Monday, July 31, 2017

Ozark (Netflix Episodes 2-3)

Our Fine Arts Department (FAD) gave a very positive review upon watching the first episode of Ozark. It is with great pleasure that it now can report that, unlike Gypsy which followed an excellent first episode with increasingly bad ones to the point it''s like watching a Lifetime movie or worse, episodes 2 and 3 of Ozark are pretty pretty good, giving hope for a season worth watching. The characters are original and fascinating, and many of the scenes are written with great originality. Many of the attempts at persuasion are done in ways one has never seen, and the story keeps your attention because it is almost impossible to know what's often in the minds of the participants. The plot might be one that many watchers do not have first-hand knowledge of having experienced, but be assured from someone who does, that it's truer-to-life than one might imagine. The acting by everyone is superb. And unlike other series where you have to slog or fast-forward through the same pre-new-episode-intro every time, each such intro to Ozark is new and part of the story. 

FDIC-Insured CDs

Many of our loyal readers have shunned the equity markets and hold significant portions of their portfolios in brokered FDIC-insured CDs. While the interest rates paid by the various bank offerings tend not to vary much, often the albeit-slight best rates can be found with the Bank of China. Do not rely on this, but it appears that FDIC-insurance covers bank insolvencies, but it does not cover other non-insolvency reasons for a bank's failure to repay a CD upon maturity. So, if you're a hyper-nervous-nelly who's concerned with what might happen in U.S.-China relations, you might eschew Bank of China CDs.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Costco Online Convenience

Everyone agrees Costco is a fabulous store in many ways. Most also agree that shopping at Costco can be an unpleasant experience for several reasons. Not everything from the store is available online from Costco.com, but much is, and it worthwhile checking before schlepping to the store, especially if you're looking for just an item (say walnuts, which are difficult to locate int the store anyhow) or two. In the main, shipping is free.



Link to Costco.com

The Terrifying 9-Minute Gap

[Courtesy of NPR]

Putting aside the outrage of this 3-part tweet upon its completion, you can only imagine the heart-stopping fear that our State and Defense Departments, and anyone else seeing these tweets in real time, were gripped by, waiting for 9 minutes to find out if the President had ordered a military strike and missiles were on their way:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...... Jul. 26, 2017, 8:55 a.m.
Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..... Jul. 26, 2017, 9:04 a.m.
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you. Jul. 26, 2017, 9:08 a.m.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ozark (Netflix Original 2017)

Based on Episode 1 (of Season 1), Ozark is fantastic. Even if you're not a cartel money launderer, or an admirer of cartel money laundering, it's an absolute must-see! The casting, acting, dialogue, photography are all fantastic. The violence is so tastefully done that it does not overcome the story. The characters are real and refreshingly real, and many of whom do stuff you would not expect them to do. Even the dream sequences, and we're not fans of dream sequences, do not get in the way as they so often do in other productions. In short, stop what you're watching and start watching Ozark. 

Prediction, Not Politics

We don't do politics here. But our readers relish predictions, especially about predictions the future. We cannot guarantee this will happen, but it could, and if does, Katy bar the door: Trump's moving Kelly from Home Land Security to Chief of Staff creates an open cabinet position; that allows Trump to move Sessions from DOJ to HLS, while avoiding the problems he would face in firing Sessions; then Trump can name a new AG on a recess-appointment basis who does not have to recuse himself; and then Trump orders that new AG to fire Mueller. While that might create a bit of a constitutional crisis, and even the Republicans might do something beyond registering feigned expressions of "disappointment," if Trump is guilty of money laundering for the Russians, and is so heavily indebted to Russian banks that his business empire collapses if they were to "foreclose," his so doing can be seen in rational self-interest.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Route 89A (Flagstaff to Sedona)

Stay off of Route 89A at all costs. Unless you like 8 miles of horrible dust, pebbles, mud, holes, rocks, construction, stops, slow-downs, and ugliness. Nuf said.

