Monday, April 29, 2013

Force lake

Looking out at the night sky in the countryside we see the great wonders of the universe as if within the grasps of our own hands; yet there are things in this world so wondrous that many scientists dedicate their lives to studying the environment here on Earth, often going to far off places to learn more of how things are far away from our homeland.  Frequently we find ourselves so wrapped up in the things away from us that we overlook the great treasure troves that lie here in front of us, to study and appreciate without having to travel so far, use so much time on just getting there, or having these journeys so sparse or at such great sacrifice in time with our family that only one completely dedicated could find a way to do so.  So many would go to Yellowstone Park, or travel to Niagara to see natures wonders when just within a few strides lays such marvelous richness.

Recently I have come upon such a place, where I dream I could spend much time getting to know the local flora and fauna, and looking up its history.  People love a good story with something they are learning; teaching through storytelling is a way that we connect ourselves with the past, either with a place, an idea, or a people long gone.  This helps to grow memorable features and personalities which we feel a need to share with others who later go there with us.

Force Lake is a wildlife habitat area in Northern Portland.  This picture was taken from the MAX which I take everyday on commute to Hillsboro.  Many ducks and geese fly here on their bi-yearly journey, going to warmer lands for the Winter, and coming back during the Spring.

Last year I went hiking at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon; though it is far away, and has many majestic views with splurging waterfalls and a mighty river formed by the runoff of snow, its tranquility takes much effort to afford, and is often crowded with many people seeking to enjoy the same scene.  I have found a certain peace that comes while in the crazy commute of everyday life that comes near the end of this ride on Portland's light rail; where most people have already gotten off this train I am left in the serenity of my own thoughts, to look up and see sites such as these.  It is that same feeling when you are helped by an unexpected hand which belongs to some stranger in the woods, or the laugh of a child who runs up to and smiles which can wipe away the worst of moods.  Sometimes you just look up and smile.

I stand in awe and wonder of the journey that's been made, from some unknown material which erupted to forms stars which eventually died, not by flickering out, but going in a supernova, then through the last 4.7 billion years or mixing, and evolving, now I can see the clouds in the sky at sunset over this wildlife preserve.  Though we live on a humdrum pale blue dot revolving around a nuclear fission powered star, this is my pale blue dot, and my chance to live and appreciate what must have transpired before me for there to even be a me to appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Android App Review: Diaro

Review has moved to my new blog at

Sometimes our lives are just plain busy with little time for remembering what happened last night, let alone last year.  With the advent of computers keeping a diary has changed; what used to be a tedious task that often left some burning the midnight oil has turned into a way to help us relieve stress without cramping our hands.

Now in the 21st century we have computers in our pockets, from iPhones to Androids even my own mother now has the world at her fingertips.  There is a plethora of applications out there for jotting down some notes, arranging tasks, and scheduling; the biggest problem now is figuring out which one fits you best.

After having tried many out on my Nexus 4 I finally decided on Diaro for keeping my diary.  This app is made specifically for keeping a diary, or a journal.  It doesn't have many features in it which for me was a selling point; often some other note taking apps become so bloated by trying to figure out how to store, and present your data that it becomes cumbersome to write down something about your life that you want to remember.  Diaro has just the features that you need, and not much more, making it perfect for this task.

Despite not having the ability to record voice or video I don't find myself missing those features when I decide to write something down for my diary, but it does support adding/taking a picture which can be useful.

What you get with Diaro is a simple interface; date, time, title, and your actual entry.  You also have options for tagging or categorizing your entries; by default it has Diary, Journal, and Notes as your tags, with a few categories to throw them into.  What I actually found was that I would prefer them to be switched, having the categories Diary, Journal and Notes because you cannot have multiple categories for a single entry, and then use the tags for what kind of entry these are.

Another nice feature with Diaro is keeping your entries online also with Dropbox integration.  Though they also have the ability to do a backup to the SD card I find that Dropbox is often more convenient and allows you to use their website for longer entries.  One thing that I do sometimes is to write a quick note and then at night I'll get online and finish the entry using my laptop.

In addition to the wonderful app that you have there is also a great support staff.  When I started using the app I noticed that my gps would stay on all the time unless I fully closed out of it.  Within a couple days we had already responded back and forth a few times in email talking about this problem and there was a new release that came out which fixed the issue.

Overall I gave this app 5 stars for keeping it simple, doing what I need it to do, and having a very responsive staff that cares about getting good feedback and is willing to work for it.