On Rappel!

Filed under: Things I’ve never done that I’ve always wanted to learn how to do.

Also filed under: Things I love about REI #537.

Rappelling. It’s a thing you do if you climb out in the world a lot (which I don’t). It’s a thing they raffle off for fundraisers. It’s a thing that looks kind of fun. It’s a thing I’ve never done. Until Sunday.

Because REI is super rad, learning how to rappel was as easy as signing up on a website and showing up.

Easy, but not simple. There were a lot of steps, mostly centered around teaching us how to not die rappelling carelessly.

How to not die rappelling carelessly, artificial top rope environment edition:

1. Climb up. Tension.
2. Set two anchors. Test them out.
3. Come off belay.
4. Set up the rappel rope. I finally used both holes in my ATC!
5. Make sure the rappel setup works.
6. Set up third hand.
7. Make sure the third hand works. Will it stop you?
8. Unset anchors. Your third hand’s got you!
9. Rappel down.
10. Profit!

It’s hard to explain what the rappel should look like, and what the third hand looks like. That’s what internet guides are for. Mostly, I’m documenting what we learned.

How do we set up all those anchors, not lose the rope, and tie a third hand? With knots! And maybe some hitches. And maybe learn about the difference between knots (which can exist on their own) and hitches (which require something else to exist) along the way. I won’t talk about them all here, but…

A knot I’ve never tied before but find super cute: The barrel knot. Great for keeping your rope from flying off at the end! Oh, and did I mention super cute? It’s super cute!

We learned a couple third hand hitches: The autoblock and the prusik. The idea is to make a hitch that allows the rope to slide if you position it so it’s loose, but cinch tight if you let go to stop you from falling. I’d never thought about using ropes in this manner and am all of a sudden finding knots and hitches super interesting. Also, I find the prusik very symmetrically pleasing.

I wish the word symmetric were a palindrome of symmetrical letters.

We also used a bunch of slings, and clipped all sorts of stuff to our harnesses. I say stuff and not gear here because even though it’s gear, it’s only a small and gentle subset of what you’d use for outdoor lead climbing. Still, it was nice to finally use a few of those loops on my harness.

Now I know how rappelling works! And I can say I’ve done my own non-careless setup and lowered myself without dying. :)


I have been remiss in updating you on all my activities.

With my Tuesdays free of hockey, I finally had a chance to start taking taiko lessons. Starting this February, I’ve been banging on drums for two hours every Tuesday night.

But it’s so much more. Taiko combines my love of rhythm, technique, athleticism, and teamwork.

Every week has been a learning experience. Every week I’ve seen improvement.

I literally have a list of things to work on and keep in mind when I drum. I realized I needed to write it down, so why not here? I did that for hockey, and I found it incredibly useful.

So here goes, my chu-daiko* to the left list:

Stance (it’s kind of like shooting a puck)
– legs wide
– get low
– shift weight to the right on the don upswing
– shift weight back to the left before don strike
– don’t lift up on the weight shift back to the left

– don is a hard hit, but it comes from the momentum of the weight shift
– the don upswing comes from the shoulders, not elbows or wrists
– raise the bachi in a smooth motion, don’t stab at the air
– bend elbows on the downswing
– imagine throwing the bachi at the drum head on the don
– even fast dokos don’t use the wrists
– wrists not too open, not too closed (still trying to get this right, no idea how to explain it here)
– don’t flail, every swing is controlled

– don’t bounce to keep time, even if you really like bouncing
– don’t lean forward when striking

I feel like I forgot some things, but I’ll remember on Tuesday. Now that I have a place to write this down, I’ll probably start posting more.

I also have a list of aches and pains and minor injuries. Remember when I started playing hockey and had the dumbest injuries from things like holding the stick? I have the dumbest injuries from swinging the bachi: tennis elbow, achy wrists, and blisters, blisters, blisters.

I trust I’ll have arms and hands of steel by the end of the year.

* Chu-daiko is the medium sized drum, and we’re currently learning how to play it primarily from the side.

Master Combo Crack

I never did try to crack one of those ubiquitous Master Combination Locks during 30×26. I own several of them, and I wasn’t about to buy another one.

It’s fair game if I find one, though. “What if it belongs to someone?” you ask. I’ve chalked this up to, “No one is going to return, recognize, and claim this totally generic looking shackled combination lock.” I figured if I didn’t give it a home, it’d end up in a landfill.

So I gave it a home. Because it needed one. And because I like projects.

I worked on this lock in 3 sessions of about 30 minutes each. I tried about 5 different guides on the internet. Each guide helped me hone in on possible numbers, and while I had a feel for relevant groups of numbers, I couldn’t quite zero in on a consistent lineup. Finally, I looked at what I considered the most likely numbers and positions across all the methods, factored in the fact that I often have to overshoot the target number on these locks, and tried again.


Master Combo Lock Crack


Elephant Adventure 32: This Person Could Die Tonight

The exercise: Consider that the person you are talking to might no longer be here tomorrow.

I had some trouble actually doing this one for a couple reasons. For one thing, my Adventure reminders are lock screen images on my phone. I’ve trained myself not to look at my phone while talking to people, so I could never remember when I needed to. Funny how my efforts pay more attention to people when I talk to them thwarted this Adventure’s efforts to make me pay more attention to people.

When I finally remembered this exercise in a conversation, I was at work, and I immediately wanted to stop my coworker from saying whatever he was saying and send him home. “You might die tonight!! Forget this work bullshit, go be with your family and live your life!”

I didn’t, but this was pretty much the theme the few times I did remember this exercise. So much of what we talk about, so much of what we do every day, is absolutely not what we’d be doing with our final hours.

So I kind of failed this adventure. But I get it. Make every moment count. And don’t do things thinking you can fix them later. Fix them now.

Elephant Adventure 33: Hot and Cold


I have space in my brain for 3 languages:

1. English
2. Cantonese
3. French/German/Italian/Spanish

I studied French for 6 1/2 formative years, and it has long been the dominant 3rd language. Dabbling in German and Italian resulted in crossed wires for a bit, but French stood strong.

Spanish is starting to challenge the podium.

This morning, I dreamt I was in a shop, and a lady there was giving out tasty treats, but only to those who asked.

This was a French speaking establishment, so I had to ask in French.

She had three different treats. I wanted two of them.

This one y that one.

Wait… it’s not y.

This one y that one.

Et! It’s et!

My alarm went off before I could correct myself and receive my treats.


A Joggle In The Park

It was beautiful out this afternoon, so after dim sum some friends and I went for a stroll at the local park. We saw a guy juggling in front of a blanket with a bunch of random balls on it. What is this??! We went over and asked to play.

It turns out the guy likes to juggle, and wants to share it with others. He goes to the park to give people a chance to learn, teaches them some basics, and sells a few varieties of juggling balls, because “You can’t get them around here.”

He’s right. There are no good places to buy juggling balls around here. He buys good ones in bulk, and they’re fabulous. He sells them at cost, because he can.

He started us off with the basics, which I was happy to do. This helped smooth out my toss. I also got some tips on how to juggle two balls in one hand. Once I dial that in on both hands, there’s a three ball pattern I want to learn, where you alternate juggling two balls in each hand, tossing a shared ball from side to side.

That probably didn’t make any sense, and since I don’t know what it’s called I can’t link you to it.

I’ll just have to learn it and post a video someday.

Also, new term I learned today: joggling. It’s a thing!

Elephant Adventure 31: Notice Smells

Everything has a smell. Every location, every being. Every time of day.

I naturally take time to notice the smells I like: fresh air in the morning, the outside world just after a rain, freshly ground coffee.

Freshly ground, because it smells different from whole bean, different from when it’s being brewed, and different from how I drink it, with cream.

Eating is full of smells. I had dinner the other night with someone who is anosmic. “You eat in 3D,” she said, “I eat in 2D.”

Sometimes, smells happen all at once. As I stepped off the train the other night, I smelled popcorn from the nearby theater, meat grilling at the restaurant next door, exhaust from the train engine, cigarette smoke, urine in the stairwell. All in the span of about 10 seconds.

The book talked about how smells trigger memories and emotions. I didn’t encounter any smells of this type over the past week, but I agree. When my sister and I were little, we used the term “Mommy smell”. I couldn’t describe it to you then or now, but my nose will never forget it.

My gyms have a smell. They hockey rink has a smell. They register as familiar, tell me where I am, and resonate with my definition of self. What am I doing here, why am I doing it, and who is the person I am crafting?

Tennis balls have a smell. They take me back to high school, when being a tennis player was part of my definition of self.

I never considered smells to have a connection with identity. Interesting. Thanks, Adventure 31!

Elephant Adventure 32: This Person Could Die Tonight

Elephant Adventure 30: Defining and Defending

Become aware of how you define yourself and defend yourself and your personal territory.

My introspective self found this exercise really interesting.

See what I did there? I defined myself.

I define myself in various ways. Some of these definitions determine what I publish here, and on social media. Others affect my actions, decisions, and interactions. I check my definition of self every morning when I plan my day.

When I consciously determine what to do, I’m guided by how I define myself.

On the other hand, defending myself is mostly reactive, and often triggered by perceived unfairness or distortion of truth. When someone takes more than their fair share of space, accuses me of something I did not do, interacts with me in a manner I do not deserve, my hackles come up.

They may not stay up, or even be noticeable to others, because those hackles go straight into the filter of how I define myself.

I may act. Or I may not. But if I do, those actions are the result of both how I defend myself, and how I define myself.

My analysis of this exercise was completely different from the book’s. The book drove more toward not having a self, because the self is ever-changing. I see what it’s saying, but I’m not there yet. My definition of self is what drives me and guides me.

For now, that’s okay.

That definition will change, and that’s okay too.

Elephant Adventure 31: Notice Smells

Friction Series

Planet Granite held a climbing competition at their SF location yesterday. I missed the one at my home gym last month, and have been coveting people’s comp tees ever since. So I decided to go up there and get my own.

I had no idea what the format would be. I wondered what category I belonged in. As it turned out, I didn’t have to decide! Our 25 routes were ordered by difficulty, and not visibly rated. We simply climbed what we thought we could from looking at the route.

I’ve never fallen off the wall so many times in one day. It was awesome.

Not that I like falling, but I generally climb what I think I will probably be able to complete, based on rating. These days, that means I mentally top out at 5.11a and 5.11b routes. (Knowing that I do this and remembering to change my behavior aren’t quite in sync yet.)

I have no idea what I tried to climb yesterday, but everything I attempted was a challenge. Every time I fell off, I added a new skill to work on to my list.

Here’s to falling! *clink*

At the end of the day, we watched the top 3 male and female climbers compete in an on-sight final. I loved the radically different styles between climbers. In the end, only one climber reached the top. I had seen her at my gym in the mornings practicing super hard bouldering problems, trying and failing, trying and failing again, while her mother took notes.

Trying and succeeding. Trying and winning. I love seeing hard work pay off.

I also love all the fun events my gym puts on. What a great way to encourage member interaction and build community. Thanks PG!

I love my comp tee.