Monday, December 12, 2011

This blows my mind every time I watch it...

Star Size Comparison HD - There are several videos circulating showing a comparison of the largest stars. I like these kind of things, and I wanted to try one myself. Probably because I also watched "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan as a ...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Classical Music

If you like the music classics, there is frequently a super deal on Amazon for MP3 music -- free of DRM, digital rights management. My last purchase was The 99 Most Essential Mozart Masterpieces which came out at 99 cents [since raised to a still reasonable price]. An added benefit is that Amazon offers to store your purchases and some other music you upload for free. This also allows you to play it on a variety of different devices with access to the internet. I listened to this new album on today's bike ride with my Android phone. Very cool. If you need to add to your digital music collection this is a very attractive alternative to iTunes.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A New Stroganoff Horizon

Lynne has been making an excellent hamburger Stroganoff since the days of  being an impoverished student. She can just about whip it up blindfolded. Today, remembering my mother's success in moving up the Stroganoff ladder, I suggested we try an upscale version.

Google's first match was "Beef Stroganoff III" on The ratings were extremely positive, and suggested almost no revisions. This version is notable in that it calls for chuck roast rather than sirloin, and this would generate quite a cost savings compared to moving higher up the beef periodic table.  This sounded like all we wanted for this step up, so we got the shopping list together and put the plan into motion. We followed the script to the letter substituting only canola oil for the stick of butter for health reasons. Next time we will probably add a clove or two of garlic. We had a little left-over brown rice that we warmed in the serving bowl in the microwave. Served with a salad, this was an outstanding meal, and a very pleasant variation from our usual. Clean-up was simple too, in that we had only the one pot that the hamburger version would have required. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learning Cell Phones

Interested to learn that on Verizon you can activate any cell phone on any line by simply dialing *228 on the phone you want to activate and entering the phone number to put it on and the account billing PIN. Makes it easy! You could keep your old phone as a backup and activate it at will. There's a pretty useful feature that escapes most users.

So now I am using my part-fish phone with continued amazement, because it is more capable in addition to being more submersible...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Swimming with the Fishes -- Three Weeks! ...

A call comes in last night asking if I lost a cell phone. Well, yes I did... while biking to the local country club [to scavenge lost balls]. The phone rang on that ride so I knew I still had it two miles from home, but didn't notice it missing until the 8 mile turnaround. That was three weeks ago, and every nice day since then I've been retracing the six miles of that route finding nothing but more golf balls. I had ads in Craig's List and notified the lost and found at the club. I finally was resigned that some kid probably found it and decided to dissect it for educational purposes -- something that I might have done as a kid. Finally, I replaced it with a $35 Pixi Plus not trusting myself with a $400 like-kind replacement.

Now, this caller had news that his daughter found it a few days ago at the bottom of a stream that I cross at about the three-mile-mark. I knew the bridge and stream he was referencing, but that meant that the phone fell from its case on the bike on the bridge, landed in the water and sat immersed in that stream for three weeks! Huh? Well they placed it in a box of rice to dry it out and charged it up. IT WORKED. They brought up the owner's ID and got my main phone number. So a kid did indeed find it in that stream, but was responsible enough to apply proper electronics resuscitation and find the owner.

So I pick it up from their house across from the stream, and incredibly found that everything seemed to work. The only evidence of its excursion: a little discoloration on the back, and a couble of tiny dents in the screen protector. Functionally, it seems perfect. How far this goes beyond my wildest dreams! The enduro champ of all this: the Verizon HTC Incredible. They might want to change its name to the Indestructible or the Impenetrable or the iSubmersible. :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stunning 9-9-9 Analysis, If True!

If like me, you've been wondering about the impact of Cain's 999 proposal, here is an eye-opener:

"Visualizing Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich

"By Cory Doctorow at 10:02 pm Wednesday, Oct 19

"Maybe you've heard about Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan for America: 9% sales tax, 9% income tax, and 9% corporate tax, and wondered how it would play out in the real world. Here's a chart that illustrates the answer neatly (click for full, farcically long-ass version): the poor will pay a little more (or a lot more, relative to their income), and the rich will pay a lot less, and the very rich will pay so much less that it takes 9403 vertical pixels to express how much they'll save. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)"

I truncated the bottom of the graph to make it readable -- it extends down to a reduction of $1,350,000 for the top .1% and a reduction of $238,000 for the top 1%. While it increases the tax on the bottom 80% of the households. I've known for a long time that sales taxes have a bigger impact on the poor, but this is huge. This is income redistribution of a type that the super-rich could love. I'm waiting with baited breath to see a rebuttal.

9-9-9 in One (Really Long) Graph []

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cell Phone Savings Delivered

This has such a low profile on the Internet, I am amazed that is can save us so much money. Here is the story of how we are reducing our cell phone bills.

Following up on the prepaid cell phone service savings which I stumbled upon in searching for a cheap replacement for my lost Android phone. Lynne's new Pixi smart phone [same as mine] was delivered this morning, within 2 days of ordering from Amazon with free shipping. My phone will be staying on Verizon for the unlimited data service that we need while on the road. Lynne's will be activated with the low cost prepaid company Page Plus. I rechecked the review on Amazon and the costs on the other sites and decided that we could save a few additional dollars by activating directly with Page Plus rather than going through Kittywireless which would cost an additional $15 for porting. Also found that the charge for a new number at PP is $10 and porting over an existing number is free.

So... I called Page Plus with the four pieces of required account info [name, address, account number and billing pin code] on the number to be ported, and found that it took less than 10 minutes. Called them back when the old phone no longer rang, and completed the set-up with no muss or fuss. Including the free minutes included to activate our net cost for the set-up is a credit of $1.68. Added the $10 plan and was up and running before lunch. Turned on the WiFi and turned off the Verizon data service. The auto renewals on PP are only weekly or monthly, so will be using Kittywireless for the 120 day renewals at apparently no additional cost. Unused minutes carryover automatically with the renewal. Plus, Lynne now gets fully synced contacts, email and calendar from the internet, as of the last time she connected on WiFi and some games like solitaire and other time-wasters -- something that was sorely lacking on her "dumb" phone.

