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25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice

10 Mar

25 Things You Should Know About Word Choice

Author: Chuck Wendig

Source: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/03/06/25-things-you-should-know-about-word-choice/

1. A Series Of Word Choices

Here’s why this matters: because both writing and storytelling comprise, at the most basic level, a series of word choices. Words are the building blocks of what we do. They are the atoms of our elements. They are the eggs in our omelets. They are the shots of liquor in our cocktails. Get it right? Serendipity. Get it wrong? The air turns to arsenic, that cocktail makes you puke, this omelet tastes like balls.

2. Words Define Reality

Words are like LEGO bricks: the more we add, the more we define the reality of our playset. “The dog fucked the chicken” tells us something. “The Great Dane fucked the chicken” tells us more. “The Great Dane fucked the bucket of fried chicken on the roof of Old Man Dongweather’s barn, barking with every thrust” goes the distance and defines reality in a host of ways (most of them rather unpleasant). You can over-define. Too many words spoil the soup. Find the balance between clarity, elegance, and evocation.

3. The “Hot And Cold” Game

You know that game — “Oh, you’re cold, colder, colder — oh! Now you’re getting hot! Hotter! Hotter still! Sizzling! Yay, you found the blueberry muffin I hid under the radiator two weeks ago!” –? Word choice is like a textual version of that game where you try to bring the reader closer to understanding the story you’re trying to tell. Strong, solid word choice allows us to strive for clarity (hotter) and avoid confusion (colder).

4. Most With Fewest

Think of it like a different game, perhaps: you’re trying to say as much as possible with as few words as you can muster. Big ideas put as briefly as you are able. Maximum clarity with minimum words.

 5. The Myth Of The Perfect Word

Finding the perfect word is as likely as finding a downy-soft unicorn with a pearlescent horn riding a skateboard made from the bones of your many enemies. Get shut of this notion. The perfect is the enemy of the good. For every sentence and every story you have a plethora of right words. Find a good word. Seek a strong word. But the hunt for a perfect word will drive you into a wide-eyed froth. Though, according to scholars, “nipplecookie” is in fact the perfect word. That’s why Chaucer used it so often. Truth.

6. No One Perfect Word, But A Chumbucket Of Shitty Ones

For every right word, you have an infinity of wrong ones.

7. Awkward, Like That Kid With The Headgear And The Polio Foot

You might use a word that either oversteps or fails to meet the idea you hope to present. A word in that instance would be considered awkward. “That dinner fornicated in his mouth” is certainly a statement, and while it’s perhaps not a technically incorrect metaphor, it’s just plain goofy (and uh, kinda gross). You mean that the flavors fornicated, or more likely that the flavors of the meal were sensual, or that they inspired lewd or libidinous thoughts. (To which I might suggest you stop French-kissing that forkful of short ribs, pervhouse.) To go with the food metaphor for a moment (“meat-a-phor?”), you ever take a bite of food and, after it’s already in your mouth, discover something in there that’s texturally off? Bit of gristle, stem, bone, eyeball, fingernail, whatever? The way you’re forced to pause the meal and decipher the texture with your mouth is the same problem a reader will have with awkward word choice. It obfuscates meaning and forces the reader to try to figure out just what the fuck you’re talking about.

8. Ambiguous, Like That Girl With That Thing Outside That Place

Remember how I said earlier that words are like LEGO, blah blah blah help define reality yadda yadda poop noise? Right. Ambiguous word choice means you’re not defining reality very well in your prose. “Bob ate lunch. It was good. Then he did something.” Lunch? Good? Something? Way to wow ‘em with your word choice, T.S. Eliot. To repeat: aim for words that are strong, confident, and above all else, clarifying.

9. Incorrect, Like That Guy Who Makes Up Shit When He’s Drunk

Incorrect word choice means you’re using the wrong damn word. As that character says in that movie, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Affect, effect. Comprise, compose. Sensual, sensuous. Elicit, illicit. Eminent, immanent, imminent. Allude, elude. Must I continue? Related: if you write “loose” instead of “lose,” I cannot be held accountable if I kick you so hard in your butthole you choke on a hemorrhoid.

