Enjoying the Trip (Not the Destination) with The Oscars of Literal Travel

The California Coast
The California Coast from my flight SFO to IAH, by way of San Diego

In the interest of full disclosure, I really dislike traveling. My idea of traveling is making my way 24 miles from my home in midtown Houston to my parents’ house in Katy, TX by way of a decade-old Corolla.

Hardly the jet-setting, 4,800+ miles to London in a Boeing 767.

It’s part of my nature not to want to be away from my home. It makes it so that when I’m in a temporary home (read: hotel) in another city, I start to get antsy. So for me, half of the fun of travel is the literal travel itself. I love being in an airplane, I love airports and taxis, I love airport bars.

When I’m sitting around in San Diego waiting for my layover flight back to Houston, there’s something so engaging about hitting up the crappy Home Turf Sports Bar with a beer and people watching. No need to break out the computer.

So in honor of travel itself, I present to you The Oscars of Literal Travel, my takes on the best of the best in enjoying the trip itself, and not necessarily the destination.

Here’s the deal: Before all you travelers and jet-setters and skip-town-to-Vegas-for-one-day-ers tell me I’m wrong with these, I know that I don’t travel a lot. I’ve hit my fair share of American airports, but no, I haven’t been to Seattle or Portland or to any in Florida. Fair warning.

Best Airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Atlanta's Hartfield-Jackson Airport Layout
The beautiful layout of the ATL airport

There is nothing better than ATL’s long halls. If you compare airports to malls, most are convoluted and next to impossible to navigate with escalators and floors and gates that you have to take three trams to get to before realizing you still need to go up another level. (Yes, IAH, you’re that bad.)

For such a major city with a major airline hub, Atlanta’s airport gets it right. There’s no mistaking where you need to go: Just walk down the hall. You want to remove some stress from traveling? Just take out all that worry of touching down in a new place and having no clue where to go. In Atlanta, you just walk. Check out that terminal map to the left. Head to Atlanta and the worry about finding your gate will be a thing of the past.

Best Airport Eating: Pappadeaux’s (IAH)

I may be a little partial here, but there is nothing like Pappadeaux’s before catching a flight out of your home town. Sure, it’s a “chain” in the sense that they have more than one location, but the fried alligator is so damn good, you can’t pass it up—and I hate seafood. Combine that with a good draft beer selection and a very close proximity to Terminal D and E, it’s a can’t miss. If you’re not a Houstonian, try to fly Continental and get a gate out of D and hit it up.

Best Airport Bar: The “Restaurant Area” in Columbia Metropolitan Airport

When I’m traveling, I don’t want glitz and glamour. I don’t want to have my attire checked at a door with a dude with an earpiece checking a list like I’m at some uppity club on Washington Ave. I want a beer. I want it cold and I want it fast because we all know the layover isn’t long enough.

So don’t give me Vino Volo. Give me the wide open area in what Columbia Metropolitan calls its “restaurant area.” Familiar with the airport because I went to school there, the airport is so small it’s got only one terminal with two sides, joined together by this “restaurant area” that offers a view of the entire terminal. (Check out the layout for yourself.) Just hop up to the bar, grab a tall cold one and commence to people watching. You get to see all of the comings and goings and there’s no chance you’ll miss your flight because you got held up behind a ridiculously over-sized golf cart.

Best Nap Material: Nothing

After moving and shaking in between (or before) your flight(s), you want to do nothing but nap it up. Don’t reach for those headphones, don’t put on that movie. Just put your head up against the window. Nothing beats the hum of the plane buzzing along thousands of feet above the bustling earth.

Let me know I’m wrong!

If you’re a fan of Schipul and are reading this blog, we know you are most likely a traveler with an opinion. Let us know YOUR favorite travel trip spots—not your favorite destination. Let me know which airport I need to make my layover in so I can hit up that bar—and not even want to leave the airport.

Build Your Own River Radio!

We all know Texas heat is brutal and most of us spend all summer trying to escape but there is a compromise.   Stick your butt in an inner tube and take that combo to the freezing cold waters of the west Texas rivers.   One of my family and friends most relished traditions is a yearly visit to the Guadalupe River which usually occurs during the Memorial holiday weekend, obviously a popular time of year for this ritual, as the convergence of the rest of the state’s population is near overwhelming at times.

