August 31, 2007

Feasting on Asphalt

About a week ago Timber told me about a new Alton Brown show called "Feasting on Asphalt". The show is about Alton and his crew driving motorcycles around the United States and checking out places to eat along the way. From what I've seen thus far they avoid chain restaurants and high end fancy pants places. What they sample is down home honest to goodness American (if there is such a thing) cuisine. I would definitely recommend checking it out. And if you don't watch his other show, Good Eats, you should check that out too.

Posted by troutm8 at 02:05 PM

Mountain Biking Coe

Thanks to Tom J for taking Timber and I to a new place in Henry Coe State Park to do some mountain biking last weekend. We went in a little further south than usual, we exited highway 101 at the outlets in Gilroy and then took Gilroy Hot Springs Road until it ended a bridge crossing. We then got on our bikes and did a 10.5 mile loop that climbed 2000 feet on fireroads and came roaring down on some pretty technical single track. In my experience, the underlying theme of Henry Coe State Park is that it is going to be more difficult than you expect, even if you've been there many times. The trails can be long and extremely steep. And it can get really hot in the summer. The most entertaining part of the bike ride for me was having one of my front brakes fall off, hit my spoke, and then go flying off into the tall grass as I was going down the single track. When I saw that happen my eyes got really big and I had a few choice words. But I was able to get stopped without having to jump off the bike and I was luckily able to find my brake, put it back on my bike, and tighten it up enough for the rest of the decent. Overall it was a fun but challenging ride and I think we'll definitely go back.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:32 AM

August 29, 2007


Congrats are in order to my brother and his wife and a hearty "welcome to the family" is in order for our newest family member, Isabella Noor Carroll. She was born yesterday (8/28/07) around 2 AM in Anchorage, Alaska. Timber and I will be up there soon to see them.

Posted by troutm8 at 05:18 PM

August 28, 2007

If You Can't Find Iraq We'll Send You There

According to this article, 60 % of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 couldn't find Iraq on a map. Somehow I'm thinking of an army marketing campaign. It could go along the lines of "If you can't find Iraq on a map, and want to improve your geography skills, join the army and we'll send you there!" I guarantee our boy and girls over there know exacty where it is now. Another sad finding was that 60 % thought the most heavily fortified border in the world was between the US and Mexico. :-)

Posted by troutm8 at 12:32 PM

August 24, 2007

Tom Tech Fridays

I just got the idea to write about something either technical or tech/gadget/geek related every Friday. I don't know if it will be related to my work or not, but I'll write about things I find interesting. In this week's Tech Friday I'm writing about using the iPhone for topo maps. Here's how you do it:

1. If you have the National Geographic Topo software you'll know that you can export custom maps as jpegs. The process is a little awkward, but it can be done quickly with practice. I linked to the map software that is most like mine since it doesn't look like my exact version is sold anymore. Mine is for the Mac and is a topographic map for the entire state of California. Overall it is pretty good except it comes as a bundle of 10 or so cds (instead of 1 or 2 dvds) and I haven't found any good way to make a backup copy of all the cds (copy protection). But back to the main subject.
2. My method is to export between 5 and 10 maps to jpeg of the route and the general area that I'm going to. This can include any additional markers that you put on the maps.
3. Then I can pretty quickly and easily import them into Aperture either by hand or using automator.
4. Then they will automatically get synced with my iPhone the next time I hook it up to my computer because I have it set to import all the photos from the last month.
5. Then when I'm on the trail and I want to have a quick look at the topographic map of the area that I'm in I just look in at the jpegs on my iPhone which allow me to zoom in and scroll up/down and left/right.

I used it a few times on our trip to the Bishop Pass area and it worked pretty well. But there are some limitations. They are:

1. When you move photos from Aperture/iPhoto to your iPhone they get scaled down. So the bigger you can make them on your computer the bigger the scaled down versions will be on your iPhone.
2. If you have too many maps exported to jpeg and don't mark them properly it can be difficult to find the right map on the trail.
3. Just like any GPS device you don't want to overuse your iPhone on the trail because it could run out of batteries (just a general limitation of battery powered devices). Except with the iPhone you don't have extra AA batteries standing by.

