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Consumer Tips 2018
 

 
 
 
Here are some handy consumer tips
from SIR Jim Quon
that you might find useful.
Items on this page
cover 2018!
 
 
Tip Posting Date Details
Three Biggest Causes of Vehicular Accidents in U.S. Dec, 2018
1.  Following Too Closely (tailgating).  Most rear end collisions are caused by tailgating. To avoid tailgating, use the “3 second rule”: when the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point, such as a sign, count “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand- three.” This takes approximately 3 seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely.  During inclement weather (especially the first rain following a dry spell), increase your following interval to 5 second due to roadways becoming much more slick.
 
2.  Improper Lane Change.  Blind Spot Warning is now required by D.O.T. on all new vehicles produced for U.S. use.  This should be a big help in reducing this as a cause of accidents.  However, not all Blind Spot Warning Systems work equally well.  Some do not alert the driver until vehicles approaching from the left or right rear areas until their proximity becomes less than one car length behind.  That’s too close for many lane changes.  Much better are the systems that give warning at least 2 car lengths behind – 3 car lengths is even better.  Our warning system on our Subaru is speed sensitive and allows more space at higher speeds and less space at slower speeds. I am able to use it to notify me when it is safe to pull back into the right lane when passing a slower vehicle.
 
3.  Merging Too Slowly Onto Freeway Traffic.  Many Senior drivers are far too timid when merging onto a freeway from an entry ramp forcing oncoming traffic to brake hard and suddenly.  Use the entry ramp space to accelerate your vehicle to match the speed of the freeway traffic.  Merging too slowly subjects you to the risk of being rear-ended or causing others behind you to be rear-ended.
10 Most Stolen New and Used Cars
Dec, 2018
NEW CARS: Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, GMC Sierra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Fusion, Ford F-150, Ram Pickup, Toyota Corolla, GMC Savana, Hyundai Sonata. 
 
USED CARS: 1998 Honda Civic, 1997 Honda Accord, 2006 Ford F-150, 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, 2017 Toyota Camry, 2016 Nissan Altima, 2016 Toyota Corolla, 2001 Dodge/Ram Pickup, 2017 GMC Sierra, 2008 Chevrolet Impala.
Placement of Stickers and Decals:  Dec, 2018 If your vehicle has the Blind Spot Warning system, DO NOT PLACE STICKERS/DECALS on your rear quarter panels and left/right corners of the integrated bumper.  The radar sensors for your Blind Spot Warning System are located in these areas.  Blocking the sensors can render your warning system inoperative!
Avoid grill mounted Christmas decorations Dec, 2018 These may interfere with the good operation of your Forward Collision Avoidance and Adaptive Cruise Control systems.  The sensors are often mounted forward facing in the grill or front bumper areas..  These vehicles use cameras, radar, lasers or a combination of these sensors.
Phantom Traffic Jams: Dec, 2018 Sometimes highway traffic jams up for no apparent reason. There's no accident, and no real reason to step on the brakes — except to avoid hitting the car in front of you. What causes these backups?  If you've done even a modicum of highway driving, you've probably experienced this: You're moving along at a pretty good clip when all of a sudden traffic slows to a crawl. You inch along for a while, and then just as suddenly, the traffic starts moving again.  There's no accident. There's no one speed-trapping, and you're puzzled. What's going on?  It just takes one driver to cause the problem.  A typical case would be someone slams on the brakes just for a short moment. The car behind them is forced to slam on the brakes and so on back upstream.  It's like a wave flowing backwards. The practical consequences are that the amount drivers have to slow down increases the further back you are from the original incident.  There may be someone who is forced to actually stop.
Rent the same model of car that you are seriously considering to purchase.   Dec, 2018
Today’s vehicles have many advanced safety and convenience features.  You’ll want to fully review these features since you will be ‘living’ with the vehicle for a good long while.  I don’t believe you can fully learn/appreciate these features in the short time you would have a demo from the dealer for a test drive.  Finding a vehicle equipped with the options you want may not be easy to do.
Device Power Bank and Vehicle Jump Starter.  Dec, 2018 All new vehicles consume much more electrical power than older vehicles.  It would be a good idea to buy this device to keep in your vehicles in the event of a dead or run-down battery.  We have one in each of our two vehicles since I ran the battery down by leaving a dome light on or headlights on without the engine running for too long.  These are very small in size and lightweight and come with jumper cable clamps for attaching to your vehicle battery terminals and adapter cables to operate or charge cellphones, iPads, tablets, e-readers, cameras, etc.  I have one that is 6,000 mAh capacity and one that is 8,000 mAh.  The smaller one came from Woot.com for just $31.00 and the larger one came from Walmart for $34.  A 10,000 mAh unit is available from Costco for $49.99.  These work very well and are about the same size as a large Smartphone.  They will fit easily in your glove compartment or center console and are easy and foolproof to use.  They will even fit in a purse or pocket.  Note:  When flying, these and all Li-ion rechargeable batteries/power banks, must be part of your carry on.  They are illegal for checked bags.
Gift Ideas:  Dec, 2018
Air Fryers are very versatile in the kitchen.  I use ours almost daily.  It is small but it works quickly to refresh day-old pastries, fried chicken, tater tots, hash brown patties, reheating all fried foods.  Left over fish & chips are fantastically good.  A one-week old Croissant refreshed for just 2 minutes in an air fryer will taste much better and be more flaky and tender than a fresh Croissant several hours after coming out of the oven.  Tip: Bigger is not necessarily better.  Ours is small in capacity but it works very rapidly and only cost $35 at Target on sale.  Larger units will be slower because they are limited to the same power but the frying cavity is much larger.  Therefore, it will be slower in making things really crispy.
 
