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Stuff I Bought Week: Obol

Posted on Monday, March 28th, 2016

Dave!You know how when you dig into a big bowl of cereal how the first two or three bites are utter perfection? The cereal crisp... the milk cold... and no sogginess to be found?

Then, like the inevitability of death and taxes, the milk starts to permeate your Cocoa Puffs and they grow increasingly less crunchy with each new bite and you'd give anything to get back to those glorious moments of cereal perfection?

"Only every single morning!" you say.

Well, there's an invention called Obol that aims to fix all this...

Obol

Obol

As you can see in the above photo, your cereal is kept high and dry in the top portion while the milk is safely waiting in the lower section. When you want to take a bite, you just push a spoonful of kibble into the milk and chow down with crunchy perfection.

And while Obol doesn't have a cooling unit to keep your milk cold, it does have kind of a "handle" on the bottom so you don't have to wrap your hands around the bowl and have your body heat warming your milk.

If you are a cereal fanatic like me, Obol is a must-purchase. It's a little pricey, but oh so worth it.

Unfortunately, I think Obol is going out of business or something, because most of the colors/sizes are out of stock and the pricing is weird at Amazon. If you're interested, I'd act sooner rather than later...

Medium Single Serve obol: $14.95, Large Double Serve Obol: $14.99

   

Stuff I Bought Week: Lightsaber Room Light

Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Dave!My new home has an utterly bizarre design choices. It's a nice place but, logically, rooms are positioned strangely, walls don't align as they should, and absolutely nothing is centered. Some of this I was able to address in the remodel, but other things ended up sticking around because there's just not enough remodel money to deal with all my ADD issues.

One of the areas that my new home's quirks made especially challenging was decorating. Since nothing is lined up and nothing is centered, placing pictures on the walls is a maddening struggle.

Take, for instance, my upstairs hall.

I decided I wanted to decorate it with movie posters. One wall has two small windows above a stairwell (off-center, of course), another wall has bizarre angles cut into it, another wall ends in a desk nook that's off-center from two bedroom doors. And, as if that wasn't bizarre enough space to try and align some wall hangings, the far wall comes out of a stairwell and has the HVAC vent return! It's enough to drive you crazy.

For this wall I decided to put a couple Star Wars posters (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back... the only two that matter) and have them line up with both the stairwell and the upstairs hall. This left a big gap in the middle that needed filling.

I decided a light saber might be cool.

Only to find out that replicas are insanely expensive.

And then I happened across a "science kit" from "Uncle Milton" that featured a "Build Your Own Lightsaber" style room -light... for just $25! SOLD! I liked the design of Darth Vader's lightsaber best, so that's what I went with.

Opening the box had me bust out laughing, because it's not actual-size. It's a mini-saber that's tiny, tiny, tiny...

Light Saber

As if that wasn't funny enough, the "Darth Vader" lightsabers come in a box with a picture of Kylo Ren!

Light Saber

Even though it's billed as a "room light" it sure doesn't glow bright enough to light up a room... even in total darkness. But it does make a lightsaber sound when you turn it on, so I guess that's something. It comes with a remote control, but the remote doesn't turn the thing on, so I have no clue what the hell it's for (you have to push the button on the hilt to get it to "activate"). The description at Amazon said that the blade changes to eight colors with the remote, but the Darth Vader blade only glows red.

Ultimately, a big disappointment, as this is not the lightsaber you're looking for... move along.

Eventually maybe I can find a decent FULL-SIZE replica with a glowing blade that's affordable. Until then, a mini-saber it shall be.

May The Force be with you.

Always.

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Stuff I Bought Week: Scatmat and Ssscat

Posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Dave!The thing about cats is... they're cats.

Cats... and especially the two kittens I have... are curious by nature, and want to get into anything and everything they can. They're always looking for adventure, which can be problematic when it comes to keeping them safe.

If there's one room I don't want them adventuring in, it's the kitchen. Too many opportunities for them to get into trouble once they're able to jump high enough to get on the countertops. Also... that's where the front door is, and I don't want them running out into the street.

The first thing I tried was putting "Scat Mats" in front of both entrances. These are plastic sheets with conductive wires running through it. They're hooked up to a battery and deliver a small shock when your pet (or you!) make contact with two wires...

Scat Mat!

The mats seem to work as advertised. It just took a few attempts before Jake and Jenny stopped trying to go into the kitchen. When I make their breakfast in the morning, they stop short of entering and wait patiently.

At least they did.

Maybe my cats are geniuses or something, but they just started jumping over the mat on day three...

So...

Not the best solution for keeping cats out of a room. Probably works great for keeping cats off of something though. If that's what you're after, then they might be worth picking up. The only thing that really bothered me with the product (other than them not working for my intended purpose) was that they tell you to store your mat rolled up... but it arrives folded. Which puts big-ass creases in it. They say you can use a hairdryer to smooth them out, but not even an industrial hairdryer would remove mine (as you can see in the above video). Kind of stupid they don't come rolled, as suggested in the instruction book!

After the failure of Scat Mat, I turned to another solution... Ssscat!

This is a can of compressed air with a motion sensor on top. When something triggers the motion detector, it releases a blast of air that scares any cats (or humans) who come within range...

Ssscat!

It's a great idea.

Except mine doesn't work.

Even with two changes of fresh batteries, it doesn't activate when you get near it as it should. Sometimes it will go off with motion, but there's no rhyme or reason to it and it's worthless 99% of the time. I don't know if I got a bad one or what, but it's an even worse failure than the Scat Mat.

Oh well.

Hopefully a solution will come along that actually works.

Until then, there's always "NO!"

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Stuff I Bought Week: Milwaukee Work Box

Posted on Friday, April 1st, 2016

Dave!As I become more and more invested in woodworking and building stuff, I've accumulated a lot of tools. At first I kept them in a plastic Ziploc freezer bag. Then I moved on to a cardboard box. Then a plastic bin. After having my tools keep dumping out of the bin, I finally decided to invest in a toolbox. There were quite a few to choose from, but I'm kind of addicted to Milwaukee brand stuff, so I decided to take a look at their offerings.

Turns out they have two.

The classic 26" rectangular box was nice... rugged and comfortable to carry... but there wasn't a tray to organize stuff. So I ended up getting the 13" Jobsite Work Box instead. It had a tray and a caddy insert that looked handy...

Milwaukee 13

Milwaukee 13

Milwaukee 13

It's a tough box and works great as a stool. There's a slot on top if you need a surface to cut pipe or something that might roll off a table.

In theory, it's a great design.

In practice? Not so much...

  • The fact that it's so deep makes it tough to find smaller tools that get dropped to the bottom. It also wastes a bunch of space unless all your tools are tall.
  • The small tray that fits in the top of the box is easily knocked out when removing tools, as there's no way to strap it in place.
  • The caddy insert is frustrating as hell. It's difficult to place in the slot for storage and the cavities are too shallow to keep taller tools from flopping out.
  • There's a spacer to help keep your tools in place so they don't slide into the caddy slot, but mine keeps catching on tools when I pull them out, so it's pretty much useless unless you want to glue it to the bottom of the box.
  • It's a bit of a hassle to get into. The handle locks the lid in place if you push it one way... unlocks it if you push the other. Half the time I get it wrong.

Overall, this is a regretted purchase. The design makes it difficult to use, and I don't think it's very efficient or handy for storing tools. I'll probably replace it soon and just use it to carry power tools from one place to another.

Milwaukee really needs to come up with a more tried-and-true box that makes tool storage and access easier instead of more difficult.

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Stuff I Bought Week: iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Dave!When Apple came out with the iPad Pro, I was intrigued. Not because we were getting a giant iPad... but because it was accompanied with "Apple Pencil," which is what Apple calls their touch stylus.

So I went to the store to give one a try and ended up taking a pass. Not because of Pencil, which was amazing (as you'll see), but because the iPad Pro was just too big. I like drawing/painting/sketching while laying on the couch watching TV, and the big iPad felt like it was more of a table-top tool.

Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Apple announced that a smaller model of the iPad Pro would be released on March 31st.

And it's glorious...

Apple iPad Pro 9.7

There are a lot of iPad reviews out there, so I'm just going to give a quick run-down on what matters to me...

  • The Apple Pencil stylus is incredible. I've used a lot of display tablets over the years, including the high-end Cintiq Wacom models, and this is the best I've ever seen.
  • Seriously. If you're an artist, go to an Apple Store and try out Pencil.
  • The glass is so thin on iPad Pro that it's more like drawing directly on the tablet instead of drawing above it. This is a huge step forward, and makes all the difference.
  • No. Lag. None. Even when rapidly scribble-shading, it keeps up.
  • The sizing is perfect for couch-drawing. I admit that there are times I'd like to have the larger drawing surface of the original iPad Pro model, but I'm ultimately happy with the smaller model.
  • iPads and iPads have genreally had shitty sound. All that changes with this model. You get four speakers to orient stereo sound in either horizontal or vertical orientations. And it's really good sound!
  • I'm not one to take photos with an iPad, but that may change. The camera on this thing is awesome. Low light performance is quite good. Not as handy as my iPhone for quick snaps... but it's nice to know I have iPad as an option if I need a shot.
  • Apple's "TrueTone" sensor evaluated room lighting and adjusts the display tint to fit in with your surroundings for a more natural visual. I didn't think much about it, but tested how it works under the Edison vintage lights in my dining room which are very warm... sure enough, it's a noticeable (and welcome!) improvement.
  • I never bought an iPad Air model, so I wasn't prepared for how thin this thing is. It's very nice, and the weight it comfortable to hang onto.
  • The multi-tasking is a nice addition, but it doesn't seem terribly practical for the 9.7" model as opposed to the larger 12" version.
  • The Apple Smart Keyboard is a better than trying to type with the on-screen keyboard... but not by a lot. The only real benefit is that you're not obscuring the screen with the keyboard. Otherwise it's just too cramped for easy typing, and almost impossible to use unless it's sitting on a sturdy flat surface.. This is where the 12" model with its full-size Smart Keyboard is a better choice if you're doing a lot of typing.
  • The Smart Keyboard does not protect the back of the iPad. You need a separate piece for that.

For the most part, I am very, very happy with the iPad Pro... and ecstatic when using it with Apple Pencil and an app like ProCreate that can take advantage of it. This is easily, hands-down, no-bullshit the best stylus tablet experience I've ever had. The fact that it's not tethered to a computer is just icing on the cake. If you're an artist who is considering going digital... or are already a digital artist looking to upgrade, stopping by an Apple Store and checking out the iPad Pro is a no-brainer.

   

YouTube for Days

Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Dave!With television production shut down and the new television season pushed back for the foreseeable future, I've been turning to YouTube for entertainment while I work. There's just so much to experience. And since everybody else is probably in the same boat with running out of stuff to watch, I thought I'd go through some of my favorite YouTube channels that I watch regularly. I did this a while ago but wanted to update after I learned that Great Big Story is shutting down.

Channels I watch because I want to learn something. There are so many brilliant educational channels that it blows my mind, and I'm regularly linking to them in my Bullet Sunday posts. When I'm alerted that Veritasium has a new video available, I drop everything and watch immediately. Derek Muller breaks down science like nobody else, and his latest video is the kind of stuff I obsessess over...

There are many many learning channels I love. CGP Grey, Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, Johnny Harris, Doctor Mike... they all have cool stuff to open my mind towards.

Channels I watch because I just think what they do is so fascinating. Baumgartner Restoration is just video after video of Julian Baumgartner restoring fine art... mostly paintings. That alone would be amazing to me. But it's the things he develops to be able to do the work that blows my mind out of the back of my skull. He did a SIX PART SERIES on restoring a painting which was painted on wood. But before he even got to the point where he was working on the actual paiting, he had to use his engineering and fabricating skills to build a special table to do it...

Baumgartner is like some kind of renaissance guy who can do everything. And he has one of the most soothing voices and most agreeable personalities of anybody I've ever seen. There are few things I can watch which will calm my mind faster than Julian working on his latest project. Another brilliant channel for watching somebody make magic happen? My Little Bakery is filled with Nadia's incredible icing artistry and has to be seen to be believed. I mean...

Another fascinating thing to watch is Calligraphy Masters which was originally for learning calligraphy, but also features beautiful lettering art I can't get enough of. And then there's the cool stuff that Mark Rober does, which is about as fascinating as it gets.

Channels I watch because I love woodworking and home reno. My favorite hobby is working in my garage wood shop and doing my own home renovation. YouTube has been invaluable in learning how to do all this stuff. The channel I look at first is always Home RenoVision DIY where Jeff will give you all the dirt on how to get professional results from your projects and save money while doing it...

Another person doing God's work for learning renovation and home improvement is skateboarder Ben De Gros at Vancouver Carpenter. For pure woodworking, Peter Millard is another great channel. And I love Fix This Build That as well.

