Track Amazon prices with CamelCamelCamel!

I was in the market for a new cable modem. I did some research and found the one I wanted on Amazon. I put it in my shopping cart, but got distracted and didn’t order right away. When I got around to it later in the evening, I found the price had jumped from $82 to $88! That’s over a 7 percent jump and I really felt stupid for not ordering initially.

I figured there had to be some automated way to track Amazon prices and I stumbled onto I pasted the URL of the Amazon product page into CCC and saw this nice graph. Wow! I couldn’t believe how often and how much the price changed. I input a desired price of $82 and after about a week got a price-drop email. I quickly got onto Amazon and was able to buy the darn thing for $79!

I’m amazed that the site can track the prices of so many items. I tried to stump it and see if I could find something that didn’t have a price history, but couldn’t find one in my few attempts. I’m sure they can’t track everything.

Well, the service is free and seems to work quite well. I highly recommend it!

Restaurant/Cafeteria-style Hot Oatmeal, Part II

It’s been nearly three years since I penned my popular post Restaurant/Cafeteria-style Hot Oatmeal At Last! Ever since then I have had an eye out for a more controllable slow cooker. I thought I had found one: the Cuisinart PSC-350. This thing has a simmer setting which is a setting between warm and low, which is what you need for oatmeal.  (The typical low setting that you find is still too high.)

Anyways, I was at Target and stumbled onto a rice cooker–not even on my radar–that had a…drumroll…”oatmeal” setting! With several Target gift cards burning a hole in my pocket I purchased the Aroma ARC-616SB Sensor Logic Rice Cooker & Food Steamer ($60), ready to return it if it sucked.

I am happy to report that it works really well! It made a very tasty batch of oatmeal in about 30 minutes. I didn’t even have to use my overnight slow-cook method. My only gripe is that its delay function only works on the rice settings. Why this is the case, I don’t know. I tried making a batch and letting the automatic keep-warm function do its thing, but the oatmeal still ended up with a little bit of slightly burned skin on top.

In any event, if you’re looking to make push-button-easy restaurant-style oatmeal, I highly recommend the Aroma ARC-616. It really makes you wonder how anyone can eat instant oatmeal!

Homejoy: A tech-savvy home cleaning service

Got a Groupon today for a company called Homejoy. They are a new home cleaning service that happens to serve the San Antonio market among many others (Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, NYC, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington DC. Check their website for latest list.)

A couple things about their service really caught my eye:

  1. They are “bonded and insured cleaners [that] pass the professional cleaner exam, background checks, reference checks, and English fluency test.” Yeah, I know I could get an “independent” person for less money, but these things are worth the small premium to me.
  2. They charge $20/hr and it looks like their minimum is just 2.5 hours. I’ve called other professional services and the minimum was around $100 per visit!
  3. Everything’s done on-line, so you can make/modify appointment details, add notes and special needs for your cleaner, review your invoice, and reschedule or book another appointment. Awesome!
  4. They take credit cards.

They instantly give you the name and a picture of the person that will do the cleaning.

Of course, it remains to be seen how good of a job my cleaning person does, but setting up my first appointment was painless and smooth. I love the concept!

Oh yeah: If you mention my name at checkout, we both get $10 off! ;-)

2013-09-13 – Well, the actual cleaning experience wasn’t so good. The girl could have done a much better job in the kitchen. I mentioned it in my review and also sent an email to one of the founders, Aaron Cheung. It took them a day or so to reply but Aaron was very helpful and apologetic. Most of the apartment was done fine so I had given the cleaner a 4 out of 5 stars…I probably should have been more harsh. Apparently, if you give a low rating, you will not get the same cleaner the next time. I’ve got one more Groupon for them and will give them a second shot.

Duplicate house keys that work like butter…

I’ve always had the worst experience getting duplicate keys made for the many places I’ve lived. Old apartments have been particularly problematic. I recently had two keys made at Home Depot and, of course, they didn’t work. I even bought some small files to try to massage the keys into working. It helped a little, but I’m obviously no locksmith.

