Thursday, September 6, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone, Book Review


Book Review by C. M.

A few months ago I first saw this book, "Children of Blood and Bone" in a bookstore and at the time I picked it up, looked it over, was tempted to buy it, and then decided not to because I was looking for a book in which the main character / protagonist was an archer. [Note the bow rack in the background of the photo above.]

Weeks later, having already read every decent archery book I could find, and disappointed with my options to find a new book featuring an archer protagonist, I eventually decided "You know what, it doesn't have to have archery in it."

In which case, that book I saw previously... what was it called? The Afro-Fantasy book about a girl who is trying bring back magic to her kingdom... Well, if I can find it, I might as well buy that book instead.

I didn't know the book I was buying was "Young Adult Fiction". I just knew it was Afro-Fantasy and I wanted to read something that was new and different.

So I flagged down a lady who worked at the bookstore, and I tried to describe the book I was looking for... But I couldn't remember the name of the book or the name of the author. [Tomi Adeyemi, see her Twitter page at https://twitter.com/tomi_adeyemi.]

So there I am, trying to describe a book to the bookstore lady having only read the dust jacket on the book and being unable to remember any crucial details regarding its name.

I did however know that if I saw the book I would be able to recognize it, as it does have a rather striking cover.


Suffice to say the bookstore lady found it for me on the computer and I recognized the cover when she was scrolling through possible books.

Reading Children of Blood and Bone... NO SPOILERS

My immediate impressions of Children of Blood and Bone was how the book was similar to a number of other books and in particular one Japanese anime series.

Each chapter was written from a first person perspective, which reminded me of various authors who prefer that style.

Also the author writes everything in present tense, which in my experience makes things more exciting. Most authors write in the past tense, but if you want to write action, then present tense is handy to write in because it creates a more immediate feeling of tension and drama.

Next, each chapter was written from the perspectives of different characters, and would often alternate or switch between the 3 main characters. This reminded me of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire book series, as he jumps from character to character frequently.

The chapters were often relatively short, but with 85 chapters it didn't matter. Still a huge book to read. The chapters also got on average shorter towards the end of the book when the action heated up and the perspectives switched more often.

The plot has some similarities to Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Japanese anime series I was referring to. Being similar to a great series is not a bad thing, just like being similar to a great movie is not a bad thing. (Saw the film "Peppermint" last night. Amazing movie. Reminds me of both "Die Hard" and "The Punisher". I was not expecting it to be an action comedy.)

It isn't just the plot that is similar to Avatar either. Three of the characters spend a lot of their time riding around on a giant lion known as a Lionaire. Shown here on the right in some fan art circulating online. I don't think the fan art does the Lionaire justice however, as they are supposed to be much bigger and able to carry 3 adults with ease. In Avatar, the main 3 characters ride around on a sky bison which is easily the size of an elephant, so in my mind Lionaires should be roughly elephant sized.

Or at very least the size of 'Battle Cat' from He-Man / "Masters of the Universe".

I even found it to be similar to some of my own books, the Lilith Bloodstone series, wherein the main protagonist is a necromancer who destroys undead instead of creating them. In Children of Blood and Bone, the primary character is Zélie, who is a Reaper (essentially a necromancer) who can use spiritual / necromancy magic. To me having the hero being a necromancer is a good juxtaposition of the reader's expectations.


Being "Young Adult Fiction" there is of course the obligatory love interest. Teenagers falling in love, that sort of thing. This is typical of franchises that cater to teens... Hunger Games, Twilight, etc. Apparently if you are going to have a book (or series of books) for young adults then it has to include some romance in there.

Thus I would be amiss in not pointing out the similarity to the Shannara Chronicles TV show, which is also a fantasy aimed at young adults and teenagers.

You could also say that the genre Afro-Fantasy is similar to Afro Science Fiction - in particular the film "Black Panther". But hey, maybe it is past time for such things to finally get recognition.

Still, being similar to such things is not a bad thing.
  • Game of Thrones
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Black Panther
  • Hunger Games
  • Masters of the Universe
After all, people get inspiration from all sorts of places. And if you are going to make something that is similar to other things, might as well be similar to some pretty amazing works of storytelling.

"Good artists copy; great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso.

The book also serves as a very strong reminder of the problems happening in the USA currently, with police killing unarmed black people for no good reason. So there is also that. Considering the violent idiot in the White House currently, the book also makes for a nice allegory of the situation in the USA.

So how was the book itself?

Honestly, pretty amazing. I give it 5 stars (out of 5 of course).

I have been telling other people to go read it. Friends, family members, my wife who is too busy to read anything that isn't work related...

On Twitter I tweeted about it multiple times, and even got a Like from Tomi Adeyemi.

So am I just fussing about it? Is it just me?

Nope.

Not just me. I have seen some of the other reviews posted on youtube and other sources. It isn't just me who is making a big fuss about Children of Blood and Bone. There is already a huge fan following for the first book, and plenty of fan art, fan fiction, and more being produced. I myself have been tempted to make my own version of the map.

Hollywood has noticed too. They bought the film rights for this book and the next two books.

Now if Tomi Adeyemi is smart she will write 5 books, and Hollywood will have no choice but to buy the rights for those 2 extra books to be made into films. ;)

Price?

$24.99 CDN + HST for the hardcover, which is what I got.

If you go on Amazon.ca you can get the softcover for $15, or the Kindle digital version for  $8.99.

I normally don't buy hardcovers, but this was a special occasion where I was in a good mood, there was only hardcovers available in the bookstore, and I really wanted to read this book.

Fantasy Writer's Note + Grumblings

As a fantasy writer myself it was interesting for me to read something that was not the standard fantasy fare. Reading Afro-Fantasy gave me a new perspective as a writer for how to write about a variety of cultures. How culture is presented through clothing, food, architecture, language, social interactions, etc gives the reader a deeper understanding of the setting they are reading about, thus creating a more "in depth story".

Earlier today I was contacted by a software company wanting to hire me to give their video game a more "in depth story" because their current story was apparently boring the heck out of the intended audience. I quoted them $30 per hour for me to rework the story and make it better / more interesting. They decided to pass and asked if I knew any other authors willing to work for less...

I do, but therein lies the problem. Creativity is worth money. And it takes time to come up with ideas, write them down, and then do a 2nd draft, edit, etc.

Regardless of who a software company hires to do their background story for their video game, it is going to cost them. I charge $30 per hour because that is what my time is worth, whether I am designing / creating something or teaching archery (technically a charge a minimum of $40 per hour for archery, as I also provide equipment). I do not work for less than $30. It isn't worth my time otherwise.

And with respect to archery, I am probably the most expensive archery instructor in Canada. If not all of North America. People come from the USA, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, France, Brazil just to learn from me. So clearly my time is valuable.


So when someone asks me to do some creative writing work for their company, and then they balk at my hourly rate... sorry. That is the minimum of what I charge for my services. For that they get quality.

And writing a quality "in depth story" is not child's play. I read the draft the software company sent me. It looked like a 12 year old wrote it. A 12 year old with no writing skills. There was no sense of character. No sense of drama. It was as dry as an old history book.

Back to Children of Blood and Bone...

Definitely not dry or boring. Every chapter had something interesting happening, whether it was action or some new development. All thanks to quality writing and an "in depth" presentation of the characters, plot and the cultural setting of Orisha (the land in which the story takes place).

I am hoping in the next book we get to see Zélie fighting a sea monster like the one on the map. Foreshadowing??? ;)


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Directional Couplers

All About Directional Couplers

You may have heard of directional couplers but not really known what is meant by the term. This is true for most people, so it is nothing to really be alarmed about. Here is a basic breakdown of everything you need to know about directional couplers.

Essentially, the couplers are circuits consisting of four-ports where a single port is completely isolated from the input port. By consisting of these attributes, they are defined as networks of passive reciprocity. Each of the four ports is matched to the other three and the circuit is completely lossless.

There are several ways in which the realization of the directional coupler applications can be solidified. These ways include coaxial, stripline, wavelength, and microstrip. They can be used in this way to sample the signal. This sampling technique can include both the wave reflections and the actual incident itself. The couplers also generally work by using the individual properties distributed by microwave circuits. This property of coupling tends to exclusively work within a distance of a quarter-wavelength or in portions of multiple quarter-wavelengths of the device doing the distribution.

The four ports of the directional coupler each have individual names and attributes. The first port is known as the through port. This port is where the signal of incidence mainly exists. The second port is known as the coupled port. This port is where a portion of the input signal will appear and represent itself in the form of decibels, in most cases. The third port is called the isolated port which is where the signal will be terminated. The fourth port, obviously, is called the input. This port is where the signal originates. In some instances, the end user may choose to reverse the direction of the signal so that it actually exits through the input port but this is not a common occurrence.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why people in Rich Neighbourhoods get Free Two Day Shipping from Amazon

By C. Moffat - May 10th.

I live in a wealthy neighbourhood of Toronto...

And I have discovered something fascinating about what happens when I pick the "Free Shipping" option when ordering things on Amazon.ca.

In the description for Free Shipping it says items will be shipped and received within 5 to 8 business days. However when I order things off Amazon, I typically receive them within 2 days.

And please note, I did not click on the "Two Day Shipping" option when buying them. I only clicked the Free Shipping option that is slower and takes 5 to 8 days.

So for example, yesterday, May 9th, I ordered a picnic blanket for my son and a LP record for my mother. I was just notified by email that both items will arrive tomorrow, the 11th.

So within 2 days, the same as you would expect for two day shipping.

So why would me living in wealthy neighbourhood of Toronto effect the shipping times?

Well, many people in my neighbourhood use Amazon Prime and they are not used to waiting for things. When they order something they usually choose either the 1 day shipping or 2 day shipping options. Plus there is quite a lot of people in my neighbourhood who shop in this manner.

This means that in order to save on costs, Amazon will often load up the delivery truck with multiple items for the whole neighbourhood that is governed by our post office and ship them all at once. This saves Amazon a lot of money on delivery costs.

Thus, with the sheer number of wealthy people in my neighbourhood who use 1 day or 2 day shipping, anything I order off Amazon typically shows up in only 2 days.

The exception to this is the Christmas season, which is a bit slower due to the volume of items being shipped, but I still received everything I ordered ahead of time. Way faster than it normally would have been.

Living in a large city like Toronto probably also helps speed delivery.

I am reminded of when I used to live downtown near the Rogers building on Bloor Street. I had Rogers internet at the time and it was the fastest internet connection I had ever had. Being close to the source dramatically reduced download times.

Thus, in my situation, living in a wealthy neighbourhood where people unaccustomed to waiting I get super-fast Amazon deliveries and all I have to do is pick the free shipping option.

That is a nice perk in my opinion.

Downside, the drivers in my neighbourhood are also impatient morons. Rich impatient morons who run over children. It is so bad in the local park they installed a camera that monitors the speed people are going and flashes what speed they are doing. People in the neighbourhood often have signs on their lawns, warning drivers to slow down because of children. If you know of what I speak, you know which neighbourhood I am living in.

So be forewarned if you live in a rich neighbourhood and have small children, keep an eye on them at all times because rich people don't like to slow down when they are driving and are often looking at their phones.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Proud Mary, movie review

By C.M.

Saw "Proud Mary" this evening.

Two thumbs up from the wife and myself.

Reasons why we liked it?

It felt very similar to the John Wick films, both chapters I and II.

Also had the feeling of various films in blaxploitation genre from the 1970s such as Cleopatra Jones (starring the very tall Tamara Dobson) or any of the Pam Grier films like Coffy, Foxy Brown, or Sheba Baby, and more famous films like Shaft (the original, not the remake).

So the director definitely captured the feel of a 1970s style blaxploitation film, but at the same mixed it with the style of action you see in films like John Wick I and II.

So much so that Mary is frequently double tapping the people she shoots in the same manner John Wick does.

Within the plot, and without spoiling anything, we can also say that the film touched on topics surrounding child abuse, guilt, responsibility, sexual harassment, the role of motherhood, and how people and organizations can effectively use slavery to control people against their wills. Topics worth talking about that reinforce a good well-written plot. The motivation and plot works, and you feel yourself agreeing with the actions of the heroine and thinking you would do the same thing in similar circumstances.

Like John Wick likes his cars, so does Mary. At times it felt like the film was a commercial for Maserati sports cars.

I cannot complain too much. Maserati just happens to be my favourite Italian sports car. Ferrari and Lamborghini are both nice, but Maserati takes it to another level by making cars that are more luxurious, handle better and are super fast. (If you are looking for insane power, check out Koenigsegg and Bugati.)

And apparently the car is ridiculously bullet proof, but we will just ignore that part right? Maybe Mary had body armour added to the car to make it more like the Batmobile. No complaints. We will just assume the car had body armour added to it.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Doing a Facebook Purge, a Review and Commentary

By C. M. - January 15th 2018.

Facebook isn't just any website.

It is the 3rd most popular website in the world after Google and YouTube. (See https://www.alexa.com/topsites for the list of top sites.)

As a social network (the first truly popular social network) it has played an important role in the last decade of helping people to communicate, socialize, organize events and meet new people with similar interests.

But it is also broken.

Don't take my word for it. Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of Facebook) recently said his new goal (resolution?) in 2018 is to fix Facebook. He has realized it is broken and needs to be fixed.

The realization came to Zuckerberg after the revelation that the Russians had manipulated Facebook with fake news reports to influence American voters into voting for Donald Trump. This kind of sophisticated election tampering by the Russians went unnoticed until it was too late.

"I started doing these challenges in 2009," Zuckerberg wrote in the post on his Facebook page earlier this month. "That first year the economy was in a deep recession and Facebook was not yet profitable. We needed to get serious about making sure Facebook had a sustainable business model. It was a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder."

"Today feels a lot like that first year. The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do -- whether it's protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent."

"My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won't prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we're successful this year then we'll end 2018 on a much better trajectory."

 However...

This is not why I am doing a Facebook Purge today.

I am personally doing a Facebook Purge because of the following reasons, in order of significance.

#1. I find myself too often arguing with morons and jerks.

Yesterday I made a comment on a group about how admins have to balance free speech with the desire to moderate and remove hate speech. I said it was a balancing act. Yeah, metaphors. And wouldn't you know it, one moron decides to disagree with me and says it is not a balancing act, you just make rules and then stick to them.

Oh really? What rules? How do you make the decisions of what to allow and what not to allow?

So for example the admin in that particular (male dominated) group was banning racist comments. But sexist comments were probably still okay, as male dominated groups tend to not worry about sexist comments. Thus the admin is still making decisions about what to allow and what not to allow... which makes it a metaphorical balancing act.

And I have to explain this to the moron who just doesn't get it.

So one of the things I will be doing today is purging Facebook groups that I find to be a waste of time. Groups where people just argue most of the time.

For example I am a member (or was a member until today) of the Toronto Vegetarian Association (https://www.facebook.com/torontoveg/).

I joined that group because I like eating more vegetables. I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. I was simply a person who wants to eat healthier and I was hoping people on there would be posting recipes, events for foodies, that sort of thing.

Instead what I routinely see on there is people complaining about the meat industry or the fur industry, arguing about organic food, free range chickens, and a whole host of other topics.

Worse, vegans and vegetarians have a tendency to be jerks. Or sometimes morons. Sometimes both.

And so I am leaving groups like that too, because frankly they are not posting the food recipes I had hoped they would be. I should have just joined a cooking group.

So why am I wasting my valuable time arguing with morons and jerks?

So I will be purging every Facebook group I consider to be a waste of time.

#2. Finding more time for groups I admin.

I am the admin of various groups and part of this Facebook Purge process will be deciding which Facebook groups I want to keep being the admin of, and whether those groups need a set of rules so that people know that I expect a certain level of behaviour.

So for those groups I am keeping, I will be posting a set of rules. Hopefully this will discourage people from being jerks - and thus I won't be bothered as much to decide whether to ban people who are disruptive jerks posting racist/sexist comments.

Although I admit, there is a certain kind of joy that comes from banning a person from a group and sending them a message that tells them why I kicked them out. That part is certainly enjoyable.

#3. Friends and people I barely know who waste my time.

Sometimes you end up being friends with people whom you have not seen in years. They move away, you stop hanging out, but you still talk to them regularly on Facebook.

Some of them I have realized... they're just a waste of time.

Some of them are even argumentative jerks and morons and yet I am still friends with them. Clearly I need to dump them and purge them.

#4. Wasting time when I could be doing something more productive.

Facebook is a huge time waster.

I currently spend at least hour every day talking (sometimes arguing) with people on Facebook, clicking Like and so forth.

A lot of it is things that don't even matter to my day to day life.

What I need to do is prioritize things that are my close friends, the people I actually socialize with, and family.

Everyone else is basically me wasting time on Facebook with cat videos and things that have little or no bearing on my life.

#5. I have a son now.

And I would rather be spending time with my son. I routinely post photos of him on Facebook (to share with his grandparents, other family members and friends who also have kids). But if I cut down on the wasteful Facebook time, that means more time spent with my son (possibly taking more photos of him).



So what about you? Should you do a Facebook Purge too?

Probably a lot of us should purge how much we use Facebook.

Just imagine how much more free time we would have to do something productive instead of all the time we waste on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Amazon's Shipping Speed - and why you should not pay extra for it

By C.M.

This year I did most of my Xmas Shopping on Amazon.

And I did not spend a cent on shipping.

Nor am I am member of Amazon Prime. (Nor I am using Amazon Prime free for 1 month on any such promotion.)

Instead I have been clicking on the free shipping option where it is supposedly shipped slower and is supposed to take 5 to 8 days for my packages to arrive.

And instead they have been showing up in 2 to 5 days.

Take for example 3 card games (my parents like card games) I decided to order as bonus gifts just last night on Tuesday.

According to Amazon Tracking they will arrive Thursday night around 8 PM. I will likely delay picking them until Friday though, more convenient for me.

My worry on ordering them on Tuesday night was I was not sure when they would arrive on time to be given as Xmas Gifts... and since they were bonus gifts and I was not too worried about this so based on previous experience I knew that even if I did select 5-8 day shipping that it would arrive earlier than that... so I went for it.

And instead of 5 to 8 days it is arriving in 2.

That is pretty amazing considering that the shipping costs is free.

So what are the 3 card games I ordered?
  • Monopoly Deal
  • Wizard
  • Rook
I have already written about the card game Wizard on a different website called Nerdovore (an eating and nerd culture blog). So no need to write about it again here.

I have never played Monopoly Deal or Rook, but they both looked interesting and had lots of good reviews so I figured they would be fun to try.

Plus my younger sister refuses to play normal Monopoly (she always loses) so maybe she will play this game instead.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

An Open Letter to Meetup.com

To Meetup.com!

From C.M.

I already sent this to Meetup via their Help Center, but here we go again:

Hello!

Awhile back Meetup changed how people suggest and organize meetups. The group I am thinking of is https://www.meetup.com/Toronto-Area-Gamers/ and the new system is very restrictive for how to organize an event.

Under the old system anyone in the group could organize an event, which is a necessity since the people running and hosting games have to be the ones posting it, editing any changes, etc.

Under the new system people have to suggest the event, wait for the leadership team of 33 people with busy lives to hopefully respond... and even then there is problems.

The new system is full of problems that many of the people I have spoken to are switching to organizing events via email, Facebook and other means. I personally in the last week organized two different events via Facebook.

So my question is, why are you not trying to fix this problem when clearly you are going to be losing money over the issue in the long run?

Why should we, the customers, continue to pay for a service that has gotten worse, not better?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why Yelp is a horrible website full of fake reviews

By C.M. - November 22nd 2017.

One of the things I have noticed about the website Yelp is that the reviews posted on there are increasingly fake.

And there are several different categories of fake reviews on Yelp.

#1. Fake reviews written by the owner / manager of the company.

These usually emphasize a particular product or service, and while they sound really good, it is pretty obvious the reviews are there to tempt people reading the review into buying the product or service. It is basically just another form of advertising.

#2. Fake reviews written by the company's employees.

Employees are expected to want their company to do well, so they write a nice review but fail to mention that they also work there.

#3. Fake reviews written by competitors.

To make the competing company look bad, obviously. This doesn't really need much explanation. Depending on how much competition there is in a particular field, this could be pretty cutthroat with far more fake reviews being written by competitors.

eg. Imagine 10 companies that all sell "Super Spicy Edible Widgets". If each company then writes 1 positive review about themselves, but 9 negative reviews about all their competitors you will end up with all 10 companies having 9 horrible reviews and only 1 positive review - excluding anything written by actual customers.

#4. Fake reviews written by the employees of competitors.

Same reason as #3.

#5. Fake reviews written by former employees.

If a former employee is angry at their former employer, one way to further burn bridges is to post a negative Yelp review - possibly targeting a manager or co-worker that they despised in an attempt to get that person fired.

#6. Fake reviews written by "Yelp Privateers and Pirates".

I am coining some terminology here... Yelp Privateers and Pirates are hired thugs who either try to make a particular company look good, or try to make a different company look bad. The border between what makes a Privateer and what makes a Pirate is a bit blurry.
  • Privateers are hired to post positive reviews, using multiple Yelp accounts.
  • Pirates are hired to post negative reviews about competitors.
Often the two can be the same person, but may be using multiple accounts to avoid suspicion.



Brand Reputation Management


From an advertising perspective, a lot of what goes on above falls into the categories of "Marketing Brand Management" or "Brand Reputation Management", and being executed by amateurs who don't actually work in the advertising/marketing industry.

In which case there are some tricks that companies can do to combat negative fake reviews.

#1. Claim the reviewer is a former employee.

If someone posts a really nasty fake review, a company can claim that the person posting the fake review is actually a former employee. It isn't true, but that doesn't matter. Yelp has rules about former employees posting fake reviews, and this is ultimately a quick and easy way for companies to get rid of negative reviews.

#2. There are a variety of ways to flag negative reviews:
  • If the post contains false or out of date information.
  • If the post is by someone affiliated with the business (employee, business partner, loan shark, etc).
  • If the post is from a competitor.
  • If the post contains any kind of threats, lewdness or hate speech.
  • If the post isn't even about a personal experience.
  • If the post is a violation of Yelp's privacy standards (naming the names of employees, etc).
  • If the post contains advertising.
  • If the post is for a different business.
 Any one of these reasons could be used as grounds to get rid of a negative post.

#3. Report a specific profile.

If a person has only a few reviews and they are all negative, they are probably a fake profile. In this case the whole profile could be reported and deleted. All of their reviews for your company and potentially others could be deleted, all at once.


