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

15 Years of Random Musings

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:22 pm, August 7th, 2017

The journal celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on July 24, although I’m a bit behind on postings and thus this entry is being published two weeks after the actual date. In an era before Facebook and other social media, and even before the (awful) word “blog” had made it into most people’s vocabularies, this site was my way to record travelogues for posterity, and more importantly it gave me an excuse for being too lazy to send people regular emails, since I could just point everyone to this site as a way to keep in touch.

The obligatory stats to recap the past decade-and-a-half:

It’s anyone’s guess how long the journal will continue, but nearly 5,500 days after starting this narcissistic endeavor, there doesn’t seem to be any clear end in sight. Thanks to the twos of visitors who have read along regularly, and to the random folks who have dropped by on occasion to say hello and (incorrectly) point out typos.

Denali from Reflection Pond

My favorite image from the trip that spawned this journal, Denali (Mt McKinley) taken from Reflection Pond while I was camping in Alaska.

June 2017

Posted from Culver City, California at 6:27 pm, June 30th, 2017

June has been a slow month, but here’s a quick recap:

  • After the first round of updates to bring the journal into the mobile age I’ve done a significant amount of additional re-work to make the site fully mobile-friendly. If you’re reading this journal entry on a phone, you’re welcome, and if you’re reading it in a browser and don’t notice any difference, well, if it ain’t broke…
  • June had only one work trip to San Antonio, where temperatures have now jumped up to the “crispy” level. On a positive note, HEB has moved the e-commerce group to new offices, so instead of working in a dark and scary basement we’re now on the seventh floor of a building with plenty of windows from which to watch Southern Texas roast in the heat.
  • The Cavs got stomped by the Warriors in the NBA Finals, but that still meant that a Cleveland team was playing for a championship – after years of growing up with Indians teams that inspired the movie Major League, and a Browns team that annually found creative ways to avoid playing in the Super Bowl, having a Cavs team playing in the NBA Championship every year is more than any Cleveland-native ever could have dreamed of.
  • In homeownership news, proving that ten minutes on Youtube can turn anyone into Bob Vila, I hooked up some new landscape lighting without the slightest bit of electrocution.
  • Finally, in local wildlife news, the attic has miraculously remained rat-free for several months now, while our newest backyard visitors include a family of crows whose favorite pastime is gathering outside of the window and loudly complaining whenever I forget to leave some mealworms out for them.

Newer Hotness

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:50 pm, June 5th, 2017

When I started this journal fifteen years ago the idea of reading a web page on a phone was still magic wizardry reserved for Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, but in 2017 (actually, starting in about 2007…) wasting horizontal space with three columns is a design faux pas of the highest order. Thus, tonight I spent some time bringing the journal into the mobile age, and the site is now a svelte two columns, with some additional plumbing done to hopefully make the font more readable on small screens, and to allow the images to dynamically resize. While I’m a decent programmer, I have the aesthetic abilities of a blind trout, so suggested improvements are welcome, and if anything seems broken please let me know what browser you’re using and what problem you’re seeing and I’ll try to get it fixed.

Three Entries a Month

Posted from Culver City, California at 4:28 pm, May 30th, 2016

It’s been a busy month due to work and guests, but that fact alone doesn’t account for falling woefully short on the three-journal-entries-each-month goal.

To a great extent the reason for the three entry goal is that it forces me to think through an issue sufficiently to write about it in a way that feels meaningful. This month I’ve started on a few entries, only to abandon the draft after discovering that there was either more to it than I first realized, or that I wasn’t sure what I had to contribute on the topic.

One subject that seemed like it might be interesting to write about is de-extinction. For the first time in history the technology exists to literally bring back an extinct species, and we may soon live in a world that again has passenger pigeons and dodo birds in it. While at first glance that might seem like an unmitigated good – mankind could have a second chance to atone for the horrendous sin of wiping an entire species from existence – upon further investigation the process isn’t exactly the miracle that it might seem. Among other issues, rather than taking DNA from a preserved passenger pigeon and producing a clone, the process is more like Jurassic Park in that “gaps” in the DNA would need to be filled in with DNA from similar species. In the end it isn’t entirely clear that the animal science produced would truly be a passenger pigeon and not a partial hybrid that never actually existed in the wild. Hopefully someday soon we will be able to bring back an animal that is 100% passenger pigeon, but for now there needs to be a lot more discussion about the moral issues given the limitations of current technology.

A second subject that seemed like a worthwhile journal topic was that of collective action problems, which describe so many of the issues we face today. The gist of the idea is that there are many actions which could be undertaken by humanity to collectively improve life for everyone, but those same actions would put individuals at a disadvantage if any member of the group failed to participate. Global warming is a prime example – the world benefits if all countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but any country that chooses not to participate would continue to exacerbate the problem while simultaneously gaining an economic advantage over those who implemented reductions; the end result is that no one wants to do something about the problem until everyone agrees to do something. To cite another example that is a bit closer to home, San Francisco and LA face housing shortages that have caused costs to skyrocket, created massive sprawl, and generated traffic nightmares as people have been forced to drive great distances to get from the places they can afford to live to the places where they work. The solution is to increase housing density, but no one wants their neighborhood to change and you end up with San Francisco fighting development under the guise of preventing gentrification while cities like Santa Monica try to pass ballot measures to make it nearly impossible to develop projects over two stories tall. In both cases, the result of neighborhoods fighting to maintain the status quo is that costs increase, traffic gets worse, and quality of life decreases.

Both of the above topics are subjects that would have been interesting (to me at least) to explore in a full journal entry, but in the case of de-extinction it turned out to not be as simple a subject as I expected, while in the latter case my limited writing skills proved insufficient to write anything meaningful about a problem that doesn’t really have a good solution. With luck whatever strange forces control the neurons in my brain will be poring over simpler topics next month, and the journal schedule will return to normal.

End of the Month

Posted from Culver City, California at 3:18 pm, May 26th, 2013

As a few people noticed, the server that runs the site died an ignominious death last week, so there has been a bit of a scramble to buy a new machine and get things running again. While I’m always excited to get a new toy (16GB RAM!!!), it’s been rather tiring trying to get three web sites and countless applications running on the new computer. At this point mountaininterval.org should be back-to-normal, with the notable exception of email notifications when comments are added (I’ll get to that); please let me know if you see anything else that is amiss.

Technical issues notwithstanding, May has so far been a relatively uneventful month:

  • Audrey and I finally managed to visit the saltwater portion of the Ballona Wetlands a couple weeks ago. Most of the existing wetlands were destroyed or filled in during the construction of Marina del Rey and Playa Vista, but the undeveloped portions (which are now basically grassy fields) are on the state’s list for habitat restoration, so hopefully in the next few years the area will return to a more natural state and again become the home to fish and birds.
  • We also put our memberships to the Natural History Museum to good use and visited them early for Bug Fair. Audrey was excited about the creepy-crawlies, and I was excited about getting to visit the spaceship again at the next-door science center after our morning with the insects was over.
  • Somewhere during the month I also added to my haul of Marriott Rewards Points™ with yet another trip to Boise. Amazingly I’ve now been working with Bodybuilding.com for nearly two years. Being able to work most days from my kitchen, in pajamas, with music blaring, on a project that is well-managed with good co-workers is definitely a nice situation to be in.

New Hotness

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:27 pm, January 11th, 2010

New year, new format for the journal. I think everything got converted over properly, although work still needs to be done to group together old trip journals and update links – if anyone notices any issues please leave a comment pointing out whatever obvious blunder has been made. With luck it should now be easier to make at least two posts a month, but that remains to be seen…

Glendale, California

Posted at 8:25 pm, December 9th, 2003

In a posting on Slashdot today I included a link back to this site’s photos page and suddenly the site traffic went nuts. However, despite the many photos of Denali, Galapagos, and other beautiful places, this seemed to be one of the most popular pictures. Never doubt the incredible appeal of the Goob, a Kosar jersey, and a giant Heineken.

In other news the insomnia continues — a few more days of this and I’ll be scouring the city looking for the “Sleepytime Extra” tea that Carrie (M.D.) recommends. Eight more days of work left, and seventeen days three hours and six minutes until the plane leaves SFO. Not that I’m counting.

Glendale, California

Posted at 1:45 pm, December 7th, 2003

I just realized that the journal has been broken for the past week — sorry about that, I work off of a local copy and didn’t realize that the server had automatically “cleaned up” the links I use to build this page. It should hopefully be fixed now.

Los Angeles, California

Posted at 12:50 am, December 30th, 2002

Apologies for the recent site outages — since I moved out of my old place the server also had to be moved to the new Ma and Pa Holliday hosting facility in sunny Concord, California. Hopefully things will run smoothly from this point onwards.

The Browns somehow made it into the playoffs. While no one seems to be able to explain how this happened, every person who currently or has ever lived in northeast Ohio is celebrating wildly. If they beat Pittsburgh in the first round pandemonium will most definitely ensue.

Palo Alto, California

Posted at 7:20 pm, November 30th, 2002

I’ve been madly trying to update things on this site before I head to LA tomorrow. The latest goodies are:

  • A message board. There is absolutely no reason for a message board on this site, so I figured why not add one?
  • Lots of new photos, including a few more of the western United States and India. Unfortunately the India photos are pretty lousy, mostly because every time I took my camera out in India I would be barraged by people trying to sell random bits of junk, so I would usually take out the camera, quickly snap a photo, and then run like hell.
  • Updated photo gallery and other code on the software page. The logs are showing that people are actually hitting that page and downloading a few things, so if anyone is using a particular piece of code and wants to see something updated please let me know (post on the message board or something).