Thursday, September 30, 2010

Travel Gadget Review - The Chargepod by Callpod

Traveling as a modern man, with modern things, can be undeniably cumbersome.  For every camera, gaming system, iPhone, iPod, laptop, iPad, etc, one must also bring a charger.  I used to have a bag called the "Cord Bag."  This was a gallon freezer bag abomination to lug around all of my chargers.  It would swell and tear and I would curse my damned wires, but I am the kind of idiot that brings a mac, iPad, dslr camera, backup camera, iPhone, Nintendo DS, and a Sony PSP on trips.  I pretty much deserve a gnarled bag of lunacy.

This problem changed about a year ago when I made a hitherto unmatched travel purchase.  I bought a Chargepod by Callpod.  This device comes with a wall plug and a car charger.  It has slots for 6 extensions, and can rightfully charge 6 devices at one time.  It is epic.  The best part about this convenience?  No more wire bag.  You can buy small adapters to charge everything from Blackberries to tom toms.  As of this writing, they have adapters for over 3,000 different devices.  Personally, I use two Apple adapters, a psp adapter, another for my Nintendo DS, and one USB charger to charge any device that can be charged by USB.

I highly suggest one of these if you travel.  Beyond the benefit reaped from less long wires is the convenience of only having to use 1 wall socket.  Especially in Europe, I always find that I have only one or two wall sockets, and I need to rotate my chargings to keep things on.  It is nice to forgo trade-offs. 

This device costs about 40 USD in a bundle pack on Amazon here.

Too check for device compatibility, check this website.  It is search-able and you can find the adapters that you need for your devices.  Unfortunately, the camera offerings are a little light.

Pros:  Less wires needed, small size, ability to charge 6 devices at once, less sockets needed, indicator lights
Cons:  Not many camera adapters, plug is somewhat bulky, must buy most adapters separately   

I give it 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Odd News from Delhi - Primate Security Detail

So, I have another animal related link. I know you will not mind as it is a hilarious bit of news from India. Apparently, in India, a team of primates (Langurs)have been trained to be security for the Commonwealth Games. I know. I have visions of grandeur just imagining this scene. Langurs punching a clock, putting on a security vest, shooing away dogs and other monkeys, conversing during breaks, meeting for beers at some kind of monkey watering hole after work, etc. You have to hand it to the Indian problem solvers. They are constantly finding ways to innovate and lower labor costs. My favorite quote from the article is, "Four of them will be posted outside the boxing complex with their handlers, while another four will patrol the hockey complex. Two have been kept in reserve to respond in the event of an emergency." LINK BELOW:

Delhi deploys 'super monkeys' for Games security

Beasts - The Tarsier

My introductory beast of the day was a tough choice.  I decided to go with a creature I had met, however briefly, on a strange island in Indonesia.  The Tarsier. 

Sulawesi is shaped like a dragon pulled straight off of a coat of arms.  Curious adventurous types probably find themselves glancing at the island on a map and figuring it must be a pretty interesting place, based on shape alone.  I do this all the time.  I see a name like Luang Prabang, or an island shaped like a dragon, and I figure, well shit it must be interesting there.  How dull could it be?

It turns out Sulawesi is a wild land.  Full of tribes, rain-forests, and creatures found nowhere else.  Being on the Eastern side of the Wallace line, Sulawesi broke off from mainland Asia along with Australia and the creatures have evolved relatively uninterrupted for millions of years.  The Wallace Line, a trench tearing deep into the ocean floor, separates East and West Indonesia, along with the Eurasian and Australasian plates. 

At the northern most point of Sulawesi is the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, which is where I met today's fine specimen.  The Tarsier is a baffling creature.  Each eyeball is the size of the animal's entire brain.  It sleeps in large family trees and does its hunting under the cover of night.  Due to its nocturnal nature, they are difficult to observe in daylight hours.  

They are 100% carnivorous, and extremely agile.  They can leap from tree to tree with blinding speed.  Thankfully, they are also very small.  The last thing the world needs is a large fast night dwelling primate with a taste for flesh.  They are under a foot long without their tail.  They regularly dine on birds, snakes, bats, and various insects.  

Tarsiers have never bred successfully in captivity.  When held captive they have a tendency to injure themselves and commit suicide.  Luckily, the primates are located on several southeast Asian islands, and threat of extinction is quite low.  Their range includes The Philippines, Indonesia, and parts of Malaysia.

 A Tarsier Home 

 Peaking out 

 They eat like maniacs 

 Grasshopper in mouth

Top 10 Dive Spots in Indonesia

Raja Ampat. Utter these two words in a coterie of erudite divers and knees weaken. In slack jawed wide eyed day dreams, cameras are clutched and exotic itineraries purchased. Raja Ampat presents the bulletproof thesis in the lengthy tome of Indonesian diving. A place so pure that its strongest ally in its quest for preservation is its remote location, it calls out to the world's divers in a tantalizing whisper from a far out land.  It is a better version of Sipidan without the tshirts and dive centers fist fighting over the daily diver quota. Hitting Raja Ampat 10 years ago was like catching Springsteen at his elementary school talent show. Hitting it today is more the same, albeit with more shutterbugs jockeying with flashbulbs for wobbegongs. But it is not all about r4 as it is known colloquially, the whole of Indonesia diving has sort of an indie rock charm that eludes divers in mega locations like The Great Barrier Reef or Thailand. Spreading out across the equator for 3000 miles from Pulau Weh in the west to Papua in the East, the bustling residents and corals of Indonesia's underwater scene remain consistently brilliant.

Here are 10 superb Indonesian diving locations

1. Raja Ampat (4 Kings), West Papua 

2. Komodo, East Nusa Tenggara

3. Bunaken, Sulawesi 

4. Lembeh Straits, Sulawesi 

5. Wakatobi, Sulawesi 

6. Nusa Lembongan, Bali 

7. Tulamben, Bali 

8. Pulau Weh, Sumatra 

9. Banda Islands, Molluccas 

10. Find a new place with a local guide and name it something menacing like Shark's Fang Pinnacle 

Hotel of the Day - Le Meridien Dahab

Hotel of the day is a new section that I am going to mess with.  I am plotting launching a larger site, and I am going to test out some of the future site's content here.  On the future site, I will have reoccurring content, and one of the features will be profiling a hotel every day.

For my first hotel of the day, I have to give a huge nod to the Le Meridien Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula in Dahab, Egypt.  As tired a metaphor as it is, I must liken this place to an oasis.  It literally is.

The Sinai Peninsula boasts 2 features, desert sprawl and rocky mountains.  It probably looks more like our conception of Mars than the real Mars could ever hope to be.  On the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula, is the Red Sea, separating Egypt from Saudi Arabia and Jordan.  Lining the Red Sea coast are a number of resort towns and Bedouin (desert nomads) villages.  The primary resort area on Sinai Peninsula is at the southern tip in Sharm el' Sheikh.  This city has an international airport and is the most populous city on the peninsula.  Some of the best diving in the world can be found in this area at Raz Mohammad National Park.  About an hour or two north of Sharm el' Sheikh (or "Sharm") is the quiet town of Dahab.

Dahab is almost perfect.  It is cheap.  The beaches are torn straight out of the Thai playbook, the food is surprisingly delicious, and the Egyptians are hospitable and kind.  The snorkeling is world class.  Want to take a road-trip to Jerusalem or Jordan, you can also do that from here.  Aside from these praises, Dahab also possesses an atmospheric variable that makes it one of my favorite places ever.  It is the chillest place I have ever been.  Ever.  Very very very laid back.  I always have an insane desire to do as much shit as possible while traveling internationally.  In Dahab, I had to be coaxed out of my sunning chair with promises of Egyptian sheesha and homemade hummus.

In the southern area of Dahab is the Le Meridien Dahab compound.  Gorgeous manicured lawns, multiple pools, plently of beach real estate, and offshore reefs to explore contribute to make this place a real stunner.  It is ideal for quasi adventurous family types not completely hellbent on the idea of independently exploring, but that may want to entertain the notion on a whim.  It is beautiful, with western amenities and food, and if you get the itch to explore Mt. Sinai, Jordan, or some Bedouin settlements, then you can easily arrange 5 star transit and guides through the hotel that will be safe and pleasant.  Essentially, places like this serve the function for individuals that want to dip a toe in to experience Egypt, but want to retain creature comforts and a luxrious home base to dine and lounge.

Some random Tidbits

Rooms right now are about $100 per night.  We went in February and paid about $40 per night.  It is possible to get insanely good deals.  It is a very nice resort.  

This resort is very 5 star.  The rooms have ocean view patios, jacuzzi baths, outdoor and indoor showers, and flat-screen televisions.  The food is decent, but not excellent.  We had better food in Dahab at restaurants.

The beach is the best we experienced in Dahab, but lacked the authentic vibe of beaches in Dahab proper.  The guests are primarily wealthy Europeans.

           A room

 View from our patio 

 Lawn chairs 

 Hotel Grounds

 Pool with Saudi Arabia in the background 

 The grounds are very well kept 

 Kristin on the golden beach, Dahab means gold 
 Year round sun 

 In our pod 

 A shot of the multiple pools 

 Front of resort 



 Our room 

 Outdoor Shower 

 Entrance at night

 The main airport of the region is at the tip of the peninsula in Sharm el' Sheikh.  You can fly there on easyjet from London, on Egyptair from Cairo, and also from Rome on Egyptair or Alitalia.      

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Super Duper Weenie

Off of the Black Rock Turnpike in a town called Fairfield (CT), wieners are sizzled to perfection by the hundreds.  I do not know how or why such resplendent creations came to be in such a nondescript little corner of the world, but after my first bite, I frankly did not care.  Super Duper Weenie creates a mean hot dog.  I have no idea what sort of alchemy goes on back by the fryers.  Men hover meticulously over their stations converting beef and pork into heaven.

You give the woman at the counter a few greenbacks and she returns to the exchange with a tray.  A fine sense of value arbitrage forms in your head.  In an age where you don't always get what you pay for, it is nice to know favor can still tip in the consumers' direction.  Hot dogs here are cheap, as are their award winning french fries, which you will need to purchase.  The fries trap a robust potato flavor within their pastry light outer shell.  They taste good enough to eclipse the guilt that will form from deep within your diet reflex.  If you are anything like me, you will tell your conscious to shut up while you proudly saunter up to the counter for seconds.

I had a few hot dogs; I am sure of that much.  Specifics are conveniently lost.  I left Super Duper Weenie like a bloated oaf.  I sort of just tossed myself into the driver's side seat of my chariot and drove off into the wilds of Connecticut.  8.37 out of 10.

Super Duper Weenie is located in Fairfield, CT.  Website.  From I-95 take exit 24.  It is at 306 Black Rock Turnpike.  

  Later in the day...I iced Kristin at the beach.  I politely asked her to retrieve my large zoom lens from my backpack.  She unzipped my backpack and grimaced when her eyes met her fate - a warm smirnoff ice.  She is a champion though, and took to her knee, finishing the beverage with utmost dignity.  If you have no idea what icing is, click here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Photos, Less Words

I took my photography portfolio live earlier tonight.  It is a flash site.  If you try to access it from an iPhone or iPad, you will just get redirected here.  I want to buy a new camera, so all of my pictures are for sale as well.  Each photo is limited to 5 prints total.  Go there, or don't.  Link is below. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Musings on Gadling

AOL's travel site,, has payed me to write some pieces for them.  I am currently working on articles about Florence, Dahab, and Cambodia, and I will link to those from here.