Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year and New Hope

Our Department of New Year's Wishes (DONYW) has had great trepidation as to where our country and planet might be headed. But, ever the believer in things getting better, just as it takes some time for a body to reject an organ transplant, there are some glimmers of hope that the American body politic is rejecting the organ transplant that goes by the name Trump. In that spirit, DONYW wishes our loyal readers and anyone else reading this all the best for the new year, and has for your enjoyment and hope this (which is played best at high volume): Link to New Year's Gift

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: PS

The positive reviewed of a couple of days ago after Episode 1 was concerned the series might not hold up. We are glad to report it holds up quite well. Lenny Bruce's body language is a bit odd, but everything else is superbly done, from the dialogue, to the sets, to the camera work, to the acting, to the freshness of the story, to the humor, to the music. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Best Brine for a Dirty Martini

Our Mixology Advisory Department (MAD) has been inundated with requests to evaluate brines for a dirty martini. After months of study, MAD has produced a 500+ page report, which in executive summary fashion concludes as follows: The fastest way to ruin a Dirty Martini is to use the liquid from grocery-store jars of limp, pimento-stuffed Manzanilla olives. In recent years, the Castelvetrano olive, with its vivid green hue and buttery flesh, has become a popular Martini garnish. Yet the mild, salty brine used to cure Castelvetranos won’t do much for your Dirty. Sicilian olives' robust, oily brine adds texture to the drink. Dirty Sue, a purveyor of bottled olive brine for cocktails, also works well. 

PS: MAD also recommended the best way to serve martinis when entertaining: When entertaining, you can increase this recipe to a crowd-size batch, stash in the freezer and then add brine à la minute. In a sealable container, mix 3 ounces vodka and ¼ ounce water. Seal, shake to mix, then chill in freezer at least 1 hour, ideally overnight. Set a Martini glass in the freezer to chill too. When ready to drink, pour ½ ounce Sicilian olive brine into glass, and top with chilled vodka. Garnish with 3 Sicilian olives speared on a pick.

[Note: The same conclusions can be found in the WSJ]

Pick a Kindergarten That Lets the Children Fight It Out

[By Sara Zaske From the WSJ]
The chaos of German kindergartens is sometimes hard for Americans to understand. When I lived in Berlin for nearly seven years, I was surprised at first to find that kindergartens and child-care centers (called “kitas”) were all about play, all the time. No reading, no math work sheets. There was simple lawlessness. Children ran around yelling, playing whatever they wanted with whomever they wanted. Some rules applied, but they were pretty basic, such as no hitting and no climbing on furniture. The teachers rarely organized the children’s play.
“It’s ‘Lord of the Flies’!” We expat parents whispered to each other. “And that one kid?” We all knew the one. “They really should watch him more.”
The image goes against the stereotype of the “strict German.” The country’s anti-authoritarian movement in 1968 challenged the old ways of doing things, including how children were raised. Some educators even set up kindergartens with no rules at all. That extreme has waned, but today, many Germans still largely reject harsh discipline of children.
Of course, it’s natural for children to fight. But the way German teachers at our kita approached these conflicts was very different than in the U.S. They didn’t rush to interfere, unless a child was about to be hurt. They didn’t punish, hand out warnings, write names of naughty kids on the board or clip them down on the rainbow-colored behavior chart of doom.
Instead, German teachers spent time observing the situation. Sometimes they took children aside to talk to them individually; sometimes they spoke to the whole group about fairness and kindness directly, or indirectly, by reading stories that touched on the issue. Sometimes they did nothing at all.
“Children really do wonderfully to work things out by themselves,” a kita teacher assured me.
That approach is echoed in a handbook by Margarete Blank-Mathieu for German instructors working with young children. “Children have to argue even if it is difficult for the instructor or the group suffers,” she writes. Arguments are critical for children’s social and self-development, she continues. Kids fight for a variety of reasons: to set their boundaries, to draw attention to themselves, to test their strength (both physical and social), and simply because they are poor losers.
Children must learn how to handle all of these things as they grow up—and the German ethos is that children learn this best though interacting with each other, not by having an adult step in and punish the apparent offender.
I had some doubts as to whether this method worked, but I saw the effect it had on my own children.
Six years ago, when she was 5, my daughter, Sophia, had two close friends at kita. They were both wonderful, strong-willed girls—and they argued a lot, often demanding that Sophia pick a side. This ended in many hurt feelings. She was de-friended and uninvited to distant future birthday parties dozens of times. She often cried over it.
These fights became so prevalent that the instructors took notice and gently pulled the girls aside to talk. They would ask questions like “How do you think that makes her feel?” or “What would you do if you were her?” This method of “mirroring” helped the children look at the consequences of their actions and practice empathizing with others.
It didn’t always have the best result. “If they said, ‘I don’t want to play with her,’ we needed to accept this,” the head teacher told me. “Maybe it will change 10 minutes later.” Teachers never handed out punishments or imposed solutions on these disputes.
While my daughter’s struggles lasted longer than I liked, in the end, this experience taught her some powerful lessons. By the time she made it to elementary school, she was known as a peacemaker. To this day, she rarely has an issue with a “mean girl,” either as a victim or being one herself.
Nor does she label them as such—and neither should we. Because truly none of the children are mean girls or boys. They are just kids, learning how to get along with each other and making some mistakes along the way.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Original Series 2017)