A light user of cell service really should not be on anything else if cost is an object. This will reduce our yearly cell bill by $800, including the elimination of my second phone which I was keeping for the data service because it was adding "only $10" to the total. More importantly, there will be NO reduction in the amount of cell phone utilization benefit we receive. Amazing! Lynne asked how to know how much prepaid service was remaining, and we found that when you call a number, before the ringing starts, you get a report of your current balance -- a little more "no muss or fuss."

If you are somewhat technically challenged, you may need some additional guidance and help -- give me a call. Otherwise it is quite straightforward. So, if you have been a frequent caller direct to Lynne's cell, please change her number to our main number: 614-859-9365, so as to use her cell minutes most efficiently [this will still ring her cell phone through Google Voice but give us the option of picking up the home phone or my cell with more minutes] -- Thanks.

"Too good to be true" may NOT apply in this instance. Very happy with the service so far. The savings are a real eye-opener. Very highly recommended.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Year of Suddenly Getting Older

While I am still trying to rebuild my quadriceps muscle to the point that I can go down stairs normally, I had another recent medical encounter -- the removal of a basal carcinoma from my chin. After several years of wondering about it I finally asked the doc at my annual physical. He promptly shaved it off and had it biopsied. Then sent me to a dermatoligist-surgeon. Not only do they dig out a crater, once they are satisfied that it's deep enough, they enlarge it to an eye-shape so that it can be stitched together properly. Now my right chin zipper matches the one on my right knee. Ugh... At least the chin rehab should be trivial. Stitches come out next week.

Graceful aging is better if you can swing it. This why the updates have been a little light lately.

Cell Phone Service on the Cheap

Too good to be true? I intend to find out... Cell service on the Verizon towers, for $2.50 per month for 100 minutes of talk time over a four month period. At this price you should turn off the phone's wireless data function, but still use the WiFi service in its place. Pretty amazing if it works.

Buy a no-contract Palm Pixi Plus at Amazon for $37. [Prices will fluctuate. I have since seen this up to $50]

Activate it on PagePlus on the prepaid $10 for 100 minute for 4 months plan after turning off the wireless data feature.

The result is a nearly-full-fundtion smartphone, with a good selection of apps. Voice coverage is Verizon.
Data works on WiFi only.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Red Skin Potatoes at the Cook N Eat

They put me on the spot to come up with a redskin potato recipe at the Monday Nite Dinner Cook N Eat. I came up with one from:,2238,157181-234202,00.html

But with the modifications culled from the comments on the fly:

400 degree oven
Oregano in place of rosemary.

Rave reviews and highly recommended! - Recipe - Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Red Potatoes

Good Example of Apple vs Microsoft Or why...

Or why I switched.

Some people get search. Some don't.

This article documents the typical steps needed to locate Microsoft Excel's "Hide Sheet" command in the event that the highly intuitive ribbon interface fails you. First on a PC (Office 2010), then on...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enjoyin' [not sufferin'] Succotash

A new taste/texture sensation we recently enjoyed: succotash made with endame [green soy beans]. Fair warning: you will never again suffer lima bean succotash gladly. And it is so easy! All Recipes has several variations. We tried one mentioned with five pepper salmon, but it's the endame, which really makes the difference. Here is the basic idea:

Soybean Succotash Recipe -

Instead of using lima beans I like to use soybeans to make a succotash.


Made on the iPad with MobileMonet

Jim Kelly
 614 859 9365

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Been hungry for pigs in a blanket for the last 20 years, since my mother made Sunday dinner [/understatement]. We finally got around to trying it on our Monday dinner friends. We followed the slow-cooker recipe from the site below and absolutely loved it. While there is some learning the first time through, I think from now on it will be a breeze. Something the average Italian restaurant does not usually offer in my experience. Highly recommended.

Bob's Slow Cooker Braciole Recipe -

Your slow cooker provides the perfect low and slow heat to braise this traditional Italian rolled flank steak. Jarred marinara sauce makes it a quick fix too.

Automotive Options

Old timers will remember the process of optioning-out a new car. There was, for example a $7.83 right-side mirror as well as radio, heater, and tinted windows. Gradually those things got combined into "packages" of options that went together, lessening the impact of optioning. Today, factory options, except for the really exotic, can be nearly extinct. Still, I was recently asked what options were on our new Fit.

There were "dealer-installed" options available, like a $250 cargo net for the rear [what?]. But as it came from the factory, the car we bought had no options at all. It still included air conditioning, power everything except seats but including mirrors -- even the right-outside, and a sound system that plays music right off a computer thumb-drive. But the Base [as opposed to the Sport] Fit, includes all the factory "options" that the average buyer wants or needs. This approach probably reduces overall costs for everyone, while increasing customer satisfaction and dealer effeciency. And, it is something I am in favor of.

2012 Honda Fit - Specifications - Official Site

See full features and specs of the 2012 Honda Fit at the Official Honda Website. View engineering, dimensions, EPA mileage estimates and measurements specifications.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Honey, I shrunk the minivan.

We sold our beloved Honda Odyssey "Mesabi" and bought a new FIt in Vortex Blue Pearl. I guess we'll be calling her "Vortecca." One of the main reasons for the change was to have dingy in tow to Morty when we head out on an extended road trip.

2012 Honda Fit - Exterior Photo Gallery - Official Site

See pictures of the Honda Fit's exterior body. View the 2012 Fit exterior image gallery at the Official Honda Website.

Time Warp Ice Cream

Today was the inaugural road trip for the new Honda Fit. We went back in time to 1948 Zanesville, to partake of Tom's Icecream Bowl. Everything but the ketchup bottle was from the 50's including the portions. The tin roof sundae is truly memorable. Highly Recommended

Tom's Ice Cream Bowl

PHOTO GALLERY. See some of our history, and our fans and friends, in the Photos section of our website. Sample image. Sample image. Sample image. Have photos you would like to share with us? Feel free...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Internet Abuse on a Pretty Good Bank

Our van buyer got his cash from Cooper State Bank in Columbus and mentioned that it was open 7 days a week. Since we have frequently needed a notary during the weekend, I checked it out.

There was one on line review from a person who used their ATM to check the balance thinking it was zero, saw $50 and withdrew $20. Then s/he was called to come up with $55 since the NSF charge of $35 was assessed. "What an outrage. Never do business with this bank again. !!!!" Are there people out there who don't understand the concept of outstanding checks? I guess so.

