Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Man's Guide to Last Minute Xmas Gift Ideas

Are you a man and you in a rush to get a xmas gift for someone special? Here are 5 last minute ideas for gifts.

#1. Puppy, Kitten or Fish

Depending on whether the person is a dog, cat or fish person - this could actually be a really good gift to give them. You should also get them pet food (the appropriate kind) with the pet, and in the case of fish you will also need to buy a fish tank and any accompanying gadgets for the fish.

Note - Not all people are into pets (eg. some people are allergic). I personally would LOVE a kitten for xmas. Preferably a Russian Blue (which is technically grey, but whatever). I think they're adorable.


#2. Tools and Power Tools

If the person in question is a manly man (or a handy woman) then you can never go wrong with tools. But you can buy the wrong type of tools. Way too many people buy hammers, screwdrivers, ratchet sets, drills and drill bits - but for the really tough jobs men need a greater variety of tools like:

Mallet + Chisels (these go together)
Rip Saws
Hack Saws
Coping Saws
Measuring tools
Squares
Levels
Work Benches
Vice
Vice grips
Etc

But then there is also the power tools. Nail gun, band saw, jig saw, rotary saw, chain saw, oxy-acetylene cutting torch, drill press, etc. eg. I saw a wood lathe awhile back I saw in Canadian Tire and I decided to take a photo and put it on my "TO BUY LIST", which is a list of things I personally want to buy sometime.


#3. Ties, Belts, Suspenders

For the non-manly men you probably don't know their shoe size, precise pants size (length and waist), shirt size, etc. So what can you get them? Well you're in luck. You can probably guess their waist size and be able to pick out a belt that is in their size - or if not are sure, you can more easily get them a tie or suspenders (all men look awesomely retro in suspenders).


 #4. La Senza Gift Card or Shoes Gift Card

Honestly, men are clueless when it comes to buying lingerie, bras and panties. So if you are sincerely wanting to buy something "sexy" for your significant other this xmas, maybe you should not buy it yourself but instead get a gift card - so that they can approve of the purchase before you buy something they will never wear.

Now you might think "Why La Senza?" Well it is like this. Not all women like Victoria Secret or La Vie En Rose. But they do all like La Senza. I don't why this is, it just is. La Senza is like the "happy middle ground" apparently that all women can apparently go to when shopping for such things. I don't claim to know why, I am just reporting the way it is. Maybe a woman would be able to best explain why ALL women apparently like this store, but dislike certain other stores. (I have a hunch it has something to do with sizes, marketing styles, etc.)

Failing this your next best option is SHOES. So find a shoe store you think they would like and get a gift card from that store. Shoes are an universal commodity according to many women.

#5. Hobby Related Books or Magazine Subscription

Let us pretend for a moment you are buying a gift for your mother, step-mother, mother-in-law, sister or grandmother however - and thus lingerie is probably a bad idea, and even shoes might be a bad idea if they only use orthopedic shoes. Here is what you do - go on Facebook, sneak around and research their hobbies - or judge based upon your past knowledge of the person what their hobbies are.

For example lets say your mother-in-law's hobbies are cooking, sewing/knitting and going to the ballet. Thus you have a long list of recipe books, sewing/knitting books, and even books about ballet to choose from.

To say nothing of subscriptions to "Canadian Living" (a recipe / crafts magazine based in Canada), "Chatelaine Magazine" (also based in Canada) and "The Dance Current" (a Canadian based magazine about ballet and modern dance). Or if she likes to travel, then you can guess she would probably like "National Geographic".


Speaking for myself I would love to have magazine subscriptions to "Traditional Bowhunter Magazine", "Popular Woodworking", "Canadian Woodworking", and "National Geographic".



Band Saws and Band Saw Blades

Back in the Winter of 2013/14 the band saw blade on the band saw I have been using for years finally broke, so I decided to try and find a replacement blade for it.

After all band saws are extremely useful for cutting any kind of wood for DIY projects (using a thin blade band saws can even be used like a jig saw, making intricate curving cuts in the wood).

But when it came to finding a replacement blade I discovered that my lowly "hobby band saw" was so small that many stores did not sell band saw replacement blades in that size.

So instead I ended up buying a brand new band saw, and purchased one that had a more standard size blade (62 inches), which meant that if the new one ever breaks I just have to go buy new replacement blades and never have to worry about whether they have them in the correct size, because they are a standard size that are really popular.

The brand I purchased last winter was Ryobi (specifically a Ryobi 9" Band Saw - the 9 inches measures something else on the band saw, not the blade itself). Here is a photo of what it looks like on the right.

Asides from the noise (it is fine cutting through softwood but it screams like a dying cat when you cut hardwood) I am quite happy with this band saw.

As a tool, it does everything I expect it to do for my needs. Easy to use, operate, clean, etc. It is even easy to replace the blades.

Today, the band saw blade that came with it finally broke. I should note in broke because I was rushing through the cut too fast, possibly combined with normal wear and tear. So I need to go purchase replacement blades.

So I check Home Depot (where I purchase the Ryobi last winter) for the prices of band saw blades. I see a variety of blades, different sizes and widths. I double check the length of the blade I need: 62 inches, and I see right at the top two blades that suit my needs by a company called AvantiPro, available in 62 x 3/16ths and 62 x 1/4.

So I think I will buy 1 of each. That way the next time a band saw blade breaks I will be able to just open the packaging for the other one - or I can swap for the thinner blade when doing detailed cuts, or use the thicker blade when cutting through harder/thicker wood.

So now I am patting myself on the back for my wise purchase last winter, wondering why I didn't buy replacement blades at the time, and also fuming at myself for rushing through the cut that broke it in the first place. So reasons to be both happy for the product I purchased, but unhappy about my lack of foresight. That is my fault however, not the band saw's fault.

