New Computer

New ComputerI am about to insert my Quadro 2000 into my Asus SabertoothX79. The machine is a beast: 64GB of memory.

Site Maintenance

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Code is Poetry?

The tag line for Word Press is “Code is Poetry.” If, at its heart, poetry consists of words that affect people’s thinking and feelings, then code could be poetry. But code is a strict disciplinarian compared to poetry, certainly contemporary poetry. A single quotation mark out of place or an extra comma will break everything creating a “Page Not Found, Error 404.” Even English teachers grading on a curve don’t do that.

Not being content using the available Word Press themes, I decided to create my own header, color scheme and custom pages. I dove into the languages to create my own hacks. Some improvements for my latest website upgrade include:

  • New look including a header photo I took of the Emperor’s globe in the Forbidden City, Beijing with complementary colors.
  • Created destinations template page which use the page name (destination) as a category definition and lists posts chronologically. Sidebar shows (more…)

Windows Home Server backs it up

My desktop PC was running slowly, so I disabled a few start-ups and old drivers. It seemed to help, so I disabled a few more. BSOD! the Blue Screen of Death. My computer wouldn’t start. I had disabled a driver that I actually needed. But which one, and where could I find it, and how can I reinstall it when my PC won’t even boot up??? I put a CD in the machine, made a few clicks and fifteen minutes later, my machine was back to where I started. Windows Home Server (WHS)backs it up…and better yet, it restores my entire PC. Since I’ve had it, I have recovered from a hard disk failure and upgraded two primary hard drives (containing the OS) with ease.

The way it works is that by schedule it does a daily backup of any PCs that are turned on (including standby or hibernate modes). I have my server set to automatically boot-up

API, RSS, permalinks, a badge

I set up permalinks so you can more easily find keys posts. Under the “Himalaya” page, you can now click through to my favorite postings. I added a Flickr badge to the sidebar so you can see my latest photos. And best yet, I got an API key so I can integrate my Flickr photos into this site. The site is now enabled for RSS so you can receive my updates as I post them; see “Entries RSS” under Meta. There’s more to do, but I’m making progress.

Gear Review

I packed well and my gear held up.
+ The Eagle Creek Cross Roads Convertible Pack was a good choice. It wheeled down the aisles of trains, fit in overhead compartments, squeezed through bus windows, never spilled its contents, easily converted to a backpack when we needed to hike 7 kilometers across the border from China to Nepal, and expanded to fit my tea and other souvenirs for the plan ride home.
+ North Face shirts, REI travel underwear, Columbia pants and sun shirt, REI trekking pants, Merrill XTR oxfords, Crocs — no problems. I did wear out two of the shirts and threw them away.
+ Tilley Hat worked great at blocking sun. About a week ago while we were staying at a nice hotel in Delhi, I noticed it had gotten dirty with sunblock, sweat and dirt. It cleaned up easily with soap and a fingernail brush. Just yesterday, someone asked if he could take my photo with my hat on and then asked to borrow my hat and had me take his photo.
+ EMS packable rain jacket. I used it once as an outer layer at Everest and then lost it in a hotel room somewhere….
+REI down jacket, North Face fleece, LaFuma ultralight sleeping bag all worked great and kept me warm.
+ Photo Gear, Nikon D200 and accessories all worked fine. My Wolverines hard disk drives functioned at altitudes over 4,000 meters. 50mm f/1.4 lens added a whole new dimension for museums and temples. Never really used my filters. I like the photos I’ve taken with the 12-24mm lens and wish I had used it more, ditto for Bogen/RRS tripod and remote release. I’m really glad I took cleaning supplies for lenses, chamber and sensor. I had a “squiggly” on my sensor that hampered dozens of photos before I fixed it. If I hadn’t cleaned the sensor, hundreds of photos would require touch-up. I probably should have cleaned chamber and sensor a second time.

Photo Gear

Given my change in travel focus (from fishing and automobile travel to fast-moving basic tourism), I shifted my photographic expectations. (Had a reason to buy more camera gear).
In the past, I paid little attention to weight or bulk in choosing lenses and equipment. When I travelled to Patagonia, I tipped the scales at 22 pounds. My favorite lens (70-200 f4.5) weighs over 3 pounds.
I turned to discussion forum for assistance from fellog photographers. Points made:
-need to travel light
-tripods and flash are too conspicuous and other prohibited or require special fees
-all choices require compromises
Given my focus on landscape, buildings and people, I ultimately packed about 11 pounds of photo gear including my protective knapsack:
-Nikon D200, 8GB in flash cards, 2 LiIon batteries
-18-200mm f3.5-5.6 lens, for most everything
-12-24mm f4.0, for wide buildings and landscapes
-50mm f1.4, for low light conditions
-tabletop tripod (Bogen and Really Right Stuff)
-charges, electrical and battery
-filters- 4 including circular polarizer
-remote control wireless
-chamber and sensor cleaning brush, blower
The hard disk drives have worked well for me in the past. After a double back-up, I reformat my CF card for the next ust. On some days, I take 2GB of photos (RAW + JPEG, about 16MB for each photo). The Himalayas present a special situation in that hard drives are warranted to work up to 10,000 feet in altitude and are designed to spin on a cushion of air. Although positive results have been reported at higher altitudes, my backups may be unpredictable. The manufacturer, Wolverine, has asked me to report my experience at 15,000 feet.
One additional concern is electricity or the lack thereof. Both my camera and the HDDs need to be charged. I expect days without electricity. I assume I will have access to AA batteries and have a special camera grip and external HDD charger to accomodate this.
The 18-200mm and 12-24mm are each about 1 pound.

gear: it takes a lot to pack a little

My check-in bag weighed 23 pounds. I have another 16 pounds of carry-on. This includes 11 pounds of camera gear . Grand Total–just under 40 pounds. My backpack weighs 8 pounds.
By contrast, when I went to Patagonia, I had 75 pounds. But that was a different trip. Because it was a fishing adventure, I had fishing gear and intended to travel by automobile. This Asia trip is different. No fishing and lots of movement on public transportation. Typically, we will be moving every couple of days.
Although I don’t anticipate much rain, temperatures will vary from Delhi at over 100 degrees F to Everest at below freezing. Our accomodations will be between basic and very basic, including sleeping on trains, family homes, and monasteries.
Gear includes:
— down jacket and sleeping bag, bed sheets, backpacker towel
–compass, whistle, collapsible water bottle, matches, needle and thread
–toilitries and prescriptions, sunblock
–2 long-sleeve shirts, 2 pair of pants, 1 pair shoes, 3 underwear, socks and T-shirts
–long johns, Thermax shirt, rain jacket
–hats, gloves, sun-hat
At 8 pounds, the backpack is heavy. I spent 3 pounds for the use of wheels.
All clothes are synthetic, quick dry material. Hat, shirts and pants are minimum SPF30 sun protection.
I splurged and got a Tilley hat.
My one pair of shoes are brown oxfords with Vibram soles and Gore-Tex XTC uppers.
My underwear are advertised as 17 countries, 3 weeks, 1 pair of underwear. I splurged and brought 3.

Ready or Not?

Well, I packed today. Everything for two months rolled and folded, in two small bags. Fishing gear, clothes, fly tying kit, books, even laundry detergent. I am sure they won’t seem small when I have to lug them all through Chile and Argentina. It has taken an entire month to assemble everything and sift through and pare down, and now it is all ready. 48 hours before flight time. The focus has been on the getting ready. Now, fairly quickly, the energy is shifting to the excitement of the great adventure. It feels like being in the starting gate, all the preparation done, just waiting for the gun, ‘and they are off!’