Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Getting the most out of Black Friday

Posted in black friday, howto, shopping, smart by commorancy on November 29, 2019

black-friday-tagBlack Friday is a quagmire of sales prices across many stores both online and brick and mortar. It can be difficult, if not impossible to navigate your way to the best deal on any specific item. Let’s explore how to find your best deals during Black Friday.

Focus on Specific Products

While you can run to Target or Walmart or Kohl’s looking for random deals, and sometimes this can be great fun just to “see what’s out there”, if you’re looking for the best deal on a specific item, make a list of items you want. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, Electronics.

Electronics Deals

Clearly, electronics or technology items are the biggest sellers in any store during Black Friday. These include the immense flatscreen TVs, earbuds, cell phones, game consoles and even video games themselves. In fact, so many of these deals are really about splitting hairs… and here is where your best deals come.

So, what is it that’s important to you? Do you want instant savings today, this very moment or can you be satisfied with savings on a future order? Here’s where the nuances come into play.

Black Friday deals are no longer about the door buster 50% off deals. Now, many stores throw in store gift cards and additional store coupons to sweeten the deal. Ultimately, it’s not simply just getting a great percentage off, it’s about getting the most savings you can get… so take advantage. Let’s start with Target as an example.

Target’s Deals and Reward Cards

Target is a company that is out to offer savings in many different and subtle ways. If you have a Red Card (credit or debit) store loyalty card with Target, Target will automatically give you 5% off of your total purchase 365 days a year. That’s an amazing savings every single day. Better, this savings stacks with all sales deals which offers you even more savings. This is particularly useful during Black Friday. So, whip out that Red Card and take advantage. Granted, if you’re using a Cash Back or Rewards card, here’s where these savings can get murky.

Unfortunately, you can’t double dip between the Target Red Card and using a Cash Back credit card, so you’ll have to take your pick: 5% discount using Target’s Red Card or ~%1 Cash Back using your credit card. For me, it’s a no brainer, 5% is a better deal. If you really want that cash, go for it. And then there are reward credit cards…

Reward credit cards offer rewards instead of cash back. Here’s where things get a bit more murky. If you’re using a Delta credit card to get miles and you fly a lot, those miles might make a huge difference. This is where you need to decide what’s important to YOU. In the case of flying frequently, miles may be way more important to you than a 5% instant discount using the Red Card. So, choose your rewards carefully when shopping. Of course, when you’re shopping at many stores, you can pick and choose which payment method to use, so you can spread the rewards across many cards if that’s your best option. You will want to examine all rewards systems you have and what’s most important to you during your Black Friday shopping.

When visiting a store that doesn’t offer a discount or reward program (such as Walmart), you’ll want to use any reward cards you have in your wallet. For example, Walmart, while they do offer a wallet pay system, does not offer any rewards for using their wallet. Walmart assumes that their in-store savings should be enough and so they do not offer a loyalty program. Walmart, however, assumes wrong as their prices are typically no better than other discounters who do offer discount systems and loyalty programs, such as Target.

Read Coupon Terms Carefully

Some stores offer in-store savings, coupons and instant rebates. But, read those terms carefully. Many items are not included in the savings even though it appears they should be discounted. Retailers have obligations to their suppliers, such as Apple, Samsung, Haggar and Hanes. Always read the terms of discount coupons carefully as it might not apply to that thing you’re looking to buy.

For example, many discount coupons given almost never apply towards gift cards. They may not even apply towards Apple, LG or Samsung products. You might find that the only things you can buy in the store with added discount coupons is the in-store brand. Be cautious when a store offers you a 20% off coupon good on your next order. It may not be as great a deal as you think… unless you’re willing to make concessions.

Even instant savings coupons found by scanning an item’s barcode in the store can have important limitations. For example, Target’s Circle program (formerly Cartwheel) typically limits the discount to 4 of the item. However, you’ll want to read the Circle small print terms. In those terms it will tell you exactly how many items you can buy discounted… sometimes it may even be just one. You can buy more discounted, but you’ll have to separate the items out across several separate orders at the check-out lane. It might be easier to do multiple orders at self-checkout than when using a staffed register… particularly if you have 3, 4 or more different orders. Target doesn’t limit how many times you can apply a Circle coupon on separate orders… but they do limit how many discounts it will apply on a single order. Don’t bother trying to argue this issue with the Customer Service desk. They’ll look at you like you’re crazy. If you want to buy a large number of items discounted via Circle, be prepared to separate them out into multiple orders at the checkout lane.

Membership Discounts / Loyalty Programs

Target is a store that not only offers sales and instant in-store discounts, it also has a discount program / loyalty program called Target Circle (formerly known as Cartwheel). Circle offers additional savings on in-store items, though items chosen for discounts are almost always Target’s House Brands, such as Up & Up and Market Pantry. It’s rare that Target Circle discounts apply to major brands, but it can happen occasionally. However, they will occasionally apply to soft goods major brands, such as Hanes or Jockey, but more often than not it will apply Target’s house brand, Merona.

If you’re happy using Target’s house brand items, you can rack up fairly substantial savings towards these items. Savings such as 5% Red Card + 20% Circle + 20% Promotional savings coupons. That’s a whopping 45% savings off of whatever price is listed. If it’s also on sale, then that’s likely an additional up to 50% savings. You won’t get the item for free, obviously, but you can reduce the price by up to 80% just by stacking. This stacking almost never applies to major name brands. The best you can do here is typically 5% Red Card + any in-store applicable discounts (perhaps up to 15% off). Don’t expect to run over to Electronics to get that 80% discount, but sometimes it can happen.

I picked up a Vizio 55″ 4K TV for $768 at a time when the full price was around $1200 in-store. That was a mid-summer price, too. It was not during the holidays. This stacked Red Card savings, an in-store electronics coupon and a sale price. All three stacked to give me a whopping $432 instant discount or a 36% discount. Today, a similar TV might sell for $500-600 which is still not far off the discounted price I paid several years ago. With Target, you don’t necessarily have to get your best deals during Black Friday, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Free Gift Cards and their Benefits

Another promotional system is offering free gift cards of a certain amount for specific purchases. Here’s where you can get a great deal, if you’re cautious and you are willing to invest in the cost of whatever items are needed to get that card.

For example, Target offers a Black Friday deal that will give you a $400 gift card for the purchase and activation of a modern Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ smart phone. If you’re in the market to buy this specific item, then you can certainly take advantage of this deal. However, be cautious. There are a lot of terms and expenses in buying a smart phone and in being under contract with a carrier. Those terms have fees attached. Fees that you may need to pay for up to 2 years. Even though Target may be willing to hand you a $400 gift card to spend at Target, you may end up spending $5000 over the term of that 2 years. $400 isn’t that great of a deal considering you can only use it at Target and not towards paying down that expensive phone you just purchased.

However, a $400 gift card could be useful towards accessories such as a case, extra charging cables, better earbuds and so on. This is where value to you becomes important. If you’re willing to live with the terms of a new phone contract, then that $400 could come in extra handy during your next shopping trip at Target. And yes, you can use that gift card towards anything in Target (yes, even Apple products).

Gift cards are ways for stores to allow for discounts without restrictions. Looking for deals that offer you gift cards is better than looking for percent off coupons… so long as you’re okay shopping at that specific store. However, I have found that by and large, there are very few deals in Target that offer gift cards for purchase. When they do exist, it’s usually tied to a large purchase, such as a tablet, smart phone, expensive large screens or bulk sized household cleaning supplies (mega size toilet paper rolls, bulk paper towels, monstrous jugs of detergent, etc). Usually, you’ll need to spend at least $30-45 to get a $10 Gift Card.

