Saturday, July 30, 2016

Some Travel Tips

1. If flying American, it is worth spending the relatively small amount to reserve an exit row seat. The extra six inches of legroom makes an enormous difference. And, while you are toward the front, they don't seem to stop you from using the front lavatory, and even the passengers up there don't seem to complain, as some passengers used to.

2. If driving in Boston, don't.
3. If driving from Boston to Maine, expect an enormous amount of traffic. Just chill.

4. If you rent a house/condo/apartment in Maine, be sure that there are lobster vice crackers before having pounds of delicious lobster delivered. Otherwise, you will have to depend on the goodwill of a nearby restaurant to lend you some.

5. Here is a truly great trip if you are flying on an airline that charges for checked luggage. Don't. Take it to the gate. Because so many people try to board with too much luggage, at the gate they beg you to check your luggage and will allow you to do so for free. Not kidding. We normally do not countenance such conduct. But when it comes to the airlines these days, beating them at their game is to be applauded.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Duplicate Driver's License (Arizona)

You're about to go on a trip, and you look in your wallet, no driver's license. You call the last 4 places you've been, no driver's license. You have a passport, but that won't help you at the rental car counter. You have a picture of it on your phone, but again, no assurance it will be accepted at the rental car counter. You go online to order a replacement, which for an additional fee will be delivered in 2 days, but let's suppose your trip is tomorrow. Your order one anyhow, with standard delivery, because, even if your license shows up, you realize it would be a good idea to have a spare on hand which costs under $13. And then, as if further proof of God were needed, the scanner on your desk catches your eye, you lift the lid, and schzam, there it is! Actually, and loyal readers would know this from two earlier posts: (i) because you renewed your license just last week, you still had the temporary license they issued then and it would remain valid until after your return; and (ii) the post praising Evernote to keep on your phone things like your passport and driver's license.

Link to Site for Ordering Replacement Driver's License

PS: This trip is a reward to our incredible staff that has done another magnificent job this past year. They will be eating lobster in Maine, cooked and delivered for $5.50 per pound. It is possible they will do posts from time to time, but you never know with them.

Checking the Status of Your Hard Drive

Your hard disk, whether mechanical or solid-state (an SSD), holds all the files on your computer. Without it, the PC won't start up. Hard disks do sometimes fail, in which case you'll need to buy and fit a replacement. And, of course, copy all your programs and data onto it. Plus Windows itself. Which is why it's always sensible to keep good backups.
Modern hard disks use something called Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology, or SMART for short. It means that the drive regularly checks itself for possible errors and reports these to the operating system. By checking the status of your SMART data occasionally, you can find out whether your drive is at increased risk of failure. And, if it is, you can take extra steps to ensure you have backups and a replacement drive available.
Although there are plenty of free programs around that will report on your drives' SMART status, you can actually do it directly from Windows without the need to download or install anything. To do this, just open a command prompt by searching for the CMD.EXE program or the Command Prompt utility. Right-click it and choose Run As Administrator. You'll then be presented with a black screen into which you can type commands.
To check your drive status, the command you need is:
Press Return after typing the command. This will show you the model number and status of each physical drive in your system. Assuming the status is OK, then the drive is fine. Otherwise, look up the details of the status in your favourite search engine to find out more about the problems that are reported.
Windows disk status tool
To exit the command prompt, type EXIT and press Return.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tratto (Phoenix)

Located in the same space and without changing the footprint of Cypress Pita Grill (whose closure is still mourned as one of the great untold tragedies of Phoenix culinary history), Chris Bianco has opened Tratto right next door to Pizzeria Bianco in the now-bustling and some might even say hip Town & Country plaza. Tratto has some real positives, the primary one of which is that much of the food offerings are both unique in many ways and extremely tasty, and the bread is just fabulous (as his bread has been since the early 1980s with his first Pizzeria Bianco) even though you cannot get butter with it ... don't even ask ... just enjoy it with the oil and with the sauces that grace your dishes (and don't be afraid to wrastle your server to prevent him or her from trying to take away a dish that still has sauce you can mop up with your bread). What makes Tratto really work is the ease of sharing, e.g., for a group of 4 (which probably is the best size group to do Tratto with), two appetizers, two pastas, and one main dish should work great, giving everyone a delightful smorgasborg of tastes and an appropriate amount to eat (if you order the chicken for the main dish, either bring a butcher knife or ask the server to have it cut up into smaller pieces before it's served). Further, Tratto is aesthetically quite pleasing, the service is very good, and they are one of a vanishing breed of restaurants that take reservations.

One negative is the small water glasses, which remains a complete mystery because it just puts added burden on the servers and is annoying to the patrons who really like their water. Also, be warned, if you make a reservation or you have a choice, ask to have any table other than the one just West of the door, especially during the summer, for two reasons: (i) every time the door opens, you will get a blast of hot air (if you are stuck at the table, let your companion have the chair closer to the door ... it won't solve the problem for you, but you won't be blasted quite as much as your companion will); and (ii) there is only one other table in that space which, if occupied by two men who began drinking before you got there, and were still drinking when you left (having gone through at least 4 bottles of wine), and they have booming obnoxious voices, the totally acceptable noise level of Tratto (which does patrons the courtesy of not booming in noise) is ruined, and given their girth and inebriation, you don't want to confront the dudes.

Link to Tratto Website

Friday, July 22, 2016

Booking Tip re Southwest Airlines

One of the great things about Southwest Airlines is the ability to change or cancel flights with no penalty or transfer fee. If you make a round-trip reservation, you can even cancel one of the legs. But, if you book it as a round-trip, you cannot so cancel online. Instead, you have to call. So, if you want the online convenience of canceling, you might make two one-way reservations instead of a round-trip reservation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blu Smart Phones

If you think you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a smart phone for your kid or your parent, or even for yourself unless you are the hoity toity type, think Blu and think $50. They aren't the greatest phones, and the camera and sound aren't so hot, but they're not toys and they function pretty darn well. Here are links to a review in the WSJ and to see them at Amazon.

Link to Amazon Webpage of Blu Phones

Link to Review in WSJ

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Avoiding Costly Range Hood Repair

Image result for range hood
If you have a range hood, and a light goes out. Do NOT replace it with a 50W bulb. Instead, replace it with a 20W bulb. Otherwise, you might spend over $200 to have a tech come out and replace the $40 blown fuse, where it would have cost you one dollar to replace the blown bulb with a 20W bulb.

Stopping Word Perfect Pop Up Ads for New Version

If like so many people you use Word Perfect and eschew Word, you might find ads popping up inviting you to upgrade to a newer version. To stop those ads, just go to Help/Message Settings and uncheck the box that reads: Keep me informed with the latest product related messages.

Seeking Changes to Southwest Airlines Boarding Practices

Southwest Airlines has been alerted to three issues. The more they hear from others, the more likely they are to make appropriate changes. Here is the text of what they have received:

"1. I certainly understand why persons with disabilities should board first, ahead of even A-1. But, with Early Birds now costing $15@, I do not understand why, except in special cases, large families are permitted to board early when they have not paid the Early Bird charge. If you want to give them some priority, board them after the Early birds have boarded.

"2. As to anyone who is not an Early Bird that is permitted to board before A-1, it would seem fair for SWA to not allow them to sit in the Emergency Row area where there is additional leg room.

"3. I have seen where couples have not paid the Early Bird fee, but then pay $40 for one of them to board in the A-15 and lower group, and that person then tells anyone trying to sit in the next seat that it is taken by someone who is in the lavatory, and keeps saying so until the companion traveler showing up. Maybe SWA cannot stop this unethical practice, but an announcement or warning to anyone buying a $40 boarding pass might be in order.

"Thanks for your attention to these matters."

Southwest Airlines Boarding Maneuver

I don't do this, and I don't recommend it, and I consider it unethical, and if I catch anyone doing it I will report them, but with SWA Early Birds now costing $15 per ticket, more people apparently are doing this and I urge you to turn them in when you see it happen. Here's what they do. They do not buy an Early Bird. If they get a good boarding number upon online check-in, they let it be. But, if they get a bad number, upon arrival at the gate, they pay $40 for one of them to get an A-15 or lower boarding pass. That person then boards, and tells anyone trying to sit next to them that the seat is taken by their companion who is in the restroom. The companion then boards with the online number and takes that supposedly taken seat.

Easy Way to Eliminate Any In-Home Wi-Fi Deadspots and Speed Up and Protect Your Home Wi-Fi

With 1-3 Luma disks, no matter how big and no matter what the construction of your house, you can eliminate any dead-spots while producing the fastest and most secure wi-fi ever! They are a snap to set up and use. They are now shipping and you can buy them from Luma itself or from Amazon Prime.

Luma Home WiFi System - 3-pack
Link to Luma Website

Monday, July 18, 2016

Scanning Services

A lawyer who retired nearly 20 years ago, and practices before the age of digital filings, contacted us to ask if we wanted his gracious donation of the bound cases he had worked on that were taking up over 10 feet of shelf space. We were touched, but we just did not have the space. It was suggested to him that, if he wanted to maintain a record so that his son might archive these works, that he have them scanned into a digital format. We turned the issue over to our Digital Department, and schzam ... within 30 minutes, by just putting "scan documents" into The Google, we had 3 estimates for the job and someone coming out to look at the bound volumes. It clearly is a very competitive business, akin to roofers.

Fix for Outlook 2016 Hanging

Sometimes Outlook 2016 will just hang in some state, such as "processing" but not opening, or "send/receive" but never connect. The following fix often will work:

1) Click the Windows button or press the Windows key on your keyboard

2) In the Run box, type outlook.exe /safe [Note: there's a space between "exe" and the slash]

3) Click OK

4) When prompted to ‘Choose a Profile’, click OK (you may need to choose a profile if you have multiple ones)

5) Outlook will open and it appears to repair itself

6) You can exit Outlook and restart it normally to verify that the fix worked, although some of your view settings might have changed.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ultimate Online Security: Tails

The lack of privacy is a major problem on the internet. People can, and do, manage to track and monitor what you're doing. Sometimes these people are advertisers and large companies, while other times they're hackers and criminals.
If you want the ultimate in online privacy, check out a system called Tails. The full name of the product is The Amnesic Incognito Live System, which gives some useful clues as to what it does. Amnesic because, after you've finished using it, it deletes all traces of itself and the memory it used. Incognito because it uses the Tor network to ensure that all of your web browsing activity is pretty much untraceable and anonymous. And Live System because, rather than an installable product, Tails is a complete bootable operating system which you run from a USB stick or DVD disk, perform whatever you need to do, then reboot back into your familiar (and less anonymous) Windows environment.
Tails is based on Linux and, as well as the anonymous web browser, includes a relatively full set of other features too. There's an office software suite, for example, if you need to create documents in complete privacy. Of course, you'll lose those documents when you exit Tails, but there's the option of creating an encrypted Persistent Disk area of a USB stick to which you can safely export them in encrypted form.
Tails really is the ultimate in online privacy, and has been used worldwide by some high-profile activists and campaigners. While it may be unnecessary for most people, it's a fascinating product, and a perfect gift for the paranoid. And because it runs independently of your existing operating system, it's very easy to download, play with, and then discard.
Tails is completely free to download and use.

Link to Tails Download

Roof Rats 7

A loyal reader has sent in a good tip: Rats are habitual creatures. If they come to think of rat traps as their friends, they are more likely to get caught in a trap. So, when you first bait the trap (peanut butter is the choice of most rat trappers, but NOT organic peanut butter which rats hate (not kidding)), do not spring loaded. Then, the rats will "learn" that the traps are friendly sources of food. Once you see that a trap is being treated as a food source, you can set the trap and it should do its trick.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mobile Eyeglass Repair (Phoenix)

If you need your eyeglasses repaired in Phoenix, and want them to come to your house, just call Manny at 602-653-0298. You can read all about what they do on this link:

Link to Website

Women's Pants With Pockets

Many women seem to believe that women's pants do not come with pockets, especially yoga and exercise pants.  We are not sure where they have been, but that belief could not be more wrong or wrong-headed. Illustratively, put "women's pants with pockets" (without the quote marks) into The Amazon and you might be overwhelmed by a feeling of dizziness from the seeming endless number of types and styles of women's pants with pockets.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SIPs (Structured Investment Products)

[IMPORTANT PREFATORY NOTE: This is NOT to be taken as investment advise or relied on in any way. Nor is this a recommendation of any kind as to what to do or not do. It merely is a description of an approach that some might be find of interest, particularly those more interested in preserving rather than growing their portfolios. Past results should not be relied on as to what will happen in the future]

Sippy cups are wonderful, but SIPs might be even better for anyone looking to be out of the equity markets, but still wanting to share in the upside should the market go up. A SIP is a Structured Investment Product, and there are all kinds of them. Here is an example of one SIP: It is a 7Y FDIC-insured CD. The FDIC-insurance component guarantees you will get back your principal at the 7Y mark up to the FDIC-maximum-allowed. It does not pay interest like a typical CD. Rather its dividend is tied to an index, such as the S&P 500. If the S&P goes up, a dividend is paid proportionate to that rise in the S&P. If the S&P does not go up or goes down, no dividend is paid. So, it could be that no dividend is paid over the life of the SIP, but one gets return of principal.

The SIP route could make particular sense for someone who wants to be out of the equity markets to avoid the risk of a market crash and loss of their portfolio's value. If there were risk-free fixed income investments available, the SIP route would not be that attractive. But since cash currently earns virtually nothing (e.g., 1% on  1YCDs), putting money in such a SIP route "costs" very little in lost income even if the SIP earns no dividends.

Right now, anyone who is totally in cash or cash equivalents will be earning virtually nothing, but they will sleep at night, free of worry about the next black swan or flash crash. Staying in such an all-cash position runs the risk of running out money, but avoids the risk of loss from another huge market crash. And when there is some such event, one then might consider a relatively small bet on XIV as has been discussed in earlier posts (e.g., putting 10% of one's portfolio in XIV the day after Brexit would have raised one's total portfolio by 4% a few weeks later). 

[IMPORTANT CONCLUSORY NOTE: This is NOT to be taken as investment advise or relied on in any way. Nor is this a recommendation of any kind as to what to do or not do. It merely is a description of an approach that some might be find of interest, particularly those more interested in preserving rather than growing their portfolios. Past results should not be relied on as to what will happen in the future]


After LastPass (password manager and information storer), the single most helpful app is Evernote. You can store anything on it and it will automatically sync across all your devices. So, for example, if you are in a parking lot in San Pol de Mar (Spain) meeting a rental car agent, and you forgot to bring your passport, you can just take out your phone and there it is. 

Unfortunately, Evernote recently  announced price and device changes to its three pricing plans and a serious limitation on its free basic plan that might make you think about switching apps.
Paying customers will experience 33 to 40 percent price hikes for Plus and Premium plans, depending on whether you pay monthly or annually. The cost of a Plus plan will rise from $2.99 to $3.99 per month or from $24.99 to $34.99 annually. Premium's monthly price will jump from $5.99 to $7.99, and its annual fee will increase from $49.99 to $69.99.
Also, effective August 15, Evernote will limit syncing to two devices: phones, iPod Touches, tablets, and desktops on the free Basic plan. You can get around this limit on computers if you use Evernote's Web app. On a brighter note, if you're on the free plan, you'll gain passcode locks on mobile apps, a feature previously exclusive to Premium customers.
If those changes have you shopping for a new note-taking app, these five affordable Evernote alternatives are packed with most of the features you need: One Note; Wunderlust; Simple Note; Google Keep; and Paper by Fifty Three. Our App Department has been so upset by the Evernote changes it has gone into a deep depression and not had the energy to try any of these.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Orange Is the New Black Season 4 Episode 1

If you just finished binging on Deadwood, you likely will find the language of the newest season of OITNB to be a bit too tame. But the graphic effects are just as good. And if the first episode is any guide, Season 4 looks to be just as good if not better than Season 3. You also might see a character from Deadwood show up on OITNB. The only negative is that they haven't changed the opening credits so get your mute or fast forward buttons ready (and it must be said that, while Deadwood's opening credit music was terrible, at least its asthetics, unlike OITNB's, were pleasing, especially if you liked beautiful horses).

Arizona Driver License Renewal

Wow! It's not your grand-father's driver license renewal center any more. They've really improved the process. The longest wait is at the check-in desk, which can be 10+ minutes. Once past there, your wait to have your picture taken will be under 3 minutes, your wait to get to a desk under 2 minutes, and the time for your eye exam and paper-work at the desk under 5 minutes, and you're done with temporary license in hand (the permanent one will be mailed to you). You can go online to print and fill out the form ahead of time and to see the estimated wait time at each facility, but the estimated time given in this instance of 38 minutes was way way longer than the actual time.

PS: As to driving to the West Side facility on the I-10 and back on street roads, well, let's please not go there.

PPS: You need only one good eye to pass the eye exam. So, if your new prescription glasses that updated your left eye lens haven't come yet, but your right eye lens is fine, just close your left eye and the numbers on the chart will be perfectly clear.

Roof Rats 6

When a rat is caught in a trap, it usually is killed instantly. But sometimes not. If you experience the latter circumstance, be prepared to be totally freaked out. The company you are working with, if it's a good one like CritterTech, will dispatch a tech promptly to get rid of the rat for you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Deadwood Redux

Deadwood is clearly at least the second best series ever after The Wire. The opening credit music is not good, so you have to mute the initial credits, but that's just a nit. The closing credit music is delightful but who cares. What's wonderful is that the dialogue frees you to use language you might have shied away from, that is perfect for many occasions. The only downer is that the last episode is incomprehensible and jarring. It's like they thought there would be a 4th season, but alas, there is not. So, feel free to skip the last few episodes to avoid the frustration of the finale.

Buying Glasses On Line Revisited

One word of caution: If you don't know the exact distance between the centers of your eyes, don't guess. But a further word of caution: While you can tell exactly what your glasses will look like, you can't tell how they will feel, both in terms of comfort and in terms of how flimsy and cheapo they feel. Bottom-Line: Buying glasses online could be a big mistake, especially when Sassy Glasses has great frames at $75.

Monday, July 11, 2016

US Women's Open

Just after the USGA did its total mess up Sunday during the playoff of the US Women's Open, our message board lit up asking us to do something. Obviously, we have no jurisdiction over the matter, but loyal readers wanted us to maximize the ridicule the USGA was getting. We had our crack Video Department study the camera shot, and it immediately became clear the USGA fundamental error was far more serious than what has to date been commented on. As a result, we have sent the text of following letter to the NYT, WSJ, and The Golf Channel.

"Everyone agrees that the USGA messed up in how it handled a ruling by not advising the players earlier and simultaneously during the playoff of the U.S. Women’s Open. While that criticism is amply justified, it actually misses the USGA’s even bigger error, which seems to be missed also by all the commentary. Specifically, the video tape does not, and from its angle could not, show a grounding of the club in the sand trap. Rather, it shows only that a grain of sand moved at the same time the club moved. But, because the camera was above the sole of the club shooting down, and not below the sole shooting up, that camera shot did not, and could not, show that the bottom of club’s sole actually touched the sand. Indeed, given the heavy wind gusts at the time, it is at least equally likely, and perhaps even more likely, that, as the club moved leaving the sand more exposed to the wind, it was the wind that toppled the grain of sand, not the club."

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Controlling The Google (Relief for Those Who Don't Want It Watching You (Some of Us Are Glad Someone Is Listening))

If you have a Google account (if you use Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, etc. then you have an account) you can now manage all the information Google has collected about you - websites you've visited, things you've searched for, YouTube videos you've watched, and so on. The My Activity tool shows you exactly what Google knows about you while giving you tools to review, edit and delete any data that Google has collected about you when you use Google services such as Google Search, YouTube, Android, etc. In addition to managing data, the My Activity privacy tool let's you easily stop and re-start tracking for any of the services listed - if you want to see the YouTube videos you've watched but don't want your Chrome search history saved, now you can do it all from one place.
Editing and deleting the collected data is fairly straightforward - using the three dot menu allows you to edit or delete entries individually or all at once. To edit individual items, use the three dot menu next to the listing. For bulk editing, use the three dot menu in the upper right corner. The search box let's you look for specific items or filter searches by date or Google product.
You can now also opt out in or out of any product Google uses to track your activities in one place.
Three things worth noting:
- My Activity settings shows data for the device you're currently using.
- If you use Google products across multiple devices and turn off tracking for a service, the data won't be available across all your devices. For example, if you use Google Chrome and sync your bookmarks across devices or platforms, stopping it will prevent your bookmarks from being synchronized.
- There are new ad preferences in the My Activity tool. Historically, Google has used the data it collects about you to display ads across Google products by using cookies. Google is expanding that approach, using behavioral information to display ads beyond Google products to the wider internet - similar to how Facebook and other third party sites track user's usage across the internet. What's different about Google is that you can opt-in or opt-out of personalized ads. It's a choice between seeing ads based on your interests (as determined by the data Google collects about your activities) or ads not based on the data Google collects. Of course, using Ad and Privacy blocking add-ons will bypass most, if not all, tracking. All in all a fairly useful tool - if you want to see what Google knows about you, head over and have a look.
[Courtesy of Gizmo's Freeware]

Amazon Money-Saving Tip for Returns

Say your tablet died on you and will not boot up. You go through the known fixes (e.g., holding down the power button for 30 seconds and holding down the power button and the volume button), but no luck. You charge it for a while but still no luck. You go to Amazon and settle on a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch tablet, but you have to order in 4 minutes to get same day free delivery. You put in your cart and pick out a screen saver pack, and put it in your cart. Now you race to find a cover/case and with less than a minute to go, you don't like what you see. So you place the order, and go back and find a case/cover for $9.47, which you order, but because it's under $35, you won't get it for 2 days. You call Amazon to see if it will combine the two orders, and while they try, they can't, although they do move up your delivery on the case/cover to next day for no charge. Eight hours later, you happen to see your tablet which happened to be left plugged, and schzam, the rescue screen comes up and it boots up and shows as 50% charged. You leave it over night and it's 100% charged and is holding the charge. So, now you want to return the tablet, the screen saver and the case cover. Here's the problem, because the return is not due to anything Amazon did, you will be charged about $8 for the return shipping label. That's fine with you, but you don't want to pay $8 for the tablet/screen saver return and another $8 to return the $9.47 case/cover. If you can refuse delivery on the case/cover, problem solved. But if not, try this (which likely works better for Prime members): Call Amazon, tell them the issue, tell them you totally understand if Amazon can't do anything, but might they be able to figure out how not to charge you two return shipping costs. Again, Amazon cannot combine the return orders. But, if you ask really nice, and make clear you'll abide any Amazon decision, they just might issue a second shipping label at no cost to you (even though Amazon has to pay for the shipping back and even $1 for the printing of the label).

PS: Our Technical Department had no chance to run the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8-inch tablet through the rigorous testing it has earned its reputation on, but that tablet has gotten really good reviews from cnet and elsewhere, runs Android 5.0, and costs under $200. And you can get it from Amazon the day you order it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Four First Easy Fixes to an App Gone Awry or Askew

All of sudden, an app, like an email program, stops syncing or working correctly. Before getting upset or trying to figure out the problem, just do the following: (i) reboot the device; if that doesn't work (ii) shut off the device, pull the battery, reinstall the battery, and boot up the device; if that doesn't work (iii) go to the device manager and clear the cache for the app; and if that doesn't work (iv) uninstall and re-install the app. 99% of the time the problem will be corrected. If not, consult The Google.

XIV Part 3


The day after the Brexit vote XIV dropped to below 22.50 and a business day later dropped below 20.50. Today, XIV opened at 27.49 and closed above 28.00. This has created some greater enthusiasm for XIV. At the same, time, while everyone understands the risk that one might buy XIV at a given price and it drops from there and never gets back to that price, everyone might not understand the risk of roll cost.

One needs to watch the “roll” percentages should the vixy futures have a higher price on the short months vs the longer months. You can monitor this at the Vix Central website. Currently the contango is 13.4% for the first month, however after periods of extreme volatility when you enter this it usually is negative.  If it stays negative for a longer period you’ll be able to monitor how much you would be losing each month by staying in the position. Thus, "buying and holding" XIV as a permanent hedge can be unwise.  Thus, while the strategy of purchasing after periods of extreme volatility seems to work for now, VIX futures need to be monitored. And to put a fine point on it, the roll risk and contango are what make buying the mirror image of the XIV, namely the VIXY or VXX which move in the opposite direction of XIV, a very risky investment and one that is suitable only for highly speculative professionals making very short-term bets.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Smart Lock

If you have a dead-bolt, for under $300 (bolt and installation), it's a very good idea to replace it with a smart lock. Not only will it provide more security, but you never have to hide a key or figure out where to leave a key for an incoming guest or home-exchanger. And if you're one of those people who loves to remotely lock and unlock stuff, it will give you a lifetime of joy. They are available from anywhere including Amazon, and if you have a home system for controlling your thermostat and other stuff by wi-fi, your home system supplier will have smart locks.

