Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reading log, 2015

The biggest reading news of the year is that I bought a Kindle Paperwhite—my first e-reader. I enjoy reading on it—more so than paper books—a preference that has caused an up-tick in the number of books I read that were published before 1923.

  • Ray Bradbury
    The Martian Chronicles (1950)

  • Gene Wolfe
    The Sorcerer's House (2010)

  • Andy Weir
    The Martian (2011)

  • Emma Orczy
    The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905)

  • Joe Haldeman
    The Forever War (1974)

  • Rudyard Kipling
    Kim (1901)

  • John Buchan
    The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

  • Robert Heinlein
    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

  • G. K. Chesterton
    The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

  • T. C. Boyle
    A Friend of the Earth (2000)

  • E. O. Wilson
    Anthill (2010)

  • Ursula le Guin
    The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

  • H. G. Wells
    The Time Machine (1895)

  • H. G. Wells
    The Invisible Man (1897)

  • Larry McMurtry
    Lonesome Dove (1985)

  • Harry Crews
    A Feast of Snakes (1976)

  • Scott Meyers
    Effective Modern C++ (2015)

  • H. G. Wells
    The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)

  • Jane Austen
    Mansfield Park (1814)

  • Jane Austen
    Pride & Prejudice (1813)

  • Robin Sloan
    Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012)

  • Malcolm Lowry
    Under the Volcano (1947)

  • Neil Gaiman
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

  • Agatha Christie
    The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

  • Vernon Lee
    Hauntings (1890)

First time to read author
Reread

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hikes #82 - 83

Hike #82

When
Wednesday, 2015-12-23
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Morning hike

Hike #83

When
Wednesday, 2015-12-23
Where
Papago Park
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Evening trail run

I started another blog, Const Volatile. It's where I'll write about software stuff. So far, CV has one post: a how-to article about setting up hibernation in Debian using a just-in-time swap file. If that sentence makes your eyes glaze over then CV is not for you.

At the risk of adding misery to boredom, I'll note CV is hosted on GitHub. That means all of the source code is publicly accessible. I statically render the site on my laptop using a program called Hugo, then I push source code and final output to my Git repo. In addition to my one post, I created a theme from scratch, which I call “simplicitism.” It has a decidedly retro look-and-feel, circa 1998 sans <blink> tag. CV is a work-in-progress.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hikes #78 - 81

Hike #78

When
Thursday, 2015-11-26
Where
South Mountain at the Pima Canyon Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Turkey trot with the Aravaipa trail running group

Hike #79

When
Wednesday, 2015-12-02
Where
Papago Park
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First nighttime trail run with the Aravaipa trail running group

Hike #80>

When
Thursday, 2015-12-10
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing

Hike #81>

When
Sunday, 2015-12-13
Where
South Mountain, along the Max Delta Loop trail
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Impromptu trail run instead of staying on San Juan road

I've long given up on completing one hundred hikes this year and am now aiming for a B grade, somewhere in the 80's.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hikes #73 - 77

Hike #73

When
Sunday, 2015-11-01
Where
Manhattan – Brooklyn – Manhattan
Duration
9 hours
Notable
First time to walk across Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge

Hike #74

When
Tuesday, 2015-11-10
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Not sick anymore?

Hike #75

When
Tuesday, 2015-11-10
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Second hike in same day

Hike #76

When
Wednesday, 2015-11-11
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing

Hike #77

When
Thursday, 2015-11-12
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing

When I was in seventh grade, I got pink eye. My eyes reddened, alternating between gooey and crusty, and I missed a few days of school. On my first day back, I handed my excuse note to my Texas history teacher—a tiny women whose name I can't remember—and she remarked that pink eye was typically a girl's disease. “Why?,” I asked. Because girls share makeup and thus spread the disease among themselves. I felt awkward as she told me this.

Now, twenty-four years later, I went to New York for a few days and came back with pink eye. Pink eye is nothing like what I remember. First of all, it's an upper respiratory infection that happens to also affect the eyes. My first symptoms were a sore throat, headache, and sinus infection—the same as with a cold. Only after taking a few days off from work did I happen to look in the mirror, and I was startled to discover I had pink eye. (Laura was still in New York and thus unable to alert me to the horridness of my swollen red eye sooner.)

Here's another new thing about pink eye: being sick for three weeks. After the first week, I thought I had recovered—notice the ‘A’ Mountain hikes above—but my optimism proved unfounded and I soon thereafter relapsed—the details of which aren't worth writing about.

