June 2010 Archives

where are the ipad travel apps??

As a follow up to my last post, extolling the wonders of computer and iPhone travel tools, I have to ask: why aren't any of these tools available on the iPad?? The iPad is so obviously an awesome travel device--the perfect thing for the front-seat passenger to use to explore the local area, that I'm really surprised by the lack of useful apps in this space.

Google Maps for the iPad is beautiful, but it can only do navigation between two points--so my carefully crafted itinerary is useless there. The AAA TripTik website thinks my iPad is an iPhone and renders tiny little maps, plus anything browser-based can't use the GPS.

Even more amazingly, Kayak has only made flight search available on the iPad--not hotels. Priceline has no iPad app at all. Expedia's TripAssist seems to be for flights only, but I haven't downloaded it yet to test that. So there's no location-aware tool for the iPad that can help you find nearby hotels, with the exception of Google Maps, which doesn't include the ability to compare rates and book rooms. Bah.

Perhaps some of the apps I'm hoping for (a Triple A TripTik app that syncs with the website, perhaps? please??) are under development, and will appear before we hit the road on July 20 (I can give exact dates without fearing a home break-in, since Gerald and Lane will still be in the house...).

road trip planning geekery

My family is accustomed to the fact that I am a compulsive trip planner. For me, at least half the fun of taking a vacation is thinking about it beforehand. I'm not obsessive about times and locations, but I really want to know what our options are along the way, what experienced travelers think is interesting and worthwhile, and the best way to cut costs wherever we're going. This typically ends up working out well for all of us...I do all the prep work, which I love, and everybody else gets to reap the benefits of not getting lost, being without a place to stay, or missing gems along the way.

As an example, we were originally planning to go to the Four Corners Monument at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico--which took us a bit out of our way. Today I discovered that it's closed for the summer due to construction, and the misleading "open Fri-Sun" actually means that only the vending area is open...you can't stand where the x marks the spot! So I've re-routed us so that we can swing up into South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore instead, and not go quite as far west as the original itinerary had required. It would have sucked to have rushed to get to the monument by Sunday, only to find that it was closed.

This year, I'm having particular fun geeking out with road trip planning tools online and on my phone. It's amazing how much there is to work with, and how much it helps. I thought I'd write up some of the things that I'm using both for future trips of ours, and for others to know about.

For mapping our route, I started out with Google Maps. It's a great tool, and it's easy to share a URL for the completed trip when you're done. I've been maintaining our overall itinerary at http://icanhaz.com/roadtrip2010, so that as I make changes I don't have to keep giving people the new lengthy URL. One downside of those lengthy URLs is that on a long, rambling trip like the one we're taking, the URLs can become too long for some browsers or servers, causing random errors.

However, I've also been maintaining a more detailed itinerary, including hotels and landmarks, using AAA's online TripTik tool. I have great memories of Triple A TripTiks from trips past, so I figured I'd give their tool a try. The interface is a little bit clunky, and you can't share a live URL, but it generates fabulous lengthy instructions and maps, complete with up-to-date information about traffic and construction along your route. One thing I particularly like is the ability to show hotels and points of interest on the live map, so that you can easily roll over one along your route, pull up more info in a pop-up window, and add it to your itinerary.

The third map-related tool I'm using is the one at RoadsideAmerica.com. It allows you to see all the quirky attractions in any state, along with traveler-generated comments about each. I liked it so much that I bought the iPhone version ($2.99 if you just want one of the four regions of the US, another $5.99 to open the rest of the country, for a total of $9.98...cheaper than most guidebooks). It allows you to find all the attractions near you, or to locate them based on proximity to a given city. It also has some nice features like "tourist interruptus" option to have your phone "call" you after a certain amount of a time in an attraction, so you can gracefully exit if a tour guide has you pinned. Another feature allows you to mark which of the attractions you've visited, and to upload your own comments and photos that the site editors can then add to both the website and the app.

Which, of course, brings me to the iPhone apps. In addition to the Roadside America app, I've installed AAA's free Triptik app. It's a remarkably full featured navigation tool, complete with turn-by-turn voice navigation! Unfortunately, it can only route between two locations--I'd gladly pay for an upgraded version that could import my full itinerary from the AAA site! The app lets you put in your AAA member number, and has a one-button "Roadside Assistance" option that calls the closest AAA road service location and transfers your membership info to them. I'm hoping not to have to use that, but it's nice to know it's there.

Two free apps that I expect will come in handy on the road are priceline Hotel Negotiator, and Kayak Fight/Hotel Search. Since we're not 100% sure of how far we'll get each day, we'll use those to find good deals on lodging when we know our intended stopping point.

And, of course, I'll be using many of my tried-and-true apps along the way--from uploading to Flickr using Mobile Fotos and Photoshop.com Mobile to checking into FourSquare on a regular basis. :)

summer road trip plan

This summer, all the Lawleys are taking vacations, but not all of us are vacationing together. We decided to let people decide on their own what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go. So, Lane's off to San Francisco to spend a couple of weeks "apprenticing" with our friend Eric. Gerald will spend a couple of a weeks in Alabama with his family. And Alex and I will set out on a 2-3 week roadtrip from Rochester to Roswell and points in between. We're using Road Trip USA to map our trip (and we bought the book, too), so that we can find all the best small town, back road attractions, oddities, and lodgings. I'm super excited about the trip! Below is our tentative route plan, which is subject to change.

