Life with the iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Midnight Green

I’ve had the iPhone 11 Pro for a couple of weeks and the one thing that I realize is that its an iPhone but with just a ton more speed and a much better camera.  I’ve been sporting an iPhone 7 for a couple of years and I thought it would be nice to upgrade.  I mainly did the upgrade because T-Mobile gave me a great deal on my trade in, $300 in credits, but I would have to pay off the phone over 2 years.  I have a tendency these days to keep my phone for about 2 years so paying my phone by installment isn’t such a big deal.  If anything it frees up capital for other more immediate needs.

The camera is pretty cool but I haven’t had an opportunity to use it much.  The new camera interface if pretty cool, especially for zooming in.  I also like how it can seamlessly switch between different lenses for zooming in and out.  I need to take a vacation to really test out the camera since thats when I tend to take the most pictures across different types of lighting situations.

The speed of the phone is definitely awesome, I can tell its faster than my iPhone 7 when I open different apps or switch between them.  The other thing that really sold me was the increased battery life.  I have been running the phone without charging it for most of the day and the battery indicator barely moves.  It’s definitely better than my iPhone 7 which was losing battery power just by looking at the screen for the weather.  The camera was definitely the biggest battery drain but the better battery life should preclude me from having to bring a spare battery with me.

Truth be told, the iPhone 11 is just another iPhone.  It’s faster with better cameras and has more battery life for once.  I’ll be living with this thing for 2 years but so far I’m impressed with what it has become.  I finally have the best phone in the family again!


Making Shirts with the Cricut

Cricut Maker

My wife got a device called a Cricut almost a year ago.  It “prints” designs that you can put on almost anything.  It technically cuts vinyl with a blade and you make the pattern on a an app that you can use on an iPad or a regular computer.  My wife uses it for making cool things like water bottles and shirts but I have never asked to have a shirt made for me until very recently.

My daughter plays for a soccer team called the Cobra’s but since they are a city league they don’t have a lot of swag that the parents can wear, or that I would like to wear outside of a game.  Since I grew up in the 80’s the only logo that can properly convey the “cobra” is the Cobra from GI Joe.  My wife was able to find the logo and clean it up so that she could put it on a black shirt for me.  The black and red make for an excellent shirt.  I have my last name and my daughters number on the back of the shirt that my wife was able to do as well.

I also had my wife create a second shirt with Cobra Commander on the front.  This one was especially cool because I had use this logo before for a text message to some of the parents on the soccer team.  I added a phrase to the side which says “Mark a Player” which is what her coach yells a lot to the team.  Earlier this year my wife made me a custom water bottle that I use pretty much every day but since I wash it so much the logo is starting to peel off.  I know if I ask my wife can fix it.  I think I’ll ask her to make something cool for my MacBook Pro or my IPad Pro.  I used to have a Stevie Griffin on my older MacBook Pro but the computer died and I got a new one.

If I find more things that look interesting that aren’t too complicated for shirts, I’ll definitely have my wife do it with the Cricut, that thing is pretty cool for making custom shirts.  What’s even better is that by reversing the stencil, she could potentially make shirts using silk screens but we’ll need a bigger house for that so she can have her own workshop for that.

I Pre-Ordered the iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro

Here’s something that I haven’t done in a good long time, actually pre-order an iPhone, or any apple device for that matter. I think the last time that I actually stayed up late to do a pre-order was for my iPhone 6. Since then I’ve only upgraded to the iPhone 7 and even then, that was originally my work phone and not my personal one so no staying up till the wee hours of the night for that one. So what made me do it this time? Well here we go with the rest of the post……

To my utter delight, I didn’t have to be up at 3am to do a pre-order for the phone. In years past when I would want to pre-order an Apple device right after the reveal, it normally went on sale at 12am PDT, thats 3am to me since I’m on the east coast. This time they pushed it back so the first orders could be done at 8am EDT. That means not being bleary eyed for the rest of the day due to lack of sleep and cursing at websites that won’t load because there are too many other people trying to order the same device that I am.

