Apr 29, 2009

City of Light; Dystopia Looming

My sister just posted some new photos of another piece called City of Light; Dystopia Looming. You can see the photos and more information on Flickr by clicking on the image above. It also looks like you can follow her on Twitter now: http://twitter.com/GGrothaus Say hello to her for me.

Apr 27, 2009

Big Basin Backpacking

This last weekend, I went backpacking with Jeremy Shapiro and David Signoff in Big Basin Park (see trail map). There is a trail named "Skyline to the Sea" which starts up in the Santa Cruz Mountains and ends up on the Beach at Highway 1. We didn't follow this trail most of the way, although we pretty much started and ended at the same places. Instead, we took a little longer route that involved alot more elevation change. Kicked the crap out of me, but was alot of fun.

Day 1, our hike started at the Big Basin Park headquarters up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, following Sunset trail for the first half of the day and passing by 3 waterfalls. We sat down and had lunch at the first waterfall, spotting some newts in the water at the base. The trail then hits Waddell Creek and meets up with Skyline to the Sea which we followed from there. Shortly thereafter, it turns into a fire road following the creek all the way to the ocean. We camped at Twin Redwoods camp, about 2 miles before you get to the ocean. After setting up camp, we took some water and finished the trail down to the ocean where there were a few dozen windsurfers having a blast. After getting tired of being blown in the face with sand, we hiked back up to camp for the night, made dinner, popcorn, and a little bourbon. About 11 miles to camp, plus 4 round trip to the ocean for 15 miles today.

Day 2, We woke up a little late, had breakfast and made camp. Retracing our steps the previous day, we hiked north along skyline to the sea until reaching McCrary Ridge trail. McCrary Ridge has a nice sign reading "Trail Recommended for horse use only, very steep climbs.". It wasn't kidding, around a 20% average grade (~1,700 ft gain in 2 miles) and there was a decent bit of flat, so lots of higher grade mixed in for fun. Still, the views from the ridge were very nice. Being probably the only hikers there that day, we spotted some illegal burning over on a nearby ridge and Jeremy called it into the park rangers. At the tail end of McCrary ridge, we took a connector back to Sunset and rode sunset back to the park HQ. A little shorter distance, but a slower uphill pace, we did around 10 miles on Day 2.

All in all, around 25 miles in 2 days. 3 Waterfalls, mountain vistas, and an ocean beach. Not a bad way to spend a weekend. All the photos are up on picasa.

Apr 23, 2009

Future Car

Google was running a number of Earth-Day related events this entire week. Today, they had a talk and demonstration by Aptera, a startup car company hoping to break into the car business in about a year. I brought along my cell camera and was even lucky enough to get a short ride in the car.

Aptera is planning on building and starting to sell an all-electric car late this year, with hybrid and all-gas versions coming out later. The main innovation these guys are bringing to the car space is a car body that is amazingly efficient. They are using composite materials, the same kinds of things Burt Rutan used to build Space Ship One, to build a very strong but very lightweight body. The body is then shaped to absolutely minimize the drag as the car moves through air. It looks something like an advanced aircraft or maybe a spaceship. A common question they get is "Does it fly?".

They managed to get the weight down to 1,500 lbs, which is less than the super-tiny Honda Insight. The drag decreases were even more amazing. Besides just making it aerodynamic, the design has only 3 wheels. Between the low weight and drag, projects are that the car will get 130 miles per gallon, and one of their initial design's they claimed could get as high as 330 miles per gallon - this was not even a hybrid system, just gasoline. All of these numbers I pulled from wikipedia to make sure I had them right.

What now sounds like a flimsy car is far from it. The composite materials are extremely strong. They said they held a party and had an unpainted car body in the shop. They passed around a sledgehammer and put up a $100 prize to anyone who could dent/scratch or otherwise damage the body and they have yet to pay out. They did all sorts of other tests for safety as well, including crush tests, stopping distance, and standard safety gear like airbags. When riding in it, it felt very responsive, cornered well and accelerated/decelerated quickly without feeling unstable in the least. My guess is that the simple design and super-strong materials meant it was unlikely to need much repair beyond oil/tires unless it got into a serious wreck.

The car seats two pretty comfortably, and has enough cargo room "to fit several surf boards". It has built in GPS, bluetooth interface with cell phones that can give detailed data about the car's performance to the phone, rear camera, and airbags. The above photo shows the accelerator and brake pedals, with cute '+' and '-' symbols on them. The car is clearly meant to be fun.

They say the initial electric-only version will retail between $25,000-$40,000. It has a range of 120 miles, and can recharge in 4 hours from a high-voltage connection (like your washer/dryer) or "overnight" from a standard outlet. I asked the founder if the later gas version would be more or less and he thought it probably would be a bit cheaper even. At 100+ MPG, issues of range wouldn't be much to worry about at all.

All in all, pretty neat. Check it out at Aptera Motors.


Some of you may remember my earlier post "If you enjoy art" where my cat was showing off a piece of artwork from my talented sister, Grace Grothaus.

She has made a few more pieces lately and is selling them as she calls it: "Recession-Friendly Art Collecting". Direct from the artist, no gallery markups (which are usually 100%). I'll post a few of these in the next couple days. If you are interested in Grace or her art, check out her website at GraceGrothaus.com.

Like the piece I have at home, this one also makes an interesting use of materials in the art. If you look closely, you can see the use of actual leaves within the art. The piece I have is appropriately called "Urban Organic II" Here is a closeup of the above piece:

The piece is 2 1/2' x 1 1/2' and she is selling it for $550 framed + shipping.

Apr 20, 2009

Craigslist Scam

For those who don't pay attention, rental prices in the san francisco bay area have dropped like a rock. Most complexes aren't lowering rates for renewals with the hope that residents will opt to stay to avoid the hassle. As a result, many renters are considering moving to take advantage of better rates. I'm one such renter.

This weekend, I spent some time on craiglist checking out the opportunities. I saw an ad for a great looking rental house way under market rate - at least 50% below. The ad had photos and an address of a real house (I could verify they matched via street view), but no phone number, so I got a little suspicious of a scam. Mostly because I was curious how the scam worked, I dropped an email to the address in question which was @yahoo. This morning I got a reply:

I did get your response concerning the AD I posted on craigslist. The house is still available but presently I'm not around.. I did bid for a portion of petroleum land sometimes ago in West Africa and fortunately I won the bidding so I have to move quickly down to Africa to have my company set up because I will still have to rebid for it in the next 10 years. I came over here with my wife, we both built the house when we got married.. As soon as we settle down here I had a thought of selling the house so I have to look for an agent, after getting one, we got a deal but later my wife advised against that. She said we may not be able to win the bidding next time, in other to keep our head when we return that we have to keep the house. I reasoned with her and accepted her advise. So I contacted the agent back and requested for my keys and documents. Later we decided to have the house rent out, we would have give the same agent this job also but the truth of the matter is that the agent would want to handle it professionally and the occupant may not be able to reason along with him later. If you notice, you will discovered that the price we are offering is far below standard price, this is enough for you to know that we are not after the rental fee but the absolute care for the property. I know there is no way I can be sure that you are the right person to live in the house because we won't be able to see physical before sending you the keys and the documents to occupy the space. But I just had a feeling that anyone who knows what it takes to put the kind of structure down should know that maintaining a building is mandatory, so if you belief you can take good care of the house and handle it like yours then I will be more than happy to let you rent the house.

Please if you are ready now to occupy the house kindly provide the information below for record purpose

Full Name__________________________________________________ Home Phone ( ) ________________________
Date of Birth_________________________________
Other Phone ( ) ___________________
Current Address_______________________________Apt#________ City__________________ State______ Zip________
Reasons for Leaving____________________________Rent $__________Phone ( ) ____________________________
Are you married____________________________
How many people will be living in the house____________________________
How many people will be living in the house____________________________
Do you have a pet____________________________
Do you have a car____________________________
Move In Date____________________________


He also provided an international phone number - with country code (you guessed it) Nigeria, My guess is that with this information, my friend here can open a line of credit in my name. If not, I'm sure the next email will require my social security number for a credit check. It's so sad.