Portland, Oregon – July, 2014


This summer, we visited Portland, OR to attend my cousins wedding. We stayed the Portland area for about 5 days and did a bit of sightseeing while we were there. I rented a car so it would be easy to come and go as we please and not have to rely on public transportation and taxis to go everywhere.

When we landed in Portland, the first thing I noticed was how nice and clean their airport is. There was even a kid’s area with TV and games inside the airport for people waiting for flights. After we left the airport via the well-marked signs, we took a shuttle to Thrifty rental cars where I was convinced to upgrade my vehicle to a Rav4 SUV. We were then given maps and directions of the area.

The first couple nights, we stayed at a Marriott in downtown Portland. Within walking distance was a strip of stores along the Willamette River, bridges, and an entire downtown area to explore. In the evening we walked northwest about twenty block to a nice area of town where we ate dinner. The downtown area of Portland has a lot of parks and bike lanes.

Multnomah Falls align=

The next day we drove to along 84 East along the Columbia River to go check out Multnomah Falls. We arrived and pulled up to the parking spot. We left the car and behind the building with a restaurant and gift shop, I saw my first glimpse of the waterfall. It was breathtakingly beautiful and I couldn’t believe just how high up it was it.

We walked up to an area with a better view and took some pictures. We then walked up a paved path with steep inclines that goes to a bridge. There is a trail that takes you all the way to the top of the waterfall but because we had my daughter and her stroller, we decided to turn around from there and head back. We checked out the little museum before we left and headed back onto 84 East towards a town called Hood River.

We arrived at Hood River which gets its name from the fact that a river runs through the town with water that comes from Mt Hood. The downtown area is very hilly so I put on my emergency break when I parked. We walked around the nice little town, had lunch and then checked out a few stores. On the way back to the car, we stopped in Dog River Coffee. I’ve been told good things about the coffee in the Portland area so I was curious to try it. I tried a cup of the Guatemala and it was delicious so I bought some to bring home with me. We then headed back towards Portland with great views of the Columbia River along 84 West.

The next day we packed up our things and traveled to a town called Camas in Washington. We stayed here because it was close to where the wedding was being held. We stayed at the Camas hotel, a beautifully designed small hotel right in the center of town. We stayed in a room that had a king size bed with about two feet of walking space around it and a gorgeous bathroom.

Columbia RiverAfter the wedding, we decided to check out the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. We traveled along the Columbia River on Lewis and Clark Highway (14). There were some great views of the river from this road. We passed the Bonneville Dam on the right and continued on the highway. We continued passed the Bridge of the Gods and decided to cross over the river via the Hood River Bridge.

We passed Hood River, the town we visited a couple days earlier and started on the scenic highway that goes around Mt. Hood. There weren’t too many places to stop as we approached Mt. Hood but there were a lot of fruit stands. As we got closer to Mt. Hood, there were a lot of great photo opportunities. When we got as close the Mt. Hood as we could, there were breathtaking views of the snowy peak.

Mt Hood

We passed a ski resort and started heading back towards Portland. There were a lot of trails that we passed along the way. We made our way to our new hotel near the airport. It was a Hyatt on Cascades Parkway. We ate dinner in Cascades station, a newer development with a lot of big stores including an Ikea.

Cannon Beach

The next day we traveled west towards the coast. We wanted to visit Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. Along the way we traveled through big forests on Route 26. When we finally reached the West Coast, we traveled South on Route 101 for a couple minutes and then arrived at Cannon Beach. It’s a cute little town with shops but the beach itself was way too cold to go in the water. Haystack Rock was absolutely amazing. Living on the east coast, I’d never seen anything like it.

Goonies ORV

After lunch we traveled north on Route 101 passed the small beach town called Seaside and towards beautiful Astoria, OR. Once in Astoria, we visited the Oregon Film Museum. This is part of the location of where the one of my favorite movies, The Goonies was filmed. They also have some information on other films that were shot in Oregon including Short Circuit and Kindergarten Cop. Check out the replica of the ORV with bullet holes from The Goonies.

We decided to make a quick stop at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. “Ocian in view! O! the joy.” were the famous words written in Clark’s journal when they reached what they thought was the Pacific Ocean. It turns out that they were still a couple weeks away. This park features a lot of hiking trails and a replica of Fort Clatsop, the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the Oregon Country near the mouth of the Columbia River during the winter of 1805-1806.

After the park, we headed back towards Portland and briefly went through a town called Longview, WA. That night we packed up our suitcases because our flight was the next day. Overall, we had a great trip out west. Next time I’m in that area I want to check out Seattle for sure.

What The DC Outer beltway Could Look Like

DC Outer Beltway

If the different jurisdictions in the D.C. area ever collaberate and build an entire outer beltway loop, it could look something like this. Note that about 25% of this outer beltway does currently exist mostly to the north and west of DC.

Virginia According to Marylanders

Virginia According to Marylanders

Zelda Maker For Wii U

Zelda Maker

So Nintendo recently announced Mario Maker to come out later this year but what all the fans were thinking when they saw this was if Nintendo was willing to make a game where you can create your own Mario levels, what else do they have in mind? Instantly what comes to my mind would be what if Nintendo allowed us to create our own Zelda game complete with an overworld and underworld dungeons? Please see my mockup about of what such a game could look like.

