Category Archives: Photography

Droid Turbo Review: a phone to finally bring my husband up to speed

Motorola Droid Turbo from Verizon showing my Instagram photo, next to my iPhone 5s. #vzreview

Motorola Droid Turbo from Verizon showing my Instagram photo, next to my iPhone 5s. #vzreview

Verizon Midwest provided me with a Motorola Droid Turbo to try out for three weeks. I’m an iPhone user and enjoyed checking out the 21 megapixel camera and the screen that made my iPhone 5s look tiny. But the real impact happened with my husband, Lee. By the end of week one, he went to our local Verizon store and replaced the phone he’d been using for less than two years. It was a HUGE step for him because it is his first phone without a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. But as soon as he saw the capabilities of buying the latest and greatest phone, he was a believer.

I’ll let him tell you in his words:

The last time I bought a phone was a Motorola Droid 4 and the main purchase point was that I could still have a keyboard that would slide out so it would be easy for me to type. In fact, they had to order it from another store because they didn’t sell many of them and it was close to if not discontinued. I knew I needed a new phone because I was having technical issues with such a dated phone. It was awesome that I would get a chance to test drive a new Motorola Droid Turbo. What I learned right away was that the screen was large enough that it was similar to typing on a keypad. I had no problems typing emails or texting on the Droid Turbo.

As technology changed, the Droid 4 had trouble keeping up with the amount of memory that was required for apps, text messages, pictures, music, etc. I found myself continually having to monitor my memory usage and only had the most basic apps on my phone. I needed to make sure that the minimal photos I took were offloaded to the cloud and erased from the phone or I would have continual system crashes or frozen screens. So when I started using the Droid Turbo it was awesome to be able to load every app that I wanted and also not worry about how many pictures or music downloads I kept on my phone. Even after loading every app, downloading all my music and keeping my photos on my phone I still have over 77% free storage. No longer do I need to worry about my phone freezing as I’m using it for navigation or any other vital functions.

Verizon Droid Turbo box #vzreview

Verizon Droid Turbo box #vzreview

The Droid Turbo has allowed me to use my phone more as a replacement for my laptop – I know many of you knew this already but it took the Droid Turbo to get me there. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor has made it a lot easier to purchase tickets, book hotels and do on-demand research as I travel to different states. Being able to quickly access TripAdvisor or Yelp is extremely important when traveling in new cities.

Another improvement is the battery life. The Droid 4 would usually last about half a day with regular use and with heavy use (like running navigation) I would have to be continually charging it during the day. Not extremely convenient if you aren’t at a charging station. The Droid Turbo battery has the largest battery of any smartphone and comes with a Turbo Charger that loads the phone with eight additional hours in just 15 minutes.

Since I have more room for pictures it’s nice that the Droid Turbo camera is easy to use with a one touch picture taking ability. The camera takes amazing photos and video. With my old phones, I never posted photos on Instagram or Twitter but with the Droid Turbo it’s easy to edit photos and post them. Also a great option for moving photos is the Droid Zap, which allows quick transfer of photos between Droid phones that are within are certain distance of each other. No longer do you have to text or email every single photo.

Disclaimer: Verizon provided a three-week Droid Turbo loaner for purposes of this review. Views of the product are my own (and Lee’s). He was under no obligation to buy a Droid Turbo, he just really liked it that much. You can find more reviews of Verizon products and accessories on Instagram and Twitter by following the hashtag #vzreview.

Verizon Droid Turbo next to my iPhone 5s

Motorola Droid Turbo from Verizon next to my iPhone 5s.

Also posted in Lee

SchMaui15: amazing Hawaiian experiences

Sunset from our condo in Maalea on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

Sunset from our condo in Maalea on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

Guest post by Lee

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been to the Great Wall of China, I have seen the Pyramids of Egypt, I’ve even witnessed a grown man satisfy a camel. But never in all my years as a sportscaster have I witnessed something as improbable, as impossible, as what we’ve witnessed here today!*

These are the comments that were going through my head after some amazing experiences that have occurred over the past few days in Hawaii.

