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

Not a story about the airport

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:19 pm, April 12th, 2011

Since the only real excitement thus far this month has been a (*ahem*) roundabout flight to Salt Lake City nine days ago, it seems that another subject for a journal entry is needed. While spending a very, very long time at the airport I started going through photos from the Autumn 2009 road trip and found a few more that I kind of liked:

Yellowstone Canyon

Cliffs in Yellowstone Canyon.

Fall Color in Yellowstone Canyon

Fall Color in Yellowstone Canyon.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park.

Good Things

Posted from Culver City, California at 6:18 pm, March 31st, 2011

There is a line in the James Clavell book Shogun that I’ve always liked:

“Always remember, child,” her first teacher had impressed on her, “that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort.”

In a world where the country is fighting three wars, the economy is looking at its third straight bad year, and the environment is seemingly headed to ruin, it can be easy to overlook good news, but there are a lot of things going on that are worth feeling positive about:

  • After disappearing for nearly one hundred years, 62 miles of the Owens River is now flowing again. In another victory for the Eastern Sierra, after losing forty-five feet of water depth and 99% of its ducks and geese, Mono Lake is slowly being restored, and with record snowfall this year it should gain a few more feet of water depth. In both cases the original devastation was due to diversion of water for LA, but for the most part the restoration has been done without diminishing LA’s water supply.
  • Habitat loss has had a damaging effect on migratory birds, but the Nature Conservancy is working with farmers in Washington state to allow flooding of fallow fields during bird migrations, providing stopovers for wildlife without affecting the land’s usefulness for crops. Early results show improved bird habitat and increased soil fertility. Similarly, the conservancy also restored twenty-five square miles of floodplain in Louisiana by removing a levee, apparently helping to reduce the downriver severity of a major flood in 2009 as a result.
  • After years of delay, the Boeing 787 will finally launch later this year. It offers 20% better fuel efficiency than comparable older planes, meaning that a flight that previously would have burned 10,000 gallons of jet fuel will now be using 2,000 gallons less. At the same time it’s a quieter plane, which is nice for those of us living in the flight path of a large airport.
  • An eradication of brown rats on South Georgia Island is underway. While this is obviously bad news for the rats, since arriving with whaling ships in the early 1900s they have decimated many of the native nesting birds, and with the retreating of glaciers on the island it is inevitable that they will spread and destroy even more bird colonies. Thus, the prospect of their removal is a hopeful one for the future recovery of the island’s amazing native wildlife.
  • In 2008 LA approved a sales tax increase to fund transportation projects over the next thirty years. The mayor then proposed accelerating those projects through the 30/10 plan, in which LA would borrow funds from the federal government against the future sales tax revenue in order to implement in ten years what would have taken thirty. Since building rail, highways, and subways in 2011 dollars is cheaper than doing it in the future, and since there are immense benefits to having better transit options now rather than later, AND since this is a loan that is backed by a revenue stream that has already been voter-approved, the plan is moving forward quickly and seems to be supported from both the left and the right, with those of us living in LA set to benefit from much-needed infrastructure improvements in the coming decade.

It’s nice to step back occasionally and get a reminder of why, despite constant predictions of doom and gloom, the future continues to be a hopeful one. The comments link is available for anyone wanting to spread some additional positivity, as good news should definitely be shared.

We Liked the Birds

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:32 am, March 28th, 2011

The first of many Brother Days took place last weekend with a trip to San Clemente (roughly the halfway point between Culver City & San Diego). Seafood was eaten, baseballs and basketballs were thrown, and minor injuries were sustained. All-in-all a smashing success. Another highlight of the day was a new game – to answer the question “how hard is acting”, we decided the best option was to come up with lines and deliver them; it is apparently tougher to be a pirate, checkout clerk, or random pedestrian than might have previously been suspected.

Following Brother Day I flew to Utah for a week of work in the snow. Upon returning home Audrey and I became proud members of the Aquarium of the Pacific, where, amongst dozens of tanks, the best exhibit is clearly the birds. They’ve got an enclosure that you can walk through with a cup of nectar and be swarmed by colorful birds – the “lorikeet hunger meter” was at “very hungry” when we entered, and three of the voracious animals immediately landed on Audrey when she emerged from the entrance; good times. The aquarium’s fish weren’t bad, either, particularly a sea horse that looked like a plant, a sawfish (aka carpenter shark), and a giant pacific octopus. As card-carrying aquarium members we’ll likely be back a few times in the coming year.

Basset Hound Running

Audrey and the lorikeets.

Writer’s Block

Posted from Culver City, California at 6:42 pm, March 17th, 2011

The hope that March would yield journal-worthy moments has not been fulfilled; things remain slow in the world of Holliday. The most notable events over the past weeks have been the bi-weekly trips to Park City, Utah to be onsite at Backcountry. The specific project that they brought me back to work on has since been postponed until later this year, and in the interim I’ve been relegated to a “fill-in” role, helping out where needed. Some days have seemed a little long.

