Gear List – PCT 2014

Hi Folks! It has been awhile. I hope you are well. Aww thanks, me too! How is the family? The kids? Great, great, good to hear.

Holtwood Dam 3/22
Holtwood Dam 3/22

I have been super duper ultra busy the past few months getting ready for this hike – working on the plans, buying the last minute gear, figuring out my resupply strategy and buying food, packing boxes, testing gear and replacing a few items, and doing my real job, and working with my favorite volunteer group Lancaster Young Professionals. I have been the acting event chair for a gubernatorial debate to be held this October and had many tasks to finish up as well as finding and briefing/training my replacement. Work at RAI has exploded with opportunities, which is good, but the timing is problematic. My dad and I have gamed out as many scenarios as we can, done lots of contract work, and created plans for many different possible futures. Yesterday and today we have been doing all the last minute stuff before he gets on a jet to the MidEast. Normally, i would be going with him, but we both decided it made sense for me to continue on with my plan and let him run with the ball solo for a bit. Potentially missing some of the early stages of the pending business development just means i lose the right to complain about how things are set-up when i get back 🙂 I have also had to wear my tech hat quite a bit getting my dad up to speed on a new computer, introducing an iPad into our workflow, and preparing my mom to be as tech savvy as possible during the research portion of her sabbatical. That’s my paragraph long update and excuse – now to business!

Humbled receiving LYP's Humanitarian Award
Humbled receiving LYP’s Humanitarian Award 3/20 – Photo Credit: Melissa Engle Photography

If you research lightweight hiking, or ultra lightweight hiking, you will find loads of information and many, many gear lists. I get frustrated reading some gear lists. How one approaches hiking and gear selection can be deeply personal and i am not trying to change anyone’s mind about their process. But it does irk me to see so very many gear lists trumpeting Base Pack Weights (all gear and supplies except food and water) at or under 12 pounds that are about 15-20 items long. Any hiker can read those and know, there is tons of small stuff left off of those lists. Small stuff adds up. If you are taking the time to weigh your stuff and make and publish lists, just be real about it. That is my feeling. With that said, here is my actual, no expletive around, gear list.

Base Pack Weight without Bear Canister = 16.17 pounds
Base pack Weight with Bear Canister = 18.73 pounds

The Big Three Description Weight Oz.
Pack Gossamer Gear Mariposa 28.00
Sleeping Bag Z Packs 20 Wide XL with sack 22.70
Sleeping Pad Neo Air X Lite 12.70
Liner Homemade Silk 6.40
Tent, stakes, Stuff sack Tarptent Contrail 29.30
Totals – Ounces   99.10
Totals – Pounds   6.19
Kitchen Description Weight Oz.
Stove Pocket Rocket w/case 3.95
Lighter Bic Mini 0.40
Fuel Can Large Full MSR 227 g canister – 13.2 oz 13.20
Pot SP TI 600 w/lid 3.50
Spoon Yogi Orange 0.20
Cup Sea to Summit X Mug 2.20
Drying Cloth Cut Micro Towel 0.20
* Bear Can BV 500 40.95
Totals – Ounces   64.60
Totals – Pounds   4.04
Water Description Weight Oz.
Bladder/Hose Platypus Hoser 1L 3.15
Bottles 1L powerade 1.70
Reservoir Platypus 2 L 1.75
Reservoir MSR 4L 4.30
* Filter – Sawyer Squeeze Mini 16 oz Bag, filter, and Backflush tool 4.15
Purification Aquamira full 3.10
Water gear bag StoS XXS 0.40
Totals – Ounces   18.55
Totals – Pounds   1.16
Clothes in Pack Description Weight Oz.
Socks – Hiking second pair Smartwool PHD Run Mini Light Cushion M 1.65
Long Underwear tops Cap 2 Large 5.65
Long Underwear Bottoms Patagonia Cap 2 Medium 4.90
shorts Nike black with white stripe 4.00
Rain Jacket Marmot 13.55
* Rain Pants EMS (11.6 oz)
Balaclava Army 1.50
Down Jacket Golite 6.75 6.75
Hat Army Watchcap 1.25
Gloves Cheap cotton garden gloves 1.60
Camp Shoes Crocs – size 10 14.00
Bag for clothes gossamer gear poly sack 1.35
Totals – Ounces   56.20
Totals – Pounds   3.51
Incidentals/Emergency Description Weight Oz.
Whistle Fox 40 Sharx 0.45
Compass Burton Classic 1.25
Headlamp/main light Photon Light w/necklace 0.25
Kindling Sol Tinder Quik 0.05
Emergency fire starter Matches in Waterproof case 0.90
Skin Repair Super Glue x 2 0.45
repair kit/q-tips/earplugs sewing/gear tape/qtips/ear plugs 0.60
Tick Key Tick Key 0.15
Soap Dr Bronners 0.55
nail clippers toe 1.55
Microcloth – personal towel Cut up 0.55
Rope 2 mm 30 ft plus cord wrap 0.50
Headnet Sea to summit 0.90
Bandanna Lucas and PCT Class 2.20
Notebook/Pencil/Zip From Marie 1.70
iPhone 5S with lifeproof 5.35
charge cords 1 Lightning 1 mico usb 0.90
usb charge block Anker 5 port 8.45
Camera lumix DMC-ZS20 7.40
external battery Anker 6000 4.70
more cords camera 1.30
Headphones Sony DREX61IP 0.45
Tooth Kit brush/paste/floss/zip 2.00
Sunblock Sport 1 OZ 1.30
Watch Small w/band 0.60
Lip Stuff Bert’s Bees 0.25
Knife Swiss Army small 0.75
Maps HalfMile Sections per food drop 3.00
Summit Backpack Stuff Sack Sea to Summit 2.60
bags/Zips camera zip 0.25
bags/Zips anker hub/bat/cords zip 0.25
bags/Zips StoS XXS drawstring emergency 0.45
Totals – Ounces   52.05
Totals – Pounds   3.25
Toilet Kit Description Weight Oz.
Trowel GSI 2.95
Hand Sani 2 oz container 2.35
Triple Antibac-cream Equate hydro 1.00
Wipes MYO 10-pack from bulk pack 2.15
Trash bag 1 quart freezer zip 0.20
Toilet Gear Bag StoS XXS Drawstring 0.45
Totals – Ounces   9.10
Totals – Pounds   0.57

