I sucked it up this week and hit the road with only my iPad, leaving the four-pound ThinkPad (T410s) on my desk for the first time. I resolved to be productive using my HTC EVO as a 4G (Sprint/Clear) hotspot and work out of the cloud via Google Docs and Gmail. The cloud part is easy – I’ve been there for two years. The hardware failed.
So I’d grade the experiment a C –
My briefcase was lighter and I didn’t have the usual worries about cracking a screen. Lighter is good as years of backpacking and shoulder strapping a laptop around has trashed my right shoulder.
I generally had decent access to my files
The Sprint/Clear 4G is decent as long as I’m in a major airport or urban center
It was much easier to roam around an office with an iPad, with instant on and off and constant connectivity as long as the phone was in my pocket
The iPad is horrible for typing — on screen keyboards are an ergonomic disaster. I was tempted — for a few minutes — to seek out a local Apple Store and invest in an external $69 keyboard, but thought better of it.
Note taking on an iPad is a miserable experience and I suspect one looks like a douchebag when one tries to. See Mark Cahill’s comment regarding a wave of iPads in meetings that have reverted to good old laptops.
Google Docs are barely usable on an iPad (see previous post on why my next tablet will be Android-based). The Google app for iPad presents a mobile, stripped down version, with none of the essential tools such as the ability to download documents to the device and then send them as attachments via Gmail, or share them through the usual Google Docs collaboration capabilities
I was able to “free” docs and share them by resorting to the QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite, using that to access Google Docs, and then mailing stuff to people from within QuickOffice. It felt very kludgey.
Bottom line: I’m going to buy a ThinkPad X120e for $500 and go ultraportable. The first ThinkPad “netbook” — the X100 — was terribly under powered with some weak AMD Atom-like wannabe processor knock-off. I’m banking (need to check the reviews) that the processor refresh in the newly introduced X120e will make it a half-way decent cloud PC for road work. I’ll park the T410s on the home office desk, continue to love its classic ThinkPad keyboard, but use the X120e as my grab-and-go and save a pound of weight in the bag. Yes, I am tempted to go with a new MacAir — but the price tag stinks at $999 for 64 gb and I am not ready to completely bail out to the goofy but-oh-so-chic world of the Apple OS.
I definitely am OCD. Once I start down a rat hole I keep digging until I hit bedrock. Case in point: books about mountain climbing. I had, up until last month, about zero interest in mountain climbing. I’m terrified of heights, get tunnel vision and migraines above 8,000 feet, and would no sooner climb a rock or dangle from a piton as I would try to row across the Atlantic alone.
But, an obsession is an obsession, and mountain climbing has been mine for the past month, with at least six books consumed and the same number of documentaries viewed. All because of a book about Bradford Washburn, the Boston Brahmin who founded the Boston Museum of Science, mapped Mount Everest, and led the golden age of American alpinists in the 1920s and 30s.
Most everyone is familiar with Jon Krakauer’s best seller, Into Thin Air, which recounts the Mount Everest tragedy of May, 1996 when eight climbers, Sherpas and guides died near the summit of the world’s highest mountain because of stupidity, inexperience, and really bad weather. Krakauer, who climbed to the summit that day, expanded a feature story in Outside magazine into a great, and controversial book that slammed the chic practice of wealthy, inexperienced climbers getting dragged up a crowded mountain by Sherpas and guides in what was becoming a very crowded traffic jam in the so-called death zone.
I took things a step further. Here is what I’ve been reading, with an emphasis on K2, the second-highest, and far more deadly peak in Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains:
Starting with Last of His Kind, which introduced me to the “Harvard Five” — the five members of the Harvard Mountaineering Club that went on to define American climbing in the 1930s — I moved onto:
Five Miles High: by Harvard Five members Dr. Charles Houston and Robert Bates about the first American expedition to K2 in 1938. The mountain was unclimbed then, and had only been attempted once before by the Duke of Abruzzi, Luigi Amedeo, in 1909. This is a wonderfully written classic of expedition literature, undertaken at a time when climbing parties had to walk all the way to the base of the peak from Kashmir, accompanied by hundreds of porters carrying loads along treacherous mountain paths and over precarious rope bridges laid over the roaring Indus River. This is a great first book as it about an era in mountaineering before high performance technical equipment — when men climbed wearing wool pants and leather hobnailed boots.
