Friday, March 23, 2018

Beef Marsala Stew

Meat and potatoes, real comfort food, done up right.  Marsala wine, cipollini onions, button mushrooms and thyme are the secret ingredients.  And there's just something real nice about doing all the cleanup, except the crock pot, hours ahead of dinner, especially when a meal like this makes you want to couch potato for awhile.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


My wife had this cute techno-geek idea to decorate the wall behind my home office desk and I ordered these three black, 6 inch high, 1/8th inch thick wooden characters, in a Times New Roman Bold font.  They are so light I was able to scissor and stick little pieces of Command brand adhesive strips to their backs and mount them near-flush to the wall.  Less than $28 total for this unique, and totally me,  adornment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Adding Preview File Types For Text Files

The Windows Preview Pane will display ".txt" files, but many others files are really text but have other extensions.  For the slightly brave at heart, there's a fix for that, but it takes some changes to the Windows registry.

Open the registry editor (regedit.exe) and navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.ext, where ".ext" is the extension you want to add, such as ".bat" in the example below.  Add two new string values of type REG_SZ named "Content Type" and "PerceivedType".  Note that one of these has a space in the middle and the other does not.  Set the value of Content Type to "text/plain" and PerceivedType to "text'.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Windows Explorer Preview Pane

In Windows Explorer, the shortcut ALT+P brings up the preview pane, as shown below on the right.  For any file type that Windows has a preview function defined, you get a preview.  Since I have Microsoft Office on my work laptop, it knows about Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, and others, like Text files, will also display.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Three-Way Light Bulbs

Add converting lamps from 1-way to 3-way as a skill I didn't know I had.  But really, it's simple, with the hardest part removing the existing socket from the screw post.  Only costs a couple bucks for the new socket.

Look closely at the sockets in the picture below.  The socket on the left is a 1-way switch, the one on the right the 3-way.  The 3-way has a silver tab on the black tab at the bottom, and that's the extra connection that's needed.  The 3-way bulb will have a matching connections.  Those two connections allow for the three levels of light.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Cheesy Vegetable Manicotti

No meat?  No problem.  And this is a great make-ahead dish.

The yellow squash and zucchini are cut up into small pieces, the onion and garlic are cooked until softened and it's all combined with ricotta, parmesan and an egg to stuff the shells.  Surround all that loveliness with tomato sauce, more parmesan and a heaping helping of mozzarella on top.

Drooling yet?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chrome Task Manager

Every once in a while my web browsing slows down, usually accompanied by the Macbook Air's fan coming on, a sure sign its twin-core i5 processor is being asked to do too much.  To find the tabs causing the most demand (because I always have lots of tabs open), I use Chrome's Task Manager, found in "More Tools".  In the particular case below, the Weather Channel and WDTN News were clearly the big users, so I closed them out to relieve the CPU stress and return the other tabs to their normally snappy behavior.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I play only only game on my smartphone, the Klondike Solitaire version from Softick.  I like its smooth animation as you drag cards and piles around and the clean look, better than others I've tried.  There are a ton of options, including a left-handed mode which flips the game 180 degrees.  I tried that once and found it very discomforting, as my brain is "programmed" the other way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Voice Notes With Google Keep

Sorry, Android only.

The Google Assistant can be used to add notes to Google Keep.  Just say "Take a note" and the Assistant will ask, "Sure, what's the note?"  Whatever you say will be converted to text and added to Keep.  On my Google Pixel 2, all I have to do is unlock the phone with my fingerprint and squeeze the sides on the bottom half to bring up the assistance, enabling single-hand operation.  This is my favorite new technology buddy.

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Taste Of Wine

This was a great venue for last weekend's bridal shower and the owner, Urmila, did an awesome job of setting up the store and helping in every possible way.  Located in downtown Miamisburg, Ohio, it's also a great place to stop in for a glass of wine.  I'm looking forward to the outside patio as soon as we can drive winter back north where it belongs.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Oh baby!  Yes, this is as good (and big) as the picture shows.  Besides the very visible inclusion of bacon, this recipe uses milk-soaked bread instead of bread crumbs.  Add a unique tomato sauce (brown sugar is one of my favorite food groups) and this will happily feed a large group.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Medicare Coverage

