April 3, 2016 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Firefly Box By Loot Crate
I am a fan of the 2002 TV show, Firefly as well as the follow up movie, Serenity. They are pieces of science fiction art created by Joss Whedon, the guy that bought us everything good on TV and cinema for the last 15 years. When I say I’m a fan, I mean that in the sense that I’ve watched the show and the movie dozens of times. It’s not quite the same as when I was a kid and the original Star Wars came out where I had lots of toys and literature from that trilogy. With Firefly and Serenity it has all been about studying the characters, dialogue and costumes. Until now, I didn’t have any stuff from the franchise except what is stored between my ears. That all changed when, back in February I came across a company called Loot Crate. I think it was via Twitter that I found out about them and in particular, a brand new cargo crate they were about to produce; Firefly. I’d never done a subscription box service before but I wanted in on this one. Exclusive Firefly stuff mailed to me seemed like a perfect way to try something new to get something I want so, fast forward to about a week ago when my shiny new gear arrived. I was not disappointed. In the photo above you can see the first few items peeking out of the box.
More Firefly Loot
A cool, custom box with a sticker on the side that read, “EXPORTED FROM PERSEPHONE” contained some shiny stuff that any Firefly fan would smile at. A plush Kaylee bear in coveralls that matches Kaylee’s, a small Jayne figure, a Kaylee figure with a removable parasol that matches the one she had on Persephone when she met Shepherd Book and a lapel pin the says, “Everything’s shiny Cap’n!” were among the first things I pulled out. In the photo above, that pin of Serenity was sent to me a few weeks prior to the box’s arrival as a thank you from the Firefly Cargo Crate crew for being a founding member of this new crate. How nice of them eh? The parasol you see in that photo is one of five cocktail decorations. The correct title of them is, “Kaylee’s Shindig Parasols.”
Jayne Cobb From Firefly
Other things in the box that are not pictured here are a couple playing cards from the Firefly board game, two concept art sketches from 2002 detailing what the reaver ship and claw should look like as well as a booklet containing interviews with Jewel Staite and a Kaylee cosplayer named Maya Dinerstein. There was also an “Exported from Persephone” sticker like the one on the outside of the box.
Kaylee And Her Bear
It’s the little things that make a difference. For example, Kaylee’s trademark green coveralls have a patch of a teddy bear on the left leg. Well, the Kaylee Bear’s coveralls have a patch of Kaylee on the left leg. How cool is that? It is very easy to see that this crate was put together with the fans in mind. It’s not some random assortment of stuff you can just buy anywhere; this is stuff that any fan of the show would love to have and can’t get anywhere else. This box had an obvious Kaylee flavor to it so I will make the assumption now that future crates will have a slant towards other crew members as well.
What are my final thoughts? I’m happy with this purchase and I’m happy I decided to do something new by agreeing to buy something over a month in advance, basically sight unseen. I do recommend this crate to my fellow Firefly fans, it has my full endorsement. You can sign yourself up for future Firefly crates from Loot Crate by going to their website, www.lootcrate.com/subscription-crates/firefly. They will send you a new crate every two months. You have a few options in terms of how many crates you want to prepay for in order to save a bit of money. I signed up for the two month recurring plan for the price of $39.99 per crate which includes shipping. On their website they say that it’s Comic-Con in a box.That’s about all can say about this, it’s as shiny as they come. So, on that note, I’m going to hurry up and post this and then binge watch Firefly, again. Cheers!
January 25, 2015 by Rob Hurlbut ·
All My Monthly RTD Passes From 2014
As you may recall, I had a lot to say about San Diego’s public transportation system while I was living there. I’ve been back in Denver for over a year and aside from a couple of posts talking about the closure of Market Street Station and the remodeling of Union Station, I haven’t said a whole lot about Denver’s bus and Light Rail system. I wanted to wait for at least a year so that I would be able to use it through all four seasons in order to give it a very thorough assessment and review.
I was away from Denver from 2006 thru 2013 and the public transportation system has grown up a lot in that time. When I left there were only 2 Light Rail lines and they both ran from Littleton to Denver. Now there are 6 lines that run all over the metro area from Golden to Cherry Creek Reservoir to Lone Tree. Next year there will be 5 more lines added that will enable us to go to Denver International Airport, Arvada, Federal Heights and an extension to an existing line that will go right through Aurora. In 2018 there will be another line added that will go all the way out to Northglenn. These are just Light Rail lines; there are many regional and express busses that already exist and next year will see the addition of another that will run out to Westminster, Broomfield and Flatirons. It’s already a very extensive system and will only get better from here on out.
