Sunday, June 14, 2015

43 pounds

My pack for our week long hike along the Lost Coast in Northern California is ready. Almost everything fits: a few snacks will need a home in another bear canister. My pack weight comes in at 43lbs (excluding water). It is heavier than I expected. I can still shed some weight if I wanted: the solar charger and my backpacking chair.

Here's a quick run down of what's in my Osprey Aether 70  (size: small with medium size straps) pack:

  1. Bear can with two meals for seven. I borrowed the meal plan from Erik the Black's backpacking blog
  2. Marmot Pulsar 2 backpacking tent 
  3. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol sleeping pad
  4. Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag
  5. Patagonia Torrentshell rain jacket
  6. 5.11 Patrol Rain pants
  7. Patagonia R1 jacket, Patagonia Nano Puff jackets, hat, gloves
  8. Sockets (3 + 4 liners), hiking underwear (2), short-sleeve polyester t-shirts (3), long sleeve Patagonia base layer (1), shorts
  9. Sunhat
  10. Large first aid kit, sunscreen, chapstick, bug spray, toiletries, camping towel
  11. Flashlight, paracord, survival granade, knife, duct tape 
  12. Water bottle, iodine
  13. Trowel and biodegradable toilet paper
  14. Jetboil gas canister (others bring a Jetboil stove), mess kit, cup
  15. Solar charging panel and battery
  16. Alite Design Mayfly chair
  17. Hiking poles
  18. Maps, tide charts, medical forms

Sunday, April 19, 2015


From National Monument, to now the newest National Park, the rock formations at the Pinnacles are beautiful.

We planned a training day trip, with 20-30 lbs backpacks, up the switch backs towards Condor Gulch and then back into the caves of Bear Gulch.

Originally the trip was planned for 5-6 miles, though we added a trip from the visitor center to Bear Gulch, as the parking lot there was full. There is a shuttle between both locations, though the wait can be long on popular hiking days.

Since there are several caves, do bring a headlamp. And plenty of water.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Almaden Quicksilver county park

Almaden, in South San Jose, was once the home of a large quicksilver mine. Named after the Spanish Almadén,  mercury was extracted out of cinnabar. It is still not safe to eat the fish from the ponds in this area due to the high mercury content.  Almaden Quicksilver County Park info

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Reserve

On Easter Sunday, after waking up early to watch de Ronde Van Vlaanderen cycling race, we decided to go on a hike to test out our new backpacking boots. We found a little jewel, about 30 minutes away from our house: Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve.

Today was a cloudy spring day, with rain showers promised throughout the day. I can imagine this place as a small oven in summer. On a day like today, it was wonderful: cool breeze, tall green grass, valleys of spring flowers, many groups of deer, and the danger that a mountain lion has been sighted only a few days ago. We only hiked a small portion of this open space preserve. We'll be back for more.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sky camp and Mount Wittenberg, Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is a beautiful place, both in winter as in summer. On this trip, we did not luck out and didn't get the Wild Cat campground.

Wild Cat camp ground, April 2014

Instead we were able to reserve Sky Camp. This came out perfect, as the camp is right next to Mount Wittenberg (eleveation: 1407ft - 428m).  We are on a quest to hike all mountains, part of the Rim Rover group: Mission peak, Mount Diablo, Mount Helena, Mount Tamalpias, Mount Wittenberg and the Pinnacles. After this weekend, only Mount Helena and Mount Tamalpias elude us.

We lucked out with great California weather. The backpacking meals were excellent. For dinner, we had lasagna, chicken red curry with okra and couscous. For breakfast, french pressed coffee and pancakes. Here are a few snaps from this weekend. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Watcha read'ng?

It is not easy to find great sources of information. We all know that you are more likely to find Fair and Balanced information on TheDailyShow than watching FoxNews. 

Attention grabbing and shock evoking headlines are no longer the purview of CNN. Also The Huffington post is all about hunting for clicks and advertising dollars. Disappointment surely awaits you when clicking on the bold red all-caps headline articles. Fear inducing headlines or titles with a specific number of items are just everywhere. Can we get some boring to the point titles? 

And please, let the news be original for a change. Lots of websites run the copy-modify-slightly-and-paste machines all day and night. And it is not just limited to the US. Techcrunch, ReCode or SFgate articles show up within hours on the websites of Belgian news outlets, translated into Dutch. 

Finding original blogs is not easy either. Try to find a product review blog or the personal opinion of a user of the product on their personal blog. Nowadays, every company or product spawns a bunch of blogs-in-sheep-skin. 

