« April 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

May 28, 2007

PCH on Memorial Day

Elizabeth and I did a pleasant drive on this Memorial Day, along the Pacific coast and through the Malibu hills. We've done this drive many times before, and it is always a pleasant one.

We went west along the 10 until it turned into Pacific Coast Highway, and then north along the water. At Malibu, we stopped for lunch for some sandwiches. Continuing on, we turned inland at Kanan Dume Road, and followed that to the 101. Turning south on the 405, we found our way back home.

elevation for the PCH trip

On the map below, the blue line shows our path. Click on the camera icons to show pictures and description. Unfortunately, the map may be shifted around, but it can be panned back into place like any other Google Map.

This map is viewable only on browsers with Javascript.

This is a link to the KML file, which can be viewed in applications like Google Earth.

May 27, 2007

On The Mountain: Gorgonio

Jeff on San Gorgonio MountainThe peak of San Gorgonio Mountain (also known as "Old Greyback") is the highest point in southern California, and I hiked to the top of it yesterday. Our party consisted of me, Kath, Kath's sister Suzanne, and Andrew, and we moved FAST. The conditions were just about perfect on the Vivian Creek trail. The day was sunny, but with a cool breeze. The trail was bone dry, without the leg-killing snow that brought me low last time.

The trailhead starts at Forest Falls, a small community at the border of the San Gorgonio wilderness. The site has a good description of some of the major trails in the wilderness. The Vivian Creek trail was crowded for us. A good succinct description of the trip can be found here. Another account of a hike is here. He reported an approximate distance of seven miles to the peak, which seems a bit shorter than I measured.

The trail was like five hours on a Stairmaster: It went UP. It began with a series of switchbacks that rocketed us up from the dry riverbed. The last miles were up an exposed stone bowl to the final ridge, often covered with snow, and I thank Kath for pulling me up the hill. The elevation map below shows the altitude gain over the hike, with the vertical lines marking the hours of our trip up. (I calculated a somewhat longer distance than reported by other references, possibly because my analysis included elevation changes. Also, I also used the Haversine formula to correct for the curvature of the earth, which may be overkill for small differences. Or, most likely, because of errors in GPS readings in some spots?)


The trip down was about four hours, I think. (Unfortunately, I didn't time it.) I was pretty tired out, with my legs and feet burning. Some of the spots on the trail, in particular the final switchbacks by the dry creek, were so steep (and dusty) that we had to tread carefully lest we start sliding.

It was a beautiful day, the trail had amazing views, and it felt great to stand at the top.

On the map below, the blue line shows our path. Click on the camera icons to show pictures and description. Unfortunately, the map may be shifted around, but it can be panned back into place like any other Google Map.

This map is viewable only on browsers with Javascript.

This is a link to the hike KML file, which can be viewed in applications like Google Earth.

May 06, 2007

All Marketers Are Liars

I just watched this video of Seth Godin speaking to Google employees in early 2006. Mr. Godin mostly talks about the implications of network effects on product/market development. (Network effects come about when there the strength of a product to an individual depends upon the number [and importance] of other users.) I suppose that it really isn't something new... I'm sure that every MBA strategy class discusses network effects to some degree, and every marketing class discusses the importance of early adopters. (I remember the case study on contact lenses for chickens.) But maybe the technological development of the past decade has really enabled network effects in areas where they haven't been before.

Mr. Godin advocated getting your customers to talk to each other. Certainly there are many more ways for people to communicate. And communicate with strangers and those outside geographical bounds. Blogs, newsgroups, rating sites, portals, wikis, etc. Happy customers are the best spokespeople. (The flip side is that it takes only a couple of missteps to ruin one's reputation.) On the other side of it, the companies can use those same tools to find small subset of people that are really interested. I like the idea that the most profitable advertising is the most focused, i.e. spam, mass mailings, and other interruption-based marketing don't work.

Anyway, I had watched the video because I was interested in Mr. Godin's presentation skills. Well worth it. His blog seems interesting, too.

May 01, 2007

2007 Festival Of Books

Elizabeth and I spent several hours on a pleasant Sunday wandering around the LA Times Festival Of Books, held on the campus of UCLA. Los Angeles is moving towards "June Gloom" weather, with the marine layer burning off in the late morning and sliding back in the early evening, but it was clear and sunny when we were out. We walked around Royce Hall, observing the people at the Festival as much as exhibitors in their tents.

I convinced Elizabeth to go to a panel discussion of Science Fiction writers, titled "Science Fiction: The Road From Here to There". The panel consisted of John Scalzi, Harry Turtledove, Cory Doctorow, and Kage Baker. I wasn't familiar with Ms. Baker's work. I had recently read and enjoyed Scalzi's "Old Man's War", and I need to pick up the sequel. I've read several of Harry Turtledove's short stories. I'm familiar with Cory Doctorow's writing in Wired, Make Magazine and the website BoingBoing.

It is always interesting to hear authors discuss their work and milieu. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Scalzi and Doctorow have done many of these types of discussions, as they both had too many interesting thoughts (and stated too eloquently) to not have had many chances to practice. There was some interesting discussion about the marketing aspects of the internet. Doctorow (sidenote: I'm sad to hear that he's leaving LA, as I would rather have interesting people nearby) quoted Tim O'Reilly saying "His biggest problem is NOT piracy. His biggest problem is obscurity." The panel agreed, however, that simply giving away books for free on the internet is not a silver bullet: It can be helpful to build attention (because it is easy for fans to share links to good stories), but a solid base of fans is necessary. The panel also discussed some of the offshoots of SF, including movies, television, and comic books, and pointed out that SF book conventions usually have about 1000 attendees, while comic book conventions have more like 10,000 attendees. But, they touch on similar subjects, and the other genres often look to books for inspiration.

Of the first questions (asked by Turtledove, the moderator) discussed was "why isn't the present like what was envisioned by the SF writers of the 'Golden Age'". E.g. Where's my flying car? Scalzi pointed out that the SF visions of that time were based on large monolithic organizations, very much in tune with the culture in that time. Things really didn't work out that way: The monolithic organizations (corporations and governments, I guess) had other priorities, and much of the technological changes have been around information tech (i.e. computers) rather than space travel. Doctorow pointed out that one of the truly unique ideas out there is the idea that collaboration costs are so low that people can develop large-scale projects without a monolithic organizational structure. Another unique ideas is that of the Singularity: We've had visions of things getting worse and worse until the Apocalypse (rough beasts slouching around and all that), and visions of things staying mostly the same or plodding along slowly (e.g. Asimov's galactic empire), but it is unique that some people have started to think that things will get better and better until we just pop with greatness. (We shall see.)

The panel made a very important observation, related to the discussion of the visions from the "Golden Age". Science Fiction really deals with the issues and problems in the present. Placing the setting of the stories in the future enables the authors to slyly write about current manifestations of human nature without having to be explicit. Present-day SF will deal with present-day issues, including extrapolations of present-day technology.

Elizabeth and I have enjoyed hearing authors talk at the Festival Of Books in previous years, and we hope to make it an annual event.