these are the words and photos that depict the world in which we live.

1 Comment

Going Full Circle on Fear


Truly the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.   FDR had his heart in the right place.   And as he faced a country in the grips of the great depression he took the podium and gave a speech meant to be heard by all Americans.  During the campaign Roosevelt was criticized for not divulging his plans for the country that he was aiming to lead.  Not many of his close working relationships, aside from his wife, even knew him that well.   His speeches were buoyant and optimistic, yet solemn as the economic doldrums affected the national demographic.  It seems that these characteristics would have worked against FDR, yet he still triumphed the challenges before succumbing to illness.   Many great things came about from his presidency.

First off, FDR was the only president to serve more than two terms, acting as president for four consecutive terms, though his poor health decided his fate early in his fourth term.   During these terms he created the New Deal, and its vast array of programs, and dealt with World War II.   Legacies such as the Social Security System, the SEC, the FDIC and the National Labor Review Board are the signs of his time spent leading the nation.  His presidency was monumental to say the least.

Today we find ourselves facing a world of eternal challenge and have faithfully elected a president who is capable of greatness.  However, Barack Obama is more often compared to JFK than FDR.  This association is likely due to his energetic and youthful nature, air of sincerity and sense of responsibility that has brought the people together in a time when a leader was desperately needed.  Anyone can be a decider, but few can be a leader.  With the dismal economy and the constant war on terror, Obama seems aligned to take steps that coincide more with the absolute and enduring impact that FDR had on our country.  Assuming all goes well maybe we will get lucky and Obama will have a chance at more than two terms.

To bring this thought on course, it is the lack of fear that Barack shows towards an agenda that has nothing but daunting tasks in its lineup.  The thought alone of what he faces in his daily planner is daunting: stabilize the economy, create 3 million jobs, rekindle respect for the US, nurture the national hope, broker some peace in the world and raise to daughters in an urban environment.  Though, going on a first couple weeks impression, it suggests the right man was chosen for the hardest job in the world and his outlook appears to be that the man is at least as great as the task.  Thus, the only thing that Barack fears, is fear itself.  And maybe another crackberry crash.

Now, to lower the bar to a human level, yet keep with the theme, I look back at some of the situations I have put myself into and the fear I faced.  Now I wonder if it was really just fear.  The first on that list of fearful situations is when I climbed the Nose Route on El Capitan in Yosemite with my friends, Tim Kemple and Dave Hume.  It was twenty three and a half hours of jugging and climbing.  The two rope guns definitely took the lion’s share of the sharp end, but I got my fill as well.  Aiding the Great Roof and bounding through the joyous laybacking of the pancake flake had to be some of the most fun big walling on granite I have ever encountered.  Yet waiting just a handful of pitches above was the last jumar to top out.

Cutting loose from the last belay there is over 3,000 feet of air underneath you that drops away and comes back as up drafts, one of which stole my chalk bag a few pitches earlier.  I felt the knot slide off as I was lay-backing and I watched the bag rise from behind me and get carried off on a breeze.  I never did find it and was entranced by the sack as it danced away on a cloud of its own chalk.  When I saw the movie, American Beauty, the video of the plastic bag dancing brought me right back to that moment in time, the blur of Middle Cathedral standing in the background.

As my hand left the final belay and I started to swing out, a host of thoughts bombarded my mind. First I thought to close my eyes, but my eyes would not close.  Instead they just stared down and around at the abyss that could swallow me at any second.  Then, all of the falls and abuse that the little pink PMI rope ever took catalogued themselves in my brain; I should not be using this cord.  Knowing that over-thinking never solves a situation I just set my feet and started jugging.

Every heave on the rope created a new and stomach twisting creak.  After each upstroke I caught myself staring at the taut rope as it pointed straight up and went over the edge of the capstone above.   Each jerky movement of that free-hanging jumar made the rope drag side to side on the rough granite above.  Was that a core shot I could see or a figment of my glycogen deprived brain.  Honestly I probably should have puked my fear right out and into the void below.   Yet the idea of someone getting killed by a vomit rocket at terminal velocity did not sit well with me.  Also that we had run out of food and water about 10,000 burnt calories before, I doubt anything would have arisen anyway.  To my great relief, the cord held and I made it over the top and then endured one of the most epic walkoffs ever, but that is a whole other story.

So, as you know, I am still here to relay the story. That must mean that the fear, of real and present danger, is still just fear.  If finishing off that route was so inevitably fatal then no one would endeavor to take on equal or greater gauntlets.  When we find ourselves in front of a demanding task that seems greater than ourselves for one reason or another, one only needs to slow down and acknowledge a couple simple truths:

  • We probably would not be there if we could not handle the situation and succeed at the task.
  • Confidence and calmness will aide you as you ready the necessary tools and engage yourself.
  • There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.

As for that little pink cord, that was its last journey.  Not a bad way to finish.  If you are ever in Yosemite, follow the Merced river down to El Portal.  A little past the post office there is a pull out on the left for a great swimming hole.  The rope swing on the tree across the river is where that mighty pink rope makes its last stand.  How it got up there was a whole other story as well, but fear not and go swing on it.

Leave a comment

the origin of manufacturing


a quick mental journey
about  the etymological origins of manufacturing
manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor
to make things for use or sale

manufacturing takes place in a factory
a factory is a place where a group of people assemble things
put things together
unite individual pieces
so the ultimate product
can be greater than the sum of its parts
but i’m tangenting

factory in italian is fattoria
italian is close enough to latin
the root of fattoria is fatto
fatto is the past participle of the verb to make in italian
thus made
or, in italian-american, vafangul
literally means go do it in your ass
aka go f*@! yourself
do (fa) is the operative word
argh, tangenting again

the -ria suffix denotes the place where said action is done
in english we add an -ry to actions to name where things are done
creamery, bakery, or forgery (dbl ent)
i’m sure pharmacy has to be a cousin
cafeteria seems like the missing link
where does the -te fit in
i guess that’s why the link is the disfigured relative
damn, tangenting again

manu- is based off of the word hand
mano in italian
you know
let’s take care of this mano a mano
so it is a combination of words
means making things with your hands
that radiates craft and artisanship
we still use our hands
but now we guide the technologies that allow us to do
the things that we cannot do efficiently with our hands
an evolution in production
so we can make less money
to produce more quota’d and tariffed consumable goods
while feeling more and more detached
from that which we are creating
so it appears the word manufacturing
has even carried the original
or artigianal, if you may
for its entire journey
a vestigial cloak of pride
doesn’t that just make you feel cozy
i know i’m tangenting yet again
but it’s okay this time
because it’s the end

what common trait links all of the bold-faced words?
the correct responses will win
a custom photo print of the model
holding any short pasta of your choice
i like farfalle

farfalle farfalle-2 farfalle-3

farfalle-4 farfalle-5 farfalle-6

Leave a comment

the road less traveled

wenden >< wenderstock, switzerland

wenden >< wenderstock, switzerland

sometimes the road less taken is that way for a reason.  sometimes, avoiding the path of resistance means there is a support network, a mechanism in place that is sophisticated enough to allow you to pursue your life without binding you in the webs of others.  sometimes the road less traveled just ends in a cul-de-sac, leaving you to turn and head back.

i can remember topping out on half dome about eight years ago with Alex McAfee.  it was later than we wanted it to be, part my fault, and we had very little food and water and just knew it was best for us to get down.  walking off of the backside was kind of a surreal endeavor at night with headlamps.  there is a great slab, like a sea of granite melting away from you.  somewhere in the middle is a walkway with some metal wire handrails to guard the average person from a hideous, yet eventful death.  we crisscrossed that slab for twenty minutes expecting to hear each others’ last screams, denoting that we did not find the handrail and not to go toward the scream.  eventually we found the walkway and followed it off of the slab and turned to find the trail that would lead us back down to the front of the formation where our bags were safely stowed (or so we thought).

jingling away with rope and rack, probably still in climbing shoes and disco shades, we slowly made our way down picking through the bushes on what seemed to be the trail.  the caveat being that too far in one direction could possibly end up in a large fall and a bummer of a story for the other to have to pass on to the park service.  let alone the loss of gear that would never be used again.  hiking through the thicket, especially around climbing areas, you generally rely on these paths of least resistance, meaning that someone has possibly travelled there before.  this is often a good thing.  it means you are probably not far from where you should be, especially since you often do not know exactly where you should be, but know where you would like to be.  this is often more interesting in the middle of a large rock face when you realize you have climbed two pitches in the wrong direction because you convinced yourself that the topo and description led you up these ‘obvious’ features.  that situation, however, is a different story.

in the end, the path that was easiest to follow brought us down safely, though hungry and bedraggled, to our campsite to discover that marmots had clawed holes into Alex’s bag and eaten his snacks.  whereas my bag had oddly been unzipped and also emptied of its aromatic contents by some small mammal.  thank god tuna comes in a hermetically sealed can.  the trickle of water that seeps out of that face and some unstolen snacks got us through the unplanned second evening under half dome.  the next day we ransacked the cafe next to the yosemite post office for a three course lunch.

at the time i thought our feat was stellar.  two guys who had really never climbed before, minus a quick romp on middle cathedral, had sent the northwest direct route in 14 hrs.  now i look back and think, shit, we could have done it so much faster if i didn’t get all scared up in the zig zags and crawl my way through the ‘thank god’ traverse.  maybe next time.  but i think it would be more fun to free the whole thing and not start stepping in slings.

the moral of the story is that sometimes, to get where you’re going, the path most traveled is requisite.  often the journey is the path less traveled with an occasional leg that has seen the wear and tear of others.  it is in this moderation between us and society that our true individual path lies.

seeing the news feeds with hints at a partial nationalization of some of the US’s largest banks is what made me think of this path.  for we would not be the first, nor the last.  yes, true enough, we often aim to forge our own history here in the US.  but sometimes there are lessons to be learned from having only watched others.  the UK just nationalized a bank, japan nationalized many banks, and there are a slough of other examples.  actually what we would be doing probably would not be called nationalizing due to the nation’s anafalactic allergence to socialist ideals.

in some way we need to get the financial sector on track.  its hard to put the patients back in charge of the asylum but order is needed.  unfortunately, all of the dollars spent on the financial industry in the name of the tarp plan are tax payers dollars.  in the end, we want a return on our investment.  we cannot just buy bad debt in a new federal-entity and wipe them out.  no, we need to get some percentage back from functioning loans and other revenue streams.  this is not a path of least resistance by any means, nor can it be the path of most resistance.  at least for our nation’s sake.

Leave a comment

Quick n Dirty: A Hearty Breakfast


The benefits of a good breakfast are not news.  Even just a cursory glance at some of the web’s info hotspots on health and nutrition (WebMD,,, ivillage, etc) gives plenty of solid ammo against this modern misconception.  If anything, just pay attention to your body on the days you eat a good breakfast.  The most common effects are improved concentration, improved physical performance, and a greater feeling of satiety during the day.  If you are not a believer then try it tomorrow.

Protein, especially a lean form, is one of the best breakfast items for its real benefits: better mental acuity, memory and problem solving.  Enter the incredible, edible egg.  While still in school I made it a rule to eat an egg any day before an exam or when a new subject was being covered.  As an athlete it became status quo to have at least one egg and cheese sandwich before heading off climbing, hiking, skiing, surfing, etc.  Being able to perform at one’s optimal level, for the sake of performance and safety, is aided by this simple and satisfying step.

Skipping breakfast has been linked to greater body fat down the road.  Research shows that you are often left hungrier later in the day, and thus scrambling to fill the void.  The lack of concentration from a low glucose level alone is also no fun and, again, so easily remedied.  High sugar breakfast bars are never enough, they are like throwing gas on a fire.  A bowl of breakfast cereal, although a good option, still lacks the protein and nutrition an egg offers.  Pop tarts…forget about it.  I’ve been down and back on that road and it is as unproductive as that sweet sugary inside is lava-like after a minute of heating up.

Looking in the fridge this morning there wasn’t much.  It would be a bagel with slatherings, a bowl of cereal or an egg.  Throwing the pan on medium high and greasing her down with some Pam (I should have used olive oil), I put a half a cup of left over couscous in there to quickly saute and get a crunchier texture.  This could be done with rice, some chopped up pasta, bits of bread or other whole grain starch.  After a minute or two I pushed the couscous into the center and cracked two eggs on top and proceeded to break the yolks while still keeping the content in a patty-esque form.  Let cook, flip and let cook some more.  Voila!  Simple, healthy and tasty breakfast that a) gets rid of leftovers, b) completely satisfies hunger and nutrition and c) lets you attack the day like the warrior you are!  Washed down with a glass of watered down cranberry juice, all of the nutritional points to a good breakfast have been met: lean protein, whole grains and a fruit source.

Leave a comment

The Locomotion of Change

The change has already begun.  Right from the beginning, the new administration is keeping its promises, whatever those may be.  Many people balked at the Obama campaign before the election for the lack of details on a few topics.  A campaign that touted change for the better is not a new thing around these parts was the competition’s retort.  Truthfully, politics, DC and false promises go together like Larry, Moe and Curly.  What is different about the show these days, is that people are not laughing at the cliche any more, but getting critical instead.  Movements and decisions with the national welfare in mind are already being made and it seems that there will be plenty more.  Now the people are going from doubting to nods of assent.

For a while many people have been worried about the future of print in daily news delivery, there may be a solution now: there will be news to print.  If the headlines of war mongering and death to poor grammar and even worse critical thinking skills will be replaced.  It seems the new headlines actually have news.  There are no glam photo sessions of this president, just tag-lines and newspaper content.  In two days there has been a tidal change in the quality and moral direction of the subject matter .


Tim Geithner’s name emerges from text that tells the story of the administrations stance on Chinese currency manipulation.  Our trade deficit with them is substance enough, yet since stances were not being taken (cowtowing is more like it), such an important topic did not get the proper media.  Can you hear the crickets (not the whining)?  After a 60-34 senate confirmation no one is talking about back taxes or domestic help.  Ahh…just as it should be.

There are stories about the closing of the Guantanamo military base to curtail or reallocate current Defense spending.  This is an opportunity in many ways.  Communications with Cuba can be opened, the trade embargo can go to the wayside and more peace can exist in the world.  A smear on American integrity equal to Abu Graib and a vestige of the cold war era will be swept away to make room for better relations.  There are so many positive aspects about opening up relations with Cuba, the majors being: a new market for American goods; a travel destination (chaching!) that combines old world culture with UNESCO protected countryside; a new source for importing raw materials like sugar and cobalt.  So Cuban exports may not solve our current economic dilemma, but it cannot hurt.

The kicker, to round off this trio of current domestic news items with international twists, is the permission for stem-cell research to be performed on humans.  So this is not exactly a treasure chest of federal monies, but it is an astral leap compared to the last administration.  Federal monies are better served in other federal programs right now, ones that will give a more immediate jolt towards stopping this slow churning locomotive of economic depression.  Once we stop that steam breathing demon we can all get aboard and go for a much, much better ride.

This thread is just the beginning.  This is change.  It is only the first week, but already there is a renewed spirit matched with action.  Up markets, up people and a feeling that good things are on their way up too; this bodes for a better future.  This new well-spring of news is the tapping of an aquifer that has always known to be there, as it has been tapped a few times in the past, yet for some reason became an El Dorado.  Now the national GPS has put a way-point on it and will keep going back, so as to keep this new engine of change a’going.