10. Step Sure-Footedly

Point of fact: the English language was invented by a time-traveling spam-bot who was trapped in a cave with a crazy monk. Example: The word “umbrage” means “offense,” so, to take umbrage means to take offense. Ah, but it also means the shade or protection afforded by trees. I used to take the second definition and assume it carried over to the people portion of that definition. Thus, to “take umbrage” meant in a way to “take shelter” with a person, as in, to both be under the same shadow of the same tree. I used the word incorrectly for years like some shithead. If you’re uncertain about the use of any word, it’s easy enough to either not use it or use Google to define it (“define: [word]” is the search you need). Do not trust that the English language makes sense or that your recollection of its madness is pristine. It will bite you every time.

11. The Barbaric Barf-Yawn That Is Your First Draft

This is not a hard or fast rule (hell, none of this is), but in my highly-esteemed opinion (translation: debatable bullshit mumbled by a guy who thinks “cock-waffle” should be a part of our collective daily vocabulary), you don’t need — or want! — to refine your word choice in the first draft. That initial draft is, for me, a screaming weeping blubberfest where I just want to cry all the words out without any care in the world how they get onto the page. Second and subsequent drafts, however, are a good time to zero in on problems big and small. Don’t spend your first draft scrutinizing word choice.

12. Verbs: Strong Like Bull

For every action you’ll find a dozen or more verb-flavors of that action. You can drink your coffee or you can gulp, sip, guzzle, or inhale it. You can run down the street or you can jog, bolt, sprint, dash, saunter, or hotfoot it. You can have sex with someone or you can fuck ‘em, hump ‘em, make love to ‘em, or ride ‘em like Seabiscuit in a gimp mask. (Do they make gimp masks for horses? To the Googlemobile!) Use a strong verb that clarifies the action and makes sense in the context of the scene. A hostage escaping his kidnappers isn’t going to scamper away — he’s going to barrel, hurtle, bolt, or if you’re a fan of not-fixing-what-ain’t-broke, he’ll run like a motherfucker. If the base-level verb gives you maximum potency and clarity, then use it.

13. “I Like Playing With My Cats!” John Ejaculated From His Mouth

Mmmyeah, one caveat to the “strong clarifying verb” thing — it doesn’t apply to dialogue tags. No, no. Don’t resist. Hold still. Stop trying to chew through the duct tape. I know you want to your characters to yelp, blurt, scream, gibber, shriek, murmur, mumble, babble, explain, exhort, plead, interrupt, erupt, exclaim, and ejaculate constantly, but don’t do it. Do. Not. Do. It. Rely on “say/said” 80-90% of the time. You can, when seeking variety and clarification of action, use another dialogue tag.

14. The Verb “To Be”

Am. Is. Was. To Be. Will Be. Whatever. I’m not one of those who will tell you to cut out every instance of the verb “to be” in all its simple-headed forms because sometimes, simplicity is best. And yet, overuse of that verb may weaken your writing. Look for instances where the verb can be replaced by a stronger one or where it adds needless roughage to a sentence. “Barry is playing with himself in the corner” is better as “Barry plays with himself in the corner.” If you say, “It is my opinion that Rush Limbaugh should be stuffed with dynamite and exploded like a beached whale,” you’d be better off with, “I believe Rush Limbaugh…” instead. Oh, and if a sentence starts with “there is” or “it was,” you should attack that sentence with lasers.

15. The Word “Specificity” Is Really Fun To Say

No, really. Try it, I’ll wait. … Are you done yet? Specificity. Specificity. Spehhh-siiiihh-fiiiihh-sihhhh-teeee. Anyway. Moving on. Words help us define reality — nouns doubly so. Creature? Animal? Mammal? Cat? Panther? Housecat? Tomcat? Russian Blue? The North Canadian Spangled Bobtail? There I charted specificity to the point where it became useful and then crossed over into absurd bullshit. If I tell the reader that the cat is a “housecat,” we all get it. But if I say that the cat is a “Lambkin dwarf cat,” only a handful of cat geeks are ever going to grok my lingo. Aim for specific, but realize you can get too specific.

