Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I have taken my adventures elsewhere! The same url will work, but now it takes you to a Wordpress blog hosted elsewhere. Come check it out, I think it looks pretty cool =]

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Friends and fellow adventure lovers! My apologies for my absence - between my search for the next great job adventure, getting my life (and photography) organized, an incredible 2 weeks in San Francisco with friends, and a few other things, I've just been all over the place! Mini hiatus will be over soon, I promise. I just want to make sure I can provide you all with a consistent level of high quality posts, and I will do my best to deliver =]

For the time being, check out some of my favorite posts, and see you all soon:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hey Buffer! I've got an idea!

The goal of any social media strategist is to to be as effective as possible, while simultaneously excelling at efficiency. This tends to lead to a posting strategy that consists of creating tweets that adhere to the 140 character limit, as well as following a twitter hashtag plan. That "Twitterfied" tweet content is then cross-posted to the other networks as-is.

This definitely accomplishes the "efficient" aspect of the goal, but does it really achieve a high level of effectiveness? Hashtags have made a valiant effort at infiltrating the Myspace and Google+ worlds; however the usage across the networks seems to be very sparse compared to Twitter.  While this may not be a big issue to a lot of folks out there, I see it a bit differently. To me, an entity that takes the time to individualize each network's version of a content post is one that is dedicated to attention to detail on a higher level than others. With brands this extends to better customer service, with content creators this showcases an innate need to provide the best content. Even if it's just something as simple as a few extra words or an extra sentence to follow up the main point, this can ultimately lead to much a deeper level social network interaction.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if Buffer included a way to help us with this? Sure, one could just copy and paste the content to a new post dialogue and do the edits there, but from what I can see Buffer is in the business of making social sharing as amazing as possible. That means making the Buffer posting tool as powerful and easy to use as possible. Being able to seamlessly tailor one content source across various networks could be the key to taking Buffer to the next level. I have created a few images to showcase what I am talking about:

Image 1: As you can see, this looks like the standard Buffer posting dialogue, with one small addition: the "Maximize Buff" button. In this example, I am posting a photo and text to both Twitter and my personal Facebook page. I would like to craft a more Facebook caliber post out of this Twitterfied content, so I go ahead and click on "Maximize Buff" and...

BAM! The content is now split into two dialogue boxes, each geared at one of the networks that was already selected in the original post box. From that point, I write out a few of the things in the FB post I had compressed for hashtag's sake in the Twitter post (I tend to get more complaints about hashtags on my FB posts than actual positive interactions, so I try to avoid using them as much as I can on my personal page). I also included a link to supplement the photo I posted as the main content.

This new posting tool is already beneficial to my cross-posting cause, but Buffer can make it even moreso: imagine if, when you click the "Maximize Buff" botton, you get the individual post boxes and then...

BAM! Buffer highlights the tags in the Twitterfied content, and provides a functionality similar to "Ctrl+Click any shortened link to unshorten it" where one can  Ctrl+Click any highlighted tag to unhastag it. That could be as simple as removing the hashtag, or in the case of multi-word tags recreating the separated phrase. This process could be automated as in the case of the unshorten link action, with the option to undo.

That's the main gist of my idea, I hope you Bufferites enjoy it! It may be simple, but I think it has the potential to allow your users to deliver the best content across their networks without having to sacrifice more of their time. Not to mention the fact that this could give the posting process a much smoother flow!

-The amount of dialogue boxes that open up after clicking on "Maximize Buff" is dependent on how many networks are selected in the original box
-In this instance, the individual dialogue boxes should allow for multiple networks within each box; the Facebook-specific content could be useful on Google+ as well, so instead of having to copy the content to a third box one could just click the G+ icon in that post box.
-The "Minimize Buff" button that comes up between the dialogue boxes works as a "cancel" button - the second or third dialogue boxes would collapse back into the original one (although the changes would be saved until posting, just in case one decides to Maximize again.
-I am not sure how deep the network API's let you go, but another neat trick would be the ability to change a brand's twitter name to their pages on other networks within the MaxBuff functionality (thinking towards the future - I am aware that Buffer only supports Twitter tags at the moment)
-Eventually, posts that are sent through the MaxBuff tool could serve as the basis for a more in-depth analytics tool within Buffer, one that can show how a post did across the various networks that it was posted to, which would further allow a poster to maximize the effectiveness of their posts.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me! This was a fun little project. Thank you for your time =]

Hector A. Parayuelos

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World)

I had done the luau at the Polynesian while growing up. I didn't really remember much about it, aside from thinking the show was neat and that the space they host it in was a cool little secluded spot. Last year my best friend Denise and her family came down to Orlando for some Walt Disney World fun, and I decided to join them the first night for the luau.

When we arrived, a Disney Cast Member signed us in and directed you into the waiting area, where another cast member placed leis on us and a Photopass photographer took a few shots of us. From there, we hung around at Laua Cover, enjoying the lovely weather while some others took advantage of the mobile tiki bar.
Important side note: it was here, in the magical waiting area, that my friend's sister and I realized for the first time in our lives why the Bird of Paradise plant is named that. (I know, I know)

Once dinner time started, a cast member escorted us to our table. We were near the back side which still offered a nice view (It's hard to get a bad seat with how the open-air theater is laid out). Our waiter came by and took our drink orders - I got Pele's Fire Punch, which according to Disney is "The Volcano Goddess' blend of Bacardi Rum, Myer's Original Dark Rum, Banana Liqueur, Blackberry Brandy, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine served in an authentic hand-carved Monkey coconut - YOU KEEP THE COCONUT."
Keep the coconut, I did (although the "Made in Indonesia" sticker on the bottom was a bit of an authenticity buzzkill).

The food is all you can eat, and served family style. For appetizers, we got pineapple-coconut bread (super yum!), Asian apple pear slaw, and Hawaiian potato salad. The main course consisted of BBQ pork ribs, roasted chicken, a vegetable medley, and my favorite: the Aloha Pulled Pork. I've made Hawaiian style pulled pork a few times and it's come out great, but Disney managed to nail it! Dessert was a warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce. Another yummy treat in an overall solid meal.

The luau show is going on while the courses are being served, although the most interesting parts happen after most of the crowd has finished eating. The show is centered around Auntie Wini. Wini is hosting the luau as a goodbye for one of the "local" girls that's going off to the "mainland," and the crowd are all honored guests. There are various performances throughout, some with singing and most with dancing. There are various parts of the show where the audience is invited on stage to join the festivities, during which many exuberant Northerners rush up to show off their best Hawaiian shirts.

The grand finale of the show (and my favorite part) is the showcase at the end that features traditional dances for various Polynesian islands (Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand and Tonga). This culminates with the fire-knife performer, who comes out right as the sun is coming down and throws that flaming stick of wonder around as if it were a baton. The music and drumming picks up as his fire-related acrobatics amp up, and you end up leaving the Spirit of Aloha dinner show on an adrenaline high from watching this insane (but highly well practiced) man do his thing.

While the somewhat high price tag and lackluster service (tip is included in the price, which always seems to encourage poor service) discourage this from being a frequently repeated outing, it's definitely worth indulging in at least once. Good good, fun show, great a guy that throws around a stick that's on fire! What's not to love?

All photos in this post shot with a Sony A7, with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens (using a Metabones converter). You can check out more photos from Disney's Spirit of Aloha dinner show here:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Big Island, Hawaii (They don't get much bigger than this)

Back in September of 2009, I took a trip to the beautiful island of Hawaii. The Big Island. The one that is actually called Hawaii, itself. It was an incredible experience, and remains to this day one of my favorite places I've been to. I shot a lot of photos while there, but also a lot of video. The video above is the culmination of my creative process: I shoot the footage, edited the video together, wrote a song for the video, and recorded myself playing for it.

This was a pretty intense undertaking, and I love the end product. Not too bad, for my first attempt at being a "one man band" - both literally and figuratively. There are plenty of rough edges, but I've grown to like them. I've recently become inspired to explore the video side of my photography again, so I figured I would share this in the meanwhile!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer

Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands is unequivocally THE coldest spot in San Francisco. "No no no, Twin Peaks is, for sure!" you might say...but you'd be wrong. I've been up on this spot with a thermal undershirt, t shirt, sweater, and thick jacket on a 70 degree day (I always tend to bring the heat with me to the bay area when I visit) and was still freezing.

That said, bearing with the cold blistering winds is always worth it for what I think is the absolute best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can get a little closer via the path you can see on the left, but at this higher vantage point you get to experience the bridge in it's full majestic glory. Not to mention, if an errant wind gust decides to send you flying over, at least up here you have some land to crash into before any steep descent sends you plummeting to your doom!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Calico Cat Cafe (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)

Visiting a cat cafe was one of the things on my Japan to-do list. While I was a cat hater for most of my life (with a few positive cat experiences along the way), about 6 months before the Japan trip I suddenly found myself with three cats in my life. Once my allergies had subsided, acceptance gave way to mild interest, which eventually gave way to a small measure of  cat love. I now fully understood what cats were about (even if they are still obnoxious little creatures a good chunk of the time).

My cat cafe goal in mind, one morning I hopped on the Marunouchi Line and headed to Shinjuku to visit the Calico Cat Cafe. Emerging from the Shinjuku station, I was greeted by a less toy/game/electronics oriented version of Akihabara. Shinjuku is a very busy town, with a "Times Square" feel that seemed to go on for blocks and blocks. There was an intense feeling of visual overload as I whipped my head around, trying to take everything in.

I found the building the cafe was in, and climbed the steps up to the 6th story. There was a small reception area where a worker handed me a laminated sheet describing the amenities, rules, and prices in English. $10 per hour was a pretty decent deal, with some package offerings for multiple hours. I left my information, and then stuffed my bag into a free locker. I put on my cat cafe slippers (shoes are not allowed inside), and I stepped into cat lover's mecca...

There are cats galore...tons of breeds I am not familiar with (so feel free to comment if you know what they are). They have shy cats, friendly cats, and even ambitious cats...there was one in particular that, once he saw I had food, would not stop following me around. He pounced on me when I sat, and even started pawing at the food, trying to bring the little food container I had down to his level. He had the whole "food acquiring" thing down, it was pretty damn cute.

Calico Cat Cafe itself takes up two stories. You enter through the top story, which has a few tall cat trees and cat beds. The upper level play space is small, as the reception area takes up about half of the floor. There is a staircase in the corner that takes you to the lower level. It has a much more open feel to it due to the larger amount of space and windows. There is a variety of seats lining the walls, and even a library full of manga and other books. Empty shelves line the wall above the seating area, which the cats make use of nicely as temporary homes.

The hour I spent at Calico was pretty great, I got to play with cute kitties, feed them, and relax. As you can see from the photo above, there are a few people sleeping. I saw more than one person come into the cafe and go right to sleep, so it seems the allure of a place like this is not just for cat lovers. There were some people working on laptops here as well! The people aren't the only ones relaxing though:

There are drinks (coffee, tea, soft drinks) and snacks available for the humans, as well as fresh cat food you can purchase to feed the kitties. Some of the cats won't give you the time of day without a food offering, so it is highly suggested you get some. There is a binder available for perusal that catalogs the cafe's cat family and chronicles their individual history and life stories. It's a nice extra way to connect with the cats you are surrounded by. (I suggested to them that they should make trading cards for the cats with their story, people would love those)

After my hour was up, it was time to depart. My Calico Cat Cafe adventure was a success. It was very highly rated by many people, and lived up to the hype. It was so awesome, that even my friend who is not fond of cats ended up bonding with one. It's a great experience, and one I look forward to repeating next time I'm in Japan. That, and an Owl cafe!

Calico Cat Cafe website (be warned, it's in Japanese):

All photos shot on a Canon 5D MKII, with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L lens. You can check out more photos from Calico Cat Cafe here:

04-29-15 Calico Cat Cafe (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hatsume Festival @ Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens 04/19/15

The Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden is a lovely spot to get away from the trappings of busy South Florida life. This is a hidden gem; for as many people as I introduce this place to, there are hundreds more that have never heard of it. For one, it's tucked away inside a pretty suburban higher-end area, far away from the reaches of most in their daily driving lives. For two, if you are from South Florida you know that people from Miami hate driving to Broward, and people in Broward hate driving to West Palm Beach. For such an incredibly connected tri-county area, the lack of exploration is disturbing.

Poor adventure spirits aside, Morikami represents a nice slice of Japanese life 7,400 miles away from the real thing. You first walk in through the main museum building, which houses a theater, authentic tea shop, library, 3 galleries, a cafe, and a gift shop  (a shop does some people a world of good). As you leave the building, you walk down a set of stairs onto the main Roji-en Japanese Garden grounds, which snake around the lake in front of you. Along the way you walk through a bamboo forest, see a rock garden, experience a nicely cultivated Bonzai collection, and walk through the Yamato-kan building (modeled after a Japanese villa, and featuring a hands-on exhibit of Japanese culture.

There is a much stronger emphasis on the Japanese garden aesthetic as a whole, rather than on the individual gardens. That's not to say that the gardens aren't beautiful, I just think there's a bit of conflict when it comes to our weather and temperature situation when compared to that of Japan (thereby hindering our ability to locally grow a lot of the plant/tree/flower life that can exist over there).

The Yamato-kan building is a very cool experience, letting you walking through Japanese culture in a much more visual manner. As with most gardens, I find the whole endeavor to be best enjoyed on a slower, more quiet day (in order words, not on a huge festival day!). Speaking of festival days...

Hatsume is Morikami's annual spring festival, celebrating the new life that comes with the season (in most places in the world, as in Florida it just means more heat). Officially, it's a celebration of the first bud of spring. The majority of the fair takes place on grounds that are off the path from the actual gardens (wouldn't want to trample all over those, now would be?), and start off with a sea of tents. There is a main tent that features many local artists selling their Japan/anime related wares. Tate's Comics, a local comic/toy/game megastore, had a large presence.

Outside of the main tent are many other local vendors, although the Japanese theme got a little muddled with these (unless the Japanese are big fans of Carribean Jerk Sauce). Sponsors are sponsors, of course, and there were still some cool tents (Bonzai!). Past the tents you found the food (teriyaki chicken/beef, fried rice, etc) and the drinks (Japanese beer as well as a sake station). Continuing along the path you came upon the stages: the Sake Stage (sushi and sake discussions), the Tokyo Stage (Taiko drummers, costume contest, fashion show), and the Osaka Stage (martial arts demonstrations). Traveling back to the main museum building, you'd find a snack market, as well as anime being played in the theater and Japanese karaoke.

The festival had an official shirt that was available free of charge, provided you brought your own shirt. The designs were done by Brian Reedy (, and were screen printed on the spot. If you didn't bring a shirt, they were $10 (which is a pretty damned good price as they were nice quality shirts). The designs were pretty killer, so the chance to get them printed for free was a nice bonus

That just about covers the fair's offerings, at least on the end of Morikami itself. The unofficial side show is the cosplay: South Florida's youths take this festival as chance to show off their costumes, in what I can only call an extreme feat of immense dedication (due to the lovely heat we are already encountering). You can see a nice mix of traditional Japanese dress, modern Harajuku fashions, anime stylings, and others. I unfortunately missed the costume contest on Saturday, but I can imagine it was pretty swell.

I had a pretty nice time at the Hatsume Fest. I don't go to Morikami too often, but it's always a nice time. I was sad to have missed the lantern festival they do later in the year, so at least I now have one Morikami festival under my belt! Since this is the closest I can do to going back to Japan (aside from the Japan pavilion at EPCOT), I am going to need to visit here more often before my next trip to Nippon!

All photos shot on a Sony A7II, with Sony Sonnar 55mm F1.8 and Sony Sonnar 35mm F2.8 lenses. You can check out more photos from the Hatsume Festival here: