Thursday, March 31, 2005

My farts have been smelling a lot like whale recently.

How would I know what whale smells like you ask? Good question. It's because I have become the only guy I know to have eaten whale. And let me tell you, good reader, that there is a good reason that whales are an endangered species, THEY ARE DELICIOUS!

I went to a japanese style bar the other night with my co-workers and what did I find on the plate in front of me but none other than stir-fried whale meat. It was like the juiciest, most succulent beef I'd ever dreamed of. Let's just say that it was much more tasty than the bio-luminescent squid I ate at the same place.
Aside from Native Americans, Norwegians and the Japanese, the world has put a moratorium on the consumption of cetacians and so I am one of the privelaged few to actually eat this delicious endangered beast. While I don't know the exact species I devoured hungrily, I do know that it was by far the biggest animal I've ever taken part in the consumption of. Bigger than a cow, bigger than a horse, bigger than a yak and yes, bigger than an elephant (though I've never sampled elephant).

What's next on the list, I dare not guess.

Monday, March 28, 2005

My youngest brother, chip off the old block that he is, has made a movie with his friends and is submitting it to the Ames High Film Festival. I'd better get my name in the credits for providing he and his buddies with some key props, not least of which the outfits that they are wearing. Asa is the Yoda figure in the movie. Makes me tear up a little I'm so proud.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

This past weekend I edfied my brain and reduced my propensity for stupid actions by taking an Avalanche Safety course in the nearby Hakuba area. Since I know myself and in particular, I know that in the future I really want to be able to go into the back country and come out alive, I decided to take this course. I just wish that I had taken it earlier while there was more of the season left.

I learned a great deal, particularly, that I never want to get stuck in an avalanche. Without searchers who are properly trained and if you're party is not using avalanche beacons, you are totally screwed. We did a field test where there were three beacons and one large backpack buried in a 50 by 50 meter area and my 3 classmates and I had to find the buried "victims". The three beacons we found at about 5 minutes, 7 minutes and 15 minutes respectively, while the buried "body" without a beacon took us a full 50 minutes to find. At 5 minutes you have a 90% chance of survival. At 15 minutes it's about 80% at 45 minutes it's down to 5%. Moral of the story, wear a beacon and make damn sure that your group members know how to use theirs.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Isn't this the picture perfect way to introduce my weekend? The usual foursome went to Nikko in Tochigi-ken, about 6 hours drive to the east. It is host to one of the more famous shrine/temple complexes in Japan. I would highly recommend a trip to Nikko for anyone visiting Japan, ever. The complex is a World Heritage site and is well worth the relatively short trip from Tokyo. The drive from Nagano, however is not necessarily recommended.

Nikko is set in a high alpine area surrounded by some pretty spectacular volcanic mountains. The daytime temperatures were quite nice, but at night we got rocked. I'm actually quite disappointed in our fancy sleeping bags that we bought at such expense last year.

Tokugawa Isaseyu, the first Shogun ruler of Japan and the fella for whom this shrine complex was built.

The particularly interesting thing about Nikko is that it's much more colorful than other temple areas of Japan. The Japanese style is usually quite subdued, color wise, and focuses more on simple outlines. Nikko is pretty gaudy in comparison.

These are some representations of the buddha as a child. They're called Ji-zo and have some particular significance that I can't quite remember. They wear hats and clothes to thank them for watching over people.

We camped for the low low fee of $50 in this lavish campsite. Well, they did have running water and serenety. How about that serenity?

We went rock climbing near Nikko on Sunday. The place was pretty awesome, but quite the zoo. I've never been anywhere with so many people climbing, although that doesn't really say a whole lot.

Me after close to 5 hours in the car, with one left to go.

We ended our road trip with a beautiful and stunning view of Mount Asama, the nearby active volcano. It's pretty cool to realize that we hiked to the rim of the beast just a couple of months before it blew.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Remember when I said I was awesome because I busted my bike pedal, well, I just got more awesome. I discovered that in the past week or so my rear rim has developed quite a nice crack in the sidewall. Yay. I usually like rebuilding wheels, but I guess it's a bit different when it's my stuff that I need every day.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It has occurred to me that I post only rarely these days. I can't explain exactly why, laziness I guess. I get pretty wrapped up in my little projects, as i'm sure most of you who read this blog already know. In that respect, it was a pretty busy week this past one.
My new project has been hammering smallish holes into largish rocks. I'm putting up a new rock climbing route. it will be one that no one else has done before, because I'm the idiot putting the bolts up there. There are three main branches of rock climbing; bouldering, traditional climbing and sport climbing.
In bouldering the object is to climb very short but very hard rock "problems" consisting of anywhere from 2 to 10 moves for the most part. In this variety of climbing one does not use any rope because you're usually only a few feet from the ground. If anything, you may opt for a "crash pad" to soften the landing area a bit.

Traditional climbing is regarded by most people as the most challenging mentally as it is the process by which silly humans scale rock surfaces and with the aid of a rope and specialized tools or "protection", they keep themselves from hitting the deck. Protection originally consisted of steel pitons hammered into cracks but recently has come to rely on easily removable "nuts" and "cams" which wedge into cracks and crevices to protect the climber. I don't do this type of climbing.

The last type is the most commonly practiced (at least in the US, Europe and Japan) which is commonly known as sport climbing. Sport climbing utilizes a rope, of course, as well as pre-placed anchors drilled and affixed to the rock. This allows for a more gymnastic and dynamic style of climbing, since the climber doesn't have to worry about putting in his or her own protection into the rock. Overall, this style of climbing is extremely safe, and compared with many other sports, has a relatively low injury rate. For reference ask my brother, he had his tooth crammed through his lip this past summer while playing a friendly match of soccer.

Anyway, this past week has seen me suspended on a rock face laboriously hand drilling holes in a basalt outcropping with an improvised hand-powered rock chisel. It has taken me about 1 hour per hole so far, but I'm looking to improve my rate with the purchase of a bigger hammer. Aside from smacking the back end of a carbide-tipped drill bit a thousand times, I could buy a battery powered hammer drill, unfortunately, they're somewhere in the range of $600-$1000. For now, I'll just kill my afternoons by smacking my thumb with a hammer 20 feet off the ground.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I've been waiting to post about my adventurism last weekend because I've been waiting for the pictures, you see, having a digital camera does no good if you don't bring it. Last weekend we hiked up a mountiain to the east of us called Nekotake. It was a great adventure full of thrills and spills. Well, actually it was mostly cool from the standpoint of the perfect weather and the natural beauty of the place. In other conditions, it might have been considered a slog. The slope of the mountain is really shallow, even though the thing is tall by Japanese standards, 2207 meters. I'll tell the story with pictures.

Here's a view of Lara and Jennifer in front of a Snow-Cat and by extension, the mountain we climbed Nekotake. The resort operates helicopter rides up to the top, but we opted for the hard way, climbing. Fortunately, the slope is quite mild so along with 0 risk of avalanche, the climbing wasn't so strenuous. The real goal is climbing Fuji and skiing down it next month.

The adventure started at the top of a ski lift where we put on our snowshoes and for me, my climbing skins and proceeded upward.

Here's one of the pictures of the hike upwards. You'll notice Jennifer with a snowboard shooting out the top of her bag. In the background are the North Alps of Japan. We're planning on hiking a good number of them this summer.

The clouds that whip over the mountain leave sublimate this frosty coating over the pine trees up here. The japanese call these things "snow monsters" and it's not hard to see why.

Here's a view from the top of the spectacular Mount Asama Volcano about 30 kilometers directly south of us. That's a cloud of sulphurous gas, in case you're wondering.

Here we are at the top. From the left to right we see Simon, Lisa, Dawn, Me,Shane, Jennifer and Lara.
While it took us about 2 hours to climb to the top, the hike down was all of about 25 minutes. It's kind of a letdown to see all your hard work evaporate like that.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

As I was pulling in to the alley behind my office on Wednesday, I noticed a strange sensation in my right foot and then suddenly my foot came free of the pedal. Or actually, the pedal came free of the bicycle. I looked down and sure enough, my lovely bicycle had suffered a slight setback as the pedal spindle was firmly attached to the bicycle, but the pedal body was firmly attached to my foot. This presents some obvious problems, in this case, how do I get myself back home? I was fortunately given a ride by a co-worker and endeavoured to fix the pedal the following morning. This also proved problematic because upon closer inspection I discovered that I have completely worn through the bearings on the inside of the pedal, the wee balls were rusty and mangled and no longer functional in the least.

This brings me to the interesting part; it felt kinda good to see the destroyed pedal guts. There's something quite satisfying about wearing out sports equipment. If a car breaks down, of course you just get pissed and think of the money you have to spend on fixing it. For a bicycle however, I just think, "Yeah, I pedaled that thing to DEATH!" It's the same feeling I got from seeing the stacks of old running shoes when I was running a lot. I feel powerful to have made this artificial product yield to my manly power. Additionally, it's an excuse to get new toys, which may be the real inspiration after all.