Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

The iPhone 4S Leaves Me Sated

Posted in Apple, iPhone by Elliott Back on December 13th, 2011.

Pocket Lint has an article today, Nokia: Youths are fed up with iPhone, baffled by Android. I’d like to say that it’s not true. Perhaps, at twenty-seven years old, I am no longer a youth, but my iPhone, iPhone 3GS, and now iPhone 4S have left me completely satisfied. Ever since the first iPhone that combined an mp3 player (iPod) and a phone (i thew away my Motorola Razr), I’ve been delighted to find such a wide range of functionality in a single device.

I’m well known to be a cranky Apple fan, begrudging them of praise, but the Pocket Lint article steps too far over the line:

“What we see is that youth are pretty much fed up with iPhones. Everyone has the iPhone,” he said. “So we do increasingly see that the youth that wants to be on the cutting edge and try something new are turning to the Windows phone platform.”

Yes, it is pure PR, coming from Nokia.

It’s also pure BS.

Every iPhone user I know, universally, love their phone. Apple, in producing a single phone productline, has ensured a consistent end-user experience that blows any other handset manufacturer or OS provider out of the water.

Tough Mudder – Tri-State 2011

Posted in Health, Me, NYC by Elliott Back on November 12th, 2011.

My calves burned with a low throb, incomparable to the pain on the track, as I watched the muddy water–brown–spiral down the bathtub drain. Washing the mud off after Tough Mudder Tri-State 2011, 12 miles of mud, obstacles, and freezing water, was the real end of the race, the delineating point at which I could return to my regular home, body, and life.

The weather in Jersey when we ran was in the mid-50s, with a cold wind blowing hard. We kicked off around 11:30 and crossed the finish line at 3:15, after stopping for 30 minutes to drop of two injured teammates at the first-aid station at mile 6. Volunteers told us that at least four ankles had been broken already at the monkeybars obstacle, and we saw others who fell wrong mid course or fell to hypothermia being carted away by ambulances that were standing by. Signs along the way taunted our determination with “you signed your death waiver already” and “you just completed a Warrior Dash” (at mile 4).

The Course

The course map tells part of the story, but running the track is another experience entirely. After running and climbing through a rope obstacle (easy!) you are asked to take the Chernobyl Plunge a dive into a pool of icey water with food colouring added (you get a choice of green/red/purple), submersion under barbed wire, and them up the other side of the pool where you clamber out. The water is chest-deep, refrigerated, and has ice cubes literally floating in it:

See that ice? SEE IT?

This sets the stage for your upcoming hypothermia. After shimmying across ropes strung across a lake, then climbing over 9 foot walls–teamwork required–you hit another obstacle, a 20 drop into the cold lakewater, followed by a couple hundred foot swim to the other side. You get out cold, wet, with the sharp winding blowing through you. But what’s coming is why you joined Tough Mudder–THE MUD!!!

I haven’t ever jumped from this high before

They call it “the mile of mud”, where you slog through waist/chest high slippery mud. After that, there’s crawling under barbed wire through mud, crawling through muddy pipes, crawling under a heavy net in mud, slogging up and down a dirtbike track, then sliding down a mud mountain!

Some of my favourite obstacles were the hay piles you climbed over (reminds me of Alberta’s rural landscape), and the balance beam over frigid water. I was warm and dry from the sun by this time and was extremely motivated to avoid falling in. My teammate did, but I made it across without an unnecessary dousing! The fire obstacle was running between two sets of fires, and through the smoke, but not actually overtop of any fire, so I thought that was a bit lame. I also didn’t get electric shocked!

Tough Mudder Tips

  • Dress for the event. Running leggings (like these CW-Xs) help immensely with the cold and sliding through mud. Wear a long sleeved shirt that doesn’t soak up moisture–not cotton. Bare skin is a no-no.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to wear a swimming cap, but goggles are useless in mud
  • Take the obstacles slowly and carefully, as your shoes are heavy with mud and slippery. You don’t want a nasty fall or scrape.
  • Help others on course! They will help you too!


One thing that struck me was the team spirit present. While people are there to push themselves hard, it’s not an individual event, it’s more of a team sport. At every obstacle, other racers are there helping people up the high walls, pulling them up the halfpipe, or lending a hand at the end of the inclined submerged tunnels:

I enjoyed helping others through some of the harder obstacles as much as I enjoyed completing the race on my own. The feeling is completely different than running a competitive pure-running race, for time, where everyone is only out for themselves. Tough Mudder brings out humanity’s cooperative and compassionate nature. I heard nothing but encourgement shouted out to myself and others the whole track, tips and muscle freely given.

Tough Mudder and Beyond

Tough Mudder will mark you for life. Even after you’ve washed off the superficial mud, cleaned and healed your scrapes and bruises, warmed up and changed into new clothes, even running other races, you won’t be able to forget that you once ran 12 miles on a cold windy day fearing the worst and made it. Now that I’ve run Tough Mudder, I’m no longer afraid to take the next challenge. I can do anything!

Star Wars Bluray: The Complete Box Set

Posted in Movie, Movies by Elliott Back 2 weeks, 1 day ago.

I’m excited; the entire Star Wars collection is coming out on Bluray this fall. Amazon (see the link below) is selling it for $89.99 (36% off) and I’ve put in my preorder already, with the added benefit of free shipping and release-day delivery from Amazon Prime. See, my wife has never seen Star Wars, and I want to get through at least “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” with her in order to further her cultural scifi education.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]

Meanwhile as a massive nerd, I will be checking out the never-before-scene additional footage. The press-release highlights some of the features that you will be able to see:

Bring home the adventure and share Star Wars™ with your whole family – when STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment! To be released beginning on September 12 internationally and on September 16 in North America, the nine-disc collection brings the wonder of the entire Saga direct to your living room, where you can revisit all of your favorite Star Wars moments – in gorgeous high definition and with pristine, 6.1 DTS Surround Sound. Dive deeper into the universe with an unprecedented 40+ hours of special features, highlighted by never-before-seen content sourced from the Lucasfilm archives.

There’s even a Bluray disc (number 9) containing Star Wars documentaries, like “Star Warriors” (2007), “A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later” (2010), and “Star Wars Spoofs” (2011). There are some downsides:

  1. This is not the “original version” of the classic trilogy. You will have to deal with Greedo shooting first, etc.
  2. This is not a new transfer of Star Wars; it’s basically going to be a slightly better version of the 2004 edition. There’s no new HD 4k transfer.
  3. These discs are 4:3 wide, not 19:9 widescreen
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