Sunday, April 29, 2007

Very Sore Today

Two days ago I went hiking in the Mojave desert. Yesterday morning I was a little sore. However, this morning (the morning after the morning after) I was really sore. I'm clearly out of shape. I guess it's time to actually exercise in a way that helps my hiking hobby.

I started off hiking on Cave Mountain. It's a small hill on the south side of I-15 about 20 miles south of Baker, CA. This wikipedia article about the Mojave Freeway mentions Cave Mountain and has a decent photo. The photos to the right show my car parked under the high power lines. I drove the utility power-line road to get close to where my route starts. I still had to cross about a quarter mile of sand. That takes longer than you'd expect because my foot steps would randomly break through the surface and drop down about 6 inches. Sort of disconcerting. The magnetic and electric field below those towers are pretty strong (yes, I used my EMF meter). The second shot shows the view of I-15 from where I turned back due to a horrible cramp in my foot. It's been my experience that if my foot cramps, then it'll keep doing that. Another example of my needing more conditioning, since the muscles in my foot were clearly overworked. The third shot shows me resting my very painful foot atop a handy boulder. Those are my new light hiking shoes, the Merrell Moab Ventilator - mid hieght. They're terrific. Very comfortable, light weight, and my feet kept cool. It was 100 deg at that altitude. I was about 1500 feet above my car, so maybe 1700 feet above the highway. The next section of the hike required me to climb right up a long steep section that had no decent places to rest if I had another cramp. So, I decided to turn back. After all, I had a backup hill to climb that would be much easier.

Then I headed back toward Los Angeles, and stopped off just north of Victorville to climb up Bell Mountain. It's an impressive sight to everyone driving on I-15, with an unmistakable bell shaped profile. Here's a Google Map centered roughly above Bell Mountain. When researching this hill, I couldn't find any information about trails, so I expected it'd be off-trail, like at Cave Mtn. I was surprised to discover when I arrived that somebody was half way up the hill, hiking to the top. In just a few minutes, he made the summit. That convinced me to grab my pack and head up. I started out off-trail but quickly came across a faint trail, so I followed that for a while. I passed the other hiker as he was coming down. We chatted for a while. He expresed surprise to see anybody else there, that he climbs it often and hasn't seen any other hikers before. I joked about the large quantity of broken glass and shotgun shells all over the hillside, and how the other visitors don't seem to be traditional hikers. The first photo is directed toward (sort of) the small town of Apple Valley and shows the flag flying from the pole that's cemented into the summit. The second shot is directed toward Victorville to the southwest. It took about 45 minutes to reach the top, and 30 minutes to descend. It would have taken much less time if I wasn't tired and a little sore from the morning hike.

Well, it's time for me to plan out some excercises that will improve my conditioning. The descent down Cave Mtn really made my quads burn. That normally doesn't happen, so I'm certain that I'm just out of shape.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Almost Killed the Lawn

I had to water the front yard last night and today to attempt to recover from a screw-up of mine yesterday. I was seriously distracted (mentally) yesterday while I was applying weed killer. I'm trying to get rid of the clover and yellow wood sorrel that have taken over my yards. I was using the hose-end sprayer type where you first have to measure out the liquid weed killer into a bottle and then add about 10 times that in water, then screw that onto the end of your water hose and start applying. So as I was finishing up the front yard, it puzzled me that the weed killer fluid had run out already. I had used enough to cover the front and back yards and it was gone after just part of the front yard. It turns out that, in my confused and distracted state, I had forgotten to add the 10x water to the weed killer before attaching the bottle to the hose. That means I had just applied highly concentrated weed killer to the yard and it would probably kill the entire lawn. The St. Augustine grass is very sensitive to this weed killer and users are instructed to apply about half the concentration that you would for stronger grasses. So, yesterday and today I'm watering the front yard to rinse off the weed killer and dilute it. Then I'll cross my fingers.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Latest Book: A Little History of the World

I just finished listening to "A Little History of the World" by E. H. Gombrich. The hardcover version currently has 5/5 stars from 28 Amazon reviewers. Originally published in 1935 in German and subsequently translated into 18 languages, it was only recently translated into English. It's intended for a youth audience and is probably a lot more readable for them than the traditional dry history texts. I enjoyed this meandering tale of human history from ancient times (e.g., Cyrus the Great) to the end of World War 2. It made me look up quite a few things in Wikipedia. I even noticed a few European-centric views, and that was refreshing.

Coincidentally, it was read by Ralph Cosham, who read another audio book that I recently finished: John Milton's Paradise Lost. I enjoyed listening to that. If I had tried to read it, I would not have understood any of it. But, like the works of Shakespear, I seem to understand it fine when I hear it.

