Random (but not really)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Flower Pr0n: BONUS Flowers!

These are what I found when as I wandered around my yard this morning. (I have a small yard, so it wasn’t a very long wander.)







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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Sunday Flower Pr0n







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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hiking WV: New River Gorge: Kaymoor Miners Trail

Saturday was gorgeous, so we went to New River Gorge. We’ve gone to Bridge Day in previous years, but hadn’t spent any time hiking the gorge, and so didn’t realize just how many miles of trails there were.

We are going back again, hopefully many times.

Location: New River Gorge
Trails: Kaymoor Miners Trail, Arrowhead Trail (Clovis)
Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation: 1228 feet

The top part of this trail is steep and rocky, but very beautiful. The recent rains meant the creeks and streams were full and since we were going down the side of the mountain, there were plenty of waterfalls both large and small.



Because the trees are just starting to leaf out, you can still see the river and down into the gorge.


The lower part of the trail is all steps.


More than 800 steps.

But at the bottom, were the remains of the processing plant, coke ovens, and town, which were fascinating.









Elevation Chart:
(the place where it flattens out is where we took the Clovis Arrowhead trail, so we could stretch our legs)
How it came out on FitBit:

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Categories: Hiking,National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hiking WV: Hawk’s Nest State Park

So, well, we’ve now been to Hawk’s Nest, and can check it off the list.

It wasn’t a bad park–though it is obviously long in the tooth–there just wasn’t any hiking there. Might be a nice place to stay, however, if you were hiking New River Gorge.

Michael snapped this pic of a hawk.


It was a pretty day, and you can see the trees are leafing out, but the New River was high and muddy.



There are steps going down to Lovers Leap Overlook. This was one of the places that the age of the place was showing. The steps are slowly crumbling and decomposing. There aren’t a lot of steps, so it isn’t a big deal, but it made the park look in need of upkeep.


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Categories: Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Flower Pr0n!

Saturday we went to Hawk’s Nest State Park and New River Gorge National Forest.

Redbud was blooming everywhere–the roadsides were pink with it in many areas (including along the interstate).


Some Bleeding Heart at the bottom of the Kaymoor Miner’s Trail in the New River Gorge.




Sunday we went to Coopers Rock for a quick hike (it’s supposed to rain, but we’re still waiting).

There are violets everywhere.







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Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock State Forest

Since Saturday was lovely, but low mileage, we went to Coopers Rock on Sunday.

I didn’t mean for our hike to be quite as long as it was, but 3:15 and 6.5 miles (closer to 8, with meandering) later, there it was.

Gorgeous day, and although the streams were all full, we avoided the muddiest trails.

Location: Coopers Rock State Forest
Trails: Clay Run Trail, Mount Chateau Trail, Rhododendron Trail, Roadside Trail
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation: 937feet

Clay Run Trail



At some point I’m going to remember I don’t really care for the Clay Run Trail. The first half (or even 2/3) is relatively open and sunny, on a right-of-way/maintenance road. It’s not terrible or anything, but it’s not what I really want when I’m hiking.

On the bright side, there are once again frog eggs to see.

Mount Chateau Trail





This is easily my favorite trail in the whole forest. It runs along a stream and it’s beautiful. You can take any number of trails to get there (Rhododendron, Clay Run, Iron Furnace) and when you get to the end, you can sit on the bridge and watch the water.

Once it’s warmer I plan to again start bringing my water shoes so I can hike the stream some more.

And you get zero pictures of the Rhododendron trail and Roadside trail, because at that point we weren’t stopping for much of anything.

But there is water running beside parts of the Rhododendron trail right now (and it is also muddy in spots, but not bad), which is always a draw for me.

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Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hiking WV: Cranberry Wilderness

Because the two state parks we visited didn’t have much hiking, after walking the boardwalk we decided to take a short hike on one of the close trails.

We got lucky in that it was the prefect hike for late in the day when we only had a little time.

Location: Cranberry Wilderness
Trails: Cowpasture Trail to Thomas Reserve Trail
Distance: 2.2 miles





(Pictures are mapped on Flickr; the mileage link about is a GPS map of the entire hike. If you want specific coordinates for a picture–email me.)

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Categories: Hiking,National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Travels: Cranberry Glades Boardwalk

Since the day was lovely, and Beartown and Droop Mountain were very short visits, we stopped at Cranberry Glades.

