Don’t hit publish on the blog when you just want to save a draft.

Big Builds are Bad. Software should be developed and distributed in small packages. Linux is successful due to things like apt, yum, and yast.

Interface Specifications need to be more specific.  Just saying that something is a string is not really helpful if that something needs to conform to a pattern.

Programming and blogging requires sugar in the brain.

Interviews are tricky…on both sides of the table. Career fairs are worse.

C++ Has a lot of magic in it. Can we make type level programming more transparent?

Microsoft purchasing Yahoo would be good for Google, but bad for just about everyone else.

Being a Dad is really cool. Even when it sucks, it is great. Sometimes kids refuse to go to sleep. This leads to sleep deprivation, but also leads to really wonderful moments in rocking chair in the middle of the night.

Pool is a great Geek game. Lower left-hand English is neat.

Snowshoes are good off the trail. Not so good on the trail. If your going on the trail, take the cross country skis. Snowmobiles smell funny.

New Hampshire winter weather is still as brutal today as it was when I left the area in the early ’90s.

It is hard to sing a Jazzy version of Old MacDonald had a Farm.  It is harder to do after the tenth repetition while trying to get a child to fall asleep.
If you listen to Children’s CDs long enough, you will develop favorite children’s songs. I like the hippo song.

Is there really a difference between the Ethernet and SCSI protocols? I don’t know, but it would be fun to find out.

The compiler is your friend. Let it check your work for you.

Why write code on a white board if you have a computer available? Especially if you have an overhead projector?

Where do the local peregrine falcons sleep? Where would they be sleeping if we hadn’t built up the whole area?

If I could have a redo on which language to take as a Sophomore, I would probably would have liked to take Chinese. Russian and Arabic would also do. German was not a good choice for me.

If Bush Senior had insisted on pushing to Baghdad, it would have been my generation in this mess as opposed to the current set of junior officers. Instead of Haiti, I would have gone to Basra or something.

There are too many interesting topics in the world to pursue them all, or even a small fraction of them.

Every philosopher I’ve read, especially the ones I disagree with, ave said something that is valuable and true.

No matter how old you are, when you get together with your parents, you revert to teenager status.

This list should never see the light of day.

A new outlook on some old activities

The time from Dec 24th until January 2nd was spent in New Hampshire with my family.  It was a real vacation, something I have not had in a long time.  Aside from the time off, I got outside for a few winter sports:  Cross Country Skiing, Sledding, and Snowshoeing.

Growing up, my family was all about downhill skiing, but the cost, plus the time away from my family meant that I had no drive to go.  Even with all of the great snow this past week.

For cross country, we went out the East Branch of the Pemigewasset  river by Lincol Woods.  The snow was so hard packed that many people were out hiking using just boots and simple crampons.

My folks had picked up a pair of snow shoes.  My wife and I tried them out and I fell instantly in love with the sport.  I have always loved the New England woods, especially the ability to wander aimlessly.  Snowshoeing opens up the woods in winter time.  With the snow covering all the entangling underbrush that hadn’t dies off in the fall, and the metal teeth biting in allowing you to navigate the steepest slope, the woods are open to a degree you don’t find any other time. Yes, snowshoeing is slower than hiking or skiing, but the mobility is amazing.  So now I have to do research to buy myself and my wife a pair.

My Dad has a tractor and an excavator, and I swear he never stops playing on them when we go to NH.  This year, he ignored our entreties not to tear up the meadow and used the excavator to build a sledding run.  The meadow was always a tough sled run, as the long line also was the crest of the hill, and it constantly wanted to throw you off into the flats or the underbrush.  He built a track right down the crest, augmented with a little shovel work.  The packed down snow soon became Ice.  A little Silicone lubricant applied to the bottom of the tubes made for one hell of a fast sled run.

Trad climbing…at Rumney

Yes, Rumney. That bastion of sport climbyness, where even the cracks are bolted. Why, you may ask, did I want to trad climb at Rumney? The short answer was, I didn’t. I wanted to trad climb, and my partners were going to Rumney.

