Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Smarties!!!

I love Smarties...

They're like the Lego of junk food.

Bright colours, chocolate...

Now what if Smarties made Lego-shaped edible candies?

Bubblegum Review

I am a big fan of all dental products... Scope, Crest / Colgate / Aquafresh...

But what I love most is the following dental bubblegums:

Dentyne

Trident

...

However dental hygiene aside I also like Big Red (cinnamon, woohoo!) and a variety of Korean bubblegum companies whom I cannot remember their names. (They have a much greater variety of flavours in South Korea, including apricot and mango.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mountain Equipment Co-op Sucks, Overpriced + Poor Selection

If you've ever been inside MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) you know they have no shortage of overpriced clothing and backpacks...

But when it comes to camping, cycling or mountain climbing equipment what you quickly realize is that they only sell the bare necessities... at overpriced rates. Crappy selection (especially for cycling equipment), worse prices.

I know (FOR A FACT) that I can buy the same or better equipment at other stores for less.

And on top of that you can't buy anything at MEC unless you pay for a membership. Even if you're just buying something small, they won't sell it to you unless you buy a membership. (Waste of freaking time in my opinion.)

Thus for all you non-membership people you make the trek to MEC only to discover you can't find what you are looking for or feel like you would be getting ripped off by buying a membership there is an alternative...

Across the street and further to the west there is a smaller store called Europe Bound which is crammed full of cycling gear, camping equipment, climbing equipment, etc. The guy behind the counter is helpful and you can even special order items.

ie. I was looking for a grappling hook, but apparently you need a license to get one because its considered a restricted item. (The lady in the MEC store didn't even have a clue and had no power to special order items.)

Europe Bound has two locations in downtown Toronto:

47 Front St E, Toronto - (416) 601-1990

383 King Street West, Toronto - (416) 205-9992

:)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The hunt for the $99 TouchPad

By Stas Holodnak, Ukrainian writer in Brooklyn, New York.

It’s not that you have to wait in line it’s how you spend your time waiting.

At first I planned for a Netbook to do my writing on the go. Keyboard, long battery life and reasonable price were the enticing factors. I checked out a Netbook on display inside the Staples store on 6th Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. It exuded heat like Arizona desert on the hot summer day while a nearby HP Touch Pad, a tablet similar to the iPad but with more functions, felt only slightly warmer than room temperature. The price tag for the Touch Pad screamed $99 but hastily handwritten text in small letters below whispered sold out.

After Hewlett Packard announced the fire sale of discontinued Touch Pads, $99 apiece, the TouchPad rush commenced on the web and its surroundings. I decided for once not to miss out on the bonanza. My next stop was Office Depot down the block. “Do you sell tablets?” I asked two Office Depot employees, the tall, muscular men leisurely conversing in the empty store. Unsure what I was inquiring about computers or medicine one of them said reluctantly - “Check downstairs” - a vague reply worthy of my vague question. Instead I went to Best Buy located on 5th Avenue and 44th street. “If you want $99 HP tablet, come tomorrow at 9 AM,” the Best Buy employee assured me, “Best Buy will have 250 of them.”

9:30 AM the next morning I was there, eager as a boy scout on a treasure hunt. The line spanned about 300 feet, from the Best Buy’s front door to the corner of the block. Most people in the line looked young (below 40) and relaxed. They were peering into their smart phones and simultaneously talking to people next to them. It looked like a friendly meeting of like minded people preferring for some reason to stand in line instead of a circle. Words like Android, WebOS and WiFi were passed along like salt and pepper at a dinner table. People here owned more than enough of computer equipment. Some of them hoped to make a quick dollar but most, it seemed to me, came to buy something that was slated to become an instant antic.

Waiting in line I could not take my mind away from the diminishing supply of the Touch Pads but soon the serenity of the crowd overtook me. With a friendly smile I was passing along words like Facebook, Ubuntu and Open Source. I befriended a young man, a Help Desk team leader at the MBC who arrived here at 7:30 AM. He was seventh in line when the store opened. He got his first TouchPad and now was back in the line hoping for one more catch.

Tourists glanced at us and some stopped to inquire what was happening. A tourist with an Israeli accent would not believe that anything with the plug would sell for less than 100 dollars. “99 dollars, 99 dollars,” he repeated in disbelieve. “Join us friend, Empire State building will not run away,” I felt like saying to him.

My biggest surprise was how efficiently the Best Buy people were managing the waiting line. Patrons could get into the store without waiting but the path to the coveted TouchPad led exclusively through our line. The Best Buy man at the door let people from the waiting line inside the store in groups of five. “Go to the man in the yellow shirt." He guided aspiring TouchPad owners in the commanding voice, “Don’t deviate.” Someone tried offering a bribe for the TouchPad to a Best Buy employee who flatly declined. Another employee stopped a teenager who tried to cut into my group of five. The group of five’s idea was a stroke of the Best Buy genius. You may swallow an offense if someone cuts in line in front of you, but the party of five together as a group will not tolerate a 6th intruder.

I ended up spending over $200. I bought more memory (you always end up spending more on memory), a wireless keyboard and the docking station for the Touchpad. Still it was a good deal considering it costs HP more than $300 to make one.
At work colleagues looked at my TouchPad with envy. Rapid mouse clickers they ordered TouchPads from different websites. As of now they are still waiting for vendors’ assurances to ship a discounted TouchPad.

It is the 21st century but at times there is no alternative to a good old legwork.

Editor's Note: Its unclear why HP discontinued the TouchPad. Some people believe its due to patent lawsuits from Samsung and/or Apple (Apple doesn't actually build many of its products, much of the important work is outsourced to Samsung). A superior product washed down the drain by greedy lawyers.

The $99 pricetag is evidently meant to spit in the eye of Apple.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

6 Reasons Why Han Solo Moulds Are Awesome

By Nick S.

Remember that scene in Empire where Han Solo is encased in carbonite? That iconic image is now a mould that you can use to create lots of cool products. From chocolate bars to soap, here are my 6 favourite items in the shape of Han Solo.

SPELLING NOTE - It is spelled mould, not mold. Mold is a fungus. Mould is something you pour chocolate or concrete into to make something a specific shape. Don't confuse the two.

With FanExpo approaching, I'm reminded of convention vendors and their ridiculously marked-up prices. I usually try to resist any impulse purchases, but there's one novelty item this year that has caught my eye: Han Solo carbonite moulds.

Fans will no doubt remember the scene of Han being encased in carbonite at the hands of Vader. Sure the amount of Star Wars merchandise is approaching infinity, but I think we can let the following products slide. Without further ado, here are 6 things made from Han Solo moulds that make me yell "shut up and take my money!"

1) Soap

If you've been out of the loop, Han Solo soap become an insanely popular item last year. Just look at the pic to see the amount of detail that goes into each bar. Actually, it's the most detailed item on the list.

The downside? Well, the manufacturer could hardly keep up with orders last year, and disappointed a lot of people. The cost is also a big issue. It's on sale right now for $2.99, although the regular price is a whopping $12.50. Even worse, the minimum cost to ship a single bar is $5.50.

With that said, the novelty factor is really high. And think about it: will giving someone a bar of soap ever be less offensive?

2) Chocolate bars


Women will love this one: It's Han and chocolate combined. This chocolate bar puts the carb in carbonite, so make sure to enjoy it in moderation.

As far as I know, these bars aren't being sold by a manufacturer. Don't let that stop you from making your own, though! Here's a handy guide for anyone who is interested in doing so.

3) Cakes



What's better than a Han chocolate bar? An entire cake! Once again, this product has no dedicated manufacturer. It's safe to say you'll be flying solo on this one. (Please don't hurt me.)

Making your own Han cake isn't too hard, though. Cakes are easier to detail than chocolate bars simply because they're larger. And if you're too lazy, you can get a cake decorator to do all the hard work.

The only thing that could possibly make your event less cool is having someone say "the cake is a lie." Please, can we agree to let that meme rest in peace?*

(*I realize the hypocrisy of writing that while referencing a 30 year old movie.)

4) Desks


Fire your employees in style with this unique product by Tom Spina Designs. The desk is hand-made, which unfortunately means only one was ever released.

But that doesn't rule out the possibility of having your own—just be prepared to drop some serious cash. For reference, the desk went for over $10 000 at a charity event. (We can only hope it was bought by a villainous boss somewhere.)

5) Ice cube trays



Say you get the hang of making Han products and it becomes some sort of freakish hobby. Well, then you'd want to buy some Han ice cube trays.

Aside from making ice, they can be used to make all of the edible products above. The best part is that they contain multiple slots, so you can churn out your creations much faster. If you're hosting a party, these are the moulds you're looking for.

Don't want to spring for a mould? Here's how to make your own, ya cheap bastard.

And now time for the honourable mention:

6) Your own freakin' face



For some people, having a candy bar simply isn't enough. Why not sully this iconic scene by replacing Han's face with your own? Bonus points if you look like a carbuncular Napoleon Dynamite.


Or perhaps George Lucas sullied the movies for you. In that case, pick up the following one on the right.