The downside, however, of buying these items is that if you need to return an item for refund. The store will deduct a portion of the gift card amount from your refund. In fact, some stores may require you to return the gift card in full along with any items in the bundle before they will allow a refund. You’ll need to talk to the customer service desk for details. While the free gift cards are great for purchases you intend to keep, returns can become a problem. Be cautious with these if you have a tendency to frequently return items.

Importance of the Above on Black Friday

Why is all of the above important during Black Friday? It’s important because these are the nuances of the savings you’ll run into. When you go download a cost savings app, these apps are likely not taking into account these above nuances, such as in-store loyalty programs, membership discount programs and so on.

Apps that compare prices between stores are likely comparing discounts without any added loyalty programs. This means that the price comparisons won’t show you any additional discounts which may apply to you.

This means you could be lulled into thinking that Walmart has the best deal on that TV when Target is actually offering you a 5% Red Card discount, a 10% Circle discount and a $40 Gift Card (assuming you buy something else with it). These are the kinds of added savings that you can get by shopping at Target.

If you don’t or can’t shop at Target regularly, then these added discounts may not apply to you or may not be convenient. However, if Target is a store you frequent regularly, then this deal is likely much better than Walmart’s deal.

Price for Price, however, Walmart’s deal may look better on paper. Now, let’s talk about Black Friday products.

Electronics Brands

To pull off Black Friday, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s and even Amazon, swing deals months in advance for specific products to sell on Black Friday. These deals were likely swung early in the year to give the manufacturer plenty of time to manufacture the quantities needed for as many stores as these chains have.

What does that mean for the product itself? It means that these products can be exclusive to Black Friday only. How is that a bad thing? Well, many of these TV brands are lesser known or off-brands (i.e., Westinghouse) trying to their name back into the good graces of the public. This means they’re willing to swing deals with Target and Walmart for Black Friday. They’re willing to sell a 65″ LCD TV for $350 (plus discounts and promotions). It also means these specific product models are likely only made and sold during Black Friday. They are not sold throughout the year. You should ask the store if a Black Friday electronic deal is specific to Black Friday. You don’t want to get saddled with a lemon.

It doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is bad, but it could mean that because it’s not a normally stocked brand / model throughout the year, the quality of the product is unknown. Thus, buying these Black Friday deals could lead you into a product purchase that might break 1, 2 or 3 months down the road. When buying Black Friday electronics, be sure to ask lots of questions and if you purchase, buy an extended return policy / service plan to go with it (when applicable). You just don’t know what kind of quality you are buying when you buy an “exclusive” Black Friday deal. Always be cautious.

This also brings up another point that is related…

Apple, Last Gen Models and Black Friday

Apple is a brand that heavily relies on last gen sales to continue its business forward. However, this situation muddies the water when it comes to Black Friday. Because Apple’s products (and packaging) mostly look alike, it’s difficult to tell an old product apart from its current generation brethren. Be cautious when buying Apple products on Black Friday for this very reason.

The current generation may be the sixth generation, but Target or Walmart are actually ‘clearancing’ out the third generation under the guise of Black Friday. Here’s where the deal is too good to be true.

This situation isn’t exactly deceptive or fraudulent by the retailer, but it definitely skirts that thin grey line towards shady. While an ad might say “Third Generation”, it might not. Even then, the ad DOESN’T tell you which model is the current model. You have no idea if “Third Generation” is the latest unless you keep up on Apple products. The use of this ad nomenclature is shady at best. They tell you its a third gen model, but what they don’t tell you is how many models old it is. If it’s a third gen model and the current is the sixth gen, then that product was manufactured at least 4-5 years ago. It also means that Apple will likely stop supporting it in about 1 or 2 years. You don’t want to buy into a product that has about 1 year left before it becomes obsolete.

Don’t kid yourself, once a product becomes obsolete in the Apple universe, it turns to crap. Apps stop working, apps stop being updated, memory problems begin and the overall device degrades into a potentially useless mess. Don’t buy products that are about to be obsolete, particularly not Apple products.

No matter how great that deal appears to be, no matter how pristine that Apple box appears, no matter what other discounts the retailer throws at you, don’t buy 4-5 year old (or older) Apple, Samsung or any other computer product. Anything that’s about 1 year from being obsolete is worth, at most about $50-100 no matter what it is. If Target or Walmart is selling it on Black Friday for $350, it’s a rip-off! Do your homework and find out 1) what generation is current and 2) what generation is being sold and 3) when that generation was made. Don’t buy old generations of computer products. Just don’t do it. The manufacturer won’t continue to support those products forever.

Smart TVs

If you rely on your Smart TV’s apps to feed you with content, be careful of these also. App developers have already begun dumping apps on lesser brand smart TVs. For example, Netflix and Amazon has stopped producing its app on some brands of smart TVs, particularly older TVs. If you want to watch content on your smart TV, don’t rely on the TV’s built-in apps. Instead, pick an HDMI smart device to plug in. Treat your Smart TV as dumb by ignoring the built-in apps and simply plug in content devices to your TV. Some popular devices are Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and Amazon’s Fire Stick. You can easily replace these low cost devices and get updated apps via these dongles simply by upgrading to the latest.

The Smart TV, on the other hand, is a fad that seems to be fading. Name brand TVs such as Samsung and Sony may be in the App game for the long haul, but lesser brands like Vizio apparently are not. Even then, there is no guarantee that any developer will continue to develop for bigger TV brands like Sony, LG or Samsung. Instead, relay on small plug-in HDMI devices to give you access to your favorite “channels”. You can even find these devices on Black Friday deals for super cheap prices.

Movies and Music Content

The one place where you can get some of your BEST savings deals is on disc based movies and video games. Here’s where $59 priced games can be as low as $20. Here’s also where some of the latest Blu-Ray and UltraHD 4K movies can be had for as low as $6-15. Picking up UltraHD 4K movies for $15? That’s a great deal you’re not going to find at any other time of the year. These deals are great no matter where you find them… whether at Target, Walmart or on Amazon. This kind of content is a winner no matter when or where. I always recommend shopping through movie and music content because Black Friday is a time that offers the steepest discounts of any other time of the year. This is the best time to pick up some of the top blockbuster films for low, low prices. For example, Spiderman, Shazam and Aquaman UltraHD Blu-rays are all priced at $15 at Target in 2019. Normally, these cost around $29-35 per disc. Still, that’s costly for a film at $15 when you can rent them for $2 at RedBox or see them on Netflix at some point, but UltraHD Blu-ray 4K discs at $15 are practically a steal of a deal. Take advantage if you have the disposable income.

Gift Cards and iTunes

Don’t just focus on physical items when you’re shopping. Some retailers will discount gift cards, like iTunes cards, XBox Live or PS4 PlayStation Plus subscriptions. You can then get a decent discount when purchasing one or more cards. For example, Target usually puts iTunes gift cards on a discount every year on Black Friday. For the last two years, they have offered a buy-one-get-one-30%-off deal. This means that $100 in iTunes credit (two $50 cards) will cost you $85. If you’re subscribing to Apple Music at $99 a year, for example, this means you’re only paying $85 for that $100 in credit which you can apply to your Apple Music subscription. Yet more savings simply to use a well established music service. You’ll never get a discount like this from Apple directly. But, when buying iTunes gift cards, that $100 credit spends like all $100 credit… and can be used towards your subscriptions. In fact, Apple has no idea that you bought the cards for $85 versus $100.

