Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Wishes for the New Year

Our Department of New Year's Wishes (DONYW) has great trepidation as to where our country and planet might be headed. But, ever the believer in things getting better, DONYW has for you, our loyal readers, suggestions on the two things in your life that likely are most important to you.

First, your monitor: You do not need any special stuff to make it clean and sparkly. You just need warm water and a microfiber cloth. Dampen the cloth with warm water, wring it out, and wipe the screen. If you encounter any troublesome spots, just lay the damp cloth over it for 30 seconds, and wipe again.

Second, you marriage and other such relationships: If you strive to overlook the negative and to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, which social scientists label "positive illusions," the real will become the ideal. This is because the neural roots of tolerance, mercy, and pardon live deep in the human psyche.

So, armed with the keys to a clean and shiny monitor and a happy and enduring marriage/relationship, we wish you all the best for the new year and beyond.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Two More Traveling Tips

1. If you love being in the middle of thousands and thousands of screaming, crying little kids and being pushed and shoved and bumped into by strollers and people, and you love a ear-splitting decibel level of constant sound, you'll think you've gone to heaven if you go to the Monterrey Aquarium. And lest you think you get what you pay for, it ain't cheap.

2. If you try to check-in for a flight on your computer and the website won't let you asserting that you're too early to check-in even if you're not, just check-in with your app, which just might have a more accurate sense of the correct time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Two Traveling Tips

1. If something goes blooey in your travels, or even if it doesn't, and you need a place to stay that night, Hotel Tonight is an indispensable app. It will find hotels close by and at great rates. Link to Hotel Tonight

2. If you travel to a different time zone and your auto date/time set does not change the time on your phone, you might be tempted to switch off auto-set and set the correct local time. If you then discover that the order of your text messages gets all messed up (e.g., instead of going back and forth in the texts and instead going all your texts and then all the responses), go back to auto-date/time set and your text message ordering will be correct. Of course, your stated time might be wrong. Alternatively, if you use Textra instead of your standard messaging app, you can avoid the problem altogether and have the correct time displayed. Other advantages of Textra were discussed in an earlier post. Link to Textra Download

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Year-End Wishes

All of us (our board of directors, corporate management, staff, technicians, and advisors, and shareholders) wish all of you and your loved ones all the best for the holidays and the year ahead and beyond. As is our annual custom, we urge you to plug in your earphones, turn up the volume, go to full-screen mode, and enjoy by clicking on this link  We hope it brings you a couple of minutes of joy in a year where it seems the world has gone nuts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mozart in the Jungle Season 3 Episode 1

Mozart in the Jungle started out good in Season 1. It slowly degenerated and by the second half of Season 2, it got insufferable. You would think they would just cancel the series. But, no. They went on to Season 3, in what appears to be the goal of making it even worse than Season 2. The plot is stupid, the dialogue is stupid, each scene is stupid, and there's no suspense. Even if taking a water taxi in Venice is appealing, and it does look appealing, you don't need to wait to the last 30 seconds of Episode 1 ... just watch here: Water Taxi in Venice  I was so happy to have a break from Justified, but now, I'd watch Justified 24/7 before continuing on with Mozart in the Jungle.

Amazon Services

If you think Amazon sells just stuff, think again. Amazon sells all kinds of services, including even house-cleaning services: Link to Amazon House Cleaning Services  What's more, if you buy a large home item, like a range hood, and are willing to wait a week for it to be delivered, you likely will be offered $20 or more toward house cleaning services. There's little question that Amazon (on the selling and delivering of everything side) and Google (on the information side) are going to take over the world, although with the exception of a few niches (e.g., Uber; Airbnb), they really already have.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Readability Upgrade to Mercury Reader

If you used the Readability Extension in Chrome, you enjoyed being able to click on it to have ads and clutter taken out of a webpage you wanted to read. You might now notice that the Readibility icon is gone, and in its place is like a little rocket ship icon. That's because Readability has been automatically replaced by Mercury Reader, which had some bugs at first but overall seems to worker faster and better than Readability. If you did not have Readability installed in your Chrome browser, take it for a spin from here: Link to Mercury Reader on Google Play

Monday, December 19, 2016

Google Alerts

Just when you think that any college educated tech savvy person would know the basics, you are stunned to learn that there is one out there who does not know and has not even heard about Google Alerts. Having had doubts about our mission, it now is clear that this blog was put on this earth to reach and rescue such person from his or her cave-dwelling existence. With Google Alerts, you just put in whatever event or whomever person you want an alert about and you will get an alert if anything pops up anywhere about that event or that person. For example, if you put in "Sarah Palin" (without the quote marks), you will get an alert if she ever does anything, says anything, or is reported about in any way. You might consider putting yourself in to see who might be saying anything about you. This link will take you to the Google Alert home page and explain anything else you might want to know about Google Alerts: Link to Google Alerts

PS: We couldn't say it better than Michael Keaton did in Night Shift: Night Shift 9 Second Link

Fry's (Phoenix Collonade) PS

As many of you early subscribers might remember, we used to have a qualifying exam (basically an IQ test) to be sure that our subscribers were smart enough to  understand the posts. When demand for the blog became so overwhelming, however, we dropped the exam. The unfortunate consequence is that, for those of you who grew up with the Safeway self-checkout, it looks like we need to go over again how to use the Fry's self-checkout, which turns out to be far superior. Here is what the self-checkout stand looks like:

Image result for fry's self checkout

1. There is a metal stand (not visible to the right of the screen). Do not put scanned items on it. It is not a scale, and the machine will bug you until you put the items in the right  place.

2. You can put them in the plastic bags, although we encourage you to bring your own cloth bag. You can put the cloth bags on the same things holding the plastic bags.

