Cost/Benefit

The question which is, when attached to outdoor gear, the most relevant (and certainly most interesting) of all. Is item X worth it?

The first photo ever posted on Bedrock & Paradox: me riding my old Gunnar Rockhound on Mt Elden, AZ in the summer of 2006.  It’s a good point of departure. wondering if the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on bike stuff in the years since has been well spent.  Most of the stuff pictured is no longer in my possesion: the helmet was busted the next summer, the shoes and shorts worn out, the frame, fork, wheels, and tires sold or given away when that winter I switched to 29ers.  The non-driveside crankarm is still in use, as is the  30t Surly chainring.  The 140mm Salsa stem and red Titec bars on on M’s mountain bike.  The blue Capilene 2 tshirt is still going strong.

Even with clipless pedals, full suspension, and a few years more experience I rode that roller with much less fluidity and confidence.  I also rode with much more fluidity on my spendy Lenz, and with much more confidence and speed.  My original question can thus be cut into two:  1) is the cost of advanced, new technology worth the performance and fun benefits?  2) is the benefit of improving via technological acquisition worth the cost of making the learning process easier?

In two years of long rides on the rocky trails of Utah and Arizona I went from the above bike to two 29ers, one a rigid SS which save the wheelsize, front disk brake, and clipless pedals is very similar to the Gunnar, and a geared full suspension wonderbike.  The full suspension bike (the Lenzsport Leviathan) remains the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought that wasn’t a motor vehicle or a student loan.

New and unblemished.

Insofar as question 2 is concerned, this bike (and especially the suspension fork to go on it) was absolutely worth it, as the path I was going down (riding rigid bikes on long rocky rides) would have (for me) led to nerve damage in my hands.  That lack of pain helped increase the fun factor, very important.  Finally, the benefits of suspension gave me the confidence to ride much closer to my limit than I ever would have otherwise, which in turn made me a better rider on the rigid bike.  I smile everything I see it (every though it hasn’t been ridden since October), and have no desire to replace it.

On other gear items, the questions are simpler.  Alpackas are still the only packrafts that can hope to get the job done (the job including a bit of whitewater and the full spectrum of weather), thus the only choices are: whether you need one, what size to get, and what color.

But the subject which brought these musing to the fore is skiing.  Ski gear is expensive.  For those like me, unenlivened by bro deals, a skins/skis/boots/dynafits setup would run 1600-2000 dollars (100/5-800/6-1000/3-500).  Somehow, I hesitate to spend that on a ski rig, moreso than on a bike frame.  Part of it having less money (due to student loans).  Part of it is having bought out three current skis rigs less than 1000 total, skins and bindings included.  Part of it is that skiing is such a harsh task master, and I suspect that my abilities have much further to go, and while different equipment might help, I’d almost prefer to keep life simple and the learning curve harsher.

Money is of course only money, and hearses do not have luggage racks.  But a new pair of AT boots is a round trip plane ticket to Alaska, and experience continues to fill one up long after gear has been worn out and replaced.  In summary, I like gear, in general.  Some pieces of gear I more than like, their beauty and elegance combine with the way they embody memory and possibility to become the very best of what material objects can be: practical, personal works of art.  I am also, increasingly, suspicious of my own preoccupations with gear.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that, after so many miles and so much learning, my simple rigid Karate Monkey remains my favorite bike.

The Karate Monkey at Granite Basin, back in the flat pedal days.  Nostalgia.  I’ve tried to go back to riding flats on real mountain biking terrain, and can hardly imagine how I used to do it.

On not getting hurt by an avalanche

(Wherein I throw most caution related to my modest amount of training, knowledge, and experience to the wind.)

While there’s no doubt that this knowledge can lead to
better decisions, it is disturbing that the victims in this
study that were most influenced by heuristic traps
were those with the most avalanche training.

-McCammon, 2002

If you haven’t, in the course of your avalanche education, read the aforementioned article, you ought to.  Today.  Even if you live in Alabama and hate snow, it’s required reading for any outdoor adventurer.  Beyond conclusions specifically related to analyzing avalanche fatalities, McCammon’s thesis tells us that increased knowledge and experience (not the same thing) can in many circumstances lead to more risk, not less.

