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Snickers Crisper Review

Snickers CrisperI bought Snickers Crisper randomly in the supermarket for review purposes.  I wasn’t sure whether it was a special edition for the Easter season but notice its been on the market before, at least as far back as 2015.

The product contains two small bars of candy, look about about 1 inch square, maybe just over.  Each of those squares is about 1 or 2 bites then its gone.

Taste

I didn’t really care for it that much, maybe its because I’m not a big fan of any chocolate bar with peanuts in it, however here are my observations:

  1. There is a strong taste of peanut, not peanut butter, but of a nut I could not identify.
  2. I didn’t taste the chocolate that much, hardly at all.
  3. Inside it looked like rice krispies, but they were harder.
  4. The texture is kind of chewy but much lighter than something like nougat.

My skin felt bad after eating one of them, like the bar was zit inducing.  I also had a slightly bad stomach too.  Time for some Alka Seltzer maybe.

Value for Money

The store where I got this from cost $1.29 each, however, they did have a two for one deal on, I made most of their offer of course.  At $1.29 each bar I would say the customer is being ripped off, it is very expensive for what the chocolate bar is.

Chocolate in the US appears to be much more expensive than the UK.  A regular Snickers in the UK costs about 60p, about 75 cents, and in the US the cheapest I can find it locally is $1.49.

Summary

For the price and quality of product I would rather use that money on a small business chocolatier, Snickers Crisper tasted very mass market produced.  My score 2/10.  I won’t buy it again and the second bar I will probably give away.

I noticed that Mars are using Tumblr as its platform for Snickers products, that is quite interesting, especially as that CMS can be fairly slow on some older computers.

The last time I had a Snickers was when it was called Marathon bar in the UK.  I only had it a couple of times as it really wasn’t my thing. Here is an old advert from for Marathon from the UK:

By | April 18th, 2017|Food, USA|0 Comments

Favourite Productivity Tools

I have some favourite productivity tools that are must-have’s for my work.  There are some that I use all the time, and others which I come back to every now and again.  Following is my list, in no particular order:

SuiteCRM Community Edition

I use a CRM (Contact Relationship Management system) to keep track of my clients (accounts), contact details, my general to-do’s, bugs, projects and so on.  I use it all the time, several times a day.

I tried to use ZohoCRM which is an awesome tool but full hosting is with that company and have to pay extra for uploading documents.  I used SugarCRM which was ok but the user interface was just awful unless you pay for the full version to be able to put a skin on it.  Then I found SuiteCRM which is amazing, its based on SugarCRM, fantastic skin, can host it on my own provider, and of course free.  Couldn’t do without it and I probably don’t use it to its full potential.

Hours Tracker

I submit timesheets to clients I have service level agreements with so they can see what and when I have been working on, and if necessary associate it with an invoice.  Hours Tracker is a very simple app for both iOS and Android to a) set up clients, b) set a rate for each, c) clock in and out of each work item, and d) include a summary of action completed.  This can then be exported into a number of formats, I put it into a csv file while I can email myself from the app.

Some people might want more but this app suits me perfectly.  I use it in an iPad.

OmniGraffle

This is a diagramming tool, like Visio but for Mac, that I use for processes, swim lanes, website wireframes, and so on.  This is an application I use a lot not only at the start of a project but also in documenting a piece of work for my clients which, for me, is one of the most important things about delivering to them (you never know when I might drop dead).

I paid for the basic version which is $99, might see a lot but it was worth every penny.

TouchDraw

Like OmniGraffle this is another diagramming tool and I use it for similar things like swim lanes and website wireframes.  This is an app which I have on my iPad, I wanted a tool which I could brainstorm “on the go” such as on a bus.  This tool is idea for that.  You can export from the app in a number of formats, it is also a very powerful with many features.

At $8.99 it is worth every penny and have received free updates for quite some time now.

Netvibes

I have been using this application for years, it is a “Start Page” for your browser and I have set it up as my home page.  For me it acts as an RSS reader and also has a lot of mini modules/applications within it which can be installed and organized by tabs.  So, on my main tab I have feeds of news sites, a bookmark manager, and weather apps.  Other tabs include feeds from technology blogs or magazines, from the sites I manage and so on.  The basic version features are more than enough for me and I don’t know what I would do without this tool.  There are alternatives, such as start.me, but none compare for the features I need with Netvibes.

