October 16, 2019

Throwback Thursday: The cascade at Gavarnie.

Cascade du Gavarnie, July 1982

It had been an exhausting 10 days. Chuck and I had visited penpals near Luxembourg, in Bordeaux and Barcelona. They ran us ragged seeing the sites, so we decided we needed a vacation from our vacation.

Driving north from Barcelona in a brand-new, rented, now beat-up Peugot, we cracked the Michelin guide at random to Gavarnie, a tiny town a mile up in the Haute Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain. Driving in at dusk, we could make out a thin white line against the peaks. As the light dimmed, we settled on the idea that it was ice in a crevice and worthy of exploring the next day. It must have been 9:30 when we checked into the hotel and found a outdoor cafe still open and a few guys with climbing ropes nursing bottles of Kronenbourg and sore knees.

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October 9, 2019

Throwback Thursday: The tchotchke runners.

Tchotchke Runners, Li River, China, March 1991

The tour boats cruised about 20 miles down the Li River from Guilin. It was winter and inside the unheated vessels, at the center of each table was a coal-fired hot pot. It looked like a mutant bunt pan, upturned and full to the brim with boiling chicken stock. The smoldering coal at the center of the dozen or so hot pots was the only heat on the boat and gave off its painful stench before slowly snaking out the open windows. Because everything in China was heated with small coal devices, every window everywhere was open in winter.

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October 8, 2019

Review: Two weeks with the iPhone 11 Pro cameras.

Every year I tell myself that I’ll skip buying a new iPhone if the cameras don’t make a light-year leap. And this year…well…I ordered the iPhone 11 Pro immediately. The leap is that big. As I’m writing the update for The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography I’m running the iPhone 11 Pro cameras through their paces to see how good the improvements are.

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photography
October 7, 2019

Secrets of gesture-based typing in iOS 13 on iPhone. Shhh.

Built-in, gesture-based typing for iPhone is well past due. The good news is that iOS 13 now has the awkwardly named QuickPath keyboard, enabled by default.

So just what is gesture-based typing? Instead of tapping the keys on the onscreen keyboard, you swipe across them with one finger. The keyboard recognizes the pattern as a word. Just lift your finger and type the next word. It’s blindingly fast once you get the hang.

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ios
October 2, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Village of the Chickens

Village of the Chickens, Madeira Island, February 1985

Madeira Island is a mile-high volcanic mountain range that sticks up out of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. No place is flat on this island. They even had to build the treacherously-short, airport runway on bolders just to create a flat place.

I was at a spectacular viewpoint In the middle of the island watching the birds dive into the valley and become so small you couldn’t see them anymore when I noticed this village through the haze, as the sun revealed it from the darkness. The tourists found it fascinating that anybody dare live there when the Portugese woman standing next to me said that it was called the Village of the Chickens. It got that name because the small farming community seemed to barely cling to the side of a mountain so steep that the goats were faint-hearted and chickens were the only livestock that wouldnt fall off.

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