January 2012

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After reading a few reviews on amazon.com before purchasing Simon Garfield‘s Just My Type, I had high expectations for the book, expecting it to contain some deep insights into typeface/font construction and into how technology and culture are affecting typefaces.  Indeed, the book poses some interesting questions, such as whether a typeface can be German or Jewish, whether the tendency to use the same typefaces over and over again in all situations is negatively affecting our society, and whether different typefaces are needed for different rendering technologies, but in none of these cases does it have enough nearly enough discussion.  Instead, it is filled primarily with anecdotes and vignettes about the development of specific typefaces and stories about where they’re used.  These were generally amusing and interesting, but rarely left me intellectually satisfied.

The book may be sufficiently engaging and stimulating for somebody with no prior knowledge of typefaces and fonts, but as somebody interested in history and sociology, and as a technologist who has worked on a text rendering engine in the past, the book left me wanting more.  What is here is interesting enough, and the book doesn’t take long to read, but like too many pop-non-fiction works out there, isn’t rich enough to recommend.

Verdict: 2/5.

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Like many people, I’ve known of Salman Rusdie since I was very young, due to the fatwa put on him by Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1989, but until now I’d never read one of his books and that was a near inexcusable mistake.  Midnight’s Children is a deep, witty, and marvelous book, and altogether worthy of the 1981 Booker prize that it won.

Midnight’s Children is written as the autobiography of Saleem Sinai, a young Indian man who was born at the precise moment of India’s independence from Britain — the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, and who because of this is intimately connected to the progress of the nation (hence the attached genre of ‘magical realism’).  Much like Forrest Gump, Saleem is thrust into the events that shaped the young nation along with the 1000 other midnight’s children (the babies born within 1 hour of India’s independence).  From Saleem, to Pavarti-the-Witch, to the Reverend ‘whatitsname’ Mother, the novel is full of deep and memorable characters.

Rushdie arguably has the greatest mastery of the English language of any 20th century author.  Through pathos and tenderness, cutting wit, and an eye for meaningful detail, he exposes the soul of a young nation, with all of its complexities laid bare.  There should be no illusion though: this is a dense book that will demand your attention, and in reading this, my rate of pages read / minute was very low.  Nonetheless, it is a fantastic novel that should be read by all.

Verdict: 5/5

ISBN: 978-0812976533


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Gin Peak

Trip Date: January 15, 2012

Participants: Dave Robertson, Andrzej Jarzabek, Jamal Ahmelid, Giovanni Ghigliotti, Caroline Le Bouteiller, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger (organizer)

Difficulty: 2

Report: Despite the best efforts of the staff at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) to frustrate our day, my second BCMC trip of the weekend ended up a great success.  Originally we intended to meet at 8am sharp at the base of the ski jumps, but the WOP officials decided that this was not to be the case.  Despite the gate being fully manned when we arrived at 7:45am, the woman inside informed us that we could not pass until 8:30 sharp, when the park officially opened.  We (along with some other backcountry users not aware of this policy) patiently waited until 8:30, at which point we were directed to go to the main lodge to speak with a patroller, who would inform us on how we could access the backcountry.  On speaking to her, we found out that we would have to pay $10 per person to park in their lot, and furthermore, that they had decided to close all access to the backcountry from the area around the ski jumps (from which the ascent route begins in Baldwin’s description), and that the only permitted access is now from the biathlon area, a km or so to the west.  Nobody we talked to seemed to understand the lay of the backcountry around the park, and I think that it is fair to say that WOP is going out of their way to discourage backcountry users from crossing their territory.

We finally got started from the biathlon facility a bit past 9am, with the intention of heading up to Hanging Lake, and from there, to Gin Peak.  On the far side of the biathlon track, there were two routes apparent to us: one, to the left, went by a box that read something like “backcountry access registration”, and the other, to the right, had no apparent sign other than one saying “ski area boundary”.  If you ever find yourself in this place, do yourself a favour and take the route to the right (the actual Hanging Lake trail), not the one on the left, as we followed the tracks on the route to the left into the middle of nowhere, and then found ourselves contouring around the hill on icy slopes for nearly an hour until we managed to hit the proper Hanging Lake trail.

