Now the president is writing for the Onion... Awesome!

I was searching for a quote by Hermin Goering and the first hit I got back from my poorly search was the fabulous headline…

President Declares ‘Freedom at War with Fear’

Which is pretty funny except it isn’t from The Onion but the White House.

These people are insane…

The quote I was looking for is from the Nuremburg trial of the Nazi leader Hermann Goering…

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

In other news, apparently, in keeping with our foreign policy of isolating and not supporting unstable middle eastern countries run by cruel dictators we are now selling nuclear power to Saudi Arabia, because hey rogue regimes aren’t rogue regimes, they are “strategic allies” until we stop being friends with them right?

Lately I’ve been on a gmail organization blitz. I added the Getting Things Done plugin, got a Remember the Milk account and the RTM gmail plugin and purged my inbox of 800 backlogged emails. Now I generally have an empty inbox and a couple of todo lists. The freedom from having to look at that endless page of old emails is amazing.

One thing that has been missing for me though is the ability to easily tag my emails in gmail. The Labels work ok, but attaching a bunch of labels to an email is time-consuming and cumbersome and often a tag list would work a lot better. I also find that I frequently have a hard time finding some emails even if I label.

I looked around a bit and there doesn’t seem to be a good gmail tagging plugin. The soution I have come up with is fast and simple seems to work pretty well…

To tag emails, I reply to the email I want to tag with a list of tags. That way my tag list ends up end up attached to the conversation and will show up in searches. It is a very quick and easy. The only shortcoming of this method (and this is a big one if you are absent minded like me) is that you have to be really careful when you reply to the email that you replace the senders’ email address with your own so you don’t send your list of tags to them rather than yourself.. could be embarrassing (e.g. mytags: loser co-worker, annoying, haha…).

Also note that you can create a filter that recognizes your tagged emails and marks them as read so you don’t get a new email when you tag your mail. The way to do this is to add to your email some unique text like “mytaglist:” before your tag list, then make a filter to mark any incoming emails with that tag as read.

Seems like it would be fairly easy to write a gmail plugin that would avoid the problem of accidentally sending the email to the last sender … anyone want to take this on? 🙂

Anyone out there have nay other suggestions or tips?

I’d been eying this line all year. I’ve skied down almost every rock and cliff face at Solitude that has snow on it and doesn’t involve jumping more than 20 feet to get in or out of, so when I see something new that I think can be skied, it is pretty exciting. I never even realized you could possibly ski this line until it snowed so much this year and filled in.

Every lift ride I’ve taken for the past 2 months I’ve been memorizing the way down… go past the split tree, stop at the next tree, step carefully over the rock band, down the patch of snow below the big rock. Look for the gap to the right. Hold onto the little tree to climb down the next set of rocks. Ski right across the patch of snow above the huge cliff. Jump right side of cliff.

Actually, I hadn’t planned to ski the line that day – you can ski half way The linedown the top chute and then bail out to the right into a nice bowl that no one ever skies because the way in is hard to find. But I got half way there and it looked so great I just kept skiing. Also I had my helmet camera running so I was psyched to get some sweet footage.

It all went like clockwork — I had to side-slip more than I wanted to — I would have preferred to make turns, but it was pretty rocky and falling would have been death with the 50′ of rocks and cliffs below so I was being pretty cautious.

Anyway, I finally made it to the little patch of snow above the last cliff. The whole thing was pretty straight forward – it went easier than I expected, nothing too terrifying.

The one thing about skiing with a helmet camera is that the more you stop and look around to try and figure out where to go next, the worse the video looks. So if you want to shoot video without having to edit it much or at all, you have to make quick decisions and not move your head around too much. This means yo have to know where you are going and try to not make bad decisions because you haven’t taken the time to think things out.

At the last patch of snow, I saw there was a little line of snow off to my right so I could have skied out without even having to jump the final cliff. But, I had scoped the cliff out from below a few weeks earlier and it wasn’t that high, with a nice steep landing.

Another thing is that recently I have been pushing myself a bit farther than usual. Despite the fact that I ski down very steep scary looking things all the time, I am pretty cautious and don’t usually jump off stuff higher than 10-15 feet which on telemark skis seems pretty bold to me as it is. But lately I’ve been finding myself standing at the top of higher drops thinking…”Well nothing happened last time I jumped of something big…” and then going for it.

There’s a certain feeling you get once you’ve committed to something like this. The same feeling you have when you jump off a high cliff into the water, that brief second as you run forward, see the edge and know you won’t stop and then are in the air, with safety so close behind you but unable to turn back and you look down see how far you have to fall. There is something precious and intense and indescribable about that split second where you are hanging in the air, next to safety but totally committed, unable to stop what you’ve set in motion. Then you are falling, landing with a splash of water or an explosion of snow and you look back up and see what you’ve accomplished and think about that weird fight you undertake between the terror of common sense and the sharp rush of adrenaline.

So there I was, camera running, on a little piece of snow with about 10 feet 45-degree steep snow before a little tree buried in the snow that made a nice launching pad. I couldn’t actually see the landing. Straight down it looked like about 30′ to the ground, and a long ways out. Not at all safe. Next to that, was a clean drop where I knew it was steeper and the landing was clear since I had checked it out before, but still it meant I’d need a bit of speed. I took one last look at the nice easy exit out the side, away from the cliff, looked down below me, and threw caution to the wind.

Afterwards, I’m always flushed with this amazing feeling of pure experience. A childlike glee that fills me with joy. It is why I keep skiing and why I’d happily spend hours hiking to the top of something and then hanging off of trees and rocks to climb down face of a cliff no sane person would think was skiable rather than just skiing down a groomed run like a normal person.

Because I’m on telemark skis, I usually try not to land going too fast because then its pretty easy to catch an edge, end up with one leg behind you in the air as you hurtle headfirst towards the trees and blow out you knee or worse. So in the interest of not going too fast, I decided to hip check on my landing – If you watch pro skiers when they jump of really huge cliffs, they never land on their feet, they turn in the air and land on their back or side because it is a lot better to let the snow absorb your impact than your knees. This is kind of a weird feeling because instead of making a clean landing, you intentionally turn in the air and essentially crash. If you do it right, you ski out in a huge explosion of snow and everything is great.

As I’ve started to ski harder and jump off higher things, the moment of fear and anticipation as I commit has gotten more intense. You spend your life gingerly going to the edge of a cliff and peering over and then kind of hoping off. Now I was heading straight down for 15 feet before launching 25′ into the unknown. It definitely one of the bolder things I’ve ever decided to do, but the camera was on and I had decided that I was going to do it so I went.

Skis straight, no turning to slow down.


Off the launch, in the air, the snow looks soft and deep, I turned slightly onto my right side, anticipating doing a hip check in the deep snow to lose my speed. I braced myself for landing.

I have the moment of impact seared in my brain. I hit the ground, in an explosion of snow, but the snow doesn’t give at all. I’m turned slightly sideways but my momentum is down the hill – straight out from knee like one of those vector sum diagrams you draw in physics class. My leg stays where it was when I landed, parallel to the slope and I hurtle downwards. I’m trying to yank my leg free – this has happened before and I’ve always managed to make it, but I know what happens if you don’t free the stuck ski instantly.

And then there this distinct pop in my knee, my leg comes free and I’m tumbling downwards, stopping, standing up. Vision white with pain. I’m looking down at me legs and they won’t move. My right leg is numb with pain. I can’t even bend over it hurts so much. I hear in my head, over and over, the moment when I hit and that split second as my knee popped, that I knew that this was the one I wasn’t going to ski out of.

The landingLately as I’ve skied harder and harder stuff, I keep wondering if (when) I will injure myself. I don’t think you can really do something where there is almost no margin for error, indefinitely, without hurting yourself at some point. It’s simple statistics. But I am pretty cautious, and I’ve managed to ski like mad for 30+ years without any real injuries. After the accident, at least two of my friends commented that I had said, on more than one occasion, something like “It seems like only a matter of time ’till something goes wrong…” within the past few weeks, so maybe I knew what was coming. And now, as I hobble around the house, barely able walk, let alone ski, with months of pain and rehab ahead of me, I think about this over and over. Did I do something wrong? Where was my error in judgment? Was I being dangerous? And what if something worse had happened? From the other stories of ski injury I’ve heard lately I’m pretty lucky as injuries go.

In “This Game Of Ghosts”, Joe Simpson talks about living in Chamonix and doing completely insane, “out-there” alpine climbs, day in and day out, and how, as people he is close to die doing similar things, he tells himself stories about how he can avoid their fate because he knows what they did wrong, how he is more careful, he won’t make that mistake. But after a while, and when someone he knows is much more competent than him is killed, he begins to realize that its just a game he plays with himself so he can keep climbing, that fate will do what it will and that when you keep doing something that might get you killed, it often does and there is no way to avoid this because it is this edge where what you are risking really is your life, that is what makes you feel alive.

After living in Salt Lake City for 7 years, I finally got around to going to the outdoor retailers convention. This is one of those events that you hear so much buzz about and always kind of wonder what the deal is.

The Outdoor Retailers Show is like going to a huge REI where every product has its own huge display with all the newest toys. Half a city block’s worth of toys. Oh and they serve beer and cocktails and you can buy a lot of the stuff at half price at the end of the week. Holy shit, for a gear and tech head like me this is nirvana.

