Having fun with the Dark Sky weather app

I have a new weather app on my iPhone-Dark Sky

I first heard about it on a music blog that I subscribe to- Bob Lefsetz’s blog.  Here’s his own introduction to Dark Sky.  This is an interesting read in itself.

Dark Sky is highly interesting.

We’ve had almost daily snowstorms in Maine in February, totaling over 4 feet of accumulated powder since Jan. 29.  For this last storm, Dark Sky was the only weather program initially forecasting snow on Sunday ( yesterday)-  we got a total of 5 “ here.

I’m not aware of any announcements like this on other weather apps:  “Snow starting in 14 minutes ,” and even more amazing is that it actually comes true-most of the time.  I want to be outside every day.  I now plan my bike rides and hikes around Dark Sky.  If there’s a break in the weather, I get an announcement about it.

Her a good example:



No only does DK let me know how much snow is going to fall today, it’s telling me when and how much at differing times during the day.

The maps are stunning.  You toggle back and forth between precipitation and temperature. Here’s a screenshot of the temp today.

Cold coming this week

Cold coming this week

What you don’t get with this pic is that it’s a video clip with the actual movement of these large radar progressions pulsating for the upcoming week.

It’s a heck of a snowy sub zero ride this week in Maine, but I’m digging charting it with Dark Sky.

The bad news for some folks is that it’s only available for the iPhone-sorry, no Android.

[Disclosure: I paid the $3.99 ]

Forests for Maine’s Future – Fresh from the Woods Journal – Wood: an enduring energy source

The sometimes mesmerizing look of a fire blazing in a wood stove. (Photo: The Rankin File)

The sometimes mesmerizing look of a fire blazing in a wood stove. (Photo: The Rankin File)

Forests for Maine’s Future – Fresh from the Woods Journal – Wood: an enduring energy source.

I have my energy source at hand, and plan to keep it that way.  Small house, highly insulated, southern exposure, and 5 acre plot of land, mostly wooded.  I’m good with wood.

Good read here- it’s surprising how few garner the most accessible fuel there is- “As late as 1940, 53 percent of Maine homes were heated with wood, according to U.S. Census data. By 1970 that had dropped to 2 percent. After the oil price shocks of the 1970s it shot up to 15 percent. By 2000 it had dipped to 6.4 percent and in 2009 stood at 8.7 percent.”

Go pho it! Will Vietnamese soup keep me lean and avoid statins ?

Today's spinach/ tofu pho

Today’s spinach/ tofu pho

Pho. I’m still unsure about how to pronounce this Vietnamese soup, but I am getting pretty good at whipping up a big bowl at lunchtime.

My cholesterol numbers from blood work done last October are a concern, specifically my LDL of 140. Given my family history and the new guidelines, I was prescribed Lipitor by a local cardiologist. I filled the prescription, but decided to let it sit on the shelf until April, when I’ve scheduled a visit with my primary care physician. I’ll get another lipid profile blood test and check the new numbers.

I asked for options, so the cardiologist gave me a dietary recommendations protocol to lower LDL. He told me that some of his patients had lowered their LDL by 40% by following these guidelines.
In sum, I am avoiding all deep fat fried foods (no more fried clams), and high fructose corn syrup, which pretty much eliminates most of the food sold in a supermarket.
Meat, bread, pasta, and potatoes are on my “ Reduce” list.
Let me introduce my “Include Daily” dozen: plants, psyllium powder, a handful of nuts ( mostly walnuts and pistachios), fish / fish oil capsules, a bar of dark chocolate, 1 cup v8, 1 cup yogurt, extra Virgin olive oil, red yeast extract capsules, soy/soy milk or almond milk, and a glass of red wine.
I am taking this grand nutritional experiment seriously. There are already immediate benefits-like weight loss. I have always carried 212-215 pounds on this 6’2” in winter. Right now, I’m down to 199. I like that.

I think the pho is responsible for the weight loss, and I am banking on it even helping the blood work results in April.

Pho is a traditional hot soup, primarily served with noodles, beef, and vegetables and herbs. I have tweaked it. It’s typically 500 calories for a 22 oz. bowl. More commercial bowls are prepared to yield 300-800 calories. I have kept track of the calories of the ingredients. This lunch nets me 400 calories, maybe some day as much as 500.  There is no oil in the soup-it has low carbs, and no fat, except when I occasionally make adaptations, like this kielbasa/ sweet potato pho.

kielbasa pho

kielbasa pho

Here’s my new daily lunch recipe. It’s really tasty. I vary it with different veggies, and protein. :

20 oz. well water
vegetarian broth ( powder) 30 calories
2 ounces wide rice noodles 180 calories
assorted sliced veggies- e.g., green onion, broccoli, carrot slices, mung bean sprouts 50 calories
miso 30 calories
herbs-1 slice fresh ginger, basil,
vegetarian protein source- tofu, Quorn, chickpeas 100 calories
lime juice
Lan Chi Black Bean Sauce with Chili
I have yet to add hoisin sauce, buy may work that in too.

I start eating with chopsticks and finish with a spoon.

Here are a couple more pics of my gustatory creations.

standard bowl with Quorn

standard bowl with Quorn

This lunch takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Go Pho it!

fresh mung beans in this one

fresh mung beans in this one

advice for the beginner Hiker on the Appalachian Trail


Just when winter turn to bitter cold, the snow deepens , and we dream of spring. Thoughts turn to the possibility of a long walk. Here’s some sound advice for those of you who are considering a walk in the woods, from my friend Joe.

