Category: Articles

Some Things I Saw (and grabbed) at CES

So how was your CES this year?  Here are my stats:

  • an average of 27,000 steps walked per day (photo here just to prove it)
  • hundreds of hand shakes
  • 14 glasses of highly-caffeinated iced tea (we don’t do coffee)
  • less than 6 hours of sleep per night
  • 3 packed suitcases of gadgets and trinkets that will either change my life or trash up my garage

 

I am receiving more items from companies who announced or launched products at the annual Las Vegas convention.  I continue to talk about and review them on my radio show (11a-1p Saturdays, KPRC/iHeartRadio) and TV appearances.  Here is a recent clip from “Great Day Houston” (KHOU, CBS) with much more to come:

Links to the items I spotlighted:

Targus Mobile VIP + Backpack With Qi-Charging – targus.com/laptop-backpack

TruMedic Magic Hands Shiatsu Neck and Back Massager – trumedic.com/magichands-trushiatsu

Puro Volume-Limiting Headphones – purosound.com

Jabra Elite Active 75  – jabra.com

Audio-Technica – audio-technica.com

Monster – monsterstore.com

Helm Audio – helmaudio.com

Noerden Self-Cleaning Smart Bottle – noerden.eu

Kwikset Home Smart Lock – kwikset.com

CES 2020 Coverage

My 20th year covering CES in Las Vegas. It only gets larger and crazier, at least in terms of the product launches and offerings.  Sex “toys” are the thing this year after being dissed at the tech trade show in 2019.  I’m still waiting for samples to arrive for full review.

Smart homes, cars, 8K TVs, 5G, AI, Google and Amazon are all over the place.  Tune in to my radio show on KPRC 950AM and iHeartRadio for live reports from the show floor.

Catalina Island Offers At Least A Full Day of Fun, Relaxion and Adventure

I have traveled to California most all my life. As far south as San Diego and up north past San Francisco in the wine country. Los Angeles and Orange County have been my sweet spot for decades as I enjoy the hustle of Hollywood and the nearby sunny beaches.

I’ve spent countless years staring out at the Pacific Ocean wondering how far it is to Hawaii, in my mind the closest land mass to the west of SoCal. But how could I forget another famous island where people go to play and enjoy the sun, but just 22 miles away?

Catalina here I come.

The only things I really knew about Catalina Island were from a Beach Boys song and a memorable scene from the Will Ferrell movie “Step Brothers.” It seemed beautiful (though most of that scene was not shot on the island) but it was presented in a way that one must visit the lush, mountainous landmass with sparkling blue harbors.

During a recent swing to the left coast I decided to make a trip to Catalina to see what all the hubbub was about, if not to find remnants of that (explicative) wine mixer made famous in that 2008 film.

Getting There

I suppose the rich and famous take their private helicopters across the water to Catalina. A helipad sits about a mile south of Avalon, the largest community on the island. There is even an airstrip for planes up near the highest point. However, most visitors come by boat.

Catalina Express operates the main charter service to-and-from Catalina Island. Departing from three ports – San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point – the company offers up to 30 daily departures to Avalon and Two Harbors. According to a company spokesperson, Catalina Express transports nearly one million passengers annually.

Ticketing is like booking a flight. I logged on to the website and booked a few tickets from Long Beach to Avalon in a matter of minutes. There is even a higher “class” of seating called the Commander Lounge that offers a quieter and comfier experience than a standard ticket. The lounge has retractable seats with an attendant who serves a drink (alcohol or not) that comes with the ticket.

We arrived at the Long Beach terminal about an hour before our morning departure. Parking was convenient – if not pricey at $19 per day – in a covered garage.

Though we were going only for the day equipped with a small backpack, several passengers were wheeling luggage into the terminal. These were travelers who were staying on the island for a few days in some of the private homes and hotels. Each passenger rolled their luggage onto a storage area on the boat and retrieved them upon arrival.

