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  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cook County Property Tax Refunds - How Long Does It Take

For the first time in years my property taxes were less than expected and I ended up over paying on the first installment enough so that there was actually a refund due on the 2nd installment.  You would think that they would be able to just send you the refund, but no, they have to make it difficult.  You have to print out a refund form and fill it out and then attach a proof of payment showing how much you over paid. 

So I follow all the directions and mail the refund form to the address listed.  They don't say how long it will take or how they will send you the refund.  I looked all over for this information but it was nowhere to be found. 

After about 7 weeks, I still had not received my refund.  I decided to call up the Cook Country Treasurer to try to figure out what the status was, or how long it was going to take to get the refund.  After waiting on hold for at least 20 minutes, I was able to talk to someone.  She looked up my information and said there there was a refund due, but that they had not processed it nor received my refund application.  She said it could take 8 weeks to get the refund and if I didn't get it by then, I would have to resubmit the application. 

Ok, so I wasn't too thrilled about this.  I had already mailed in one application and included a bank statement which I wasn't comfortable sending in the mail, and now I was going to have to do it all over again?   There were no other options so I was going to have to do this. 

So, I fill out all the information and include the proof of payment again and get ready to drop the envelope in the outgoing mail.  Just in case, I decide to check the mail box first.  What do you know, there is a letter from the Cook County Treasurer.  It is the refund check that had arrived 8 weeks after I applied for it.  It arrived literally 1 day before I was about to mail in another application.  

So if you are wondering how long it takes to get a property tax refund in Cook County IL, the answer is about 8 weeks. 

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.