Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kodiak Alaska

Read this doc on Scribd: ALASKA 2002 Kodiak

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Comments on Amazon's Kindle



My "Kindle"

Displaying a W J Bryan paper downloaded free
from the "Gutenberg" project


Following from my natural inclination towards technologies that improve my experience with work or play, you would not be surprised that I have one of the current "e-book" readers. This time, Barbara beat me to the punch and gave it to me as a birthday present this winter. I have since been using it almost every day, on occasion for several hours.

On the last few airline trips I have read from the Kindle before, during and between flights, and I have been interrupted (I don't mind) a number of times by inquisitive fellow travelers. Answering their questions led me to formulate some observations and opinions on what I have found to be a pretty nice product.

What do I use it for?

Books: (a) purchased from Amazon, and (b) downloaded free from sites such as the Gutenberg project

Periodicals: The Wall Street Journal

Other: i.e. PDFs from several sources, including financial reports and medical articles.
How does it work?

The technology is pretty neat. The display is a technology called "ink" that is reflective (not back lit) and draws minimal power from the batteries. It is connected to Amazon by the Sprint cell network, though I could also directly load content from my PC. It has the ability for MP3 music and audio books, though these I have not used yet (I still take my iPod). It will accept a standard SD memory card, but at this point I am still using <2%> of the on board memory.

Of all the reviews I have seen, click here to see the one with which I find myself most in agreement. If interested in the Kindle, you should check this link, since it says a lot of what I would have otherwise written in this post.

PROS:

1. Big selection of books available from Amazon, including most best-sellers, and at a significant discount (i.e. James Patterson's new book, 7th Heaven is $27 list, $16.97 + shipping Amazon discount price, and $9.99 with no shipping for the Kindle)

2. Ergonomic / user-friendly

3. LONG battery life. Unless I turn on the wireless, I can read for hours every day for weeks on end without recharging.

4. I can send my own books, articles, etc as a PDF to my Kindle (as an attachment on email sent to my Kindle email address) for the standard text-message charge of 10 cents.

5. I can have the newspaper or magazine delivered in seconds, no matter if I am at home or traveling (and even though I can subscribe to the electronic edition of most periodicals for computer-viewing, the Kindle version is cheaper and I can read it on the patio, at the airline gate, or anywhere else I have the time.)

6. The display is easily readable; the brighter the light, the better.

7. In a package the size of a medium format paperback, I can travel with dozens, actually hundreds, of books readily at hand.

CONS:

1. Many of the non-fiction books or older books I tend to read are not available for the Kindle.

2. The cost is still relatively high at $399.

3. Some of the graphical content for the WSJ does not come across on the Kindle.

4. Though not a major problem, the Kindle text conversion occasionally drops a letter from a word.

5. The screen is really not B & W, but black on light grey, and it can catch some glare in some situations. The contrast is not quite as good as a good-quality printed book. It it still very readable (except in the dark).

6. The "next page" bar on the right side should be 1/2 the length, allowing one to hold that side of the device without advancing the pages.

SUMMARY: I like it, and use it all the time, but half my reading is still from printed books.












Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anza-Borrego: Another Desert Garden Tour

Like my last blog on Joshua Tree, this is another post mainly consisting of pictures. Just haven't had anything to share (publicly at least) for a few days.

Last Monday, Barbara and I loaded the Jeep with cameras, binoculars, Leki hiking sticks, a picnic lunch and jumped in with Pip for a day outing to Anza Borrego State Park. This park is entirely desert, but in the spring, with just a little rain, it turns into a carpet of wildflowers in many places. It is about an hour west of the San Diego suburbs.
We headed south out of the Coachella valley on hwy 86 through the desert west of the Salton Sea, then over to the town of Borrego Springs on S-22 and then out of the town still on 22 up into the mountains where we connected with Hwy 79 going north. We then took Hwy 341 east to catch Hwy 74 back down into Palm Desert. At a fairly leisurely pace, and with lots of stopping, we did this tour in about 8 hours.


(Left-Click to enlarge this and other photos)
(Above) The town of Borrego Springs is nestled up against the mountains and almost completely surrounded by the Anza Borrego State Park. You will find no Holiday Inns, etc here, but there are a number of local hotels and resorts. Be aware that the Borrego Springs Inn has, I believe, one of its pools "swim suit optional." There are no stoplights, but in the center of this giant traffic circle in the middle of town there is a most pleasant local park with lots of grass and picnic tables. There are orchards north of town, with good produce stands at several locations. One local restaurant advertises its "dog friendly" patio seating. This is probably like what Palm Springs was in the early 1900's, few people and no traffic at all. It's isolated, but a nice oasis for the desert traveler.

Around the town are several housing areas with lots of space. The best wildflowers we found in this area were in such a private development.

The Ocatillo, one of our favorite cacti, were just coming into bloom, but their full deep red flowers had not yet fully developed on most of them.

After leaving Borrego Springs and climbing the S-22 switchbacks up from Borrego Springs, we encountered the grass-covered hills and the trees as a nice change from the desert floor.

The 1858 Oak Grove Butterfield Station pictured above is a simple one story adobe building surrounded by ancient oak trees. The Butterfield Overland Mail operated from 1858 to 1861 on this route between San Francisco and St. Louis, Missouri - Memphis, Tennessee. The Oak Grove Butterfield Station is a rare remaining original example of a stage route station. The two routes (St. Louis and Memphis) converged at Fort Smith, Arkansas, dropped into Texas, extended across the southwest to Los Angeles, and then north through the San Joaquin Valley to San Francisco. It took about 25 days for a letter to reach its destination. The Civil War interrupted operations in 1861.

As we traveled north on 79, we encountered hills and valleys covered with poppies, the California state flower. These are ubiquitous to the state, but when in this profusion are striking in their color and pattern.


Just north of Warner Springs, there is the missionary Saint Francis Chapel (exterior above, interior below). This 1830 structure sits in eastern San Diego County, the location of the historic Warner Ranch (still an active ranch, but now also operating a notable spa).




As we crossed back to hwy 74 and started the switchback back down into the Coachella valley, we stopped for a moment to take in a view of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells. It was a nice day.

Joshua Tree National Monument

Joshua Tree National Monument spreads across mountain desert northeast of the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, etc). Last Friday Bill Fritz and I made the drive through the Monument, mainly to view the desert spring flowers which were scheduled to be in full bloom after a wet (for this area) winter. JTNM (link) is a great place for seeing wildflowers in March, blooming Cacti in April and May, and some really, really big rocks year round. It has some excellent campgrounds, and would be a nice place for star-gazing, but take a tent or small RV.

All of the pictures can be enlarged with a left-click

This is a 3o+ ft high Joshua tree with early blooms (they are huge!) at the top.


The flowers were found mainly on the south entrance to the park.
Full bloom as advertised!


The park is full of huge piles of boulders; those above reach up to 200'
(click to enlarge)



These piles began as solid layers of rock, with fracture lines scattered within them.
Over time, moisture and organisms enlarged the fracture/fault lines, and eventually the rocks separated and fell into piles as we see today.


We brought our lunch and enjoyed a sunny picnic table among the rocks.

This was the backdrop for our meal. The silence was deafening after weeks in town.

The Cholla garden is quite a site, and dangerous. (Click to enlarge)
A young woman was taking pictures and stepped back into one of these, with the barbed spines going right through her clothing and into her skin. Several good Samaritans with pliers removed the barbs, but not the inflammation and pain. Here is a link to a very nice photographic essay on this group of cholla.