The Lego Movie Review | Sarcastic, Random and Hilarious

An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.
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Lego Batman | The Lego MovieThe Lego movie is sarcastic, random and downright hilarious. Okay, so you could have gathered that much from the title. Usually, I like to end my posts with the “bottom line” but this time I’m going to start off with it — watch this movie!

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Best Free Tax Software Canada | Studio Tax Review

It’s about that time of year again — tax season. That means spending copious amounts of time collecting forms, stubs, and receipts to appease the good ol’ taxman.

To simplify things, I used to go to H&R Block. What I didn’t realize is that H&R Block provides little service over and above what you can do yourself with proper tax software. It made sense at the time — as a student their $29.99 rate is fairly reasonable. However, out of school their rate jumps to $59.99+ making it worthwhile to do it yourself.

The second thing I didn’t realize is how easy it is to do your own taxes. Even those with “more complicated” tax situations should find it quite easy with a program like Studio Tax.

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Dell XPS 18 Review | My New “Ridiculous” Computer

“I just bought a new computer”. Normally this is something someone will post to FB, grab a few likes and move on, however the computer I recently purchased is pretty unique, so I thought I would share it in a more detailed post.

I recently picked up the Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch All-in-One / tablet. You read that right. It’s essentially an 18-inch tablet. Except, well, it’s not.

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How to Help Put An End to Smoking

Smoking is a very personal issue for me. My grandmother, easily the most kind-hearted woman I’ve ever met, lost her life several decades too early as a result of lung cancer, thanks to second-hand smoke. It was at that time, when I was still very young, that I decided I would do what I could to protect those around me from smoke.

Like many, I grew up around a number of smokers. My mom smoked while I was young but made the right decision to stop after she saw how it was affecting me and my brother. She was also smart enough to smoke outside, or at least primarily so, unlike the situation many children are trapped in. This is where my fury kicks in.

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Is Soy Bad for Men? It sure is!

This is not a random interesting topic I have decided to write about — I’ve had the privilege (sarcasm!) to experience the dangers of soy myself.

What Makes Soy Bad for Men?

Soy is a great little bean and has become very popular because of its health benefits. Overall, soy is a great addition to virtually any diet. However, the old adage “everything in moderation” cannot be more true for soy.

Soy, in small to medium doses, has been linked to improved cardiovascular health and weight loss, while providing healthy dietary fibre and protein (Dieticians of Canada) but large doses of soy products are another story.

Soy contains isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds derived from plants that, in large amounts, can increase estrogen in both men and women. It takes a fair bit of soy to produce noticeable effects, however it can be easy to reach those limits if you are unaware of the danger. Here’s where my person experience comes in.

See: Does Soy Milk Lower Testosterone?

You see, I decided about 4 months ago to make some major changes to my diet. I recently discovered I am lactose intolerant, so cow milk had to go. I easily replaced it with soy milk and loved it! I started drinking more than 2 cups of soy milk each day (which is already a moderate-high about of soy).

I then decided to fully jump on the soy wagon by purchasing soy protein powder and taking it several times a week before workouts. Protein powder is very concentrated, so my soy intake started going through the roof. It didn’t take long before I started noticing problems with my energy levels, alertness and muscle loss — aspects linked to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen.

I had test after test performed but the test that finally shed light on my situation was a testosterone test, showing that my levels were below normal (not alarmingly low, but low). Thankfully, it seems like I caught the problem before it became pronounced — unlike this poor man.

If left unchecked, high soy intake can lead men to have fertility problems or even grow breasts!

Needless to say, I have not touched a single soy product since. As much as I like a good pair of breasts, I just don’t think they would suit me.
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Learn Something New in 2014 — 2013 Summary Post

Happy New Year! I want to take this moment to thank my subscribers and guests to my blog over this past year!

This post is my 165th, which is hard to believe. It certainly doesn’t feel like I have written that many articles. Pumping out posts week-after-week requires dedication — thankfully I have not yet lost the passion and I am certainly not running out of material to write about, with a backlog of draft posts waiting to go.

Throughout 2013, I made several changes to this blog including rebranding it “Learn Something New” and focusing more closely on “tips for life”. My goal for 2014 is to continue this trend and find great new technology, share tips for life and of course, the occasional movie review.

If you would like to join in on the fun and receive a weekly helpful article, subscribe here.

I am happy to be celebrating over 50,000 views so far and am looking forward to many more. Getting traffic to a blog is no easy task, as any blogger will tell you. The current threats I have to deal with are changes coming down the line from Google, making it harder for small-time bloggers to obtain organic traffic. I won’t get into the specifics but more than ever it will be important to get subscribers and work to obtain exposure on other blogs.