It brings to mind something Oliver Sacks once wrote: it's not so much the person having the disease as it is the disease having the person.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hikes #69 - 72

Hike #69

When
Saturday, 2015-10-24
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Movie + hike

Hike #70

When
Monday, 2015-10-26
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing

Hike #71

When
Wednesday, 2015-10-28
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing

Hike #72

When
Friday, 2015-10-30
Where
Southards Pond
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Fall colors in NY

Yesterday and today I did something I've never done before: airport push-ups. My lifetime totals are now:

JFK 20
Sky Harbor 20

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hike #68: Project Gutenberg

When
Tuesday, 2015-10-20
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Weather too ominous to bicycle

Recently, I waded a few inches deeper into the modern world and bought a mobile device. A smart phone? A tablet? No, an ebook reader.

The first thing I did with my new Kindle was to download a Jane Austen novel. Doesn't everyone? They're all free on Project Gutenberglegally free, as are all works published before 1923, the date of the oldest surviving copyright. (Note to non-Americans: Your laws may vary.)

Project Gutenberg boasts more than 50,000 free ebooks and has been around a long time, predating Amazon, Google, and even the Web itself. I first learned about Project Gutenberg fourteen years ago, before the rise of ebook readers and when a “mobile device” was a laptop with a nickel battery. Since then, ebooks have exploded in popularity—and some laptops have literally exploded—so Project Gutenberg must be doing well, too, right?

Sadly, not so. The most-downloaded book on the site is Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen, and has been downloaded, as of today, a scanty 30,531 times. That averages fewer than five downloads per day since the ebook's release in 1998. How many times has Amazon charged customers for the same book?

Yes, this blog post has an agenda, and that's to spread the word about Project Gutenberg. Don't be fooled into paying for written content published prior to 1923.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hikes #46 – #67

Hikes #46-49

When
Saturday, 2015-06-13 – Tuesday, 2015-06-16
Where
Havasupai
Duration
n/a
Notable
Counts as four hikes—one for each day

Hike #50

When
Monday, 2015-06-22
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First ‘A’ Mountain double

Hike #51

When
Thursday, 2015-07-09
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Another round of Achilles tendinosis, probably owing to the Havasupai hikes the month prior

Hike #52

When
Monday, 2015-07-13
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Yep, still injured

Hike #53

When
Wednesday, 2015-07-15
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Nothing, absolutely nothing

Hike #54

When
Monday, 2015-07-27
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Still nothing

Hike #55

When
Tuesday, 2015-08-04
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Even more nothing

Hike #56

When
Monday, 2015-09-21
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Out of shape for hiking due to taking a month-and-a-half off, but at least my Achilles tendon feels better

Hike #57

When
Thursday, 2015-09-24
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Sharp, shooting pain in my left foot

Hike #58

When
Monday, 2015-09-28
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First pre-sunrise hike this side of summer

Hike #59

When
Wednesday, 2015-09-30
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Migraine headache, nothing to do but go for a easy-does-it hike

Hike #60

When
Thursday, 2015-10-01
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First cool and dry morning this side of summer

Hike #61

When
Sunday, 2015-10-04
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Saw kids playing on the concrete ‘A’

Hike #62

When
Monday, 2015-10-05
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Rainy hike

Hike #63

When
Tuesday, 2015-10-06
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Still sore from Sunday's hard run up the mountain

Hike #64

When
Sunday, 2015-10-11
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Saw grown kids playing on the concrete ‘A’

Hike #65

When
Saturday, 2015-10-10
Where
Camelback Mountain, from the Echo Canyon Trailhead
Duration
1½ hours
Notable
Hiked with Former Coworker Nick

Hike #66

When
Saturday, 2015-10-17
Where
Camelback Mountain, from the Cholla Trailhead
Duration
1½ hours
Notable
I may have forgotten to log the real hike #66

Hike #67

When
Monday, 2015-10-19
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hours
Notable
Stepped in a puddle, which is unusual while hiking a steep slope in Arizona

All caught up!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hike #45: Tempe

When
Thursday, 2015-06-11
Where
‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First hike from the new apartment

Laura and I moved apartments last weekend. For the first time since 2006, I live in a city other than Phoenix. Welcome to Tempe, pronounced tem-PEE, with the accent on the second syllable, and I should make an effort to say it right after saying it wrong for the last nine years.

Wikipedia says Tempe is named after the Vale of Tempe, a gorge in Greece. Greece makes me think of mythology, and a phoenix is a mythological bird, so really the cities are very similar. They're also adjacent.

Hike #44: Blah blah blah

When
Thursday, 2015-06-04
Where
Flat loop hike, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Last hike at the 40th St Trailhead?