K2: Life and Death of the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain: by Ed Viesturs (first American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000 meter peaks) and David Roberts, author of the Bradford Washburn biography, Last of His Kind. Viesturs is an icon in mountaineering, and his expert perspective is a sharp contrast to the somewhat sanitized picture of hale-good-fellow rosiness painted in Five Miles High. This book starts off with the 2008 disaster on K2 which wiped out 11 climbers on August 1. Viesturs wraps up the history of failed and successful attempts to summit K2, making this a great omnibus to what seems to be the scariest peak of them all.
One Mountain Thousand Summits: The Untold Story Tragedy and True Heroism on K2: by Freddie Wilkinson. Another story focused on the 2008 disaster on K2, when a serac, or block of ice near the summit wiped out a lot of climbers in a single instant. This has much more perspective from the point of view of the Sherpas, who are usually overlooked in western accounts of climbing in the Karakorams and Himalayas.
Eiger Dreams, by Jon Krakauer. Probably the best known mountaineering author because of his best selling Into Thin Air and other non-fiction works, Krakauer is a serious climber as well. This is a collection of his articles and essays on the world of climbing. My favorite was his solo ascent of Alaska’s Devil’s Thumb, one of the best things I’ve ever read in the entire genre of adventure writing.
No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks: Ed Viesturs. Again, Viesturs is the man when it comes to contemporary American climbers. A veterinarian who studied at the University of Washington, he became a guide on Washington’s Mount Ranier and went on to become the preeminent American climber, one of a handful of people who have climbed all 14 of the world’s mountains over 8,000 meters. The story is a little rambling — as if it was dictated into a tape recorder — but nevertheless its awesome in its first person perspective for the armchair alpinist like me.
K2: The Savage Mountain: by Houston and Bates, author of the 1938 account, Five Miles High, this is about their return to the mountain in 1953 to re-try for the first ascent. The drama in this expedition can’t be understated. Their companion, Art Gilkey, is stricken with thrombosis at high altitude. Where the modern mountaineering ethic seems to be “tough luck” when it comes to helping dying climbers off the hill, the 1953 expedition tried to descend with Gilkey. A slip sends five roped-together climbers, including the incapacitated Gilkey, sliding helplessly down the slope and over a cliff. Only the heroic belay of one man, Peter Schoening, who arrested the slide and bore the weight of five dangling men single-handedly, saved the day, entering him into the annals of mountaineering mythology with what is known today simply as “The Belay.” While seeking a route down, the team staked down Gilkey in his sleeping bag and parked him while they explored for a safe path down to basecamp. When they returned he was gone, and some assume Gilkey cut himself free to fall to his death, knowing he was endangering the lives of the others.
Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8,000-Meter Peak, by Maurice Herzog. A classic in the genre about the French expedition to the top of Annapurna in 1950. This is a nasty mountain. Viesturs climbed it last in his quest for all 14 8,000 meter peaks, and other expeditions had a very rough time climbing its steep flanks (Everest is actually regarded as an easier peak than most because it doesn’t demand the technical climbing skills of Annapurna, or deliver the vicious weather of K2).
Touching the Void,by Joe Simpson. This has been made into a great movie, perhaps one of the best mountaineering flicks (I’ll get into movies and shows in another post), about the amazing fight for survival in the Andes. Quick synopsis. Simpson and buddy Simon Yates set out to a climb Peru’s Siula Grande in 1985. Simpson slips, slides over the edge of a cliff, dangles in the air while Yates, not knowing what is going on with his friend, tries to hang onto him while sitting in a snow bank above. Realizing he can’t hold onto his friend and knowing he will slip and join him in a deadly fall, Yates pulls out a knife, cuts the rope and lets Simpson fall.
Simpson plummets down the face of the mountain and into a deep crevasse in the bergschrund (technical term for the gap between the glacier and the mountain face). Yates gives his friend up for dead, returns to the base camp, and makes preparations to leave. Simpson survives and crawls — with broken leg — out of the crevasse and down the glacier to the basecamp just as Yates is about to depart.
