Mother Nature Is Sure Making Nice

NaBloPoMo, Day 22

Twenty two days into November and we’re still enjoying temperatures in the fifties. Unheard of. It certainly doesn’t do much for your productivity when you keep jumping outdoors to enjoy what surely must be the last of the nice weather before we hunker down for the bitter cold of winter. Or so we’ve been telling ourselves for the last two weeks. Not that I’m complaining. I’m thrilled that I have yet to take out my winter coat.

Temps take a bit of a dip come Thanksgiving with the first chance for snow showers. I’ll be in San Diego for the holiday and like anyone from the Midwest who travels anywhere warm and sunny between Nov and May, I’m hoping for a gripping cold spell here while I’m away.

I Can Improvise, I Just Can’t Remember

NaBloPoMo, Day 10

I have always been one to make up silly, stupid songs on the spot and now that I’m watching a nearly-three-year-old, that skill is finally coming in mighty handy. Yesterday, JD woke up from her nap uncharacteristically tearful. I suspect it had everything to do with the fact that when she went to sleep it was daylight and two hours later when she awoke, it was dark as night in her room.

She’s recently been going through a phase with not one, not two, but three (security) blankets. I find that the surest way to snap JD out of a tearful mood is to distract her with a bouncy, silly song. Yesterday, with my arms full of little girl and three blankets, The Blanket Song was born. Within minutes she was laughing and singing along.

Knowing full well that The Blankets Song would be a Top 10 request in the coming days, I was struck with the brilliant idea that I now have the capability to “record” songs using my iPhone’s Voice Memo feature, perfect for jogging the memory and saving me from racking my brain while an impatient toddler waits to be entertained. (Added bonus, of course, is recording JD singing along.) Sure enough, it came in handy today when I didn’t even have to sing it for her–playback was enough to induce a big smile and a fit of giggles.

So, here for all of your enjoyment, I give you The Blanket Song.

Saturday 3 p.m. ~ Art on the Walls

Hanging the Art

NaBloPoMo, Day 1

It’s November (November!!?!) and masochistic bloggers know what that means–it’s National Blog Posting Month!

Oh, heck, why not? But I’ll blog every day just for one month, got it? That’s it. And I’m warning you now, this month may be a little heavy on the photograph posts, since I’m up to my neck in digital images. Every free moment this weekend has been spent consolidating my digital image library onto one large external hard drive. It’s a project that will carry me well into the week, as I transfer, organize and tag nearly 10,000 images dating back to 2006. If I really want to kill myself, I could drag out the CDs I have with images dating back another few years, shots taken with my very first digital camera, a 3 megapixel Sony Powershot. I just might do that; there are some photos from the Tetons I wouldn’t mind seeing again and improving upon with some more advanced digital darkroom techniques.

The weekend was good, the high point of which was my good friend Annie’s 50th birthday celebration. A dozen of us gathered at one long table in the private upstairs room at the always delicious Campagnola; an interesting and diverse collection of friends representing all five decades of Annie’s life. She’s the first of my close band of friends to make the leap into the next half century and I can safely say, if every celebration is this fun and filled with this much laughter, I look forward to us all hitting the mark.

And finally, to the real subject of this post, what I was doing at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon–hanging pictures. Yep, whacking nails into the freshly painted walls. Nothing acts as a better impetus to clean your house than the sudden prospect of friends coming over for a pre-birthday gathering. And that major task I’ve been putting off–hanging the art back up on the walls–what better time to do that too?

This finishing touch to our home redo project really sets off the color in the room. The walls and the artwork (mostly photographs) look great together. The wall color really sets off the art and the art now pops off the wall, as opposed to getting lost in the drab white of before. I’m thrilled with the way it looks. A few pieces returned to their original locations, most everything else we changed up and I’m really happy with the way everything seemed to come together and fall into place.

Rain Over Lake Michigan

This weekend, the cold, rainy weather we’ve been suffering through (fall, what fall?) finally blew out to sea. Or at least out across Lake Michigan.

Rain Over the Lake

On Saturday, it was raining over the lake as blue sky finally appeared for more than sixty seconds.

iPhone First Impressions: The Wonderful World of Apps, Part II

Continuing my rundown of the iPhone apps I use:

Facebook: I finally cracked and joined Facebook a few months ago and while I can see what all the hype is about, I’m just not that into it. Granted, that could change and loading the Facebook app on to my phone might just be the tipping point. Or not. I don’t use it all that often, but time will tell. So far, I’m hoping using Facebook will be a way to drive more traffic to my blog and it has allowed me to reconnect, however tenuously, with a few folks. I do like the stripped down nature of the Facebook iPhone app. Sometimes I find the desktop version is an overwhelming wave of minutia.

TypePad: This app allows me to post directly from my phone to my blog and I use it almost exclusively to post photos. It’s fairly straightforward to use though it can be a bit slow to upload a photo and the fact that you have to stay in the program while it’s loading makes it a pain to use. (When the connection is good, it’s a snap. When it’s not, it can be a looong wait.)

For some reason, the TypePad app crops photos square; not ideal, but my opinion of the app greatly improved recently when they gave the user the ability to choose just how to crop the photo. I also dislike that any text added along with a photo is automatically put above the photo, exactly opposite of the way I prefer to format my posts. These idiosyncrasies aside, I’m happy to have the ability to post to the blog on the go.

iBird 15: This free version of the iBird app provides detailed information on fifteen of the most popular backyard birds. From what little I’ve seen, there’s a lot to this birding app and depending on how I like using the freebie, I’ll probably end up forking over $10 for the full-blown North American iBird app.

NPR News: I think I’ve probably looked at this for news headlines exactly twice but it does give you the ability to search and listen to individual stories, as well archived programs from the national and local NPR line up. I’ll be dipping into this for episodes of Fresh Air and All Songs Considered among other things. (I already subscribe to Sound Opinions and This American Life by podcast, but they’re there too.)

Pandora: I’ve done very little listening (as in music) on my iPhone so this app has gotten exactly no use so far. (I’m actually listening to it now, as I write this.) In the past I’ve enjoyed Pandora and look to it as a source of new music and it beats traditional radio any day. Unfortunately, unlike listening to the iPod on the iPhone, when you access any other program on the phone, it boots you out of Pandora and the music you were listening to.

Around Me: I know this will come in handy eventually, though I haven’t really had much cause to use it yet.

Epicurious: This is my most frequent source of recipes on the web, so I figured having a version on my phone was a no-brainer.

KatamariLite: I love Katamari on PS3 so I was excited to play the iPhone version but so far it’s just been a source of frustration. I find controlling the little Katamari dude to be awkward, especially rolling him forward (which means flipping the iPhone screen so far away from me I can’t see the screeen anymore) which is the majority of the game. Perhaps the paid edition works more smoothly, but I’m not ready to go there yet.

Wikipedia: It’s Wikipedia! ‘nuf said.

Shazam: Hold it up to a music source and it will identify the song for you. Haven’t used it yet other than to play around but I know it will come in handy. There were many times in the past I wished I’d had such a thing.

Tap Tap Revenge 2: This total time-waster of a game is just a series of thumb taps set to pop music but oh-so addictive. Like all games, it eats up battery time, so I tend not to play a lot (unless of course the phone is charging.)

Time-Out: A nifty little time clock designed for giving kiddos a time out on the go. I figured it might come in useful one of these days while watching JD. (It has, but not for the reason I thought it would. More on that later.)

Events Finder: This app is supposed to tell you about music, sports, and special events in your area but the listings are fairly lame and obscure and this past weekend, the only listings were for next weekend. Plus, listings seem to be limited to weekend days–apparently nothing fun happens during the week. I’ve deleted this app.

PhotoShop Mobile: This brand new app is generating lots of buzz in the few short days it’s been available. I’m not a regular PhotoShop user but for free I had to check it out and in the 15 minutes I played around with it, I really liked what I saw. There are options to crop, rotate, adjust the exposure, saturation etc. and apply a number of special effects. All from your phone. Pretty nifty.

iPhone First Impressions: The Wonderful World of Apps

As promised a few weeks ago, here’s my take on the initial round of apps I’ve loaded onto my iPhone:

Lists: I finally have digital lists back in my life! It’s been years since I had my Handspring Visor, which I loved. I kept lists on it like crazy and looked forward to being able to keep all my lists with me on the iPhone. I considered using the Notes program that comes on the iPhone, but prefer my 2Do lists to have checkboxes and the ability to prioritize and sort. A friend pointed me toward Simplist, a free list app that I really like. I keep a running 2Do list on it as well as lists for blog ideas, books to read, ideas of fun stuff to do in the area, home projects, photography projects, and, of course, shopping lists.

flickr: Snapping photos on my phone and uploading them to my flickr site has never been easier (especially considering the machinations I used to go through with the old cellphone!) I also like how the flickr app presents my contacts photos as a screensaver type slide show and groups their recent uploads by day, a nice way to scroll through everyone’s recent images.

ShakeItPhoto: Allows you to take iPhone photos that look like they came out of Polaroid camera. Click, whrrr, shake. I really like the effect and the quality of the colors. Hello 1970s.

Google Reader: By far the app I use most frequently. I’ve been using Google Reader for a while now, to follow my favorite websites and blogs. The problem was, I rarely had time to keep up on all the postings and found myself deleting the backlog of “reading material” that would invariably pile up. Now, I take the reader with me wherever I go, using downtime to catchup up and keep informed. I’m finally able to read those pieces I’d habitually mark for later (and never get to–delete!) and I can keep in touch with my favorite fellow bloggers in a more timely manner.

TweetDeck: I’ve been using TweetDeck to follow and participate on Twitter on my laptop so it was a no-brainer to load this app first thing to my iPhone. The interface is quick and easy to use and, like the desktop version, it makes following my favorites and grouping them accordingly easy. It’s nice to have the ability to tweet on the go and the iPhone version of TweetDeck has become my preferred way to contribute.

Weather: I have yet to find a weather app I really love which explains why I have a ridiculous number of weather programs currently on my phone. The weather app preloaded on the iPhone is far too dumbed down to be of any use other than answering “what’s the current temp?” (In my book, a weather app without a radar map is worthless.) Currently I have the Chicago Trib weather page (my source for weather on the laptop), the Weather Channel app (which requires too many screen taps to get the info I want), and a link to Weather Underground (a great website, giving me everything in one shot. Unfortunately, it’s hard to read without zooming in and shifting the page all around. Not ideal.) So, the jury’s still out on this one.

This brings me to a nifty item about the iPhone that I learned a couple of weeks ago: You can save a bookmarked website as an icon on the iPhone Home Screen, a direct link that saves you the steps of getting to it via the Safari internet browser. Nice. I’ve got links to the aforementioned weather sites, as wells as The Daily Beast (a quick hit source for news headlines), The Chicago Trib website (because their iPhone app is one of the worst I’ve come across so far,) and dooce (one of the few blogs I prefer to visit in person, rather than via the Google Reader.)

And that, my friend, just covers the first home screen on my iPod. More to come.