Monday, August 21, 2017

Yom Kippur: Colonoscopy Reprieve

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Link to Pinpoint on Amazon

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Season 1 Ozark vs. Season 1 Breaking Bad

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

Currency Exchange Rate App

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Your Residential ISP's Dirty Little Secret

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fixing Outlook "Cannot Display the Folder" Error

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

Back Issues of NYT

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump "Election Rally" in Phoenix

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

Special NYT July 2 Constitution Section

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

Link to Highlights

See Your Mail Before It Arrives

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

Link to Sign Up for USPS Informed Delivery Service

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Michelle Obama Was So Right

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

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

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

By Day:

By Night:

Link to LGM Tavolo System

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Primer re Hearing Aids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to Website

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Breaking Bad (Season 1, Episode 1 Netflix)

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

Endorsement for Google Wifi (Home Mesh Network)

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

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

What the Google Wifi system looks like:


The Two Polls "They" Won't Run

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

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

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

Improving One's Self-Image and Self-Confidence

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

Link to Trump's Secret to Self-Improvement

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creating More Memory on an iPhone

[Courtesy of cnet]

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

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

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

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

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

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

And just like that, an extra 400MB.Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ozark (End of Season 1) (Netflix)

The last episode of Season 1 might not be as good as you would like, but it's certainly way better than some of the terrible season episode endings of other dramas. In any event, it's a GREAT series, with great acting, great characters, and a wonderful script and dialogue. This is must-see TV. Can't wait for the next season. 

OXO Kitchen Sink Wand Refills: A Vanishing Species

Our Food and Cleaning Team (FACT) long ago determined that the best kitchen sink wand brush was the Oxo Good grips one. Unfortunately, Oxo, in a fit of insanity, has seen to discontinue this magnificent product which has led to a world-wide shortage of  wand refills (they cannot be found at, e.g., Oxo, Amazon, eBay, Bed Bath & Beyond). After a pain-staking an exhausting search, FACT has found them at Target for just $3.99/pair. Unfortunately, unless you buy 8 pair, there is a $5.99 shipping. But given the dearth of supply, buying 8-pair makes sense anyhow. 

Here is what the wand looks like:

Image result for oxo soap dispensing wand

Here is what the refills look like:
OXO Foam Dispensing Wand Refills

Link to Oxo Wand Refills at Target

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Parlor PS (Phoenix)

Yesterday, we did a post on the noise level at the Parlor, and included our email bringing the matter to management's attention. Today, the following interchange took place, which is heartening:

Email From Alice on Behalf of The Parlor: "I always appreciate any feedback my customers may have for us.  You are not alone. Most recently we have switched the music provider that we use and are trying very hard to dial in the system.  We have learned that some of the songs can be a bit louder than others.  That being said, always feel free to ask that the music be turned down.  We are here to try to accommodate everyone the best that we can. Thank you for your support throughout the years.  We hope to see you very soon.  Let me know if I can assist in any other way."

Response to Alice: "1. Thanks for the response. It’s most appreciated. 2. I actually did raise the issue with our server, and she said, “I apologize that it’s so loud, and I agree it’s too loud, but there’s nothing I can do. It won’t be lowered.” I didn’t want to make a fuss there, and that led me almost to not send the email. Then, I thought about it, I figured I owed it to The Parlor,  given how much I enjoy the food, to raise the issue despite what the server had said. Again, thanks."

Reply From Alice: "I'm sorry to hear that. They should absolutely let us know. This is a great opportunity for me to have a chat with everyone about the music etc.  Thank you."

Google Flights Price Tracking

Although it does not include Southwest, Google Flights is a very easy and powerful tool to find and compare flights. One nice feature is the Tracker, which you can turn on or off. Not only will it alert you to price changes on your selected flight(s), it will warn you of an expected price change hours ahead of it going into effect.

Link to Google Flights

Google Keyboard (Gboard)

If you haven't looked at the Google Keyboard (Gboard) lately, it's worth a look. It's become our keyboard of choice (in place of Hacker's Keyboard and others that have been tried). The keyboard is highly customizable in look and feel and layout and colors and function, and it's very smart. It not only anticipates possible word choices, it anticipates phrases. It will work on both Android and iOS devices. 

Link to Gboard Download on Play

Link to Gboard Download on Apple Store

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Parlor (Phoenix)

The food is still very good, but watch out for the noise. One patron who ate there quite recently sent them an email that read as follows: "I’ve been eating at the Parlor since it opened. I love the food, both the variety and how everything tastes. The place is lovely and the parking is great. That said, my last two visits—one at dinner and one at lunch—have been unbearable because of the noise level. While the place was filled at dinner, it was not at lunch today, yet the music was so loud that we could not hear ourselves sitting next to each other at a table. At dinner, none of the four of us sitting across from each other in a booth could hear each other. I am not complaining in that I totally understand that I might be alone on this issue and you have the complete right to set the ambiance any way you want. But I thought I’d be helpful in reporting this feedback in case I’m not alone. In all events, when the weather is such that sitting outside is possible, I shall return because, as noted, the food is so good."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Stopping Extreme Weather and Other Alerts on Your Cellphone

By default, most cellphones are set to send you push notifications of extreme weather and other matters. To stop them (at least on Android devices), go to Settings/Messages and then uncheck the warnings or notices you do not want to get. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trump's Favorite TV Moment

We do not do politics, but we've just learned by a leak from a very high ranking confidential source in the White House, what is Trump's favorite TV moment. And it's not because it's just 10 seconds in viewing length, but because it captures Trump's essence. Watch and learn my friends, watch and learn: Link to Trump's Favorite TV Moment