16. The Strong Spice Of Adverb And Adjective

Sometimes, a verb or noun just doesn’t tell the whole tale. I can say “housecat,” but I mean, “calico kitty with a sprightly attitude and a penchant for meowing loudly.” Calico. Sprightly. Loudly. These all modify the verbs and nouns present in order to paint a picture. Adverbs and adjectives provide both a deeper sense of specificity while also providing flavor or color to the world. They’re a strong spice. Use when you need, not when you want. Say what you mean and no more.

17. Adverbs Are Not Your Mortal Foe

Writers often bandy about that old crunchy nugget of of penmonkey wisdom — NO ADVERBS — as if it is bulletproof. As if a gang of adverbs shanked that writer’s mother in the kidneys as she stooped over to water the hydrangeas. Adverbs are not birthed from the Devil’s hell-womb. They’re just words. Did you know that “never” is an adverb? As is “here?” And “tomorrow?” You can rely too heavily on adverbs (and amateurish writers do). You can also use adverbs that are unnecessary or that sound clunky when staple-gunned to the end of a sentence. And adverbs paired with dialogue tags will often chafe one’s taint, but that doesn’t mean you need to hunt down every last adverb with a spear-gun.

18. The Thesaurus Is Not Satan’s Own Demon Gospel

The thesaurus is not a bad book (or, these days, website). I love the thesaurus because I have a brain like a rust-eaten bucket — shit slips through all the time. I’m constantly snapping my fingers saying, “There’s a word that’s like this other word but not quite and OH SHITDAMNIT I CAN’T REMEMBER IT WHO AM I AND WHY AM I WEARING LADIES’ UNDERWEAR?” So, I turn to the thesaurus not to look for a better, fancier word but instead to find the word my feeble mouse-eaten brain cannot properly recall. It is not the thesaurus that is the root of all evil but rather the love of the thesaurus that urges writers to commit the sin of pompous word choice. It is not a crutch; do not lean upon it.

19. Big Words For Tiny Penises

Smaller words are nearly always better than big ones. Big words put distance between you and the reader. Each added syllable is a speed-bump. Don’t use word choice to sound smart. Don’t talk circles around the reader. Your job is communication. Is your story a bridge between you and the reader — or is it a wall?

20. The Jingly Jangle Of Jargon

Jargon is when you rely on technical or area-specific terminology to get across your point. Jargon uses a limited vocabulary to speak to a small circle of people, and this is true whether you’re talking about some aspect specific to knight’s armor, a scientific theory, or the manufacture of space-age dildo technology. The test is easy. Ask yourself, will most people know what the fuck I’m talking about? If yes, carry on. If no, either use plain-spoken language or take the time to explain that shit you just slung into my eyes.

21. The Plumber Versus The Aristocrat

Certainly you have some leeway in terms of choosing the correct words for your expected audience. If you’re writing a novel about baseball, nobody would fault you for using a metric crap-sack of baseball terminology. You’ll certainly write different prose if you expect your audience to comprise plumbers instead of an aristocrats. Still, you’ll find value in reading to be read widely, not just by a subset of potential readers.

22. Junk In The Trunk

I’ll admit it: I love junk words. They are the greasy hamburger of prose, delicious to me and plump with empty calories. Effectively! In theory! Very! Happen to! Point is! You know? They offer minimal — if any! — functionality. Hunt them down with merciless abandon. Stomp them with cleated shoe until they squeal.

23. From The Department Of Redundancy Department

The repetition of one or several words can have a potent effect — but what happens a lot of time is, you repeat words accidentally. “The day was hot and heat vapors rose off the ground. The heat sapped Quinn’s energy.” Hot, heat, heat. A reader will trip on such repetition. And then he’ll fall down some steps and break his coccyx. Man, “coccyx” sounds like some kind of dinosaur bird, doesn’t it? THE MIGHTY COCCYX SWOOPS TO FEAST ON THE BABY TURTLEBUGS. I dunno. Shut up. Don’t judge me.

