Tag: Review


2022 Week 30 – The Little Robot That Could

black and red canister vacuum cleaner on floor

Looks like we’re finally getting a break from the heat this upcoming week. That should be good news for the expected protesters that will be downtown as Indiana lawmakers return for a special session starting tomorrow. The focus is on Abortion and what, if any, change Indiana will be making to their existing law. VPOTUS is coming to Indy tomorrow as well so it could get interesting. I’ll be sure to have the scanner with me in case something happens.


I was happy to see Amazon had a Roomba i7+ listed at 50% off during Prime Day(s). I’ve had one of the original Rumba Vacuums for years and it works pretty well but it randomly wanderers around the house bumping off walls and furniture as it does its job. The only way to contain it is to close doors or put up battery-powered “walls” that projected a beam of light.

The new Roomba Vacuums are a huge upgrade. Not only can you control it with your phone over WiFi, it maps out your house and allows you to label each room. It can handle up to 10 floorplans (each level of your house is considered a floorplan). The advantage of this is I can tell the Roomba to clean the Living Room and it will go directly there, start cleaning, and return to its charging base when it’s done. Oh, and it cleans in straight lines, not random patterns!

The Plus version I purchased has a self-cleaning base that sucks the dirt and hair out of the Roomba into a bag that only had to be changed every 30-ish days (depending on how much it picks up). That was one of the downfalls of the original model, you had to empty the bin each time and clean the rollers every 2nd or 3rd use.

I’ve been VERY impressed with the cleaning ability of the i7+ and the self-cleaning function is a game changer. There are newer (and more expensive) models, such as the j7+, but the i7+ works perfectly for me and I’m really happy I was able to pick it up at such a discount.


And finally… Kevin Hunter The Homework Guy had a great video about the environmental impact of electric vehicles. Kevin is an ex-car salesman and has a ton of great tips to help you purchase your next vehicle. If you’re in the market for a new car you should watch a few of his videos and get up to speed on the current sales “tactics” being used.

2022 Week 15 – Looking for Lunch in Lawrence

a close up shot of a plate and glasses on a table

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been doing some work in the Lawrence, Indiana, area a couple of days a week. It’s not a place that I frequented very often before January, but I decided to explore the food scene when I started spending time here. Specifically, Lunch in Lawrence.

Pendleton Pike and 56th St are long strips of chains with nothing unique standing out on the surface. But, dig a little deeper, and you can find some hidden gems owned by locals serving some quality food.

Fitzgerald’s Catering & Lunch House – Ft. Ben
First written about in Week 6 2022, Fitzgerald’s is located in an unassuming (former barracks building?) off Otis Ave. It’s an assembly-line-style lunch counter run by a hard-working group. They feature scratch-made items, even down to the pickles served on their Cuban sandwich. They can get quite busy, and seating can be limited, as people like to linger and talk. The restaurant is clean, and the service is prompt and friendly. Fortunately, they offer online ordering that’s always been ready when I got there to pick it up. They announce the daily specials on Facebook and have a good variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads. The Cobb Salad, Cuban, and Roast Beast sandwiches are my favorite things to order.
https://fitzgeraldscatering.com

Porter Books & Bread – Ft. Ben
This place looks easier to find on Google Maps than it really is. You place your order in the basement of a multi-story, multi-tenant building and climb the spiral staircase to the seating area above. The walls are exposed brick with bookshelves and some great music playing in the background. Their house-made Ficoccia is used for several of the sandwiches and comes with the salad. I think the Octavius Salad is one of the best in the area, and the Vonnegut Sandwich will not leave you hungry if you manage to finish a whole one.
https://www.porterbread.com

The Grill – McCordsville
While technically not in Lawrence, it’s close enough for me to drive to for lunch, so it’s on the list. The Grill has an over-21 side and a family dining side. Both times I visited, I sat in the bar. I’ve only ordered one thing both times, and the Fried Chicken salad hits the spot with a nice-sized salad with a large portion of pounded out sliced fried chicken breast on the top. The service is very friendly, and you can tell this is a family-run place with the father of the group running the show.
http://thegrillatmccordsville.com

