Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Halloween of many parts: Weekend #1

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Saturday, 27 OCT 12

 

It’d been a full day so far: Driving at “Editor for a day” with Car & Driver, Climbing with Daniel and Erin, and now going on a bar crawl dressed as “A Jewish Bob Marley” with Mike, who was dressed as a “Magical Space Wizard”.

How did I decide on that costume?

Simple: it was what we found on Mike’s floor that was still clean, combined with a Beanie we found. Mike’s Space Wizard costume? A walking stick, some random tie-dyed clothes, and a robe.

Yeah… we go all out for Halloween. Honest.

But I couldn’t be blamed – this was 100% last-minute, and we hadn’t even planned on going out this weekend at all. The plan was originally to do the weekend after Halloween as our main adventure night, but neither of us had anything really interesting to do… so why not?

And so, after spending about 20min “creating” our most-excellent costumes, we headed out into the night searching for a good bar to hit up.

Our original plan was to track down a band that Mike’d seen earlier in the day – There had been a Jazz festival going on in Somerville that afternoon, and after the festival itself ended all the bands went off to their own little shows at bars and coffee houses around town. This one was at Union Square right nearby, so we had jumped in and headed over. Unfortunately we found the bar packed full of un-costumed 40 year olds… not really our crowd, especially with our amazing costumes.

So we moved on – this time to a club/bar called Johnny D’s. I’d been to Johnny D’s a few times before – they’re a sort of jazz club, a small venue where semi-established bands play almost every night of the week. It’s usually pretty packed and has a light cover, but it’s always been worth it in my opinion.

Tonight was no exception – The place was packed, and the stage was filled with the seven or eight members of a cabaret band called “Booty Vortex”. An awesome name… made even better by one guy in the crowd dressed up as a literal “booty vortex” – A tornado full of butts. Yeah. He was awesome.

And the night followed suit.

It was Excellent – Booty Vortex is an amazingly fun band; they’d dressed up as Gilligan’s Island (except the dummer, who was Karl Drogan from Game of Thrones, thus showing off pretty much every part of himself) and were rocking out like tonight was their last show. It wasn’t, of course, but they played everything anyways – a few covers, but mostly their own rather excellent tunes.

And on top of that, the costumes around were amazing – one couple was dressed as the constellations Cassiopea and Orion, another group was each portion of the Candyland boardgame, and there was one guy dressed up as Dr. Facilier from the Princess and the Frog – complete with an amazing mask and a glowy cane. Even some of the standard-issue “sexy” costumes were interesting; this was the first year I’ve ever seen “sexy mummy” or “sexy fruit-viking” before.

But as every Bostonian party, this one ended a bit too early – 01:00 bar-close times are really annoying when the band is good and the people are interesting.

So, we moved on and found a place that wasn’t closing early. On the way we even had a mini-adventure – getting chewed out by a random girl for not recognizing her costume as being from the book Lolita. My comeback to her anger that we’d never read “a clear literary classic”? “Well, that’s true. But remember when you read Shingly’s guide to the Mechanics of Materials”? No? Well that’s what I was reading while you were reading Lolita.”

Our final destination was called The Burren – an Irish bar that thankfully didn’t close ’till a bit after 02:00. We partied here ’till we got bored a bit before the end – the band was rather horrible compared to Booty Vortex, but I did get to chat with a cute Aussie girl who’d just finished her PHD in water systems, so The Burren was redeemed in my eyes.

From there, the night ended as many Boston party nights do – Mike and I watching a few episodes of Archer before I gave up and passed out on the couch.

 

Climbing at College Rock with Daniel and Erin

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Saturday, 27 OCT 12

 

I was still a bit weak in the knees and woozy in the stomach when I met up with Daniel and Erin at the parking lot. I’d just left the “track” at Gillette stadium from the Car & Driver “editor for a day” event, and the combination of sharp turns and melted rubber had done a number on my stomach. What I needed was some fresh air…

And that’s the best part of outdoor climbing during New England’s fall – the atmosphere. The leaves crunched under our boots as we walked up the path to the clifftops, and the breeze was cutting through the bare trees around us. Above all though, I love the smell of the leaves.

Fall air has the same sharp crispness as Winter air, but it has that extra scent of fallen leaves permeating it… Not enough to be annoying or overbearing, but just enough to remind everyone that fall has arrived, and that there are leaves on the ground.

As if the leaves could be missed.

That’s actually one of the dangers of climbing in the fall – slipping on leaves. Daniel and I took great care to rope in farther from the cliff edge than normal, making sure that if we somehow slipped on a patch of wet leaves it wouldn’t cause an abrupt ending to our climb.

