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Consumer Tips

Here are some handy consumer tips
from SIR Jim Quon
that you might find useful.
Check out Jim's
Consumer Tips Archive
covering items 2013, 2014,
Tip Posting Date Details
Earthquake Emergency Kit Sep, 2019
Sir Jerald Cerri asked a very good question about an item for their Emergency Kit.  In the event of an earthquake and we have no power for an extended period of time, how can we maintain a charge on our cellphones?  I recommend a rechargeable Power Bank.  Here are two from Amazon – the first link is for a large capacity unit (25,000 mAh capacity @ $31) and the 2nd is a smaller unit (10,000 mAh @ $24).  The larger unit also comes with a mini USB fan and can recharge 3 devices at once.  Both can be recharged from their own built-in solar panel or from an active AC outlet and have a built-in flashlight.  The larger unit should give you 4 – 5 charges of your cellphone before it needs recharging, itself, that can be done using the solar panel.  BTW, Power Banks with or without solar recharging capability are good to have even for non-emergency times.  These can be very handy when traveling extensively and can free you up from having to look for AC outlets at airports, restaurants, hotels, convention sites, etc.  Don’t forget your connecting charge cords.
Vehicle Safety Features Update Sep, 2019
Back in earlier days, vehicle safety features amounted to just a few items - anti-lock brakes, a few airbags, 3-point seatbelts and traction control?  Today most buyers will not let go of their hard-earned cash unless the majority of the latest safety features are fitted to their new car.  Results from America’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey show that improved safety features dramatically lower road fatalities and the risk of injury. According to an IIHS survey of 2015, there were 7,700 fewer driver deaths in 2012 than there would have been had vehicles remained the same since 1985.  So what are the main five safety features that most motorists cannot do without?
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC):  Available on the vast majority of new cars today, this system uses sensors and radar, normally mounted inside the grille, to lock onto the car ahead and maintain a safe distance by automatically applying the throttle when acceleration is required and the brakes when traffic starts to slow down. ACC is mostly used by drivers on long highway cruises or when things get sticky in heavy congestion. If it senses a potential collision, the ACC system will brake heavily and tighten the seatbelts.  When used in congested, stop/go traffic, it has shown to reduce rear end collisions by 72%!  And it will reduce driver fatigue.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB): This is a feature that more and more drivers are looking for when purchasing a new car. In fact, a close friend called just last year to ask me to recommend a car that had AEB because he had just crashed his 17-year old German sedan after dozing off at the wheel. If a car fitted with AEB senses a potential collision, and the driver does not react in time, then the car will start braking for you. IIHS data show rear-end collisions fall by 50% on vehicles with AEB. Responding to an IIHS survey, an Infiniti Q50 owner said, “It is much faster than me reacting to emergency situations. The brakes are already applied before my foot hits the pedal.”
  • Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keep: These are actually two different systems that work together to keep you in your lane.  Lane departure sounds a warning or buzzes your seat or steering wheel to inform that you are crossing the white lines or unintentionally leaving your lane.  Lane Keep will gently steer you back into your lane if you drift out of it. When lines are faint or the system has trouble detecting lines, the system can be switched off.
  • Blind Spot Detection:  In driver education, remember how you were told to look over your shoulder and incessantly use your mirrors to see what was behind you and in your blind spot.  Blind spot detection picks up what you might have missed and also warns you of  vehicles approaching from the rear quarter by shining small orange or yellow lights in your side door mirrors. 
  • Rear-view Camera:  Rear-view cameras have two main purposes; firstly to give the driver a clear view of what’s behind the vehicle when reversing and, secondly, to protect children and animals from being accidentally hit or run over. These cameras typically use wide-angle lenses to give up to 180-degree backward views.
  • New safety technologies Coming Soon:  But while these features are offered today on a wide variety of vehicles, here are three new safety technologies that will start to appear on production cars within the next few years. And within 5 years, they will be standard equipment.
  • Safety Exit Assist:  As seen in the recently revealed Hyundai Sante Fe SUV, Safety Exit Assist temporarily stops kids from opening the back doors when vehicles and bicycles are approaching from behind. It’s an extension of the blind spot monitor and has the potential to be one of the most sought-after features for parents of young children.
  • Facial Recognition Software:  Facial recognition software is just starting to appear on reasonably priced vehicles like the Subaru Forester which was revealed at the recent New York Auto Show. It constantly measures a driver’s level of alertness and warns the driver when it sees you not paying attention. Other carmakers will also follow suit within the next few years until this technology, like ABS for example, becomes standard equipment. These warnings, for now at least, come in the form of a buzzer that sounds to alert you, but in the near future, we can expect more proactive systems that vibrate parts of your seat.
In addition to night vision features that can warn drivers of bicycles and pedestrians on dark streets at night, and smart headlights that lower their hi-beam automatically towards oncoming traffic, the seven features mentioned here will all become technologies that drivers will expect on their new cars within the next 4-5 years.
*Summary of article by Peter Lyon, Forbes Magazine, May 2018.
Made in America Items:  Sep, 2019
The following is the summary of an Internet article that was sent to me by a friend:  Costco sells Goodyear wiper blades for almost half the price that you will pay other retailers and they are made in the U.S.A.  Did You Know that there is no electric coffee maker made in the US and that the only kitchen appliances made in the US is Viking? This information came from a report by Diane Sawyer.   
I DIDN'T KNOW HALLMARK CARDS WERE MADE IN CHINA!  That's why I don't buy cards at Hallmark anymore, They are Made in China and are more expensive!  I buy them at Dollar Tree and Dollar General - 50 cents each and made in USA!  I have been looking at blenders available on the
Internet. Kitchen Aid is MADE IN THE USA.
Yesterday at Wal-Mart I found some Plastic Waste Baskets made in China for $6.99. But on further looking around, I found some at $2.50 made in USA. They are just as good.. Same on a kitchen rug I needed. I had to look, but I found some Made in the USA - what a concept! - and they were $3.00 cheaper.
While shopping at Lowe's for garden hose attachments and found that they were all made in China. The next day I checked Ace Hardware and found hose attachments there. They were made in USA!  I was at Kroger looking for 60W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand I normally buy -- was an off-brand, labeled, "Everyday Value" I picked up both types of bulbs and compared them: they were the same except for the price. .the GE bulbs cost more than the Everyday Value Brand, but the thing that surprised me the most was that that GE was Made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in - you guessed it - the USA at a company in Cleveland, Ohio.   So, on to the next aisle: Bounce dryer sheets. Yep, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada. The Everyday Value Brand cost less, and was MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years, at almost half the price.
Costco Hearing Aids:  Sep, 2019
Last month I mentioned the cost difference for the same or similar instruments elsewhere can cost over $2500 more.  Last week, I was in for a cleaning and an adjustment and discovered that the price of the Kirkland Brand 9.0 Premium model has been reduced even further.  The current price is now just $1500/pair!  While I was there, one of our members was getting fitted for a pair.  He told me that he had just come from Kaiser where he was quoted $4200 for the same brand, Rexton.  The Kirkland model is made by Rexton and the only difference is the Kirkland does not come with rechargeable batteries, about a $40 accessory item.  Plus, I don’t like the rechargeable batteries as I found it a nuisance to have to charge them every night.
And while I was there, Nick, in the Hearing Aid Center cleaned my instruments and replaced the plastic line and tips that go into the ear – at no charge.  He also demonstrated to me the proper way to clean them at home.  It has made a big difference in their performance!  I can’t say enough about the quality of service and professionalism of Vicki Nickolas and her crew.  She is the Audiologist in charge at the Livermore Costco Store.  BTW, the new Hearing Aid Center at the Danville Store is now open but the wait time for an appointment is now out to January 2020!  And, I would choose the experience of Vicki over any other Audiologist.  She has fitted over 3 dozen of our members over the last 10+ years and all are happy and satisfied.  I can’t stress how important the Audiologist is in getting new instruments.
One more thing, those of you that have hearing aids and don’t wear them or wear them only for special occasions – you’re missing the point and still allowing life to pass you by.  Put them on in the morning and leave them on until it’s time for bed!
Reduce Food Waste: Sep, 2019
What do those dates printed on food package labels really mean?
BEST IF USED BY/BEFORE = Indicates when product will be of best flavor or quality.  This is not a purchase/safety date.
SELL BY = Tells store staff how long to display product for sale and inventory management.  This is not a safety date.
USE BY = Last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality.  Not a safety date except when used on Infant Formula.
Note: CR recommends you use your nose and eyes to determine if food is still good for human consumption.  It’s very simple and safe – if it smells bad or you can see visible signs of mold/spoilage and then throw it out.  Nature was good enough to give us these warning signs so we should use them.  BTW, this is the way the food banks in your local area do it!
Food tips to extend the life of your food:  Wilted vegetables – soak in ice water 5 – 10 minutes may crisp up wilted veggies.  Stale Food – Toast stale chips, crackers, cookies, etc. for a short time in a regular oven, toaster oven, convection oven or air fryer to crisp them up.
Salty Food – Add vinegar, lemon juice or brown sugar – or dilute a soup or sauce with water, crushed tomatoes or unsalted broth.