Black Friday Savings

Ultimately, to get your best deals, you need to look at ALL of the offers a store is giving. You’ll need a sale paper for that. Don’t just look at the price at its face value. You may find stores are willing to give you much steeper discounts by using loyalty programs, gift cards and coupons for later use. Stores can sometimes even couple items together as a bundle and get deeper savings for both items than you can get by buying them separately.

For this reason, you can’t simply take Black Friday comparison apps at face value. You need to visit the store to find all of the deals they are offering you. This is why it is a bit more complicated than simply visiting an app store and downloading a Black Friday comparison app. Many of these comparison apps don’t consider loyalty program discounts as part of the Black Friday deal. If you’re an active Red Card holder and use Target Circle, you can get even steeper discounts on top of the Black Friday deals. Don’t forget about these extra discounts if you are a member in loyalty programs.

To get your best deals, you’re going to need to get your hands onto a copy of the sale paper from each store, then comparison shop between the sale papers. Even then, some stores offer in-store only deals that you can only find once you are in the store… which means you’ll need to spend time physically heading over to the store to 1) find out what special deals they offer and 2) whether the item is in stock.

On the other hand, be careful of buying older generation computer products which, at face value, may seem to be a great Black Friday deal. Unfortunately, that great deal may turn sour within a year because the manufacturer as stopped supporting the device. It also seems that discount retailers rarely put the latest generation of computer devices on Black Friday deals. If you want any kind of a discount on the latest greatest device, you’ll need to visit a manufacturer’s store, like the Apple store. And yes, the Apple store itself does offer Black Friday deals. They’re not always the best deals, but for Apple they’re some of the best deals available on new Apple products that you can find from Apple throughout the year.

Finally, focus on specific items that you really need. Don’t just go and browse. If you want to find the best deals on those things you need, you’ll need to stay focused on finding the deals on those items. If you spend your time browsing stores and randomly looking, you’ll never get to other stores to see if they have a better deal. I also don’t recommend calling the stores to ask for pricing. More often than not, Black Friday is way too busy for them to talk on the phone. You’re more likely to sit on hold only to hang up. Just head over to the store for yourself. Additionally, many stores do allow you to download digital versions of their Black Friday sale papers. Just be sure to download the one for your specific store so you can see what that store is offering.

Happy Black Friday Shopping!

↩︎

Tagged with: , , , , , ,

How to screenshot on a Mac

Posted in Apple, Household Tips, howto, tips by commorancy on November 26, 2019

office-macEver wondered how to create screenshots on a mac? Creating a screenshot on a Mac should be a simple process, and it is once you know the hotkeys. Let’s explore.

Hot Keys

I could run off into a diatribe about how Apple has screwed with its OSes to make them less intuitive than they once were, but I’ll skip this rant and jump right into what you’re looking for and make this one short.

There are several built-in screenshot options on a Mac running MacOS X. You’ll want to choose an option that makes the most sense for your current needs.

Option 1 — Snapshot to the clipboard (does NOT create an image file)

Whole Screen: ⌘ (command) + ⌃ (control) + ⇧ (shift) + 3  or simply ⌘⌃⇧3
Drag Select: ⌘ (command) + ⌃ (control) + ⇧ (shift) + 4 or simply ⌘⌃⇧4

Option 2 — Snapshot file saved to your Desktop (does NOT land in clipboard)

Whole Screen: ⌘ (command) + ⇧ (shift) + 3 or simply ⌘⇧3
Drag Select: ⌘ (command) + ⇧ (shift) + 4 or simply ⌘⇧4

Simple (sorta)… and now we’re done. That wasn’t so hard now was it?

↩︎

Where are the Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Bobbleheads in Fallout 4?

Posted in howto, tips, video game, video gaming by commorancy on November 20, 2019

If you own the Nuka-Cola Collector Creation Club item, you may or may not know that 5 new Bobbleheads were introduced into the game by this add-on. Let’s explore where they are.

Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Bobbleheads

In the vanilla Fallout 4, there are 20 Bobbleheads. These offer various perks when you pick them up, such as Luck or Small Guns. However, if you have visited the Creation Club store and purchased the Nuka-Cola Collector add-on, 5 new Bobbleheads were introduced into Fallout 4. They don’t have names specifically or special qualities, other than being named the very creative “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #1”. There are 5 of them spread throughout the world.

As I had been looking for where these Bobbleheads are, there is no good resource on the Internet for this. Even Google is of no help. I finally did manage to find the Bobbleheads, though. I thought I’d write this article to describe exactly where each Bobblehead is located within Fallout 4. Thankfully, these Bobbleheads respawn. If you pick them up, you can go back to each location later and get another set.

So what good are they if they don’t offer any perks? They are simply introduced into the world as an Easter egg for the owners of this Creation Club item (and for decoration purposes). They can be used to decorate your settlement. I believe you can also create a version of them via the Workshop menu. But, these created ones are static and can’t be picked up or dropped. The ones you locate in the world can be used for decoration in the Bobblehead displays just as any other bobblehead. So, there’s that.

Let’s jump right into this one, shall we?

Locations

  1. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #1” is located at DB Technical High School. As you enter the main building doors, head down to the basement. This one is located on table across from a long ramp leading to the back. You will have to clear the Raiders and the boss before you can get to the table where it sits.
  2. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #2” is located at Fallon’s Department Store on the top floor in an office on a desk. You’ll have to walk up two different disconnected sets of escalators to get to the top floor. Watch out for the Super Mutants.
  3. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #3” is located in Prost Bar. To get to Prost Bar, you’ll need to travel to Swan’s Pond and cross the park straight back and to the left. Across the street there is a staircase leading down to a cellar with a blue door. This is Prost Bar. Note, if you have any Prost Bar cleanup mods enabled, you will need to disable them to ensure that the Bobblehead is there. As you walk into the door, walk straight by the bar and and look for the manager’s office on the left. The Bobblehead will be sitting on top of a filing cabinet.
  4. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #4” is located at Greenetech Genetics. Enter the main door, then find the stairs upward. This building is kind of confusing inside, so work your way up until you find the elevator. Take this elevator to the top of this tall building. At the top, you’ll need to work your way up again until you find a small table sitting on a balcony overlook. This bobblehead will be sitting next to a broken terminal.
  5. “Vault-Tec Cross Promotional Item #5” is located at Vault-Tec Regional Headquarters. In this building, it’s about two floors up. Find the stairs that lead you up to a pool table breaking through the floor. Go around the right side of this pool table to the back wall, then turn right into an office. It will be sitting next to a Mr. Davidson’s Terminal.

That’s all 5 bobbleheads. These Bobbleheads all wear a red Nuka-Cola shirt and have either a Nuka-Cola, a Nuka Cherry or a Nuka-Cola Quantum bottle as part of the Bobblehead.

These bobbleheads are for decoration purposes only. They offer no function or perks. Though, I will say they are fun addition and look pretty cool.

Happy Hunting!

↩︎

Where can I find Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins in Fallout 76?

Posted in howto, tips, video game by commorancy on November 8, 2019

12-7-2018_5-54-58_AM-ma4zjmynThis is a question with few answers on the Internet. Let’s me answer it here.

