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PotD 20180429


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PotD 20180427



I keep running into self-designated “trad” [1] climbers at well-known sport crags. They make their disdain of this bastardization of their religion clear [2] but so many of their friends do it, and seem to have fun, they grit their teeth and give it a try. But never let you forget that this isn’t “real” climbing, and they’d rather be in Yosemite [3]. Even if they’ve never been to Yosemite.

Never mind that every single person in the last three decades who has pushed trad standards higher has been a serious sport climber. Start with Piana/Skinner (Hueco, Wild Iris), Hill (World Cup Champion), Huber(s) (possible first 9a), etc. etc. etc. [4]. Jeff Lowe, one of the finest alpinists ever, was the first person to bring a sport climbing comp to the US, fer crissakes.

Just this week, I heard “But they don’t know how to place gear.” Again. [5]

Sigh. You have trouble placing gear, because you are weak and don’t know how to climb. If one can climb 5.15, and onsight 5.14, and the highest standard of trad climbing is low 5.14 but mostly way (way) less, then placing gear on anything less than that is not the thing holding one back. Anyone that good can learn to place gear, better than you, inside a few days in Yosemite.

“But they don’t know how to climb cracks”. Sigh. Climbing 5.13 cracks (8a) is just not a big deal if you can hang onto 9a or V14.

The truly strange thing about all these “trad” people slumming about Europe is they don’t really know how to climb trad. At least as far as I can tell from watching them sport climb. Liebacking is a lost art. It seems like they’ve never been taught to stem. They’ve clearly never climbed in Tuolumne or Tahquitz, because footwork is completely missing. Watching them try to smear up a delicate slab is like watching a duck paddle up a hill. Underclings are a complete mystery to them.

They mostly can’t even clip a quickdraw efficiently. Talk about knowing how to place gear – that’s the simplest part of trad placements when you’re pumped out of your mind and about to whip – can you get the fucking rope into the fucking carabiner.

God help them, they don’t know how to manage a rope so it doesn’t get fucked up, the most basic skill of moving fast on a real trad route – mountain, alpine, or wall.

Though often they have a permanently attached daisy chain [7] and a belay knife just in case a sun-bleached sling shows up at the top of a sport anchor – they’re 100% equipped to 100% handle that situation 100% of the time. Never mind that that will never happen in Siurana or Ceuse where they are slumming.


[1] Mostly they are self-defined as “trad” climbers because they don’t do anything else, not because they do it particularly well.
[2] To wit: “Sport climbing is neither.”
[3] Which the sport-climbing of trad anyway. Come on. The Nose is a 15 minute hike from your #vanlife. They never say “I’d rather be in the Dolomites” (or Alps or Patagonia or Alaska) – you know, where there is serious real trad to be had. If you can pay your dues.
[4] Yes, all those folks had serious trad experience. But they got strong by sport-climbing.
[5] You know, despite the evidence of Ondra coming and making short work of the Dawn Wall [6]. And Verhoeven the Nose. And, and, and…
[6] Not that Ondra didn’t have some serious trad experience – this wasn’t his first rodeo. But come on. Aside from a rainstorm, he almost onsighted the Nose. With his dad. As a warmup.
[7] What’s a daisy chain, ahem, “personal anchor system (PAS)”, most useful for? Signaling that this a person with whom you don’t want to climb. See also: belay knife, rappel device (esp. figure 8), prussik, and gym card.

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New climbing words

When did “multipitch” become a thing? The same time “trad” became a verb? “Multipitch” is also verb, and adverb.

I can’t remember what we called it BITD. Just climbing, I think.


Another example of BWare’s Law of Security Breaches: Whatever the first number they tell you is, it’s wrong, and it’s not going in the good direction1.

I think this is a contra to Hanlon’s Razor: never assume malice when stupidity will suffice. Surely these folks lowball it every time. They don’t want the big number in the headline. On the other hand, having to go back and release a bigger number just keeps them in the headlines 2 longer. I assume their media advisors are smarter than me though.


I get to drive a lot of different cars. Whatever Hertz has to offer for zillion-mile Gold or whatever my status is called. These are typically nicer in Zurich than they are in Munich. Mercedes, Rover, BMW (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 – no 6 as yet), Audi, Jaguar, vs. Peugeot, Skoda, Citroen, etc. But not the super-high premium Jags, Maseratis, Porsches, high-end Mercs that I gaze lustfully at 1.

Last time I got called away from vacation on short notice, Hertz Munich offered me the powder blue 435 HP 5.0 Mustang. Even though I had the airline-max 32 kg TNF rolling duffle full of climbing gear, I said yes. How could I not?! I was going to leave the bag in left luggage if it didn’t fit.

After I John Candied the bags into the trunk (not easy!), I took off down the autobahn. Well, after I sat in airport construction for the best part of an hour. “Autobahn” is German for “construction.”

Six manual speeds. Tons of horses. Even though it was 0 C and drizzling, I got it up to 240 kph on the bahn. No problem. It’s a nice enough car. I was amused at the sticker saying that I was not to take this to the Nurburgring.

But what the heck is up with that hood? I’ve driven 4WDs with more visibility. Certainly a lot of the cars listed above have similar performance specs, and I had no problem driving them down the autobahn. But the Mustang has such a prominent hood, it’s like looking over a truck hood topping a hill – no idea what’s on the other side. If it had quad Holleys under the scoop, that would be one thing. But I don’t think there’s any reason for the limited visibility low-rider driving position of this car, given the performance. Especially compared to say, a Porsche. Or an M3. Or any Merc.

Seriously – it was seriously bad. Not suitable for 200 kph autobahn driving at all, even though it could do it in fourth gear (it goes up to 6!) without breaking a sweat.

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PotD 20180415



I’m waiting for Jabez to come back as a hot new trendy baby name.

Go get it helicopter parents! Guaranteed to be unique in their classroom.


Jet lag

Everyone has a recipe for getting over jet lag. Food, timing of meals, entraining sleep before leaving [1], not eating on the plane, blah blah blah.

And believe me, I have suffered from the jet lag. I have read a shitload of books at 3 am, and faceplanted uncontrollably more than once in the cleanroom at 3pm. I have felt about as shitty after a week without more than two consecutive hours of sleep as I ever want to feel. As a result, sleep has gone from being something I could take or leave to being something I treasure. I don’t need a lot, but I want those six hours.

After I figured out this recipe, the last half-dozen trips have been fairly painless, even with a 10-12 hour time change.

Here’s what works for me, honed down after about three dozen flights to Europe, Asia, and Australia [2]:

  • Exercise – Get out and get tired. It helps if you can do this in the…
  • Sunlight – Obviously. For me, Greece or Spain is easier than Germany. But a gym works. Get a workout every day for the first few days.
  • Melatonin – Seems to help me. In any case it doesn’t seem to hurt.
  • Ambien – for the first two or three nights. IANAD [3]
  • Tension Tamer – Again, works for me. Reliably makes me nod off about 20 minutes after I take it, just about the same time the Ambien kicks in. So get those teeth brushed and get in bed.
  • Sleep mask – Get a good comfortable one.
  • Earplugs – if you are in a noisy place. Whatever brand works for you. You want to sleep through the night. Turn your damn phone off.
  • No booze – especially if you are taking a sleep aid like Ambien. I relax this later, but for the first few days, it just doesn’t help. Yeah, it’ll make me sleepy. But then I am wide awake at 0300, and there is nothing worse than that.

Screens don’t seem to make any difference to me, except in the sense of it’s better to unplug from the world for a while before you go to bed. iPad/airplane mode/reading is fine.

YMMV of course.


[1] This just seems like you are moving the pain to before you leave instead of after, if you are going to bed at 1800 before the trip, or fasting or whatever.

[2] So that’s about six dozen episodes of JL, if you are counting – coming and going. Yes, it is easier going west than east.

[3] I am a doctor, just not that kind of doctor. Ambien works for me. I’ve struggled with this. I am reluctant to take drugs, and I’ve been awake at 4 am lots of times looking at the bottle knowing it’s too late to take it now because I have to be at work at 7 am. Wishing 10pm me was smarter than 4am me.

Not everyone reacts well. I have heard all the takes on this – it’s not real sleep, it’s hallucinatory, it’s sleepwalking, sleepeating, sleepdriving. I have no evidence that I’m not sleepwalking when I take it, but I wake up eight hours later in bed in the same position I fell asleep, feeling refreshed. The fridge is still full. I’ve never taken it more than three days running – I’ve never needed to. Two nights in a row is usually good, then TTT and melatonin will do the trick by themselves.

But I don’t try to tough it out anymore. At 2200 local time, for the first two nights, I drink the tea, take the melatonin, and take the damn Ambien. 10 mg is pretty much a guaranteed eight hours of sleep. Eight hours of drug-induced fake sleep is way better than being exhausted.

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So my work email server decided once again to be incompatible with Apple Mail 1. I could see my inbox, but all archived mail Went Away 2. Still, Outlook sucks. Search is horrible.

In looking for the solution, I found the interesting official Apple Exchange Support document:

11k emails max! 5k emails recommended! Are you kidding me. I’ve worked on the same projects for literally a decade 3. Since launch is scheduled for 2034, I expect to have a few more email strings that I’d like to refer back to in the course of my work. I don’t even know how to begin to cut my email back to 11k.

Fuck you MS, and what genius at work decided that Exchange was a good choice.

Sadly though, most of my old emails have been “archived”, thus seriously affecting their usefulness. “Archived” means that all the attachments have been moved from the email server to another server, thus destroying the integrity of the email for archival purposes while not actually saving any disk space. Old emails are just text and free-floating images now. Context is gone.

This is a Seriously Bad Thing – many of the decisions we made back then affect the design of the mission in 2034, and the data that will be taken in 2043, were based on arguments made in long email chains of plots of simulations and analysis and discussion. Those are now borked, in the name of saving space on one server, but not on another. Good work folks.

The same people are now implementing an ID-card based login identity verification. You can’t log in to any computers at work unless you plug your chip-enabled card into a USB dongle. Not sure how that works if you:

  • Forget your card – turn around and drive back to Santa Monica/Palmdale/Irvine?
  • Need to run an overnight simulation? This is the same card that gets you through the front gate.
  • Need to use more than one system? I have two computers, laptop and desktop.
    I can’t run a sim on one and go to a meeting with the other? 4
  • Need to log into my desktop from Germany to get a file? Because, you know, I’ve only been to Germany about 30 times now to work on a collaborative project. For work.

Let’s not even consider that most of the documents on my computer are also on my phone. Shall we attach a dongle to the phone to make me plug in a card to use that?

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