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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why does it always snow when I'm heading for the airport?

The second big dump we've had in months again coincides the the very day I fly to the UK. Once again I had a big job to do clearing the car and had to reverse out through a big pile of snow.




More snow and wildlife

A nice sprinkling of late season snow, just before I headed for the UK. The birds seemed less impressed. I even broke my personal rule and carefully fed this one some sunflower seeds (ensuring none was left for the bear).

A few days in Seattle

Spent a few days in Seattle with Erin and Isaac.

Erin found an Isaac friendly cake with a huge dollup of sickly icing on top (Isaac preferred the sponge part).
Isaac loves space so much I couldn't resist showing him Star Wars trailers on the internet. I wasn't sure it was a good idea to show him space ships shooting things and wondered what Erin would think of it. As he watched Isaac started saying, over and over, "I wish I was in that movie", and then, "I really really WISH I was in that movie". He seemed to be really wishing it. I asked Erin if he'd ever said anything like it before and she told me he hadn't. We decided to rent out the cinema room of Erin's apartment block and watch the fill Star Wars Episode 1. The young man seemed to love it, especially the space ships and the pod racers, though the talking bits were a bit boring for him, leading to much bouncing on the sofas and building spaceships from cushions. It's quite a long movie, too long for a young man, so perhaps the next ones could be seen in shorter episodes.

This week was also part of the Survivor Challenge. To get the 30 minute exercise in Erin and I did some circuit training sessions some nights and on others I went for a run, one night running from Mercer Island to Seattle (a nice run but longer than I expected).

Leaving Seattle I discovered very nice fish and chips at the airport. My flight was oversold so by volunteering to take a much later flight I got a free Alaska Airlines flight anywhere and some food vouchers. It was ok working at the airport and I even found a free wireless hotspot next to the Alaska ticket counter (near gate 2 I think).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

new entry below - mountain lion!

just updating the blog. there's a new entry below...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Slightly worried about wildlife

I've become quite relaxed about my proximity to bears but it seems, I still haven't become completely relaxed about the whole thing.

I'd just got into bed about midnight last night when I heard something upstairs, outside my front door (a flimsy wooden affair next to a flimsy window - well, flimsy to a bear at least).

By now I know what people sound like as they walk along the wooden walkway outside my door. They sound loud and 2 legged. Bears, though heavier, have big feet and walk on all fours, so they are pretty quiet.

As I lay there last night I could hear some rustling, like some furry butt brushing up against my door, next to the chest that's outside, to hide from the whistling wind. I think if this had been a small animal, like a raccoon or a coyote, I wouldn't have heard it. So, I figured this was a bear.

As I was falling asleep I was reasoning that the bear could probably smell what was in my fridge (their sense of smell is about 20 times more powerful than a dogs). I figured that after a winter sleep the poor thing is probably pretty hungry. In a very small number of moments a little push at the door would grant it access to my upstairs (I sleep downstairs from the front door). In this scenario, my only exit would be via the front door, upstairs. So, I had stashed my bear spray downstairs, just in case. Oh, but I had left it upstairs (drat) leaving my only 'weapon' as an electric toothbrush or perhaps hair clippers.

I thought I should probably just go upstairs and open the door and chase off the bear. But then, do you really want to open a door right next to where a bear is standing? I could open my blinds and look out of the window but then, I would need to quickly and confidently act, or, it could just come through the window!

In the end I just rolled over and went to sleep. Disconcerted. I woke up, so everything must've been fine. However, on walking to my car I noticed that for the first time this winter the bear bins were secured properly. Someone else, it seems, was aware of our little visitor in the night.

I think I will make sure I have something in my hand that I can throw as I creep home in the dark tonight, jangling my keys and singing 'rocky mountain high'.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Survivor Challenge

For the next 6 weeks my team, 'Mostly Beanpoles', are embarking on a health programme. Me, Libby, Kendra, Brent and James have our work cut out for us. The challenge consists of cummulative tasks, with new ones added each week. They are:

Week 1: Drink 8 glasses of water a day
Week 2: Do 30 minutes of exercise a day (plus all previous tasks)
Week 3: Drink no soda pop (plus all previous tasks)
Week 4: Ea at least 5 pieces of fruit or vegetables every day (plus all previous tasks)
Week 5: No fried food, no hamburgers, no fast food (plus all previous tasks)
Week 6: No candy,no sweets, no deserts (plus all previous tasks)

We all weighed in at the start of the challenge and had our resting heart rate and blood pressure taken. My weight was 175lbs and HR was 55, bp 120/75(?).

My team are all fairly skinny so we are unlikely to win the challenge, which will be ultimately decided by the team's total percentage weight loss. However, that is just the tie breaker, first every team member must complete the challenges every day for the next 6 weeks. My team are a tough-minded bunch so I'm expecting then to do well.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mountain Lion!

I decided to go for a little run today on the little trail that stands behind the local store up here at Heavenly. The trail has lots of 'No Trespassing' signs up but I'm not sure if that is for the land next to the trail or for the trail itself.

My attempt at running was unwise since the snow was still quite deep. I hopped from one snow-shoe print to the next until they ran out and I was forced to break trail. Thankfully, after a while, the snow got shallower.

Erin had told me that she and Isaac had seen mountain lion prints down here. I didn't worry about it too much, especially since lots of other animals have prints similar to mountain lions, like big dogs and coyotes.

After a while all signs of human activity were gone and the trail was completely unbroken. I soon saw some large prints crossing the trail, too small for a bear but too big for almost anything else, with front and back paws a similar size. I don't think they could have been anything but a Mountain Lion's prints. No fresh snow had fallen for a while and such animals have a huge range so I explored the prints in wonder and tried to see where they came from and where they went. Snow cover was not complete so I couldn't deduce much.

Looking back I could see a nice view of my condo high on the mountain side with thin forest cover below. It's easy to see why the bears hang out there since there is often easy access to food in frequently insecure garbade bins and a nice escape route through the forest.

my condo from trail below

I continued down the trail, faintly aware of the local wildlife and that this was a path little travelled. I reached a juntion with the obvious route steeply descending right in front of me and a quieter track to the left towards the main highway. The way ahead seemed a little treacherous given the conditions so I opted to head back towards the highway on a narrower trail through slightly thicker forest.

Before long I was out of site of both Heavenly Summit Village and the Road. It was then I noticed more animal tracks along the edge of the trail, similar to those I had seen before. Then more tracks crossing the trail, and some diagonally across the trail. I stopped and looked down at the tracks I was making with my wet trail shoes. They were fairly indistinct but seemed a bit more fresh than the animal tracks I was looking at. Having previously concluded that Mountain Lions have a wide range I was now starting to think I was jogging through a frequent haunt of this one. That's not so surprising for an area with lots of deer and few people and indeed Mountain Lions are seen here at times.

A no-nonsense friend of mine recently told me that you shouldn't run the nearby Faye-Luther canyon on your own without a gun because of the Mountain Lions there. But attacks are extremely rare (6 per year in North America and Canada with around 1 fatality). We talked about it and thought that we should at least carry a knife. In a recent attack in Northern California the wife of the person pinned to the ground by a Mountain Lion (by the throat) tried to stick a pen in the eye of the cougar (it broke). So, I reasoned a knife is better than a pen! I also had a couple of trekking poles with me, though they didn't inspire a lot of confidence.

So I was pretty much spooked and proceeded quickly towards the main road, keeping a good eye above me in the trees. After about a mile of jogging through slushy snow and getting my trail shoes soaked I came upon a little clearing with fewer trees above me, which was a bit less stressful and beyond that, the old Kingsbury Highway lurking there alongside the current highway though all but invisible from anywhere else. For some reason the sight of man-made pavement was of some comfort though I was still acutely aware that this was a spot not often frequented by people so I hurried along to meet the actual main road.

old kingsbury road

Scrambling up the bank to the Highway and being greeted by the sight of traffic and an uphill run for a mile or so was delightful.

It is a real treat to find some wilderness with awe inspiring inhabitants but I'm still not completely relaxed about such bush-whacking on my own. The old Kingsbury Highway is something of a curiousity to me now though. A nice swath of pavement down the mountainside with no traffic - what's the catch?

Friday, March 09, 2007

carl's cholesterol

carl's cholesterol (click to see it more clearly, perhaps click twice)

I had a cholesterol check. Although I'm quite fit and don't eat meat I wasn't totally confident about having it done since I eat a lot of cheese and stuff. The results are pretty good. The Doctor said the cholesterol is about as good as it could be and was pretty please.

I didn't know how to interpret the rest of that stuff but it all seems ok apart from the potassium, which is probably a weird reading. If anyone cares to add interpretations to this data please go ahead!

One thing I noticed is that my sodium is quite low. Perhaps this is why I cramp up when I run sometimes.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Getting Philosophical about Dilbert

As I smile at the relevance of the Dilbert Comic Strips plastered all over the wall in our Cambridge office I wonder, with some sadness, whether I will ever again be able to really connect with Dilbert in normal life outside of working in IT for and American company. They nearly always seem relevant, however crazy the strips get. Perhaps I am imagining the whole thing, the comic strips, work, working in IT, working in IT for an American multinational, being uncool. Hey perhaps I am really cool really? I hope I have been imagining working 19 hours a day for a company that is laying me off in 5 weeks time. Surely I must be imagining that...