All of these creations have made their rounds on the Internet, but you can bet most of your friends don't know about them. So, the next time there's a Star Wars TV marathon (which, according to my calculations, should be in 1.3 minutes), make sure to have some Han Solo products ready!

By the way, anyone thinking of ordering their own custom-made mould should think twice. The first mould isn't part of a lean manufacturing chain, meaning it is very expensive to make.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Conan = FIVE STARS, Totally Bad A$$

Want to see a movie which has violence, breasts and is accurate to Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories?

Go see the new Conan the Barbarian movie.

I saw it yesterday and give it 5 stars. It was totally bad a$$! :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chocolate Milk

I LOVE CHOCOLATE MILK!

But I want to point out an interesting fact about chocolate milk... and is roughly true for milk in general.

1 cup of chocolate milk has 9 grams of protein in it.

So much protein in fact that it makes the calcium in the milk moot. (If you drink protein and calcium together, your body can only absorb so much of the calcium because the protein acts a blocker.)

So you really aren't getting much calcium when you drink milk. There's too much protein in it.

Same goes when you any meal containing decent amounts of protein in it (ie. a bacon cheeseburger)... if you eat something with calcium in it you really aren't absorbing the calcium. Thus in the case of a bacon cheeseburger you end up absorbing the fat from the cheese, but almost none of the calcium.

Food for thought!

Virgin Mobile overcharging me for text messaging

As I sit here typing this I am on hold while a Virgin Mobile customer service rep sends in a report to the billing department, stating that Virgin Mobile has been overcharging me for text messaging because of an error that was made by Virgin Mobile staff.

You see when I got my new cellphone back in January 2011 I signed up for the following:

$35 bundle.
$10 call display / voicemail.
$10 unlimited text messaging.

But apparently someone working at a computer never signed me up for unlimited text messaging (and I text message A LOT!!!)... so when I looked at my July bill I noticed I was being charged an extra $55.80 for text messaging.

So I phoned and complained, and found out that all the way back to when I first got my phone they've been overcharging me for text messaging because apparently some idiot on a computer didn't check all the boxes they were supposed to.

So I am not insisting that they retroactively go back and give me credit for the amount which they were overcharging me. The billing department is supposed to call me back sometime between Monday and Wednesday. (If I don't hear back from them I will call them on Thursday to complain.)

Apple doesn't make the iPhone

Contrary to popular belief, Apple doesn't actually make the iPhone. The iPhone is actually mostly manufactured by Samsung.

Apple neither manufactures the components nor assembles them into a finished product. The components come from a variety of suppliers and the assembly is done by Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm, at its plant in China.

The “teardown” part of this graphic shows who makes what inside the iPhone, and how much the various bits cost.

Samsung turns out to be the most important supplier of parts. Samsungs builds all of the phone’s most important components: the flash memory that holds the phone’s apps, music and operating software; the working memory, or DRAM; and the applications processor that makes the whole thing work.

These account for 26% of the component cost of an iPhone.

Note: Most iPhone accessories aren't made by Apple either. Accessories are typically made by independent companies with little or no affiliation with Apple.

This puts Samsung in the unusual position of supplying a significant proportion of one of its main rival’s products, since Samsung also makes smartphones and tablet computers. This is actually part of Samsung’s business model: acting as a supplier of components for others gives it the scale to produce its own products more cheaply. For its part, Apple lets other firms handle component production and assembly, which leaves it free to concentrate on heavy advertising.

Stranger still, Apple sued Samsung in April over the design of its Galaxy S smartphone and its Galaxy Tab tablet computer, claiming that they copied hardware and design features from Apple. Samsung counter-sued. But the two firms’ mutually beneficial trading relationship continues. Seems fishy, doesn't it?

I'd say Samsung has Apple by the balls.

What it makes you realize is that as the “total cost” part of the graphic shows that, beyond manufacturing and component charges, the lion’s share of the iPhone’s $560 price tag goes to Apple, and most of that is just product markup.

So Apple does not actually make the iPhone, but Apple does make a lot of money from selling what is essentially a Samsung product.

The Apple iPhone: Samsung Inside.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things to Buy at the Dollar Store

Watch batteries: At Sears, replacing a watch battery will cost you $10.50. When you consider that a package of five Sunbeam watch batteries costs only $1 at Dollarama $10.50 seems a high price to pay, even with the year-long warranty thrown in.

The Sunbeam batteries come in two different sizes, 357 and 377. I’ve been replacing my own watch batteries for years. It’s not hard. I use a mini flat screwdriver like the kind found in eye glass repair kits (also sold at dollar stores) and carefully pry the back of the watch off by sticking the screwdriver in the opening by the watch stem and working it around the edges of the backing. Then just replace the battery and snap the backing back into place. It’s easy and takes practically no time at all.

