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.