Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't Dream It's Over

Hey now, hey now
Dont dream its over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they wont win
-- Crowded House

It really scares the hell out of me to talk to strangers. Even moreso to do it over the phone where I can't read their facial expressions. To do it repeatedly is even more terrifying. The times I've done that in the past, people were calling me, because they wanted to (like when I was answering phones for KTEH during pledge drives). Calling someone else who isn't expecting me... that's sheer and abject horror.

Yet I feel very strongly that getting people to vote No on Prop 8 is important enough that I can step outside my comfort zone. Imagine if, prior to the Revolutionary War, the colonists had said, "well, fighting the British sounds good, but I don't want to get mud on my shoes." So I went and did it.

Tonight I went to the No on 8 HQ in downtown San Jose, stepped WAAAAAAY outside my comfort zone and talked to strangers. You may have heard that the Pro-discrimination forces of darkness are recruiting people in Utah and Nevada to make calls on their behalf. So it's important that we match or exceed their efforts.

And yeah, I was a little freaked out at first. But honestly, it's not that bad, and you start to get used to it pretty quickly. If you have your own cell phone with a lot of minutes, you can use that, which is nice if you have a good bluetooth headset. (And if you use the bluetooth headset, and have choices of ear pieces, use the one that blocks out the most outside sound... learned that the hard way.)

You sit at a computer, which calls potentially undecided voters and connects them to you once they answer. Some of the time you get an answering machine, and then you just click "next call." Some of the time you get the wrong number, and then you click "wrong number" and "next call." And then sometimes, you get the person you're supposed to, and they're there.

Then you read from a script. In fact, they want you to stick strictly to the script. This is a very good thing, because it keeps you from getting into upsetting conversations or debates with anti-gay people, and it keeps you on-topic with pro-freedom people so you can help get their votes squared away and get on to the next call. The goal is to reach as many undecided voters as possible.

This also means you don't have to wing it, which is great for people like me who aren't particularly verbally articulate (or at least people who feel awkward when put on the spot). And if you talk to someone who is a horrible asshole, all you have to do is say "thank you for your time, goodbye" and hang up. You don't have to engage those people at all.

You can control the pace of your calls to some degree too. You can get a breather before you click "next call" if you need to. You can step way for some air if you need that. I decided to do calls for an hour, then take a 5 minute break. Then I made some more calls, then took a break and put my massage skills to use working on the shoulders of other volunteers. Then I made some more calls. The key point here is that yes, they need you to make as many calls as you can, but if you aren't accustomed to being on the phone for 2 hours at a time, you can get a breather in.

All of these things combined mean it's a far less freaky and terrifying experience than you might think.

As I left, I got messages sent to me from the universe by way of my satellite radio. First it was Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2, then Don't Dream it's Over by Crowded House, followed by two different songs called Change (Tears for Fears and Candlebox) on two different stations at the same time. Clearly, God wants Prop 8 to fail, and approves of my efforts in phone banking.

I'll be back, hopefully with a massage chair.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Hate Snow

Climbing Mount Shasta sounded like such a great idea. I love hiking. I love the views from the tops of high objects. But I will in no way make any future attempt to climb Shasta.

Somehow, in all my preparation for the climb, I failed to notice that it takes ten hours to reach the summit from base camp (in this case, Hidden Valley at the base of the West Face). I love hiking, but I don't love that much hiking. Still, I decided to try it anyway, just to see how far I could get, even if that wasn't the summit.

I did make it as far as the base of Misery Hill, (41°, 24.135' N 122° 11.997'W, 13284 feet above sea level according to my GPS), which was a total ascent of 9677 feet from my hotel, 6964 feet from the trailhead and 4053 feet from base camp. I did not climb the last 895 feet (of mostly simple dirt trail) to the summit because of the nasty case of altitude sickness that started for me around 12,000 feet. It would have been easy to reach the summit otherwise. I understand from some of the other climbers in our group that some other mountaineers deposited the contents of their stomachs on the top of Misery Hill. Maybe that's how it got its name.

We started climbing at around 1:45 AM (after a 12:15 AM wake-up). And yeah, that sucks just about as much as you imagine it does. Maybe more. Then for hour upon grueling hour, we walked back and forth in the snow. Stab with ice axe, move one foot across the other, move other foot, repeat.

