Me and My iPad

April 4th, 2010

I’ve got a bunch of posts queued up that are almost ready for publishing, but I thought I’d toss this out there, since I’m using it now to type this post.

I preordered an iPad, with the excuse of needing it for work, but we all know I would have gotten it anyway. I’m already impressed just by the apps people developed without even having access to the device. I’ve been watching movies on Netflix, sketching with Adobe Ideas, and now writing this. Typing is nice, even if there’s no Dvorak layout on the thing.

I’m surprised that there still seems the be no keychain syncing — I’m still typing in passwords to everything I’ve already got stored on my Macs and iPhone. And the lack of third-party multitasking is more frustrating here than on the iPhone, but still not that bad — and thankfully it’s training developers to write applications that don’t lose data when they crash, and that can remember what you were doing when you quit.

With any luck, this will cut down on me dragging my laptop around everywhere. There are no dev tools on here (of course), but a decent VNC client might make that moot. Maybe I’ll even manage to post here a bit more often …

Our Moosilauke Adventure

February 25th, 2010

I’ve been looking for a way to do more with my GPS data, but most of the software for this stuff isn’t exactly impressive. Today I came across a post on StraightChuter.com that used Trimble Outdoors. It seemed like the closest to what I was looking for. So here is my latest ski tour trip report, by way of Trimble.

This past Saturday was our first ski tour of the year. Crappy weather (IE, lack of snow) combined with not being near mountains has made it easy to not follow through on anything this year. So late Friday night we decided we had to go, even if there was no snow, we had to drive to the base of a mountain with the intent to ski. Just to break the pattern.

working the ascent

The downside of this was our packing and planning was accomplished during commercials in NBC’s Olympics coverage. This meant I had too many down jackets (at least they’re light), nothing to cover my face, and not really paid much attention to the route.

We planned to hit Mount Moosilauke in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The 5.3 mile climb of 2,720 feet seemed like a nice grade, and an easy downhill run. So how did it become a 7.7 mile climb with an extra 500 feet? One wrong turn.

Now, I knew I was making a wrong turn when it happened – or at least strongly suspected it. But I wasn’t too concerned, because there were plenty of ski tracks around, and the signs said “to summit”, so how wrong could it be?

Rather than taking our intended route from [Ridge Lodge] direct to the [summit] and back down, we made a wrong turn (because the other direction had no tracks), following all the other skiers. At a [river crossing] we checked the map and verified the mistake, but figured “hey, lots of others have gone this way and our guidebook is 11 years old – this might be the better bet” so we continued on. At the [Al Merrill branch], we realized that all the tracks we had been following were headed for the Al Merrill Loop. The loop (which I haven’t been on) is supposed to be a nice tour, with easy skiing that goes from the [Al Merrill branch] back to the [Ridge Lodge]. But while we didn’t want to push ourselves too hard, we also didn’t want to cut our skiing in half. So we decided to continue on to the [summit], breaking trail through a foot or more of snow, between the [Al Merrill branch] and the [Beaver Brook trail merge]. The trail-breaking was fun, but it slowed us down. And the additional milage and climbing were not part of our original schedule. We didn’t hit the [summit] until almost 17:00. Which meant we had about an hour until it was too dark to see anything.

Greg @ the summit

Before we got to the summit, we passed a hiker who said the conditions weren’t too bad, “you can see cairn to cairn”. Yeah, it was a bit overcast, but cairn to cairn? I would have guessed the visibility was better than that. It wasn’t. It was slightly worse, even. Soon after we passed treeline, Diana got knocked over by the wind – apparently at ~30 MPH, but gusty. Thankfully we were more visible to each other than the rime-covered cairns were to us. I’d have to lead ahead a bit before I could see the next cairn. I kept Diana about one cairn back so I had a retreat point in case I didn’t spot the next one. Of course, once actually getting to the [summit], we had to stop for pictures. No amount of wind-blown snow building up on our clothes is going to stop that part of the trip. Leaving the summit for the Gorge Brook trail was more of the same, and we were excited when we hit the trees and the trail was right there in front of us. Now we just had to get down.