I don’t really understand why it’s so hard for your typical key duplicating machine to create good copies. It’s really not rocket science and interestingly its the “valleys” on the key that are important, not the “peaks”.

Anyways, there is this new service at which will make a duplicate key from a photo! Each copy costs just $5 including postage so I figured what the heck. Well, I got the copies yesterday–it took just 3 days from the time I ordered–and they work like butter! So smooth. Perfect!

It’s quite an amazing process and very simple. You basically take a photo of each side and email to them. That’s it. (Note: The image to the right is not my key…duh!)

The whole process is automated, and it’s fast too! 2 minutes after I emailed the photos I got an email saying they had analyzed my key and could send a duplicate out tomorrow. There’s a link  you click to make payment which I did. 2 minutes after that I received an email saying the key was on its way! Attached to the email was a cool video showing how *my* key was analyzed.

The company is based in San Francisco. Looks like they’ve created a team consisting of a Computer Science/AI PhD from MIT, a mechanical engineer and a locksmith. I guess that about covers everything you need :-)

I was a little leery about doing this but I suppose it would be easier for someone local to make a duplicate using an imprint. They say that your information is stored with bank-grade encryption and your shipping information is redacted a few days after they ship your key.

Anyways, I HIGHLY recommend Shloosl! The duplicates work like they were the original keys!

Keurig short cup? Give it a swift kick!

Ok I did the vinegar thing and my Keurig B40 would still give me a short cup. I was about it get a new one even though the current one is probably about a little over a year old and out of warranty. I saw video about taking it apart and blowing air through it, but then saw this one that said to “bang on the bottom…really go to town”. I figured it was worth a shot and surprisingly it worked!

Good luck!

Cool way to pack hanging clothes for a move

I was faced with moving a lot of hanging clothes on my move from Los Angeles to San Antonio. Since everything had to fit in my car, I had serious limitations on how much I could bring. Moreover, packing suits and dress shirts in boxes would end up in a bunch of wrinkled clothes.

I found this post on entitled “how to pack clothes for moving.” The author suggests using plastic trash bags. Now although I generally liked the idea, it seemed too difficult to get the proper amount of hanging clothes in the bag and some part of the clothes might stick out the bottom. I also thought that they would be sliding all over the place and get wrinkled anyways.

Then I remembered that whenever I used a professional moving company, they would wrap everything in plastic wrap. (They’d probably wrap my dog if I had one and wasn’t looking ;-) It dawned on me that plastic wrap would solve all of the limitations of using trash bags. One, you could wrap just about any amount of hanging clothes; two, it will accomorate any length; and three, plastic wrap would not be as slippery as trash bags (in fact, it can be down-right sticky).

I used Zip Ties to hold the top of the hangers together. The article has a suggestion to use masking tape, but I felt that it would leave a residue. One of the comments suggested Zip Ties and that worked like a charm.

Obviously, if I was going to use a moving company, I would spring for wardrobe boxes, but for this situation, plastic wrap was perfect, simple and cheap!

UPDATE  2015-06-21:
Buy the wrap at the dollar store. Also, I didn’t put it on too thick so a roll goes a long way. I don’t think I used more than a roll for all that is pictured. An added benefit is that they cling together and won’t slide around in the car.

Tire pressure sensor issue for 2008 Lexus RX350

The tire pressure monitor sensor (TPMS) light had been illuminated for a while on my 2008 Lexus RX350 even though all my tires, including spare, were at or higher than the recommended PSI. I scoured the web for a solution, but it took me a long time to sift through the many forum posts and actually find one.

There’s actually many things that can cause the problem. I’m posting the information below to help out the legions of other RX350 owners looking for a nice concise solution to this irritating problem.

