• flickring...

  • listening...

    1. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    2. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
    3. Brothers in Arms
    4. Joe Satriani
  • Mix CD: Twist

    October 25, 2010

    Here is a mix I did a while ago that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It was for a CD mix swap on swapbot where we were given a list of criteria and had to choose songs to fit each of them. I didn’t keep the songs in the order of the requirements list rather played around with it a bit so they flow fairly well.

     
    click for larger image

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    1. The Twist - Chubby Checker (Song from the 60’s)
    2. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - Elton John (Cover of a Beatles tune)
    3. How We Operate - Gomez (Song by a British rock band)
    4. Such Great Heights - The Postal Service (Song that inspires you)
    5. Marching Bands of Manhattan - Death Cab for Cutie (Song with a city in the title)
    6. Jackie’s Strength - Tori Amos (Song with a name in the title)
    7. The Flowers of Guatemala - R.E.M. (Song from the 80’s)
    8. Sweet Jane - Cowboy Junkies (Song that makes you think you would sell your soul for that talent)
    9. Flowers in December - Mazzy Star (Song with your birth month in the title)
    10. Let It Rain - Eric Clapton (Song with weather in the title)
    11. The Freshmen - The Verve Pipe (Song by a local band)
    12. The Difference - Matchbox 20 (Song by an artist with a number in their name)
    13. Song Beneath the Song - Maria Taylor (Song about a song)
    14. Love Shines (A Song for My Daughters About God) - Live (Song with a religious figure in the title)
    15. Goodbye Song - Abandoned Pools (Song that says goodbye)
    16. Your Star - The All-American Rejects (Song with the word “star” in the title)
    17. Magnolia - The Hush Sound (Song with a flower in the title)
    18. After the Gold Rush - Natalie Merchant (A live song)

    I named this one “Twist” because the songs seem to twist around, and it was the name of my 60’s song. I found an awesome digital print titled “Twist” by RC Page at Deviant Art and obtained permission from the artist to use it as my cover.


    Posted by Deb  No Comments »

    Topics: mix cd, music

    ISO… The Perfect Email

    October 4, 2009

    Recently I have been on a quest to find the perfect email client/service… one that will allow me to consolidate and handle all of my email accounts in one place and have access and full functionality to that place from any device (computer/laptop/phone) on any network.

    Even though I have weaned and consolidated accounts, I still have about a half dozen email addresses that I actively use for personal email — a few through my ISP, a couple from my web sites/domains, a Yahoo mail account tied to my Yahoo user ID, a junk mail account, etc. For years I used Outlook Express to pull all of these into one place for reading, replying and filing. Other than the fact that Outlook Express does not have a calendar, the program met all of my needs as far as mail and contacts. I especially like the ability to create complex rules/filters, and to create folders in a hierarchy rather than just a big long list. Over the years, I had set up a rather elaborate automatic sorting & filing system that really helped make handling incoming mail nearly effortless.

    The Outlook Express client worked great as long as I was primarily using one computer to access my personal mail. Even once I started occasional use of my laptop for traveling, it still worked having the OE client on both and having one set only to retrieve messages but not delete them from the server so they would still come to the primary for filing. Granted, this was a bit cumbersome as at the time, Comcast (my home ISP and primary mail provider) did not allow you to send email from your Comcast email account from within a client-based app (i.e. Outlook Express) if you were not on your Comcast ISP connection. So if I was away from home, I could retrieve my messages into the OE client on my laptop, but not reply to any of them using the Comcast address they had been sent to. Their solution to this was web mail access, which a few years ago was an okay work-around as their web mail was relatively simple and flexible. But a couple of years ago, Comcast “updated” their web mail and the interface and flexibility of the new app is, in my opinion, worthless. I can no longer pull messages from all accounts into one inbox, rather need to log in individually to each account to be able to send replies from the account the message was actually received into. This being a bit of a pain, I found myself neglecting to reply to messages and letting stuff go much longer than I should have.