3. If you tell the helper (who is FABULOUS!) that you preferred the Safeway way of putting the items on the metal shelf first, and then bagging, because he's so polite and does not want you to feel like an idiot, he point to that huge metal shelf just left of and at the same level as the screen where you can do just that. He will also compliment you on becoming proficient with produce in just 3 visits, given that it takes most customers 5 visits.

On a separate matter, he will agree with you that re-painting the parking spaces to be at angles rather than perpendicular makes total sense, but it's the mall owner that insists on doing it the stupid perpendicular way. He will then applaud you for your choosing to park in the lot to the South of the store.

Finally, for those of you who like to do the "CPR trick" discussed in the earlier post on Fry's, note that the Fire Brigade comes each Monday about 9:30 am to do their shopping and there always seems to be one firewoman in the brigade.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday 12/18 NYT Print Edition: A Puzzle Bonanza

The regular Sunday NYT Magazine (12/18) puzzle is a total hoot. Every clue appears twice. So, while the grid is not your standard mirror image, the answers are. It's amazing.

Even more amazing is the special insert. If you like Spelling Bee, Spirals, Split Decisions, and Going Too Far puzzles that appear on Sundays, you'll love it. Spelling Bee is more letters has to be 6-letters and you cannot use the same letter twice in a row; Spirals is longer than normal, and Split Decisions is bigger than normal. There's also a giant crossword but it has a Tuesday-Thursday difficulty level so only someone with absolutely nothing to do and a high tolerance for boredom would do it. And then there are 25+ more puzzles. 

If you no longer watch the Sunday morning talk shows, which many people no longer do because they have just had it with supposed "news" shows giving equal treatment to (or even any airing of) absurd and dangerous views and outright lies, this special insert supplement will make your day, even if you have to scour on Monday to find un-sold NYT print editions (many Starbucks open at 4 am and some Safeways are open 24 hours, and both carry the NYT).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Predictive Text With Hacker's (ESC) Keyboard

The Hacker's (ESC) Keyboard is our favorite, although the Gboard is close behind and some reasonably find it better. However, if you use Hacker's Keyboard, and it does not suggest text in your messaging app or Bluemail or other places, you can become quite frustrated. Fortunately, there is an easy fix: Just go to Google Play and download English Completion Dictionary (ESC) and the Hacker's Keyboard will to predictive suggestions in all your typing apps.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Motivation Tip

If you want to maximize the number of respondents who might turn in a voluntary written thing, using pressure, guilt, goading, reminding and such will have some modest success. Not doing any of that, but instead giving the respondents an explanation of how others will truly benefit by their doing so, and the response rate will go way up. Our Survey Analytics Department (SAD) just confirmed this in a real world experience. Fortunately, those who were responsible for soliciting the written responses were smart and resilient enough to listen to and understand the viscous feedback they were given for the heavy-handed (and truly stupid) approaches they had produced a paltry response rate, and shifting to the suggested reasoned approach that produced a fabulous response rate.

Fixes for Smart Device Battery Draining Way Too Fast

A smartphone battery typically lasts about a day. But every once in a while, you might see where your phone's battery drained in a couple of hours. While there can be many causes of the sudden battery drain, replacing the battery or re-booting the phone most often will solve the problem. If you have a phone with a removable battery, it is better to try just re-booting first. Otherwise, if you change batteries, and the problem is solved, you won't know if the problem was the battery itself or something else fixed by the re-boot (e.g., "un-sticking" background apps that got "stuck"). This is known in statistical and empirical terms as a "confound," i.e., where you have two independent variables and cannot unscramble them as causative agents, and you can see now why statistics not only is helpful in everyday life, but a beautiful thing.

Polaroidizing a Smart Phone

For under $100, you can instant prints of photos you take with your phone. All you need is a Prynt, which you can buy on Amazon and elsewhere and learn about here: Link to Prynt Website



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stove Hoods and Amazon

Amazon Tip: Let's say you want to replace your current stove hood (that has a 1950s spaceship kind of look) with a sleeker looking hood, and you want to buy it through Amazon because of its return policy and free shipping and 2-day delivery. You need to know how many Amazon has in inventory because your contractor has not yet said this hood will work in your space, and Amazon's website does not tell you how many they have in inventory and Amazon won't tell you (not because they are secretive but because the rep has trouble understanding the issue or anything you ask her). If you call the manufacturer, in this case ADKY, they can tell you how many of those precise hoods they have stored at Amazon (Amazon's website gives the impression there might be only one, but as you now have found it, it has about 100).

Hood Tip: When it comes to stove hoods, more expensive might mean better, but it is a better most of you will never need. Thus, if you turn on the exhaust infrequently and rarely cook stuff that needs a heavy duty exhaust, you will do just as well with a hood that costs under $500 as you will with a hood that costs over $1,500. Even Spencer's, which does not sell hoods under $1,000, will tell you that, and you're just sorry they didn't tell you that when you bought the spaceship hood from them 10 years ago.

Here's a great hood for under $400:

AKDY 36" Stainless Steel AZ-627i-PS3-90 Flat Grease Filter Island Mount Range Hood.

Here's a much more expensive hood that has an embarrassing spaceship look:

Image result for ge range hood

Five Ways to Free Up Space on an Android Device

[Courtesy of cnet]

It doesn't matter if your Android phone has expandable storage via a microSD card -- you fill up whatever space you're given, whether it's 32GB or 200GB. Here are some easy ways to free up storage on your Android device -- both the internal storage and microSD.

Clear the cache

Many Android apps use stored -- or cached -- data to give you a better user experience. Cached data can save a little time (and mobile data), but the files stored in app caches are for convenience and are not strictly necessary. If you need to clear up space on your phone quickly, the app cache is the first place you should look.

