Monday, November 30, 2015

Correction to November 27 Post About Online Ticketing With Harkins Theatre

On November 27, a note to the review of Spotlight stated: " At least for some Harkins Theatres, avoid buying your tickets online. You will pay $2 more (e.g., $16 instead of $14 for two Saturday morning senior tickets), and you have to take your online receipt to the ticket window to be able to get in. In short, you pay more and get nothing convenience-wise, and you don't even find about having to go to the ticket window until after you've processed your order and found that no refunds are possible. Our Entertainment Department has raised the issue with Harkins, but assuredly, nothing constructive will be done."

As it turns out, the comments of the Entertainment Department were forwarded to the appropriate department, which did get back to us. Although the instructions on the printout are confusing and obfuscating, and in a sense even contradictory, as the appropriate department clarified, you do NOT need to present your printout and credit card at the ticket window. You can get your admission tickets printed through the kiosk (or what Harkins calls, the Automated Box Office or ABO. The website now is looking into making some clarifying changes.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Faster Way to Copy Files in Windows

If you regularly need to copy files, and especially if those files are large, then there's a host of alternatives to the built-in Windows facility which is painfully slow. Probably the best-known is a program called Teracopy, which is currently at version 2.3 although 3.0 is currently available in an alpha test version. I tested Teracopy 2.3 with a 4.5 GB file, multiple times, on my PC. I restarted the PC after each try, in order to remove any fragments of the file that Windows might have cached in memory in order to save reading the disk each time. On every occasion, Teracopy was around 30% faster than Windows. Which is significant if, say, you have a large bunch of files that you need to copy. Perhaps your folder of videos or photos.

Cyber Monday for Condor Airlines

If you're thinking of Europe, and want very affordable lie-flat seating, Condor Airlines has some great Black Monday prices.

Two Fabulous Christmas Presents

While Brillo pads as stocking stuffers are sure winners, if you want to hear peels of joy upon your gift recipient's opening an under-the-tree present, here are two guaranteed to do the trick:

OneSmartPiano: Both as a keyboard (at $299) or an upright (at $1,499), not only do they play music, but connected to a smartphone, they will teach you how to play piano through interactive video lessons as well as interactive sheet music. It sure beats paying for music lessons.

Link to OneSmartPiano Website

Samsung Gear VR: If you subscribe to the Sunday NYT, you got a small sense a few weeks ago about how amazing (and real) virtual reality can be. Now, for under $100, you can have it all the time, for viewing movies, apps, sporting events, and more. Unlike 3D where you are looking at a strange view of things, which never has really worked and no one has really liked, VR puts you right in the middle of the action (e.g., at court-side for basketball or on the sidelines for football). The only "glitch" is that it will work only with the newer Samsung Galaxy phones, but talk about turning lemons into lemonade, or turning frowns into smiles, what a great reason to throw off your chains and migrate. Think of iOS as Egypt and Samsung as the Promised Land.

Link to Samsung Gear VR Website

Stunning Statistic

According to NPR, a recent survey showed that 1/4th of all American households have Amazon Prime accounts. That means, given that there are over 120M American households, Amazon takes in over $3 billion/year just in membership fees. 

Link to NPR Article

Link to Proof of Number of American Households

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Spotlight (2015)

Putting aside its failure to give proper credit to all who might be deserving of credit, and some of its shortcomings (it's slow at times and some of the men's haircuts are annoying), and it is not really a "best picture of the year" movie, and it's not as suspenseful as it would be if you didn't essentially know the story and the outcome, Spotlight is excellent! The casting and acting are first-rate--Michael Keaton redeems himself from Birdman, Mark Ruffalo and and Stanley Tucci turn in their reliably wonderful performances, as does, Rachel McAdams, and how great it is to see John Slattery on the big screeen. Contrary to what you've might have read about this movie, it's real point is not the ostensible story. Rather, the real point is, that work is hard and it matters, or, as a mentor of mine once put it, "do your job, do your job, do your job."

IMDb Link to Spotlight

PS: At least for some Harkins Theatres, avoid buying your tickets online. You will pay $2 more (e.g., $16 instead of $14 for two Saturday morning senior tickets), and you have to take your online receipt to the ticket window to be able to get in. In short, you pay more and get nothing convenience-wise, and you don't even find about having to go to the ticket window until after you've processed your order and found it no refunds are possible. Our Entertainment Department has raised the issue with Harkins, but assuredly, nothing constructive will be done.

Affordable Secluded and Private Island Retreats

Everyone knows about secluded and private island retreats frequented by the rich and famous who are able to pay through the nose with an arm and a leg. We are not at liberty to disclose the whereabouts or the prices of those retreats. We asked our Travel Department to find secluded private island retreats that are affordable and will accept non-luminaries. Here are some gems they found:

Sanda Island, Scotland ($280/night): vladi-private-islands.de

Kamalame Cay, The Bahamas ($250/night): kamalame.com

Ratua, Vanuatu ($356/night): ratua.com

Bird Island, Belize ($295/night): airbnb.com/rooms/4869137

Powerful Cordless Leaf Blower

Leaf blowers do wonders in cleaning off a patio and other such spaces. But no one wants to mess with a gas-powered ones or corded ones and most cordless ones are wimps. Not the 56V Worx. It's a brute. Inspired by jet engine technology, it's so powerful that it will open whole new leaf-free worlds for you. It's a good idea to buy a second battery because, while it will for an hour on low-speed, when you crank it up to high-speed, the run-time is just 9 minutes.

