Climbing Everest

Every year in May I watch the Everest news for all the drama. As the place has turned into a bit of a circus with people thinking they can go from the couch to Everest in a few months, there are always some great stories coming out of each climbing season.

Last night I was happy to see that the first Everest summits from the south were made and it now looks like 44 people summited today, including the oldest ever. Chris Pauner who was missing on the north side a couple days ago has turned up just fine in base camp. Still no updates on the climber with a broken leg that was hoping for a rescue today. I’m also expecting to see Scott Woolums posting video from the summit that he stood on earlier today.

ArcadeCon!

California Extreme, the annual bay area arcade and pinball show has been scheduled this year for July 26 & 27, a tad earlier than normal. Ever since I built a MAME cabinet , I’m not so gung-ho to just play the games, but playing them with their original interfaces is what keeps drawing me back.

Last year’s event added a bunch of speaking panels that included the original programmers from Atari, and they told amazing tales of producing Pong back in the early 70’s. I can’t wait for this year’s event.

Blogmockumentary

Chuck just put up a trailer for his Blogumentary movie.

It’s a great little piece, but I’m not convinced a movie about blogs would have any mass market appeal. A snippet of my interview is in there, and I should say I was going through a lot of garbage at the time we filmed it, so if I sound exhausted and dark, that’s why.

24 hours with the iPod

After a 1400 mile trip with the iPod setup in the Jetta, I had mostly positive reactions.

I heard a lot of bad reviews of various FM transmitter products for the iPod, and decided to go with the Belkin Tunecast after hearing a couple positive reviews. It transmits your iPod audio on one of four FM stations, 88.1, 88.3, 88.5, and 88.7. That was enough of a range where only in Berkeley, CA did I find trouble getting one of those bands entirely clear (there are a lot of university, non-profit, and religious radio stations at that end of the dial). It wasn’t too difficult to jump to 88.7 if I was using 88.1 and got taken over by Jesus talk, though I’d usually wait for a straight, open piece of road to fumble with the buttons. I also picked up an auto charger from belkin that worked flawlessly.

While the FM spectrum does cut off some of the high and low end sound, the bigger obvious problem was the occasional interference and hiss sound if the radio volume was up high while the iPod was lower. I would definitely prefer to connect the headphone port directly into an auxillary input on my car’s stereo, if there was one. The other big problem was holding the iPod in place, where I could still see it while I was driving. I heard this Radio Shack cell phone holder worked well, but the stock Jetta cup holders did a fairly good job. The biggest problem seemed to be the smooth chrome case, which slipped around in the cupholders as road vibrations shook it slightly.

I’m actually surprised at that last point. Apple is selling lots of iPods, and as people integrate them into their lives, they’ll need lots of products that I can’t seem to find. I know there are tons of cases and holders for iPods, but in search after search at Google, I can’t find a decent neoprene pack to run with my iPod, I can’t find an easy way to integrate it with my home stereo (beyond a mini-headphone-to-rca cable), and I can’t find a kit to add an aux-in to my Jetta’s stock stereo system (and a nice in-car holder). I know there’s a cottage industry of iPod-related products, but I can’t seem to find any good ones.

update: a couple people emailed to mention the VWvortex forums, and this post in particular. It mentions some great mounts and CD Changer inputs.

iPod, uPod, we allPod

Last night I finally broke down and bought my first iPod. The reasons were necessity, as I’ve got a string of 10+ hour roadtrips ahead of me and need some serious music storage in the car.

In the 12 hours that I’ve owned and used it, I’ve come to appreciate all the features people have written about in the past. I didn’t know I owned that much music and figured the 10gig model was plenty (it’s over 3 days of music, afterall), but I find myself scavenging any song I can to put on the device. When I hear a new song I want it on the iPod immediately, and in a matter of hours I only had a couple gigs left on it. The interface is amazing, and actually scales pretty well when you have 1700 songs on it. It’s not too difficult to find a single album or set the entire collection on random (how I normally listen to music). The iTunes integration is incredible. You pull the iPod out of the package, plug it into your firewire port and it does everything automatically after that, finding the iPod and loading all your music into it.

I hope Apple has a healthy markup on this device because while I was in the Palo Alto store buying one, three people ahead of me were doing the same thing (and we all had to wait for them to pull more iPods “from the back” since the shelves were bare). While I waited in line for five minutes, I saw about $2,000 change hands as people picked up their new devices to jog with, to give away as graduation presents, and to upgrade from older models.

iTunes Napster

It’s kind of nuts that Apple left the ability to share your music not just with other intranet users, but with the world. Share iTunes and Spymac already have set up lists of people with open iTunes running.

While you can’t trade music via this method (not just yet), you can broadcast to anyone and listen to anyone else’s streams via this feature. Apple just turned every iTunes 4 user into an internet radio station. If the RIAA or ASCAP or BMI ever catch wind of this, will they start asking every mac owner to cough up the 7/100ths of a cent for each user and each song played, according to their fee structure? Or is apple trying to nudge the net radio activist movement?

update: holy crap

It’s SARSlicious!

A tasty looking beverage: SARSahol

BWG lives in Hong Kong and has lots of first-hand stories of living in SARS central.

Although BWG isn’t listed on GeoURL (I happened to remember he lived there and wanted to see how he was coping with it), a great use for it is tracking weblogs around a certain place. If you check out all the blogs near Hong Kong, you can see a variety of people’s thoughts on a current event. I’m sure this will be bigger in the future, but whenever anything big happens and it is localized, for the past couple years my first thoughts have been “I wonder if there are any bloggers near that place that posted about it?”

Hopefully as services like GeoURL grow (there are currently zero blogs near Singapore, which was surprising), it can become a valuable resource for finding first-person accounts of major events.

X games anachronism

In my younger days, I used to participate in a smattering of “extreme” sports, to the point that I was competitive in one event. As I watched the resurgence of these sports (mostly due to the X Games) there was always one aspect that rang false. Extreme sports largely sprung out of a “rebel” ethos, where the kid that hates team sports finds solitude doing something by him/herself, so the idea of organizing sporting events around them was always a little bit silly. Specifically though, I noticed very early on that ESPN would play up the country of origin of performers, in an attempt to mimic the Olympics. Instead of atheletes being treated as individuals, viewers were given easy ways to categorize everyone based on origin.

If you’ve ever been in a bike or skate contest, you’d know how laughable it was to make strong distinctions about where people were from. Perhaps it’s because I was raised in the post-hippy 70’s era, but it doesn’t matter where you are from, it only matters what you do on your bike or skateboard. Back when I rode, I had friends in europe, some were from down the street, some came from rich parents, while others lived in the projects and none of that mattered. I used to love competing in bike contests because it meant seeing my friends from out of town, and sometimes that out-of-town was New York, and sometimes it was London. Incidentally, it’s a lot like web conferences feel to me these days, where the best part of an event is catching up with old friends you don’t see too often.

I’ve always ignored ESPN’s insistence on maintaining medal counts by country and associating flags with participants during medal times, assuming they had some old-school sports people in the production booth that thought today’s audience still cared about those kinds of things. But now they’ve gone all the way with the concept in their Global X Games. The entire event is organized around an Us vs. Them mindset, where Rune Glifberg isn’t a great vert skater with tons of style, he’s your opponent from the Europe team and I’m supposed to cheer against him. I’m supposed to hope that Dave Mirra beats Jaime Bestwick in bike vert because I want to chant USA! USA! USA!

What a load of complete crap. I don’t think of Bob Burnquist as a great Brazillian skater, or Tony Hawk as an American skateboard legend, they’re simply great skaters and athletes. I won’t even get into the fact that they both currently reside (and have spent many years living) in Southern California, as do most “international” extreme sports athletes.

I can see how the average Olympics viewer might not be able to know when they see great shot puts or hurdle races, and how it might be handy to think “oh, there’s an American in this one, go american guy!”, but I don’t see the need for such classification when extreme sports produce athletes and events that are so different. I think anyone can look at a guy pulling a backflip on a 250 lb. motorcycle across a 90 foot gap and say wow, regardless of whether he comes from your country or not, just as someone pulling a 900 on a bike or skateboard would elicit the same response.

The obvious upside of the extreme sports movement is that it has brought in lots of fans and money for the participants. The athletes are the antithesis of your traditional “team player” and they now have a place to excel and succeed. The new generation has a new avenue to professionally grow their talents.

But along the way, instead of bucking past traditions, ESPN is trying their hardest to mimic the most short-sighted traditions of all, to bring teams and national organization to something that existed in opposition to all that. I’ll watch it this year, but this event smacks of the new generation’s sports wedged into the outdated model of the past generation’s ideals.

More movie finds

Sundance is currently playing Revolution OS, the independent film about the rise of linux. The usual cast of characters show up in all their nerdy glory and Stallman takes his usual digs at the open source movement (“it’s not really free!”). I was disappointed that he didn’t sing the free software song in his robes, but at least the song did show up in the credits. It was funny to see the movie almost go out on a high note, by covering IPOs at the peak of the bubble (including interviews with Rob Malda, who gets a spot in the IMDB because of it, dammit), but they saved it at the end, by including stock prices from summer of 2001. Interesting all around and a great snapshot of a time and of a movement.