Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lego Creator 3 in 1 Fast Car Review 31046

One of my favorite activities as a kid was building with Lego blocks. I still remember the first big set I got for Christmas. It was a big pirate ship and it was so fun to put together! One of the great things about Lego sets is that after your build them, you can take the pieces apart and use your imagination to create other things. It really helps develop creativity and understanding on how things are made.

As I got older, I don't remember what happened to my Legos, but we must have given them away at some point. I did not have Legos for a long time but they always remained a fond memory. Sometimes I would see them in stores and want to get them, but always passed it up.

Fast forward to present day, I started doing a little research online for Lego sets. I found the Lego Creator 3 in 1 Fast Car set (31046) on sale for $15. I liked the designs and it comes with a good amount of pieces (222) so after some thinking, I decided to treat myself to this set.

I was very excited to build it as it had been many years since the last time I worked with Legos. Opening it up, it has 3 packs of pieces divided by small, medium, and large, 2 base pieces, and separate instruction booklets for each vehicle. I set up my space and got to work making the car!

The age recommendation on the box was 7-12 but I think this is too limiting as it should say 7+ or 7-Adult because this set is fun and challenging enough for people even over the age of 12. The age range listed on Lego boxes may really be limiting their potential market. People like myself who grew up with Lego are now adults who can actually buy these sets. I think they should do more to market towards the older demographic as Lego sets are fun to build even as an adult.

I worked at a leisurely pace enjoying the building process and took the time to really appreciate the construction and the thought behind why each piece was chosen. I forgot how educational Lego building was. It makes you develop skills such as following instructions, attention to detail, understanding 3D models, and small piece assembly. Not to mention creativity if you decide to use the pieces to make your own designs. It makes me think, they should have Lego courses in school curriculums, seriously!
Completed Fast Car

Overall the Fast Car took about 2 ½ hours to build. I was very pleased with the process. It was easy to follow the instructions but challenging as well. In fact, I did make a couple mistakes along the way even when taking plenty of time to build carefully. In the end, I was impressed with the finished product.

The car looks good and has a solid feel. It also has cool features such as a retractable hard top, pop up hood, and Lamborghini style doors! I saw it had the convertible conversion on the box, but the doors were a pleasant surprise!

Original Jet Plane Created
Breaking the model back down to individual pieces took about one hour. I was already excited to use the blocks to make an original creation so I decided to make a plane. After some trial an error, I completed the plane and I think it turned out very well! It was a lot of fun using creativity and the limitations of a set to create a new model. As long as you have enough pieces, the possibilities are endless!

Overall I highly recommend this Lego set for anyone who is interested in Legos or even for those who may have never used Legos before. It is a great value and will provide hours of entertainment and education for everyone!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Natural Selection in Relation to Physical Attractiveness

Recently, I saw a study where they showed participants a series of photos of different people and asked them to rate them in order of attractiveness. They did this for both men and women and the results showed that most people were in close agreement with the order they chose. They concluded that people generally agree on what physical traits make a person attractive.

I started to think about this study in relation to the concept of natural selection. In theory, with natural selection, those who are more attractive or more desirable as a partner will have a higher chance of attracting a mate and producing offspring. These offspring would then continue the same kind of traits as their parents.

With this process going on for hundreds of thousands of years, you would think that by now, people would all have model good looks and the best genes available to make for healthy successful individuals, but in reality this is far from the case. There are still millions of people who would be considered unattractive as well as millions with genetic medical conditions. So the question is, why is this the case? Is natural selection not working?

Take the case of attractiveness. If attractive people have higher chance of finding a partner and continuing their genes, why are there still so many people who would be considered unattractive? I think one possibility may be a change in what we consider attractive in modern times.

With visual media becoming such a huge part of our lives over the past couple hundred years, we are more exposed to movie stars and models, not to mention how much more effort is put into trying to make people look good. For example makeup, surgery, photoshopping is all done to try to make people appear more attractive then they actually are. These images are then broadcast to the general public. We see these images and over time start to accept them as a reality of how people are supposed to be.

Then we look at ourselves and the people around us and it does not quite match up with the perfect images we see on tv and in the movies. This may have an effect on our judgment of ourselves and others in terms of attractiveness. So there may be a higher unrealistic standard that has been set for modern times when it comes to this issue.

Other factors continue to come into play that may go against natural selection. For example say two people got drunk at a party and took part in some activities that they would ordinarily not do under a clear mind. These actions might lead to reproduction that probably should not have happened.

Another common situation is two young people who are irresponsible and not thinking about the consequences for their actions. Before they know it, they may end up with a child on their hands who they are unable to care for or provide a good life.

Other factors such as personality, values, money, location can effect the potential of one reproducing which may be why natural selection does not go on physical appearance alone. For example someone may not have the best looks, but they may have a good personality or a good job that allows them to provide a stable life for a family.

Overall, I would conclude that it is a combination of a rapidly changing culture with many other factors other than physical attractiveness that has contributed to the make up of the current population today.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Should a bathroom door be kept open or closed when not in use?

There seems to be some disagreement on whether a bathroom door should be left open or closed when it is not in use. This can depend on the situation and location of the bathroom, but personally I think residential bathroom doors should remain open when no one is in there.

The main reason to support this is the fact that you can easily tell when the bathroom is open for use because it is clear that no one is inside. If the door is closed, it can be very hard to tell if someone is inside without knocking or calling out, “Is anyone in there?”. I don't like having to knock on a bathroom door just to find out if someone is in there. It can be even more awkward for the person inside having someone knock on the door and having to yell out, “Yes, someone is in here!”

So why would people close the door when no one is inside? I did a little research and I saw some arguments made that a bathroom is a private room and not something you really want to have on display especially when there is company over. I get where they are coming from, but everyone knows bathrooms exist. It is not something we need to hide away. If there are visitors over such as for a party, they are going to need to know where it is, and they should not have to knock to try to figure out if someone is inside.

I know if I am over at someone's house for a get together and I see the bathroom door closed, I assume someone is in there. I would guess many people would think the same thing and wait until a later time to check back to see if it is open. Then 10-15 minutes go by and you check again and it is still closed. Eventually someone decides to knock on the door or check if someone is in there and it turns out, it was empty the whole time! This kind of situation should not happen which is why bathroom doors should be left open when not in use.

Another argument mentioned is that keeping the door closed keeps unpleasant odors from going to the rest of the house. In rare cases, I could see if you might want to leave the door closed with a fan on for a while, but most of the time, this should not be an issue. If anything, keeping the door open will help ventilate it to help disperse the odor more quickly.

What are your thoughts on this debate of whether a bathroom door should remain open or closed when not in use. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hertz Rental Car Review

Recently I had to drop my car off for collision repair which was scheduled to take about a week. During this time, I got a rental car on site from Hertz. Registration was pretty easy. As expected they needed the basics such as drivers license and a credit card on file. They put a $50 pending charge on the credit card which I would find out later why they do this.

I got one of the basic cars, a late model Nissan Versa hatchback. The car was decent and easy to drive. One interesting thing about it is that it came included with a Hertz navigation system. It was not built into the dash, but more permanently attached as an add on. It turns on when you start the car. Personally I did not use it, but it is a nice feature to have, although I would have liked to have the option to hide it away in the glove compartment so it is not out on display.

Another interesting thing is apparently the navigation has a camera. I did some research and it looks like Hertz is starting to integrate cameras into their cars. It is not clear if they are active right now, but it kind of makes you feel like you are being watched. I could see how that might be a privacy concern.

During the week I did not drive the car much and only ended up using about 1 gallon of fuel. They tell you to fill the tank before you drop it off so you do not have to pay a charge for the refueling. I stopped to fuel it up on the way there, but the gas station was packed and every pump was taken. I waited for a few minutes but it was so crowded and I was more concerned with returning the car safely rather than hanging around in a crowded gas station with cards weaving in an out, so I decided to just take it back without topping it off.

It was near the end of the work day so they did not have anyone at the desk but I was able to drop off the keys. Even though the tank was nearly full, I did get charged for about 1 gallon. They charge nearly $10 a gallon which I think is kind of unreasonable considering gas is only about $2.50 per gallon at the moment. I can understand if they charge a fee for the fill up, but that kind of mark up seems a little outrageous. Note, this is one of the reasons they ask for your credit card ahead of time.

In the end, the rental car was covered by insurance so that was good. Overall the Hertz rental car experience was ok and I would recommend them if you are looking to rent a car, but make sure you are able to fill up the tank before dropping it off otherwise you will end up paying the inflated price on the gas.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Netflix Review and Top Picks

Netflix has been around for a while now and I had been slow to jump on the bandwagon, instead opting to just watch network tv for free and an occasional episode online. I try to live frugally and avoid unnecessary expenses, but a couple months back I got the opportunity to try out Netflix for free, so I decided to give it a go. 

I was surprised at how much content was available, from original shows and specials to movies and even full seasons of shows from other networks. I started with the 30 day free trial figuring I would try it out and probably cancel at the end of the 30 days, but after trying it out, I decided it was good enough to continue.

The monthly subscription starts at $7.99 which is pretty reasonable considering how much unlimited streaming entertainment is offered at this price. The base price is for 1 streaming device at a time and standard definition. You can also upgrade to higher definition and more streaming accounts for a few extra dollars per months. I compared the SD to the HD and found the standard definition still had very good picture quality. HD is a little more crisp, but I found SD quality to be just fine.

The Netflix layout lets you search by recommended titles and you can add shows and movies to your list to watch later. It also has a rating and reviews system to help with recommendations. I found it is a lot easier to navigate on a computer vs on a streaming device like Roku. I have the Roku to use with the tv, but I do most of the searching for new titles on the computer since it is a lot more efficient.

You might think that once you watch everything you were interested in, there would be no reason to continue the subscription, but Netflix continuously adds new content each month. Not to mention, the library of current content is enormous and would take many months to really cover everything that catches your interest.

After having watched many of the shows and specials, here are some of the top picks I would recommend:

Stand Up Comedy:
If you are a fan of stand up, Netflix is great because they have a lot of comedy specials like this. Some of my favorites so far are Chelsea Peretti – One of the Greats, Todd Barry – The Crowd Work Tour, and Sebation Maniscalco –Aren't You Embarrassed. Chelsea's special has good production value and gets creative with the editing taking it to the next level. Todd special is also different in that he goes on tour with no material and pretty much just talks to the audience and creates jokes on the spot. Sebation has great stage presence and is not shy about calling people out when they are doing things they shouldn't.

There are a couple related shows in a comedic documentary style: An Idiot Abroad, and The Moaning of Life. The both feature a guy named Karl Pilkington who is pretty much an average Joe who reluctantly travels the world learning about different countries and cultures. He often has funny and brilliant reflection on his experiences and what he has learned.

Another pick in the travel documentary style is The Kindness Diaries which features a guy named Leon who goes on a motorcycle trip around the world but brings no money and instead relies on the strangers he meets for food and a place to stay. For those who help him a lot, he returns the favor and helps them with whatever they need.

For another funny original series, I recommend Garfunkel and Oates. It is a full season show featuring the musical comedy group Garfunkel and Oates. The show is based on their lives and integrates many of their songs into the episodes.

Also I recommend 2 more original series: A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Haters Back Off, both of which I reviewed here on the blog a while back.

Overall if you are looking for a good source of entertainment from tv shows to movies, all at an affordable price, I recommend trying out Netflix and check out the shows mentioned above!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Should Marital Status Effect Car Insurance Rates?

In case you have applied to car insurance recently, one of the questions you probably had to answer was if you are married or single. You might think, what does this have to do with car insurance, but apparently this is one of the factors they use to determine how much you will pay for your car insurance.

According to their statistics, single people are more likely to get into an accident compared to married couples so they use these stats to figure out how much to charge for insurance. Personally I do not think they should use marital status as a way to charge more or less for insurance. It seems too discriminatory as marital status does not really effect driving ability. If something like this can be used to increase rates, where will the line be drawn?

There are certain factors that make sense when determining auto insurance rates, for example driving and accident history, age or experience behind the wheel, and usage such as mileage and location where the vehicle is driven. These things have a strong correlation to how likely someone is to get into an accident. When they start using things like marital status, it brings up the issue of fairness vs numbers.

They can survey statistics on anything and they may find that certain things have a stronger correlation to accidents than others, but that does not mean they should be able to use these things to discriminate. When they use factors such as married vs unmarried, it penalizes individuals who may otherwise be good drivers but just happen to fall into a certain category.

Overall I think insurance rates should only be determined by factors that directly influence the likelihood of a claim. Other unrelated factors should not be used even if studies show that one group may have more chance to get into an accident compared to another.

Do you think insurance companies should be able to charge different rates based on things such as marital status and gender?

Friday, February 17, 2017

What did you do to accomplish your goals today?

As we get older, time becomes more valuable because it becomes more limited. When you are young, you feel like you have so much time to accomplish your goals, but before you know it, age starts creeping up on you and you may find you are older than you feel and there are many things you have yet to accomplish.

I recently found myself in somewhat of a rut, or treading water so to speak. Basically, just living the same routine day to day without really making any progress. This can be ok if you are content with your current situation, but it is always a good idea to strive for more and continue to try to improve your life even if things are already good.

I have never been the most ambitious person, but at the beginning of this year I did take the initiative to type up some goals. I found this helps to give some direction and makes you hold yourself accountable if something does not get done. It helps to get them down on paper or at least in a document so you can organize them, remember them, and keep track of your progress.

Recently I was thinking about how I was not making much progress and asked myself the question, “What did you do to accomplish your goals today?” Immediately I got a reality check of how I may not have been putting in enough effort to achieve my goals. If you are just doing the same thing everyday and not actively trying to imporve, chances are you will not cover much ground on your goals.

This comes into relation with time because as mentioned above, the time we have is limited and with every day that goes by, there is less opportunity to do what we want to do. You hear stories about how people have regrets about not doing more things when they were young and able. You may also hear stories about how people work hard their entire life looking forward to retirement only to pass away shortly after they have retired.

Because of this, it is important to take goals seriously and make a conscious effort to achieve them. In case you do not have any goals clearly defined, I recommend take some time to think about what you would like to do in short term, long term, as well as in general.

For short term goals, they can be things you want to do within the next year or so. These goals tend to be smaller and easier to accomplish. For longer term goals, they can be things that may take several years to accomplish or maybe things you want to do, but are not quite ready for or able to do yet. For general goals, they can be personal qualities you would like to improve upon over time.

Once you have your list, refer back to it often so you do not forget your goals. It can be a work in progress so you can add new goals and check off goals that have been completed. It gives a feeling of satisfaction and pride especially when you are able to check off one your big goals.

Life is short, so don't waist time. Make the most of every day so when you are older, you will have lived a full life without regret of having not accomplished the things you wanted to do.