Here’s another bit of the poor planning. My memory of the guide book said that the ski trail was about 15 feet wide – great for making turns and getting down comfortably. But no, that was for the Moosilauke Carriage Road trail, the trail we decided not to take because snowmobiles are allowed on it for most of the length, and we didn’t want to deal with that. The Gorge Brook trail was narrow. A quote from the guidebook that I must have skimmed over the first time: “You turn where the trail turns, relishing surprises around each bend.” Yeah, I’d say that’s an accurate description – wish I had read it beforehand.

Even without having read it, had we followed our original plan we would have been aware of it, since we would have been climbing our eventual descent. But we made it down in one piece, and without splashing into the brook at any of the many opportunities. Well, most of the way down. Before we finished the run, it had gotten too dark to really ski safely. So we took off our skis and booted down the last section.

amazing scenery

When we got to main junction of half a dozen trails at the bottom, we needed the headlamp to read the signs. Unfortunately, none of the signs mentioned the [Ridge Lodge]. We deduced the direction of the lodge (or so we hoped), by checking its direction on the map against the direction of the various trails that were labeled. When we saw the sign labeled “PARKING →” we were encouraged, but it wasn’t until we met with the scene of our original wrong turn that we really felt relieved. Of course, we still had almost two miles to go, but we were certain of what that distance held.

We stopped to skin up again for the final push. For me, this is where the exhaustion set in. If I kept up a rhythm, I was ok. It was stopping to grab a snack, or to keep from getting too far ahead of Diana that my legs felt like they would give out. But the end was in sight – just had to keep pushing until the car was in view.

Back at the car, we were pretty excited. There were some harrowing bits, but we came through it and did a decent job with our hardest tour ever, despite my complete planning failure. And got just enough “this could be bad” hints to make sure I don’t slack off on it again.

I had made hot chocolate in the morning, and it waited for us in the car, still hot 12+ hours after I made it. We didn’t even stop for our traditional Tilt’n Diner dinner on the way home, because we were already late for the Olympics. We made it in time to see Lindsey Vonn take home bronze in the Super-G though, so the day wasn’t a total waste.

Performance Anxiety and Competition

December 13th, 2009

[Ed: too many words and not enough pictures in this post. I’ll try to improve that in future.]

Yesterday I competed in the Dark Horse Bouldering Series at MetroRock. This was my first climbing competition ever, and really my first competition of any kind in many years (unless you count job interviews).

After the disaster that was the solo performance requirement during my brief stint as a music composition major in college, I really worked to avoid anything that involved people watching me. Co-workers at Amazon may recall shaky, stuttering presentations – even when the only audience was my own team, who were friends I spent all my time with.

I’m not sure where my performance anxiety started, but I remember when I was a high school intern where my Dad worked, I would watch him give talks in front of hundreds of people. He seemed so relaxed and confident and capable up there. I was waiting for the point when I would be like that. I wondered when the transition would happen, when I would suddenly no longer be nervous to have people paying attention to me. Of course, the magic transition never happened, and at some point it became apparent that I might have to actually work to overcome my insecurities. Well, that didn’t sound very appealing, so I avoided anything that involved attention being placed on me. Sometimes I’d use my performance anxiety as an excuse to try to get someone else to take over (this didn’t usually work, as it turns out not many people are actually enthusiastic about public speaking).

My panic about these things usually starts weeks in advance. I think I managed to avoid some of the panic build-up in this case since I really only considered doing the bouldering comp about a week before it started, when – flush from my recent NaNoWriMo success – I blogged that I was going to do it. Now, blogging about something you’re working on will have one of two effects. If it’s something vague with no timeline, your brain will equate the talking about it with the doing of it, and you won’t do it. If it’s something short-term and well-defined, the people you tell will ask you about it and the motivation to not have to say “I gave up,” will push you through.