* items: Bear Can – only need for around 300 miles through the Sierras
Water filter – may send home after the desert, may keep whole hike
Rain Pants – i will not carry these for the ~1,700 miles of California. Might mail them to myself in OR or WA, might not. Never seen or heard of comfortable rain pants. Mine certainly are not. I kinda figure that i am planning to walk outside for 4-5 months, sometimes i might get wet.

Not part of Base Pack Weight Calculations, but important gear none-the-less:

Not in Pack Description Weight Oz.
Hike Pants EcoMesh pants w/belt 12.00
Hike Shirt Patagonia Cap 1 Large 6.75
Hike Socks Smartwool PHD Run Mini Light Cushion M 1.70
Hike Hat Tilley 3.80
Sunglasses Ironman Triatholon 1.10
Poles w/duct tape Leki Khumbu 21.00
Shoes Merrel Moad Vent (10 W) 34.50
Gaiters Dirty Girl Large 1.10
Insoles Super feet green E 3.90
Totals – Ounces   85.85
Totals – Pounds   5.37

There may be some other gear write-ups later, but there may not. Let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything you would like to know more about.

If you made it this far down the page, shouldn’t you get a little reward? Of Course! How about a short little movie combing still pics and video from this weekend’s hike near Holtwood Dam?

Tech Post 4 – iOS

I generally enjoy iOS and the cool things it has brought not just to mobile computing but in most cases the backwards compatibility approach to making things uniform between mobile devices and more traditional computing stations. But there are still some examples of engineering choices I can’t understand. Sadly, this trend began during Jobs tenure, but it has accelerated into more areas since his passing. Here again I am talking about iTunes. I loved the way this used to work in the 3GS days. Your phone mirrored your home system. Your music, podcasts, audiobooks, tv, and movies were all there together.

The first change that frustrated me was the removal of video content from this mobile app. Not a huge deal, but now I have to use two separate apps and app buttons to do a job that used to require only one. The more recent example has to do with podcasts. One used to be able to download more episodes of a podcast from within the same app one used to listen to podcasts. There was a little hyper link at the bottom of the screen displaying the episodes available on your device that said “get more episodes” and that is what it did. Now that link does not work. It asks you to download the NEW Podcast App! I resisted this for ages. But finally I was on the road without any other computer and had been gone long enough that I needed to update my podcast library. So I got the app. It takes over control of all podcasts on my phone, moves them to a new location and requires that I attempt to sort through them using a form of coverflow. In addition to just being frustrated that these changes were forced upon me, I listen to enough podcasts that a coverflow view is simply not an efficient way to look for the shows and episodes I want. Certainly this is a shortcoming of the podcast producers, but not every podcast has a logo, or a distinct logo. I listen to several NPR podcasts and many of them have the same generic logo. A coverflow style system does not present enough information to discern which podcast is being represented. The images are much larger than the old lines of text, so the new presentation of text accompanying the images is very small. I would see a generic icon, or standard NPR icon and the text “NPR…”. Again, not very useful for finding the show i was looking for. This system may work for some folks, it may even be a better method for some people, and I am happy that they have this method available. I am not down on the creation of new methods, but I don’t understand why introducing a new method necessitates removal of other methods. This was not an issue of solving a problem, but changing the means by which we interact with our content.

