Saturday, December 26, 2015

Frigo Cheese Heads Wisconsin String Cheese Review

I have tried several brands and different types of string cheeses over the years. Some are better than others but recently I tried a new variety from the Cheese Heads Brand with the Wisconsin Cheddar with Parmesan Notes. It comes in a black packaging which stands out from most of the lighter colors which are more common.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor and texture of the cheese. It has a very firm texture which gives it a high quality feel like you are eating a fancy gourmet cheese. The taste is strong and more flavorful from most other cheeses I have tried. 

Since I enjoyed the Cheddar, I decided to try out another one that was available from the Wisconsin series, the Colby Jack. I was hoping it would have the same firmness like the Cheddar, but unfortunately this one was much softer. The flavor was still good, but it tasted like most other colby jack cheeses from other brands.

I would not rush back to get the Colby Jack, but I do highly recommend the Wisconsin Cheddar with Parmesan Notes if you are looking for a convenient string cheese which a higher quality texture and taste from what you may expect from strings cheeses.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Internet Replacing Doctors - No Need For Doctors Anymore?

Back in the day, when you had a medical issue, most likely you would have to go to the doctor to get a diagnosis on what was wrong and how to treat it. You might have also been able to get some information from medical books, but this could be difficult and the books could be outdated. Nowadays with the internet, whenever you have any issues or questions, you can do a quick search and have the answers you are looking for within seconds.

There are lots of good medical websites on the internet right now with comprehensive information on symptoms, treatment, and more. There are also lots of other people who may have the same issues and are sharing their experience or what treatment has worked for them. So with all this information out there, is there a need to go to the doctor anymore?

The answer is yes, for things like prescription medicine, lab tests, and surgeries, but for diagnosing minor issues, it is pretty easy to do this now with the internet without having to make a doctors appointment.

Recently I had noticed some red marks on my skin so I went to the internet to do some research on skin conditions. I was able to go over all the options and narrow it down to what seemed to be the best match based on the symptoms and testimonials. Just to be sure, I decided to make an appointment with the doctor just to get a 2nd opinion.

So I talked to the doctor and explained the condition and had him examine the marks. He did not really know for sure what it was, but generalized it and quickly prescribed some generic cream to treat it. I could tell his diagnosis was not as accurate as my own and he did not really seem to have much interest or care about the issue. He said if it does not get better on its own, to see a dermatologist.

Which brings me to another issue. Health insurance often requires you to see a general doctor first before making an appointment with a specialist. In a case like this, it would have been better and more efficient to just go right to a dermatologist who would be more experienced and qualified. Not sure why they require the general appointment first, but it seems like a waste of time and money.

I also noticed doctors offices tend to perform a lot of unnecessary procedures. For example, when you first go in, no matter what it is for, there will be a nurse who takes your temperature, blood pressure, weight, pulse etc. I can understand if it is a general check up that these vital signs should be measured, but for a specific issue, I think they are unnecessary. It seems like just another way they are trying to show they have a purpose, but in fact it seems to be having the opposite effect.

Back to the original point, there is still a need for doctors and nurses, but the internet is definitely cutting down on the need to make appointments for diagnosis. The internet has more information than doctors can know and an individual has more time to search and study the information out there compared to a doctor who is presented with the information and has only a few minutes to make a diagnosis. It will be interesting to see how this effects the health care system in the future if not already.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Best TV Shows of 2015

It's time once again to wrap up this year's best tv shows of year. This year we are focusing on prime time tv shows, most of which are available on the major network channels. It also focuses on reality/documentary style vs written or drama based programming. 2015 had many great new shows as well as returning favorites. Here is a recap of the best shows of 2015:

1. Nathan For You
The best show of the year is one that is in its 3rd season now on Comedy Central. Each week Nathan Fielder goes around to struggling businesses and presents them with creative ways to improve their business. His ideas are usually out of the box and very outlandish but usually prove to be somewhat effective despite how impractical they may seem. In this clip, he helps a local tv store compete with the big box retailers.

2. Home Free
Home Free is a new competition show that debuted this year where each week, couples work together to restore homes for deserving families. At the end of each show, one is eliminated and the winning couple gets to win their dream house. The one big supersize they don't realize is that each week, the eliminated couple actually gets to win the house they have been working on. It makes for a very happy and emotional ending for every episode.

3. I'll Have What Phil's Having
In this new food/travel/documentary style show on PBS, Phil Rosenthal, best known for being the creator of the show Everybody Loves Raymond, goes around to different countries and tries out the best foods they have to offer. It is a fun way to get to see the different countries and learn about the most delicious foods out there.

4. The Island
Another great new show this year was the survivalist style show The Island on NBC. It takes a group of strangers and puts them on an island with minimal supplies. They must then work together to try to find food and water, make a shelter, and survive against the elements or any other obstacles they may encounter in their time on the Island. 

5. American Ninja Warrior
A returning best show this year is American Ninja Warrior, the skills competition show which competitors compete against each other with the goal of conquering several challenging courses. They come from all walks of life with the goal of making it to the end the fastest. This year was the best so far and had competitors going further than any season before!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Best Youtube Channels Under 1 Million Subscribers 2015

This year for the best Youtube channels of the year, we are featuring channels which have under 1 million subscribers. There are a few reasons for this. One, it can be repetitive to have the same popular channels featured each year. Two, if a channel has more than 1 million subscribers already, chances are you have already heard about it, and three, this gives a chance for some of the best lesser known channels to get a little exposure so people can find out about them. Here are our top picks for the best Youtube channels under 1,000,000 subscribers for 2015:

1. Kyde and Eric (Travel / Vlog)
Kyde and Eric are an American couple living in Japan and this is their channel where they vlog about all the interesting things they find living in a new place. They travel to different locations and try new foods and attend fun events. They both have great personalities which make the videos very enjoyable and puts them at the number 1 recommended Youtube channel this year! In this video, they attend a baseball game in Tokyo.

2. Melissa Villasenor (Funny / Sketches)
Melissa Villasenor is a comedian and impressionist who makes a variety of videos from characters, to original sketches, to stand up comedy. Here is one in collaboration with the Mas Mejor channel where she does her J Lo impression.