Chicago As Seen From Around South Lake Michigan

Chicago As Seen From Around South Lake Michigan

I’ve found that you can see some gorgrous views of Chicago from around the south rim of Lake Michigan. And it’s amazing how far you can see when there’s nothing abstructing your view. For example, New Buffalo, MI is roughly 40 miles (as the crow flies) to Chicago but you can still barely see the tops of a few buildings of the Chicago skyline from the beach at New Buffalo. Take a look at these ten images I found of photos from various distances along the lake. Please note that some of these photos are zoomed in at different levels which means that the skyline may look a little larger in some photos. Also, the map above will give you an overhead visual of where these photos were taken.

New Buffalo, MI (40 miles from skyline)
Chicago Skyline seen from New Buffalo, MI

Michigan City, IN (33 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Michigan City, IN

Beverly Shores, IN (30 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Beverly Shores, IN

Indiana Dunes, IN (28 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Indiana Dunes, IN

Burns Harbor, IN (26 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Burns Harbor, IN

Gary, IN (21 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Gary, IN

Whiting, IN (15 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Whiting, IN

Rainbow Park, IL (8 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Rainbow Park, IL

Harold Washington Park, IL (6 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from Harold Washington Park, IL

31st St Harbor, IL (2 miles from skyline)Chicago Skyline seen from 31st St Harbor, IL

Artwork for A New Captain Toad Game

Captain Toad

So if you played through Super Mario 3D World, you will remember that there were some Captain Toad mini games that gave you a little break from all the intense 3D action. In the games you controlled Captain Toad as he tried to find his way through a puzzle to get to the treasures in a 3D obstacle course world. At the E3 event yesterday, Nintendo announced  that Captain Toad will be featured in his very own full game. I always thought of Toad as a helpful little nerdy character but sure, why not give the little guy his own game? Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is coming this holiday season (2014).

Mario Maker Makes Mario Masterpieces for Wii U

Mario Maker

This E3, Nintendo released a lot of news about upcoming games but the one that stood out to me besides Yoshi’s Woolly World was Mario Maker for Wii U. In Mario Maker, the player is able to create and play through their own Super Mario Bros. levels based on the original Mario Bros. for NES graphics and gameplay. Mario JumpingThere’s also an option to switch to a style of artwork to resemble NSMB. I think that this game will work really well on the Wii U because of the tablet design of the controller. Design could happen on the tablet while live testing and level play could happen on the TV.

I first played Little Big Planet on PS3, I was really excited that I was able to download other player’s level creations. I’m hoping that players of the Mario Maker game get excited about their levels and are able to upload their creations and let other fans download and play through their levels. There’s no news about price or release date yet for this title. I’m hoping it’s a download only title for around $15 – $20. Although I’m excited about the game, I don’t think that’d pay much more than that for it.

PhoneGap: Black Bars On iPhone 5 Only

PhoneGap When I tested out a PhoneGap app I was helping to create, I noticed that there were black bars on the top and bottom of the iPhone 5 screen. It looked like the iPhone 5 was pulling in an app in an iPhone 4 frame. Luckly, there is an easy fix to this problem. After implementing the code, when the app pulls the splash screen from the config.xml file at those same 1136px x 640px dimensions, the app will know to stay at those dimensions on your iPhone 5 device. Simply add the following code to the config.xml screen and you will see the results:

<gap:splash gap:platform="ios" height="1136" src="res/screen/ios/screen-iphone5-portrait.png" width="640" />

Mario Kart 8: My Impressions

Mario Kart 8

I recently purchased Mario kart 8 for Wii U and I was pretty blown away by the game. The graphics look amazing in HD and the controls work really well with the tablet controller. One of the neat things about the game are the replays. After a race, you have an option to replay the course highlights while you control the action including the option to view the replay in slow motion. Viewing the race in slow motion really shows you how good the graphics are because you can see details that you couldn’t see while playing the game live.

The course designs are done really well. Similar to the other Mario Kart games, there are 16 new courses and 16 courses older courses redone from other Mario Kart games. There are a good number of characters to choose from including some all new characters that were never playable in the series before. These include Koopa Kids and baby characters. The music is decent but nothing special. I did enjoy the jazzy coffee house music that was playing after you get first place in all 8 cups of an engine class in Grand Prix mode.

Take a look at my favorite courses from the game:

Luigi Death Stare

  • Sunshine Airport: Take a ride through the airport from Super Mario Sunshine. The course features the inside of the airport where you buy your tickets, the waiting area and then you go outside on the runway and travel through an airplane briefly. Next you take off into the sky and hover over a track while airplanes pass by you. There is a lot of details that you can miss but may catch if you watch the replay.
  • Mount Wario: This is one of the ‘cooler’ levels because you start on top of the mountain and work your way down it until you reach the bottom and the course is over. There are no laps. It takes place on a large mountain and features ski slopes, a dam that you travel through and trails to navigate around.
  • Donut Plains 3: So do you remember how Mario Kart had the Donut Plains 1 and Donut Plains 2 courses and then nothing new for Donut Plains in over 20 years? Well Mario Kart 8 features an all new Donut Plains level, Donut Plains 3. The course features a very similar layout to the Donut Plains courses of the past with lots of trees and a simple track layout with no hills.
  • Yoshi Valley: This was one of my favorite courses for Mario Kart 64 because of all of the different options of ways to get around the courses. There are a ton of paths that get separated by mountain cliffs and at the end of the course is a giant egg that can sometimes be difficult to get around.

More @ the official Mario Kart 8 website.

Claude Money is Monet’s Long Lost Twin

Claude Money

We all know who Claude Monet is. Well, I’d like to introduce you to a painting by Monet’s long lost twin brother, Claude Money.

Van Go! The Painting

Van Go

This is what happens when you take a famous Van Gogh painting and title it “Van Go”

Salvadore Deli

Salvadore Deli

If I ever open an art themed meat shop, I will call it Salvadore Deli.

Animated Gifs Are So 1999!

Animated Gifs are in. I don’t know if they’ve peaked already or they’re still getting bigger but they are pretty awesome. It’s a technology that’s been around for about as long as the internet but only within the last couple of years have we seen them being used as much as we did fifteen years ago. What makes them so beneficial to use is their low file size, video like appearance, browser capability and fun, repeating art style. I found this site that lets you easily search for animated gifs (and it’s not google!). It’s called Giphy. If you post to a blog or website, you may want to consider using animated gifs in your articles more often. Users can’t seem to get enough of them. Just don’t overdo it and perhaps have a one per article limit. I for one will be including them in my blog much more now that I found this site.

Tomodachi Life For Nintendo 3DS

Tomodachi Life

Nintendo is set to release a game entitled Tomodachi Life on June 6, 2014 for Nintendo 3DS. Tomodachi Life is a sequel to the Japan-exclusive game, Tomodachi Collection for Nintendo DS which came out about five years ago. This will be the first Tomodachi game released outside of Japan. The game takes place on an island inhabited by Miis, including your personal Mii that you use on your system. You can also import Miis from other systems or using QR codes. Miis can then be given their own voice and a unique personality that is based on the way you answer questions. The Miis can then perform various actions, including as eating, trying on different outfits, falling in love, and other leisurely activities.Tomodachi Life

Tomodachi Life looks like a cross between Animal Crossing and the Sims and should be just as addicting to play as those two. There was some controversy surrounding this game as to why Nintendo didn’t include the possibility of same-sex relationships in the game. Nintendo stated that the same-sex relationship change to the game would require significant development alterations which would delay the release date of the game. To me the entire thing was blown out of proportions.

Some of the locations in the game include the following:

  • Amusement Park: Prepare to be amused. You’ll find rides and magic shows here, plus Tomodachi Quest—an old-school videogame within your game. Whoa!
  • Café: Meet at the café for gossip, romance, and oh yeah, coffee.
  • Tomodachi LifeClothing: You’ll find a wide range of outfits for your islanders here. Sporty clothes, fancy duds, and a hamster suit? Yes please.
  • Compatibility Tester: Use this to see which islanders are destined to be BFFs and which relationships are doomed. DOOMED.
  • Concert Hall: Let your islanders sing and dance their hearts out on stage. You can even write your own lyrics. Now what rhymes with “Virtual Boy”?
  • Food Mart: A Mii needs to eat! See if you can figure out each islander’s favorite food—or the stuff they hate.
  • Fountain: Every classy town has a fountain. This is also where your islanders will donate money daily.
  • Hats: They’ve got everything from cat ears to trucker hats—but what else do you need?
  • Import Wear: This shop specializes in items you can only get from other players (or from Nintendo). Stop by and treat yourself!
  • Tomodachi LifeInteriors: Why live in a boring apartment when you could live in one that looks like a space station, a palace, or a train car?
  • Mii Apartments: This stylish building is where your Mii™ characters will live. Stop by to help solve problems, play games, or just hang out…you never know what’ll happen. Boost your islanders’ “Happiness” score to get rewards.
  • Mii News: This just in: News reports happen daily at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Observation Tower: You can see for miles up here. It’s a great way to spy on the neighbors, not that you’d do that.
  • Pawn Shop: Sell stuff you don’t want for cold, hard, in-game cash. Sweet deal!
  • Photo Studio: Get in-game portraits taken that you can cherish forever (and share with friends).
  • Rankings Board: Find out who’s hot, who’s not, and who’s the most popular. Seriously, though, who is it?!
  • Town Hall: This is where the magic happens. And by “magic,” we mean creating the Mii characters who live on your private island.

Check out the official website.

Google’s Playable Rubik’s Cube

Google Rubiks Cube

In honor of the Rubik’s Cube’s 40th anniversary, Google has turned its logo into a giant, playable Rubik’s Cube. The puzzle was invented in 1974 by Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik and since has sold more than 350 million variations of the cube twisting game. The furthest I’ve ever gotten on a Rubik’s Cube is just getting all of the same side the same color. After that I’m lost on hoe to maintain that side while also matching the others.