This may be just a small example, but this represents the worst kind of internet abuse -- blaming someone else for one's own inadequacies. I added a remark that it sounded like a proper upstanding bank to me, and the bank rating agencies seemed to agree. I will probably be giving them some of my banking business -- just as soon as I'm done shaking my head.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

How fast do wildfires spread?

How fast do wildfires spread? Video from the Bastrop fire, town neighboring Austin.

See how fast wildfire spreads - Texas Parks and Wildlife [Official] - Video shot September 5, 2011 on the north edge of Bastrop State Park. All but about 100 acres of the 6,000-acre park have been blackened by fire. Firefighters have been battling blazes for 3 days. At this...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Broken Camel Back?

Was my last post about my woes with Yahoo mail the straw that did in the Yahoo CEO? Survey says...

Bartz: I've Just Been Fired

30-month tenure largely ineffective.

Yahoo Mail Gripe

When the iMac desktop arrived a month ago, I tried to set up the email client to access my Yahoo and Google accounts. In that process, the Yahoo account became "confused" and started demanding that I sign-in when accessing email even though I was clearly already logged in. Numerous requests to Yahoo for a fix have gone unanswered.

It is now more than a month later and I still cannot get to Yahoo Email from my desktop, but the mobile clients on my phone and iPad continue to work fine. Now my only hope is that someone at Yahoo responds to posts like this one with a fix. Frankly, I've given up on ever getting to Yahoo mail from my desktop again.

If you use a Yahoo address for me, please substitute Gmail -- everything else stays the same. Otherwise, I will likely miss your message.

Monday, September 05, 2011

New Rehab Plateau

Today, for the first time since March 19 I got back on my bicycle and did a few laps through the neighborhood. But first I removed the pedals that clip to the shoes. -- something requiring the firm application of a hammer to the wrench. A little lube job and re-airing the tires, and I was going good. Very enjoyable. Can't wait to get back on the hills.

For those of you with whom there has been some gap my apologies. If you want to catch up most of my recent story is here on the blog. Please let me know if you want an invitation to Google+.

Selling a used car.

Can't wait to return to trading options on Tuesday. Such sweet work compared to trading cars. I have never worked so hard for so little return. You think you have a deal, and there is always just one more thing that of course would drive the agreed-to price down. So grateful to have a firm offer on the trade value from the dealer. It strengthens the bargaining position immeasurably. It may seem low, but compared to the selling effort it really isn't.

Home Phone -- VOIP Restriction

Just found a surprising new restriction on using Voice Over Interntet Protocol as in the Obi box for free Google Voice. When posting on Craigslist for selling the minivan, Craigslist requires a callback verification to complete the post. Well, try to use a VOIP number and it fails.

You than have to research what the problem is and wait the required five minutes to try again with a cell or landline number. Very awkward I must say. And something I had no clue about before. Something to remember for the next time.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pretty Good Craigslist Post

This ad resulted in a sale the same day posted with absolutely no other exposure.

From Mesabi

Even later update: To finalize the sale, the buyer got a used car review done at a Mr. Tire, and the car got "perfect marks." So the NTW assessment made 9 months ago was nothing more than a revenue opportunity. The brakes and struts are indeed just fine. Thank you Mr. Tire. Thanks for nothing, NTW.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Selling the Sizzle -- Car Photos

Just finished posting some photos for use in a Craigslist ad selling our mini van. Somewhat modeled on what I've seen car dealers do online. Just something else to share.

These were done just after returning home from dealing on the replacement and before any cleaning. Must say that plain photos online do generally look better than real life. Of course one big factor is that late afternoon light -- much better for camera work. And even more "of course" is that proper protocol calls for cleaning first then photographing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

In All Things: Google Docs (and Apple)

When I moved to the MacBook several years ago, I also decided to try out Open Office for document work, especially spreadsheets. I keep a daily updated track of my investment results, to assure that I'm not wasting time and effort for deficient results. Up until today, Open Office was an adequate solution, but when I needed to move a spreadsheet column, it just didn't have any way that I could find to do that, and cutting an pasting destroyed the formula linkage.

So, with all the good stuff Google has come up with lately, I was ready to give Google documents a try. Sure enough, dragging and dropping formula-populated columns works perfectly. I also tested using some complex formulas, and again, they worked just as perfectly as the full price product from M$. The huge side-benefit is that your document is (automagically) stored in your Google cloud, where it is accessible from wherever you are on the net. Yet another nail in the coffin of "you get what you pay for."

If you have been wondering about trying Google Docs for your needs, I can give it my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Apple Elegance

As I've bought more and more into the Apple design aura my level of satisfaction has gone up and up. Just have to tell about increasing the memory in my new iMac. The economics strongly favor the do-it-yourself approach, having Apple add 8 gig adds $400 to the total. The full list price to acquire the same amount of memory direct from the manufacturer is $60.

So the next objective becomes determining how to insert the memory circuits. You need a Philips screwdriver -- that's it. The only screws on the iMac are three on the central portion of the bottom perforated panel. This is what you must open to access the memory slots. Apple suggests placing the unit face-down on a blanket to do this, but I judged that I could do it in-place on my computer desk.

The elegance shows in that as you loosen the screws, the plate comes free, but the screws do not fall out. Each is held in place with a tiny lock-washer so that they are perfectly positioned for re-insertion. Absolutely no muss, no fuss. There isn't much a user can do on this computer, but this is an experience that is pure enjoyment. There is a good reason why Apple's stock is soaring.

I now have 12 gigabytes of memory, of which more than 5 gig is in constant use, and the total is put to work in several apps. Highly recommended -- the additional memory, and the experience of the iMac.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Physical Therapy

Just a little shout out to the guys and gals at the Gahanna, Ohio office of Cornerstone Physical Therapy who have been doing a super job in helping me get back flexibility and strength in the repaired knee. I'm making great progress and am now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. If you ever need to know, I can recommend them highly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Little Late News

Therapy is going pretty well. It only hurts when they force flex it.

One of the old "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episodes entitled "Shaq" is about tripping Shaquille O'Neil in a Lakers game causing him a torn quadriceps tendon. How I can now empathize with that! Doc says walking is not especially good for my quad. Just biking and swimming, which I would rather anyhow. Hoping that next visit at the end of August is my last.