Turquoise Mountain

Yesterday I ventured to the top of Turquoise Mountain in the Mojave desert, northeast of Baker, CA. There's no challenge, since I just drove the 9 miles of crumbling asphalt road up to the top where a very large installation of microwave towers is located. I had originally planned to hike around on Cave Mountain, but the winds were too strong for my taste because it's very steep and dizzying there and the winds would mess up my normal mountain goat-like balancing abilities. I created a map using the new Google My Maps feature.

I didn't notice any turquoise stones on turquoise mountain. In fact, most of the rocks there are bright pink. I brought my handheld electric/magnetic/microwave field strength meter. I have the Trifield Meter, which is available online and at Fry's stores. This is the first time that I had pegged it out. I pegged the "radio/microwave" meter when I was on Turquoise Mountain. That means that it was sensing 1 mW/cm2. Of course, I was standing 25 feet from a 3 m high gain antenna. Earlier in the day, at the base of Cave Mountain, I measured the magnetic and electirc fields while standing under the high voltage power line and the meter peaked at 100 milligaus for magnetic field strength. The electric field strength was 10 kV/m.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Another Recent Book: The No Asshole Rule

I'm behind in blogging about the books I've read recently. Here's one that I enjoyed and I hope you'll read it.

"The No Asshole Rule" by Robert Sutton currently has 4.5/5 stars from 47 Amazon reviewers. Dr. Sutton is a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford. Here's his blog and here's his bio at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Stanford's web site hosts another bio for him with the Center for Work, Technology & Organization. I heard about the book from Guy Kawasaki's blog where he promotes it shamelessly. But I don't fault Guy because I really enjoyed the book. I listened to the audiobook version which is read by Sutton. He's an enthusiastic speaker and I'd probably enjoy attending his lectures.

The book is basically about the ubiquitous phenomenon of jerks in the workplace and what can be done about them. Sutton fills the book with a lot of examples, most of which seem to be actual people (as opposed to hypothetical situations). I hope this book is read and its values embraced by a lot of companies. Since we all devote such a large fraction of our waking hours at work, this one goal (to reduce the number of jerks) can improve the lives of so many people. Many companies these days are focusing on recruiting the most passionate people. Identifying and ranking passion amongst candidates is a challenging bit of subjective variability. Maybe corporate culture would benefit more from reducing the number of jerks. Sutton shows ways that you can identify them. Maybe not during the interview process, but they all show their colors eventually. Fewer jerks is bound to help unbridle the passion in the rest of the employees.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ibex Dunes and More

I just returned from a short trip to visit Ibex Dunes at the south end of Death Valley National Park. The NPS site has a nice PDF map. Here's a Google Maps link centered on the Ibex Dunes. It was surprisingly easy to get there. Harry Wade Exit road was washboarded, but smooth enough to take at 40 mph and avoid a lot of vibration. I was surprised to find another car parked there - alongside the 4wd unmaintained road. The dunes are 1 mile east of that dirt road. It took about 20 minutes to walk across the sparsely vegetated valley to the dunes. The dunes were actually easy to walk up - due to fairly compacted sand. On a previous hike up the Kelso dunes, each step would sink 5-8 inches into the sand. On Ibex dunes, however, almost every step stayed atop the sand. The weather was perfect - about 80 deg and clear skies. The last section of road is unmaintained and had a sign with an ominous warning of deep sand. I had only planned to drive up 1 mile and so I wasn't worried about the conditions.

Afterward, I drove to Afton Canyon. East of Barstow and just south of I-15, the Mojave River is above ground in this location and that results in an oasis for wildlife in the area. The BLM has a campground there. I decided to not camp because it was very hot and dry and a fly had taken an intense interest in bothering me as I was taking some pictures.

I decided to drive up to the Coptic Orthodox St. Antony Monastery that sits northeast of Barstow in the middle of nowhere. I didn't stop to visit. I just wanted to drive by and see the place. It was somewhat disappointing. I don't know what I was expecting. I'd never been to a monastery before.

Then I drove up to Coyote Dry Lake. People collect meteorites from the playa there. I once saw a TV show with celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and he was visiting Coyote Dry Lake with another scientist who showed him how he collects meteorites there and uses the data to estimate how many meteorites hit the Earth each day. It was easy to drive there by taking Coyote Lake Road - an unmaintained but well worn dirt road that ends up right on the playa. The lake bed was covered with small rocks of various kinds. I don't know how anybody can find a meteorite in all that.