iPod wars. 

When rafting up with friends on Lake Travis, we invented this game to amuse ourselves – everyone takes turns playing a song from their iPod that they think is awesome.  We pass the plug from one person to the next.  You strive for a song that others will agree is awesome.  Some songs take people down their own memory lane, some are just funny, some songs everyone sings along to, some are songs other people never heard before.  It’s a great way to pass the time, under the stars, on a boat, with friends, slightly impaired, at anchor, off the grid, into the wee hours of the morning.   Here’s the typical scene.  

 

Awesome!  :)

A busy two weeks and a new find.

I have been challenged in posting the last two weeks.  We are in the middle of a 3 week set of back to back visits from family.  Which we absolutely love, but it means a little less time to tend to my photoblog.   The real challenge though is that the WordPress for iOS app that I use primarily for quick posts is broken and completely useless since the last 2 updates (both updates ver 5.4 and 5.4.1) of the app.  So I’m using the browser version of the app for this post.   I hope they get it together and fix the problem in the next update.

One set of guests were unaccompanied minors, so I had to get a pass to go through security and accompany them to their gate to pick them up and drop them off at the airport.   As I was strolling along the concourse on the west end of the ABIA terminal, I spotted some lovely, colorful prints on display from a Texas artist that I hadn’t seen before.  The artist is Margie Crisp, and her prints are simply beautiful.   I took a picture of one – couldn’t avoid the reflections from the lights in the airport.  This one is called In the shadow of Buchanan Dam.   Inks Lake is in the foreground, with images of all the things I love about the Central Texas Hill Country.

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I googled her to learn more about her and found that she has produced a book called  River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, which features many of her river prints.  As I’ve come to love the Colorado myself, I’m going to order one.

You might want to check her out, too.

As for me, i need to get moving… we are headed to the lake to raft-up overnight.

Little buddy.

Last year I went on a girls’ trip to Washington, D.C. and we walked EVERYWHERE!   One of my friends had a fitbit One (electronic fitness / health tracking gadget) which intrigued me, and I ordered one for myself before I even got back home.  I’ve been using it for almost a year now and I love it.

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As you can see, it is small, it clips onto your clothes (bra, waistband, etc) and Along with its dashboard tracks calories expended, distance walked, vertical steps climbed, sleep pattern, food (calories in), weight gain/loss.  I found it to be a good tool to incent, remind, and update me on where I am versus where I want to be.   It doesn’t work magic – when I don’t expend more calories than I take in, I gain weight.   But my experience has been that if i use it that way I’m supposed to (i.e., keep the food tracker updated and actively try to achieve my daily targets, every day) I am a better fit-izen  :)

My 2 cents on why I love my fitbit:

  • Usability:  It is easy to wear and forget about.  I clip it onto my bra (sports or frilly) and it usually is undetectable.  It is very easy to keep continually on my person :)  I’ve even forgotten about it and worn it through a TSA checkpoint at the airport several times – without getting stopped.  I tried using the little wristband it comes with to wear the fitbit at night but gave up and now just clip it to what I’m wearing to bed.  I don’t even know it’s there.
  • Durability:  It’s water-resistant.  It’s definitely not bothered by lots of sweat.  It is not advertised as being water proof.   BUT it did go through the washing machine once and still works.  My washer is a High-Efficiency one wrt how much water it uses – maybe that’s why my fitbit thankfully didn’t drown.  But, you should have seen the number of steps I logged during the spin cycle overnight!
  • Battery life:  I have found that the battery lasts two weeks or more for me on a given charge.  It warns you when it is low.  And to charge it just requires using the short cord in the picture above – USB on one end, and attaching to the end of the fit bit with the adapter on the other end.
  • Ease and flexibility of uploading data from the device:   You can choose to sync the bits of data from the fitbit device to the dashboard for viewing by either (or both) of two methods.  The fitbit One can talk to/sync with the fitbit Connect application (that runs on your laptop) via the smaller USB wireless sync dongle thingie in the picture above.    And/or it can talk to/sync with the fitbit mobile app (that runs on your phone) via a bluetooth-enabled interface with your phone.  I use both.  I like that if i go on a trip where I don’t want to lug my laptop, I can still sync with my phone for the time I am gone and view the dashboard from there.   Syncing is where things might get a little less intuitive, but there are lots of FAQs to explain the ins and outs of syncing.
  • User interface:  The web dashboard can be accessed via either a web browser on a laptop, or through their mobile app.  Both are easy to use, customize, and display lots of info to glean. 
  • Customer service:  I have found most of my questions are easily answered by info found in fitbit’s online help, or the fitbit community forums.   I did have a problem recently where my wireless syncing dongle simply stopped working.  I quickly found the phone number online – it’s posted on their twitter feed(877) 623-4997.  (I’m old fashioned – there are online methods to get support here).  After less than 10 minutes on the phone with the support person I had an email in my inbox documenting that a replacement fitbit wireless sync dongle was on its way to me – free of charge.  I was back in business a few days later.
  • Value:  for me, it’s worth it.  I’ve worn it pretty much every day for almost a year.   I’ve actively used it the way I should for probably 75% of that time.  I fall off the wagon from time to time.   I think I paid a little under $100 dollars for my fitbit One.  But I struggle with my weight, and any tool that helps me stay on the path to fitness is worth it.  And that’s what my fitbit One helps me do.

Oh, one more thing….I did misplace my fitbit once.  I knew it couldn’t have gone far, though.   I googled online for an app that communicates with bluetooth devices nearby… and it was able to pick up the signal from my fitbit One and eventually zero in on its location under the couch about 10 feet away.  The free iphone app I used was called Bluetooth Smart Scanner, but there are others out there that should work as well.

Perseids show. 

Pre-dawn today was to be the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower.  So last night after work, and after the rush hour traffic had subsided, we headed to the marina.  We anchored in the cove after sunset and made comfy spots on deck to lay down and watch the stars.    

   
The best time is typically between 1AM and 4AM.  There was no moon to interfere.  We just had to wish away the partly-cloudiness that arrived with sunset.   And the clouds did clear up and we saw the first burner by about 10:30.  More clouds came.  And then the sky became crystal clear around 12:30.   We were treated to a nice show – dozens this year.   Star gazing on a boat does not lend itself to photographing meteors, so I have no awesome pics to share.  

Even if we hadn’t seen any meteors, sleeping under the stars and this morning’s sunrise would have made it all worth the trip out. 

  
Now…off to work!

The urge to purge.

IMG_8911After mom’s funeral, I stayed on another month, expressly to help sort through the myriad of papers and things.  It took that long because there was so much to look through, and also because I looked at each thing.  Some things documented a memory of my mom & dad’s.  But many also documented one of my own memories – each of which I relived as I uncovered something new.   In the end, the task was completed.   What was left was no small pile of boxes of papers that needed to be shredded.  I googled “mobile shredding service” and found one that would come to a residence with a shredding truck and shred all documents right then and there in the presence of the customer.  We had enough to fill a 100 gallon bin, and it cost around $130.  Not bad.

Now that I am home I, too, feel a need to purge the boxes of records documenting the last 30+ years of my own life.  And so, I’ve begun.  I started with the oldest first.  And, I think perhaps that was not the most expedient approach, because I find my progress slowed by the recall of long buried memories as I looked through each item I’ve saved:

  • Transcripts from college documenting the high and low points of my academic journey.
  • College medical bills for stress induced stomatitis, birth control pills (ironically), mono, painful dental work and… the mumps, no less.
  • Plane ticket receipts for every back and forth leg of my life’s path, so far.
  • Student loans and paystubs from jobs to help me barely get by.
  • Car repair invoices for the junkers that got me from one place to the next until I could afford a real car.
  • Applications to graduate schools; knowing now, but having no idea back then, what the profound impact that choice would make on the direction of my life.
  • Phone bills showing in detail each and every call I made home….every couple of days…some for just a few minutes, some for a half hour or more.  Records that bear witness to my committment to keep a close relationship with my family over the years.  This especially touched me because when I came across the annual Christmas letters my mom sent out after I had gone off for college, in the blurb where she wrote about what I was doing, she would always add her wish that I would be moving back to be near the family.  Which I never did.  And that still makes a part of me sad.
  • Graduation documents, job interview letters and interview trips.  Job offer letters from some prospective employers.  The letter of the job offer I eventually decided to accept, which took me even farther from home, and further wove the fabric of my future.
  • Bank statements from a variety of banks, different ones as I moved from one place to the next – one showing all the money that I had to my name (unpaid student loans not withstanding) on my first day of work of my professional career:  $1067.   I must confess that seeing that got the tears rolling for me.  I was simply overwhelmed at how far I have come from that day, and the staggering amount of hard work it has taken to live my American dream.   I had forgotten.   It also reminded me of how my father and my mom’s father immigrated to this country on their own life journies, each with a hundred or so dollars in his pocket, to live out their American dreams.