Our vessel held around 400 passengers and departed right on time. It was a smooth cruise across the Pacific as a I sipped a Bloody Mary, watching the sun rise and keeping an eye open for dolphins that sometime swim near the boats.

We arrived in Avalon about an hour later ready to soak in the atmosphere that looked so inviting in the Catalina Express brochures.

Best Way Too See The Island

As we stepped off the boat onto the long dock, we could see how tall and hilly this 76-square mile rock really is. Large, leafy trees crept up the slopes with colorful houses and apartments popping out of the green scenery.

This is an ideal place for hikers and we saw many of them. I’d recommend a good pair of walking boots, a hiking stick and lots of water should you journey his way.

We opted for an easier mode to explore and traverse the steep terrain by renting a golf cart. Automobiles are scarce on Catalina so many residents get around via these gas-powered vehicles. They are the perfect size for the small streets and certainly easier to park in the tiny town.

Catalina Island Golf Carts rents 4- and 6-seat carts for about $50 per hour. It is a good idea to make a reservation before you arrive especially on a weekend. I signed in at the kiosk near the dock and off we went. Up, up, and up.

We headed south to follow the scenic tour signs to be sure and catch the most picturesque sites on Catalina. The convenience of a golf cart allows you to go at your own pace and stop as often as you’d like. Within 10 minutes we were perched on one of the highest overlooks of Avalon and the harbor. It was breathtaking and gave us bearings for the rest of our day.

Hundreds of feet below us, dozens of private boats were floating in the calm harbor water. It seemed as if they were anchored there overnight, if not for days. And why not? Catalina has long been a getaway destination to lounge in the sun and splash in the crystal blue water. If I lived in SoCal and had a boat this is where I’d hang out on most summer weekends.

Beyond the boats sits probably the most iconic landmark of Avalon, the Casino. Built in 1929 at a cost of $2 million, no gambling takes place – or ever took place – at the enormous, round auditorium. The word “casino,” it seems, means “a gathering place” in Italian. The building is used for events and shows movies regularly.

After snapping a ton of photos, we hopped back on the golf cart to continue our tour through town. Another hill led us past a golf course to the picturesque Wrigley Museum. The same Wrigley family as in the chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs held their spring training camp on Catalina Island from 1921-1951, except for a short break during World War II. The Wrigley name still has a large presence everywhere you go.

We passed several hotels and some over-the-top homes wondering if people lived here year-round or just used them for leisurely escapes. Most all of them have wonderous views of the harbor down below.

We finished our island excursion in about 90 minutes as we returned the golf cart back to the waterfront just in time for lunch.

Eat, Drink, Enjoy The Views

There are many options to dine in Avalon with most centered around the harbor and dotting the nearby streets. Small cafes serving crepes and sandwiches were crowded with visitors and locals soaking in the sun on flower-filled patios. Sounds of laughter could be heard drifting out of bars that offer exotic drinks and cold beer.

We wanted to find a place with a perfect view of the water to enjoy the nice breeze on this Sunday afternoon. The Bluewater Grill was the perfect destination. The only true waterfront restaurant in town, this centrally-located building has a large deck that juts out over the harbor. We didn’t bother opening the menu for at least 10 minutes as we stared out at the water on a picture-perfect day.

The restaurant is part of the Bluewater Grill group on the Mainland and sources the globe for the freshest seafood. It’s a casual, fun setting with a large, open bar area, sushi and oyster bars and great hospitality.

Our waitress recommended some of the more popular cocktails and appetizers. Within minutes we were sipping and snacking to our hearts’ content. The artichokes with lemon butter tasted like they were picked fresh that morning and the chicken wings had just the right spice. I was talked into the menu favorite – lightly fried shrimp and fish with a large helping of French fries. I was on vacation, after all. Deliciousness.

The lobster tail was tender and there are vegan and child options. We were told we couldn’t leave without trying the bread pudding, so we had to oblige. The memorable meal left us feeling like fat, happy cats, but we knew we would work it off with the rest of the day’s activities.

Catalina From Above

While we saw most everything on land during our golf cart tour, there is another angle worth seeing. From high above the harbor. 800 feet high to be exact. While being pulled from a boat with a large parachute above your head. Yes, it was time to parasail.

I have parasailed a few times during trips to Mexico, but this “flight” was extra special. Catalina Island Parasail offers the experience of floating through the air while a speedboat navigates in-and-around the harbor. And the view is spectacular.

It’s a surreal experience. A two-person harness is launched from the boat’s deck to let you float in almost absolute silence. The panoramic view of the island is something you don’t see every day and certainly can’t see from land.

The experienced crew safely guided us up towards the sky for a 10-minute tour that could have lasted for hours. We opted to purchase photos they took from the boat so we could prove to everyone that we floated in paradise.

More Activities

We didn’t want to leave Catalina without experiencing a little more adventure. We then walked north a bit past the Casino into the Descanso Canyon. Catalina Aerial Adventure is set up here complete with zip lines that crisscross the mountains and a thrilling obstacle course suspended in trees.

We harnessed up and spent the next hour laughing like kids as we negotiated wood planks and slides that led from treetop to treetop.

All Ashore

Our daylong trip to Catalina Island was coming to end so we scurried through town towards the Catalina Express. But not before stopping at Lloyd’s of Avalon. The line stretching out the front door sensed something good was being served.

Lloyd’s has been making salt water taffy, caramel apples, peanut brittle, fudge and chocolates in the window on Crescent Avenue in Avalon since 1934. The sweet smell of sugar was wafting throughout the deep store, but our snack of choice was hand-dipped ice cream cones. Families gathered outside with all sorts of tasty treats, possibly to reward themselves of a day well spent.

Our boat was right on time as the sun was still in the sky. Passengers were starting to board, headed back to Long Beach from at least an overnight stay somewhere on the island. We fell into our Commodore Lounge seats with barely enough energy to order one final round of beer during the hour-long trip to the Mainland.

Halfway through the voyage we watched the sun begin to set into the Pacific Ocean through the large, tinted windows of boat. I took a stroll outside on the large, open, back deck to make sure I got a few last photos of the water and took in a final breath of the clean, sea air.

And just like that, we were back at the Catalina Express terminal.

There are many things to do and see on Catalina Island. Had we stayed another day or two I probably would have got in a round of golf, camped in a tent overnight, and hiked across the rugged wilderness. But our one day visit to this beautiful piece of land gave us something to look forward to the next time we head out to west to California.

After all, I still did not find that (expletive) wine mixer.

LISTEN to my recap here as heard on my radio show:

Resources:

Catalina Express
www.catalinaexpress.com

Catalina Island
www.visitcatalina.com

Catalina Island Parasail
www.parasailcatalina.com/

Catalina Golf Cart
www.catalinaislandgolfcart.com/

Bluewater Grill Avalon
www.bluewatergrill.com/

Catalina Aerial Adventur
www.catalinatours.com/

Lloyd’s of Avalon
www.catalinacandy.com/

Dining In The SoCal Sunset – BALEENkitchen

During a recent swing up-and-down the SoCal coastline I made a point to find unique spots to dine and stay. I travel so often I wanted to experience things other than chain hotels and eateries that dot the rest of the U.S.

The South Bay of Los Angeles is a beautiful place to play on white, sandy beaches and watch the sun fade into the Pacific Ocean. It’s even better when you have a cold cocktail in hand and delicious food to begin a breezy, summer evening.

Redondo Beach can be a busy place this time of year with visitors, beachgoers, boaters and traffic, but just a few hundred yards off N. Harbor Drive – across a basin filled with eye-popping private boats – sits the Portofino Hotel.

My plans to stay at the waterfront property were scuttled at the last-minute but I wanted to experience the area and see the premium luxury hotel for myself. Part of the Noble House family of hotels and resorts, the Portofino boasts breathtaking scenes of the water from almost view.

Around 5 o’clock in the afternoon I heard some commotion a few yards away from the hotel’s grand entrance. The open windows of a restaurant were inviting me with laughter, chatter and the smell of fresh seafood. So in I went into BALEENKitchen.

The open-air setting and light mood first led me to the large bar. Good looking, happy people (are there any others in SoCal?) were lounging in comfy chairs holding colorful drinks. Happy hour was in full swing and I helped myself to a Pineapple Express.

Justin King, General Manager of the restaurant, wanted to personally make sure my drinks was made to standard, so he popped behind the bar and started pouring and shaking.

Plantation pineapple rum, Bacardi coconut rum, ginger liqueur topped with coconut, lime and basil. I closed my eyes and thought I was in the tropics.

After opening my eyes Justin led me into the spacious dining room to a white-clothed table by the window. I knew at that point I wasn’t going anywhere for hours. I certainly did not want to miss that west coast sunset.

The menu offers a lengthy list of small plates and shareables. Ahi tuna tacos with fresh guacamole was my first stop followed blistered shishito peppers and then a beautiful charcuterie and cheese board. By the time I was halfway through the olives and grapes on the board I was sipping on a Pat’s Ol’ Fashioned.

As a bourbon lover I make sure to sample specialty drinks made with that Kentucky brown water. Angel’s Envy bourbon is the base along with demerara sugar and orange bitters. I got my Uber app ready as I finished two of those.

The presentation was exemplary as heads turned when the waiter placed a plate of pan-roasted diver scallops in front of me. Surrounded by pee wee potatoes, mushrooms and blistered cherry tomatoes, I wanted to savor this for a while. Alas, the miso-glazed salmon was coming.

It was cooked as perfect as can be atop a bed of soba noodles and baby bok choy. Justin snuck back to my table with a serving of sweet potatoes as he wanted me to know that was one of the more popular side dish choices. I quickly realized why.

As the sun began to fall into the water and I finished snapping 3 dozen photos of the gorgeous view, a sampler of bread pudding, apple tart and gelato was within reach of my spoon. Perfect desserts to finish a perfect evening.

BALEENkitchen offers a top-notch waitstaff who readily answer questions about the menu and who owns which boat just outside of the expansive restaurant.

My only wish would have been to walk back across the driveway into what I believe would be a glorious hotel room and quickly drift into a deep sleep dreaming about those scallops.

Alas, my Uber arrived to take me up the coast a bit, but I vow to return one day for the full Portofino experience.

 

BALEENkitchen
260 Portofino Way
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
www.hotelportofino.com

VIDEO: Outdoor Tech Products

Good morning from the set of “Great Day Houston” (CBS) where it’s time for another show-and-tell segment.   Today I brought along some products to make life and the outdoor experience a bit easier.  Watch my segment HERE where I talked about these cool products:

Rok-It portable chair
Pelican coolers
Eco-Popper HD Webcam WiFi fishing lure
Hive View smart home camera
B-Hyve smart faucet hose

VIDEO: 50th Anny Moon Landing Tech

I was a mere pup when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  The only thing I remember from those days was my astronaut-themed lunch box adorning the metal container and Thermos, though I can’t recall if my mom put Tang in there.  I loved that lunch box.  And we all still love and enjoy the technology that NASA developed for those space missions because many of them still exist today.

Here is my recent appearance on Great Day Houston (CBS) where I discussed some of these technologies and products including baby formula, GPS, the Dustbuster and memory foam.  The computing power on those space capsules had less power than our smartphones have today.  But make sure to have battery chargers to keep your phone and all your devices powered up.

A special thanks to myCharge for supplying HubPlus Universal portable chargers to the TV show audience.  These 6700mAH chargers have built-in Lightning and USB-C cords and they recharge via built-in wall prongs.  There is a special 20% discount on the HubPlus Universal for Amazon Prime Day – if you buy through the myCharge seller Amazon page, you can get $5 off each charger and  double up with this 20% off promo code (20OFFPOWER).

Watch the fun HERE.

VIDEO: Products to monitor your home and your time

With the recent news from Amazon that it allows constant monitoring and “listening” from its Echo devices to help with home security, I discussed this new feature on “Great Day Houston” (KHOU-CBS).  Other products that also help with home monitoring include:

Kangaroo motion sensor
SimpleSense WiFi leak Detector
ROAV Dashcam
NOWA Watch

Watch  the segment here:

 

 

 

Sea, Sand, and Golf – Puerta Cortes Offers It All In The Baja Peninsula

La Paz, Mexico – It’s a game I play when I play a round of golf at a new course. I call it, “Guess The Signature Hole.” Golf courses generally have one hole that is the most picturesque – or toughest to play – that players remember it by. And I like guessing which one it is.

As I made the turn at El Cortes Golf Club, the first Gary Player designed golf club in all of Mexico, I was debating on this course’s signature hole. Was it #7 with the spectacular 65-foot drop from the landing area to the green as you look out towards the Sea of Cortez (I birdied it, for the record)? Or perhaps the 167-yard, par 3 eighth hole requiring a moon drop landing over a lunar-sized pond (birdie again!)?

Those lush green layouts were breathtaking but I deemed Mr. Player’s evil-minded 14th tract as the spot that golfers will most remember here. For better or worse.

The South African hall-of-famer must laugh at duffers as they stand on the tee box looking out on this beautiful, nerve-racking view he presents. Scary is the best term I can use to describe before taking my driver out of the bag. It’s not the daunting 615 yards to the green – one of the longest holes in Mexico at sea level. But rather the 165-foot drop to the fairway below. Acrophobia be damned.

This hole plays top-to-bottom. Then right-to-left. But very much top-to-bottom starting from an elevated cliff. I would suggest having a spotter or two follow the ball flight to ensure the landing spot in the canyon below. Should it rest in or near the fairway consider this a hole a win.

The weather was magnificent this May morning with a slight breeze coming in from the marina, just beyond Puerta Cortes. Residents and guests of this resort destination have access to the par-72, 7,082-yard golf course via a short golf cart drive. Though not a large clubhouse, the view offers a panoramic shot of the deep blue water dotted with small islands in the distance.

Clubhouse personnel told me that only about two dozen golfers come through each day. That was probably the reason I enjoyed a brisk round in less than 3 hours. My kind of golf.

I can’t remember enjoying myself more on a course. The weather, the scenery and the solitude made for a perfect morning. My score could have been a bit lower but I can always blame the set of rental clubs I used due to my laziness of not schlepping my own sticks to Mexico.

But my Saturday was only just beginning. Lunch with my girlfriend was waiting at Blue Cortes, the signature beach club at Puerta Cortes. She had staked out a table on the white, sandy shore with two frothy, handmade margaritas glistening in the sun. She had spent her morning on a massage table in a nearby palapa with nothing on her mind other than the soothing sounds of the wind and water.

Between both our morning activities we did not need the margaritas to already be relaxed.
The next few hours found us in-and-out of the infinity pool, jacuzzi and the warm, Mexico sun. A fully-stocked bar was never more than a few yards away yet we found the poolside waitstaff was even a more convenient process of getting drinks throughout the day.

Our weekend stay was a fun escape albeit a quick one. The VistaMar condominiums offered a perfect and easy place to post up for a few days or even a few weeks. 60 oceanfront units are positioned to capture the views of the Sea of Cortez. These residences offer eight floorplan designs ranging from two bedrooms with two-and-a-half baths, up to three bedrooms plus studio, three-and-a-half baths, and two-floor penthouses. All of the units have large, marble-tiled terraces.

Most of these units are second or third residences owned by people around the world who come to La Paz to relax like we were doing. When these owners aren’t lounging here at the beach club or marina, many put their spaces in the vacation rental program. Square footage begins at 2,600 square feet ranging up to more than 5,000 square feet. Prices start at $500,000 up to $1,400,000.

For those who prefer scenery with a little less water, the Las Colinas Hillside comprises 72 contemporary, rustic architecture residences located in the middle of the golf course. Four styles are available ranging from two-bedroom plus den, two-bath floor plans, to three-bedroom plus den with whirlpool, three-bath arrangements.

Homeowners can choose to place their property in the vacation rental programs. Unit sizes begin at 2,000 square feet up to more than 3,300 square feet and prices start at $400,000 ranging to $750,000.

Though we could have stayed at Puerta Cortes the entire weekend with all the fun, food and entertainment to be had, I always enjoy exploring cities. Downtown La Paz is a quick 5-minute drive south of the resort. We grabbed a bite alongside the Malecon, the beachside street offering views of the palm tree-lined beach dotted with shops and restaurants.

The evening ended back on the resort property walking along Pueblito Marinero. Considered one of the best in the Americas, this marina has a capacity for 250 vessels. The moonlit area offered a nice photo opp for the docked fishing boats and mega yachts waiting to launch in the early morning hours.

I can imagine having a place here and opting for a boat instead of a car. After all, that deep blue water is inviting and you’ll never know what you will see in the Sea of Cortez. We just missed whale watching season (December through April) but sea lions could be heard barking from hundreds of yards away.

A 2-hour excursion led by Captain Mike of Go Baja Sailing brought us to within a few feet of the loud creatures lounging on a small rock formation. We also set our cameras to quick-focus in hopes of spotting the elusive flying mantas that randomly pop up and seemingly hover a few feet over the water.

As we drove out of the 24-hour secured gates of the large property to head back home, we passed the tee box of that signature hole #14 of El Cortes Golf Club. I tried to think of the signature moment of my stay at Puerta Cortes but couldn’t think of just one.

That signature moment may just be when I log online to make my next reservation to this beautiful place on the Baja Peninsula.                                                                                                                     -MG

HEAR about my Puerta Cortes experience via my syndicated radio show:

New Orleans Jazz Fest – Bringing Music, Food, and Heat

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrates its silver anniversary, once again taking over the New Orleans Fairgrounds spanning the usual two weekends.  My second visit to this iconic festival will find me hopping from stage to stage watching music legends like Santana and Bonnie Raitt to local favorites such as Trombone Shorty and Better Than Ezra.

Anyone who’s paid a visit to this mid-Spring gathering knows that the genre tents, the colorful people and the flavoral, caloric food are a part of the festival as much as the magic.  Make sure to tune into my show this Saturday, April 27, at 11am CT, live from the Shell hospitality center.

UDPATE:  Photos below and broadcast replay below.

 

 

 

Tech Show & Tell on “Great Day Houston”

Killing time in the “dull” months before the Mother’s day, graduation and Father’s Day gift suggestions start to roll in…

I stopped by “Great Day Houston” (KHOU – CBS) with a few goodies I had hanging around my office.  Host Deborah Duncan and I had a quick rag session on Samsung’s latest mobile OS update and its removal of our fave photo editing app (BRING IT BACK!!).  Then it was gear time:

The Lumicharge Smart Desk Lamp has a LED screen that displays time, date, and temp, and it features 2 USB ports for charging, as well as a built-in dock for any phone.

Benjilock by Hampton is a great padlock that can unlock/lock using your fingerprint.  It can store up to 10 fingerprints and the battery lasts from 6 months to a year.

The HP Tango Printer has a small footprint made for today’s wireless world.  You can print from anywhere from any device wirelessly, and you can also scan and copy via a mobile app and send straight to the printer.

The Gekkostick is a flexible and functional selfie-stick so you can take pictures and videos from any angle.  It also comes with a Bluetooth-remote, so you can take pictures away from the camera.

Tune into “Great Day Houston” on Wednesday, April 24, at 9am CT for my next appearance.  If you have a gadget that you think is interesting, let me know.

CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO PLAY TV CLIP