Link to Worx 56V Webpage

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Electronic Ignition for Gas Fireplaces (Particularly in Phoenix)

If you have a gas fireplace (with logs, fire glass or whatever), and you are still lighting it manually with a match or electric match, you might consider retrofitting it with a remote-controlled electronic ignition switch. Until recently, such switches had a pilot light which deterred many of us from having one, preferring manual ignition instead. But now, although not inexpensive, they come without a pilot light. The problem is finding a person or firm who deals with and understands them and can do the install. In that regard, do not bother with Arizona Fireplaces. While they have a pretty showroom, they are clueless and of no help, and while they are delighted to sell you the equipment, they will not do any of the gas line or electrical work that might be needed. Instead, talk to Wayne Holsapple. He can do it all and is very accommodating.

C. Wayne Holsapple
Specialty Fireplaces and Equipment
wayne@specialtyfireplaces.com
602.993.7646  
7000 N 16th Street                              

Suite 120-101 

Another Reason to Eschew Windows 10

Windows 10 users are reporting that programs they've installed have disappeared (apparently uninstalled) with the latest Windows 10 Fall update, including one case where the software that AMD's graphics cards depend on (AMD Catalyst Control Center) was uninstalled and replaced with Windows 10 graphics card drivers. The two other programs that have been mentioned as being uninstalled are CPU-Z and Speccy. As you probably know, Microsoft decided in Windows 10 that updates and upgrades are automatic, unless you're using Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise edition which allow users to delay certain upgrades. So far the programs that have been uninstalled have been able to be re-installed without any issues. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Looking for Medical Insurance: Check Out the ACA Subsidies

Qualifying for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is based solely on adjusted gross taxable income.  If a married couple's adjustable gross taxable income is less than $63,000 per year, they qualify for subsidies. There is no means-testing or looking at the couple's assets in any way.* Here's a true example of what can happen and is happening: 

A married couple have been big earners and have amassed a substantial portfolio for their retirement. During this time, they had an excellent private HSA medical policy which cost in excess of $20,000 with high deductibles and high co-pays. While still under the ages of 65, they decided to retire.  In 2016, their adjustable gross taxable income will be less than $63,000 because they will be living on cash savings--and living quite well. Because the ACA looks only at income to determine their qualification to be subsidized, and does not look at their overall assets or do any kind of means-testing, they qualify for subsidies under the ACA. As a result, they can get the exact same policy coverages from the same insurer they currently are on and, with the ACA subsidies, save over $15,000 per year in premiums, or lower their deductibles and co-pays and save over $12,00 per year in premiums

-------------------------------------
*  See Link to Obamacare Calculator which explains as follows;

  • Cost assistance and exemptions are based on Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). MAGI is the income of your household (you and anyone you claim as a dependent) after deductions.
  • Cost assistance is initially based on your projected income for the upcoming year and is later adjusted for your actual MAGI income at the end of the year. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sonora Quest Lab in Safeway (Phoenix)

It was noted recently that one can schedule Sonora Quest testing online for a particular time and place. For those living in North Central Phoenix, it gets even better. As of December 1, 2015, a Sonora Quest lab will be open in the Safeway at 32nd Street and E. Camelback Road and open for online scheduling. So, even if there is a back-up at your scheduled time, you don't have to sit around in a depressing waiting room. Hours begin at 7 am (M-F) and 8 am (Sat) to make it easy on those having to fast or those who just like getting an early jump on the day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

iPhone Repeat Alert Hiccup Fixed

If you are in a noisy place when you get a message on your iPhone, you might not hear it. It could be important. That is why it is safe to set the phone to give repeat alerts (up to 10 times, once every 2 minutes). Go to Settings/Messages/Notifications and choose the number of repeat alerts you want. Unfortunately, here's the bad news: It likely will not work (at least on the iPhone 5s) if you have the Lock Screen is disabled. There is no explanation for the Apple engineers to have this design flaw. So, if you want repeat alerts, set the iPhone to Lock Screen Enabled, or buy an Android phone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Outlook Hiccup Cure

If you use Outlook for your desktop email program, you might find that it stops receiving emails after several hours unless you close and re-open it. The Google has all kinds of suggestions to fix the problem, including identity changes and other esoteric approaches and registry changes, which range from cumbersome to dangerous and probably ineffective. The likely culprit is an Outgoing Server setting, where your ISP has changed the encryption parameters for what the optimum setting should be. Just put "[ISP] Server Settings" (where ISP is the name of your ISP) into The Google and you'll easily find the optimum settings. For Cox, you'll want to change the Outgoing Server from 25 to 465 and the encryption from TLS to SSL.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

20 Feet From Stardom

If you love music, and good documentaries about music, those are reasons enough to stream this movie. It's a poignant story about back-up singers from the 1970s on, and a little less about the stars they sang backup with. Although flawed by its lack of subtlety, it's two main points make it a must-see flick: (i) However necessary one's gifted talent is, talent is a very small factor when it comes to making it, if making it is what one wants to do; and (ii) when it comes to making it, thought, reflection, and soul-searching need be invoked to inform for anyone what making it means, and should mean, for that anyone.

