Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A real spring day

I took advantage of some real spring weather today (with temps in the low 60s rather than the mid-80s we've had recently) and decided to ride the full length of the Blackstone River Bikeway.

I didn't bring my full-size camera with me, but did have my iPhone with the Pano app, so I took a few pictures.

The path starts about a mile from my condo at a recreation park. It has a bunch of soccer fields along with a small pitch and putt golf course. (As usual, you can click on the images for a larger view...)

Since the Blackstone River was a site of the industrial revolution, there are lots of old mill buildings along the path as well as dams and waterfalls.

One of the parking lots for the bikeway is the site of an old drive-in movie theater. I thought it was nice the town is showing a good sense of humor with keeping the original sign:

Unfortunately, the southern most portion of the bikeway has seen better days. Every sign and stone bench in the last mile or so of the path was covered with gang tag graffiti. This one sign is an example.

But, at least one of the graffiti people apparently loves me:

For future rides, I may turn back at the bridge on the Lincoln / Cumberland town line. It's just a bit discouraging seeing all the vandalism.

One the ride back, I stopped at the RT 116 bridge to ride a short dirt path up a peninsula that gives a very peaceful view of the river.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blackstone River Bike Path

Went a'biking on a nearby bike path. It's part of the Blackstone River Bikeway and is supposed to eventually link Providence to Worcester. I live in Woonsocket and headed south on the path. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it is now fully paved to connect to the path in Cumberland, which I'm pretty sure goes all the way to Central Falls.

Since the path runs along the Blackstone River and it was an unusually hot day for late April (temps in the 80s), the bugs were out in force. At one point after going through a particularly thick cloud of bugs, my arms were coated with bugs. I was tempted to cue up the Whale Song app (link opens iTunes) on my iPhone and bike along with my mouth open to get my day's fill of protein. Mmmmm.... bugs.

I ended up riding about 15 miles round trip. I would have gone further had it not been for the approaching dusk and my lack of forethought in regards to bringing a light. The fully paved portion of the path is 10 miles, so taking into account the 1 mile ride to get to the beginning of the path from my condo, I now have a decent nearby place to go for a 22 mile biking. And, since the path goes under Rt 295 and is linked up with the rest stop there (provided you don't mind adding an extra 1 mile round trip detour on a very pleasant uphill ride overlooking a scenic part of the river) you can even stop at a Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins midway through the trip without ever having to ride on a road.

Bike path bridge

Disovered a new bike path nearby is now linked to a much longer path!

Nice ride 'cept for the swarms of bugs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Am I getting dumber, lazier, or more efficient?

I'm beginning to wonder if my brain functions are in decline. I've been reading some physics texts for an iPhone app I'm developing and I find myself glossing over all the explanatory text and just cutting ahead to the final formulas which I need.

While I find I am interested in the why of it all, I just don't seem to have the mental energy to spend on it. I'll start to read the descriptions of the derivations of various formulas, but after a few minutes I'm finding myself doing a Homer Simpson with dancing clowns and circus music playing in my head. I'd like to think I'm just being impatient and want to cut to the heart of the matter and get the formulas needed for the task at hand, but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm being lazy or I'm getting dumber as I age. It seems there was I time when I would have picked this stuff up a lot quicker.

Oh well, I should get back to my afternoon nap. And maybe yell out the window at those dang kids outside making such a racket playing ball. Young whipper-snappers!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Poor guy

While waiting at the teller window at the bank today, I overhead a rather depressing exchange between a couple of bank tellers and a customer standing at the next window.

It all started with me hearing the customer saying something along the lines of, "But you don't understand, they promised they'll send me 3.5 million dollars!" Best I could tell, the bank customer had fallen for one of the schemes where you are promised some sort of large prize money, but you first need to send the awarding company "insurance" money to cover the transaction. This guy had already sent the people $500 and was trying to send more money to ensure he received his millions in prize money.

Fortunately, the bank tellers were very sympathetic and were doing their best to advise the guy to not send any more money and close out his bank account because the scammers most likely now had his bank account information. I hope the guy listens to their advice.

And for anyone else who might actually think when they win a prize they need to first send some money to receive it, it's a scam! And the same goes for some foreign national trying to launder millions of dollars in cash. That's a scam, too.

I didn't think people actually fell for these scams, but apparently they do.

Light reading

Time to break out the ol' college text books for a new iphone app I'm
writing. Gotta make sure I have the physics right.

I hear there's this thing called the Internet which might also be

Random Eye Dull Photo - more Pano fun

Here's another quick snap taken using the Pano app on the iPhone.