A Touch-Free or Touchless, stainless steel, battery operated, 13-gallon, kitchen trash can is rally handy to use. They are totally ‘hands-free’ operation, making them really handy when cooking or preparing food.  These are available at Costco for just $39.99.  Bags of Activated Charcoal are optional that are used to control odors.
Record Serial Numbers:  Dec, 2018 When purchasing new equipment or systems, record the serial numbers of each piece of equipment along with the date of acquisition and the date.  This information can be very helpful in a number of ways – loss or damage insurance claims, confirming recalls or product updates by the manufacturers, etc.  Keep the listing in a safe place or make a file on your computer for easy reference.  Use Scotch Blue Painters’ Tape to make a label with the info and affix it to the rear panel.  We have a Comcast Cable TV system for both Internet and telephone service.  At times, the system malfunctions and when calling Customer Service to report the problem, they always ask for the serial number of the Cable Box or DVR.  Access to the back panel of each of the boxes is a very difficult task.  Having recorded for easy reference is a far better way to give them this info.
Send yourself a note:  Dec, 2018

Making a note without pencil/paper or a special app for your Smartphone can be pretty simple.  Send yourself a note.  Use your voice-to-text feature of your Smartphone to dictate a message/note to yourself.  Send it to yourself .  You can then leave it in your Inbox or move it to a Pending File or create a separate folder for notes to reside until you are finished with them.  This idea of sending yourself a note is less complicated than learning how to use an app with many features that you will likely never use.

