Droid Apps

After two months of using the Droid, I thought I would review the apps that I find the most helpful and fun.  First and foremost it is a phone, I’m very happy with the quality of calls and the quality of the built-in speaker.  I configured the contacts app when I first got the phone and haven’t thought twice about it.  The voice dial app took a little bit of trial and error to find the right phrases to use to quickly get the phone numbers to come up.  Of course the voice dial app provides all sorts of examples to help you quickly figure it out, but that would require reading on my part.  RTFM – No Way!  The messaging and email apps are used through out the day.  Occasionally (once per week) I find the email app will stop communicating with Comcast.  The quick solution is the Advance Task Killer app.  This app will kill off processes running in the background that are consuming battery life while offering nothing in return.  As it kills off these background processes, it also causes the email app to fully reload the next time I open it.  This is an ok temporary solution until an update is available for the email app.  The other two apps I have residing on the middle screen is the Facebook app and The Weather Channel.  The Weather Channel app is a must have.  I’ve got five different cities entered so with three taps on the screen I can have the current weather for anyone of the cities.  One more tap and I have the 10 day forecast.

On my left screen I have music and imusic app to help organize my playlists.  I find that I use the built in music app for playback.  I also have Google Sky.  This app allows you to hold up your phone to see what stars you are looking at.  I like to take the Google Sky app at night and point it to the ground to show the kids where the Sun is currently.  I also have Astro, which provides a file manager type of screen to access the memory card.  I would have thought an app like Astro would have been included as a base app to manage the data on the phone.  To round out the left screen I also installed 10001 Cocktails.  Of course the database doesn’t include 100001 cocktails, but it has the majority of mixed drinks and cocktails one would order.  Now why would I have this app when I always just rely on the bartender?  I don’t know, but it is a fun app to have.

On the right hand screen I have the app Where.  This is a pretty cool app, but I find I don’t use it as much as I thought I would have.  I also have my prime decision making tool, “Magic Eight-ball” app installed.  The original Magic Eight-ball was undoubtedly the best decision support tool and arguably the most accurate decision support tool ever made.  I also have a quirky tech app called tricorder.  This app provides you with information like your current GPS location, the nearest cell tower and all the wifi access points that are reachable.  It also analysis the surrounding sound levels.   Usefulness of this app – none.  Fun factor – priceless.  I also have Newspaper on the right hand screen.  This app allows me to pull up news from several dozen different newspapers from around the country.

The one app that I thought had great potential, but never lived up to it….Key Ring.  This app allows you to scan all those annoying customer shopping cards.  In theory you are suppose to be able to bring the card up and just scan the phone.  In reality the food store scanners don’t like the back lit glass screens.

The one piece of functionality that I don’t use – the camera.  It takes ok pictures, but whenever the need arises for taking photos, usually I have one of the digital cameras handy.

Palisades Hike

This past Sunday the Philmont crew went on a day hike on the NJ Palisades. The Palisades are a cliff face between the George Washington Bridge and the Tappen Zee Bridge.  The cliffs are about 600 high.  The hike traversed along the base of the cliffs right next to the Hudson river and then climbed to the top and followed the cliff edge back to the starting point.

We started the hike at the Palisades Interstate Commission Office by Exit 2 on the Palisade Parkway.  The weather was great.  Temps were in the 50’s, skies were clear blue.

Along the base of the cliffs there was absolutely no snow.  The trail took us through the public boat launch, which was closed this time of year.  At a trail intersection we had a 20 minute “packs off” break.  While at this break we studied the map that we had with us to make sure we “knew” where we were.  The map we had was very poor.  But the thinking was we couldn’t get lost because we were right next to the Hudson river.  Bad thinking.

Turns out that the intersection we had our break at was the intersection we should have taken to get back to the top of the cliffs.  Instead we continued along the base of the cliffs heading north.  We came to the giant steps, which we mistakenly believed led back to the top of the cliffs.  Instead the giant steps was a massive boulder field with rocks the size of cars and trailers.  The giant steps were leaps to the next rock.  This field of boulders was about 3/4 of a mile long and took us 1 1/2 hours to cross.  Also along the path the recent storms toppled dozens of large trees across the trail.  There were places that we had to pass the backpacks to each other so we could climb over and under the obstacles.  It was great to see the crew really working together to overcome the challenges.  The teamwork was excellent!!

We went about another mile before we realized that we made a mistake.  At that point we had 3 more miles moving forward or traverse back through the mess/maze of trees and rocks.  The crew elected to continue forward to the waterfall and then climb up the cliff face.  All in all this slight navigational error added 5 miles to a 7.5 mile hike.

As we made our way to the top of the cliffs, the snow gradually became deeper.  At this point we were all tired.  The snow made the progress all the more difficult.  When we reached the Lookout Inn, I went and bought a real set of maps for the trail.  Yes, it was after the damage was done, but the maps will come in handy on future hikes.  We ended up hiking back on Route 9 heading south to avoid the snow and allow us to get back to the cars at a reasonable pace.  As it was originally we thought we would be done by 1pm.  Instead we completed the hike around 3:30pm.

If you haven’t hiked along the Palisades, I would highly recommend it.  The views were spectacular, both from the base of the cliffs and from the top.  I would also highly recommend you plan to follow the trail through the giant steps and by the waterfall.  Our navigational error took us through some awesome scenery and resulted in a hike that was adventurous! If we had stayed on our original plan, I sincerely believe this hike would have been a mediocre, less than memorable hike.  I would also suggest you use a real map and not a guide book 😉

Skiing with the Scouts

We had an excellent day on Saturday skiing at Camelback with the Scouts.  The weather was a very nice 40 – 45 degree day with clear blue skies.  The slopes were loaded with fresh packed powder snow.  The conditions could not have been better.  In fact it very well may have been one of the best days, weather wise, of skiing that I’ve had.

We had 13 scouts join us.  Their skill levels were as varied as it could possibly be.  We had several first timers who tried either skiing or snowboarding.  My son was able to join up with another scout who had similar skill levels.  They took off for the intermediate and expert trails.  I didn’t see the two of them for about two hours.  The first time skiers were able to pick up enough skill so that by the afternoon they were able to come down the easier trails from the top of the mountain.  We had one bad incident where one of the boys took a bad fall and injured his shoulder.  He tried to get some air over a bump and caught the edge of his board.  He landed on his shoulder.  if it wasn’t for this one injury, the day would have been perfect.

Since we were a group, we were mostly in the lower Sun Bowl lodge.  It was the first time I was in this lodge at Camelback.  The food there was nothing to write about, but the parking and accessibility.  Wow.  I was parked within 75 feet of the lodge.  Had I known how close and accessible it was, I would have packed a cooler.

The one memorable fall was with my friend Dave.  He was wearing black ski pants and a blue jacket.  We were making our way down the bottom part of the run when a newbie girl came down the hill and lost control.  She came right behind him, interlocking her skis with his and giving him a great big hug.  All I saw was this black, blue and pink blur with snow flying.  After the fall, she bounces up all bright & bubbly and says “Oh my bad, so sorry” and skis off.  Mean while, Dave is a crumpled pile on the ground trying to figure out what just happened.  As he recovers and we regroup, I’m thinking “Gee if you were so sorry, why didn’t you help the guy up”.  Of course I had more colorful language at the time.  This is one of the drawbacks to skiing in the Poconos.  Due to the close proximity of the city and the suburbs, there are a lot of people  on the slopes who just can’t ski. They think that just because they can survive getting down the mountain that they don’t need lessons.  Oh, if only Vermont wasn’t so far away…..