What I did on Spring Break

What I did on Spring Break

Gee, with that title, I feel like I should put my Homeroom number in the top right corner. ;)

As regular readers know, I went on vacation this week with my family (my Significant Other and my adult kid).

We flew across the country (as one humorous in-flight announcement had it, our flight back was “5 hours and 65 minutes”) to meet our kid, who has been going to college in New Orleans (we live in the San Francisco Bay area).

Some of you may recognize where Coventry (my Kindle Fire) is. I’ll give you a few seconds to guess. Done? Good.

We were in Boston. :)

I made the decision not to take a laptop…just my Samsung Captivate, my Blackberry, and my Fire. ;)

I wanted to share with you my experiences in traveling with my Fire (and without an RSK…Reflective Screen Kindle).

First, I made sure my Kindle Fire was completely charged before we left. I carried the charger in a pocket in a journalist’s vest that I wear when I’m not on work…it’s my “utility vest”, if you like. :) I was carrying three chargers (Blackberry, SmartPhone, Kindle Fire): I was a bit curious about what that would be like through Security. I carried them instead of putting them in the checked bag (we were leaving Saturday morning, coming back Thursday morning, so we each checked one…we packed for the cold in Boston), because I didn’t want them to get lost. That would have been a crisis! Of course, if my Significant Other’s Fire charger made it, we’d could take turns. I figured, though, we’ d probably have to charge them both every day to have a full charge. I did, though, actually pack a power strip in the checked case…

As usual, we got to SFO quite early. For one thing, that gives us a better chance to find a seat at the gate next to a power outlet. ;)  Getting through Security was fine…you just never know. I don’t worry about my electronics going through the x-ray, by the way. I also didn’t have to pull the Fire out of my vest. The TSA doesn’t require that for tablet-sized devices, although of course, they can ask for that if they want.

While we were waiting, I read some of Cats’ Most Wanted by  Alexandre Powe Allred. I’ll write a review on it a bit later, but it was a book my (adult) kid had gotten me for my birthday. My kid is actually the one of us who is least comfortable with people having electronics out during “family time”…but I figured reading a gift would be okay. :) We weren’t together at that point, but it’s the principle of the thing. ;)

I also played some Dabble HD – The Fast Thinking Word Game, Tablet Edition, which is a fun word game. It takes about five minutes to play a game, so it’s a good diversion. I’m not as good as my Significant Other, who is really good at word games. I’m not bad, though.

The other game I played only briefly was LineRunner. It’s a freebie, and strictly a twitch game…in other words it’s all based on reflexes. You are a little line figure, and are sort of on an assembly line. Boxes fly towards you low and high, and you can jump or roll to avoid them. That’s about it. Think Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory, mixed with parkour. ;) I don’t even last five seconds…

On the plane, I did read that book and play some more Dabble.

I was disappointed by one thing. I’d borrowed a book from the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Library)…and it failed to open, saying it had only been a partial download. I’ve had that happen once before. If you want to see what it looks like, see this

earlier post

If that had been the only book I’d brought, it would have been a real problem. I wouldn’t have only brought one book, though…even in the paper days.

I have no idea what specifically might have caused it. Since I’d had the earlier problem, I think I’ve been careful to only open a book the first time from the Device tab, not the Cloud tab. I’d read part of the book with no problem.

Oh, I should also mention, I did bring a paper magazine to read during takeoff and landing…people ask about that. We were asked to turn our electronic devices all the way off…not just to airplane mode during takeoff.

During the flight, I watched a public domain movie I’d downloaded from Archive.org. It was The Ghoul, a 1933 Boris Karloff movie that had been lost for decades, then later found. Karloff, I have to say, was brilliant…although the movie wasn’t overall.

As I mentioned, I had downloaded it. I would have liked to have tried GoGo inflight internet, but it wasn’t offered on this Jet Blue flight.

Fortean Times, using the Zinio app, also got a bit of my reading attention.

The other thing I did with my Fire, which I’ve always enjoyed on flights since I’ve had a Kindle, was listening to an Old Time Radio show (which I downloaded from RadioLovers.com). In this case, I listened to The Robot Killer, an episode of 2000 Plus. That show was wild science fiction, that took off in the unimaginably distant time…after the year 2000. ;)

I had brought my own headphones…if I hadn’t, I could have bought a pair. Oh, I did find The Ghoul was a bit quiet, but I could hear it. The radio show was fine.  I also realized that I had brought my Kindle Kandle, a booklight I’ve used with my RSKs. I’d just forgotten to take it out of my pocket. I also brought a Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloth…unfortunately, I don’t travel without one with my Fire. I do have a stylus which I like very much, and that helps, but I find I sometimes still need to use my fingers. That’s particularly true when scrolling on something which is zoomed. When I try to scroll with the stylus, I may change the size of the image instead. I suspect that may get better with practice.

