Consumer Tips 2016

Here are some handy consumer tips
from SIR Jim Quon
that you might find useful.
Items on this page
cover 2016!
Tip Posting Date Details
Annual Meyer Warehouse Sale December, 2016
Now in its 20th year the Meyer Cookware Factory Outlet Sale 2016 has deals on top-brand cookware, bakeware, dinnerware, pantryware, stoneware, teakettles, kitchen tools, kitchen gadgets,cutlery, and more.Meyer is the largest cookware company in America. This sale is at their actual factory. As in the real deal, not a pseudo-factory-outlet-mall.  Mark your calendar – the Meyer Cookware Factory Outlet Sale only comes around once a year. This year it is from December 1 through December 12.  The Deal:  From cookware to cutlery, find over 1,000 items from your favorite brands, including: Anolon, Breville, Circulon, Rachael Ray, Farberware Cookware, SilverStone, Paula Deen, and many more!  Prices are 30% to 70% off retail.  Where:  Meyer Corporation, U.S., 25 Curtola Parkway, Vallejo 94590; Meyer Corporation, U.S., 2001 Meyer Way, Fairfield  94533   Free Parking at both locations.
Here’s how it works.  The warehouse is filled with all manner of cookware and related cooking/kitchen items.  These are all marked down 30% to 70% priced on the shelf.  You’ll need a coupon for an additional 30% off at the register.  Go to the Meyer Corp USA website to print the coupon.  If you have trouble downloading or printing the coupon, call me as I have extra copies.
We go every year and there are SIR members and friends that wait for this sale announcement every year.  This is a good way to find gifts for family and friends.
Bathroom Odors December, 2016 This is the time of year that we often have house guests or go visit with friends and relatives in their home.  Odors after using the guest bathroom can be really embarrassing.  To avoid this, use Just A Drop Personal Odor Reducer and Neutralizer, from Amazon, online, for about $8.  Other similar products are also available from Target, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond.  Simply drop a few drops from the small, pocket/purse size plastic container into the toilet bowl before sitting and use.  These drops form a surface tension layer that effectively  traps the bad smells and it goes down the drain upon flushing. 
Retail News December, 2016 Golfsmith, the entire chain of 109 stores, have filed for bankruptcy.   All but 30 of these stores have been sold to Dick’s Sporting Goods.  It is unclear what will happen to the Pleasanton Store but it looks like it will remain open but under the new name of Golf Galaxy.  An announcement should be forthcoming, shortly.
Digital Scales December, 2016 If you have ever wanted a digital scale for cooking or hobby use, a good one is available at Tuesday Morning stores for just $9.99!  It’s a Sharper Image brand and has a weighing capacity of 11 lbs and can be read in pounds or metric.  These are great for dieters, cooks and anyone that is in need or is interested in accurate weight measure.    They make superb postage scales!  And, they’re super-accurate!
Cheap Gas December, 2016 Be advised, the Valero Gas Station on Bollinger near Chevron is no longer a bargain place.  They’ve raised their prices tremendously in just the last 2 weeks.  They were selling Regular at $3.819/gal., cash price!  That’s more than 50¢ more since 2 weeks, ago.  Safeway, Dublin/Pleasanton, was selling at $3.279/gal, cash, last week!
Spare Tire Safety December, 2016
Do you know if you have a real spare tire in your vehicle?  It is properly inflated?  How old is it?  D.O.T. says that tires should not be used for normal service after 6 years.  The rubber gets old and tends to crack.  This is very dangerous due to a potential blow-out at freeway speeds.  Check your spare tire, today.  Take it to your local tire shop and have them read the date code.  You might also learn that you don’t even have a spare tire.  Some new cars now eliminate the spare tire and give you a can of sealant that is designed to temporarily seal and inflate a leaking tire to allow you to limp home or to a tire store.  A few cars still have full-size spares and many have the small, compact spares good for use for just 50 miles and at reduced speeds.  But, it would be really good information for you to know this before you are caught in a situation that involves your spare tire or the lack of one!
Wills, Trusts and other Legal Documents December, 2016
Are your legal affairs in order and your personal wishes made known in case you should suddenly become incapacitated or worse, pass away?  We’ve had our Wills, Power of Attorney, Advanced Healthcare Directive documents prepared years ago.  An attorney friend mentioned to me that a Trust should be created ASAP to avoid possible problems, later.  I did not know that a Trust can only be created while we are of sound mind.  Any loss of mental ability vacates your easy ability to create a trust.  So, don’t wait!  Also, once I got into this subject, we learned a lot and we recommend seeing an attorney that specializes in Estate matters.  Like anything else in our complex world, specialists can do a much better job for specific areas of the law.  You can save lots of money by going to a ‘Document Preparer’ or an inexpensive attorney or even buy apps online for these documents.  But, to get the best information and advice, an attorney can be well worth the extra money.  We could have saved a lot by doing the ‘boiler plate’ or ‘one size fits all’ but now we have great comfort in knowing that there are extensive controls that will govern how our assets are used, sold or consumed well after we’re gone.  I know that we’re very glad we did it via a specialist attorney.  We were so very ignorant about what could or couldn’t be done in a trust.  And, in most cases, we older folks had all our property and/or assets in both our names as joint owners with survivor rights.  That’s the way it was commonly done.  We just learned that it might be best to have it under “Community Property.”  And, another tip – laws change, tax regulations change, etc.  You should visit with your attorney on a regular basis and update things to stay in tune with the changing times.  Similarly, we discovered that our Advanced Healthcare Directive (done by a licensed attorney) was woefully inadequate and our simple Will was changed to a Pour-over Will.
Vinyl Bumpers December, 2016 If you have nice, custom cabinets in your home, the installers probably attached vinyl or dabs of silicon rubber for bumpers on the cabinet doors.  After 12 years following our kitchen remodeling, the vinyl has begun to deteriorate into a sticky mess and no longer able to keep the doors from banging during closing.  These can be scraped off and any sticky residue should be removed with WD-40, Goo Gone or Goof Off.  Don’t use Lacquer Thinner or other strong solvents as they may damage the wood finish.  Self-stick, replacement vinyl or rubber bumpers in various sizes and thicknesses are available at Orchard Supply Hardware as are the products for safe removal of the sticky substances.
Hardware Store Prices December, 2016 For what it’s worth, I have found that prices are lowest for most typical hardware items at Lowe’s and Home Depot but the service and knowledge of the staff is sadly lacking.  A good balance of knowledge, help and low prices was best achieved at OSH.  You can almost always find someone that is knowledgeable at Orchard Supply Hardware and you don’t pay a premium price.  I have found that Ace Hardware can be very high.  A 35 watt, 120 V Halogen bulb was almost $10 at the Blackhawk Ace but was only half that at OSH ‘down the hill’ from Ace.
Skin Cancer November, 2016 Most of us know to use sun block on our body when spending time outdoors.  But, do not neglect your face and neck.  That includes your LIPS!  I had a sore on my bottom lip going back to 2014.  It was diagnosed as ‘pre-cancerous’ after a biopsy.  It was treated with topical chemotherapy and it would go away but come back, again.  After 3 cycles of this, another deep biopsy indicated that it had ‘matured’ into Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a slow growing but real cancer.  I underwent successful Moh’s Surgery, a special surgical technique to ensure all the cancer tissue is excised.  This has been a very painful experience.  The moral of this story is – use a lip balm with SPF 30 on a regular basis.
