Recently, I purchased a Bialetti moka pot and was somewhat disappointed. However, I was pretty determined to have a nice Bialetti moka pot, so I ordered another one – a 9-cup size. I really wanted to see if I was unlucky with the first one and hoping the second one would not have any blemishes, and the pressure release valve would not be too close to the handle.
Well, I received the second pot:
Okay, so the bottom piece is very nicely done, and the top piece doesn’t have any blemishes this time around. Now the safety release valve is about 90 degrees away from the handle once you close the pot tightly. I guess it would be good to have the valve at 180 degrees away, but it doesn’t look like Bialetti is measuring or trying to keep the valve at any particular location.
My impression of Bialetti didn’t improve much based on two samples. I figured the Bialetti moka pot could use some quality improvements! Objectively, the pot does not worth the money, and Bialetti sells based on marketing and legacy, meaning you are largely paying for marketing and not Italian-made quality.
My advice: if you just want a moka pot, don’t waste your money. Buy some other brand at a competitive price. If you are like me, who wants some part of the legacy, buy Bialetti in-person so you can inspect the pot before you purchase it, or purchase online but make sure you can actually return the item if you get a crappy one.
I recently discovered the Moka pot and liked it so much that I decided to purchase a real Italian-made Bialetti Moka pot. After a couple of hours of research, I discovered that Bialetti only makes two Moka pots in Italy, the 6 and 9 cup ones. No problem, I wanted the 9 cup pot to share coffee with friends and family. I purchased the pot off Amazon and received it after several days.
I was very happy to see that the Bialetti Moka pot was indeed made in Italy, as I had paid a premium of $67 Canadian. The bottom part of the pot is very nicely casted and machined, and I’m very happy with it. However, that’s where the good news ends. The top part of the pot is less than ideal, with some blemishes, and the safety valve is located uncomfortably close to the handle. In case of an issue when the safety valve opens to release hot steam, I’ll have to grab it by the handle and hope the steam will not burn my hand, which is not ideal at all.
Now, I could buy a Moka pot for $20 at any mall, but I wanted to get the original premium pot from Italy and got a somewhat dubious product. Honestly, it’s a bit disappointing. I mean, Bialetti has been making Moka pots for decades. Is it so much to ask to have a quality product at par with the premium price?
Between Covid and other complications, it’s been nearly five years since we ventured out. Yet again, we went to a resort, mostly because my wife had a deep desire to see the blue, blue ocean with a beautiful sandy beach and lack of other options at the time.
Despite overall satisfaction with Principe Bahia in the Dominican Republic, we went to Catalonia in Playa Maroma, Mexico. Now, I know, Mexico gets a certain reputation – cartels, drugs, shootings, poverty and such, but I believe the news paints a much worse picture than what the average vacationer will encounter. In reality, I think Mexico might be a bit safer than the Dominican Republic, but I’ll touch on it later.
One big perk of Mexico is its proximity to the USA, and that translates into a relatively short fly time of less than 4 hours from Detroit to Cancun. Considering you have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the flight, you might actually spend more time wandering around the airport than flying. In case you are flying out early in the morning, pack some food with you so you can have breakfast, since all restaurants/coffee shops at Detroit airport open up around 6 – 6:30.
Cancun airport is smaller than Detroit one but a lot more charming (IMHO). One curious layout difference is that every arrival and departure you get to walk through a Duty-Free store. I find the Duty-Free a lovely feature because I get to buy a few things that are hard or impossible to get at the resort and/or would cost you an arm and a leg. For example: it is impossible to find 18-year-old Flor de Cana rum at the resort, the best they can do is 5-7 years old. I’ll touch on the shopping a bit more later.
