Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Pineapple Express, or View from the Umbrella

Susan and I have different walking paces. We enjoy walking together, but one day a week I get to a long hike (six hours or so). I've got many options, local quasi wilderness trails on dirt paths, or city or neighborhood streets to a coffee shop at the appropriate distance. Rain generally sends me out on paved streets routes. But Friday was different.

Last Thursday night weathercasters were having a field day. Nothing excites them more than a big storm coming. And what was coming this time was the Pineapple Express, an atmospheric river, direct from Hawaii and going to dump all over Northern California. Many many inches, flood warnings, Yosemite Valley was closed, and on and on.

So, as an intrepid long distance hiker, compelled to hike on in any weather, I felt challenged by this storm. Friday morning at 10:30  the rain was beating on the roof while I donned my Marmot Precip rain pants and jacket, and stepped out the front door and rigged my umbrella for hands free hiking. The jacket is recent, but pants circa 2004 and inner coating badly worn. Both of my poles clacking away on the city streets, I headed for nearby Redwood Regional Park, where we had done a local pilgrim group hike a few months ago. My route was similar, south on the East Ridge Trail, down to the parking area and up to the West Ridge Trail and back home. All in all about 18 kilometers. There is a narrow dirt path of about 1/2 mile before Redwood Park.

I had barely started up it when I encountered an insurmountable obstacle. It takes a lot to stop me. I'll ford a sift flowing river, scramble around a washed away trail, crawl under or over a fallen tree. In this case however, no way. Poison Oak stops me dead. I'd rather dash through fire.
Poison Oak

A careful retreat and big detour got me around it and back on the trail. In a few minutes I was off of the no bikes access trail and on the broad track of the East Ridge Trail

Contrary to what you might think, I am having fun. A selfie of your narrator

The umbrella you can find by Googling for hiking umbrella, or on Amazon Liteflex Trekking Umbrella

The rain is continuing to pour, running down the trail in rivulets and making the footing a little treacherous.

If you should want to leave Redwood and get on trails heading east, about an hour down the trail, this gate leads into East Bay Municipal Water District lands. They require a permit (annual or multiyear) but it is easy to

By this time my feet are fairly wet, but not sloshing. I am wearing my Altra Lone Peak trail runners. They drain quickly, but no way to stay dry under these conditions. I have waterproof socks which I'd use for day after day rain. The Altras are zero drop - the heal is same height as ball of the foot, and the bottoms are very soft, so sort of like going barefoot. I really like them, but it takes about a month to get used to them. Before this I wore Asics Gel Nimbus. Used them all the way thru the 2600+ mile Pacific Crest Trail. They are better ventilated than the Altras and drain better, but the feel of the Altras is better. For socks I wear the REI liner socks by themselves.


Redwood Creek fish ladder in full use
I started out wearing a smartwool long sleeved tee shirt and a hiking shirt under my rain jacket. That worked until coming back on the West Ridge trail, the wind was fierce enough to start sucking the heat from my body. I stopped at first opportunity and put on my fleece jacket under the rain jacket. That kept me cozy until I got home.

Back at Skyline gate. A few cars in the lot. I met 3 dog walkers, one dog with a raincoat, one jogger going the opposite way who I saw on both East and West Ridge trails, and one jobber who passed me. Everyone was smiling to see someone else out in this weather.

I got back home at 4:30, so a full six hour day. Was satisfied.

I've added links to some of my gear in case you want to shop on Amazon and add a bit of change to our bank account. (We get a small commission on purchases)/

Friday, January 26, 2018

Anatomy of what goes into our digital presentations - example Caminos Norte & Primitivo for REI

People sometimes ask me what software we use, why not Powerpoint, etc. so I'm going to log my thoughts and progress in building our presentation for REI.

First of all, the software. Back in the late 90s when I was dealing with Powerpoint in a business setting, it was really kludgy, a typical Microsoft product of the time. So, I am biased against Powerpoint, probably unwarranted for the current product. I Googled images on bad Powerpoint presentations - actually a lot of very good info on presentations there, but no ugly image I could insert here.

When we started doing presentations around 2003, I needed some digital software that would do dissolves, play music, integrate video clips, etc. and found WnSoft's PicturesToExe, very inexpensive. It didn't do everything I wanted but the projected image was far better than anything I had seen. I've stuck with that product ever since. Judging from its forum participants, it seems to be mostly used by high end photography clubs.

In addition to our periodic shows, I would usually put a YouTube video out whenever we completed a long distance hike, to give people a quick and entertaining overview. Checkout my youtube channel and click on the videos tab to see them. Googling for ralph alcorn youtube videos works.

