Archive for July 2013

Phone decision

I’ve been spending a decent amount of time trying to figure out which phone carrier would rip me off the least and reading up on the many smart phones available on the market right now and others soon to be released.  What it really boils down to is how much money I want to spend.  At the moment I have many medical bills showing up in my mail box from the past three months and I really don’t have the extra money to drop on a phone nor to start paying for a monthly data plan.  I don’t know how much I’d actually use data anyway.  Most of my time is spent at home or work where I readily have access to wifi networks.  I also have an iPad3 with which I can do mobile things.  I’m actually quite satisfied with my current phone with the exception of the battery.  A quick search revealed I can purchase a new battery for about $5 so that’s what I did yesterday.  I got a new battery and a new hard case, mine is cracked in a few places, for $10 with shipping.  This should extend my phone’s life for a bit and save me the money I was trying to find for a new phone and data plan.

Arrested Development-Game of Thrones mashup

This is pretty awesome.  I loved the “Mr F” reference.

Dollar Shave Club Weeks 2 and 3

In my first week of trying out the Dollar Shave Club I shaved my head every 3rd day and around my full beard every day.  I shaved off most of my beard into just a goatee for Week 2 and in Week 3 I waited five days before shaving.  I’m still experiencing great shaves with The 4X and have yet to see the blade cartridge become clogged.  My replacement cartridges should be arriving soon and I’m still a satisfied customer.  The Shave Butter continues to be a major bonus when maintaining my beard.  There’s just something awesome about being able to see exactly what I’m trimming and shaping on my face.  The six ounce tube should last me at least a couple more months.

The only other thoughts I have on the razor system is the release lever/button to release the razor cartridge isn’t always easy to engage, especially if my thumb is wet.  I like the cartridge being firmly attached, but last time I swapped them out I had to try three times before I detached the old one.

AT&T and Verizon attempt to copy T-Mobile

After T-Mobile’s announced the new plan for customers to more easily keep up with the Joneses and their new phones, AT&T and Verizon announced similar plans as well.

AT&T was the first to announce their plan called NEXT where customers could get a new phone every year if they agree to pay full price for their device over the course of 20 months.  At 12 months customers may opt to purchase a new device.  This sounds great except you basically end up paying the same for your wireless/data plan AND pay full price for your device.  Here’s an article that more eloquently explains everything.

And now Verizon has a similar plan called EDGE where you’re eligible for an upgrade every 6 months as long as you’ve paid 50% of the full price for your device.  Similar to AT&T, you end up paying for an unsubsidized phone AND the same wireless/data plan.  Here’s another article explaining things in more detail.

I really wish T-Mobile had better coverage so I could actually use my phone if I switched to them as my provider.  I also wish people would do the math on these “great deals” and decide what is really best for them in the long run.  I also wish there was some regulation of cell phone companies and cable TV/internet companies so us consumers weren’t constantly screwed with the option of pay the money or go without.

UPDATE 7/19/2013
CNET’s Ask Maggie column has a great breakdown showing the total cost of ownership.  The consumer pays more no matter what with T-Mobile screwing you the least.  Your best bet is to hold onto that phone for two years.

Cheap contact lenses

A few years ago we found ourselves having to seriously tighten our financial belts and I found many ways to save money.  One of those was by purchasing my contact lenses online.  I checked around all the big sites and discovered Lens.com was the cheapest way to go.  It’s way cheaper than 1-800-Contacts which everyone seems to think is cheapest online retailer.  I just ordered 8 boxes of Acuvue Oasys for $20/box.  If you’re a new wearer you can actually get them for $13.74/box after a mail-in rebate or, as a current user (me) I can get them for just under $17/box after rebate.  I know sometimes rebates turn into a nightmare, but I’ve never had any issue getting my money.  The worst that’s happened is one year I forgot to mail it in and once I remembered, I had waited too long.

T-Mobile announces new phone replacement schedule

T-Mobile is truly turning the cell phone market on its head.  Earlier this year they announced no more two-year contracts and today they unveiled a new plan allowing subscribers to replace their phone every six months.  The new program is called JUMP! and costs an extra $10 a month, which includes premium cell phone insurance.  Just the insurance alone would cost you $8 a month by itself.

