Jan 132008

One of the decisions I’ve been struggling with lately is whether or not to bring my laptop to Brazil. Traveling for a month without the ability to backup photos, post blog articles, and respond to e-mails would be very inconvenient. But the level of crime down there isn’t exactly a big international secret; in fact, of the four people I know who’ve gone backpacking in Brazil, two have been robbed at gunpoint, one at knifepoint, and only one was never robbed at all. A $2000 laptop isn’t something I’m particularly interested in losing.

My first idea was to buy a nice travel insurance package, but after many hours of research I realized that wouldn’t be a possibility. The best I could find was a $200 single-trip policy that’ll cover several thousand dollars of loss…with a per-item maximum of $125, all electronics excluded. Gee, thanks. I’m sure glad I bothered to read all the fine print. Pretty pathetic when compared to the Norwegian, UK, and Thai policies I found that cover any theft up to $3000 with no restrictions.

The solution I eventually settled on was to purchase and bring the fabulous little device shown here: the HTC TyTN II, aka Kaiser, aka Cingular 8925, aka AT&T Tilt. It’s a Windows Mobile superphone, with internal GPS, WiFi, a 3MP digital camera, and full 3G support. Meaning it’ll work anywhere in the world, even Japan (Japan and South Korea run on a rare 2100MHz frequency, so finding a US phone that’ll work over there is surprisingly difficult).

Of course, the bundled Windows installation is an extremely limited operating system that locks out virtually every feature I might’ve found useful – right down to basic file browsing! You know, for consumer “ease of use.”

But thankfully, after days of registry tweaks and third-party software installs I’ve now got an almost fully functional PC in my pocket, everywhere I go. It’s awesome. I can edit photos, upload them to FTP, scan for unlocked WiFi networks, get turn-by-turn driving directions, watch my home Television, edit Office documents, perform (tabbed) web browsing in Japanese, watch DivX movies, listen to mp3s, download torrents, play NES games, and even RDC into my home PC. I just ordered a Bluetooth keyboard that’ll fold to about the size of my wallet for easy typing. And in case it gets stolen, I set up a silent utility that’ll email me the phone number and GPS coordinates of any theft who tries to insert an unauthorized SIM card. Almost none of this was originally possible (nor would it be on an iPhone πŸ˜› )

So if all goes well, this is how I’ll be blogging from Brazil.

Expect much less refined photos, possibly at much lower resolutions, accompanying virtually un-proofread posts. But at least I’ll be able to blog! And without lugging around or risking the loss of an expensive full-sized laptop πŸ˜€

Things have been quite hectic since returning home to LA: unpacking from Japan, planning for Brazil, putting together visa paperwork, studying Portuguese, lifting, organizing data backups, tying up in-progress coding projects, catching up with friends and family, Christmas, New Year, etc, etc, etc. I’ve actually got 10 (that’s right, ten!) pages of shorthand-style journal entries about my last month in Japan which I’d really like to blog on – including trips to both Kyushu and Tokyo – but alas, my departure nears too quickly.

Plus I just got back from a 5-day snowboarding trip to Telluride, Colorado!

To me, Telluride felt like a “new Aspen.” Its ritzy residential areas sport homes of more company CEO’s than anywhere else in America, along with vacation homes of Ralph Lauren, Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld, and probably many more of Hollywood’s big spenders. The crappiest little shack on Main Street sells for a cool $1.4 million.

But unlike Aspen, Telluride’s wonderful ski slopes can at times feel like your own personal backyard – lift lines never exceeded two minutes, and often I’d sit down right in the middle of a major run and look around to find myself completely alone. The conditions were perfect – 67 inches of snow over the previous week, but perfectly sunny from the day we arrived. Even my dad, with his severely damaged hips and knees, who never thought he’d be able to ski again, skied again. Despite the fact that he could barely limp his way from the house to the ski lift. What a wildman.

Oh, and speaking of the house: one of the main reasons we decided to take this trip in the first place was because of a very generous offer from a New Jersey-based relative. She and her two sons would be heading up for a few weeks’ vacation and offered us a place to stay in their fantastic three-story five-bedroom “cabin”…with heated floors, plasma TV’s, hot tubs, a fabulous view, and even a daily chef to cook dinner. Location: one minute from the first lift. Wow.

And although I sort of wussed out on the last day on the hill, all-in-all it was a really nice trip. Most memorable point: the incredible effects of the altitude. Telluride Airport is the highest commercial airport in the US, clocking in at an elevation of over 9,000 feet. Our house sat just above 10,000. Having come straight from sea level it was pretty amusing to catch myself completely losing my breath from a short climb up an indoors staircase. Especially after spending the previous few weeks lifting weights for an hour or more daily.

Everest should be fun…whenever I finally manage to make my way over to Nepal πŸ˜‰

  8 Responses to “A Month in America”

  1. I was looking at that phone for a while but Windows mobile eventually turned me off of it. It is SUCH a crappy OS, and its support for Chinese is just pitiful. You’ll have to let me know your thoughts once you use it some more.

    I was in Telluride during my last visit to the states. It is definitely a funky airport, but it is not nearly as difficult as Leadville, the highest airport in the US. When flying out of there, you cannot get out of ground effect to start your climb prior to retracting your gear. Having to retract your gear just a few feet from the ground while unable to ascend is scary for nearly all pilots πŸ™‚

    See you soon

  2. crusted butt, huh?

  3. Hey cousin,

    Telluride is indeed an amazing place – came up from Montrose to work there many times, including two weeks at that airport. Beats Vail, Aspen, Breck, – hell, all of them. Will you ever be able to stand in a hour-long lift line at Snow Scummit again?

  4. Is it just me or does your new frontend no longer display the number of comments on each entry? That was a useful way of checking whether a post was worth looking at again.

  5. Andy: Yeah, no native Japanese support was also a big stick-point for me, but some Japanese programmer managed to get the entire Windows IME to work on it – and after about a day of research/tweaking I eventually got it so I can type in Japanese exactly as on my main PC πŸ™‚ Granted the OS is a bit on the unstable site, but the HUGE range of software that’s available by far outweighs its inherent pitfalls IMO.

    David: I was actually thinking you might be in that area; do you live near Montrose? It was a pretty quick trip but would’ve been cool if we’d had a chance to drop by and say hi πŸ™‚

    Noz: Mouseover the entries and you can see the # of comments, or you can see all recent comments in the “Recent Comments” section. Do you still think I should put the # by each post as well? I omitted it simply for format consistency…

  6. I liked that you could see the number of comments right on the main page. I don’t know how many of your regular visitors used that as a measure of whether to look at a post again, but I used it.

  7. I agree with Jeff…..I liked seeing that on the main page

  8. δΉ…γ—γΆγ‚ŠοΌ I have been busy with preparations for the wedding and getting ready move to Hawaii this year. You’ll have to email me some details on how you got your Tilt to work in Japanese, because I’ve been looking at getting one when I get back to the States, too.

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