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April 24, 2006

Weekend Accomplishments

This was a watermark weekend in terms of personal accomplishments.

On Saturday, I summitted Granite Mountain at 5,629 ft., along with 3 other people who will be attempting a Mt. Rainier summit this summer. The hike started at about 1,800 ft., and the snowline was at just over 3,200. So a good 2,400 ft. was in increasingly deeper snow, and once we got above the treeline at about 4,000 ft., I regretted not having sunscreen and sunglasses. The sad part about it is that I had thought about it the night before, but forgot to actually pack the stuff in the morning. We got off to an early start (by our standards) by hitting the trailhead at 8 AM sharp. The avalanche forecast called for increasing danger the longer into the afternoon we went, since the sun was going to be working hard on the south slope where we would be. The hike without snow is supposed to take maybe 2.5 hours, but because of the deep snow, the fact we were carrying 40 lbs. in our packs to train for Rainier, and because we decided to take a route up the west ridge instead of going across the avalanche convergence zones in the bowl, it took us until 12:30 to reach the summit. Still, it was a great feeling to make it to our first summit of the season. We've had to turn around about 400-500 ft. from the top of every attempt we've made before this, for various reasons (time, darkness, worsening weather, dangerous conditions).

For the first time since we started hiking this season about 5-6 weeks ago, I felt very prepared. We all had ice axes, and two of us were also carrying shovels and radios. I felt good going up, even though it was tiring. All the waterproof stuff actually managed to keep the water out for once (though you can't really blame it too much since we've been hiking in some pretty awful conditions until this week). I still need to figure out how to get my gaiters really tight down at the bottom, because I get snow creeping up between the gaiter and my boot on the descent. Fortunately, I had another pair of socks and boots to change into once we got out of the snow.

It was a great feeling to be on top of the mountain on the clear day... we could see Mt. Rainier, some 150 miles off in the distance, looming, waiting. It tempered the exhilaration of reaching the top by reminding us of how much more we have to prepare in the coming months. But we could also see the Olympics way out west, past Puget Sound, the white peaks almost cloud-like. And we could also see Mt. Baker in the north, standing guard over all the "lesser" peaks we'll have to work on before we can even get there. All in all, a great day and a great hike. As the weather gets nicer, we'll have to start worrying about staying cool, rather than staying warm, which will be a nice change. But for now, it was a good workout in the snow, something we're going to have to get very used to, and something that is going to be harder to do once the snow at the lower elevations starts melting.

Having spent myself on the hike, I decided to take Sunday as a complete rest day. Didn't even leave the house. Instead, played Project Gotham Racing 3 and other video games all day with J. Managed to collect every single car in PGR3, so really at this point the only things left I care to accomplish with that game are to play a little online with friends, and to finish up the Gold Championship. I'm not even going to try Platinum, because it's just insane and painful.

Well, that's the weekend report. I'll try to keep updating the mountaineering stuff here, but I'm actually trying to work it into its own section once I reveal the redesigned jetlin.com... but we'll see.

April 21, 2006

Punishing True Offenders

Before I begin, I want to make it very clear: I didn't recently receive a traffic ticket. In fact, I've received only one traffic ticket my entire life, and that was for improperly changing lanes, resulting in a collision with another vehicle. It was more than 12 years ago. It was stupid, and I took responsibility.

Okay, with that background out of the way, here's what I want you to think about: punishing true offenders. I'm tired of people shirking responsibility in our society. Why do we not punish the people who cause collisions? No, I don't mean the slap on the wrist that they get from a slightly higher insurance rate, and I don't mean the little traffic ticket they might or might not get because of their actions. I mean, really, seriously punishing them. Something like: if you are determined to be the cause of a collision, your license is automatically suspended for one month, period. Second violators, three months. Third, a year. And after that, revoked. Sure, if the offense is particularly greivous, bump it up, but these standards should be the minimum.

You'll note that I didn't use the term "accident," but instead chose "collision." These events are not accidents. That word implies that it was a fluke; that maybe nothing could be done to avoid it. Certainly, there are true "accidents" out on the road. I'm not talking about punishing people just because they were the victims of some convergence of unfortunate circumstances. I'm talking about punishing people who have been found to be the cause of a collision.

Unfortunately the traffic laws are written for the lowest common denominator among us. If everyone was smart and responsible, we wouldn't need things like hard speed limits and "no turn on red" signs. Just be responsible. And if you screw up and cause a collision, you pay. Sure, let's keep the signs up as suggestions. But it's so stupid that someone gets a ticket for going 3 over in a 30 zone when they were realistically being a completely safe driver. That's just dumb. And then the next day, some idiot going 25 in the same place, but talking on their cell phone, cuts off another driver, causing him to slam on his brakes, and the guy behind that guy can't stop in time so they end up in a collision. Cell phone guy drives off, the blame is unjustly placed on the victim in the rear. Idiocy.

Let's remove unsafe drivers from the road. Look, I understand we've built a society that makes it really difficult, if not impossible, to not have a car (depending on where you live, yes). Since that's the case, people need to understand how important it is to be safe on the road, because if they lose their driving privileges, they'll be up a creek. I think our current laws are Pavlovian, and maybe that's how they have to be to get through to the lowest common denominator. But they're also nit-picky and petty. If we're going to have Pavlovian laws, then at least put some bite behind the punishment, and only punish things that are truly worthy of punishment.

Ideally, we could also reward good drivers. Say, instead of a car pool lane, only allowing people who haven't caused collisions to use a special lane, or lanes. But that's probably way too ambitious. Let's just start with putting our resources into getting unsafe people off the road, instead of picking on people for going 3 over in a 30.

Oh yeah, do not get me started on the point about how speeding tickets are a source of revenue for police departments. Fine. I understand that. Instead of issuing speeding tickets for the aggregate amount that they bring in, divide that amount up by the collision-causers and make them pay that amount. There, problem solved. Right people punished. Roads are safer.