Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Camping in Central California!

This past weekend a few of us drove up to Bishop, CA, which is just south of Mammoth Lakes on the east side of the Sierra Mountain range.
Camping Partner, Special Friend.

Our tent site at the Pit, which was free, courtesy of the research groups that rented out the whole place. High desert, yum!Hard to beat butter, eggs, avocado, tomato, and cheddar. Really hard.

We took time out to do some hiking up to Treasure Lakes, through the snow that we weren't quite prepared for.

John Muir Wilderness is one of my favorites, for sure.
Retreat!!! Snowballs aren't supposed to be that big!
South Lake, outside Bishop, CA. 81 degrees, 10,000 feet, Sunny, Snow on the ground. Bliss.
Aspen groves were out in full force! So beautiful to see the shimmering leaves!

And I forgot to take any snaps, but this is a reasonable stock photo of one of the TWO hot springs that we visited during the weekend!
Thanks, iStockphoto!

Also, the Bishop area has some of the best bouldering around, so we naturally had to take it easy with some climber friends
Dynamic move to the crux of the problem!
Soft hands to cradle.
Harder than it looks.


Hooping with the Sierras as a backdrop (and a canyon just behind the cameraman).

Triumph! Love this shot because of the colors. It's got a swath of green in the center/right, blue at the top, and reddish tones on the bottom left.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

About this time last year I did a quick post about Poverty, highlighting my thoughts on the global situation, as well as a few groups that are doing their best to alleviate the pain involved.

I encourage you to read the post here, as not much has changed. However, I have to say, since then, I have donated to Kiva, enabled a few loans, gotten my money repaid in full, and loaned it out again. And it feels great. Give it a try for as little as $25, please! And let me know how it works out!

This year's Blog Action Day focuses on climate change. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of discussion on whether "global warming" is "real" or not, and whether humans should feel responsible. Personally, in my daily life, I could care less whether the temperature is rising or falling, though I do admit that is important. What I do care about is living sustainably. I would like to be able to say, 100 years from today, that I did my best to preserve the Earth for future generations.

Certainly none of us (that I know of) can say this today, as we are living as major consumers, and in an extremely carbon-negative way.

Thankfully, lots of us are working on long term solutions, from cleaner transportation, cleaner energy generation (and use!), as well as trying to re-set the environments we've destroyed so far.

For some of us it's been a while since we've honestly thought about these types of issues, and if so, perhaps we (you, me, everyone!) should take 5 minutes out of our day to reflect on how we're living, and how we're treating the Earth!

(Image from random website here.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Month and a Half

Not too much to report for the time being, but figured people were curious what I've been doing. Well, I've been enjoying southern California for all it has to offer. Here are a few snaps:

First off, an *updated* picture out my window, as I work from home (sometimes). Note the electric car out front, the MacBook, simple speakers, and plenty of light and fresh air!

The next four pictures are from a hiking trip near my house -- started at Chantry Flats, two nights in the 'backcountry' and then popped out at Mt. Wilson (followed by a short hike down the hill to the car.)

The very spot where this campfire was (safely) lit (and extinguished) (West Fork Campground) is now completely decimated by the wildfires.
The wildfire that burned the whole area:

Next few pics are of general Los Angeles area fun-things: Dodgers game (mid-pitch), Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Bowl for an unbelievably good LA Philharmonic / Brazilian musician night + Fireworks.

Finally, a picture of me in a funny hat on the beach, followed by a picture of me in a serious hat, followed by a picture and movie of a special friend who likes to hula hoop with fire!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Get out from behind that keyboard! "goStretch!"

Okay, so my home office isn't *that* inspiring, but I promise, the lawn that's hidden in the above picture is a beautiful spot. Between the palm and oak (?) tree, the lawn is great for people watching, eating meals, reading books, and stretching / yoga type stuff.

But sometimes I forget to take time out for my body and do some stretching...

Enter the "goStretch!" bookmark!

This is simply a little internet bookmark that I've positioned at the end of my bookmarks toolbar, to remind me, when I'm just surfing my favorite sites and gathering news, that I should go Stretch!

(The link can point anywhere, but how about a "yoga pose-a-day" type website? In my case, the link goes nowhere, I don't even click it, I just rise from my seat and have at it!)

So when you're done reading this article -- how about going for a stretch!

Your body will thank you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 34: Free Mount is conquered!

I might be writing out of turn here, but I believe that I can free mount with less than 3 tries at any given time, and so I'm counting that as a win for the time being!

I took a long ride this afternoon after work and went up and down main street, all around the park -- probably totaling about 1.5 miles total!

