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Getting Back in Rhythm

Andy & His Clie CamI am almost back in the swing of regular blog posting after a nice, long independence Day weekend and time spent with our friend Andy Bauer. We had a great time the past two and a half weeks with Andy (who is now safely back in London).

We saw and did quite a bit in two-plus weeks time, including dinner at two very good steakhouses (Butch's Old Casino Steakhouse and Mr. B's Bartolotta Steakhouse), sailing, fireworks, a 4th of July Parade, Old World Wisconsin (a living museum) and much, much more. Hopefully I'll be able to recount a few highlights when I'm back in the rhythm of blogging again.

However, with the combo of Andy's visit and a long 4th of July weekend, it's going to probably take a week to get on my normal posting schedule, so please bear with me. I may just do quickie posts with links until I'm able to get back to more substantive posts.

I should mention that I'm in the midst of a wonderful old Jules Verne novel on my Sony Clie called The Mysterious Island. It's a great story, set in the 1860's and recounts how a crew of Union civil war prisoners escape by stealing a balloon during a hurricane and manage to survive on a remote island. I loved 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and this one is right up there in quality. Highly recommended!

Okay, off to a few outstanding tasks here... :-)


Queen's Cup Sailabration

Queen's CupThis Friday, my wife Gail, Andy (our houseguest), and I had the great opportunity to go on a sailing adventure in Lake Michigan. Andy had located a special boat trip called the Queen's Cup Sailabration, onboard old style wooden tall ship called the S/V Denis Sullivan and invited us along while he visited Milwaukee. Normally the Sullivan offers sailing tours of the Milwaukee harbor and lakefront but this package was a bit different. Details were sketchy on their website, so I rang the office.

During my call, I learned that the Sailabration package was a spot on the race committee boat for the Queen's Cup sailing race, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Muskegon, Michigan. The Queeen's Cup is actually one of the oldest sailing races in the world (since 1855), making this the 148th running. Funnily enough, not one of the committee members we asked knew which queen the race was in honor of.

So, we headed for the lakefront at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, with only a slight idea what we were in for on this excursion. There was a little confusion at Pier Wisconsin's office locating someone with our tickets. However, our persistance paid off, and we clarified all of the needed details for the trip and for parking. A little while later we were underway on the Sullivan, motoring for the starting point of the Queen's Cup.

Regarding the S/V Denis Sullivan, it's a recently built wooden tall ship, made in the old style of shipbuilding. I remember reading about this craft while it was being constructed; it took several years but I must say, the builders did a wonderful job. The vessel is made mostly of wood, with metal here and there. Very analog.

Of course, there were modern items on board, such as GPS, radios, a diesel engine and other items, though the majority of the ship is quite traditional. Masts were all solid wood (crafted from some seriously massive trees) as were the block and tackle and the deck. Even the anchor hoist was of old-style design, with hand crank ffor raising and lowering the anchors and chains. All in all this is a beautiful craft.

Rainbow RacingWe anchored in the chosen spot and the committe of the race began their praprations. We watched as they test-hoisted race flags and prepared the shotguns for race starts. Soon, the time approached for the first race to start -- which was accompanied by a huge squall that approached rapidly from the western shore of Milwaukee and hit the Sullivan just at starting time. We remained on deck and donned our foul weather jackets as the rain blasted the ship.

I was assigned photgraphy duties by one of the committee members, and through the rain I managed to shoot a few pictures of the start. Once I had a decent amount of shots taken, Gail, Andy and I all went below deck for a break from the rain, along with our packs. There we chatted while the race committee got drenched while officiating the race.

10 minutes later we returned to the deck, when we learned that the sun was out and the rain had ended. Upon exiting the lower decks, a huge rainbow had emerged, creating a gorgeous backdrop on the lake. We all worked feverishly to get shots of racing sailboats and rainbows while the moment lasted.

As the day's races continued, starts improved. It seems the less-experienced sailors started first while more experienced sailors started last in the sequence. In the first few race starts there were many illegal start line crossings (requiring the offending boat to circle back for a short time as a penalty) while in later starts, more experienced sailors managed to hug the start line, jumping over only seconds after the starting shot had sounded.

Once the last race had begun, another squall was fast approaching the ship, so Gail, Andy and I got back below decks to try and maintain some dry spots on our clothes. In the galley, chatted with the crew and the race committee, and heard several war stories from past Queen's Cup races.

Breakwall LighthouseOne of the crew came below and mentioned that the storm had passed, so a large group returned to the deck to enjoy the return trip to the dock. However, the anchors had to be raised, which was quite an experience, since there was no electric winch. The raising was done by four crew members on a manual winch! It looked like very hard work, taking 200 feet of anchor chain up 3 inches at a time. Gail and I even had an opportunity to help haul in some anchor line with the crew, which was a workout in itself.

Once the anchors were up, it didn't take long to re-enter the Milwaukee Harbor, motoring toward our docking point at Pier Wisconsin. Looking back at Lake Michigan provided an eerie sight, with the dark storm clouds heading East, right behind the sailors, and the sun setting in the West.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to go sailing on a tall ship like the S/V Denis Sullivan, go for it. There's nothing else like it.


Palm Powered Tidbit-O-Rama

Thought I'd wrap up this week with a few Palm-related tidbits...

Tungsten C Diary
Jonathan Ezor has been keeping an excellent running diary of his Tungsten C review on his Palm weblog. It's nice to see a weblog being used in this way. I suspect Jonathan and Palm, Inc. may find his recorded entries a helpful tool for getting inside the head of the average Tungsten C buyer. And it appears that Jonathan is getting hooked on his T | C, which is always a good sign.

Treo 600 Pre-Review
Lo Szabo sent along a link from PC Magazine, who have written a pre-review of the upcoming Treo 600. It appears Jim Louderback at PC Magazine really likes the Treo. From my own experience with even the grayscale Treo 180, Handspring (soon to be Palm) has done an outstanding job integrating a PDA and mobile phone into a useful "communicator". Now that they've gotten the size down to a reasonable 4.4" x 2.26" x .87" and have added more useful features, the new 600 might be the turning point for the Treo line.

Palm Powered Market Share
Lastly, it appears Palm powered handhelds are apparently holding on to market share according to this story at Palm Infocenter about Palm, Inc.'s better than expected quarter. The quote:

According to IDC's study in the United States, Palm Powered handhelds accounted for 77 percent of all pen-based personal digital assistants shipped in 2002. Palm Powered smartphones led the U.S. converged handheld space with a market share of 75 percent in 2002, IDC said.

77% of all pen based PDAs isn't too bad, considering 80% was the number I always recalled being used in my early Palm OS days. Of course these percentage values are subjective, based on what you might consider a PDA, but it is encouraging to see that even several years into the Palm vs. Pocket PC battles, Palm OS devices still hold a strong majority of the PDA market.

Have a great weekend everyone! :-)


Jonathan Ive's PowerMac G5 Design

Powermac G5If you've followed this weeks announcement of the new Apple PowerMac G5, you're probably aware of its strange new minimalist Aluminum design, a signiicant shift away from Apple's recent plastic cases.

I really like the new PowerMac G5 design, including some of its controversial details, like its front and rear grilles being equated to cheese graters. The funny thing is, while everyone else in the PC world are trying to outdo each other with freakier or uglier looking plastic cases, Ive and his Apple design team just push the envelope and progress their designs to the next level. Just look at the simplicity and subtlety of the new G5: folded aluminum, and see-through grilles.

In my opinion, Jonathan Ive and his Apple design team are the design trendsetters of the computer industry. They set the trends everyone else tries to mimic and copy. Take for example the original iMac. Shortly after its release, other PC and peripheral makers were furiously copying Ive's design style. Funny thing is, by the time the competition was into copying the iMac look, Ive had long since moved to the next design.

