Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Royal Night Out (2015)

After bombing out on rebelling from British movies, and figuring nothing could be worse than watching a so-called president give a speech to Congress, queuing up Royal Night Out on Netflix turned out to be a most pleasant surprise. It tells the story of two princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) going out into the revelries of VE Day, and it's a total hoot. In a sense, it's a coming -of-age movie for two women who never really will come of age. It's also like a French farce, full of ribald stuff, and people missing each other in revolving doors. It's bawdy. It's fun. It's quick. It's quirky. It restores one's faith in movies. There are some attempted serious moments, but don't worry, they don't spoil the movie, or its point: Get down on your knees and give thanks that you are not a Royal. Be sure to watch it to the end though, because it really is, ultimately, a touching movie. The princesses are totally charming. All the acting is first rate.

IMDb Link to Royal Night Out

Recovering an Accidentally Deleted File (Windows)

Disk Drill is a file recovery program for Windows which uses a number of different techniques to scan your drive in search of deleted files. Even if they've been deleted long ago, and wiped from the recycle bin, Disk Drill claims that it can find them. And once the file has been located, getting it back is just a case of a single click.
Disk Drill is easy to use. Just tell it which drive to scan, then leave it to do its work for a few minutes as it builds a simple tree of all the deleted files it finds. You can then browse that tree, locate the file you want, and get it back. It works really well, too. In my tests it was quick, easy and reliable.
Disk Drill is a paid-for product but there's a free demo version which will allow you to recover 100 MB of files in total. So that's a single file of 100 MB, 4 files of 25 MB each, or any other combination.

How Even a Dummy Should Be Able Tell Smart Phone and Tablet Sizes and Returning Multiple Orders to Amazon

Size for Dummies:

Yesterday, our Crack Ordering Department (COD) spent extensive time negotiating with our wireless carrier and got a fabulous deal on a Samsung Galaxy J3 (paying $85/phone with a list price of $210), which COD then ordered for everyone in our front office. While COD did not get a waiver of the restocking fee (which is not a trivial amount because its based on the list price and not the selling price), it did get a waiver of the shipping fee and the activation fee. When our Executive Director opened the box, he was stunned: The screen size of this Galaxy J3 was the same screen size as his Galaxy S3, and while the J3 likely is faster. For some reason, being a total dummy, he had thought it would be a 5" screen, and had failed to realize that the number appearing in the device's model name (in this instance "3") generally refers to screen size. So, rather than hassle with the vagaries of a new phone, back went the J3.

Image result for samsung galaxy j3

Returning Multiple Orders to Amazon:

COD also had ordered accessories from Amazon (e.g., an extra battery, fast charging cord, and screen protectors).  While the return shipping was not free because there was nothing wrong with the order, these accessories came as three separate orders, and we certainly did not want to pay three separate shipping charges back. COD immediately tried to contact Amazon but the Order page on its website was down and its telephone support for customer service also was down. If the Order page is not down, you might be able to combine the separate orders into one box on the website. But if not, when you do ultimately get through, ask for a supervisor when you are told (incorrectly) that there is no way to combine orders and you are told (incorrectly) that there never is a shipping charge on returns. All should work out then to your satisfaction. As long as both orders were fulfilled by Amazon, what you do is print a shipping label for each, put one shipping label in the box with the products for both orders, and the other shipping label on the box. Amazon doesn't charge for the unused shipping label, only the used one, so you won't be charged twice.

Tax Refund Status

Unless you've been flouting the proscription of 2 Thessalonians 3:11 (by letting your hands stay idle a la the devil's workshop), likely by now your tax returns have been completed and filed. Shortly after those returns are received by the taxing agency, you will be able to check on the status of your refund. Below are two website links for doing so. There also are apps. Just put "where is my tax refund" (without the quote marks) into The Google and The Google will show you the apps as well as the website for your state or territory.

Link to IRS Refund Status Website

Link to AZ Refund Status Website

Monday, February 27, 2017

Blue Jay (2016)

It's not as bad as My Dinner With Andre, but it's close. Shot in black and white for no apparent reason (other than to give a sense of artiness to a movie that has no real artiness), Blue Jay slogs on slow scene after slow scene with dulling dialogue after dulling dialogue. Sorry that I cannot tell you how it ends because this was a stop-in-the-middle and delete kind of movie.

IMDb Link to Blue Jay

Leftover Tips Especially for Middle Eastern and Pakistani/Afghan Food

Khyber Halal (in Phoenix) is a wonderful restaurant in itself, but an especially terrific place to get 3+ meals to go in one order, namely, the Mixed Platter which is 4 kebobs on top of a mountain of rice for about $25. The only word of caution is that, if you are spreading it out over 3-4 days, you want to be sure you have a moistening agent to mix in when reheating. The best moistening agent would be raita (which is spelled riata on the KH menu). But suppose you forgot to order riata. You can return to KH or you can look for riata at Fry's, but, if they have it, it is well hidden and unknown to any service person. You could go back to KH, but instead, while at Fry's, pick up a small bottle of Cacique Crema Mexica. It will do the trick and is yummy.

Image result for cacique crema

Link to Khyber Halal Website

Price Shopping for Smart Phones

Putting aside the price advantages by switching carriers (there typically are huge price breaks for new customers not available for existing customers), when you come to buy a new phone, there is some price shopping you can and should do that often will produce significant savings. Here is a good general approach based on the Samsung Galaxy J3 (which, unless you need a higher quality and resolution camera has become our phone of choice because of some of its advanced technology and its removable battery (pictured below)) compatible with the AT&T system:

First, check with the carrier's online or store price. It will cost you about $210 and you can pay it at the rate of $7/month.

Second, check with Amazon or other online sellers to find an unlocked version. It will cost you about $125.

Third, check with BestBuy. It will cost you about $150 on a 30-month plan, $120 on a 24-month plan, or $85 to buy outright.

Fourth, call AT&T, ask for the Termination Department. Do not threaten anything, but take the approach that you are exploring the above alternatives as well as switching to T-Mobile which will give you the J3 for free (which it will), and see what deal they give you. Depending on the rep you get and who knows what other factors come into their consideration, you might get a fabulous deal (even one that beats the BestBuy deal) or no deal at all, and always be sure to ask for a waiver of the activation fee and the shipping charge, and be sure you're clear on any re-stocking fee.

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy J3 4G LTE with 16GB Memory Cell Phone - Front Zoom

Link to Specs, Reviews Etc on BestBuy Website

Sunday, February 26, 2017

10 Things I Hate About You

You need a movie to watch until the Oscars come on, and you can watch any movie you want. Unfortunately, if you're reading this, the Oscars are over. Fortunately, you can still watch 10 Things I Hate About You on Netflix. Before you write it off as just another coming-of-age high school type teen romcom, think Taming of the Shrew, because that's what this movie is an adaptation of. Everyone will concede Shakespeare told great stories although few understand the dialogue. You'll have no problem with the dialogue, especially if you have the captions on. Some of the casting is just primo: Allison Janney as a prig high school principal obsessed with writing porn; Julia Stiles who is always just wonderful; and Larry Miller as Kate's father, whom you might fondly remember as the doorman in Seinfeld. Okay, it's a stupid movie with many stupid scenes, and likely everyone who reads this post is, or considers themselves to be, too old and sophisticated for such stuff, but, with all its flaws, its charming and sweet. Not to give away the perfect ending, but boy gets girl and other boy gets other girl. And oh yes, it's got good music, that counter-balances Heath Ledger's annoying haircut.