Fallout 76 and Bugs

There’s much to be said for bugs and glitches in Fallout 76. In fact, there are many bugs and glitches in this game. This recipe is no exception. In fact, this recipe has been broken since the game launched over a year ago.

With that said, let’s talk about where it is.

Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins

This recipe sorta does and doesn’t exist in the game. In fact, it doesn’t exist. What I mean is that it does have a placeholder where it is supposed to exist.

This recipe is supposed to spawn at Spruce Knob Campgrounds. If you have played through “The Order of the Tadpole” quest line, then you have probably attempted the Swimmer’s badge. If you have, then you know the lake in Spruce Knob Campgrounds.

The recipe paper is located on a picnic table right next to a blue cooler near the lake. The picnic table is just to the right of the shore of Spruce Knob Lake. In fact, there is a map marker specifically for Spruce Knob Lake that likely lands you very close to this very table.

The difficulty is that this Recipe is bugged. When Bethesda released this recipe into the game, this piece of paper has no interaction. This means you cannot pick it up. You can see the paper on the table, but you can’t do anything with it. This paper is Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins recipe, but it cannot be had.

Bug Fixes

Bethesda has been regularly fixing bugs, but not some of these long standing, lesser important bugs. What that means is that it is anyone’s guess if Bethesda will ever fix this bug. So yes, the recipe does exist, but it cannot be had in the game. It’s anyone’s guess exactly what this recipe offers in terms of perks.

All of the other Delbert’s recipes are available in the game. All of these recipes look like a piece of 3 hole school paper. They do not have the same appearance as standard recipes. In fact, let me tell you where each of Delbert’s Recipes is:

  • Delbert’s Sunshine Oil, Mountain Hocks and Appalachili are all in Flatwoods.
    • Delbert’s Sunshine Oil recipe is located in Delbert’s trailer on the nightstand next to the bed. It can additionally be found inside of a house in Welch on the kitchen counter… one of two houses ajoining with some planks on the second floor and with mostly intact interiors.
    • Delbert’s Appalachili recipe is located next to the armor bench just across from the Flatwoods Tavern.
    • Delbert’s Mountain Hocks recipe is located next to a skeleton in the Red Rocket just outside of Flatwoods.
  • Delbert’s Corn Pone recipe is located in a small kitchen stand at Tyler County Fairgrounds. This kitchen spawns a Scorched inside.
  • Delbert’s Mud Cookie recipe is located in the kitchen of the blue house at Aaronholt Homestead.
  • Delbert’s Delicious Deerskins recipe is located behind a Level 2 locked door to a candy shop at Wavy Willard’s.
  • Delbert’s Tato Salad Surprise recipe is located on the kitchen counter at Silva Homestead
  • Delbert’s Sweet Labrador Tea recipe is located inside of Raleigh Clay’s Bunker in the mire. It is on the dining room table in the kitchen. You will need to begin the quest at Abbie’s Bunker to get the password to gain access to Raleigh Clay’s bunker.
  • Delbert’s Pothole Potpie recipe is located in the center of Treehouse Village in the Mire. It is on a shelving unit across from Lorne’s terminal.
  • Delbert’s Bunless Cramburger recipe is located at The General’s Steakhouse in the Cranberry Bog. It is located downstairs in the basement kitchen at the end of the counter to the right just as you come down the stairs. This is NOT the same recipe as “Cramburger”.
  • Delbert’s Granny’s Sweet Tea recipe is located at Mac’s Farm on a small table to the right of the front door entrance. Watch out for the Mirelurk Queen here.
  • Delbert’s Company Tea recipe is located at Superior Sunset Farm in a half-open basement of this farmhouse in the Cranberry Bog. It is pinned to a cork bulletin board.
  • Delbert’s Traditional Chitlins recipe is located at Spruce Knob Campgrounds (Savage Divide) near Spruce Knob Lake on a picnic table next to a blue cooler. This recipe is bugged and cannot currently be retrieved from the table. You can see it, but you can’t take it.

Additionally, Delbert’s Company Tea requires using a serving of Delbert’s Sweet Labrador Tea to make. This means you’ll need to have both recipes to make Delbert’s Company Tea. To make Sweet Labrador Tea, you’ll need honeycomb… a very hard ingredient to find in the game. As for where to find honeycomb, I’ll have to leave you to locate that in Fallout 76 for yourself.

Good Luck!

↩︎

Can you make potato chips in the microwave?

Posted in baking, Health, howto, smart, snacking by commorancy on September 17, 2019

Why yes. Yes, you can. In fact, it’s pretty fast to make homemade potato chips. But, the speed does depend on your microwave. Let’s explore.

Slicer

The critical piece of the potato chip puzzle is slicing them the correct thickness. To do this, you need to get a potato chip mandoline. This is the critical first step to making potato chips. They can’t be too thick, but they also can’t be too thin. There’s a perfect thickness to make proper potato chips.

The slicer I recommend is the Akebono Potato Slicer set. Though, you may be able to get the potato chips the proper thickness with this Ronco mandoline or this Mastrad mandoline. The reviews show that these do work.

Baker

All of these sets offer a round plastic baker which holds the chips vertical. I’m not a fan of baking them this way. I prefer my chips flat. If you use the vertical version, the chips will fold and flop over, sometimes on themselves. This can make for odd shaped chips. If you like that about the vertical baker, then by all means go for it. As I said, I prefer my chips flat.

To get absolutely flat chips, you’ll want to microwave them flat on a plate. I use glass plates because the chips stick less and seem to bake faster. There’s also no chance of burning a glass plate, unlike paper which can smoulder and catch fire in the microwave.

It’s up to you to choose which baking method you prefer.

Preparation

  • Scrub the potato thoroughly with a vegetable brush under running water.
  • Peel potato if you prefer. I prefer them unpeeled.
  • Slice the potato on the mandoline and place the slices into water to soak.
  • When finished slicing, rinse all of the slices on both sides until the water runs clear (i.e., no starch remains).
  • Dry the chips on both sides and lay them on a flat surface.
  • Jump to baking instructions immediately below.

Cooking Times

This is the critical part. If you have a 1200-1500 watt microwave, your baking time will be about 5 minutes. You’ll need to add more time if your microwave has less wattage. For example, a 600 watt microwave might take up to 20 minutes. To bake, follow these instructions:

  1. On a glass plate, lay the chips out flat so that they are not touching one another.
  2. Place into the microwave and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Halfway through the cooking cycle (and while the chips are still just a bit damp), lift them from the plate so they are loose. The plate may be hot, so use an oven mitt.
  4. Continue microwaving the chips until they are slightly brown in places.
  5. Remove the chips and let them stand for about 5 minutes to finish crisping.
  6. Enjoy.

I don’t put salt on my chips and I prefer them unsalted. However, if you like salt, salt them before you begin baking them. You only need to salt one side.

A single potato might yield 5 or 6 small batches. This can be a bit time consuming to cook using the plate microwave method. This means running about 5-6 separate batches through your microwave. At 5 minutes per batch, that’s about 25-30 minutes of baking time to make a single potato’s worth of chips. If you want to do several potatoes, it could take several hours. The flat method may not be optimal for large batches. For large batches, you might want to consider the ring baker which holds more chips.

You might also consider baking them in the oven as you can use multiple cookie sheets to lay them all out flat. Baking them in the oven will likely take 20-30 minutes at 350ºF (or until they are slightly brown).

For making small batches, the microwave is the fastest method and produces chips in as little as 5 minutes.