New Consumer Reports TV Show Nov, 2018 Starting immediately, tune into a weekly, ½ hour TV show, “Consumer 101” produced by Consumer Reports on NBC.  This should be both interesting and informative.  Currently, it airs at 09:00 AM, NBC (Comcast Chan 3).
Best/Quickest Way To Clear Fogged Windshield Nov, 2018
Per Consumer Reports, car windows can quickly steam up in winter when moisture in the warm cabin air creates condensation.  To clear a foggy car windshield and/or windows, make sure your climate control system is in fresh-air mode (running it in recirculation mode will cause moisture to accumulate). And although it might seem counterintuitive, you should turn your car's air conditioning on. It will dehumidify the air, which will reduce the chances of a foggy car windshield. Plus setting it to a high temperature should keep the car toasty, too.
Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the November 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.  My Observation:  Most modern vehicles equipped with AC will automatically switch on the AC whenever the ‘Defroster mode’ is selected.
Beware of gift cards and prepaid credit cards Nov, 2018 Almost all gift cards and prepaid credit cards issued by commercial credit card institutions charge a Monthly Maintenance Fee for as long as the account still has an open balance.  I recently received a prepaid Amex Credit Card in the amount of $21.25.  This was the amount of my rebate from Yelp.com.  I examined the fine print on the back and discovered that after 6 months following activation, they will charge $2/month maintenance fee.  My rebate was $21.25.  So, if I don’t use it up after the initial 6 months, I will lose $2 each month until the balance is exhausted.  I used it immediately to avoid any charges for account maintenance.  Gift cards issued directly by a store (Target, Walmart, Costco) carry no such maintenance charges
Test manual opening of garage door Nov, 2018 In the deadly Santa Rosa wildfires last year and this year’s rash of fires in the Clearlake area, many homeowners reported that they could not manually open their garage doors when their power failed.  As a result, all new homes must have a battery backup on their garage door opener mechanism.  Check your present garage door by manually opening it using the Manual Release Pull.  If it doesn’t release the door from the mechanism to allow manual opening, call a garage door repair company to get this fixed.  It would be critical in an emergency to be able to evacuate your home in a hurry and use your vehicle for a quick escape.  Not to mention being late for an appointment or work if you couldn’t quickly get your car out of the garage!
Fleece and sweater fabric maintenance Nov, 2018
These are clothing articles that are prone to pilling. Special shavers are available to ‘shave’ the little pills building up on the fabric.  You can also use a small, sharp scissors to cut these individual pills off.  The scissors in the smallest size of Swiss Army Knife works well for this task.
Update on Best local gas prices Nov, 2018
Previously, a good deal for gas was the Exxon Station, Dublin, across the street from Big Lots and 99 Ranch Marekt.  They used to charge just 6¢ more for credit card purchases.  They have now joined the rest of the gas station world and now charge 10¢ more for credit card purchases.  Now, the best cheap gas is Costco in Concord or Livermore.  Another good buy is Rotten Robbie, Livermore, a couple of blocks from the Livermore Community Center on East Avenue.
Refilling propane tanks Nov, 2018 When you run out of propane for your outdoor gas grill, you can take your empty tank into various locations to have your tank refilled or you can exchange your empty tank for a refilled tank at Blue Rhino or AmeriGas locations.  The typical exchange price at Lowe’s, Home Depot and many supermarkets is $20 - $25.  However, what is not widely known is that these tanks are only ¾ full.  Check the signage on the cages containing these refilled tanks and it will indicate a 15 Lb. product.  The tanks are standard 20 lb. tanks.  If you go to a gas station or RV center to have your tank refilled, the cost is typically $24 to $28.  The best deal is –your local Ace Hardware Store propane tank exchange.  Typically, the cost is just $20 but you will have a full 20 lb. tank filled to capacity!
Culinary Tips Nov, 2018
CLEANING KALE: Cut Kale into desired bite sized pieces before washing. Why?  Kale contains an enzyme that is somewhat bitter.  By washing/rinsing after cutting, you will be removing this enzyme from the exposed areas, thus reducing some of the potential bitterness.
 
NEVER REFRIGERATE FRESH TOMATOES - Do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes.  This will have a detrimental effect on interior texture.  It will turn mealy.  Instead, leave them out exposed to fresh air circulation.
 
DRY MEAT THOROUGHLY BEFORE BROWNING OR SEARING -  When searing steaks, chops or roasts, dry the exterior completely.  Any moisture on the exterior works as a steam barrier to prevent good Maillard (browning or caramelization) reaction that creates both great texture and flavor.  Pat dry with paper towels, clean cloth towels or use a fan to blow drying air over the meat.  You can also place the meat unwrapped in the refrigerator and the dehumidifying effect of the frost-free unit will dry the surfaces.  Be sure to turn the meat to dry the bottom as well.
 
LET MEAT STAND 10 MINUTES BEFORE SERVING OR CARVING - Always let grilled, roasted or fried steaks, roasts and fowl ‘rest’ for 10 minutes to allow juices to redistribute back into the meat fibers.  Cutting into the meat immediately after cooking will release all those great juices onto the cutting board or plate.  Make an aluminum tent with foil to retain heat.  You can also place the meat in the warming tray on low in your oven to keep it from getting cold.
Local Food/Dining Scene Update Nov, 2018
TOP FOODIE CITIES -  per WalletHub.com, the personal-finance website are as follows: 1. Portland, OR., 2. San Francisco, 3. Miami, FL., 4. NYC, 5. Los Angeles, 6. Orlando, FL., 7. Las Vegas, 8. NV., 9. Seattle and 10. Austin, TX.
 