Fixing Android Goofy Font

Some Android devices all of a sudden are displaying a goofy block-style font for much of what appears on the screen in various apps. Unless the device is rooted, downloaded a font app won't help. But the fix turns out to be easy: Go to Settings/Accessibility and turn off "High Contrast Text," which was a new feature added to Android that doesn't work or do anything good.

Tips on Renting Vacation Homes

Here are some questions you might ask before agreeing to rent a vacation home:

1. Are there any noisy things (e.g., garbage trucks, lawn mowers) that come by early in the morning within earshot of the master bedroom.

2. Even if the description of the house says the kitchen has everything one would expect in a fully-equipped kitchen, does that include aluminum foil and/or clear wrap and pot holders?

3. Why is the cleaning fee the same for 2 people staying for 3 days as it would be for 10 people staying for 15+ days?

4. Are there any pencils or pens in the house and, if there is a pencil, does it work?

5. Are there any noisy neighbors?

6. If anyone in your party is allergic to cats, have there been any cats in the place?

7. How steep is the driveway?

8. If the place has a magnificent view of the Mediterranean, how difficult is the walk into and back from town?

9. What do we do if there is a problem with the AC?

10. What do we do if the The Open Championship is on and the TV does not get CBS?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Blog Stats

Many loyal readers have asked who else is reading this blog. As it turns out, our readership has jumped enormously in recent months with no apparent explanation. We're now getting hundreds of hits per day were it used to be tens of hits per day, and thousands and thousands of hits per month instead of just hundreds or a few thousand. What's most fascinating (beyond an outsize number of hits on posts for say the Yard Butler (726)) is that our France audience seems to be larger than our U.S. audience. Vive Macron!

Gypsy (Episode 3, Season 1)

Having given the first episode a positive review, it is thought only fair to say that Gypsy seems to be going downhill. Where it had interesting twists and sublime insights into characters, the plot and its characters have become mundane. Episode 3 wouldn't make it as a movie on Lifetime, which is what it seems to have been written for. Unless you see a positive review of Episode 4, you can assume at least half of our Series Evaluation Team (SET) has given up and moved on to Ozark. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trump's Tweets

We don't do politics here. But we have received many requests for any easy way to follow the tweets of our President, Donald J. Trump. This link will give you his tweets, his whole tweets, and nothing but his tweets, each day:

Link to Daily Trump Tweets

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Google Backup

Google's new Backup and Sync app replaces both the company's Drive and Photos desktop apps for Windows PCs and Macs. You can use the app to back up the contents of your entire computer -- or just selected folders. It's easy to set up and use, and free for 15GB of data. You now have no reason to eschew cloud backup of your data, photos, and anything else.

Link to Download Google Backup

Removing Water Stains on Wood Furniture (Courtesy of cnet)

Nothing ruins the luster of wood furniture quite like a watermark. Watermarks -- or water stains -- are often caused by cold glasses, spills, or hot dishes places directly on the wood. Luckily, though, they aren't always permanent. 
This guide will guide you through the process of removing these stains. But first, remember: even a quick touch-up can damage an heirloom. So, follow the directions carefully and exercise patience when removing stains. For extra insurance, test the method on a hidden area before going all-out on the top surface of the wood. 
Light white watermarks like these should be relatively easy to remove.Brian Bennett/CNET

1. Identify the stain

Is the water stain white, dark brown or a shade of black? The stain color will determine how easy it is to treat and the methods you should use.
White stains. Lightly-colored marks, typically in the shape of rings, are caused by the bottoms of cold glasses or hot plates and mugs resting on a wood surface. In both cases water is the culprit, in the form of condensed moisture (cold) or steam (hot). This water pushes into the wood's finish below to cause the otherwise clear layer to turn white or a milky gray.
It sounds bad but it's actually less severe than you think. Because the moisture hasn't penetrated into the actual wood beneath the finish, it likely hasn't done irreversible damage. 
Dark stains. A dark brown, or black mark indicates water has reached the wood itself so a quick fix isn't possible. Keep reading for a few tips you can try. 
This water ring on my vintage turntable console is heartbreaking.Brian Bennett/CNET