Another good example was the PowerBook Titanium's design which was knocked off years later by Gateway... but by then Apple's PowerBook line had already shifted to a completely new design using an aluminum case.

And finally, I should mention the iPod. Many have tried to copy its style and simplicity but just can't seem to get it down. And again, by the time competitors have made their best effort at a bad copy that's been watered down by committee, Apple and their lead designer, Jonathan Ive have already moved on to the next thing. Buh and bye!

Wired posted a very interesting article this week, called Design According to Ive, in which the writer asks Ive about his design philosophy and the new G5 design. I especially love this quote:

"We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential, but you don't see that effort," he said. "We kept going back to the beginning again and again. Do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts? It became an exercise to reduce and reduce, but it makes it easier to build and easier for people to work with."

Wow. Reducing and simplifying? This is something really unusual. Often there is this tendency by companies, particularly in the computing world, to keep adding and adding features rather than trimming and reducing things to reach a good design. The idea of reducing to achieve a great design is Design School 101, but I don't often see designers using this approach in the real world. It's very refreshing to see this principle adopted by Ive and Apple.

UPDATE: Andy, my Mac-using Austrian house-guest has supplied me with a nice link to 30-some shots of the new PowerMac G5 surrounded by a throng of German Mac fanboys from the Apple Germany press event in Köln. Check out image 400 -- is that Heidi there in the background? :-)


Austrian Culinary Delights

Che AndyWhile everyone else is commenting on Apple's new PowerMac G5, 64-bit desktop tower computer, or Microsoft's new Windows Mobile (a.k.a. Pocket PC 2003), I've decided to get this week's blog posts rolling with something completely different.

Here at the Rohde household, we have a special guest with us for the next two weeks. Andy Bauer is a very good friend from way, way back. We've known each other since the early Macintosh days when we both used Powerbook Duos and were regular posters on the popular and now defunct, Powerlist.

Andy has actually visited us twice before: first for my marriage to Gail in September 1999 and again in April 2002 just for the fun of it. Gail, I and our friends have thoroughly enjoyed Andy's visits and all of the fun activities we've had with him. So, Andy decided to get away from his daily grind and give Milwaukee a try in the midst of summer.

Now, Andy is an Austrian (living in London) and on this third trip over, he's brought along some traditional Austrian recipes to make for us. On Saturday evening, I was fortunate to enjoy the results of his first experimental culinary delight, Marillenknödel, or apricot dumplings. Andy told me that these "fruit dumplings" were really of Czech origin, but since the Czech republic was part of Austria in the old days of the empire, the recipe is known more as an Austrian speciality.

In brief, a Marillenknödel is an apricot with the pit removed and replaced by a sugar cube, then wrapped in a thin layer of egg dough. The dumpling is boiled; when it pops to the surface it's rolled in bread-crumbs sauteed in butter then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Mmmmmm, they were delicious and surprisingly filling! I was also surprised to learn that Marillenknödel are a main course in Austria, which for me was a bit odd since they're sweet. However I can see how 4 or 5 off these guys would be very filling. They certainly filled us up!

Andy was able to translate all of the ingredients for the dumpling dough properly (particularly a complex equation to get flour weight into cups) and make very tasty Marillenknödel in the unknown environment of an American kitchen. In fact he said they were quite good -- almost as good as his grandmother's.

So, you may be asking yourself, "what does this story of Marillenknödel have to do with technology?" My answer is... nothing. This is my weblog and I can write what I like... besides, I like to think of the my weblog as an occasional respite from the flurry of high-tech news and rumor-mongering. So there. :-)

In fact, for the next two weeks it's likely I'll not be posting as often as normal, as we'll be spending time during these brief two weeks with Andy. However, it might provide some funny experiences with our guest, so stay tuned...