Listening to the back catalog of The Nerdist podcast, Chris Hardwick mentioned something about this issue that had not occurred to me before. Chris mentioned, and it is true, that the podcast menu selection was buried deep in a somewhat hidden menu in iOS. He enjoys the new app because it is easy to find. I can see that point and its relevance and can see Apple choosing to break out podcasts into a separate app to address those concerns. It would still be annoying to me to have to use a separate app to access podcasts instead of having these things placed in the same app mirroring how we interact with our content on our computers, but i would be ok with it. That is a change i can understand. But forcing users to abandon list views and adopt the coverflow model gets my goat. I could accept this change without much complaint if it remained an effective tool for locating specific podcasts, but for me, it simply does not work.

Hardwick’s comment presents a nice segue to my final iOS criticisms. First, why does the App called “iTunes” access the iTunes Store and not the app which mimics iTunes on a computer? Second, the menu system inside of the “Music” App. The first thing i do with any new device or upgrade is go through all the menu options. I found out how to customize the Music App menu the first day i used an iPhone. It does take a little digging, but you can customize which options are available at the bottom of the Music App screen just as you can with the 4 static icons on your home screen. I changed mine to meet my needs – “Playlists, Podcasts, Audiobooks, Albums”. This worked well until iOS6. Since iOS6 came out, this customizable menu resets itself to the factory defaults from time to time. Sometimes it happens if you close the app from the multitasking bar – sometimes not. Sometimes it resets when you restart your phone – sometimes not. Sometimes it resets for no discernible reason. This has happened for me on both the 4S and the 5. Weird and a bit frustrating.

I can understand that things might be a little more fluid in the iOS ecosystem. Mobile computing is still in the exploratory stages, testing what is possible, what makes sense, and what works well, looking for best practices. I don’t mind there being changes, but as in all other areas, i expect to be able to understand why they occur – to sense that there is a reason behind the change. And most of all, i expect the changes to enhance the experience, to improve access for all, and not to limit our choices in how we access our content. Aside from the specific gripes i have with changes in iOS, my largest complaint and fear is the continual export of less than stellar iOS changes being exported to the OS environment.

Coming Up – A few comments on changes to the OS, a look at some of Apple’s competitors, and the thrilling conclusion.

Tech Post 3 – iTunes

BOC Correspondent # 3
BOC Correspondent # 3

I will hit iTunes Match first because my beef there is fairly short and the end of my rant against the new version of iTunes segues directly into the next post on iOS.

iTunes Match proports to provide several services that aroused my interest. It could provide higher quality versions of songs you possess and in many cases fix glitchy, skippy type errors found in older degraded files. It would make all your content available on all your devices. This is a feature available through the link between the iTunes Store and the iCloud for content you had purchased via the iTunes Store. But the iTunes Match system is supposed to be a bit more elegant, easier to use, and provides that service for all your content regardless of its origin. The process of adding your mixed origin content to the cloud also provides you with a true backup of that content.

My experience with iTunes Match was basically the exact opposite of the description. None of my damaged songs got fixed, despite downloading fresh copies after completing the initial sync/match/upload. Many songs, around 75, were no longer available on my iPhone. The reasons seemed to be that Cloud Tunes could not figure out which version of these songs i actually had. This did not happen with obscure stuff. Most of the less well known bands’ music behaved with no issues. I had the problem with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to name a few. Cloud Tunes can’t figure it out, grays out the songs, and adds a tiny icon you can hit for “more information”. This icon leads to a really tiny dropdown window that has six instances of the song title but no other information presented in the very very minuscule resolution window. What i am supposed to do? Guess which of these six instances of the same song title correspond to my album – at random since there is no other information available to me? Click one and hope for the best? Repeat this process for the next 74 tracks? Or just get used to no longer being able to listen to songs I own that are already on my device but that I am no longer allowed to hear? I bailed.

The good news. Because i bailed early, within 5 days of ordering the service, i contacted Apple and got a full refund.

I really do not like the new iTunes (anything past 10.7). Usually I will give new tech a few days and try to get to know the new features and see what the developers were trying to do. I did not do this for this version of iTunes. It did not last more than an hour before I hit the boards to find out how to revert to the previous version. Why?