After that, we maybe will be doing a little fall traveling in Morty.

Big anticipatory delight about a big new 27 inch iMac computer that we ordered yesterday.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Court Innings

Some thoughts generated by the verdicts in the Casey Anthony and O J Simpson trials: Marathon presentations of arguments, evidence and courtroom frictions do not sit well with sequestered juries. They must sit through long days, weeks and months of this with no opportunity to discuss the merits until the drama is ended.

By that time they are so emotionally beaten-up that there is no desire to do prolong the proceedings further and so they end it preemptively and return to their families. Few other areas of human endeavor are so primitive and failure prone.

Changes are needed. There need to be timing restrictions and opportunities to evaluate the evidence and potential verdict much before the end. Every other contest has a scoring protocol that allows the participants and spectators to know who is winning and who is losing.

The baseball innings model might work. Limit each side's daily direct, cross, and arguments to three hours. Give the jury one hour daily to evaluate the presented evidence/arguments and one hour to present their convictions and leanings to the judge. Then, assuming no unanimity, the judge, conferring with the attorneys decides whether to go another day or inning. And so it goes until there is either a unanimous or blocked decision. Seems like it reduces the chance of the big surprise gotcha and keeps the jury involved and committed. It can also keep the jury on track and focused on the evidence. I'm jes sayin'.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The Drawing Winner

The battle of the iPad drawing and painting programs pretty much ended this weekend with the update of Procreate. The introductory pricing is only 99 cents. Even at $8 this is a no-brainer for anyone interested in painting and drawing on the iPad. Check it out and get it before the price goes back up. Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hospital Pills

For the horror story aficionados, go on to whatever is next. I just received an itemized list of my hospital charges and found a golden nugget. The charge for an acetaminophen tablet was not $50. Not $5. Not even $.50. But an amazing $.05!!!

That's right. I got a pill for a nickel in the hospital. Now there is an under-reported story. For reference purposes this was Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flex Wall

The flexing program is hitting the wall at 60 percent. This week, I should be moving up to 75 percent, but am hitting pain and physical limts at last week's 60 percent. Bummer.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Case for Protection

The iPad needs a little protection from daily handling and traveling. Here is what worked very well for moi.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Knee Bending

The knee rehab now moves into 4 weeks of incremental flexing. 45 degrees for the first week, and 15 degrees of increment for each of the following three weeks. Much fussing with the brace to set the limits of flex. At this point though, 45 degrees is also my limit. So much fun. Glad to have some new toys to alleviate the boredom.

iPad 2

Now that I've loaded and explored the new iPad2 I have to say it is absolutely amazing. It is fast and competent, and eminently holdable. The range of apps available is simply amazing. I am especially happy with the painting apps. Got a conductive brush to work with it and he combination is better than I ever expected. So far I have 6 screens full of apps, but have used only 3 of the 16 available gigs of storage. So I would recommend against larger memory unless you are sure of your needs. Especially neat downloading free copies of periodicals we already subscribe to like the daily paoer and the New Yorker -- both much earlier than otherwise available. Another Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More Ultrasonic

Saw this Sonicwave Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner on sale for $20, delivered, and thought it worth a try. Been having trouble with tiny coating scratches on my eyeglasses and this did a super job with just plain water. Also super at getting the gunk out of watch and jewelry tiny crevices. Quite a bargain. Highly recommended!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Atlantic Beach Fireworks

We were treated to a fireworks show set off from our front yard on the beach for Memorial Day. We were close enough to be hit with shrapnel from the exploding paper shells. Because of rehabbing the knee, these are all the pics from this trip.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Iris Eye

Water lilies

Digital paint

We acquired an iPad recently, mainly for the painting capabilities it offers. Initial indications are that it paints pretty well. Since this will be one of my big activities during rehab some paintings will undoubtedly get posted here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Holes

Five weeks after the repair job the Doc's verdict is "No Holes! Keep it immobilized for two more weeks. See you then." The visit lasted just that long. At least I can get around well enough to cut the grass. At the other end of the spectrum, still no showering -- ugh.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Staple Removal

Two weeks after surgery, we return to the Doc to have the two dozen staples removed. The process involves specialized pliers that grab the stable in the center and bend the middle down forcing the sides up. Katie says it will pinch. I think she needs a little remedial pinch training, since her concept of what a pinch feels like is pretty far out.

Without all the surgical packing, the knee now looks just a little swollen. but the zipper effect down the center is a little strange.

Bummed about having the knee immobilized for another five weeks -- that's through the end of May! At least the Doc gets his next look in just three weeks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Healing Up

So this is five days since the surgery. Pain is decreasing and mobility is increasing very nicely. But the full-leg knee immobilizer is growing its annoying-ness. I've had some feeling in the area of the incision and it seems well. Increasing the length of the daily walk also.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The bike fall with clipped in shoes was a little more damaging than I expected. So the upshot is that surgery is scheduled for later today to repair the torn ligaments of my quadriceps. The recuperation and rehabilitation period is supposed to be long. In a small irony, the preferred activities include swimming and biking!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What's Cookin'?

Morty got us home in just two days, but the weather penalty says that we beat spring to central Ohio by a good margin. As we unpacked we found the Gephardts' Chili Powder that my brother requested, and we tried it for ourselves with a little home-made traditional chili.

Very good overall taste with many overtones that go well beyond the generic product we had been using. I just wonder if it could be picked out on a blind test. You would really have to come with your game taste buds on.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Turn for Home

We will make the turn and head for home tomorrow. We called Woody Acres home for 15 days which is probably close to a record long stay for us. But the people just kept being so nice, that we didn't want to be the first to leave.

My original prediction in mid February when Lynne wanted to know when to restart the paper was Sunday April 3. Now that is looking pretty solid, but it is the meteorological pattern that has the ultimate say. We are just along for the fine weather.

Today, by the way, was the perfect specimen of the perfect spring day here in Fulton. Perfect!

