I own a ’96 Toyota Tercel.  While driving to work the other day, my roommate and I noticed a burning smell.  At first I thought it was rubber, but now I think it’s my clutch.  After doing some research (2,3) I’ve decided that I’d been riding my clutch too much:

  1. “One way people ride the clutch is by using it to keep the car from rolling backwards. You often see these people stopped on a hill waiting for a light to change. And instead of holding the car still with the brake, they put the car in first gear, give it gas, and hold the clutch about half way out. That’s riding the clutch in the first degree: Pre-meditated clutch riding. And if you live in a hilly area and do this all the time, it could mean a new clutch every 10,000 miles (or 2,000 hills, whichever comes first). 
  2. Second degree clutch riding is when you take too long to let out the clutch during shifts. It’s when you use a lot of gas, and let the clutch out real slowly and carefully to keep the car from stalling or bucking. Second degree clutch riding is also called “killing the clutch in self defense,” because people are defending themselves against stalling and being honked at by an angry mob of commuters. But the truth is, you’d be better off letting out the clutch faster and giving it less gas, even if it meant stalling once in a while. Because the longer you take to let out the clutch, the sooner it’s going to wear out. The penalty for second degree clutch riding: A new clutch every 30,000 miles. 
  3. Finally, the most common type of clutch riding is also the least understood. It’s when you let your left foot rest on the clutch pedal after you’ve completed your shift. That’s third degree clutch riding–involuntary clutch slaughter. You may say “But I’m not even pressing down on it!” But you are! You may not realize it, but it doesn’t take much pressure at all to start disengaging the clutch. There’s only about an inch of free play in the pedal.”

So I’d been committing all of these crimes to some degree.

  1. I have to stop at a big hill each morning and each evening.  I certainly use my brake, but I definitely give the car a lot of gas to make it through these hills.  I’m pretty sure that I disengage my clutch fairly quickly in these situations, but I’m not sure.
  2. I also drive in slow traffic.  I’ll often coast in neutral when I see a backup ahead and pick a gear later if the backup clears before I get there.  Still, I’m sure that I disengage the clutch slowly when the car in front of me is too close and I don’t want to accelerate into them too quickly.  A better plan would be to stay in the lower gear until I have enough space in front of me to shift properly.
  3. Guilty as charged.  I’m 90% sure that I don’t push the pedal past its free play point, but I’m not sure.  I’ll definitely be more conscious of this fact moving forward.

The smell my roommate and I smelled was undoubtedly the smell of excess clutch slip due to poor clutch control.  But clutches are pretty resilient, and the smell should eventually disperse.  Unless the clutch is slipping, its quite OK.   The easiest way to know if you need a new clutch is by the amount of clutch pedal travel. If you need to push it to the floor to get it engaged you probably need a new clutch.  Finally, another way to establish if your clutch needs repair is to test it in a parking lot.  With it stopped but running, put the car in 2nd or 3rd gear and let out the clutch.  If it does not stall, but the RPMs go up and the vehicle does not move, the clutch is bad and needs to be replaced.

All in all, I plan on being more aware of how I shift.  The goal is to minimize the amount of time that the clutch pedal is engaged.  I plan on trying the parking lot test this evening and investigating the amount of clutch pedal travel.  Now let’s hope that my clutch lasts me my last two weeks of work and my cross country drive back home!

When I get home and am riding my bike to work again, I’d like to replace my clutch myself.


Cole Kennedy

Sad news.  One of my classmates died ice climbing in Peru this weekend.  Cole Kennedy died doing what he loved in a beautiful place,  but his death serves as a reminder of the inherent risks in climbing.

Piramide Blanca

Cole and his climbing partner John Collis were climbing Piramide de Garcilaso also called Piramide Blanca.   Apparently there was an ice avalanche on Monday July 14th.  Luckily,  John survived.  (John became somewhat/locally famous for his Garden of the Gods Whipper video in 2011.)  I can’t even begin to imagine what John had to deal with.  Making the emergency call.  Going back up there to look for the body.  It must have been quite surreal.

This thread goes into more detail on the incident.  And this blog post by one of the last people to see Cole gives another perspective.  I feel like I was just training with him in the old Colorado College climbing gym yesterday…  I remember watching him send overhanging cracks during my first trip to Indian Creek, wishing that I could climb as hard as he did.  His psych was contagious.  He will be dearly missed.

