It has been almost sixty years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay became the first people to ascend Mount Everest and live to tell the tale (I've always been convinced that Mallory and Irvine made it, based on circumstantial evidence and the fact that it makes for a better story). Since their success more than 3000 people have reached the summit, and in fact it is considered something of a tourist trap among climbers – the mountain for rich people who don't know anything about climbing but want a cool story to tell their friends. The climb costs well over $100,000 now, but nearly anyone with the cash and good physical condition has a decent chance of summitting if the weather holds.

Not so back in 1953. Much like we look back at the space program of the 1950s and 1960s in amazement at how much was done with so little technology by today's standards, Hillary and Tenzig made the best out equipment that modern climbers might wear to a costume party. National Geographic has an interesting gallery comparing the tools, clothing, and other equipment used by the famous pair to the modern equivalents. It won't tell you anything you don't already know – technology has made everything far lighter, stronger, and more effective – but it's interesting to see nonetheless.

Two more interesting facts. Did you know that Tenzig and Hillary were steampunk?

At San Diego Comic-Con, 2008

And that Hillary was the Gyro Captain in Mad Mad 2: Road Warrior?

True story.


I wrote a big goddamn thing about health care reform and then the post got eaten and I haven't anywhere near the energy to write the whole thing again at 1:12 AM. Synopsis: Of course the Court is going to strike it down. That much was painfully apparent the moment the White House and congressional Democrats decided that it was less important to reform a broken system than it is to keep the insurance companies happy and rolling in our money. The idea was ridiculous from the beginning, especially given that it would not only inevitably end up in the courts but would end up before a conservative Supreme Court. So as his signature (only?) legislative accomplishment is undone in the next few weeks, Obama has no one but himself to blame. When he decided that universal coverage could or would be achieved by contracting things out to a broken, profit-driven health insurance industry, he might as well have pulled the plug then and there. The law isn't going to be killed – it was essentially stillborn.