Friday, September 12, 2014

Fixing a Whistling Toilet

For a few weeks I noticed my toilet had begun to make a whistling noise while flushing.  I figured something was not right so I looked it up online.  Based on the information, it looked like it was the fill valve that was making the noise while refilling the tank.  These are pretty cheap so they recommend replacing it if it is making a whistling noise.

I had installed this fill valve about 4 years back and I still had the original box. It was a Fluidmaster complete kit and I noticed there was a 5 year warranty on it.  Since it was within this time, I figured I would contact them to see if I could get a replacement part.  I found the email contact online and explained the issue.

I expected to get a reply about how I would have to mail in the original receipt and the defective part.  You know, a difficult process that would make it not even worth the hassle, but to my surprise, almost immediately, I received a response from Fluidmaster saying they would send one out, all they needed was my address. Great!  So I provided them with the info and within a few days a new replacement part showed up!  That is what I call great service!

So I go to install the new part.  I figured it would be pretty easy based on the instructions.  I turned off the water supply and drained the tank.  I used a sponge to get all the extra water out and cleaned out the tank in the process.

Next I started to unscrew the old fill valve.  At first it was going ok, but then it got stuck.  I found out later that you have to unscrew the water supply part first, then unscrew the fill valve from the tank.  I did it in the reverse order so they ended up getting stuck together.  I could not budge them one way or the other. Luckily there was a handyman in my building who had some specific tools to help get them unstuck. He came by to help remove the old fill valve and install the new one.

So now it is good as new and does not make a whistling noise.  So if your toilet is whistling, chances are it is the fill valve.  If you are going to install a new one, check the warranty on the old one. Also make sure to unscrew the water supply part first before unscrewing the fill valve from the tank. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Utopia on Fox Review

The new reality show Utopia debuted on Fox last night. I'm a fan of reality shows so I decided to check it out. It takes a group of strangers from all different backgrounds and puts them in an environment where they basically have to learn to live off the land and work together to create a new society. It is an ongoing show that is supposed to go for at least a year with the opportunity for new people to join the Utopia throughout the year and of course to option for people to leave or get kicked out of the group decides.

I watched the 2 hour premiere and overall my impression is that it is very much a typical reality show with lots of drama among the participants. They pick very different personalities so this causes conflict easily among the group members. There have already been plenty of fights and arguments and even a make shift trial on whether one of the members should be exiled from the community based on his actions.

The show is similar to Big Brother in the fact that it will be on several times a week and has a live stream to go along with the weekly shows. Utopia is still just getting started so it will take a few more episodes to get a good judgment on this show, but overall I will tune in next episode to see how the series progresses.

Did you watch the premiere of Utopia? What did you think about it?

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Quest on ABC Review

A new show called The Quest is underway which is a fantasy reality competition show.  It takes 12 contestants and puts them in a world similar to medieval times with knights, horses, bow and arrows, swords etc.  Each week they train at in different skills to prepare to battle an approaching enemy.  The lowest scoring members are then put through another challenge and eventually the weakest player is voted out each week.

The series is 6 episodes in and while it got off to a bit of a slow start, it has quickly become one of my favorite shows of the season.  It reminds me a lot of Whodunnit which is another role playing reality show.  You have to have some suspension of disbelief to fully enjoy it, but once you do, it is a lot of fun to watch.

The casting is really what makes it great.  The main guy and trainer Ansgar really plays the part well as do the supporting cast.  It is fun to see them train each week in different competitions so see how they all perform. If you like reality competition shows and also a little bit of fantasy, check out The Quest, Thursday on ABC.  You can also watch past episodes online at abc.com.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Archer Farms Black Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice Review

Recently Target has been adding many new convenience food items to their grocery section. These include ready made meals and prepared foods that are easy to make and still pretty healthy.  The other day I found a new item by the Target brand Archer Farms called Black Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice.  It was only $3 and contains 2.5 servings which is a good value.  Also I like rice and beans so I decided to give it a try. 

The package comes with a pack of cooked rice and a pack of seasoned black beans.  The instructions for heating it are somewhat vague and not as clear as they could be.  Also I found the cooking times to be high but this can vary by microwave.  I ended up cooking the rice in the bag, cooking the black beans in the tray, and then adding the rice to the black beans.

My first impression was there was a lot to eat!  Definitely 2 portion sizes. The taste was surprisingly good!  It reminded me a lot of the rice and black beans from Chipotle which I really like, so this was a great substitute.  It was seasoned nicely and had a good flavor. You can also add other stuff to dress it up like vegetables or cheese, but I just had it with the rice and beans.

Since there was a lot, I saved half for later.  There is not really a good way to save it with the materials supplied to I ended up covering it with a paper towel and wrapping it in a plastic bag.  The leftovers the next day were just as good!

