Sunday, May 29, 2005

I get crap from people because I don't own the latest gadgets. Seriously, I have nothing against them, I'm just what they call a "Late-Adopter". In fact, I'm probably the last adopter. I have a friend who I hiked a lot with when he lived in the area. Years ago we'd head out on overnights and I'd be geared up with some old 70's aluminum frame pack and wearing long johns as my heat retaining "technical clothing". I have some old hiking photos that show me wearing some of this garb - man did I look thrown together. Anyways, my friend got a real kick out of this. He thought I was brave and old-school for eschewing the modern offerings from The North Face and other name manufacturers. It wasn't that I had some philosophical stance about all this - its just that I didn't have the money for the good stuff.

Nevertheless, I don't own a cell phone and I don't have DSL and all the other goodies like Tivo and such. I was probably the last guy in college to hook up a CD player. You should have seen the shoeboxes of dubbed mix tapes stacked up against my desk. My "stereo" consisted of some solid-state vacuum tubed thing that I picked up at some yard sale for $1. Never mind "Arena"; "Stadium" or other Dolby Surround presets - I was happy just to get mono sound. This thing used to get real hot and the VU meters would bounce around out of control when I'd blast the Slayer. Well, I couldn't blast it too much because the distortion would peak pretty early on my vintage (re fabric) speakers. In high school I'd drive around in an old beat up '79 Toyota Corolla. My friend hated the stereo speakers I had installed in that thing. Terrible stereo, shrill speakers, your ears would be blasted with the most deafening treble tones known to exist. Man, that and lawn mowing took a huge toll on my ears.

The Instapundit describes a phenomena called version fatigue where people slow down on adopting new technologies because they're not interested in having to learn the new user interface of these things. (Now what does this button do again)? I suppose this explains some of it. Only when it is pretty clear to me that a gadget offers undeniable utility to my life will I begin to consider it. Until that time all I'm thinking about is the cost of the thing and how much time I'll need to spend incorporating the thing into my life - and consequently what aspects of my life I need to adjust to incorporate the new thing. Perhaps its my conservative nature that prevents me from readily embracing this stuff, who knows. Philosophically I'm all for new technology and view the changes that such technologies inevitably influence more or less positively. I'm no Luddite (though I have been accused of being one). It's just that I'm extremely hesitant to buy new technologies unless its absolutely necessary and I know that I will use them. I have no use for a cell phone because I use our home landline maybe 3 times a month - tops! I don't need Tivo because I'm spending enough time watching Netflix. I don't need DSL because I'm not downloading iTunes to an iPod that I don't own.

Who knows what will happen in the future? Needless to say, decades from now our friends will be cruising around in their own hovercraft while I'm driving to the store in my same grocery-getter Honda running on its third engine....

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea
Team Rants recently visited the ocean and mountain treasure that is Acadia National Park. However, unusual for us was that rather than camp out as we had done in past visits, this time we had lodging in an upscale Bar Harbor B&B. The weather forecasts were not the great (this spring weather has sucked if I don't mind saying), so seeing that conditions were okay upon our arrival to the Park we immediately set out on a hike.

Most visits, I end up hiking the same trails (because I like them), but this time we made sure to hit new areas of the park we had not seen before. We decided to hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain (Acadia's highest peak) by way of Dorr Mtn and the daunting cliffside Dorr Mtn. Trail.

The landscape of Acadia is pretty unique. Wildfires have burnt this area many times in the past and there is little topsoil covering the granite peaks. Most trails though are very well sculpted, with rock steps and pathways put in place for easiest hiking.

A new experience for us was staying at a B&B. The place was spotless and our room had its own deck. The first thing we noticed was the lack of TV. We had brought a radio with us to listen to Sox games, but we ended up using it every time we were back in the room (which was a lot due to the damned rain!). Trapped in a B&B while a nor'easter rages outside stuck listening to talk radio and Art Bell going on about aliens, UFOs, and the shut down of the Gulf Stream are not usually the attractions one thinks about when dreaming of weekend getaways.