    A few years ago I began spending summers up at the cottage at camp, which presented its own set of of complications. I was still able to receive all of my mail into the OE client on my laptop, and even though Comcast had now opened up the SMTP end of things allowing customers to send from outside of their Comcast connection, outgoing SMTP is disabled on our work network (for good reason), so I still had the issue of not being able to reply to messages using my Comcast address unless I used that horrible web mail interface. Not to mention that using the OE client on my laptop to receive messages for extended periods of time meant huge quantities of already read and deleted mail to sort through on my home computer when I was there, a mundane chore which I let go and quickly lost control of. It just wasn’t working…

    I started looking for an online mail service so I would have easier access to my mail — sending and receiving — via the Internet, from wherever I was, whatever network or machine I was on… I’m still looking for the perfect email service.

    My Requirements?
    - Need the ability to pull in other POP3 mail accounts, both to receive and send
    - Must have the ability to create folders, preferably within a hierarchy, or at least do some sort of tagging
    - Must have the ability to sort inbox and/or folder messages by different column headings (i.e. sender, date, etc.)
    - Must have a built-in search function
    - Must be able to set up rules/filters
    - Preferably would have an integrated calendar and contacts
    - SPAM filtering that really works
    - Would prefer an archiver, but must at least provide the ability to export messages for archiving
    - Automatic checking of all email accounts — yes, I am too lazy to hit the “check mail” button to get my mail (really it is not laziness, rather it is annoyance that anyone would make a mail client/service that does not at least offer PUSH as an option — for all accounts you have set up)
    - Non-threaded conversations — at least the ability to turn off conversation threading… (more on this below)
    - Availability of an ad-free version (yes, I would pay for this if all other needs were met)
    - Adequate online storage space for messages so they are accessible from any machine on any internet connection
    - (recent consideration) Must have an iPhone counterpart

    Does this email app exist? If so, I have not found it yet. I’ve tried several, most of which are so lean they fall short on several points and really are not even worth reviewing, but I will talk about a couple of the more popular ones.

    Gmail
    I really wanted gmail to work for me, but after several months of trying to make it fit, I’ve jumped ship. I just cannot get used to the conversation threading. As an occasional user of newsgroups, I was not new to message threading, but while it seems to work fine with newsgroup messages where I don’t usually care if I miss a message or two and generally want to reply to the entire group, it does not work with my personal email where I do want to see every incoming message and often want to reply just to one person who has been part of the thread or forward to another person without having to send the entire thread. Furthermore in newsgroups, the messages are kept online, in some storage place outside of my email box, so there is no need for me to personally keep things for future reference. In my own email I often want to hang onto old messages (okay I am a bit of a pack rat), but don’t necessarily want to keep the entire thread of the conversation related to a message, which gmail does not allow for as the entire thread is handled as a whole. Admittedly there are many people who like the threading format and there are times I find it easier to follow a conversation this way, but to make gmail something I could functionally use as my primary email app, I would need the ability to turn this off. The other annoying thing about gmail is the inability to quickly sort my inbox and folders in different ways by simply clicking on the column headings since there are no column headings. Other than these two things, both of which are major limits to functionality in my opinion, I was very happy with gmail. I particularly like the labels (i.e. tags), which is far more flexible than folders (once you get used to it) as you can apply multiple labels to the same message.

    PROS
    - the user interface is clean and uncluttered
    - fast
    - generous free online storage space
    - the SPAM filters are very effective
    - the labels/tagging system
    - the filter options are very flexible with the ability to apply multiple criteria and actions
    - calendar, contacts and to-do list
    - full-featured POP3 and forwarding support
    - there is a built-in search (after all, it is Google)
    - can be used with iPhone

    CONS
    - conversation threading
    - inability to sort message by column headings
    - search is not ’string-based’ rather it is ‘word-based’; for instance, searching on ‘event’ will not bring back ‘events’ or ‘eventual’, etc. At times this is nice, but most times I find it counter-intuitive and limiting, particularly with plurals

    As you can see, the pros far outweigh the cons, but unfortunately the cons are deal-breakers for me as far as being able to effectively use gmail as my primary email program.

    Yahoo! Mail Plus
    Having abandoned Gmail, I decided to give Yahoo! mail another look. I’ve had a Yahoo! mail account for years, just have never really used it for anything. Quickly I realized that the free version was missing several features I was looking for, so I paid the $19.99 for a year’s subscription to take advantage of more powerful SPAM filtering, POP3 access, mail forwarding, the elimination of ads and the ability to create more rules/filters. The plus mail also gives you what they call disposable addresses, which is a cool concept, I’m just not sure I need to remember yet another email address.

    While Yahoo! mail is working out for me, I’m just not feeling the love like I did with Gmail, but I can’t really put my finger on the reason why… The interface is clean and uncluttered, which is really nice. It comes very close to meeting everything on my ‘wants’ list, although it does have a few quirks, which are really more annoyances than actual significant deficiencies. The criteria and action options for rules/filters is very limited and there is no hierarchy for folders, they just all end up in a big long alphabetical list. I’ve also noticed that moving between mail, calendar and contacts is not as seamless as it should be — maybe I’m just not seeing it, but I can’t figure out how to get from my mail to my calendar or contacts without using the buttons on my Yahoo! toolbar. This is an issue from within the address book or calendar as there are tabs for calendar, contacts and mail there. The other thing that is annoying is the way Yahoo! mail handles POP3 accounts — it doesn’t just PUSH the mail into your Yahoo! inbox, rather you have to manually click on the “check mail” button to get them. I got around this by using forwarding on my POP3 accounts instead of setting them up for POP3 retrieval from within Yahoo! mail, but this would be a liability if you didn’t have the ability to set up the forwarding on the other end — it would be very easy to forget to “check mail” since your inbox is seeing new messages (those sent natively to the Yahoo! address). An internet search did yield some third-party apps and plug-ins that will do the checking for you, but it just seems like this should be automatic in the mail program itself.

    PROS
    - clean, uncluttered interface
    - integrated calendar and contacts
    - unlimited online storage space
    - POP3 and forwarding (with paid Plus product)
    - ability to create folders (have not been able to find a published limit, but I have quite a few)
    - ability to create filters/rules (100 with free account; 200 with paid account)
    - effective SPAM control (MUCH better with paid account)
    - built-in search
    - ability to sort messages in inbox and folders by clicking column headings
    - iPhone counterpart

    CONS
    - have to pay for the Plus product to get POP3 access, forwarding and decent SPAM filters (all things that come free with gmail)
    - no hierarchy for folders
    - limited criteria and action options for rules/filters
    - moving around between mail and calendar/contacts is not intuitive
    - requires manual checking of POP3 accounts or installation of third-party app to do this for you
    - slower than Gmail

    None of the cons are deal-breakers for me, so for now I’m sticking with Yahoo! Mail Plus, at least for a few months to give it a proper test run, or until something better catches my attention.

    One thing I did want to note is that I am not completely comfortable with the TOS of either Gmail or Yahoo! mail as they both take some pretty broad liberties with your private information. I do feel a bit uneasy having so much personal information stored in their reserves, but it is the Internet…

    Do you have a mail client/service that is really awesome? I would love to hear suggestions! Also, feel free to correct me if anything I’ve said in relation to Gmail or Yahoo! mail is inaccurate or if I have missed an obvious feature, etc.


    Posted by Deb  No Comments »

    Topics: geek speak, productivity

    The Saga of my Blackberry vs. iPhone Debate…

    September 27, 2009

    For a while now I have been wanting a new phone, a smartphone. Although I am not a big phone person and I don’t really text much, I do want some basic functionalities that my MotoRazr lacks (i.e. keyboard) and even beyond the basics, am enticed by productivity apps, mobile access to the web and email (while the MotoRazr has mobile access, it is pathetic and nearly impossible to use given the interface). So I’ve been debating between a Blackberry and an iPhone, and impatiently trying to figure out the most inexpensive way to make this happen *now* even though I am stuck in my current wireless contract for another 5 months and have had no luck trying to get an early upgrade from Verizon, my current provider. Other than that slight annoyance, I have been very happy with Verizon Wireless in terms of cost, coverage, reliability and customer service, especially considering it is the same service a couple of my girls have (free Verizon-to-Verizon is great), we have a corporate discount which saves me up to 8% a month (it all adds up) and Verizon coverage is by far the superior coverage in this area, especially up at camp.

    iphone-blackberry.jpg

    A few years back, in my previous life in the corporate world, I would have gone with the Blackberry without a second thought. But my life and priorities are different now — I am more about music, internet access, techie toys and fun, cool apps than being able to get to my work email on my phone 24 hours a day. So I just don’t think a Blackberry is the right smartphone for me. Now iPhone on the other hand — how can I not lust after this sleek sweetness?

    This being decided, of course it can’t just be a simple deal, particularly since in the U.S. the iPhone is currently married to AT&T. What I really want is an iPhone on Verizon service, but I’m tired of waiting for AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple to expire and for Verizon to upgrade their network from CDMA so Apple will even give them another glance. Since it doesn’t look like any of that is going to happen any time soon (surely not before my current contract is up in January, maybe not in my lifetime), and since I am pretty emphatic about not wanting to switch my wireless service to AT&T, I’ve decided on a kind of hybrid solution — to keep my basic cellular phone/plan with Verizon and get an iPod Touch to replace my current iPod to use for everything else (internet, email, texting, apps, music, calendar). The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without the phone, camera and 3g network access. It is comparable in appearance, runs on the same OS as the iPhone and has access to all of the iPhone apps… and of course, it does music beautifully.

    iphone-ipod-touch.jpg

    What it comes down to is the question — how important are the missing features to me? As much as I hate the phone, it would be nearly impossible to live without one, especially since we rely solely on cellular and have no home phone. But beyond the need to have a phone that reliably makes and receives calls, I really don’t care how many auxiliary features my phone has. Sure I want mobile internet/email/calendar access and a camera and a music player and pda-type apps and functionality, but do I need it all on the same device as my phone? Not really, especially considering to get a really good phone that does all of this stuff really good is several hundred dollars, the best of which are tied to a single cellular provider or not even available with most U.S. providers, unless you buy them unlocked and even then it is questionable whether your provider will support them (i.e. Nokia N97)… not to mention you then get yourself locked into an obscenely expensive cell/data plan which holds you hostage for two years.

    So while an iPod Touch is certainly not a substitute for a mobile phone, it very nicely meets my needs to use as a supplement to the basic mobile phone I already have, in spite of what it is missing. I don’t really care about the missing iPod Touch camera (http://theappleblog.com/2009/09/14/ipod-touch-missing-camera-mystery-solved/) since I prefer taking photos with a real camera anyway and for on-the-fly pics, my current cell phone has a decent enough camera. It’s hard for me to know how much, if any, of an issue Wi-Fi vs. 3g network access will be for me. I anticipate that most of the time I will be using my iPod Touch at home, work, my cottage or other places within wireless range. If I do find insufficient Wi-Fi availability to be a problem (could be annoying when using GPS app), I will probably get the Verizon Mifi (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/verizon-mifi-personal-wi-fi-coming-this-month/) and carry around my own personal little Wi-Fi hotspot in my pocket. When combined with my current Verizon phone plan, adding a data plan for the Mifi is still less than the AT&T phone + data plan and can also be used for Wi-Fi access for my laptop when in non-connected places — I can foresee this being especially useful when traveling/camping. Technically, the iPod Touch + Mifi + a VoIP app (i.e. Skype) + a headset/mic *almost* equals an iPhone (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/08/myfi-plus-ipod-touch-almost-equals-iphone/), but I probably won’t mess with trying to dress it up like a phone because honestly, it’s just not that important to me to be able to make phone calls on my i-Thingie.

    On the plus side for keeping my phone separate from everything else is the fact that the iPhone still has some ground to cover when it comes to background apps running smoothly. Granted it does seem to be a high priority for Apple to improve this capability and while it is now possible to talk on the phone and use another application at the same time, especially with the help of various third-party applications, it is still kludgy… besides, I’m just not sure I am coordinated enough to be simultaneously doing two things on the same device, especially when one of the functions requires that I hold the device near my head. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I can handle talking on my cell phone while doing something else on a separate device that is on my desk, on my lap or in my hand.

    Admittedly, having a single device that does everything would be optimal and easier than carrying around 2 devices — 3 if I end up needing the Verizon Mifi (although the Mifi is about the size of a thick credit card and can easily live in my wallet except when charging). But it’s really more of an inconvenience than a significant issue as I am rather used to it, having carried around my phone and my iPod for a few years now. The only other annoyance I foresee is that I will need to keep my contacts list on both devices so they are accessible to both the phone and for email/texting on the iPod Touch, but this is simply a matter of syncing and being disciplined enough to keep one set of contacts as the “master” that I use for updating information.

    Overall there are far more positives than negatives:

    1) keep my cellular service with Verizon and continue to benefit from Verizon-to-Verizon calling with family members, Verizon corporate discount, as well as superior Verizon coverage area
    2) don’t have to deal with AT&T (evil)
    3) the iPod Touch unit price is less than iPhone (although this would be negated if I have to get the Mifi)
    4) the Ipod Touch is lighter in weight and smaller than the iPhone (love that sleek, slim profile)
    5) iPod Touch has been proven to have faster internet access than the iPhone since it does not have all that internal cellular stuff going on in the background
    6) draining the battery for web surfing, apps, etc. will not impact my ability to use the phone since they are totally separate devices
    7) ability to talk on the phone and do something else at the same time would not require growing eyes and fingers out the side of my head (which is not an attractive proposition as it would most likely scare my grandchildren)
    8) I can do it now and not have to wait for my current contract to expire!

    The only remaining questions are, what size and which model? Given that I have a huge music library and will be downsizing from an 80gb iPod, I really don’t think anything less than 32gb is even a feasible consideration. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I don’t need the 64gb as I recently restructured my iTunes to sync only selected playlists rather than everything (I outgrew the 80gb iPod) and am now consistently using only about 18gb of the space on my iPod for music, videos, podcasts, an audiobook and some photos. So I’m thinking the 32gb size would suit me best.

    Both the recently released iPod Touch 3g model (3g here meaning third generation, not to be confused with 3g mobile networking) and the older 2g model offer a 32gb device. Aesthetically, the newer model is identical in design, size and appearance to the older model. Functionally, the two models are pretty much the same except that the 3g adds voice control navigation capability (nice, but definitely not a deal-breaker). Technically, the newer model has a faster processor (800 MHz vs. 533 MHz), twice as much RAM/memory (256 MB vs. 128 MB) and a few other chip/circuitry differences that could possibly be tied to additional features and functionality in future software releases. On the negative side, the 3g has slightly inferior battery life than the 2g. There is a nice comparison between the iPod Touch 2g and the iPod Touch 3g here: http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/consumer_electronics/ipod_faq/differences-between-ipod-touch-3g-and-ipod-touch-2g.html. But of course, the newer model also carries a higher price tag. I am tempted by the improved performance and future potential of the 3g model, but I’ll need to shop around a bit because I’m not sure those factors alone are enough to justify the additional cost.


    Posted by Deb  1 Comment »

    Topics: needful things, geek speak

    The New Facebook Format

    March 14, 2009

    First off let me say that I am not one generally opposed to change, when there is a purpose for that change that will be of some benefit to the majority involved. I am a middle-aged, technically savvy individual who has previously used MySpace and Twitter, both of which I abandoned for the more refined, uncluttered format of Facebook, which I’ve been using for about a year now. I actually liked the last round of changes that many people complained about because it brought significant improvement in flexibility and functionality. But the most recent round of changes to the homepage and the profile page are terrible. The large font, suitable for a near-blind person, lends a childish and unprofessional feel and the resulting lack of white space leaves the pages feeling cluttered. The plethora of rounded-corner photos attached to every action are annoyingly large and over-used, only adding to the confusion and disorganized feel.

    The homepage is not a “live” feed as promised, but must be manually refreshed to get new items, unlike the old news feed which would refresh itself every 15 minutes or so. Furthermore it is just a big dump of status updates and clutter about people sending gifts and peeps and hatching eggs and finding treasure items… gone are many of the interesting and newsworthy things friends are doing — who they are now friends with, comments on other friends’ photos and links, etc. The filtering by friend list is nice, but this option was available in the old version, just not so obviously positioned. But gone is the ability to fine tune the filtering by choosing more or less about particular friends and/or activities. Now it is all or nothing — either you see every silly mundane thing your friends are saying and doing or you hide them and see nothing they are doing. And why on earth would I want my own activities (i.e. postings to my friends’ walls) to appear in *my* news feed? I am the one who posted it, I already know what it said… I have gotten around this by making a friend list of all my friends and filtering on that list instead of everyone, just to exclude my own activity (how backward is that?). The “highlights” sidebar is just a huge waste of space as it primarily shows stuff my friends have already posted which has previously been in my news feed, along with a few strategically placed ads — I suspect the volume of ads in this area will only increase over time. What happened to the convenient access to my bookmarks, applications, events and page updates? Those things were far more useful to the average user than the things FB considers to be “highlights.” I have no idea where I will find new friend requests or other notifications — either nobody has sent me any in the past 24 hours or I just haven’t located them yet.

    The profile page is a jumble of he said/she said — no more distinguishing status posts from wall posts and comments by font size, weight and format — they all look the same now! And why on earth do I need or want to see my own little picture attached to everything I do on my own page? Not to mention the profile page is no longer chronological, rather is loosely grouped by activity type. Given that they have completely done away with the time stamps, it is now nearly impossible to follow activity in the sequence it happened. It is pretty silly when a comment I make about something appears 6 items *below* the actual posting of the original item. Another thing missing on the profile page is the ability to choose how much of a particular item you want to show on the page — one line, short bit or full story. Likewise with photos, no longer is there the flexibility to set a size.

    As far as I can see, the new format adds absolutely no additional functionality, rather decreases functionality and user flexibility and is just an all-around bad design aesthetically, technically and functionally. What on earth was the point of this change?


    Posted by Deb  4 Comments »

    Topics: things that make you go "huh?"

    There Goes the Neighborhood…

    January 23, 2009

    I ran across this article, regarding the rising black bear population in lower Michigan, linked from one of the hiking lists that I’ve been reading. This particular article does not mention it, but in November 2007, a 150-lb. (small, but still it’s a bear) bear was struck by a car on the freeway in Oceana County near Stony Lake Road (M-20). In recent years bear sightings have also been reported in Muskegon county, including this 2008 sighting in Fruitport Township, recent reports at Hoffmaster State Park and several reported sightings along Seaway Drive in the creek bed east of Seminole Road. There have also been increasing reports of cougar in both Oceana and Muskegon counties. I’ve always been conscious of bear as I hike in the Porcupine Mountains and Pictured Rocks in the U.P., but I guess maybe I should start carrying the bear spray even on trails closer to home.

    click to read at mlive...

    Black Bear Population on the Rise in Michigan


    Posted by Deb  1 Comment »

    Topics: around town, hiking

    A Change of Crayon…

    January 22, 2009

    Just passing this along… truly a heart-warming thought (as seen through the eyes of the 6-year old daughter of my boss). Click the image to read…

    click to read at open salon...

    A Change of Crayon
    by Alice Moore, age 6


    Posted by Deb  No Comments »

    Topics: politics, warm fuzzies

    Letterboxing & Biking on the NCT

    January 21, 2009

    Several people have asked if I am planning to plant letterboxes along the North Country Trail as we hike the Manistee Forest Segment. Actually Randy was shocked when I told him my intent was not letterboxing as that is generally the impetus behind our hiking adventures. Since the NCT is administered through the National Park Service, I had assumed that letterboxing was off-limits. Upon further research I have found that the NCT Association does have a published policy on geocaching, which generally covers letterboxing as well. The policy states that the activity is allowed…

    1. where written permission has been obtained in advance from the appropriate land manager or land owner, providing a specific timeframe and location for the activity, and
    2. where proper care is taken to avoid damage caused by digging or trampling to vegetation, archeological evidence, trail tread or other fragile resources in the area.

    While I certainly agree with the second condition as this is something I, and hopefully every letterboxer, takes into consideration whenever planting or hunting a letterbox. However the first condition is kind of counter-intuitive to the hobby and to my planned interaction with the trail. Having to obtain permission prior to planting a letterbox, giving location details and a set duration would require

    1. that I am familiar enough with the area before I go there to be able to provide details of a specific location, and
    2. that I am sure to collect the box precisely at the end of the specified duration

    This would require me to scout out possible letterbox locations prior to planned hikes (far enough in advance to obtain the necessary permission before going back to do the hike and plant the letterbox), or to look for good spots while hiking, then seek permission and then make a return trip to plant the box. Not only does that seem like a lot of hassle just to plant a letterbox, but it would require me to begin keeping more detailed records on the letterboxes I plant — whom I negotiated with for permission, what our agreement was, when the box term expires, etc. Imagine doing that for 80-100 letterboxes! This is after all a hobby, not a full-time job. I would love to plant a couple of letterboxes, thus sharing my love for this public trail and encouraging others to enjoy it also, but it’s really more maintenance than I have time for. I may go through the approval process and plant a box or two, but certainly it would be minimal. There are many other places to plant letterboxes that do not impose this kind of restriction.

