First Multi-Pitch Alpine Rock Climb

Yesterday, my Mountaineers SIG (small instructional group) climbed to the summit of The Tooth, a granite peak near Alpental, just south of Source Lake.

This was my first multi-pitch alpine rock climb. The approach was harder than I thought, but the actual climbing was easier. Granted, it was only 5.4, but it is way more nerve-wracking when you’re several pitches up than on a crag or climbing wall.

The approach took us from the trailhead at about 3100 feet elevation to the base of The Tooth at 5300 feet. From there, it was four pitches up to 5604 feet. The first and second were long vertical rock climbing pitches with two or three pieces of protection. The third was a scrambling portion, and the last pitch was another short but steep rock climb with two fixed pieces and another placed piece of protection. We descended using four rappels and a short down-climb where we had scrambled up earlier.

I’m sore, but happy. This was an incredible day.

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Rock Climbing in Vantage

With the Mountaineers, I went on my first rock climbing trip. We climbed some of the crag columns in Vantage.

Along with several others, I climbed Shake It Don’t Break It (5.5), Feather in My Cap (5.6), and Ruffled Feathers (5.7).

I can’t wait to go back.

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Mountaineers Basic Alpine Climbing Course

Jenny and I joined the Mountaineers Basic Alpine Climbing Course this year. It’s really a rush and a lot of fun to learn so many new things: knots, belaying, climbing, rappelling, crevasse rescue.

Here’s a picture of my SIG (small instructional group) practicing multi-pitch climbing, belaying, and rappelling:

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And here I (yellow pants) just climbed up and am tying into the anchor at the top:

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Two pictures of me rappelling down (orange jacket first picture, yellow pants second picture):

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Jenny is always so calm and collected, and super strong:

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Mt. Si Conditioning Hikes

I’ve been conditioning at Mt. Si this winter and made the hike several times.

  • December 29, 2015: 2 hours, 3 minutes
  • January 9, 2016: 2 hours, 7 minutes with heavier pack
  • March 6, 2016: 1 hour, 47 minutes with heavier pack
  • March 27, 2016: 1 hour, 45 minutes with Mountaineers training-weight pack!
  • April 3, 2016, 1 hour, 40 minutes with Mountaineers training-weight pack!

I feel good.

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Hiked to Camp Muir… Again

My wonderful girlfriend was out of town, and the weather looked decent, so what could I do? Go hiking again. I would have done the same with her here (and gone together with her), but just because she’s not here doesn’t mean I can’t go, right?

I hiked to Camp Muir again. I was craving the thin air at 10,000 feet. The forecast called for freezing temperatures, pretty strong winds and a 30% chance of snow flurries at 11 AM or later, so I left home quite early, around 5:30 AM and had my boots on the trail a little after 8 AM.

At first, I was perhaps a bit slower than a few weeks ago, but I was at Pebble Creek at 9:15 AM. I made it to Camp Muir just before noon. I was wearing my new mountaineering boots for only the second time, and the first time, when I hiked up Mt. Si in them, they tore up my ankles. This time, I put a large waterproof bandage on my ankles, then a large patch of moleskin, and I taped all that together with medical tape around the heel and ankle. I also wore a thinner sock as liner and a thicker sock for insulation and cushioning.

It worked — my blisters didn’t get worse. Wearing the mountaineering boots allowed me to use my crampons. Wow, it was so much easier to get up the snow field in crampons. But on the other hand, it was also below freezing, and the snow field wasn’t melting anymore. All crevasses that I tested had frozen over and were solid. So maybe it would have been about as easy just with my regular hiking boots and without crampons as well.

I was somewhere around 9000 ft at 11 AM, and the winds had really picked up for the last half hour. At times, it was close to a white-out. I told myself I’d go to 9000 ft and then descend, but when I was there and ready to turn around, the weather improved markedly. I decided to continue another 1000 feet to Camp Muir.

