Thursday, November 23, 2017

Best Electric Toothbrush: Quip

Considered by Time to be the best invention of 2016, the Quip electric toothbrush really does have many advantages over all the competition. It's small, inexpensive, sharp looking, has a quadrant timer function, and more. 

Image result for quip toothbrush



Link to Quip Website

Thanksgiving Sentiment for the Arizona Republic

Here is the text of an email sent to the customer support center of the Arizona Republic:

"It appears that people who subscribe to print delivery of the Arizona Republic on Wednesdays and Sundays (and perhaps even those who subscribe just for Sundays), were delivered today’s (Thanksgiving Day) print edition for no additional charge. While that is certainly a nice benefit that the Republic bestows on those limited subscribers, it would seem unfair that they get such a benefit while those of us who subscribe for print delivery every day get no commensurate benefit. I am sure the limited subscribers are thankful for the Republic’s largesse in this regard. I also am sure the daily subscribers are thinking of themselves as part of a thankless group as far as the Republic is concerned."

Windows 10 vs. Windows 10 Professional

In deciding between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional, unless your work has need for any of the arcane features of W10 Pro, W10 will be just fine. Here is a list of the features of each: 


Using IMDb to Find a Movie on TV

Let's say you want to watch an old movie, like David & Lisa. You go to Netflix and Amazon and it's available only on DVD. You don't want to buy the DVD and you certainly don't want to sign up for Netflix's DVD program (although signing up and canceling after watching the one DVD movie is cheaper than buying the DVD). Here's what to do: Go to IMDb and, if it's going to be on TV in the near future, say on TCM, IMDb will tell you. Then you can set your DVR to record and, voila, you can watch David & Lisa for no additional cost.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No Ethernet Port--No Problem ... There's an Adapter for That

To make them every slimmer and lighter, laptops now often come without an ethernet port. Do not let this deter you from getting a slimmer, lighter, cooler laptop. For under $20, you can get an ethernet port adapter that plugs into a USB port to give you full ethernet broadband connectivity, which is what you should use for any computer (leaving wifi connectivity for your phones and tablets). Pictured below are one with a little cord, one with no cord, and one that adds USB ports.


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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to Defrost a Turkey

[We recommend buying turkeys fresh. But if you buy a frozen turkey, here are three ways to defrost it Courtesy of cnet]

It's pretty easy to thaw a turkey; you just need time. Here are three different ways you can safely defrost a turkey, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Make sure you know your turkey's weight, which will determine how long it will take to thaw.

Use your refrigerator

This method is the most time-consuming option: The USDA says you need to allow 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, which means you'd need to set aside a few days for a large bird. But this method requires the least amount of effort. All you have to do is put your turkey in a container to catch drips and let it hang out in the refrigerator. 
I thawed this turkey in cold water.
Chris Monroe/CNET

Defrost the turkey in cold water

Get ready to put in some work if you use this technique to thaw your turkey. Put the turkey in a leak-proof bag and put it in cold tap water. The USDA recommends that you change out your water every 30 minutes. I've found that it's easiest to defrost your turkey in a big cooler that has a drink spigot. This lets you easily empty the water into the sink, and you can just remove the top and pour in fresh water. It will take about 30 minutes per pound to completely thaw your turkey.
It takes a little work to go from frozen turkey to a tasty main course.
Chris Monroe/CNET

Low on time? Turn to your microwave

The USDA says that you can defrost your turkey in the microwave, as long as you follow the product instructions and cook it immediately after you thaw it. I'd be weary to rely on a microwave to defrost such a large piece of meat, but you could give this a try if you're desperate.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Evol Pastas

Evol Portabella and Goat Cheese Ravioli is fabulous and easy to prepare, and a perfect complement to your Friday frozen pizza night. Evol's Truffle Paremsan and Portabella Risotto also looks great but our Food and Beverage (FAB) group has never seen it in a store. Unfortunately, Fry's seems to have stopped stocking the former and has never stocked the latter. We have written to Evol and Fry's about this distressing turn of events. You might consider following up with Fry's with an email such as the following (feel free to copy and paste (without the quote marks): "I've been buying Evol Portabella and Goat Cheese Ravioli every week for months. For the past month or so, it has not been stocked. I hope this is a temporary and that it will be stocked again soon. Also, while I've never seen it at Fry's, I wish you also would stock the Evol Truffle Parmesan and Portabella Risotto. Thanks for your attention to this matter."

