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A rough slideshow from our jaunt to Colorado…

The trip was fast and furious.  If there wasn’t weather striking, there was activity occurring.  PA met CO on many levels.  We saw old PA neighbors in Niwot, and old PA climbing bud in Estes, and we were hard-core chillaxin with good PA friends & climbin partner all while on the front range.  There was something really raw and wild about it all, perhaps the best way to celebrate the 4th of July.

Thed basics were:
– flight delayed from PHL to DEN due to thunderstorms (PHL couldn’t guide an iPod to a docking station on time)
– arrive at Paul & Johannas in Lafayette (it can’t be their house, where’s his truck?…Let’s call him…Yes, it is 1:30am…oh, you sold your truck)
– tasty brunch on Pearl Street before meeting Paul @ 12:30 to climb in Eldo (does anyone in CO work full-time?!)
– 3 Wind Tower routes with Paul & Julie (a quick 700 ft of climbing)
– a morning run up the first flat iron (climbing in my approach shoes informed me that my approach shoes were shot) – quick 1400ft of rock
– a run that afternoon in the Open Space behind Paul’s abode & dinner with Jo and our old PA neighbors, Josh, Amy & Lyla
– 5am rise to do Melvin’s Wheel on Lumpy’s Ridge and start up another route when the darkening storm hail-rained us off the cliff (450+ft)
– saw an old buddy, Mike Drinker from PA, at the base, who we inadvertent dropped a quickdraw on
– randomly decided to hike into a sport area named Ironclad or Ironsides on Rte 7 (great 100ft+ bolt lines and nary a soul with whom to contend) (quick 600ft of rock)
– rest day (some light sport climbing with Julie in Boulder Canyon & picked up a new pair of Approach shoes – Scarpa Crux rock!) (yes, there is poison ivy in Boulder Canyon, Julie’s face proves it)
– 4:30 rise and jet up to RMNP to hike into Hallett Peak and run up Culp-Bossier ***
– kind of anti-climactic climbing up the second buttress – we did it in 5 200ft pitches (quick 1000ft of rock)
– run back to get a bivy permit for Upper Glacier Gorge (score!)
– Happy Hour at the Rock Inn with wheat ales and burgers (why yes, I will take a free beer, thank you)
– Hike out to Spearhead in UGG (wrong turn added 2 miles onto a 6+mi hike) – 10pm and delirious is a great time to stop hiking…Paul. Stop.
– Hiked past dark, past a huge Elk and bivied on a slab with cold Taco Bell in our pillows….here bear, bear, bear…Volcano Burrito, Mr Bear….
– 5am rise to tackle Syke’s Sickle on Spearhead (am I awake or am I dreaming)
– In a delirious state, from the first pitch I dropped a quickdraw and 4 nuts on the glacier and Paul ran around to grab it all (mountain mangoat)
– stellar climbing & a crux pitch to not be forgotten
– double fist jams and a stem with lots of air below the knuts, protected out the wazoo
– tagged the summit and descended in anticipation of 40 marmots partying with the apple fritter I accidentally left in the top of my pack
– miraculously, no marmots and an intact pack (and used wag bag for carryout…taco hell)                                – Burgers, margharitas, tequila and Upslope beer feed the alpine soul quite well
– 4th of July held the summiting of South Arapahoe Peak (~13,800ft) – the highest Julie has ever been!
– Trail run down to a shower and a ‘pool party’ with new and old friends

Thank you mountains, thank you friends and thank you weather for cooperating.

Not too shabby…me likes Colorado


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The Cuba Video

One year ago today I was in Cuba on one of the best climbing trips of my life.  Different from other international trips because of the level of political tension involved.  It is strange being an third party affiliate to a humanitarian standstill that is so old that people really don’t even know why it still exists.  Paying it constant attention yet almost expecting that some of the veneers of the two entities would rust off and return to some strata of greater integrity and cooperation.  90 miles off of Key West is a sister nation that will one day be family again. The global flow of politics is towards blocs; cultural and political units of understanding that you are safer when in group.  The currently unrealizable toss-up is the when.  However, in the meantime, feel free to explore its sandy shores, crumbling facade and heart of gold…you absolutely cannot go wrong.

This is a little vid that I processed from the footage on the trip.  Mountain Hardware, Julbo, La Sportiva, Sterling Ropes, Misty Mountain Hardware, and Mad Rock were exceptional representations of the community of the climbing world in having donated gear to fuel the Cuban climbing scene.  This sphere of bullet hard limestone needs the inflow of climber traffic, donations and support.  There is a lifetime of climbing right off of our southern shore and a thread of a lifeline to a renaissance culture.

Today I leave with a good friend, Tom, to take a non-stop flight to Vegas for some sandstone.  The last three weeks in the gym have been for building power, endurance and stamina.  That may seem like conflictual training phases to intermix and still feel efficient and productive, but it worked.  I’m not a savage beast yet, but I can feel it stirring again, somewhere down inside of me.  Hopefully a few 1000′ plus routes will help unleash it, so a great howl can be unleashed in the lone canyons of red rocks; igniting surprise and awareness to the animals that burrow in the desert crevices doing what it takes to survive.   I look forward to sharing some media from that excursion and bring you up into the belay to share some fun…

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Going Full Circle

So, while perusing the front page of the NY Times after a killer evening of climbing, I come across an article titled,  “Gas pedal Flaws Lead Toyota To Stop Building 8 Models”.  It might have well of had an exclamation point at the end.  Seriously.

What a fate in this economic climate!  To be struck by an internal quality control issue, especially in an industry where quality control is the Achilles heel of a reputation, is a situation that will never go away.  How many of you remember that tire issue that Ford Explorer’s had almost a decade ago?  The Firestone tires would give way to high speed rollover accidents….really tragic shit.  I don’t think they’ve ever fully recovered to that market leading high before then.  Explorer’s were the top of the market for the popular SUV.  It was the poster boy for the SUV industry.

Anyway….this article is on the front page of the NY Times.  Exclamation.

A rare condition causing the recall of 4.8 million vehicles.  In a time when you dominate the word’s number one auto market, while your competitors are recovering from a financial one-two punch that has left them tightening their belts and reorganizing themselves, their entities and their debt.  Talk about a bad struck of luck.

So what’s the first thing that pops into my mind?  At 9am I would be buying puts on Toyota like they were going out of style.  Then I would find out who their number one suppliers are and buy puts on them if they’re publicly held.  Then I would find out which insurance company was at the foundation of the health-care provider that provided health-care to all of those employees.  Scratch that last one, they’d be covered on the new unemployment insurance for a while.  But I would find out the service providers that depended on the Toyota production model and buy puts on them too.

Once you realize that there are a ton of other people with the biggest plan you start watching the premiums on these puts going through the roof.  So you start selling certain puts and then buying them again when the supply increases from others thinking like you are.  Before you know it, you’ve doubled your money and someone else is collecting unemployment now too.  Then you start looking for exotic derivatives that tie global aluminum into being the correlate for the yen and how it is a proxy for Toyota stock.  That’s the evil wizard behind the drape pulling levers and mixing potions type of shit.

Since most folks will never get within arms length of people who take part in that side of the financial industry we turn to a different indicator of public health besides the financial indicators that reduce the health of our existence down to an index.  That is when we turn to the life we live every day and look around at the signs.  There are a few less gas stations these days and if you’re in the market for a home it’s a great time to buy.  And people are drinking more and doing less sport…or are they.  What of these not-cheap habits that are fundamental in the who-we-are and how-we-are sequences that make up our lives?  And this is how I get back to climbing.

At the climbing gym tonight it was pretty busy.  Tuesdays and Thursdays always are, but today was pretty crazy.  Tonight I was pretty lucky.  I was climbing with two great individuals and the session was something that had a life of its own.  Before I had realized it, there was no more skin on my hands, I had reacquainted with two or three people that I hadn’t seen in years and I was still climbing.  It’s hard to complain about that, especially considering the updates people had been giving me on their lives.

There are so many professionals out of work right now.  IT folk, mortgage peeps, builders…and a lot of them.  But what I thought was even crazier is that somehow, someway, they’ve still found the psyche to go climbing and pursue something that they enjoy and identify with.  Be it from their savings or government aid, it is something that still allows you to enjoy a part of your life even when the days get dark.

Hooray for climbing.  I think we’ve made it full circle.  Isn’t that always fun.  Though if you’re looking for a car these days I’d say take a look VWs.  My Golf has brought me to a lot of incredible climbing spots.

Maybe the next thing will be on wind power or home remodeling…ciao

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An Alphabetical Look at Today

Sometimes you just feel like you have so much to say and you do not know where to start. With continual waves of events happening in our nation and abroad one is perplexed on a perfect jumping off point. So why just not start in midair as it seems I am already there.
Alphabetically, Afghanistan comes first. Shady election practices, miscounts not all-to-unfamiliar to the Pakistani, Iranian and Floridian elections float to mind through the political mire that modern media constantly throw at us. Do we start with the fact that no matter what we throw at Afghanistan in a military sense, we will never, ever win there? What is so hard to understand about a completely migrant fighting force that operates in individual cells and small battalions, hiding out in a mountainous terrain that would make Lewis and Clark think twice about crossing? It is a barren wasteland of rock, high desert and hidden resources. We can aim to auto-supply our forces through refuelings and by way of hopefully peaceful villages, but that is just band-aiding the obvious. If Russia, a neighbor, and at the time of conflict a supreme fighting force, could not win there in ten years then what have we learned; obviously nothing. How did the US win the so-called Cold War? Because the USSR overextended itself militarily, ran out of funds which resulted in major unrest at home and left them unable to fulfill the primary role of government. Prudence is a value of wisdom that can only come with a knowledge of basic truths. We have limited resources and a lot of issues on our national plate. To forsake the national dilemmas that affect our sovereignty for a cavalier expedition is short-sighted and unfair to everyone who supports this great nation financially and emotionally.
To go down the list we could then talk about…. Bank reform; Chinese ownership of American dollars; Devaluation of our currency; Excessive political demagoguery; Failing to meet the needs of the majority of Americans for the sake of an influential few; Global Climate Change; Healthcare reform; Institutions of higher learning and how they are failing to meet the needs of students as their costs rise; J might be a wash; Korea, the south and the north, as in wtf is going on with failed satellite launches and ICBMs; Language loss amongst our young people, not learning foreign languages and losing the ability to properly communicate with our own; Mass media scurrying to fill 24 hours of fury a day and resorting to low-quality, de-meaning partisan antics while they sell out to the highest bidder; National energy efforts stalling in their attempts to create a more efficient system by not imposing energy conservation standards that will make a difference in a decade, be it with the cars we drive or the efficacy of our power grids; Oil dependency, it speaks for itself; Power brokering between political interest groups as they throw money at politicians so the most import issues never make it to the vote; Quality of the food we eat, as the nutritional dilemma in the US entraps more in obesity and diabetes; Roth IRAs next year are now open to any income bracket because Congress took their eye off the ball in the last few years, is this what Senator Roth wanted passed so the lower income brackets could start saving; Stimulus packages and who is keeping a good track on what’s been paid back and by who, let alone at what interest rate; T-bills, notes and bonds: they are a great investment for the long-term payout, why haven’t more people started to buy them, thus helping fund our government and stabilizing the long term economy via a practice that was common during WWI and WWII when the government needed money, why is it any different now; Unions and their ability to sway the government like the UAW, as they once served a greater purpose, but now aren’t they just part of a rising cost issue; Vick, I mean I do live in Philadelphia, what is going on with this dog killer; Water table issues in the western US and what is being done for desalinization efforts and recycling; XX or XY, where are we on genetic research and funding so we can invent methods to treat some of the afflictions that cause the most personal stress and financial strain on our healthcare system; Y am I still trying to come up with these frustrating points of contention that keep me from sleeping at night; Z is the problem itself, it just doesn’t get enough representation, you’ve got to be a badass if you’re always bringing up the rear of the pack, it’s like the border collie that keeps the rest of the herd in line.
I think I’m too tired to draw a line in the sand now, but as I now go back to work, hopefully we think about a little more than our woeful personal issues that we cloud up the spectrum with, when we should be looking at the bigger picture. It’s not that the devil is in the details, but that the bigger picture is weaved of the essence of enlightenment. Or so we can hope.

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Financial Planning: As pivotal in our lives as learning to ride a bike

From a young age we are taught skills and lessons that should stay with us throughout our entire lives.  Simple tutorials that are most often hands-on and that entail a few small mistakes.  All of this is to ensure that the most complete comprehension is gained, in a knowledge sense and in respect of consequence.  The physics in riding a bike seem all so uncertain in the beginning, while we start to understand about equilibrium and momentum, rudimentary conservation of energy and, of course, impact forces.  There are many things that we add to our scope of understanding in life because it will greatly alter our ability to meet goals and find footing in this world, knowing what to do with your hard-earned income is the same.  Why should personal finance be any different than riding a bike, learning to make pancakes or mastering the rules of the road?  Besides being basic knowledge that we should all have, not having this understanding can lead to even more precipitous falterings in life.

Having a solid grasp on our individual finances is key to keeping our reality in check and our futures in our controls.  Long term goals do not mean that your life must be planned out and that we are locked into all decision we make at an early age.  Instead it is about learning how to initially balance and manage the wages, salaries and incomes that come our way, with our ability to spend money and live life.  The first time you overdraw an account without having overdraft protection it is like that first fall off of the bike.  Luckily the sting is usually only to the tune of $35 or so, but when you start equating that dollar value to what it could have been, we quickly begin to understand the prospect of loss.  Speaking for myself, I would prefer to have those bottles of wine or other accouterments to daily existence that it could have been.  A lesson such as overdraft, for good fortune, is one of the easier ones that we learn before heading into the lands of retirement benefits, group insurance policies, qualified plans and non-FDIC insured securities that could lose us as much as they gain for us.

For the ease of the conversation, let’s assume that most people understand good basic financial behavior.  That we always know approximately what our bank balances are, know that our expenses must be less than our net income and, perhaps, have already begun to put funds aside for future income or whatever need will arise.  There is a laundry list of investment vehicles sold by knowledgeable and trustworthy individuals who operate, according to their commitments and licensure, to find the best-fit products for their clients, while staying prudent and accurate for the benefit of the companies harboring the bulk of the risk that provides the guaranteed returns on our investments.

The initial wading into financial waters begins with one key step: identifying your financial needs and wants.  Maybe you want a home or to retire early?  Perhaps you want to not burden your family with any expenses you have chosen to take on in your lifetime?  Or it could be as simple as wanting to grow a nest-egg for the future for an undecided purpose, like a child’s education, a real-estate investment, a horse or supplemental income to balance out any funds that might be received from social security.  The important thing to keep in mind as we realize these goals is that they need not be permanent goals, as many investment products that are qualified plans have laws that allow them to become other investments for minor service charges, without losing the advantage of tax-free growth or access to the aggregated cash value.

If you have already taken on large obligation in life that have long-term financial implications, like a mortgage or other liability, you may want to limit the risk exposure to your family if something were to happen in the long run.  Starting at low initial investments, there are manners to transfer the highest level of pure risk to companies that use the statistics based off of the averages of large groups of your peers to evaluate your risk.  Upon evaluation of your personal health, your occupation and the amount of funds you ultimately want to ensure are present in case of an untimely accident, an offer is made to you by the company that will buy your risk and hope that you life a long and healthy life.  In this manner you are protected from financial ruin in case of life-altering accidents and a company will gain from your fruitful life and use what you paid for protection to fill the void in the unlucky individual who has walked the same path as yourself and not arrived as healthy.

Once you start looking into the profile you create for yourself, it will become easier to realize how malleable this experience and situation can be.  Many investment vehicles allow you to use the tax-free grown savings for large purchases, like homes, or to turn cash value from your risk-protection (insurance) into an income stream that you will never be able to outlive.  The flexibility is reality limited to how well you communicate your needs and how you want to go about establishing them.  A producer, broker or financial planner is just a guide through the complicated variety of products and laws to get you the best solution to your needs and wants.

Investments are as simple as riding a bicycle, when you know where you want to go.  For a simple roll down the street, a basic self-tutoring would probably be enough, but with a more extended journey do the potentials for hazards increase.  Just as you would consult experts before riding bicycles down mountains or in touring foreign landscapes, you should consult financial experts as a means of making yourself more aware of your options in life and what is required to minimize the risk in all of the the endeavors in which we choose to engage.