Based just on Episode 1, this is must-see. The dialogue and script could not be better. The acting is fabulous. It's beautifully done. It's tells a story with a unique little twist at every turn. The music is perfectly set. The series might not hold up, and if it doesn't, it will be truly sad. But if the remaining episodes are even close to the first, buckle your seat belts, you're in for a terrific ride.  

IMDb Link to the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

iPhone Battery Issue

A December 21 blog post explained a supposed "fix" Apple had done in response to its software changed that slowed down older iPhones. Apple now has fessed up to the error of its ways, has issued an apology, and has offered to replace the batteries on affected iPhones for $29 ($50 off its standard battery replacement price). The link below will take you to an article explaining how to test your iPhone to see if a battery replacement makes sense for you.

Link to Explanatory Article

The Pesky Windows 10 Login Screen

A December 23 blog post explained how to skip the Windows 10 login screen. It has a way of trying to come back after the computer goes into sleep mode. Go to Power Settings and be sure the box is checked or unchecked to not go to login screen upon waking up. Also, you might have it not go into sleep mode at all when plugged in.  

The Most Under-Reported Provision in the New Tax Law

The Domestic Production Activities Tax Deduction (DPAD) is intended to provide tax relief for businesses that produce goods in the United States rather than producing it overseas. The deduction went into effect in 2005 and applies to both small and large businesses. The deduction can apply to almost any business that manufactures, grows, extracts, produces, develops or improves goods primarily in the United States. DPAD might have the tax provision most responsible for keeping jobs in America as well as bringing them back from overseas.The new tax law repeals DPAD. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cautions re Disposals

This link sets out the 16 things one should never put down a disposal along with some related disposal tips: Link to cnet List of Dont's Viz Disposals

Smart Bag Advisory

Beginning soon, many, if not all, airlines will not accept smart bags with non-removable lithium-ion batteries as carry-on or checked baggage.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Returning Gifts to Amazon

Don't keep a gift you don't want just to be polite. If it arrived via Amazon, you can return it while maintaining your politeness. Amazon will let you return a gift for an Amazon gift card credit and won't tell the gift giver of your return plans. Here's how:

1. Go to the Amazon Gift Returns page.

2. Enter the 17-digit order number. The number (it'll look like this: 123-1234567-1234567) appears on the packing slip inside the box or the shipping label on the outside of the box.

3. Select the item you want to return, enter a return reason from the drop-down menu and click Continue. Next, click Continue again to confirm you want a refund, and then click Submit to print out a return label. 

4. Box up your return. Cut off the Return Authorization Slip from the bottom of the return label you printed and put it in the box. This slip has your order number and same barcode as the return label and will be used to process your return if your return label gets damaged during shipping.

5. Mail back your return. You will need to pay for shipping.

6. Once your return is received by Amazon or the third-party seller, your refund will be processed. You'll get a confirmation email, and the gift card credit will be added to your account.

PS: I followed this for the computer (not an ultrabook), 85" television (not a Samsung), Wolff stove/oven (wrong color), Sub-zero refrigerator (no water dispenser), and Tesla (don't care for white) (yes you can buy it on Amazon) I got for Xmas, and it worked like a charm.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Skipping the Login Screen and the Lock Screen in Windows 10

Getting rid of the Windows 10 login screen and the lock screen are easy, and doing so will enable your computer to boot-up and get to your home screen faster. The only down-side is you will lose the ability to sync your settings across your other Windows devices, but no one I know has such other devices or wants to do so anyhow.