Oh, and if you live along this route, don't be surprised if you hear from me next week asking about our spending a night with you along the way :)

View Larger Map

not so little anymore


faye cohen rosenblum faber, 1912-2010

Me & Grandma at Jenny's Wedding

My grandmother passed away this morning. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath, and I had the chance on Friday afternoon to see her while she was still able to recognize and talk with me, and for both of those things I'm grateful.

Faye was an amazing, extraordinary woman. It's hard for me to put into words how much her influence and generosity enabled the success of the women (and men) in our family. I'll compile stories, and photos, to post over the next few weeks. But for now, I'll share this short biography that my mother wrote last fall for a well-reviewed exhibit of Faye's artwork that was held at the Jewish Home earlier this year:

Faye Faber was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on October 20, 1912. The 7th of ten children born to Julia and Samuel Cohen, she was blessed with her father's good looks and her mother's sharp mind. There was little money--her father worked as a silk cutter in a garment factory--so everyone helped out by working at something, and the family was very close. Education was a high priority for the girls as well as the boys: Faye was sent to cheder where she learned to read the prayers and write Hebrew characters, which also came in handy for writing Yiddish, which the family spoke at home. When the Cohen children wanted to pass notes in school, Yiddish was the language of choice, because it could not be deciphered by the teacher.

Faye excelled in school, skipping grades so frequently that she graduated from Classical High School in Worcester at age 14. Latin and Literature were her favorite subjects, and she remembers doing her Latin homework right before class with Charles Olson, who later became a well-known poet. On days that admission to the Worcester Museum of Art was free, she and her sisters would spend hours there, enjoying the elegant atmosphere and wonderful paintings. This was the basis of her art education.

Faye received a full scholarship to Radcliffe, which she couldn't accept for lack of money for train transportation and textbooks. Instead, she worked, mainly as a clerk in a shoe store, thus contributing to the family income, and attended State Teacher's College in Worcester, from which she graduated with teaching certification. She went on to Clark University, from which she received an MA in History when she was 18. By the time she was 20 she was teaching at her alma mater.

In 1939, Faye married Harry Rosenblum, a young doctor from New York who had recently set up practice in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. They started a family: the children are Linda, Mark, and Deborah, all married now with children of their own, so that Faye is grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of five. Faye ran the household and the medical office, sat on the library board, and devoted herself to her children, sharing with them her love for literature and art. In 1956, Faye and Harry moved to Los Angeles, and for the first time Faye was able to take some art classes at night in the public high school. She painted, sculpted, and made jewelry. In 1979 they moved to a retirement village in Camarillo, California, where Faye continued her artistic hobbies when she could.

Harry Rosenblum died in 1985, and three years later, Faye married James Faber, a kind and brilliant self-educated man who had worked as a labor leader and businessman. When he became blind, she spent many hours reading to him - everything from Proust and poetry to newspapers and the New York Review of Books. After Jim died, Faye moved to Wolk Manor in Rochester, close to family, and then to the Jewish Home.

links for 2010-06-11

links for 2010-06-09

17 years and counting

I was struck by this line in a USA Today article about Al & Tipper's divorce: "Tuesday's announcement that the Gores are separating is the latest reminder that public marriages are complicated and rarely what they seem on the surface."

Seems to me it's not just public marriages that fit that description!

Gerald and I celebrate 17 years of marriage tomorrow, and I'm pretty sure nobody who knew us ten years ago would have said we'd be this happily married today. But I'm happy to report that under the surface, we may be complicated, but even better that you might imagine from the surface.

new at&t data plans will be great for us

All my social media streams are erupting with anger over AT&T's announcement today that they will no longer offer unlimited data plans on the iPhone--instead, you can get 200MB for $15, 2GB for $25, and pay $10 per GB above that.

I'm baffled by the uproar. Who are these people who are using more than 2GB of data a month on their phones? I suspect they're the reason that people have so much trouble with coverage in cities like New York and San Francisco.

In order to see how this would affect us if we switched to the new plans (keeping in mind that if you already have the $30 unlimited they're not taking it away from you; this is only for new service), I looked at our last few months of bills from AT&T. Gerald, Lane, and I all have iPhones, and we all use them pretty regularly. Most of our use when out and about is web and email; for video and music we typically use wifi. And what I found is that none of us typically go over 150MB of data usage in a single month.

I also looked at the statistics on my iPhone. (Settings-->General-->Usage). They were last reset on July 23, 2009, and since then I have yet to hit 2GB of data transferred. I'm at 1.4GB received, and 201MB sent.

That means we could easily switch to the $15/month plan, add a data plan for Alex and give him my hand-me-down iPhone 3G when I upgrade to the new version, and still save $30/month.

If you're one of the people upset about this change, can you explain to me what exactly you're doing on your phone that makes you likely to exceed 2GB of data transfer a month??

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