Another day, another aimless walk around the unnamed trails in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Hike #43: Don't stand too close to a rattlesnake

When
Thursday, 2015-05-28
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1½ hour
Notable
Saw another rattlesnake

Today's hike was a slower-than-normal hike up and down TwoBit. There was that rattlesnake, and there was that older gentleman chasing the snake off trail, over terrain that one could fall off the mountain from, and there was the rattlesnake rattling its tail with the man standing two feet away, trying to get a closer view for his camera. But other than that, nothing much happened.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hike #42: Why?

When
Sunday, 2015-05-24
Where
Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout, South Mountain
Duration
1½ hours
Notable
First hike at South Mountain this year

Today, after the hike, I saw for the first time in my life a chicken crossing the road. Questions were asked.

Hike #41: Three hundred thirty hikes

When
Thursday, 2015-05-21
Where
Circumference hike around unnamed peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable

Every time I hike TwoBit Peak after work, I see an older man, sometimes alone and sometimes with a buddy or two, and every time wearing jeans and a cotton shirt that contrast with the REI plastic clothing the rest of us hikers wear.

Today I started at the trailhead at the same time as this man, and I asked him if he hikes everyday. His answer was yes, and that he hiked TwoBit about 330 times last year. This makes my own goal to do 100 hikes this year seem not so hard.

Hike #40: Snakes on a plain

When
Tuesday, 2015-05-19
Where
Unnamed, flattish loop hike, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First rattlesnake of the year, while hiking

Laura joined me on today's hike, and my snakeophile wife was pleased to encounter not one, but two rattlesnakes. The snakes were less pleased to see my wife.

The first rattler we heard before we saw, as it gave a quick two-count rattle before slithering under some brush and making every effort to blend in unseen. It looked well fed, and because the evening sun was dipping low on the horizon, it was probably done sunning and ready to find a warm place to stay for the night.

A fellow hiker alerted us to the second snake, which was shorter and thinner than the first. It slithered off the trail into some brush, but then coiled and watched my wife and me warily.

Ironically, two days prior, I told Canadian Fred that I had never seen a rattlesnake while hiking in the Phoenix area—a fact that was true at the time. Until then, my only encounters with rattlers had been while (1) hiking Pine Mountain north of the city and (2) road biking in north Scottsdale, where sometimes I see the snakes crossing the roads.

Hike #39: House Finch

When
Sunday, 2015-05-17
Where
Shadow Mountain, from the 28th St Trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Considerably less Achilles' tendon pain than last week

Today while running down the mountain, I noticed a house finch, calling from some brush. The house finch is another bird I would have assumed is non-native to the Phoenix area but is in fact native to the western United States.

Hike #38: Our friend to the north

When
Saturday, 2015-05-16
Where
Tempe ‘A’ Mountain
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First time to the ‘A’ Mountain this year

Today on the way up the mountain, Laura and I met Fred from Quebec City, a student who's spending his summer break traveling the western United States. He just started his trip, having spent a night in New York and one night couch-surfing in Phoenix.

Fred asked me where the good hiking in Phoenix is—the ‘A’ Mountain is a disappointment if you aim for more than a pleasant view of the ASU campus—and considering myself an expert on the topic, I told him about the local peaks and paths of the Greater Phoenix area and recommended hiking Camelback. This led to a discussion of how a non-driving Canadian should get from Tempe to Camelback. I again consider myself an expert on the topic—that is, taking public transportation from Tempe to Camelback, not Canadianness. The answer, for anyone interested, is to take the light rail, or bike, to 44th St and Washington, and from there take the #44 bus route to Tatum at MacDonald. The bus arrives every thirty minutes—about the length of time as the bus ride.

But it turns out there's a much quicker way to get there. It involves giving Fred a ride in your car, which is parked about a mile away from the ‘A’ Mountain, and dropping him off at the Camelback trailhead, which happens to be on the way home for Laura and me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hike #37: Tatum-to-40th-St

When
Friday, 2015-05-15
Where
Trail 100, from Tatum, to the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First point-to-point hike of the year

The logistics of a point-to-point hike are usually more complicated than of a loop hike—what with needing a vehicle at each trailhead—but today I brute-forced my way through those complications and did a point-to-point from the Tatum Trailhead to the 40th St Trailhead by walking with my bike.

Coinciding with my hike was a mountain biker going the same direction as me and who passed me early on in my hike, then whom I passed five minutes later while he was stopped and checking his phone, then who passed me again before I finally passed him near the end of my hike. The final time I passed him—he was again stopped and checking his phone—I told him he was averaging “walking speed.” He said the real riding would start Saturday morning.