So then the question becomes "Why don't I just upload the map to my gps device instead of the iPhone or print out the topo maps and save myself the pain of learning a new process?" My answer is that from my experience hiking and backpacking in California I have rarely needed to refer to a topo map because I'm on a trail most of the time. If there are a lot of trail intersections or other complicated geographical features of the trail I would recommend printing out paper maps and storing them in plastic bags, but otherwise I think having them as a jpeg to refer to every now and then on your iPhone would probably work for you. As with everything on Tom Tech Fridays there is no warranty explicit or otherwise. Use these tips with common sense...

Posted by troutm8 at 03:45 PM

August 23, 2007

Carmel Dog Parties

This is SERIOUSLY lame. I mean really, check this out:

"There are so many different reasons to hold a Pampered Pooch Party in your dogs honor. We’ve listed below just a few ideas, yet we’re happy to entertain any additional party ideas.
Dog Weddings are become more and more popular. We would be happy to plan that special day for your pooch and their beloved “best” pup. Please contact us (T, link here) for more details.
Special Occasions
1. Wedding
2. BarkMitzvah
3. Puppy Graduation
4. Pooch Adoption
5. Birthday Party
6. Memorial Party
7. Spaw party
8. Tea Party
9. Beach Party
10. Howl-oween Costume Party
11. Dog Play (private dog instruction teaching new tricks)
12. Valentines Day Party
13. Christmas Party or Holiday Party
14. Best Dressed Pooch Party
15. Puppy Shower
16. Art Gallery Party
17. French Party
18. Cinqo de Mayo Party

…… anything is possible!"

Are you serious? Dog weddings, puppy graduation? If you are the kind of person to go out and blow $1000 on a party for your dog you should be ashamed of yourself. I don't care if you are a billionaire and dropping $1k is like dropping a penny out of your pocket. Your time and resources would be better spent helping people that would actually appreciate your help and the fact that you've made a difference in their lives. I'm certain that a month from now your dog won't remember the fancy Carmel party you threw for it when it poops on your bed or chews on your slipper. We (in the first world) have advanced to the point where people have enough to meet their basic needs and live comfortably and we then go off the deep end with stupid stuff like this. The next time I go to donate blood I'm going to request that my blood does NOT go to a person that threw a Carmel Dog Party. Losers.

Posted by troutm8 at 08:55 PM

Unbelievably Cool

I came across the new version of Google Earth today and it has a really cool new feature called Sky. Sky allows you to look at stars, planets, constellations, etc... I don't know how much time I lost checking it out before I snapped out of it but it is really cool. If you have even a remote interest in astronomy you should download it here and check out the Sky feature.

Posted by troutm8 at 09:57 AM

August 21, 2007

Bishop Pass Trip Photos Posted

I finally got around to posting photos from our vacation to Bishop Pass. Click here to check them out. Also, if you would like to see where the pictures were taken on a map, click here.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:03 AM

3k Miles for Vespa

I just hit 3k miles on the Vespa yesterday. I did some quick math (illustrated below) and it looks like I've spent roughly $140 on gas in the nearly two years that Timber and I have had the Vespa. That's not bad when I compare to my truck that would have cost roughly $494 to go the same distance. So thus far I've had a gas savings of $354 and saved 126 gallons of gas. The only downside is that I've spent way more than gas savings ($354) in the time that we've had the Vespa on insurance and registration. Such is life. Here are the calculations:

Vespa: 3000 miles, 65 miles/gallon, roughly $3 per gallon for gas
3000m / 65 m/gal = 46.15 gal, 46 gal * $3/gal = $138

Truck: 3000 miles, 17 m/gal, roughly $2.80 per gallon for gas
3000m / 17 m/gal = 176.47 gal, 176.5 gal * $2.80/gal = $494.20

You can do the rest if you so wish. In my opinion using less resources is more important than buying carbon credits or offsets because from what I understand about carbon credits and offsets the process is obscure and doesn't always do much good. There was an NPR report the other day talking about an offset project in Uganda that seemed to be harming the local population. See here.