I’ve tried to take both angles on this in various parts of my life. I have big open-ended projects, and I’ve started to be more close-mouthed about them – not through any attempt at secrecy, but just to avoid sabotaging myself. And I’ve become more public about things like NaNoWriMo and the bouldering comp, which I would have kept to myself previously, so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed if I fell short. The next step is to come up with more definite small steps within the open-ended projects, so I can be public about those steps in order to be motivated to complete them.

In both NaNoWriMo and the bouldering comp, there were various points at which I would have given up had I not told anyone of my plans. With the bouldering comp, I even avoided registering until I showed up at the gym in the morning – convinced I would find some excuse not to compete by then. It was only through the support and encouragement of people I told that I managed to stay in the game.

The bouldering competition didn’t exactly have a ton of public performance (at least not the part I did – the dyno comp and pro competitors are another story), but for each problem you climbed, you needed to get two other competitors to sign off that you completed it. So you not only needed to make sure a couple people were watching, but afterward have to ask them, “did you see me climb that?” without seeming self-congratulatory about climbing one of the easiest problems in the gym. That was kind of hard for me. Thankfully, everyone there was super-nice, and after my first three sends my anxiety about the whole thing was more-or-less gone (although it was more and more difficult to not sound self-congratulatory as I started climbing harder routes).

The way the competition works is like this: there are about 70 problems, each has a point value (from 25 to 1160) that relates to its difficulty (for the climbers out there, divide by 100 to get the Vermin grade – so from V0 to V11). You get unlimited attempts on each problem, and your 5 hardest problems get added up for your total score. There are some common strategies – since you only need five sends in the four hour competition, that’s one every 48 minutes, so take your time and work the problems (taking a few falls) so you can pull out some hard sends by the end. Some people really follow this, and head into the last thirty minutes with only four sends on their scorecard. I, on the other hand, had fifteen by that point. Dark Horse Series scorecard That is not bragging – it’s the result of not having any idea how I was going to perform. While I’ve been climbing a ton, I hadn’t been on a bouldering wall in four months and there’s definitely a different skill set than with roped climbing. So I started with the easy problems, and quickly realized I had underestimated what I should be climbing. I pushed a bit harder, and then a bit harder – it took a while to figure out exactly where my limit was. In the end I had 1910 points with three V3s and two V4s under my belt. All of my final five routes were harder than any bouldering problem I’d done before the competition – apparently roped climbing translates pretty well.

I was ecstatic for the rest of the event. I had far exceeded my expected score of ~700, averaging hard V3 rather than middling V1 – pushing past the performance anxiety that almost prevented me from entering in the first place. I was so excited, it was hard for me to sit still as we watched the dyno comp (I have no idea how some of those moves are possible) and pro finals (MetroRock’s own Francesca Metcalf kicked ass in the women’s final) – thankfully the free pizza and beer helped to quell my overflowing energy. The whole comp was a blast, and it was great to finally talk to a bunch of people whose faces were familiar to me from the gym.

Here’s hoping I’ve started to take some steps toward overcoming the debilitating fear I feel whenever people are watching me do something. I may never have to perform gymnastics with a crowd screaming at me as Francesca does, but hopefully some day I’ll be able to make it through a presentation without hoping that everyone is just staring at my slides while I hide behind the podium. In the meantime, I’m planning to enter MetroRock’s next competition on February 27. And now that I have some sense of my bouldering level, I can start working to bolster it – maybe even set a goal, like: I will climb a V5 at the February comp. Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go with that.

NaNoWriMo and Effort over Talent

December 3rd, 2009

I spent November writing a novel. Not a good novel, mind you, but I sat and pounded out fifty thousand words over thirty days. The experience has been somewhat transformative for me. In the same month, I climbed my first 5.12a (considered by some to be the point when you can really be called a “climber”) and ran my first 10k (I think a new personal distance record). I received a ton of support from various people and it all makes me feel a bit less cynical about what’s achievable if you just keep putting in an effort.

I feel a bit more like diving into things that I might have avoided previously. It’s important for me to keep this momentum, rather than thinking “I’ll just take a month to relax after all that writing, then try something else.” To get this off on the right foot, I’m going to do a bouldering competition (this particular move is partially inspired by Adventuregrrl’s recent blog post). Next Saturday my local gym is hosting a Dark Horse Series comp, so I’ll sign up for that. I’m not sure what division I’d be in – maybe “recreational” – but it doesn’t matter, I’ll just try to climb, and it’ll help me fight my performance anxiety as well.

I’m going to link to the draft of my novel, but not before adding a disclaimer: This is a first draft. It’s an unfinished first draft. There are plot holes, discontinuities, poorly developed characters, loose ends, and premises that don’t hold up to scrutiny. I consider it rather embarrassing, but part of doing something is not burying it afterward. I plan to continue working on it, but other than maybe taking part in NaNoEdMo, I don’t have any real schedule.

I’ve put this off long enough, so … here’s Counting the Countless. I came up with the title on October 30, and ran from there.

[Update: In response to (completely valid) criticism, I’ve changed the font to Georgia.]

Riding to Cure MS

September 18th, 2008

In a few weeks (Oct. 5), I will once again be riding in the MS Bike Tour in New York. I\’ll be riding 60 miles through Manhattan with Diana, my dad, and my brothers. The goal is for 5,000 riders to raise $3 million (that\’s an average of $600 per rider) to fund research and services to treat people who have MS. Please help us reach this goal by donating at my page. Visit The National MS Society to find out more.

Thanks for your support.

Frustrated with Climbing Ratings

June 23rd, 2008

So, as everyone says, it\’s hard to transpose ratings from one climbing area to another. I\’m working on a solution to that, but in the meantime I figured it\’d be good to jot down some relative weightings. There aren\’t too many places I\’ve climbed regularly, but here\’s a simple chart to compare them. If you have climbed at one of these and have additional gyms to add to the comparison, please let me know.

MetrorockVertical WordPlanet Granite
Everett, MASeattle, WASunnyvale, CA
0+3+2

All ratings are relative to the hardest rated gym. EG, if the hardest rated gym (which has rating \”0\”) rates a route a 5.7, a gym rated \”+2\” would likely call that same route a 5.9. Likewise, a 5.10b at the hardest gym would probably be a 5.10c at a gym rated \”+1\”.

In case you thought Lisp was dead …

March 5th, 2008

Two days ago I went to the largest usergroup meeting of any kind I have ever seen. It was the Boston Lisp Meeting (although it should be called the Cambridge Lisp Meeting, IMO). There were about 40 people in attendance, and when I left (at 22:00, four hours after my arrival), it still rivaled any usergroup in size.

With 40 people, the sitting-around-a-table-drinking-beer format is perhaps not the most effective. Sure, there is plenty of conversation to be a part of, but any single participant necessarily misses the majority of what\’s going on. So, I apologize at the beginning that this can not be a comprehensive report, but rather an experiential summary of what I observed that fateful evening.

I showed up at 18:00, with probably over twenty people bulging from a single long table. Almost everyone who came after me ended up filling a second table. I took note of a few big names right off the bat (from #lisp and elsewhere): Rahul Jain (who traveled from New York) had come with me, and certainly Faré (our great organizer) was already there. Jeremy Jones (a founder of Clozure) and James Knight (foom) were also there before me. Alistair Bridgewater (aka, nyef) trekked down from New Hampshire, but I think Hans Hübner won the longest-distance award, having come all the way from Berlin. Ok, this list is getting crazy … there were also other well-known lispers in attendance. Gary King was supposed to have been there, but I didn\’t see (or perhaps recognize) him. Both Zach Beane and dto had to miss because of transportation issues, which was quite disappointing.

I was afraid the group would be dominated by ITA employees, but I think they made up maybe a quarter of the entire group. None of the guys near me at the beginning were ITA employees, in fact, I think they were all Lisp hobbyists. As a result, there is always plenty of discussion about how to go about making Lisp your profession, which is a topic I do like to talk about. One of my favorite questions was \”If you get to write Lisp at work all day, do you work in other languages when you get home?\” The answer is pretty much \”no\” … at least, I don\’t play with other languages any more than I did before I was writing Lisp professionally.

Later on in the night I moved around the table to see what was happening at Faré\’s end. There seemed to be a lot of discussion about when meetings should be held, and how to organize them, etc., which is great to hear. We\’ll be moving to a more presentation-oriented format, and I\’m sure Faré will have all the details about future meetings sent around soon. There was an XO laptop that got passed around so everyone could enter in their contact information and how they would like to be involved with future mettings. So there ended up being a bit of discussion about the XOs, and who managed to get one (like me) and who didn\’t.

Toward the end of the night, I got around the table to talk with Rahul and another of my co-workers, and had the chance to finally meet Alistair. Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after we began talking … and he will be farther away than NH for the next few months because of various contracts he\’s working on. Hopefully he\’ll come to meetings when he\’s back in the region.

I know … there\’s not much Lisp content in this post. Honestly, it\’s hard to remember exactly what was discussed. The meeting was great for getting to know more Lispers, and there was plenty of Lisp talk, but my focus at the time was more on having a good time (and some beers) with people that I have a lot in common with. There will be plenty of in-depth Lisp-hackery at future presentation-based meetings. For now I\’m just excited about there being so many people here who are interested in it.

Continuing about restarts

February 26th, 2008

Update: these changes (along with an additional one for unbound slots) are now available in the CCL repo: http://svn.clozure.com/publicsvn/openmcl/trunk/<os><arch>/ccl

When I read Geoff Wozniak’s post (I know, I\’m a week behind) I was disappointed to see Clozure CL wasn’t even taken into account. I decided to check it out for myself. Initially, I was a bit disappointed, but after only a couple minutes of hacking, I managed to improve the situation a bit.

Situation Lisp implementations
Allegro CL Lispworks SBCL CLISP Clozure CL
No function defined -
Failed function lookup - - -
No class found - -
Division by zero - - - -
No method found -
No slot found - - -
Replace function with generic function -
Redefine a generic function - - 1

1 The existing code handled a defmethod followed by a defmethod with an incompatible lambda-list, but not a defmethod followed by a defgeneric with an incompatible lambda-list.

Initially (the black) we could claim superiority only to SBCL [Ed: just kidding, guys], but after my changes (in red) we’re now on par with Allegro. And Open Source. The squeaky wheel and all that. Thanks to Geoff for pointing out the issue.

Note: these changes currently exist only on my own box. I\’ll get them into CCL 1.2, though.

Boston Lisp Meeting

February 25th, 2008

It\’s been about four months since I last posted, which is really unacceptable. I feel like I have to jump on the bandwagon with this announcement, though, and maybe it\’ll get me back on track.

Next Monday (3 March 2008), is the inaugural Boston Lisp Meeting. Judging by talk around the office and in the community at large, it sounds like it\’ll be well-attended. If you know any lispers, send them along. If you want to get to know some, come along yourself.

automated testing with CL & darcs

October 21st, 2007

I spent a good chunk of today trying to get darcs to run my unit tests automatically. I haven\’t actually gotten it right yet, but at least I have it running the tests before each commit (even if the commit happens regardless).

I set up the auto-testing with darcs setpref test \"chmod +x test/run-tests; test/run-tests\". test/run-tests is the test script, but darcs doesn\’t allow you to add executable files to the repository, so you have to run chmod on the script before it can actually be executed.

Here\’s the test script itself:

enscript: couldn't find prolog "enscript.pro": No such file or directory %!PS-Adobe-3.0 %%BoundingBox: 24 24 571 818 %%Title: Enscript Output %%For: Greg Pfeil %%Creator: GNU enscript 1.6.4 %%CreationDate: Thu Jul 24 05:17:11 2014 %%Orientation: Portrait %%Pages: (atend) %%DocumentMedia: A4 595 842 0 () () %%DocumentNeededResources: (atend) %%EndComments %%BeginProlog %%BeginResource: procset Enscript-Prolog 1.6 4

What it should be doing is running the tests, and returning non-zero on failure. It runs the tests, but the failure bit isn\’t exactly happening yet.