For the non climbers reading, trad is short for traditional climbing. Both sport and trad climbing are terms to describe the type of protection the first person in a climbing party, or leader, has to use in order to keep from hitting the ground if they fall. The gear used in traditional style of climbing is designed to be placed and removed by hand. Thus traditional climbs require some weakness in the rock, some crack into which the climber can place a chockstone or a spring loaded camming device. Sport climbing is where the leader clips into bolts with hangers that have been drilled into the wall. Rumney is the prime sport climbing location in New Hampshire. So why would I decide to trad climb there?

Because the protection is easier to place in sport climbing, people sport climb at a higher level than they do trad climbing. The difference comes from the amount of time spent placing gear. In a sport climb, you get within reach of the bolt, you grab a “quick-draw” (two carabiners connected by webbing) off of a gear loop on your harness, clip on ‘biner to the bolt hanger, the other to the rope, and you move on. Contrast this with trad climbing where the first thing you do is decide that you need to place a piece of gear. You examine the rock in your immediate vicinity and decide that there is somewhere possible to place a piece. You select something from a wide array of gear slung around your neck that experience tells you is most likely to fit in the crack in the rock. You slot it in, adjusting how it sets against the side of the crack to best support your weight in a fall. You yank down on it, to tess that it will hold at least that much weight. Then you yank outwards; if you climb up[ past the piece the rope will most likely put a horizontal load on the piece. Once you feel comfortable with the piece, you may decide to extend it (due to the wandering nature of the route you are climbing) with a quick draw. Then you clip it to the rope. If done cleanly, this will take at a minimum a few seconds more than the sport clip. Often, there is additional delays perhaps due to selecting the wrong piece of gear. A climb with the same difficulty rating is significantly harder to trad climb than to sport climb.

I think it is that extra degree of knowledge required to trad climb safely that calls to me. There are better climbers in all aspects of the sport. I will never compete with Chris Sharma, Ron Kauk, John Long, or any of the other rock demigods in any aspect of rock climbing. I am OK with that. If climbing were so important to me, I wouldn’t spend my time in front of a computer programming for a living. When I do get the time to get outside and climb, I like the experience of trad climbing. I prefer choosing where to place gear myself. Ideally, I love long, multi-pitch routes, with great views and few people. It is something like hiking, but a full body experience.

It is funny: I know that bolts are safer. The standard climbing bolt can carry the weight of a car, never-mind the forces generated by a climber in a fall. But I prefer something that I have placed myself. I get a greater piece of mind from something based on my own judgment, placed where I wanted it. Not that every placement I’ve made has been stellar. I’ve moved up above a piece (usually a passive placement) and heard the tink-tink sound of the carabiner hitting the rock as it slides down the rope. But those are infrequent. I’ve taken 25 foot falls onto several of my trad placements. I’ve never had a cam placement that I though was solid pull on me. It is all a question of judgment. I don’t get myself into a situation that I don’t feel I can safely navigate.

I hadn’t been to Rumney since 1992. If Rumney had a sports climbing only reputation back then I hadn’t heard about it. Mike Peloquin, Loren Armstrong, and I spent the day trad climbing at the main wall and had a grand ole time doing so. Thus, I had it in my head that Rumney was trad-climbable, even if its reputation said otherwise. Plus, one benefit to looking for trad routes at a sport climbing crag is that they are more likely to be available. Especially if one is visiting in the middle of the busiest weekend of the season. Once I linked up with my climbing partners, I flailed on a sport climb that would have been bread and butter for me in my prime. Not easy, but certainly within my ability. Due to crowding, we moved to another crag, as Rumney has a series of small cliffs with a dozen or so routes each. We ended up at Waimaia, the name of both the crag and the climb. Just to left of Waimaia the climb was “That Crack”. Needless to say it got my attention.

