Saturday, September 23, 2017

Travel Tip re Internet Availability

Virtually any place you go will have, or at least say it has, internet (wi-fi)  access. Still, especially when you're going to a remote exotic locale such as the Oregon coast, and you're renting a condo or house, it's a good idea to ask if the modem and router are in the unit and accessible. Otherwise, you might find that your unit accesses the internet through the modem/router in the condo next door, which is owned by someone else and to which you might not have ready access. In that event, if re-booting the modem or router is needed to re-connect you to the internet, you could be SOL, which is the one thing you don't want to be especially if you're on vacation and looking to have a stress-free time, and you don't want to not be able to watch Breaking Bad on Netflix, and you have to communicate with the guy painting your house while your gone and cellphone service in the condo itself is problematic. In all events, just make sure you've got an endless, spectacular hard-packed-sand beach to walk on and good restaurants to chow down at. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rockaway Beach Oregon: Preliminary Overview and Tips

We sent our Travel Advisory Team (TAT) to see what a stay might be like at Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast in mid-September. We rented a beachfront condo for them and paid all their expenses. Here is a recap of the first interim report they sent back:

1. The beach/ocean is absolutely spectacular, both in terms of sight (the water and sky change constantly) and sound (the crashing wave sound never stops). Even if you hit a spot of chilly and rainy weather, you should find breaks in the weather allowing for 3-7 mile walks on hard packed sand. Bring some warm weather-proof clothes.

2. Many places are walkable to town. Some might involved up to a 5- minute drive. There are no shortage of beachfronrt condos, houses, and "resort" units.

3. Even though you are smack dab on the beach with nothing in front of you except small dunes and some rocks, take care when getting onto and off the beach. If you use the wooden staircase at the Tradwinds Resort, the owner will track you down like a dog and scold you that that staircase is for guests only. If you stop by next door at the Rockaway Beach Resort, and ask the owner to "join" the "resort" during your stay so that you might use that staircase, he will give you the guffaw laugh and tell you he has a "no look, no tell" policy and that you are welcome to use the staircase. Swapping life stories (mostly listening to his and complimenting him on his and his kids' accomplishments), and a couple of tips on signage for the staircase, will seal the deal.

4. While Rockaway Beach does not have the colors one loves in Kauai, and it's a different beauty that many find as if not more spectacular, and it doesn't have the 84 degree constant temperature, here's a key point: While one can get to Rockaway Beach at far less cost and shorter time than getting to Kauai,, more important, one can stay in as nice or nicer house/condo, with as good or better beachfront view, and stay for 3+ weeks for the same amount it would cost to stay 1 week in Kauai. Note, however, one can go to Kauai anytime and find the same great weather, while the Oregon Coast season is much shorter. That said, while the Oregon Coast "fills up" between Memorial Day and Labor Day, going shortly before Memorial Day or after Labor Day will enable you to find great bargains, lack of crowds, and totally fine weather.

5. Our TAT loves Rockaway Beach, particularly because of how small the town is (with nothing here for tourists to see, so just move along) and how relatively few units there are for people to stay in. So, far, it's found some fabulous places to eat, and being able to walk to them is a huge plus. That said, there are scores of beachfront towns, some larger and more touristry (TAT did visit Cannon Beach a few years ago, and found it way too touristry and crowded, although that was during tourist summer season), and we have no clue what beaches anyone might like more or less. That said, if walking on the beach is your thing, and saving money is a plus: The Oregon Coast beats Kauai and California in a landslide (cf. what used to be a highway through Big Sur).

Here are the views from TAT's condo, although the photos understate how much better the views are in person from the condo:



  
View to the south from a balcony. (Miles of smooth beach.)


Breaking Bad Season 3

Although two episodes were not up to blue snuff (it's like the writers decided to take some time off and have nothing happen, and let you ease back off the edge of your chair), Season 3 is terrific and begs you to watch more. Most timely, Season 3 explains in terms anyone can understand what money laundering is and how it works, which apparently is a matter confusing even to some smart people who you would expect to understand it better. Breaking Bad's intro to money laundering should prove invaluable when Mueller starts issuing money laundering accusations and indictments, which he suredly will. And none too soon to save the country.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Update CCleaner Immediately

CCleaner was hacked. If you use CCleaner, be sure you update it immediately to its latest version, which will protect you from any harm.

Link to Latest CCleaner Version Download

Monday, September 18, 2017

Take Toast to a Whole New Level

Take everything you thought you knew about toaster ovens and put them into a sack, mister. Breville, which has a slew of great products, brings you a smart toaster oven (for under $400) that is a toaster, convection oven, dehydrator, dough proofer, and air fryer. And it is large enough to roast a 14 lb. turkey.
the Smart Oven® Air
Link to Breville Website

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Offshore Grill and Beach Bakeshop (Rockaway Beach, OR)

Whoever said there's no good place to eat in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, is either a total idiot or trying to keep you away. The Offshore Grill for dinner (and likely for breakfast and lunch) is as good as it gets in every way. The food is unique and scrumptuous with exquisite presentations, the service is delightful and efficient, the ambience is soothing and pleasant, the prices are amazingly reasonable, and, while there's surely no problem parking, it's walkable to and from virtually all the beachfront condos and other places to stay. Likewise, Beach Bakeshop has totally delicious bake goods of all kinds, and it too is populated with pleasant personnel and marked by reasonable prices. 

Offshore Grill Menu

Beach Bakeshop Website

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Wireless Plans

Competition in the wireless world has heated up. You might check with your carrier to see what new plans and prices might be available to you. AT&T customers, in particular, should look at the two new unlimited data plans, especially, the Unlimited Choice Plan, which for $135/month gives you unlimited data on 3 devices and a free subscription to HBO. Likely Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have great offerings (e.g., T-Mobil will pay for your Netflix subscription). Is this a great country or what?

Best Delivery of The Line: Michael Keaton in Nightshift 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wireless Smartphone Charging

Tired of having to plug a cord into your phone to charge it? Who isn't? Even if you have an older phone, like a Samsung Galaxy S3, you might be able to charge it by just putting it on a charging pad. To see if your phone will do so, just type into The Google (without the quote marks): "Can you wireless charge a [insert make/model of phone]?" If so, you can find a charging pad on The Amazon for around $15 (or a faster charging pad for about $35). You might need a Qi capable back, which also you can find on The Amazon for about $10. 

Product Details

DiGiYes Qi Standard Wireless Charger Receiver Module for Samsung Galaxy S5 i9600 i9700

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Auto Android

If you're still staring at your phone to see what Google Maps is telling you, if you have a relatively new car with a USB port and a screen, and a data connection, all you have to do is install the Auto Android app on your phone and plug your phone into the USB port and, shzam, the map will be on the screen and the instructions will play through your radio. Auto Android also will handle your phone calls and music.

Link to Auto Android App in Play Store

PS: There are other Android apps that seem to do the same things and for all we know they might be better. Likely, there is an iOS  app that will do the same things.

PPS: Plugging in the phone will over-ride the Bluetooth connectivity. But the upside is you won't be draining your battery (at least I don't think so).

Cover art

Breaking Bad Mystery Solved

One of the classic scenes in Breaking Bad (Season 3) is the RV destruction scene. The owner of the lot looks familiar and everyone has seen him but no one can place. Sure, you can use IMDb to figure it out, or you can turn to our Memory Association Department (MAD), which grokked the answer in under 12 hours: He was the guy who played the alternative Kramer on Seinfeld.


New Car Buying

While buying a used car might have made economic sense back in the old days, what now rolls off car lots are not your grand-father's car. The convenience and safety advances are nothing short of spectacular. On the convenience side, a properly equipped car will do everything your phone does right from your phone and you can see it all and control it all on the car's big screen. On the safety side, a properly equipped car will warn you of every lurking danger including ones you cannot see (e.g., it will show you and warn you about cars in the blind spot of your mirrors). Unless you have gone through the kind of training we put our employees in our Car and Road (CAR) department, it's difficult to tell if you're getting all the convenience and safety features you crave and deserve, because they aren't all available on all models. Here's what we recommend: After you decide what make and model car you want (based on looks and comfort), then look at the list of all the features available on the highest level of that car, and then look at the list of all the features available on the next level down, and so on. You'll then be able to make an informed decision.

Here is what a happy subscriber sent us by way of a thank you for assisting her in buying a new car:

 Image result for new car

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New iPhones: Go With the X

Apple unveiled three new iPhones: iPhone 8 ($699), iPhone 8Plus ($799), and iPhone X ($999). While we are not a fan of the iPhone, we STRONGLY recommend that, if you're going to buy a new iPhone, eschew the 8s and go with the X. It's hard to see how the 8s will be huge sellers, but the X has caught up with Samsung Galaxies' cool features of full larger screen in smaller casing and wireless charging, and has the added cool feature of no Home button. You can read a nice overview of the three phones here, which carefully read, confirms our prediction and recommendation: Link to Overview Article

Image result for iphone x

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 and All the Way

Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm comes out on October 1 on HBO. For those of us on a limited budget who do not subscribe to HBO, as always, we will be signing up until Season 9 concludes. Note, you often can get HBO on a trial-basis for as low as $5/month and you can cancel it at any time. As an added bonus, we will be able to stream from Amazon Prime the much-talked-about HBO movie All the Way (the story of Lyndon Johnson's first year as President). Now for the head-slapping what-a-coincidence can--you-get-enough Brian Cranston moment: Brian Cranston (the lead in Breaking Bad) not only plays Johnson in All the Way, he has a significant role in Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Matt's Big Breakfast (Sky Harbor International Airport)

As noted in an earlier post, one can enjoy Barrio Cafe at the Phoenix Airport, which is great given that the noise level at its 16th Street location makes eating there unbearable. One drawback is that Barrio Cafe is at one extreme end of Terminal 4, so it often is inconvenient. Now for the good news: Matt's Big Breakfast has a Terminal 4 location at the extreme other end, and the food there is delicious and the portions are quite generous. Even though it says lunch is not served until 11 am, in fact, lunch items are available well before then. The place is a little loud but still tolerable. So, whichever end of Terminal 4 your gate is, you've got great food at hand.

Link to Matt's Big Breakfast and Menu

Saturday, September 9, 2017

WeChat

WeChat is a multi-platform app that lets your chat, text, phone, and more for free from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. Many people swear by it. Others find it annoying.

Link to WeChat Homepage

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Amazon Smile

AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.
Every item available for purchase on www.amazon.com is also available on AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com) at the same price. You will see eligible products marked "Eligible for AmazonSmile donation" on their product detail pages.
If you represent a charitable organization and you would like to learn more about registering your organization to receive AmazonSmile donations, go to org.amazon.com .
For more information about the AmazonSmile program, go to http://smile.amazon.com/about.

Writing Assistant

Hemingway is a fantastic tool to help your writing. I'm just sorry it wasn't around when I was still writing.



Hemingway is an online word processor and text editor which is free to use. It describes itself as a "distraction-free writing environment", but online word processor is just as good. It's free because it's really a promotional tool for the company's paid-for offline version, but the online version is still very useful.

It has 2 modes. In writing mode, the distraction-free element takes over. You see almost nothing except a blank screen, ready for you to write. There's a minimal toolbar for select bold, italic and so on.

When you're ready to review your work, click the button to switch from writing to editing mode. The system now automatically highlights sections of your text in different colours in order to show incorrect spellings, sentences that are too long, sentences that are hard to read, phrases which should be simplified, and so on.

When you're finished, just copy and paste the text from Hemingway into wherever you want it, such as the email you're composing or the document you're working on

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Way to Deal With the Post Office

If you experience the problem of your mail not being delivered--which happens far more often than it should when a substitute is assigned to your normal delivery person's route. Calling your local post office is useless ... they don't answer. Going to the local post office is sheer insanity. But here is a new way, which might not work, but it's cheap, and just might work. Sign up for the Informed Delivery option that gives you an email each day showing what letters are coming. When they don't appear, go back to the website and you can submit by checking a box a notice of non-delivery. Also, you can copy the email and fax it to your local post office (its fax number is on its website and the fax machine does answer). 

Tips on Buying a New iPhone

Just as it would be immoral for PETA to give buying tips on new furs that might lead to the senseless slaughter of furry animals, it would be immoral for me to give buying tips on iPhones. That said, after checking with our department of Morals & Ethics (ME), I have been given permission to share with you this excellent article on the topic. It's a must read if you are being drawn inextricably to buying a new iPhone and refuse to lie down on the sofa until the feeling has passed, and is timely given the expected September 12 release of the iPhone 8.

Link to Excellent Article re Buying a New iPhone

Economizing on Gazpacho


Although gazpacho season is nearing an end, to supplement earlier posts about gazpacho and celery stalks, please note the following: Many people cut off the ends of the celery stalks shown on the two stalks at the left and throw them away. This is a waste of food and money. After excising the ends from the stalks, put them into a sandwich bag with a little water to keep them fresh, and store them in an accessible place in your refrigerator. Then, take them out when you make your next batch of gazpacho and use them before having to use the stalks themselves. The gazpacho will taste just as good and you will smile when you think about the money you've saved and perfectly good food you did not waste. 

Image result for celery stalk ends

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Shame on Obama re the Dreamers

What Trump did today viz the Dreamers is beyond sickening. But Obama's timidity in not averting this moral outrage is disheartening as well. Obama had a chance to solve the calamity now facing the Dreamers. Here is a letter written while he was still president, which unfortunately was ignored:

"The executive orders and the legislation President Obama signed all can be reversed. But, there’s one thing that cannot be reversed, and that’s his pardon power, which he could use to end the “immigration war” that is gripping our country and that Trump threatens to exploit in such a cruel way. It has been suggested that the President protect 200,000 green card holders by pardoning them for minor criminal violations. As commendable as that is, it does not go far enough and is not fair to Dreamers and the like who have lived exemplary lives while in the country. Thus, President Obama easily can, and should, stop any effort by the Trump Administration to mass deport undocumented immigrants. All the President has to do is pardon them en masse for the crime of entering and remaining in the country illegally. The President need not pardon any serious crime committed by any immigrant before or after coming to this country, so felons could still be deported. In this way, the Dreamers would be safe, citizenship would not be granted, and what to do with undocumented immigrants would be behind us, and out of Trump’s reach. Obviously, the President might not be willing to go this route. But, if he wants a lasting legacy, it looks to be the only way where he can stand up to Trump and carve himself indelibly into the right side of history."

"PS: There is a misconception that the pardon power extends only to pardon those who have been convicted of a crime. President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon and President Carter’s pardon of Vietnam War draft dodgers put that misconception to rest. There also is a misconception that the pardon must name the person(s) covered. President Carter’s pardon of Vietnam War draft dodgers put that misconception to rest."


Our Pick for Hybrids

Here are our two picks for a hybrid, which cnet happens to concur in, one for the budget-minded and one for those of us who appreciate a little comfort:

Best of the best: 2016 Toyota Prius
It was Toyota that brought hybrids into the mainstream and its cars continue to define the class and serve as the high water mark. The all-new 2016 Prius liftback continues this tradition with an amazing EPA-estimated 58 city mpg and 56 combined mpg. Bizarre styling aside, it's the total package.
The S550e is a tech flagship that takes an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to Benz's massive arsenal of performance, driver aid and comfort tech features. More impressive is that the plug-in comes in at the same approximately $95,000 base price as the non-hybrid S550 and offers a similar level of performance. There's almost no reason to not choose the hybrid.

Caution re XIV

[From the WSJ (9/5/17)]

Some exchange-traded funds related to the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, could vanish just when traders might want them most. The VIX, also known as the fear gauge, measures the cost of buying insurance against a drop in the broad market. At issue are funds that seek to profit when short-term VIX futures contracts fall in value. The VIX itself isn’t an investible product and the VIX futures don’t exactly track the VIX, but they are closely correlated.
The prospectus for the first fund,VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-TermXIV 0.05% ETN (XIV), states that the exchange-traded note could be liquidated “if the intraday indicative value is equal to or less than 20% of the prior day’s closing indicative value.” Put another way, if the note’s value declines 80% in a single day, “the fund goes ‘poof,’ ” Peter Tchir, managing director of global macro at New York-based Brean Capital, wrote in a recent report. “Although the VIX going from 8 to 14.4 doesn’t seem that insane, it would be an 80% move in the index,” he writes. (There would need to be an 80% move in short-term VIX futures, too, for the fund to go bust.)
The other fund is ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures (SVXY), and it essentially has a similar story. “[A] single-day or intraday increase in the level of the fund’s benchmark approaching 100% could result in the total loss or almost total loss,” states the prospectus.
How likely is it that the two funds could get wiped out? “Such a VIX move is equivalent to a 3% market move,” says Mr. Tchir, meaning a 3% drop in the stock market could send the VIX up 80%.
That, however, is just when traders might want such funds because big jumps in the VIX are often followed by falls in the VIX. “Historically, any time the VIX is over 20 it tends to retrace fairly quickly,” says Mr. Tchir. That’s exactly when the short VIX funds would look attractive.
The VIX currently reads 12. VelocityShares confirms that its fund “has the potential to be liquidated” if its benchmark moves more than 80% in a single day. However, the company says that over the past two decades, the VIX hasn’t moved 80% when the S&P moved 3% in a single day, “and VIX futures certainly have not even come close, so that analysis seems pretty weak.”
ProShares declined a request for comment. Mr. Tchir admits that such big moves in the VIX are rare and that it is “difficult to equate a change in VIX to what would be required to create such a ‘knock-out’ event.” He also says it is difficult to rely on historical information in this case because in the past VIX futures had little activity and there were no VIX-linked funds.
Still, he considers “risk of an 80% single day rise in the index the funds track as being possible on as little as a 3% single day equity move.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Brandless Goods

The Brandless Goods website, where everything sells for $3 and it boasts of huge savings by cutting out the "brand tax" and "brand markup," gets mixed reviews. Some raves for sure; while others find the "deals" no better than what can find in one's grocery with a little looking for non-branded items. That said, we do like their clean packaging.

Link to Brandless Website

PS: Amazon's dropping ground beef price to $4.99/lb is already having an effect, as you can see other grocers dropping their ground beef prices lower than that. For your steak tartare, however, you should select a higher grade meat.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pistachios

Costco sells 3 lb bags of pistachios in the shell for $19.99 and 1.5 lb bags of shelled pistachios for $19.99. A pistachio shell is 50% the weight of a pistachio in the shell. Now you have all the information you need as to whether to buy the shelled or un-shelled pistachios.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Business ISP: Post-Script

Switching from Residential to Business for any of your digital services might not be as seamless and snag-free as represented, but the customer/technical support from the Business side is FANTASTIC! You can reach people quickly who know what they're doing and they will work laboriously and speedily to solve whatever problem arises. If you're a Cox Residential customer, and have had it with Cox support, serious consideration should be given to switching to Cox Business, at least for internet and phone. And if you've had with telemarketers and such, serious consideration should be given to switching to Cox Business just for the call-rejection feature. Finally, if you want to have music played when you put someone on hold, that's another free bonus.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Another Letter They Won't Print

While we don't do politics, given our dedication to consumer issues, we try to protect consumers, who are people, when we can. Toward that end, here is the text of a letter we wrote to various publications:

As President Trump huffs and puffs about a wall to guard our Southern border from what he calls “bad hombres,” any “harm” that wall might protect against is peanuts compared to the loss of life, disruption and dislocation of families, and billions of dollars of property and commercial damage that is being inflicted by one undocumented guy named Harvey. Hurricanes are forces of nature, but the conceded warming of the ocean waters inarguably exacerbated the damage that’s being inflicted beyond measure. What can we say to the man who withdrew from the Paris Accords and disbanded the presidential Climate Change Advisory Council except: “You’re doing a heck of job, Trumpy!”


Sock Slider

We try to bring you great new products. And we pride ourselves on not wasting your time with the thousands of products we review and thousands of hours we spend evaluating products we deem not worthy of your consideration. Recently, however, our Department of Unmentionable Manufactured Boondogles (DUMB) has come across what it considers, by far, the dumbest "invention" ever, touted by one of the most irksome ads ever. Here it is:


Breaking Bad Season 2

Many dread second seasons because, as is often said, Season 2 is where good series go to die. Not so with Breaking Bad. Season 2 is even better than Season 1, and you get to meet Saul, which gives rise to the hope that, when you finally finish the series, you will enjoy Better Call Saul. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

If you needed another reason to sing the praises of Elizabeth Warren, you can thank her for pushing legislation that will open up hearing aid competition to over-the-counter devices that promises to improve quality and slash prices. Here are three recent articles explaining the matter:

Link to WKBN Article

Link to Oakland Press Article

Link to WSJ Editorial

Our Favorite Backpack

After schlepping stuff through forests, across deserts, and over mountains in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, our Backpack Adventure Team (BAT) feels confident in awarding the Matador Freerain24 Backpack its highest accolade--5 Golden Azaleas--in its Travel Accessory Category. It's light-weight and water-proof (which is a big plus when schlepping tech stuff) and, when not in use, folds up into a palm-size ball. Caution: This is one item not to buy on Amazon (where it is priced at $120), but instead, go to the manufacturer's website (where it is priced at $60).

Link to Matador Website

As a backpack, it looks like this:
Matador Freerain24 Backpack
Folded up, it looks like this:
Matador Freerain24 Backpack

Switching From Residential to Business ISP PS (and Notice of Coming Cox Price Change)

A short time ago, we did a post outlining reasons one might want to switch from the Residential side of one's ISP to the Business side--at least for Cox and likely for other ISPs as well. Here are a few other considerations:

1. If you have a significant bundled discount on the Residential side, you will lose that even if you switch all three services (internet, tv, phone) to the Business side (although there will be a modicum of a bundled discount on the business side). Putting aside the bundled discount, the individual services' prices are roughly comparable.

2. One of the main benefits of the Business side is you get an actual rep to deal with for all issues, technical and non-technical, whom you can reach by phone or email directly. For many, this alone warrants any increase cost associated with the Business side.

3. The phone features on the Business side are way better than on the Residential side. Most importantly, the Business side phone lets you program the phone to reject anonymous calls as well as any number you want rejected.

Cox Price Change Coming: Currently, most people pay $2.99 per mini-box for television service where one has cable access but no big cable box. Starting sometime in 2018, Cox will also start charging $5-10 per cable line leading to those mini-boxes. "Yikes" is right!


Friday, August 25, 2017

Watering Bubblers

Amazon has essentially two water bubblers. They are similar in price and function. One is metal and has a sleeker look (in steel, black, or copper). The other is plastic and green. After many tests and trials and sad experiences, we strongly recommend you eschew the metal one (it doesn't last, indeed, its head keeps popping off rendering it useless) and choose the green plastic one (which also has added functionality in allowing one to control the water volume flow).

Recommended Green One:
 

Metal One to Eschew:

Solution re North Korean "Problem"

While we don't do politics or geopolitics here, we understand that war, especially nuclear war, could have a dampening effect on the economy and a direct impact on consumers. So, given that this blog is devoted to helping consumers, we've asked our Mediation and Diplomacy Department (MADD) to come up with a solution to the US/NK brinkmanship stuff that is going on. The following is the text of a letter they've submitted to the FT, which it politely declined to publish, and it has therefore been sent to the NYT (who likely will not publish it but will pass the idea on to one of its op-ed writers) and to the AR:

"The leaders of the United States and North Korea are on a dangerous, perhaps cataclysmic, collision course. One says he will not be deterred from developing a nuclear military capability and the other says that he will not let that happen. While these two play geopolitical (nuclear) chicken, calmer heads urge a diplomatic solution, but so far none have articulated what any such solution would entail. Here is one: North Korea is permitted to achieve its nuclear ambition, but it cedes to China the right to control North Korea’s ability to launch a first strike, i.e., North Korea could not launch a first strike without China’s consent. Not only would this solution be technologically feasible and easy to implement through a China-North Korea collocation of the North Korean nuclear code, more importantly, it also would meet both leaders’ stated red-lines and leave each country in as secure a position they would be in before North Korea attained nuclear capability (i.e., the United States would be no more vulnerable by virtue of China being enabled to launch a nuclear attack with North Korean missiles than it is now from China missiles). Under this arrangement, the leader of North Korea could boast that he stood down the United States and enabled his country to meet his nuclear goal, and the leader of the United States could boast that he stood down North Korea and safeguarded his country from a North Korean nuclear attack. And, while each of them takes his testosterone-laden victory laps, the world could breathe a bit easier."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Whole Foods Post Amazon

Amazon is cleared to take over Whole Foods starting Monday. As our loyal readers know, we have shunned Whole Foods because of their ridiculous prices, their poor customer service, their snobby meat department, their silly kiosks, their refusal to have express checkout lanes, their poor quality control allowing expired foods to be sold, their ignorance of their own inventory, their stacking shelves during prime shopping hours without concern for customer access, etc., etc. etc. And, of course,  we have not been alone, as the stock market, clearly listening to us, has punished Whole Foods appropriately, which has allowed Amazon to scoop it up at a bargain price.

Starting Monday, Amazon launches its effort to change all that. It will be cutting prices on many items. It will be allowing even further discounts to Amazon Prime Members, and Whole Foods products will be available online at Amazon. Maybe this will work and maybe it won't, but until they have self-checkout like Fry's does, our President will continue to refuse to go into any Whole Foods store, and will stand by his allegiance to Fry's. But, given the demand and needs of our loyal readers, we will be sending in a secret shopper next Friday and, if there's anything to report worth reporting, we shall report it.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Possible Fixes for Outlook Not Receiving Email When Opened

Outlook has been known to stop receiving emails upon being opened, or delaying for an inordinate time when emails begin to be received. Here are four possible fixes or work-arounds:

1. Click on Send/Receive then Update Folder. If this works, which it did when we tried it, you can add it as a button to your Quick Access bar.

2. Click on File/Advanced/SendReceive and change 30 minute (default setting) to 1 minute. This did nothing to help.

3. Change the Group in the same place. Did not try.

4. Change the Profile. Did not try.

5. Delete the OST file which should refresh on restart. Fixed for a while then problem reoccurred so we went and have stuck with No. 1. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Yom Kippur: Colonoscopy Reprieve

Several loyal readers and others have submitted a most intriguing question: If you have a colonoscopy procedure requiring a 36-hour-fast in preparation, do you also need to fast for Yom Kippur in the same calendar year? The question was submitted to our esteemed on-staff rabbinical counsel who debated the issue for days, after which they delivered their unequivocal answer: No! They stressed that the reprieve applied with special force if one would be on beach vacation when Yom Kippur fell because fasting during that period would be seen as unduly harsh. And while not posed as part of the original question, the counsel further explained that, because a colonoscopy prep entailed 36 hours of fasting and a Yom Kippur fast was just 24 hours, the "extra" 12 hours could be held over and applied in the next calendar year. Mazel tov! 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds (2017) by Greg Milner

As astounding as computers are, GPS (which today is the acronym of Global Positioning System, but already, with the Mars voyages is becoming the Galactic Positioning System) is the most amazing and far-reaching technology of all. Unlike computers which you don't have to be a rocket scientist to have some sense how they do what they do albeit with startling rapidity that itself is mind-boggling, how GPS can "know" where millions of cars and people and boats and airplanes are at every moment, and steer them to where they want to go, isn't just mind-boggling, it's beyond comprehension. As it turns out, while GPS is what enables all that to happen, it's not what GPS "is" (and I mean "is" in its ordinary meaning and not dependent on any other meaning of what the definition of "is"is).

Pinpoint is rich in the history of how GPS began with the Kon-Tiki voyage, and paints an elaborate montage of how GPS is infused in every aspect of civilian and military life--from the growing of beets to landing the Voyager on Mars to positioning 5 bombs to land within a meter of each other (including 2 bombs landing in the same hole) to enable weather forecasting based on water vapor content. Indeed, as it turns out, virtually everything now done that involves motion of any kind is GPS dependent.

There is only one small problem with the book: Unless you're much smarter than our reviewer, it doesn't tell you in simple enough terms what GPS is or how it works, or how it knows whether or not a street is a one-way street or whether a person is on the first floor or the second floor of a building. Once gets the sense that GPS is just a very very very accurate clock system that sends out continuous signals from multiple senders, but not how the receiver knows or is able to do what it does.

That one short-coming of the book aside, you do not need to be brilliant or even smart or even of normal intelligence to understand that, with our growing dependence on GPS, all the systems that rely on GPS (from maps to the power grid to the agricultural systems) are vulnerable to "hacking"--not hacking as in breaking into computers, but hacking in terms of signal interference or tricking so that the receivers (be they people, or helicopters, or bombers, or smart bombs, or electric grids) "think" they are in one place at a particular time when, in reality, they are somewhere else at a different time. In fine, the book is a "nice" reminder of the immutable law that, however brilliant our scientists and engineers, humans are incapable of designing anything that do not sow the seeds of our own destruction.  

Link to Pinpoint on Amazon

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Season 1 Ozark vs. Season 1 Breaking Bad

They are both excellent! They are similar in some ways (continually getting into situations that one cannot see the way out of) but different in others (the way out of such situations is quite different--Ozark is far more verbal than Breaking Bad which is actional). If you like one, you'll like the other. If you don't like one, you won't like the other, and then, you need to come to terms with the sad conclusion that you have a problem and should seek immediate counseling. I'm just sorry the second season of Ozark isn't out yet and that there are only four seasons of Breaking Bad to go. #Sad.  

Currency Exchange Rate App

XE Currency is an app available for both iOS and Windows devices, which provides reliable foreign exchange tools and services. With this app installed, you can check out and monitor conversions of more than 180 world currencies conveniently especially when you are travelling.
The figures shown in this app are based on mid-market rates, live and updated every minute, useful for comparing with the bid and ask rates offers by banks and money changers. The app shows the base currency on the top of the screen together with a handy calculator. Enter the number of units in your base currency and you will get the units automatically converted in other currencies. It is quick and handy and you don't have to look for another calculator.
It is easy to edit the list of currencies to monitor -- tap one of them to become a base currency, add more currencies to the list for conversions, or remove any of them by dragging it to the top of the screen.
XE monitors your rate. You can get notified if your rate hits a target after you have created a rate alert. It also allows you to review past exchange rates of currencies with charts showing price fluctuations in various time intervals. If you need more, market analysis, rate advisor, currency profile and money transfer services are accessible via the app’s menu.
It’s certainly a handy app that is free to keep on your mobile when you are travelling or dealing with multiple currencies.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Your Residential ISP's Dirty Little Secret

[Prefatory Note: What follows here pertains to Cox for certain. We cannot swear to it, but we would bet big that it applies to all other major ISPs]

Cox has two major divisions: Residential and Business. Both offer internet, television, and phone service. Putting aside loyalty discounts that might make Residential less expensive, they are price competitive. Enough for the similarities. Everything on the Business side is better! The Business side's technology is better (static instead of dynamic addresses; guaranteed connection speed no matter how many people are on the system; more phone features; and on and on) and it's services are more robust (much higher internet speeds if you want them; 500 long distance minutes for no extra charge). But best of all, the support on the Business side is WAY better. Beside your internet portal that allows you do anything, and a general support team, you have a rep with a direct telephone line and email address whom you can call or email for any issue, and he or she will take charge to have it resolved.

One note: If you get TV from the business side, while the STB is the same, On-Demand and the ability to stream to little devices is not available. If those services matter to you, you have the option to do telephone and internet from the Business side and TV from the Residential side. 

You don't have to have a business to sign up on the Business side. Just call Cox Business Sales at 1-866-456-9944, or you're welcome to call the rep I dealt with (Bryan Viol) whose direct number is: 623-500-3322 (I don't get any kick-back). 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fixing Outlook "Cannot Display the Folder" Error

If you receive the "Cannot display the folder.  Microsoft Outlook cannot access the specified folder location" error, you typically need to rename or delete your .ost file.  
Delete the Outlook .ost file
  1. Close Outlook and Lync.
  2. From the Start menu, choose Run.
  3. In the Run window, type this path (or use copy/paste) in the Open box  "%LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Outlook\"
  4. Click OK
  5. Find the .ost file and delete it (you may need to Show Hidden Files and Show Extensions to see the file)
  6. Restart the computer
  7. Restart Outlook
A new .ost file will get created when you restart Outlook.

Back Issues of NYT

My staff advises me that back print issues of the NYT are available for only three months.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump "Election Rally" in Phoenix

Trump has announced he will be holding an "election rally" in Phoenix on Tuesday, August 22, at 7 pm at the Convention Center. It's possible he will use the occasion to pardon Arpaio. Mayor Stanton has asked Trump not to come, which request Trump likely will ignore. There undoubtedly will be protests and counter-protests. As our loyal readers know, we've never done politics here. That said, our board of directors, entire management and staff will be going to protest Trump. 

Special NYT July 2 Constitution Section

On July 2, the New York Times printed a special section on the U.S. Constitution, with a terrific overview by Gary Wills. It is NOT available online (although some highlights are). The head of our Media and Arts Department (MAD) complained bitterly to the NYT. They are stiff-necked and will not put it online, but, buckling to our pressure, they will send you a copy free if you are a subscriber or sell you one for $10.75 if you are not.

Link to Highlights

See Your Mail Before It Arrives

The USPS now has a service where you can see your mail and packages before they arrive and get email notices thereof if you want. In this way, you can tell immediately and easily if a piece of mail that went into the USPS system was not delivered to or was stolen out of your mailbox.

Link to Sign Up for USPS Informed Delivery Service

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Michelle Obama Was So Right

We don't do politics here. But we do applaud brilliance and prescience. In that vein, given what was seen in Trump's Tuesday "performance," we applaud Michelle Obama, who at the Democratic Convention last year said: “Being President Doesn’t Change Who You Are, It Reveals Who You Are.”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Not Just a Murphy Bed ... A Bed/Desk/Shelving System

If you need a multi-purpose room, e.g., a work-space with a bed for guests, the LGM Tavolo system is a terrific alternatiave. It's a desk and book shelf by day and bed with night-tables by night, all in one, and gorgeous.

By Day:



By Night:




Link to LGM Tavolo System

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Primer re Hearing Aids

If you find that, with enhanced frequency, you have to deal with mumblers and low-talkers who are difficult to understand, one thing you can do is avoid them at all cost and the other is to scream at them to say: Stop mumbling! Speak Up! If you find, with increased frequency, restaurants you frequent play music too loud and have acoustical architectures that make ambient noise intolerable, one thing you can do is complain to management and other thing you can do is stay home. Alternatively, you can breakdown and get hearing aids. 

Unfortunately, hearing aids are not inexpensive. Costco has good prices but what they sell is a generation behind the state of the art, which is why their prices look so good. Our Hearing Ear Audio Research (HEAR) is NOT making a recommendation, and not saying this is the best source, but you might consider Hear.com, especially if you don't live in Florida. Here is why:

1. They will refer you to a local audiologist for testing and fitting.

2. You have a 45-day trial period during which you can return your hearing aids for a full refund or try a different model again on a 45-day trial period. In short, there's no risk.

3. They carry every style you might want, and are state of the art.

4. Because the hearing aids are shipped from out of state (unless you live in Florida), there is no sales tax. 

5. They have various styles many of which are cool.

6. Their phone app is okay, and should improve in the future.

Link to Hear.com Website

PS: None of the above should be read to mean or imply that our President, Chairman, Founder, or anyone else on our team has gotten a hearing aid.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Breaking Bad (Season 1, Episode 1 Netflix)

Okay, everyone else has seen it and loved it. It's terrific. Not yet sure if it's better than Ozark but the consensus is that it is. Even if it's half as good as Ozark, that's good enough. It's fabulous having 5 seasons to look forward to without worry as to what to watch next. 

Endorsement for Google Wifi (Home Mesh Network)

Our readers are the most discerning consumers (which is why they subscribe to this blog) and the most difficult to please. A short time ago, we gave a very favorable review to Google Wifi. Here is the review we just received from a loyal subscriber: "Thanks for the tip on Google Wifi. It has greatly improved the internet reception and speed in our house. I bought the set of 3, and could probably even speed things up further if I added one more unit, but so far, it is working fine, and we can easily stream videos or music anywhere in the house, without dropping off or buffering.  It was also incredibly easy to set up, and you can easily monitor the reception and speed being delivered anywhere in the house via the Google Wifi app. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve internet reception in their home." 

As an fyi, we live for this kind of feedback! As explained in this short clip from Annie Hall, everyone needs the eggs: Video Clip From End of Annie Hall

What the Google Wifi system looks like:


google-wifi-6546-010.jpg

The Two Polls "They" Won't Run

FakeNews (e.g., FailingNYTimes and Amazon/WAPO) pride themselves on polling and seem almost gleeful to report any slippage in President Trump's approval or truthfulness ratings or any increase in his disapproval ratings. Despite our repeated efforts, however, they refuse to poll on two questions of the highest interest to virtually everyone:

1. Putting aside that each has a hairdo no one likes, and both seem eerily childish and rash and blustery, one of these leaders of his country is sane, i.e., attached to reality, and the other is insane, i.e., detached from reality: Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump. Which is the sane one and which is the insane one?

2. Both these leaders of his country are, to be it mildly, weird looking (and one many non-Slovenians consider repulsive looking): Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump. Which is the better looking one?

Improving One's Self-Image and Self-Confidence

Much opprobrium has been heaped on President Donald J. Trump. However fair or unfair those criticisms and ridicule have been, overlooked is the salutary approach Trump takes to boosting his self-image and self-confidence. Mind you, this is NOT a joke ... it's not from the Onion. This is real. And it's a technique anyone can easily incorporate into one's daily routine:

Link to Trump's Secret to Self-Improvement

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creating More Memory on an iPhone

[Courtesy of cnet]

Unlike many Android devices that allow for microSD cards that create huge amounts of memory for a few dollars, iPhones do not allow for any such memory expansion. As a result, it seems like iPhone storage is always at a premium, especially if you have an entry-level model with just 16GB -- an economic necessity for many an iPhone owner. It's the rare person who doesn't know the pain of trying to download a new app or snap a few more photos and seeing the dreaded "not enough storage" message. You've probably heard all the usual "free up space" tips, but I'm willing to bet you haven't heard this one. It's an honest-to-goodness magic trick, one that may fill you with joy while simultaneously making you a little mad at AppleYour iPhone doesn't need to be jailbroken, and this doesn't void your warranty or involve any kind of risk (though see update below). Try it, and see what happens.

Step 1: Tap the Settings app and then tap General > About to see how much storage is available. Note that as the "before" number.

iphone-5c-before-trick.jpg
Here's how much space an iPhone 5C had before the trick.Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 2: Open the iTunes Store app, head to movies, and find any really long film. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" is a good choice at 6.83GB. (You just need to find a movie that requires more space to download than you have available on your phone.) Tap the Rent button twice, keeping in mind you won't actually end up renting it (and therefore won't be charged anything).

lord-of-the-rings-cannot-download.jpg
Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 3: Once you see the message that there's not enough space available to download your rental, tap Settings. Then navigate back to General > About and you should see a couple hundred megabytes' worth of additional available storage -- possibly even more.

iphone-5c-after-trick.jpg
And just like that, an extra 400MB.Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step 4: Repeat the process! (That is, go back to the iTunes Store app and try renting the movie again.) Each time, you should wind up with another chunk of freed-up storage. Keep going until you either have too much free space, meaning you'd actually be able to download the movie, or the available space stops rising.
What. The. Heck? It's not immediately clear why this works, but it does. I just tested it on an iPhone 5C ($159.99 at Amazon.com) running iOS 9.1, for the record, that had 4GB of available space. Result after the first attempted rental: 4.4GB.
Alas, that was as far as I got. Repeated attempts yielded no more space. But if you check the (now old) Reddit thread devoted to this topic, you'll see that many users tacked on hundreds of megabytes numerous times, and some were able to reclaim gigabytes of space. The best news of all: There doesn't appear to be a downside to this. It's not like iOS is secretly wiping out your photos or something. Instead, it's probably clearing out caches that shouldn't be full in the first place.
Update, Aug. 7, 2017A couple readers reported that while this trick worked for them in the past, recent attempts failed. In fact, one user was able to complete the movie-rental process, even though iOS reported he ostensibly didn't have enough space for it. Your mileage may vary, but the risk here is you could end up getting charged for a movie. But if you reach out to Apple immediately after and explain that it was an accidental rental, you should be able to get a refund.