The Hanging Lake trail was well trodden, easy to follow, and we made quick time up to Hanging Lake.  Of interest, we weren’t far up the trail from where we hit it, and around 1100m, encountered 3 guys hiking up the trail in snow boots, searching for their snowmobiles that they had abandoned above the knoll in the fog the previous night.  It sounded as if they had intended to descend on snowmobile from Hanging Lake to WOP, although it’s hard to see how they thought this would be a good idea, especially given how little snow there is low down.

We had lunch at Hanging Lake shortly after noon, and from there it was a quick jaunt up over the ridge to the south east, where we encountered the snowmobile highway.  Leading up from Rainbow Lake to the west side of Gin Peak was, in effect, a groomed path created by dozens of runs up and down by snowmobiles.  There were at least 12 snowmobiles idling down on Rainbow Lake, and they occasionally darted up and down the slopes of Gin Peak as we ascended them.  We all hit the summit of Gin Peak (my first summit of 2012!) at about 1:45 pm, and took some time to enjoy the views before heading down.

The powder on the first few hundred metres of the descent was fantastic, even for a while below Hanging Lake, and even once the powder ran out, the descent was quick and uneventful.  We were back at the cars by 3:30, and an excellent day was had by all.

Verdict: 2/3.  Not the most exciting peak, but has a very easy ascent, fun descent, good views, and safe in most avi conditions.

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Mt. Taylor

Trip Date: January 14, 2012

Participants: Seth Baker, Andrew Brown, Paul Cannin, Cameron Coatta, Pete Finch, James Haworth, Ilze Rupners, Monica Studner, Chloe Tergeman, Brittany Zenger, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger (organizer)

Difficulty: 3

Report: Dark and gloomy weather brought everyone together to Pemberton’s Mt. Currie Coffee Company (a fantastic spot to meet up) at 8am for the first of my two BCMC trips on the weekend of Jan 14/15, and despite some delays (a couple party members were circling the town of Mt. Currie, looking for a coffee shop), we managed to set out on the trip from our cars at around 9:20 am.  The initial logging road stretch of the trip was ridden with alder and made for slow going, and when we reached the end of the road and started heading up through the trees, found that the surface was a nearly impenetrable ice that most of the party members without ski crampons had difficulty ascending.

Needless to say, the ascent up to treeline went much slower than expected, and after a short lunch break, we finally found ourselves in the alpine at about 1:30pm.  By this point, a few party members were quite concerned about the difficulty of the ascent through the trees, and the majority of the group decided to turn around (a few of the strongest members pushed towards the summit, but didn’t make it all the way).

For the descent, we followed the route recommended by Baldwin, and we actually had phenomenal powder for the first few hundred metres, although there were a few short traverse sections that gave some trouble to our splitboarders.  This route barely had enough snow to be feasible as it descends through a boulder field and without sufficient snow, it would be impassable.  Following the left side of the creek down towards the valley, we managed to find the correct place to cross the creek in order to descend the final icy trees and hit the road that would take us back to our cars, but this was greatly assisted by having a GPS device with an accurate altitude reading.  Without an accurate altitude reading, it would likely be difficult to find the right route back to the logging road.

The alder was just as bad on the descent as it was on the ascent, but we made it out to the duffey lake road, and hiked back down to our cars safely, with the last party members making it down at about 4:45 pm.  In all, it was a decent day, if only for the great powder line heading down from our turnaround point, but I will be back someday to make the full ascent to the summit.

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The Art of War

At long last, I managed to take the time of Sun Tzu‘s The Art of War, arguably one of the most famous works to have ever been written.  From the hundreds of available translations, I ended up reading the version available freely through Project Gutenberg, translated back in 1910 by Lionel Giles, and although the language is not always the most modern, I had no issues with the translation.  This version of the book is heavily annotated with interpretations by famous Chinese commentators and anecdotes from 19th century European history relating Sun Tzu’s lessons to practical applications from “recent” history.

Despite its formidable reputation, I have to say that for the most part, the insights in The Art of War are rather mundane and the work’s organization somewhat haphazard (how many times do you need to describe various classifications of ground?).  On one hand, it’s remarkable that this level of strategic thinking was taking place as early as the 5th century BC, but on the other, many of the rules and classifications are remarkably rigid.  If the central message taken away is, as Gordon Gekko put it, that every battle is won before it’s ever fought, then perhaps this work is of great value, but this message could be learned without reading this work.  In the end, it’s very short, and worth reading once, if only for its historical significance, but don’t go in expecting to be amazed.

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Trip Date: January 7, 2012

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Ed Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Report: Seeking a reasonable destination for a day with a poor weather forecast and with high avalanche danger in the alpine, we settled on a trip to Silverdaisy Mountain, via the Cayuse FSR.  Setting out from the car at around 9:30, our first observation was that the snow level was extremely low, even for Manning Park, with only around 40cm of snow on the ground at the parking pull out.  There was a small amount of fresh snow on the ground in that area, and the going was quick for the first few km up the road, but the amount of fresh snow increased steadily as we ascended, and by the time we reached the old mine location, amounted to around 8-10 inches.  Yet at the same time, there wasn’t enough snow in the trees to ascend the ridge above the mine as Baldwin recommends, and had no option but to follow the roads towards the Silverdaisy-Claimstake col.

Needless to say, with nearly a foot of powder, breaking trail was extremely tiring and very slow, and although the road system was easy enough to follow, reaching the col requires over 10km of skiing on the road.  We reached a cluster of plywood shelters (for tree planters, I presume) approximately 150m distant (and 30 feet vertical) from the col around 2:30, which was our turnaround time.  Skiing back down the road was fun with all of the fresh powder, and took only 1 hour.  Interestingly, on the way down we noticed from tracks that a marten had walked down our skin track for several km.  In the future, I’d recommend that people only do this trip if either there is enough snow in the trees to skin directly up to the ridge from the old mine site, or if the snow is well settled so that the road up to the Silverdaisy-Claimstake col can be ascended quickly.

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Trip Date: October 15, 2011

Participants: Saravie Brewer, Max Bitel, Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger

Difficulty: 4

To find a more detailed trip report, please see my report of the route from the previous year.

For the second year in a row, early October brought a string of fair weather days, and Max suggested that we repeat our trip from the previous October to Crown Mountain via the Crater Slabs route, and this time bring Brittany and Saravie along with us for a taste of more serious scrambling.  We met up at about a 6:45 at the base of Grouse, where we left a vehicle and shuttled over to the entrance of Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, where we parked just outside the gate (as the gate is closed from 7pm-8am at this time of year) and were hiking up the road at about a quarter to 8.  The previous year we started our trip by hiking directly up to Dam Mountain from the base of the skyride and dropping down from Crown pass to Hanes Valley, but the direct route into Hanes Valley from Lynn proved to be much more efficient, and I recommend doing the trip as a loop for anyone who’s able to organize a vehicle shuttle.

We quickly made our way up Lynn Valley, and then Hanes Valley, and stopped for lunch high on the talus field before the gully that starts the route proper.  In order to give a lengthy headstart to another pair that we encountered wanting to do the same route and minimize the risk of being hit by rocks kicked down by them, we took our time and enjoyed the sunny autumn air, and began our way up the gully shortly after noon.  The route was dry, and once again we were able to provide plenty of entertainment to the crowds up on the summit of Crown gazing down upon us as we made our way up the slabs.  Near the top of the slabs, I made my way off to the left hand side of the main couloir with Brittany and Saravie (the easiest way out), while Max headed out on to the slabs directly below the summit and once the rest of us had established ourselves on the summit block, he made his way straight up to us.  He reports that the upper section of the slabs just below the summit venture into low-5th territory and that anyone who found the lower slabs challenging should exit straight up the couloir as the rest of us did.

Full of adrenaline from the climb up the slabs, Brittany was strangely hesitant to climb the summit block, but in the end we all got our photos of a beautiful fall afternoon and relaxed to enjoy some home made banana bread (far superior to Clif bars, I must say).  We left the summit at around 4:15, and made our way back to the Grouse mountain chalet, arriving after dark, only to buy our downloading tickets and to find that the red skyride was undergoing maintenance and that we’d have to line up for the blue skyride.  Had we known how long the line would be, we would have hiked down the BCMC trail in the dark.  However, as we already had our tickets, we settled down in the cafeteria to eat dinner and wait… and ended up waiting nearly 3 hours, finally arriving back at the base of grouse around 11pm.  Despite this delay though, the day could not be damaged, and an exhilarating and fun day was had by all of us.

Verdict: 3/3

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Trip Date: October 8, 2011

Participants: Marion Carpent, Natasha Suvorova, George Malburg, Brittany Zenger, Ed Zenger, Geoffrey Zenger

Difficulty: 2.  Steep bush descending down the north east ridge of Harvey.

Elevation Gain: ~1800m

Report: After this year’s short hiking season in August and September, early October brought cool and grey weather, but the forecast for this Saturday was for clear skies until early in the afternoon.   I had previously climbed Brunswick the previous fall with Jeff Ross and James Clarke, and had previously ascended Harvey in winter via its North Face Ramp, but had never previously ascended Harvey in summer conditions, and so a trip to climb both Mt. Harvey and Mt. Brunswick in a day was hastily arranged.  We chose to climb Harvey first and Brunswick second for two reasons: first, we weren’t sure how difficult the Harvey NE ridge would be and wanted to encounter it early in the day, and second, the trail down from Brunswick is more pleasant than the hike down from Harvey.

We met at the Lions Bay trailhead at around 8:15, and set off on the trail a bit past 8:30 under cloudy skies.  Although Brittany wasn’t feel great, the trip up the Harvey trail to Harvey’s SW ridge was fairly quick and uneventful, and we reached the ridge just as the skies were clearing up just past 10:30, and stopped for a snack and to enjoy the sunny heat.  The SW ridge is a straightforward hike with a few short sections of class 2 scrambling, although I was surprised to find that the ridge was substantially more complex than was apparent when we descended it the previous winter.  We summitted Harvey at about 11:45, had a short break, and set out to find the route down the NE ridge into Magnesia Meadows.

In winter conditions, the NE ridge was much steeper than we had expected, with a few sections of 60 degree snow and ice to be negotiated, and it was interesting to descend the same ridge in summer (although damp) conditions.  The trail was fairly rough but easy to follow, and without any serious difficulties.  I wouldn’t recommend that anybody downclimb the NE ridge without having any prior experience downclimbing steep roots and short rock steps using vegetable belays as there are a few sections with exposure, but most coastal hikers/scramblers would be comfortable downclimbing the route.  As with all routes, it would probably be somewhat easier to climb than to downclimb.

We quickly made it down to the base of Harvey’s NE ridge, hit the Howe Sound Crest Trail soon thereafter, and stopped at the Magnesia Meadows emergency shelter for a proper lunch break.  After a lengthy break, we followed the HSCT over to its junction with the Brunswick trail, reaching the intersection at about 2:15.  From here it was just the regular route to the summit of Brunswick, which we reached at about 10 to 3.  By this point, the weather forecasted had moved in, and with the fog and cold wind, it felt like we were getting our first tastes of the upcoming winter.  Nobody wanted to stop for too long, and we soon made our way back down to Lion’s bay.  I reached the base with Brittany at around 4:40 (some jogging involved), and the last of us was down at the cars by 5:30.  In all, an excellent autumn workout for all with lots of varied terrain and eminently suitable for days with questionable forecasts.

Verdict: 3/3.  An excellent late season hike/scramble.  You will find me repeating this route in many autumn’s to come.

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Trip Date: December 15, 2011

Participants: Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger, Nancy Zenger

Difficulty: 2

Elevation Gain: ~600m

Report: Back in Vancouver for a few weeks, and having taken an AST-1 course last winter, my sister Nancy was eager to try out a real ski tour for the first time, and so our objective for the day was to find a reasonably short day objective without any significant difficulties and that Brittany and I hadn’t already visited (thus ruling out the usual suspects for this situation, such as Zoa, Zupjok, Kelly, and Paul Ridge).  It took us the entire ride to Hope to all agree on a destination, but in the end decided on the minor peak referred to in Baldwin’s book as “Great Bear Peak” (note: Baldwin refers to the northern summit as “Iago” and the southern as “Great Bear”)

We arrived at the Zopkios Ridge rest area on the Coquihalla highway at around 9:30, where we bumped into the Baldwin clan, who were just starting out towards Zupjok peak, and geared up for our trip.  The first part of the route to Great Bear Peak is the same as that for Zupjok Peak, up into the basin between Zupjok and Ottomite peaks.  From the basin, the second portion of the route involves making a slightly ascending contour around Zupjok peak, eventually reaching the col between Zupjok and Iago peaks.  Here we stopped for a snack break, and after a short while, proceeded up the lightly treed ridge to Iago peak.  There are a couple of short steep sections on the ridge, but there isn’t any serious exposure, and so everyone managed to make it right to the summit without ever having to remove their skis.

We reached the “Iago” summit around 1:30, and from the summit of Iago, it looks like the “Great Bear” summit is either the same height or perhaps a couple of metres lower.  Regardless, as we were planning on returning via the ridge that we came from, it made no sense for us to drop down the 30m into the col between Great Bear and Iago, ascend the other summit, and then make our way back to the Iago summit.  The views would be the same from either summit.

Leaving the summit a bit past two, it was a quick ski down the ridge back down to the Zupjok-Iago col through surprisingly nice powder, and from there it was a simple matter of following our tracks back to the Ottomite-Zupjok basin and gliding down the road from there.  In all, a reasonable first ski tour for a beginner, but for anyone else, the peak is only suitable for completionists.  The views from Zupjok are better, the run down from Zupjok is better, and ascending/descending Zupjok does not necessitate contouring around Zupjok.  I’m glad I went out this way once to see what was there, but in the future, I’ll be sticking to Zupjok for a short winter ski day in the area.

Verdict: 1/3.  Nice enough, but there are a few superior ski tours starting from the same parking lot.


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Sometimes award winners are truly deserving of their prize, and that is indeed the case with J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, which won the 1999 Booker Prize.  Disgrace tells the tale of two disgraced individuals: David Lurie, a professor of poetry who refuses to publicly apologize for having an affair with a student, and his daughter Lucy.  After being forced to leave his position at the university, David retreats to his daughter’s country home, where he slowly rebuilds his existence, only to be unable to help when Lucy suffers a brutal and savage attack.  As both David and Lucy struggle with their shame and disgrace, their relationship frays, and each must find a way to carry on.

David retreats into the study of the life of Byron, of whom he has a great interest and dreams of emulating by leaving his home and escaping to Italy.  Lucy similarly retreats into herself, unable to confront those who brought the attack upon her, and unable to handle the consequences wrought.   Written to express the dilemma confronting the White people of South Africa, Coetzee has written a deep and subtle novel, perhaps best captured through David’s expression of how he might be able to move on: “Yes it is humiliating.  But perhaps that is a good point to start from again.  Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept.  To start at ground level.  With nothing… No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity… Yes, like a dog”.

Verdict: 5/5

ISBN: 978-0143115281

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