Introducing Bowser

This past March, we decided to expand our family again. After Marcy and Chopper passed away, we wanted to get another dog but was unsure of the timing. With a pandemic happening and another baby on the way, I thought this would be a great time to get a puppy. I was wrong in that regard.

I forgot how challenging a puppy can be. Bowser is an awesome dog (he is a mutt) but man, does he love to chew stuff he shouldn’t! As we work on his chewing (now that he has all of his adult teeth), you can see him in all of his cute glory on Instagram @bowserthedog20

We are very glad he is here and he is fitting into our family well.

The Archive: iPod Hi-Fi

This is the first in a short series of posts around my new and blossoming “Archive” collection. Mainly comprised of technology, it is stuff that I enjoyed/had/desired in the past that I feel a connection to. Some of it was purchased used (since I may have sold it/donated it like a dummy). 

The iPod Hi-Fi has always had a special place in my heart. It was considered one of Apple’s rare failures – it was on the market for a little over a year. Turns out it was a casualty of Apple’s “Project Purple” (the iPhone) since recruiting and working for that project was so secretive. The reason I say it was a casualty was due to the voltage coming through the dock connector – it was too high for the iPhone and later the iPod Touch (a legacy from the FireWire days). Because the Project Purple team couldn’t tell anyone that fact, it was basically incompatible out of the box with the iPhone (but you can use workarounds today). It retailed for $349 back in 2006 and frequently sells for anywhere from $60-300 today, due to its inherent rarity. 

ipod hifi with ipod

I was lucky enough to have a Bose Sounddock (a gift) back in those days prior to the Hi-Fi being released. Since I already had a speaker I didn’t have a great reason to upgrade, especially as a poor college student. It went off the market around the time the iPhone went on sale only added to its allure. It faded to the back of my mind but every now and then I would see a post about it and go down memory lane. 

front of ipod hifi

I infrequently looked for one over the years but couldn’t find anything within my price range – I wanted something I could use, not something for resale. Then, in 2020, I discovered that Goodwill had online auctions *and* they had one for sale! After some bidding over a course of a week, I managed to get one shipped from across the country to my door. 

ipod hifi with ipod

It sounds great, even after all these years. The construction is solid, despite being mostly white plastic. You can really see the design notes that carried over to the HomePod years later. I’m really happy to finally have this in my collection and I hope it works for years to come.

side view of ipod hifi speaker
back view of ipod
back view of ipod on ipod hifi
Yes this can run on D batteries
A line out means this can support Bluetooth among other inputs!
“Don’t talk to me or my son ever again”
Interestingly enough, the are both roughly the same height

Cleveland’s Natural History Museum in Black and White

We visited the Natural History Museum in Cleveland this past weekend. I put myself up to a challenge – take pictures using a different device than I normally do. I ended up on using my Essential PH-1 and only used the monochrome sensor on the camera. It picked some great detail (especially for a mobile phone camera). Check out the photos below!


What to bring to Dreamforce, 2019 Edition


Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual conference) is rapidly approaching! I’ve been asked by a few people about what should they bring and what they should be aware about. Since I’ve been to Dreamforce 4 times so far (5th time this year), I do have a pretty good idea of what to expect 🙂 I’m quite a gearhead (I’m an Eagle Scout) so I like being prepared for basically anything on the ground. I’ve seen a lot and this list reflects that. 