Now, the shuttle service to Playa Maroma was underwhelming at best and confusing at worst. No one met us; we just kinda stumbled outside and started looking for any sign of anyone who is looking for us. Ah, a very silly idea, since everyone is looking for you in Mexico: taxi, limo, bus and whatever other services. After a few minutes of the bedlam, we stopped a person that seemed to be familiar with the situation and asked for an Expedia shuttle. We got redirected to Expedia reps who were quietly standing to a side. After that, we got to stand around, waiting for more travelers, then we got to stand some more at a parking lot, waiting for a mini-van, then we got to sit in bad Cancun traffic (mostly due to construction) and as fate would have it, we got pulled over by the national guard and waited some more. I have to mention separately that the shuttle back was prearranged, but for whatever reason, I had to call some phone number and make sure we got a ride back to the airport. Overall shuttle experience was somewhat ok, but in the Dominican Republic, we got much, much better service.
There are all sorts of resorts: big, small, adults-only, kid-friendly, and so on. At the end of the day, picking a resort comes down to your preferences and priorities. Our priorities were the beach, food, and kid-friendliness. My wife picked Catalonia in Playa Maroma because of these priorities, and we were not disappointed. Playa Maroma is a small resort that feels right down my alley. There is one jungle path that takes you all the way from the lobby to the pool plaza, past rooms, shops, along some restaurants, and other facilities. The size of the resort allows you to walk everywhere, and that is just lovely, as I really hated taking tiny shuttles at Principe Bahia resort in the Dominican Republic. There are also small shops, a coffee shop, mini food trucks, and of course, a bar by the beach and in the pool.
Another notable difference, in comparison with Principe Bahia, is that you don’t have to go to the bar. There is actual staff walking around who will take care of you, which is very nice and at times super convenient. Moreover, the bars seem to be sized and staffed properly, so there is rarely a big lineup or long wait. As far as the bar is concerned, Catalonia has it nailed.
One feature that stood out to me is internet availability. It looks like every resort likes to advertise “free internet” but asks for extra if you want internet in your room or anywhere else outside of the lobby. But Catalonia actually provides internet connection everywhere within the confines of the resort, and I mean everywhere – even at the beach, you are literally standing in the water and have internet connection. Now, one caveat with network coverage is the lobby bathroom. Wi-Fi connectivity there is so poor that it is basically non-existent. It’s somewhat puzzling considering that two meters away, you have perfectly fine connection; it must be something within the bathroom walls.
One nice touch is the coffee shop at the resort. I would love to compare it to Starbucks, but I actually don’t go to Starbucks much, so I can’t compare. In any case, the coffee shop is very cozy, cute, and serves decent coffee. It has a large enough menu of drinks and sweets, but be ready to have a local Mexican twist to all the offerings. My wife took a liking to the coffee shop, and we were regulars right before it closes at 18:00.
Now, what about the food? First, let me make a short disclosure: I’m not picky with food, and I would probably be a poor critic. However, I have to admit, Mexican resorts seem to have better food, especially when it comes to restaurants. Moreover, you can have dinner at a restaurant every single night (in comparison to Principe Bahia). Unfortunately, during our stay, we managed to get minor food poisoning – no fever or downtime, but diarrhea didn’t spare any of us. I don’t know what food caused the issue, but it did, and it’s important to mention it. After visiting the nearby city of Playa del Carmen, I can definitely say one thing: don’t go to any resort for any special food experience, just pick a resort with decent food.
One definite win for Playa Maroma is the lack of drug dealers. It sounds strange, considering that the country has issues with cartels and drugs, but there are no drug dealers on the premises of the resort! One of the most repulsive things I found at Principe Bahia in the Dominican Republic was the fact that multiple resort employees were actively selling drugs. Moreover, there were many sketchy people with backpacks roaming the beach and offering all sorts of drugs. In Playa Maroma, I never met any employee that was offering drugs or any sketchy people with backpacks. So, are there no drugs? Well, no, there are drugs, but they are offered very discreetly and professionally. There is only one guy, with a backpack, sitting at the property line of the resort and offering anything you want. He is not hiding, but he is also not harassing anyone. As far as my experience goes, the Mexican beach feels pretty safe and welcoming for sunset walks.
