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June 29, 2006

Favre '08

I know, Brett Favre can't bear to retire just yet. But maybe next year he'll be ready, and I have the perfect thing for him to move on to: President Brett Favre.

C'mon. It'd be awesome.

June 28, 2006

Swiss Defense and Ronaldo

I think it's pretty amazing that Switzerland did not allow a single goal during their entire World Cup (they lost to Ukraine on a PK shootout after drawing 0-0 after 120 minutes of play).

Also, Ronaldo became the World Cup's all-time leading scorer with 15 goals (and counting). Notable is the fact that Brazil has never lost a World Cup game in which Ronaldo has scored. In fact, they have never even tied... the closest they came to not winning when he's scored was in the 98 World Cup against the Netherlands, when the game went to PK shootout at 1-1 after extra time. Brazil ended up winning the shootout 4-2.

So I haven't really said much about the World Cup this time around other than my rant about corporatism and fascist marketing... but there hasn't been as much to cheer for from an American perspective. The US pretty much stank it up after being overhyped. I think I preferred the old way... you know, underhyped and underappreciated, but playing with heart and winning.

Another interesting tidbit is that only seven countries have ever won the World Cup: Argentina, Brazil, Germany (West Germany, actually), England, Uruguay, Italy, and France. And of the eight teams left in this World Cup, 6 have won it before. The only hopes for new blood are Ukraine and Portugal. Poor Uruguay... they haven't won it in more than 50 years. I'm not sure if that's worse than never having won it at all, but I'm pretty sure it is. Like the Cubs.

And on one final note to FIFA: stop threatening the refs that you'll send them home if they don't issue cards. Some refs clearly understood that this directive was meant to ensure that well-deserved cards are fairly issued. But it would seem that about half the refs in the games we've seen so far took that to mean that if they didn't issue some imaginary quota of cards, deserved or not, they would be punished. Duh. In general I don't have any complaints about the officiating (except for Ivanov in the POR-NED game where something like 20 cards were issued and whoever reffed the USA-ITA game), but this cards business is ridiculous. I mean, mistakes get made, but in those games the refs made a mockery of themselves. I mean, some of the refs in our Sunday rec league are better than that. It's sad.

Oh well. Not that the USA game was biased in terms of the officiating... it was equally bad on both sides of the ball. But still bad. And not that the USA would have gotten any different result even with the refs' help... they were just slow to every ball and didn't seem to want it as bad. In the Ghana game, I saw a flash of brilliance when they scored that goal... their only "real" goal of the tournament, and a little bit of go-get-em-ness after that... but other than Kasey Keller's great play in the Italy game that helped salvage one point of pride... it was a pretty flatfooted performance. I thought this team was supposed to be improving, but this is not the USA team that we've been seeing the last decade. Hopefully it was a totally isolated thing and they'll fix what needs to be fixed and move on.

June 27, 2006

Mt. Adams

Summitted Mount Adams (12,276') on Sunday. (GPS Track and Profile.)

The adventure started at 4 AM Saturday when J, R, K, and I met up with M at his place, and drove the 5 hours down to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Mt. Adams Wilderness. The Forest Service road leading to the trailhead was still snowed in prior to the trailhead, so we hiked it in from a little over 2 miles before the trailhead proper (on the GPS track this is marked as "CARPARK"). This also added about 800 extra vertical feet. In actuality, only a small section of road had snow on it, but we didn't want to risk bottoming out the Volvo and we didn't know how much snow would be on the road further on, so we played it safe and just hiked it in. My feet would deeply regret this decision about 32 hours later.

Once we hit the proper trailhead at about 5500', the snow coverage started in earnest, and the rest of the climb was through snow. We were carrying full packs this time, with camping gear. My pack was over 50 lbs, and included long underwear, fleece, jacket, waterproof shell, snow pants, 3 liters of water, ski gloves, cap, snow cap, gaiters, first aid kit, sunscreen, lighter, sleeping bag, tent, GPS, 2 pairs of socks, avalanche shovel, trekking poles, headlamp, compass, food, glasses, goggles, sunglasses, knife, and extra batteries. I also carried 2 sets of crampons and 2 ice axes (since J's pack didn't have a method of securing these items). Because of this, you can probably understand why I chose not to bring two pairs of boots, instead opting to just wear the plastic mountaineering boots all the way up and down.

