Tuesday, December 10, 2013

10 Best Songs of 2013

For the first time in years I had trouble picking out at least 10 good songs from the year.  I found a lot of great new songs, but many of them were from previous years.  Because of this, some of the songs at the end of this list will be from years other than 2013.  So here you go, the best songs of the year are:

1. Chvrches - Lies

Chvrches is a new band from Scotland who make synth pop music.  They have appeared on the scene in a big way and have already gain quite a following with just a few songs.  They are a trio made up of 2 guys and the lead singer Lauren Mayberry who is absolutely beautiful in both appearance and in voice.  Here is one of their hits called Lies.  Also check out their song, The Mother We Share. 

2. The 1975 - Chocolate

The 1975 is an interesting band that seems to have a wide range of music style ranging from pop to atmospheric emotional songs.  They are a 4 piece band from the UK who have been pumping out EPs faster than I can keep track of.  Here is possibly their biggest hit so far, a song called Chocolate.  It's a very catchy pop tune. Enjoy.

3. The Knocks - Magic - Viceroy Remix

Here is a song by The Knocks that has been remixed perfectly by Viceroy.  If there could be one song to capture the feeling of summer, this would be the one.   It has a tropical feel and pop sensibility to make it very nice to listen it. 

4. Frightened Rabbit - The Woodpile

Frightened Rabbit has a lot of loyal fans for good reason.  They have been around for a while and have had several hits, yet have managed to stay out of the mainstream so far.  They have a new hit this year with The Woodpile.  It has a powerful chorus and great lyrics.  The video is also very good.  Make sure to watch until the end.  No spoilers. 

5. Bibio - A Tout A L'heure

I just found this song recently and while I don't know much about the artist Bibio, his new single A Tout A L'heure is certainly very catchy.  Apparently the title translates to "See you later" in English.  Like all of the songs on this list, it can get stuck in your head very easily.

6. The Lonely Island - Spring Break Anthem

Gotta love these guys.  They put out consistently funny material in the form of songs that are actually very good.  This is an anthem type song with an epic instrumental about spring break and social issues.

7. G-Eazy - Gotta Go

It must be no coincidence that G-Eazy continues to earn a place on the top 10 list year after year.  He has a knack for good rhymes and catchy instrumentals which he produces himself.  This song is actually an extra from the material he is putting together for the new album.  Love the instrumental on this one.  

8. Knower - Time Traveler

Possibly the most interesting act on this list this year is Knower, a duo consisting of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi.  Their music is not the easiest to listen to, but there is a lot of technicality in the production combined with catchy vocal hooks.

9. Tanya Davis - Bury Me

Tanya Davis is a poet and song writer from Halifax Nova Scotia. She has many wonderful spoken word poems as well as original songs.  This is an acoustic number from her album Clocks and Hearts Keep Going.

10. Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill

I love songs that are different and don't really follow the traditional genres and and forms we are used to hearing. This one takes some electronic beats and combines repeated spoken word to create one unique song about what thou shalt not do.

Hope you enjoyed the songs on this list of best songs of 2013.  Did you find a new song you like?  Is there a song you love that should be on this list?  Let us know in the comments below.

Also check out the 10 Best Songs of 2012.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dominicks - The Downfall of the Grocery Store Chain

Dominick's is a household name in the grocery business in the Chicago area.  They had about 70 stores from the city to the suburbs.  Recently they have fallen on hard times and have decided to close or sell all of the stores by the end of the year. 

Growing up, my family would shop at Dominicks as well as as other stores like Jewel Osco.  As an adult however I rarely shopped there, mainly because the prices were so high.  Some people complain about the prices of competitors stores, but from my experience, the items that I buy are always listed at the highest prices I have seen anywhere whenever I go there.

Since hearing the news, I thought I would venture over to my local Dominicks one more time.  I figured they might have a lot of sales to clear out the inventory before they closed.  I went there early in the morning.  The place was a ghost town.  Seriously, I walked in and did not see a single person.  I started pushing the cart around and occasionally saw an employee here and there.  I checked out the prices and to my surprise, they were still as high as ever!  No good deals.  I really think this is one of the reasons they have lost business is because their prices are inflated compared to the competitors.

I didn't want to waste the trip so I walked around and picked out a few things that were not too expensive.  Even the specials that you need a card for were still the same price if not more than what you would pay elsewhere.  Overall the store was not in great shape, but I don't blame them.  If you knew your store was closing in a few weeks, it would be hard to have the motivation to do a good job and provide the best service.

I checked out at the only open register with an employee who seemed to be on the phone having a personal conversation at the same time.  Not sure if I will go back for the last days to see if there is anything on clearance or if that will be the last time I shop there.  I do feel bad for the employees.  Many of the stores are being bought out by Marianos, Jewel, or Whole foods.  Hopefully most of them can retain their jobs with the new stores taking over.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Best TV Shows of 2013

It has been another good year for tv so once again we have the top 10 best shows of the year.  These are all shows from major broadcast networks so if your favorite cable or premium channel show is not on this list, that may be why.  This year we have some brand new shows as well as some veteran shows which have been featured in previous years. Here are Connected Isolation's 10 best tv shows for 2013:

1. Whodunnit
Whodunnit is new show that takes a group of ordinary people and puts them in a mansion where each week one of them is "killed".  The remaining contestants must then use clues left behind to try to figure out who did it.  The catch is that the killer is actually one of them, but no one knows who it is.  This show was so fun to watch this year.  The casting was excellent in addition to the drama, strategy, and suspense which made it the best show of 2013.  


2. The Following
Here is another new show which premiered this year staring Kevin Bacon as a former detective who is brought back to catch his biggest nemesis, a serial killer who has escaped and who has a cult like following of killers ready to do whatever he says.  It took me a while to get into this series, but once it picked up, it became the best prime time drama of the year!


3. Big Brother
It's no surprise Big Brother has made it on the list this year.  The mother of all reality shows had one of it's most controversial seasons this year with contestants saying a lot of things they shouldn't have.  The drama, competition, and emotion ran high this season which places it again on our top ten list this year.


4. Master Chef / Master Chef Jr.
Two for the price of one this year with a new Master Chef as well as an equally enjoyable Master Chef Junior.  This has become my favorite of the many Chef Ramsey shows where ordinary people get to compete to be America next great chef.  The Junior edition gave kids a chance to show their skills in the kitchen this year and was possibly even more entertaining than the regular edition.


5. Undercover Boss
Undercover Boss is back again this year putting the CEO's of companies in disguise and sending them into the front lines of their own companies to find out what the employees really think.  This show always has a lot of good moments where the bad employees are discovered and confronted and the good employees are praised and rewarded. 


6. Shark Tank
Shark Tank is back on the list this year with the wealthy "sharks" deciding which entrepreneurs they want to help out and partner with to grow their business.  The banter between the sharks is great and it is fun to see ambitious people trying to bring new businesses and products to the market.  


7. American Ninja Warrior
American Ninja Warrior is a unique athletic event that really shows true physical skills such as strength, balance, and agility in a variety of events and obstacles.  People from all over the country compete and try to move on to the next stage in the fastest time.  No American has even finished all the stages yet.  Will this be the year?


8. Brooklyn Nine Nine
A new show and the first comedy on this list is Brooklyn Nine Nine.  This show stars Andy Samberg as a goofy police detective in Brooklyn.  He is supported by a strong cast of funny characters.  Each week they solve crimes but the main focus is the humor and the jokes.
9. Trophy Wife
A surprise hit this year is the new comedy Trophy Wife.  This show is similar to Modern Family in the fact that is has a large cast, but I find the characters to be much more likeable.  Don't be thrown off by the title.  This show is about a family and all the funny interactions and relationships between them.
10. Secret Millionaire
Rounding out the top ten this year is the feel good show Secret Millionaire.  The show sends millionaires to a poor area of the country in need where they look for opportunities to volunteer and help out.  At the end, they reveal their identity and give money to those people who need it most.
  
  
Hope you found a good show to watch here on this list.  What was your favorite show of 2013?

Check out last year's 10 best tv shows of 2012 here.

Also check out the Best TV Shows of 2014

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on Weddings and Marriage

Some people like weddings. Some people do not. I happen to be one of those people that does not like weddings. To me, a wedding is a big fancy event that you have to get dressed up for, probably travel some distance out of your normal range, and watch 2 people basically have a party for themselves. Now of course you are not forced to attend weddings, but if someone you know or someone close to you is getting married, you pretty much have to go because it is expected.

I have been lucky so far and I have not had to attend too many weddings, but unfortunately I am getting to be around the age where other people my age such as cousins and relatives are starting to get married. This got me thinking about the whole process and what it means to everyone involved.

Personally I have no intention of getting married or having a wedding. To me, it is an outdated custom. The thought of having a a ceremony and a party where I am the center of attention just seems like a nightmare. To me, it actually seems selfish to have a wedding and invite a bunch of people to it. I say this because when someone invites you to a wedding, they expect you to attend. By doing this, they are pretty much saying, ok on this day, drop everything you would normally do and come attend this event for me. Also you are expected to bring a gift or monetary donation. I know weddings are expensive, but no one said you had to spend all this money to get married.

If I was to ever get married, it would only be because of technical benefits such as tax breaks or cheaper car insurance. Even that whole issue is unfair, but that is another story. Also if I was to get married, I would keep the process and small and inexpensive as possible. No ceremony or party, just sign whatever documents need to be signed to make it official.

These days people can be together and live together without having to create a legally binding contract. All that does is make things messy later on should there be a split or divorce. Of course the institution of marriage has been around a long time and a deeply engrained custom like that is hard to break. For now, those of us who don't like going to weddings just have to suck it up and go to them even when we don't want to.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

100,000 Views Milestone - Blog Reflection

Today the Connected Isolation website reached 100,000 views in traffic.  I know that is not really that much considering how some sites get millions of views, but still it is a milestone and something to be proud of.  I started this blog a little over 4 years ago not really having much direction or knowing what to write on it.  Over the years it has evolved from short random articles and music recommendations to more meaningful articles and helpful tutorials that can be applied to every day life.

While this blog has never really been profitable, it is still a good resource to use as a medium to share one's opinion.  It's nice to know if you have something on your mind, you can put it out there in the world and people searching for it can find it.  This is who I write for; not for my friends or people who know me, but for people who are specifically searching for a topic that I have written about.

I will continue to write in in this blog as a way to share my thoughts and help others by contributing useful information and entertainment to those who seek it.  As always, feel free to leave a comment if you are so inspired to do so.  I read all of them and appreciate the feedback people give on the articles.  As the year comes to a close, be on the look out for some of my favorite posts such as best songs, best  tv shows, and best Youtube channels of the year! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Fix a Leaking Shampoo Bottle or Container

After a recent visit to the store, I managed to drop one of my grocery bags which had a bottle of shampoo.  No big deal, but later that day I discovered there was a small crack in the bottom of it and it was leaking shampoo out of it.  This was a brand new bottle so I needed to find a way to save it. I didn't have any other good containers to transfer it to, so I had to figure out how to repair the bottle.

First I tried tape.  I cleaned up the bottle and dried it and then applied several layers of tape.  It held it for the time being, but as soon as it got wet the next day, the tape came off and it started leaking again.

Next I tried glue.  Again I cleaned it up and applied a few layers of glue over the crack.  This worked well again until it got wet.  The water dissolved the glue and it began leaking again.  I needed something that could hold up against the water and that got me thinking.

I knew that the silicone caulk used around the edges of the tub was water resistant and I had some extra caulk available to use.  So once again, I cleaned up the bottle and applied the caulk.  I let it dry overnight.  Next day I tried it out.  It got wet but it held the seal.  It has been good for several days now so I think the problem has been solved.  If you have a container or bottle that is leaking try applying some silicone caulk to the crack or hole to seal it up.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chipotle Sofritas Review

I heard Chipotle had a new tofu option on their menu called "Sofritas" so I had to check it out.  I usually go with either a burrito or a bowl with rice, bean, veggies, salsa, cheese and sour cream.  This time I asked for the Sofritas.  When the server behind the counter was about to add it, I almost told her not too because I thought she was adding one of the meat options.  It really looks like a ground chicken or beef.  She explained that it was in fact the tofu Sofritas.

Upon trying it, I found the texture to be more firm than I expected.  Also, as mentioned above, I was expecting more like chunks of tofu rather than ground up tiny pieces.  The taste was also a lot more spicy than I expected.  Other reviewers who have tried it said it was over seasoned or too salty.  I would agree with this.  Half way through the Sofritas flavor became too much to I decided to just eat around it.

Overall it s nice that they are adding new options to the menu, especially a tofu option, I just wish it was more like grilled tofu pieces.  I didn't care for the texture or the taste of the Sofritas so I probably would not order them again, but stick to my usual ingredients. 

If you are looking for a tofu option in a burrito like Chipotle, check out Moe's Southwest Grill.  I have written a review of Moe's in a previous blog here.

Have you tried the new Sofritas at Chipotle?  What did you think?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why Do We Judge?

It seems judgment has become a huge part of our society. We judge others, we judge ourselves, we judge pretty much everything. While there is some value in making judgments, being over judgmental is a bad thing. It got me thinking, why is it that we judge? I did a little research and found a great article that helped explain the reasons for why we judge people.

The article made a great point and that is, when people make a judgment about you, it will only bother you if you judge yourself for that same reason. For example, say someone makes a negative comment about about your appearance. That comment would likely only bother you if you are insecure about that aspect of your appearance. If you are completely comfortable with how you look, people's judgments will not have the same effect on you.

One of the main reasons I find why people judge others is because they are envious or jealous of them. Have you ever known someone who just seems to have everything going well for them, you know, they are good looking, smart, funny, and everyone likes them? Do you ever find yourself thinking negatively about them and trying to find things they are not so good at? This is negative judgment. I find myself doing this from time to time, but try to stop myself and reflect why I am making these judgments.

Often people have a negative self image and try to bring themselves up by putting others down.  It is best not only to avoid doing this yourself but also not let it bother you when other people try to put you down. In most cases they are not unhappy with you, but in actuality they are unhappy with themselves.

According to the article the key is to observe characteristics of others but not to take an emotional stance on it, rather accept it for what it is. Try to be open minded and learn from others differences instead of trying to convince yourself that what they look like or how they are is wrong. It is not easy, but if you can be more accepting and understanding of others, they may be more willing to return the favor.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

HealthCare.gov Review and Errors

Like many Americans who are uninsured or looking for new health care coverage, I have been trying to go through the new health care market place system at HealthCare.gov.  This launched October 1st and is supposed to be the way to go to get the best and most affordable health care coverage.  According to news and reports many users are having trouble getting the website to work correctly.