We invited Mark and Beth over for wine and cheese to toast the sunset and to thank them for their kindnesses. That was wonderful, and they even brought along dinner, an upside down pizza made with warm-and-serve rolls. Since it also contained low-fat ingredients, it was a double winner.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Required Eating

Our newest [due to yet more Spring departures of the intervening] neighbors Mark and Beth took us with them to the Tuesday special at The Big Fisherman Restaurant billing it as the not-to-be-missed food event of the week in Aransas Pass. Wow! Chicken fried steak, with mashed potatoes and coleslaw and rolls for $2.50 and small frozen margaritas for $1. This place is a destination in itself. We met up with two other couples from Woody Acres and sat at one of the many large tables. Other Tuesday special choices were chicken livers or gizzards for the same price and other specials like fried fish for a couple of bucks more. We were entranced by the experience, as were thousands of others who show up for the same deal on a regular basis. You can leave a 50% tip that's only $3!

We took the back roads on the way home looking for some Sand Hill Cranes or other unusual wildlife, but had to content ourselves with just one massive bull out grazing near the road in a herd of obviously contented cows. Still some pretty good fun.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recuperative Solitaire

A discovery that you didn't see coming -- a new solitaire game for the Mac that actually improves your play measurably. The problem with most of the other solitaires out there is that they are dumb media substitutes for physical cards, with dealing and score keeping added in.

Try McSolitaire free from the MacApp Store. This game will tell you when there are no more moves, and if you don't see the move it will play it for you. Wow! Your game will start improving instantly. There are so many subtle moves that I never knew existed, but now look for routinely. Highly Recommended

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weather Ideal

Thursday the weather turned mostly cloudy at Woody Acres. Still, the temperature went up to its normal upper 70s and this evening it should cool to the mid to upper 60s. The humidity is around 70% and the breeze from the Gulf is fairly consistent.

We are now pretty much in zone-out mode, as we wait for the Spring to  establish itself in the midwest. The only negative is the bummed knee, which suffered an additional injury as I tried to enter the hot tub yesterday. Compounding the negative, is the fact that the renewed swelling, is a contra-indicator for the ultrasound treatment -- so it's back to the ice et cetera. Couldn't ask for a better environ for rehab, though.

To fill in a few of the RV park details, it should be noted that the restrooms are private, have soap and paper towels, and are fitted with granite counters -- pretty much everything I ever wanted in RV plumbing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Android Apps

The iBird app now on my phone has been phenomenal in helping us identify birds by sight and sound. Now making apps even more available is the Amazon App Store which daily has a paid app for free. This will probably be a great source of competition that will undoubtedly lower overall pricing. Well worth checking out if your phone is an android.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Great Blue Heron Visit

We were favored buy an up-close view of a Great Blue Heron fishing both banks of our little lake. Lynne was astounded by all the different colors on this bird.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death to the clip-in bike shoes! Hello Ultrasound!

With our new neighbor [caused by the departure of the one between us] telling me about the Great Blue Heron Nesting site in Rockport, I biked on out the five miles to explore. It was a little further than my average jaunt, but nothing remarkable. While checking out all the museums and aquariums and the like I was surprised to find an art center. So surprised that I fell sideways and wacked my good knee into a concrete curb -- hello strained ACL. It really is past time to give up on shoes that clip my feet to the pedals. I just can't react fast enough to get them unclipped in even a slow fall anymore. I had to beg a local sculptor for a ride back to Morty. The two days since have been devoted to elevation, ice and rest. I found a ultrasound machine that ought to provide some extra healing power like the time I was in physical therapy for busting the ligaments in my left knee. It looks pretty good, and is less than half the price of most such devices being sold on the internets.

Since we ate our last RV dinner last night we were desperate to unplug Morty and head to the local Walmarts [here that has a special meaning because the new supercenter is right nest to the abandoned old-style store.] In addition to stocking up on what will probably be the last week's worth of food for this trip, I also got a knee brace which I put on immediately -- pretty big help. The UPS guy brought the Ultrasound package right up to Morty's front step. I opened it and began the first treatment. It ran for 30 minutes and shut off automatically. Just like the profesional treatment, the immediate reaction is muted indeed, but the psychosomatic benefits are huge. Highly recommended, but watch this space.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fulton, Texas -- Woody Acres RV Resort

Nineteen miles North and on the bay, is Fulton where Woody Acres RV Resort is located. This is an older but up-to-date park with extremely friendly and laid-back residents -- a very welcome change from Pioneer where the spring-breakers had the run of the place. Here, everyone wants to chat and find out about you. The sites are a little short, and that puts the rear window looking out on one of the several ponds where ducks and turtles have the run of the place.

On Tuesday evenings there is a resident staged country music extravaganza that was very impressive. This is a real "stop to smell the roses" kind of place, and we may just extend our stay to a week or more.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Port Aransas TX -- Pioneer RV Resort

Morty hauled us another 80 miles further South right to the Gulf shore. We are at a huge RV resort right on the beach -- with prices set accordingly. We are paying nearly triple the rate prevalent in most of the state parks we've been in recently. But it is a nice, albeit very popular spot.

The beach is also very nice, but pretty heavily trafficked with Texas-trucks and unmarked police cars who do seem to be checking intoxication levels. This is the start of spring break for the majority of local schools. The surf seemed very pleasant, and not nearly as cold as I would have expected. There was one man-o-war jellyfish washed up on shore, but otherwise a very pleasant experience.

The Sunday afternoon ice cream social got our attention, and we joined in, completely ruining our appetite for not only the afternoon appetizers, but for dinner itself. Around nine, we had a few crackers and cold cuts with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, and that was plenty. The Blue Bell ice cream was 75 cents a scoop with cookies and "seconds." The recreation hall pretty much fills up and everyone sits at a table. Then that master of ceremonies calls out one number at a time, and that table gets in line to be served by the volunteer hosts. The experience was quite reminiscent of some cruise ship gustatory delights.

The park has several ponds which serve as nursery for numerous ducks and other water birds. I hope to get some decent pictures. My preliminary scan indicates canvas backs and wood ducks. There are some good pictures up on showing a variety of beautiful bird experiences.

