Thursday, January 19, 2017

Haters Back Off Review – Miranda Sings Netflix Series

Recently I watched a series on Netflix called Haters Back Off, which is based on a Youtube character named Miranda Sings. It is the creation of Youtuber Colleen Ballinger, who plays the main character Miranda. I had been familiar with her character prior to watching the series, but never really got into it enough to subscribe. Nevertheless, I decided to check out the show to see what it was like.

The series is centered around Miranda who dreams of being a famous singer. The only problem is, she cannot sing and is really not cut out for being a performer. Despite this, she is oblivious to reality and still believes she is the best singer who is destined for greatness.

Her family includes her recently unemployed uncle who is determined to help Miranda achieve her dreams, her mother who has more of an understanding of her daughter's limitations but still tries to support her, and her sister who comes off as very normal in comparison to the rest of her family.

The series is a mix of comedy and drama as we watch Miranda try different methods to become famous despite the haters telling her she has no talent. Her uncle seems to think she can make it and goes to great lengths to manage her career to help her succeed. Her mother who claims to have “un-diagnosed fibromyalgia” plays sort of a sad role as someone who is unfulfilled and stuck in the situation she was dealt with. Her sister tries to live a normal life while trying to avoid embarrassment of being associated with the odd characters that make up her family.

Overall, I enjoyed the series. It may not be for everyone, but if you like quirky shows with a mix of comedy and emotion and don't mind suspending belief, it is definitely worth checking out. The series has 8 episodes and is available now on Netflix. You can also check out Miranda on her Youtube channel from which the series was based on.

Also, good news, Haters Back Off has been renewed for a season 2 so look for that hopefully later this year! 


Monday, December 26, 2016

Best Youtube Channels of 2016

This year, the best Youtube channels of 2016 has some returning favorites as well as some new channels that are making their appearance for the first time. 2016 was a good year for Youtube and this list features a mix of funny, quirky, and vlog style channels. Here are Connected Isolation's picks for the best Youtube channels of 2016:

1. Kyde and Eric (Travel / Vlog)
Back at the number 1 spot for the 2nd year in a row are travel vloggers Kyde and Eric. This American couple living in Japan continues to release quality videos of their travels and adventures. They are very down to earth and really do a good job at capturing what it is really like in other countries. In this video they recap 5 of their favorite moments:

2. Bad Lip Reading (Funny / Music)
A returning favorite, Bad Lip Reading always puts out quality videos that are hilarious with the voice over dubbing and also have amazingly good original songs! This year they covered the election, as well as popular topics such as Star Wars and High School Musical. Here is one of their original songs from the Star Wars series called Not The Future:

3. Jack Vale (Funny / Pranks)
Known for his hidden camera pranks, Jack Vale is one of the best in the business. Usually his videos take place out in public but sometimes the opportunity presents itself right to him. In this video he calls a scammer who is trying to take advantage of him by making him think he has to pay a lot of money to fix his computer when there is actually nothing wrong with it:

4. Mediocre Films (Funny / Pranks)
Greg Benson from Mediocre Films makes some of the most feel good funny videos out there. This year, he and his wife adopted a new baby but he still had time to make some videos such as this one where he volunteers to take pictures for people but magically gets in the picture with them:

5. Fizzypops3434 (Funny / Impressions)
Matt from the channel Fizzypops3434 is an impressionist and comedian known for his wrestling impressions, drive thru videos, and original character Stone Cold E.T.  He is very talented and this channel has a lot of potential. In this video he goes to a drive thru as the wrestler Shawn Michaels and meets one of the best employees ever!

