Tag Archives: Ken Burns

Parks and Recreation

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service, which was founded back on August 25, 1916. Perhaps you saw the Ken Burns series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea last spring or maybe you’re itching for a summer road trip with a side order of history, but if you’re interested in finding out more, there are plenty of sites and apps available to assist you on your journey into the park system.

If you don’t know what national parks are in your area, you can look them up on the NPS site or on Find Your Park. If you think national parks are just big expanses of preserved land, like Joshua Tree in California or the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee, hit up the site to see all the outdoor spaces and the more urban man-made monuments supervised by the National Park Service. If a major piece of American history happened there, odds are there’s a monument or museum waiting to tell the story.

In New York City, for example, there’s the old Ellis Island immigration center and museum next to the Statue of Liberty, the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Castle Clinton in Battery Park, Federal Hall across from the New York Stock Exchange, the brand new Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace on East 20th Street, Grant’s Tomb on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Hamilton Grange in Harlem, Governor’s Island out in New York harbor, the Gateway National Recreation area in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

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Along with parks and public spaces like the National Mall in Washington, DC, places where wars were fought have been designated as national sites too. Battle sites like Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Fort McHenry in Maryland are just two of them.

In terms of apps and social media to help you plan a visit, the National Park Service is all over it. The NPS has its own Instagram and Twitter feeds, Facebook page and Flicker gallery. Many parks and national monuments have their own microsites, like the handsome Flickr pages for Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

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Around here in NYC, there are officially three different mobile apps dedicated to New York’s national areas., including the Manhattan & Governors Island guide shown above. The National Mall has free apps for Android and iOS, as shown farther up the page.

If you want to go with a third-party program, National Geographic has an iOS app called National Parks – the app is free, but downloads for individual parks are about $2 each. Chimani has free National Parks guides for Android, Amazon Fire and iOS that do not require a Wi-Fi or cellular signal to use — which is great if you’re visiting some of the more remote, outdoorsy locations in the system and all you have are bears and air. The outdoor gear company REI has a free National Parks app, too,  and podcasts for Android and iOS.

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Blogs and sites created by people who love the national parks also abound online; check out Live Once Live Wild or, 59National Parks, for example. You can also find guides and information on the National Parks Foundation website, which is the official charity of the park service. Many of the country’s national parks need more than government funding to stay open and must charge entrance fees, but to celebrate the centennial, the National Park Service is waiving fees for 16 days this year, including the agency’s birthday weekend of August 25th-28th this summer.

And remember, Jellystone is not a national park. Yogi Bear’s old turf is a franchise of RV campgrounds and resorts.

Happy Hundred, National Park Service!

PTJ 83 News: Deals and Wheels

Cable companies are hooking up — with each other. Late last week, Comcast announced it had reached an agreement to take over Time Warner Cable for $45 billion dollars. Criticism over the deal flared up quickly, including a statement from former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who said the merger would let the two companies “run roughshod over consumers in the end.” Several consumers took to the Internet themselves, lamenting a possible future of even more high prices and bad service. (Last year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey ranked Internet providers and cable companies even lower than the airlines, another industry that’s seen a lot of mergers and a dwindling number of choices over the recent years.) The deal, which has not gotten the official government seal of approval yet, includes no breakup fee if it falls through. The Ars Technica site has an analysis of the proposed deal and how it might play out if the FCC steps in. In addition to consumer fears, the Comcast-Time Warner deal could derail a deal between Time Warner Cable and Netflix.

Meanwhile, much smaller cable company RCN is teaming up with TiVo and Opera Software are all joining forces together to bring the Opera TV Store to certain TiVo’s recorders. (Never heard of RCN? It’s a smaller outfit with service mainly along the major East Coast cities and Chicago.)

On the phone front, Federal lawmakers have followed the California Senate in proposing a new law that would require a kill switch on smartphones. Dubbed the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, the bill aims to cut down on theft and save consumers $30 billion a year in lost hardware and related costs. The wireless phone industry is not too keen on being told how to build phone hardware, however. Whatever happens, at least there are basic remote recovery tools in many phone operating systems now, like Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone remote wipe.

Details about the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone are starting to percolate. Bloomberg News reports that the S5 will have a 5.2-inch display screen that’s sharper than the screen on the current S4 model, and have an improved camera and better battery life. Other sites claim the new model will have a fingerprint sensor and a spiffy new physical design.

The Kickstarter crowdfunding site got hacked this past weekend. If you’re a member of the site, change your password if you haven’t already. In a post on the Kickstarter company blog, CEO Yancey Strickler said no customer credit-card information had been accessed.

girlsclubSony’s PlayStation continues to outsell its main rival the Microsoft Xbox One. Sony announced it’s sold 5.3 million PS4 consoles since the hardware debuted last November, comparde to Microsoft’s sales of 3.9 million Xbox One units since its own November debut. Nintendo’s Wii U console has sold about 6 million units since it arrived in November 2012. Nintendo may be zeroing in on a certain segment of its user base, however. Over in the United Kingdom, the company has launched a new YouTube channel aimed at female gamers. It’s called Nintendo Girls Club and it features videos from British actors and bloggers on the latest gameplay and trailers.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day last week, Facebook added more than 40 new gender terms for users to use with their profiles on the site, expanding from the binary male/female to include transgender, intersex and a whole lot more. While many called the move progressive move into the modern world of gender identity, and editorial in the Guardian suggested that Facebook should get really radical and remove all gender options instead.

Also in the V-Day vibe, the Facebook Data Science group did a series of posts last week, sharing some of its research. One post was called “The Formation of Love,” and explained how Facebook can tell when you’re about to start a new relationship.

Ken Burns, a documentary filmmaker so iconic that he got a special effect named after him in Apple’s iPhoto software, now has an iPad app of his own. It, too, is called Ken Burns. Software Ken Burns is free to try and $10 to buy.

jetstreamMany New Yorkers have not been shy in complaining about the winter weather this year, but is there science behind it? (The weather, not New Yorkers complaining.) A study recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, research was presented that suggested warmer temperatures in the Arctic have caused the jet stream to shift father south and take a longer path across the globe — and making for more sustained weather systems.

And finally, NASA says it’s solved the mystery of the jelly-shaped donut rock on Mars that seemed to suddenly appear in front of its Opportunity rover last month. The rock, as Mars-watchers know, looked like it showed up out of the blue in pictures the rover sent back to earth within the span of 12 Martian days. This set off all sorts of speculation about just how the rock got there, but NASA now says it was a broken-off piece of another rock that the rover ran over while it was exploring the area. Let’s hope Opportunity has its insurance card in the glove compartment in case the Martians file a claim.

PTJ 83: Hard Knocks and Mystery Rocks

El Kaiser reviews a sexy set of headphones from Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer Onkyo and J.D. compares top three set-top streaming boxes from Roku, Apple, and Google. In the news, Comcast and Time-Warner Cable look to merge;  the U.S. look present a bill forcing smartphone carriers to include killswitch on hardware; Samsung Galaxy S5 rumors heat up; Kickstarter gets hacked; Facebook adds 40 more gender options; and NASA solves the mystery of the Martian doughnut rock.