To clear cached data from a single app, go to Settings > Applications > Application Manager and tap on the app you want to modify. In the app's Application info menu, tap Storage and then tap Clear Cache to clear the app's cache.

To clear cached data from all apps, go to Settings > Storage and tap Cached data to clear the caches of all the apps on your phone.

Delete your downloads

Your Android phone has a downloads folder where everything you download -- photos, videos, documents and other files -- is stored. Chances are most of the files in your downloads folder are not files you're particularly attached to. (For some reason my downloads folder is full of pictures of Pizza Hut's Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookies.) So you should be able to free up some storage space by deleting these unnecessary files.

You'll find your downloads folder -- which might be called My Files -- in your app drawer. Tap and hold a file to select it, then tap the trash can icon, the remove button or the delete button to get rid of it.

Take advantage of Google Photos

Google Photos lets you back up an unlimited number of photos. In other words, you can back up every single photo you take with your Android phone directly to Google Photos, and it will not count against your Google Drive space. Once your photos are backed up, you can delete them from your device to free up space.

You will need to turn on Google Photos' Back up & sync feature to take advantage of all this free cloud storage space. To do this, open the Google Photos app and go to Settings > Back up & sync and turn it on.

You can choose to back up your photos at "high quality" resolution -- up to 16 megapixels -- or to back them up at the original size. Google Photos only offers unlimited storage for "high quality" photos, and any photos backed up at the original size will count against your Google Drive storage limit.

Once you've backed up your photos using Google Photos, you can go to Settings > Free up device storage, and Google Photos will delete any photos and videos that have been backed up.

Move apps to the microSD card

Apps probably take up most of the storage space on your phone. If you've got an Android phone that lets you add a microSD card for extra storage, you may be able to move some of your storage-sucking apps to that microSD card.

To do this, open Settings and go to Applications > Application manager and tap the app you want to move.

If the app can be moved, you will see a button that says Move to SD card -- tap this button to move the app to the microSD card. (On some phones, you may have to tap Storage to find this option.) Only part of the app will be moved to the microSD card. How much of the app will be moved depends on the app and, unfortunately, many large games will not move a significant portion of their data to the microSD card.

Move apps to the trash

If you've tried all of these tips and you still need more space, there's no getting around it -- you're going to have to start deleting some things. You've probably got some (maybe several) apps on your device that you never use.

To figure out which apps are taking up the most space, open Settings and go to Storage > Apps. You'll see a list of apps sorted by size -- the biggest apps will the at the top of the list.

To delete an app you don't use, tap the app and then tap the "i" icon next to the app's name.

Tap uninstall to get rid of the app.

Election Results and Causation Explained With Statistical Clarity

Our Statistical Analytics Department ("SAD") has been asked to address the question of whether Comey's "re-opening" Clinton email investigation 12 days before the election caused the losses in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which Trump won by very few votes. Here's the answer: One can assume that, but for that Comey announcement, Clinton would have won those states, but, to say that announcement was the cause of her losing is to give greater weight to the last votes that came in for Trump than the first votes that went for Trump. Put another way, if X caused 200,000 to decide to vote for Trump before any Comey announcement, and Comey's announcement gave Trump 10,000 votes he would not have gotten, it is weird to say that Comey's announcement was the cause of Clinton's loss and not say X was the cause of Clinton's loss.  

TV Price Alerts

Waiting for 85" televisions to come down in price makes sense (unless $7,500 is in your TV budget). But, just in time for Xmas, the time has come where 70" and 75" UHD (4K) televisions are reasonably priced (and if you like Vizio, the prices have crashed through the $1,000 level), leaving no reason to buy a puny TV of 65" or smaller. Here is some Costco pricing:




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Phoenix-Santa Fe Flights

Starting December 15, American Airlines will be flying non-stop flights between Phoenix and Santa Fe. Unlike the airplanes on Great Lakes, which also flies that route, the AA (American Eagle) planes are jets, not props, and will have at least one lavatory on-board (not zero lavatories on-board that can cause some passengers to have panic attacks requiring a caring passenger to talk them down and keep them calm through the flight).

Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project (Post-Read)

Whether or not any of it is understandable, some of it is a must read. The first half gives extensive background on the major characters and the background of experimental psychology from the 1950s to 1970, and a little on general psychological notions like the law of small numbers. At about the half-way point, it shifts to looking at how the human mind works as the major characters look at how the human mind works and, more often does not, work. For example, it might blow you away to learn that, by studying how doctors themselves diagnosed stomach tumors as malignant or not, the psychologists developed a simple algorithm that diagnosed more accurately than the doctors themselves. Indeed, each doctor had been given numerous possible tumors to diagnose, which included unknown to the doctors some of the same tumors twice, and the doctors often diagnosed it as malignant on one try and benign on another, which the algorithm did not do. The book then proceeds as the major characters work their way through external influences showing how they shape perception and conduct, and explore the difference between prediction and judgment (“a prediction is a judgment that involves uncertainty”). They examine how fallible predictions in sharp contrast to how definite explanations are once the outcome is known (a lecture they have to historians had the historians leaving the room in tears). They tackle why people will guess that 8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1 will produce a larger number than 1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8, or why people wrongly think that weather affects their discomfort from arthritis, or how the timing of the extraction of a colonoscopy tube in the 1980s affects the likelihood of a patient returning for a second colonoscopy. If you are concerned that this might doubt your wrong perceptions, worry not: If you don’t understand and recognize the fallacy of the hot hand in basketball, you will remain as stupid after reading the book as you were before reading it. Should you decide to give up reading the book at any point, go to Chapter 9 and read it. It gives some great example of why decision-making is so flawed and self-deceptive. And Chapter 10 is even better and clearer (e.g., why do people continue holding a stock  that has dropped in value, when even at that reduced price they would never buy it). After Chapter 10, the book goes off into stuff about the two guys and their careers and stuff that’s quite uninteresting, and such psyhology stuff that’s covered is incomprehensible and probably not very interesting. In sum, you can probably read Chapters 7-10 and just leave it at that. It could be that Michael Lewis did not explain stuff as well as he could have, or our reviewer wasn’t smart enough to understand what Lewis was saying. Finally, although not on point to anything, my favorite line from the book: “Unless you are kicking yourself once a month for throwing something away, you are not throwing enough away.”