If you are looking to get someone a gift this xmas, consider getting them a band saw if they don't have one already. Also buy replacement blades while you are at it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Senator Restaurant in Toronto

Note - Get a reservation. This place is busy and you basically need a reservation just to get in. We lucked out and managed to get seats anyway without a reservation, but don't expect that to be the norm.

Omidragon the 6 ounce burgers are good. Good fries too. Price of burger platter was $16.

I also recommend the buttermilk fried chicken, served with buttery mashed potatoes and gravy. Something about buttermilk makes fried chicken taste waaaaaay better. Price of buttermilk fried chicken platter was $20.

Served with London Heineken (tastes better than regular Heineken) our meals were amazing.

The bill was pricier than most pub fares, but the service was excellent, the location conveniently close to the Eatons Centre, and the food was freaking amazing.

Definitely a place worth coming back to. Five Stars.

The owners of The Senator should renovate and add a 2nd story, just so they can bring in more customers. This restaurant is a hidden gem of deliciousness.

Dukes of Hazard AutoTrader

I love a great car commercial - especially anything with the Dukes of Hazard. :)

Note - I have never used AutoTrader, I just really like this commercial. They should make a Dukes of Hazard movie (with the original actors starring, not that horrible film with the younger actors).



I was going to post a 2nd video on here, a documentary about the making of Dukes of Hazard (the show, not the ad above), but the video was disabled for embedding. Boooooo!

So instead here is a videos about many of the jumps made during Dukes of Hazard.




In case you are wondering the car is the 1969 Dodge Charger.


Grilling Bacon

I saw this in a store and snapped a photo. $9.99 at Canadian Tire.

Mmm... microwaved bacon.

If you have this item at home and it works well/poorly, please post your review in the comments. I am curious to know whether it works well or whether it is a piece of junk. (But not curious enough to spend $$ on it when I can just make the bacon on the stove instead.)

Free Handbag Offer

Who doesn't want free things. Companies should give away free samples of their products more often. ;)

Click the following link to visit Stearns & Foster to enter your name in the draw to win a free leather handbag.

FREE HANDBAG GIVEAWAY

The handbag is a limited edition Hammitt handbag created for Stearns & Foster. Just visit the Stearns & Foster facebook page and Like it to enter for the chance to win a limited edition handbag by Hammitt. That is all you have to do to enter.

  • American Made Luxury. Superior Craftsmanship. Timeless Design.
  • Handmade with the finest materials by master craftsman.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sim Card Removed Error Message = Cellphone Annoyance

For the last day my cellphone has been giving me an error message that my Sim card has been removed. Without the Sim card I cannot place phone calls, send text messages or use the internet - which is really freaking annoying. (And apparently a very common problem with Sim cards.)

What is more annoying is that fact that the Sim card is still there. It has not been removed. It hasn't even been touched at all.

"SIM card removed - The mobile network will be unavailable until you restart with a valid SIM card inserted."

Note - Different cellphones use slightly different messages, but they all claim the Sim card has been removed. What would make more sense is a message that says "Your Sim card is broken. See your phone company for a replacement."

And the only way to get the phone to work properly again is to restart the phone... which appears to be a roughly 70 / 30 chance that you get the message again...

"SIM card removed - The mobile network will be unavailable until you restart with a valid SIM card inserted."

Or it works normally - for the moment. And then decides not to work later on and gives you the message again.

"SIM card removed - The mobile network will be unavailable until you restart with a valid SIM card inserted."

Thus when I woke up this morning.

"SIM card removed - The mobile network will be unavailable until you restart with a valid SIM card inserted."

So I restarted it and it worked fine. So I took a shower and then checked it again.

 "SIM card removed - The mobile network will be unavailable until you restart with a valid SIM card inserted."

Very annoying. To me it would make sense to have the option to click "Retry Sim Card" on my phone instead of having to restart it each time. Obviously it is not "trying hard enough".

I have checked various forums on the topics, people with the same problem - people who try removing the back, replacing the battery, removing/readding the Sim card, etc.

And the only conclusion that seems to be a permanent fix is to go to your phone company and replace the Sim card.

This follows the idea that the Sim card is just old and broken, and the only solution is to replace it.

My thoughts on this is that Sim cards must suck donkey balls if they break so easily for no apparent reason. Why are we using a piece of technology that breaks so easily?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Starbucks Gift Card, Reloadable

Recently I received a reloadable Starbucks Gift Card.

How?

Well the neighbours next door tore down their house and are rebuilding a new house. So it is rather noisy. I am not sure who did it - either the neighours or the construction company - but they left a Starbucks Gift Card in our mailbox as an apology for all of the noise.

Which, frankly, I barely noticed the noise over all the noise I make playing with my woodworking tools. Or the movies I watch. Or the episodes of The Woodwright's Shop I have been watching lately.

But whatever, the Starbucks Gift Card was a nice gesture. And what is also nice is that it is reloadable so I can use it again and again - and I go to Indigo a lot, and there is a Starbucks in every Indigo, so this just works well for me.

In totally unrelated news I am addicted to watching The Woodwright's Shop. It is a TV show that has been on the air since 1981 (33 years!!!) and is dedicated to traditional woodworking.

Now I admit, I like my power tools - especially my band saw - but as TV shows go The Woodwright's Shop has the trifecta of everything you want in a woodworking TV show. It is funny. It teaches you new things about woodworking and woodworking tools. And there is a healthy dose of history for the people who like historical examples of woodworking.

Just watch the 20th Anniversary episode of The Woodwright's Shop to see what I am talking about.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Best Dentist in Toronto - Part One

Back in September I decided to go on a quest to find The Best Dentist in Toronto.

Now granted, Toronto has over 1000 dentists according to Yelp (or 800+ dentists according to Google) which means I could go to a new dentist every day for 2 to 3 years and still not try every dentist in Toronto. So trying each and every dentist in Toronto is impractical.

So instead what I have decided to do is to start at the top of the list.