The last thing that comes to my mind on the subject of the resort is irritations, and yes, there are a couple. The first is the lack of paper napkins! Anywhere you go, you have to look or ask for them. If you are looking for napkins yourself, most of the time you will not find any. It’s like having a localized paper napkin shortage, some artificial scarcity. I have been outside of the resort, and there are plenty of napkins available outside, so what’s the problem with paper napkins in the resort? Note: there is no shortage of toilet paper! I don’t get it, and hopefully, someone will figure out the mystery. The second irritation is tea spoons – they are always supplied reluctantly and in fewer numbers than required. For example, if you get three cakes for three people, you are provided with either one or, if you’re lucky, two spoons – perhaps they are encouraging sharing and community spirit. Another minor irritation is the lack of straws. My kid likes straws, and with a huge menu of drinks available for kids, there isn’t a single straw. I guess they are saving the planet.
Let me get a few things out of the way: the resort overcharges 2-3 times on some items and services. If possible, bring stuff with you as purchasing options are severely limited at the resort. I have to admit that our resort had better quality items and better prices in comparison to some tourist places outside of the resort. For example, we went to Tulum as part of a tour and were dropped off at a shopping plaza. Most of the items sold at the plaza were of poor quality and expensive. Be wary of touristy shops as they always start with horribly overpriced offerings, such as tequila for $200 per bottle.
If you are planning to venture outside by yourself, read about local transportation, prices, options, and negotiate upfront. The resort will overcharge you. For example, a taxi from Playa Maroma to Playa del Carmen costs anywhere between M$500-600. However, if you negotiate with a taxi yourself, you can get a ride for M$200. It took us two attempts to find a taxi willing to drive us back to the resort for M$200 – it doesn’t take long.
Now, if you want to get good prices on some local produce, you should definitely go to a local supermarket or Walmart. You can get well-known, good brand tequila such as Patron for around $40 and 18-year-old Flor de Cana for $47. Essentially, go to places where locals shop, and you’ll find fair prices. Now, just for comparison, the same Flor de Cana costs $60 at Duty-Free… Why the local store has it cheaper, I don’t know, but you can’t beat the convenience of Duty-Free.
I know I’m sticking restaurant experience into shopping, but hey, it happened during a shopping trip so… On the way to Playa del Carmen, the taxi driver recommended us to visit “El Pirata” restaurant for a seafood experience. When we got to the place, it didn’t look like much: tables, walls, pictures, waiters in bandanas, your normal Mexican restaurant oriented towards locals rather than American tourists. The first good sign was the daily special consisting of freshly caught sea produce. We decided to pick food out of the regular menu (I wish I had tried the special), and what we got was spectacular. The seafood salad was just excellent, the guacamole was awesome, and the deep-fried shrimp was so juicy… I believe it was one of the best seafood experiences that I ever had. The food was unbelievably fresh, tasty, and very reasonably priced. If I ever come back to the city, I’ll without a doubt visit El Pirata again!
The trip was quite fun, kid grew up over last few years and priorities changed once again. No longer she has interest in slides or mini golf but now she wants to swim, dive and play in a pool. In that regard the resort was complete success since all day everyday (unless going on a tour or shopping) we spent at the pool. I don’t know if I would come back to the Catalonia resort in Playa Maroma, don’t get me wrong it is a very nice resort, but I’m just not sure I would like to spend time there again. Here is a deal, after visiting Playa del Carmen, it feels like it might be more fun to rent apartment or hotel room in the city and enjoy some of local restaurants, beaches and whatever else city is offering.
Recently I purchased used Mazda MX-5 2007, a third generation Miata, known as NC. The car has spent most of its time parked in a garage or a barn of the previous two owners and it has only 12,000 kilometres on it. Needless to say, it is almost new for the exception of a rock chip on passenger side mirror, few tiny scratches and couple of small dents – which have most likely originated from opening a door in a tight space.