24. The Sound Of Words Matter

Words play off other words. Together they form rhythm. Choose words that pair well together, like red wine and steak. Or Pabst Blue Ribbon and hipster shame. Or heroin and delicious urinal cakes. Shakespeare knew that rhythm mattered and so chose words that slotted into iambic pentameter. The way you hear the rhythm of the words is to read your work aloud. Do that and you’ll find the flow — or, more importantly, find what’s damming the flow so you can fix it with proper word choice and sentence construction.

25. You Will Be Judged On The Words You Choose

Consider word choice to be a test posited by the audience. Make errors (lose/loose), they will see you for the rube you are. Write by relying on big words, heavy jargon and purple prose and they will see you as sticking your literary nose in the air. The result is the same: they will close the book and then beat you to death with it. They are also likely to violate your pallid carcass with various kitchen implements.

Write to be read. Choose words that have flavor but do not overwhelm, that reach out instead of pushing back, that sound right to the ear and carry with them a kind of rhythm. Write with confidence, not with arrogance. Don’t be afraid to play with words. But be sure to let the reader play with you.

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20 Engineering Terms

16 Jan

 

Things you’re likely to hear in an engineering department:

 

1. A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT APPROACHES ARE BEING TRIED – We are still pissing in the wind.

2. EXTENSIVE REPORT IS BEING PREPARED ON A FRESH APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM – We just hired three kids fresh out of college.

3. CLOSE PROJECT COORDINATION – We know who to blame.

4. MAJOR TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGH – It works so-so, but looks very hi-tech.

5. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS DELIVERED ASSURED – We are so far behind schedule the customer is happy to get it delivered.

6. PRELIMINARY OPERATIONAL TESTS WERE INCONCLUSIVE – The damn thing blew up when we threw the switch.

7. TEST RESULTS WERE EXTREMELY GRATIFYING – We are so surprised that the stupid thing actually works.

8. THE ENTIRE CONCEPT WILL HAVE TO BE ABANDONED – The only person who understands that the thing doesn’t work.

9. IT IS IN PROCESS – It is so wrapped up in red tape that the situation is about hopeless.

10. WE WILL LOOK INTO IT – Forget it! We have enough problems for now.

11. PLEASE NOTE AND INITIAL – Let’s spread the responsibility for the screw up.

12. GIVE US THE BENEFIT OF YOUR THINKING – We’ll listen to what you have to say as long as it doesn’t interfere with what we’ve already done or are planning to do.

13. GIVE US YOUR INTERPRETATION – I can’t wait to hear this bullshit!

14. SEE ME or LET’S DISCUSS – Come into my office, I’m lonely.

15. ALL NEW – Parts not interchangeable with the previous design.

16. RUGGED – Too damn heavy to lift!

17. LIGHTWEIGHT – Lighter than RUGGED.

18. YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT – One finally worked.

19. ENERGY SAVING – Achieved when the power switch is off.

20. LOW MAINTENANCE – Impossible to fix if broken.

Correlation vs Causation

22 Dec

From Bloomberg Businessweek

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/correlation-or-causation-12012011-gfx.html

 

Correlation or Causation?

 

Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question

Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.

 

 

 

Surnames – thought of the day

5 Nov

Random thought of the day:

In the beginning there were first names. Adam, Eve, John, Mary, etc.
Along the way surnames, or family names, popped up. It started in heavily centralized populations as a way of telling apart all of the “Johns” and “Janes.”

In English speaking countries there are a few categories of surnames. (In the US 1,712 surnames cover 50 percent of the population)

Occupations: Archer, Smith, Weaver, etc.

Personal characteristics: Short, Brown, Black, etc

Geographical features: Bush, Lake, Brooks,, etc

Place names e.g., Washington, London, Hamilton, etc,

Ancestral, often from a person’s given name: Richardson, Stephenson, Nicholson, etc

Patronal: ie. Hickman meaning Hick’s man, where Hick is a pet form of the name Richard

By 1400 most English people had surnames and Henry VIII ordered that births be recorded under the father’s surname.

