Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks

October 23rd, 2006

I had an awesome time this weekend doing the “via ferrata” (iron way) at the Nelson Rocks Preserve in West Virginia. If you loved climbing trees and such as a kid, you’ll definitely enjoy this via ferrata which is really just ‘very technical and vertical’ hiking on a mountain! Instead of traditional rock climbing — where you scale a rock face mostly straight up with ropes — via ferrata has an iron cable bolted into the rock with handle bars as needed along the way. One only needs only to don a harness and pair of “rabbit ears” (webbing, 2 ropes with caribiners, 3rd optional fall-brake rope) then climb/hike their way up a mountain and around trails!

Via ferrata can be a challenging of course, but it definitely lowers the barrier for non-climbers by providing them easy iron holds, safety support, and no need for advanced climbing techniques and skills. We enjoyed camping out at Seneca Shadows on Saturday night and then spent Sunday on the rocks. This via ferrata course is likely the best in the U.S.A., though over 300+ exist in the Alps of Europe where it originated. The Dolomites in Italy look good! Photos now online!

Running Marathons for a Cause, the Irony

October 23rd, 2006

A friend of mine just finished the Columbus Marathon (her 5th marathon) this last weekend in a really good time, very close to my own time in the 2006 BSIM! It’s been an inspiration to me, and after 2 months+ of not running it actually got me out the next day for a good 50 min (the first 30 of which where quite a challenge!) jaunt before church. I did feel quite “purified” and cleansed physically and spiritually after that! I’m so far out of my peak running shape now, that I don’t know if I could run even a 10k effectively! Meanwhile, Dean Karnazes and Sam Thompson are running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days!

I had originally thought this was just Karnazes’ odessy, but it seems like Thompson came up with the idea to raise funds for the reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina – and now Karnazes (doing the same feat for health and obesity awareness) found some sponsorship from The North Face for Thompson. As a technologist and freedom fighter of the information age, I’m saddened to see that both of their websites are not browser friendly! The Endurance 50 requires Flash* and the 50in50in50.com is not supported in Mac Safari! Also, Karnazes’ personal/book website ultramarathonman.com was rewritten to be Flash only* as well, but was in wonderful standard HTML just months ago!

In an irony that is encompassing us today on the Internet, this is almost as bad as requiring IE only for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief! This is a tragedy we face in a world where people do not adopt Free/Open Soure Software, Web Standards, and design websites best to be viewed in any browser. I’m actually sick to my stomach thinking about this now. Perhaps I’ll go for a run in the morning and try to forget this whole mess.

Why is Flash bad? — because 1) it’s not a standard, it’s simply a popular proprietary file format, 2) it is not FOSS and therefore not available on all platforms (while Macromedia supported Flash on Linux, this ended with Flash 7 as Flash is now owned by Adobe which has no plans to support it in the future. Now that Flash 8 is required on practically all sites due to security problems with 7, all GNU/Linux users are out of luck. Like me.), 3) it’s Breaks the web by not allowing proper indexing and linking to content, 4) I could go on and on… there are many reasons to Save the Internet.

Down with TOB? (Theology of the Body)

October 9th, 2006

I haven’t even been in Maryland for a week, and now I’ve already taken in 2 sessions on the Theology of the Body (TOB). Pope John Paul II gave over 129 short talks in his Wednesday general audiences from 1979-1984 defining the Catholic view of sexuality. Under the title “Theology of the Body”, these church teachings provide a groundbreaking view on how our own humanity of body and blood unites us to Christ through the Creator’s design of our own sexuality. There is a young adult TOB study group meeting near Baltimore at The Church of the Crucifixian and also a greater-DC area group (TOB related) meeting at The Good News Cafe in Gaithersburg. After just seeing one Christopher West video (on marriage), already I am hooked on learning more about how to find and practice a truer love in my future relationships.

The Theology of the Body is built upon the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” by Pope Paul IV and heavily influenced by then Bishop Karol Wojtyla. I personally have been dwelling on how simply “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but these teachings take that even further. Pope Benedict XVI just wrote his “Deus Caritas Est” (God is love) encyclical which also discusses the nature of love even further and is worth a read. My friend Harley and I remarked how coincidentally “very TOB” this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word was! (archive)

Rennfest was great

October 7th, 2006

I checked out the Maryland Rennaissance Festival today in Crownsville and was quite impressed! It was my first time at a Rennaissance festival and I had always had some reservation about going for some reason, perhaps concerned that I might feel ‘out of place’. It’s actually quite a lot of fun though, especially if one really ‘gets into it’. I much enjoyed stepping into that era and the organizers did a really fine job. With everyone in costume, tournaments, the arts and crafts, food and drinks, games, etc… and of course with the old English language – it’s quite a fun day experience, better than a carnival even! Next time I’ll get knight or friar costume before I go, and I think it will be even more fun. Luckily the rain held off, and it wasn’t a “Rainfest” after all! (It did start to sprinkle more though as I was leaving.)

To saunter in the mountains

October 7th, 2006

Would you join me for a hike saunter in the mountains? I really enjoyed the old message by Albert Palmer of “The Mountain and It’s Message” (mp3 audio). If you enjoyed it as well, I hope you would join me on my next saunter in the mountains. I’ll likely be starting along the old Appalachian trail here in Maryland soon, but once I return to California in January, I should be in the Sierras, Big Sur, and hopefully along much of the John Muir trail (wp).

Audiobooks Rule!

October 5th, 2006

I just recently completed a cross country road trip, from Monterey, CA to Balitmore, MD over the course of nearly 4 days, while driving for 12 hours+ a day sometimes. One thing that really kept my mind awake and entertained during this time was some great classic audiobooks such as: Around the World in 80 Days (Jules Verne), The Prince (Nicolo Machiavelli), Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences (Rene Descartes), The Man Who Knew Too Much (Gilbert Chersterton), The Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain), and parts of several other texts thanks to the wonderful resources of Librivox, Free Classic Audiobooks, and Free Christian Audiobooks. I’m also going to check out some of the audiobook offerings from Project Gutenberg and LiteralSystems.

“Around the World in 80 Days” was by far the most entertaining and adventerous. You know those books that you “just can’t seem to put down”… this is one of those books, and I could hardly ever turn off my headphones since I was so into it. Each chapter will leave you reeling with suspense, and it’s quite a good story – and appeals to my sense of adventure. The thing I was suprised to read, was that nearly 3 chapters take place in Nebraska! I should have read this earlier when I was a child, and I am suprised it was never thus mentioned to me then!

Descartes’ Discourse was very intriguing as he brings about perhaps the first notion of the scientific method and algorithm of grasping an understanding of very large and complex problems by breaking them down into smaller pieces, and solving them each individually to solve the whole. We all use this method now in object oriented program design and component based system construction (if all the components of system A are “secure” -> system A is “secure”?!). He devoted his life quite humbly to understanding the world as much as possible in order to live a very just life. He thus goes into discussion for a proof of God and many other philosophical discoveries, including the infamous “I think therefore I am”.

I found “The Prince” to be rather quite boring at times, unless you really care to listen about the tales of ancient Princes, lands and soldiers doing battle against each other and working to maintian their victories. This book really appears to be a rendition of “The Art of War” with lessons learned by Machiavelli through extensive study, all condensed into a book of lessons for the new Prince of Italy at the time. I found some parts insightful and intriguing, but most of it would put me to sleep.

There are so many great books here to read — err, listen to — that I think I’ll keep busy for quite some time. I do hope to volunteer and read some classic texts into audiobooks as well, should my voice be appropriate enough for the task.

Mark Twain… cracks me up!

October 5th, 2006

Perhap’s I never caught much of the humor in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” when I read it as a child, or perhaps there wasn’t much there. He is definitely quite hilarious though! (Funny I say “is” when he died nearly 100 years ago, but his words still live today!) For just one small taste of his humor, check out his short essay “On the Decay of the Art of Lying” at LiteralSystems.org — which provides a spoken mp3 version as well.

I listened to quite a few audiobooks while driving across the country (courtesy of Librivox.org), but am still working on the 60+ chapters of Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad“, written in 1868. I’m finding it quite entertaining though! It’s a narrative about Twain’s adventure on a voyage to visit the holy land and several other ancient cities along the Mediterranean of high historical interest. Thank goodess for limited copyrights to create a free culture and the good volunteers at Librivox.org, that these great works of Mark Twain and many other famous writers are now freely available for all to read and listen to.