Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Come Out Ahead When Playing the Lottery

There has been a lot of talk about the Mega Millions lottery with the huge jackpot and media coverage.  It's fun to play every once in  awhile, but chances are you are not going to win.  So how can you play the lottery and come out ahead?  I have come up with a solution.

1. Pick your numbers and write them down.  You can pick as many sets of numbers as you want.  Keep them written down but do not actually buy the tickets.

2. Watch the lottery drawing or check the results after they are drawn.

3. See that your picks did not win.

4. Realize that you just saved that money by not buying the actual tickets.

You can do this each time there is a drawing.  It is still fun to pick the numbers and see if they are winners, but this way, when you don't win, you are actually happy because you didn't waste your money on tickets.

You might say, well what happens if your numbers actually do win and you didn't buy a ticket?  That would be extremely rare and unfortunate.

Overall remember to play responsibly.  They say with more money comes more problems.  The best way to get money is to actually earn it by working hard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Littering - One of My Pet Peeves

One thing that bothers me is when people litter or throw their trash on the ground instead of putting it in a proper garbage bin. Sometimes you see people throw a cup or a can out of their car window. I don't see how someone can do this and think it is ok. Obviously they don't care about dirtying the environment in which we all live. Either that, or they think that one piece of garbage is not going to make a difference.

Maybe one thing won't make much of a difference, but the thing is that if everyone took this mind set and littered, there would be a ton of garbage blowing around the streets, getting caught in trees, and just making the environment look terrible. Because of this, no one should ever throw their garbage on the ground. We all need to take the responsibility to clean up after ourselves and make the effort to put garbage where it is suppose to be.

Originally I wasn't going to post this blog, but I saw someone litter again today and it really bothered me. Some young guy was walking down the street and he just chucks some garbage to the side like he's throwing a baseball or something. What can you do in a situation like that? I wanted to get out of my car and confront him, or at least say something, but I'm not the type of person to involve myself in situations like that let alone people like that.

Later, I thought about even calling the police to report it, but I figured, they wouldn't be able to do much about it, and something like that would be low on their priority list. So what can you do? We just have to put up with people littering and rely on taxes to pay for city workers and volunteers to go around and pick up after these irresponsible people? There must be a better way.

Update: I now have taken a proactive approach to solving the problem and have started to pick up litter on a regular basis. Here is an article I wrote up about this process. I try to go around my neighborhood at least once a week cleaning up. Also whenever I go in or out I look for any litter that may be on the ground. Overall it really makes a difference, even with the work of just 1 person!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Illinois Lottery Online Review

For the first time, Illinois residents can buy lottery tickets online from the official Illinois Lottery website.  This is the first state to have this option.  Until now, if you wanted to play the lottery, you had to go to a gas station or a grocery store and buy a ticket.  Now you can order them from your own home.  There has been some debate on whether or not this is a good thing.  Personally, I think it is.

I don't play the lottery much, but every once in a while, I buy a ticket just for fun.  Years ago, I first tried to buy a ticket online only to figure out you couldn't do that, so I instead had to stop at a gas station to get one.  This is inconvenient, especially if you want to pick out your own numbers.  So when I heard that you can now buy tickets online, I was excited.

I tried it out yesterday, the first day it was available.  Overall, the process was not as easy as you might expect.  People are making this argument that it is going to be too easy for people to spend their money on lottery tickets now that it is available online.  The truth is, it is actually easier to just buy them in the store.

To buy tickets online, first you have to register.  During this process you have to give a lot of personal information such as your address, phone number, and even your social security number.  The forms to sign up on were not the most user friendly.  It was a little tricky to navigate.  Also, when I was signing up, it timed out even though I didn't take that long.

Once it goes through they send you an email.  This email didn't show up until about 6 or 7 minutes later.  Usually these conformation emails show up within seconds, so I thought it didn't work and I actually called up the lottery help desk to ask why my conformation email didn't show up.  While on the phone with them, it finally showed up in my inbox.

So now that I was officially registered, I could log in.  Once in, you need to give them your credit card or bank information so you can buy the tickets.  I used the credit card option.  After you have set up your payment option, you can then select numbers and buy tickets.

Again, this was not exactly an easy process.  After a few tries I was able to get some quick pick tickets and pay for them.  I had them send a conformation email with the numbers, which again took longer than expected.

Overall the process was ok, but it still has some bugs to be worked out in order to be more efficient.  Considering this is the first day it is available, this type of thing is to be expected.  If you would like to try buying lottery tickets online and you live in Illinois, I would say give it a try, but if this process sounds like too much, then you are better off buying them in the store.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The River Finale Review

ABC's The River season finale aired last night and overall it was very disappointing. I had been sticking with this show in hopes that it would have a good ending that would reveal all the mysteries. Unfortunately it didn't. I had an anticlimactic ending where it seems like they were trying to leave a cliffhanger in hopes for a 2nd season. The problem is, the first season was not good and there shouldn't be a second season.

In the second to last episode, they found Emit which was pretty much the goal for the season. So in this last episode, it should have been an explanation of all the supernatural stuff that has been happening. Instead, Lincoln is shot and killed, then brought back to life with the bad spirits, and at the end they find out they can't leave the river.

I know those are spoilers, but I'm not spoiling the show for anyone, I'm saving them from wasting their time on it. The River may be the worst show I have watched an entire season of. The writing, acting, and editing was all sub-par to what would be expected for a show like this on a major network.

There was a lot of potential at the beginning with the story and location, but all of this was dissolved as the season went along and nothing was redeemed at the end.

Did you watch The River? What did you think of the ending and the series as a whole?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Using and Auger to Unclog a Drain

I had been having trouble with my kitchen sink with the water getting backed up because of a clog. I would then pour some liquid drain cleaner in there and it would help a little bit, but a few days later it would be backed up again.

I called a plumbing company to see how much it would be for them to come out and unclog it. They quoted me a price of several hundred dollars. Of course I didn't want to pay that so I looked into other options.
One tool that is recommended is a snake auger cable which is a long metal coil that you put down the drain and rotate it to try to unclog the obstruction. I went to the hardware store and found a few different kinds to choose from. I went with a 25ft cable that had a handle and a crank to help you turn it. It cost only $15 which was not bad. They are also available online at sites like Amazon.

So I get home and give it a try. Under the sink, there was a place to open up the pipe using a wrench. Once that was off, I was able to put the cable into the pipe. This can get messy quickly so I recommend wearing gloves, having plenty of rags or paper towels, and also have something to cover the floor.

Getting the auger down the pipes can be difficult. Rotating it when you get stuck helps get the cable around corners and further down the pipe. Keep pushing it in and turning the cable as you go. Eventually it will stop. This most likely means you have hit the clog, or you just can't go any more. Pull the cable out slowly. You will probably have to rotate it the opposite direction to get it out.

Once it is out, see if there is any gunk that has been collected by the coil. If you are lucky, there should be a lot of stuff collected on the end and that means, it is working. Clean off the cable and set it aside. Close up the pipe and run the hot water. This should help clear out the left over debris and let you know if it is still clogged.

After I used the auger on the drain the first time, it was actually still clogged. I was disappointed but I decided to try it one more time just in case. This time, I put lotion on the cable to help it slide down the pipes. I think this helped because I got it further down the pipe. I kept turning it, but eventually the cable kind of twisted on itself because there was too much torque. I actually bent the cable which is not good.

I figured I better get it out before it got stuck, so I reversed it and slowly pulled it out of the pipe. It did pull out more gunk so that was a good sign. I cleaned it off and followed the same procedure of flushing it with water. This time it didn't get backed up! So the persistence and patience paid off.

If you have a clogged drain and the liquid cleaner is not working, I would recommend trying an auger before calling a plumber. It can save you a lot of money. Tips from my personal experience would be to lubricate the cable so it slides easier. Also, don't turn the cable too tight. There can be some tension, but if you do it too much, the cable twist and buckle on itself and this can bend the cable causing it to be ruined or get stuck in the pipe.

If you have tried all this and it still doesn't work, then you might have to call a plumber. Good luck unclogging your drain!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ricki Lee - Raining Diamonds, Do It Like That

I just discovered a great singer named Ricki Lee after hearing her song Do It Like That (Fred Falke Remix) on a music blog.  Apparently she was a top singer on Australia's version of American Idol a few years back and since then she has released some songs.

One of her new ones is called Raining Diamonds and it sounds amazing.  The first time I heard it I got chills.  Maybe it is because she is from Australia, but it is hard to find her music, for example, some of it is blocked in this country.  Here is her singing Raining Diamonds on the X-Factor:


I found the official video for Raining Diamonds posted here.  

Here is the song Do It Like That (Fred Falke Remix).  I looked for the original, but couldn't find it.  I don't know if it is too new or what, but this remix is out there and the original is nowhere to be found.
  Ricki-Lee - 'Do It Like That' (Fred Falke Club Remix) by Fred Falke 
I don't follow pop music on the radio so I don't know if they have found this yet, but if not, expect Ricki Lee to be all over the radio soon.

UPDATE: 3-18-12
I just got a message from Ricki Lee herself and she said that the original song and the remix will be officially released this Friday March 23rd.  Thanks Ricki!

Accepting Criticism - Why you should not be offended

It's always hard to accept criticism, especially if you are the kind of person who always thinks you are right.  This week, I had my yearly review where my supervisor tells me what things I am good at and what I need to improve on.  I think I do a pretty good job overall, and I feel I know what I need to improve on, so when someone starts saying things that I disagree with, instinctively I try to defend myself. 

This happened this time as it usually does.  My supervisor would say things that I need to improve on or change and then I would immediately try to tell her why she was wrong, or try to justify my actions.  While I may have had some good points, in this situation, I realize that the person evaluating, really doesn't want to hear a rebuttal or get into a debate.  They are simply stating what they have seen and experienced and they are trying to give you the feed back on how you can improve.

I realized, that even if their review is wrong and you can clearly defend and support all of your actions proving that you are right, it doesn't really matter.  It's best to just accept the criticism and try to use it to become better.  Even if you think they are wrong, they still have their opinion and that is how they see you.

It's actually a good thing to get criticism, even if it hurts.  When I look back, I wish I would have gotten more feedback on how I could improve.  There were only a few things that were mentioned and I tried to shoot them down.  It's a tense situation when you are being evaluated and everyone is a bit on edge and can't take all the time to think clearly.

For future evaluations I will try not to get upset or take things personally.  I might still try to defend my actions, but I will try to keep that to a minimum and instead thank them for pointing out what I need to improve on.  So overall the message for today is to welcome and accept criticism and use it to improve, even if you don't necessarily agree with it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012