Social Media Overdose: a programming note

So, clearly, I haven’t done a very good job of keeping this blog up to date since I’ve been on the road. Partly that’s due to the WordPress software handling large photo albums remarkably poorly, and I’ve found captioned photo albums to be the best way to share the day-to-day details of my life. I’m just not an eloquent enough writer to show readers the beauty of these places without photos!

I’ve been sharing photo albums on Facebook, but that’s not ideal since not everyone has Facebook and their photo compression is pretty severe. And I haven’t been posting on here because, aside from the photo issue, I just haven’t felt like doing long-form writing lately. On the flip side, I’ve become super into Twitter and microblogging. Because it’s so much lower commitment, and I can do it so much faster, it works well with my occasional internet access and lackadaisical approach to writing.

I’m going to try something new. I’ve set up a Tumblr for myself. I’ll be trying to post small updates there on a regular basis, in addition to Twitter. When I post photo albums, I’ll have a few of the best previewed on the Tumblr with a link to a higher-quality Picasa web album that everyone can see. I’ll reserve this blog for less day-to-day stuff and hopefully some more interesting or funny pieces of actual writing rather than journaling.

If you’re just tracking me via Facebook or Twitter then none of this means anything to you; updates will still be posted automagically via those mediums. If you’re trying to track me via the blog, then you might want to start following my Twitter or Tumblr for best results! I’ll try this for a month or so and see how it’s working…

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Moablandia

So, for those of you who have found me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my photo album running down my time in Moab. I’m enjoying the photo journal as a way to easily show off brag explain to people what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately there’s no really good way to present such a photo album here on WordPress. So for now, if you want to find out the nitty-gritty of what I’ve been doing, you’ll have to check out the photo albums (which I’ll link here).

As I write this I’m sitting in a Starbuckles in Reno, NV. I wrapped up my three week stint in Indian Creek on Monday and took my sweet ass time getting up here to pick up Laura for our week in Lover’s Leap. Definitely stoked for some time in the Leap — there are a lot of moderate classics I still haven’t done, not to mention old projects that were out-of-reach a year ago that I can likely crush, and new projects to thrash on. It’s a beautiful area and I’m looking forward to continuing to push the boundaries of my hard-won confidence on gear.

The Creek was amazing. Not only was I able to summit several desert towers–Castleton, Ancient Art, and the South Six Shooter–but the value of the Creek as a training ground blew way past even my wildest expectations. In a little less than three weeks, I went from feeling like I had to top-rope everything (really unusual for me) to routinely manhandling cracks sized thin hands through fists.

For the non-climbers out there, crack-climbing is a discipline of climbing very different from what I’m used to. The sort of rock climbing you see at climbing gyms involves climbing on holds which protrude from the rock. This is called face climbing, and is probably the most common style of climbing these days, as it is typically protected by bolts and thus easy for beginners to get into.

Supercrack of the Desert  5.10+ (from MP.com)

By contrast, crack climbing involves climbing what’s not there. You’re trying to move up a fissure in the rock by cramming your body parts–mostly hands and feet but sometimes shoulders, knees, or your whole body–into the crack in a way that lets you stick and make upward progress. Because you can build a safety system inside a crack without modifying the rock, i.e. without bolting it, crack climbing is sort of the rough and tumble old-school way of climbing. It takes a bit more thought than climbing on bolts, and a totally different sort of technique.

Anyway, three weeks in the Creek served me very well, and my crack technique has improved dramatically. Likewise, my confidence climbing on gear I’ve placed myself (as opposed to bolts) has also increased quite a bit. By the end of the trip I was jumping on 5.11 cracks no problem, and even managed to send a very sporty 5.12 called Anunnaki. Granted, this climb was mostly face climbing, but you’re doing it on gear–climbing 5.12 face on gear is something I’d have thought I was a year away from before I came to the Creek.

Anunnaki 5.12-

Learning a new technique like this is pretty intense. You can make an incredible amount of progress very quickly when you’re such a novice, and it almost seems like magic. You can recognize improvement not just from day to day, but from hour to hour. Even when you take a few days off and come back to it you find your technique has improved. It’s pretty amazing.

Crack climbing in particular is special since it has such a long and storied history as the “original” climbing style in the United States. Having marched up the classic Supercrack, which was originally led on hexes, a type of gear not well suited to the crack’s geometry and thus very unlikely to catch a fall, I have a much better appreciation for that achievement.

On the one hand, when you have the technique dialed, crack climbing feels incredibly secure. You know that you could hang your entire bodyweight from that one good handjam without falling. Even on easy face climbing, there’s always some feeling of insecurity. You never feel as safe as you do when you’re really wedged into a good crack.

On the other hand, moving up these jamcracks is a much more full-body experience than face climbing. Although you feel secure, staying in these things can hurt your hands and feet. At Indian Creek, many of the cracks are exactly the same size for 50+ feet, meaning all you have to do is pull the same move over and over. Thus, when you figure out how to move, the tendency is just to keep moving and not stop until you’re done–the better to limit the pain and risk of wearing out. In a lot of ways, climbing these things, once you figure it out, becomes less of a technical challenge and more of a workout. The stairmaster from hell.

Huffing and puffing on Generic Crack 5.10-.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time down there. My sport has probably degenerated while I’ve neglected it, but the skills I learned there will stick with me for a long time, and open up a lot of new options to me, which was exactly what I wanted. I’m feeling ready for the next step, which is the legendary Yosemite Valley. I won’t get there until the fall, but I’m looking forward to continuing my education there!

In the meantime, I’m psyched to climb at the Leap with Laura, whom I haven’t seen in six weeks! After that I’m off to Red Rocks to climb with Juan and Marie. Since I haven’t been sport-reaching in a while, I’ll have to figure out some way to shoehorn my newly acquired jamming skills into the sport climbing down there. I think I can handjam those crimpers if I tape my hands in just the right way.

I still want to talk about the towers I climbed, which were gorgeous and something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I think that’ll have to wait until another post. Until next time!

Castleton Tower

The first step

I gave my notice at work today. My birthday, March 9th, falls on a Friday this year, and that’ll be my last day at work. I’ll spend two weeks jettisoning most of my belongings and fitting what remains into my car, Tetris-style. Then on March 23rd, I head down to Red Rocks with Juan and Bob, kicking off a week long stint for them and a six month or longer road trip for me! The purpose of this blog is to keep people up to speed on where I am and what I’m doing while I’m on the road. Don’t worry though, I’ll probably continue to put up all kinds of weird shit in here.

This was my first serious job, and the first one I’ve quit. I knew I wanted to let my bosses know sometime this week, and I got a pretty bad case of the nerves on Monday–good job security, decent pay, and great benefits are hard to walk away from. I kept wondering what would happen if I got hurt, if I couldn’t climb, if I couldn’t find partners, if I hated being on the road, if I missed my friends. Some of these aren’t even ifs. I’m sure I’ll miss my friends, I bet sometimes I won’t be able to find partners, and I don’t doubt there’ll be moments when I hate being on the road and not having a shower or a real bed at my immediate disposal.

I’ve always liked climbing for its own sake, and some of the supposed spiritual and self-discovery benefits of climbing seem overblown to me. One thing I don’t doubt, though, is that it helps you learn to engage with risks and figure out how to make decisions from a place of happiness, rather than fear, and then follow through on those decisions. When you climb, you assess the route from the ground or from rest stances, and once you move from those positions, you’re committed. You keep going, regardless of how scary it might be, because you’ve already assessed those risks and have decided they’re manageable. You can’t trust yourself to accurately gauge risk during the act, during the most stressful part of the problem. You have to put those worries out of your mind and just focus on the present and the movement and the puzzle as best you can

I was happy to find that those same skills came in handy yesterday when I went to talk to my boss. Just breathe and follow through. I made the decision to do this months ago and I’ve been thinking about it for over a year — it’s a good one. Don’t let your fear stop you.

I realize this seems pretty overblown, but it’s a big first step for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever really strayed from the path that’s been in front of me since high school. I only recently realized that there are actually many paths, and all I need to do to try out a different one is take that first little step.

So here’s to new adventures and a whole fucking lot of fun.

Happy Holiday Hiatus

As my non-denominational present to all of you, I will temporarily cease my barrage of cringe-inducing stories as I travel for the holidays and gorge myself at family meals. In honor of the wintertime doldrums and our shared cult of climbing, I present to you this climbing tree, courtesy of the internet:

Moto-privilege

A few months ago I was riding my bike into work and pulled up to a red light with no cars ahead of me. The bike lane peters out for the 500 feet preceding and following this intersection, so usually I move into the center of the lane–if I try to stay alongside traffic where the bike lane would be, then I get squeezed off the road on the other side of the intersection. On this day for whatever reason, probably the lack of traffic, I stayed to the right.

As I’m waiting for the light to turn green, a guy in an SUV pulls up alongside me. I look over at him–I’m sure he’s going to try and burn me off the line, which sucks because the road narrows on the other side and as I mentioned, I’ll get run off the road. If he guns it when the light turns green I’ll have to drop behind him to merge with traffic in the intersection, a dangerous maneuver. Continue reading

Masculinity and Sunday tidbits

Clarisse Thorn, one of my favorite feminist writers, has written a number of posts examining how gender roles and traditional views of masculinity affect men. This sort of analysis isn’t anything new, but it’s always fraught with peril since it is often used as a smoke screen for Men’s Rights Advocates to claim that feminism has made society “forget about men” or some other silly nonsense. Thorn does an excellent job of describing the impacts as she sees them, while still calling bullshit on male privilege when it’s needed.

There’s no doubt in my mind that gender essentialism and discrimination hurt women more than men, but it’s useful to point out the ways in which society’s narrowly defined set of acceptable behaviors hurt both men and women–doing so makes arguing against those gender-boxes that much easier.

The piece I want to draw attention to today is on the subject of male sexuality and the toxic double standards that go along with it.

An excerpt:

The pressure put on men to be initiators, yet avoid seeming creepy or aggressive, leads to an unpleasant double bind. After all, the same gross cultural pressures that make women into objects force men into instigators; how many women do you know who proposed to their husbands?

So how can a man express his sexual needs without being tarred as a creep? After all, the point of promoting sex-positive attitudes is for everyone to be able to be open about their needs and desires, right?

This is something I struggle with a lot, personally. It’s tough trying to walk the line between appropriately self-confident and excessively aggressive when male sexuality is generally seen as predatory. Politeness means that it’s fairly rare for anyone, woman or man, to flat-out reject the advances of a stranger. Hell, doing so can be outright dangerous for women in certain situations, so it’s a small wonder.

It seems that the only way to walk that line is to be very, very good at reading subtle clues and body language, but frankly, that’s kind of easy to fuck up. I’m sure I do it pretty often. I know I’ve barreled right over the line into creeper territory by accident more than once, and it’s totally not my intention.

Anyway, all I’m getting at is dating kind of sucks, nobody can communicate with anybody else (including me), and gender roles make everything bad for everybody, all the time.

*****

Speaking of creeping people out: I had to go into downtown today to pick up my bike, so I was waiting at the bus stop decked out in my spandex tights and other cycling kit. I was sharing the bus shelter with a woman who looked to be about 65 or 70. Bored, I started doing some stretches, including some calf stretches. I wasn’t facing her, but apparently I must have really grossed out this lady, because she abruptly stood up while making a sort of “yuck” sound and walked out of the bus shelter rather than watch me stretch in my tights. Oops.

*****

On a more positive note, I did my grocery shopping on my bike today, so I just rode straight from downtown to my grocer down in Lake O. When I arrived I had my facemask on and a little girl asked me if I was a ninja. I told her I was a bike ninja and totally struck a pose, it was awesome and she made my day.

Journals

I started keeping a journal a few months ago, mostly to get into the habit of regular writing so I’d have fodder to put on this blog. I’ve been surprised at just how cathartic it’s been, though–makes me wonder if half the benefit of a therapist isn’t just having the opportunity to vocalize or externalize your thoughts.

I like to think I’m a very open person, a personality trait which has become more pronounced over the past few years. I’m now basically Captain Overshare. What I’ve realized in the past few months of keeping this journal, though, is that although I’m more than willing to tell almost total strangers very personal stories or feelings, I hardly ever let out anything negative, even around friends.

I whine, of course, when I’m getting shut down by a hard route, or I’m injured or sick. But when I’m feeling actual emotional pain, I have a really hard time discussing that even with very close friends. In hard times, I’ve always relied on my family or partner to talk me through stuff. But being out here in Portland, distant from my family and single for the most part, a lot of stuff got bottled up inside without me really realizing it.

Anyway this isn’t to say I’m constantly crawling in my skin or curled up crying “I’M SO ALONE!” My lot in life is pretty damn good! But I don’t think anybody gets through their twenties without some angst, and I’ve found getting it inked in the journal to be a nice way to work through it.

That said, now that I’ve realized this I think I need to make an effort to be more open with my friends about some of this stuff because, hey, that’s what friends are for, right? I try to be there when my friends need it. So buddies: GET READY TO HEAR ALL ABOUT MY LIFE PROBLEMS! Deal with it.