IMDb Link to 10 Things I Hate About You

Short Clip of The Doorman

The Blind Side PS

If you start The Blind Side, you undoubtedly will finish it, and give thanks for the recommendation. But if you finish it, you might be tempted to skip the acknowledgments and footnotes. Don't. The acknowledgements not only are interesting, they also just are written so well you won't care what they say, you'll just enjoy the writing. The footnotes are not many or lengthy, but they are informative.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Lobster (2015)

I could have picked any movie I wanted. It could have been a coming-of-age movie. It could have been a rom-com. I skipped all the British movies on the Watch List, as well as all the movies and TVs with actors and actresses I don't care for. So, it is not difficult to imagine the incredible pain and distraught I felt to end up with The Lobster. Although insanely stupid, and annoyingly scripted and acted (it didn't need Colin Farrel), it wasn't a movie that one would just stop after 10 minutes or so. It's quirkiness, no, that's not the right word, it's absurdness gave hope that there just might be a point being made and a lesson learned if one watched to the end. And Rachel Weisz was a co-star. And who can resist John C. Reilly.

Unfortunately, watching to the end might not be the best of choices. The first half centers on a hotel where people from the city go who have lost (by death or divorce) their partner. They have 45 days to find a new love or they are turned into an animal. Many bizarre things happen there. Then the movie shifts to the woods where a group of loners live, whose rule is they cannot have a partner or any love interest. Then some bad stuff happens to Rachel Weisz, and then after a bit, the movie ends. It's terrible.

Thank goodness there is a never ending supply of coming-of-age movies.

IMDb Link to The Lobster

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (2007)

Whether or not you like football, you surely will like The Blind Side. If you don't know anything about high school football, college football, or pro football, that will not interfere with the sheer enjoyment you will get from a terrific story, about real people, and actual events (no fake news here). If you think you know something about football, you are about to be dazed and bedazzled by what you're about to learn. At one level, the book is the story of Michael Oher (pronounced "oar"), the most gifted of huge Black athletes who is taken in by a White Southern family, who ends up playing left tackle, the key offensive position after the game's revolution by Lawrence Taylor, a revolution that not only changed how football was played, but even how players were paid. It also is the story of race and the South, with all kinds of fascinating vignettes thrown in about the NCAA, coaches and coaching, education, and just plain people. It is exceedingly well written, moves along with great pace, and has the perfect amount of detail. It's also a movie (2009) which I think I saw and which, if I did, remember it as a good movie. Be assured, unlike my reviews in junior high school and high school, this review is based on the book and not on the movie.

The book has a surprise ending. It actually is the story of Michael Oher's beginning. It makes the point that Warren Buffet makes so well. As Buffet explains, if he had been born at another time in another place that valued something other than the peculiar gift he had couple with a total lack of physical ability, he would have been an abject failure and outcast and not the most successful person ever of his chosen profession. In short, Buffet credits his success to 99% luck. As Michael Lewis paints the picture, the changes in football coupled gave Michael Oher's freakish physicality the ability to launch him to a vaunted place. Again, 99% luck.

PS: The book was published in 2007. Michael Oher would not enter the NFL, if at all, until 2009. So the book does not cover his career, if any, in the NFL.

Amazon Link to the Book

IMDb Link to the Movie

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Recovering Cost of Missed Newspaper Delivery

When there is a failure to deliver the Sunday NYT, the new-stand price is actually a few dollars less than the delivered price. But the WSJ news-stand price for a missed delivery is a couple of dollars more. If you report a missed delivery, the WSJ will credit you with an extra day on your subscription, which clearly is not fair. But if you email asking them for a 3-extra-day credit, which is fair, they likely will give it to you, or at least they say they will. It's almost impossible to keep track of what they actually do, but there's no reason to obsess on the matter.

Sky Harbor Terminal 4 Drop-Off Tip

If you're dropping someone off Terminal 4 of Sky Harbor, especially early morning when there are more departures than arrivals, and especially if the dropee is not checking bags, it is easier to do the drop off at the Arrival curb (ground level) rather than at the Departure curb (one level up).

Flight Tracking App

FlightTrack and FlightTrack Pro had been our Travel Department's (TD) go to phone app for flight tracking and flight alerts. It had a great widget, did excellent real-time in-flight tracking, and was simple to use. Alas, no more take offs or touch downs for FlightTrack and FlightTrack Pro. You can get a refund if you bought the Pro version (send an email request to 10voucher@mobiata.com). Needing tracking alerts today, I scrambled this morning to find a free flight tracking app, tried out several, and settled on Flight Companion. It is simple to use and automatically sets default alerts, makes customization easy through its simple settings, and seems to track all flights world-wide including flights to small airports. As it turns out, I like it better than I did FlightTrack. There are unobtrusive ad offers, but you can eliminate them for a fee of $5, and I was so happy with the app, I  did just that.

Link to Flight Companion on Play

Fly to Europe for $65

[From the WSJ]

European budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA on Thursday said it would begin flying single-aisle planes nonstop from the U.S. to Europe starting in June bringing direct trans-Atlantic flights to a new range of East Coast cities not typically served by such links.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, a champion of budget long-haul travel, will initially connect Edinburgh, Scotland to Stewart International Airport in New York, Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn from June 15. The airline is promising fares as low as $65.
The carrier will base two of its new Boeing Co. 737 Max narrowbody each at Stewart and Green airports to help fly the trans-Atlantic hops. Two more Max planes will initially be based at Edinburgh. Norwegian Air already serves the U.S. from Europe using its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner long-range planes. But the addition of the single-aisle 737 Max and, in 2019, an Airbus narrowbody, will allow it to tap smaller markets. The carrier will fly its 737s with 189 seats across the Atlantic.
The market for trans-Atlantic budget travel is getting more crowded. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA in December announced plans to set up a discount long-haul operation in Barcelona in June—going head-to-head with Norwegian Air, which is establishing a base there as well for such flights. Air France-KLM is planning to set up a budget long-haul operation following Deutsche Lufthansa AG, whose Eurowings budget unit also has begun flying trans-Atlantic routes.
Norwegian Air is the first to push planes typically used for short-haul flights into trans-Atlantic service. Others, such as Iceland’s Wow air, also use the smaller jetliners, but it involves a stop in Reykjavik. “Our new, non-stop service will enable tens of thousands of new travelers to fly between the continents much more affordably,” Norwegian Air Chief Executive Officer Bjørn Kjos said.
Mr. Kjos said in an interview earlier this week the airline is recruiting American crew to fly the planes from the U.S. locations. The airline in July will add services between Belfast, Northern Ireland to Stewart International and Providence. Flights from Cork, Ireland to Providence will start at the same time. Norwegian Air’s intercontinental flights from Dublin and Shannon in Ireland will be expanded to add Stewart International and Providence.
Using the Boeing short-haul plane can deliver 13% lower per-seat cost than offered even by the fuel-efficient 787-8 Dreamliner, Barclays analyst Oliver Sleath said. Using the plane, or the long-range Airbus A321neo narrowbody, offer a “step change” on six hour to eight-hour routes, he said.

Norwegian Air’s U.S. expansion has met political opposition. The Air Line Pilots Association, International, the main U.S. pilots trade union, has asked President Donald Trump to reverse a move by the Obama administration to grant more liberal traffic rights to the airline. White House spokesman Sean Spicer this month said Norwegian Air’s hiring of U.S. crew and purchase of Boeing planes represented “huge economic interest.”

New York Times' Best Bets for a Phone Plan

[From the New York Times]

Shopping for a phone plan can be as daunting as picking a health insurance package. The rates and options constantly change, and it feels impossible to make simple comparisons between carriers.
Case in point: The best phone plans we recommended a year and a half ago are now obsolete because the wireless carriers have completely changed their offerings.
The biggest change involves the so-called unlimited data plan. About five years ago, all the major carriers killed all-you-can-eat data plans that let you browse the web, download music and post photos as much as you want in favor of plans that charge you by the gigabyte.
But now T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and, most recently, Verizon Wireless have resurrected unlimited data. As enticing as that may sound, unlimited is ideal for a small set of people. For everyone else, you may be paying for more than you need, and the plans come with major limitations on how you can use them.
“The unlimited plan will confuse consumers even more because it’s not really unlimited,” said Toni Toikka, the chief executive of Alekstra, a research firm that analyzes wireless bills. “They think ‘O.K., it’s a great deal,’ but actually it’s not so.”
Still, it is a good time to consider a new phone plan. Phone manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, LG and Sony are expected to show new smartphones next week at Mobile World Congress, the annual trade show centered on mobile devices.
To help narrow your options, The Wirecutter, the product recommendation site owned by The New York Times, named Verizon Wireless the best carrier, largely because it has the broadest network coverage and top-rated service quality, along with generous data packages that are easy to understand, said Rob Pegoraro, who writes about phone carriers for The Wirecutter.
The Wirecutter’s pick comes down to a simple fact: A smartphone is no good if it lacks a connection, so good coverage should be the top consideration when you select a plan.
But choosing the best plan for you is not as simple as heading straight for a Verizon plan, Mr. Toikka said. Prices can fluctuate, and in some cases, AT&T, the second-largest carrier, offers a better deal on a network that is generally as good as Verizon’s. Here are recommendations we made with the help of Mr. Toikka for the best phone plans for individuals, couples, families and travelers.
Best Plan for the Single User
PRICE $60 a month
WHY IT WINS On average, smartphone owners with tiered data plans used 2.9 gigabytes of data per month last year, according to Cisco. At $60 a month, AT&T’s three-gigabyte offering is large enough to suit the average smartphone owner’s needs. Verizon offers a two-gigabyte bucket for $60 a month, which may be too small; for $75 a month it offers a four-gigabyte plan, which is a bit more than you probably need.
Best Plan for the Single Power User
PRICE $80 a month
WHY IT WINS If you use at least 10 gigabytes a month, consider yourself a power user. For a single phone line, Verizon’s $85-a-month unlimited data offering beats AT&T’s $100-a-month unlimited plan. Verizon customers can also get a discount by enrolling in automatic payments, reducing the price of the unlimited plan to $80 a month.
Only Verizon’s unlimited data plan includes the ability to tether, or share a smartphone’s cellular data with another device like a computer. Both plans share a limitation: After 22 gigabytes of use in a month, data speeds may be slowed.
Best Plan for the Average Couple
PRICE $100 a month
WHY IT WINS AT&T’s six-gigabyte shared data plan should have most couples covered since the average data consumption per person is three gigabytes a month. Priced at $100 a month, the plan is also more generous than Verizon’s four-gigabyte plan at $100 a month.
Best Plan for the Power Couple
PRICE $140 a month
WHY THEY TIE A couple that uses at least 20 gigabytes a month would benefit from either AT&T’s or Verizon’s unlimited plan, and both cost the same each month. Which to choose? Mr. Toikka recommends checking coverage maps for AT&T and Verizon to see which carrier is better in your hometown.
Best Plan for a Family of Four
PRICE $180 a month
WHY IT WINS On average, a family of four will probably consume about 12 gigabytes a month. Verizon’s largest tiered data plan includes eight gigabytes a month, which can easily be surpassed. Verizon’s unlimited data plan costs $200 a month for four people, which can be reduced to $180 a month for families that enroll in automatic payments. Mr. Toikka warned that automatic payments might lead parents to overlook unexpected charges on their phone bills, so just make sure to closely monitor your bills.
Best Option for an Occasional Traveler
PRICE $10 a day
WHY THEY WIN Verizon and AT&T customers can use a smartphone abroad in over 100 countries for an extra $10 a day on top of the rates for their normal phone plan. The main difference is that Verizon’s smartphones come unlocked, offering the flexibility of inserting a foreign SIM card and potentially paying even lower rates.
By contrast, AT&T’s smartphones come locked by default, meaning you will have to go through some hassle to unlock a device to use a foreign SIM card.
Kelly Crummey, a Verizon spokeswoman, said, “Verizon’s coverage is second to none, and we have very competitively priced plans loaded with features, providing customers with incredible value.”
AT&T said it “provides value to customers that our competitors can’t match.”
Switching to a new phone plan can be tedious and frustrating, and chances are you are happy with the one you have. But Mr. Pegoraro of The Wirecutter warned that sticking with a dated plan could make you miss out on options that offer better value or neat features like tethering.
“Don’t assume that the plan you’ve been on is the one you should stay on,” he said.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


If you are considering a faucet or any accessories for your kitchen or bathroom or shower, your first and only choice should be Grohe.  Grohe makes the most stylish faucets (as you can see from the below picture of my faucet) and makes them to the highest standards. But, as important or even more important, Grohe's customer service is unmatched. By way of example, my faucet developed a tiny blister on the spray head. After one phone call, which lasted under 3 minutes, I got an email notification that a replacement spray head was on its way.

Image result for grohe kitchen faucets

Link to Grohe Website

Home Theater Trends

Cnet has an interesting review of  various issues centering on home theater trends. This review addresses issues concerning 4K UHD, screen size, 4K HDMI cables, soap opera effect, upgrades, and more.  Our Video and Audio Department (VAD) takes no position on any the conclusions asserted by Cnet.

Link to Cnet Articles

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Perils Faced by Our Staff

While our staff works tirelessly on your behalf, even an attempted interruption by a ferocious intruder, right outside our corporate headquarters, will not stop the dedication we have to keep our posts coming to you.

Samsung Galaxy J-Series Smartphones

If you don't need a high-end camera in your phone, Samsung's J-Series (J3, J5, J7) might be the best thing for you. Some are available through your carrier but all appear available unlocked through Amazon and BestBuy and others. Here's four great things about them: (i) They have removable and replaceable batteries; (ii) they are a nice size (about 5" (not too small and not too big) with bright screens; (iii) they have compatible rapid charging cables that will fully charge the phone from 0 in 2.5 hours; and (iv) depending on where you buy one (carrier vs. unlocked) and model, you can be looking at spending $200 or even just $150.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Little Shop of Horrors

If you listen to music while you walk or putter around the house, and want a delightful break from listening to the sound-track of Hamilton (free to stream as well as download with Amazon Prime), you might listen again (I'm sure you saw the movie or the show on Broadway) to the sound-track of Little Shop of Horrors (free to stream as well as download with Amazon Prime). There's nothing quite as energizing as the Faustian bargain set to great music. Here are some choice excerpts:

Feed Me: Link to Feed Me Song

Dentist: Link to the Song of the Dentist

Suddenly Seymour: Link to Suddenly Seymour Song

Optimal Pizza Shape

An earlier post explained why round pizzas come in square boxes. An astute loyal reader asked why pizzas aren't square. Given that there are square pizzas, we can excuse his ignorance because he doesn't get out much, and we acknowledge that he raises a great point. Here's the answer: Pizza is round because it's the easiest way to spread out a ball of dough into a sheet of consistent thickness. And when you twirl it and throw it in the air, it doesn't get square.

The Zoo

If you've never been to the Bronx Zoo (more properly, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)), you have no idea what you're missing. But even if you have been there, The Zoo on the Animal Planet channel is must-see TV. Not only do you get to see fascinating species you've never heard of (e.g., a bird that loves peanuts, buries its eggs, and cares not for its off-spring) and learn the intricacies of how to treat a gorilla's glaucoma (which is not as easy as you might think), the most surprising thing is to learn how the various zoo keepers talk about other zoo keepers, which tells you as much about people, especially zoo people, as it does about animals. And lest you think New Zealand has a monopoly on beautiful settings, The Zoo will remind you that you can travel just 10 miles from Manhattan and find a totally different world. Finally, the show poses, but leaves it to you to answer, a profound question: Is a zoo a place where the focus is people watching animals, or is a place more properly seen as a place where the focus is animals watching people?

Link to Animal Planet Home Page re The Zoo

Top of the Lake (2013) (Netflix)

With some differences, Top of the Lake would be a mystery series that everyone would enjoy. The scenery (of which there are countless long shots) is so absolutely spectacular that it makes a trip to New Zealand a top bucket list priority and adding New Zealand as a desired Home-Exchange location an immediate reflex. The story is gripping as well. And Elizabeth Moss is so engaging that, together with this performance, and your memories of her in West Wing (the President's daughter) and in Mad Men (Peggy), you can almost ignore her Scientology stuff. But, then, for reasons that likely will remain a complete mystery, the story is filled with unpleasant, unattractive, un-endearing, unintelligent people you'd just as soon not look or or listen to much less give a fig about. After Melissa Tormei (who is not in the series, at least not in the first three episodes), Holly Hunter is the actress most likely to be a joy to watch no matter the movie or television show. Not in Top of the Lake, unless listening to incoherent babble, watching someone smoke, and a weird look is your thing. I won't spoil the ending, not that I have any idea what it is yet, but because Episode 3 will be the last one I'll watch.
IMDb Link to Top of the Lake

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why Round Pizzas Are Delivered in Square Boxes

We have been deluged with inquiries as to why round pizzas are delivered in square boxes, with many whining people suggesting it's a undue waste of cardboard. We turned the issue over to our Packaging and Delivery (PAD) Department, and are pleased to report those people are just plain nuts. Here's why: Because it is simpler, cheaper and easier to make a square box than a round one (a square box can be formed from a single sheet of card ) and also it is easier to store, transport and pack square boxes which will remain in a flat state until needed and are quickly assembled at point of use.

Online Converter To or From PDF

ZonePDF is an online service that does lots of handy conversions. For example, give it a big PDF file and it'll convert it into a zip file of images, with one image for each page of the original PDF file. Choose from 3 different image qualities. In my tests, a 150-page PDF file resulted in anything between 100MB and 700MB of zipped image files, depending on the quality I required.You can also convert Word and PowerPoint to PDF, and loads more options too.
The service appears to be free, but you'll need to sign up for an account. There appears to be an implication that you only need to sign up if you want to do more than 2 conversions, but that wasn't the case when I tried it. So if you can't get the conversions to work, sign up. That should fix it.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Justified (Season 6)

If you tired of Justified a bit starting in Season 3 and found Seasons 4 and 5 tedious, Season 6, the last season, makes up for all. It's a little bloodier than most (although for the most part you are glad that those who were killed were killed), but it's simply terrific. It moves along, and the ending is both predictable and surprising, as is the second ending, and the third. It's beautifully shot (akin to the scenery in the original True Grit) even if shot in California to look like Kentucky. The only distressing thing is how weird Sam Elliot looks, and we trust Katherine Ross cares enough about her marriage not to watch him in this series. And one hopes that Ted Danson cares enough about his marriage to not watch Mary Steenburgen in this series. Which is not to say that Mr. Elliot and Ms. Steenburgen don't turn in excellent performances. Boyd Crowder deserves kudos! Which is not to say Raylan Givens does not!

How to Fold a Fitted Bottom Sheet

Our Sheets Linens Interior Department (SLID) was stunned to learn how many are at sea when it comes to folding a fitted bottom sheet. It actually is a snap, and should take no longer than folding a flat sheet. Here you go:

Demonstration in Under a Minute

Demonstration That Takes 3 Minutes

Demonstration by Martha Stewart That Takes 4 Minutes

Friday, February 17, 2017

Best Free Media Players

Finding an all-in-one media player used to be impossible. In the past you needed to use several separate programs to play MP3 files, streaming media from Real, Mpeg files, Quicktime movies, CDs and DVD discs, but with the advent of Microsoft's Windows Media Player (WMP), all of these media types could be played in one player. Over a period of time, however, WMP has become bloated and isn't compatible with all of the available file formats. WinAmp, which began as an mp3 player, now plays almost everything, although it uses a lot of system resources and may contain adware if you aren't careful on the installation. iTunes has become more prevalent on many PCs due to the almost universal reach of the iPod, but it also uses a lot of resources and is processor intensive.
So I've done some major research to find alternative media players capable of playing multiple types of media files, including various digital audio and video formats, CDs, and DVDs. They are also easy to install and use and are light on system resources. Not only do these programs replace WMP, iTunes and WinAmp, but they also exceed their functionality. The Link below reviews each of these media players.

Link to Review of Best Free Media Players

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Losing Streak by Kathryn Schulz (New Yorker (Feb. 13 & 20) at 66-75)