Easy Task Manager

Everyone has been there. You sit at your computer, desperate to get on with some work, but the PC is busy. Something's clearly using up lots of processing capacity or hard disk activity, because everything's running very slowly. So where are the culprits?
The normal course of action at this point is to load up Task Manager, or Process Monitor, or Resource Monitor. But they're not really designed for anyone except techies such as my self and my highly sophisticated team, and the results can be hard to interpret. Which is why I recommend a very simple tool called What's My Computer Doing for people such as yourselves.
The program is a 0.5 MB download that needs no installation. Just click on the enormous Download button to get it. When you run it, it tells you which programs are running, and whether they're using hard disk, processor, or both. Click on one of the entries and you can see more about the program, as well as sending it directly to VirusTotal for a scan if you're suspicious.
If you're not technically minded but you want to keep your PC running at its best, What's My Computer Doing is the program you need.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Blue Mail Redux (for Android and iOS)

If you use only one email app on your mobile device and are happy with it, stop reading. But, if you find any shortcoming in it, or if you have two email apps you use, read on. Actually, you don't need to read on at all: Just install Blue Mail and your life will improve immeasurably. Blue Mail is not a third email app. Rather, it will be the only app you use. It will receive for you all the emails sent to whatever other email apps you are using, and let you send and reply directly without ever having to access those app ever. As important, it will eliminate any shortcomings you have with your other email apps such as address book issues and conversation view (in Gmail). In short, it's fabulous. You give up nothing and gain everything. It's what kids these days call a win/win.

Link to Blue Mail for Android

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Very Useful Photo App (But Only for iOS Devices)

Avast Photo Space: This app eliminates the quandary of which photos to leave on your phone for easy sharing and which to store in the cloud. It automatically sends the hi-res photo to your Dropbox or Google Drive account for safekeeping, leaving a smaller, low-res version on your phone for immediate sharing.

Etiquette re Responding to Condolence Notes

Here is the text of a letter sent to Philip Galanes (NYT Social Q's):

"Your July 3 column entitled, 'An Unanswered Letters,' states that, 'of course,' a sympathy note should be responded to by thank you note from the grieving recipient. I am sure I am not alone in pointing out to you that etiquette does not require any such response. For example, according to, and every other pertinent website I have checked, a thank you note is not needed for everyone who sends a sympathy card. Thank you notes should be sent to anyone that offered something beyond a simple card, but they are not required in response to a sympathy card alone. Thus, while it is always appropriate to send a thank you note if you would like, in the situation described in your column, it is not necessary - and grieving survivors certainly may not need the added pressure of writing and addressing thank you notes."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gift Registries and In Lieu of Suggestions

[Inspired by NPR]

No matter who one is voting for (or against), the November elections, especially the presidential election, clearly dominate the news and people's conversations and rapt attention. Particularly if you care about the outcome, and have a wedding, birthday, anniversary, or other such joyous event coming up where you set up a gift registry, in addition to (or even instead of) the traditional pots, pans, and the like, consider putting the following:

Fill in [$ amount] and that sum will be contributed to [candidate of your choice's] campaign:

Check this box promising you'll vote for [candidate of your choice]:

Or sadly, if you have an obituary to prepare, consider putting in something like this: "In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate that you vote for [candidate of your choice] and make a contribution to [his or her] campaign."

Friday, July 1, 2016

Getting Through Security Faster at Terminal 4 at Sky Harbor (Phoenix)

If you have Global Entry TSA Pre Check privileges, read no further. But if not, no matter what gate your flight is leaving from at Terminal 4, if you head for the D gate security line, in all likelihood, it will be much shorter than the security line for the other gates. And once you are through security, you can get to your actual gate. The time difference, especially during heavy travel days, can be substantial.

Spy Apps

There are apps one can install on someone else's phone that will send to one's phone copies of all text messages to and from the else's phone, and some such apps can be installed without leaving an icon or other trace of their existence on the else's phone. Upon review by our Taste and Standards Department, we have no more to say on the topic.

Pyrex Lid Replacements

Sometimes Pyrex lids lose their tight-seal capability (which could result in your gazpacho sloshing out). If you buy a replacement on Amazon or eBay, you have to be certain you are getting the correct size, and you cannot just rely of the volume and shape of the glass. Your better bet is to go to Pyrex's own website, where you can be assured of the correct fit, and the price will be as good or even better than Amazon's or eBay's.

Link to Pyrex Website