The Boys of Everest: by Clint Willis. An entertaining profile of British legend Sir Christopher Bonington and his merry band of working class hero climbers who marked the entrance of the counterculture into the world of climbing in the 1960s and 70s, replacing the old Oxbridge aristocracy that dominated expedition assault styles of climbing in the 1950s (which led to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay making the first summit of Mount Everest) with the stripped down, light and fast Alpine style of climbing pioneered in the Alps. This is a raw, lyrical book, with a lot of profound philosophizing about the mountaineering death wish.
So that’s it, I’m about mountained out. The big takeaway from all this reading. First, mountain climbing is probably the hardest, most dangerous thing a person can do short of going to war. Second, you climb a mountain expecting to die. The odds on hills like K2 are pretty much 50/50 you’re not coming back, or if you do, without some fingers or toes. I’ve always been a fan of nautical adventure, and have dabbled in polar stuff, but none of it comes close to mountain writing for great armchair excitement on a cold winter’s night.
Also, the used book function on Amazon is pretty amazing. I was paying an average of $2 per title for some of these books. Please add suggestions to the comments for other books worth chasing down.
As Libya descended into chaos last night, and I read my way through the BBC, Reuters and the twitter stream for news, I had to marvel at the tidy sequence of cause and effect that has brought a wide swath of the Arab world under revolt in recent weeks.
It’s human nature to look for the trigger and resulting sequence of events that spark wars or revolutions. The Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princep’s assassination of the Hapsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and the sequence of events that followed that initiated the first World War (the assassination is recounted by Rebecca West in the Black Lamb and Grey Falcon; the tragedy of diplomacy that led to war by Barbara Tuchman in the Guns of August) is a classic example of a violent trigger unleashing pent up furies. Did the American Revolution begin on the steps of the old statehouse when the British fired on a threatening mob in what is known as the Boston Massacre? Any student of history knows that great conflicts start for many complex reasons — Pearl Harbor didn’t initiate the war between Japan and the United States, the seeds of that conflict were planted in the 19th century and had been sprouting for a decade prior to the morning of December 7th.
But when the history of the winter of 2011 is written, two people are likely to live on in legend as the point in time that started the chain of dominoes falling across North Africa into the Middle East. Mohamed Bouazizi and Faida Hamdy had no foreknowledge on December 17, 2010 when she slapped, and then confiscated the unlicensed Tunisian fruit seller’s scale and sent him spiraling in embarrassment anger and despair to the point that he self-immolated with a can of gasoline.
““She humiliated him,” said his sister, Samia Bouazizi. “Everyone was watching.””
Two months later and two governments have fallen, two others are teetering, and many more are simmering and watching for the right moment to rise up. All because of a slap to the face of a 26 year-old fruit vendor. It just amazes me.
But not what I was looking for. I had gone in hoping to pull an average 500 meter split of 1:38, but completely collapsed in the last 500, allowing three other guys in my heat to pass me in the last 250 meters after holding third place for most of the race. What happened? Negative mindset from the start, a serious desire to put down the handle at 750 meters, then a searing burning pain in my lungs unlike any I’ve felt before. Not my day.
Thank heavens my friend Marta (she of the Charge of the Light Brigade quote in the previous erg post’s comments). She sat behind me and coxed me out of an abject failure and some modicum of victory in that I beat my previous season’s best (6:42) from the Cape Cod Cranberry Crunch and kept my average split just under 1:40. As I told her before the race, keeping the split out of the forties was the main thing. Without her perfect coxing and exhorting I couldn’t have done that.
Michele Marullo from Rome took the race with a record breaking 6:10. Amazing, simply amazing to watch him pull that off.
Well, now I have a mark to beat next year. Onwards to Crossfit Cape Cod and some serious strength training before water rowing resumes in a month.
In 48 hours, at 9:40 a.m., I’ll be sitting on ergometer #19 on the floor of Boston University’s Agganis Arena, staring at a small square LCD screen flashing the words: “Sit Ready” “Attention” “ROW.” While I dread it, I have to ask: how awesome is it to participate in the world championships of anything? Even if it is the world championships of indoor rowing? Sunday is the 30th anniversary of the event, which started in Harvard’s Newell Boathouse in the grim winter following the cancellation of the 1980 Olympics (thanks to Jimmy Carter’s Cold War displeasure with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan). What was a humorous way to kill the tedium of winter training among a few elite Cambridge rowers has now turned into a major affair involving a couple thousand competitors and 10,000 spectators.