Up there, it was really cold and windy this time. I took my glove off to take some pictures, and I had planned to check my blood oxygen saturation using a pulse oximeter, but it was too cold to continue to keep my glove off. I shoved a protein bar in my mouth and started the descent. On the way down, maybe to around 9500 ft, the weather was pretty bad. Near white-out again. But fortunately, I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to go, even without a map (I had given my paper map to another hiker who didn’t have one, and it was too cold to take my phone out). After that, the weather improved again and it was an easy way down the snow field.

When I got to the rocky part around 8000 ft, though, my heels started hurting quite badly. I don’t know if it’s the fat cushion or maybe the plantar fascia, or if maybe I had laced my boots too tight to avoid the heel slippage that had given me the bad blisters before. But my descent on the loose rocks was painful and slow. It got a bit better once I was past Pebble Creek again, but I wasn’t the fastest by any means. I was down at the car at 3 PM.

And when I was walking around with my backpack, helmet, ice axe, mountaineering boots, puffy, and gloves, being only the second person coming down from Camp Muir that day, I felt like a baller around the hoohas at the visitor center.

Windy, with snow flurries, on the way up to Camp Muir.

Windy, with snow flurries, on the way up to Camp Muir.

At Camp Muir in below freezing weather. The wind was blistering cold. I know, the hood goes over the helmet, but it was too cold to adjust it at 9000 ft.

At Camp Muir in below freezing weather. The wind was blistering cold. I know, the hood goes over the helmet, but it was too cold to adjust it at 9000 ft.

So, what have I learned?

  • Getting to Camp Muir when it freezes is easier than when it melts.
  • If I tape up my ankles well, they last well over 8 miles in my La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX mountaineering boots.
  • But after some time, the bottom of my heels start to hurt.
  • Mountaineering boots and crampons on snow or ice: wonderful.
  • Mountaineering boots and crampons on rocks: awful.
  • Mountaineering boots on rocks: still bad.
    • I don’t have very good balance in them. Because the soles don’t bend at all, my foot is basically flat on the surface of the rock, and my leg goes with it.
  • Mountaineering boots are a lot rougher on my knee when on rocks.
    • Because of the stiff sole, I can’t really ensure that I don’t pronate or roll my knee inward. If a rock I step on is lower in my middle and higher on the outside, my knee will rotate inward. This is bad and worrisome.
    • Should I put Superfeet Green insoles in my mountaineering boots? Those are the insoles I use to work against pronation in a lot of my other shoes. Or maybe Superfeet RedHot? Seems similar to the Green.
  • Even when I’m wearing gloves, I need to tape up my middle finger to avoid getting blisters from the ice axe.
  • It definitely helps to chug 1.5 liters of water when still at the car. No dehydration this time.
  • I also had a Nalgene bottle with me, and that was good, because there were brief moments when my Camelbak line froze.
    • I’ve had that happen before, but it still always surprises me.
  • I like the Premier Protein bars, especially the dark chocolate mint one, but they freeze close to solid.
    • I know, I should stick them in an interior chest pocket.
    • But they last a long time for me. Today, I had two bars during 7 hours of hiking, and that was enough to get me from 5 AM breakfast to 5 PM, when I had a nut bar in the car. During two days in the Enchantments, I had two servings of freeze-dried lasagna and four or five bars.
  • For freezing temperatures, I need thicker gloves than the rappelling gloves.
  • I should set up my hard shell’s hood to the correct helmet size before I absolutely need it.
  • But I really like a lot of the equipment that I have: the Arcteryx Alpha FL jacket is probably the best jacket I’ve ever had. Wind-resistant and breathable. A joy to be in.
  • The cheap Paradox merino blend base layer that I picked up at Costco works really well. Keeps me warm and dry. I already noticed that in the Enchantments.
  • I need to somehow tuck in my pant legs when I’m wearing crampons.
  • I don’t like skiers in the national park.

Now I’m soaking in the tub with a big bowl of chicken soup, fortified with black beans and lots of hot sauce.

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Camp Muir!

I hiked to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet on Mt. Rainier today! It was an amazing day.