Posted by troutm8 at 09:57 AM

August 17, 2007

Eastern Sierras Lessons Learned

I've been to the Eastern Sierras many times before, but this time was slightly different in that we stayed in hotels the entire time and didn't go any day hike over 6 miles. Some things I will change for the next trip include:

Don't stay in a hotel at all (they are nice but you can easily sleep in and kill time watching TV or surfing the web)
Do tougher hikes (that means both Timber and I need to challenge ourselves more)

Overall it was a fun trip. I was bummed that we were not able to get permits to backpack in the Bishop Pass area but we made up for it by doing 4 day hikes and getting to spend time in areas that we had not been before. There are tons of great hikes and backpacking trips in the Eastern Sierras. There are also a few good places to eat. Here are my recommendations from this trip:

Erik Schatt's Bakery (Bishop) -> Great pastries, sandwiches, etc... They have tons of variety and everything is good.
Looney Bean Coffee -> Good drinks and free wifi (both in Bishop and Mammoth Lakes
Mobile Gas Station near Lee Vining -> Gourmet food, the best you'll ever get at a gas station. The lobster taquitos were to die for.
Mountain Light Gallery -> Inspirational photography.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:07 PM

Day Hike #4

On our last day we left Mammoth Lakes and headed home via Yosemite (highway 120). As we neared the eastern border of Yosemite we stopped at the Mobile gas station for some gourmet food. We got the lobster taquitos to go, but other things we saw on the menu were Alaskan halibut, wild buffalo meatloaf, fish tacos, and more. Everyone we talked to that has been there raves about it. We had our taquitos for lunch inside Yosemite and I would definitely recommend this place. Once we got into Yosemite we did a hike to the top of Lembert Dome (kind of). We got off trail and onto the granite slabs a little early and ended up climbing the two domes next to Lembert Dome. By the time we got to the top of the second one the weather looked like a thunderstorm was heading our way. If you remember one thing about hiking in the mountains it should be that you don't want to be on top of a big rock when a thunderstorm comes rumbling through. So we took a few pictures of Tuolumne Meadows and the surrounding area and escaped with our lives. We were lucky to do this hike because we got the very last parking spot at the pull off. On our way out of the park there was a bad accident that caused an hour delay on highway 120. After we escaped Yosemite it was pretty much a straight shot back to San Jose. Overall it was a fun trip and I'll post lessons learned and recommendations another time.

Posted by troutm8 at 08:24 PM

Day Hike #3

On Wednesday we want back to the Bishop Pass area and took the main Bishop Pass Trail up to Long Lake where we stopped to do some fishing. At some point I'm going to come back and take a shot at doing Bishop Pass as a day hike (12 miles round trip). Wookie enjoyed taking a break in the shade while Timber and I tried our luck at fishing. We spent lots of time changing lures and trying different spots but we never had any luck. I guess that is why it is called fishing and not catching. When we come back I'll bring a few more tricks with me which will surely catch trout. But for this trip I wanted to pack light. After we finished the hike we drove over to Lake Sabrina and checked it out. It is a beautiful lake and we saw lots of people out kayaking and fishing. After that we went back to bishop and took a drive through the desert looking for the Owens River. We found it along with a bunch of garbage that people dumped out into the desert. After our adventure was over we drove north to Mammoth Lakes where we stayed a night at Motel 6. I wouldn't recommend staying there. For dinner we grabbed a bite to eat at Roberto's Mexican Cafe. The food was alright.

Posted by troutm8 at 08:06 PM

Day Hike #2

On Tuesday we went to the Golden Trout Wilderness outside of Lone Pine, CA so that Timber could see (and possibly catch) her first golden trout. They really are beautiful fish. Before we went, however, we stopped by the Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop which was setup by the late Galen and Barbara Rowell. They died in a plane crash a few years ago. The one word I can use for going into their gallery is inspiring. They really got me thinking about the types of photos I want to take, different techniques I want to try, and different places I want to go. If you are in or around Bishop you should definitely check this place out. On the way to the Golden Trout Wilderness from Bishop we stopped at the Manzanar National Historic Site. It was one of the many places where the United States government put people of Japanese decent during World War II. One of the scary things about it was that most of the people put in these camps were US citizens. While these camps were not as bad as the concentration camps run by the Nazis (the US didn't systematically kill people in these camps) it is still a bruise on our history. I, like most people, think it was a mistake and hope we don't make the same mistakes again in the future. Once we got to the Golden Trout Wilderness we started out by checking out Horseshoe Meadow. There is a stream that meanders through the meadow which is a great place to spot golden trout. We spotted several of them, but they were so small and the water flow was so little that we couldn't realistically fish for them. Wookie enjoyed running free throughout the meadow. He caught wind of a marmot and the chase was on! He chased the marmot under a rock (I presume its home) and then he started digging to try to get it out. While this was happening the marmot did quite a bit of chirping to let the other marmots in the area know that there was danger nearby. When I realized what was going on I went over to where Wookie was frantically digging and barking and made him leave the marmot alone. I thought everything was under control and we headed away from the meadow with Wookie when he suddenly turned around and ran full speed back to the rock where the marmot was hiding. Timber and I yelled at him and I was about to go grab him and put him on the leash when he turned back and came back to us. After that fun we went over the the Cottonwood Lakes trail and hike that a mile or two until we reached Cottonwood Creek. Once there Timber did a little fishing for golden trout while I ran around taking pictures. It was a nice easy hike on a nice day. I think Timber was glad that she finally got to check out the Golden Trout Wilderness. I think we'll come back again some day and spend more time there.