Day 2 in Hawaii

Dangerous shorebreak sign in Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

Dangerous shorebreak sign in Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

After spending the morning of our first full day on Maui snorkeling and the morning of our second day snorkeling, MeLinda and I decide to try our hand at boogie boarding in the afternoon. Can’t be that hard — all you need is a board and some waves? How bad can the waves be even little kids are doing it? So we get out there and I’m trying to figure out if I should wear my prescription sunglasses out there or go blind. I converse with MeLinda and she is debating the same topic with her non-prescription sunglasses but we decide to go with our glasses on. I should know better than to take MeLinda’s advice on sunglass care as she is the BTK of sunglasses. We get out there and a few tame waves come by and everything seems good. Then I’m out about 50 feet from the beach and a big wave comes along and MeLinda and I go flying. Both pairs of glasses fly into the ocean and a set of expletives come from my mouth. I just lost a $400 pair of sunglasses in the ocean. MeLinda tells me to stay in the spot I am in and she is going to grab my snorkel gear (which have prescription lenses) so I can see if I can find them. Okay if you were to calculate the odds of finding anything in the ocean they would be slim. MeLinda and I once spent over an hour in a swimming pool looking for my wedding ring that flew off. So I put on the snorkel and start swimming around and within five minutes I find a pair of sunglasses. Holy cow, but of course they aren’t my glasses but they look like MeLinda’s so at least I saved her $10 pair. After another few minutes I find my pair and can’t believe my luck. I go back to MeLinda and hand her the glasses, turned out they weren’t hers. How many pairs of glasses are in the ocean? About 30 minutes later a guy comes by and says he lost a pair of glasses. We found the owner of our other pair of prescription glasses. The beach has a communication network and once a pair of glasses are found word goes around and even ends up on Craigslist.

On the Trilogy Sailboat headed toward Molokini Crater just off Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

On the Trilogy Sailboat headed toward Molokini Crater just off Maui. Photo by MeLinda.

Day 3 in Hawaii

MeLinda and I take an excursion to Molokini Crater. We are looking forward to a day of snorkeling at what is considered by many as Maui’s top snorkel site and maybe some whale sightings on the boat trip out. On the ride out we are able to see several humpback whales from afar. Once we reach Molokini we hit the water and start snorkeling for about 20 minutes until I spot something a little out of the ordinary. Wasn’t sure what it was at first glance and then realize it’s a seal. Not only is it a seal but later on I find out it’s a Hawaiian monk seal, which is on the critically endangered list with only 1,100 remaining. They grow to be 7 feet and weight 400 pounds, but this one was smaller than full-grown. It was awesome swimming next to him and being close enough that he looked directly in my eyes and seeing his adorable face. He seemed happy to see us and didn’t make any effort to move away quickly. Then a few other snorkelers come by and act like total douches. They go swam aggressively toward the seal getting way too close, and the seal growls and quickly moves away. MeLinda yells at the asshats but they aren’t paying any attention and wouldn’t care they ruined an awesome snorkeling experience. Why couldn’t this have been one of those episodes when animals attack? I didn’t want the guy killed but being a little roughed up wouldn’t have bothered me. The Hawaiian monk seal can be very peaceful and friendly animals and our captain said one of his friends encountered a seal in the wild and it actually hugged him.

(Our underwater camera, unfortunately, broke the day before so we don’t have photos or video. A fellow snorkeler promises to send us what she got, though. For now, enjoy this photo from the website of the Monk Seal Foundation. Go learn about them and donate to their cause.)

 

 Check out the Monk Seal Foundation website monksealfoundation.org.

Check out the Monk Seal Foundation website monksealfoundation.org.

The third improbable event was later on the afternoon. MeLinda and I went to sit by the ocean and enjoy the rest of the afternoon doing nothing but soaking in the rays and listening to the waves. About an hour into our rest MeLinda has fallen asleep and I’m just staring out in the great wide expanses of the ocean and suddenly I see a humpback whale jump completely jump out of the water. It was just like the MetLife humpback whale commercial. Why do whales breach like this? Some say it’s for mating, others say it’s a show of strength but no matter what it was awesome. By the time I had awakened MeLinda from her dreams of a Mizzou basketball victory the event was over.

So for just 3 1/2 days into our Hawaii vacation we have definitely packed a lot into it and of course I have eaten pizza for 4 days in a row, so life is good.

