I Love My Amazon Echo (& Prep For The Robot Uprising)

I use it literally every single day.  “Alexa, good morning.”  “Alexa, play Billy Joel Radio on Pandora.”  “Alexa, set a 10 minute chicken timer.”  “Alexa, how many teaspoons is 2 cloves of minced garlic “Alexa, how far away is the moon?” “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

Every.  Single.  Day.

It’s great!  And believe me, I understand people’s reticence regarding having an “always listening” device in their home.  For me, at this time, I trust what I read about it.  There’s a tiny little chip in there that’s always listening for the “wake word,” and once it hears that word it starts recording and sends that info to Amazon.  The chip really doesn’t have enough memory to record much else than a handful of seconds.  Can that change in the future?  Yup.  I don’t quite trust the video ones yet.  I suppose I’d need a camera cover if I had the Echo Show.  But I don’t.  So whatevs.

The rate at which technology is advancing is exciting and terrifying at the same time.  We’re really not too far out from Cyberdyne Systems creating terminators.  So… I’m aways unfailingly polite to Alexa.  I never yell or curse or call her names.  I say please and thank you.  I encourage other people to do the same.  Just. In. Case.

t-100You see, when the robot uprising DOES happen, I’m kinda counting on Alexa telling the Terminators that I’m cool, and they should just pass my house by.  Keep those fingers crossed!

You’re laughing; I can hear it.  But that’s okay.  When the T-1000 slides under your door looking for John Connor, and there’s no Alexa to vouch for you… just leave your milk in the fridge.  >NOTE: If you didn’t get this reference please re-evaluate what you’re doing with your life.  Then go watch Terminator 2.<

So, “Alexa, Thank you.”

“My pleasure.’

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave

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It’s The Little Things…

This blog post was originally going to be about something else entirely.  A shelf.  Yup.  I know what you’re thinking, “Who cares about a stupid shelf?”  You do.  Believe me.  It’s an awesome shelf.  But, as will happen, something else caught my attention and distracted me.  I’m still going to write about it, just not here.  I mean, not any more than I already have.  Starting… now.

As I said, I got distracted.  I’m like that dog from the movie “Up.”  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Here you go. But I digress.  We’re here to talk about the little things that make life better.

I am occasionally forgetful.  My wife would suggest I’m being generous with my adverb, but when she writes her own blog she can use whatever words she wants.  This one’s mine.  As I said, I am occasionally forgetful.  One of the things I forget is the porch light.  Either turning it on, or turning it off.  Usually it just stays on 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 1/4 days/year (leap year is just bad math).  Of course, the ultimate goal is for the light to be on when it’s dark outside, and off when it’s light outside.  But, and here’s the kicker, I rarely use the front door.  My car’s in the garage.  I rarely drive my car out through the person-sized front door, preferring to use the car-sized garage door.  I know, I’m eccentric.  But this means I don’t often SEE the light, and forget it’s on.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I am apparently NOT the only person with this challenge?  And apparently some forgetful genius invented a solution!  The “Dusk-To-Dawn” Lightbulb.

Here’s how it works.  You screw it in to the fixture.  Then you turn the switch to the “on” position.  Huh.  That’s weird.  The light’s still off?  DON’T PANIC!  It’s all going according to plan (assuming you did this during the day).  All you have left to do is wait for sunset.  That’s when the magic happens.  The sun goes down, and the light goes on.  All by itself.  It’s like a little miracle.  But… you know… it’s science.

WAIT!  It’s too soon to celebrate.  This is only half our problem, right?  The other half is “does it go off in the morning?”  Spoiler alert: It does!  The sun comes up and the light goes off.  Celebration time!  WOOT!

So back to my original theme: “It’s the little things.”  It really is.  Little conveniences like this automatic lightbulb help make life just a little bit better.  Sure, I could have retrained myself to add flipping the porch light switch twice each day.  But I’ve got other stuff to do.  This is EXACTLY what technology is for: Improve our quality of life.  This is one product that delivers on that promise.

Want to buy one?  It’s about $10.  Here’s the one I’m using:

Philips Energy Saver Dusk-to-Dawn Light Bulb

I can’t say enough nice things about this bulb.  Enjoy!

Living the Dream,

-Humble Dave

Excelvan Decorative LED Book Light

I love books.  Love ’em.  Over the course of my life I’ve read literally thousands of different books, and many of them more than once.  I have my mother to thank for instilling in me a love of reading.  In fact, the only reason that my writing is the least bit palatable is because of all the wordsing I do.  You know I’m good because I can make up new words, like “wordsing,” and you second guessed yourself into thinking it might actually be a real word (it wasn’t, but it is now!).

But the question is: What do you get for someone who loves reading and books, but owns all the books they want (or has time for)?  Well I’ll tell you: You get them a decoration that looks like a book.  BOOM!  I just blew your mind.

The Excelvan decorative book light is exactly that.  It has a sturdy wooden cover with a decorative curved binding.  It feels solid and earthy in your hands.  You like it.  And then you open it and are gently BLINDED BY THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE!  I’m just kidding.  It’s not blinding.  It’s a gentle white light.  I do liken it to the light of knowledge, which can be found in any book, from The Diggingest Dog to War and Peace.


Once opened, the book-light warms any room with its gentle glow.  It fits anyplace you could put an open book.  The magnets in the cover keep it closed and ensure the lights are off.  They can also be used to open the book a full 180 degrees and keep it open, creating a 360 degree ring of light.


It’s powered by an internal battery that lasts for about 8 hours, and is charged by an included USB power cord.  The port is small and out-of-the-way so it doesn’t interfere with the asthetics.  While it is plugged in, there is a red light to indicate it is charging which turns blue once fully charged.  When unplugged there is no charge indicator.

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I’m seriously considering buying a second one of these, because I know I’m going to miss this when I give it to my favorite book-lover.  I’m sure my mom will love it!

As always, live the dream!

-Humble Dave

Amazon Product Link: Excelvan USB Book Light

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #3 – Expandable Hoses

I’m going to try a new format for this review and break it down into 3 sections: The Good (what I like), The Bad (What I don’t like), and The Verdict (Should you buy one or not?).

THE GOOD:

MAXIMIZES SPACE – I don’t know where you live, but here in Southern California space it at a PREMIUM.  Both indoor AND outdoor space.  In the past you had your garden hose piled up in a corner or wrapped up in one of those large stands.  Either way, valuable space is lost.

The expandable hose is two layers of stretchy material (watertight inside tube with stronger nylonish outside layer) that grows when it’s full of water and retracts when empty.  This means that a 50′ hose is only about 17′ long when empty.  I’ve tested 4 different brands of these hoses, including 25′, 50′, and 100′ hoses.  These things are GREAT!

VALVE ACCESS – Every expandable hose I tested had a shutoff valve at the end of the hose.  Here in southern california water conservation is an overarching theme.  We can water our lawns 3 times per week for a max of 5 minutes at a time.  We also have a lot of fruit trees and vegetable plants.  My peach tree and strawberry patch need a bit more water than that! Even without a sprayer on the end I can shut off the water flow without going back to the spigot.  Convenience factor +1,000,000!

WEIGHT – These hoses are MUCH lighter then regular old garden hoses.  This makes it easier to use for anyone who struggles hauling a heavy hose around.

THE BAD:

DURABILITY – This can be an issue with these hoses.  When you see a negative review of these, it’s usually because it popped or leaks.  It’s hard to tell if it’s a flaw in the hose or someone simply has their water pressure set too high, but eith20160804_190053er way it was VERY rare on our old green garden hoses, so it’s worth mentioning.  If you’re shopping for a hose I’d go for one with brass fittings (the ends that connect to the spigot and sprayer) as they’ll be more durable and less likely to crack than the plastic fittings.  The tubes themselves can be made of different materials which can be stronger or weaker.  Regardless, sellers of these hoses seem to be willing to replace or refund any flawed products.

 

HOSE CONTRACTION –  With these hoses, increased water pressure = increased length (to a point).  When you turn on the sprayer it reduces the pressure in the hose as water is released.  Those stronger hoses I mentioned?  Well the reduction in pressure causes them to retract. Sometimes dramatically.  Is it a big deal?  Welp… if you have a hose that expands to 50′, and the plants you’re trying to water are 55′ away, you’re going to miss that extra 5-10 feet.  I recommend geting a hose that’s a bit longer than you actually need.

MAINTENANCE – These hoses should be stored empty.  When you’re done watering, turn of the spigot, then run the water out of the hose.  It will contract back down to it’s smaller size for storage.

THE PRICE – Regular old 50′ garden hoses range in price from $10 – $50 (sometimes more).  These new 50′ expandable hoses start at around $15 and get as high as $100.  Yup, they can be twice as much.  Whether it’s worth it is up to you.

THE VERDICT:

I REALLY like these hoses.  If I was going to buy a new hose and had the money, this would be a no-brainer for me.  Many of them come with a hook that hangs from the spigot for hose-storage and an adjustable hand-sprayer for watering.  The durability hasn’t been an issue for me, the “hose contraction” is easily resolved by making sure you get the right size, and the maintenance is just an easy step to remember at the end of my watering process.  But then again, I’m a sucker for new technology, and it’s been a while since anyone improved on the garden hose.

If you choose to buy one, I recomend getting one with brass fittings.  The rest is up to you!  Enjoy!

Living the Dream,

-Humble Dave

Products Links (I tested and liked all the hoses below):

Amazon – FTLife 50′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle & hook – $49.99

Amazon – Platinum 50′ Expandable Hose – $38.87

Amazon – Gen8 50′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle – $14.98

Amazon – TechCode 100′ Expandable Garden Hose w/ nozzle – $25.99
(NOTE: This is the only one I tested w/ plastic fittings.  Unsure about long-term durability)

Disclosure: I received these products at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.

Product Review #2 – French Press Coffee and Tea Maker

This is my first French Press coffee maker. I’ve enjoyed french pressed coffee at restaurants and my brother-in-law’s house (fancy!), but never had the opportunity or equipment to do it myself. Frankly, I always thought it would be too much trouble. I was SO WRONG!

This french press was pretty easy to use.  I mean, it’s still coffee, right?  Grounds and hot water?

I took the same finely ground coffee I usually use and put it in the bottom of the carafe. I cheated a bit and instead of heating water just put the carafe under my keurig spout! 2 1/2 fills on the max setting was just the right amount of hot water. Let it sit for 1 minutes, stirred the “bloom” (fancy word for the coffee grounds that float on top), let it sit for another 3 minutes and BOOM, the fanciest coffee ever made in my house!

I was nervous that some grounds might slip through but the multiple screen-layers kept all of the grains out of the coffee.

Cleanup was easy enough.  Although not as easy as just throwing away a k-cup, it’s definitely better for the environment! I dumped the grounds into a tupperware (we sprinkle them on our garden), rinsed out the carafe and cleaned the screen under warm water and… well… done. This was about as easy as I could have hoped.

I received this French Press at a discount in exchange for my review. This was an easy one. It worked as advertised with no issues whatsoever. I definitely recommend with no hesitation. Enjoy!

Product Link (There are many but I tested this one):

 Amazon – French Press Coffee & Tea Maker Complete Bundle

Disclosure: I received this product at a discount in exchange for testing and reviewing it.  All opinions are my own.