Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stuff about NZ 3

Look, a photo:

(Robert Burns and city hall)

This is where I am sitting in the Octagon (not the UFC cage, but the center of Dunedin).  Internet has been a pain so far - most of the coffee shops don't have it, and the library's is down for the last few days.  My new camera makes giant files, which are great except when it takes five minutes to load one while sitting outside at the Octagon.  This weekend we're doing the tourist thing in Dunedin - the Settlers Museum, Chinese Gardens, etc.  Rain this morning, but brightening now.

I suppose I should mention the ozone depletion/UV issue.  We were warned repeatedly that the sun is very intense here, and that we need to stay covered up all the time.  I figured well I live at over 5,000 feet and surely the sun is just as intense there, etc.  Wrong - Will-J and I were at the park in a brief opening of sun and were both pink the next day.  Now that's intense.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stuff about NZ 2

A few photos from days 1-2:

-Will-J at the Denver airport.

-The big plane in San Francisco (through the glass sun-coating)

There, we had the following discussion:

Air New Zealand Representative: "You have to show me the receipt for your bags - otherwise we have to charge you again.  And Air New Zealand will charge you at least double what you paid to United."

Me: "I don't think I have the receipt.  We didn't save it."

ANZR: "Well I didn't make the rules - you have to pay."

Me: "Well I can't follow the rules if I don't know what they are."

ANZR: [puzzled silence]

(During the confusion, I backed away with our boarding passes, and nothing more was said about the bag fees.)

-Will-J getting ready to cross the Pacific:

I've written about what a good traveler he is - he slept 7-8 hours of the 12-hour flight.  No worries.

-We saw the All Blacks airplane:

-The first thing he wanted to do at our new house was sit down with some books for an hour or so:

-Up on Signal Hill:

The two big sculptures are called "History" and "The Thread of Life."  I think he's "History."

-Will-J showing off his new raingear:

-Signal Hill view of Otago Harbour:

We were picked up from the airport by Ross and Carolyn, who were extremely generous with their time on a busy Boxing Day.  They took us all around down, filled us in with some of the local details, and took us for groceries.  What a huge help.  Their son offered Will-J this fine (but false-colored) frill-necked lizard from his personal collection:

-Will-J hiking down to down from our new place:

-Morning on Pine Hill:

-On our walk this morning, we came across this extremely slippery rubberized stretch of sidewalk.  Seems like an odd choice for a place that's wet much of the time.

-Dunedin Botanic Garden:

-University of Otago:

-Relaxing at the coffee shop, George Street:

-Found a Colorado Rockies hat displayed in a shop window (?):

-Otago Museum is really impressive.  RIDING AN ALLIGATOR:


-New friend:

-Not-as-impressive elaborate bike cockpit:

-The big adjustment so far is with daylight hours.  We're coming from Colorado winter days of dawn at 7 and dusk at 5; suddenly we're getting dawn at 5:30 and dusk at 9:30.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

20 years of gear (and stuff)

'Tis the season to be cleaning out my draft blog posts, and I found a longish one I wrote about the gear I used to hike 750 or so miles of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer.  Here I was all excited to compare what I started backpacking with back in 1992 on the Long Trail with what I'm using in 2012 on the PCT.  But I never posted it, didn't find it that interesting, and it just sat there.  Two reasons:

-The PCT has generally good weather, so much of what you carry isn't tremendously important.  What's important is being able to walk long miles, so shoes and socks are important (for example).  But there's so much good-quality, lightweight backpacking stuff out there at this point that it would be hard to go terminally wrong.

(Aside: I think it would be fun to try to hike the PCT again using nothing but gear available from Walmart.  Really I think I could do it just fine except for water treatment and maybe shoes.)

(Another aside: Distinguish here between not mattering that much what you carry with simply dispensing with carrying much at all.  Sure, five-pound base weights are all the rage [complete with inadequate water treatment methods, borderline-useless stoves (that have a propensity to tip over and cause forest fires), uncomfortable shelter options, etc.), but of course you do so at your inconvenience/peril.)

-Improvements in outdoor gear have been iterative at best, and it's boring to compare stuff that differs only slightly.