So aside from the odd “I’m going to be different and change my name to Superman” crowd, we, effectively, will have no new last names in our culture. We’re past the point of naming John the scientist “John Scientia.” There’s not even much Anglicization anymore (Eisenhauer to Eisenhower).

The world became so interwoven that it became impractical to assign these new names and everyone just accepted that in any population you could have a dozen guys named Tim Blacksmith and you’d just have to deal with it.

Anyway, it’s a strange thought to me that in the course of human history there was only a small window where all last names were generated… then it stopped, and family reunions just started getting bigger.

Anyone else get sidetracked thinking about stuff like this throughout the day?

GO RANGERS!

2 Oct

Shot from our seats at Game 1 of the ALDS, Fri Sep 29, 2011…

Rangers v Phillies this year, Josh Hamilton MVP?

Kentucky Bourbon and Machine Guns – A Man’s Weekend

23 Jul

[Reposting from Oct 10, 2010]

I’ve realized I do a lot of stupid shit just for the story (ie. The day trip to CO two weeks ago to hit 4 breweries and hike to 12,500 and back)

Last week me and a friend were in Indiana for 5 days. Well, Indiana is close to Kentucky and Kentucky is where bourbon comes from.

There are 9 distilleries in the state, 7 of which are open to the public. There is a “Kentucky Bourbon Trail” that consists of 6 of these. Everytime you visit one they stamp your “passport.” Hit em all, get a t-shirt. Well, we got amibitious and decided to do all of them in one weekend, including tours and tastings. Not an easy task since they are spread out.

Pulling into Louisville Friday night

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Early start on Saturday. Up at 8am, and at the Four Roses Distillery by 9am

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Next stop: Wild Turkey

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I wish I could put into words what happens when they open the rickhouse doors. It’s like the angels sing and lights shine down. Due to the natural convection of the air inside the building there is a nice cool breeze that blows out. Thanks to the evaporation that occurs in the aging process, the entire interior smells like bourbon… I thought I was going to start drooling on myself.

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This bridge, behind Wild Turkey, was built by Kentucky soldiers in the 1800’s.

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Back on the road, headed to Buffalo Trace

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Yes, this road is on the Buffalo Trace property. Did I mention how F’ing beautiful the scenery was?

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On to Woodford Reserve:

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Sat here for a while on a giant southern style porch, ate some lunch, then prepped for some mayhem.
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Then… one of the best parts. Hauling ass to get to the Knob Creek Gun Range. We just happened to be in the area the same weekend as their world famous machine gun shoot. I’ll let the videos do the talking.

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Here’s the kick off of the 9pm shoot at Knob Creek.

Oh, and two miniguns thrown in for good measure:

Moving on to Sunday:

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Heaven Hill:

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After the tour we talked our way into a private tasting of some Elijah Craig 18 and Heaven Hill Wheat Whiskey

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Maker’s Mark was number 6

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100+ yr old cypress tanks

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My finger going in. It tastes like bread. Horrible bread.

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Got to dip our own bottles

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Then Jim Beam

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Lastly… It took an hour on Friday night in the hotel room to plan the logistics and map our routes. Due to the times all of the places were open, and the fact that we only had the rental car for 48 hours, we knew it was going to cut it close to get our passports filled up. Well, we rolled into Beam this afternoon with 16 minutes to spare (they close at 4pm)

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And with that, we hit all 7 distilleries open to the public in just 31 hours and were witness to the Knob Creek shoot.

Solo speed climbing record on The Eiger – insane, beautifiul, scary all at once video

20 Apr

Ueli Steck setting a new record.

The Eiger is a 13,025 ft peak in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.

+5 pts for having Radical Face for the soundtrack.

At the limit: Speed climbing

Scaling the treacherous north face of the Eiger in less than three hours is the pinnacle of the extreme sport of speed climbing

Tom Whipple
The Traverse of the Gods is still a desperate climb. Its approach is scored by a thousand scratches, each the scramble of an alpinist looking for purchase on the icy rock. If climbers fall here they will have 14 seconds to ponder their mistake before they reach the bottom.

