Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another Eco reason to be vegetarian

Livestock use 30 percent of the land surface of the planet, generate more greenhouse gasses than transport

The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent -- 18 percent -- than transport.
Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth's entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land, [which is] used to produce feed for livestock
The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, euthropication and the degeneration of coral reefs.
Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20 percent of all terrestrial animal biomass.

Now, would someone please pass me a carrot...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Man sitting at a station

I was chatting to a friend today and she came out with this, which I think is neat.

There is an old man sitting at a station. A train pulls in and some people get off. They say to him, "what are the people like here?". He asks, "what we're the people like where you came from?". They said, "not so great". He said, "you'll find them the same here".

A second train pulls in. Someone gets off and says to him, "what are the people like here?". He asks, "what were the people like where you came from?". He says, "They were great". The old man says, "you'll find them the same here."

I like this, very much. It is a very good reminder. Have I finally found an optimist who makes sense to me?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in England - 2006

Just some photos from the UK at Christmas

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sue - professional tips from the office

Sue's design reminder
Originally uploaded by CarlMyhill.
It was great to see Sue before Christmas (and before she left GE!). Here's a professional tip she showed me. It involves a post-it note. Whenever her and Kim stray from the process they pull out the post-it note. It says, "follow the process dumb ass!"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Visiting Sue and Carla, Hiking, Good Food and Hot tub

Sue and Carla's Neighbours - front garden
Sue and Carla's neighbours seem to go a whole bundle on the christmas thing as seen by their neon nativity. As I tried to remember which house was theirs, I could discount several by the process of elimination!

We went for a short hike to Roxborough. Really pretty and quite like a couple of other local places around Denver but nonetheless impressive for it.

Here are Sue's pictures...

Carla made some excellent food and then gave me a bit of a biomechanics tutorial about how muscles work and such. She also made my lunch for the next day. I decided to move in permenantly but things didn't work out! :-)

For desert we ate an English style christmas cake which my Mum sent on a christmas plate from Sue's Mom. Thanks Moms!

Carla cuts the mini English style christmas cake.

Sue and Carla have a pretty impressive hot tub with beer holders. An excellent way to see the stars!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Avalanche Training 2

For this second avalanche training course we needed some snow so we drove up beyond Hope Valley and found a small spot not too far from the car.

Nate showed us how to dig a trench and begin analyzing the snow to check for its avalanche potential. A bit like this. I think this one is a kind of compression test (I struggled with rotating the video so please tilt your head to see it!).

Most tests involved sawing out a chunk of snow and then manipulating it like by putting it on a shovel and tapping the bottom of it to see whether and how it broke apart. In each test, a 2 inch thick layer broke off quite easily. This snow would have some avalanche potential.

It was a little cold for goofing around but we managed to do a bit anyway!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Business Trip

Great to finally get on the road and meet some end users.

Here we are camping out in John's office. Steve had the weirdest power adapter. Glenn decided to phone home, which we had to photograph due to the exotic view, and Carl was instructed to look "normal" (well, it had been a tough couple of days). Do you like the tie? :-)

Seriously though it was nice to see the lads again. Rob was an excellent host and the people we visited were awesome.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Avalanche Training with Bently Adventures

Our first day of avalanche training by Nate from The Sporting Rage (the folks who run Bently Adventures, our adventure club at work).

Nate is ex-military and this was his first civilian class. Pretty impressive if you ask me. We sat in the classroom for a bit, looking at slides and becoming worried about avalanche dangers and then we went outside in the afternoon to practice with some of the equipment. It was all good fun but I think everyone in the class realized that this training could suddenly become relevant one day. There was therefore an air of seriousness too.

Friday, December 08, 2006


OK I've Elf-ed myself. What do you think?

If you have flash installed you can see my little elf dance too (warning - it plays music).

Thanks Chris - it made me smile!

An Indian Experience & My New Friend Radhika

Radhika is a new person at work, a contractor working for Satyam. She came climbing with us last night. I've worked with a lot of Indian people but they often don't talk much about India. Radhika, it turned out, was over here to redress that balance and talked a whole lot about India, which was fascinating. She knows a whole lot about Yoga, which in itself was very interesting.

Tonight I dropped her home after circuit training and we went via Bollywood, the Indian restaurant in Carson City. She's from South India and most dishes on the menu were more Northern but she picked out some nice stuff and then showed me the proper way to eat when you are from South India. I had heard before that eating with your right hand is sometimes the normal way to do things and indeed this is typical in South India. It took only a little persuasion to get Radhika to show me how it is done. We started with a small pile of rice, added some dhal and then mixed it in with the fingers of the right hand (the left hand is not used but you can use it to drink luckily, since the right hand is quickly covered in sticky stuff). When mixed you scoop up some of the rice and Dhal with your fingers, in a kind of shovel shape, and then patt it down a bit before gracefully sliding it in your mouth with your thumb. Of course, this is only graceful if you have been brought up this way, otherwise it just looks a bit grim.