When you Google 'toronto dentist' the first page comes up with a list of map locations of dentists, followed by 4 pages that are directories for dentists. The first dental practice listed is "Archer Dental".

(Plus my friend Robert recommended the place, so that is another reason.)

Archer Dental, according to my research, was listed as the Best Dentist in Toronto by NOW Magazine in 2013, so I think it is a good place to begin my series of dentist reviews. However let me backtrack a bit here and take us back to 2003 so I can review a different dental practice for comparison purposes.

In June 2003 I had was getting read to leave Canada and go overseas to South Korea. Since I didn't know what the dentists would be like in South Korea I opted to have a visit to the dentist before I left and hopefully I could forego visiting any dentists for the year I was in SK.

The dental office I went to was the dental office at York University's York Lanes, now known as York Lanes Dental Office.

I had already been to the York Lanes Dental Office several times before - without incident - but during that final trip I was given a deep cleaning by a new dental hygienist who - as best as I can tell was just fresh out of dental school or was still a student. What followed was the most painful experience of my entire life. It was absolute torture. It went on for what felt like hours.

When the dental hygienist was done I was missing part of my gums. They had literally torn my gums to pieces and one of the pieces was missing, completely cut out.

Thus began a very long period in my life in which I swore I would never go to another dentist again. Ever. Instead I embarked on a daily brushing / mouthwash ritual that sometimes included me taking a toothbrush with me to events so I could immediately brush my teeth after eating.

And believe me when I say I was paranoid about my teeth. I would brush too hard, I use mouthwash a lot (I have become a bit of an expert on mouthwashes and really should post a detailed review on them sometime), and I am a big fan of using sugarfree gum when I am outdoors so I clean my teeth using the gum.

It was 11 years and 3 months before I finally went to see another dentist, in September 2014.

When I finally made the decision to visit a dentist it was because I thought I had a chip in my tooth. But what I thought was a chip was actually a build up of 11 years worth of "calculus". It was not the tooth which had chipped, it was the calculus build up which had chipped. (Calculus chipping off is actually a good thing, but to my tongue it felt like a chip in my tooth.)

Despite all of my paranoid brushing time had still built up a layer of calculus on one small section of my teeth I wasn't brushing properly. My bad. Need to brush there more often.

So let us go back to the present.

I arrived at Archer Dental slightly early (about 9:50 or so AM, for a 10 AM appointment) on September 25th. I was given a very comprehensive form to fill out, covering everything from whether I was diabetic to what kind of medications I was on.

Once that was done I sat there and waited, playing with my phone because the choices of reading material available in the waiting room was limited to women's magazines and National Geographic. Oh what I would give for a Lee Valley catalogue for men to read... Seriously, they should add that to the pile of magazines on the shelf. Lee Valley catalogues are free and men LOVE reading anything that has tools or tech items in them. Add a Wired magazine subscription, plus a Lee Valley catalogue subscription and any man visiting their waiting room would be quite happy. I think I will bring along a Lee Valley catalogue during my next visit and surreptitiously leave it behind for other men to read. (I think the reason why it was mostly women's magazines because it is usually mothers who end up taking the kids to the dentist instead of fathers.)

Fortunately I did not have to wait that long. You know how most dentists make you wait FOREVER before you actually get to see them? Well my wait really was not that long. I was early after all, but I do believe my appointment actually started on schedule.

I was introduced to my dental hygienist for the day, Mary, who was extremely polite, considerate and willing to explain everything as we went along. I met Dr Archer later on, who likewise exemplified those values I find to be so important in a dentist. It was Mary however who ended up cleaning and also deep cleaning my teeth - and removing 11 years worth of calculus from my teeth, making me feel like I had a brand new set of teeth. And she did it while being as gentle and as understanding as possible. (That doesn't mean I wasn't in pain during the deep cleaning, that stuff is still painful - but at least she didn't rip my gums to pieces like that dental hygienist at York Dental.)

Afterwards I felt like I had been given a brand new lease on life. Like I was suddenly going to live long and have a fuller life. I was so happy with the results I promised to bring flowers the next time I visit, which will likely include a thank you note too.

When was the last time you went to a dentist and was so happy with the results you wanted to bring them flowers?

I am visiting Archer Dental again in a few weeks for a 2nd deep cleaning. After that I may end up becoming a regular visitor, but I also will be continuing my search for The Best Dentist in Toronto - which means I will need to explore and experiment with other dentists in Toronto and see how they stack up and compare with Archer Dental for their level of quality service.

Subscribe to Product Reviews Canada and read more reviews of dentists in Toronto in the future as I explore other dentists and try to determine which is the best. For now, the best dentist office in Toronto is Archer Dental.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) Screens Breaking Too Easily

You may have heard recently in the news that the new iPhone 6 (+ 6 Plus) bends a bit over time when put in your pocket or when bowed under even small pressure... But have you also heard that this is causing the screens to break easier?

If you are familiar with iPhone screens breaking then you already know they break super easily. You drop the phone onto any hard surface (just a foot or two is enough) and the screen shatters instantly. Well now what happens is that the phone bends and the screen breaks when people try to bend it back into shape.

Design flaw?

I think not. Apple makes $100 every time a customer comes in with a broken screen ($150 for the 6 Plus).

This kind of defect would have been noticed during product testing. What Apple therefore must have done is shrugged greedily, knowing every time the screen breaks they make more money.

Defect? Pff. More like an opportunity to make waaaaaaay more money off of screens breaking.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stuff My Neighbours Throw Out (Part 2)

To see more of this series of posts, see also:

Stuff My Neighbours Throw Out (Part 1)

or click SMNTO to see the list of posts on this topic.

On this week's episode, my neighbours threw out a mirror (minor scratches on the frame) and a rather well-made set of drawers for putting clothes in - which similarly had a few scratches on it. Both mirror and clothing drawers work fine. Unlike the previous episode however I did not do a "Yoink!" and grab the stuff for myself. This time I just snapped a photo for use as part 2 of this series of blog posts.



