Thursday, 28 January 2016

Gear Review: KEEN Alamosa WP Hiking Boots

I'm really impressed with KEEN's waterproof Alamosa hiking boot.  You can watch my short video review here and/or read the text below:

This is a review of the KEEN Alamosa hiking boot that you see right here in front of you.  I've owned this boot for about 6 months now.  I've done a number of mid-length hikes in them: Grand Canyon (down and up) Mount Baldy in the San Antonio range in California, and some shorter ones in cooler weather up in Ontario and the Canadian Shield, which is where I live.

The construction of this boot is all very soft, very pliable leather.  Very lightweight.  I want to emphasize that... it's a lightweight hiking boot.  It's probably not going to give you the support of a full, heavier hiking boot.  But for what you're getting it's amazing.  Amazing support for this lightweight hiking boot.

Together they weigh less than 1 kg.  About 990 g, that's about 2.2 or 2.3 lbs for he pair, together.  So, nice and lightweight.

Being a KEEN, it's got the nice toe-stop here, and a very generous toebox, which is what I like.  This is a size 11, which is a European 44.5.  It fits me perfectly, my first pair of KEEN's actually but probably not my last.  Lots of room in the toebox which is what I like and then you can cinch up the ankle with the lacing.

One lace, lots of little pulls that are adjustable.  So if you see here, this will give if you want.  It's connected down here and around the back and it comes out again on the other side. So you can alce it up and get a really snug feeling all the way around your heel and that's really handy when you're going downhill, or encountering some difficult terrain, or carrying a heavy backpack.

IT's got the quick lace-up here, all plastic, no metal on this boot.  Nice plastic quick lace.  They've got a really nice eye in there so the lace grabs right in there and holds it really well, really tight.

It's a waterproof boot, and I can attest to that.  I've hiked through water that's probably up to about here.  At least ankle-deep water, and my feet have remained largely dry.  Maybe a little bit, you know, where it's crept in around the tongue, a little bit wet there.  But that's just a function of the water going too high.  It's got the KEENDry system.  What you can see is that it's brown up here and inside it gets a little silver lining.  The lining goes all the way around and that's what they call the KeenDry lining.  I'm not sure if it's a GoreTex or something like that but basically from this point all the way around it's covering down, so you stay nice and dry in there.

Good ventilation.  All of this is mesh, so very pliable, very breathable in the hot weather.  It was about maybe 30 C in the Grand Canyon and my feet didn't sweat too much.  And then the hikes I've done around here I've gone down to about 10 C below 0, in the snow and they've been nice and toasty, as long as I'm moving.  Great hiking boot as far as I'm concerned.

On the bottom, not amazing traction but you've got at least 4-5 mm in the tread depth.  I don't know how they come up with these patterns but it feels pretty good.  It's a little slippery on ice or frozen rock as you would expect.  But if you have any kind of dirt or wood on a hiking trail it feels really nice, really good.

Maybe I'll just show you here, you can see on the left foot there's a little fold on the leather, a compression.  No one's two feet are the same, so when you cinch it up you can really, you just gotta pull on the top and the whole thing, even down here ill really nicely cinch up.  You can bring the soft leather in and it really feels like it conforms around your foot.  Your heel really stays back here very nicely.

So, I don't know if they sell them any more actually.  I was looking online, I got these at Atmosphere, which is a Sport Expert knockoff.  But they're also on OutdoorGear, Amazon, etc. but I can't seem to find any recently.  So I'm not sure if they stopped manufacturing them.

But if you want a lightweight hiking boot that gives amazing waterproof and amazing support, this KEEN Alamosa is the one.

Thanks for watching, Subscribe if you liked the video and we'll see you soon with more gear reviews and how-to's!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Why I'm Not Applying for the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card

When Tangerine bank launched it's new Money-Back Credit Card earlier this fall the blogosphere was abuzz as everyone drooled over how much cashback they would make with a zero-fee credit card!   And it's true, at first glance the concept seems like a no-brainer.... plenty of cashback categories, free additional cards, and no fees.  I even signed up for the sneak preview and got my approval email yesterday.

But I'm not applying for Tangerine's new card.   Instead I will stick with my Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite that made its way into my wallet a year and a half ago.  Why?  Because the Scotia Visa gives me more cashback!

