said

Richmond Bridge / 580 Westbound Closed
Use Alternate Bridges

[Fortunately we weren't going to be going as far as the bridge but...]

WHAT?! It's 6pm rush hour what are they doing construction for? Wait it said nothing about construction. Uh oh. Dive for the radio and put it on KCBS News.

As if it was answering my direct question (which felt completely spooky), it immediately said that someone using a shotgun has shot two people at the Richmond Bridge toll plaza, at least one of them a toll taker and the other waiting in a parked nearby truck. The suspect has fled in a Western Eagle shuttle van. The police do not think this was random. They then make brief mention of the systematic brutality of the crime.

I said to Terri that this is about Love (well its darker side). My theory was that this was an estranged lover angry at his ex and her new beau. I was half right. The breakup was correct, though there is no new beau. Given that the article says that the guy was shot first and then the shooter tracked down his ex-girlfriend, I'm pretty convinced that the shooter thought they were an item.

Here's one reference to this distressing news:

The video has an interview with an eyewitness. I'm glad I'm not her though it makes me want to travel all the time with a video camera with a long zoom.

The shooter is clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He fled in an easily identifiable van and never changed cars. The highway patrol found him over in the Sierras still on the highway.

But I'm brought back by how much that freeway sign told me. It basically said in so many words, there is some very unusual, serious sh*t going down.

Undermining Your Message With Ad Words

While it's always tempting to add Google Ad Words to this and other blogs, giving up control of the message you want to send is honestly too much for me to let go of and I keep collecting very good examples of why.

Here's my latest. Recently, there is real research that finally determines what a lot of positive reinforcement dog trainers have known for over a decade. The strangely romanticized dominance theory is a pile of dog doo that someone made up from reading 1950's research of unrelated captive wolves thrown together (in my mind 10,000+ generations says that dogs are so not wolves despite being related genetically. Also a family of wolves in the wild don't act like captive unrelated wolves either).

One of the articles is here:

But what caught my eye is that the site uses Google Ad Words.

This is what the site looked liked when I saw it:

(Click to actually see the image and my annotations.)

Right there in Google Ad Words is an ad talking about Dog Whispering which is code for Cesar Milan's own odd style of bullying dogs which he claims to be based on Dominance Theory. I'm quite sure that the authors of the article would rather that link not be on the same page as their article.

AND here is the exact same issue again at a different site:

So to me it's not worth the few pennies here and there that a semi randomly chosen Ad word may make you.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Email is Down and It's Driving me Nuts, but There's Always Facebook

I am email deprived and it's driving me nuts. Fortunately I have other email accounts besides frap, but frap is my domain and email via frap is what everyone uses for me. At least is up, it's just the promised glorious email upgrade that was going to take 4-12 hours has now taken 23 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds but who is counting anyway.

I called them at 18 hours and they were very apologetic and said they were hoping it would be done in 2 hours more. So off to a delicious dinner at a new blissfully delicious local Greek place called Troy located in Alameda on Central Ave near Park. I had a Chicken Shawarma Wrap and also a Baklava that was so good I would have paid $10 for. (It's around $2). Came back and no email. I have a dog seminar that I'm hosting tomorrow and I need to contact people. Fortunately, I have access to my address book, so I was able to reconfigure my gmail account to retain email and was able to send from there.

23 hours, 53 minutes 14 seconds ...

Amazing how dependent we are on email. If I choose not to be near it (like when out in the wilderness) that's completely fine and I don't miss it, but if I didn't choose it then it's surprisingly hard.

Fortunately I have Facebook and am liberally complaining about it.
I also sent email to just saying hello this is getting a bit much.

I'm just glad I'm not on their IT staff particularly right now.

A FB Friend is complaining about all the FB cuteness your "friends" can assault you with. She has employed a FB purity program to keep throw sheep and tossed cows off her status, but honestly I find it all kind a part of FB's charm. It reminds me of the fun Usenet groups like which was a group for bisexual folks and their friends and it all got very silly at times and Google has actually preserved it for posterity which is just hilarious since on I learned al about such terms as snogging, slagging, and of course tosser, but I digress... All of the quiz and games results and tossing of farm animals is a part of FBs charm and for some reason I don't find it nealy as annoying as say the old highly overwrought Usenet newsgroup, that us people made fun of (long story - I have a much older blog entry about it somewhere around here...).

On the fly in a FB conversation I decided that FB is Permission-Based Voyeurism so why cut yourself out of such amusement? After all you did join FB - what did you expect? Besides it gives you ammunition to tease your friends with later.

24 hours 12 minutes 49 seconds ...


24 hours, 21 minutes, and 26 seconds later I have email. Phew.