Super Glue Pen = Super Waste of Time!

OMG, as office supplies go this product was such a huge waste of time.

Okay so I purchased this "Super Glue Pen" because I figured it would save time. I would just need to press down on it like it was a pen and then glue would be dispensed slowly on the surface. I was expecting it to be slow.

What it was instead was a dot of glue.

So I tried again, pressing harder into the surface as I moved it along the surface.

Just a dot of glue at the start point.

Tried again, going more slowly this time. Same result.

I re-read the instructions on the packaging. Yup. Press hard, go slowly. Doing that. Why is it not working? ARGGGG!!!

So instead I finished the project I was working on by using dots - lots of dots. Like this:

Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot. Dot.

It says on the package it is "easy to use". That is BS. This product was a pain in the royal behind.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Portable USB Hard Drives

I just purchased a 1 TB portable hard drive at Best Buy. The brand and model is WB Absolutely's "My Passport Ultra".

The 1 TB blue version. Also available in red and grey. But not black or white. WTH. (You can get a black one, but only if it is the 500 GB version.)

I could have purchased different makes and models that are 500 GB, 2 TB, 3 TB or even 4 TB versions but I only needed 1 TB... So whatever.

What I found interesting (asides from the prices of the product and similar products) was the warranty... Which included a binding non-class action agreement in the warranty. Meaning if you ever lose your data and try to sue the company, then the company refuses to go to court on a class action basis and you can only sue the company on an individual basis.

Uhuh.

What this tells me is several things.

#1, Some purchasers in the past expected the device to work perfectly on a permanent basis. (I hold no such illusions. I fully expect this device to break eventually - likely sometime 5 years from now. By which time I will have transferred any important data to a different device.)

#2. That aforementioned purchasers not only sued for lost data as a class action lawsuit but evidently must have won their case against WB.

Which I find funny.

Below are photos of the various models and several different manufacturers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gear Books Series

Looking for a good series of books to give someone for xmas, birthdays, etc?

Well if the person you are giving the books to likes historical fiction then I recommend the series by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear.

I have been giving a family member for the books for years now and they LOVE them so much they keep asking for more. The book series has like 20 books in it.

The photo below is more for my record keeping so I can keep track of which books she already has.

Thrifty Wedding - Make your own cake decoration

We recently went to a wedding in which the bride and groom had done something amazingly cute and thrifty with their wedding cake. They made the decoration for the top of the cake themselves using large wooden clothes pins.

So yes, you could spend $50 - $300 on a very expensive decoration for the top of the cake.

Or you could just use some creativity and decorate it yourself.

People at the wedding thought it was so cute they were taking photos of it.

Stuff My Neighbours Throw Out (Part 1)

Honestly, I think my one set of neighbours have yet to hear of craigslist or kijiji.

Why? Because they throw out a lot of nice stuff.

Furniture. Paintings. Exercise / Sports Equipment. Appliances. Electronics (computers, laptops, tablets, phones). Bicycles / Skateboards.

Most of the time the things they throw out disappears pretty quickly - I am not the only one grabbing stuff they set on the curb. I almost wonder if they have a webcam set up to record people taking the stuff... And they put so much nice stuff out there that you have to wonder "Why are they throwing this out?"

So finally I have decided to dedicate some posts to just the things they throw out. (I was even tempted to start a whole new blog titled "Stuff My Neighbours Throw Out".)

Like these slightly used ice skates they threw out (see photo further below). Put on new laces and have them sharpened at Canadian Tire and they would be practically brand new. Total cost of sharpening + laces = less than ten dollars.

Earlier today I spotted a perfectly good (no damage whatsoever) large picnic basket they tossed out. Looks like it had been used once or twice before they threw it out. If it is still there when I get home I will snatch it and put it in the garage. I don't know when I will use a large picnic basket - I might end up using it for target practice for fun.

Now I can understand when people throw out a sofa. But what about when they throw out a leather couch with no damage on it. Maybe the dog peed on it. I don't know. Whatever. Even if there was a rip in it or a smell, hire someone to rip off the old leather and replace it with new. Silly to throw out a sofa like that.

Or the bicycle with the flat tire. Seriously. Inflate the tire. Patch the tire if it had a hole in it. Purchase a new tire if necessary.

People throw out really nice stuff sometimes. It boggles my mind.

Xmas Wish List - A ROBOT VACUUM

This year my xmas wish list is building upon several big ticket items designed to make life easier around the house.

#1. Roomba Robot Vacuum (see further photo below).

Honestly, for the $300+ for a robot vacuum, that is well worth the convenience of not having to vacuum with an old fashioned vacuum any more. The prices of robot vacuums have dropped a lot recently and they are now very economical.

#2. Countertop Dishwasher - because my kitchen is too small for a conventional dishwasher.

Note - In addition to taking up less space, countertop dishwashers are also more water and energy efficient and also work well in the cottage, RV, etc because they take up less space, and use significantly less power and water. Which means you can easily run one using solar / wind with battery system or diesel generator. And you don't need a plumber to install one. Size wise they are about the size of a microwave.

#3. Robot Dog that Fetches Shoes

Okay technically I made this up, but what the heck. This really should be a product on the market. The dog should come with some sticker tags, you attach the tags to different things you want the dog to fetch - and the dog is programmed via voice command of the owner(s) to fetch various items.

Rover, fetch my shoes.

Rover, fetch my laptop.

Rover, fetch the TV remote control.

I can even see military, police and security applications of such robot dogs. GuardRover, K9-Rover, MarineRover, etc. Hollywood would probably make a movie based off the concept of a robotic dog... Like the old Short Circuit movies, but canine-esque.

#4. Voice Command Remote Control

Honestly, why hasn't this already hit the market?