I figured I\’d throw this out there and see if anyone else has a decent way of getting automated testing happening. The more I try to bridge between Lisp and Unix, the more I just want to live in a Lisp REPL.

Riding for a Cure

October 11th, 2007

This Sunday (Oct 14), I\’m going to be riding in the MS Bike Tour through New York. If you know someone with multiple sclerosis, you know what a horrible process it can be. The symptoms are random and often each is seriously debilitating on its own. There are also “good days”, when all the symptoms seem to go away, and the victim is given a brief reminder of what they\’ve lost.

Please help make a difference by donating to support research toward treatment and a cure.

Excuse our mess

October 4th, 2007

I just mostly-finished moving my blog to a new hosting company. There are still plenty of broken bits, but at least we\’re up-and-running. Hopefully I\’ll get the rest ironed out over the next few days.

Remote Book Storage

September 26th, 2007

Thanks to Casey, I\’ve rediscovered the library. While it would be great to have a Netflix-like hold system, I\’m already pretty happy with how far libraries have come since I was in elementary school (the last time I really used them). There\’s a library two blocks away from me. I can request any book available in most of the Boston suburbs online, and it will be sent to the library that is just a minute away from my house. It operates about as quickly as Amazon\’s Prime shipping (as long as you don\’t care exactly which book shows up), and you don\’t need to find space for more stuff in your house. I\’m also a member of the Boston library, in case I need anything that the Minuteman Network can\’t provide.

Libraries are particularly good for read-once books, like fiction. So I should be able to get rid of most of my fiction books no problem, right? I think they can be broken down into a few categories. I have books that

  1. are valuable in-and-of themselves (first editions, etc.),
  2. I actually refer back to often enough that it\’s worth having a copy on-hand,
  3. are involved enough to require study and commitment over longer-than-library-loan periods (like Finnegan\’s Wake)
  4. I keep around for nostalgia,
  5. I keep as a record of what I\’ve read, and
  6. I keep as a list of things to read.

The first three groups are small and justifiable. The fourth and fifth can be replaced by some sort of \”what I\’ve read\” list, like those available on Facebook or any number of other places. The sixth is just me looking for stuff to buy on Amazon, I guess. Things I\’m interested enough in to queue up on a shelf.

I think the sixth group is actually detrimental. There\’s no urgency in having to read them. They\’ll always be on that shelf, and I can postpone them indefinitely. I think the three-week deadline of library books will keep me from postponing them as well as help me avoid the paradox of choice. It\’ll be weird getting rid of books I haven\’t read yet, but I think it\’ll be the biggest help to make me actually read more.

Getting rid of books

September 20th, 2007

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I have way too many books. This picture is about half what I had before I moved. I managed to get rid of a bunch. However, that was more of an emergency culling. Now I have to go through the tough process of parting with books I actually care about. Being a GTDer, I broke it down a bit. I have to ?

Read the rest of this entry »

Say \”No\” to Comment Spam

September 19th, 2007

I think I got rid of comment spam. We\’ll see. I had hundreds of thousands of them just sitting in the database. I made two simple changes. The first was adding a simple required checkbox in the comment form. This might not be enough, I don\’t know. If it\’s not, I can change it to a text box that requires specific text or something, but the checkbox is simpler for the user, so I want to see if that suffices.

The other change I\’m less happy about. I turned off trackbacks for now. I\’ll have to get those back on, but it\’ll probably be a while. Basically, my site runs off of WordPress -2.0 or something. None of the modern spam removing stuff works on it. I should upgrade at some point, but meh.

Anyway, this means that comments will probably appear on the site in a more timely fashion. I\’m still moderating them, but with the spam gone I won\’t be ignoring them anymore. Also, if this actually turns out to work, I\’ll get rid of the moderation.

Harder, Better, Faster, Higher

August 5th, 2007

Today was another great day of climbing, with us doing 27 routes in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Which somehow is exactly 5 minutes per route. We basically did the same as last time, but added some triple climbs, and I even did a quadruple at the end (ok, it was a 5.7, but it was fun).

I\’m actually surprised we climbed faster than last time, because I think we did some harder routes. I definitely spent more time on a few of them, but I guess the triples canceled that out ? and then some.

Our motivation for climbing faster is that Diana is super-busy studying for her MIT quals every day. We can\’t take long leisurely trips to the gym for a while. Also, it\’s a 1-hour commute to the gym as well, so that eats up a lot of the time. Of course, we\’re not going to stop climbing, but something had to change. We needed to squeeze in enough climbing to make the trip worthwhile, but not cause Diana to lose too much studying time. So far it has worked out great.

The only really frustrating thing about climbing to me is that it means I have to cut my fingernails. That plays hell with the classical guitar stuff. Not that I really play anymore, but I still like to sit down and relax with the guitar sometimes. Does anyone have any recommendations for climbing + guitar? I\’ve never tried fingerpicks, but they seem like they would suck compared to my natural fingernails. I suppose it\’s my only option, though.

Fast Ascent

August 1st, 2007

Diana and I spent a few hours climbing today. We both have a lot of other things to get done, so we didn’t want to be at the gym for too long. In the 2 hours and 20 minutes between the first and last climb, we made 26 ascents between us. That’s 5:23 per climb, or a bit faster than 11 climbs/hour. Granted, it’s probably not setting any speed records, but when you realize that includes tying and untying between routes, looking for routes to do, waiting for other people to get out of the way, etc., it looks pretty good. It’s definitely better than I’ve ever done in the past.

Here’s how we did it:

  • do multiple climbs once you tie in – either repeat the route or do different routes on the same rope (not only does it save time, but it helps with the endurance you need for longer outdoor climbs);
  • pick easier routes that allow you to focus on technique, rather than ones at your limit where you flail for each hold;
  • make a point of having someone on the wall as much as possible – a quick review of key moves is good, but the chalking, drinking and tying should all be happening at the same time; and
  • just climb faster – make yourself move a bit faster than you’re comfortable with (but not too fast to climb well), it’ll help you connect the moves more fluidly.

You might think that it sounds a bit draconian, but we both had a lot of fun. I’m sure everyone has had that day at the gym where a lot of time was lost on the ground – you leave feeling like you spent too much time not climbing enough. The reason you’re there is to climb, presumably because you enjoy it. Maximize that enjoyment and have an exciting 2-hour trip rather than a drawn-out yawn fest on the mats.

Also, if you spend too much time off the rock between climbs, your muscles cool. You’ll end up tired after less wall time. Tonight was a good workout, staying just below a pump with a lot of fun technical moves.

What the iPhone earbuds don\’t do

July 24th, 2007

when plugged into my MacBook:

  • pause/play iTunes,
  • accept/close voice chats, and
  • work as a microphone at all.

Also the A/V 1/8\”->RCA cable that I got for my old iPod and iBook doesn\’t transmit video when plugged into the MacBook. It also doesn\’t even plug into the iPhone. It was one of my favorite accessories, but now the yellow plug just dangles uselessly as a reminder of what once was.

Apple\’s overall impressive level of integration and convergence just makes their misses all the more glaring.

Boston Rocks

July 7th, 2007

The longer I wait between posts, the harder it gets to post, so here\’s an easy one to break the silence.

I\’m in Boston and loving it. The weather\’s a bit hot, but my new apartment is amazing as is the fact that I\’m in the same town as my girlfriend again.

