So, we’re all back home and getting back into the swing of things. I went right back to work the next day after getting in late. The jet lag took a few days to catch up – espresso is my friend. I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to do a bunch of the stuff around here I said I would do long ago and haven’t gotten done. I sold the Jeep CJ that’s been sitting out rusting into the ground for the last few years. The guy that bought it is coming back to pick it up tomorrow.

No real rain yet, and all of Colorado seems to be going up in flames. We’re a little freaked out about the fire season. Our neighbors are hauling all their valuables down the hill somewhere into the city where they’ll (hopefully) be a bit safer. I spent all weekend cutting down the grass that got tall whilst we were away – all the parts that my wonderful Pop couldn’t get to with the mower anyhow.

We’re working on continuing to absorb the lessons of the Camino de Santiago in our lives, asking each other the question, “What did you remember about the Camino today and how did it impact you?” I’m trying to figure out where I want to be putting my energy and how to stop wasting energy in things that produce no net gain. The lesson of tranquilo is helping me to slow down on occasion and ask myself whether what I’m doing is what I really want to be doing.

One of the books I read while on the Camino – consumed really – was the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography. (Hey! Would you look at that? I can make things italicized and add links now that I’m sitting at a real computer and writing here!)

It was really an excellent book. A couple of colleagues told me I should read it a while back, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. On the coincidental front, I got to experience first hand a couple aspects of the Apple phenomenon the way Jobs created things while on the trip struggling a bit with our two iPhones, mine and Kat’s.

My ancient iPhone that I jailbroke before the trip ended up having a number of issues along the way with software not quite working the way it should. Apple, apparently through Jobs’ obsessive control and the pattern of such that he set, has maintained rigid control over their hardware, software, and almost all aspects of the Apple experience. Lots of smart people have come up with some underground ways of getting around that like the jailbreaking of iPhones or the “Hackintosh” running on non-Apple hardware (yeah, I’ve tried that one too). But we do sacrifice the “it just works” in the out of the box experience.

The more interesting thing that has me thinking about all kinds of ramifications came in our experience with the somewhat infamous iCloud – an Apple invention that came along right near the end of Jobs’ life. Isaacson talks about how Jobs began seeing the Mac as the hub around which would revolve these other great smaller devices like iPods, iPhones, and iPads. They built iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and other stuff to do all the heavy lifting of software and file management on the Mac while keeping things super simple on the mobile devices. That all worked pretty well for most people and what they do.

For a while there, I even used the now infamous MobileMe service (precursor to iCloud) because “it just worked.” But somehow Apple just extended this thinking to what “cloud” means in the computing world. We discovered, first hand, what I think is a fatal flaw in their thinking so far with that service. In terms of photos, iCloud works pretty much like plugging your iPhone into your Mac (laptop or whatever). You snap away, taking as many pictures as you want, and they all go into your “Photo Stream” in the iCloud. Your other devices will pick up your photo stream and sync photos locally so you have everything everywhere – or so the marketing goes.

Well, what happens when you don’t have your Mac plugged in for a while? Where do those photos go? In my naive way I thought, “They just sit there in my iCloud space waiting for me to pick them up, right?” Only, the guys at Apple (whether Jobs had a hand in this or not, I don’t know) decided there would be this 30-day thing involved where the photos really need to be picked up and synced onto the central hub – everyone has a Mac, right? So, what happens if you are gone and out of the country for more than 30 days without your central hub?

The long and short of it is that we almost lost some photos. We were using Kat’s iPhone since it is one of the newer ones and takes infinitely better photos than my old clunker. We deleted apps and all the data we could to free up more space. Oh yeah, we also discovered that there’s no way (unless you have a jailbroken phone) to delete things like movies you’ve already watched or songs you can do without – you have to plug it into iTunes somewhere to do that. Maybe there’s some other app that will do that, but I didn’t find one that worked. So, we were stuck until I went what that other company – the one that Isaacson said Jobs absolutely hated – that has a completely different idea about what cloud means. We set up Picasa for Kat’s Google account and got a slick little app that started syncing her photos up there instead. They don’t go away from Picasa (now part of Google+), and we didn’t hit the space limit. The only thing slowing us down was getting to a place with fast enough WiFi (pronounced, wiffy, in Spain) upload speeds to get a good batch of photos up and off the iPhone.

At any rate, pardon the tech divergence. It was an interesting phenomenon reading Isaacson’s account of how Jobs ran and put his stamp on Apple and experiencing, real time, some of the not so tasty fruits. It was also good for me on a professional front to think about some of the ramifications of those two very different and competing big picture concepts of what “cloud” means as I look toward the future of what we want to do with the “scientific data cloud.”

It was also interesting reading about the very intriguing dynamics of the man who was Steve Jobs. Being in a somewhat reflective mood, looking at many of my own traits and behaviors, I was struck at times by some of the similarities I find with myself. Maybe there were one or two good traits that I found some affinity with, but the majority of the ones that resonated were not so good at all. I have to go now, but I’ll write again later about the “reality distortion field,” narcissistic personality disorder, and being considered an asshole by one’s employees. There are some things I’m not so proud of in my own life that I had to face up to, at least a little bit, by reading that book. And maybe there are some areas it is helping me get a little more clarity on as well.

This is my attempt at getting back into the writing habit after the trip and continuing to work on making it more of a lifelong habit. I know a few close family members and acquaintances read some about our experiences on the Camino. Stick around if you like, and feel free to comment – we can carry on a conversation here in blogland. I’ll try not to be too awfully boring back here in the “real world.”