Then I’ll be off and puffing for the next six and a half minutes until I pull the handle about 200 times and manage to spin the flywheel at a rate faster than the other 80 or so heavyweight men in their early 50s sitting on identical machines next to me. The results won’t be pretty. The experience will definitely be ugly, and those six-and-a-half interminable minutes will likely be the worst six-and-a-half minutes I experience in 2011.
Or they may be the best. In the end ergometer racing proves the cliche of the man who hits his head against a wall because it feels so good when he stops.
I’m tapering now with one light, last row today on the deck in the springlike sunshine, a pyramid of ten, twenty, and thirty strokes at my race pace, then a rare day off tomorrow before Sunday’s moment of truth. Hydrating, carbohydrate loading, stretching, fretting over my warm-up and race plan, always anxious about whether to set a pace and goal that is within or hopelessly out of reach. Whatever happens, the event provides the venue and the inspiration to dig a little deeper and try a little harder than I would alone, in the shadows of my garage, racing myself against the clock.
Here’s a virtual replay of the finals in my event last year (I didn’t participate).
I took Rupert up on his two week free drive of his iPad tabloid, The Daily, and won’t be subscribing when the trail expires. If you thought USA Today was the “McPaper,” then The Daily is proof we live in an idiocracy. Other than the novelty of propping it up on the counter as I eat my breakfast, and the occasional order to “turn” the tablet to read or experience something, it’s just loud yellow journalism headlines, snack sized information bitelets, and a sad harbinger of things to come. Thank god there is quality out there, for free.
All this while the GOP tries to strip federal funding out of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sure, there are bigger issues to argue over in the budget, but gutting one of the few strong sources of public news shouldn’t be one of them. I guess I have to thank Rupert Murdoch and his drive to brick his stuff up behind the paywall, it induces me to finally give some money to PBS and NPR to keep the good stuff like the News Hour, coming my way. I’m still pissed that the Cape Cod Times whacked me for the dickheaded privilege to click on 50 stories per month.
Other than a few iPods over the years, it’s been my first true Apple product — at least one I purchased and wasn’t handed to evaluate — and the experience has been nothing short of excellent since I lucked into one late last April at an Apple store in North Carolina. The anticipation leading up to the launch of the iPad made it a foregone event — at least within the walls of Lenovo — but no one anticipated the excellent responsiveness, elegant user interface, and impeccable integration with iTunes and the iTunes app store. The product was far more than an upsized version of the iPhone, and came as a sharp rebuke to the stylus-based tablet computing model pushed by the PC makers and Microsoft.
Nearly a year later I spend as many hours with the iPad as I do with my classic laptop. I’m purchasing and reading an average of three Amazon Kindle books per week on it, do nearly all of my television/movie consumption through the Netflix app, and use a mixture of browser, Google Earth, and other reference tools as I read and research various non-fiction topics. I hate typing on it
In short, I’m a satisfied customer and am glad I winced and bought the $500 device when I did. I think it represents the most significant shift in computing devices in over twenty years, and has shown a way forward for a completely new model of information/entertainment delivery and consumption.
Now with the next version allegedly already in manufacturing, I can also say this iPad is probably my last Apple tablet. My next one will most likely be an Android Honeycomb version, not purchased with a 3G/4G contract from a carrier, but most likely a WiFi enabled device.
I shared a table on the Acela to NYC this week with Forrester’s tablet analyst, Sara Rotman Epps. Like any good analyst she took the time to survey me, the average man on the train, on my purchase intentions. I told her — this time next year I’ll probably spend as much as $350 for an Android tablet and expected it would be much lower in build quality than an Apple — plastic instead of brushed aluminum. The real question is what, other than god forbid breakage or loss, will induce me to move to a new tablet. Camera? I don’t think so. Video calling is the most overhyped technology since speech to text recognition.
Why will I leave Apple?