If you’re unfamiliar with how T-Mobile works, you can either buy a phone outright and then choose a monthly service plan, or you can pay a minimum amount on the phone and then pay around $20 a month for the next two years to pay off the phone.  This is similar to how AT&T and Verizon work, but you’re not locked in for two years, the phone may be paid off at any time and there is no penalty for leaving T-Mobile before the two years are up.  With JUMP! you can still pay the minimum amount required for a phone, and then you’ll pay $30 a month with the option to upgrade in six months.  The kicker is you’re not responsible for paying off the remainder owed on your phone when you upgrade.

So what’s the catch?  For me, it’s the fact T-Mobile still does not have adequate coverage where I live.  At best I could receive 2G data and have “acceptable” voice signal where I live.  That’s what I call unacceptable.  If i lived in a more heavily populated area like LA, NYC or Atlanta, I’d be signing up tomorrow.  For now Verizon still seems to be the best deal for me because of their data/voice coverage and the discount available to me through my employer.

Maxpedition Larkspur Messenger Bag Part 1

All through junior high and high school I carried an army surplus backpack which promptly fell apart end of senior year.  A Jansport backpack took its place and lasted me through college up until last year when one of the straps ripped off.  Since then I’ve been using various messenger bags/backpacks lying around the house to carry my stuff, but nothing was really working well.  When traveling I carry a nebulzier, cpap, pulse oximeter, peak flow meter and other medical items along with anything else I might need.  This does not make it easy to get through TSA.  For every day needs I carry pretty much everything minus the cpap.  This winter I started looking into tactical every day carry (EDC) bags and landed at Maxpedition’s website.

Maxpedition has many items all made out of heavy duty cordura, 1050-800 denier, and high strength nylon thread.  Seams are double or quadruple stitched, stress points are box stitched and every seam is finished.  YKK zippers allow for easy, durable opening of pockets and compartments with 550 paracord pull strings.  Unless you’re purposefully trying to destroy their merchandise, Maxpedition gear is made to last for years and still look like you haven’t given it a beating.

I decided to go with a messenger bag and went with the Larkspur, the smaller of two options.  The basic dimensions of the bag are:

  • Approx. 15.5″(L) x 12.5″(H) x 4.5″(W)
  • Main compartment approx. 14.5″(L) x 13.5″(H) x 4″(W)
  • Two (2) 7.5″(L) x 9.5″(H) x 1.5″(W) pockets with Hook-&-Loop enclosure
  • Two (2) 1.5″(L) x 6.5″(H) x 1″(W) sheath pockets with Hook-&-Loop enclosure flap

The beauty of this bag is all the velcro available for customization.  The entire inside of the main compartment is velcro along with the flaps for the two front pockets and hidden pockets behind them.  There are many options for pouches, dividers and organizers.  Here’s a list of the accessories I’m currently using with it.


Maxpedition #9839 6″x9″ Utility Pouch Insert

This pouch hooks onto velcro either in the main compartment or on the flap velcro for one of the two exterior pockets.  The velcro on this utility pouch is pretty strong.  There’s not way it’s going to accidentally open on you.  If you’re looking for easy and quick or possibly quiet access, you might want to go with a zippered pouch.


Maxpedition #9841 Hook and Loop Admin Insert

Like the utility pouch, this can fit in multiple places where velcro is present on the Larkspur.  I’ve folded the flaps for one of the exterior pockets in and am using the exterior velcro to slap the admin insert.  I can easily grab pens without having to dig into my bag.  The large pocket on this organizer just happens to be perfectly sized for an inhaler.


Maxpedition #9408 2″ Shoulder Pad

If there’s one accessory you buy for the Larkspur, it has to be the shoulder pad.  Even the Jumbo Versipack comes with one.  The velcro attachments allow you to attach it anywhere on the shoulder strap, and the strap may move independently of the pad preventing chafing.  I don’t really see this as an add-on, and think Maxpedition should include it with the messenger bag.


Maxpedition #0243 Horizontal GP Pouch 5″x7″x4″

This pouch has PALS webbing on one side and velcro on the other with a drain grommet for the main compartment.  Inside is one large spot to organize your things with two flaps on the interior of the large sides.  If you’re wanting to carry this solo, it is possible to attach a shoulder strap or use the bag as a MOLLE attachment.  My use for this is to carry my Pari Trek S nebulizer.  I can fit the compressor, battery pack, AC adapter, car adapter, tubing, medicine and neb cup inside this pouch with room to spare.  I can easily drop this inside the Larkspur or my Jumbo Versipack as well as carry it by itself.  It’s been a great help transporting the neb in an efficient manner.