I\’ve been climbing a lot again (after taking a while off while dealing with moving, etc.). The gym here isn\’t bad, but ? despite the rave reviews ? it\’s a distant third (at least) on my list. Number two is the Seattle Vertical World, where I\’ve been a member for the past six months. Vertical World was for a long time the gym I rated all others by. It has incredible route density and variety. The routes are also fairly consistently graded. Recently I spent a day at Planet Granite in Sunnvale, California. That gym re-set the standard. They have indoor routes up to 85\’ and four or five different indoor cracks. They also have great outdoor bouldering and climbing. The routes aren\’t nearly as dense as they are at Vertical World (which is a shortcoming I\’ve noticed at every gym), but there are so many ropes you don\’t notice very often.

Anyway, the gym here … It\’s MetroRock. I have a lot of fun there, but the routes are rated all over the place. Some of the 5.8 routes are as hard as some of the 5.10a routes. There are plenty of 5.9+ routes that are easier than 5.8s, but if you kind of average out the mis-ratings, it seems like the routes are two levels harder than they are rated. This makes a bunch of the training exercises much harder than they should be. When I\’m doing a traverse or other aerobic stuff, I should end up tired ? not wishing my fingers could crimp just a few more times. And what\’s with \”5.9+\”? Is the current rating scheme not fine-grained enough? I mean, I could see adding in-betweens if your consistency was through the roof, but when you can\’t tell the difference between a 5.8 and a 5.10a? Not a chance. And there are other more confusing ratings, like \”5.10-\” and \”5.10+\”. Do those map to \”easier than 5.10a\” and \”harder than 5.10d\”, respectively? Or is a \”-\” like \”5.10a/b\” and a \”+\” like \”5.10c/d\”? Why make up ratings?

Of course, this ranting doesn\’t change the fact that I like the gym. I had a fun time with a couple of more experienced boulderers helping me through a V2 when I was there yesterday. It\’s just that I\’m used to climbing in what is apparently one of the premier gyms in at least the US, and it\’s a bit frustrating to move to one that is merely great.

In a couple months I\’ll probably be taking a trip up to the family get-away in Maine. It\’s not far from the Mt Washington Valley in New Hampshire, so I\’m preparing myself to conquer Cathedral Ledge. Taking into account the variances in rating here, I\’m working on red pointing the 5.10a routes. In Seattle I was on-sighting many of the 5.10a and red pointing the 5.10b. Hopefully I\’ll pull myself up one 5.10c here before September hits.

Ok, that was a big brain dump. I need to do more of those. Sorry for the extended silence. I\’m sure most of you had no interest in my climbing progression. Maybe the next one will interest more people. Although, if you\’re not interested in the climbing stuff, my guess is you just haven\’t tried it. Look up a local gym and drag a couple friends along. In fact, if I\’m coming through your area ever, make sure to drag me along.

Integration is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

April 7th, 2007

A while ago, Paul Graham blogged about not competing with Google. He mentioned how Google Calendar crushed other calendering apps because of ?Google Calendar\’s integration with Gmail. The Kikos can\’t very well write their own Gmail to compete.? And he actually concludes that ?the best solution for most startup founders would probably be to stay out of Google\’s way.?

I think he\’s right that integration was a major factor, but wrong in his evaluation of how to survive. Kiko doesn\’t need to write their own mail app to integrate with, they just need some mail app to integrate with. All of these ?Web 2.0? guys need to think a bit more about the Unix idea of ?small, sharp tools?, and not re-implement social networking with each new feature.

I\’ve been toying with a little Web app of my own and while I knew it needed some social networking, I also knew that I wasn\’t going to waste time writing it. I\’m going to piggy-back on Facebook. They have a nice API that other sites (like Bill Monk) are already capitalizing on. I\’m not going to write my own e-commerce engine, either, I\’m just going to use Amazon\’s APIs.

To a startup, time is precious. You can\’t throw away months re-implementing something that isn\’t pushing boundaries. You just need to find someone who already did, and hop on for the ride. Don\’t get caught in the pride of thinking you can do it better than them. If that\’s true, you can prove it once you have a couple dozen employees and pretty solid ground, not when you need to make every hour count.

So, please, create a tool, give it a good API, and let the mashups take over. Being connected to everything is your best chance of survival.


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