Seconds comic review

I read the comic Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the same author of the Scott Pilgrim series.

The comic is a quick read. The main character is Katie, the head chef at a popular restaurant. She meets the restaurant’s house spirit, and Katie is given a magical mushroom that lets her redo events that happened in the restaurant (or rather, the mushroom sends her to a world in which she made a different decision). Katie finds more mushrooms, and uses them in an attempt to build a perfect life. Katie is rash, impulsive, and a bit self-absorbed, so she needs to consume a lot of mushrooms to fix her mistakes.

In the end, after abusing the mushrooms and destroying the fabric of space and time, Katie reverses all her changes. She learns her lesson, and her life ends up exactly as she wanted it to anyway. Everyone gets a happy ending.

Mailbox Peak

I hiked to Mailbox Peak, taking the old trail up (2.6 miles) with 4,000 ft. elevation gain, and the new trail down (4.7 miles).

The old trail started pretty flat as it wound its way through the forest. Then the terrain turned steep. The trail was marked by white diamonds, but they were rather sparse. Everywhere I looked was exposed roots and erosion and dirt, so I wandered off the trail a few times. Not that it mattered though, because as long as I continued upwards, I would hit the trail again.

White diamond trail markers
White diamond trail markers

At the edge of the forest, the old trail and the new trail met up. I continued along the exposed trail, flanked by leafy bushes.

I hit a talus slope, and here, the trail was truly well-maintained and a joy to hike. The rocks for the trail were all flat and arranged neatly into a staircase, any openings tightly filled with smaller rocks.

Talus slope
Talus slope

Finally, I reached the homestretch, the steepest part of the hike: a dirt trail that cut through a meadow. Wildflowers were in bloom: purple and white lupine, fiery Indian paintbrush, fluffy white beargrass. This section had the most animal activity. There were white and orange butterflies, a brown lizard, sparrows, and some buzzing flies.

Purple and white lupine
Purple and white lupine
Wildflowers in bloom
Wildflowers in bloom

I hiked Mailbox Peak on a weekday, so when I reached the mailbox, I had a glorious 20 minutes all to myself. I left some Nintendo swag inside the mailbox. There were panoramic views of the mountain ranges.

Mt. Rainier in the background
Mt. Rainier in the background
Panoramic view towards the trail
Panoramic view towards the trail
Panoramic view towards the back of the mailbox
Panoramic view towards the back of the mailbox

All at once, groups of hikers started streaming in to the peak area. So I began my descent. Not far from the top, there were a couple children complaining loudly. To cheer them up, I congratulated them on almost reaching the top and told them there were prizes in the mailbox. At that, they excitedly started running. I spoke to the mom a bit, and was surprised that her children were only 8 and 10-years-old, and yet were able to hike this strenuous trail. They only brought one bottle of water and drank it all, so I gave her the rest of my water.

I hiked down the new trail without seeing a single person. The new trail is wider and less steep than the old trail, but took longer to hike. It felt like the switchbacks would never end, as it is twice as long the old trail. I tried hiking the new trail earlier in the year, but I turned back because I didn’t have the correct gear to hike in snow. Currently, there is no snow at all, and as I descended I noticed that in my previous attempt I had turned back right before the talus slope.

As for views, the forest section gets rather repetitive, but the hike is breathtaking at the talus slope and onwards. Perhaps the reward to effort ratio is not quite there, so I can see why Mailbox Peak is more of a conditioning hike.

Geocaching part 10

I spent a weekend in Terranea in Rancho Palos Verdes, near LA. All things considered, I had a good time.

I tried to get into the adults-only swimming pool, but I got carded. So after going to my room to get my license, I went back to the pool and floated about. From the pool, we saw a pod of dolphins playing at the beach, jumping out of the water in arcs.

We went bouldering, and I got a massive ego boost by doing most of the beginner routes. I met a group of passionate foodies. They introduced me to interesting dishes, like baby pigeon and caviar egg toast.

Caviar egg toast in the Waldorf Astoria Jean-Georges
Caviar egg toast in the Waldorf Astoria Jean-Georges

We did a nearby hike at Pelican Cove Park, walking by desert shrubs, an abandoned motor, carcasses of seabirds. I didn’t notice at first, but the shore was teeming with small crabs. The crabs would scurry under rocks when they felt my footsteps. Flocks of herons flew overhead. As we neared the cove, the tides trapped the ocean water, and large swarms of gnats flew around the rotting kelp. At the cove, the overhanging cliff was worn down by erosion and looked like a burnt sienna layer cake.