Tire Pressure Warning Light:  Sep, 2019
All vehicles manufactured from 2003 are equipped with a Tire Pressure Warning Light that illuminates when your tire pressure drops to 25% of the recommended tire pressures for your vehicle.  That’s a good safety feature mandated by D.O.T. but you should not use this as a standard way to care for your tires.  As a safety device, it is really telling you that you have been negligent about checking your tires.  25% below normal inflation level is not a good thing.  Tire experts will tell you that 10% is a much better threshold for a safety warning.  If your tires are that underinflated and your vehicle is fully loaded and will be driving at freeway speeds for more than just a few minutes, your tires can easily overheat and can result in a dangerous blowout event.  And, at the lower pressure level, you are decreasing your gas mileage by as much as 15%.  You should check your tires on a monthly basis and catch any problems before the TP light tells you that you have a problem.  I recommend that you keep a small, digital Tire Pressure Gauge in your vehicle for this purpose.  They are more reliable, accurate and easier to read than the old ‘pencil style’ tire gauge.  They can be found on for under $10.
Beware of Tip Calculations Shown on Restaurant Tabs: Sep, 2019 When you receive your bill after dining at a restaurant, do not believe the suggested amounts shown at the bottom of the bill to be accurate.  Unfortunately, many incorrectly base the calculations on the total bill, including tax, when you should be tipping only on the before tax amount.  An easy check is to take the subtotal (before tax amount) and determine what a 20% tip should be and compare it against what the bill recommends.  Last night, our bill came to $26.00 +$2.41 tax = $28.41.  A 20% tip computation on $26 should only be $5.20.  But the restaurant bill suggested $5.68.  On a small check like this, it’s not a big deal.  But, if you are dining at an expensive place or are hosting a large party with a big total tab, the difference can be quite significant!  Check that bill next time!
More Automotive Tips & News Aug, 2019
■    Tree Sap and Pitch: Use WD-40 Lubricant to safely remove tree sap and pitch. It is an excellent solvent for this use and will not harm your paint finish and it is easy to wipe off any residue. Spray the WD-40 on a clean, soft rag to wipe off the offending spots. This also works well for road tar and sealant from newly paved roadways. Goo Gone is another effective solvent product but the residue must be washed off with detergent to avoid dulling the paint finish.
■    Rental Car Insurance: When you rent a vehicle, the rental agency will always try to sell you the optional insurance coverage. Check to see if you are already covered by your own auto insurance policy for rental and borrowed car use. Also, if you use the higher level (Gold, Premier, Black, etc.) credit card, you may be covered. Check with your own auto insurance agent.  If you rent a lot, consider adding the ‘Rental Car Coverage’ to your policy. It will be far cheaper than buying the optional coverage from the rental car company each time.
■    Gas Station Tip: If you happen to see a gasoline tanker filling the tanks at your local gas station, come back another day or go to a different station. As the station’s underground tanks are being filled, the turbulence can stir up sediment. Sediment in your gas can clog fuel filters and fuel injectors, causing poor performance and possibly necessitating repairs.
■    Ignition Key Wear: Does your car key share a chain with a dozen or more other keys? That’s a pretty heavy load hanging off the car key when it’s in the ignition. The weight, combined with bouncing while you drive, can wear out the tumblers inside the ignition and eventually lead to ignition switch failure. To add years of service to your ignition switch, purchase a lightweight keychain that allows you to separate your ignition key from the others. Drive with only the ignition key in your ignition. If your ignition key “sticks” when you try to turn on the car, it’s a warning that your ignition switch is about to fail. Replace it before you get stranded.
■  New Car Shopping: Use Costco Auto Buying Program or online auto dealers/buying services. If shopping in person at a dealership, do this within a day or two of the end of the month. All salespeople are commission folks and the end of the month is the end of a quota period. This is the most effective time for negotiating price/terms in your favor.
■  Avoid Dealer Add-Ons: Typically, dealers will try to sell you add –on features such as Vin I.D. Glass Etching, Upholstery/Paint Protector, Floor Mats, Nitrogen Filled Tires, Extended Warranty, etc. These are all at tremendous markup and of dubious value. Glass etching charges by the dealer range $150 to $300. And independent auto glass shop charges about $30 to $45. A glass etching kit from Amazon is only $8. And most insurance companies do not recognize this as a real theft deterrent and offer no discount on your premiums. Nitrogen is a scam – ordinary atmosphere is 78% nitrogen. Paint/Upholstery Protectorant is no more effective than using Scotchguard and a good spray-on/wipe off polishing product – all easily available at retailers and easy to use/apply. Most extended warranties are also a scam. If you read the fine print, there are many loopholes in the warranty. Dealer floor mats are super expensive and of dubious quality. After- market floor mats are much cheaper and some are much higher quality. Factory supplied floor mats are OK.
Miscellaneous Consumer Tips Aug, 2019
■  Stainless Steel Water Bottle Care: Many folks use stainless steel, insulated drink bottles for travel, sports and even at home to stay hydrated. These should be cleaned periodically to avoid mold growth or other potential contaminant sources.  Look around the lip and just below it for black deposits. Also, check the ‘shoulder’ below lip. This might be difficult to see so use your finger to ‘feel’ for any build up. Black residue on your finger is a definite indication of mold growth. Do the same for the lid/top assembly. These are the most common areas for mold to grow. Clean them with a brush and hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. To keep your metal water bottle from becoming dented – install a “Hydro Flask Water Bottle Boot.” This is a silicone protective cup that fits on the bottom of your water bottle. It can protect your bottle from becoming dented from accidental drops. And, they are much quieter in use – no more ‘bong’ sound when set on hard surfaces. They come in various colors and can be used to easily identify your bottle from other similar looking bottles. You can buy them from REI at the Dublin or Concord stores or order them online. They come in various colors and 2 sizes. The 2 sizes are based on the diameter of the water bottle – small size is approximately 2” diameter and the larger size is 2.5” diameter.
■    Battery Replacement of Amazon Kindle, Fire Tablet and other Amazon Devices: Almost all Amazon portable devices are not ‘user replaceable’ rechargeable batteries. Taking it to a service facility for replacement will cost from $45 to $150. When your device/s need a new battery, consider buying a used or ‘scratch & dent’ unit from Amazon with full warranty. When my Amazon Fire HD Tablet began to fail, I started to watch Amazon for “refurbished” units and got one for just $20!  A replacement battery would have been $45 - $60 depending upon the independent repair service. My son did the same thing and his was under $30 and we’re extremely pleased with the ‘refurbished’ units. There were no marks, scratches or anything resembling a blemish or used item.
■    Flea Shampoo: Forget about expensive Flea Dips and shampoos or powders. Any shampoo coupled with a good bath will work just as well and will be considerably less expensive.
■    Product Reviews: When buying something at a brick & mortar retail store, check online store sites such as Amazon, Walmart, Lowe’s, etc. for online product reviews This is especially useful when shopping for appliances and other larger ticket items. And, of course, use CR at public library.
■    Cleaning Stainless Steel Cookware: Heavy use cooking with stainless-steel pans will eventually result in black and brown burnt marks all over the cookware bottom. To easily remove without using toxic chemicals like oven spray, mix up equal parts baking soda with cream of tartar with a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap. Put in on the burned spots and then add some hot water. Let sit for a few minutes then scrub the black marks out.
■    Repair Door Bell: Tired of missing package deliveries or your friends having to knock when they arrive? Fixing your doorbell is probably easier than you expect. Remove the screws that hold your current doorbell in place and remove the pushbutton. Disconnect the wires from the button, then touch those wires together. If you hear the doorbell, you’ve got an easy fix! Just buy an inexpensive replacement from your local hardware or building supply store and install it per instructions. The cost will be under $8! Better yet, install a new video doorbell such as a Ring (now owned by Amazon) or Nest. Installation is similar to the above with a few additional steps. You will need an app downloaded to your Smartphone to set it up and monitor the video alerts. The cost will be under $200.
■ Go to for some really good buys on all kinds of various products. They are now owned by Amazon and Prime Members get free shipping. If you are not a Prime Member, shipping is always a flat fee of $5 regardless of the size or weight of the merchandise. They offer different items every 24 hrs. in 8 categories. You are not hounded by emails from the site except for an occasional alert to a special offer. Check them each day. They are Chicago-based so you can get the change of offers at 10 PM, West Coast time. I’ve bought a lot of things over the years from this site and have never had any complaint or issues. Everything has worked well and none were ever misrepresented. Try it. You might like it!
Travel Tips Aug, 2019
■      Hotel Bookings: Booking hotel/motel stays through 3rd party is a ripoff. Booking direct with hotel chain will usually give you best rate. Also, enroll in a frequent user/Rewards programs offered by large chains and concentrate your points accumulation through repeated bookings.
■      Salt Lake City Airport: Recently we flew to Cody, WY, requiring a connecting flight at SLC. If your destination is at any of the small regional airports, you will be leaving from a ground-lev- el ‘door’ on the “F” concourse. Be forewarned – this is a very long gate with 20 ‘doors.’ There are no jetways. This is just an enclosed walkway that is very long – about ¼ mile, maybe a little more! You may want to ask for wheelchair and attendant to push you. A small tip should be given to the service attendant if you use this service. Also, you will not be allowed to carry normal ‘care-on’ bags as these small commuter jet aircraft have very little overhead storage bins. Instead, they will collect your carry-on bag, tag it and load it on the aircraft baggage compartment. You will pick up your bag at the destination airport before entering the terminal.  And, we found that going from door #19 of Concourse F to Gate #16 on Concourse E was an incredibly longer distance – about a mile. I chose to use a wheelchair and attendant and be- cause of the excessive distance, I tipped her $5 and it was well worth it!
■      Smart Bags Not Allowed: Recently Airlines and TSA no longer allow “Smart Bags” (built-in, rechargeable power bank battery) aboard aircraft – totally, regardless of checked baggage or carry-on. The only exception would be if you can remove the re- chargeable battery from the bag and carried onboard as a spare battery bank. This is due to the potential for fire or explosion of the Lithium Ion battery characteristic. And for that reason, all spare batteries as well all your rechargeable electronic devices are allowed onboard only as ‘carry-on’ items. And they must be tak- en out of your carry-on bag so TSA can easily see and check them.
■      Packing Your Bags for a Trip:* Some damage to your suitcase can be self-inflicted: A bottle of perfume or sunscreen that you tossed in could leak and ruin the lining, or perishable food items might spoil–especially if the bag is delayed. So when you’re packing your suitcase, follow these simple rules: Put anything liquid in a sealable plastic bag, keep the heaviest items at the bottom of your suitcase near the wheels to lower the risk of it tipping over, and secure or remove shoulder straps or other attachments that could jam a baggage conveyor belt or carousel.
Also watch out for hazardous items, especially spare lithium batteries, which are prohibited in checked luggage because of the risk of fire. (They are allowed in carry-ons, however.) Be aware that certain food items, like cheese, can trigger false positives in airport explosives detection machines. Secure your bag with a TSA-friendly lock. Before you leave home, think about who is coming into contact with your luggage. Always use luggage locks. There are many different types to choose from, ranging from standard padlocks to straps. But experts say if you are checking your suitcase with an airline, a lock that's certified “TSA-compatible” will ensure that the agents can open it safely with a master key if it sets off an alarm or is randomly selected for scrutiny.  If you use a non-compatible lock, the screeners will break it in order to open your bag if it’s picked for inspection. The TSA, on average, selects around 10 percent of all checked baggage for additional screening, according to a spokesperson for the agency. Consider baggage wrapping services. Ever spot a suitcase at an airport covered in what looks like heavy Saran wrap? A number of companies, such as Secure Wrap, offer bag wrapping services at major international airports for fees starting at $15 for a standard-sized suitcase. The benefit is that your bag will be better protected from damage and pilfering of its contents. The downside is that if the TSA needs to look inside, it will cut right through that airtight seal, and the agents won’t rewrap it. And if you have soft-sided bag luggage, it can be tricky to remove the wrap without also slicing into your bag.
Protective covers. A simple way to guard against scratches and dings is to buy a protective sleeve to encase your bag. There are a slew of products to choose from, ranging from clear plastic sleeves to patterned fabric wrappers, and luggage manufacturers such as Hartmann are getting into this game. These accessories reduce the odds of plain old damage, and they might also make the bag less tempting to thieves—although keep in mind that they’re not impregnable.
*The above bag packing and use tips are from Consumer Reports.
More Automotive Tips & News Jul, 2019
■  Clarification of What Not To Leave in Your Glovebox:  In a previous issue, I noted what documents you should not leave in your glove box such as Title, Registration, Insurance I.D. Card, etc., that include contain specific information that could aid thieves to steal your car or burgle your home.  Some folks have asked how thieves might be able to steal the car.  Here’s an excerpt from an article in the local automobile section of the local newspaper:  You may not want to keep the owner’s manual in the glove box. That’s because it might include information that a thief can use to obtain a replacement key* from a dealer's Service Department, by returning later and pretending to be you, drive the the car off.   Or, there could even be a valet key sitting in the manuals pouch you may not know about.
The NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) says it's best to instead carry photos of  all auto-related documents stored in your cellphone.   Another alternative is to make a photocopy of the registration and insurance information, white out your address, and then make a copy of the redacted version to keep in the glovebox.  Either way, a law enforcement officer can usually still verify your registration information via the computer in his/her squad car.
■  Inexpensive Dash Cam: Are you interested in using a Dash Cam in your vehicle?  There is a very good, inexpensive unit, Wyze Cam, that is only $19.99, online.  It’s a small cube 2” square mounted on a small foot.  It has motion sensing, night vision, audio, 1080P resolution and is very sturdy and provides solid performance.  It’s more than a good inexpensive camera.  It’s a good camera, period!  Go to:
■  CD Player Unavailable in Some New Cars:  Technology can be a very frustrating thing due to rapid obsolescence.  Some new cars no longer offer CD players in their ‘Infotainment Centers.’  But there are folks that love their CDs and have no practical means of downloading their music collection onto memory cards for playback in the car.  And, they may not use a Smartphone to play their music via the Bluetooth feature included in all new cars.  There are two alternatives to this dilemma.   1. Buy a free-standing CD player and feed the audio signal via a cord into the Input Jack or USB port into of your Infotainment Center.  You can power the CD player via the 12 V cigarette lighter power supply.  2. You can go to a good car stereo place and have them install a replacement ‘Head Unit’ that will look and feel like a O.E.M. factory installed unit.
■  Looking for a Good Mechanic?:  Dealer Service Departments are always more expensive than local independent garages.  And, they are not necessarily better trained or experienced.  I have always recommended going to a good local independent.  But, how do you find a good, trustworthy independent garage?  Several things you can do – check online rating services like Angies List, Yelp and other similar sites.  You can also try automobile specific listings online but be careful as most of these listings are independents that subscribe/pay to be on the list.  Another resource is:  They are affiliated with Consumer Reports and are unbiased and based on local reader’s surveys.
■  Automotive Tire Gauge?:  You should keep a small, accurate tire gauge in your glove box.  Even though new vehicles come equipped an onboard tire pressure monitoring system to alert you to a low tire condition, it doesn’t indicate which tire is the faulty one.  It would be nice to know which tire to watch for any future potential for tire troubles.  I recommend a small, pocket-sized, accurate, digital tire gauge.  The TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge, 100 PSI  is a really nice unit.  It’s available from Amazon for under $12!  It is very easy to operate and has a night light built-in.
■  Keyless Ignition:  If your vehicle is equipped with this feature, be careful about turning the ignition off if you want to stop the engine but wish to listen to the radio or music via the vehicle’s Infotainment Center.  On some cars you will need to touch the Keyless Ignition button twice in rapid succession.  The first touch will turn the entire electrical and engine systems off and the second touch turns on only the Infotainment Center items.  This allows you to operate the Infotainment Center features without running the battery down quickly.  On some cars you must follow a prescribed sequence to shut the engine down but activate the Infotainment Center.  Check with your dealer or the Owner’s Manual or do a search on based on your model/year.  If you don’t follow the sequence, you may have headlights and other accessories still left on which will might run your battery down in short order.
■  Bird Droppings on Car Finish: If your car has been targeted by birds doing their business, do not let the bird droppings remain on the paint finish for very long, especially in hot weather.  The acid in the bird droppings can and will penetrate the protective clear coat and cause it to deteriorate.   If left long enough, it can do the same to the paint layer underneath the clear coat.  Hose it off as soon as possible or practical before it develops into a permanent blemish!
Clean Scratchy / Staticky Volume and Other Rotary Switches and Controls Jul, 2019
Do you have a transistor radio, computer speakers, stereo components, etc. with rotary knob controls for volume, tone, stereo balance and other control modes that produce static or intermittent operation?  Simply ‘exercise’ the faulty control knob by rotating it back and forth for a few minutes.  Often, this is enough to fix the problem.  If that doesn’t work, go to an auto parts, hardware or building supply store and buy a can of Contact Cleaner and spray a bit of that into the part where the control shaft sticks out while rotating the shaft/knob it back and forth.  The small, round metal ‘can’ component is a variable resistor.  A layer of oxide can build up inside and ‘exercising’ the control may clear that layer of oxide away so the control will, again, have good, clean contact in order to operate properly.
Propane Tank Info Correction Jul, 2019
Propane Tank Error:  In the last issue, I stated that an empty, large propane tank weighed about 17 lbs. and the contents of a full tank is about 20 lbs.  Somehow I made a math error and said that a full tank should weigh 27 lbs.  Please correct that figure to show 37 lbs as the weight of a full 20# propane tank.  Half a tank will weigh in at about 27 lbs.  Sorry for the confusion!
Avoid Milk Spoilage Jul, 2019 Folks If you are ‘Empty Nesters’ like a lot of us at this age, a quart of milk might spoil before you finish the contents.  If you experience this, try Fairlife Milk.  It is a relatively new (since 2015) brand featuring ‘ultra filtered’ processing that results in 50% More Protein & 50% Less Sugar than Regular Milk.   It’s Lactose Free and tastes great.  We use it even though it is a tad higher in cost.  However, it is only available in ½ gallon plastic cartons.  That’s a lot for just the two of us but it doesn’t spoil even though it’s a bigger size jug.
Food preparation tip Jul, 2019 Mise en place is a French cooking term that covers the make ready (prep) of all the ingredients that go into a dish that is about to be cooked/assembled for serving.  This would be all the chopped, minced, cleaned food items in preparation to cooking.  This usually takes a multitude of small plates or dishes.  To cut down on prep time and dishwashing, use plastic stretch wrap to line your small containers for all these ingredients.  When you have used the contents, simply throw the stretch wrap away and put the still clean dishes/plates back in the cupboard!
Consumer Reports 101 Jul, 2019 In a previous issue I had mentioned a new consumer advocate TV program featuring Consumer Reports tips and information for the general public.  Now that I’ve watched a number of these programs (Chan 3, NBC, 09”00 AM, Saturdays) I have to say that I am not impressed.  Much of it is so very basic that I find it, somewhat, a waste of time.  Worse, it’s kind of ‘corny.’
Can You Remember All Your Passwords?  Jul, 2019 Our lives are complicated enough without having to remember all our passwords and PIN numbers.  CR recommends two methods of managing your passwords.  1. Use a Password Manager App.  There are lots of them available and most are free.  2. Keep a password protected file on your Smartphone or computer.  This way, you can quickly and easily determine all your current passwords.  But, be sure to update any changes you make to keep it current and useful.
Free Pepper Grinder Jul, 2019 Well, sorta!  Purchase various spices or herbs from Trader Joes and many of them will come in its own grinder for the freshest of flavor and essence.  Use up the contents and refill with your own peppercorns or other spices.  Refilling is easy as it has a screw top mechanism.  These mills work very well and cost just a fraction of a good pepper mill at a kitchenware store.  It even makes an excellent portable mill for pocket or purse if you really like fresh ground pepper while dining out.
Blurred Photos from your Smartphone Jul, 2019 If this happens to you, try going to “settings” in Camera Mode and select “2 second timer.”  This will delay the shutter release by 2 seconds after you touch the screen icon that triggers the shutter.  This may eliminate the shake of your hands as it allows you to concentrate on aiming and holding the unit steady and let the timer mechanism trip the shutter
3 – Outlet Surge Protector with 2 USB Ports Jul, 2019 This is a very handy electrical outlet available from Amazon for just $7.99 that is really useful for households that have multiple portable devices that need recharging via USB cable.  It transforms a single wall outlet or extension cord into 3 – 120 VAC outlets, 2 USB charging outlets and acts as a surge protector for all devices plugged into this versatile outlet.  This will ship free if you have Prime membership.  You can find these kinds of units at Target, Walmart or in your local hardware or chain pharmacy store but the cost will be about $17 - $25 and will likely not have the surge protector built-in.  These are good for home, office or travel use.
Self-retracting USB Type C Cable Jul, 2019 This is a good accessory for anyone using cellphone, tablets, eReaders, Bluetooth rechargeable accessory items by eliminating long, tangling cable runs.  It’s so very small, compact and handy.  This is a perfect mate to the above 3-outlet plug.  Available in a 3-pack for just $9.99 or singly from Dollar General Stores for just $1 per cable unit.  Caution – most that you find will be for Android devices (Samsung, LG, Pixel, Huawei, HTC, etc.).  For Apple devices, you must find cable units that specifically fit their plug fittings or use an adapter.
More Automotive Tips & News Jun, 2019
■  Consumer Reports Recommendation for New Cars: The latest Car Buying issue of CR has announced that they believe the addition of the ‘safety suite’ of options (lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision avoidance/mitigation, etc.) is so critical for safe motoring that they will no longer recommend any vehicles that lack these vital features.  FYI, many of these safety features will become standard DOT requirements in 2020 models.
■  10 Top Tier Gas: You’ve probably seen this on signs on and around the pumps at your local gas stations or on TV ads.  But, what is it and what does it mean to you?  Simply put, it is a higher grade of gas because of the additives and the amounts of them added to the gas at the time of production.  Top tier gas is better for the engine because of the extra solvents and detergents above and beyond the standard level called for by specification for gas. It is recommended by most car manufacturers. You end up with a cleaner engine and that means more efficient engine operation and performance.
■  Slow Gas Pumps:  When and if you should experience Slow Gas flow at a gas station – that could indicate poor maintenance of the pumps and the filters are clogged.  If the operators of the station are lax in one maintenance area, The chances are good that they may also be similarly lax on other things as well, such as checking and removing condensation moisture from the tanks that can result in ‘bad gas’ for your vehicle.  Skip these stations in the future.
■  Improved Gas Mileage:  Last month I noted that use of the newer, advanced features like Adaptive Cruise Control contribute to safer driving resulting in lower accident rates.  Well, additionally, the use of Adaptive Cruise Control (Subaru Eyesight/Nissan Pro-Pilot Assist and other similar features) can and will increase your gas mileage because the onboard computer does a much better job of balancing the right amount of acceleration when stopping/starting doe traffic and signals - fast enough to keep from holding up traffic and mild enough to not waste gas. 
■  Save on Maintenance and Repair Costs: If you engage the Adaptive Cruise Control on most newer vehicles so equipped at the designated legal speed on long downhill grades, you can avoid using the brakes heavily because the computer will apply engine compression for most of the braking effort, thus saving on brake rotor and pad wear as well as preventing warped discs that could require substantial additional repair costs, not to mention overheated brakes that can adversely affect normal braking performance.  Overheating can quickly warp rotors that can also degrade braking performance.   Avoid all of these brake issues by letting the Adaptive Cruise Control do the braking on those long downgrades.
Another Use for Empty Mason Jars Jun, 2019
1. If you start to peel a hard boiled egg and it turns out to be one of those difficult ones where the shell seems stuck to the internal membrane, try putting it into a Mason Jar (or similar glass jar) filled to 1/3 with plain tap water.  Put the lid back on and shake this assembly fairly vigorously and the egg shell should easily come off the egg/eggs.  Up to 4 eggs will fit nicely into a quart-sized jar.  Use a smaller jar for a single egg. 
2.  When removing the ‘paper skin’ on fresh garlic, place them into a Mason Jar and close the lid.  No liquids are needed.  Simply shake the assembly vigorously and the paper skins should easily separate from the garlic flesh.
Time to Clean and Prep Your Gas Grill Jun, 2019
Folks, Summer is upon us!  Now is the time to inspect your gas grill to determine if it is suitable for service.  Check the gas line connections.  Use a mixture of water with dish washing detergent to see if any bubbles appear, indicated a leak, when sprayed or daubed onto the connection.  Check the grill grates, flavorizer bars or Lava Rocks for excess grease buildup that can cause a serious flare once the grill is put into use.  Check the level of propane in your tank.  An empty tank weighs about 17 lbs.  A full tank capacity is 20 lbs.  Therefore, a full propane tank would weight about 27 lbs.  A half tank full would be about 17 lbs.  Use your bathroom scales to weigh your tank.
Golf Buddy Voice GPS Battery Replacement Jun, 2019
Folks using the Golf Buddy Voice GPS units can purchase a replacement battery from Amazon and change the battery themselves at a big savings.  The cost is only $14.95 (free shipping w/Prime Membership).  Search Amazon for the MPF Products 280mAh YK372731 Battery Replacement Compatible with Golf Buddy Voice, Voice+, Voice VS4, Voice 2 Talking GPS Range Finder with Free Installation Tools.  The replacement unit is much more robust than the OEM battery.  It was fairly easy to install if you have some patience and watch the YouTube video before proceeding. The cost to send back to the manufacturer for this battery replacement is about $45 and the factory O.E.M. battery is a lower capacity battery yielding a shorter service span after charging.
Special Program Savings from PG&E Jun, 2019
People who have a medical device at home, like a CPAP machine, can save on their PG&E Bill. They will give you an additional 500Kw of electricity at the lowest tier rate. This is a savings of about $0.06 - $0.07 per Kw giving about $30 savings per month. You have to fill out an application, have your doctor sign it and send it in to PG&E. Search for “PG&E Medical Baseline Program”.  NOTE: This tip is courtesy of Sir Jerry Hale.
Consumer Reports Items Jun, 2019
■  On Central AC units:  Only the Trane Central AC units top the CR ratings for both Reliability and Owner’s Satisfaction.  The others are not even close.
■  On Window Air Conditioners: A newcomer to the CR  ratings, the LG LW6019ER tops the list of small window units.  CR’s take: The Kenmore Elite 77087 tops our ratings of midsized models.  CR's take: A CR Best Buy, the large, feature-filled LG LW1216ER has digital controls, and cooling is top-notch.
■  On Steam Mops: The following are the top 3 models in their test ratings:  1. Bissell PowerFresh Deluxe #1806; $89.00 at Amazon, Lowes and Walmart.  2. Bissell PowerFresh Slim #2075A, $121.32 - $149.99 at Amazon, and  3. Shark Genius Steam Pocket S5003D, $52.92 - $69.99 at Walmart, JC Penny and
■  On your Cable Bill: Recently CR recommended that consumers should contact their Cable Provider and try negotiating a lower rate for their service.  I did just that.  I called Comcast and complained about the high monthly cost of TV, phone and internet service.  Our monthly bill was approximately $288/month, including taxes.  The Comcast representative suggested deleting HBO, Showtime and the Sports Package to lower the monthly charges.  We didn’t want to do that.  I told her that I was unhappy enough to consider dropping Comcast and going to AT&T Uverse or Dish TV to get better pricing.  She suggested that I talk in person to one of their “Sales Specialists.”  This sales person came to the house a few days later and after he learned that we were a Comcast customer for over 30 years and that I was serious about my dissatisfaction with the pricing of my services, he offered a “new bundled program” that included Home Security at no charge at about $30/month less.  However, our net savings will be closer to $75/month because we have  now discontinued our ADT Monthly Monitoring Charge of almost $50/month.  There would be a one-time charge for the installation of additional sensors and hookup for the Security System.  He explained that this “new bundle” was ‘normally’ available only to new customers.  So, now we have a completely upgraded system that went from 400 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps and every TV in the house has the ability to act like a DVR and all our various TV sets have the same services including HDTV (no longer limited/basic cable service) and we can now record up to 5 programs at the same time!  This is a big improvement over our old, slower-speed system.  This newer system has many features including Voice Command/Search that make it really easy to use.  When watching a show of multiple episodes, it will ask you if you want to watch other episodes that have already aired and it will pull them up for viewing using “Xfinity On Demand.”  If it hasn’t yet aired, it will ask if you want to record future episodes when they do become available.
A big, unforeseen surprise was the improved TV picture quality on all our TVs!  Apparently, the increased signal bandwidth improves color saturation as well as pixel content.  The HD picture we now see on our kitchen and master bedroom sets (using the same old TVs) are really superb and delightful to watch compared to the old system.  The upgrades were all done in about 2.5 hours by 3 technicians so there was really no real disruption of service.
All in all, we are delighted with the improvements and lower cost.  I highly recommend you try to negotiate with your cable service provider.  It’s too bad we didn’t try to pressure them long before this. 
Interestingly, when I called ADT to discontinue their monitoring service, they offered to lower it from the nearly $50/month to $35/month!  I told them they were too late!  BTW, the old ADT security system only had 2 entry sensors and 1 motion detector sensor.  The new Comcast system has added 3 more sensors.  That is a doubling of doors, windows and motion sensors at no extra cost.
More Automotive Tips & News May, 2019
  • 10 Best Cars to Buy New: 1. Honda HR-V; 2. BMW X1; 3. Subaru Crosstrek; 4. Honda CR- V; 5. Toyota Tacoma; 6. Honda Civic; 7. Honda Pilot; 8. Mazda CX-5; 9. Porche Macan; 10. Subaru Impreza. The above are based on residual resale value (depreciation) after 1 year. Source:
  • Subaru Wins #1 Car Brand for 2019: Subaru and Toyota dominated the consumer Reports list of the best new vehicles of 2019. While Toyota scored four wins in the 10 vehicle categories, surging Japanese automaker Subaru was named best brand in the industry, beating even luxury competitors. Subaru ranked first overall among 33 brands, followed by four luxury brands: Genesis, Porsche, Audi and Lexus. Subaru also nabbed two of the 10 best-vehicle awards, with the Subaru Forester prevailing as best compact SUV and the Subaru Ascent winning best-midsize SUV.  Subaru was ranked 6th last year. The publication's annual Top Picks list is an influential guide for many American consumers as they shop for new vehicles. The list gauges customer satisfaction through comprehensive surveys and combines those measures with Consumer Reports’ testing of fuel economy, performance and reliability. It does not take into account styling preferences or popularity. In one key change for 2019, the publication updated its criteria this year to require advanced safety components, including pedestrian detection systems that trigger automatic emergency braking.
  • Use of Advanced Safety Components Reduces Crashes: Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology2 , Nissan Pro Pilot and similar safety packages reduces the rate of rear-end crashes with injuries by up to 85%.
  • Don’t Leave Your Owner’s Manual in the Car: Owner’s Manual thefts are increasing as they often list a special PIN number, a valet key, your registration and VIN. Thieves will try to contact the manufacturer to get keys re- placed, claiming the car belongs to them. Then they'll return later to steal it. You will also save weight for better gas mile- age and end up with a lot more room in the glove compartment.
  • Planning to Buy a New or Used Car?: There is plenty of consumer information available to you in your quest to select the right vehicle for you. In addition to the traditional tools such as Consumer Reports, auto magazines, online vehicle reviews, manufacturers websites, etc., be sure to check out You will be surprised at what you can discover about any vehicle you might be interested in. While helping a friend that is interested in buying a new Subaru Outback for some medium duty off-road use, I learned a bunch more about my own 2015 Outback, including 3 features that could be helpful while driving in snow, mud and other slippery conditions. It includes an automatic downhill braking system for descending rough, steep grades in a safe, slow, controlled manner. TIP; When you get your new vehicle, take the huge Owner’s Manual out of the car and put it away in your home library. For that kind of information on your new (or existing) vehicle, simply ‘Google’ anything and everything online and it will be a lot easier to find and understand than looking in the Owner’s Manual. And, you’ll improve your gas mileage by saving some weight in the car.
  • Fire and Crash Safety Info For Electric & Hybrid Car Owners: After an out-of-control Tesla Model S plowed into a stand of palm trees on a highway median outside Fort Lauderdale last month, police rushed to put out the ensuing blaze using a department-issued fire extinguisher. It was a wasted effort. The car kept on burning after the crash, which killed the driver.
  • The police may not have known lithium-ion batteries inside electric vehicles, once ignited, can’t be put out with chemicals from a conventional extinguisher. The battery fires are susceptible to a self-destructive chain reaction known as thermal runaway, causing a feedback loop of rising temperatures. The Tesla fire stumped a series of first responders in Florida. Firefighters eventually doused the flames with water, which seemed to work, but the wrecked car reignited twice more after being towed away. That prompted what a police report later termed “extraordinary measures,” including a call to Broward County’s hazmat unit for advice on stamping out the fire once and for all.
  • The accident illustrates the challenges faced by first responders unfamiliar with the special characteristics—and hazards—of electric vehicles’ powertrains. Safety experts say the only way to extinguish a lithium-ion battery inside a car is with thousands of gallons of water, much more than what it takes to stop a fire in a typical gasoline engine. The other option is to just let it burn itself out. “It’s such a difficult fire because it takes so much water to put out,” said Robert Taylor, fire marshal in Davie, Fla., where the crash occurred.
Miscellaneous Tips May, 2019
  • Alternative Way to Eat Mangoes: Eating mangoes has always been a very messy activity. Most folks slice the fruit into two halves above and below the flat ‘seed’ in the middle. Then they slice the flesh in those two halves into a criss-cross pattern and push up on the bottom to invert the natural ‘cup’ to provide easy access to the fleshy inner part of the fruit. An easier and less messy method might be to use a ‘grapefruit spoon’ (with a serrated front lip) to spoon out the flesh.
  • Bladder Control: As we age, our organs tend to lose their efficiency and ability to perform their specific functions. Incontinence can occur when this happens to the bladder. You can improve you bladder control special exercises. Exercise your Pelvic Muscles. Squeeze the same muscles you would use to stop your urine flow. Then hold for 3 seconds.  Relax 3 seconds. Repeat 15 times a session, 3 times a day.
  • Use of Antibacterial Soap: Don’t waste your money. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soap and water for killing disease-causing germs, according to the CDC. Regular soap tends to be less expensive than antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers. Regular soap won't kill healthy bacteria on the skin's surface.
  • Odor Control: Tired of the smell of your trash bin? Toss a dryer sheet on the bottom next time before you add your next bag, and you should get a fresher smell.
More Golf Tips May, 2019
  • Charge your GPS ‘on the go:’ Keep a small, inexpensive ($10-$20) charged Power Bank in your golf bag. If you have forgotten to recharge your golf GPS or Laser Rangefinder before play, simply plug your GPS unit into your Power Bank and let it charge. Most of these small devices can be charged in about an hour or less. You can be charging it while driving to the course and waiting for your tee time. Once you have enough of a charge to use your device, you can recharge your Power Bank using the onboard USB charging port on almost all newer golf carts.
  • Cleaning Your Golf Shoe Cleats After Play: I see a lot of people banging their golf shoe soles together in an attempt to dislodge the grass, sod and mud from the cleats. This is a bad idea because the repeated impact will eventually break the waterproof seal of the welt, the critical area where the sole assembly joins the shoe upper construction. This can also lead to the sole delaminating from the upper. Instead, use the compressed air blower located on almost all golf courses. Or use a Golf Shoe Brush. Tip:  When using compressed air, avoid aiming the nozzle at the welt area. The compressed airstream can be very powerful – strong enough to separate the welt seams. Tip: When using a Golf Shoe Brush, use a circular motion around the individual cleat. When walking and hitting, the feet rotate/pivot and that winds the grass around the cleat. Straight brush strokes will be less effective in ‘unwinding’ the grass wound around the cleat.
Personal Safety Items Apr, 2019
■ Pedestrian Safety Habits:  There has been a huge uptick in pedestrian accidents.  When crossing streets, always use officially marked crosswalks. MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH APPROACHING DRIVERS!  Watch for distracted drivers and drivers blinded by the sun low on the horizon in the early morning and late afternoon.
■  Avoid Seating in Exposed Positions Vulnerable to Vehicular Traffic:  As our demographics change with the aging population and more Seniors driving, there are more serious and fatal accidents due to drivers mistaking the gas pedal for the brake while parking.  Be vigilant about your ‘Situational Awareness.’  Curbside or front, picture window view seats might be nice for the view during a lunch or dinner  but be careful and vigilant!  Avoid these ‘front row seats’ when the parking is diagonal or head-on relative to the sidewalk.
■  When Assisting Someone Park:  Never stand behind or in front of the vehicle.  Always to the side of the vehicle’s path.
■  Keep Your Knives Sharp:  More self-inflicted knife  accidents happen when dull knives are being used.  More hand pressure and/or movement is required to make the desired cuts creating a more hazardous situation.
■  Wear Eye Protection:  Always wear protective safety glasses or plastic prescription lenses whenever working with rotary cutting tools or any environment where small, uncontrolled particles are being generated and can come in contact with your eyes.  Ditto when working with anything that might shatter or explode.  Your eyesight is precious and fragile.  Don’t take any chances.
Golf Tips Apr, 2019
■  Twist Face Driver:  This is the newest technology in golf.  Twist Face is a revolutionary new face curvature designed to deliver a corrective driver surface to control off center impact strikes – which in-turn can help produce “straight distance” off the tee.  This technology will not increase your driving distance.  But, it may help ‘straighten out’ your shots off the tee.
■  Clean Your Club Grips:  Slick, shiny or glazed grips on your golf club are not a good thing.  You will have to squeeze your hands much more tightly to hang onto the club during your swing.  This is not good for distance or control.  Clean them regularly using a strong cleaner like Formula 409, Method All-Purpose Cleaner, or Windex Multi Surface Cleaner..   Scrub with a clean towel and your liquid cleaner.  Then, thoroughly dry them using another clean towel.  Try to get the grip to be ‘tacky’ again.  If you cannot get some of that tacky feel back, replace your grips.
■  Always Leave the Pin In:  Under the new rules of golf there is no penalty for hitting/touching the flag stick with your ball.  This prompted some golf professionals to conduct a study of putting with and without the ‘pin’ in place using a Stimp Meter device to consistently launch balls to imitate repetitive putted balls under various conditions.  In all cases, more ‘putts’ were sunk with the flag stick in place.  Therefore, always leave the ‘pin’ in place.  You will have a better chance of sinking the putt and speed up play at the same time.  The only proviso is to make sure the flag stick is fully/firmly seated in the hole and not leaning.  Hitting the stick will not prevent the ball from dropping into the hole and will reduce the ‘over run’ when putting speed is too high.
Miscellaneous Tips Apr, 2019
■  Blue Ice:  Don’t buy commercial products meant to keep things cold in an ice chest.  They don’t work as well as plain water.  Frozen water will last 30% - 40% longer than frozen Blue Ice products of comparable shape and size.
■   Choosing Melons:  When shopping for Cantaloupes, look for a more prominent ‘netting’ on the exterior.  Avoid more smoother looking surfaces.  Also, look for a lighter color in the depressed areas.  When shopping for Honeydew Melons, feel the outer surface.  Choose melons that have a slightly ‘sticky’ (more drag on the fingers) feel.  Avoid smooth, slick feeling exteriors.  Look at the ‘belly button’ where the melon was attached to the vine.  That spot should be smooth as if it parted from the vine easily when picked.
■  Avoid Dyson Stick Vacuums:  The Dyson stick vacuum loses CR recommendation.  “CR analyzed survey data for more than 50,000 vacuum models purchased by our members - because of the results, we took action and adjusted our ratings. About half of Dyson stick vacuums are predicted to break or stop working within 5 years.”
■  Sodium Intake:  The daily recommended limit for sodium is less than 2,300 mg, but you would never know it from the amount packed into restaurant dishes and even some drinks. TGI Fridays’ Loaded Chicken Nachos appetizer, for example, has a whopping 4,930 mg of sodium; its Blackberry Margarita, 570 mg.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 71 percent of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods. The top dining-out sources are sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, chicken, Mexican entrées, and salads, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. Keep that list in mind when you’re looking at a menu.
■  Use Old Tennis Balls:  Cut “X” slits in old tennis balls to temporarily attach them to the legs/feet of outdoor furniture before moving them on any surface.  This will prevent marking the concrete, brick, pavers or wood surfaces and also eliminates the horrible sound of metal scraping on hard surfaces.  This idea brought to us by Sir Jerald Cerri.  Caution:  Tennis balls have a very tough exterior.  And, because it is a round object, it is very unstable during cutting.  Be very careful.  Clamp it in a vise or ‘pinch’ it tight with large Vise Grips or Channel Locks to hold while cutting.  Use a very sharp Utility Knife with a new, disposable blade.
■  New Car Bargains:  If you are looking for a low price on a new vehicle, dealers are now trying to unload older inventory that do not have the newer suite of safety features such as Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Automatic Rear Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control.  Most of these features will be standard on all makes and models in the 2020 model year on even the lowest level of trim.  Cars without these features will be hard to sell.  If you are willing to forego these safety features, you should be able to find some low, bargain prices.
■  New Improved Staplers:  If you haven’t replaced your standard stapler/s, you may want to replace your older units.  Why?  Most new staplers now can handle 20+ pages capacity with ease using standard staple refills.  I recently got one at Walmart for just $7 and it works great!
■  Sirius XM Radio Option:  When buying a new car, this is a satellite radio option offered on all new cars.  It is a subscription service that costs from about $15/mon. to $40/mon. depending upon the channels and features you choose to subscribe to.  If you are interested mainly in music, I suggest you try streaming Spotify and/or Pandora via your Smartphone and into your vehicle via blutetooth.  You can try either of those services for free for an unlimited time but they will have short ads.  For ad-free service, you can upgrade for about $10/mon.
■  Clean Your TV Screen:  Not all TV screens are the same. Though the current TV market is dominated by super-bright, big-screen LCD (LED) and OLED TVs, many of us still have older sets, including plasma TVs, which they stopped manufacturing in 2014, and even CRTVs—also called tube TVs—which started disappearing around 2008.  If you're cleaning an older tube TV, then you'll have a bit more flexibility, because their screens are made of glass and can be cleaned like other glass items in your household. In this—and only this—instance, it's okay to use a window cleaner such as Windex.
LCD TVs, though, are far more sensitive and need to be carefully cleaned so that the screens don't get scratched or damaged. And though plasma TVs also have glass screens, manufacturers often have applied a sensitive anti-glare coating, so they should be treated like an LCD TV rather than a CRTV set.  For OLED TVs, the advice is similar to LCD sets: Clean with a soft, dry cloth to avoid scratching the screen.
In all cases, turn off the TV, or even unplug it prior to cleaning, per CR’s TV testing program. "In addition to it being safer for the set, it's usually easier to see dirt or finger smudges when the screen is dark.  It also gives the TV a chance to cool down."
Start With a Dry, Soft Cloth.  Screens can scratch easily, and even paper towels or toilet paper contain fibers that can do damage.  Use a soft, anti-static microfiber cloth—the kind uses to clean eyeglasses and camera lenses—and wipe in a circular motion. (Sometimes TV manufacturers will include a cloth for this purpose.)  Gently wipe the screen with a dry cloth to remove dust and other debris, but don't press too hard.  If there are more stubborn stains, you can dampen the cloth slightly with distilled water, and gently clean the screen. Don't spray water directly onto the screen, which could cause a shock or component failure if it drips or seeps into the inner workings of the set.  For truly stubborn stains, use a solution of very mild dish soap highly diluted with water, once again applied to the cloth and not to the TV itself. (As a guideline for how much soap to use, Panasonic used to recommend a 100:1 ratio of water vs. soap.) LCD screens, in particular, are very sensitive to pressure and can scratch easily, so don’t press too hard.
■ Blue Light Filter:  You may have seen/heard advice about not watching TV or working on your laptop or desk top computer just before bed time  because they emit a light in the “blue spectrum range” that can have a detrimental effect on your ability to sleep.  Almost all new TVs and Desk Top PC Monitors have a ‘Blue Light’ filter built into the screens.  Check your Owner’s Manual to learn how to turn it on/off.  This is per my Optometrist during my last eye exam.  Additional note – if you have a Kindle Paperwhite series E-reader, these do not emit ‘blue light’ and should not interfere with sleep.
More Automotive Tips & News Mar, 2019
Cars to be discontinued after 2019 model year:  The following vehicles will no longer be available for sale after this model year.  Most are due to low sales and/or need to invest in updating the design to remain competitive.
FORD: Taurus, Focus, C-max
CHEVROLET: Impala, Cruze, Volt
VOLKSWAGEN: Touareg, Beetle
■  Assistive devices for vehicle entry/exit:  At our stage of life, we know many folks that are infirmed or physically handicapped in various ways that make it difficult to get in an out of standard passenger vehicles and light trucks and SUVs.  If you have friends and/or relatives that need help in this activity, look into Auto Assist Grab Bar, devices that fit into the steel door latch mechanism on the vehicle door post.  The cost is minimal – under $20.  Another device is a Assist Strap that loops around the window frame to provide a handle to grab.  Both these devices make it much easier for someone to rise up out of a Transport Chair or Wheelchair to a standing position for entry into a vehicle.  Here are some links to websites offering these types of aids:
The above are from Walgreen but these are also available for delivery from Amazon and Walmart.
■  Tire Replacement on 4-wheel and AWD Vehicles:  Some time ago, I stated that it might be necessary to replace all 4 tires on these vehicles  if you damage just one or two tires because any new tire mixed in among the partially worn existing tires will, in time, damage the transmission and/or the gears in the Center Differential orTransfer Case.  All 4 tires must be of the approximate same diameter to avoid damage.  Otherwise you are looking at a very expensive repair bill!  There is another way around this.  Buy just one new tire and have it “shaved” down to match the diameter of the existing tires.  This can be done with special equipment at tire stores like Big O.

■  New Electric Vehicles Coming:  Thinking about going electric for your next car?   You're in luck: EV buyers in 2019 have more choices than ever before. In addition to new Iuxu BI model\s like the Audi E-Tron and Jaguar\-Pace, there are also more affordable electrics including the new longer-range Nissan Leaf Plus and the Hyundai Kona EV.  CR is now evaluating them and will report on them in a near future issue.

Time to check your investment strategy? Mar, 2019 Possible Recession Ahead?  Penny Wang, Money Editor, Consumer Reports writes,  "After nine years of steady economic growth, there's a growing risk that a recession may be approaching - or, at the very least, more extreme market volatility. For investors, it's crucial to review your financial plan to make sure you are taking the right amount of risk. Retirees should have enough cash to ride out a downturn, which will help them avoid tapping their portfolios during a market low.
Small Appliances Trends   Mar, 2019
Mores small appliances will vie for a spot on your countertop than ever before.  New devices - Vacuum Blenders, Multii-Function Cookers (like Insta Pot) and Air Fryers have jumped a whopping 360% this past holiday season over last year.  Competition among brands of Air Fryers has resulted in much more affordable prices – some as much as 40% less than last year with more feature choices.
Mobile Phone News Mar, 2019
5G is Here! The newest, latest, greatest advance in Smartphone technology is about to descend upon us.  The new 5G cell phone systems are now ready for use and the new, compatible Smartphones that can use this new technology are about to hit the stores next month.  What is 5G?  It’s wider broadband cellular systems that can make your Smartphone operate at a considerably higher speed for computing, data transfer, streaming and all other general uses.  Get ready for the ad blitzes coming.  If you’re happy with your current device, you have nothing to worry about.  Stick with it.
Should You Buy a Home Warranty?   Mar, 2019
Home warranty companies run lots of ads promising to save you thousands of dollars when something goes wrong with your refrigerator, furnace, plumbing, and other appliances and systems. But don’t count on the peace of mind these plans promise. These warranties are terrible deals and simply aren’t worth their price tags or hassle.
Warranty companies are the subject of thousands of complaints to consumer agencies. Even after paying $400 to $1,000 for the coverage, consumers will find home warranty contracts typically are filled with fine-print exclusions that easily can stick them with much of the costs for product repairs or replacements. The vast majority of homeowners who buy these plans will pay far more in premiums and service fees and for uncovered repairs than if they skipped buying warranties. Plus you don’t get to decide who does the work. We find that the best repair services overwhelmingly disdain these plans and won’t work with home warranty companies.
The above does not apply to Home Warranties offered by builders and developers on new homes.
How to Safely and Easily Empty Liquid from a Large Container Mar, 2019
Got a big bucket or ice chest full of water or other liquid that needs to be disposed of?  Instead of lifting it up to a toilet or sink height, use a medium pot/pan as a ladle to ladle out1/2 or more of the liquid to lighten the load so you can easily handle the cumbersome vessel to pour away in the sink or toilet without spilling.
Free Tickets for Veterans Mar, 2019
Veteran Tickets Foundation:  This is from SIR Larry Feigenbaum: Good organization for vets to get free tickets to many local events.   Pay $14.90 handling fee for the 2 tickets...sometimes more.  Get daily or more frequent e-mails when tickets are ordered.  Go to:
Alzheimer’s Link to Gum Disease  Mar, 2019 Gum disease bacteria may play a role in Alzheimer's disease, researchers say.  They studied dead and living patients with diagnosed and suspected Alzheimer's and found bacteria associated with chronic gum disease in the brains of people with Alzheimer's, BBC News reported.  Tests on mice confirmed the bacteria,  Porphyromonas gingivalis could migrate from the mouth to the brain and that a toxic protein they secrete (gingipain) destroyed brain neurons
Another Use for Hair Ties Mar, 2019 Elastic Hair Ties (30 for $3.99 on Amazon; 24 for 99¢ at Dollar Tree) make excellent ‘cord minders’ for power cords of small appliances and AC power adapters for portable electronic devices.  And, because they come in various colors, you can use them to identify specific cords.  I use one on my water bottle at tennis, golf and tennis to easily identify mine among a group of similar bottles.
Yamazaki Ladle & Lid Stand Mar, 2019
While cooking, where do you put the lid to a boiling pot to stir or add ingredients or the cover to your skillet while frying?  If you lay it on the counter, a puddle of condensate will form from the hot lid drippings.  And it takes a whole lot of counter space when large lids are involved.  The solution – this $20 Ladle/Lid Stand.  See it at:  It will stand even heavy, cast iron lids in a near vertical position to minimize the space needed.  And, because the stand has a very small ‘footprint,’ it can be kept on the counter for instant and easy use.  It also doubles as a cook book or iPad/tablet stand for reference while cooking.  When holding lids, large wooden spoons, ladles  or other cooking utensils, the condensation/sauce drips into a non-stick, removable drip tray for easy cleanup.  It’s available with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.  You will love this device.
Save on Dishes and Cleanup Mar, 2019 When doing prep work – “Mise en place” (chopping, dicing, slicing of ingredients) use inexpensive, disposable coffee filters, pieces of stretch wrap or  paper towels. This will save you from having to clean many small dishes.
Avoid Pan Boil Over Mar, 2019 How many times have you had to clean up the mess on your stove when the pan boils over when cooking pasta, reheating soup or working with any liquids?  Avoid this in the future by laying a wooden spoon across the top of the pan.  When the boiling liquid boils up and about to spill over, it will come in contact with the wooden spoon and the bubbles and white froth simply calm down and disappear instead of spilling over the sides of the pot.
Pedestrian Safety Tip Mar, 2019 Make Eye Contact:  When crossing a street, make eye contact with drivers of oncoming traffic.  There are way too many distracted drivers out there.  This will ensure that they have definitely seen you and acknowledge your presence.  The same holds true when you are driving and encounter pedestrians crossing the street.  They will often be buried into their cell phones and not paying full attention.  If they don’t make eye contact, proceed only with the utmost in caution.
Automotive Tips Feb, 2019
Signaling vehicles without headlights on:  Without fail, we all see cars driving at dusk, night or foggy conditions without their lights on.  Rapidly flicking your own headlights to high/low beam has proven to be fruitless.  Instead, try switching your lights to High Beam and leaving it there until the other vehicle turns on their lights or has passed.  This method seems more effecting than flicking between high/low.
■  Cleaning gray film on inside of your windshield and all interior glass:  This is not dirt or smoke from smokers.  This is the out gassing of chemicals in the vinyl interior of your vehicle.  Do not use any liquid cleaners.  The best thing is to use a clean, soft, dry cotton towel.  These chemical, known as “plasticizers” will cling to the clean, dry towel much better than a damp or wet rag.
■  Costliest new vehicles to insure: Mercedes-Benz S65 & S63 AMG; Porche Panamera S; Mercedes-Benz S650 Maybach; BMW M6 Coupe; BMW Alpina B7 XDrive; BMW i8;Nissan GT-R NISMO; Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S.
■  Cheapest New Vehicles to insure:  Jeep Wrangler Freedom; Honda Odyssey LXl; Suburu Crosstrek; Suburu Outback; Fiat 500X; Mazda CX-3 Sport; Mazda CX-5 Sport; Jeep Compass Sport; Honda HR-V-LX; Ford Escape.
Troubleshooting 12 Volt Halogen "Peanut” bulbs   
Feb, 2019
These are often used in drop pendant lamps and other small lamps.  If they go dark, test the bulb with an inexpensive continuity checker.  The low voltage means they require a very good connection.  Over time, the small, wire prongs oxidize and no long make good enough contact to work properly.  Try wiping the two contact pins with steel wool or fine sandpaper.  Reinsert and wiggle them.  Contact might be reestablished and may, again, work well.
Save Pickle Juice Feb, 2019 Do not discard pickle juice once you use up the contents of the jar.  Cut up vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, peppers, onions, etc. and place in the jar with the pickle juice.  Shake well and refrigerate for at least 3 days.  They will be good as a salad or relish.  Dill, sweet or bread & butter pickle juice can be used.
Make Kale Less Bitter Feb, 2019
There are compounds present in Kale that can make it taste bitter.  Cut your Kale up BEFORE massaging and rinsing.  Rinsing after the leaves have been cut will wash away some of the bitter compounds.
TSA Tips Feb, 2019
Avoid using Lubriderm or other hand lotions containing glycerin, a common component of many lotions.  If you have been randomly selected to be swabbed for explosives, the glycerin may trigger a false positive alarm.  The TSA equipment may detect the lotion residue as a component of nitroglycerin
Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs Feb, 2019
Put cold eggs in a pan in a single layer.  Cover with water by 1”.  Put the pan on high heat.  After reaching a full boil, cover the pan and let it sit (covered) for 15 minutes.  Then place the eggs in a ice bath (half ice half water) until completely chilled (minimum 10 minutes, preferably longer) stirring gently occasionally.  Your finished egg should be easy to peel and the yolk will be yellow and well set without any dark areas
Inexpensive Wine Ratings Feb, 2019
Looking for inexpensive but good wines under $20?  Go to http//  Tim Lemke, a wine blogger started this website in 2007.  He has rated over 700 wines using the familiar 100 point rating system.
Best way to whisk liquids for emulsifying Feb, 2019
Making salad dressing using oil and vinegar with seasonings is easy, quick and economical.  When using a wire whisk on the mixture, use a side-to-side motion.  It is most efficient and effective. This maximizes sheer forces desirable in emulsifying.  Avoid circular , vertical beating or figure 8 motions.
Military Discounts Feb, 2019
Per our good friend, Dirk Meyer, a Sir member from another Chapter that plays tennis with our group, Verizon gives Veterans a 15% discount.  Simply show your DD214 form (release from active duty).  Dirk suggests that you ask for Veteran’s discount at other stores and services.
Current SF Food Trands Feb, 2019
Cuisines on the rise:  Cafes + Breakfast/Brunch places – 35 opened/24 closed.  Ramen – 12 opened/4 closed.  Hawaiian – 5 opened/2 closed.  Hot Pot – 4 opened/0 closed.  Vietnamese – 12 opened/9 closed.  This count was from 01/01/18 through 12/08/18.  Total current restaurants in SF = 4,585.
Best Time of Day for Medical Visits and/or Procedures Feb, 2019
Avoid visits to clinics, hospitals, doctors offices, etc. in the afternoon.  Staff fatigue leads to many more errors and less attention to details including hand sanitizing leading to a higher risk of contracting infection.
Booking Flights on Southwest Airlines Feb, 2019
When looking for low cost/sale fares on this airline, go to their website and click on “Flights.”  On that page, look for “Low Fare Calendar.”  Enter your destination and the month/s of travel and enter “search.”  All the lowest cost fares for those selected months for that destination will be displayed so you can quickly and easily see the low cost fare available for those dates of travel.
Portable Butane Stove Feb, 2019
According to the Earth Sciences folks, Global Warming will bring more severe weather events.  This will likely result in more power outages even in metro areas.  A portable gas powered stove is a good thing to have at those times.  The Stansport Portable Outdoor Butane Stove is an excellent stove for emergency use.  It is small, lightweight, compact and uses 8 oz. butane fuel cartridges.  It only costs $15.93 on Amazon with free, 2-day delivery for Prime Members.  It is rated at 8,000 BTUs output from its single burner.  It has its own internal sparking mechanism for easy, match free lighting.  It’s also good for tailgating, picnics and other impromptu uses.
Automotive Tips Jan, 2019
Replacing vehicle battery on newer models:  New cars today are loaded with many more luxury and safety features than previous generations.  These features can be real electrical energy hogs.  Typically, OEM batteries of past years would last 3 to 5 years.  Today, 2 – 4 years is more typical.  The OEM units are often smaller/lower capacity to save money during production.  This often results in lower cycle life and less reserve power for starting in very cold weather.  Look for a replacement battery with the highest Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) that will fit your vehicle.  600 CC Amps is a good CCA value to look for.  Check to see if the next larger “Group Size” battery will fit.  Our 2015 Subaru Outback came equipped with an OEM battery that does not fill the battery mounting tray.  Upon further investigation, I have determined that the next group size larger will fit my vehicle.  This will give me much more reserve starting power and, most likely, longer battery life.
■  Use of Memory Saver.  Consider having your new battery professionally installed.  It is important to use a “Memory Saver” device prior to disconnecting your old battery.  Without the use of this device, you will lose all the memory settings on almost all your electrically powered features including safety features and computer memory stored that control all engine, drive-train and smog settings, radio stations, seat memory, etc.  This includes PIN (Person Identification Numbers) used as theft deterrent, primarily for high-end radio/stereo radios.  For DIY folks - if you have working knowledge of electrical circuits in cars, you can purchase a Memory Saver for about $10 - $20 at your local automotive supply store.
■  DIY TIP: Clean the battery posts of the new battery and the cable clamp fittings of your vehicle.  Add anti-corrosion felt pads to the new battery posts.  Coat battery posts with Lithium Grease before assembly and tightening.  These items are readily available at your local automotive retail store.
■  Placement of Stickers and Decals on bumpers:  Last month, I advised against placing any decals/stickers on bumpers because of possible interference with sensors for safety features (blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, rear proximity to objects, etc.).  Radar sensors will transmit/receive data through paper and vinyl decals/stickers without signal degradation UNLESS THEY ARE SILVER COATED MATERIAL.  The silver coating is sometimes used to protect the decal/sticker adhesive from UV exposure.  When peeling the backing off a decal/sticker, check the adhesive side and if there is no silver coating, it can be safely used without degrading the sensors’ performance.
Air Fryers:  Jan, 2019 Last month I mentioned these as a good gift. Some folks have asked about uses for this type of appliance.  It works great for refreshing day-old (or much older) baked or deep fried pastries or other foods.  It’s great for thawing frozen foods items.  It works beautifully for doing frozen foods such as Hush Puppies, Tater Tots, French Fries, Fish & Chips, Egg Rolls, or any other frozen items that you would take from the freezer and place in a hot oven.  Left over sandwiches are excellent when reheated on high heat.  The bread or roll will no longer be soggy and the inner ingredients won’t be refrigerator cold.  I like Jersey Mike’s Subs.  I will often order two of them, eat ½ of one and put the other 1-1/2 in the refrigerator and use the Air Fryer to freshen them upon demand.  I’ve kept them as long as 2 weeks!  Left over fried foods (Tempura Shrimp/Vegetables, Calamari, Onion Rings, etc.) are sometimes even better than when they were fresh served at the restaurant.  Pizza slices are another suitable item.  Sausages and frankfurters are also great and save getting out a frying pan or dirtying dishes in the microwave.  Crisping up limp potato chips and tortilla chips are super easy and fast.   You can easily and quickly make your own flavored croutons out of stale bread (or fresh bread if you are out and need croutons at the moment).
Slow Gas Pump:  Jan, 2019 Ever go to a gas station where the gas pump seems to take forever to fill your tank?  This is a sign of a clogged fuel filter and could mean that the station is not particularly good at performing regular maintenance tasks.  Maybe you should avoid this station.  There could be moisture in the gas due to deferred maintenance of the tanks and pumps.
Stop Spam Text Messages:  Jan, 2019
If you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint subscriber, report spam text messages to your carrier by copying the original message and forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM), free of charge. (This actually does stop the messages!)
Don’t purchase extended warranties: Jan, 2019 Most credit card issuers offer extended product warranties to their cardholders – a benefit many consumers are unaware they have. Many have no annual fee and others charge less than $60. Some cards will double an original warranty up to one year, while others will extend it up to two. Typically neither will exclude a claim based on wear and tear or the fact that an item was refurbished. Examples of cards providing this protection include Capital One Venture (doubles up to one year) and Citi Thank You Premier (doubles up to two years).  Other credit cards with similar protection are Visa/MasterCard Gold and American Express.
Pay with a credit card:  Jan, 2019
Always pay with a credit card. 
This is the most common consumer recommendation from Consumer Advocates. Do not make major purchases with a debit card, check or cash – none provide the same consumer protections as a credit card. Should quality, delivery or service fall short, your credit card issuer can investigate on your behalf and, as necessary, work to get you a charge-back.
Buying merchandise to build additional airline mileage credit:  Jan, 2019
You usually get more value from your credit card airline miles by using them for flights than buying products through such programs' various partnerships.
Gift Card Tips:  Jan, 2019
This is the season where gift cards are commonly received.  If you received some and are not a regular buyer or user of those specific chain stores or service providers, here are some options for you:
1. Sell it:  Fortunately, some companies have made a business model out of buying your unwanted gift cards. Cardpool is a website that buys and sells gift cards. According to the Washington Post, Cardpool purchases gift cards by check or Amazon egift card from $0.75-$0.90 per dollar depending on the popularity of the store associated with the gift card.
2. Exchange It:  Now, you may just trade cards with friends, the way people used to trade collectible cards (like baseball and Pokémon cards). However, the cards available for trade may not be what you are looking for.
In a, somewhat, riskier option, you may join a gift card exchange, like the one found on reddit. The risks may seem obvious: you send the gift card and do not get your gift card. However, the way reddit structures the trades, it appears they have a high success rate. Through the use of a review system, experienced traders appear with higher reviews and higher numbers of trades associated with their account. While there may be difficulty in getting your first few trades completed, once you get started, it can be a convenient location to exchange your gift card for the exact payment type you desire.
3. What is my gift card worth?  So you decide to sell or exchange the gift card for your unique store’s gift card, say the Sockmarket, how much is that card worth compared to an Amazon gift card? Again, there are resources out there which tell the going rates for these gift cards. Cardpool will tell you a rate compared to cash, but the reddit exchange does not have a stock-market-like screen with all the gift card values on them. Gift exchanges are considered free-markets, so you may post your gift card and what you may want, say 80% Amazon in exchange for your $50 sock market gift card, which would mean you trade your $50 gift card for $40 Amazon gift card. All you need to do is wait for a message from someone interested or a counteroffer. It would be a good idea to check the sale sites before the exchanges because it can give a price floor for your gift card. Why take the risk of the exchange if you can get the same price from a retailer, which buys gift cards for cash. After all, cash is always king!
4. Philanthropic Alternative:  If this all sounds like too much effort for a gift card you just want out of your house, but you feel bad for throwing away something that is essentially money. Good News! You can donate your gift cards to a charity of your choice. On websites like CharityChoice, you may send the balance of your gift card to a charity of your choice. Not only do you get to help your favorite charity, you get a tax receipt!