As my friend Chris Dickson put it, “I am completely in shock and my heart is so heavy with grief for a friend who I thought was absolutely invincible. Nothing could touch Cole or prevent him from climbing: not a broken arm, not a speeding ticket, and certainly not a hangover.”

This is the second serious climbing accident involving one of my classmates.  In late 2012, my friend Peter Duker’s cam popped while climbing the Kor-Ingalls route on Castleton Tower.  He had climbed the exact same route in 2011.  I was with him on the summit after climbing the North Chimney.  Here is a post from the blog Semi-Rad describing the incident and an article by our school newspaper.

Castleton Tower


These incidents are a good reminder to check that the risk in any particular climbing situation is worth the reward.  But also that life is short.  “Don’t not climb.”  Enjoy it while you can!  To close, here is a video by Chris of our climb up the North Chimney, summit partying with Peter and the guys, crushing/getting schooled at Indian Creek, Cole sending Anunnaki 5.11c, and whiskey slaps around the campfire.


Edit: John Collis update



How to Meditate

While browsing  reddit recently I discovered a great summary of how to meditate.  This is the only technique that has worked for me, and /u/purplespengler explains it more succinctly than I ever could:



This is a technique that I’ve found very useful, especially for someone who is new to meditation or has had trouble doing so in the past.

  1. Sit quietly and close your eyes.
  2. Begin to deliberately notice sensory input that you’re receiving. Notice the sound of your breathing, notice the sound of your computer running, notice the feeling of the temperature of the air, the feeling of what you’re sitting on. Do this without focusing on any specific sense.
  3. Begin to deliberately notice that you’re having thoughts. Some of them might be about what you’re sensing. Some might be memories. Some might be hopes, or fears, or dreams. Just notice that they’re happening without putting any particular attention on any one thought.
  4. After a while of this, notice that your thoughts are not continuous, but rather that they come in spurts, with a space between them – like train cars, or birds in the sky. For a while, simply notice that this space exists.
  5. Allow your attention to move more and more to the space between each of your thoughts. Notice that this space is like a chalkboard – it provides a place for your thoughts to exist in.
  6. Allow your awareness to become fully immersed in that space. If you find yourself getting focused on any particular thought, gently guide yourself back to the space that comes after it and before the next one. Continue until you feel it is time to stop.


The original thread can be found here.


Sociology and Psychology Resources

This subject is inherently more complex than fitness and money.  Perhaps I should re-title this section “Opinion Pieces.”  Regardless, these articles have helped me come to terms with my perspective on the society that I live in and the psychologies that I interact with.  I’m hopeful that they can help others as well and at least start some discussions.




Fitness and Nutrition Resources

I am a huge fan of body weight fitness.  The community at the Bodyweight Fitness subreddit was my starting point for educating myself about movement.  Their beginner routine is top-notch.  Below, you’ll find a summary of some of  my favorite fitness resources.


There are also a lot of great youtube channels out there which go into detail on various fitness subjects.

I’m still learning how to eat properly, so the nutrition section below is a work in progress.

  • I’ve been adding healthy recipes to my internal cookbook with minimal cost thanks to Beth at Budget Bytes.

Money Management Resources

I’ll confess that a large part of my decision to start blogging about my experiences was inspired by the one and only Mr. Money Moustache (MMM).  His blog, along with Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme (ERE), jlcollinsnh, and the Mad FIentist have taught me much of what I know about pursuing Financial Independence (FI).  This state is also sometimes called Financially Independent Retired Early (FIRE).  Below, you’ll find a summary of some of  my favorite articles by these authors.


Finally let me mention reddit.  I started by browsing /r/personalfinance/.  This community is great at discussing the basics of money management.  However, when I discovered  /r/financialindependence/ I decided that they weren’t hardcore enough.  The financial independence subreddit taught me the basic FI mindset and led me to MMM and ERE.  This is a great place to go if you have questions.


If you are curious about inflation.  This video by Mike Maloney is a must watch.  The whole 5 part series on the secrets of money is good if you have the time.  He tries to sell you on the concept of owning gold, but aside from that, the video above is great.