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Winter climbing at Vantage

The Vantage forecast looked iffy but James and I went for it. Saturday morning we woke up to a steady drizzle. We took our time over breakfast and decided to hike out and do something easy in the drizzle. When we got there it was dry and we jumped on a crazy hard 10 that looked good to James. After we climbed that I did Pony Keg and Air guitar clean. Can’t remember what we did after that. The fire that night was relaxing and we woke up to still winds and overcast weather. I started the day on George and Martha. I felt powerful on the first 40 feet. My placements were clean, with no time wasting errors. I flowed through the moves easily, nailing the stem rests and side pulls until arriving at the rest jams. I’m normally pumped when I get to the hand jams, but I’d done the start so smoothly I still had some gas in the tank. Still, it was very nice to get up to the first solid rest about 50 feet up. After that James went back to his debacle from the day before. He still couldn’t send it clean, but I have to admire his persistence. I can tell he’s going to get that thing clean. I led the 9 to the right, and it was quite fun. The moves were bold, and the second bolt is loose, but I still enjoyed it. It’s got some great movements though the arete is so thin on top it’s freaky.

Last but not least I led Sunshine Buttress. It is a climb I did with Vladi a few years ago. It starts out vertical but has a number of platforms where you get rests, and where the climing style changes. It goes from vertical aretes to cracks to broken face. It finished on a narrow column with 3 steps notched out of the face. They aren’t positive so you have to hug the column as you mount the steps. It feels super sketchy but is quite safe due to close bolts, 16 on the route. Love that climb!

It was nice to take my mind off work for an entire weekend. The 5 classes I have this quarter have been challenging. It’s fun work but one of my classes burned through my entire book and I’ve had to pull a book off the shelf to finish up the last few weeks. My latest re-write cleaned up some of the old problems, and that meant the book flows better and we got through it faster. They have better websites, but I need to add in a couple more chapters so it has enough content to last the whole quarter without pulling in other textbooks. Other books are fine, but they typically aren’t written as clearly as mine. I would love to find a book that I didn’t have to write.

My problem with textbooks on web design is they rarely make anything pretty. They can be functional, or they can be pretty, but never both. It’s the old “you are an artist or a programmer” problem.

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Back at work

I haven’t written since July. I’ve reached a point where I would rather live my life than write about it. But I do enjoy perusing my old online journal entries. Life gets so busy looking forward that I forget to look back once in a while. And if I don’t write it down, there is nothing to look back on. What do we really have after all? A few pictures stored on a hard drive, or up on social media. Some old paid bills in box. And some toys….perhaps a new camera or a rope and some climbing hardware. Memories? Those last for a while, but even those fade away into the noise of a busy life.

The highlights of my summer, at least as I can best remember them were the long hikes I took with Sue and sometimes our daughter Lisa. Sue and I did long overnight backpacks  (10 miles) out to Ptarmigan Ridge up on Mt. Baker, where I painted both Baker and Shuksan.

Earlier, Lisa, Sue and I climbed the Tooth. That was a vivid reminder of why I don’t alpine climb anymore. The cascade rock is highly fractured compared to cragging on quality granite close to the road. As we stood around on top taking pictures, I was not at all sure we could make it down safely. There were huge loose rocks strewn all over the ledges we had just climbed up, and that was exactly what we had to rappel over.
But we made it down fine and didn’t knock any rocks down on the parties climbing up in the late afternoon light. At the base of the climbing I looked out over the mile long boulder field and sighed. We had to boulder hop through everyone of those boulders, some the size of large cars. And after that it was 2 miles down the car, in the dark.

Sue and I also backpacked out to Elephant Rock on the coast. I wasn’t able to do a good painting out there, but it was fun hanging out. I sewed a really nice backpack that allows me to carry both painting and backpacking gear. Its a copy of an old Lowe Expedition, but double the size. A friend of mine said it would sell for $900 if I wanted to get into the business, which I don’t.

On my fall break I wasn’t able to go to Squamish due to rain squalls. By the second week it was better, and I should have chanced it, but chose instead to head for Smith, followed a week later by the City…where we got rained out after 2 days of climbing. Should’a gone to Squamish, where it had dried up. It was ironic to be calling my wife from the City in the pouring rain. I actually had verizon service in site 26 sitting in my car, in a major downpour complete with lighting. She told me it was perfect at Squamish, whose rain I had tried to escape by driving 11 hours to Idaho. But that’s the nature of a road trip: you make guesses and hope for the best.