Fried Chicken Salad

Tritan Brewing Co. and Bistro – Ft. Ben
The Bistro at Tritan is only open Fri/Sat/Sun for lunch, so I’ve only been able to have lunch there once on a Friday. I first wrote about it in Week 8 of 2022. It was a toss-up between the fish and chips or the tenderloin. My server asked how hungry I was and when I said quite a bit, she didn’t even hesitate to recommend the tenderloin. I really enjoyed this sandwich and would order it again if I’m in the area when the Bistro is open.
https://tritonbrewing.com

Fried Tenderloin

Notable mention to Jacomo Pizza that I’ve had for lunch a few times but never took any pictures. It’s pizza, and we know what that looks like. It’s quick if you get a slice or two of the daily special and scratches the itch if you want pizza and/or a fast lunch.

While there are not many local restaurants in Lawrence, there are enough to have some variety when in the area a few days a week. I still need to check out the Garrison at Ft. Ben and the Caplingers location on Pendleton Pike. It’s also been a long time since I visited Mama’s Korean, so I may have to fix that soon.


Following up on my initial review of Grammarly in October 2021, I’m still finding it a HUGE resource to make sure the communications (and blog posts) I have are concise and properly formatted. I’ve learned I have a big issue with missing commas, and Grammarly has made me more conscious of that and helped my grammar along the way. It’s still not a cheap utility, but if you make a living communicating with people, it’s worth checking out.

And finally, The Urbanist posted a video of a strange skyscraper in New York City with no windows. These kinds of buildings are not that unusual, in fact, we have a similar AT&T building in Downtown Indianapolis, but this one is very unique looking.

2022 Week 9 – New Mouse in the House

laptop internet connection technology

Another ‘Fake Spring” in Indiana with temps in the 60’s followed by below-freezing nights in the same week. The first couple months of the year are my least favorite time of year, and spring can’t get here fast enough…


At the recommendation of a co-worker, I picked up a new mouse last week. The Logitech MX Master 3 is unlike any mouse I’ve used before. First off, it’s a big boy size-wise, but, weighing in at 4.9 oz (140 grams), it’s surprisingly light for its stature. It also has a LOT of buttons and wheels. Something it’s going to take a while to get used to, especially since you can customize EVERY control and wheel depending on the application you have in focus. The fit in hand is comfortable, and the USB-C rechargeability makes this an excellent replacement for the Apple Magic Mouse I’ve been using for more years than I can remember.

Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse

Priced at $100 the Logitech MX Master 3 is not cheap but the improved ergonomics and extreme customizability are worth it in my opinion. After using it for about 2 weeks I can’t imagine going back to a “normal” mouse again.


And finally… 60 Minutes (Australia Edition) aired a piece earlier this month about the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappearance. A aerospace engineer claims he has determined, with great confidence, where the flight went down. He did this by analyzing disruptions in Ham Radio communications, of all things, during the flight. Let us know what you think after watching in the comments below.

2022 Week 8 – Start Your Engines!

The NFL season is over, and the sports were a little limited this past week. I’m not much of a basketball fan, so I was down to a few soccer games to follow. However, this weekend marks the return of NASCAR with the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon. NASCAR is one of those sports I like to turn on in the background while doing housework and getting ready for the week to come. Last season was pretty interesting with teams fighting for the championship, so I hope the 2022 season is the same. Speaking of racing, we’re about 100 days away from the Indianapolis 500!

As I spend more time working in the Lawrence area, I’m starting to find some good locally owned places to try out for lunch. Since it was open at lunchtime I tried a new lunch place last Friday. Triton Brewing Company and Bistro are located in the Historic Ft. Ben area of Lawrence, Indiana. They have limited hours (only open for Lunch Fri/Sat/Sun) and are usually closed when I’m working in the area. The Bistro inside the brewery has a nice variety on the menu (PDF). I was torn between the Fish and Chips and the Tenderloin but my server said if I was hungry I should try the Tenderloin.