This graphic provided the simple overview of Medicare I needed for retirement planning.  You start by selecting one of two paths.  For Original Medicare, the feds pick up the cost of the Hospital Insurance and you pay for Medical Insurance (e.g. doctor's visits).  Then you decide if you want Prescription Drug Coverage and a Medigap policy, which pays all the copays.  Medicare Advantage has a lower monthly cost, but runs like an HMO with a selected doctor network, copays and deductibles, but comes at a lower monthly cost.  All the details are in this PDF document from the Medicare website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Collage Makers

I normally build photo collages directly in Google Photos, but its lack of options to place photos where I want them led me to look for other online tools.  FotoJet does a nice job, it's simple to use and its basic free (I love free) collages are fine for most purposes, but you can get fancy.  Also check out Canva, Fotor and BeFunky and see which you like the best.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Screen To GIF

So yesterday I introduced you to Solari displays and the Flapper demo.  To capture the display on my web browser screen I used the free (I love free) ScreenToGif utility, which allows you to record a selected area of your screen, edit it, then save it as a GIF or video.  So as not to bore you with a repeat of yesterday's animation, I took a YouTube video from my personal channel of surfers in Munich, Germany trying to navigate man-made waves.  Dudes were crazy.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Solari Displays

I've always been fascinated with train station displays that clicky-clack and flap through characters as they update.  Thanks to Justin Sheckler, who wrote a jQuery plugin and some CSS to emulate that physical display (known as a Solari display), you can create a display like the one below, or you can get brave and use his code to build one to your liking.  He provides it free (I love free) under the MIT license.

Tomorrow I'll show you how I built the animated GIF below.  If you don't see the animation, try clicking on it.

Friday, March 2, 2018

7 Layer Salad

Get up early, get out your favorite knife and start cutting, chopping and cubing to prepare this delicious bad boy to satisfy company.  If there's a vegetarian in the house, keep the bacon to one side.  The dressing turns this from your average dinner salad into a "can-I-have-another-scoop?" pleaser.

  • For the salad
    • 6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
    • 8 ounces grape tomatoes, cut in half
    • 1 english cucumber, cubed (small)
    • 4 stalks celery, chopped
    • 16 ounce bag frozen peas
  • For the dressing
    • 1 ½ cups Hellman's mayonnaise
    • ½ cup sour cream
    • 3 tbsp vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sugar
  • For the topping
    • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
    • 12 ounces applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 1 bunch of green onions, finely minced
  • Combine dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.
  • In a 9”x13” dish layer the salad ingredients. Start with a layer of romaine lettuce, then a layer of tomatoes, a layer of cucumbers, a layer of celery and a layer of peas.  
  • Pour the dressing over the top of the peas and spread to cover, bringing the dressing all the way out to the edges of the dish.
  • Sprinkle the cheese, bacon and green onions on top.
  • Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cigar Humidifier

For years I've messed around with those expensive cigar humidifiers that attempt to reach the proper 68-74% humidity range, and the picture at the bottom right shows the I didn't achieve.  Those I threw that out and bought a couple of plain kitchen sponges, put a dry one on bottom and placed a wet one on top.  The picture at the bottom left notes my success, now in clearly the good range.  On top of that, it's now so much easier to maintain than before.  Double score! 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Datally for Android

This app by Google (sorry, Android only) can help you manage and reduce your cellular data usage, which they claim is around a nice 30%.  But what I really like is the "Find Wi-Fi" feature that clearly labels nearby networks as "No password", "Password" or "Web login", ending that guessing game.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tangle-Free Earbuds Holder Case

We got tired of tangled earbuds and found this really cool, flexible solution.  You peel down the sides, insert the buds into the middle and wrap the cord around the side.  You peel the sides back up and no more mess.  Even works with my oversized, over-the-ear buds.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Celebrity Edge

We have to wait a year and a few days before we embark on our next cruise journey, this one on the brand-new Celebrity Edge to the eastern caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Tortola and St. Maarten.  One of the coolest features are the Infinite Verandas, staterooms that go right to the water’s edge.  This will be a great retirement gift.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sheet Pan Hawaiian Shrimp

I think the picture sells it.

