Author Archive: jsbowling2013

Key West – My 5 Favorite Sights

I spent much of my time in Key West being a tourist; albeit one who never set foot on a tour bus, a scooter or a golf cart.  Call me old fashioned, but I think you get a much better feel for an area when you observe it at a walk.

I went through some museums, some outdoor activities and some retail therapy.  Again, there was a lot of walking, but who minds that when it’s in the 70’s.

1)      My favorite stop was the Hemingway Museum.  Now I didn’t go into this being a Hemingway fanatic, but the stories were great, the furnishing authentic and you really got a feel for the man and his era.  Among the tidbits I picked up:

  1. His fondness for cats with more than the usual allotment of toes was because he thought they brought good luck and he could use all he could get.  There are now slightly fewer than 50 cats on the property truly living in cat paradise.

2)      Mallory Square – I’ll include all the retail attractions, the sculpture garden and the park where everyone watches the sunset.  Some of the retail was nice and the prices were surprisingly friendly for a tourist locale.  The Sculpture Garden had a lot of great history – did you know Key West wasn’t really built for tourism until the Depression.

3)      Duval Street – This is the street everyone talks about visitors needing to “experience.”  By photo 2day, there are a lot of shops and restaurants, including Sloppy Joes (this is the name of the restaurant Hemingway frequented daily, but not the actual location – the original Sloppy Joes is now Captain Tony’s Saloon).  By night, it’s a little wilder with a lot more music and you can buy adult beverages in “to go” cups.

4)      Higgs Beach – A nice beach to kick back and enjoy the sun.  White sandy beaches and a roped off swim area where the water is pretty shallow.  Right next door is the White Street Pier, complete with fishing off the end.

5)      Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park – We got a little lost trying to get to the Park.  The map we were using had a lot of streets that looked like they led you to the entrance.  But didn’t.  Finally we found the entrance with part of the area an active military base, that you couldn’t access, and part a beach with a lot of sunbathers and a few fishers.  Thankfully, the fishing and sunbathing were in different areas.

Key West – a Nice Winter Vacation

Early January, I escaped the Seattle weather for a week in Key West.  It was my first trip to the area and I was anxious to see all the sights.

I took a redeye out of Seattle (note to self:  don’t do that again) and I had a direct flight to Miami with a short connector to Key West International Airport.  My first impression of Key West — and this with maybe 90 minutes of sleep – was “what are all these chickens doing here?”  Really.  I was later to find out that there are wild chickens (hens and roosters) all over the island, including the loading and unloading zone at the airport.

My second impression was, ahhhh; it’s warm.  While the Seattle climate is much better than many people face in the winter, it wasn’t the mid 70’s to early 80’s temperatures I enjoyed for the next week.  Here’s another note to remember – winter vacations to warm climates are nice.

Cars aren’t really needed in Key West.  The area is incredibly walkable, and if you don’t like to walk, you can rent bicycles, scooters and golf carts.  Tour buses are all over the place.  A lot of companies advertise the most convenient, cheapest, interesting and flexible tour bus.  I spent the first day, albeit in a sleep deprived fog, just walking.  It kept me awake so I could get on Key West time and it gave me a great flavor for the town.

Visitors can fall in love with Key West; think the town, the atmosphere and the climate are perfect.  I liked Key West.  The week I spent there was great, but it was probably the ideal amount of time for me.

Welcome to Seattle Robinson Cano

A quote was making its way around LinkedIn recently. 

“What if we train our employees and they leave?  The answer is what if we don’t train them and they stay.”Robinson Cano

I bring this up because I was overjoyed to see that the Seattle Mariners and Robinson Cano have agreed to a reported 10-year, $240 million contract.   Yes, it’s a lot of money.  And it’s a lot of years.  And then I start to hear the gloomy Mariners fans saying:  “How can the Mariners do this?  Long deals like this always go bad. Or, General Manager Jack Zduriencik is only signing this deal to save his job.”

My answer to these concerns is “what if the Mariners did nothing?” 

How long did the Mariners play keep you engaged last year?  I know in late May and June the conversation had shifted from can they compete for the playoffs to how well can these kids play. 

Getting your first hit in the big leagues is a rite of passage for players.  Many teams will have a couple of guys reach that milestone each year.  When you look at a Mariner team with 5 or 6 players getting their first major league hit in 2013, they’re just not a great hitting team.  You can have a great pitching staff, but you still need to score at least one run to win.

And Cano can hit.  In a nine-year career, he has a batting average of .309 and for the last 5 years has had over 25 home runs and 85 runs batted in each year. 

There’s also an interesting twist with this signing.  The Mariners have been close, but not quite there, with a number of these deals in the past with Chuck Armstrong as president of baseball operations.  Now that he’s gone, a large deal goes through.  Had Armstrong been vetoing the deals or is this just a coincidence?

And as for Zduriencik, maybe some fans protest this signing in years to come.  But I’d bet you have a stronger reaction if nothing was done.

Silent Echo

Silent EchoI was reminded about Kindle First today when I received notice for the December book.  So, first things first, here’s the review for the November book I selected, Silent Echo by J. R. Rain.

Typically, I read books in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre with some occasional Drama and Adventure books for a change up.

Silent Echo, a mystery, looked like the best book available in the November Kindle First list.  The book follows a private investigator that needs to track what turns out to be a serial killer.  His task is complicated by the fact that he has aids-related cancer and is in the final stages of his life.

It was a quick read and an interesting story.  But the “dying thing” was reinforced over and over and – well you get the point.  Thankfully, the protagonist was able to get the bad guy and clear up a lot of story lines.

Looking at J. R. Rain’s website, he has a full publishing schedule in the coming months.

Shopping Comparison Apps

Joseph Pisani wrote an interesting article comparing Shopping Apps.  He goes through the features and benefits of 5 apps:  RetailMeNot; Amazon; RedLaser; Cartwheel by Target; and Flipp.

Check your app store to see what’s available for your phone.

As I noted in an earlier post, Best Buy seems to be reluctantly embracing the “showrooming” phenomenon whereby consumers go to their local stores to try out the devices they later buy online.  Best Buy seems to be recognizing that convenient locations will only help so far – they still need to compete on price.

These apps will make comparing prices much easier.  You can check advertised prices, you can check internet pricing and you can even get coupons you didn’t know were available.

Attention retailers.  Location is important.  Pricing is important.  But you better make sure you’re efficient at running your business so you can stay in business.


Xbox One and Home Automation

Since May, we’ve been seeing stories about the Xbox One.  I’m not a console gamer so I’m not going to spend much (read that any) time talking about the games, the resolution, or the disk drives for those of you having hardware issues.   xboxone-300x215

The part of this story that interests me most is how the Xbox One is vying for a central role in your home.  With the built-in Kinect sensor the Xbox can recognize you when you enter the room and load your preferences.

And then there’s the voice control.  Tell the Xbox to turn on the television, to go to a specific channel, to search for channels in a specific area and there you are.  Want to search the web while you’re watching TV, no problem; split the screen and browse to your heart’s content.  Need to call a friend to arrange a meeting, or highlight a touchdown, you can connect with Skype.  Oh yeah, there’s supposed to be a lot of games available too.

This article from GeekWire goes over a number of commands and has a nice video showing the system in operation as well as a few times when the voice control wasn’t quite synching.  We’re assured that with the machine learning built into the Xbox, the voice control will improve over time.

Back to home automation, some of you will have seen an earlier post when I discussed the August Smart Lock.  With August, you use your smart phone to control who has access to your house.  What else will you be able to control by an app on your phone?  Turn on home security or climate control with the push of a button?

Or, in the Xbox scenario, what are you going to control by a spoken command?  How long will it be before the Microsoft folks also bring the Windows Phone into play to control the house while you’re out?

How are you going to vote, with your voice or your phone?






August Smart Lock

I saw an article the other day about August Smart Lock securing financing through a venture capital firm. August lock

The lock is a fascinating story.  Installing August, you will replace the inside of your current deadbolt with the August.  So, your key will always work – you just won’t need it.

You grant, or rescind, access to your home through an app on your smart phone. No more giving keys out, no more needing to be home to let in a contractor, you just grant them access on your home.  With the “smart” part of the smart phone, you know when they arrive and you know when they leave.

You can find out more about August through their website or their Facebook page. Here’s a video that tells more of the story.

The funding they received from Maveron allows them to finish work on their lock with release planned for Spring, 2014.  This is their first entre to the home automation industry but in a Jestson’s or Star Trek frame of mind you can only imagine where it could go.  Will they tie everything to the smart phone?  Will they move to a true digital signature like a fingerprint?  Or DNA?

Paper, meet Pencil

You know, I love to marvel at new technology.  Where is it taking us?  What can you do today that was impossible just a short while in the past?  I just saw something that I would never have believed possible.  Believe it or not, a company has created Paper and Pencil.

Actually, FiftyThree created Paper in 2012 as an app to help open up your creative juices on the iPad.  It gives you an easy palette to sketch, write, draw, outline and color.  It’s certainly had some success, being recognized as the Apple App of the year for 2012. Pencil

Now, they’ve followed up with Pencil.  A stylus for the iPad, Pencil is designed to give you better precision when you use Paper to sketch, write, well you get the idea.  And, what Pencil would be complete without an eraser, so it has one of those too.

What’s next, Scissors to crop images?

Roku 3

Earlier this year I had to make a decision.  My DVD player was on its last legs and I wanted to start watching Netflix without relying on snail mail.                                                          Roku3

I’m not a big fan of network television; I watch sporting events and the occasional movie.  I mainly wanted something to stream Netflix and open up some online viewing options.  My original research pointed to a blu-ray player or a little device called a Roku.  I hadn’t heard of the Roku before and this was just when the Roku 3 was coming out.  I read a number of reviews of the 3 from various sites – everybody loved it.

I looked at various blu-ray players.  They were good, but nothing really stood out.  I also realized that I only needing something connecting me to the internet – I wasn’t going to watch a blu-ray video any other way.

The Roku was the way to go for me.  I checked my two standard purchasing options – Costco and Amazon – but neither would be able to sell the Roku 3 for another month.  Voila, off to the Roku website and a few days later it arrived.

Setup was easy and a short time later I was connected to Netflix.  Investigating the device, I found I actually liked the Amazon Instant Video a lot better than Netflix.  They frequently seemed to have better videos (at least they appealed to me more) than Netflix.  There are also a lot of other channels that you can watch – okay, there are 61 just sports channels.  Even I think that’s nuts.

Anyway, eight months later and I’mRoku video a very satisfied Roku fan.  If you want more information, here’s a short video on the device.

Although I have a lot of good things to say about the Roku, I saw a preview of the Xbox one today.  If I was a console gamer, that device looks pretty cool.

Pecan Pie

3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
Dash sea salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 ½ cup pecans

Beat eggs with a mixer or fork.  Add sugar, salt corn syrup and butter.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour mixture into a 9 inch pie crust.  Bake in a 350o oven for 50 minutes.  Some recipes will have you cover the pie crust for half the time to reduce the heat on the crust.  I’ve never really had an issue with this.

Substitution Alert:  For a richer pie, substitute macadamia nuts for pecans and light corn syrup for dark.  It’s a richer taste and adds a little island flavor to this southern specialty.  Or, you can go half and half with the syrup and the nuts.