Beyond 12,000 feet I started having system malfunctions. Notably, I started seeing "trails" behind moving objects. These resembled the "mouse trails" you can enable in Windows, except they were following real, physical objects. I started getting a headache. After walking across Whitney Glacier, one of our guides and I discussed my situation and decided it would be best for me to end my climb at the base of Misery Hill so that I could rest and recouperate for the remaining 5 hours it was going to take us to get back down.

Mind you, the view from Misery Hill was stunning and incredibly beautiful. I took some pictures, but I'm sure they won't do it justice. One of the other guides and I waited in a makeshift shelter someone before us had made by arranging rocks. I utilized a pack-out bag here.

For those who don't know, the Human Waste Packout System is used in a variety of wilderness locations, like Mount Shasta, to prevent them filling to the brim with piles of human poo. This means opening a sheet of poster-like material with a "target" drawn on it, crouching over it, pooing, bringing the four corners together and storing it in a brown paper bag with kitty litter at the bottom. So now I can say I've taken a dump on Mount Shasta. Lucky me. (I can also say I took it with me to the trailhead, but I probably won't... except for now.)

To get back down the mountain, one "glissades". This is a french word meaning, "sliding on your butt" and that's exactly what you do. You get into a "chute" that has been dug by many other climbers' butts, hold your ice axe in such a way as to use it to 'control' your speed, and then slide down the mountain on your butt. Now and then the chutes end and you have to walk over to another one. It's by far the fastest way to get the hell off the damn mountain. It's also an excellent way to freeze your butt.

By the time I got off the mountain and into the valley, I was staggering, poorly, back to our camp site. I was getting seriously dehydrated (despite my attempts to correct this by chewing on snow). After finally arriving back at camp, I went to the creek to get water (from countless acres of melting snow) and found that my body had decided to stage an all-out boycott of what my brain wanted it to do, and my brain wasn't all that enthusiastic about doing things to begin with. So I sat by the creek, drinking water, until I could summon up the steam to return to camp. I had, quite literally, run completely out of energy. This was a problem, because there was still a 70-mile hike back to the trailhead. At least it felt like 70.

My tentmates in this adventure, Mike and Helen, were kind enough to give me a ride back to town.

Despite the agony of this trip, I still think it was worthwhile. I learned some new skills, met interesting people, spent time outdoors in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I learned some things about myself. I think it's good to occasionally push your own limits to the breaking point, just to see where that point is... to find your limitations and your boundaries. I learned that my boundary is at about 12,000 feet above sea level (and I pushed it anyway). I discovered exactly what it takes to push my body to the absolute brink of exhaustion.

But in no way will I ever try this kind of climb again.

Pictures to come.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tally-Ho Turns 1

Today marks one year since I did the first commits on Tally Ho, the software behemoth that runs Well, at least part of it.

I guess I didn't figure on it taking well over a year to port the whole site over to a new architecture, one that would scale nicely and could be maintained without agony. Life has this tendency to get complicated.

When I first started thinking about doing the massive refactoring (before it even had a name), I didn't even have a boyfriend. I hadn't yet started taking classes in the Hendrickson Method of Orthopedic Massage. I certainly hadn't decided to aim myself in the direction of Chiropractic School and to begin walking.

Yeah, life gets complicated. And as we get older, our priorities change too. I think large, open-source projects may be better suited for kids in their 20's, who still have lots of energy, free time, and don't get laid. What a perfect combination for free software development!

Now that I'm on in years, I want other things out of life. I want to travel, to see new things. I want to climb Mount Shasta. I want to maintain a healthy relationship. I want to always be learning things, especially things unrelated to computer science, so I'm always challenged. I want to spend time in the gym, working on my strength, cardiovascular fitness and endurance. I want to watch many more years of Doctor Who. I want to try to compose some music, even if I don't share it with anyone.

Now don't take this to mean that Tally-Ho is dead or won't be completed. I just committed some code yesterday to bring back the Partners system. Instead, take this to mean that Tally Ho is taking longer than expected, because life gets complicated.

Happy first birthday, Tally Ho! Maybe we'll get to version 1.0 within another year!

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]