Sunday, December 31, 2023

Music Picks - Best Artists and Songs for 2023 and Previous Years

From 2010 - 2018 each year I posted a list of my favorite songs of the year. Then I took a break from this series. Now after 5 years, I have a new list of artists and songs to recommend so I figured I would post them here on the blog to share. 

This list contains music released in 2023 as well as some from previous years. It is mostly songs that are not super popular, at least not yet at the time of this posting. Here are my picks for the best songs from 2023 and previous years:

1. CARR - Industry Kids

I just randomly discovered CARR after a quick search for new music on Spotify. I would describe her sound as similar to artists like Avril Lavigne, Jax, and Damone. Her music reminds me of the indie rock scene of the early 2000's. She has put out a few albums of the past few years. I listened to all of them and all the songs are good! What's interesting is it seems she has not blown up yet. I could see an artist like this easily having millions of views and followers but so far she seems to be flying under the radar. Other songs to check out also: Sick Bro, Spiral City.


2. Jax - Victoria's Secret

Jax is a singer songwriter that recently caught my attention with her anthem Victoria's Secret. She has distinctive singing voice and a knack for catchy tunes that stand out from the other pop songs. Power chords and a meaningful message make this song a hit. Also check out other songs from Jax including Cinderella Snapped and 90s Kids

3. Bo Burnham - From God's Perspective 
Bo is known for his comedy specials which include a number of original songs which are very good even on their own. My favorite would have to be From God's Perspective which is an equally funny yet deep song about God's thoughts on humanity. Wonderfully composed, written, and performed. Also check out songs: Straight White Man and Can't Handle This
4. Gary Portnoy - Temporary
Gary Portnoy is most known for making making one of the greatest theme songs of all time, the theme song to Cheers, but he also has released plenty of his own music such as this song called Temporary. It's an autobiographical song about his childhood friend which leads to a revelation about life itself. Also check out the songs Lee and Life on the Outside

5. Carly Rae Jepsen - Comeback
Carly has a lot of pop hits and one of my recent favorites is the song Comeback. In collaboration with producer Jack Antonoff from The Bleachers, they have made a wonderful song here with haunting synths and soundscapes. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The cost of everything has gotten too expensive. Price of food and and inflation out of control.

As we near the end of 2023 the cost of living has skyrocketed. Ever since the pandemic the cost of everything has increased dramatically. Even the price of basic necessities like food and housing have gotten out of control. A little inflation each year is expected, but the increases we have seen over the past few years have been way too much. And the problem is that salaries and income from jobs have not increased to match it.

I don't know how many people are managing it these days. I am getting by but that is because I was in the habit of living a very frugal lifestyle even before all of this started happening. I saved up and continue to live even more frugally so I am ok, but for the average person living paycheck to paycheck without savings, they are pretty much screwed.

I'm not expert in economics but there does not really seem to be a reason for the dramatic increase in cost of living other than everyone just trying to get more money and stay ahead of the curve. The cost one thing will go up and then everything related to that goes up to try to make up the difference. Ultimately the consumer at the end is hit with a higher bill.

I can understand how the pandemic caused big issues with supply and demand and it had a huge effect on the workforce, but it is long over with and things have not changed back to how they were, they have only gotten worse.

I think there is a certain amount of greed involved with companies raising the cost of goods that people need and people keep buying them because they feel like they don't have a choice.

As far as I am concerned, I am not tolerating these price hikes. Certain grocery stores that I used to shop at on a regular basis, I no longer even step foot into. Certain food that I used to buy every week I no longer buy anymore because the price has nearly doubled in the past year or so. I changed my frugal buying habits into being even more frugal because I will not support these price increases. I think more people have to do the same to send a message that these prices have gotten out of control.

If things don't change, people will need to make more money and they will demand higher pay from their jobs. Then of course this will make companies raise prices on goods and the cycle just continues to get worse.

We just need to get some stability in the economy back. Maybe government needs to step in to put some regulation in place. Maybe more people have to stop putting up with these price increases. If people can no longer afford to pay for basic living expenses while working a full time job, this could lead to even more serious problems.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Gerber Armbar Drive Review - First impressions of the driver multi-tool

I have been a fan of multi-tools for a while now and up to this point I have mostly used Victorinox Swiss Army knives. Recently I was in the market for a new multi-tool that would have a good phillips head screw driver and a knife. After doing lots of research I decided to try out the Gerber Armbar Drive.

My first impression was that it was a bit smaller than expected but it is similar in size compared to Victorinox knives like the Super Tinker. The problem though is that the tools don't fill the shape well and because of this, it makes it hard to handle. For example when you open up the screw driver, that part leaves a big hollow space in the handle where it use to be so you don't have much to hold on to. 

I found the tools themselves to be hard to open. Maybe I got spoiled by Vicotorinox, but these tools on the Gerber are really stuck in there and when you open one, it tends to pull out some of the other tools next to it. 

The scissors I don't really like because of the design. When you open it, it is not ready to go, you have to flip one of the sides 180 degrees to get it into place. This extra step might not seem like a lot, but when you just want to get to a tool quick you don't want to have to worry about extra steps just to open it. 

The pry tool I found to be hard to open. They say it functions as a hammer too, but this thing is so light, I don't expect it would work too well at hammering. 

The knife is ok. I like that it is able to lock. In terms of size it is about as big as the handle itself which seems a little too big for the handle. 

Overall I wanted to like this multi-tool and was hoping to use it as my daily carry for screw driver and knife, but after trying it out, I am disappointed and I don't expect to use it much unfortunately.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Cancel culture and the trend of trying to bring down good people - Colleen Ballinger, Jenna Marbles

Recently I discovered that a Youtuber I like, Colleen Ballinger from Miranda Sings, was in the news for apparently doing bad things. I was surprised to hear this because having followed her channels, watched her Netflix series, and read her book, I never had any reason to think anything bad about her.

I did a little searching to try to figure out what was going on. My search found a lot of news articles saying she may have done some things in the past that some might consider inappropriate. I also searched Reddit and found a lot of people intent on trying to bring her down. I read their reasons and honestly they were not that bad.

I could tell right away that this situation is exactly like what happened to Youtuber Jenna Marbles. It's where there is a good person who has a lot of success and then one day some negative press article comes out saying they did something wrong and then all of a sudden the mob pounces on them and tries to find every little thing they possibly did wrong in their entire life.

This kind of thing gets a lot of media attention so news sites and social media are all over it. Suddenly everyone has an opinion on it. Anyone who ever disliked them or was jealous of them in any way is chiming in on the action.

I'll admit I have not read into all the allegations thoroughly but when you follow someone on Youtube for years and have watched and read a lot of their content you get a pretty good idea of who they are. In my opinion she is a good person plain and simple.

Of course there are probably some things she has done that she would look back on and say “yeah I probably shouldn't have done that, or I would have done that differently”. Of course she probably made some mistakes in the past, but guess what, so has every single person in the world!

But because she is famous she gets attacked by everyone who dislikes her. When you are famous, even if you have millions of people who love you, there are still going to be a small percentage who don't like you. Then as soon as you make one little slip up, they are all over it and try to blow it out of proportion.

It can be contagious to jump on the bandwagon when someone you know has made a mistake. I'll admit there may have been times in the past where I have done the same thing, not to this extent, but something similar.

For example, how many times in your life have you known someone who you thought was ok. Maybe a co-worker who you didn't necessarily get along with but tolerated them just fine. Then maybe one day they leave under bad terms and people start gossiping negative things about them. Have you ever been tempted to join in and give your own take on what you didn't like about them?

This is the kind of thing that happens in these situations to celebrities but on a much larger scale. It is really unfair especially when you have thousands of people trying to dig up your life's history and find every little thing you did that could possibly be interpreted as being even slightly offensive or controversial.

If this was done to everyone, guess what? Pretty much everyone would be “Canceled”. Even the best people in the world make mistakes. I'm not saying we should condone celebrities when they do something that is truly horrible, but I think we really need to give them a break when small mistakes are made, especially when they are from many years ago and the person has since matured or changed.

People like Colleen and Jenna are good people who brought a lot of joy to millions of people. It is a shame when a small group of “haters” band together to try to bring them down and ruin their career.

Keep these points in mind when you see these attempts at canceling celebrities. They may be famous but deep down they are real people just like us who sometimes make mistakes and are not always perfect.

Music artists copying old songs and not giving credit to the original

How many times has this happened to you? You hear a song that you think is an original song only to find out many years later that it was actually a remake of a song that existed decades earlier. For me this happens quite often.

I always feel like I've been tricked or lied to by the artist of the new version of the song. Here we were presented a song as if it was new and we were not told that it was actually just a copy of a hit song from years ago.

Sure, if you do some digging and really search for the production details of the song, you might find some fine print mentioning that it samples another song or that is was based on other song, but rarely will this information be clearly published with the song title.

I think this is unfair to the original artist because they are not really getting the credit they deserve. Often new artists just take a hit song and remake it. Then of course the song is a hit because it has already been proven to be a hit in the past. They took something that was already likable and just reintroduced it again.

Although I don't really like when this is done especially when it is not clear that the song was based on another song that already exists, it is not all bad. The fact that the song is being remade shows that the artist likes it enough to be inspired to remake it which can be a compliment to the original artist.

Also as mentioned earlier, this process introduces a song to a new generation who probably never heard the original and may never have known about it had it not been redone.

Overall I think it is ok to be inspired by a song and then make your own version of it as long as the original artist is clearly given credit so people know where it came from.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Lost Envelope Found - Story of what happened when I found a lost envelope

The other day I was getting home from work and as I was walking up to my building I saw a blue rectangle on the ground in the landscaped area. I always clean up garbage around the property so I walked over to it and picked it up.

It was an envelope with someone's name on the front and a return address sticker on the back. There was no stamp or postal marking so it looked like a card that was going to be handed over in person.

The card itself was sealed and it had some thickness to it. I shook it around and it appeared to have more than just a a single card in it.

I thought about what my options were. I didn't know who it was for but I did have the return address.

I decided to see if I could find some contact information for the name on the back. With a quick internet search I was able to find a phone number. I didn't know if the number would actually be right, but I figured I would give it a try.

Also in the mean time, I pulled up the security camera footage in front of our building to see if I could track down where it came from. After a little digging, I actually found it. It turns out someone pulled up to pick someone up and when they stepped out of the car, the envelope fell on the ground. I still didn't know who they were, but I decided to give them a call at the number I found.

So the next day I called the number and the person picked up. I confirmed their name and asked if they lost a card the other day. They said yes and confirmed where they lost it. I told them I would like to get it back to them. We arranged for her to come by later that day to pick it up.

When she came by, she was very relieved and thankful because the card was important. She said it was for a widow and it was going to be given to them at a funeral. She said that it had money inside so she was very thankful that I made the effort to return it to her. She gave be $20 cash as a thank you. I told her she didn't have to but she insisted so that was very nice of her.

Overall I am happy with my decision to get in contact with her to return the lost card. In situations like this, you have to put yourself in their shoes. If you lost an important card like that and someone found it, wouldn't you hope that they would try to get it back to you? If you ever find something like this, I recommend trying to return it to the owner. You will save the day and you might even be rewarded for your efforts!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Don't buy a car from a dealership without knowing these things first. How to avoid getting ripped off.

Buying a new car or even a used car from a dealership can be a little intimidating especially if it is your first time. If you don't know what you are doing and have not done your research, chances are you are going to get ripped off and you will end up paying a lot more than you should for the car. Here are some tips I learned from my recent experiences visiting car dealerships.

First thing to know is that it is a good idea to check the prices at several dealerships in the area. When I visited one nearby, they immediately told me they are marking their cars up several thousand over MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price). Some people might just accept that and go forward with the purchase, but after doing a little research, I found that the other dealerships nearby were are selling for MSRP or lower.

Another big thing to know is dealerships often try to add extra charges for basically nonsense items. For example they will have a charge for a paint and interior protection and they will tell you it is already applied to the car so you have to pay for it. Or they will have a charge for VIN etching which is completely unnecessary, and again they will try to tell you it has already been done (even if it hasn't) and you have to pay for it.

Don't let them get away with these added charges and features that you did not ask for. These things are only added as an excuse to charge the customer more money for basically nothing.

I have found when dealerships give you a quote, they often just tell you a final number and avoid actually showing you the breakdown of the costs. This is because they don't want you to see the extra charges they sneak in there.

When doing your research on the car, know the MSRP or the advertised price, and know how much all the taxes and fees should be. Once you have this number, stick to it and don't let them charge you more. If they present you with an offer that is higher, refuse it. They may try to keep pushing you to pay this higher price. This kind of negotiation can be uncomfortable especially with a stranger you just met, but you have to stick to your guns.

You also have to be willing to walk out if they do not meet your price. Many people will give in because they want the car or because they really need the car soon. It's a good idea to visit the dealership before you really need the car, this way, you have some leverage because you can walk out if they don't lower the price to what it should be.

Also, read reviews of the dealership before visiting. Each one is different and may have different selling tactics. See what others have been saying. You will be able to learn from other customers who have already been through it so they can offer tips on what to look out for.

Overall, the message is just be very prepared before going in and don't let them take advantage of you. By being educated about the car buying process, you can avoid getting ripped off and you will have a much better chance at getting a fair deal on your new car.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The range of clothing sizes between mens and boys is nearly non-existent - Trying to find clothes that fit

Finding clothes that fit can be a challenge for anyone. With so many different body shapes and clothing brands, it can take a lot of time trying on various articles of clothes before finding something that is a good fit. This process can be particularly difficult if you have a body shape that is uncommon either in height or weight or a combination of both.

In my case I fall right into the range between mens and boys sizes. This means the mens sizes are usually too big while the kids sizes are usually too small or just don't work for other reasons.

For example in pants I wear a size 28x28, but the problem is, most brands start around 30x30. Then if you go down to the kids sizes, they are different because they go by sizes such as L or XL. Usually the sizing is odd and does not follow the same dimensions as the men's sizes. Also the build quality of kids sizes is often worse when it comes to features and design.

Same goes for shirts. A men's small is usually too big. A size XS is good, but these sizes are very rare as most brands will start the men's sizes at size small. The same issue applies when going down to kids sizes where the dimensions are different and the quality is not as good. Not to mention the selection of big kids sizes such as the L and XL tend to be very limited and are often out of stock.

This makes it very difficult to find clothes that are a good fit. Given the choice of going with men's or boy's sizes, I usually go with men's because the styles are better as well as the quality, but inevitably most of my clothes end up being about one size too big because of this.

Now there are some brands that will go down to the smaller sizes in men's sizes, but the selection is usually much more limited and if they specialize in smaller sizes like this, they tend to be more expensive than the commonly available brands.

This gap between men's and kid's sizes is kind of puzzling because people grow at a steady rate. Yes, kids may have a growth spurt, but they don't magically skip sizes. There are many people who would fall in this range but for some reason the clothing companies are not making clothes to fit this group of people.

Has anyone else noticed this issue with a lack of clothing options between kids and adult sizes? Have you found any good solutions or places that sell smaller men's clothes? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Stores Need To Do More To Stop Shoplifting

Today I was at a grocery store sitting in a chair by the pharmacy when I noticed a woman put a set of air fresheners back on an end shelf where they did not belong. This is a pet peeve of mine so in my head I am already disapproving of what this person just did.

Shortly after, someone who she was with joins her. The first woman points to the air fresheners and says something about them having a security alarm on them, and she proceeded to leave them on the shelf. That raised a red flag and immediately I was on high alert.

I saw the 2 walk back down the isle and stop by the air fresheners again. They were just out of view so I could not see exactly what they were doing, but after about 30 seconds they left.

Out of curiosity I walked down to where they were standing. Right when I got there, I saw the exact same kind of air fresheners, out of place again, only this time it was opened up with one of the air fresheners missing. Now technically I did not see it happen, but based on all the clues, it is pretty obvious who took it.

There was an employee stocking shelves nearby so I told her there was an opened package with something missing and I think someone just took it. She was just kind of like, “Yeah we see this kind of thing all the time.” I was like, “There are cameras here (pointing above). Can they check it?” And she was just kind of like “Yeah people watch the cameras”, but it was clear she was not going to do anything about it.

On my way out, I stopped by customer service to let them know what happened. I asked if I could talk with security to fill them in, but the customer service person basically said, even if someone did steal the air freshener, they are not going to do anything about it. She went on to say how the work and time involved would not be worth it for them.

This was pretty discouraging to hear. The customer service is basically saying people can just take whatever they want and walk out without paying and they won't do anything about it. What kind of message is this sending?

I understand her reasoning and how it would take time and work to pursue something like this and for a small item it might not be worth the trouble on an individual basis, but by allowing this kind of thing to happen, they are setting a bad precedent that will encourage more behavior like this.

When this person is able to steal an item and not have any consequence whatsoever, the message they are walking away with is that this is something they can do and nothing will happen to them. As word spreads about cases like this where shoplifters are not pursued by the stores, it can certainly encourage more of the same behavior.

There has to be more of an effort made to stop people from stealing, or at least pursue a case against them if they do steal. Yes, it might cost more in the short term, but in the long term it has to be better if it can reduce the likelihood of things being stolen from the store.

We have rules and laws for a reason. If they are not enforced, they are meaningless. Stores and security need to step up and put a stop to this kind of thing.

Update 3-14-23:

There was a question posted on Reddit recently asking people what they would do if they saw someone stealing food from a store. I checked out the responses and was appalled by how many people said they wouldn't do anything and that they would actually condone it.

Some people argued that if someone is stealing food, they probably need it. I would argue that if someone needs food, there are better options available besides stealing. Community resources such as food banks are specifically put in place to provide food for those who need it.

Others said that big corporations are already rich so it doesn't affect them. These corporations may have a lot of money but that does not mean it is ok to steal from them. That is like saying it is ok to steal from someone as long as they have more money than you.

Some people said it is not their job so why would they do anything about it. In my opinion there is a fundamental flaw in this way of thinking. Just because you don't work at security in a store does not mean you should ignore something like retail theft. I will elaborate on why. 

Even if it is not your job to stop retail theft, indirectly it is still affecting you. You won't notice it right away, but in the long run, it can have a big effect. 

The clearest example of this is in areas where shoplifting has gotten out of hand. What do stores do when people keep taking their stuff without paying? They close down the store and move to a better place where people don't steal. When many stores in a community close down and no one else wants to open up a new store, you can imagine what a negative effect this has on a community. 

We have rules and laws in society for a reason. They keep order and peace and make sure everything runs smoothly so we don't have chaos. When people stop following the rules and laws, that's when problems arise. That is when things go from peaceful to stressful. That is when a good living environment turns into a bad living environment. What kind of world do you want to live in?

Stealing from a store is just a small example of this, but it is the kind of thing that contributes to the breakdown of these rules and laws of society. If we want to maintain a good life, we all have to not only uphold these rules and laws ourselves, but we also have to hold each other accountable when they are broken. It doesn't matter if it is not your "job" to say something if you witness a theft. It is your duty as a member of society to do the right thing and make sure others do the same.