Monthly Archives: August 2010


21 Aug

Rock and Bone

Posted by on August 21, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Jason and I are extreme sports enthusiasts. We gladly put ourselves in potentially painful situations again and again for the thrill of speeding through the trees or the challenge of a beautifully chaotic gravelly slope. However, we didn’t expect our first experience with a new extreme hobby, rock climbing, to be quite as wild as it turned out.

Jason was a good monkey boy

Jason was a good monkey boy. Those long legs and arms came in handy as he searched for crevices to aid his ascent.

Jason’s grandparents spent many of their retirement years repelling down cliffs and setting up ropes courses so when they passed away they left behind a lot of climbing gear. Jason and I ended up inheriting this equipment; I think mostly because everyone in the family thought we were the only ones that might actually use the stuff. They were probably right. We supplemented our inheritance with some new gear and we were ready for our first outdoor climbing adventure.

You might recognize that rope from pictures of Nana and Gramps

You might recognize that rope from pictures of Nana and Gramps repelling. Yup, it's the same one.

One of my good friends, David, is an avid climber so we were happy that he agreed to take us climbing with him. For our first climbs we went up American Fork Canyon to the south face of Hard Rock. There are two great walls for beginners in this cluster of cliffs: Rockapella (5.7) and Stoic Calculus (5.8).

Don

Jason and David may look like goofs but when it came to climbing they were all business. David made it up Stoic Calculus in under 2 minutes. Yup, he's a crazy spider monkey.

That morning David also brought his brother, Danny, and a buddy, Hamilton, with him so we had a good climbing group and we had a great time scaling 80 feet up those two sheer faces until our arms and legs could take no more. Compared to climbing in indoor facilities, which we have done before, it was pretty exciting to clamber up real rocks. I’m mildly afraid of heights so I thought that phobia might decrease my enjoyment of this sport but I didn’t find those elevations nearly as terrifying as I thought I would. Sure, looking down from 80 feet up was a little intimidating but looking around you at 80 feet up was amazing.

Rockapella is only a 5.7 so it was

Rockapella is only a 5.7 so it was a relatively easy climb even for a beginner like me but the view from the top was still spectacular.

On my second climb, which was on Stoic Calculus, my rope got caught on a ledge when I was about 50 feet up and I couldn’t free it. A few minutes later, while it was still jammed, I slipped. (Yeah, it figures that the only time I lost my footing while we were climbing happened to be when my rope was stuck.) When I slipped the caught rope made me swing down and around and slam into the wall. I won’t lie, it didn’t feel awesome but I just got a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises from the affair so my injuries weren’t anything out of the ordinary for me.

Stoic Calculus was a little trickier than Rockapella but it was still completely doable, even for the wholly unskilled.

When we were ready for a new challenge we decided that an adjacent wall, Eight to Eleven, looked pretty sweet for the climbing. Danny began to lead the rope for this climb but when he was about 30 feet up, and trying to reach the next bolt, he slipped and fell roughly 10 feet onto a small outcropping. Although this wasn’t a big fall, he landed funny and immediately started yelling in a panic that he had broken his ankle. (Yeah, that’s the edited version of what he said. For the sake of the children I will leave it at that.) No one questioned whether he actually had or hadn’t, we simply got beneath him and helped lower him to the ground. It was instantly apparent, upon inspection, that his ankle was already swelling and did require medical attention so our next task became getting him back down the narrow mountain trail we had traveled to reach Hard Rock. We hadn’t hiked too long to get to these cliffs but still, getting Danny back to the parking lot was not a simple or easy task. Jason and Hamilton both took a side and supported him, David held his injured foot up as much as possible, and I brought up the rear carrying as much gear as I could. Our strange group slowly made its way downhill and where the pathway tapered here and there we became odder still. When the trail narrowed too much to allow our makeshift man-crutches to squeeze through Danny had no choice but to slide on his bum while David continued to walk backwards in front of him struggling to elevate his jacked-up appendage. Finally, after a very laborious descent, we got Danny back to his car and off to the hospital.

Danny was showing off his Tom Cruise moves

Danny was showing off his Tom Cruise moves just minutes before he fell.

It turned out that he had done more than just broken his ankle bone-he had shattered it and severed his ligament almost all the way down to his big toe. He had to undergo emergency surgery the next day to screw his bone back together. Poor guy.

Both Jason and I

Both Jason and I had a blast climbing but, sadly, he was faster than me. Sigh.

While all of this made our first outdoor climbing experience a very eventful and memorable one, I hope our next time will be a little less exciting. But this accident didn’t frighten me and Jason into giving up our newfound hobby, as it might have with lesser noobs. We plan on going climbing again as soon as David will take us. After all, the beautiful things in life are worth a broken bone now and then…but I do think I’ll get a climbing helmet. I’d prefer to have my cranium remain in its unbroken state.

18 Aug

Give ‘Em the Bird

Posted by on August 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Shawn, another coworker of Jason’s from India, is currently out here in Utah for the first time. We couldn’t let him leave the state without spending a while in our beautiful mountains so we took him on a little excursion to Snowbird Resort. Prafulla, Jason’s last visitor from India, we also took to Snowbird but in the middle of a snowstorm so he didn’t get to enjoy the practically perfect weather and blossoming hillsides that Shawn did.

Shawn enjoyed his first alpine slide ride

Shawn enjoyed his first alpine slide ride ever but he seemed a little disappointed that it didn't zoom him down the mountain faster.

We got all day activity passes so we could spend the day hanging on the slopes…and hang we did. We rode the alpine slides and zip rider first. Then we took the tram up to the top of Hidden Peak. Unlike the last time we were at this peak with Prafulla, there was no blizzard swirling the spectacular view into a sea of white so the grandeur of the surrounding mountains could be properly appreciated.

The view from Hidden Peak was pretty impressive.

The view from Hidden Peak was pretty impressive. With three separate valleys sprawling out below you it felt a bit like being on top of the world.

The scenery at the top

The scenery at the top of Hidden Peak was gorgeous. The far spreading green was interspersed with the bright colors of mountain flowers and the rusty texture of stone.

From Hidden Peak we went on a little hike along the ridge overlooking Mineral Basin and Gad Valley. Although Utah’s dry summers have usually scorched most of the green out of the landscape by this time in August, the hillsides were surprisingly still very lush and fresh with dainty purple, white, yellow, and red wild flowers punctuating the green strewn slopes. It was actually quite charming.

I think the men were trying to look tough

I think the men were trying to look tough and victorious here. Did they succeed?

After we rode down from the peak we decided to check out the ropes course. The ropes course looked rather pathetic from the ground but once you were up there among the tightropes and tricky obstacles the fact that you were safely strapped into a harness didn’t stop your heart from pounding away.

The ropes course was a little nerve racking until I got

The ropes course was a little nerve racking for me until I got used to the height. I definitely didn't miss my calling as a trapeze artist.

Jason is happy to pose moronically for a

Jason is happy to pose moronically for a picture below or above ground.

Shawn was excited about riding the mechanical bull like an American cowboy but he was concerned that it would make him sick so we saved this activity for last. We all had a go on the bull but we were no match for those iron innards; none of us were able to stay long on its motorized hide.

The mechanical bull proved to be a difficult

The mechanical bull proved to be a difficult adversary. None of us could keep our hind ends on it for long.

Luckily, the bull didn’t buck away Shawn’s appetite so we stopped at The Pie on the way home to give him a taste of some real American cuisine: Italian pizza. Shawn was more than happy to eat pizza as long as it was loaded with plenty of meat, which apparently isn’t plentiful enough in Indian food for his taste.

Shawn apparently thinks India is meat deprived

Shawn apparently thinks India is meat deprived and is trying to make up for a lifetime of lack while he is here in the U.S.

Shawn seemed to enjoy his time up at Snowbird and, unlike Prafulla, he didn’t have to worry about his fingers freezing off. That’s sure to increase anyone’s level of enjoyment.

14 Aug

Two Years and a Half Marathon

Posted by on August 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

In a couple weeks it will be two years since I had my peroneal tendon repair surgery. I decided that running the Provo River Half Marathon, which is 13.1 miles, would be an excellent way to celebrate this anniversary. I ran this baby years ago, before I hurt my ankle, but since my injury made running more than about half an hour too painful to stomach, I haven’t even considered running it since. It therefore seemed like a very fitting way to commemorate my ankle being back in the big time.

I have been training for the last few months with Jason for this race. We started our training by jogging our usual 3 mile runs and then upped the distance we traveled each run by about a mile roughly every week. This strategy seemed to work very well though I did get a few complaints from Jason when we progressed to 9 and 10 mile runs; he had never attempted to run anything that long before. Although a half marathon is a somewhat daunting undertaking, surprisingly we were able to find a few crazies interested in running this long race with us: my dad, his friend Steve, and my friend Fran.

