Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Samsung TV Plus

I recently discovered that the Samsung 32" TV I use as a monitor for my Mac Mini includes Samsung TV Plus, an Internet-delivered collection of about 158 channels, for free.  Not that I really need more stuff to watch, already having Spectrum, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, ESPN+ and Disney+, but you never know.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Jeep Taillight Assembly Replacement

I've probably replaced taillight bulbs at least ten times but doing that recently did not work.  I had to buy a whole new taillight assembly from Amazon and then use the tips I found at the YouTube link below to make quick work of the installation.  The trick to removing the wiring connector is to slide the red tab to the left first, then squeeze and wiggle the connector free.  Compared to many vehicles, Jeep made it really easy to work on their taillights.  Can't say the same for their headlights.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

3D Baby Yoda

No, baby Yoda did not really make an appearance in our home office, it's a rather amazing 3D image of the tyke that was created using my Google Pixel 2.  Search on "Baby Yoda", find and tap the “View in 3D button” and finally tap “See the Child in your space”.  Point the phone at the floor and voila, Baby Yoda appears.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon recently announced their "Sidewalk" initiative, where they will use your Echo and Ring devices, and a small part of your Internet bandwidth, to provide you, and others (that's the rub) with better Internet connectivity.  Aside from the inevitable security breaches this will create, the real issue is that Amazon is going to automatically opt you in for this sharing instead of asking your permission.  

I say nay nay.  Not going to happen here.  I went into my Alexa app and disabled the "feature".

Monday, December 21, 2020

SpaceX Launches

I've watched at least a dozen SpaceX rocket launches and it just doesn't get old.  Most go off like clockwork, with more rescheduled due to weather than rocket issues.  The rocket shown below is one of their Falcon 9's, the mainstay of the SpaceX fleet, and this one has now flown seven times.  This first stage went on to land on "Just Read The Instructions", one of two drone recovery ships named after spaceships found in the Culture sci-fi novels by Iain Banks.  

This link will take you to the landing page where you can watch recent launches or get information on the next planned launch.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Stuffed Vegetables

You just need 6 ingredients, 20 minutes of prep time, and 30 minutes of enjoy-a-glass-of-wine-while-baking time to indulge yourself in a hot and satisfying dinner with minimal cleanup.  The recipe card below shows that it makes 6 servings for 68 cents each, but not knowing the age of this, don't hold me to that.  But if Chef Elaine kept this recipe around this long, you know it's good.


Thursday, December 17, 2020


Chalk this one up to learning the hard way.

Last month while trying to navigate back from the bathroom, in a hotel room, in the middle of the night, I somehow managed to not quite land squarely on the bed, resulting in a heads-first, blind tumble into a wall, which unfortunately was textured.  So in addition to a good bump on the noggin, I ended up with a bit of a bloody mess on my scalp.  

The root cause was I couldn't see where I was going and so I bought the box of mini-flashlights shown below, add one to my travel bag to illuminate the way.  They're plenty bright enough for a middle-of-the-night bathroom trip, but not so bright as to stir a sleeping wife.

Perhaps a Christmas stocking stuffer for someone you love?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Smoke Alarm Batteries

With the approaching winter, it's a good time to replace the batteries on all your smoke alarms, then verify that they work, because you never know when you might have just installed a dead battery.  I keep a yearly reminder on my Google Calendar so my memory isn't an issue.  

Check the date on the battery first.  The ones I just installed below all have "MAR 2025" in the lower right-hand corner, so they should be good to go.  The procedure to change your batteries, an example at the link below, may not match your particular model, so search around the Internet to find the right one if you're unsure how to proceed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Rotating Flat Plug Extension Cord

The photo below demonstrates two useful ways to help with decorating for Christmas.

First, the extension cord has a rotating plug, so if the outlet would otherwise cause the cord to first head down before having to twist back up, it helps eliminate the extra wear-and-tear on the cord.  You can find the 3-foot version I used at the link below.

Second, instead of plugging the Alexa-enabled smart plug into the wall, which would cause the hutch to move out a couple more inches from the wall, I plugged it into the end of the extension cord where it is less obtrusive.  That might seem obvious, but in my case, not so much as I normally plug them into the wall, and putting it at the end of the cord just seemed wrong.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Sports Illustrated

It's too bad that sports have embraced fuzzy, good-soundbite social causes and debate-killing political correctness to the point of nauseousness, but a recent copy of Sports Illustrated magazine was so bad that the only good purpose it had was to soak up some water under one of our indoor potted plants.  Not needing a costly subscription just to save our Pergo floors, we'll be getting one less thing in our mailbox.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Just Crack An Egg

This doesn't beat an old-fashioned home-cooked breakfast, but if you're on the run and want to stick to a low-cal/low-carb diet, a Just Crack an Egg might be your ticket.  You just crack a fresh egg over the chopped veggies, shredded cheese, meat, etc., stir it up, then microwave for a minute or two (depends on your microwave).  Stuff a couple in your fridge for those mornings you're in a rush or just want something easy.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

IP Tools

Am I having a wireless problem or an Internet connection issue?  How to tell?

Faced with the dilemma recently I used an app called IP Tools, which is available for both Android and iOS, to ping the router in my house.  If the pings ran consistently fast, the problem would be with Spectrum's Internet service.  In my case, I could see very inconsistent ping times during those periods where I was getting buffering trying to stream Netflix.  That solidly put the problem inside my house, but what component?

The telltale sign was that while the pings were slowed down, they never got dropped.  That means the air portion of the wireless network wasn't the culprit, but the router itself.  Since pings are the lowest priority packets for the router to process, the problem pointed to a CPU bottleneck on the router.  Instead of exploring that further, I opted to upgrade to the Google Nest Wi-Fi triplets I blogged about yesterday. (Android) (iOS)

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Google Nest Wi-Fi

Our house got a major wireless upgrade last weekend with the installation of three Google Nest Wi-Fi routers.  We now have one on each floor of the house and they form a seamless mesh and work together to get each device the best signal.  Our house isn't all that big but has mainly plaster walls and Wi-Fi doesn't penetrate them well, so the new configuration minimizes the number of walls it has to punch through.  The results are great Wi-Fi coverage throughout and everything works faster.

Since we have three wired devices in our home office (can I still call it an office in retirement?) and the Google Nest Wi-Fi only has one available downstream port, we had to purchase a 5-port Ethernet switch, the black box on the right below, which brings the total number of electrical plugs in use in this one room to 18, which was put on its own circuit breaker a couple years ago.  That was smart. (Google Nest Wi-Fi) (Netgear Ethernet Switch)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Jeff Dunham's Holiday Special

We're big fans of Jeff Dunham and were thrilled to see he produced a holiday special this year.  It's full of COVID jokes, but the best part is his back-and-forth with Peanut (the purple guy below) about passwords that is reminiscent of the famous "who's on first" by Abbott and Costello.  You can watch it on-demand on Comedy Central or search for an upcoming time to record it, which in our setup is this Saturday (12/12/2000) at noon on CMT.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Christmas Chronicles 2

It's really difficult to make a sequel that's anywhere near as good as the original, but Netflix clearly accomplishes that feat with Christmas Chronicles 2.  Starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, the movie brings the magic of Santa's North Pole village to life as it's threatened by a banished elf.  Grab a box of tissues and a bag of popcorn and enjoy another instant Christmas movie classic.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple

We all know that bacon makes everything better, but the rarely-used bottle of maple syrup is the star of this show.  Chef Elaine cut the Brussels sprouts in half and seared them in leftover bacon fat until they began to caramelize.  They then get baked in the oven until nicely charred.  Departing the oven, the sprouts are set aside and shallots and cumin are added to the pan, cooked a couple minutes to open up their flavors, then the magic maple syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper are added and whisked until all bubbly.  The sprouts are added back to the pan, which is then removed from the heat, minced chives added and everything swirled around until evenly coated.  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with crumbled bacon.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

