The Dawn Wall

The Dawn Wall is a documentary about the life of climber Tommy Caldwell, culminating in  first free* ascent of a 3000-foot sheer wall on El Capitan in Yosemite with his partner Kevin Jorgeson. During Tommy’s early years, he learns climbing from his father, whom he finally surpasses in his mid-teens. Tommy’s victory at age 16 in the International Sport Climbing Championship in Snowbird, UT launched his professional climbing career.

In 2000, he and three other climbers traveled to the Kara-Suu valley in Kyrgyzstan on a climbing expedition. While they were 1000 feet up a wall, Uzbek rebels fired on them and forcing them to rappel down. The four rebels marched them around the wilderness for six nights, hiding them from Kyrgyz army patrols during the day. At the end, they were left alone with only one of the rebels, at which point Tommy pushed the rebel off a ridge so they could escape to the safety of a Kyrgyz army post. He describes that experience and subsequent path to climbing the Dawn Wall in this talk. [spoilers]... [Read More]

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Book Review: The Boys’ Book of Model Railroading

“The Boys' Book of Model Railroading” by Raymond F. YatesIn the years before World War II, Lionel was the leader in the U.S. in manufacturing of model railroad equipment, specialising in “tinplate” models which were often unrealistic in scale, painted in garish colours, and appealing to young children and the mothers who bought them as gifts. During the war, the company turned to production of items for the U.S. Navy. After the war, the company returned to the model railroad market, remaking their product line with more realistic models. This coincided with the arrival of the baby boom generation, which, as the boys grew up, had an unlimited appetite for ever more complicated and realistic model railroads, which Lionel was eager to meet with simple, rugged, and affordable gear which set the standard for model railroading for a generation.

This book, published in 1951, just as Lionel was reaching the peak of its success, was written by Raymond F. Yates, author of earlier classics such as A Boy and a Battery and A Boy and a Motor, which were perennially wait-listed at the public library when I was a kid during the 1950s. The book starts with the basics of electricity, then moves on to a totally Lionel-based view of the model railroading hobby. There are numerous do-it-yourself projects, ranging from building simple scenery to complex remote-controlled projects with both mechanical and electrical actuation. There is even a section on replacing the unsightly centre third rail of Lionel O-gauge track with a subtle third rail located to the side of the track which the author notes “should be undertaken only if you are prepared to do a lot of work and if you know how to use a soldering iron.” Imagine what this requires for transmitting current across switches and crossovers! Although I read this book, back in the day, I’m glad I never went that deeply down the rabbit hole.... [Read More]

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Checking Off My Summer List, Part I

Note: Ratburger friends, I will have to post pictures soon.

Summer in Northwest Montana goes by in a blur. One breezy, sparkling day, a season I call “late spring” emerges out of the weeks of rain, mud, fog, and false starts. I’m ogling the blossomy landscaping at our McDonald’s drive-through and thinking that this must be the prettiest corner of the prettiest region in the US. We’ve arrived, and I vow to hold on to each day so that the months don’t flip by quite so quickly. But then after just a couple family visits, an out-of-town trip, several smoky days we hope will go away, and some weeks of tourist-packed traffic, we’re suddenly back to new teacher training at my job. And then I see the back-to-school supplies at WalMart. And finally—the death knell for summer—come the first crimson leaves that signal we’re about to enter that other season, that one that is unpredictably glorious, and we hope long, but always the gateway into weeks of bleak indoor weather.... [Read More]

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Weekend Cruising

Sunday at 2pm one of us decided to go somewhere. This week, the adventure target was the Deschutes River Conservancy Area near Maupin , OR.
The other one decided it had potential, so off we rolled in the F150.

I love day trips. The weather was perfect, sunny along the whole route and all we needed to do was grab a travel mug of coffee (Try Black Rifle, I recommend highly) , a bag of beef sticks and grain free granola bars, the new camera and off we rolled. All else is in the truck at all times.... [Read More]

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Serenity As A Time Share

It being the Red Headed Irish Wisecracker’s birthday we headed to the Ridgefield NWR, which is only seven miles from where our new home will be.

