Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Extended Warranties

Except for large screen televisions that are difficult to schlep to a repair place and an extended warranty will include pick-up and delivery, we are not fans of extended warranties. The one item consumers often cover with an extended warranty is cellphones. Because we are not fans of such extended warranties, we have not poured the resources into evaluating of alternatives as we typically do in making a recommendation. That said, if you are considering an extended warranty on a cellphone, consider the following: look at the alternatives from the manufacturer, the provider/retailer, and third-parties; look not just at the nominal cost but the coverage; look at the deductible; look at whether a replacement will be a new device or refurbished device; and look at the fine print.

New Option for Downloading Movies to Mobile Devices

It used to be, and on many sites it still is, that you had to buy a movie to download and play it on your mobile device, which is a very nice thing to do on a plane trip. Amazon has allowed downloading to mobile devices of certain movies and shows for free for about a year. Netflix just joined in. While not every movie or show is download-to-mobile-device-eligible, our Video Department's analysis suggests that, with increased competition, inventory of available downloads will grow.

Blocking Apple Calendar Spam

[Courtesy of download.com]

iOS or MacOS users have recently found their Calendar infested by fraudulent invitations -- the problem exploded over Black Friday weekend. Spammers exploited a loophole in Apple's iCloud's default settings, which allowed senders to bypass email and push calendar alerts directly to Apple iOS and MacOS users' Calendar app. The trouble is that unlike spam email, you can't just delete or block these invites; your only options are Accept, Decline, or Maybe. Do not choose any of those options: They notify the spammer that your account is active, which can then open the door for more spam. But never fear, there are two workarounds that can delete the spam you already have and let you block future invitations.

Delete spam Calendar invitations
calendar-settings-for-ios.png
First, do not hit Decline. Get rid of spam by moving the invitations to a new calendar that you can delete without sending any notification to the spammer.
1. Launch your Calendar app, then tap Calendars on the bottom rail.
2. Scroll down to the iCloud calendars list, tap Edit, and then tap Add Calendar.
3. Name your Calendar. (I named mine Scams.) Then keep tapping Done till you return to the Calendar screen.
4. Move the event to the new Calendar by tapping the event, expanding the Category bar, and selecting the calendar you just created.
5. Open your new calendar, scroll to the bottom of the Edit Calendar screen, and tap Delete Calendar.
The spam invitation will be erased without alerting the sender that your account is live. Repeat this process for each of the invitations you've received.

Block future spam invitations

icloud-calendar.png
By default, Apple shows new Calendar invitations in app, where you can't delete, only decline. Change this setting so that invitations go to your email instead.
1. Log in to your iCloud account via your Web browser. (You can't change the following setting in app -- you have to go to icloud.com.)
2. Launch the Calendar app.
3. Tap the Settings icon in the lower-left corner and select Preferences.
4. Under Preferences, click the Advanced tab.
5. Go to Invitations, then change "Receive event invitations as:" from "In-app notifications" to "Email to [your iCloud account address]" and click Save.
Now all calendar invitations will go to your email account, where you can easily erase, block, or report them.
*********************************************************************************************************

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Possibly Huge Money Saving Travel Tips

Flight Price Monitoring: There are several flight price trackers, such as Kayak, Airfarewatchdog, Google Flights, and Hopper. The problem is none of them can guarantee up-to-date info. For example, Hopper one day showed prices slashed 75% on a trip to Paris that did not show up on any of the others. So, this is one service where more is more and the more the merrier.

Turo: Just as Airbnb can help you find inexpensive lodging, Turo lets you rent cars from individuals -- often for significantly less money than (even half or more what) you'd pay a rental service. Just choose your dates and location to see what's available and for how much. Another nice perk: You know exactly what kind of car you're getting, rather than the vague "midsize sedan" kind of description you get with typical rentals. Of course, as with Airbnb, you'll want to check the lender's ratings first, and also investigate insurance options. (Don't assume your credit card will cover you.) 

[Courtesy in part to cnet]

There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Undoubtedly, all brokerage houses do this, but if you haven't attended a free lunch to hear a financial presentation, you are missing one of life's little pleasures. At least a Schwab, here's the deal: You get a wonderful free lunch (two delicious salads, two delicious pastas, refreshing bottled water); you get to listen to an informed panel talk about an interesting topic such as “generating yield in a low interest rate involvement”; it begins and ends right on time and lasts but an hour; no one tries to sell anything and there is absolutely NO pressure or even any effort to have you buy or do anything or even to have you talk to anyone; parking is excellent; if you're under 75, you just might be the youngest person in the room; if you listen to others' questions (e.g., "Can you tell us when the bubble we are in is going to burst?"), you will know you are not the dumbest person in the room; and, you can amuse yourself and perhaps delight others by asking a question or two (provided you do so in a totally polite, low-keyed, soft-spoken, and self-effacing way) that the presenters might have a little difficulty with.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tip on Tipping Hotel Cleaning People

Unless you were raised by wolves, or live in a cave, or just don't get it when it comes to how to treat people who work hard, play by the rules, and depend on tips to make enough to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads and take care of their children, you know how important it is to tip lodging cleaning people (no matter how expensive or inexpensive the lodging) just as you tip food-servers (no matter how expensive or inexpensive the restaurant). Here, though, is a way to do it that is a win for the cleaning person and a win for you: Do NOT wait until the end of your stay to tip--instead, leave a tip each morning when you leave the room. In that way, it is more likely that the tip will go to the person who should get it, and there is a good chance it will result in better service.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Scam re Tiffany

If you get an email touting discounts on Tiffany products, ignore it. If you ever see a website that is advertising discounted Tiffany & Co. products, please be aware that they would not be affiliated with Tiffany & Co. and are likely selling counterfeit merchandise. 

Holiday Gifts Part 1

Our highly-acclaimed Department of Gifts (DOG) hired thousands of temps to fan out on Black Friday looking for unique gifts. We found two:

If you hate getting the sticky-rice-finger-frustration (SRFF) making sushi rolls, this is the perfect gift to put on your wish-list and is a no-miss gift for anyone you know: The Sushezi. With it, no more SRFF. You just stuff the tube with rice and blowfish, and then wrap with nori. A bargain anywhere at $25. Link to Sushezi Website

 Sushezi Product

If you or a loved one is still using a Brother or other 20th Century label maker, and thought the day would never come when you could have or gift a stylish label maker that allows printing in handsome typefaces, DOG has good news for you: The DYMO is here. At just $130, and available everywhere, it lets one create beautiful labels on a smartphone and, unlike old label makers, it's stylish:

Image result for dymo mobile labeler


Friday, November 25, 2016

Stuck in Love (2012)

If you're not an accomplished writer, this movie is not for you. If don't want to see Greg Kinnear miscast and act badly, this movie is not for you. If you don't like coming of age movies with a cocaine addict teenage girl, this movie is not for you. If you don't like stupid divorce movies, this movie is not for you. If you don't like a prodigy promiscuous new novelist turned sweet for no apparent reason, this movie is not for you. If don't like and get confused by movies with four separate plots, this movie is not for you. If you don't like bad endings, this movie is for you. And if you don't like after the bad ending, that it goes on to three more bad endings, this movie is for you. And, believe it or not, there's an ultimate ending that's ridiculous. But, the cinematography is first rate and the music is excellent.

Link to IMDb

Dealing With ED (Election Distress) or Not

Courtesy of the New Yorker and Shakespeare:

To Deal: 



Or Not to Deal:


That is the Question!

Shame on the Arizona Republic

As our loyal readers know, we do not do politics here. But our Department of Journalist Boldness ("DOJB"), while not commenting on the substance, has brought to our attention a letter to the editor printed in the Arizona Republic on Nov. 25 which reads as follows:

            "Trump ran on the promise to “drain the swamp” that is Washington. As President-elect, Trump has announced that conflict of interest rules do not apply to him and that he need not separate himself or his presidency from his businesses. Putting that announcement in Trumpian English, this simply means: Trump will become the swamp."

DOJB has learned from a reliable source that a revised version of this letter was submitted in a timely fashion, but the Republic decided not to go with it. Here is that revised version (the additional sentence being highlighted in blue), which DOJB is distraught about its not being what was published:

"Trump ran on the promise to “drain the swamp” that is Washington. As President-elect, Trump has announced that conflict of interest rules do not apply to him and that he need not separate himself or his presidency from his businesses. Putting that announcement in Trumpian English, this simply means: Trump will become the swamp. Or put as Louis XIV (l’etat, c’est moi) might say, le marais, c’est moi."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Improving Your Credit Score: Four Tips

[Courtesy of Yahoo Finance]

The national average credit score is 695, while only half of consumers fall in the desired 700-plus range. Although you certainly can get a mortgage with that score, you’ll need a 740 or higher to get the best rates. And that point is not lost on potential home buyers, 45% of whom wait for their credit scores to improve before applying for a mortgage.
While credit history isn’t built (or, for that matter, destroyed) overnight, there are still some things you can do right now to boost your credit score—fast. Here are four totally legit ways you can improve that all-important three-digit number in record time.