About that second point:

If you took backpacking me circa 1998 after climbing and backpacking a fair amount, and presented me with the "cutting edge" of backpacking and climbing stuff, I'd probably make an unimpressed face.  Tents are a little lighter, and there's a lot more competition in the waterproof/breathable shell category, and...I don't know...maybe down sleeping bags are cheaper now?  Skis have changed a lot, and for the better, so there's that.

But if you took me, or probably most people, circa 1998 and presented me with a single device that served as a phone, GPS, serviceable digital camera, internet browser, MP3 player, radio, and basically pocket computer - I/we would have been absolutely blown away.

(Another aside: Yes, 1998 me was backpacking with a crazy folding modem thing that strapped onto a telephone receiver in order to send occasional emails.  It was absolutely terrible.)

So you say that's an unfair comparison - Moore's law doesn't apply to tents or sleeping bags.  But it's an interesting comparison.  It seems like the main limitation is with materials rather than designs, specifically fabric - you can't make anything much lighter than it is or it will tear, and cuben fiber stinks.

Or I could go beyond that - and sound like an idiot because I'm out of my depth - and say that Moore's law not applying to more things could be the single-most frustrating problem with the economy.  In order to boost growth enough to bring down unemployment, you need borderline-explosive growth.  The BRIC's are already baked into the cake (and appear to be slowing), printing lots of money only goes so far, and, well, too many people are making unimpressed faces rather than blown-away faces.  Which is something to think about - maybe a hike is in order.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Diving board (more joys of parenting)

Closure is nice.  I was wondering how I would feel about leaving Denver for six months, and not really getting a good mental summary.  Will-J had been asking to go to "M-Pool," and off we went.

M-Pool is the Golden Community Center.  I've been taking him there since he was two.  He calls it M-Pool because of the big lighted "M" (for School of Mines) on Lookout Mountain looming over the Community Center.  I used to pack him into the bike trailer and head all the way out to Golden - he slept and I rode.  

Will-J has gone from carefully-supervised splashing around the zero-entry kiddie area, barely able to stand, to performing dozens of unbroken laps on the waterslide.  At five, he acts like he owns the place.  So I suggested the diving board.  

He paused.  The diving board?  Yes, he will try the diving board.  I didn't think he'd really do it.  I went first, and waited below.  There was no one in the big pool except me and one guy swimming laps.  The drop is as big as he is tall - bigger.  He waited.  He ran back from the edge and got off.  We started to go back to the little pool, and he announced he wanted to try again.  

Again, I went first.  He went to the edge and told me to count to ten.  The lifeguard looked amused.  I counted to ten.  At ten, he made a nervous face and jumped.  My heart skipped a beat as he disappeared underwater for a second.  Then he was on the surface and dog-paddling back to the edge.  

He went again, and again.  Soon, he was doing spins.  My little boy can swim.  I was seeing him simultaneously at two and at five - he's grown up so much.  I was seeing myself circa 1980 at the Lattof YMCA with my dad waiting in the pool while his nervous son decided whether or not he was going to jump (if I remember correctly, I was a lot more hesitant than Will-J was).

And I think that's a good enough mental summary for now - I should have known it would have come from him. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Truck sighting (Isuzu Hombre)

I was dropping off some mail, and saw a white Isuzu Hombre with matching cap: 

Just like the one I used to have, down to the hubcaps (except this one is an upgraded model, with air conditioning and a real bumper, and also with a nicer cap).  I bought it in Alaska, gave it to a relative after about 120,000 miles, and as far as I know it's still kicking around Idaho.  Instant good memories - a few quick ones:

-Soon after I bought it, I was driving along near Seward before dawn.  Why was I driving along before dawn?  Well, I didn't have a real job and so I was delivering newspapers.  I came around the corner and saw the headlights glisten off a stretch of sheer black ice.  It was too late to do anything about it, and the truck started spinning in slow circles down the highway.  There wasn't anything else to do except for crouch down and tighten my seatbelt.  The truck came to rest with a soft "whumpf" in an icy snowdrift - absolutely no damage, but completely stuck.  I got out of the cab, stepped on the ice, and it was so slick I immediately fell down.  There was my injury from the crash.  I left off delivering newspapers in Alaska.  