Hike #36: Foot arch

When
Sunday, 2015-05-10
Where
Shadow Mountain, from the 28th St Trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable
Possibly overdid it today

I blame my latest onset of Achilles' tendinosis on a five-mile run I did around Tempe Town Lake a few weeks ago. I ran in my new pair of Xero Shoes, which is my latest phase in trying to undo a childhood of over-coddled, never-go-outside-without-shoes-on feet.

I can objectively say my feet have gotten stronger and the arches more arched. How? I've dropped a shoe size, having gone from 12 to 11½. If this sounds puzzling, consider that an additional lift of the foot arch effectively shortens the length of the foot, just like how the shortest distance between two points is not a healthy curve above the plantar fascia. I like to think of my newer, bigger arches as each giving me an additional ½-shoe-size-worth of natural shock absorption in my feet. But childhood deficiencies are hard to make up for.

Hike #35: Achilles' heel

When
Thursday, 2015-05-07
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Yet another trail run—easy stuff

Today's was another “hike extender,” though I have no streak to extend. Perhaps I'm trying to extend the Achilles' tendon in my left foot, which recently has flared with minor tendinosis. I consider myself something of an expert at Achilles' tendinosis, having gone through four, now five, occurrences of it. The key, I've learned, is being active without causing additional harm. Pure rest isn't as good as active rest. Fortunately for me with this latest flare-up, that includes hiking.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hike #34: Debugging

When
Tuesday, 2015-05-05
Where
Trail #8 to the big hunk of quartz, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
End of bee season?

What a change a week can make. The palo verde and mesquite blooms have gone away, and so have most bees and other flying insects. Bugs aren't fooled by the lower temperatures this week—summer is almost here.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hike #33: Another run

When
Thursday, 2015-04-30
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First bus+bike+hike of the year

Another late arrival to the trailhead, another trail run.

Hike #32: Run

When
Thursday, 2015-04-23
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First time to trail-run TwoBit almost in its entirety

Today, because I was late to arrive at the trailhead, I ran the entire trail excluding the stiff-upward-gradient portion—i.e., the part of the trail where running isn't much faster than walking. My final time was 45 minutes, which rounds up to 1 hour.

I'm pretty sure trail-running this trail would have been tough for me at the beginning of the year. Not cardiovascularly, but muscularly. However, after four months of hiking, I feel no soreness or fatigue the next day. Exercise diversity for the win!

Hike #31: Hole-in-the-Rock

When
Tuesday, 2015-04-21
Where
Hole-in-the-Rock, at Papago Park
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First time at Hole-in-the-Rock

Once again I met my wife at Papago after work. This time we started from the parking lot across the road, at the short trail that leads to Hole-in-the-Rock.

From the Hole, one has a good view of the downtowns of Phoenix and Tempe, as well as that region in between, the one most people call Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix is somewhat unusual for a big American city in that its airport is only a few miles away from its downtown.

This afternoon the planes were taking off towards the west and landing from the east. This is, I believe, typical. Also typical, I believe, is that these directions are flipped in the morning, with planes taking off towards the east and landing from the west. Why is this, I wonder? I suspect it's due to the shifting wind direction in the Valley, with the gentle morning breeze typically blowing from the east, and the afternoon wind blowing from the west. The daily wind-flip phenomenon is apparent to anyone who commutes to work by bike everyday—at least, after a few years of that person biking westward in the mornings and eastward in the afternoons and giving up that prevailing omni-tailwind to change jobs and residences and consequently to bike into an omni-headwind almost every day, twice a day. Anyway, pilots who are taking off or landing prefer, unlike cyclists, a headwind because it means the plane's relative speed to the ground is slower than if the wind is a tailwind.

Another possibility for the airplane flight patterns flipping midday is that the airlines take advantage of the efficiencies of an airport that's west of most other airports in the country. Most flights leaving Sky Harbor, I presume, are going eastward, and most flights arriving are coming westward. Furthermore, there probably are more departing flights in the morning and more arriving flights in the evening—excluding red-eyes, every flight departs earlier in the day than it arrives—so it might make sense to adjust the take-off and landing directions to facilitate this: i.e., in the morning take off towards the east and in the evening land from the east.

But the flight paths don't flip everyday, and that makes me think the main cause is something inconsistent and transient, something like wind direction.

Nevertheless, until I'm told by someone who knows what they're talking about, this is an open question here at Just Enough Craig.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hike #30: God bless you, Internet

When
Monday, 2015-04-20
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Second consecutive day I saw a man operating an RC car on the trail

Today, I present a video of people jumping into cacti. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hike #29: Birds

When
Sunday, 2015-04-19
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Saw a cyclist coast in to the Trailhead with no chain on his bike

Today I marveled at a cactus wren, which rasped from atop a saguaro, then, perhaps just to show off, flew to and alighted on an ocotillo.