1. Pay down your balances like a ninja

Paying down your debt is the thing you can do that could have the biggest—and fastest—impact on your credit. Credit utilization (or the amount you can borrow versus the amount of debt you’re carrying) accounts for 30% of your credit score. And the more available credit you have, the better.
If you have the cash on hand, try to time your payments so you’re reaping the credit-reporting benefits.
“The easiest way to optimize your utilization is to use a credit card and pay your balance down to 1% of your credit limit right before your bank reports to the credit bureaus,” says Liran Amrany, founder and CEO of Debitize, a financial technology company that automates better money and credit habits. “You want to have positive utilization so it’s clear you are using the card, but otherwise want to be as low as possible,”
Not sure when your creditor reports? You could call them up and ask, or you can check your credit report. According to Amrany, you want to pay before the date last reported.
Estimated time for improvement: One month

2. Get your bills current

You hopefully already know that you have to pay your bills on time to get a good score. If you’re already late on a payment, pay that puppy ASAP for a quick credit boost.
“Because paying bills on time is the most important factor in a credit score, going from paying one or more bills late each month to paying all on time could show an improvement in one to two months,” says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network.
Bonus: If you’re less than 30 days late and you can make the payment today, do it! Creditors don’t typically report until after the 30-day mark.
Estimated time for improvement: One to two months

3. Open a new account

Opening a new credit account can help in two ways.
First: “If you open up a new card, which increases your total outstanding credit line, your utilization should improve,” Amrany says.
Second: If you have only one type of credit card or a small loan, opening another type (like a store card) can help your “credit mix,” a term the credit bureaus use to indicate whether a person can handle different kinds of accounts.
But don’t go nuts—try opening just one new account, at least at first. If you apply for a card every time you’re asked whether you want 10% off your purchase today, you’ll take a hit on the number of recent inquiries . And that won’t look good.
Estimated time for improvement: One to six weeks, based on processing and reporting your new account

4. Become an authorized user

Have a responsible partner or family member? Becoming an authorized user on one of their accounts will let you piggyback onto their good credit history.
“The full history of the other account shows up on your credit report immediately,” Gallegos says. “And when this older, established credit account is added to your credit history, it results in an increase in the average age of accounts you’ve ‘managed’ (which also increases your credit score).”

Screenshots to "Remember" Your Screens (Icon Placement) and Settings

If you ever had to uninstall and re-install your applications on either a phone, tablet, or computer, and you didn't have your screen set-ups and settings (e.g., Outlook settings) committed to memory, the process to get back to where you were before you did the re-install can be laborious. It is easy to avoid the laborious just by taking and keeping screen shots of your icon arrays and settings (e.g., with your email program open). If you don't know how to do a screenshot on any device you want, just put "screenshots on X" (without quote marks and substitute your device model name and number for X) into The Google, and you'll immediately see how easy it is to do. After you've done so, store them in a place for easy retrieval, preferably on some other device (you can email the screenshot to it).

Showerhead Recommendation

It is exceedingly rare when our Department of Showerheads (DOS) changes a recommendation, but it has. In 2014, it recommended a little showerhead with a powerful punch: Link to 2014 Little Showerhead Recommendation  It's still a great showerhead, but it has one drawback that almost all showerheads do: It will clog over time and needs to be de-clogged periodically (e.g., with CLR). That's where the High Sierra Showerhead comes in: It does not clogg. And, while it's low-flow (and will save you big time on your water bill), it does not feel low-flow at all--indeed, it's quite invigorating. And like the earlier recommendation, you can find it anywhere (including Amazon) for under $40. PS: If you order one model, and Amazon ships the wrong one, when you call to complain, Amazon will refund you the price of your first order, but not require you to send back that showerhead, in which event you will end up with two for the price of one.



Classic

Link to Extensive Review of the High Sierra Showerhead

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Websites Taking Forever to Load

For no apparent reason, you are confronted by website after website that are taking forever to load, if they load at all. The first thing to do is try another browser, and if it's still happening, it's likely not a browser issue. If it's not happening on the other browser, then uninstall and re-install the browser where it is happening (just put "uninstall reinstall X browser" without the quote marks and put in the name of the browser in place of X into The Google and it will guide you). If the problem is not a browser-specific issue, do the following:

1. Reboot the router: Unplug the router, wait a minute, and plug it back in.

2. Reboot the modem: Push a pin into the hole or pull the battery and unplug it, wait a minute, and plug it back in.

3. If those steps don't solve the problem, flush the dns cache. Sounds techy and tricky, but it's not. It's easy and a snap: Explanatory Link to Flushing DNS Cache

4. If those steps don't solve the problem, run a series of malware scans, first normally and, if that doesn't solve the problem, in safe mode. Here are what to run, all of which are free:

SuperAntiSpyware: SAS Link

Malwarebytes: Malwarebytes Link

Hitman Pro: Hitman Pro Link

Adware Cleaner: Adware Cleaner Link

TDSS Killer: TDS Killer Link

Junkware Removal Tool: JRT Link

Microsoft Security Essentials/Windows Defender: Installed as part of Windows


Perfect Cooking Every Time and No Mess With the Anova Precision Cooker



Link to Anova Precision Cooking Website

If you're still cooking on a stove top with pans or in an oven with pots or trays or on a bbq, it's time to take that bridge to the 21st Century with the Anova Precision Cooker. It's not free, but at $150 and available everywhere, it's a must. All your food will cook perfectly every time in a sealed bag in a pot of swirling water at the exact right temperature. No mess. No fuss. No disappointments. This product is rated a top-pick by our Gourt Culinary Department.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Keyboards for Androids

Hacker's used to be the number one virtual keyboard, and then Swiftkey came along. The Google keyboard used to be considered junk, but now is considered terrific. If you're happy with your keyboard, and often the keyboard that came with your phone works just fine for you, no problem just staying with it. But, if you want to see the new great and top-rated free keyboards out there, just type something like "best free keyboards for Android" (without the quote marks) into The Google and you'll easily see various options, one of which might be just the thing for you.

Many of our readers like to know what we use here. While we let each of our employees use whatever keyboard he or she wishes, it turns out, to a person, they prefer Hacker's. They find it the most aesthetically pleasing, and really love the symbol row that the Google keyboard lacks.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Zipps Sports Grill (Phoenix)

With one note of caution, do not shy away from Zipps because it's a sports bar, You don't have to watch any of the televisions to enjoy good food (including good salads) at great prices, with an acceptable noise level, terrific parking, excellent service, and plenty of open tables even at noon. The one word of caution is: Do NOT even open the door much less go in if it's a Sunday and the Phoenix Cardinals are on TV (even if they're losing to the Minnesota Vikings), especially if you have a child and two grand-children in tow. But, if you crave screaming and crowding and being around people who also crave screaming and crowding, this is your day and place.

Link to Zipps Website

Saturday, November 19, 2016

If You Like Your Hotel, Give It a Bad Review

In 1970, two friends stayed at a fabulous game preserve lodging in Africa. Upon checking out, one of them told the clerk how amazing the $5/night rate was, and the other friend poked him with his elbow, to say: "Don't say that, they'll just raise the rates." Well, recent studies by the big travel websites have proven the elbow-pusher was correct. As it turns out, hotel rates correlate quite nicely with reviews such that, the better the reviews, the higher the rates. So, if you love your hotel and want to return, it is in your interest to trash it in your online reviews. At the same time, given that it's only a correlation, it is equally likely to conclude that people who pay higher rates tend to like their places and rate them higher, and it also is equally likely that higher cost places are just plain better.

Scottsdale Princess Resort (Scottsdale ... duh!)

If there's just two of you traveling, you're probably better off in a B&B or boutique hotel or Airnbnb place. But, if you're traveling in a group of 2,000 neuro-oncologists, and you know what a hoot they can be, and have children or grand-children in tow, the Scottsdale Princess Resort is not a bad choice at all. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and well, indeed very-well, appointed, although figuring out the shower would seem to need the skill of a brain surgeon and not a mere brain oncologist. The management and staff could not be more efficient or friendly, and the facilities are extensive. One serious word of caution: Do not order 2 bagels and 2 glasses of juice for a room service breakfast unless you revel in paying, with tax, service fee, and mandatory tip, $44, and I am NOT kidding. The better route is to go at 6:30 am to the 7:00 am meeting place and scoop up some Danish, yogurt, and fruit to take back to the room, which, if you haven't brought your own Tupperware (and it's a mistake not to), you can bring back in the laundry bag that's in your room's closet.

Link to Resort Website

Persian Room (Scottsdale)

If you like Mediterranean and Middle Easter food, the Persian Room is a gem. Reservations are accepted but hard to get, the noise level is acceptable and eating outside it's fantastic, and parking is good. With those necessary but not sufficient conditions out of the way, the food is the best part, both in quality and quantity. Every is delicious and the portions are huge, while the prices are very reasonable (indeed, many of the choices are downright quite inexpensive even without regard to quantity). A good way for two people to go is order the mixed platter appetizer plate, a shmorgisborg of different stuff, and one main dish. And it is a mistake to order an extra skewer of anything. The service is top-notch ... extremely efficient and pleasant and not a whiff of snootiness. And, if you happen to be staying at the Scottsdale Princess, it's just 3 minutes away by car if you can find the resort's parking lot exit, and just 6 minutes away if you cannot find the exit. Likewise, it's a 3 minute drive back by car if you can find the resort's parking lot entrance, and 7 minutes by car if you cannot find the entrance.

Link to Persian Room Website

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Streaming on Older TVs

[From the NYT]

Most streaming video devices that connect to your television need an HDMI port and the wide-screen rectangular aspect ratio for the best performance. However, you can get a special converter that lets you use the Amazon Fire TV Stick with older sets — like those with screens in the 4:3 aspect ratio and the yellow, red and white composite jacks for connecting video devices to the television.
Photo
If your television set still uses the yellow-white-red composite cables to connect with video devices, you can find converters or compatible Roku devices to stream content. CreditThe New York Times
These converters typically cost around $40 to $70 and can be found online. Cirago’s HDMI to AV Composite Converter is one such product; the Bleiden company makes several adapters for connecting an older television to the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Google Chromecast, the Apple TV, the Roku Streaming Stick or at least two of Roku’s set-top boxes.
Keep in mind that the video picture on the older television will be in standard definition (not the high-definition image an HDTV can show). Some converters and TV models may not work together well and have difficulty displaying the picture properly or playing copyrighted content. Customer reviews on product pages or comments on video forums may give you an idea of how well a certain converter may do with a specific TV model.
While Amazon’s Fire TV products, Apple TV and Google Chromecast all require an HDMI connection, Roku has one device in its line of streaming TV hardware that does not require an extra converter. Of the company’s seven streaming products, (including the $130 Roku Ultra with 4K and HDR picture quality and a series of Roku-equipped television sets), the $40 Roku Express Plus model works with either composite or HDMI connections.

2016 TV Ratings by CNET

cnet just put out its TV ratings for 2016. There are various categories, including the best teeny tiny TVs (under 60"), the best okay size TVs (60"-63"), and the best decent and really good size TVs (64" and larger), as well the best 4Ks, best LED and LCDs, best picture quality, and just plain overall best.

Link to cnet Review of Best 2016 TVs


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Google Photo Scan

Google wants to help get the old photos stuck on your fridge onto your phone, where you can save, edit, and share them. PhotoScan, Google's new photo tool for Android and iOS, turns your phone into a handheld scanner, capturing a digital image of a photo print.
Position your phone over a photo and tap PhotoScan's capture button. The app does its best to identify the four corners of the image, and then you follow an arrow to navigate your phone over the four dots displayed on the screen.
Google PhotoScan
After you complete the capture, PhotoScan gets to work, modifying the image to remove glare, straighten it, and crop the edges.
Google PhotoScan
You need a steady hand to capture an image, and the results are not always perfect. The app can sometimes misread the edge of the image, either leaving too much of a border or cropping out part of the image.

Google Photos' updated editing tools

PhotoScan comes with a few simple tools for adjusting corners and rotating the image. But if you want to do more serious work, this week Google also released an updated set of image-editing tools for Google Photos, including an improved auto-enhance tool that does a better job of balancing exposure and saturation. Twelve new filters change the look of feel of your images. And new Light and Color tools help you fine-tune your images. The update to Google Photos is available on Android and iOS devices and via the Web.

Internet Typewriter

Are you fed up with word processors that have way too many features? Do you simply want to write stuff and not worry about endless formatting options and all the other bells and whistles? Would you like to be able to access your writing from anywhere via the internet using nothing more than a web browser? And do you want it all for free?
If so, then check out the link below for what is billed as the Internet Typewriter. It's an online word processor, with handy features such as a word counter and auto-save. You can access it from anywhere, once you've signed in with a Google account. It doesn't take up half the screen with menus that you'll never use, so there's loads of space to write and think. And it's actually really neat.

Link to the Website

This Is Us (2016)

[Prefatory Note: This is a new television series on NBC. Unfortunately, I never heard of it until several days ago. So, I set my DVR to record all shows, and one recorded last night, and I watched it. It was not the first episode. It clearly is well into the first season. This review, well let's call it a comment because it's not fair to call it a review, is based on this one episode]

It's not necessary, but it's always a big bonus, to have a great opening theme song, and this one is pretty good. Indeed, the music throughout is very good. Very refreshing. Beyond that, I have nothing positive to say. In fairness, I watched to the very end of the episode. Nevertheless, I could not figure out who these people were, what connected them, what they did, who was living where and why or with whom, or, most fundamentally, why anyone would care anything about any of them. I don't mean to be harsh. And I am open to watching again starting with the first episode if I hear great things about it. But, in the meantime, I fear being hip, or trying to be hip, or just obtuse, does not always translate into art. Nor does Seth Meyers showing up in the middle of a street scene while two brothers (one black and one white) are fighting on the ground as they have since playing against each other in football in high school in the preceding scene make the show demonstrably better or more realistic, even if it makes it more hip, which it doesn't. Many of the scenes flip back and forth to and from twenty years earlier, to demonstrate either that things don't change or that they do--it's unclear. Some of the dialog is passable, while much of it isn't close. It does have good music, but not good enough to bring me back.


IMDb Link to This Is Us

Tip on Using Google Maps Verbal Directions in Your Car

Our Head of Department Of Phone Enterprises (DOPE) is as technologically savvy as anyone when it comes to smartphone apps in general and Google Maps in particular, or so we thought when we gave him the awesome responsibility that goes with that position. Imagine how stunned we were today to find out what he did not know. Specifically, he did not know that, if you turn on your smartphone's bluetooth setting, and your car is bluetooth enabled, then the verbal turn-by-turn instructions from Google Maps will come through your car's radio (just as phone calls will which he did know).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Obvious Child (2014)

This movie is not for everyone. I didn't think it was for me, Head of our Entertainment and Arts Department (HEAD). The language is a bit ... you know, that bodily language stuff that is more suited, well for others, like in-laws, who don't mind and often like that kind of language. Hey, it's set in Williamsburg, no not Williamsburg Virginia, in Brooklyn ... NYC, and if you're not a millennial, and you have a problem with bodily function language and such, get over it. I was surprised that I just did not stop half-way through, but half-way through there was a twist, so I kept going. From that point on, while the "language" did not make the movie more appealing, the movie starts down a different path where you don't know what is going to happen. It deals with some real issues and real people and real emotions, and I'm not going to spoil it. This movie is not for everyone, but if you want a different movie, this is a different movie. It's gotten tons of awards and rave reviews from real critics, the cast and acting are excellent, it's wonderfully shot, and it's definitely unique. It's not available on Netflix but it's free to stream on Amazon Prime.

Link to IMDb

Bobcat Alert (Phoenix)

The neighbors of the Head of our Fish and Wildlife Department (FWD) live in North Central Phoenix. They have chickens. More precisely, they did. Until the other night when this discovered a bobcat in their backyard flossing his teeth and grinning with no apparent fear. He even mugged for their camera, and then jumped onto the wall that adjoins the property of the Head of our FWD. It's a veritable jungle out there with coyotes, javelinas, foxes, and now, bobcats. For those of our readers on the East Coast or other climes where the bobcat is not known, here is what a bobcat looks like:

Image result for bobcat

As you might now guessed, our Head of FWD has confirmed that it's name has nothing to do with a man or woman named "Bob."

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Nanny Diaries (2007)

You've got a cast headed by Paul Giamatti, Scarlett Johansson, and Laura Linney, and you figure, this can't miss.Okay, Paul Giamatti is a very nasty person but he is a good actor. Well, you be wrong. Big time. It's just totally stupid. Indeed, it belongs on Lifetime Movies for Women, and that's what it was on tonight. It's available from Netflix to stream, but you have to pay on Amazon. Better use of your time: Take the manuals from your manual drawer and put them into notebooks. Very satisfying, and way easier than you expected.

IMDb Link to the Nanny Diaries

Hallelujah

In case you missed SNL: LInk to SNL Opening

In case you miss him: Link to the Late LC

In case you missed the Sunday NYT's quote from Pulitzer Prize winner (Viet Thanh Nguyen):  “Empires rot from the inside even as emperors blame the barbarians.” Link to Full Piece 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sing Street (2016)

In a world that went totally off the track this week as it got hijacked by one of the great cons in American history, escapism is much in demanded and much needed. Available on Netflix, Sing Street is not a perfect elixir by any means, but it is escapism. Set in 1980s Dublin, and beautifully shot in Ireland with a wonderful cast who turn in fabulous performances, the problem with this movie is that it tries to take on too much, everything from coming of age, family dysfunctionality, the difficulties of living in hard economic times, the problems of Catholic education (the credits note that the school where this was shot is not a progressive school of high calibre unlike what the movie portrays), mean teenagers, finding love, dealing with love, failed ambitions, and more, all set in the context of high-school kids forming a band so that lead can impress a girl he's smitten with. It surely does not rival The Commitments (which is a must-see movie), but the music is fresh and enjoyable. And while its ending is totally predictable, it's a happy ending, and the one thing we call can agree on given what happened this past week, we all can use happy endings--even if they now happen only in movies.

Link to Sing Street on IMDb

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Excellent Flashight(s) at a Bargain Basement Price

Say it's a dark but not a stormy night, and you think you see water crossing your drive-way. You grab your flashlight and it doesn't work, and new batteries don't help. You grab your back-up flashlight and it too is dead. You take your phone out and turn on its flashlight, and confirm that the evil irrigator is flooding your property yet again. You report him, and the water company issues a Suspension Notice. But you are still without a real flashlight. So you go to The Amazon and, for under $10 you get 4 super-bright flashlights that, while small, are terrific and you can hang them on a peg. They are Prime eligible so you get them in 2-days with no shipping charge. So, you'll now have 3 spares and should never have to resort to your tablet or phone again if there's a water emergency:


Image result for byb super bright 9 led mini aluminum flashlight

Maximizing an Accommodation From Amazon

Speaking of Amazon, suppose you order a belt strap under Prime, you get no notice of its being out-of-stock and you realize 5 days later you won't get it for another 5 days. You do an email complaint to Amazon and they extend your Prime Membership by a month. You send them an email "thanking" them but explaining that does you very little good because you would have renewed anyhow. They send you a formalistic response thanking you for your feedback. You then send a stern email about how disappointed and shocked you are with this Amazon support experience given how good Amazon support generally is. You then will get a supervisor response giving you at least a $5 credit against future purchases, which means your belt strap cost got slashed by about 50%.

Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)

This movie tries to tell the story of Janis Joplin's rise to stardom and her ultimate and rapid fall. The movie has two problems: First, like almost all documentaries involving vocalists, it drives one nuts that so many songs are started and not finished, but instead are interrupted by the supposed story that is far less interesting than the son; and second, at least in the first 45 minutes, largely perhaps because of the age or debilities or lack of analytic abilities of the interviews of her contemporaries, you are left with very little if any insight into the cause of her problems. Her music is electric and fabulous. This movie does not do it justice.

IMDb Link to Janis: Little Girl Blue

Jenny's Wedding (2015)

Our Cinema & Arts Reviewer Lab (CARL) gave up after a half-hour, so maybe it's a terrific movie with unforeseen twists and turns and a surprise ending. Carl really thought it must have been a made-for-TV movie that first was shown on Lifetime, but apparently it actually opened in theatres and has gotten some good reviews from people and critics as well as some trashings from other people and other critics. Likely, the people and critics who liked this movie also liked Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and didn't see some of the basic flaws there being replicated here. Oh well. It's available on Netflix and on Amazon (but not Amazon Prime).

IMDb Link to Jenny's Wedding