Link to Fry's Suggestion Submission Page


When to Start Taking Social Security: Not as Obvious a Choice as You Might Think

[Courtesy of the Motley Fool]
The Social Security Administration assigns each of us a "full" retirement age at which we can start collecting our full benefits. For those born in 1937 or earlier, it's 65, for those born in 1960 or later, it's 67, and for those born between 1937 and 1960, it's somewhere in between.
Regardless of your full retirement age, you're allowed to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Most people start collecting Social Security at age 62 -- and there are some compelling reasons why you should do the same.
The size of your ultimate Social Security checks is not written in stone. You can make them fatter or slimmer through timing. For every year beyond your full retirement age that you delay starting to collect your benefits (up to age 70), your benefits will increase in value by about 8%. Delay from 67 to 70, and you can make your checks fully 24% bigger. If you would have started collecting $2,000 per month ($24,000 per year) at 67, you can instead start with $2,480 per month (or nearly $30,000 annually) at age 70.
That may seem like the obviously smartest thing to do, but it may not be. As the Social Security Administration has explained, "If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between." In other words, for those with average life spans, it's a wash. After all, if you delay starting to collect from age 67 to 70, you will miss out on three years' worth of payments (albeit smaller ones) -- that's 36 payments.
Meanwhile, if you start collecting at 62, your benefits may be up to about 30% smaller. Don't let that sway you too much, though. Remember -- starting to collect at 62 instead of 70 will give you smaller checks, but you'll receive eight more years' worth of checks -- 96 more of them.

Things Not on Sale on Black Friday

Black Friday offers tantalizing steals, ranging from toys to smart-home gadgets. But, ‘tis the season to also be a critical shopper, as it’s not the optimal time for everything. It might be worth it to hold off on buying certain items.

The latest smartphones

The holidays aren’t the time you should be looking to buy a smartphone. Particularly the new iPhones, which just came out. It’s a no-brainer but don’t buy when the demand is hot. If you’re looking to buy a phone for a loved one — unless it’s a spouse or a child — know what you’re getting yourself into.

Laptops

This holiday season is not an ideal time to search for the necessary tech for school or for work. You’ll see some of the best laptop deals during back-to-school season or in the spring, when companies start to roll out their new models and slash prices on their older ones.

Heavy-duty winter wear

There’s wisdom in the idea that you should buy coats, hats and scarves when you’re least inclined — after winter. But, you won’t find the best deals on winter gear during Black Friday season. You’ll find tons of winter attire on clearance during January and February, and while it’s not as enticing, perhaps wait that extra month or two to toss your tattered winter coat and give yourself an upgrade. Maybe you can even snag an extra one with all the money saved.

Fitness equipment

Gyms are jam-packed in January, as motivated folks vow to shed their holiday weight and start the new year on the right foot. That means January is also the best month to buy fitness equipment as manufacturers are luring you in to buy dumbbells and elliptical machines.

Jewelry

While you may be eyeing that diamond ring for the perfect Christmas proposal, you’re unlikely to find it in the sale section. The best time for deals on bling is after the holiday season — January and February — as retailers make a big push for Valentine’s Day.

ULINE

ULINE promotes itself as "shipping supply specialists," and that it is. But it is far more. If you can't find something on your favorite site, ULINE just might have it. Here are some of the things they carry:


Link to ULINE Website

Multiple Emails Being Sent From iPhones

We have received reports (complaints) from people receiving multiple copies of the same email being sent from iPhones. Often this occurs when there is a relatively large file (e.g., photos) attached. Sometimes there are 3-4 copies, but on occasion many more have been reported--up to 75. This might be associated with iPhone users with Outlook.com or Hotmail, but perhaps it's not so restricted. Removing the email account and re-installing it does not seem to help. Nor is there any known fix. Please direct any complaints to Microsoft (assuming it's an Outlook or Hotmail problem) or Apple (assuming it's an iOS problem) and not to us (our staff feels bad when it receives complaints it is helpless and hapless to do anything about). 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) 2017

Every reviewing publication gives The Meyerowitz Stories, and its stellar cast, the highest marks. If you like stories about the stress of dysfunctional families, you will like this movie. If you've had enough of them, you'll be uneased by it and walk out within an hour. We think there are some genres where it's all been pretty much said, including movies about the Holocaust and slavery, and new releases do not give any additional insights into why something happened or how to stop it in the future or how to deal with it in the present. We add The Meyerowitz Stories to that basket, especially given its focus on the New York art world that few, if any, of us have any connection to or interest about. We're not saying the acting, writing, and directing are not first rate. They are all first rate. 

IMDb Link to The Meyerowitz Stories

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Outlook No Longer Autofills Group Email Names/Addresses

Outlook just stopped listing Group names/email addresses in the To/cc/bcc blanks. As far as we can tell, this is the result of a recent Microsoft update and there is no work-around or fix. We can only hope MS gets enough grief about this to correct it. We are not holding our breath. We just took a deep cleansing breath followed by an extended chant of our most soothing mantra.

Another EDC Blog Milestone

While we will never be accused of breaking the internet, we are pleased to announce that sometime during the night last night we went over 150,000 page views.

BestBuy's Price Match Guarantees

Best Buy has two separate price match guarantees. At time of purchase, if you can find another online outlet or store with a lower price, Best Buy will meet that price. Then, after you receive the product, if the price is lowered by Best Buy during the return period, Best Buy will refund you the difference. In both events, you have to take the initiative with Best Buy. 
Image result for bestbuy



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gloria Allred and the Year Book

Email sent to Gloria Allred re Roy Moore's lawyer's claim that the year book signature is a forgery: "In response to Roy Moore's lawyer's claim re the year book alleged forgery, say the following: We would be glad to have the issue of the year book decided in a court of law, all Roy Moore has to do is waive the statute of limitations on the pedophilia case and we'll go to trial."  


Best Food Storage Containers

After months of rigorous testing and trial-by-error, our Food and Beverage (FAB) team has concluded that the best food storage containers are the Chef's Star Reusable Food Storage Containers. They come in various shapes and sizes, with lids, and they nest for easy and space-saving storage. The black color has the added bonus of not staining (or at least you don't see the stain) from say carrots. They are microwaveable and dishwasherable. And you'll be stunned by the cost: Under $9-15 for packets of ten. Shown below is just one of the shapes and sizes. All are available on The Amazon. Given how depressing it is to watch what's going on in Washington, you are entitled, indeed deserving, to treat yourself to these containers of sunshine and joy! 



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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Watching Congressional Hearings Is So Frustrating

Sessions at His Senate Confirmation Hearing in January 2017:

"[SENATOR] GRASSLEY: [T]o be very clear, you intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton email investigation and any matters involving the Clinton Foundation, if there are any?


"SESSIONS: Yes.

Sessions Action viz Clinton Foundation on Eve of 11/17 House Judiciary Committee Hearing:

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has authorized senior prosecutors at the Justice Department to evaluate whether allegations regarding the Clinton Foundation and the sale of a uranium company need to be investigated by a special counsel, according to a letter he sent the House Judiciary Committee on Monday night that has since been obtained by ABC News."

Sessions at 11/17 House Judiciary Committee Hearing:

Representative John Conyers: “Now, for my yes or no question, are you recused from investigations that involve Secretary Clinton?” 


Sessions: “I cannot answer that yes or no because under the policies of the Department of Justice, to announce recusal in any investigation would reveal the existence of that investigation and the top ethics officials have advised me I should not do so.” 

Follow-Up Question: None

Follow-Up Question That Should Have Been Asked: Recognizing that there might or might not be any such investigation, if there is now or will be in the future, would you abide your confirmation hearing assurance to recuse yourself 




Monday, November 13, 2017

Restaurant Quality Festive and Other Meals at Home

Hardly anyone cooks festive meals at home any more. Many go out to restaurants. Increasingly, many order at least the main dish (e.g., the turkey) or the whole meal to go or delivered. Virtually every major restaurant provides such meals to go as does every high-end market and even many not-so-high-end markets. There are so many such sources even our huge International Home Offerings Panel (IHOP) has been unable, given its limited budget, to try enough of them and enough of their dishes to do an informed review. But our IHOP astutely notes that, if you make an a priori snap decision that the premium you seem to be paying over cooking the meal yourself or going to a restaurant for just a meal is prohibitive, please note it will be made up by the savings in alcohol costs and by the benefits of avoiding the dual headaches of insufferable ambient restaurant noise and inferior parking.

More Tax Efficient Way to Give to Charities

The WSJ this morning (11/13) had an informative article on a way to make more tax-efficient charitable contributions if you are taking RMDs from your IRA. Here is a link to the article: Link to WSJ Article  Because you might not be able to open it, here is the text of the article by William Reichenstein, who is Powers Professor at Baylor University and head of research. 

Here’s a More Tax-Efficient Way to Give to Charities

As the end of the year approaches, many investors may still need to take their required minimum distributions from an IRA for 2017. And these same investors also may be finalizing their charitable giving for the year.

What many don’t know is they can take advantage of a strategy that allows them to combine those two needs and reduce their taxes.

For most taxpayers age 70½ and older, making a qualified charitable distribution from an individual retirement account is a more tax-efficient method of making philanthropic contributions than withdrawing the money from an IRA and then donating that money.

Here is some math to illustrate the potential tax savings.A qualified charitable distribution of up to $100,000 can be made annually from a traditional IRA directly to a qualified charity. You also can roll funds from a 401(k) to an IRA and then make the qualified charitable distribution, but you can’t make a distribution directly from a 401(k). Qualified charitable distributions also count toward your required minimum distributions (RMDs) for the year, but they can’t be claimed as a charitable deduction on your tax returns.

Suppose Sue needs to make her RMDs for the year and wants to contribute $2,000 to a charity from part of the distributions. In the typical withdraw-then-donate strategy, she withdraws $2,000 from her IRA, deposits the funds in her bank account, and donates this amount to the charity. If she is like some 70% of households and takes the standard deduction, instead of itemizing deductions, she will receive no tax benefit from this contribution (and that would likely be the case under the GOP tax plan, which aims to nearly double the standard deduction).

In addition, the $2,000 IRA withdrawal could increase the taxable portion of her Social Security benefits by up to $1,700. Thus, the withdraw-then-donate strategy could increase her taxable income by a total of $3,700. If Sue is in the 25% tax bracket, this could increase her taxes by $925. She would pay 46.25% of the $2,000 IRA withdrawal in federal taxes alone despite making the contribution.

Now, let’s assume Sue itemizes, and the $2,000 IRA withdrawal and contribution increases her itemized deductions $500 above her standard deduction. In this case, her taxable income would increase by at least $1,500. If the $2,000 IRA withdrawal increases the taxable portion of her Social Security benefits by $1,700 then her taxable income would increase by $3,200.

Next, consider Joe, a high-income taxpayer. Withdrawing the $2,000 from his IRA and then donating the money increases his itemized deductions by $2,000. Joe already pays taxes on 85% of his Social Security benefits, which is the maximum. So, it may seem that this IRA withdrawal and donation would completely offset each other. This may not be the case.

This strategy increases his adjusted gross income (AGI), which may reduce his itemized deductions for deductible medical expenses, miscellaneous expenses and charitable gifts. In addition, the increase in AGI may increase his state taxes and Medicare surtaxes. Finally, the $2,000 increase in AGI may increase his Medicare Part B and D premiums that he will have to pay two years hence, which works like a tax increase.

Now, let’s look at the alternative approach: using the qualified charitable distribution.

If either Sue or Joe contributes the $2,000 directly to the charity from their IRA, the $2,000 counts toward their RMDs. This amount never enters their tax forms; it doesn’t show up in “IRA distributions” nor in itemized deductions. So, neither one would not have to pay taxes on this money. Furthermore, the qualified charitable distribution wouldn’t affect the taxable portion of their Social Security benefits. Finally, since it would not affect their AGI, it would not cause any of the adverse tax consequences that Joe might face.

The Banach-Tarski Paradox

If you are unfamiliar with the Banach-Tarski Paradox, then you need to go back to 8th Grade, because even an 8th grader knows what it is and can explain it to you. In fact, if you haven't had a good talk with your 14 year-old grand-child for a while, just broach the topic of the Banach-Tarski Paradox and Katie bar the door as you delve into a lively debate as to whether the unreality of infinity or the unreality of points is what explains the Xeno Paradox. In the meantime, if anyone out there is unfamiliar with the Banach-Tarski Paradox, here is a good introduction: Link to Banach-Tarski as Explained on YouTube 

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Two H's of Travel: Hertz and Hyundai and a Sandwiched-In Bonus Tip re Rental Cars

Hertz: Upon pricing the offerings of car rentals through the Southwest Airlines website, astoundingly, Hertz came up with the lowest price of all (25% lower than Budget, the second lowest, and even a greater percentage lower viz all the rest). And, yes, this was under the Hertz Gold Plus program where you skip the counter and go straight to your car (just as National advertises, and Avis and others do).

Bonus Tip: Whatever rental car company you choose, be certain to join their program that allows you to skip the counter and go straight to your car. Virtually all the rental car companies have such a program, and they all are free to join. Only schmohawks shun this option. Please, don't be a schmohawk.

Hydundai: One of the "benefits" of travel is you often get (by virtual of the rental car business) to drive a car you've never driven before but were intrigued by. Such happened to the director of our Travel Service Association (TSA) when he got to drive a Hyundai Elantra, which he has found attractive should he ever consider replacing his Camry. Let's just say the Camry has no fears of having to leave the home it loves. The Elantra was not the worst car to drive, but it's sprung very tightly leaving to a rough ride, it's not a quiet car, the internal screen is small, very little is intuitive and some things are counter-intuitive, and the exceedingly loud tick-tick-tick-tick of the turn signal was likely inspired by some of the scenes from torture scenes of The Manchurian Candidate.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Big Little Lies: Episode 1 (HBO)

This will be the first and last review. Maybe Big Little Lies (BLL) gets better, or maybe it doesn't, but I shall never know. It's a murder mystery where, as a twist plot I guess, they don't even tell you who got murdered. There are excellent adult actors, but they don't have to act much given how slow each scene is. They just have to show up. There are many kid actors as well ... not so good. Most of all, it's just boring. I'm not sure anyone cares who got murdered or who murdered the victim. And the background music is droll.

Airplane Etiquette

It is come to our attention that not everyone books a cabin on Singapore Airlines, and that some people, including even some loyal readers, fly in what euphemistically might be called a less expensive class of service., and that in such classes, etiquette issues arise because people are actually sitting next to people they do not know or are unrelated to. We have asked our Etiquette Travel Advisory Group (E-TAG) to provide some guidance:

No Elbow Wars: One of the hottest flying debates centers around armrests and who deserves to use them. For the sake of all travelers, please abide by the take one armrest, share one armest rule.

No socks, no service: It’s not uncommon for travelers to take off their shoes during long flights, and this is not offensive. However, we put our foot down when it comes to exposing bare feet. It is totally unacceptable to remove socks during a flight.

To wake or not to wake: A middle or window seat passenger has an inalienable right to at least one lavatory visit per flight. If the aisle seat passenger is sleeping, and there is room to do a face-to-face climb through, that is acceptable, and it will not count against the inalienable one visit right; a buttocks-to-face climb through is not acceptable. A window seat passenger is permitted to shove the middle seat passenger into the aisle seat passenger and then claim mistake.   

Mum’s the word: There is no obligation to talk to anyone, as long as one is not rude or curt. If one's neighbor needs to talk because of his or her fear of flying, then you must engage.

Again, we urge everyone to avoid the class of cabins where these issues arise.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Singapore Airlines Suites

Long-haul travel can be a real drag. Lie-flat first-class and business-class seats can make it bearable and even enjoyable. But Singapore Airlines has finally given us true comfort: A double bed in our own suite with a 32" flat-panel television. Okay, the television is a little smaller than we'd like to see and a queen bed would not have been as cramped, but the suites are still a better way to travel and at just $20K to $30K are a bargain compared to having to own your own wide-bodied jet, especially when you remember that that cost is for two people. We also appreciated the excellent cabin service and food that we were afforded. 


Singapore Airlines A380 2

Friday, November 3, 2017

Important Parenting Advice

Our Parenting Informational Group (PIG) has asked the New Yorker to put in picture form the best advice they have for parents dealing with school principals. Here it is:


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dirty Little Secret re Jury Service for Superior Court, Maricopa County, Arizona

When you call the night before to see if you have to show up for jury duty the next day, you will hear that your group will have to appear, if at all, at either 7:30, 8:30, or 9:30. In actuality, no possible panels are called up to courtrooms until 10 at the earliest. The staggering is simply a way to even out the flow of the incoming. So, even if you're group is told to arrive at 7:30, if you arrive at 9:30 or even a little later, it would appear it's just fine.

PS: The parking lot under Patriot's Park is now $12. So, you might opt for the free parking at 7th Avenue. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fixing App Whose Icon Got Changed to Android Icon

You might find that an app icon has gone through a metamorphosis and appears as the Android icon that looks like this: 
Image result for android image
Don't panic, and there is no need to uninstall it to get the original icon back (and if you do so, see the other post for today when you try to re-install). Just remove the Android icon/app; click on the Applications button and find the icon/app there; and move it to where the Android icon/app was or to any place you want.  

App Says It's Installed But It's Not and Won't Let You Install It

If you uninstall an app and then go to re-install it, usually there's no problem even if the app store shows the app as installed. But every once in a while, it will grey out your device and not allow for a re-install. Ignore any complicated or dangerous suggested fixes like rooting your phone or doing a factory re-set. First, try installing from the device itself, not from the app store on your computer. Second, turn off your device and re-start it. This abides the principle that re-booting fixes many ills. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Better Call Saul (Season 1 Episode 1)

Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad. Mike appears as a toll booth operator, which is cool. If the first episode is any indication, this looks to be a pretty good series. Pretty pretty good.

Cruise Control Saves Gas

Cruise Control saves gas. It avoids one of the biggest causes of inefficient driving--failure to maintain an even speed which no one can do as well as cruise control can do. If you have a hybrid, it's even more important to use cruise control because it will maximize the time you are on battery power and minimize the time you are on gas power. And while cruise control is essential to use for highway driving, the savings it achieves in city driving are nearly as dramatic.

Link to CarTalk Explanation of the Desideratum of Using Cruise Control

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Ghosts of Watergate

On the break-in at the Watergate, the White House disclaimed any knowledge of what Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler called "a third-rate burglary." 

On the Trump campaign's collusion with Russia, Press Secretary Sarah H. Sanders called Papadopoulos's role "extremely limited. It was a volunteer position. No activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign." 

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Episodes 4 and 5

Episode 4 is just plain stupid and not funny. Our sources tell us that Episode 5 is bad as well. It is depressing to watch the best comedy series of all time descend into Hell like an Andrew Greeley novel.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Alternative to Soy Sauce: Balsamic Vinaigrette

If you like sushi, but find soy sauce too salty but sushi without it too dry, our Culinary and Utensil Department CUD) suggests that you try a good quality balsamic vinaigrette instead. The balsamic also is healthier for you and it just plain tastes better and treats the sushi ingredients more delicately which enhances its flavor.

Watch Repair and Adjustment Made Easy

There's no longer any need to drive all over town and deal with snooty jewelers who will overcharge you for your watch repair and adjustment issues. The Fossil Group is an online service that is easy to deal with and quite efficient. You send them your watch and they will give you a quote before doing any repairs. If you accept the quote, they will do the repair and send you back the watch. If you do not accept the quote, they will send you back the watch for $8.50 or you can tell them to deep six the watch and pay thing. You pay nothing up-front. 

Link to the Fossil Group Website

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Breaking Bad: The Finale

Along with The Wire, Deadwood, and Justified, Breaking Bad is one of the great drama series ever. The story twists and writing are fantastic and the acting is first-rate plus. Many think the final episode is to be applauded. Others were sorely disappointed, seeing it as a plebeian attempt to wrap things up that fell far short of the lofty standards it had set for 5 seasons. That split of views is reflected in the split in our own Television and Cinema Observer panel (TACO). But as everyone recognizes, The New Yorker is the definitive word and it agrees with me: See Link to New Yorker Review of Breaking Bad's Ending

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Future of Several Things

[Prefatory Note: What follows here are short descriptions of some of the items covered in the most recent edition of the Wall Street Journal's The Future of Everything. We have not submitted any of the items to the kind of rigorous testing we always do before evaluating them. We will say they are intriguing]

Sleep Aid: A sleep mask (for under $200) developed at Stanford just might have the cure of long-haul jet lag and a better night's sleep. See Link to Lumos.Tech

Getting Money Back and Relief From Bad Company Practices: DoNotPay is a chatbot that has helped more than 400,000 people save over $11 million in fines for parking tickets, will generate all the documents need to file for divorce, will help passengers get money back for lost luggage and missed flights, and even help you get your security deposit back from a recalcitrant landlord, and much much more. See Link to DoNotPay 

Perfect Cooking by Joule Sous Vide: For less than $200, the Joule will keep food at the perfect temperature until you're ready to eat--no undercooking, no overcooking. See Link to Joule: Sous Vide

Condoms: While waiting for the result of the full user trial planned for next year for Hydrogel Condoms, and FDA approval of Collagen Condoms, The Instant Applicator, which can be installed with one hand in one second, is available now (and available at instantcondom.com).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

EDC Blog Journalism Award

The two most prestigious journalism awards are the Pulitzer Prize and the EDC Blog de Oro Award. This year's EDCBdOA goes to Jim Tankersley and Thomas Kaplan for the third paragraph in their October 26 New York Times front-page story, which reads as follows:

"The prospect of a once-in-a-generation bill to cut taxes on businesses and individuals increasingly appears to be the best hope for a party anxious to find common ground and advance an effort that it has long championed as the pinnacle of Republican orthodoxy. It is a bit like having a baby to save a failing marriage."

iPhone X

As our loyal readers know, I am not a fan of the iPhone, which I consider to be all hat, no cattle. But if I were made a God-father offer for an iPhone, it would be the iPhone X, due out in about 10 days. The below cnet link tells you everything you want to know about the iPhone X, and how it compares to the iPhone 8s and the Pixels.

Link to cnet Article

Smart Locks (Inverse of Gresham's Law)

Gresham's Law holds that "bad money drives out good money." Applied to politics, particular in Trump world, Gresham's law would hold that "bad politicians drive out good politicians, and bad policies drive out good policies." In technology, the opposite is true, where good models (e.g., Lyft or calculators) drive out bad models (e.g., taxi fleets or abaci). We are on the verge of smart locks driving out keys. Smart locks are way cool. On November 8, Amazon will make available to Prime Members smart locks that will enable its deliveries to be put inside your house. Walmart is working on a system to enable grocery deliveries to end up in your refrigerator. Even if you would rather not have delivery people roaming your house, stand-alone smart locks from August, Schlage, and other companies are a God-send. You never have to worry about a key or re-keying, you can operate them remotely to open a door, and re-program their codes remotely. Most Airbnb units now have smart locks, so everyone in your traveling party can enter and exit individually without a key, and the owner can change the code for each new guest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bad Rabbit Ransomware

There's a new ransomware called Bad Rabbit spreading around the world. The first link gives an explanatory overview and how to avoid getting infected. The second link tells you how to innoculate your computer. The third link tells you how to stop it from spreading over your network.

Link to Explanatory Overview

Link to Innoculation Procedure

Link to Network Protector

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tip re Private Dental Insurance

[Prefatory Note: This Tip does NOT apply to dental insurance through an employer]

Before buying an individual dental insurance policy, be sure to look at the maximum yearly benefit. You might find that it's such a low amount per covered person covered as to make it nuts to enroll. If you were stupid enough not to realize this sooner, take comfort that you were not alone. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Quieting a Printer and a Lesson re Everything

Say you set up your new, low-cost, network-enabled multi-function printer/copier/scanner/fax and it works perfectly, but it's louder than you like. If you go to The Google and type in (without the quotes) "Brother MFC-L2740DW loud," you will immediately find that there is a Quiet Mode setting, and changing it from Off to On solves the problem. The larger lesson re everything is this: If there's any you might like to see changed re anything mechanical thing (and a lot of other things), just ask The Google--the change likely can be made.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hasselback Baked Potatoes


We can thank the Swedes — and the chefs at Restaurant Hasselbacken, in particular — for the invention of this particular style of potato. They also sometimes go under the name Accordion Potatoes or (my favorite) Pillbug Potatoes. Whatever you call it, the result is the same: a single potato, sliced into thin wedges but left joined at the bottom, baked until the layers fan out into rounds of crispy bliss.


Image result for hasselback potatoes


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Start with a few potatoes. Any potato will do. I love Yukon Golds for this, but you can also use Russets, red potatoes, or even tiny new potatoes. Slice straight down into the potato, but stop just short of cutting all the way through. Use a sharp knife to cut the entire top of the potato into thin crosswise slices, stopping about three-quarters of the way down the potato so the base stays in tact and the pieces remain attached to the base. Make your slices as thick or as thin as you like — my knife skills tend to average slices that are 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick. You can rest the potato on a large serving spoon to use as a guide, or if you are particularly enamored of hasselback potatoes, you can buy a special Hasselback potato cutting board (e.g., at Amazon for under $10). 



3. Rub 1 tablespoon butter evenly across the top of each potato. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, and then place them on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Roast the potatoes until they are golden and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle each baked potato with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and 2 tablespoons bacon. Push some of the toppings between the potato slices. Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook until the bacon is crisp and the cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes more.

6. Let the potatoes cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Solitaire With No Ads

The best free Solitaire is by MobilityWare. It has the closest thing to playing with real cards and is rich in features and very clean looking. Unfortunately, an ad appears before each new game, which usually you can click off but some last 15 seconds. For a couple of bucks, Solitaire MegaPack will give you solitaire (and many other games) with no ads. It is not quite as pretty as MobilityWare but it too is rich in features. And its support team is fantastic--very responsive and helpful, unlike MobilityWare which apparently has no time to deal with customers.

Link to Play Download for SolitaireMegapack

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Deleting or Editing Your Browsing History on Amazon

[Courtesy of the NYT]
Amazon automatically tracks the products you browse on the site and compiles a visual list on your account’s home page, in case you are inspired to follow through with a purchase on a return visit. If you find this sort of thing more creepy than helpful — or you share a computer and would rather not have others see your shopping whims — you can disable the tracking.
To do that, go to Amazon.com and log into your account. Click the Browsing History link at the top of the main page to see the recent items you previously viewed while clicking around on the site. At the top of the page, click Manage History.
Photo
If you want to delete specific items but do not want to wipe out your entire browsing travels through Amazon’s virtual aisles, click the Remove button shown under each product you wish to erase from the list. And if you find you like Amazon’s record-keeping but want to see items similar to ones you have already looked at, click the More Like This button under the product.
Here, you can click the button to enable or disable your browsing history on Amazon.com. If you ever clear your browser cookies as part of a maintenance or troubleshooting step on your computer, Amazon will start tracking your window shopping again and you will have to return to the settings to disable the history collection again. You can also click the Remove All Items button on the page to clear the list.If you want to delete specific items but do not want to wipe out your entire browsing travels through Amazon’s virtual aisles, click the Remove button shown under each product you wish to erase from the list. And if you find you like Amazon’s record-keeping but want to see items similar to ones you have already looked at, click the More Like This button under the product.

Only Two Ways Out of Trump World

[Prefatory Note: As our loyal readers know, we don't do politics here. But because Trump's presidency could affect consumers, we would like to share with you the letter the New York Times does not have the nerve to print]

"It appears, at least in President Trump’s mind, that there is no line he can cross that will erode his base or end his presidency. Sadly, and perhaps tragically, as long as his key enablers remain in place as he engages in one outrageous act after another, that’s probably correct. Thus, there are only two ways out of this presidency: Either Trump does something that causes a seismic calamity which leads to his impeachment or his key enablers (Messrs. Mattis, Kelly, Tillerson, and McMaster) go to the cabinet and announce that they quit unless the cabinet does its constitutional duty under the 25th Amendment. Their doing so would represent the highest fulfillment of their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and to protect the country. With Congress clearly unwilling or unable to stop the madness that continues to unfold under this presidency, those key enablers look to be the only hope to avoid the unthinkable, which unfortunately, could be nuclear war."