Friday, July 31, 2009

So Much Power In My Hands

In ten years I'll probably read this post and laugh at the technology!

Well this week Natalie got rid of her phone and put herself on my AT&T account. I have had my blackberry for quite a while now and thought I wanted to get the newer model, the bold, but instead got the iPhone 3Gs. This phone is insane! It's the most powerful phone on the market and rivals computers. I am now able to get rid of my land line with Vonage at home because while I'm at home I just connect my iPhone to my wireless router, same as Vonage. All calls have digital quality and are free, that's right, they don't use my minutes! Data as well, super fast and doesn't count on my data plan. I get all my music, pictures, and videos on my phone too. I still have my iPod classic 120GB to keep a full collection of my music but I also keep a fairly decent sized collection of music on my iPhone in case I dont have my iPod with me. The camera is pretty good on this phone and even does video. The internet is the best you'll find on any phone.

There are applications you can download to do almost anything. Some apps are free, and others cost money. I found apps for almost everything I need. The only one that hasn't come out yet is the am/fm transmitter. That one will allow me to pick a frequency and broadcast my iPhone to any radio nearby. I have heard that Apple is working on that app and it should be coming out soon.

There are thousands of games, gps apps, even apps to control your pc with your phone. So here are a few of the apps I have downloaded and tried so far, again, just a few, there are so many I could go on about this for a long time.

Who is Hot
One of my favorites. I got a picture of this one below (this phone allows you to take a picture of your screen at any time). It can go of which ever I choose, the phone number or the address of my contacts and tells me how far they are from me and what the temperature is at their location. I choose to use it by address, phone numbers gets weird with cell phones. Almost all of the weather apps can give me the temperature at my location going off my gps. So I don't have to do anything for it to find me and the temperature at the closest weather station.

The Weather Channel Max
Complete weather tool with radar and video forecast.

Hurricane tracking software. Has maps, blogs, satellite, past hurricane data, everything needed to keep up to date on hurricanes. A must have app for South Florida.

Weather Bug Elite
Similiar to Weather Channel with some minor differences.

MotionX GPS
Another one of my favorites. Pictures below. This one tracks my path and tells me current speed, top speed, average, etc. I can also take pics along the way and it saves their location by gps. Then I can share my tracks with everyone on facebook or via e-mail.

GPS Drive
Eliminates the need for a gps unit in my car.

Google Earth
Just like Google Earth on computer. If I tilt my phone it tilts the view from birds eye to more of a ground view.

Google Maps All I have to do is pull a name from my address book and if I have their address in my contacts it finds their house. Then I can go google street view and see their house from the street. Check out the picture of my parents house down below.

You Tube
So easy to view my online videos on my phone.

mBox Mail
For all my hotmail needs.

Flight Tracker
Self explanatory

Hey Where Are You
Allows me to send request to friends and find out where they are on a map. Got a picture of it below.

Much better, faster, and easier to use than blackberry's facebook app.

Again, much better than blackberry's

Connects to a variety of chat programs.

Where I can look up a category and it shows me all the locations around me. Goes off my gps coordinates just like most the apps, I don't have to enter my address. On the search below I looked for a pharmacy around work.

Emer Radio
Allows me to listen to emergency radios (police and fire)

World Of Warcraft
Natalie makes fun of this game, but who is she to talk? She watches Harry Potter! I'm going to try to get her to play WOW with me.

iShoot & Pocket Tanks
Pick a weapon, trajectory, and power and shoot at others..

Phone Flicks
Control my Netflix queue from my phone.

Other Apps
Google Latitude, PhotoShop Mobile, Days Until, WeatherBug, Accuweather, WiFiFoFum(used this one to track down an unauthorized wifi router at work), Mover, iShoot, Planets, NASA, Airport Maps, Deer Hunter, Park Maps, Geared, Gaia GPS. You get the point....


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sky Diving. Check Off The Bucket List

On Tuesday, June 30th, I decided to check off skydiving from my bucket list. Actually I decided to do this a long time ago, but I did the actual jump on the 30th of June. Last year sometime, Natalie and I were talking about doing a skydive. Natalie seemed like she wanted to do it back then, she said she wanted to, but when the talks got more serious her opinion changed. Me however, well a couple years ago I think I would have chickened out. But now things have changed and I was completely fearless of the jump. Part of the reason I was fearless is because of the fact that my first jump was tandem, not solo. I got minimum training and basically didn't get told what to do until it was time to do it. So I didn't have to try to remember everything and there was zero chance of me having to try to correct a problem while falling towards the earth if something went wrong.