I’ve thought for a while that avalanche education and safety in North America is, at this moment, deeply flawed.  While airbag packs, avalungs, 500 dollar beacons, PLBs, and Spots can all contribute to a greater margin of safety should you, your partner, or other people in the area get caught in an avalanche, they are all strictly reactive tools.  I do not think a very simple part of the proper backcountry equation has been emphasized enough: if you got caught in an avalanche, you almost certainly screwed up.

A lot of avoiding avalanches (or other backcountry dangers like rockfall, lightening, flash floods, strainers, and foot entrapment) has to do with knowledge of the phenomena in question put into evaluative practice in the field.  Measure a slope angle, observe the situation, and know that it is avalanche terrain.  Recall your knowledge of the areas weather history, dig a pit, generalize that data to the area at large, and make an estimate of the snow’s stability.  Decide to ski, to go elsewhere, or go home.

The first ambiguity, and the reason all of the aforementioned technological wonders exist, is that even the best estimate can be imperfect.  The generalization made from snow observations here to the slope 100 meter away can be a very good one, but can never be definitive.  It only makes sense to be suspicious.

But another factor is often at play, on which I would submit is not an appropriate factor in decision-making; namely, the extent to which the merits of the ski run in question stack up against the risks.  A hypothetical 2500′ vert of waist deep 40 degree cold smoke could have safety hazards comparable to a 1500′ slope of 35 degree boot top, heavy powder.  The former is sure to engender more powder lust than the later, and perhaps is likely to tip the decision-making balance in favor of assuming more risk for greater reward.

It’s a nasty human problem, in that the most kinaesthetically satisfying method of human-powered travel brings with it a necessary level of ambiguity and danger.  No other activity that I’m aware of (big wave surfing?) brings reward and consequence along so directly in lock step.    I’d like to see us disentangle the two more plainly, and establish a consensus that mature skiing means not skiing a slope with a high degree of avalanche danger, no matter how sick the line.

We need more videos like this one, discussing the intricacies of decision making in a very concrete way. A wide base of knowledge is a prerequisite for accurate evaluation, which is in turn necessary for sound choices. Backcountry skiing’s tendency to hold expert knowledge close to it’s chest increasingly strikes me as irresponsible.

Paradoxical perhaps, given the note with which I started.

On Roland Fleck

I interrupt a quiet moment at work (thanks to a cancellation) to bring you something of great interest:

In a story that will soon be blowing up all over internetland; Roland Fleck, a 78 year old doctor from Jackson, was sledded off the slopes of JHMR in handcuffs this past Saturday.  The crime?  Skinning up the groomed slopes.

Fleck…was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass, interference with an officer, unsafe skiing and theft of services. His extrication from the mountain came after up to seven ski patrollers spend 3.5 hours trying to stop him, reports said.  Roland Fleck has always been a big supporter of the ski area but believes he has a right to ski uphill, Dan Fleck, an attorney with The Spence Law Firm who is representing his father, said.  “He was within his rights to access the forest, and he was skiing safely,” Dan Fleck said.

Therein, of course, lies the question: to what if any extent does a private company have rights to restrict activity on public land which they merely (for however long) lease.

After spending time at Big Mountain this winter, I see the need for some order to be brought to a mix of uphill and downhill traffic at a well-traveled ski hill.  The potential for serious accidents between humans, or between humans and groomers, is quite real.  I think that Big Mountain ought to open up more lanes of uphill traffic, and allow for a more liberal after-hours downhill policy (at present you’re only supposed to ski down what you skinned up, though it’s unclear if this is enforced).  But they do get (a few) points for trying to compromise, however halfassedly.

My hope is that uphill traffic at ski hills will become more common, and that up and down hill skiers will come to be seen as having equal rights.  While resort companies and their liability has to be taken into account, the distorted, myopic way in which North America has until recently viewed alpine skiing has allowed too many areas, built entirely of public land leases, to blanket ban human powered traffic.  Mr. Fleck’s conduct, seemingly designed to engender Keystone Cops behavior, must be intended to force this issue.

He’ll be a sympathetic figure. 

There are plenty of backcountry mountains beyond ski hills, but resort companies locked up access points decades ago.  Missoula Snowbowl, whose famously unpleasant owner prohibit all uphill traffic during the operating season (but do allow it aftewards), is a case in point.  Their lease area is prime mountain access terrain.  And while I have no problem with their seeking of compensation for their investment, I do have a problem with locking public land up, for all practical purposes, from almost all of the public.

After all, they didn’t ask me if it was ok to put the lifts in.