Thanks again to everyone reading up on my latest rants, reviews and tips!
I will wrap-up this post with a list of some of my favourite posts from 2013, in no particular order:

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GoodLife Fitness Sucks!

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Update: I’m switching to LA Fitness! They have fewer locations than GoodLife, which may not make them an option for everyone, but their rates are better and their clubs are quite nice! I went with the $49.99 upfront and $34.99/month plan. Much better than the $56/month plan I was on with GoodLife. Ripoff!

I just got off the phone with a customer service rep from GoodLife and no matter how much water I drink, I cannot wash this horrendous taste out of my mouth.

I have dealt with many customer service call centres but none as bad as GoodLife’s. The company is completely ignorant to proper customer service. Some companies like Bell, have recently made tremendous strides in customer service and I couldn’t be happier. GoodLife Fitness, on the other hand, has such poor business practices it’s laughable.

Let’s set the picture – a GoodLife employee fills out my information wrong (both my banking information as well as my address) and then try to slam me with a huge bill after a couple of months because of their error. I was confronted rudely about not having made my payments, when all the while I had assumed it was a 3 month trial. Of course, the employee that set me up has been fired and therefore is not available to take any of the blame and GoodLife refuses to take responsibility for any of it.

GoodLife Fitness sucks.

So I call in. After waiting on the phone for an HOUR I am eventually treated to their horrendous business practices.

“Can I speak with you manager?”

“I’m sorry, we don’t escalate calls here.”

You don’t escalate calls? Are you serious??? Never have I called in and been presented with a single opinion on my situation. It is maddening to speak with someone that refuses to help you with no one else to turn to and it is certainly disgusting customer service to do so.

Being a little optimistic:

“Can we please start from scratch and treat it as a 3 month trial since you guys messed up?”

“No.”

Being reasonable:

“Can you please help me by spreading out the cost over the remainder of my payments so I don’t bite the bullet for your mistake?”

“No.”

What GoodLife doesn’t understand is that I can be tremendously loyal if I am treated well. Instead, like many others, I have been burned. They may get their money from me eventually but they’re giving up a lot of future business when I quit. How much do I owe you ask? $200. A penny to them but a lot more to me. Apparently a happy customer is worth less than $200 to them,

P.s. I miss my old community centre so much. They had really nice staff and everything I need for half the cost. I highly recommend you check out a community centre in your area – they are much better than you would believe. These corporate gyms are absolute garbage and you will likely get burned sooner or later.

Other reasons GoodLife sucks

  1. Machines that are always broken. There have been times when I have come in and as many as 10 treadmills have been simultaneously broken. How do they let that happen?
  2. High turnover. They are clearly doing something wrong with their HR since the person that signed me up didn’t even last two weeks after I started at the gym.
  3. Pricey.
  4. Broken lights??? The light in the men’s sauna has been out for 2 weeks. Many people stopped using it as a result while others tried to find their way in the dark. Management has been alerted numerous times of the issue. How long does it take to replace a light? GoodLife Fitness sucks!

Here are some other angry people at GoodLife Fitness if you want to join in and share your struggle:

  1. http://amplicate.com/hate/goodlifefitness
  2. http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/goodlife-fitness-london-ontario-c116197.html
  3. http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=1978134
  4. http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/goodlife-fitness-fredericton-new-brunswick-c196188.html

Update: Courtesy of Dave in the comments, here are some links to legal information that you may want to consider if you will be fighting with GoodLife:

Government of Ontario :: Know your rights
http://www.ontario.ca/consumers/your-rights-under-consumer-protection-act
http://www.ontario.ca/consumers/joining-gym-or-fitness-club

Consumer Protection Act
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_02c30_e.htm

The consumer protection act is a legal document so if anyone doesn’t have strong language skills don’t get discouraged. Find a friend, a teacher or legal student or professional. Stand your ground on the issue.

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iPhone Users Listen Up: Keyboard Shortcuts (Autofill) are a Lifesaver!

If you have yet to discover the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts, you are about to have your mind blown. This function, tucked away in the settings, has two awesome functions: to create shortcuts for strings of text you frequently type, and to serve as a dictionary override. The second use is a best-kept secret, so be sure to read on.

Shortcuts function can be found in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts

Create Shortcuts for Frequently Typed Items

iPhone Shortcuts — Autofill

The primary use of iPhone shortcuts is as their name implies — shortcuts. Simply press the “+” button in the top right and enter the text that you frequently type as the “Phrase” and the shortcut for the autofill as the “Shortcut”. For example, you can enter your address as the phrase and have your email automatically filled in when you type in “myemail” if you set “myemail” as the shortcut (see image). This is particularly useful for those with long emails or for longer phrases like full postal addresses.

Other great uses of shortcuts are:

  • Addresses (“myaddress”)
  • Phone numbers (“mynumber”)
  • Stop texting me, you’re crazy! (“crazyex”)

Create Dictionary Overrides (Particularly Useful for Swear Words)

Do you find it super annoying that Apple tries to strip you of the colourful language you like to use? Worry no more! Simply add a phrase for the word that you don’t want to have autocorrected and leave the shortcut field blank. Voilà! Steve Jobs will no longer try to correct your exclamations to “Duck!”

Of course, this isn’t limited to swearing. If there are any words that you type that are frequently “corrected”, incorrectly, simply add them to your list of shortcuts.

Have you been using the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts? If so, what are some of the shortcuts you have created?

Avast Antivirus Review — The Best Free Antivirus

Over the last 12 years or so, I have used many different antivirus software packages in search of the perfect one. I have tried Norton, McAfee, AVG and Avast. Based on the title of this post, you already know where I’m going to end up, so if you want to skip straight to installing Avast immediately, here’s the link:

Avast, The Best Free Antivirus:
http://www.avast.com/en-ca/get/V21zfH6Z

First of all, I want to start by saying that Norton and McAfee are by far the worst. They are little more than bloatware that will absolutely ruin the performance of your PC. In fairness, I have not used them in years but they were certainly terrible pieces of software for many years. AVG on the other hand is great — it’s free and runs much more smoothly than Norton or McAfee. However, it is not quite as feature-rich or polished as Avast so after years of using AVG, I made the switch.

Avast is by far the best free antivirus software. It is snappy, easy to install and work with, completely free and has some very powerful features. Unfortunately, Avast has gotten slightly worse over time in trying to convert you to a premium user but for the most part it sits in the background and minds its own business. When you go to register or renew the software each year, just look out for the free option which is somewhat hidden but always there.

Another thing to keep in mind with Avast is that they continue to add new features each year, which should be great, however, many of the new features are unnecessary and may slow your PC down. I keep the bare minimum features on — typically just the anti-virus and anti-malware. I turn off their browser plugins as well.

One of Avast’s best features is the ability to do a pre-boot scan. You can select which harddrives you would like Avast to check, then restart your computer and Avast will run through all your data to look for viruses or malware. I have used pre-boot scans many times to salvage computers full of viruses that went undetected by regular scans with other antivirus software.

Another great thing about Avast is the interface, which is absolutely gorgeous. Navigating through features is painless and very intuitive and the overall suite has a well-polished feel. I am also a sucker for their great branding and colour scheme (and no, I was not paid to write this, just a big fan).

I highly recommend Avast as the best overall antivirus software on the market. I give it a 9/10 even though it deserves a perfect score. I do so only because they have been more pushy with their premium versions but it is still easy enough to take advantage of the free version and upgrade if you require one of their premium features.

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The Hobbit Movie Review — The Desolation of Smaug

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
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The second movie in the Hobbit triology, The Desolation of Smaug, picks up where the first movie left off in reinventing the classic Tolkien story. I use the word reinventing loosely — it is more appropriate to say that the story has been completely rewritten.

The first Hobbit movie brought-on a number of arbitrary story changes; most of which did not significantly alter the story from the original. The Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, takes this rewriting to a new level by introducing story arcs, events, and characters that were never present in the Hobbit books. Many of these changes dramatically impact the overall story, creating a bastardized version of the original.

Putting aside these major shortcomings, the movie is fairly entertaining. Like the original, one of its biggest strengths is the visuals. The high frame rate, 48fps instead of the standard 24, helps create an immersive world. The animation is also top-notch with many full character computer models being nearly indistinguishable from the real actors.

Bonus: Benedict Cumberbatch motion and voice capture for his amazing work for Smaug

The story seems to rush along at times; a common problem for book-to-movie adaptations. This is particularly odd considering a single 310 page book has been stretched into 3 movies. For some reason they decided to rush certain story arcs and add a great deal of filler for others. The biggest example of filler is the new love story that was introduced — that of the lady-elf and one of the dwarves. This love story was completely absent from the original book and clearly introduced simply to appease audiences supposedly desperate for a love story in everything.

It is these additions that earn The Hobbit a 3-star rating. If they stuck closer to the original story and resisted the urge to hollywood-ify a classic story, it would have been much better. These arbitrary additions are an unwanted distraction for those that are familiar with the story.

The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, is definitely worth watching in theatres, just be sure to try and forget the original story as much as possible to avoid disappointment.

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