 

*The opening lines are a quote from the movie Dodgeball.

Lee near our Maui condo at sunrise, trying to capture photos of the green sea turtles.

Lee near our Maui condo at sunrise, trying to capture photos of the green sea turtles. Photo by MeLinda.

 

Also posted in Animals, Lee, travel, Weird shit that happens

Trip pix: Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, Murchison, Texas

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

Years ago I donated a few dollars to The Fund for Animals and they sent me a copy of a book by a guy named Cleveland Amory that told the story of how he started a place called Black Beauty Ranch. I remember that it was in Texas and put it in the back of my mind that someday I’d visit when I was in Texas. I forgot about it, even during at least a two dozen trips to the state over the past decade. Then last year a good friend of mine who lives in the Dallas area posted about volunteering at Black Beauty Ranch. It triggered my memory and I told her I wanted to join her next time. Next time came earlier in May when I drove to Dallas and then about 90 minutes east of Dallas to Murchison to spend a few hours helping out at Black Beauty Ranch.

Black Beauty Ranch has two open houses a year where the public can tour part of the 1,300 acres and see a few of the 1,200 animals. The rest of the year, you can volunteer to get a chance to see this amazing operation. I was really excited to arrive on Saturday morning and find out we were helping with a new Tiger exhibit. Truman the Tiger or otherwise, I love my tigers! Like the other 40 species who find homes here, the tigers at Black Beauty were rescued from circumstances like roadside zoos, circuses, the exotic pet trade or individuals who had no business owning a tiger (keeping it in cramped, concrete enclosures, etc.).

Thanks to donations, they are moving the tigers into an incredible new facility that offers lots of room for the cats to roam. Our task for the day was to clear some of the brush from the new enclosures, where they should be moving into any day now. After our large crew made quick progress, the director of Black Beauty Ranch took us by short bus over to say hi to the tigers in their current enclosures. Along the way, we got a great tour of the property and saw so many animals who have a great to place to live our their days if they are not adopted.

Places like this hurt my heart because they have to exist … and they make me happy that someone has stepped up to take care of animals who deserve better. You can support the efforts at Black Beauty Ranch by volunteering, donating money or needed items or helping spread the word about the work they do.

Here are some photos from the day.

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

<photo> Alex is a young tiger rescued from a farm in Atchison, Kan. The enclosure he is in now is huge compared to his cramped cage at the farm, where he and others had been abandoned with no access to food or clean water. Soon he’ll move into the new tiger digs, where there is lots of indoor and outdoor space, including the area we worked on: a 3-acre enclosure with lots of grass, trees and water.

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

<photo> Saudi the camel was making really cool noises and wanted to greet us.

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

<photo> Mama was rescued from inhumane conditions on a farm in Arkansas two months ago and her beautiful baby was five days old here. Soon they will live with on a family farm in Tennessee.

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

black beauty ranch murchison, texas

 

 

Also posted in Animals, travel

Go see the Amur tiger cubs at Wichita’s zoo

Four-month-old Amur tiger Natasha, with her mom Talali in the background at Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo.

Four-month-old Amur tiger Natasha with her mom, Talali, in the background at Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo.

 

I cheered when I heard that a tiger at our local zoo, the Sedgwick County Zoo, had given birth to two cubs this summer. More tigers in the state of Kansas is always a good thing for this Mizzou grad!

But it’s not just my collegiate loyalty coming through — who doesn’t love the chance to see tiger cubs! The cubs were born to 8-year-old Talali on July 6 of this year and they were introduced to the public in late September. Lee and I finally made it out to see them this past weekend. The female is named Natasha and the male is Tsar. Natasha was very active on the day we were there — she climbed around on her mom, play-attacked her brother, climbed on a tree and she wasn’t shy about coming up to the window of the exhibit. Tsar stayed toward the back of the exhibit while we were there. It was fun to watch him practice his ferocious hissing, although he might not have been practicing — he had a noticeable limp when we saw him walking and the keeper said it’s from roughhousing with his sister.

Get out and see the babies while they are still little balls of fur — the zoo is open throughout the winter and Amur tigers are a species native to Russia, so they should be on display even as the weather gets colder.

Here are a few favorites of the tiger photos I took on our visit:

 

Mother and female cub, waiting near the door in anticipation of attention from the zookeepers

Mother and female cub, waiting near the door in anticipation of attention from the zookeepers.

Who is watching whom? Female Tiger cub checking out her visitors.

Who is watching whom? Female tiger cub checking out her visitors.

Natasha, the female Amur Tiger born on July 6, 2013, at four months old.

Natasha, the female Amur tiger born on July 6, 2013, photographed here at four months old.

Natasha, the female Amur Tiger cub at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

Natasha, the female Amur tiger cub at the Sedgwick County Zoo.

Look how cute the back of her ears are!

Look how cute the back of her ears are!

Tsar, the male Amur tiger cub, stayed toward the back of the exhibit on the day we were visiting Tiger Trek at Sedgwick County Zoo.

Tsar, the male Amur tiger cub, stayed toward the back of the exhibit on the day we were visiting Tiger Trek at Sedgwick County Zoo.

We couldn't hear him, but 4-month-old Tsar seemed to be practicing his hissing -- even though his mom and sister where all the way across the exhibit from him.

We couldn’t hear him, but 4-month-old Tsar seemed to be practicing his hissing — even though his mom and sister where all the way across the exhibit from him.

Momma with one of her cubs

Momma with one of her cubs, I believe this is the female, Natasha.

Four-month-old Amur tiger siblings rolling around playing.

Four-month-old Amur tiger siblings rolling around playing.

 

Also posted in Animals, travel

The wildest animals we saw at the Grand Canyon: French girls

grand canyon lodge north rim

Lee looking into the canyon from the Grand Canyon Lodge at the north rim.

So there we are, taking our first looks at the majestic Grand Canyon from its north rim. It’s 9 a.m. and we’ve brought our breakfast with us to eat as we gaze at the colors and shadows on the formations in the morning light.

We are in the main lodge building of the Grand Canyon Lodge, which is the centerpiece of the National Historic Landmark lodge and cabins on the edge of the rim. I’m taking photos of Lee looking out into the canyons from the three large floor-to-ceiling windows in a cavernous recreation room filled with leather couches and chairs.

“What are those girls doing?” I hear a nearby couple talking to each other. “I can’t believe they are in heels out there.”

I move up to the window to see what they are talking about and sure enough, there are three 20-something females standing on a point of the rim that juts out. Two are posing like Miley Cyrus at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards for a third, who is taking photos.

Lee and I laugh, shake our heads and move out to the terrace where we can have our breakfast in the fresh air.

travel_nr gc squirrel looking over canyon.jpgtravel_nr gc squirrel on hind legs.jpgtravel_nr gc squirrel teeth.jpg

As soon as we take our food out of the backpack, we are visited by a friendly squirrel – clearly a master at begging for scraps. I put the zoom lens on my Canon and start taking photos of the cute critter when my eyes get diverted back to the rim.

The photo shoot has continued. The girls have stripped down to bra and panties and are striking poses. Then the bras come off. Someone shouts down to them, “Kiss her.”

{OK, I made that last part up but if I’d thought faster I would have yelled it!}

These iPhone images will give you a perspective of the position of the formation where they were standing. Oh, and by the way, it was about 40 degrees outside!

travel_nr girls small 1.jpgtravel_nr girls small 2.jpgtravel_nr girls small 3.jpg

Since I had the zoom lens on (for the squirrels, remember?) I took some photos but have to admit it felt a little exploitive so I stopped after taking a few {and making sure they were in focus}. But hey, it’s not like I went to some club and sneaked in my camera {don’t try this, you’ll get banned from the property…so I hear}.

I’m at the freaking Grand Canyon trying to get my nature on and these girls decided to put on a show. In public. In front of huge viewing windows of the main building at that north rim. This is how I’ve rationalized that it’s OK for me to post these images.

So here ya go – the wildest animals we saw on our 10-day trip that started in Las Vegas and circled the Grand Canyon. By the way, we ran into the threesome a few minutes later on the trail {fully clothed} and Lee thinks they were speaking French.

North Rim Girls 1

travel_north rim girls 2

 

travel_north rim girls 3 copy

Also posted in Lee, travel, Uncategorized, Weird shit that happens