As reported by The Tenderloin Guy back in April of 2021, this is an outstanding sandwich. The breading was well seasoned, and the meat was tender and juicy. This was a filling sandwich that I will be getting again soon. Service was prompt, and the atmosphere was nice and open. I could see spending some time working from here on a Friday afternoon.

And finally, this week, Simply Tech posted a video about Tim Cook. I found it quite interesting & I hope you do too!

2022 Week 6 – Snowmageddon

rain of snow in town painting

We received our first big snowfall of the season last Thursday. Total accumulation in the Indy area was 6-8 inches. It was enough to shut the city down for the day. Although some people like it, I’m not a big fan of the snow shovel (or the sore back for days afterward). Luckily I found a neighborhood Boy Scout on Next Door offering his services to neighbors and asking people to pay what they think is fair. Glad to see some kids out there are willing to do a little manual labor to make some money.


When the weather turns cold, it’s fun to start a new show & really get into it. I’m not one to “binge” in the true sense of the word by watching non-stop all day long, but I can knock out a few episodes a night and finish a season pretty quickly.

My current Top-10 “binge-worthy” shows (in no particular order) are:

  • The Sopranos
  • Breaking Bad
  • Better Call Saul
  • The Americans
  • Homeland
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Sex Ed
  • Ozark
  • Good Girls
  • Ted Lasso
  • Bonus: Rick & Morty

I’ve been working a few days a week in the Lawrence, Indiana area, and there’s a serious lack of decent food over there. After a lot of scanning the area on Google Maps, I happened upon a place called Fitzgerald’s Lunch House. My first meal was an online order because I was short on time. I ordered the Roast “Beast” with Mac & Cheese (self allowed cheat day). Everything at Fitzgeralds is scratch-made, and you can really tell. The quality is superb, and the portions are plentiful. It honestly was one of the best roast beef sandwiches I’ve had in a LONG time.

Roast “Beast” with Mac-n-Cheese

I returned the next week for more of the same, only to be told they were out of roast beef. I immediately spotted the Cubano on the menu and placed my order. The is the real deal, the sliced pork loin was the key, and it was pressed to perfection on the proper roll. After talking to one of the employees for a few, I found out they even make their own pickles. And I’m here to tell you the pickles shine on this sandwich.

I’ve since visited Fitzgerald’s Lunch House each week of the past month, and the quality and consistency have remained on point. This is a place I would eat at every couple of days if I worked in the area more.


And finally, are you old enough to remember hearing Sonic Booms in the Midwest? OrangeBean had an interesting article that explains why Sonic Booms are very rare these days over the U.S.

That’s it for this week. I’ve been trying out some new places to eat & should have some more reviews coming soon! Stay warm out there.

2021 Week 41 – iPad Pro Upgrade

I’ve been completely integrated into the Apple ecosystem for a while now and have always wanted an iPad Pro, but the price has always stopped me from making the leap. Because of that, I’ve purchased several iPad Air models and was generally happy with that decision. Well, I finally broke down and bought my first iPad Pro last week.

I opted for the 11″ model with 512GB of memory. Priced at just under $1000, it was not a cheap purchase, but compared to the Air model it replaced, this thing is an absolute beast when it comes to performance. I’ve been blown away by the responsiveness and power of the 2021 iPad Pro. I should have done this a while ago.

2021 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard

I’ve always used an external keyboard with my iPad, and I had a few choices for this one. I ordered both the Apple Magic Keyboard and the Logitech Combo Touch so I could try them both out and return the one I didn’t want. Initially, I was leaning towards the Logitech option because of its flexibility, but once I tried the Apple keyboard, I was hooked. Both add a considerable amount of weight (and cost) to the package, but the Apple Keyboard is rock solid, and the keys are almost identical to my MacBook Pro. My only complaint is the trackpad is smaller than the Logitech keyboard, and it costs more. However, it DOES have a dedicated charging port to free up the USB-C port on the side of the iPad Pro.

I’ve had an Apple pencil (V1) and didn’t find myself using it much because you were pretty limited in what you could do with it, so it stayed in my bag. Now, with iPadOS 15, the pencil is a lot more capable, and it’s always available since it can be docked (and charged) on the side of the iPad with some impressively strong magnets. Unfortunately, I had to upgrade to the new V2 model as the V1 is not compatible.