Most of the route was pretty well defined, having been fairly well traveled by a number of people in the previous few days and weeks. There was a good established boot path all the way. What I find interesting is that our route did not seem to coincide with the trail marked on the TOPO! map for the first part of the hike. In fact, we were completely to the east of what is marked as Crescent Glacier on the map, whereas the trail clearly stays west of it. Strangely enough, we found no glacier there, but what appeared to be a moraine. In any case, this climb up to the "Lunch Counter" was rather scenic, with the great mountain looming in front of us, but also a lot of beautiful alpine vegetation and snowfields. We passed through some sections of dead forest, which were a haunting reminder of Mt. Saint Helens' eruption more than 25 years ago. Especially at that elevation (about 7000'-8000') the forest takes decades, even centuries, to recover from a catastrophic event. It really made me appreciate the fragility of the vegetation up there.

At the end of the long day, we set up camp at one of the first campsites we came to at the Lunch Counter. We were all pretty tired from the long drive and long hike. It was about 8 PM. Just a quick trip to a small stream of meltwater to purify our supply for the next day's summit push, a small dinner of a ham sandwich, and a very short amount of time appreciating the dusk, and then it was off to bed for some restless sleep. The wind came in pretty strong at a few times during the night, and we weren't in the most protected spot there, so I appreciated having the security of our newly acquired North Face tents.

Strangely enough, I dreamt of soccer... in select Spanish terms that I've learned from the last couple of weeks of watching Univision. And at 3:30 in the morning, we woke up and started up for the final summit push with headlamps on. The headlamps didn't stay on very long, though, since the the dawn's early light made it bright enough to go without them within an hour of our start. That's the nice thing about the summer solstice, though I was secretly disappointed that we were putting away the cool headlamps so soon. Hah. It took us about 7 hours to make the summit, which was unexpectedly slow, but it didn't seem that slow while we were on the mountain. I was surprised at the way time kind of expanded.

We made Piker's Peak in good time, but the last 600 feet to the true summit seemed to take forever. In fact, we made it up to where a bunch of people had gathered, and we assumed was the summit (AD), but after consulting the map and GPS, determined that we needed to walk another 500 feet or so (horizontally, thank goodness) to get the couple of feet in vertical elevation that was the true, true summit (ADAMSUMM on the track). In any case, we weren't about to have come more than 7000 feet and almost 10 miles to fall 5 feet short!

At this point, we took a little time to appreciate our first major summit. I cracked open a Schweppe's Bitter Lemon that I'd brought all the way from the London Heathrow Red Carpet Club. Hahaha. It was a remarkably clear day, and we could see all the way down to Crater Lake in southern Oregon, all the way up past Mt. Rainier to Mt. Baker, in northern Washington. That's something like a 500 mile panorama. It was a strange feeling to be on top. I think I was more relieved and somewhat concerned about how we were going to get down off the mountain, given the lateness. We had been planning to make the summit by 9 or 10. I think people experience the summit in different ways, but I didn't feel particularly excited about it... just kind of content.

It was very late, so we sped up the descent a little by glissading most of the distance down to the Lunch Counter. We made it back in only one hour. Yeah, 7 hours up, 1 down. Sigh. Now let me just say how confusing the Lunch Counter can be... M, R, and I had a lot of trouble finding the tents until I whipped out the GPS. The place is kind of a maze, and I'm surprised that none of the trip reports we'd read mentioned anything about really keeping track of where you're going in there. I'm just glad we had the GPS to make things a little easier, but K and J (who trailed behind at a stream of meltwater to purify a new supply of water for the descent) were lost for probably a good hour before some yelling and waving eventually allowed them to find their way.

However, from there, the descent pretty much descended into misery... we plunge stepped down to the treeline, and then hiked back to the trailhead. Just plain tiring. We were getting pretty miserable with dehydration and sunburn at this point, not to mention just fatigue. (Next time, I'm going with SPF 50... clearly 30 is not sufficient for the kind of exposure you get on snowfields with no clouds.) The GPS again came in handy as we searched for which among many bootpaths actually took us back to the proper trailhead. When we finally made it back to the trailhead, the real misery for my feet began... plastic boots are great on snow, but coming down on dirt and rock was just painful on my already tired feet. When we finally made it back to the car I couldn't get those things off fast enough!

From there, it was a run to the border for our celebratory meal (hey, it was almost 9 PM and nothing else was open) and then 5 hours of driving back home... I don't know how R did it... but he somehow stayed awake. We got back almost exactly 46 hours from when we left.

What a trip. This was an important milestone in the quest for Mt. Rainier... the format is very similar to what we'll be doing in 6 weeks: a two day format, with the second day a grueling push for the top starting in the wee hours, followed by a long descent.

Oh, and I don't have pictures to show. Argh! The camera just seemed like too much weight to add to an already very heavy pack. However... feel free to peruse J's pix.

June 22, 2006

Bandera and Little Si

Been too busy railing against The Man to post about this, but I went on a great hike this weekend with R and J. On Saturday, we summitted* Bandera Mountain (5157'). The cool thing about this hike was just how beautiful it is. Instead of hiking up through varying densities of old and new growth forest like most of the other trails in the area, Bandera takes you up through alpine meadow and rock fields. We were able to finish the hike pretty quickly, and get back into civilization for a friend's graduation party later that night, not to mention just general relaxing on a weekend, which is something that we've been going without for a while because of these training hikes. R took some pictures and hopefully he'll share them, but I was again reluctant to bring the Nikon with me as the weather was a little wet. I promise, though... I will start taking pictures of these hikes even if it means taking them on my crappy old Canon PowerShot.

Yesterday, J and I did a quick hike in the evening. I'm almost embarassed to say that we did Little Si as part of any serious training for Rainier, but I think the fact that we made the ascent in only 45 minutes makes up for that a little bit. We've both done this hike a bunch of times, but this was the first time this year (though we did try to do it last week but did half of Big Si instead when we found search and rescue at the trailhead... they were extricating a rock climber who had fallen). We found ourselves in much better shape than any of the other times we've done this fun little hike. It's definitely a good sign that we can laugh off a 1200' gain over about 2 miles in 45 minutes.

Note that the links now go to PDF files of National Geographic TOPO! maps, with the elevation profile at the bottom. These are based on the 7.5' USGS maps, so you get a lot more detail than the software I was using before. Still, I'm going to stand by the earlier disclaimer about not using them for real navigation and my not being responisble for anything you do, period. Note that the Little Si GPS track is the reverse track, since I seemed to get better signals on the descent, so the track looks a little closer to what we actually did. Of course, this means that the elevation profile is reversed as well.

* Now for the asterisk on Bandera Mountain. As you can see on the map, we made it to what appears to be a false summit at 5157', and the true summit appears to be another half mile to the East, and some hundred or so feet higher. However, we were following an established trail on this hike, and the trail ends where we stopped. So that's why I put an asterisk on that, while claiming that we "summitted" the mountain. It would have involved trampling a lot of underbrush to continue, so we didn't.

June 21, 2006

Marketing and Fascism as One

Sometimes I wonder if they're not really out to get us. I mean, more so than is patently obvious by just watching the news and seeing what's going on around us. I'd written up a long entry before, and then MT did something it hasn't done in a really, really long time: it sent my entry into the void. Normally, when I'm ranting I'd probably just let it go and say heck with it. But this one is particularly important, so I'm going to write the entry again. See if the bastards can keep me down!

I'm just outraged at FIFA, at Budweiser, and most of all, at our world... a world that allows PEOPLE'S PANTS TO BE CONFISCATED IN THE NAME OF THE CORPORATE GOOD. Here is a BBC article about what I'm talking about. The gist of it is that FIFA forced about a thousand Dutch fans to strip to their underwear because they were wearing pants given to them by a brewery other than Budweiser. They claimed that they needed to protect their sponsor's interests.

Look, I'm all for marketing. Advertising works, I know. It's a necessary evil of our corporatocracy, and for the most part, I've made peace with the corporations' addiction to bombarding everyone's lives with their slather.

But there should be no place, no time, no excuse, no circumstance under which a corporation, or anybody, should feel it is their right to censor. Not to mention to force people to strip. This is fascism. And this is what we've allowed our world to become. In my previous entry I mentioned that it is through our complacency that we have allowed things like this to happen, and if this doesn't open up your eyes to what you are allowing these corporations to do, I don't know what will.

Just to be sure I'm clear: I am not against marketing. I am not really even against corporations and their need to advertise. What I am speaking out against is allowing those corporate interests to trump individual freedom. In my world, corporations would pay to sponsor an event like the World Cup, with the understanding that they get billboards, product placement, space along the sideline, logos in public places, etc... What they would not be getting is a fascist police state that makes sure that everyone entering the arena is wearing only their brand. The line must be drawn here!!!!!