IMDb Link to 20 Feet From Stardom

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blocking Emails in Gmail

When you come across a message from a company or individual that you'd rather not hear from again, open the message as normal. Now move to the upper right hand corner of the message, next to the time it was sent.  There's a small button for a drop-down menu.  Click it.  One of the options on that menu is "Block... ."  Choose that option, then delete the message you just read. 
That's it.  You won't hear from that particular sender again.  All subsequent messages from that address will now go straight to your spam folder.
 
This is way easier than creating a specific filter, which is another feature offered by Gmail but which is more difficult to configure.  And it'll drastically reduce the amount of time you spend deleting the rubbish from your inbox.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Death Laid an Egg (1968)

A love triangle develops between three people who run a high tech chicken farm. It involves Anna (who owns the farm), her husband Marco (who kills prostitutes in his spare time) and Gabriella (the very beautiful secretary). Marco continues to kill as jealousy becomes more prevalent on the farm. Starring Gina Lollobrigida, this movie is an especially appropriate alternative to watching "the game" on Thanksgiving Day. Not to give away too much, the aforementioned high tech chicken farm will appeal to anyone who would just as soon their turkey be wingless and legless. That said, it's a terrible movie, and should be skipped.

IMDb Link to Death Laid an Egg

Ms. Lollobrigida too often is not given the credit for her more than 50 year acting and directing career (which began in the 1940s and lasted into the 1990s). She won 2 Golden Globes, 6 Bambis, 6 Davids, 2 Golden Goblets, and many more. Surely, no one can forget the performances she turned in as Carla Lucci on the Christmas Cruises of The Love Boat, not to mention Lola in Trapeze and Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And many say she is the inspiration for the character of Gina Romantica in one of Peter Seller's best movies, written by Neil Simon, After the Fox.

Link to Ms. Lollobrigida's Acting and Directing Credits

Link to Ms. Lollobrigida's Awards and Nominations

IMDb Link to After the Fox


Coffee Grinds Aren't Just for Coffee Any More

[Courtesy of cnet]

Coffee is usually just something we reach for in the morning (and sometimes throughout the day.) But there are so many more uses for the magical bean. From helping grow a better garden to scouring pots and pans, there's a whole lot coffee can do. Here are 15 ways to use coffee for more than a caffeine kick.

Garden

Deterrent: The acidity and strong scent of coffee makes it a great deterrent in the garden. The acidity will keep slugs and snails out, while pairing coffee with some orange peels can overload the olfactory receptors in felines and some rodents.
Attractworms: In addition to keeping some pests out of your garden, coffee will attract helpful worms, which turn and enrich the soil underground.
Compost: You might want to start tossing your used grounds into your compost rather than the trash can. Coffee grounds can boost nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper levels in soil, which makes it a great natural fertilizer. With some vegetables, such as carrots or radishes, throwing coffee grounds in with the seed will help germination and promote healthier growth. It also changes the pH level in the soil, resulting in a change of color in flowers like hydrangeas.

Crafts

coffee-candle.jpg
Candles: While coffee itself has the ability to enhance your focus, sometimes something as simple as the smell of coffee can have a similar effect. Bring the smell of a coffee shop into your home by making coffee candles. Purchase some long wicks from a craft store, melt seven or eight tea light candles, and slowly pour the wax into a small jelly jar, adding coffee grounds as you go. Light one of these and it will turn your living space into a coffee scented heaven. Here's a video tutorial for this project.
Paint: Some artists have been known to use coffee as a medium. And they have been known to make some seriously impressive and beautiful paintings.
Age or stain wood and clothes: Coffee grounds by themselves can stain clothes and wood. Steep the grounds in hot water for several minutes and soak the cloth in the water or apply to wood with a brush. When dried, the cloth or wood will be a few shades darker. You can apply several coats to wood for an enhanced stain, or you can mix the coffee grounds with vinegar and steel wool to create an aged look. Here's a step-by-step video of this project.

Kitchen

Dry rub: If you haven't tried cooking with coffee, you should. Ground finely, coffee pairs nicely with paprika, brown sugar, pepper, onion, garlic and coriander to make a delicious dry rub for ribs, steak, and chicken.
Chili: In addition to dry rub, some people add brewed coffee to their chili to give it some added depth.
Refrigeratordeodorant: If you have some funky smells emanating from your freezer or refrigerator, place a cup of unused coffee grounds inside and wait. The coffee grounds will absorb the odor.
Scour pots and pans: If you have a sauce pan or a pot that is particularly difficult to clean, toss in a dash of coffee grounds. Paired with a wash cloth, the abrasive nature of the coffee grounds will scour the surface, helping remove leftover debris from cooking. Rinse and rewash with soap and hot water to remove the grounds and sanitize.
Hand deodorant and soap: If you have been handling garlic or chopping onions and you want to remove the smell from your hands, thoroughly rub some coffee grounds on them and rinse with water. The coffee will absorb the smell and replace it with a coffee scent. Alternatively, you can create a coffee-based hand soap or scrub by combining a melt-and-pour soap base with coffee grounds (and essential oils of your choice) so that the coffee smell isn't so intense.

