March 9, 2008

Time flies when you’ve got a major deadline looming (finishing my dissertation), but it’s already time for my next personal update post. We had a bit of dead time on the blog a couple of weeks back as things got busy, but you can expect the current flurry of post activity to continue for at least a few more days as James’ next post will be on it’s way shortly (and probably a short response post by me). Speaking of James, I’ll start with a comment about something he said in his previous post, Keepin’ It Real, while explaining why I had been so busy:

Don’t hold it against my big brother, though. Instead, just remember how AMAZINGLY COOL he is. When I think about how cool my older brother is, and about how he actually does the things that I only dream about doing, I’m almost willing to suggest that I’m actually not worthy of the consanguineous bonds between us.

I feel I need to point out the obvious here. James, while you are right that I do a lot of wild and crazy things that the normal person wouldn’t think of doing, dude…you’re the one who’s planning on spending your life living in a grass hut in some third world country creating a written language for some people group that doesn’t already have one and then translating THE BIBLE into that language…uh…I don’t think I can compete with that. Now to my post.

This is my first free weekend at home now for more than a month. I’m looking forward to catching up a bit. Last weekend I had a two-day geology field trip in the Sierras. The weekend before I was also in the Sierras leading an intro to mountaineering trip for the Outdoor Education Program at Stanford (OEP). OEP is a group of volunteer instructors (mostly students) at Stanford who leads a variety of outdoor skills classes. Each quarter we have a for-credit class in the Geology and Earth Sciences department. In this class we teach basic wilderness skills including navigation, how to dress properly, and everything one needs to know to plan and take part in backpacking in the wilderness. In the winter and spring quarters the Sierras are full of snow, so we also teach winter travel and snow camping skills. Each class goes on four trips throughout the quarter.

The trip I led two weeks ago was the third trip, and our tentative goal was to climb a peak. However, nature had some different ideas about what we would be doing. A major series of Pacific storms moved in that week and weekend. When we arrived at the trailhead there was already a couple of feet of fresh powder, and it was still snowing hard. All that fresh snow makes for very slow travel. In the end we only made it about 1.5 miles from and 1000 feet in elevation above the trailhead. This was about a third of the way to the peak. Since breaking trail in the snow was so tough we alternated out who was in front every few minutes. The person breaking trail would step off to the side when they got tired and the rest of the group would pass them. This allowed us to cycle through the whole group. While we were out there it snowed about another 1.5 feet. While we didn’t make it to the peak, it was a good introduction to winter storms. Here is a picture of us heading up the mountain:

Breaking Trail

And another one of some of us at the trailhead after coming back down on Sunday:

At the trailhead

Since I was on skis, the trip down was pretty fun in all of the fresh powder. The students also found it much easier to break trail going downhill.

In other news, we are finishing up the quarter. I’ve really enjoyed my Structural Geology course and have learned a lot. Next quarter I will probably take another geology course, but I’m not sure yet which one. I will hopefully have another paper draft finished soon, but right now I’ve become somewhat stuck with a particular research problem. Basically, we don’t understand some of the results and don’t want to publish until we do. Elizabeth and I will be headed next week (Monday-Wednesday) to visit the University of Minnesota where we both have prospective postdoc positions. We expect to be making some kind of decision about postdocs in the next couple of weeks. I’ll post an announcement once we’ve made a final decision.

-Matt, the elder brother