I arrived at the Paradise Visitor Center a little before 10 AM, and it took me 4.5 hours up and 3 hours down. At the beginning I was quite fast, within an hour I was already past the High Skyline Trail headed towards Pebbel Creek. Another hour later I was at 8,000 feet and had passed the spot where I had taken an RMI mountaineering day school.

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But from that point on, it got difficult. In the third hour, I didn’t quite make it to 9,000 feet. It was just too steep and slippery on the ice. And because my new mountaineering boots had torn up my heels two weeks ago, I was only wearing my regular hiking boots. And my crampons don’t fit on those. Once I slipped and had to self-arrest, just like I had learned it at the mountaineering day school.

To get from 9,000 to 10,000 feet, where Camp Muir is located, took me about 1.5 hours. It’s probably barely more than half a mile, but this is where the crevasses started. First, there were small, narrow ones, and I could hear the water rushing down in them.

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But soon enough, there were pretty big transverse crevasses that were several feet wide and stretched hundreds of feet to either side. I had to zigzag through them, to the left, then between two crevasses back to the right, then when the next crevasse ended, back to the left again. This is where I definitely wished my mountaineering girlfriend were there with a rope.

I may have made a mistake here. The snowfield was initially much nicer in the west, so I headed over that way. On my way down, in the east, there were fewer transverse crevasses.

This big crevasse is at about 9,400 feet elevation, near the Anvil Rock.

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A lot of the crevasses were snow-covered, but after my boot went through a snow bridge once, I decided to not cross them anymore. Look how long they are!

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I reached Camp Muir a little before 2:30 PM. I had chosen 3 PM as time to turn around, regardless of where I was. At Camp Muir, there are a few buildings, solar cells, toilets, and so on.

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Four other climbers were there as well, on the north side of Camp Muir, doing some crevasse exercises. The area north of Camp Muir, towards the Cadaver Gap, the Cathedral Rocks, and Little Tahoma Peak, is quite dramatic. Giant crevasses!

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At 10,000 feet, it was difficult to catch my breath, even when doing nothing. The air is so thin! It’s an unusual feeling because it’s so unexpected. I think at first I almost mistook it for thirst.

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On the way down, I slipped one more time and had to be quick with the self-arrest, because I really started to slide down fast. I think my RMI guide would have been proud. And I fell on my butt once, but not because it was steep, just because it was slippery. The mountaineering course was definitely worth it.

I was back at the car at 6 PM, eight hours after I had left.

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Wanting a New Phone

My current phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, is now almost 2 years old (just a week shy).

For the last six to nine month, battery life has been pretty horrible, and the USB connector also doesn’t work all the time anymore either. It’s definitely time for a new phone. But which one?

Here are things I like:

  • Android
  • Large battery
  • User-replaceable battery
  • User-replaceable SD card storage
  • Thin
  • Not too big (5″, perhaps even a bit less)
  • Water-proof would be nice

Unfortunately, here are the candidates:

  • The Samsung Galaxy S6 doesn’t have a replaceable battery or storage, and it’s not water-proof.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active is only on AT&T, and I’m not on AT&T and won’t be.
  • The LG G4 is really big. The battery is big, but with it’s big display, it probably won’t last longer than the S6 battery. But the battery is replaceable. The worst is the button placement — next to the camera? Who came up with that terrible idea?

Of course, I have never since my Palm Treo 755p replaced the battery. And I’ve never replaced the SD card I put in. But I do have a 64 GB card in there, plus 16 GB in the phone, and I’m using about 60 GB of the 80 GB. So for the Galaxy S6, I would have to go for the 128 GB model, and even that isn’t really future-proof.

CategorySamsung Galaxy S6LG G4
Battery2550 mAh, not replaceable (-)3000 mAh, replaceable (+)
Storage128 GB, not replaceable (-)32 GB + SD card (+)
Size5" (+)5.5" (-)
WaterproofNo (but lasts over 10 minutes)No (but supposedly lasts 2 hours)
UII know it, and I like it (+)Seemed shrill and gimmicky in the store
Button placementSides (+)Next to camera (-)
Sum2x (-) 3x (+) = +12x (-) 2x (+) = 0


So what am I going to do? I don’t know yet… But I think I’m leaning towards getting the 128 GB version of the Galaxy S6, even if the battery and storage aren’t replaceable.