The cooling waters of the Guadalupe, Comal, Frio and other Texas water ways have much to offer in relief and rescue from the Texas summer heat but, in my opinion, lack one key element to the optimal tubing experience.   Music, as one of my colleagues pointed out in an earlier post in this series, is essential.   Problem is water and electronics don’t mix so well and the water resistant equipment that is available falls short if you’re trying to share your tasty tunes with anyone within beer launching range.   That’s where the not so high tech redneck radio cooler comes to the rescue.   Here’s a brief description of how to build your own river radio.   This can easily be assembled by the intermediately skilled craftsman that’s familiar with simple electronics and basic material fabrications.

Here’s a check list of what you’ll need.

1. Roller cooler 40qt (wheels are a must cause this thing is kinda heavy)

2. Car battery (size depends on how much you weight you want to lug around and how much play time you want from your entertainment system)

3. Pair of car stereo speakers, 6×9 or smaller w/polypropylene cones (key to water resistance)

4. Car amplifier (don’t go to crazy on the amps, it doesn’t improve the sound all that much and it drains the play hours from battery)

5. Stereo patch cable

6. Some type of MP3 player, iPod, iPhone

7. Silicone adhesive

8. Electrical toggle switch

9. PVC pipe 2 inch or larger and adhesives for snorkel (optional)

Tools? In a pinch I could make this work with a utility blade and a pair of pliers but for a clean job you’ll want a few more selections on your work bench.   Nothing more than your standard drill, pliers and screwdrivers will accomplish the task at hand but a Dremel tool with a cutting bit can really speed up the process and make for a cleaner build. So here’s what you do:

1. Open that pair of polypropylene speakers and find the template for the speaker hole cut-outs to   mark your ice chest for surgery.   Don’t start cutting just yet, you’ll want to layout the entire job before starting your fabrications.

2. Next, position the battery in the ice chest and determine whether or not you’ll have enough clearance between the speaker magnets and the battery.   I’ve never known this to be an issue but if you went all out on some big speakers you may have a problem.






3. So now that you know the ice chest has the capacity to house your speakers and battery you may consider the option of adding the snorkel.   If so, you’ll want to position the snorkel pipe thru the top of the ice chest so it does not interfere with the speaker or battery placement and mark the cut out accordingly. The snorkel servers two purposes; it improves the quality of the sound by allowing the speakers to breath from the in-out movement of the speaker cones and it also cools the electronics just a bit.   I’ve gone years without the snorkel without problems but if you’re looking for the best quality in sound you’ll want to include it.

4. Let’s don’t forget that amplifier, make sure that fits as well.   Depending how creative you are you can mount the amplifier to the side of the inside wall of the ice chest or just place it in that little snack tray that comes included with most ice chest which you usually toss out.






5. Now that your well laid plans for stereophonic paradise are in order, mark your speaker cut-outs (higher is better) and commence to cutting.   This is where you’ll utilize the Dremel tool to trace along the template markings.   Note that the ice chest walls are thick so don’t expect to cut all the way through to the inner lining.   You’ll just want to cut through the first layer of plastic and complete your oval or circular cut out. Once that’s done you’ll peel off the plastic layer revealing a foam insulator beneath.   You can then cut out the foam using a utility blade or the Dremel tool.   Repeat these steps for the second speaker.






6. Now you have the speaker holes cut out you can mount the speakers.   Depending on what type of speakers you have you can either mount them directly to the surface of the outer skin or drill holes all the way thru the inner lining and bolt them on from the backside (preferred). After the speakers are mounted seal the edges with the silicon.






7. If you choose the snorkel option I would do this next.   This takes some imagination in fabrication but what you’re shooting for is the tightest fit possible so make your cut outs as precise as possible and insert the PVC thru the top of the ice chest.   To hold it in place position female ends on either side of the lid giving minimum space to the male fitting in the middle creating a sandwich of the lid between the two.   Use silicon to seal the edges then fasten the other PVC fittings in a manner that creates a U on top of the cooler.













8. Now you can place the battery inside the cooler and, again, depending on how fancy you want to get you can secure the battery in some fashion or just let it sit on the bottom of the cooler.






9. Next, wire and mount the amplifier. Not necessarily in that order but don’t mount the amplifier where you can’t see or reach the connections for the speakers and power.