Doneness

The chips are done when they are both lightly browned uniformly and when they’re fully crispy. If they’re chewy or wet in the center, you’ll need to add more baking time. The chip should be completely dry and crispy when done. The chips will also shrink by about half. If you like monstrous sized chips, you’ll need to buy even bigger potatoes. Average sized potatoes produce smaller sized chips. Be cognizant of this when picking your potatoes at the store. I also suggest russet potatoes because they’re the easiest to slice, wash and bake… and they produce tasty potato chips.

Storage

Store any uneaten (wait.. there are some actually left over?) in a zipper bag and keep in a cool dry place. Moisture may seep back into the chips and make them less crispy. You can crisp them up again by placing them onto a plate and baking them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Kettle Chips?

If you’re looking for crispier potato chips, like Kettle type chips, then you’ll need them to be sliced a bit thicker. For this, you’ll need to find a mandoline that provides you with this thickness. However, I’m not certain that the microwave will actually produce kettle style crunchy chips. You might need a fryer for this.

If you’re interested in Kettle style chips, then you’ll have to try it and report back in the comments below for how that went and what you did to make it work.

Healthy Chips

Since these are not fried in any oils, they do not have any of the negative oil benefits of fried foods. However, these are still starchy potatoes and still possess all of the glycemic responses as any other potato products. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you are diabetic or need to restrict your carbohydrate intake.

Happy Snacking!

↩︎

Crafting Medicines in Fallout 76

Posted in howto, tips, video gaming by commorancy on March 27, 2019

CraftingStationIf you’re interested in crafting medicines within Fallout 76, this guide should hopefully help get the most out of your crafting. Let’s explore.

Crafting Perks

If you’re interested in crafting anything in Fallout 76, it’s worthwhile to consider all of the perks you’re going to need to get the most out of your ingredients. For crafting medicines and chems, you’ll want to invest in the following perks:

  • Green Thumb — Doubles what you pick from plants. (Perception)
  • Super Duper — A chance to double what you craft. (Luck)
  • Chemist — Doubles all items crafted on a chemistry table. (Intelligence)
  • Aquaboy/Aquagirl — Lets you walk in water without taking radiation damage (Endurance)
  • Butcher’s Bounty — When crafting items that require meat, you’ll also want to invest in this card to get more meat from your kills. (Perception)
  • Good With Salt — While this one is not strictly that necessary, it’s a great option for carting around ingredients for longer periods without spoiling. (Luck)
  • Sunkissed — Removes radiation damage from 6AM to 6PM in-game time. (Endurance)

Green Thumb, Aquaboy/Aquagirl and Chemist are 1 star cards. However, Super Duper and Butcher’s Bounty are 3 star cards and increases your chances with each star.  Super Duper offers a chance to double your creations with all crafting station types with the exception of the Brewing Station (at the moment) and when bulking items. You’ll want to max out Super Duper to get the most out of your crafting.

Good With Salt is also a 3 star card and it is well worth ranking this card up to the max if you intend to carry around foods and drinks that spoil. This card is great for keeping ingredients from spoiling before you get back to a chemistry station to craft.

Crafting Medicines

The two most important items in the game to keeping your character alive and healthy are Radaway and Stimpaks. The Recipe for Stimpaks can be found at the Enclave bunker MODUS medical wing seller. You’ll need to join and get access to the Enclave bunker to obtain this recipe. Unfortunately, the recipe for Radaway isn’t quite so easy to obtain. You’ll need to play various events and you may eventually be awarded this recipe at concluding the event. The Radaway recipe will most probably require a wee bit of grinding.

Another recipe that you find early on in the game is Healing Salve. This recipe is about half of the strength of a Stimpak and is a great option if you can’t get the Stimpak recipe. This is also easy to craft from readily available ingredients.

Because Bethesda’s Fallout 76 is a dynamic changing online game experience, patches and server updates can change the amounts and types of ingredients required for recipes. This means the recipes listed below are correct at the time of this article. However, Bethesda could change the requirements at any time. Always check at the crafting table to be sure you are collecting the correct ingredients for any specific recipe.

Recipes

For Stimpaks, you’ll need the following:

  • 2 Antiseptic
  • 1 Bloodpack
  • 1 Steel

To make a Bloodpack, you’ll need:

  • 1 Antiseptic
  • 2 Tick Blood (use Butcher’s Bounty)

For Radaway, you’ll need:

  • 2 Antiseptic
  • 3 Glowing Fungus (use Green Thumb)
  • 1 Plastic
  • 1 Purified Water

For Healing Salve (Forest), you’ll need:

  • 1 Bloodleaf (Green Thumb)
  • 1 Boiled Water
  • 1 Soot Flower (Green Thumb)

For Disease Cure (Forest), you’ll need:

  • 1 Bloodleaf
  • 1 Boiled Water
  • 1 Firecap (Green Thumb)
  • 1 Snaptail Reed (Green Thumb)

To make Sugar, you’ll need

  • 2 Snaptail Reed
  • 1 Wood

While Sugar isn’t used in healing recipes, it’s great for foods, particularly Sweet Rolls and Lemonade. You’ll probably have some Snaptail Reed left over after crafting, which is why the Sugar recipe is listed.

Locations for Ingredients

To make all of these ingredients using forest recipes, you can find what you need starting at slightly north on the hill of Gauley Mine down to the red railroad bridge, then walking the creek all the way down the just past Vault-Tec Agricultural center in Flatwood. Near Gauley Mine, you’ll find Firecaps on logs. At the bridge across the creek across from the Overseer’s camp, the Firecaps stop and this begins the area with Bloodleaf, Snaptail Reed and Glowing Fungus. Between Gauley Mine and the Bridge, you’ll find Firecaps (not far from the water) and Snaptail Reed.

The forested regions will also contain Starlight Creeper, Firecracker Berry, Soot Flower and Wood.

There are other recipes you can find for other regions like Toxic Valley, The Mire, The Cranberry Bog and so on. However, because of the relative closeness to the Vault 76 fast travel point, it’s easiest to focus on the Forest recipes as these are the ones you are likely to come across first… and they also have the easiest locations to reach and easiest ingredients to obtain.

Sources for Antiseptic

In some of these recipes, you may need antiseptic. This can be had easily by killing ticks and picking up their Blood Sacs. Unfortunately, you can only use Butcher’s Bounty on ticks for Tick Blood, not their Blood Sacs. If they don’t drop a sac, you’ll need to locate and kill a different tick.

Two good spots for killing about 6-8 ticks is Moonshiner’s Shack just below Vault 76 and Gilman Lumber Mill immediately south of Moonshiner’s Shack. These are great for harvesting when you’ll need to produce Stimpaks. You can sometimes find ticks in the wooded area of Camden Park near the Railroad.

Abraxo Cleaner is also another source of Antiseptic. You can usually find boxes of this sitting around kitchens and other facilities. Toothpaste and Turpentine are other sources.

Why Perk Cards?

With Green Thumb, Chemist and Super Duper, you can effectively double what you get at each step. Green Thumb doubles what you pick. Chemist Doubles what you make. Super Duper doubles that. You can easily end up with half to double more than what you expect. It’s well worth using these cards if you need larger quantities of Stimpaks or Radaway. With these cards, you can make hundreds easily… instead of relying on finding 1, 2 or 3 in a container.

Tips Before Crafting

    • Always remember to place your perk cards on before crafting.
    • You don’t need these cards to be on all of the time, only when crafting.
    • Don’t waste card slots with these cards if you are not crafting.
    • Remember your Green Thumb card when picking flora. This will always double what you pick.