In order of importance:
Monopoly: I’m alarmed by Apple’s monopolistic moves towards publishers — and book sellers — that essentially forces them to sell content — books, movies, magazine subscriptions, through Apple’s commerce infrastructure. This tollbooth will jack content prices up, with the impact inevitably being handed down to me, the buyer. I am sick and tired of Apple’s proprietary/walled garden approach to their platform from the lack of Flash support to sticking guns into the sides of the third parties that have coalesced around the platform to make it so successful.
Google integration. I am a Google person. From Gmail to Google Docs, Google Voice to Google Earth, Chrome to ….. the Google mobile app on the iPad is weak. I am also an Android phone owner, so I want better sync capabilities between devices. Google’s stuff works ok on the iPad, but not great.
Cost: I want to pay way less than $500 for basically half of a laptop. I hated netbooks although I inflicted one on my daughter, but regard the $250-$350 price point to be just right for the form factor. Sure, my next tablet will be made out of cheesy plastic, but slide it into a nice cover/case and who cares? It’s all about the screen and the processor.
I’ve blogged in the past about maritime Android apps I find useful on my HTC EVO. I can definitely see a future where a marine-version of an Android Honeycomb tablet is fixed to the binnacle of my sloop and offers me a multi-function nav device for GPS enabled chart plotting and a wealth of navigation data from tide tables to an anchor-drag alert. A new app will definitely be on that device.
Vernon Grabel, who founded Cape.com (my ISP) and is a personal baseball/sailing friend, has released a free app into the Android Marketplace called Currents. The premise is drop-dead simple but very convenient as it acknowledges that for most sailors the most important tidal information is not necessarily the time of high and low tide at a specific point, but the velocity and direction of the current caused by the ebb and flood of the tide. A boat’s track from point A to point B is affected by “set” — the lateral movement of the hull due to leeward drift (which is why sailboats have keels or centerboards) and general current direction. which can accelerate speed if coming from astern, slow down if coming head on, or push the boat downwind or upwind. Currents in constricted areas, such as canals, guts, and harbor entrances, can mean the difference between successfully transiting an area or meeting with disaster.
For more than a century, Cape Cod mariners have relied on the familiar yellow covered annual edition of the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Bookto determine the current’s velocity and direction for any given point and time. The process of calculating current based on the time of the tide in the major observation points listed by Eldridge and then off-setting that time for the specific spot being transited (e.g. if one is entering Cotuit Bay, one needs to find the time of the tide in Boston and add one hour and seven seconds for high tide, and subtract 45 minutes for low) … it’s time consuming, a serious pain in the ass under sail, and a distraction as one pops below for the book, brings it up to the cockpit, and starts flipping pages back and forth.
Grabel nails the problem with Currents for not only New England but most of the coastal United States. By using the public data published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), mashing into Google Maps, and overlaying arrows of varying thickness and length and direction, Currents gives a perfect, zoomable, and accurate current and tide reading for the hundreds of coastal stations tracked by NOAA.
So, this may be the year I save $14,00 on yet another copy of Eldridge and rely on my phone for yet another essential piece of navigational information. Currents is listed in the Google Marketplace under “currents” or “yoyana” or you can scan this:
Truck Day is a week away and even though the snow is falling in Cotuit the 2010 Cape Cod Baseball League champions Cotuit Kettleers have posted their 2011 roster-in-progress. To continue the tradition started last year, here’s the line-up with some analysis gleaned from a little Google/BaseballAmerica/college roster analysis.
First, the roster itself and the caveat that this list will have NO bearing whatsoever on the team that actually takes the field on Friday June 6 at Cotuit’s Elizabeth Lowell Park. The College World Series, Team USA, and other post-season enticements will see some of these players opt out of a stint in Cotuit next summer.
The three position players were crowd favorites last summer, with Marrero finishing the season incredibly strong with a hitting streak (.328 avg) that extended into the championship series against Wareham, Falmouth, and finally Yarmouth Dennis. A 2009 17 round draft pick by the Cinncinati Reds, it remains to be seen if Marrero will reappear this coming summer. The same holds true for Faulkner and Yastrzemski — the latter a crowd favorite because of his illustrious grandfather, but who emerged in his own right over the course of the summer to become one of the best outfielders on the team, and a key hit producer with several spectacular long balls, including a championship home run in the final game of the season. Faulkner, who hit .254 over the summer, is a strong outfielder who showed huge improvement over the summer as he settled into the wooden bat experience.