The Comparison

Assuming you want a credit card that will maximize your cashback (and I hope you do), you need to consider a few items:

  1. The total value of your annual credit card purchases
  2. How many people will use the account
  3. What types of purchases you charge to your credit card (which stores/merchants/etc.)
  4. How and when you want to receive your cashback
  5. What other benefits are important

Total Purchases and Users (items 1-2)

My wife and I both use the same card (on the same account), and charge a combined dollar value of just over $30,000 per year.  Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite splits that up into 3 categories:
  • Gas/Groceries  (4% cashback)
  • Recurring Payments/Drugstore  (2% cashback)
  • Everything Else  (1% cashback)
By contrast, Tangerine's new Money Back Mastercard has 10 spending categories, and allows you to pick 3 of them for 2% cashback.  Spending in any of the remaining 7 categories yields only 1% cashback:
  • Grocery
  • Eating Places
  • Gas
  • Drugstore
  • Entertainment
  • Furniture
  • Hotel/motel
  • Recurring Payments
  • Home Improvement
  • Public Transportation and Parking

Types of Purchases

The key to this whole process is understanding your spending patterns.  A financial budgeting and analysis tool like really helps with this process (although I ended up sorting a lot of the raw data in a spreadsheet).  Our family's top 3 credit card spending categories are Recurring Bills (about 15%), Groceries (11%) and Gas (10%).  Eating Places is a close 4th at around 10%.  So obviously I would select those 3 categories as my 2% cashback options, electing to receive only 1% for remaining categories.   If you're paying attention you may have noticed that all those 3 categories fall in the Scotia Visa 4% or 2% cashback.  So instantly we see that I'm losing 2% in the Groceries and Gas bucket.  

The million-dollar question: is 2% enough to cover the fees associated with Scotia's Visa? Turns out in my case, it is.   I ran all the numbers in all 10 categories and my net cash back (that is, total cashback minus any fees associated with the credit card) was within $3 of each other, in Scotia Visa's favour!

Note Your numbers could be completely different, which is why you must run them and understand your spending habits to make an informed decision.  If your largest spending is in Hotels and Home Improvement, you would likely get better benefit from Tangerine's Mastercard.

The Rest of the Story (items 4-5)

Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite credits your cashback amount to your credit card statement each year in November no matter when you signed up (my Rewards Visa, on the other hand, automatically provides a statement credit each time your cashback amounts to $20).  Scotia charges me $99 for the first card, and an additional $30 for a secondary card.  My total annual fees are $129, which were factored into the comparison earlier.  These fees are charged to the credit card every January.

I looked on the Tangerine site but didn't see the method or frequency of Tangerine's cashback procedure.  It is important to note that, for this card to make sense, you should deposit your cashback in aTangerine Savings account (if you elect not to do this, the amount of 2% cashback categories allowed drops from 3 to 2).  

Both cards provide some standard Purchase Assurance and Extended Warranty, but Scotia's Visa gives me a number of insurance products, including: Travel Medical Insurance, Trip Interruption Insurance, Flight Delay, Lost Baggage, Travel Accident Insurance, and Collision/Loss Damage Insurance for rental cars!  The Scotia Visa has a high (but standard) foreign currency exchange rate of 2.5%... Tangerine's Mastercard is only 1.5%.  This category isn't important to me as I use the Rewards Visa for all foreign currency transactions (it doesn't charge any exchange fee!).

The Winner

The winner for me is clearly the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card.  It gives me the most net cashback (though only by a little), and it provides the highest cashback return on spending categories I know I will always have: Gas/Groceries, and Recurring Bills.  It also gives me a number of insurance benefits that I use regularly when travelling.  
That said, even though I won't be using Tangerine's Money Back Mastercard, it might be the right fit for you.  If you spend substantially less on a credit card in any given year, or if your spending categories are not mostly Gas, Groceries,and Recurring Bills, the Tangerine Mastercard may be a better overall choice.  Running the numbers is really the only way to tell!

Monday, 20 July 2015

How To fix cracked motorcycle fairings: Honda CBR125

Here's a quick video on how to repair the left side fairings of a Honda CBR 125.  This bike took a spill when my wife went over the handlebars on a corner (saving a busfull of nuns careening toward a group of bunnies).  The left fairing took some damage and broke a couple pieces that keep it secured to the frame.

In this video I go through a quick and dirty fix with plastic cement:

Saturday, 27 June 2015

SNES Emulator on Elementary OS Linux

Getting SNES emulation to work on your linux machine is super easy.  I'm running elementary OS Freya on an Acer C720 chromebook.

The two main contenders for SNES emulation are SNES9x and ZSNES.  Between the two options, you want ZSNES.  SNEX9x is ok and much easier to use, but ZSNES offers more customisation and works better on my linux machine.

The best part is that it's already included in the repos: 

sudo apt-cache search zsnes
sudo apt-get install zsnes

I had to also install jstest-gtk in order to get my iBuffalo SNES retro usb gamepads to work.  Once installed, they worked like a charm and only required button configuration in ZSNES.  

sudo apt-get install jstest-gtk

Now head on over to DopeROMs and grab some of the classics.

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