09 October 2005

what happens to the ipod at altitude

I originally posted this at a travel forum. I thought you might find it useful too. There have been questions about this before, so here's my experience when I climbed Pico Orizaba, Mexico's highest mountain (about 5,700 meters, also the third highest in North America) last July:

At 4,200-4,500 meters, my precious -- a 60g iPod photo -- worked perfectly fine. She kept me in good company when things started to get boring, and my guide started his full-volume snoring, at Piedra Grande hut. We romanced each other happily for about three or four hours, my thumb caressing her scrollwheel with no resistance whatsoever -- backlight, photo slideshow, volume all took it well -- and her buds whispering sweet Nick Drake tunes into my ears. (Hardly climbing songs, but that's me.)

At 5,300 meters, which is already high on the glacier, I retrieved my precious from my backpack and turned her on during a rest period. Hurrah, my precious played! But I turned her off right away because my guide and I were discussing whether to continue the climb or not. I (quite stupidly) left my precious lying in the snow, and gazed at the beautiful contrast of white on white. (Yeah, I know, it's a line from a song -- but look at the picture!) After our chat, I woke my precious up, and although her screen lit up, her scroll wheel was frozen (literally, I guess). I couldn't even turn her off. So I reset her, pressing the center and menu buttons at the same time. Bad idea. When I turned her on again, her screen didn't light up, and my precious gave off a constant clack-clack-pause-clack-clack sound. My precious gave up on me at 5,300 meters.

My precioussssss...in snow.
My guide and I decided to go down because we had absolutely no visibility -- there's a reason July isn't the climbing season in Orizaba -- and when we got back down to the hut, the sound was still there. I started to worry. In fact, I was so worried about my precious that I kept her deep in my backpack to give her as much cushion as possible on the way down. Naturally, the first thing I did when we got back to the town of Tlachichuca, which is about 2,600 meters, was to check on my precious. Hurrah, the sound was gone! But her battery was drained too. I was filled with an unimaginable amount of nervousness when I decided to plug my precious into the wall socket of SeƱor Canchola's casa, fearing she would explode, but she only sprung back to life and smiled back at me. As if nothing happened. Her battery too didn't seem to have been affected, as her endurance during our seven-hour romps in overnight buses around Mexico would prove.

My precious and I are still living happily together.

in other news

Check out Madonna's website for a very short preview of Hung Up, the first single from her latest album, Confessions on a Dancefloor. You'll hear right away that the song samples ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Not surprisingly, Hung Up is endorsed by ABBA themelves. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time Madonna used a song that's heavily dependent on sampled rhythm for her first single. Her album before this, Music, was all original (thanks to French DJ Mirwais), as was Ray of Light (thanks to William Orbit), and quite likely, everything else before these.

What's the significance? Nothing, really. I just think that although she's sampled other artists in the past, Madonna is by and large an original artist, and her use of dancefloor legends ABBA for her latest first single is an unintentional revelation that she can't hold it on her own anymore. But yes, Hung Up sounds promising; in fact, I was already singing it while I was cooking lunch. The single is out on November 14th. On a side note: It looks like Madonna fans still cling to her past. Her most downloaded song on iTunes music store, which got hold of her entire catalog only last month, is Like a Prayer, followed by Material Girl, Ray of Light, Music, and Like a Virgin.

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