Just slide a spatula beneath to serve a plate of rice, pineapple, red bell pepper, shrimp, cilantro and the delicious drizzle.  Quick, easy, minimal cleanup.  What's not to love?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cocoa Beach Pier

Between tired feet from Monday's all-day walk through Universal Studios and the continued mid-80's temperatures in Central Florida, Tuesday was a road trip over to Cocoa Beach on the east coast.  Nice to chill out at the tiki bar and lay out on the beach.  Water was inviting, but a chilly 68, so no wave jumping this time.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Platform 9 3/4

A fun visual effect entering platform 9 3/4's to board the Hogwarts Express train between the Universal Studios Orlando parks. Just like the movies, people appear to be walking directly into a brick wall from this photo opportunity spot.  The ride was just as fun as your greeted by Harry, Hagrid, dementors and chocolate frogs.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Download Your Google Data

Google makes it real easy to download your email, calendar, contacts and most other data you have in their services.  To submit your request, follow the "Download your Data" link at this support page, select one or more (or all) of the products you want and answer a few questions on what format and how you want to save it.  It takes from a few minutes to several hours depending on how much data you're asking to export.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Natural Gas Shopping

We just saved 8.5% by switching to AEP Energy as my gas supplier.  Could have saved slightly more but didn't like the $150 early termination fee in the Ohio Natural Gas offer.  This all started when we received a piece of snail mail with an offer that was 14% higher that our current rate, which prompted us to visit this Ohio's Energy Choice website and look for offers.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Chicken and Broccoli Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash

A double shot of veggies, with chicken and cheese served in the squash's half shell.  Baking and cooling the squash takes a couple hours, so this isn't a good choice if you're in a hurry.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Meaty Cheesy Chicken Sliders

Super Bowl Sunday dinner included these over-the-top baked roast beef and cheddar cheese sliders, the insides of the buns slathered with a provolone, mayonnaise and scallions spread and then drizzled with melted butter, onion, parmesan cheese, worcestershire and red chili flakes.  The jalapenos were our choice for the topper, adding some heat to all that flavor.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Checking Your Browser's Encryption Level

TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) are the acronyms for the standards used to encrypt data between your web browser and the website you're visiting.  As bugs in these standards are discovered, they can be exploited to steal your data, and using the best is a good idea.  TLS 1.2 is the latest and greatest, followed backwards in time by TLS 1.1, TLS 1.0, SSL 3.0 and SSL 2.0.  Keeping your web browser up-to-date is critical to keeping your computer safe, and with some websites beginning to accept only TLS 1.2, you might like to verify where you're at, and this website is your click away from knowing.  My Chrome web browser gets their highest rating "Probably Okay", but better wording might be "The Best Available, At Least For Now", as TLS 1.3 is around the corner.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Southwind Shortcut

I get to the Walmart located near the Dayton Mall by taking Southwind Drive, seen below at the top right corner of the map, which is a backdoor shortcut that avoids the Kingsridge/SR-725 congestion, when traveling east-to-west (i.e. right-to-left), my typical path.  Southwind winds behind several buildings and it looks like you'll dead-end into I-675, but stay on it and you'll get to the less busy side of the Walmart parking lot.  There is a light at Southwind and SR-725, particularly useful for making the return trip.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Squirrel's Stash

Takes a day to spice up a bottle of rye whiskey with orange, clove and cinnamon spices, but the resulting flavor is worth the wait.  Added to some dry sherry and Cointreau and you have a "Squirrel's Stash", a cute but nonsensical name with a nice kick.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Water Powered Backup Sump Pump

At a previous house I had a sump pump that would run quite a bit during rainy weather, so when the power went out I was left with a basement mess.  I ended up installing a backup pump that included a large battery, which worked but was yet another device to maintain.  So when I found out they have backup sump pumps that use the regular home water supply for its power, I was amazed, even if I don't have water problems any more.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Turkey Breast With Lemon And Caper Sauce

Change things up a little and buy some turkey breasts instead of the normal chicken.  After a couple hours of basting and cooking down a reduction sauce, the turkey explodes with flavors of lemon, capers, garlic and spices.  A good choice for a laid back Sunday.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

ZXing QR Code Generator

Those blocky QR (Quick Response) codes can encode more than just a web URL and the most useful one (IMHO) is for contact information.  Instead of handing out a business card that has to be manually entered (and usually isn't), they can simply scan it and add it to their contacts.  My favorite online QR generator is ZXing, short for "zebra crossing", which can encode nine different types of information.  Add that to the back of your next business card.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hunter Refurbished Fan

The office makeover was completed with the installation of a new ceiling fan and light.  We opted for a refurbished model at half the price of a new one and you can't tell the difference.  We did upgrade the provided, but under-powered, CFL bulbs with a pair of daylight, 100-watt-equivalent LED's which further brightened up the room.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Home Office Makeover