[Prefatory Note: This essay is from the most recent issue of the New Yorker. It's not a short piece. Nor does it have anything to do with tech or consumer issues (or politics which, of course, we don't do anyhow). The cartoons, which have nothing to do with the essay, have not been deleted only because of laziness of our editorial staff.]
A couple of years ago, I spent the summer in Portland, Oregon, losing things. I normally live on the East Coast, but that year, unable to face another sweltering August, I decided to temporarily decamp to the West. This turned out to be strangely easy. I’d lived in Portland for a while after college, and some acquaintances there needed a house sitter. Another friend was away for the summer and happy to loan me her pickup truck. Someone on Craigslist sold me a bike for next to nothing. In very short order, and with very little effort, everything fell into place.
And then, mystifyingly, everything fell out of place. My first day in town, I left the keys to the truck on the counter of a coffee shop. The next day, I left the keys to the house in the front door. A few days after that, warming up in the midday sun at an outdoor café, I took off the long-sleeved shirt I’d been wearing, only to leave it hanging over the back of the chair when I headed home. When I returned to claim it, I discovered that I’d left my wallet behind as well. Prior to that summer, I should note, I had lost a wallet exactly once in my adult life: at gunpoint. Yet later that afternoon I stopped by a sporting-goods store to buy a lock for my new bike and left my wallet sitting next to the cash register.
I got the wallet back, but the next day I lost the bike lock. I’d just arrived home and removed it from its packaging when my phone rang; I stepped away to take the call, and when I returned, some time later, the lock had vanished. This was annoying, because I was planning to bike downtown that evening, to attend an event at Powell’s, Portland’s famous bookstore. Eventually, having spent an absurd amount of time looking for the lock and failing to find it, I gave up and drove the truck downtown instead. I parked, went to the event, hung around talking for a while afterward, browsed the bookshelves, walked outside into a lovely summer evening, and could not find the truck anywhere.
This was a serious feat, a real bar-raising of thing-losing, not only because in general it is difficult to lose a truck but also because the truck in question was enormous. The friend to whom it belonged once worked as an ambulance driver; oversized vehicles do not faze her. It had tires that came up to my midriff, an extended cab, and a bed big enough to haul cetaceans. Yet I’d somehow managed to misplace it in downtown Portland—a city, incidentally, that I know as well as any other on the planet. For the next forty-five minutes, as a cool blue night gradually lowered itself over downtown, I walked around looking for the truck, first on the street where I was sure I’d parked, then on the nearest cross streets, and then in a grid whose scale grew ever larger and more ludicrous.
Finally, I returned to the street where I’d started and noticed a small sign: “No Parking Anytime.” Oh, shit. Feeling like the world’s biggest idiot, and wondering how much it was going to cost to extricate a truck the size of Nevada from a tow lot, I called the Portland Police Department. The man who answered was wonderfully affable. “No, Ma’am,” he veritably sang into the phone, “no pickup trucks from downtown this evening. Must be your lucky day!” Officer, you have no idea. Channelling the kind of advice one is often given as a child, I returned to the bookstore, calmed myself down with a cup of tea, collected my thoughts amid the latest literary débuts, and then, to the best of my ability, retraced the entire course of my evening, in the hope that doing so would knock loose some memory of how I got there. It did not. Back outside on the streets of Portland, I spun around as uselessly as a dowsing rod.
Seventy-five minutes later, I found the truck, in a perfectly legal parking space, on a block so unrelated to any reasonable route from my house to the bookstore that I seriously wondered if I’d driven there in some kind of fugue state. I climbed in, headed home, and, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, decided that I needed to call my sister as soon as I walked in the door. But I did not. I could not. My cell phone was back at Powell’s, on a shelf with all the other New Arrivals.
My sister is a cognitive scientist at M.I.T., more conversant than most people in the mental processes involved in tracking and misplacing objects. That is not, however, why I wanted to talk to her about my newly acquired propensity for losing things. I wanted to talk to her because, true to the stereotype of the absent-minded professor, she is the most scatterbrained person I’ve ever met.
There is a runner-up: my father. My family members, otherwise a fairly similar bunch, are curiously divided down the middle in this respect. On the spectrum of obsessively orderly to sublimely unconcerned with the everyday physical world, my father and my sister are—actually, they are nowhere. They can’t even find the spectrum. My mother and I, meanwhile, are busy organizing it by size and color. I will never forget watching my mother try to adjust an ever so slightly askew picture frame—at the Cleveland Museum of Art. My father, by contrast, once spent an entire vacation wearing mismatched shoes, because he’d packed no others and discovered the mistake only when airport security asked him to remove them. My sister’s best T.S.A. trick, meanwhile, involved borrowing her partner’s laptop, then accidentally leaving it at an Alaska Airlines gate one week after 9/11, thereby almost shutting down the Oakland airport.
That’s why I called her when I started uncharacteristically misplacing stuff myself. For one thing, I thought she might commiserate. For another, I thought she might help; given her extensive experience with losing things, I figured she must have developed a compensatory capacity for finding them. Once I recovered my phone and reached her, however, both hopes vanished as completely as the bike lock. My sister was gratifyingly astonished that I’d never lost my wallet before, but, as someone who typically has to reconstruct the entire contents of her own several times a year, she was not exactly sympathetic. “Call me,” she said, “when they know your name at the D.M.V.”
Nor did my sister have any good advice on how to find missing objects—although, in fairness, such advice is itself difficult to find. Plenty of parents, self-help gurus, and psychics will offer to assist you in finding lost stuff, but most of their suggestions are either obvious (calm down, clean up), suspect (the “eighteen-inch rule,” whereby the majority of missing items are supposedly lurking less than two feet from where you first thought they would be), or New Agey. (“Picture a silvery cord reaching from your chest all the way out to your lost object.”) Advice on how to find missing things also abounds online, but as a rule it is useful only in proportion to the strangeness of whatever you’ve lost. Thus, the Internet is middling on your lost credit card or Kindle, but edifying on your lost Roomba (look inside upholstered furniture), your lost marijuana (your high self probably hid it in a fit of paranoia; try your sock drawer), your lost drone (you’ll need a specially designed G.P.S.), or your lost bitcoins (good luck with that). The same basic dynamic applies to the countless Web sites devoted to recovering lost pets, which are largely useless when it comes to your missing Lab mix but surprisingly helpful when it comes to your missing ball python. Such Web sites can also be counted on for excellent anecdotes, like the one about the cat that vanished in Nottinghamshire, England, and was found, fourteen months later, in a pet-food warehouse, twice its original size.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about lost entities and the Internet is that it has made many of them considerably easier to find: out-of-print books, elementary-school classmates, decades-old damning quotes by politicians. More generally, modern technology can sometimes help us find misplaced objects, as you know if you’ve ever had your girlfriend call your lost cell phone, or used that little button on your keys to make your Toyota Camry honk at you. Lately, we’ve seen a boom in technologies specifically designed to compensate for our tendency to lose stuff: Apple’s Find My iPhone, for instance, and the proliferation of Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that you can attach to everyday objects in order to summon them from the ether, like the Accio spell in the “Harry Potter” books.
These tricks, while helpful, have their limitations. Your phone needs to be on and non-dead; your car needs to be within range; you need to have the foresight to stick a tracking device onto the particular thing you’re going to lose before you’ve lost it. Moreover, as anyone who’s ever owned a remote control can tell you, new technologies themselves are often infuriatingly unfindable, a problem made worse by the trend toward ever smaller gadgets. It is difficult to lose an Apple IIe, easier to lose a laptop, a snap to lose a cell phone, and nearly impossible not to lose a flash drive. Then, there is the issue of passwords, which are to computers what socks are to washing machines. The only thing in the real or the digital world harder to keep track of than a password is the information required to retrieve it, which is why it is possible, as a grown adult, to find yourself caring about your first-grade teacher’s pet iguana’s maiden name.