3. Blake Grigsby - (Funny / Hidden Camera)
Blake Grigsby makes good spirited hidden camera style videos that make people smile. In this video, he sets up a mysterious door with a surprise behind it in a public venue to see what would happen.

4. Joe Goes (Interviews / Travel / Funny)
Joe from the Joe Goes channel is a funny guy who goes around to different conventions, events, and countries to interview people. His interviews always have humorous or awkward questions which make for great videos. In this one he goes to Blizzcon video game convention to interview the guests and fans.

5. Robbie Sherrard (Off Beat / Comedy)
Robbie Sherrard makes comedic style videos where he talks about his life and things that happen to him or whatever is on his mind that he wants to share with the viewers. In this video he discusses the difference between the words men and women use.

6. Brad Hall ( Parody / Shoe Reviews)
Brad Hall has taken is love for shoes and made a channel where he reviews new sneakers in a parody style. In this video he reviews a new pair of shoes while wearing a "cool pair of shades and a sweet leather jacket" and of course his signature khakis.

7. Jono and Ben (Funny / Variety) 
Jono and Ben have a comedy show from New Zealand where they perform pranks, sketches, interviews and more. This channel features videos from their show. In this clip, they play a joke on their boss making him think his office has to be fumigated for pests.

8. Flula (Funny / Variety / Music)
Flula is a creative and funny guy from Germany who makes all kinds of funny videos from commentary on language, to popular song covers, and even an original talk show like this clip here. 

If you liked these videos, be sure to check out the Best Youtube Channels of 2014.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sweet Earth Foods Review

I recently tried out a new brand of frozen food items from the company Sweet Earth Natural Foods. They are available at Target as well as many other national supermarkets. Sweet Earth is a healthy brand that uses natural plant based ingredients. So far I have tried 3 different items: the Peruvian Burrito as well as the Protein Lovers and Get Focused Breakfast Burritos.

The Peruvian Burrito features black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn, and seitan. Preparation was very easy, just a couple minutes in the microwave an it is good to go. Overall it was very good tasting and I would buy it again! I also plan on trying some of the other burritos from this line. I was able to get it on sale for $2.50, but regular price is a bit higher.

Next I got the multi packs of the Protein Lovers and Get Focused breakfast burritos. These were also good tasting and just as easy to heat up. I did like the Protein one better so I would probably buy that one again. I was able to get 2 of the multi packs together on sale for $10.

Sweet Earth has many other different products such as seitan, veggie burgers, and sesame squares which I have not seen yet, but I will keep an eye out for them as I would be interested in trying these as well. If you like healthy foods that taste good and can be made quickly by microwave, I highly recommend checking out the Sweet Earth collection at your local store.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gigwalk vs Field Agent vs EasyShift - First Impressions

Since upgrading to the iPhone recently, I decided to try out a few different money earning apps. After doing some research, I narrowed it down to 3 apps (Gigwalk, Field Agent, and EasyShift) which pay you to go to stores and take pictures of products. Each app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

I was hoping these apps would have some opportunities at some of the local stores I visit frequently which would be a nice way to earn a few extra bucks each week. Here is an overview of my first impressions of these 3 apps:

Gigwalk - The first one I downloaded was Gigwalk. I had heard of this one long ago but this was the first opportunity I had to try it out. The registration was pretty easy and I was able to view gigs right away on the map and in list form. The layout is pretty easy to use, but the downside so far has been that there are not too many gigs close by. Most have been at least 10 miles away which is too far to go for gigs listed at $6-7. So far I have not found any close enough to try yet.

Field Agent - Next I tried Field Agent. They seemed to ask more questions during the set up. They also have ongoing qualifying surveys to become eligible for additional jobs. Like Gigwalk you can view the available jobs on a map and in list form. I found there to be many more opportunities available on Field Agent compared to Gigwalk, many as close as a few miles. They have product auditing jobs, surveys, and scavenger hunts which entail finding certain items in a store and getting pictures of them. Most jobs pay about $3-7. I have not completed any of the jobs yet, but so far this one looks promising.

EasyShift - Lastly, I downloaded EasyShift. This one seems to be the most simplified of the 3. One feature I liked is for the terms of service, they have each part explained in plain English. They had a fair amount of shifts available within a reasonable distance, but for some reason, most of them are for liquor stores. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is something to keep in mind. Average shifts pay about $5-7.

Of the 3, so far it looks like Field Agent may be my favorite because it has the most opportunities and a variety of different tasks. The interface also seems to be the most engaging. I will update here if I have a follow up on these money making apps.

Have you tried any of these 3 apps before? Do you recommend any similar apps for earning money? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Show Review and Rachel Bloom

It's been a long time since I have watched any shows on the CW. It seems these days the channel is heavily geared towards teens. There is nothing wrong with that, but as someone who is older, I find most of these new shows unappealing. However I happened to catch a new show on the CW that just started called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and surprisingly it is pretty good!

The show is a comedy/musical that was originally marketed to one of the premium cable channels which may be why it stands out from most of the other CW shows. It stars Rachel Bloom as a young woman who moves across the country in hopes if rekindling a relationship she had years ago.

I know, it may sound like just another teen relationship show, but so far this one has been very entertaining! It is very fast paced yet not obnoxious or annoying. I'm not really into musicals either, but this show works in a song or 2 for each episode and they are actually pretty catchy!

I had never heard of Rachel Bloom before this show, but it turns out she has a Youtube channel where she makes funny music videos. She is very funny and talented when it comes to singing and making parody style videos. I'm a big fan of funny Youtube videos and music in general so I was very pleased to find her channel!

If you are looking for a new show to watch this season I recommend checking out Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It airs Monday's at 8/7c on the CW.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Nathan For You - Show Review and Recommendation

I recently found a new show to watch called Nathan For You. It is a reality style show on Comedy Central which features writer/comedian Nathan Fielder. In the show, he goes around to struggling businesses and offers to help them improve their business using creative and interesting ideas. Usually they are funny or way outside the box. His ideas may not be the most practical, but in most cases, they turn out to be effective!

