Friday, February 16, 2018

Lightning Cables Review – Apple vs Five Below vs Anker

If you have an iPhone or any portable Apple device, chances are you are familiar with the Lightning USB cable used for charging and data transfer. I started out with the stock Lightning cable that came with it. It was good for a while but one day the phone dropped from about 2 feet up while the cable was plugged into the phone. It landed in a way that bent the tip of the cable and cracked the plastic casing.

Luckily the cable still worked, that was until months later when it dropped again in the same way and bent the cable even more. This time it must have damaged the cable enough because it did not work anymore. So I had to find a replacement cable.

I did have an extra cable on hand because I had previously purchased a Lightning cable to go with a car charger to use in the car. Lightning cables tend to be pretty expensive, for example the stock cable sells for about $20. You can find them cheaper made by other companies. I ended up finding one at the store Five Below for $5. This was about as cheap as I could find them.

The Lightning cable from Five Below is a couple inches shorter than the Apple cable. The one I got has a woven texture and it is thicker compared to the Apple cable which is more of a rubber like plastic and thin. They also have the traditional rubber plastic cable option. The ends of the cables are similar in construction and size. After using the Five Below cable only a few times, I noticed the casing on the ends started to separate. The cable still works and they are still in place, but I have to be careful unplugging it because the plastic can slide off. The cable was cheap so I guess you get what you pay for, but I would have expected it to be a bit more durable than that.

I still wanted a replacement for the stock Lightning cable to use as my main charging cable inside so I could keep the Five Below cable in the car. After doing some research, I decided to go with the Anker PowerLine Lightning cable. I had purchased a battery from Anker a while back and was pleased with it so I thought I would give the cable a try.

The Anker PowerLine cable was about $8 so it was a little more than the Five Below cable but less than it would cost to buy a replacement cable from Apple. It is about 6 inches shorter than the Apple cable which is not great but it is still usable. The PowerLine series is one of the better cables from Anker and you can tell by the build quality. The cable itself is thicker than the Apple cable and the end parts are more significant and have a sturdy feel. They make it easy to grasps the ends of the cable to make easy to handle and unplug.

So far I have only been using the Anker cable for a short time but it seems to be charging fine. I was worried the larger end parts of the cable would cause an issue when trying to plug it into the phone with a case, but it fit perfectly even with the case. I will update this article if there are any changes over long term use.

If you are looking for a cheap cable, the Five Below will work in a pinch, but don't expect it to be the most durable over time. The Anker seems to be have a good combination of quality and reasonable price so I would recommend checking it out in case you are in need of a replacement lightning cable.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Trying Some New Grains – Quinoa, Millet, and Amaranth Review

Recently I started looking into new grains to try out as alternatives to common grains such as wheat and rice. The first grain I tried out was Quinoa which seems to be growing in popularity and can be found pretty easily at most stores. It is pretty easy to make and has a similar taste and texture to rice but has more protein. It can be a little more expensive compared to rice, but I find it is a good option to add to the regular rotation as a staple grain.

Another grain I tried out was Millet. This grain looks like little round beads. It cooks very much like the other grains with a ratio of 1 cup grain to 2 cups water. It also has a good amount of protein like Quinoa. The end result is a fluffy grain that has a little bit of a corn tortilla taste. I was pleased with the outcome overall and liked it enough that I will probably add it to the regular rotation of grains. Not to mention, the price for Millet is pretty reasonable and I found it to be less expensive compared to some of the other grains.

The final grain I tried out was Amaranth. This one has very tiny grains almost like sand. The directions said to rinse the grain first, but I'm not sure how they expect you to rinse it considering the grains are so small. A strainer would probably not work unless it was super fine, and trying to rinse them in the pot does not work because some of them float and some of them sink and they kind of stick together. They also seems to be affected by static electricity so they can be kind of hard to work with.

Cooking the Amaranth was pretty straight forward like most of the grains. I did not like the cooking aroma very much. I'm not sure if it would be any better if I was able to rinse them ahead of time. After it wass done cooking, I found the grains to be about the same size and they held their shape well. They have an odd texture when eating them because they are so small that you can't really chew them, but they have enough substance where you feel like they should be chewable. Overall I did not notice much of a flavor from the Amaranth. Based on this first experience I would probably not rush back to buy it again.

If you are looking for some new grains to try, I would recommend Quinoa and Millet as both have a good amount of nutrition, are easy to cook, and have a pretty good taste when mixed with other ingredients and seasonings.

Are there any other grains you have tried that you would recommend? Feel free to leave a comment about them below.