Remember your Aquaboy/girl card when wading through water looking for ingredients. Collect considering multiple recipes at a time. For example, when collecting for Disease Cure, you only need to pick Soot Flower to make Healing Salve after you’ve run out of Firecaps for Disease Cures. Don’t take off Good With Salt (if you need the card space) until just right before you begin to craft. After you’re done crafting, immediately put Good With Salt back on. You can make teas, sugar and other foodstuffs from the remaining unused ingredients.

It’s easy to forget your perk card setup when crafting… so, always check before picking flowers or flora or before crafting. It would be great if we had some kind of quick view reminder of our perk cards through a hot key, but no such luck in this game. You’ll just have to stop whatever it is you’re doing and go look and rearrange before you pick or craft.

Happy Crafting!

↩︎

Apple Music on Amazon Echo via Alexa

Posted in Amazon, Apple, howto, music by commorancy on December 17, 2018

AppleMusicThis one’s a quickie. Let’s explore.

Apple Music and Amazon

Apple has recently begun expanding its reach of Apple Music onto non-Apple devices. First was Android. Now, Apple Music has come to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant on the Echo, Dot and other Alexa enabled devices. Of course, you’ll also need to subscribe to Apple Music to take advantage. Personally, I find Amazon’s digital music selection a bit lacking when compared to Apple’s catalog… part of the reason I chose to buy into Apple Music instead of Amazon Music Unlimited.

That’s not to say Apple Music is in any way perfect. There are plenty of artists who don’t publish digitally on Apple’s or Amazon’s platforms. For these artists, Apple offers a solution. Amazon doesn’t.

Unlike Amazon, who recently shut down the ability to upload songs into its platform, Apple Music allows iCloud upload for sharing music not found on iTunes between all of Apple’s devices. This means that even if you can’t find the song on Apple Music, you can buy a CD, rip it and then upload it to the iCloud platform for sharing and download on all of your devices. You can even buy it digitally, if you can find it, import it into iTunes and upload it for all of your devices.

I actually liked this feature on Amazon before they shut it down this summer. This is other half of the reason I have chosen Apple Music over Amazon Music Unlimited. I have a number of artists in my personal catalog that do not exist on Amazon or Apple’s platforms. I still want to be able to listen to these songs on all of my devices and have them in my Apple playlists. Apple’s iCloud sharing works perfect for this purpose. Amazon no longer has a solution for its Amazon Music Unlimited platform.

If you have music outside of Amazon Music Unlimited platform, you’ll have to figure out some other way to listen to it. You won’t be able to listen to it via Amazon Music Unlimited or by asking Alexa to play it… though, you can play it on your Echo by using your Echo as a Bluetooth speaker.

Installing Apple Music on Alexa

AppleMusic

  1. It’s really simple to enable this. Launch a browser to alexa.amazon.com (intentionally not linkified, select it, right click and then “Open in a new tab”) and login. You can also perform this setup from the Alexa app on your phone or tablet.
  2. Once logged in, click Music, Movies and Books from the left panel. It doesn’t matter which device is currently selected as this skill applies to all devices, but make sure the device can play music.
  3. Scroll down under Music and look for Apple Music and click it.
  4. If you’re in a browser, a new tab will open and take you to an Apple login & password screen.
  5. Log in with your Apple ID. Once logged in with your Apple ID, you’ll need to allow linking between Amazon Alexa and Apple Music.
  6. Done. Time to play some music!

Asking Alexa to play Music

To play music, simply ask Alexa like, “Alexa, play the playlist Fallout 76 Modern Radio on Apple Music” or “Alexa, play the song Pistol Packin’ Mama by Bing Crosby on Apple Music.”

If you leave off the “on Apple Music” statement, Alexa assumes you want to play the song via Amazon’s digital music platform such as Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited. Don’t forget to say this.

Alexa will respond by telling you that the song or playlist is playing via Apple Music. Keep in mind that this is a new skill for Alexa from Apple. This means that Apple may not yet have all of the bugs worked out. Expect some problems, particularly if you’re trying to use multiple Dots or Echos to produce stereo. Apple will get all of this worked out, but it may not work perfectly for a while.


Third party Alexa enabled devices, such as Sonos, may not yet support the Apple Music skill. If your device isn’t yet supported, contact your device manufacturer and ask when the skill will be supported. Amazon’s own devices should all work fine.

↩︎

Tagged with: , , , , ,

How to reset Philips Illuminate Lights

Posted in holiday, Household Tips, howto, repair by commorancy on December 1, 2018

img_4242[Updated for 2019] When trying to connect to my Philips Illuminate strand of lights this year, for whatever reason the Philips Illuminate iOS app is no longer finding them. It took me a while to find these instructions to reset the control box. Here’s how I solved the problem. Let’s explore.

Philips Illuminate

This product had great beginnings, but unfortunately Philips has decided not to continue developing and improving either the app or the product. It is an expensive product which required the purchase of a control box and a strand of lights (startup kit)… the control box being the most costly item to buy. Typical strands of LED lights cost around half or less (even cheaper if you pick them up on clearance) compared to the Illuminate strands. However, the Illuminate strands of lights offered chasing lights and many colors, similar to Philips Hue. I think I may have spent $60-$75 or so to buy into the starter kit product with a small strand of lights. Pricey for the strand size. It also offers the ability to chain light strands together making the system expandable.

At the time, I invested into the Illuminate product because Philips had also created the Philips Hue system and I thought they might eventually merge the two product lines together. No such luck. Worse, the light programming options of the strand is far less programmable than one might hope. I was expecting improvements that just never materialized.

Improvements and Features

If you’re just hearing about Illuminate lights this year, then let me explain some of the gripes for this product. While the starter kit does come with the control box, the control box does not offer any kind of networking interface with IFTTT, Amazon Alexa or any other similar control systems. The control box is just a “dumb” box. Its purpose is only to allow for connectivity for the Illuminate app and to provide light effects for the connected strand(s) . The control box has no ability to turn the lights on or off. When power is applied, the lights always turn on.

You can still find the Illuminate lighting on sale at Target. However, the add-on strands themselves cost around $30-$50 per strand. If you need a starter kit, expect to spend about $75 or more.

To add the ability to control the power to the lights remotely, you’ll need to purchase a WeMo smart plug or similar networked plug sold separately. These plugs support Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT and other networking features. Adding a smart plug lets you control the lights on a schedule via their apps or by voice via a home assistant like Alexa.

Control Box

The control box itself is the heart of this system and allows for WiFi connectivity so the Illuminate app can control the light programming. It also handles the LED light sequencing. When the app was first released, they offered 17 different light patterns which include a variety of chasing options, fading options, twinkling and steady options. Today, we still have those same 17. There is a customize option, but it’s limited to Twinkle, Fade and Chasing.

Unfortunately, the one light programming option I wanted doesn’t exist. Specifically, I want the lights to each change from one color to the next individually and randomly rather than all at once. This one doesn’t exist. A small problem compared to what I faced when attempting to reprogram my strand this year.

For the last two years, I have been able to launch the iOS app and have it find and see the control box just fine on WiFi. For whatever reason, this year it no longer works. As a result, I can no longer program the lighting strand from my phone. I had also lost the instruction guide for this product long ago. Here’s what I saw when I attempted to control my light strand:

img_4243

I’m all, WTF? Rescanning does nothing. As there is no physical reset button on the control box to factory reset with a paperclip or similar method, I had to resort to scouring the Internet to find a solution. Unfortunately, the search engines didn’t turn up much right at the top for how to factory reset the Illuminate lights.

If you have run into the issue where your control box can no longer be found by your iOS or Android app, it’s likely that the control box is not registering itself properly on WiFi. Because there’s no troubleshooting as to why this is happening and after finding the reset instructions, I decided to use the Direct connection approach to control my lights. At least it works for the few times I need to make changes. It’s not handy for the audio/music feature, but it works for the standard light programming.

Resetting the System

To reset a Philips Illuminate control box, you’ll need to perform the following actions:

  1. Turn off or disconnect the power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  2. Apply power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  3. Perform steps 1 and 2 three or four times successively until the light strand begins flashing on and off. This signals that the control box has factory reset and you can stop this process.

If you find that after performing steps 1 and 2 multiple times doesn’t cause the strand to flash on and off, keep performing it until it does. If you can’t get the lights to flash, then you may not be waiting long enough or you are waiting too long between power off and on. Try waiting longer or shorter intervals between power toggling.

Note that factory resetting the device loses its knowledge of any WiFi devices it knew about including passwords. This means you’ll need to set this up again from the Illuminate app (instructions below).

Factory Reset

At this step, you’ll want to make sure you have the Philips Illuminate app installed on whatever device you’re wanting to use to control your lights. For Android, go to Google Play and search for and install Philips Illuminate. For Apple, navigate to the App store and install it. You’ll need this app for the next steps.

Once the control box is factory reset, it no longer attempts to connect to whatever previous WiFi network it once knew. The control box now goes back into initial setup mode and it creates an access point of its own. The new access point SSID will look like PhilipsACCF235B6838 or similar. For this article, I will assume the access point ID to be named PhilipsACCF235B6838. When you are performing this on yours, it will obviously be named something different. You can rename this SSID if you want, but I left it as it is because it doesn’t identify what the product is. It also doesn’t broadcast this SSID very far anyway, which is why you need to be close to it.

If you have installed multiple control boxes all handling different strands of lights around your property, then it would make sense to rename each SSID to a name that identifies which strand it is and where it is located. Renaming in this instance makes sense. For a single control box handling a single strand like mine, renaming is not important.

At this point, you’ll want to open your iOS or Android phone and navigate to the Android or iOS settings area where you can connect to a WiFi access point. Once in settings, wait for your device to scan looking for new access points. Once it finds PhilipsACCF235B6838 (or however yours is numbered), click on it to connect. Note that you may need to be within a few feet of the control box for this to work. Don’t try to do this from a different room in the house.

Once connected, it will prompt you for a password. The default password is 12345678. Depending on which method you choose to try next will determine if you need to change that password.

WiFi Network Setup vs Direct Setup

There are two ways to go at this point. You can have your Illuminate control box connect to your local WiFi lan network or you can use a direct connection. I couldn’t get mine to connect to my local WiFi network for whatever reason. I think someone has set something up in my complex causing massive interference. I fill in the correct WiFi network details, but the app is never able to find the control box on my local WiFi network. So, I reset it again and this time I chose the Direct connection method to manage the lights. Slightly more of a hassle, but it at least works.

Network Setup

After connecting your phone to the WiFi access point PhilipsACCF235B6838 from your device settings, launch the Illuminate app. Once the app loads, it should find control box, the app may show you the control box screen (below) or it may jump into the setup screen. This screen below is what you should see each time you start the Illuminate app regardless of whether you choose Direct WiFi or connect the control box to your local lan via WiFi.

control-box

If not in the setup screen already, select the menu icon in the upper left of the screen and choose ‘Setup Wizard’. From here you can either setup the device for Direct connection or WiFi lan connection like so:

img_4237

If you want to use a WiFi lan connection, then click CONNECT CONTROL BOX TO LOCAL WI-FI. On the next screen, scroll the screen to find the access point you want to connect to and click it.

Illuminate-WiFi

Next, enter the password for the SSID you’ve chosen.

img_4240-1

Make sure the password you enter is correct. The Illuminate App should verify the correctness of the password you enter in this field, but if the password changes on the access point, it will no longer work. I can’t guarantee that the app will verify the password you enter here, so make sure it’s correct.

If you want to use the direct connect method to manage your light strands, then click USE A DIRECT CONNECTION and then follow the screen prompt that comes next:

direct-connect-control-box

From here, you’ll need to change the password you want to use on your control box going forward. This is the password change screen. It changes the password on the WiFi password you will use to connect to the SSID WiFi access point in the control box. You can also change your SSID for your control box on this screen, but I left mine as it is. After you CONFIRM the password, as the screen states, the control box will restart. Once the control box restarts, you’ll need to reconnect to your Philips SSID via WiFi settings on iOS or Android. You may need to forget the old network as it may have remembered the older 12345678 password. Then, reconnect and enter the new password you just entered in the screen above.

Security Tip: you should always change default passwords included with devices because anyone can easily find the default password on the Internet.

Once your WiFi has connected to the access point, relaunch the Illuminate app and it should take you to the screen that looks like so which should immediately find your control box:

control-box

Click the check box like above and press Enter to manage your light strands like normal.

Failure is not an option

If after going through the above steps to reconnect the control box to your local WiFi network, you find that your Illuminate app still cannot locate the control box on your local WiFi network on startup (what happened to mine), you’ll need to use the direct connection to control your lights. If you cannot connect to the control box after a factory reset, your control box may be damaged.

[Updated for 2019] Support for Illuminate

It looks like Philips has dropped the Illuminate brand entirely from its website. This includes no more support for this product line directly from Philips. However, it seems that a company named Seasonal Specialties has picked up and continues to support the Illuminate product. Perhaps they were the original creators? I don’t know the history of this product.

If your strands aren’t working correctly or your strings are stuck on a single color (i.e., blue) or are not responding to the control box, you’ll need to contact Seasonal Specialites who may be able to assist you to get your strings and/or control box replaced. You can call them at 1-800-763-6177. You can also visit them at www.seasonalspecialties.com. For further troubleshooting help, try this Seasonal Specialties page for Illuminate Lights.

Also note that I didn’t personally see any Illuminate starter kits or strands available for purchase at my local Target store in 2019. It seems these lights are now only available for purchase online at Target.com. Note that the stock that Target has may, in fact, be new old-stock. What that means is that it could be Target’s remaining 2 or 3 year old stock being sold online. This could also mean that once Target sells out of what they have, there may be no more available. If you’re wanting to add onto your Illuminate lights or get a new control box, I might suggest buying any strands you need this year (in 2019) as they may not be available in future seasons. When Target removes items from stores and sells it online only, it’s usually one step away from being discontinued.

As always, if this article was helpful to you, please consider leaving a comment and following my blog for future helpful advice. If you could please share this article on Twitter and other social media, it would help me out 👍.

↩︎

 

How to revive old Wasabi powder

Posted in food, food connoisseur, howto by commorancy on October 30, 2018

You bought some powdered Wasabi 3 years ago in a can and forgot all about it. You’ve let it sit in your pantry all that time. You need wasabi and you remember that you have some powder. When you try to mix it up, it tastes bitter and not at all like Wasabi. There is a fix. Let’s explore.