10 Great Travel Tips

From Conde Nast Traveler:

In our office, between conversations about visas and gorging on international chocolate, we often discuss the difference between a tourist and a traveler. There's a quote by English writer G. K. Chesterton that we keep coming back to: "A traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see." We might also add: "A tourist goes to the Eiffel Tower. A traveler also goes to the Eiffel Tower—but knows to visit at twilight (to see the sunset and the tower sparkle at night); has read up about its secret apartment within; and made a reservation for Hôtel Raphael's rooftop terrace to get a spectacular view of the landmark itself."
It's our job to help people feel at home in the world—to enjoy being outside their comfort zones—and to be well armed with the latest info and apps, restaurant picks, and hotel openings. We've all felt like tourists before, so-called strangers in a strange land, but with these ten tips, leaving the house is about to get a lot easier.

The Best Day to Book a Flight

Tuesday! Just kidding. Kind of. For the last few years, a study about air travel trends by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation supported the notion that travelers get better airfare deals on Tuesday afternoons (after the business travel rush died down). But the latest data—analyzing 10 billion (yes, billion) passenger flights from October 2014 and October 2015—shows that weekends are actually an ideal time to get a discount on a flight. "Most analyses show low air ticket prices on weekend days because that’s when many leisure travelers purchase tickets (and leisure tickets are much cheaper than business tickets)." There's a caveat (isn't there always?): Airlines change their fares multiple times a day, so it's best to check often.

How Far Out to Book a Flight

That same study is a little more definitive when it comes to how far out you should book flights to get the best rates. For flights within North America, look to buy about 57 days before flying (for savings of about 10 percent); from North America to the Asia-Pacific region, book about 160 days out; and for North America to Europe, try to plan 176 days (or about six months) in advance.
Holiday travel plays by its own rules, though. Thanksgiving deals come in October, with more savings the last week of the month and, surprisingly, Thanksgiving week itself. Book Christmas travel while you're packing for your Thanksgiving trip, and New Year's flights by the week of December 5.

The Best Time to Book a Cruise

Thursdays! Not kidding this time. A recent study by cruisewatch.com, a search engine for cruise deals, looked at some 600,000 fares and found that prices were their lowest on Thursdays, dropping 17 percent,reports Traveler associate digital editor Katherine LaGrave. And the priciest day to book? Wednesday. Dirty, dirty Wednesday.

How to Get Through Airport Lines Quickly

Two words: TSA PreCheck. Two more words: Global Entry. PreCheck is an $85, five-year "known traveler" membership that gets you expedited screening in U.S. airport security lines (though it may soon extend to European airlines). That means shoes stay on, laptop and toiletries stay in your carry-on, and dignity remains intact. But for $15 more, Global Entry gives you PreCheck privileges and the ability to speed through U.S. customs in minutes. It's the better deal, in our humble opinion.

The Best Websites to Find Flight Deals

Sure, we all use Kayak, but it's not perfect: The flight search engine doesn't show a complete list of airlines (e.g. Southwest famously doesn't share its fares with aggregator sites). When we're feeling creative, we check The Flight DealFarenessAirfarewatchdogSkyscanner, and Concorde, which is a wholesale list of amazing flights—the kind you need to jump on immediately. And don't forget to sign up for the Scott's Cheap Flights for a daily deal.

How to Avoid Roaming Charges Abroad

Start by finding out what kind of international plan your phone has. Verizon has one of the most comprehensive data plans abroad. Google's Project Fi means Android phones can also work abroad—in 135 countries—in much the same way as they would at home. When in doubt? Buy a portable Wi-Fi hotspot like Skyroam to keep in your purse or pocket. You can pay as little as $8 a day for unlimited data in about 100 countries.

Easiest Way to Get Upgraded to First Class

Sadly, there's no fool-proof way to get from economy to the front of the plane, despite the sweetness of your talk. But Traveler contributing editor Mark Ellwood has long preached the good word of loyalty programs: By flying regularly with one airline, you rack up miles and status that can get you upgrades on routes that aren't business-heavy (think New York to West Palm Beach). You can also use miles to upgrade a paid ticket, though you may have a cash co-pay.

Best Credit Cards for Travelers

We could write an entire story about this—in fact, we have. Read Traveler contributing editor Cynthia Drescher's deep dive into the latest changes to travel-friendly credit cards (and their perks), and compare that with contributing editor Lilit Marcus's review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which we were all freaking out about this summer—$450 annual fee notwithstanding.

The Apps to Download Now

TripIt. LoungeBuddy. SeatGuru. GateGuru. Google Translate. Mobile Passport. They'll get you through every stage of your trip, from planning to flying (comfortably) to twirling cacio e pepe at a cafe down a Roman side street.

