Starting the New Climbing Season

January 31, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I’m finally back in town, the sun was out, and Mark and I were itching to get back out for some rock climbing. Our last trip out was in mid-Novemeber, almost three months ago, but we didn’t care. We got up bright and early and headed south to climb on the sunny basalt cliffs of North Table Mountain.

Mark on the approach to North Table

It turns out, Mark and I lost a lot of strength, hand callouses, and confidence in that time. I think I may have spent more time taking pictures than climbing, and there are some nice pictures in the gallery.

Mark raps down

We got the parking lot just after 9am. The parking lot was nearly empty. We hiked up to a quiet, and nearly vacant cliff, and were able to hop on two of the most popular climbs on the cliff without any wait.

When Mark and I started the morning on Thelma (5.7), we knew it was going to be a rough day. Mark finished the lead cleanly, but complained repeatedly that it didn’t seem like 5.7. I fell once or twice and came down with a burning feeling in my arms, shoulders and back. We both top-roped Louise (5.8) next, and both felt exhausted and burnt-up by the end of the climb.

Cys climbing on North Table Mtn

I had to take about half an hour before my hands came back around to be able to even belay. We took our time for the next couple of hours. Taking pictures, enjoying the sun, playing with dogs and visiting with other climbers. Eventually, Mark started up Kid’s Climb (5.9), a climb which became humiliating on several levels. Mark fell three times, with one good-sized lead fall that sent me flying as well. I thrashed my way up as well, with my hands becoming useless about 2/3s of the way up.

A fun day! We needed some sun!

It was great to get out on the rock, and get some sun on our pale skin. But also a hard reminder of what happens when you take a long break from the sport. We’ve got some catching-back-up to do.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

January 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm

On Friday, our lectures and meetings finished up at around lunchtime. I was scheduled to leave Tel Aviv on Saturday morning at 5:30a, so Friday afternoon was my last chance to explore Jerusalem. Our big group of students broke up into smaller groups depending on who wanted to see what, and Mona, Camille and I headed back to the Old City to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

This is, in my humble opinion, the best group of photos from the trip. So take a minute to check them out in the gallery.

The unassuming entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church has a rather unassuming facade. It sits on the northern edge of the Christian quarter in the Old City, and has been a church resting on this spot since 326 AD. Today, the Church is huge, and encompasses both the Holy Sepulcher (the location of Christ’s tomb) and the hill of Calvary, where Jesus was crucified and killed.

The Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre - built on the tomb of Christ

The Sepulcher sits inside a small building, called the Edicule, which is inside the largest dome of the Church, called the Rotunda of the Anastasis. When we were there on Friday afternoon, the Church was quiet. There were a few people milling around, praying, lighting candles, and taking pictures. It was a beautiful spot, and the whole room felt cool, calm, and peaceful.

The Greek Orthodox (left) and Roman Catholic (right) alters on Calvary

We spent a little more than an hour exploring the Church. The layout of the building is confusing, and I was wishing I had a guidebook to the church itself. Each room had staircases or hallways leading off into other chambers and chapels. The building was organic, fractal, and passageways twisted through it like the arteries of a larger being.

Looking up the stairs from the deep underground chappel

It was amazing to walk these ancient hallways, to visit these Holy sites, and to pray at such beautiful alters. I was quickly aware of the austerity of my protestant religion. Other people in the rooms were crossing themselves repeatedly, sprinkling holy water on themselves, chanting their Hail Mary’s, and generally practicing rituals that have been developed over the two thousand year lifetime of the Catholic Church. As a protestant, I don’t practice any of these rituals. The protestant churches left the pomp and ritual of the Catholic Church behind, and developed a very democratic Church.

Kneeling at the alter of Calvary, I began to really appreciate the way our churches are structured. Our church doesn’t build fantastic alters, or commission much awe-inspiring art work. In our church, Christ resides in the community of people who gather to worship, not in any jewel-encrusted adornments of the clergy. I felt both proud and sad about the puritan ancestry of my church. The perspective is good, and I do agree with the directness and the view of the importance of individual relationships with God. But there is something completely beautiful about building a church this impressive, and I felt confused about what to do with my hands as I walked from room to room. No crossing for Katy. I simply folded my hands demurely in my lap and prayed, and stared, and wondered.

