For those yearning for a change of scenery – either literally, if you’re sick of the sight of snow – or figuratively – if you’re tired of hearing about environmental issues… here is some light relief. A few days ago I arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii, where I am staying at a friend’s glorious ranch halfway up a mountain, with spectacular views of the distant ocean. Without wanting to make you too jealous (well, okay, just a little bit) here are some photos of a few plants from the garden.
You may notice that these piccies are a major step up from my usual dodgy old iPhone photos. This is thanks to Joan in Atlanta, who has arranged to loan me an Olympus EP-1. My little photo retrospective of 2009, mostly photographed by me, but with the final few slides by my talented photographer friend Jules, had borne silent witness to the shortcomings of an iPhone camera. The contrast between his shots and mine was too stark to be ignored. Having been a pro photographer for a few years (2000 to 2003 approx) I was embarrassed by the inferior quality of my pictures. Joan came to the rescue, on the strict proviso that this camera does NOT go to sea.
I’m quite impressed with the EP-1. Intuitive and easy to use, with most of the capabilities of an SLR but a lot smaller, it saves the extra weight and bulk by not having a viewfinder other than the LCD screen. I also love the optional square format. I used to have a pre-digital medium format camera – showing my age, here. Mine was a Mamiya 645, but now I can pretend I have a top-of-the-range Hasselblad, as used on the Apollo space missions.
Today it has been great fun strolling around the ranch, looking out for things to photograph, as a kind of meditation on nature and a therapeutic contrast to the ongoing fallout from the Copenhagen theft (still no replacement driver’s licence, so I can’t drive, credit card and SIM card also still in transit, and this morning the USB ports on my brand new laptop went belly-up – sigh! This too will pass….).
While we’re on the tech stuff, a couple of other recommendations for the geekily-minded iPhone and/or Mac user.
– Things, for managing To Do lists on iPhone and Mac. Dead simple to use. Does all it needs to do, and nothing more. Has been used frequently recently when brain starts buzzing during jetlag-affected nights. Sync brain to iPhone, sync iPhone to Mac. Wake up in morning (or whenever) to well-organized To Do list. Easy!
– iStayFit for the iPhone, for managing workouts and monitoring weight. I’m having a much-needed post-Christmas detox, and this has really helped keep me motivated. Cute little demos for each exercise. And as I have my iPhone with me in the gym anyway, so I can listen to inspirational podcasts, it’s ideal!
– Nearest Tube for the iPhone, for finding your nearest tube station in London. Admittedly of limited use in Hawaii (!) but I’m just loving the new “Augmented Reality” concept generally. The way of the future, methinks. I could try to describe it, but I think you have to try it to really get it. Or try watching the video.
– 1Password for iPhone and Mac, for managing website logins and recording details of credit cards, drivers licence, etc. Allows you to log in to websites with just one click – ID and password are automatically entered. Can also be used to generate highly secure passwords.
– TextExpander for iPhone and Mac, for those commonly used words, phrases and paragraphs – or even a whole page. e.g. I’ve set mine up so that SF automatically expands to San Francisco, with a satisfying little popping noise.
– Tetris for iPhone, a dangerous waste of time, but great fun. I originally only bought it as a tribute to my Hawaii host, who owns the worldwide rights to the game, but it is amazing how satisfying it can be to plop small geometric objects into an interlocking pattern…
– Distant Shore, gorgeous graphics and very therapeutic for the jetlagged insomniac. You walk along a virtual beach, with gentle surf sounds to soothe you, beachcombing for seashells. Gather 5 shells and you get to write a message in a (virtual) bottle and throw it into the (virtual) sea. And occasionally you receive a message, at random, from another Distant Shore player. While I would be the last person in the world to endorse throwing anything at all into the sea, I deem this acceptable.
– Green Calculator. Okay, sorry, I almost made it to the end of the blog without mentioning matters green. But I just can’t help myself. This is a cute calculator, with some good tips on reducing your environmental impact, but like any other calculator I’ve seen it doesn’t factor in what you buy and what you eat, which for many people will boost their footprint substantially. I suspect that our world is now so incredibly complex, with foods and goods whizzing every which way across the planet, these calculations are simply incalculable, but if anybody knows otherwise….?
I hope you enjoy these apps as much as I do – and remember, you can always choose to uninstall Tetris. “Yeah, man, I can give it up any time I want….”!