Netflix recommendation- Dream Home Makeover

Isn’t it nice to have the McGee’s on your side?

We have a soft spot for lifestyle programs, and Netflix’s latest lifestyle        show is ‘Dream Home Makeover’ with Shea and Syd McGee- Founders of Studio McGee!

Shea is an Interior Designer and through 6 episodes of the home improvement program we watch her, and her team transform 6 homes- from kitchen makeovers to fitting out an entire new home. We watch already serviceable homes transformed into the owner’s Dream home!

And not only is it a Lifestyle program, but it’s just as much as a reality TV show- following the McGee’s both in their work and their personal lives. At first, I was wondering why they were showing so much of their private lives e.g. their two young daughters and general child rearing (often times highlighting how goofy Syd the dad is). But by the end of the series, I quite enjoyed the out-of-the-ordinary format, making the show more personal and real.

The homes being made over are close to being mansions, huge homes which makes most viewers envious, so in most respects it’s difficult to relate to what we were watching. And when it came to the creation of a young professional’s home cinema set-up, if I remember correctly the dude had a $30K budget! That’s $30K US, that’s like $41K Australian! Wouldn’t that be nice, to have that much cash to throw at a single room makeover!?

And parts of the series, I was wondering who was paying whom for the privilege of featuring the McGee’s on their very own Netflix series? Sure, their giving up their time and inviting us into their private world. However, it’s a 6-episode advertisement for their interior design company- Studio McGee. Imagine the up-tick in visits to their company website, and the increase demand in requests for free, no-obligation measure and quotes after the series airs? Shea would be one busy bee after it all! But imagine how devastated you’ll be, when it turns out that one of her minion’s rock-up with a tape measure, rather than Shea herself!? Booo!

All in all, it was a fun watch- you can’t really get any real practical hints nor tips from the show for your own DIYs, but what it does leave you with is a sense of how the other half live- the cashed up North American yuppies.

If you love Lifestyle programming, and you have a spare 3 hours on the couch this weekend? Check out Dream Home Makeover ! It’ll leave you wishing that you lived in suburban Salt Lake City!

Netflix recommendations- Emily in Paris

Devil wears Prada meets Sex in the City.

Ok, ok, I have to admit, these days I’m just watching things on Netflix because A It’s new, and B because it’s trending. As ‘Emily in Paris’ really shouldn’t be my thang. Right?

Emily in Paris is the name of Emily Cooper’s Instagram handle, serving the purpose for her friends to follow while she spends a year working and living in France. As a Marketing specialist, she takes up the opportunity to live and work in Paris when her boss couldn’t do so, thus from Chicago she finds herself in the city of love.

Like Devil wears Prada, her French boss at the marketing firm her US company had just acquired, is a real ‘Dragon’ who is outwardly hostile and patronising towards her. And like Anne Hathaway’s character in DWP, Emily is also hard working, ever trying to please her boss, and the actor Lily Collins who plays Emily even appearance wise  resembles Anne Hathaway a bit, just a more petite version of the dark-haired beauty.

Where Emily in Paris reminds me of ‘Sex and the City’, is due to the setting within a major city, and also the fact that our protagonist seems to find herself “intimate” with a fair few Frenchmen (I counted 4). 

 I actually found the romcom enjoyable enough, smashing through the 10 episodes in less than 5 days and although there hasn’t been word of a second series in the works- but I do hope they’ll be renewed for a second go around in Paris.

Likes: Since we can’t travel, at least we can travel  vicariously through Emily’s time in Paris; I liked that they featured a confident Asian character as Lily’s confidant in Paris; the show was very now, Instagram playing a starring role- probably the most front & centre I’ve ever seen a social networking site to be since the ‘Social Network’; and it was nice to be reminded of what  awaits us post-Covid, when global travel is back on the cards and social distancing is a thing of the past so  the French can continue to  ‘kiss’ greet  one another.

Dislikes: Now that we can’t travel, this feeling of longing to be Overseas has been magnified since watching Emily in Paris; And I think we can stop sucking up to the Chinese already! Ok, I’m Chinese but we don’t have to place them up on a pedestal like depicting all Chinese as being rich and frivolous, highly educated with British or American accents, and they all have super wealthy parents. I almost long for the days when next-gen Chinese were stereotyped as only being kids of restaurateurs and dry cleaners- as that’s probably closer to reality than the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ depiction (BTW, the actor who plays Mindy is actually an American Korean); and I know that we’re addicted to our phones and obsessed with   trying to accumulate more likes and more followers, but Emily in Paris reminds us of all that is bad about our society ATM, that wealth, fame and success is all dependent on how many followers we can influence; and watching the French being French, so dates the series as being  a pre-Pandemic world. It’s just a little depressing to think how much, and which aspects of post-pandemic life will never be the same again- let’s just hope that after there’s a vaccine, the French will continue to double kiss greet one another, and still sleeps with random strangers just because their cute. *Sigh*.

Ok, if you have a spare 5 hours on the couch this weekend, check out Emily in Paris it’ll definitely remind you of 2019, the good, the bad, and the ugly! 

Product Recommendation- Apple MacBook Pro

Mac V Windows, Voiceover V JAWS. Which is best?

So, I bought a Mac. Crazy hey? Just like a 35+ year old deciding for the first time to buy a manual car, after only having experience with owning auto vehicles. What motivated this change for a blind user!?

To be honest, I was just sick and tired of being held ransom by Freedom Scientific and their once market leading Screen reading software- JAWS. I was tired of needing to upgrade the $2000+ software each time I upgraded my hardware. Therefore, what ought to be an affordable purchase of $1500-$2000 laptop, immediately became a $4000 investment. So, I decided to cut off this dependence on a third-party screen reading software and go with a device which had its own built-in screen reader.

My thought processes were that, I’m already an iPhone user, so adapting to Mac shouldn’t be that hard right?

But I was so wrong, so wrong. The first week after purchasing the MacBook Pro, I was almost in tears! It took me 2 days to work-out even where the Documents folder was located, and then another 2 days before I was able to work out how to even open a document! Crazy right!? As nothing is simple nor straight forward on a Mac! No Windows start key, no leftt clicks or equivalent keyboard key, and the Enter/Return key was no longer the universal key command to activate an action! Grrrr!

Everything became a keystroke, and everything is hidden under different rocks! This function under this menu, that function under that menu! It truly does test the memory and the patience of this old guy……. But after all of this, and now that I’ve crested the Mac learning curve, I honestly believe the Mac is the far superior product, and here are the reasons why.

Integration

I keep telling my wife, now I’ve got an entire Apple ecosystem! My phone talks to my computer, the software and hardware are now at one, and most importantly they all talk to me! And I no longer have those annoying performance issues where the third-party software slowed down my computer, stressing out the RAM as the software wasn’t designed for that device, and the device wasn’t designed for the software nor a blind user of it. Now everything works seamlessly, the computer doesn’t crash for unknown reasons, and now I can actually browse a website without losing cursor focus every 5 minutes!

Sleek design

This is expected from Apple, as Afterall they spend millions on R&D, and they have the smartest minds in the world working on their products. So, you can expect it to be well designed, modern, and of high build quality. And it’s all that and sleek, clean, sturdy, light, and super quiet. Not once since I’ve gotten it, has it overheated, seemed stressed, nor have I needed to switch it on and off because it had shat itself and stopped talking. The thing which I really love is it’s instant on! Just lift up the lid, count to 5 and Voiceover already asks you to plug in your pin. Within 30 seconds you can be on the web!

Screen reader

Whereas JAWS eloquence was responsive, but the voice was so robotic! Embarrassingly so! But with Apple’s investment in life like voices, now I have Siri as my every-day reading voice. It’s so good that I’ve slowed down the speech rate so I could better admire her sexy voice. Haaha. Previously JAWS was just a means of pulling out information from your computer so after a while you don’t hear the voice anymore, but now listening to Siri, hearing her voice is a joy and an experience in itself so much so I just find random articles for Siri to read- admiring how human she sounds! Sure, I’m less efficient in everything that I do now, but everything about interacting with my device is more pleasurable now. *Eyes rolled into the back of my head*. 