Random picture of MAS and I flying in a Piper Cherokee, over to Catalina for a hike and snack, courtesy of MA_Air, who sometimes orders Buffalo Burgers over the aviation airwaves, thanks to the helpful tower folks at "Airport in the Sky!"

Because of a business / pleasure trip, I'll be away from the 'cycle for the next 5 days. Curious how things will fall apart in that time, I'm still excited to ride and get better when I return (and I'll try and get some multi-media going for the next update!

A friend's MINI E (fully electric Mini Cooper) car that I'm super excited about. The future is here, folks, and it's totally awesome. Get some electrons -- from anywhere, solar, wind, or plain old coal, and you'll be doing your grand-children a favor!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 17: Hittin' the (unicycle) gym!

Today was a pretty successful day, as I was able to free-mount (get on the unicycle) without holding on to a fence 3 times (out of about 50 tries). Very exciting; this brings my total to 5 free mounts!

In addition to trying to free mount, I did some work at the park on my turns. The first drill was a slalom course made from the tether-ball poles:

Second, there are these two concentric circles on the ground -- I have no idea what they're really for, but I practiced riding 'within the lines' in both directions, with limited success:

Here's a video of me riding at the playground!

(and here's another (not me! :)))

Monday, July 6, 2009

Unicycle progress tracker

Alert: Nerdlevel 9 Ahead!

(Click the image)

That was fun, eh?

Unfortunately I still can't turn right very well, but it's no big deal because it's about to be Mega-Nuts Slalom Week!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 15: Let's go to the park

My three day weekend started beautifully enough, spending half a day at a surprisingly beautiful man-made park in Costa Mesa. I decided to use the contour hills of the park to practice on my Unicycle!

Riding up and down small inclines isn't a big deal -- but it does get very tough, very quickly as the incline increases. This second movie shows the limit of what I can descend right now.

Third movie is more of the same -- hill descent. :-)

Also, check out this awesome photo of the park where I rode: TeWinkle Park Vertorama:
(Same pic looks BEAUTIFUL here.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Post Number 103: And now for something completely different

This time I'm posting two things that I have nothing to do with -- besides really enjoying them.

1) The TED Blog posted an excellent illusion the other day that really blew my mind. Check out the spiral below, and then try and wrap your mind around the fact that the blue and the green parts of the spiral are actually the same color. That's right, there's no blue and green, just a single blue-green color.
The BLUE and GREEN are actually the SAME color.

Honestly, I didn't believe that the blue and green could be the case, so i went about trying to verify it for myself. Click this link to see the time-lapse proof that I created by animating the removal of some of the stripes. (Cover up part of the screen with your fingers) And let me know if your mind was blown, please.

ps. I just viewed the comments, looks like someone did the same thing, so I just linked to theirs.

2) This second bullet is the best piece of software that I've used in a while: MWSnap. It allows you to take a screen capture (something I need to do with my 3D modeling at work on Solidworks quite frequently) in the easiest possible way.

Did I mention that it's free / donation only?!

Basically, I have it set up to load (minimized to the tray) when I start Windows, and when I use a keyboard shortcut (ctrl+shift+4), crosshairs pop-up allowing me to select the region of the screen that I want to save. Then it automatically saves to a new, numbered file, in a directory that I named (the desktop). Download it here.

Thank you, Mirek, you wrote some excellent software!

ps. Mac / OS X users -- fear not, this is built-in to your operating system! Just hit the Apple+Shift+4 and you'll get some cross hairs that do the same thing!

More to come on the unicycling front, great progress is being made! (But: I can't turn right!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unicycle: Day 10

Another excellent day on the concrete today, folks. After a few false starts by starting off over-confident, I drew back, got down to basics, used the wall for a few mins, and then headed out.

I went down the street to the middle school and hopped the fence and started my first experiments in FLATLAND. It's really nice to have such a big area (2 basketball courts, a flat painted map of the USA, and a lunch area) to just roam around in. I did a few speed-runs from end to end of the basketball court, and then tried to make laps. On my third try, I was able to make 4 (yes! FOUR) full circuits of the red line below, using the blue dots as waypoints.

I think next up will be experimenting with the other turning direction, and I'm not too confident in turning to the right. We'll see.

And then there's the whole goal of starting to ride without leaning on a post, tree, or wall -- seems literally impossible, despite what I've seen (click for video).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unicycle: Days 8 and 9

Day 8 was good, but not great. Went back to using the same old full coverage shoes that I had been learning on, before the flip-flop accident, and that seemed to help. I did something non-traditional at this point, however, and relocated to a new venue! The Balboa Sports Complex in Encino was my classroom for about 20 minutes as I tried riding in the open spaces along pathways, and open tarmac -- complete with tree-root-induced bumps! Longest straight ride was a new record, on smooth surface, of about 50 feet. Mixed success, but new pictures!

(Photos courtesy (again) of MAS. Thanks for dealing with a nervous and skiddish subject!)

Day 9 -- back home in Monrovia, and excited to have a free evening after work. I headed out into the alley (my original stomping (okay, unicycle-stomping) grounds) and found a carport with poles to ride between (about 16 feet apart, and on a slick, smooth concrete surface). Pretty good. Not great, and impossible to turn tight enough for figure 8s, but good enough to ride between them.

Then I decided to get brave! I rode down the length of the alley, and *fully* around the block. Falling multiple times, yes, but still, riding the entire 4 length sides of the block. Really got tired of falling off on bumps in the walkways where tree roots were cracking the cement.

Turning - had partial success rounding the corners -- which is impressive, as they dip for wheelchair access providing a challenging angle to ride on. (At the start of the turn, you're trying to make a right turn on the sidewalk, but the pavement is falling away to the front, and left, making the unicycle turn left, and accelerate -- and immediate reversal of both upon passing the halfway point!)

More to come! Very excited about this!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Unicycle: Days 6 and 7

Well, as they say (more in walking than in riding things, I guess), two steps forward, and one step back.

Day 6 of self-lessons on the unicycle was incredible! I accidentally rode away from the wall that I usually hold on to, and just kinda went with it, and ended up riding about 20 feet! I honestly didn't control direction at all, just marveled that I was successfully riding.

Feeling strong, I decided to go from my apartment's dumpster to the next apartment's dumpster -- about 30 feet. AND. I. SUCCEEDED. FOUR. TIMES. ... And it was really fun! (Okay, I only barely made it each time, and wasn't *fully* controlling direction, but really only had a width of 15 feet to work with, so I'll count that as a win.

Then there's the one step back: Day 7 was a complete bust, I wasn't even able to ride 10 feet next to the wall without touching it. I was, however, dumbly experimenting with flip flops, something I probably won't do again for a while. (And I raised the seat which reeeeeally helped. I'm now at my max seat height, allowing me to give advice to others: if you're taller than 5'10", don't get a 20" CyclePro Unicycle -- it probably will be too small.)

And this is just a random google image that I thought folks would like!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New HoBby for HB

Let this post serve as an accountability tool for my newest endeavor: learning to ride a unicycle! When you check in with me next, inquire about how my self-teaching lessons are going, and ask what my current struggles are!

My end goal isn't to join a circus, although the thought hasn't entirely left my mind.
(The above picture was taken in Wellington, New Zealand, Feb. 3, 2008)

Here's my first unicycle: a 20" wheel, road tire, CyclePro brand. Picked up off Craigslist, sans one part, for $50, up and running for $65.

In the 1 week that I've been riding, I've done 5 lessons, roughly 30 minutes each, and I'm just now starting to let go of the wall that I ride near, for very short distances (less than 5 feet).

(Sorry for the terrible sound. I'm just saying I ride roughly 30 minutes a day for the past week.)

If I get a bit o' feedback, I'll continue posting (better) videos of my progress.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Break 2009, Part 2

Part 2 of Spring Break took place in the greater LA area when a friend from Notre Dame came to visit from Chicago.

Who needs dreary days that have a high of 18 degrees?

We decided to stay on the Queen Mary, which is now a hotel. While it was designed to carry about 3000 people, it holds the record for most passengers in one vessel: 16,082 (Learn more about this fantastic ship at Wikipedia.)

We took a tour of the haunted ship for a few hours, and tried to conjure up spirits, along with just enjoying the various parts of the boat. We were let into the bow cargo hold and engine room among other.

The next day we headed inland to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs. (These dinos achieved fame in "PeeWee's Big Adventure, a movie made in 1985).

They were fun to see, and climb in, but we had trouble learning from the creationist museum on site. (The museum shows medieval soldiers pelting dinos with rocks, and has plans to build a replica of Noah's ark. Ugh.)

Next up was lovely old town Pasadena. Perfect sunset, architecture, food, and the arts.

Dancers at the public library, displaying traditional Mexican dances.

Last stop of ArtNight (highly recommended!) was the Norton Simon museum, with some amazing Degas and Monet pieces, along with an exhibit on Asian religions. Love it.

No visit to LA would be complete without a stop at Venice Beach where we saw a busker jump over 9 people (the guy on the left, the 10th, moved out of the way).

Venice Beach drum circle at sunset on a Saturday night. Much better in person (or YouTube).

Katy and I enjoying the arts a bit more on Saturday night at a local community theatre performance of The Secret Garden.

Finally, the Santa Monica Farmer's Market for some ridiculously big quesadillas and a few strawberries and fudge, to keep our strength up!
(No fozzies were hurt in the making of this coat.)