Saturday, June 24, 2017

Music: Living in Twilight

Posting will be light for awhile, thanks to my profession, but while you wait, why not enjoy some cuts from "Living in Twilight," the new album from jazz pianist Ariel Pocock?

Here's a swinging interpretation of the Cole Porter standard, "I Love You":

And here's the album's title track, a cover of The Weepies' "Living in Twilight":


Overall, it's a pretty good album, with the sort of sensitive treatment you might expect from someone who has drawn comparisons to Diana Krall:


Friday, June 09, 2017

Guns: Ruger Mark IV Recall

I've been working on reviews of both the standard Ruger Mark IV and the 22/45 Lite, but the testing is going on hiatus due to this recall:

The recall covers any Mark IV variant manufactured before June 1, 2017 (read: all of them), so please spread the word. Ruger will cover shipping there and back, and will give you a free magazine for your trouble, so good on 'em.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tech: Dell XPS 13 review


I've used a lot of laptops to write Shangrila Towers over the years, and the trend has been to seek out as much horsepower as I could afford in a sub 3-pound package. I started out on a tiny Acer Aspire One, moved up to a slightly less tiny HP Mini 210, and then upgraded to a nearly-human-sized Lenovo ThinkPad X120e as my finances improved.

The subject of today's review is the Dell XPS 13, an ultraportable laptop I picked up last year (you can still order it from Dell's website, although now the models pack 7th gen Intel Core processors).

Case Design and Form Factor

Dell bills the XPS 13 as the smallest 13" laptop in the world, and if they're wrong, they're not far off. The bezel around the 1920x1080 display is very thin, allowing the screen to run nearly to the edge of the case. Physically, it's a very slim, very sexy piece of kit, with a brushed aluminum exterior and carbon fiber palmrests. The thin profile doesn't allow for an overwhelming amount of ports, so if you need to connect to a projector, you probably want to spring for the adapter Dell sells.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The XPS uses a backlit island style keyboard that is fairly satisfying to type on. The finish on the chiclet keys is a little slick for my taste, but the keys themselves have good travel, and the keyboard has proven to be pretty durable. One big miss - the touchpad has those annoying integrated buttons that are easy to misclick.

Performance and Battery Life

The XPS is a big step up from my previous laptops in terms of performance. The onboard Core i5-6200U processor and 8 gigs of RAM can handle anything short of intense 3D gaming; even games like Civilization VI run okay. I do wish I opted for a larger hard drive - the 128 GB SSD is just too small for general use in 2017.

At first, this laptop had astonishing battery life (easily over 10 hours), but lately the battery has been draining in about 7-8 hours.


I really like the XPS 13. It's probably one of the best choices in this segment, and it's going to be the home of Shangrila Towers for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Miscellany: South Florida Science Center and Aquarium

It's been rainy here in West Palm Beach, so I visited the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, located south of downtown inside Dreher Park. I remember going there as a kid, back when it was known simply as the "South Florida Science Museum." 

Stepping into the place now, I have to admit that it's a pretty small science museum, even with the addition of a marine biology wing and 10,000 gallons' worth of fish tanks:

Another thing they didn't have on my elementary school field trips was Science on a Sphere, a neat room-sized spherical globe that provides vivid displays of weather systems throughout the Solar System:

There's a new miniature golf course outside (a bit boring, but passable), and the rest of the museum is taken up by small science demo stations and the planetarium. Honestly, I've seen a lot bigger and better planetariums around the country (the one in the new Frost Science Museum in Miami is supposed to be incredible), so it's hard to recommend this one, especially considering that you have to pay an extra fee to get in:

Like a lot of things, the Science Center looked and felt a lot bigger in my memory, but if you don't want to shuttle the kids down to a larger science museum in Fort Lauderdale or Miami, I think the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium will do the job.