No more searching for the remote control. You just say commands for what you want the TV or whatever to do.

TV Pause
TV Rewind 30 Seconds
TV Skip Commercials
TV Record
TV On and TV Off
TV Lock Parental Controls (plus password)

The 3rd option alone would be a big money maker if you had programs recorded and you could auto skip the commercials.

My cellphone has voice command on it. Why not the TV?

Samsung Galaxy S 5 - contract price drop?

According to the photo I took at a booth 2 days ago (Sept 2nd) the cost of getting a Samsung Galaxy S 5 has dropped. Time for the various companies to get into a bidding war before Xmas comes.

If you want to get a better price, wait for the weeks before Xmas (Black Friday etc) or wait until the Boxing Week sales.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Alberto European Texturize Gel

By Charles M.

So my girlfriend awhile back didn't like that my hair was messy the one day so she bought me a 200 mL bottle of Alberto European Texturize Gel - Styling Putty.

A product I would never normally buy.

But whatever, she bought it. She put it in my hair.

And yes, I will admit it works.

I also admit she forced me to write this review. Consider this review to be under duress.

The product does work - and it works very well.

But I will caution you: A little is a LOT! It only takes a little of this stuff to get your hair to behave properly.

The first time I tried using this stuff I used too much and it made my hair all crunchy and stiff. So the piece of advice I will pass on is USE IN SMALL DOSES. You don't need to use a lot of it. A tiny amount goes a long way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I hate DHL Express Courier

So I am waiting for a package to be courier delivered via DHL Express.

They apparently tried to deliver twice in the last two days and left notes in my mailbox, the 2nd note indicating that I would need to pick up the package.

But the note doesn't say WHERE to pick it up.

Where being the most important factoid they should have on the note they left behind.

So I phone DHL and get a machine...

I go through the computer operated nonsense and all I get is a self repeating recording, which doesn't tell me WHERE the package is. When I press 0 to speak with someone the recording just starts over. When I press 0 multiple times the recording just starts over and over each time.

When I try the website dhl.ca it tells me that my package is in Toronto... But it does not say WHERE IN TORONTO. It is kind of a big city...

So finally I just say screw it, and I Google DHL locations in Toronto and I found a location that is near me.

I phone the location... And it is UPS. Which doesn't store packages for DHL, they only pick them up. They don't handle deliveries for DHL. So I ask the guy where the DHL depot is so I can pick up the package. He says he doesn't know and recommends I phone DHL or check their website...

ARRRRRRRRGGGGG!!!!!

Seriously. What good is a courier company that makes it so difficult to pick up a package by ignoring the WHERE to pick up the package.

I give DHL's website and automated phone system a flat ZERO for making it ridiculously impossible to FIND a package.

And I am not alone in my hatred of DHL. When I mentioned the company to a friend she said she once waited 18 months to deliver a passport from Africa - and by the time the passport was finally delivered a year and a half later, it had already expired.

And when I check other reviews of DHL I find the company is averaging 1 star out of 5 on many of the review websites. 1 star...

Got a horrific courier story to tell? Write your story in the comments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Search for Old Archery Movies

Lately for fun I have been researching and browsing old movies that have archery in them. Sometimes even just brief archery clips in the films.

For example the photo on the right is a movie still from the Elvis movie "Tickle Me", during which Elvis briefly teaches an archery lesson.

But much better examples of old archery movies are films like:

The Flame and the Arrow - starring Burt Lancaster (who is frankly awesome in everything he does).

Or

A Man Called Horse - starring Irish actor Richard Harris, whom you may recognize from his many other movies - including playing Dumbledore in the first 2 Harry Potter movies.

Or

Deliverance - starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight (I don't care for Voight, but Burt Reynolds is again very awesome. What is it with actors named Burt being so awesome???)

Below is the movie trailer for Deliverance.



And of course there is also films like Rambo II, Rambo III and all the various Robin Hood films...

Robin Hood - 1938, starring Errol Flynn (with archery stunts by Howard Hill).

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves - 1991, starring Kevin Costner.

Robin Hood - 1973, Disney animated film.

Those are three of the more famous ones.

But there is actually many more Robin Hood films...

Robin Hood - 2010 with Russell Crowe

Robin Hood - 1991 with Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman

Robin and Marian - 1976

Robin Hood Men in Tights - 1993

The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men - 1952, Disney live action

The Men of Sherwood Forest - 1954

Rabbit Hood - 1949 with Bugs Bunny

Beyond Sherwood Forest - 2009

And a slew of other Robin Hood films...

During my research I have determined there hasn't been a lot of William Tell movies made (a planned one for 2012 starring Brendan Fraser was scrapped when the producers ran into financial difficulties getting funding for their film).

There is an old Austrian William Tell movie from 1960, in German of course. Good luck finding an English dubbed version.

And an older William Tell film from 1949 - and a 1998 TV series called "The Legend of William Tell" with 15 episodes (which looks gawd awful, like a cheap rip off of Xena Warrior Princess).

During my research I have determined there was a lot of archery films (especially Robin Hood or Robin Hood esque films) made during the 1940s and 1950s. It was part of an archery fad that started with enormous financial success of the Errol Flynn / Howard Hill film in 1938, and the fad continued until the early 1970s and included the 1972 film Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds.

There was a brief renewed interest in archery in the 1980s when 2nd and 3rd Rambo movies came out, and again in 1991 with Robin Hood Prince of Thieves - but it was nothing like the fad from 1940s to 1970s.

With the introduction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 2001 archery saw a bit of interest, but the fast shooting abilities of Legolas made archery look beyond the skill of the common man.

A couple years later however something interesting happened.

Alabama, at that point the fattest state in the USA, was trying to come to grips with an obesity epidemic and high schools were looking for ways to get teenagers outside and exercising. So someone came up with the idea of starting an archery club in one of the schools. The club took off in popularity, the model was spread to other schools in Alabama, and eventually the program was expanded to other states.

