Monthly Archive: November 2008

Review: Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

fingersLast weekend, I went on an “exploratory” hike in the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, which is located between Rancho San Antonio, Skyline Open Space Preserve, and Upper Stevens Creek Park.  It’s basically straight west on Page Mill Road, well past 280 and almost to Skyline.  Windy road, and lots of fun if your car’s suspension can take it.  This park is also part of the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Preserve, which is a large collection of parks in that area.  There is a flickr group for it, though it’s not very active.

I say exploratory because I really was going in for just a short, 4-5 mile hike to see what the place was like.  How shaded, what kind of foliage was there, etc.  I also went relatively late in the day – about 2.5 hours before sunset – so just looking around was about the most I could do.  You can get a PDF map of the park if you want to follow along with my review.

As always, I planned a route and managed to take a different one anyway.  It was not quite the featured hike from the link above, but my goal was to take the Stevens Creek Nature Trail just to the White Oak trail and be back.  That would be only about 3 miles or so.  However, I got a bit waylaid and turned onto the CAnyon trail rather than making the right onto Stevens Creek.  I eventually looped back onto the Stevens Creek Trail and back to the parking lot.

The signage in the park is really quite confusing – I honestly could not figure out which junction I was at most of the time.  I also managed to sprain my ankle when I thought I was about halfway, which made me keep going.  Turns out I was about 1/4 of the way, and should have just turned around…

The park is a very nice place to hike.  Bikes are allowed on many of the trails but no horses for the most part, and it wasn’t very crowded even for a Saturday afternoon.  You walk in and out of tree cover so it’s not a hike exposed to the sun.  Also, Stevens Creek is just a trickle now but apparently moves quite a bit of water in the winter and that all feeds into a great big bloom of wildflowers in the spring.  Even now, in late November, there was decent greenery and some small amount of flowers about.tiny

The trails can be a bit narrow the path often takenas one walks around and you have to make way especially if a bike comes around, but they are more than manageable and in a way it’s part of the park’s charm.  It’s not that crowded (perhaps the windy road dissuades some people) so the trails aren’t huge, nor are there tons of trails that lead off into nowhere.

I will be visiting it again soon.

Twitter hits its stride (at least for me)

If you haven’t heard of twitter, you should check it out, at least for reference and general knowledge purposes.  But basically, it’s a “micro-blogging” platform where you post 140-character maximum messages about…anything.  Kind of like facebook status updates (and many tie the two together), except that you can “follow” twitter feeds of certain users, much like one subscribes to a blog.

There are some major differences from a blog that violate the “micro-blog” concept, such as the sheer volume of tweets negating the chronological nature of the feed (imaging if you subscribed to a blog and every day there were 100 entries – you’d never keep up).  But the analogy holds up well enough, and the character limit makes people be creative, in my opinion.

When I was at ELI 2008, in January, Twitter was heavily featured.  They even had a screen where a user, named “ELI2008,” followed as many users as possible and there were LCD displays showing the feeds.  This was a laudable effort, but the problem was that a select few people that used Twitter heavily and especially during sessions just overwhelmed anyone else trying to keep track.  A colleague from another school and I challenged each other to actually keep up with and “compete” with such uber-twitterers, but did so at the cost of actually paying attention to the sessions which we were attending, respectively.  So Twitter was a distraction.

However, at this past Educause conference in October, I think Twitter may have hit its stride.  Yes, I follow a relatively small number of people – about 50 (many have 150-200+) so my feed isn’t quite as insane.  And yes, I paid more attention to some tweets than others (yes, individual posts are called “tweets”).  But I really do feel that I was able to be in one session, take notes, throw an important concept in twitter for others to read, and read similarly important concepts from a few others so that I had an idea of what happened in another session.  A few times, I then went and found that person from the other session and got more information on one of their tweets.

I think I may have successfully balanced Twitter such that I gained information from two presentations at once.  Was I multi-tasking?  Absolutely.  Was it continuous partial attention?  I don’t like that term, so no.  Was I switching rapidly from 100% my presentation to 100% Twitter feed?  Yes.  But that attention to the Twitter feed was for a split second (140 characters – you just can’t spend that much time there) so I wasn’t really distracted.

I think I may have found a place for Twitter for me.

Oh, and btw – I have made some really valuable contacts via Twitter.  They might not think much of me (I’m not posting all that exciting of material, really), but I have learned a lot, and follow blogs of other people quite a bit as a result.

Psyched out by class schedules

Last night, I found out that one of my classes is not going to be what I had hoped it would be.  So I was then fretting over what other class to take.  In a bout of craziness and lack of logic, I dropped a course for which I had heard good reviews before checking how full it was, then added an entirely different course that I’m not sure I really want to take.  After re-reading (yes – I had read them before) the positive reviews of the course I had just dropped, I tried to re-add it…but it’s full.

So now, after having gotten an initial registration appointment very, very early during the week to sign up for classes, I find myself potentially locked out of one of the classes I had intended to take.  A class that was part of my “plan,” that was about as compelling as any other class I was considering, and was, finally, from a teacher that is supposed to be a bit harder, but in a challenging way, rather than a “just to be difficult” way.

Stupid move.

Sleeping disorders & sleep studies

Last night I had my 9th overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram.  The first seven were at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, which is probably the world’s foremost location.  My proximity to it as a student at Stanford made it possible for someone at our undergrad health center (not exactly bastions of medical genius, though they do make med students do rotations there) to think of referring me over.  The last two have been at the Sleep Center with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (technically it’s with the Camino Medical Group but they merged.  And they’re all Sutter anyway).

I was first diagnosed with relatively mild but utterly annoying Sleap Apnea in June of 1997.  The first study was on June 3, in fact.  One should certain read more at the wikipedia page, which is pretty good, but apnea, in a very short version, is when one has sufficient obstruction in one’s airway while sleeping that he or she actually stops breathing.  Over time, a person actually gets used to this, and to the decreasing amount of oxygen in one’s blood that results, and eventually has a heart attack and can die (I would think waking up to a heart attack makes it hard to call 911 coherently, even compared to having a heart attack at all but in other situations).

Two things prompted me to go back to the Sleep Disorders center for more help recently.  Of course, I had been sleeping worse, and I’ve never tolerated my CPAP machine well (wow!  shocker!  I don’t like having a plastic tube connected to a mask attached to my face while I’m sleeping!) so I had to do something.  Also, several factors have been exacerbating things such that, despite a whole slate of lifestyle changes (I don’t drive much, I walk to work and used to take the train before that, etc), I am just running down.

When I went in for my appointment with the head of the Sleep Disorders Center I found out my blood oxygen level had hit a low of 70%.  Anything below 95% is cause for concern.  That really blew my mind away.

So, since I’m pretty sure no mask is going to make my issues with a CPAP go away, I’m looking at a major surgery that involves basically cutting my lower jaw loose at the joint so that it can be moved forward, pulling the tongue forward along with it.  It will be my 5th surgery on my jaw or throat.

The Marketing of a Business School

Some discussions between…various people and I have covered the issue of how the Leavey School of Business, where I am pursuing an MBA, markets itself.

First, I’m not really sure how the school sees itself.  On the one hand, I think it’s well-known that the biggest benefit of the MBA program at SCU is that it’s an evening program that is pretty flexible.  In fact, the slogan at the top of the Evening MBA program page says “Where Flexibility is Key.”  Since most students are in the Evening program (and not the weekend or accelerated ones), this is a pretty important branding effort.

And the program is very flexible.  You can finish the program in 2-6 years (though 2 would be really hard), you can take quarters off, etc.  The faculty are so far universally understanding of the fact that students are working professionals that one of the first things they say is that they realize we might have to go on business trips and that missing a class here or there is not a big deal.  Classes are only offered at night or on weekends, and I know of only one course that has any events that start before 5PM (Management 701, the subject of my next review…).

For me, certainly, this flexibility was why I am getting my MBA at SCU.  Just the honest truth.  I like my current job, I think I am working on some interesting stuff, and I don’t want to give that up.  Yet here is a program that is academically sound and, more importantly, flexible and allows me to work on a pace that makes sense to me.

It’s pretty clear, then, that the school is about flexibility.  If you look at what other programs are offered, it’s about flexibility, too.  Sure, the Executive MBA program is pretty much standard fare these days, but they also offer a program for applicants with less than 3 or so years of corporate experience.  This option is pretty hard to find.  FWIW, while I have friends in this program that are way smarter than I am, I am a bit concerned that I go to a school where 3 years of corporate experience isn’t a flat-out requirement.