It appeared to me that watching the movie ran down about a third of my battery charge. That was worth noting, to me. People have commented about the size of the onboard memory…but I think you could probably only watch a couple of movies without having to charge again anyway. You could watch while you were plugged in, which would eliminate that issue…but how often do you have an electrical outlet and no wi-fi nowadays? At least where I am, they often go together. So, even if I’d had some kind of external drive available, I would also have had to have auxiliary power to take advantage of it effectively.

One last use on the plane: I always open my e-mail app and Pulse (blog feeds) when I’m in wi-fi), so I can read them offline. I did manage to clean up a few e-mails, even though I couldn’t respond to them.

Once we got to Boston, I pretty much just used it for reading. While a plane lends itself to headphone-enabled activities, that’s not as true when the three of  us together.

We had great family time, though! One of the main reasons we were there was to find an apartment for our kid…and we accomplished that the first day of trying! That all worked out very well…the timing of the move-in is good, the price range is fine, and it’s in the Fenway, which was the desired neighborhood.

We also walked all over Boston: miles every day. I do okay with that, although I’m the worst walker of the three of us. :) We used my phone for navigation…without a GPS and Google maps, I don’t think the Fire would work very well for that.

We did the Freedom Trail, and we went to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. Let me warn you if you go to do that…it’s a hike! Close to 300 non-ergonomic steps. When you get to the top, there are some good views…but there is only room for about ten people, and a steady of stream of people were coming up. We didn’t stay long up there.

We went to the Aquarium, the Faneuil Hall marketplace, saw the outside of Fenway, and so on. We walked up and down streets, through parks, and rode the T (the local subway). Hmm…we call our subway BART (not “the BART”) in the San Francisco area. We also don’t put the article “the” in front of our freeway numbers when you say them. That’s a dead giveaway that a TV show supposedly set in San Francisco was filmed in Los Angeles…if they refer to taking “the 280″ or “the 4″. We would just say that “…you take 280″. It just occurred to me…maybe that’s an influence of the number of Russian speakers in San Francisco (we have a lot). Russians famously don’t use the articles (“the”, “a”, “an”) in English. Just speculation on my part…

At the recommendation of a friend of my kid’s, we went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. That was astonishingly good! I could have spent a whole week there, and hours just staring at a tapestry. I’m not a big museum person, actually, but this was really like being in somebody’s house. Oh, a super expensive house, certainly, but not stuffy like a museum. Stuffed, though…artworks, sculptures…and ephemera. While Garnder may have collected some truly elegant fine art, there was a sense of a geek’s collectibles to me. I had heard of John Singer Sargent, but there were some paintings of Sargent’s here that left me dumbstruck. Well, not literally…I don’t stay silent for long. ;) There was one portrait of Garnder in particular…fabulous! Really evocative, and almost three-dimensional.

I have to say, we went to another place where we saw art of a different kind…the South Street Diner. I loved what they had done with a piece of obsolete technology, and I thought you might enjoy it as well:

Overall, we liked Boston, but were surprised at how small it was…and how hot! We’d packed warm clothes, and it turned out to be up to into the 70s Fahrenheit (about the low 20s Celsius). We were overdressed some days. No snow, either…we’d expected that there might have been.

In the hotel room, my Fire connected to the hotel’s wi-fi with no problem.  Interestingly, I was able to open and read that KOLL book, although I concentrated on the cat book until I finished it and then on Better Living Through Bad Movies by Scott Clevenger and Sheri Zollinger, another gift from my kid.

I set the Alarm Clock app I have from 7 Dragons, and tested that it would work with the Kindle Fire asleep (and not turned off)…I could leave it plugged in overnight. I ended up waking up before it went off, though.

Going back, I noted one important thing. I had the Fire plugged in while at the Boston airport. My Fire was acting strangely…not appropriately recognizing my touches…even tapping to turn a page was behaving oddly. Unplugged, it was fine. I was getting the sort of strange behavior I’ve seen others describe (but that I’d never experienced before), so I’m curious now if they had it plugged in at the time.

I watched another movie, listened to another episode of 2000 Plus, finished the Bad Movies book (again, I’ll do a review at some point), and read a bit more of FT.

How was the Fire for traveling?

It was great as an entertainer. I did do some very light posting, but really couldn’t blog with it. I was in the Business Center in the hotel probably twice a day. I’m hoping that some Amazon device in the future is easier to use for blogging. That could mean an external keyboard (Bluetooth or not), or maybe effective spoken input. I”m always careful to realize that what people (including me) want is functionality, not technique. When people say they miss, say, page numbers, it isn’t the page numbers necessarily…it’s what the pages do for them. Do they want to be able to sync up with other readers, with where they saw something in a book? If there was another way besides page numbers to accomplish that with equal effectiveness, I think people would be happy…even if it wasn’t actually specifically page numbers.

Well, there you go! I hope you find this helpful…if you have more questions, as always, feel free to ask.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

7 Responses to “What I did on Spring Break”

  1. Rosemary Says:

    We had a power failure last night during and after a huge storm here in AA. I was stuck with nothing to read or compute or watch till I remembered my Fire is backlit. Wonderful. I don’t do well just sitting and contemplating.
    loved the story of your trip. Sounded great.
    Rosemary

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Rosemary!

      I’m glad you had your Fire!

      I left out an advantage of the backlighting on the trip!

      The hotel room nicely had a wall that blocked a couch. We don’t all get up at the same time, so I sometimes wanted to read while my kid was asleep and/or my Significant Other was at the Fitness Center. I see very well in the dark, which I think is connected to my color vision deficiency. I had no trouble getting to the couch and being behind the wall without turning on a light, but I couldn’t have read if it wasn’t backlit. Even my Kindle Kandle would have been more of an irritant in the room, I think, since I have a cover that blocks the light and I could have the brightness turned down.

      Yes, it was a great trip…thanks!

  2. Zebras Says:

    I’m jealous of your vacay destination, haven’t been to Boston in years. I’ve been at the isabella Gardner Museum, too, and I really enjoyed. You son is very lucky to get to live in Boston while he’s going to college, but poor you, he can’t really be much further away from you and still be in the U.S!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      I’m glad you liked that museum as well! I’d never heard of it.

      Minor point, but I haven’t mentioned the gender of my kid. :) I won’t confirm or deny your guess.

      My Significant Other says that our kid has a string that shows 3,000 miles from home…and just moved it from New Orleans up to Boston. ;)

      Actually, a key motivator for the city was excellent public transit…my kid doesn’t want to own a car.

  3. Zebras Says:

    Isn’t that funny that my mind didn’t accept the gender neutralization of your “kid.” Just shows that I’m used to filling in the picture in my mind when I read. You could probably write a whole book gender neutral, and when it was turned into a movie, some people would argue that you assigned the wrong sex to a the characters.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      Oh, absolutely! I’d caught myself years ago defaulting to one gender when I didn’t know, and I wasn’t happy with myself for that.

      I certainly do some things on line that irritate people, and my gender neutral writing is occasionally one of them. I’ll get people who are really passionate about the idea that my gender should be known…that’s its offensive somehow that I don’t do that.

      Some in the Kindle community know it…when we did the Kindle & Koffee day years ago, some people on the Kindle forum met me and my family (that was really fun, by the way).

      I’ve also made a slip from time to time.

      I don’t mind that it’s happened…I’m not hiding it. What I like is that we can be known on the internet just for our words, not for our intrinsic characteristics or lifestyle choices. I want to (unrealistically, I know) help enable that by making it unnecessary to say it in order to have your voice heard…er, read.

      I refer to my Significant Other: I could be married (to a man or woman) or unmarried, in my online life. I do it that way so that someone who might fear repercussions feels like it doesn’t need to be stated.

      It’s also a bit of a game for me. :) Not a game with other people…I’m not trying to get points by “fooling” others. I guess maybe an “exercise” is a better word. My Significant Other and I both round off cash back: if the purchase costs $17.12, we might ask for $22.88 back. I have to say, some of the cashiers look at you like you are an alien when you do that. I did a post on that some time back:

      http://measuredcircle.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/change-they-cant-believe/

      I’ve also written before about the fact that I generally don’t visualize when I read…I don’t see what the characters look like (or hear them). However, for people who do, they can be very upset by the appearance of the actors in a movie…and I would think reversing their gender expectations might be even more emotional. :)

  4. My kid is graduating « I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] probably spend more time with friends than with us. This isn’t a family vacation, like when we went to Boston in March. That means we may have more down time in the hotel. Our kid’s coming back with us  for a […]

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