By the time films like the Hunger Games, Brave, The Avengers, Killing Season, Hanna and other archery films came out archery was already a growing phenomenon in the USA.

And when those films became popular it was partially because archery was growing as a fad. It was the fad fueling the films, not the other way around. (Although at this point it is more cyclical, archery fanatics are fueling the films and the films are creating new archery fanatics.)

Below is the movie trailer for Killing Season, starring Robert De Niro and John Travolta.


Hello Nomad USB Chargecard and I/O Magic Battery Charger

Above - Hello Nomad USB Chargecard : Below I/O Magic Battery Pack
By Charles Moffat

I am typing this product review at the beach on my tablet while my phone is charging thanks to three things.

1. The Hello Nomad USB Chargecard - which is a credit card shaped USB cord that fits nicely in my wallet.

2. The I/O Magic battery pack - which once charged provides roughly twice the battery juice of my cellphone battery.

3. And the portable wifi hotspot from my phone, which grants my tablet internet access.

Which means I can go on a 3-day vacation and charge my phone using these two handy devices and still have plenty of juice by the time I return on the 3rd night. (I am basing this on my normal battery consumption per day, which is about 66% of a full battery per day.)

I purchased the I/O Magic battery pack months ago and have been meaning to do a review on the topic. It works, it is handy when I am going to be using my phone often on a particular day.  It does exactly what it is supposed to do and having three times the battery charge is very handy for vacations.

When I purchased it it also came with a 2nd battery charger, so if I take both batteries I can go on a 5 day vacation and really not have to worry at all about my battery power.

Hello Nomad Chargekey
The Hello Nomad USB Chargecard also came with a Chargekey, which attaches to your keychain - which I misplaced and recently found again last night. I really should stick it on a keychain so I don't lose it again. Anyway, the Hello Nomad USB Chargecard is simply a tiny USB cord in the shape of a credit card. It can be used to charge your phone or other USB device whenever plugged into any USB power source - like the battery packs mentioned above.

Together these two products make it really easy to charge my phone. The Chargecard alone is handy because then I just need to find a power source and it takes up very little space in my wallet.

But in combination, they are handy little things to have on me for vacations, work, events, etc.

Sometimes I forget to charge my phone and they end up saving a lot of time too since I can just grab the battery pack and I already know I have the Chargecard in my wallet so I don't need to go searching for a cord to take with me. Very handy.

If you are the type of person who uses their phone a lot - and it runs low regularly - then these are two devices you will find very handy. I use both devices regularly.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Expendables 3 - Movie Review

So if you enjoyed Expendables 1 and Expendables 2, then you will probably enjoy Expendables 3.

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. A friend of mine gives it 3 stars.

Why? Because it was good, it was entertaining, but it wasn't spectacular.

The highlight of the movie was Antonio Banderas stealing the show.





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ragnarok Movie Trailer

Okay, this movie is officially on my list of things to watch.

"Ragnarok" is the Norse version of the Apocalypse, during which a giant immortal serpent grows so large that it eventually devours the earth.



Into The Storm, movie review + "Night of the Twisters"

So the remake of "Night of the Twisters" came out recently, with a name change and some plot changes - but it is essentially the same movie.

Don't believe me? Watch "Into The Storm" at the movie theatre and then watch "Night of the Twisters" on YouTube further below.

The biggest difference between the two movies is that "Into The Storm" has infinitely better graphics. Behind the tornadoes, the drama in both movies is an emphasis on the importance of family and perseverance/survival.

I give the graphics for Into The Storm 5 stars - but I only give the drama / plot 3 stars. Honestly, I would watch tornado movies just for the graphics if the movie was nothing but tornadoes and just skip the plot entirely. Just 2 hours of mind-blowing graphics and tornado carnage would be something I would love to watch.


INTO THE STORM, TRAILER



NIGHT OF THE TWISTERS, FULL MOVIE


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Battle of the Ginger Beers

Behold!

Royalty Ginger Beer Vs Vita Malt Ginger Beer. Which is best?

If you are not familiar with ginger beer, it tastes like ginger ale but spicier. In case you were wondering, there is NO alcohol in ginger beer - it is basically just a really strong ginger ale. Sort of like "root beer" has no alcohol in it either.

Anyway, back to my taste test contest.

First up was the Vita Malt Ginger Beer - omidragon this stuff was horrible. I have good tasting ginger beers in the past, but this stuff was so strong and had a weird extra flavouring in it. Maybe it was the malt, but whatever it is the stuff tasted absolutely horrible. I do not recommend that stuff at all. I was tempted to throw it out after tasting it, but forced myself to drink all of it because I was hoping "maybe it is something you have to drink more of to appreciate". Well the answer is no, the stuff is horrid. Don't even try it.

And then there was yesterday. After the Vita Malt disaster, I had really low expectations for the Royalty Ginger Beer.

But then I tasted it and my mind was blown. It was spicy, not too much, but spicy, and it was also sweet - truth be told it was a little too sweet. But it was actually the best tasting ginger beer I have ever had.

So applause for Royalty Ginger Beer. That stuff is absolutely amazing. I am going to be buying more of it in the near future and even introducing friends to it. I am positive other people will love it too. I have already introduced one other friend to Royalty Ginger Beer and they also loved it.

Two thumbs way up for Royalty Ginger Beer. (And booooo to the makers of Vita Malt. They should be ashamed of themselves.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Sometimes the customer is a moron

Ever heard the phrase "The customer is always right."

You know who invented that phrased? Customers that complain a lot and always try to get their way. (And then whine about it when they don't get their way.)

Truth be told, if you've ever worked in the service industry (doesn't matter what sector, any kind of service will do) you eventually meet a customer who starts demanding freebies, exceptions to the rule, and complains very loudly.

