Monday, February 24, 2014

The Sink Is Sunk

I spent most of last weekend getting my new kitchen sink and faucet hooked up. Aside from one incident where I had to remove and re-seat my toilet, I've never been much of a plumber. Still, I didn't think it would be too difficult set up the plumbing for the kitchen sink on my own. And since I discovered a previously-hidden outlet behind the old sink cabinet, I figured I might even be able to hook up a new garbage disposal. I bought all of the supplies from my local Home Depot.

For the faucet, I went with the Glacier Bay Lyndhurst 2-Handle Bridge Kitchen Faucet with Side Sprayer in Stainless Steel. I wanted something that looked different from the typical standard, and I liked the look of the Lyndhurst. It's artsy, yet feels very sturdy and, of course, I love the little sprayer. Here's hoping that the whole thing is sturdy enough to last a number of years. The sink itself is a standard, Kohler two bowl, four hole stainless steel sink.

I purchased an InSinkErator Badger 500 garbage disposal. It's a great little unit, but, if you're going to buy it and hook it up to an outlet, you're going to have to buy an extra cord to go along with it. Thankfully, the unit hooked up easily and I only had to do some minor maze work with the pipes in order to incorporate it into my setup. Here's the result:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The New Cabinets Are In

After about 8 hours of work, the new cabinets and counter tops are in. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it because the setup looks great so far. Now, I've got to re-wire some outlets, get the plumbing set up for the sink and dishwasher, get the backs plash and floor done and do some painting. This is only phase 1. There's much more to do.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kitchen Demolition

My new kitchen cabinets are going in this week, so I spent all of the day today destroying the last remnants of my old kitchen. There were quite a few surprises involved, the most interesting of which involved a bunch of old match books. I guess the previous owner put them between two cabinets in order to shim level them. After wondering aloud why I would find old matchbooks rather than some sort of hidden treasure, I began to sift through the matchbooks. Most of them were from old stores that I had never heard of. One of them was from a local guy's state senate campaign. It was dated 1978. And that would mean that my kitchen is about 35 years old or so. Definitely time for a change.

The previous kitchen layout had been badly designed in that it left the fridge against a bare wall opposite the cabinets and counter top. It wasn't until I took the cabinets out that I discovered that, originally, the fridge went against the same wall as the cabinets. I even found an old water line leading to it. At some point, the previous owner decided to extend the counter tops and sacrificed the fridge's place in order to do it. I'm told that he did this in order to facilitate making pizza at home to bring to the pizza place he owned back in the 80s. The discovery came too late to change the layout, though. So, I will just have to live with what I set out.

Of course, the best part of home demolition is the ability to use power tools. I was able to knock out most of the cabinets via hand and hammer. There were, however, some issues with the cabinets around the sink. I had to cut away various sections of it with an electric saw. I was gleefully happy at having the opportunity to indulge my destructive streak in this manner. I even took a video of part of it. Have a look:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blue Man Group

I first saw Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater about 15 years ago. I was on a date with some woman whose name I can't remember. She had somehow been given the tickets for free, so, we made a date of it. I knew nothing about Blue Man Group going into the show but, I remember really liking what I saw despite being somewhat distracted by the fact that the date was turning out to be a miserable failure.

Some weeks later, I went again to see Blue Man Group, this time with one of my college buddies and his wife. We got there way too early, though, and ended up drinking at some margarita bar nearby where I ended up getting massively drunk. I was so obliterated that the only thing I remember is my buddy's wife trying to score me a date with the hot bartender chica before we got drummed out. I remember having rather mediocre seats at the theater that I tried not to throw up on. And I remember my buddy's wife flashing her boobs at me on the drive home. I barely managed to bark out a witty retort before passing out.

Those days seem like a lifetime ago. So, it was not without a tinge of excitement that I went back to see Blue Man Group on Saturday afternoon. We had spent the day in Chinatown and managed to get back to the hotel in time to change and depart for the theater. The essence of the show is still the same. It's still a visually stunning, musically stimulating experience. And they've added a lot of new material since I last saw it so many years ago, yet still managed to retain all the cool things that made me like Blue Man Group in the first place. We had pretty good seats, just about seven rows back from the stage. It was nice to attend Blue Man Group with a clear head for once.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Share On Sharalike

After getting my Google Photos year end video and my Facebook Lookback video, I've started thinking about photo videos again. I've been wanting to make similar videos for my own use yet with more specific content. For example, I took tons of pictures in New Orleans and wanted to make a photo video that could showcase them properly. And I ended up with over a hundred pictures from my time in The Foreigner. There's no way anyone would go through an entire album of these things on Facebook. But, putting the photos in a video with a some neat transitions and appropriate music accompaniment might just be the trick I need to get these photos viewed.

Sure, there are plenty of Windows and Mac based programs that I could use to make a photo video. But, you know what? That takes way too much effort. I may use those for a perfectly choreographed family photo video to send out to my folks at Christmas time, but, for something that I just want to use to showcase a set of photos, it's too much work. This is where comes in.

Sharalike is a website that lets you upload your photos and quickly turn them into videos that you can then share with all of your friends. You just create an album, upload photos to it, pick a video theme, pick some music and then you can share the result via a number of different ways (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail link, etc). What I like about Sharalike is the speed at which you can go from concept to video. Sharalike does most of the heavy lifting for you, so you don't have to spend hours dropping photos into templates and enabling transitions. Just a few clicks and you've got your video.

It bears mentioning that Sharalike is still in Beta, so the features are going to be evolving. The trick for Sharalike is going to be keeping the concept simple while still offering a number of attractive features. Personally, I'd mainly just like to see more templates and more music choices. The one big thing on my wish list is a Share via Embedded video feature so that I can share my creations to this very blog for all of my readers to enjoy. 

If you're interested in checking out Sharalike for yourself, I hope you'll sign up under my reference link.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Review Of The Lego Movie

I've been a Lego fanatic since I was about 8 years old. One of my fondest Christmas memories is of the time I unexpectedly got the Knight's Castle. I spent all day putting it together in the basement of my grandmother's house. I then carefully carried it to the car so that I could get it home safely. I had so many crazy adventures in my mind with that set. There was an alien invasion, a group of regular folks went back in time to visit the castle, etc etc. Lego just had a way of sparking my imagination.

The love for Lego is something that my daughter has inherited from me. She already has more sets than I ever had at her age and most days I find her joyfully playing and/or building. And I am always happy to be included, because, after all these years, Lego still brings me a lot of joy and it still sparks my imagination. Needless to say, when I first heard about The Lego Movie several months back, I was beyond excited.

I took my daughter to see it this past weekend and we both really liked it. It follows a fairly typical "chosen one" plot where our hero, a fairly ordinary looking Lego construction worker, Emmet Brickleback stumbles upon a mystic artifact that is the key to fulfilling the prophecy and saving the Lego world. While the movie goes through the motions of "he is the chosen one! Wait! He's not! Hold on! He is! Ooops! Guess not! Is the prophecy even real?" it's the character interaction, the cameos and the clever, irreverent humor mixed with copious amount of Lego nostalgia that makes this movie work. And the ending is absolutely, mind-blowingly emotional. Thoughout the movie, though, there's a subtext about the nature of how we play and how we interact with the Lego world. That's what really sells the movie for me.

The only bad thing I can say about the movie is that there's so much already out there in the form of trailers and Internet spots and TV ads that much of the really funny stuff from The Lego Movie is readily available. I spoiled myself by voraciously watching everything related to it, so, much of the jokes in The Lego Movie was lost on me because I had already seen them. And I found it a little jarring that much of the dialogue from the trailers ended up in different scenes in the actual movie.

Overall, The Lego Movie is not a 90 minute toy commercial. It a fun movie with something for everyone, and, it's so dense, that there's no way you'll be able to catch everything in just one viewing. You might even say that it's a love letter to Lego fans everywhere.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How To Save Your Facebook Look Back Video To Your Hard Drive

Taking a page from the Google Photos, Facebook began rolling out a special videos for its users in order to celebrate its 10 year anniversary. Each user's "Look Back" video highlights 15 or so of their most-liked photos, statuses, and life events set to a jaunty tune. It's a neat little reminder of how we've all used Facebook over the past 10 years to document our daily lives. Unfortunately, while Facebook allows you to share your Facebook LookBack video with your friends, it doesn't make it very easy to download it to your hard drive. But, if you're a little savvy, you can download it without much of a problem.

How To Download Your Facebook Look Back Video:

  1. Open the link to your video:
  2. Press Ctrl+Shift+J to open your web browser's console (if you are on a MAC, go to the Tools menu and pick Javascript Console). A little split screen thingy will come up towards the bottom of your screen
  3. Now, you're going to have to paste in some code. Copy it down from:
  4. Paste that code into the console. You might have to press CTRL V to do it. 
  5. Hit Enter. 
  6. A link will appear directly under where you've pasted the code. Click that link. Your video will open in a new tab. Let it play to the end. 
  7. Hit CTRL S and save your Facebook LookBack video to your hard drive.
If anyone needs clarification on how to do this or what the pasted code is doing, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll be happy to help.

For those of you who are interested, I saved my Facebook LookBack video and uploaded it to Youtube. It can be found below:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hotwire Sucks

While looking for hotels to book for a Valentine's Day outing with the girlfriend, I happened upon a deal at that offered $25 off for booking through their mobile app. I should have just stayed away. To begin with, the Hotwire mobile app has been released in such a poor state, that a $25 incentive is not nearly enough to offset the frustration that comes with using the app. Here are the main problems:

Current Problems With The mobile app (Android):

  • You can't log in to your account with it, so if you do manage to book a hotel, it probably won't get associated with your account. 
  • You can only book hotels, not flights or rental cars
  • Maps are unavailable, so you can't see the general area where you're booking your hotel. You have no idea what sort of attractions and restaurants are near your booking area.
  • No ability to sort by neighborhood
  • Prices listed via the app are actually $5-$15 higher than prices listed on the website. Customer Service Is A Joke

The above problems with the app weren't a huge concern because I knew which neighborhood I wanted to book in and I didn't have an overwhelming need to have the booking associated with my Hotwire account. It's not like I was earning rewards or anything. And, at the time, I didn't notice that the prices on the Hotwire app were slightly more expensive than the prices listed on the website, thus negating the $25 discount I was offered for using the app. So, I went ahead and booked the hotel. And then the app crashed. Before it crashed, though, it did manage to charge my credit card.

I called Hotwire customer service to see if the booking had gone through. They asked for my itinerary number. I didn't have once since the app crashed before I could get one. They asked for my account details, which would be irrelevant since the app doesn't allow you to log in to your account. Once we narrowed down the finer details of the booking, the rep was able to see that, while the charge went through, the booking didn't, so it was only a matter of calling my credit card company to release the funds.

At the end of the call, the customer service rep encouraged me to try booking again. I was leery of using the app, but the rep offered some suggestions like re-booting my phone or clearing my cookies (which she followed up with "And I can't tell you how to do that, so don't ask"). I suggested that I would be willing to re-book through the website, but that I would want the  $25 I had been promised. After all, I had fulfilled my end of the bargain by testing out the app. The rep indicated that she couldn't do that. I asked to be kicked up to a supervisor. The rep told me not to bother because the supervisor would say the same thing. I insisted.

After a five minute wait, I was connected with a supervisor. My first order of business was to complain about the attitude of the customer service rep that I had been speaking to previously. I realize how difficult it can be to maintain a sunny disposition when you've got to deal with frustrated customers all day, but, this particular rep's tone made me feel as if she didn't give a crap about my business from the get-go. The supervisor told me that the front line reps were not employees. They were employees of a call center that Hotwire uses. No wonder why they don't care.  

With that, I'm done with A discount on a hotel isn't worth the sort of frustration that accompanies dealing with Hotwire.