The things that I use iTunes for became harder to find (more clicks) and harder for me to see/use. I like lists. I like “list view” wherever available. The classic iTunes layout worked well for my needs. On the left I can easily click between media types (music, movies, tv shows, audiobooks, and podcasts) or perform the primary activity that brings me there – click a playlist and jam out. I do not mind that Apple changed things. I assume that they had a reason and were either responding to customer feedback or projecting a probable course users would enjoy. What does bother me is that they made it impossible to retain or revert to previous viewing methods.

An example highlights the pre and post Steve Jobs attitude in this regard. I do not care for coverflow. Is it neat? Sure. Is it a cool bit of coding? Sure. But it is not useful for me. Coverflow came out in the Jobs era. When coverflow came to iTunes I was happy for my more visually inclined friends while also being grateful to Apple that instead of limiting our choices, they accommodated multiple perspectives. If you are a word/list guy like me rather than a cover/image guy, you were not forced to use coverflow. You could continue to use the lists as you had from the beginning of iTunes.

The new version of iTunes does not provide any options for viewing your data in the old way. It is a complete redesign. This is a very un-Apple approach to design and “innovation”. Throughout the 90s when i was still a Windows user, my Apple friends would tell me about some of the great features in Apple systems. One oft touted feature was that the menus are always the same. If you want to see what options are available to tweak a program, those options are always found under “preferences” and you can always access preferences in the exact same place for every single program on the system. This highlighted a huge difference between Apple and Windows systems. Not only did it make it easier to get things done, you felt like someone who designed the software might actually use it and want you to be able to use it also. As I got serious about switching my company and client computers from Windows to Apple, and began researching not only what I might need to know, but how I could teach other long-term Windows users to use Apple computers, I came across the same advice time and again – if you can use iTunes you can use a Mac. Not only did that prove true, it was great advice and I made it step one in prepping all my tech support clients for the switch.

This redesign of iTunes, requires you to give up your previous ways of organizing and interacting with content, most of which you probably own. I have been using this system since it came out for Windows in 2003. Innovation is fine. Forcing your user base to abandon a decade of effective methodology is just plain weird and frustrating. If they were fixing a problem, maybe I could see this move. If they were providing additional functionality, I would not like the approach, but I could understand it. As far as I can tell from experience and research, neither of these things are the case.

What this feels like, what this really reminds me of – major updates and/or new releases of Windows. Nothing really works better. Some things do not work as well as they used to. But we did move everything from where you expect it be to a new place, and we gave some old operations and processes new nomenclature. I must tell you, few things in the tech world make me as crazy as Apple acting like Microsoft.

My suspicion is that the main impetus behind making these kinds of changes is the continued drive to synergize the experience between the OS and the iOS. I don’t have a problem with that idea. I do have a problem with this aspect of the implementation. I will get into this more in the next post, but for me, they are taking the worst parts of the changes in iOS iTunes and importing them to the parent OS version.

If you also have a Mac and miss the old iTunes, let me know and I will send you some instructions on how to revert to an older version.

Next Up: iOS

Tech Post 2 – iPad

BOC Correspondent #2
BOC Correspondent #2

I thought this was going to be a dream come true. I had been lusting after the iPad since it first was revealed, and not just for personal use, but as a business tool. The vision was that Vance and I would be able to get rid of laptops and have pads for the road and an iMac for him and an iMac or Mac Pro Tower for me. Initially we would probably still need to travel with our phones, but “soon” we should be able to ditch the phones and do all our work and manage all our client conversations just via the iPads.

In the Fall of 2012 it looked like we would soon be doing a lot of work travel to the Mid East, Morocco, and India. It was time to test the iPad. My over three year old MacBook Pro had some sound issues that indicated a logic board replacement and the system was getting slow overall. A pre-disaster change was propitious.

I had a lot of concerns. Would the lack of a standard file management system be a drawback? Would I be able to perform all the various tasks that my many jobs and responsibilities require? Can I manage, edit, and create new websites on the thing? Of all the concerns that were troubling me, I was secure in the knowledge that my Mac files would be safely and simply accessible via iCloud and that I would have no trouble with word processing via Apple’s Pages, with spreadsheets via Apple’s Numbers, nor with presentations via Apple’s Keynote. Since these were Apple programs designed by Apple for both the OS and mobile/iOS environments there should be no trouble with these critical tasks.