Eliminating the Login Screen: 
Command "netplwiz" could help to open user account settings dialog that is not shown in Control Panel.
1. Press Win + R to open Run box, and enter "netplwiz". Click OK to open User Accounts dialog.
search netplwiz for opening user account settings
2. Uncheck "User must enter a user name and password to use the computer".
disable user and password for computer use
3. Click Apply and if there is pop-up dialog, please confirm the user account and enter its password. The specified user will be used to automatically sign in Windows 10.
specify automatic login user and password
Restart computer and it will bypass windows 10 login screen and automatically login with user account you enter password for.
Eliminating the Lock Screen:
press and hold the Windows button on your keyboard, then hit the R key to open the Run dialog. Next, simply type "regedit" and hit Enter.
In the left pane of the window that comes up next, expand each of the following folders.
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows
Next, right-click the Windows folder, then choose "New" and select "Key."
From here, right-click this newly-created key and choose "Rename," then change the name to read Personalization.
Next, select the Personalization key that you just created by clicking it once, then in the right pane of the window, right-click any empty space and choose "New," then "DWORD (32-bit) Value."
When you're done with that, right-click this newly-created DWORD and choose "Rename," then change the name to read NoLockScreen.
From here, double-click the NoLockScreen DWORD that you just renamed, then a small window will pop up. In the "Value data" field of this pop-up, enter the number 1, then click "OK."
At this point, just reboot your PC, and when you get back up, you shouldn't see the superfluous lock screen anymore.

Southwest Airlines: Two Tips and a Warning

Tip 1: Buy Two One-Way Tickets Instead of Round-Trip Tickets: Unlike other airlines, SWA has no charge for changing flights. You get a refund on your cancelled flight and pay the then fare (whether higher or lower) on the new flight. If you made a round-trip ticket, however, you might have to change both legs to change one, which not only makes the change more cumbersome, you will lose your Early Bird fee and standing on both flights instead of just on one.

Tip 2: When Changing Flights, Be Sure Your Canceled Flight Is Canceled: If you make a flight change on SWA, e.g., to change the time of your flight or to keep the same flight but get a lower fare, be absolutely certain that your canceled flight is canceled. Otherwise, you'll get an email saying your new flight has been canceled and your original flight will still be in effect. Should that happen, call SWA immediately, and there's a good chance you'll get a friendly, professional, courteous, and efficient rep who will straighten it all out.

Warning: There is a supposed debate about when two people fly together and only one pays for an Early Bird seating, whether it is ethical for that person to claim that the adjacent seat is "taken" so as to hold it for the other traveler. SWA flight attendants are instructed not to take sides if a dispute arises between passengers over the issue. We found the issue so clear cut we did not even submit to our Ethics Advisory Team (EAT): It is outrageous to engage in the practice of buying just one Early Bird and then "holding" the seat for a companion who does not have Early Bird seating. No explanation should be needed. We will suspend the subscription service to this blog of anyone we find engaging in this scurrilous practice.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Savings Fallacy

[Prefatory Note: This is not something our fantastic Financial Oversee Group (FOG) came up. It's a known fact. But because it might not be known to everyone, we are passing it on]

Goods and services are offered more often than not at a "discount." Specifically, they are promoted as 10% off or 30% off or 50% off, where the larger percentage supposedly represents a larger saving. In fact, and in reality, however, those are NOT savings at all. They are hypothetical comparisons between some supposed number and the sales price. Hence, if the item in question is NOT a necessity, but rather is something one can do without, the only savings one can achieve viz that item is to not buy it. If one buys it, one has "saved" nothing. We are not saying to not buy anything (although the more you don't buy, the more you save). We are just saying that such "savings" are another word for "alternative facts." 

Three Downtown Phoenix Restaurants

If you haven't been downtown lately, or continue to frequent North Central and Arcadia restaurants to the exclusion of other locations, it's time to get out of your rut and start taking some trips downtown. Each of the following restaurants are highly recommended, have unique menus, good parking, pleasing ambiances and decors, and acceptable noise levels. 

