October, 2005 – November 8, 2019

He was picked up as a stray in Redwood City at the age of two months. I always wondered what those first weeks of his life were like — Pomeranians are small, so he must’ve had to work hard for whatever food and drink he could find — and whether or not there was a family somewhere who lost and mourned a wonderful dog.

We met him for the first time at a San Carlos Educational Foundation Spring Fling event where he was that year’s auction dog. I outbid a number of other people to get him because we wanted a dog who liked people and we figured if he could be that excited in a room full of hundreds of loud, tipsy humans he must really like people.

Which he did. But there was a more important part of his personality that we soon came to cherish: he was always up for a new adventure.

Not that he was foolhardy or aggressive. He was just really open to what life had to offer.

In fact, his personality inspired my programming website, https://jumpforjoysoftware.com/. Because if you don’t jump into life you’ll never know what wonderful experiences you may have missed. Thanx for serving as a constant reminder of that, Diego.

We may never have been able to talk to each other but I know you cared for your friends and family as they cared for you. Requiem en pace, my friend.

That Make America Great Again Survey

For the first twenty one years I lived in California, starting in 1979, I was a registered Republican. Actually, I was pretty libertarian politically, not surprising in someone who came from a modest background and then started achieving some significant financial success as a result of his own efforts. We all tend to undervalue the role of the system that helped us because it’s, by design, relatively invisible.

I grew disenchanted with where the GOP was evolving by the early 90s, and didn’t vote for a single Republican candidate for any elected office throughout that decade. Not as part of a plan but because I kept finding the GOP candidates did not reflect my values.

I like to tell people that my loyalty, ultimately, isn’t to a party. It’s to whatever party best guards the future. Because probably the most important, and least appreciated, function of government is to ensure there is a future, and one in which our descendants will enjoy living.

What finally pushed me to leave the GOP and register as a (proud) Democrat was a single question in the 2000 GOP Presidential candidate debates. The moderator asked, by show of hands, which candidates “believed” in evolution…and only two hands (as I recall) went up, and only tentatively.

What people choose to believe is their own business. But setting good policy can’t be done solely based on beliefs. It has to reflect consensus objective reality, however difficult it can be to figure out what that is in a particular situation (and it can be challenging; that’s why good science is hard work).

I remember thinking, angrily, “there’s no fucking way I am standing with people who are willing to throw the patient, hard work of centuries under the bus just because it makes them uncomfortable”. So I went out, re-registered, and have never looked back. Indeed, I’ve watched the modern GOP get crazier and crazier, and craftier and craftier at conning the public into letting them line the pockets of their wealthy patrons.

But there are no free lunches in this world. For my penance from having been a GOPper for twenty one years I occasionally get mailings from the GOP based on the assumption that I’m still a member in good standing.

The latest one came today, from the Trump 2020 campaign. It contained a ham-handed push poll along with the standard plea for money. Rather than throw it out — or put it to the flames of my blowtorch, something I’ve done in the past — I decided to have some fun with it. You can download my response below:


Oh, and that requested financial contribution? Here’s what I sent:

Tioga and Sonora Passes

The images the above slider show is based on are large…so you may need to let your browser digest them all to see the images animate smoothly.

After doing Ebbetts Pass last fall I decided it would be fun to knock off all the rideable passes in California. I figured I’d start with Tioga Pass — after all, you can’t go wrong with Yosemite! — and Sonora Pass. A quick out and back to my home base in the Bay Area.

Only it took longer to arrange then I expected…mostly because we had so much late season snow this year that Tioga Pass didn’t officially open until July 1st!

No matter; it was well worth the wait. Even that (fortunately brief) 26% grade on California 108.

Click on the icons in the map below to read about what I encountered along the way. You can make the map go full screen, and zoom it in and out and pan it, to make looking over the route and the notes easier.