One of the amazing advances in gear lately is how light everything has gotten. Like Mammut is selling an entire quickdraw that ways less than a conventional oval carabiners.

The camping cookware from GSI Outdoors was also amazing. They make a super lightweight cooking pot that had 2 bowls and two insulated cups that fit perfectly inside of it — no more fighting to fit all that crap in your backpack, it all sits nicely inside the cooking pot. They had lightweight everything from completely flat fold-up spatulas to hip flasks. Stuff like this makes me appreciate that we really are living in the future we dreamed up reading sci-fi as kids. You start to see how you could soon have a completely bomber camping setup for any season that would pack down tiny and weigh 10 or 15 pounds – stove tent sleeping bag food and all. It completely redefines what adventures are possible.

I bought a full length insulated sleeping pad from Pacific Outdoor Equipment that weighs barely more than a pound,it was made from sustainably grown bamboo, and the price includes carbon offsets for the CO2 to produce it. Pretty sweet.

Another toy I couldn’t get enough of was the helmet camera from GoPro. GoPro ads show up in practically every Google search I do since I’m always researching camera gear and it was great to finally get a look at one. What they’ve done with the setup is amazing. The camera weighs just a little more than the 2 AAA batteries that run it, comes with a housing waterproof to 100′ and can take an hour of video or 2 hours of 3 megapixel stills at 1 per 5 seconds. All you do to run it is push a button. It attaches to pretty much any surface from a ski boot to helmet, plane wing, surfboard, motorcycle, you name it. It retails for $180 which is seems like a lot of money, but considering what you get is pretty dang cheap since for most digital cameras, just a waterproof housing costs 2-3 times that.

One shortcoming of the GoPro is that it is hardly low profile (I mean do you really want to look like a cyborg when you ski?), but since it is self contained, this is hard to get around. Another issue is that if the clamp or sticky-mount fails you loose the whole camera since its not like a typical helmet camera where there would be a cord running into your coat to the recorder.

Video Quality — The camera records mpeg4 avi files @ about 550×350 (can’t remember the exact specs). this is reasonable quality for online use and actually looked surprisingly good on the wide-screen tv’s they were showing it on. . Unfortunately, by their own admission, the video doesn’t look that great on YouTube because it gets recompressed. They didn’t seem to fazed by this and were encouraging people to use other sites that have less compression, but to to me this seems like a major shortcoming. I mean really, the only reason anyone is going to buy one of these is to put their video online to show off what they do and probably 99% of people putting video online use YouTube. If you make a camera that seems directly targeted at YouTubeusers, having video that isn’t optimized for YouTube seems kinda lame. But hey, this is thing is only a year old so maybe they’ll see the light.

As someone who always wants to buy digital toys with the most available options, part of me really appreciates the simplicity of the GoPro. It has 2 buttons, nothing to adjust and almost no settings at all — it only does what they sell it to do, take pictures and movies when you push a button. I’m sure this will be annoying after a while, but as a product development paradigm it seems like something useful to think about.

Its supposed to snow 40 to 50 inches in the next two days so I’ll take the camera for a ride and post the video soon.

If you are are paying attention, you have no doubt heard about the US’s “extrodinary rendition” program where the CIA kidnaps sometime totally innocent people, often (as it turns out later) based on flawed intelligence, and then exports them to hidden prisons where they are tortured. Most of these people end up in Guantanimo where they get no trial and hence no press, but a few of them turn out to be arrested on such non-existent evidence that event he CIA doesn’t have the hear to keep them forever, and so have been released and told their stories. A number of these cases have been well documented and is currently the source of a number of lawsuits against the US government and others. In one case, a Canadian man was whisked away, tortured, and then returned when the US found out he was totally innocent of anything. He was since paid $10.5 million in reparations by the Canadian government who acknowledged that he was innocent all along and that the US had given them faulty intelligence.

This is scary shit and should be getting far more coverage in the US national media than it is. The Bush administration seriously claims the right to pick up anyone, even US citizens and hold them indefinitely with no lawyer and no right to a trial. Remember Jose Padilla? He was a US citizen, just like the rest of us. The whole dirty bomb charges never quite panned out since he was never charged with anything vaguely related to that. But he did get the chance to spend 2+ years in solitary confinement until he went crazy. With only very limited access to a lawyer and none of the rights you might think you get to have just by being American.

There is currently a lawsuit going on against the Jeppesn International Trip Planning private company, a Boeing subsidiary, that was allegedly contracted by the CIA to fly people to the secret prisons where they are detained tortured, etc.