After some deliberation and hands-on time at the Apple Store with the Business Team and the selection of iPads, I chose the iPad mini. After playing with the device for a few days to simulate as many scenarios as I could, I learned two things that were quite surprising. 1) All the issues I was worried about had multiple, simple, and in many cases quite elegant, solutions. Generally the solutions were free apps, though some inexpensive apps were called for as well. But all the things I needed to accomplish that involve non-Apple software were covered. 2) The three main things I was absolutely not worried about at all, Apple failed big time in all three of these areas – Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations (collectively “iWork”).

iCloud did successfully provide reliable access to iWork files across multiple devices. But the iPad cannot display iWork documents the same way on the iPad as on an OSX system. Things generally look the same, but you are required to create a copy of the document in order to open and edit it. Part of Apple’s innovation at the program/app, OS, and backup system level over the past few years has been a concerted effort to remove any worries one might ever have related to versioning of documents. “Now, on our newest line of fancy devices, here is a problem from 1990. Enjoy!”

If that was the only problem, it is possible that I might have stuck it out. But it isn’t the only problem. The iOS versions of iWork do not have the full feature sets that their OSX siblings provide. This was not a huge problem for me with most basic tasks in Pages and Numbers, though I do like to send business correspondence on our digital letterhead (which is very simple) and it would not render properly on the iPad. Let that sink in. In fact, take a look.

RAI Base Letterhead
RAI Base Letterhead

Sometimes I add a little data to the footer as appropriate, but that is a really simple letterhead. Pages on the iPad cannot display this document correctly. If that was the second and last problem, it is still possible I may have stuck it out. But it isn’t the end.

Keynote. If you listened to any Mac news since at least 2006, you heard about Keynote often. You heard that it is much better than Powerpoint. It has more features than Powerpoint. It is far simpler to use than Powerpoint. In my experience, this is all true and I have enjoyed using the great and simple features in Keynote. Many of these features are not available on the iPad. The iPad does not even contain the same color pallet as the OSX version. I developed a very simple slide template in Keynote and the iOS version cannot even display the base template correctly, never mind actual data on the slide. If you get around the template flaws  for some reason, the amount of information (amount of text/number of words) that can fit on a slide in iOS is less than the amount that can fit on a slide in the OSX version. Maddening!

Truthfully, the first strike would probably have kept me off the iPad, the second would definitely have done the trick, but now with this third problem, Apple, you are really just starting to piss me off.

I ended up returning the iPad and switched to a MacBook Air with which I am very pleased. The screen is bigger. It can do more stuff. It is more powerful. It can hold more stuff. It is very light and easy to carry. It already has a keyboard and mouse attached. Most of the folks I know and see who do use iPads for business also carry and use wireless keyboards, so i think this actually puts me ahead of the curve in some respects. When I am at my home office, it plugs right into my 24” cinema display which is quite nice.

I will return to the simmering rage hinted at in this post in the concluding remarks for the series.

Next Up: iTunes

Tech Post 1- Safari

BOC correspondent #1
BOC correspondent #1

I was a Firefox guy almost from the beginning of the browser’s history in 2004. I like the concept behind open source software and I have used and enjoyed many Mozilla products. Thunderbird let me leave MS Outlook behind with increased productivity, integration, and ease of use, all with a much smaller program file size, which used to matter even more just a few short years ago. I still use Filezilla as my FTP client, and I have always done web-design and editing with SeaMonkey. I was so pleased with Firefox that it remained my primary browser even after I got my company to switch from Microsoft to Apple computers.

Sometime around version 3.5, roughly mid 2009, they began to remove or significantly change the features that made me a fan of Firefox. I explored Chrome and was disappointed that I could not replicate the features that I missed and which were no longer available from Firefox. I had explored Safari and was not thrilled with several aspects of the UI – mostly having to do with bookmarks and bookmark management. I did spend a little time with Opera, SeaMonkey, and others, but did not enjoy any as a primary browser.

Given my equal dissatisfaction with all the browsers, I decided that I might as well use the one that was already integrated into my OS and my phone. After a brief adjustment period, the program worked fine and I did enjoy the ease of multi-device integration. Safari continued to improve over the years and I stayed with it, only using other browsers to test website compatibility. I was converted and happy. I still did not like the bookmark management system and UI, but there were ways to manage bookmarks without having to use that aspect of the program too often.

And then, end of 2012-beginning of 2013, Safari started to get ridiculously slow. I am used to such a high standard of performance from my Apple products that the browser was the last culprit on my list. I was checking cables and testing my modem before it occurred to me to check out other browsers. Firefox, fine. Chrome, fine. Seamonkey, fine. I really did not want to switch and I limped along with Safari for a bit. A large part of my business involves research and the delays were starting to affect the amount of work I could accomplish in a day. After a brief check through the major competitors, I settled on Chrome, and that is what I use now and have implemented throughout my company for computers and mobile devices.

That was my only real beef with Safari – the speed drop. I am not one of those guys who has to use THE fastest browser when the differences are microns only really noticeable in lab tests, but the slowdown in Safari was reminiscent of the pre-broadband era. I could not actually go and make a sandwich waiting for a page load like in the old days, but I could write a paragraph.

There are still many features that I prefer in Safari far more than Chrome or other browsers. The synergy between the OS and iOS versions in not just content but the UI is unsurpassed to my knowledge. I am constantly baffled at the way in which Chrome handles stored password and form data and the highly inconsistent way in which that stored information is offered (or not) when faced with forms to fill out. But you can have the prettiest car in the world and if it don’t go, it don’t go.

I may check back on Safari from time to time, but given that I cannot conceive what they might have done to slow it down (or why) it is hard to understand how they might fix it. (Then again, I don’t write code, and I don’t read it terribly well either.) I would like to think that this is something Apple would notice, given that Apple employees use the products, and that they would fix it, but my confidence level that such behavior remains a part of their mission statement is quite low.

I talked with The Fromminator about Safari recently and she has not noticed the same speed issues that I have. She was running an older version of OSX which could be a factor. I have tested Safari speeds on two Macs running the most current OS and both had poor performance. My local Apple Genius Bar guys have also noticed the speed lag. Today I ran a few more comparisons between Chrome and Safari (I would love to move back to Safari) and I am still seeing a major speed differential. How about you folks? Any other Safari speed reports from the field?

Next Up –

iPads for Business

Tech Series Intro

B.O.C. correspondent Nick Renfroe
B.O.C. correspondent Nick Renfroe

* Potentially necessary disclaimer. I receive no money or other compensation from Apple or any other company for product reviews/endorsements. These are simply my views about products I use and in most cases, that I wish worked better.

This tech series comprises 6 posts and covers mostly Apple products with a little from the Google camp, some from Mozilla, and a smattering of Microsoft. I will discuss issues with Safari, iPads for Business, iTunes and iTunes Match, iOS, and at least one OSX “feature”. I am not going to deal with the issues in strict chronological order because iOS dips into the problem pond more than once and I want to keep those together.

To provide some thematic context, in addition to airing specific grievances, I believe that looked at together, one can see a change in Apple’s corporate attitude about software development and the timing of releases vs completion of the code. Does this spell the end for Apple? Maybe, but probably not “soon”. It could, if an existing or dark-horse rival pops up and executes in the way that Apple’s long standing core customer base has come to expect. Sadly for us, the end users, I do not see evidence of either a successful rival filling that need, nor do I see Apple reverting to prior business models that catered to its “old” base.

To flesh that out a bit further, it looks to me like Apple is beginning to adopt many elements of the Microsoft business model. From a purely corporate, profit/units sold basis, I get it. It is impossible to deny that side of Microsoft’s business and success. But that has not been the Apple model and in many cases is in diametric opposition to the Apple model. This exact issue used to be the biggest delineation between Microsoft and Apple.

Microsoft: Put it (whatever product) out there fast, cheap (relatively), sell lots of units, and worry about finishing and fixing the code later. This is actually a fairly standard business practice and is taught in MBA programs and business books throughout the world. It is not a bad model. However, it is generally intended for use in the beginning phases of a start-up or small business to get from the planning and early development phases to the first round of major funding after your initial release has done the final work of validating your product and your market. The principle was never intended for large, well-established firms to continually release sub-par products. I am going to stop on this here for now. We can come back to an exploration of Microsoft’s business practices in a later post.

Apple: It just works. This was their guiding principle for most of the company’s history – make stuff that works and trust that people will want to buy and use stuff that works. It took a long time for Apple to grow their niche market population, to begin poaching from other customer pools, and to capture newly emerging markets and consumers, but they did it. They proved their model. If you make quality products that just work, people will buy them, use them, and develop a kind of brand loyalty not found in many other places.

Next we will look at several specific flaws in Apple products. In the concluding post, I will spell out what I see as the new Business Model at Apple as evinced by the specific examples in this series, and what impact that model has had and could have on the company and its customer base. It is my contention that Apple can turn the corner on these trends and my hope that they will, but honestly, I don’t see it happening.

I will leave you with that cheery thought until next time.

Just a word before i go

Hey there. It has been a great week and i am really excited about several things. Thursday the 28th I hit the 60 days sober mark and i am feeling good. I have been writing more this week, and while the old fire is still elusive, it has at least been fun again.