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Lake 22 Hike

On the first Sunday of April, we came back to the Mountain Loop Highway to get to Lake 22. It was only a few miles away from Mt. Pilchuck, but there was almost no snow. We were definitely overdressed. Granted, the Mt. Pilchuck hike started at around the same elevation as where Lake 22 is situated.

The waters of Lake 22 were absolutely still, so still, in fact, that pictures with the reflection in it look… wrong, somehow. And the steep cliff walls surrounding the lake made us feel very small.

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Mt. Pilchuck Hike

At the beginning of April, I had a hiking double-header on the Mountain Loop Highway. Saturday I went up Mt. Pilchuck. I was surprised how much snow there was: close to 2 ft!

It was gorgeous and a good workout. Unfortunately, there were no good views from up at the fire lookout.

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Life will find a way

Life will find a way.

Life will find a way.

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Hikes of Early 2015

The first hike was the 3.8 mile Poo Poo Point Chirico Trail, with 1760 ft of gain. This was also the first new trail for me since the end of 2013.

On the way up Tiger Mountain.

On the way up Tiger Mountain.

The other hike was another visit to Annette Lake, with 1400 ft gain over the 7.5 miles round-trip.

Fog over Humpback Creek.

Fog over Humpback Creek.

Peaks above Annette Lake.

Peaks above Annette Lake.

I’m thrilled that I’ve been on two hikes already, and it’s still February. They weren’t hard, long hikes, but I was outside for a few hours on the trail. This is after sometimes last year I couldn’t really walk at all without being in pain. There’s a wonderful person who’s dragging me outside.

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Sunglasses in the Snow

One of the most annoying things from my hikes early this year was going back and forth between the glare of the snow and the darkness of the woods. I kept taking off my sunglasses and putting them back on, sometimes once a minute. I decided I needed photochromic polarized sunglasses, and when REI had a sale, I snatched up a couple of Smith Backdrop models. One has amber lenses, the other has rose-colored lenses.

I went out to Alpental to figure out which ones I like better, but it’s really hard to decide. I think I like the rose-colored ones a tad bit better, but the amber ones glasses look better on me. I think I’ll keep them both and report more later.

At Alpental with Smith Backdrop polarchromic sunglasses with rose-colored Ignitor lenses.

At Alpental with Smith Backdrop polarchromic sunglasses with rose-colored Ignitor lenses.

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Getting My Perforce Back

About a week ago, I received an email from a user of Concutest, asking whether I would update it to be based on JUnit 4.12 soon. I hadn’t worked on Concutest in a while, and I also hadn’t followed along with the development of JUnit, so I don’t really know what changed from 4.7 to 4.12, but I’m happy that someone is using the results of my graduate work. I said I would work on a release last weekend.

Well, making a release turned out to be a bit more involved. I hadn’t really set up my current computer as a developer machine since my last machine died in November 2012.

The first thing I had to do was get my Perforce server up and running again. I had a backup of the Perforce server directory (which I had already migrated from Linux to Windows after grad school, after migrating it from Windows to Linux during grad school).

I tried to use the Perforce recovery instructions. But when starting up the server again, I got an error message:

Perforce server error:
Database open error on db.config!
BTree db.config from an older server version – 2013.2 or earlier

So I did a database upgrade using Perforce’s instructions for that, and I was back in business.

Now I’m working on merging in the concJUnit changes into JUnit 4.12, but I’m also thinking about turning my Perforce repository into a Git repository. At work, I’ve been using Git for nearly two years now, and I generally like it so much better than Perforce. Sorry, Perforce, you’ve been great for the last 11.5 years.