So on the morning of my jump I showed up at SkyDive Key West and signed my life away. I had to sign forms saying that I cannot sue if something goes wrong because they don't have insurance. Frank is the owner though and if I die he dies, so I really don't understand who they think would sue who anyways. Frank gave me this little yellow box to put on my strap. I asked what it was and he said it's my floatation device, incase we don't make land. LOL, like that is going to happen. Frank has over 7,000 jumps and has never had to do a water landing. But they have to take safety precautions since there is more water than land in the jump zone, even though the water is mostly shallow and I could probably walk in from a water landing anyways.

So after signing my life away, and a thirty second instruction on how to position myself during the freefall, we headed out to the tiny airport. This is the only thing that scared me, seeing the dinky little plane I was going to be riding in. The plane was tiny. It had only one seat, for the pilot. The rest of us four jumpers sat back to back on the floor with our knees bent into our chest and we leaned back on eachother for support. I was right next to the door and didn't know that they even have a closing door until takeoff. The door pulled down from the wing. Before I had seen the plane I had asked Frank if I could do a back flip when I exit the plane and he said we could do flips after the exit but we had to jump out face first. After getting in the plane I could see why. The plane's wheels did not lift up after takeoff. There is a wheel well that covers the stationary wheels and we had to step on the wheel well to get out. More on that later. Another thing is that the pilot and the instuctors had their chutes on, but the other jumper and I didn't have a chute. So if that plane was to go out, we would be the two that get to jump out to a watery grave.

So for about 20 minutes we flew around the Florida Keys trying to get the right altitude (about 2 miles up) and getting wind measurements so they can pick the perfect spot to jump out. They have computers to tell them where to drop us, pretty cool eh? The view from the airplane was amazing. From the ground you can only see on either side of the highway. From the air you can see so much more. I didn't know that there were so many islands in between the highway and the Gulf Of Mexico. And the water in between these islands had so many different shades of blue. After 15 minutes in the airplane though my back was getting stiff and I was getting anxious to get out and stretch. The plane maxed out around 110 mph, not very fast considering I would soon be falling at 130 mph.

I knew the jump time was getting close when Frank turned around and started hooking up to me. He did his strap and hook checks for the next couple minutes then lifted the door open giving us a refreshing blast of cool air. It was about 90 on the ground when we took off and probably in the 50's or 60's at jumping altitude. Anyways, back to the jump. Once the door was opened Frank told me to turn around and put my feet on the wheel well. Once I put my feet on the wheel well they blew right off. So I was stuggling to get my feet back onto the wheel well. This is why it looks like I'm hanging on for dear life when I'm getting ready for the jump. No I was not scared on bit, fear didn't even cross my mind, I just didn't want to blow right out. Also my head isn't up because I was avoiding looking down. My head was up because he told me to put it up and to keep it up during the free fall. I know it looks like I'm not looking down, but even though my head is positioned up I was still looking at the ground. Frank reached out and grabbed onto the pole that connects between the fusalage and the wing. Then he counted to three and pushed me out the door.

This was an awesome feeling. It went from loud to almost silent. From hearing the loud prop spinning on the airplane and the wind pushing on me, to seemingly motionless and quite. We detached from the plane and I never saw it again and the noise was gone instantly. Then Frank threw us into a flip and the wind started up. I had an indescribable feeling knowing that the plane was gone and it was just us two tiny people floating above this gigantic earth.

I was surprised that the ground didn't seem to be moving so fast at me. It felt like I was just floating in place, except for the fact that I had wind rushing in my face at 130mph. The free fall wasn't scary or intense one bit and it's such a different view than being in the airplane. When free falling you aren't attached to anything. There is nothing to block the view so you can see so much of the earth. Even the best views from an aircraft cannot compare with falling face down to the ground from two miles up. Someone made a comment that I look scared in my pictures. No! And no my eyes weren't closed. I wasn't scared, I just look weird because I have so much wind in my face and I'm trying to keep my head forced up like I was told to do. And I didn't close my eyes even for a second even though they look squinty. I paid for the jump so I can see what it looks like falling to the earth. I picked the Keys just for the view, and believe me when I say I made sure I could see every second of it. We did the free fall for a good 45 seconds or so before pulling the chute.

