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2023 April 8

Secret Walks: Surplus Store and Arboretum

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:28
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On Thursday 6 April 2023, my wife and I walked up Bay to the UCSC Surplus Store (which is only open 12–3 Tuesdays and Thursdays), to see whether they had any bookcases that she could buy for her library at work.  The answer was not clear—all the bookcases were 36″ wide, and that may be an inch or two too wide for the space she has (she’ll measure on Monday to double-check). She was hoping for a 30″ one, but that does not seem to be a common size at UCSC (at least, not for surplussed ones).

After the surplus store, we went to the Arboretum by going up Ranch View Road to the back gate of the Arboretum. Unfortunately, the back gates were locked, and we had to go around the Arboretum to the north gate, which was still open  We walked through the banksia fields, but all the banksia seem to have been over for the year—there are some nice seed pods, but no flowers.  In the African gardens there were some nice protea, though nowhere near as many as there used to be, and all on rather small plants.  I suspect that a lot of the protea died a few years ago, and their replacements are slow in growing back.  The protea were the showiest flowers in the gardens, though there were a few other nice ones—I’m thinking that I might want to get a “Winter Red” conebush for my yard, as they had quite impressive foliage (which, unfortunately, my photo did not capture well, so I won’t include it here).

On the way to the surplus store, we saw a great blue heron behind the Granary. We believe that is was probably hunting gophers or ground squirrels.

Another view of the heron.

I believe that this is an “Empress” protea.

I forget what protea variety this is, and I didn’t make notes.

Another empress protea.

And another view of the same flower. I find the protea very photogenic.

The weirdest flower we saw was this turquoise puya, which has enormous flower spikes.

The turquoise blossoms of the puya are a very unusual color.

The whole walk was about 4.6 miles and took us a little under 3 hours, including the time spent browsing the surplus store, taking pictures of flowers, and browsing Norrie’s Gift Shop at the Arboretum.

2023 February 13

Fifty-ninth weight progress report

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:14
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This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.


My weight is about where it was a year ago—perhaps a couple of pounds lighter.

I still want to lose about 13 pounds, though I’d probably be satisfied with 10.

The very careful observer might notice that more of the weight curve has moved into the “overweight” category than in previous reports. That’s because I updated my height for the plots—I’ve shrunk about 1 cm since 2010.  I should probably change the plot scripts to use a time-dependent estimate of my height, rather than a constant, but that is too much bother for now (plus I don’t really know how my height varied over time).

Since my last report in mid-October, I’ve cycled an average of 2.23 miles/day, bringing my average over the last year up to 2.12 miles/day (a very small number).  I’ve averaged about 6.4k steps per day—down from earlier in the summer. I no longer have the Verily Study watch to keep track of my steps, but my walking was definitely reduced during the winter rains that we had, so I suspect that my exercise is way down overall.

2022 December 16

End of Project Baseline

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:49
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Yesterday was my final in-person visit to Project Baseline, just over 4 years since my first visit.  They have really reduced the ambition of the project since then—they took the same urine sample, 25 vials of blood (about 200 ml), and swabs for oral, nasal, and skin microbiomes, but the rest of the assessment was just vital signs and a few low-cost fitness tests (balance, grip strength, sit-stand, walking test).  All the expensive stuff they started with (stress echocardiogram, chest CAT scan, ankle-brachial index, pulmonary function) has been discontinued—I think that the heart (pun intended) went out of the project when the original PI (Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir) died in July 2020.  Also COVID messed up their ability to do detailed in-person studies for a couple of years, and I think that Verily lost interest in doing the project, so has just been keeping it ticking at minimal levels.

The one interesting result from this visit was that my 6-minute fast walk was 729 meters, substantially more than the 630 m of my first visit and something like 660 m on my second visit. I did push myself a bit more this time, getting a little out of breath by the end of 6 minutes. The 2.025 m/s pace is about 4.53 mph or 13:17 per mile. That is a pretty good pace for someone of my age, though I had difficulty finding any large studies that establish reasonable guidelines for healthy adults. I found one small study for people 20–50 [] and lots of studies for people who were unhealthy in various ways. The linear regression from that study suggests that “normal” for men of my height and age is around 551m, but that is extrapolating the linear regression well out of the age range. A somewhat larger study [] set age- and sex-based standards for an older population—but even my original distance was above the 75%ile for my age, and the latest measurement was above the 75%ile even for men 20–30 years younger than me.

I’ve returned the Verily Study Watch and the hub for uploading data from it—I don’t think I’ll miss the watch, as it was not a very useful piece of equipment from a consumer standpoint—all the processing was done in the cloud after data was uploaded, and almost nothing was shared with the person wearing the watch.

I might get myself a consumer-level fitness monitor—they range in price from $40 to $400 (though I’m sure you can find more expensive ones). I’ll probably want one that I can download data from without needing an expensive subscription plan.  It might be nice to have one that I can wear on my ankle for tracking bicycling as well as walking, but I don’t know whether any are designed for that obvious use (nor whether pulse monitoring at the ankle works as well as it does at the wrist).  I’ll have to look into what’s available.

2022 October 20

Fifty-eighth weight progress report

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 09:31
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This post is yet another weight progress report, continuing the previous one, part of a long series since I started in January 2015.

I’m also back to my pre-pandemic weight, after the distressing excursion into being overweight last year.

I still want to lose about 11 pounds, which would take over 2 years on my current trend.

Since mid-July, I’ve cycled an average of 2.34 miles/day, bringing my average over the last year up to 1.94 miles/day (a very small number).  I’ve averaged about 6.4k steps per day—down from earlier in the summer.  That walking has been mostly in the weekly “secret walk”  with my wife, supplemented with walks with a friend at UCSC who is trying to increase exercise.  I’ve not been blogging the secret walks much lately, as there have not been interesting routes or walks—we’ve mostly repeated walks we’ve done in the past.

I had a bunch of blood tests done last week, in preparation for my annual checkup tomorrow. Everything came out reassuringly normal. My cholesterol counts are still doing ok—the combination of rosuvastatin and ezetimibe seems to work well for me:

The only number close to a threshold is the triglycerides, but they seem to be a very noisy measurement, so I’m not concerned about it.

2022 September 3

Secret Walks: Kalkar Quarry

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:44
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On Thursday 1 Sept 2022, a friend of mine and I took a short (3.2 miles) but slightly hilly walk to Kalkar Quarry, which is where the spring is that gives Spring Street its name. This is a somewhat easier walk than the one described in Secret Walks: Harvey West-Quarry loop, but still has a couple of steep uphill segments (on Laurent and on Limestone Lane).

(Click map for higher resolution) The route was a fairly simple loop—up Laurent to Major, around Westlake, up Spring to High, then up Kalkar and Limestone Lane to the stairs at the end leading down into the quarry. We went around as much of the quarry as possible, then exited through Rockridge And Spring Street, taking the pedestrian walkway at the end of Quarry Court back to Limestone Lane. From High Street, we headed down Moore Street, and back down the Laurent Street hill.

The pond in the quarry is still choked with tule.

But there is a little open water by the houses, here seen from the east end of the quarry.

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