Climbing Inspiration: Silence

I used to be super into rock climbing in high school. I was never very good at it and my fear of heights always got in the way of anything outdoors or up high. I usually stuck to bouldering. I did have an awesome trip with friends to the New River Gorge in West Virginia where we got terrible terrible sun burns during some white water rafting.

I used to watch tons of videos of Chris Sharma and others sending ridiculous rock faces and making first ascents all over the place.

I haven’t watched anything climbing related or participated in rock climbing in years. Maybe 1 time in the past 6 years or so.

I came across this video from Thomas Frank’s twitter account.

The video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRTNHDd0gL8

It is of Adam Ondra sending Silence with the newest grade of 9c (basically the hardest rock climbing route ever climbed).

The video is shot so beautifully, with great panning shots of the Norwegian vistas, countryside, use of drones for aerial footage and an amazing shot at the end of the video which shows how small Adam is on the rock face, inside a cave.

The music is wonderful and the use of silence with only Adam’s breathing, grunting and occasionally screams.

What was most interesting to me was his use of practice, visualization, use of someone with intimate knowledge of anatomy and physiology who could help Adam figure out how to physical perform movements that should be physically impossible. The video describes figuring out the position that Adam would have to get into and what muscles he needed to use and get stronger and what muscles he couldn’t use due to the fact that they would just be too weak or not useful in that scenario.

The amount of focus, concentration, intensity and repetitiveness of Adam conquering this route is amazing.

Feel inspired by this video.

The traits he demonstrates can be used in anything, and they come together beautifully in one of my favorite climbing movies of all time.

The Eye of the World: Book Not Review

There will definitely be spoilers and not just for this book but for any of my faulty memories of the entirety of the Wheel of Time. This is not a review, more me revisiting my favorite book series a decade later. I absolutely recommend reading The Wheel of Time series and it was the best book series I read growing up, so anything critical I say is just for love.

The first time I read The Eye of the World I read it as 2 books: From The Two Rivers and To The Blight. I had both of them and I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have immediately read the full story. It is not a good book to split into 2 pieces and it sews everything up into a decent ending. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about that.

Robert Jordan is known for his love of using many many many many many character point of views. But for the start of this monstrous series he starts out with only 1 character point of view, Rand, for 300 pages before he switches to Perrin’s point of view. The character point of views switch around as the characters are separated but return to Rand’s POV after they meet up again. He eases us into the constant switching he is known for later. You are introduced to many of the aspects of the characters long before you have to inhabit their bodies. Basically all of the initial group of characters will be view point characters, you don't have to be thrust into their view point right away.

Many people I know that have tried to read The Wheel of Time think it is slow and boring, but I was surprised how much closer to a thriller pacing the first book can be. It has a relatively slow intro, but then the initial leaving on the adventure is fast paced, frenetic, and each chapter ends on a cliffhanger. You just have to keep reading late into the night (true story). Once the characters split up the pace slows down because every single chapter is a different POV character for a while.

It takes forever to get to Elayne in the story which is a shame, she doesn't feature much in this one. Not a fault of Robert Jordan just she is my favorite character and I am excited to re-read her awesome character development.

I didn't remember that Min had the initial vision of 3 women standing around Rand’s funeral pyre so early in the story. I believe this also happens in Salidar if I'm not mistaken and I'm not looking it up to check, I'll get there whenever the story gets me there.

Speaking of Min, just like Elayne, it is disappointing that she features so little in this book. But that’s what happens when you have such a long series.

Egwene also is a good character in this one but doesn't turn into her badass self until later books. I am always excited to read the parts when she is captured and kept from channeling her full power but is still amazing and just totally rules.

I forgot how much Mat with a dagger from Shadar Logoth annoys me. I understand why he is that way but I just want Mat, the brilliant ancient general who finds trouble even though he just wants to leave and go gamble somewhere. Dang character development, making me wait so long. But I do like how Mat does take care of Rand when he is sick, Mat’s true self is still fighting through the taint of the dagger.

Robert Jordan is usually very good about showing suffering and making us feel how the characters are feeling, like when Rand captured and stuck in a box in later books. But in the first one the various characters go hungry for many days and it doesn’t come through as well how much they are suffering.

Accidentally stayed up a little too late reading which brings me back to my childhood, with a flashlight, pretending to be asleep if I heard my parents in the hallway or coming up the stairs. This time I was just trying to be quiet so my wife didn’t wake up and also feeling the affects of staying up an hour or so later at work the next day.

I had forgotten Perrin talking to wolves and Elyas’ introduction was so early in the series, it's always nice to be delighted by something again. I always hear Of Wolf and Man by Metallica because I listened to it on repeat sometimes while reading later parts with Perrin doing his wolf things.

All 3 boys always think one of the other boys is better with girls than they are. It can be pretty entertaining as a running joke that builds on itself throughout the series as they have actual relationships and not just difficulty talking to a girl.

The end of the story is always confusing to me, which is always the case because it is written in a way that Rand is not supposed to know what is going on exactly. But it is not my favorite of endings as endings go but it is one of the more complete endings in the series, which is nice. Later books sometimes feel like some characters don’t get any satisfying ending to an arc, but this first one ties up nicely. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the publishing schedule and not actually knowing if a second would be written. I will report again in my next few posts if books 2 and 3 have satisfying endings, which I’m pretty sure they do as well.

Amazon Link

The Wheel of Time: A Beginning

I am re-reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. This series was one of the formative series of my youth due to the timing, and that I was there for each release after about book 8. It took me from my pre-teen through graduate school years as the books were finally finished by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan's death. I eagerly awaited the release of each new book with a longing that equaled Harry Potter releases except it was a much more private and intimate sort of longing unlike the mass hysteria that was Harry Potter midnight premieres. Only in the release of the last few books did I share that waiting with my family since I had forced them into reading the series.

I have been looking for a way to relax and unwind recently, but didn't want to pick up video games, sports or much more. I figured a chapter or so a night as a reward for actually studying for my 2 different certifications I'm currently pursuing is a good idea.

Some initial thoughts about the series that I will explore in much more detail later.

I listen to certain songs and think of certain characters. I explicitly listened to Of Wolf and Man by Metallica during scenes with Perrin in them and think about it now every time that song comes on. Probably partly growing up in the 90's and 00's when the few CD's I had transitioned into the iPod. Specific songs still bring me back to the books.

It was my introduction to meditation. The flame and void which is introduced in the first chapter as a technique that Tam teaches Rand in order to concentrate and later is expanded into a way to access the True Power. I will admit to trying this technique many times growing up but being unsuccessful. But from this I think I also was introduced to a form of stoicism before finding actual stoicism teachings in my classical education oriented high school. My interest (and extreme difficulty with) meditation probably started with these books.

I would spend hours re-reading the books in no particular order. I would just open up book 6 somewhere in the middle and read for 30 minutes. I have probably read books 3-8 about 10 times in this way. I don't believe I have ever done that with anything else. The dedication to repetitive learning that I have given this series is quite astounding and probably should have been put to better use with school, oh well. The only disappointment about that is the later books I was in college and did not give quite as much energy to them so don't remember them as well or as fondly.

My favorite character is, of course, Elayne. She is everything I wanted to be growing up. Followed by Mat, the trouble maker and Han Solo character in the books, of course I liked him as well.

I am very excited to start re-reading them and it will take me a long time but starting September 16th, 2018 the 11th anniversary of Robert Jordan's death seems a fitting place to start with the formation of dragon mount and introduction of The Two Rivers. James Oliver Rigney, Jr may you rest in peace and thank you for allowing me to live in your world.

Visit Dragonmount for one of the best fan sites of a series I have ever seen. Also there may be a tv show but I’m not getting excited about it yet.

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin is the best movie of 2018, don’t @ me.

Some small spoilers may follow, so continue at your own risk

I loved this movie so much, probably in a large part because it plays to my childhood nostalgia. But, Christopher Robin has a lot more going for it than pure nostalgia. They are called Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger.

