Monday, February 29, 2016 Smart Doorbell

It has been ages since I posted on this blog and I need to start posting things more often.  I was at a friend's house earlier this past month and off the bat I noticed he had installed a "smart doorbell" by ""

When I asked how it worked, he showed me how whenever anyone presses the button (rings the doorbell) that his phone shows a picture and live video feed as to who is at the door. It can be set for motion sensor (it picks up cars driving by on the street up to 30 feet away). The video and pictures are stored on's servers. I later found out that there is a $3.00 per month charge or $30.00 per year charge for this service.  His home has fiberoptic internet so there were no glitches with the video feed. He does note that while his phone receives a near-immediate video feed that his wife's phone may be delayed significantly for an unknown reason.  One of the other features is that you have the option to press the "talk" button on your phone and speak to whoever is at the door.

I think we are seriously considering installing one of these for our house. They also have non-doorbell camera systems that operate similarly with the ability to sense motion and the ability for you to speak to whoever is there at that moment.  It seems you could place one of these devices for a side or back door.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

U.S. National Park Free Days for 2014

The United States National Park Service offers free entrance to their parks on certain days (or holidays).  For 2014, here they are:

  • January 20, 2014 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 15 to 17, 2014 for Presidents Day weekend
  • April 19 to 20, 2014 for opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25, 2014 for National Park Service Birthday
  • September 27, 2014 for National Public Lands Day
  • November 11, 2014 for Veterans Day

Obviously expect crowds. On our trip to Yosemite, it happened to be during the National Park Service Birthday of that year and so in addition to the usual volume of visitors, I am sure there were extra people present.

If you want to avoid those crowded days, just get an annual pass. Currently they run about $80 per year.  If you are 62 years of age or older then your price is $10 per year!  Click on the below link for more information.

Related website:

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Possible Road Trips...

As we are mulling over future road trips, I ran a couple of these sites for ideas.

USA's 5 Best Road Trips was first featured back in May 2013 and was written by David and Kay Scott.  The two of them have driven more than 250,000 miles over 4 1/2 decades.  These are their choices (I don't believe they are in any particular order).

  • Pacific Coast Highway or California 1: 1,700 miles from Southern California to Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Kid stops: 
    • San Diego Zoo
    • Skunk Train
    • Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
    • Hoh Rain Forest.
  • Florida State Highway A1A and the Overseas Highway: 600 miles along Florida's Atlantic coastline. Kid stops:  St. Augustine's Marineland, John F. Kennedy Space Center, Palm Beach Zoo, South Florida Science Museum, Everglades National Park, Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
  • Newfound Gap Road, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Skyline Drive.  This one takes you through three national parks including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge, and Shenandoah National Park.  The ideal time is Spring for blooms and fall for foliage.  Kid stops:  
    • Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
    • Rafting in Asheville
    • Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.
  • US Highway 395 in California.  This 1,300 mile drive connects Southern California with the Canadian border.  Features include Lone Pine, California, Death Valley National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Reno.  Kid stops:  
    • Bodie State Historic Park
    • California Virginia Truckee Railroad train ride
    • Reno's Discovery Museum, Pendleton
    • Oregon's Familiy Aquatic Center, Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Pasco, Washington
    • Children's Museum and Science Center in Spokane, Washington.
  • US Highway 2. This is the northernmost U.S. highway and stretches 3,300 miles from Washington to Maine.  It includes a 700-mile portion in Canada.  Places of interest include Glacier National Park and three of the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron).  Kid stops:
    • Coulee Dam tour
    • Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
    • Soo Locks
    • Vermont Capitol tour
They offer suggestions on ways to cut costs on trips including the following:
  • Compare rent vs. using your own vehicle
  • Use reasonable driving speeds and make sure tire pressures are correct
  • Look for the lowest gas prices when you have enough fuel to be selective
  • Take snacks including a cooler with veggies and drinks
  • Carry reusable water bottles
  • Stop at a grocery store to pick up breakfast items to eat in the room or on the road
  • Picnic for lunch or dinner
  • Check for restaurant and motel coupons
  • Ask for discounts at motels and hotels:  "Is that the best you can do?"
  • Consider buying an America the Beautiful pass for $80. 
  • Ask where the locals eat and what to do
They recommend looking into the following apps:
  • GasBuddy
  • AroundMe
  • GoogleMaps
  • MyRadar
  • Oh, Ranger! Park Finder
  • MapsGalaxy
  • Tripit
  • Yelp

For more details, read the complete article click here.