6. Blake Grigsby (Social Experiments)
Another returning channel this year is Blake Grigsby who is also know for his feel good videos and funny pranks. In this video he sets up a station for free piggyback rides to help people get where they are going:

7. Joe Goes (Interviews / Travel)
Joe has made a name for himself going to different events and countries to interview random people. His interviews are funny and usually a bit awkward but in a good way. Here is one where he talks to people at a topless parade:

8. Dustins Dojo (Funny / Parody)
Dustin from Dustins Dojo is a trained black belt and he learned to be a black belt at Rodger Baker's Taekwondo and Pizza, Pensacola, Florida. He and his side kick Terry help teach the viewers how to protect themselves against attackers. In this video he teachers us some new moves in front of the White House:

9. Nelk (Funny / Pranks)
The boys from Nelk are some up and coming pranksters from Canada who have been stepping up their game this year. In this video they pretend to work at a movie theater and happen to meet a very kind and generous person:

If you liked these videos, check out the Best Youtube Channels of 2015

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Best Songs of 2016

It's time once again to recap the best songs of the year. This list features recommended songs that were not super popular in 2016. Also for this list artists can be featured only once, but some may have a couple songs to check out. Here are Connected Isolation's top songs for 2016:

1. Lizzo - Good As Hell
Lizzo is an up and coming alternative hip hop artist out of Minnesota and this year she released a feel good anthem "Good As Hell". The song is up beat, very catchy and good enough to come in at the number 1 spot for the best songs of 2016! Also if you like this one, check out another one of her hits, Let Em Say.

2. Bad Lip Reading - Don't Stare At The Sun
BLR completes another year with hit songs and parody videos with their voice over dub style. This year they reworked High School Musical which included the song Don't Stare At The Sun, a musical style with ensemble cast that come in at number 2 on the list this year. Also check out their song, Not The Future.

3. Organ Beats - Only Human
Noelle from the band Damone has a new band now called Organ Beats and this year they released a powerful rock song called Only Human. Her vocals are great as always and the song is on par with the best rock songs this year! If you like this one, be sure to check out her other band Damone.

4. Dirt Nasty and Mickey Avalon - Do It All Over
Simon Rex aka Dirt Nasty and Mickey Avalon team up again this year on a new EP featuring the song Do It All Over. It is a silly song with a playful beat matched with a video that is just as silly.

5. Green Day - Still Breathing
There are very few bands who have been around for 20+ years and are still consistently putting out good music. Green Day is one of those bands. This year they released a new album and are still rocking as hard as day one. Here is just one of the new hits of the new album.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Best TV Shows of 2016

As has become tradition, again we recap the best TV shows of the year! This year we focus mostly on prime time network shows with a couple exceptions from daytime and cable. Some shows have returned while others are new or make the top list for the first time this year. Here are Connected Isolation's picks for best TV shows of 2016:

1. Second Chance
Second Chance may not be the most well known show of 2016 but it is one of the best shows that slipped under the radar and earns its spot as the best show of 2016! It is a futuristic sci-fi action drama which features a police sheriff who was killed but brought back to life in a younger version through technology developed by a gifted twin. The show was great and could easily have another season but it looks like they have decided to wrap it up with just 1 season.

2. Bachelor In Paradise
This is one of those guilty pleasure shows. As a spin off of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Bachelor In Paradise is pretty much an all star cast where they throw a bunch of the favorite contestants from past seasons onto a beach resort and watch the drama unfold. Plenty of great characters and drama made this season good enough to take the 2nd spot in the list this year.

3. Running Wild with Bear Grylls 
Survivalist Bear Grylls is back at it again taking a new celebrity each week on an adventure they will never forget. In this series, Bear and a celebrity hike, climb, and descend through dangerous terrain while trying to find things to eat in the wilderness and try to find a safe place to sleep at night. It is exciting to watch and the situation lets you see the celebrities in a different light than we are used to seeing them.

4. Broad City
I got hooked on this comedy by watching clips and full episodes online. It features 2 young ladies in New York and follows the situations and mishaps they manage to get themselves into. It is a dark comedy with inappropriate style humor but the 2 main characters are great and the episodes are laugh out loud funny.

5. American Ninja Warrior
ANW was back for another new season this year. Not much surprises here but the show is entertaining as always as it features some of the best athletes competing on challenging obstacle courses as they try to make it to the end to be crowned American Ninja Warrior!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Issues with USPS Shipping and eBay

Recently I sold an item on eBay as I have done in the past. Everything looked normal for example the buyer had good feedback and a confirmed shipping address. The buyer sent me an email asking when it would ship so I replied letting them know I would be shipping it out same day.

I prepare the package, take it to the post office and drop it off. So far so good. After I get home, I check my email and see frantic messages from the buyer saying their account was hacked and not to ship the item. Great, so I just dropped it off and now they are telling me not to ship it.

I try calling USPS, but the automated phone system is no use. I speed back over to the post office to see if they can stop it. The employee checked but was not able to find the package and said it probably already sent out. I asked if there was anything that could be done to make it come back and they said no.

So I go back home and let the buyer know the package has already been sent. Meanwhile I'm getting messages from eBay and PayPal about how there is an issue with the transaction and how the payment is now being held until the case is resolved.

I do some research and find there is an option with USPS to request an intercept on the package and have it return to sender so I put in this request. I figure they can catch it on the next scan and bring it back. Unfortunately it seems this system does not work because it passed several checkpoints and went all the way to the buyer's location without being stopped.

Fast forward about a week, the package has not returned yet but instead keeps going back and forth between cities. It seems they are confused and keep trying to send it to the buyer even though the request to return to sender has been made. Even the request to intercept the package said it was completed yet the package has not returned yet.

I finally email USPS to let them know what is going on. I get a call later that night from the post office where it is now located. They reassure me that the package will be returned to my address.

The next morning I get an updated status of the tracking and again they are trying to send it to the buyer! What is going on USPS? They just personally told me the package was coming back and then it still keeps going to the same place!

Luckily I have signature confirmation on the package so either it will end up with the buyer or it has to come back eventually. It has been almost 2 weeks and the package is still in limbo. I will update this post in case there are any new developments.

Update 12-10-16: The bad news and the good news.

So worst case scenario happened and USPS managed to lose the package while it was out for delivery at the buyer's address. It is hard to believe it went missing because it had signature confirmation. I called back the post office to try to get some more information. They basically said they would look for it and call me back. They have not called back.

I got an update from USPS by email saying they were not able to confirm the delivery. Meanwhile I have been updating PayPal with what is going on because the payment was being held until the case was resolved.

The next step would be to file a claim for missing mail with USPS. Just as I was about to do this, I get an email from PayPal saying the funds are now available and the case is closed. I log in for details and it looks like they refunded the money to the buyer and reimbursed me for the cost of the item. Much respect to PayPal for honoring their seller protection policy!

So the situation quickly went from worst case scenario to best case scenario. It went from thinking the item would be returned and I would have to resell it again, to thinking the item was lost and I was completely out of luck, to being reimbursed for the full amount of the purchase!

Still I am going to follow up with USPS on this case. One, they charged me for a package intercept that did not follow through, and two, the package is still missing as the status was never updated once it was out for delivery.

Today I filed a missing mail report to see if there is any chance they can find the package. Next step would be to file a claim for the value of the item. I'm not even concerned with the value since PayPal covered it, but USPS has to be held accountable especially if there are cracks in the system which are allowing packages to go missing.

Update 12-11-16: Unexpected turn of events

Just when I thought the dust had settled on this whole situation, the package shows up back at my residence. It did not have a tracking number but apparently USPS did manage to finally intercept the package and sent it back with First Class mail. I'm not sure why they did not keep the tracking number or update the tracking but it is a relief to know the package was returned and did not go missing.

So now I am contacting USPS and PayPal to cancel the search of the missing package and let them know it has finally been returned. It has been quite an adventure with this transaction to say the least!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How To Resize a Shipping Box

 Recently I had a pair of shoes in a box that I needed to ship. Usually I have extra boxes laying around that I have saved, but this time I did not have one that was the right size. Sure, you can use a larger box and put extra filler inside, but then the shipping costs will be more based on the larger dimensions.

I starting checking a few places such as USPS and UPS to buy a new box. Surprisingly they did not have one in the dimensions I was looking for. Even similar boxes that were bigger, retail for around $3.50 just for 1 box! Yes, the post office has free Priority boxes, but in a case like this, my item would not fit in any of those boxes.

Finally I got the idea to try to make my own box. I saw a few examples where people modified other boxes to the dimensions they needed so I thought I would give it a try. The only supplies you need are scissors, tape, and an old box.

I started with a large plain box and peeled off all the labels. Try to peel them off carefully so it does not rip the box. Next, I took off the tape to help open it up. You can do this by peeling it or by cutting it if you don't mind leaving the tape on the box.

Next I cut one side of the box all the way through at one of the corners so that it can unfold and be perfectly flat. Once you have done this, you have to do a little planning and thinking to decide the best way to make the new box. A ruler or measuring tape can also help if you want to be exact.

I recommend try to keep as much of the box together as possible by making folds and overlapping sides. If the box it big enough, you will be able to keep it all in one piece to help maintain the strength of the box. You will need a scissors to make some cuts for the folds as well as to modify the dimensions to make the new size.

Once you start getting the new shape and it is the right size, you can begin re-taping it together. I recommend using a generous amount of tape to make sure the box is strong and stays together during shipping. Once you are done taping, it is pretty much good to go!

You will have a new free shipping box in the best dimensions for your item!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

State of the Union: Worried

The results of the 2016 election are in and based on electoral votes, Donald Trump has been declared the winner and next president of the United States. At this time, it looks like Hillary Clinton actually has more votes for the popular vote so we may end up with another situation where the candidate with more votes does not win.

As someone who watched all the debates and followed the campaigns pretty closely, I was very surprised as the results started rolling in. It seemed Hillary was the clear favorite and was predicted to win no problem. With the media and big names in support of Hillary, it leaves us with questions like, “What happened?” and “Why”.

In the months leading up to the election I was open minded to both parties and candidates. Eventually I started leaning more towards Hillary as I found she would be more qualified to be the President of the United States. I know there are a lot of people out there who strongly dislike Trump. While I think he is a good business man, his unrefined temperament and lack of political experience would be too risky to elect him to the most important position in office.

One thing that puzzled me in this election was why there were not more women voters in support of Hillary. In the history of the United States, over 200 years, we have never had a women president. This is significant considering over half the population is female. This was a chance to finally elect a woman president to represent the country. This alone would have been a huge step forward in terms of equality and gender relations. It would have had an enormous influence young women showing that they can achieve the highest office. It is hard to believe that her opposition still got more support especially after all the negative things he has said about women.

Another thing that I find curious is how it seems that big city states such as New York, California, and Illinois voted for Hillary while more rural areas voted for Trump. Based on history, this is not a surprise, but considering Donald Trump was born and raised in New York City, about as far away from rural as you can get, I don't see how these areas think he would be a better representation for them.

So what are some of the reasons people may have voted for Trump instead of Hillary?

One thing people may like about Donald is that he is not afraid to say what is on his mind even if it is not politically correct. While this trait may be admired due to straight forward honesty, there has to be more discretion involved when you are representing an entire country. The lack of filter has gotten him into a lot of trouble in the past and I worry, this trend may continue as he becomes president.

Another thing that may have happened is people may have figured Hillary was sure to win based on all the support she was getting before election day. Many Hillary supporters may have figured they did not need to vote because she would have enough votes anyway, while the Trump supporters knew he needed the votes and were more eager to get to the polls.

I also wonder about the division of the Democratic party. Emotions ran high when it came down to Hillary vs Bernie. I wonder if many of those who were in support of Bernie still held a grudge and refused to support Hillary even after she won the nomination and had the support from Bernie.

One more possibility for what happened may be a disconnect of small town America from Hollywood and big city media. Celebrities were really pushing for Clinton to win and I think many Americans from rural areas do not relate to that and don't really like being told who to vote for.

Popular tv shows such as Saturday Night Live made fun of Donald Trump every week and pretty much declared Hillary the winner weeks in advance. I think many Americans did not appreciate that and were then motivated to vote for the opposition.

Back to the original theme of this post. While watching the numbers roll in last night, the one word that kept coming to mind was “worried”. I'm worried about what these results mean about half the people who live in this country. I'm worried about what the world and other countries will think about us now that this has happened. I'm also worried about the future of our country based on changes that may happen which may have a negative effect on the American people.

Change does not happen easily especially in a climate like this which is still split 50/50 so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months and years. We all want the best for this country so hopefully we can move forward together somehow despite differences.