Taking it to the next level

This pic used by a person offering tree cutting “services” in Switzerland certainly takes dubious work practices to another level…

You have to credit the bloke for the effort he has gone to to really cram as many dodgy work practices as possible into one image. I would like to point out that this is an image he uses to advertise with.

So what have we got?

Working a Populus, on a side limb, lanyard only, no climbing line in sight. No eye protection, no hearing protection whilst using a chainsaw. But the inspired part I though was not just one-handing the top handle saw, but also holding the last piece he has obviously just cut in the other hand. The sure sign of a pro! Not.

Things like this make me unsure how to respond… giggle in a slightly hysterical fashion? Get grumpy? Get upset? Or a bit of all of the above. In the end I left it at pointing a Health and Safety person in the direction of the site. To be fair, the person might just be misguided and acting out of ignorance, but actually I know that he has been approached in the past and seems to be unwilling or unable to amend his ways. His choice, you say? Well, yes and no. Unprofessional conduct such as this falls back on everybody in the profession (I need to point out though that the person in question is not a professional arborist), in the sense that Joe Public does not make the fine distinction between a trained operator doing high-quality work and a hack. Nor does the Health and Safety statistic that merely documents falls during a tree pruning operation. So in that respect this individual’s behavior is damaging to a larger group of people other than just himself.

But probably everybody has someone like this in their area, I just thought it quite striking to see someone advertising his ineptitude in such an in-you-face fashion.

Morning thoughts

Here are two thoughts from this morning for you…

First off, got a day’s training ahead of me. It is six in the morning now and the thermometer indicates says it is 10 degrees Celsius outdoors. That, in my books, is a reasonable temperature to spend a day standing around in and not doing a crazy amount of climbing. Certainly beats a basic training course in January hands down: temperatures around or below freezing, wind chill and damp? No, no, nooooooo. I find it almost impossible to stay warm in such conditions. I can just imagine my friends from Arboriculture Canada or Laval in QC  snorting derisively at that statement, but that is just the way it is: I am quite keen on moderate climate.

So let’s hear it for spring!

Second thought, this is a further one of those things that puzzle me: One of the activities we partake in most regularly is eating. How come, I ask, is it that when it comes to naming streets in towns there are not more places named after food? It would be such an obvious thing to do!

There is ONE road here named after food or dishes, which is the Erdbeergraben, Strawberry ditch – how prosaic. I think we could go one better than that if we invested some effort in it: Sushi Gardens, Tofu and Sprouts Risotto Drive, Roast Beef Avenue, Broccoli Bake Square and so the list goes on…

The funny thing would be though that you would recognise road named in the pre-healthy food era, that would be called things like Deep Fried Chicken Wings Lane or Greasy Plate Crescent. But not to worry, they would be re-named as time went by into things like Carrot and Apple Smoothie Road or Low Fat Yoghurt Alley.

And then you would have all the big multi-nationals and food corporations, the Unilevers and Krafts of the world jumping on the bandwagon with thinks like Golden Rice Grove, KitKat Alley or Ben and Jerry’s Drive. Eek!

Um… maybe things start to get a bit complicated there. Still, fact remains, I like the idea of living in a road named after my favorite dish, dunno, Mixed Vegetable Thali Terrace, for instance.

With this, I rest my case.

T Rex Reloaded

No, do not worry, we are not spiraling down any further in to T Rex-related silliness, but just to tie up some loose ends, I wanted to share this…

Over at Gravitational Anarchists, Tony has expanded upon the theme and added his thoughts regarding this topic, all delivered in his very eloquent and incredibly funny, dead-pan style. I have to admit that when I first read his offerings, I laughed so hard that I had snot come out of my nose (ok, I had a cold, but still…).

So there you go.