Navigation and Control

Although it took some time to learn all the keystrokes, and nothing is intuitive- however once you get the hang of things you just have a greater control over where you want to go, how to get there (as  there’re multiple ways of  performing most things), and once you’ve put in the hard yards to learn  all its intricacies, the sense of mastery is so satisfying! Returning back to the car analogy, maybe that’s why purists prefer driving manual cars- as it’s that sense of control and needing to be focused- on a Mac you can’t just mindlessly tap away, allowing your fingers to run on muscle memory, but you  need to be totally engaged as you use every key on your keyboard.

While the aspects which I don’t like about the Mac, also starts with navigation and control.

Navigation and Control

As I mentioned before, there are always multiple methods of doing things, and everything has a keystroke- however this is also it’s downside. In JAWS you   basically only use and need the arrow keys and tab key for navigation, and the enter key, sometimes space bar, and at worse the virtual left mouse click to interact with any interactable feature. However, on Mac, different scenarios require different keystrokes to enable, like a keystroke to open folders and documents; a different keystroke to enter a list or table; and a 3-finger combination to click on a link? Why so complex!? In that first week, I’d be left asking “why? Why? Why?” way too often. And the one thing which really annoys me, and still does to this day, is the assignment of keystroke combinations which are impossible to carry-out! As for non-sighted users of a computer, it’s all about touch typing and having your hands and fingers always settled in the same spot- index fingers on the F and J keys. But the keystroke assignments require you to lift up your right hand, slide it under your left as the assigned keystroke requires 5 fingers, a 4-finger combination which can’t be pulled off by one hand alone! And because you’re not sighted and the opposing hand isn’t use to seeking out the Q key (as an example), so I find myself searching out the  Q key with my  ring finger on my left hand, then using my  right hand to trail down the left to secure it over the Q key, before continuing to find the rest of the other 3 keys with my left hand to complete the keystroke. And the annoying thing is that in many cases these complex keystrokes are commonly used functions. Makes no sense!

Losing myself in menu bars

Sure, in this age of social distancing, losing myself in a bar would be a welcomed change now- but losing myself in a menu bar? What the? So now and again, I just randomly find myself in the menu bar, when seconds before I was happily writing in Word, or browsing a website. And to get back out of the menu isn’t as simple as just hitting ESC. But you have to actually find your way out of the maze, oftentimes I just save and exit the document and then re-open, as it’s quicker, or to shut the page down and re-launch another instance of Safari. It’s really that bad. I’m still trying to learn and recognise the virtual doorways out of menus, but I’m still not there yet 1 month on.

Screen reading

And the basic task of screen reading, it can sometimes be so hard! In JAWS, Caps lock key + arrow down from any part of a document or website would start the reader to read out loud from that point on, to the end of the document/website (unless you stop it earlier). But with Voiceover, this simple task is fraught with problems. Either the cursor doesn’t come with you, so if I stop reading at any point, and start read all again, it would literally start from the beginning of the document again! It’s so annoying, and I still haven’t worked out how to remedy this. *Teeth bared*. Or the fact that there is a keystroke to read headings, and the next text paragraph, and another to just read links. But with each of these methods they don’t read everything on a page. Just reading paragraph text, it misses links, just reading headings it skips everything else. While the other alternative is to read line by line, but that’s so much effort on my part! And when editing your work in Word, I never know where the cursor has landed, is it after the last letter, or is it Infront of the first letter of the next word? So, editing my work is now so slow- shudders to think how long it’s going to take me to proofread/edit this long-ass post!

Design

And although I had praised Apple’s sleek design, but the power pack annoys me somewhat, as it’s pretty huge! Sure, all laptops have that big charger pack, but not everyone has the charger pack connected to the actual PowerPoint plug. So, when you have it plugged into the wall, it feels like the wall socket is propping up a heavy load, sure it’s not, but it just seems that way- not to mention the clearance space required, gone are the days of using a powerpoint hidden behind furniture. The oversized touch pad is also a problem, I kept unknowingly brushing it with my sleeve or something, thus moving the cursor so after typing for a while, I’ll find my work completely jumbled as the cursor was moved here and there- causing me to spend just as long fixing up everything. These days I’ve just de-activate the touch pad. Giving up the chance of using my iPhone touch gestures as an alternative to move around the screen. And the last design floor, is the sharp edges. After typing for a while, I’ll have indented lines on my wrists from the angular aluminium edges, and the corners where there is an indentation to open the lid, the corners are particularly sharp, wouldn’t want to cut your wrists on that!

But after this seemingly long list of gripes, I still thing Voiceover is better than JAWS, and Mac more satisfying to use than a Windows device, just due to the fact that there is a sense of accomplishment after pulling off any simple task (pleased that I’d remembered the 4-finger combination). But all cynicism aside, the MacBook is prettier than any other laptop, more powerful for a portable device, the battery life is great, the screen is high res (so I’ve been told), and the sound quality is truly hi def! 

So, if you’re considering a change in your life, looking for a new challenge? Checkout the line-up of Apple MacBook’s, once you master it, it’s so satisfying! Click HERE to see the range of MacBook’s on offer. 

Specs:

13 Inch MacBook Pro

16Gb RAM

2.0Ghz Quad core Intel i5 processor 

512 Gb SSD memory

Netflix recommendations- Warrior Nun / Wu Assassins

Compare and contrasting the two Netflix fantasy martial arts series.

I wonder if the respective Producers or if a Netflix executive were overseeing the two productions, as they’re very, very similar!? Martial arts +supernatural forces +cultural superstitions +end of world ramifications= Warrior nun (or replace here with Wu Assassins). These two were so similar and interchangeable, that I’ll prove to you now how similar they were!

Unlikely/unwilling superhero’s

Ava Silva (The Warrior nun) and Kai Jin (The Wu assassin) were both unlikely heroes. One a deceased quadriplegic, the other a Chinese cuisine chef, both chosen and bestowed with magical superpowers- given the responsibility to prevent an end of world scenario. And of course, after some attempts to flee from their calling, they eventually embrace their roles and kick some serious ass!

Kick-ass fight sequences 

Sure, martial arts in a triad/Asian gangster film, isn’t anything new; but fighting nuns armed to the teeth with medieval armaments and pump-action shotguns? Now that was a little out of the ordinary. But both shows, had awesome fight sequences, wicked fight choreography, and everyone seemed to have 9 lives! Hey?

Non-English native speaking leads

And for both shows, they casted a lead who were lesser known in the West but were   legitimate stars in their home countries. Ava (played by Alba Baptista) who is a Portuguese actress, while Kai (played by Iko Uwais) is an Indonesian actor. But not knowing their career backgrounds before watching either show, I was blown away to find out it was Alba’s first film in English. While Iko produced, was lead martial artist, fight choreographer and stunt supervisor! And the benefit of an International distributor like Netflix, was that they were able to introduce and place into the spotlight to a global audience stars from smaller markets which we were not familiar with (but hope to see more of).

Cultural superstitions

Whereas in Warrior Nun the cultural superstition were angels and demons, when in Wu Assassins the cultural superstition was the Wu Xing (mastery of the 5 natural elements). Netflix were able to lean on these cultural beliefs, using enough truth and then mixing in enough myth to allow their plots to develop (while probably offending millions in the process). 

The other similarities included great special effects, a rockin’ soundtrack, applaud worthy acting, and an authentic supporting cast made up of diverse actus, but unfortunately both storylines were on the average to below average side.

Differences

Meanwhile the differences between the Wu and the Catholics was the story plots. Warrior Nun was based on a comic magazine series of the same title- telling a story of an ancient order of Nuns who protected unknowing mortals from demonic possession. The Warrior Nun, entrusted with an angel’s halo, which gave the bearer superpowers to see and to repel the evil spirits- Ava being the newest halo barer after the death of her predecessor. While over in San Francisco, the 5 Wu Xing     bearers were all converging onto SF- the coming together of the 5 natural elements would marke the end of the world. And Kai Jin is chosen to be the last Wu Assassin, the last of a linage of 999, he empowered with the strength of 1000 warrior monks. His one single task being……… Kill each of the 5 Wu bearers (who all have supernatural abilities to master the elements). No big ask, just kill them all to avoid the end of the world! Simple really!