    I’m just not sure that I understand the logic in allowing mountain bikes on the trail, an activity which is not only contradictory to the purpose of the trail, but obviously is having severe negative impact on the condition and stability of the trail and is often outright dangerous to hikers, but activities like geocaching and letterboxing are viewed as potential negatives that need to be controlled. It would leave one to wonder if the person making the rules is perhaps a mountain biking enthusiast. The NCT mountain biking policy is actually a bit of a joke.

    One is actually very encouraged as they read this…

    “The Trail is meant to provide and protect an experience that more and more is lost in our busy and growing world. Whether exploring wilderness or rural landscapes, for an afternoon or weeks on end, hikers should expect to fine peace, solace, insight, and a reconnection with the natural world as they journey along the North Country National Scenic Trail. Many trails offer the opportunity for exercise in a natural environment, but few seek to protect this type of experience that we feel is a crucial and growing need in human nature.”

    This is after all, exactly the thinking of most who enjoy hiking the trail. Even the next sentence continues to lend encouragement…

    “Part of the reason the Association discourages bike use is that it threatens to displace hikers seeking the type of experience for which the Trail is intended.”

    But this is where the Association backs down…

    “This policy does not represent a ban on mountain bikes on the trail, as the local managing authority has the final decision over whether or not to permit bike use. It does mean that the Association is on record as opposing mountain bike use in most situations.”

    So basically, we realize and admit that biking is counter-intuitive to our purpose and poses threat to the trail and it’s intended user and we really wish you wouldn’t do it, but we don’t want to go on record as prohibiting mountain bikes so we will push this off onto the local trail managers…

    This dispersed management of the policy is why mountain biking is allowed on some areas of the trail. The following excerpt is from the book “Following the North Country National Scenic Trail”, by Wes Boyd, and is in specific reference to Ed Talone’s observations and the biking policy along the Manistee Forest Segment of the trail (Ed Talone is the first person to do an end-to-end thru hike of the NCT):

    “… Talone noted damage and erosion from mountian bike usage on the trail, which, though never formally opened to mountain bikes, was never offically closed to them, either — the trail had been ‘discovered’ by the mountain bike crowd, which pushed hard to officially open the trail to them. In a display of bureaucratic pigheadedness unprecedented on the NCNST, in 1996 the forest manager overrode conclusions of a study then in progress, and formally opened all but 30 miles of the trail to mountain bikes. The areas opened to mountain bikes were some of the most scenic and easily damaged sections of the trail. ‘If hikers don’t like it, they can go elsewhere,’ the decision statement on the issue wrote.”

    … and they’re worried about a little ole letterbox?

    All that being said, I have to admit that I am so geeked about hiking the trail that I really don’t care if there are letterboxes involved or not!


    Posted by Deb  3 Comments »

    Topics: hiking, letterboxing

    File Under “Stupid Rules”

    January 4, 2009

    Apparently one cannot pay USPS “postage” due with “postage.” Let’s think about this logically for a minute… Somebody sent me a package which did not contain enough postage; the post office delivered it to me and left me a “postage” due envelope indicating that the actual postage on the package was short $2.03 (why? how is it my responsibility that this package was sent without the proper postage? I’m not the one who sent it — but that is another matter, let’s stay focused on the issue here…); I enclosed $2.05 in “postage” (five unused .41 cent stamps) to cover the “postage” due in the little envelope and left it for the postman the following day; the postman returned it to me saying I cannot pay “postage” due with “postage.” Had the sender bothered to apply the correct amount of postage in the first place, it would have been in the form of postage stamps, but apparently if the sender neglects to apply the correct postage and it somehow becomes my responsibility to make up for the shortage of postage on the package, the opportunity to use postage stamps has passed and any postage due must be paid in cash. How stupid is this?


    Posted by Deb  No Comments »

    Topics: things that make you go "huh?", stupid rules

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