Looking down from the hills above

Looking down from the hills above the runners were a beautiful stream of color.

The Provo River Half Marathon was last Saturday. We had to meet at the finish line at 5 AM to catch a bus up the canyon to the starting point. Man that was early! The bus drop-off, which was at the top of South Fork, was already crawling with many of the 2,000 race participants by the time we got there.

I saw a couple of unusual things while we were waiting for the race to start. First, a deer that wasn’t afraid of the masses of people at all was wandering around and actually trying to get people to pet it. Never seen that before. I also saw a man turn around in a field that was just off a section of a road where over 1,000 waiting runners were clumped together; he pulled up his shorts on one side and urinated. Sure, I don’t think anyone got a good view of his parts but come on! There were trees everywhere so all he had to do is go a few more feet into the trees and no one would have been able to see him. Seriously dude, no one wants to see you taking a whiz. Have some dignity man!

The race started at 7:00 and the first 10 miles down the canyon were lovely. There was a nice cool breeze and the sun was still hiding behind the mountains so it was very pleasant running weather. The last few miles things got a lot more challenging. At that point the sun started blazing down, the wind stopped, and it became very hot. The increasing temperatures combined with the strenuous ten miles I already had behind me resulted in some serious dehydration that last stretch so when I finished the race I wanted nothing more than a tall glass of water. I have been a runner for many years, certainly long enough to know from experience not to drink a whole bunch of liquid after a tough and dehydrating run like that. Unfortunately, my thirst won over my common sense and I pounded down a bottle of Gatorade a few minutes after I finished the race even though I thought it would probably make my stomach hurt. To my surprise I felt fine after chugging it…until I got home about half an hour later. Then, all of a sudden, my stomach started severely protesting its lot in life. This wasn’t the first time I’ve felt sick after a run though so I thought it would pass. I guess in a way I was right because it did eventually pass but only after I had thrown up almost all of the Gatorade I had stupidly drunk.

Besides the last few miles being a crap fest and my post-run vomiting episode, which was a first for me, the race was an enjoyable experience and I don’t think I would be opposed to doing it again. I was about 10 minutes slower completing it this time than I was the first time I ran it but I was a lot less sore afterward this go around. I may be older and slower now but I guess my muscles are tougher.

All the determined

All the determined people I ran with did excellent! Jason was the fastest. With his long legs he came in at 2 hours and 6 minutes. Everyone else finished within 10 minutes of him, except for me. I completed the race at 2 and a half hours almost exactly.

How did my moody ankle hold up? It handled the race pretty superbly. I had very little issues with it while I was training and during the race itself it didn’t complain at all. After the event it started swelling a bit and it is still a tad more swollen than normal even now, days later. The overexertion also made it achy for a couple days after I put it through that race madness but all in all I’m happy with its performance. This race reminded me just how much my ankle has improved. It is much more resilient and content than it was last summer when I was training for just a 5 mile run. Now, a year later, I’m able to run 13 miles with no pain and just a few days of swelling and tenderness afterward. That may seem like a hollow victory to those of you who have two fully functioning ankles but from where I’m coming from it seems like a pretty sweet success.

So final ankle analysis at the 2 year mark? The doctor told me all the swelling in my ankle should go away after a year or two. Here I am two years out and it is still swollen, though less so than it used to be. My ankle also doesn’t have its full range of motion back yet; it continues to get that rubber band feeling when I stretch it from side to side. But I’m playing soccer again with very little discomfort and running longer than I have been able to in a decade. So, although I wish my repaired ankle performed and felt like my other one, I am so grateful to not have any restrictions on my activities anymore that I don’t mind a little aching or inflammation now and then so much.

9 Aug

H is for Hax0r

Posted by on August 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Jason and I just got back from our annual trip to Las Vegas for DefCon, the largest hackers conference in the world.

For those of you who lack the experience or imagination to envision what a hackers conference is like let me describe some of what you might experience at this event.

The first thing you do when you get to DefCon is pay your registration fee and pick up your badge. This seemingly quick and simple task is not always so. While anyone can attend DefCon, it’s not some exclusive event, the $140 registration fee can only be paid in cash. Why cash? When you have helped attendees improve their credit card fraud, lock picking, and identity theft skills for many years you’re usually a little hesitant to be on the receiving end of those skills. Also, many of these geeks are a bit skittish about showing up on “the grid”, probably because they know how easily that grid can be compromised or modified. They therefore prefer the anonymity of a cash transaction. Every year you’re bound to see some would-be-registrant try to enroll using their credit card while everyone just stares at them like they are ludicrous.

