Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Lafayette, California

Posted at 7:05 pm, February 14th, 2005

Recently wikis have been gaining popularity on the internet. The idea behind them is that individuals can contribute information in their area of expertise, and as lots of people add to and refine the entries the wiki becomes a valuable source of information. Two of these sites that are particularly interesting are:

  • wikipedia.org – An online encyclopedia that has (surprisingly good) entries on a disturbingly vast number of subjects (try searching for your hometown, then check out the number of articles for things within your hometown).
  • wikitravel.org – A new site that is still fairly sparse, but with the potential to make Lonely Planet and other travel guides obsolete.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 11:50 am, February 13th, 2005

Despite missing ski poles, issues surrounding Golgi apparatuses, and a six AM wakeup, Friday’s skiing with Team Fun was yet another good reminder of why California is such a great place to live. Later that evening the five of us (Nish, Kev, Alaina, Aaron and myself) piled into a cab that already contained a driver and a navigator, mocked the competing Chico independent taxi service, and then spent the remainder of the night in a blissful haze of Michelob. What little I remember for some reason includes Kev expounding upon his theory of leaving society to eat walnuts in Bidwell Park, leading (logically) to arguments over the sensibility of a life spent eating walnuts without good dental coverage.

In equally random news, Peter Jackson has regularly been posting behind-the-scenes clips of the filming of his next movie, King Kong. At the opening of the latest clip I heard a familiar voice (“I think it has something to do with thermodynamics”), and there was Matt Mueller, my roommate from the first Antarctica trip. He works for Weta Digital, but aside from group shots on some of the Lord of the Rings documentaries this is the first I’ve seen him in front of the camera.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 12:00 am, February 8th, 2005

I’ve recently been doing some research into Green Certificates, which are basically a way for private individuals to subsidize the production of wind, solar, and low-impact hydroelectric power. The concept is the following:

  1. Assume it costs seven cents per kWh to produce conventional (coal, oil, gas) electricity, and eight cents per kWh to produce clean (wind, solar, low-impact hydro) electricity. Only those individuals living in a market where clean energy is available who are also willing to pay a premium will drive demand for clean energy.
  2. What a green certificate does is allow someone like myself to subsidize the production of clean energy by paying the one cent cost premium. Now the utility that produces clean energy can sell its energy to individuals for the same price as conventional power.
  3. U.S. law requires that, if there is no cost differential, utilities give buying preference to clean energy, so by removing the cost differential I have guaranteed that a certain amount of energy has been produced by clean technology instead of conventional technology.
  4. As a result of this transaction, even if the energy I use is produced by conventional means, I will have offset that impact by guaranteeing that clean energy has replaced conventional energy somewhere else on the power grid.

A list of companies offering such certificates is available here.

Strangely enough, one of the new backers of clean energy are the neo-conservatives. Their reasoning is that reducing energy usage lessens dependence on the Middle East, but their support could make for some very strange alliances with environmental groups.

San Francisco, California

Posted at 1:05 pm, February 3rd, 2005

After spending the morning playing tourist in San Francisco (Pier 39, Lombard Street, the whole works — I’m mildly ashamed of myself) I’m now back in the Financial District, less than a block from the skyscraper I used to work in. Just hearing snippets of the conversations around me — “Are you meeting’d out yet?”, “You’re right, I’ll get that document ready as soon as I get back”, “I could barely keep my eyes open during that call this morning” — I’m realizing more than ever how glad I am to have escaped that life. While those folks are now all returning to their cubicles, I’m sitting in Starbucks across from a ridiculously hot Japanese girl enjoying whatever folksy music it is they’ve got coming through the speakers.

In the midst of thinking how good life is at the moment, especially compared to the suit-wearing souls I’m surrounded by, it occurred to me that this time last year I was finishing up five amazing days of hiking around Mt. Fitz Roy in Patagonia. Happiness definitely comes in a wide range of dosages.

Mt. Fitz Roy

Mount Fitz Roy

Lafayette, California

Posted at 11:20 pm, February 1st, 2005

I realize that it is a bit ironic to post the following in lieu of writing something original, but I thought it was worthwhile. It comes from Eileen over at homesweetroad.com:

“Art and Fear is my favorite book about creativity. One of the stories that sticks with me is of a pottery class where the teacher divided the class into two groups. One group was to be graded only by the quantity of the pots they made, no matter how awful, and the other only by the quality of the pots, no matter how many. At the end of the semester, those graded on quantity ended up making more and better pots. The quality group was just too paralyzed to get anything done, they didn’t make any progress in their craft. What a great illustration of the value there is in just doing when it comes to art.”

I’ve been struggling with my own motivational lapses lately, and needed the little reminder that it’s almost always better to be doing something rather than doing nothing.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 2:45 pm, January 28th, 2005

Aaron is back in town for the weekend, and after a few weeks of paramedic rotations has all kinds of valuable tidbits to offer on the subject of wiener catheters — the number one recommendation is that, should you ever be admitted to the hospital and asked for a urine sample, no matter how dehydrated you may be, the correct response is always “Yes, I can do that, no problem”. Remember this advice — I won’t relay all of his stories, but one of the better ones involved a 96 year old patient who mumbled and was difficult to understand, but who suddenly and very coherently yelled “Hey! P! A! I! N!”

The evening’s other big discovery was made while going through the parent’s garage. While I was checking out some dusty boxes I heard a yell of distress and some disgusted coughing from the other corner of the garage. Turning around, Aaron was standing there with a disintegrating old pouch. He handed it to me saying “Dude, check out this bag of stench and pain”. Stench. And pain. I declined.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 10:40 pm, January 24th, 2005

Sorry for the lack of updates, there just hasn’t been much going on. Today was fairly typical, and I spent a good chunk of it working on some code to allow message boards on the site again. That should be ready soon.

I was planning on heading to Monterey today, but the idea of sleeping in the car and doing a lot of driving became less appealing as the day went on. At some point (and probably soon) I’m gonna lose it and just take off — I don’t have a specific itinerary in mind, but the snow pretty much forces me to go to the southwest, so the following are likely targets:

If anyone is interested in coming along for part of the trip, let me know.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 5:00 pm, January 16th, 2005

Looking through the server logs (it’s a slow day), people are finding the site through some interesting paths. I have no idea who any of the following people are, but all of them link to me:

And of course, I used to get a steady trickle from Jason’s Blog, but now that I’m on a break from traveling he correctly points out that there isn’t much to link to (“instead i just see pictures of exotic birds and hear stories of your squirrel friends.”)

Lafayette, California

Posted at 12:30 am, January 14th, 2005

Albatross numbers around the world have been plummeting, but while longline fishing is the suspected culprit, no one is completely sure of the cause due to the fact that the birds spend months or (in the case of wandering albatross) years without ever returning to land. A recent study by the British Antarctic Survey of grey-headed albatross sheds some light on where the birds go while at sea:

“The researchers found that more than half of the birds flew completely around the world, following the chilled oceans below 30 degrees latitude south. One bird circled the globe three times in 18 months, and another flew more than 13,000 miles in just 46 days.”

The full article can be found here.

Grey-Headed Albatross

Grey-Headed Albatross at Elsehul.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 11:00 pm, January 11th, 2005

Life is pretty random at the moment — I can’t really say with certainty what day of the week it is, and it’s pretty much a toss-up whether the day is spent socially or working on various projects. In general, it’s not a bad way to live, with the only downside being that assuming none of my little projects pan out (and I’m not holding out much hope) then in a few months the slow hemorrhaging of my bank account will probably scare me into going back to work.

The cottage is working out really well, having now received my brother’s seal of approval as the best place I’ve ever lived in. One of the big highlights has been the local animals: I originally named the resident grey squirrel Ralphie, only to realize that the Ralphies are actually two different squirrels. The owl isn’t as regular of a visitor, but most nights he makes the rounds via the trees outside the front door. And lately there have been at least two raccoons (who I believe might be on methamphetamines) that stop by. Their first visit seemed to be a game of tag that lasted from about ten o’clock until two in the morning — all that I would hear would be a screech followed by a mad dash around the cottage, and then silence for a few minutes before the process would repeat. Three nights ago they were in explorer mode, including some flying leaps off of the cottage roof that sounded most impressive. The other neighbors include a cat and two dogs and are slightly less friendly. Of the dogs, Cujo has repeatedly tried to thrust himself through a second story window opening in an effort to remove me from existence.

Also, a few random bits:

  • Rod Planck’s photography book is still on sale at Amazon.com, although it looks like they are nearly out of copies. It’s a really good nature photography book if you’re interested and have a bit of spare cash lying around.
  • If you’re at all interested in the next Galapagos trip, it will be from May 6, 2006 to May 20, 2006. At $3400 per person it’s a bit pricey, but that includes everything but tips and airfare to Quito, so it’s still far cheaper than any comparable trip. I think I’ve already got nearly enough people to fill the boat, but let me know soon if you might be interested.
  • Lynn has some really, really impressive portrait shots online — be sure to click on the thumbnails to get the full image.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 1:45 am, January 9th, 2005

There really isn’t much new to write about, so here’s a photo that I took back in November while on Pebble Island in the Falklands. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but for whatever reason it does something for me now. The journal should liven up in the near future when I take off in the Subaru, but at the moment the “when” and “where” of that trip is still a mystery.

Brown-Hooded Gull

Brown-hooded gull on Pebble Island.

Lafayette, California

Posted at 1:10 pm, January 3rd, 2005

Aaron finished all of his classwork for paramedic school and today is his first day of hospital rotations. The money quote came after I asked him if he had screwed up and killed any babies yet:

“The best part about being a paramedic is that you don’t kill the babies — you just give them to the doctors.”

If only we could all be so lucky as to have jobs where not killing babies was the highlight…