Where the Nuns cannot get along with each other, due to in-fighting, factions, and general distrust (complete opposite attributes of believers in Christ), the Chinatown gangsters exhibit brotherhood, loyalty, and family (reminding me a bit of the ‘family’ as exhibited in Fast & Furious). 

And another big difference between WN (Warrior Nun) and WA (Wu Assassin), is the fact that WN has been renewed for a second series, the end of episode 10 and series 1, was left in complete limbo, with an epic fight scene paused, to be continued in season 2. Boo! While over on WA, the Orientals will not be renewed for a second season, the 10thepisode gave us a 95% sense of closure, while leaving a small slither open, just in case if they do get picked-up for a second season. At the time of writing, no word of a second season is being planned. Boo again!

So, if you have the time or interest to watch 2 fantasy series, which are oddly similar, I’m talking about uncannily similar! Then check them out on Netflix, Warrior Nun HERE! And Wu Assassins THERE!

Product Recommendations- Waterpik Waterflosser Ultra

Have you ever turned a high-pressure hose on your own mouth? In the name of oral health of course.

I hate flossing, never have taken to it and it was not a habit that I was going to change any-time soon. But like all people, I’m still concerned for my oral health, as in the end you only have one set of these chompers and they’re meant to last you 50 odd years?

So, when I heard a review of Waterpik products (namely the Electric toothbrush +waterflosser) it piqued my interest. After several days of online research, I concluded that I didn’t need a hybrid electric toothbrush flosser combo (as I already have a pretty good electric toothbrush)- but the standalone waterflosser was definitely what I wanted!

By far Chemist Warehouse was the cheapest at $144.99, a genuine savings of $54.69 off the recommended retail price. And if you want a contact-less experience, you can purchase it off their website and have it delivered FREE of charge!

For us, I wanted it immediately, so we rocked up to our nearest Chemist Warehouse and it was in-stock. What you get in the box is the Waterpik Waterflosser Ultra- which consists of a base (where the motor and power source resides); a removeable reservoir which holds around 400ml of water (reservoir= kidney shaped tub); a removeable lid which also acts as a container for your floss heads; the wand where you attach the floss heads to; and 6 different floss heads (they call them tips).

The Waterflosser Ultra requires a standard plug in power source, approx. 2.5 inch by 4 inches of real estate on your bathroom sink countertop, and you have to be semi-disciplined about your new night-time routine. As using the Waterflosser can easily be seen as ‘too much effort’, particularly if it’s late and it’s cold etc.

To get started, run your hot water tap for a few seconds so that the water is warm, then fill up your Waterpik reservoir (not too full, as you don’t want to be spilling water all over the place especially as there’s electricity about). Select and snap on the flosser head of choice, switch on the power and allow the motor to run, just for 10 seconds or so. And then position the flosser head on your first gap between teeth and flick the switch on your   wand and experience the power of a mini pressure hose in your mouth!

You don’t need to spend too much time on each gap, we’re talking about 2-3 seconds per gap. Just keep moving along the row of your pearly whites while you’re bent over your sink (as you’ll be dribbling all over the place). And a tip, just remember to flick the switch to off on the wand when you’re moving to the next section of your mouth i.e. from front to back of your bottom row of teeth, or when moving from the bottom to the top row. As pointing the flosser to anything which isn’t your teeth, can be risky. Point it out of your mouth and you’ll cause a mess. And if you point it to a softer part of your mouth, it’s really quite painful. Like sticking a pin in your tongue and shooting yourself in that tender squishy part under your tongue is particularly unpleasant. *Shivers*. And you def don’t want to Waterfloss yourself in the eye! I can’t imagine how painful that might be, not to mention potentially dangerous……

If I’ve painted a picture of a lethal weapon for you, don’t be frightened off, as the Waterflosser has 10 power settings. So, you can adjust it to a level which you can tolerate- for me, I have it on 8 ATM. Not to mention, after cleaning all 32 teeth, if you have some water remaining in your reservoir- you can use it to blast away mould near and about your bathroom sink! #Unintended benefits! 

So, after using the Waterflosser Ultra for 6 weeks? What do I think?

On the company’s marketing material, it states that it blasts away 99.9% of plaque, and clinically proven to be 50% better than conventional flossing. But to me? Yeah, after blasting my teeth with pressurised water, everything feels clean of course, but is it cleaner than how things feel after a brush? Hard to say. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more ‘amazing’, like that feeling you get after coming home from the dentist, and you’re able to suck air through the gaps of your lower front teeth (as they’re completely devoid of plaque.). But is it easier and more fun than conventional flossing? Definitely! That’s a 100% yes! So, after 6 weeks, I’m still persisting with water blasting my teeth each night. And if it reduces the guilty feeling of not flossing with string? then That’s a win for me!

To check-out or to  purchase the Waterpik Waterflosser Ultra now from Chemist Warehouse, click HERE!a144

Netflix Recommendations- Season 2s

And how do they each follow-up to their critically acclaimed first seasons?

I have to admit, I’m always a bit suspicious when it comes to follow-up seasons, especially if the first season was bloody amazing! So perhaps I’m already entering season 2s in the wrong mind set as I’m already expecting it not to be as good as the first. But here are my thoughts on three Netflix originals which I had enjoyed…… Well, at least their first seasons.

Umbrella Academy season 2

I’d watched the first season twice, and I could have easily watched it another 2-3 more times, however season 2? That was a little tough going hey. The first 5 episodes were very slow developing, with many unnecessary scenes which didn’t move the storyline along (not like season 1, where each scene had its purpose). However, after reaching the mid-point of the season, it was all downhill from there- but it was a good down hilliness, as the excitement and pace picked-up so much so, that we ultimately didn’t want the series to end! 

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The storyline behind season 2, is that the   Umbrella academy had time travelled to escape the apocalypse, 5 had screwed-up again with his time hop and had scattered his family back-in-time across a span of 3 years. And their time travel back to the 60s, not only did not avoid the end of the world, but instead brought it forward. So, for a second season, the driving force for the   Academy was to stop the sequence of actions which would eventually bring on the end of civilisation as we know it. But throw in 60s era technology, fashion, prejudices and racial intolerances. 

Would I recommend season 2? Yeah, I would. But just be warned, it’s slow developing in the first half and way less entertaining when compared to season 1.

Cobra Kai season 2

School’s out for the summer break, and the kids are free to pursue their interests outside of school and oddly all they could think about in the summer of 2019, was Karate? And once again for another show’s follow-up season, where the storyline   was again slow developing and there wasn’t the same momentum which pushed season 1 forward.

The storyline of Cobra Kai season 2, was that both Johnny and Daniel were further establishing their dojos, growing their student bases, solidifying their ethos, and trying to shape their kids in their own likeness.  Meanwhile hostility between the two dojos and their students persist, the tensions escalating when a second female student joins Cobra Kai and starts a beef with Samantha from Miyagi do and then the kicks and punches start flying. The fight sequences were all very cool and long, which satisfied that need for me, however the development or promise of developing young love, like in season 1 was missing. *Sad look*. #Sam and Miguel forever.

Would I recommend Cobra Kai season 2? Yeah, I guess so, if you were a fan of the first, you’ll enjoy season 2, because the Karate Kid saga continues- but let’s just say, don’t get too attached to any character…….

Sex Education season 2

Boy, this was hard going! I think it took me over 3 months to watch the 8 episodes of the second series. I literally had to force myself to watch the final 4 episodes, just so that I could write this post. What made season 1 interesting, was lacking in S2. The student-to-student sex advice? Gone! The, would they? Or wouldn’t they anticipation between Otis and Maeve. Gone! The reminder of how fun our teenage years were. Gone!  Everything that was good about the first season was gone! What we were left with, was break-ups, rejections, disappointments, and sabotage. Right down to the very last scene of the series when the show finally brought a little smile to my face- but all hope was lost due to sabotage.  Ah!

Would I recommend Sex Education season 2? Nup, I probably wouldn’t, you literally wouldn’t miss anything if you passed on Sex Edu S2.

With this post, hopefully it’ll help you to better plan/direct your precious time, as there’s simply too much good stuff out there for you to be wasting your time on the average.