Thursday, June 30, 2011

Even More iPad

I figured since I started yesterday, I may as well continue with some of the apps that intrigue me.

Astronomy. I've always been interested in the stars, but till I retired, it never seemed like I had the time. Now that we travel (not right now, but sometimes at least) I realize how incredible the night sky can be. This is especially true when you have the chance to see the night sky away from any lights (like in New Mexico!). We've spent a good amount of time sky gazing, never bothering to learn the names of the stars, planets or constellations. It just seemed too difficult to learn the names, looking at a book or map while trying to orient it with the night sky. But then I discovered Star Walk ($2.99 for the iPhone, $4.99 for the iPad) and WOW!

You see, there's a GPS built into most iPads (the ones with 3g) so all you have to do is walk outside on a clear night, fire up Star Walk and since it automatically knows where you are, it gives you a map of the sky that's directly over your head. Honest, it's like magic! As you turn the iPad, it continues to show you whats directly overhead in the direction it's pointing, so you can cover the entire sky. You can point to a celestial object on the iPad and information about what you're seeing pops right up. Star Walk also has a ton of other information, but the night sky feature is the one that really blows my skirt up.

I've followed Astronomy Picture of the Day on my computer for a few years now, but the pictures really pop on the iPad (and it's a free app). NASA also has a couple of apps that work perfectly with the iPad. Between all of these, the whole world of the heavens has opened up for me.

It's way cool.

I wrote about iBird Explorer Pro back when I first got my iPod Touch (you can read about it here). It's been a favorite of mine ever since. It was $29.99, but that includes lifetime upgrades and I was pleased to see that my original purchase gave me access to an updated version that takes advantage of all that real estate on the iPad. When I consider the amount of money we spent on bird books prior to getting this app, I still feel it's been one of my best purchases. They also have a free teaser app and lower price "area" apps, but I've never regretted buying the full version.

After all, I can always look back at all the bird books we were able to unload from the motorhome!

I have a similar app called Wild Berries and Herbs HD that is pretty cool for plant identification. I got it on special for $.99 when it first came out, but it now seems to have gone up to $8.99. I would probably wait for a price drop, but it is great for identifying a ton of plants.

This leads me to another online site called AppShopper. They keep track of most of the new apps that are released for your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. I use it a lot for trying new apps. Often they will announce a new app while it's still free or inexpensive. They also offer a free service where you can keep track of all the apps you own (and they email you when updates are available). Or you can start a wish list. Using the wish list function, they will notify you when the price on an app you'd like drops. It seems app developers change their prices frequently, hoping to bring in new customers. If an app is more than $1.99, I put it on my wish list and wait for the price to drop. Of course, they also have an AppShopper app that you can put on your device of choice.

Another great use for the iPad is watching the weather. There are literally thousands of apps out there, so you often have to check around for the ones that suit your needs. I like WeatherStation, WeatherRadio and one called DTN/the Progressive Farmer.

WeatherStation Free is pretty much like one of those stations you pick up. For free, it's quite comprehensive. WeatherRadio is just what it says. You tell it what alerts you want to be informed of, and using the built in GPS it alerts you when danger is imminent. It works full time, so in that respect it's very much like a stand alone weather radio. Just one more thing we don't have to carry in the rig!

I don't remember where I first happened on DTN/the Progressive Farmer, but it's probably the most comprehensive of weather apps. Designed for farmers, it shows info on all sorts of agriculture related matter. I'm most interested in the weather maps, including those relating to radar, satellite, surface analysis, wind conditions, today's highs, jet stream analysis, 24 hour rainfall estimate 48 hour storm paths, 6-10 day temperatures. 6-10 day precipitation, thunderstorm outlooks, a drought monitor and a bunch more I won't bother to mention. All this information, and it's free!

There are also several weather apps that are just beautiful, including Weather Doodle, Climate and Weather HD.

Finally, there's the toys. Those of you who know me know that I love my toys, and there's no shortage of just for fun apps on the iPad. My current favorites? Well gosh, they change all the time, but if you haven't seen Talking Carl you haven't lived. He never fails to bring a smile, and I swear, everyone I've showed it to has downloaded it. He's just a fun guy.

