August 7, 2020

iPhone SE vs. iPhone Pro Max

Do you get a sinking feeling when your phone fails to keep a charge for very long? Your storage is so full you have to jettison photos, videos and phone messages? Yes, you have hit the timed obsolescence planned by cell phone purveyors. You need a new phone.

I reached that sorry state recently and narrowed my search to two Apple phones, the low and the high, the new SE or the iPhone 11. Price was the immediate difference — the current SE starts at $399; the iPhone 11 begins at $699.

The next point of comparison was the ability to take pictures. The SE has one camera — the iPhone Pro Max has three. The Pro Max gets higher resolution in the front-facing camera and can take better photos in low light. The Pro Max averages multiple images to get the best picture.

Photo taken with iPhone Pro Max at 40 feet.

Another point of comparison is the phone’s size. Some like the 4.7-inch pocket size of the SE, while the myopic might opt for the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 6.1 inches.

You may discern which way I was leaning. Yep, I went for the bigger phone with more bells and whistles. The iPhone Pro Max takes great photos and videos, has outstanding battery life and the larger screen makes it easier to read everything.

Having previously owned an SE, I can attest that it is great value for the money, but if you will be using your phone for a lot of media, you may opt for a version of the iPhone 11.

Photo taken with the iPhone Pro Max at 10 feet

If you can eke a little more use out of your current phone, you may want to wait for the iPhone 12, but the release date is up in the air.

Even though Apple stores are not open, buying a cell phone online or by phone could not be easier, The product comes beautifully packaged and Apple support is all too happy to help you set up your new device.

One final note, I bought a black Apple Silicone Case for my iPhone Pro Max for $29.99. A wise investment since my butterfingers frequently drop this expensive little business investment.

Wildflowers Riverside in Chicago

Rather than bemoan the fact I am not going to Italy, Scotland or Norway anytime soon, I have been finding delightful spots around Chicago and environs.

One of my favorite finds is a wildflower trail running along the north branch of the Chicago River from Montrose in Horner Park, on the west bank of the river going south to Irving Park. You can almost forget you are in the city as you revel in the river views while strolling amid natives plants both colorful and green.

At the beginning of the walk is a stone staircase leading down to water’s edge. This would be the perfect spot to launch a kayak or dingy or get a water-level river photo.

A couple of suggestions about when to visit this trail.
It is hot in this dense meadow so you may want to choose early morning or late afternoon for a hike. Likewise, you may want to avoid early evening when the bugs come out en masse. Social-distancing is difficult on the narrow path so you may opt for another time to visit if you see crowds of people entering the trail.

After the river trail deadends at Irving Park due to construction, there is a path that runs along the busy street so you can loop back around into Horner Park.

This walk-about goes on my list of favorite Chicago nature spots. I am slowly but surely checking out the many Chicago River amenities. Anybody want to rent a canoe with me?

The Elephant Queen doc on Apple +

I try to keep my streaming services to a very limited number, but I recently was given a year free of Apple + with the purchase of an iPhone. I must be honest, not much appealed to me at first perusal. Too many kiddie shows and programs aimed at family entertainment.

A photo of a mother elephant with her offspring caught my eye, however. To be honest, nature programs are almost never on my “to watch list”, but something called to me when I saw the documentary entitled “The Elephant Queen.”

Directed by husband and wife Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble, the cinematography is amazing with up-close filming of mammals, birds, insects and weather conditions.

The tag line says it all: “A story of love, courage and coming home.” There truly is a story line with a 50-year-old matriarch leading her Kenyan elephant tribe to water, food and safety, with joys and sadness along the journey. Chiwetel Eijiofor is the resonant narrator.

I am still not generally a fan of nature shows, but this lovely and engaging production may be the ticket if you want to take a vicarious trip to the wild.

Studio Gang Boathouse near Belmont and the Chicago River

My biking brother-in-law frequently touts the trails and parks around the Chicago River. This past weekend, I visited the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park on the north branch of the Chicago River near Belmont.

The Boathouse is actually two spectacular buildings with a dock area for launching non-motorized boats and 22,620-square-feet of training areas and boat storage. The Chicago Rowing Foundation and Chicago Park District partnered to create this space for human-powered boats.

Admiring the architecture, I had the sneaking suspicion this was a Jeanne Gang creation. Bingo. Studio Gang completed this structure in 2013. The striking zinc-and-slate-clad building won an American Institute of Architects award in 2016, citing “a wonderful relationship between building, river and the park where it sits.” I could not agree more.

Some of the Boathouse operations are on hiatus right now, but in normal times you can rent kayaks and canoes for use on the Chicago River.

I was also able to admire the Kerry Wood Cubs Field which is across the street from the Boathouse. A return visit is needed since my brother-in-law noted that I missed the Garden south of the Boathouse which has dirt jumps and trails for bikers. Who ever said there are no nature adventures in big cities?

The WMS Boathouse at Clark Park
Chicago Park District
3400 N. Rockwell Street
Chicago, IL 60618

https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/clark-richard-park

Chicago Park Options

Ronan Park from Lawrence to Argyle on the Chicago River North Branch

While the 606 elevated path, Chicago River Walk and Lake Michigan bike trail will open this week with limitations, lakeside beaches and parks are still off limits. Millennium Park is allowing visitors with masks in groups of ten or less. It was noted that people may NOT touch the Bean.

If you need a park fix with a water view, consider the North Shore Channel Trail which runs along the North Branch of the Chicago River from Lawrence and Francisco avenues north to Green Bay Road and McCormick Boulevard in Evanston. Included in this seven-mile stretch is the new Lincoln Village Pedestrian Bridge at Devon.

Parkland around the Lincoln Park Zoo was recently filled with sunbathers, children playing, dog-walkers and outdoor diners. A really buff guy was also doing very vigorous calisthenics. People-watching can be better than a movie.

Evanston and other north shore suburbs have lakeside parks open to those needing a lake and greenery fix.

Never again will I take our Chicago lakefront and parks for granted!

Lake Michigan in more carefree days

Père Lachaise Cemetery: A stroll through time

Five of us Cabaret Connexion singers had just seen the Van Gogh Art Immersive Exhibit in Paris and noticed Paris’ famous final resting place, Père Lachaise Cemetery nearby. It was a beautiful fall day so we agreed to wander amid the shady trees and ornate crypts and graves in search of a few artistic ghosts.

I had been to Père Lachaise years ago but this was before cell phones and the internet so I wandered fruitlessly, unable to find most of the famous grave sites. As luck would have it, three Cuban ladies in front of us were being led by a small man who seemed most knowledgeable about the environs. We started to tag along, after asking if we could join them.

It turns out that Paul, the man in question, was a volunteer docent who lived in the neighborhood and knew Pere Lachaise like the back of his hand. Off we trotted to see some of the most famous graves.

The cemetery is large so we had to cover a lot of beautiful terrain in between burial spots. I was able to touch the memorial with Chopin’s remains, although his literal heart remains in Poland. I gazed with bemusement at the gift-strewn Jim Morrison grave, and nodded with appreciation at the memorials to Moliere, Honore de Balzac and other literary luminaries. Some of my personal favorites were artist Modigliani, singer-songwriter Gilbert Bécaud, mime Marcel Marceau and beloved author Colette.

Some tombs and crypts are ancient and falling apart, but others are decidedly new. Our guide pointed out more recent head stones with colored photos embedded, most notably victims of the Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo bombings. A promenade through this restful place is a journey through culture and history.

The highlight of our walk was the tomb of Edith Piaf where we serenaded her with La Vie En Rose. Passersby were filming our little Cabaret Connexion group so our homage to the Little Sparrow may be floating in the electronic ether somewhere.

As our time ran short, I thought with regret of the many other grave sites I had wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde, Abelard and Heloise, Sarah Bernhardt and countless others. Having a guide made this a much more gratifying afternoon experience so we gratefully tipped him at the end of our afternoon.

Paris Greeters, link below, has people available to lead you through Pére Lachaise although this may not be the organization of our wonderful and knowledgeable guide, Paul. We never even got his last name.

This famous cemetery is like the Louvre Museum; don’t try to catch all of the highlights in a frenzy. Take your time and really experience the few things that you do see. Bonne chance.

Link to the full roster of people buried at Pere Lachaise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burials_at_P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery

Paris Greeters: https://greeters.paris/en/