Getting high

Latest obsession: Mt. Everest. I think this is my 3rd period of intense interest in Mt. Everest and mountain climbing. It seems to crop up every ten years or so. Here are some notes on what I've been up to:

A quick list of books, with spontaneous annotations:
  • Everest: The West Ridge, by Thomas Hornbein (story of the 1963 expedition where Willi Unsoeld lost his toes--um, and also they were successful in an historic assault on a new part of the mountain)
  • Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer (first person account of the awful events of 1996, trying to tease out the mysteries and facts of what went wrong to who when)
  • High Exposure: An Enduring Passion for Everest and Unforgiving Places, by David Breashears (written by the guy who filmed the IMAX movie of Everest, describes his various climbing & filming adventures)
  • Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition, by John Roskelley (sad story of how Willi Unsoeld's daughter dies on mountain after which she was named)
  • Addicted to Danger: A Memoir About Affirming Life in the Face of Death, by Jim Wickwire and Dorothy Bullitt (terrible things happen wherever Wickwire goes, but he stubbornly keeps climbing)
  • The Mammoth Book of Eyewitness Everest, edited by Jon E. Lewis (gives a lot of useful background; snippets of accounts from many years' worth of Everest expeditions... from 1913 to present)

Books still to find:
  • Reinhold Messner's book about his solo ascent of Everest
  • Dr. on Everest, by Kenneth Kamler (also about what happened in 1996)

Movies & tapes:
  • Everest IMAX movie (filmed by Breashears and others in 1996, it's still spectacular even on a small TV)
  • Michael Palin: Himalaya (one can't go wrong accompanying the adorable Palin on his many and sometimes bizarre adventures)
  • The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mt. Everest, by Conrad Anker and David Roberts (I've been listening to the audio version of the book about the 1999 expedition that found George Mallory's body on the North face of Everest)

Other interesting people from the 1996 debacle:
  • Beck Weathers--the fellow "Left for Dead" in 1996, who wrote a book with that title
  • Araceli Segarra--first Spanish woman on Everest, she's apparently also a foxy model
  • Ed Viesturs--mountain man climbing guy

Websites which may or may not have more info about Mt. Everest:

What I've learned from all this:
Lack of oxygen, vicious winds and bone-chilling cold do terrible things to the human body. These tend to exist on large mountains. I plan to avoid them if possible. Although it would be cool to see Everest in person... just from the bottom. I see that the Geographic Expeditions is going to Everest from 3 different directions next year. The Nepali trek is only about $3000. Hmmmm.

I haven't seen the sun in seven days

Because it's been rainy and grey. But I sat in a cubicle for 4 of those days anyway. While I await the return of unshorn Apollo, here's another list of 5 things. Songs, that is.

  1. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning: The Mammals. Fell in love with this immediately. I like the idea of using hair-color as an epithet--maybe I could be "Dark Gold Kitty"? Plus there's love, gunshots, and the lure of the open road... practically trad.
  2. A Fine Romance: as sung by Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. In "Swing Time" (1936), F&G sing this to each other while wandering in a snowy park, then she drives away. One recording I have has audible film foley. So Fred sings "You never give the orchids I sent a glance. [car door slams] No, you like cactus plants. This is a fine romance [very noisy sound of flivver starting up]." (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields)
  3. The Play of Daniel, a 12th-13th century liturgical drama. Sometimes I just hum monophonically to myself. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will.
  4. A song I heard on the radio that came back to me in a dream except I can't remember the words, just the tune of the chorus. It's possible the last words of the chorus are "...when you sing the blues." It's also possible the singer rhymes "remember" with "december." Typing these clues into Google does nothing for me though. Not knowing what the heck the song is just makes it all the more catchy. La la la...the blues... la la!
  5. Float On: Modest Mouse. After Hurricane Katrina I went through a period of singing "Red Hot Mama" every time I heard about Louisiana, in a possibly misguided attempt to send good vibes down that-a-way. But after New Hampshire was flooded I've adopted Float On as my new don't worry flood anthem. All right.


I have recently had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with an old friend of mine, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes was so important to me at one time that I named my dog after him. (I also attempted to take up home chemistry and microscope work.) What I loved most was Holmes' tantalizingly simple technique of observation and deduction. I admired how he pieced the facts together in a way nobody else had considered to arrive at his (usually) correct conclusions. Being an only child with little reason to develop conversational skills, I used this advice to try to figure out what people were up to without actually needing to question them.

We've been reading the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes out loud at home and finding his detectiving addictive. One sees the world differently after a good dose of Holmes. For example, recently I returned home after a day of work and turned on the bathroom tap, which sputtered before running clear. I knew from this that I needed to reset all of our clocks to the right time. And I was right! (This is because a sputtering tap means the pump was off sometime during the day because of a power loss, so the electric clocks would be off.) On another day I deduced what the back of a truck looked like by how quickly it reversed into the loading bay at work. (Trucks with doors that swing open usually sit idling while the driver gets out and opens the doors before backing into the bay. When I heard a truck start to reverse without idling first, I realized it must have a roll-up door. I checked and righty-ho again! Hip hip!) Let's just say it's a warm feeling when these small exercises come along to brighten one's day...