Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Spot, and Happy Solstice

This is interesting...

I think I'm going to order one and check it out, could be really good for paragliding in remote areas, backcountry skiing, etc. I'm a firm believer in doing my absolute best to self-rescue, but sometimes it's not going to work out. A satellite text message could be just the trick, and a lot simpler and lighter than a satellite phone for sure. In the Canadian Rockies we don't normally have cell phone coverage, this could be just the ticket. The same service is used to track shipping containers and other cargo, it works well for that, although Globalstar phone service is reportedly imploding.

And a big, Happy Solstice! This is the darkest day of the year, from here on out we're all (those of us in the North anyhow) going to find a little more light in our lives, yeah! Most cultures in the northern hemisphere have a huge party around this time of year, some sort of "festival of lights" to mark the fact that the days are finally growing in length and the nights shrinking--hence all the lights on houses, trees, etc. Christmas is great and all, but all the commercialism makes it a bit difficult for me to get very fired up about. I'm also unimpressed with the whole god/supernatural/psychic thing, but more light is a great thing for sure! Less headlamp juice required from here on out for all our adventures.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Outdoor junkies and tech

A comment on my recent anti-PDF screed (and I still hate 'em as they're designed around using paper) got me thinking. The question was, "Does anyone else find it amusing that a PDF topic has generated so many comments on a blog dedicated to outdoor fun & adventure? Are all outdoorsy people really just closet tech nerds?!?!"

I don't know about all outdoorsy people being tech nerds, but I am willing to bet a dual-layer DVD of my recent films that most of us are pretty into our tech, be it analog (cams, shoes, packs, tents) or digital. Most of my garage is devoted not to storing cars but more important stuff--gear. Most of my office is laden not with printed PDFs but with scanners, a dozen or so hard drives, two computers, a printer (which doesn't get much use), editing gear, cameras, GPS units, radio bits, etc. Who among us "outdoorsy" types doesn't have at least a half-dozen weather forecasts bookmarked? Plus various road condition reports, blogs, outdoor forums (for several sports), and of course five or six mailboxes devoted to upcoming trips? Plus various folders on our hard drives devoted to the same, and maybe a map program or four...

Paragliding is even worse than climbing; GPS programs, flight analysis software, digital aviation maps, etc. The truly nerdy paraglider or hang glider pilots will have a minimum of two GPS units plus two flight computers, which they fly with and then download and geek out for hours before uploading the tracks to various forums where other pilots geek out on tracks for hours... I'm sure I'm missing some stuff here but gear, be it analog or digital, is for sure a HUGE part of the outdoor game. The phrase "gear junkie" no longer applies to just outdoor gear from footwear (who among us doesn't have far more outdoor footwear than "dress" footwear?) to tents but also our digital bits.

I also suspect there are a lot of "tech" types who are outdoor junkies of one kind or another. It's certainly true in paragliding, where the stereotypical pilot is an IT guy living in a major west-coast city. Some of the responses to my, "F the PDF" post were very solid from a tech perspective (as well as grammar, sorry about that, this stuff gets written straight off the top of my head--which is likely obvious to anyone who works with words professionally). There are likely still outdoorsy people who don't spend a good chunk of each day in front of a monitor, but they're not the sort likely to post comments on a blog.

So get your tech on, yeah!

PS--someone just emailed me to explain that PDF really stands for, "Print this Damn thing and Fax back." Yep, PDFs sure are great for two-way communication in the digital age. I think I'm going to set my email up to just flat-our reject any email with a .pdf attachment along with a message that says, "You recently sent me a PDF. This shows that you really don't want a response from me, nor do you want me to be able to actually work with the data. I'm going to save us both some hassle and just ignore it."

PPS--my travel agent just sent me an itinerary in, yep, PDF format. It's a five-page document that's near-useless, although it has very nice proportions and scales well (full sarcasm). This isn't two-way communication, but it also doesn't work as I can't drop the info into my calendar, phone, etc. I think I was sort of used to the hassle of PDFs before but all this discussion has made me realize just exactly how retro and bass-ackwards they are for just about anything.