Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wildlife Extravaganza

Of the many things that were drilled into my head during High School English classes, I am most mindful of "transitions" currently. Whether you are writing an essay, a research paper, or a book or even telling a story to friends, your main ideas have to have transitions leading from one to the other in order to have logical flow throughout what you are trying to express.

The story of my life has had a lot of change recently and I am thankful that it also follows good "writing etiquette." I've had to shift between school mode and summer mode, between working hard intellectually to manual labor and working with my hands. It's probably not the biggest change I'll ever have in my life, and I've actually done it every summer thus far since High School. However this particular spring sees the move from college life to life after college. (It has struck me as strange every evening for the past 3 weeks that I don't have homework) Making this change special was the segue of the May Wichita Climbing trip that Alex, Nathan, and I took.
Bouldering at Mt. Scott's Upper Wall.

Alex and Nathan both had plans in Texas for the weekend following graduation, but were willing to travel with me up to the Wichitas. We made it to the Visitor Center in the Refuge Monday afternoon, being greeted by high winds and the usual armada of animals. We bought a climbing guide for the area (sounds like we were really prepared, eh?) and drove to the top of Mt. Scott to check out the conditions. We figured it would be pretty wind and weren't disappointed. Thankfully we found a sheltered place out of the wind and bouldered around for a couple of hours, having fun trying different appealing lines and taking some cool photos. Then we drove to Camp Doris, pitched a tent, settled in and had a great dinner of left-over brisket sandwiches.Nathan on the project of the day.

I'll pause in the middle of the climbing report here to talk about the Wildlife Extravaganza. It was really amazing how many different things we saw. Big game: elk, deer, longhorns, and bison. Bugs: lightning bugs, june bugs, a tiny scorpion, and of course the obnoxious mosquito. Creepy-crawlies: a lizard with blue sides, a multi-colored snake, and a big, fat tarantula (not something you see everyday sneaking around your tent, nor do you want to). Then others: rabits, coyotes, geese, bright red birds, and others I probably am forgetting.Just a little bit unsettling...

We rose early the next day rearing for a solid day of climbing. Our goal was the area known as the Narrows, which Alex and I had explored on a previous trip in January. However, due to the wet conditions we were unable to attempt the super classic routes of the area and we were jones-ing for a second shot. Crazy Alice (5.8) and The Dihedral (5.6) were perfect for our goals of improving our crack skills and traditional lead climbing experience. Thankfully they were dry and all three of us made it to Crazy Alice and rapped off in quick succession. Geared up and ready climb Crazy Alice.

Then Alex satisfied his "crack habit"leading The Dihedral, rapping off so I could try my hand at a 5.9 extension called the Flying Nun. This route follows the 5.6 but goes another 25 feet higher instead of ending at the rappel station shared with Alice, pulling a rather impressive roof. The crux was pretty heady since the pro wasn't bomber for my liking, especially when I kicked out the highest nut on the first go. Nevertheless I struggled to the top, ticking off my hardest trad lead to date.

After we all made it up and rappeled back to solid ground, we were still wanting to climb another route with the amount of daylight offered. Choosing Captain Crunch (5.7) we set off around the corner toward the Leaning Tower feature. Once again we were rewarded with a great climb with spectacular views of the whole area: piles of granite left randomly strewn around and the Cache Creek canyon meandering below. Not to mention an airy 120 foot rappel down Leaning Tower Direct. However, anyone attempting either LTD or Capt. Crunch should be prepared for a somewhat sketchy approach. Combined with the wind, it was almost enough to diswade us from climbing the route.
"Monkeying" around while on rappel.

For our final climbing day together, we traveled back to Mt. Scott's upper wall since we figured a quick approach would maximize our climbing time, not to mention there were some routes that Alex had his eye on from the January trip. We climbed two 5.6s, The Sleeper and Yee Haw, both were fun routes with solid placements and fun movement for aspiring leaders such as ourselves.

After climbing that morning we drove back to camp and sorted gear, shared some pictures, and had a big group hug. Then we delayed the final Goodbye a little longer by driving together back to Snyder to fill up on gas. The adventure trio parted ways after a solid trip together, wrapping up our college experience at ACU, looking forward to more adventures in the future. Someone mentioned to me in the midst of goodbyes when I graduated High School that I'll stay in touch with very few of my friends from that time in my life, but it's the people I'll meet in College that will remain life-long friends. This prophecy has been very accurate so far and I know that it will remain so, because amigos like Nathan and Alex will not soon be forgotten. With them both going to grad school next year in Wyoming and Colorado, it gives me ample excuses to visit them in the future.
Showing some brotherly love at the top of The Sleeper.

Thus my life-story goes on. I look forward to continued adventure, exploration, and good times with great people. And it is my hope that every new chapter will be marked with equally fantastic transitions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Creating Gladiators

I heard an article on NPR the other day about college basketball coaches looking at recruiting a 10-year-old in the Chicago area. Obviously the kid has talent, and he's probably bigger than any other 4th or 5th grader. The conversation tended toward a more generic look at college basketball recruiting, where coaches are having to become interested in players at younger ages, even getting freshman to sign letters of intent. More and more pressure is being put on kids playing sports sooner and sooner in their lives.

So this got me thinking about sports in the world today. It's a big business with a lot of money at stake in advertising and ticket sales. The money is spinning the industry in a downward spiral, where the style of games are being completely changed due to the demands of TV networks (for instance, changing the time of the NFL draft, spreading it out over the course of several days so as to show it live during Primetime) and athletes are lifted up like "gods" in all forms of marketing.