Channels I watch because I want to keep up on tech. My favorite tech blogger is Marques Brownlee. The guy is smart as hell, has a subtle funny streak that makes him fully relatable. He reviews the stuff you want to see, but doesn't get bogged down in too many details nobody cares about. I didn't see his Apple Watch Series 6 video before I bought mine, but I was livid when I finally got to see it because HE HAS THE WATCH I WANTED TO BUILD THAT APPLE WOULDN'T LET ME! A Project RED watch with a black band...

Marques may not want a red watch... BUT I DID! Except I couldn't get it with a black band. =sigh= If you're looking to majorly geek out to tech, Linus Tech Tips has been around forever and sometimes goes reeeeeally deep into the nuts and bolts of it all. And then there's Unbox Therapy, which is exactly what it says in the title.

Channels I watch because I want ideas for new things to cook. But many of them I watch because I just like to watch cooking channels. Especially foreign cooking channels where you can turn on auto-translated subtitles and see how masters of their craft work. Like De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina...

And if you love pasta, the artistry found on Pasta Grannies is remarkable...

There's also channels like Pro Home Cooks, budget-conscious cooks like Joshua Weissman, and exceptional bakers like John Kirkwood... the list goes on and on and on.

Channels I watch because I want to be more informed on Current Events. All media is biased. All of it! but when you recognize their biases you can use that to expand how you see the world. I'm not saying I'm going to watch Far-Right assholes or Far-Left assholes... that's just torture. But I'll tune into channels by those on the Right or Left if I think that they have something to actually say on a subject and aren't just parroting extremist talking points and don't consider their views to be above the facts. David Pakman is highly opinionated towards the Left, but not beyond all reason. Somebody who is labeled as Right, claims to be more Left, but strives to ride down the middle and distill information wherever it lands, is Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan gets a lot of hate from both sides, some of which is justified, but he has thoughtful commentary and does a really good interview. Here he is with Pakman and some fantastic discussion that really needs to happen...

There was another interview with Pakman which was equally good and equally important from this year (and highly disturbing in hindsight). Seriously. Tune into that.

Sure, Rogan skates on the edge of conspiracy theory sometimes, but the guy got me to change my mind on Bernie Sanders, and that ain't nothin'...

I love that there are conversations which can make me look at a person or an event or an ideology in a different way... or even change my mind. Joe Rogan's show is really good at this kind of thing. Even though I definitely don't always agree with him or his guests, I keep watching.

Channels I watch because I want to challenge how I see and live. I know that Russel Brand can be problematic. The guy has some views which I consider to be naive, impractical, and just plain bonkers. And yet... he is one of the smartest, most caring, most insightful humans on this planet. And he's hilarious. And it's because of this that I tune into every one of his videos. A third of the time I have to bail because the discussion is not something I'm interested in exploring with him, but the other two-thirds? Fascinating stuff. Take this short 12-minute video where he discusses the presidential "debate" fiasco we just endured...

Yep. Yep. Yep. I mean, Russel is more "big picture /slash/ in the grand scheme of things" here than he might should be... if you believe in a woman's right to choose (to throw out one example) then there is a huge difference between President Trump and Joe Biden getting elected. But is he wrong that our political system is primarily interested in self-preservation over addressing the needs of a diverse population and that the big-picture items won't change much because it's all run by people who only care about money? Fuck yes, he's right. Or, to be more accurate, he's not wrong. And it's not just politics and the hideous crap going on in the world today. Russell has a number of videos on self-help and personal growth that can be inspiring and helpful. Another channel along these lines is Rich Roll. It's not like he's going to convince me to adopt a 100% plant-based diet or become an endurance athlete, but Rich has some very good insight on living a healthier, most enlightened life and I enjoy hearing his thoughts.

Channels I watch because I want to see people being human. It's really easy to get disassociated from humanity even when there's not a pandemic. It's not good for us. It's not healthy for us. It's not fun for us. But it happens. So there are a few channels I subscribe to simply because I like to watch and feel more connected to people. Yes Theory is a good example. The crew there do things and go places and ponder ideas that are just so very... human, and I love to see it. Take a look at this video where Thomas visits the least-visited country on earth to see what I'm talking about...

God I love videos like this. How can you not? The crew's latest video is where they paid somebody to be their friend for 12 hours. The result was wonderful...

Another channel which is sometimes sweet, sometimes shock, sometimes stupid, but always human to a crazy degree is MrBeast, which I talked about here.

And there you have it! Some of my favorite YouTube sites! And I didn't even get to those sites that I watch just to be entertained. I guess that's a list for another time.

   

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