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Free Wifi phone service with iPod Touch and Talkatone

After years of whining I finally ditched my smartphone. I’m using a brand new iPod Touch  with Talkatone running over the top of Google Voice. Both are free apps, as is the google voice phone number. I told everyone my primary number is now the free google voice number. When they call that, I pick up on the Touch, or if I’m out of wifi range, I pick up on the $8 a month AT&T dumb phone. Google Voice allows me to forward calls to my dumb phone, so both ring.  I have to spend $25 every three months to keep the dumb phone alive. For that I get 250 minutes. But the wifi phone works for free anywhere there is wifi, which means all large stores and businesses, and at home and work. Some corporations block VOIP, including my job. But texting still works, even with blocked Voice Over IP.

I’ve been enjoying the sophistication of IOS 7. It’s a very mature operating system. It’s much faster than my old Droid RAZR. I really feel like I have a free iphone. Of course, I can’t talk on my cell phone in the car. I simply don’t have enough minutes on my dumbphone to do that anymore. I wait until I can get in wifi range to talk. This takes a little more planning, but I’m a safer driver because of it. What’s not to like?

For navigation, I have a dash mounted GPS from Garmin. Like the Touch,it’s free once you buy it. My only contract is the dumbphone, and it’s a prepaid, no contract phone. So far I like it a lot.

I’ve written up the process here. I like to make cases from leather and metal.

http://websterart.com/html/dumbphone-wifi-phone-case.html

 

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The top roping problem

I wrote the following on a climbing website. Someone was complaining about all the top ropers, and how he couldn’t get on a climb all day because large groups had showed up early and tied up all the climbing routes with beginners. I am posting it here because it is reasonably good writing…for me…and I have been feeling bad about not updating this “blog”.

Here is my post:

Ah we are back to this. Crowded cliffs. Whether it is one leader, with 6 non leading top ropers, or an organized group tying up an entire cliff for top roping. It’s basically the gym mentality coming outdoors.

I hate starting lines with “Used to be…” or “Back when I…”

What used to be doesn’t matter anymore. These people are here, and they aren’t going away.

There are a couple of solutions:

Always carry a trad rack. Many times I’ve been at Smith Rocks where all the bolt lines are tied up. But right next to the bolt lines is an old trad line…and no one is on it. Have you ever done Old Testament? Or both pitches of Lycopodophyta? Fridays Jinx? Pack animal? Or routes that can’t easily be TR’d like Tammy Bakkers face? How about Bookworm? No one ever does bookworm (except me), and it is right next to Bunny face.

The next time you mentor a new climber, teach them to always lead, never, ever top rope. Have them follow you up a few easy cracks, pulling gear, and examining placements.

Then make them lead. This means you will have to search out the really easy 3rd and 4th class cracks, sometimes even short boulders with cracks. Stuff that is so easy they could free solo it. Have them put in their own gear.

Follow them up and critique the placements. Teach them the value of being a leader from day one.

The Icicle canyon in Leavenworth is a great place for that. It’s how I learned to climb, and how I taught my family, and many friends. If I can’t lead it, I won’t climb it until I can lead it. I don’t even like following routes I can’t lead, but I will do it occasionally for a good partner.

If all you are doing is following or top roping, it’s a sign you have the wrong partner.

I can’t stop the top ropers anymore than I can hold back a river. But I can choose not to participate. And anyone I teach to climb learns to lead from day one. If it’s too hard, skip the top rope, find something you *can* lead. You will be a more competent climber for it.

And don’t be afraid to lead trad routes that are too hard. Hang dogging your way up a route is a tried and true technique for learning the moves, refining your gear placements, and generally wasting huge amounts of time. You will anger people waiting in line, but they should have gotten up earlier. Next time you do it you will know the moves, and it might go clean.

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Visiting my dad

I just noticed that two months have gone by since I’ve written here. I guess I’ve been living my life instead of writing about it. Going back two months, I spent 17 days climbing in Squamish, Smith and Leavenworth. My main partners were Aaron, Kyle, Marty, Ed and James, each of which had a different block of time available. I was lucky to have the entire time to climb straight through. It felt great to get that warmed up. Stuff that used to scare me was easy money.