Conclusions regarding Yelp

It is very easy for companies to manipulate their reputations on Yelp, and to damage the reputations of competitors. The more reputation savvy a person or company is, the more they can take advantage of Yelp's system.

Which ultimately means the more useless and horrible Yelp is as a company itself, because it has become flooded with fake reviews.

Which is why I am giving Yelp one star out of five. For being utterly useless.

6 Ways to Improve Yelp

#1. Add a GPS requirement to Yelp.

Under this new rule, people submitting a Yelp review have to be in the immediate vicinity of the location. This would reduce the number of fake reviews submitted dramatically, and put Yelp Privateers/Pirates out of business.

Or failing that, people who include a GPS component to their Yelp review should have their review "valued more" than reviews that were written a significant distance away or did not list their GPS location at all.

#2. Add a time limit to reviews.

If a review is older than 1 year, it should be deleted. The person who posted the review would need to revisit the location and post a new review.
#3. Algorithms designed to spot fake or suspicious reviews.

It would not be too difficult in my opinion to design a computer program that looks for fake reviews. All they need to be looking for is:
  • An imbalance between positive and negative reviews (eg. a person who only posts negative reviews or a person who only posts positive reviews.
  • A person who posts a positive review of one company and a negative review of another company should be flagged as suspicious.
#4. Suspicious reviews should be downgraded.

Pushed further down the list of reviews - and their star rating should only count for half or less than half if they are flagged multiple times.
And if they are flagged 3 times or more for being suspicious, they should be removed entirely.

#5. Banning the accounts and personal IP addresses of individuals caught posting fake reviews.

Once they recognize an account that has too much suspicious activity, they need to be deleted, banned and blocked.

Obviously you would not be blocking IPs from public libraries, Starbucks, or internet cafes, but that is where the GPS requirement comes into place... If GPS location is required, then they won't be able to use public IP locations like libraries, Starbucks or internet cafes anyway.
#6. Video reviews should count for double.

If a customer posts a video of them reviewing the company, it should count for more. At least double in my opinion. Same goes with reviewers who take photos. Their reviews should be valued more, like perhaps 150%.

Final Commentary

Honestly, if Yelp doesn't start making changes to improve the quality and honesty of reviews on their website then people should just stop using Yelp. The website has become bogged down with useless fake reviews, and the more people realize that Yelp is useless, the more people should stop using it.

A 2013 Harvard Business School study determined that 16 percent of Yelp reviews are fake. Four years later, we expect the percentage of fake reviews has gotten higher. Anecdotally, we estimate the number of fake reviews on Yelp is now between 20 to 30%.

Yelp isn't the only company which has problems with fake reviews. eg. Amazon also has severe issues with people posting fake reviews. So this is an issue that effects multiple companies and can be expected to get worse before it gets better.

But if there was a GPS requirement and video/photo reviews were valued more, this could change dramatically the quality of the review system Yelp currently has to one that is held to a higher standard.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Apple: It's good if you like crap

So the video below is by YouTube user Rick Beato - who has purchased a lot of Apple products over the years. Feel free to listen to his rant about why he thinks old Apple products are actually better than new Apple products.




Why I despise all Apple products: Overrated, Overpriced, Incompatible Garbage

By C. M.

To me Apple products were NEVER good, and it was never for a lack of using them.
  • My high school used Apple computers. They always had errors.
  • My university used Apple computers. They were annoyingly slow and had compatibility problems.
  • Several work places over the years used Apple computers. They were very slow to work with. Doing what is normally a simple task would take forever on a Mac.
  • My wife has an Apple computer and 2 iPhones. Both of which I find annoyingly slow to use due to bad software design.
And I hated these horrible computers the whole time.

So when iPods, iPhones and iPads eventually came out, I was none too impressed because it was always the same problems.
  • Apple was not compatible with anything else - often including other Apple products.
  • They were slower to use.
  • Could not be modified or personalized as easily.
  • More errors.
  • Even simple things like using the phone to call people was sometimes beyond products like the iPhone 4 because of design faults.

And to top it all off, Apple products are notoriously overpriced and overrated. eg. You could get equivalent products from other manufacturers (Hewlett Packard for computers, Samsung for cellphones) which had better prices, better reviews, and less problems.

And innovation? Basically non-existent.

True, the iPhone and iPad were the first mass market smartphones and tablets which won popularity - but they were not the first products of this kind. They were actually ripped off from older products that were less popular, but had been innovative ahead of their time.

All Apple did was take innovative products, make a few tiny improvements, slap the Apple logo on it, and then market it.

And to be clear, most of Apple's operating expenses is actually marketing.

They spend very little on innovation.
Their software designs have become increasingly sloppy (as pointed out in the video at the top).
They don't even manufacture their own parts - they farm that out to Samsung and other companies and then hire intermediate factories to assemble the final product.

This is why the new iPhone X is now $999... and yet really doesn't anything new to brag about. It is basically identical to the iPhone 8 with a few minor tweaks.

The biggest change is actually just the price tag.


So look at the huge price jump between the iPhone 8 and the X. It is an extra $300 USD.

So what has changed...?

Slightly Bigger Screen Size, Resolution and Ratio
  • iPhone X - 5.8-inch 18.5:9 True Tone OLED, 2436 x 1125 pixels (458 ppi), 82.9% screen-to-body ratio
  • iPhone 8 - 4.7-inch 16:9 True Tone LCD, 1334 x 750 pixels (326 ppi), 65.6% screen-to-body ratio
Size and Weighs More
  • iPhone X - 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 in) and 174g (6.14 oz)
  • iPhone 8 - 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm (5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 in) and 148g (5.22 oz)

Lightning Port
  • iPhone X - Lightning Port compatibility problems.
  • iPhone 8 - Lightning Port compatibility problems.
Chipset
  • iPhone X - Apple A11 ‘Bionic’ chipset: Six Core CPU, Six Core GPU, producing 2.5 GHz, M11 motion coprocessor, 3GB RAM
  • iPhone 8 - Apple A11 ‘Bionic’ chipset: Six Core CPU, Six Core GPU, producing 2.5 GHz, M11 motion coprocessor, 2GB RAM
Release Date
  • iPhone X - November 3rd 2017. (2 weeks to go...)
  • iPhone 8 - September 22nd 2017. (Almost 1 month ago...)

Price and GB Space
  • iPhone X - 64GB ($999), 256GB ($1,149)
  • iPhone 8 - 64GB ($699), 256GB ($849)

Trust me, when getting a new cellphone it is worth it to have the extra space. So only morons would buy the 64 GB version.

But ultimately you are paying an extra $300 for ... what? Slightly better screen resolution and size? I suppose if you cannot afford a TV set and you watch movies on your cellphone all the time, it might be worth it...

Meanwhile those of us with brains just go and buy a TV set.

eg. Canadians can currently get a Samsung 50" 4K UHD HDR LED Tizen Smart TV for $799.99 CDN at Best Buy. (Sale ends November 2nd 2017.)

And then just Netflix and Chill.

Is an extra tiny bit of screen size really important to you that you have to pay an extra $300?

Because if it is, just go buy a tablet - or a mini tablet even. They are getting really cheap...

Asides from price the biggest new thing on the iPhone X is that it has a retinal eye scanner, making it more difficult for thieves to open your phone - or making it more difficult for your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend to check if you are cheating on them.

Meanwhile, just for argument's sake... lets see what Samsung is coming out with.


The Samsung Galaxy S8 (already on the market) is:
  • The exact same screen size as the iPhone X. (So evidently the iPhone X is copying Samsung.)
  • 64 GB in the base model (same thing), but you can get up to 256 GB.
  • 4 GB RAM (that is 1 extra GB of RAM more than the iPhone X, and double what the iPhone 8 offers).
  • 2960 x 1440 pixels (570 ppi), 18.5:9 ratio (same ratio, but with an extra 112 ppi than the iPhone X)
  • Chipset x8 - Exynos 8895 Octa - EMEA Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 (so 8 chips instead of 6 in the iPhone 8 or X) producing 4x2.35 GHz Kryo.
  • Micro USB port - compatible with pretty much everything on the market (except Apple phones obviously). 
  • Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery. (The iPhone X only has a 2,715 mAh battery.)
And that is the current model that has been available since March 2017. 8 months ago.

So clearly the Samsung S8 is already superior to the iPhone X. More pixels per inch, more RAM, more compatibility, and more battery life. The CPU speeds are comparable.

But above I said "lets see what Samsung is coming out with."

Meaning the future. Not what Samsung released 8 months ago. What we really should be talking about is the...

Samsung S9
Samsung Galaxy S9

  • Featuring a retinal scanner - again, so people can cheat on their significant others - but also with the options for facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.
  • Probable release date? February 26th or March 2018.
  • Snapdragon 845 processor - with 30% more power efficiency than the 835, which increases battery life.
  • Boost modem speed by 20% so you can download files from the internet that much faster.
  • Base price expected to be $1,049.99. Expect closer to $1,199.99 for the 256 GB version.

A lot of the details of what the S9 will have are unknown at this time.

But what we do know is several things.
  1. It will probably be more expensive than the iPhone X.
  2. It will be better than the iPhone X (seeing as the S8 is already better).
  3. It will provide faster internet.
  4. Significantly longer battery life - which will be a huge step forward.

And therein lies the problem with the whole Apple Vs Samsung rivalry. They are always trying to one up each other, but Samsung is increasingly winning.

Just look at the iPhone 8 / X for example. The S8 came out back in March 2017 and it took Apple 7 months to come out with the iPhone 8 (a clearly inferior product) and then they are rushing to market the iPhone X before Christmas (which is also still an inferior product, just not as bad as the 8).

So why should anyone buy somebody an inferior product as a Christmas gift?

Or better yet, why not wait? Just wait for the S9 to come out in February/March 2018 and then get it as a birthday gift or whatever instead. Because it will clearly be a superior product.

Which explains why Samsung will be able to charge an extra $50 USD for it.

Sigh.

Years ago we posted about the iPhone 4: Apple doesn't make the iPhone.

During the post we explained how most of the iPhone was made by other companies, like Samsung. The actual cost of the components to make it was a mere $178 USD.

So a good question now is, what does the components of an iPhone X or Samsung S9 actually cost?

It is an important question, but I am willing to bet it is less than $200 USD for both. They just jack up the price and sell it for $999 or $1200.

Which makes you realize that most of what they are doing is marketing. Marketing and claims about how wonderful their product is.

It makes me wonder what would happen if someone came out with a No Name Brand cellphone.

Spend zero on marketing, but design it, use Android as an operating system, and then sell it for a mere $333. Less than one third the price of an iPhone X or a Samsung S9, but with all the power, performance, screeen resolution, etc.

And don't sell it in Best Buy or electronics stores... sell it in grocery stores. Which means every time people go to buy food they see a sleekly designed smartphone that is affordable and does everything you expect a smartphone to do. A seemingly basic model that has comparable performance.

It would not be a status symbol like Apple or Samsung have become. It would be a phone that works, is inexpensive, and there is no fuss about company rivalry or status.

That would be a welcome change actually.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Toronto Compound Bow Repairman

So where is the best place to get your compound bow repaired in Toronto?

Honestly... there isn't very many places.

#1. Bass Pro in Vaughan Mills

If you don't mind traveling all the way to Vaughan (just south of Canada's Wonderland), Bass Pro does offer a variety of repairs and tuning - but be prepared for several things.
  • They will try to sell you a new compound bow.
  • They will claim your bow is beyond repair or;
  • They will claim it is "too expensive to repair" (this can sometimes be true).
  • If your bow is really old - vintage - they might simply refuse to repair it because it is so hard to find parts.
  • They will charge you an arm and a leg for repairs.
Now we have talked about Bass Pro in Vaughan before and it is certainly a good fun place to go shopping. But going there for repairs? Not so much. Expect to be spending at least $100 if someone dryfired your compound bow.

#2. Al Flaherty's Outdoor Store at 2066 Dufferin Street

More known as a hunting and fishing store, Al Flaherty's Outdoor Store also services compound bows and crossbows. However, it is more conveniently in York/Toronto and not way out in Vaughan.

However, just like Bass Pro expect the repairman at Al Flaherty's to:
  • Try to sell you a new compound bow.
  • Say your bow is beyond repair.
  • Say it is more expensive to repair it than to just a buy a new bow.
  • Refuse to repair your vintage compound bow.
  • Be really expensive.
So yeah. More convenient perhaps, but really more of the same isn't it?

#3. ProjectGridless.ca Compound Bow Repairman in Toronto

I am getting to a point obviously.

ProjectGridless.ca is a website run by a guy in East York/Toronto. He makes his owns bows, his own bowstrings, repairs bows, repairs compound bows (both vintage and modern compound bows), he collects bows, and he even makes "Frankenstein Compound Bows" by mixing and matching parts from different broken bows.

He also buys broken bows to salvage their parts, so he can then repair other bows.

So unlike the others mentioned above, he will not try to sell you a new bow - because he doesn't sell new bows (although he does sometimes have old bows for sale).

Is your bow truly beyond repair? Maybe. Won't know until you ask someone who is willing to actually TRY repairing it.

Will it be more expensive to repair? Less likely, because he only charges $30 per hour for his services - which is comparatively cheaper to what you will find at Bass Pro or Al Flaherty's.

He collects vintage bows and compound bows, like the two shown further below from his personal collection. So his willingness to repair vintage compound bows is going to be higher when you consider that this guy is a fan of restoring vintage bows.

So who do you think will offer the best price, the best value and the best results when it comes to compound bow repair? Our recommendation is that you visit http://www.projectgridless.ca/p/compound-bow-repairs-in-toronto.html to find out.

1970 Model T Jennings next to a 1973 Black Hawk Chief Scout.
History Note

The compound bow was invented / patented in 1966 by H. W. Allen Jr., who then partnered up with Tom Jennings to create the first commercial compound bow in 1969.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Game and Hobby Zone at 2 Bloor St West, Toronto = Racist Owner

Years ago I witnessed the owner/manager of "Game and Hobby Zone" located at 2 Bloor St West, Toronto doing something racist.

He told a black customer to "step aside" so that he could serve white customers instead.

The black customer and the manager then got into a huge argument, which I watched - and should have recorded on my phone, but it was already low on battery.

I did later go back and take the following photo of the manager, on the right, with one of his staff on the left.


Ever since that incident I have boycotted Game and Hobby Zone - for multiple reasons, not just because the owner is racist.

  • The products in the store are overpriced. You can find the same products elsewhere for much better prices.
  • The shelves are crammed and disorganized.
  • The service is sub par. Not helpful.

In contrast there are other stores that make more sense to spend my money at.

Here are a few of my favourites:

  • 401 Games
  • Hairy Tarantula
  • Face to Face Games
  • EB Games
  • Meeplemart
  • Strategy Games
  • Mastermind Toys
  • The Sword and Board
  • Toys R Us

My point is there are plenty of other locations to buy the same products... but with better service, better prices, and you are not financially supporting a racist bigot.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wooden Figurines Nativity Scene

Details Behind The Figures

If you like figurines on the shelves and tables in your home, then consider the numerous options from the Willow Tree collection. These are detailed figurines in a variety of designs. You can find the collectibles online or in specialty stores. Sometimes, retail stores will carry a select few of them. You can usually find the figurines more during the holiday season as many people enjoy giving them as gifts.

When you look at a figurine, you'll see an authentic stamp of Susan Lordi's name. The name is usually located on the bottom of the figurine. If you don't see the name, then it's likely not an authentic piece. There will also be a date with the name, which is when the figure was entered into the collection. You can usually tell if a figurine is authentic by looking at it as the pieces have a distinct look, but the name and date offer verification. Most of the pieces are of a mother and a child or of children. There is a nativity set that includes the wisemen, a stable, a baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary and all the other components of the Bible story. You can find angels holding harps, animals or other items. There are figures of couples hugging, couples with a baby, animals, and children in various positions.

One of the things that you'll notice about the Willow Tree figures is that there aren't any faces painted on the people. This is a detail that is intentionally left out, bringing more character to the pieces in the collection so that you focus more on the message and the feelings that the pieces bring. Each figure is etched with details that include flowers on dresses, wrinkles on clothing and indentations in the hair. These aspects give the figures life instead of the pieces being plain and simple with straight lines. You can purchase the figures to give to family and friends or to keep for yourself. They are an idea for a newlywed couple or a couple who has had a baby. The figures are also used for familial events, such as an anniversary or the passing of a family member.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Canada Archery Online - Company Review

Review by C. M.

So I recently ordered a new bow from a different company that I have never done business with before. The company in question was "Canada Archery Online", which is based in Toronto.

I opted to do business with the company for several reasons.

#1. They sold a particular brand of bow that I was having difficulty finding at other local stores.

They had the riser I was looking for: http://www.canadaarcheryonline.ca/risers/

And the limbs I was looking for: http://www.canadaarcheryonline.ca/limbs/

So I got the products I was looking for and I am happy with the products. That is not what I am reviewing today, but having a good selection of products is certainly a bonus.

Note - When visiting their website make sure you go to canadaarcheryonline.ca instead of .com. The .com doesn't really go anywhere.

#2. They provide hand delivery.

That is right, they deliver. Just like ordering a pizza.

Well, to be more specific they provide delivery to specific locations in Toronto, Brampton, Guelph and Montreal. The locations are:

Peel Archery Club
107 Nuggett Ct,
Brampton, Ontario
L6T 5A9

Battle Sports
26 Ashwarren Rd,
Toronto, Ontario
M3J 1Z5

The Royal Garrison
28 Essex Street
Guelph, ON
N1H 4L7

Seton Park Archery Range (aka, The Toronto Archery Range)
Don Mills Road and Gateway Blvd
Toronto, Ontario

Sports de Combat
5335 Ave Casgrain
Montreal, Quebec
So I ordered 3 sets of limbs, 1 riser, and arranged to have everything picked up at the Toronto Archery Range. That way, if I wanted to, I could just begin shooting right away.

In the far future maybe they could deliver everything via drone? Just like Amazon keeps promising.

But wouldn't that be nice, if you could just have things delivered like you would a pizza?

Take for example Pizza Pizza - a local pizza place that is very popular in Toronto. They have a $3.75 delivery charge.

What if, in the future, Pizza Pizza delivered via drone and the cost of delivery was FREE?

After all, think of all the pizzas a company could delivery using drones - eliminating the need for delivery people - and you only need the people who stick the pizza inside the drone (presumably the same people who hand the pizza to the delivery person) and possibly one person to service the drones regularly.

Many other types of businesses could follow this drone model too, replacing a variety of people:
  • Package Couriers - like the DHL guy that showed up earlier today to delivery some archery gloves to me.
  • Bicycle Couriers
  • Any kind of food delivery service - including "Meals on Wheels".
  • Mail carriers from the Post Office.
Right now the company Uber is planning to replace much of the world's taxi industry with flying drones that can deliver people from point A to point B. They already have started with self driving taxis in Pittsburgh, so eventually their goal is to replace the taxi industry entirely with self driving cars and flying drones.

Uber hopes to have their flying drone system known as "Elevate" up and running before 2026.

Uber also recently released self driving trucks, hoping to replace the truck driving industry with computer automation.

Still I must say, back to the company "Canada Archery Online", having the products I ordered delivered by a person who can smile, answer questions, and is wearing a "Canada Archery Online" t-shirt is a bonus. I would still prefer humans doing the deliveries on a regular basis.

Which brings me back to Pizza Pizza's $3.75 delivery charge. That is a pretty reasonable fee. I could see many other industries opting for a similar fee just so you can have a human deliver a product.

Because sometimes drones and robots simply won't be able to do the job.

eg. My apartment buzzer is broken. I had to leave the DHL guy a note saying to call my cellphone number. Which he did. A drone would not know they had to do that, although I suppose they could be programmed to notify me via text message.

Any number of things could potentially come up while doing a job. What if the package arrives, but it is damaged? Will the drone be able to direct me to where to ask for a refund? Maybe not.

Anyway, back on topic...

One of the things about Canada Archery Online is that they don't really have a bricks and mortar store where you can browse. Everything is online and then they just deliver to the locations mentioned above.

Which works for me, especially when I already know the products I want to order and I don't need to see them in person. Someone who doesn't know what they want however... it might be a bit like trying on shoes. That is a good time to be in an actual store where you can learn more about the product before you buy it.

Just wait though... the shoe salesman will be gone. Gone and replaced by a robot like the "Salesbot" Pepper.

Pepper the Salesbot

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bidding on eBay Antiques

By C. M. - August 31st 2017.

For the past three years I have been making a habit of buying antiques off of eBay and I have learned a number of things both about bidding on eBay and about myself.

  • The bidding can sometimes get crazy.
  • I really need to avoid anything where the bidding goes crazy, and so I have learned to set a maximum amount I am willing to bid.
  • While there is a wide variety of antiques and collectibles to choose from on eBay, I generally prefer to stick to the older items that are in really good condition.
  • I have learned that I need to set a limit for how many antiques / $$$ I am willing to spend in a given year. This way I don't end up spending a ridiculous amount on antiques each year.
  • I also restrict myself to buying antiques at one time of the year, typically July to September. If I manage to get my purchases done by the end of August, that is a good thing.
  • It is wise to restrict yourself and set limits.
  • Always check to make sure they actually deliver to Canada. Some Americans refuse to ship to Canada.
  • The shipping price might be more if they are shipping from the USA to Canada, so confirm the price.
  • When possible, try to bid on products that are already in Canada. Makes the whole shipping thing easier.
  • Plus I prefer to spend my dollars on Canadians when possible. Keeps the wealth in Canada.
  • Sometimes you can get a sweet deal because nobody else bids on a particular item.
  • Check out the option to Buy Now. Sometimes you can get pretty good deals there too.
  • If making an offer for a Buy Now item I will sometimes bid $5 or $10 less than they are asking.
  • If the seller suddenly ups the price of shipping "for no good reason" and it is suddenly a different price that what the courier quoted, something is fishy and you should cancel your order/payment.
  • Watch Lists are handy for tracking the bids of multiple items that are similar so you can see how high the bidding goes and decide if you even want to bid at all.
  • Never bid on something you don't actually want. I haven't made this mistake yet thankfully.
  • Never bid on something until after you confirmed they do ship to Canada and the cost of shipping to Canada.
  • You can always change your mind and refuse to pay. The item will go to the next highest bidder.
One of these days I am going to teach my mother how to sell her old records on eBay - the old records she never listens to that is. Some of them she does actually listen to regularly. At which point I should mention my parents also has numerous other antiques in the barn she could sell too.