Living room

Air freshener: If you don't want to to through the effort of making a candle, you can simply place a cup full of whole coffee beans in your bathroom or on a side table. The scent won't be as strong, but as people walk by or open and close doors, you will get sudden, short bursts of coffee scents floating around the room. Also, you can place coffee grounds in an old sock (clean, obviously) or stockings and tie it off to make a portable air freshener. Place it under the seat in your car or over a hidden air vent in your home to spread the scent.
Hide scratches on furniture: If you have some wooden furniture with scratches on it, you can hide those scratches with some coffee. Use a tablespoon of ground coffee and place in a small amount of hot water (approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit, 90 degrees Celsius) and let sit for a few minutes. Use a cotton swab or paint brush to rub some of the steeped coffee grounds on the scratches. It may not perfectly match the color of the surrounding wood, but it will help hide scratches.

Bath

coffee-exfoliant.jpg
Coffee and coconut oil make a great exfoliant.Taylor Martin/CNET
Hair dye and rejuvenation: If you want to darken the color of your hair, brew a pot of strong coffee and let it cool. When in the shower, pour the cool coffee through your hair and let it sit for up to 60 minutes. This will make your hair darker, shinier, and healthier.
Coffee can actually add some shine to your hair and kick-start growth, as well. Simply soak coffee grounds in hot water for several minutes, then strain out the water. Take the cooled grounds and work them into your wet hair and scalp, then rinse. This will exfoliate your scalp and promote hair growth.
You can also add the grounds to your shampoo or body wash to make a daily scrub. (This, too, can darken your hair, so you may want to seek an alternative if you want to maintain a lighter hair color.)
Use a coffee filter over the drain to catch the grounds as you rinse and to prevent clogging, and be sure to quickly rinse any coffee or grounds out of the shower to prevent staining.
Exfoliant: Mix coffee grounds with a carrier oil (coconut, olive, almond, jojoba, etc.) and spread onto your face to moisturize, reduce wrinkles, remove dark circles or puffiness under the eyes and tighten the skin.

Preventing Your Dryer From Catching on Fire

[Courtesy of cnet]

Almost 17,000 dryers catch on fire every year. This can ruin your day, especially if it's too cold out to dry your wash on a clothesline. Here is how to prevent dryer fires:

Clean the lint trap, always

clean-the-filter.jpg
Alina Bradford/CNET
If you usually skip cleaning out the dryer filter, don't. The moist air produced from drying your clothes passes through the vent that is protected by the dryer filter. If the filter is clogged with lint, the moist air won't escape and it will take longer to dry your clothes.
Even more important, you're letting a highly flammable material build up in an appliance that creates heat. So, clean that trap every time.
Wiping the lint from the filter is fine most of the time, but sometimes it needs a little more attention. Fabric softeners can leave a waxy buildup on your filter, preventing good air flow. Every few months, clean it with a little dish soap, warm water and an old toothbrush. Rinse it and dry it well before putting it back in your dryer.

Get down and dirty with the air vent

lint-vent-1.jpg
Wait! Before you pop that filter back into place, take a good look at the vent your filter covers.
No doubt it is full of lint, gum wrappers, Legos and other things that shouldn't be in there. Yes, even though your filter grabs a lot of stuff so it can't go down the vent, a bunch of junk will somehow still make it through. You don't want to know the horrors I found in mine while researching for this article.
Grab your vacuum and clean the vent out using a narrow hose attachment. Do this at least once a year to keep your dryer working well and to prevent fires.

Blast the vent tubes

vent-tube.jpg
Alina Bradford/CNET
Pull your dryer out from the wall just a smidge. Do you see a big silver tube coming from your dryer and going into the wall? That's your vent tube. It carries all of the moist air from your dryer to the outdoors.
Like your dryer vent, the vent tube needs to be cleaned once a year, as well.
Loosen the screw on the metal band around the tube or pinch the metal wire that connects the vent to the dryer. Pull the vent off and disconnect it from the wall. Since fabric softener can make the vent sticky, wash the vent in a sink of warm, sudsy water, rinse it and dry it well before putting it back on the dryer.

The deepest of all deep cleanings

Every 18 months or so, your dryer's motor and other mechanics will need to be cleaned because lint gets on just about everything. This kind of cleaning should be done by a professional, unless you feel confident with your mechanical skills. If that's the case:
  1. Disconnect your dryer from the electrical outlet. If you have a gas dryer, consult with a professional before attempting any disconnection of the gas line.
  2. Take the back panel off of your dryer by removing the screws.
  3. Vacuum any dust or lint that may have accumulated on the dryer parts or on the floor of the dryer. An upholstery attachment on the end of the vacuum hose is your best bet for getting the most lint out of nooks and crannies.
  4. Put the back of the dryer back in place and replace the screws.

Lightshot Screenshot for Chrome

You're browsing a web site and you see something interesting. You want to grab a screen shot of the page, save it as an image, and send it to a friend or colleague. You might even want to annotate the screen shot by highlighting a part of it, or writing text directly onto it. And you want to do it all from your browser without needing to download and install more software onto your PC. Is it possible? Yup. With a handy browser add-in called Lightshot, which is available for Chrome. It's free. Once you're done, a small purple feather icon will appear in your browser toolbar. Just click it to start selecting your screen area to capture. You can then save the screen shot to disk or your computer.

Link to Lightshot Download

Monday, November 16, 2015

Man Servants for Hire

For just $125/hour, you can hire a man servant to treat you royally. He will wait on you hand and foot, act as a body guard, give non-stop compliments, and fan you with banana leaves. He will be dressed impeccably and you can name him anything you want. He will act with utmost chivalry and respond to all commands with, "As you wish." You can order a man servant for yourself, or given the upcoming season of giving, order one as a gift for someone else.

Link to ManServants Website

[I can attest personally and assure you that, if you can qualify to be a man servant, you might actually enjoy the experience itself and meeting new people, and you can expect to make good money that might be especially welcome to supplement your retirement nest egg]

Trick to Slicing Potatoes

Say your professional grade deli slicing machine is on the fritz, and you need to slice potatoes into uniformly thin slices. The problem is that potatoes of all varieties and color are lumpy, making it difficult to hold the potato steady as you slice. Here's the trick: Slice small piece off of one side which will create a flat bottom when you place that side down on the cutting surface so the potato will stay steady as you slice.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dishwashers Aren't Just for Cleaning Dishes Anymore

[Courtesy of cnet]

Some people choose dishwashers based on noise-level. Others care more about their ability to clean dishes. Either way, if your dishwasher is just cleaning dishes, then it isn't living up to its potential. There are many things you can safely wash in a dishwasher.

Any of these listed items can go through a "normal" wash cycle, unless otherwise noted. Of course, please use common sense when cleaning non-conventional items in the dishwasher -- if you plan to clean an item on this list, inspect it for any plastic components that might not withstand the heat of a normal wash cycle.

Silicone oven mitts and trivets: Stick them in every time you do a load to keep them germ-free.
Hubcaps: Yep, that's right. Just add a cup of white vinegar to the detergent you normally use.
Figurines: Get the dust off of figurines by putting them on the top shelf of the dishwasher on a gentle cycle. Don't put delicate or gilded figurines in the dishwasher, though.
Tools: Wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers tend to get a sticky, greasy feel to them. Put them in the dishwasher on the hottest cycle with your normal detergent.
Toys: Putting toys in the dishwasher will not only de-goo them, it will also sanitize them.
Flip-flops: Put them on the top shelf for the best results.
Rubber boots: Put them upside down on the bottom rack to remove grime. Just make sure to wipe off any large areas of mud first.
Hairbrushes: Remove the hair from the brush by running a wide-tooth comb through it and put the hairbrush in the silverware cup.
Combs: Throw your heat-safe combs in the silverware cup, too.
Makeupbrushes: Clean these on a low setting, so as not to melt the glue that holds the brush hairs together.
Ball caps: To help keep the cap's shape, put it on a coffee can before sticking it in the dishwasher. Also, make sure your dishwashing detergent doesn't have bleach in it before you start the load.
Kitchen brushes and sponges: Pop these in the silverware cup for a like-new clean.
Light fixture covers: There's no reason why you need to dust. Just pop them off and put them in the dishwasher on a gentle cycle.
Coffee maker: Turn the coffee maker upside down and use a gentle cycle. Make sure it dries completely before you plug it back in.
Golf balls: Put your golf balls in a mesh sack and put them on the bottom shelf.
Contact lens cases: Put them in the silverware bin to sanitize them at least every month or so.
Dog toys: Most dog toys are top-rack only.
Mouth guards: Keep your athlete healthy by sanitizing his mouth guard every day on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
Grill rack: Make sure you use your hottest setting to get off the grime.
Dog collar: Put it on the top shelf to get it looking like new.

Battery Myths Debunked

[Courtesy of cnet]

Many people believe the limitations of nickel-based batteries that were prevalent in the early '90s still apply to the more modern lithium ion and lithium polymer technologies we use today.
Here are some common battery myths.

Myth: Leaving your devices plugged will "overcharge" them

False. This simply isn't true -- not anymore, at least. Most smartphone, laptop, accessory and AA or AAA chargers are smart enough to momentarily stop charging once the device is fully charged. It does this long enough for the device to drain two or three percent, then it will climb back up to 100 percent.
Leaving it plugged in like this every single night can have an impact on the lifespan of the battery, but the act of leaving it plugged in isn't as damaging as some people make it out to be.
Computer manufacturers often recommend you "exercise" your battery about every other month by letting it drain fully, then charging it back up. But that's about it.

