My Facebook profile

About Me

My 15 minutes of fame
"Finding a job you love means never working a day in your life." — Confucius

My family Our house Idaho roots Seattle European vacation Walking Smartphone Where I stand Living tips Contact me

  My name is Eric Pence, and I am a husband, a father, and a web programmer (retiring in 2018). I am in the 60s generation—the children of the 1960s now in

Born in 40s
their 60s (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe¹). I was born in the 40s and I could be described as a classic, aging, baby-boomer but I have tried to stay current with the new things that have evolved in my lifetime (in my mind sometimes I am still 20-something). Throughout my life I have been fascinated by new and developing things. This influenced me to major in engineering when I went to college, and my active involvement in performing music ultimately led to contemporary jazz, the most experimental form of improvisational music (see my Music page), and after taking some time off after 2 years I returned to college at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In the 1980s I became very interested in another "new" thing—computers—and I went back to school again at several schools including MIT (in all I've gone to 5 colleges in Boston) and took up programming. Like most programmers at that time I started out working on a large computer system shared by many users on terminals, but living in a modern, Internet-based world this eventually evolved into web development (see my Programming page).

Having a website is the definitive expression of many of my interests, and I enjoy it so much that working as a web programmer has made me feel like I get paid to have fun!  (See my slogan at the top.)

Besides what's on this page, some of my other interests include reading, programming, music, cities, maps, and travel, and I expound on these things on various pages on my website.


My Facebook profile – Facebook members may see more (I joined in 2009), more bloggish than my website, with frequent updates

My iReports

Commuter boat to Boston – this was posted to the topic Show us your commute in 2008
My first car, a 1953 Buick Special – this was posted to the topic My first car in 2008
Snow in Boston and suburbs – this was posted to the topic Winter weather near you in 2011

My YouTube videos

Stanley Clarke - School Days – I made this in 2006 from a DVD I own
Sunday Night Barbecue – my friend Jim's video of their 2007 garage fire, set to appropriate music
The Road To Perdition – my friend Jim's video of their dog Lucy being wrongly impounded in 2008 when visiting their beach home in Clinton, CT (great song, Jim!)

Some links . . .

MY_WTC – I posted this 2000 family photo to this website (showing the WTC towers the year before they came down)
Special songs – I was telling someone about songs that were special to Patti and me back in the 70s and decided to share them on a webpage
Cars I've owned – I thought this was an amusing way to express my car history
Funny car story – I had an interesting experience with one car

I wasn't sure where to include this but I couldn't resist putting in on my website. For some reason my wife Patti took this picture, probably in the 70s,
showing a gas pump with the price of gas in those days. Click to enlarge.
You can really express yourself with a great bumper sticker. My personal favorite is which I put on my car.

Top of page

My family

  I am a web programmer (retiring in 2018), and my wife, Patti, is a Nurse Practitioner. We have been "empty-nesters" since 2007, when our youngest son graduated from high school and left for college. We live in Hingham, Massachusetts (see Our house), a coastal community on the South Shore of Metro-Boston. We raised our two sons here and we are very proud that both have graduated from college and begun their adult lives. Alex lives in New York City (Brooklyn) and teaches ESL (English as a Second Language). He graduated from The New School in Greenwich Village, NYC, and has taught English for several years, both in NYC and abroad. He and his girlfriend Laura lived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, for a year, and now they are back in Brooklyn, NY, where they lived before. (They plan to get married in 2018!) Alex is currently in graduate school at The New School. Ben is a programmer at Twitter in San Francisco. He graduated in Computer Science from George Washington University in Washington, DC. He worked for 2 years at the NSA for the Federal government after graduation, took off a year to travel, mostly in Asia (see Family news below for details), and now is working again. I think it is pretty cool that both our sons have traveled all over the world, and they have each lived for years in some of our favorite cities, NYC, Washington (DC), and San Francisco. The big news in our lives right now is that after living for 34 years in the house we raised the boys in we bought and rebuilt a new house.

A quick family summary:
  First Dad and Mom . . .
  We are very proud of our 2 grown sons, who have graduated from college and have happy and successful adult lives.
  At home we have two cats, Mandy and Pepper (and sometimes Alex's cat Monstar, that we call "Baby", who has lived with us several times when he was abroad), and a dog, Casey. See the Gallery  page for pictures of all of us, including the current and previous pets. (Sadly, Monstar passed away in 2017.)

Commuter boat
I work in the Financial District in Boston, Massachusetts (see my building) and to get to work, I take a commuter boat—a pleasant half-hour trip—during which I usually read or chat with friends (and sometimes have a little excitement!). The Boston Globe did a comparison of commuting from the South Shore (where we live) by car, boat, train, and Red Line (the subway), and not surpisingly, the boat came out on top. When I arrive at work in the morning or at home in the evening I am rested and relaxed, a very different state than that of many suburban commuters, who drive their cars in the intense, bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, rush-hour traffic. In my opinion, I have the best of both worlds—a nice, peaceful, safe environment for my home, and the daily adventure of being in a great city.

Times have certainly changed since I was a kid. For several years, my mother used email from her home in Boise, Idaho, to help stay in touch with her children and grandchildren, who all live thousands of miles from her. Family dynamics have changed a lot in my lifetime, and they are affected by much more than just new technology. Here is an article I saw in The Boston Globe, "Raising a Perfect Child," that presents an interesting view of parenting today. There are links to more parenting articles on the Articles page.

Family news . . .
  This is a blog of family activities. Holiday cards are shown for many years.









    2001     1994-1997     1988     1985     1982     1979
Top of page

Our house       (We love our new house!)

Recent photo

Views from house

Boston perspective

New & previous
Previous house

  Patti and I live in Hingham, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb on the coast, in a house on Otis Hill that we purchased in May, 2015, and remodeled for a year before moving to in June, 2016. The original house was built in 1950 but it has been rebuilt with all new construction and it is now basically a "new" house (before & after). Since our house is new it will be years before we need to be concerned about fixing or replacing things. The house is a Gambrel cape (a Gambrel-roofed Cape), with the master bedroom on the main floor, 2 bedrooms and bath on the 2nd floor, and a fully finished basement. It has views of the Boston skyline, Hingham Harbor, Boston Light (the first lighthouse in the U.S.), Swampscott and Marblehead on the North Shore, and a bit of Atlantic Ocean, and it is near the end of a dead-end street, so traffic is minimal. To get to our street go up the hill across from Hingham Lobster Pound on Route 3A. Hingham has one of the best suburban mass-transit commutes to Boston by commuter boat.

In 1982 we bought our first Hingham house, a large, shingle-style house in Hingham Square but after our sons had grown up and departed—Alex to Brooklyn, NY, and Ben to San Francisco, after both graduated from college and made world travels (see 2014 on Family news), we decided to downsize and we have relocated to our current, smaller house (relatively smaller—we went from 3600 sq ft to 2500 sq ft). The new house is located about 1½ miles from our previous house, so our long-time neighborhood friends will still be in our lives. We sold our previous, 5-bedroom, house to a young couple with 2 pre-school kids. It was a great house to raise our kids in.

Please note: Sometimes on pages and photos I use the labels "Talbot" and "Lafayette." Those are just the street names of our new house and previous house that I use to distinquish the houses.

Remodeling . . .

Remodeling photos
(July, 2015 - June, 2016)

(my photos)

Purchased house
(realtor photos)

Our architect was Roger Hoit and our builder was Construction Technology Group (CTG). The remodeling is chronicled in photos on my remodeling page.

Before and After photos




Back wall

Interior photos after remodeling—click on image to enlarge and start slideshow, hover over image for description
  Main floor:
  Second floor:

Main floor changes:

  • Added a new master bedroom, master bathroom, and a powder-room off the living-room
  • Attached the existing 1-car garage to the house with a new mudroom and laundry room
  • Put a new washer & drier in our new laundry room
  • Created a new kitchen with new cabinets and appliances (stoves, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.)
  • Installed a gas fireplace in the living room (removed a real fireplace and chimney)
  • Expanded the back of the house 15 feet and attached a new deck (see living room Before & after, Back of house, and Deck view)
  • Put walnut hardwood floors in the living room, kitchen, and powder-room (master bedroom and hallway are carpeted)
  • Built a new TV cabinet containing a large-screen TV (and Sonos sound system)

Second floor changes:

  • Expanded bedrooms with dormers
  • Relocated and upgraded full bathroom
  • Put same walnut hardwood floor as living room in the large bedroom
  • Put a large-screen TV in large bedroom
  • Carpeted smaller bedroom and hallway
  • New carpeted stairs coming up from main floor

Basement changes:

  • Removed washer & drier (put new ones in laundry room next to kitchen)
  • Relocated and upgraded full bathroom
  • Put a 2-car garage under the bedroom (we now have garage parking for 3 cars, even though we only have 2)
    Put a new driveway on the West side of the house to the 2-car garage entrance in the back
  • Expanded the back of the walk-out basement 15 feet and created new rooms including:
    • A TV room with a cabinet and large-screen TV from the last house (and Sonos sound system)
    • My office
    • A playroom with a piano we had in the last house
    • A storage room that also contains a Unico small-duct, high-velocity HVAC system (4 zones of AC and heating)
    • A utility room with a gas-fueled boiler and hot water tank
  • Flooring is either carpeted or laminate
  • New carpeted stairs coming down from main floor

Both garage doors are automatically opened with remote controls, and the mudroom door has a keypad lock.
  –  Modern living: house is keyless, and we have 2 keyless cars
Both front and back lawns have underground sprinkler systems.
There is an outdoor storage room in the back for lawn furniture, etc.
We installed a generator outside to handle electrical outages, and this really came in handy in winter 2018, when we had some.

Since the 1970s we have owned 3 homes on the South Shore:
1977 - 1982  –  Weymouth  –  our first house, a "Cape" near Whitman's Pond (we lost this house to a fire)
1982 - 2016  –  Hingham  –  our previous house (photos), a "Shingle-style" in Hingham Square (for location see neighborhoods)
2016 - present  –  Hingham  –  our current house, a new house on Otis Hill (for location see neighborhoods)
The first two we moved into, then remodeled. After we bought our current house, we got an architect and builder, then remodeled it for a year before moving there. We put the master bedroom on the main floor to minimize stair-climbing, and you could say this is our "retirement" house that will probably be the last house we own. We have increased the size of the house from 1200 sq ft (its size when we bought it) to 2500 sq ft, and it went from a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom house to a 3-bedroom, 3½-bathroom house. Some of the layout of the original house is the same, for instance it had a kitchen open to the living room and had 2 stairways (now rebuilt), one going up to 2 bedrooms and a bathroom on the 2nd floor, and one going down to the basement which had a laundry and bathroom. We kept the open floor plan of the main floor with the kitchen and living room. After remodeling (see descriptions above), the back of the main floor is all glass with windows and doors looking out onto a large deck (which has glass panels instead of

Before & after
balustrades so the view is un-obstructed) that wraps around to the bedroom. The house is central air-conditioned, and the heating system is also high-velocity, so the AC and heat are distributed in the same ducts. The Internet hookup is wired in a couple of locations and we have WiFi throughout the house (which we use on laptops and cellphones). The finished house is shingled, with an edition and 2 attached garages, so it doesn't look anything like the little brick house we bought (the bricks were facade, not structural).

We lost our Weymouth house to a fire in 1982. The house was burned out inside and was a total loss. It is tough to lose everything you own in a sudden tragedy like that but you recover and go on. Living through a horror like a fire is not something you prepare for, and the experience opened up a whole new world to us with people who deal with that on a regular basis—adjusters, lawyers, and various emergency services. That was many years ago, before we had children, and my memories of it are pretty dim. For years we would be wondering where something was that we owned, then would realize it was lost in the fire. (When Patti and I started living together we merged our stereo systems and stored some of the unused components and other things in the basement, so these were not damaged in the fire and were used again in our next house.) We sold the remnants of the house to a young couple who remodeled it with an addition (and color change) and made it their home.
Top of page

Idaho roots   (See my Payette page for more)


Payette in 60s
I grew up in Payette, Idaho (some of you may be interested to know that Idaho's in the Northwest, not the Midwest, and this map shows you that Idaho and Iowa are two different states a thousand miles apart!) and I lived there until I finished high school in 1966. There is more information about my childhood on my Payette page. My great-grandfather, Peter Pence, was one of the pioneers of the town (more Payette history). My cousin Bob assembled a Pence family tree, starting with Peter's son (my grandfather, Albert Loyd Pence). I have one famous relative, my late uncle Herman Welker (married to my dad's sister, Gladys), who was a U.S. Senator from Idaho from 1951-1957. I don't agree with his politics (he was a Joseph McCarthy supporter) but I was just a kid then so it didn't cause me any distress. Payette's claim to fame is that baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew grew up there.