Here is what Tony has to say regarding T Rex’s strengths and weaknesses…

Here is a list of stuff that flummoxes T Rex:

  1. Picking his nose
  2. Clapping his hands loudly
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Handstands. (Although his big head should work for a headstand!)
  5. Certain verses of the hokey pokey (T Rex is not as bad off as an earthworm though, they put their heads in, then out, then shake ’em all about. That’s it!)
  6. Monocle, unless it is for the belly button
  7. Covering his mouth when sneezing or coughing
  8. Flossing
  9. Flipping others off (especially the left hand to opposite elbow, right forearm at 90 degrees, middle finger extended! This could exacerbate general grumpiness as well!)
  10. Jump rope
  11. Tossing a bridal bouquet
  12. The Macarena

To be fair, here are a few things T Rex excels at:

  1. Eating birthday cake
  2. Farting
  3. Polite golf clapping
  4. Low fives
  5. Head butts
  6. Piercing stares
  7. Push ups
  8. Running his ass across the ground or smaller creatures to clean it off
  9. Soccer (except the goalie position!)
  10. Tying a cummerbund
  11. Hacky sack
  12. Chest Bumps
  13. Stomp dancing, Scottish and Kakitihánnakah (the latter is a native American version. Although T Rex remains are rare in the eastern U.S. I like to think T Rex left the wall flower ways behind around the campfires of the eastern nations)

It occurred to me that T Rex probably got such a bad reputation because he had to constantly ask primates and other smaller creatures to hold/do things for him.
Imagine this:
“Hey could you hold this ice cream cone for me please” T Rex asks baby raptor.
“Sure” the little guy squeaks out. T Rex stoops over to take a lick and swallows the raptor, the cone the ice cream all at once. ” Oh my!” He says.

Tony rocks. Officially.

Thoughts on sport vs. industrial design

Got myself an Arc’teryx Atom, a light thermal jacket. Not what you might call cheap, but the design is good, as is to be expected, and it is very light.

The other day I realized that the seams on one of the cuffs was coming undone. I was not over the moon. I do not really see why I should have to start stitching an essentially new jacket… The reason for the seam coming undone is that there is obviously very little material in the seam and it just pulled out. Of course, if your focus is counting grammes, a couple of millimeters more or less fabric in a seam make a difference over the whole garment – also, over a whole product range it will make a difference as to the total amount of fabric you use… so there are two aspects in play here: minimal weight as a sales argument – and a second one which is an economic one, optimising the amount of fabric used in production.

The outdoor industry is very puzzling to me.

In many ways it is such a power house, generating astronomic revenue for brands, attracting a very diverse clientele that is prepared spend substantial amounts of money to identify with the brand of their choice (well, I suppose I am a good one to talk, with my Atom jacket… ). Yet there are also extremely unsavory sides that are swept under the carpet like a dirty little secret: brands fall over each other to declare their ecological credentials, yet fail to take a clear stance on the social cost of outsourced production… unacceptable labour condition, exploitation of the work force, decrepit, dangerous factories, and so the list goes on. Mind you, this does seem to be changing, although one has to suspect that it is merely the tip of the iceberg that we are aware of and that for each case exposed or remedied, there are a host of others that we will never hear about.

The point though that I am actually trying to get to is that the unravelling seam on the Atom jacket and the way it illustrates the focus on minimizing weight, really drove home to me the difference between industrial and recreational design: by and large in the past industrial designers have erred on the side of caution, factoring in the wear and tear engendered by heavy and sustained every-day use. This is a radically different approach than the one taken by sports designers, as discussed above.

Where this comes to a head in my opinion is when the same designers are working on sports and industrial products, applying the design philosophy of one to the other, leading to optimized, minimal designs. Whether these are up to handling the tough environments of tree work presents is questionable. Shaving off those grammes is all very well, but highly-optimised designs are also very specific, optimized to a very specific load configuration. As a consequence, such a piece of equipment will struggle to handle anything that is outside of that design window, as there may simply not be sufficient material to withstand forces being applied.

This is not the same as applying a “make it bomb-proof” philosophy across the board, on the contrary. But certainly one should not go too far the other way either.

