Helmets: My Two Cents

Earlier this summer a question on the Great Outdoors StackExchange site led me to look further into the standards for climbing helmets.  The question itself, a basic “can I use my bicycle helmet for climbing”, was fairly simple and has been asked many times in many places.  The development of lightweight foam climbing helmets has also caused some confusion in this area, with even experienced people confused as to where these new designs sit on the spectrum from traditional hard-shell climbing helmets and ultra-ventilated bicycling helmets.

For example, one person wrote: “there are helmets sold as climbing helmets which are basically one-hit-wonders. Those are constructed similar to bike helmets that are meant to crack as they absorb the force of an impact. Once they are so compromised they are pretty much useless. A proper mountaineering helmet would be one built with high impact plastics and other shock absorbing features that allows them to absorb multiple impacts and keep on ticking.

My immediate thought was this writer has rather unrealistic expectations about both types of helmets.  As you’ll see at the end of this post, the relevant climbing (and cycling) helmet standards call for each test helmet to receive impacts in a few different spots (e.g. two on the crown, one on each side, etc.).  Contrary to many expectations, the bicycle helmet standards seem to have just as much emphasis on these “multiple impacts” as do the climbing helmet standards!  Additionally, most “hardshells” currently on the market are actually single-impact hybrid designs.  So, let’s dig into this a bit more…

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Shoulder Season

Lake Aloha

California’s Desolation Wilderness has far more trees than the name would suggest.  The choice of photo is purely coincidental.

To reach Aloha Lake from the Echo Lakes trailhead one passes through an area marked “mosquito pass” (at least according to one trail marker).  At the time we visited, snow still covered the higher elevations, though patches of broad-leafed plants gave hints to the insectile clouds summer would bring.  Hiking in autumn, or at least after the first snow, provides a welcome escape from mosquitos, and gear also stays much cleaner with a few inches of snow covering the ground.

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The Party is On

For a quick update, the following:

  • Yes, I am still alive, and back in the States.
  • If you haven’t been paying attention to Europe, now’s a good time to grab some popcorn.

Now for the longer thoughts.  For some time (well, since the March 2009 bottom) there had been a general sense on the web that many traditional technical analysis methods weren’t behaving correctly.  The market just continued a slow grind upward, mostly due, as Zerohedge put it, to a pair of computers trading shares back and forth to each other.   Now, those signals are working again.

There’s also other good news; the civil suit against Goldman Sachs, and a Bloomberg story about Wall Street banks’ massive fleecing of taxpayers in the municipal bond market.  The stories aren’t the news; as is usual the details have generally been known for years in advance.  The news is that someone in authority seems finally willing to take notice of the problem.

Ob Griechenland über die Zeit wirklich in der Lage ist, diese Leistungskraft aufzubringen, das wage ich zu bezweifeln.

– Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann, 2010-05-13

As for Europe, most of the resolutions over Greece have been largely hand-waving. As in the U.S., leaders are still preoccupied with blaming speculators and trying to assure investors that everything is perfectly fine.  While my earlier expectations of a European “summer of rage” have been delayed, I think the season is now upon us.

In the end, cash flow is what matters.  The greatest threat to Greece, and to the rest of the EU, is that promised bailout monies are unable to be had.  Accounting standards may be adjusted, GDP can be gamed, but eventually payments must be made.  Failed bond auctions, like Spain encountered yesterday, will only add to the pressure.

Traveling Light

Over the past few years I’ve managed to pare down my luggage requirements to a single carry-on bag and a briefcase.  (Rick Steves offers some useful advice in this area.)  My present trip has seen a similar reduction in the amount of stuff I carry with me on a daily basis.  To select a particularly appalling example, I climbed the Great Wall carrying both a bag (containing lunch items, water, and other “essentials”), Nikon D40, and a generously-sized umbrella from the Beijing Intercontinental.  To be fair, the umbrella doubled as a walking-stick and there was a decent chance of rain, but the combined weight in the face of oppressive humidity suggested I seek alternatives.

I have since traded my passport for a photocopy, the Nikon for an ultra-compact Canon IXUS 100IS, and left the bag at home.  The IXUS 100IS (the SD780in the U.S.) is the smallest of Canon’s current line, can hide behind a credit card, and easily disappears into a pocket thanks to its rounded corners.  While I still bring the Nikon when the situation demands, the Canon has become my daily carry.

Please locate the nearest exit

I’m having far too much fun in Beijing to put together a decent post, but the temptation to send out another “find an exit” email grows ever stronger.  Looking at my archives, the last time I sent such an email was September 20, 2008.  This rally still has space in which to run, but it appears to be nothing more than a standard bear market rally.  I will instead throw out some recent quotations for your amusement.

In the past, I have gone so far as to imply the Realtors group are spinmeisters. This month, I will be more blunt: Their actual data has become untrustworthy, their spokesmen lie for a living, and their “news releases” is little more than misleading junk.

– Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture, 2009-08-24

“No, no. That’s not the one you want. You want FAS!”

– An airline stewardess commenting on Tom Sosnoff’s chart of FAZ, the financials ultra-short ETF.  (This is a Joe Kennedy Shoeshine Boy moment.)

In what can only be attributed to a rogue computer blowing a vacuum tube, virtually all the names in the credit universe were wider over the past week, despite an equity market ripping, or, more specifically, AIG, FNM and FRE ripping and everyone piggybacking for the ride in a few bankrupt companies.

– Tyler Durden, zero hedge, 2009-08-24