Aaron left Vail to take a new job in San Diego, making a monthly brother get-together a certainty. Sadly the major attractions located halfway between my home in Culver City and his abode in San Diego are a sprawl of stripmalls and a nuclear generating plant that looks like boobs, so our outings might not be as exciting as one would hope. Still, never bet against the Holliday brothers finding odd ways of entertaining ourselves.

And lastly, because it would be a shame to end a post without pictures of little dogs in motion, photos of basset hounds running single-handedly justifies every dollar that has ever been spent to create the internet.

Basset Hound Running

Basset hound at full speed. Photo from buzzfeed.com.

This is Mainly Filler

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:12 pm, February 28th, 2011

A handful of moderately interesting bits that may or may not be worth recording:

  • Space Shuttle Discovery is on its final mission. More than thirty years ago I remember my mother taking me to the Nashua Science Center where they gave a presentation on the great new replacement for the Apollo rocket. After one more mission that era will be over for good, which is an odd thing to consider.
  • In the world of airplanes (which are awesome) Boeing is getting ready for the first flight of the 747-8i, the world’s longest commercial airplane, and will shortly be announcing plans for the plane that will replace the 737.
  • The wicked awesome JAMWiki 1.0 was unleashed upon the world at the end of January to a roar of silence, although on February 11 apparently 5800 Kazakhis downloaded it, a new record for single-day eastern bloc installs.

And with that, February now has three journal entries. Hopefully March will yield slightly more material and the last minute panic entries can be avoided.

I Got Nothing

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:55 pm, February 27th, 2011

The three entry a month goal is being put to the test at month two… that can’t be a good sign. Sadly February hasn’t offered up many journal-worthy moments, but a handful of highlights from the last two weeks include:

  • On the twelfth Khalid flew into town from DC with his wife and three-month old son and met us for dinner at a very, very Chinese restaurant (“wow, they finally translated the menu to English”). The newborn has mad hair and slept through dinner, while the two grown-ups were fun as always.
  • Audrey and I went for a very fancy dinner of lobster, oysters and New Zealand elk at the Saddle Peak Lodge for Valentine’s Day, and despite my lack of proper refinement we made it through the meal without being thrown out. Any place with wild game on the menu is worth a visit, but if you decide to dine at this amazing restaurant be sure to bring your gold, platinum, and corporate cards with you.
  • The every-other-week in Utah schedule continues – last week was spent in snow and temperatures in the teens in Park City, while this week the LA weather is in the 60s and the commute consists of the walk from my bed to my desk. When in Utah, the Best Western I’ve been staying at in the town of Coalville is far enough from the ski slopes that the guests aren’t the most active bunch – one of the hotel staff just about jumped out of her skin when she walked into the workout room and saw me stretching, exclaiming "I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in here".

Things may stay a bit slow through March and April, although the current work contract could potentially end on April 30, leaving the possibility for adventure during the very beautiful month of May…

Excessive Coldness

Posted from Culver City, California at 12:56 pm, February 13th, 2011

I’ve spent the past two weeks in Park City, Utah, trying to remember what warmth felt like – the temperature bottomed out at -17°F, and my first night involved a forty mile drive through a snowstorm on roads that caused a pickup truck in front of me to fishtail for a good thirty seconds before the driver was finally able to regain control. Luckily I had been given a Chevy Aveo by the rental company, a car that was apparently designed to handle as much like a boat as possible during inclement weather; I was fairly relieved to eventually arrive at the hotel alive and in one piece.

The work this time around has thus far primarily been technical project management, which means lots of meetings, spreadsheets, and tasks other than coding – it will be nice when/if things move on to design and programming, but in the mean time I am the master of the SWAG.

Outside of work, last weekend was spent in Carmel visiting Audrey, who was working on a studio in the downtown area. A free room in Carmel is all good, and when she wasn’t working we enjoyed the scenery and some good food. I attempted two runs while there, but a note for anyone considering doing the same: one of the reasons why Carmel is pretty is because of the evil, evil hills that will sap your will to live should you decide to do some jogging. The 17 Mile Drive is much less appealing when you realize that the first mile is all uphill.

In addition to Carmel, last week included a trip to meet Aaron, Dave Pugmire, and Dave’s family for dinner. The Goob was driving from Vail to San Francisco after spending the winter snowboarding, and Dave lives in Heber, twenty miles outside of Park City. I’m not a big fan of kids, but Dave managed to make a couple of good ones, and we enjoyed a fun dinner and a nice trip out to Heber’s ice castles before I had to head home.

Evelyn and Ryan at the Ice Castles

Dave’s progeny and me at the ice castles in Heber.