I really need to get outdoors and take some more interesting views than just inside my condo. Hmmm... sunny spring day, almost 60 degrees. Maybe I should skip on work today...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pano - a must have iPhone app for photographers

I just bought Pano for the iPhone and for $2.99, I'm impressed! This is a simple app for taking a series of photos and having them automatically stitched together to make a panorama.

Here are two quick examples I produced while sitting at my desk at home. Note: the quality of these images isn't great - I was just doing a couple quick tests. In the second image the room is pretty dark so it's really grainy, plus I wasn't in the center of the room, so the view gets a bit distorted with the close up and far away stuff. That's not Pano's fault. It's my impatience. (You can click on the images to see a bigger view, but remember, I warned you the second image is VERY grainy.)

It doesn't always produce perfect results (as you can see in my quickly made samples), but it's very comparable to the application I bought for my Mac a few years ago to perform a similar function, and I paid about $20 for that!

A nice feature about the app is when you take each successive picture, it shows a semitransparent overlay of the pervious picture on the left edge of the screen, so you have a good visual cue for lining up the next photo.

Due to the processing power of the iPhone, the results are not instantaneous. Depending on how many photos you take, the processing time takes an equivalent amount of time. The second example above was made up of about a dozen photos and took the iPhone several minutes to stitch it together. While the stitching is being done, you have no choice but to be patient and wait - you do get to watch a progress bar, so there is some visual indication of how long the process is going to take. You should be aware you can't take a bunch of photos and batch process them at a later time. That might be a nice feature for a new version.

If you are at all interested in taking photos with your iPhone, this definitely worth a look. You can find it on iTunes here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Get Well Tony!

A few months ago I wrote an iPhone app for Tony Kahn, creator of the Morning Stories series on WGBH.

Today I was dismayed to learn Tony has been diagnosed with cancer. The good news is it appears to be treatable. He has begun writing about his experience of undergoing chemo therapy. It's a very worthwhile read to learn about his perspective on the treatment. You can find his chronicles on his web site here.

Random Eye Dull Photo - White Cedar Swamp

I took this picture a couple weeks ago in a different section of the Douglas State Forest. At the time I went on a rather long bike trek through the woods with a friend. We were out there riding the trails for about 4 hours and part of the trek involved carrying our bikes for a mile or so through brush when the trail we were on ended. Rather than turn back, we decided to push on through the undergrowth since we knew there was a trail further ahead.

The spot shown in this picture is a boardwalk that goes through a white cedar swamp. I think it might be some sort of bird sanctuary as there is a large wooden blind you can hang out in for watching for birds. There are also some numbered plaques along the path, but I didn't see any map or brochure that mentioned what the numbers represented.

Caw! Caw!

Well, I found the crows I mentioned earlier. Too bad my hand is a bit unsteady. This would have been a nice picture had it been in focus.

Random Eye Dull Photo - Wooden steps

I liked how this cut stump, when viewed up close, looked a bit like a set of stairs...

The actual stump wasn't as impressive when viewed from a distance.

Found some green

While bush-whacking through the woods, I did find some green - lots of fresh moss along the banks of a spring.

Peace and quiet

Mmmmm... Lorna Doone cookies and a frappuccino drink while tramping
through the forest...

Soon this will all be green instead of gray and brown.

It's surprisingly quiet... just the occasional crow squawk off in the
distance. I was hoping to get some bird pix with my telephoto lens,
but no luck so far.

Boundary condition

The trail now looks familiar. I reached the boundary of the cutting.

Lost in the not woods

I used to frequently take a short hike in this section of the Douglas
State Forest. Now I don't even know where the original trail is.
The area has been recently harvested for timber. I'm hiking the
logging road to see if anything with look familiar. So far it all
seems so foreign...

Rogue flower

A couple years ago I left a potted plant with my parents for a few
weeks. It was a grape fruit tree and since the weather was warm I
left it outside on their deck.

Several months later, with the tree back indoors at my condo, I
noticed a new plant sprouting. I figured it was most likely a seed
from a weed that landed while the pot was outdoors. But I decided to
let it grow to see what it was.

To my surprise, it was some sort of flowering plant. I assume my mom
must have the same plants on her deck.

The flowering plant continues to share the pot with my grape fruit
tree. This past week it started flowering again. It must be spring...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Board Games in the news

Here's an interesting article from Wired Magazine about the increasing popularity in "German-style" board games:

The article mainly focuses on one game in particular - Settlers of Catan - but still it's nice to see this style of game getting more press.