Fuck the Superbowl

Orgiastic display of heternormative dominance and commercialism that it is.  A longstanding, annual tradition, in fact.  Though if memory serves I celebrated “it” last year by studying.

This year I celebrated by drinking a lot of coffee and watching both Meet the Press and This Week, both worthwhile, especially because of Cristianne Amanpour’s foreign expertise and in spite of Peggy Noonan’s mawkishness.  David Gregory has matured into his role of host nicely, while Amanpour has up to now struggled (and this I haven’t watched in a while).  With the Egyptian revolution she’s come into her own, and I am very optimistic that she will fairly soon become as good or better a sunday morning host than any of the legends.

I then continued the celebration on a norpine tour of the greater Blacktail Mountain area.  It had everything: 1000′ plus skins, 1000′ plus steepish treed descents (found one 1300′ shot that was very, very nice, virtually hiding in plain site of all those driving up to ride lifts), flat fireroad trail breaking, low angled forest cruising, and some kick and glide on a few k of groomed track to finish out the day.  A reminder of several things: why fishscales on fat skis are fantastic for the human powered skier, that tip rocker demolishes breakable crust, that short skis are good for modest speeds and tight places (I found a nice little 200′ couloir with stable wind drifted blower and launchable pillows), and that the continued presence of resort skiing as the standard for judging ski gear performance is a truly profound distortion.

For the record, I’m rooting for the Packers, because if they win I get free chips and salsa when I go buy another vegetarian burrito at Qdoba.

The new Egyptian revolution

Sunset over Cairo, from the Citadel, looking towards downtown

Cairo may well be the greatest city in the world.  The combination of deep history and thronging, chaotic modernity is special, perhaps unmatched.  Of course, I’m not enough of a traveler or a historian to really say such things, but with the events of the past week, I’m moved to say that we’re seeing something special.

Compare this photo, taken last year:

With this photo, taken yesterday.  That statue (of Anwar Sadat, I believe) lies on an island in the middle of the Nile.  The Times photo is looking west, probably from the balcony of the Intercontinental Hotel.  Kasr bridge is one of the major thoroughfares into downtown.  When my mom and I walked across it last year on a warm weekday morning, businessmen in suits walked hurriedly to the government buildings on the east bank, talking on cell phones, and high school couples, the girls always in a hijab (but often a very colorful one), stood holding hands, talking and looking at the river.

Al-Tahrir square, early in the morning (jet lag).  Follow the main road in the left of the frame and you’ll be on the aforementioned bridge in less than a kilometer.  Al-Tahrir is the center of the city, with political and cultural monuments within sight.  It’s also absolutely terrifying to cross on foot (at any time except 2-6am).

I was expecting to be shunned as an American, being at the vortex of Africa and the Middle East.  This was not the case.  Beyond learning that wearing collared shirts and scarves will get you mistaken for an Italian or a Frenchman, I learned that the average Egyptian is very much aware of Barack Obama, and a very big fan.  “Hey American!  Obama!!” was the second most common phrase I had said to me in country (second to trying to sell me something), and was almost always accompanied by a thumbs-up and huge grin.  No one can say that Obama’s Cairo speech had anything to do with the past weeks events, but neither can anyone say the opposite.  My experience certainly suggests that Obama has done a world of good for US-Egyptian relations.

I had several long conversations, with shop keepers and street vendors, about the government in Egypt.   Everyone, but most especially guys in their twenties, expressed frustration.  Where did all the money go?  Why were there so few jobs to be had?  Why did they, as young men, have no hope for prospects different than that of their fathers and grandfathers?  A patriarchal society, to be sure (I never had a conversation with a younger women, and got the impression it would be a bad idea to try), but also one very much lacking in social mobility.

This is, as an American, hard to wrap one’s mind around.

I hope the revolutionaries succeed.

(re)Defining Lightweight Backpacking

The difference between lightweight backpacking and ‘normal’ backpacking is obviously the gear.

Winter has reached that point where we talk about summer. After a long weekend of rain, a bunch of us found ourselves in the Northern in Whitefish after an avy meeting last night, discussing not skiing and snow, but sunshine and fly fishing (Amber is a fish biologist, inside beta!). Pre-emptive nostalgia, if you will.

Shoshone Lake, YNP

Of course, it snowed heavily this afternoon, and the first race of 2011 is on skis and taking place tomorrow morning.  So carpe diem, for the moment.

