Thursday, September 25, 2014

Time for some Apple bashing

I have to chuckle at people.  They want thin and light.  They also don't mind giving Apple a 50%+ margin on something they buy from them, which incidentally is pretty dumb. Almost as dumb as camping out in front of an Apple store for three days so you can be among the first to own the newest fad.

What it means for you is that your brand new iPhone's case is made of a material that's cheap for Apple to use. It's pretty, but it will bend, and where the buttons are and the material has been weakened (a lot) by cutting those holes it will bend very easily. It's a classic case of form over function.

So if you stick it in your back pocket (not a good idea in the first place) you might find that it has more of a curve coming out than it did going in.  That, by the way, can break the screen too, or detach it from the base, which is arguably just as bad if not worse, especially if you try to  unbend it.

This is what you get when you reward companies that build things with form (e.g. "pretty", "thin", etc) before function (e.g. will it survive everyday use, does it have good RF performance, etc.)  Apple could have chosen a material with considerably better strength (e.g. magnesium or titanium alloy), but it would have been more expensive (and cut into their margin), or they could have used more material (at the cost of thickness and/or weight).

Instead, they put out a $600+ device that is quite easy to damage in what many people consider to be ordinary daily use. One of the reasons I have contempt for Apple is that they have always been known for intentional planned obsolescence in an attempt to force you back into their store for another bite of your wallet.

However, this little ditty may be a bit too much of curve even for them, particularly given the extraordinarily high asking price attached. Will the morons who pray at the alter of Apple ever wise up? I doubt it. This is economic Darwinism at its best, and a fool and their money are soon parted. But then again, who needs any money when they live at home in their parents' basement?

That's what you get for being an iFanboi and buying iCrap!

Full disclosure and a silver lining: We have made a boat load of money investing in Apple stock over the past 10 years (starting around $72/share and before the splits). As long as their are fools who will buy this stuff, I'm more than willing to profit from their ignorance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's good to know we can still do it

After four months of sitting in one place on our boondocking spot in Far North Idaho, we had to think about our process for a moment before getting on the road again to try some boonedocking near Glacier National Park. We ran through our usual pre-hookup review/maintenance routine without any issues or following a checklist. We took our time, but the ritual came right back like we had never stopped.

After an uneventful trip to the outskirts of the park, we started our search in the Flathead National Forest for a good multi-week boondocking site. It's always exciting when scouting a new area. You never know what you'll end up with. Benchmark, Delorme, forest service, and Google maps are good, but you really need to see a site to know for sure. After an hour of scouting we found some good but not great sites. On a hunch we decided to try one more forest service road and go around one more corner. After boondocking for a while, you start to look at the contours of the land in a different way, sensing where the good dispersed sites might be found. This last road was the charm. We found the perfect, large, secluded, protected view site with plenty of room for the dogs to roam off leash and swim in a nearby stream. It was a new find not on the pre-trip research list of spots. That seems to happen a lot. We just go a little further and then find the right spot. This part of the national forest and the park experienced gigantic forest fires in 2003. The forest ecosystem here is a textbook case of lodgepole pine and larch regeneration with some brushy forage for wildlife in between.

It takes either snow on the higher elevations or the lure of a spectacular spot for us to justify hooking up and leaving Idaho. There's just too much to do within a 50 mile radius of our boondocking property. Having never been to Glacier, we were wondering if it would live up to the hype. Surprisingly, it did not. Finding the perfect boondocking spot was actually the highlight of the trip.

Since Glacier has always been one of those spots that we've dreamed about visiting, it pains us to say it, but this national park is way overrated. We thought that visiting after Labor Day would free us from the hordes on the trails, but it wasn't to be. Nothing ruins a nice hike more than having to sidestep people at almost every turn and constantly trying to find views that don't have a tacky t-shirt or baseball cap in the way. The bumper to bumper traffic on Going to the Sun road was also a buzz killer. We even went out of our way to hike the supposedly "rarely visited" parts of the park, and found ourselves with as much company as we saw when hiking on the eastern seaboard during our first summer on the road. That's right, Glacier after Labor Day was almost as polluted with people as Acadia is before Labor Day!

The best hikes, sights, and swimming holes were actually in the Flathead National Forest next to the park. So why pay for the over-priced entrance fees, camping fees, and restrictive dog rules of a national park? We're starting to ask ourselves that question more and more. It seems there are too many people out there who have the national parks on their to-do list and don't want to spend the effort to explore the adjacent public lands for equally impressive sights and more seclusion. We hope it stays that way for at least as long as we're on the road. We will gladly cede the national parks to the unwashed masses in exchange for the nearby, quiet public lands. We have many more places to go in our lifetimes, but so far, the only national park we would recommend is Great Basin. Better hiking, more ecosystem diversity, and better boondocking opportunities than Glacier (and no entrance fees).

Despite all of this, Glacier still does have some pretty sites.

We did have a day of flurries that brought snow down to about 4,000 feet. That's as close as we wanted to be to it! 

Some mule deer decided to make regular grazing rotations through our campsite.

Last day and time to grab one more peak.

And one last sunset over the larch tree at Glacier.

Glacier is picturesque, but nothing beats Northern Idaho in our book, However, we like to tell people they don't need to go any further north than Couer d'Alene. The fact that people generally don't head further north in Idaho is part of what makes it so great up here! :-)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer Daze

It's starting to smell a lot like Autumn. This is how it starts each year. No colors in the trees yet, but the smell of harvest is in the air. We've had a whirlwind summer season of road and trail building, tree planting, tree thinning/pruning, weed fighting, wildlife habitat development and enough basic land sculpting to give us
an awesome three season boondocking spot for as long as we feel like doing this fulltime RV thing.

We even had enough visitors that we "forced ourselves" to take time out from the satisfying tasks of forest management to actually explore the forests, streams and lakes that surround our property in Far North Idaho and British Columbia.

While most of the west is in drought, water just gushes out of the earth here. These falls on the Kootenay river look almost exactly the same today as they did in the late 1700's when they were first painted in water colors by early fur trappers/explorers. Google David Thompson for some interesting history.

All of these are nearby hikes where you can still be alone on the trail in the middle of summer.

Even the cows have it good up here.

Water in the mountains, water in the valleys, and still low humidity.

British Columbia is about 10 miles away. We didn't even scratch the surface of what there is to see within an easy day drive. What we did see reminded us of New Zealand (without the long flight).

There's plenty of wildlife. This guy likes a birch snag by our rig. He helps with the gophers.

They really like to twist their heads all the way around.

I don't know how long some of these deer will be around during hunting season based on how they like to stand and pose for us. That's OK though, there are way too many of them and they taste great!

Hiding in an alder grove protecting her brood.

Most people don't get as excited about trees as we do. If you're into forestry, Northern Idaho is to trees the way Napa Valley is to wine grapes. There isn't a better place to grow a huge diversity of tree species faster anywhere in the US. 

This white pine is about 400 years old. It's the state tree of Idaho, but there aren't very many left. A fungus called blister rust was introduced here from Europe in the early 1900's and wiped out the population. New blister rust resistant trees have been bred and the tree is being reintroduced. It's a beautiful tree, and we're planting hundreds on our place.

There are several spots in the national forest where you can find ancient cedar trees. Cedars and redwoods are genetically related. While redwoods grow larger, these cedars are older than any of the redwoods in CA. They are slower growing and much more disease resistant than redwoods. At this size they are too large to even be cut in a mill.

The largest hop farm in the US is right across the valley from us. The Clydesdales visited the hop farm this summer.

These are some big horses.

The hops trellising looks small from up above.

But the trellis system is about 25 feet high. A little bigger than the vineyards we were used to.

It wouldn't be summer without the dogs. They're getting old, but they were ready for action all season long.

The original coal miner's daughter from West Hazleton, PA, Susan's mom came for a visit in August.

We took her on a tour of the miles of old farm/logging roads on the property

A little relaxation after a long day of exploring.

And a side trip to Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille.

And Priest Lake, the jewel of Northern Idaho, even on a cloudy day. Roads going up the western and eastern sides of the lake actually dead end in wilderness about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. We found a nice private boondocking spot by the lake for next year.

The days are getting shorter and the sun is setting more to the south each day. It's almost time to start chasing it south again.

But before we start heading south in October, we're taking a post-Labor Day trip to the Montana side...Glacier National Park. Sunny days in the 60's and 70's are the perfect hiking weather for us and an excellent reason to skip the ugliness of the domestic/world news and the Internet for 10-14 days. We've scoped out some high potential boondocking spots in the national forest right next to the park. At least one of those will undoubtedly be a winner. We're way too spoiled to ever stay in another campground (even after Labor Day).