Good Riddance, Sandy!

photo credit: NASA

Good riddance, Sandy.

Good riddance, indeed!

I am very very happy to say goodbye to that lady.

Although she’s not really gone. Not quite yet. It’s still raining, and raw, and windy. Transportation is broadly affected and the clean up efforts will keep her on everyone’s mind for a long long time.

The damage is unbelievable. I am shocked at the loss and devastation across so many states.

If you live anywhere on this planet, most likely you have seen a few news reports, and so you are aware of the unprecedented mess. With each photo I am stunned …. until I see the next one. Truly extraordinary.

And let me take this opportunity to thank all my blog reader/friends for the kind thoughts and well wishes as I “signed off” a few days ago. It is really amazing to me how we have formed our own community-of-the-world, here in the blog-o-sphere. I never expected these reach-outs from around the world when I started to blog, but I am so grateful for them now. Thank you, everyone.

The damage in my area has been primarily downed trees and tree limbs. Everyone’s property is thoroughly littered with branches and leaves and miscellaneous debris. (I found several hunks of styrofoam?) There are hundreds of thousands of people still without power in our local utility area.

As we tried to leave my neighborhood this morning, we were thwarted at every turn with another tree blocking the road.

It was like trying to get out of a maze.

“Let’s go this way” … Nope.
“Let’s try this way” … uh uh.
“Perhaps we can turn here” … no-can-do.

Trees block the roadways like large leafy drawbridges. (Except they don’t rise up)

We lost a very large tree on our own property, and (nature’s law) it fell in a very unfortunate place. Sigh.

But we are all well.

And that is what really matters.

This Week’s “Weekend Distraction” is the Perfect Storm: Are You In Harm’s Way? Be Prepared!

photo credit: cbc news

This week, my “Weekend Distraction” has been preempted by Mother Nature because she is offering up a huge distraction of her own.

Those of us who live in the Northeastern part of the United States are about to get clobbered by a storm that the media has dubbed “Frankenstorm”.

Apparently, the hurricane that is coming up the east coast is going to strengthen, increase in size, combine with other weathery things and then EXPLODE into an enormous storm. This is a “Perfect Storm” scenario (like the movie) except this storm will happen over land. “Unprecedented”, they say.

Here is a sampling of the warnings we are receiving:

* “We looking at one of the worst storms on record that we’ve seen in this region,” said Carl Parker, hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel.

* The rare mix of merging weather systems over a densely populated region, experts predict at least $1 billion in damage.

* The resulting storm “will be like a nor’easter with a hurricane embedded in it,” said Bryan Norcross, hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel.

* “We’re not trying to hype it,” National Weather Service meterologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. “What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.”

* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco said: “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”

* “The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion” this time, Masters said. “Yeah, it will be worse.”

We are being warned that it is highly likely that we will have major power outages for a significant amount of time. (The storm itself is expected to last for days. Yes, you read that right… days!) They are warning of power outages that will last a week or more.

Since I live right in the middle of the predicted mess, I am contemplating my life without power. (We do not have a generator). No power means no cooking, no heat, no refrigerator, no freezer, no (gasp) blogging!!!

And then there is the internet. It is fickle under the best of circumstances, so I’m sure a “Frankenstorm” will be a great excuse for it to quit. (I guess what I’m saying is that I might not be around for a few days.)

If you live in the Northeast, it is time for you to prepare. Once you are buckled down, have your batteries, water and other supples, there are a few apps you might want to add to your emergency kit.

My dear friend alerted me to an app from the American Red Cross designed for emergency preparedness. (thank you, Mona!) Although this app is called Hurricane by American Red Cross, it is really much more than that. It is a great app to have on hand for all severe weather.

It includes emergency plans, shelter locators, radar information, notifications of warnings in your area (I woke up to a notification of a flood watch) and … a tool kit, with a strobe light, flashlight and a loud alarm to signal for help.

The American Red Cross also has a fine First Aid App, and it pairs nicely with the one, above. It also includes emergency plans.

Best of all, the content is contained ON your device, so even if you lose your connection to the internet you still have the step by step emergency information.

While you do still have electricity, make sure you keep your devices on full charge, so when the power goes out you’ll have maximum usage.

A car charger can be a big help (if you have a car :) ). When the power goes out, you can charge up your phone from your car. I plan to pick up a car charger on Saturday as part of my preparing for this storm.

Note to owners of e-readers: Charge them up! There may be some long, powerless nights ahead for a lot of reading time.

Even if you are not part of this, uh, “adventure”, both of these Red Cross Apps are FREE and full of good information.

Hurricane by American Red Cross is free in the iTunes store.

First Aid by American Red Cross is free in the iTunes store.

Freaky Friday: Flip Your Text Upside Down

photo credit: andreasnilsson1976 via photopin cc

Sometimes we just want to have fun.

There is a corny old saying: “Turn Your Frown Upside Down” (makes a Smile)

Today we can turn our text upside down. It makes smiles, too.

So, if you need something to liven up your Friday, try this: Send an email, or a text, upside down.

(Choose your recipient wisely! :))

It will look like this:

uʍop ǝpısdn ʇı puǝs uɐɔ noʎ ‘sǝ⅄

Just go here, type your message and copy-then-paste it into your email, text message, blog post, or whatever.

This is a free online source to alter your text.

In addition to flipping your message, you can select other options as well. Just enter your words and choose the mix-up of your choice. Copy the resulting text and paste it wherever you please.

(Hey! You never know when this might come in handy!!!!) :) :) :)

How to Reply to a Call with a Text Message OR “Remind Me Later” in iOS6

photo credit: Flооd via photopin cc

Your phone rings … but, uh oh. It is not a convenient time for you to talk.

You have several choices. You can tap the on/off button once to silence it, and twice to send it directly to voicemail.

OR

You can reply to the incoming call with a text message.

Here is how to reply with a text message:

When a call is coming in, look for the symbol of the old-fashioned telephone handset, and slide it UP.

Once you do that, you will see the option to “Reply with Message”.

Tap on “Reply with Message”.

Several choices of text message (below) will appear on your screen ….. just touch your choice.

Done!

There are several default messages to use. However, you can create your own.

If you would like to create your own message, go to Settings > Phone > “Reply with Message” and simply replace any of the messages that you see.

But, wait! You have another option for that inconvenient incoming call…

Note that when you did the first step, and slid that little phone symbol up, there were TWO choices.

One was to “reply with message” (which we just did)…..

But there is another choice: “Remind Me Later”.

If you select “Remind Me Later”, another screen pops up and you can choose “remind me in 1 hour” or “remind me when I leave” or “remind me when I get home”.

At your requested time, a visual reminder (with the sound of your choice) will pop up on your screen telling you to call back George Clooney (or whoever was calling you).

When you select this reminder option, your caller will go straight to voice mail.

Pretty handy.

A Mid-Week Laugh

Warning!!!

If you are about to watch this video and you are at work, you could be in danger. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and most likely your work is not. Therefore, when you start to giggle, your Boss will be alerted that you are not studying your spreadsheets. :)

This video has been around about a month, ever since the release of the iPhone 5. Over 7 million views.

It is made to look like a real iPhone commercial …. the style, that is.

Wonderful, wonderful satire.

The new iPhone is taller than the last one, and this video introduces the viewer to this change.

Have fun!

The Wait is Over, and the iPad Mini is Reality

photo credit: Apple

Today Apple broke the long-anticipated news: the iPad Mini is no longer just a rumor. It is real, it is ready and I’m guessing it will be a big seller for the Holiday Season. (Apple also dished a surprise: a new regular iPad. More on that, later.)

The iPad Mini looks wonderful.

It is a smaller, lighter and therefore more PORTABLE version of the iPad. The display is set so that all apps will display perfectly, and therefore it is ready to go, no app updates necessary.

Let’s look at a few specifics:

It has all the wonderful-ness of a regular iPad, only it is all wrapped up in a smaller package. You can use Facetime, all your apps, the cameras, read books, surf the web, watch movies and enjoy a battery life of TEN HOURS. (Happily portable enough to be helpfully distracting for a long uncomfortable plane ride.) You can store photos and take movies. You can send and receive email. And as you do all you want to do, Siri will be available to help. (I regularly ask her now to make reminders and notes for me and she is surprisingly accurate with her efforts.)

The iPad Mini uses the new lightning connector. This connector is reversible. You can’t make a mistake and plug it in incorrectly. (This connector is on the iPhone 5 and since I’ve been using it I can say that I like it… a lot. I was always concerned that I would make a mistake with the old connector. I think the new connector is a fine improvement.)

The iPad Mini has a 7.9 inch display. This is a sweet, sweet size. Big enough to be comfortable on the eyes, but small enough to allow the device to fit easily in your hand.

And just the perfect size to throw in a purse.

The Mini is pencil thin, and weighs only a bit over a half pound. .68 lb, to be exact.

The iPad Mini is available in black or white.

The price was the biggest surprise, and not in a good way. The iPad Mini has been priced more expensively than the rumor-makers were suggesting:

For WiFi only, the 16GB is $329, the 32 GB is $429, and the 64GB is $529

For WiFi + Cellular, the 16GB is $459, the 32GB is $559, and the 64GB is $659

Now the comparisons begin. How will this stack up against the Kindle Fire? Most people agree that the iPad is by far a better device, but price matters….. the question is, how much?

Apple doesn’t think they are competition, at all. Apple’s marketing officer said, “We’re so far ahead of the competition I can’t even see them in the rear-view mirror.”

You can pre-order the Mini iPad starting October 26. The Wi-Fi model will be available for purchase on November 2, and the Wi-Fi + cellular models will be available in the middle of November.

To get more specifics about the new iPad mini, visit the Apple website.