Pelican Cove Park
Pelican Cove Park

And I found a geocache! The desert biota was so foreign, with its flowering cacti and other succulents, brown lizards.

Geocache under a picnic table on the Terranea trail
Geocache under a picnic table on the Terranea trail

Back in Washington, I found some more geocaches. There was a cache hidden within a piece of wood.

Geocache in a piece of wood
Geocache in a piece of wood
Bison geocache inside the piece of wood
Bison geocache inside the piece of wood

Another cache was nestled in a tree.

Geocache in Westside Park
Geocache in Westside Park

I found a couple caches in South Lake Union. There was a cache hidden on a pedestrian overpass.

Geocache on a bridge
Geocache on a bridge
Film canister with a magnet attached
Film canister with a magnet attached

A cache was hidden in a guardrail.

Geocache tin hidden in a guardrail
Geocache tin hidden in a guardrail

I found a few geocaches around Seattle Center. One was in the John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole.

Magnetic geocache in the John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole
Magnetic geocache in the John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole

A geocache was at the top floor of a parking garage, under a lamppost skirt.

Geocache in a parking garage
Geocache in a parking garage

There was a cache in the bushes right by the Pacific Science Center.

Pacific Science Center geocache
Pacific Science Center geocache

I found a few caches in the Washington Park Arboretum. One cache was under a boardwalk.

Geocache from under a bridge
Geocache from under a bridge

Another was next to a tree that had been struck by lightning.

Geocache under branches
Geocache under branches

Another geocache was near a bog, under a log.

Geocache under a log
Geocache under a log

Outliers: The Story of Success review

I read Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell, a discussion on what factors enable someone to be successful.

The main takeaway is, success requires preparation and lucky opportunities. Gladwell’s cherrypicked examples include Bill Gates, the Beatles, and a prominent litigator.

In the book, Gladwell claims that superstars are not innately talented, it is only by hard work that one can become an expert. Roughly 10,000 hours of practice appears to be the requirement to become an expert. He notes that people with extremely high IQs are not more likely to be successful; rather, there is a threshold where an IQ is “good enough.” The socioeconomic class of the parents contributes the most to the child’s success, more so than raw IQ.

Gladwell says there are three things that make work meaningful: autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward. Children are more likely to be successful if they have parents who perform meaningful work.

While the first part of the book is how success is granted through opportunity, the second part is how legacy makes a difference. Gladwell argues that Asians are better at math because Asian cultures emphasize hard work, and the way numbers are structured in Asian languages makes it easier to perform basic math operations. On the other hand, cultural legacy can cause issues. He cites cockpit recordings from Colombian and South Korean flights that crashed, and notes how deference to authority caused the first officers to be indirect in their emergency warnings to the captains.

The self-indulgent epilogue is the story of Gladwell’s mother, and how various chance opportunities aligned so that Gladwell could become the successful author that he is today.

Amsterdam

I visited Amsterdam, the city of canals and over a thousand bridges. The city has a relaxed vibe and is bicyclist-friendly. The bridge railings were covered by locked bikes, mostly black-colored. The locals are generally patient, unless they’re biking, in which case, pedestrians better steer clear.

We started our walk in Dam Square.

The houses had hooks on them, for moving furniture. In olden times, property tax was determined by the width of the house. We saw the narrowest house along the canal.

The narrowest house
The narrowest house

We walked by several coffeeshops. In Seattle, weed is legal. In Amsterdam, weed is neither legal nor illegal. And yet, the coffeeshops somehow get stocked. But I did not partake, because I made a vow to never do drugs for my entire life. At the college I went to, the economics professors supported the legalization of drugs, to curb the violence associated with distribution, generate tax revenue, and institute quality standards.

We passed by Spui, a public square where protests often take place. Once, after a streak of rainy days, there was a protest against the rain.

Spui
Spui

We walked around FOAM, the museum of photography. The main exhibit was a William Eggleston retrospective. In the past, only black-and-white photos were considered legitimate enough to display in galleries. Eggleston changed this with his color photography. The photos on display were a selection of the thousands he took of everyday America. He used dyes to produce vivid colors and effects, as though the picture was shot with an Instagram filter.

We took a day trip to Keukenhof, where millions of flowers were in bloom. It was like the Skagit Valley Tulip festival, but on a grander scale. For example, there was a windmill like the one in RoozenGaarde, except much larger. The display gardens were elaborate. Flowers were placed into frames link 3D paintings. Tulips were arranged into a Mondrian grid. There were fields of tulips of every color, as far as the eye could see. There was even a music machine, about as large as a food stall. A man fed punch cards into the machine. Each song was a whole folded tome.