So, where do I go for my daily information dose, beyond books, Twitter, ArsTechnica, HackerNews or Wired? Here are my to-go-to tools and sites: 
  • Medium - is a new "blogging" platform. I find great articles there. (I've written a few on medium as well:
  • Pocket- is my favorite tool to save articles, using their Chrome plug-in, to read later in the day. 
  • Flipboard - curates various magazines in a tablet friendly format.
  • Feedly - is an old school newsfeed reader. I switched to Feedly after the death of Google Reader and being disappointed by Digg's reader. Sadly, fewer and fewer websites advertise an RSS feed. Here's a list of the websites and blogs I read in Feedly: 

If you have any interesting original content sites, let me know. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The new podcast era

As a fan of AM talk radio and NPR, it should be no surprise that I am a big fan of podcasts. I have always loved them. Podcasts, not the latest greatest iTunes song, were the reason many years ago I bought an iPod nano. I have since dropped the cumbersome synchronization to my iPod, and switched to using Pocket Casts on my Android phone.

I am very excited about the renaissance of podcasts. Not only are there better applications to listen to podcasts, the quality and number of different formats have increased dramatically.

Here's the list of podcasts I listed to regularly:

Three-star rated - big fan
  • Startup - a podcast by Gimlet Media about starting a company. Season one covered the story about Alex Blumberg (@abexlumberg) creating his own podcasting company, Gimlet Media.
  • Reply all - The second podcast from Gimlet Media, Alex Blumberg's new venture into created a podcasting business. 
  • NPR Planet Money - The economy explained in simple terms. I've been a big fan since day 1. 
  • NPR Wait Wait don't tell me - as I am often unavailable Saturday morning to catch the original broadcast on KQED. 
  • This American Life defined the story telling category. Quirky and interesting stories of our every day lives. There must be a Portlandia episode about us This-American-Life-afficionados. 
  • 99% invisible - Don't get fooled by the boring sounding introduction. This is a great and interesting podcast.
  • Serial - Yes, as many many others, I was listening every Thursday to Serial. Awaiting season 2.
  • The Anjunadeep edition - great focus beats
  • Above and Beyond Group Therapy Radio - party music
  • Sara and Vinnie's secret show - the uncensored version of a morning show on Alice 97.3 
  • The Moth - in a similar fashion as This American Life, The Moth is all about telling stories. 

    Two-star rated

    • The Tim Ferriss Show - at first I was leery of a 1 to 2-hours podcast. The interview with @photomatt  was very interesting and changed my mind. 
    • NPR Invisibilia - fairly new show about the invisible forces in our life. A little slow, though about very interesting topics. 
    One-star rated

    • Art of manliness  
    • 99U The podcast - The website is fantastic with great information for managers. The podcast only happens infrequently. 
    To be ratedI do not listen regularly enough yet to have a strong opinion
    • Art of Charm 
    • Criminal

    Let me know if there should be others on my list. I rotate often new podcasts in and out. 

    Ideally a podcast should be about 30 minutes tops, either to the point with tips, or just plain great story telling, and narrated by a nasal voice. 

    Sunday, February 22, 2015

    Lake Del Valle, Livermore

    I keep discovering wonderful regional parks, right in our backyard. Within less than an hour drive from our house is Lake Del Valle regional park (wiki). It is only 15 minutes from one of favorite wineries in Livermore.

    Lake Del Valle is a man made reservoir, by damming the Arroyo Del Valle river. Even during the winter, this river was not much of a river. Like the rest of California, this area is in a state of drought emergency. "Brown is the new Green", the sign at the entry gate stated.

    This is not a small reservoir. The capacity of the lake is 77,000 acre feet (95,000,000 m3)

    We took the opportunity to hike, along the Vallecitos trail, from our campground into the mountains and then back to the lake.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Evernote - revisited

    I've written in the past about the tools I use to get my work done or about my quest to find the best outliner application. As some of my colleagues loooove Evernote, I decided to give it another try. Also because I need a place to store larger notes to search later. My Moleskine basic notebook is just for fleeting notes. Creating a Google doc for every little note doesn't work. And Google Keep doesn't hold larger notes well. Hence my need for an intermediate digital notebook, accessible from many devices and searchable.

    Upon installation Evernote migrated all my data to the new version. This seemed to indicate a bunch of things had changed since I originally experimented with it. Indeed, the outliner works well: easy to indent and outdent. It still lacks a folding capability unfortunately. Copy and paste bulleted lists (my favorite), into an email works. I love it.

    However, there are still a few issues:

    1. Evernote was slow as a snail on my 2008 macbook pro. Even with only a few notes. Evernote CPU time hovered between 15-25%. That was strange and unless this improves after a restart of the application will be a deal killer. 
    2. The application lacks a "remove formatting" feature, or it was not obvious to me where to find it. When copy/pasting information from different website, you would think that feature is a must-have-feature to write a somewhat unified note. 
    3. The Simplify Formatting option is confusing. It seemed to split words at arbitrary locations. 
    4. Email note should be a very easy to find option under the Share button. It is however buried a few clicks away. But now we are starting to get picky, I agree. 

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Hidden Villa, Los Altos

    Los Altos Hills and Woodside provide some spectacular hikes. Here are a few pictures from hiking the trails around the Hidden Villa in Los Altos.