Get Off the Couch and Get Fit with Couch-to-5k

Autumn is my very favorite season. I love the crisp air and the glorious colorful leaves. It is the time of year that I love to take walks. And so yesterday I hit the local rail-trail. (Blog photo above is from yesterday’s walk, taken with the iPhone 5, just a quick snap and no-editing).

I was not alone on the trail. Bikers, walkers and runners were all taking advantage of the perfect day.

There are many wonderful fitness apps, but the one that I thought I’d share today is Couch-to-5k.

If you are a new runner, or someone who is even thinking about running, this app might be something that you would like to try.

All you do is …… touch START.

That’s it! So very easy to use. A human voice will guide you. (You have the choice of 3 virtual coaches). He/she will tell you to walk, and after a while he/she will tell you to run (briefly) and then walk again. Run, then walk, repeat, repeat. For 30 minutes.

The beginning intervals start with just a minute and a half of jogging, followed by 2 minutes of walking, repeat, repeat.

Each week the workout changes somewhat. A subtle increase. A little tiny bit more running, and a little less walking. The intervals of running increase slightly as you gradually improve.

These workouts gently shift your activity from walking to running.

You can play your own music through the app, and you will still hear the voice giving you your prompts.

Personally, I am not ever going to be a runner. I can’t even walk very fast. But I still enjoy the encouraging voice and I use the “running time” to speed up my walk just a bit. It also keeps me honest by walking for a full 30 minutes.

But for someone who would like to run, and needs some help to get started, this app would be incredibly valuable.

Engadget and Runner’s World both think highly of Couch to 5k, and you can see their praise highlighted here in the app description. Couch to 5K is $1.99 in the iTunes store.

The Moth: A Podcast All About “Living Life”

I love podcasts. I am subscribed to about a dozen, and I could easily subscribe to dozens more (only Time stands in the way). There are so many awesome choices.

For new readers, I’d like to refer you back to two earlier posts, to read about podcasts, and the podcast app, and where I happily recommend one of my all time favorites, A Way With Words.

Today I’m highlighting another of my regularly-listened-to podcasts, The Moth.

If you enjoy stories, if you like to read, if you like to write, if you enjoy people, if you are interested in ….. Life, well then, it’s a no-brainer. You will enjoy The Moth.

I think the best way to describe The Moth to you is to paste the following description directly from their website:

“It is brilliant and quietly addictive” – The London Guardian

“New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket” – The Wall Street Journal

The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.

Basically it is people telling stories in front of a live audience.

I’ve been listening for a long, long time, and the variety of stories is astounding. Some stories are burned into my brain forever, while others were funny, or heart wrenching, or silly, or fascinating, or downright awe-inspiring. And, to be very honest, some have been not-so-good. But the majority are. Good. Great, even.

There are a few stories on their website (just click on “stories”), so you can sample some efforts such as a child-stutterer who learned to speak to animals, a carpenter who nearly died and then found a reason to stay in NYC, and a few others.

With a podcast subscription, you get a new story (usually about 10 minutes long) every week or so, and a look at life from a multitude of varied perspectives.

A subscription to The Moth is free and available through the iTunes store, and you can also search for it and then subscribe directly from the Podcast App.

How to QUICKLY Silence an Incoming Call on your iPhone

photo credit: uochi. via photopin cc

It has happened to everyone. You are in the middle of something important, (a meeting, a doctor appt, a movie theatre where you forgot to silence your phone), and suddenly your phone starts blasting your cleverly selected ring-tone. Yikes!

You can quickly silence the ringing. Here is how you do it:

Just press your on/off button one time. Ah, silence.

The call is still ‘coming in’ but the noise has stopped.

If you press the on/off button twice, you can send the call directly to voice mail.

Remember this!

I promise that one day you will find it very handy! :)

Weekend Distraction: Mahjong Towers for iPad

I’ve had this game sitting on my iPad for a long time. It was one of the very first games I ever bought. I played it so much that when I turned away from it, I didn’t go back for a while.

Well, I just went back, and I remember why I liked it so much! It is a great no-thinking, zen-like game for total relaxation. No bells and whistles, no races to run, or clocks to beat. It’s a game I like to turn to when the tv is running, because it is easy to do both. (and playing this game keeps my hands busy instead of eating snacks!)

It’s a simple match-the-tiles game.

One of the nice things about it is the large variety of tile faces to choose from (and music, too). Just enough to keep it fresh and fun. The control, shown here, is easy. Just slide to select your choice of tile.

There is a free version that you can play for a while before being given the opportunity to purchase the game. The whole game is $2.99.

The only thing I don’t care for is something that has appeared since the last time I played this game … and that is: in-app purchases of “shuffles”. I really really really really don’t like in-app purchases. I will actually choose NOT to buy an app if they are pushing in-app purchases. In this case, I bought the app before they added these, so I’ll overlook it. In any case, you can just ignore them. You don’t need them, you probably won’t want them, so just pretend there is a great big ignore button when it comes to the in-app purchases.

Here are some examples of some of alternate tile sets you can select:

Pretty, huh?

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