I was able to sign up for an account and get all the way to the part where you apply for eligibility to get financial assistance.  It said my results were ready to view but every time I click the button to view them, it just brings up a blank page.  I tried all the solutions such as restarting, disabling pop up blockers and using different browsers.  Nothing worked and I am still getting the blank page.  I can't really move on in the process because you need to know your eligibility status before actually applying.

I contacted the support twice by chat and once by phone.  Neither method was able to provide a solution to fix the problem.  I even asked them on phone if they could tell me what my status was, but they were unable to do this. So now I think it is just a matter of waiting until they fix the bugs on the website.  News and reviews say they are working to make it better, so it may just be that we have to wait and try it again later.

UPDATE 12-13-13
They added the option to delete an application in progress and start over so I tried that and was able to get the results without an error this time.  Once you get the results it will tell you how much of a credit if any you can apply to your plan when you choose one.

It gives you several different companies to choose from as well as different level plans such as Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  I compared these plans to identical plans from the same companies directly from their website and they were the same cost. They give descriptions of the features of each but I still find it confusing and not clear exactly what the plans cover and what you will have to pay for your self.

I will probably sign up for one of the basic plans soon.  They say if you do not have health coverage in 2014 there is a fee of $95 per person that you have to pay.  That is not much compared to how much you will pay for the health insurance, but it is still better to have the insurance just in case. 

UPDATE 1-1-14
So I have been reviewing the plans available and none of them look very good.  For example, I'm looking for one that has a low premium and a higher deductible which is best for people who are healthy and don't expect many medical bills.  The cheapest plan is about $100 per month and that is after a discount.  This plan also has a $6000 deductible.  So that means with this plan, you have to pay about $7200 before it begins to even cover anything including a basic doctor visit.  That is just not worth it.  You would be better off just paying out of pocket.  As for now I am going to hold off on signing up until there are better options or lower costs.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Comcast DTA Transition vs Basic Antenna TV

Recently Comcast Xfinity started making changes to their service so you need a DTA or Digital Transport Adapter to get even the basic channels. We went along with is and installed the devices on our tvs. They get pretty much the same channels but there are a few downsides. 

First, you have to use their remote control which is very basic. You won't get all the options from your normal remote control unless you use it along with the Comcast remote. Even then some features such as deleting channels you don't want will not work. Second, there are tons of blank channels you have to navigate around. And finally, the picture quality is just not very good. Not only that but this basic service costs about $20 a month.

I decided to try out the basic digital antennas to see if the results would be better. I was able to pick up a couple antennas for less than $10 each. I hooked them up and did a rescan of the channels. At first some of the channels were a bit choppy, but after a little adjusting, I got pretty much all the same channels as Comcast except the picture quality was now much better. Not to mention, the antenna service is free. So of course we are going to stay with the antenna to get the better picture and avoid paying the extra $20 a month for basic channels from Comcast.

If you just want the basic network and local channels, the antenna is the way to go. If you live near a big city, you should be able to get by with a non-powered antenna. If you are further away from the broadcast towers, you might need to get a more expensive powered antenna. Even those are only about $40 for a good one.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Shows Fall 2013 Review - What to Watch

I have been watching a bunch of the new premier episodes of new shows this season in hopes of finding some good shows to watch. In this blog I will recap those shows and tell you which ones to check out and which ones to pass on.

Hits
Brooklyn Nine Nine
This is a new comedy staring Andy Samberg. It is sort of a silly comedy in the setting of a police detective show. I was skeptical about this combination but so far the characters are likeable enough that I have stuck with it for the following episodes. I particularly like the relationship between the Charles and Rosa (2nd and 3rd from right in picture).

Lucky 7
This is a new drama about a group of everyday folks who get lucky and win the lottery as a group. Of course with more money comes more problems. The characters in this show are kind of cliche, but the acting is good and whenever there is a lot of money involved there is going to be a lot of drama. So far so good.

Update: Lucky 7 was canceled unfortunately.  Too bad, it was one of the better shows this season. 

Master Chef Jr.
This was another one I was skeptical about. It is basically the same as Master Chef only with kids instead of adults. I thought there were enough Chef Ramsay shows, but apparently not. This one follows the same format of the original series, but the kids bring a new life to it with their energy and spontaneous nature. I'm watching this one when I get a chance.

On The Fence
Super Fun Night
I'm a fan of Rebel Wilson so when I heard she was going to have her own show, I was pretty excited. I checked this one out and honestly I was a little disappointed. The main thing that threw me off was Rebel doing an American accent. I'm so used to her with the Australian accent that my brain couldn't compute her talking with an American accent. The first episode was just ok in my opinion. I might give it one more episode.

Update: still not the best show out there, but it is getting a little better as the season goes along.

Trophy Wife
I just happened to watch this by chance and it was not too bad. It reminds me a lot of Modern Family in the fact that it is a comedy revolving around a large unorthodox family. The little kid in the show is the star if you ask me. Might watch this one if there is nothing else on.

Update: Moving this show to the Hits. After seeing several episodes, it is one of the best comedies of the season!  

Misses
Michael J Fox Show
I'm a fan of Michael J Fox so of course I had to check out his new show. MJF plays a retired news anchor who decides to go back to work. After watching the first episode, it just didn't grab me. I probably will not stick with it unfortunately.

Hostages
There was a lot of promotion for this show and it did look pretty good. They have some big names in the cast and an ambitions story line about a family held hostage unless the mom kills the president. My problem with this is that the characters seem so cookie cutter. We've got the dad who is having an affair, a son who is doing drugs, a daughter who is pregnant... you get the picture. I didn't find the drama as compelling as it should be for a situation like this. Maybe because it is on network tv, they can't really push the boundaries.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
I grew up with Marvel comics so I thought this one might be good, but after watching the pilot, I was very disappointed.  It seems they are just using the "Marvel" name to try to draw people in, but the show itself does not have much going on with super heroes.  I didn't find the first episode to be very engaging so we will have to take a pass on this one. 

The Blacklist
This was another drama that had a lot of promotion behind it. I tuned in a bit for the first episode, but it did not grab my attention enough to stay with it or tune in for the next episode.

The Goldbergs
Finally we have another family comedy with The Goldbergs. This one follows a dysfunctional family and takes place in the 80s. I had high hopes for this one given the cast, but overall it did not impress. I might tune in for another episode if nothing else is on, but so far, it does not make the hit list.

What shows are you watching this fall? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blocked from Retailmenot - Cannot submit coupon codes

If you have ever searched for a coupon code, you have probably found the website Retailmenot.  In theory they are supposed to let users submit coupon codes for others to use.  While this site was ok in the past, I have found now that they block or ban people from submitting coupon codes.

Every time I try to submit a valid coupon code or link, I get the message that whatever I have put in has been blocked.  And it is not just links.  They have even blocked regular words.  I'm not sure why I have been blocked because hundreds of other people are posting the exact same kind of promo codes and they are not being blocked. 

Have you been been blocked from posting on Retailmenot?  Let us know in the comments section.

Update: 4-6-15 I have noticed now that some coupon pages on Retailmenot are completely blocked off and they do not even accept submissions for coupon codes on these pages. It seems they are set up with affiliate companies and are using affiliate links to get commission though the promo codes and sales.  It is their site and they have the right to set it up as they please, but it would still be nice if they actually allowed people to submit coupon codes to the site.