My iPhone 7 is frankly getting full, I have a lot of stuff on it from apps, movies, photos, and music and even though it has 128GB of space, I was always only 25GB away from running out of space. I have another iPhone 7 for work thats only 32GB so its basically stripped down to nothing with only the essentials for checking email and stuff. This time I bought the 256GB version so thats twice the amount of space. I figure I’ll need that space for all the extra videos that I can take at 4K with the new camera’s. I could have gone all in with a 512GB like my iPad Pro but I won’t be using the iPhone to import my GoPro videos to view and edit them on the go.

T-Mobile was offering a crazy trade in deal for my iPhone 7, they were going to give me $300 in statement credits if I financed the phone over a 24 month period. This is another first, I’m actually going to finance the phone, normally I pay for it outright but due to this great deal I decided financing was the best way to go. Apple was only offering me $150 for my trade in and they weren’t discounting the phone on their EPP website either. Even with the EPP discount and the trade in, the T-Mobile deal was way better. I have no intention of leaving T-Mobile in the next 2 years and I’m sure I’ll either be ready to get another phone after that or I’ll just keep it for an extra year like I did my iPhone 7. Besides, even with every vlogger on YouTube saying “wait till 2020 for the 5G iPhone”, I looked at the coverage map for 5G and its definitely going to be lacking for quite a while. There’s technically nothing wrong with LTE, the coverage is pretty good and the speeds are fine to stream video which generally hits all the use cases I have. The biggest thing for me is coverage since I travel for work, until thats there, I’m going to hold off till 2021 or 2022 for a 5G phone.

Oh I never said what I picked as a color! I decided on the Midnight Green this time. I’ve had black since the 3GS for my personal phone. I’ve used white for my work phones to differentiate it, and my daughter has a rose gold phone. I was originally just going to get black like always but my wife convinced me to try the new color. I’m excited to see what it looks like when I get it. That will likely be one of the last times I see it since I know the wallet case I’m going to use to cover it so I don’t have to actually carry a wallet. The ship time is Sept 21-24, thats beyond the actual release date of Sept 20, but I’ve waited this long so I can wait a little bit more. Only slightly more than a week to go!

Hurricane shutters are a Floridian’s best friend….. unless you have impact windows

Hurricane Dorian

If there is one necessity that is required if you live in Florida, its hurricane shutters. Way back when my townhouse was built, it included hurricane shutters. Hurricane shutters come in a few types, the two that I’m most familiar with are the ones that you screw into your house and accordions. Since living in Florida all this time, there have been very few times that I have had to put up shutters. I think the first time was during Hurricane Matthew and at the time I had the screw in shutters that came with my house. That was ridiculously difficult to put up on my own, I had to place each panel on an opening (there were at least 5-6 per window or door) and they had to be screwed into the house. Needless to say that was time consuming and back breaking work. The worst part was that I was only able to do the bottom floor, I left the tops alone and used duct tape to protect the windows (yep not recommended).

Accordion shutters

After some discussion with the Mrs., we decided to spring for the accordion shutters in anticipation of other hurricanes. Granted they cost about $5K and took months to get permits and the shutters actually put in but the benefit and cost were so worth it. Fast forward to Hurricane Irma, the only hurricane I ever evacuated for. This one was projected to come right to my community on the map. Since I had the new accordions, it only took 15-20 minutes to put all the shutters up and was relatively effortless. In the picture above, my neighbor still has the ones that you screw in and he was doing that for a few hours but he had help doing it.

With Dorian, it was projected to come to South Florida again, they said Category 3 but now its a 5 but it will skirt the state for the most part but I’m not taking any chances and I put up the shutters anyway. Most of my community has put up their shutters and there is a mixture of the screw in vs the accordions. The buildings that were built most recently don’t need shutters, they have impact glass. Impact glass is very expensive but then you don’t have to deal with hurricane shutters which is nice. You don’t have to live in darkness for a day or so. I don’t know if they’re rated to handle something like a category 5 storm but at least when something hits the glass it won’t shatter. If I knew that I was going to be staying in my home forever, I might want to invest in something like impact glass but since I spent the money on accordions, I think I’ll be fine for the most part.

If you live in FL and don’t have hurricane shutters, you’re just rolling the dice every June through November. We’ve been fortunate that the hurricanes to date have not made direct impacts to South Florida but that’s not the case in other parts of the state. I still see some people putting up plywood for their homes. The amount of time and effort required to do that is greater than having screw in shutters. While financially its expensive to put shutters on your home, at least you know you’ll be protected from a storm which is the most important thing. Now to sit and wait for the storm to blow over so I can take the shutters down and get some vitamin D in my life.

Ozark Trail Double Walled Water Bottle is Awesome

Living in the land of citrus year round means you need cold water. I’ve had water bottles of all types while living down here, most of them free from my employer or something that I got from a give away. They all held water fine, the issue was keeping it cold throughout the day. I’ve avoided buying water bottles because people just give these things away as freebies.

On a recent trip to Walmart with the family I saw that the Ozark Trail double walled water bottles were on sale. I figured, sure why not and picked up 2 of them, one for me and one for the Mrs. I’ve been using it for the last few months at home throughout the winter, spring, and most of summer and its held up really well. I normally don’t like to drink water but I think thats because in the past its never been quite cold enough but these water bottles keep my water cold for most of the day. If I fill it with 3/4 of ice, the ice normally lasts the entire day even with all the refills I do while working from home.

The downer of this water bottle is that it needs to be hand washed. I’m not a fan of hand wash only stuff but for this one I’ll make an exception. Being a blank slate, my wife used her Cricut to create a cool logo to put on my water bottle to make it unique. Since my last name begins with W and I was born in the north east, I figured the best logo to use would be the W from Wu Tang Clan. When I do travel for work, I have taken this with me on my travels but the water fountains don’t have particularly cold water and I have to sneak getting some ice from a fountain drink machine.

If I ever break this thing, I might spring the extra money for a Hydro Flask. My wife recently got one and I like how it looks and it comes in some pretty awesome colors too.

Driving in France in the Renault Captur

If there’s one thing you need in the south of France in the middle of nowhere its a rental car. I am not well versed in driving a manual transmission car so I chose an automatic. The manual would have been a lot cheaper but I’m not confident in driving one and I was also in a foreign country and I wanted to be able to pay attention to my GPS and the traffic. Per my company policy, I rented a compact car but I was not prepared on how compact it was. I was given a Renault Captur which was a tiny car even by my standards.

The size of the of the car was pretty dismal, I could fit my 20” roller and my work backpack in the trunk. Even renting the smallest car in the US, I would be able to at least put in a 25” suitcase. What I didn’t know was that there was a plastic plate that would make the trunk a little it deeper. I didn’t discover that until I had to transport some of my team members and their suitcases. Needless to say we needed to stack some of the bags in the backseat to accommodate everything. The front area wasn’t so bad, I had enough room but I’m not that tall to begin with.

The infotainment system was pretty good, I changed it from French to English so the next person that rents it is going to be surprised when they start it up. I was able to connect my phone via Bluetooth and play music and hear the voice prompts for my GPS just fine. One thing that surprised me was that the car lacked any kind of backup camera. I’ve really gotten used to having a backup camera at my disposal and the streets in France are not very car friendly so having one would have been really helpful.

I could tell while driving the car that it had turbo in it but man the car was weak. I guess thats ok considering that most of the time I wasn’t driving more than 50mph. Most of the roads I drove on weren’t really highways in the American sense, they were short straightaways broken up by roundabouts. The gas tank on the Renault was really tiny. It only holds about 8 gallons of gas, my minivan holds around 19 gallons so I can go almost twice as far in a vehicle twice as big with an engine that probably has three times the horsepower here at home. For what it was, the car is the right size for the streets of Montpellier and the surrounding area. I did venture into Montpellier and I didn’t see a lot of large cars or SUV’s.

I think one of the more unique things on the car as the key fob. It was about the size of three credit cards put together and it had buttons to open the doors and the trunk. Thats not the interesting part though, you took this key fob and inserted it into a port in the center console to turn the ignition into the “On” position, from there you had to press the brake and hit the start button like an American car. My personal car I can keep the key fob in my pocket and just press the brake and the start button and away I go. The key fob was not compact so it takes up a lot of space in your pocket. I think thats a design flaw but maybe its the norm for cars in France. I didn’t get to see any others while I was there so I’m just making assumptions.

Overall it was a good car, the pickup sucked but it handled ok overall. My Honda Accord with its V6 278HP smokes this little shit box. I definitely missed it while I was away. I did put my car on sport mode when I came home and man it felt good to just step on the gas and go to 80MPH in less than 8 seconds. Although the turbo probably helped the little car along, I would hate to try and drive it without the turbo, it probably would have been slower than it already was. It was definitely a good experience overall, I got to experience a car that I can’t get here in the US and I was also able to finally drive in Europe. I think I need to rent a car in Asia just to compare it against Europe and the US.

La Grande-Motte – Beach town in South France

About 20-30 minutes from my hotel was a town called La Grande-Motte which is a beach resort town where a lot of the locals go to kick back and relax. I happened to go here twice, once on my own and another with my team. Both times were pretty cool which I’ll get into in a second. The drive there was also very scenic and I wish I had a dashcam to capture the drive. Maybe I’ll ask Santa for one.

On my first visit, I was really only there to eat dinner and being the American that I am, I wanted to get a burger. I went to a place called Gourmet Burger which was a little hard to find since it was tucked away on the boardwalk. The burger was pretty awesome and I had to add fries but I changed things up by drinking some orangina. Dinner took a long time because there is only one cook and she could only make the burgers 2 at a time since she had such a small stove. Normally I don’t like veggies on my burger but the ones that she put on there were excellent. Again I had a little trouble with the menu and communicating what I wanted but the guy at the front taking orders was nice and tried to speak English and I used my weak French to communicate what I wanted. Google Translate helped a little too but at this point in my trip I hadn’t downloaded French so it would work offline.

The boardwalk itself reminded me of the Jersey shore in that it had lots of hotels, cafe’s, and even an arcade. I didn’t play anything at the arcade, I have tons of games on my phone, but I did see a Ferris wheel and merry go round as well. The Ferris wheel wasn’t working but I took a picture of it anyway. There were also a lot of sand art sculptures too that someone took the time to create. I didn’t go onto the beach really, I don’t like sand all that much but I did enjoy going up and down the boardwalk. There were a lot of interesting restaurants and I went to another Italian place on my second journey there but they also took forever to get the food out. I don’t mind waiting for food but 1 hour is a little excessive for pizza and pasta. I guess I’m a little too American in that regard that I expect things to come out really quickly and not taking a slower pace to life.

The area beyond the beach has a nice small town feel and it was more modern than the walled city for sure. I didn’t explore it too much mainly because everything except restaurants were closed. Even then, the restaurants were closed fairly early, by 9:00PM most of the time with the rare restaurant closing at around 10:00. Thats ok, most nights I ended up eating late anyway because of work and my body wasn’t all that adjusted to the new time zone even though I did my best to fight the jet lag. The town at night was fairly safe to walk around at night since no one was around. There wasn’t much to see in the town since it was all closed and all the cool stuff was at the beach.

I was originally supposed to stay at La Grande Motte but due to the summer holiday, the 2019 Women’s World Cup and how late the hotels were booked for the trip, I missed out on actually staying in the area. I think it would have made the stay better overall since there were more places to eat and I wouldn’t have had to drive around so much either. It definitely gave me a good idea of what the south of France is like during the summer time. Kind of similar to how South Florida is almost all year round but with a different kind of charm and a less party atmosphere.