10. Now you have all the components in place complete the wiring per the manufacture’s instructions using the toggle switch as the “remote on”.






11. Now plug in your MP3 player using the RCA cables to the amps input source and that’s it! You’re all ready to rock-and-float!










More project photos here

Summer Staycation

Since I’m still one of the new guys here at Schipul, I don’t have a lot of vacation time saved up. That said, I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time close to home this summer. However, that does not mean I can’t get that vacation feel right here in Houston. So today’s post is dedicated to the wonderful world of staycations. I also recommend any of these options for a friend coming in from out of town.

I lived with my parents (in Sugar Land) for a while after graduating from college.  During the heydey of the Super Bowl and various All-Star Games,  you could generally find  me somewhere in the vicinity of Downtown. During that time, I had the pleasure of staying in the Alden Hotel,  Magnolia Hotel and the Inn at the Ballpark. I also got to spend the week with the Rutgers Football team in the Hyatt Regency during the 2006 Texas Bowl. In short, I know my way around Downtown Houston hotels.  Let’s break them down:

A Night at the Theater
Alden Hotel
– Perfect for a Downtown weekend taking in the offerings of Houston’s Theater District. a+ is a great way to start your evening with amazing food and atmosphere. The hotel will whisk you to and from the theater, and their bar is the perfect end to a perfect evening.

Magnolia Hotel – The rooftop pool, while a tad bit small, presents a fantastic view of Downtown Houston and the surrounding areas. This is also a great location for Theater District events. However, they do not have a restaurant on site. Nor does their bar really have that great hotel bar feel. Still, if you want a quiet weekend away from it all, book a night at the Maggie. NOTE: Request a room with a view.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Inn at the Ballpark
– While this is probably not a great summer to catch an Astros game, there is no doubt walking across the street to see on is a unique experience in its own right. Plus you have Vic & Anthony’s right next door. If you like baseball, this is your place to stay.

Inn at the Ballpark

Night on the (Down)Town
Hyatt Regency – If you went to high school in Houston, there is a distinct chance your prom was held at this hotel. If you haven’t been to it since your prom, you might be surprised to see how things have changed. new Lobby Bar, new restaurant, new everything really. The rooms are very nice, and it’s got a nice vibe. Plus, you’re blocks away from the Houston Pavilions. The Hyatt is one of the largest hotels in Downtown, so there’s always bound to be a number of travelers to swap stories with at the bar.

Four Seasons Houston Resort Pool

Four Seasons – What is it about a Four Seasons Hotel? Like the Hyatt, the Four Seasons has gone through some major renovations in an attempt to draw more locals. Their resort-style pool is tops among their Downtown brethren, if not any hotel in Houston. Besides, there is just something about staying in a Four Seasons. Add their convenient location to Discovery Green and Houston Pavilions, and you’ve got yourself an  itinerary  fit for the most ambitious fun seeker.

I know what you’re saying, I live inside the Loop, I can see Downtown from my window. Okay, so maybe Downtown isn’t going to give you that exotic out-of-town feel you’re looking for, but can you handle going outside the Loop? What about the Beltway? One of the funny things about Houston’s size is that you can drive across it, and feel like you’ve just been on a serious road trip. The burbs have done a good job creating places for people to visit. Both Sugar Land and  The Woodlands have developed Town Centers that feature hotels and various dining and entertainment options. I’ve been to Sugar Land Town Square, and I highly recommend it. Kind of a small town feel with cosmopolitan style.

Sugar Land Town Square

I know, OMG, THE BURBS! Okay, okay, I’ll keep trying. I do have one last recommendation for you, and it is JUST inside the Beltway. I am talking about the recently opened CITYCENTRE. I had the recent opportunity to spend the evening here with my friends from the Fresh Arts Coalition and Spacetaker during their Arternative Happy Hour event. What will probably surprise you first, is the number of people calling CITYCENTRE their nightlife home. Indeed, there was a great scene going at Yard House and Straits. I’ve eaten at both, and HIGHLY recommend both. The evening wound down with live music at  Monna Lisa in the Hotel Sorella. The atmosphere was so great, that one friend exclaimed, “I feel like I’m out of town.”

So you see, a vacation doesn’t have to always be somewhere outside the city you live. All you need is the right frame of mind, and a fantastic destination. See you by the (hotel) pool!

Pack Your Sketchbook

I know, I know, this is supposed to be about some new fandangled tech toy that you should probably take along with you on your good ol’ summer vacation. I should probably be writing about an iPad, iPod, iPhone, Sega GameGear or Amazon Kindle but I’m not. Instead I’m offering up an alternative to the “traditional” geeky gadgets that you should equip yourself with the next time you decide to venture into the sunlight and away from your computer.

With that said, I propose packing your sketchbook the next time you travel. Taking a sketchbook, moleskin, drawing pad (or whatever else you want to call it) along with you when you travel will give you a way to create something unique to remember the trip by. Whether you are waiting for your flight, sitting on the plane, riding a subway or just relaxing in the park, doodling in your sketchbook will help you create lasting memories of the places you visit.

Instead of purchasing a post card or snapping a photo, sit down and really soak in the surroundings. Observe the tiny details and enjoy the less obvious things.

A few items that I have on or near me at all times are: a sketchbook, sharpies and pencils. You can pack an eraser if you really want to. I don’t have a  preference  as to what type of sketchbook to use but here are a few places that you could take a peep at if you are interested: http://www.moleskineus.com/ and http://www.dickblick.com/categories/sketchbooks/. My favorite drawing mediums can be found here: http://www.prismacolor.com/.

So here’s to happy sketching and making it a part of your next vacation!

The Essential Travel Pillow!

Really Lyndia? YES really! The travel pillow IS essential for all travelers. If you’re not lucky enough to be in one of these, you’ll need one I promise.
We are all too familiar with the ‘I’m trying to sleep in this small space with the seats that hardly lean back without touching the person next to me” dance. It’s the same 4 or 5 positions that we seem to try over and over again until we are finally too sleepy to care and just pass out. Here are just a few.

  1. The lay straight back position that makes your head flop left and right the moment you doze off. Only the talented that don’t move when they sleep can pull of this position. Others just end up with whiplash or with their head hanging down in front of them drooling.
  2. Me, I like to sleep on my side so I try the lay back with my head turned position. Flipping back and forth from my right to left and left to right every time I start to feel my neck go numb.
  3. How about trying to lift both legs on your seat and lay your head on your knees? Yeah that’s a really comfortable one.
  4. If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat you can always use one of their small pillows to lean on the wall of the airplane. Of course there is always that gap between your seat and the concave airplane wall that causes your pillow to slip and fall repeatedly.

These are all reasons to BRING A TRAVEL PILLOW WITH YOU. They work and your neck will love you for it. My favorite travel pillow is just your regular old donut shaped travel pillow. I have an awesome Temperpedic one but the $10 ones you can get at the airport works great also.( They can be useful for sitting on too if you happen do something retarded like jump off a bridge into a river and bruise your tail bone. So I’ve heard).   Here are just a few to check out


Price: £19.99 (US$30.00 approx)

This travel pillow completely prevents your head from tilting forward. It has high sides to support the neck and head. There is chin support to stop your head from falling forwards. Fast inflation with included mini-pump and it folds away neatly into included carry case.

The Samsonite Double Comfort Travel Pillow with Pouch

Price: $10.00

The Samsonite Double Comfort Travel Pillow with Pouch upgrades your comfort level in trains, planes and cars! The dual-chambered pillow allows individual cushioning of head and neck for maximum relaxation. Adjust by inflating each section for desired support and firmness. It is ultra-soft and ultra-comfortable and is complete with a handy carrying pouch.

The TravelRest

Price: $26.95

With its patented ergonomic shape, the TravelRest pillow attached to any seat back, nestling against the head and neck to provide support and comfort in flight or on the road. Even without a seat back, TravelRest’s versatile design provides excellent support – simply sling the tether cord over your head and shoulder… and relax. Its the Ultimate Travel Pillow.

IPOD/MP3 Travel Pillow

Price: Starting at $14.95

Need I say more?

Sans iPod Tunes For Your Travels

Music is an essential element for me when traveling. This summer whether I’m hanging by the lake in Austin for the weekend, road tripping a couple states away or relaxing by the beach with family, music is always present. And with all there is to do to get ready for a vacation, making new playlists might not be at the top of your list.

Here are a couple ways to discover new music or stream tailored playlists without fighting over who’s iPod to plug in.

Pandora Radio

This is one of the more popular Internet radio providers (ie free) so you may already be familiar with the service. It is still worth mentioning though as it offers a great variety of music so no matter your taste, something should come up that you like. Most of the Internet radio services are modeled off the ‘choose something you like and we’ll play other similar songs’ model but I tend to use Pandora more to play music I am familiar with (since channels are based off me providing an artist). Giving the thumbs up to like songs and hear more like it and the thumbs down to refine my channels.

A great option on the laptop in your hotel room or streaming from the Pandora app on your iPhone. Plug your phone in to an aux jack in your car or dock it in a set of speakers and you’re good to go.

Slacker Radio

Another great option for sans iPod music, Slacker Radio is free as well so it comes with the standard six song skips an hour but has some great stations already set up. For me, Slacker leans more towards the ‘discovery’ end of the spectrum since you choose genres and stations then get music in that range.

It also has a great iPhone app to access music from your phone. Head down to the bay, get Slacker Radio cranking on iPhone speakers, pick a country station and commence your game of washers worry free of what to play next.


While on the road, hop on your laptop (or your uncle’s you are visiting) to log in to Grooveshark and access songs saved to you library or playlists you’ve created previously. Everyone can’t decide on a playlist? Make a new one up from the road or just choose a radio station to stream music. As for which station to choose… you’re on your own on that. Be sure to check out the Blackberry app as well for Grooveshark on the go (sorry fellow iPhone-ers, no app at this time).

And one of the cooler new services to keep an eye out for in the near future…


Rdio is a new social music service that allows you to discover and stream music easily. Big ups to Ben for the heads up on this. From www.rdio.com, “We’re making a music service that takes the work out of deciding what to play next — follow friends and people with great taste in music, get inspired by what they’re playing, and listen to their playlists.”

Browse music by “New Releases”, what’s “Popular This Week”, and also what is “Recommended for You” based off your preferences. Once you’ve discovered something you like, add it to your “Collection” which you can view by artist and it makes a coold cloud diagram for you. Then follow your friends to see their collections and playlists. So if your car full of friends can’t decide on one of your playlists, create one on the go via the awesome Rdio iPhone app. Or if a laptop is an option, you can log in to stream to other people’s playlists.

My collection “cloud” so far

The downside, besides not being available yet, is that when it is available it will run you $9.99/mo for unlimited web and mobile access or $4.99/mo for unlimited web access. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I will spend the $10 a month for it but the more I play with it, the more I like it. Currently Rdio is just listed as “Coming Soon” with no date mentioned for availability. You can sign up at www.rdio.com to receive emails with updates.

And don’t forget to keep your ears open when on vacation, listening for new, good music. One of my favorite things to do when on vacation is to listen to local radio stations, ask cab drivers what artist is playing in the car if it is good and pay attention to what is on in bars and restaurants. If something sounds cool, ask some one if they know who it is. And if they don’t know, Shazam away. That is how I found one of my favorite songs I wouldn’t have otherwise. On a booze cruise excursion in Puerto Vallarta I asked one of the guys in the crew what we were listening to. It was “El Garrote” by Los Socios del Ritmo and it was awesome. Listen to it on a boat, in the sun, with a refreshment of your choice and thank me later.

5 Tips to Keep You Safe On that Next Road Trip

Summer is here and along with it high airfare prices, leaving many families opting to drive to their next vacation spot. We all know to drive safely but sometimes situations like flat tires, bad weather, and sick children are out of our control.   The first step to ensuring safety on your next get-a-way is to plan. Having the resources and planning to deal with the unexpected is the best way to protect you and your family and most importantly, to get back to the reason you’re traveling, vacation! There are 5 simple tips to keep in mind while traveling. The linked text will take you to a “how-to” page describing the mentioned action.

1. Check Your Car

The first step and arguably the most important is to make sure you car can safely drive to your destination. This includes tire pressure, engine oil, wipers and wiper fluid, battery, and radiator coolant.   This is especially important if you have an older car.  Even if you drive your car everyday and it seems to run fine, it might not be able to handle the distance of a road trip.

2. Bring an Emergency Car Kit

If you failed to follow rule #1 or something unexpected like a flat tire occurred, it’s vital you have emergency car kit on board. Like a first-aid kit for your car, this could save you in desperate situations. Tools to include are:

– Duct Tape: Can temporarily fix a broken window wiper, hold glass together, mend a broken hose, etc….

– Tools: Wrench, Screwdriver, pliers, and a socket wrench.

– Booster Cables: To jump a dead battery

– Emergency Flashlight/Flares: To see around at night, and attract help.

3. First Aid Kit

If your car was damaged or broken down, there is a good chance you will have to wait sometime before help arrives, especially on road trips where help is hundreds of miles away. If you are driving with multiple people, like children, safety should be the first priority. It’s is important to have an adequate first-aid kit on hand to help if there are any injuries. Bandages, antibiotic cream, aspirin, ice-packs, alcohol wipes, and a first aid instruction book, are some basic materials you should have.

4. Don’t Just Pack a Picnic

Just because you brought road snacks doesn’t mean you can survive off them for several days. Many people will bring food that goes bad if not kept in ice, and during the summer the heat will turn these foods stale quickly. Snacks like trail mix are good but you can’t assume you are prepared because you have some food.

– Naturally, the first thing you will think of is water. It is important to have back up jugs or bladders of water at about a 3 gallon per person per day ratio.

– Energy Bars: powerbars, granola bars, and my personal favorite, cliff bars.

Dehydrated food: While they might not be consumed at all during your trip, these meals can easily be made on a pinch, and are light/small enough to be packed into your trunk.

*Emergency food/water you pack should be considered off limits unless of an emergency. If you include the food you plan on eating with your emergency food, you won’t have nearly enough food to survive for multiple days.

5. Know the Road

Do you know multiple ways to get to your vacation? With construction and traffic you might be forced to take an alternate path. Make sure you plan your trip through Google Maps and bring an atlas, so in case you can’t get internet, you have a back up copy. Also make sure you know the nearest town/city to find help at all times during the trip. This doesn’t have to be a boring task, plan your route with the intention of seeing cool sites and having fun but always be aware of your surroundings.

Fit Geek Travel Tips

For a lot of people, travel means letting go of their usual exercise routines.    It’s easy to understand why—if you’re in a fascinating new place, why would you want to waste time inside a generic hotel gym?    If you only head out of town a few times a year, skipping your exercise probably won’t set you back very far.    For frequent travelers serious about keeping in shape, figuring out a way to squeeze exercise into your travel is critical to staying on track.    For me, the best way to integrate sightseeing and exercise is simple: go running!

Foot travel is the best way to familarize yourself with a new place.    Odds are, if you in a car or train, you’re going too fast to get a good look at anything.    If you are on foot, you really get the chance to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (for better or worse…) of the city you’re visiting.    Running also keeps packing simple, because you don’t need a lot of equipment.  All you really need is a good pair of shoes, and some clothes you don’t mind getting sweaty in.    If you’re really concerned about weight/space in your suitcase, Nike makes extremely lightweight and flexible running shoes that are based on the latest footwear technology.

In the past, the most difficult things about travel running were figuring out exactly how far I ran, and remembering my route.    In Houston I know that I am covering 3 miles every time I circle Memorial Park.    I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me that.    But until the advent of the smartphone , when I was running in an unfamiliar city, I was left to guess.    The solution?    Runkeeper.

Runkeeper is a free app (you can upgrade to pro for $9.99), available on both the iPhone and Android,    that uses your phone’s GPS to track the duration, distance, speed, elevation, and calories burned on your run.    It also maps your route, which is extremely helpful when you are trying to relocate something you passed during your run.    You can even share the details with your friends, by posting your stats to Facebook and Twitter.

Have bad joints, and can’t run?    Walk or bike instead.    Runkeeper works equally well for walkers and cyclists, should you feel inclined to rent a bike while you’re out of town.    Weather need not be a deterrent either.    I’ve run through rainy streets in NY and snow covered sidewalks in Oregon.    However, if you think you might encounter some inclement  weather, invest in a weather-proof case for your phone. If you get caught in a sudden downpour, you’ll be very glad you did!

If you’re also watching your diet really closely and need some extra help while you’re on the road, there are calorie tracking apps as well.    My favorite is a free app for the iPhone called Lose It!. It helps you calculate your caloric intake with an extensive built-in database of possible foods (you can also enter in calories manually), and adjusts for calories burned during exercise.    It’s not an exact science, but it is a useful tool when you are outside your usual environment and want to keep your diet on target.

Some vacations certainly call for parking yourself in a lounge chair for days without lifting a finger, and trying every bit of local food you can get your hands on.  If it’s not one of those trips, use the technology you’re probably carrying in your pocket/purse anyway to help you stay fit this summer!

CC license photos thanks to flickr users mikebeard &  philcampbell.

Audiobooks – a geek vacation must!

I can’t travel without a good book. And as a Dallas native who is often making the 10 hour round trip drive to see my family, I can’t imagine vacation without audiobooks!

Whether you use Audible.com (a paid subscription service), iTunes, or your local Half Price Books… audio books can help a long trip go by faster – and (if you’re feeling extra geeky) you might just learn something along the way.

A few tips for finding good books:

  • Use the library – Most libraries, including The Houston Public Library, allow you to reserve books and audio books online (even from other branches in the system). You’ll get an email when it’s ready, just come pick it up at your neighborhood branch. A great way to get your audiobook fix and be frugal.
  • Ask your network – There is one thing I think LinkedIn does better than any other social network, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking. I LOVE the Reading List by Amazon App! Create a reading list and mark books as Read, Reading, or Want to Read – and then write a review or recommend to friends. The app then shows recommended books from people in your network, in your industry, and throughout all of LinkedIn.

Audiobooks I’m obsessed with right now

Below is a list of the last few audiobooks I’ve listened to. They were all fascinating and (in my opinion) more interesting because they were read by the author.

  1. It’s Called Work for a Reason – read by the author Larry Winget
    This book is made up of Larry Winget’s thoughts on business, getting and keeping a job, and dealing with people you work with. The book is great on its own, but there’s just something about hearing Larry Winget say “be known as the guy who gets sh*t done” in his own voice that makes it that much more powerful (and the stories funnier).
    For more on this book, read Courtney’s recap “Do Work” from the Schipul blog.
  2. Outliers read by the author Malcolm Gladwell –
    Like many of us at Schipul, I have a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell obsession. Gladwell has a way of explaining the world around us that is so logical but also completely different than anything I’ve ever heard. Outliers explains that no one really picks themselves up by the bootstraps and finds success all by themselves. There are no born geniuses, success depends on context and opportunities and practice (practice, practice).

    There’s a reason this man hold 3 of the 5 spots on the top nonfiction audiobooks on iTunes right now. Next up on my to-read list is his latest book “What the Dog Saw.”

  3. Official Bookclub Selection – read by the author Kathy Griffin –
    I couldn’t leave this one out! You might think she’s mean for making fun of those poor defenseless celebrities or you might not get why the details of Brook Shield’s wedding are so fascinating… But if you are a Kathy Griffin fan, you will enjoy this book. It’s essentially 6 hours of stories in the style of her stand up, always hilarious and at times very touching. If that sounds like your cup of tea – Don’t walk, RUN to get your hands on the audiobook. Seriously. Go!

What do you think? What books are better when read by the author? What are you listening to right now? Let us know!

OH MiFi! What an internet connection!

Verizon Mifi Card courtesy of judybaxter on Flickr
Verizon Mifi Card courtesy of judybaxter on Flickr

You find yourself at the crossroads in Nowhereville, Arizona and your trusty iPhone 3G pulled a  Houdini  what do you do? With no blue or red pill what options do you have? Get out the old key map? Boo.. that’s old school. Let’s use Google maps!

Now you can travel anywhere and take your broadband connection with you. The Verizon MiFi card is your new partner in crime giving you a 1Mb/s download speed. You and four of your buddies can connect and watch the latest in politics while searching for a guiding light home.

This nifty piece of technology can fit in your pocket and last up to 3.5 hours with light usage (emails, surfing) and 2 hours with heavy usage (youtube, facebook, flickr). It comes with an LED indicator for battery usage, a cable to connect it to your computer for a single USB internet connection, and a power cable to recharge it on an AC outlet. The USB cable charges too.

Verizon offers a  variety  of pricing plans including pre-paid ones. You can buy 1 week worth of access capped at 300MB for $30 or you can pay $30/month for 250MB. Personally, I would use the pre-paid plans only when I go on vacation.

If you can afford the initial $269.99 this easy to use MiFi card can come to the rescue and you can be the geeky hero you have always wanted to be!