From there, it was honestly climbing much like any other. The rock was a bit greasier than I’d expect for a cool fall day, which lead to much frustration when trying to work on the hard routes, but we were able to power through most of the sections we tried:

  • “The easiest 5.11 around” – 5.11 (easy)
    • It may have been an easy 5.11… but it was still hellishly hard. Daniel and I tried it, but both got stuck at the same part – what looked like an easy side-reach up to a solid pocket turned out to be a horrible slopey hold, where you had to bump up nearly two feet to the next pocket hold. We tried and tried… but no go. Each time we moved onto a different route instead.
    • Info: This route went up a sheer wall to the right of an arete – following a solid start you move onto some very thin moves, do the bump move described above, and then move up past a roof to the top out.
  • Corner Dihedral – 5.8+
    • The route that I moved onto after flailing on “The easiest 5.11”. This was to the right of the previous route – where the arete turned into an interior dihedral. It was still tough – the holds were amazingly greasy and slick, and moving out from the roof that the 5.11 passes by is made up of a few dead-hard moves.
    • Info: Start in the corner, and stem up to the roof about 10ft up. Requires some near-horizontal stemming. At the roof, move around to the left using the arete, and then power up over the roof.
  • My nemesis wall – ranges from 5.4 to 5.10, depending on route.
    • This isn’t really named “My nemesis wall”. Instead, this is the wall where I took one of my more memorable falls a few years back. Thus – it is my nemesis.
    • We started this route as it was getting Dark, and by the time I was on it the darkness was nearly complete. So I climbed with a headlamp. Erin took a 5.7ish route up quite cleanly, but thanks to the darkness I went for a much simpler route – not the full 5.4, but something around a 5.6 if I was to guess.
    • Info: Far to the Right of the other two climbs, three edges down. Follow Solid holds moving through a crack system upwards, and then top out either directly over some stacked slopey rocks, or move left of the cliff. I moved left from the main hand-crack system onto the ledges to finish this out, since it was so dark.

Car and Driver’s “Editor for the day” event

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Saturday, 27 OCT 12

 

A few weeks back, Mike had pulled out a copy of Car & Driver, turned to a random page, and tossed it over to me.

“We have to do this”.

“This” was an event at Gillette Stadium where we’d get the chance to test out four cars: A Honda Accord, a Hundai Sonata, a Toyota Camry, and a Nissan Altima. The goal wasn’t just to dick around with the cars though, they folks at Car & Driver had a plan for us – fully test the cars, review the specs and the rides, and then make a decision about which one was the best.

It was the definition of crisp fall morning when I showed up, but unfortunately when I showed up for almost 30min after Mike had shown up… and 40minutes after I was supposed to. Because of that I wasn’t able to get in on the same group that Mike was driving with – so I occupied myself waiting for the next group by relaxing, playing Plants Vs Zombies, and drinking down some excellently roasted coffee.

That… turned out to be a mistake. I should have remembered from my SCUBA trip down in Hawaii (Ed Note: See “Hawaiian Adventures: SCUBA Diving), but Coffee has the unfortunate side effect of giving me a rather impressive weakness to motion sickness. Not usually a problem, but… if you happen to be driving cars around an obstacle course… not really the opportune situation.

The first few runs were on the the closer course – named the”A”, or Atlantic, course by the roadhands who’d set everything up. This one was more of a quick-motion course versus a standard-issue race course – it started out with a dodging motion where you threw the car around a few cones stuck in the middle of the road, and then moved on to a few simple sweeping turns and then finishing up on a Slalome course.

The driving was quite awesome, and this was really the first time I’d ever gotten to really push a car to its limits. The tires screamed as I hauled the steering wheel around to dodge the cones in the road. The car shook and the brakes smoked when I cut around the slolumes.

It was awesome.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to feel awesome about how well I was able to handle the car, because I wasn’t grouped alone – each drive was done with a team of three… and my team was made up of two older guys who owned their own racing team. Motorcycle racing, but the skills were obviously transferable, since these guys knew how to drive.

The focus that they had when driving was almost scary, and the skill that they tossed the cars around with was jaw-dropping. They seriously were able to cut at least 15% of the time off my laps, and I don’t think they were even trying.

But as we went on, I got better as I absorbed some of their tricks and tips. Cutting the wheel a bit earlier, not being afraid to really lay into the brakes or accelerator, and knowing exactly what line to take when entering the courses. All of these little things added up to major differences in how I drove.

But, at the end of the day, the coffee won out. We had barely started into the second course, which was aptly called the Pacific Course, when I just couldn’t take any more. I bailed after the first lap, leaving the guys to finish the tests on their own while I completed a desperate battle against my stomach.

I finally won out against my rebellious stomach, thankfully, but by that point the driving was done and it was time to head into the final tent to give our total decisions on the cars. We were given specially-programmed iPads with a huge survey on them, and slowly but surely I worked through the list of questions they put to me. They were pretty evenly split between three main topics – performance, aesthetics, and the “general feel” of the cars.

My personal thoughts are as follows:

  • Aethetics – Sonata, hands down. The other three were near-literal carbon copies of each other, whereas the Sonata actually had a bit of uniqueness to the body and design. Not much, mind you, but just enough that I could tell who made it without looking at the insignia.
  • Drive – Here the Sonata lagged behind a bit, literally. The Camry and Altima had significantly more “get up and go” from my viewpoint, and though I didn’t get to test them out on the longer track they performed quite nicely on the short maneuverings of the Atlantic course.
  • “Feel” – the enigmatic feel of a car… Impossible to describe, but I did honestly feel most connected to the Accord… if only because that’s what I currently drive. There really were very few similarities between the car I drove in, and the car I tested though. The 23 years between my cars manufacture and these test cars showed a lot of changes, but I could still feel that original intent behind the design.
  • Total best car – There is none. I could make up a ton of BS about power and drive, feel and looks, but at the end of the day these four cars are all equivalent. And if you’re buying an Accord or a Camry, you’re not looking for performance or looks, you’re looking for reliability and price. So if I were to recommend one that a friend buy? I’d recommend whichever one has the highest reliability scores and the lowest price. Because from what I tested, there’s not nearly enough differences to make any legitimate differentiation.