Now, I always liked cars, however I never had an opportunity to dive into car culture and own some fun cars. I guess, one can say I was theoretical car enthusiast watching from a sideline. My past car ownership list is very short and consists of cheap, utility oriented vehicles that a friend of mine dubbed: “fridges”. Priority wise it’s always been: reliability, practicality, cost of ownership, price tag and I believe there is nothing wrong with that. However over the years I always dreamed of buying some light rear-wheel drive sports car that will be relatively cheap to buy, own, maintain and absolutely fun to drive. So how did I end up with a Miata? Well because the answer is always “Miata”. As fun as it is to perpetuate the meme, there is simply nothing else out there to satisfy all of the criteria, but let me explain.
Only a few to consider:
There are lots of cars on the market, starting with my favourite Kia Rio and all the way to super cars such as Lamborghini. However once you apply roughly $25,000 (USD) price range and rear wheel drive with manual transmission requirement, you will end up with fairly limited options:
BMW 2 or 3 series (may be)
Now, I never had much interest in BMWs, mostly due to monetary constraints. I drove a Mustang a while back and never felt a connection to the car. Camaro, I never tried but it doesn’t strike me as light weight car at 1,500-1,800 kilograms. 124 spider is a blast and I drove the old one (which reminded me of a Lada to some degree) and a new one (which I loved), however I couldn’t get passed the Fiat engine, which does not strike me as very reliable. Nissan 370Z is very appealing but dated and not light weight. Finally we end up with only Miata and GT86/BRZ. I drove both and this is where things get tough – both are good cars and I can see myself in either one. At this point I had to figure out my priorities, because the choice would come down to what I value more: practicality vs open top, boxer vs inline-4, devil I didn’t know vs devil I knew.
The devil I knew
About 5 years ago, friend of my wanted to buy a fun car. His budget was very limited but he was determined not to buy a “fridge”. After some searching he purchased Mazda Miata NB 1999 – base model with no options. It was old and rusted underneath. He drove it everywhere year around. We car-pooled in it for over a year, every day – sun, rain, snow, ice – doesn’t matter. The car impressed me, despite being, well, tired. It was fun all around. You can throw it into corners, you can floor it all the time, you can cruise it, you can easily wrench on it, it was just fun all around and at very small cost, not to mention it was speed safe – reap it through gears and you are still within acceptable speed limits.
Does it fit?
I heard about Mazda’s philosophy: “jinba ittai” – “rider and horse as one” but always though that it was marketing. Well, not in case of Miata. I think what finally drove me to it was exactly “jinba ittai”. Miata is not a practical car, hell, not everyone can even fit into it. It is not quiet or that comfortable either. But the ride feeling is awesome – every time I think to myself – “look at it, it is useless”, I drop the top, drive it and nothing else matters. But before I committed, I had to think through one final consideration: will it fit into my life? I have a family, small child, drive to work is 40 minutes on highway and I don’t have luxury of spending $24K+ on a car that might not workout when push comes to shove.
Right off the bet: my wife has a nice family car and she was ok with me buying a two seater since I can still pick up our baby from daycare. So I got down to research, as I live in Ontario, I found out that a child can ride in the front seat as long as airbag on passenger side is disabled. Good news since Miata (NA, NB, NC) allows you turn off passenger airbag with a simple turn of the key. Next I called friend of mine and asked if I can take his NB (second generation Miata) for a test drive. I took it on highway and within 20 minutes figured out: it will wear me out as a daily drive. Now I think NB is awesome car, but I have few issues with it. First and most important – I don’t fit quite right into it – I’m simply a little too tall and a bit too fat for it. Second the car is too bouncy for my taste – it is fun to drive it around, but every single day to work and back is too much for me. Yes it is possible to remedy all the issues by modifying stressing wheel (so it doesn’t saw off “important stuff”), add structural bracing and roll cage (for safety), adjust suspension for more comfort and few other things, but in my mind it was just too much.
Another friend told me to look at NC and I was feeling uneasy about it – mostly due to bias on the internet (and remember whatever you read on the internet must be true). NC is the black sheep of the family, no one wants it – it is too long, too heavy, too ugly, too Fordy and whatever else one can come up with. I personally never tried one and figured “what the heck”. It took me a while to find one for sale in my area, but once I got into it I instantly knew – I can live with it.
NC interior is bigger, more space for legs, steering wheel to body clearance is decent and I could heel-toe. Hard-plastic is not my favourite, but on the bright side it doesn’t require much maintenance and probably will not crack under the sun. But what about the drive? The drive is as engaging as ever, you are still positioned low to the ground, power delivery is nice, linear and definitely more powerful, shifts are crisp and it is ready to be thrown into any corner. There is a difference between NB and NC, you can definitely feel it and one can argue that NC is softer and less engaging but on the flip side it is considerably more civilized. You can most definitely daily drive it on the highway, it doesn’t wear you out as much. It is easier to take on road trips and if you want to harden it, change suspension to your liking. Not to mention that there are ton of performance options and ability to swap for 2.5 litre engine from Mazda 6.
In maintenance department NC is very similar to NB. Jacking points are basically the same, reaching for oil filter is a pain the in ass in both (when NB has air conditioning). Changing transmission & diff fluid is the same, coolant replacement is similar, spark plugs change is similar but easier in NB. Prices on all the parts are very reasonable and remember NC has been in production for a long time – there is big aftermarket availability and all the mods one’s heart desires.
I purchased NC during covid-19 pandemic and didn’t get to drive it much. I did all the maintenance and had some fun rides along with my 4 year old child – she loves cornering and open top. I didn’t have a chance to daily drive it to work and back 5 days per week, and so, much is left to be discovered. So far I have no regrets and will post more thought in the future as I get to drive it more.
Last year I read a book “Toyota 14 principles” by Jeffrey K. Liker and learned a few powerful ways in order to get stuff done. Right after I finished the book, I implemented FPB (Family Production Board – which is a Kanban board) using masking tape, permanent marker and sticky notes. The board was a success, as we seem to accomplish more stuff than ever before.
Today I decided to upgrade the board to something a little bit more substantial – an old white board, left over from my previous upgrade. The purpose and means remain the same, however the board now looks a lot better.
На этих выходных я наконец-то закончил обустраивать свой гараж. Процесс был долгим, тяжелым и образовательным. Как говорится в одной поговорке: «в теории нет разницы между теорией и практикой, а на практике есть».
Идея с гаражом была достаточно простая — сделать так, чтобы:
гараж остался гаражом на две машины, а не стал складским помещением;
место для технического обслуживания и ремонтных работ с автомобилем;
все под рукой – расположить инструменты и расходники на виду, чтобы не рыскать по шкафам и коробкам когда нужно что-то делать;
дополнительное место для поделок;
минималистично и мобильно, если нужно работать над чем-то большим (например БТР) то можно быстро переорганизовать гараж;
чилл место — можно посидеть, выпить рома и раскурить сигару.
Все запланированное удалось выполнить и даже чуть большее — друзья подарили много инструментов и оборудования, но все расположилось минималистично и практично. Надеюсь удержать всю эту красоту в минимальном состоянии — никакого барахла и хлама.
В конце 2018 года моя компания решила устроить кодофон (хакафон) — одно из самых интересных событий, которое могу вспомнить. Я решил принять участие. После формирования команды, мы потратили большое количество времени на подготовку, тренировки и исследование потенциального продукта. В итоге мы воплотили в жизнь небольшой гибрид идеи нашего дизайнера и того, что “прилепилось” за время изучения тематики. После тяжких 3.5 дней работы, мы презентовали наш продукт судьям. С отрывом всего в один голос, мы заняли первое место!!!