ZingZang Margarita Mix

I've made many "Perfect Margaritas" using the recipe made famous by Applebee's, but that means pulling out several bottles and a lot of measuring.  Since we already are a fan of ZingZang's Bloody Mary mix, we thought we would give their Margarita Mix a try, using the handy package of 8-ounce cans shown below.  Mix together one can of the mix with 3-4 ounces of Don Julio tequila, and a splash of Club Soda and serve with a lime wedge if you wish some extra curb appeal.  It's the best version of a quick-and-easy Margarita we've found so far.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Metal Credit Cards

If you haven't tried to cut up one of the new metal credit cards, well, it's going to take more than the pair of scissors you used to destroy the plastic variety.  I ended up using a pair of tin snips, as shown below, to carve it into tiny little pieces.

Other ways to deal with these cards are listed at the link below, with the most entertaining being using a blowtorch or a fire pit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Wright Brothers At Woodland Cemetery

Among the many rich and famous buried at Woodland Cemetery, The Wright Brothers are arguably the most recognizable.  Below the vertical Wright monument are Orville, Wilbur, and their sister Katerine, their parents Milton and Susan, and their twin siblings, Otis and Ida, both of which died within a month of their birth.  Also buried elsewhere in Woodland is the famous brother's older sibling Lorin, while their oldest sibling, Reuchlin, is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.

The pennies, seashells, and small toys on top of the graves shown below are left by visitors letting them know that they visited.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Dayton Skyline

One of the coolest views of the Dayton skyline comes from the perch that is Lookout Terrace at Woodland Cemetery, located across Stewert Street from the University of Dayton.  From there you're looking to the northwest and are high enough to put the treetops at the bottom of your view.   

Walking through Woodland is a history lesson from the Civil War forward and helps explain where so many of our local street names came from.  It's a hilly walk, but worth the extra effort.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Monte Cristo Breakfast Sandwich

This recipe is a breakfast, lunch, and with enough maple syrup, dessert combined into one.  You start by making French toast and setting aside.  Add beaten eggs to a skillet with a tablespoon of melted butter, place French toast on top (last picture), and cook until the eggs are firm.  Then comes the hardest part, flipping the entire thing upside down in one piece.  Divide it with one French toast on each side, then add cheese, ham, and turkey (middle picture).  When the cheese is melted, fold each half over and serve with (did I already say) ... maple syrup!

Thursday, November 26, 2020


As geeky as I can sometimes (i.e. always) be, the credit goes to my wife's eldest son for making me realize that our HBO subscription with Spectrum cable includes the HBO Max streaming service.  It took a while to figure out how to add that to our Amazon Fire TV Cube devices, but now we're ready (yeah!) for the Christmas day release of "Wonder Woman 1984".  The link below will take you directly to the page where you can add HBO Max to your Amazon device.  If you only have other streaming devices (e.g. Apple TV, Chromecast) at your disposal, your luck can vary, as HBO Max is not readily available on all the most popular devices.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

One Cow Apart

It's not often that I get a chuckle off of COVID-related instructions, but this sign at Dot's Market in Kettering did the trick.  And I really like that it's made out of burnable cardboard, as I'm sure there will be many bonfires lit when this is over.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Squirrel Defense

My older brother built this plank-mounted version of an electric fence as a non-lethal deterrent to the squirrel population, leaving the seeds in the birdfeeder to their intended audience.  It uses a Patriot PE2 Electric Fence Energizer found at the link below, which includes a few videos showing just how effective this solution is, and just how far small animals can jump if juiced properly (pun intended).