If you follow that first link, be sure to watch till the end.

Hike #28: Bees

When
Monday, 2015-04-13
Where
Flat trails, from the 40st Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Lots of bees and flies

Are other springs in the Sonoran as populated with flying insects as this year's? I don't remember the bees being as numerous in years past, but I never hiked as much as this year, so it might be only my new perspective. Looking down from the hills, I see countless palo verdes, each one having spawned a galaxy of yellow flowers, each tree visited by dozens-if-not-hundreds of bees at any given time in the afternoon. I doubt I can convey to readers how loud and ubiquitous the buzzing is.

Today I noticed for the first time mesquite blooms, called catkins, but they may as well be called “pollen sticks” for their appearance. The mesquites growing in the washes seemed the only plant to attract more bees than the palo verdes.

Fun trivia: Mesquites are legumes—hence the bean pods they produce. As such, mesquites fix nitrogen into the soil. And the beans are edible.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hike #27: 5th annual LMI

When
Sunday, 2015-04-13
Where
South Mountain, from 43rd Ave to the “Big Ramada”
Duration
1 hour
Notable
5th annual Laura Matera Invitational

Trivia question: Who coined the name “Laura Matera Invitational?“

Hint: It was the one person who still reads Just Enough Craig.

Hike #26: Tax computation

When
Saturday, 2015-04-11
Where
Piestewa Peak, via the Summit Trail
Duration
1½ hours
Notable
First sighting of saguaro blooms this year

Tax laws are complicated, but IRS forms and worksheets are not. Each line comprises a single, simple step. E.g., add two numbers together and write down the sum; or, compare two numbers and write down the smaller; or, check whether a number is less than zero, and, if so, skip to line such-and-such. And so on.

Such single-step simplicity is strikingly similar to how computer software works at its lowest level, in assembly languages, where the software meets the hardware. And all software, no matter how abstract and fuzzy, is built on top of assembly code.

It turns out IRS forms and worksheets use the same three basic building blocks as software.

  • Sequence. After completing a step, go to the next step.
  • Condition. Do X if such-and-such is true, otherwise do Y.
  • Branch. Go to such-and-such step instead of the next step.

As far as I can tell, IRS forms and worksheets are limited in only one fundamental way that software is not. An IRS form or worksheet never branches to a previous line, whereas software often branches to a previous instruction. Backwards branching is what makes looping possible, such as repeating the same sequence of instructions a thousand times, or to continue doing the same sequence until a calculated value becomes zero.

There's no technical reason stopping the IRS from using backwards branching in their forms or worksheets—only lack of need. Good thing, too. Who wants to get stuck in an infinite loop calculating their taxes?

Hike #25: LMI prep run

When
Wednesday, 2015-04-08
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Saw the Aravaipa running group

For today's hike, I ran more than I walked, and, no, bees weren't involved. Instead, I was preparing for the upcoming Laura Matera Invitational this Sunday.

After volunteering for the event three of its four years, my wife informed me that this year it's my turn to run. Once again I'll run the LMI in my Five Fingers shoes, which last time proved bloody tough. Literally. My feet bled through my shoes.

This year I expect better results.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hike #24: Hot and sunny

When
Sunday, 2015-04-05
Where
Shadow Mountain, from the 28th St Trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First four-hike week since the first week of the year

Third day in a row testing the new shoes—this time a road run past Alice Cooper's Thrift Store, to the 28th St Trailhead. I taped the backs of my heels to protect against chafing.

Shadow Mountain is a proving ground for shoe grippiness. The trail isn't a real trail and so lacks adequate engineering; the trail goes straight up the mountain at a steep grade instead of switchbacking, and it's covered in loose rocks that thwart hikers in a hurry with mini avalanches at each step. The Five Fingers passed the test, and proved better than sneakers, maybe a little less grippy than regular hiking shoes.

Hike #23: Shaw Butte

When
Saturday, 2015-04-04
Where
Shaw Butte, from the Central Ave parking lot
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First time up Shaw Butte this year

I'm still breaking in my feet for the new Five Fingers trail runners. Other than the chafing at the backs of my heels—which is temporary—these shoes are awesome. My previous experiences hiking and running trails in Five Fingers haven't gone well—we're talking blood and bruises here—but these new shoes have thicker soles that seem to give just enough projection when traversing the sharp, jagged rocks common to the Sonoran Desert. And the rubber is almost as grippy as a regular hiking shoe.