Posted by troutm8 at 07:42 PM

Back Home

We got home from our Eastern Sierras trip last night with enough time to put just about everything away and do some laundry. We're both at work today, so I'll have to post updates of other day hikes and pictures over the weekend.

Posted by troutm8 at 12:37 PM

August 13, 2007

Day Hike #1

We made it to Bishop last night and stayed at the La Quinta (free wifi & dog friendly). We were at the Ranger station when they opened to get our Bishop Pass permits but they were already taken. So option #2 for our trip was to do day hikes if we couldn't get the permits. So today's day hike will most likely be Treasure Lakes. And tomorrow we'll try to get a nice and early start to do Bishop Pass (12 miles round trip) as a day hike. With any luck I may be able to post some pictures tonight.

Posted by troutm8 at 11:04 AM

August 12, 2007

Bishop Pass Bound

We're leaving in a few minutes for a backpacking trip at Bishop Pass. Our rough itenerary will go as follows:

Today: Drive from San Jose to Bishop via Yosemite NP.
Monday, August 13th: Get our back country permits and start our backpacking trip at South Lake.
Tuesday, August 14th: From our camp at Chocolate Lakes, hike to Bishop Pass and climb Mount Agassiz. Do other day hikes if time permits.
Wednesday, August 15th: Hike back to my truck, do other day hikes in the Bishop Pass are or in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Stay in Mammoth Lakes at night.
Thursday, August 16th: Drive back to San Jose via Yosemite NP again. If time permits we will hike Clouds Rest. If time does not permit we will do other day hikes.

Wookie is coming with us too, so that will make it a fun trip. We will also be doing plenty of fishing and picture taking. It should be fun!

Posted by troutm8 at 12:24 PM


This past Wednesday Luis (coworker) and I went up to SF for LinuxWorld at the Moscone Center. We didn't attend any sessions (very limited budget) but we checked out the exhibition hall and got some goodies. In addition to the normal exhibition hall stuff we got to meet and talk to Gerald Carter for a little while. He was a pretty cool guy that definitely knows his samba stuff. We also got to play with the $100 laptop and the OpenMoko. After playing with the $100 laptop for 5 minutes I can definitely say that I could not figure out how to do ANYTHING on it. Maybe using Macs have dumbed me down or something. But I did read that it is setup differently than normal (Macs, Linux, Windows) computers in that it is setup to be action driven instead of application driven. So overall I didn't find it very usable and it looked and felt a lot more like a fisher price toy than a laptop that will help kids in the developing world learn. Hopefully the kids will have better luck with it than I had. I also got to play with the OpenMoko for about 10 minutes. I was really excited to see it and use it because it is an open source mobile communications platform which means that it is an open source alternative to the iPhone. The screen resolution was pretty good, so good in fact that I had trouble reading anything on the screen because it was all too small. It had email, web, a terminal, and all that other good stuff. But I had to use a stylus to type anything (I played with the terminal extensively). I made lots of mistakes and it ran very slow. It also has 128 Mb of storage built in along with SD memory slots. Overall I think it is a piece of crap and am glad I bought an iPhone. Sure the iPhone is a "closed" system and doesn't have a terminal, SDK, or external storage, but how often would you use that stuff anyway? OK, I would use the terminal all the time if it could tunnel into my company's firewall. I think the iPhone has an edge over the OpenMoko because it plain old "just works" and easily integrates most of the stuff I want it to do. Another observation I had was that there were large booths by the big companies (Intel, Novell, IBM, etc...) staffed by marketing types giving away t-shirts and other goodies while the real open source people were in much smaller booths along the corners. The real open source people were asking for donations instead of giving things away and they looked more like my kind of people. Lastly, O'Reilly had 30 % off all books, so Luis and I browsed them before leaving. Since it was my birthday I decided to buy myself a little present, which was an O'Reilly book titled "Beautiful Code". It is basically about how great programmers think and approach problems. So far I like it.

