June 2004

3 Jun 2004[link to here]

Kevin got a buzz cut. I got to advise him on length before the deed, which was fun. I'd cut mine just the day before, so my head was a fine example. I enjoyed long hair (~4 years long), and there are brief moments I wish my hair were long again, lately I just can't be bothered to cope with hair longer than a few cm.

I like how I look with short-but-not-buzzed hair, but having the buzz is just so much less work. Bedhead is no more, combs are obsolete, and instead of the ordeal of going somewhere to have it cut, I just do it myself at home in whatever 10 minute period happens to be convenient. Oddly, even though I've done it dozens of times now, I still experience a moment of trepidation.

But buzzing is not bald. Buzzing is good, and it's different from merely short hair, but putting razor to scalp and finishing the job is a whole new world of sensations. One of these days, I'll do that again.

9 Jun 2004[link to here]

A book store is a place of dreams. Not only do they sell the written dreams of published authors, but also the dream of having time to read lots of good books.

14 Jun 2004[link to here]

Joke: "He's so old, his dental records are 78s!"

16 Jun 2004[link to here]

This morning at 4am, I was woken up by a loud, but distant boom, complete with a long rumbling echo off the hills and far away car alarms (though I guess they couldn't have been that far, since I heard them). Surely, someone knows what caused this noise, but I haven't been able to find out.

I've found nothing online, but that's not surprising since someone would have had to write about it. The Sunnyvale police department tells me they investigated, but found nothing and assume it came from another town. The person at the operations desk at the Westside division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office, servicing Cupertino, had no idea. I'm not even sure she knew what I was talking about.

My best guess is that some kids set off a homemade bomb of some sort.

16 Jun 2004[link to here]

Someone suggested to me that the noise might have been a sonic boom from a military jet. I wouldn't expect them to be flying at supersonic speeds over residential areas at 4am, but I wouldn't rule it out, especially with Moffett field just a few miles away. I don't know what a sonic boom sounds like, but if I had to guess, the sound I heard would be a likely fit.

24 Jun 2004[link to here]

It's been a super week. I had wanted to write about it here as it was progressing, but I just didn't have enough time. I considered writing it retroactively, putting things in the future tense on past days, since it's a better story that way, but I don't know if I could do it accurately enough to be truthful. Instead I'll just write what I can now.

On Sunday, I submitted our team's application to play in Justice Unlimited, a superhero themed treasure hunt coming up in July. This was done at Rancho San Antonio, in the late morning. I'm not a superhero (though I play one on radio), but I'd like to be more super, so after turning in the application, I went for a long hike.

I hiked up the PG&E trail, which goes up about 1000 feet in a few miles. When I got to the top, I interleaved practicing juggling five balls with gazing at the nice view of several cities, down below. Then I hiked back down, stopping at the big vista point to juggle more. All told, an eight mile hike and about an hour of solid practice.

Then it was time to start thinking about the upcoming offsite (nominally for work): a day at the beach in Santa Cruz. This is the third year we've done this, and every year some people bike down and, for various reasons, I don't. This year I wanted to bike down. The one snag is that although I used to bike quite a bit, I haven't actually been biking that much lately, and this would be a fairly long and/or difficult ride.

I thought I'd better go for a test ride and see how I held up. On Tuesday, at 8:00am, a time at which I'm usually just finishing up the second or third of four Zs, I met Lauren and we biked up to the top of Montebello road. The main climb itself is 5.3 miles long, with 2020 feet of climbing, but of course we had to get there (another few miles and 500 feet). And then I biked home, and then to work, and eventually home again. It was 40 miles (though coasting for 5 miles), with a tougher climb than two of the three routes I was considering.

The test ride went pretty well. I was a little sore, but more from Sunday's hike than the bike ride. I decided to do it. I would bike to Santa Cruz for the offsite. The three bike routes that were on the table were (omitting most of the details):

I'm not much for biking up big hills, so the Hwy 9 route held little appeal. As for the other two.. I was sure I could handle Soquel-San Jose, and in the end that's what made me choose Hwy 1.

Hwy 1 has nicer scenery (the Pacific coast) and often a nice tailwind, but really what got me was this: a few years ago, I might have looked at the Soquel-San Jose route and balked, but now it seems like no big deal. Biking from Sunnyvale to Santa Cruz is still somewhat studly in my mind, but the ride itself just didn't sound like a challenge. Biking up Old La Honda, then down the 84 to San Gregorio, then down the coast 40 miles to Santa Cruz, had me a bit worried. I wasn't sure I could do it, and that meant that this was the right time to try, while it was still an adventure, before other marginal, incremental achievements turned this exciting expedition into a humdrum point-A-to-point-B ride.