Passwords, passports, umbrellas, scarves, earrings, earbuds, musical instruments, W-2s, that letter you meant to answer, the permission slip for your daughter’s field trip, the can of paint you scrupulously set aside three years ago for the touch-up job you knew you’d someday need: the range of things we lose and the readiness with which we do so are staggering. Data from one insurance-company survey suggest that the average person misplaces up to nine objects a day, which means that, by the time we turn sixty, we will have lost up to two hundred thousand things. (These figures seem preposterous until you reflect on all those times you holler up the stairs to ask your partner if she’s seen your jacket, or on how often you search the couch cushions for the pen you were just using, or on that daily almost-out-the-door flurry when you can’t find your kid’s lunchbox or your car keys.) Granted, you’ll get many of those items back, but you’ll never get back the time you wasted looking for them. In the course of your life, you’ll spend roughly six solid months looking for missing objects; here in the United States, that translates to, collectively, some fifty-four million hours spent searching a day. And there’s the associated loss of money: in the U.S. in 2011, thirty billion dollars on misplaced cell phones alone.
“You’ll get three meals a day, but they will all be continental breakfast.”
Broadly speaking, there are two explanations for why we lose all this stuff—one scientific, the other psychoanalytic, both unsatisfying. According to the scientific account, losing things represents a failure of recollection or a failure of attention: either we can’t retrieve a memory (of where we set down our wallet, say) or we didn’t encode one in the first place. According to the psychoanalytic account, conversely, losing things represents a success—a deliberate sabotage of our rational mind by our subliminal desires. In “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” Freud describes “the unconscious dexterity with which an object is mislaid on account of hidden but powerful motives,” including “the low estimation in which the lost object is held, or a secret antipathy towards it or towards the person that it came from.” Freud’s colleague and contemporary Abraham Arden Brill put the matter more succinctly: “We never lose what we highly value.”
As explanations go, the scientific one is persuasive but uninteresting. It sheds no light on how it feels to lose something, and provides only the most abstract and impractical notion of how not to do so. (Focus! And, while you’re at it, rejigger your genes or circumstances to improve your memory.) The psychological account, by contrast, is interesting, entertaining, and theoretically helpful (Freud pointed out “the remarkable sureness shown in finding the object again once the motive for its being mislaid had expired”) but, alas, untrue. The most charitable thing to be said about it is that it wildly overestimates our species: absent subconscious motives, apparently, we would never lose anything at all.
That is patently false—but, like many psychological claims, impossible to actually falsify. Maybe the doting mother who lost her toddler at the mall was secretly fed up with the demands of motherhood. Maybe my sister loses her wallet so often owing to a deep-seated discomfort with capitalism. Maybe the guy who left his “Hamilton” tickets in the taxi was a Jeffersonian at heart. Freud would stand by such propositions, and no doubt some losses really are occasioned by subconscious emotion, or at least can be convincingly explained that way after the fact. But experience tells us that such cases are unusual, if they exist at all. The better explanation, most of the time, is simply that life is complicated and minds are limited. We lose things because we are flawed; because we are human; because we have things to lose.
Of all the lost objects in literature, one of my favorites appears—or, rather, disappears—in Patti Smith’s 2015 memoir, “M Train.” Although that book is ultimately concerned with far more serious losses, Smith pauses midway through to describe the experience of losing a beloved black coat that a friend gave her, off his own back, on her fifty-seventh birthday. The coat wasn’t much to look at—moth-eaten, coming apart at the seams, itself optimized for losing things by the gaping holes in each pocket—but, Smith writes, “Every time I put it on I felt like myself.” Then came a particularly harsh winter, which required a warmer jacket, and by the time the air turned mild again the coat was nowhere to be seen.
When we lose something, our first reaction, naturally enough, is to want to know where it is. But behind that question about location lurks a question about causality: What happened to it? What agent or force made it disappear? Such questions matter because they can help direct our search. You will act differently if you think you left your coat in a taxi or believe you boxed it up and put it in the basement. Just as important, the answers can provide us with that much coveted condition known as closure. It is good to get your keys back, better still to understand how they wound up in your neighbor’s recycling bin.
But questions about causality can also lead to trouble, because, in essence, they ask us to assign blame. Being human, we’re often reluctant to assign it to ourselves—and when it comes to missing possessions it is always possible (and occasionally true) that someone else caused them to disappear. This is how a problem with an object turns into a problem with a person. You swear you left the bill sitting on the table for your wife to mail; your wife swears with equal vehemence that it was never there; soon enough, you have also both lost your tempers.
Another possibility, considerably less likely but equally self-sparing, is that your missing object engineered its own vanishing, alone or in conjunction with other occult forces. Beloved possessions like her black coat, Patti Smith suggests, are sometimes “drawn into that half-dimensional place where things just disappear.” Such explanations are more common than you might think. Given enough time spent searching for something that was just there, even the most scientifically inclined person on the planet will start positing various highly improbable culprits: wormholes, aliens, goblins, ether.
That is an impressive act of outsourcing, given that nine times out of ten we are to blame for losing whatever it is that we can’t find. In the micro-drama of loss, in other words, we are nearly always both villain and victim. That goes some way toward explaining why people often say that losing things drives them crazy. At best, our failure to locate something that we ourselves last handled suggests that our memory is shot; at worst, it calls into question the very nature and continuity of selfhood. (If you’ve ever lost something that you deliberately stashed away for safekeeping, you know that the resulting frustration stems not just from a failure of memory but from a failure of inference. As one astute Internet commentator asked, “Why is it so hard to think like myself?”) Part of what makes loss such a surprisingly complicated phenomenon, then, is that it is inextricable from the extremely complicated phenomenon of human cognition.
This entanglement becomes more fraught as we grow older. Beyond a certain age, every act of losing gets subjected to an extra layer of scrutiny, in case what you have actually lost is your mind. Most such acts don’t indicate pathology, of course, but real mental decline does manifest partly as an uptick in lost things. Dementia patients are prone to misplacing their belongings, and people with early-stage Alzheimer’s often can’t find objects because they have put them in unlikely locations; the eyeglasses end up in the oven, the dentures in the coffee can. Such losses sadden us because they presage larger ones—of autonomy, of intellectual capacity, ultimately of life itself.
“That was Brad with the Democratic weather. Now here’s Tammy with the Republican weather.”
No wonder losing things, even trivial things, can be so upsetting. Regardless of what goes missing, loss puts us in our place; it confronts us with lack of order and loss of control and the fleeting nature of existence. When Patti Smith gives up on finding her black coat, she imagines that, together with all of the world’s other missing objects, it has gone to dwell in a place her husband liked to call the Valley of Lost Things. The shadow that is missing from that phrase darkens her memoir; in the course of it, Smith also describes losing her best friend, her brother, her mother, and that husband (at age forty-five, to heart failure).
On the face of it, such losses fit in poorly with lesser ones. It is one thing to lose a wedding ring, something else entirely to lose a spouse. This is the distinction Elizabeth Bishop illuminates, by pretending to elide it, in her villanelle “One Art,” perhaps the most famous reckoning with loss in all of literature. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” she writes in the opening line; the trick is to begin with trivial losses, like door keys, and practice until you can handle those which are tragic. No one could take this suggestion seriously, and we aren’t meant to do so. Through its content as well as its form, the poem ultimately concedes that all other losses pale beside the loss of a loved one.
Moreover, although Bishop doesn’t make this point explicitly, death differs from other losses not only in degree but in kind. With objects, loss implies the possibility of recovery; in theory, at least, nearly every missing possession can be restored to its owner. That’s why the defining emotion of losing things isn’t frustration or panic or sadness but, paradoxically, hope. With people, by contrast, loss is not a transitional state but a terminal one. Outside of an afterlife, for those who believe in one, it leaves us with nothing to hope for and nothing to do. Death is loss without the possibility of being found.
My father, in addition to being scatterbrained and mismatched and menschy and brilliant, is dead. I lost him, as we say, in the third week of September, just before the autumn equinox. Since then, the days have darkened, and I, too, have been lost: adrift, disoriented, absent. Or perhaps it would be more apt to say that I have been at a loss—a strange turn of phrase, as if loss were a place in the physical world, a kind of reverse oasis or Bermuda Triangle where the spirit fails and the compass needle spins.
Like death more generally, my father’s was somehow both predictable and shocking. For nearly a decade, his health had been poor, almost impressively so. In addition to suffering from many of the usual complaints of contemporary aging (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease, congestive heart failure), he had endured illnesses unusual for any age and era: viral meningitis, West Nile encephalitis, an autoimmune disorder whose identity evaded the best doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. From there, the list spread outward in all directions of physiology and severity. He had fallen and torn a rotator cuff beyond recovery, and obliterated a patellar tendon by missing a step one Fourth of July. His breathing was often labored despite no evident respiratory problem; an errant nerve in his neck sometimes zapped him into temporary near-paralysis. He had terrible dental issues, like the impoverished child he had once been, and terrible gout, like the wealthy old potentate he cheerfully became.
He was, in short, a shambles. And yet, as the E.R. visits added up over the years, I gradually curbed my initial feelings of panic and dread—partly because no one can live in a state of crisis forever but also because, by and large, my father bore his infirmity with insouciance. (“Biopsy Thursday,” he once wrote me about a problem with his carotid artery. “Have no idea when the autopsy will be and may not be informed of it.”) More to the point, against considerable odds, he just kept on being alive. Intellectually, I knew that no one could manage such a serious disease burden forever. Yet the sheer number of times my father had courted death and then recovered had, perversely, made him seem indomitable.
As a result, I was not overly alarmed when my mother called one morning toward the end of the summer to say that my father had been hospitalized with a bout of atrial fibrillation. Nor was I surprised, when my partner and I got to town that night, to learn that his heart rhythm had stabilized. The doctors were keeping him in the hospital chiefly for observation, they told us, and also because his white-bloodcell count was mysteriously high. When my father related the chain of events to us—he had gone to a routine cardiology appointment, only to be shunted straight to the I.C.U.—he was jovial and accurate and eminently himself. He remained in good spirits the following day, although he was extremely garrulous, not in his usual effusive way but slightly manic, slightly off—a consequence, the doctors explained, of toxins building up in his bloodstream from temporary loss of kidney function. If it didn’t resolve on its own in a day or two, they planned to give him a round of dialysis to clear it.
“O.K., her mouth is full—run over and ask her if everything is O.K.”November 23, 2009
That was on a Wednesday. Over the next two days, the garrulousness declined into incoherence; then, on Saturday, my father lapsed into unresponsiveness. Somewhere below his silence lurked six languages, the result of being born in Tel Aviv to parents who had fled pogroms in Poland, relocating at age seven to Germany (an unusual reverse exodus for a family of Jews in 1948, precipitated by limited travel options and violence in what was then still Palestine), and arriving in the United States, on a refugee visa, at the age of twelve. English, French, German, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew: of these, my father acquired the first one last, and spoke it with Nabokovian fluency and panache. He loved to talk—I mean that he found just putting sentences together tremendously fun, although he also cherished conversation—and he talked his way into, out of, and through everything, including illness. During the years of medical crises, I had seen my father racked and raving with fever. I had seen him in a dozen kinds of pain. I had seen him hallucinating—sometimes while fully aware of it, discussing with us not only the mystery of his visions but also the mystery of cognition. I had seen him cast about in a mind temporarily compromised by illness and catch only strange, dark, pelagic creatures, unknown and fearsome to the rest of us. In all that time, under all those varied conditions, I had never known him to lack for words. But now, for five days, he held his silence. On the sixth, he lurched back into sound, but not into himself; there followed an awful night of struggle and agitation. After that, aside from a few scattered words, some mystifying, some seemingly lucid—“Hi!”; “Machu Picchu”; “I’m dying”—my father never spoke again.
Even so, for a while longer, he endured—I mean his him-ness, his Isaac-ness, that inexplicable, assertive bit of self in each of us. A few days before his death, having ignored every request made of him by a constant stream of medical professionals (“Mr. Schulz, can you wiggle your toes?” “Mr. Schulz, can you squeeze my hand?”), my father chose to respond to one final command: Mr. Schulz, we learned, could still stick out his tongue. His last voluntary movement, which he retained almost until the end, was the ability to kiss my mother. Whenever she leaned in close to brush his lips, he puckered up and returned the same brief, adoring gesture that I had seen all my days. In front of my sister and me, at least, it was my parents’ hello and goodbye, their “Sweet dreams” and “I’m only teasing,” their “I’m sorry” and “You’re beautiful” and “I love you”—the basic punctuation mark of their common language, the sign and seal of fifty years of happiness.
One night, while that essence still persisted, we gathered around, my father’s loved ones, and filled his silence with talk. I had always regarded my family as close, so it was startling to realize how much closer we could get, how near we drew around his dying flame. The room we were in was a cube of white, lit up like the aisle of a grocery store, yet in my memory that night is as dark and vibrant as a Rembrandt painting. We talked only of love; there was nothing else to say. My father, mute but alert, looked from one face to the next as we spoke, eyes shining with tears. I had always dreaded seeing him cry, and rarely did, but for once I was grateful. It told me what I needed to know: for what may have been the last time in his life, and perhaps the most important, he understood.
All this makes dying sound meaningful and sweet—and it is true that, if you are lucky, there is a seam of sweetness and meaning to be found within it, a vein of silver in a dark cave a thousand feet underground. Still, the cave is a cave. We had by then spent two vertiginous, elongated, atemporal weeks in the I.C.U. At no point during that time did we have a diagnosis, still less a prognosis. At every point, we were besieged with new possibilities, new tests, new doctors, new hopes, new fears. Every night, we arrived home exhausted, many hours past dark, and talked through what had happened, as if doing so might guide us through the following day. Then we’d wake up and resume the routine of the parking garage and the elevator and the twenty-four-hour Au Bon Pain, only to discover that, beyond those, there was no routine at all, nothing to help us prepare or plan. It was like trying to dress every morning for the weather in a nation we’d never heard of.
Eventually, we decided that my father would not recover, and so, instead of continuing to try to stave off death, we unbarred the door and began to wait. To my surprise, I found it comforting to be with him during that time, to sit by his side and hold his hand and watch his chest rise and fall with a familiar little riffle of snore. It was not, as they say, unbearably sad; on the contrary, it was bearably sad—a tranquil, contemplative, lapping kind of sorrow. I thought, as it turns out mistakenly, that what I was doing during those days was making my peace with his death. I have learned since then that even one’s unresponsive and dying father is, in some extremely salient way, still alive. And then, very early one morning, he was not.
What I remember best from those next hours is watching my mother cradle the top of my father’s head in her hand. A wife holding her dead husband, without trepidation, without denial, without any possibility of being cared for in return, just for the chance to be tender toward him one last time: it was the purest act of love I’ve ever seen. She looked bereft, beautiful, unimaginably calm. He did not yet look dead. He looked like my father. I could not stop picturing the way he used to push his glasses up onto his forehead to read. It struck me, right before everything else struck me much harder, that I should set them by his bed in case he needed them.
So began my second, darker season of losing things. Three weeks after my father died, so did another family member, of cancer. Three weeks after that, my home-town baseball team lost the World Series—an outcome that wouldn’t have affected me much if my father hadn’t been such an ardent fan. One week later, Hillary Clinton, together with sixty-six million voters, lost the Presidential election.
Like a dysfunctional form of love, which to some extent it is, grief has no boundaries; seldom this fall could I distinguish my distress over these later losses from my sadness about my father. I had maintained my composure during his memorial service, even while delivering the eulogy. But when, at the second funeral, the son of the deceased stood up to speak, I wept. Afterward, I couldn’t shake the sense that another shoe was about to drop—that at any moment I would learn that someone else close to me had died. The morning after the election, I cried again, missing my refugee father, missing the future I had thought would unfold. In its place, other kinds of losses suddenly seemed imminent: of civil rights, personal safety, financial security, the foundational American values of respect for dissent and difference, the institutions and protections of democracy.
