Exploring Western Louisiana

January 21, 2015 – We’d never been to Louisiana, and today was our day to go explore the western edge of the state.  Wednesday morning we got on the road around rush hour, but fortunately we were heading way from Houston.  The drive quickly got us outside of the Houston outskirts and into long flat stretches of marsh grass, oil refineries, and lots of water.  There are bogs, swamps, and rivers seemingly everywhere in this part of the country.  By the time we crossed a large bridge into Louisiana we were admiring large flat plains, tall prairie grass, and the little rivers and ponds. Our plan was to head to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Lake Charles, LA.  But first Louisa made a u-turn in town to go check out some cool geese who were in a tiny puddle pond by the post office.

Great gazing grass-bound goose gaggle.
Great gazing grass-bound goose gaggle.

Then we were off into the wildlife refuge.  There’s a single road going through the refuge, with pulloffs for walking, wildlife viewing, fishing (where permitted), and boat-launching.  As a side note, there’s decent cell phone reception inside the refuge, just in case you need it for navigation (for instance, where should you eat lunch in Lake Charles, or what time does the restaurant open). The highlight of the morning was spotting a spoonbill wading through the water.  We also enjoyed a brief (and very mosquito-filled) stroll down a nicely paved path.

The wetlands were quiet for the most part.
The wetlands were quiet for the most part.

For lunch we headed back to Lake Charles and Steamboat Bill’s on the Lake.  Yes, it might look a bit like a tourist trap, but the food is fantastic.  When you go inside you grab a menu and order at the window, are given an order number and then seated.  We decided to order the shrimp gumbo and the fried shrimp with fries.  The meals also came with a lightly fried roll that was more like an unsweetened doughnut.  We probably could have made a meal out of the rolls and the fried shrimp.  The shrimp gumbo was good, but not exactly my favorite thing (but Tony enjoyed it!).  The fried shrimp and fries, though, were fantastic.  The shrimp was very, very fresh, and fried perfectly.

On the boardwalk.
On the boardwalk.

After lunch we drove back into the wildlife refuge and stopped at a little hiking loop.  There were some mosquitoes at the beginning and end of the loop, but otherwise we weren’t bothered by the insects.  Instead, we were the ones bothering a great egret who was trying to hunt along the path.  We’d walk within 15 feet of it, then it would fly another 15-30 feet up the path.  Eventually we gave up trying to sneak past it without disturbing it since it didn’t seem to want to deviate from the paved trail and fly into or over the 8-10 feet tall grass that was growing in the rest of the refuge.

Persistant Egret
This egret had a one-track mind.

We continued driving through the refuge, and then into rural south-west Louisiana.  We saw houses and schools built on story-high cinder block risers (in case of hurricane-induced flooding), and stopped at a little town where most of the residents came in for the weekend, living in campers on cement slabs.  The town did have nice Gulf access, and Louisa couldn’t resist sticking a foot into the cold water.

Loggerhead Shrikes look like Northern Mockingbirds when glancing quickly.
Loggerhead Shrikes look like Northern Mockingbirds when glancing quickly.

The way back to Houston involved driving past massive oil refineries, and ended with a great dinner at Rudy’s Country Store.  Green chile (with chopped brisket), moist brisket and airy white bread, and creamed corn were on the menu.  As were two local bottled beers.  Rudy’s may be our favorite BBQ chain, the food is consistently very good.  Tonight the brisket was perfectly caramelized on the ends, and melt-in-your-mouth perfect.

Flying to the First Ever PAX South

January 20, 2015 – We were some of the lucky folks to get three day passes for the first ever PAX South, in San Antonio, TX.  On Tuesday afternoon we headed to Boston Logan… and discovered that Central parking and Economy parking were both full, so we got to park in the overflow B (or Blue) lot.  We didn’t even know there was such a thing as an overflow lot.  Apparently there’s also a Red lot, for when the Blue lot fills up.  Fingers crossed we can figure out which bus to get on to get back to our car.  We got dinner at the airport at Stephanie’s.  Tony had a great truffle and prosciutto mac and cheese, and Louisa had fish and chips (and a great cole slaw).

The flight was uneventful, as was the drive from the airport to our hotel.  Houston is a huge, sprawling city – not quite as big as LA, but it took as an hour (with no traffic) to get from George Bush Airport to our hotel in the southeast.

Super Bowl Commercials

February 2, 2015 – Here’s our take on the Super Bowl commercials.  While we love football, we also love creativity, and some companies pull out all the stops for these oh-so-expensive time slots.  So, who were the “winners” and winners?  Keep reading to see what we thought.

Best overall

  • Tony: Liam Neeson (Facebook game)
  • Louisa: Budweiser puppy

Good try at inspiration but car commercials just aren’t that interesting

  • Camry
  • Lexus (all the Lexus commercials)
  • Toyota (even the puppies don’t save the commercial)
  • basically any car commercial, except BMW and Nissan, DCU (with cars)

Strange use of history

  • TurboTax

Jiggle physics doesn’t always work

  • Game of War

Metaphors for the win

  • BMW i3

General marketing fails

  • Minion stripping
  • McDonald’s
  • Katy Perry tweeting in 2010 how she doesn’t watch the Super Bowl
  • Goat meme (Sprint)

Good use of classic rock

  • Nissan

What and why

  • Snickers (Brady Bunch)
  • Nationwide,
  • Airplane weird guy (Doritos)
  • Pierce Brosnan (KIA… it’s a car commercial, don’t know why I thought it would be good)

Annoyed because you took an idea I like and made it all about selling something

  • Carnival cruise ship commercial
  • “This Land is Your Land” / world is a gift Jeep commercial

Works but I don’t know why

  • Skittles arm wrestling
  • eSurance sorta you (only some of the commercials)
  • Budweiser pumpkin peach ale with cool music (beer sounds good, music was fun, so I guess I know why it works)

I lost brain cells forever after watching this

  • T-Mobile and Kim Kardashian
  • T-Mobile and strange snooty people
  • Jeff Bridges ohm’ing and squarespace.com
  • Loctite fanny pack gyrations

Seriously cute

  • Clydesdales and a golden puppy (Bud)

Social commentary win

  • Positive internet (Coke)
  • be a dad (Dove soap)
  • What can we do (Microsoft)
  • Tech bus

Interested but don’t know what they’re selling

  • First draft ever (avocado)
  • Italian village (Viagra? Nope, Fiat)
  • Don Cheetle selling… Don Cheetle?
  • All you Need is Love images (is Ecuador really advertising during the Super Bowl??)
  • Old people (Dodge, well played Dodge, well played)

Meh

  • Doritos pigs

 

 

Sabres Game

If you ever get a chance to go to a Buffalo Sabres game, it’s a great time.  There are no bad seats in the house, and their nachos and cheese are very good.  We were fortunate to be able to go to a game while we were in town around Christmas, and the team came back from around three down to win in a shootout.  Let’s just say that the building was rocking.