Fun With Your Apps

Kage Baker really enjoyed apps – those little, OCD, insanely focused programs that do one handy thing for you. She never got to indulge in an iPhone, but it was on her list of Things To Do when the time and money coincided; and her choice was mainly predicated on the wonderful little toys our friends showed her on their phones.

Virtual musical instruments (Kage always wanted a concertina or a hurdy-gurdy). Masks. E-books in general, but since her main love was always the illustrations, she wanted to wait for something with really good colour and resolution. I think she would have needed an IPad, really, for the art she wanted to see. (So will you, Mr. Gillan – you need room to get the details on those blue prints of star forts.) Kaleidoscopes. Flashlights. Compasses.

The level program was on the list – several of our friends at Faire had level apps on their phones, because Faire is the sort of theatre where you have to build your own venue to perform at all. Map apps fascinated her, too – in a practical way, of course, because it’s always good to be able to locate somewhere to buy 3-inch nails or impulse wall paper or potted palms. But also just for fun.

Kage loved maps. The expansion of interactive Google programs was one of the great delights of her later years – she’d sit in front of her computer screen and just zip along roads and riverbeds, exploring the countryside with omniscient glee. When she got her Buke – the little notebook computer that fit in her purse – she had the worlds, literally, at her fingertips: one of the things she did for amusement was to pull up a street view of somewhere we were traversing in real time and compare the two images with one another as we drove … it made her motion sick, but it was also (she said) real time travel, and she loved it.

I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this … and let me tell you, it can be very informative and entertaining. Also weird, as Kage commented on new paint jobs, taller (or missing) trees, graffiti, and all the other changes between her Buke and her view out the passenger-side window. And yet I know lots of other people do things like this – there are numerous Web sites dedicated to the inadvertent glimpses of life the avid Google-watchers have found while perusing those millions of still photos. The difference with Kage was that she wasn’t interested in exposing anybody’s foibles – she just wanted to know for knowledge’s sweet sake.

And when Google Earth added Mars and the Moon, she really went crazy. Where the Golden Apples Grow had a lot of its landscape born from actual views of Mars, where Kage followed the roads in her mind past the actual scarps and cliffs of Mars.

What she really, desperately wanted was a  good map program she could create with – to make worlds all her own. She experimented with various garden and landscape and cartography programs over the years, but never found one she liked. Nothing was flexible enough, or allowed her to draw as well as she could with a pencil or a pen. Even a cheapo Croquill dipped in Higgins Black (the nadir of ink) gave a better line than Kage ever found with a mouse. She had hopes for the smart phones, though, with their touch pads and the like.

One of the programs she loved was Weatherbug. It’s a simple-minded little weather program, but it does show barometric pressure and storm fronts and Doppler rader. Kage loved Doppler radar … doing re-enactment theatre usually entails a lot of time out of doors, you see; you get as paranoid as any farmer over heat and  win and rain. Will the crowds be scared away? Will we be flooded? Will the roof blow off? (All of which happened more than once.) Will the temperature get dangerous? Weatherbug has the charming feature of having its temp display turn scarlet and pulse when it gets over 100 degrees: Kage rather liked that, even when she was stripped to her chemise and sweating buckets – it was so dramatic.

It’s skimmed that area today, though it’s only 97 right now, right here. Elsewhere in the L.A. Basin, it’s still well over 100, and there are lying thunderheads piling up in the East. N rain will come of it, though – just more dry lightning and hot winds. It’s fire season now.

That shows on the live maps, too. I think I’ll go get a refreshing cold coffee drink, and watch the numbers flicker for a while. It’s too hot to do anything but play …

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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1 Response to Fun With Your Apps

  1. Your right about the electrics. I can’t see one of the book thingies doing the job as yet. I need high resolution. Higher as my eyes fail. If I ever get a newer phone, I should like one of those level apps. though.
    Handy that.

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