Image by Lyn Millett via Flickr
I'm choosing to avoid thinking too hard or blogging much about the election this week. As a scientist, a woman, and a parent of a young child, let's just say that I find the implications of the election.... horrifying. And I'm also completely in denial that we are actually in November and I'm nowhere near ready for holidays. I was crazy busy with work last year - so busy that I barely noticed the holidays - so I'm determined to actually find a way to be in the moment and enjoy the holiday season this year. We'll see how well that works.
Anyway, I thought I'd be low-key this week and just mention a couple of iPhone apps that I've found particularly useful and/or fun lately. I don't play in the Android app space, but my impression is here that there are equally fun and useful apps there. And more and more developers are deploying their apps on multiple platforms. So if these particular apps aren't available for your device, something similar to them probably is.
Angry Birds. Hats off to the folks who developed this simple but very amusing and entertaining game. It's apparently the top-selling app in the ITunes store. I can safely say I'm not obsessive about it. I haven't come anywhere near close to finishing all the levels. And I leave it alone for weeks at a time. But I started playing with it again the other day on the Metro and something about it just makes me laugh. The gist is that evil green piggies have stolen the birds' eggs, and the birds are angry! And must smash the piggy fortresses by catapulting themselves out of a sling. The angry birds smash themselves face first smack dab into walls, slabs of glass, and brick, resorting to ever more sophisticated attacks to try to penetrate the piggy defenses. I'm usually on Metro when I play with this, and so I have my phone on mute. But the music and sound effects are also hugely entertaining. Just in time for Halloween, an "Angry Birds Halloween" app was released, with yet more levels and different colors and background designs. This little game is so pleasant and mildly addicting that there's probably a very long revenue stream for the designers. I already told my husband I'm looking for to spending $0.99 on Angry Birds Christmas, just to see what they do with the design elements. And I'm waiting very impatiently for an official Angry Birds Plushie line, because the little wacky bird characters they've created - like a cartoonist with just a few brushstrokes/pixels - crack me up.
How to Cook Everything. This is a fabulous little app. I have Mark Bittman's cookbook, How to Cook Everything and like it, although let's face I open cookbooks much more rarely than I'd like to admit. This app, which I managed to snag for $1.99 during a recent sale (regular: 4.99), is designed extremely well. I type in "butternut squash" and it shows me a couple of basic cooking approaches to butternut squash and then a bunch of variations, for example. So far I've found it excellent for quick reminders on basic approaches to simple things - we used a CSA for the first time this summer and used this app for ideas on what to do with certain foods that are not part of our normal reportoire. It's really very well-designed. Hats off to the developers here, too.
The Weather Channel.This isn't news to anyone, but this is really a great app. I use it nearly every day to check current local conditions and scan the forecast ahead. This past month has had crazy temperature variations, making the hour-by-hour forecast of temps and conditions super helpful. Remember, I don't have cable and my patience for listening to any kind of talky radio, unless I'm desperate for traffic info, is very low. I don't need to hear someone read me the weather when this well-designed app tells me nearly everything I need to know.
Pocket Zoo.The biggest hit with my toddler recently has been Pocket Zoo. The pay version apparently connects you to live streaming webcams at zoos around the world. I haven't tried that one yet, as I don't know if my 2-year-old would cognitively understand the vast global networking capabilities bringing him those images. (Ok, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't, but he has this great trick of looking at me like he's fiercely trying to grok whatever it is I'm babbling about that makes me tend to over-explain sometimes.) Anyway, for this we just the free version which has pictures of animals and a button to push to hear what sounds they make. It's already worked to talk him off the ledge of a major meltdown at least once and he's learning things to boot. He now knows that "giraffes don't make noise!" so I consider it a win. I've also promised him a trip to the regular zoo sometime Real Soon Now.