Archive for October, 2011

In the company of trees

Posted: October 30, 2011 in journalism

In the company of trees.

Issaquah, Washington’s Tiger Mountain, in the misty foothills of the North Cascades, is not far from my home. It’s a beautiful site from Interstate 90. At night there’s a beacon way up there at the top. With no moonlight on its slopes, that beacon looks suspended in the sky, like a red star. Even during the day, its quickly rising slopes seem to beg the question – “Am I a steep hill or just the tiniest of mountains?” Let’s be honest, calling Tiger a “mountain” is a stretch. It’s only 2,500 feet high. A strong hiker can run from the Tiger Mountain parking lot near Interstate 90 to the West Summit in about 30 minutes. Most days, I hike up at a brisk pace. My time to the West Summit is usually one hour and eleven minutes. I don’t stop unless there’s a picture I absolutely must take.

And that happens a lot.

My iPhone has 164GB of memory. It seems like a lot until it’s gobbled up by pictures. I use my phone for everything so when it gets filled, it prompts me to erase pictures because there’s just no more room. I blame Tiger Mountain for this. Every time I hike her switch-backed trails, I stop to take more pictures. My phone is packed with shots of a carpeting ferns, glistening stones and bright green moss.

But it’s trees that draw me in.

Other hikers on the trail must laugh as they pass. I’m the guy just standing there taking pictures with his eyes glued to the treetops. I live for pictures of Douglas fir. My favorite is the image (and I have a lot of these) of dozens of 200 foot tall trees just standing side by side by side by.

When I hike the steep trails of Tiger, I’m not alone. My head tells me I’m just looking at needles and branches and bark but my heart tells me this forest is the ultimate living room.

And I walk through it a lot.

Two years ago, I hiked to Tiger’s West Summit 47 times, almost once a week.
I do a lot of thinking in those 71 minutes to the top. Today it’s about
“Blowdowns.”

Blowdowns are snapped and fallen fir. They’re the tall trees that come down in the howling winds of the Pacific Northwest every year. When their feet get too wet from our near constant rain, and their roots grow weak, they get blown down. Maybe they just grew too weary to stand against the elements. Maybe they stopped sinking roots down. Maybe they just grew too old.

But every autumn I see it, another blowdown.

And today there are several on Tiger. This morning, I stepped around four blowdowns on the three-mile trail to the West Summit Viewpoint. State crews will come by soon and clear these blowdowns. Usually no one gets hurt when they fall. But eventually all the trees on Tiger will fall. It’s a “circle of life” thing, right?

I know I’m “coming down” one day. We all die. Life is a gift and time is a bandit.

But instead of dwelling too much on blowdowns, I’d rather just keep walking and notice the friends who are still standing in these woods all around me. It’s time to move on here on Tiger Mountain and remember that while our walk on earth is short and steep, it should be savored. Life is a hike. Just enjoy it while you’re in the company of trees.

Do You Speak the Geek?

Posted: October 16, 2011 in employment

Geek or nerd?

To most of us, the terms geek and nerd are interchangeable. All I remember about geeks in high school was that they were nerdy and way uncool. And “cool” in high school was not a commodity that you could buy or trade. You either had it or you wanted it. And if you lost it – it was virtually impossible to get it back. Merely associating with a geek, unless he was helping you with a final exam (and even then it was still dangerous) required explanation to your friends. People talk in high school. Are you kidding? I had a modest reputation to uphold so I kept a safe distance from geeks. And if you’re being honest with yourself as you read this, you probably kept yours as well.

We thought geeks were weak. They couldn’t defend themselves. Their only “crime”? They excelled in math and science. Of course they made an easy target. Back in the day, geeks wore nerdy broken glasses taped up at the nose bridge, kept a pocket protector,  knew how to use a slide rule and probably subscribed to Popular Mechanics when they weren’t watching Star Trek re-runs. And because they were picked on by the cool kids – geeks kept to themselves and spoke their own language.

Well it’s time to go 12-step with my sins against the geeks. It’s time to ask forgiveness and repent. I’m a former TV reporter now working for an international relief and development organization. It’s a rewarding and demanding job. But because I work in the fast-moving, tech-crazy communications field I’m now required to be multi-lingual. In other words I need to speak the Geek on the job.

And it’s become essential in life. Whether it’s navigating through the dozens of apps on my i-phone, texting reporters story ideas, programming English football on my DVR or coordinating on-line banking through my home computer … it’s remarkable how nimble I need to be with technology in all facets of life. No matter where you go – tech is ubiquitous – like rain in Seattle or Big Hair in Dallas.

Of course Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have changed the perception of what it is to be a geek. We all remember “The Social Network” , the Oscar-nominated movie about Zuckerberg’s nerdy rise to power. Being uber-rich can change a lot of perceptions. But it goes beyond that. Big box electronics retailers like Best Buy provide a mobile tech help service called “Geek Squad” helping millions of consumers each year. Someone from that store will help come to your house, de-bug your computer or set up your modem for a price.

Of course if you think you’re up to the task of trying to install that Actiontec – M1000 DSL modem all by yourself, you’ll probably still need at some point in the installation process – to call tech support. And guess what?  That’s when you’ll wish you’d gone easier on that nerdy geek in Mr Roberts’ 5th period Science class. That’s when you’ll regret being so hard on geeks. By the way – the Indian kid on the phone from tech support is a geek too. And even though he’s half a world away, he’s laughing at how uncool you are.