Hike #22: New shoes

When
Friday, 2015-04-03
Where
Trail #8, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First bee sting this year

Today's hike was an out-and-back along Trail #8, to its highest point, which is a small mountain pass with a big chunk of quartz just below. My mission was to test out my new Five Fingers trail runners. Mission accomplished.

The new shoes work well, though I'm glad I chose a shorter and easier hike than usual. The shoes chafed the backs of my heels, but they hadn't caused any lasting damage to the skin by the time I returned to the parking lot. Can't say the same about the bee sting. The sting was a savage attack, and my forehead is still smarting, two days later. Next time I won't stand so close to the beehive.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hike #21: Papago

When
Monday, 2015-03-30
Where
Papago Park, loop hike around the buttes
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Two-year wedding anniversary hike

Today I met my wife at Papago Park after her job interview at a Tempe school. It's our two-year wedding anniversary today, not to be confused with our regular anniversary, which occurs earlier, in February.

Papago doesn't look like much of a hike. It's a small park that's hemmed in by busy roads and a golf course. The trails are flattish. And yet coming around the buttes from the north side, heading west, gives great views of Central Corridor, downtown Phoenix, and Tempe.

I've never scrambled to the top of any of the buttes at Papago. Let's add that to the list of hiking goals.

Hike #20: Where are Craig's shoes?

When
Saturday, 2015-03-28
Where
Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon Trail
Duration
1½ hour
Notable
No scrapes, bruises, or other injuries

Find my shoes in the photo below. Click the photo to enlarge.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hike #19: Joke

When
Thursday, 2015-03-26
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Saw a jackrabbit—not a cottontail

A pack of coyotes chased a couple of cottontails. The cottontails dashed into the safety of some thick brush, out of reach from the coyotes but cut off from further escape. Panting, one cottontail said to the other: “Well, what should we do? Should we make a run for it?—or should we wait until we outnumber them?”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hike #18: Yield

When
Saturday, 2015-03-21
Where
Flat loop hike, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First time I've applied the horse-hiker-biker yield rule

My wife spurred me into doing a flat, one-hour hike with her this morning. At the end of the hike we saw a colony of bees that had made a home out of a hole in the ground. And just before that we listened to a mockingbird chirp like a car alarm. But the most exciting part of the hike was the “notable” at the top of this post: applying the horse-hiker-biker yield rule. (Edit: here's the correct sign.)

Laura and I came upon an oncoming equestrian and cyclist at the same time! My expert knowledge in all things right of way proved useful, as I had Laura and myself make room for the horse, then assert our right before the cyclist. It was a moment of civic awesomeness.

Hike #17: Oregon

When
Friday, 2015-03-13
Where
Spencer Butte, Eugene, Oregon
Duration
1½ hours?
Notable
First out-of-state hike of the year

Today I was joined with the three Matera ladies for a short but steep hike up the local butte of Eugene, Oregon.

Hiking in a forest, outside the Sonoran Desert, is always a pleasant change. The ground is soft and non-jagged, and I can touch the plants without getting stabbed.

The city of Eugene proved a pleasant change, too. Despite the continual drizzle during the two days Laura and I were there, the city's locals—mostly college students and bums—were out in droves walking and biking. Often you could look a mile down the road and count more cyclists than motorists.

Nevertheless, I do not recommended ambling around Eugene early Saturday morning in search of breakfast. The city doesn't wake up until about eight o'clock. Laura and I settled for a Voodoo doughnut.

Hike #16: Pets

When
Thursday, 2015-03-05
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First warm hike of the year

Today I saw the scarlet macaw again (reference: Hike #13). According to the Wikipedia page, a scarlet macaw may live up to seventy-five years in captivity. I believe that's worth keeping in mind before choosing one as a pet.

Hike #15: Trans fat

When
Wednesday, 2015-03-04
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First non-notable hike of the year

Are people duped by the “0g trans fat” line on nutrition labels? All of the foods I buy are labeled as having no trans fat, and yet, looking in my pantry this morning, I see in the ingredient list of the hot chocolate powder, hydrogenated coconut oil, and of the crispy taco shells, hydrogenated soybean oil.

The partial hydrogenation of oil leads to the creation of trans fats, so how can the nutrition labels say zero trans fat? That's because these foods have less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving—a small enough amount to be rounded down to 0g. Some foods advertise on their packaging “Zero trans fat!”—only to contradict themselves in the ingredient list.

This is a nice trick by food producers and government regulators. Most foods have less than 0.5g of trans fats and thus may claim “zero trans fat”—even Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening, which you might think would be the poster child for trans fat. Ingredients: soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ and citric acid (antioxidants).

Food producers use hydrogenated fats in their products because doing so allows them to take an oil that's cheap and has a long shelf life—e.g., vegetable oil—and then chemically change that oil to stay solid at room temperature. This last property is key. Who wants to buy a cookie that's a greasy mess? Ditto, apparently, for crispy taco shells.

So trans fats are useful. And they're inappropriately labeled. A more meaningful measurement would be in milligrams, not grams—same as how cholesterol and sodium are labelled today. Indeed, suppose sodium were measured in grams instead of milligrams. Nearly every product in the grocery store would advertise itself as “Sodium free!” Potato chips, hummus, salted peanuts?—all sodium-free! Salt itself barely misses the cut-off for sodium-freeness, having 590mg of sodium per 1.5g serving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hike #14: Side trail

When
Thursday, 2015-02-26
Where
40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First back-to-back after-work hike of the year

Today, instead of hiking to the summit of TwoBit Peak, I explored a side trail that forks off the summit trail. The long version of what happened next is the side trail ended about a hundred meters after forking from the main trail. Upon reaching the end, I sat on a rock, watched the nearby mountains stand there for a while, and thought about computers.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hike #13: Food poisoning

When
Wednesday, 2015-02-25
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Saw a man walking his pet scarlet macaw

Today's hike was my first after recovering from food poisoning the week before. My wife remains unconvinced it was food poisoning, instead thinking I had the flu. What do you think? Here are the symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Body aches

Notably, what's missing from the above list is any indication of respiratory infection—no sneezing, coughing, runny nose, etc. Also, the symptoms came on suddenly, within fifteen minutes of eating breakfast, which consisted of shredded wheat in soy milk. Soy milk goes bad one-to-two weeks after opening the carton.

By thinking my illness was the flu, which is contagious, and not food poisoning, which is not contagious, my wife played it safe—even if making an improbable diagnosis. She avoided contact with me and saved herself—in her mind, at least—from catching whatever I had. However, the next week I discovered an additional motive for her unlikely diagnosis: it may have been a cover-up. One day upon opening the fridge I noticed someone—and I'm not saying who, it may have been one of the cats, and not my lovely wife—had put an opened carton of soy milk at the back of the shelf, behind an unopened carton. I'm a lazy and unobservant person, so normally I grab whichever carton is at the front of the fridge, irrespective of “opened” status. I admit this is not a good system; an opened carton that's mistakenly placed at the back of the shelf may stay opened for more than a week. And that may be exactly what happened.

We'll never know the true story here. The soy milk I ate for breakfast was the last from the carton, and there's no way to tell when a carton was first opened.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hike #12: Shadow Mountain

When
Saturday, 2015-02-07
Where
Shadow Mountain, from Sweetwater Ave at 28th St
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First run-and-hike of the year

The closest trailhead to my home isn't the 40th St Trailhead I keep going back to; it's the 28th St Shadow Mountain Trailhead, which this year I hadn't yet been to until today.

The trailhead is close enough to my home to run to comfortably, and one possible route takes me by Alice Cooper's thrift store. “The Attic” is in a run down shopping center also hosting a church, community center, and Alice Cooper's after-school program for teens.

Shadow Mountain is smaller than many unnamed peaks in the valley—about 100m vertical—but it's steep, and the footing is tricky in spots, so it's a real hike.

Speaking of which, today's hike was uneventful. I passed one hiker descending while I ascended but otherwise had the mountain to myself.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hike #11: Gravity

When
Thursday, 2015-02-06
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
First hike this year both after work and in daylight

Today I reached the summit of TwoBit Peak just in time to catch a whiff of odorous evidence emanating from two lawbreaking teenage boys, and also just in time to watch the sun dip behind the mountains to the west.

Mountains stand still, in contrast to the sun, which zips across the sky at astronomical speeds. To someone here on Planet Earth, one moment the sun is in full view and too blinding to look at, a moment later it shines its last ray of light before night has come again.

Atop TwoBit Peak, two other teenagers, a boy and girl, asked me to take a photo of them. I obliged. Bodies in orbit, hands gravitating towards each other—their hormones, like the sun, also moving with great speed.

Of course, the sun isn't really moving. It's an illusion created by the spin of the earth.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hike #10: Sweat

When
Thursday, 2015-01-29
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Sweatiest hike so far this year

Today's hike was another one-hour pre-work workout starting at the 40th St Trailhead. The weather was as muggy as I've ever seen in Phoenix in the winter. Five minutes into the hike, when the trail first tilts up in earnest, I regretted my choice to wear a long-sleeved wool shirt. Soon thereafter, long before I reached the summit, I lost the battle of keeping my eyeglasses free from smeary sweat dripping from my forehead, and my shirt had sweat marks not just in the usual places.

