Always look 2 steps ahead

Posted by on October 14th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I’m not much of a planner.  I often plan about 30 minutes ahead, or less. Like right now for example. 9 minutes ago I was practicing some songs on my guitar. Fletch and I plan to climb this weekend. So I knew I had to keep  my skills fresh. (I plan farther ahead for climbing trips because it involves other people.) As I was playing, I thought, I should write about what I learned, here.

9 minutes ago I was working on “When I was your man” and “Sweet baby James” plus “Shallow”. Those hurt my fingertips. I’ve been spending an hour a day practicing Blackbird. But it only uses 2 fingers, so the other ones got soft. I hate soft fingers! Those steel guitar strings can feel like razor blades. I know, first world problems and all.

So like anyone faced with pain, I switched to Blackbird…using my harder finger pads. As I came into the complexity of the song, which is all played from memory (no sheet music), a little voice in my head said “try looking two chords ahead”. In other words, as you play the current picking pattern on a chord, visualize the next two  chord positions on the neck of the guitar.

So I start planning 4 seconds ahead, all while picking an incredible complex chord pattern. I’m seeing the next two finger positions as I’m playing the current one.

There must be a way to put the pattern on paper. I learned it on youtube, and he’s all visual. He says things like fret 5 on the B string, fret 3 on the A string.

But in addition to that, he’ll spec out the picking pattern for that position, which also plays an open G string several times, depending on how long that position (chord) is played. As you can probably tell, I’m having a lot of fun with this.

I’d thought about taking guitar lessons when I retired…but youtube is getting so good….seems like close enough. See my previous post for the youtube link.

Lawn sod and a Black Bird

Posted by on October 12th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Got up at 6AM to drive to Yelm for a pickup bed full of lawn sod. The fork lift driver was very, very precise as he loaded a  2000 pound pallet of lawn sod into my Tundra. I needn’t have worried. He missed my canopy lift struts by a millimeter…no harm done.

Clint showed up at 10 AM and we-he put the lawn down where there used to be a rotten deck. 18 x18 plus a 12 x 12 foot square area of dirt was well and fully sodded. Is that a verb?

I’m over halfway through a youtube tutorial on Blackbird.

Both Fletch, Carl and Chad can all  play Blackbird. It’s kind of a signature song for serious guitarists. Right up there with Stairway to Heaven. If someone can play Blackbird, you know they are good.

I nailed it in a few hours. I mean I’m literally playing it from memory. It was so satisfying to learn a new and difficult song so quickly. You get to be 67, and you start to wonder if you’re loosing your edge. I mean, it happens. Old people get old. But there I was playing quickly and cleanly with passion, no sheet music. Super happy about that.

Chris and I led Morning (Glory?) over at the tunnel at Index. It was 3 pitches. Then we did GM. Chris led the first pitch. It’s free soloing above a ledge but only about 5.7 friction. I probly could have led it? But I was so glad she was willing. I had to hang twice on the second pitch. It’s got some 5.9 undercling layback moves. There is a really cool no hands knee bar there. Once I hung on the two blues I felt more relaxed. I placed a 4 from the hang, got some slack, clipped it and hung again. I was about to say ‘take’, but Chris already had me. She was like: “We’ve been climbing together a long time. I got this.”

After that, I began under clinging the red crack. It’s just a few moves then you throw for the hand jam above the undercling and you are golden. The rope got stuck in a cam as I was pulling up her line. I had to rap down to clean it. That was scary. She had me on a fireman, and I had a prusik, but I was out of my comfort zone. I had to climb up by french freeing and walking a couple cams while reverse rappelling on a single line. Not fun at all.

She led Heart of the Country in the last light. I bailed on the follow due to the late hour. I let a rap line fall out of reach. I had to short line over to it. These kinds of things never happen to us. So weird to have two bad things happen on one climb. She was like: “We are better than this, what’s going on?”

The grass looks really good. I hope it lives.

free talking books for iphone without the overdrive app

Posted by on October 10th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Bypassing Overdrive and Audible

Getting free audiobooks has always been a brain squeezer. Back in the day I used to listen to library books on cassette tapes, which evolved into CD’s and finally the Overdrive system…which now tries to only work via an app with 3 week expiration dates.

Audible is expensive, and the library Overdrive app is annoying. Depending on how many trips I take I might not read the books for a year or two.

Now, I have no desire to rip off authors. This technique is basically bypassing the DRM system. Artists and authors deserve protection and respect. I would never post or share these books online. I’m an author myself.

But, that being said, road trips are boring, and it’s great to have a longer lasting  selection of books on the phone to keep me awake. Only one in 10 books is worth reading…so I need a lot to pick from.

If you are on a 2015 macbook running Big Sur, like me, with an Iphone XS, this still works as of October 10, 2021.

 

A. If iPhone is full, remove books via settings > general > storage > books app > audio book
B. Watch video above and install his thingy (from github?).
C. Log into your library Overdrive account  (with safari presenting as chrome windows) and download mp3 books. This actually only gets you *.odm files, which are little 6k files containing your ‘key’ to trigger the download of the actual mp3 audio files. On a computer, you used to be able to import these *.odm files into the desktop Overdrive app…which no longer exists for newer Macbooks.
D. Use terminal to download from library  by dragging odm file from ‘Macbook > downloads’ into terminal (see video above)
E. open “books app > Audiobooks” on MacBook and add (audio) books to collection by selecting multiple folders from where terminal downloaded them to.
F. connect iPhone, may have wait for it to stop blinking weirdly in finder
G. Marks iPhone > Audiobooks > sync audio books > selected audiobooks
H. select books (which should be in list of audiobooks imported to Books app on MacBook)
I. click apply.

Mt Shasta wedding

Posted by on October 5th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Pam got married last weekend, which was a year after starting her practice. He seems like a great guy, we are very happy for her.

We climbed a lot during her breaks from college and training. For a few months she lived in Tacoma, which made for a bunch of gym and Index trips.

She is the only one of my nieces and nephews with whom I ever spent any serious time. Though I’ve also been on a few 3 day trips with her brother, who is a great climber as well.

David and Beth moved too far away for me to really get to know. We used to see all 7 of the cousins every Thanksgiving back when Grandma was alive. But then we all got older and people spread across the country. I feel lucky to have climbed with Lisa, Clint, Pam and John as much as we could given our busy lives.

Pam asked me to play guitar as she walked down the aisle. I was supposed to start singing when her grandma walked. Because I had to keep looking up at the walkers, I lost my place for a few agonizing seconds, and had one of those awful stage fright moments where nothing made sense. My harp and guitar which had been  flowing so well fell into a discordant mess of broken sounds.  I saw the two people in the front row looking at me in surprise. I panicked and made a snap decision to switch from instrumental to voice, regardless of who was walking.

I was fine after that, and none of my relatives noticed…or said they didn’t…but it made me frustrated. I’d practiced so hard to nail it down. And to make a major flub like that was…well, at the end of the day…I’m just an average Joe, not a professional wedding performer. I have to cut myself some slack.

We left after the ‘ball and chain’ event and drove out to the Oregon coast where I did too bad paintings. My pen and ink is not practical for fast plein air. I mean, duh. Everyone knows pen is super slow. I need to practice loosening up and drawing more frequently in a sketchy style. Or just go back to pastel. Pastel is so quick on color paper. It’s pretty as soon as you put in the high lights. How did I get sucked down this urban sketcher dead end?

Facebook and Instagram had a 6 hour outage yesterday. I was painting all day and didn’t even notice. That’s how it should be. I have no need to ‘build my brand’ anymore. I’m retired. I should close all my accounts. My new friends from Idaho aren’t on social media at all. Many people aren’t anymore…like Sue, Clint, Pam, Paul and Chad. The entire concept of Social Media is flawed from the get go. I would be wise to let it all go.

More climbing less posting

Posted by on September 23rd, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Since I wrote last I’ve been on two, week long road trips and numerous day trips to Index. James and I spent 5 days at Index climbing moderates. And just two days ago I returned from a solo trip to the City where I met 10 new ‘over 50’ partners in a Mountain Project event. It was a week long event and I had a great time climbing with new friends, some in their mid seventies.

I led all the standard moderates, both trad and sport. Highlights were Sinocranium with a party of grey and white haired folks. Who needs young people?

My best lead was the run out 5.9 Mystery Bolter route down at Flaming Rock. I also got to dance up Rain Dance, in the rain.

Tuesday I painted the mountain with Sue. She always drags me out hiking the minute I get back from a road trip. I’ll be suffering major jetlag from the drive and she’ll be like:

“Let’s go hiking, you can bring your paints!”

I was hiking with a major bad attitude up there, cursing life in general. But the mountain worked it’s magic. The Red Bull that I hauled up didn’t hurt either. First time I’ve tried to paint after one of those nasty brews.

I was really shocked to see the painting coming to life. We got a late start, so I had to rush the pen work, making copious structural errors. I finished most of it from 2:30 to 4:30. It’s not bad for a 2 hour rush job.

Fenix HM61R Headlamp review

Posted by on August 29th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I’ve been rock climbing, backpacking and back country skiing since 1976. I’ve seen a lot of headlamps come and go over the decades. My latest was a $100 Black Diamond Icon with 500 lumens. It is still working, but like many of these new chip embedded plastic lights, it has so many functions that it will refuse to turn on occasionally, and my only recourse is a reboot by removing the battery. It’s also heavy with 4 double AA cells. This new Fenix HM61R weighs much less at 5 ounces, has over twice the lumens and is built much better. The engineering on this light is remarkable. Even down to how the threads are milled. Top notch manufacturing.
Pluses:
(1.) It has a lockout safety feature…you just unscrew the cap three quarters of a turn;
(2.) It has 7 different lighting modes including the red;
(3.) It has a magnet for attaching to a car hood;
(4.) The battery lasts forever in low light mode;
(5.) It will also run on disposable CR123 cells;
(6.) Press the button and it tells you the charge level;
(7.) It rotates smoothly and securely to a much wider range of angles than any BD or Petzl headlamp.
(8.) Crazy stupid bright on the highest setting. Who needs that much light?
(9.) Only weighs 5 ounces…lighter without the top head strap
(10.) Lens seems hardened…likely to resist scratching
(11.) Really pretty to look at…beautiful machining
(12.) Has a cool magnetic charger. Like a Macbook magsafe plug. So much better than a mini usb!
Cons:
(A.) The rubber strap that keeps it snapped in seems weak. As a rock climber descending a cliff at night, my life may depend on the headlamp. Easily solved with a zip tie, see photos.
(B.) It’s a tiny bit uncomfortable on the forehead if worn for hours. Easily solved with a glued on piece of foam.

On my last trip, I read for several hours a night for 5 days in a row on the lowest setting. It still had a full charge. That is one heck of a good battery, I bought a spare. Amazon does not sell just the battery, but Fenix does. My wife got the smaller Fenix headlamp…the one without the magnet and red function. It also seems great. I would buy these again in a heartbeat. If you are looking for the best headlamp, you found it.

August adventures

Posted by on August 27th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue and I backpacked up to Van Trump for one night to paint. It was buggy, smokey and hot. I was unable to paint. It was one of those painting days where aliens steal my brain and I’m unable to see the train wrecks I’m creating. The sunset views were super pretty due to the smoke in the air. I took cell phone shots but wished I’d brought a real camera instead of my paints.

We hiked up a week later to Comet Falls. On the way up we passed a lovely old foot bridge upstream from Christine Falls. I could have painted both the foot bridge or the river chasm below and saved myself the hike to Comet. But we persevered up to Comet where I discovered the aliens had stolen my brain again. Next time the mountain isn’t out, I’ll just paint at the footbridge. Comet falls is way to hard to paint. I can paint the falls fine, but the cliffs on the side are just too hard.

We went car camping with Lisa and Dan at Rialto Beach by LaPush. They’ve changed it from a first come first served campground to a reservation system. This reduces covid exposure to the park staff but makes spontaneous camping harder for the general public. We were able to find a RV campground for $33 a night…but the darn aliens seem to have my painting brain on a long term library loan. I did two bad paintings in a row. The hiking was fun, and the views were great. I just couldn’t paint them.
I’m thinking I need to give up on gouache and go back to oils. Rather than changing mediums, I need to exert some discipline and do some practice work:

    • copy a master painter
    • use a limited palette
    • do a large studio palette knife painting of Rainier to practice mixing

What’s weird is I can draw great. My plein air pen work was very accurate. I fall to pieces  when I go to color. I also spent 5 days climbing at Index with James. Didn’t take a single picture and climbed mostly 5.8 and under with a few nines. I couldn’t seem to get inspired. We had fun, and gradually I warmed up. I really need to get up to Canada and shake off the rust properly.

Covid delta variant is making all the un-vaccinated people sick. It is true that due to the rushed delivery of the vaccine there could be problems out in the future for those of us who submitted to the rushed vaccine. But at a certain point you have to balance the very real risk of getting sick from covid with the slight chance that the vaccine could be dangerous. Those vaccine companies have no reason to make a bad product. And it’s not their first vaccine. It’s what they do. For me and everyone I climb with getting the vaccine was worth the risk. Those that choose to not get it are, in many cases, paying with their lives.

We did hear of one of our vaccinated nurse friends who got mild covid symptoms in a ‘break thru’ case. But she said it was more like a cold and she missed two weeks of work. No harm done.

As my buddy said: “We may find that 20 years down the road we will all be getting some weird cancer because we took a vaccine that hadn’t gone through the full rigorous testing procedure.” But at least we get 20 years. And they did test it on 60,000 people for at least short term reactions.

Fleeing from a wildfire while climbing on Washington Pass

Posted by on July 27th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue and I used to alpine climb in the early eighties but gave it up after some near miss epics and the tragic loss of some close friends. I’ve been hearing how great Washington Pass was becoming. It’s even got a glossy guidebook and has been described as: “Like Castle Rock, but with a 2 hour approach”. I figured, hell, I haven’t used crampons and an ice ax in 36 years, time to get back on the horse.

Kena and I met our new friend D.  at noon at the Silverstar Mountain, Wine Spires trailhead, 3 miles east of Liberty Bell. Four hours later after 2500 vertical feet of the worlds worst climber trail we arrived at the mosquito infested Bench Camp. It was flat, with a nice water supply and would have been idyllic if not for the bugs.

Remembering my shiver bivys of the 1980’s I’d brought a down coat with a space blanket for my legs. It was hot until 1 AM, at which point I was too tired to unfold the space blanket. Seriously, has anyone ever tried to unfold one of those half asleep and freezing?

We left high camp at 6 AM and arrived at Burgundy Col a couple hours and 1400 vertical feet later. I didn’t think the trail could get any worse…but it did. At the Col, Kena put on crampons for the first time, while I put on my son’s crampons.

D. belayed us both down the couloir with his 7.5mm 60 meter twin. We roped up glacier style for the rest of the ascent up to the base of the climb, passing several 60 foot cliff bands. Kena was a natural on snow, and it gradually started to feel familiar to me as well.

We climbed two pitches of the East Face of Chablis before bailing around 2:30. Kena and I were worried about the long descent to high camp. Plus the fire below was getting much bigger despite the efforts of a fleet of water bombers and helicopters.

Much of what was slowing me down was caution. There’s no cell service up there. If there had been an accident, someone would have had to rappel and then hike solo across steep snow and bad trails for at least 7 hours to reach a car. Then it’s 17 miles to cell service. It’s a far cry from a casual day at Index.

After a couple hours of up and down ‘glacier travel’, we arrived at Burgundy Col where we could unrope and take off our crampons. As an amusing side note, we were passed on the steep snow by an unroped one legged guy who was descending from a successful ascent of a 10B climb called Rebel Yell. He had both legs, but one was metal from the hip down. The dude was freaking amazing!

In the twilight we could see huge bright orange California style flames racing up the mountain side below us. They were on a ridge coming down off of Silver Star…which was adjacent to Chablis Spire. It looked like a wind change could have the fire on top of us long before we could reach the car.

We guessed that the fire wouldn’t cross to our side of the ridge and started down the awful trail towards high camp. We were dead tired when we reached our tent at 10:30 PM, but right there on the main trail was a brand new sign. The rangers had hiked 2500 vertical feet up from the road to post it: “Leave immediately, do not delay! There is an uncontrolled fire approaching Burgundy Col. The road will close soon, you could be trapped.”

We discussed maybe sleeping until the fire arrived, then running for a nearby boulder field where there weren’t any trees. Common sense prevailed. We packed up and stumbled down, getting lost multiple times where trees had fallen over the trail and arriving at the road at 2:30 in the morning.  It appears that alpine climbing hasn’t gotten any safer over the intervening decades.

 

Sprinkler system

Posted by on July 14th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

Sue has been doing 24 hour shifts at her moms for 11 days. Swapping days with Tom. I was moping around this morning when Lisa dropped by. She was on her way to a preggers appointment. 3 weeks to go. Sue got home, and then Lisa dropped back by. Her dog was in daycare so she didn’t want to just drive home. We all went out running errands. I dropped off my UE Fit’s earbuds at UPS store. They didn’t fit. Let in a ton of wind noise.

I’m planning to get some custom musician style in ear monitors. For decades now when I jam with other musicians, I can only hear myself. Occasionally I’ll hear bits and pieces of the other musicians, but it’s mostly lost now. These IEM Audiologist fitted ear buds will be hard wired to a belt pack, which has a mixer. That in turn can be hard wired to a mixer board, or a ZoomH4N, or Tacam DR-40, any one of which will allow me to channel the whole band, mixed to my liking into a mono track in my one good ear.

I can also use them like a normal hearing aid, as the ear buds have microphones. I can mix the ambient noise to be full on hearing aid, or completely isolated. The custom fit will prevent all sounds from getting to my ear, except the ones I choose. I can also wire them to my phone.

Later Clint came over and we laid pipe to add 4 sprinkler heads to zone 2 in the southeast portion of the back yard. I read that too many sprinklers per zone causes them to spray weakly. We may have to add a zone…won’t know until the glue dries.

It was nice to see the kids. Rose is getting quite cute at 6 months.

DIY pickup sleeping bed platform 2.0

Posted by on June 24th, 2021  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

I had a nice permanent 2×4 bed built into my long bed Tundra. But when my daughter needed to move I realized I faced 3 hours of disassembly before my Tundra was back to a normal empty truck.

On to version 2.0 . My priorities were:

  1. It had to be removable in minutes, not hours.

  2. It had to be light and lean, the 2×4 bed was bulky

  3. I needed fold up bed platforms so I could easily walk back to access a rear box, and avoid crawling up the tunnel under the permanent bed.

  4. It needed to be compact, in case I had to disassemble and store it while carrying something large, like a fridge, or some 4 x 8′ sheets of plywood.