Pulling the chute was different than expected. Natalie didn't want me doing this jump mostly because she was concerned that pulling the chute or the landing could hurt my fused back. I think she knew that death wasn't very likely (more likely to win the lotto), but she feared the potential injuries of an newby jumper. And this is why I went with a professional strapped onto my back, significantly reducing chance of an injury, especially since this company has 100% safety record. Anyways, back to the chute. It was really cool when Frank pulled the chute. There was no pull or strain on my back at all. It was really noisy and windy while doing the free fall, just check out my hair photos. When Frank pulled the chute my legs dropped under me, the wind stopped and I heard a swoosh. Then it was amazingly quiet, the most peaceful feeling is being over a mile above the earth floating under a canopy. So my back did good, but I did experience some unexpected pain in my thighs. The straps pulled really tight on my legs and it was uncomfortable the whole rest of the way down, about seven minutes. I actually had bruised thighs for two days, it was a little painful to walk that night. I noticed a little bit of tightness in my throat too, Frank says this is probably because I had my mouth open during the entire free fall. He told me to smile for the camera so that is why I had my mouth open. After pulling the chute he asked how my stomach was holding up and I told him I'm fine. I don't really see how a freefall would get someone sick unless they have a really weak stomach or they do a lot more intense tricks than our back flip.

The canopy ride was much different than expected. This is the part that wouldn't be so great for those with weak stomachs. Frank let me drive the parachute for a while. He said the normal decent rate under the canopy is about 1,000 feet per minute, just under 12 mph. But when you do a turn you go about 5,000 feet per minute, or about 60 mph, almost half of the free fall speed. I had no idea they go so fast. This is what surprised me. When doing a turn I was almost completely sideways. My first thought was that we were going to flip or tangle the parachute or something, but then I remembered, I'm with a professional and if it was dangerous he would have told me or corrected the turn. But this is when my stomach started feeling just a little bit weird. We were spiraling 60mph in really tight circles, on my side, with the ground spinning all around me. This got to my stomach just a bit. Spinning in circles under a parachute makes even the most intense roller coasters look weak.

At around 2,000 feet Frank said it's time to go over the landing. My job was just to put my legs up at a 90 degree angle and don't put them down until he says so. Does it get easier than that? I had no idea it would be so easy since he didn't mention landing at all until 2 minutes before. Everyone was surprised about how soft my landing was. A couple hundred feet over the landing zone Frank told me it's time to put my legs up. He landed and I simply put me feet down on the ground.

Another survior.

So there is a check off the bucket list. It was an experience I will never forget. I hope that in ten years or so I can do it again, next time with Natalie. So after this, I really don't know what is next on my bucket list. Maybe I should offically write one. I'm thinking next would be maybe getting scuba certified. I think Natalie would agree to that. I found a ton of dive sites in Key West and could keep my self busy doing a couple dives a year for the rest of my life on our yearly Key West trips.


This is a map of the area we flew over. We took off from Sugarloaf Airport and headed Northwest. We then cut straight west over the blue waters in the middle of the island chain. We flew down to Boca Chica at the bottom left side of the map then flipped a u-turn and headed back to Sugarloaf Key. Click on the map to go fullscreen. It's too small to see as is.

This is the jump zone. I jumped around where the green pin is that says jump spot. That is where I did the free fall. After that I did several twist and turns and ended up Northeast of Sugarloaf Airport. Then we headed west and landed facing west.

All the pictures from the air were taken by Frank. He has a digital camera on his left wrist for video/pictures.

Getting ready to do the jump. Check out my flapping cheeks.

Right after the jump. I had asked Frank earlier if we could do some flips and he said he'll try to do some. As you can see, he got it done. That was the most awesome view becuase it looked like the ground was above me and the sky was below. It happened so fast though. I wish I could have got some more flips in but I think he feared I would blow chunks, and he said they charge extra for that(he was joking of course).

Free falling. This is why I chose to do my jump over the Florida Keys. Check out the view.

These things do some steep turns

I'm the tiny red dot in the middle of the picture. Frank and I jumped first and pulled our chutes first. Somehow the other guys beat us to the ground, I think purely by weight.