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Sep 14

So I decided to take a vacation to Portland, OR. It would have required a night of overnight stay so I started looking for good hotels online. Since we were 4 people I wasn’t able to use a lot of websites. Sites like Hoteltonight.com don’t even have an option to configure the number of people in a room. Not wanting to argue with check-in staff later, I started to use Hotwire to book my hotel, I would like to point out that at this point Priceline was unable to find me a hotel for my price and Hotwire was in fact showing me such a hotel. Pricewire is also a much more shitty interface. Maybe all the money they pay Kaley Cuoco and William Shatner came from product development. For those uninitiated with Hotwire, here is how it works, you tell Hotwire your hotel location and check-in and checkout dates and Hotwire will show you hotels available with amenities and ratings from their customers. The actual hotel names and locations are only revealed post booking. Kind of like Name your price tool of Priceline except you don’t have to keep guessing a price.

Day 1

Anyway, so day 1, I search for hotels in Portland, OR. I got a nice 3 star hotel for $100. Remember the stars here are their own ratings and 3 star doesn’t really mean anything. It turned out to be Extended Stay America in Hillsboro, OR. The location was pretty premium and I was happy. We drive down to Crater Lake in the morning, calling at 11am to confirm our booking at Extended Stay. We checked in at 8pm and lo and behold, crap unfolds. I am told there are only smoking rooms available and there is ‘no wiggle room’ to fix it. Wait, didn’t I just pay you in advance and book my room. The hotel was sparsely staffed. At 9pm, I really was in no mood to fight with customer service and find another room. I did leave poor feedback after the stay to Hotwire, no followup from the company. Boo ! Also, the taxes and fee is a little shady at Hotwire :

This is what they claim :

The taxes are tax recovery charges Hotwire pays to its vendors (e.g. hotels); for details, please see our Terms of Use. We retain our service fees as compensation in servicing your travel reservation.


hotwire - extended stay america portland hillsboro


Day 2

Unhappy with our demotion to a smoking room and no remorse, I didn’t want to extend my stay at ironically named Extended Stay America. I was able to get a better deal near the Portland Airport area, less prime area, no breakfast but $20 cheaper. It turned out to be a Holiday Inn. The hotel was much nicer and cleaner. No free breakfast though. Again see the disproportionate tax and fee added.


hotwire - holiday inn portland airport



Overall I think I did save some money thanks to Hotwire, however be careful about these loopholes like no smoking rooms. I also read online about some people landing at their hotels only to be told the hotel was overbooked and then hotwire making them do the turnaround. I would advise to use Amex cards in that case. Amex has very consumer friendly policies, I would just take it in written that the hotel room was not available, book another room and chargeback Hotwire and sure them. Even though they may have terms against this and USA’s most stupid arbitration laws are applicable here.


Would I use hotwire again, probably only if I save a lot, but I would be very aggressive about pushing and flexing my rights. So if you do book through them, call and confirm your booking even though hotwire tells you not to. You do end up saving some money. For some people $15 you save maybe an expense they are prepared to give for peace of mind.

Sep 13

clearance sale

Sep 09

Dear Quest Nutrition,


A few months ago, I got introduced to Quest bars. After Googling and Binging the hell out of how healthy Quest Bars are and are Quest bars really healthy, do they have high quality protein and do they taste good, I was convinced and bought my first case of Quest bars. I have not looked back since. I love the chocolate cookie dough, chocolate mint and double chocolate bars. The 20-21g of protein is great and I loved the taste of most bars. However today thanks to Facebook and ironically Quest’s own facebook account I was informed of a formula change and that the company was defending the switch to corn fiber. I have a stash of around 100 bars however I will not purchase more if the switch to corn fiber continues.


I personally don’t care about the research you have linked to, ever since I came to the US, I am bombarded with cheap corn junk, HFCS and cornstarch being the primary crap in most food. I cannot fathom why you would try to fix something which is not broken. Please don’t switch to the crap corn and let us keep our Quest bars.




An Avid Quest Bar consumer

Sep 08

So the folks at Braun were kind enough to send us a unit for review. We have earlier reviewed Schick and Gillette on this site, so Braun electric shaver was the next progression. Disclosure here : I am not a big electric shaver person. I have a cheapo Panasonic electric shaver, cost me around $50 in an amazon deal , which quite frankly is a piece of junk. The lazy bones I am, I let my beard grow and grow and then curse the pinch of electric shavers when they have to tackle my super long beards and also I hate the cleaning up after the shavers. Its been gathering dust for quite some time.

When the Braun Shaver arrived at home, I was a bit blown away. It’s a very fancy device. It comes with a charging base and the shaver itself is very heavy and has a premium feel. There is also a cleaning brush and the base comes with an alcohol based solution to clean the razor.  I don’t know the exact retail price of this unit, but can guess its in the $200s. From the package you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Now I can bore you with the details which mean nothing to you, or we can actually get into the performance of the device instead.

So here was my challenge, a 3 day old beard.



I had to first use the trimmer to shorten the beard a bit and then use the razor to get a complete smooth shave. Some areas I did need to go over a few times for a closer shave, that’s a folly of most electric shavers. However overall the shave was so much closer and more comfortable than what I am used to. I tried it both with foam and without foam, personally it works a lot better with foam and on a wet face. Over the dry face it just kept going over my face without cutting any hair and was quite annoying. I would use it in the shower more than outside it.

After :


Verdict : If you are in the market for a premium electric shaver, this is one of the foremost options that should come to your mind. The shave was smooth and the razor was very easy to clean using the base cleaner. Its as easy as putting the razor inside the base and pressing a button.

Pros :

Comfortable shave and close shave. The blades and the technology seem pretty advanced.

Comes with self cleaning base.

Premium feel and showoff worthy gadget.

Cons :

Bulky to carry around.

Not as effective on a dry face.

Must purchase cleaning solution after the cartridge is done.

Aug 30

Ok so I got tempted to try out the new Amazon Prime now app, they were giving a 20 off 50 discount in Seattle and I was running out of some groceries so a 40% discount sounded good.

I downloaded the app and quickly realised that prime membership is needed to ake advantage of the app. No problems, switching to my prime account I chose $50 worth of groceries. Never mind that most groceries on Amazon are overpriced and you are better off paying for gas and going to Safeway and Fred Meyer to get them. It was I think around 9-10pm at night and as I checked out I noticed something strange. Amazon wanted me to tip $5 to the delivery person. By that logic I should be tipping the postman, the UPS man and the Fedex guy. What it means is that Amazon’s delivery persons make money off tips in WA state atleast. Amazon, I am not going to pay for your undercutting your employees.

I changed the tip to zero dollars (sorry, I know, but quite frankly I will not tip someone to deliver from an online store, the tipping in this country is anyway out of hand). For a 2 hour delivery Amazon wanted 7.88 dollars I think and delivery next morning was free. Amazon gave me a 2 hour delivery window and since it had perishables someone had to be there to take the delivery. The stuff was packaged in brown bags and the one with eggs was marked as fragile. Overall most groceries on amazon are more expensive than offline and the ridiculous shipping and tipping charges make this service a no-go for me, I live within a mile or 2 from QFC, Target, Safeway and Fred Meyer, I don’t need to pay extra for fast delivery and even more for tipping. I only envisage using this in an emergency.

Below you can see the unboxing of my Amazon Prime Now order, just don’t judge me Smile with tongue out . Apologies for the vertical video.

Disclaimer: The author owns stock of amazon and works in a company which is a direct competitor of Amazon in the enterprise cloud space in IT (not in Retail).

Aug 28

So I finally entered the digital age or so it seems. I had been eyeing the Roomba for a while now, but the exhorbitant prices ensured I never got around to getting one. Then one day as I was browsing on slickdeals I saw my calling, a Neato for less than 200 bucks. It was a deal I just could not say no to. I researched a bit and bit the bullet and ordered the Neato. And I can say life has been a lot easier since then. No more vacuuming every weekend, no more spending the prime years of your life doing the boring things in life instead of enjoying life.

This Neato device is essentially an autonomous programmable robot. It has a brush underneath and 2 large plastic wheels with great ground clearance. You can progrem the robot to clean at certain times everyday, you can also start ad-hoc cleaning or ask the robot to spot clean which means it would clean a small area. The scheduled cleans and ad hoc cleaning works great. The spot clean is a hit and a miss and might be one of the occasions where getting the old standup vacuum cleaner may make more sense. I also use the standup vacuum cleaner to clean Neato’s air filters and the nooks and crannies on the robot.

When you first turn on Neato, it moves slightly ahead and surveys the room. I believe its actually deciding which side to start on and then it moves, first it covers the corners and then it moves onto the inner room. Much less erratic than Roomba videos you may have seen on the Internet. My Neato lacks a corner brush and that’s its biggest flaw, although it tries to get the edges and corners hugging the wall, its not enough. Quite often dust and debris near the corners is not picked up by the Neato. You do need another vacuum or atleast a broom for the corners.

Also cleaning Neato is also a bit hard, the design has a flaw wherein gears on the brush get a lot of hair and debris and are hard to clean. the brush itself is hard to clean and so is the filter and the dustbox.

The Neato has a decent battery, a lot of the stock at retailers is old so you may need new batteries for your Neato as soon as you purchase it. For me it would barely cover half of my house so I contacted the company for batteries which they sent. In the video below I show you how to replace those batteries.

Now for the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

  • Good cleaning power
  • Good coverage of the house and obstacle detection and avoidance
  • Easy to use

The Bad:

  • Lacklustre battery life
  • Poor corner cleaning

The Ugly:

Nothing really, overall it’s a pretty decent machine

We would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.