Monday, November 23, 2020

1945 Dayton Street Map

During my genealogy work, I have encountered several cases where streets or parts of streets where my ancestors lived no longer exist.  The most recent case was a street named Stillwater Avenue that didn't show up on a Google search.  I had to find an old Dayton map with a street cross-reference, in this case from 1945, that included Stillwater Avenue and found that it was replaced with the current, southern-most section of Riverside Drive, where it terminates at the bridge to cross the Great Miami River and become Patterson Blvd on the southern side.

The map shows that Riverside Drive followed the river back then all the way until it terminated, instead of the current route where it follows the river until it goes under I-75, then bends right, away from the river, to line up with Patterson Blvd.  That land east of the current Riverside Drive is where Temple Israel and the Korean War Veterans Memorial now stand.

You can download a PDF of the 1945 map at this link.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Shortcut Basil Pesto Lasagna

We're steadily adding vegetarian recipes to our collection, but only those that the rest of our meat-eating family will surely appreciate.  This lasagna includes lots of mozzarella, Parmesan, and ricotta cheese and features a homemade Alfredo sauce and homemade pesto.  Since a vegetarian recipe should have a vegetable included, spinach fills that role and adds some extra color.  

Kudos to Chef Elaine for yet another great feast!

Thursday, November 19, 2020


We have two closets in our house that don't have lights and could really use them, but instead of going through the trouble of getting an electrical circuit installed we opted for this battery-powered, motion-detecting LED alternative.  You just insert three AA batteries, remove the covering over the sticky mounting plate and press it wherever works best.  I don't know how often we'll have to replace the batteries, but most of the drain will come from the light sensor that detects motion, as the LEDs will be on at most one minute a week.  At under $13, it's an effective solution for our needs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Turn Signal On

A few months ago I discovered my 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee had a feature I was totally unaware of, that being a warning that I had left a turn signal on too long.  I had made a swooping left turn that did not turn off the turn signal and I didn't realize that.  A mile later the Jeep makes the "beep-beep" sound that usually means a door or liftgate was not totally closed, then after a few seconds, I noticed the message "TURN SIGNAL ON" displayed in the Vehicle Information Center display.  I wish I had the wits enough to take a picture of that to share, but it did lead me to look up other messages that could potentially also be displayed, as shown below.

I've either never had that feature on any of my other cars or this is the first time I've ever left a turn signal on that long (which is kind of hard to believe).  In any case, it's a cool feature. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Touchup Cup

We saw these on the TV show Shark Tank and they solved two big problems, first, that gallon paint cans take up a lot of storage space, and second, after a few years the metal cans rust around the inside of the lid and ruin the paint.  We took six partial gallons and poured them into the containers below and labeled each with the manufacturer's number, name, date, and the room we used it in.  To use it, just shake it (each cup has a circular spring in it to help in mixing) then unscrew the cap.

This invention was created by a kid named Carson in West Chester, Ohio who saw the problem with stored paint and decided to create a solution.

Monday, November 16, 2020


My 37-month-old Pixel 2's battery was failing to hold a charge and since the smartphone in all other ways is still working great (and looks brand new), it was time for a battery replacement.  My normal place, Batteries+Bulbs, to my surprise does not offer that service for my phone, so I went looking for another option and found uBreakiFix, located on SR-741 just south of Spring Valley Pike.  According to the staff there, performing the necessary phone surgery on a Pixel 2 is very demanding and time-consuming compared to other types of smartphones, but they had it done in about 4 hours and now I'm good for another 3+ years or maybe when the Pixel 8 comes out...

Friday, November 13, 2020

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Chicken Stew

This chicken stew gets a kick from its onion, cumin, fire-roasted tomatoes, and chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.  It makes a great addition to your slow-cooker recipe rotation.  You can either serve on tortillas or just ladle a good-sized portion (last picture), then top either way with cheese, avocado, and cilantro.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Lessons In Cybersecurity

The "A few words about..." series of short videos in the YouTube playlist at the link below, from the University of Dayton's Center for Cybersecurity & Data Intelligence, is a great place to get good advice to keep yourself safe online.  I would add that perhaps the most important thing when online is to "SLOW DOWN", think before you click, and keep a suspicious mind at all times.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Amazing Mayonnaise

An accidental circular water stain once (dis)graced this end table.  My wife looked up how to remedy that and found a very surprising answer: mayonnaise.  She squirted some on the stain and rubbed it in with her fingers, then repeated that a couple hours later.  Stain ... gone!   Mayo is made mainly from oil (e.g. canola, avocado, safflower, etc.) which seeps into the finish and displaces the moisture.  More techniques for removing water stains can be found in this Bob Villa article.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Gutter Hose

I can't believe I didn't post this back in 2013 when I was faced with gutters filled with frozen ice.  I tried chipping out the ice to no avail.  I tried using a small blowtorch (a really dumb idea) and got nowhere.  A little Internet searching provided some hope, but it didn't seem possible, which fortunately didn't stop me from trying.  As per the directions at the link below, I bought a pair of pantyhose, cut off the waist, filled a leg with calcium chloride driveway salt, and laid it on top of a section of frozen gutter.  The next morning I got back up on the ladder and to my complete surprise, that section of gutter was completely clear of ice.  Bought more pantyhose, more salt and repeated the process and by the next day, the gutters were all clear.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Fall Meatloaf

This recipe is a complete Thanksgiving dinner in a loaf, combining ground turkey, stuffing crumbs, onions, celery, garlic, and eggs topped with a sauce of simmered ketchup, jellied cranberries, and a whole jalapeno (which is removed but is essential for the right kick).  The turkey mixture will be quite wet, so our suggestion is to put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two to help give it some stiffness, which will help you form it into a loaf.  The addition of sweet potato wedges for the last 45 minutes of baking completes the feast.  Like a Thanksgiving feast, you'll happily have leftovers for several days.

Thursday, November 5, 2020


After a long wait, and a helpful visit to the store to find they actually had received it a week or two ago, the last piece of new living room furniture is in place, a La-Z-Boy rocker/recliner.  While I'm not a big fall-asleep-in-a-chair type of person, this bad boy is going to seriously test that.  Now that the furniture is in place, we move on to painting, replacing the drapes and rug to match the walls and furniture, and cap it off with a coffee table.  2020 has been a big year for house projects, as I expect many folks are also saying. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

An Act to Encourage the Killing of Squirrels

In early Ohio, this little guy below would have been in imminent danger, as I would have been compelled by the 1807 state law, “An Act to Encourage the Killing of Squirrels" in our area to turn in 100 squirrel scalps per year or face a 3 cent fine for each I was short.  While that was a short-lived law as the severe winter of 1807-1808 took out a lot of these furry critters, by 1822 they had made such a comeback that organized hunting parties across the state took out about 20,000 of them.  

Back then squirrels were a major threat to corn and other crops and people "worked the summer to survive the winter".  So however cute you might have thought they were, your stomach ruled the day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Lunar Halo

Last Saturday we were a bit confused with a first-of-our-lifetime experience of seeing a large ring around the moon.  Turned out to be a Lunar Halo, the light being refracted and reflected by high-altitude ice crystals.  It did add some extra spookiness to the Halloween evening.

According to rhyming folklore, 

"A ring around the sun or moon 

  means rain or snow is coming soon."

Monday, November 2, 2020

Logs With Holes

Our best backyard fire pit blazes come from getting a really hot fire started and then topping it with a large log that has a hole (or two or more) in it, as shown below.  The extra flow of oxygen really gets it going and it burns on both the outside and the inside.  So if you run across some of these odd-looking logs, make sure to snap them up and save them for a special night (and a glass of wine).