That’s what is and what it will be; now I’d like to tell you about what it’s like to actually travel and commute on Denver’s Light Rail and buses. Just to be clear, the acronym for the entire system is RTD, which stands for Regional Transportation District.
I use Light Rail for 95 percent of my travels around the city. I live in Littleton and I ride my bike as often as possible so I pedal to my neighborhood Light Rail station, lock it up and then proceed into downtown. Once there, if I need to move around I just rent a bike from B-Cycle. I am a big fan of using Light Rail and bicycles instead of the bus for a number of reasons but the main reason is time. Riding a bike to a station is faster and healthier than taking a bus. There are bike racks on buses so you do have that option but it’s just not as efficient and it adds a connection to your trip. As a veteran of public transportation I’m telling you right now that connections will make or break your trip; the fewer connections the better. If I ride my bike directly to a Light Rail station I just have to connect with the train and head directly to my destination. If I include a bus into the equation, then I have to connect with the bus and then hope the bus is on time so I can connect with the train. Since I live in the suburbs, my bike is an integral part of taking Light Rail because the buses out here stop running at 7 p.m. and don’t run at all on weekends or holidays. RTD is much more geared to get suburbanites to and from work during the week that it is to move them around late at night or on the weekends. That’s not a bad thing but if you’re returning home (to the suburbs) after seven at night and you don’t have your bike or car waiting for you, you’ll want to call someone to pick you up from the station. With my bike and a Light Rail trip I can get from my doorstep in Littleton to the 16th Street Mall in 45 minutes flat any day of the week, so it really is fast and convenient.
As for the process of buying a Light Rail or bus ticket and boarding a train, I do have a few things to say about that. For the bus it’s very straight forward; either insert exact change into the money taking machine next to the driver or show the driver your pass or transfer. For Light Rail it’s a little bit different and to be honest, a little convoluted. The good news is that the ticket vending machines will give back change and most of them take credit and debit cards but the bad news is that how, when, where and for how long your trip will be all need to be taken into account when you buy your ticket. This is a problem that RTD is aware of and is working on but until then, you really need to do a little homework so you can figure out how to get the proper fare. It really is beyond the scope of this post to explain it but it should be smoothed out by the time those new lines open next year. I purchase a monthly pass to simplify things but even those passes have three different options that are based solely on distance. At least with a proper pass you can just walk onto any bus or Light Rail without having to waste time at a ticket machine or carry exact change around with you. Also, the touch screens on the ticket machines are not as responsive as smartphones or tablets so they can be a little frustrating and hard to read sometimes. They can also break so a machine that is supposed to accept money and credit cards may not accept one or the other which is very frustrating because most of us only carry plastic OR money which is why I advocate buying a pass ahead of time. If you are straight up unable to buy a ticket and a transit guard asks to see your fare, politely tell the guard what happened and you’ll be fine.
The RTD transit guards are very nice and that is something we all need to appreciate. In San Diego, the guards are nothing more than thugs that I have personally witnessed tackling commuters to the ground and arresting people for smoking at a station. Here in Denver, they say please and thank you and will gladly give information to help you get where you need to go. Another big transit difference between San Diego and Denver is the way people board the train. In Denver, people line up at the marked door entrances for the train. When it arrives, people exit the train and then the line of people calmly boards the train. In San Diego, when a train pulls into a station it turns into a mob scene straight out of a horror movie. People push and shove and there are lots of people that bring wheeled carts onto the train too. Denver is certainly the more cosmopolitan of the two cities.
This review turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be so allow me to boil it down for you; Public transportation in Denver is very good. The trains and buses are clean and they run on time. I wish there was more shade and shelter at the stations but beyond that, they’re well lit and snow is shoveled constantly. The security guards are nice and the system is extensive enough to get you just about anywhere you need to go, as long as you do a little research first. Something I didn’t mention before is that you can take Light Rail to Broncos, Avalanche and Rockies games so remove yourself from some traffic and try out RTD. Cheers!
