A City Map of Neighborhoods from Ork Posters

Ork Posters! is a small company born out of (I wonder how many small businesses got their start on etsy?) that makes amazing maps - primarily of cities - where each city is divided up into the individual neighborhoods. At the root of each poster is simple design that shows something you thought you already knew in an engaging way. It doesn't get much better than that.

Oh wait. It kind of does.

In addition to posters they also offer screen prints for only slightly more money. But having just received the Boston screen print (shown above) I can tell you they are worth it.

Ork also makes a couple other "maps" - a map of the heart, one of the brain and one of the Great Lakes. Unfortunately there are only 15 cities available so far, but they assure me that more are on the way. You can also suggest a city via email, so I immediately fired one off to ask for my city of Las Vegas and got a very nice reply. Who knows if it will happen, but if it does I'll be the first in line. I the meantime, I'll enjoy my new green and white Boston screen print.

Ork Posters! are $22 for a poster and $27 for a screen print, available at

Using a DSLR in Disneyland (or Disney World)


A trip to a Disney theme park with the family is one of those occasions when you know you're going to take a lot of photos. If you don't have a camera that can switch out lenses, then just bring your compact point and shoot and count yourself lucky that there's one less thing you'll have to lug around. But if you want to bring your "big" camera with more than one lens, then there are a couple of things to keep in mind when you're considering which lens (or lenses) to bring.

Walking around the park, you're going to face all sorts of photo moments. Sometimes you're going to want to try to get a wide shot of Sleeping Beauty's castle, and sometimes you're going to want a close-up portrait of your kid on the carousel. So a good, versatile zoom lens is the lens that you'll be using the most at the park. I use a Canon 24-70mm, and with the 1.6x crop factor (due to the sensor size on my camera) I get an effective focal length of 38-112mm which covers a great range of shots. You might be tempted to rent something big and crazy like a  70-200mm lens, which might be fun but is kind of overkill. At Disneyland, and Disney World I'm assuming, there aren't that many moments where you are going to want to take a really long shot. And you'll likely find that 70mm isn't nearly wide enough in many situations (I have enough problems at 24mm).

Fast Glass
"Fast Glass" is just a nerdy thing photography people say to describe a lens that has a wide aperture. A wide aperture lets in more light, and more light means the shutter speed can remain "fast" even in low light situations. At Disneyland, this is essential, especially if you're taking pictures of your kids. You're going to take plenty of pictures outside during the day, but you're also going to take plenty of pictures inside (restaurant, rides etc.) not to mention at night. Having a lens that will allow you to avoid using the pop up flash - or bringing an external flash - is awesome. I always bring my favorite Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, and when we're watching the parade at night or I want to take pictures of my girls in "It's A Small World," the 50mm always delivers.

Other Disney DSLR Things To Consider
Don't bother trying to bring a tripod unless you really want to lug that thing around all day. You can try a beanbag or something like that, but honestly there aren't many places you're going to want to use one. I don't even bother with my Joby Gorillapod - it's just too annoying. If you're concerned about getting pictures of the whole family (including you) avail yourself of the many Disney Photo Pass photographers. They know how to handle your camera - just be smarter than I was and make sure auto focus is turned on.

Get a good camera strap that is comfortable and ditch that strap that came with your camera. Those straps are uncomfortable and all they do is advertise to thieves that you're walking around with an expensive camera. I've used affordable, normal straps from Op/Tech and like them, and now I'm using a shoulder strap from Black Rapid that I really, really love.

Use the smallest camera bag possible, but still bring a bag. I use an older version of this bag from Tamrac. It fits my camera body with my zoom lens attached, and there's enough room at the bottom for my 50mm. I also bought a water bottle attachment for the side, and I ditched the water bottle and use the attachment to hold my drink, my kid's water or whatever else I need to throw in there in a pinch.

Oh, and make sure you bring twice the memory cards you'll think you'll need (on the trip, not necessarily to the park) and a backup battery. Trust me. The real work comes when you get home and have to go through all the pictures you've taken.


RELATED POSTS (from Chris Ford):

Tips for Surviving a Weekend at Disney (with the Kids) [Man of the]

Tips For Surviving a Weekend At Disney With Kids


This past December we went to Disneyland for a weekend trip. The holidays are a fun time to go visit "the happiest place on earth", and since we live within driving distance (and our kids are only getting older every day) we figured it was time. It was our third trip, and we're starting to figure out what works and what doesn't work - especially when you bring your kids. If you're interested, check out my latest post on Man of the House - my five tips for surviving a weekend at Disneyland with the kids.

Tips For Surviving a Weekend at Disney (With Kids) []

FakeTV Burglar Deterrant Keeps The Fake TV Glowing


I've bought a lot of hair-brained electronic crap in my life, and so when I told my wife about FakeTV, she just assumed this was another one of those things. And while I can't say for sure that this thing fulfilled it's purpose (and I'm happy about that, believe me), even my wife had to agree that it's a pretty cool little device.

The basic premise behind FakeTV is that burglars won't bother to break into a house that they know is occupied, and the number one way they can tell a house is occupied is the faint glow of a television being watched in the dark. The problem is, if you go away on vacation, most all televisions don't work on traditional power-timers. And leaving a television on for 24 hours while you're away on vacation is not only expensive, it's bad for the TV. That's where FakeTV comes in.

FakeTV is this little box (very little box actually) that you plug in and leave behind a closed curtain or the opposite end of a room from a window. When it gets dark in the room, FakeTV pops on and starts emitting random light patterns that, when viewed through the window from outside your house, makes it look like there's a TV on. It has three settings (on, dusk plus four hours and dusk plus seven hours) and works with low-power LED lights.

I've had one in my house for a month now, and while I can't say it's actually deterred a real life criminal, it turns on and off just like it's supposed to. And from outside my front door, it really does look like someone is watching TV.

Now I just have to hope criminals aren't reading my blog.

Check it out at

The "New" Southwest Airlines Sucks

SouthwestMy family and I took a trip on Southwest Airlines last weekend, and from the perspective of a parent traveling with small children, it was a big let-down. Gone are the egalitarian days  when the first person who showed up got to board the airplane first and a family got to pre-board. Actually, gone is any concern for a family traveling at all.

At first there was just online check-in, so the people who thought to check in on the internet got on the plane first. But I guess they figured they needed to cater to business travelers more, because now there's special pre-boarding group (that you have to pay for I think). And the new rule is families get to board after the first sixty people board the plane (provided the family isn't lucky enough to have group "A" boarding passes). I guess the point was to keep families from taking the seats up front before the people who waited in line for boarding group "A" get a chance. But the point of family boarding is to give the families some more time to get settled. Southwest would rather have the families fight past everyone jockeying for overhead bin space.

And about the changing tables? On one of our flights there was no changing table at all, and on the other the only changing table was in the lavatory at the front of the plane. The problem is you can't wait at the front of the plane anymore (new FCC regulations). So you have to wait until the occupied light goes out, then race down the aisle of the plane, baby in hand, to get to the lavatory before someone who is sitting in one of the seats in front of you decides to get up to do their business.

Flying with kids is difficult enough. If you've got a choice, I would avoid Southwest.

Car seat meets gyroscope.

AisafetyseatAlthough I am (I must admit) a fan of "reality" television shows, American Inventor on ABC isn't something that I've been watching. I'm sure you can pretty much guess the premise of the show - the inventor/contestants try to prove their invention is the best, thereby winning the prize of getting the invention produced and marketed. What I didn't realize was that one of the contestants has a new type of car seat for children (pictured above with his invention). This is what it says on the ABC website:

Spherical Safety Seat - A new kind of infant car seat where the baby sits inside nested spheres instead of the usual seat. In a collision, the spheres spin and automatically position the child's neck and back so that they are perpendicular to the impact force, thus shielding the baby from the destructive force of the impact.

It's a pretty cool idea and according to some fan websites I've read, he's the front-runner in the contest. I guess he's not the first person to play spin-the-baby in a car seat (also be sure to play the Safety Egg demo), but if he does win I'll be very interested to check it out.

Watch the finale of American Inventor tomorrow night at 8/7c on ABC [via my Goddaughter Megan - thanks!]

To the gate father. And step on it.

TrunkiI was all set to blog about this new high-tech crib some over-zealous design students in England came up with - the IntelliCot - but typically Greg from DaddyTypes beat me to it. So go read his post - he's right on the money.

But while I was perusing Shiny Shiny I saw this new kind of luggage for kids - Trunki. I guess the idea is you let your kids pack their stuff up, and then once you get to the airport you can tow them to the gate via the tether. It's an interesting idea, but it looks like more of a distraction that might actually make things more difficult in the long-run. Am I the only one who's tried to pull one of those old-school 80's suitcases with the four wheels on the bottom through an airport only to have it topple over constantly? And that was without a wriggling kid. I'd love to see one in action sometime though.

More kid's luggage on MDD - Student designer update.

Trunki by Magmatic Design [via Shiny Shiny]
The Intellicot post at Shiny Shiny [via Sean - thanks!]

LA recap.

We spent this past weekend in LA, without the Madame (thanks to the modern day grandma and pop-pop), for a weekend of December shopping. "Shopping" is really an excuse to get away from home, stay at a nice hotel, and remember what it was like traveling without a small child. LA definitely doesn't give you that traditional "Christmas" feeling, but with temperatures in the high 70s I wasn't complaining. I'm too tired to think of anything clever to write about this morning, so here's my quick recap:

  • Hotel. We stayed at The Standard in Hollywood, which we had stayed at back in 1999 soon after it opened, but this time it was kind of a disappointment. The location is great and the lounge is a fun place to hang out, but the services were definitely sub-par. There were small things like no shampoo in the room, but the big thing was the building itself. The floorboards in the room above ours were in serious disrepair, and the creaking from the people leaving Sunday morning in the room above us was so loud it was impossible to stay asleep. The price for the location is still great, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it.
  • Shopping. When I go to LA I like to shop in places I can't find here in Vegas, so we spent most of our time checking out places on Melrose. I finally got to check out a Fatboy bean bag chair at Fitzsu, and I got some great vintage kids stuff at Jet Rag (which I'll probably blog about later). The best store we went to was Not Neutral to check out some kids furniture. The worst was (unfortunately) Grommetville, who had a sales girl who was the opposite of helpful, and kind of made us wish we hadn't trekked all the way out to Silverlake.
  • Food. I have two restaurant recommendations for you. The first is the Gardens of Taxco, an authentic "Mexico City style" (as they say) restaurant, which apparently means no menus and and endless stream of food that you didn't really order. And they have the best mole sauce I've ever tried.
    The other is Yamashiro, an Japanese palace built in the Hollywood hills in 1914 with amazing views and great food. Apparently it used to be known for great views and average food, but they've got a new chef now who is (in my opinion) doing his job right. It was a unique, only-in-LA kind of experience, and the perfect cap to a great weekend.

NYC recap.

I still feel like I'm recovering from our long weekend in New York. Here's a quick roundup:

  • Weather. Sucked. It rained every day and was cold. But I didn't go there for the weather.
  • Travel. Traveling without a toddler is really great, and Jet Blue is now officially my favorite airline. Live television, leather seats with extra room and they don't skimp on the drinks or snacks. I'm not sure I'd be able to put Madame on mute until she's older (like their ad suggests), but I'm willing to try.
  • Shopping. Great. We didn't do much shopping, but we did hit the places we can't get to that regularly, including picking up a few sweet gifts at Bombalulu's.
  • Friends. The best. My modern day godson is a beautiful, almost perfect baby whom I rarely let go of. It's amazing how much I forgot what a small infant was like.
  • Food. We had some of the best meals while we were in NYC, and while the wood burning grill in the Gramercy Tavern is still a personal favorite, the best meal we had was at this crazy Asian restaurant in the meat packing district called Spice Market. From the outside it looks like an ugly building, but inside it feels like you walked right into a kung-fu movie. Combine the tavern scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with some sort of shadowy, red-lit Asian club and you kind of get the idea. And the food was outstanding.

An autumn vacation.

I haven't written anything this week, and it think I'll take a few more days off. Modern day mom and I are leaving soon for a long weekend to New York City to visit friends and meet my new modern day god-son. We're not taking the Madame, and although we'll miss her, we're really looking forward to going on a trip with just the two of us. If there are any recent must-see things in NYC you can recommend, drop me an email or leave a comment.

I'll be back next week with lots of stuff to write about into the holiday season.

Have monitor, will travel.

I think by now I've settled into my dad-hood pretty well and I'm all but adjusted to my new life. Even more, I think I've gotten over most of my selfish, personal sadness at the lifestyle (freedom, really) that I left behind. The one thing that I miss the most though is being able to travel like an adult.

We take Madame everywhere, and usually it works out for us pretty nicely. So a few days ago we went away for labor day weekend to someplace without family, where we could relax and get away for a while. It was great, but it really brought home the fact that some of the things that are so easy to deal with your child at home (or in someone else's house) are almost impossible in a hotel room. And I'm not talking about breakfast or bath time. The thing that sucks the most is (unless you've got a suite with a door) is everyone is pretty much going to bed at the same time. That is of course, unless you've got a room by the pool.

It was really just dumb luck on our part. We arrived, went to our room and realized we were adjacent to the pool deck. In the old days I probably would have been annoyed that my room had no view and would likely be loud. But we quickly realized that with a monitor (that we didn't bring) we could hang out at the pool while Madame took her nap during the day, or when she went to bed in the early evening. So after a quick trip to Walgreen's to pick up a monitor (who knew they'd have one there? My wife did as it turns out) we were in business. Let me tell you, it worked like a charm.

So if you want to salvage an adult moment or two when you're traveling, throw the monitor in the suitcase. And request that crappy room by the pool. You'll probably be the only one who loves it.

Two shops to check out in LA.

Even though our tip to LA two weekends ago was not without it's trials, I was able to find a couple of cool kid's stuff boutiques to visit. Both of them were near each other in Silver Lake, a cool neighborhood in LA that I had never been to before but wish I had. (It seemed to me to be kind of like a place where the urban hipsters in LA move to when they can't afford - or want - to live in West Hollywood.)

The first one we went to was Grometville, mostly because I wanted to pick up some bath tub stickies I had read about in DaddyTypes. Grometville is a pretty typical baby boutique store with a lot of clothes and cool gift items. Actually a lot of great gift items - I particularly liked the double snapsuit set for twins from Wry Baby that said "Stop Copying Me"  that I had never seen before. We picked up some stickies and a gift for a friend and then headed a block down the street to another shop called Furthur Kids (no website, here's a link to their entry in CitySearch). Furthur Kids had more toys and some furniture and was equally worth checking out (we got a sweet tambourine for Madame there).

Then we made a quick trip for dad to Han Cholo in Echo Park for a sweet belt buckle. But unfortunately they only had it in silver plate - and if I ever bought a buckle for $1200 I'd have to kick my own ass.

Lessons learned in LA.

We just got back last night from a long weekend in Los Angeles, and it was a good trip. Every time we travel with Madame we get a little better at doing it, and we learn a little more. The difficult part is she keeps growing and changing, so just when we think we know exactly how to handle things, she decides to change the rules. So, at almost 13 months, this is what we learned:

  • Damn the baby needs her nap. We knew that this trip would be a lot different from her usual weekday schedule where she gets a nap in the middle of the day, but we figured it would be OK. We thought she would sleep here and there in the car on the way to stuff, and in the end she'd have the same sunny disposition she usually has. That, as it turns out, was completely wrong. By the end of the day she was cranky and beside herself; barely able to function. Which brings me to my next revelation.
  • You can really only do one thing per day. Going out in the morning for some shopping, then lunch, then a museum, then dinner out is way too aggressive. I have to learn that this isn't my old life, and even though there's tons more I want to do, I need to pare it down. Because ultimately stuff starts getting less and less fun the crankier she gets.
  • King Tut was a let down. Where was the golden death mask, the boyhood throne and the big senet game I remember seeing when I was a kid back in the 70s? The exhibit was still worth seeing, but if you do get to go, know that it's not the same as what you may remember. And don't bring your 13 month old, at least to LACMA. The exhibit is way too crowded, people don't move, and even though strollers are allowed, eventually your kid will start to loose it; no matter how much of a nap she got on the way there.
  • Caffe Angeli wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. On Saturday we had dinner on Melrose at this Italian rustico restaurant called Caffe Angeli. I had read that the chef had re-worked the restaurant to cater to parents who wanted a great meal in a place where their kids would be welcome too, so I thought it would be perfect. (Apparently they do fun things for kids like give them pizza dough to make into shapes for their own personalized pizza). Although the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating, and we had very early reservations; we were the only family there with a child of any age, which wasn't really what I had in mind. But my dinner was very, very good (and if Madame had been less cranky it would have been great).
  • The Boston Red Sox are still the greatest sports team ever. We took Madame to her first Red Sox game on Sunday in Anaheim, and the Red Sox won in dramatic fashion. It was great, but I do pity anyone who lives in southern California and has to drive north/south on any freeway. US 5 is absolutely miserable.

"Don't Forget"

PackinglistIn the old days we used to get out our suitcase, pack come clothes, a magazine or two, some headphones and go on vacation. With the addition of one small baby the amount of crap we have to bring is incredible.

I came across this list while cleaning up the other day (pictured). My wife wrote it as we were getting ready to go on vacation to upstate NY last month. This isn't just the crap we brought, it's the crap we especially didn't want to forget:

Don't Forget                                             Coverup
                                                              Bathing Suits
Monitor                                                   Hats/Watersocks/Floaty
Wipes                                                      Sunblock
Diapers/Little Swimmers                          Bugspray
Washcloths                                        Bday gifts/crown
Bottles/Sippy Cups                             Gifts/Games
Snack Trap                                                            Toys
Spoons                                                                Videocamera
Babysoap                                                              Camera
Hairbrush                                                                Laptop
Pack & Play                                                          Chargers
Pack & Play Sheets
Outlet Plugs                                                        ?Towels
Making Dresses
                                                                           Twister Towel

Student designer update

A few months ago I asked for some feedback for a student product designer who had questions about children's luggage. At the time I asked him share his final project when he was finished, and he sent me an email yesterday about it. What he came up with is a line of adaptable luggage he calls "Evolve," and here's his description:

"Travel has never been more popular and accessible to children than in today’s society. Every child is unique.  “Evolve” luggage caters for the continued physical development and changing needs of each individual child, providing them with the chance to personalise and adapt their baggage as their traveling experiences broaden.

Evolve children's luggage adjusts to the varying travel needs of a growing child.  From the youngest age of travel when a child carries their own toys, through to older children who carry their own hand luggage and clothing, the baggage provides an easily transportable, child friendly trolley unit that expands with the addition of simple, secure modules.

Each unit can be used for varying purposes, including the child’s toys and clothing through to essential items chosen by the parent. Windows within the luggage allow the child to personalise the luggage with mementos from their travels, similar to traditional destination stickers found on old trunks, creating a storyboard of their travels."

He also sent a .pdf showing some basic illustrations of what it looks like (kind of like stackable wheeled luggage) that I've included below. He'd like to know what people think, so if you've got some feedback please post it in the comments.

I don't have much feedback personally, though I like the idea of being able to add to it as the child gets bigger. I'm not so sure about the windows allowing the child to personalize the luggage, but it would be helpful for parents to know which one had toys and which one had clothes without having to go into the luggage to find out.

Download evolve_a2.pdf

Back from vacation and through Philadephia Int'l Airport.

Well, we made it back from our vacation to the finger lakes of upstate New York last week, and everything went pretty well. No one got sick, we all ate too much and I didn't go through the severe media withdrawal that I was worried about. The traveling itself was tough, Madame at one year old is more difficult to deal with than she was even the last time we flew a couple of months ago. A big shout out has to go to modern day mom who was really the star this trip, dealing with Madame most of the time, particularly on the flight home when we couldn't all get a seat together.

There's way more laundry to do than blog about today, so I'm going to cut it short. But I will say that if you're flying anytime soon do whatever you can to avoid connections through Philadelphia. The airport is unbelievably bad (I personally witnessed piles of luggage left out on the open tarmac in an hour-long rain storm) and unbelievably dirty (we would have let the baby crawl around but we definitely wanted to avoid, as my wife put it, the "salmonella floor"). At least they didn't loose my stroller.

Oh, and I hope that Harry-Potter-reading mid-30s douchebag who wouldn't give up his aisle seat so I could sit with my family has kids some day and they give him nothing but misery on airplanes until they're 18.

Post-trip thoughts.

Now that I'm back, here are my thoughts on my trip to Chicago, in brief little notes to those who had an impact (completely copped from The Zero Boss).

To Glenn F. Tilton, president and CEO of United Airlines: Mr. Tilton, "Ted" airlines sucks. From the buggy "choose your seat" menu in the self-check-in computer to the downright rude gate people, the whole experience was terrible. Apparently on "Ted" you don't pre-board children or infants (just frequent flyers and other muckety-mucks), which along with the completely retarded "look at your boarding pass at your boarding grouping number and then get in line when we tell you to" system, makes boarding a plane take an extra half hour at least. You want to cut costs and have an actually profitable business? Maybe you should find someplace else to do it besides nickel and dimeing your passengers, making us pay $5 for a crappy snack pack or not giving us the whole can of soda. It only makes us feel worse about the horrible experience we are already having. At least you didn't lose my bags.

To the Ted gate check bitch at gate 22B in O'Hare who, after telling us they "normally don't pre-board infants" (after her co-worker told us they would), threw two gate check tickets at us saying "HERE!": Have fun on the unemployment line.

To the two dudes (one going, one coming) who had to sit in the next to my wife, me and my monkey of a 10 month old little daughter in our lap: Thanks for being so cool.

To my Boston Red Sox: Thank you for crushing the Cubs on Sunday night and making it one of the best times I've ever had at a baseball game ever.

To the Chicago Cubs fans in Wrigley (and elsewhere): As the guy in the crowd not rooting for the home team, I've never met more good-natured, fun loving fans in my life. Thanks for being so cool and thanks for the Old Style.

To our family and friends who put us up, babysat for us, cooked for us and generally made the trip the great time that it was: Thanks. We'd love to return the favor soon.

Let's help a future product designer.

A student from the UK studying product design needs some help for his final project, and he emailed to see if the MDD readers out there could help. I don't normally get a lot of comments on this blog, but if you're reading this and have an opinion, leave a comment. Well designed kids stuff has to start somewhere right?

His project involves kid's luggage, and his questions revolve around long family vacations - primarily those that are longer and more involved than a car trip. His questions are:

  1. As parents at what age do you allow your child (children) to carry their own luggage?
  2. Do they use the luggage for their own clothes or is it largely for toys and games? And do they pack it themselves?
  3. Would an additional piece of luggage used for toys result in difficulties due to the numerous other items taken on holiday?
  4. What criteria would be important in an item of children's luggage (e.g., lightweight, serves multifunctional purpose like a seat for child etc...)
  5. Do you carry any items for yourself or your child that are specific to a delay in travel?

I still have a baby, so I'm not really speaking from a lot of experience, but here it goes:

  1. I'm not sure, but my guess is as soon as they are able to carry it for themselves. 5? 6?
  2. I have no idea, though I think I was pretty old before I packed a suitcase for myself.
  3. Another piece of luggage means another thing to deal with, which is never a good idea when traveling. Plus all it would do is encourage kids to bring more toys on vacation, which I think I would want to limit anyway.
  4. The top criteria for me I think would be make it as manageable for a kid to deal with as possible. In other words, if they can handle it and be responsible for it without me having to hold it for them, than it's good.
  5. From a traveling-with-an-infant perspective, we just had to make sure there was plenty of food, formula and diaper changing stuff. When traveling with a baby you don't really get the luxury of packing stuff just for you in case there is a delay.

I know that's a lot of questions, but if you've got an opinion about any of it, leave it in the comments. I'm sure he'll thank you.