Thinking of summer gets me thinking about backpacking.  Snow travel is still a mystery to me, at least insofar as the snow-shrouded landscape is for me more hostile and less predictable, less friendly, than that of bare earth and rock.  I want to do a lot of backpacking this year.

Yardsale, White River terminus, Bob Marshall Wilderness

I’m not really certain that I’m much of a backpacker in the way most folks use the term.  I’ve been backpacking since I was around 3, and after working wilderness therapy (the best paid pro backpacking gig around) merely walking in the woods with a sack of gear has little appeal.  Add a twist, a remote fishing hole, snow covered pass, rivers to packraft, or an absurd loop to do in a weekend, and my interest returns.  This mindset, this wilderness ADHD, this preoccupation with the more egregious forms of human-powered wilderness travel, colors my understanding of backpacking completely.

Which is why I think Phil Turner, quoted in this posts epigraph, is quite wrong.  Hendrik got the ball rolling with a provocative post (which engendered the quoted comment) about contemporary weight-weenieism.  In the post and the resultant discussion all relevant terrain is covered, save one issue.

A “traditional” backpacker carries a heavy (30+ lbs) pack.  The weight of the gear necessitates a heavy pack, the load dictates a slow pace, the pace requires more food, and the circle continues.  Use less/lighter stuff, move faster, be happier.  Simple equation, one applicable to both the dawn-dusk 30 mile a day camp, and the lolligagin’, 8 mile a day field guides, camera tripods, and reading books crew.

But are less and lighter the same?  Yes and no.  Different in that less means reducing redundancy (no extra undies), the same in that lighter often means reducing the psychological margin of redundancy and error (my Dana will last 50 years of egregious abuse!).  The point is, going lighter and bringing less is at root a mental rather than physical process.

Wilderness is the ultimate form of the Other.  I.e.; that which is outside us, our self, our comprehension.  The Other reminds us, in literal and metaphysical ways, that our state of being in the world is fragile and transient.   When backpacking, gear serves to insulate us from that fear.  Some of the insulation is literal; without protection from the elements, food, and water we will die.  However, the majority of backpacking gear is for metaphysical, rather than literal, protection from the elements.

Witness Luc Mehl’s pack for an overnight technical packrafting descent (Selway River, Sept 2010).  Luc has thin synthetic puffy layers, paddling shells, shorts, and a baselayers shirt.  He slept around the fire, and kept warm by paddling stronger than Forrest and me.

Gear is good, but by focusing on it too much and in an excessively literal manner we ignore the more interesting reasons for going out into the woods in the first place.  At our (spiritual) peril.

On my agenda for this spring and summer are some trips without a sleeping bag or tarp/tent.  Bracing how the very idea flies against conventional wisdom and “safety.”

Cases for and against Armstrong

Call it “physiologically believable” (which many don’t like, but I use it with its obvious intention), or call it signs of change, I do believe that the Tour is slower, and that the days of 6.3W/kg for 40 minutes are now the stuff of highlights and commemorative DVDs.

-Science of Sport, 7/23/10

 

For a while now, I’ve believed that Lance took performance enhancing drugs during his seven-tour run.  Not a shattering thought certainly, and perhaps evidence that in sentimental cases my optimism goes too far.  In the end, irrespective of the details, I find the whole affair to be a very sad one.

While writings like the recent Sports Illustrated article take a legalistically nit-picky tack on developing a case against Armstrong, I find analyses like that which the excellent Science of Sport engaged in during the 2010 tour to be far more compelling.  Rather than focusing on accusations from exceptionally biased people (the affair has proven, if nothing else, that Lance Armstrong is a very unpleasant person to have as an enemy) or on a weight on circumstantial evidence, the scientific case against Armstrong (more exactly, against his claim that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs) boils down to several largely inarguable “facts”:

1) The most talented, best trained, and most motivated cyclists of the current, post-EPO testing era are significantly slower (~5%) than those of the Armstrong era up the same TdeF climbs.

2) EPO, homologous blood doping and the like are estimated to give a 5-10% performance boost for an athlete already in peak condition.

3) Virtually all Lance Armstrong’s contemporaneous rivals (Riis, Ullrich, Hamilton, Landis, etc) have either admitted to or been implicated in illegal performance-enhancing drug use.

Two conclusions are then possible: that Armstrong was in his prime almost categorically better (for reason of physiology, method, and determination) than anyone else; or that Armstrong was doping.  I see no third option.