Я постараюсь найти видео, а пока оставлю тут фотки:
Этой зимой мы решили вернуться в провинцию Квебек и посетить культурную столицу Канады. Поездка была на 3 дня, а это значит все по быстрому – первые впечатления самые верные?
Сперва хочу скинуть весь негатив, которого не много, но все же: Отель Де Парис дешевый и практичный – если вы на бюджете, то для вас, возможно, неплохой выбор. Прибывание включает в себя завтрак, интернет и парковку (всего 7 мест) прямо на проезжей части. У нас была люксовая комната, однако отсутствовал холодильник, раковина плохо работала, несколько полотенец были грязными, кофеварка не чищена, а шампунь и гель не особо перезаправлялся. В последний день пребывания закончился шампунь и гель – походу сотрудникам целиком положить на базовые потребности постояльцев. Личный вывод: в следующий раз в этом отеле я не останавливаюсь.
Нам довелось немного поездить по Монреалю и, положа руку на сердце, скажу: качество дорог не впечатляет. Пару раз попадались такие выбоины, что можно легко оставить колесо прямо там. И тут вписывается другой момент – везде платная парковка, такого я даже в Торонто не видел! Приезжаешь в спокойный район, видишь – обычная улочка с домами и машинами, ничего приметного, а все равно нужно платить. И вроде население Монреаля не большое, да и мест хватает, а нет… взял да выложил. Справедливости ради, отмечу, что цены на парковку не высокие, но если вы весь день передвигаетесь с места на место, то деньги начинают складываться. С учетом выше описанного, невольно напрашивается вопрос: так почему дороги такие раздолбанные?
Лично мне Монреаль больше напоминает Торонто, нежели город Квебек. Это бесспорно исторический город, однако старый Монреаль не поражает количеством исторических зданий и нет такого эффекта как в городе Квебек. Я думаю, что Монреаль больше подходит для людей, которые хотят посещать разные тусовки и концерты, нежели погружаться в историю и архитектуру. И тут я бы хотел поставить точку, но это будет не честно, так как в Монреале я нашел что-то, чего не видел ни где – большое количество фрески, фактически везде где мы гуляли.
В плане денег, Монреаль вполне доступен, однако стоит бережно относиться к посещению ресторанов. Выбирайте места заранее и не парьтесь о модных ресторанах. Мы посетили несколько таких мест и остались с осадочным чувством. Так, Brasserie T! не оставил никаких эмоций, но при этом «хороший» счет. С другой стороны гастрономия Schwartz’s оправдала надежды – вкусно, весело и доступно. Так же не покидайте Монреаль пока не отведаете бубликов из St Viateur Bagel Shop.
Монреаль – классный город! Но! Знайте заранее зачем вы туда едите. Я лично хотел бы вернуться в Монреаль летом, когда проходят фестивали и провести время именно в этой среде.
A few months back I started a small project, the aim of which was to remove extra siding bricks out of the garage. I didn’t know what to do with all those extra bricks and figured that a small fire pit would be a good idea – two birds with one brick.
I also have almost no experience with landscaping, however after few YouTube videos and Pinterest pictures I realized two things:
– Fire pit must be functional
– I don’t want to spend any more resources on it
So I took measurements and figured a little platform around the fire would be a good idea – easier to cut the grass around it. Additionally, the fire pit must have two fire areas, one for cooking on hot charcoal and another for general fire.
Despite the functional reasoning, I decided to cut on quality by not digging too deep. Less than half a foot was enough to level the ground and lay out the bricks. The entire endeavour took a few days and the fire pit was done.
The resulting landscape view quickly attracted feedback from my wife and friends. After careful consideration I decided to name my little creation “ugly pit” and present it as a postmodern take on a rustic outdoor cooking contraption.