All in all, it was another good morning to be out hiking.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hike #9: What's in a name?

When
Thursday, 2015-01-22
Where
TwoBit Peak, from the 40th St Trailhead
Duration
1 hour
Notable
Windiest hike of the year so far

This morning I expected to hike up Dixie Peak, but a freshly painted signpost on the trail noted I was instead hiking up TwoBit Peak. No, I wasn't lost.

Later that morning, while at work, I researched the new name and discovered (1) the name change happened sometime in the last week and (2) may have been an act of vandalism. Such drama!

What about the new name? Two bits make a quarter, which once upon a time bought a shave and a haircut. These days when I hear two bits, I think of computer bits, with each bit representing a one or zero. Two bits together represent a number from zero to three.

Many people believe eight bits make a byte, but this isn't always true. Eight bits make an octet, and an octet happens to be the same size as a byte on most computer systems today, owing to the popularity of the 8-bit microprocessors developed in the 1970s. However, the formal definition of a byte is that which is the smallest addressable region of memory in a computer, and so a byte may be any size. This is, of course, irrelevant information for the vast majority of people, even a majority of programmers.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hike #8: Helium

When
Saturday, 2015-01-17
Where
Piestewa Circumference Trail, from the Piestewa Summit Trailhead
Duration
2 hours
Notable
More bees than usual at the drinking fountain at the base of the Summit Trail

Today's hike is one of my favorites in the Phoenix area: the Piestewa Circumference Trail, officially named Trail #302. The trail leads around the mountain instead of up it, and it has much less foot traffic than the Summit Trail.

For the second time in January, I discovered a bunch of birthday balloons littering the desert landscape. This time I picked them up and packed them out, unlike what I did with the balloons I discovered while on hike #1. My good deed took some work, too. I trail-blazed up a steep gradient over loose rocks and around some scraggly brush to get to the balloons, and then I used my pocket knife to untangle them from a bush.

The helium once filling the balloons is the second-most abundant element in the universe, the first being hydrogen. Nevertheless, helium is a precious and nonrenewable resource. This is because helium is lightweight and nonreactive, two qualities that together cause the gas to rise out of the earth's atmosphere when released into the air. We get our helium just like we get natural gas, by drilling into rock. Most of the helium below the surface of the earth is a result of the natural radioactive decay of uranium and other unstable elements—the same radioactive decay that probably keeps the earth from being a frozen rock incapable of supporting life.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hike #7: Moving parts

When
Thursday, 2015-01-15
Where
Out-and-back along trail 100, from the 40th St trailhead
Duration
½ hour
Notable
First after-work hike of the year

For all hikes this year other than hike #2 , I've used a bicycle to get to and from the trailhead. Hike #2 is exceptional because I hiked with my wife, who, other than her fear and loathing of bicycles, is a reasonable and thoughtful woman.

A bicycle is simple in both senses of the word. On one hand, a bicycle has fewer parts than automotive alternatives, and most of a bicycle's parts are some combination of visible, accessible, and modular, so a bicycle is simple as in not complex. On the other hand, a bicycle is easy to use—indeed, the very model thereof. We say of a skill not soon forgotten that it's like riding a bike. So a bicycle is simple as in easy to do.

Nevertheless, a bicycle has more moving parts than you would guess. Many of these moving parts are hidden. For example, there are dozens of ball bearings, such as those in the hubs of the two wheels or in the bottom bracket or the headset. But most riders never see the insides of these parts. Wheels come pre-built, modern bottom brackets have sealed cartridges, and a headset doesn't need servicing due to normal wear. And in any case, bearings make up only a small percentage of a bicycle's moving parts. Where are the others? Are they hidden? Not at all! They make up the chain.

Each chain link comprises four or five parts—two plates, a pin, a roller, and an optional bushing—so the 114-link chain of a typical upright bicycle contains 456 or 570 parts. Each of these parts rubs against one or more of the others, and the rubbing causes the chain's metal to wear away over time. Sometimes I think about all this rubbing and wonder at how my legs made only of flesh are able to grind down alloy steel.

Nevertheless, chain friction is nearly negligible, as a typical chain transfers about 98% of the power from chainring to sprocket. The other 2% is waste energy that escapes as heat and noise, with the noise sometimes crescendoing to the tell-tale squeak-squeak of a chain that's past due for maintenance—and that's less than 98% efficient. But mostly the waste is heat. On a bicycle with a rider pushing 200 watts to the chainring—a moderate effort for a fit rider—the chain disperses about as much waste heat as a 50-bulb strand of LED Christmas lights. That's cool to the touch.