People praying, lighting candles, and taking pictures of the Sepulchre

Kate and Rachel in Israel

January 22, 2009 at 6:10 pm

As usual, I took my nice big camera with me on the trip, and I took a ton of pictures of beautiful churches and picturesque views. Rachel, on the other hand, did the smarter thing and brought a small camera to take lots of fun pictures of everybody on the trip. Her pictures are up on her flickr site.

On the walls of Jerusalem:

So, for those of you who always complain that there’s not enough pictures of me on the site (hi Mom!) here’s a few that Rachel took.

In the Frankfurt airport:

Taking lots of pictures:

Relaxing in the sun on campus:

Touring Ein Kerem

January 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Our week in Jerusalem was mostly work-focused. I met a ton of fantastic, interesting, brilliant people, and learned sooo much! On Wednesday afternoon, we got out of the classroom for a few hours and went, as a group, to tour the small town of Ein Kerem. This lovely little village sits on top of a hill just east of Jerusalem, and hosts a long and interesting history.

People still live on the ancient desert steps

If you hadn’t caught on from my previous posts, Jerusalem sits on, effectively, several mountains of limestone. The whole city is built from “Jerusalem stone,” which is a beautiful pinky-white limestone. With the hills, juniper trees, and limestone scattered all over, the whole region distinctly reminded me of Shelf Road.

Limestone is a beautiful, and interesting rock. Anybody who lives around limestone beds knows that the rock can dissolve easily in running water, and that limestone beds are usually riddled with caves and springs. So it is in Jerusalem, and much of early Christian history and lore revolves around these ancient caves and springs. On Wednesday, we got a chance to see this first hand.

Mary's Spring - the spot where the virgin mother stopped to drink

We started out the tour with a visit to “Mary’s Spring,” which is supposedly the site of where Mary (mother of Jesus) and Elizabeth (mother of John the baptist) first met. I love seeing very old springs, and imagining how these waters have erupted from the ground, in the middle of the desert, for thousands and thousands of years.

The Church of the Visitation

We went further up the hill to the Church of the Visitation. This was a beautiful church, with a real Franciscan monastery on the grounds. This church is very old, dating back to the Byzantine age, and sits on the spot of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s home. The church has beautiful arches, gardens, and frescoes, all maintained by the Franciscan monks. On the day we were there, a few of the monks were walking around in the chilly afternoon. They had their hair cut in the traditional manner, they were wearing traditional brown robes and rope belts. They looked for all the world like Friar Tuck. Except, most were wearing 1980’s-era nylon windbreakers over their robes. It’s one of those non-sequiturs that makes you stop, and realize you’re not in Disneyworld any more.

The birthplace of John the Baptist - in an ancient limestone cave

We walked across the valley and visited the Church of John the Baptist, which is built on another cave system where, according to tradition, John the Baptist was born. The church itself is obviously new, but it sits on the remains of crusades-era and Byzantine-era churches, which were built on top of an ancient Greek temple. Surely, this is a special place.

In the evening, we watched the sun set from the monastery of Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion (Sisters of Our Lady of Zion), and then hopped on the bus to an overlook for the city of Jerusalem. The Old City was all lit up, and the gold dome on the Temple Mount filled the dark desert sky with light.

Looking out over the Old City of Jerusalem

Back from Israel

January 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm

It was a great week. I met so many great people, saw tons of amazing things, and got to explore a beautiful city.

Gardens below the high walls of the Temple Mount

People exploring the streets and hallways of the Old City

I described our first day of exploring the old city in a previous post, and now I’ve uploaded pictures from the day into the gallery. Enjoy!

View through an embrasure of the rest of Jerusalem

What’s a guy to do?

January 12, 2009 at 2:55 pm

So, my wife is away for 2-ish weeks and I get a full run of the house with a sidenote that it needs to look respectable when she arrives next Saturday.
What does a married guy do when left to his own means for more than two weeks

Eat Food…

Beer Can Chicken Pizza

Watch an extra dog for a few days (Izzy got to go to work with Liv)

Dogs at Work

More Holiday Gifts… some wicked strong coffee…

Jittery Joes Coffee

Break the PS3 Rock Band Guitar because I rock THAT much.

My whammy bar went limp :(

Tiny springs make Mark ANGRY!

Endeavor to fix it.

I chose a random retired (though functional) household electronic which has moving parts in the theory that it could have a similar tiny little spring. I was right on my first guess. Sorry CD/Clock/Radio alarm, you served us well but Rock and Roll needs your parts.

Broken Guitar
The Patient.
Perfectly functional clock radio
The Victim… um… donor
donor parts
Broken and Donor springs
Rock and Roll Lives On!

Notes from the Road: Israel

January 11, 2009 at 6:53 am

I’m on the last leg of my traveling adventures, and this is by far the most exciting, interesting, beautiful, and anxiety-ridden leg! Right now, I’m sitting in my hotel room in JERUSALEM. Yes, that’s right, in a land where people have been waging war for thousands of years, and the government is currently fighting a war to the bitter end, I’m visiting for a conference! Well, actually it’s a week-long workshop at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on improving the prediction of global warming.

The conference starts tomorrow, so today the students met at breakfast and discussed sight-seeing plans. We had hoped to travel as a group today, but budgets, safety concerns (or lack-there-of for some German students) and general destination goals left Rachel and I to head for the Old City on our own.

This turned out to be a great decision. The Old City is walled and crawling with security, police, check points, and guys (and girls!) with very big guns. We’ve had our bags riffled through, gone through metal detectors, been physically patted down and questioned so many times in the last two days that it’s really becoming commonplace.

So this morning, Rachel and I were in a 4000-year-old city, the site of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the ancestral home of Judaic people, a cultural center for Islam, and what were we most excited about? That’s right, THE SHOPPING! Ohmygosh. King David street runs down the center of the city is a beautiful, busy, amazing bazaar, full of people and things from around the world. There were beautiful oriental scarves, decorative Arabic daggers straight out of Aladdin, chess sets carved by hand in India, spices piled in barrels on the sides of the street, beautiful jewelry from Africa and people everywhere calling out prices, haggling, and doing business. It was so cool.

Walking the King David Bazaar

After walking the bazaar, we paid admittance and spent a couple of hours exploring the archeological park in the northwest corner of the city. We ended up directly below the Al Aqsa Mosque when the noon prayers were called. I’ve never heard a call to prayer before, much less one in city where several thousand devout Muslims live, and it was amazing. Rachel took some video to record it, but the whole experience was ethereal. As we were down in a park, we were sitting in a lovely garden listening to the voices come over loud speakers in the minarets and hearing the distant responses echo through the Islamic quarter (which we didn’t visit). The pigeons roosting in the ancient temple walls were sent flying each time the calls rang out. It was so cool.

The Old City

So, a good first day in Israel! Aside from getting “war prices” from the vendors, the battles of the south seem so distant, it’s like they’re in another country. Life here goes on as normal, or as normal as it can be in a place like Jerusalem.

Notes from the road: Manhattan

January 8, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Tonight is my last night in the big apple, and I’m finally taking a few hours to relax and stop moving! Unsurprisingly, it seems hard to relax in the city that never sleeps.

New York City

I’m in New York for a team meeting of the Science and Technology Center (STC) which my advisor runs. It’s a beautiful city, and I’ve had a great time. There’s been beautiful views, big city life, funky shopping in the village, a walk past Ground Zero and down Wall Street, and lots and lots of great food.



I also got a lot of work done, including planning for the programming class I’m teaching this spring, distributing the material from my Climate Change course, meeting some wonderful, brilliant, people, and learning a whole bunch. It’s been a great trip, and I’ve got a lot of great pictures up in the gallery. More to come later!