It is also allowing athletes to make a ton of money, all in the name of entertainment. College scholarships are allowing (I hate to say it) young adults who could care less about learning to, at least on paper, get a college education. It starts to remind me of the Roman Empire and the honor given to gladiators in the Coliseum. Our society is now in a sense paying more respect to someone who can run really fast or jump really high than an chemist intent on researching a way to stop certain diseases or an educator imparting wisdom to the next generation. Are we stepping back in time, sliding from a forward-thinking, innovative society to one in which only the physically strong survive?

Now I for one am a big fan of being in good physical condition and I enjoy being able to climb high, technical peaks, not to mention a good college football game every once in a while. However, when a disproportionate amount of our time and money goes toward fueling the feeling that athletes should be lifted up on a pedestal, it's time to reflect on where we are going. We should be encouraging kids to become other things, other than gladiators in some arena.

I took a lot out on athletes in this post, but entertainers of all forms are being held in too high a regard for my liking: musicians, actors/actresses, etc.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bucket List

Several months ago, our university group at church watched "Bucket List" during the Sunday Movie Night at the Cukrowski's. Afterward, while reflected on how life would be different if we knew we were going to die soon, those in attendance created our own bucket lists: a list of things that we would want to do before "kicking the bucket." Whether you end up watching the movie or not, I would highly recommend this exercise. It makes you think about things you really want to accomplish in life. I'm a big proponent of goal-setting in the first place and this is a good way to "trick" yourself into writing some goals if that's something you struggle with.

Here's the list that I came up with that night:

  • Kill a 6x6 bull elk with a bow
  • Climb Denali
  • Ski in Europe
  • Marry the greatest woman in the world
  • Climb the Diamond, Longs Peak, CO
  • Climb the highest point in each Western State
  • Play a love song on the a girl
  • Write a book
  • Become an engineer
  • Become a teacher
  • Save a complete stranger's life

Some of them may sound hokey, others more profound, and the list is definitely not completed, but it's a start and it's something that I would like to continue to build (and check things off, eh?).

So what are you waiting for? Get out that pen and paper...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Things that go a missin'
    Are often small,
    Often most needed,
    Often close to our hearts.

Things that go a missin'
    I find again in my hand,
    Sometimes on my head,
    Where I last left them.

But things I'm gonna be a missin' soon
    Can't be replaced,
    Can't be taken with,
    Can only be hugged goodbye.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Capstone Project

Over the course of the last two semesters, I've been working hard to complete an Honors Senior capstone project to graduate with University Honors. My goal: to create a design and a report for the construction of a rainwater harvesting structure out at ACU's Rhoden Farm. It will provide demonstrations to visitors of the Farm, showing what the Ag Department is doing here and abroad promoting rainwater harvesting, and provide an outlet for future students to do research the various components of such a system and how they affect efficiency. Now I'm finally done, the report is printed, bound, signed, and turned in. It was a big weight off my shoulders.

Here's some excerpts from my report:


In our lifetimes, we could very well see the use of water become the biggest concern in our management of resources, greater even than our country's dependence on oil. Water shortages nationally and internationally are affecting farmers' ability to produce crops, cities' distribution of needed water to residents, and even how individual families are able to cook, clean, and satisfy their thirst. One of the ways to combat a lack of water is to capture, store, and make use of rainwater.

I have worked with the Agricultural and Environmental Science Department over the past year to provide a design for the construction of a rainwater harvesting (RH) structure on the grounds of the ACU Rhoden Farm. The structure's purpose will be three-fold. First, to educate and train students and agricultural missionaries on the different components of a RH system and the variables that can affect its overall efficiency. Second, in order to provide a demonstration to the Farm's visitors of a RH system similar to what is being implemented by agricultural missions supported by ACU. Finally, to facilitate research as a way to improve upon the technology being implemented at different sites and increase knowledge of the feasibility of such systems in areas ranging from West Texas to Honduras.

This has been a great model of engineering work that I will be doing in the future. Many engineers are employed as designers and consultants on a project, providing knowledge and expertise. They create the plans for the construction of a building, bridge, or road based on physics and engineering principles, catering to the desired needs of the client or purpose of the intended project. Then either they or the company would hire contractors for the actual construction. My role in the implementation of this RH structure at the ACU Farm is to serve as designer and adviser. My plans and report will be taken and used by the Farm to construct the actual structure in the near future.

Christ-Centered Engineering
As a physics major and a future engineer, it excites me to be able to apply the knowledge I've gained while an undergraduate to a real life problem with an attainable solution. Our modern society often focuses too much on ``high'' technology, especially with recent advances in genetic engineering, exploration of the solar system, and computer technology. Yet this focus takes our attention away from providing for peoples' basic human needs, clean drinking water in particular. By being willing to apply both physical and intellectual effort to what might be hastily dismissed as ``low'' technology, ``the impact of even the provision of a simple household rainwater system [could] be dramatic.''

Rainwater harvesting has a rich history all over the world dating back thousands of years. Many different cultures have captured rainwater for a wide variety of purposes, many of which are still in existence today. Recently, it has become a more viable option for domestic use due to the rise of impervious roofing materials, lower cost of tank design, increased demand in rural areas, and the failure of traditional systems. RH is also seeing a revival as people learn about the inherent quality of rainwater and seek to reduce the waste of our current systems.

There is also an inherent Biblical aspect of rainwater harvesting. Designing and constructing efficient harvesting systems here in the United States and overseas will meet people's physical needs, show the love of Christ through our actions, and open the door to reaching people's spiritual needs as well. It is a great example of vocational mission work in action.

The Agricultural and Environmental Science Department has made a recent push for undergraduate research at ACU focused on increasing farm and ranch production, especially in third world countries. They have implemented some rainwater harvesting systems on existing buildings with the intent of using them to water livestock and raised bed gardens. My project is going to enable them to look more in depth at the variables inherent in a RH system and how they can be manipulated to maximize efficiency.