Romey's Ramblings

Random musings of Jeromey Balderrama

March 30, 2015
by Romey
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Hello from Nashville!

We’re on Spring Break this week, so we took the opportunity to hop over to Music City for a few days.

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When we got here the weather was significantly colder than back home in Colorado. That northern wind caught us a bit off guard, but luckily it’s died down over the last few days and we’ve enjoyed some good mild days in the 60’s. The most surprising thing to us was the layout of the city, with everything being so spread out.  It’s similar to Denver, where you really can’t get around unless you have a car. Luckily with our rental, we’ve been able to hop back and forth between downtown and over by the Opry (close to where we’re staying).  Driving by the Grand Ole Opry, it’s funny how the exterior resembles a civic center theater, parked between a mall and the Opryland hotel.  We spent most of Monday over in this area, on the backstage tour of the Opry.  The tour was definitely worth the $20, being able to see the Artists entrance and their dressing rooms, rounding off with the chance to walk out on stage.

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We also ventured over to the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.  We were originally expecting Bellagio-style gardens to view, but were taken aback with a tropical landscape under this big glass dome. The immense size of the hotel and convention center is hard to explain. The pictures I took from my phone don’t do it justice.  In terms of size, the hotel would trump virtually any hotel in Vegas. I kept looking for the casino.

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The rest of our time has been spent down-town, checking out the Honky-tonks on Broadway – at least as much as having a two year old would let you.  Luckily there is live music going on all day long, featured in really small bars with most of the stages backing up to the front window.  Clara can’t get enough of the live music, and in the few places we’ve been in, she’s been out there tearing up the dance floor. Out little groupie even ended up with one of the drummer’s Vic Firth’s, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that she already has 20 more at home.

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With Clara traveling with us, we’ve had to limit ourselves to the daytime and early evening hours, so I’m not sure how much dancing occurs in these places during the evening. I’m also not quite sure if there’s a lot of original music as well, most of the day-time tourist attractions have been a lot of cover bands.  As much fun as it’s been to be traveling with Clara and watching her take all this in, I think that if we visited this place five years ago we would have had a fuller experience, shutting down a few bars.  Don’t get me wrong –this trip has still been a lot of fun.

On Tuesday we’re planning on making the trek to Lynchburg to see the Jack Daniels Distillery, then rounding out our trip with seeing Vince Gil at the Ryman, which is one of the best places on the planet to view live music. The outside resembles a giant church, and I’m told the inside is similar, complete with wooden pews.

Stay tuned, more from Nashville coming…

February 18, 2015
by Romey
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50 Shades of SquarePants

Movie mix-up shows ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to ‘SpongeBob’ audience

I came across this story earlier this week and wanted to share my single degree of separation with this story. The funny thing about is that the opposite happened in what’s likely the same theater the night before.

I guess I’ll have to come clean and admit that I saw 50 Shades of Grey with my wife – but when you have an 18-month-old, you don’t get many opportunities to see a movie in the theater and be able to participate in pop culture conversations (at least that’s what I’m telling myself to sleep at night).  Back to the point.

By the time we got into the movie they were deep into the previews, which seemed strange to that they all seemed to be for animated movies.  I was wondering if maybe the studios were really trying to appeal to the soccer-mom demographic.  We finally get to the “featured presentation” part, which fades into a panning zoom of an island, flashing the words “Nickelodeon Studios Presents”.  At that point everyone took out their phones to illuminate their ticket stubs, wondering if they were in the right theater.  A good 5 minutes pass before the movie stops and they change things over.  From the looks of things it looks like they didn’t fix the problem by the morning.

January 28, 2015
by Romey
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Travel Tech Hacks Mt. Rushmore

Hello from Austin! It’s been a while since I’ve needed to travel for work, I’ve actually hadn’t needed to since Baby Girl was born. After traveling with an infant, my “packing light” skills were a little rusty, but I didn’t want to take a big suitcase out for a four day trip. As I was packing, I thought about my “Mt. Rushmore of Travel Toys” – a few utilities that pack a big bang for their small size and help me get the most out of my travel.

Portable WiFi Router

My newest item I added to my Mount is my portable travel router. Ten years ago I used to travel with my old D-Link Router that was the size of a small book. I guess I was ahead of my time because now we have these portable routers that smaller than a pack of gum. When I bought this last week, I was skeptical of the low price, but this thing really delivered. I was able to plug in the network cable right into it and give WiFi to all four of my devices with only having to pay for fast internet once.  The one I ended up with is the HooToo TripMate Nano Wireless N Pocket Router.

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Quick Sidebar: Homewood Suites did offer free internet, but the speed test reported less than 100kbps down, so I paid the little extra to give me 4.5Mbps. It’s funny how many hotels claim they give away “free” internet, but just heavily throttle it.

Roku 3

Roku

When I would go on long trips (or trips where’d I’d have a good amount of downtime) I would drag my Xbox along with me, packed in a laptop case. I’d have to bring it out to airport security, all in hopes that the hotel TV would at least have an RCA jack so that I could stream video. Currently 80% of my Xbox usage is video consumption, so with that in mind I was gifted with a Roku 3 for my birthday. This has turned out to be one of the best entertainment investments I’ve made. The Roku is the size of a hockey puck and is really easy to pack. I also travel with a 10-foot HDMI cable, and at this point it seems like most hotels have TV’s with available ports. If they don’t: no worries, as no big sacrifice was made. The reason I recommend the Roku 3 over the stick (or ChromeCast) is that you can load videos onto a USB stick and plug it into the Roku – no need to be online for that. However if you do have decent bandwidth, Plex makes my movie collection available wherever I need it. One lesson I’ve learned about traveling with the Roku: make sure you take a battery out of the remote before you put it in your bag. The buttons are a little too easy to push, and can easily drain mashed up in your bag.

Targus Laptop Podium Cooling Pad

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There have been fancy USB-powered laptop cooling pads for a while now, and they do work great. However my non-battery-powered podium pad has been a great trade off for comfort and functionality for these long meetings. The podium elevates the back of your laptop to give a little extra space for circulation for your fan (and is obviously silent as well). My favorite part is that it makes it also makes it a little more ergonomic to use your laptop all day (both at work and home, I’m lucky enough to dock my laptop and have a full keyboard and monitor experience). The cooling pad is really easy on the luggage as well – the legs are removable and the biggest piece is a flat pad, smaller than your laptop.

Update: This product actually doesn’t look like it’s being made anymore!  The closet thing I’ve found is this Cooler Master NotePal.  If that’s the case and there’s not a product out there like this – that’s really too bad.

Portable Speaker

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This has taken many iterations over the years, but my current version is my water-proof shower speaker. As a podcast addict, I’m willing to give up the sound quality for the ability to listen in the shower and steamy bathroom – and with it being Bluetooth I don’t have to expose it to the elements. Although I watch a decent amount of TV, I always find that in the hotel rooms I just have the TV on for the sake of background noise. Bringing the speaker enables me to have something that I at least would like to listen to.

There are a few honorable mentions, one of which I don’t own yet.

  • USB-based power strip/charger. Given that most things are micro-USB-based, I’d like to just have this in my bag with a couple of extra cables and quell my constant fear of leaving my phone or tablet charger behind. Right now I’m researching the one that offers the best value, but will definitely have it on my next trip.
  • Bluetooth Mouse. No one wants to be stuck with their sub-par track pad all week.
  • Bluetooth Headphones. In absence of the Bluetooth Speaker, the headphones make it easy to get around the airport or the hotel gym without dealing with the pesky wires.
  • A suction-cup hook. This is a must-have if you use a loofa and are traveling with others. There’s only so many places in the shower to hang yours, and this little piece of plastic ensures yours isn’t touching anyone else’s.

So there’s my Mt. Rushmore. What kind of things (tech or otherwise) that you can’t do without (and let’s leave out the obvious things like your laptop, tablet or phone)?

January 1, 2015
by Romey
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New Year and hopefully new posts

Happy New Year everybody! I hope that your 2015 is off to a great start! Sure we don’t have our hoverboards, flying cars, or Mr. Fusion, – but aside from that 2015 is shaping up to be great!

I’m hoping that with the change of the calendar, I can put myself in a new mindset where I can start capturing my thoughts in blog form once again. I have a lot of great things going on, but I haven’t made the time to document and share them. I’d like for that to change. Stay tuned…