In my observation, there have been a number of high-profile cases over the past few years that make one wonder whether this was a mechanism that was in play… or at least one of the factors.

Who ever said it was going to be easy?

I have mentioned before that over the past few weeks I have been working on a new topic that I am going to be presenting the first time at the Climbers’ Forum in Augsburg beginning of May.

I finde processes such as this daunting, challenging and rewarding – all at once.

Daunting in the sense that usually I will spend a longer period of time beforehand collecting background info and literature on topics that I feel could result in a story worth telling and sharing – yet once you have committed to a deadline, an event at which you are going to present, it all becomes that bit more tangible and pressing to deliver a finished(ish) product by date X.

Challenging in the sense that during the process I find myself constantly questioning what I am actually trying to say… is what I am saying what I actually mean – or is it what I expect people will want to hear? What is the actual message? Can I back up what I am saying with facts? Often as not this will result in multiple versions of a presentation before it really starts to flow, smoothing out those bumpy niggles along the way…

Rewarding in the sense that it is also an opportunity to immerse myself in subjects I might not spend as much time on otherwise – Superballs, for example :-). I find this stimulating and exciting, as it can sometimes lead to unexpected insights in areas where you did not expect to find any – or can confound preconceived opinions. Further, every new topic expands the range of stuff to discuss with people – I find nothing more tedious than talking about the same topics time and again… this way, you can keep on adding more layers and diving deeper into themes, adding depth, texture and resolution.

At any rate, be that all as it may, every time, when a presentation is done, dusted and ready to go, I take something away from the process of getting to that point – this time being no exception.

And finally, I am just excited about sharing the story, to get it out there… if you are at a loose end what to do during the first week of May, consider yourself warmly invited to join us at the Climbers’ Forum in Augsburg.

What is the talk about? Ah, now that would be telling! You are either going to have to come to Augsburg – or be patient until the next time we next meet up…

No, no connection. Just felt poor old Porpoise had not been aired for a fair while, so there you are…

Working the stem

Patrick Z. spotted this one, I found it quite amusing. Petzl use the image below on the left-hand side in their 2015 catalogue. The image on the right is one that I drew in the course of last year to illustrate attachment to a stem.

I liked the way the two almost form a sequence of motions…

One thing I would comment on in the Petzl image is that I feel it is a good idea for the secondary attachment to be higher up than depicted, as, if anything happened to the lanyard, such as being flipped over the top as consequence of dynamic movement of the stem, it could result in a nasty backward fall onto the stem – upsidedown.

Attachment to the stem should be as high as possible while still leaving sufficient distance to the cut, one of them should be choked and one should be cut-resistant. This to me would seem to be a reasonable level of safety.

I also thought it very kind of Petzl to promote our pulleySAVER. 😉

This is not a plug. Well, actually it is…

But I have to say it regardless:

I love XSREs. If that is not a geek confession, I do not know what is!

I mentioned Duck Tape and WD40 in an earlier blog post… well, these little beauties are in a similar league.

I have them all over the place, from key ring to kit bag, on access lines, on throw bags, through the top hole of ascenders to keep the line running fair into the cams – not to mention on my harness. I love the fact that they are true ovals and can accommodate a wide range of items on both sides, this means that I can store my pinto on it or to stash slings on the back of my harness. The key lock on the nose means you can easily push it through the mantle of a rigging line to attach it to a throw line to pass it up into the tree. The nose design also means that the gate locates positively and does not flop around. The oval shape allows you to reverse the karabiner if need be – or to opposite and oppose two XSREs.

Some things you do not realize until you have them that you cannot imagine being without them anymore. The XSREs would definitely go on my list of those items.

Plug over, normal services will be resumed shortly.

Why the treemagineers blog?

Last year, as part of a web site re-vamp we integrated a blog into the structure of the treemagineers’ site – leaving open whether, and how much, we were going to actually use it.

220 post later and counting I think it is fair to say that it is being used, the posts encompassing a pretty wide, wild and eclectic range of things I found interesting, funny or sad, that annoyed me, made me angry or thoughtful, that  needed saying… or just spilled out of the top of my head.

