Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Got Those Northern Lights Could Break My iPhone, And I'm Feeling Blue Blues

I start my day by shuffling off to the bathroom.  One of the things I do in there is  confirm in the mirror that I am still here.  Once that is established, I can continue my day.

After the bathroom visit, and self confirmation, I grab my iPhone, and check for recent news and weather alerts, emails, and Facebook posts as I am pouring a cup of coffee.  I may turn on the TV for a bit, or as it was this morning, turn on Mary's  wireless speaker system and beam a  smooth jazz radio station playing live in Florida from my iPhone to the speaker system.

Later, I'll do some banking on my phone, pay some bills, check the status of the 403b,  do some stalking on Facebook, track a UPS shipment from LL Bean, and compare my electrical usage to others in the area at, and I do it all from a chair in the living room

On the way to work I'll put in my work address into my car's GPS, but not so much for me to find my way, but for the
alternate route feature in case I get stuck in heavy traffic on the way in, and to get a heads up of any traffic problems on my route.  The car's GPS also offers a traffic monitoring feature through Sirius satellite radio that shows the speed of traffic on all the major routes in color - green for going 45 MPH up to the speed limit, yellow for doing OK, but slower, and red for crawling.  This is a great feature when we are driving north, to Maine. It allows us some time to tweak our route if possible.

When I am commuting, I can choose to listen to the local radio, the satellite radio, the music from the flash drive I have plugged in with a lot of my favorite music, or from the 40 GB hard drive I downloaded a few Cd's to that I had not loaded my laptop.  As of last week I now have another option since I began a subscription with Apple iTunes Match to place all of the music on our laptop in "the cloud", and playable from any device we own, at any place, at any time.  The neat thing is that iTunes matches all the music on the laptop, and other devices,  with what it has, and makes it available to you.  It doesn't upload the music, and it just matches ALL your music, and not just the purchased music you bought from iTunes!


On the way to work I'll call Mary on the cell via the blue tooth connection from my phone to the cars speakers, and talk hands free.  At work we'll share a few text messages back and forth.  I'll sometimes use the alarm on my phone to remind of an important task, too.

I am "well connected".  All of the little things I used to do without the internet, wi-fi, blue tooth, and cellular data usage, has shifted to being controlled from my hand.  My world has stayed the same size, but the ability to control my world has become more manageable.  All my excuses about being late with a payment, missing an oil change,  not knowing when my next dental cleaning was, forgetting my internet password at work,  loosing the serial number for our new refrigerator  have been deleted.

I no longer have excuses for being out of the loop, or not knowing.  The information is somewhere on my phone.  All I need to do is search using a keyword, and there it is - a phone number, an email, a window measurement, a policy number.

Mary shares her calendar with me, and I share mine with her.  No longer do we have two separate things booked for the same night.  The UPC code for the shirt I want to return is in the picture I took of it, the tickets to the movies are in the phone in an email.  The dentist appointment I made was confirmed by email, and I clicked it to make a part of my calendar. Mary see's the appointment on her phone as well.

Hotel reservations, dinner reservations, the daily traffic report for my commute, delivery confirmations from UPS, contact information of a long lost cousin, Mary's shoe size, and my contact lens prescription are among the hundreds, and hundreds of scraplets of information inhabiting my iPhone.

I have a system.  It is a far better system than the system I had all my life, which really wasn't a system, but a mashup of penciled notes, post-its, appointment cards lost amongst the receipts in my wallet, highlighted overdue notices, and relying too much on the check engine light.

Yes, it's a far better system.  I have achieved peace of mind, a sort of a task management Nirvana.

Then came the solar flares.

Last week there was a giant solar flare that shot up from the sun and headed to Earth.  Solar flares happen, and depending on their size, their radiation will cause  will cause amazing, and beautiful Northern Light displays in the sky when it interacts with our atmosphere.  They can also interrupt our electronics, our cell phones, and our power supply.


My phone?  M-m-my life?  Interrupted by solar flares?

Just when I thought I had this whole organization thing licked, now I have to worry about solar flares, but first, I need to check on Amazon and see if they have solar radiation shield cases for the iPhone 5s, and if I strike out, then I'll worry.


  1. Spent 6 weeks last year in Churchill, Manitoba, watching the northern lights and doing volunteer work (yeah, we were washing dishes!) at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. Saw them every night it wasn't cloudy which meant most nights. Temp never got above 0 and was usually in the -20 to -30 range with -35 to -50 windchill. Had fun taking pics and time lapses. No cell phone service there to speak of. Check out both for their Learning Vacations and so you can know when to turn your phone off LOL I'll be posting pics at in a few weeks as we go back up again. Magical times and no Sturbridge politics!

  2. A couple of app recommendations for you if you like stuff like this. Aurora Notifier will message you if it's possible to see the Northern Lights at our latitude. Another good one is Space Weather. This one will provide you with up to date solar activity and space environment. (Yes, there's is a space environment)

    Now, if you want people to think you're out barking at the moon, there's another space oriented app called ISS Detector. It will notify you of an impending pass of the International Space Station and other satellites. Perhaps it's because I was raised during the "space race", but I never grow tired of running outside when I hear the alarm on the phone, and watch the space station pass over. On Christmas Day, I had fifteen people standing on the deck of my daughter's house to view an extremely bright, and directly overhead pass of the station. It's just a moving star, but I never grow tired of seeing it. My son on the other hand was unimpressed at the spectacular pass, "That's just the light on the sewage treatment plant....", he said quoting dialog from Christmas Vacation. Regardless, I will continue to look up at the moving light and marvel at the little program that permits me to do it.

  3. Tom, thank you. Of course, I like "this stuff"! I love this stuff!


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