Sunday, June 27, 2010

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

My bicycle is on the roof of a yellow Mini Cooper on its way to Utah. I'm flying there on July 8th for M&S's wedding. Then I'm riding home.

It's going to be ridiculously hot, I've never ridden further than 30 miles, and I really need to be doing research, plus I'm also disappointed to be missing Sweetgrass at its only SF engagement on July 11-12, a Kurosawa double feature at the PFA on the 14th, and a restored print of Seven Samurai on the 17th.

My expected route is to head down the west side of Utah Lake then take 50 west for a long time. I ordered a couple of the Western Express route maps from Adventure Cycling, so maybe I'll end up doing some of that. Hiker friends did something similar a few years ago and trailjournaled it. Who knows. I'm not guaranteeing I'll do the whole thing (did I mention it's going to be hot?), but I've got to get out and do something so I don't go crazy. Like the man said, buy the ticket, take the ride.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Angel Island

My day was not quite as epic as originally planned, but it was still fun. I paddled from Berkeley Marina to Angel Island (7-8 miles), ran two laps (17K) around the island, one on the perimeter road and one on great single-track to the summit of Mt. Livermore, climbed around the old military buildings, paddled home with big scary waves at my back, then went for a 14 mile bike ride.

I've come to the conclusion that for me, kayaking is a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. It gets me to interesting islands, but getting out of the boat and exploring the island is the best part. Today was easily the hardest kayaking I've ever done, with 20-30 knot winds and a small craft advisory in place. (I didn't know this until just now, and I didn't know anything about conditions other than the tide schedule until I parked at the marina at 5:30 this morning and saw that it was already choppy.) The way to the island was difficult as I was headed out against big waves, but on the way back it was even more difficult with even larger waves coming at me from behind. It's fun to be able to ride them and go fast, but it's hard to not see them coming yet keep the bow pointed where you want to go. As I get lifted up by a wave, the bow leaves the water and can easily swing almost 45 degrees in the time of one stroke. And you can't get into any paddling rhythm because you're constantly bracing or steering, or you try to do a stroke, and whoops, the water is far closer/further than you expected. It was tense and a tiny bit frightening when waves crashed all the way over the cockpit, but I didn't capsize or anything, so it wasn't that bad. Mostly I just think that the view doesn't change very much, so it's a lot less fun than running or cycling.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Is My 500th Blog Post

What a huge waste of time. Or not. Maybe it's a humorous creative outlet for my sarcasm and a way to keep in touch with people. Today, it's three youtube clips of folk/country musician John Prine, to whom I was recently introduced to by the movie Big Fan, Fresh Air, and a friend on facebook. Listen and enjoy.

"Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore/they're already overcrowded from your dirty little war/now Jesus don't like killing, no matter what the reason's for."

The Fresh Air review of two new albums.
His set at Bonnaroo.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Living the Dream

National Punch a Banker Day

Just now finished reading Michael Lewis' The Big Short. It was absolutely amazing. Can I be him when I grow up? Failing that, can I at least run into him at Berkeley Bowl and say hello? Seriously, this book is great. It's an entertaining tale of three groups of Wall Street outsiders (a one-eyed neurologist with Asperger's and some dudes living in a shack in Berkeley, for example) who foresaw the subprime mortgage meltdown and made a fortune by betting against the CDO's.

I'm too excited about this book to really respond clearly, so here are random thoughts: Investment banking is worthless, but betting against the system is somehow fascinating. The system is totally rigged. Also, the Black-Scholes equation and the fact that people systematically underestimate the likelihood of very bad events occurring (behavioral economics!)

Fascinating, huh?

Also, I can't wait to read the next book in this non-trilogy (with Liar's Poker as the first and Short as the second), because this one basically ends with the bailouts, and somebody (Lewis? Sy Hersh? Bethany McLean?) needs to write a brilliant expose on how ridiculous it is that the same d-bags who bankrupted the system are still running it, with even weak reform yet to pass.

I'll end with a bit from the first chapter when I knew I was in love with this book:
"The guest speaker was Herb Sandler, the CEO of a giant savings and loan called Golden West Financial Corporation. "Someone asked him if he believed in the free checking model," recalls Eisman. "And he said, 'Turn off your tape recorders.' Everyone turned off their tape recorders. And he explained that they avoided free checking because it was really a tax on poor people--in the form of fines for overdrawing their checking accounts. And that banks that used it were really just banking on being able to rip off poor people even more than they could if they charged them for their check."
Eisman asked, "Are any regulators interested in this?"
"No," said Sandler.
"That's when I decided the system was really, 'Fuck the poor.'"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Does the set of all sets which do not contain themselves contain itself?

Because if it does, then it doesn't, and if it doesn't, then it does. Or did I just blow your mind, Bertrand Russell style?

I just finished reading Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, the graphic novel by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papdimitriou, and it was f---ing brilliant. It's about Bertrand Russell and his search for a logical basis for mathematics. Yes, it's a comic book about the history of math, philosophy, and logic. It reminds me of the epiphany-packed Journey through Genius.

Also, I read The Full Burn by Kevin Conley, about Hollywood stuntmen. I judge lots of entertainment by whether it makes me want to be that when I grow up/wish I had studied that in school. Logicomix definitely passes that test; I totally wish I'd taken Math History my last semester in college instead of Pop Culture. Burn didn't really make me want to be a stuntman, although it did make me google amazing stunt scenes from movies, and I did imagine pretty cool altercations between myself and a car while riding to school today.

Went to the A's/Giants game Saturday and got to meet the umps and go on the field during batting practice through a charity thing. Sunday I went kayaking in Richardson Bay. Lots of seals and house boats. Hopefully my pictures will turn out--the display is completely broken so I can't tell what I'm taking a picture of. Still hoping to track down a bike kayak trailer for this weekend.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Busy Day

I ran a 50K on Mount Diablo today. It took me 7:57, which is slightly ridiculous, but it was about 85 degrees out and the course climbs straight up and down Mt. Diablo twice with 8,900' of climbing, so I finished about in the median like normal. Last fall with a worse knee but better weather I did this course in 7:19. I'm disappointed in myself for making excuses not to ride my bike the 27 miles to the start of the race, but I'm happy with the run given the heat for which I am not at all conditioned. But I'm to the point where running 50K is not a big deal, so if I'm not in good enough shape to be setting PR's, then at least I can add a bike ride or extra miles to mix it up (and save the planet some carbon). Speaking of, I'm still tentatively planning on paddling to Angel Island for a run in two weeks. I'd given up on biking my kayak to the marina, since I didn't want to spend $300 buy a trailer, but today a friend suggested I just ask around and borrow one, so we'll see if that works out.

In addition to the regular This American Life and Fresh Air podcasts during my eight hours of running today, I listened to a couple good Radio Lab episodes, one of which managed to explain both why I'm not that fast a runner and why I sometimes get pretty not-happy with life. Fast forward to 47:00 and start listening. But first ask yourself this question: do you ever enjoy your bowel movements? No, seriously, it's science. Awesome science.

Finally, I just got back from a Matt & Kim show. There's no other word to describe it than "FUN." Also balloons, lasers, jumping up and down on the drum/keyboard kit, crowd member vs. Kim dance contest, and covers of Sweet Child of Mine and The Final Countdown. An absolute blast.