Many have been defeated by this, the most exposed section of the north face of the Eiger, itself one of the most infamous climbs in Europe. The mountain was first conquered in 1858, but its near-vertical northern flank, with unpredictable weather and snow and ice fields rarely touched by the sun, held out until 1938.

Generations of mountaineers have been inspired to try, but few have made it. It is a climb that has claimed more than 50 souls. Yet Ueli Steck, a Swiss climber, has just shattered all past records by shinning up the north face in 2hr 47min 33sec. His previous best in 2007 was just under four hours, which itself had slashed half an hour off the four-year old record held by Christoph Hainz, an Italian climber.

Steck’s feat is the latest example of the growing phenomenon of “speed climbing”. For adherents it is no longer enough to climb a mountain “because it’s there”; they also want to scale it in record time.

To understand the magnitude of his achievement, we need to go back to when the north face was first conquered. For three days in the summer of 1938, excited tourists manned the observation telescopes of the Kleine Scheidegg hotel in Switzerland. High above them, four alpinists were hacking their way up the north face – a vertical mile of ice, rock and snow– to the summit 13,025ft above sea level. On past form, the assembled crowd must have expected to witness the climbers’ deaths.

Instead, they were present for a pivotal event in mountaineering history: it was the last great unclimbed Alpine wall, and the Austrian-German team who scaled it received personal congratulations from Adolf Hitler. They also inspired such greats as Chris Bonington, who made the first British ascent 24 years later.

Steck’s phenomenal climb began on the morning of Februay 13. The weather was fine, and he was acclimatised to the altitude.

He stood at the base of the cliff and looked up at the huge wall of rock towering above him. If he was to climb it in less than three hours, he would need to cover 35 vertical feet a minute. To do that, he needed to be as light as possible.

An ordinary climbing pair on the Eiger’s north face carry two 200ft ropes, a sleeping bag each, a stove, gas, food for three days, ice axes, and safety gear for attaching equipment to ice and to rock.

Everything Steck had could fit in a small rucksack. He had just the essentials: a thin 100ft rope (which he didn’t use), a single ice screw, four karabiners and a pair of ice axes. Most ramblers on Ben Nevis carry more weight. Because of his training regime, he had also lost 11lb in body weight. Compared with his last record breaking ascent, he was lighter, quicker and stronger. His attempt followed the most popular line, the 1938 route. “On the lower part of the wall there was quite a lot of snow, which cost me a lot of energy,” he says. In every other respect, though, the “conditions were simply perfect: very dry rock and the ice fields were covered with hard snow”.

His first major obstacle was the Hinterstoisser Traverse. A thin band of vertical rock, 100ft wide, it separates the lower portion of the climb from a steep snow slope beyond. At this point, any climber who looks down between their legs will see 2,000ft of clear air.

In a celebrated feat of rock climbing, Andreas Hinterstoisser proved in 1936 that it was climbable, but in doing so sealed his fate. When his party was forced to retreat, they discovered they could not cross back – the traverse was possible from right to left, but from left to right there were simply not enough holds. All four climbers died: the last frozen to death dangling helplessly from a rope, within earshot of rescuers.

After the Hinterstoisser Traverse comes a series of snow fields. This is where most parties pause after a day’s climbing to set up camp for the night before trekking across to the next rocky section. Steck, however, was still a little over an hour into his ascent.

By this stage it was critical that he moved fast. He needed to cross the upper sections before the temperature rose too high – even in winter, loose rocks come unfrozen from the crumbling face, hurtling down at deadly speeds.

At the end of the snow fields, Steck reached Death Bivouac – named for an unfortunate early climbing party who froze to death, huddled in the snow. Only now, for a climber of Steck’s ability, did the serious climbing begin.

The route takes alpinists directly up a steep groove known as the Ramp. A thin ice-filled crack, flanked by angled rock, it is perhaps the most technically difficult section of the whole face. Here, Steck’s experience showed. Delicately placing his crampons on thin ledges, and wedging his axes in cracks, he pulled himself elegantly up – to be rewarded with the Traverse of the Gods. If there was anywhere where Steck would have succumbed to fear, it was here. But his concessions to safety were small.

“I carried my rope on my back and had a daisy chain on my harness, which allowed me to clip on the fixed gear on the route,” he says, describing the looped sling he used to attached himself to equipment left by other climbers. “Other than that, I did not use the rope at all.”

As he entered the third hour of his climb, laterising tourists in Kleine Scheidegg would have still been taking breakfast. Some might have been looking through one of the many telescopes trained on the mountain. If they had been, they would have seen Steck facing his last obstacles: the White Spider, a snow slope where the first of the day’s rocks would be plummeting to earth; and the Exit Cracks – thin grooves leading to the summit ridge.

Finally, his thighs burning, soaked in sweat, but otherwise unharmed, Steck hauled himself the last few feet to the summit and stopped his watch. He had climbed 6,000ft; the display read 2hr, 47min 33sec.

Some have criticised Steck’s achievement, and the new obsession with speed, as demeaning to the efforts of other climbers, but Sir Chris Bonington believes it to be an inevitable progression. “The real thing is, as in all sports, each generation is trying to surpass the previous generation,” he says.

“In areas that have been developed for a long time – the Alps, Yosemite, Everest – because you can’t do new routes, the top climbers need to measure themselves against something. So there is a definite trend to go in for speed climbing. It is the game we play – it is just a natural development.”

Steck is not alone in taking on previously hallowed peaks with a nonchalance bordering on disrespect. Last year Christian Stangl, an Austrian climber, completed the seven summits – the highest mountains in each continent – in a combined time of 58hr 45min. He went up Everest in less than 17 hours. And in September climbers will converge on Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain, for the fourth annual speed climbing competition where competitors discard much of the equipment previously thought essential in an effort to shed weight and increase speed.

So has the daunting reputation of the north face of the Eiger, the mother of all peaks, been lessened now that Steck has shown he can reach the top in less time than most people take to summit Snowdon? “It’s still a very special mountain to me,” he says. “It’s my home mountain and I have spent so many days of my life and climbed so many routes.

“The fact that I am the first human to climb the north face in under three hours will stay with me for ever.”

Conquerers of the north face

1938 First successful ascent of the north face, led by Anderl Heckmair; it took three days

1947 Lionel Terray and Louis Lachenal, a French team, follow Heckmair’s route for the second ascent. On completion, Terray vows never to repeat it

1962 Chris Bonington and Ian Clough complete the first British ascent, spending one night on the mountain

1963 First solo ascent, by Michel Darbellay, taking 18 hours

1981 Ueli Bühler, a Swiss guide, climbs the face solo in 8½ hours

2003 Christoph Hainz reaches the top of the north face in a little more than 4½ hours

2007 Ueli Steck stuns the climbing world by conquering the north face in a time of 3hr 54min

2008 Steck beats his own record, reaching the summit in 2hr 47min 33sec

GM Tonawanda engine plant, c.1959

18 Apr

EDIT: It appears some of the pics are at the Tarrytown assembly facility. The engine plant did not install carburetors, transmissions and other accessories. That happened in the vehicle assembly plant in preparation for installing the engine in the frame.

The jumping off point…

13 Apr

A friend once told me:
“You should just have a stickied thread with all your essays/photo essays/and adventures on it. That, or a separate blog with all that on it, and linked here. That’d be cool. “

Well, here it is.
Dont take it too seriously or read too deeply into anytihng, you’ll just hurt yourself.

Before anyone asks: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pons_asinorum

(Latin for “bridge of asses”) is the name given to Euclid’s fifth proposition in Book 1 of his Elements of geometry, also known as the theorem on isosceles triangles. It states that the angles opposite the equal sides of an isosceles triangle are equal. There are two possible explanations for the name, the simplest being that the diagram used resembles an actual bridge. But the more popular explanation is that it is the first real test in the Elements of the intelligence of the reader and as a bridge to the harder propositions that follow.

More inbound tomorrow. You’ve been warned.

– Matt

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