I had to report for jury duty today and I was joking on Twitter that the best outcome from this civic duty would be meeting a girl.  When I got to the jury meeting room I pretty quickly realized that all the optimism in the world wasn’t going to do much for me in this case.  What I hadn’t realized (and wouldn’t for another hour or so) was that my view of the best outcome was completely off.

So sitting in a big room with about 300 other folks I waited to hear my name called.  I was quite relieved when I was in the first batch of 70 people to be called into the court room.  This meant that I wouldn’t have to listen to the two guys in front of me talk about boxing and other macho crap anymore.  No, now I could stand in a hallway and watch prisoners in dayglow orange jumpsuits being marshaled around and wonder what their state of mind was before they got those new outfits as well as what it is now that they have them.  Pretty depressing.

As we were called into the court room all 70 of us eventually sat down and the judge started giving us instructions.  He also introduced us to the lawyers as well as the defendant.  The defendant was a middle aged guy that looked like he was being prosecuted for money laundering or a similar crime.  I didn’t think too much about it until the judge informed us that he was being charged with rape, possession of a weapon and a dozen other crimes that were listed too quickly to comprehend.  The central word in my head… shit.

I was expecting to potentially serve on a simpler case with lesser charges, not one where the defendant could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.  I’ve watched enough Law & Order episodes to know that prosecuting a rape is not a simple process so when the judge informed us that the trial was scheduled to last 3-4 weeks, I wasn’t surprised, I was horrified.

I was horrified not because of what this man was accused of or by what happened to the victim, but what it would mean to my startup.  These extremely selfish feelings are ones that I am not proud of but also can’t deny.  The thought of not making any progress for a month while continuing to burn my savings was more frightful than recent announcements from a quasi competitor.  But wait, what are these “hardships” that the judge is describing?

Turns out that there are five classifications of hardships that are reasons for being excused from jury duty, one of them being money.  I just had to fill out a form making a case for the financial burden that jury duty would place on me and the judge would review it and decide if I could be excused.  I haven’t focused that hard on making my writing legible since drafting class in high school.  As the hardships were being reviewed in the back, the deputy would bring them out in small batches and inform us of the judges decision.

I don’t have any problems paying attention and generally can always find something to keep myself entertained, but not in this case.  I needed something to pass the time but there was nothing.  I couldn’t even find much to count… 37 clipboards in front of me, 14 chairs in the jury box (odd), one nervous defendant who had to go to the bathroom twice and one very angry man who’s pleads to be excused were revoked (coincidentally I saw this same man yelling at the security folks earlier).  Then my name is called and I couldn’t reply with “here” fast enough… “you’re excused”.

Whew!  I walked out of that court room with such a huge smile on my face that I must have looked like I was just acquitted of a crime.  While I would have enjoyed serving my civic duty, it really would have killed me at this time in my life.  So it turns out that in this case being excused was an even better outcome than meeting a girl.  I’ll just have to keep looking for more ways to meet women, hopefully ones that aren’t so threatening to my future.

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Climbing The Bear

September 7, 2009

The climbing adventure this weekend was to The Bear on Mount St. Helena near Calistoga California.  The first climbing I ever did was actually just down the (fire) road from The Bear on a formation called The Bubble, so it was kind of nice to return to the area with some sharper skills.  I went with a small group of climbers from the gym which made for a nice and relaxing day on the wall.

View From The Bear on Mount St. Helena

View From The Bear on Mount St. Helena

At 4,342 feet, Mount St. Helena is the tallest point in Napa County and marks the intersection of Napa County, Sonoma County and Lake County.  It also happens to be the site where Robert Louis Stevenson spent his honeymoon writing The Silverado Squatters.  The mountain itself is roughly a 2.4 million year old volcano that had it’s origins a bit further north by Clear Lake.  I found the rock at The Bear to be quite beautiful with streaks of reds and black mixed in with earthy browns.  It also had some of the largest crystal structures I’ve seen in rock and am now wishing that I took some photos of them.

The guide book for the area (Rock Climbing the San Francisco Bay Area) is a bit out of date in that there are some new routes and bolts that change things up a bit.  There is also a much easier climbers trail that leads to the wall than what is described in the book.  The book describes a trail on the left hand side of the fire road marked by a 16′ pine tree on the right side of the road.  This trail is easy to find and can be scrambled up with some effort but it’s much easier to continue walking up the fire road for a couple hundred more paces.  You’ll reach a break in the pine trees where there is only shrubs and a very distinctive trail off to the left, use that one.

There is roughly 20 routes setup on The Bear that range in difficulty from a 5.9 crack to a couple 5.12b’s.  There is even a few of routes that are a couple pitches tall.  Pretty much all of the climbs have a steady and slightly deceptive overhang to them and I was surprised how pumpy I felt at the top of a couple of them.  The first route we setup was Jeckyl & Hyde (5.10b).  This route used to be runout by sharing the same anchors as Rampage but now has its own set that has removed the runout.  The route has plenty of very solid hands and feet but I found some of them to be kind of elusive at first.

We also setup a rope on Rampage (5.10c) and had a report that a new line had been established just left of the bolt line that was a 5.10b but the rating on that climb might be a bit off.  I intended to give this route a go but instead found myself with a very strong desire to try the next route to the right and with a name like The Beast (5.11b) how can you blame me.  The bottom section of this climb is fairly straightforward.  It features some great underclings and generally easy 10c moves.  The fun starts to kick in between the second and third bolt.

I decided to tackle the problem by continuing to climb straight up after the second bolt and then traverse to the right over to the third bolt.  I didn’t make the moves cleanly but it felt like a solid enough sequence for me.  After this point I found myself resorting to a series of layback moves alternating between the left and the right.  The sequence was really quite fun and while I managed to make it through all of the moves, it took a few tries and a good amount of problem solving.  I’m anxious to try it another day.

After a little break and a quick snack Tyndall asked if I wanted to try leading Mark’s Moderate (5.10a R).  The climb is described as a chimney and while a couple moves fit that description, I found that the majority of it was stemming.  The climb through the first half is quite solid with fairly obvious moves.  However, around the top of the climb the crack starts to narrow and you have to move onto the face a bit.  Because of the runout in the top section I decided to do a slightly shorter traverse over to the anchors for Black Hole Sun and setup a top rope from there.  Maybe it was just the rush of onsighting the climb but I found it to be kind of fun.

So now we had a rope setup for Black Hole Sun (5.10d) which happens to be rated as one of the best climbs in the area, naturally we had to try it.  Up to the first bolt it shares the same section of rock as Mark’s Moderate but then traverses a bit over to the right.  Because of this the route features a number of different climbing techniques.  You’ve got some chimney/stemming in the beginning, a short traverse to some larger pockets and a sections of overhanging rock as well.  On the top side of the overhang I even found some very handy heel hooks that allowed me to recover from a couple moments of hanging by one arm.  So when I reached the anchors with my third onsight for the day I was feeling pretty pleased.

We left the mountain just as the sun was starting to set and I think all of us would be happy to return for more fun in the future.  There is still a bunch of climbs that look like fun and I’m feeling pretty determined to get a redpoint on The Beast.  Add in the fantastic shade that the entire wall gets after 2pm and it gets pretty easy to spend a bunch of time climbing The Bear.