The concern, therefore, is why the school doesn’t make a bigger deal out of its academic credentials.  I mean, I still care quite a bit that it’s a good school, after all.  And it is highly ranked – in the top 15 for part-time programs (that includes executive programs, I believe).  But other than a blurb when the rankings come out I don’t see much about how good the program is, academically.

Which I find a bit weird…

From Badwater Basin to Electrode City

Two evenings ago, around 1AM, I was 2 miles out from the viewing platform at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America.  I was in the middle of the valley, under an almost-full moon (86% waxing gibbous), taking an hour-long photograph (yes, 1 shot for a full hour) of the trails in the salt created by thousands of footsteps as tourists before me have wandered around.  The paths they had created were white and glowing from the moonlight, while the rest of the area was dark, the 6″ tall ridges of salt covered in dirt and hard as rock.

It was absolutely silent.  I am not sure if I have ever been in a quieter setting.  The only sound were those of the salt crunching under my feet as I wandered around during that hour, gazing at the clear sky and watching Orion slowly rotate around Polaris, the North Star.

Right now, having already gone through waking up before dawn, driving 8 hours back home to shave and change my shirt and running off to a half-day of work, I find myself sitting in the lobby of the business school where I am studying for my MBA, Blackberry on my belt, MacBook on my lap, downloading the Second Life viewer so that I can work on my avatar that has lain dormant for a couple of years now.  I have my bluetooth headset in my pocket – the one that can connect to my Blackberry and my other phone, which I use for my side job.

Tomorrow night, I will be at a Sleep Disorders Center, electrodes glued all over my body, probably sitting in a chair before going to bed so that I can utilize the free wireless to do work before I find out how bad my sleep apnea is.

Yes, they have wireless at the Sleep Center.

It’s amazing that one can go from one extreme to the other with an 8 hour drive and over such a short period of time.  Completely disconnected to not just wired but wireless and in a completely backwards way.  I’m all wired for my sleep.  And completely wireless for my computer.  And just a few days removed from Badwater Basin…

So now he’s African American…

I kept meaning to write this earlier – the day after our election, when Barack Obama was elected to office – but things have been busy.

As a very quick note, it has been interesting seeing how after the election, a lot more has been made of the fact that he will be the first African-American president ever.  Yes, it was brought up before, especially in the context of how the “you can do anything you want in America” would have a whole lot more meaning should he gain office.  But for the most part people and pundits talked about how the issue was the best person for the job, the person most capable of fixing the economy, etc.

But just hours after he was declared the winner it was all about race.  Very interesting.

Even more interesting was that on CNN’s “best political team” of analysts, the one African-American among them, when asked about the significance of the election, talked about how it was really about the voters picking the person they thought was best for the job.  The other four analysts all talked about race.

An Allan by another spelling…

Not quite an effective variant on Shakespeare, but I try.

So my name is Allan Chen.  It is the least common of the three frequent ways to spell my given name – Allen and Alan are far more common.  I honestly have never cared when people have spelled my name wrong.  I don’t bother correcting people or anything.  However, it has been a problem lately, as at work e-mail addresses and names are auto-filled and there is an Allen Chan here, which of course shows up right away if you spell my first name wrong and it sure looks about right as a full name, too.  Recently, someone sent a meeting invitation to this other person, and earlier this year someone sent a whole series of e-mails to him before it was determined that it was the wrong person.

Now I’m confronted with a bit of a dilemma.  I have never made a deal about the spelling of my name, but it has proven to be an actual problem.  So do I start going around telling everyone how to spell it?  Do I come off sounding like I’ve been offended by it?  Ugh.

One thing that has always surprised me is that people don’t notice the mistake.  Especially in e-mail exchanges.  If you think about how e-mail responses are formatted, with the original text quoted below the next text, you have something like this:

blah blah


>hello allen

blah blah previous e-mail

So there’s the correct spelling right above the wrong spelling.  Yet I’ve gotten maybe 5 e-mails my entire electronic life where people have noticed the diference and commented/apologized for it.

With great power comes great responsibility. And some people have weird interpretations of how to be responsible

Prop 8: The Ad That Upset the Mormon Church | Crooks and Liars

Hey, if you have massive influence, and can pay almost entirely on one’s own to sway an entire campaign…why not use it, eh?

Post to follow, but between T. Boone Pickens putting Prop 10 up on his own (I support that), the Mormons pushing Prop 8 all on their own (no on that) and then you think about how much money Obama has spent on this campaign, to the point where he himself might cause reform…how does one make an educated decision anymore?