Friday, May 31, 2013

One Last Night In New Orleans

I had almost forgotten how crazy Bourbon Street gets on Friday nights. It has been something of a tradition for me to walk down Bourbon Street one last time before leaving town. And, as I made one final stroll tonight, I was glad that I hadn't spent much time on Bourbon Street this trip. It's an awesome place to visit once or twice during a trip, but, if you spend all of your time there, you'll miss all of the great experiences that New Orleans has to offer.

I spent most of the day visiting little museums around the corner like the Voodoo Museum and the Conti Wax Museum. I finished up with an amazing dinner at the allegedly haunted Muriel's. I don't think I have ever spent so much on a meal before in my life, but it was well worth it. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.

So.....what now? I feel like, after four trips, I have done everything that I have wanted to do in New Orleans. Maybe I have had enough. Maybe it's time to move on. But, then again, maybe I need to find more to do so I can have a reason to come back. We'll see how it all shakes out.

And, remember, folks: What happens on Bourbon Street ends up on the Internet

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Museum Crawl

I was stl in a fair amount of pain when I woke up this morning, so I decided to stick close to the hotel for the day. That didn't mean that I couldn't have any fun, though. I visited the Cabildo, St, Louis Cathedral, The Katrina/Mardi Gras Museum and The Old Mint which meant that I only had to walk a few blocks.

The Cabildo was originally the seat of colonial government in New Orleans and now serves as a museum. You'll find it in Jackson Square, right next to St. Louis Cathedral. There are a lot of period portrait paintings, several historical reproductions and a few precious artifacts. For me, the highlights are the copy of Napoleon's death mask and the locke of Andrew Jackson's hair. It's 6 dollars for admission.

The Katrina/Mardi Gras Museum is on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral ans will cost you another six bucks for admission. I was a little less than impressed with both aspects of the museum. I suppose that there's only so much you can do with Katrina and it feels like there is a lot missing from the Mardi Gras museum.

The Old Mint is a great freebie and that alone makes it worth the walk up Decatur Street. Over the years of its operation, The Old Mint made coins for both the United States and the Confederacy. There is a wide variety of machinery and coins on display, but I did not notice any Confederate coins. On the second floor, there is a Jazz museum which features a cornet owned by Louis Armstrong.

A Napoleon Death Mask

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Longest Three Miles

It was a mistake to walk up to City Park from the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It's roughly a three mile trek and my feet had already been shredded by yesterday's adventure. I was excited to see he sculpture garden at City Park, so I spent a lot of time walking around and taking pictures. St. Louis Cemetery #3 is just two blocks away, so I visited that next. It's easily larger than St. Louis Cemetery #1 and St. Louis Cemetery #2 combined and has a good mix of modern and historic burials.

By the time I got to Cafe Degas for lunch, my heels and ankles were howling in pain. A delicious lunch would go a long way towards easing the pain, and I knew from the influx of elderly folks that the place would be solid. I had the escargots and the flank steak. It was a peaceful lunch, and I loved he atmosphere, but I had to move on.

I walked down Esplanade another three miles back to the French Quarter and by the time I stopped at The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, my knees had given out. The $5 self guided tour was pretty cool, but I was mainly interested in the rumors of hauntings in the building. Tales abound of ghostly encounters with the doctor and some of the patients who died in his care. There is certainly a strange feeling about the building, but that is probably due to the historic aura of the museum.

Anole Lizards Are Common In Mid-City

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Got My Shoes on Decatur And Magazine Streets

I was walking up Decatur Street this morning towards the Central Business District when a man walking towards me yelled "Yo! I like your shoes! I bet I know where you got 'em!"

I laughed. I had heard about the "where you got your shoes" scam several times, but, in the 3 years I have been going to New Orleans, nobody had ever asked me. And, really, I was wearing some pretty awesome shoes.

"I got 'em on Decatur Street", I said.

"Oh, so you know that joke", the guy responded, a little dejected. He'd be getting no money from me.

I almost felt like a local. At the very least, getting hit up for the New Orleans shoe scam is a tourist rite of passage.

I walked up to the National World War II Museum and realized pretty quickly that my shoes were inadequate for all the walking. I was blistering all over. Thankfully, there are a lot of media presentations throughout the National World War II Museum, so I was able to sit and rest quite  a bit. I had paid for an all-inclusive ticket, which got me admitted to both the Beyond All Limits 4D movie and The Final Mission experience.

Beyond All Limits is an intense 4D movie that summarizes American involvement in World War II. The narration by Tom Hanks provides the basis for what ends up being an amazing experience. At the end, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. It was well worth the extra five dollars.

The Final Mission exhibit puts you on the U.S.S. Tang as one of its crew. The interactive exhibit takes you through a fast-forwarded version of the submarine's final mission and  you get assigned a station and are allowed to work the control accordingly. The replica of the U.S.S. Tang felt way too roomy to be an accurate representation. And, I'm sorry to say, acting as one of the crew isn't as fun as it sounds.

All things considered, I had a great time at the National World War II Museum despite the fact that my feet were killing me the whole time.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Screw This. I'm Going To New Orleans

It was supposed to be a raucus sendoff to ChrisMac's dwindling bachelorhood. When I heard that my youngest brother was getting married, naturally I wanted to give him a proper sendoff. A last "lost weekend" in New Orleans seemed to fit the bill . Unfortunately, the realities of life conspired to move things in another direction; ChrisMac and my now-sister-in-law eloped. Babies are expensive, you know.

I couldn't reschedule the trip, as I booked it all through Travelocity and it turned out that the hotel is non-refundable. It's not that Travelocity doesn't have a refund policy, it's that Travelocity often offers rooms at a substantial discount to their normal rates, but, in doing so, make the rooms non-refundable. As it turns out, there are ways around that. If the hotel is willing to allow the refund, Travelocity will give you your money back. No such luck in my case. So, I am visiting New Orleans alone. I have a full itinerary and have picked out a lot of great places to eat at.

I'm staying at the beautiful Bourbon Orleans hotel which supposedly ranks among one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans. It was originally built as a ballroom and was used to host masquerade balls and all sorts of exquisite gatherings. It soon became the a meeting place for state legislators. Legend has it that Andrew Jackson announced his candidacy for President of the United States of America there. Due to the enormous success of the Orleans Ballroom, a theater was built on the adjacent lot with brought French Opera to the area as well as table gaming and fine dining. Both the Orleans Theater and Ballroom were acquired by the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1881 for use as a school and convent. The Sisters remained there for 83 years until the need for expansion pressed them to sell the property to hotel interests. Yet, still, throughout all that history, the Orleans ballroom remained intact. And, it's still there today as part of the Bouron Orleans hotel. Stories suggest that a confederate soldier and a number of nuns and children haunt the halls of the building. The sixth floor supposedly has the most activity, which is a bummer because I am on the fifth floor. Although, I do have a pretty awesome balcony. Perfect for drinking coffee and throwing beads. I will still be keeping my eyes open for ghosts at the Bourbon Orleans.

On a side note, I hear that Alecia Silverstone is in New Orleans this week to promote her website and her vegan principles. Good thing. I had been worried about the paparazzi hounding me all week. Her visit should throw them off my scent.
The View From My Balcony

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Behold The Baby Birds

I heard a lot of commotion outside my window earlier this week and the cat was more interested in that particular area than usual. As I suspected, the robin eggs have hatched. I hate to say it, but these birds are pretty freaking ugly when they first hatch. Unlike ducklings and chicks, robins and other similar birds hatch out at an early stage of development, which is due to their nesting in trees Ducks and hens nest on the ground, necessitating that they hatch in a much less helpless state due to predators. So, ground nesting birds incubate their eggs a little longer so that, when they hatch, the babies are strong enough to follow the mother out of the nest. It also results in them looking cuter.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Yahoo Purchases Tumblr

I have to admit that I don't know all that much about Tumblr. Aside from being a weird mix of micro-blogging and social networking, it just seems to me to be a site that middle-schoolers use before bedtime. It's often billed as a competitor to Instagram, but, even though their user base has been expanding, there have been a number of reports that Tumblr has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, with Yahoo's recent announcement that they've acquired Tumblr, it seems that the Tumblrsphere is up in arms and doesn't know what to expect. This is just pure speculation on my part, but here's my take on the situation:


What To Expect From Yahoo Buying Tumblr:

  • More ads: Tumblr was making around $15 million a year, and Yahoo acquired it for $1.1 billion. They're going to want to make that money back as quickly as possible and ad monetization is the most obvious way to start doing it.

  • No more Porn: Tumblr is notorious for attracting porn bloggers who host adult content and use referral links to paid-content sites to make money. Yahoo has a pretty strict policies against explicit content and is almost sure to enforce them on Tumblr despite saying that they'd run it as a separate entity. 

  • Cracking Down On Copyrighted Content: One of the big attractions of Tumblr is its ability to quickly re-blog something. Most of the time, that's done without permission or credit. There's no way Yahoo will allow this to continue, even though this is what accounts for most of Tumblr's content. 