I will most likely get the Cilantro Rice and Black Beans again and will probably check out what other similar meals are available from Archer Farms.  If you like rice and black beans and want something that is really easy to make and tastes good, check out this new item. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

People who are not considerate of others - Loud Music

One of my pet peeves is when people are not considerate of others.  An example of this is people who live near others in an apartment or condo building and play music too loud.  This happens every once in a while where I live.  There will be a neighbor who is playing music that can be heard all the way on the other end of the building.  The bass will even be shaking the walls.

I don't understand how someone can be so inconsiderate of neighbors that they think it is ok to play music that loud which can obviously be heard by others.  Now some say, if you don't want to be bothered by noise by neighbors, you should not live in an apartment setting.  Everyday noise such as people going in and out of doors or maybe doing a little work around the house is ok, but blasting music is not ok.

One might say, well just go over and tell them to turn down the music.  You can do this but then all of a sudden you are creating a conflict with your neighbor.  Now you are going to be known as the neighbor who told you to turn your music down.

Situations like this do not only happen in residences, but also out on the road or anywhere cars can go.  How many times has someone pulled up next to you and their sub-woofer is blasting bass from their music.  People around you should not have to hear your music, especially when it is distributing loud bass.

One should not need to be counseled on something as common sense as this.  Either they are clueless about how their actions may effect others or they know but just don't care.  I find it hard to understand how either of these situations can be the case.  


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Helping the Homeless and Perspective on Charity

The other day I was standing in line getting ready to check out at a grocery store when I noticed there was a homeless person checking out behind me. Now I didn't know his circumstances, but by the way he was dressed and the fact that he was just buying a plain loaf of bread with cash, I just got the feeling he was down on his luck.

This same situation happened to me on another occasion with a homeless person checking out behind me. In the moment it was taking place, I was a little uncomfortable. You don't see homeless people too often in settings like this. In my mind I was thinking I should try to help them by paying for their items or giving them money, but on the other hand, I'm not sure if they would get offended by something like this. I'm sure they would appreciate it but at the same time, I would worry that they might take offense to it like I am assuming they can't pay for their own food.

So this second time it happened, the same thought process went through my mind. I wanted to help but because of the uncertainty of how they might react, I decided not to do anything. There were other people around too so I would not want to draw any extra attention in a situation like that.

It got me thinking about charity. I am not a rich person and I do not usually donate to charities too often. I live very frugally and pretty much only spend money on necessities like food and housing. It's odd because even though I don't give money to charities often, I wouldn't mind just giving a $20 bill to one of the homeless guys in a situation like this. And this is from someone who spent less than this on their entire shopping trip.

I think the difference is, if you give money to a charity for example, the Red Cross, you don't see what happens too it. You just assume it will be put to good use somehow. It probably will, but since you don't actually see the effect, it doesn't seem like you are actually helping. On the contrary, if you see someone in real life who obviously could use the money, helping them out makes an immediate difference you can see.

It really puts things into perspective when you see someone who is much less fortunate such as a homeless person. It is easy to get down on yourself and feel like you don't have a lot compared to other people, especially people you see on tv and in the media.

Often I feel like I don't have a lot of money to spend, for example at the store, most of my decisions on what to buy are based on price. There are a lot of things I would like to get, but don’t, just because they are more expensive. Then I see a guy who is less fortunate just buying a couple basic items and all of a sudden I feel guilty as though I have too much money because I can buy many things on a shopping trip.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What would you do, give the person money, or just keep to yourself? It would be great to have a homeless person's perspective on a situation like this. If the situation presents itself again and it feels right, I hope to be able to help out someone in need if it happens again.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer TV Shows Recap - What to Watch

We are well into the Summer TV season so here are some recommendations of which network shows to check out right now.

Big Brother
There is no surprise Big Brother is back again for the 16th season. It is one of the long running staple reality shows out there.  If you like drama, competition, and just observing interesting people, Big Brother has got you covered.  It airs 3 days a week, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday.  Each week 1 house guest is voted out until there is one left at the end to win the cash prize.  This season has added a few changes to make even more competition which adds to the drama.  Check it out on CBS or CBS.com.


Master Chef
Master Chef is back with regular home cooks competing against each other on one of Gordon Ramsey's cooking shows.  Compared to other shows like Hells Kitchen, this one is a bit more tame but in a good way. Also the cooks tend to be more likeable.  Each week they compete against each other to make the best dishes.  There is a lot of drama as the cooks are put through different challenges that test their ability to work under pressure in different situations and with different ingredients. Check out Master Chef Mondays on Fox.


American Ninja Warrior
The athletic skills competition show is underway with a new season of competitors battling the obstacle courses each week in order to become the next American Ninja Warrior.  This season has a lot of veterans as well as new athletes that have performed quite well.  This season may be known most for the women who have been doing better than ever before and have shown that they can compete with the men on the same courses.  Check out ANW Mondays on NBC.


NY Med
NY Med is part of a medical documentary style series that follows real doctors and nurses working in hospitals.  Each week different cases are shown as patients are brought in and treated for serious illnesses and injuries.  It is a feel good show as most of the patients are helped and turn out ok in the end.  It is interesting to watch both the doctors and the patients in these life or death situations.  You can see NY Med airing Thursdays on ABC.