August 28, 2007

Sony Reader

Filed under: Technology — mmrobins @ 1:23 pm

I faced a major dilemma in packing for Peru: what books to bring? Books are heavy and bulky, but I can’t imagine not having something to read during downtime, which there’s plenty of while traveling (airports, bus stops, train stations, etc). While I can easily entertain myself with one or two books for a week, six months is too long for just a couple of books. So I got a Sony Reader. So far I love it.

The screen is as easy on the eyes as paper and the battery lasts a long time. The text can be resized to three different sizes which makes it even easier on the eyes. It can even do a decent job of displaying PDF’s that are formatted to be printed at 8.5×11, although it’s often necessary to rotate the device to a horizontal display so that half a page is displayed at a time (hold the size button down until it rotates).

The device costs $300 which is a bit much for some books, but when I think about how much I spend on gear to make it lighter and smaller I feel justified. I wanted to wait a bit longer for it to come down in price and include a few more features, but moving abroad determined the timing of the purchase. The features that I really want included that aren’t:

  1. Searchable text
  2. A touchscreen that allowed hyperlinks to be followed so that you could put wikipedia on it.
  3. A dictionary so that you could click on words and bring up the definition.

So basically everything I want would require and input method like a stylus or an onscreen keyboard or something. The Iliad is another reader that costs $700 and you can write on it, but it doesn’t look like it makes the text searchable either, and I don’t think it can do hyperlinks.

I’ve got dozens of books ready for the trip now. The best places I’ve found for getting free books are Project Gutenberg for stuff out of copyright and Wowio which has free books that are ad sponsored. There is a store that Sony has where you can buy books, but when you’re DRMing the purchase and still charing almost as much as you would for a paper copy, it’s not very worthwhile. I’m willing to pay for electronic versions of things, but not when they’re less useful than the physical media versions and when the cost doesn’t reflect even part of the savings in distribution.

Overall I’m already happy with the purchase. I’m looking forward to reading a lot of good books while traveling.

August 25, 2007

Climbing Rainier – Part Way

Filed under: General — mmrobins @ 12:53 pm

My little brother Nathan and I tried to summit Mount Rainier. Unfortunately I got sick the morning of the ascent, so we didn’t end up doing it. It was still a lot of of fun and I learned some of the basics of mountaineering and got to spend some good time with my bro. I was fortunate not to have to rent any gear since Brian let me borrow a bunch of his (thanks Brian!) since I had already packed up all my winter gear and stored it at my parents’.

We started out Wednesday night from Seattle and drove to the park. We went to the Paradise Visitors Center and picked up permits and Nathan’s girlfriend Katie planned a route for herself to do while Nathan and I went up the mountain. The route had changed slightly since Nathan climbed it in July with Katie. The new route added about an hour to the ascent time which I wasn’t too pleased about since I wanted as easy an ascent as possible. Katie started hiking that night and Nathan and I camped out. We spent some time going over how to setup rescues if the other person fell into a crevasse.

Thursday morning we hiked up to Camp Muir which is a little above 10,000ft. Nathan hikes fast! It took him a little over 3 hours and me a little under 5 hours. It’s definitely the hardest 4 mile hike I’ve done. I’m not used to massive elevation gains over such a short period. Most of the hike is through snow fields. It was a warm sunny day. I got up to Muir around noon and Nathan had already set up the tent. After a little rest we practiced setting up anchors with the ice axe and picked and some self arrest techniques. Other than that it was mostly resting and acclimatizing to the altitude which I wasn’t noticeably having a problem with. We also drank lots of water from melting snow, which is what I’m guessing made me feel sick the next day since we just warmed it and didn’t boil it. Nathan probably has a lot more immunities to stuff in bad water than I do. I went to sleep around 6PM since we were waking up at 2:30AM to start the climb to the summit.

I slept pretty much straight through to 2:30 except for being awakened by the noise of the guided groups leaving earlier. I woke up to go and realized something wasn’t quite right with my stomach. Nathan and I got roped and geared up after going to the bathroom (which an amazing thing to have at 10,000ft in a little camp) and started up the mountain with Nathan leading. For the most part the trail was like a hiking trail through snow so it was pretty easy. We had been going for about 15 minutes and my stomach wasn’t improving. We reached some scree before heading out onto the Ingram Glacier and I was sweating profusely and chilled. The sweat was just pouring down my face and it wasn’t from exertion or altitude since we hadn’t even ascended 1000ft yet. At that point I knew we’d have to turn back. We hiked up a little farther just to see the glacier, even though there wasn’t much to see in the dark. The sky was clear as could be and you could see the line of the milky way and all the stars very clearly in the sky.

We got back down to camp pretty quickly, arriving around 4:30, and I went straight back to sleep until about 9:30 when the sun made it a bit too hot to sleep. I must have slept 12 hours at Camp Muir which wasn’t surprising considering I was tired and sick, but I was surprised that Nathan slept about the same amount even though he’s in much better shape and wasn’t feeling sick. We woke up and enjoyed the view a little while before booking it back to Paradise. Fortunately Katie finished her hike a little earlier than planned so we didn’t have to wait another night before heading out.

It’s the day after getting back now and I’m sore, but not nearly so sore as I would have been had I made it to the summit. I think summiting Rainier is definitely something that most people in decent shape could do with a little bit of training. It’s something I hope to try again in the near future. After seeing some of the people in the guided groups who made it to the top I’m sure I’ll be able to as long as I don’t get sick and the weather cooperates. Now I have to continue packing all my belongings up in preparation for Peru!

Jesse and Deborah’s Wedding

August 20th, 2007
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August 9, 2007

Basic Peru Itinerary

Filed under: General — mmrobins @ 9:22 pm

A lot of people have been asking about where we’ll be when. My last day at work is the 22nd of August. We’ll probably be climbing Mt Rainier with my little bro that week, and then tying up lose ends in Seattle and leaving the 28th for Eastern Washington to see my family. September 5th we’ll be flying to Connecticut to see some of Kim’s friends and family. On the 12th we’ll be flying to Florida to see Kim’s grandma and parents, and later my aunt in uncle. Finally on the 25th we’ll fly from Miami to Lima, Peru.

We’ll be volunteering in Huanchaco for a volunteer agency called Otra Cosa. To start I’ll be teaching English at the volunteer language school
and Kim will be helping out in the vegetarian restaurant. A month later we’ll both be teaching English to guides in Leymebamba.

After that we’ll probably be doing some hiking in the Andes near Huaraz and of course hike to Machu Picchu.

After that we’re going to just see how we feel. We’re tentatively planning a trip through the Amazon by boat to go to Brazil and a visit to Ecuador to visit Madre Tierra was recommended to us and sounds like a nice treat after a lot of roughing travel. Everything for months after that we’ll figure out as we go. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up in Antarctica, but I doubt that’s in our budget this trip.

In April we’ll see how our money is holding out and either change our return flight to stay longer or come back to the US. Coming back we don’t really have definite plans on where we’ll be living or working.

August 2, 2007

Chimp-n-Sea Wildlife Conservation

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 2:06 pm

Some friends of ours, Michael Stern and Rebecca Goldstone, recently returned to Seattle after living a year in Africa setting up a non-profit foundation called Kibale Rainforest. They gave a talk about their experiences and it sounds like they’re doing a great thing. It’s certainly inspiring to see a couple so young and so motivated making a difference and doing something so altruistic. It makes me feel that my upcoming trip to South America to volunteer is actually selfish since I’m doing it in large part because I want a big vacation, but on a positive note it makes me realize how possible it is for small groups of people to make a difference, and that young people can be those people. Kim and I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them since they’ve been so busy, but they’ll be staying with us the next few nights so we’ll get to hear some of the details.