The Gear Curve

first_imgLess is More: Even after accumulating several fancy cookstoves, Johnny Molloy still prefers a fire.I remember my first backpack. It was a green Academy Broadway external frame bought from a now-defunct outlet in Knoxville, Tennessee. Five pockets in which to stuff gear. Neither the shoulder straps nor the hip belt had padding. Twenty bucks of beer drinking money was diverted for that pack.Was I ever proud—and ready to tackle Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a few ridges distant from the University of Tennessee. Backpacking was new and foreign to me, a pure bred flatlander from West Tennessee who never realized my home state had mountains, bears and trout streams. I had to borrow most of my equipment on those inaugural trips.To fill those pack pockets, the first order of business was to get one of those cool survival knives with the built-in bubble compass and a hollow innard complete with fishing line, hooks, and matches. I ordered a discontinued sleeping bag from Sierra Trading Post, bought a closed cell foam sleeping pad from Wal-Mart, then scored some secondhand black leather combat boots at the local thrift store. A borrowed bulky blue tarp provided a musty shelter.And thus began my journey along the gear curve. The make-do backpacker occupies the first stage of the gear curve. Like me, the make-do backpacker probably borrows half the equipment on their back and buys discount stuff for the other half.  They can be spotted on the trail invariably wearing too tight jeans (the zip-off pants are farther down the curve) and some kind of camouflage shirt or hat. At camp they try to think of ways to use that big survival knife. An oversized cheap tent invariably pops up wherever they are. They haven’t figured out that with outdoor gear—like anything else— you get what you pay for. They are learning and most eventually move on down the spectrum. Others fall off the gear curve altogether.The outdoor purists rise higher on the gear curve. Several near-disasters have left them looking for better stuff to make roughing it a little easier: a real whitewater boat—or a quality PFD—to survive a class IV rapid; a name brand rain jacket to wear in town and on the trail. I remember when the soles came off my combat boots while trudging through snow high on Forney Ridge. I used a piece of string to stop the sole from flapping. After returning home I then dropped nearly 100 bucks on some Vasque boots. The mountain biking equivalent would be graduating to clip-on pedals and an aerodynamic helmet after crashing in the woods.The purists will be seen at outdoor specialty shops, perusing for hours over the perfect headlamp. Before entering a store, they have researched for days on the web and created comparative spreadsheets. They end up with the best gear and are always on the lookout for the latest in high-tech offerings.The gearheads stand atop the gear curve. The gearhead has it all, literally, and it’s in his pack. Around the fire you grumble about losing a tiny screw from your camp stove and ten minutes later the gearhead proudly returns with the exact size screw you need—and the latest Leatherman to tighten it.Like anything, the new toys become old. But the quest for the latest gadget continues, whether you need it or not. I once bought a camp mirror, only to discover that I didn’t want to see my own mug after three days in the forest. Pride in showing off the hippest gear lost significance in the face of towering trees and far-off vistas.And that leads to the downward stage of the gear curve. Failed and forgotten equipment bought over the years joins the dusty junk menagerie lining your garage walls. My first headlamp took four AA batteries and weighed enough to give me a neck ache. Inventory your stuff and count how many items you’ll never use again. Wise outdoor enthusiasts assess their gear needs for each situation before leaving home. Less is more. Bring the good quality stuff that works for you and nothing more.Or you can go without and adapt, looking outward at what you came to experience rather than inward at what you have. That is how I discovered many “necessities” really aren’t necessary. Why carry a stove when I can cook over a fire? Why spend hundreds—even thousands—on another boat, skis or bike when you could use that money going to your dream destination to actually do what you love? Why spend time in the store looking at more gear, or scrolling through web sites, when you can be out there on the river or on the trail?It really is about the experience, not what gear you use. At the end of the gear curve, you realize that you don’t need more stuff, but more time. Time is the most valuable commodity on Earth. And if you are like me, you want to spend as much of it as possible out there.last_img read more

RACEceiver returns as official one-way radio of IMCA

first_imgGAINESVILLE, Ga. – RACEceiver returns this season as the official one-way radio of IMCA, renewing awards given in eight divisions and at two of the biggest events on the sanctioning body’s schedule.Designated as the official one-way radio of IMCA through the 2019 season, RACEceiver again gives Fusion Plus custom driver packages to the runners-up in national point standings for IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Late Models, IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Cars, IMCA Sunoco Stock Cars, IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stocks, Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMods, IMCA Southern SportMods and Mach-1 Sport Compacts.The same awards go to second-place finishers in all main events at the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s and the RaceSaver Sprint Car Nationals in September.“It’s a great pleasure to be partnered with IMCA again this year. We find there are so many benefits working with such a well-run organization,” sad RACEceiver’s Joe Vinson. “One of those benefits is the great feedback we get from IMCA and its racers, which help us develop new products and offer better service. We are looking forward to being a part of the IMCA family for years to come.”Information about all RACEceiver products is available by calling 866 301-7233 and at the www.raceceiver.com website.“RACEceiver is the name people trust when implementing this technology and they’ve been active in making sure IMCA racers have access to the best units on the market,” stated IMCA Marketing Director Kevin Yoder. “We’re grateful for their support and we’ll continue to ensure their use at every opportunity.”last_img read more