Genuine Wasabi Japonica vs Horseradish

I’d be remiss by not leading with this. Genuine Wasabi comes from the Wasabi Japonica plant. This plant is notoriously difficult to grow and is extremely persnickety when it comes to where in the world it wants to grow. Obviously, it grows well in parts of Japan. It also grows in parts of New Zealand. It looks like this when growing:

Wasabia_japonica_2

Photo courtesy of Qwert1234

Wasabi Japonica also has a long tapered cylindrical root that when grated or ground becomes the signature garnish we’ve come to know and love. The roots look like this:wasabi-root

Photo courtesy of hfordsa via Flickr

This is Wasabi Japonica.

The difficulty with this green garnish is that it can be readily mimicked by horseradish, hot mustard and green food coloring when dried into a powder. Some people call this “fake” Wasabi. I simply call it “wasabi” with a lower case ‘W’.

This ‘wasabi’ version is most often the powdered form that you’ll find in supermarkets and is what is most often served at Sushi restaurants in the U.S. (read the label or ask your sushi chef). If you live in North America,  “wasabi” (horseradish) is typically what you’ll find 99% of the time. The 1% of the time where you find genuine Wasabi Japonica is a rarity and it means the Sushi restaurant understands the subtle, important difference in flavor between the genuine article and the horseradish version. I’ve even found fresh cut Wasabi Japonica at one sushi restaurant. That was a treat!

The most often cited reason for using horseradish over genuine Wasabi Japonica is cost. While that may be mostly true, the truth is that it’s actually much more difficult to get genuine Wasabi in the US simply because it’s notoriously difficult to grow. This, of course, raises the price because you have to import it.

This means importing Wasabi Japonica from places like Japan or New Zealand and there is a monetary cost to importing produce. However, the flavor profile between the horseradish version and genuine Wasabi Japonica is markedly different. Even though they both produce the signature nose heat we know and love, Wasabi Japonica simply tastes different.

Powdered Wasabi

Dried and powdered wasabi, whether genuine or horseradish must be rehydrated to be useful in all of its green pasty glory. The difficulty with its powdered form is that, depending on the powder’s age, it takes longer and longer to hydrate fully to bring back its signature heat. This is called blooming.

For example, if you hydrate wasabi powder and immediately taste it, you’ll notice no heat at all. It’ll only taste bitter. This means that the wasabi has not yet bloomed. You must wait a period of time before the wasabi has fully bloomed back into its signature hot flavor and lost that bitterness.

How long that bloom takes depends entirely on the ….

Age of Powdered Wasabi

Let’s get back to that old powder you have sitting in your cupboard. The longer the wasabi sits in a zippered bag, can or jar, the slower it takes to rehydrate. As I said above, it will take time to bloom back into its signature flavor. How long it takes depends on how old your wasabi powder is. So, don’t throw your powder away if you rehydrate the powder and it still tastes bitter 10 minutes later. You might be thinking that because it’s bitter it’s bad. It isn’t bad. It’s just super dry.

Sure, fresh powder hydrates to full strength in about 8-10 minutes. If you need some wasabi quick, getting fresh powder from the store may be your best answer. If you can plan ahead a little, your aged wasabi powder may take up to 24 hours to reach full flavor.

For several year old powder, simply mix it up, place it into a closed container and let it finish blooming in the fridge. I personally have some aged wasabi powder that now takes up to 24 hours to bloom. This is a horseradish + hot mustard version. I keep a small amount ready in the fridge as a condiment. When it gets low, I hydrate more and let it bloom overnight. I do have some genuine Wasabi Japonica powder which blooms fully in about 8 minutes. But, I only use that for special occasions or if I need some quick. I use the horseradish version when I’m mixing it into ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard or for any other recipe purposes.

Don’t throw out your older powder thinking it’s bad because it appears to remain bitter. You just need to wait longer to let the flavor work its way back out. The fix to old powder is that might take up to 24 hours in the fridge to fully bloom! However, it also means you need to plan ahead when using older wasabi powder.

Heating Wasabi Powder

You might be thinking you can heat the hydrating bitter wasabi and make it hydrate faster. Never do this. It doesn’t work. It will make the wasabi gluey and useless. It will become bad and you will have to toss it. Do not heat wasabi powder when hydrating it. Instead, mix it up with water and let it rehydrate in the fridge overnight.

Rehydrating wasabi Powder

If you’re new to wasabi and you’re wondering how to rehydrate it, it’s simple. Grab a small container and put a teaspoon of powder in the container. Now, fill your teaspoon with water and pour about half in and begin mixing. If the powder is still too dry and thick, add a little more water to bring it to a paste consistency you like. If you like being able to shape it into a ball with your fingers, then you’ll want it a little dryer. If you like it a little more runny, then add more water.

The consistency of the paste doesn’t play a part in blooming speed. The water does need to be mixed in thoroughly, though. The paste simply needs to sit to fully bloom and that takes time. Speaking of hot mustard, this problem also applies to cans of hot mustard powder as well.

Itadakimasu!


As always, if you have found this Randocity article useful and it helped you revive some old wasabi powder, please leave a comment below.

↩︎

How To: Killing Apps on iOS and Android

Posted in Android, Apple, best practices, howto by commorancy on September 4, 2018

Kill_AppsHere’s a quick how-to tutorial. This tutorial will show you how to kill running applications on your Apple or Android phone or tablet device. Let’s explore.

Killing Apps

You might be asking, “Well, why would I want to do that?” There are times where apps misbehave or hang leaving a dead app on your phone or tablet. These can drag down the performance of your phone. For this reason, killing an app allows you to restart them to get them working again. Without further adieu, let’s get started…

Apple iOS

To kill apps on iOS 11, it’s simple. For Apple devices that have a home button (this excludes iPhone X), double click the home button. The home button is the button located at the bottom or side of your device (depending on orientation). It’s the only front facing button on the bezel. With the device logged in, double click this home button.

For the iPhone X, the line at the bottom kind of acts like a home button. From the line at the bottom, with your finger drag upwards to minimize the apps into a stacked list. This is similar to double clicking the home button.

Once in the stacked list, kill any specific app or all apps as follows:

  • Press and hold your finger on top of one of the stacked app screens and with a fluid motion, drag your finger to the top of the screen.
    • If you perform this motion correctly, the screen will disappear. The app is now killed.
    • If you notice the screen moving side to side and not up and down, you dragged sideways.
    • Scrolling side to side lets you selectively choose which app to kill. Try again to pull the app screen upwards.
    • If you touch the app screen once, it will bring that app to the foreground.
    • If you touch the background outside of the app, it will bring you to your home screen of icons.
  • To kill all apps, perform this motion on each and every stack app screen until there are no more left.
  • No, iOS does not provide a ‘kill all’ feature. You must kill app separately. Note, you can’t hear the double-clicking of the home button. Here’s an iOS demonstration:

Android

To kill apps on Android 6.x or above, you’ll need to locate the double rectangle button either on the bezel of your phone or on the display of your phone (at the bottom). This double-rectangle button drops you into the screen that shows you all of your currently running apps.

Click this button, then follow along based on the videos:

Obvious isn’t always

Because Apple and Android have both hidden this feature behind cryptic buttons, it isn’t sometimes obvious how to do this. Also note that even if you reboot your device, the apps may still continue to run from the state where they formerly were. To kill an app and start it fresh (particularly on iOS), the only way is to kill the app as described above. I find that, for example, I regularly have to kill Hulu as it likes to hang.

Good Luck!

As always, if you like what you read hear at Randocity, please click the follow button, like and comment below.

↩︎

%d bloggers like this: