Otterbox Defender case for iPad… excellent

If you haven’t heard of Otterbox you need to check them out.

Their cases withstand hard use, travel, and occasional abuse.

The Defender series is their best case, and frankly, it’s indispensable.    It does add weight, but if you use your iPad the way most people do, you want to take it wherever, and be able to use it without worrying too much.

It’s a good idea to have more than one case for your iPad and iPhone, and other devices.

iPad – YES ! but get great apps

The value of an iPad is beyond description.

Skip the hemming and hawing, just go get one.  You won’t regret it.  BUT, to make it truly indispensable get the APPS that are perfect for you.  No matter who you are or what you do, there is a perfect APP for you.

Go to the APP store, and look around.  The iPad has so much utility, time saving, and entertaining merits, no review can do it justice.

Japan Airlines

Folks, if you travel to the far east, consider Japan Airlines. wonderful.. you’ll feel like a king or queen.    They know how to do customer service, let me tell you.

Connections to Tokyo and many other cities like Bangkok, Thailand.

Introspective journeys

Video: great stuff to take when you travel long distances


Thailand, wow !!

Ibis Hotel, Bangkok……. brand new, and wonderful…. must see, and very inexpensive. Computers in rooms, free internet, waterside meals, fabulous pool.

Thailand is a destination that is highly under rated. Sure, you’ve heard of the great beaches, and the one at PhuKet that got pounded by the tsunami in 2004. But, a lot has happened since then. Lot of rebuilding, and there’s loads of stuff in Bangkok to see and do. And the food !!!! unbelievable… huge variety of tasty dishes, fruits and vegetables you never heard of, familiar ones eaten in different ways, and my goodness, food is everywhere.

Now, it’s a long ways from NYC, and that costs, but when you get there you’ll start getting healthier right away. Fresh nutritious food, cheap, and you won’t need to spend time cooking. Everything is inexpensive there compared to most popular cities like NY, London, Sydney, etc.

Did you know Bangkok now has a subway ? AND an elevated train. Cleaner and quieter than NYC subway by far. All kinds of people come here. If you’re a stranger, you are welcome. Just be respectful and honor the traditions of Buddhism and the royal family.

Thailand has a decent infrastructure with all modern conveniences, internet, phones, etc. Besides the subway, you can get around by scooter taxi, bus, taxi, rent a scooter, or hire a car and driver for all day custom tours. Oh, I forgot the river and tons of boats of all kinds, from small hotel shuttle ferries to dinner / sleeper cruisers, to huge tourist bus-like boats.

And feast your eyes on the richness of color, from foods to clothes, to buildings. Striking temple architecture everywhere, from ancient to modern.

Compasses – they’re really important.

Sextants were once incredibly important. They enabled sailors to explore the world for centuries. Now they are rarely used.

Navigation article

Do you know how to navigate ? Click on article link above..

Compasses are a pilot’s best friend because they don’t use any electronics, for one thing.      If you do much hiking, boating, flying, driving, or biking, it’s a good idea to have a quality compass in your gear.

Get a GOOD compass. click to shop

 Compasses come in a wide variety, depending on the use.  

 See our reviews and discussion about navigation on YouTube.    Above is a good selection of samples, and below is some information about each of them.

A.  Airguide liquid fill auto or boat compass.   These may be affected by metals in the vehicle, so will show some deviation, especially while in motion.

B.   Airguide, large, for a boat.    The bigger the better, more accurate, doesn’t spin as much.   Liquid filled.    Great paperweight, but also useful.

C.   This is a fascinating hand bearing compass, with a radio receiver for what’s known as Non-Directional-Beacons, or ADF, long used by pilots but fading out now because of GPS.  many of these beacons are near shore, so boats can get a bearing on a beacon, move, get another bearing, and determine speed and direction.   It works, uses a small headphone, earbuds.     I would take it in a plane or boat.

Lensatic, vintage marching

D.  Lensatic sighting compass.    Many styles have been made, better ones are liquid filled and have pointers that glow in dark with a bit of flashlight for a few seconds.   You sight along a wire, line up a slot, look down and take a reading.   Great for hiking, rescue work, and going out into the boonies.

E.  A military sighting compass, unique design, declination adjustable, measured in degrees.   Kind of a marching compass.  very durable, this one’s at least 50 years old.

Brunton Eclipse, Vintage artillery/surveying,   clone, surveying

F.   Brunton Eclipse.  the prize of Brunton orienteering and sighting type compass.  very light, durable, has an inclinometer feature, nice instruction pack that’s attached.  Declination adjustable.   Long lasting.  increments of 1 degree.

G.  German artillery and surveying compass, measures in mills.  declination adjustable, tripod mount with level for doing angle and distance readings, calculations.    Aluminum     This will last another few decades I’m sure.

H.   Chinese clone of a very good surveying compass by Brunton and a military version, the M-2.   It’s not as good quality as the genuine, but the needle is accurate and fast to settle.  It works fine.   If you know what you’re doing, you could do some serious work with one of these or the M-2, like build a bridge or road.   This and a telescopic transit, and some measuring rods.   The Brunton surveying compass is very costly, but you can find them used sometimes for great prices.

walking compass, hand bearing for kayak

I.   Old walking compass.   back in the day….. really, people actually carried a compass, because if you didn’t, you could wander off somewhere, like the countryside of England.   This one is sealed, water bathed needle, very durable, probably at least 40 years old.

J.  Marine hand bearing compass.   You hold it up to your eye, and read off the bearing to  the point in the background.    very sturdy, for boats and canoes mainly.

Silva sightmaster, Brunton racing, simple baseplate

K.   Silva’s jewel, the  Sight Master surveying compass and inclinometer.   fine construction, site in one end to read precise degree increments, and inbetween.   Other end you sight for angle tilt.   Easy to read, for the pros.

L.  Brunton racing compass, also a good baseplate for orienteering.    very easy to read quickly.   declination adjustable, liquid filled.  has several scales with detail triangles for precisely locating oneself on a map, such as a marine offshore chart or in a forest in difficult terrain.   Take a few sightings, triangulate, place the bearings on the map, and use the small scales to precisely locate.

M.  another simple baseplate compass.  ANY compass is better than none.   but get one that is easy to read, liquid filled, declination adjustable, durable.


The Brunton brand is well known and they make good stuff.

If you buy a compass, get one that’s well made and keep it away from magnets, and electromagnets, and electric motors.

Also good..

Suunto, Silva, military compasses, and those used by surveyors.   There are many good  digital compasses including those on watches, but beware… what if the batteries go out ?

Watch video, review of types of compasses.



Best Pilot Guide…  tips, info for pilots

Aviation… join the conversation

Artline globes

Artline celestial globe

Learning about geography and stars is made easier with well-made globes.    Artline makes high quality globes.  The one pictured is designed to help one learn about stars and constellations.  You can set it up for any location and time on earth.

Manufacturing quality is excellent.     Read more about it by searching Artline Globes, on Google.  They make a bunch of different globes in a variety of sizes and mounts.

Buy an airplane ASAP ( no we’re not crazy )

All content copyright Paul Smyres, Living Being Media, all rights reserved.

You could own and fly an airplane like this

Current aviation situation favors owning your own aircraft :

large inventory, long life of maintained aircraft, tax breaks, lower prices, crowded airports, parking, etc……

Believe it or not, NOW is a great time to buy an airplane. CLICK ON LINK TO SEE ARTICLE, PHOTOS

Okay, so maybe flying isn’t your thing, but if it IS, than take a good look at what’s going on in aviation.

In 2008 and 2009, there were some very attractive incentives to buy and maintain aircraft in the 2 stimulus bills.

But, that doesn’t mean it won’t make sense for you. Go down to a local general aviation airport, even a fairly small one, and look at all the airplanes there.   In almost every case, for each of those planes there is an owner who knows it makes economic sense, to THEM, to own an airplane.   Why not for you ?     You don’t even have to own the whole airplane because it’s common for a small group of people to own and maintain an airplane.    You can own a small airplane and lease it back to a flight school that will maintain it for you in exchange for use.

Prices on used aircraft have fallen in the last 2 years, so prices now are great.   There’s a good supply available, too, because new planes are being produced and many current owners are eager to upgrade if they can sell their other plane.

Planes last a very long time if cared for ( and they usually are ).   Overall, a well maintained aircraft holds value very well over time.   Many aircraft flying regularly today are 20 to 30 years old, sometimes much older.

Why does owning a plane make sense?

If it’s economic sense you mean, how valuable is your time ?   Is it worth hundreds of dollars per hour sometimes ?   Could you make more sales if you flew to see customers?   Could you deliver a product or service faster if you had access to a plane?