Travel Related

  • One of the top things to bring, even if it ends up in your hotel room, is a multiport USB charging brick. You will be very popular with anyone huddling around a power outlet (which aren’t easy to find). I have a few Anker ones, I currently use this for travel. If you don’t need USB-C, try this one
  • The other critical thing to bring is a multi outlet power adapter/surge protector. Not only can you stroll up to basically any power outlet that is full and get access to power, it also protects your devices just in case of a surge. This is a must for anyone bringing a laptop to sessions! I use both a Belkin and an Anker extension one. (Please research around if you need something that supports 220V plus – the Belkin does not*, the Anker apparently does. This really applies if you plan to use this overseas after.)
  • If you haven’t noticed, one of the most important things to plan for at Dreamforce is power. It is a tech conference after all! I wouldn’t expect you to always find a power outlet so I normally carry two (one for me, one to share with something that didn’t plan ahead). There are a WIDE variety of battery packs that are various sizes/capacities. Here are some I recommend to start with:
    • Anker 10K mAh – if you get only one, start here.
    • Mi 10K mAh – if you are solely concerned with size and don’t mind one USB port
    • Ravpower 20100 mAh USB PD – if you have a Nintendo Switch/ Macbook (not Air/Pro) and want to charge on the go, this works wonders!
    • Anker 22K mAh 85W – If you DO need to charge a Macbook Air/Pro on the go, here is your answer (that should comply with carry on requirements with airlines but YMMV)
    • I would also recommend looking into various wall warts that have multiple USB plugs – you can start here.
  • Now you can have all the plugs in the world but without power cords, you are doomed. I recommend buying a few cords for travel, especially because you can get various lengths**. I am a big fan of Anker cables and Nomad. Why bring more than a couple? You never know who might need help with charging and you can leave ones in your room. It’s a great way to start up a conversation if you want. I HIGHLY recommend labeling them with markers/electrical tape/ etc so they don’t walk away easily (my color is red, for what’s in worth). 
    • Apple finally let other people make USB-C to Lightning cables – I prefer this one from Anker. 
    • I have nothing against the stock Apple cables, but I think they are overpriced for the durability they offer.
    • Not all USB-C cables are the same – here are the best ones
  • You might be thinking “Jeez Joe! Where do I put all of this stuff?!” I am glad you asked – I recommend what I humbly call a “cord bag”. This is a central place for all your power needs – I usually use a dope kit bag or something similar. My current main cord bag is from Topo Designs, with a backup from Milwaukee. By having a cord bag(s), you don’t have to hunt around for a cord when you need it. 
  • When traveling, most people enjoy listening to music. I fall squarely in that camp and have “weird ears” so I’m constantly on the hunt for great headphones. I’ve found a variety of headphones (yes seriously) makes the most sense for Dreamforce:
    • On the plane – I highly recommend investing in Active Noise Cancelling headphones. ANC drowns out cabin noise and background noise so you don’t have to turn up your headphones. Here is a great Wirecutter article explaining that concept in more detail. I currently use the Bose QC 35s and couldn’t be happier with them. I’ve heard (puns!) great things about the Sony WH1000XM3s as well as the Bose 700s.    
    • Because I get cartilage cramps with literally every pair of over ear headphones I’ve ever used, I also normally bring a set of earbuds. You can use what came with your phone or a bluetooth option. I enjoy Apple Airpods and Beats X (especially if you don’t like the fit of Airpods). Wirecutter has a ton of recommentations here. Another good reason to bring a pair of earbuds is it gives you better situational awareness when you are walking around San Francisco. San Francisco is like any other city – it’s not 100% safe. Apple now has the Apple Airpods Pro too which offer ANC as well. 
    • If your device can support it, I would recommend downloading whatever music you can to your device. Internet access isn’t guaranteed, nor fast so if you are streaming, you might be in trouble otherwise. Same goes for movies. 
  •  With 170K+ people in for the week, San Francisco will get packed (take it from a former resident). If you aren’t in a hotel around the Financial District (aka FiDi) and need to take public transit/Uber/Lyft/etc, please account for 1.5-2x the amount of time to get to your destination. This also means people traveling from Oakland and/or the Peninsula (SFO). Be prepared for traffic, both on foot, BART, and on the road.
    • Uber and Lyft have a huge presence there so download and setup your app(s) ahead of time so you are ready to go when you land. SFO has strict pickup rules so make sure to pay attention to where your driver needs to meet you.
  • Since you will be walking a lot, I recommend bringing a nice water bottle with you. I got a Kleen Kanteen at a conference a few years ago and I love it. I also use this REI one when I want to carry more water with me.  It’s insulated, so you can put ice in it before you leave the hotel and it will last a while. If you have a full conference pass, generally Salesforce will also give you a (non-insulated) water bottle. There are water stations around where you can refill on the go. Make sure to stay hydrated! 
  • For killing downtime that isn’t doing work, here are some ideas:
    • Nintendo Switch is an awesome travel companion. I’ve literally had Mario Kart races with total strangers while in line. There are a ton of games that offer local co-op or internet multiplayer (Fortnite, Overwatch, etc) when you have internet access.
    • I really love to read. I splurged on a Kindle Oasis a couple of years back but you can find cheaper Kindles on all the time. You can literally carry thousands of books in your pocket. 
    • If you want to have some fun with virtual reality, try out the Oculus Go or the Oculus Quest
    • Movies on a tablet is always a solid choice. I use an iPad Pro (with keyboard case) through the entire week – I’m actually leaving my laptop at home since iOS 13 brought bluetooth mouse support to the iPad!
    • If you can’t tell, I love photography. While I won’t be bringing my DJI Spark drone, I will be bringing my Benro monopod and both my Essential PH-1 with 360 camera attachment as well as my Ricoh Theta. I really love the photos that come out of 360 cameras.





  • Plan on bringing a note taking device to sessions. A lot of people bring their work laptops (which is fine) but makes recharging a little more difficult due to lack of outlets. If you can, bring a tablet (ideally with a keyboard attachment) that will give you more mileage for your wattage. I know that isn’t a trivial purchase for many (and some companies don’t support BYOD) but something to consider. 
    • For a note taking tool, use whatever works best for you. I got hooked on Evernote thanks to a former coworker and use that religiously. You can use a free trial that week if you want. 
  • One of the things that I constantly warn people about the dangers of public wifi. Dreamforce has public wifi (with varying degrees of speed) and there are plenty of coffee shops nearby as well. You should seriously consider a VPN (virtual private network)*** when you are connecting to those. I am on the Apple side of the house so I love Encrypt.Me – one 7 day pass will support your Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc with unlimited data. They also support Windows, Android, and Amazon so you should be covered no matter what device you use. To me, it’s worth the nominal cost of protecting your data.
  • While you might not be spending a ton of time in your hotel room, one of the ways I make it like home is bringing an Amazon Fire Stick with me. Most hotels have TVs with HDMI ports you can access and the Fire Stick supports captive portal wifi (so you can connect it to the wifi). If you want to have your favorite show on in the background as you get ready, this is the easiest way to do it in my humble opinion. If you are going the AirBnB route, saves you the hassle of logging in/out of a local device, if there is one there.
  • If you are a Full Conference Pass holder, you will most likely get a backpack when you check in. They are nice bags but I never found them big enough for me (also I need a bag to travel there). I recommend bringing a bag with you (backpack/messenger/tote – whatever you prefer) that you like. I’ve used everything from a Timbuk2 backpack to my new daily driver:North Face Overhaul 40. Remember, this will carry your laptop/tablet/cord bag/swag/ etc so make sure you plan for comfort as well as size 
  • Moscone Center is roughly in the center of the city which makes getting certain things you need very easy. There is a City Target basically onsite and various stores close by on Market Street. I recommend buying toiletries and anything you forget when you arrive so you can save space/weight in your bag for swag◆.
    • I normally get snacks, water, red bull for the week here as well. 
  • If you are traveling with your team and need larger amounts of stuff, I’ve used services like Google Shopping Express to get stuff delivered to your hotel room. I’ve even had stuff waiting at the front desk when we arrive (like a case of Red Bull in this example). Heck, you can even use something like Uber Eats to get a late dinner delivered to your room if you need to.
  • There are a ton of coffee shops near to the conference, both large chains and local ones. I use the app Peaberry to find me new local shops to try. I also co-founded Obvious Coffee so I bring some stuff to brew in my room too 🙂



  • You will do a LOT of walking at Dreamforce. Seriously, it’s not uncommon to be hitting 5+ miles a day walking around. That means one of the #1 things to plan for is comfort. If you can get away with wearing comfy sneakers – do it (even if it’s in your bag for part of the day). If you can’t, invest in some gel inserts – they will do wonders. I’ve even bought dress shoes that have discreet foam soles. Your feet will take a pounding – plan ahead. 
    • Also, if you have a fitness tracker, now is the time to challenge people to goal days/weeks.
    • Ideally, break in your shoes before you show up.
  • The weather in San Francisco (and by extension the Peninsula/Oakland) can vary widely. It’s not uncommon to see temps in the 50s in SF while Sunnyvale is in the 90s. Temps can swing 10+ degrees between a couple of city blocks too. Bring a light sweatshirt or jacket. 
  • While rain can be rare in San Francisco, it can happen. I usually pack a small travel umbrella with me just in case.
  • If you like to run, bring your running shoes and join the annual 5K run! It’s on Wednesday morning (November 20th) and normally sells out. The company I work for (NuAge Experts) is sponsoring it again – come get your pin. More details on the Trailblazer Community.



There are plenty of great places to eat – here are some of my favorites:



Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Note: some of these links are affiliate links, which I use to feed my son’s toy habit. 

*I may have learned this the hard way when I took out a power to an entire hotel floor in France when I was traveling in 2011. Oops! 

**If you are using a cable that is frayed, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE replace it. It’s not safe for you or the device.

***What the heck is a VPN? Read more here. Also be aware of people around you if you are working on sensitive documents. 

◆ If you haven’t heard about the stories about swag, Dreamforce has a LOT. It’s practically a challenge for some people. Save space for stuff.

Throwback Thursday: NASA Glenn #nasasocial event


So while this is a #throwbackthursday post, I actually forgot to write about this event earlier in the year (due to having a busy summer with Obvious Coffee). So, I will write about the awesome experience I had at NASA Glenn…now.


Back in March, I was one of roughly ~20 or so people invited to attend a private Moon 2 Mars event at NASA’s Glenn Research Facility. This location is located right next to the Cleveland international airport and is RARELY available to tour (due to the security around what they are working on). Our group got to demo some of the cool things that the NASA media team is using for outreach (such as VR), got to hear Janet Kavandi speak (who is now retired), and was able to tour parts of the Glenn Research facility (yes, including the gift shop past the security checkpoint).


What we didn’t realized til after Janet spoke was we were also in the presence of media reporting on this Moon 2 Mars announcement. We would hear more about this plan later in 2019 at the IAC event.  Once Janet was finished speaking, we boarded a shuttle (look, puns!) and headed over to one of the research labs.


One of the labs we got to see up close was the SLOPE (Simulated Lunar Operations) lab which works on tires and methods of propulsion for devices on the Moon and Mars. The regolith (dust) on the moon is very sharp (think crystals) and “sticky” meaning it sticks to fabric and such. Because of this, you need special types of tires to get around and get traction.

IMG_4985IMG_4986IMG_4988IMG_4990IMG_4993IMG_4994IMG_4995IMG_4996IMG_4997IMG_4999IMG_5001IMG_5003IMG_5004IMG_5009   After hearing some of the lessons learned from the aluminum wheels on the Mars rovers (read: rocks were sharper than they thought), we then descended deeper into the labs. We saw a lab dedicated to methods of excavating dirt/soil/ rocks on Mars as well as testing chambers for heat and vacuum testing (not nearly as large as the vacuum testing location in Dayton, Ohio though). We even saw prototypes for ion and nuclear powered engines!


Overall, if you ever get a chance to tour NASA Glenn, I highly recommend you jump at the chance. They have roughly ~6 tours on Saturdays during the summer and its first come first serve (I wasn’t able to get back in this year). It’s tough but highly worth it in my option.


Droning Around at Patterson Fruit Farms


A couple of weeks ago we all went out to Patterson Fruit Farms in Chesterland, Ohio for their Fall Fun Fest. We also needed to get pumpkins for Halloween, so thankfully they had those there as well. What I didn’t realize was how much fun stuff they had for kids!


They had 2 corn mazes, several places for kids to play, and even old tractors to ride on. I also brought my drone alone with me so I could get some neat aerial shots.


If you live in the Northeast Ohio area, I highly recommend it!

Extra Life 2019

Extra Life 2019 is in the books! I’ve raised over $2,200 this year (as of this writing) and I am SO CLOSE to raising $10,000 through the Extra Life program. This is my sixth year raising money for the kids. I played plenty of games this year and even had Cooper join me for some VR. You can check out some of the videos from the event/games I was streaming below. You can also still donate here!

You can find more here in the Extra Life 2019 playlist:

NASA Social at the 70th IAC


I was fortunate enough to attend the NASA social at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. this year. The IAC as they call it is held in different places every year (next year it’s in Dubai) and it is where private companies and governments get together to talk about space. So basically a space themed conference, which is pretty awesome. As part of the NASA Social group, we got early access to the show floor, front row seats to some of the big talks, and even a private tour of a cool part of NASA’s headquarters nearby. In short, it was an epic day.




After we got early access to the show floor, we were able to wander around for roughly an hour after the floor opened to the public before the first talk of the day. That talk was from Jim Bridenstine, who is the current administrator of NASA. While he was appointed by a President I am not a fan of at all, he has undeniably done an excellent job of elevating both knowledge of NASA and NASA funding. He gave an excellent speech (below) about the state of us going to the Moon and then to Mars. I’m really excited to see how that goes over the next decade or so, even if I can’t go myself 😦


After that, we got to watch a panel of former astronauts speak about their various experiences in space. There were three from NASA and three from the Russian/ESA side – all of them got to visit the ISS at one point in time. Everyone from the Russian/ESA also got to spend time on the Mir station before it was decommissioned as well. We even got to see a presentation of a Russian Medal of Friendship presented from Sergey Krikalev to Charlie Bolden! The event was moderated by Leland Melvin, who still has one of the coolest official astronaut photos ever. 


(I probably should have stayed for the next talk – turns out I missed hearing from Buzz Aldrin in person)

Once those talks were completed, I explored the show floor a bit more. I noticed that there was at least 10 demos that were VR based (either Oculus or Vive), including one that had an omnidirectional treadmill! I’m really excited to see VR/AR/MR take root here as I think its a perfect use for the medium (and selflessly it validates my prediction from years ago). There was a variety of levels of immersion – from head mounted Hololens on an open space to actually docking a craft in a partial simulator. It was very cool to see how these demos resonated with people attending the conference. I also made a point to take a LOT of photos with my 360 camera so I could share how it felt to look around and “be there”.


After lunch, we herded down to the metro (all 32 of us) to head over to NASA’s Headquarters. This is where all of NASA that isn’t hands on space stuff (read: finance, media) operates out of, with some functions that are also on specific sites (like social media teams). Did you know that NASA has its own police force? No, it’s not Space Force, nor are they called Space Cops (I asked). After we bombarded the gift shop, we headed up to the Space Operations Center. 


This command center is where they work if something is going wrong on the ISS/in space. They have dedicated downlinks from the ISS here as well as the astronauts schedules so they can see where people are in an instant. They can also directly talk to the astronauts and/or Houston/Cape Canaveral if they need to. This room being in DC also allows other members of the government to join NASA’s leadership in person if needed. 


Once we all got into the room, we heard from a few really cool people. We heard first from the team that runs this center. Then, we heard from James Green, who is NASA’s Chief Scientist on why we are going back to the moon. Turns out it’s more than I thought – there is enough water ice to provide water/fuel for a large group of people! We heard from Lindsay Atlichson about the different Artemis spacesuits and why they are designed the way they are. The Artemis missions will have 2 spacesuits – one for travel to/from and one for EVAs, unlike the Apollo missions. After she was done, it was time to go home (read: go to the Vienna Inn and eat chili dogs).


Overall it was a total blast of a day (look: puns!) and I cannot wait for my next NASA social event.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I get to attend these cool events. The answer is I apply here for a credential: , cross my fingers, and hope I get a yes email! 

Wanna see these 360 photos…in 360? Click here!

Cleveland Indians game in a Box!

Surprisingly this wasn’t my first time in a box at Progressive Field…but it was for Cooper and Jules! On the 14th of September, we all went to Progressive Field to watch the game in a box. Jules’ parents paid for a box and invite us + Dayna + their friends. We all had a blast – check out the photos below if you don’t believe me.




Virginia Beach Trip, August 2019

This summer we went to Virginia Beach (Sandbridge, specifically) with some of our close friends from college/Baltimore area. We had an absolute blast that week both on the beach and out back in the pool. On the way back, we stopped at Lake Anna and took a boat ride.

I took a ton of photos – here are some of my favorites from that week.


















The Who LIVE at Blossom

This month (September) I got to see one of the coolest band in person. The Who had their farewell tour this year and I was able to get $25 tickets through a T-Mobile deal (which was sweet) while Jason and I were walking out of the Smashing Pumpkins concert*. They were even better in person since they had the Cleveland Orchestra backing them up. I recorded a couple of songs in 3D with spatial audio – check them out below.

img_3409 img_20190910_223758



*Technology, amirite?

Droning around Hudson,Ohio

I recently got a DJI Spark drone (as an early birthday gift). While I am still very new to drone flying, I have been practicing as much as I can. I took some really cool shots over the weekend in downtown Hudson, Ohio – check them out below.







Do you fly a drone? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

(Yes, all of these were under 400 ft)

Smashing Pumpkins at Blossom Music Center, 8/19/19

I recently saw High Flying Birds (Liam Galleger’s new band) and the Smashing Pumpkins at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with my buddy Jason Allen. It was a rocking concert – I brought my 360 camera on my Essential PH-1 to record some of the songs on video. Check them out below!






What to Bring to Dreamforce, 2018 Edition


Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual conference) is rapidly approaching! I’ve been asked by a few people about what should they bring and what they should be aware about. Since I’ve been to Dreamforce 4 times so far (not this year though), I do have a pretty good idea of what to expect 🙂

I’m quite a gearhead (I’m a Eagle Scout) so I like being prepared for basically anything on the ground. I’ve seen a lot on the ground over the years and this list reflects that. Anything missing off this list? Let me know in the comments!

Continue reading

Extra Life 2017 Recap

This past year was my 4th year participating in Extra Life. It’s an absolute blast for me. I truly enjoy the fundraising lead up throughout the summer as well as the 24 hour gaming marathon event in our office outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Every year, more and more people participate in our office and more people make it to daybreak and beyond. I did fall short of my goal this year ($2,500) and only raised $2,390 for the University Hospitals – Rainbow Babies and Children’s. We are very close to UH Rainbow – our son Cooper spent some time there over the holidays and we got to experience first hand how critical these dollars are to their programs and level of care they provide.

This year my gaming experience was different than years past – I brought a PC gaming rig for the first time ever AND played my first *ever* game of Dungeons and Dragons. Bringing a PC gaming rig allowed me to play with other coworkers that were PC only which was really awesome. I got in a few games of Overwatch and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds which got really tense at moments. Playing Dungeons and Dragons was really fun too – it was neat to see how 6 people could view something in our minds in the same way. I livestreamed my entire experience that night, you can see some clips below.

While I tried to stay up til noon on Saturday, I did fall asleep in a chair while playing Destiny. I caught this moment awkwardly on my livestream. Despite dozing, I did wake up in time for our annual Halo craziness in the morning as well as a team photo.

I’m very excited for this year’s event – year 5 for me! If you want, you can donate to my page here but I will be officially kicking off fundraising this summer.

Note: While this event is physically hosted by Acumen Solutions, my views/thoughts are my own. I don’t pretend to speak for Acumen and neither should you 🙂

Learning Procreate with Apple

Did you know that Apple offers free classes? They do! These topics can range from how to set up your iPhone to open studio “Office Hours” around projects you are working on. I got an email about a few classes that were happening a couple of weeks ago. One of the classes stood out to me was “Join a Sketch Walk” that featured Procreate. Procreate is a very cool iPad app that is similar to Adobe Photoshop. It’s a powerful tool that a lot of designers/artists use to create. Even my tattoo artist uses Procreate!

Since I already had Procreate, an Apple Pencil, and really enjoy doodling on my iPad Pro, I decided to sign up for the class and see how it was. I signed up for the “Sketch Walk: Architectural Sketching Techniques” class and patiently waited for that weekend to arrive. Turns out, I was the only participant that day (!), so I got to talk one on one with a resident Apple Genius that focused on teaching. This was really helpful for figuring out some cool stuff that I could do with my iPad that I didn’t know about. We wandered around outside taking pictures of a couple of scenes before we went inside the mall area at Eton to sketch.

The way that the class went from an architectural standpoint was observation. We would take photos of things we found interesting, observing things such as vanishing points, and trace over a photo using our iPads. I knew about the concept of tracing every since I was a kid in school. While I don’t have a lightbox currently, and my tracing skills aren’t great, I was still blown away at the concept they taught. We used the layers feature to trace over a photo (by hand) of the outline of the photo we used, then used various brushes to paint over the tracing. I had never thought of doing this before and the ease of actually getting it started really impressed me. Below is the photo that I took and what I traced over it.

While I am no Picasso (yet?), I really enjoyed this activity. It was similar to an adult coloring book in my opinion – nice and relaxing. It was awesome having one on one instruction and learning how to use equipment I already have in cool new ways! This program is called “Today at Apple” and you can check out offerings in your area here:


What’s in my Bag: Google I/O 2017 Edition

Hi there! It’s been a while, I know. Life has been pretty crazy the last few months. Don’t worry, I’m still here.

Fun fact: I applied to Google I/O this year and actually got in. So, of course, I am going (woo!) and bringing along a slightly different kit than I normally do to a conference. I’m here to take notes (and meet people) so my setup is a bit different than in years past. Some of my notes might even make it to this blog (I’ll probably post an event recap at the very least). After years of traveling and attending conferences, I think I have a kit that is pretty dialed in.
Bag: Timbuk2 Custom Backpack (model no longer sold)

This reliable bag was actually a gift from Timbuk2 (Giftcard from a User Research Study) that I got while living in the Bay Area. While it looks stock, I did choose custom panels (bright red) and a reflective center panel (because why not) when I had it made. It’s traveled across the country several times, which is a common theme for my Timbuk2 bags. It has a dedicated laptop pocket, two water bottle pockets, an interior organizer, and a built in bottle opener. I’ve used this bag so much the stitching was starting to fray on a shoulder strap- Timbuk2 fixed it free of charge. This bag allows me to cram a bunch of stuff in it while carrying it comfortably. 
Writing Device: iPad Pro (9.7) with Keyboard and Apple Pencil

This is one of the big departures from my past kits. I’ve typically usually brought a laptop or Chromebook to take notes/blog at conferences but power is always an issue. It can be a hassle to find a plug and even if you do, you are stuck there while your device recharges. Apple finally released an iPad model with a physically connected keyboard (generally bluetooth keyboards to iPad is a lag fest) that works flawlessly. Not only is this a very compact setup, but I can also recharge from a battery pack on the go (I’m carrying 4 of them this year) so I don’t need to be tied down to an outlet. Additionally, I can handwrite or doodle using the Apple Pencil, which is (unsurprisingly) the best stylus I’ve ever used on an iPad. This inherent flexibility really gives a lot of options when it comes to notetaking. Live blogging is probably too difficult to really deal with but we will see this week. (Yes, I know you can draw on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 but you cannot charge on the go).
Phone: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

My daily driver is an iPhone (gasp) and I’m going to a Google conference. Oh boy. In all seriousness, I went back to iPhone from Android almost two years ago when I got an Apple Watch Series 0 as a gift. Before I went back, I was hunting for a phone that had a great and reliable camera but never found it on Android. Anyways, I never left the Apple ecosystem so coming back wasn’t difficult.
Other Phone: Samsung Galaxy S7 

Surprise! I’m also bringing an Android phone to a Google conference. As part of my job (plus I’m a huge nerd) I want to be fluent in both major phone operating systems. Thanks to a great deal at T-Mobile, I was able to snag an S7 at a great price. This allows me to have a true “work phone” while also letting me test apps and UI side by side. 
Cameras: Phones and Ricoh Theta S

Another huge change from my typical conference kit is I am leaving my DSLR at home. Size and weight is the main reason, followed shortly by most of the stuff I will be taking pictures of will be on slides that probably (?) will be shared. Both the iPhone and the S7 have very solid cameras which will help me document the talks. I’m also bringing my trusty Theta S on my Benro Monopod to capture some fun shots (and maybe even a session) in 360 degrees. 

Head Mounted Camera: Snapchat Spectacles 

The last fairly big change is the fact my Google Glass has basically become a museum piece. The camera sensor in it is going bad and combined with the lack of app support on both platforms, it’s been a struggle to use effectively. When I heard that I could order Snapchat’s Spectacles online, which is the closest thing to a replacement (kinda) right now, I jumped at the chance. It’s a very slick hardware setup and fairly easy to import 10 second clips via the Snapchat app. It’s not a “main” way of documenting stuff, but the POV video is a ton of fun!

Wearables: Fitbit Charge 2 and Apple Watch Series 0

Gotta get those steps! I’m rocking the updated version of the Charge for steps in my Fitbit world. On the other wrist is my Series 0 Apple Watch, which has effectively sidelined all of my mechanical watches for over the last year. Besides tracking activity to Apple’s activity app, I can get important notifications discreetly. 

Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35

This headphones are life changing. One of my new favorite pairs of headphones, these are an enhanced version of the QC25 with built in Bluetooth. They are completely wireless (unless you want to plug them in) and offer best in class noise cancellation. While sometimes you can argue the Bose brand name is just that, a brand name – these are different. They REALLY work well on the ANC front and sound nice and clean. Cannot recommend them enough. However, since I will be at a conference running around, I’m not sure if I will wear these during the day as they can be isolating (on purpose).
Earbuds: Apple AirPods

I wasn’t planning on buying these. I took my MBP in for service one day and these caught my eye on the way out of the store (yes, they were in stock). It was a total impulse buy as my Jaybird X2 have been giving me cartilage cramps after very short periods (I have weird ears). EarPods have always fit in my ears without issue, these are no different. The bluetooth on these is notably different from all other bluetooth headphones I’ve used with an iPhone- I can tell the difference the W1 chip makes. This trip will be the first time I use them for an extended period of time (due to me sidelining the QC35) so I look forward to seeing how they perform.  
Gaming Device: Nintendo Switch

Well, I need to kill time in line (potentially) somehow, right? This console level system is portable, has two controllers by default, and I can play someone in Mario Kart 8 in line. I’m pretty stoked to see how this system performs on the road as I recently got it and haven’t had a ton of time to mess around with it. After slapping on an Anker screenguard, I did my research on a battery pack. The consensus was this model from Ravpower (which nicely comes with a few cables including USB-C to USB-C). This week I get to see how this battery pack holds up to the Switch’s power draining ways. Plus, I’m a gamer at heart so bringing some sort of gaming device was always in the cards.  
Reading Device: Kindle Oasis

While I’m not quite sure of the shuttle situation yet, if I am in a place with no one to talk to, I did bring along my new Kindle. This is an upgraded from a 3rd generation Paperwhite, so I get a DPI boost as well as more LEDs for backlighting. The integrated battery cover is a really nice bonus. It’s truly featherweight in the hand – you almost need the cover so you don’t feel like you are going to bend/break it! A Kindle has been my go-to device for traveling for years now as you can always read a book no matter where you are.