So Highway 1 it was. I left the house at 5:05am, biked up to Palo Alto to meet Lucas, and since we were both quite early, we waited around for a while to see if anyone else would turn up. Then we biked up to Menlo Park, up Sand Hill Road, up Old La Honda (past Ian's old house, which I never did muster up the courage to bike to when he lived there), crossed over Skyline, and ... ok, now hold on a minute.

It would be all too easy to ride the narrative momentum and lay out the whole route in a few short phrases, but then where do I put all the comments about how nice each section was?

Even riding up to Palo Alto was exciting. "Did I stretch enough?" "Have I brought enough water?" "Is there anything I'm forgetting?" "It sure is weird to go biking this early." "Hey, I think it's getting lighter." "Oh, wow, I'm making good time."

Different sections of the ride had their own feel. I've only gone up Sand Hill once before, also on a fairly long ride (45mi), so it has that association for me. Plus it's got some nice hills up and down, letting us warm up to the idea of climbing and to have some eye-watering high speed coasting.

Then came Old La Honda. I recently learned that this road is shorter and not as steep as some other hills I've ridden up, but for years I had thought it was some crazy steep climb that only really hard-core road bikers did. Instead, it was a long, but not too-long, and not-too-steep climb, amidst towering redwoods and apathetic deer. We saw deer four times on the way up, including one in Ian's old yard. I joked that it was the same deer, waiting until we were out of sight and then dashing ahead to wait for we laggards to trudge up to it. I think we would have heard it though, unless there's some sort of deer elevator.

So eventually and uneventfully, we arrived at the top. Uneventful, that is, except for having ridden from my house to the top of Old La Honda, which I thought was pretty cool. Going down the other side lacked the satisfaction, but more than made up for it in fun. We went down the other side of Old La Honda and then down 84 (non-old La Honda), all the way to the coast, through 15 miles of rural residential areas, parks, and much farmland.

One surprise of the ride was that the weather was clear. We had expected to crest over Skyline and descend into fog, but it had mysteriously burned off before we got there at 7:45, and the view from Old La Honda was fantastic.

The 40 mile ride down the coast was pretty much what you might expect, if you were some sort of genetically engineered super-optimist. The weather was perfect, we had a strong tailwind, and most of the big hills were immediately preceded by big descents. It was neat to pass by coastal places I've driven to from the north (San Gregorio Beach, Pescadero Beach, Año Nuevo) and later pass places I've driven to from the south (Davenport Beach, Wilder Ranch).

When we finally rolled into Santa Cruz and started meandering through town to the boardwalk, I discovered I was ready to get there, but I wasn't exhausted the way I thought I'd be.

Total distance: 75 miles (previous record: 45 miles)
Total time: 7 hours (~6 hours of rolling time, which excludes the time spent waiting for people, having a snack, etc)
Max speed: 47mph (previous record: 38mph)
Notable wildlife: 4 deer, horses, cows, goats, a falcon, and some surfers.
Tailwind going down Hwy 1: 10mph-20mph

Regarding that speed record, I should say that biking 47mph is probably not a good idea. I worked up to it, first breaking my record by peddling down a hill at 40mph, then again later by peddling down another hill at 42mph. When presented later with a really big hill, no turns, no intersections, no driveways, and a strong tailwind, I just tucked down tight and let gravity do its thing. I think if I had tried to pedal fast enough to increase my speed, I'd have flipped the bike. I'm not going to dwell on what would have happened if I'd wrecked at that speed, or how unstable and twitchy the bike felt as I hurtled toward the bottom of the hill. Ben and Diane went 51.5mph on their tandem, so there's plenty of insanity to go around. Nothing bad happened though, so I'm glad we all chose to have some fun.

So now it's over. I hiked and biked a lot this week and I feel great, except for my Achilles tendons, both of which are a couple octaves tighter than I'd like. It'll be a weekend of stretching and lounging, I think.

27 Jun 2004[link to here]

I played with a Curta calculator today. It's a nicely machined, neat little gizmo. It adds, subtracts, and even multiplies and divides (through iteration). I had the added pleasure of not having a manual, so I got to figure out how to use it. Much fun.

28 Jun 2004[link to here]

I finally wrote my first Javascript ever. If your browser supports that sort of thing, and you let it, you can click on any unitful measure on this site (e.g. 75mi) to toggle between imperial and metric units. Right now it only switches that one instance, but eventually I'll do something fancier with a site-wide setting. It also doesn't do significant figures perfectly, but that turns out to be tricky. The curious will see some special metadata in the page to support this, but that all gets added automagically by my site tools to anything that looks convertible.