I did some quick internet searches and found ideas for similar road trips.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Merry Thrift-mas...

I feel like I have partially neglected this blog.  Most of my attention has been with my photography blog which you can see by clicking here or on the link to the right.

I have been only skimming magazines and not really having time to pass things along to all of you, but hopefully that will improve.  I did want to pass along a quick read from USAWeekend that comes with the Sunday issue of many newspapers.  The article is from award-winning journalist and best-selling author, Jean Chatzky who wrote a featured article called "Merry Thrift-mas."  She made some key points as you all head into the home stretch of holiday gift purchases which include:

  • Think "Life List," not Christmas list
  • Consider what you could buy instead. This is called "opportunity cost" in economics
  • Involve other and commit (to spending limits)
  • Get more out of gift cards
  • Embrace impulse control
  • Shop (online) till you drop (limit yourself to 2 hours)
  • Think life a recipient, not a giver
For more details click here for the full article:

Related websites:

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Visit? Around the 4 Corners

In a recent newspaper, there was an Associate Press feature by Karen Matthews titled "Around the 4 Corners:  Modern Life, Ancient Ruins Coexist in Southwest."  This struck home a little bit because we have been planning to visit Mesa Verde National Park at some point and had recently visited the Wupatki National Monument and visited some of the ruins there and at the Grand Canyon National Park.

You can view the entries on my photoblog that are tagged with "Arizona" by clicking here.

The highlights Karen Matthews lists include visits to:

  • The Hopi Mesas. This included a visit to a village that dates back to 1150 A.D.  The Hopi do not allow pictures to be taken in the villages.
  • Chaco Canyon.  This is located in northwestern New Mexico and is accessible by dirt road.  It is an area that flourished from the 800s to 1100s A.D. and is run by the National Park service.
  • Mesa Verde National Park. Yes, we want to eventually get to this place with the cliff dwellings which were mysteriously abandoned somewhere around 1300 A.D.
  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument.  This is located in Arizona and includes the White House Ruins trail which is a 2 1/2-mile hike.
Other locations include:
  • Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Monument Valley.
  • Petrified Forest.
  • The Painted Desert.

Related websites:

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Having "the talk" with your senior driver...

It has been a while since I posted to this blog. Most of my attention lately has been with my photoblog. I did come across this interesting article about when to have the "talk" with your parents and when they should stop driving.

Some of the things to watch out for include:

  • Unexplained dents and scrapes
  • Poor judgment
  • Getting lost or confused
  • Feeling uncomfortable or anxious while driving
  • Delayed responses
  • Difficulty staying in own lane
  • Close calls or near misses
  • Poor attention to signals, signs, and pavement markings
Related websites in the article:

5 Key Talking Points:

  • Have an ongoing conversations, not The Talk
  • Sharpen skills and seek solutions
  • Recruit support
  • Plan for driving retirement
  • Take your time selling the car

For the on-line article and more details:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chatzky: 8 great rules to grow your money

In a USA Weekend issue from a month or two back, Jean Chatzky had written an article called "8 great rules to grow your money."

Here are the major take home points.  For more details, click the link below to be taken to the article on

  • Bank your windfalls.
  • Manage what you can.
  • Credit cards don't have to equal debt.
  • Don't let your money run out before you do.
  • Put your 80-year-old self first.
  • Buy experiences, not things.
  • Tax evasion is illegal. Tax avoidance is smart.
  • Face your finances.
These are all basic and important tenets to live by.

For more details, click here: