Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cautionary Note re Open Table

Open Table is a terrific website for making restaurant reservations. One cautionary note: If you have an existing reservation but need to change the date (for example, if you realize your existing reservation is going to deprive you of being able to watch a World Series game and have the great pleasure to listen to and truly learn from John Shmolz's fascinating, insightful, and brilliant commentary), if you use the "modify" function and do not get a confirmatory email within 30 seconds or so, even if the website says "confirmed," don't believe it. You're better off canceling your existing reservation and making a new one.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Polling

[Prefatory Note: Our Statistics and Polling Department (SAP) have been troubled by the lack of consistency not only between different polls, but even more so by the sometimes wild gyrations of any one polling firm (e.g., an ABC poll showed Clinton ahead by 4 points one day and 12 points a week later and nothing really had changed to explain such a jump. This piece from the WSJ (Oct. 28) explains well some of the polling problems]

Each day, millions of calls are placed to phone numbers that have been disconnected or are no longer in service. Everyone misdials—men and women, rich and poor, blacks and whites. Scott Richards wants to replace the familiar “Your call cannot be completed as dialed” message with a different one: “Would you like to take a survey?”His is among a spate of ideas bubbling up for new ways to sample public opinion. The alternatives are coming because the traditional method—randomly calling phone numbers again and again until someone answers—has grown far more labor intensive and costly in recent years.
One idea is to push surveys on people who mistype the name of a website. Polling companies are assembling large, standing panels to survey online. For certain websites, Google is asking internet users to answer surveys before they can get access. Others monitor Twitter posts to gauge public sentiment. The new survey approaches give some in the industry pause because they make it harder to tell good research from bad. In ways pollsters don’t fully understand, the various methods seem to produce different results. In August, for Donald Trump, surveys done online showed more support than phone polls did; in September, it was Hillary Clinton for whom online polls produced better numbers.
Political polling is already hard because it is difficult to predict voter turnout. The differences between online and phone results add another layer of uncertainty. “A lot of experimentation is going on,” said Charlie Cook, a political analyst and publisher of the Cook Political Report. “We’re in a period of transition, and we’re having to deal with it.”Much of the ferment traces to changes that have driven up the cost of the kind of polling still considered the most reliable, which is well-designed telephone surveys.
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For decades, randomly calling a set of phone numbers was a relatively simple and effective way to sample opinion. Then, response rates began to tumble, starting with the advent of call screening.
In 1997, 36% of households sampled agreed to participate in a poll, according to the Pew Research Center. Now it is 9%. This means thousands more calls must be made for a telephone survey to reach a sufficient sample.
Compounding the problem is that roughly half of households now have only cellphones, and a 1991 federal law prohibits calling mobile phones with an auto-dialer. To call these people, pollsters must dial all 10 digits by hand. “This equates to a substantial number of interview hours,” said Courtney Kennedy,director of survey research at Pew, which conducts about 30 U.S. surveys a year.
Pew told its calling houses this year it wanted three-quarters of responses to come from cellphones, versus none a dozen years ago. Its national surveys will cost 75% more this year than in 2004 and require several more days to obtain enough respondents. A single well-designed phone survey now can cost as much as $100,000.
“When your costs go up like that, there’s less good-quality research,” said Cliff Zukin, a Rutgers University professor of public policy and political science.
The law against using auto-dialers to call mobile phones was aimed at abusive telemarketers, and class-action lawsuits brought under the law have resulted in settlements in the tens of millions of dollars. “The public-opinion profession is sort of the dolphins in the tuna net,” said Duane Berlin, general counsel of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations.
The difficulty of predicting voter turnout was a large part of many recent polling blunders, including surveys earlier this year showing Mrs. Clinton ahead in a Michigan primary she badly lost. In the general-election campaign, some researchers say the high disapproval ratings both main candidates have make it even harder to predict turnout.
Dan Wagner, head of Chicago research firm Civis Analytics, studies what individuals did in past elections to see whether he should deem them likely voters. Still, getting that call right doesn’t help if the people can’t be reached. Late one night in October 2014, Civis senior data scientist David Shor pulled Mr. Wagner aside in their Washington office to review some disturbing data. To record the opinion of one young Hispanic male took them 300 phone calls, while only 10 were needed to reach a woman over 65.
If that continues, “we no longer have a viable political business,” he recalls thinking.
Instead of just phone polling, Civis began also reaching out via large online survey panels, which are pools of people contacted over and over to give their opinions. It is a technique that has grown rapidly over the past decade.
Initially, survey firms assembled such panels using traditional phone-polling methods, then gave members computers to answer questions. Later, some began adding panelists who responded to online offers to make money by answering surveys. Now, drawing from an online pool of survey takers is a common research method, with the pools weighted to resemble broad U.S. demographics.
Mr. Wagner at Civis works to scrub the panels of professional survey takers who answer questions all day just to collect small fees. In search of accuracy, he draws from multiple survey methods and develops complex weighting techniques.
Increasingly, he and others are experimenting with another polling shop: Google.
The search giant has teamed up with more than 1,000 websites to require users to answer a survey before accessing the site’s content. Google charges researchers to set up a survey, then gives a cut to the participating websites. Its Google Surveys can reach thousands of poll respondents in a matter of hours, at low cost.
Methods like that, or pitching surveys to people who mistype a website or reach a disconnected phone number, are known as “river sampling”—akin to dipping a net in a stream and collecting whatever swims by.
To induce people to take its surveys, Google limits them to 10 questions. That posed a challenge for research firm Echelon Insights when it used the system to poll viewers of the early Republican primary debates last year, because there were more than 10 candidates. Since it couldn’t ask a separate question about each one, Echelon had to use a photo of the list and ask respondents to write in whom they favored.
Google guesses respondents’ demographic data, such as age and gender, based on the same browsing information it tracks for targeting ads. Responses are weighted to reflect broader demographics.In 2012, polling guru Nate Silver found Google Surveys the second-most-accurate poll in that year’s presidential election. Pew is less enthusiastic. A separate analysis by Pew the same year found that Google had gotten respondents’ gender right only 75% of the time. Pew also uncovered some quirks, such as that people who answered the surveys tended to be slightly more conservative than the general populace, and, counterintuitively, far less likely to say they looked up medical information online. Pew decided not to use the system. A Google spokesman said the technology has improved since Pew’s 2012 analysis.Pew and research firm RTI International now are analyzing the feasibility of Mr. Richards’ idea. His company, Reconnect Research, invites people to take a survey when they misdial telephone numbers or reach one that is unavailable because of some network glitch. Doing this seems to collect an evenly distributed sample that doesn’t require much weighting, said Karol Krotki, a senior research statistician at RTI. Jon Krosnick, a Stanford political-science professor, worries that most online surveys have fundamental problems. Unlike traditional phone polls, there is no master list of internet users that researchers can draw from, meaning each member of the population doesn’t have an equal, random chance of being surveyed. “You can get the proportion right, but it’s not a random sample of men and not a random sample of women,” it’s only a survey of those who happen to be online, Mr. Krosnick said. The telephone is more effective because pollsters can repeatedly call people until they eventually answer, he said, whereas online surveys sometimes are answered by people who seek them out. In an experiment this spring, Pew asked the same questions across nine online surveys and compared the results against government benchmarks from census data. Pew found major variations. While the number in online polls who said they had a driver’s license matched benchmarks, the number of respondents who said they smoked diverged widely. Also, in the online samples, respondents skewed toward low-income adults who had no children and were more likely to live alone. Estimates based on blacks and Hispanics were particularly far off from what census data showed. Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard professor who has studied differences between online and phone surveys, suggests sticking with the innovations.“Every new communications technology has changed the way surveys operate,” he said. “One approach is to say all these new technologies are untrusted, they’re unproven, let’s just not trust them. And the other approach is: We’ve got to figure out how to use them, because the emergence of the these new technologies is making the old ones obsolete.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Custom Sofas and More

If you're as fed up as most people are these days having to schlep to the sofa store only to find sofas of pre-determined sizes, here is great news: For what you'd spend and even much less, you can have a beautiful sofa in the fabric you want in the exact size you decide you want it in. Not a choice of sizes, you name the size--any dimensions you want. And the designs are gorgeous, as are the fabrics. Delivery is free and you'll have it in your place in under 2 weeks. Just checkout the benchmademodern website.

Link to benchmademodern.com

Good To Cancel (GTC) Orders

Good to Cancel orders are a bit of a misnomer. In fact, they have expiration dates, and the expiration date varies by brokerage house. Some brokerage houses have a 6-month expiration date (e.g., WFA); others have a 60-day expiration date (e.g., Schwab).

Customizing Postage Stamps With Any Photo You Want, Even a Bunny Photo

[Courtesy of the NYT]

The United States Post Office allows you to make custom postage stamps from your own photos, but you must use one of the organization’s approved third-party vendors. As explained on the U.S.P.S. website, custom stamps can be designed and purchased from PhotoStampsPictureItPostage and Zazzle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Schwab

Hypo: You've dealt with the same stock broker for over 35 years, and he or she has been at a full brokerage house, and then the brokerage house misreads and misapplies a regulation to disallow trading in XIV in your retirement accounts, and it's the only thing you actually trade in those accounts, you are going to be distraught and saddened to have to switch brokerages. But you do it, and you go to Schwab. In addition to the cost savings (and we have spared ourselves the grief of calculating how much we would have saved had we switched years or even decades ago and have comforted ourselves with the thought that God will reward our loyalty), you cannot believe how amazingly efficient Schwab is compared to what you've been dealing with and you cannot believe how fabulous and easy its website is compared to what you've been dealing with. Our Finance Department has not done any comparative study of other discount brokerages, so we assume Fidelity, Vanguard, TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, and Etrade are as good or better. But we can say, we love Schwab.

Removing a Google Search Hit

Sometimes a Google search will bring up outdated or personal information that a person does not want shared. Although it does not always work, there is a simple, fast way to get it removed. Just go to the Removal Tool and fill in the URL.

It Pays to Check and Ask, and a Good Word for Wine.com

Although it is based on a faulty reading and application of the applicable regulations, assume your brokerage firm announces that it no longer will allow you to trade XIV in your retirement accounts. Given that XIV is the only non-fixed-income asset you trade, and you are sick because it means leaving your broker of 35+ years, you have no choice but to find a new brokerage firm, which you do. As a token of your appreciation for the great service you got from your broker, you order a case of wine delivered through wine.com.

While the cost of wine is quite good on wine.com, shipping can be expensive, but you unflinchingly accepted the shipping charge of $35. Two days after placing your order, and on the day the order is supposed to ship, you check the website to see the order status, and to your shock you see a new promotion for 1-cent shipping on orders above a threshold, which your order is. You immediately call wine.com to ask that you be given the 1-cent shipping or that the order be cancelled so you can then place a new identical order and get the 1-cent shipping. Perhaps because of how nicely you asked, wine.com immediately agrees to do just one of those options and will let you know which it will be in a few hours.

Link to Wine.com Website

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Portable Jump Starter

PowerAll Deluxe PBJS12000RD 12 Amp Portable Power Center with Jump Start and Phone charging - With carrying case
If you worry about getting stranded because your battery (car or phone) went dead, for under $100, you can put those worries to rest and keep one of these portable jump starters in your trunk. They're available everywhere online and in car stores.

Winter Lawns in Phoenix

The Arizona Republic will be publishing an excellent letter (our Legal Services Department (LSD) has cautioned us not to reveal the author's name), the text of which reads as follows:

"Bermuda grass goes dormant from late Fall to late Spring and requires no water during that time. Over-seeding with rye grass (aka winter lawns) requires an enormous amount of water. Electric utilities (such as SRP and APS) have higher rates during on-peak times and lower rates during off-peak times. But the City of Phoenix has no such scaling approach. Instead, it charges the same amount per gallon of water no matter when it is used or for what it is used. If Phoenix would recognize that we live in a desert, it would outlaw winter lawns. Barring that, there could be untold savings in water and a substantial increase in City revenues if Phoenix scaled its water charges such that customers who opted for winter lawns would pay at an “on-peak” rate, i.e., they would pay a premium on gallons-per-month used over what they use for drinking and other vital services."

Navdy Smart Windshield



If you bought a car recently, it likely has a smart windshield. But if you are still driving around with a dumb windshield, GREAT NEWS: For just $800, you can retrofit it with a Navdy and enjoy all the benefits of a smart windshield, and likely come quickly to head-slapping realization that you cannot imagine living without a smart windshield and how horrible life was before you had a smart windshield.

As a refresher, the portable $800 device does more than display your current speed. Via a companion app for iOS and Android, it also has turn-by-turn navigation, music controls and notifications for messages and calls. Basically, it's a see-through version of your smartphone on top of your dash, and most of the time that's great -- though, as I discovered, there are times when it becomes painfully obvious that it's not a factory-fitted item.

And the Navdy is all about going. The full-color HUD display is impressive. Simply flip up its display and adjust it to your viewing angle. It handles direct sunlight and the darkest night without being washed out, but isn't so bright that it burns your retinas. Information is presented clearly, which is what you'd want from something designed to keep your eyes on the road. Even when filled with information you're never distracted from what's ahead of you. By default, Navdy has adjusted the focus range of the display so that the images appear to hover over the hood of a car.

The actual information Navdy serves up varies from helpful to user-enabled overload. The navigation and turn-by-turn directions are great, which of course is likely the majority of what you'll do with it. Confusingly, these features are powered by Google search, but use HERE maps. It's odd, but it works well and that's all that matters. Since Navdy is hooked up to your OBD port for data and power, it also knows how much gas you have and your current speed, meaning this info is also available along with everything mentioned above.

Link to Navdy Website and Demo

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hamilton (King George)

If you are unlucky enough not to have seen Hamilton, and not to have seen the PBS documentary on its making (which could have done without Jimmy Fallon and George Bush but still is wonderful), and don't like hip-hop, here is King George's songs from Hamilton which are not hip-hop, but are terrific for all audiences:  Link to King George's Songs in Hamilton

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Polling

The WP/ABC Poll on October 23 showed Clinton up by 12 points. Its previous poll of one week ago (which is after the tape and the accusers coming forward) had Clinton up by 4 points. While Clinton bested Trump in the third debate and its aftermath (or, it might be more accurate to say Trump worsted himself in the debate and its aftermath), 8 points in one week is an incredible jump. We put the matter to our Statistics and Analytics Department (SAD), and they've concluded that some skepticism might be in order about the polling. SAD has suggested that Casey Stengel's admonition might be heeded, when he said (and many think he was talking more about polling than about the 1962 Mets), "Can't anybody here play this game?"

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Media Bias

At the Al Smith dinner tonight, Trump was so bad he was booed, in what is reported to be the first time any candidate ever got booed at that event. That said, while we don't do politics, we do monitor the media to protect the interests of our loyal readers. In the course of doing so, we note that Trump delivered the best line ever proving media bias: Link to Trump Proof of Media Bias

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Presidential Debate

As our loyal readers know, we don't know politics here. That said, last night's debate brought to our attention that LL Cool J might have described one of the participants, we won't say which one he was other than to say it was the one with orange hair whose favorite word is "wrong," in a song of a few years ago: Link to LL Cool J's You Lie About the Lies You Lied About

Review of Google's Pixel Phone

Ever since we broke the news about the launch of Google's Pixel phone, our readers, one very pushy one in particular, have been clamoring for a review. Our Tech Lab has now completed its research and analysis, and unequivocally announces: Good news! Your next phone-buying decision just got a heck of a lot easier. The Google Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy. The other leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion. You can read the complete review in the WSJ but here are the high points:
The Pixel looks like an iPhone 7 clone. It comes in two sizes like the iPhone. It’s the same price (starting at $650 for the 5-inch Pixel and $770 for the 5.5-inch Pixel XL). And, for the first time, Google itself controls both the phone hardware and the software. Yep, just like Apple.
It’s basically the Android iPhone—except with a headphone jack and some privacy concerns.
Why is Google suddenly making such an aggressive play for iPhones? Ironically, it’s because the smartphone war is over. The big leaps now come in software and services and the ecosystem of devices around them. With an iPhone of its own, Google can appeal to longtime Apple buyers who already tend to live mostly in Google’s world.
Design: What better way to make iPhone users feel at home than to make an… uglier iPhone? On occasion, I’ve reached for the Pixel’s curved edges and aluminum body thinking they belonged to my iPhone—whose design that hasn’t changed in years. (Why no rose gold, Google?)
Plus: The Pixel has a headphone jack. Minus: It’s inconveniently placed up top. Like an iPhone, you can’t remove the battery, and have to pay for extra storage. Unlike an iPhone or Galaxy S7, the Pixel probably won’t survive a dunk in the pool.
Maybe Apple aesthetic wouldn’t allow the rear placement of the fingerprint sensor—or the glossy plastic it’s surrounded by. I, however, have gotten so used to gently tapping the back of the phone to unlock that I’ve found myself doing it on the iPhone.
Google thinks the appeal is so clear, it built a dongle to make switching to the Pixel quick and painless, even from an iPhone.
Camera: One reason is the phone’s superior screen. The AMOLED display makes photos look better; even ones taken on an iPhone. Blacks are deeper, colors are more vibrant and the higher pixel density makes everything sharper.
The camera also performs better in low-light situations, compared with the excellent cameras in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. In testing, its photos had more dynamic range and color saturation. The only noticeable tradeoff is that some Pixel night shots have more noise (digital graininess). Plus, you never have to stop snapping. The Pixel comes with unlimited cloud storage of full-resolution photos and video. You can easily clear photos to make room on your phone, with automatic and manual options.
The iPhone 7 Plus with its second lens does beat the Pixel camera. Not only does the iPhone 7 Plus optically magnify shots 2X, but it uses the dual-lens setup to gauge depth for a lens blur effect. The Pixel has a similar effect, but it looks pretty fake.
Battery Life and Charging Time: The Pixel XL had no problem making it through my day. The smaller Pixel had a harder time keeping up, hitting 10% most days by 8 p.m. In my punishing lab tests, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus lasted an hour longer than the similar-size Pixels.
The Pixels win on faster charging, though. With the included USB-C wall charger, the smaller Pixel went from zero to 100% in 1.5 hours—nearly an hour faster than the iPhone 7.

Software: Google’s reasoning for making its own phone becomes clear with the software. I’ve never used a faster, more fluid Android device. It’s a Google app user’s dream: Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, Calendar… all work far better than their iOS counterparts.
Samsung, LG and other brands tend to make lots of design and feature changes to the software. With Google’s own Android phone, it’s simple: Most-used apps go on the home screen, while the rest remain in the app drawer. Swipe down from the top for notifications and settings, swipe left to right to see a daily digest. Here Google uses your searches, location, calendar and email to predict what information you’d like next: the weather, drive time to your next meeting, TV shows you should watch tonight.
You can also call on the increasingly talkative Google Assistant by saying “OK Google” or holding the home button. Think of it like Siri, but smarter. The Assistant prompts you for follow-up questions and has been far more accurate and speedy than Siri in understanding my commands.
Updates: Over 50% of iPhones now run iOS 10, the latest iPhone OS, which came out last month.Less than 20% of Android phones run the year-old Android 6. Only Nexus phones have Nougat 7.0 so far, and the Pixel is the first phone to have Android 7.1 Nougat.
Google promises that Pixel phones will stay in lockstep with updates—even ones sold byVerizon, the exclusive U.S. carrier. This is crucial because without updates, phones lose features and security patches.
Customer Service: Google lacks Apple’s world-wide retail infrastructure, but its new 24-hour chat and phone support is a good start. At midnight on Saturday I had a question about the Pixel’s fingerprint sensor. I tapped on the Support tab in Settings and was on the phone with a helpful rep within two minutes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things That Need Not Be Stored in Your Refrigerator

If you have roof rats, sewer rats, mice or ants, or other such varmints, ignore this post. Otherwise, there is probably a bunch of things in your fridge that doesn't need to be there. Removing these items from your fridge can free up space and improve the taste and quality of items that should be stored at room temperature. And some of them, like batteries, will do worse in the refrigerator than outside the refrigerator. Take a look at this list and then go rummage through your fridge.
  1. Hot sauce stays fresh up to 3 years without refrigeration, even after opening it.
  2. Potatoes should be stored in paper bags in cool, dry pantries. Putting them in the fridge can make them taste funny and rot faster.
  3. Onions do best in dry, ventilated areas. Keep them away from potatoes, though. These tubers can make onions rot faster.
  4. Like onions, garlic is just fine in a dry, ventilated area of the pantry.
  5. Basil absorbs fridge smells, so it is best to keep your fresh basil in a cup or vase of water on the counter much like fresh cut flowers. You can also do this with any other fresh herbs.
  6. Your avocado won't ripen? That's because it's in the fridge. Putting an unripe avocado on the counter will make it ripen much faster. To really speed up the process, put it in a bag with a banana or apple.
  7. Putting berries in the fridge can make them rot much faster due to moisture. They'll be fine in a bowl or basket on the counter.
  8. Bread is best when kept at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag. Storing bread in the fridge speeds up the dehydration process and makes it go stale faster.
  9. You might have heard that keeping batteries in the fridge can make them last longer. This is false. The cold can actually be bad for them.
  10. Storing tomatoes in the fridge can alter their flavor and make them rot faster. Keeping them on the counter in a bowl is your best bet.
  11. Keep coffee out of the fridge and in a dry, air-tight container in the cupboard.
  12. Most squash, especially those with thicker skin, do well for up to a couple months in the pantry.
  13. Honey is the only food that doesn't spoil and it doesn't need to be refrigerated.
  14. Most cakes don't need refrigeration. If it's unfrosted or has a buttercream or ganache frosting, it's fine to store it in an airtight container for around three days.
  15. Uncut melons do best on the counter or in a dry pantry.
  16. Bananas that are unripe should be hung on a banana hook on the counter to ripen. Otherwise, ripe bananas can be stored in the fridge or freezer to prevent further ripening.
  17. Ketchup and mustard can be kept in the cabinet for around a month without refrigeration because they contain acids that inhibit bacteria growth.
  18. Peanut butter doesn't need to be refrigerated and can be kept in the cabinet for months, unless it's organic.
  19. Cooking oils can be kept in the pantry, with the exception of nut oils.
  20. Applespeachesnectarines and pears can be kept in a basket in your pantry and will last around a week.
  21. Rice only needs to be kept in the fridge if it's cooked. Dry rice can be stored in canisters or plastic bags in your pantry for years. If it's stored in an air-tight container, white rice can last 8 to 10 years. Brown rice can last 1 to 2 years.
  22. Like rice, dried beans don't need to be refrigerated. In fact, the moisture found in a refrigerator can make beans grow sprouts.
  23. Grandmas and some beauty blogs swear by storing your makeup in the fridge, but makeup was made to be be stored at room temperature. Cold temperatures may destabilize chemical compositions and the humidity can make powders clump together.
  24. Peppers, both spicy and mild, don't need to go in the fridge. They taste much better when stored open-air in a basket on your counter.
  25. Eggplants are hardy enough to keep out on the counter at room temperature.

Home Pages in Chrome

You can set Chrome to open more than one page as your Home page. Just go to Settings/On Startup/Open a specific page or set of pages, and put in whatever pages you want in the order you want them to appear. This likely can be done in other browsers as well. Also, I readily admit that I'm probably the last person to know about this.

Mail-In Ballots (Phoenix)

If you listened to the recording from the Maricopa County Recorder and Elections Department Office, you will be advised that ballots were delivered to the post office on October 12. If you haven't gotten your ballot yet, you might be a bit panicked. If you're voting for Donald Trump, you can assume the system is rigged and just stop reading now. If you call 602-506-1511, you might get an "all circuits are busy" greeting, in which even you should hang up. Apparently, a number of people are trying to get through. If you keep trying, you should get through and while the announced hold-time of 1 minute might not be accurate, your should quickly get through to a very nice clerk. If you have your Voter ID number, that will speed things up, but if you know your full name, address, and date of birth, that will suffice. The clerk will be able to tell you the exact day your ballot was mailed, which actually might have been October 17 and not October 12.

Headlights Make for Safer Driving Even During Daylight

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that less traffic accidents occur at nighttime than daytime, when there are more vehicles on the road and more pedestrians walking around. And the number one thing you can do, if you don't have daylight running lights (DRLs), and you choose not to do a retrofit install of DRLs, is turn your lights on. Most cars will automatically turn off your headlights 30 seconds or so after you turn off your car, so you can just leave your headlights in the Always On position.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Unreported Consequence of Trump's Losing

As our loyal readers know, we don't do politics on this blog. But predictions are not politics and that's what this post is--a mere prediction. Specifically, our Media Department has asked to share its research which confirms that, if Trump loses the election, and the country survives his scorched earth efforts to destroy every pillar that holds up our democracy, two results will ensue: (i) Trump, Banner (Breitbart), Ailes, Giuliani, Hannity, and Stone will launch an Alt-Right television channel dedicated to spreading far-right nut-job stuff when they can find time away from assaulting women employees and any woman who happens to wander into their offices or onto their sets; and (ii) Fox News will take such a big ratings hit that it just might find itself out of business.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hamilton's America: PBS Documentary

Set your DVRs for this Friday, 9pm/8pm on PBS to see Hamilton's America. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda's enthusiasm and skill are the essential ingredients, the wonderful documentary "Hamilton's America" explains. The program charts how Miranda read Ron Chernow's "Alexander Hamilton," saw a hip-hop musical in the story and performed the opening number at the White House in 2009. Deadlines and collaborations helped Miranda deliver a musical that electrified New York theater last year, earned a record 16 Tony nominations and collected 11.The documentary shares thrilling numbers from a show that quickly became part of showbiz lore but very difficult to see. First lady Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon are effusive about how the musical moved them. (She gives the show the best review possible, saying it is "the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.")
The program enlists speakers including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, composer Stephen Sondheim, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Cast members discuss the show earnestly and travel to places where history unfolded. Director Thomas Kail says he wanted to remove black-and-white nostalgia to make the show vital and the characters relatable.
"These were real people who lived and died," says Miranda, who wrote the music, lyrics and book. "There’s no saints in this show — not a one."
Yet Miranda speaks with awe about "best-looking Founding Father" Hamilton. He was an illegitimate orphan and an ambitious immigrant who became George Washington’s right-hand man and created much of the federal government. The productive Hamilton makes you wonder what you're doing with your life, Miranda says.
Hamilton also could be arrogant, irritating and elitist. The musical reminds us that we are more than one thing, says Leslie Odom Jr. He won a Tony for playing Aaron Burr, who killed Hamilton in a duel.
Miranda says he didn't anticipate how much the show would help Hamilton's legacy. But the remarkable "Hamilton" has helped the country by offering hope in a dismal political year.

Upgrading to First or Business Class

[Courtesy of the NYT]

Another way to score a first class or business class ticket for international travel is through a consolidator. Consolidators buy such tickets in bulk and so you often can get them at a significant discount. Two such consolidators are noted here:

Link to PlanetAmex.com

Link to InternationalTravelSystems.com

Insurance Against Depression From a Bad Outcome

No one like watching their team or candidate lose. Professor Carey Morewedge has proposed a brilliant elixir to avoid your feeling totally distraught should that happen: Bet on the  opposing team or candidate. We are so impressed with this original thinking that we have offered Professor Morewedge a position in our Creative Thinking Department.

Link to Full Article

Two Around the World Trips of a Lifetime: One Luxury and One Less Luxury

The New York Times and Abercrombie and Kent have teamed up to offer a fabulous trip, which is highly recommended also by our Travel Department: Fly around the world in a customized Boeing 757 jet for the ultimate in luxury travel. Spend 26 days visiting such places as Iran, Cuba, Colombia, Australia, Myanmar and Iceland. Four award-winning New York Times journalists will accompany you, each for several days as you visit areas where they have expertise. Combining the best of several Times Journeys itineraries and offered jointly with Abercrombie & Kent, this global tour offers a worldview like no other. It begins in New York, then stops in Cuba, Colombia and Easter Island; continues to Australia and Myanmar; then to Iran and Morocco; and to Iceland. In addition to the Times expert who accompanies you, meet other Times journalists and local experts for additional insights. In the air, your private jet comes with lie-flat beds and a dedicated cabin crew and chef. Finally, it is meet to note that this trip is quite affordable at only $135K per person but, if you cannot afford that both you and your significant other go, our CAG (see next post) suggests you gift it to your significant other while you stay home.

Link to Details on This Trip

If even one such ticket is too expensive, you might consider a trip by freighter. These are comfortable and relaxing, you'll have your own room with private bath and you'll eat in the officers' mess quarters. And 4-18 other passengers will be traveling with you. At under $150/day, this is a bargain. Below is one website and there are several more easily found in The Google.

Link to Freighter Cruises Website

Holiday Gifts

Our Concierge and Gift (CAG) Department has been asked again, as it has for the past 20 years, to recommend Halloween basket treats to give out, stocking-stuffer goodies, and Hannukah chotskies. Last year, as you might recall, the CAG Department recommended Brillo pads, which are cost-effective for the donors and always cherished for their usefulness by the donees. But this year, CAG urges you to spend a little more, and give out tickets to Hamilton. You cannot imagine the smiles you will bring to the recipients' faces, especially when they see the great stuff their parents will trade them under the pretense of being sure that there are no razor blades hidden in the tickets.

Image result for tickets to hamilton nyc

If you're a bit of a cheap-skate, here is the next best "Hamilton gift": The book, Hamilton, The Revolution. It not only tells the story of Hamilton, and sets out all the lyrics, it tells the story of the making of Hamilton and it's absolutely riveting. Most of all, it gives an incredible glimpse into genius that will humble you for sure, but also will lift your spirits and admiration for the gifted artist. It's not a light read for sure, and doesn't always pack the action that make sagas so engrossing, as was the case with Shogun, but it surely is a must read. It's also simply a beautiful book, which is why breaking with tradition, CAG recommends the hard-cover version and strongly advises against the ebook version (and there really is one).