If she learned how to do that it would give her a new hobby to do in her old age. ;)

Plus it would help to get rid of "old junk" and clutter that is in the shed, garage, barn, basement, attic and so forth. Some of it she will no doubt keep for sentimental reasons, but others... why not sell it?

And the same goes to you, the readers, do you have old stuff you don't really need you could sell?

I know I have a few things I do not need. Various books, comic books, a stamp collection, a coin collection... I imagine some of them could fetch a pretty penny.

One of these days I should sell such things. Just as soon as I find the time.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Buying Things Off Facebook = Bad Idea / Waste of Time

While I like the idea of buying something off Facebook from a friend, buying things from STRANGERS on Facebook is actually problematic.

The concept seems like a good one. Someone has an used product they want to sell or even trade and they are looking for other people on Facebook to sell or trade to. But actually doing so sometimes comes with problems.

Two recent incidents have caused me to swear off any more attempts to buy things off Facebook. In the future I will be sticking with Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and similar websites.

THE FIRST INCIDENT

A woman was looking to give away a baby feeding pillow designed for newborns. I wanted to get it for my wife, but I was so busy and the women lived further away so picking it up was going to be difficult.

Ultimately there ended up being delays and the woman ended up giving it to someone else. By the time I was able to go over there and get it, she informed me it was already gone. Fortunately I did not have to waste a trip.

Instead my wife ended up getting a near identical pillow from a store near us that sells used goods for babies and toddlers (Once Upon A Child, located at 1386 Bayview Toronto).

It wasn't free, it was $10, but that was still a very good price compared to the $50 to $70 the pillow costs at regular stores. Buying it an actual store ended up saving time and transportation money, so I am happy with the result and don't mind that it wasn't free.

THE SECOND INCIDENT

A guy named Guillermo Aristizabal posted a Korean SKB horsebow for sale, plus 18 arrows, assorted arrowheads and all his archery gear. And he was asking $200 for it.

Which frankly was a really good deal.

So I immediately contacted Guillermo Aristizabal and arranged to pick up the bow and everything ASAP.

I got off work early on a Thursday, I send him two messages (one via Facebook and a 2nd to his phone) both telling him my ETA, traveled for an hour to North York to a suburban neighbourhood and was only a few minutes from his home when I get a text from him...

The jackass had sold it to someone else just minutes earlier. He knew I was almost there. He knew I was en route and had been for almost an hour.

So... context. I spent $6 on travel expenses to get there and back via public transit.

It was very hot and humid outside and his home was 20 minutes walk from the nearest subway.

He knew I was on my way and what time I would be arriving.

But the jackass apparently did not think, did not have the sense of etiquette to warn me that someone else might beat me to it and that I was wasting time, effort and money to get there in a hurry.

What a ****ing ***hole.

So I had to turn around and walk back to the subway in the heat and humidity, having completely wasted two hours of my afternoon that I could have spent doing something productive.

CONCLUSIONS

After the second incident I basically determined there would not be a 3rd time. There is no way I am buying anything (or trying to buy anything) from a stranger off Facebook ever again.

A friend or family member, certainly.

And the reason why is because a friend or family member would never waste my time like that. A stranger has no bond of friendship or kinship, which binds them to be nice to their friends or kin.

A stranger is also not a company. They have no reason to observe any kind of customer service to protect their reputation.

This is why I have chosen to use Guillermo Aristizabal's name on here. The guy is an ***hole for wasting my time, money and effort. If he knew someone else was on their way to pick up the equipment he should have told me in advance and I would have known not to waste my time.

And time is more valuable than money typically. I personally value my time at $40 per hour, which is the rate I charge my clients usually. So wasting two hours of my time, plus $6 travel expenses, means he wasted $86 worth of my time/money. To say nothing of the heat and humidity.

An ***hole like Guillermo Aristizabal deserves to have a bad reputation, just like a company selling things and having horrible customer service deserves to have a bad reputation.

So if you are buying stuff online, via Facebook for example, don't buy anything from people with a bad reputation. They are probably just going to waste your time/money. Sadly there are no websites, to my knowledge, that track the reputation of people. There probably should be.

And that my friend is some valuable consumer advice.

At least on eBay there is a seller reputation number, out of 100, which tracks feedback from buyers. The best sellers have 100% all the time and try really hard to keep it at 100.

So now I am going to go browse bows on eBay. At least they deliver. At least they don't waste your time/money outside in the heat and humidity. And frankly the fact that they track a seller's reputation is a breath of fresh air in comparison.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Uber, the First Ride

Took Uber for the very first time today because of an emergency at home.

Honestly, Uber was arguably easier and simpler than taking a taxi and I was overall impressed. I would definitely do it again.

The Taxi Industry clearly needs to step up their game if they are planning to compete because the simplicity and ease of use of calling an Uber with an app, not having to deal with directions, the Uber driver taking the route you want them to take... so much simpler and ideal. And automatic payments means, wow. Get in, go, get out. Done.

Impressed*

Friday, June 30, 2017

Nestle Good Start Baby Formula

By C.M.

Okay so for years now we have been avoiding Nestle and their products because of their CEO's previous stance on water - he claimed water was a commodity, as opposed to a human right. Here at Product Reviews Canada we fully support water being a human right, and boycott any company who refuses to acknowledge that it is a human right.

See also

Water Wars / Boycotting Nestle Corporation

Nestle Boycott, holding water supplies hostage

Since then the Nestle Corp. and its CEO have softened their stance on water and now admits that water is a human right. So the boycott was successful.

Changes still need to be made to how Nestle operates and prevent them from hoarding water supplies in many countries, but this is a good start.

Thus, we at Product Reviews Canada are no longer boycotting Nestle at this time - but we reserve the right to resume a boycott if the company doesn't fix its evil ways and goes back to hoarding water.

Ahem.

Thus we can now talk about the following product:

Nestle Good Start Baby Formula

This was the 2nd formula my wife and I tried on Baby Richard and he gulps it down greedily. So that is certainly a good sign with respect to taste.

The formula in question is supposedly "designed to be easy to digest" and contains:
  • Omega 3
  • Omega 6
  • Dietary Fibre
Along with a host of other vitamins and nutrients good for the growth of babies. The product comes as a ready-made formula, requiring no water to be added. Just warm it up to a suitable temperature (via holding the formula in your hand for 15 minutes before serving, or a similar method). Do not use a microwave!

We first tried Nestle Good Start Baby Formula because it came in a free package of baby supplies that Nestle uses to promote their products. (Offer only available in Canada.)

See Nestle Baby Program at
https://www.nestle-baby.ca/en/register/begin

Having tried it, and seeing that Baby Richard gulps it down, we earlier today bought more of the product having exhausted the free samples Nestle sent us.

Now we may try other products in the future so we have something to compare it to, but so far we have only tried this and the formula which was provided to us at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. And thus far he seems to enjoy the Nestle formula more than the hospital formula.

So...

Nestle Formula 1
Hospital Formula 0

To be continued when we try other brands of formula...

Playtex Baby Soothers

By C.M.

So my wife and I purchased baby soothers today from Shoppers Drug Mart. The brand on the label was Playtex, which is usually known for making feminine hygiene products.

So we gave it to Baby Richard and...

He spat it out.

Tried several times to see if he liked it, but he was not going for it. Maybe because he was hungry at the time. Unclear why he did not like it, but he definitely went for the spitting it out approach.

We shall try again later to see if he has changed his mind, but for now it seems Richard simply doesn't like soothers. No fault on Playtex for that.

On the plus side, we chose this particular soother (not the one shown in the photo) because it is "clinically tested" to prevent deformations to the baby's front teeth.

However so far we are not going to be able to test that claim because Richard keeps spitting it out. We have to try again later.

To be continued...

Born Free Active Flow Baby Bottle

By C.M.

So we recently purchased a "Born Free ActiveFlow" baby bottle...

And we are not impressed. The bottle didn't come with the nipple part, and none of our other nipples from other bottles matched this particular bottle.

So my wife just threw the whole bottle out, calling it "useless", and quite annoyed at the fundamental waste of money when a company ships a product that has missing parts.

The bottle was, supposedly, designed to reduce colic and other issues, but now we will never get to test it because it was missing a rather important part - and my wife has no patience for products that are "useless" as a result.

I have decided to try contacting Born Free to see if they can send a replacement (it is too late to ask for a replacement part, the wife also took out the trash). So at this point we shall see if the company has a good reputation for customer service or if they are a trashy company not worth spending your money on.

Stay tuned...

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Price of Diapers, Cost Comparisons

By C.M. - June 2017.

So the wife and I decided to do some price analysis of diapers and the best places to buy them since we are expecting our first child within the coming weeks.

Thus we ended up comparing prices from various sources, including Costco, Rexall PharmaPlus (which presumably has similar prices to other pharmacies and grocery stores), and also a cloth diaper delivery company known as "Happy Nappy" (local to Toronto and the GTA).

Costco
$0.22 per diaper, 192 diapers = $37.99 + HST
                    $110 for 500 diapers

Rexall PharmaPlus
$0.61 per diaper, 24 diapers = $12.99 + HST
                    $305 for 500 diapers
or
$0.31 per diaper, 92 diapers = $24.99 + HST
                    $155 for 500 diapers

Shoppers Drug Mart
Unknown - For some silly reason Shoppers Drug Mart doesn't list diapers on their website, but they do list wipes. Really annoying. Maybe it varies by store???

Cloth Diaper Delivery from Happy Nappy
Impossible to do a proper price analysis as Happy Nappy charges a weekly rate of $23.87 + HST for whatever number of diapers you need - the amount is apparently unlimited.

In theory a newborn baby might use 8 diapers per day (they get changed quite often as they have not yet learned to control their bowels) a newborn would use 56 diapers per week. Possibly more/less.

It ends up being:

$0.48 per diaper, possibly 56 diapers = $23.87 + HST
                    $240 for 500 diapers or unlimited diapers over 8.9 weeks

Even if a baby ended up using 100 cloth diapers per week (which is a ridiculous amount, but lets use it for comparison purposes), the cost still ends up being more expensive than disposable diapers from Costco.

$0.27 per diaper, 100 diapers = $23.87 + HST
                    $240 for 890 or unlimited diapers over 8.9 weeks

What you are really paying for with Happy Nappy is the delivery and pickup convenience, which is why they can charge over double what Costco charges for disposable diapers.

In theory you can also feel like you are "saving the environment" since cloth diapers are reused again and again - ignoring that the cleaning agents used to clean the cloth diapers are harmful to the environment. So maybe don't brag about your environmental friendliness.

Still, if you are the type of person who wants to use cloth instead and wants the convenience of diapers delivered to your home, perhaps Happy Nappy is a good thing for you.

Even though cloth diapers are more work during changing time... so how are they more convenient?

What you really learn here is that when it comes to diapers, you save way more money when you buy in bulk from Costco.

The only problem then is what happens when your baby grows too fast and outgrows the diaper size before you can use all of them? So clearly you need to be careful you don't buy too many and end up not using them.

NOTE - TWINS, TRIPLETS, ETC

For someone who ends up having twins, triplets, or more babies - the cloth diaper delivery from Happy Nappy suddenly makes way more sense financially. Since the cost per week is the same regardless of whether you have 1 baby, 2 babies, 3 babies or more - the value of the Happy Nappy service dramatically improves. Just don't tell them how many babies you have though or they might try to charge you twice or thrice as much...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Micro Air Conditioner that runs on Solar Power from your Window

What if you could buy an air conditioner that only weighs less than 10 lbs, fits in a small space in your window, and runs off of a solar panel that is on the rear of the air conditioner and facing the great outdoors?

It wouldn't be very powerful. The solar panel is small and only produces 10 Watts of power.

10 Watts of power, producing 100 BTUs of cooling. That isn't much, but here is the trick... you don't just buy 1. You buy one for every window in your home.

So if you have 5 windows in your home, you buy five of these micro air conditioners and put one in each window - producing 500 BTUs and cooling your home without a single cent of electricity from the grid.

Each micro air conditioner unit sells for $89 each and includes everything you need to install it in your window.

Pros
  • Affordable, saves on electricity whereas conventional air conditioners cost way more on your electricity bill.
  • Constantly cooling your home - even at night, using battery energy stored up from the day before.
  • Because it cools your home constantly from multiple units it prevents your home from heating and cooling and heating and cooling cycles that a normal air conditioner goes through since most people only turn a conventional air conditioner on during time periods when it is more affordable electricity prices.
  • Easy to transport, since it weighs less than 10 lbs.
  • Easy to install. You just slide it into the gap of your window and window frame - and adjust the wings to make the window air tight.
  • If you already own a conventional air conditioner you will save money on electricity costs.
  • Perfect for people who want to live in an off the grid home.
Cons

There is one big problem with this product. It currently doesn't exist. We came up with the idea for the invention earlier today (June 21st 2017).

Slightly larger units producing 20 Watts of power / 200 BTUs and similar designs could be used to fill larger spaces in windows, providing even more cooling power.

The problem with conventional air conditioners is that even a small air conditioner uses 500 Watts of power and produces 5000 BTUs, but the amount of electricity being used and the subsequent cost is outrageous.

A single 500 Watt air conditioner costs the user 0.5 kWh per hour. During peak hours in Ontario (all electricity rates below are from Toronto Hydro, each kWh costs you 15.7 cents, but if you are running your air conditioner during peak hours for 25 hours per week it will cost you $1.9625 per week just for that amount of time being used*.

* You might also be running it during mid peak and off peak hours, costing 11.3 cents or 7.7 cents per kWh.

Do that for 25 weeks of the year for a single year and that is $98.125 (plus tax).

If you let your 500 Watt air conditioner run constantly for 28 days it would cost you the following:

100 Peak Hours at 15.7 cents per kWh = $7.85

120 Mid Peak Hours at 11.3 cents per kWh = $6.78

432 Off Peak Hours at 7.7 cents per kWh = $16.632

Total $29.262 for letting your 500 Watt air conditioner run constantly for 28 days. That doesn't seem like much after all, but it does add up over time. (And do you really need to run it constantly?)

Of course, the price skyrockets if you are using a 1000 Watt or 1500 Watt air conditioner, effectively doubling or tripling the costs.

A single month of running a 1500 Watt air conditioner will cost $87.786 in electricity costs, roughly equal to the cost of the proposed $89 micro air conditioner - which a person could use 6 or more months per year with zero cost.

Slightly larger 20, 30 or 40 Watt air conditioners could still be made to be lightweight, producing more electricity - plus blocking out sunlight from your home - and producing 200, 300 or 400 BTUs of cooling.

"Micro air conditioners" do already exist - or at least they are called that. They still weigh between 26 and 74 lbs, and they are still pretty large and clunky. Clearly, their definition and my definition of the word "micro" differs. Why are they using the word micro to sell their products, when that word really doesn't represent what they are selling?

The air conditioning industry in my opinion should be thinking smaller, more efficient, and solar-powered.

In the future every window in a person's home could potentially be filled with a solar-powered air conditioner during the hottest months of the year - allowing people to cool their homes and keep them cool, using zero electricity from the grid.

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