Location: Cranberry Glades Boardwalk
Distance: 0.6 miles





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Categories: National Park/Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Weekend Travels: Droop Mountain and Beartown

Saturday was beautiful, so we headed south for Droop Mountain and Beartown State Parks.

Droop Mountain

Droop Mountain is the site of the last major Civil War battle in West Virginia.

I can really only handle a small amount of thinking about war and death and misery, so it was a short visit.

The view is gorgeous, though,


Confederate Graves


The museum is where I really started to get depressed.




Location: Beartown State Park
Distance: 0.7 mile

Luckily, just down the road is Beartown State Park, which is a 0.7 mile boardwalk through some pretty fascinating rock formations.

The boardwalk is really nice.





This was a lovely walk.

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Categories: Photos,State Parks,Travel,West Virginia  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Books of March

And it’s time for the books of March! Spent more time (far more time!) out of the house this month, what with not being sick and the weather cooperating.

The best books of the month were the final two books in the Julian Kestrel series, Whom the Gods Love and The Devil in Music. As always, it made me sad to complete the series, knowing that the author’s life ended far too soon. And also Who Buries the Dead, the latest Sebastian St. Cry book.

Historical Romance

These Old Shades (1926) Georgette Heyer

Historical Mystery

Julian Kestrel
Whom the Gods Love (1995) Kate Ross (9/10)
The Devil in Music (1997) Kate Ross (/10)
Sebastian St Cyr
Who Buries the Dead (2015) C.S. Harris (8.5/10)


Inspector Montalbano
The Fourth Secret (2002/2014) Andrea Camilleri translated by Gianluca Rizzo and Dominic Siracusa (7/10)

Supernatural Mystery

Felix Castor
The Devil You Know (2008) Mike Carey (8/10)
Vicious Circle (2006) Mike Carey (8/10)
London Falling audible version (2013/2014) by Paul Cornell, narrated by Damian Lynch  (8/10)

Supernatural Fantasy

Alpha & Omega
Dead Heat (2015) Patricia Briggs (7.5/10)

And now, the numbers!

Aside from one audio book (I really liked the audio version of London Falling) everything was an ebook, and I had seven re-reads, and seven books in multiple formats (either ebook and paper or ebook and audio).

The breakdown of genres was mostly mysteries, mysteries of all flavors.

Fantasy: 4
Mystery: 7
Romance: 1

And for author gender this month, an almost even split between male and female authors.

Male: 4
Female: 4
Initials: 1

Almost because the initials are (of course) a female author.

Written by Michelle at 7:18 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pedometers: Data Comparison!

Another quick reminder of what I’ve been testing:

Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices
The Software


I tracked the output of the various devices for three weeks, noting steps, kcal, and miles at various points of the day, including immediately before and after exercise or hiking.

Here’s what I found.



As I’d found previously, the FitBit overcounts steps. Accupedo and the Omron are generally pretty close to each other, and typically had lower step counts than the VivoFit and the One.


On days when I was doing things like cleaning house or baking, the VivoFit had a much higher count than any other device. (I also threw out the Accupedo data on several of these days, because I didn’t have the phone in my pocket for several hours.)

I’m not terribly distressed that the VivoFit had a higher step count on days when I was baking or cleaning, because I’m active during those times, just not moving from one place to another.

Calories Burned


Not only does the FitBit overcount steps, but it also generally overcounted how many calories I burned during the day.


Here you can see that during periods of exercise, the FitBit gave me a far higher calorie burn than any other device–including the Garmin Fit, which should also have been taking elevation and pace into account. (Note that for walks, the Omron and Garmin Fit had very close calorie burns, but for hikes (where we were in steeper terrain) the Garmin Fit gave a much higher calorie burn than the Omron. I believe the Garmin Fit data should which should be fairly correct, although I know that using the heart rate monitor would make it more accurate. But I find it uncomfortable, so you don’t get that data because I am unwilling to suffer that much for data.)

Putting that together, we can see how calorie burn and steps tracked for my lunchtime walks.


The step counts are all relatively close during these time periods, but the FitBit in general gave me a much greater calorie burn (I’m not sure what happened on that final Thursday–I’m guessing operator error in noting the counts.)

Yes, I do walk up and down stairs during my lunch walks, but I don’t think that’s enough to account for the FitBit calorie burn being that much higher.


And finally, because I can’t help myself, I compared the mileage calculated by the pedometers as opposed to the distance given by the GPS for outdoor walks and hikes.


GPS readings were from the Garmin Fit, which tracks mileage using my phone, and my Garmin Oregon GPS. I’ll note that the Oregon GPS does tend to give me a slightly shorter reading than is probably true, simply because I meander. So fractally, the distance I walk is probably longer than the distance calculated by the GPS, but not by a large amount.

Also interesting, the Vivofit seems to underestimate distance when I’m hiking and walking, as compared to other devices, but not consistently so, which could be due both to the terrain, and to how frequently I stop to take pictures when I hike.

And to be fair, hiking is quite different from walking, since one’s stride is generally not consistent.

So there you have it: The FitBit continues to overcount steps and overestimate calories burned, but the interface and community are so much nicer than any other device, it’s still my current favorite.

If you do outdoors activity, the Garmin Fit app is very nice, and I can definitely recommend it.

And if you don’t want to carry around an additional device, the Accupedo app is a very good alternative to a separate pedometer (assuming you can correctly calculate the sensitivity).

Previous Pedometer Geekiness:

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Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PEDOMETERS! Software, Websites, & Apps

Because everything is connected now, the screen interface between you and your data is important, so it gets an entire post.

Again, here are this year’s contenders:

Garmin Vivofit
FitBit One
Omron HJ-323U

The Devices

Also tested:

Sense Me
Garmin Fit

Here are the various interfaces.


This is a phone app, so no website.


I like the Accupedo interface. It puts what I want to see right there, cleanly and clearly.

And I also like the widget, which comes in three different sizes.


Note that Accupedo is the only widget on my phone. That’s because the FitBit widget comes in one size–too large–and none of the others have widgets.


Here is the FitBit website Dashboard. It’s fine. It displays everything I want to see at a glance.

fitbit web

This is the FitBit app. Everything is there in a single glance, and the colors change the closer you get to your goal. I also like this app.


Garmin Connect

Here is the Garmin Connect website, with the Vivofit panels.

vivifit web

I find this website frustrating. The panels never seem to stay where I want them–probably because I have different computers with different monitor sizes, and the panels shift around. The steps panel itself is fine–if only it would stay where I put it.

The Garmin Connect app I like better. It displays the same information as the website, and in the same manner, but it shows me what I want to see as soon as I launch it. No hunting to find the right panel.


The Garmin Connect website is ALSO where you view the Garmin Fit app data, (as well as where I view the data from my Garmin watch. (Which I do NOT love, because the buttons are non-responsive, so it’s nearly impossible to start activities and connect the foot-pod and heart monitor. But that’s something else entirely.))

Garmin Fit uses the GPS to calculate the distance, pace, elevation, and calories burned. It does NOT work inside, so this is no good for a pedometer, but it is VERY nice for hiking.

connect website fit

Same panels (and the same issue with the panels) but I do love the little map of my latest activity.

Here’s the app:


I like the display here as well, although it seems like I have to jump through one too many hoops to start an activity.

Omron Wellness Site

The Omron Wellness site is the new site where your data is uploaded.

omron website

I’ll be blunt. I am having major issues with the Omron Wellness site. It says it’s uploaded my data, but as you can see, my recent data is not there. I’m emailing with tech support, but I must say I really miss the old Omron software where everything lived on my computer.

I’ll update you as to how things go. Since they just rolled out the new site, I’m willing to cut them a little slack–but not much, and not for long. This is the only way I can view all my data (besides on the pedometer itself), and it’s not working.

SenseMe Pedometer App


There is no screen where I can get an overview of all my data at once. There is no widget. Plus, it’s inaccurate. Goodbye.

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, March 23, 2015


Yup, it’s that time again, where I get ahold of multiple pedometers AND TEST THEM TO WITHIN AN INCH OF THEIR TRI-AXES.

Or something like that.

Here are this round’s contenders.

FitBit One
Garmin Vivofit
Omron HJ-323U

pedometers 1

pedometers 2


Accupedo is solely a phone app, so its size is your cell phone.

Accupedo tracks steps, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The feature that makes Accupedo so good is that it has a sensitivity setting. At the base setting, I found it was over-counting steps (dramatically so), but decreasing the sensitivity made is very accurate (when compared to the other devices).

The calorie tracking is only for activities. If you do nothing all day (or leave your phone sitting on a table) your kcal count will be zero. This makes it difficult to compare it directly to the FitBit and the VivoFit, since both of those calculate your calorie use on top of your resting rate.

FitBit One

FitBitThe FitBit one tracks steps, elevation, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The elevation is one of my favorite things it tracks, because I live in the land of hills, and I always take the stairs.

It’s small, and even if the silicone case fits easily in that little tiny pocket of your jeans, which is where I keep mine (which reduces the amount of incidental abuse it takes.)

It syncs over bluetooth with your phone, or over a dongle you plug into the USB port of your computer. I quite like that you have two different options for syncing, since I don’t generally leave my phone’s bluetooth on.

The One is a rechargeable device that you slip into an odd little USB dongle you plug into the USB slot of your computer. This dongle does not sync–it just charges, which seems like a waste to me, but what do I know?

The One is supposedly water resistant. I haven’t gotten this one particularly wet, however, this is my second One. The first One was accidentally put through the washer by Michael when I was sick (he was being helpful, so I can’t really blame him for not checking my pockets). It didn’t recover from the experience.

The silicone clip is quite sturdy, and I’ve clipped it onto the waistbands of skirts with no ill effect.

Garmin Vivofit

GarminThe Vivofit is a wristband fitness tracker that I got when Michael decided he really didn’t care for it. (He now has a FitBit One.)

The VivoFit tracks steps, kcal and miles and activity.

Although there is a website, the device syncs only through your phone’s bluetooth, and only when you tell it to sync. The later is nice, because it saves the battery. Instead of being rechargable it uses a watch battery. I bought the VivoFit for Michael at the end of October, and we haven’t had to change the battery yet, so it’s got a pretty decent life for what it does.

It is water resistant, and I’ve repeatedly splashed water on it, and no ill signs yet.

It displays the time, just like a watch, although to reserve the battery you can’t read it in low light. I consider that a feature, not a bug.

I find myself strangely pleased with the VivoFit, probably because I always wear a watch, so this does double duty. (I’ll note that I am VERY hard on watches, and regularly destroy them. So we’ll see how much abuse this can take.)

Omron HJ-323U

OmronThe Omron Activa is the third Omron pedometer I’ve had, and it is unfortunately my least favorite.

On the plus side, it’s smaller than previous Omron pedometers, and is built upon a USB stick, so to upload your data, you just remove the cap and plug it into a USB port on your computer. It’s also extremely accurate (assuming it’s in my pocket and not just dropped down the front of my bra, where it does not, in fact, count very accurately).

On the negative side, I don’t trust the clip, so I don’t wear it if I’m not wearing something with pockets, and I utterly despise the current software that comes with it. As in–the software doesn’t work for me and this makes me very unhappy.

It runs off a watch battery, and the battery lasts quite awhile, so no complaints there.

But as I said, the software is currently abysmal and non-functional for me. And although the design is smaller than previous versions, I don’t particularly trust the clip, so unless I have pockets, I don’t wear it. (If you are female, you understand that this happens quite frequently since women’s clothes are STUPID.)


So design-wise, I like the VivoFit and the FitBit One, as I find both unobtrusive.

Written by Michelle at 7:11 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Hike: Arboretum

Yesterday was both a vet appointment first thing in the morning, and the Winter Blues Farmers Market in the early afternoon, so traveling anywhere was right out.

So today, we had a nice hike at the arboretum. Not much in the way of flowers, but we saw plenty of birds, and the plants that will be those spring flowers are popping up.

Location: WVU Arboretum
Distance: 1.4 mile
Elevation: 441 feet

Crocuses are right at the front entrance. I noticed for different kinds of crocuses.



Actual wild flowers! If I wasn’t looking closely, I would have completely missed them.


Baby oak tree!


And I noticed this sitting on a bench.


GPS Map of the walk.

Written by Michelle at 5:18 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Morgantown,West Virginia  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bike Ride: Coopers Rock

Since the day was so beautiful, we decided to take a bike ride at Coopers Rock.

Because we haven’t biked since last summer, we just biked the main road and then walked out to the overlook.

It was a good choice.


Written by Michelle at 7:17 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls in the Snow

Once again, we missed seeing the falls in the snow. I’d forgotten how much rain we’d had last week, so that wiped out any ice.

The snow was very wet, and difficult to walk in where it hadn’t been compressed down, so we cut our hike short when my ankle started to bother me.

It was still a gorgeous day, and we had a nice hike.

Park: Blackwater Falls
Trails: Pendelton Point Overlook, Pendelton Trace, Dobbin House
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 409
Time: 1:20


The stairs were not recommended…



In fact…


Let’s take a closer look, shall we?


Elekala Falls


Looking down the falls from the bridge:



GPS Map of the Hike

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Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blue Skies Over Snow

Because the roads still weren’t clear, and there were multiple accidents on the Interstate, we got a second day off from work.

After lunch, I took another walk.

An utterly gorgeous day.








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Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood




These trees by the Law School were FULL of robins. At least 20.






Near the President’s House, looking down to Beechurst, the Mon, and the power plant.


At the Law Center, looking over and past the football complex.


Written by Michelle at 7:13 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Morgantown,Photos  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Books of February

It seems like I just wrote the books of January post… oh wait. I did.

Anyway, here are the books I read in February. Lots of historical romance here, except that they’re really historical mysteries with romance.

The best books last month? There were a lot!

First, Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonsa (10/10) is MARVELOUS. I read some rave reviews and ordered it, but it sat for a few weeks before I got around to reading it. OMG THIS IS SO GOOD!

Next up, Lescaut Quartet by Tracy Grant, Shores of Desire and Shadows of the Heart. These are historical mysteries with romance, but what makes them extra fabulous is that the heroines are all older women, both widows. And in one, the heroine is pregnant at the start of the book. I loved both of these.

ALSO marvelous is the The Spymaster Series by Joanna Bourne, especially My Lord and Spymaster, which has a heroine who is a genius accountant (or rather, “England’s expert on skullduggery in accounting”).

Plus, some supernatural fantasy, including Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson (9/10) which is a sequel to Legion, which I also adored. Tales from the Nightside by Simon R. Green (9/10) is a collection of the Nightside short stories, as well as a new novella.

Historical Romance

Lescaut Quartet
Dark Angel (1994) Tracy Grant (7/10)
Shores of Desire (1997) Tracy Grant (9/10)
Shadows of the Heart (1996) Tracy Grant (9/10)
Rightfully His  (1998) Tracy Grant (8/10)

The Spymaster Series
My Lord and Spymaster (2008) Joanna Bourne (9/10)
The Forbidden Rose (2010) Joanna Bourne (8/10)

Graphic Novel

Ms. Marvel Volume 1:  No Normal  (2014) G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonsa  (10/10)
Girl Genius Volume 12:  Siege of Mechanicsburg  (2013) Phil & Kaja Foglio  (7/10)
Girl Genius Volume 13:  Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City  (2014) Phil & Kaja Foglio  (7/10)

Urban Fantasy

Legion: Skin Deep (2014) Brandon Sanderson  (9/10)
Tales from the Nightside (2015) Simon R. Green  (9/10)

Historical Mystery

Julian Kestrel
Cut to the Quick  (1993) Kate Ross (10/10)
A Broken Vessel  (1994) Kate Ross (10/10)

Supernatural Fantasy

Bound by Flames (2015) Jeaniene Frost (7/10)

Now, for the breakdown!!

For book format, I snuck in some trade paperbacks, because I read comics. Yes, I am completely inconsistent, because I don’t like reading comics as ebooks.

The re-reads (and multiple formats) were the Kate Ross books, which I adore.

Trade Paperback : 3
eBook : 11
Multiple Formats : 2
Re-read : 2

Genre was predominantly historicals this month, most of which were mysteries in some form.

Fantasy : 5
Mystery : 10
Romance : 7
YA : 3
Comic : 3
Anthology : 1

Because I read a lot of books that were predominantly romances, I read a lot of female authors. But I’d like to point out that the primary author of Ms. Marvel is a woman. So YAY!

Male : 2
Female : 9
Joint : 3

Written by Michelle at 10:25 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hiking WV: Coopers Rock: Scotts Run Trail

Finally! The first hike of 2015!

Between illnesses and unpleasant weather, we didn’t get out to hike until today, but it was a gorgeous, glorious day for the first hike of the year. Even better, last year I purchased snow pants, which means that I wasn’t afraid to kneel down in the snow to get closer to interesting things, and I didn’t come out of the woods soaking wet from the knees down.

Because the entrance gate is closed, there are a limited number of trails to hike (unless you want to walk into the park and then start your hike, which I don’t), so we took my favorite trail, Scotts Run.

Trail: Scotts Run
Elevation: 1168 feet
Distance: 4.4 miles
Time: 2:13








GPS map of the hike.

Written by Michelle at 7:07 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Parks,West Virginia  
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