Since then I’ve been climbing on the weekends, but not as well as during my full time climbing period. Climbing skill is perishable, especially as you get older. It’s like cabbage in the fridge. Beyond two weeks, forget about it, you need to buy new cabbage.

Saturday I climbed at Index with Kyle. I can still cruise 5.8s like Lizard…so my cabbage isn’t completely bad yet.

Sunday Sue and I went down to see dad. He will be 90 this year. He still lives alone, and drives himself around town. He is very sharp. He gave me a bunch of grief about how long it had been since I’d been down to see him (a few months). He lives just 40 minutes south, so I have no excuse not to visit him more often.

We took him down to the farmers market and walked around with him, looking at all the cool stuff for sale. He walks slow because of his bent leg, but his hiking stick helps him balance, and he gets around ok.

Before he got his two hearing aids I used to think he was starting to get foggy, like mom did in her later years. But dad is doing great for 89, he was fun to hang around with. I get so wrapped up in my own life that I forget my oldest and best friend is just one hour away, and always happy to see me.

My sister was there in the morning to cook him breakfast. She had to drive 4 hours to see him, but she left before we got there, heading up further North to see her son in Seattle.

I will post pictures later.

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work videos

My new DSLR video class went well. For our final project, we recorded interviews of students around campus. We had two recording studios with multiple cameras, microphones and 3 point lighting. We had someone monitoring double system sound, and an operator for each camera. My students learned a lot, and we produced a quality product. We captured 55 gigabytes of raw footage, 26 interviews. I’ve only edited 3 of them so far, here is one:

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Car mechanic for a weekend

Writing here may help clear my head. Going back 3 weeks, Sue and I climbed at the City for 9 days. Marty, Ed and Clint met us there for a few days each. I climbed everyday with partners rotating in and out based on their available time.

Marty and I had an adenture up on the 5.8 on Steinfelds dome. I wore shorts, and forgot my windshirt. At the top of the first pitch it was windy and cold. Marty brought up his extra shell, but my fingers still took another entire pitch to thaw out.

My favorite route of the trip was Batwings on Parking Lot rock. That thing is absolutely awesome. It’s only 5.8 but the climbing is 4 star all the way. The runnout topout turns out to have a number of small hidden flakes for cams, plus it’s only 5.5 there. The crux is at the traverse where you have to leave one crack sytem and faceclimb over to the next one. The moves are not reversible, but they are reasonably secure with good footwork. It’s never runnout, though it looks bad from the ground.

Images from the City.

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city-of-rocks-6-13_0053 city-of-rocks-6-13_0063 city-of-rocks-6-13_0070 city-of-rocks-6-13_0073
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We drove back, I worked 4 days and drove to Squish for a weekend with Karen, Julia, Chris, Merica and Ritchie, plus their significant others. I was happy with my climbing. My recent long trip helped me to climb confidently. Penny Lane was quite easy, even at the crux. It’s wonderful to get on stuff and feel good, rather than be burdened with fear of falling. I wasn’t able to send the 10a bolt line at burgers and fries until I took a short fall, and then a longer 15 foot practice fall. That was fun.

Leaky valve cover gaskets
Leaky valve cover gaskets have to be replaced

This last weekend I had to work on 3 cars. The Corolla is leaking oil into the spark plug access tubes. I wasn’t able to get to that one. Our Rav4 needed an oil change, and my truck had bad shuddering during hard breaking. My mechanic had told me it was warped rotors and to drive it until the pads wore out. But the shuddering was so bad I wasn’t able to wait that long.

When I repacked the bearings, I noticed they had linear wear patterns. The truck is at 175k, and whether that is normal wear, or caused by poor maintenance, I don’t know. I bought new bearings and races, plus a bearing press. The parts guy said to tap the bearings out with a punch. Those things were tight! I had to use a sledge hammer on blocks of wood on  a concrete floor. There has to be an easier way.

I was careless on the first one and scored the hub with my punch. This required resurfacing the hub with sandpaper…just on the score marks. Bottom line, on our Tacoma,  I have new front bearings and races, brake pads, rotors, shocks, and an oil change on the Rav4. Total cost $250 in parts, and one weekend. If I would have paid someone to do all that it would have been closer to 700.

If I put a value on my time, it would have been more cost effective to pay my mechanic. However, I enjoy working with my hands, the logic and trouble shooting of car repair is a nice break from my job working with computers.

Here is a nice video on setting your wheel bearing torque

This quarter I am teaching a class on shooting video with DSLR cameras, including double system sound. I’m including the whole gamet of skills from camera settings and lenses to lighting and sound recording…plus editing in Premiere. Our final goal is to record some professional 2 camera interviews for the college youtube channel. Our talent will be real student sucess stories. It’s a fun class!

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Gitzo Mountaineer Grub screw

Add a grub or set screw to your Gitzo!

I bought a Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531. It is an awesome tripod at 1.6 pounds, but it doesn’t have  grub screw. This means there is no way to lock down the ball head, or any other head you might want to put on it, like a light weight video head.

I bought it to shoot video while rock climbing. The video head and other attachments are heavy enough, I have to have a stable shooting platform, and it has to be light enough to lead climb with it all on my back.

I noticed that the tripod top plate is already drilled, but not tapped. I drilled a new hole, tapped it for one quarter twenty threads, and now I have a grub screw to lock down my ball head, or in my case, to lock down my cheeseplate. Pictures follow, they are self explanatory.

gitzo-cam_0016
Amazing quality on this tripod!

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Fletch plays the guitar
Fletch plays the guitar
I play the harp in the moonlight, photo by Craig.
I play the harp in the moonlight, photo by Craig.

 

Craig drilling on Fletches new route
Craig drilling on Fletches new route

I’ve been working most weekends with 2 exceptions all quarter. My textbook is up to 200 pages as of tomorrow. I’d hoped to climb tomorrow, but I broke the website.

This book can be very frustrating. I thought I knew how to do something (external js file), but when I tried it, I got a major javascript breakdown.

Before I can write the textbook pages I have to be certain what I am explaining will work for my students. When I break it badly, my writing stops dead while I figure it out.  Two more weeks to the quarter break. I am so looking forward to relaxing.

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Book is up to 200 pages

alex-kristi-leavenworth_0026This quarter is 8 weeks old. I’ve had 5 days off in 56 days. I was getting seriously bummed about it until I put it in perspective. I’m working those weekends because our program changed and I added two new classes that had never been taught before.

One is relatively easy, the other is a complete re-write of my front end web design class. I teach two levels of web design. One is for people right off the street. The second one, which I am re-writing this quarter builds on what they learned in the first one and gives them a responsive portfolio based website written completely from scratch.

alex-kristi-leavenworth_0116I had taught the second class for about 6 years, but it was overdue for a rewrite. Before I could re-write it, I had to learn the stuff myself. What is responsive design, and what is it capable of? What is HTML 5 and CSS 3, and how much support is there for it?

How can Jquery be merged with the other alphabet soup languages to make modern webpages, and where do Photoshop and Flash fit into the mix?

alex-kristi-leavenworth_0045The re-write was so big I decided to make it into a polished textbook covering both classes. I will be at 200 pages by the end of this weekend. There are numbered pages, illustrations, screen shots and call out arrows, all built in InDesign. Every word written by me, nothing is copied or stolen from other authors. Some of the techniques I invented, after searching out the answer and coming up blank.

But all of this work was burning me out badly. As I said, I’ve climbed 5 days in the last 8 weeks, every other day has been work. I knew I was going to go down in flames…so I started examining the resentment I had toward the work.

If this had been a 10 foot wide painting I had worked on 8 weekends in a row, I would be happy as a clam at high tide. Writing this book required a change in attitude. It’s not a painting, but it is a very creative endeavor. Its actually quite amazing that someone like me, who is not an author, could write a 200 page textbook. I mean, how did that happen? When did I develop this skill?

IMG_5575_0264I must have grown into it as a matter of course. I never intended to be an author, or a teacher for that matter. Life rolled along and suddenly I’m writing a textbook, and it’s quite a good textbook at that.

Do I still have resentment about spending my weekends writing a book? Hell yes, but there is also a lot of satisfaction. It doesn’t make up for the “lost weekends” but knowing that I’m doing something worthwhile makes everything better.IMG_5556_0245IMG_5507_0196alex-kristi-leavenworth_0157

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working weekends

My web design textbook is up to158 pages of original content. I need to write another 15 pages this weekend. I was able to plug in a  lesson from an old textbook for a week, which allowed me to  climb last weekend at Leavenworth with Sue, Alex, Kristi and their two kids. That was an awesome break.

But now I’m back at the typewriter, trying to pound out some more pages. I read some interesting prose recently (might have been on Slate) from another writer. She was describing how hard it was to write.

“I write when the spirit moves me, and the spirit moves me every day.” George Balanchine: “My muse must come to me on union time.” Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” John Updike: “I’ve never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think that the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.” George Gershwin said that if he waited for inspiration, he would compose at most three songs a year.

That rings very true for me. Writing is painful, especially at first. But once the words and ideas start to flow, I can go for days. While this all sounds wonderful, it’s taking quite a toll on me. Of the last 6 weekends, I’ve taken 3 days off. The rest have been spent at my typewriter. More specifically, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, HTML 5 and CSS 3. My topic is Responsive Web Design, but more specifically, how to teach Responsive Design to college students. My approach is to build a beautiful website step by step, explaining each step as we go. We bake our cookies from scratch in this program.

I’m considering cutting back my hours summer quarter. I’d love to teach all 4 classes, it’s really cool stuff…but the way I’m feeling after 6 weeks of this quarter, I don’t think I can do it.

I need to stop whining and get to work. Complaining about my workload on the internet is solving nothing.

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New six minute short film

I created this movie: A short film about the roll keys play in our lives. Not all keys are
made from metal. Some things we do are unlocked with creativity and hard
work. This film features climbers in Leavenworth Washington, and me,
opening some doors to freedom. At the end I show my grandfathers keys.
The locks they used to open are long gone, but somehow, those keys speak
to me. I wrote and performed the music soundtrack.

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Working Overtime

I caught a bad cold on the weekend before the new quarter started. I have 2 new classes. I’ve taught some of the content for both of them before, but under different names and older software and programming languages. My 99 page book on web design is growing at the rate of fifteen to twenty pages a week, or however many pages my students can consume. I’m writing the content based on current web standards, as explained in many different online resources, and books that I have purchased from other authors.

There is no one book that explains web design the way I like to teach it. I like to build a web page as I teach it. Very few current books are written this way, or if they are, the web pages they build are not pretty. Most of them explain theory, usually badly, and assume you can absorb the knowledge and apply it to your projects.

The book I am writing builds a nice looking website, while it explains the theory. If I do my job, the students will walk away from the class with a professional portfolio website that can be the basis for freelance client work, or as a vehicle for advertising their skills to future employers. And the best part is, they understand everything about the process of building the website. It’s all documented in the pages of the book I am writing.

Whenever I get a spare moment I’ve been studying scriptwriting. I foolishly agreed to teach a brand new class on DSLR video summer quarter. I thought it would be fun since I enjoy exploring new things. I soon learned a dirty little secret about video: any monkey can learn to shoot video. Witness all the grade school kids on the ski slopes wearing go pro cameras on their helmets.

In still photography, one image is all you need and it’s over in a tiny fraction of a second. In video, you film over time. It doesn’t matter how much brilliance you display in your camera work and editing,  your audience will quickly get bored without a story. Which leads me to scriptwriting and a book called Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need His basic concept is that your audience will like your story if: (1.) You have a hero; and (2.) your hero is likeable because, before he enters into the main storyline, he stops and saves a lost cat stuck in a tree.

It’s much deeper than that, but it’s interesting stuff. Storytelling with video, who knew?