For the current show on Caminos Norte and Primitivo, I made a framework show with about 10 images, using map images from Healing Miles, and slightly tweaked first image and ending image slides.

 After building the skeleton, I paused for about a week, finishing up the Kindle edition of Healing Miles. When I got back to this project, I couldn't find the file I had just made. However, in searching through my files by name, I got a hit on almost the identical name, and realized I had made a YouTube show immediately after finishing the Norte in 2015. Camino Norte 2015.  It was a good show, but stopped at Vilalba, as that was as far as we got in 2015. It also had music, and a fast pace. Other than that, a good basis for the current show, so I made a copy, added the maps and titles in the proper locations and started from there, leaving the music in, though normally our in person presentations don't have music and progress based on Susan's clicking the remote mouse button.

Jan 26, 2018 At this point I've added images for the rest of the Norte and Primitivo, as well as the appropriate maps. The total is 312 images, which is way to much for a manual presentation. When I run it through with the existing music (about 9 minutes), it does work, and works even better if I add more music so total is about 15 minutes. For YouTube it would be a good video, but best there to stick with one trail per video. For a manual presentation on both, I'm going to delete about half the images so total will be about 150. We may try with music and Susan hitting pause when she has something to add.

Feb 7, With Susan's help the show is down to about 205 images, music is gone, and it looks good to go, with a little more tweaking.  The first presentation will be after the first Saturday of the month pilgrim walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. See Ongoing events in . After that, the local REI stores. See our calendar in

Friday, January 5, 2018

Kindle Revisted again - this time for Healing Miles

Dec 2017 and I am putting Susan's new book, Healing Miles, out to Kindle. I assume things will have changed again in the Kindle world since the last book (in 2012), so I'm logging my steps for my benefit and maybe yours.

First step was to copy the Indesign file that represented the final version sent to Createspace and Lightning Source (print on design companies). Indesign puts out a PDF file that would to to a conventional printer, or a POD company such as CS or LS. Indesign also can put out an epub file that is the raw material for the Kindle version of a book. I work with a new copy of the ID file, as some tweaks are made for Kindle. One is that some Kindles, and certainly most Kindle Readers read color, so all the black and white images and illustrations in the book have to be replaced by color versions.

I'm setting the book up as text reflowable. This was the only method on the 1st kindles. Now you can do fixed format, comics, etc. But for a mostly text based book, reflowable works better, as viewing devices can vary from tablet size to phone size, to e-reader size.

For those of you unfamiliar with epubs and ebooks, An epub is quite literally, a zip file with a prescribed set of contents. I take the epub from Indesign, rename it to be a zip file, and unzip all of the contents into a folder I call zippedandunzipped:
12/19/2017  03:42 PM

12/30/2017  03:52 PM

12/29/2017  02:54 PM             6,064 content.opf
12/18/2017  04:45 PM               306 CoverImage.xhtml
12/31/2017  05:14 PM             2,917 NortePrimitivoV3Kindle1-1.xhtml
12/28/2017  04:38 PM           138,317 NortePrimitivoV3Kindle1-10.xhtml
12/28/2017  03:50 PM           188,890 NortePrimitivoV3Kindle1-8.xhtml
12/30/2017  02:59 PM            13,821 NortePrimitivoV3Kindle1-9.xhtml
12/31/2017  11:00 AM               839 NortePrimitivoV3Kindle1.xhtml
01/01/2018  10:08 AM        36,061,592
12/18/2017  04:45 PM             3,785 toc.ncx

The CSS folder at the top contains the styles,
the image folder has all images,
and the xhtml files contain all the text.

The creation of the Kindle version involves correcting the styles and going into the text and making required changes there, such as spacing, margins, etc. To test a change, you double click the zip file at the bottom, drag any changes to the zip file and then closing the zip archive, which incorporates your changes. I then copy that zip file to the outer folder, NPKindleFinal, and rename it there to an epub.

Then, I open Kindle Previewer 3 (which I downloaded earlier). That shows a blank simulated Kindle screen. I drag my new epub to that blank screen, and in a couple of minutes the cover of the book pops up. I can then step thru the book looking for problems. This is an iterative process, and will take me a couple of weeks to get it right. You got the idea from my earlier posts so won't elaborate.