Memorial Day weekend weather here in the Wet Northwest is soggy, with 99.9% chance of overcast except for brief gorgeous sunshine, deep blue skies and white cumulus clouds if you act without hesitation.... [Read More]

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Local kid

Local kid achieves fusion in his bedroom lab.   This is a local story, because it has been done before.   The only newsworthy angles are that he is local, and he managed to set a new record as the youngest person to accomplish this, at age 12 (a day before his 13th birthday).   The previous record holder was a Texas kid who had been 13 when he got his fusion reactor working.

“Fusioneers” is a thing.   There is an active international group of hobbyists with their own home fusion reactors.   That sounds like the sort of thing some of y’all might actually do, so I noticed the headline.... [Read More]

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First warm day

Nature Girl took me for a walk through the swamp on Sunday afternoon.   It was the first warm day of the year; after a really cold week the temperature zoomed up into the 60s Fahrenheit.   It was a nice day for a walk.   We started in midafternoon, and it was nearing sunset as we returned.   She stopped to look at something to the side of the trail.

... [Read More]

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Christmas Lights.

OK, so I don’t have the fancy, dance to the music, lights, but I did a little something different this year. I decorated my mailbox with numerous multi-color LEDs that I soldered to strips and screwed them to the mailbox. They run off 3 volts so I had to make up a little regulator circuit for them. Then I found out I was exceeding the current for the circuit so I had to make up another. I solved the heat problem with the regulators by attaching them to little copper plates to be cooled by the cooler weather outside.

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Rolling South

Okay tribe, having come to the conclusion that we needed a break from the fray and that our lifestyle allows us to travel as long as I have three to four hours of decent internet and phone service most of the time, we took an eight day run from Oregon to Nevada in the F150.

We were blessed with fantastic weather for late October-early November and the mountain passes were good to us this trip, snowing to the north of our itinerary.... [Read More]

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An obituary to share –Mario

NPR has a feature worth reading.   It is an obituary of a plumber.   He started his own company.   He worked hard and his business grew.   He ended up owning some property, which is how he became the landlord for the Nintendo office in Tukwila, Washington.

... [Read More]

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Longings from Virtual Travel

Maybe, like me, you have some favorite places on Earth. Switzerland captured my heart as a 25 year-old medical student in 1969. Back than, the world was a tumultuous place. The Vietnam War filled the daily headlines, but I was, mercifully, exempt – having failed my induction physical exam due to limited motion of my right elbow. Ten years earlier, I had tripped while making a lay-up basketball shot and fractured the head of the radius. I never regained full motion. In reality, this has not been much of an impediment, although on x-rays it looks really awful. It made me 1-Y. When I asked what that meant, the medical examiner, an older doctor, said it meant that if they took me, he would start to worry they might take him. From that time on, my graceless spill on the basketball court was known to to my family as “the fortunate fall.” I definitely would not have made a good grunt. [End Digression]

Another consequence of the ’60’s was my erratic academic performance, ranging from all A’s to all C’s, depending on my emotional state. I was thus not accepted to any stateside medical schools. I was, however, accepted to the Faculté de Médicine Université de Lausanne. My journey there in September 1969 was my first trip abroad and I immediately fell in love with the place. The physical beauty, I found, had a highly salutary effect on my normally bleak outlook on life (“gravity is superfluous, the Earth just sucks”). I truly loved the surroundings and felt secure by virtue of a crude SPS (Swiss Positioning System); by reference to distant mountains, one could triangulate one’s location pretty reliably.... [Read More]

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Vacation Ramble from the Curmudgeon and the Red Headed Irish Wisecracker

Just got back from the latest vacation after driving 600 miles from Montana to Oregon in ten hours. I am both tired and wired.

Itinerary: We drove up for a quick grandchildren visit in Seattle with the three girls 8,6 and 4. Delivered each a complete set of Incredibles 2 toys from McDonald’s (courtesy of Grandpa hitting six locations in a week to get all the characters). Once again had a big hit.... [Read More]

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