Posted by troutm8 at 12:15 PM

Brother Visit

Last weekend my brother came down from Alaska for a few days. He had a two day class in San Jose on Monday and Tuesday. On Saturday his flight was delayed a few hours, and he ended up getting into town without his luggage. We picked him up at the airport, got home, got changed, and headed for the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course, otherwise known as the Poor Man's Pebble Beach. It was listed as one of the top 50 golf courses in the United States under $50. I certainly don't need to spend a lot on golf because I'm not very good at it. But it can be fun sometimes. While we were on one of the holes I ended up hitting the golf shot of my life. The group in front of us was out of range for my normal shots with my driver, so I decided to tee off. The hit sounded good and it flew through the air pretty well. While it was flying through the air my brother suggested that I yell "Fore!" to let the group ahead know that the ball was coming. Both Timber and I didn't think the ball would make it to the group ahead of us so we didn't yell Fore. The ball ended up landing between two people in the group in front of us. I couldn't believe that I had hit the ball that far. And to make matters worse they looked back as I was high fiving and waving my arms around in excitement. I didn't mean to be a jerk. :-) After our game of golf we had dinner at Bubba Gump's. After that my brother was really tired from the long day. On Sunday we ran some errands, went to Kayden't first birthday party where we got to watch a gang of kids destroy an Elmo pinata. I always wondered whether little kids would cry if a pinata looking like their favorite character got dismantled. I didn't see any little kids crying, so I think they can tell the different between the "real" Elmo and the pinata Elmo. One of of the kids even called it the "Cripple Me" Elmo. Good call. :-) On Monday and Tuesday my brother had his class and then flew out on Tuesday night. It was a quick trip, but we will get to see him again in about a month when we go to Alaska to visit. It was nice to see him. I wish we lived closer.

Posted by troutm8 at 10:16 AM

August 10, 2007

Homemade Ice Cream

Homemage ice cream is great because you can make whatever flavors you want and you know exactly what goes into it. I also like making it myself because it usually tastes better than what you can buy at the store. Timber and I got an ice cream maker about a month ago and in that time our ice cream skills have gotten better and our recipes have gotten more complicated. Here are our iterations along with the results:
Iteration 1:
Simple Vanilla ice cream. We didn't leave the cylinder in the freezer long enough, and as a result the ice cream never really formed. So we ended up taking the materials out of the cylinder and into the freezer which made a very dense sorbet-type vanilla ice cream.

Iteration 2:
Chocolate chip ice cream, this time with the cylinder being frozen solid. It was made with the basic vanilla recipe and near the end we put in dark chocolate chunks (68 % cacao). This ice cream was pretty simple yet it turned out to be really good.

Iteration 3:
An order of magnitude more complicated. It was mint basil chocolate chip ice cream. I got the recipe from the Scharffenbuger "The Essense of Chocolate" cookbook. It started by mixing and simmering the milk and sugar. Then I simmered and mixed the cream with basil and mint leaves. Then I blanched spinach for 30 seconds, then chopped it. Then I blended (in a blender) and milk/sugar and the spinach and then strained it through a strainer. This was to give it the green color (no artificial colors or sweeteners here hippies...) Then I strained the cream/basil/mint mixture. Then I had to mix both mixtures together and cool them overnight. When I made the ice cream I mixed in the chocolate chunks (again 68 % cacao) at the end. This ice cream had a very basil-minty flavor which was unlike any other ice cream I've had. I thought it turned out pretty good.

Iteration 4:
Vanilla base with a chocolate sauce/fudge swirl and chocolate nibs (Seeds of the cocoa plant, Theobroma cacao, are left to ferment, which modifies the bitterness, and their color darkens. They are then roasted and separated from the husks as two halves of the seed known as cocoa nibs. They contain about 50% fat, part of which is removed in the preparation of chocolate and cocoa for beverages.). This ice cream turned out ok, I used too many nibs and I got lazy on the chocolate sauce which caused it to get concentrated near the bottom of the ice cream container. The next time I make this "creation" I'll use half as many nibs and not be lazy with the chocolate sauce.

Posted by troutm8 at 08:07 PM