Originally posted on Joe's Junk Drawer:

the dawn of time

I have backpacked since joining the Boy Scouts ( 1966…) and many of the things that I take for granted seem to fade into my own psyche until I see somebody else struggling with the obvious elements of how to have a successful trip. Yes, folks, at present I am old and fat, but I still know how to have a good time and to feel comfortable when hiking….. I suppose this is because I have had my share of terrible camping experiences, and learned from each time.


On this present trip I got up close and personal with a few hikers that were totally new to this sport. I could have stayed my distance, experiencing the schadenfreude of their trip, but I tried to be useful without being too directive. I do have some advice, before you go.


first and foremost, if you have…

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Fatbiking on Land and Water

We depend on freeze thaw cycles in order to ride our bicycles over the snow on the trails here in midcoast Maine.  That hasn’t occurred lately.  It didn’t happen this weekend either.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to have put in two rides, back to back, in less than optimal conditions. I’m pumped to start 2015 by getting outside again.

On Saturday I joined 4 other Bubbas in the Woods members for my first ride in 2015 from the Warren Community School parking lot. It was as brutal a cold that I’ve ever rode in. Even at the usual 9:30 am start time, Nate said it was only 1 above zero when he left his house in Union. It might have crept up to single numbers after our two hour ride, but not by much.
How does one deal with moving through cold like that?  I am used to the cold, but my fingers and toes aren’t.  With a resting pulse of a turtle, and 6’2” of height, by the time my core heats my blood up and pushes it to my extremities, I don’t retain heat way out at my physical fringes. I had to take off a shirt layer after the first big uphill in Warren, but needed extra help to keep the digits happy.
I needed three sources of protection for my hands today:  winter gloves, inside pogies ( oversized handlebar-end covers), with reusable chemical heat packs wedged between my gloves and the pogies.
My feet survived the cold with the help of toe-sized chemical heat packs stuck to the top side of my thin woolen socks, inside some ancient LLBean rubber bottom/leather top hunting boots, with pair of thermal mesh air soles between the bottom of my sock and the boot. I moved to flat pedals last season, after suffering through too many winters with clip on pedals and winter biking shoes. If oversized boots and flat pedals get picked to ride the Alaskan winter trails, I’m down with that.
How was the riding ? It’s hard to be objective. Last winter, this same Warren route was so good.  We had an ice highway running through these woods. There was plenty of snow, with numerous snowmobiles packing the track, and a cycle with warmer days , then drops below freezing each night.  This snow out here is not solid on top. While most of the trail today was decent, there were sections where the snowmobile track was pitched to the side, with the bikes siding sideways as we churned forward. You also absolutely had to ride within the narrow snowmobile track.  When I found my front wheel outside that, onto the ski track of the snowmobile, I went sinky, and often stoppy.  It’s more work riding on the snow. It felt like fifteen miles of riding in Warren, but was only eleven.

For very next day, Sunday, the weather pundits prophesied a whole different story: morning rain and temperatures rising to the upper 40’s.  The wonder of the imternet and subsequent weather Apps opens a whole new world to us who watch the weather to plan out outdoor adventures. We learned that it would stay freezing until day break, when the temps would rise and the rain begin around noon.

Blaine and Buck riding blue

Blaine and Buck riding blue

Jason Buck led Blaine and me on a most enjoyable ride around the winter-only riding trails that encircled the little town with the big name: Hope. But to get in on this ride, you had to be ready to leave from Hope Center at 8 am, a time change that left most of the faithful still sleeping.
There was no way I was going to miss this ride. I am currently obsessed with the ideas put forward in Microadventures, an e-book by Alistair Frasier. it will be released as a traditional book in march 2015 in the US.  In it, Frasier lays out practical suggestions on having hiking, biking, and even river swimming adventures in one’s own local community.
We had our own genuine microadventures this morning:  riding through ancient farmland, exploring frozen bogs and swamps, and even pedaling over the surface of Megunticook Lake, where a view like this opened up glimpses of distant mountain that are not available any other time of year.

Maiden's Cliff in the distance

Maiden’s Cliff in the distance

For the first hour and a half the Sunday ride was solid, on snowmobile trails that had been well traveled.  We zipped along at a good clip, over, up, and down moguls that sometimes pitching us side to side until we eventually descended to the North shore of Megunticook Lake.

Buck and Blaine laying  track

Buck and Blaine laying track

I have walked  and rode over many frozen lakes.  There were tracks from snowmobiles and ATV’s that we followed, but not much was solid on the big water. We hit stretches of slushy ice, due to the recent snow layer insulating the ice below from the deep cold above.  We there are springs in the shallows that also result in open water holes that also have to be avoided.
I particularly enjoyed riding up a very narrow frozen stream between Megunticook and Norton Pond where we threaded our bikes between boulders and up and along a shorefront to reach a bridge with this view of the open water between the lake and pond.

Norton Pond narrows

Norton Pond narrows

The air temperature had warmed up to the 40’s by 10 AM, when the snow began to get  too soft. At one point we had to, “ hike-a bike”, including a section over the well built and maintained Earl Pearse snowmobile suspension bridge.  We had hoped to ride over Hobbs Pond to check out a couple of camps on Luce Lane, but by this time, I was spent.  It takes twice the energy to ride trails in the woods on the snow in winter than it does to do the same routes  on drier ground. We exited the snowmobile trails and rode Barnestown Road and then 235 back to our cars. photo 5
I got twenty-two miles and four hours of activity outside in the last two days. Screw the gym.  On Sunday, I never ventured further than three miles from my house, on new trails that have somehow escaped me for the past 37 years. Adventures are close by.  Me and my trusty Pugsley are looking forward to more of them, hopefully tomorrow.

Here’s the map of Sunday’s ride in Hope: