Archive for November, 2010

You’ll get a charge out of this

November 29, 2010

The Fatcat ChargeCard

I don’t do much product testing, because, frankly, there are just way too many products out there in the world. But the Fatcat ChargeCard distributed by Mango International appealed to me, and so I gave it a try.

The just-under 2-x4-inch device, billed as the lightest, slimmest portable charger available, allows you to charge your gadgets on the go, especially helpful if you can’t find a power source, don’t have time to sit there while charging, or are in a country or outdoor setting where power is unavailable. The card weighs 2 ounces and is a quarter of an inch thick. It has a 2000 mAh lithium battery, twice the capacity of the typical cell phone battery, and comes outfitted with tips to fit a variety of popular cell phones, smartphones, iPods, GPS units, etc.

When I opened the bag that came with the card, the array of plastic connectors made me shudder. Yep, we have way too many products and gadgets and not enough standardization.

So after giving it a try, here’s what I’ve concluded. If you are usually working on the road, this is a product to consider purchasing. I’ve seen it sold online from $30 to $50. Of course you have to keep the charger charged, and you have to remember to bring it with you. If you’re not on the road that much, it’s probably not worth the hassle, except in those cases where you wish you had it with you. That’s the thing with gadgets.

Sunken Gardens returns to its former glory

November 15, 2010

Sunken Gardens started in 1903 with plumber George Turner's private garden

When I lived in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in the late 1970s and 1980s, the best place to buy tacky tourist gifts, bar none, was the gift shop at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg. There you could find shell-shaped everything, snow globes galore, and all varieties of alligator-themed contraptions.

Alas, the gift shop is now a serious affair, with real objets d’art, a sad turn of events for this kitsch collector. But the reason for the change is a happy one. The city purchased the faded, dated botanical-garden attraction in the heart of the city in 1999 and renovated and reopened it a few years later. Gone are the exotic animals and bird shows (yay) and remaining is the tropical haven the garden started out as. (OK, there are a few caged birds and flamingos, but all handled with care.)

Orange Angel’s trumpets

Sunken Gardens has a quintessential Florida beginning – it was a sinkhole. In 1903 plumber George Turner Sr. drained an adjacent lake and used his well irrigated land/sinkhole to create a garden. It became so popular he began to charge admission, and it grew from there. After several decades of glory and fame, it became, by the 1970s, a poorly maintained, tired tourist trap. So how wonderful to see a spiffed-up Sunken Gardens enjoy a second, respectable life.

Flaming red bromeliad

We visited the four-acre spread on a warm day in October and brought Wessel’s parents, visiting from the Netherlands, along with my friend Martha, who lives in St. Petersburg. Karel and Francis are plant experts and were duly impressed by the lush assortment of trees and plants, many blooming. Highlights: orange Angel’s trumpets hanging over the walkways, a field of birds of paradise, more palms tree species than I knew existed, a bromeliad garden, a hillside of Bougainvillia, and an orchid arbor.

As we started our tour we passed a city-run outdoor yoga class, and I so wanted to stay and stretch surrounded by all that beauty.