Bird Month

Posted from Culver City, California at 4:33 pm, January 25th, 2011

January wasn’t supposed to be the month of bird photos, it just sort of worked out that way. Here are two more from the pond next to where Audrey & I live in Culver City:

Hooded Merganser

Hooded merganser. A pair of these birds showed up last winter and came back this year because they like me.

Hooded Merganser

This is the girl one.

The Jolla

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:59 pm, January 13th, 2011

I spent yesterday and today in La Jolla attempting to photograph birds since it’s a good time of year for animals, hotel rates are distressingly low, I am at least temporarily my own boss, and an occasional trip to La Jolla is just plain old good sense. After about three hundred photos of seabirds in flight my talent for taking pictures of headless, blurry birds has been re-affirmed; call if you are in need of that skillset.

Having never been to La Jolla expectations were limited, but the town is now high on the list of places to visit regularly. Between seals, sea lions, pelicans, cormorants, gulls, and even a peregrine falcon there was a massive amount of wildlife on display. The photographs below are a handful of the keepers from the trip. Special thanks to Phillip Colla, someone I’ve never actually met but whose guide to photographing pelicans in La Jolla inspired the short road trip.

Heermann's Gull in La Jolla

Heermann’s Gull. I have a thing for birds wearing eyeliner.

Brown pelican in La Jolla

Brown pelican. These guys were the main reason for the trip, but at sunrise there wasn’t a single pelican on the cliffs. Luckily, after three hours of shooting elsewhere, I returned to the cliffs to find a handful of the birds striking pretty poses.

Snowy egret in La Jolla

Snowy egret. Despite being such a common bird, this is the first decent photograph I’ve ever gotten of one.

Double-crested cormorant in La Jolla

Double-crested cormorant. If you are into cormorants, La Jolla is the place to be. And if you need dozens of blurry pictures of cormorants in flight, I am the man to contact.

If You Have Money, Don’t Bet on Any of These

Posted from Culver City, California at 12:48 pm, January 4th, 2011

Following a recent and disturbing annual tradition, here are the predictions for the year to come. Based on past history, anyone with any sense should assume that the vast majority of the predictions below will be so utterly wrong as to shame a man with any dignity into never again putting in writing his thoughts on the coming year.

  1. Gasoline, currently at about $3.30 per gallon here in Los Angeles, will rise in price to over $4.00 per gallon by the end of 2011 as the economy improves. There will be numerous predictions in the news media about prices hitting $5.00 per gallon for 2012.
  2. Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will all announce that they are running for President. Michael Bloomberg will toy with people and then announce that he isn’t running (this may last into 2012). Newt Gingrich will not run as he will calculate that he can’t win while splitting votes with Palin and Huckabee. No Democrat will mount a serious primary challenge against Obama, although someone like Dennis Kucinich may run solely for the purpose of “expanding the debate” or some similar reason.
  3. Apple will offer minor updates to the iPad and iPhone but will not have any major new product offerings in 2011. They will, however, offer users the ability to store content such as movies and music on Apple servers and access that content on any Apple device, thus revealing the purpose of their massive new data center. In 2012 my guess is that they are planning a 4G iPhone for release early in the year (instead of the usual mid-year release) along with an Apple TV product, although those obviously aren’t predictions for 2011.
  4. The national unemployment rate will drop from its current rate of 9.7 percent, but will remain very close to nine percent. I’ll pin the prediction range at 8.8 to 9.1 percent since there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of job creation going on right now.
  5. US men’s distance runners will set national records in at least three of the following events: 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m, marathon. The current crew of American distance runners is by far the best since the 1970s.
  6. Neither court challenges nor budgetary maneuvering will affect the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare. There is currently much hubbub about the courts overturning the recent health care law, or of Republicans in the House crippling it via lack of funding, but in the end neither will have an effect and the law will move forward as planned.
  7. Yahoo and Adobe will both be purchased. Companies are currently sitting on record amounts of cash, and I suspect Yahoo is actively shopping itself as a way out of financial trouble, while Adobe might be snapped up by the likes of Oracle or Microsoft as a hedge against Apple.
  8. SpaceX will launch only three of the five Falcon 9 missions on their current launch manifest, but all will be successful. They will also launch two of their Falcon 1e rockets successfully.
  9. 3D televisions will still not be a big deal, and may in fact be less of a big deal than they are now.
  10. Splits in the Republican party between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives will increase significantly. While this divide has always been a tension, Republican gains in the last election were made primarily by focusing on economic issues and avoiding social issues. Now that many social conservatives are in power those issues will again rise to the surface, causing party divisions that will lead to calls for “purity tests”, more frequent “RINO” accusations, and at least two Republican Congressmen leaving the party to become independents or Democrats.
  11. Labor disputes in the NFL will not affect the regular season as players and owners come to an agreement to avoid significantly damaging America’s most popular sports league. However, a lockout will be imposed in the NBA and the regular season will be shortened as a result; millionaire players and owners will be on TV crying about unfairness while fans look at $100 ticket prices and feel no sympathy.
  12. Cape Wind and Bluewater Wind will both start construction of their offshore wind farm projects in 2011 after years of legal wrangling and delays.
  13. Total downloads of JAMWiki (a pet project of mine) will exceed 15,000 for the year. This would be a huge jump given past year’s stats, but assuming I have a few months outside of the corporate world then some surprises may be in store. Stats for past years:

    2010: 10,841 downloads
    2009: 9,191 downloads
    2008: 11,146 downloads
    2007: 7,898 downloads

  14. Last but not least, 2011 will see not just two, but three journal entries every month. The quality of said posts will carry on the great tradition of poor writing and questionable judgment that has been a hallmark of this journal since its inception.

There they are, the fearless and (likely) completely wrong predictions for 2011. Check this space again in a year for the retrospective, and add your thoughts, predictions, and insults via the comments link.

2010 Prediction Scorecard

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:50 pm, January 2nd, 2011

Following a massive number of incorrect predictions for 2009, here’s the wrap-up of my predictions for 2010; clearly no one will ever mistake me for Nostradamus.

  1. SpaceX will launch their Falcon 9 rocket successfully in March or April and will have two successful launches before year end.

    The rocket launched successfully in June, and a second launch took place in December. This is a big deal for anyone interested in space, and, even though I was off by a month on the launch date, this scores as a correct prediction since I’m doing the scoring.

  2. Despite Democrats losing their 60th Senate seat in the Massachusetts special election there will still be some sort of health care bill passed this year.

    When this prediction was made there was near universal agreement that the bill was dead, yet it passed about a month later. Two out of two so far for the prediction game, but it’s all downhill from here.

  3. Tiger Woods will be golfing again in time for the Masters, will win at least one major championship, and at least five tournaments.

    He was back for the Masters, then didn’t win a single tournament. Historically I think my record for sports-related predictions stands at something like zero-for-ten…

  4. The iPhone is going to be available from carriers besides AT&T by mid-year.

    Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times says this is happening in early 2011, but that doesn’t make my prediction any less wrong.

  5. The stock market will end the year around 11,500.

    Another rare correct prediction. It rose from about 10,200 at the beginning of the year to close at 11,577 at the end of the year.

  6. NASA’s ARES rocket program will be canceled or scaled back to the point where it will no longer be a shuttle replacement.

    The program has effectively been canceled, although budget wrangling is keeping some aspects of it alive. While this scores as a correct prediction, in fairness anyone who is a big space dork would see this as a very safe prediction given the public pronouncements prior to the actual cancellation.

  7. The Beatles and Garth Brooks will start selling their music on iTunes.

    The Beatles came through for me, but Garth held out.

  8. The Browns will finish at .500 or better.

    I don’t want to talk about this one.

  9. I’m going to run a marathon.

    Nope, didn’t happen. 2011 may be a different story though.

  10. The 2010 elections won’t change Congress significantly… I’ll say the Democrats will have 57 Senate seats (plus-or-minus one) and 240 House members (plus-or-minus five) when it’s all over.

    This prediction was spectacularly wrong. Democrats now have 53 Senate seats and 193 House seats, so I was only off by… A LOT.

  11. Tesla will IPO and announce the opening of a plant in Downey. The plant will break ground, but full Model-S production will slip from 2011 to 2012.

    They did do a very successful IPO, and the Model-S has slipped to 2012, but the new plant will be in Fremont. Two out of three ain’t bad.

  12. Despite recent protests, the political situation in Iran won’t change in 2010.

    …and it hasn’t changed. Things have been relatively quiet in that corner of the world after a very noisy 2009.

  13. Google will partner with someone to ship a low-cost, Google branded PC running Google apps and the Google operating system.

    This is a prediction that probably should have waited until 2012. Oops.

  14. Apple will be on the verge of announcing an Apple television product.

    Another prediction that would have made a lot more sense for 2012. When they do finally announce it I’m definitely going to want one.

  15. China will announce plans to sell cars abroad.

    Although Jane says China is already selling cars in Asian markets, I’ll be surprised to see them in the US for another 2-4 years. My prediction batting average continues to fall into the “scary bad” range.

  16. It will be another bad hurricane year.

    While 2010 tied for the third most named storms and second most hurricanes in history, they mostly stayed out to sea or weren’t very severe when they did make landfall. Given the potential for damage, this is actually a good one to be wrong about, even if it is another blemish on an otherwise ugly prediction scorecard.

  17. I will make at least two journal entries a month.

    Nailed it! That’s right, for every month of 2010 there were at least two entries in the journal, even if many of them did come on one of the last days of the month.

The game will continue with predictions for 2011 coming soon, and the comments link is there for anyone who wants to join in the pain fun.