Thanx to Bugnatr over on the FJRForum for his advice on taking the Sonora Pass eastward. I was following it dutifully in making my reservations…or thought I was. Turns out I booked my lodging exactly backwards :). Oh well, the mountains aren’t going anywhere.

InReach Mini: It Could’ve Been a Contender

Because many of my motorcycle trips are solo, and take me beyond cell phone coverage (although not off road!), I’ve been interested in satellite-based text messaging devices. As a class, these basically give you the ability to send (and sometimes receive) SMS/text messages by way of orbital satellite networks. Which makes it much harder to go off grid…and more likely that, if you need help off grid, you’ll be able to let someone know.

The Garmin InReach Mini (their latest offering) seemed to be an ideal choice. Small. Can work with your cell phone via Bluetooth, making it easier to compose and read messages (i.e., you’re not limited to a handful of keys and a tiny screen). Uses the Iridium network, which seems to provide the best coverage of the alternative networks (not that I plan on being in Northern Canada anytime soon). And it offers a wide array of monthly service plans — which you have to have for the device to be of any use — that can be put on hiatus during the rainy season when you’re not on the road much anyway.

So I bought one.

And it’s turning out to be a mistake.

First and foremost, the Garmin InReach website (necessary for setting up, configuring and managing the device) is not very well designed. Activation was challenging, made more so by being offered important advisories on how you ought to configure your device…after you’re part way through the activation process. And don’t get me started on how many emails you need to set up an account, add a device and participate in the Garmin community forums (three, in fact; bizarre).

But the really bad problem was that only about 25% of my test messages ever arrived. With no indication that there was any problem sending them (i.e., the Mini reported success, but the message never got where it was going).

After some back and forth with tech support I learned that I happened to be using my new Mini during a period when AT&T was rejecting messages (perhaps as a result of mistakenly classifying them as spam). Go me.

It also turns out that this is not the first time AT&T has suddenly stopped accepting InReach Mini messages. A tech support guy I spoke to says it’s happened more than once in the last six months. But, good news! The problem always goes away after a few days. Only to re-occur, randomly, at some point in the future.

There is a workaround: send email messages rather than text messages. Fortunately, and despite the fact that this is not disclosed anywhere I could find in the Garmin documentation, emails cost the same as text messages. Judging by what they look like on the receiving end, I suspect they are just text messages, embedded into a simple email template.

Unfortunately, for me and almost everyone else I know, email lacks the immediacy of a text message. Text messages pop up on your phone. Emails you have to go read. And immediacy counts…particularly when you’re in a difficult, bad or emergency situation.

Moreover, who’s to say the emails won’t someday be spontaneously rejected? Granted, emails don’t get delivered by way of your cell phone carrier. But since Garmin doesn’t seem to know why the text messages are being rejected, despite repeated occurrences of the problem, I’m a little hesitant to embrace the workaround as solving the problem.

Besides, it really torques me that Garmin didn’t disclose its repeated problems with AT&T, which stretch back for at least 6 months, somewhere in their advertising. I spent a lot of time researching the Mini before buying one, and I never came across any mention of this problem (which is part of the reason for writing this lengthy post). They should’ve done so, if for no other reason than it might put more pressure on AT&T to define what would be required for a permanent fix 1.

So I regret to say that, while it looks good on paper, if you’re on an AT&T cell phone account I’d stay away from the Mini.

In fact, I’d require any purveyor of this technology to confirm they haven’t had problems with particular carriers suddenly and mysteriously not delivering text messages.

The Golden Chain and Mt Hamilton

Merced River Gorge along California 49

I didn’t expect to be able to squeeze another long ride in this year before the rains set in. But with Barbara heading off to Boston for a week, and a suddenly dried out forecast, the chance was too good to pass up.

Plus, I managed to complete, finally, my aborted ride past Mt Hamilton and the Lick Observatory.

Click on the motorcycle icons in the map image below for details (you can also click the Go Fullscreen button to enlarge the map).