I also think that both are almost certainly the case.  Armstrong doped.  To think otherwise seems to go against a massive weight of evidence.  I also think that many of the prerequisites for Armstrong’s success have nothing to do with drug use, legal or otherwise.  The 2010 tour only served to highlight that winning such a race is a game of manufacturing your own luck.  Frank Schleck failed to do so well enough on the cobbles, and his brother may well have lost because of it.  Evans and Armstrong both crashed out of contention.  Yet for seven straight years Armstrong managed, by skill moreso than luck I would argue, to go against the numbers and do everything right.

It is certainly not unprecedented for an athlete to operate, if only for a season, on a level far beyond anyone else.  In almost all respects Armstrong must have done so, and thus I think it sad that such a great human achievement will, to a certain extent, be lost amid the noise.

Structural Violence (and a prediction)

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

-Gov. Sarah Palin

Much though I despise what she has come to stand for as a public figure, there is no question that Governor Palin is able to grasp and articulate the zeitgeist in a way that resonates.  While I disagree with her conclusion, I agree that individual versus collective causality and responsibility is the axis around which the discussion of Jared Loughner’s action will hinge.  Unfortunately, our justifiable desire for certainty must here be frustrated, because the answer to who was responsible, the individual or the society in which he lived, must be both.

Loughner is mentally ill ex post facto by virtue of his actions.  Irrespective of whether they contained an internal coherence or articulable logic, anyone who chooses to do such things has a functional impairment, and clinically significant symptoms.  This position is a prerequisite for any coherent community to exist.  And while, as President Obama said in Tucson last night, his actions epitomize the extent to which many things in the world are unknowable, I do not think leaving the inquiry at the bounds of individual reason does any of us credit.

In the wake of Columbine anti-bullying programs in schools have grown many-fold.  While few people hold the peers of Harris and Klebold directly responsible for their evil acts, so to do few question the direct logic of anti-bullying programs growing out of such a tragedy.  We admit, however reluctantly, that larger social conditions must necessarily influence the development, thoughts, and actions of individuals.  Where else would those thoughts and choices come from?  Just as our collective identity and consciousness emanates from the multitudes which form it, so too must that collective zeitgeist, our national identity, emanate from the people of whom it consists.  The two evolve in concert, because one could not exist without the other.

The President admits as much in his speech, saying:

For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.  Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence.  We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.  But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.    That we cannot do.  That we cannot do.

This is where I take issue with Sarah Palin.  For her to condemn (in a polysyllabism new to her public discourse) the “blood libel” that is suggesting that her rhetoric and mode of political thought may have contributed to the structural violence which underpins Loughners actions is too much.  Those words from the woman who invented the death panels lie and injected it into the health care, those words from the woman who has become a master of capitalizing on the basest fears of citizens to gain attention, those words go too far.  They are, among other things, too rich in contradiction and irony.

At the very least we’ve seen this week, clearer than ever, the setup for the 2012 election.  It will be, in voice and tone if not directly person v. person, Obama against Palin.

On that basis, and on the strengths and weaknesses revealed in their respective speeches this week, I make a prediction: Not that Obama will win by 55% or more of the popular vote (which he will).  That is too obvious.  I predict that, when I am 90, the next two years will be regarded as a period of presidential productivity and profundity to rival FDR and the new deal and Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase.  Sit back, watch, and be amazed.

Disregulation

Since I began doing social work post-undergrad, in 2003, it hasn’t been unusual for my work to adversely influence my sleep.  Either the quantity, in the form of insomnia, or more commonly the quality, in the form of peculiar dreams and nightmares.  There are many reasons to not blog, and a number of the classics have applied to me these past days: busy with work and fun, educational and social commitments beyond the usual, and distressing, difficult, complex material percolating in my head.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM, in the standard text on the subject in America.  I use it daily, irrespective of the qualms I have and its efficacy, because my work is paid by Medicaid, and Medicaid requires a DSM diagnosis to approve what I do.  There are many peculiar things to be learned about the DSM if you read closely, one of my favorites being the “clinically significant” qualifier.  It is possible to read the DSM as saying, in virtually all cases, that someone could have enough of the symptoms (6 of 10, etc) for a given disorder, but not experience clinically significant manifestations of those symptoms, and thus not merit a diagnosis.  This segues nicely into one of the more wide-reaching and substantive criticisms of the DSM, that it reinforces the extent to which mental illness is class, race, and gender biased.  In other words, clinically significant symptoms are often those which get one arrested, noticed by neighbors and passersby, or generally confound contemporary mores.  (Which is not to diminish the personal distress which precedes and follows from such public incidents.)