Well I think that’s enough review for now.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Larkspur as well as an upcoming review of the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack.

Acute flare-up day 68

Back in May I wrote about being on day 29 of an asthma flare-up.  I’m now 1/3 of the way through July and today marks day 68.  June was definitely the worst of it with two hospital visits, and by this Thursday I will have been on prednisone for 49 days, which I’m pretty sure is the longest stretch I’ve ever done.  I’m not completely confident I’ll be ok once I’m off of it, but we’ll see.  I’m still doing 3-4 nebuilzer treatments every day and having to take it easy.  Just walking outside from a building to a parking lot in 85 degrees with humidity still wears me out quickly.  The hardest part is still just pacing myself.

Friday I was able to attend the wedding of some friends.  They kept things simple and low key, which is different from many weddings I’ve attended.  People seemed less stressed.  There were a lot of Doctor Who references, some Game of Thrones references and a homemade crossword puzzle that our table knocked out in record time.  I wasn’t feeling too great afterward and spent the weekend taking it easy, but I was glad to get out and do something social.  I think the best part of the night was when I noticed a spider on my friend’s suit, which I promptly flicked-off.  The thing flew across to the other table and landed on/near a woman who seconds later was looking around wondering where that spider came from.

One thing I have been persistent on is riding my bike whenever possible.  Exercise is an important part of respiratory health and keeping the lungs in good working order.  Even if I’ve been lying around all day, 20-40min on my bike can make a huge difference.  Back in the day I used to go running all the time, I’m in no condition to actually do that right now but maybe I’ll work my way back to it.

Dollar Shave Club – Week 1

Last week I told you all about the Dollar Shave Club, and I must admit I was a little impressed.  I’m not entirely sure if that’s due to expectation levels vs experience or just because it’s a good product.  I wanted to come back after a week of shaving and let you all know how I’m feeling about it.

The 4X Razor

The Club’s four-blade razor has been working out well for me.  I’d say it works just as well as any other four-blade, with the exception that I’ve had zero problems with clogging.  I think this is probably the most common problem I’ve had in my years of shaving that can really lead to a bad shave experience.

My biggest concern with the razor is how it would perform shaving my head.  It’s done wonderfully well.  I decided to go for haircuts every three days.  So that equated to three shaves: last Saturday, Tuesday and Friday.  Essentially one swipe of the razor was all I needed to clear a swath of stubble.  My common mistake, because I’m cheap, is to continue using a razor well past its prime.  So while I didn’t think I needed to swap out the razor cartridge today, I did it anyway.

The Shave Butter

I’m so glad I decided to give the Club’s shaving cream solution.  At first using the translucent product was a little weird, but I quickly figured it out.  I’m used to using large amount of shaving cream that never quite does the job.  I’ve thought about trying out The 4X without the Shave Butter, but that just sounds silly.  If for some reason I quit using their razors, I think I’d still want to use the Shave Butter.

Other Thoughts

  • With all the razor cartridges I’m going to be going through, I wish there was a way to easily recycle them.
  • I miss having a holder thing to snap the razor into like what I have had with every other commercial razor I’ve bought.  If I happen to leave the razor lying blades-down on the counter after a shave, the lubricating strips will get stuck to the counter.

Since I discovered The Dollar Shave Club, I’ve found similar services on the web, although most of them exist not in the US.  I did come across a pseudo-subscription service that’s more high end called Harry’s.  They’re more about a brand/product than just providing a cheap shaving solution.  They offer high-end razor handles named after Winston Churchill and Harry Truman paired with German engineered razors.

If you’re interested in trying out the Dollar Shave Club, please consider using this link.  I’ll get a few bucks towards my next razor purchase.

Last night’s cheese fries

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb frozen crinkle cut fries
  • Roughly 4 oz shredded colby jack cheese
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Black pepper
  • Yellow mustard
  • Ketchup

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 and spread out fries on a cookie sheet/pan.
  2. After oven is heated cook fries for 10min.
  3. Add onions to top of fries and cook for an additional 12min.
  4. Add shredded cheese to top of fries and cook for an additional 3min.
  5. Remove fries from oven.  Add garlic, pepper and oregano to taste.
  6. Top with mustard and ketchup.

Usually I’d post a picture, but I was just way too hungry to stop and smell the flower.  How do you like to make your cheese fries?  What sauces or seasonings do you prefer?