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


Posted from Culver City, California at 4:10 pm, July 17th, 2006

The development of JAMWiki moves on, with the current release up to 0.0.6, and 0.0.7 on the horizon. It’s still very much a work-in-progress so I haven’t really publicized it that much, but already a guy from Russia has contributed bug reports and a new default design, and a few others have installed the software and reported that it works for them. This thing actually has the potential to be kind of a big deal, which is cool. Granted, most non-technical folks out there have absolutely no idea what exactly it is that I’m building, but trust me, it’s good.

J.B.’s company is launching their new electric car tomorrow in Santa Monica, and Mr. Straubel came through with two invites for Audrey and I. It seems like their timing is perfect, with gas around $3.50 per gallon here and more and lots of rich movie stars driving around in environmentally-friendly cars. Having just watched An Inconvenient Truth over the weekend, and given the current mess in the Middle East, it seems it’s none-too-soon to be getting cleaner cars on the road that can run on something other than oil. For those who don’t know J.B., keep an eye out for news on Tesla Motors, ’cause they have a lot of potential.

And the only other news is that Audrey invited me to a jam session the other night with her on bass, Tommy on guitar, and Alex on drums, and all I can say is that my girl can wail. Totally improvised, and totally awesome. Makes me realize I need a talent (and no, using big lenses to capture nostril shots of albatross isn’t really a talent).

Waved Albatross on Espanola Island

Waved Albatross (note the detail on the nostril) on Espanola Island.


Posted from Culver City, California at 12:30 am, July 10th, 2006

At the moment the work on JAMWiki is still keeping me really busy, although Audrey has managed to get me out of the house each of the past three nights. Last night we met up with Aaron and Saundra at Phillippes for double-dipped roast beef sandwiches, and in the process discovered that any made-up story becomes vastly more believable when you add insignificant details. Compare:

I spent the day riding around in these weird go-cart things and nearly killed myself.


I spent the day riding around in these weird go-cart things. They had these giant flags on the back that flapped all over the place, and I nearly killed myself.

Stupid details seem to be the trick – we tried it with about a dozen stories, and everytime the detail is what made the story work. Anyhow, on Friday night Audrey tried to take me somewhere where I could absorb culture, but she’s smarter than to just throw me into a symphony hall or some such. So we went to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (sidenote: what distinguishes an orchestra from a philharmonic orchestra???), but the catch was that instead of just performing classical music they were performing the music from old Bugs Bunny cartoons, and to make matters better they were projecting the cartoons on huge screens. I saw “Kill da Wabbit” performed live. It rocked.

Thursday night I actually wanted to go out – the Indigo Girls were giving a free concert on the Santa Monica Pier. Yeah, that’s right, I wanted to see the Indigo Girls, and I admit it freely. As one friend once described them, “It’s good music, and plus there are lots of chicks in the crowd making out with each other. What’s not to like?” We had spots less than a hundred feet from the stage and the show was really good – it’s definitely more fun seeing people live when they have actual musical talent. My favorite moment of the concert came at the end when, after performing a song with the singer from Ally McBeal, the blond Indigo Girl made the comment “You folks near the stage can’t see it, but next to the pier down on the beach there are like a thousand more people.” She stepped back from the microphone, paused, and then said “You know, that’s cool as shit.” And she was right – it was.

It's A-Live

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:00 pm, June 30th, 2006

Mr. Gallaway gave his blessing, so JAMWiki has been born. It’s still in its very early stages, but jamwiki.org and the Sourceforge project site are now up and running. For anyone who didn’t believe me when I’ve mentioned the total lack of excitement around here lately, this monumental event should be proof that I really wasn’t kidding.

Turtles Don't Drive

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:00 pm, June 23rd, 2006

Still alive, but no excitement to report. I’ve been working on an open source project called Very Quick Wiki intermittently over the past few months, but due to some differences of opinion with the guy running the project I decided to work on my own version about a week ago, and have been putting in a ton of hours on that since – I actually didn’t sleep a few nights ago while trying to get some coding done. The end result (hopefully) will be a Java clone of the MediaWiki software that runs sites like Wikipedia and Wikitravel.