Trello

This is a project/team based task manager.  It is great for a small team unless you want to the paid version for larger teams, its also more “visual” which some project members like.  I have only used it for small groups.  I don’t use it that often as it misses out some important elements for me, which is the power of a full CRM with Accounts and Contacts, plus associating/uploading documents.  It is good for an “on-the-fly” app.

FogBugz

This is another application I don’t use that often but on larger projects its great for managing bugs prior to launch.  There is a free version for a very small team but can be fairly expensive for larger teams.  I have seen a lot of agencies use the tool which is where I got the recommendation from, I don’t think its for a small concern/business like mine.

iProjectViewer

I don’t know many people who actually use Microsoft Project anymore but I can’t buy a license since I only have Apple software.  So I did get this app called iProjectViewer which is a great tool to be able to view .mpp files.  Very handy every now and again.

The other “free” alternative for a Mac desktop is OpenProj which I have used for years.  Not even sure if they are updating it anymore if it works on the latest version of Microsoft Project.

Dropbox

I have Dropbox installed on every computer and device.  I don’t use it that much, just mainly to switch data from app to app to desktop in tools that don’t offer any other Cloud based service.  It is efficient, the user interface in the apps is pretty nice, and is totally suited to my needs.

Office365

These days just buying software and installing it on your computer is a thing of the past.  Like myself I want to be able to access my documents “on-the-go” where ever I am in the world and take my applications with me to amend them.  So Office365, or the Home version of it, where you can upload your documents into the Cloud (OneDrive) and amend them on the go with applications like Word and Excel that you can install on your iPad or other device is important.  Sharing documents is also an important feature for me which this tool provides.  Outlook.com links in with my online calendar so people can check out my availability times to book meetings via Timebridge.  I am not keen on OneNote which is very slow and clunky on an iPad but ok on my desktop, so I would like to see some improvements with that – I migrated away from Evernote due to the change of their price structure but don’t really miss it.

With all its tools Office365 is a bargain for me.

By | April 17th, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

Milka Oreo Chocolate Bar

My latest food review is the Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar by Milka who is owned by Mondelez International.

I believe this a new product on the market and has had some air time with adverts.  It was part of Mondelez’s strategy to put more products into the American market following its failed bid to buy Hershey’s who own the Cadbury brand here.  Actually I did search out for the product specifically and regular supermarkets did not appear to sell it, at least here in Denver, I found it in a Gas Station shop in the middle of nowhere Nevada.

Milka Oreo Chocolate Bar

I am not a fan of Oreo cookies, to me they taste like a mouth full of chalk so my expectations of this bar was low.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  There were little pieces of Oreo cookie surrounded by chocolate in bite size chunks in one bar.

The chocolate surrounding the Oreo’s took away the taste from the cookie and would never know that they are actually in there.  This masking of the flavour made it taste pretty good and quite enjoyed them.  The chocolate is much better than the something like a regular Hershey’s bar, much more milky and didn’t taste like chemicals, however, it wasn’t as good as British or Belgian chocolate.

The size of the bar is pretty small and didn’t fill me up, which meets my needs.

Would I buy it again?  Probably not.  I am not really tempted by mass market American chocolate and would rather save my money to try small business produced products.  It was interesting to try though.

By | April 15th, 2017|Food, USA|0 Comments

Healthcare Trump Gong Show

The healthcare gong show in the United States continues with the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act fails in the House of Representatives.

The Republicans have been gagging to replace “Obamacare” for years but have failed to deliver a plan until recently.  When the American Health Care Act was introduced it came under heavy criticism based on many things such as millions of people loosing coverage, coverage that seniors could not afford, the defunding of Planned Parenthood providing essential healthcare for women and much more.  Paul Ryan and Donald Trump failed to go through any sane process to put the bill together, they didn’t get any feedback or include many medical institutions involved in its creation.  Basically, it was never going to work because of the reasons above plus not thinking of patients first but the profits companies would receive through insurance expansion beyond State lines.  Also, their main aim was to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and hell with everything else.