Then there's iOrgel HD (click this link for a demo). This is quite simply one of the most beautiful, elegant apps ever written. Have you heard Orgel music? Even if you don't know it, you probably have; an Orgel is a large music box. I first heard the term in regards to a CD of Disney music from Japan, and I was instantly hooked. I've always loved music boxes, but Orgel music utilizes an enormous range of tones.

With iOrgel HD, you look into what appears to be an intricate brass music box interior. You have the choice of listening to music they supply, or you can hear music others have written/transposed, or you can make your own music. It's truly beautiful.

And with that, I'll stop for today (although I have more , it seems never ending!). Can you tell I'm having too much fun?

And for those of you out there that are still on the fence, PleinGuy commented yesterday that it was possible that the new update to the iPad software may not work on the first generation iPads. Everything that I've read indicates that it will work on the 1st generation iPad (although I suppose they could change that). So, I believe you are quite safe in getting a first generation (but don't yell at me if I'm wrong).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More on my iPad

Before I start blathering, I just wanted to say something.

I have about one hundred posts started, just waiting to be finished (no kidding!). I start them, then get carried away, and they become way too long, or go off in fifty different directions. I neglect to edit them, so I just hit "save" but never go back and actually clean them up and post them.

I always think I get too far off topic, and then think, who cares? Am I the only one that does this?

Now that that's off my chest, here's today's prattle.

I continue to love the iPad. Really, if you don't have one, I guess you don't know, but it has absolutely become my go-to choice in mobile devices.

In fact, I rarely use my iPhone any longer. Since I can use Skype on the iPad, that's proved to be a real boon. That said, my iPad doesn't have a camera, so it's not much use for that, but it's a whiz bang device for photo editing. My hope is that the next generation will have a better screen and a better camera. If so, I'm in for one.

I finally found a great bag that perfectly fits my Canon 7D and my iPad, so now I carry both of them with me wherever I go. I'm not traveling light, but I'm prepared!

For now, I'm still impressed with the first generation iPad. If you're on the fence, maybe look for a used first generation. They're a lot cheaper than the new ones and a great way to get your feet wet.

You all surely know by now that I'm a movie junkie. I just discovered a great little app from Roger Ebert that contains over three hundred of his oh so well written reviews. I have to say, I love the way this man writes. His insights are always spot on. It only costs $.99 and doesn't require an internet connection, so it's suitable for an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch.

I've also spent a bit of time watching movies on my iPad. Terry gets tired of my obsession with British "upper class" melodramas, so sometimes, I just stay in bed in the morning and watch an episode or two of my favorite Masterpiece Theater. It's very cool.

As for reading, I've given the Kindle and Literati completely over to Terry. I love that I can have all my books in one place. I might mention that if you're using an eReader, you might want to take a look at a free software called Calibre. It's written to be a repository for all your books, regardless of format. It backs them up, you can edit the metadata to your liking and makes it really easy to load them on to any of your devices. If you like, you can also hook it directly into iTunes.

I'm so impressed with how well the iPad manages PDFs. As you RVers may know, about a year or so ago, we scanned all of our manuals into the computer. It makes it so much easier to find one when we need it, I'm convinced it's the way to go. And this relates to the iPad how? Well, for the manuals that we use most often, I've put a copy of the PDF in Calibre and now have them on my iPad. I've also written up a few "lists" in PDF form, things like all the steps we follow when we hook the car to the motorhome for traveling, how to dump (I always review this, just to be sure) and a list of things to check before we take off. It's very handy.

I also like an app called OurGroceries. While there are hundreds of shopping list apps for these devices, what I like about this one is that it communicates across devices. Both Terry and I have it on our iPhones and I also have it on the iPad. When one of us enters something into the shopping list, it magically appears on all the devices. No more saying we don't have the shopping list with us!

