Catch Up

The past week has been a virtual whirlwind of activity. I was up in Edinburgh to meet with my new boss and discuss our near and long-term objectives both from a business standpoint and a personal development standpoint. I’m fine with the business objectives, but always seem to struggle with the personal development objectives. Why? Hmmm….probably because i view personal as personal and business as business. I like to keep work and personal life separate. I suppose if we changed the term to professional development, I could handle that…

I have been working on articulating my philosophy of life which loosely breaks down to this:

  • Be loving, sympathetic, concerned, respectful and helpful with others; not greedy, or controlling or aggressive.
  • Work hard to solve the problems we face; not follow the past, or merely dream of the future, but to do something now.
  • Enjoy the simple, available pleasures of home, relaxation, and friends.

My life goals in terms of values and purpose can be summed up as:

  • An exciting life
  • Inner harmony
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Social recognition
  • Freedom
  • Happiness
  • Wisdom

And my personal characteristics or how I want people to view me as:

  • Honest
  • Broad-minded
  • Imaginative
  • Cheerful
  • Helpful
  • Forgiving
  • Responsible
  • Capable
  • Independent
  • Intellectual

I suppose this is a tall order, but at least I have an ideal for which to strive for…

On another note…

While in Edinburgh, I started working on my second Rockamentary for a local Edinburgh band called Slowjet. I’ve got about 2 hours of footage that I have to edit down to 5 minutes. Looking forward to it.

Here are some random thoughts from my notebook over the past week:

  • Flew into Edinburgh. I like being in transit…the anonymous feeling. It’s the opposite of Cheers..nobody knows your name.
  • It’s half-term in England and it seems like they’re all here. The hotel is packed with them.
  • There are two women sitting on thestairs in front of me. The black haired one is giving the platnium blonde a neck and shoulder massage…cheap thrill for me as i drink my beer.

Okay…that’s enough of that.

Edinburgh

I arrived in Edinburgh last night around 2200 having spent more time in the Birmingham airport than I’d wanted. The plane was delayed due to a failed generator. No complaints…best that they fix these kind of things on the ground then have a problem in the air.

I’m staying at the Holiday Inn right next to the Edinburgh zoo. My window look right onto the zoo grounds. Friends have warned me to be prepared to be awakened by strange animal noises in the night. But seeing how I can sleep through the end of the world, I doubt if i’ll hear anything. In fact, given more snoring record, I’ll probably be of a disturbance to the animals!

Anyway, time to get back to work…

Mr Fix It

Ruth says I’m lazy. I say I just have no patience for building or fixing things. My definition of lazy is someone who sits around and does nothing all day. The last thing I want to do is sit around and do nothing. I prefer to be outdoors and active…rock climbing, running, competing in 11 hour adventure races, climbing mountains…well you get the point. I see domesticated duties as an intrusion on the precious little free time I have outside of work. Why turn a wrench, when I could be climbing Scavenger or some such route. I say, let a mechanic turn the wrench, after all that’s what he gets paid for. Why am ranting about this?

Well I spent the greater part of Saturday helping Ruth’s dad change the front and back brakes on our car. I was happy to let our mechanic do it, but Ruth’s dad is a born grease monkey and enjoys banging around on cars. I don’t. Still, I felt obligated to pitch in seeing how it was my car. I spent 5 frustrating hours grunting and groaning, pulling and pushing nuts, bolts and springs. There were a couple of times I thought we were going to have to call the AA to rescue us from a sea of brake springs that refused to go back together.

End the end, we did it. We over came the gods of metal and machines, and in the process, saved about £250.

Sunday

I got back from Bristol early this afternoon.

I spent the afternoon unpacking and repacking my suitcase. I’m off to Scotland for a week. Unfortunately, it’s not a leisure trip. I’m there to meet my new boss.

Can’t hang out here to long, I leave for the airport in about 10 minutes.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I borrowed this survey from Quitespecial’s LJ.

Here are my answers…

ANGER

1. Who did you last get angry with?
Anger is an emotion I don’t come across very often, but when I do it’s usually not pretty. The last time I was really angry was during an adventure race in Borneo last year, when one of my teammates didn’t give 100% during an important leg of the race. Because I don’t get angry much, when I do it’s usually an explosive release of all the anger I deny myself. This particular instance, I lost complete control and took out my vengence on a stack of bottled water, destroying many litres of precious water.

2. What is your weapon of choice?
My brain. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, the mark of a great general is one who defeats his enemies without fighting.

3. Would you hit a member of the opposite sex?
Yes if were a case of self-defense.

4. How about of the same sex?
Yes.

5. Who was the last person who got really angry at you?
Probably the self-same teammate whom I lost my temper with. Most people fight anger with anger.

6. What is your pet peeve?
People who are intolerant of another person’s point of view.

7. Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?
Like water off a duck’s back…

SLOTH

1. What is one thing you’re supposed to do daily that you haven’t done in a long time?
Pray.

2. What is the latest you’ve ever woken up?
I once lost a whole day…me and a friend went a couple of days without sleep. When we finally laid our heads down, we didn’t budge for 24 hours…still fully clothes…When I awoke, I felt like I had been abducted by aliens because I couldn’t account for a 24 hour period of my life.

3. Name a person you’ve been meaning to contact, but haven’t?
My family…my mom, brother, sister, grand ma…they are all in the States. I know they are only a phone call a way but days slip into weeks etc. etc.

4. What is the last lame excuse you made?
Just a few seconds ago when I wrote that lame ass line about days slipping into weeks.

5. Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through?
Yes…it was a Tony Robbins infomercial.

6. When was the last time you got a good workout in?
Yesterday, hiking up Pen y Fan.

7. How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today?
None. I’m a early morning person. I’m generally up and active by 5.00 am.

GLUTTONY

1. What is your overpriced yummy beverage of choice?
I don’t really have one. I mostly drink diet-coke.

2. What is the greatest amount of alcohol you’ve had in one sitting/outing/event?
The drunkest I’ve ever been would have to be back in my army days. I drank a bottle of 151 Bacardi Rum. My buddies had to pull an all night vigil around me because I kept going into convulsions.

3. Have you ever used a professional diet company?
No.

4. Do you have an issue with your weight?
No. I’m a lean, mean fighting machine. I eat nails and shit rust. In short, I am hard as woodpecker lips.

5. Do you prefer sweets, salty foods, or spicy foods?
Spicy hot food. The hotter the better. If I’m not dripping with sweat and feeling like someone lit a match in my mouth, then it’s not spicy hot.

6. Have you ever looked at a small housepet or child and thought.. food?
Yes. We have a pet rabbit and considering I’ve eaten rabbit before, I wouldn’t hesistate to slap old Snuggles in a pot and have some roast wabbit as Elmer Fudd would say.

LUST

1. How many people have you seen naked?
Lots.

2. How many people have seen YOU naked?
Lots.

3. Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation?
Not particularly.

4. Have you “done it”? had sex?
Oh yes! And like a typical male, I fantasize about sex every 7 minutes or is it 7 seconds…

5. What is your favorite body part on a person of your gender of choice?
I’m a sucker for long hair, tasty looking breast and a nice bottom.

6. Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?
Yes. I was soldier once and soldiers and prostitutes are the two oldest professions…where you find one, you usually find the other. But to actually pay for sex…where is the fun in that?

7. Have you ever had to get tested for an STD or pregnancy?
No.

GREED

1. How many credit cards do you own?
Two.

2. What’s your guilty pleasure store?
Borders Bookstore…I spend so much money there, I should buy stock in the company.

3. If you had £1 million, what would you do with it?
Invest it…by some bonds and live off the interest. Then I’m become a vagabond and wander the world…mostly on foot.

4. Would you rather be rich, or famous?
Rich.

5. Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks?
No doubt. Work is just work at the end of the day.
6. Have you ever stolen anything?
I stole a toy car when I was about 14. I got caught. Got my ass handed to me by my parents and have never stole in the “traditional” sense ever again.

7. How many MP3s are on your hard drive?
Not many. I put them all on my digital audio player. It holds the equivalent of 500 CDs.

PRIDE

1. What one thing have you done that you’re most proud of?
Served my country as a combat infantryman.

2. What one thing have you done that your parents are most proud of?
Graduating from West Point with a degree in History(the U.S. Military Academy, for my UK readers, this similar to your Sandhurst).

3. What thing would you like to accomplish in your life?
Write and publish a successful book.

4. Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?
For a brief moment then I let it go.

5. Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?
I did competitive Judo…I’ve had matches against people of a lower grade than myself.

6. Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score?
Probably.

7. What did you do today that you’re proud of?
Caught up with all my journal entries.

ENVY

1. What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own?
A friend of mine that met last year during the Brecons Challenge has one of those Camel Trophy Landrovers that was used in a rally race. It’s the ultimate boy toy.

2. Who would you want to go on “Trading Spaces” with?
Bruce Springsteen.

3. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be?
Tim Cahill the adventure travel writer.

4. Have you ever been cheated on?
Don’t know.

5. Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?
Perhaps height..I’m 5’11 but would have like to have been 6’2.

6. What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?
Relentless ambition.

7. Do you wish you’d come up with this survey?
Not really, though it is a good survey to play around with.

8. Finally, what is your favorite deadly sin?
Lust without a doubt.

I’m a Legal Alien

Today I am officially an honorary Brit…my indefinate leave to stay in the UK residency permit came in the post. Yippee!

Pen y Fan

We spent the evening at the Welsh International Climbing Centre. They have a 45 room bunkhouse. The accommadtions are sparse; basically a couple of cheap beds, small screen TV, and shared toilet and shower facilities. But for £14 a nite plus a full breakfast, it was more than enough for our needs.

We arrived at the WICC a bit to late to do any climbing. They receptionist on duty was going to charge us £4.50 to climb for less than hour. We decided to pass on her generous offer and retire to our room for some light reading and to plan out today’s adventure. Besides, we were too full of steak and chips to contemplate hauling ourselves up a wall.

The beauty of going to places off season is that you generally have the place to yourself. We were the only tennants of the bunk house and had breakfast all to ourselves. And a good breakfast it was.

The plan for the day was to head north towards Brecon stop off at the bottom of the south face of Pen y Fan, hike up it and then beat feet back down and head for home.

The weather today was in stark contrast to yesterday’s beautiful day. Basically I felt like I was back in the UK, cloudy and wet.

The last time I was up Pen y Fan was last year during the Brecons Challenge. It’s a decent enough hike culminating in an 886 meter peak. On a good day, the views are quite stunning. Today we were lucky just to catch glimpses of the valley floor below us.

We made short work of the walk up and back down doing the 4.5 mile loop in just over an hour and half. And then it was back in the car and heading for home.

Drifting through the days outdoors has a timeless quality. I feel a million miles away from my normal life of routine and work. I’ve been off work for 3 days and it feels like a lifetime ago since I was last in the office. It is this feeling that taunts me to throw in the towel of corporate life and become a vagabond roaming the world with the wind at my back and a good pair of hiking boots on my feet.

I got home early evening. It will only be a short stay. Basically I’m back to refit, then pack my bags for Bristol, which is where I’m headed Friday afternoon.

Scavenger

I like to climb rocks. Sometimes I question the sanity of climbing rocks for fun because I’m not sure if it’s for the challenge or if it’s just that I have to much idle time on my hands or simply because the rocks are there. At any rate Paul and I found ourselves headed for the Gower Peninsula in South Wales to climb the Three Cliffs.

The Gower Peninsula is a fifteen-mile-long stretch of undulating limestone that faces the Bristol Channel just to west of Swansea. The peninsula is dotted with yellow sandy beaches and bays with a multitude of precipitous cliffs. I had never climbed a sea cliff before, so was looking forward to combining two things I am naturally attracted to – the sea and rocks.

It seems always on the drive down to these adventures, we invariably end up questioning why we continue to work in the corporate saltmines when we should be chasing a life of adventure and meaning instead of lining some fat cat’s pockets with cash. To day was no different.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. In fact I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming…sunny and warm…in Wales…in Feburary? Can’t be. Yet there we were in t-shirts preparing to climb sections of the Three Cliffs.

Our first climb was long but easy. The climb took us up a route called the Plumb Line, which is rated as a VDiff. It felt good to be gripping some warm rock and hauling myself up to the sounds of the waves breaking on the shore. This definately beat, pushing paper in the office.

Paul is a more aggressive climber than I am. On our second climb of the day, he wanted to have a go at a line called Scavenger. I didn’t like the look of it and if it had been up to me, I would not have attempted it. I derive my pleasure from the feel of the rock, not the challenge of overcoming a difficult problem. The isolated position on the rock can have a very zen-like feel, but its hard to get that feeling when you are literally hanging by the skin of your fingers thinking am I going to fall.

Paul wanted to have a go, so I took the position of seconding his lead. Paul started up Scavenger. He reached the face placement of gear with no issues. On the way up to his third placement, his second piece of gear fell out. If he slipped now, he would have a long way to fall before being caught. Not to much of a problem as long as his first only placement at this point was good enough take his weight in a fall. My palms began to sweat as I watch Paul scurrying to find a crack to place some more protection. It didn’t help that his legs were getting tired and visibly beginning to shake. I was silently chanting to myself, place some gear Paul, place some gear. Finally, he found a crack, placed some protection and clipped in.

The next few moves up were equally a bit scary. Paul reached the crux and took a breather before continuing up. Another piece of gear fell out after I lost sight of Paul. Now all I could do was watch the rope and hope for the best. It was ages before I finally heard Paul shout down those sigh of relief words, “I’m safe,” which means he was tied in and ready to belay me for my climb.

Now it was my turn. The thing with Scavenger, is you really have to rely on your feet as the hand holds…well really finger holds…are small. Reaching the first two placements wasn’t to bad, but after that my hands raced to find something to grip on. Reaching the crux was difficult. I was sweating and breathing heavy. Okay time to commit. I went for it and lost my footing taking a fall. Paul caught me almost instantaneously, so I did fall far or hard. I recovered…focused…and went for it again. Success. I reached the crux and had a breather. The rest of the climb was tough but not tenuous. I reached the top breathing heavy.

Paul had a great big grin on his face and so did I. This was for me the most difficult climb i’ve done in my short climbing career. It was the perfect end to a good day. The sun hung low in the sky just shy of sunset as we headed back down to solid ground.

This a picture of the Three Cliffs with the routes outlined.

Birmingham

My saunter to New Street station in Birmingham turned into spending the afternoon wandering around the city centre. I’ve been to Birmingham on many occasions, so I didn’t quite fullfil my original intent which was to hop on a train to someplace I’ve never been…reason…time was just not my friend…I had to be back in Leamington before 1600 to pick up my car from the mechanic…so I thought, why not see what I have not seen in the “city of 1001 trades.” Many of the giants of Industrial Revolution kicked around in Birmingham…men like James Watt, Matthew Boulton, William Murdock, and Joseph Priestley.

I did a quick read through my guide book to get a general sense of history and to make a mental map of the street plan. Having limited time on the ground, I decided to head for the art gallery first.

There’s something about wandering around city streets that tugs at my sense of insignificance. I feel like Ralph Ellison’s main character in the Invisible Man.

“I am inivisble man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorted glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Chances are I will never see any of these people again…and to think for a brief moment fate brought us in contact with each other and yet we will never really know one another…

Enroute to the art gallery, I stopped to take some random photos of people:

In Victoria Square, a new bottled water company was running a promtoinal event. They had invaded the city in drooves to hand out free bottles of water. It was like being in a marathon race where people handing you water along the route. My thirst was quenched all day.

The city art gallery is famous for its comprehensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. I find most art galleries to be very inspiring. I’m particular attracted to pictures of great men doing great things…heroic scenes of sacrifice. Where are the giants among us now?

My next stop was the Ikon gallery of contemporary art. I must confess, I am one of the unenlightened buffons who doesn’t understand contemporary art of the let’s collect ‘found objects’ of junk, slap it on a piece of board, give it a title and call it art. One of the displays at the Ikon was a box full of tangled Christmas lights that were switched on. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. Every year when I collect the Christmas tree out of the attic, i’m confronted with a box of tangled lights, but I never thought to slap a title on them and call it art. Maybe that’s why i don’t have a major exhibition at the Ikon.

It didn’t take me long to get exhausted by the mockery of art I saw in the Ikon. Where is the blood, sweat and tears like you see in the works of the old masters?

Time ticked and I had to move on. I only had about an hour left before I had to get back to the train station. The central library was my next stop. My love of books kept me from passing by such a shrine without having a wander around the stacks. Unfortunately this was my last stop before heading home.

Best Laid Plans

Our choices of half chance, or the saying goes…and this morning was typical pf that half chance. I rolled out of bed a little later than usuall…0530 instead of 0430. I wanted to watch a DVD produced by O’neil, the surf and snowboard retailer. Quick aside…the DVD was very inspirational perhaps i’ll go into why it was a little later. Back to the story…So after being inspired by this DVD, I decided I needed to get my ass in gear. I was original going to spend the morning doing domestic stuff and then go for a short hike around Edge Hill. But after watching the DVD, I was like fuck the domesticated stuff…get outdoors and go for decent hike in the Peak District which is about an hour and half drive away from me. I could do the domestic stuff later. My choices had already set me down a path I had not intended to go when I woke up. Doing something as simple as watching a DVD set me off on a whole new course. Well i’m sitting hear typing this note because I made another choice that has now set me on a different course.

I thought before I go off to the Peak District, I should fix the wing mirror on my car. The part had arrived the day before and I need to get the car ready for reinspection on Friday. I thought at most it would take a half hour to fix…but car manufacturer’s are devious. They never engineer a car to be simple to fix…there were all these hidded screws and bolts all over the place that needed to be undone in order to get to the screw that holds the wing mirror in place…HA…I finally get to that one screw only to discover that I still can’t get the old wing mirror off. Fuck. So being the typical infantryman, I start banging on shit. And low and behold i snap the old wing mirror off on the outside so now it’s dangle from a few cords…rendering the car not road worthy for safety reasons. Double fuck. So now I have to take the damn thing into the mechanic who of course now has my car and will have it until after 1400 today. So much for hiking in the Peaks.

But fear not, now my choice to fix the wing mirror has now led me down a different path…to salvage the day, i’ve decided to do an urban adventure instead. So in just a few…i’m going to take a shower…pack my camera, and video camera head out into the urban jungle. The basic plan is to head to New St train in Birmingham…look on the big board and pick a place I’ve never been and catch a train there….

On Dicing

Okay so I haven’t done well on the dicing…I make so many decisions a day that hald the time I coundn’t be bothered to role the dice and the other half, I couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving the choice to chance instead of deliberation. I have to let go and embrace the randomness. But I suppose if you really think about, all of our choices are half chance any way. The forces of chance are constantly at work in our lives. But some how to nakedly introduce chance seems hard. I guess because it shatters the illusion of control.

I’ve started recruiting for a new adventure race team. I’m hoping to put the team together in the next couple of weeks so we can start training together and hopefully race some time mid April. My run tonight was short but swift. I could feel the cold air slicing its way through my lungs.

I’m so tired right now….I’m half asleep at the keyboard…writing these sentences is draining the last little bit of energy I have left…it won’t be long now till I have to surrender to slumber.

Eye of the Tiger

It’s the 9th day of Feb and I’m now just starting my journal for 2004, which is a break from tradition for me as I usually begin in January with the grand idea that this will be the year I finally take writing seriously and get published and yada yada yada. Anyway I was in no mood to follow that same storyline again in 2004. In fact, I have not set my mind to anything other than taking the days as they come and seeing what fortune brings.

But having drifted for a month, I feel I need to now set some goals to accomplish for 2004, mainly to give me something to focus so I don’t drift into oblivion.

I’ve started training hard again. In the next couple of days, I need to pick an event to train for…something that validates my efforts.

Work has been exciting, fun and busy for the last couple of months…but somewhere in the mind, I keep thinking that my career, such as it is, is not on any real progressive track…no yellow brick road to the top. Does it need to be? The last thing I want to happen is for the next 5 years to go flying by and I’m still at the same pay grade and position. The last 3 years I’ve made several lateral moves…but really am in the same place just with a slightly different angle.

The answer is obvious on one level….I need to break that cycle and move on and up…but because things are in place at work, I can do frivolous things outside of work like hiking and climbing, and generally puttering around on the computer doing this and that.

It’s time to get the Eye of the Tiger back…

So over the next 4 days I plan to get the chicken bones out and set a course for the next leg of my journey…

Weird Wonk

I’m in a lull before transition…transition between phases…it’s like the quiet before the storm type of thing were I feel calm and confused and unfocused. Best cure for it is just to read and ride it out. I started rereading the Balkan Ghost by Robert Kaplan. He is one of favorite literary travel writers.

I’ve got some holiday coming up over the next couple of days…I plan to spend much of it in communion with nature and sorting out my goals for 2004. I need to sort out my big event for 2004…

The Dice Man Cometh

I stumbled across a 60 second interview with Luke Rhinehart in Friday’s edition of the Metro. I had never heard of the dice theory before even though Luke’s original book appeared 30 years ago. At any rate, I did some surfing around to find more enough on ‘dicing’. It sounds like an interesting concept…I might give it a go for a couple of weeks and see what results come of living by the dice. I’m not sure to what extent i’m going to dice…certain decisions or all…hmm okay why don’t I let the dice decide…

1 – no dice 2 – dice completely 3 – dice for minor decisions 4 – dice completely for 1 week 5 – dice minor for 1 week 6 – roll again

and the verdict is….6 roll again

rollling….6

rolling….6

maybe this is trick die

rolling….4

If yoou want to read more about dice living checkout Luke Rhinehart’s site at http://www.lukerhinehart.net/ or for a summation of dice living check out dice living at http://www.dicelife.com/node/view/1

Apparently, the only hard and fast rule of dice living is “the dice must always be obeyed.” I’ll keep you posted…

Sorted

Okay, I’m happy now. I’ve found my way around enough to be comfortable. I currently maintain a blogg on http://www.soulcruz.com but as I like the look and feel of livejournal, I think I will start migrating my thoughts over here. I especially like the fact that I can update from the road considering I do travel a lot. Besides that i have another use for my soulcruz domain…details to follow.

Learning my way around

Found livejournal through another user…I like blogging so I thought i’d give it a go.