Apple Pencil V2

Restoring from a recent backup of the old iPad is all it takes to be up and running. Apple has made upgrading to a new device about as simple as it can get. iCloud keeps everything synced between devices, and the whole ecosystem just works. That’s what’s so nice about the Apple environment.

I took the iPad Air I’m replacing and mounted it to the refrigerator to use while cooking. I had an older model on there for years, and it comes in really handy to have an iPad in that location for recipe reference and multimedia controls of the stereo in the other room.

If you’re an Apple iPad user and considering an upgrade, the Pro series is worth looking into. It’s more expensive than the Air options, but the performance jump is noticeable, and the screen resolution is nothing short of amazing.


In other news, Netflix just released the entire Seinfeld series. I remember watching the show, off and on, in the ’90s and always enjoyed it. Now that I’m re-watching it, I realize what a well-written and acted show it really was! I’m only 3 episodes in with 176 left to go. I hope Netflix keeps this available for a while because it’s going to take me a while to get through all of the episodes.

That’s it for this week. I have a software review on deck & should be ready to publish it in the next week or two. Enjoy the wonderful fall weather & we’ll see you next week!

Apple Watch Take 2

Having long-ago fully adopted the Apple ecosystem in my daily work and personal life it was only fitting that I started getting the itch to try the Apple Watch again.  I’ve gone down this road before but after reading numerous reviews about the new and improved Series 3 I thought I should give it another try.

My first go around in early 2016 was less than impressive.  Being a 1st generation device I expected some hiccups but there were more than I could tolerate.  Another issue was the inability to see the screen clearly.  The vision issue was totally on me and has since been corrected with a different type of contact lenses.

The 2018 version of the experiment is already leaps and bounds ahead of where it was 2-years ago.  The Series 3 Apple Watch is so much faster than before.  A lot of the processing is taking place on the watch vs the phone as in the earlier models.  Battery life is more than double of what is was before too.  I’m getting almost 2-days worth of use between charges which is twice as much as I was getting with the first generation unit.

Apple offers the Series 3 watch in 2 sizes (38mm & 42mm) and 2 configurations (GPS and GPS+LTE).  The LTE version acts like a stand alone phone, costs an additional $50, and requires a cellular plan.  I opted for the GPS only version since I didn’t see the need for the cellular option.

I’ve completely changed my mind about the usefulness of the device and find it extremely useful for day-to-day tasks. From answering quick text messages to checking calendar appointments to controlling the AppleTV this thing is extremely capable.

If you’ve thought about purchasing an Apple Watch it’s really worth looking into the latest version.  I really wish I hadn’t waited so long!

Review – Baileys Almande

It’s tough being a self-described foodie and suffer from lactose intolerance.  In my case it’s pretty easy to manage the symptoms with over the counter supplements as long as you remember to take them early in the dining process.  It’s not a fun experience to digest dairy and realize you don’t have a Lactaid available to counter the future “effects” of your poor decisions.  Milk products are in a lot of things you might not expect so it’s important to be prepared.

As someone who loves Baileys Irish Cream over ice, especially in the winter time, I was excited to learn they made a dairy free version.  Evidently what’s available now is the 2.0 version.  Version 1.0 was released in 2016, labeled as Vegan, and contained Bees Wax (a big no-no in the vegan community).  Hands were wrung, Birkenstocks were kicked off, and the Paddington Bottling Company (maker of Baileys) was taken out back and scorned for their misgivings.

The 2017 2.0 release is now “certified” vegan and gluten free to boot!  I’m not really interested in either claim but the dairy-free aspect piqued my interest so I bought a bottle to try out.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, Baileys Almande is pretty nasty.  From the appearance, to the smell, to the taste, it’s NOT a substitute for the real thing.  I’m not sure what they were going for with this product but I think they need to go back to the drawing board.

I’m going to fix a small glass over ice right now, just for you, and try to explain what it’s like:

Appearance – Baileys Almande is very watery, similar to plain almond milk.  Maybe that’s what the beeswax helped improve?  It’s almost thinner than water!

Smell – Slight almond smell that’s not entirely pleasant or natural.

Taste – The first sip is the worst.  You’re expecting that warm and creamy mouth feel that comes with regular Baileys.  You don’t get any of that here.  It’s like a clammy limp-wristed weak handshake from a mortician at a funeral.  Yeah I’m sorry for my loss of $20 too.

Aftertaste – OK it seriously gets worse after you swallow.  You’ll experience a bitter taste followed by what I can only explain as chalky and slimy.  It lingers way longer than you want or expect.  Another sip only amplifies the first experience and the aftertaste builds upon itself.

I’d love to know how many people make a subsequent purchase after their first experience.  I know I’m staying far far away from this stuff and I’ll take my chances with the original.

Have you tried Baileys Almande?  What was your experience?

 

Best Of – Downtown Indianapolis Lunch

Good morning!  I’m starting a series this year called “Best of”.  This will be a Top-10 sort of list based on a random subject of my choosing.  I’m open to suggestions or requests so if there’s something you want me to cover feel free to post a comment below.

This time I’m going to focus on the weekday lunch in Downtown Indianapolis.  None of these are fancy but they’ve proven to be consistently good and are locked into the rotation of places I go on a regular basis (with the exception of one that just got added).  These are in no particular order and it’s certainly not a complete list.

Shapiro’s Deli

Often called an Indianapolis Institution this cafeteria style establishment turns out some of the best pastrami sandwiches around.  Their house made rye bread is a great complement to the tender and smoky meat piled high inside.  Prices are on the higher end of the spectrum and the staff can be a little abrasive, especially during the lunch rush.  This is a place that’s nice to visit once in a while for a filling meal and a little people watching while you eat.

Cluster Truck

This Indianapolis Startup is turning the food delivery business on its head by offering a large selection of favorites from many area restaurants delivered to your door quickly and efficiently.  All of the food is made to order in their central kitchen and delivered only within a 6-minute radius to help ensure your food is hot and fresh when you get it.  My only complaint, and it’s not just Cluster Truck, is the bicycle delivery riders are some of the most unsafe riders I’ve ever seen.  Running red lights, riding against traffic on one-way streets, and constant close calls with pedestrians in crosswalks.   It gives recreational cyclists a bad name with motorists and make it’s unsafe for everyone.

Hoagies and Hops

Only about a year old this place is located inside the Flat 12 brewery on Dorman Street (near east side).   They specialize in “Authentic Pennsylvania Hoagies”.  I’ve had many Cheesesteak Hoagies here and they’re legit.  From the house made shaved Top Round to the bread shipped straight from PA this place makes a mean sandwich.  It’s been known to cause me to want to take an afternoon nap on occasion.

Ralph’s Great Divide

Ralph’s, like a lot of hole in the wall places, is a little rough on the outside and you’re not going to know what to expect on your first visit.  The building has no windows and the parking is a little tricky because of the one-way street the building is saddled up against.  They have an outstanding version of creamy potato soup, a hamburger club sandwich,  and one of the best slices of coconut cream pie you can get in the city.  Service is always fast and friendly and it’s reasonably priced.

Sahm’s

The first Sahm’s restaurant opened  at 116th and Allisonville in 1986 and they have continued to grow over the past 30+ years.  I’ll always remember them for the pasta salad and coffee cake of which only the coffee cake is still on the menu.  They have several locations around central Indiana as well as a few spinoff locations called Rockstone and Big Lug a pizza and brewery respectively.  The Sahm’s location downtown, just north of the One America parking garage, includes a Rockstone menu and does a great lunch business.

Pearl Street Pizza

If someone didn’t tell you about Pearl Street Pizza you’d probably miss it as it’s in an alley, aptly named Pearl Street, that’s just south of Washington between Meridian and Pennsylvania.  Their lunch special of a speciality pizza slice, salad and drink is one of my go to lunches when the weather is nice for a little walk from the circle.   You can be in and out for under $8 in about 15 minutes if you’re pressed for time.  As I’m writing this post I learned Pearl Street will be opening a Fishers location in the coming months.  I hope they have the same lunch specials as they do downtown!