Avoid Kitchen Fires November, 2016 As we get older, our memories and attention span become much less sharp.  An overheated pan on the stove in our home is a real fire hazard.  We’ve all left the burner on to simmer something or reduce a sauce and we forget or get distracted.  Most of the time, it just results in a badly burned pan.  But, if left unattended long enough, a real fire can spring up.  To avoid this, set a timer anytime that you are doing something on the stove and will not be at 100% attention to the project.  This way, if you are distracted, the timer going off at the time you believe the project should be concluded will be your warning.  Make sure your timer is loud enough to be heard from other parts of the house.  Or, as an alternative, use a small one with a clip that you can attach to your clothing.  Joyce does this with a small digital unit.  This timer idea can also be a reminder for other things, e.g. taking medication, calling someone, start or stop a project, etc
Arm & Hammer Spinbrush vs Oral B or Philips Sonicare Toothbrush November, 2016
Many of us use electric toothbrushes for our daily oral hygiene.  My trusty Braun Oral B finally ‘died’ after many years of faithful service.  I tried using a battery-operated, Arm & Hammer Spinbrush and was happy with this lower-cost replacement.  But, on my next cleaning/check-up, my Dental Hygienist noted that the plaque buildup was much worse than before.  I reported that I had changed to the Spinbrush and she advised me to avoid the disposable battery operated units.  They don’t have the power (vibration frequency or rotation cycle speed) to do a good job of plaque removal.
Micro USB Charging Cords November, 2016 Last month I mentioned that marking the ‘top’ side of the Mini USB plug tip made it easier to ensure proper orientation for your connection.  Per Bill Olmo’s daughter – you can also feel both sides of the plug and the ‘bottom’ side will have a sharp bump on it.  This may have been designed into the plug for the vision impaired folks.  Tip – if you have multiple devices that use both Mini and Micro USB plugs for charging or synching, buy one single cord with a dual head that fits both sizes.  The 3 ft. cord is only $5, available at Walgreen’s Drug.  You can only charge one device at a time but you might be able to avoid carrying two different cords for all your portable electronic devices.
Cheap Gas November, 2016 The cheapest gas in the Southern Contra Costa area is the Dublin Exxon Station across the street from 99 Ranch Market and Casa Orozco Mexican Restaurant.  Today, the regular cash price was $2.359; credit price was $2.410, only 6¢ more instead of the more conventional 10¢ up-charge for using your credit card.
Movie Bargain November, 2016 One of the best movie bargains is “$5 Tuesdays” at the Livermore 13 Cinema, Livermore.  All auditoriums feature electric reclining seats, rockers, swivel tray over the seats and reserved seating.  The $5 special rate is on Tuesdays, only.  Holidays are excepted as are special shows and the first day opening of a film.  All up-charges for 3D, GS (giant screen) and D-Box Motion Seats will apply.  Tickets and seat reservations are available via their website.  Parking in a multi-story parking garage is only a block away.  There is huge selection of quality restaurants, bakeries, cocktail lounges, refreshment stands, coffee houses, etc. very close by making it an ideal place to dine before or after a show.
Self Serve Soda Dispensing Machine November, 2016 The standard soda machine found in most fast food places can dispense up to 12 flavors.  Coco-Cola Freestyle, a new machine on the market can dispense 150 flavors.  The selection of the types and flavors is made by pressing buttons that appear on a touch screen face.  I happen to like Diet Cherry Coke flavor.  This machine has it, plus many other flavors in Diet Coke or Coke Zero as well as sugar-sweetened Coke.  You can have a lot of fun just mixing your own group of flavors!  The machines have been out for several years but I just became aware of two sites in the Tri-Valley area.  Try them at the McDonald’s Dublin and San Ramon, both on San Ramon Valley Blvd.  You’ll see flavors you never even knew existed!
Salad Mixes November, 2016 If you buy commercially, bagged (or in tubs) salad mixes from your local grocer markets, choose Organic produce.  They are processed less during harvesting and packaging, resulting in less bruising of the stems and leaves in in the finished product.  The benefit is longer lasting salad greens than non-organic product.  Also, buy them from markets that have a high volume of traffic.  This means the product on the shelves will be fresher than a market with lower stock turnover.
Local Dining Scene November, 2016
Newly closed places include – Tahoe Joe’s, Concord and Elephant Bar, Dublin.  The chains are still in operation but they have closed many of their lower-performing stores to improve overall profitability.  Newly opened restaurants are – Pizza Antica, Danville Brewing Co., Basque Bourlangerie Café, Zalla Kabab House, Sultan’s Kebab and Taru Japanese Sushi, all in Danville.  And, True Food Kitchen, Walnut Creek, is a national chain created by noted food/health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil.  The food and prices at Zalla are excellent and the staff bends over backwards to satisfy the customers.  Sultan’s is their second location, the first/original site is in Pleasanton.  The menu and prices are the same and the food is just as good as the ‘mother ship.’  True Food Kitchen is based on good food that is both healthy as well as full flavored that will appeal to all, not just health devotees.  It doesn’t taste or look like ‘health fare.’  Also, Habit Hamburger Grill, all local locations, has added a new Fried Chicken Sandwich that is real winner.  It’s a real chicken breast (not formed patties) and it’s moist and flavorful!  Try it.  I think you’ll like it!
Solar Powered Watches November, 2016 The Citizen’s Eco-Drive models have proven to be a big success.  Seiko and other brands are following suit.  However, be forewarned that the rechargeable battery (technically a capacitor) in these solar powered timepieces do not last forever.  You can expect them to run 6 to 8 years before requiring replacement.  When you do need service for any watch, I recommend Thomas Watch Repair, Pleasanton.  He is extremely good and is very reasonable.  On top of all that, he is a delightful fellow!
Wet Phone November, 2016
If you accidentally dunk you phone or other small portable device, all might not be lost.  Try this first before taking it in for repair – turn it off and dry the device off as much as possible.  Then, immerse it in a plastic bag filled with uncooked rice.  Make sure the device is completely covered with the rice and leave it in a warm place - on the kitchen counter with a halogen pendant lamp above it would be almost ideal.  A warming oven on low setting would also work well.  The rice, like many grains, is hygroscopic and will act as a desiccant to draw the moisture out without harming the electronics.  If the water was clean and non-conductive and you act quickly, the device might revive itself.
Stein Mart now open in the Bay Area October, 2016 Stein Mart, Walnut Creek, is scheduled to open October 13, in the new Safeway Orchards Center.  This is at the Oak Grove Rd./Ygnacio Valley Rd. intersection and near the Kaiser Shadelands complex.  This is the first Bay Area location and we look forward to its opening.  We highly recommend that you check them out!  I like them for men’s clothing (golf & casual wear) and Joyce likes their inventory for women’s wear – all at good prices.  It’s well organized, clean, current, better than Ross or T.J. Max.  Here’s how their website describes their stores: “Stein Mart stores offer the fashion merchandise, service and presentation of a better department or specialty store, at prices competitive with off-price retail chains. With 283 locations from California to Massachusetts, as well as steinmart.com, Stein Mart's focused assortment of merchandise features current season, moderate to better fashion apparel for women and men, as well as accessories, shoes and home fashions.”
Tip to avoid licking your fingers at the super market October, 2016 When shopping for produce/fruits and other loose items, it’s a hassle to try to separate the thin plastic film in order to open the supplied, disposable,  plastic bag.  I see people licking their fingers to assist in this task – bad idea in public environments.  Instead, use the moisture from the store misting of the produce.
