Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Double Caution re Returns on eBay

Assume you buy like a Samsung Galaxy S5 Grey on eBay and it comes in Black. You ask for a return and refund which is granted relatively promptly. They send you a shipping label which you put on the same box they sent the phone to you in. Unfortunately, they sent it Priority Mail but the return shipping label is First Class and the Post Office returns the box to you. You go to write a negative review on eBay and somehow the seller has blocked you from doing so. The point: Be careful what box you use when doing returns. PS though: A complaint has been lodged with eBay and efforts are being made to post a scathing review of this seller. PPS: It looks like there are no Grey phones available, so this seller says he or she has one, but then sells you a Black one and figures you'll keep it. Who does he or she think he's dealing with is what we'd like to know.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Caution re Self-Checkout

Self-checkout is the best thing ever. Just one word of caution: If you're buying 2 cucumbers, don't by mistake enter 45 cucumbers when it asks for the quantity, but if you do, don't wait until you're driving off the lot to think you might have made that mistake. In all events, just consider it a nice "tip" for all the great service from and appreciation you have for Fry's. 

Remedy for a Serious Computer Problem

Your Outlook stops working. It won't even uninstall to let you re-install. You have two choices: First, Phone Outlook support and spend 9 hours on the phone over two days with Microsoft (it's free), and at the end, Outlook still does not work correctly, nor does your Windows Explorer anymore, and other things are goofy; or second, back up all your data and buy a new computer, because you can buy a fabulous new replacement at Costco for well $500 or a little more for a fabulous+ computer, and it would cost you at least $300 to have your tech person actually look and fix the machine if he could. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

War Machine (2017) (Netflix)

It's a 2-hour movie and this note is based only on the first hour, but it's definitely worth watching. Not sure about Brad Pitt's performance (it's a cross between over-acting and weird-acting, and to a lesser extent so is Anthony Michael Hall's performance), but it's a contemporary Afghanistan war story that brings to mind much of what you loved about Catch 22 and, to a lesser extent, Wag the Dog. It moves along, and makes you laugh alot, likely because it strikes true cords that, while laughter is not what's really called for, it's better than throwing rocks at the television. The writing is excellent and, putting aside what's noted, the rest of the cast's performances are terrific.  

IMDb Link to War Machine

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hi, My Name Is Doris (Amazon Prime)

Wonderfully quirky, in a story that you just don't see the likes of. The cast is terrific, and one can only wonder if Amy Sedaris would have been better cast than Sally Field, but Sally Field is fabulous, as are all the others from Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black, News Radio, and someone I sat next to first in a bar in LAX and then on the plane in a flight from LAX to PHX (she was married at the time to George Brown but contemplating divorce and we had a wonderful talk, and she did divorce him). The music is great too. The ending might be a bit pat, but even if so, it's a 20 second shot so who cares. In  world of seen it, been there, this is not that except the very end.

IMDb Link to Hi My Name Is Doris

PS re Vacasa

An earlier post touted the advantages of Vacasa for finding a vacation home. We stand by all our praise. But we discovered one serious shortcoming: It does not have an easy way to share your favorites list with others,  making a group decision on where to stay quite cumbersome. It also gives you know what to organize or sub-group your favorites. So, we're going back to HomeAway, at least to find a place, and then will see if it's listed on Vacasa and then will book through it. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

NCAA Women's Softball Post Season

The NCAA women's softball teams that have survived the post-season so far are in the Super Regionals. They are great television, and will remain so through the championship. The talent and displayed skills are phenomenal, the games are great even if not close (because no one ever gives up), the team spirits are invigorating, and the sportsmanship rivals that in golf and surpasses every other sport. You can see it all on ESPN and ESPN 2. It's must-see TV sports. And if you miss the Super Regionals, be sure to tune if for the next rounds.

Rectify (Netflix)

Can't review it yet in any meaningful way having just watched Episode 1 of Season 1. And while it's a bit slow, it pulls you in. You don't know any of the characters yet, but you're intrigued by them. Some seem good and some seem evil, but all seem to have some depth. The violence so far, such as it is, is minimal and not gory, so that's a real positive. If you watch the first episode, it seems hard not watch at least the second. And the hope is, well beyond. 

Economics of the Health Care System


With apologies for how this appears on the page, this is a eye-opening article from The New Yorker on health care costs. It's being posted here because many on the Alt-Right and in the Republican party might not read the New Yorker, so let's hope they see it here:


Benefits of Schwab Part 2

Without knowing if the end has been reached, if Schwab messes something up, and you bring it to their attention, here is what might befall you: Accommodations of $2,500 plus $100 plus $50 deposited into your account, plus a wonderful gift box from Harry & David, plus the ability to work with the website team in making the changes to the website that are needed to avoid any such mess-up in the future. Michael Keaton in Night Shift put it best: Link to Michael Keaton's Famous Line in Night Shift

Chopping Down a Tree (in Phoenix)

Putting aside the morality and ecological issues in taking down a tree and the amount of oxygen-generation the world has lost forever and the devastating negative impact on climate change (and in this instance, where the Sierra Club just sat by and voiced no objection unlike in 1989 when it went to court to try to stop 8 saplings from being removed at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that needed to be removed to update the squalid conditions the Park Rangers had to live in that hadn't been updated in 50 years), the cost to take a tree down is much lower than you might guess. In a scene that contra-positively reminiscent of the barn-raising scene in Witness, it took a crew of about 20 people, two cranes, a chipper, and support vehicles under two hours to take down the huge eucalyptus seen in the middle of this picture. And it cost just $2,500. There are two huge ficuses, one of which you can see half of on the right that always had been assumed would be a fortune to bring down, but that cost would be just $1,500 per tree, and would open up the vista to Piestewa Peak and render the house's front patio a place not prone to enormous amounts of sphagnum falling from the trees. 


Link to the Barn Raising Scene in Witness

Contact for Company That Did the Dastardly Deed:

     Black Diamond Landscape
     Dustin Cozzens 623-215-8462; dcozzens@blkdmndlandscape.com

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hamilton at Gammage (Phoenix)

Hamilton is coming to Phoenix and it, along with all season tickets, is virtually sold out. We sent our Drama Department Team and our Leisure Swat Department to Gammage to squeeze some tickets out of them, and we were successful. Here is the email Gammage sent out as a result of our heroic and valiant tactics. So, feel free to jump on this offer (which btw, is verbatim what the Gammage email says--we are NOT joking): 

From: ASU Gammage <boxoffice@asugammage.com>
Date: Thu, May 25, 2017 at 3:32 PM
Subject: ASU Gammage Waiting List Update – Final Opportunity for 17-18 Season Tickets!
To:


Hello,

As a member of the ASU Gammage 2017-18 Broadway Season Ticket Waiting
List, we are pleased to inform you a very limited number of obstructed
view season tickets have become available for purchase! To purchase,
please call us at the box office at (480) 965-3434. Below, we have
provided a brief description of the obstructed nature of the available
seating.

Row 1 of the Balcony seating is available for purchase. These seats are
designated at obstructed view, as a safety bar runs across the first row.
To avoid this obstruction, you will simply have to sit up or down in your
seat if action takes place farther downstage. Unfortunately, we do
prohibit leaning forward as it can block the view of patrons behind you.

Only the following days and times still have pairs of season tickets
available:

Saturday @ 2:00PM
Sunday @ 1:00PM
Sunday @ 6:30PM

Again, these newly available tickets are only available in person or by
phone (480) 965-3434 at the box office! We only have a limited number of
seats left and expect to sell out, so please contact us immediately if you
are interested!

Thank you for your patience and patronage. Have a great afternoon!
ASU Gammage Box Office
(480) 965-3434


Extended Warranties

Except for TVs that are too big to schlep into a repair store, and too expensive to repair (which normally involves replacing circuit boards that the manufacturers charge arms and legs for), skip extended warranties. On solid state products such as cellphones, if they work for the first few weeks, they likely will last long past any extended warranty period anyhow. Now back to TV warranties: At Costco, if you pay with your Costco Visa card, Costco's warranty will double from two to four years, and you still have 90 days to add a 4 year Square Deal warranty for under $90, and that is recommended. Indeed, if you do get an extended warranty, Square Deal is the best company to get it from.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yellow Tail Note

Yellow Tail bottles many Australian wines, but its Chardonnay is considered by many to be the best Chardonnay ever and by everyone to be considered the best Chardonnay for the money. Recently, they added a new screw top bottle. If you're buying the big bottles, be sure to look whether it's screw top or cork, and it's not obvious at first blush, because if you use a top cutter and it's screw top, you'll have to put a thing in it, and then your bottle might be too tall for your refrigerator space. 
Image result for yellow tail chardonnay

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Certain iPhones Send Duplicate Emails

If you own an Android phone, you might be experiencing the really annoying thing where emails you get that were sent from some iPhones arrive in duplicate. It is a known problem. There is no known solution. Apple knows about it but seems not to care (remember, its customers are on the sending side not the receiving side (which is not to accuse Apple of building this in to retaliate against Android phones, although Apple is well known for such engaging in such untoward tactics). One reason it is so difficult to figure out a cure is that it does not happen with all iPhones. The only solution for now is to live with it or blacklist any email address you are experiencing the problem with. If you choose the blacklist route, you might put on an auto-response that reads: "Because of your iPhone, every email you send to me arrives in duplicate. I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this any more. I've blacklisted your email address until you switch to an Android phone." You can learn the right delivery tone by watching this link: Link to Learn How to Say I'm Mad as Hell Etc.

Another Reason to Use Schwab

When it comes to their website, in most respects, Schwab is fantastic. Once money is in your account, it is easy to buy or sell anything. But, when it comes to getting money into or out of Schwab electronically, the website has some real problems of clarity. In short, then, a la the rental company in Seinfeld that knows how to take a reservation but not keep it, Schwab knows how to keep the money but not how to move it in and out. Well, now they do. Thanks to a customer with a better idea, Schwab is going to re-vamp the offending portion of the website to make it great, and they are letting that customer have a hand in the re-vamp. Talk about a responsive company. A little squeaking gets the oil cans out in droves. It's also nice to live around the corner from their regional headquarters.

Image result for schwab
Link to Pertinent Seinfeld Clip

MX Lookup Tool

If you were in Spain two years ago, and found your email blocked, it likely was blocked because a server you were going through was coding your IP address as spam. To unblock your email, you would have gone to MX Lookup Tool, and gone through the stuff to get unblocked. The same is true here in the United States. Also, as a cautionary word, if an email you sent to an Earthlink email address comes back telling you to do something to be approved for that email box to accept your email, the person might live in your neighborhood and be very nice, but in effect she has her Earthlink email set to code you as spam. 

Link to MX Lookup Tool

Six Phones With Best Battery Life

[Courtesy of cnet]

Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

With its two rear cameras and a 13-megapixel front-facing shooter, the ZenFone 3 zoom is made for photo-enthusiasts. But its robust battery is what's turning heads. At 5,00mAh, the battery lasted 19 hours and 50 minutes, so you won't have to juice up very frequently after a full day of picture-taking. Read the ZenFone 3 Zoom hands-on.

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With the Galaxy S8 Plus' larger display comes a boost in battery life.Ariel Nunez/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

The Galaxy S8 Plus is a big phone that manages to make a 6.2-inch screen look graceful. It has every hardware and software advantage of the ultrasleek, curved Galaxy S8, including long battery life. During its lab test, it lasted a solid 18 hours of usage. Read the Galaxy S8 Plus review.

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With the Z Play, you get a long battery life at an affordable price.Josh Miller/CNET

Motorola Moto Z Play

As the cheapest, most "midrange" phone of Lenovo's Motorola Moto Z series, we were stunned to see that the Moto Z Play not only had the longest battery life of the Z line, but of all the handsets we reviewed in 2016 and beyond. Clocking in a whopping 23 hours and 3 minutes, this handset is worth getting for the battery life alone (aside from the fact that it also works with useful modular accessories). Its Z Force counterpart didn't do so shabby either, with a time of 16 hours and 32 minutes of video playback. Read the Moto Z Play review.

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The Galaxy A7 feels premium and lasts a long time.Aloysius Low/CNET

Samsung Galaxy A7

With its 22-hour lab time, the Galaxy A7 is a midrange Samsung phone that looks just like the Galaxy S7. Sure its Marshmallow OS is not the latest and it's not water resistant like the S7, but if you're looking for a cheap mid-tier Android, this is a good contender. Read the Galaxy A7 review.

huawei-mate-9-launch-3.jpg
The Mate 9 offers plenty of screen and battery life.Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Huawei Mate 9

The big-screen Mate 9 has an extremely powerful Kirin 960 octa-core processor and a nifty dual-camera setup that's great for artsy shots. Its robust 4,000mAh battery will also survive throughout the workday and then some. In our tests, it lasted 18 hours and 35 minutes easily. Read the Mate 9 review.

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The OnePlus 3T's battery lasts a long time and charges in a jiffy.Josh Miller/CNET

OnePlus 3T

With an affordable price starting at $439 or £399 (approx. AU$580), the 3T replaces the company's last OnePlus 3 flagship with a more powerful Snapdragon 821 processor and a sharper front-facing camera. It also has a bigger battery that lasts over 16 hours. You still get OnePlus' trademark Dash charging technology, which means the device charges super quickly. Read the 3T review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Make Money With Schwab

Open a Schwab account. Have someone tell you they are going to send you money, and need the routing and account numbers, call Schwab, take down what they say and pass it on. When that transfer gets bounced because the information you were given by Schwab was wrong, ask for the correct information, take it down and pass it on. When it turns out that information also is wrong, tell Schwab you are going to close your account and go back to Wells Fargo. They will offer you $2,500 to not do that.

PS: If you tell them you have no interest in the $2,500 offer, but you want the opportunity to speak to someone with authority to order the Schwab website changed to make this info clear (which it currently does not do), and to someone with authority to do what is needed to be done to re-educate the call center reps, your account rep cannot promise that can be done, but you can be sure she's going to try her best to have it happen. You also might reconsider the $2,500 offer, and while you still might not take it yourself, you will accept such as a donation to a charitable foundation.

Buying Celery

At least at Fry's, you are far better off buying celery stalks than celery in bunches or hearts of celery in packages. You actually will save money and avoid frustration by finding out at home that the bunches or packages have bad stalks.

Celery Stalks:
Image result for celery stalks
Celery Bunches:
Image result for celery stalks

Celery Heart Packages:
Image result for celery heart packages

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Suggestion for Costco

In what would be a win for Costco and for its customers, and me, please consider going to the Costco webpage where you can submit suggestions and suggest the following (or something like it):

"I LOVE Costco's great products, policies, products, and prices. The only thing I don't like about Costco is that the checkout lines often take along time to get through. This tolerable where I'm buying quite a few items, but is intolerable if I won't to dash in and out for some food items, and Costco's food is fabulous. In what would be a win/win for Costco and its customers would be either a dedicated check-out line that was "Under 10 Food Items Only," or "Food Only" self-check-out registers. With either of those, I would do virtually all my food shopping at Costco, meaning more business for Costco and greater satisfaction in and loyalty from a Costco customer, and likely more people signing up for Costco memberships. Thank you for considering this suggestion." 

Link to Costco Suggestion Page

Don't be put off if you get an email response from Costco that reads as follows:

"My name is Heather A and I'm with the Costco Member Services Team.

"We must keep our operating costs at a minimum so we can continue to keep our pricing low for our members. The equipment and implementation of express lanes would be costly.

"We have found that most of our members purchase an average of sixteen items per visit. According to this average, an express checkout lane would be the least used of all the registers. Therefore, we cannot justify the additional costs at this time.

"Thank you for your questions and comments. We will forward your comments to our executives for their consideration, as we value your feedback.

"Sincerely,

"Heather A
"Member Service Center
"Costco Wholesale Corporation"



And be sure to send them back an email that reads: While I’m not happy with the answer, I DEEPLY APPRECIATE the promptness of the response and the explanation. Very impressive! Thanks. I LOVE Costco."


Lamb Shanks

If you like lamb shanks, rush right out to Costco. Their A La Carte Herbes de Provence lamb shanks are not only delicious, they are priced amazingly low, you don't have to buy a huge bulk of them--they come in 2 per box, and they are fully cooked so they are microwaveable (6 minutes). This is what the box sort of looks like, but you'll want the Herbes de Provence (not pictures) not the Chianti Tomato Sauce (pictured). The herb sauce is delicious but be sure none of it goes down your disposal, and be sure to wipe your plate clean of sauce residue before rinsing it or putting it in the dishwasher.