1/5/18 Still at it. I will publish this post today and update as it continues. My last major Kindle effort was in 2012 with Patagonia Chronicle. I did a minor update in 2016.  One Kindle change I've noted. They are moving more towards more current HTML and CSS standards. Anchors are the way I mark a spot that I want to be able to link to, say from the table of contents, or from an index entry. I used to the format . That is no longer valid. I have to use id="your name here" inside of any element I want to reference, such as
paragraph data

I've had some fairly major effort changing my images for the new Kindle standards.  They used to want fairly small images. Now they want all full page images to be twice as large as the largest Kindle device, and defined as 300 ppi (pixels per inch). So 3200 pixels wide and 300ppi. That is publishing quality. Web quality is 72 ppi. Photos were not a problem as originals were larger than that anyway. I did have to crop any photo used, as they had to leave room for a legend underneath. 3200 x 4195px. They wanted photos as jpgs and line art (illustrator) as png files.

The maps had different problems. They were made with Adobe Illustrator, as I always do. However, in the past I would export the maps from illustrator as tif files and place those in the final product. I was not happy with the sharpness of the final product. Illustrator files are vector based, i.e. everything you see is a computed value so scaling has no effect on the quality. Tif or jpg files are bitmaps, and scaling an image has drastic quality effects. The maps were produced at the exact size the book needed, but after going through the printing process, were not quite as good as the Illustrator originals. This time I placed the Illustrator files themselves into Indesign, and the printed results were much better.

On the Kindle, maps are displayed on devices from phone to tablet to desktop size, so I did some tests to see how various map options scaled. Kindle wanted a 3200 px width. The original book size map was 1193 px. Normal Export from Illustrator allowed me to specify the ppi - 300, but the width was 1193. That was test case one png. Illustrator has an option to save for web which allows the final pixel width to be specified for the png. That let me save it at 3200 px wide but had no ppi option. It did have a new option. For the png file, it wanted to know 8 bits or 24 bits, the number of bits to define a color. I did one test using 8, which allows 256 colors, and one using 24, which allows a lot more. I looked at the Web saved mode files with Photoshop to see the actual image size. In all cases it had a ppi of 72. Normally the only definition that matters is pixel dimensions, so I used Photoshop to change the ppi from 72 to 300 with no re-sampling so pixel dimensions did not change. The first one is 3200 at  72 ppi with a bit depth of 8. Second is 3200-300-24, Third is 1163-300-24, Fourth is 3200-72-24. The first one has a color defect in the ocean color at top right. This is the only image with 8 bit png depth. 24 worked fine. The color intensity is slightly weaker on the third one, which has a smaller pixel width - 1163. So moral is go with 3200 px and 24 bits.

The above images are from when I display a test kindle book on an actual Kindle device, or load it into Kindle Reader for windows. When I look at the images with the Kindle Previewer, the quality is much worse.

One little note re Amazon. These image size increases do improve the viewing for those with the largest devices. It also benefits Amazon in that Amazon charges about 15 cents per Mbyte in transmission fees back to the publisher and deducts it from their royalties. Larger file, more money to Amazon, assuming they make a profit on delivery fees.

Time to post and to back to work. A welcome rainy day here in Northern California. Susan off to physical therapy in her ongoing effort to heal.

1/7/18 Year end a busy period. The state wants its sales tax for last year, so I need to bring the business books up to date. We have presentations on the Norte - Primitivo scheduled for about 7 REI stores starting in March, so need to get that underway. Kindle is now looking good to me, but I just started to do the index. For Kindle, each entry in the index no longer points to page numbers, but must be a direct link to the appropriate paragraph. That means I make a change to each index page number reference, and create a corresponding name entry to link to back in the text. I worked about six hours on that and have not got all the way thru the "B"s yet. Maybe a week or so to finish

1/8/18 Did get through the Bs. Filed state sales tax. Started presentation project. So far just the maps from the book like above.

Note to anyone doing a similar thing using Notepad++. It has two optional plugins that I added. One is an XML syntax checker. If I run it and get a syntax error, I have unbalanced syntax items such as a start paragraph and no end paragraph, or in my typical case I left out a closing " on an item name. That just tells me I have an error, not where it is. The other plugin: Compare resolves that. I just have to have a copy of the original around when I start making changes.

January 16 - an update for you. I've finally made all of the index changes, and got an error free return when I checked the book with epubcheck. Now I can get back to moving the file to the Kindle previewer and seeing how it looks. Just a note about Kindle indexes. As you might have guessed, a huge amount of work to do manually. Maybe the newest Indesign puts out an index that is easily converted. However, I just finished reading - the Kindle version of the Trump White House story. Fascinating and horrifying, but that is another story.

At the end of the book, when I got to the index, there were no links, just the list of entries that were in the print version of the book, and a comment saying use the Kindle search function to look up any of the entries.

1/18/18 Did a publish to Kindle today, so it should be available on Amazon in 72 hours. Now on to the presentation for REI.