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5 underrated Vancouver Instagram accounts to follow

The title says it all. Without further ado:

1. http://instagram.com/asaddassa/

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My good friend from high school is a really talented photographer, and this is his Instagram account. In addition to incredible pictures (mostly architecture), he is posting the history of said buildings, which is a nice twist and an added bonus.


2. http://instagram.com/teknoelogy

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An Emmy Award Winning Creative Director (and a pun aficionado) Noel Rubin, is a drone enthusiast. Most shots (or maybe all) from his profile are aerial, and they all are amazing. He does seem to like False Creek and Lighthouse Park.


3. http://instagram.com/v.ngyn

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I have not followed her for too long, but what I’ve noticed is that she seems to be a big fan of geometrically compounded images. I really like her style, especially the pictures of staircases. The way she does them is magical.


4. http://instagram.com/atillarch/

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This guy does not post a lot of pictures, but when he does, they have brilliant editing.


5. http://instagram.com/ninjah778/

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Myself. Did you really think this list would be complete without it?


Random fact of the day for those who like to eat healthy:

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The progress made in 2014

2014 was a busy year. I like lists, so I’ll make one for what good happened to me during the year:

1. Became Permanent Resident of Canada.

The highlight of the year was me getting my PR status approved. After a year-something I have finally got a positive response from CIC.

The new step is to wait for my eligibility to becoming Canadian citizen, which is not happening for another 3 years (thanks, Harper).

2. Adopted a dog.

I have long wanted to have a dog. We couldn’t have one, because my dad is allegedly allergic to dogs; so this January, after a few tweaks, Maria and I have adopted the sweetest pup, Lady.

3. Finished reading:

4. Started eating a lot healthier. I began monitoring, and set a daily sodium intake of 1500 mg or less; and almost completely cut off junk foods. So far I have eaten at McDonalds just once last year (for the absence of a better option, and it was just the coffee and a muffin). I have also stopped eating sugary munchies everyday, and drinking carbonated drinks; switching completely onto tea, coconut water, or plain water from now on.

The goal is to completely cut off unhealthy foods; limiting meat to once a day; replacing my addiction to red meat with chicken and turkey; and stopping consuming processed foods at all.

5. Purchased domains and drafted a plan for an affiliate marketing project. The website is being worked on, but I am planning on adding the finishing touches and starting advertising it by the end of the next month.

6. Finally opened myself a mutual funds account, and will start purchasing e-series as soon as the conversion occurs.

The plan is to build a decent portfolio, and create an additional source of income.


 

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TIL that I was an Italian mobster in the first grade.

 

Awei ES800M earphones review

Awei ES800M earphones w/ FREE SHIPPING

Sound quality 9/10 **********
Comfort 8/10 **********
Value for the money 10/10 **********

Sensitivity: 95dB +/- 3dB
Impedance: 16 ohms +/- 15%
Frequency Response: 20 ~ 20000Hz

I have already covered the answer to “is it safe to buy from Aliexpress” a few weeks back.  

1Awei ES800M are quite possibly the best earphones that $6 can buy, and you don’t even have to leave your couch to buy them (well, maybe except for getting your credit card, unless you are an online shopping addict like myself, and you remember it by heart). 

I’ve had a lot of earphones for under $50 – sony, panasonic, skullcandy, and I can say that Awei ES800M are the most impressive: crispy clear bass (I do enjoy a healthy dose of low frequency drum&bass as a part of my daily routine), remarkable sound quality, attractive packaging and extra accessories. The box has a hologram, and inside you have a carrying pouch, 2 extra earbuds (one smaller and one larger than the ones already installed), and a plastic clip to attach the earphones wire to your clothing. They come in a variety of colour options – see them here.

The Awei ES800M retain the sound quality and do not make the “farting” sound when played at high volumes (unless you are listening to death metal at the maximum). Unlike the old generation Apple earphones, the shape of the earbud is closed; and, as such, the membrane is not large enough to reflect the sound from your inner ear to make the sound tremble. The wire is flat, which makes it more difficult to pile up and make a mess. My only caveat with these earphones is that the Left/Right marks are the same colour as the body or the earbuds, which makes it a bit hard to know which goes in which ear. But that’s a very minor problem in my opinion, and can be easily fixed with a tiny drop of paint or a small piece of tape on one earbud.

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As per the item description, the earphones are RoHS-compilant (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive) and CE-certified.

Overall, these earphones are a great buy for the money. They would easily sell for $20+ in stores, and I would still not be disappointed have I paid that much for them.


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Tiny houses in Vancouver

10866742_10204843906075253_1928781705_nI’m sure that you have noticed these adorable little houses built on top or instead of garages in residential single family homes units. These tiny houses are a part of Vancouver’s sustainable living plan, and they are called laneway homes, AKA granny flats, AKA Fonzie suites. I have a friend whose parents have built one for additional rental income, and another group of friends who occupy one.

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A laneway home is an excellent opportunity to have the illusion of privacy of an independent living. The laneway house my friends live in is a two-storey building, with 1 bedroom, a full washroom with a shower, a living area, a full-sized kitchen and a half-bedroom on the first floor, and two full bedrooms (one even has a balcony), and a washroom on the second floor.

Laneway homes became legal in 2009, and since then, 1500+ permits were issued. Not everyone can build one on their property though – you can build a laneway house if you have a lot 32 feet or wider in any RS single family zone. The City has a step-by-step how-to guide for anyone interested in building a laneway house (and additional regulations). The guide will answer your questions about laneway houses, and help you put your ideas into action.