Some examples are: Setting up a system where maids can clean an entire house in 6 minutes, connecting mechanics to a lie detector to prove they are trustworthy, and driving sales for a car wash by creating a situation where there is more bird poop in the area.

The show reminds me a little of one of my other favorite shows, the Ali G show. It is similar in it has real people who are put into a silly situation to see what happens. It can also be compared to improvement shows like Kitchen Nightmares, but with a more comedic twist. The show is fast paced and very fun to watch. Most episodes feature 1-3 separate projects.

I find the best episodes are usually those which focus on 1 project rather than splitting up the time for different projects. If there is one thing that could be improved it would be that the ideas are developed more on each episode. Often there is a great idea that is just getting started, and then they end it and move on to another topic when it seems there is so much more potential.

Overall I highly recommend the show if you like funny reality style shows. You can currently watch full episodes for free now on the Comedy Central website and catch new episodes Thursdays at 10/9c on Comedy Central.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Record Label Experience

In the early 2000's I began to get involved with music production and recording. I started making my own music from home and began to get involved with online music communities where people could share their music and learn tips and tricks for how to get better. After a few years, we started throwing the idea around about starting our own record label to sell the music. With a little planning and organization we decided to give it a try!

So around 2005 we started our own label. I was the main person in charge but we had a group of about 10 artists who all helped out with ideas. We really started from scratch without knowing anything about the business. We picked out a name, got a website, wrote up a contract, and began building it from the ground up.

After a few months we released our first album. Sales were not that great but we did not expect much considering it was a brand new label and no one really knew who we were. We continued to develop the label and released new music over the years.

Overall our artists were pretty talented. Some of them had more success than others. Then a few years in, we decided to try to improve the label more by narrowing down the artist roster. We let go some of the artists who were not quite up to the standard we were aiming for. I was one of the artists at the time and I took myself off the roster and began to put all efforts into managing the label.

Over the years, the label never really earned enough the become a serious business. It was profitable every year taking into account all expenses and earnings, but really it was becoming clear, it was not going to be making a lot of money. After about 5 years, we decided to retire the label.

Around this time, it was becoming easier for artists to release their music on their own by ways such as iTunes so there was not as much need for a record label anymore. The label was good for promotions and helping artists get started by giving advice for how to sell music, but overall after 5 years, it was time to wrap it up.

I learned a lot of skills from the experience including managing people from all over the world, building a website, promotions, graphic design, and finance management. Not to mention it was a fun project to be involved in and I got to hear a lot of great music and help other artists succeed by getting their music out there!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Modern Marvel of Technology - The Apple iPhone

I'll start off by saying I am not really into phones or gadgets nor am I obsessed with apple products, but recently I had the opportunity to upgrade from an older phone to the iPhone 6 and I must say, I am very impressed. It is amazing how much can be done with such a small device these days.

If you would have told someone just 20 years ago, that in 2015, we would have these thin rectangular devices that can make calls, take pictures, stream video, have a touch sensitive screen, and can access a world of information instantly, they would have probably thought you were crazy. But it turns out the new phones theses days can do all of this and so much more.

I have only been using it for a few days and I'm still studying it to learn all the features, but already it is incredible how much technology they have packed into such a thin device. At this point it is not about what it can do, but trying to find something it can't do!

Now as wonderful as it is, it is not perfect. I have already found a few settings and features that I would like to be different. Also from someone who values privacy, it does seem like you are really putting your information out there just by having the phone. Many of the features want to know all your information and have access to things like your location and phone usage habits. This is ok, but you really have to make sure you read the fine print as they say so you know what you are getting into.

One thing that surprises me is how many people, especially kids, have these phones. It seems like every teen out there has a phone like this and they are by no means not cheap. The iPhones retail for hundreds of dollars yet they are something that can be easily lost, stolen, or damaged. I think many of the kid's these days take these phones for granted and don't really understand how amazing it is that we have these devices that can do so much.

I still have a lot to learn about the phone in order to take advantage of its full potential, but overall I am very pleased with it so far and would recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade from an older phone.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Funny Come Back Story

I must have been about 12 at the time and my friends and I were playing basketball as we did every day. This day however would turn out a little different as it provided one of the funniest moments I can remember. We were in the middle of a game when one of the older kids who did not usually hang out with us had a friend over. This friend saw we were playing basketball so they came over to join our game.

Now we were very competitive and followed the rules of the game very closely. This kid who we did not know did not really play as much so his skills were not quite up to par. He would dribble, pick up the ball, and then start dribbling again, which would be traveling, but since it was obvious he did not play much, we let it slide. This kid had a quick wit about him and was continuously saying funny things, mostly commentary type riffs and trash talk style jabs.

Now we had one kid in our group who was a little bit of a jerk at times. We hung out with him, but let's just say he was not the most well liked kid. After about 10 minutes of playing and seeing the new kid repeatedly commit traveling violations, this friend of ours finally calls him out on it by saying, "You travel a lot!"

Then without missing a beat, this kid comes back with, "So did your mom when she had you!" We busted out laughing! It wasn't quite clear why it was so funny, but it just worked, and the more you thought about it, the funnier it became. It was a perfect come back and there was no one who deserved it more than this kid so it made it that much better. We laughed for about 5 minutes straight all while trying to continue playing the game. The kid had some more good lines that day, but this is the one that really stuck.

To this day, I consider it to be one of the best come back lines that can be applied to almost any situation. Even if it seems like it would not make sense, the line is always funny and pretty much always works if you think about it enough. We never saw that kid again, but he certainly made a lasting impression with his jokes and come backs that day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Favorite Youtube Channel - Kyde and Eric

One of my favorite activities each day is watching new Youtube videos from my subscribed channels. I follow a lot of channels, but recently I have found a new channel that has quickly become one of my favorites! It is called Kyde and Eric (pronounced Katie and Eric). They are an American couple who now live in Japan and their channel is a vlog style format following their adventures in Japan as well as different countries they visit from time to time.

Kyde and Eric have very likable personalities and it is very interesting to see the culture and environment in Japan. They have been making videos for years so the quality is very good and they have developed a nice following without getting too popular yet. If you like vlog style channels or travel style videos, I highly recommend checking it out! Here are a few videos to get started. Enjoy!