There are a lot of advantages that the bill failed however many other disadvantages too.  The ACA is a nightmare for many, high premiums, people cannot afford cost of treatment or medications, many people still uninsured, healthcare providers pulling out of the market not only limiting choice but also putting those left under increased pressure.  Service levels under my provider Kaiser Permanente are completely abysmal, one of the worst in the world I’ve experienced, and will continue as more people go to them as one of the few ACA providers left in Colorado.

Trump has said he blames the Democrats for the bills failure due to their lack of support, however, the bill was unworkable from the beginning so its not their fault.  Trump goes on to say he would be open to suggestions from the Democrats but I think thats rubbish as the Republicans will never listen to the opposition.

This is what I strongly suggest the healthcare system in the US deliver:

  1. a public/private system;
  2. ensure insurance companies have MUCH less of a say in our health (they don’t care about people, they care about profit – its their job NOT to pay up);
  3. take wealth discrimination/class based system out of health;
  4. ensure that homophobic/racist doctors cannot practice;
  5. stop doctors profiting from pharmaceutical companies;
  6. stop hospitals refusing patients based on religion (the US is not the Middle East);
  7. stop pharmaceuticals from advertising (we need their money to go into R&D);
  8. put a cap on obscene salaries large healthcare companies can make – that $ should be invested into our care;
  9. punish doctors who over prescribe/over treat patients
  10. most importantly I want both Democrats and GOP to sort themselves out and delivery a system for ALL, its blooming 2017 already and the US is one of the most backward countries in delivering fair healthcare to its citizens.
By | March 24th, 2017|Health, USA|0 Comments

Chef Boyardee Ravioli Review

Every now again I am willing to take life in my own hands and try a product I haven’t had any experience with before, this time its Chef Boyardee Ravioli.

Chef Boyardee products started to hit the market in the US in 1928 and in recent years was taken over by Conagra.  The product can be found in every supermarket across the United States.  Until now I haven’t been brave enough to try it but it was on sale at Safeway.

Chef Boyardee RavioliThe product requires little cooking, chuck it in a saucepan and heat it through.  There was plenty of sauce in the can, maybe too much.  On the outside it looked like any old ravioli pasta you would find anywhere.  I opened one of the ravioli’s up and it looked like a brown square that didn’t really resemble meat.  I prodded the square inside and it did break up a little so it was probably some form of meat product.

The taste of the ravioli was, well, ok but a little bland.  I wish I had put something on it to cheer it up a little.  It was a little limp and taste like rubber.  I shared a can and don’t think I could have stomached more than half of it.

I have seen some people in offices I have worked store these can’s in their desks as emergency food they can heat up quickly in the company kitchen and in that context it is a food of convenience.  However, on a regular basis as a lunch or dinner for me would not be good, I would need to throw a lot of cheese on it to take the taste of the ravioli away.  Nothing can beat freshly homemade pasta/ravioli.

Sorry Chef Boyardee but I can only rate it 2/10.

By | March 21st, 2017|Food, USA|0 Comments

Time After Time Review

Time After TimeTime After Time” is one of the new numerous time travel drama’s that have been popping up on US television recently along with Timeless and Making History.

“Timeless” was quite a hit with us although it was one of those programs where you don’t need to think too hard while watching it, but it was well done, we are hoping it will be renewed for a second season.  “Making History” though we thought was a disaster, although I am not one for American comedies anyhow – after one episode we aren’t interested in seeing any more.

So, how did “Time After Time” measure up?  NB: Spoiler Alert.

The premise of the series, that I got from the pilot, was that Jack The Ripper stole HG Wells time machine to escape capture in the past.  HG Wells, who is a friend of Jack The Ripper’s alter-ego, chases him through time to 2017.  There are various scenarios where Jack tries to get back the key of the time machine including the murder of various victims, he promises to kill one person a day until he gets the key.  HG Wells befriends an ancestor in 2017 who happens to be a millionaire owning a large bio-technology company.  There is the added intrigue of the ancestor who is married to a prospective Senator and a mysterious man following both HG Wells and Jack.

It felt the first episode was “setting the scene” for the series.  The script was typical prime time fare that you would expect to see on one of the main channels: nothing too brain taxing, action, special effects, boy meets girl, model quality main cast with lots of white teeth and cliffhangers.  Acting was ok although the cast had a “where the heck are we going with this” look on their faces.  There was some comedic routines in the story which mainly revolved around HG Wells and Jack The Ripper getting used the new technology in this century.  The interesting part is how HG Wells was disappointed with 2017 and what a violent society it had become.  On the other hand Jack The Ripper fit in much better as violence is a “hobby” to him.  On the other hand Jack said he was comfortable in this era due to the amount of violence in 2017.

The actors obviously “put on” their British accents quite a bit, I guess mainly due to time period from whence their characters come from, but it helps in an American show as its great marketing.

I think the program will become a tad boring based on the HG chasing Jack scenario so I hope they are thinking of many different colliding stories for them.  The season preview, below, looks like that it will be a time travel series despite ABCtv’s insistence to say otherwise.

First Episode Score: 2.5 out of 5.0.

More Information

Preview

By | March 11th, 2017|Television, USA|0 Comments

Ethel and Ernest Review

Ethel and Ernest is a “hand drawn” animated type true movie about how a couple’s love endures spanning 40 years through social change in the United Kingdom.

This review contains spoilers so be avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it.

The movie is an adaptation from the graphic novel by author and illustrator Raymond Briggs.  It tells the true story of his parents as their love blossomed from the 1920’s and takes us through to the early 1970’s.  It documents their challenges through events like the 2nd World War, the depression and handling new technology like the radio.

This is the trailer for the movie, which was show on BBC1 over the Christmas holidays 2016:

The Artwork

This reminded me of old Paddington Bear cartoons but with more detail.  It was slightly different to the book but to be expected for a movie interpretation.  The level of detail was amazing and effectively captured all the detail I love about London.

The Story

It was about every day life through the challenges of big and small events around them.  Not having lived through the 20’s to 50’s it dealt with some of the issues I had learnt from parents and grandparents, it felt as though I knew most of the information but just consolidated it.

This isn’t the story of people who were leaders or had made headlines in international newspapers but that of ordinary people, this is why this is much more important than a biopic of someone famous.  It was charming, normal, engaging, funny and sad.  I wanted the film to be a TV series, something that continued to be with me for many years.

Be prepared that you will need boxes of tissues for the end of the movie.  It pulls you to love the characters and their lives as they they become your friends or next door neighbours.  The end is sad beyond belief.

Summary/Overall Rating

I would say this has to be one of the best movies I have seen.  However, it would have to be a while before I can see it again because of the ending.

I give it a 10/10.  I can understand why it got the accolade of Must See Brit Flicks on 2016.

References

By | January 10th, 2017|Films, UK|0 Comments

American Politics

2016 was quite a stressful year mainly due to the election campaign which pitted one half of America against the other half.  Friends and families became rivals as they became vocally passionate about their political stance.  Those who are placid and cuddly on Facebook became aggressive, and even some decided just to post cats avoiding the subject of politics altogether.  This is the first US election I have been through and I am frankly not impressed.

I remember the more civil days of politics, in the UK, if there was such a thing.  I remember picking up and reading through party manifesto’s from WHSmith, we studied them and picked out a party that closely aligned with our beliefs.  I didn’t care for Party Political broadcasts but can appreciate the civilised approach to laying out policy matters.  I remember the right of being able to keep who you are voting for as confidential, who you vote for at the ballot box is someones own business and that includes pre and post election.

In the US though the parties seem to have conflicting manifesto’s with no agreement between themselves, for example, Paul Ryan having opposing views on policy compared to Donald Trump.  I thought they would be more aligned with what they believed in, seemed to be a lot of in-fighting.  No such thing as Party Political broadcasts in the US but candidates and parties buying airtime for commercials that rarely outline policy but just a vehicle for bad mouthing the other side. I am not sure if it is the norm but many people seemed to be happy and almost aggressively vocal about who they were voting for pushing others to vote for that person too, even saying “you are stupid if you don’t vote for my person”.

Maybe I am just old fashioned or too British.

I am very troubled where the US currently is because much of the road ahead is uncertain and unpredictable due to the characters that will take office:

  • The US really needs Universal coverage, or some kind of Public Option, as the Affordable Healthcare Act doesn’t reach everyone and still not affordable enough; I am concerned what the Republicans will do with it potentially making it worse for those who can take advantage of Obamacare.
  • I am concerned about immigration and what will happen to the undocumented, there have been suggestions of what might happen but have not idea whether they will come about.
  • It appears that Trump might think that climate change is a hoax but hopefully he will be open minded enough to carry on or improve on existing policies have in place.
  • I am worried for LGBT people who are now living in fear of their rights being taken away, although I have the feeling Trump would rather concentrate on economy and infrastructure his colleagues like Pence are not necessarily pro equal rights.  The fact there has been a rise in calls to LGBT suicide lines is very troubling and I would hope Trump lay out his policy going forward so we know what we are facing or put our minds at rest.
  • World peace, Trump has already been very unkind to many heads of state which is quite troubling and I am concerned this will escalate to a conflict, financial or otherwise.

As I write this there is much discussion about hacking done by Russia interfering with the democratic process of the US to get Trump elected.  People are discussing how Trump praises Putin but will put down the USA’s own intelligence community. I am not sure Trump has the imagination to engage with Putin to sway the election but the whole situation is very troubling.

People appear to be pleased 2016 is over but what can we expect for the next 4 years?  I for one am a tad nervous so I am focusing on work and other activities to try and take my mind off of it.

To end on a light note here is one of the more “colourful” British Party Political Broadcasts from 1997 by John Cleese on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

By | January 6th, 2017|Politics, UK, USA|0 Comments

Most Effective TV Commercials

The best commercials I have seen, thanks to those who post them on YouTube, are not from any of the countries I have lived or worked.

USA: They are some good ones but generally to me they aren’t that memorable.  Maybe this is because there are too many of them and can be intrusive, I do my best to avoid them.  Also, many types of commercials here get on my nerves such as the ones from pharmaceuticals which generally puts me off watching others.  Some of the smaller channels with show economically produced local adverts which are too bad to watch, although some are quite hilarious.

UK: Commercials aren’t as intrusive in the UK as they are in the US.  They feel more classy and tell a better story.  During the small hours of the morning there are the ultra-cheesy ones like bingo and betting that are just annoying.  However, I feel agencies in the UK know that they put more emotion, story telling and often more humour into their efforts.  British commercials also stand out creating characters we remember throughout our lifetime, like the SMASH robots, the Milk Tray man, the Nescafe romance, the PG Tips monkeys and so on.

Neither of these countries compare to the epic story lines that they have in asia.  Some of these examples pull at the heart strings and are mini-films in themselves that many keep going back to and become viral over the internet.

Thai Life Insurance

Unknown

AIS Telecommunications

MetLife Hong Kong

Thai Life Insurance

By | January 5th, 2017|Media, UK, USA|0 Comments

Best of YouTube 2016

I don’t really pay attention to YouTube as much as I did but will get alerted to certain users’ posts when they are uploaded.  Here is my choice of the Best of YouTube of 2016, in no particular order.

Gay Family Values

These are posts by two guys, partners, who adopted two children.  I have followed their heartwarming story for years and hopefully many have learned from them that a loving family doesn’t have to be what society dictates.

Timothy DeLaGhetto

I think I have been following Timothy for almost 10 years now, he is definitely a YouTube sensation and mega-star. He is an asian rapper and comedian.

West Ham United

I have supported West Ham United football team all my life, I am from near that area in London. It’s marvellous that the team has embraced digital media and have their own YouTube site in which they engage on frequently.

The Gay Comic Book Geek

Another very popular gay YouTuber I have been following for many years. Paul reviews comics and often with an LGBT slant.

Suli Breaks

A spoken word poet from the UK who I’ve also followed for quite a few years. He’s video’s have bought him a lot of notoriety becoming quite famous, I love his work.

TabiEats

A couple of guys from Japan with a food vlog, with recipes and reviews.

Liberal Redneck

Trae Crowder rose to fame in the past year thanks to the election. He is such a hilarious comedian and got me through 2016 with his humour.

By | January 1st, 2017|Gay, Social Media|0 Comments