We walk the beach Monday morning, but the Portuguese Man o' War are a little too numerous for safety. The full grown ones are easy enough to see except for walking in the surf. But there are thousands of babies washing up on shore that would be way too easy to step on before you ever saw them. So we cut the walksies a little shorties and head back to Morty for a little lunch. Lynne makes a light lunch version of the breakfast burrito from McDonalds that is better than the original at least after the application of a little Cholula Hot Sauce.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Victoria, Texas -- Lazy Longhorn RV Park

Driven by the need to deal with the ever-growing burden of three weeks' worth of dirty laundry, Morty sought out a RV park with superior laundry facilities and found one in Victoria called the Lazy Longhorn. This is a AAA park that knocks 10% off for members. We also had to deal with the school holiday next week that would cause a lot of locals to flock to the state parks for this weekend. We are right on the outskirts of the city which is well apportioned with shopping and eating establishments.

We have a cozy site which is surrounded on three sides by other sites, and the fourth is the property fence which separates us from a truck yard. There are trees and other landscaping but the tall eucalyptus trees are showing signs of not surviving the last winter freezes. But we are under a massive high pressure system that has the sky severe clear. The day was warm nearing 80, but the night has cold in store as it steadily drops to 40 degrees.

On Friday and Saturday, I bike into the old town of Victoria. The old mansions are magnificent. The churches with their complexes are very impressive and densely packed, even of the same denomination. I lose my bearings on the way back for lunch, so the android phone comes to the rescue. I just enter the name of the RV park, and it asks me if I want directions. Turns out I was just half a block from finding the cross street i was looking for. The phone and its services continue to amaze.

The WiFi here is very good, if a little quirky. Here, my Chrome browser works fine on most sites, with the big exception of Yahoo Mail and Blogspot. Each of these sites works fine in the Safari browser. Something very strange going on.

Lake Texana State Park

Morty does his “Southbound Ho!” thing and 80 miles later we are in Edna, Texas and the Lake Texana State Park. We pass through a magical zone, and the temperature magically rises 10 degrees to the upper 70s. Here the winter bare trees are in the minority because most of the Live Oak have their leaves as do the mesquite and other desert plants. This park is suprisingly flat compared to most of the others on this trip, making it perfect for the leisurely bicycle ride.

Some neighbors say they spotted an alligator nursery, and we go hiking on our own to try and find it ourselves. We come to a likely spot and I think there is an alligator eye and eyebrow poking thruough the surface of the water. We step a little closer and a twelve footer starts thrashing and clawing its way to deeper water and plant cover. Maybe tomorrow. Turkey Vultures are in major over-supply and they are surprisingly skittish. More than a slight movement from a couple of hundred feet away and they leap to the air as long as their wings are warm enough. There are really so many of them in each pack, that individuals ought to be more secure like schools of fish. Maybe they need some remedial training. We do see a massive herd of yearling deer running along the pipeline clearing, and in and out of the campground. Later that night we hear some massive owl hooting moving through the trees just behind Morty.

Both the phone service and internet are just about useless here, so I bike across the highway to the Brackenridge convention center and campground. No internet but a little better phone reception. I try to download an audio book, and though slow it does work. I explore the adjacent campground and discover that they have a minimal laundry which might fit our need to process three weeks of dirt. Lynne nixes the idea because she needs at least four pairs of machines to handle this load. So we contact Victoria's Lazy R Ranch RV Park and make a reservation for the next three nights.

Later on Wednesday we again try to find the baby alligators, and sure enough, right next to the spot where we startled and were startled, there are about two dozen foot-long gators resting quietly around a partially submerged tree trunk. A few turn tail and plunge. But about half pose quietly for their close-ups. Success at last!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Buescher Texas State Park

Some recent experiences and thoughts:

While dining in Morty on Saturday Lynne spotted our first Road Runner across the street, and we were able to get a couple of pictures.

While checking out our location on Google Maps, I was surprised to see that we are right next to a famous locale that is only viewable from the air or space. That is the name “LUECKE” carved out from the forest in letters that stretch three and a half miles long.

From Buescher TX St Pk

The larger-than-life statue of Sam Houston looking down the highway comes with its own visitors' center -- almost irresistible.

This location is known as the “Lost Pines” because it is a small island outpost of Loblolly pine more than 100 miles from the main body that encompases nearly the entire southeast. Something I couldn't learn on the internet --I wonder if the loblolly pines were what got taken down in the carving extravaganza?

From Buescher TX St Pk

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Pedal thru the Pines

The morning was cloudy, cold and a little rainy.  Pedal thru the Pines is a fundraiser for the Family Crisis Center in Bastrop. The ride started 12 miles away near Bastrop State Park, and about 45 minutes later came through on the parkway to Buescher where we were camping and doing a little photography. There were some 700 pictures before editing, so there were probably that many or more riders. By most accounts the participation was down substantially from last year when the weather was much more accommodating.

If you are looking for your picture and couldn't find it, my apologies -- at least the price was right. If you want a higher resolution version, just let me know.

Buescher Texas State Park

If Texas state parks are the gold standard, and my experience says that they are, then their on-line reservation is the slag standard. It is so bad that even their own web page acknowledges that though they have "been working hard" to improve it, it is still agony for the user. [I think "working hard" will be this decade's code word for "failing" if it isn't already.] Our latest experience was that there was only one site left for this weekend, and we lost it while trying to jump through all their hoops. Later, it came back and we were finally able to complete the process.

Now we are here, and as to how full it is for the weekend? Oh about half a dozen RVs and about as many tents -- or about 15%!! There is a big event Saturday morning as the Pedal Through the Pines will be racing through from 9-12. The bike support people are the tent campers for the most part, and that area will be used as a rest stop for the bicyclists. At least learning the hoops allowed us to book a spot at Goose island for the end of January 2012 -- assuming a little better departure scenario than applied to this trip.

The ranger headquarters had fishing poles and tackle to loan out, so I took advantage of it. That saved me from making a big "investment" in fishing gear of my own to take advantage of the free privilege in the state parks. As each cast grew progressively worse, so did my enchantment with the whole process. I may still give it another try, but all-in-all I'd have to call it not my cup of tea.

On a side note, finishing up our second year of travelling with Morty, this is my 222nd post -- something that I didn't expect would have materialized. It must be more fun than it looks.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Huntsville Texas State Park

We were a little apprehensive about this destination: a) the website says that parts are closed to reconstruct restrooms and showers and b) when we called about space, we were told that we could only get a site near the stables. Not being too interested in joining the horsey set, I was a little put off.

But now the weather was telling us that we were still too far North, and definitely too far West. The jet stream was doing its thing of keeping that portion of the state in the cold and unsettled. Plus, the trip down here would be the magical 99 mile day's journey for Morty.

So, it should come as no surprise, that this is easily one of the best, prettiest, and spacious state parks that we have ever experienced, and it has WiFi. Our view of Lake Raven and its wildlife is superb. We have been watching the white and blue herons along with some duck families enjoying the lake. We have plenty of distance from our closest neighbor in the adjoining site. The grounds are magnificent, including the loblollies. The phone service is good enough to watch some television via the Slingbox. The weather is absolutely spectacular with a perfect 72 degrees and severe clear overhead. There is a little prescribed burning going on in the park, but it is no more offensive to our delicate nostrils than a campfire. The old showers aren't terrible, but we have a new set within a short walk.

Huntsville Texas, gets our highest recommendation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fairfield Texas State Park

Saturday Morty rolls 60 more miles on to the Prairies and Lakes region of Texas where Fairfield State Park is located. This is a much larger park than the last several, and it has a few more weekend campers too. We get a site right on the edge of the lake where we have a great view of the wildlife -- while sitting under our awning, we watch an armadillo stroll across, looking for some fallen leaves to root through. Our second bald eagle flies over Morty here. The first was on our Michigan trip. Having left the Pineywoods region, there are no loblolly pines to be seen anywhere.

On the way, we passed the first HEB grocery store of this trip, and stopped in to pick up a supply of Gephardt chili powder to meet the needs of my brother who has not been back in time to replenish his supply. We also got a little for ourselves -- that's got to be some gooood chili powder, so now we ourselves are in eager anticipatory delight.

The twenty or so week-enders all head out on Sunday, leaving us alone with the camp hosts. The morning's clouds persist until about an hour after the 2 PM check out time, when the skies clear completely and the temperature rises to  the predicted 80 degrees. The new solitude is wonderful -- we begin thinking of extending for a third day here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mission Tejas State Park

A leisurely 65 mile drive and Morty arrives at Mission Tejas State Park the first Spanish mission in East Texas, established out of fear that the French were about to lay claim to these lands.

Here the Caddoan speaking Hasinai Indians greeted the Spaniards with the word "tayshas" meaning "friends." Eventually the place came to be Texas as the word evolved, and then the natives were sent off to the reservation in the furtherance of friendship. This must be why we hablamos español hoy.

Wikipedia lists the loblolly pine as extending in the Southeast US from the Carolinas to just about this far in Texas.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Verizon Cell Service

Just have to mention that the Droid phone from Verizon has me back on line like a champ, even though I'm sitting in the East Texas boonies known as Pineywoods. Sprint is in roaming mode, with no hope of any data connection.

The funniest part, is that I had been reviewing the available options at least monthly for the last year and a half, and had absolutely no clue that Verizon had a bargain plan for the over 65 set. I suppose I was a little reluctant to leave Sprint and its 20% discount to big company employees since there was no way for a retiree to get a comparable deal with either company.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Martin Creek Texas State Park

We drove Morty another 30 or so miles to Martin Creek State Park where there is a prescribed burn going on. Lynne and I are usually so anti-smoke that I braced for some discomfort. But even when the wind briefly started the smoke our way at dinner time, we just went in Morty and closed the vents and were fine.

This lake is used for cooling by a power plant on the opposite shore, so the water is warmer than usual -- good for some types of fishing, not necessarily for eating. There is a sandbar across from our site leading to an island, so first thing we did was hike out there and circle the island. Again, the RVers here are less than 10% of capacity, so the rangers were especially glad to have us coming in.

This morning we awoke snuggled under the comforter because the overnight temp went to 48 degrees. At least this morning dawned bright and clear, breaking the overcast morning pattern we have had since arriving in Texas. The weather is looking good with the exception of thunder storms on Thursday, but the temperatures are looking fine.

Sprint has let me down in this entire region, while I could see Verizon users were having no trouble getting on the internet. So today we stopped at the Wal-Mart enroute and picked up a Verizon HTC Incredible. I was looking for just a data card to shave the monthly fees to $50 but they had none in stock. Then I saw that the senior talk and data plan combined were only $60 with an Android phone for another $30, we became Verizon customers, and are very happy with the service so far. Since we use Google Voice, the new phone is also tied to our one and only number 614-859-9365. Give us a call sometime.

HTC Incredible cell phone at Amazon

Caddo Lake Texas State Park

Morty rolls south a paltry 37 miles to Caddo Lake State Park right on the road to Uncertain, TX [I'm a little uncertain of the spelling, some maps show a capital C]. The ride itself was a stunning study of life in northeast Texas. Gently rolling hills and creek valleys with some grand homes and more subsistence-level dwellings, albeit all with big fleets of big personal vehicles. The February temperatures are pushing through the upper 70s now, and sitting shirtless taking in a few rays of vitamin D, I'm thinking this might be a really good place to live.

The state parks have an annual Pass that covers your per-person admission fee, and comes with four coupons for half-off stays of two nights or more. The big improvement from last year, is that the pass has now gone electronic, and the coupons are no longer mailed to your residence. That means that you can use them right away resulting in a substantial discount on the $60 price even before considering the waived admission fees. Especially with the magnificent quality of the Texas Park system, this is an absolute no-brainer, “Highly Recommended”. Still the office rangers, at both parks this trip, seem mildly surprised when non-residents ask for the $60 Park Pass – something to wonder about, or is it just saying something about the current state of economics education?

Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in the entire state of Texas. It was formed by a natural damming of trees and logs, which man promptly removed to drain the swamp. The lake then disappeared. The solution was to build a dam. Yeah! civilization!!!

Caddo Lake is a small park, with about 60 RV sites and a dozen cabins. Total occupants on this Presidents' Day weekend, amount to about a dozen individuals or six of the sites. We are camped in a grove of mostly oaks and live oaks which are all bare for the winter, so the Sun shines through with nearly full force raising the temperatures. It's now too warm for the long sleeve shirt I've been wearing, so time to change to short sleeves, then off to explore on the bikes.. We even put on Morty's vinyl wheel covers on the south side to protect the rubber from two days more of the ultraviolet rays [most RV tires are killed not by miles or road hazards, but by sitting in direct sunlight.]

We see the cypress swamp and the livery where the canoes, paddles and life vests are all available on the honor system – $11 an hour, or $20 per half day, deposit in the hole in the wall. The array of colors and textures cried out for some photography and I tried to oblige. The swamp is alive with turtles, some of monstrous size sunning themselves on every available log, while others swim on by the fishing pier. The locals are besides themselves with the abundance of sand bass, but we not only don't see them, we also do not see any fishermen with their catch.

Some sections of the forest are thick with lob lolly pine and others are exclusively oak – hard to tell what makes one win out over the other, but the hilliness may have something to do with it.

There is only one camper within viewing range, and that is at a cabin up the road from us over 200 feet away. Yet there is a Verizon MiFi device showing up in the wireless connection of my computer. I can't even get a Sprint phone signal to call on. So I've been wondering if maybe it's time to sign up with Verizon – just a thought.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Atlanta Texas State Park

Saturday in Atlanta State Park dawns a little overcast, but the Sun soon bursts forth turning the day glorious. We bike around the park, looking for the winter residents, but the six inches of snow that were here a couple of weeks ago, probably sent them scurrying further South. We get a few pictures of the lake and environs. We asked the ranger about what to see in the park, and learned that a dude drowned here six weeks ago, having fallen from his boat. The boat was found going around in circles, and was loaded with Indian artifacts that he had removed from the eroding banks of the lake. So that raises our interest level a lot as we explore on bike.

There are some hills here, which need the bikes' granny gears to climb, and we go down them with both brakes applied, still doing 30 mile per hour. There's some fun there.

Sunday dawns pretty much like Saturday weather-wise. We decide to head a little further South with a shopping stop. But, Atlanta holds much appeal for our spending some more quiet time here.

Any spare change?

As we dined at a Little Rock McDonalds, a dude at the next table asked “Any spare change?” No was my reply, (if I can't use a credit card with rebates, I really don't want to do business.) A little later, he asked another guy, with similar economics training, the same question but this fellow offered to buy him something to eat -- in this case a large fry and a chicken sandwich. But just then the store's computer crashed and they couldn't sell anything. So this good Samaritan voluntered to run next door to Wendy's to fill the dude's order, which he did, bringing it back to the McDonalds. He comments that he knows what it's like to have to do without, and then takes his leave. Then before the dude begins to partake alone, the manager, perhaps seeing a golden opportunity to move a freeloader along, comes around to tell him that he can't eat “that” in “here.”

So what happens next? Does the dude a) take the meal outside? b) give the manager a little lip about how this would have been a McDonald's meal except for the fact that they could not sell it due to their computer crash? or c) throw the unopened food into the trash and return to his seat?

Hint: No good deed goes unpunished.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rolling through the Mid-South

Yesterday, we departed Gahanna around 3PM. Today, we are camping in Texas – Atlanta, Texas more specifically. About 650 miles and we finally hit on some wonderful weather. The first roadside rest stop in Texas had free WiFi which we used to download the latest park guide. We were hoping for at least some little clue as to which parks themselves had WiFi, but this is still lacking. It is as if the park system still considers this amenity as untested and of unknown demand. The powers that be should stop by some of these parks and see the huddled masses in the sacred WiFi zones trying to get and keep a signal while pounding out the latest email and twitters. Then they would no longer withhold such precious information from us digerati.

Maybe we will stay a while here on Lake Wright Patman – sounds a little Air Force-y, no? We arrived in the dark and had to register our own selves, and find our own site. Tomorrow will be the reckoning day with the park rangers. Since this our first camp site of this trip, it is due in no small part to how wonderful we found the park rangers in Texas last year.

The ranger interaction is, however, going somewhat less spectacular this time. We called about the availability of sites on Goose Island, where we watched the Whooping Cranes last year, but were handled very rudely by a lady who wouldn't give us the time of day. A couple of calls later, we finally found out that there are no sites until April – “All right? Good by.” must be oh-so nice to have virtually infinite demand and a very finite supply.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Morty's trip into Spring 2011

The coming of the February thaw (aided by the cleaning up of the new year's bills and taxes) means that the time is ripe to set out on the highway again seeing the USA in our Chevrolet. Morty's preparations went smoothly except for the tire pressure check. This essential procedure again resulted in a sliced open finger from one of the two remaining decorative wheel covers – man, do I hate those things. Every time I have checked the air pressure, I have come away with a sliced finger from those buggers. Now, I am beginning to see that those sharp edges need to filed down before I next insert my precious digits. The current synthetic oil would have 53% of its life remaining if it were non-synthetic. Does anyone know how that all factors out? The water holding tank is full to just under the two-thirds level. The batteries are at their level best. The dump tanks are empty. The gen-set is working with its oil topped off. And, the hole and crack in the roof vents are temporarily sealed with package tape – something which I know will blow off sooner or later, but is a good fix while it holds.

The weather is cool-to-warm, but cloudy and misty as we traverse Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. But soon after crossing into the Lone Star, the skies clear and the temperature rises to the upper 60's. The gods are unquestionably smiling on this dash to better climes.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

New Toy for Google Voice -- OBi110

While we have been extremely satisfied with Google Voice phone service, I couldn't resist a new product which promised to kick it up several levels. I'm talking about the OBI110 analog telephone adapter (ATA).

This little box is only three inches across, but functions much like your own private phone company. It provides much improved voice clarity and features that would cost at least $40 per month from AT&T. It may be out of stock currently, but was selling for $50 when I ordered from Amazon a week ago.

The other features that are really interesting include:

Connects to an existing land line which can be used according to how you dial the phone or program the OBi. Incoming calls on the land line can be programmed to ring distinctively to minimize the intrusion of robo-calls.

Connects to up to two internet telephone providers, which in my case are both Google Voice. My new number is 614 859 9385 in addition to the existing 614 859 9365.

Allows three-way and call waiting. Also provides caller ID.

Most importantly for us, it eliminates the need to use the computer to dial calls, and restores full functionality to your cordless phones.

While it is almost plug and play, there are still enough potential sticking points, that I recommend it only for nerds and hackers, or at least those with friends who qualify as such. But for those, the verdict is Highly Recommended.