You can download the Google Earth file from here; just ignore the warning about not being able to show you the file on the page that’ll open up. Click the download button and you’ll get the file.

Monterey Peninsula, Indian Valley & the Pinnacles

Or, rather, behind the Pinnacles. The Monterey shoreline, from the Pacific Coast Highway. And, no, I was stopped in traffic when I took this. You don’t think I’m insane enough to take a picture with my iPhone camera while I’m riding, do you?!?

This was a ride I did last week, starting out from and ending up in Santa Cruz. I was a little hesitant going the coastal route southbound, because of the possibility of rain, but I managed to avoid precipitation. Not counting riding through a cloud at one point, of course. But that wasn’t rain; it was just riding through water droplets suspended in the air.

The northbound leg, going off of US 101 at San Miguel, was stunning (so was the Monterey Peninsula, but one expects that). Hard to believe you were not that far away from one of the more heavily-traveled north/south roads in California. Definitely worth it.

The Google Earth map file is available here. Ignore the warning page you’ll land on after clicking the link — it’s just telling you there’s no previewer installed for Google Earth files — and click the download button to get the file.

Click on any of the icons below for details. You can also enlarge the map first.


Through Darkest Europe

Saint Thomas Aquinas, courtesy of Wikipedia

I just finished a new alternative history novel written by Harry Turtledove. I definitely recommend it…even though there’s no dramatic conclusion to it. Plenty of drama, lots of action, good character development…but no major wrap-up of an overriding theme.

Alternative histories are tales that explore what-might-have-beens had some critical event gone a different way. In this case, it was Thomas Aquinas, St. Aquinas, who, rather than trying to incorporate Aristotelian rationality into Christianity, rejected rational discourse in favor of maintaining faith. Because Al-Ghazali, a corresponding figure in the Muslim world, elevated the importance of rational discourse, the modern scientific, rational, increasingly secular world grew out of the Muslim kingdoms rather than their European counterparts.

By what was in effect our time, it’s the Muslim world that has to deal with European dictatorships, barely functional European states, European refugees and immigrants seeking a better life, European suicide bombers, etc.

If this road not taken sounds a bit arcane, you have to remember that Turtledove was at one time (and may still be) a professor of Byzantine history. He is intimately familiar with how the various Mediterranean/Western societies evolved. Some of his earliest alternative history tales are set in a world where the Byzantine Empire never fell…because Mohammed, later Saint Mohammed, became a devout Christian, rather than the founder of Islam.

All in all a fascinating speculation on what can happen when rationalism is rejected or accepted, regardless of a society’s underlying religious orientation.

North Coast Trip – May, 2018

I just realized that I never published anything on this blog about a great motorcycle trip I took up the north coast of California last May. Let’s rectify that right now!

Click on the icons in the image below for more information. You can also click on the Full Screen button first to enlarge the map.

You can download the Google Earth route file for this trip here. Be forewarned that you’ll first be taken to a page that complains about not being able to preview the file for you; just ignore the warning, and click on the download link that appears.


I had no idea that one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century was seen and captured on film by accident. Check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/dE-vOscpiNc

Borman’s quote about what he saw is famous. But when I see that image of the Earth coming over the dead lunar horizon, I always think of a passage from a favorite sci fi novel: “A sapphire. Yes, another stone; but this one is a precious jewel, because it holds beings who are aware.”

Thanx to my buddy John Williams for bringing the video to my attention!

Sierra Ride (September, 2018)

I just got back from a three day motorcycle trip up into the Sierras, and exploring the California Delta to boot. It was a real blast, and I got to see and experience some really neat stuff!

Click on the icons in the images below to get the details. You can also enlarge the images first by clicking the Full Screen button.

You can download a Google Earth file of my route from the following link. Be forewarned that it will first open a page complaining about not being able to preview the file; but if you click the download button, you’ll be able to download the file itself.

Google Earth route map