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Summer Updates

It’s been a while since I’ve written here last. I’ve gone to Finland, I’ve come back. And there have been some pretty dramatic changes in my life (not all to be detailed here and now).

Normally, this would be the peak season for hiking for me. Unfortunately, my knee injury has got worse, and I’m doing physical therapy. Walking still sometimes hurts, so hiking is out of the question right now. I can’t do cardio exercise very well without making my knee worse, which is a difficult situation for me to be in. I’ve started going to the gym, though, to do some circuit training and weights, interspersed with my physical therapy exercises, and that feels good.

I also recently acquired a standing desk at work. It was the positive outcome, I suppose, of a lot of personnel changes. I’ve only had it for two days, but I think I like it. I’ve wanted one for a while. I stood just two hours the first day, and four hours the second. It’s adjustable, so there’s really no downside, but I want to increase the amount of standing over time.

Standing desk at work.

Standing desk at work.

The cables are a horrible mess right now. I have to buy something for cable management and attach a power strip to the bottom of the desk.

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Rebuffed by Snow Lake Yet Again

I made my second attempt this year to reach one of my favorite spots in the state, Snow Lake (and ideally, Gem Lake). Yet again, I turned around before I could reach Snow Lake.

The first time was a snowshoeing trip during which I followed the South Fork Snoqualmie river to Source Lake, but then stopped there. I could hear wet, loose snow moving, there was a lot of it, and I was alone, so I turned around.

Today, I took the regular hiking path that I had taken twice before. There was still a lot of snow there, but the trail was visible until I got to the point where the switchbacks normally start. Those were completely invisible. I guess I could have tried to continue due east on the path that’s on the slope just north of Source Lake, but again, there was a lot of loose, wet snow, sometimes I broke in to my hip, and I was alone. Then one of my trekking poles collapsed and I couldn’t extend one of the two segments, so I decided to turn around.

Out of four hikes I’ve done this year so far, I’ve only reached Mt. Si and Rattlesnake Ridge. But I’ve also been carrying a much heavier pack than in the last years, and it’s early in the year.

It was still a gorgeous hike, but I’m learning to respect these easy hikes this early in the year.

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Google Maps with Lane Guidance and Traffic

I’ve complained a lot about the Google Maps app on Android lately. Offline maps were gone, the nice navigation interface while driving was gone, favorites were gone, simple access to alternate routes was gone, distance measurement via ruler was gone. Voice input isn’t working well anymore, and it seems to require a touch to actually start navigating. In fact, I didn’t update to the latest version for a long time. I kept an APK of version 6 around on my device so if I accidentally updated Google Maps to version 7, I could uninstall the update and update to a version I liked.

Yesterday, I updated to Google Maps 8.0 on my phone, and I actually like it. Alternate routes are a button away again. Lane guidance is cool and probably useful (although I’ve found that on the Boren-Westlake-Denny intersection, it’s a bit misleading: if you want to go down Westlake, you should be in the right lane on Boren).

Google Maps 8.0 on Android

Google Maps 8.0 on Android

What I like the best, though (and I’ll try to get a screenshot of it at some point), is that Google Maps now displays traffic on nearby streets as thin colored lines. They help me decide if I want to quickly turn into an alternate street if I see cars backing up on the street ahead of me.

I haven’t exactly tried out how well favorites, voice input, and offline maps work. I now have direct links to most of the places that I want to go to just on my driving dock, so I don’t need favorites as much anymore. Voice input is still important — I’ll try that out the next few times I’m driving. And offline maps isn’t really important anymore either, since I now use BackCountry Navigator for topographic maps when I’m hiking.

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Best Papers vs. Top Cited Papers

Dr. Moshe Vardi at Rice tweeted a really cool link today: Best Papers vs. Top Cited Papers on Arnetminer.

It lists the most-cited papers that were published at one of many conferences, and then also which paper received the “best paper” award at that conference. Frequently, the “best paper” is far from being the most influential (or at least, far from being cited most often).

