Fall Break on the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country

This week, prior to the annual MoRanch Men’s Conference Planning Council Meeting, our family spent three nights at River Run Cabins on the Guadalupe River in Ingram, Texas. This is a fall break trip for our family, and has provided a much-needed opportunity to just hang out together in a natural setting and “mostly” be offline. It turns out the LTE/4G connectivity at our cabins was ok, and wifi was also available… so this was not an entirely “unplugged” vacation. Still, it was a more more “nature-focused” vacation and gave us changes to simply hangout by the river, go canoeing and kayaking, and read a lot.

This 360 degree Bubbli panorama is the most compelling representation of what our space was like by the river. This was EXACTLY what I hoped it would be: A great space to relax and enjoy the river.

This week was the first time Rachel has ever gone canoeing! She and Sarah also went kayaking by themselves, which was both fun and exciting. The part of the Guadalupe River where we stayed has almost a mile of water to explore by boat… the eastern side has a damn stopping the water before a bridge, and the western end has an area of rocks and rapids.

Yesterday before we left the river we recorded a short (4 minute) audio podcast, reflecting on some of our favorite parts of the week had been. Some of the animals we saw and heard during the week include fish, ducks, donkeys, deer, and a water snake.


I recorded a few 6 second Vine videos during our time in Kerrville and Ingram, and also shot some “slow motion” videos with my iPhone6S on the river. I combined these videos on my phone using iMovie, and published it to YouTube with a copyright-friendly music track using YouTube Capture.

I used the “burst” feature on my iPhone to capture a series of photos when Alexander made his first rope swing jump into the river, and created a collage of it using Diptic.

One of the culinary highlights of the week was campfire foil dinners. It’s been several years since we’ve cooked these, and I forgot that these taste even better with fattier ground beef. They were still good, but next time I’ll buy either 73% or 80% lean meat.

We dined at several restaurants in Kerrville during the week as well. Mary’s Tacos was the biggest hit, we actually had breakfast there twice. It had over 20 ratings on Yelp with a perfect average of 5. That’s rare to find on Yelp, in my experience… and it was 100% accurate.

Overall this was a great experience and I am so pleased with how things turned out. If you are looking for a great family vacation spot in the Texas Hill Country, definitely check out River Run Cabins. Mid-October is a spectacular time to come visit too!

More photos are available in this Flickr set.

Photos and Stories from Washington DC

The past two weeks Shelly, Rachel and I have traveled together in Philadelphia and Washington DC. I created two different, short digital stories using the free iPad app “Adobe Voice” to reflect on some of our experiences around the DC area.

I also posted a lot of our photos from the trip to several different Flickr albums:

  1. ISTE 2015
  2. Tall Ships in Philadelphia
  3. Washington DC July 2015
  4. Harpers Ferry

Over the fourth of July when we hung out with our friends, the Casebeers, I had an opportunity to interview Jonah about his amazing experiences last year at MIT for the Battlecode competition. I published that interview as a podcast on my main blog.

Today is our final day of sightseeting before we fly home to Oklahoma, and I’ll add our photos from today (which we expect to include the National Archives and the Library of Congress, among other destinations) to our Washington DC July 2015 photo set. We’ve had a great trip!

Rachel Reports from the Volcano House

Today in my STEM class I showed an amazing video of eruptions from the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. This was one of our “curiosity links” for this week. In one class, student questions about how lava cools led me to discuss “lava tubes” and show this photo of a lava tube which I took in 2009 when our family visited the big island.

I ended up also finding this short video of Rachel, at age five, reporting from the Volcano House. Oh how this makes me want to go back to Hawaii with our family!

Bowling is Fun Enhanced eBook

A few weeks ago when Rachel and I were in Manhattan, Kansas, we went bowling with my dad. I took photos while we were bowling with the idea that we would later create an eBook together. We did (using Book Creator for iPad) and took turns narrating it. It is available as a downloadable EPUB, a PDF without audio, and as a video on YouTube. I plan to submit this to Apple’s iBookstore but have not done it yet.


Hash tagging a Family Vacation

Educator Carl Hooker (@mrhooker) is a very clever guy. On his family’s vacation this summer, he used a unique hashtag every time he posted a photo to Instagram. By doing this, he is enabling others to aggregate all his photos of the trip, and it’s possible for him to do the same thing. This creates a dynamic, separate set of images like a photo album. Great idea!


Storychasing our Philmont Backpacking Trek in June 2012 with Images, Audio & Video

This month I was greatly blessed by the opportunity to serve as an adult advisor on my son’s first backpacking “high adventure” trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. We spent 11 days and 10 nights on the trail, and I probably lost somewhere between 5 to 10 pounds on the journey! In this post I’ll share a few photos and some of the ways I was a “storychaser” of our adventures using my iPhone in the Philmont backcountry. All 212 photos from our trip are included in this Flickr collection, and 7 of the 8 videos I recorded are chronologically connected in this 4.5 minute video I uploaded to YouTube.

The number one reason I wanted to use my iPhone4 as my camera at Philmont, instead of a battery operated digital camera, was its ability to take HDR (high dynamic range) photos with the Pro HDR app which Dean Shareski told me about several years ago. I absolutely LOVE this app and the high quality images it enables me to capture. Especially in the mountains where landscapes have dark shadows as well as bright sunshine and clouds, the HDR app is priceless. Here are a few of my favorite HDR photos I captured on our trek.

Alexander by Cathedral Rock, on day 2 of our trek.

Alex at Cathedral Rock

Looking down the mountain at surrounding clouds and storms, climbing Mount Phillips (11,700′ MSL) on day 4 of our trek.

Climbing Mount Phillips

Sunset at Fish Camp, which is where Waite Phillips (the Tulsa oil man who donated the 127,000 acres which comprises Philmont in 1938 and 1941) built his favorite backcountry cabin.

Sunset at Fish Camp

View from “the notch” overlooking Rayado Canyon, between Fish Camp and Abrehu.

View from the Notch in Rayado Canyon

Alexander on top of the Tooth of Time on day 11.

Alex on Top of the Tooth of Time

The other iPhoneography app I really like on my iPhone4 is Pano, which takes great panoramic images. It’s incidentally also available for Android and Windows 7 phones. Here are a few of my pano shots from Philmont this month.

Having breakfast on top of Mount Phillips on day 5.

On top of Mount Phillips [PANO]

On the porch of the staff cabin at Cimarroncito Camp on day 2.

Cabin View at Cimarroncito [PANO]

Panorama (almost 360 degrees) on top of the Tooth of Time on day 11.

Top of the Tooth of Time [PANO]

Since we were on the trail for 11 days and did not have ANY access to electricity, I needed a way to use solar power to charge my iPhone. (I could have opted for a battery charger, but I didn’t want to carry all the extra battery weight.) I purchased a $35 G24i Solar Innovations Power Curve Solar Charger at Academy Sports before our trip, and was pleased with the performance overall. It came with a USB female plug which I could directly use with my iPhone USB dock charging cable.


The Power Curve has a rechargeable battery built into it, so I would charge it during the day and then recharge my iPhone at night. I generally was able to get a 30% to 40% charge of my iPhone4 each night with a full solar battery charge. Near the end of the trip during the day I got down to less than 10% battery at some points, but I was able to boost the iPhone battery enough that I was able to take all the pictures I wanted. I did turn the brightness down to almost zero (probably about 15% of max brightness) for the entire trip, along with turning on airplane mode to conserve battery. According to the instructions, the solar charger needed 6 to 8 hours in direct sunlight to become fully charged. I found this was not possible when the charger was just hanging on the back of my backpack on the trail. I needed to set the charger in direct sunlight at camp for many hours each day, when possible, to obtain the maximum charge available.

I was able to make a couple calls at different points of our trip, mainly on top of mountains and high ridges where cell phone service was available. Since the Oklahoma City Thunder was in the NBA finals during our trek, it was ‘critical’ (in the minds of several of our boys) to get score updates. Overall, however, I was ‘unplugged’ from the grid for almost two weeks and really enjoyed it.

Since I had my iPhone, instead of keeping a written journal during our trek I decided to make an audio journal using the free app AudioBoo. (In addition to iOS, AudioBoo is also available for Android and Nokia phones.) I recorded a short audio journal entry each night before bed, and selected a photo from the day to accompany it. After getting back home to Oklahoma City, I uploaded all of those AudioBoo recordings to the web. This worked great and is an audio journal option I highly recommend to others taking trips you’d like to document.

I came very close before the trek to buying a Spot Connect satellite GPS device which would allow me to tweet from the backcountry with our updated GPS coordinates. Our Philmont ranger told us these are discouraged in the backcountry, because of the possibility of accidentally hitting the “panic / come rescue me” button and inadvertently calling in a rescue helicopter. It’s possible in the next couple years my son and I may go on another high adventure trek canoeing in the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters. If so, I might again explore that option. As it turned out, it was great to be largely disconnected from technology and information during our trek, and the option to “tweet from the backcountry” might have been more of a distraction in our journey than it would have been worth.

If you ever have an opportunity to go on a backpacking trek to Philmont, I highly recommend that you go. I went on a trek with my scout troop from Manhattan, Kansas, (Troop 74) back in 1986, and was a Philmont “zoomie” ranger in the summers of 1990 and 1992. Philmont is a truly magical place and it casts a spell on you that will last a lifetime. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to share these experiences with my son this summer!

Alex and Wes After the Trek

Evening Chapel Service at Philmont

Closing Campfire

This trek was, by the way, the reason I was not able to attend ISTE 2012 this year. Next year I definitely hope to attend ISTE 2013 in San Antonio.

To learn more about my favorite iPhoneography apps, please see my iPhoneography workshop curriculum. An hour long videoconference I taught on iPhoneography in December 2011 is also available free on YouTube.

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A Train to Fort Worth

We surprised our kids in April 2008 with a train trip to Fort Worth from Oklahoma City. This is the best resolution version of this movie that I have at this point. What FUN this was!

I found this video tonight as I was looking at data on an old hard drive. Unfortunately the new version of iMovie isn’t compatible with the older version I created this with. If I find a copy at some point I may encode this at a higher resolution. At least we have this version!

Treasure Island: Free Audio Book Version

“Treasure Island” is available as a free, public domain audiobook via LibriVox in the United States. Use the links below to directly load mp3 versions of each chapter on your mobile phone.

  1. Chapters 1-2
  2. Chapters 3-4
  3. Chapters 5-6
  4. Chapters 7-8
  5. Chapters 9-10
  6. Chapters 11-12
  7. Chapter 13
  8. Chapter 14
  9. Chapter 15
  10. Chapter 16
  11. Chapter 17
  12. Chapter 18
  13. Chapter 19
  14. Chapter 20
  15. Chapter 21
  16. Chapter 22
  17. Chapters 23-24
  18. Chapters 25-26
  19. Chapter 27
  20. Chapter 28
  21. Chapter 29
  22. Chapter 30
  23. Chapter 31
  24. Chapter 32
  25. Chapter 33
  26. Chapter 34

I created this list for my wife and daughter, who are driving from Lubbock, Texas, to Oklahoma City today and forgot to load up an iPhone or iPod with audiobooks or podcasts! This list is (hopefully) a little easier to link to from an iPhone, compared to the original webpage on LibrVox.

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