  • Interface Tweaks: At the very least, you can expect a "Sign In To Tumblr via Yahoo!" button on your Tumblr dashboard to come along. Yahoo will obviously want to put its own spin on the Tumblr interface, but there's still some hope that they'll keep from totally ruining it. From what I have seen, Tumblr has an interface that is elegant in its simplicity, making it a perfect for use on your mobile device. Yahoo would do well not to screw that part up.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bird Is The Word

The previous owner of my house gouged out one of the bedroom windows and mounted a wall unit air conditioner in it. I went to replace the unit with a new one the other day only to find that the air conditioner was once again being occupied by a robin's nest. I couldn't in good conscience remove the nest, so it looks like I'll have another bird nest on my air conditioner for a while. I'll see if I can get some pictures of the eggs at some point.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Review Of Picaboo Photo Products


With today's technology many of us take photos everyday - whether it is on our smartphones or digital cameras - and I would venture to guess you have hundreds of photos on your computers now. May and June are full of opportunities to show someone how much they mean to you or how proud you are of them - and what better way to show this appreciation than a one of a kind Picaboo photo gift created from those photos you already have. A photo book is one of the best ways we have of documenting and preserving our most cherished memories.
If you are looking for a place to design a photo book online, Picaboo is the place for you. Picaboo is a photo book service that excels when it comes to creative control and ease of use. The publisher delivers a wide range of design tools and layout templates that help you create an eye-catching and completely custom photo book. And, with Father's Day coming up, you can  Preserve Dad's favorite photos in a Picaboo classic photo book worthy of display in his office.

Picaboo provides all the essential features necessary to make a photo book online. Its web-based book editor has basic photo editing tools like brightness adjustment and cropping tools. The free online storage allows you to save your in-progress projects on the Picaboo website. Picaboo gives you the flexibility to design a photo book from scratch, or you can choose from dozens of themed templates. The service has a template for virtually everything, ranging from event-based themes to seasonal layouts and various aesthetic styles. Once you select a theme, Picaboo makes it easy to insert additional pages anywhere in your book. Additionally, the service allows you to switch a photo book's size and style while maintaining the interior layout. The BookGenie feature, which automatically creates a photo book for you, has played an important role behind its popularity. This is a great option if you are short on time or have too many photos to sort through and place individually.

Picaboo delivers good photo and binding quality. The service enables high-resolution uploads, so your photos are sharp and vivid after printing. Each photo book is printed on thick, premium paper, and some book styles include lay-flat pages. As the name indicates, these pages lay completely flat without you having to crease the paper at the binding. The editor's interface is intuitively set up, with one-click navigation between book pages and easy access the service's many features. If this is your first time creating an online photo book, Picaboo's user friendliness makes it a great service to consider.

Picaboo only offers five sizing options, but its selection of cover options is impressive. Its classic covers include standard hardbound, softbound and linen options. You can also customize any hardbound or softbound book with a photo. The service really stands out for its best-selling Classic Custom book, which combines affordability with quality. Also notable is Picaboo's premium velvet, leather and two-toned linen covers.

With high quality printing and multiple book styles to choose from, Picaboo is a good option for creating online photo books. You can simply create an account and start working on your photo album. You can also get their coupon codes in order to create fascinating photo albums with less hassle.

Picaboo makes it simple to take those digital photos and turn them into high quality gifts right from the comfort of your own desktop. You can create a free Picaboo account and give it try first if you would like, and right now get 50% off Classic photo books, canvas prints, and calendars at Picaboo.com with the code DERBY50

Monday, May 6, 2013

Frost Boss Cooler Review

We've all been there before:

You have a case of your favorite canned beer or a 12 pack of soda and you're thirsty. Trouble is, you don't want to have to wait 45 minutes for the fridge to do its job or wait 15 minutes for the freezer while risking an explosion. And you certainly don't want to water-down your soda or beer with ice like a pleb. There has to be a way! This is America! If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can find a way to cool down a frosty beverage in a reasonable amount of time.

That's where the Frost Boss Instant Beverage Cooler comes in.

The Frost Boss is spins a regular 12 oz. can around a hopper full of ice and via thermal induction, cools a warm can to ice cold in two minutes. And once the Frost Boss is done spinning, you don't have to worry about the contents of the can exploding out when you open it. I picked one up for myself recently and gave it a quick run-through and a review. Below, you'll find my video review of the Frost Boss in action.

Now, this isn't a new concept by any means. I seem to recall there being a similar contraption being marketed a few years back called the Blitz Chiller. If memory serves, the Blitz Chiller was bulkier than the Frost Boss and it had to be plugged in whereas the Frost Boss is battery powered. The feature that wins the game in the Frost Boss vs Blitz Chiller debate is that you can separate the Frost Boss spinner from the hopper and use the spinner against anything that holds ice (like your cooler). That makes the Frost Boss much more portable.

The only real issue I have with the Frost Boss is that it only supports a standard 12 oz can. So, if you're using the new Budweiser skinny can or the old Heiniken keg can, you'll probably be out of luck. And I'm pretty certain a beer bottle won't work with the Frost Boss. Maybe they'll remedy that in future versions.

The frost boss is a awesome chilling machine for its simple design. compact size, extremely portable for off the grid lifestyle. A must for people who love the great outdoors and not be chain to heavy equipment to chill a simple beverage!! Perfect for tailgaters, beaches, bbqs or anywhere on the go!!

Pros:


  • The Fost Boss is compact
  • Frost Boss is portable
  • Frost Boss chills your can in 2 minutes
Cons:
  • The Frost boss really needs a carrying pouch to keep everything together
  • There's no water trap, so the Frost Boss pools the melted ice at the bottom of the receptacle

The Frost Boss usually costs you about $30, but they run a lot of sales on the website, so you might be able to get it cheaper. Head on over to FrostBossCooler.com for more info.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Miss My Physical Keyboard


Technology moves so fast that consumers can’t even catch up the latest trends.  There is so much hype and exposure to the latest gadgets and gizmos, that we have forgotten the simplicity of technology.  Every time you flip on the television you are exposed to new types of digital hardware especially smartphones.

Smartphones have conveniently come a long way with added capabilities and firmware upgrades.  Their network connectivity is rapidly evolving, making these new conveniences become nested into our daily lives from maps, to talking to texting.  Even though these devices are handy, there is one thing it is lacking that we need on our smartphone: the keyboard.

One of the things that drew me to my first smartphone, the original Motorola Droid, was the slide-out keyboard. It made the lap from Blackberry to Android that much easier. When it was time to switch out of my original generation Droid to something new, I searched for an Android Phone that also supported 4G but was unable to find one. So, I sucked it up, went with the Droid Bionic and dealt with the virtual keyboard. Two years later, I'm still agonizing over it and physical keyboards on smartphones are becoming harder to find.

What happened to the keyboard on smartphones?  Don’t cell phone companies understand that having a physical keyboard on the phone is more safe and practical than virtual keyboards?  The sensitivity of Android OS makes people spend more time correcting “fat fingered” messages than what it’s worth. Not too long ago, while discussing Tropico 4 via txt to a lady gamer friend of mine, I explained to her about how big my virtual city's dock was. "You should see how big my dock is and what I'm doing with it right now", I txted. But I didn't say "dock". I accidentally txted something much worse. And then there was the follow-up txt about big shitments my dock was handling.

If smartphone users don’t have the ability to correct messages with a hard keyboard, they are setting themselves up for failure.  The reason is simple, people take messages out of context and if the wrong word is inserted into a text then the recipient will receive mixed messages.  Unfortunately people have become depended on text messaging, when in reality, they should just speak on the phone instead of had jamming text messages that auto-correct words and send the wrong message.

Virtual keyboards are cool, and nice to have but pose the treat of miscommunication all the time.  One main reason is the way the virtual keyboard blocks other information on the phone.  How can you read a text message dialogue and provide valid responses if you can’t read the full text message.  The virtual keyboard is a visual distraction that doesn’t give the user full visibility to information published behind the virtual keyboard.  That’s why having a real QWERTY keyboard on a cell phone is better.  You can type and hit letters and expressions accurately without visually blocking the dialogue of multiple in and outbound text messages. 

Virtual keyboards sometimes have a mind of their own and will send the message at the wrong time.  This can cause a huge miscommunication and potentially break a business relationship or offend the other party.  The biggest problem is the sensitivity of virtual keyboards.  They will fire of premature and incomplete text messages and the text conversation doesn’t’ flow like a natural conversation and the participants are always in a scramble to find out if they are “on the same page” with each other.

Virtual keyboards are also not trustworthy because you can type a message and accidently send sensitive information to the wrong recipient, again causing a communication disaster.  Hard keyboards offer more securing and minimize error over virtual keyboards.

Currently, Verizon only offers one smartphone that has both 4G and a physical keyboard: The Droid 4. It's over a year old, though, and the general consensus is that there won't be a Droid 5.  It looks like the mob has spoken and virtual keyboards shall rule the smartphone galaxy.