Image result for costco lamb shanks

PS: Given the great price and they will last in your refrigerator for weeks or even months before you need to prepare or freeze them, you no longer will have any excuse for having to use a prime rib bone or t-bone or even a dog bone, which some people have been known to use, for your Pesach dinner.

4-Year-Olds Don't Act Like Trump

We don't do politics, but when we see a brilliant piece on a political figure, we feel compelled to bring it to your attention in the event you missed it. That said, Alison Gopnik's piece in the May 21 New York Times is just such piece, and here it is:

The analogy is pervasive among his critics: Donald Trump is like a child. Making him the president was like making a 4-year-old the leader of the free world.
But the analogy is profoundly wrong, and it’s unfair to children. The scientific developmental research of the past 30 years shows that Mr. Trump is utterly unlike a 4-year-old.
Four-year-olds care deeply about the truth. They constantly try to seek out information and to figure out how the world works. Of course, 4-year-olds, as well as adults, occasionally lie. But Mr. Trump doesn’t just lie; he seems not even to care whether his statements are true.
Four-year-olds are insatiably curious. One study found that the average preschooler asks hundreds of questions per day. Just watch a toddler “getting into everything” — endangering his own safety to investigate interesting new objects like knives and toasters. Mr. Trump refuses to read and is bored by anything that doesn’t involve him personally.
Four-year-olds can pay attention. They do have difficulty changing the focus of their attention in response to arbitrary commands. But recent studies show that even babies systematically direct their focus to the events and objects that will teach them the most. They pay special attention to events that contradict what they already believe. Mr. Trump refuses to pay attention to anything that clashes with his preconceptions.
Continue reading the main story
Four-year-olds understand the difference between fantasy and reality. They certainly enjoy pretend play, imagining that the world is full of villains and that they are all-powerful heroes. But studies show that they know they are pretending and understand that their imaginary companions are just that: imaginary. Mr. Trump seems to have no sense of the boundary between his self-aggrandizing fantasies and reality.
Four-year-olds have a “theory of mind,” an understanding of their own minds and those of others. In my lab we have found that 4-year-olds recognize that their own past beliefs might have been wrong. Mr. Trump contradicts himself without hesitation and doesn’t seem to recognize any conflict between his past and present beliefs.
Four-year-olds, contrary to popular belief, are not egocentric or self-centered. They understand and care about how other people feel and think, and recognize that other people can feel and think differently from them. In my lab, which studies the cognitive development of children, we have found that even 1½-year-olds can understand that someone else might want something different from what they want. They understand that someone else might like broccoli, even though they themselves prefer crackers, and they will help that person get what he wants.
In fact, children as young as 1½ demonstrate both empathy and altruism: They will rush to comfort someone who is hurt, and they will spontaneously go out of their way to help someone. In one study, if 1-year-olds saw a stranger drop a pen and strain to reach for it, they would crawl over obstacles to find the pen and give it to him. Mr. Trump displays neither empathy nor altruism, and his egocentrism is staggering.
Four-year-olds have a strong moral sense. Children as young as 2½ say that hurting another child is always wrong, even if an authority figure were to say otherwise. Babies will avoid a puppet that has been mean to another puppet. Mr. Trump admires authoritarian leaders who have no compunctions about harming their own people.
Four-year-olds are sensitive to social norms and think that they and other people should obey them. In one recent study, seeing a puppet play a game involving particular rules led children to follow the rules themselves and to expect other people to do so. Even 2- and 3-year-olds protested when they saw someone break the rules. Mr. Trump has time and again shown his contempt for norms of behavior in every community he has belonged to.
Now, all this is not to say that a 4-year-old would make a good chief executive. Being president is certainly a grown-up job. Still, most adults, even most presidents, and certainly the best presidents, manage to retain some of their childlike traits — curiosity, openness to experience, intuitive sensitivity to others.
We’d all be better off if Mr. Trump were more like that.
President Trump at the White House Easter egg roll in April. CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images