Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Night Of (Recap)

Episode 1 of The Night Of (TNO) is as good as drama gets. Episode 2 is excellent as well. Episodes 3 and 4 drag a bit but Episodes 5-7 are quite good. Episode 8, the finale, runs 1.5 hours. If you want to leave the series with a really good feeling about it, skip Episode 8.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Never Lose Anything Again! Seriously!

With Trakr discs, you can track the location of anything. Anything. A bike; a wallet; a cat; a phone. Anything. Just attach one of these Trakr discs to whatever you want to locate and an app will tell you where it is in real time. The app is free and the discs cost under $20@ when buying 4 or more.
trackr-bravo-4


Link to Trakr Website

PS: This not only is like the best new gizmo ever, it makes for fantastic birthday and holiday presents, including stocking stuffers and, for Halloween, kids will much prefer them to my other favorite, Brillo pads.

Licenses for Self-Driving Cars

Many licenses that used to be required no longer are, including a license to operate a beauty salon. It used to be that one could not operate an elevator without an elevator operator's license. Now, many elevators are self-propelled and anyone can operate them without a license. There is a raging debate whether a driver's license will be required to operate a self-driving car. Please urge your government representatives to come out in favor of abolishing the need for a driver's license to operate a self-driving car.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Migrating From iPhones to Android Devices

Many iPhone users think they are locked into iPhones if they want to keep their iTunes library and continue buying from the iTunes store. Not true. There are easy free ways to transfer one's library of music, podcasts, and video from an iPhone to an Android, as well as continuing to buy iTunes stuff for use on an Android. Here are links to these free apps and such:

Link to App to Move iTunes Songs, Podcasts and Videos to Android Devices

Link to Moving iTunes Library to Android Devices

Link to Apps to Allow Buying iTunes for Android Devices

Arizona Driver's License Renewal

The DMV offices have become much more efficient in terms of shortening the waiting time dramatically to renew one's driver's license. But, the office nearest you might be quite a distance away and not in a section of town you like to drive in, to, or from. There are numerous third-party private firms all over the place where you can renew your driver's license. They will tack on a $25 service fee, but the time-saving and convenience might be seen as well worth it. Just put in "Arizona Driver's License Renewal Third Party" (without the quotes) into The Google and you'll see many alternatives.

Fixing Outlook

One morning, you discover that your email messages no longer are associated correctly, they do not display any icon, and they will not open as .msg messages. After researching the matter, you decide to just do an uninstall/reinstall, which does fix the problem. But all your settings are gone, and your Auto-Suggest for email addressees brings up nothing. Easy fix for that: Open a new email; open your address book and select all and insert them into the "to" column; put Outlook in OFF-LINE mode and send the email which put it in the Outbox; delete it from the Outbox. From now on, the auto-suggest addressees will appear. Unfortunately, that's just one setting corrected. How long will it take you to get all your settings back to where you want them? Pretty much all day, especially if you have take time out to go to World Market to replace the pasta bowl you accidentally dropped and broke the night before. If you do, be sure to take one of your existing bowls with you because otherwise you might have to go back again having bought the wrong-sized bowl. They aren't that different in size, but even a small difference will interfere with their stacking ability.

Compare this: White Coupe Flared Rim Serving Bowl

With this: Large  White Textured Stoneware Bowl

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Night Of (TNO)

If, like me, you know little or nothing about the criminal justice system, or you just appreciate tense drama, TNO is going to knock you out. It drills down brilliantly on the criminal justice system (albeit giving a contradictory perspective than that given expertly as well by the SUV series), and is the zenith of tense drama. Indeed, you might decide after Episode 2 or even after Episode 1, that you can't take it any more and just to skip to Episode 8 because the tension is just too high. In all events, it is fantastic, must-see TV. The casting and acting are absolutely first rate, as is the photography, which appears to be done mostly in single-camera shots typically done only in comedies, but done fantastically here.

Three notes of caution: (i) If you are squeamish about eczema, have your fast forward button ready (and fear not, it's hard to see where the eczema scenes actually add to the story); (ii) don't try to figure out why they changed the lead actor's real name of Riz to Naz when Riz would have worked fine; (iii) be sure to turn on close captions not because you need them for the dialogue but because the music/lyrics (often in rap) are coordinated to the story and the close captioning will help you understand the music/lyrics; and (iv) you will be delighted to see not only actors from The Wire, but writers as well, as well as a terrific actor from Monk (John Turturro). Bill Camp as Sgt. Box will knock you out.

Verizon One Talk

Verizon is pushing its One Talk service. While it has various features, the core feature is that, if you subscribe, calls to your Verizon number will ring on your designated Verizon smart devices and on your Verizon desktop phone, for an additional charge of $20/month. What is astounding about this is that Google Voice will give you this same "one number" capability on any phone you want, landline and smart phone of any manufacturer, and you can add phones and subtract them at any time, as well as enable you to make free long distance calls from any landline, and Google Voice is free. It would seem the geniuses at Verizon who likely invested millions into this technology, and who are spending millions to promote it, and very well might reap millions in profit, are devotees of P.T. Barnum's view that there is a fool or sucker born every minute.

Historical Note: As this article explains, P.T. Barnum likely did not coin that phrase: Link to Historical Note

Gazpacho Redux

Our world-renowned Gourmet Culinary Department has tweaked its gazpacho recipe this summer. We couldn't believe it until we tasted it, but they've actually made it tastier and more colorful. It's quick, easy, and inexpensive to prepare, and you can make big batches of it at a time, and no matter what you do (other than drop it on the floor), it will dazzle you and your guests.

1. Put an ear of corn in the microwave for 4 minutes on high; remove when done and run under cold water; put in freezer to cool it further. Write corn on a post-it note and put the note next to your mixing bowl so you don't forget to take the corn out of the freezer and add it at the end.

2. Dice by hand (do not use a Bass-O-Matic which dices too finely) the following (and feel free to add other ingredients) and add to mixing bowl: 3 celery sticks; 1/2 cucumber; 1 scallion bunch; quarter of a Bermuda onion; quarter of a red and/or yellow pepper (be sure seeds are removed); chunk of elephant garlic (which actually is a leak and is not quite as strong as garlic but is much easier to peel and dice); 1 roma; and 6 little tomatoes. Mix up all this stuff in the bowl.

3. Add the following dried spices (which hold up better than fresh): basil; cilantro; parsley; and tarragon. Stir again.

4. Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir again.

5. Add organic extra virgin olive oil and lime juice. Stir again.

6. Remove corn from freezer and shave it into the bowl. Stir again.

7. Transfer mixture to rectangular pyrex bowl and add can of V-8 or tomato juice. Let it steep in refrigerator for hours or even a couple of days.

8. Before transferring to salad dish for serving, cube 1/4th of an avocado into each salad dish.

9. Transfer mixture to salad dish over avocado and scoop in a little extra liquid as well. Add a dollop of sour cream.

10. Serve as a first course and sit back and bask in the joy of knowing how happy you've made other people, which after all is what we all aspire to in life anyhow and which eclipses all other aspirations.

Friday, August 26, 2016

HBOGO

If you subscribe to HBO (even for free for the first month and $5/month thereafter until you cancel), you get HBOGO, which lets you stream HBO to any smart device, including a SmartTV. Then, you might find it easier to watch series that way because of the Watchlist feature, although for series, you cannot just Watchlist the whole series in one click, you need to do so episode by episode.

HBO, HBO On Demand, The Night Of,

The Night Of is HBO's highly-acclaimed hot new 8-part mini-series. Seven episodes have aired and the finale airs Sunday. Here is one person's (named Daedalus, but will call him D) recent journey through the HBO/Cox labyrinth:

D calls Cox at 3 pm and adds HBO for $10/month cancelable at any time. D cannot find TNO on Cox/HBO's On Demand listing. D calls Cox tech support and they can't find it either, so D cancels HBO. An hour later D calls Cox about a different issue, and is assured TNO is in the HBO On Deman listing, and the rep will stay on the line until its found, and offers HBO for $5/month. D adds HBO back on and the rep cannot find TNO and puts D on hold, who hangs up after 10 minutes. D then calls back to the Loyalty Department to tell them about the glitch in HBO On Demand. While on the phone explaining the problem, D discovers that if one, instead of selecting the first listing of HBO that comes up in the On Demand/Premium listing, one scrolls down past about 10 channels, another HBO will appear, and schzam, there's TNO. D educates the Cox rep and suggests that the tech support staff might be educated as well. The Cox rep offers to put D back on HBO for $5/month. With a little gentle persuasion, D convinces the Cox rep to give D the first month free, which the rep agrees to.

D is really looking forward to TNO, which given what D's gone through, better be good. Given that Omar from The Wire and John Turturro are in it, it's hard to believe it won't be.


Important iPhone Security Patch

If you haven't already, update your iPhone's iOS to 9.3.5. through your phone's normal software update. Otherwise, you are risking a serious security issue.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ransomware Tools

Security company Trend Micro has published some free tools that assert to be able to remove ransomware from a computer and recover any encrypted files. Not having any infected computers on hand, our Security Department has been able to test these. But it might well be a good idea to add this to your list of things to try if you're unlucky enough to be infected.

Link to Trend Micro Site

BleachBit: When You Want to Shred Data Files So Even the FBI Cannot Recover Them (Just Ask Hillary)



BleachBit quickly frees disk space and tirelessly guards your privacy. Free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn't know was there. Designed for Linux and Windows systems, it wipes clean a thousand applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari,and more. Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster. Better than free, BleachBit is open source. It's shreding is so complete that even the FBI cannot recover data subjected to BleachBit. Illustratively, Clinton's lawyers, who reviewed her emails before turning them over to the FBI, used BleachBit to shred the 30,000 emails they decided did not have to be turned over.

Preventing and Minimizing Water Damage

While on a trip, a water line broke in a loyal reader's house, causing substantial damage. He graciously has shared some valuable lessons learned from this costly event with our Home Safety Department. Here are the highlights:

1. One easy way to prevent water damage while you are away, just shut-off the main water valve. Unfortunately, this might be impractical if you have a sprinkler system or automatic water leveler for your pool. Fortunately, you can do what our smart reader did which was to re-install the shut off valve to inside house after the sprinkler and water-leveler take off points. Therefore, the water is shut off from the house but not from the sprinkler system or the pool
2. If you have an alarm system or home automation system, there surely will be water detector alert accessories you can add to the system for a very low cost.

3. Even if you don't have a home security or automation system, for about $10, you can get stand-alone warning devices from anywhere, including Amazon: Link to Water Alerts on Amazon

4. Note that water detection is helpful if you are at home, or your system will give you an email or text alert, but detection without more will not stop the flooding. That's where shut-off systems come in and, while not as inexpensive as simple alert systems, compared to the loss you could encounter, it might be the best few hundred dollars (or even less) you can spend. Again, such shut-off systems are available from any home security company or home automation system, and you can find them even on Amazon: Link to Water Shutoff Systems

Kayleigh McEnany

We don't do politics here but many readers have asked our Research Department to them about the background of Kayleigh McEnany, who appears with quite some frequency from early morning to evening on CNN, always smiling both while listening to others pontificate and while launching in with her views. You might or might not be surprised to learn that Kayleigh, who is 28 years old, graduated from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a BSFS in International Politics.  She also studied politics and international relations at Oxford University, St. Edmund Hall.  

Image result for kayleigh mcenany




Link to Kayleigh's Website

Amazon Subscription Service Is Not a Price Guarantee

[From the NYT]

WHAT do subscriptions to a newspaper, magazine or Netflix account have in common? Once you sign up, you expect to pay the same rate every month.
Yet that’s not the case at Amazon when you subscribe to its Subscribe & Save program, which automatically refills orders for household staples like instant coffee, napkins or trash bags.
Amazon’s subscription program, which was introduced in 2007, lets consumers register to have their favorite consumables delivered regularly — monthly, for example — in exchange for a discount of at least 5 percent off each order. Buried in the e-commerce company’s terms and conditions is that the Subscribe & Save discount is applied to the price of the item at the time that the order is placed. And on Amazon, prices change frequently — including sometimes rising.
I learned this the hard way while reviewing an email summary of my Amazon subscriptions. A pack of lint rollers that I had subscribed to for more than two years recently jumped to $18.04 a pack, up from $12.44 since the last delivery a few months ago, or almost a 50 percent increase.
A quick web search revealed other consumers were also surprised by price jumps for Subscribe & Save items. One Amazon customer said he signed up for a $10 box of chewing gum and was charged $100 for the same product a month later. In Amazon’s online forums, dozens of people posted about prices of Subscribe & Save items fluctuating, with some calling the program a “bait and switch” subscription scheme.
Amazon declined to comment. The company emails people 10 days before a recurring subscription delivery, when it informs customers of a new price of their item so they can change or skip the order.
Any sticker shock, analysts said, may be the result of Amazon’s complex pricing system coming into conflict with consumer expectations of a traditional subscription.
Jared Wiesel, a partner at Revenue Analytics, a pricing and sales consulting firm, said of Amazon, “I think they’ve violated the psychological concept of a subscription with their customers in changing prices like this. When people think of a subscription, they think of locking in a set cadence of receiving a good.”
Amazon, the top online retailer in the United States, has not said how many customers use Subscribe & Save. Yet its program is prominent among a growing number of internet retailers that are finding success in subscription-based sales models, such as Dollar Shave Club, the subscription razor company that recently sold for $1 billion to Unilever, or the Honest Company, which lets parents subscribe to baby products like diapers and wipes.
Amazon’s dynamic pricing system, in which it frequently adjusts item prices based on a sophisticated set of variables like supply and demand, time of day and prices offered by competitors, is the company’s way of making it look as if you are always getting the best deal, Mr. Wiesel said.
Prices of goods can also fall, of course. But even when prices decline, people need to beware because Amazon’s pricing tends to fluctuate more widely and more frequently than at your local grocery store or Walmart, Mr. Wiesel added. In traditional retail, the major price changes typically happen during promotions, he said.
To get a preliminary view into whether people can save — or not — with Amazon’s program, I plugged prices of 50 featured Subscribe & Save items into a spreadsheet and looked at their price histories over the previous six months. I compiled the results with the web tool Camel Camel Camel, an Amazon price tracker.
Price Increases Up to 170%
Prices of most items, including dishwasher soap and toilet bowl cleaner, changed frequently. As often as weekly, prices rose, dipped and rose again like a roller coaster. In extreme cases, prices for items like instant coffee and napkins jumped between 90 and 170 percent. (Prices below reflect subscription discounts.)
In June: $6.64
In August: $12.50
This week: $7.59
In May: $7.94
In June and July: $21.46
This week: $15.36
______
Some Prices Do Stay the Same
Only five of the Subscribe & Save items held steady.
Over six months: $25.99
Over six months: $19.99
After the service’s 5 percent discount, the paper towels cost $24.69 and the coffee cost $18.99. Not bad.
______
Wild Fluctuations
In the end, whether you save money depends on when your subscription order is placed and what items you buy. The downside of buying through Amazon’s subscription program is the lack of predictability, Mr. Wiesel said. “I’ve never seen this type of price fluctuation in a brick-and-mortar store,” he added. Some highlights over the last six months (with subscription discounts applied):
Low: $18.06
High: $33.24
Low: $4.67
High: $11.27
Low: $8.95
High: $17.91
______
Mr. Wiesel noted that it would be tough for Amazon to revise its subscription program to offer items at fixed rates. A majority of sales on Amazon are one-time purchases, and dynamic pricing is fundamental to how the company operates. If, for example, Subscribe & Save prices remained static, those customers could miss out when prices go down for one-time purchases of the same products.
If you truly want to save money on Amazon, one approach is to sign up for price alerts on Camel Camel Camel to get an email when a price drops to a desired amount. When that happens, manually reorder — yes, that’s an extra step — your instant coffee, toilet cleaner or lint rollers.
Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst for Forrester Research who follows Amazon, said the retailer was probably pushing prices up to test how loyal customers are to products and how much more they are willing to pay for them. Yet the sharp price changes on Subscribe & Save items caught her by surprise.
“It doesn’t seem as customer-friendly as Amazon typically is,” she said. “That’s what’s unusual.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Orange Is the New Black Season 4 (End Note)

An earlier post on OITNB exclaimed how good Season 3 was and how good the first half of Season 4 was. Unfortunately, the second half of Season 4 degenerates into boredom and silliness. And, just when you thought Episode 12 was the blessed end, they added an Episode 13. And just when you thought 57 minutes into Episode 13 was the blessed end, they added about 20 more minutes. The bad news is that it ends as an attempted cliff-hanger where you don't know what's going to happen at a supposedly very dramatic moment. The good news is you likely won't care and will not tune into Season 5 (if they try to foist that upon us) to find out.

Cox Email Problems (Phoenix)

The Cox email servers have a known issue starting yesterday of not delivering or seriously delaying the delivery of emails. Here are two suggestions that were given them by the head of our Efficiency Department:

Suggestion 1: There clearly have been serious problems with Cox’s email servers over the past two days (delaying delivery of emails by a day or more), which the Cox rep I talked to confirmed. Everyone understands that problems happen. But what is not understandable is Cox’s failure to send email notices to its customers alerting them to the problem. This would not only would be a courtesy to customers, and make them appreciate Cox more, it would save Cox money by not having to handle the flood of phone calls it gets when such problems arise.

Suggestion 2: When I phoned to report the email server problem, I was put on hold with no estimate of the expected hold time. Giving expected hold time is done by almost every large company. Providing such notice not only would be a service to customers, and make them appreciate Cox more, it would tend to clear the line of people not wanting to wait an extended time to talk to a rep, so that more calls could be handled by fewer Cox reps.




Caution re Cox (Phoenix) Auto-Pay

If you have your Cox bill automatically paid with a credit card, and your credit card is compromised so the number has to be changed, CAUTION: The change will not take place for Cox's current billing cycle. So, if you don't make a manual payment, you will be dinged. Likely it will do no good, but the head of our Complaint Department has sent the following to Cox:

Complaint: I have been a Cox customer for more than 20 years and on Auto Easy Pay with my credit card since it became available. I use that same card for all my auto-pays. When I have to change the card because it was compromised, it’s a significant undertaking. But, every merchant I deal with makes it much easier than Cox does. Specifically, except for Cox, every merchant allows the new card to take effect immediately (including the following merchants: AT&T; AARP; United Health; AFLAC; Amica; Arizona Republic; NYT; Google; Netflix; Vudu; WSJ; Walgreens). In sharp contrast, Cox does not allow the new card to apply to the current billing cycle, but instead, and with little notice makes the customer do a manual payment for the then current billing cycle. Last month, not only did Cox not inform me that a bill was due, the first notice it gave me was that a bill payment had been rejected and was overdue.

Suggestion: Given how all other merchants are able and in fact process credit card changes immediately for their auto-pay system, there does not seem to be any good reason Cox should not as well. Please consider allowing auto-pay credit card changes to take place immediately. Not only would it reduce customer frustration and the kind of problem I encountered last month and apparently again this month, it would likely save Cox money by reducing the number of customer telephone calls it would be getting from customers unwarily not realizing that their auto-pay had been suspended.


Request: I very much would appreciate a phone call from a Cox rep with authority to speak knowledgably about this issue. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

(Repeat) Tip re Booking on Southwest Airlines (SWA)

For those readers who might have missed this the first time, or read it and forgot it, as well as for new subscribers, when making reservations on SWA, it is better to make separate one-way outbound and inbound reservations than round-trip reservations. That is because if you want to cancel a leg or change it (and SWA is the best airline for doing this), any such change or cancellation can be done online for one-way tickets, but, if you are changing just a leg of a round-trip ticket, you will have to phone SWA to do so.

Credit Card Fraud Accommodation

If the credit card you use for auto-payments is compromised, you know what a headache you are in for in having to alert all the respective merchants of your new credit card number. Here are some tips:

1. While you're credit card company will tell you that "known" auto-payments will pass through to the new card automatically for a few months, do NOT rely on that. Some might, others might not. So, it is advisable to make the manual changes (online or by phone) as immediately as possible.

2. If your credit card is not an airline frequent flier card, if you ask nicely for an accommodation to continue using that card for your auto-pays instead of switching to a different, and suggest that waiver of the annual fee would be an appropriate accommodation, there's a good chance you will get it.

3. If your credit card is an airline frequent flier card, if you ask nicely for an accommodation to continue using that card for your auto-pays instead of switching to a different, and suggest that waiver of the annual fee would be an appropriate accommodation, there's a good chance you will not get it. But, if you continue to press your request, there's a good chance you will get 5,000 frequent flier miles added to your account, which is about the value (for SWA) of the annual fee.

[Note: Your chances of getting an accommodation go up if this is the second or third compromise circumstance you've encountered in the past year]

Customer Support Sticks It to Customer

Our Consumer Problem Department (CPD) was asked by a loyal reader to try to fix a problem he was having with Iris, his smart home system. The issue was whether a given smart lock was compatible and whether a given promotion could be modified. There is no reason for anyone to read this. It is offered to show that even highly trained professionals as our CPD staff sometimes fail miserably and are even jabbed by merchants:

-----------------------------------------------------

Dear Iris Support:

1. Is the Schlage Lock Company BE468CEN619 Connect Century Touchscreen Deadbolt compatible with my Iris Second Generation hub?
2. If so, can I buy it from Lowe’s/Iris online?
3. If so, do you throw in a hub for free?
4. If so, if I already have a hub, is there any discount for buying the lock from you but not taking the free hub?

--------------------------------------------

Dear Iris Customer,
Thank you for reaching out to the Iris Customer Support team.
1. That specific lock is not supported, however here is a website with all of the Schalge Locks that are supported, as well as all devices that are supported on the Iris system. https://support.irisbylowes.com/link/portal/30143/30206/Article/653/Devices-Supported-on-Iris
2. You are welcome purchase the supported Lock from a Lowe's store or online
3. The only purchase that includes a free hub would be the purchase of a Security or Automation Pack.
4. There would not be any discount offered if you did not need the hub.
Thank you for contacting us with your questions,
Iris By Lowe's Customer Support

------------------------------------------------

Dear Iris Support:

I appreciate your response but I’m not sure I understand it.

1. The (New Model) Schlage Connect Century Touchscreen Deadbolt with Z-wave Technology and Extra Key BE468-2K (Satin Nickel) does not appear on your list of compatible products but, according the Amazon website, it is a Z-wave product that is compatible with Iris (among other Z-wave hubs). See https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKA88ZE?psc=1 (“This model is compatible with many popular Z-wave systems such as Nexia, SmartThings, Wink, Lowe's Iris, Staples Connect, Alarm.com, 2gig, Vivint, Zipato, Vera, DSC, GE/Interlogix, Qolsys, ELK, Honeywell, and Leviton”). So, could you please confirm whether your list is correct or whether your list is not up-to-date and the Amazon description is correct. By the way, the lock referenced in my original email (Schlage Lock Company BE468CEN619 Connect Century Touchscreen Deadbolt) likewise is Z-wave compatible and noted by Amazon as compatible with Iris.

2. According to your website at http://www.lowes.com/pd/Schlage-Connect-Century-Satin-Nickel-Single-Cylinder-Motorized-Touchscreen-Electronic-Entry-Door-Deadbolt-with-Keypad/4438295 , if one buys a doorlock, one gets a “FREE Iris Hub, a $$59.99 value, when you buy an Iris compatible door lock.” There is no mention of a Security or Automation Pak. Given that this offer ends today, I would appreciate a prompt response. Thank you.

---------------------------------------------

Dear Iris Customer,

I did see on the website where you saw the promotion of 'Purchase a Lock, get a free hub', and unfortunately that did end yesterday. If you visit the irisbylowes.com website, you can find the promotion of 'Purchase a Security or Automation Pack, receive a free Hub'.

As far as the locks, if they are Z Wave, they might be able to pair with the Iris System, however; they may not be fully supported and work as intended. The link I previously sent you with the devices that are supported are the only ones that I would really recommend purchasing from a Lowe's store. Or, if you can find the specific supported lock on another site, you can purchase it there as well.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email us back, or contact us at 855-469-4747 and we will be more than happy to help you.

Thank you,

Iris By Lowe's Support Team

                                                                *     *     *

Seinfeldia 3 (Last Entry re This Book)

The last portions of the book deal with post-Seinfeld stuff. Everyone realizes the fabulous syndication run it continues to have, but few likely know that some scenes from aired episodes were re-shot, or re-dubbed, or re-casted before they went into syndication (e.g., to have the actor who played the most in a given role (e.g., Jerry's father) be played in an earlier episode where another actor had appeared). There is extended discussion of what various actors did after the show ended, most of which is not very interesting, but supposedly is the prelude to the author's view of Seinfeldia. This gives credence to the idea of a Seinfeld curse but also belies it. In its worst moment, the book takes a shot at CYE, as it proclaims Seinfeld the best television show ever, having surplanted, and I'm not kidding, I Love Lucy and the Mary Tyler Moore show in that ranking. Finally, the book introduces its main character, Seinfeldia, which supposedly has taken over the world. Even a person steeped in sociological training would have difficulty understanding, as a politician might say, "What the Hell is going on here folks?"

[Conclusory Note: If you read this book on Kindle, the text actually ends at the 65% mark with supposedly 35 minutes of reading left. Actually, at the mark, some photos appear a few of which are mildly entertaining, followed by countless pages of of notes and such. I say this not as criticism, but rather, to inform the reader that he or she will finish the book much sooner than the bottom of the pages would have one believe]

Monday, August 22, 2016

Seinfeldia 2

[Prefatory Note: The previous Seinfeldia posting had said it was a running review, not waiting until the book ended. And that was true as such. But, I hit the Publish button before I was finished the book. Indeed, that post covered about the first third of the book. I apologize to anyone who might have felt personal pain for posting too soon. This post covers the next third of the book]

The book begins to drag. Not that it is uninteresting, but it dwells in laborious detail with describing scenes from the show, dribbling conversations between cast members and cast and crew, and pointless recountings of little bios and current events involving new appearances by cameo actors and new writers and other crew members. Whatever new stuff is unveiled, it is difficult to see if anyone might care. It might be the author is being paid by the page. But still, even during this what I hope is a valley, you do laugh with great frequency as the great lines and plots and endings are revisisted.

Should You Plug Your Phone in Overnight?

[From the NYT]


Chances are, you plug in your phone before you go to bed at night, thinking it’s best to greet the morning with a fully charged device.
Is this a good idea?

That depends.

Here’s the thing. Many people don’t expect to keep their phones for much longer than two years.

For the most part, experts say, those people are not going to notice much damage to their phone batteries before they start hankering for a new device.

If that sounds like you, feel free to charge every night, and as often as you like in between.

But frequent charging takes a toll on the lithium-ion batteries in our phones. And it’s not because they can be overcharged, said Edo Campos, a spokesman for Anker, which produces phone chargers.

“Smartphones are, in fact, smart,” Mr. Campos said. “They know when to stop charging.”

Android phones and iPhones are equipped with chips that protect them from absorbing excess electrical current once they are fully charged.

So in theory, any damage from charging your phone overnight with an official charger, or a trustworthy off-brand charger, should be negligible.

But the act of charging is itself bad for your phone’s battery.

Here’s why.

Most phones make use of a technology that allows their batteries to accept more current faster. Hatem Zeine, the founder, chief scientist and chief technical officer of the wireless charging company Ossia, says the technology enables phones to adjust to the amount of charge that a charger is capable of supplying.

The technology allows power to pulse into the battery in specific modulations, increasing the speed at which the lithium ions in the battery travel from one side to the other and causing the battery to charge more quickly.

But this process also leads lithium-ion (and lithium-polymer) batteries to corrode faster than they otherwise would.

“When you charge fast all the time, you limit the life span of the battery,” Mr. Zeine said.

Is there a solution?

If you’re intent on preserving a lithium-ion battery beyond the lifetime of the typical phone or tablet, Mr. Zeine suggested using a charger meant for a less powerful device, though he couldn’t guarantee that it would work.

“For example, if you used an iPhone charger on an iPad Pro, it’s going to charge very slowly,” Mr. Zeine said. “If the electronics are right, they can actually preserve the battery because you’re always charging it slowly.”

People looking to preserve their batteries should make sure their phones don’t become overheated, Mr. Campos advised, because high temperatures further excite the lithium-ion in batteries, leading to even quicker deterioration.

Apple’s website says temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (or 35 Celsius) can “permanently damage battery capacity.”

Both Mr. Zeine and Mr. Campos noted that given the constant demand for new cellphones, charging overnight might not be a point of great concern for many people.

“All this actually doesn’t make a huge difference for consumers,” Mr. Campos said, citing a 2015 Gallup survey showing that 44 percent of smartphone users planned to upgrade their devices as soon as their providers allowed it — usually after two years, about the length of time it takes for batteries to start showing signs of wear.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Travel Tips to Save Money (One of Which You Will Never Have Heard About It)

The NYTimes has a short article on a few tips that can save you a lot of money on travel. See it here: Link to NYT Article  In brief, here are the keys:

1. If traveling with others, before buying all seats on one ticket, check out price of each individual ticket. If there are lower prices on one or more, buy separately. Otherwise, if you buy all the seats at once, you will pay for each at the highest price seat available.

2. Picking certain days to travel rather than others can reap big savings.

3. Buying ahead but not too far ahead can reap big savings.

4. Checking prices on Tuesdays at 3 pm can reap big savings.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Seinfeldia (2016)

[Prefatory Note: Rather than wait until having finished the book to write a review, our Literary Department has decided to try a new approach. Under this new approach, our Department reviewers will write the review as they proceed through the book. In this way, they don't have to rely on notes, or even make notes, when preparing their review, and will be less prone to omitting something of importance for our readers]

Seinfeldia is the history of the Seinfeld television series, with a little history of the creators and characters and others involved in the show. It puts to rest any notion that a new talent just bursts onto the scene, and shows any aspiring talent how difficult it might be to "make it" and how long the odds might be. At the same time, it illuminates how a talent's real life and life on stage are a blend, as so many of the stories you've seen on TV are just re-creations of what happened in real life (e.g., Larry David quit his writing job at SNL on a Friday night after being outraged as to how a skit of his was presented, and then came back to work on Monday morning as if he never quit, which the show re-created with George Castanza doing just that (Jason Alexander's breakthrough moment was when he realized that Larry David was replicating himself in George and was not replicating Woody Allen, whom Alexander first tried to model Costanza on). Even the names of characters are taken from real people. So, don't let anyone tell you that actors are different on the set than they are in real life.

Many of you likely knew about the borrowing of plot lines and even names from real life. But, as the book explains, it's not easy to keep coming up with new ideas this way. That is why, as explained in rich detail, the show continually turned-over its writers, so that new ones would come with new experiences, plot lines, and names. At the same time, daily news reports presented fodder as well.

The book lovingly reveals not only how the show makes the realities it is based on funnier than they were in real life, it delves into the contra-positive as well. For example, the book lovingly explains why the owners of Tom's (which became Monk's on the show) had many offers to sell at a great profit or small ways to profit such as adding dishes such as "Elaine's Big Salad."

Early Seinfeld and Seinfeld himself and Curb Your Enthusiasm and David himself, however similar, are clearly different, with Seinfeld/Seinfeld being essentially light and David/CYE being essentially dark. But the book well shows how Seinfeld darkens. It also highlights how both shows common a key trait: Each episode ends with a bang, not with a whimper.

While the cast and crew are incredibly gifted talents, until the show made it, while some had some significant accomplishments, none of them had steady work or had made it big. Each had a modicum of confidence and a healthy dose of insecurity, which the book weaves nicely to explore how those forces work to create a great team product even if the team has its cracks. Compare the movies Searchlight and, even more so, The Commitments.

Finally, for anyone who just likes celebrity (People-type) tid-bits, the book is chock-filled with them. And, for anyone who has not watched a Seinfeld re-run, the book is simply a sheer joy trip down the best (or at least second best) memory lane.

Link to Seinfeldia on Amazon

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Apps to Cook With

[Courtesy of the NYT]

Cooking starts with a recipe, and one of the most sumptuous grilling recipe apps is Photo Cookbook — Barbecue Grilling. It contains fewer than 100 recipes, including delicious meals like flank steak with cherry tomato sauce and bream with avocado salad, but each recipe begins with a photograph and a guide to the grill setup and temperature to properly cook the food.
The recipes are well illustrated, with photographs of all the ingredients, which you can tap to learn more about their history. Attractive photos also illustrate each step of the preparation and cooking process, which may help cooks follow the instructions to achieve a great-looking and delicious meal.
The recipes are easy to follow, and the app includes nutritional information and space for writing notes if you tweak a recipe to suit your taste. Photo Cookbook is a great option if you usually cook the same range of food and are seeking inspiration. It costs $4 on iOS.
Grill It is another popular recipe app available for iOS and Android devices. The app is slightly simpler than Photo Cookbook, with handy illustrations and a wide variety of recipes in categories including beef, seafood and vegetables. The recipes are not fussy, and a search option lets cooks look for recipes that include a particular ingredient.
Grill It features a variety of illustrated recipes in categories including beef, seafood and vegetables.
The app has not been updated recently, so its design looks dated. But it works well, is intuitive (which is handy if you have greasy fingers) and costs only $1.
Whether you are cooking a steak on a grill or barbecue, the one thing to get right is timing, to avoid over- or undercooking. GrillTime, which is $2 on iOS, is an excellent tool to help with that issue.
The app is a clever timer with preprogrammed information on cooking times for foods as varied as steak and vegetables. You select an item, and if it is a steak, you then tell the app how thick it is and how well done you like it. Then the app sets up a new timer for you.
You can set multiple timers for different items at once, which is helpful when cooking for a group of people with different preferences. You can add custom timers to help monitor the cooking time of your recipes. The app is simple to use, elegant looking and includes basic cooking instructions, including temperatures. It can also remind you when it is time to flip a steak.
The app includes Apple Watch integration to get timer alerts on your wrist without being distracted from the grill.
GrillTime offers cooking times for a variety of foods. It can accommodate steaks of different thicknesses and preferences for different levels of doneness.
A simpler timer option is Steak: Timer by Ira D for iOS. It is limited to timing the cooking of steaks on the grill, but has options for doneness and thickness and is ready to go with only one or two taps on your phone’s screen. Steak: Timer isfree.
Android users should check out BBQ Timer by Jerry M (free) for a similar no-fuss, no-frills barbecue timer app. It has one neat twist: It can show its timer counts on your phone’s lock screen so you can check on your cooking schedule with a glance.
Grilling enthusiasts are enthralled with Japanese Kamado-style grills, which have closed ceramic lids. The Green Egg Nation app, free on iOS, is aimed at owners of Kamado grills made by the Big Green Egg, a leading brand. The app has recipes from around the world, including details on preparation, cooking temperatures and times.
Green Egg Nation is free, but for a $5 annual membership fee you can add personal notes to recipes, set timers, build shopping lists and delete ads. A lot of promotion for Big Green Egg products is featured, but most of the advice can be used for any brand of Kamado grill.
Quick Call
Ello was introduced a few years ago as a social network with a twist: It was ad-free and promised not to capitalize on its users’ data. Its popularity has waxed and waned over time, but its makers have just taken a step to make it available to more people with a new Android app. Ello is free.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stonewall Kitchen Towels

Our Kitchen Department has always favored waffle drying towels. But one of our reps recently was gifted with a Stonewall Kitchen towel. It's fabulous and looks great. We went to order more and were pleased to see they cost just $5.95 or less depending on color (our navy color choice was $5.95). However, we were shocked to learn that the shipping charge would be $9.75 for one towel or two towels or three towels. We immediately brought the issue to SK's attention and tried very hard to work with them on their shipping charges (suggesting they use USPS which would cut the shipping charge in half or even more so), but they are thick-necked, obtuse, uncooperative, and obstinate, and so we ultimately gave up. Unfortunately, while Amazon and eBay have SK towels, they do not seem to have this one, which is what we want:

Denim Blue Tea Towel

Link to Stonewall Kitchen Website

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Free Library eBooks

[Courtesy of cnet]

If you are an insatiable reader like I am and you live in the poor house as I do so you want as many ebook as you can get for free, look no further than the library. Recently, the New York Public Library put 300,000 books on an app called SimplyE. The app is available for Android and iOS, but is only available to those with a NYPL library card.
Don't live in New York? No worries.

Other libraries are offering ebook apps


SimplyE
A sample of books from the SimplyE app.Alina Bradford/CNET

The NYPL isn't the only library jumping on the app train, though. The San Diego Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and other metropolitan areas also have apps. All you need to check out books with these apps is the barcode number from your library card and your PIN number.
To find your city's app, type in the name of your city's library into the search in your app store.
Some of these apps offer more than just free ebooks through your library, too. You can also get access to movies and audio books, see which real books you have checked out and more.

Help for small towners

The big problem with these apps is if you don't live in big city, your library probably doesn't have an app. There are apps, though, connect to your local library so you can download ebooks. For example, when you sign up with Hoopla, it will search for your local library and connect to your library's ebook, movie and audio book collection using your library card number. 3M Cloud Library works on the same concept.

Last ditch effort for free ebooks

If your town doesn't have an app, and those like Hoopla and 3M Cloud Library can't find your library, don't give up hope. Many small-town libraries offer access to ebooks through special websites. The best way to find out about these sites is by contacting your library.

Beverage Coolers

Since the post this morning about some issues with Amazon arising out of a beverage cooler purchase (all of which have been resolved fabulously), our Small Appliance Department has been flooded with inquiries as to the pros and cons of owning a beverage cooler. While the Department's view on this is unanimous, the Department's Director puts it this way (using the Danby DBC120BLS) as the reference:

Pros:

1. Although it's not big, it stores a lot of cans and bottles in a chilled state. As a result, one can buy sodas and waters and such less frequently, making grocery shopping easier. More important, you are far less likely to run out of your favorite can and bottle beverages, which can be embarrassing or even humiliating when entertaining. And even more important than that, you will "create" substantially more space in your refrigerator because it no longer will be used to store sodas and waters and such.

2. At less than $200, it is a steal for this added functionality. My previous one lasted 8 eight years (so it cost about $25 per year) and likely would have kept on going had I just turned it off while traveling while the house thermostat was set a bit higher than when the house is occupied.

3. If you want to hide it some place (like in your air-blower closet) you can. But if you want to leave it out, it's stylish and, at night, if you leave the blue light on, it's dazzlingly beautiful. You can think of it as your own little Chrysler Building.

4. It's a nice little-back up to have in an emergency if your refrigerator ever goes out. You might not save all your frozen food, but you certainly can save a lot of perishables. And if you get snowed in, it's a God-send.

5. If, after you get it you don't like it, I believe at least with Costco you can return it no questions asked, so it's a no risk purchase. Even if not, you can gift it and make a friend for life or sell it at a discount and make a new acquaintence for a short time.

Cons:

None!!!!

How About Never --- Is Never Good for You

If you like biographies of quirky people (e.g., of Will Short who is the puzzle editor of the New York Times) or just plain people who have dream jobs, especially ones you could never qualify to do and didn't even realize they existed, then How About Never is for you. Even if not, it's a wonderful read about growing up in New York to become the cartoon editor of the New Yorker. And it's told in prose but punctuated with cartoons that carry the story along. The only thing one might be critical of about it is that it's a very fast page-turning read.

Link on Amazon

Monday, August 15, 2016

Warning re Amazon

I'm going to omit the painful, very painful, details, and just skip to the warning: Never buy a bulky item (such as an appliance, or TV, or even a beverage center) from Amazon. It likely will not be delivered inside but, worse, if there is any problem, Amazon is incapable or unwilling to contact the manufacturer other than using the same customer support number that doesn't work for you, and the only thing Amazon will do is a refund or return and re-deliver, in which event, you will have to package back up the product in the same way it was delivered to you. Good luck on that. If you learned your lesson on a $200 Danby beverage center, consider yourself lucky. Do not learn the lesson on an expensive or bigger item. There's a reason God put Costco.com on this planet. Do not forsake it.

PS: As a follow-up, it is meet to note that a detailed email to Amazon of the problems encountered produced an email assurance from Amazon that it would take appropriate action with Danby and Amazon also would refund 30% of the purchase price and pay for a local technician to fix the problem. Here is the text of that email that produced that welcomed result:

If you look at the notes, you will see the multiple phone calls and emails trying to resolve the problem, all to no avail. Please actually read the following to the end before sending a response, especially any stock response, and escalate this matter before responding:

1. The product is represented on Amazon's website as having a light that goes on and off automatically when the door is open and closed. If that is a true representation, my unit is defective. According to various comments, that is NOT a feature of this unit, in which event that is a false representation. I do not know if it is true or false and no one at Amazon seems to know either.

2. I have tried to contact the manufacturer (Danby) by phone and email on several occasions. Danby does not answer the phone, does not allow for call backs, and does not answer by email.

3. I have asked Amazon to contact Danby to have Danby contact me. But, it seems the only number any Amazon rep has is the same number I have, and Amazon has not been able to get through (even while keeping me on hold for over a half hour).

4. Amazon has offered a return and replacement, but only through UPS. I am a senior citizen and do not have the means or ability to wrap the product to meet UPS standards and there is no need for a return if the light in fact is not supposed to go on and off automatically. I also do not want to deal with UPS because when it delivered the product, it would not even bring it inside the front door, leaving it instead outside in plain view.

5. I clearly made a mistake by ordering this item through Amazon instead of Costco, which I know can contact its suppliers and get results and I know would do a proper replacement and removal. You can rest assured that I have learned my lesson which is that, when it comes to large bulky products, like this or a television or an appliance, etc., I NEVER will buy through Amazon. The delivery and return processes are just too painful. This has been a most painful lesson, but I'm glad I learned it on a $200 item and not an item that was much more expensive (like a large appliance or television). I likely will continue my Prime membership and buy small things from Amazon, but NEVER again anything like this. I know I'm just one customer, although I wonder how many others have the same experience and view. In all events, maybe Amazon's conduct in this circumstance makes perfect business sense for Amazon and saves it money somehow. Fortunately, though, I have alternatives so that this kind of thing does not repeat itself with Amazon.

6. Finally, given the useless hours I've spent with Amazon on this matter already, I do not need a response. But, if Amazon does want to contact me, please do not do so unless it's by someone with authority to do something to rectify the situation, i.e., someone who can actually contact Danby or arrange for a proper pickup.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I trust you understand I have taken the time to set this out as favor to Amazon in the sense of giving it constructive feedback.

---------------

Get Fluxed

During the day, when your office or other room is lit mostly by the sun, the natural light has a blue tint to it. As does your PC's monitor. Which is all fine. Your monitor is comparatively bright, and is visible comfortably in daylight.
But as evening falls, and you turn on the electric lights, your room takes on a less blue and more of a yellow hue. And the overall level of light is less than during the day. And yet your PC monitor is still at full brightness, and still blue, which makes your eyes tired.
Which is where a brilliant program called Flux comes in. I've written about it before, but there have been numerous updates so it's about time I mentioned it again. If you don't have it, and you use your PC both during the day and at night, you need it.
Flux automatically and almost unnoticeably adjusts your display so that, as the sun sets, your screen loses some of its blue tint. It makes your eyes more comfortable, regardless of when you use your computer. Flux knows your location (though you can set it manually if required), and therefore needs very little configuration. 

EZ Pass Charges on Rental Cars

If you don't use EZ Pass, there is no charge from rental car companies. But, if you use it even once, there might be as much as a $20 service fee per month plus the toll charge itself. However, if you get a toll charge after you paid your bill, which is when even a proper one would come, it might not be a proper charge or any charge at all. Call your rental car company and ask, and if they have no record of any such charge, ask for a case number, and then dispute the charge with your credit card company.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Playbills

If you go to a noted show, do not throw away the Playbill. Indeed, you should grab all you can and loiter after the show to collect any that people have discarded. You might ask why. Because, for a show like Hamilton, you can sell them on eBay for $7-$17 or even more each.

Hamilton the Soundtrack PS

Although the videos are not, the soundtrack of Hamilton with the original cast is also available to stream for free on You Tube. But the link below is the best, because it is the "rap genius" website, where it gives you the lyrics, and also gives you good historical background, in addition to all the rap songs that L-MM used as influences. In the lyrics, if you click on anything in green, you get L-MM's comments; if it's in grey, you get the "genius" rap commentators' remarks, which are a treat, and Ron Chernow (who wrote the book the show is based on) also chimes in a few times. 

The music is really beautiful, and beautiful voices. The 3 top performers (Hamilton, Burr, and Hamilton's wife) have all left the cast as of just a few weeks ago. That's one reason that tickets are not as unaffordable now.  Our Hamilton was Michael Luwoye, not Lin-Manuel, but I really enjoyed ours, who had a much stronger voice than L-MM. Renee Elise Goldsberry, who was off the night we saw it, is really terrific on the soundtrack as the sister of Hamilton's wife. She played the mean assistant state's atty on the Good Wife, who sort of had an affair with Cary. But the woman who played her Monday, was also fantastic. 

Finally, the soundtrack is probably about 97% or maybe 100% of the play. There is very little non-rapping, non-singing in the play. So, if you listen to the soundtrack, you know the play. 


Best Hamilton Soundtrack Download Site ... Rap Genius

[Note: Some say Hamilton is a rap opera. Others, perhaps speaking more precisely, say it is a hip-hop opera]

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Search and Destroy Malware

Whatever security or antivirus software you use, it's often useful to have additional tools at your disposal. And it's been a couple of years since I last wrote about one of the best-known additional tools so it's high time I covered it again.
Spybot Search & Destroy checks your PC for spyware and adware. It can also remove the malware too. Once the software is installed, you'll need to ensure that you click the Update button so that you have the latest set of malware definition signatures. These are updated every week.


Periodically Reboot Your Router and Modem

Routers and modems (and router-modem combos) are essentially little computers. For the most part, they can run 24/7 without a problem, but the longer they stay on without a break, the more likely they'll develop software errors. Errors that can cause a disconnection.
It may be a cliche, but when your internet stops working, the first thing you should do is restart your equipment.
    • First, unplug your router and broadband modem from power (for some devices you'll have to remove the battery as well).
    • Then wait about 30 seconds, and plug them back in: first the modem, then the router.
    • Wait a few minutes for them to completely power back on. If your equipment had encountered an error, the restart should fix it and your internet should be back up.
    Even if you haven't encountered any errors it's a good idea to periodically restart your router and cable modem (especially the router). Once per month is a good pace. This will help keep your connection working and should reduce the possibility of losing internet at an inopportune time. Some routers make this easy with an on/off button, and some have features that allow you to program an automatic restart on a schedule.