There have been some interesting developments with LYP and i am really happy at how several new initiatives there are panning out. I am really proud of the ways we are finding to implement rapid conflict resolution and take the opportunity to learn and grow when faced with challenges instead of reverting to hurt feelings and unproductive behavior. It really is a great group and i feel honored to be a part of it. I might have some more specifics on these developments a little later. It is premature to discuss any of them here, and i frankly do not have the time at the moment.

I stuck with the exercise plan this week and by upping the reps on my three ab activities to 70, twice a day, i am now doing 420 ab exercises a day. Take that squishy areas! I will not be following that program for the next few days, but i will be getting plenty of exercise walking with a full pack all day IN THE WOODS!!

I tried to complete the tech saga so that i could have one post a day released while i was gone, but i did not make it that far. The intro and the first two product posts are finished. The conclusion is about half done. But i still need to write up a few more products, and where possible i prefer not to begin releasing parts of a serial until i have completed the writing. I learn while i write – thus the middle affects the conclusion.

I hope you all had a good week and enjoy some outdoor time this weekend. I will be back at you sometime next week with the launch of the latest Tech Series, or Whining for Nerds, or First World Problems, or …


I have been working on the tech post and am at a decision point. I either need to do an exercise in linguistic economy of which i am capable but do not prefer, or serialize the tech post into two or three episodes. I am leaning towards serializing at this point and will know in the next day or so. Either way, I will be mixing some insight with some whining about technology here quite soon.

General news – work is going well. I am not sure yet what form the current India project will take. The more I learn, the more the picture changes, but it is a very interesting project. Of course, working on one kind of new thing makes me have many other new project/product ideas and I am slow cooking development on a second idea to pursue in tandem or as a replacement should that become necessary.

I passed seven weeks off the booze and that is still going pretty well. The biggest adjustment issue remaining (at least so far) has to do with writing. I still have lots of ideas in my head, and I still think that many of them are decent ideas, but the process of writing does not have the same magic to it these days. I expect that this will pass/change with time and so I do still write despite not being filled with energy by the act. My suspicion is that this is tied to a larger and deeper issue related to my long term suppression of emotions and passions. Hopefully I can learn how to feel things and experience passion again without getting overloaded (in any sense).

The exercise front is a bit of a good news bad news deal. I run at night and it has been so cold this month that I have only three runs to my name. I will do more as the weather improves. On the plus side, I have been sticking to the stretching and floor exercise routine. I am doing that twice a day consistently now and have upped my reps this week to hit 360 ab exercises daily. While I am definitely still squishy, I am down to 185 and wearing 33s again. I plan to continue upping the reps weekly by 10 per activity and staying with two-a-day workouts so that I should be hitting around 700 reps of ab-tivity by the end of April!! I do have one day hike and one multi-day hike coming up in March and I could not be more excited about that unless it was back in California with my trail dogs! Whoooooop Whooop!!

Enjoy the rebirth of Spring and treat yourself to some outdoor time.

While we are waiting

Today marks five weeks off the booze and I continue to feel pretty good. I am beginning to hit one of the many strange points on the sobriety path. Once your head begins to clear and your body starts to re-normalize, you can begin to see the problems in your life that were not alcohol related. I don’t have a clear picture of that whole story yet, nor do I have a firm grasp on the few bits of which I am becoming aware. But here are some thoughts on where I am.

It seems that my brain is doing well, but I am having some difficulty translating thoughts into action. Recognizing that is good and a key step. I have created some new plans and simple simple steps to correct that. I found a new “to do” list app  yesterday and am going to work with it this week. Truthfully, an app (or a simple old fashioned list) does not need to be super fancy to be effective for me. The act of writing something down itself helps with the process of accomplishing any goal as it is one step towards making something manifest that previously lived only in my brain.

I have not frequently needed much in the way of to do lists. My brain is wired to keep track of lots of things. But I recognize that is not working now, and even the stuff that I am keeping track of in my head – that stuff is not getting done. So I turn to the list. I am in a bit of a “whatever it takes” mode right now – primarily with issues related to work.

I am looking at 2013 as a bit of a make or break year for the family company. My dad and I have been revising our strategy and some core processes since October and that has been working well. In January I came up with a new approach and a specific project for us to work on that has some great potential. We are both excited about it, but it is going to take a lot of work to get from here to there. I am not afraid of the work, but I want to stay focused and productive at higher levels than I have sustained in the past.

I have been a bit stuck in the mud both physically and mentally for a long time. While there is still a long way to go discovering why that is, I do recognize some things I can do to change the situation. I need to find a way to break some old behavior patterns (some of these being very old patterns) and create and ingrain some new ones. Not drinking is great and I am pleased with my progress there, but that is really only a small part or one aspect of a destructive or less than productive behavior pattern.

