Monday, June 26, 2017

Lego Designers – Alan Yuppie, JK Brickworks, Keep On Bricking

Years ago as a kid, I had Lego sets and loved building with them, but then like many, I stopped playing with them when I got into my teen years. Recently, as an adult, my interest in Lego was rekindled and this year, I picked up a few sets and have really enjoyed not only building the stock sets, but also making my own original creations with them.

These days with the internet, it makes it easy for people to share their creations online. I have found a lot of great builders out there and I thought I would feature some of my favorites here on the blog. One thing that is great about Lego is it is a global brand so there are many great creators from all over the world! Here are some of my favorite creators right now:

Alan Yuppie – Alan Yap aka Alan Yuppie is a builder from Malaysia who specializes in Lego Transformers. He is able to make original models with Lego that actually transform from robot to vehicle and back. I first discovered him after finding his Wheeljock Transformer which was made from the 31046 set. I built it and even made a video for it here.

His most recent project is Optimus Prime from Transformers The Last Knight movie. I also recommend checking out his Liokaiser combiner Transformer which is incredible and combines 6 individual Transformers into one! You will find most of his work on his blog as well as more frequent updates on his Facebook page.

JK Brickworks – Jason Allemann from JK Brickworks is a Canadian Lego builder who is fairly well known in the Lego world. He has made some of the most amazing creations and is especially skilled at building projects with moving parts. He even had one of his designs the Labyrinth Marble Maze chosen to be made into an official Lego set.

Some of my favorites from JK Brickworks include the Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture, the Lego Ball Clock, and the Combination Safe. You can check him out on his official website as well as on Youtube.

Keep On Bricking – Peteris Sprogis from Latvia is another one of my favorite builders who is known for his alternate builds using the pieces of official Lego sets. He has been known to make 10+ different models from the same set and he is particularly skilled and making vehicles. He also makes wonderful videos showing step by step instructions for how to build many of his designs. 

Some of my favorites of his include the 31046 Tumbler and Classic Cabrio Car, and the 10252 Buggy. You can check out his work on Youtube as well as Instagram.

What do you think of these designs? Do you have any favorite Lego builders? Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not Touching Food With Your Hands – Why and How To Do This?

Many people have heard you should wash your hands often to avoid getting sick. The theory is that throughout the day, you touch many things, shake people's hands, go to the bathroom etc, and by doing these things, you may pick up germs in the form of viruses and bacteria. Then if you hold or touch the food your are eating, the germs may transfer to the food and ultimately get into your system. This is why there are regulations in place for food workers not to touch ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.

My years ago, I remember getting sick often and I hated being sick. So I started to educate myself on ways to avoid getting sick such as washing your hands before you eat. I did this for a while but soon realized trying to wash your hands every time before you eat can be impractical and sometimes it is just not an option. Also it can get to a point where it becomes excessive and you start washing your hands too often to the point where it starts to take a toll the skin.

I wanted to find a solution where I did not have to worry about potentially contaminating food by touching it, but at the same time, not have to worry about washing my hands all the time. So I started to look for ways to eat food without touching it.

The first and most obvious way to do this is to use utensils such as fork, knife, and spoon. Many foods are expected to be eaten with utensils like this. If you are out at a restaurant you can almost always find something on the menu that is meant to be eaten using utensils. Even if it is something like a sandwich that is usually eaten by hand, you can still use a knife and fork if you want. People might question you about it, or you might feel like George Costanza, but sometimes it is better to have piece of mind knowing you are minimizing your chances of getting sick.

Another method to avoid touching food is to handle it by the wrapper. Many foods, especially fast food come wrapped in paper or foil. For example you can eat a hamburger or a burrito by opening it half way and holding it by the wrapper. This keeps a barrier between your hands and the food.

Another method when neither of the first two are an option is to hold food by the edge and eat around it. For example with pizza, you can hold it by the crust and just eat everything except the part that you held. This can work with things like bread rolls as well.

Of course there are many arguments to this practice of avoiding touching food. One argument is that we have an immune system that protects us from germs like this and it can even be helpful to expose yourself to more germs in order to build up resistance. It is true that our immune systems will protect us from most of these germs, but the few that are very harmful will still make you sick if they get into your system. I don't know about you, but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Another argument people may say is “Just wash your hands”. It is good advice but as mentioned above, this is not always practical or possible. Even if you try to wash your hands before you eat, for example at a restaurant, chances are you may have to touch more things such as a door handle, a menu, a hand to shake... before you even get back to your food.

Some may still say avoiding touching food is overreacting and impractical in itself. I don't necessarily disagree, but as mentioned above, I don't like getting sick so I don't mind taking extra precautions if it means less chance of potentially picking up harmful viruses or bacteria.

This issue can also pose a problem when others are preparing your food. When you make your own food, you have much control over it so you can make sure it is sanitary from start to finish. When others are making your food whether it is in restaurant or at a friends or family gathering, you don't have as much control over it so sometimes you have to take a chance and hope they are preparing the food in a sanitary manner.

Upon doing a little research on this topic, it seems president Donald Trump also avoids touching food with his hands. I didn't find a concrete reason given for his case, but I would guess it would be the same reason as discussed here. Especially for someone in his line of work where he is shaking hands with people all day, you can imagine why he would not then want to go pick up a sandwich with his hands.

Are you someone who also does not touch food with your hands or do you think trying not to touch food with your hands is crazy? If you have any feelings on the issue one way or the other, feel free to leave a comment.

Being Oblivious to the Concept of Socialization

Socializing is a common practice among adults as a way of getting to know each other but this skill may not seem so obvious to everyone. As a young child, like most, I played with kids in the neighborhood. I was outgoing and socialized with others by playing games and sports.

As a teen, I become more reserved but still managed to socialize with others at school and during after school sports. Around this time, I did not really understand the concept of socialization. I only knew of socializing as a byproduct of doing an activity. It never occurred to me that it would be a stand alone activity.

As I got older into late high school and college years, people began to start having parties where they would invite people over and the main activity would be just talking. Maybe they would have some music and some snacks or something but no specific activity planned. I remember going to these parties at first and just being kind of confused and bored as if there was nothing to do.

Soon I became accustomed to socializing as it is an activity that becomes more common as an adult. I still would not consider myself a social person and still I prefer to socialize while doing an activity rather than having “talking” be the activity.

I think it is more comfortable and natural to talk with people while doing something because the focus is on the activity so there is no pressure to try to make a conversation. If conversation happens, great, but if not, it is no big deal because there is something else to focus on.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Portillos Lemon Cake Shake Review

Portillo's lemon cake had been off the menu for a long time but because of a request on Reddit and a lot of support from those who missed it, Portillo's decided to bring it back! I like lemon desserts so I have been looking forward to trying it. A while back I had the chocolate cake shake which was great and I was hoping they would be able to do this with the lemon cake.

I went to place the order and the cashier was not sure if it could be done, but they checked with a manager, and yes, it can be done! So I put in an order for the lemon cake shake. I figured I would get the taste of the lemon cake and the deliciousness of the shake all in one.

So how does it taste? It has a very familiar lemon taste. Pretty much what you would expect lemon cake to taste like, mixed into shake form. The consistency was very thick and well mixed. It can take a little effort to get it through the straw but when you do, you are rewarded with a tasty treat! It is very rich and after about 1/4th of the shake I was pretty full so I saved the rest for later.

How does it compare to the chocolate cake shake? Both are great. The lemon is more of a lighter more tart taste while the chocolate is more sweet and savory. Overall, if you like lemon taste you won't be disappointed.

The Portillos lemon cake and lemon cake shake are available for a limited time now through July 31st.

Update: Lemon Cake and Lemon Cake Shake availability extended to August 31st 2017. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Getting calls from numbers with the same first 6 digits – Caller ID Spoofing

For a while now I have been getting calls from numbers that are very similar to mine in that they have the same area code and even have the next 3 numbers the same. I usually do not answer calls I am not expecting from numbers I do not recognize so I just let them ring.

I noticed I kept getting calls like this but the last 4 digits were always different which I thought was odd. Was it a telemarketer company calling from several different phones in the same call center? Maybe a big business that uses a lot of different phone lines? I even overheard a neighbor talking about how they were having the same issue with similar numbers calling them.

I decided to do a little research and it turns out many others are experiencing the same thing and it is something called Caller ID Spoofing. This is where the caller is faking a number that is similar to yours but they are actually calling from a different number. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but apparently there are ways to enable the caller to make it look like they are calling from a different number.

This may be done to make the recipient think it is a local call so they are more likely to answer. Reports are that it is done by telemarketers or people trying to scam you into giving out your personal information, or they are robo-calls calling a bunch of numbers to see who will pick up.

The FCC has an article here with more information about Caller ID Spoofing. They say it is illegal if the company has intent to defraud or cause harm, but if no harm is intended then it is ok. They also have an option to report spoofing by filing a claim on their website. As far as I know there is not really a way to stop it other than just not picking up if you receive a call like this.

It's a shame there is not more regulation or efforts being made to stop this sort of thing. With the ability to change how a number is displayed, it makes it so you really can't trust any number that calls you. Because of this, we must be very careful about answering unknown calls especially if they ask for personal information. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a caller, end the call and call back at the number you know is correct.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Julius Sumner Miller – Physics is his business and his business is wonderful!

Recently I was trying to learn about the science behind hydraulics and how they work and one of the videos that came up was by a physicist named Julius Sumner Miller. It looked like an old video, but I decided to check it out. What I found was not only an educational video, but a very entertaining teacher!

I was pleased to see someone uploaded a series of his demonstrations to Youtube that cover many areas of physics. They follow a similar format, about 15 minutes, and each covers one lesson in physics. They always have “enchanting” experiments as he teaches the viewers about how and why things work the way they do.

I took physics in high school and enjoyed it. I remember learning a lot about Newtons laws and how things move, but just by watching some of these videos, I realized there is a whole lot more to physics and we only just scratched the surface with what we learned in high school.

I highly recommend checking out his videos to learn some new things and to be entertained at the same time. Julius passed away a while back so it is clear these video were made a while ago, but the physics remains true and relevant to this day.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pur Classic Faucet Mounted Water Filter Review

For a long time I was buying bottled water but eventually I got tired of buying water and lugging in heavy packs of water every couple weeks so I looked into water filters for tap water. The tap water in my area is generally pretty good and considered drinkable but just to be sure, I wanted to have a filter.

First I got a Bobble water bottle that has a built in filter. I used this for several years and I still use it today, but after doing some research, I thought it might be a good idea to invest in a better water filter. The Bobble is good, but it does not filter as many elements such as lead compared to some other water filters. I read that lead can get into the water supply from pipes in old buildings and since my building is old, there is a chance the water could contain lead.

Research suggests that you can have your water tested and I would like to do that except is seems to be very hard to actually have this done. For a good test, you have to contact a laboratory and send samples out which will have a cost that is not cheap. They do not make it easy to find these labs either. So I just decided to get a good water filter to be safe.

After doing some research I went with the Pur Classic faucet mounted style. They have a few different models but I went with the Classic because it is the least expensive (about $15) and uses the same filters as the newer more expensive models. I went with the white color to match the kitchen but it is also available in black.

In the box, you have the main contraption, a sealed filter, 4 different faucet adapters, and instructions. I read over the instructions and it seemed fairly easy to install. I tried the first recommended adapter and it worked perfectly! They have 4 adapters that come with it and they will even send you a free adapter if none of the 4 will fit your faucet.

Getting Started
Next I put the filter in the main compartment. Again it was pretty easy. Finally you just have to snap the device onto the faucet and it is pretty much ready to go. They recommend run the water through it for about 5 minutes before you start using it.

I was surprised by a few things. One, the filtered water comes out pretty slow. The regular stream goes fast, but when you flip the switch to the filter, it comes out much slower. Still it is ok, you just have to be more patient.

Another thing that was surprising is that it can rotate so you can move it around to adjust how you want it situated. Even with the rotating, it did not leak. I did notice some water getting out the top of the adapter at first, but I was able to tighten it a bit more to seal it.

I decided to do a side by side test of the filtered vs unfiltered water. Comparing them side by side, the filtered water was noticeably more clear. Even after letting them sit for a while, the filtered water remained more clear.

As for taste, they were very similar but the filtered water tasted a little more crisp and had more of an absence of any flavor that might come from minerals. Overall I would say that it does a good job at filtering and it is good to have peace of mind knowing you can drink the tap water and it will not have any harmful impurities.

The filter says it lasts 3 months or 100 gallons. I did some calculations and I figured it would take a lot longer than 3 months to get through 100 gallons so I will probably be able to use the same filter for 6 months to a year at least. It does have a light sensor that is supposed to help determine when the filter needs to be changed, so I will keep an eye on that as well.

If you are looking for an affordable way to get clean drinking water, I would recommend the Pur Classic faucet mounted water filter. I will update this article over time in case there are any long term updates as I use this filter.

Update 2-11-18: 
The filter is still going good. Over time the indicator light did turn to yellow and then eventually to red as a reminder to change the filter. I changed it after about 6 months. After putting in the new filter, the light went back to green. So far so good. I have not had any issues with it and it continues to do a good job at filtering the water.

Update 5-9-20:
It's been about 3 years and the Pur water filter is still working good. I change the filter every 6 months. I have not had any issues with it so far. The inside does need some cleaning over time, but that is to be expected with years of use. Overall I am pleased with the filter and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a tap water filter. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Computer Shutting Down From Sleep Mode – How To Fix Computer Waking Up By Itself

Recently I installed the Creators Update for Windows 10 and after the installation I noticed the computer would randomly boot up by itself while in sleep mode and then go into shutdown. Not only that, after it would shut down, it would have a hard time starting back up when pressing the power button.

At one point the computer would not boot up at all, instead it just ran the fan at full blast. I had to force shut it down and even turn off the power supply to get it to boot up again properly. So I knew something had to be done to fix it.

From doing research, many suggested to look at the power settings. The Creators Update did change a lot of the settings, but I found I had to dig deeper to fix the problem. To check the power settings, go to the Control Panel and click Power Options. From here, whichever plan is selected, click “Change plan settings”. You can make sure it is set so that it will not turn off or go to sleep by itself.
Then click “ Change advanced power settings”. Here you can adjust more settings to make sure it does not off the hard disk or put it into hibernate. I did all these things but the issue was still not fixed.

Back on the Power Options page, on the left side, it says “Choose what the power button does”. From here, it will have the setting for “Turn on fast startup” enabled. I unchecked this to disable fast start up. Tip: You may have to click “Change settings that are currently unavailable” first before it will let you disable the fast startup. I'm not sure why Windows makes you jump through so many hoops just to fix the power settings.
Finally there was one more thing that seemed to be causing the shutdown from sleep mode. I went to the Task Manager (right click the bottom task bar) and clicked on the Services tab. In this list was something called “AdaptiveSleepService”. Apparently it is something form AMD that affects the sleep settings. I did some research and there is not much information about it, but apparently it has been known to cause issues such as this with the sleep and shutdown. So I right clicked it and clicked “Open Services”. From here you can right click AdaptiveSleepService and click Properties to open it up. In the Properties you can Stop it and change the Startup type to “Disabled”.
Since doing both of these things, I have not had the issue with the computer booting itself up from sleep and putting itself into shutdown automatically. Disabling fast startup does make it boot up a bit slower from shut down so I am still testing it out, but so far, it seems to be more stable when disabling the fast start up.

I will update this article in case there are any new updates on this case. Hopefully this helps if you are having the same issue.

Update: The computer has not been shutting down by itself, but once again, there has been an instance where it would not boot up after waking up from sleep. Force shut down did not fix it. It needed a complete unplug from the power supply to boot back up again. I may have to try a system restore back to before the Creators Update was installed.

Update: It would not allow a rollback to undo the installation of the Creators Update. For now, I have enabled the Hibernate option for shutdown and will use Hibernate instead of Sleep. It still wakes up fairly quickly from Hibernate and so far it has not had any issues like it did in Sleep mode.

Update 11-5-17:  Windows did another big update for the Fall Creators Update 1709 and again it messed up my settings. It started waking my computer up by itself even when it was in Hibernate. I noticed the Adaptive Sleep Service had been activated again so I disabled it once again. Also as suggested by another article, I went to the Device Manager - Network adapters - Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller, then clicked on the Power Management tab and unchecked it where it says "Allow this device to wake the computer". After doing these two things, it has not woken up from Hibernate by itself so things are good for now.

Update: The computer just woke up again from Hibernate. I will have to keep working on it to figure out how to solve this issue. The computer was also not working very well with the new update so I restored it back to the previous version (1703).

Update 1-9-18: Windows just did another update and again it woke itself up after putting it in hibernate mode. It seems whenever they do an update, they keep doing something where it allows it to wake the computer up on its own.

I have tried a few more things here to get it to stop waking up by itself. There are things called Wake Timers that will wake the computer up by itself. To find if your computer has any of these in place, go to the search bar at the bottom left corner and search "Command Prompt". Right click on it and say "Run as administrator"

In the command prompt, copy or type in "powercfg -waketimers" and hit enter. It will give results of the things that are set to wake it up. In my case it said:

Timer set by [SERVICE] \Device\HarddiskVolume3\WINDOWS\System32\svchost.exe (SystemEventsBroker) ...
  Reason: Windows will execute 'Maintenance Activator' scheduled task that requested waking the computer.

For this, I went to the Security and Maintenance section in windows. Open the Maintenance drop down menu and click "Change Maintenance Settings" It will have a check box that says "Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer. Note, mine was actually unchecked, but it was recommended to check it, click ok, then open it up again and uncheck it. Then say ok.

That seemed to get rid of the original wake time message but then a new one popped up after running the check again. This one said:

Timer set by [SERVICE] \Device\HarddiskVolume3\WINDOWS\System32\svchost.exe (SystemEventsBroker) expires at ...
  Reason: Windows will execute 'NT TASK\Microsoft\Windows\rempl\shell' scheduled task that requested waking the computer

For this, I opened Task Scheduler from the search bar (right click it and choose Run as Administrator). In the left menu click Task Scheduler Library - Microsoft - Windows - rempl.
In the results, right click on shell and select Properties. Go to the Conditions tab and uncheck the box that says "Wake the computer to run this task"

After that I ran the wake timers test again from the command prompt and it came back free of any wake timers so hopefully it is fixed now.

Update 1-27-18: It was good for a while but Windows keep adding wake timers back on again automatically so again it is waking up by itself.

Update 3-8-18: Windows continues to try to wake up the computer by itself. The current waketimer that it continues to turn on even though I keep turning it off is:
NT TASK\Microsoft\Windows\UpdateOrchestrator\UpdateAssistantWakeupRun

It has become pretty annoying and has made the sleep and hibernate function practically useless at this point. Not sure why Windows thinks it is ok to make changes on your computer and wake it up whenever it wants to without your permission. 

Update 4-5-18:  Windows did a big update and installed version 1709. Since this update I have not had any issues with it setting up wake timers by itself.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Victorinox Classic SD Pocket Knife Review

I have enjoyed Victorinox multi-tool Swiss Army knives since I was first introduced to them many years ago. Up until now, I have only had the medium size which is great but can be a little bulky to carry around with you all the time. I did a little research and saw they make some small pocket knives such as the Class SD Swiss Army Knife. The price was reasonable so I decided to pick one up.

The first thing I noticed was how it was a lot smaller than I expected. The pictures online make it look bigger than it is. The actual measurements are a little over 2 inches in length by about 3/4ths of an inch width. This small size has positives and negatives. On the plus side, it is very portable and good if you want to put it on a keychain without adding a lot of extra bulk or weight. The negative is that the small size can make it more difficult to handle and less efficient as a tool.

For the packaging, it comes in a plastic encased by cardboard. It is sealed very well and there really is no elegant way to open it other then just cutting right through the middle of the package. Upon taking it out, it has a high quality feel as expected from Victorinox knives. Also as expected, the hinges have fresh oil so you may want to get a cloth or paper towel to wipe off the excess oil.

For the tools included, the Classic SD has a knife, scissors, flathead screwdriver/file, tweezers, and toothpick. Given the small size of the casing, the individual tools are also very small.

The knife is about 1.25 inches in length with a height of about a 1/4th of an inch. It is sharp and can cut small things but you will have to be very careful as there is not a lot to hold onto and with a blade that does not lock, you have to make sure your fingers are never in the folding path of the knife.

The scissors works well, but are also very small so you may find it takes a few extra cut motions to get through what you are trying to cut. The screwdriver is a nice feature to have as well and I find it doubles as a general tool that can be used to scrap surfaces if needed.

The toothpick and tweezers are the 2 items that are actually the same size as in other Swiss Army knives. They are both handy to have and do not take up much room.

I tested it out on a keychain and overall it was not bad in terms of adding extra bulk and weight. I also tried carrying it in the small 5th pocket of a pair of jeans. I found it fits very well in a small pocket like this and I prefer this method vs adding it to a keychain. Also it will help protect the finish when stored in a pocket vs being next to a bunch of keys that can scratch the finish.

Overall it is a pretty nifty tool to have especially for the small size. They are available in many different colors and are priced around $15 so they are quite affordable. If you are looking for a useful tool that does not take up much space and can be taken with you on the go, I recommend checking out the Victorinox Classic SD.