Update 2-14-18:
I tried out one more grain called Bulgur. It is a wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and cracked into smaller pieces. The grains are similar in size and appearance to brown rice. I choose this grain because it has a quick cooking time at about 12 minutes. Overall the aroma while cooking was pretty good. The taste is mild as most of these grains tend to be. Texture is similar to brown rice but possibly a little more firm. This grain has a good amount of protein as well at 6g per serving. Overall I was pleased with this grain and would recommend it as an alternative option to rice.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

2018 Shop Play Win Monopoly Game - Rare Pieces

Each year for the past few years we have been keeping track of the rare pieces for the Shop, Play, Win Monopoly game. For 2018, the game is back and again we will be keeping track of the rare pieces needed to win. Feel free to comment below to discuss the game and post which game pieces you have and which ones you need.

Having followed this game over the past few years a few observations can be made. One is that it is very hard to win prizes. Each prize has at least 1 rare game piece which is needed to win. The bigger prizes have a rare and a semi-rare game piece that are needed which makes them even more difficult to win.

It is easy to find the common pieces over time as long as you shop on a regular basis. If someone finds a rare piece, they are likely to win that prize. Do not expect someone to give you a rare piece or trade a rare piece for any common pieces.

If you have found a semi-rare piece, the best chance of winning is to team up with someone who has found the rare piece for the same prize.

This game has many different participating stores such as Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Safeway, Pavilions, CARRS, VONS, Randalls, Eagle, Pak ‘n Save, Tom Thumb, ACME Markets, Shaw’s / Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street, Amigos, United Express, and more.

Game boards can be picked up for free at the participating stores. Game pieces are given out at checkout based on the items purchased.

If you plan to play the game this year, have fun but remember that it is very hard to win. You can find the official rules and the odds of winning on the Shop Play Win site.

The Collect and Win Game runs from February 7th to May 8th 2018. Good luck!

Rare Pieces List:

108AH
110BB, 116BH*
119CC
121DA
126EB
132FD
135GC
138HB
144JD
145KA
149LA
154MB
159NC
164OD
166PB
172QD
173RA
179SC
181TA*, 182TB
189VD*, 190VE
193WC, 194WD*
199XD, 200XE*
203YB, 206YE
207ZA, 209ZC
213AB
218BC
220CA
227DD
228EA
235FD
237GB
242HC


Numbers with * will indicate a semi-rare piece. List will be updated as semi-rare pieces are discovered.

Comments are moderated and will show up below once they are approved. Please be patient as it can take up to 12 hours for comments to be approved. Claims of rare pieces must be able to show proof. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Downfall of Youtube – Reasons and what the future may hold

Youtube has been one of the most popular websites for a long time and it is practically a household name when it comes to watching and sharing videos online. While it has gone through many changes over the years, some good, some bad, I have found lately that it has been on the decline.

I have many subscriptions and it used to be when I would log in each day, there would be a lot of new videos to watch. Recently though, it seems like there have been fewer and fewer new videos popping up in the feed which would mean that the creators are not making as many videos as they used to.

There can be many reasons for this, but from what I have gathered, it seems like many of the veteran Youtuber's are not happy with the way things have been going. Many have complained about changes which de-monetized their videos. As many of the big Youtuber's got into the habit of using Youtube as their main source of income, you can imagine if this was disrupted enough it would have a big effect on their desire to produce new content.

I know many have complained about traffic numbers declining on videos and how they are not getting as many views or subscribers as they had in the past. Many who have been producing high quality content are fading to the background while newer channels that many not be as good have been pushed to the forefront.

Many Youtuber's have expressed interest in moving to other platforms but as of yet there does not seem to be a suitable replacement. It seems some Youtuber's have cut back on the amount of videos they release while others have stopped making videos all together.

This is a shame because Youtube is a good platform and they have plenty of feedback from the creators to get it right. I am mostly a viewer when it comes to Youtube but I can certainly understand the frustrations of the creators and what they have been going through.

If the trend continues and more of the big Youtubers start pulling away from the platform, I can see a possible shift to other platforms for video entertainment such as Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming services. While these platforms are more for complete shows and movies, viewers may still be drawn to these platforms more if quality content is no longer available on Youtube.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Have you seen a decline in videos from your favorite Youtubers? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Anker PowerCore 10000 Power Bank Review

Recently I was looking for an external battery that could be used to recharge a mobile phone on the go or when there is no power outlet available. I was looking for this because I am often in the car and need to recharge the phone.

I started with a car charger that plugs into the car, but found it did not charge very fast and I did not want to draw any power from the car battery. Also, I wanted to have a back up charger for emergencies, for example if the power were to go out.

After doing some research, I decided on the Anker PowerCore 10000. I found this power bank had a good mix of small size and portability as well as a good amount of power storage to charge a phone about 3 times. I found it for about $26 on Amazon.

Upon receiving the battery and opening it up, I found it was packaged very nicely and comes with a padded carrying case. The power bank itself has a good quality feel to it and is smaller than I expected. I would say it is about the size of a deck of cards and not too heavy. It is something that can be carried in a pocket no problem.

It comes with a USB charging cable, but one thing to note, it does not come with an AC adapter plug so you will need one of these to charge it from an outlet. Many phones these days come with this piece included so there is a good chance you may have it already so you do not have to buy anything extra.

Charging it up to full capacity did take quite a bit of time but that is expected considering it holds about 3 full charges. The power bank has a little button on the side and some led lights to show the current power level.

So far I have been using the power bank as needed to recharge my phone on the go. It seems to work pretty well as all you have to do it plug the phone into it with a USB cable and it starts charging. I find it to be a great option to charge the phone while in the car or even on the go.

I will plan to update this article with a long term update after I have used it for an extended period of time.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Importance of Tipping, Especially for Repeat Business

The concept of tipping can be confusing as sometimes it is hard to know when to tip or how much to tip in any given situation. In many jobs, the majority of income is derived from tips so it can be very important for those in these types of businesses. For some other jobs it may not be as common and so if someone decides to give a tip, it is appreciated but not always expected.

As someone who has worked in a couple of different jobs that accept tips, I can say that tipping is important. Not only does it show appreciation for the work being done, but also it helps to ensure a high level of service for future interactions.

For example, I used to deliver pizzas which was a job that was heavily dependent on tips. In a job like this, you tend to get many repeat customers and because of this, it soon becomes clear which customers give good tips and which do not tip at all. Of course whenever an order came in for a customer who was known for giving good tips, everyone wanted it, while on the other hand, if an order came in for a customer who never gives a tip, no one wanted to take that order.

I speak for myself when I say, if the customer is known for giving a good tip, you can be sure I will do my best to make sure everything is perfect or as good as it can be. That's not to say other customers get bad service, but when a customer has a history of good tips, it is extra motivation to go above and beyond to make sure they have a good experience.

Tips become important for repeat business because employees remember who tips and who doesn't and often share their experiences with fellow employees. For customers who develop a reputation as a good tipper, they will be a preferred customer and are more likely to get better service compared to other customers who do not tip.

The amount which should be tipped can vary greatly depending on the situation so you may have to do a little research to figure out the recommended amount. When in doubt if you should tip or not, know that even in situations where tips are not common, they are always appreciated.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Caulk Cracking Around Window Trim – How To Fix

A few years back, I got new windows and while overall they have been pretty good, I noticed the caulking trim around the outside and corners would start to crack during the winter when it would get cold. These cracks were unsightly and allowed cold air to seep in.

The first solution I tried was a squeeze tube of caulk from the local hardware store. I just got one that was cheap for about $1 - $2. One thing to note is that is was an acrylic caulk which I found out later was not the best option. While this was ok for a short term solution, I found that before long, even as soon as a few weeks later, it would start cracking again.

I would try to add more caulk to seal up the new cracks and even tried painting over the caulk to give it an extra seal. Again it would be ok for a while but then as the temperature got cold, it would start to crack again. This was pretty annoying especially since the caulks said they had a multi-year guarantee.

So I did a little research and found it was recommended to use 100% silicone caulk. I looked at the ones I had been using and both were acrylic. One had a silicone blend but it was still acrylic. So I decided to look for the 100% silicone style.

At the hardware store, I found it and it was more expensive than the acrylic caulk, which is probably why I did not try it in the first place. I picked up a small squeeze tube of the 100% silicone caulk which was about $4.

At home, I started to scrape away the old caulk off the window trim. I used a few different tools such as different size flat head screwdrivers, small knife, and small scissors. They are probably not the most efficient tools for the job, but I did not want to buy a specialized tool just for this project.

After removing the old caulk and cleaning it up, I applied the 100% silicone sealant. I was surprised at how the texture was a lot more soft and fluid-like compared to the acrylic caulk which is more thick and has more of a chalky texture. The 100% silicone also seems to take longer to dry which can be helpful in case you make a mistake since it can be easily cleaned up.

So far it seems to be holding up well against the cold weather. I will plan to update this article with a long term review to see how well the 100% silicone holds up over time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Which Clif Bar Flavors Are The Best?

I recently took up an interest in Clif Bar energy bars and started trying out some of the different flavors. I did a little research to get an idea of what some of the most popular flavors tend to be, but ultimately wanted to try them out first hand to decide which flavors were the best. So far, I have tried most of the flavors I have been able to find in store. There are still a few seasonal flavors and more rare flavors that I have not tried, but here is a recap of my favorites so far.

1. Cool Mint Chocolate
After trying many different flavors, my favorite has to be the Cool Mint Chocolate. It tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream but in energy bar form. Sometimes when products try to add mint to their flavor, it ends up tasting artificial, but with the Clif Bar, they got it right and it has a refreshing taste that is also sweet and savory. I highly recommend this flavor if you are a fan of mint.

2. Chocolate Brownie
It's hard to go wrong with chocolate flavor and with the Chocolate Brownie Clif Bar, they did a good job getting the flavor to be quite tasty and still have a good level of nutritious qualities. If you like chocolate, this one should be near the top of your list of flavors to try.

3. Peanut Butter Banana With Dark Chocolate
This is a newer flavor and I would have to say it is one of my favorites, coming in at the number 3 spot. It has the banana flavor which makes it kind of unique and different compared to many of the other flavors and energy bars in general. It also has the savoriness of the peanut butter and chocolate which compliment it nicely.

4. Oatmeal Raisin Walnut
This one is another one of my favorites and tastes a lot like oatmeal raisin cookies so if you are a fan of oatmeal raisin, definitely give this one a try.

5. Chocolate Chip
The most classic flavor. Overall good taste and something you can eat often without getting too bored of it, but not as interesting as some of the other flavors.

6. Carrot Cake
The freshest Clif Bar I have tried so far. I liked the sweet frosting-like pieces and overall flavor, but found the carrot pieces to be a little hard to chew.

7. Blueberry Crisp
Another unique flavor and good taste, but this one I would only want to eat once in a while, not necessarily on a daily basis.

Other flavors I have tried which I thought were just ok include Crunchy Peanut Butter, and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.

In store you can usually find Clif Bars sold individually and sometimes in 6 or 12 packs of individual flavors. It can be hard to find variety packs in store but they can be ordered online as a way to try out many different flavors.

I will update this article in case I try any of the other flavors soon. Which is your favorite Clif Bar flavor? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Xfinity Modem Rental Price Increase

Upon checking my internet bill from Comcast this month, I noticed the price was $1 higher than expected. I thought this was odd considering they advertise a flat rate for the entire year. With the promotion for the first year, it was supposed to be $29.99 per month but this month it was charging $30.99.

I looked into the details and it appears they have increased the price of the modem rental by $1 per month. I contacted support to ask why it went up. Apparently the price of equipment can change even if the monthly service fee stays the same. They offered a $1 credit but said it will probably keep charging the $11 per month for the rental.

In the terms, they do mention that equipment fees are subject to change, but I think if they are promoting a certain price per month for the year, they should honor that price. It seems kind of like false advertisement if they say “it will be $29.99 a month for a year... until we raise the price on the modem rental 6 months into your term.”

This is actually not the first billing discrepancy I have had with Comcast. I was overcharged $5 when the credit for Ecobill was not applied to my account for the first month. These are small charges, but it is more the principle that if they are going to promote a certain rate, it should be honored. $1 a month is not a lot for one person, but if they are charging every customer an extra $1 a month, that is a lot of money.

Overall the Xfinity internet service has been ok and they did give me a free upgrade in the speed this month which was nice, but still I think the pricing could be a bit more straight forward so you don't have situations like this where you are charged more than expected.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Alone Together – New Show with Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo off to a good start!

A while back, I discovered a comedian/actress named Esther Povitsky also known as “Little Esther”. After watching a bunch of her videos, I learned she was staring in a new show called Alone Together, beginning January 10th on Freeform. Today, they released the pilot episode for streaming on the Freeform website so I decided to check it out.

It is a half hour comedy that follows Esther and her friend Benji as reluctant friends who are trying to make it out in L.A. The show seems to be very autobiographical from what I can tell, which is a good thing and makes them very relatable as characters.

After watching the pilot episode, I really enjoyed it! It is very funny and the characters are likable. They even had some recognizable guest stars such as Chris D'Elia and Jim O'Heir in the first episode. I like the relationship that has been created between Esther and Benji as they don't really like each other (or at least won't admit it) but are just kind of stuck hanging out with each other by default.

I am looking forward to watching more episodes of this show this year. Interesting fact, upon looking up the credits of the show, it looks like Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island are involved with the show behind the scenes. If you are looking for a new comedy to watch, I recommend checking out Alone Together, officially airing on January 10th on the Freeform network.