Friday, April 28, 2006

Stupid Climbing Tricks

. . . also know as "How to get a free ride in a helicopter". For the last in this week's climbing series, I've lifted an entire excellent article from the Australian website Chockstone.

My favourtes:
  • "Avoid climbing beyond what you consider your acceptable limit due to peer pressure or ego reasons. If you do so, then do it knowingly and accepting of the consequences involved if it goes pear shaped. (Climb for your own reasons not for others)."
  • Suss out your instructor / climbing partner. Don't accept what you are told as necessarily being gospel. Critically evaluate your circumstances and apply your own common sense if needs be. Be aware of your climbing partners limitations and climb accordingly.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Setting Up Anchors

Today we introduce the complimentary term to the "European Death Knot" - the "Death Triangle", also known as the "American Triangle" if you're from Europe. Since you need to set up anchors at the the top of the climb (if you're not going to just throw on two opposed quickdraws and be done with it), it's good to know everything that might go wrong and how to avoid it.
Please don't, as one person recently told me they regularly did in the past, climb up to the anchors, and then have your belayer lower you after you've threaded through the bolts! This wears the anchors unnecessarily, and makes it unsafe for subsequent climbers. Learn to rappel instead, preferable from a certified instructor.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


There's only a few skills, besides steady nerves, that one needs to lead climb. I'm talking sport climbing here. One of them is recognizing a backclip, and knowing how not to do it. Just imagine what the rope would look like after you've finished falling, while focusing on not falling. Very zen, what?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Prusik Safety

Many climber the last couple of years have been climbing with a Prusick Safety when rappelling off a route. I noticed this the first time when I was climbing with a lady that had just spent the last few years in Switzerland. We'd met on an anchor-building course. She had a purpose built "Y" sling made by Petzl, but it can also be improvised from a chicken strap or even a straight sling. I've used them a couple of times when I could be bothered to set it up, but it always seemed more trouble that it's worth.

It seems the trouble with such "negative action" (you have to LET GO while falling) belay backup is our tendancy NOT to let go of things when startled, which is what such a safety requires.

Among the several epics described in this article, is the following which convinced me to abandon the use of a belay backup as a rule, and only use it when I have the need (taking pictures, cleaning on route on descent, getting a rope unstuck, carrying a heavy pack, etc.) Among cavers, such belay backups have reportedly been universally abandoned.

"All of a sudden I started falling real fast. I couldn't grab the rope below the bars to brake in time, so I grabbed the rope above me where the Prusiks were. When I instinctively grabbed the rope, the Prusiks slid along with me and I dropped 110 to 120 feet until I hit a ledge with my feet-damaging my legs. The Prusiks grabbed and I swung about 60 feet across the pit where my head impacted the wall, cracking my helmet, and finally stabilized hanging upside down from the Prusiks 30 to 40 feet off the floor.... Injuries included: Left femur broken just above the knee, head of left femur badly cracked, left ankle severely sprained, right heel fractured, deep gouge in right knee, bruised ribs, rope burned palms of both hands."

Unstucking Ropes

Since I'm gearing up for a climbing trip to Skaha soon, I thought I'd make this week's theme a climbing one. First up: how to not get stuck ropes. Or, if, you get them stuck, how to unstick them. Just for the record, I think the name "European Death Knot" is an humourous & endearing moniker that displays the climbing communities humour & good will. Don't you?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Waiters & Character

I think it was Bill Cosby telling one of his television daughters once that said "Somebody who's nice to you but mean to the waiter, isn't a nice person." Apparently USA Today has cottoned on to this and it's made front page news. A couple of others from today's The Coyote Within that are new to me:

* When you've reached enlightenment, your boss will still be a jerk. The good news is it won't bother you any more. The secret of maintaining a calm mind is letting go of emotions and refusing to waste energy on fretting about whatever you can't change. The world is an unsatisfactory place; your boss is an unsatisfactory person. Life is good.

* No one can insult you without your permission. Whatever he or she says about you, it's your emotions that make you feel bad. Ignore them and insults will have no power over you.

* You can always be yourself. You don't need to prove it. It's impossible for you to be anyone else, however hard you try. Doing something just to prove your ability, courage or anything else is showing off. Doing it because it needs doing is the real thing.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

In Praise of Lazy People

I've always thought lazy people were the most creative when it came to not avoiding work, but completing work in the easiest (most efficient) way possible. Which goes contrary to the usual ethic of "when things aren't going as planned, work harder". My pronouncement of this homile has always got me funny looks, so I stop prounouncing.

I'm going to have to dust it off after reading this, even more heretical "Time is not money. Money is money. Time is what it takes to do a job properly, however much money you throw at it."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In Favour of Ineffeciencies in Scout Troops

I have learnt more about leadership & patience as a Scout Leader. It's a homile, but it's true: I've learned more from them than they have from me. Yet, my Scout Troop is not the well-oiled machine that some people imagine a Scout Troop should be. Nor will it ever be, because that's not the point.

The point is learning by doing, learning to work in small groups, and being outdoors where all the B.S. of daily life (and here I'm thinking mostly of all the electrically driven distractions now pervasive) gets left behind.

It's not the point to make things easy. Making things easy usually means making things easy for the adults, and avoiding those uncomfortable, awkward moments that are a part of growing up. When we supress & avoid those moments, we're telling the Scouts that we're ashamed, and what they're going through is embarassing. What we should be doing is supporting & celebrating those awkward moments, and let them know it's part of growing up. Congratulatins - you're a step closer to being an adult!

At our last camp, when everybody (including the Leaders) where getting much needed practise lighting fires, the kids' ears perked up when we adults were swapping stories of the stupid things we did when we where kids. I don't know how we got on the topic, but I like to think it made us seem more human and helped them know they were more human too. They seemed to be more relaxed this camp than they'd ever been, or maybe it was just that they got to play with matches...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Unwritten Rules Written Down

There is the reason I'll never be a CEO. I'll never put myself in a position where I'll be working 14-hour days & every second weekend. I'm OK with that.

I would, however, like to work for a guy like this. Not because he would understand the phrase "work/life balance", but because he sounds like he knows what he's doing, and he seems to genuinely care about his people. My favourite of his unwritten rules:

6. Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.

17. Promises, schedules, and estimates are important instruments in a well-ordered business.

18. Never direct a complaint to the top. A serious offense is to "cc" a person's boss.

21. Don't get excited in engineering emergencies. Keep your feet on the ground.

25. Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work. No one likes a grump except another grump.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Corporate Efficiency

Seeing as I'm off on a "New Leaders' Program" for a couple of days, I thought I'd make this week's theme about leadership. Today's topic: efficiency. Carmine Coyote over at Slow Leadership has this to say (which I whole-bodidly agree with) about the usual way organizations approach to inefficiency:

"Take cutting costs. The conventional approach is childishly simple: the biggest bill in most companies is the wage bill—therefore cutting people (or wages or both) is the easiest way to reduce costs, quickly and “efficiently.”

Wrong. Removing waste in the form of unnecessary jobs makes sense. But most of those people are there because they are the organization; they make, deliver, service, support or invent what the organization does. Firing them is like deciding to cut off your left hand because you’re right-handed and do things better with the other one. Sure, you could manage with one hand, but you have two because you need two to function best...."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Celtic Knots for Knitting

I think knitting patterns that includes Celtic knots, especially for repeating patterns, are a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be that many. I found this one hat band, which immediately went into my project file. Then there was this trinity knot hot pad, which I found interesting since I have similar tattoed on me. But that seems to be about it.

On the upside, my "Enchanted Knitting" that I ordered showed up this week, and it has some nice patterns as well. I really want to get my hands on a copy of "The Tapdancing Lizard", but it was out of print for a while, and I need to let the credit card cool off. Anybody got a copy they want to sell? Cheap?

Candidates for the Pullet Surprise

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Monday, April 10, 2006

10 Bushcraft Books

I had my scouts out this weekend practise to become pyromaniacs & axe murderers. Er, that is to say, they were honing their outdoor skills, specifically in building fires. I wish I'd seen this before the weekend.

For example, many beginning outdoor-persons burn their fingers lighting wooden matches until they get the hang of it - did you know you can sooth your burnt fingertips by pulling on your earlobe? The natural oils in your skin will help reduce the pain. Then there's the "one match challenge", where you get one wooden match to light your fire. But what if you knew how to split your match in half? That would double your chances, wouldn't it?

Book 1. - Ropes & Cords
Book 2. - Huts & Thatching
Book 3. - Campcraft
Book 4. - Food & Water
Book 5. - Firemaking
Book 6. - Knots & Lashings
Book 7. - Tracks & Lures
Book 8. - Snares & Traps
Book 9. - Travel & Gear
Book 10. - Time & Direction

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lacing Your Shoes

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder anybody? Here's your ultimate resource on lacing your shoes: lacing methods, comparisons, ratings, FAQs and photos; knotting methods, comparisons, ratings, starting methods, double starting method, and knot variations; crooked bows, shoelace lengths . . . .

. . . . You get the idea.

Personally, I've taken to wear cowboy boots lately. No laces anymore. After visiting this website, they scare me.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Finding Books

I was checking out a new (to me) used book store the other day, looking for woodworking & knitting books. Naturally those two categories are books that don't stay on the shelf very long. They tend to get passed down in wills and from hand-to-hand. The proprieter, and very nice man with a very nice dog, however, clued me into

It's a web-site that goes out and searches other book sites for you. Very useful if you're looking for the best price on a specific book, or you're looking for a rare book including first editions & signed copies (not my bag, but we've got a few down in our own library). I immediately went out and found Enchanted Knitting, a book I've been looking for for a while. Now I know I'm getting the best price.

BTW, at the next book store, I scored the now classic "A Cabinetmakers Notebook" for $12. Yess!!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Celtic Knotwork

I've incorporated celtic knotwork into my tattoos & some of my knitting. I found several websites helpful, but the one I enjoyed the most was this one, which doesn't require graph paper & can be applied to any form. If you enjoy graph paper, fill your boots. It makes for neat knots too.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Emergency Power

The last time I bought a gas-powered lawnmower, the second time I used it I hit a water shut-off valve left protuding by the City of Calgary in my front yard & bent the axle. I straightened it out with a five pound sledge, but it still vibrates like a . . .

. . . well, this blog is "G" rated, so I'll let you come up with your own metaphor. Let's say that that resulting vibration is not pleasant. Not good for the motor either, I'm sure. Maybe I can use it for a generator before it dies completely. I'm not sure building your own emergency power generator is worth it to buy a motor new given the price of emergency generators these days, but together with Learning to Weld it would make a neat project. You could probably pick up the alternator at the junk yard for cheap anyway.

Here's a riddle: what's yellow & black & sleeps four? A City of Calgary utility workers truck.