The rent for a laneway house is generally within $1200-$1600 per month, plus or minus a few hundred dollars for smaller or larger ones, or depending on the area, which is comparable to the rental price of a 1-bedroom suite in downtown area.

My only problem with laneway homes is that given that they are in the residential blocks, and most of the time the only view you get is of you neighbour’s garage or your landlord’s backyard. There are exceptions to this though – my friends have their balcony overlooking the commercial building and a good portion of Kingsway street.

Buying stuff from China

Yesterday I bought 10 pairs of awesome bamboo socks for $4.65, that will be shipped to my doorstep free of charge. Intrigued? Read further. Note: buying stuff online is not for everyone, and if you lack patience and are not willing to accept certain risks, do your shopping in physical stores.

Vancouver living is expensive. According to livingwageforfamilies.ca, the living wage for two working parents with 2 kids in Vancouver is $20.10/hr, with both parents working full-time. I too have been in a situation when I had to decide between buying new socks or something other than ramen noodles for dinner. However, if you have been on my blog for long enough, you know that there are ways of saving money in Vancouver. I have found yet another way, which I am happy to share.

I have been buying stuff from China for a little over a year now, and I have tried several websites. My main concerns were:

  1. Not to be scammed (e.g. pay and never see the product).
  2. Not to be “catfished” (e.g. pay for one thing, and then get something different).

I have started with the most popular sites like eBay and Amazon, but I have quickly learned that for the most part, the prices there are very close to the ones you see in stores. I still use both when I need a branded product or something specific (e.g. motorcycle parts, books, etc). Then at some point I heard from a coworker about DX.com, where he bought a tablet and a phone for his wife and mother-in-law. I have given them a try on the 30th of May, 2013, buying a memory card and the USB adapter for the car. The shipping was slow, there was no tracking number, and customer service took 4 working days to respond to my inquiry.

My other try was alibaba.com. As much as I loved having a ton of options, this website is geared towards connecting large suppliers with mass buyers; and in most cases the shipping for a smaller quantity would cost more than the product.

2014-12-10 09.34.01 amThat’s when I found Aliexpress, which is a part of Alibaba Group. The main difference is shipping: on Alibaba is not often included (it varies drastically depending on the quantity), but on Aliexpress shipping is free for most products, and the tracking number is almost always included. Aliexpress allow credit card purchases (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro), SWIFT Wire transfers, Western Union, and a few others, that are not as popular in USA/Canada. Aliexpress use Escrow, which means the payment will not be released to the seller unless you confirm the receipt or until the purchase protection expires (usually, 45 days, and it can be extended). I have made 112 orders since Feb. 9 2014, and so far have had three issues altogether:

1. Ordered 3 oil filters for my bike, and received some random plush toy. Upon contacting the seller and providing pictures, a full refund was issued, and I did not have to send the wrong product back.

2. Ordered motorcycle boots for Maria in September, and the tracking froze at being put on the plane to Canada. In mid-October I have started a dispute, and a week later I had my full refund via Aliexpress. The boots did show up 2 weeks after I was refunded, so I contacted the seller and arranged the payment with a discount for the delay.

3. Ordered motorcycle pants, which were advertised as being waterproof and having CE armour in knees. The pants were waterproof for the most part, however there was a stretching insert in the crotch area that was made out of non-waterproof cloth, and the CE armour was missing (an honest mistake, I believe). I have contacted the seller, who offered to send the product back for a full refund, or issue a partial refund and send me the CE armour inserts for knees. I chose the second option, received a refund within a week, and the CE inserts 2 weeks later.


From Forbes.com: 

“[Alibaba Group] Sales for 2014 are estimated at $420 Billion. In 2012 sales were $170 Billion. This dwarfs Amazon, its closest competitor, with reported sales of $74.4 Billion for fiscal 2013 while EBay reported sales for fiscal 2013 of $16 Billion, less than one-tenth Alibaba’s 2012 sales.”


If you plan on shopping at Aliexpress, keep in mind:

1. Do not order merchandise that is branded (e.g. D&G, Gucci), however tempting it may be. If you import something into the country, you are responsible for ensuring that these goods are not illegal to import. And counterfeit goods are illegal.

2. Remember to keep track of your orders. There are a few ways of doing it, but my favourite is Track17.net. I track my orders daily, which may be an overkill, but better safe than sorry, right?

3. Always confirm the receipt of the order in your order list, and leave feedback for sellers. If there is a problem with the sale, do not rush to start a dispute, and contact the seller first to give them a chance to rehabilitate themselves. More often than not, the seller will work with you to rectify the situation.

4. Check product and seller feedback, and the item description before ordering. Keep in mind, that Aliexpress is a marketplace; same as eBay, they only connect you to the seller. It is up to the seller to be honest when the listing is created, and the buyer to do some due diligence.

5. Search for the product to see if there are any other sellers who have it for the cheaper price. Note, that sorting by the price only takes the cost of the item into the account, so click on the Free Shipping checkbox. Sorting by the number of orders is also helpful at times, but note, that sometimes the seller will purposely lower the price to make a ton of sales, and then will increase the price.

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6. Mind the language barrier. Most sellers only speak basic English, and probably use some sort of online translators. There is no need to be condescending, patronizing or disrespectful. Most sellers are honest and hardworking people, so be understanding and accommodating. Keep your language simple, and be friendly.

7. If you do not understand something, contact the seller before you make the order. This will show how easy it is to get a hold of the seller in case something goes wrong.