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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Biodiesel is bullshit

I was watching some TV interview the other day where Sporty Spice, of the Spice Girls, was explaining how their new tour is going to be green and "carbon neutral". I think the only genuine way to make it carbon neutral is for them to stay at home to be honest. She explained that her tour bus is going to run off biodiesel. What concerns me is that, when we hear biodiesel we start to think, 'oh, that's great, how awesome are those Spice Girls?'.

Actually, biodiesel is scandalous. It is not going to solve any climate change problems at all. In fact, it is going to make things worse. I'm increasingly finding George Monbiot to be a very sensible and scientific environmentalist. He has explained, convincingly, that biodiesel economics just do not work. We are starting to grow crops for our vehicles which directly compete with crops grown for food. It doesn't make any sense. We don't have, on this planet, enough viable agricultural land to feed our vehicles and ourselves. The numbers do not work.

"...we know that biofuel is worse for the planet than petroleum. The UN has just published a report suggesting that 98% of the natural rainforest in Indonesia will be degraded or gone by 2022. Just five years ago, the same agencies predicted that this wouldn't happen until 2032. But they reckoned without the planting of palm oil to turn into biodiesel for the European market. This is now the main cause of deforestation there and it is likely soon to become responsible for the extinction of the orang-utan in the wild.

But it gets worse. As the forests are burned, both the trees and the peat they sit on are turned into carbon dioxide. A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or 10 times as much as petroleum produces. I feel I need to say that again. Biodiesel from palm oil causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel." George Monbiot, 'If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels', The Guardian, March 27, 2007

When you hear the word Biodiesel don't be mislead, this is not a step in the right direction at all.

Running and Dinner with Adam and Natalie

I've done my first ever night at a running club tonight. We did 1k repeats 6 times at "our 5k pace". I don't have a 5k pace so I just did my best and ran with Natalie (I could keep up because she ran a trail marathon on Saturday).

Afterwards Natalie and Adam invited me for dinner too. Great to eat some good pasta - thanks Natalie! I was really pleased when Natalie told me, because I was going around, they made a big effort to buy their vegetables locally for environmental reasons. How excellent is that? It reminded me to sign up to my local vegetable box scheme today.

For those that don't know, they got married in September. I'm afraid I missed it because I was still hiking. They have some excellent photos on their pondlane website.

I can't help noticing that most of my friends in Cambridge are friends through sport. So, when someone says, 'come to dinner' and 'we'll go for a run first', it seems totally normal. I'm getting a bit pooped!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Funny US advert

Noticed this amusing advert on zefrank.com


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Environmentalists Damaging SUVs and 4x4s - "Criminal"

Sometimes people just go too far and make a nuisance of themselves: writing slogans in acid on golf courses; chaining themselves to the railings outside Buckingham Palace and breaking windows along Oxford Street. It's just criminal damage. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I mean, things are fine the way they are. Why should WOMEN have the right to VOTE?

Ah yes, perhaps now you see. Sometimes things are wrong. Prior to 1918 Women in the UK could not vote. Some of them, known as the Suffragettes, decided to stand up and do something about the injustice, often going to prison for their 'crimes'.

Looking back, what do we think about these Suffragettes? Were they just criminals or were they on to something? Is it right that women should vote? Of course it is. Was it right for them to do everything they could to highlight the problem. I think so.

I heard on a radio show last night the word 'environmentalist' spat out by the host such that it shocked me. The host suggested that these people, who vandalize SUVs and 4x4s, are just criminals who need to be prosecuted. Whilst I don't subscribe to these actions I find it hard to hear the word 'environmentalist' used with such negativity as if we are a bunch of football hooligans, not a bunch of people who are deeply concerned about our planet and its continued destruction. Perhaps we should reflect on those Suffragettes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oops - Geek interlude - now have new printer Samsung scx-4200 attached to Vista Laptop and can print wirelessly from Mac OS X 10.4

I have just bought a new printer and wondered if I could set up a more functional home wireless network so i could print from my walkabout Mac and relegate my brand new Dell Laptop with Vista on it to a print server.

I got a bit carried away with it and as usual it is hard to set up sharing between PC and Mac but the key bit of information I needed was in this post.

The new Printer is a multi-function laser printer (copier/scanner/printer) by Samsung and looks very plastic but works well. I think, at 99 quid ($200) it's a steal. It's MUCH MUCH cheaper to run than an inkjet. That's another little job out of the way! Excellent.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Throw out the TV and fill your mind with TED Talks

On returning home I am exploring the multi-channeled digital TV service my lodger wanted me to have installed. There are hundreds of channels to watch. Mostly repeats. There is often very little on telly to watch.

I got an email from TED today and it was a timely reminder of the fantastic quality of talks available online from Ted Talks. If you want to be entertained by the world's leading movers and shakers, get on over to TED and have a browse.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Humpty Dumpty succumbed to a spanner (US: Wrench)

When your bike has been in the garage 2 years with unleaded petrol sitting in the carbs, getting it started involves stripping down those carbs. Dammit.

I'm not sure I'm going to get my 650hp per tonne humpty dumpty back together again. I wish Dave was here, I bet he'd know where all the pipes are supposed to go!

Er, wish me luck! (and then do it again a couple of times and then cross your fingers, toes and anything else you've got).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The End of the Bubbleinthedesert blog?

When I left New Zealand I wrapped up my kiwiwinter blog. Well, really it just lapsed. I was going to do the same with the bubbleinthedesert blog but I think I shall miss it. A couple of recent events have made me think this way. I met Dave’s sister recently, for the first time and she gave me a big hug and told me she loved the blog. I was a bit embarrassed and taken aback but what a nice way to make connections with people and quite surprising. Just a couple of weeks afterwards I was in the excellent Thai Basil restaurant in Carson City. The waiter (owner?) had been looking for his restaurant on Google and had found it on my blog (we went their for Sienna’s birthday last year). I thought that was nice. But then he started asking me about my hike and I thought, how does he know I’ve been hiking. Of course, from the blog. It is odd that people I have never met know something of my life. Perhaps it is more odd that I still find it surprising.

If the guys at the Thai Basil would like some help getting their restaurant to come out higher up the google rankings they should get in touch. I can see some simple improvements and am looking for work!

Last year a former professional triathlete was doing some research on Crit Racing and found my blog. She’s a really interesting person and has done loads of amazing events in incredible times. Through the blog, I’ve had the privilege of corresponding with her – someone I would never have met another way.

Along the way there have been lots of surprising little connections formed through writing down my thoughts (badly) on this blog. I am often taken aback when someone I don’t know has read a lot of what I’ve doing. But this is only for a surprised instant, mostly it just makes me smile.

So, thanks to you lot out there that read bits of this from time to time. Your responses have made me smile a whole lot. Please feel free to leave comments anytime you like, they always make me smile a lot.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Starbucks - just like Denny's?

Pretty soon after my observation about Denny’s it struck me that Starbucks is more similar than I would like to think. The corporate machine is still selecting the music, they are just doing a much better job of it than Denny’s. The products are homogenised and are not particularly healthy, though some healthy options are available. Don’t get me wrong, I like Starbucks, especially the Chai Tea (mainly sugar), the atmosphere and the polite staff. I used to like the free internet too but I’ve realised this is just a US thing.

I put the similarities of Starbucks and Denny’s to a Starbucks barista in Cambridge Borders recently (she was American). I guess it was a little offensive!

I’m surprised that, since my long hike, rather than coming back with senses dulled to commercialism I am far more attuned to noticing it than ever. I think it may be that living a simple life in a tent for some months, with a need to stay aware of wildlife around you, leads to a different kind of awareness of my environment. I don’t really understand it.

I was recently on the 26th floor of a building in San Francisco and in a spare moment took time to admire the view. I had not seen so many man-made structures for a long time. In the forest, a man-made shape, like a signpost or something, stands out. You see it from a long way off and notice it quickly as something out of place in the environment, mainly because of a more regular shape than you commonly see in nature. Looking out from a skyscraper in San Francisco was quite a contrast. Up there I played a game of counting how many iPod billboards I could see. I recall it being about 5 just from standing in one spot. So, this is what we did with our environment. We built such thriving metropolises and then came up with media channels to stoke up furious demand for buying the goods which keeps the whole thing going. I can’t get my head around how these realisations feel coming from the forest and the mountains, I just find that I cannot stop noticing them. And noticing too the people furiously buying things and, you know, not looking very happy despite the things.

Last night I signed up to Freecycle. This is an international network of local groups of people who give things away for free. People who recognise the horror of landfill sites and want to do what they can to avoid their unwanted stuff ending up there. It seems like an excellent idea to me. I got onto this because I really need a computer printer and went out yesterday to buy a used one. The guy in the second hand shop on Mill Rd advised me to buy a cheap bubblejet from Argos. What a horror. Those bubblejets are scandalous in their use of ink, allegedly more expensive than the most expensive perfume. What really gets to me about them isw that they are so disposable, almost as bad as plastic bags. So, I am now seeking some kind of printer from Freecycle. We’ll see how it goes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

And on to the Grey Havens - 501st blog post

When I started this blog it was in no small part to let my Mum know what I was up to, so she could see I was ok and was having fun. I think I first imagined living in the Nevada desert with a bunch of Americans would lead me to a solitary and sweaty existence.

As I write this post it strikes me that my motivation now is to let my friends in Nevada, Denver, and from the PCT, know that I am ok and am back home safe. Of course it is also still for you Mum!!!!

Dave often says that they ruined my life bringing me to Nevada, with the fact that I split up with my girlfriend and lost my job being foremost in his mind. These things have been most difficult at times but when I reflect on my time in Nevada I would change nothing about it (though I could have done better on the girlfriend front I think - you live and learn). I have had the most incredible time in Nevada and found the desert to be quite quite different than I ever imagined. The Sierras, Lake Tahoe and even running in the high desert have been quite something. We also went through a lot together in 2 years with work and with our lives, several things that nobody should have to go through - it feels that we are the closer friends for this and that means a lot to me.

Hiking 1,500 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail was great way to top off my Nevada adventure.

Being laid off feels like one of the best things that ever happened to me. What a freeing experience!

Well, I'm staying with my Brother and his girlfriend Alex for a couple of days. I guess I am still in the throes of post long distance hiking transition and sentimentality. I miss the PCT trail a lot and my friends on it, and my friends in Nevada and Denver too. It's super nice to having had such a wonderful time out there in the USA to look back on and smile about, albeit with a tear in my eyes.

CDT 08? AT 08? Pennine Way 07? WHW 07? El Camino 07? Long distance bike ride 08? Long distance kayak trip 08? Oh, and I guess I need to give a passing thought to getting a job - anyone need a website?

PS When will my legs stop aching?

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's funny being back

I was sitting in Denny's last night. I forgot to eat until it was too late and only Denny's was open. As I sat there I started to notice the ambient music they were playing. It felt like the corporation had done some study about what would be the best ambient music for their customers and had made a corporate standard Denny's tape. One of the waitresses was singing along. I guess if you hear it all day long you soon learn all the words to all of the corporate songs. I wonder if a psychologist helped them choose the best music. It's a shame the staff working there are not given the freedom to play whatever music they want. Sometimes they might make an inappropriate choice but at least the place would have more colour.

Turning to the food, I ordered Mozzarella sticks to start with (fat, salt & a small amount of protein). I had a salad with ranch dressing (vitamins & fat) and then had a veggie burger with seasoned fries (fat, salt, carbs & a small amount of protein). I smothered everything in ketchup (sugar). I also had a fruit juice (sugar - high fructose corn syrup - & a small amount of vitamins from the fruit juice). I really don't think it is possible to eat healthily in Denny's.

There is something wrong with this corporate thing, pushing products as they do and appealing to our tastes in trivial ways by covering everything in sugar, fat and salt.

I'm off to Comma Coffee for breakfast where someone will undoubtedly be playing their own music.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Final photos

I've just uploaded a few more photos.

I hope you like them. These give you an idea of the snow we came through to get to BORDOR!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Finally made it to Canada - 1,563 miles total for me

It's taken a few days to get online!

We got to Canada on 1st October in the evening and camped at BORDOR. We hiked the 8 miles to Manning Park the next day in the rain.

Getting to Canada from Stehekin was quite something. Our first day out was drier than we expected since there was a little clear spot in the clounds above us though it was raining close by. The next day out was also ok just a bit damp and cold.

On the third day we awoke and had not been rained on as expected but as we started to hike towards Rainy Pass we soon ran into some snow. At first it was just very pretty - the first real snow we had seen. After a while though the snow got deeper and kept falling very wet. It was so cold we couldn't take any breaks and we hiked on nonstop for 17 miles in deterioating conditions up Cut Throat Pass. For a while we had been following footprints of 2 other hikers but near Hart's Pass they turned off the trail. I thought they may have stopped for a rest so I called out to see if I could find them. I got no reply so we checked the map and found that this was a bit of a short cut but more importantly, was more sheltered. When we got to Hart's Pass we met them, Eddie and Meeghan - a really nice couple. Out There and me told them of our information about an Emergency Shelter a few miles ahead, a Yurt, and we talked them into heading there with us. A hunter offered to drive us into town or a bit nearer to the Yurt, but only 2 at a time. Eddie and Meeghan went first to try and find this yurt (which was 300 yards off the trail, brown and hidden in the trees and visibility was very low). Whilst Out There and I waited (in the pit toilet to hide from the wind and cold) he decided to get to town to cancel his flight since we were now going to be late to finish. I went on alone and followed Eddie and Meeghan's footsteps - all the way to the Yurt I hoped. Unfortunately I found them first and we had to have a traumatic search for the Yurt between us. Shelter was a big priority. After quite some time we found it and we thrilled to find it had a decent fireplace and even beds in there.


Ah well, more on that later. Basically we made it albeit by fighting through 2 feet of snow at times (wearing running shoes). On the 4th day out we hiked 26 miles non stop.