BradyRodgers, the right-hander pitcher — had a strong start in the championships despite an injury, and threw a great 2.54 ERA over the season — a 1.17 in the finals.
Newcomer Position Players:
Torsten Boss: 2B Michigan – cited in BaseballAmerica’s 2009 Michigan state roundup as a name to watch.
Cory Spangenberg: 2B Indian River State – 2010 Baseball America Freshman All-American team (2nd team with fellow freshman Deven Marrero). hit .370 at VMI and was voted Big South Conference Freshman of the Year
Chris O’Dowd: catcher Dartmouth – Ivy League co-rookie of the year, hit .384, third best average in the Ivies. Was a 40th-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Stefan Sabol: catcherOregon – highly touted freshman prospect – you can see the MLB scouting video here. Was thinking of signing with the Braves and is viewed as one to watch. Some doubts about his chances behind the plate, perhaps he’ll end up in the outfield.
Patrick Biondi: OF – Michigan. Teammate of Boss, Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team (among others). Wolverine coach said of Biondi: “…he’s a really, really good center fielder—he’s special.” Hit .313 as a frosh.
Logan Vick: OF/INF Baylor – made Baseball America’s first team in its 2010 College Freshman All-America team, putting him in very select company indeed. Hit .329 and set a record for most walks (among others) in his freshmanyear.
Jacob Morris: OF Arkansas – switchhitter, made Baseball America’s list of top High School prospects in 2008. BBA says “Jacob Morris (Coppell (Texas) HS) is physical specimen with a combination of speed, strength and agility. Also a standout high school football player, Morris took up switch-hitting just over a year ago.” Drafted by the Nationals in 2009 in the 35th round.
Michael Clevinger:RHP Citadel – Southern Conference All-Freshman Team after going 5-3 with an ERA of 5.15 in 92.2 innings pitched.
Michael Cunningham: RHP U Arizona — no one on the roster, but there is a Nick Cunningham, RHP. Will keep looking.
Ryon Healy: RHP 1B Oregon – teammate of Sabol, played in the California Collegiate league last summer and was clocked at 95 mph a few times. BBA touted him as one of the best two-way player sin that league. Hit .360/.432/.522 with a league-best 17 doubles.
Keenan Kish: RHP Florida – BBA wrote about him as a high school senior : “Kish presently throws his fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s and also mixes in a changeup and a curveball. He has an athletic frame with projection remaining and smooth mechanics that help him to throw a lot of strikes. But he’s also a good third baseman that hits from the left side and plays the game hard.”
Randy LaBlanc: RHP Tulane – Aaron Fitt at BBA scouted him and wrote: “Tulane might have found itself a true ace in 6-foot-5 righthander Randy LeBlanc (92), an unsigned 16th-round pick who turned down second-round money from the Marlins, according to Tulane’s coaches. “I love him—I think he has a chance to be a Friday night starter pretty quickly,” one scout said. “He’s tall, projectable, and has a really quick arm. The kid’s got a chance to pitch at 92-95, 96 mph in the next couple of years—a chance to sit there. He has a good breaking ball and a pretty good changeup, and he competes his butt off.”
Dillon Overton: LHP Oklahoma – one of two southpaw hurlers for the Kettleers this coming summer. Pitched his high school to a state championship. According to his profile on the Sooner website: “Threw 97 innings and recorded a 15-2 record with 164 strikeouts and less than 20 walks as a senior, when his team became State Champions”
Kevin Ziomek: LHP Vanderbilt – From Amherst Mass, the Bay Stater was drafted last summer by the Diamondbacks in the 13th round.
In closing ….
Coach Mike Roberts and the Cotuit Athletic Association have put together a fine squad, drawing as usual from Arizona, Arkansas and Vanderbilt where they have found some great talent in recent years. I’ll keep an eye on the Kettleer website for any roster changes as the spring goes by, but with five months to first pitch, al lot can happen between now and then.