Renfroe. Now with Hair!
Renfroe. Now with Hair!

On the upside, some great podcasts. I listen to NPR’s fantastic pop culture podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, and one of the folks on there has frequently recommended another called The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I did listen to and loved all of the Thrilling Adventure Hour back catalog and from that show was led to The Nerdist podcast. I believe that everyone could and would enjoy The Thrilling Adventure Hour. I think that most folks who read here would also enjoy Pop Culture Happy Hour. The Nerdist is definitely not for everyone. It is usually three dudes, a host and two co-hosts, talking with each other or with a famous/semi-famous person. The bulk of the guests are from the world of comedy, but there are other film and tv stars as well as people from the world of geek/nerd/tech culture.

There are two primary and related motifs that keep me coming back to the Nerdist, both of which are very inspirational. The hosts and the guests are often asked questions like, “how would you recommend I get started in X (stand up comedy, acting, writing, script writing, podcasting, …).” The answer is consistently the same – just starting doing it. Whatever is that you want to do, start doing it. You may not start on the best possible path, but truthfully, there are few to no best paths. Create a body of work, hone your craft, get experience in the field however you can. Get out there and do it.

Before unpacking that at all, thing #2. When you look at your life and your goals and what you really want to do, ask yourself why you are not doing what you want to be doing. People who wait or look for the right set of circumstances almost never accomplish their goals. Do what you want to be doing now and figure out how to make everything else work around that instead of trying to get every aspect of your life set to the perfect circumstances to allow you to pursue Dream X.

These, particularly in conjunction, present a very powerful and inspiring message. This is not an overt or all consuming aspect of the show, but it is repeated in one form or another in almost every episode. I love to write and have lots of stuff I want to write about. My goals with writing have never been to be famous or to get rich (or even make money) through writing. The act of writing itself, shaping thoughts into effective vehicles for communicating thought, and sharing the results – these are the primary draws for me. Like many, there are particular circumstances that I prefer for writing, but these are circumstances and not prerequisites. This was a bit of an awakening for me.

I am a very critical guy by nature, but I am trying to find more ways and reasons to get things done and to move forward than reasons to say no.

Just a Quickie

Howdy Folks. It has been a while. I have some stuff lined up for you, but some of it still needs a little polish. I had some good momentum going on with the writing and then things got a little weird for me just before Christmas. I got overwhelmed by a wave of unspeakable sadness and was stuck weeping and thinking many a negative thought.

My little blond girls!
My little blond girls!

I did manage to pull things back together and proceed with my holiday travel plans and visited with family and friends. Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, his mom, and my three lovely nieces was splendid. We played some of our favorite games and a few new ones too. I also got to spread a little Christmas cheer with Mickey and Max and their bipeds!

Max and Mickey
Max and Mickey

New Years in Richmond was a blast as usual, though the sadness started trying to creep back in on January 1. I rode it out – not splendidly, but i did not get overwhelmed.

On a brief return to NoVA, i got to take the nieces out to visit an old friend’s farm to ride some horses as well as share some time with her family. This has been a wonderful reconnection largely facilitated by Facebook.

Girls and Horses!
Girls and Horses!

I felt a little rocky again once i got back to PA, but i have spent time focusing on what needs to be done and applied doses of “Fake it ’til you Make it” as needed and i think i have righted the ship again.

Vance and i have made some excellent progress on the business front, i have some consultations set up with another LYP member regarding RAI‘s technical evolution, and have a few social outings on the agenda as well. I am also nearing completion on the JMT movie project. I need to review it again, but i believe that all the visual content is set. Once i verify that, i will add in some voiceovers where appropriate and be ready to set up a mechanism for those interested to either download it or receive a DVD.

I used my Christmas present from my sister’s clan, an REI gift card, to replace my old backpacking pan with a new one that i like much better. It boils water faster, has a non-stick coating, and can actually nest a fuel canister.

Jake/Floyd and i got to talk on the phone several times over a couple of days as well as exchanging some emails and it was really great to get to spend some time with him again. We have not had much time to chat since we left CA in July.

Me and Jake on Forester Pass
Me and Jake on Forester Pass

The next few days should be pretty full with business research and presentation creation, but i expect to have some time to dedicate to personal projects (writing and the JMT video) in the second half of January. I had hoped to have the JMT video ready for Christmas, but hopefully it won’t drag on past the end of January.

I hope your holiday season was filled with at least as much cheer as mine and hopefully far less battling with demons.