S’mores and Bedouin Tea

It doesn’t get any better than this.

First, the campground.  For $14, I got a hot shower, a tent spot overlooking a lake, and a stone fireplace pit suitable for cooking. This is Clarksburg State Park in the north west corner of Massachusetts.  Here is the view from my tent door at dusk, with the light  reflecting off the lake.

Clarksburg State Park Massachusetts

Then, in the morning, breakfast in the open air. Teapot with black tea rests on three charcoal brickettes.  The mint is in a small flowerpot in the lower right corner.  I’m roasting a marshmallow on a stick for s’mores.
smores and bedouin tea smore

Corb in Boston

Le Corbusier designed one building in North America: the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. Having been rained out of my original Plan A to hike the Appalachian Trail, I decided to see some Boston museums for Plan B. The Carpenter Center just happens to be across the street from Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art.

I was expecting maybe something interesting but dated, like seeing a house built in the 50’s without enough closet space or without enough electrical outlets necessary for today’s kitchen gadgets, but I was pleasantly surprised by Corbu’s building. As you can see, I went a bit ape, photographing the thing from every possible angle. The building is so engaging to look at, it almost photographs itself. I started on the Quincy Street side, then walked up the ramp, frolicked though the building and out the other side and down a ramp, then across the street and back uphill to check out the bicycle parking area.

And I show you photos of one thing I’m sure the Harvard powers-that-be aren’t going to put on their website–the ladies room. It’s the yellow one (on the outside) but on the inside it’s just another rest room. As you can see, Corb could have used a little help with this–maybe from those imaginative Norwegian cruise lines. (All are clickable for larger size.)

New Toy–MSI Wind Netbook

IMG_3825By now anyone who has been reading this has seen pictures of my new toy, an MSI Wind Netbook.  When I dropped into OfficeMax to look at their netbooks, the guy there told me he would never buy a netbook becuase there is no drive for CD’s.  What if you want to take your Microsoft Office disk and install Word on your Netbook, he said.  Then you would have to buy a removable disk drive (about a hundred bucks).  Maybe so.  But I thought the netbooks were sexy, and I wanted one.

I ordered it from Target, with an upgrade of a 6 cell battery and 2GB of memory. Target did send me an email notice that the package had been sent, but no tracking info like Newegg and Dell provide.  Still, the package showed up after one or two days via UPS, uneventfully, in spite of my consternation.

The machine has a 10-inch screen and an internal hard drive, unlike many netbooks with 8 inch screens.

Here is how the netbook works with my other toys:

YouTube–no problem, plays videos just fine.

Microsoft Office 2007–installed on system with a trial offer. If you like it, you can buy it. Whether this resolves to Office 2003 if you don’t buy it (like my Toshiba that blew up) has yet to be seem.

Language support.  Arabic–Huge problem.  On every other system I have had, you can merely enable any language you want.  This machine wanted Service Pack 3. The only upload I could find said it was only for advanced programmers.  Finally I found a writeup that said you could just use it anyhow.  So I downloaded the Service Pack #3 and then it wanted the installation disk.  Great. Will I have to buy a $100 external disk just to enable Arabic on this system?  This problem I will have to call support for–I do hope it is solvable.

IMG_3826Keyboard–everyone remarks on this for all the netbooks.  I am always hitting keys I don’t want–caps lock above the left shift key, page up by the right shift key.   And the quotation mark is really hard to use, the way it’s positioned in relation to the shift key.  I’m always getting knocked out of some program or blog because of this.

It would be nice to have a user manual with this too.

Logitech Z5 USB speakers. The speakers that are in the machine are silly sounding little rinky dink things; the Logitech speakers sound great, but the volume is not very high.  This might not work very well with a large class.  I first just plugged in the speakers and nothing happened, but after closing and reopening the music program I was playing, got it to switch to the USB speakers.  But when I was done playing the music, the program hung and I had to CTNL ALT DEL then kill the program manually.  I have now downloaded the proper driver from Logitech–very easy–and we shall see if that helps.  UPDATE: With the proper speaker drivers downloaded, the program does not hang or crash like it does with the generic speaker driver.  I do love these Logitech speakers.

Canon digital camera.  Canon is known for being very stingy with its camera software.   So, what if you bought the camera but want to use it with your new netbook? The netbook does have a camera utility that does work, but not like the Canon zoombrowser.  Unfortunately Canon only provides the updates on their website, not the zoombrowser itself–some proprietary issues?  After much aggravation I was able to find another source for downloading the zoombrowser that worked all right.  I never did get Photostitch to work, but I don’t know what I would ever use that for.

Laser Mouse–Microsoft mouse worked perfectly once the battery was fully charged.

External hard drives and USB flash drives. No problem.

All in all I’m pretty satisfied with the netbook–except for the problem with enabling Arabic. If you want a computer notebook that zooms, the Intel atom processor  isn’t it. If you get the identical memory–2GB–with core 2 duo technology, THAT will zoom, with either VISTA or Windows XP. This netbook machine is just extremely portable and extremely cute.