Update: 7-11-15 I contacted Retailmenot to see if they could add a code manually since it is being blocked. They said that since the code was submitted before, it cannot be submitted again. That is fair enough, but I double checked the site and it looks like there a many new codes being submitted that are duplicates so I'm not sure why they are being published while others are not. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Talking on Cell Phone While Driving Ban 2014

I just read that starting on January 1st, 2014, it will now be illegal to talk on the phone while driving in the state of Illinois.  This will be the 12th state to enforce this law in the country.  Already there is a ban on texting and talking while in a school zone so this new law will extend to talking at any time while driving.  The only exception is if you are using a hands free device.  

While I agree that texting should be illegal, I don't think talking on a cell phone should be illegal and I'll explain why.  Texting requires you to take your eyes off the road to look at your phone to either type or read a message.  Anything can happen in a split second with your eyes off the road.  A car could jam on its brakes.  A kid could run out into the street.  When you are looking down at your phone, you have no way to know what is going on ahead of you.  Not only does texting take your eyes off the road, but it makes you change your focus from looking far ahead to close up.  This visual focus adjustment takes time itself.

So why should talking on the phone be legal?  Talking is a distraction, but so are a lot of other things in a car that are still legal.  Talking to other people in the car can be a distraction.  Playing with the radio or trying to eat something while driving can be a distraction.  Even though talking on the phone does take some of your focus away from the road, you can still see what is going on and react by steering with your free hand.  Yes, having 2 hands on the wheel gives you more control, but many people do not use 2 hands on the wheel even when they are not on the phone.  So what will be next, making it illegal to take a hand off the steering wheel?

They say you will be able to talk on the phone as long as you are using a hands free device.  I don't think the safety issue here is about if you are holding a phone or not.  The distraction of talking with someone is the same whether is it on a hands free device, or the phone itself. 

So starting in 2014 we will no longer be allowed to talk on the phone while driving or else risk getting a ticket.  I think some people will still do it because it is hard to ignore a call when your phone is ringing and no one is going to want to pull over and stop their car to answer or make a call. 

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Should people be able to talk on their phone while driving?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jewel Self Checkouts Going Away

A few weeks back I noticed they removed the self checkout lanes at my local Jewel supermarket.  I was disappointed by this because I preferred using the self checkout rather than going through the regular cashier lane.  I'm not much of a people person so I would rather check out and bag my own items than having to interact with the checkout person and bagger in the regular lane. 

A lot of people complain that there are always errors with the self checkout.  I don't find this to be the case. See it is good, but you have to know how to use it.  If you have anything like coupons or items requiring an ID, obviously the self checkout is not the best route because you are going to have to have someone come and help out anyway.  You have to follow the procedure of scanning the item and placing it where it is suppose to be and you should not run into any problems. 

Jewel says that they are doing away with the self checkout to make it more customer service oriented and to help prevent theft.  I guess making people interact with the staff makes it more friendly, but some people would rather not do that.  I don't know if it will cut down on theft either.  Maybe they figure people are not paying for all their items in the self checkout stations.  If this is true, I can understand wanting to do away with them. 

I will still go to Jewel but it is a shame they won't have the self checkout anymore.  On surveys for other stores, when they would ask for suggestions, I would always say they should add a self checkout option.  I think Walmart is the only place that has it now, but I don't like to shop there as I have mentioned in a previous blog.

I can already see this is stirring up controversy on the comments sections on news websites as they just reported on it a few days ago.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Duplicolor Spray Paint and Clear Coat Review

I had a part on my car that needed to be painted so instead of paying over $100 to get it painted at a shop, I decided to paint it myself.  I went to the local Autozone to get the paint.  I found a color that matched the closest; an exact match was not necessary for this part.  The can costs about $8 for 8 oz.

At home, I got everything set up and started painting it.  They recommend letting it dry between coats.  I found that it took a lot of coats to really get the paint to cover it.  I would say 7 to 10 coats or most of the cans worth.  Overall the color looked pretty close but it was a matte finish so it looked a lot different from the rest of the car which has a clear coat.

So the next week I decided I better go back to Autozone and get the clear coat.  I went with the same Duplicolor brand.  It was also about $8 like the paint.  So I followed the same procedure with the clear coat.  After about 7 coats it looked a little bit more shiny but not nearly as glossy or smooth as I was hoping.  After seeing these results, I wondering if the clear coat is just not very good or if you need a professional set up and paint to get that real clear gloss finish. 

Overall the paint was ok, but the clear coat was a let down.  For now I will leave the part as is, but it is still annoying that is does not match exactly.  I found out later that the Duplicolor clear coat did not get very good reviews online.  If you are thinking about painting your car, definitely do the research on the paint before hand.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

One Channel Does Not Work - How To Fix

Whenever I have a problem and learn how to fix it, I like to share it here on this blog to help anyone else who might have the same issue.  A couple weeks ago I noticed that NBC channel 5 was not working.  I have basic antennae tv with very good reception and I rarely have problems with it.  When I would go to channel 5 or 5-1 digital, it would just be static and say "weak or no signal". 

Occasionally this happens and usually it fixes itself in a day or 2, but this was going on for about 2 weeks.  I figured there might be an issue with the roof antennae.  Before troubleshooting that, I decided to do a rescan of the channels just in case that would do anything.  Sure enough, after the rescan, NBC worked good as new. 

I'm not sure why it worked after the rescan but would not work by going to the channel manually.  Maybe they changed some kind of signal that required a rescan but didn't tell us about it. Anyway, that is how I fixed it.  If you have a tv channel that is not working or has been out for a couple weeks, try the rescan method to see if it fixes the problem  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Whirlpool Refrigerator Runs Constantly and Not Defrosting - How To Fix

Recently I discovered my refrigerator had been running constantly.  In the past it would turn on for a while and then go off for a while, so I figured something was not right.  Upon reading the manual, it mentioned that refrigerators do tend to run more in hot weather.  It is summer so I thought this might have something to do with it.  It also said that there could be a leak in the door seal or the temperature is turned up too high.  I checked the doors and they had good seals.  I also made sure the thermostat settings were turned down low.  Still the refrigerator continued to run 24/7.

Not only that, frost was starting to accumulate in the freezer.  It has a built in defroster so this is suppose to melt automatically.  I scraped off the ice hoping that would help.  It didn't.  A week later there was more frost again.  I thought there might be ice blocking the vents so I decided to turn it off and remove the back panel of the freezer to check it out.

When I took off the back panel of the freezer, the whole condenser coil was covered in ice and frost.  The vents were also blocked with ice.  I knew this was definitely a problem and likely what was causing the air not to circulate in turn causing the thermostat to not get cold enough and ultimately making the refrigerator run constantly. 

So with all my frozen foods removed, I started chipping away at the ice.  It took a long time, but after a couple hours, I got all of it removed or melted.  I reassembled the panels and put everything back in.  I started it up and waited a couple hours for it to get back to cold temperature.  Sure enough, it worked and the refrigerator went back to the schedule of going on for a while and going off for a while.

I was very relieved because the constant running refrigerator was taking its toll on my electric bill.  My bill was the highest it has been in years and I'm sure it was because of the fridge. 

Here's the thing, I don't know if it is fixed 100% yet.  There still could be a problem with it not defrosting properly.  I don't know if the coils were frozen over a long period of time or if it just happened recently.  I will have to keep an eye on it over the next few weeks to see if it stays free of ice.  If not, there is a problem with the defrost system and I will probably have to replace a part or 2.  I will update this entry if that is the case.

