Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Outlet Wiring

It’s easy to wire an electrical outlet backward and not know you did it, exposing yourself to an increased risk of shock, but a simple rule, known as the Steelers Rule in Pittsburgh, will assist.  An outlet has a set of brass-colored screws on one side and silver-colored screws on the other.  The power line, in most cases, if done properly, will have black (hot) and white (neutral) wires.  The proper connection is the black wires to the brass screws (as shown below), the brass looks like gold and the uniform colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers are black and gold, so you just need to remember “The Steelers Rule” to keep it straight.

Big shout out to my brother-in-law Albert for this handy way to remember!


Monday, March 30, 2020

Wrong Way Signs

I was thinking about crashes that happen when people enter the highway via an exit ramp and end up going head-on towards oncoming traffic.  Part of the problem is limited signage, so how about painting a series of signs on exit ramps asphalt, say 15-20 feet apart, something like this first image that repeatedly tells you're going the wrong way?

Now if you're properly leaving the highway, you see these signs, pointing the correct way but with the letters upside down and not spelling anything identifiable, not (I hope) causing any confusion.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Gin And Jam

I asked the bartender at Figlio, one of our favorite restaurants, what was the purple cocktail she just made, and she replied a “Gin and Jam”.  Intrigued, I tried making one at home, combining a couple ounces of Bombay Sapphire Gin and two tablespoons of my favorite blackberry/black raspberry jam, shaken vigorously in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, then poured in a glass over ice.  Much to my surprise it had only a little sweetness and the gin’s floral flavors came through beautifully. Adjust the amount of jam and time shaking to achieve the sweetness you desire.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Light Map

Although calling light "pollution" is a real stretch (IMHO), this website has a fascinating view of the entire planet, showing the relative intensity of light by using different colors, with pinks and purples showing the brightest spots.  There are some surprises, like how bright Alberta, Canada is, which I believe to be caused by their oil industry.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Remote Control Labels

Communication is such a tricky thing.  Our biggest issue with remote controls wasn't really that we had too many or how to use them.  The issue was figuring out which remote control belonged to which device.  That was easily fixed using our handy label maker, as shown in the picture below, and calm was restored.  Now if just the device manufacturers would take notice...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Extension Cord Storage

Tangled extension cords are, at best, annoying, but a free (I love free) solution is to stuff them inside the leftover cardboard core of a roll of paper towels.  Fold the cord lengthwise, back and forth, as many times as it takes and then slide it into the core.  Easy peasy.


Monday, March 23, 2020


As my wife demonstrates below, the BetterBrella folds up in two steps, appearing at first to be a conventional umbrella but then reversing course and folding upwards.  Any water remaining on the top of the umbrella is now trapped inside the umbrella instead of leaking on the floor (or you) and the umbrella stores in half of its typical length.

Big shout-out to my sister-in-law Marilou for the cool gift!


Friday, March 20, 2020

Jack’s Grill

This bad-boy tilapia sandwich came from Jack’s Grill inside Dorothy Land Market at their location at Whipp and Far Hills.  Other seafood options can be found at the link below, but there are many other selections available.  While waiting for this, I wandered over to their wine-tasting area and enjoyed a glass of red.  Quite the nice Lenten Friday lunch.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Smart TVs and Apple Airplay

As a followup to my earlier blog on options for using Facetime on a big screen, some newer (2018+) smart TVs, like the 32" Samsung I have in my home office (shown below), support Apple's Airplay.  When you go to mirror your screen from an iPhone or iPad, if you see something like what I saw, "Samsung 5 Series", tap it and you're ready to go. 

iOS Screen Mirroring

Facetime is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but it works best one-to-one given the usual smaller screen sizes.  But connect it to a large monitor or TV and that makes it a more immersive and multi-person experience.  You use iOS's screen mirroring capability, either wirelessly through an Apple TV (like I did) or wired with a Digital AV adapter (see the link below).  Detailed directions can be found at https://www.techhive.com/article/249065/how-to-connect-your-iphone-to-your-hdtv.html, which includes a few other options which I wouldn't recommend, but can't hurt to try.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Phonetic Pangrams

Say this sentence out loud...

“With tenure, Suzie’d have all the more leisure for yachting, but her publications are no good.”

You probably noticed that this sentence gave your mouth a bit of a workout.  That's because it's a phonetic pangram, a sentence that includes all 40 sounds (called phonemes to get technical about it) in the English language, packed into just 16 words.  Your mouth had to make every sound you know in a short period of time, rapidly adjusting along the way.  A few other phonetic pangrams can be found at this link.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Relabeled Circuit Breaker Panel

Gone are the written-in-pencil, inaccurate labels on our home's circuit breaker panel, replaced with laser-printed labels with large identification numbers.  I've also created a cross-reference spreadsheet which has the 77 outlets, switches, and appliances in our house mapped to these breakers, a painstaking process of turning each breaker off one at a time and then visiting each to see which of the 77 no longer had power.  It only took about 90 minutes to complete that process and now I know with certainty which breaker to turn off when working on an electrical project, avoiding the occasional "zap" and the frequent, multiple trips to the basement to turn off the right one.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Rest Areas

I stumbled upon this “Map Icons” setting on our Infiniti G37x and immediately activated the “Rest Area” option, which holds great value as I’m drinking a Starbucks Grande Dark Roast knowing I’ll need a potty stop in the near future.  As the second picture shows, one of the available map views while navigating will show the next rest area opportunity along your route.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Vermont Melt

This Vermont Melt from Cafe Eleven in Saint Augustine Beach, Florida, was even more delicious than it looks.  Ham, Brie cheese, Granny Smith apples, honey mustard on Ciabatta bread, which I assume was put in a panini press for a minute or two.  If you ever travel to Saint Augustine, put this place on your "must visit" list and come hungry.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coffee Mugs

We've been looking for a new set of every day "drink coffee in bed" mugs for months before we found this adorable set at Peña-Peck House Woman's Exchange along St. George Street in Saint Augustine, Florida.  But in case that's a far trip for you, Walmart carries then, which you can find at this link.  My wife is the peanut butter and I the jelly, for reasons I won't go into.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Google Fonts

I've written a few past blogs on free (I love free) fonts and not to be outdone, Google has nearly one thousand families of free (ditto) fonts that you can use to snazzy up your documents, presentations, envelopes, etc.  You can search for something specific, like the sample below which turned up searching for "script", limit results using a few categories or just browse.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Photo Jigsaw Puzzles

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette app on our iPads includes this slightly addictive jigsaw puzzle game.  Every day a different set of three photos is available, which you can chop up into 16, 36 or 64 piece puzzles and then race to see how fast you can put them together, which on a good day takes 3-4 minutes each.


Monday, March 9, 2020

Living Room Tool Drawer

I keep this small collection of frequently used tools in an end table in the living room.  This avoids countless trips to the basement where the big tool boxes are located and avoids adding them to the allows-overflowing kitchen drawers or packed shelves in the office.  Since we don’t have much of anything else in these drawers, it’s a perfect solution for us.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Peace Pie

The final stop on our Food and Wine Tour in Saint Augustine, Florida was Peace Pie, located on Aviles Street (the oldest street in America) where co-owner Maryrose LaCavera explained the history of how their combination of ice cream, pie filling, and shortbread cookies turned into their delicious business.  You can hear all about it at this YouTube link.  Instead of one large cookie, which would have been too much after all the food we ate, we had the three smaller wedges seen below.  Nirvana!


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Weather Voice Announcements

Our Infiniti G37x had the annoying habit of announcing nearby weather events, shouting out things like "Gale warning 10 miles from your current location!".  Fortunately, there's a setting for that, as shown below.  We'll still get the text of the warning or watch on the display, but now the shouting will stop.


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

iPad and iPhone Markup

Well, it only took me 4 1/2 years to learn about this handy feature, which became available back in iOS release 9.  Markup is available within a number of apps, including Files, Messages, Safari, and Mail and allows you to add text, shapes, and signatures to PDFs and photos.  Detailed instructions can be found at this Apple support link.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Folder Painter

Back in May of 2018, I posted about Folder Colorizer, a handy utility to change the color of Windows folder icons.  Free back then, it now costs $9.95 (boo), so a little searching turned up Folder Painter, a free (I love free) option to accomplish the same thing.