Living in Japan (Part 1 of 4)

Hiking in Tokyo

Fukuoka, Japan

Monday, September 21, 2015

Shoe Collection - adidas Mirra II and III, Puma Cellerator Inhale, DC Centre

Over the years I have collected a fair amount of shoes and while I am not a huge sneaker fanatic, I still have some rare collectible shoes from the late 90's early 2000's. Since they are hard to find these days, I figured I would snap a few pics and upload them here to share. Here are some of my favorites:

adidas Mirra II - This is a signature shoe from BMX freestyle rider Dave Mirra. It is his 2nd signature shoe and features a black and white color with silver stripes. These were from 1998 and have a unique style with the forward slanted stripes and wavy outsole design. They also feature adiprene cushioning and Dave Mirra details on the heel tabs.

adidas Mirra III - I was a BMX rider back in the day and since I liked the Mirra II's, of course I had to get the Mirra III's.  They have a more traditional black color with silver/white stripes. They also feature a similar outsole design but have a Kevlar toe for extra durability. These came out after the Mirra II which would have been around 99-2000. 

Puma Cellerator Inhale - I was also into running around this time and one of the shoes that caught my eye was the Puma Cellerator Inhale. It has a unique jute colored upper material, faded red logo on the sides, and claw like pattern on the sole. They also feature the Cell cushioning technology. Unlike the other shoes, I didn't wear these ones as much so they are actually still in very good condition!

DC Centre - Rounding out the collection is a skate shoe, the DC Centre. It is from around 2002 and has a very futuristic look with a smooth black material with grey accents and patent details. Also different about this shoe is the construction is very wide and the tongue is extremely padded. It feels like you are wearing pillows on your feet! These are definitely one of my favorites and I have never seen another one quite like it even from the same company.

All of these were worn so they don't have too much resale value, but they do have a lot of sentimental value. Did you own one of these shoes back in the day or have another shoe that is one of your all time favorites? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jelly Belly Ice Pop Mold Review

Recently, I got the idea to make my own ice pops using juice and frozen fruit after having success with the frozen fruit beverage idea.  I had looked online for ice pop molds at online stores like Amazon, but put off getting them until I just happened to see one of them on clearance at Target. They had one by Jelly Belly called "Lickety Sip Ice Pops". I'm not sure how Jelly Belly is involved with ice pops but it was only $2 so I decided to get it.

I got it home and started making the first batch. I decided to try a few different combinations with different juices and different frozen fruits in each one just to make them a little more fancy. I was surprised at how much fun it was to actually make them. It felt like a science project or something. Once they were made, I put them in the freezer to freeze.

The next day I tried them out. It was a little hard to get the ice pops out of the mold. They recommend putting it in warm water, but I just tried to wiggle it out by hand. It took about a minute to get it out of the mold. Overall the pop turned out well. It had a good shape and texture with the juice and frozen fruit. The only down side I would say is you have to be careful not to spill while eating them because juice can drip into the bottom and can spill out of you tip it sideways.

Overall I would probably make them again, but I find just having the juice with frozen fruit mixed in is easier and tastes just as good if not better. It is more fun to make the pops but for convenience and neatness, I would probably stick with the juice vs the ice pops. If you are looking to make your own ice pops, I would recommend the Jelly Belly ice pop mold.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Problem with Weekends and Holiday Breaks

Many people who work full time jobs have time off for the weekends and holidays such as Labor Day. It is good to have breaks from work like this but the problem is that so many people are on the same schedule taking these breaks at the same time.

When many workers take the same days off, it makes it so regular everyday things cannot get done and must be delayed until the weekend or holiday break is over. The thing is, the world does not stop for these days, so by having so many people off of work, it causes an inconvenience for things that need to get done.

I have already had 3 examples of this situation in this weekend alone. The first is when I was making some changes on my car insurance. I had a question on something so I went to contact the company for assistance, but of course no one was available because it was a weekend.

Next, I noticed there was in issue effecting one of my websites. It was on the hosting end so there was nothing I could do to fix it. I tried contacting them because it was a pretty significant issue making my website not work. Again, since it was a weekend followed by a holiday, I still have not even heard back or gotten any help on this issue.

The 3rd example took place in my building where there was some repair work that needed to be addressed with the plumbing. Usually there is on site staff to address issues like this, but because of the weekend and holiday, it will not be fixed for several days.

I have no problem with people taking time off but the fact that we are in the habit of so many people taking the same days off is causing a problem. It would be better if everyone took the same amount of days off but spaced them out on different days throughout the year. For example instead of taking Saturday and Sunday off, you could take Monday and Tuesday off. It might make it a little more difficult to arrange events with other people but at least this way there would always be coverage for any issues that arise each day.

I personally work most days, weekends and holidays included if possible. This may be why I find it annoying when there are days when it seems like everything is closed or people are away when there are still important things that need to be done every day. I doubt something like this will change any time soon, but it could be a big improvement over the current system where we are taking days off in a world that does not stop.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Forearm Muscle Twitch

Recently I began to get a twitch in my left forearm just below the elbow. I'm not sure what caused it but it lasted for a couple days before finally going away. I tried stretching it and maneuvering it in different positions as well as massaging it but nothing seemed to have any effect. It seemed to be most noticeable with the elbow bent at 90 degrees.

After it went away on its own, I figured it was gone for good, but a couple days later I was lifting weights and it started twitching again. It lasted for a few hours and then went away. A couple days later, I noticed it started twitching again, this time after I was carrying some heavy groceries. So it seems to be connected to muscle use or overuse.

An internet search shows there are many others who have muscle twitches and have trouble getting rid of them. Some of the suggestions to limit muscle twitches including eating a balanced diet, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

Overall the muscle twitches are not painful, but can be pretty annoying especially if you are not doing anything which makes it more noticeable. Anyone else getting muscle twitches or have any tips for how to treat this condition? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Update 11-17-15: The twitching was on and off for a while but now it has gone away thankfully. I guess it was just a temporary issue with the muscle. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Legal Story - Getting in Trouble Without Even Leaving Home

I tend to live a very safe and low risk lifestyle, always following the rules and avoiding dangerous or risky situations. I work from home and rarely go out which also minimizes the chances of ever running into a bad situation. Because of these reasons, I would never expect to find myself in any sort of trouble. However one time recently I did manage to get into some trouble as you will see.

So my main job involves working in sales and customer service for a large company that sells products online. A little while after working there I got the idea to start my own website related to the company to help promote the products and bring attention to the new items released each day. I figured there were not really any websites or blogs doing this for this company so it might be a niche market to explore.

I started my website and slowly built it up trying to write a new article each day. I figured after a while I might be able to join an affiliate program and generate a little income by promoting the products. I also figured if I got enough traffic, I might be able to make some money with ads on the website.

Over the months the website started to gain traction and get a decent amount of traffic. Then one day I was contacted by the legal team at the company. I had been using images from the company website to help promote the products on my blog. I don't think they had a problem with most of the images but at the time I had used some images that apparently they did not want published yet. They had accidentally published them already which is where I got them in the first place, but then they unpublished them and wanted me to do the same.

Of course I complied and took the images down immediately and actually unpublished my website until I got confirmation from the company on what was ok and not ok to use. Still before I even had a chance to reply to them, they contacted my website host and then the host contacted me telling me I had to send them all my information.

Overall I was pretty worried. I didn't know what kind of trouble I had gotten myself into. I was just trying to make a website to help promote the products for the company and now it looked like they were trying to sue me for using images from their website.

So I replied to them and explained the whole situation letting them know I had removed the images and was willing to take down my site or modify it as needed in order to comply with whatever was required.

Luckily they were understanding and seemed to be ok with it since I was cooperative and took down the images as requested. I was able to keep writing articles on the website but I no longer use any images for the articles just to be on the safe side.  Thankfully the issue was resolved without any serious trouble.

My site however did take a hit from the whole situation. I lost a lot of traffic by having to unpublish it for a while and take down all the images. I did continue to keep working on it and with time the traffic came back. This situation turned out ok, but it shows you can get into trouble pretty much anywhere even without even leaving the comfort of your own home!

Monday, August 24, 2015

TV Severe Weather Warnings Rant

Have you ever been in the middle of watching one of your favorite shows on tv when suddenly it cuts away to the news to report about severe weather in your area? This happens from time to time especially if you are watching a show on one of the major networks that has the news such as CBS, NBC or ABC.

They cut to the meteorologist of the station and they talk about the severe weather that is happening in the area. I understand they want to warn everyone in the area to take cover so everyone can be safe, but the issue is when they interrupt the show you wanted to watch and then talk about the weather for a half an hour. This is unnecessary especially when they have the option to run a ticker warning at the bottom of the screen with the same information. The ticker scroll warning is ok because at least you still get to watch your show.

If there is something very important happening like a national crisis, then it would be ok to cut away from the normal programming, but if it is a weather warning, there really is no need to cut away from the normal programming to talk about it for an extended period of time. People are tuned in to watch their show at that time, not to watch a weather report.

These cutaways often happen in prime time during popular shows and then it is very difficult to watch the part you missed. If you are lucky, you might be able to find the show the next day on the internet, but often this is difficult as well and often requires a subscription or a fee depending on the network.

Overall, they need to do away with the weather report interruptions and stick to the ticker warnings at the bottom of the screen. The same information will get across and the viewers will get to watch the show they tuned in to see in the first place.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Home Free on Fox TV Show Review

There is a new show this season called Home Free which has different couples working together to win a dream home. Each week they work with the host Mike Holmes to completely restore and remodel a run down home. They are under the impression that each home will be given to a deserving family and that at the end, the remaining couple who does the best will win a house of their own.

What they don't know is that each one of them is already the deserving family so each week when a couple is eliminated and thinks they are about to go home, they are presented with the new house they have just worked on!

I have been watching the show from the beginning and so far after a few episodes, it is pretty good! If you like reality competition shows and shows with an emotional happy ending, I highly recommend checking it out. There is a lot of drama as the couples try to work together as teams to do the best job each week. They are challenged with new products and tasks that make them push their limits and learn new skills each week.

The end of each show is always great as the couple is exhausted and thinks they just lost out on the biggest opportunity to win a new home, only to find out they have in fact just won a new home! Home Free airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on Fox.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

First Job Memoir - Pizza Delivery

When I was 18, I wanted to get a summer job. I applied to several places but none of them were eager to hire me. Turns out it is not that easy for an 18 year old with no experience to get a job. After many applications and a few interviews, the summer was almost over. Then with 2 weeks before I would leave for college, I get a call from a pizza place I had applied to. I was surprised when they asked if I could work for them. I let them know that I was leaving in 2 weeks but they must have really needed people because they still wanted me. So I thought, why not, and I accepted the job.

I would be a delivery driver for one of the popular chains in the area. I was nervous of course as this was my first job and I had never done anything like it before. I met the people in the store and they were very friendly to me. I got a uniform and quickly learned the basics of what I would be doing. Then it was time to go on a delivery with one of the drivers to see how it was done. I asked a lot of questions and tried to learn the exact process from start to finish.

Then it was time to take my first delivery. I was so nervous, but it was close by and it wasn't busy so I figured I could do it. I got my order and my address and I was off. Within minutes I found the house. I pulled up and rang the door bell. The customer opened the door. I greeted him and told him the total. He gave me enough to cover it, plus about $2 for a tip. I gave him the pizza, said thank you, and that was it! Pretty simple.

Over the next couple weeks I took more deliveries and started learning the area. I got to know my co-workers and all the procedures around the store. I liked the job and I was earning money each day. Then it was time to go to college.

Months later when winter break came around and I had a month off, I called back to the store and asked if they wanted me to work. They said yes. I ended up working there for the summers and breaks for the next 4 years and even full time for a year and a half after that. I even expanded my territory by working at another store which was managed by the same owner. I became one of the top drivers and learned every street in the town and surrounding area, and this was before navigation systems!

Overall it was a good job, but there were shortcomings. One, there was no health and dental insurance provided by the company. Two, earnings were heavily dependent on tips so if it was slow, or you didn't get good tips, you wouldn't make much money. Three, you often had to work late hours and sometimes go to neighborhoods that were not so good.

While I worked in an area that was generally pretty safe, there was always the possibility of danger. Even in good towns there are pockets that have higher crime rates. Delivery drivers are known to be targeted for robberies because they carry cash on them. During the time I worked there, our store was robbed one time at gun point and there was an attempted robbery of one of our drivers while he was on a delivery.

That last one was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to stop delivering pizzas and find a new job. Even though a robbery was rare, I didn't want to take the chance of something like that happening to me.

A short while later, I got the opportunity to apply for a teaching assistant job at a school. I got an interview and a couple days later I was offered the job! A few months later I resigned from my delivery job. I was sad to be leaving, but it was time to move on. I met a lot of nice people while I worked there and they are the ones I miss the most. If you are looking for a job food delivery is not bad and I would recommend it, but you just have to make sure you are safe out there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Thoughts on Lifespan and Way of Living

When thinking about life, I had always thought that things should be good towards the end or at least not bad. Life is hard as it is so it seems like when you have made it to the end of a long life, you should be able to take it easy and enjoy it. Unfortunately it seems this is often not the case.

Recently I have had 2 grandparents pass away. One became ill and struggled for about a year and half before shoe passed away. The other was very depressed at the end of his life. It got me thinking about lifespan and how things can tend to go down hill towards the end of life.

I may have written about this concept before, about how there are 2 ways to live. One is to live a risky lifestyle that may be more fun, but may be dangerous or harmful to you in the long run resulting in a short life. The other is to live a safe and conservative lifestyle which may not be as fun but will most likely result in a longer life.

I have always believed that the 2nd choice was the way to go, to have the longer life, but after seeing examples first hand of how the end of life is not that great for those who have lived a long time, it makes you question if that style of living is actually better, or if it is better to live a more fun but shorter life.

One thing is for sure, it is important to have something to look forward to. As people get older, they may not be able to do all the things they would like to do because of physical limitation and old age. Also the people they know will begin to pass away as they get older. You can see how it would be easy to get depressed in this situation when you feel like you have nothing to do or no reason to go about each day. This is why it is important to stay motivated and have things to do and look forward to each day.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to life especially such as what happens after one dies. No one really knows for sure if it is the end or if there is some kind of afterlife. Of course there are many different beliefs. I would like to think there is some kind of afterlife that your spirit goes on to after you die but for the time being, we must make the most of our time here and try to enjoy and appreciate each day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

AT&T Billing Issues with U-Verse Internet

I have been using AT&T U-verse internet for several years now, and overall the service has been pretty reliable in terms of the connection, but billing on the other hand has been a different story. I have already written about my previous issues I have had with the billing on past blogs but of course, this year brings new billing problems.

So my yearly promotional rate was coming to and end so I figured I would call up AT&T to see if I could get a new promotional rate or if they have an new deals going on. After talking with the first person and discussing the different plans, I was able to get the bill down to about the same rate as the previous year by going with a slower plan and getting a new yearly promotion. I agreed to have the plan switched and they explained how it would go into effect and the next bill would show the lowered amount.

A month goes by and I receive the new bill. Guess what? It did not show the change in plan and it did not have the promotion applied.  So I called them up again to figure out what was going on. They said that for some reason it was not applied. I had to talk with more reps at AT&T and eventually they were able to apply the change for the plan that was supposed to happen a month ago.

Meanwhile because the plan did not change when I called a month before, I ended up getting charged a much higher amount that I should have. I called a 3rd time to see if I could get a credit for this additional charge because the plan had not been changed before when I had asked. They said that because I had the higher plan that month that I was not eligible for the lower rate.

I understand they want to charge that amount because it is the rate I had, but the problem is, it was their responsibility to change the plan when I had called the first time. So I had to pay about twice as much as I should have had to pay for the last month.  Now the plan is supposedly switched to the new lower rate with a new promotion so hopefully it will be reflected in the next bill.

I would like to stay with AT&T internet but with the ongoing problems with the billing, the new Xfinity promotions are looking more and more appealing. 

Update 7-30-15: The new bill came in and there was a $25 credit applied. It was not clear exactly what the credit was for, but it looks like it is some kind of prorated amount from overpaying on the previous bill. It is nice to get this credit considering the overcharges from the previous bills. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Fort Story - Building a fort with the neightborhood

We as kids had a lot of fun on our block, whether we were playing sports, video games, or trading cards, we always had a good time. One summer, some new townhouses were being built on the lot next to our block. Since we were curious, we would jump the fence and play on the dirt hills and partially built houses when the builders were not there.

They happened to have a lot of spare wood and nails lying around and this got us thinking. Maybe we could use this extra wood and nails to build something of our own. We had tools so we decided to build a fort. Surprisingly, one of the kid's parents allowed us to build it in their back yard. We had the green light!

So like ants, we methodically began bringing planks of wood and 2x4's from the build site, over to our friend's back yard. All the kids on the block were involved. We were out there with our hammers, nailing wood together as we constructed our fort. It was a serious project that took several weeks of daily work to complete.

By the time we were done we had a nice sturdy structure with 3 small rooms, and a 2nd level. We even got carpet in there and a small couch! We were so proud of our accomplishment. We would hang out there and play in the fort every day.

It lasted a long time. I remember when winter came along it was still there. One day I came home from school and forgot my key, so I couldn't get in for about a hour until my mom came home. I was able to use the fort as shelter that day.

Over the months, the fort started to deteriorate. Nails were starting to stick out and it became dangerous. Also, someone must have complained about it to the police so we were instructed to take it down because we didn't have a building permit.

We took it apart and disposed of the wood. All that was left was an area of dead grass and mud in the middle of our neighbor's back yard. Eventually it grew in and all traces of the fort were gone but the memories of the fort will not be forgotten!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Womens World Cup Review and US Womens Team

Soccer has never been as popular in the US as it is around the world, but it seems to be gaining popularity as of late. I recently began to appreciate the sport with the men's World Cup last year.  It was a lot of fun to see all the different countries competing against each other in the same game. The fact that it is teams from all over the world competing together makes it more interesting than just watching a competition between teams of the same country. Even though the US did not get too far in the tournament, it was still fun to watch.

Which brings us to the 2015 Women's World Cup. Historically the women's US team has done well in this tournament and this year is no different as they have been doing great!  I have been watching the games this year, not only the US games but other teams as well. I find the women's World Cup to be just as much fun to watch as the men's World Cup. The US team has a lot of great players and personalities which makes them easy to cheer for.

Yesterday they played the number 1 ranked German team.  It was a great game with a lot of dramatic moments. It was a close match but the US team managed to pull off a 2-0 win to move on to the final game! They play the winner of Japan / England who are playing today in the semi finals.  Here are some highlights from the match:

The final game will take place this Sunday at 7pm eastern on Fox. I will be watching and I highly recommend everyone check it out as it should be a good game and the US team has the opportunity to win the World Cup!

Update 7-5-15: Congratulations US Women's Team World Cup Champions! 

Update 3-16-16: The US Women's National team is now my favorite sports team and I continue to support them as they make their way to the 2016 Olympics in Rio!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sleep On It - Tip For Making Wise Decisions

Any time you are thinking about making a decision that may have any significant impact on yourself or others, it is always a good idea to "sleep on it" or wait on your decision until the next day. This is a good idea in most cases because it gives you a little time to process it and makes sure you do not make an impulsive decision.

Often when you are in the moment, you may feel very strongly about something and you feel very passionate about it and want to go through with it right away. While this is ok and you may be able to get some good ideas together, you may end up making a rash decision that you will regret later.

A good example is if you are going to send an important email to someone. It might be for work or personal and you might have a strong opinion on something that you want to express to another person. Often a message like this can cause issues between people especially if they have a different opinion.

If you hold off on sending it and wait until the next day, often you will find the next day you feel differently and might not even want to send the message anymore. The next day, you will be in a fresh state of mind and will not be caught up in the heat of things so you are able to take more of an outsiders perspective and make a better decision.

Of course there are times when even after you sleep on something, you still feel the same way the next day. In this case, it reinforces your decision or thoughts so you know you are on the right track and not just making an impulsive decision.

Next time you are thinking about doing something spur of the moment that may have a big effect on yourself or someone else, be sure to give it a little time to make sure it is the right decision.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Estimated Taxes and Penalty Fees - Quarterly Payments on Income Taxes

I am very good about income taxes and each year I file my taxes well before the deadline. Usually it is a long process but you just have to take it step by step and make sure everything is correct and complete. Over the years I have never had any issues, except for recently when I received a notice for a Late Estimated Payment Penalty.

When I saw this, I was confused and figured it must be an error because I know I filled the taxes well before the deadline. So I called them up and talked with one of the reps who checked on it. She explained that since I had owed over $500 on the previous years taxes, that I was expected to pay the income tax in quarterly payments throughout the year.

This was the first I had heard about this. Up until this point, I had never been in the situation that required taxes to be paid ahead of time throughout the year. I learned that if you are self employed and do not have taxes withheld during the year by an employer, you are required to pay the estimated amount 4 times throughout the year.

The rep recommended that I write to the Department of Revenue to ask for an elimination of the penalty due to the fact that I had no idea about this policy until I received the notice of late penalty. So I wrote to them and sent in the payment just in case they would not excuse it. I am currently waiting to see what happens and will update this entry with the results.

I don't mind paying the estimated income tax payments throughout the year, but I think they need to make it more clear or let you know ahead of time if you are required to do this rather than sending you a late fee 6 months later. I also wonder why they expect people to submit payment 4 times a year, but they only give refunds once a year. It does not seem fair in this case.

Anyway so I took the time to set up the online payments for state as well as federal income tax. It definitely took some research just to figure out how to set it up to make the payments. I got the state set up and enrolled for the federal which takes longer to verify.

It is more inconvenient now to have to keep track of 8 extra payments throughout the year but at least when the April tax date comes around things should be pretty even with the estimated payments already submitted.

Anyone else get this Late Estimated Payment Fee unexpectedly? Should people who are self employed have to pay income taxed throughout the year? Feel free to share any comments below.

Update 6-22-15: So they didn't waste any time cashing the check I sent them in case they would not excuse the late penalty.  I'm not too pleased about that. Hopefully they at least respond to the letter and give an explanation as why it was not excused. 

Update 8-30-15:  Unexpectedly today I checked the mail and there was a letter with a refund for the amount I paid for the late fee penalty. I thought I was out of luck because they had cashed the check already but I guess it was delayed and they reviewed the situation and agreed to refund the fee!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Be Careful With Internet Jobs and Start Up Companies

A few years back I found a website where you could earn money by answering questions. People would post questions and assign a dollar amount to them. Then others would submit answers and the person who gave the best answer would be awarded the money for that question. It was a fun way to earn a little money online.

Shortly after, the site began to develop another completely different idea which was basically a Wikipedia but with more images, videos, links etc. To develop this site, they asked the community to write articles and put together content for it. They picked out the popular subjects and paid people to write up articles for these topics. Users would be paid a fixed amount to write the page and then they would earn a percentage of the ad income generated from that page as long as they were the manager of that page and kept it in good shape.

Quickly everyone figured out which kind of pages made the most money and everyone scrambled to pick them up and claim them as their own. I was in on this whole project early on so I was able to get many good pages and continue to accumulate high earning pages.

Within about a year I was making some good money and it was pretty much passive income because once you had the pages, there was not much you had to do to keep them updated. The community was thriving and everyone was seeing a lot of earnings.

Then after about a year, we got some bad news. The company decided they were going to stop paying the percentage of the earnings to the people who wrote and managed the pages. This was very controversial because in the contract it was explained that once you wrote a page and managed it, you would be given a percentage of the earnings throughout the lifetime of that page.

So all of us who had written these pages expecting continued income were completely thrown for a loop. We went from making a lot of passive income each month to making nothing. The company said they were going to discontinue the profit sharing model and instead pay an up front flat fee for articles written. That would have been ok if they honored the previous agreement up to that point but they did not.

This caused an uproar and most people who were loyal to the website picked up and left. There was even a pending lawsuit in the works for how the site did not honor the agreement it said it would for the writers but ultimately nothing materialized out of it.

Shortly after that, Google made some big changes to their search engine to try to weed out sites which were kind of spammy which the site had kind of become with articles that were just written in order to make money from ads. The site took a big hit from this and their page rankings dropped as a result.

I moved onto another writing website which was ok for a while but nowhere near as good. It is a shame things did not work out, but this is a common occurrence with internet companies when money is involved. Circumstances can change overnight so you have to be careful not to get too invested in just one project or company.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Briefcase on CBS Review

A new show called The Briefcase aired Wednesday this week. It is a reality show where 2 struggling families are each presented with a briefcase containing $100,000. They have 72 hours to decided if they will keep all the money for themselves, give it all to the other family or split it up some way between them. What is interesting is neither family knows the other was also presented a briefcase with the money and is in the same situation deciding what they will do with the money.

Over the course of 3 days they learn more about the other families and what they are going though. They even visit the home of the other family to see how they live. It is a huge decision the families have to make and there are a lot of reasons pulling them back and forth on whether they should keep the money for themselves or give it to the other family in need.

After watching the first episode, I found it to be enjoyable and full of emotion as the families try to do the right thing. It makes you ponder what you would do if you were in the same situation as them. The first instinct might be to keep the money because you don't know the other family's situation but as you learn that they are also in need, you don't want to be greedy especially if they could use the money more.

I won't spoil the end result but is sure will be interesting to see how all the episodes pan out. For example what if one family decides to keep it all while the other family decides to give it all. Then one family would get $200,000 while the other would get $0. I can imagine that might cause a little drama at the end if something like that were to happen!

If I were in the situation, I might split the money and keep $50,000 and give the other $50,000 away. It seems like it would be the most fair thing to do in a situation like that. Of course you never know if there would be some kind of twist with a show like this. For example, what if at the end of the show, the producers said something like, because you choose to give it all to the other family, you are rewarded with twice as much? This show does not do this, but you could easily see them working in a twist like that.

What would you do if you were presented with $100,000 and given the choice of keeping it all for yourself or sharing it with another family in need?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Island on NBC Review

A new show The Island premiered last night on NBC.  It is a reality style show that takes 14 regular guys from all walks of life and puts them on a deserted island without very few resources to see if they can survive.  It can be described as a cross between Survivor, Utopia, and Lost, however there are some elements to this show that make it unique.

For one, unlike other reality style shows, it is not a competition so no one gets voted off.  If someone gets sick or gives up, they will be able to leave this way, but other than that, it is up to the guys to work together to make it on this island.  Another interesting thing about this show is that there is no camera crew with them.  They give the guys 4 main cameras to film with to capture everything that goes on.  From the first episode, it looks like it is edited with other clips like aerial shots, but most of it is filmed by the guys themselves. 

The show is hosted by Bear Grylls who is known for his survival skills. He does some narration but he does not join them on the island. After reading up on the show, it looks like it will be a 6 episode series.  Since there is no winner, it is not clear how the show will end or what will happen to the guys on the island.

I had not heard anything about this shown until seeing the previews for it right before it aired, but it looked good, so I decided to check it out.  After watching the first episode, I have to say it was pretty good!  There is already a lot of drama within the group as they try to agree on what to do, where to camp, where to go, and how to divide up resources.  As things get tough early on, tensions between the group increase making for great tv!

I won't spoil any of the details, but so far it looks to be a good show and I plan on tuning in next week. The Island airs Monday nights at 10pm Eastern time on NBC. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Concert Story

The following is a story from back when I was in college:

One Saturday night my college roommate and I decided to go to a concert with a group of friends. It was at another campus which we had to drive an hour to get to. There were about 6 or 7 of us total; some of which had tickets already, but others, including myself, had to buy tickets when we got there.

So we arrived at the venue about an hour early. We go to the ticket window to get our tickets, but when we ask them, they are all sold out! So now what? We drove to this place, half the group has tickets to get in, but the others do not. The options now were either wait outside for a few hours and do nothing or find a way to get in.

One of the girls in our group knew one of the bands and thought she might be able to get us in. Since she had a ticket, she was able to go in and talk to the band. She came back out and told us they could open up the back and let us sneak in.

Understand, we wanted to buy tickets, but at this point, we were willing to find another way to get in. So we go to the back door, knock, and sure enough someone opens it for us. We were all excited! We marched on in with smiles on our faces. The door was behind the stage and led out to the main floor. So we walk out onto the floor, only trouble is it was completely empty. We stood out like a sore thumb, as group of kids that just randomly emerging from behind the stage.

Needless to say we were confronted by security immediately. They asked to see our tickets and since we didn't have them, they promptly escorted us out the front door. Strike one. But we didn't give up. We put our thinking caps on and tried to come up with another solution.

Someone came up with a good idea. Since we had a few tickets, those with ticket stubs would all go in. Once inside, they would all give their ticket stubs to one person who would then walk them out and distribute them to those of us who needed them. Good idea, but their was one more barrier.

They stamped your hand when you went in the first time so if you left and came back, you had to show your stamp. We needed the stamp to get in. Luckily it was a simple design, just a block letter with black ink. With a quick trial, we figured out you could color over it with black ink, then press it against someone else's hand to make a light copy. Then you could darken the new copy in with the ink pen. We did this and it looked good!

So with our homemade stamps and recycled ticket stubs, we approached the doors. Feeling nervous, but trying to act as normal as possible, we walked up, showed the ticket stub and the stamp and before we knew it, we were in!

By this time the place was packed, so even though there was a slight chance of being noticed, we blended into the crowd. We got to enjoy the concert and we all had a great time!

What we did was not necessarily right and I certainly do not recommend it, but at the time, given the circumstances it seemed like it was ok. We gladly would have paid to get in, but because they were sold out, there was not much else we could do. Also, the place was standing room only so we weren't taking anyone's seat. Yes, it was a bit crowded, but that's how concerts are. All in all it was an adventure filled night that involved suspense, creativity, and live music from one of our favorite bands!