Monday, June 26, 2017

Lego Designers – Alan Yuppie, JK Brickworks, Keep On Bricking

Years ago as a kid, I had Lego sets and loved building with them, but then like many, I stopped playing with them when I got into my teen years. Recently, as an adult, my interest in Lego was rekindled and this year, I picked up a few sets and have really enjoyed not only building the stock sets, but also making my own original creations with them.

These days with the internet, it makes it easy for people to share their creations online. I have found a lot of great builders out there and I thought I would feature some of my favorites here on the blog. One thing that is great about Lego is it is a global brand so there are many great creators from all over the world! Here are some of my favorite creators right now:

Alan Yuppie – Alan Yap aka Alan Yuppie is a builder from Malaysia who specializes in Lego Transformers. He is able to make original models with Lego that actually transform from robot to vehicle and back. I first discovered him after finding his Wheeljock Transformer which was made from the 31046 set. I built it and even made a video for it here.

His most recent project is Optimus Prime from Transformers The Last Knight movie. I also recommend checking out his Liokaiser combiner Transformer which is incredible and combines 6 individual Transformers into one! You will find most of his work on his blog as well as more frequent updates on his Facebook page.

JK Brickworks – Jason Allemann from JK Brickworks is a Canadian Lego builder who is fairly well known in the Lego world. He has made some of the most amazing creations and is especially skilled at building projects with moving parts. He even had one of his designs the Labyrinth Marble Maze chosen to be made into an official Lego set.

Some of my favorites from JK Brickworks include the Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture, the Lego Ball Clock, and the Combination Safe. You can check him out on his official website as well as on Youtube.

Keep On Bricking – Peteris Sprogis from Latvia is another one of my favorite builders who is known for his alternate builds using the pieces of official Lego sets. He has been known to make 10+ different models from the same set and he is particularly skilled and making vehicles. He also makes wonderful videos showing step by step instructions for how to build many of his designs. 

Some of my favorites of his include the 31046 Tumbler and Classic Cabrio Car, and the 10252 Buggy. You can check out his work on Youtube as well as Instagram.

What do you think of these designs? Do you have any favorite Lego builders? Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not Touching Food With Your Hands – Why and How To Do This?

Many people have heard you should wash your hands often to avoid getting sick. The theory is that throughout the day, you touch many things, shake people's hands, go to the bathroom etc, and by doing these things, you may pick up germs in the form of viruses and bacteria. Then if you hold or touch the food your are eating, the germs may transfer to the food and ultimately get into your system. This is why there are regulations in place for food workers not to touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.

My years ago, I remember getting sick often and I hated being sick. So I started to educate myself on ways to avoid getting sick such as washing your hands before you eat. I did this for a while but soon realized trying to wash your hands every time before you eat can be impractical and sometimes it is just not an option. Also it can get to a point where it becomes excessive and you start washing your hands too often to the point where it starts to take a toll the skin.

I wanted to find a solution where I did not have to worry about potentially contaminating food by touching it, but at the same time, not have to worry about washing my hands all the time. So I started to look for ways to eat food without touching it.

The first and most obvious way to do this is to use utensils such as fork, knife, and spoon. Many foods are expected to be eaten with utensils like this. If you are out at a restaurant you can almost always find something on the menu that is meant to be eaten using utensils. Even if it is something like a sandwich that is usually eaten by hand, you can still use a knife and fork if you want. People might question you about it, or you might feel like George Costanza, but sometimes it is better to have piece of mind knowing you are minimizing your chances of getting sick.

Another method to avoid touching food is to handle it by the wrapper. Many foods, especially fast food come wrapped in paper or foil. For example you can eat a hamburger or a burrito by opening it half way and holding it by the wrapper. This keeps a barrier between your hands and the food.

Another method when neither of the first two are an option is to hold food by the edge and eat around it. For example with pizza, you can hold it by the crust and just eat everything except the part that you held. This can work with things like bread rolls as well.

Of course there are many arguments to this practice of avoiding touching food. One argument is that we have an immune system that protects us from germs like this and it can even be helpful to expose yourself to more germs in order to build up resistance. It is true that our immune systems will protect us from most of these germs, but the few that are very harmful will still make you sick if they get into your system. I don't know about you, but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Another argument people may say is “Just wash your hands”. It is good advice but as mentioned above, this is not always practical or possible. Even if you try to wash your hands before you eat, for example at a restaurant, chances are you may have to touch more things such as a door handle, a menu, a hand to shake... before you even get back to your food.

Some may still say avoiding touching food is overreacting and impractical in itself. I don't necessarily disagree, but as mentioned above, I don't like getting sick so I don't mind taking extra precautions if it means less chance of potentially picking up harmful viruses or bacteria.

This issue can also pose a problem when others are preparing your food. When you make your own food, you have much control over it so you can make sure it is sanitary from start to finish. When others are making your food whether it is in restaurant or at a friends or family gathering, you don't have as much control over it so sometimes you have to take a chance and hope they are preparing the food in a sanitary manner.

Upon doing a little research on this topic, it seems president Donald Trump also avoids touching food with his hands. I didn't find a concrete reason given for his case, but I would guess it would be the same reason as discussed here. Especially for someone in his line of work where he is shaking hands with people all day, you can imagine why he would not then want to go pick up a sandwich with his hands.

Are you someone who also does not touch food with your hands or do you think trying not to touch food with your hands is crazy? If you have any feelings on the issue one way or the other, feel free to leave a comment.

Being Oblivious to the Concept of Socialization

Socializing is a common practice among adults as a way of getting to know each other but this skill may not seem so obvious to everyone. As a young child, like most, I played with kids in the neighborhood. I was outgoing and socialized with others by playing games and sports.

As a teen, I become more reserved but still managed to socialize with others at school and during after school sports. Around this time, I did not really understand the concept of socialization. I only knew of socializing as a byproduct of doing an activity. It never occurred to me that it would be a stand alone activity.

As I got older into late high school and college years, people began to start having parties where they would invite people over and the main activity would be just talking. Maybe they would have some music and some snacks or something but no specific activity planned. I remember going to these parties at first and just being kind of confused and bored as if there was nothing to do.

Soon I became accustomed to socializing as it is an activity that becomes more common as an adult. I still would not consider myself a social person and still I prefer to socialize while doing an activity rather than having “talking” be the activity.

I think it is more comfortable and natural to talk with people while doing something because the focus is on the activity so there is no pressure to try to make a conversation. If conversation happens, great, but if not, it is no big deal because there is something else to focus on.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Portillos Lemon Cake Shake Review

Portillo's lemon cake had been off the menu for a long time but because of a request on Reddit and a lot of support from those who missed it, Portillo's decided to bring it back! I like lemon desserts so I have been looking forward to trying it. A while back I had the chocolate cake shake which was great and I was hoping they would be able to do this with the lemon cake.

I went to place the order and the cashier was not sure if it could be done, but they checked with a manager, and yes, it can be done! So I put in an order for the lemon cake shake. I figured I would get the taste of the lemon cake and the deliciousness of the shake all in one.

So how does it taste? It has a very familiar lemon taste. Pretty much what you would expect lemon cake to taste like, mixed into shake form. The consistency was very thick and well mixed. It can take a little effort to get it through the straw but when you do, you are rewarded with a tasty treat! It is very rich and after about 1/4th of the shake I was pretty full so I saved the rest for later.

How does it compare to the chocolate cake shake? Both are great. The lemon is more of a lighter more tart taste while the chocolate is more sweet and savory. Overall, if you like lemon taste you won't be disappointed.

The Portillos lemon cake and lemon cake shake are available for a limited time now through July 31st.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Getting calls from numbers with the same first 6 digits – Caller ID Spoofing

For a while now I have been getting calls from numbers that are very similar to mine in that they have the same area code and even have the next 3 numbers the same. I usually do not answer calls I am not expecting from numbers I do not recognize so I just let them ring.

I noticed I kept getting calls like this but the last 4 digits were always different which I thought was odd. Was it a telemarketer company calling from several different phones in the same call center? Maybe a big business that uses a lot of different phone lines? I even overheard a neighbor talking about how they were having the same issue with similar numbers calling them.

I decided to do a little research and it turns out many others are experiencing the same thing and it is something called Caller ID Spoofing. This is where the caller is faking a number that is similar to yours but they are actually calling from a different number. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but apparently there are ways to enable the caller to make it look like they are calling from a different number.

This may be done to make the recipient think it is a local call so they are more likely to answer. Reports are that it is done by telemarketers or people trying to scam you into giving out your personal information, or they are robo-calls calling a bunch of numbers to see who will pick up.

The FCC has an article here with more information about Caller ID Spoofing. They say it is illegal if the company has intent to defraud or cause harm, but if no harm is intended then it is ok. They also have an option to report spoofing by filing a claim on their website. As far as I know there is not really a way to stop it other than just not picking up if you receive a call like this.

It's a shame there is not more regulation or efforts being made to stop this sort of thing. With the ability to change how a number is displayed, it makes it so you really can't trust any number that calls you. Because of this, we must be very careful about answering unknown calls especially if they ask for personal information. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a caller, end the call and call back at the number you know is correct.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Julius Sumner Miller – Physics is his business and his business is wonderful!

Recently I was trying to learn about the science behind hydraulics and how they work and one of the videos that came up was by a physicist named Julius Sumner Miller. It looked like an old video, but I decided to check it out. What I found was not only an educational video, but a very entertaining teacher!

I was pleased to see someone uploaded a series of his demonstrations to Youtube that cover many areas of physics. They follow a similar format, about 15 minutes, and each covers one lesson in physics. They always have “enchanting” experiments as he teaches the viewers about how and why things work the way they do.

I took physics in high school and enjoyed it. I remember learning a lot about Newtons laws and how things move, but just by watching some of these videos, I realized there is a whole lot more to physics and we only just scratched the surface with what we learned in high school.

I highly recommend checking out his videos to learn some new things and to be entertained at the same time. Julius passed away a while back so it is clear these video were made a while ago, but the physics remains true and relevant to this day.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pur Classic Faucet Mounted Water Filter Review

For a long time I was buying bottled water but eventually I got tired of buying water and lugging in heavy packs of water every couple weeks so I looked into water filters for tap water. The tap water in my area is generally pretty good and considered drinkable but just to be sure, I wanted to have a filter.

First I got a Bobble water bottle that has a built in filter. I used this for several years and I still use it today, but after doing some research, I thought it might be a good idea to invest in a better water filter. The Bobble is good, but it does not filter as many elements such as lead compared to some other water filters. I read that lead can get into the water supply from pipes in old buildings and since my building is old, there is a chance the water could contain lead.

Research suggests that you can have your water tested and I would like to do that except is seems to be very hard to actually have this done. For a good test, you have to contact a laboratory and send samples out which will have a cost that is not cheap. They do not make it easy to find these labs either. So I just decided to get a good water filter to be safe.

After doing some research I went with the Pur Classic faucet mounted style. They have a few different models but I went with the Classic because it is the least expensive (about $15) and uses the same filters as the newer more expensive models. I went with the white color to match the kitchen but it is also available in black.

In the box, you have the main contraption, a sealed filter, 4 different faucet adapters, and instructions. I read over the instructions and it seemed fairly easy to install. I tried the first recommended adapter and it worked perfectly! They have 4 adapters that come with it and they will even send you a free adapter if none of the 4 will fit your faucet.

Getting Started
Next I put the filter in the main compartment. Again it was pretty easy. Finally you just have to snap the device onto the faucet and it is pretty much ready to go. They recommend run the water through it for about 5 minutes before you start using it.

I was surprised by a few things. One, the filtered water comes out pretty slow. The regular stream goes fast, but when you flip the switch to the filter, it comes out much slower. Still it is ok, you just have to be more patient.

Another thing that was surprising is that it can rotate so you can move it around to adjust how you want it situated. Even with the rotating, it did not leak. I did notice some water getting out the top of the adapter at first, but I was able to tighten it a bit more to seal it.

I decided to do a side by side test of the filtered vs unfiltered water. Comparing them side by side, the filtered water was noticeably more clear. Even after letting them sit for a while, the filtered water remained more clear.

As for taste, they were very similar but the filtered water tasted a little more crisp and had more of an absence of any flavor that might come from minerals. Overall I would say that it does a good job at filtering and it is good to have peace of mind knowing you can drink the tap water and it will not have any harmful impurities.

The filter says it lasts 3 months or 100 gallons. I did some calculations and I figured it would take a lot longer than 3 months to get through 100 gallons so I will probably be able to use the same filter for 6 months to a year at least. It does have a light sensor that is supposed to help determine when the filter needs to be changed, so I will keep an eye on that as well.

If you are looking for an affordable way to get clean drinking water, I would recommend the Pur Classic faucet mounted water filter. I will update this article over time in case there are any long term updates as I use this filter.