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.