The blog is frequented by a fair number of people, about 6’500 visitors per month, which is quite a bit of traffic. Whilst that is nice to know that it is being read, that in itself is not the key motivation for investing time and effort into the blog.

For me the treemagineers blog is a response to some of the superficialities that seem to have become a bit of a hallmark of social media and the way in which we use the web today – which seems a great pity. This in turn reminded me of a very interesting book written by Peter Lunenfeld, published by MIT Press, called “The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading. Do not be put off by the rather martial title, Lunenfeld pulls no punches and gets right to the point… here is the MIT Press blurb on it:

The computer, writes Peter Lunenfeld, is the twenty-first century’s culture machine. It is a dream device, serving as the mode of production, the means of distribution, and the site of reception. We haven’t quite achieved the flying cars and robot butlers of futurist fantasies, but we do have a machine that can function as a typewriter and a printing press, a paintbrush and a gallery, a piano and a radio, the mail as well as the mail carier. But, warns Lunenfeld, we should temper our celebration with caution; we are engaged in a secret war between downloading and uploading – between passive consumption and active creation – and the outcome will shape our collective futures. In The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading, Lunenfeld makes his case for using digital technologies to shift us from a consumption to a production model. He describes television as the “the high fructose corn syrup of the imagination” and worries that it can cause “cultural diabetes”; prescribes mindful downloading, meaningful uploading, and “info-triage” as cures; and offers tips for crafting “bespoke futures” in what he terms the era of “Web n.0” (interconnectivity to the nth power).

I found Lunenfeld’s arguments throughout the book, some of which discuss measures to counter the risk of cultural diabetes, as he calls it, very compelling. This, according to Lunenfeld, occurs as a consequence of massive, wide-spread low-quality download, where the internet is used as a means to disseminate and share easily palatable content only, with very little meaningful upload on the other side to counterbalance it .

I certainly agree with the key point he makes: We could be using the potential that this medium has to offer better, uploading meaningful, constructive, creative content and consuming downloaded material with measure: In this way, the computer and the web can indeed become cultural machines. Yet in order for this to happen, we need to become much more considerate and self-reflective users: rather than merely posting to let the world know that we have just clipped our toe nails or are playing Candy Crush Saga (please, never, EVER send me an invite to play Candy Crush Saga, or I will be forced to instantly delete you from my universe!) to post something with depth and meaning, recounting an occurrence that touched or affected us – or actually uploading something creative and new.

Whilst I do not maintain that everything I have written makes sense or is high-quality (the mind boggles!), at least I am investing effort in it, giving it thought and attempting to give the content a degree of depth. Hopefully, if more people start doing likewise, we can tip the scales, allowing the benefits and positive aspects that the medium has to offer to outweigh the negatives: the narrow-minded, shallow and often parochial expressions of opinions with little foundation or merit.

So let us all start contributing – it does not have to be a blog – it can any number of other things, too, but let’s do this and give it some depth!

Made me laugh

Pyšná Opice just sent me this one, made me laugh out loud… thanks for that, Pyšná, you made my day. Glad to know I am not the only person thinking about things T-Rex-related!

Working on new topics

As described before, new topics and presentations mean reading up on background info, assembling sources, discovering cross-links and finally establishing a half-way coherent story line.

I really enjoy this process… sometimes I will carry snippets of information around with me for years and then they will slot pleasingly into such a process and fill a gap that needed filling. It is also exciting because it means being able to add a further topic to a portfolio of existing presentations and themes, adding depth and context by doing so.

In fact, in many ways it is quite similar to product development: sometimes you will be discussing a concept and realize that one key component, manufacturing skill or technology is missing and the whole things goes dormant – to be revived a couple of years later when that one key element that was missing turns up and enables a whole new line of thought and development.

Just goes to show how important it is to remain open and perceptive for input and stimulus of all kinds.