Program analyzes tweets to predict Oscar winners

first_imgWith the Academy Awards coming up Sunday, the Annenberg Innovation Lab hopes its new tool will help predict Oscar winners.The Oscar Senti-meter, developed in partnership with the Annenberg Innovation Lab, the Viterbi Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab, and the Los Angeles Times, analyzes opinions using thousands of tweets about the Academy Awards to chart popular opinions.The device uses language-recognition software Streams to find tweets about best actress, best actor and best picture nominees and plots the results on a graph.Annenberg Innovation Lab director Professor Jonathan Taplin said the lab used the IBM-donated software for several other projects before the Senti-meter.The lab first used the software to analyze political tweets, then moved to track the success of the box office.The team first became inspired with the idea for the Senti-meter by the software’s accuracy at predicting the success of movies, Taplin said.“We saw that Cowboys and Aliens was going to bomb in the box office when the studios thought it was going to be a big movie,” Taplin said. “We saw The Help was going to do well when Disney wasn’t too sure about it.”Taplin said the Senti-meter measures anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 tweets each day.Shrikanth Narayanan, director of Viterbi SAIL and a professor of psychology, linguistics and computer science, said the lab had previously used the software for understanding language in settings such as marriage counseling, but Twitter presented a new challenge.“The power of Twitter is in using only a few characters to pack a lot of your emotions and feelings into the message,” Narayanan said. “What we try to do is see the kind of words people use and how they use them to map it to their sentiment.”The shortness of tweets, however, can also make them more difficult for the software to read. But now the Senti-meter can understand complex features of language such as emoticons and sarcasm, though Taplin said achieving that result took hard work.“What we do is we have students look at 5,000 or 7,000 tweets and compare their meaning to what the computer thought they meant,” Taplin said.Nuances in meaning that humans naturally analyze in speech patterns can be difficult for the computer to read as well.“Sentiment expressions are very complex to quantify. People might say one thing but mean the opposite, such as when they are being sarcastic. But if you look in context, you can try to figure out what the words really mean,” Narayanan said.Narayanan said he hopes to put the technology to use in other areas.“One of the big problems that interest us a lot is to watch for patterns over time, see how opinions change over time and see how long opinions last,” Narayanan said.The Oscar Senti-meter will be updated on the Los Angeles Times website.last_img read more

The Brink of ECOWAS Last Resort to Stop Jammeh

first_imgWe have often in this column recalled how in 1975 Time Magazine published a cover story on Africa entitled, “In Africa, Things Always Go Backward.”This highly pessimistic title made many of us Africans angry. But then, the magazine had earlier that same year put on its cover the Nigerian Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, calling him and Nigeria “The First Black Power.” It had just been revealed that Nigeria had US$7 billion in reserves in London banks, at the time one of the highest in the world. However, in July that year Gowon was overthrown in a military coup d’état while attending the Organization ofAfrican Unity Summit in Kampala, Uganda!And remember, barely four years earlier, peaceful and progressive Uganda, the world’s second largest coffee producer, had been rocked by Idi Amin’s coup overthrowing democratically elected President Milton Obote! That immediately sent millions of Ugandans, including top politicians, civil servants, army personnel, bishops and ordinary folk fleeing Amin’s murderous and widespread brutality. Uganda lost its coffee clout to the Ivory Coast. Amin soon expelled thousands of Indian businesspeople who had dominated the business sector, causing the collapse of the country’s commerce.We yet remember that around the same time of Gowon’s overthrow, Angola and Mozambique gained their independence from Portugal, and immediately entered civil war!We all know what happened in Liberia five years later, when this African citadel of peace and stability was rocked with its first coup, overthrowing and murdering President William R. Tolbert and his top officials, plunging the country into 10 years of terror, leading, worse yet, to civil war.Doe was in his last days of power when Yahya Jammeh joined the ECOMOG’S Gambian peace keeping contingent deployed in Liberia. Did ECOMOG stop the war? No. Following the All-Party Conference in Banjul in September 1990, Dr. Amos Sawyer, who was elected Chair of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU), entered Liberia shortly thereafter. Dr. Sawyer, along with Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh and others, as members of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), were among the political movements that gave political consciousness to Liberian youth across the country, as well as the Liberian Armed Forces that staged the 1980 coup d’état. Did the coup set things right in Liberia? No. It led to 10 years of terror, leading to civil war. Sawyer and his team arrived here in September to early October, 1990 and remained in control of the Interim Government for over four years. Did things “go backward” in Liberia? You bet! The war continued for 10 more years.Meanwhile Jammeh, after completing his tour of duty with ECOMOG in Liberia, returned home and quickly, on July 22, 1994 staged a military coup d’état against the elected government of President Sir Dawda K. Jawara. Jammeh immediately started doing the same things Doe had done following his 1980 coup—embarking upon a repressive and murderous rule that has lasted 22 years.But something good happened on December 1, 2016, when the Gambian opposition united, defeated the tyrant and elected Adama Barrow as the new President. The defeat was so convincing that Jammeh immediately conceded. But determined that things will, once again “go backward” in Africa, Jammeh a few days later alleged election “irregularities” and called for new elections!The ECOWAS leaders, led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the President of Africa’s most powerful nation, Nigeria, has so far paid several visits to Banjul, pleading with Yahya Jammeh to step aside and allow the scheduled January 19 inauguration of the new President to be held.But Jammeh, assuming that ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations and the rest of the world are fools, is now insisting that his Supreme Court should decide the matter, which has already been decided by the December 1 elections. This has led ECOWAS to the extreme, threatening force to remove this intransigent and unreasonable tyrant. Now, for the first time in its history, Gambia’s peace has been seriously threatened, and thousands of citizens as well as tourists, the backbone of the economy, are fleeing the looming apocalypse.It is our prayer that military force, if it becomes necessary, will be swift, decisive and bloodless. We have another prayer: that Adama Barrow, The Gambia’s long awaited liberator, will not disappoint. We pray that he will have the common sense, humility and political will to lead The Gambia forward, and save it from going “backward” again. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more