Subito

Truth be told I’ve only been to Subito once but it was a very good experience.  It’s a SMALL place with a loyal following.  On my visit the owner, Chuck, was taking each order and knew a lot of the customers by name.  He was super helpful and you could tell he was putting a LOT of effort to make it not only a good experience but a memorable one.  They have a rotating soup selection that I hear is really good.  On my visit I had a Cuban sandwich with a side of Macaroni Salad.  Both were outstanding.  Unfortunately the weather turned cold and I have not ventured down to Virginia Street since.  Another visit needs to happen soon because I’m craving that macaroni salad.

Wildwood

I’ve reviewed Wildwood before and it remains one of my top lunch spots downtown.  If I could figure out how to open one of these in Fishers I would.  They feature a different sandwich daily and I’m not aware of them EVER repeating a combination in the 2+ years I’ve gone there.  This is a place I have to hop in the car to get to at lunch but it’s worth it for the food, not to mention the cool little market with a great variety of speciality items.  I’ve made my share of impulse purchases to take back to the office.  View their daily sandwich creations on Instagram.

Fast Burrito

When I’m craving a Mission Style Burrito or the cheesiest Chicken Quesadilla you could ever imagine I hit the first floor of the Salesforce Tower and pop into Fast Burrito.  The food is fresh, the portions are huge, and the prices are reasonable.  This is a true alternative to the other fast casual burrito chains.  Their daily specials draw a steady crowd every day.

Pot Belly

This chain of sandwich shops has a premier location on the east side of Monument Circle.  It’s a very popular place at lunch time often with a line 20+ deep to the front door.  They have a decent selection of customizable sandwiches and salads at a mid-level price.  A bonus for the location is plenty of outside seating around the Solders and Sailors Monument, especially when the weather is cooperating.

Honorable Mention – Jimmy John’s

I’m not a fan of big chains but when I need something to eat and I need it quickly It’s hard to go wrong with an occasional sandwich from JJ’s.  The downtown location can typically deliver a sandwich in less time than it would take for me to walk to the location 3-blocks away.  Like I mentioned above regarding Cluster Truck JJ’s delivery cyclists can be reckless and downright dangerous at times so heads up if you’re near Meridian and Washington.

So that’s the first of what I hope to be many “Best Of” lists to be published this year.  It was actually kind of hard to narrow the list down to what I did as there are a LOT of great places to eat lunch downtown.  I already have a few drafts I’m working on that cover such things as Coffee Shops, Pizza Shops, and Grocery Stores.  Look for those in the coming months.  Enjoy your week!

Apple AirPods – One Month Later

It’s been a little over month since the AirPod First Impressions post (and a month since I’ve updated the Blog, wow!) and the AirPods have earned a place in my Every Day Carry kit.

I was a little concerned about the battery life at first but it’s turned out to be a non-issue.  I’m only charging the case about once a week and rarely have the actual AirPods in my ears for more than an hour at any one time.

For some reason the AirPods seem to feel ever so lightly larger in my ears than the wired EarBuds but without ay kind of precision measuring tools I can’t confirm that’s the case.  Once thing I did start to notice is the seams where the halves come together had an ever so small sharp edge to them that I could start to feel after about 30-minutes of use.  I was able to smooth the ridge out with a very fine sponge backed emery board and now it’s not an issue at all.

As far as sound goes they sound better than the EarPods with just a little more bass that’s noticeable with most types of music.  Microphone pickup is very sensitive and I was told during one of my tests the other party could hear me breathing.  Sound quality on both ends is more than acceptable and is similar to what you would find when using the phone.

I have an iPhone 7 Plus and occasionally find it hard to line the phone up with my ear to get good sound.  That’s where the AirPods become my favorite method for making and receiving calls.

Evidently the AirPods are sill in short supply and as of this writing Apple is still showing a 6-week lead time on shipping.  I have yet to see another person wearing a pair of AirPods which I find surprising.

If you want to spend the $150 on a set of truly wireless headphones and you’re willing to wait a few weeks I still think these are a good purchase.

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