We all do it sometimes, especially when the situation warrants it.

But when you are on the receiving end of a customer who is verbally abusive (and I would argue "crazy") and thinks that they are entitled to an exception to your company policy, well then you have one solution.

Tell the customer to leave and take their business elsewhere.

Why? Because sometimes dealing with crazy customers just isn't worth it.

True, bending over backwards for customers makes for great customer service relationships. But sometimes customers are just demanding things that they have no entitlement for.

Take for example a dentist who receives people on an appointment basis. What happens when you don't show up for your appointment?

Well, the dentist charges you a fee because you missed your appointment and didn't show up. (And this fee is not covered by insurance by the way. YOU pay the fee if you miss the appointment.)

So imagine for example if the dentist gets a crazy person who refuses to pay the fee for missing their appointment, what do you think the dentist will do?

Answer - Refuse to serve that person until they agree to pay the fee. Why? Because they have Term of Service agreement wherein if you agree to schedule a cleaning for your teeth, then you are automatically agreeing to a ToS that says you also agree to pay any fees if you miss your appointment.

And such Terms of Service are normal for many industries. Dentists, personal trainers, massage therapists, basically anyone who works on an appointment basis.

On the other hand some businesses are more products based - and products come with warranties.

So for example if you go to an Audiologist in Mississauga and you purchase a Clarity XL-30 Amplified Telephone (a special telephone for people who have hearing difficulties), well then it comes with an one year warranty from the manufacturer.

Which means as long as the warranty is still good, you're fine. The manufacturer covers the cost of replacing or fixing your telephone. Which means the hearing clinic in Mississauga will be fine with providing you with full service to help you to fix or replace your phone. If however your warranty has expired, then they just have to point to the warranty and give you two options:

1. Pay to have it sent to the manufacturer and have it repaired.

2. Buy a new telephone with a new warranty.

Places like the above mentioned audiologist / hearing clinic always have great records for customer service - largely because they have warranties, receipts, records of clients, and they don't work on an appointment basis. If someone is late for showing up to purchase hearing aids or special telephones for the hearing impaired, or if they forget to show up, do you know what happens? The customer shows up later eventually anyway and it changes nothing for the audiologist working there.

But for the poor dentist or anyone working on a strict appointment based schedule, they don't just have appointments - they have a freaking WAITING ROOM with magazines and other things to keep you occupied. So you go there for your appointment, and then you WAIT for the dentist to be ready for you.

And if you don't show up, well then you get charged a fee.

At which point you have to wonder, what percentage of dentist customers complain about the extra fee for missing their cleaning, because the vast majority of people just nod, realize they are in the wrong, and then pay the fee.

It is really just the 1% of customers out there who want to be "squeaky wheels who get the grease" who would refuse to pay the fee.

At which point the dentist - or more precisely, the secretary working for the dentist - points to the Terms of Service agreement in the Fine Print.

At which point only a very small percentage of crazy / cheap people will complain about it. The chances of meeting one of these people is multiplied by the number of cheap people out there, multiplied by the percentage of people who feel they are entitled, and multiplied again by the number of people who like to argue and complain loudly until they are blue in the face.

In other words (since we are dealing with small percentages) the final number is pretty small and very rare.

But when you meet one of those crazy customers you understand and realize the same thing:

Those people are freaking lunatics.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chapman's Sport Frozen Popsicles

I saw these popsicles at the grocery store recently and decided to take a closer look.

They say "Sport" on them, but they're basically just sugar, water, chemicals and flavouring.

Evidently the "Sport" and "Hydration" on them is an advertising gimmick designed to trick stupid people who don't look at the ingredients. Want hydration? Drink some water!

Booooooooooo! Shame on you Chapman's!



Mockingjay Part 1 Poster + review of Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson

Saw this movie poster further below recently when I went to see the new Hercules movie (starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Hercules) which was "good / okay", but nothing spectacular. I liked the fact that they made the Hercules story more realistic - no magic or gods whatsoever in the film - and how it played upon the myth vs reality theme.

BTW, watch the credits at the end of Hercules - totally worth it.

Anyway, back to the Mockingjay poster... Is it just me or does the Mockingjay look a bit like the Toronto Blue Jays' logo? True, they're both jays, but the similarities feel like they go beyond that. Copyright infringement, probably not. Especially when you look at the Blue Jays pumpkin further below.




Ever had your order messed up at the drive-thru?

Have you ever gone to the drive thru at a fast food restaurant and they mess up your order - possibly on purpose?

This happened to myself recently when we went to the Wendy's drive thru near Beaches Toronto.

We ordered a double cheesburger combo and a bacon burger combo.

And then the woman on the speaker goes "Do you want a small, medium or large combo?

To which we both went "Huh? What is a small, medium or large combo?"

And the woman refused to explain.

So we both said we wanted the regular combo.

And then the woman apparently punched in large for my cheeseburger.

So then I asked her to change it, because we could see the mistake on the drive-thru screen.

And the woman said okay, but the screen stayed the same.

So when we get up to pay and collect our food the bill seems surprisingly high, and the drinks look surprisingly larger than we expected.

And when we get the bill we see that the woman messed up our orders completely. She charged us extra for the large combo, and extra AGAIN for the medium combo.

Based on the receipt apparently medium is NOT the same as "regular" - even though we both asked for REGULAR.

Frustrated, and knowing we would only end up with an argument and an horrible customer service experience I chose instead to take a photo of the receipt (shown above) and then share this experience with others.

My advice?

#1. COMPLAIN ABOUT THEIR MISTAKE MORE BEFORE YOU GET THE FOOD.

#2. If the total they quote you sounds wrong, it probably is. See #1 over again to make sure they don't mess up your order.

#3. Document the mistake so you can complain about it later. I am sending a copy of this post to Wendys.ca via their customer feedback website.

#4. Demand a refund for their mistake and boycott that restaurant until you get a refund and apology.

