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.

Monday, February 27, 2006

3.5 miles ~7.33min/mile pace

Very English weather today, grey and rainy and a bit windy. I managed to knock a bit more off my pace for a short distance, bringing it in at 7.33min/mile pace.

7:53 (windy against)
7:05 (for last 0.5 mile)

Alaska Cycle Trip Planning

I'm being a bit of a geek this weekend and doing a bit of Alaska cycle trip planning. I'm struggling to find out which cell phone scheme has the best coverage there, which GPS to get, what to do about Mosquitoes (50% DEET seems to be the answer) and how to avoid being eaten by a bear. I found an informative poster about the latter...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Coached Running - cool!

I finally managed to get myself to the gym for the 'running conditioning' session with Terry. I was the only one that showed up. It turns out we'd both been planning to do an interval/speed session anyway so that's what we did (only one of us knew how to do that properly). We jogged out slowly, cross country for the first couple of miles, chatting a bit. Terry explained she'd done the London Marathon before, as part of the World Cup. That started to worry me. Then she explained she used to be ranked 32 in the world. At that point I was thinking I had no business running with anyone like that but we carried on anyway, but with me understanding very well how outclassed I was.

For the last 2 miles we did a ladder, which was 1 minute fast, 1 minute rest; 2 minutes fast and 2 minutes rest; and then 3 minutes fast with 3 minutes rest; and then back down to 2 and 1 again. Terry reckoned we were doing 6:20 minute mile pace for the last 1 minute, which I was extremely pleased with!

Quite a tough session but really nice to run with someone else and get a bit of coaching for the first time ever! Terry is a very enthusiastic and encouraging runner, so that was nice too. It's great to be running again and a shame I'm missing the Belvoir run in England this weekend, even if it was 17 miles in thick mud last year.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

5 miles ~7.52min/mile pace

This running lark is quite strange. I didn't feel very motivated to run today but I never know how I'll run until I get started, and from the start today it felt quite easy. I'm sure having a lazy weekend helps pack glycogen into my muscles, making my legs feel strong. Even breathing was easier today.

Even with feeling ok, I was surprised to scrub another 10 seconds per mile from my last pace. I guess one thing about running is that if you make it a regular habit you get better at it as your muscles get used to it. I've only lost about 4lbs and am still about 7lbs over my preferred weight for running. But I'm eating better, exercising loads and not drinking much booze. I wonder how fast I go when I get closer to 180lbs.

I think getting a bit more used to exercise pain from Ron's excellent circuit training is also helping push up the pace.

Great conditions today too. A clear blue sky, cool gentle breeze and more moisture in the air than usual.

1st mile 7.47
2nd mile 8.22 (on dirt)
3rd mile 7.52
4th mile 7.52
5th mile 7.31

(743 calories burned)

This pace is much more consistent than I normally manage, thanks entirely to my GPS virtual partner, an essential but torturous gadget. As I crank down the virtual partner pace, not only is it harder to stay ahead of him, it's much harder to make ground on him! Every time I set the GPS I get nervous about the pace I type in. Mentally, it's nicer to stay ahead of the VP rather than be trying to catch up after he's overtaken me - though both motivations work!

It's nice to feel a bit fitter. I think my next run might need to be a short, faster one - Doug always reminds me to vary the distance. It'd be nice to do a long one too, it's a shame I'm not in the UK for the 18 mile Belvoir race this year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Face-ism Ratio


I've been reading an interesting and very well presented book called, Universal Principles of Design. One topic therein is 'face-ism'. Apparently, images depicting a person with a high face-ism ratio (where the face takes up most of the image) focus attention on the person's intellectual and personality attributes. So, here's one of me - what do you think? The research doesn't explain whether the inclusion of a purple woolly hat has any further negative impact on your perception but perhaps it might!

Bald Eagles

bald eagle topmost in tree
Originally uploaded by CarlMyhill.
Bald Eagles are around for the calving season and I became a twitcher for a day to try to spot one.

The process of finding a Bald Eagle involves driving up and down 395 looking for parked cars next to fields of cows. None too subtle but still impressive to see these huge birds as they patiently await the next birth. They apparently like to eat the fresh afterbirth. Other wildlife seems happy to eat whatever leftover bits of cow they can find. I even saw a couple of Coyotes amongst the cows looking for something to eat.

A great guy let me have a look at a couple of distant Bald Eagles through his huge camera. Very impressive.

After a while I drove on down the road a bit and found a spot to myself. After waiting quite some time I was treated to some big birds circling, and sure enough, when one landed the top of it's head was clearly white (as you can sort of see in the photo).

bald eagles circling near genoaHere they are in the air.

PICT0057.JPGNot a bad spot for bird watching.

Dog sitting again

molly luther pass
Originally uploaded by CarlMyhill.
Took Molly for a little walk on the Faye-Luther trail. Snow not too deep and Molly seemed to enjoy it.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I awoke this morning to hear oddly juxtaposed news stories on National Public Radio (NPR).

Firstly, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems were criticized for their uncomfortable compliance with Chinese censorship laws by the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat said, "Your abhorrent activities in China are a disgrace", and went on, "I don't know how your corporate leadership sleeps at night".

This criticism in itself seems a little strange in the light of Mr Bush's recent visit to China to urge improvements in human rights and political freedom. Oh, let's not forget he also went over there to discuss the $200bn trade deficit with China and to secure and order for 70 Boeings ($4bn). Before his visit a priest was jailed for 3 years for printing unauthorized Bibles and 30 protestors were detained in a church. Perhaps this is something to overlook when you've 70 boeings under your arm.

So, clearly human right abuses make China a tricky to deal with. How uncomfortable.

Later the news refocused on US Human Rights abuses as the UN published a report calling for Guantanamo Bay to be closed. Holding people without trial, and treatment amounting to torture were cited. Kofi Annan later supported calls to close Guantanamo.

The Whitehouse later rejected this report. A Pentagon spokesman said earlier in the week that prisoners were treated humanely. This reassurance, the same week that new pictures of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib hit the headlines.

There has certainly been an interesting juxtaposition of news this week. In terms of US security, I'm sure a cheap way of improving the current situation would be to shut Guantanamo Bay, or at least formally charge detainees. Perhaps that would also cut some slack for the US troops in the middle east.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


A few folks had told me of the nightly "Circuits" class at Bently. Ron was very welcoming of new people, particularly as I told him I was planning a trip to Alaska where he is from (he confirmed the awfulness of the mosquitos too). Ron's a Physical Therapist (UK: Physio) so seemed like a great person to do an exercise class with. We started with press-ups, sets of 25 of them interspersed with sit ups and all kinds of repetitions of other things. Needless to say it hurt after the first 10 minutes.

It sure is a tough class but is a great one. The majority of attendees were rather lean looking individuals and I can see why, if this is a habit for them.

I expect to hurt tomorrow. Perhaps the combination of Sonja hard core yoga and circuits is a bit much for one day!

flowers for valentines

flowers for valentines
Originally uploaded by CarlMyhill.
I got a call from reception this morning to say I had a delivery. Kathryn had sent me some bright flowers, in a pot so I guess they should last a while and brighten the house up well.

(I bought her 2 chickens from farm friends)

Monday, February 13, 2006

5 miles ~8.02min/mile pace

After a quiet weekend of eating too much I was a bit worried about matching my running performance from last week (I managed to hold 8.15 minute/mile pace last week). Not really looking forward to the run I set the pace on my Forerunner GPS to 8:20 and tried to beat it. I was pretty surprised to manage 8.02 pace on average. Another substantial improvement and something daunting to try and match the next time.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Inclined Plane

Over a christmas dinner the topic of 'The Inclined Plane' came up. I was a bit surprised nobody else knew anything about it and my explanations were not great.

Here is the deal, there are, in physics, 6 simple machines:
1. The Inclined Plane
2. The Wheel (and axle)
3. The lever
4. The Wedge
5. The Pulley
6. The Screw (or Archimedes' Screw)

I find it a bit odd that there are 6 of these and had thought there not so many of these because the wedge and screw are examples of inclined planes, and the pulley is a wheel! Apparently ALL MACHINES are based in some way on 1 of these 6 (or 3 depending on how you look at it) machines!

Another website on the 6 machines suggests there are only really 3.

"Although we refer to the six simple machines there is really only three - the lever, the wheel & axle, and the inclined plane. The wedge, the pulley, and the screw are modifications of the first three."

So, there you have it, the inclined plane - where would we be without it?!

Running and Diet

I managed to run just over 5 miles today at 8.15 minute mile pace. It's quite odd how running improves radically by getting out and doing it. The extra motivation of my GPS powered 'virtual partner' doesn't hurt either. I set a pace and time and my virtual partner runs with me at that pace. The readout on the GPS tells me all the time whether I am ahead or behind. So, speeding up the virtual partner a little every time I run, combined with my competitive streak, helps me speed up.

Even with the virtual partner I'm a bit surprised I scrubbed over 20 seconds per mile off my last 5 miler; and was only 2 seconds per mile off my 3 mile circuit pace.

I imagine the diet is helping. I'm down a couple of pounds now and persumably up on some leg muscle, so it's heading in the right direction. Dieting is hard enough that it's become a challenge, though not having had any alcohol for 9 days is a bit weird, good but weird.

I'm eating a fraction of what I normally eat and still feel fine. It is quite amazing that the human body needs so little. It's quite surprising that we don't get fatter by the amount we normally overeat. The body seems pretty efficient at dealing with excess really, well, mine does anyway. My diet is so radically different at the minute that I'm surprised my weight loss is not greater. I could go back to my usual slack diet and beer and not gain much weight, and yet radically cutting back scrubs off little. A bit more of that reasoning and I could give up. This is probably the first time I've dieted really seriously and it's surprising slow!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Two Thumbs Up!" (film critics)

The most common review cited on the DVDs over here is, "Two Thumbs Up!". This is so common and so pervasive it is just annoying. Why not just stamp, "this film is cool" on every DVD?

I conclude that when a film is really awful they pay off the "Two Thumbs Up" guy to put his seal of approval on it. Film makers take note, "Two Thumbs Up" evokes two fingers up from me, ehm, as it were. I mean to say I will not rent or buy a film with the TTU stamp on it.

Bald Eagles due any time now

The calving season seems to have already started despite the cold. This time of year normally brings in the Bald Eagles around here. I hope I get to see one and have my camera handy at the time.

Valentine's Day US style - cards sold in boxed sets of 32!

I've just noticed an aisle in the supermarket selling boxes of 32 valentines cards. This seems a bit strange. I wonder if it is a Nevada gambling thing to make sure you have all the bases covered!?

I think the box of 34 American Chopper foil covered cards are the most perplexing. For him from her? For her from him?

Monday, February 06, 2006


This dieting business is awful. I've been doing exercise nearly every day for 2 weeks, including 5 mile runs some days. I've cut down on snacking, eliminated the peanuts (a recommended South Beach snack) and have even given up booze completely for a week. My weight now seems to be about 189.2 and I seem to have lost 1/4 inch around the widest part of my fat belly (please note - my trouser 'waist' size is about 34 inches, the 37.25 is the big that hangs above that). Needless to say, this is not a great improvement, I still need to get to 178lbs. What was it Oscar Wilde said about middle age? Something like, "when your age starts to spread around your middle." I think he was right!

On the upside, this diet business is becoming a proper challenge now, so, I think I need even more exercise and stay on the booze free, snack free thing for a while longer. Fortunately I like lentils and brown rice.

Another quick dog walk with snow shoes

After skiing I attempted to burn a few more calories and entertain Asher (Nick's dog) by going for another snow shoe walkabout. Again, straight from the back of Nick's house we headed into what seems like total woodland wildnerness (until you occasionally catch sight of a house). Still it is indeed the edge of an expanse of snow, trees and hibernated bears (I wonder where they hibernate).

We walked as far as the trail head of the Rim Trail, the sign for which really gave me an understanding of the depth of snow I was standing on. The sign is head height in the summer but today you'd need to kneel down to read it.


I had a go with the self-timer on my camera and gave up in digust because it didn't seem to work (and because when I got into position my right leg sank about 2 feet, as you will see in the picture). I kept wondering when such sinking feet would land on the head of a hibernating bear but luckily feet don't sink very often when you have snow shoes on! In fact, they are excellent.


I'm already missing my mountain retreat! What an excellent place to live!

"I slid The Wall" (skiing intended)

Scott and I headed up for Kirkwood (early) for half a day's skiing today. He'd brought his Downhill Skis this time, so I was to have no chance of beating him in any kind of a race! The first run was enough to see some of his skill, immediately seeking out things to jump off, an enviable level of skill.

Both with downhill skis on this time, Scott gravitated towards the higher runs. We started our first big runs on The cornice (chair 6) and headed left at the top, right past the black skull and crossed bones sign warning 'experts only'. Not really feeling sufficiently expert I needed a bit of encouragement. I think the run was called 'Lost Cabin' or 'Monte Wolfe'. Whatever it was it started steep and narrow, with a leap of faith and a few quick turns needed to get going. Scott also started with a leap in, but his was an actual leap from the cornice. It didn't look ridiculously scary but I wouldn't have liked to drop into the start of a black diamond run quite like that.

The snow was good, both the groomed and ungroomed bits of the run. Well, that's a bit misleading, the snow was good in places and a bit icy in places too. I fell over a few times but on steeper slopes I learn faster and eventually got my ankles bent enough for the skis to bite. I think the Bently Adventures skis are more 'all mountain' style skis, so they work well in the ungroomed snow. They certainly were much easier than the faster M70s I hired last week.

After playing around on the runs from The Cornice Scott announced that I'd already done The Wall. By which he meant it was no harder than the runs we'd done. So, we headed over to lift 10. A lift which has a skull and crossed bones and 'experts only' sign at the bottom of the chair lift, signifying that all runs from this lift are quite difficult (all black diamond and above).

The Wall started off ok. The rumoured steep drop-in was nothing of the sort but it was very steep and quite icy up there. Traversing wide, building up courage to point the skis down the mountain to make the first turn, I got onto the ungroomed section of the run which was diversely chunky, icy and soft (I eventually learned to turn where the sun hit the slope, since this was much softer) and clumsily turned. A few more graceless turns and we were past the worst of it and rejoined the lower slopes. After the steepness at the top of the wall the lower slopes, which I had struggled down a few weeks ago, became pretty easy and we had fun shooting rapidly down those!

My second attempt at The Wall was less glamorous. With the same trepidation as before I traversed across and hesistantly made my first turn. I think hesistantly doing anything on steep icy snow is always a mistake! Bumbling off balance I fell over and that's where my problems began. I quickly found myself sliding head first down The Wall with my skis still attached and my poles out in front. Alarmingly I was not slowing down. After this had been going on some time I tried some remedial actions, my thoughts on ice axe arrests (traing I'd got on a summer's day in Wales on the lawn of the Plas y Brenin centre, shortly before we made a z-pulley arrangement for crevace rescue, also on the lawn). I tried prodding at the snow with my ski poles but quickly realised they were no match for an ice axe and were entirely ineffective at this speed. So I continued on my way, head first. Eventually one of my skis must've snagged something and came off and in the process I seemed to have my feet underneath me again, albeit with only my uphill ski still on. After coming to a stop, a long way down the mountain, and just as the embarassment was welling up, particularly due to my proximity to the ski lift, I set off sliding again! Unbelievable. The snow was so icy that I really struggled to get the edge of the ski to bite, especially from my vantage point (sitting). When I eventually stopped, Scott scooped up my ski and brought it down for me (in itself no mean feat carrying a ski down such a steep slope). I said I felt like I'd slid 100ft. He told me it was more like 100 yards! Oh dear. There was only one thing to do. Get back and do it again. So we did that. On the way back up Scott explained that when you fall like that the only thing to do is to try and get your feet beneath you somehow. And if you lose both skis, they say roll over on to your front and make like you are doing a push up.

In the end I wasn't sure I'd qualify for a 'I skied The Wall' t-shirt and I don't think they had a 'I slid The Wall' version of it.

After The Wall we skied over to the back side of the mountain and had a go at Thunder Saddle, though I didn't know that was what it was called at the time. Had I known, the sign at the bottom of the chairlift may have worried me. It said something like, "Falls on Thunder Saddle will slide a long way". After my earlier experience I knew what that meant!

Thunder Saddle was a great run and was on another part of the mountain I'd never been on before too, so it was most enjoyable. There was even some nice snow down there.

We finished about 1pm and headed back. After a slow start it turned out to be an excellent day's skiing. My legs didn't get ridiculously pumped like normal (perhaps due to releasing my boot buckles before each lift ride). I really like to re-do the slopes that scared me after having done something worse. We ended the day with the easiest black diamond run from the cornice, 'Sentinal'. It's a great run, especially after doing The Wall! Actually we didn't quite end there, we had a grudge match to settle. Getting down to the top of lift 7, we pointed skis straight down the slope and raced back to the car. It's an easy run, and you have to watch out for people, but it's awesome to point the skis straight downwards! Needless to say, Scott won!

After prodding at the rapidly moving snow

Sunday, February 05, 2006

More problems with US English - Suspenders!

Apparently, in the US, 'braces' are called 'suspenders'...

Now that really is a mistake. THESE are suspenders...!

This still doesn't help me get some BRACES for my skiing waterproofs. Much as it seems to be the in thing for the crutch of your trousers to situate itself around your knees, it doesn't help one's skiing.

House sitting & dog minding at 7,500ft

Nick asked if I'd like to house sit while he was away. It wasn't a hard decision, the house is great, Asher (the dog) is indeed "super easy" and the location is awesome. You can snow shoe right from the back garden on to the Rim Trail for about 13 miles before you come to a road.

Here's the ridge the house is on, though a few miles west of here (I took the shot from the plane last time I flew to San Francisco, I think you can see Sand Harbour down there and a frozen Marlette Lake).

There's some snow around the house. I had to have a lesson with the snow blower before they left!

The neighbours have some cool toys, like this snow mobile.

Snow shoes are a bit less technical but are great and make for a fun walk!

A nice spot for a walk.

Asher getting on well in the snow.


Thankfully we only came across small wildlife (no bears or mountain lions).

New entry from christmas minibreak in Wales