UPDATE 10-10-13
So I waited a couple weeks after the manual defrost and opened up the freezer panel again.  Unfortunately ice had started building up on the coils again so this meant there was indeed a defrost problem.  Since I couldn't test the parts myself, I had to have a repair specialist come by to check it out.  They said that the defrost timer was bad and needed to be replaced and also recommended replacing the defrost thermostat at the same time.  I asked if I could do it myself to save on the cost and they said yes and told me which parts I would need and how to do it.

So first I ordered the defrost timer and replaced it.  This was not too easy because even though the part is made for the refrigerator, it was a little different than the original part and had an extra wire that needed to be hooked up to the right terminal.  The instructions for this were not clear either so it took a couple tries to get it right.  I hoped this would fix the problem.  So I waited a couple weeks and checked the coils again.  Still ice!  Great, so apparently there was still something wrong.  The repair guy mentioned I should probably replace the defrost thermostat, so that is what I decided to do next. 

I ordered the part and went to install it.  This one was even more tricky because it did not plug in.  You actually have to cut the wires and then reconnect them with wire connectors.  I managed to do it and get it all put back together. Crossing my fingers, I hoped this would finally fix it.

Next morning I hear a familiar dripping noise from the fridge. It was the noise it makes when the ice is melting down to the drip pan.  I run over to it, open it up and feel the back panel.  Sure enough, heat!  It worked!  So replacing the defrost thermostat and the timer solved the problem.  I ended up saving about $130 in labor and parts cost.  I also learned a lot about refrigerators! 

Norelco PT730 Review

I have been using Philips Norelco electric razors for over 15 years.  I started with a plug in electric razor and when that one started getting dull, I moved to a rechargeable model, the 6613x.  I was pretty happy with this razor until recently when I noticed the battery life was not what it used to be.  It would only last for a few shaves and then have to be recharged again.  I had used the razor for about 7 years and never replaced anything on it, so I figured it was about time for a new Norelco.

I did some research and decided to go with the PT730.  It was getting good reviews and has a good battery life with the Lithium Ion battery.  I also liked the fact that you can use it with the battery, or by plugging it into an outlet.  This model also has the flip up trimmer which I wanted.  It also has the ability to be cleaned by rinsing it with water.  My previous shaver was brush clean only, so I was interested to try out this feature.

I got The PT730 at Target for about $50.  It is about the same price online.  Upon opening the package, the razor looked nice, not too expensive, but not too cheap either.  It comes with a charger and a brush.  They recommend charging it for 8 hours before you use it which I did.  I found that the charger makes a hissing noise when it is plugged in which I thought was odd.  It almost sounds like air leaking out of a tire.

Once charged, I tested it out.  Pressing the button on the front turns it on.  I found it to be pretty quiet which was nice.  However, when you pop up the trimmer, it makes a lot more noise.  I found the rotary blades to be quieter than my previous razor, but the trimmer is louder.

Next I tried shaving with it.  I found the blades to cut ok.  Honestly, I was expecting more.  I thought it would cut a lot better and closer than my old Norelco, but really there was not much noticeable difference.  I was surprised because this one has fresh blades while the old one has 7 year old blades which are also the old style.  I also found that the way the rotary blades are set in, the edges around it protrude out, so shaving under the nose for example becomes a little difficult because the edge hits your nose. Overall the shave was ok.

Next I moved onto the cleaning process.  The shaver heads flip up and you can use the brush to clean it out and then rinse it with water.  I found the inside to be a lot deeper and more spacious than my previous Norelco.  On one hand, this is good because there is more room to collect the hair, but on the other hand, it makes it much more difficult to clean.  First I tried the brush.  It did not work very well at all.  It is pretty much impossible to get in there with the brush to clean out the hairs which are at the bottom.  Next I tried the water method.  This worked ok for the top and got out most of the hair, but there was still some at the bottom that would not come out even after the rinse.  I found this pretty disappointing.

After the wash they say to let it air dry.  The directions say not to even dry it with a cloth or tissue as this can damage the blades.  I find that hard to believe that a cloth or tissue can damage metal just by dabbing it.  Anyway, I let it air dry.  I found the water clean method to be messy and less desirable than a dry clean with the brush.  I also am weary about the long term effects of exposing the device to water even though it is made to be washed with water. 

I will try it for a week and see if my opinions change.  They do offer a 45 day money back guarantee, so if I still don't like it, I may have to see what other models they have that I might like better.

Update 10-22-13
I have been using the razor for a month and although I still feel the same way about it as mentioned above, I have decided to keep it.  The battery life is very good.  I have only had to charge it twice so far.  Shaving under the nose is still difficult due to the wide border on the razor and cleaning all the hairs out is still difficult even with the water.  If I was to buy another one, I would probably go with the line under this one that does not have the water cleaning.  That one is less expensive and cuts just as well. 

Update 5-23-16
I have had the Norelco PT730 for a few years now and it is still working pretty well. I recently put a new set of HQ8 Replacement Heads on it as recommend to keep the cutting blades working well. I expect it will still be good for several more years.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The New Gmail Sucks

The good old days; The Original Gmail
Remember when Gmail first came out and it was the greatest thing ever?  Ok, maybe not the greatest thing, but it was really good.  It was very clear and easy to use and it gave you tons of space to store your emails.  Since then Google has rolled out changes over the years.  Each time there has been a major change, it gets worse.  I wrote about the first detrimental change they made in a blog here.

Most recently they have totally changed the compose feature.  Before when you clicked Compose to write a new email, it would open up normally and use the full screen.  Now when you click it, it just opens a little box in the corner.  What?  Why would I want to be restrained to a little box in the corner when this is the main thing I am working on?  Ok, I know what you are going to say.  There is an option to make it go to the full screen.  I still don't like it even in that mode.  Also the new look is too minimal.  Such basic information such as the labels for "To" and "Subject" disappear once you type something in.  Buttons like "add a picture" or link are hidden away so you have to hover your mouse over certain sections just to see what options you have available.  It's like they are trying to make it as user unfriendly as possible.

They also added Tabs for the emails.  Maybe some people who get tons of emails of different kinds like this new feature as it helps break them up, but for me, it is just another unwanted change.  I quickly put it back how it was.

So if Gmail is so bad, how come I keep using it?  Well, it's not quite bad enough to completely abandon.  I do however use 2 other services, Yahoo, and Live.  Yahoo has made awful changes much like Gmail has and their email is just about useless right now.  Logging out of Yahoo takes about 10 seconds when it should take less than 1 second.  They also use the annoying tab feature.

The best email I'm using right now is Live by Microsoft.  I actually go into it by accident.  See I had to make a Live email account for business and after using it for a while I realized it is more likeable than Gmail or Yahoo.  I'm not ready to switch over all my accounts to Live, but it's nice knowing there are some better options out there.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Product Downsizing - Sneaky ways companies are charging consumers more for less

Have you noticed that the shape of that container of juice or peanut butter looks different or smaller than is used to? Have you also noticed that the ounces per container seems to be going down, yet the cost is still the same if not more? This is because many companies are subtly changing their packaging so that they are selling less product yet keeping the cost the same, ultimately making more profit for them.

Like most consumers, I don't like this practice. When they change the packaging or size, they don't let you know about it. If they do, they try to pass it off as a "new design". Sometimes they keep the same package but just put less inside. You have probably noticed when you open a bag of chips there are not nearly as many as your thought there would be inside.

Companies make the excuse that the cost of products is increasing so they either have to raise the prices or make the products smaller and sell them for the same price. Neither is a great option but if they raised the prices at least it would be straight forward and not sneaky. Keep an eye on the products you buy often. Make note of how many ounces they have so when they do try to sneak a change in there, you will know.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Weekly Planner - A discussion on this important tool and the future of paper vs digital calendars

The weekly planner is an invaluable tool when it comes to staying organized and keeping track of everything that needs to be done each week. I have been using these for years and I would be lost without them. It started with the Chandler's Assignment Notebook that was used in school to keep track of assignments. After high school and college I still used these only instead of writing down homework, I wrote down daily tasks and appointments.

The Chandler was perfect but then a few years back, they stopped making them. Since then, I have have had to search for whatever was the best replacement. Every year it seems I'm getting a different brand of weekly planner. They are becoming more and more difficult to find and when you do find them, they are usually pretty expensive. I miss the days when you could get one for $5 or $6. Now they start around $11 or $12 for a decent sized scheduler.

So recently I ended up with one of these planners that ends at the end of August. I started looking for a replacement but as mentioned above, there are not many options. I started looking for printable weekly planners. You would think they would have a good template for a planner online, but after a lot of searching, I came up with nothing. The templates just didn't have what I was looking for.

Finally I just decided to make my own. I created a simple layout with a horizontal page and table to divide the days of the week. I added the days and room to fill in the month and the numbers. Then I printed it out. I kept it minimal to save on ink costs. Overall I was pleased with the result. I used a regular calender to help fill in the date details. After about 10 minutes I had a new weekly planner for the rest of the year. Total cost: about 17 pages of paper and a little ink. Not bad.  You can download the printable weekly planner here.

So what is the future of calendars? Some say digital is the way to go by using the calendar features on mobile phones, tablets, and computers. These can be useful especially when you have the same information to copy from week to week. They are also easier to edit and make changes. Personally I still much prefer the hard copy with the paper and I'll tell you why.

The paper planner is faster. You don't need to turn it on and open an application just to access it. The traditional planner does not need to be charged or have a power supply. You don't have to worry about it crashing or needing software updates. It won't become obsolete if you get a new device. It's easier to see without having to do any scrolling or swiping. These are some of the reasons I will stick with the old fashion weekly planners.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Leave them in the comments below.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Asking About Salary in a Job Interview

Why is it that some employers are so resistant to tell prospective employees how much they pay until the last minute? Personally I think this is one of the most important factors when deciding on a place to work and should be clearly disclosed right from the beginning on the job listing. I have had some experience with this topic that I would like to share here in this article.

Years back I applied for a new job. It was an entry level tech position in a school district. They did not say how much they paid, but I was hoping it would be at least as much if not more than what I was currently making at the time. So I took the time to fill out the application and a couple weeks later was lucky enough to get called in for an interview.

At this time I had not much experience with interviews. I didn't know that it is generally not a good idea to bring up salary unless they do. So in the middle of the interview when they asked if I had any questions, I asked how much they paid. I made it clear that I was only asking because it was not displayed anywhere such as the job listing. Immediately after I asked the question, I could tell the interviewer was turned off by me asking such a question. She did tell me, but mentioned how that kind of thing would be discussed later in the process.

We continued on with the rest of the interview. I ended up not getting offered that job, but here's the thing, when she told me how much they paid, it was less than I expected and less than I was currently making at my previous job. If I had known that ahead of time, I may not have even applied for the job in the first place, let alone gone in for an interview.

This is why I think employers need to be up front about salary and how much they pay. When they keep it undisclosed, you end up with a situation that could potentially be wasting everyone's time. Like I said before, if I had known how little they were offering, I probably would not have spent the hours applying, preparing, and interviewing. They also would have saved on unnecessary interview time.

This was just a little rant that came to my mind after observing the same kind of situation today when someone was asking a job interviewer how much they would be paid and the interviewer, dismissed them by saying they would discuss it at a later time. I still say salary information is very basic and important information that should be transparent to job seekers right from the beginning. It's not a secret. Hiding it just ends up wasting people's time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Health Care Cost Rant

The cost of health care in the US these days is ridiculous.  The amount they are charging for basic medical procedures is so out of proportion to how much people are earning from their jobs.  I currently have decent health insurance which definitely helps, but that does not change the fact that I am still extremely bothered by how much the health care industry to taking advantage of people.

I am pretty healthy for the most part so I don't have to go to the doctor or buy prescription drugs very often.  I recently went to the doctor for a basic check up after having not gone from the past 3 years.  The check up included one immunization, a blood test, and urine test in addition to the basic look over.

A couple weeks go by and I get the bill in the mail.  Shouldn't be too much right, for just a check up?  How does $1000 sound?  Yes that's right.  In total, that's how much they charged for their services.  Now I didn't actually have to pay this.  The insurance covered most of it, and some how whatever the insurance doesn't cover, they just don't charge you as long as you are part of the PPO network.  But still, without the insurance, they are charging about $1000 for a routine check up.  That is insane if you ask me.

On the bill, they don't even tell you what the charges are for exactly.  For example, there were 4 different charges for "lab services".  Now I know I didn't have that many lab tests done.  I had to call up the office and ask about these charges.  They explained that the blood test is broken down into several different tests and they charge for each individual test separately. 

It's just getting way out of hand and there needs to be a stop to it.  Prices for medical services need to come down to a reasonable level.  Then those prices need to be clearly advertised to patients BEFORE they go in for an appointment.  These costs need to be publicly available for patients so they can compare the costs between local offices and hospitals.

As it stands right now, it's really not even worth it to go to the doctor with the outlandish amounts of money they are charging.  I hope something is done about this to make the health care system better for everyone.

Update 7-10-13:
I just went to pick up a prescription at the local pharmacy.  I get there any they say it is $60 for a small thing of medication, and that is with insurance!  I turned it down and asked them to find a generic version for less.  They have to call to the doctor to make sure it is ok.  Then I go online to check how much they charged my insurance.  For this medication, they charged about $500!  Now not to disclose any details, but this medication is very minor and not something that is really necessary, and they have the nerve to charge $500 for it?  I don't care what it does, nothing this small is worth anywhere close to that amount. The madness continues. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

ABC's Whodunnit Mystery Reality Competition Show Review

Whodunnit is a new show currently airing on ABC.  The concept of the show is a group of contestants living in a house together and each week one of them is "killed".  The remaining guests must then use clues they find around the house to try and figure out how it happened and who did it.  The show is hosted by a mysterious butler named Giles.  Some things that make it interesting are the fact that owner of the mansion they are living in is the one doing the killings and that one of the contestants is supposedly the killer.



After watching the first few episodes, I would say this is one of the most fun shows I have ever watched.  Yes, it is corny and yes, you have to suspend disbelief, but watching the guests work together and against each other to try to solve these crimes is very entertaining.  There is drama among the players, lots of strategy, and of course mystery.

It's fun to try to guess who the killer is.  I have a couple suspicions of who it is.  One would be one of the players, another would be a huge twist if it happens.  I won't revel my theories.  You will have to watch and decide who you think it is for yourself.  I'm looking forward to watching this show each week and I highly recommend checking it out if you like fun reality shows with a little bit of mystery.

Have you seen the show?  What do you think about it? 

Update 7-29-13
I'm still watching Whodunnit and it is possibly my favorite new show of the year.  I can't get enough of Giles' cheesy puns and the drama and suspense between the contestants as they try to solve the crimes and find out who the killer is each week. I really hope they renew it for a 2nd season!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Fix a Clicking Cabinet Hinge without Replacing it or Using Oil

So I had this cabinet that was driving me nuts because every time I would open and close it, it would make this loud click. This was a cabinet I used often so it became very annoying. I did a bunch of research online trying to figure out how to fix it, but there really was not a lot of information out there.

First I tried the obvious solution, which was oiling it. I had some WD-40 type spray so I tried that first. It worked for about a minute, and then it made it worse! Apparently, these hinges need some kind of special lubricant that is thick and will not dry out. Well, I didn't want to have to go to the store and buy a new cabinet oil. Next I tried putting some lotion on it. This worked, but only for a few days. Then it dried up and started making the clicking noise again.

I didn't want to go to the hardware store and try to find a new matching hinge, so I got creative and found a solution. Chances are if you have one hinge that is making noise, you have other cabinets that use the same type of hinge. Often some of these other cabinets are not used very often and that is why they do not make the noise while the one that is used most often does make the noise.

Since I had a few cabinet doors that I rarely use, I just picked one of them and swapped out the bad hinge. This was very easy and only took about 10 minutes. You just need a screwdriver. After switching them out, the hinge was good as new! No more noise. I even tested out the other cabinet and it didn't even make the noise, probably because it was a smaller door with less weight.

I realize this is not the perfect solution, but if you want to fix a clicking hinge without buying oil or getting a new hinge altogether, this is a quick and easy way to do it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Siberia Episode 1 Review - New Show on NBC

I just got done watching the pilot episode of the new reality competition show "Siberia" and I must say, I am very impressed. I didn't know much about the show going in so I went in with an open mind.  After seeing the first episode, this may be one of my favorite new shows of the year so far.  Already I'm hooked.

So the show starts out with a bunch of contestants being taken to a remote area in the Siberian wilderness. They are dropped off and told to find a campsite 2 miles away. The catch with this show is that there are no rules, so contestants can do whatever they want. Early on we have some characters who work together and help each other while others are selfish and only look out for themselves. Some are mysterious, others put everything out there. Some step up as leaders, others become followers. 

If you have not seen the show yet, you may want to watch it before reading ahead because there are some pretty big things that happened in this episode that I will discuss here.

So the host mentions how they are out here alone just with the camera crew and the only way to get out is to hit a button to summon a helicopter, ultimately forfeiting the show and giving up the chance to with the big prize money.

On the first night they hear some growling noises which scare all of them. On the second day something bad happens. One of the camera crew members stumbles back to camp all bloody and one of the contestants that was with him is not there. A while later the host gathers the group and tells them that the missing contestant has had a fatal accident. This greatly disturbs the group. The host says if they want to leave, they can go home and they will be paid for their time here.

The show ends with some final footage of what happened to the guy who supposedly had the fatal accident. In the credits, they tease us by saying "What is real?" By showing that final footage, and giving this hint, it makes me think there is more to this show than they or we know yet.

I think the death is fake, but the contestants don't know this. I also think that some of the contestants are actors or are working with the show, while others are real and think this is a legitimate reality competition show. This is just my theory, I could be wrong.

The final preview clips of this episode were amazing. I actually got chills seeing the teases of what is going to happen this season. There looks to be a lot of really good drama and action that is going to take place. What is real and what is fake? We will have to tune in to find out.

What did you think about Siberia? What are your theories?  

Update: 7-16-13
After realizing that this show is not actually a reality show and is in fact scripted with all the contestants being actors, I have begun to lose interest in the show.  I think it would have been much better if they had at lease some of the characters as real contestants.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Installing a Stellar BMW45P Remote Keyless Entry for BMW E36 3 Series

This guide will help you install a Stellar BMW45P keyless entry system for a 3 Series BMW. The model of this keyless entry system is the AutoLoc KL550. Kits like these are custom wired to work with BMW so you just have to plug them in and program them. They are sold from a few sites online such as Bavauto, Pelican Parts, and The Hoffman Group. The system sells for about $150.

First thing you should know is that installation of this lock system is not very easy. Yes it is technically plug and play, but getting to that point involves taking out the glove compartment of the car. You will need the right tools, some patience, and a couple hours to install this keyless entry system.

Tools you will need:
- Phillips head and flat head screwdrivers (preferably ones that are short)
- A 10mm socket wrench with an extension that is about 4 inches

Taking out the screws:
There are 8 screws you will need to take out. 2 are in the vents above the glove compartment. Unscrew these. Next, open the glove compartment. There are 4 screws to take out here. 2 are likely hidden by a couple of plastic covers. The other 2 are towards the bottom. The final 2 screws are underneath the glove compartment.

Taking out the vents:
Now that the screws are out, you should be able to pull out the dash piece at the top that has the vents. It's not very easy to get out. You might have to pry it a bit with a screwdriver. It does have some latches holding it in, so if you lift it up, it might come out easier. Just keep at it until it comes out. Some levers that adjust the vents might get knocked off while you are removing this piece. If so, make sure to take these out too and snap them back into place once the vent is out.

Taking out the 10mm bolt:
In the glove compartment, there is a light on the top. You can pry this out with a flat head screwdriver. Pull the light down so you can access the bolt that is above it inside. Use your 10mm socket wrench to remove this bolt.

Taking out the glove compartment:
If you have removed 8 screws and 1 bolt, you should now be able to pull out the whole glove compartment section. You should be able to do this rather easily. You don't need to unhook any wires. Pull it out and place it on the floor mat below. Now you should be able to see all the wires and things inside.

Preparing the Stellar Autoloc system:
There is one set of wires you need to plug into the main lock box. Plug in the white end to the box. The other end (black) will plug into the car. You also need to plug in the valet button wire and the LED wire into the main box. These help you program it.

Plugging it into the car:
Inside, it will look like a lot of wires and it's not clear as to where to plug it in, but if you look far back, on the left side, there should be a place to plug in the black end of the wire. The shape will fit the plug exactly, but you have to make sure it is facing the right way. It is hard to plug this in because it is so far back and there is not a lot of room. You may have to hold it by the wires and try to guide it in. Then carefully use a screwdriver or something long to push the edges to make sure it is plugged in securely. Once this is in, you are ready to program the lock.

Programming the Stellar BMW45p:
Put the key in the ignition and turn the key to the on position. Next press and hold the red button that is plugged into the main box for 3 seconds. You will probably hear a noise and the red LED light will blink. Once it does this, press the lock button on the remote. Press the lock button on the other remote also if you have more than one. That's it. Turn the key to the off position and take out the key. Test out your remotes to make sure they work. They should now be able to lock and unlock the doors. Try to position the lock box somewhere inside where there is room and it will not move around much.

Put it all back together:
Now you can resemble the glove compartment and vents the same way you took it apart. Congratulations, you now have keyless entry on your BMW 3 series!

If you have any questions on this guide, leave them in the comments below.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Work From Anywhere

The past few years I have been researching work from home type jobs in an effort to be able to earn an income while not having to leave the house to go to work. I have tried various different methods and sites over the years and in this article, I will review them and share what I have learned. While thinking about the term "work from home" I realized that many of these types of jobs just require a computer and an internet connection. With a mobile laptop and wireless internet, you can actually do many of these jobs from just about anywhere, hence the title of this article "Work From Anywhere."

It is not easy to find a good home based job and when you do find one, chances are it does not pay much. Not to mention, there are plenty of scams out there promising to teach you how to earn a living from home, all you have to do is buy their book or subscribe to their website. That being said, if you do your research and put it some hard work, you can start to earn money from home or anywhere. Below are some of the ways I have used to make money by working at home.

Affiliate Marketing
One of the best ways I have found to make money online is by promoting affiliate products. This means you help other companies sell their products and services online. There are companies that actually specialize in this, for example, Commission Junction. They have a huge database of companies you can promote products for. Many companies will actually have their own affiliate program. Check the links at the bottom of websites and you will likely see a link for this. So how does it work? Basically they give you a promotional link and you post that link around the internet when you promote the product. You might write a review and put your link in your article, or you might find someone with a related question and help them out by giving them your link to the product. If they buy from your link, then you get a commission. This can be a way to start earning passive income once your links are out there on the internet.

Writing Articles
Another way to earn money from home is to write articles. There are many sites that will pay you to write articles. Some pay per article, others will pay a percentage of how much your article earns from advertisements. You can even set up your own blog and write your own articles and put ads on your blog. If people click your ads, you will get some money. Keep in mind, this is difficult to earn a lot of money unless you are able to get a lot of traffic to your website. There are a few options for putting ads on your site. One of the most common is Google Adsense. If you like writing this can be a good way to earn some extra cash online.

Hourly Jobs
It is also possible to get a job that pays hourly based on the work you do from home. These types of jobs can involve working for internet or search engine companies or doing customer service work from home. Hours for these types of jobs are usually flexible and the pay can range from entry level to moderate. These jobs can be good, but they rarely provide any types of benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans. Because of this, you may want to keep a regular job and just do the work from home type jobs on the side, at least until you have a few options lined up and are earning enough to have a stable income. That is another thing to keep in mind; the stability of work from anywhere type jobs. The internet is a quickly changing environment and what is making money right now, may change or stop working at any moment.

Being able to work from anywhere is great because it provides a lot of freedom and you don't have to spend time commuting to work every day. You can also travel around if you want and work on the road. As mentioned before, this type of work is not easy to find and when you do find it, it takes effort to actually earn money. Don't expect to get rich with jobs like these, but if you can live on a moderate budget and can get a few of these jobs going at the same time, you may be able to make a full time living working from home or anywhere for that matter!

If you have any questions or comments about this article please leave them in the comments below.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kohls Has the Best Coupons

I keep my eye out for good coupons and some of the best I have seen are the $10 off coupons from Kohls.  Usually stores will make you spend a certain amount to save a certain amount like save $5 on a purchase of $25 or more, but not Kohls.  They give you $10 off and you only have to spend $10!  That means if you can find something for $10, you basically get it for free.  It has to be over $10 so you will end up spending a dollar or 2, but still, getting $10 of merchandise for $2 is a great deal.

I have gotten 2 of these Kohls coupon cards in the mail over the past 2 weeks.  Usually I don't like being on mailing lists because you get so much useless junk mail, but Kohls is a good list to be on.  With the 1st card, I got a water bottle with a filter, $10 value for about a dollar.  With the 2nd card I got 2 packs of vacuum bags, $12 value for $2.

I'm surprised Kohls offers these coupons.  I can't see how they would be making money if people are using them like this.  Maybe they figure people will spend more once they are in the store, and maybe people will, but frugal types like myself will use it to get the best deal and spend the least amount needed to use the coupon. 

Have you found any other great coupons for other stores?  Share them in the comments below. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bobble Water Bottle Review

For many years I have been drinking bottled water.  I'm not sure when it started, but one day I decided tap water was not good enough.  Don't get me wrong, the water in my area is generally considered to be pretty good and plenty safe to drink.  I guess the fact that bottled water is pretty cheap when bought in bulk, it comes in convenient bottles, and it always tastes good are a few of the reasons I have been drinking bottled water.

Recently I got tired of lugging those bottles home from the store every few weeks so I looked into some alternatives.  I found that there are some reusable bottles that come with a built in filter.  I thought this might be a good option to try out.  After doing some research I found that the reviews were just so-so.  Some said it made the water better, others said it didn't really do much.  I was still interested to at least try out this option.

I had a $10 gift card to Kohls so I went in looking for one of these bottles with a filter.  They had the Bobble water bottle on sale for about $10.  Perfect, so I got it.

The bottle is clear and has a filter/cap combination along with another plastic cap to put on the top.  The filter comes in several colors.  I went with black.  According to the back there are 3 sizes: 13oz, 18.5oz, and 34oz.  I looked all over but it is not clear as to which size I got.  It does not clearly say it on the package or the bottle, but I think I got the 18.5oz.  I found this absence of information to be very odd considering this is an important thing to know.

So I got it home and tried it out.  I cleaned it first with some soap and water.  They say not to wash it in the dishwasher.  Then as recommended, I filled it up and squeezed the water out to clean the filter the first time.  The bottle is squeezable but it does take some effort to get the water out.

I decided to do a side by side test with plain tap water and water filtered from the Bobble.  With 2 glasses side by side, first I did a visual inspection.  Both appeared to have particles floating around in the water.  This could be little bubbles of air, or minerals of some kind, I don't know.  The filtered glass had slightly fewer particles visible.

Then for the taste test.  The tap water tasted pretty good.  It was drinkable, but mentally, drinking from the tap makes me think it is not as good as bottled spring water.  Next I tasted the filtered Bobble water.  It tasted very similar.  If anything, I would describe it as more "empty".  The tap seemed to have a bit more of a taste, not necessarily a bad taste, while the filtered water was a bit more bland.  Still very similar.   

As for the size and shape of the bottle, it is a bit large to carry around.  I like bottled waters from the store because their shape is great for carrying around or putting in a lunch.  This Bobble is a little too big for that.  The outside of the bottle is slick so it could be difficult to grip if it is wet.  The bottom of the bottle is contoured which gives less surface area on the bottom which may make it more likely to tip over if knocked.

Right now I plan on using the Bobble for water at home, but not on the go.  I will still use the bottled water from the store for that.  Hopefully this bottle will help cut down on costs and use of bottled water from the store.  I will report back with an update after using this water bottle for a while.

Update: 5-18-13
So I have been using the Bobble for about 2 weeks and so far I have been happy with it.  I don't know that it is making the water all that better, but it is certainly drinkable and has helped me cut down on the amount of bottled water I have been drinking from home.  I still wouldn't use it on the go because the size is too bulky, but for home use it is a good alternative.

Update: 7-13-13
2 months of using this bottle, and it is still going good.  I have gotten a lot more comfortable drinking from it.  The water tastes good and I have saved money by not having to buy the bottled water.

Update: 2-23-14
It's been about 9 months since I have been using the same filter so I decided to get a replacement. According to the package, you should actually replace it every 2 months.  First I tried going back Kohl's but apparently they do not have them in stock any more.  I had a gift credit to JCPenny so I went to check if they had them.  They did have some in stock but only in lavender color.  Not my first choice in colors, but whatever, I had the credits so I went ahead and got them. It was about $10 for 2 filters.

Upon installing the new filter, I actually kind of liked the new color.  However after using this new filter for a few weeks, I have 2 issues with it.  1. The seal does not seem to be as good.  It leaks out unless you screw it on very tightly which is very annoying when it drips on you.  2. This new filter seems to be making a hissing noise after each drink as it pulls in the air to regain it's original size.  The previous filter did not do this, at least not this much.  Other than that the new filter has been ok.

Update 11-13-15
It's hard to believe I have had this bottle for 2 and half years now. It still seems like it is new. You just have to replace the filters every once in a while, but other than that, they are easy to use and maintain.