There is also savings on travel if a small group is involved.  Think about how much time is spent going to a major airport, checking in, waiting, parking expenses, etc.  Then, you travel an hour or two, and ANOTHER ride in a taxi, bus, etc.

Families can own an aircraft that gets used by multiple members, for vacations or reunions, or medical situations.

Don't you just love doing this?

If airplanes were did not make economic sense there wouldn’t be so many of them.

Here’s one simple example

I often go to Columbus Ohio for family and business.   To do that, I have to drive 90 minutes, park, go through screening  60 minutes in advance, wait, fly to Baltimore, wait again, sometimes over 2 hours, then fly another 75 minutes to Columbus, and another 30 minutes to my destination.    That takes me total of over 7 hours door to door.    Ticket price is around 250 USD plus parking.    about 300 total.

If I owned a small plane like a Cessna 172, or 182, I could drive only 30 minutes to the airport, park for free, fly directly to Columbus in 4 hours, and ride only 15 minutes to my destination.   That takes 5 hours door to door.   It would cost me about 200 dollars in fuel, plus around 160 dollars in aircraft maintenance / insurance overhead.    BUT, I could take at least one other person plus luggage AND save over 2 hours of my time, not to mention the convenience of traveling on my own schedule, weather permitting.

So you see, at some point, it’s cheaper and much more convenient to own a plane, if you plan it out carefully.  Plus, there is a category of plane called LSA, or Light Sport Aircraft, that is growing rapidly with strong, lightweight engines and materials, able to carry two people quite far.   You can earn a recreational pilot license quite easily these days.   Recreational pilots can’t fly at night.

There are some other good reasons to learn to fly and own a plane.

Here in the United States, slowly infrastructure is decaying, especially roads and bridges, and with the state of the current economy and political situation, it’s very likely that traditional ways of going places will shift.     Large airports are getting so congested, full of chaos, ticket prices are rising, and security is getting more and more bizarre.

Time to take another look at private aviation.

Before we had our national highway system, and as trains started to fade, small planes were very important.    In many countries today, they are extremely important, and in places like Alaska, a necessity.

OKAY, so how much does it cost?

Good question.   Plane ownership comes down to a number per hour of operation.  You have fixed costs that occur if the plane is used or not.  And, you have the variable costs like fuel, maintenance, inspections, etc.

You can keep a small plane like a Cessna 172 running and legal for around 5,000 or so a year ( BIG variables, age of plane, time used, where used, etc ).   But let’s say 750 dollars per month, for example.   How many business owners could justify $ 750  to 1,000 a month if it saved them 20 to 30 hours per month of time  ?    Remember, you could share ownership of a plane like this with several people, so your share would be less.  Flying clubs usually let you have a number of days during the year where you can park it overnight in a distant location ( vacation spot ).      You can fly small planes into places that are much more time consuming to get to by car, such as wilderness, lakes, and islands.

Learning to fly is a very rewarding process

You learn to navigate, communicate, watch the weather, and be very careful.   You must use checklists and follow procedures.  It’s a great mental discipline.   Start young, if you can.    There are many young pilots.   check out for more info.

It's amazing what you can learn in a modern flight simulator

Otter Box case, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.

A Great case for iPhone

You spent a lot of buckaroos on your trusty iPhone ( or Blackberry ), so do yourself a favor, and protect it.

This Otter Box Defender case is ideal.   It’s tough, has it’s own screen protector, and covers for those vulnerable holes ( for headphones, charging ).   If you travel a lot, you need this.     There’s another version without the belt clip / holder, and it costs about half as much.   Get it on Ebay for best price.

Otter Box makes cases for other gadgets too.     Check out their website

Otter Box - durable case

A.O.P.A. – a pilot’s best friend

A.O.P.A.     organization for pilots and aircraft owners.

Okay, well maybe a compass is a pilot’s BBF, or best best friend.    However, A.O.P.A.    Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association performs many great functions for pilots and students.     Membership is a great value, about 40 bucks a year.  And you get 12 issues of their great magazine.  A.O.P.A magazine is a priceless resource, valuable information that could save your life or expand the pleasure you get from flying.   A.O.P.A. is a well run organization comprising a lot of smart, adventurous people.    It is vital in bringing important news about aviation to the public, and it fights for pilot rights.

See these helpful sites

and, for Flight simmers