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.