-In the summer of 2000 I decided to climb all the California 14-ers.  The approach to Split Mountain is particularly difficult, and involved bouncing down a rough road.  After I climbed the mountain, the Hombre couldn't make it back up the hill.  It was bouncing and jumping around, everything flew out of every cranny of the cab, and it just wouldn't go.  There was no one else out there, and I didn't know what to do.  I ended up turning around and driving back towards the trailhead to see if there was another way out.  There was another road, but it was blocked off by a gate.  I ended up taking the barbed wire fence apart, going around the gate, putting the fence back together, and driving out to Highway 395.  I'm sure the landowners wouldn't have wanted me there, but there was nothing else to do.  After that I was more careful as to what roads I drove with the (2wd) truck.

-I still have a photo someplace of my truck stuck in the sand near Mono Lake.  Maybe I'll try to find it.

Good times - good truck.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Injury, luck, and coincidental correlation

While I was out running in the desert, I sprained my left big toe.  It's surprisingly painful, and for a few days I could barely walk.  A few points:

-I turn on the news and there's a guy in a flak jacket telling me about rockets attacks killing children - but here I am complaining about my painful big toe.

-It's a move I've done several times before - I lead with my left leg, fail to clear an obstacle, bash my foot into said obstacle, and tumble sprawling forward.  I've done it on Catalina Island (losing a bunch of skin from my arms), and I did it in the Western States 100 (bloodying my shirt and spending the rest of the day telling various race volunteers that I was okay).

The WS100 fall stuck in my head.  It was early in the race and we were still up on the cool Sierra ridges.  I should have been paying attention to the rocky trail, but instead I was looking at a helicopter that was filming the race.  One minute I was jogging, and the next I was on my back.  If I had sprained my toe, I wouldn't have finished the race.  Instead, I was fine, and I completed my only ultrarunning goal - finishing a 100-miler under 24 hours.  After I finished in under 24-hours, I was in the (non-toe related) hurt locker, realized I'd never run much faster, realized I didn't have any other running goals, and gradually stopped racing.  Stopping racing led to other changes in my life, such as leaving life as an intinerant cook.  All of which led to my current happy situation of living in Colorado (and not being subject to rocket attacks).

Which is of course fatuous reasoning that shows only that I'm getting old and spending too much time thinking about the past.  However, I did have two better points from that lingering memory:

-My first thought after remembering the WS100 fall was: "Well, I was in better shape ten years ago and a lot more agile, so I wouldn't have sprained my toe anyway."  Which is just as fatuous as the foregoing, but a reminder of our collective (or at least my) refusal to acknowledge the importance of luck.  Actually, back on that day in  June I could have sprained my toe, injured myself some other way, lost time hanging around too long at the Sacramento H3 aid station, or not finished/finished slower for any number of reasons.  Or I could have linked up with some faster runners that would have helped my pace, finished an hour or two earlier, thought more highly of myself as a competitive runner, and have run more races.

There was no "reason" that day - besides my overall fitness, genetics, effort, etc. - why I didn't get hurt and ended up finishing the race in a particular way.  I've run for about 30 years, and my last injury that prevented me from running was in high school (shin splints).  I was simply lucky to have not injured myself again until last week.

-Then, after I realized that I had sprained my toe pretty badly, I thought: "I wasn't focused, wasn't running carefully, and therefore I injured myself.  I was stupid to have caused the injury."  I'm really enjoying using the word "fatuous," so I'll stick with it - here's more of the same.  I didn't cause the injury - it was an accident.  It was an accident that could have happened in 2001 or 1991, but instead it happened in 2012.  Maybe I'll be a little more careful about running across lava fields now, but after year or two I'll forget and run the same way I always have.

Which is probably the only important takeaway here (assuming that you made it through the fatuous part) - just keep going the best you can, don't worry about what you can't control, and don't give yourself too much credit when things go well.  Oh, and count your blessings.  That's pretty cheesy, but I'm posting it anyway.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Videos from Chile (NGS/Waitt Grant 6)

Something of a time-warp post - back in January we went to Chile to further Catherine's llareta plant research, and now it's nearly a year later and I hadn't done anything with the (shaky, non high-definition) videos I took.

