07/28/98

Stuff Is Accumulating; People Are Coveting



People are of late claiming jealousy, a reaction which–while of course immensely gratifying ;^) –also has me scratching my puzzler a bit. I've heard from several folks, "Oh, my friend is so jealous of your trip," and "My sister wants to know if she can come along as your porter and love slave," and "You lucky smarmy bastard, I despise you." My somewhat bemused reaction to this has been: "Uh... didn't nobody give us no trip... as far as I'm aware." We decided to do it, we're spending the money, we're risking chronic bowel disorder, and I'm burning all my accumulated leave time. Yeah, of course we're very fortunate to have the money and freedom (and youth and health) to do something like this. But virtually everyone I've heard from has all that stuff as well; there's nothing stopping them.

I guess in part this might illustrate the value (if there is any, beyond the obvious and vital aspect of self-aggrandizement, of course) of a journal like this–to inspire other folks to go out and do things that will make them fully aware that they are alive in the world. Adventures upon which they might reflect warmly for all their days–and the daring of which they will find they never regret (only the failure to dare such things can be regretted in the final summing up of a life).

Pardon my gratuitous grandiosity. I'm basically still warming up here. ;^)

Seriously, though, I'm often hugely inspired to read of others' exploits and adventures, whether they be on the web –Travelog.net ("A geek, a laptop, and a digital camera go around the world...") is an ass-kicking site, and of course there's Alex & Lesli Heublein's incomparable Walkabout (a tale of trekking through the Australian outback, sampling ridiculous numbers of beers, and endeavoring virtually hopelessly to keep a farm of web servers up under a load of 4 million+ hits per day), not to mention (or at least not to mention in the same breath) Twain's Innocents Abroad; or on paper– Jeff Greenwald's The Size of the World : Once Around Without Leaving the Ground is incredibly entertaining and inspiring; Sir Richard Francis Burton's Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah is without parallel (in the 105 years since its publication); Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, and Alex Garland's The Beach, while all fiction, certainly make a body want to get off of a body's ass. If I can strike just a spark or two around the edges of fires lit by those guys, I'll feel pretty warmed inside. (All except Garland, of course; Garland's a hack. Talk about not mentioning in the same breath: "Bowles... Maugham... Garland." Which one of these is not like the other / Which one of these isn't the same?)

At any rate.

I finally zeroed in on a digital camera! This means, barring catastrophe, ya'll will actually be getting images in real time from Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. I have determined that the digital camera market is an entire jungle all in itself. The good news, though, is that prices are coming way down, and high-end feature sets are going way up. After a bit of frustration, and with the help of CNET's recent review of 28 different models, I finally settled on the Ricoh RDC-300Z. No single camera I looked at had everything I wanted (not for under $800 or so), but the Ricoh has everything–3x digital zoom, removable flash memory, great indoor & outdoor image quality, a flash, and a Mac connection kit–I wanted, with the exception of an optical view finder. The LCD-only operation means I'll be burning batteries, but, what the hell, I'll bring a paintball bandolier of AAs.

Also, the resolution is only 640x480 pixels, much lower than many high-end models. However, this is (when you do the math) more than adequate to web publishing–and is also made up by the 3x zoom. I figured that I need either high resolution (like 1280x960) OR a digitial zoom–but had no need for both. Both is simply overkill when you're outputting images that can't be displayed any finer than 72 ppi (the limit of anything displayed on a computer), in a world with monitors of finite size.

The final selling point was that the review noted a $599 list price, and highly recommended it if you could find it as low as $435. Prices must have recently plummetted, 'cause I got this from buycomp.com for a paltry $331.95 (and got an extra 4MB flash card (tripling my memory) for $21.95). Unit arrives in two days.

In other "accumulating stuff" news, I made the mistake of walking by the high end travel schtuff store in the (very upscale) Stanford Shopping Center. Left minus another $70, and weighed down by

  • water purification goop
  • travel laundry detergent
  • travel shaving cream
  • portable hotel door alarm
  • emergency ponchos (x2)
  • plug grounder (to put 3-prong plugs in 2-prong outlets) [power outlets are the same style in the countries we're visiting; current varies from 110 to 220, but my laptop claims to be able to deal with that]
  • Eagle Creek undercover passport holder. (This is the other, the belt style. I've already bought the neck pouch style. But I figure it wouldn't hurt for each of us have one, and we can fight over which we like.)
  • 22.8% DEET insect repellent.
My packet from the Guatemalan Embassy arrived today– and the reality of the trip sunk in for the very first time–sunk in in a good way. Up until now it has been non-stop focusing on "bad thing aversion": We've got to get all our shots or we'll get sick; we've got to get all our paperwork or we'll end up in a Mexican jail and never see U.S. soil again; we've got to buy all the stuff or we'll be totally uncomfortable; we've got to take proper precautions or we'll be waylaid and killed.

Last night I flipped through a colour glossy brochure, gazing at truly stunning pictures of ruins; volcanoes; lakes, rivers, and highlands. And I thought: "Holy shit. I'm actually going to be there. And it looks to be totally beautiful." We'll see soon enough, I reckon.

Hasta luego.


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