The problem is that we live in a world where a corporation like Budweiser can expect to have this right... that somehow, just because they paid a bunch of money, they can now tell regular people what they can and can't wear into a stadium. If they are so afraid of someone else's logo making it onto my TV screen, they have a few choices: they can give away pants too, and maybe people will choose to wear their pants instead of the other brewery. But if they don't, too bad. They can try to get the TV broadcasts censored post-production. I'd like to see that... in the future, any shots of the stands will just be blurred out. Hahhaa. Whatever. I laugh but I could see it happening in this fucked up world of ours.

What this comes down to the rights of people vs. corporations. Individuals should always have more rights than corporations, but this is not how our world works. Corporations can do things that people can't... like force them to strip... because we've allowed them to through our tacit support. Stop buying Budweiser... it's crappy beer anyway. This may be a little thing, but it's not. Tell these evil people that you're not going to tolerate having to strip for them. Tell them that they are fascists, because that is exactly what they are. And tell them that you're not going to support them with your dollars anymore.

Corporations understand only one language: money. It is through our money that we can force these seemingly impregnable giants to behave. So next time you watch a World Cup game, crack open a Bavaria instead. And keep on keeping on with the Bud boycott, not to mention the McDonald's boycott.

June 14, 2006

Selling Out

I went log-diving today through some of my old writing here on the blog. I just wanted to point back to an article that I wrote a couple of years ago on the Internet and its power.

Everything in that article is still true today, but I think it's time to revisit some of what I said in light of the last three and a half years of "progress." I mention the recording industry and its greed. One might think that they have mended their ways, what with the success of iTunes and their apparent embracing of digital content delivery. Perhaps. But what has really happened when you peel back the layers is they have created laws and used technology to maintain the status quo and destroy the freedom that the Internet and related technologies originally promised us as consumers and artists. DRM. DMCA. I don't need to say much more than that, I think.

Keep in mind I'm not really against DRM per se. I think artists should have a right to defend their intellectual property against theft. I mean, a store owner has the right to lock up their store, so an artist should have a right to get paid for their services and good as well. No problem.

What is disturbing is a greater trend, that goes beyond the music and movies portion of the Internet, where the entire medium is being centralized. What was so wonderful in its birth and initial concept is being corrupted every single day that goes by. Search engines are the most visible and disturbing part of this trend. When Google was a tiny startup with a great idea, I could search for just about anything and come up with some pretty good valid results on the first couple of pages. They had a great idea, and now the vultures have swarmed in and taken advantage of their success. I can't search for anything on Google anymore. It's disgusting. I mean, the results are so inundated with shopping ads and nonsense I can't even find anything relevant without taking a lot more time and effort.

The good information is still there. Indepedent voices are still talking. But it's increasingly hard to hear them, because the corporate powers of greed are doing their best to make sure that their message, not the one you're looking for, is the one that you receive. They are trying to make it a push Internet, and that goes against the very fabric of the network itself.

Which brings me back to music. Once again, the industry has lorded its power over the medium, and it's becoming harder and harder to find good artists on the net because every music delivery service and every search engine gets inundated with the corporate label's sell-out artists. And we all lose in the end. The only winner is the rich fat guy that owns the record label and pulls the strings of your government.

They are talking about a tiered Internet. The day that happens will be like the day the Berlin Wall went up, or the day the Iron Curtain fell across Europe in terms of freedom. Only this time, it ain't commies that are killing your freedom, it's so-called capitalists. These guys aren't real capitalists. They're aristocrats. They want to control what you hear, what you see, and how you think. Please, please, stop this madness. Stop buying in to the corporate labels, make it known that you won't stand for the junk they peddle.

The end of these articles is always so hard to write. Because I wish I could say "do this, and you'll help freedom succeed." But there's no one thing you can do. It's a really slow, sometimes painful process. It's making that decision not to support a company that supports these ideas, maybe by spending more on something from another company that isn't as evil... or just not buying that thing and sucking it up. People have so few rights today, and every day that goes by we lose more. I only have to point to your bank statement as an example... I mean how fair is it that you make a mistake and they'll automatically charge you $35 for it, but when they screw up, they don't give you a thing? If you think this "just the way it is," you're wrong. You and I have allowed this to happen by our complacency. We could have laws that make it so that if a bank charges you for something, they must also pay you for a similar mistake on their part. But we don't. Because we've chosen to let these people take advantage of us. So no, there's no one thing you can do. But everything you do affects this. I no longer bank with a commercial bank, for example. I bank with a credit union, and their policies are far less draconian. Not perfect, but it's a small move, and I'm certainly happier with them than I ever was with a heartless bank.

