Sunday, November 29, 2009

Backpacking trip to Merced Lake

This is a very late trip report from our backpacking trip in May to Merced Lake. We found this trip in this Sierra North: Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevadabook.

This was definitely an awesome trip. If interested, check out the trip report and pictures here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Various Brands of Chicken Noodle Soup

Since I've been sick for the last few days, I've had a lot of experience with the different brands of chicken noodle soup they sell at Safeway. Namely the Progresso Chicken Noodle soup, the Campbells Chunky Chicken Noodle soup, and the classic Campbells Chicken Noodle soup...

My favorite is the classic Campbells Chicken Noodle soup, as bland as chicken noodle soup normally is, this one has the most flavor, or probably salt for that matter. The noodles and chicken pieces were also slightly better textured than the other two. I'm not asking for too much since it is chicken out of a can, for sick people.

Least favorite is the Progresso one, there was a lot of really gross mushy vegetables, the texture was a bit off for the soup, and it tasted very blah. Totally not recommended.

The Chunky one is OK, I don't really like the twisty noodle this one and the Progresso one has, it just is a lot of noodle with minimal flavor.

I guess this is what happens when you get sick for a few days, you write reviews on chicken noodle soup...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: Alice Waters' - The Art of Simple Food & How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons

K and I really like to cook and eat. Mostly I find the recipes that sound potentially yummy, and convince K that he really wants to make them. Our two favorite foodie books we've bought in the last year are probably The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution and How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table. Both are these books are *awesome* in their own way.

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution has great simple recipes. K and I belong to this CSA called Eat With The Seasons. This gives us good access to fresh produce grown in California. Alice Waters' book emphasizes using fresh ingredients and simple recipes that bring out the flavors. Everything we've made from here has been easy to make (we haven't screwed up any recipes yet) and yummy. The tomato bruschetta recipe takes 4 ingredients (tomatoes, basil, olive oil, salt), and is highly recommended. Another recipe I really like is the apple tart, which besides making the tart, calls for apples, butter and sugar. You can't really go wrong with that!

How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table describes the produce that's fresh each season, provides some history on said produce, and tells you how to choose the best fruit/vegetable out of the bunch. The "how to choose the best" is my favorite feature. I never knew how to tell when anything is ripe, now I just open the book and read a short paragraph. This book also has simple recipes like the Alice Waters' book, mostly focused on bringing out the flavors of the particular ingredient.

Anyhow, I really like both of these books. They are a bit different from the straight up recipe books, but are both good reads and reference books.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Trip report

Kekoa and I visited Emigrant Wilderness over Labor Day weekend. We started out at Crabtree Trail head, visited Chewing Gum Lake, Y Meadow Lake, Upper Wire Lake (and Middle Wire Lake and Lower Wire Lake), and even more lakes, but you'd have to read the trip report to find out :)

Trip report linked here!

It was fun trip!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bike fit by Ari at Bespoke Cycles (Review)

This post will not be interesting to anyone not interested in biking :-)

I've been road biking for about 2 years, and since the beginning - I've had a lot of neck/shoulder pain, and right knee pain on longer rides. After trying multiple things, reading about optimal bike fit (and since I'm considering purchasing a new custom built frame), I finally decided to get a bike fit by someone more knowledgeable.

Ari at Bespoke Cycle was recommended by a few sources (and they also do custom Seven frames, a builder I'm considering), so I made an appt with them. The fit first started out by Ari and I just talking about my history, and things I'm concerned about, and also what I want from a bike in general.

First off, Ari spent a long time looking at my feet and doing cleat adjustments. Apparently I have somewhat of a hammer toe on my right foot. He also mentioned that my toes need a bit of stretching, as they have a tendency to curl up. Also, it turns out I have quite high arches, and that the insoles (superfeet green) I were using weren't even high enough to support them. He moved my cleats back quite a bit, to help relieve the pressure points on the balls of my feet.

After that, Ari had me stand up and tested my flexibility. He immediately pointed out that my leg length was not equal when standing still. Apparently my left leg has a tendency to collapse and become shorter and my right leg needs to hyper extend to compensate for this. This can apparently be the cause of my right knee pain!!! I have some options in front of me: shimming my shoes, seeing a sports doctor to get to the bottom of this, and trying better insoles. The good news is I have some hope in figuring this out once and for all. I've had right knee pain for the last few years, and have given up running because of it. I've had *two* other doctors look at this and have gotten an MRI, and they never mentioned this leg length discrepancy. Hopefully this means, if I can get this all figured out, that running will be in the cards again.

Now it's finally for time on the bike! The fitting uses this Retul fitting system and also a power measurement system that I can't remember the name of. I learned a few interesting things from this part.
- my saddle fore/aft was completely off, this moved ~1.5cm (forward)!!!
- my legs aren't working 50/50 efficiency when it comes to my pedal stroke (my "shorter" leg is actually working more)
- I hyper extend my ankles too much, and this actually leads to a loss of power as I'm trying to extend my ankles and then have to pull my heel back up
- my positioning isn't the best, I'm tilting my hips backwards too much and slouching way too much
- my frame is somewhere between 0.9 inches - 1.9 inches too big for me (and probably the main cause for my upper body pain)
- stiff aluminium frames aren't for me
- I need to stop scooting back on the saddle to get more extension in my legs, as this also screws with power output
- I need to do more stability exercises, and my VMO (inner knee) muscle is still quite weak
- I should do more core work :)

All in all, this was WAY worth the money spent. Ari spent about 3 hours with me, and also explained a bit of the options we could do if I decided to get a custom frame. I was really impressed by the fact that he seemed to take into account that one of my main concerned was *comfort* (as I've heard sometimes a lot of fit folks focus on maximum power and not comfort). I went for a ride yesterday in this new position, overall it'll take some getting used to. We'll see after a few rides how this all pans all!

The Cube: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Bestselling Puzzle - Secrets, Stories, Solutions (Review)

One of the last BANGs had a Rubik's cube puzzle in it. After that, I decided it would be cool to try and learn how to solve one. At the same BANG, someone mentioned that Wei-Hwa co-authored a book on this particular subject, so I decided to read said book.

For my purposes, The Cube: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Bestselling Puzzle - Secrets, Stories, Solutions was great. It didn't take too much reading to figure out how to solve the cube following the steps in the book. There were lots of pictures with colors and the text was good enough to figure out which way you have to orient the cube while twisting it around. Note, I'm not very good at the whole "spatial" thing, so being able to stare at the pictures to figure out how to twist the darn thing was key. One gripe I do have - the authors decided to use some rare colors (pink, cyan, ...) such that the readers wouldn't get confused if their cube had similar colors. Unfortunately, there were still times where I got confused by the colors in the book. Some of the moves in the book are easy to remember, some of them, not so much. My goal is to be able to solve a cube without having to refer to the book in the future. We'll see how much work I'm willing to put into this :-)

The history part and the descriptions of the other cube-like-puzzles sections were pretty fun too, lots of pictures. I found a few things that I played with when I was a kid. Since the book also includes directions on how to solve a 4x4x4 cube... of course now I want to get my paws on one so I can attempt it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Backpacking Trip - Heiser Lake / Bull Run Lake

Backpacking trip report for our most recent trip to Carson-Iceberg Wilderness here. We found this trip in the Sierra North: Backcountry Trips in Californias Sierra Nevadabook (great book for backpacking trip ideas in the Northern Sierras). Anyhow, I highly recommend this trip for the beginner backpacker, a day hike, or a quick weekend getaway!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Thermarest Neoair, Montbell Spiral Down Hugger, Invo8 Terroc 330's, Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack

I've been trying to join the likes of these ultralight backpackers who have super light gear (and carry less than 20lbs) and hike in trail runners. So I dragged a bunch of friends out for a one night trip (report later) to try out the Thermarest NeoAirand Montbell Spiral Down Hugger 30F and Inov-8 Terroc 330and Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus backpack. Long story short, I liked everything I tried. It was nice backpacking with a pack weight of <15 lbs including water!

I was extremely pleased with the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Air Mattress.On our last few trips I've been using a Z-lite (also by Thermarest), which just does not have enough padding for the side-sleeper. After long trips, my hips would end up being bruised from the hard ground. The NeoAir was happily thick, extremely comfortable, and I didn't feel any bumps on the ground. It also kept me warmer than the Z-lite by quite a margin, even though I was using my new sleeping bag that was rated 10F warmer. The durability does worry me, since the material feels sort of thin, so I did pack a Therm-a-Rest Fast & Light Repair Kit as recommended. The non-self inflating part wasn't a big deal, it took ~25 breaths to inflate the Medium sized one. In summary, I love this pad, for 13oz + 1oz (patch kit), it really can't be beat for the comfort. For the price, I do wish it at least came with a stuff sack and/or patch kit.

I also bought the Montbell Spiral Down Hugger 30F sleeping bag, which also turned out to be a good buy. The spiral down hugger is cut quite a bit narrower than my old Mountain Hardware bag. It was much easier to warm up and stay warm, as there's less air to warm up inside the bag. I have no complaints about the bag, the night we were out the temperature probably got down to 35F or so at night, and I stayed warm with long underwear (pants) and my NeoAir. In fact I started sweating in the middle of the night, so the long underwear wasn't necessary.

The Inov8 Terroc 330 Trail Running Shoealso worked really well. It was grippy, I had no traction problems. In fact I almost felt like I was wearing rock climbing shoes. The toebox is comfortable for my wide feet (granted I did buy a pair of men's shoes, and I went up a size compared to my usual men's shoe size). Only complaint here is that the lack of cushioning in this shoe. I would not carry more than 20lbs and try and wear these backpacking!

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus is also highly recommended. Grant (the owner, I presume) was extremely helpful over the phone. I explained that I was sort of a "smaller boned" person, and he told me ways to narrow the pack such that the straps were more comfortable. The pack carries 15lbs extremely well, it felt like nothing on my back. The back panel with the sit pad was comfortable enough. Coming from an Osprey pack with awesome ventilation, I didn't really notice my back feeling "hotter" than usual. Although when I took off my pack, it was definitely sweatier, compared to my Osprey. The width of the straps also didn't bother me. I really liked the large outside mesh pockets that allowed me to fit all the odds and ends in. A size small had plenty of room for me to carry sleeping pad/sleeping bag/BV-500 bear canister, a bit of clothes, plus some misc items inside the pack. This is going to be my backpacking pack from now on, unless I need to carry loads of 25lbs+.

This trip for trying out gear proved to be a great success. Especially since I liked every piece of gear I tried!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sequoia National Park / Mineral King backpacking trip

Wow, so it took me 6 months to write another blog post. Kekoa and I went on a backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park last week, and I decided to be organized and write up a trip report with all the pretty pictures he took.

We did a loop that started at Mineral King included Franklin Lakes, Franklin Pass, Little Five Lakes, Big Five Lakes, Black Rock Pass and Pinto Lake. If interested, check out the trip report and pictures here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Broken thumb

Apparently I broke my thumb snowboarding on 1/1/09, and of course I don't actually go to the doctor until two weeks after. Apparently this is a common injury amongst skiers (it's even called skier's thumb), and I'm just a retarded snowboarder. I'm guessing what happened was I somehow bent my thumb back falling, and the ligament actually pulled off a piece bone. Gross.

I did buy a thumb splint the day after the injury to hold the thumb in place, as I tried to tape it and it didn't work... and it hurt like hell.

The conclusion from the hand surgeon is - if I went to the doctor right after I broke it, they would have put my hand in a cast for 4 weeks!!!! BUT since I'm healing fine, and apparently I don't look hyperactive to the doctor, I can just wear my splint like a cast for the next four weeks...

Sad part is, I most likely also partially tore my UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) - and I can't actually grab much with my thumb (it's hard to even button and unbotton jeans), and this can take up to three months to heal.

I also can't snowboard or bike or play pool for the next 4 weeks or so... arrrrgh! I guess it could be worse.

Basic Math?

I'm just amazed by the math skillz of others...

So today I'm at the deli counter of whole foods order deli meats.  I ask for "point two pounds" (0.2lbs) of this certain meat. The person behind the counter couldn't understand me, I thought the store was just loud, and repeated my order. Then they go, "Two pounds?".  At this point I go, "can I have a fifth of a pound?" Which apparently makes sense, as the deli worker now goes, "oh, point TWENTY!"