Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've just signed up as @earnmyturns on Twitter. My excuse is that my friend Stuart Shieber signed up earlier as @pmphlt.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Chilean volcano for the to-do list

Trip Report | VOLCANOES OF NORTHERN, CHILEAN PATAGONIA, REGION DE LOS RIOS: Another report in the same series, it's hard to get any better than that.

A Chilean volcano I want to visit

Trip Report | VOLCANOES OF NORTHERN, CHILEAN PATAGONIA, REGION DE LOS RIOS: Great report on Volcán Mocho-Choshuenco and the Huilo-Huilo preserve. Makes me miss Chile even more after two years of not going there.

Lost Trail @ Windy Hill

It's been pretty warm (for the Bay Area) in the last few days, and I started late because of the Chris Potter show. But the Lost Trail from the picnic site parking lot on Skyline SW to the gate on Skyline, around 2.6 miles, was partly shady, with beautifully cool hollows where stream moisture still lingered after the dry summer. My there-and-back run 5.2 mile run was relatively slow, I didn't want to twist an ankle on the single track, but very satisfying for the alternations between huge ridge views and secluded treed gulches. I'll be back.

Now, I need to talk to the CardioTrainer developers about why the program lost the first half of my run as I paused to regain my breath at the top of the steep climb to Skyline from 1800 ft. The program is supposed to pause when the user stops, and it did. But somehow, after I unlocked my Nexus One to look at the display, it seems to have decided to start a new run and discard the run so far. CardioTrainer has some nice features such as Google Health uploading and it generally seems to handle GPS better than RunKeeper, which I was using before, but it's a bit harder to control and it does not provide statistics such as splits in a convenient form.

Chris Potter Underground

Chris Potter (with Adam Rogers on electric guitar, Nate Smith on drums, and Fima Ephron on bass electric guitar) explored a musical territory that was quite unlike anything I've listened to recently, even in Potter and Smith's roles in the Dave Holland Quintet. Their main dish on two hypnotic sets were fast, almost fractal sax and guitar variations on bluesy, African, and Indian themes emerging from a funk background anchored in Smith's very fast, precise, subtly unpredictable work and filled by Ephron's droning bass lines and just right responses to Rogers. Shades of Miles's funk period, and of some of Dave Holland's funkier compositions, but always original and a wonderful reminder of the many dimensions of this music, where I can listen to three great ensembles in two weeks, and be wowed by each in turn because they build so much that is unique on a shared inclusive musical culture. A delight.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chris Potter Underground tonight

8pm, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Chris Potter was my favorite in the recent Dave Holland Quintet visit to Yoshi's, and I hope to find new facets of his music tonight.

Not a mellow summer hike

Skyliners Trailer from sébastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.

Some perspective on my very humble mountain experiences.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Charles Lloyd New Quartet

Another outing to Yoshi's Oakland, this time to hear Charles Lloyd (sax), Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) ad Eric Harland (drums). An absolutely mesmerizing set. The most precisely timed, emotionally complex ensemble work since Gonzalo Rubalcaba's quintet last year. Jason Moran was at times almost too much to take. Wow. I thought the Indo-Pak Coalition last week pretty much filled the cup, but this time, the cup overflowed. Lloyd's quartet is less surprising stylistically, but the wisdom and depth of their music are hard to match.

Update: Forgot to say, there's a new recording out by the Charles Lloyd New Quartet that I bought at the show. We listened to some of it on the drive home. More formal, contained than the live performance, but an excellent review of the ideas and feelings that they explored on Yoshi's stage.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Conditional Risk

Conditional Risk: 'Dude, wait -- I'm not American! So my risk is basically zero!'

Brilliant. It would be great for a probability class, but it is especially pungent for those of us who sometimes travel in avalanche terrain and who believe that our knowledge of statistics will help us avoid danger.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

No low-hanging fruit left?

Today's puzzle: maybe the reason why our social, economic, political, medical problems seem so intractable is that all the low-hanging fruit has been picked by social, scientific and technological progress, at least in the most developed countries. Less developed countries still have headroom, and they can avoid some of our mistakes too, but the problems of the most developed countries are hitting against our genetically-given cognitive limitations as well as the limitations of our history-dependent social wiring. The problems that we face are complex and require complex, difficult to explain solutions, while non-solutions sound attractive in their simplicity unrestricted by reality.

Does successful software development have something to teach our other processes? We denigrate software development (how could those *** not see that buffer overflow vulnerability?), but it regularly creates complex working systems that interact successfully with 100s of millions of users day after day. Unit testing, code reviews, iterative development, extensive monitoring. Related processes often work in other areas of engineering, and in medicine (read the Checklist Manifesto). Yet, any of these fail all too often, for reasons that are not so different from the reasons that kill rational discourse in policy. It's just too easy to kill a proposed solution (too many pages!) with simplistic pseudo-solutions.


After Indo-Pak Coalition, just got tickets for the Charles Lloyd New Quartet (with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and James Harland) at Yoshi's Oakland on Thursday, then our SF Jazz Festival flood starts, with Chris Potter Underground on Saturday. And there are several other great acts both at Yoshi's and at the festival that we won't be able to attend, just too much to schedule and absorb.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Indo-Pak Coalition

Rudresh Mahantappa on alto sax, Rez Abbasi on electric guitar, and Dan Weiss on percussion at Yoshi's Oakland last night. Playing mostly tunes from their Apti recording (one of my current favorites) but with many surprising variations and improvisations. A very satisfying set with each player building on and responding to the other players to create a whole that defied analysis.Dan Weiss on drums and tabla seemed especially inspired.

The next week brings an embarrassment of riches at Yoshi's: Charles Lloyd and Geri Allen bands play in Oakland, McCoy Tyner's in San Francisco.