By Land or By Sea?

I’m planning on spending my golden years traveling around the world. I’ll probably sell my house and buy a mobile home. A motorhome or travel trailer are the most likely options for a mobile home, but another option that I didn’t consider until recently is a sailboat. I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day in Baja California and met some interesting sailors from all over the world at the Marina de La Paz. The adventurous tales of these sailors made me want to learn more about the sailing lifestyle, so I looked for a book on Amazon. I found Breaking Seas by Glenn Damato. The book’s byline is “An overweight, middle-aged computer nerd buys his first boat, quits his job, and sails off to adventure”. The perfect book! The author is not only a fellow computer nerd, but also sailed to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California for his maiden voyage. Breaking Seas is an entertaining read for computer nerds who dream of more adventurous lifestyles. His misadventures have me questioning whether the life of a sailor is for me though. Next I plan on reading Bumfuzzle for another perspective. Unless I receive an unexpected fortune, I have plenty of time to plan my retirement adventures.

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The Way

The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago in Spanish) is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are believed to be buried. Since the Middle Ages, European pilgrims have started at their homes and walked one of the many routes to Santiago de Compostela. Today, the most popular route is The French Way, a 500-mile journey beginning in southwestern France.

I’ve wanted to trek The French Way since watching the movie The Way a couple of years ago. Last year The Idaho Statesman interviewed Kurt Koontz, a Boise native that completed the journey and self published a book about his experience. Titled A Million Steps, the book is a travelogue about his trek and the connections he makes with other pilgrims. Kurt’s friendly nature makes the book enjoyable to read. I moved The Way further up on my bucket list after reading A Million Steps. I highly recommend this book--especially if you want to trek The Way someday.

23andMe →

Since 2007, 23andMe has invited its customers to spit into a tube, send it back to the company and thus learn the secrets of their genome--or, at least, the aspects of it that 23andMe tests. The company is a Silicon Valley favourite, led by Anne Wojcicki, wife of Sergey Brin, one of Google’s founders. Its backers include Google and Yuri Milner, a billionaire investor in Facebook and Twitter. Ms Wojcicki maintains that people have a right to their genetic information. The FDA is more cautious.

I’ve been a member of 23andMe for almost a year. The service has provided valuable ancestry and health risk information for only $99. In a letter to 23andMe, the FDA demanded the company to stop marketing its service because inaccurate or misinterpreted test results could result in dangerous medical decisions. The FDA stated in its letter that inaccurate information about a gene linked to breast cancer could lead a woman to have unnecessary surgery. This is a weak argument--mastectomies are not available over the counter. Doctors would order more extensive tests and interpret the results before performing surgery. By prohibiting 23andMe’s tests, the FDA is denying people genetic information useful in promoting their health. The FDA is trying to protect Americans from potential harm, but banning health information because it may not be 100% accurate is not the answer. People have a right to choose the sources of medical information they believe to be trustworthy, whether its a medicine man, WebMD, or 23andMe’s DNA test.

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Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

Since 2007 I’ve been using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at both home and work. The 4000′s spacious palm rest, curved key bed, ergonomic arc, and reversed slope make it more comfortable than traditional keyboards. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, so spending $35 for the 4000 six years ago was a wise investment. Yet while I’m mostly satisfied with the 4000, it’s not perfect. Its keys feel mushy, and its large size leaves little space for my mouse on the undersized keyboard tray at the office. Over the years I’ve looked at other keyboards, but I haven’t liked any of them as much as the 4000--until now.

Microsoft’s new Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard addresses my complaints with its predecessor. The Sculpt’s laptop-like scissor keys have a short travel distance and satisfying click. It’s an improved typing experience over the 4000. Additionally, the numeric keypad (which I never use) is now a separate unit. I left the numeric keypad in the original packaging, which leaves plenty of space for my mouse alongside the Sculpt keyboard. The Sculpt’s only drawback is that it ditches the 4000′s USB cable for a wireless USB dongle. While most people probably prefer a wireless keyboard, I’d rather not hassle with battery replacements. This is nitpicking though--the Sculpt is a worthy successor to the 4000. I highly recommend the Sculpt keyboard for people who spend a lot of time using desktop computers.

By the way, even though the Sculpt is a Windows-based keyboard, it works fine with my Mac without drivers. I just swapped the Command and Option keys under System Preferences, Keyboard, Modifier Keys. Also, I created a key binding file to change the behavior of the Home, End, PageUp, PageDown, Delete, and Insert keys.

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Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is among the deepest canyons in the world. The Colca Valley is covered with stepped terraces where villagers have been cultivating potatoes for centuries. I departed Chivay hours before sunrise for a day trip to Cruz del Condor, a renowned haven for Andean condors. Shortly after sunrise a dozen giant condors soared above the canyon and took turns buzzing the crowd. The condors were so close that I felt like I could reach out and touch them. It was a breathtaking experience that rivaled my top wildlife encounters. After an afternoon of hiking in the canyon, I ended the day soaking in the La Calera hot springs, which is just minutes from Chivay.

Road to Chivay

The mountain roads on the drive to Chivay were among the highest of the trip, with elevations exceeding 16,000 feet. Alpacas grazed near the road for much of the 100 mile journey. The temperatures were cool and I was glad to have my alpaca jumper.


I arrived in Arequipa in time to watch the sunset over the sillar buildings and snow-capped mountains. Standing at the foot of El Misti Volcano, Arequipa is an attractive city with charming colonial buildings and churches. I celebrated American Independence Day at the Wild Rover Bar, which served free shots to Americans all night! Sightseeing highlights were Mummy Juanita at the Museo Santuarios Andinos, the Santa Catalina Convent, and the San Camilo Market. Arequipa is my second favorite city in Peru, second only to Cuzco.

Puerto Inca

My last stop on the Peruvian coast was Puerto Inca, where I spent the night camping on the beach after exploring the ruins and grave sites of this Inca port.

Chauchilla Cemetery

Chauchilla Cemetery Tomb

Close to Nazca is the Chauchilla Cemetery, which contains open tombs dating from 100 AD to 700 AD. The dead are well preserved because of the dry desert air.


Cahuachi Architecture

Cahuachi, a sacred center of the Nazca people, overlooks some of the Nazca lines. The archaeologists excavating the site have uncovered over 30 hills topped with adobe structures.