So then, not blogging for a while may be of interest, diagnostically, but isn’t clinically significant.  Until I stop going to work and start shooting the squirrels in our yard.
USFS avy workshop at Big Mountain yesterday.  A full house.

The source of my nightmares lately has been my perceived inability to break the intergenerational chain of trauma, neglect, violence, criminality, and mental illness.  At Eilis’ wedding this summer I was talking with her brother, who teaches in the LA juvenile corrections system.  He corroborated a theory that’s been solidifying in my mind for the last half-decade (and is perhaps not so profound); that the whole system of mental illness and criminal behavior (and it is remarkable how often the two are inextricable) is hereditary.  He said that, were a half dozen families in the greater LA area done away with, crime would drop off dramatically.  At my present place of employment, which has been around for a long time, something similar can be seen in two or three generations of a family receiving services and being in the system for comparable reasons.

There are ways to prevent this, the simplest, most effective, and most illegal being a mandatory vasectomy for all 12 year old boys, with applications for reversal being accepted beginning no sooner than age 25.  The black market in reversals would not doubt be ferocious.

Instead, I traffic in damage control for the present generation, in hopes that they will then have a more stable life by the time they choose or stumble upon parenthood.  I’ve yet to meet someone who has been in my field for more than 3 years and is not an ardent advocate for birth control, if for no other reason but that our work is hard, most of the time almost impossible.  I don’t have unrealistic expectations for what I will and will not be able to do, yet I have and will continue to have nightmares about my work.  I think I’d worry more about myself if I didn’t, given what I see some days.

There are of course many reasons to be fearful of, exasperated with, and even to feel contempt for the world in which we exist.  Avy danger is high this weekend, after a hard warm snowfall on Thursday and some strong winds.  Patrol at Big Mountain set off some small slides with charges yesterday morning, and rumors of burials yesterday are flying.  I did find stable, steepish, high quality powder in the sidecountry, highlighting the futility of generalities.  The C Team is headed out to find low-angle stuff today.

The world is full of such things, which we would be foolish to think of controlling, yet insane to not want to change.  My yesterday at 4, wending my way back down the Big Mountain road, I had already spent a week being pickled in this axiom.  My immersion was brought to its zenith, and my already enhanced tendency towards silent, depressed navel gazing further heightened, by M calling me with news of the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords.  One of the more infuriating things about political media coverage is that while the low approval ratings of Congress are thrown around whenever convenient, the idea that such low ratings have been the historic norm is rarely if ever mentioned.  Even more rarely mentioned is that the vast majority of Senators and members of Congress have high individual approval ratings.  Giffords is the paragon of why this is so; she is an extraordinary person and public servant.  I’ve been a huge fan ever since her first national election in 2006.  More states need more people like her.

To complete this maudlin tour, and end on an appropriately ambiguous note, I leave you with a Camus quotation:

The absurd merely confers an equivalence on the consequences of those actions. It does not recommend crime, for this would be childish, but it restores to remorse its futility. Likewise, if all experiences are indifferent, that of duty is as legitimate as any other. One can be virtuous through a whim.

A note on blogging

It’s amazing that blogs even exist any more. Facebook and Twitter are the Fast Food Nation of thought. Who wouldn’t rather take 15 seconds to spout something off instead of the hours it takes to write a decent blog entry? Bloggers are the resistance, and before they get taken into custody in the name of Vapid Über Alles they need props while they’re still with us.

-from the Competitive Cyclist Year in Review, of all places.

 

On the one hand, if blogging is the attention-demanding, longhand form of writing and reading these days, our standards have indeed been warped.  On the other, I think that blogging might well be an ideal compromise between sharing a breadth of content with a wide audience and creating forceful, thoughtful media. I’ve gotten a lot out of blogs and blog-esque content this year.  My life is richer for it.

So how about a brief, sporadic, beginning of the year shout-out to some of the content I’ve enjoyed in the last 12 months:

Eugene’s great black and white photos.

Luc’s ski movies.

Hendrik’s reading lists.

Roman’s reminiscences.

Ryan’s Teton traverse.

Damien’s video of the same.

I could of course go on and on and on.  But that little quotation got me thinking about blogging in a new light, and clarified why I don’t like Facebook very much.

Thoughts?  Your own good stuff to share?