Democracy Now has an interview today with a Mohamed Farag Ahmed Bashmilah, a man who alleges he was arrested in Jordan, flown to Afghanistan and tortured then held in Yemen without charges for something like 10 months until he was released because the Yemeni government realized there was no evidence he had done anything at all relating to terrorism.

This is crazy shit, and if you are American, your taxes are paying for it.

A quote from the interview

“At that time, the guard lifted the blindfold partially so that I would speak to the interrogator, and I saw another man who had a Western look. He was white and somewhat overweight and had dark glasses on. I realized then that they were probably handing me over to some other agency, because during the interrogations I had with the Jordanians, one of the threats was that if I did not confess, they will hand me over to American intelligence…
When we arrived at the airport, they took me to a hall. And without any precautions or anything, I felt that I was being pulled violently by some other people. They took me to another room. They started tearing down my clothes, from above all the way down. And I was being stripped completely naked. They started taking pictures from all directions. And they also started to beat me on my sides and also my feet. And then they put me in a position similar to the position of prostration in Muslim prayer, which is similar to the fetal position. And in that position, one of them inserted his finger in my anus very violently. I was in terrible pain, and I started to scream. When they started taking pictures, I could see that they were people who were masked. They were dressed in black from head to toe, and they were also wearing surgical gloves.
And then, they started in the process of preparing me for travel, and that consisted of putting a diaper on me. And then they put pants, which went down to below the knee, and a top with the sleeve to the middle of the forearm. And then, they also put some gauze on my eyes. And then they put what looked like headphones on my ears—sorry, these were not headphones; they were like little plugs inside the ears, plastic. And then they put gauze on that, on the ears. And then they taped that with very strong adhesive tape. And then they put a hood over my head. And then, on top of that, they put a headphone. This is as far as the top of my body was. And then they handcuffed me with a chain, and also they chained my ankles. Then they put a belt above the pants, and then they tied the hands and the ankles to that belt. This was after being slapped and kicked until I almost fainted.
And then they took me into an aircraft, and they had me lie down on the floor of the airplane. Then they strapped my legs at my chest so that I wouldn’t move right or left. The aircraft flew for about two-and-a-half to three hours. And I was in such a terrible psychological state, only God could determine. There was a lot of physical pain because of what I had endured, and also all the thoughts regarding what might happen to my wife and my mother. This is knowing that my mother was seriously ill, and my wife could not speak Arabic very well so she could be of much help to my mother. And so, throughout this flight, I was in some kind of a coma, and I would come to and I would faint and come to. And so, during those times when I was thinking of my wife and mother, I would be distracted from the pain, and then the pain would distract me from the thoughts to my wife and mother.
About three hours later, we landed somewhere. And then some [inaudible], and they handled me very roughly. They took me to a detention center. I was in a very poor psychological state… Then they put me in a solitary cell….”

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Taliban in drag…

In 2002, a journalist was walking through Kandahar and came across a photos shop that was selling a collection of photos of the Taliban. The whole thing is pretty far out – 50’s era looking washed out color photos of effeminate men holding hands and showing off their guns. When not posing for glamor shots, these guys torture people for fun. Given that taking a photo of anyone that shows their face (or having a statue or even a shop mannequin with a head) was illegal and could get you killed, this is pretty weird stuff.

Here’s the Photo Essay.

Video of the Helix

Lately I’ve been obsessed with a climb called Helix in American Fork Canyon, about an hour South of SLC. Back in its heyday AF was at the forefront of hard sport climbing and had some of the hardest climbs in the world. It is kind of a trip to go there because there are plenty of walls where almost every climb is 5.12 or harder. Its also fun to be able to see climbs I remember reading about way back when they were first put up and everyone was amazed that someone could climb such a thing.

Since we are still trying to figure out the moves on Helix, and it is way hard, we spend a lot of time falling off and hanging in the air so I thought it would look cool as a timelapse.

We’ve been trying to get down there after work but there isn’t much light left these days. Climbing with only a headlamp in total darkness at the top of the cave is pretty awesome, kind of like being underwater or something. You see the edge of the roof of the cave and then blackness. I once went scuba diving where there was a 3000 foot wall down to the bottom of the ocean. We were at floating 60 feet down facing the wall which was full of huge amazing coral. Behind us was this endless inky blackness. I’ve never seen deep endless blackness like that. It was blackness that could hold a scary thing of any size. Hanging from the roof in the mouth of the cave reminded me of that. The ground drops off so steeply below the cave that in the dark I couldn’t see anything, the darkness just swallowed up my headlight.

I was having fun until the centipedes started crawling out of the cracks to hunt and then there was that giant spider in one of the holes in the roof that made me wonder about what was in the holes I was blindly sticking my fists and feet into.