In any case, just keep thinking about this stuff, if nothing else... talk about it. Complain like hell when you're treated unfairly by a corporation, or anybody, to anybody that'll listen. If we yell loud enough, I guarantee that there are more of us than the corporations could ever drown out, hard as they try.

June 12, 2006

Training Update

On Wednesday, J and I hiked the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Although there is negligible elevation gain on this hike, we really enjoyed it because we got to play with our new headlamps, and got a feel for hiking in the dark with only the light on our heads. It's really a lot of fun, and because it was a weekday, we saw only one other person during our out-and-back of the 2.5 mile tunnel. Really cool hike, though I can imagine how annoying it could be if you were there with a bunch of screaming kids, etc. on a weekend. Oh yeah, we were right to bring our waterproof shells, because there were some leaky spots, and it did get a little chilly in there.

On Saturday, J, M, G, and I summitted Mt. Pilchuck (5340'). Here is the GPS track and Elevation Profile. This was a pleasant hike, with about 5/8 of the route still in snow. The last hundred or so feet are a fairly simple class 3 scramble across some rock, and a little traverse of a snow ledge. Nothing too challenging, except for the fact that...

On Sunday, J, R, and I attempted McClellan Butte (5162') again. We were there back in March when probably 7/8 of the route was still under snow. At that time, we'd attempted to climb up a snow chute, and got to maybe 4500' before conditions and total lack of equipment (nobody even had gaiters) turned us around, miserably. This time, we were much better prepared in terms of equipment. Every route report I've read says that the trail is about 4.5 miles one way to the summit. I think I believe it, based on the GPS track and some analysis, but man, you could have fooled my tired-ass body. It felt like 6. At first I couldn't really figure out why, but on the descent it became pretty obvious. The trail is a pretty rough one, as far as maintained trails go. No, it's not overgrown, nor are there any individual parts that seem very challenging. Just a somewhat steep hike up a lot of switchbacks followed by a traverse across the side of the mountain to the back and then along a ridge to the summit. But what I noticed on the descent was that there was just a lot of little things that add up to a lot of time and extra effort. Roots to negotiate around, some fallen trees blocking parts of the path, loose gravel, etc... so much so that in retrospect, I would say that the route is actually a lot easier when it's covered in snow. In any case, we worked on our rest stepping and pressure breathing, which I found worked quite well. I didn't feel really physically tired at the end of the day, save for some stiffness from just being out there two days in a row... it was more mental tiredness. We turned around at 5059', on the second of three mini-summits, because it was just getting really late in the day and thunder could be heard in the distance. We also held pretty closely to a schedule of hiking for one hour without stopping, and then taking a water and snack break for about 10 minutes before continuing, rather than our past philosophy of just stopping whenever we felt like it. This is again in preparation for the Mt. Rainier attempt, and though it took a little getting used to (especially at the beginning, when it was really hot and muggy) we did alright. In any case, I think we are going to save McClellan for a nice snowy day sometime in the Fall... hahaha.

June 6, 2006

Mountaineering Update

Haven't blogged in a while, but have been training.

Here is a short synopsis of what I've been up to on my weekends since the last entry...

6 May: Attempted the Rattlesnake Mountain East Peak (true summit). Turned around maybe 1000 ft vertical past the Ledge due to miserable rain and the fact that we were taking it easy since it was J's first hike back after a lengthy bout with a stomach ailment.

15 May: Attempted Turtlehead Peak in Red Rock Canyon. Turned around about 500 ft shy of the summit because we had a flight to catch.

20 May: Summitted Mt. Si (4167 ft), including the Haystack scramble. Here is the GPS track and corresponding Elevation Profile. (Disclaimer: Do not use these for navigation. I am not responsible for anything you do. Period.)

29 May: Hiked to Van Trump Park in Mt. Rainier National Park from the Comet Falls trailhead. Much of the route was through snow, and it was satisfying to be hiking in the shadow of our eventual goal.

3 June: Attempted Eagle Peak in Mt. Rainier National Park (~5700 ft). Reached 5200 ft before losing the trail in intermittent snow. Decided not to continue to avoid trampling the underbrush since we were not able to maintain a route on snow.

4 June: Took the RMI climbing school in preparation for our August summit climb. Learned a lot, had a great time, and really enjoyed myself.

Also, I picked up Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills. It's the textbook on all things mountaineering. But it also has great information for hiking and just general outdoors knowledge. Literally everything you need to know is in there. I've been devouring my copy since I got it.

Well, there it is. About halfway from those first hikes in March to the summit climb in August... and I'm feeling great about it. Looking forward to every hike, and happy with the way things are going.