Jas and I once again lucked out and got the coveted electronic badges.

Jas and I once again lucked out and got the coveted electronic badges. This year's model has puzzles and games for the clever hacker to decipher.

Even if your wallet is plump enough that you don’t have a cash-payment dilemma, your registration woes are not necessarily over. Only a limited number of the sweet hackable badges are available every year and they always seem to arrive in odd untimely shipments. This means you may get stuck with a paper badge if you come to the registration booth when they have temporarily, or permanently, run out of the electronic ones. If the unpredictable shipping patterns of the badges are a scheme to work the nerds into a badge frenzy then it’s a ploy that works very well; every year random attendees offer to buy our nifty badges from us but of course we refuse.

This crazy crowd was making

This crazy crowd was making its way, very slowly, to the lecture halls. Talk about claustrophobia...and stench.

Once you have paid your fee and hopefully acquired a cool electronic batch, not a lame paper one, it’s time to make your way down the geek infested corridors to the lecture halls. These passageways are always packed but this year the conference was especially crowded. After you manage to weave through the sea of unwashed nerds you may have to wait in line to get into your lecture of choice; the more popular tracks often have long winding wait lines that wrap around awkwardly and make the already swarming halls almost unmaneuverable.

We took a breather from learning how to break things to go to the Ci

We took a breather from learning how to break things to go to the Cirque du Soliel's Ka. The visual effects at this show were pretty amazing, It was Jason's favorite Cirque show we've seen yet.

When you are finally seated (if you are fortunate enough to get a seat) and ready to listen to your selected speaker you will find yourself surrounded by every breed of nerd known to man: the goth/punk geeks with their blue Mohawks and combat boots who look like (and quite possibly are trying too hard to look like) people from a hackers movie, the stinky unkempt nerds dressed in clothes so unfashionable that either DefCon is one of the few times they leave their mothers’ basements or they are trying to make some statement about how society’s rules don’t apply to them, the feds with their neat haircuts that attempt unsuccessfully to casually blend in by wearing black t-shirts instead of their standard uptight button ups, and the poser hackers that try to appear elite but really work at Convergys doing technical support and wouldn’t know a SQL injection or a buffer overflow if it hit them in the face. Of course, you will also see plenty of normal looking geeks mixed in with all the irregulars; those that are average appearing have learned to successfully camouflage their nerdy interior and you’d never pick one of them out in a crowd. If you are lucky you will sit by geeks that don’t reek and if you are unlucky you will have to take little breaths until you are free of geek funk.

Jason Scott, the founder of textfiles.com

Jason Scott, the founder of textfiles.com, gave a hilarious presentation at DefCon on the history of software piracy. We snagged a picture with him afterward.

The topics you’ll have the option of studying at DefCon include: how to build a lie detector and beat a lie detector, how to hack Facebook privacy, the laws of laptop search and seizure, air traffic control insecurity, how to build a cyber army to defeat the U.S., practical cell phone spying, safe hideouts for malware…and many others that honestly seem of somewhat questionable legality and of fairly malicious intent.

If, after you have packed your brain with ways to hack pretty much everything, you’re still thirsty for some hands-on learning you might want to try the lock picking village where you can discover how to break and enter with grace. Or you can use your mad skills to create a killer cooler and enter the Beverage Cooling Contraption Contest. If you would rather turn your brain off for a bit and just socialize with the unsocializable you can attend the Zombie Ball. Whatever your pleasure, there are always many activities-from the nerdy to the quirky-to keep you occupied at DefCon.

Got bump? I

Got bump? I'm not exactly sure what bump keys are but I'm certain they make getting into places that other people try to keep you out of easier.

If after reading my depiction of DefCon you find this convention baffling, no worries. I’ve attended it the last three years and I still find it baffling. It attracts the seedy underbelly of computing, corporate security specialists, government officials, and the casually curious geek. All these unlikely allies are willing to put aside the question of the morality of hacking for a few days in order to discuss the hows of hacking. But despite this temporary truce between natural enemies, as you sit in the giant packed ballrooms at DefCon listening to lectures on topics that often involve system vulnerabilities and security loopholes you can’t help but wonder if the guy sitting next to you has ever tried to take over your computer network or if he will try after what he’s just learned.