Dressing Room: You cannot lose with the terrific hamburgers and wonderful fries, and other stuff, but if you like ceviche, you will love your meal, and if you don't like ceviche, get professional help. Link to the Dressing Room Website

Gallo Blanco: Owned by the same owner as Otra, which has terrific food but an unbearable noise level, Gallo Blanco is an eclectic menu. It's flapjacks, which are fabulous, were named by the Arizona Republic as the best "crepe" dish in the world, and they just might be--do NOT add the whipped cream and peanuts, and everything else bursts with flavor. Link to Gallo Blanco Website

Match: We gave Match a positive review several months ago, since which time it's gone through a couple of chefs, at least one of which did not do a good job. The current chef is terrific. The only worry is that it's having difficulty attracting people back, which makes it easy to get a table and very quiet. Now's the time to go because there's a good chance tables could be become tough to come by. Link to Match Website

From Pool Table to Dining Room Table

Many of our loyal readers have lamented that their residence is just not big enough to accommodate a full-size pool table. We turned that challenge over to James Perse, who has made a full-sized pool table that need not be relegated to a game room, but can sit smack dab in the middle of your dining area and convert to a dining table. If ping pong is your preference, he made one of those as well. These aren't the least expensive things you can buy, but take comfort that they are limited editions (of course, supposedly so are bitcoins).

Link to James Perse Website

As a pool table:

Image result for james perse limited edition pool table

As a dining table:

Image result for james perse limited edition pool table

As a ping pong table:

Image result for james perse limited edition pool table

The Last Post (2017) (on Amazon Prime)

Having relegated The Good Place to the trash heap of history (where, if we're lucky, it will be joined by at least one and perhaps other so-called political leaders), our search for the next series brings us to The Last Post, although given the holidays, we'll have to wait a bit to start watching the first season. It focuses on events in the Middle East at the same time as your watching Phillip creep us out in his dealings with Elizabeth in The Crown. Our high hopes are based on some favorable reviews and five of  the six episodes having been written by Peter Moffat (who brought us The Night Of).  

IMDb Link to The Last Post

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Good Place (Netflix) PS

We gave this a fairly positive review about a week ago, after watching the first couple of episodes. Having watched a few more, a different view is offered: It's really stupid and gets more stupid by the episode. There will be no further reviews because no more episodes will be seen by this reviewer. Sorry for the earlier mis-direction. 

Speeding Up Older iPhones

It's not just your imagination -- your old iPhone is, in fact, getting slower. Apple admitted today that it's slowing down older iPhones in order to preserve deteriorating battery capacities, a problem with all phones that do not have replaceable batteries.
Starting with iOS 10.2.1, Apple began slowing down the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE in order to prevent sudden shutdowns. If you have one of these devices and have noticed your phone is slower, follow the tips set out by cnet in the below link. 

CCleaner Not Showing Restore Points: Solved

CCleaner is a free nifty utility that does various cleaning and other functions. We recommend running it at least once per week. One of it's nice features is to allow you to selectively remove restore points that helps to keep your computer humming smoothly. If you find that the restore points stop showing up there, it likely means your Windows Management Instrumentation has been disabled. Just go to it in Services, right click on Properties and change it to Automatic. Problem solved. 

[Cautionary Note: Be careful not to let Avast Antivirus download and install with CCleaner. If it does, remove it with Revo Uninstaller (the best free uninstaller)]

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Boot-Up and Recycle Bin Sounds in Windows 7 and 10

If you are missing the recycle bin swoosh sound in W7 of W10 or the boot-up sound in W10, buckle your seat belts and get ready for Mr. Toad's wild ride, because it's taken our Audio Sound Programmer (ASP) team two non-stop days to solve this problem. As it turns out, the solutions, while impossible to find in The Google, and are findable only by the sheer force of logic and dogged perseverance, are elegantly simple. As to the recycle bin, you need to have Quicken to solve the problem (but who doesn't have Quicken? Okay, if you don't see below). Just go to Browse under Sound and designate qdelete3.wave for the recycle bin. As to the boot-up sound in W10, be sure the Play Sound on Start Up is checked in Sound, and go to Power Options and de-select fast start-up (it will purport to slow up your start-up by 6 seconds but it really won't).

[Note to those who do not have Quicken: Two easy solutions: (i) Download a trial version of Quicken, copy the qdelete3.wave file to your hard-drive, and return Quicken (the Ethicist says this is okay since you're not using Quicken, although we do have some doubts; or (ii) ask someone you know who has Quicken to send you the qdelete3.wave file (perhaps raising the same ethical issue, but perhaps not)]

[Note to those who have Quicken: Store a copy of qdelete3.wave on your network storage device or elsewhere for use in the future. Definitely there is no ethical issue because you did pay for Quicken and they don't prohibit this use]

Year-End Planning for the New Tax Law

[Prefatory Note: Now that the new tax law has passed, although when it's signed by the president can change some of its effects, some year-end planning might make sense. The points below might or might not apply to you. You should check with your accountant]

The standard deduction is scheduled to increase to $24,000 next year. If do not expect your standard deductions to be higher, and in light of possibly using the standard deduction in 2018, you could benefit by making as many charitable contributions as possible in 2017. If you don't know what you charities you might want to support, you can set up a donor's advised fund (with Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab or many other institutions), contribute to it this year, and then make grants from it in the future. In addition, you could benefit by paying any other legal and professional (e.g., accounting fees), and your real estate taxes. You cannot prepay your mortgage interest, other than January’s payment, since there is a specific code section that disallows the deduction of prepaid interest, but you can pay your January payment now since the mortgage interest that accrues in December is not considered prepaid.  For Arizonans, you can pay the second half of your real estate taxes now, but you can’t prepay next October’s bill. The new tax law has a provision that disallows the deduction for any taxes paid this year that are not incurred until 2018. 

Hefty Gripper Trash Bags

Our Rubbish Assessment Taskforce (RAT) recommends the Hefty Gripper kitchen trash bag to the exclusion of all others. It is the only one that actually grips the top of the trash bin and never lets go preventing unsightly or otherwise unpleasant spillage into the trash can itself. Perhaps available in some supermarkets, The Gripper might not be available where you shop. Good news: It is available and gets Prime treatment on The Amazon at a reasonable price.

Hefty Gripper Trash Bags (Tall Kitchen Drawstring, 13 Gallon, 80 Count)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Connectivity Adapters: A Xmas Miracle

As if the return of the sun (or as some describe it, the son) were not cause enough for celebration, laptop computer connectivity adapters are like a little slice of heaven on earth. HDMI, ethernet, and standard USB ports range from fat to quite fat, requiring laptops to be fatter than they otherwise need be given the thinness (and other advantages, e.g., especially speed) of C-ports and thunderbolt ports. At first blush, you might frown and wail your sorries and eschew a very thin, light, sleek ultra-book because you want HDMI and ethernet connections and standard USB connections.Well, stuff your sorries back where they came from and turn that frown upside down: You can find an adapter with a C-plug on one end and whatever you want (USB, ethernet, HDMI) on the other. 

Image result for c to hdmiImage result for c to hdmi

Windows 10 Cursory Overview

If you need a news Windows computer, not only should you not be afraid of Windows 10, you should embrace it. While at first it presents a mish-mash of tiles, it is easy to get Windows 10 to have the sleek clean look of Windows 10. With that done, you'll come to enjoy how the computer pretty much sets up itself, has or invisibly finds any drivers it needs for anything on the network, has a pretty good help system, and somehow speeds download times for everything, including large programs, to be pretty much instantaneous.

The Good Place (Netflix)

[Prefatory Note: This review, which might or might not appear in The New York Review of Books, is based on the first three episodes of Season 1]

The Good Place certainly is not riveting (it's no Breaking Bad, Justified, or Deadwood) and is not tense (it's not Godless or The Nightwatchman) and is not epic (it's not The Crown). Indeed, it's light, even while it tries to explore a provocative subject, namely, what it means to be good. It produces chuckles at times. Ted Dansen does an adequate job in the co-lead and Kristen Bell, well, she's her always-irresistibly appealing self. One added benefit is that the episodes are just 21 minutes (a 1/2 hour TV show without the commercials) so you can watch a full episode if you don't have much time or you can feel like you really accomplished something by watching three episodes in one sitting. 

IMDb Link to The Good Place

Image result for kristen bell

Monday, December 18, 2017

How to Make Windows 10 Look and Feel Like Windows 7 and Be Faster and More Efficient

Windows 10 has a number of benefits over its predecessors but it has a junky look and many non-functional "features" that just get in the way. The below link will take you to webpage which lays out clearly the easy things you can do to tweak Windows 10 into thinking its Windows 7:

Link to Making Windows 10 More Windows 7 Like

Notes Story Board: Virtual Wall of Sticky Notes

Notes Story Board is a really neat tool for planning something - indeed anything - on your PC. It's a virtual, scalable, zoomable, expandable wall of sticky notes that you can easily place on screen and move around as required. It's great for planning a document that you need to write, or a process that you need to undertake. It's free for non-commercial use, too. Just head to the link below,choose the free option and then click the Purchase button in order to download the complete bundle of the software and some sample e-books.

Link to Notes Story Board Website

Notes Story Board