Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Broadwell Dry Lake

Broadwell Dry Lake (north of Ludlow, CA) was not entirely dry this weekend. The northern end was dry. [remember: click on pics to make them bigger]

On my previous trip to this lake bed, I drove right across it. Yes, there is a road (sorta) that crosses it. This time I took the alternate road around the lake. My plan was to drive the powerline road toward the southwest returning to I-40 around Pisgah (where you get off I-40 to visit the F-4 crash site).

Here's a photo of Broadwell Lake from the powerline road as I climbed into the nearby hills.

This is the least maintained powerline road that I've driven so far. Here's a shot of the shelf road heading up into the hills.

I decided to turn around at the bottom of the cool looking uphill section in the next photo. I really wanted to drive up that. So, down in the wash (below and to the left in the photo), the road was seriously washed out. On the ledge rising out of the wash, half the road was washed away leaving a 2 foot deep gully emptying off the side into the wash. (I really should have taken a photo)

There were 2 sets of tracks that went cross country around the washout. I walked that route and it was very steep (maybe 25 or 30 deg) and off camber with a loose surface of small rocks. For reference, worse than the hill in Last Chance Canyon. These did not look like the tracks of power utility trucks. They looked like jeep BFGs. I chose to turn around. In hindsight, I should have brought my large shovel (oddly, I didn't bring it on that trip but did on several recent trips). I could have made a usable route around the washout on the main road.

Another trip ... another lesson (or two).

The map route in blue is what I drove. The light green is the part I have yet to drive. Some day I want to drive the same powerline road to the north east, toward the old railroad stop named Sands, and on to Jackass Canyon at Old Dad Mountain. Maybe some off-roading enthusiast will join me on that adventure, since the sand is liable to be deep at any place named "Sands".

How Markets Fail

Wow. I really enjoyed the book "How Markets Fail - The Logic of Economic Calamities," by John Cassidy. It currently has 4 stars from 30 Amazon reviewers. I recommend this to anybody interested in learning more about what caused the recent financial crisis.

The book is written as an understandable, albeit broad sweeping, description of the many factors that came to bear the recent "credit crisis." From the personal philosophical views of past Fed Chairmen, to the relevant beliefs of all the great economists (starting with Adam Smith), to the utopian economic modeling practices, and the historical changes in the finance industry and the regulatory landscape. All leading up to the astonishingly complex multivariate circumstances that precipitated the recent economic crisis

Much blame is placed on the shoulders of Alan Greenspan and his laisez-faire libertarian approach during his time as Fed Chairman. Also placed in the spotlight is the prevelance of utopian economics (in varying forms) in economic theory, modeling, and management. The author does a good job of discrediting this approach in favor of real-world models.

He mentions the work of Hyman Minsky, a post-Keynsian economist who preached of the inherent instability of capitalist economies, and the role government must play to keep them working properly. I was so intrigued, I've ordered his highly praised book "Stabilizing an Unstable Economy".

As you can see, I'm fascinated by this topic. I also plan to buy this upcoming book on the subject: "13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown." It was released early to some notable people who have given it rave reviews - see the Amazon page for those.

Here are links to reviews of How Markets Fail: BusinessWeek, NY Times, Financial Times, and the publisher MacMillan.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Driving a Gas Pipeline Road

I drove a service road for a Southern California Gas Company pipeline. I saw it in Google Earth and thought it'd be a fun drive, due to the curves in the road and the local terrain. It was fun: not too hard, not too easy, beautiful landscape. It was signed "Private Road - Use at your own risk". Oddly, the sign was located about half way along my route. Here's a map showing the area boxed in blue, followed by a map showing my route.



The most difficult part was a washed out section with lots of exposed sharp pointy rocks and 18 inch gullies. I'd rate that section a 4 on the Mitchell scale. Luckily, it was only about 50 yards long. Here's a google map centered on that section of the road.

There were some fun rolling hills. A few were about 20 degrees - according to my inclinometer. Those really got my attention! It's a bit unnerving to drive up a really steep hill, reach the top and not be able to see the road. I had to practically crawl over the top, and as the truck's front hood dropped, I could see that the hill drops back down just as steep as I came up. Fun!

Here's a shot of a minor washout section. I had to raise the suspension here.

The far western section is right next to I-40. I wonder what the freeway drivers thought when they saw me driving nearby. The region is called the Lava Hills, and this shot shows why.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Drive

I listened to the audio version of Dan Pink's new book "Drive - The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." that currently has 4.5 stars from 54 Amazon reviewers. The author includes a couple videos on his web site about the book.

I was mildly bored by it, mostly because I'm already aware of the message. I've been reading for years about the very same academic research that he describes. So for me, Pink's "truth" is not "surprising."

Here are some of the points.

Carrots and sticks are outdated management tools and often actually reduce productivity and quality.

Intrinsic motivators are often more powerful than extrensic ones.

People naturally desire three things in their work:
Autonomy: People want to have control over their work.
Mastery: People want to get better at what they do.
Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are.

The best way to motivate people engaged in creative tasks is to give them autonomy in "the 4 Ts": Task (what they do), Time (when they do it), Technique (how they do it), and Team (who they do it with).

I enjoyed Pink's earlier book "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko - The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need" and this new one didn't match my expectations. I'll probably give away my audiobook.

Foshay Pass

I drove up and over Foshay Pass (in the Mojave National Preserve). But instead of taking the straight boring road that everybody takes, I drove the very curvy powerline road that parallels it. Here's a google map centered on the area. You can see the curvy powerline road south of the straight one.

The road was a lot of fun to drive. Very scenic too, including great views of Kelso Dunes. There were a lot of rock falls, and a few spots of snow beside the road.

I still want to drive the straight road, mostly because Mitchell rates the hill near the top as a class 3 (for steepness). He rates the steep hill in Last Chance Canyon as a 3 also, and that's pretty steep (I've driven over that several times). He also rates Lippincott Road as class 3, and that's not very steep.
This shot was taken from the top looking west toward Kelso Dunes.

This looks east toward Goffs.

I drove past a corral ... with cattle!