We had a great view of the strip and the Bellagio

We had a great view of the strip and Bellagio's fountains from our hotel room in the Paris.

Yes, if the hacking lingo and technical details at DefCon don’t perplex you the culture anomalies and paradoxes certainly will. You will be intrigued and mystified, also possibly angered and disgusted, but you will certainly not walk away disappointed.

3 Aug

Runs with Geex

Posted by on August 3, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Some people run with the cool kids…I run with geeks. That’s right, I hang with the dorky crowd and I am mighty proud of it. I am a geek, my husband is a geek, and most of my favorite people are geeks.

The dude wearing this homemade stormtrooper outfit was more than willing to take a picture with me and Jacob. Since Jacob is a

The dude wearing this awesome homemade stormtrooper outfit was more than willing to take a picture with me and Jacob. Since Jacob is a hardcore Star Wars freak I think he eyed this guy's costume rather lustfully.

Because the currents of nerdery run deep within our group, it should surprise no one to discover that some of us found ourselves at the Geex Expo, a gaming and electronics show, recently. Jacob, Jeremy Rowley, and my brother Drew were eager to check it out so we all headed up there for a Saturday of geekery.

This cosplay contest participant had one of the coolest costumes I saw at the show but unfortunately I am

This cosplay contest participant had one of the coolest costumes I saw at the show but unfortunately I am not nerdy enough to know what game the character is from.

The Geex Expo has videogame demos, DDR competitions, LAN gaming, and cosplay contests. It also has vendor booths for everything from anime societies to clubs that make their own armor. While we had a lot of fun staring at the geeks in their costumes, perusing the nerdy merchandise, and playing some old school StarCraft, our greatest source of entertainment turned out to be Jeremy.

I

I'm not sure why Jeremy resisted renting a wheelchair at first. He got to be pushed around, ram people's heals, and win pity prizes. Isn't that every dirty old man's dream?

A few weeks ago Jeremy tore his calve muscle playing soccer. This injury was mostly a result of him having weak unexercised muscles according to the doctor, which sounds about right. Jeremy was directed to take it easy on his leg for about a month but because he keeps getting too tempted to participate in activities he’s not supposed to do, like volleyball at Jason’s birthday party, his calve is not healing the way it should. Consequently, that boy’s been hobbling around slower than an 80 year old who just had hip replacement surgery. Jacob and I therefore insisted that he rent a wheelchair at the show for our sanity as well as his comfort. He protested at first but soon he was grateful he didn’t have to walk. I’m not entirely certain we did him a service though by making him get that chair. Having the wheelchair gave him the strength to play DDR at the expo more than a few times, which was definitely not something he was supposed to be doing. He felt more than a little putout that his injury would not allow him to participate in the show’s DDR competition and he consoled himself by getting his dance on before the contest began. He would dance a song and then hobble back to his wheelchair and complain about his throbbing calve but then a few minutes later we would find him drifting back to the DDR station like a moronic moth to the flame. I’m not sure why he felt so compelled to play DDR at this event given he has his own exquisite homemade DDR pads, which he himself claims are better than the ones they had at the show. Whatever the ill-devised reason, and despite mine and Jacob’s protests, Jeremy wound up playing DDR a number of times until his leg hurt so bad he could barely even stumble back to his wheelchair. While the thought of Jeremy’s idiocy makes me shake my head and roll my eyes even now, it did prove quite amusing and I’m sure it will continue to entertain as we make fun of him for it through the years.

DDR beckoned to Jeremy like a

DDR beckoned to Jeremy like a siren's call. For its sweet song and sexy arrows he happily hurt himself over and over again.

There may have been many snicker-worthy nerds at the Geex Expo either parading around in their World of Warcraft costumes or skipping meals and showers to play LAN games nonstop until their eyes were ready to riot but, in my opinion, nothing quite compares to the nerdiness of one Mr. Jeremy Rowley who completely disregarded explicit doctor’s orders because he just couldn’t handle watching other people do DDR without doing it himself. Jeremy’s actions may seem only borderline eccentric until you once again remember that he owns a perfectly good DDR pad that he can play with at home at anytime. Yes, it is that last bit of information that reminds us that Jeremy is not just your run-of-the-mill mildly-unstable geek but an uber geek. Feel free to nod your head in disbelief or snicker right now-whatever you feel is necessary and befitting-I feel it necessary to do both.