1. Make sure the Main/2nd button, underneath the dash on the passenger side, is set to Main (this is the “out” position of this push button.) This can easily get accidentally pushed in by a passenger’s leg. If you are wondering what this switch does, it’s for people that have two sets of tires with pressure sensors on both sets. This might be for a set of snow tires, for example.

2. Inflate all tires to at least 33psi.

3. Make sure you inflate the spare tire too.


4. Make sure you have aluminum valve stem caps on all tires including the spare. Don’t use plastic or non-aluminum metal caps. Other metals can actually fuse to the stems over time! You can probably get them at the dealer, but I bought some on Amazon like these.

5. Press the TPMS reset button underneath the dash on the driver side. There are two buttons near each other and it’s the one on the left.

Well, I hope this information helps someone. The Main/2nd switch is what tripped me up and it wasn’t mentioned on most of the forum posts I read.

2016-01-06 – Added picture of the Main/2nd button.
2015-07-20 – Since the Main/2nd button is often the culprit, I moved that from #5 to #1 :-D
2015-10-12 – Amazon doesn’t carry the original caps I bought so I substituted the link and photo to some similar looking ones.

Restaurant/Cafeteria-style Hot Oatmeal At Last!

UPDATE 1/2/14: Click here to see my new post on cooking oatmeal

I’ve been a big fan of steel-cut oatmeal, but have developed a craving for the goopy oatmeal they serve at this cafeteria I’ve been frequenting recently. I knew it wasn’t steel-cut and it didn’t seem to be regular old-fashion oatmeal either; however, my research indicated that those basically were the only kind available. I bought a box of Quaker old-fashion oatmeal and tried a few batches without any luck.

Unfortunately, my trusted recipe finder (aka Google) failed me miserably. I just couldn’t find anything that told me how to make it. I did see a few posts about cooking it overnight and it occurred to me that a crock pot (slow cooker) might be involved, after all, the cafeteria made it in these giant vats. Eventually, I did find the right keywords and stumbled upon one post that seemed to be what I wanted. Anyways, I made several batches and here’s what I ended up with:

– 1 cup oatmeal
– 2-1/2 cups water*

Spray the pot with non-stick spray. (You just can’t avoid the hard semi-burned layer on the sides.) Dump the ingredients in the pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low.

*You will probably need to experiment with the amount of water. First off, add more or less to get the consistency you like. Also, the low setting temperature can vary on different crock pots which will use more or less water. I’ve also found that different brands of oatmeal can affect the amount of needed water.

That’s it! Super simple. Obviously, you can dress it up with fruits and things if you want, but that’s up to you. Comes out exactly like the cafeteria stuff I’ve been getting. Enjoy a healthy and delicious meal!

Apple iPad causes back problems

Have you seen the billboards where the iPad user is comfortably lounging on a couch or something, relaxingly using their Apple iPad? Well, maybe if they showed their face, they would be grimacing.

Let me explain. Since I started using my iPad more and more, I’ve noticed I’m starting to get acute back pains. I think this is mostly caused when I use it sitting in bed before I go to sleep. In some ways just as it is being used in the ads. You don’t get a lot of back support sitting in bed and I suppose my back is hunched over for too long a period. I’ve tried pillows and such, but it’s impossible to make it the functional equivalent of sitting in a chair.

I’ve tried using it laying flat with the iPad propped up on a small pillow on my chest. It’s a little awkward, but my back seems better. The device is pretty heavy and you don’t really notice it at first. You really can’t hold it comfortably very long in one hand. I’m guessing that the weight contributes to the problem.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I thing it is an amazing device and I will continue to use it. However, I am thinking seriously about getting the lighter Amazon Kindle for reading in bed (and outside use). It will be interesting to see if mainstream media starts jumping on Apple on this. Picking on Apple seems to be the thing to do these days. I did a Google search and got some hits on the topic. I’m going to coin the phrase now: “iPad Syndrome”!