I've also discovered several apps that are just so darn gorgeous, I have to mention them. It looks like many artists are using these devices as a way to self publish. There's a small game called Dreams HD that has such stunning drawings, I find myself going back to it over and over. Another favorite is Forgotten Colours, fifteen small stories with original artwork. If you like Forgotten Colours, they offer a free set of "wallpaper" based on the drawings for your iPad.

I could go on and on (as I said at the beginning), but I think I'll save the second half of my list for another post. Hopefully that way, you can stay awake through all this!
* * * * * *
After I went to ALL THE TROUBLE to edit this for posting, Blogger is down! Maybe this means I shouldn't post it when they're back up?

Nah, now that Blogger is back up, I say post away.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

the Fires

I keep reading about the fires in my beloved southwest. It breaks my heart, and I feel so helpless. I watch the news online, but it seems the information is so scattered and inconsistent.

Fires to the west of the Bosque, fires to the east of of Santa Fe. Los Alamos has now been evacuated and who knows what the outcome of that fire will be?

The long term impact of this horrible season is going to be with us for years to come. The loss to the delicate, fragile ecosystem, the consequences to the indigenous wildlife, who knows how long we will suffer the impact of these blazes?

I wish I had more to say on the subject, but I just needed to note my concern.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Plums for Us

We have a huge, beautiful plum tree, it sits in our field just outside the goat's yard. A few days ago, I looked out and it was covered with hundreds of ripe rosy plums. I made a note to myself that I should take a picture. The goats always love it when the plums fall and since they'll be leaving soon, I was thinking how much they'd enjoy them.

A few days later, I looked out and almost all the plums were gone. We hadn't had a lot of wind, so I was at a loss as to the reason.

Then I noticed
a large area of the tree,
shaking like a banshee.
On closer examination,
I saw this.

Then a few moments later,

He couldn't seem
to put them in his mouth
fast enough
Doesn't his face look like
this one is sour?

While this shot is kind of blurry
I was intrigued with how "involved"
he seemed with his food.

On another note, when I downloaded the card from my camera (one I haven't used in a while), I found this shot. Since it appealed to me I figured it was all right to include it here.

That's it for today!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Memories (again)

There are so many things I've been looking for and haven't found yet. I ask myself, did I already sell it some years ago? Did I sell it since we've been home and I can't remember?

Am I losing my mind?

Some times I think so.

A while back, we came across a stash of old records. 45s, 33s and even some 78s. We sorted them then took them to the auction. In looking through them, I felt like there weren't near enough. What happened to all the records I loved when I was young? None of them were there. Terry mentioned that we had gotten rid of a bunch the last time we were home, so maybe that's where they went?

I have to admit I just couldn't remember.

Today, in the back of the room (the dreaded room) we found four huge boxes, and there they were. Once again, the memories flooded in.

Do any of you out there remember White Front? A sort of precursor to Wal-Mart, I can still remember, clear as a bell, the day I walked in to the local White Front and bought this record. God, the Beatles were so cool when I was 14. I still love them, but there's nothing like that teenage angst. I wanted to marry Paul.

Now it seems this record may be worth a bit of money. I hope so. I have similar hopes for the rest of my Beatles, Rolling Stones, Donovan, Big Brother, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan, wow, the list is long! The records are in pretty good condition, the covers not so much.

Wish me luck.

I also found a box of Christmas ornaments. In the bottom was a huge stack of Christmas cards from 1995. Wow, did we used to get a lot of Christmas cards! Looking through them brought back a lot of memories. We've lost so many friends, it was wonderful to remember them. Others, we've just lost touch with, but it was kind of cool to see how many we've reconnected with due to the blog.

I also came across a real blast from the past in the form of my Miss Zip banner. What was Miss Zip you ask? Back in the day, when I was much younger and much thinner, I was asked to represent the San Jose Post Office at trade shows and other such events. It basically meant standing around and answering questions about the Post Office while sporting a banner like some kind of beauty queen. I'd assumed it had gone the way of so many other things in my life, but at the bottom of a trunk of old tie dyed pieces (and that's a whole other story) there was my Miss Zip banner.

The memories just keep coming.

In dealing with all our stuff, I got to thinking about my collecting ways. You know, since we've been in the motorhome, I still continue to collect, I just do it differently. If I find something I truly love, if it fits, I usually get it; but when the rig starts looking too full to me, I go through and clear out.

And you know what? It seems a lot easier to clear the rig than it's ever been to clear things out of the house.

Now I look for smaller things.
Like these.

Now we collect small pins that strike our fancy. We don't find too may (this is the whole five year collection), but it's a fun thing to watch for. We like geckos and iguanas, but generally pick up anything we particularly like.

I hope we can keep on with the house. We seem to go in spurts, some weeks we get a lot done. Other weeks, we can't seem to get out of our own way.

Still, we're making progress.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Word to the Wise


This picture has nothing to do with this post, I just liked it, so I thought I'd include it here.

So There!

I've always been pretty good about backing up my computers. That said, I now have many, many, many gigabytes of backed up data, a lot of it involving my old photos.

Lately I've been moving things around, trying for a newer back up strategy. In doing this, I had a few minutes today where I mistakenly believed that I had erased not one but two of my picture backups, leaving me with none at all! Fortunately I found that I had, in fact, backed up my old pictures not twice but three times. And am I ever glad I did.

So a word to the wise. Make sure you back up all that information on your computer. And if it's really important to you, back it up twice or maybe three times.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the Fibonacci Sequence

Today, we went to the farmer's market.

Between the flowers
and the produce,
it was a lovely day.

I took a few shots.

These make me feel
like spring
is finally happening,

even though today
is the summer solstice . . .

I'm not sure that flowers
know the time of year,

they just know it's time to bloom.

At the farmer's market,
we bought way too much fruit.
It was just so fragrant,
we couldn't resist.

As for the Fibonacci Sequence,
when I saw this romanesque,
that's the first thing that came to mind.
Also known as the Golden Mean
it's a pattern that natures repeats over and over.

Another example of the Golden Mean
can be seen in the nautilus shell.
Unfortunately there weren't any
nautilus shells
at the Farmer's Market,
so you'll just have to take my word for it.

That's it for today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Refrigerator Tube Caps (for the RVers Out There)

Over on the Lazy Daze board, we've been discussing refrigerators. A few posts ago, I discussed cleaning my refrigerator (you can read about it here if you care) and it seems that many rigs don't have the little cap that we have on our drain tube. Several folks have asked about it, so I decided the easiest thing to do would be to post a picture.

It's not really clear in the picture, but there are perforated holes in the cap.

That’s All For Today!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Travels in Time

Music, the power of it never ceases to amaze me.

Today a song came on that took me back to a day some 45 years ago. And when I say it took me back, it was almost a visceral experience.

Let me back up a bit here.

When I was a teenager, I loved folk music (still do). The poetry of much of it just seemed to resonate with my young soul. Particularly the music and poetry of Donovan. The clean, simple music combined with the way he wove words, I can't begin to describe what an effect it had on me. I would listen to this music for hours and I still remember most of the words and phrases.

Hmmm, phrases, that's what really struck me, the way that man could turn a phrase. I knew his words so well, there were times when I would be somewhere and a line from one of his songs would pop into my head, making a memory I carry with me to this day.

One day when I was about 17, I took a drive down to Big Sur. This was one of my favorite things to do, made me feel quite bohemian and free. I had a small VW bug, the day was perfect, the windows were open and I had the music loud, filling my head. I came around a curve and saw a perfect stretch of sand just as the phrase "on the beach of no footprints" came on. I swear, it was a perfect moment. Like a thunderbolt, it imprinted on me

Today, as I was cleaning the rig, Legend of a Girl Child Linda came on and that thunderbolt hit again.

I was 17 again.
I was in that day.
I saw that beach.
I felt the sun and smelled the surf.

It brought tears to my eyes
and made my heart swell.

Does this make any sense to anyone but me?
Do you have these memories?
Fleeting moments that shape your life?

What a glorious gift.

Below are the lyrics,
but you really need to hear the music
and the phrasing . . .

Legend Of A Girl Child Linda

I will bring you gold apples
and grapes made of rubies
That have shone in the eyes
of a prince of the breeze.
Bright cascading crystals,
they danced in the sand
dunes on the beach of no footprints
to harpsichord tunes.
A throne of white ivory,
a gown of white lace
Lies still in the magic
of a timeless place.
One hundred small children,
they laugh at the white
doves that rest on their hands with
the touch of love.
On a hillside of velvet
the children they lay down
And make fun of the grown-ups
with their silly frown.
And the sound of their laughter
is the sound of the green
sea as it washed around the foot of
the seashell tree.
The doves circle over
and land in the trees
Where parrots are talking
their words with such ease.
Thus spoke three wizards
to the young ones that day:
"There's sadness in the kingdom,
make it go far away."
If you follow the sunbeams
through the valley of flowers
To the palace of the White Queen
with its white jade towers.
The youngest, she sighed then
the clouds drew away
And a hundred small fingers
scratched their heads in dismay.
From out of the sun
a giant gull came flying
And the children got ready
to sit on its wings.
They waved to the raindrops
as they soared over the trees
The wind tossed their hair high,
flashing gold on the sea.
They came to the castle
and there they did fall,
And they saw all the sadness,
through the crystal wall.
A princess lay a-sleeping
so gentle and kind
Whilst her prince took to battle
with his confused mind.
The clash of bright metal
brought the children fear,
But their cloaks of blue satin
dried up all of these tears.
Thus children held hands and
they spelled out their name
All the golden children
became a golden chain.
It lies on a white throne
in a magic place
With a tunic of velvet
and a gown of white lace.
My sword, it lies broken
and cast in a lake
In a dream I was told that
my princess would wake.

by Donovan Leitch

Friday, June 17, 2011

Playing With Pictures

As you may have noticed, I haven't been taking a lot of pictures lately. I still carry my camera with me everywhere and hope that I'll see something wonderful, but I can't seem to get very inspired.

But today,
at the Post Office of all places,
I saw one absolutely perfect rose.

I never even saw the tiny bug
till I looked at it in the computer.
(Make sure to click to enlarge.)

This woke me out of my photographic stupor
and I looked around
for something else to shoot.

Our local Post Office has truly lovely roses.
This is off the same bush.

Same rose, slightly different saturation.
I'd love to see one this color.

They also have a box full of these.
I really love white flowers,
they always look so clean.

I especially like white roses.

Here's several versions of the same rose.

I just really enjoy manipulating pictures.

Since I'm not really savvy,
I never quite know where I'm going.
Sometimes I like the results,
other times not so much.
Still, it's a lot of fun.
But then, I'm easily entertained.

After a while, this was my favorite image.
Not very realistic, but it speaks to me.
It says "Don't I look fake?"
I say "Yes, you do, but I like you anyway".

I wish just a few more of these
had been in bloom,
but I like the way the waving flag
provides a colorful background.

That's it for today, back to work!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Letting Go

Lots of stuff going on lately, but not really a lot to write about.

The auctions have been going well, if not a bit too well. It seems like everyone is selling things, so the auctions fill up pretty quickly, and we can't always get our items in before they fill up.

Since we couldn't take anything else to the auction, we decided to do a local flea market. We've been trying to avoid yard sales and flea markets, but this one was just a few blocks from our house, so we decided to give it a go. We were lucky with the weather, just slightly overcast with the sun coming out around noon. The best part of the day was that we sold close to everything we took out and made a good chunk of change in the process. We may go that route one or two more times, so if you're in the area, check the local flea markets and we may see you there.

It feels so good to be letting go of a lot of these things. Sometimes, if I like the people, I just give my pieces to them, it's so great to see them go to someone who you know will love them.

Another bit of good news is that we've finally found a new home for the goats. Regular readers know that we have a pair of pygmy goats, Henry and Lulu. We had a friend watching them while we were gone, but we've been looking for a new home for them. We've had them since they were tiny babies so we wanted to make sure that they went to a good safe home.

We've had several offers, but none that we felt really good about. Then, a few weeks ago on Freecycle, I read about a woman who needed egg cartons for her chickens. When we got together we mentioned the goats and she said she had a friend with a farm, and would give her a call. We met with her and we both felt really good about the whole situation, so next week, H and L will have a new home.

We have very mixed feelings, happy and sad, because these goats have been more pets than livestock. But we know it's the best. They're going to a small farm with a couple of other goats, several horses and good folks who will love them as we have. We will also have visitation rights so that makes us pretty happy.

I almost posted a blog the other day about Steven Spielberg, until I realized I've already written several times about Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Just let me say, once again, that this film knocks me out every time (we recently found a BluRay copy at Costco for $13).

Then as serendipity would have it, I found the first season of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories at the library. This is a two season series from the mid eighties that Spielberg created, produced, sometimes wrote and twice directed.

I remembered that there was something about the show that had moved me, but the particulars escaped me, so I checked it out. Then I watched an episode called "the Mission". Wow, if you are at all a Spielberg fan, this is a must see.

Even if you're not a Spielberg fan, this is worth seeking out. It's a great story, action, adventure, pathos, and tons of heart. The story takes place during WW2, in the belly of a B17. It stars Casey Siemaszko, Kevin Costner, Kiefer Sutherland and a fine ensemble cast. I wont say anything else about it, except it's a superb piece of movie making. If you want to rent it or place it in your Netflix cue, it's on disc one of the first season of Amazing Stories.

And that's it. Sorry my posts have been kind of blah lately, there's just not a lot going on.


Saturday, June 4, 2011


I'm fascinated with Robert Oppenheimer and the whole story of the Manhattan Project. I don't want to get political about the use of the atom bomb, the story behind the making of it is what piques my interest.

It started when we visited the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque. It's a powerful spot, a place that will certainly get you thinking. Then we visited the Missile Museum at White Sands, then, the Trinity site (you can read about it here and here). And finally, we visited Los Alamos.

All of these sites talk about Oppenheimer, so I started doing a bit of research on my own. A tall, slim intellectual, he was a involved with many "left wing" folk before being tapped to head the project. While he may not have been their first choice politically, he was so brilliant that there was no one else who was so well suited for the role he played in the Manhattan Project.

The story of the Project and what happened to Oppenheimer afterwards is an engrossing tale of the United States and our history. It bears examination by everyone. It's a story well worth remembering

If you have any interest in either the Manhattan Project or Oppenheimer, I can fully recommend the following.

Sam Waterston

An excellent adaptation of his story. A 1980 miniseries (I believe it was a Masterpiece Theatre) it follows Oppenheimer from Berkeley to Los Alamos, then on to Princeton. Sam Waterston nails the charismatic Oppenheimer.

This is a fine documentary. It successfully fleshes out the whole phenomenon that was Los Alamos in the 1940s.

If you'd rather read than watch, 109 East Palace and the Making of the Atomic Bomb are both insightful and educational.

The folks who did this work were really pioneers, working for what they believed in. What they achieved in a short period of time is a real success story. If you find yourself traveling in New Mexico, all these sites offer a chance to peek into our not so distant past.

It's this kind of thing that I love about RVing. You never know what you'll find and what direction it will take you in.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Teardrops and Tiny Trailers

There's a gentleman named Doug Keister who writes wonderful books about vintage trailers. Today, I noticed that Amazon has one of his books on sale for just $2.99 (in the Kindle edition).

The book is titled Teardrops and Tiny Trailers and it's a delight. It contains lots photos of vintage trailers as well as tons of information and history on the whole phenomenon of RVing.

While the Kindle editions sound like they'll only read on a Kindle, you can get a free Kindle application that allows you to read their books on most e-readers, iPhones, Androids, iPods, iPads and virtually any computer.

So far, I've looked at Teardrops and Tiny Trailers both on my computer and my iPad, and it looks great on both.

Maybe some of you might want to give this e-book a look. I thought it was a great deal for under $3.00.