I'm getting too old for this, but not yet too old to do this.  The home office recently got a paint job and new rug, which really freshened things up.  The taping and painting are laborious enough, but the real chore was moving most everything out of the office, then moving the desk and file cabinet around to paint the ceiling.  The most pleasant surprise came from the "HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams" paint which covered the old brown walls in one coat with minimal dripping.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Centimeters to Inches Conversion

I just love a good design and this web site, which simply converts between metric and standard lengths, caught my eye.  You can enter millimeters, centimeters, inches or fractions of an inch and it will convert that number to the other fields.  But really cool part is the ruler and the red line that visually shows the length.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fresh Pasta With 20 Minute Sausage And Beef Bolognese Sauce

This winter has needed more than its share of comfort food and here's another that's sure to please.  I love the combination of ground beef and italian sausage with the usual assortment of tomato, onion, garlic and spices, but the wide, egg pasta noodles pushed it over the top.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bumper Sticker Removal

The surprising answer, at least to me, on how to remove bumper stickers is to heat them with a hair dryer, or better yet, a heat gun.  It just softens the glue enough to make them (at least relatively) easy to pull off.  Any remaining glue can be removed with a product like Goo Gone For Cars.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Storage Bins

Organizing our home office closet took a leap forward with these cute storage bins with their rope handles.  It's amazing how much little stuff we have and sorting them by use, for example all the CD/DVD/cases in one, makes it so much easy to find exactly what you're looking for.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cutting Across The Grain

I've been told all my life to cut meat "across the grain", but like most advice it doesn't really stick until I know why it's the right thing.  Seemed like cutting "with the grain" was easier, and it is, but cutting "across the grain" makes the eating easier, which is certainly the better tradeoff.  Now that I know why, I won't have to be told again.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Lazesoft Recovery

I hope you never experience the sinking feeling of despair when you realize you're locked out of your Windows PC, racking your brain for the password that's just beyond your reach.  Lazesoft, a free (I love free) utility just might be your salvation.  It's a Swiss army knife of utilities that would make MacGyver proud.  Don't wait, install it asap, create a bootable CD or USB drive and sleep well tonight.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Roasted Chicken With Croutons

This chicken is stuffed with onions, thyme, rosemary, garlic and spices, then placed atop five, two-inch-thick, buttered baguette slices in a cast-iron skillet.  When the bird is done in the oven, the scrapings, stock, wine and other ingredients create a reduction sauce.  Combined with the bread and the chicken, this meal is pure chicken happiness.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One Foot Nylon Braided Lightning to USB Charging Cable

In situations, like charging your phone in a car, where having a short cable is preferable but the resulting bending puts too much stress on a normal cable that it comes apart, this nylon braided cable, all of one foot long, can be your solution.  This one is sold in a 4-pack, but at $12 isn't a budget buster.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brookstone Floating Speaker

Yes it floats, but with all the hot tub jets churning up water it will cut in and out as it bobs up and down, so you're better off leaning it on its side, which also directs the sound towards you instead of the sky. Also useful in the shower, the beach or a canoe ride, anywhere water is a threat. Sound is OK, but nothing to write home about.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hot Screens App

One built-in feature on my Mac I simply love is being able to lock it up just by moving my mouse to the bottom-right corner of the screen.  This free (I love free) utility will do the same for Windows, and like the Mac, the other three corners can perform actions also.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Las Penas Mexican Grocery & Restaurant

Hands down the best Mexican food around these parts.  The Chorizo torta pictured here was delicious and their tacos are equally yummy.  Can't wait to try everything on their menu.  You order at a window at the back of the store then grab a beverage from a cooler and have a seat.  They bring your food out to your table, and when you're finished you go up to the front counter and tell them what you had to pay.  Old fashioned service as good as the food.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Taco Pockets

Combine a spicy burger with the traditional taco fillings and wrap it up in a tortilla (I'm a flour guy).  But cutting it diagonally is the magic, leaving two pockets that don't fall apart and are easy to eat.  Plan on making one or two extras, as your clan will be yelling more, more, more!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Update Files In Google Drive

After making a PDF publicly available from my Google Drive, I needed to make some updates, but uploading a new version would create a new document with a new ID.  The existing link would still point to the old version, not the new.  Fortunately Google has this one covered.  Just right-click the PDF, select "Manage Versions" and upload the updated PDF.  That will replace the old with the new using the same ID.  Google will keep the previous version around for 30 days, just in case you need it again.