One word about B&Bs: they are a little different. Our place had rigidly scheduled coffee time (7:30AM); breakfast time (8:30AM) and cookies/afternoon tea time (4:00). The cookies were great, mind you. The owner Tom is a great chef and cooks fantastic food. Chocolate snickerdoodles and white chocolate macadamia cookies were there most days. It was odd being encouraged by all these scheduled social hours to actually be encouraged to socialize with the other couples sitting in the living room. Everyone was uncomfortable. It's like coming back home for Christmas after being away for a long time and the rooms have been redecorated. You're supposed to "make yourself at home" but in fact you approach everything extremely self-consciously - walking on tiptoes going up stairs, speaking in whispers and hushed voices as you're milling about. Making sure to keep control of your arms as you walk so as not to swing them wildly out of control and smack the priceless antiques off their stands. Also, everyone seemed to be about 15 years older than us. Also, it was clear that to go out and drink a ton of beers would be a bad idea - somebody was going to be in the living room ready to witness your lack of sobriety upon your return. So there we were, prisoners in a tiny room, playing (bored) games and listening to lunatics on the radio.

We were able to get some sun in one early morning. Mrs. Rants went for a run and I walked around the harbor doing my best to do what tourists do when they visit bar harbor - act touristy. I wonder if this local didn't mind that I captured his image on film. I found him to be iconic of the downeast lifestyle of coastal Maine. I am sure he found me to be an economically necessary nuisance.

Bar Harbor is an interesting yet predictable place. The usual t-shirt stores and upscale eateries spaced out every 20 feet. One place did strike for a niche market by offering clothes and products made from hemp. Another place seemed to specialize in offering knickknacks only the blind could appreciate. I swear we probably windowshopped each place a thousand times - walking with the understanding that every 20 steps or so killed another 10 seconds of time.

However, given the opportunity we got in as much of the park as we could. One great feature about Acadia is the existence of miles of dirt carriage roads that are meant for horseback riders, bicyclists and foot travel - no cars are allowed. These roads traverse the most interesting sections of the park and showcase superb stonework on the bridges and along the roads. Here's a nice view of a row of white birches lining one of the roads and from that same location you get a great view of Jordan Pond and a mountain called "Bubble Rock".

All in all we had a great time even though 50% of our days there were rained out. But it's always there for us to visit another time.

Friday, May 13, 2005

CGI Must be Banned
There are some commercials I can't stand, and those that I really dislike are ones that use CGI to alter faces of animals, babies, etc. I really loathe the Quiznos pitch-baby and they way his face is altered to have him speak like he's from Brooklyn. But what really drives me up the wall is when I see a pet food commercial and the faces of the cats/dogs have been digitally manipulated to make them talk. I can't stand digitized pet faces!

U.S.S Shredder
The local paper has been running stories non-stop about the impending BRACC decision, and whether or not the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will be on the committee's base closure recommendation list.

I don't know if anybody read too closely this story, but I was floored when I read the key details. The shipyard employs a guy full-time to simply shred paper, and pays him $696.50 a week to do it! Unbelievable. No wonder the base is up for closure consideration. Misuse of funds possibly????

Saturday, May 07, 2005

New and Improved Blog Post

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Back on Top Again

Team Sellers was happy to lace up the hiking boots again after spending a winter in cold storage (both Team Sellers and the boots). We had talked with someone the day before who had climbed Mt. Whiteface and they had encountered deep snow at around 3000' elevation. With this information we decided to stay under the snowline and wisely chose to hike Red Hill - located near Sandwich, NH.

The day's weather was perfect - highs in the 70s, and clear blue sky all around. Red Hill is so named because of the predominance of red pines on its flanks and summit. One of the popular approach trails to the top ascends Eagle Cliff - a fantastic perch overlooking beautiful Squam Lake. Beyond Eagle Cliff, the trail meandered past snow patches and vernal pools of meltwater - alive with the sounds of awakening animals.

At the top, a manned fire tower occupies Red Hill's summit. An incredible 360 degree view provides an awarding range of sights - an up close panorama of the entire Sandwich Range - including dominant summits Mts. Whiteface, Passaconaway, Chocorua, the Tripyramids, the Sleepers, and the looming mass of Sandwich Dome. To the south, one could spend significant time tracing the shoreline of both Squam Lake and the many inlets of Lake Winnipesaukee. Sometimes, broad ranging views from smaller peaks are impossible - their sightlines are blocked by the presence of larger neighbors. However, this is not the case with Red Hill. Its commanding location at the shores of NH's largest lakes serves up big sky and limitless horizons.

We retraced our steps as we hiked down back to the trailhead and parked car. It was a nice warm-up hike to what we expect to be another exceptional season of adventures in NH's White Mountains.

The Scottish Bathroom
I think I've been inside a McDonald's more times to use their facilities than to actually order food.

Francona-stein Monster
My wife is obsessed with Red Sox baseball. Even though they have been losing, she can't watch enough of their games.