I guess that shows how difficult it is to predict the impact of someone’s work. It also makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy, though, because I do know most of the top and best papers from recent PLDI conferences. I guess I’ve retained a few things from my PhD work.

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DeLorme InReach SE

I recently bought a satellite communicator, the DeLorme InReach SE. It can send an SOS, and it’s a two-way communicator, so rescue personnel can tell you they’ve actually received your message.

Of course, you can also use it to text your friends and loved ones, and to receive texts from them. Arbitrary 160-character texts are possible, but on my plan, sending more than 10 a month costs money, so I haven’t done that much. What I have done is send pre-set messages, which are free. I use them to check in (“Everything is ok.”) and to request help in non-life-threatening situations (“I need help.”). I also send them just to myself as a cheap way to track my progress.

Last weekend, I took it out to Source Lake for some snowshoeing. Most of the time, it worked well, although there was a situation where I was under some tree cover, and for about 20 minutes it wouldn’t send. I like that I can give the people who care about me peace of mind (in most situations).

DeLorme InReach SE at Source Lake

DeLorme InReach SE at Source Lake. You can see it clipped to my left shoulder.

DeLorme announced this week that they are releasing a newer device this May, the DeLorme InReach Explorer. In addition to messaging, the Explorer can also do navigation. For that, the SE needs an Earthmate app on a smartphone.

Sounds interesting, but so far, it looks like the Explorer doesn’t do topographic maps, and that’s really what I need. Navigation is nice, but it wouldn’t replace my phone for mapping. Maybe DeLorme didn’t want to compete with its own line of EarthMate GPS devices, which do have topographic maps.

Update

DeLorme customer service confirmed that there are no maps on the DeLorme InReach Explorer itself:

The Explorer model does not have the ability to store maps in itself. It will still need to be paired with a smart device running our Earthmate App for any kind of Topo Maps to be available.

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Transcendence

I watched a pre-screening of the movie “Transcendence” today.

Some cliches, like wildly flashing and scrolling consoles and computer-generated voices, as well as the somewhat rapid end aside, the movie was well-made and thought-provoking. Below are some thoughts that occurred to me during the movie, in stream-of-consciousness form (or should we say, Stream<Consciousness>?).

I’m pretty sure that technological, digital evolution is indeed the next step for humanity, if there is one. I’m not sure that I feel too bad about it. I do feel that in some way, machines with consciousness would be our children. Not biological, but most likely cultural, if you cast a wide net around culture. I’m not convinced that we can engineer something as advanced as what is necessary for artificial intelligence, but we can probably give it a good starting point for evolutionary tinkering, evolution@home-style.

Combining Moore’s Law with evolution would lead to incredibly rapid changes, possibly even for the better. “Transcendence”, as well as other stories, such as Asimov’s laws, wonder whether humans would accept a superior technological intellect, even if it is, on the whole, good-natured towards humanity. And is “the whole” of humanity really what matters to humans?

I doubt it, but a digital consciousness would not be human anymore. It wouldn’t be bound by the limitations that make us humans: Hunger, fatigue, death. And in a strange way, these limitations make us bigger, even though what we can achieve is so much smaller. If we had all the time we needed, perfect recollection of our past thoughts and actions, as well as access to all the information gathered by our digital peers, how large would our accomplishments have to be to feel worthy?

Nor would our digital successors have our pleasures. In fact, I wonder if a digital consciousness would not get bored. On the one hand, there is the vastness of the unknown-but-knowable; on the other, there is the enormity of timelessness.

Which would win?

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OneNote for Mac, One Caveat

In my last post, I claimed that OneNote for Mac didn’t exist.

That’s actually not true. My friend Chris informed me that about two weeks ago, Microsoft released OneNote for Mac.

That still doesn’t help me, because OneNote for Mac only allows notebooks to be stored in OneDrive, Microsoft cloud solution:

In particular, you can only open notebooks stored on OneDrive, not local OneNote files from your Mac, or from your company SharePoint, or from Office 365.

Uploading company data to another company’s cloud is, understandably, prohibited by my employer’s information security policy.

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