Climbs in America are rated on the Yosemite Decimal system. A leading number of 1-4 indicate various levels of non-technical climbing. A leading 5 means technical climbing. 5.0 is the easiest technical climbing on the scale.  The scale was originally designed to go from 0 to 9. Then people started blowing the top off the scale an it was extended to 10, with sub ratings of a,b,c, and d. Once someone climbed something harder than 1 5.10d, they extended the scale to 5.11. The pattern continued until today where the hardest climbs are rated 5.15a. The climb I was flailing on was 5.10d. That Crack was rated 5.10a. Easier, but not significantly so. With the difference between trad and sport, I was probably looking at a harder climb. One major thing in my advantage was that I could place gear where ever I wanted providing I had a piece that would fit in the crack. It was a short climb, and I have a fairly thorough rack, so I was confident in my ability.

The climb turned out to be a one move wonder. The bottom and the top were easier than the stated 5.10a. The guide book mentioned that “the chimney is a grovelfest” or something to that ends. A chimney in rock climbing is when you climb between two slabs of rock, using opposing pressure to hold yourself up.  This climb had about a ten foot section of chimney.  The funny thing about chimney climbing is that while most people curse about it, it is in some way the most secure type of climbing.  You are just not going to fall.  It might be really hard to make upward progress, and you may bruise your knees in the process, but there is something  snug and secure about chimney climbing.  That being said, I did not climb the chimney clean. Really, the problem was getting out of the chimney and back to facing the rock.  This is often the trick to chimney climbing, either getting into them or getting out of them.

Afterwards, I lead Waimaia and top roped That Crack again to clean it up.   Later in the day we climbed Darth Vader.  While it was a short route, it was enjoyable.  It was rated 5.9 and had a couple interesting moves at the top.  The route total for the day was 2 trad, 2 sport, 1 top rope.  I also lost and found my keys, wallet, and cell phone.  All in all a good day.

Peregrine Falcons at Russell Crag

Rock Climbing is my major leisure time activity. Given a free weekend, that is what I want to spend my time doing. One thing that excited me about moving back east was the quantity of good, climbable rock in the vicinity of my parents home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The house is about halfway between Rumney and Franconia Notch, two of the big three climbing areas in NH. The Third area, North Conway, is at the other end of the Kancamagus Highway. In addition to the numerous established climbing areas, there are vast numbers of smaller, local crags just begging to be climbed. One of these is on Russell Mountain, Just west of Russell Pond Campground, and just North of Exit 31.

Many years ago, after college I was suffering through from EMail. Before internet access was everywhere, most people had to resort to dial-up. I went with AOL. THis was before AL had developed its hard earned reputation for spam, script kiddies, and painful connections. When I was trying to get a screen name, just about every variation on my name had been taken. I setteld on RusselCrag (yes, I missed a letter). Even then I was thinking of home.

I did a little bit of a web search about Russell Crag. Aside from finding a guide service where a guide had claimed to have done first ascents there, there was nothing about climbing. Good. But there was some references to Peregrine falcons. Numerous cliffs in the Sierra’s have part time climbing bans to protect the Raptors that nest on them. The mother birds will often abandon a nest if she feels threatened. If this happens after the eggs are laid, they will not hatch, and another year with no replacement population threatens their already dwindling numbers.

In mid July, a few days after arriving on the East Coast, I took a pair of binoculars and scanned Russell Crag from my folks property. I got lucky. I saw a beautiful brown and white bird of prey launch from the vicinity of the crag, and start riding the rising wind currents west of Russell Mountain. The white band at the neck identified it as a Peregrine. I watched the falcon rise higher, pass after pass, and then disappear behind the mountain.

A few weeks later, I contacted Chris Martin the author of a New Hampshire Audubon study on Peregrin Falcons nesting in New Hampshire. He confirmed that Russell Crag was an active nesting site that year. They had bandded three chicks in June. By July, there was no risk of climbing to threaten the nest. He suspects that the nest will be in use for several years to come. In fact, he invited me along to help with the banding next may if I was interested. I most certainly am.

So if you are in the vicinity of Russell Mountain, search the skies for circling Falcons. If you want to climb Russell Crag, give me a shout and we’ll go up, so long as it isn’t nesting season.