I’ve had the occasional dud in a package of these batteries but mostly they perform just as well as the ones you’d get from a jeweller.

Slide Seal freezer bags: I’ve always been very happy with the Slide Seal brand freezer bags. Besides protecting food in the freezer, I also use them to store craft supplies or other small items I want to keep from getting lost. I like the easy way they open and close using a zipper pull and there’s enough plastic in them to prevent them from tearing easily. They come in two sizes, small and medium and cost $1 for each box of 10 and eight bags, respectively. They form an air-tight seal and are microwave safe. If the bags are being reused over and over for non-food items, the plastic zipper pull may come off but you’ll still be able to seal the bag.

I priced Ziploc freezer bags at Walmart and found that they cost $3.27 for a box of 15 medium or 10 large bags, giving you two more large bags and five more small bags per box. However, the dollar store bags cost just 10 cents a bag for the small ones and about 13 cents a bag for the larger ones, as opposed to about 22 cents and 33 cents, respectively for the Ziploc freezer bags.

The name brand freezer bags boast expandable bottoms but the dollar store bags are a bit larger over all. For example, a medium Slide Seal bag is 20.5cm square, while a medium Ziploc bag is 20.3cm by 14.9cm.

Kitchen utensils: It’s hard to beat dollar store cooking and serving utensils for price. My soup ladle is made of black nylon and has a thick, rubberized handle with an attractive silver-coloured insert in it. It’s dishwasher safe and heat-resistant to 210 degrees Celsius. I paid $1 for it. At the Loblaw’s Super Store, I saw an Oxo brand soup ladle very much like mine that cost $6.99.

The selection of kitchen utensils at the dollar store will change from time to time but you can always find matching spatulas, large spoons and soup ladles.

Tools: Dollar store tools have improved immeasurably since the first flimsy pair of pliers was sold for a buck. I have a selection of dollar store tools that I’ve bought over the years for doing odd jobs around the house. They are solidly made of metal and other quality materials and look and feel every bit as good as some of the tools at Canadian Tire.

My 25 foot tape measure cost $2 at Dollarama and is similar to the Mastercraft easy grip tape measure with rubberized jacket, nylon-clad blade and lifetime warranty costing $9.99. The only thing my dollar store tape measure lacks is the warranty but for two bucks, I’m not worried and it works great.

A Jobmate 8oz claw hammer costs $3.99. I bought a small all metal claw hammer at Dollarama a few years ago for only $1 and have found nothing wrong with it. Mine has a similar faux leather grip on it.

A Jobmate eight inch adjustable wrench costs $7.99. I paid a buck for my seven and a half inch wrench with a rubber-wrapped handle.

The assortment of tools at a dollar store will vary from time to time and most of the ones at Dollarama are priced at two bucks but they’re still a darn good deal for something so well made.

Glassware: You can always find good quality glassware at the dollar store and I’ve bought my share of it. Most of the glasses are $1 each, including martini glasses and tumblers. At Walmart, a set of two martini glasses costs 8.97 however, you can get a set of six plain tumblers there for $6. That’s comparable to dollar store prices but at the dollar store you can have your pick of different styles and sizes.

As with most things at the dollar store, the stock available may be different from one month to the next and, occasionally, you’ll even find glasses from manufactures like Libby or Anchor Hocking on the shelves of a dollar store, a very good buy indeed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why is there pieces of metal in the soles of my Nike shoes?

I love Nike, but when I put on shoes this morning I noticed immediately that I was being stabbed in the toe by something inside my shoe.

I took off my shoe and shook it, hoping whatever sharp thing was in there would fall out.

I felt around with my hand and found 2 pieces of wire embedded in the inner sole of the shoe, right near the toes.

Using pliers I have managed to rip out 1 of the pieces of metal, but so far have been unsuccessful in extricating the other piece of metal.

I phoned Nike Canada at 1-800-663-6453 but the girl on the phone explained that because I bought the shoes more than 2 years ago the warranty had ran out.

I explained I wasn't looking for a replacement. I just wanted to speak with someone technical who could tell me WHY there is pieces of metal in the sole of my Nike shoes and how do I FIX them?

I even explained that I live in Toronto and could bring the shoes in personally to show them to someone at Nike Canada's offices in Toronto. She said they don't allow outsiders on the premises.

Uhuh. So... Nike Canada, completely useless when it comes to answering my questions.

In the meantime I am left to my own resources to try and figure out how to properly reach and pull out the piece of metal stabbing my toes.

Makes me think twice about buying new shoes from Nike, which I know I will eventually have to do. Maybe I will buy a different company instead.

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