August 8, 2014 by Rob Hurlbut ·
A Booth At Denver Burger Battle
If ever there was an event tailored made for me, Denver Burger Battle has to be it; 12 local burger joints slugging it out in a competition of hamburgers in the middle of Sculpture Park in Downtown. It was a great time and I have a winner and two runners up that I’ll get to but before I do I want to tell you about my experience at the battle because it was a lot of fun and very well run.
Upon entry my badge was scanned and then I was issued a sturdy, red plastic plate with compartments, including a drink holder. Besides the burger booths there were desert stands, bars that poured wine and beer and ice filled tubs with cans of soda and bottles of water. You just walked up and took what you needed.
Corn Toss In Sculpture Park
There was a corn toss, a couple caricature artists, tables that had paper towels and lots of trash cans. It was just a fun atmosphere and I was eating hamburgers so after taking it all in, it was time to get down to business and do my personal battle with these burgers.
Night And Lights At Denver Burger Battle
I don’t like onions and almost every entry had onions so that was a bit of a problem. They are the one thing I can’t just scrape off because they contaminate what they touch and sometimes they’re so integral to the burger recipe that they contaminate it beyond where I can eat it. Other than that, I was game to try any new or progressive style of burger by biting right in, as served. They were all good and there were only a few that I straight out didn’t try because of the onion thing and one other one that was based on mushrooms. I don’t do mushrooms either. Or tomatoes.
Dancers In Sculpture Park
My second runner up is Ste. Ellie and their Ste. Ellie Burger which had fennel jam and amazing, crisp pickles. First runner up is Acorn and their Oak Grilled Double Cheeseburger with fried pickles and aioli. That little bit of garlic flavor was nice and the fried pickles were a brilliant idea. This is a classic recipe made with modern ingredients. If the cheeseburger had been invented today, it would look and taste like this one.
The Band At Denver Burger Battle
The winner of Rob’s Choice at the Denver Burger Battle for 2014 is Tag and their Colorado Proud. This was unexpected because I would never have just tried a burger with green chili on it. Spicy is something that I do not associate with burgers but it worked for me, probably because it was different. On a side note, Little Man Ice Cream was there and I had some lemon sorbet on a cone that was perfect for the occasion. Cheers!
May 14, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut ·
I was introduced to Daft Punk back in the late 1990s and have been a fan ever since. On May 21, 2013 they will release a new album titled, “Random Access Memories” that I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to, just now. Here is my track by track review of their new disc.
1. “Give Life Back To Music” (Featuring Nile Rogers)
This track starts out with a bang of an intro that hooked me in and continued to keep me hooked as the beat slowed down and then picked up again. This is a song about turning music on and giving yourself to the music. It’s a happy song that demonstrates how an evening is always made better with some music.
2. “The Game Of Love”
This is a sexy track that has undertones of 1970s porn music and light jazz. It is a song of lament with the singer going on about a person that has broken their heart and chose to walk away instead of stay.
3. “Giorgio by Moroder” (featuring Giorgio Moroder)
This track has everything to do with passion. Giorgio introduces the track by telling us how being a musician was what he always wanted to do and the sacrifices he made to pursue that dream. This is an instrumental track after the intro and it is chill most of the time but some areas of the song will make you want to stand up and boogey down.
4. “Within” (featuring Chilly Gonzales)
This track is a classical music masterpiece and is the most introspective Daft Punk song I have ever heard. A lone piano begins the journey into this song. Way back in the day, back in the 1980s when I first heard The Beatles and Janice Joplin singing about a love they couldn’t have or uncertainty in their lives it resonated with me because I was a teenager that thought if you were beautiful, rich or a celebrity that everything would fall into place. It was amazing to find out that isn’t true. This song reaffirms that.
5. “Instant Crush” (featuring Julian Casablancas)
The title of this track says it all. If we were to pretend for a moment that relationships have a beginning, middle and an end, this song is all about the beginning.
6. “Lose Yourself to Dance” (featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)
I like the concept and title of this song but I didn’t like the song itself. With a title like this, I felt like the song should have been more powerful and hard hitting. Listening to this song did not inspire or want me to lose myself to dance.
7. “Touch” (featuring Paul Williams)
This song has some great lyrics but for the second song in a row, I was left less than impressed. The rhythm and the music of this track is underwhelming for me and it seems to me that this song and the track that preceded it are one long intro to the eighth track on the album.
8. “Get Lucky” (featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers)
This is the first single released in support of this album and it is a great, catchy tune with some great lyrics. It’s a song about what a man and a woman have planned with and for each other over the course of a night. They both want the same thing but it’s always uncertain and can be an evening filled with trepidation when getting lucky happens for the first time between two people.
This is an instrumental track that leads us into the next; there is nothing special here.
Whilst listening to this track you really get the feeling that something special is about to happen, but it doesn’t. This is a chill track that ends with the naturist sounds of a babbling brook. Nuff said.
11. “Fragments of Time” (featuring Todd Edwards)
I could swear that in the beginning of this track I heard a riff from Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney. I’m probably wrong but either way, the album picks up just a little bit during this song.
12. “Doin’ It Right” (featuring Panda Bear)
This is an odd song that has an immovable marching cadence from beginning to end. It does not add or take away any momentum from the album but it does allow the listener time to reflect on the album thus far. It has good lyrics and a slow beat.
13. “Contact” (featuring DJ Falcon)
The last song on this album immediately reminded me of “High Roller” by Crystal Method. It has a live band sound to it that launches and descends but never really explodes. It seems to me to be a post modern bit of Daft Punk music; weird for the sake of weird.
So, in conclusion I would say the first half of the album is much better the last half. Get Lucky should have been the final track of what should have been a 45 minute album. I’m not disappointed but I was underwhelmed, especially as a mad fan of their Alive 2007 album which was a rough and tumble live journey of their best music. They did well by releasing Get Lucky as the teaser trailer for this album as the song did a great job of anchoring the center of the album. I would recommend their album, Discovery as an intro into what Daft Punk is all about. This one, Random Access Memories is a progression of their music and does not in my opinion represent them in and of themselves. This album is great but would have been better had it been half the length it was presented. Cheers!
August 7, 2012 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Front Counter , Grill and House Burger Menu
House Burger is a new burger joint in South Bay San Diego that you should try because burger lovers need to support new ventures like this. Their address is 1873 Palm Ave. San Diego, CA 92154, on the southwest corner of Saturn Blvd and Palm. They have all the other types of burgers; chicken, steak, fish & turkey, with or without all of your normal toppings and a thousand island style house dressing. Any single patty meal is menu priced at $4.49 or less so even after tax it’s under $5. The burgers and fries are made when you order, so you will have a solid 5 minute wait. Oh, they have milkshakes too!
Inside House Burger
So how’s the food? It’s good. The buns are custom and fresh, the meat is not frozen and you can basically build your burger, complete with toppings when you order. The cheese I go with is cheddar and it’s hearty. The fries are seasoned with a special house seasoning that does not include salt or pepper and the toasted buns while tasty, are too big for the burgers. All good stuff on the tray at half the price of any other gourmet burger place but the diameter of the burger needs to go up or the bun needs to shrink, as you can see in the photo above.
This is of course a first world problem so for $5 you should try it out and judge for yourself because it’s still a smoking deal that has onion rings, potato, pasta and macaroni salad as options to fries and an entire cooler of sodas, coffee drinks and other bottled beverages to wash it down with. Head down there because you are hungry and your family loves burgers. Cheers!
December 26, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Christmas Lights As Seen Through The Eyes Of A Sony Bloggie MHS-TS10
Every photo and video in this post was taken or filmed with a Sony Bloggie MHS-TS10 at night during the 2010 Christmas season. Bloggie seems to have a max ISO of 1600. I was ultimately impressed with what this camera can do, especially the video capabilities, with the exception of the slow focusing in low light. Seriously, at full zoom it wouldn’t focus at all until I zoomed out, waited for the focus at then slowly zooming back in. It was very frustrating.
Christmas Video Shot With A Sony Bloggie Touch MHS-TS10
So what are my impressions of the Sony Bloggie Touch? It takes FOREVER to focus in low light, but it records some damn fine video and photos. It fits in my pocket and powers up in less than two seconds so it is just about always ready to go. Use the photos and the video in this post as your guide. I didn’t include daytime photos in this post because every camera takes great photos with lots of light but only great DSLR’s and video cameras can do the same at night.
August 14, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
Make Your Own Taco Night
I am not a foodie, but I do like to make homemade versions of my favorite fast food menu items… Much healthier and better tasting versions. I like Taco Bell, and they have a seasoning mix available, so I bought a pound of premium ground beef, a fresh head of lettuce and some grated, sharp cheddar cheese. The point of this post is to say that both the Lawry’s and the Taco seasoning packs above require the same ingredients to make, but the Taco Bell seasoning is WAY better. If you like Taco Bell already, this is really for you because it has the distinct flavor of a Taco Bell taco, but because the ingredients are better and fresher, it tastes like the best Taco Bell taco ever made. As for the Lawry’s, it was way under seasoned, and tasted like it needed salt. Yeah, go with the Taco Bell seasoning, brown the beef on a Foreman Grill and prepare some surprisingly awesome tasting tacos!
February 22, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
A New Champion & A New Challenger
Don Francisco’s Plantation House Blend was able to edge out 2 time workplace champion Dunkin Donuts Original Blend coffee last week in a battle that seemed to be neck-a-neck until down to the final cup. This week, Don Francisco will defend his title against Godiva Breakfast Blend coffee. I am very unsure about this particular match-up because the Godiva blend is bringing something a little different to the table, that no previous coffee competitor has brought: “Subtle chocolate flavor notes.” I can only hope that my coworkers will accept this flavor addition in good spirit, and not see it an unfair advantage or disadvantage. In my defense, I didn’t realize the Godiva blend had chocolate flavor in it until after I made the purchase. So… This might end up being a comparison of sailboats to bowling balls, but either way, there will be a contest and there will be a winner.
February 9, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
The First Title Defense Of Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee
The first bout between two coffee heavyweights took place right here on this very blog, just about a week ago. The winner was Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend, mightily crushing Starbucks Morning Joe. I’m glad that Starbucks lost right away, and I placed Starbucks in the first round for that very reason, to watch them lose. I didn’t know they would lose, but I figured they would either lose immediately or steadily topple opponents like the stupid New York Yankees. Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice, and I’m glad I did this time.
The new challenger is Don Francisco’s Plantation Morning Blend. If I was made to pick the better tasting coffee, based on the the photo above, I think Don Francisco has the edge. It looks to me like Dunkin’ is cowering in front of Don.
February 2, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
San Diego Culinary Institute
My Nikon D5000 has a boosted ISO of 6400, so that’s what I set out to test tonight. I wanted some real, after dark photos shot with ambient light while gunning the ISO throttle of my D5000 all the way to the max. The biggest lesson I learned tonight was that when you are out testing a specific “thing” on your DSLR, don’t forget that you don’t have to stick to the thing you are testing. In this case, I was out testing the 6400 ISO of my camera when I camera across the scene above. I had the presence of mind to switch the ISO to 200 before taking the shot. This resulted in the dark exterior of the building creating a frame around the soon to be chefs inside.
The Compass Card validator to the left was shot at 6400 ISO, and is presented to you here WAY smaller than actual size because full size was pretty noisy. Anyway, I was out looking for any dark alley type place around my neighborhood so that I could give 6400 ISO a real stretch of the legs, and my general consensus is that 6400 can not be shown at 100%, even on the web. You can still get very low light shots that will blow your mind, especially if you are from the days of film, but for the sake of passing images on for posterity, I’m going to have to hold back on 6400. What I will do is work with 3200 ISO because it is WAY less noisy than 6400, and yet is still very light sensitive. I’m going to find the sweet spot for high ISO and my f/1.8 lens even if I have to stay up all night every night. SO, with that in mind, here is where I am with this post. That pic above is ISO 200, because I remembered to change it down from 6400. The pic to the left is 6400, as is the pic below. I am now wishing that I had remembered to dial the ISO down from 6400 for the pic below because I really would have liked the sad detail in the man’s face to show through.
Unnecessary Use Of 6400 ISO
January 31, 2010 by Rob Hurlbut ·
A World Heavyweight Coffee Title
I don’t drink coffee, but my co-workers do, so my present to them for the week will be two bags of coffee grounds from two corporate mainstays in the morning coffee empire; Starbucks & Dunkin’ Donuts. I will listen to comments about the coffee and whichever is better received will be purchased next week, along with a new challenger.