We shall be going to Burger King, A&W and other restaurants instead until we get a refund and an apology.

And it is NOT the money that matters. I am only out $1.78 + HST, what bothers me is just how poor the service was that they messed up our order not once, but twice.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Duck Eggs and Quail Eggs

Wow. Duck Eggs and Quail Eggs.

I didn't even know I could buy these. Specialty grocery stores are awesome.

However I see no reason to purchase them - no recipes that call for them. I will stick to my extra large brown eggs I usually buy.


Ironhorse Bicycle with Super Thick Tires

Oooooo I want this bicycle. I saw this in the store and just had to try it out for size for fun.

The extra big tires give the bicycle more bounce - but also increases the weight of the bicycle (which makes it slower). Still I think it would be fun to ride sometime.

Available at Canadian Tire. Very shiny.


Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razor


I recently purchased the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razor at CostCo (it was on sale and I was looking for a new razor anyway).

I tried the razor for the first time this morning.

Wow. Very happy with the results.

I was skeptical of the whole flexing ball thing, and doubly skeptical of the idea of a vibrating razor while I am shaving. I thought for sure I was going to end up cutting my face.

Instead what happened was one of the quickest, smoothest, most comfortable shaves I have experienced in years. (Comparable to several 3 and 4 blade razors I reviewed several years ago, only better.)

So yes. Shock and surprise at how good the razors are. And very, VERY happy with the results.

Shopping for a New Microwave

My SHARP "Carousel" microwave died two weeks ago and I have been dragging my feet about purchasing a new one.

6 Steps to Buy a New Microwave

#1. Measure the space in inches and record down the dimensions of the space for your new microwave.

You will need the width, height and depth of the space. Mine is a little more than 24 inches wide, 20 inches tall and 21 inches deep.

Thus any microwave that size or smaller will fit, but ideally I want something that fits the space perfectly.

#2. Research different microwave brands and models online - via homedepot.ca and similar websites.

Don't just go to the store and buy the first one you see that fits.

#3. Make a list of any special features you want on your microwave.

Compare the different brands and models and find several that fit your needs.

Sometimes you can find the exact same model of microwave on sale at a different store or $20 to $50 cheaper. Confirm that the chosen model is the correct size for the space by checking the dimensions.

#4. Compare customer feedback / reviews.

If a microwave has a lot of bad reviews, maybe you should not purchase it.

#5. Optional - After making your decision wait for your chosen microwave to be on sale and then purchase it. You don't have to do this right away, but it is certainly an option.

#6. Purchase it right away if you feel "The Price is Right".

So which microwaves am I contemplating purchasing?

Well, the following models fit - and I am not too picky about which special features come on the microwave.

Danby 1.1 Cubic Feet Microwave-Stainless - $118 - RATED 5 STARS BY REVIEWERS.

Haier 1.6 Cubic Feet Over The Range Microwave - $199 - AT 29 INCHES WIDE IT IS TOO WIDE!!!

General Electric (GE) 1.6 Cubic Feet Over-The-Range Microwave Oven - $378 - 5 STAR RATING, BUT ALSO TOO WIDE FOR THE SPACE!!!

There was also a lot of unrated microwaves that had not been reviewed by anyone. Like these two that are identical except for their exteriors.

LG 1.5 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave with Easyclean, Stainless Steel - $198

LG 1.5 Cubic Feet Countertop Microwave with Easyclean, White Exterior - $158

So you save $40 just by purchasing the white one instead of the stainless steel. (And it weighs 6.5 lbs less.)

So now that I have found several I like I just have to compare prices at different stores and then go pick up the one I like after I make my final decision.

The stainless steel LG is tempting just because it is easier to clean, but is it worth $40 more just for easier cleaning? I think not.

UPDATE - I found the same two microwaves at Future Shop on sale. Purchased the white version of the LG 1.5 for a mere $139.99. The stainless steel version was $159.99.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Enterprise Car Rentals + 2014 Jeep Patriot

By C. Moffat and D. Eze

We recently took a vacation and decided to get a car rental for the trip. Hence why this is a review of both Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Toronto, and also a review of the 2014 Jeep Patriot - as that was the car we took on the trip.

#1. Enterprise - 3.5 Stars out of 5

The prices were fair, on par with similar car rental companies, the biggest difference however was that we requested a compact economy car for the trip and they instead gave us a free upgrade to a Jeep.

The free upgrade was nice, but the gas bill was larger for obvious reasons.

Also we got insurance with the rental, and originally the tab was supposed to be $161 + HST for the car (so the total should have been $181.93), but apparently the insurance for the Jeep was more expensive and they conveniently neglected to tell us that the insurance costs more for the Jeep... so the total ended up being about $242.

So $60 more than. The service was good, but we do feel we got ripped off on the price of the insurance.

#2. 2014 Jeep Patriot

We loved the Jeep.

Power, comfort, air conditioning, all the gadgets you could want on a car, and we were able to figure out how to lower the back seat without needing the instruction manual. We needed to lower it so we could fill the space with 3 coolers, camping gear and more.

So yeah, easy to figure out and spacious inside there. We had more than enough space for all of our stuff and could have brought two large German Shepherd dogs with us too if we had been so motivated.

Further below are photos of us with the 2014 Jeep Patriot after filling up the gas tank to 75% at the gas station (if you don't fill it up to the level you received it with then Enterprise charges you $2 per litre for the difference). And yes, like all SUVs the Jeep Patriot is thirsty... but we don't care because it was otherwise awesome.

Conclusions

We enjoyed our vacation, we enjoyed the Jeep - we are wishy-washy on Enterprise since they overcharged us on the insurance - but overall we are not overly angry at them since their service was otherwise excellent. Just wish they had warned us that the insurance was going to be a lot more.

You can really tell we liked the Jeep because we had big goofy smiles on our faces. :)




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