Myth: You should always let the battery drain completely

battery-low.jpg
Taylor Martin/CNET
False. Today, most batteries never truly fully discharge.
What you see as 0 percent or "dead" when your phone or laptop won't power on is the battery still sitting at somewhere around a 10 percent charge. This is why, when you hold the power button, the screen will turn on long enough to tell you to charge the battery.
So what if you do follow this wrongheaded advice anyway? If you allow your battery-powered devices to go to "dead" each and every day, it will reduce the battery's effectiveness over time.
In other words, top off more often to prolong the battery life of your electronics, and stop letting your phone or laptop die every day.

Myth: Always fully charge a device before its first use

False. To be fair, it doesn't hurt anything to fully charge a device's battery before using it. It doesn't hurt anything if you skip this step, either.
So why do manufacturers sometimes tell you to do it? Fully charging the battery before using a device is to kick-start what's known as a "calibration process," helping the device learn how that individual battery behaves. This is where I tell you that most batteries are self-calibrating, so it's still an unnecessary step.

Myth: Store batteries in the refrigerator

FalseStoring a battery in the refrigerator or freezer is not only bad, but can be dangerous. Extreme temperatures - hot or cold and especially for long periods of time - are not good for any type of battery.
Remember, a battery is a collection of chemicals that store energy. Doing something that upsets those chemicals can have dangerous consequences.
To maximize shelf life, Energizer suggests storing "batteries at normal room temperatures (68 degrees F to 78 degrees F or 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C) with moderate humidity levels (35 to 65 percent RH)." This should provide a shelf life of five to 10 years for your standard, cylindrical alkaline cells and 10 to 15 years for cylindrical lithium batteries.
By the way, if you're wondering why your smartphone battery isn't performing as well after just a year or two, that's because the more you use a battery, the less efficient it becomes.

Oral B Electric Toothbrush Replacement Heads

If you are smart enough to be using an Oral B Electric Toothbrush, then you should be smart enough to know that the unbranded replacement heads are just as good as the branded replacement heads, and they cost 1/3 as much.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

iPhone Optimizers

We've covered Android optimizers and cleaners, and the desideratum of doing regular maintenance on your Android devices. But even our very talented Optimization Department knows from nothing about doing such for iPhones. This download.com article provides an excellent summary for the iPhone: Link to Download.com Article

TVs Are Getting Better

Although still a bit costly, TVs with HDR (High-Dynamic Range) are MUCH better than TVs with SDR (standard dynamic range). The expanded contrast provided by HDR provides a picture with a MUCH more life-like experience. Put simply, with SDR, if a person is standing next to the television and a person is pictured on screen, you can tell which is the real person and which is the televised person. With HDR, you cannot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Texting From Your Email Program

Texting is easy and fast. But, if you are not thumb-savvy, and finger-nimble, you should know that it's even easier to text from your computer through your email program with your full-size keyboard with your phone or tablet. In your email address line, just type in the cellphone number you want to text to and put the appropriate @_____ depending on the carrier, all of which are set out in the below link. You only need to do that once if your email program automatically remembers your addressees (as Outlook does) or create and store it in your contact list.

Link to Wireless Text Addresses

Monday, November 9, 2015

Looking for a Fight ... Your Looking Is Over

Rmblr is a free app that lets you find, meet, and fight other brawl enthusiasts. Hard as it might be to believe, some people prefer watching to fighting. So, if you're just a spectactor, you can use it to find an upcoming brawl near you. As Michael Keaton said in Night Shift, "Is this a great country or what?"

Link to Rumblr Website

Saturday, November 7, 2015

To Form a More Perfect Pasta Sauce

Subject to the same muse that rules coffee-making, everyone has his or her own special way of making pasta sauce. But, any sauce will taste better if you add a 1/4th cup of vodka while it simmers. The vodka itself will be undetectable by taste or smell, but it releases the inner selves of the ingredients to make their flavors pop. I didn't believe it until I did a blind-tasting suggested by our Culinary Department.

RAM Usage Detector

To keep your PC running at peak levels of performance, it's useful to know which programs are using the most memory or RAM. This can help you decide whether a program is simply too resource-hungry to carry on using, or whether you should perhaps look to replace it with something else. It will also help you work out which programs you should always make a point to close when you're not using them, rather than leaving them open in a background window. Sure, Windows, will page unused open programs to disk if it needs the memory they're occupying, but this has a massive impact on performance.
One of the best programs to help you get an insight into your PC's memory usage is a tool called RAMMap, which was released in a brand new version last week. It now fully supports Windows 10, and shows you heaps of information about your memory. Not only will it tell you which programs are using the most memory, but the locations and names of the actual program files themselves. This makes it really easy to track down the source of RAM hogs, and will teach you a lot about how Windows works too.
RAMMap is a download of less than 0.3 MB. It's portable (in fact it's just a single runnable file), so once you've unzipped it there's nothing to install.

Link to RAMMap Download

Friday, November 6, 2015

FedEx Deliveries

The holiday season is a prime time for "package theft," where thievery minded people will follow delivery fans and grab packages left at the front door before the intended recipient retrieves them or where thievery minded people just cruise neighborhoods looking for packages left at the front door. If one registers on FedEx, one can set certain “preferences”--including designating a place at your home other than at the front door where you want FedEx to deliver packages. As far as our Package Delivery Team can tell, UPS does not provide any such option.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Prescription Glasses Online: More Choices, Custom Fits, Guaranteed, 1/3 the Cost

There used to be a time when eyeglasses were only accessible in retail stores. You’d have to book a morning off work, run over to the store, try on 10 pairs, and whether you were satisfied or not, buy a pair. Often you’d be left paying between $300 and $800 for a single pair you’ll wear for 3 years. Add a five-piece family and you’re looking at well over $1500.
What if there was a safe, secure, and inexpensive way to resolve this issue? The good news: There is. You now can buy your glasses online and even try them on online. As Michael Keaton, the font of great ideas in Night Shift, said: "Is this a great country what?"
1. You’ll save up to 70% on prescription eyeglasses.
How are online eyeglass retailers able to offer the exact same frames, brands, lenses, and treatment as retail stores for 70% of the cost? What’s the trick?
It’s simple. Leading online eyeglass retailers cut out the middleman by having their own in-house laboratory, so all the costs for internal shipping, production and resources are saved.
Online stores don’t pay retail rent, so you don’t have to either.
Shopping for glasses online saves you up to 70% off retail prices!
Shopping for glasses online
saves you up to 70% off retail prices!
2. You can expect the same top quality.
Buying glasses online from a leading eyeglass supplier will provide the exact same treatment, options, lenses and frames. This also includes high-quality Progressive, Bifocal, Multifocal, and Transition lenses.
Only a handful of online glasses retailers can accommodate high prescriptions, multifocals or prescription sunglasses.
Leading online retailers offer a high quality product with a risk-free shopping experience.
3. Online retailers don’t work on commission.
Shopping for glasses online has become more convenient than ever. You can virtually try on as many pairs as you want and deliberate for as long as you need, all within the comfort of your own home. No need to make small talk with persistent sales clerks or feel self-conscious in front of a mirror. You also don’t need to worry that you are being “upsold,” since online stores don’t work off commission.
4. Bigger selection online.
Leading online eyeglass stores can showcase over 1500 frames on a single site from classic styles to top designers— a number unmatched by “Brick and Mortar” retailers.
Keep in mind quality can vary! If you are not purchasing from a leading online site, you may find frames for around $6. This is unusual, as it hardly covers the cost of materials. In this case, quality will most likely be affected.
Online glasses retailers is a fashion lover’s dream come true.
Online glasses retailers is a fashion lover’s dream come true.
5. You can try them on.
Leading online sites with a virtual mirror will give you a better idea of how you’ll look in your new glasses by uploading a forward-facing photo. Some sites also have virtual stylists that will video chat with you to find a look that fits just right.
Upload your photo and check out any frame on your face!
6. You’ll have reliable customer service.
The top online retailers will have a customer service team available by chat or phone, to solve any issue you’re experiences before, during or after purchase.
It’s recommended to use Google and customer-rating sites like BizRate to compare the quality and service of various online retailers.
7. Shopping for glasses online is safe, secure and fast.
Most online retailers use a safe and secure checkout process. How can you tell if the checkout is secure? Look for a lock icon or HTTPS in the upper left hand corner of the search bar. Today, customers expect a secure checkout process, 365-day warranty, lowest price guarantee, and free returns.
Not to mention you’ll receive your glasses faster than many offline stores! Glasses ship within days and in many cases shipping is free.

Making Better Tasting Coffee

To me, coffee is coffee, and using pre-ground coffee in a Braun Aromaster (that originally sold for $15) is just fine. But our Culinary Department (which consults on hosting functions) was asked for its secrets in making coffee. I urge you not to bother reading this, but here it is anyhow:

1. Stay away from preground coffee beans

A cup of coffee is only as good as the beans you start with.
If you're buying bags of preground coffee, you're doing it wrong. Instead, start with fresh, whole beans.
There's a reason most coffee companies don't provide the date for when the coffee was roasted; the stuff you find on the shelf in the grocery store has probably been there for months. Coffee reaches its peak flavor just days after it has been roasted and should be consumed within a month of its roast date.
To find fresh coffee, check local coffee shops. Some roast on the spot or source from local roasters who roast in smaller batches, which typically means fresher coffee.

2. How and when you grind matters

Grind your coffee immediately before brewing for maximum flavor.
Experts say coffee begins to lose its flavor within 30 minutes of being ground. This being the case, it's best to grind on the spot, just before brewing a pot.
Grind size and consistency matter quite a bit, as well. Grind too coarse and you will have a weak pot of coffee. Grind too fine and you will overextract the coffee and it will taste bitter. Most drip coffee makers call for a medium to medium-fine grind.
Unless you want to spend upward of $100 on a quality automatic burr grinder, a manual hand mill is the most affordable way to achieve a nice, consistent grind, though they do require a small amount of manual labor.
Blade grinders also work, but will produce inconsistent particle size, which can lead to overextraction.

3. The right way to measure your coffee

Measure coffee by weight instead of volume.
Making better coffee is all about eliminating variables, and one way to do that is to use the same amount of coffee per unit of water each time you brew. Using a digital scale to measure takes just a second and allows you to better compare how much coffee and water is used each time.
Ideally, a ratio of 1:20 (that's one part coffee to 20 parts water, or about 7.5g of coffee to 150mL of water) makes a fairly strong cup of coffee. That said, some people go as high as 1:14 or as low as 1:30. It's up to you to decide what tastes best, which is much easier to do (and replicate) once you remove all the guesswork.

4. Preinfuse your grounds

Chances are, your drip coffee maker skips a crucial step.
Most automatic coffee makers don't properly prepare the coffee grounds for full extraction. Manual pour over cones (which are not unlike automatic drip machines) call for a preinfusion or the so-called "bloom." This preps the coffee by pouring hot water over the grounds to help release any remaining carbon dioxide gas left over from the roasting process. Skipping this step will allow the carbon dioxide to repel water during part of the brewing process, effectively making the brew weaker.
To preinfuse your coffee, insert a filter into the hopper and add your coffee grounds. Then use a kettle to preheat roughly 50mL of water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly pour it over the grounds, making sure to thoroughly wet all the grounds. Let this sit for approximately 45 seconds before starting the coffee maker.

5. Brew at the right temperature

Many automatic drip machines don't reach optimal brewing temperature.
Another step many automatic coffee makers skip is reaching optimal temperature. The desired brew temperature for drip coffee is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Newer, high-end modelssometimes have a manual temperature adjustment, but older, cheaper makers do not.
To make sure your coffee maker gets hot enough, run it without any coffee in the hopper and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. If you can, try to measure the temperature during the brewing process, as the water temperature will drop as it passes through the hopper and into the carafe beneath. If it never reaches at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit, see if preboiling your water in a kettle helps.
Keep in mind, however, you do not want to exceed 205 degrees, as it will "burn" the coffee. If this doesn't work, you might want to consider upgrading your coffee maker.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mirror Apps

How many times do you get to your destination--e.g., the theater, the ballpark, the restaurant, the polo field--and you realize your forgot to put on your make-up, and you don't want to leave your seat, but you also realize you forgot your mirror. No problem. If you have a mirror app installed on your smart device, you'll never be without a mirror again, and you won't have to reach up and pull down the visor if you're in the car. You could do the same with the selfie-function, but the mirror apps have much more functionality. Our Cosmetics Department is still in the process of evaluating the offerings, but there's no shortage. Just type "mirror" (without the quotes) into Play search or iTunes search and take your pick.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Book of Mormon, House of Tricks (Tempe), and Gammage Auditorium (Tempe)

I have neither the talent nor the skill nor the wordsmithiness to pen a review that would do justice to The Book of Mormon. It's beyond fabulous. The choreography is genius, and the hand-movements that are woven into it are mesmerizing, with stellar performances turned in by everyone in the cast. The energy is non-stop--there might not be 20 words of spoken dialogue--it's all songs and all motion all the time, and it never fails to deliver moment after moment of surprises and laughs. The scenery/sets are fitting and well-done, and do not overwhelm the offering as too often is the case with set designers compensating for underwhelming offerings. Everyone knows the major target before they go, but, while the non-stop songs and singing are wonderful, they really are a brilliant spoof on musicals themselves. While the songs are not re-memorable in their entireties (i.e., they are not songs you go away singing all the verses), some of the lyrics (e.g., "turn it off," "I believe," and "you and me, but mostly me") you will never forget, and are truly perfect pitches.  It is said that, if any other religion were the focus, that musical would never be made, although every proselytizing religion and most non-proselytizing religions must surely share the sting. And some of us would say that such a musical should be "done" for each of the major religions. Actually though, while the stated focus is on the LDS religion, in reality, the show is more properly understood as a critique of the sanity of faith in general and an affirmation of the lunacy of any belief in the "magical" underpinnings, when taken literally, embraced by all religions. This is must-see theater at its finest. The only criticism imaginable is, much like one feels after reading Shogun, it just went too fast and ended too soon. It will translate perfectly to the big screen. Finally, for trivia buffs, it is the one musical that is the answer to the question: What musical has no overture?

PS: If you're seeing The Book of Mormon in Phoenix, having dinner first at House of Tricks (which is walkable to Gammage) is a true plus. The food is delicious and the service is excellent. There are some dishes you will recognize and others not so much. The broth the mussels are served in is better even than the mussel broth in Spain, and that is no easy trick to pull off, and the bread that goes with them would be delicious even if not dipped in the broth.

PPS: Because of how terrific The Book of Mormon is one can put up with Gammage. But it truly is a terrible facility. It is way too big, and the most telling sign was the one pushing for donations to collect $9 million to add 700 women's toilets. Granted the women have it worse given the paucity of facilities, but men don't have any great shakes in that department either. The hallways are too narrow and the rows are too long because of no center aisle of which they could use and should have two. Any admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright has never been to a full-house production at Gammage. It is clear when it came to Gammage, rather than form following function, he decided to let form [if you see The Book of Mormon you'll know what word goes in here] function.