I’ve gone on too long.  But I guess the point is that they don’t call it a “purge” for nothing.   The process of purging those papers from your past can end up being an emotional purge as well.  So, if you’re up for it, join in, grab some kleenex, and find a mobile shredding service near you.

Bubbly and pinochle. 

Happy Champagne Day!!  My calendar tags August 4th every year for this bubbly celebration.  Google also lists various other champagne-related days in October and December.  I, for one, will celebrate them all!

We sipped as we played a few rounds of pinochle with these nifty vintage cards – found in the time capsule. 

  
Cheers!

Fair city.

My seat for my flight home on Saturday was on the side of the plane that usually faces away from Mt. Rainier.   So, I was happy to hear the pilot announce that we would be taking off to the west and flying around the city, due to the fact that Seafair was underway and the airshow that accompanies it over Lake Washington.  It turned out that I was treated to the most beautiful views on the way up after all.  Thanks, Mom.  :)

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This shot is taken looking to the south east.  Queen Anne Hill is the treed hill to the lower left.  Lake Union is above it.  Downtown is in the center of the picture.  Elliott Bay is to the lower right.   Above downtown is the south end of Lake Washington, and the wispy loops of smoke to the right of the I-90 floating bridge are from planes in the airshow flying over the hydroplane race course.  And, of course, Mt Rainier watching over it all – Mount Adams poking out to its right.  If you look closely you can find the Space Needle, Seattle Center, CenturyLink Stadium and Safeco Field, Boeing Field, Elliott Bay Marina, among other landmarks.

I love this town.

B’bye. 

I’m on my way home — like I have been doing for the last 30+ years of visits to Seattle.  Washington will always be special, I’ll surely be back, but it won’t be the same.  Austin is my true humble abode.    

I’m in my comfy chair, with mimosa in hand.   Bye Mom.  

OK, Let’s go.   

Monday Monday. 

Worked from mom’s house again, and then headed out to meet Colleen and Jake for dinner.  Our table had a beautiful view overlooking Elliott Bay.  Simply gorgeous. 

 The Great Wheel after sunset:  

 And….. The golden hour:

  

Time capsule.  

We spent a long weekend together – my sisters, brother and me.  Time to empty the house.  We stayed at mom’s house together and shared feelings, memories, and laughs while going through a lifetime of keepsakes and all manner of things. 

A poem I wrote at age 12:

The Tide. 

Pouncing endlessly on the weary, defenseless shore of sand and rocks.  Constantly charging and retreating, high tide or low.  The tide never sleeps, but sometimes weakens to a slow, silent creep. Always bringing in waves that turn into a frothing, white foam.  The shore can never rest from this endless beating; never. 

Yeah.  It’s not Shakespeare. :)  I found a number of my poems – long forgotten.  Ironically many are about some aspect of Nature.  But maybe that’s not ironic after all. 

So much stuff.  Preserved in time for 50+ years.   Birth announcements, funeral prayer cards, decades of pictures, letters, cards, gifts, momentos… points in time defining the lives of my mom and dad and all they held dear. 

1st or 2nd grade, maybe?

  
But I digress.  We made a dent in it and have a garage full of neatly packed bags and boxes for donation, shredding, recycling and trash. 

I spent the day today with Fran and kids – geocaching in what turned out to be a downpour.  We got soaked but found every cache in the park.  At one point we came across 3 big woodpeckers.  They didn’t sit still, so I didn’t get much of a shot.  But, here ’tis.   

I wish you all a peaceful week. 

Playing in paradise.

Monte and I joined 2 of my sisters, brother-in-laws, and 3 nieces/nephews for a weekend of fun on Lake Cushman.  It sits just east of the Olympic mountains in Washington State.  The lake temps were in the 70s and clear, sunny and in the 90’s above.  Just beautiful.  We kayaked, tubed, ran up the lake by motorboat, tried the rope swing, tent camped, played games, and just had a really great time together.

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