“And then Winnie the Pooh decided that it was time to check Daddy’s e-mail again.”November 11, 2013
For weeks, I slogged on like this, through waves of actual and anticipatory grief. I couldn’t stop conjuring catastrophes, political and otherwise. I felt a rising fear whenever my mother didn’t answer her phone, hated to see my sister board an airplane, could barely let my partner get in a car. “So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost,” Elizabeth Bishop wrote, and, as much as my specific sadness, it was just that—the sheer quantity and inevitability of further suffering—that undid me.
Meanwhile, I had lost, along with everything else, all motivation; day after day, I did as close as humanly possible to nothing. In part, this was because I dreaded getting farther away from the time when my father was still alive. But it was also because, after all the obvious tasks of mourning were completed—the service over, the bureaucratic side of death dispatched, the clothing donated, the thank-you cards written—I had no idea what else to do. Although I had spent a decade worrying about losing my father, I had never once thought about what would come next. Like a heart, my imagination had always stopped at the moment of death.
Now, obliged to carry onward through time, I realized I didn’t know how. I found some consolation in poetry, but otherwise, for the first time in my life, I did not care to read. Nor could I bring myself to write, not least because any piece I produced would be the first my father wouldn’t see. I stretched out for as long as I could the small acts that felt easy and right (calling my mother and my sister, curling up with my partner, playing with the cats), but these alone could not occupy the days. Not since the age of eight, when I was still learning to master boredom, had life struck me so much as simply a problem of what to do.
It was during this time that I began to go out looking for my father. Some days, I merely said to myself that I wanted to get out of the house; other days, I set about searching for him as deliberately as one would go look for a missing glove. Because I find peace and clarity in nature, I did this searching outdoors, sometimes while walking, sometimes while out on a run. I did not expect, of course, that along the way I would encounter my father again in his physical form. To the extent that I thought about it at all, I thought that through sheer motion I might be able to create a tunnel of emptiness, in myself or in the world, that would fill up with a sense of his presence—his voice, his humor, his warmth, the perfect familiarity of our relationship.
I have subsequently learned, from the academic literature on grief, that this “searching behavior,” as it is called, is common among the bereaved. The psychologist John Bowlby, a contemporary of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, regarded the second stage of grief, after numbness, as “yearning and searching.” But I had never knowingly engaged in it before, because, in my experience, my dead had always come looking for me. After other people I’d loved had died, I had often felt them near me, sometimes heard their voices, and even, on a few exceedingly strange occasions, been jolted into the uncanny conviction that I had encountered them again in some altered but unmistakable form. (This, too, turns out to be common among the grieving. “I never thought Michiko would come back / after she died,” the poet Jack Gilbert wrote of his wife in “Alone.” “It is strange that she has returned / as somebody’s dalmatian.”)
These experiences, to be clear, do not comport with my understanding of death. I don’t believe that our loved ones can commune with us from beyond the grave, any more than I believe that spouses occasionally reincarnate as Dalmatians. But grief makes reckless cosmologists of us all, and I had thought it possible, in an impossible kind of way, that if I went out looking I might find myself in my father’s company again.
The first time, I turned around after five minutes; I have seldom tried anything that felt so futile. After he lost his wife, C. S. Lewis, who had likewise previously felt the dead to be near at hand, looked up at the night sky and, to his dismay, knew that he would never find her anywhere. “Is anything more certain,” he wrote, in “A Grief Observed,” “than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch?” Between his late wife and himself, he felt only “the locked door, the iron curtain, the vacuum, absolute zero.”
Thus do I feel about my father. “Lost” is precisely the right description for how I have experienced him since his death. I search for him constantly but can’t find him anywhere. I try to sense some intimation of his presence and feel nothing. I listen for his voice but haven’t heard it since those final times he used it in the hospital. Grieving him is like holding one of those homemade tin-can telephones with no tin can on the other end of the string. His absence is total; where there was him, there is nothing.
This was perhaps the most striking thing about my father’s death and all that followed: how relevant the idea of loss felt, how it seemed at once so capacious and so accurate. And in fact, to my surprise, it was accurate. Until I looked it up, I’d assumed that, unless we were talking about phone chargers or car keys or cake recipes, we were using the word “lost” figuratively, even euphemistically—that we say “I lost my father” to soften the blow of death.
“I regret that my poor choice of words caused some people to understand what I was saying.”September 3, 2012
But that turns out not to be true. The verb “to lose” has its taproot sunk in sorrow; it is related to the “lorn” in forlorn. It comes from an Old English word meaning to perish, which comes from a still more ancient word meaning to separate or cut apart. The modern sense of misplacing an object appeared later, in the thirteenth century; a hundred years after that, “to lose” acquired the meaning of failing to win. In the sixteenth century, we began to lose our minds; in the seventeenth century, our hearts. The circle of what we can lose, in other words, began with our own lives and one another and has been steadily expanding ever since. In consequence, loss today is a supremely awkward category, bulging with everything from mittens to life savings to loved ones, forcing into relationship all kinds of wildly dissimilar experiences.
And yet, if anything, our problem is not that we put too many things into the category of loss but that we leave too many out. One night, during those weeks when I could find solace only in poetry, my partner read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” aloud to me. In it, Walt Whitman leans against the railing of a ship, exalting in all he sees. So expansive is his vision that it includes not just the piers and sails and reeling gulls but everyone else who makes the crossing: all those who stood at the railing watching before his birth, all those watching around him now, and all those who will be there watching after his death—which, in the poem, he doesn’t so much foresee as, through a wild, craning omniscience, look back on. “Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,” he admonishes, kindly.
And, just like that, my sense of loss suddenly revealed itself as terribly narrow. What I miss about my father, as much as anything, is life as it looked filtered through him, held up and considered against his inner lights. Yet the most important thing that vanished when he died is wholly unavailable to me: life as it looked to him, life as we all live it, from the inside out. All my memories can’t add up to a single moment of what it was like to be my father, and all my loss pales beside his own. Like Whitman, his love of life had been exuberant, exhaustive; he must have hated, truly hated, to leave it behind—not just his family, whom he adored, but all of it, sea to shining sea.
It is breathtaking, the extinguishing of consciousness. Yet that loss, too—our own ultimate unbeing—is dwarfed by the grander scheme. When we are experiencing it, loss often feels like an anomaly, a disruption in the usual order of things. In fact, though, it is the usual order of things. Entropy, mortality, extinction: the entire plan of the universe consists of losing, and life amounts to a reverse savings account in which we are eventually robbed of everything. Our dreams and plans and jobs and knees and backs and memories, the childhood friend, the husband of fifty years, the father of forever, the keys to the house, the keys to the car, the keys to the kingdom, the kingdom itself: sooner or later, all of it drifts into the Valley of Lost Things.
There’s precious little solace for this, and zero redress; we will lose everything we love in the end. But why should that matter so much? By definition, we do not live in the end: we live all along the way. The smitten lovers who marvel every day at the miracle of having met each other are right; it is finding that is astonishing. You meet a stranger passing through your town and know within days you will marry her. You lose your job at fifty-five and shock yourself by finding a new calling ten years later. You have a thought and find the words. You face a crisis and find your courage.

All of this is made more precious, not less, by its impermanence. No matter what goes missing, the wallet or the father, the lessons are the same. Disappearance reminds us to notice, transience to cherish, fragility to defend. Loss is a kind of external conscience, urging us to make better use of our finite days. As Whitman knew, our brief crossing is best spent attending to all that we see: honoring what we find noble, denouncing what we cannot abide, recognizing that we are inseparably connected to all of it, including what is not yet upon us, including what is already gone. We are here to keep watch, not to keep.