Ultimately we switched to chappatis which also have to be manipulated with just the right hand. You seem to anchor things with your thumb and then break off bits of bread with the fingers.

I think another 10 years and I might get the hang of eating this way.

It was really great to hear lots and lots about India. About how people live, politics, business and all sorts of things. It sounds like quite a place.

Radhika also showed me her name written in Hindi and then in 4 other Indian languages. There was no decernable similarity between any of them. They all looked amazing and so so foreign but I think I liked Hindi the best. She then showed me what my name would look like in Hindi script - very cool! My favourite Hindi word of the evening was Bhindaas, which means cool.

I was very surprised to learn that English is the language of business in India and people talk English when they go out to bars and suchlike. Radhika explained that she sometimes speaks Hinglish - a combination of Hindi and English. I felt very ignorant not knowing that Hindi is the national language of India (partly because I know there are a lot of languages in India). Though I was less surprised by this than I was to discover that English is so commonly used.

An excellent cultural evening!


Thursday, December 07, 2006


I finally made a little progress with climbing tonight. With some excellent tutoring from Dustin I managed to get up a 5.9, which had a hand hold at the top which looked WAY out of reach but I finally got it. I then got halfway up a 5.10-. I didn't climb much but felt a bit better about it than usual.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Ultra-marathon 50k (31 miles) Ridgecrest - Over The Hill Track Club (OTHTC) - 50k Personal Best (5:00:47)

Yesterday Sienna's Scott and I headed down the I395 for 5 hours, past Yosemite and Mammoth to Ridgecrest in the Mojave desert, for our first Ultra Marathon, the OTHTC 50k. Neither of us have even done a marathon before but that didn't stop us 'carb loading' on the journey down managing to cram in pizza and pasta in the space of far too few hours. We had a few beers in preparation too.

I'd done a little more training than Scott having run the Rim Trail recently. For his first ultra he aimed to try and beat 6 hours; I figured I'd try to break 5 hours though I didn't have much to base my target time on other than wishful thinking.

7am came around quickly and before we knew it, we were off and running with about 300 other people of all shapes and sizes and ages. The start was quite busy, clogged up and slow in the way that most races are. After a mile things had thinned out a bit but there was still a lot of swapping of positions going on. This meant I was overtaking quite a few people for a while. Scott was being more sensible and was sticking to a more sane pace so we split up pretty quickly.

The day started pretty cool, just above freezing I think (in fact we ran over a patch of ice on the car park). I had gloves on for perhaps as much as 10 miles.

After about 3 miles I got chatting to a lady who, like many other runners, had a bright pair of Dirty Girl gaiters on (I think her name was Kristen Farley). Actually the maker of the gaiters Chrissy, was also racing. Kristen was a former geology professor and is now a wellness coach helping to introduce people to the concept of getting fit and eating well. After a couple of miles I discovered that she was also not unfamiliar with running 100 miles races and seemed quite well known in ultra running. Wow did I feel outclassed. Pretty soon another lady joined us, Ceal Klingler, who was the race director of the Bishop ultra marathon and a very cheerful person to run with. Both women looked extremely strong and consistent so I really enjoyed running with them. One GPS measured mile was paced at 8.08 pace - WAY TOO FAST.

After about 4 miles the first lady slowed a little to talk to a friend and I carried on running with Ceal. After a while she told me she was casually aiming for 4 hours 30 pace. I had to explain that I wasn't and I worried that I was slowing her down. But Ceal wasn't super competitive and was happy running at the pace we were going at so we carried on together. At the aid stations she wasn't too keen to stop at all and because I was carrying quite a bit of water with 'Perpetuem' in it I didn't need to stop either. So we ran together, chatting for about 20 miles. Ceal is the first person I have heard express saddness at the California flag which proudly boasts a Grizzly Bear - extinct in the state for more than 50 years.

As 20 miles neared I could see Ceal was looking very strong and was starting to stride ahead of me a bit. I told her to get going but she spent some time trying to motivate me to carry on at the same pace. After another mile I really had to send her packing since I was slowing and feeling heavy and she was looking light and strong. Ultimately she beat me by 15 minutes - quite some margin.

At 20 miles I was still ahead of my virtual partner on my GPS who was pacing at 9.38 min/mile but after the next 3 miles of climbing I had dropped to .7 mile behind 'him'. On the downhill I was able to reel in the virtual partner but only very slowly. By mile 23 it looked like I would finish around 10 minutes behind the virtual partner with a time of 5:10. This was disappointing but I really didn't have the legs to eat in to the lead enough on the downhills.

As it neared 11am I was too hot with my helly hanson (smelly helly) and windproof shell on. So I had to wrestle the shell off whilst running along.

My legs were hurting by now. Early in the race my adductors felt notchy but that had faded early on. By mile 23 I had a lot of pain in the hip flexors and startings of pain in the gluts. Another couple of Ibruprophen seeemed to help a bit.

I passed the 26 mile point with nonchalance, it didnt seem very relevant today but the time looked like 4:18 or so (the GPS was under reading so perhaps it was a little faster).

I got to the last aid station and slowed for a little rest and a drink. I thought there were 3 miles to go but I noticed (late) that there was a sign saying 1.6 miles. I had 15 minutes left before the 5 hour mark and I realized I could make it so I picked up the pace a lot and shut the pain out of my mind (I was surprised how well that worled). I caught up and overtook the older guy in front of me and ploughed on. As I rounded the front of the college I had 3 minutes to get to the finishing line. I had no idea exactly where the finishing line was though so I just hussled. As I made a lap of the car park I knew I wouldn't make it but still gave it everything. I crossed the line at 5:00:47 - dammit. Fortunately there was free beer on tap to console myself with, and, in fairness I was quite pleased with my time. I was 46th overall and 15th in my age group. My GPS tells me that I burned 5,150 calories over the distance - lucky we did a lot of carb loading!

Scott came in under his target time of 6 hours and was also glad of the beer.

Here are my splits (roughly due to GPS problems):
00:08:08 0:52:32 -----10k
00:08:49 1:59:47 ----- 13 miles
00:10:12 4:17:36 ----- 26 miles
??:??:?? 5:00:47 ----- 31 miles

There is something quite nice about the ultra runner community. People were extremely friendly and chatty. The race itelf was extremely well organized with race directions some of the best I have ever seen. The route was marked with orange tape and chalk arrows. Aid stations were also very well organized and friendly and at each one they took everyone's number as they came in - very safety consious. At the end of the race we got excellent running shirts and every runner got a raffle prize - whoever had worked the sponsorship angle had done a splendid job. For our $65 entry fee we got a whole lot of stuff - even Pizza and Beer at the end!

Ceal and her husband Stacy, friendly folks.

Sienna met us after the race after a multi-hour epic drive down from San Francisco. Scott and I stiffened up a lot on the way back and were glad to have dinner in the very nice Whisky Creek Restaurant in Bishop before the last leg of our drive home. At one point on the drive back I saw Sienna brake - she later told me that a mountain lion ran out in front of her car! It's unusual but there are lots of deer around and that is the mountain lion's favourite food. Wow.

Many of the pictures on this page are from Bad Water Ben Jones the race photographer. Most excellent - huge thanks. Larger versions of some images are on his website.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Advice from Terry

As I left the building tonight I bumped into Terry, my running coach. She has been very enthusiastic about my ultra run and told me that with her first ultra she just went out to go the distance. I have known Terry and Dave Adams long enough now to know there is a need to factor in a certain 'coefficient of Adams' in any conversation about sport. They are both extremely modest and in equal extreme, incredibly fit.

I was therefore not surprised to discover that Terry won her first ultra - and it was on the professional circuit at the time (they got extra points for doing ultras).

The thing I've learned about sport is that there is always someone better than you. In my case they are often 10 or 20 years older than me to. It's all good, humbling and inspirational at the same time. I never feel competitive or jealous or anything about such people, just admiration and respect and considerable motivation from them to just get out there. It's really nice to hang out with people this tough who understand well what it takes to run 50k. The shared understanding is more of a silent nod than a HUGE WOW. As much as anything I feel that these folks know that running 50k is not a massive deal. It's tough yes but it is what it is.


Ultra Runner

I realized at lunch that this time next week I may no longer be just a guy, I'll forever more be an 'Ultra Runner'. I am sometimes informed at lunch that I am on "rare form" which I realize really means barking mad. So, I fantasized about the super hero costume I will need to wear and then counted on the fingers of one hand the only other ultra runners in the building who would soon be the only people I could talk with. Well there may be more but are at least Terry (former pro runner), Dave, Ron, Bill and possibly Brian - an elite crowd indeed (actually, that part is serious, they are exceptionally fit, all of them, not to mention an inspiration).

James even did a cartoon of me (when he finally finished singing).

Sienna said I'd probably trip and bash my face on a rock and have to retire after about half a mile. She's probably right.