Friday, October 30, 2020


My wife used this old-school glass Pyrex tube to make a perfect 3.5" round loaf of bread for a recent family dinner.  She just oiled a loaf of frozen bread dough, dusted it with poppy seeds, slid it into the tube, let it rise, and baked it until golden brown.  She slid it out of the tube and cut it into perfectly-sized (not over-sized!) slices.  Topped with Irish butter, it was quite the treat.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Awesome Arthur

Back in June, I visited Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar in the North Carolina Outer Banks and decided on one occasion to try one of their specialty drinks, namely an Awesome Arthur.  It was a delicious and potent combination of vodka, gin, rum, tequila mixed with pineapple, orange juice, and grenadine, and topped with Cruzan 151 rum.  Sort of like a Long Island Ice Tea, except with citrusy fruit juices.  I'll have to experiment next summer with the proportions, but this is definitely a make-at-home drink.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Kettering Leaf Collection

One of the nicer benefits of living in Kettering is the residential leaf collection service, which is provided at no additional cost.  The city is divided into 11 areas and trucks go sequentially through those areas, sucking up leaves as shown below, then repeat their path several times until early December.  All we have to do is get our leaves to the curb and since we can see what area they are currently working on (see the link below), we can time our efforts so leaves don't sit for too long before they are picked up.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Waffle-Iron Stuffing

We took a box of Stove-Top stuffing, made it per the directions, then dropped it all on a Pam-sprayed waffle iron.  After several minutes the stuffing developed a crispy outside and perhaps best of all, it was steaming hot.  I don't know if I've ever had hot stuffing.  By the time Thanksgiving dinner is ready, everyone herded to their seats, prayers offered and food passed around, everything (except the gravy, bless the boat) tends to be warm at best.  If we can ever find Bob Evans stuffing in a store, that will be the next step up for this technique.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Letter Opener

By now this letter opener, which was a marketing tool created by the QBA group (i.e. the really smart math types) within the Mead Information Technology department, is about 30 years old and continues to slice open letters as easily as ever.  The area code is a dead giveaway to its age, as 513 covered all southwest Ohio until 1996 when it changed to 937.  This is just one of the best handouts I've ever received as it cost pennies, serves a very useful purpose, and just begs to put front and center on your desk, where it served as a reminder that there is a group to help you out with your business challenges.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Toast Touchless Payment

When the check for dinner at Husk Restaurant in Charleston, SC was put on our table, it included a QR code that allowed us to pay using a smartphone.  We just scanned the code, filled in our credit card details, and were emailed a receipt, part of which is shown below.  While I'm not a fan of touchless just to be touchless, I did appreciate that we didn't have to wait for the server to come back to the table to retrieve a credit card, which can take a while, usually when we're in a hurry to leave.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Middleton Place

One of our stops in Charleston, SC was over at Middleton Place in West Ashley.  Middleton is a former rice plantation and an interesting tour of history.  The building pictured below was one of three built by Henry Middleton in the mid-1700s, the land being part of his wife's, Mary Williams, rather large dowry.  We learned about how rice was germinated, protected, and harvested with the help of flooding the rice mill ponds at different times of the growing cycle.  The gardens, while not at their height-of-season best, are still beautiful to stroll around, and numerous other buildings show what life was like hundreds of years ago.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Spiced-Up Burger

The talented chef I'm proud to call my wife made up this spicy variation on the everyday hamburger and it's now a staple on our menu.  She makes each patty with 4 ounces of ground chuck and 2 ounces of ground chorizo.  She buys 2 pounds of ground chuck and 1 pound of ground chorizo, a total of 48 ounces, which results in 8 patties.  What we don't use that day gets wrapped and frozen, making quick-and-easy meals when desired.  

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Utility Pump

Twice a year we drain and fill the hot tub, but this fall our previously-faithful utility pump began leaking oil into the water and made quite the mess to clean up.  Not only have we replaced the pump with an oil-free motor, but we've also upgraded the horsepower from 1/10 to 1/4, which upgrades the throughput from 390 to 2,220 gallons per hour, which should reduce the amount of time it takes to drain the hot tub from well over an hour to 15-20 minutes.  If I had known just that, I would have upgraded a long time ago.