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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Songs of the Moment (An Occasional Feature)

> The XX - Intro
> The Decemberists - Calamity Song
> Les Savy Fav - Dear Crutches
> Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
> Mark Ronson - Bang Bang Bang
> Battles - Ice Cream

Some well-done videos in there. The Battles clip is a bit risqué, but also pretty awesome.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Had a wonderful time in Glacier National Park last week -- it's a spectacular place. You can see some of its splendor in the pictures I took, though of course they never completely capture it.

Lisa, Stacey and I had a six-day backcountry itinerary mapped out, about 55 miles. The first day was up and over the Ptarmigan Wall (where we ate lunch in snow flurries), about 10 miles, camping at the foot of Lake Elizabeth. Our second day was another 10 miles around the Belly River, camping at the head of Glenns Lake. There was a big rainstorm that lasted all night and into the third day. In the morning we saw that what had been cold rain at our elevation was the first new snow of the season on the surrounding peaks, starting perhaps 1,000 feet above us. Meanwhile, Stacey's ankle had swelled quite a bit, and we decided it wouldn't be wise to press further into the backcountry. We doubled back to the Belly River ranger station on the third day. The rainstorm wrapped up at midday with a burst of big, wet snowflakes, just before the sun came out -- the weather felt compelled to match the drama of the landscape, it seemed. At the ranger station, we got directions on how to hike out to a highway and catch a shuttle, which we did the following day. (The ranger was great. He was already planning to pack out an injured hiker by horse the same day, and he volunteered to take some of Stacy's gear to avoid aggravating her ankle.) So in the end, we only spent four days in the backcountry, but Stacey's ankle didn't get any worse, so we were able to spend our remaining couple days doing some great day hikes elsewhere in the park.

Bears take up a lot of mental space in Glacier and I found the range of attitudes toward them interesting. Of the several locals I spoke with about our plans before we headed out (on the plane, at the hotel), bears were the first thing they mentioned, and they all more or less indicated that we had a high risk of being devoured by a grizzly. ("I wouldn't go anywhere in Montana without protection," said the guy on the plane.) However, none of them had traveled in the backcountry. In contrast, once on the trail, most people seemed less concerned about bears than us -- some didn't carry bear spray, and most didn't routinely make noise to alert bears of their presence as we did.* One couple that we shared a campground with apparently didn't even hang up their food overnight (eek!). In any case, we didn't encounter any bears during our time in the park.

A great trip. I definitely recommend Glacier if you have a chance to get to Montana. If you don't mind the colder nights, this is a great time of year to do it, with lovely daytime temperatures and fewer people.

*This is a recommended practice, as bears will typically leave an area if they know humans are approaching...the danger comes with surprising a bear or when they are attracted to you by food smells.

Friday, September 16, 2011


On my way to Glacier National Park for 6 days of backcountry backpacking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Speedy coconut

On Sunday night, I purchased the above can of coconut milk at the grocery store here in Mt. Pleasant, and used it to make a curry stew. When opening it, I noticed that it said:

PRO: 09/05/2011
EXP: 09/05/2013

Presumably, this means that it was produced on September 5. I bought it on September 11. But it's a product of Thailand! Six days seems exceedingly fast for it to make it from the factory in Thailand to the distributor, to the grocer, to the shelf. I was perplexed, and left to wonder if perhaps their production stamp dates aren't totally accurate...

Monday, September 12, 2011

C&O Canal

Over Labor Day weekend, I biked the length of the C&O Canal Towpath -- Aron organized, and Dave, Colleen, John, and Becca also joined. In its day, the canal ran from Washington to Cumberland, MD, and the towpath is now a national park. It's about 185 miles long, and with our various detours and side trips, it was about 200 miles over four days -- not too intense, but with the rough and muddy surface, it still felt like an achievement. I'd done the whole towpath in the opposite direction on our way to Pittsburgh two years ago, but this was the first time I'd done the whole thing in the opposite direction. One highlight of the trip was that, unlike my previous C&O trips, we camped at two different places that gave us opportunity to swim in the Potomac, which feels great after a sweaty, muddy day of biking. I did the ride on my folding bike, which allowed me to bring it on the Amtrak to Cumberland as carry-on luggage, which is pretty cool.

I put a few pictures up on Flickr.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Food costs

During the month of August, I kept track of every food or drink expense that I incurred. (I used a Google Docs spreadsheet on my phone, which worked pretty well.) As part of my life goal of thoroughly over-analyzing everything, I present the following findings:
  • I spent $697.94 on food and drink in August. This is a couple hundred dollars more than I would have guessed -- many of these transactions are in cash, and thus easy to lose track of.
  • More than $200 of the total was during a three-day trip to New York early in the month. So, New York is expensive, and my budget estimate might have been fairly accurate otherwise.
  • Omitting purchases of alcohol, I divided my total costs for eating out by the number of meals it represented, and then divided my grocery costs by the number of remaining meals. Meals out cost an average of $15.19, while meals I made myself cost an average of $3.51. While meals in has a slightly unfair cost advantage because of the many breakfasts that were just a granola bar, banana, and tea, that's still a pretty big difference.