UPDATE: This machine started acting up within the warranty period and was returned to the local Target store with no hassles. Its successor was an Asus Eee PC which have had for over a year now, the most reliable laptop I have ever had, and one that frequently gets thrown in my purse on my way out the door.

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Bonus photos: A grain elevator, some wind mills, and a salt marsh

This stately derelict grain elevator is near Lackawanna, New York.



Windmills south of Buffalo, New York (Buffalo is in the distance on the left).


A salt marsh just south of the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border a few blocks from the ocean:


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Building gardens in the sand

I’ve always wanted to be a landscape architect. Here is my latest project at a friend’s house two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. There is a salt marsh across the street.

What I already know how to do is grow midwestern plants in black dirt. Now I am going to try to grow perennials like hosta, iris, and daylily in something like sand.  The plan is to add enough organic material to the soil so perennials will grow.

future  garden sandy soil

Now my shovel has hit something hard at the corner of the building–it’s a huge concrete disk. Usually I would just remove something this size since the plants’ roots can’t get through it, but is this something structural? It looks like it should be under the square cinderblock behind it that the porch rests on, but it’s just loose. Maybe it’s supposed to keep the cinderblock from moving forward? I suppose the thing to do is just leave it covered up the same way as I found it and plant something with shallow roots above it, but it would be nice to know its function. (Click to enlarge)
corner of porch concrete disk by cinderblock holding up porch
Also I am told that the topsoil here just blows away. Not sure how accurate this is. So I guess I have two questions–how to keep the porch from falling down and how to keep the dirt from blowing away.

UPDATE: Here is a “during” and “after” picture. I added about an inch of sphagnum moss and a few bags of topsoil to the top and worked it in with a shovel, then used the rest under the plant roots mixed about 50-50 with the sandy soil already there.

NY and Massachusetts 020 IMG_3818

Another update:

Here is another view of the piece of mystery concrete under the corner of the porch. I’ve changed it to grayscale to try to make it more visible.  The porch itself rests on a square block.  The block looks like it should rest on the round thing, but the round thing is completely loose, although the edge of it is under the block by about an inch.
porch block

Tent Blogging

Last night pulling into the campground there were so many twists and turns of the road that I lost my sense of direction. The Big Dipper appeared to point to the pole star in the west. And this morning the sun looked like it was coming up in the north.Picture 012

I’m still getting used to my new netbook, but so far it is perfect for a tent, especially the 6-cell battery that’s supposed to last 4 hours. No WiFi connection in the forest though, so all I can do for now is coax the character map out of its cave and onto the desktop.

Picture 015

A short walk through a stand of huge oak and maple trees brought me to this uninspiring view of Lake Erie:
Picture 020

This last photo is looking north across the lake towards Canada–really, I swear it’s north.

Confluence hunters

jordan-confluence-points1This is amazing.  The Degree Confluence Project has the goal of  “an organized sampling of the world”.

The goal of the project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, and stories about the visits, will then be posted here.

The project was started by Alex Jarrett.  He says, “…I liked the idea of visiting a location represented by a round number such as 43°00’00″N 72°00’00″W. What would be there? Would other people have recognized this as a unique spot? Another reason was that my friend managed to convince me to buy a GPS and I had to come up with something to do with it. I also hoped to encourage people to get outside, tromp around in places they normally would never go, and take pictures of it.  I visited several confluences of my own and posted them to my personal web site. Before long others found the site and visited confluences of their own, and it just snowballed from there.”

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

There is a confluence within 49 miles (79 km) of you if you’re on the surface of Earth. We’ve discounted confluences in the oceans and some near the poles, but there are still 10,699 to be found.

You’re invited to help by photographing any one of these places.

The degree confluence view of a country can yield some completely unexpected views. You can browse the photos by country from the home page or go to their interactive map to browse a particular region.  One of my favorite countries is, of course, Jordan.  I have been almost everywhere in Jordan, everywhere habitable that is, but the views from the crossing of lattitude and longitude lines gives a more pure view of the land use of the country.

Here’s the Jordan entry.  There’s a small map of Jordan showing where the longitude and latitude lines cross and the visits that have been posted by confluence hunters. If you click on a picture, you will get a diary entry for the trip, along with the photos they have posted of the area and the GPS.  Jordan has a lot of variety form one end to the other, but for some reason all the Jordan photos look pretty much the same.  Blue sky, tan sand, and an endless horizon. Here is a trip that was slightly different: you can see a sand storm on the horizon (and inside they have a nice sunset too).  That’s the kind of weather that signals lots of grittiness in the house and the need for an extra bucket of water dumped on the floor and squeegeed across and off the edge of the balcony when cleaning day comes.

It’s an interesting view of Jordan, but not one I would care to make myself if I had limited time in the country.  After all, the most interesting part of the country is the people themselves with their incredible hospitality–and curiosity.  Still, it is, as Jarrett says, a great excuse for people to just “tromp around in places they normally would never go”

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