(Brief aside: after four years of having a blog, I feel like I still (a) don't have enough time to write well, and (b) don't know anything about how to write for a blog.  In this case, my description of Catherine's National Geographic/Wait Society grant is mixed up with a useless one-day winter climb near Copper Mountain. [My defense is that no one blogs anymore]).  

A few of the videos are of Catherine describing her research, and she's using them as part of her application for another grant.  Therefore, I'll defer to her on whether to make them public.  Oh, I can't help it - here's the best one.  Actually, I can't decide - this one might be even better.

I also put up a few public videos of us climbing, and one of a massive, high-altitude traffic jam.  They're at my YouTube channel.  

As we approach the end of the year, I am getting dangerously close to writing an awful end-of-year summary post.  Last year, I ended up writing a weird free-form thing at the Miami airport (on the way to Chile) that for some reason (but appropriately) posted as one long paragraph.

If I were to describe this year - and no matter how busy we are, I'll probably do so - it would be the year of a particularly-demarcated life.  In 2012, I spent two weeks in Chile (see above), a month in Switzerland, a month hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a week and change hiking the Arizona Trail, etc.  In 2012, I also spent the rest of the time doing my typical lawyer work, with most of the people I work not really knowing what I did during the other months of the year.  I don't think this is particularly strange or interesting - many, many people have both a day-job and sideline interests - but this year more than any other was one where both my day-job and "other" life were particularly fulfilling and intense.  I very much enjoyed my work at the Department of Law, am currently enjoying my foray into the document review/temp law world, and of course the trips were incredible (and of course we'll be taking yet another long flight before 2012 is history).  If I were to make a prediction for 2013 (or at least a goal), it would be that the work and the interests come together somewhat.

Another goal is for me to learn how to separate the photo and video functions:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stuff about New Zealand 1 (podcasts, shoes, and real estate agents

About that Fulbright thing (here) - we head to New Zealand in four weeks.

-The iTunes Top 10 podcasts charts are fascinating.  How does dry-as-old-toast Economist "all audio" crack the top 10 in...Finland?  Apparently all the Dutch care about is vocal trance, with big-time dance DJ's locking down all ten spots.  In Italy they're trying to learn English (two out of the top ten).  Here in the U.S. we're under the siren, but sleepy, sway of NPR shows, and somehow the overwrought and overproduced (but still occasionally interesting) Radiolab all the way up at number three.  Is there Radiolab parody?  There is.

I wanted to listen to what New Zealand podcast listeners are listening to, and was surprised to see "This American Life" in the top 10.  It's gone now.  Hamish and Andy are still number one (but are actually Australian) - I listened in just in time for their caravan trip around New Zealand.  Funny stuff, and after a few hours of listening I've learned that I'm heading to a place with strangely-named stores and slow internet.  

What else?  Four BBC podcasts (the NPR of the Commonwealth), a rock station that runs strange contests, an epic dance podcast (drum and bass and dubstep!!!), and..., um, this guy.  I'll pass.

-One of Catherine's students told her that Kiwis make fun of people who wear running shoes with jeans - people like me - and that there's even a word for such people.  However, Catherine can't find evidence of this online, and thus I feel justified in going ahead and looking as unfashionable as possible.  Which reminds me of when I spent a semester in Nepal years ago.  They told us that is was verboten to wear shorts, and so we all bought these really thin slacks to wear in the heat.  Which in turn made us look like idiots, so not only did we still look out of place, but were also uncomfortable.  

-I contacted 20+ property managers and real estate agents in Dunedin for a place to rent.  Most of them didn't respond, and those who did felt comfortable lecturing me on not living within the "blast zone"/"riot zone" of the University.  However, none responded with what might be a "suitable family property."  I feel like this was my very first NZ cultural experience, but I don't know what it means.

Thanksgiving trip

A short trip to visit Catherine's family in California led to:

A few days in Joshua Tree.  The last time I was there was 1992 (with a bunch of other kids including a future famous climber).

And on the way back we stopped by Malpais National Monument:

(La Ventana Arch)

We were on the CDT:

And while we didn't see anyone hiking the trail, we did see these folks.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

iPhone photos (part 3)

Having recently learned that the iPhone can be temperamental/ephemeral, here are some photos I haven't put up before (as well as some stories from along the way):

(And here's part 1). (And here's part 2).

26.  Times are tough all over.  I saw this place on the way to work for years, and never saw a client go in.

27.  For me, this sums up the 2012 presidential election:

28.  For about a month and a half, I worked high up in Republic Plaza.  I never saw anyone on that track, or playing tennis:

29.  I made a sweet potato flatbread.  Catherine wanted me to make it.  I didn't think the sweet potatoes would cook through.  They did, and it was delicious.

30.  The Cash Register Building, aka Wells Fargo Center, really is strange.  When I was working at said job in the Republic Plaza, some guys would go out and mess around on the window washing crane every few days.  Look, the "cash register" or "mail box" part of the building doesn't actually fit the building - see the little indents on each side:

31.  Epic AND Core?  EPICOR!

32.  Will-J saw a Ferrari in Switzerland and fell in love.  It remains his favorite car, and the object of his desires.  All cars are measured up to the beautiful Ferrari as follows: "Dada, is that car as fast as a FERRARI?"  Here I am taking a photo of another Ferrari for Will-J on Highway 6:

33.  At Fluid Coffee Bar one morning:

34.  I've never been in a building under lockdown before, but the other day I was.  It wasn't very exciting - they never got to our floor to evacuate us, and in the end they got the wrong guy.  I took a bunch of photos of (closed) Broadway, all of which are unimpressive:

35.  Don't you just hate being the one awkwardly-inflexible guy in yoga?  How about being the awkwardly-inflexible yoga guy immortalized in a real estate billboard?

(more later)

iPhone photos (part 2)

Having recently learned that the iPhone can be temperamental/ephemeral, here are some photos I haven't put up before (as well as some stories from along the way):

(And here's part 1).

11.  Will-J at Aviano:

12.  Will-J at Sugar Bakeshop:

13.  Here at home, we enjoy our ramen with Soy Peptide:

14.  They finally finished rebuilding the bike path south of [insert name here] Bronco stadium.  It's impressively smooth:

15.  Not your ordinary blanket, indeed:

16.  I don't know how many times I tried to send this heart-shaped wood knot to Catherine.  I was out hiking the Arizona trail, and really not in a very good place.  I was short of water, and camped near an old cabin - the heart seemed so out of place:

17.  This was my first view of the Grand Canyon since I was Will-J's age, taken from the Grandview Lookout Tower:

I tried to send this one to Catherine too, but it never worked.

18.  Big Mama's Burritos!

As part of my endless search for the best Denver breakfast burrito.

19.  Robert Rich on the decks:

A friend and I have gone to see Mr. Rich twice now at genial house concerts in the 'burbs.  It's pretty amazing to pull up to a nondescript house off of C-470, walk in, have a glass of wine, and have a significant figure in modern music play you a set.

20.  The Cyclone!

Lakeside Amusement Park is a place lost in time, a treasure, and we're lucky it just keeps going.  On a hot summer day, Will-J and I walked up to The Cyclone - a big white wooden roller coaster from 1940, hand brakes, smelling of iron electricity - and got in line.  They sized Will-J up, thought it was okay, and we got in the first row.  He was amazed, and went again.  After four times, he was exhausted and asked to go home - within minutes he was asleep.  Since then, we've been back on The Cyclone many times.  

21.  Not a good way to lock up your bike:

22.  Will-J in his Mayan mask at the Denver Art Museum:

23.  Seiad Valley, Pacific Crest Trail:

It was dawn and I was waiting for the famous cafe to open.  Smoke from the nearby forest fire crept down into town, and mixed with the diesel fumes.  A Northern California landmark (that survived the fire).

24.  The "Cache-22" water cache "twigwam" near Old Station, Pacific Crest Trail:

It's a pretty welcome sight (even though they refill the old gallon jugs).

25.  I had a day layover in Reno after spending a month on the PCT - in the morning, there were hot air balloons everywhere: