Bay Trail Bike Birding

After reading The Thing With Feathers and then Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, I started being more interested in birds. Then I bought a Sibley Guide, and it got a little more serious.

I’ve always enjoyed the Bay Trail, on several occasions riding SF to Berkeley or the reverse. This weekend I rode from approximately Fruitvale BART to Hayward BART, going through MLK regional shoreline, Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline, and Hayward Regional Shoreline, and I brought my camera. When I’d ridden the trail before I’d often stopped to read the informational signs about birds, and I was surprised that I was able to photograph pretty much all the common birds I’d read about, plus several more. And a bat ray.


Gutenovox, a Mashup of Gutenberg and LibriVox Catalogs

I recently did my first recording for LibriVox, which is a site where volunteers read public domain works. I wanted to contribute to a short science fiction collection, and it was challenging to find a work that hadn’t been read already — not because there aren’t any, but because it involves looking through lists of stories on Project Gutenberg, then and searching for each one in the LibriVox catalog. “This is what computers are for,” I thought. So over the last week or so, I created a mashup site of the two catalogs, so that one can search the Project Gutenberg site and show what LibriVox recordings exist already, plus estimated reading time:  It works pretty well, but there are a few limitations.

Continue reading Gutenovox, a Mashup of Gutenberg and LibriVox Catalogs

Swapping Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) Motherboards or Screen Assembly

My Kindle 3 started freezing a few minutes after I booting up. This started after I ran the battery down completely; but the battery appeared to charge fine, and swapping batteries did not fix it. Following the advice of this blog post from SiliconFish, I ordered a couple of broken-screen Kindles from ebay ($10 including shipping for the paid).

Swapping the motherboards is pretty easy. Pull the back off gently. You can do this without any tools, just bend a corner, gently and gradually, until the back pops out at that corner. Then peel the back out, again gently and gradually, and all the clip-points will pop out. Remove the two screws holding in the battery and remove the battery. Continue reading Swapping Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) Motherboards or Screen Assembly

Bicycle Cue Sheet Holder

I’ve moved to Oakland from Berkeley, and so biking to things goes over longer distances and often I find that I need to bring a cue sheet. That meant I needed a way to hold a cue sheet. I already have a section of my handlebar taped over with electrical tape where I attach my front light, and so I just put a velcro cable tie through a binder clip and then around the taped area. The tape helps hold it in place and prevents scratching.


[picture of cue sheet]
Cue sheet made from electrical tape, binder clip, and velcro cable tie.

The Last Lion, by William Manchester

I’ve been really enjoying this book.  This is Doris Kearns Goodwin-style biography.  It is detailed, written like a novel, and hard to put down.  Maybe even more than Goodwin, Manchester used this three-volume biography as a way to show an epic arc of history, from the apex of British Empire and its wane and climax in the Second World War, all with Churchill as the main character.  The primary theme of the book is of Churchill as a carryover of Victorian virtues: the sense of duty, honor, hard work, and Imperialism.  All those had started to seem less relevant as the twentieth century began, but suddenly because immensely valuable at the outbreak of World War II.  I’m about midway through the first volume, at the buildup to the first world war and in the middle of Churchill’s initial ascendance to political power.  It is interesting to see the combination of societal factors that supported him — first and foremost, being a member of the aristocratic elite, and having the connections of his mother Jennie (who sounds to have been the mistress of at least a dozen various powerful men including George V when he was Prince of Wales), and being able to follow in the footsteps of his father into Parliament.  On the other hand, there was a lot of internal dynamics that also made him extraordinary.  There was his ability with written language:  by the time he was an adult and his father died, his parents were close to broke, and Churchill may not have been able to sit in Parliament at all if he hadn’t made a small fortune writing.  There was his comfort with adversity, with his own ambition, and with conflict and dissent.

Setting Up Emacs + Cygwin + PHP + ssh-agent

I had to struggle for a while to be able to remotely edit php files with emacs on Windows.  After trying various combinations of putty/plink, cygwin, xemacs, and GNU emacs, I finally got things to work with Cygwin’s ssh-agent and GNU emacs.  Here’s the procedure:

Install Cygwin, ssh-agent, emacs.  Use ssh-keygen to create a private/public pair.  Append the public key to your ~.ssh/authorized_keys file on the remote machine.  Add this to your ~/.bash_profile in Cygwin:

if [ -z “$SSH_AUTH_SOCK” -a -x “$SSHAGENT” ]; then
trap “kill $SSH_AGENT_PID” 0

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Add this to your emacs load path (.emacs, init.el, whatever):

(require ‘tramp)
(setq tramp-default-method “sshx”)
(setq tramp-debug-buffer t)
(add-to-list ‘load-path “~/.xemacs”)
(autoload ‘php-mode “php-mode” “Major mode for editing php code.” t)
(require ‘php-mode)

And the link for php-mode is here:


Bike Camping: SF to Point Reyes Sky Camp

Last weekend I was the event host for a trip from San Francisco to Point Reyes with the NorCal Bicycle Touring and Camping Meetup.  We ended up getting six people together for the trip, all from San Francisco and Berkeley, except one coming in from Sacramento.  I had picked up a camping permit for Sky Camp at about two months earlier. It is still the rainy season in San Francisco in March, so we felt lucky to have a weekend of sunny weather predicted.

On Highway 1, about ten miles south of Stinston Beach.
On Highway 1, about ten miles south of Stinston Beach.

I planned the route, which was to go out on Highway 1 and back via Sir Francis Drake (Google Maps or Map My Ride; during the trip, we used the Marin County Bike Coalition’s map, which was up-to-date and accurate, $12 including shipping).  The wind is usually from the north along the coast, so ideally we would have gone out Sir Francis Drake and back on Highway 1, but the ferry schedule didn’t really have a good Saturday morning option, so I had to go with the reverse route.

We had a bit of a dodgy start.   Continue reading Bike Camping: SF to Point Reyes Sky Camp

Romesco Sauce

My wife loves this stuff.  This is closely based on Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Romesco Sauce

1 slice bread fried in olive oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup hazelnuts
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbs red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
4 roma tomatoes
1 Tbs fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth-ish.

American Southwest Pictures

New pictures of the American Southwest roadtrip — Berkeley, California to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, are now up on  This was the first time in years that I’ve taken out my SLR, and it was a fun time and place to take pictures.  The full moon helped to create some eerie effects, particularly at the Grand Canyon.  Suzanne made me a tripod carrier for Christmas, which was great to make it easier to bring the tripod along everywhere.  I got several pictures including constellations — Big Dipper and Pleiades.  We also got started on winter camping, including camping in the snow at the Grand Canyon.

Picture of Camping at the Grand Canyon