2. Light stain? All you need is an iron 

A simple way to handle light watermarks is to expose it to gentle heat and pressure. For this you'll need an electric iron and a plain, non-abrasive cloth. 
  • With the iron set to its lowest heat level, lay the cloth across the stained area. Make sure all of the iron's steam modes are off. The last thing you want is to create more stains made from moisture and heat.  
  • Next, gently run the warm iron over the fabric making sure to move in the same direction with each pass. 
  • Lift the cloth to check periodically to see if you've made any progress, about every five passes or so. The wood's finish should gradually release trapped moisture, the cause of the watermark.
I personally tried the technique on my vintage turntable that's housed in a wooden console cabinet. Somehow a big, fat ring watermark had sprouted right on top of it -- no doubt from someone's stray Bourbon glass. Surprisingly after just a few minutes, and about 10 iron strokes later, the ring all but completely vanished.
stain-gif-final
Ironing the stain carefully (no steam) removed it almost entirely.Brian Bennett/CNET

3. For dark stains, grab a toothbrush 

Sometimes water sits on a wood surface long enough to seep past its protective finish and into the wood below. That's often the case with leaky planters, which can cause damage for months without anyone noticing. The result is typically a dark brown or black ring. Unfortunately, an iron can't cure this problem.
A dark water stain is harder to remove. Toothpaste often will do the trick, though.Brian Bennett/CNET
Brush the stain gently because too much scrubbing will also remove the wood finish beneath.Brian Bennett/CNET
Here's where an old toothbrush and a little plain, white toothpaste comes in handy. 
The fix: Using a small dab of paste, gently brush the entire watermark. Make sure not press too hard or brush for too long or you risk removing the wood stain along with the watermark. Of course in many situations this outcome is unavoidable and the only remedy is a complete overhaul by a furniture restoration pro.

4. Maintain your wood furniture regularly 

Even after successfully banishing those ungainly watermarks, wood furniture needs regular upkeep to stay looking their best. The most frequent task you'll need to perform is dusting with a soft, dry cloth. To limit unnecessary wear and tear don't dust often, once a month perhaps.
Another way to go is to dust wood with the help of a citrus oil such as Howard's Orange Oil. Products like these are designed to prevent wood from drying out and add shine. Do so infrequently though since excessive use will cause an unwanted built-up of dirt, dust, and oil. This is what the Smithsonian recommends and the museum knows a thing or two about caring for priceless wood objects. 
Wood furniture needs a little love to look their best, but not too much.Brian Bennett/CNET

5. No success? Consider these factors 

There are countless additional factors that'll affect how well your watermark removal goes. For instance, whether the piece of furniture you plan to treat is made from soft pine wood, or hard woods like oak and rosewood. This also depends on and often determines how thin or thick the finish is and what substances were employed to create them. Examples include shellac, polyurethane and lacquers.  
In these cases, you may need to take your furniture to an expert who can use other methods -- like restaining -- to remedy any watermarks.  Or, consider donating it to a worthy charity and buying a replacement.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gypsy Season 1/Episode 1 and Friends From College Season 1/Episode 1 (Both on Netflix)

Some might think it's not fair to judge a drama series based on the first 90 seconds of the first episode, but our Fine Arts Department (FAD) is bold and relentless, and does not shy from being accused of unfairness. FAD hated Friends From College (2017). FAD found it sophmoric, and a crass appeal to fake hipness. 


Although in bad mood, and expecting not to like anything, FAD took a look at Gypsy. Clair Danes might have been perfect for the lead, but Naomi Watts is terrific. The story is dark, a little unpredictable, imaginatively crafted, and engrossing. If you've ever done any therapy, and wondered what your therapist was thinking, stay away. No, don't stay away. It's truly refreshing to have a drama series with real people acting like real people do and talking like real people do. 

IMDb Link to Gypsy

Foam Mattress Warning

As Casper Mattress will tell you, "[w]ith a foam mattress, the sides and corners may all look a little rounded and less sharp than we’re used to with traditional spring mattresses." Tuft & Needle will tell you the same thing. As a result, if you put it on a West Elm bed, the end of the last slat might be visible unless you place your nightstands just so.  Better to have bought the West Elm Mid-Century Platform bed, which would have avoided the problem.

West Elm Acorn Bed:

Image result for west elm beds

West Elm Mid-Century Platform Bed:


Mid-Century Platform Bed-Queen, Walnut

Arrival (2016)

Why they bothered a remake of Close Encounters of the Third Kind will remain a mystery for the ages. Amy Adams cannot save this movie, which is three stories in one, one of which makes no sense, one of which is the only love story ever made where the principals do not kiss (with the exception of 100 Rifles where Raquel Welch insisted on there being a towel between her and Jim Brown during a supposed naked scene), and a third which makes no sense. The key theme is that time is not linear, but it's never explained what time is, nor what the aliens were talking about or doing or why. It's a snooze, compounded by how slow everything moves and how halting the dialogue is.

IMDb Link to Arrival

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trump Shatters Another Washington Shibboleth

It has been said at least since Watergate, and repeated often in the past few days, that: "It's not the crime that gets people in trouble. It's the cover up. As our loyal readers know, we don't do politics here. But, we do not hesitate to point out where a politician has broken new ground. As is being revealed in drips, but is sure to come out in a torrent, when it comes to Trump, his family and associates, and the Russians: It is NOT the cover up that's the problem. It's the crime.

Cooking Scrambled Eggs and Frozen Steaks to Perfection

Scrambled Eggs: Start cooking on medium-high heat and then, when your spatula leaves a trail through the eggs, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 30-60 seconds. This not only will produce the best tasting scrambled eggs, it will produce big beautiful pillowy curds. Also, be sure to add a little mayonnaise and/or mozzarella pieces to the eggs before whisking them into a tizzy.

Frozen Steak: Do NOT defrost/thaw before cooking. Sear the steak until it is well-browned on both sides--which should take about 90 seconds, and then cook in the oven for about 20 minutes. A frozen steak is less prone to overcook around its perimeter during searing because a frozen steak is very cold, which prevents internal overcooking while the surface reaches the very high temperature necessary to brown.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

20th Century Women (2016)

The good thing is that this movie is free on Amazon Prime and it stars Annette Bening. That it's free is not worth it and Ms. Bening can't save it. It's poorly written and all the other characters are uninteresting. Half the viewers we had watched it left after a half hour and the other half left a half hour before it was done. 

CM Security: Best Android Security App

CM Security is considered the best Android security app. It is lightweight and its scanning process is pretty fast. After finishing a scan, it lists the results of the virus scan, sms phishing vulnerability and the status of system protection. In addition, it includes a privacy advisor to identify the apps that can access your private info.This app offers various settings including scheduled scan, ignore apps list, real-time protection, safe browsing, auto-update definition, etc. Some other handy features are also available right from the menu such as Scan SD Card, Clean Up Junk, Memory Boost and Call Blocking. 

Tovala: Cooking Is So Yesterday

For just $400 you buy a Tovala oven (it looks like a microwave but it's not), and then meals are delivered and they cook themselves for $12@ in under 20 minutes. These are not frozen TV dinners. These are fresh, restaurant quality meals. You can make them your every day meals or use your Tovala oven instead of going out to a restaurant which gives you the following advantages: it's cheaper than a restaurant, parking is a non-issue, every one can have wine with their meal, and ambient noise is not a problem. 

Image result for tovala oven

Link to Tovala Website

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How to Check If You Have Been Pawned

Each time hackers manage to obtain the email addresses and account details of a company's users, and publish them online, Troy grabs a copy of the leak and adds it to its database. There are now 3.8 billion email addresses in there. If you haven't searched for your own email addresses on Troy's database, take 15 seconds to do so now. And  you might do it again from time to time just to be safe.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Trump and Those Darn Russians

As our loyal readers know, we do not do politics here. But, because tech and consumer issues often are impacted by externalities, we have decided to share the conclusions that were just reached and released by our World Trends Faculty (WTF):

WTF has sadly come to the conclusion that there are only two possible “explanations” for Trump’s “stance” on Russia, the Russians, and Putin (namely, the categorical denials he has made on behalf of himself and the higher ups in his campaign and administration that neither he nor they have had any dealings with Russia--see Link to Trump's Categorical Blanket Denials as well as his platform change on the Ukraine, his reluctance to accept U.S. intelligence re Russian hacking of the election, etc. etc.):

1. The More Benign: Trump’s “empire” is so dependent on Russian financing (from Russian oligarchs or banks or whatever) that, if they pull the plug, he would be ruined financially.


2. The Less Benign: In the alternative, or maybe in addition, Putin has something really really bad on Trump.

By way of explanation, WTF came to this conclusion reluctantly. It did so only by a rigorous process of elimination, namely, no other possible "explanation" WTF could conceive of made any sense.

PS: How to know if the Russians are coming: Link to How to Know If the Russians Are Coming





Websites Advertised on TV

For the most part, websites and apps advertised on TV are tautologically the equivalent of spam. Most of them disappear relatively soon because they are readily seen as not having caught on in the marketplace of ideas. There's a reason you don't see ads for Amazon and Facebook on TV, while you see Trivago flooding the airwaves with a very annoying guy. 

Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Amazon is launching Prime Wardrobe, a new program that will let you try on clothes before you buy them. Once you select at least three Prime Wardrobe-eligible pieces from over a million clothing options, Amazon will ship your selections to you in a resealable return box with a prepaid shipping label. After you try on the clothes, you can put the ones you don’t want back in the box and leave it at your front door — Prime Wardrobe also comes with free scheduled pickups from UPS. If you decide to keep at least three items you will get a 10 percent discount off your purchase, and if you keep five or more pieces the discount rises to 20 percent. Amazon Prime Wardrobe is currently in beta, but you can sign up to get notified when it officially launches, and when it does, it is an included service as part of your Prime Membership.

Link to Prime Wardrobe Webpage

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Glow (Season 1 Netflix)

Glow (the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) is quite good, and it gets better with each episode. While the director might have been casted better, the rest are spot on. Pete's wife (from Mad Man) is amazingly terrific. She has a fabulous range. It's possible even Marissa Tomei would not have done better. Best of all ... very little that happens is predictable and some of what happens is unpredictable. It's not a perfect series by any means, but it's truly enjoyable. 

Crazy Jim's at 15th Avenue & Indian School

Everyone knows that the real Crazy Jim's has delicious food. What everyone does not know is that they have the absolute BEST online ordering system. It's fast and easy and you can customize every order in fine detail. It's a model every restaurant should use.  

Link to Crazy Jim's Website

Desk Top Cable Clip Organizers

Our Desktop Organizer Group (DOG) has gotten sick and tired of people complaining that their device charger cord, which they keep plugged in with the connector end on a desk or side table or end table, keeps falling off the table top. So it went to work on a solution, and has one for under $7 from Amazon Prime which is simple and elegant in design and a snap to use.




Link to Clip Page on Amazon

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Yard Butler

Available from Amazon and elsewhere, easy to set up (although installing the wheels is a bit tricky) and a breeze to use, the Yard Butler speaks for itself. No more hose hassle or embarrassing hose unsightliness:

Yard Butler Compact Hose Reel, Beige

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Boardwalk Empire Season 2 and Glow Season 1

After slogging through Season 2, half of our Film and Music Entertainment (FAME) Group has said, "No mas!" There are some terrific moments and a few people who are captivating, but it was slow and often confusing to the point where one didn't know who was on which side and ultimately one stopped caring. Also, while we had no objection to the Greek tragedy revival of The Graduate (where, to understand the movie, you had to understand that Benjamin's father and Elaine's father were both Benjamin's father, and then the whole thing makes sense and is powerful), we really didn't need to see another Oedipus Rex story. With Boardwalk Empire now in the rear view mirror thankfully, it's on to Season 1 of Glow, which is a look at the personal and professional lives of a group of women who perform for a wrestling organization in Los Angeles. Who doesn't like a good wrestling series, even if it's not as good as a good cheerleader movie.

IMDb Link to Glow

PS: Based on the first two episodes of Glow (which are a half-hour each), it's not the greatest series ever, but it's different and imaginative and entertaining. As an added benefit, if you liked Mad Men, you'll be thrilled to see Pete's wife in the lead role like you've never seen her, having a fling with another Mad Men favorite. It would be better if it were based on roller derby rather than wrestling, but if you want to see something out of the ordinary, Glow is worth watching. It's produced by the same group that did Orange Is the New Black.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Furniture to Convert One Room Into Three Rooms of the Same Size

If you have one small room, and want to us it as a bedroom, an office, and a social room, the Ori System is for you. It is REALLY COOL!! Here is what it looks like with the bed out and as an office:

Image result for ori systems

But here's the key: the bed can slide back under the cabinet and the whole cabinet with bed can slide up against the wall. All the movements can be handled electronically or manually. Watch the video on the link below and be blown away and the How It Works page on the second link below:

Link to Ori Systems Furniture

Link to How It Works

PS: There's on glitch: It looks like Ori is selling them now only to developments and not to individuals. Rest assured, our Get It Now (GIN) group is on them like a cheap suit on a hot day to get them to start individual sales. In addition, GIN has brought this furniture to West Elm's attention, and they are going to explore the possibility of a distribution relationship with Ori Systems. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Brisket

Three years ago, our Culinary Arts Department (CAD) published its till-then secret remedy for cooking a delicious brisket. Our Brisket Economics Group (BEG) now wishes to disclose the economics of brisket. If you buy the brisket at a quality meat store or meat department in an upscale grocery, or even at a grocery such as Fry's or Safeway, you're going to pay a fortune. I beg to tell you it's not worth it. But, if you buy it at Costco, not only will get an excellent brisket, it will turn out to be a bargain on a per-meal-cost basis beyond your wildest dreams (providing meals at an actual cost of a couple of dollars each). So, be sure to buy at least a 6 lb brisket. You won't regret it.  

Link to Secret Brisket Recipe From Several Years Ago But It Never Gets Old

Proper Stool Cleaning

[Prefatory Note: This might be a repeat post, but our Furniture & Decor group (FAD) considers it so important that it is worth repeating]

Here is one of the more popular stools:
Image result for stools
Most people will dust it or have it dusted at least once per week and certainly just before any company arrives. The biggest mistake that people make is to leave it on the floor when cleaning because it makes it so difficult to clean the lower legs and braces that many will skip doing so. The more diligent will not skip this crucial step but they risk back injury from bending over. Here is the simple solution FAD suggests: Put the stool on a table before dusting. Then, all parts of the stool are easily reached and dusted.  

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ken's Lite Steak House Caesar Dressing PS

It's not too late to wow your people at your July 4 bbq with Ken's Lite Steak House Caesar Dressing & Marinade. Here is what one loyal reader just sent us: "I read a great review of Ken's lite Cesar on a blog I trust and, sure enough, it was a hit. ❤️❤️" This is why we do what we do! This is what makes all the hours and sweat and endurance of inclement weather we face so rewarding.

Image result for ken's steakhouse lite caesar dressing