Miscellaneous Car Tips October, 2016
Parking Brakes: Ever wonder if it really is necessary to use the parking brake since the “Park” position of your transmission will keep the wheels from turning?  Yes, do use your parking brake.  The part inside an automatic transmission that locks the engine from driving the car is called a parking pawl.  This part is not designed to hold a car in place without being supplemented by the parking brake.  It’s typically a lever with a single tooth, about the size of your smallest fingernail that engages a disc that locks the transmission to the transmission case.  But, the linkage is not very robust.  Constantly taking it out of “park” wears this linkage system out, especially when the car has rolled forward/backward to apply load to this mechanism.  Apply the Parking Brake BEFORE you put the car into “Park!” Getting it out of “park” will be easier and the wear will be minimized.
Fog Lights: In foggy conditions, use your low beams and if you have fog lights, turn them on as well.  Fog typically forms about 2 feet above the ground.  Fog lamps are always situated low on your vehicle to shine below the fog to provide much better visibility.  Don’t use High Beam Headlights.  That’s the worst situation because all the little droplets of water that make up fog will simply reflect it back to you like a mirror and your visibility will be greatly reduced.
Oil Changes:  The old adage used to be to change it every 3.5K or 5K miles.  But motor oils have improved considerably during modern times.  Consumer Reports recommends using the manufacturer’s guidelines or the dashboard indicator (computer controlled utilizing cumulative engine revs, time, temperature and load) during the warranty period.  Once out of warranty, consider using high grade synthetic oil and change it at 10K miles or even longer intervals.
Uber is a great alternative to taking a taxi October, 2016
Uber Rides: Consider using Uber when traveling.  We were in Chicago for a few days and we really liked Uber.  It’s so easy, economical and saves a lot of time.  We never waited for a car for more than 5 minutes and, often, it was just a minute or two.  You know the price before you commit to your ride.  You have your credit card on file and there is nothing to sign.  You simply hop in and hop out at your destination.  Tipping is discouraged by Uber (can only be done with cash to the driver) and is not expected by the drivers.  It really beats trying to hail a taxi.  It was so easy, fast and convenient, we will likely take BART into The City and Uber to our destination instead of driving in and suffering the hassles and cost of parking.  But, you will have to use a Smartphone.
Subject to Panic Attacks? October, 2016
Our modern society can sometimes add a lot of stress or emergencies to our daily lives.  If you have ever suffered a panic attack, you know how terrifying or stressful it can be.  If you feel a panic attack coming on, try this – COUNT NUMBERS OUT OF SEQUENCE OUT LOUD to yourself!  Example: 3, 14, 8, 27, 5, 20, etc.  This will change your mind’s focus and, hopefully, stop a panic attack.
City/state/local voters’ Propositions October, 2016
We are bombarded daily with confusing and misleading titles/labels on state/local proposition for the upcoming election in November.  To better understand the real situation, “follow the money!”  Example, the SF “Grocery Tax” is, actually, the tax on sugary drinks.  The biggest contributors to defeat this are the soda drink manufacturers.  Another example – State Proposition, “Drug Price Standards,” opponents claim that it will raise the price of meds for veterans.  The biggest contributors to defeat this bill are the drug manufacturers!
Think about getting that Shingles shot if you haven't done so yet October, 2016
You’ve likely seen the ads on TV touting the benefits of the ‘Shingles Shot.’  However, be aware that it will not guarantee you to be ‘shingles free.’  You can still have a Shingles attack.  Joyce came down with it after her shot and we learned a lot about shingles from the ER doctor.  It has a propensity to infect women.  We still recommend that you get this shot.  It will help to minimize the severity and shorten the duration of the affliction.
Extended Warranties October, 2016
Retailers and manufacturers often promote extended warranties to their customers.  CR and other consumer advocates do not recommend them.  Our personal experience over our adult consumer life has confirmed that for us.  Consider yourself as ‘self insured’ and do your homework before purchasing large, important or complicated items.  Use online consumer reviews.  These are usually easy to find using Google Search.  Amazon is another good source for reviews.  Cnet.com is another.  Read the reviews for content.  Do not depend on just the aggregate ratings of the reviews.
Cell phones, Smartphones, tablets, Kindles and other eReaders, power banks, GPS units, fitness trackers, etc., mostly use a rechargeable battery that must be charged via a charging cord and a mini-USB port.  These ports are small and not very durable.  Trying to insert the cable in the wrong orientation can damage the receptacle that can result in an expensive repair job and be a major inconvenience.  To make it easier to insert the charging cord correctly, check this tip for a tiny symbol molded into the plug for ‘up.’  Mark it prominently with a Red felt-tip, permanent marker to make it more foolproof for proper insertion.
CAR TIP: Buy American September, 2016 If you watch ABC network TV, you’ve seen their continuing focus on buying products ‘made in America.’  But, what does that really mean?  Take a look at trying to buy an ‘American Made Car.’  A recent article in the paper indicated that there is no such thing as a totally ‘American Made’ car.  Here’s a list of the “most American” cars: Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Arcadia –  all are at 90%.  Ford F-150 – 85%.  Chevy Corvette – 83%. Buick LaCrosse/Cadillac Escalade/Chevy Equinox/Chevy Impala/Chevy Malibu/Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon – are all at 82.5%.  Honda Accord – 81%.  All others are significantly less.  And, ‘American Made’ means parts and/or assembly includes Canadian assembly and parts.  And, FYI, The Buick Enclave is shipped in from Korea; Buick Envision comes from China and the Buick Cascada Convertible comes from Poland!  In many American Brands, engines are made in Germany, Australia, Mexico, Austria and Japan.  Transmissions come from Germany, Japan, Korea, Mexico and France.  Final Assembly is often in the U.S.  This truly illustrates just how global our industry and economy really are, today.
CAR TIP: Vehicle Exterior Paint Care September, 2016 When you get tree sap or pitch on your car, truck or SUV, use WD-40 to remove it.  Road tar is also easily dissolved by WD-40.  Yet, it will not harm your vehicle’s paint finish.  Do not let tree pitch harden on your finish.  It is, essentially, a natural resin and will bond to your paint permanently over time.  Do not neglect washing your vehicle on a periodic basis.  Accumulated dust, dirt and grime tend to bond to the paint finish, especially the clear coat on metallic paints.  When finally removed (washed) microscopic pits can be left behind.  Repeated cycles can result in a permanently pitted, dulled finish.
CAR TIP: Bargain Vehicle Paint Job September, 2016
Ever wonder about how the Maaco Auto Painting ads on TV for painting an entire car for just $399?  They claim to be up to 70% less than other paint shops.  I recently went to two different auto body shops to inquire about repainting a panel on the front passenger side door of our older Toyota Avalon and was floored to find that it would cost close to $1K.  I asked how Maaco could do the whole car for so much less.  The answer is in the labor cost.  A legitimate auto body shop would remove all the exterior hardware and trim before prepping and painting.  And, they would ‘feather’ the painted area into the surrounding panels so the match and blending would be unnoticeable.  Then, they would complete the job by remounting all the parts and trim.  Maaco saves labor by masking all parts/trim – a huge labor savings.  And they would simply paint the single body panel and mask off the neighboring panels.  As the paint ages, the difference between the new/old paint would become apparent.  It would be ugly.  And those areas where parts/trim were masked – there is a ‘margin’ where new paint butts up to the masked part/trim.  They can’t clean and prep the surface super close to the part or trim.  This is, virtually, a break in the paint and paint peeling, another future ugly problem, can occur.  But, if you want to make your old car look good for a short time, $399 is a very cheap price.  Just don’t expect a long-lasting, quality job.  This is a clear case of “ya get what you pay for!”
Movie Theater Tip September, 2016 If you haven’t been to the Livermore 13 Cinemas, try them for comfort and value.  They offer Luxury Rockers, Electric Recliners and Reserved Seating at no extra cost!  The recliners will recline to almost completely flat and a large tray conveniently provides space to put your things besides your snacks and drinks!  D-Box Motion seats are available (up charge) for select movies.
Coin/Disk and Button Batteries September, 2016 If you are in need of 3-volt, #2032 flat, disk batteries (about the diameter of a U.S. Quarter coin) or LR-44 Button Batteries, try the Dollar Tree Store, Dublin.  A blister pack of 2 of the large batteries are just $1!  The small button batteries are packaged about 6 batteries for just $1!  These would be about $8 or more at OSH or CVS/Walgreen/Target. 
To Clean Your Eyeglasses September, 2016 Using a small spritzing container filled with glass cleaner, spray the cleaning cloth, lightly – not the lenses.  You make less of mess and conserve the cleaning fluid and wind up with a better job!
To Clean Your Golf Shoes After Play September, 2016
Do not ‘bang’ them together to knock the grass out/off the cleats.  Most golf shoes have bottom soles glued to the shoe base.  Over time the physical shock of banging them together will eventually break the glue bond loose.  Your shoes will no longer be waterproof!
Organize Your Vehicle Cargo/Trunk Area September, 2016
Use 2 or 3 stackable, lightweight,  plastic crates/tubs in your trunk or SUV cargo area.  This will keep things from rolling around after grocery shopping.  When not needed, simply stack them into one to conserve room.  It also makes it lot easier to empty the vehicle and carry into the  house!
Re-use H.D. Plastic Ziploc Freezer Bags September, 2016 Wrap food items in plastic stretch wrap before placing them into the freezer bags.  Your H.D. Ziploc bag will remain clean for reuse and the added bonus is that it will much more easy to separate those individual, frozen items for your use!
Costco Info September, 2016 Not all Costco stores are the same, by considerable.  Inventory will vary by store depending upon floor space available, local preferences and socio-economic demographics.  e.g., the Livermore store carries about 20% more inventory than the smaller Danville store.  This means more choices.  Prices will be the same, however.  Both those stores carry more high-end merchandise than the San Leandro store.  The San Francisco store has much more depth of inventory of ethnic goods than those in the suburbs.  This may better help you understand the inventory of various stores. 
Local Dining Scene September, 2016
Remember Amber Bistro?  They’re gone, forever.  But, the new replacement now open at their former site, Almanac, is turning out to be a bright, new spot in the Danville dining scene.  They have enlarged the entire store.  The menu is very different and it is a much bigger, sophisticated operation.  The food is good but the kitchen needs to do a better job of getting orders out in a timely manner.  They’re still ironing out the bugs in their ‘soft’ opening period.  Fresh Millions is a weird name for a fast food place but they are doing well and have added a second local location (Dublin) to their San Ramon store.  You choose your format (bowl/salad/paninis /wraps) protein, base (noodles/rice/salad greens), sauce and veggies and mix-ins (veggies/sides cooked with protein).  Everything is fresh and it’s quick and very tasty for a single-dish meal.  Best of all – its healthy!  Pacific Catch was the site of our August Dine Out and it turned out to be another big hit!  We finally have a fresh fish place with reasonable prices, good service and a very attractive, tasty menu!  Try them!  I think you’ll like them.  They are located in the relatively new Persimmon Place (anchored by Whole Foods) just one block West of the much larger Hacienda Crossings Center (Regal Theater).
New Car Tip: Automated Driver Assist Features August, 2016
In past issues of this column, I have consistently urged all potential new vehicle buyers to really consider all the new, active and passive automobile safety features now offered along with other features that make driving less fatiguing and more enjoyable and relaxing. These include Forward Collision Avoidance, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning or Lane Assist, Glare Free – Self Dimming Rear/Side View Mirrors and Rear Cross Traffic Warning. These features will make your vehicle almost drive itself. However, the driver is never to abandon monitoring all systems and must remain alert to all traffic conditions.  A recent incident of a fatal accident in a Tesla Sedan is a good example of what can happen when the driver vacates their responsibility for safe, sane operation of the vehicle and becomes totally dependent on  these  automated systems. We love our new Subaru Outback equipped with these features and it does almost drive itself. But, as the driver, I always  stay  in  control and command.  These systems are computer controlled and depend on optical, radar and, in some cases, lasers to make the systems operate at their optimum. However, we all know that sensors can be fooled in rare or unique situations and may not operate properly in all driving and weather conditions. But, on long drives, these features make driving so much more relaxing and make the drive much more safe.
New Car Tip:  Infotainment Center and GPS Controls August, 2016
When shopping for a new car, be sure to thoroughly learn about the Infotainment and GPS Systems. Not all of these systems are easy to use or to setup. Each system, even within the brands, will vary in ease of use. Voice Commands tend to be especially troublesome. Some touch screens are much more sensitive than others. Size of the display varies a lot. Control of the display should be intuitive. Take a test drive and insist on full demonstration of these systems. Our new Outback GPS is so much easier to follow  because  the  voice prompts use landmarks in addition to the spoken street name or the exit or highway number. That makes it really easy to follow. Everyone that rides in our car that hears those prompts like, “turn right after the gas station,” are impressed and wished their systems were similar.
New Car Tip:  Automatic Headlight Setting  August, 2016
Do not assume that this feature will work properly under all conditions. Example – during periods of rain, California Law requires you to turn your headlights on. Yet, on ‘Automatic’ there will often be plenty of daylight – enough that the headlight sensor will not turn the lights on during rain as required by law. Situations of fog or smoke may result in the need for you to override the automatic feature. There is never an excuse to stop thinking about how your automated systems operate and put them to intelligent use.
New Car Tip: Keyless Entry  August, 2016
Recently, documented incidents of thieves using electronic signal scanners to ‘read’ and ‘copy’ the RF signal from your Key FOB to open doors to steal from unattended vehicles. Crooks can buy these scanners fairly easily and inexpensively.  This can be done remotely from a distance. To make it more difficult to copy these codes, press your lock or unlock button multiple times to confuse the scanner. The digital code changes with every activation of the lock/unlock function.
New Car Tip: Sirius XM Radio August, 2016 If you have this system in your car, you can tune to channels for almost any genre or discipline you might want to listen to. Try Channel 124 for political to keep current on the election surveys and candidate antics. Go to the Sirius website to get a current listing of channels and their dedicated subject. 
Smartphone Repairs August, 2016
Try Batteries Plus, Dublin for general repair items such as broken screen, battery replacement, install screen guards, etc. They will be considerably less expensive than going to Retailers of the specific brand of your phone. They can also replace watch and automotive key fob batteries.
Local Hospital Ratings August, 2016
If you believe that you will a candidate for surgery or other medical procedure requiring a hospital stay, you may want to check a new rating system developed to help consumers understand which/what facilities do better  for  various medical tasks.  Go to: www.cahealthcarecompare.org/search.jsp. You can check for ratings of various procedures such as, hip/knee replacement; cardiac care procedures or operations, etc.
Automatic Bill Pay using Credit Card – August, 2016
This is a feature used by many of us use our credit cards to pay regularly reoccurring charges for services such as newspaper/periodical subscriptions, cell service, alarm system monitoring, etc., However, whenever you make changes to this arrangement, be sure to pay attention to all the details. We used our Costco AMEX credit card to pay many of these accounts as a passive method of bill payment. But, when Costco discontinued AMEX and issued us a new Visa Credit Card, we had a problem. Even though I went online to change the payment from the AMEX card to the Visa account, two accounts suddenly became “Past Due.” Upon investigation, I learned that when changes are made, it can take up to 30 days for the change to go into effect.  Fortunately, I got a text message alert from Verizon that my cellphone bill was in arrears. They removed the late fee and manually activated the new Visa Card. The message is – check all your Bill Pay Accounts on a follow-up basis to be sure the account change has been done.
Car Travel With A Soft, Foldable Cooler August, 2016
I’ve had some inquiries about this technique of traveling with perishable foods for extended driving trips. We have a soft, foldable, insulated cooler in each of our three vehicles for more than 15+ years. We’ve successfully taken highly perishable foods, groceries, produce, etc. on trips lasting as long as 2 weeks. We’ve even brought home leftovers from dinners and meals from our long golf trips (Whistler, St. George, Phoenix, Bend, SoCal, etc.) We simply use the cooler as you would a rigid cooler or mini- refrigerator.  We use ice from hotels/motels in plastic bags.  And if needed, we can buy ice at gas stations. These foldable coolers are very efficient. We’ve had no trouble making ice last 2 full days on !00+°F days. These foldable coolers are a good for extended shopping trips and you’ve purchased frozen and/or refrigerated items. The larger coolers we carry can carry a lot but we also have a smaller one – about the size of a large, rectangular lunch box. This is perfect for taking ice cream to a party or picnic. It’s also good for carrying a hot dish to a potluck dinner! The larger ones cost about $20 or less and the smaller ones are in the $10 range.
Keeping your parked car cooler July, 2016 Use a Sunshade over your vehicle's windshield on hot Summer days.  The temperature can easily reach 140 deg. F without a sunshade.  This can come down to 100 deg. F when a sunshade is used.  Use the type that is made of thin reflective cloth on one side and is in a round shape with a spring wire in the perimeter to allow for good stretched performance when deployed and easy folding when ready for storage.  Avoid the stiff, bulky solid panels of cardboard or other stiff material.  These are very bulky and difficult to find a place to store them in the car when not in use.
Cell phone radiation update July, 2016 There has recently been renewed interest in radiation from cell phones.  These tests involving rats brains exposed to high doses of radiation, trying to replicate the problem.  Empirical data indicates no rise in brain tumors or cancer in cell phone uses over the years!  It's pretty save to say that cell phones don't cause brain cancer.  The data just doesn't show the connection.
Dr. Visit Tip July, 2016 When you go in to see your doctor – go a bit early so you can relax before proceeding with the tests.  Sit and relax and read your book, Kindle, or magazine, before having the nurse take your blood pressure reading.  This will result in a lower test score.
Getting that perfect watermelon July, 2016
Picking small personal-sized watermelon is easy to do.  Simply look for the 'yellow spot' where the melon laid on the ground.  This spot should be the color of butter.  Look for a perfectly symmetrical melon.  And, hold the melon in the palm of one hand and slap it with the other.  Don't listen for the sound.  Instead, feel the vibrations of the slaps!  Look for a nice, crisp feeling with each slap.
How far distant is the thunderstorm?  July, 2016 See the flash!  Count the time it takes before you hear the thunder.  Divide the time in seconds by “5.”  The product is the distance from that thunderstorm in miles.  Each 5 seconds   is a mile in distance, for the storm to hit.
Shopping for a new car? July, 2016 Be sure you get a complete demo of the  “Infotainment Center.”  Why?  J.D. Powers reports that current new car owners were most fed up with the infotainment/GPS mapping, music playback and audio systems in function.  Many were hard to operate and owners complained loudly to the DOT.
Cold Brew Coffee? July, 2016 Cold brew coffee is a hot, new, toy.  It results in a smoother, more balanced flavor.  But, it is so easy to make!   Simply use a French Press to make the smooth, deep-flavored cold-brew drink.  Put the coffee grounds into the pot and fill with clean, clear water.  Leave it for a 2-week period
COFFEE June, 2016
Over the years, coffee has Received a lot of attention by the scientific and medical community and , mostly branded as being bad for our health.  But, recently a very large, joint study by multiple government agencies and independent health organizations to the tune of 500,000 patients over a span of 20 years does not support this.  Analysis of this huge pool of data now indicates quite the opposite – coffee drinkers, it turns out, are less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries/accidents, diabetes and infections when compared to non-drinkers of coffee.  And there was no evidence of any Pancreatic Cancer risk as thought in the past.  No strong link was found to any specific kind of cancer.
Many people regard the “expiration date,” “use by date” and “best by date” as being the finite date by which they it should be discarded.  But, should it be thrown out?  Is it still safe for human consumption?  Does it still taste good?  Well, think about it – all the food banks across the country pick up tons of outdated/expired food every day.  They depend on it and there have been no reported health problems stemming from their constant, daily scavenging programs throughout the country!  Another organization, Food Runners, similarly tries to salvage food for the needy. Food Runners is a leader in the effort to keep edible food from being discarded. Food Runners picks up excess perishable and prepared food from businesses such as restaurants, caterers, bakeries, hospitals, event planners, corporate cafeterias, and hotels and delivers it directly to neighborhood food programs.  They believe that as much as one-quarter of all consumer-purchased food is wasted.  This includes shellfish, deli foods, meats, poultry, cheeses, eggs, milk and other dairy products.
If you watch our local Chan. 7, Consumer Advocate, Michael Finney, did an on-the-air report on this subject.  They took various food items purchased locally and held them well past the date stated on the packaging for safe or good tasting consumption.  A panel of testers ate them – some cooked and some raw.  All the items tasted fine and they suffered no ill effects from the experiment even as much as 30 days past the date shown by the manufacturer/distributor.
And, Consumer’s Report did a report not long ago with similar findings.  Their conclusion was to “let your eyes and nose” tell you when something should be discarded.  We’ve done that since we were both kids.  That’s the ‘Asian way.’  We can’t ever remember being sick from eating something at home.  And remember, Asians are known for having/using the freshest of ingredients.
I buy discounted food items from Walmart and other Supermarket stores that are on sale because the expiration date is rapidly approaching.  My experience is that they are good for more than a week after the shown date.  This includes highly perishable items like Potato Salad, fresh sandwiches, bakery items, prepared deli foods, etc.
As for those dates, there is no official weight behind them. There is no local or Federal governmental oversight.  The manufacturer, processor or distributor at their own discretion prints them on the package.  Bear in mind that some, if not most, might be profit motivated in having us, the consumer, buy those same products more frequently! 
Think about this before you throw something out because it is past the date stamped on the package!
Your Medical Record:  June, 2016 It was mentioned before that you can download your medical history, list of medications, test results, etc. from Kaiser and other HMOs and Health Providers that are highly organized and digitized.  Download this data onto a USB “Jump Drive” for easy portability and carry it with you.  It has become a big help on some cruise ships that are stricken with the Norovirus and Legionaries Disease.  These are infestations on cruise ships, hospitals, clinics and resorts during travel domestically or abroad.  Your health record can assist the staff that is trying to treat you as well as try to contain the outbreak.  They can quickly see what inoculations/vaccinations you’ve had, along with the medications you are taking.  This can make a big difference in your treatment protocol and the outcome.
Over-the-counter Sleep Aids Linked to Dementia:  June, 2016 Researchers have found a significant link between high use of anticholinergic drugs – including popular, non-prescription sleep aids and the antihistamine Benadryl (diphenhydramine) – and increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in older people.  This link was known before but the most recent, large study over 7 years has verified and quantified this link.  The study involved 3,500 people with no signs of memory issues but after 7 years, over 800 people using these medications were diagnosed as having dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Other drugs linked include antidepressants (Doxepin, Sinequan), first generation antihistamines (chlorpheniramine, Chlor-Trimeton), and antimuscarinics for bladder control (Oxybutynin, Ditropan).
Widely Used Heartburn Drugs Tied to Dementia:  June, 2016
It is not my intent to report all bad news.  It just turns out that way.  Another study concluded just last month has found a definite link of medications that curtail the output of acid in the digestive system, called Proton Pump Inhibitors, with increased risk of Dementia.  This group of drugs includes Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid.  Use of Antiacid tablets like Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, and Riopan were not linked to Dementia or Alzeheimer’s.  Note that Proton Pump Inhibitors, antihistamines and most other OTC medications are available at Costco, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, Walmart, CVS and other chain drugstores under their own private brands.  To identify the risky drugs, check the product labels for the active ingredients and their primary purpose.
Public WiFi Service:  June, 2016 Previously, I had warned about not making any financial truncations including buying things on your favorite shopping websites while using a public WiFi system such as at airports, local libraries, restaurants, coffee houses and other public places.  This was fueled by the propensity of the bad guys stealing identities and passwords.  I just saw report on one of the ABC news shows that in the last six months, a new danger has recently become much more prevalent – servers masquerading as known Internet Service Provider looking very legitimate posing as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Infinity, Sprint, etc.  Their intent is to trick you into thinking that you are using a secure site as if you were logging onto your regular provider.  I have access to both Verizon and Comcast hot spots but I check my connection info to be sure these are legitimate WiFi systems.
New Costco Credit Card?  May, 2016 Effective June 20, 2016, your AMEX/Costco Credit Card will become invalid for use.  You will have received your new Citibank Visa Credit Card by then and it will automatically replace your defunct AMEX account.  You will pay AMEX for any balance through that end date. This new Citibank Visa account is an improvement that should provide users with a larger rebate.  The rebate for gas has increased to 4% (from 3%) with a higher cap of $7K (up from $3K).  The rebate from restaurants and eligible travel charges will be 3% (up from 2%).  And, other Visa Cards will be honored at Costco.  There is no annual charge for the new Citibank Visa card but the annual Costco membership fee remains in effect.  Given the better rebate rates, this may be a good time for non-AMEX card holders to join the new program in June. 
Kitchen Smell of Garbage? May, 2016 We all have a garbage can/bin in the kitchen or use a garbage compactor.  Wet or perishable things will smell that can permeate the kitchen even though the lid is closed at all times.  A solution to this is an iTouchless Deodorizer Touch-Free Sensor 13-Gallon Automatic Stainless-Steel Trash Can, available from Amazon, Walmart and other retailers.  This is a battery operated (4-D-size alkaline batteries last about a year) trash can that operates open/close without touching the unit to activate it.  That allows you to use both hands to dump your unwanted items into the can and close it automatically.  Best of all, a built-in, renewable, activated charcoal filter absorbs foul odors to keep your kitchen fresh and clean smelling.  We love ours and we are amazed that the batteries last so long!  We’ve enjoyed ours for over 4 years and have never had any trouble with it at all!
Bottom of the Chips/Snack Bag Messes? May, 2016 When finishing a bag of potato/tortilla chips or other snack foods that leave you with a lot of crumbs/small/fine pieces remaining after eating all the big pieces, how do you manage to get at the remainder without making a mess?  Solution – use a soup spoon to spoon the small bits out.  This keeps things nice an tidy, including your hands!
Want To Thicken Soups, Stews and some Sauces? May, 2016 You’ve made a soup, stew or sauce and it’s too thin but tastes fine.  What to do?  Here’s an easy fix – use dry, crushed macaroni bits added to the liquid and cook until blended into the finished sauce/soup.  Use a blender to break up the pasta to a small size for fast and easy cooking/blending.  Bread crumbs or stale bread cut up into small cubes can also be used.  Thickening by using flour or cornstarch requires you to make a slurry first and then add it to your hot liquid to cook.
Taking Melatonin for a Sleep Aid?   May, 2016 Be aware that recent sleep studies have revealed that Melatonin use has not provided really good results.  On average, Melatonin seems to improve falling to sleep by only 7 minutes faster and participants only remain asleep 8 minutes longer than the control group that was given a placebo pill.
Buying a New Car? May, 2016
Use the Consumer Reports Annual Auto issue to learn about what’s new and trending in all the various brands and models.  You can learn what models will be dropped, redesigned or remain relatively unchanged.  Some folks were disappointed to learn that their new Toyota Venza suddenly was discontinued leaving them with a much lower trade-in or resale value.  Some would have benefited from knowing that just next year the Toyota Avalon would be greatly improved.  Use the CR info to determine ratings in road tests, best/worst for reliability and highest/lowest ownership satisfaction.  These are all important to making the right choice for your new car!
Additionally, look for models that offer now (or next year) the new suite of safety features such as FCW (Forward Collision Warning) with AEB (Automatic Emergency Braking), Blind Spot Warning, Rear View Cross Traffic Alert and Back Up Camera. Many of these features will be included in even the lower cost base models by 2017.  These are truly valuable features that can and will contribute significantly to your motoring safety.  Our new Subaru Outback so equipped has already saved us from one freeway-speed accident!  The AEB activated even before I could react.  We missed the errant vehicle that suddenly cut in front of us by mere inches!  Joyce’s loud scream is still fresh in my memory!  If anyone wants to know more about how these features work, call me and I can take you for a safe, no emergencies, demonstration drive that will amaze you if you are not familiar with these new features.
Local Dining News May, 2016 Last Sauced BBQ will be opening a new location in Walnut Creek at the former Pyramid Alehouse site.  Two relatively new Mexican Tacquerias are now in Pleasanton – 2 Amigos Mexican Tacqueria and Cocina Mexico are very good and worthy of your taste trial.  Rancho Grande is now available in Pleasanton, also.  Their Carnitas Burritos (I like mine ‘wet’) and Tacos are excellent.  Their San Ramon location is legendary.  A new Korean restaurant, Go Goong, has opened just 3 months ago in Dublin (near Amakira and China Village) to packed crowds without any advertising!  It is excellent and the young wait staff is very helpful.
Cooking Tip:  May, 2016 Whenever you grill steaks, all the experts tell us to let let them rest for at least 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute internally.  But, do we want to serve lukewarm steak cuts?  Here’s a solution – pat the rested steaks completely dry.  Use a hot skillet with about a teaspoon of oil and simply fry them, again, but just 60 – 90 seconds on each side.  This will result in a really nice crust on the exterior without cooking the interior further.  This works on larger roasts, as well.  But, the key is a high heat for that quick exterior fry.
Why You Do Not Buy Commercial Shredded Cheeses: April, 2016 Because they contain sawdust as a filler material.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the ingredients label – cellulose (wood pulp) will be listed as an ingredient near the front half of the list.  Remember that ingredients are shown in declining order by volume!  Besides, it is super easy to grate your own fresh cheese at home!
Simmering On Stove Top Unattended? April, 2016 Always set a loud timer to remind you that you have something on the stove to avoid a forgotten pot/pan boiling off the liquids and scorching/ruining the vessel or even worse, suffering a kitchen/house fire!  We become so very easily distracted that setting of a timer should be made a habit even for short periods away from the stove.  Timers are cheap; your pan or house is not!
Flavored Coffee Beans: April, 2016 Instead of buying flavored coffee beans to grind for your occasional flavored brew, try using the flavored syrups readily  available in both regular and sugar-free formats.  Using fresh, plain beans will ensure faster turnover of your coffee beans for better flavor in all you coffee choices and cut down on your coffee bean inventory.
Sharpening Steel Storage April, 2016 Do you use a sharpening steel on your knives frequently?  To store it in a drawer is awkward and clumsy.  Instead, simply use an electric drill to drill a hole in your knife block large enough to hold the Sharpening Steel.
Inexpensive “K-Cup” Coffee Makers:  April, 2016 Keurig coffee makers are expensive but they really are convenient and fast to use.  And the coffee is reasonably good.  If you want to try this format, you can buy inexpensive units ($39) at discount stores such as Tuesday Morning, Big Lots, Walrmart and Target (Bella brand).
Commercial Frozen Food Products In Resealable Package:  April, 2016 Frozen fish sticks, chicken nuggets, French Fries, Tater Tots, Potstickers, Mini-Wontons, etc. are sold in supermarkets that allows the user to remove the needed quantity and reseal the package to return to the freezer for future use.  These bags are extremely durable as they are made of a much thicker grade of plastic to endure the rough handling of customers handling and examining the product in the store.  These are even more durable than consumer, freezer-grade, Zip-Lock-type bags.  When finished with the product, save these for your own rough service use.  We use them to put water in and freeze for use in portable coolers in place of “Blue Ice” packets.  They can also serve as an emergency ice bag for sports injuries or accidents at home or away.
DVT Precautions On Long Trips/Flights:  April, 2016 Use Compression socks/stockings for long flights, long cross country drives or other occasions when you will be inactive in a seated environment to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis, especially if your circulation of your extremities has been compromised such as in the case of diabetes.  These are available at most chain drugstores.
Collapsible/Foldable water Bottle: April, 2016 When flying, use this item to carry liquids after you pass through security.  All major airline terminals now have water filling stations for passengers beyond the security screening area.  Or you can purchase juices or other drinks at available commercial concessions. A collapsed/folded plastic bottle is light in weight and takes up no room in your carry-on bag.  Vapur Shades is well known, respected brand available at REI, Bed Bath and Beyond and Amazon for under $10.  It is made of BPA-free, Polyethylene/Nylon construction.  They come in various colors and can be used to freeze the contents, safely.  This makes them versatile and useful beyond airline travel.
Battery Power Bank: April, 2016 These devices have come way down in price.  It can really save you from having to find an AC outlet to recharge your Smartphone, tablet, GPS, e-reader or other portable electronic device.  A small unit with enough power to recharge your Smartphone 3 to 4 times on one charge costs under $20. I carry one in my golf bag for the times I forget to recharge my wearable golf GPS.
Conserving Battery Power: April, 2016 To conserve power on your Smartphone, tablet, iPad, etc., close all applications before putting your device in Standby or “Sleep” mode.  If left ‘open’ they continue to run in background, including updates and WiFi connection and consume power.  Or just turn the unit “OFF,” not just standby/sleep.
Pack Ear Plugs: April, 2016 These can come in truly handy, even indispensable! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunks, barking dogs, honking horns, adjoining hotel room sex, pesky/talkative airline seat mates, and more.
FasTrak Flex Toll Tag:  April, 2016 You only need this if you intend to use any of the present and future “Express Lanes” in the Bay Area.  It has the ability to signal to the system that you are 1, 2 or 3 people in the vehicle for the proper toll amount to be charged to your account.  Use their website or call (877)229-8655 to order the Flex Toll Tag.  Keep your (older) Standard Toll Tag if you wish to use it in your other vehicles for non-carpool designation or return it to: FasTrak, 62 1st St, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Buying A New Car:  April, 2016 Be sure to include the newest Collision Avoidance Safety Features in your model selection.  Yes, they are truly more safe in daily use.  And, they are wonderful for stop-and-go or commute traffic  since you can turn the gas and braking functions over to the automated Adaptive Cruise Control as part of all Collision Avoidance packages.  All you have to do is steer.  The ‘system’ can react faster and smoother to sudden obstacle than you can.  Sit back and enjoy the ride!  And, your insurance cost will be less as well as the resale value will be much higher when it comes time to sell or trade-in.
Changes in the local restaurant scene March, 2016
• San Ramon:  Four Flavors – Asian Fusion noodle/rice bowls; Shish Grill – Middle Eastern Kabobs; Hula Wok – good Hawaiian fast food; Baagan – Vegan/Vegetarian; Yiping – changed hands and added Chinese Cantonese food; Worth Ranch – Southern BBQ, mixed reviews
• Dublin: Odagada – Korean Chicken Wings, good, inexpensive; Gum Kuo – very good Chinese but terribly slow taking order; Banana Garden – Malaysian; Mr. Lee’s Sandwiches – some of the best sandwiches, Western or Asian style.
• Pleasanton: Sabio On Main – Tapas, small plates; Curry Cravings – Indian; Taste of Sing Ma – Singaporean, Malaysian.
• Livermore: Gan – Korean Fusion, upscale, pricey but very good; Clay Oven – Indian, see this month’s Dine Out write-up; Posada – they are doing so well they will be closed for 3 months to remodel/expand to double dining room space, this is the best place in the 580/680 Frwy area.
• Danville: Locanda Ravello -  Italian, mixed reviews, we (2 couples) did not have a good experience; The Growler – may have improved and refined their food from a rough start-up.
• Walnut Creek: Izakaya – Japanese, Sushi Bar; Parada – Peruvian fine dining; Teleferic Barcelona – Tapas, Spanish.
• Lafayette:  Reve Bistro – French, formerly Chevalier.
Windshield Wiper Blades March, 2016 We’re all happy that the rains have returned but if your windshield wipers are bad, that’s a safety hazard.  Costco continues to carry the Goodyear Wiper Blades and right now, they are $3 off their normal price.  These are a good price for a quality, HD wiper blade with a full metal frame.
Need a Good Caterer? March, 2016 I was very impressed with the catering service and food at St. Isadore Church following the service for Chuck Prophet, recently.  Everything was so very good and fresh.  The Tri Tip Beef on Roll were incredibly good!  The salads were wonderful, too.  They specialize in working with churches and hospitals for client Memorials, weddings and other types of gatherings and are very aware of the kind of environment that is needed for those occasions.  The owner is Derry Englund; phone 925 609-5989; website: http://www.englundscatering.com/; A quick review of their website is very informative and easy to understand with very reasonable prices based on the quality I saw and tasted!
Dealing With Temporary Pain and/or Discomfort? March, 2016 One thing I have learned during the rehab phase of my Knee Replacement – pain and discomfort go hand in hand with the rehab exercises.  Use a distraction such as calling a friend to talk to them during any specific painful regimens.  It can help to ease the pain.
Fast Food Tip March, 2016 You are at Habit or In-N-Out for a quick burger and fries.  At these and other places, you fill little miniature paper cups with ketchup at a remote condiment station but you can only carry two in each hand back to your table.  Use the plastic lids for drink cups as a miniature tray to increase your carrying capacity and stability.
Canned Food Leftover March, 2016 When only using a very small amount of the contents of a food product, what do you do with the leftover?  Yes, you could put the remainder into a plastic container of some sort.  But, a very easy method is to simply use a plastic stretch wrap to cover the partial can and its contents.  But, do this only if you use the newer can openers that break the seam of the lid from the can sides that result in no sharp edges.  All cans use a plastic liner on the inside sides and lid and even along the seam.  This keeps your food from contacting the reactive raw/bare metal of the can.  Your contents are safe as long as there is a cover over the open can.  Use a rubber band to doubly insure the plastic wrap doesn’t get disturbed.
Auto Aftermarket Safety Technology Available March, 2016 If you have an older vehicle or a new one but not equipped with the latest safety technology onboard, you can still upgrade by purchasing and installing these important features using aftermarket accessories.  The devices are not terribly expensive and installation is fairly easy as they plug into your vehicle’s modular wiring harness easily accessed under the dash.  If you can’t do it, cost of installation would not be prohibitive.  As an Example, adding a rear view back-up camera costs under $100.  Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Forward Hazard Warning system units are more expensive.  Some units have their own display units while others send the images to your Smartphone via Bluetooth connectivity. The sensors or cameras are small and unobtrusive.  But, they will not be integrated into your interior’s furnishings – they might look like an aftermarket GPS mounted on the dash.
Openings and closings in the local commercial area
February, 2016
â–ºRESTAURANTS:  A fair number of the local eateries have recently either closed or changed hands. 
• Amber Bistro, Danville, has closed as of Jan.1! The new owners are hoping open a new place in the building this spring. 
• Jack’s, San Ramon, formerly a sports bar, is now Worth Ranch, a casual, family BBQ themed place and number six in famed founder, Rodney Worth’s expanding culinary empire. If interested, here is a link to my review on Yelp.com: http://tinyurl.com/jmvz3uq
• Brass Door, San Ramon, has just changed ownership.  The new owners have signified that they intend to keep the same name, format, menu and most of the staff in place.
• Marcello’s, Danville went through several ownership changes over the last few years and has been The Growler for more than a year, now.  But, they have been fine-tuning it since a rough start in the beginning.

• Pho Saigon II, East Dublin, Ulfert Center, has closed and has now become, Odagada, a casual, Korean place featuring Korean Fried Chicken and other Korean dishes.  Their original Pho Saigon, San Ramon Valley Blvd., Dublin, remain open and retains all its original goodness.  It is our favorite for Vietnamese Noodle Soup and Vermicelli Bowls.

• Ale House, Walnut Creek – closed.

• Chevalier, Lafayette – changed hands but remains French, reopens as Reve Bistro and retains some former staff (servers and line cooks).

• Father Nature’s Shed, Danville – changed hands but name remained for a long time but recently sold and became Locanda Ravello’s.  Our recent visit with another couple was not a good experience.

â–ºGOLF COURSES:  A goodly number of the local courses have recently either closed or changed ownership or management organizations.
• Sunol Valley Palm and Cypress Courses – shut down all operations in total as of January 31. 
• The Bridges, Danville – changed hands, remains open.
• Canyon Lakes, San Ramon – changed hands with plans for improvements and the reopening of the restaurant section.
• Springtown, Livermore – City of Livermore Muni closed down.
• Shadow Lakes, Brentwood – closed, owned/operated by the same owners of Deer Ridge, which remains open.
• San Ramon Golf Course – changed hands, remains open.
• Willow Park, Castro Valley – changed management group and renamed Redwood Canyon, remains open.
Choosing Auto By Brand February, 2016 Some folks like to buy their cars by brand loyalty.  That could be a complex challenge.  Do you know who the real manufacturer is/was?  As an example, Scion, a Toyota brand is made by Mazda.  Volvo is now owned and produced by a Chinese company regardless of their continued marketing of ‘Scandinavian’ design, safety, features and quality .  Jaguar has been an Indian-owned car company for a number of years, now.  Until recently, Cadillac CTS Sedans were made by Opel, Germany.
WiFi Hot Spot Vehicle Feature February, 2016 Some automobile TV ads tout this feature (ability for passengers to use free WiFi) on their specific models of Chevrolet, Buick and Volkswagen. Don’t let this be a contributing factor to choosing one of those models.  Any Smartphone can be used to do the same thing with a very small additional charge.  Besides, even if it is included in the vehicle, you will still have to pay for the service subscription just like cell phone Internet service.
Battery Corrosion February, 2016 Always remove the dry cell and rechargeable batteries from portable instruments and equipment. Extended periods of non-use can result in battery acid leakage that can render the portable item useless.  Remove the batteries to make your portable items inert and safe for future use.
Beware of Scams February, 2016 Disregard phone calls or emails from people claiming to be with Microsoft or the IRS.  The Microsoft scam tries to convince you that your computer is infected with a very bad virus or Trojan and if you give them your password info, they can go into your machine and rectify the problem.  The scammer is after control of your unit to take as much secure information as they want.  In the IRS scam, the caller will attempt to scare you into making immediate payment for alleged back taxes to avoid being arrested.  They want you to make immediate credit card payment to a secure site on the Internet in order to rob you of your money!
Driving Safely in the Rain February, 2016 It only takes a very little water puddling on the roadway to throw your vehicle out of control due to the phenomenon of “Hydroplaning.” Just ½” of water deep and speeds over 50 MPH can result in complete loss of tire contact with the roadway and send you out of control and a potential severe crash.  And, if you vehicle is equipped with an “Auto Headlight” feature that turns the headlights on/off based on ambient light values, turn your headlights on manually.  Avoid the “auto” feature on rainy days.  California State law requires drivers to turn headlights on when using windshield wipers.  The “auto” feature may not turn on your headlights during rain because it senses only available light.  Your headlights are needed so you are visible to other drivers during rainfall and to satisfy the current law.
Your Car Seat Could Cause Sciatic Pain: February, 2016
I just learned that Chiropractors have a nickname for people that come in with Sciatic leg pain and drive low-slung, sports cars.  They call it “Bucket Seat Syndrome” and can be caused by leaving the driver’s leg extended directly out, horizontally, in front of them.  This puts all the pressure on the spine and bottom part of the buttocks and compresses the Sciatic Nerve as it passes through that area.
Getting rid of things or want free things? January, 2016
FreeCycle-SanRamon@yahoogroups.com  Is a great site for getting rid of unwanted things around the house or for locating used things that other folks might be getting rid of.  Simply register on the site and then list what it is that you want to get rid of or what you are looking for.  You will need to list/describe your items, fully.  You can arrange for delivery or pickup directly of any of the items located via this website.  Everything must be free.  None is allowed to be bought or sold on this site.  These are local Yahoo Groups but they operate in, virtually, all metro areas of the country.  Simply do a search for “Free Cycle” in your local area.
Going into the hospital for a procedure or going to the doctor for an examination or consultation?    January, 2016 If you are scheduled for a hospital or clinic procedure or just having a visit with your doctor/s, always try to have someone accompany you, especially if you are not good with medical or scientific terms.  Two sets of eyes and ears are always better than one.  It’s always good to have someone other than the medical staff on hand to discuss personal situations with before making any healthcare decisions.  It’s also a great idea to have a notepad to take copious notes during these meetings with medical staff.  A small tape recorder or Smartphone is another good option to capture info during rapid flowing discussions for review at a later time.  And, when being admitted to the hospital for a forthcoming medical procedure, you really need someone clear minded and mentally stable to be your Patient Advocate or Ombudsman. 
Ever changing local dinning scene January, 2016 The newly opened shopping mall, Persimmon Place, located in East Dublin, across the street from the Hacienda Center Shopping Center has a number of interesting new eating places.  In addition to the more standard, fast food chain places like Chipotle, Whole Foods, Habit Burger Grill and Starbucks, three rather unusual places have opened – Yalla Mediterranean, Pacific Catch and Urban Plates.  All three feature fast food specializing in specific food classification or cuisines.  Urban Plates offers a wide variety of foods that are on display and ready to serve or can be cooked in a matter of few minutes in sandwich, platter or salad form.  Pacific Catch is seafood that includes Hawaiian Poke (small cubes marinated), sushi and sashimi along with some non-fish and cooked items.  There’s something for everyone on the menu.  And Yalla offers Mediterranean dishes – Kabobs, wraps, plates, salads, falafel, chicken/steak skewers, chicken shawarma and Kefta Skewers (Turkish Spiced Ground Lamb and Beef) and a number of interesting side dishes.  Take a look at them if you’re in the area for shopping or a movie!