Here's an interesting juxtaposition, my childhood home in 1963 and 2005 (the newer photo taken by my friend Barbara Wilson). You can also see it in Street View. Following high school I went to the University of Idaho in 1966, where I majored in mechanical engineering, partly because my high school guidance counselor and my SAT scores pointed me in that direction, and partly because I thought that when I got out of college as an engineer I could avoid the draft (more about that here), which was something that all men of draft age (18-26) had to worry about at that time.

After my first year of college I went to Atlanta, Georgia, with my brother for a summer job selling dictionaries door-to-door, which I did for about 2 weeks before I decided that where I really wanted to be in the summer of 1967 (the "Summer of Love") was San Francisco. So I went out to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and hitchhiked cross-country to California. (This trip took me 4 days, including 24 hours I spent in St. Louis with a college roomate.) I was only in the Bay Area for part of a summer, not really long enough to consider it a place of residence, so there is no San Francisco section on this bio page (but I did witness Haight-Ashbury during its cultural peak). That fall I returned to college at the U of I for another year, after which I came to the conclusion that life would be more fun without the responsibilities of school. In 1968, after 2 years of college, I moved to Seattle, Washington.

The classic Big Potato postard I saw as a child.
Some Idaho links . . .

Official Idaho Vacation Guide see some beautiful Idaho images on this travel and tourism guide the Official Website of the State of Idaho
Idaho Commerce & Labor the Idaho Department of Commerce has a very thorough website
State & County QuickFacts from the U.S. Census Bureau
Idaho Genweb Project this site has lots of interesting information
Imaging/Imagining Boise a photographic exploration of Boise's past and present
Idaho Potato Official Website I couldn't resist including this one
You know you're from Idaho when . . . from an email
200 year old copper wire from an email

Payette links . . .

City of Payette the official town website
Payette County Chamber of Commerce     just what you'd expect
Payette, Idaho - Wikipedia good info here
Payette on City-Data I love the photos
Payette County IDGenWeb Project this genealogy page is part of the IDGenWeb and USGenWeb Projects
Wikipedia: Payette I was surprised to find this
Payette on Google Maps Looking up main street in Street View
My Payette page created originally for sharing things with my high school classmates

For years I made regular trips to visit my mother, who still lived in Boise (my father died in 1993), but she passed away in 2017 so with no family there now my Idaho trips may diminish.

Top of page

Seattle   (Seattle photos)

Aerial view
  Beginning in 1968 I lived for 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a great city. You might call those my "hippie" years, when I had long hair and lived a lifestyle emulating the values of that culture. I lived in several houses with groups of friends and had several apartments, usually with a roomate and sometimes alone (see Places I've lived for some Google Streetview photos). I went to many antiwar rallies and marches (see Where I stand), rock concerts and rock festivals (see 60s music). I have many fond memories of my years in Seattle, where I made few commitments and pretty much focused on the here and now, living a lifestyle of hedonism.

Seattle panorama

Mt. Rainer
Seattle is a beautiful city, bordered on the west by Puget Sound, a salt-water inlet from the Pacific, and on the east by Lake Washington, a fresh-water lake (see map). There are many smaller bodies of water throughout the city and it is known for its boating. I once read that Seattle has the most miles of shoreline of any city its size in the world. There are many bridges and ferries that bring visitors and commuters into the city. To the east of Lake Washington is the Cascade mountain range which includes Mt. Rainier and to the west of Puget Sound is the Olympic Peninsula, which contains the Olympic Mountains. From the city you can look to the East or West and see mountains. As you will notice most photos of Seattle show the Space Needle, that was built for the 1962 World's Fair, which I attended. Seattle is definitely one of the most scenic cities in the world. Here is a view of Lake Union showing quite a lot of the city.

Childhood memories

When I was growing up in Idaho my grandparents lived in Seattle, where they managed and lived in a family owned hotel, the Calhoun Hotel, which was located downtown on Second Avenue. On regular visits we stayed in that hotel (maybe I should insert my Seth Thomas clock story here) and had Seattle excursions. By the 60s they lived in a house on Queen Anne Hill, and in 1962, when the World's Fair was hosted in Seattle (that's when the Space Needle was built) we visited them there and attended the fair. We actually ran into someone from our hometown, Payette, at the fair. I remember once we took a ferry from Seattle up to Victoria, BC, Canada, on Vancouver Island. One thing that stuck in my memory of this trip is that my younger brother, Ed, was put in a harness and perhaps on a leash to control him on the ferry. That was the 50s when people did crazy stuff like that.

Rainy Seattle?

Me, 1972
Seattle has gotten a bad label as a rainy city but that is not the way I remember it. I had a bicycle in Seattle and rode it all over and rain was never a problem. Seattle gets 38 inches of rainfall annually, but in Seattle Doesn't Get That Much Rain you'll read that major U.S. cities that get more are Mobile, AL (65), New Orleans (60), Miami (58), Memphis (52), Houston (48), Nashville (48), New York (43), Philadelphia (41), and Boston (44) where I live now. Perhaps the rainy impression of Seattle comes from it being cloudy a lot.

My music

One thing I did a lot in those days (the sixties) was collect vinyl records. Being a musician my taste in music tended to be somewhat esoteric so I didn't just go to the standard commercial record stores like Discount Records (one of the big chain stores that has since disappeared), but sought out harder to find records, many times at used record stores. One of my favorites was a store on the "Ave" (University Way) named "Puss 'n' Books", which sold used books and records, and had cats roaming around. They bought records from you for $1 and sold them for $1.50. I sold them many records (purging my record collection of albums I no longer wanted to own), and I was pretty good at taking the platter out of the jacket and eyeing it for scratches before buying it. I created a record collection of hundreds of albums which I kept for decades and in 1968 I started a component stereo system that I had for years, upgrading many times (read more here). Now my music is entirely digital and I listen on my smartphone.

I played guitar when I was in Seattle, and since my style was fairly experimental my musical tastes evolved into jazz, so when I decided to go back to school to study music, I chose Berklee College of Music in Boston, where I switched to upright bass (see more on my Music page). So, in 1973, I came to Boston (and never left).

Some Seattle links . . .

Google Maps click Photos on left and scroll through (map in the lower left shows location of each photo) the official website of the City of Seattle; take the Virtual Tour
Beautiful Seattle a site with access to lots of information
Dan Heller's Photos Dan Heller's photographs are always beautiful
Seattle Photo Galleries the title says it all
Seattle Skyscrapers from Skyscraper Picture Collection
A Seattle Lexicon Lingo from the Far Corner events, attractions, map, etc.
The Space Needle I first saw this at the 1962 World's Fair Seattle Post-Intelligencer the Seattle Times Homepage The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
Seattle Pop History: Rock to Zero Dock a clickable map of downtown Seattle
Lost in Seattle many old Seattle memories
Seattle Viewpoints where to see and take photos of Seattle's great views the Quicktime VR Tour of Seattle
Seattle Waterfront 2002-1907 panoramic photos of the waterfront from the same vantage point, taken 95 years apart
Penny Postcards from Washington many vintage scenes
List of Seattle landmarks some historicial stuff here
You might be from the Northwest if you . . . from an email

Top of page

European vacation, 2010   (I apologize if the Google Maps links are't always accurate. They arbitrarily change them sometimes.)

  The first two weeks of May, 2010, Patti and I and our friend Paula vacationed in Europe. I wrote this description to be put on Facebook, where I had many inquiries about the trip, but I found out that FB only allows 420 characters on a posting and this was way bigger than that, so I created it here and added a link on Facebook to come here. I'm glad I documented this while it was still fresh in my mind.


On Saturday, May 1, 2010, we flew to London. Our hotel (Google Street View) was in South Kensington, London, near Hyde Park. There was a Tube stop a block away so it was easy to get around (the P.A. warns you to "Mind the gap" as you step off the train at each stop). On a very rainy day we went to the Tower of London (history), where Patti slipped on the wet steps when walking on the surrounding wall and hit her head breaking her glasses. She only needed a bandaid ("plaster" in London), and fortunately she had a spare pair of glasses! If you take the Tower Bridge across the River Thames you will see the fabulous City Hall (known as the "Gherkin"). Here's an aerial view showing the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and City Hall. We took hop-on-and-off double-decker bus tours around London and saw many neighborhoods, including the locations of Beatles' homes and Sherlock Holmes' lodgings at 221B Baker Street. We took a boat ride on the Thames from the Tower of London that ended at the London Eye, an extremely large passenger-carrying observation wheel across the river from Parliament & Big Ben (that bridge became the location of a terrorist attack in 2017). We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, toured Kensington Palace where Princess Di had lived, and had High Tea at The Orangery in Kensington Gardens. And of course, we shopped at Harrods, the biggest department store I have ever seen!

On Wednesday we took the Eurostar high-speed train to Paris via the Chunnel (tunnel under the English Channel). In Paris we stayed in an apartment (that brown double-door next to the blue awning was ours; turns out this is about a block from the building where Jim Morrison of the Doors died in 1971) on Rue Saint-Antoine (becomes Rue de Rivoli as it goes West) between Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and Bastille, which on current maps represents the Métro stop and the former location of the prison (that we learned after a fruitless search was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1789). Our apartment was walking distance to Notre Dame (Patti and Paula climbed the 387 steps to the top), and we strolled on Champs-Elysées (where the most accessible "free" bathroom was in McDonalds), and went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (with a 360°panoramic view of Paris). We also went to the top observation area of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre where we saw the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and took the train to Versailles to see Napoléon and Josephine's palace and gardens. We used the Métro a lot to get around Paris, took a boat tour on the Seine, and several double-decker bus tours (on one we passed by The Thinker sculpture by Rodin, and on the soundtrack I was listening to on headphones I heard a great version of the James Brown song "It's a Man's World" sung by Nino Ferrer in French!). In Paris we ate some of the best crepes and omelettes we have ever had at a cafe on Rue Saint-Louis en l'Ile, a street on Ile Saint-Louis, an island near Notre Dame. Our son Ben, who was going to school in Amsterdam, joined us in Paris and did many of these things with us.

On Monday we took the train from Paris to Amsterdam (via Belgium) where we stayed in a hotel on the Amstel River near the Magere Brug ("Skinny Bridge") that had no elevator so we had to climb 4 flights of stairs to get to our room. We walked a lot in Amsterdam and took many trams. I love the city with all its canals and bicycles and bike paths (Amsterdam, "The Bicycling Capitol of Europe," has more bicycles than cars—the Central train station has a bicycle parking garage). We visited the Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum. We took boats on the canals and had pancakes (a Dutch delight that also comes in varieties with meat, vegetables, and cheese) at Sara's Pancake House, which we later learned in a review is the best in Amsterdam.

We flew back home (AmsterdamLondonBoston) on Thursday, May 13. We kept our eye on the recent news of the Iceland volcano and were relieved it didn't interfere with our flights (Amsterdam and London airports closed after we left them).
Here are Patti's photos. She has posted some of these on Facebook with comments.

Top of page


One of my main passions is walking. At lunchtime my colleague Margarette and I walk a 3-mile loop from our office that takes us around the Boston Common and Public Garden at a brisk pace, not quite a power-walk but it does help to keep us in shape. I also do daily dog walks.
  I have participated in several fundraising walks, which lets me do something I really enjoy while earning money for good causes. I usually do the Walk for Hunger with my regular walking partner Margarette (we've done this 20-mile walk almost every year since 1999). The first few years (when we were so much younger!) at our rapid pace we completed it several times in just 4 hours (that is walking at 5 MPH for 20 miles!). We go a little slower now but we still pass a lot of people.

  Our walks . . . (I've finally started taking selfies!)



Project Bread, The Walk for Hunger
Walk to End Alzheimer's
AIDS Walk Boston
Dog walks – in memory of Lucy
Top of page

  Smartphones have really changed our lifestyles. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Android cellphone. I have had various cellphones since 1995, starting with a series of flip-phones, but in 2011 my son Alex gave me my first smartphone, a Droid X. I used it for several years before replacing it with my Samsung in January, 2014 (purchased for 1¢ on a Staples promotion!). One of the things I like best about having a smartphone is having a computer in my pocket at all times, so I can (besides make phone calls!) use Google, email, texting, Facebook, GPS, and of course, listen to music. I still often have my laptop but the smartphone has become the most convenient way to do these things. Smartphones are getting bigger and bigger but I am sticking with my small phone which fits very comfortably in my pocket.

Lest anyone think the smartphone has complicated my life—before I had one I listened to music on an iPod and read books on a Sony Reader (and before that I carried a paperback). Now I do both on my phone so I've done away with 2 extra digital devices I used to carry around— so having a smartphone has actually simplified my life. Airlines now allow you to read a smartphone on planes in Airplane mode. When I travel I don't take a laptop anymore, only my smartphone.

My favorite apps . . . External battery charger
  A constant need with a smartphone is to keep the battery charged. I charge my phone overnight so it is always fully charged at the beginning of the day, but in addition I use a 10000mAh external battery charger that has a short chord that is plugged into my phone via the micro-USB port (where I charge the phone). My phone has a 1900mAh battery so this is basically a battery that is 5 times bigger hooked up to my phone. I carry the charger in my coat pocket and plug it into my phone when I am commuting to work (by boat) or flying on a plane. This way my battery never runs down.

Anker PowerCore 10000   (size about 2½ x 3½ inches)

  There seem to be apps for everything now. When we had a frozen harbor in Winter 2015 and the commuter ferries were not running I took the commuter rail. To pay for parking I used an app associated with my credit card instead of having to stuff 4 dollar bills into the slot for my parking spot. (I pay for parking by the month at the boat in a private parking lot, but the MBTA lot also uses this dialup app.) You can get airline boarding passes sent to your phone which get scanned at the airport. In Boston (my town) the MBTA (local transit system) has made the passes that previously only came on plastic cards available for smartphones in this fashion. Certain businesses, like Starbucks, that use cards to scan for purchases now offer apps that do this and you don't have to pull a card out of your wallet every time. I anticipate more and more things coming this way.

There are many websites with good smartphone tips like how to maximize your battery, or using the Cloud, so I won't list those here, but here are some things I do on my phone.


Supposedly smartphones manage memory in effecient ways and like to have frequently used apps (meaning the last app you used) running in the background so they can start up faster, but my preference is to kill apps when I am not using them so they don't use up memory. The way to do this is on my Android (iPhones have a similar method):

  Some notifications require setting a ringtone—but when I don't want to hear my phone ring I use a silent ringtone, silent.wav. For instance, I use this on Gmail, where I still get an icon in the Notification bar for new email but the phone doesn't audibly ring. For text messages, I get a notification icon and the ringtone on my phone is the little iPhone SMS chirp.
Android vs. iPhone
  I have had 2 Androids and never owned an iPhone, so I am not entirely familiar with the iPhone, but I have noticed things that I definitely like better about the Android.
      Replaceable battery One of the best features of the Android phone is the replaceable battery. I keep a spare battery fully-charged in a battery charger, so I can swap batteries whenever my battery is low. When I travel I have an external battery pack to recharge my phone, or I use the available electrical outlets in many terminals, and more planes are putting USB ports at every seat.
      Homescreen The iPhone homescreen looks very busy (I see people scrolling for apps all the time), while the Android homescreen is very simple and easy to manage. On an iPhone it appears that every installed app has an icon on the homescreen(s), but on the Android you only have homescreen icons for things you want there. All installed apps are in the "Apps" folder and you can add any of them to the homescreen (7 panels), or remove them from the Homescreen without uninstalling the app.
      Universal buttons My Android phone has 2 touch-sensitive buttons below the viewable screen, on either side of the Home button, which are hidden until you press on the phone where they are located. There is a Menu button on the left and a Cancel button on the right. These buttons work in pretty much every app on the phone. Press Menu and you get the app's menu, press Cancel and you go to the previous screen, either in the app or it closes the app if you are on the first screen. I have become so dependent on these that when I am on someone's iPhone I tend to press in these places for that functionality that I am used to on my phone, only to discover that the iPhone does not have these features.
Backing up
  I want my contacts, photos, and music to be backed up so they are available should I ever get a new phone. You can back things up to the cloud, for instance your Google drive, but here is what I do:
    Contacts When I enter a new contact it is associated with my Gmail account and automatically backed up to the Google server (so I guess it is on the Cloud).
    Photos I have my photos in albums so I copy these to my PC.
    Music All my music is on my PC in iTunes so I can reload it from there.

My wallpaper
  For the wallpaper on my smartphone I use this aerial photo of Paris. It appears to have been taken from a helicopter hovering over the Louvre, looking up the Champs-Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe and showing the Eiffel Tower.
  For my lock-screen, that I see whenever I activate my phone, I have a photo of our darling dog, Casey. Anytime I want to show a photo of Casey to someone I pull out my phone and turn it on and there she is. (Most people would probably like a family picture here, but I guess with my kids grown and long gone this is more appealing.)

Listening to music
  I listen to music using earbuds that I always have with me.
  I'm really enjoying a present from Patti, a Bluetooth cap that enables me to listen to music off my phone without earbud wires connecting to my phone in my pocket. Because this is a knit cap I guess this is only a cold weather option.

Top of page

Where I stand
  I was born in 1948 (a baby boomer) and was raised in a household similar to the one I raised my kids in, where my parents taught me values that I retain to this day (I will always remember the impression that was made on me when my dad took us to see Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee's story of bravery and justice in small-town America) and I have hopefully passed these on to my sons—values like integrity and charity, and a desire to participate in a kinder and gentler world, and help create a more humane and just society.

Coming of age in the 1960s civil rights have always been very important to me. When I evaluate a candidate who is running for public office, the first thing I look at is his stance on social issues like women's rights and gay rights. If the candidate fails on those I don't care what his positions are on everything else, he will never get my vote.

I took this Political Compass test (a brief explanation) and the results show me as "Libertarian-Left", meaning I believe in social freedom and some economic regulation. Not surprisingly, I am at the exact opposite setting on the compass to George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Yay! Bush is Gone!
A monument has been erected in Iraq to honor the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush.
This was created after I removed this section and I thought it deserved its place of honor here.

  Rants "People who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do." — Isaac Asimov
  So far I've said where I stand on some of the important issues of the day. Here are some things that may be less important, but they are still annoying.  

If I sound very opinionated it may be because I grew up in the 60s, the era of the Free Speech Movement, when it was considered pretty normal to express yourself openly. See my Articles page for more in support of my views, or on the lighter side, see Political satire.

 1 Some articles have links that expire too quickly so I save them offline.

Top of page

Living tips
  Here are a few things I have learned how to do that I want to pass on. They may seem rather silly but they work for me.

  • Peeling a hard-boiled egg
    After the egg has boiled let it sit in cold water for a minute before peeling. This usually makes the shell not stick to the egg.

  • Popping all the kernels when making popcorn in a pan on a stove
    Follow these steps to pre-cook the kernels . . .
    1. Put the popcorn into the cold oil in the pan.
    2. Turn on the burner.
    3. When the first kernels pop, take the pan off the heat and let the kernels sit in the hot oil for 1 minute.
    4. Then just put the pan back on the heat and make the popcorn as you normally would.

  • Curing hiccups
    This technique sounds like an old wives' tale but it works 100% of the time for me.
    • Sit with your arms unsupported and point your two index fingers at each other about 6 inches in front of your face.
    • Keep your fingertips almost touching but not quite.
    • Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds and your hiccups will stop.
    This may work because of the concentration required to keep your fingers so close but not touching.

  • Door won't stay open
    We have a door in our house that I wanted to stay open after I opened it, but it kept slowly gliding closed, from weight I guess. I Googled the problem thinking I'd find some mechanism for attaching it to the wall behind it or something when it was open, but someone had an excellent solution. Take the pins out of the hinges, bend them slightly, and put them back in. Now the door opens and closes easily, but the pressure caused by the bent pins keeps the door from swinging closed.
    More tips

Tips.Net: Household Tips, Handy Hints, and Thrifty Ideas
Household Hints
Robbie's Handy Household Tips and Tricks
Bob Allison's Ask Your Neighbor: Helpful Household Hints

Top of page

Contact me
  To guard against spambots that search webpages for email addresses I am not spelling out any complete email addresses contiguously anywhere on my website.
Replace (at) with @ in the following addresses to use in email.

My email address:

Patti's email address:

I have stopped listing our email addresses, and while they are still valid, we'd prefer you use our Gmail addresses.