The movie had the perfect balance of explanation of the magical connection between Christopher Robin and the occupants of the Hundred Acre Woods and mystery left to the imagination about how it works. It purposely doesn’t worry too much about the pure explanation and invites you to live in a world connected to a man’s childhood memories. Which are just as much our childhood memories.

I almost cried bunches of times during the movie, but most so during the opening 30 minutes or so when Christopher Robin is leaving his childhood friends behind and journeying into adulthood. He then is thrust into trials of adulthood such as going to war, finding love, and getting a job he hates. He loses all sense of family, and forgets what it is like to play. This is a spear straight to the heart of any adult who plays less than they would like. Charlie Hoehn wrote a great book on play called Play It Away and the importance of play in our life. But, Christopher Robin has forgotten all about that.

Then all of our childhood friends return. And the live action version of the cartoon characters we knew and loved come to life, with personalities true to their former selves and updated for a movie focused on Christopher Robin and his daughter rather than them.

The interactions between Piglet, Pooh, Tigger etc made me cry all over again. It wasn’t tons of crying, just some tears and sniffles that required wiping with a shirt sleeve a few times.

God, I just saw a commercial for it again. Well, at least I’m not crying this time. Maybe.

Just go watch it and see for yourself.

Insurance World

Watching TV tonight I saw an Aflac commercial, followed by an Allstate commercial, and a few commercials later more commercials for Progressive, USAA insurance, and United Health Care. There are tons of commercials for all types of life insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, short term disability insurance and I'm sure others.

We live in a world that has been somehow dominated by insurance. I got the impression that we are one step from disaster and we have to be buying an insurance for everything just in case. If someone hasn’t bought the right type of insurance, the right policy, then their lives could turn upside down in an instant.

Much of this is connected to our work so if you are between jobs then good luck to you. If you have to work 3 jobs to make a living then good luck having the time to figure out what insurance you are supposed to get, let alone a job that provides you the opportunity to get good insurance. You can't judge a companies insurance benefits until you work their and get into an open enrollment period.

I don’t know any solutions to our current situation but the development of the insurance industries trying to convince you that doom is around the corner seems as good of an idea as commercials for pharmaceuticals … oh wait.

Audiobooks Are Books

I love books.

That should be the end of all I need to write about books and reading, but I have had some negative reactions to the way I read books. Typically the conversation is as follows:

Me: “I just read X book by my favorite author”
Them: “That is cool.”
Me: “Yeah I finished listening to it on the drive to work today.”
Them: “Listening to audiobooks is not the same as reading.”
Me: …
Me: burns them with the fire of a thousand suns

I don’t get this hate for audiobooks. And usually the people telling me this have not read a book in a while. They ave a weird snobbery that you can only read books by a melting candle and parchment paper and yet they haven’t read a book since they were forced to in college and in reality they spark noted it because spark note was a thing then and I have no idea if spark note is still a thing.

I love books in all of their forms. I love paper and hard cover books. I love ebooks. I love audiobooks. I love iBooks (or Apple Books now) and the ability to embed videos and other multi media straight into the book.

If you are able to have the ideas that Charles Dickens typed into his MacBook Air while sitting in Starbucks make it to your brain, does it really matter how they get there?

I was going to cite various research articles that showed that some kids learn better with audiobooks and that comprehension is better and give a personal anecdote that I tend to skip over paragraphs when I read very fast so audiobooks help me slow down and actually digest content. But I don’t care.

I just want to read.

And if that reading is actually listening to an author or a professional narrator read a book to me like I’m a child in their parent’s lap (instead of a mindless drone on his hour commute) then so be it.

Just read damn books and who cares how you consume them. And if someone judges you just know that inside they aren’t happy with their own ability to read books and they are taking it out on you. Since that is what we do in our society now a days.

Just read. From graphic novels to audiobooks. Just freaking read all ready.

I you need recommendations my newest and most favorite stories ever are both by Mary Robinette Kowal.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars - A Short Story

The Calculating Stars - The First book in the series based on the before short story.

The next book in the series The Fated Sky which is almost out but not quite out as of the writing of this post. (August 21, 2018 FYI)