The development of the code is going well – I should have it running on this site in a week or two – but I need help with the name for the project. I’ve been calling it “Java MediaWiki”, ’cause, well, that’s what it is and I’m not creative, but I’m fairly sure there are trademarks around “MediaWiki”. After drinking some wine Audrey and I came up with “JAM Wiki”, which sounds like an acronymn for “JavA MediaWiki” and has the added benefit of being pronounced “Yahm VeeKee” in Swedish, but after sobering up again I’m not so sure about that one. And no, Centrificon is just not gonna work this time. So if anyone has suggestions I’d love to hear them, and if I use your suggestion then you’ll not only receive fame and glory, but I’ll either buy you a beer the next time I see you or else send you a picture of a squirrel on waterskis (up to you). Things to consider:

  • The domain name (or something reasonably similar) needs to be available.
  • Ideally the name would convey the idea that the project is a MediaWiki clone written in Java, but that’s secondary to just sounding cool.
  • Examples of “good” names for other products include “Google”, “MediaWiki”, “Mozilla”, and “Tivo”. Not-so-good names include “Mind Rockets”.
  • The domain name will probably need to be 6-10 characters, so the name should either be short or truncate nicely. For example, “Java MediaWiki” truncates easily (and obviously) to “jmwiki”.
  • I may not actually be the photographer of the squirrel on waterskis photo, so you shouldn’t plan on using it commercially.

Suggestions are welcome, the comments link is below…

Eliminating Clutter From Your Life

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:00 pm, June 11th, 2006

There isn’t much in my own life worth writing about right now, so here are a few tidbits from the lives of others that might be interesting:

  • Since 1986 there has been a moratorium on commercial whaling, although in the past few years Japan has been hunting as many as 900 whales under the claim that it is doing so for scientific purposes. In addition, they’ve been getting small island nations to join the International Whaling Commission and offering them aid in exchange for a vote to end the commerical whaling ban. The US has been sadly silent on this matter, but apparently Brazil has stepped up to the plate and is making a huge push within the IWC to declare the South Atlantic a whale sanctuary. I’m suddenly a bigger Brazil fan than I was before.
  • Steve and Linda Henry, the ship’s doctor and nurse on the 2004 and 2006 Antarctica trips, have posted some of their photos on photo.net.
  • The Bellagio Fountain, recreated using Mentos and Diet Coke (this one is all over the internet right now, but I’m sharing ’cause I’m trendy).
  • A really, really cool Honda advertisement (this one was all over the internet six months ago, but I’m sharing ’cause I’m retro). Also, the snopes article that explains how the commercial was made without any computer effects.

Last of all, a pretty picture for good measure:

Swallow-Tailed Gull on South Plaza Island

Swallow-Tailed Gull on South Plaza Island.

Pretty Pictures

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:20 pm, May 24th, 2006

The Galapagos photos are online now, which means that I no longer have any excuse for not looking for work:

There are at least a couple of photos that aren’t painful to look at, which I credit to having a really, really big lens. As Aaron says, nostril shots are the way to go.

Great Frigate Bird on Genovesa Island

Great Frigate Bird on Genovesa Island.

Muy Guapo

Posted from Quito, Ecuador at 10:00 pm, May 19th, 2006

Day the last. After waking up to find that the hotel was (surprisingly) offering running water to all guests, we cleaned up and discovered that Gregorio had stopped by for breakfast, so our last day on the islands was hosted by our fearless and bearded tour leader. Audrey and I had to leave the table early to make an excursion into the depths of the Darwin Research Station in search of a t-shirt exchange. Despite our efforts and exertions we were not to find any satisfaction. An hour later the taxi across the island ($15, muy rapido) took us through the finch killing fields and back to the other side of the island where we caught the ferry, followed by the bus, followed by the plane, followed by the other bus, and arrived at our hotel in Quito. The plane ride was made more entertaining by the presence of three of the four horsemen of the Apocolypse: the puker, the tiny screamer (and hair puller), and most noticeably, the egg farter.

The trip’s final dinner was at La Ronda (which is Spanish for “the restaurant with the marriachi band and the guy with the saxophone where they serve decent food and tasty vino”) where we had a nice dinner with Travis, Roberta and the Canadians. Our wakeup for the morning is at the magic hour of four, with a pickup to the airport at 4:15. In the morning. Before the sunrise. Before anything at all happens, actually. The plane ride home promises to be a sleepy one, but after the amazing trip, and with mamosas to help us along, it’s a small burden to bear.

Tidal Waves and Gasoline

Posted from Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands at 4:30 pm, May 18th, 2006

Day thirteen. After waking and finding the hotel again without water we headed out to breakfast, during which time one of the hotel staff asked “Did you want us to turn the water back on for you?” Not being one who would ever want to flush the toilet, shower, or wash my hands in the morning I simply responded that I had to be somewhere and not to worry about it. Our last day of scuba saw just Audrey, Roberta, Travis and I diving at Cousins. The seas were calm on the way over, and after an hour and fifteen minute boat ride over to Santiago Island we jumped into the water with Javier, our guide from yesterday, and a new guide, dubbed “El Ganga”. Immediately after getting in the water we found ourselves in the midst of a school of tens of thousands of black salema. People were diving through them, forming tunnels of fish so thick that the light disappeared and made it almost impossible to find other divers. It took a few minutes to swim out of the school, and we then dove along the weird lava cliffs of the rock to see seahorses, fish, rays, and several sea lions who would hover upside down staring in people’s masks. A really great dive site that everyone enjoyed. The second dive was in the same location, and we enjoyed more of the same despite a surprising drop in water temperature.

After finishing the dives and dealing with Jonathan, our holey-underwear-clad-backpacker-scuba friend from Wales, we started for home, but rough seas were conspiring to slow us down. Captain Insane-O didn’t believe in delays, however, and for the next hour we were bounced mercilessly across the waves. At one point the smell of smoke and gas became overpowering, and thinking that the combination of flame, gasoline, and compressed oxygen might be a problem we asked the captain to investigate. We did slow down, but the boat never actually came to a stop while the solution (an almost imperceptible increase in ventillation) was implemented. Audrey and I came up with our own solution, which was to breathe through snorkels stuck through the boat’s canvas walls. Luckily despite the fact that we were measuring the distance to the nearest islands in the case of a shipwreck we made it home alive.

Also, some memorable trip quotes:

  • “Hammerheads, hammerheads, here we come. Hammerheads, hammerheads, have some fun.”
  • “Scott, at what point during the race did you engage the man boobs?”
  • “I’M DELICATE!” (Joanna, during a vicious wetsuit disembarkation)
  • “Why are we going into open ocean in rough seas with almost no visibility? Well, that’s ’cause we’re crazy.”
  • “Sca-las-ia, sca-las-ia, you are blah blah blah endemic (yo).”
  • “Hey, are you guys listening to me?”
  • “Did he just say ‘anal kiss’?”
  • “Well, the stirrups came loose, and then the horse started to trot, and that seems to have been when the blunt testicular trauma occurred.”
  • “Oh, this is so dangerous.”
  • “So I jumped out of the shower, opened my door, and Aaron was standing there doing some weird butt dance…”
  • “Hey Greg, who would win if a hammerhead fought a beach master?”

Lateness in the Eveningness

Posted from Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands at 9:30 pm, May 17th, 2006

Day twelve. Diving in the Galapagos was a bit of a letdown on the last trip only because the snorkeling was so great, and the same seems to be holding true on this trip – our dive at North Seymour Island actually started out yesterday in the dive shop when we all tried on our equipment. The first wetsuit that was suggested for me was almost loose enough that I could bend my elbows, but the fact that I couldn’t lower my arms was agreed upon by everyone present to be a potential hindrance. The second wetsuit provided a nearly partial range of motion while only slightly cutting off circulation to less-used parts of the body (such as arms and legs) so that one was a winner. We returned to the dive shop today at 7:00 AM, climbed into trucks that took us across the island at nearly double the posted 70 km/hr speed limit, and then boarded a boat that required people to constantly change seats in order to prevent capsizing. The dive site was choppy, although the two dives weren’t bad – we started out with a field of sea snakes and ended with a school of six foot long white-tipped reef sharks circling only a few feet away. The interlude between dives provided an opportunity to partake of some fine tupperware cuisine, which one member of the dive party promptly returned to the ocean; luckily the captain was available to aid the seasick by politely dousing her with jugs of water while she puked; the phrase “Please just hold my hair back” is apparently not one that non-English speakers are familiar with.

After returning to town and navigating Puerto Ayora’s water taxi system I failed miserably in my attempts to resolve Greg and Thalia’s email problems, and later met a group to have dinner in the Highlands. Oswaldo met us at the taxi, led us into the restaurant (which we had completely to ourselves) and for the next three hours we dined on crepes, fish, cake, coffee and drinks that would cause lesser men to go blind, all for $16 per person. Audrey is reminding me that there was also a pool visit prior to dinner, and while I didn’t witness it stories are circulating about an old man, laps around a pool, and unfortunate collisions with Caitlin’s crotch. Tomorrow is the last full day in the islands, after which this trip sadly begins its end.

The Day Everyone Went Away

Posted from Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands at 9:30 pm, May 16th, 2006

Day eleven, or the day that half of the group was brutally ripped away from me. After a blissfully calm evening we awoke to what was either the calm and soothing sounds of acoustic guitar or else a nightmare of muzak, depending on who was asked. Heading out on deck, a group of us stood on the bow with coffee in hand while we circumnavigated Daphne Major and Greg told of us of how the Grants carried out their study of finches on the island. Things got considerably livelier once we anchored in Baltra and three large Galapagos sharks appeared and circled the boat for almost an hour. Unofficially Enrique may have baited a rope with some old fish to lure the sharks in closer, while Aaron tried to bring them in closer using a broom and a water pistol (I would pay so much money to know what he was thinking) but neither myself nor anyone else aboard would know anything about that.

The scene at the airport was a bit traumatic as it finally dawned on me that half of my friends were leaving. JB made things interesting by sneaking out onto the tarmac to look at the planes and was later escorted back by security, but otherwise it was a fairly uneventful departure. The remaining nine of us arrived in town, ate a quick lunch, and then immediately fell asleep before reconvening for drinks in the evening. Julie leaves tomorrow, so that’s one more goodbye, while the rest of us have a couple of days of scuba still to look forward to.

Greg is Almost Free of Us

Posted from North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands at 8:15 pm, May 15th, 2006

Day ten. The last full day of the trip, and after a week and a half of dealing with us, going full bore at all hours, and trying to corral Aaron and Scott, Greg may be glad to be near the end; the rest of us definitely feel otherwise. Today we started out at Rabida Island on a red sand beach with brown pelicans, then moved on to two snorkels with sharks, an octopus, and tons of other critters whose names I’m incapable of remembering. A three hour motor to North Seymour island was interrupted by the ship’s horn, and when we emerged from lunch to see what was going on two blue whales surfaced off the bow. I’ve always wanted to see one, so when Greg mentioned that there wasn’t time today for whalewatching I quickly made it clear that anything in the schedule could be dropped if it meant more time with whales. It was an easy negotiation, and we got thirty minutes with the giant beasts in exchange for only a kayak on North Seymour; my bargaining skills rule.

When we did finally arrive on North Seymour we jumped in the water for a snorkel – Greg began it with a rare admission: “Why are we going into open ocean in rough seas with almost no visibility? Well, that’s ’cause we’re crazy.” It wasn’t a highlight snorkel (remember, we saw a whale shark and manta ray earlier on the trip) but wasn’t too bad. The last landing of the trip was on North Seymour to see the blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. About halfway through the walk Greg decided not to give any further nature information and just let us enjoy the animals, and the last hour on land was pretty nice. Dinner was a surprise with lobster tails being served, and Elvis finally cracked a smile when he brought out a five pound mallet to help Aaron chisel through some stubborn desert pastry. I’m writing this as everyone is gathered in the lounge; it’s gonna be sad to see everyone head home in the morning.

Blue-Footed Boobie on North Seymour Island

Blue-Footed Boobie on North Seymour Island.

Hammerheads, Hammerheads, Here We Go

Posted from Genovesa Island, Galapagos Islands at 8:15 pm, May 14th, 2006

Day nine, which was the day that Scott engaged his man boobs and left us in his wake during the kayak race. We arrived a bit later to Genovesa Island than planned due to rough seas, but luckily didn’t miss any activities. The frigate birds had their pouches inflated and were making their Pac-Man-like mating calls when we landed, and the red-footed boobies were nesting in the trees along the trail. The birds here are particularly fearless, including one frigate bird which flew in and then began exploring Audrey’s head for nesting materials. The snorkel that followed was a long one, and while the hammerheads disappointed JB stepped up to the plate and swam halfway around the island.

Following lunch and a short siesta the much built-up kayak race took off, and after ten minutes of fierce paddling Scott and Gene pulled off the upset by touching the anchor chain three seconds in front of Aaron and I. My arms were shaking for two hours afterwards, and while I didn’t empty my stomach again there were a few tense moments. Aaron fumed over the loss and refused to come ashore, and had to read several chapters from Bruce Lee’s Guide to Daily Living to try to calm his rage; the boy doesn’t like to lose.

The last landing of the day was to enjoy another colony of the island’s birds, including a newly-arrived group of waved albatrosses. The albatross had never been recorded nesting on this island, but given a tip from a morning group we found two eggs, meaning that a new colony may be forming. The owls were more elusive, and despite the offer of a bottle of wine for the first sighting they remained hidden. The entire landing lasted for about three hours, after which we came back to the boat for yet another adventure – everyone donned their wetsuit yet again for a night snorkel. With Aaron and Scott repeatedly reminding us of what a good idea it was to jump into shark-infested water in the dark we saw a turtle, some rays, and two moray eels amongst many creatures captured by our lights. The seas are rough again for tonight’s voyage to Rabida Island and the last full day of the trip.

Great Frigate Bird on Genovesa Island

Great Frigate Bird on Genovesa Island.

In the Big City

Posted from Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands at 9:20 pm, May 13th, 2006

Day eight. Santa Cruz Island is the most heavily populated of the Galapagos Islands with 15,000 residents, but we came for geology, birds and tortoises. A bus met us at the north side of the island at 7:00 AM and we headed up to the Highlands to see the huge volcanic craters named Los Gemelos and to look for the vermillion flycatcher. The flycatcher showed up, but it was far enough away that Aaron can still torment me about how great his photo from the last trip is. Following the craters we headed off to look for giant tortoises, and several of the beasties accommodated us, included a pair who were getting hot and heavy – Scott is a master of weird talents, and impersonating the sounds of a giant tortoise having sex sadly is one of those talents that we may be hearing for years to come.

Following the tortoises we did a quick hike through a one kilometer long lava tube, include a belly crawl at the end, before eating lunch at an amazing restaurant. Greg’s family joined us, and a group shot of firewater completed the meal. The final group event of the day was a trip to the Darwin Research Station, followed by free time in town. Eleven of us returned to town for dinner, and despite being given views of the restaurant from a couple of different tables and then being treated to plenty of time to exercise our arms waving for the waittress we managed a fun evening. Tomorrow is a 5:30 AM wakeup with almost non-stop activity, so we’re all heading to bed before what promises to be a rough crossing to Genevosa (Tower) Island.

The One With the Boobies

Posted from Santiago Island, Galapagos Islands at 6:20 pm, May 12th, 2006

Day seven. Santiago Island is home to a volcanic beach that’s great for fur seals and tide pools, so we started the morning with a walk on the lava before taking on four members of the crew in a quick soccer game. I sat out due to improper footwear until Travis decided he didn’t need the skin on the ball of his foot and I had to come in as a replacement. Whether Elvis let the ball roll through his legs on purpose or not is now a moot point since the gringos held their own against born and bred footballers, with a final score of one to one. The snorkel that followed produced a surprise mantra ray, which I was late in seeing until Aaron poked his head up at me and said “Dude, will you just look at this manta ray!” It was somewhere between eight and twelve feet from wingtip to wingtip and stayed with us for almost ten minutes. At times it would swing around and its huge head would be only a few feet away. A handful of black-tipped reef sharks completed the snorkel adventure for the day.

After snorkeling we started out on the motor to Bartolome Island. I tried to stay out on deck, and actually saw a few manta rays leaping out of the water before I dozed off and had to head back to the cabin – active trip or not, a soccer game in blazing heat earns a nap. I wasn’t alone in my siesta, and when we landed everyone was groggy as we got into the water for a snorkel. The snorkel was a surprisingly good one – on two occasions I had Galapagos penguins floating within inches of my mask, a sea lion came to play, two octopus were hiding in the rocks, and after getting back into the panga we spotted five rays and jumped back into the water. After that most of the folks chose to head back to the Reina Silvia, but four of us wanted to snorkel more so we hopped in near the pinnacle on Bartolome. Two penguins were checking us out, again floating only inches away, but the highlight came when we spotted a massive school of selema and then noticed that the blue-footed boobies were plunge-diving down to grab fish. We sat in the water and watched as a couple of the birds torpedoed down from forty feet above us and then blasted at insane speeds ten feet down to the bottom, leaving a long stream of bubbles in their wake. Very, very cool. After quickly changing clothes we cruised up the hill to get the view over the islands, and being of simple minds Aaron and I raced up the last portion, which after the day’s activity was far less than a brilliant idea. Tomorrow we’re off to Santa Cruz, with only three full days left in the trip.

Sally Lightfoot Crab on Santiago Island

Sally Lightfoot Crab on Santiago Island.