The Apps Even We Can't Wait to Try

We'll be taking a trip with Lola soon—our new A.I. travel agent, which also comes with actual humans on the back-end and 24/7 service. And we hear good things about Sky Guru, an app that's meant to act like in-flight Xanax by explaining each of the plane's bumps and dips in real time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fixing Internet Issues After Recent MS Update to Windows 8 and 10

It appears that a recent update from Microsoft for Windows 8 and 10 has messed up internet connectivity on a large number of computers. The problem is apparently in the area of DHCP, which is the process by which your router and/or your internet service provider automatically allocates an IP address to your computer. Without an IP address, you can't get online.
If you are having trouble connecting to the internet from your PC, or your connection keeps dropping, begin by restarting your computer. If that doesn't help, check out some other helpful tips on Microsoft's web site at https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/10741/windows-10-fix-network-co... for more assistance.
Once you get back online, try to keep your computer connected for a day or 2, so that any future fixes issued by Microsoft get downloaded and applied automatically.

Mozart in the Jungle Correction

We pride ourselves on almost never making a mistake. But our crack Proofreading and Copy Editing Department (PROOFCOPYEDD) found a rare error. Contrary to our post yesterday about the new season release of Mozart in the Jungle, the new season is Season 3 and not Season 2 as there reported.

New Big iOS Update

The latest iOS update (10.2) has some really great stuff. You can read about it here on cnet: Link to cnet article

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mozart in the Jungle Season 2

Season 2 of Mozart in the Jungle now is available on Amazon Prime. I have not seen it yet, but I will try it even though Season 1, as discussed in an earlier blog, kind of went down hill. I just need to slog through the last couple of seasons of Justified, which likewise seem to never end nor to add anything really new worth watching. In sharp contrast, The Wire and Deadwood were as great in their last episodes and seasons as they were in their first.

Link to Mozart in the Jungle Season 2

Fry's vs. Safeway (North Central Phoenix)

Since Safeway has removed its self-checkout machines, the checkout has become a nightmare. The "three's a crowd" service does not really work, and there is no limit on the number of items one can have to use the supposed expedited service, so get ready to wait, sometimes an inordinate time to checkout, even if you have just a few items.

Fry's has self-checkout machines. In fact, it's got so many that there's no wait to use one (as there often was at Safeway which had just a few when they had them). Fry's is big and bright and has a great selection of stuff. Other than the price of chicken salad and tuna salad at its deli counter (which are nearly double Safeway's prices), Fry's prices and selections are as good and often better than Safeway's, especially select fruits (88 cents for raspberries and blackberries) and vegetables (Fry's has whole radishes with no stems which Safeway stopped carrying years ago). Fry's also has 6-packs of tonic which Safeway eliminated a long time ago, and you can find baby powder at Fry's which Safeway hides except for select customers. The only two drawbacks of Fry's vs. Safeway is that the parking is not as good, with people meandering all over the parking lot, and, for those who care about such things, the clientele might not appear quite as upscale. Finally, one word of caution: Do not throw away your receipt before leaving the store, especially if you buy liquor, because all kinds of alarms will go off as you leave if you forgot to have the security cap taken off the liquor.

PS: If you feign a situation calling for mouth-to-mouth CPR near an attractive firewoman, you might have an "immediate recovery plan" in place should she call one of the firemen who is with her to step in and save you.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Better Way to Gift and Receive

Wedding registries and baby registries take the worry out of getting gifts one does not want or need, but having to send a thank you note just the same and hassle with the return or storage until a re-gifting opportunity presents itself. One of the newer registries is for honeymoon couples to make their special trip all the better by allowing guests to contribute to special activities or meals or such. Two such registries are: honeymoonwishes.com and thehoneymoon.com There is no impediment to one's creating a registry for birthdays and holidays as well, and good reason to do so. Of course, money, too often eschewed as a gift, never fails to be appreciated unless the amount given is too little given the circumstance, the ability to afford the payment, and the need of the recipient.

Free Video and Xmas Cards

For those wanting to send the very best, choose Hallmark. For those too cheap to send the very best, but want to send a free but amazing stunning video card, create your own at Videoscribe.com.

Link to Videoscribe.com

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Transitive Relations and Filmography

Transitive relationships are a fundamental mathematical principle, which says, for example, if A is larger than B and B is larger than C then A is larger than C. This principle is not so straightforward in the workings of the human mind as anyone reading Michael Lewis's newest book (reviewed earlier) would now know. For example, the human mind does not necessarily abide the rule, A is preferable to B and B is preferable to C than A is preferable to C. But when it comes to film, transitive relations seem to work in the following sense: People who like The Wire also like Deadwood and also like Justified. Love of language might be at work. But equally explanatory is the cross-over of cast members, in that the lead in Justified is one of the favorite characters in Deadwood. Avon Barksdale from the Wire appears in Justified along with his brother (as any one mildly capable as a facial recognizer would know). Williams Randolph Hearst moved easily from Deadwood to Justified and as Drew Thompson. The doomed earnest preacher of Deadwood (Al did a mercy killing of him because he had a terrible brain tumor). In Justified he was an evil killer boss from Miami who had hired a dumb guy to kill Raylan and Ava but the dumb guy missed. The corrupt sheriff shot the evil killer guy from Miami. The nice guy who worked for Al, who tried to stop him from killing the nice girl prostitute to save Trixie from being killed by Hearst. Jim Beaver, the kindly man who married what's her name, the non-grieving widow, in  Deadwood is a half-bad, half-good sheriff of Harlan, in the pocket of Boyd Crowder. To put it another, like sands of an hour glass, so are the days of our lives: Link to Days of Our Lives Intro 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sony TV PS

As noted in an earlier post, if you think you might need customer support, do NOT buy a Sony TV. And if you have a Sony TV, do not bother calling Sony support unless you want them to send you irrelevant emails or tell you to take it into a repair shop. Nor should you bother looking at Sony's support documents or calling Sony support or looking at anyone on The Google's advice as to how to update the TV's firmware, which likely is the only solution you need to have the TV be able to acquire internet content (e.g., Netflix and Amazon Prime), because they all leave out one essential step. I'll stop here to let you have your own three days of fun trying to figure out what that step is or, if you keep reading, here it is: You not only have to extract the firmware download zip file, you have to extract all from zip file and copy the extracted file to the USB stick. Once you insert that USB stick into your Sony TV, the firmware will update automatically in a couple of minutes, and the TV is fixed.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Braun Coffee Makers

The Braun Aromaster is the best overall coffee maker, especially for the price, and certainly the best looking. Unfortunately, Braun stopped making them about 20 years ago. Still, you can get excellent ones for under $60 on eBay.

Image result for braun aromaster


Recognizing that not all my readers will want to buy a coffee maker that isn't new, I've done some testing in cooperation with cnet. I've got good news: Every so often a product surprises me by performing better than I thought possible. Case in point, the $100 Braun BrewSense KF7150 coffee maker. Judging from its comparatively low price and modest appearance, I assumed that this kitchen gadget lacked the chops to whip up pots of excellent drip coffee. Boy, was I wrong. Time after time, the BrewSense KF7150 transformed my lowly test beans into quality joe, the type I've only coaxed from more expensive drip machines.
Sure, Braun did make some trade-offs to keep the cost down. Like the$140 Bonavita BV01002US, another aggressively priced coffee maker, the BrewSense KF7150 doesn't feel as sturdy as luxury models. It also relies on a glass carafe and hot plate combo instead a thermal carafe. If these are deal breakers then consider the $190 Bonavita BV1900TS and $299 Technivorm Moccamaster KBT 741, both premium models aimed at the gourmet set.

Hairspray Live! (2016 NBC Television)

If you were lucky enough not to see the December 7 NBC broadcast of Hairspray Live, you would do well to get down on your hands and knees and praise the Lord that you did not have to suffer from a night of infamy. If you enjoy punishment, or committed some sin that requires atonement by punishment, you surely can catch a re-run or on-demand running of Hairspray Live! It's unbearable. Indeed, half the audience in the dinner theatre I watched it in, including myself, walked out (in a bad mood) as soon as dinner was finished. One interesting thing about the show is that it often was difficult to tell that the movie had paused and a commercial was showing, but that just added salt to the wounds in that even the commercials gave no respite.

IMDb Link to Hairspray Live

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stay Away From Sony TVs

Dell used to be fantastic both in terms of price and support. Then, they became terrible, especially on the support side. But if you've had a bad Dell experience, you ain't seen nothing until you've dealt with a Sony Bravia TV that cannot connect refresh/download internet content even though it's connected to the internet. A quick search on The Google will hearten you if you find that company eases your misery. Now the kicker: Call Sony support, and after explaining the problem, and you're put on hold for a while, the rep will tell you he's sending you an email with the solution. Ha! All he's done is send you one of the many worthless suggestions you saw on The Google. Don't bother calling back either. All you will get is another assurance that the next email will solve the problem.

The Crown (2016 Netflix) PS

An earlier post looked at The Crown after seeing just Episode 1. Having now seen through the end of Season 1, unless delving in trivialities is offensive to you, The Crown is a delight to watch. The photography and scenery are magnificent and the acting is first-rate. It deals with real events during the ascendancy of Elizabeth II, and gives real insight into how mere mortals deal with the inanities of the Royal Family. You likely will come away with even less regard for the institution of the Royal Family, but you will enjoy looking into their lives and glad you are not a member of it and glad that King George was wrong when he predicted "we'd be back." Link to King George's Prediction and Two Bonus Songs 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Apps to Avoid Flying Alone

Everyone knows all the horrible things about flying, including the horrible person you end up sitting next to and the magnificent person sitting too many rows away. Wish you could be seated with that magnificent person, well, there's an app for that. Indeed, if you go to Play or iTunes, and put in searches such as "wingman," "meet at the airport," "mile high club," or the like (without the quotes), you just might find a way to turn a solo flight into a social delight.

Holiday Gifts Part 2

Truly a gift for any age or interest: a Fathead wall stick-up. There are countless varieties of sports, entertainment, kids, art, design and, if you don't like any of them, you can have any photo or design of yours made into a fathead. They are great for every place from office walls to kids' rooms to your living room.

Link to Fathead Home Page

Link to Philadelphia Eagles Fatheads

 A couple of other examples:

Custom Vinyl Mural Prints

Custom Canvas Print

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds (Michael Lewis 2016)

Most book reviewers wait until they are done the book before writing a review. Not the Chairman of our Literary Services Department (LSD). He's willing to jump in as soon as he's read to Location 1014, which is 2 chapters and just 20% of the book, if the book excites him, and this one surely does. He's long been a fan of Michael Lewis, and anyone who hasn't read Liar's Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short has short-changed themselves. But while The Undoing Project has yet even to introduce the second protagonist, it might be Lewis's best book of all. Even if it's not, it's mesmerizing, and it's all real. It takes on how the mind works or doesn't work, while it tells riveting stories in beautifully written plain English. It's a no-miss holiday present for anyone on your list who thinks about things or has any curiousity or has any interest in psychology or social-psychology or sociology or knowledge or prediction or contradiction or certainty or doubt.


Link to The Undoing Project on Amazon

Monday, December 5, 2016

Middle-Eastern Bakery (Phoenix): Glimmer of Hope

In a world that went nuts on November 8, it is heart-warming to see the reaction to the two vandalisms (likely hate-crimes) against the Middle-Eastern Bakery. Customers lined up out the door today; contributions have gone over $10,000; and a glass company is replacing the front window for no charge. And a new camera-security system is being installed that should capture any further attempt to trash this wonderful place.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Middle-Eastern Bakery: Please Help (Phoenix)

The Middle-Eastern Bakery on 16th Street South of Osborn is one of Phoenix's best restaurants and a real treasure. It's owners are just wonderful people. It was vandalized, and likely as a result of "cultural reasons." Many are contributing to help minimize its losses, and we back that effort, as we hope everyone does.

Link to Go Fund Me Campaign to Donate

Link to Arizona Republic Story on Show These Folks Some Love

Link to Arizona Republic Monday Cover Story

Manual Drawer Alternative

If you have no retention system for manuals for your various gadgets, appliances, and such, just stop reading here, for there is no hope. But if you throw them all into a drawer or two or such, you know what a hassle it is to find what you're looking for. Our Organization and Collection Department (OCD) has a brilliant recommendation, that costs very little and can be implemented in a very short time: Buy two 3" binders; buy A-Z divider tabs 3-hole punched; buy a box of 3-hole punched protector pouches; and then put each of your manuals into a protector pouch along behind the appropriate tab. You can also include extra keys or hardware (allen wrenches) that might go with the gadget (e.g., the beverage container or tool chest) in the pouch. Doing a table of contents is easy and helpful. The only downside to this fabulous rainy-day project is that the fun you will have doing it with your partner or other family members doesn't last longer because the project takes such little time to accomplish.

Recommended Binder (from Staples):


Staples Better 1.5-Inch 3-Ring View Binder, Blue (13400)

Recommended Alphabetic Dividers (from Staples):


Avery® Office Essentials™ AVE11677 Index Divider, Multicolor, A-Z

Recommended Sleeve Pouch Protectors (from Staples):


Staples Standard Sheet Protectors, 200/Pack


Tipping Lodging Cleaning People PS

A loyal reader has done some reader has done some research on The Google about tipping cleaning people and has shared with us two tips. First, when it comes to amount, while there is no set rule or lodestone (as there is a percentage guide in food server tipping), a few dollars per night is better than nothing, $5 per night would seem okay, and $10 per night is generous. In all events, take the following into account: the cleaning person likely is making minimum wage; tips could be the key factor in making the cleaning person's life bearable; the difficulty of cleaning your room (e.g., how messy you are); the quality of the cleaning done; and the time it took to clean. Second, if you go the tip-every-day we have suggested, it is ESSENTIAL to leave a note with the tip that it is a tip to be taken by the cleaning person. If you just leave cash, the cleaning people are instructed to assume it is just cash left out and not a tip and to leave it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Binkley's (Phoenix)

Although not a review by the Arizona Republic food critic because the restaurant is not open yet (but at least he doesn't pretend to have eaten there as the former AR food critic was known to do until challenged by us), below is a story about the latest iteration of a Binkley restaurant, which will serve 22 courses (to be expanded to 30) over several hours at a cost of $160 plus $90-180 for the wine-pairings, paid in advance when the reservation is made. Unfortunately, unless we were to change to an advertisement-based blog model, or Santa leaves a pile of cash under our tree, our Gourmet Culinary Department will not be dining at Binkley's, which does not make us unduly sad except for depriving our loyal subscribers of the benefit of our highly-touted insights. We have consulted with our Seer and Omen Department (SOD), which predicts that Binkley's future might not be as bright as its owner wishes. All that said, while you can find us at Smashburger and Zipp's Sports Grille, or even at In 'N Out Burger (which we don't care for as much as others seem to), here is the article from the Arizona Republic with a fulsome description of what will be Binkley's:

Fine dining faces strong headwinds. But Kevin Binkley's restaurant is an uncompromising blend of comfort and refinement that offers an alternative vision of what fine dining can be in the modern era.

Kevin Binkley made a mistake.
“I’m proud of everything that we’ve done, but I was losing part of my soul,” he says.
The four-time James Beard Award finalist had fallen into the trap of accepting the conventional wisdom that more is better. By the time he realized the extent to which having four Valley restaurants would pull him out of the kitchen, he was too deeply entrenched in the operational side of the industry to be the chef he needed to be.
“I don’t like this business. Actually, I hate this business,” Binkley says, lamenting the state of what he considers a broken industry. “But I love food. It’s part of me, and that’s all I ever think about, all I ever do.”
Now, he’s reclaiming the joy that first brought him to the stove.
The new Binkley’s, a retooled and supercharged version of his eponymous restaurant, opens to the public this weekend. In preparation, Binkley has sold two restaurants, relinquished control of a third, and is standing on the cusp of once again being the chef he feels he’s meant to be.
Binkley’s latest creation promises an uncompromising blend of comfort and refinement he hopes can offer an alternative vision of what fine dining can be in the modern era. But while it’s housed in a charming Phoenix bungalow, it’s hard not to see the new Binkley’s as the fortified keep where one of Arizona’s most revered chefs — and perhaps the viability of fine dining in the Valley itself — will make a brave stand.

A restaurant and a home

Binkley stands in the bar of the newly renovated cottage that was once the home of the more casual Bink’s Midtown off 24th Street and Osborn Road.
“I want this to be my last stop. I don’t want to ever open another restaurant,” he says.

Binkley's Restaurant

Where: 2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix.
Hours:Thursdays through Sundays. Seating times are 6:30-6:45 p.m. Thursdays; 5-5:15 p.m. or 8:15-8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 5-5:15 p.m. Sundays. Allow three hours for the full dining experience.
Prices: Menu, $160 per person. Beverage pairings, $85-$190 per person. Service charge, 22 percent.
Details: 602-388-4874, binkleysrestaurant.com. Online reservations only, starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Binkley and his wife and business partner, Amy, recently sold their home and moved into a house barely half the size. The main selling point? It’s five doors down from the restaurant.
“I want to live close enough to this where I can live and breathe it,” he says.
It could be said that the couple are building both a restaurant and a home, given that the former is being modeled after the latter.
“What we’re trying to create is if you were to come to our house,” Binkley explains. “I mean, I don’t make blini ice cream or avocado snow at my house, but nonetheless, we wanted to make it that kind of feel.”
Binkley’s will open just four nights per week, Thursdays through Sundays. Over those four nights, the restaurant will host fewer than 150 guests across six seatings — no more than 24 at a time. And in the same way an intimate dinner party might move from one room of the house to another, so will a dinner at Binkley’s.

An unconventional experience

Guests will be greeted on the front patio, where they’ll spend 45 minutes relaxing with a cocktail and bites that Binkley brings out from the kitchen. But while the vibe is comfortable, the food is the kind of French-rooted avant garde fare that Binkley’s fans came to expect at his previous flagship in Cave Creek.
A green apple and aloe cocktail might be paired with smoked foie gras and apple fritters. Classic French radishes appear, reimagined, coated in brown butter and served with an aerated green goddess dressing, passed alongside pear butter and chorizo vol-au-vent.
After relaxing on the patio, walking the garden and perhaps picking some fresh produce for dinner, the festivities move inside to the bar, where guests will linger for another 45 minutes over drinks, a selection of premium cured hams served with focaccia baked to order, or Pok Pok-style Jidori chicken skins with carbonated blue cheese. In addition to putting diners at ease, it’s a format that Binkley conceived to avoid the kind of fatigue that can set in during lengthy meals.
It’s been an hour and a half and a dozen small courses by the time guests enter the dining room, which has been fully renovated since Bink’s Midtown closed. Previously, the bungalow could seat 130 diners. Now, a scant handful of round, wooden tables fill the room, with seats positioned to provide a direct view into the kitchen, just a few steps away, completely open to the dining room.
It’s a combination of dinner and culinary theater where Binkley hopes to cultivate an engaging, educational experience as guests wander in to watch the staff at work or even lend a hand themselves. A meal at Binkley’s is meant to be as comfortable and participatory as it is refined.
“Good food, good service isn’t enough. People want to be wowed,” Binkley says. “And I’m definitely of that mentality. I want to see more than just great food, great service. I want an experience.”
But is it an experience the Valley can embrace?

Fine dining's challenges

Binkley isn’t ignorant of the challenge he has undertaken. In chef circles, the debate in Phoenix isn’t whether fine dining is healthy or sick, but whether it’s mostly dead or all dead.
Providing truly excellent food and service can be addressed head on. Binkley has condensed talent by collecting his best employees at one restaurant. To ensure the front of house is operating at a world-class level, he has brought in Christian Giles, who spent 16 years at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, seven as general manager. Binkley says it’s a matter of gathering the right people and giving them the opportunity to do what they do best.
“They just want to do it right,” he says. “Christian wants to do what he feels like he’s meant to do. I’m not meant to run organizations. I’m meant to cook. He’s meant to serve.”
Some challenges won’t be under Binkley's direct control. Fine dining means fine ingredients and a 2-to-1 ratio of guest to staff, translating to a price of $160 for the evening, before wine pairings. For the experience and food offered, that might be considered a bargain in New York or Chicago, and it’s barely enough for Binkley to eke out a workable margin. But it’s a rare price point in the Valley, and one that Binkley hopes customers can accept.
What’s more, Binkley’s will embrace the increasingly common practice of selling reservations in advance online. It’s a choice borne of necessity — even a small number of cancellations could flip the restaurant’s balance sheet from black to red — but there are esoteric considerations as well.
“I feel like when you go to a high-end restaurant, at the end of your meal when you get a bill, it takes a little of the wind out of the sails,” Binkley says. “If you were at my house, I’d never present you with a bill. So the best-case scenario to me is that everything is taken care of before you get here.”
Some diners might be intimidated by the scale and scope of a menu that will offer 22 courses to start, with plans to increase to 30 or more. But the flow of the meal through the house and the attention to even the smallest detail — like ensuring the chair heights change from room to room so guests aren’t sitting in the same position the whole time — are designed to keep diners feeling fresh and lively.
Binkley is quick to point out that the size of the menu is less of a jump than people might think.
“At (the old) Binkley’s, when you were doing the six-course meal, people didn’t realize it, but they were getting 22 courses. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than to have two bites of 30 things, all different, all unique and fun. We want to keep the experience entertaining.”
He even cringes a bit at the very term: “fine dining.”
“I think people get turned off by that terminology. It’s more like we need to start saying ‘refined dining,’ or something. Because nobody’s wearing a tuxedo. But it’s fine dining, it’s high-end ingredients.”
At the new Binkley’s, he’s choosing to do what he wants to do, not what he should. “Hopefully, people will enjoy it and we’ll sustain and grow and get better and bring something to the Valley, to the Southwest, that’s never been done before.”
Reach Armato at dominic.armato@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8533. Interact with him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Binkley's Restaurant

Where: 2320 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix.
Hours: Thursdays through Sundays. Seating times are 6:30-6:45 p.m. Thursdays; 5-5:15 p.m. or 8:15-8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 5-5:15 p.m. Sundays. Allow three hours for the full dining experience.
Prices: Menu, $160 per person. Beverage pairings, $85-$190 per person. Service charge, 22 percent.
Details: 602-388-4874, binkleysrestaurant.com. Online reservations only, starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.