Today I have a beautiful turban squash set up in my still life box. Paintings are one of the few things I’ve found that last forever. These things could easily outlast me. I like to think I am adding beauty to the world with these little paintings. Or, at least to my world. Someday I may take them to a gallery, but for now I like the experience of creating them. Most of my paintings are actually fairly bad, but I enjoy the process of creation, and the end result really doesn’t matter. It’s a very satisfying way to spend time. So I think I’m done here. I’m going to shut this macbook and start painting.

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RIP Laurel Fan

When I heard about Laurel I felt a deep shock, a sense that no, this can’t possibly have happened. She was such a solid climber. She was, in many ways,  one of the leading members of our close knit climbing tribe. She was humble and not at all cocky, she always wore her helmet.  It was hard to imagine her making a mistake.

Up until 6 years ago I only knew her by reputation. I met Laurel and Daphne together late on a rainy night in Vantage when Ritchie and I drove up to their tent. They were already asleep but they popped out and we re-lit the fire to drink beer and tell stories.

But in the years that followed it seemed I couldn’t go anywhere without running into Laurel. From Darrington to Smith to Index to Trout and Vantage, there would be Laurel, climbing something so hard I couldn’t even do the first move. Daphne climbs closer to my level, and we’ve been on some long trips to Smith together, she is good people.

I last saw Laurel when I dropped by her house the day she was packing for Waddington. I was there to pick up my Valley Giant which she had borrowed for Pipeline. We had planned to do Pipeline together that weekend, but it was raining in Squamish. I asked her about her recent lead of the notorious offwidth and we did that classic climbers dance out in the road in front of her apartment. She would mimic the moves and I would mimic them back. 

Me: “So, at the crux, did you do a double fist jam, or was it like this, with a chicken wing?”

Laurel: “No, like this, you jam the edge of your hip in and kind of wiggle, see?”

Me, watching her movements: “Hm, I think I need to send Split Beaver clean first, before I try Pipeline.”

Laurel: “Ok, next sunny weekend after I get back from Waddington.”

But now we won’t get that chance to climb Pipeline together…  

It was 1976 when I lost my first friend to the mountains. My former high school girlfriend died on Nanda Devi in the Himalayas. Devi was a beautiful blonde goddess who for some crazy reason took a liking to me. Her dad Willi Unsoeld was a world famous climber. He told some amazing stories about his first ascent on Everest in ‘63 as he sized me up around the dinner table.

They were both gone within 3 years, killed mountain climbing. I’ve lost 4 other friends in the mountains, and now Laurel.

It is so, so beautiful up in the alpine, I very much miss those views.

Back in the 80’s there seemed to be a trajectory in mountain climbing, at least for Sue and I. As we got better, and started trying bigger and harder routes with mixed rock and ice in the winter, the close calls got scarier. 

It didn’t happen often, and in fact was quite rare, but we started to notice that some of the best climbers we knew were dying.  We got so scared after one memorable epic that we quit climbing altogether and took up gold panning. But that only lasted 6 months and we were back to climbing, but not in the mountains.

Cragging still has plenty of danger, and could easily kill me someday. After almost 40 years of climbing with nothing worse than a broken ankle, I feel like I’ve found a balance between the fun and the risk. I sometimes wonder whether civilization is simply too tame, and we have a biological need for danger. I’ve seen people who swear they would never climb, drive down the freeway like a maniac, endangering their lives far more than most climbing trips.

But Laurel, man it just doesn’t seem possible. 

http://www.castanet.net/news/BC/171893/Search-for-woman-called-off

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Open Mic

Craig and I went to an open mic in Port Orchard last week. I was very nervous beforehand.

A little history:
I had not played at an open mic since I was in my twenties. At that one (1978), I got stage fright so bad I blanked out halfway through my first song. I was staring at my sheet music but I couldn’t see it. It took me 30 seconds to recover. During that time I saw and heard the audience get restless and begin talking to each other, clearly nervous about my stage fright. Once I calmed down, I played fine, and even got some nice applause for my last number.

Back to the present:
While sitting there with Craig, watching the people playing before me. I was remembering the chaos of my last open mic experience. As my turn got closer and closer I got more and more nervous. In the back of my mind  I was also remembering that I can’t sing on key. I’ve recorded myself singing, and my voice is terrible. For the son of a choir director, I sing badly.

Finally my turn came and I walked up to the stage with my guitar, harmonica and sheet music. The owner was very friendly and came up to help me set up the mic’s and do a sound check. When we first walked in he was singing the blues while simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica. I have never heard anyone do that. He was awesome! I told him beforehand that I was a better harp player than anything else and he said he would make some calls to bring in some good blues players.

I had planned to introduce myself first, but my sound check sort of turned into my first song. I was too nervous to talk and just wanted to get it over with. As usual, my voice felt very strong, and I knew my harp and guitar were passible, if not decent. I got through my 3 songs without any huge errors. But afterward, I asked Craig how I did.

“Well, your harp and guitar sounded awesome, but your voice was just ok. It’s too bad you can’t find a way to perform without singing.” …That’s my buddy Craig. He doesn’t pull any punches. And he was right of course. If I really want to sing, I need to take voice lessons. Definitely didn’t inherit perfect pitch from dad. I can hear pitch great on my harp and guitar, and it feels right when I sing, but it’s not.

Afterward, as promised, two other great blues musicians showed up, and they invited me to jam with them, which was awesome. I can rock the harp with no problem at all. I’m on key, I can riff between verses, and I was even able to team up with a sax player, who was possibly the best musician in the house. Plus those guys could sing the blues! Man, that was so much fun.

But afterwards I lost my drive to practice. I’m already not painting, not since Christmas. Stopping the guitar too was shutting off all my creativity. Finally today, 10 days after the open mic I played guitar at the kitchen table.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

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Stopped painting again

My last painting was December 30th. I painted 5 days a week for the six months prior to that. Since December I’ve been using my spare time to study web programming. Someone quit at work last April and I was able to get back to full time hours. It’s been great to get normal paychecks for a while. In five days I will have my credit card payed off for the first time in several years.

So financially we are doing great. We might even save some money soon, assuming this 2009 Macbook doesn’t die. But I feel guilty about the painting. Working feels like the right thing to do right now, and climbing on the weekends is always fun. But life passes so quickly when I’m not painting. All I have to show from living like this is a few photos and bank statements. Oh, and a shelf full of empty packaging that used to hold new toys. Like my iPhone, which which I’m already bored, a new flashlight, a couple cams, a new battery powered drill…etc.

My back bedroom is literally covered with the paintings I did over the last couple years. All the walls, shelves and boxes are covered with unsold oil paintings. Each painting is a memory of a time when I knew I was doing exactly what I should be doing. It’s true that they aren’t very good, though I could probably sell a few at a craft fair if I wanted to spend my weekends standing around under a white tent. I love creating the art, but the selling part not so much.

Work is going well. I have some great students and they are rapidly downloading everything I know about web design. The teaching business is perplexing. When I start out with a new group of students it’s kind of like bringing a bucket of water to people in the drylands. By the time they move on, my bucket is empty. I fill my bucket by studying the latest trends in web design and preparing lessons. Then the cycle starts again.

But my paints are calling to me. Maybe I can do some still lifes soon. That would be fun.

I’m looking forward to some climbing. On my April break I finally got up Cruel Sister clean. It is a 10b red camalot sized crack that has been shutting me down for about 8 years. My daughter and my niece Pam were there and tried it after my lead. That was a super fun trip!

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Iphone on a budget $15 a month for service

One of the excuses I like to trot out for failing as a fine artist is that I am a geek. Instead of drawing for an hour a day like a real artist, I will read about smartphones or computers.

I’m always trying to get the best phone for the cheapest price. For a decade I argued with Verizon and AT&T about their plans. I wanted them to let me pay for what I used, instead of a two year contract at a high rate just because I had a smartphone.

For the last two years I’ve had a Republic Wireless Moto-X. It costs $13 a month. I can upgrade to 3G data for another $13. So it’s nice and cheap. My wife and my sister’s family all have Republic and they are a fine company. They were one of the first to challenge the big wireless providers. They are a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning they don’t own any cell towers. Out where I live they piggyback on the Sprint towers, with a fall back to Verizon. Service is great.

Because it looks like I may have a full time gig again next quarter, I decided to reward myself with a new iPhone. I’ve had 3 Android phones but have always wondered what an iPhone would be like. Plus, as a web developer it’s helpful to have an easy way to test on both operating systems. My wife has Android.

So I walked into the Apple store in Tacoma and bought a brand new unlocked iPhone. Republic doesn’t allow anything but their custom built Androids. With a new unlocked iPhone I could take it to any wireless provider because it has all the modern antennas…meaning GSM and CDMA.

For $9.00 Ting sent me a GSM sim card and my problems started. My brand new iPhone wouldn’t work at the house. The GSM network out here relies on T-Mobile and we live in a dead zone.

I measured my signal strength using an app and it was -140 dbm which equals a dead phone. On an iPhone,  dial *3001#12345#* to check signal strength. I called the guys at weboost and he said I was out of luck. Their $400 cell phone signal boosters top out at -108 dbm. He said that right under a cell tower you would get a signal of  -70 dbm.

I thought, no problem, I’ll do wifi calling since the GSM (T-Mobile) network was fine in town. This phone and that network doesn’t allow it. Next I tried google voice, since I still have a number dating back to my wifi phone days with an iTouch. Oops, VOIP calling is blocked. Finally I tried Skype, and that worked, but it costs money to call my wife because she doesn’t have data for a free Skype call. Or, she would have data if she would pay extra to Republic. But she insisted that my phone problems weren’t her problems, and why should she pay extra?

I couldn’t argue with that, and besides I thought there must be a way to get my iPhone to work cheaply, at the house. I went on a big quest to the big cell companies who have decent towers out there, seeing if they had finally lowered their rates. Verizon,  Sprint and AT&T are all still singing the same song. You have to pay a minimum of $40 a month for a smartphone…even if you bring your own unlocked phone-device (BYOD).

One of the reasons I went with ting is they have real people that answer the phone. Check out this video:

When I called Ting, someone answered right away and he spoke English! He said a CDMA sim might be better as that uses the Sprint network…and Sprint piggybacks on Verizon. Verizon has the only good towers out here in the sticks. Ting sent me a CDMA sim for free, second day air, to replace my GSM sim.

As soon as I swapped sim cards my new iPhone worked flawlessly with a signal strength of -89 dbm. In laymans terms that means I went from (maybe) one bar to two full bars and a working phone. I was able to easily swap-port phone numbers from the old GSM sim to the new CDMA sim using the online forms. That took about 3 hours to port.
Then I had the bright idea to port out my old number from Republic to Ting. I deleted the working Ting number and filled out the port forms online. For two days I carried both phones around, waiting for one (Android) to die, and one (iPhone) to live.
Finally I got online and found that Republic can take up to 10 days to port. I decided that was not going to work…I wasn’t married to my old phone number. As my wife said: “No one remembers numbers anymore, they just press the contact button”.
Bottom line, I have a new number, and an iPhone. My plan starts around $15 a month, depending on how much data I consume. Ting only charges you for what you use. I’ve been trying to treat my phone like a dumb phone, meaning I only use data when I have wifi.
IOS is a remarkably smooth OS. It’s fun learning how to navigate around in a new operating system. I’ve always enjoyed reading manuals. I guess I’m a geek. I do miss painting though. I’ve not painted since Christmas.

 

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New website version 4.0

I have uploaded my new website. I started working on it before the holidays by studying some new programming tricks. I didn’t want to use an image slider built by someone else so I built my own from scratch using a combination of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. I do pull from two different script libraries: jQuery and Greensock. But I wrote all the functions in my js file.

The thumbnail function on my gallery pages is all built by hand. I have never seen anyone do it before quite the way I did it…it may be unique. I got ideas for it’s construction from both Pinterest and the “new tab” function in the Edge browser. It’s still not perfect. For example, I wouldn’t mind if they animated in from the side like most gallery plug-ins. However, many of those plug-ins are buggy when viewed on phones. This one is simple enough that it works smoothly regardless of viewport or device.

It uses the old [a name=””] function from last century to move from thumbnails to full size image. But built into that is the masonry presentation of the thumbnails, paired up with animation on the full size images.

In case you don’t know what masonry is…it is the presentation of different sized thumbnails or action boxes in a web page. They align in even columns, and wrap based on the size of the viewport. Mine are very responsive to the viewport width, using both JavaScript and Media Queries for control. On larger viewports my script automatically delivers full size images 1080 high, under the assumption that:

if (you are on a full size computer) {//you have a fast connection
image shall be 1080px tall
} else {//you are on a smartphone with slow connection
image shall be 700px tall
}

But before that logic executes, you only see thumbnails. You have to click a thumbnail to trigger the above logic.

I believe that the full size images load in the back ground…though I’ve not investigated that.

Web design is fun stuff. Now that my site is up I’m going to continue educating myself on some of the newest technologies. These are things I have delayed learning because I was too busy teaching stuff like filmmaking. I’ve just begun studying GitHub version control, and after that I will start drilling down on custom WordPress development. It would be super fun if I could make this self hosted WordPress site look just like the rest of my website. A bunch of my students have done well with WordPress, and many employers do custom WordPress as a matter of course.

I already have an Apache server running locally on my Windows 10 box for testing this site with it’s PHP includes. And I used to have Apache running on my MacBook for developing my locally hosted WordPress site. Now I just need to dig into the PHP side of WordPress to build my own custom theme, and convert this blog over to that theme.

If none of this made sense, please accept my apologies. I’ve been buried in geek speak lately. Click the links above to painting or rock climbing to read something written in English.

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Switching gears

Chimney Rock, Jtree
Chimney Rock, Jtree

I’m back at work from my Winter Break. I have one class this quarter. The reasons for my low class load are complicated, and best not discussed here. I can say however that enrollment at our college is down 14% across all programs. Enrollment in state technical colleges like ours is directly related to unemployment, which is also very low at 5%.  The one class I do have is fully enrolled. I love sharing my passion for the internet and all the clever things you can do with code.

Because of my reduced class load, I’ve decided to stop painting and focus my energies on web design, which has a better chance of earning me money in the short term. Painting full time was a dream I’d always wanted to pursue. And over the last year I got that chance. True, I was working 2 days a week, but that left 5 to paint, and I painted a lot…to the point where making art felt like work. Doing it full time literally took the fun out of it. I felt like every painting had to suceed because of that burning pressure to get good enough for a big show in a gallery.  Many, many of my paintings were just plain bad. In my wifes words: “A sixth grader could paint that”.

Chimney Rock, Jtree
Chimney Rock, Jtree

I did do some really nice work, and I treasure those moments of happiness when my paintings were going well and I knew I had a winner. But I never felt they were good enough for  a large gallery. I think a couple years in a fine art program would do the trick, but I really can’t afford to pull that money out of my savings…especially without a guarantee of sucess.  So for now at least, I’m spending my days off  studying new web technologies, and  updating my front end web skills to current standards. I’m not that far off, but my website definitely needs an overhaul.

I have a working demo here, but I can’t link to it because it’s been taken apart when the site when live. (edit 2-27-15)

It is fully responsive to changes in the viewport width, and features some unique transitions between thumbnails and full size images. I used to use a prebuilt jquery slideshow plugin. However this new webpage uses a thumbnail function that I wrote almost entirely from scratch. I’m still working some bugs out, but it’s been lot of fun creating a gallery page using my own code and ideas.

Specifically, the two main new functions I’m using are flexbox and column-count. They enable me to have variable height thumbnails that wrap in columns. I merged that concept with parent columns built with flexbox, and have nailed the classic: “In search of the holy grail of web design“…without using floats, or positioning.

In case you don’t know, the holy grail  in web design is to get 2 fixed width columns on left and right, with an expanding liquid center. It’s easy enough to do with floats and positioning. Since tables died out, I’ve been teaching that style of interface design for 10 years.

I’d been hearing from my students that there were new technologies coming online that made it easier. Things like the grid systems, and prebuilt web aplications like WordPress, which I use to manage this bog. They manage the columns for you, so you can concentrate on content.

But when I heard from a student last quarter about Flexbox, I decided it was worth a look.  I studied a couple training lessons at www.lynda.com and realized the browsers had finally matured enough to support real graphic design style column functionality.

I’ve got that nailed down pretty tightly, and I’ve got it fully responsive.

My Christmas break was super fun, and we had a great time down in jtree this year. Here are a few pictures, including recent backcountry snowcave camping trip. We got back from Cali’, and immediately went snowcamping.

Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Me climbing F8, Joshua Tree
Me climbing F8, Joshua Tree
Sue in the Iron Door cave, Joshua Tree
Sue in the Iron Door cave, Joshua Tree
Craig playing banjo on top of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Craig playing banjo on top of Chimney Rock, Joshua Tree
Craig leading with his banjo, Joshua Tree
Craig hiking to the top with his banjo, Joshua Tree
Sue following a 5.8, Joshua Tree
Sue following a 5.8, Joshua Tree
Me with my painting New Years day 2016, Joshua Tree
Me with my painting New Years day 2016, Joshua Tree
Sue digging the snow cave
Sue digging the snow cave
Sue at our snow cave
Sue at our snow cave
My daughter cooking dinner
My daughter cooking dinner
Coffee is ready
Coffee is ready