FOOD TRENDS: Have you noticed the closure of some of the oldest and most durable restaurant institutions in our area?  These include Brennan’s, Spenger’s Fish Grotto, Chow, San Francisco, Il Fornaio, Embarcadero, La Victoria Mexican Bakery & Café, San Francisco, Banchero’s, Hayward, Elephant Bar,  Buca di Beppo, San Francisco, etc.  Note that these are all full-service, sit-down establishments.  Per my Chef friends and the owners of the Dine Out places we frequent, the causes are a combination of factors – all revolving around rising costs.  We all know the cost of living is super high and climbing in the Bay Area.  Food workers are not well paid and continue to be priced out of the area and that produces a severe labor shortage of qualified culinary staff.   Good help (servers and kitchen staff) is getting increasingly harder to find and keep. Restaurant rents and leases continue to increase.  One way for these businesses to cope with rising costs is to change the format.  You have already seen some new, successful places open up that are somewhat “self-serve.”  These include Plucked Chicken and Beer, San Ramon and Homegrown, Danville.  At these places, you order and pay for your food and are given a number for your table or a pager and your food is delivered or you come to the counter and pick up your order.  Food Trucks (Posada, Livermore) are another tactic.  Less qualified and lower cost staff requirements help these newer formats to survive and thrive.
 
Thai House, Danville, is listed in the prestigious Michelin Guide 2018 under the Bib Gourmand (good quality, good value cooking: ≤ £28 / 40 € (IRE) rating classification.  They have held this honor since 2011!  We’ve held several Dine Out events, here.  That means some of you have dined at a Michelin  Guide - rated restaurant!
Automotive technology advancements for better safety Nov, 2018 New safety features are now available for better survival and accident avoidance.  These improvements can be lifesavers and you should consider replacing your older, less safe vehicles in order to acquire these new features to protect yourself and your family and friends riding in your vehicles.  These include the suite of safety items that have begun to appear on vehicles produced in the last 5 years.  These include Blind Spot Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Frontal Collision Avoidance, Rear Camera, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, etc.  New safety features for 2019 models include:  Audi A8 has added and Active Suspension feature that will raise the body by 3.5” if sensors detect a crash is imminent.  The idea is that the other car would hit the most rigid part of the Audi’s body.  Lincoln Nautilus and Ford Edge now have Evasive Steering Assist.  This system uses cameras to keep an eye on slower moving traffic and stationary vehicles in the vehicle’s path and will help the driver steer around them to avoid a crash.  The new Mercedes Benz CLS 4-door coupe now offers Pre-Safe Impulse Side system that can nudge front occupants sideways in anticipation of a side impact to reduce the risk of injury.    It also comes standard with Pre-Safe Sound function – to protect a passenger’s hearing that emits a brief rushing sound if it determines a crash is certain.  This causes an ear muscle to contract in a reflex action to help protect/reduce the risk of hearing discomfort or damage in an impact.  Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 full-size pickup trucks can connect to your Smartphone through an app to make trailer towing easier and safer
Feedback, Comments & Questions on past items
Nov, 2018
  • Last month I wrote about using extension cords on appliances and tying the cords together to prevent the cords from easily becoming disconnected.  A good friend, Ted Michels, responded with this:  “While stringing together extension cords can work as a temporary solution, such as in the case of a short power failure, it creates a significant risk when used as a long-term solution. Extended extension cords (daisy chain) reduce the wattage capabilities of each cord and may lead to meltdown and fire.”  That’s very good advice.  When using extension cords, be sure to use heavy duty gauge cords and check them by feeling the cords while in use.  If they become very warm or hot to the touch, cease operation immediately to avoid potential arcing or fire hazard.
 
  • I just saw an article reporting that Subaru will be including their Eyesight Suite of Safety Features (including Adaptive Cruise Control) as standard equipment on  most models.  Before, they were optional and only available in the upper trim levels.  I’ve heard other brands, including Toyota, have already begun making them standard throughout the model lines, regardless of trim level.
 
  • Some folks that have these great safety features on their vehicles are reluctant to use them except in light traffic at freeway speeds.  It appears to be a matter of trusting the systems.  I urge you all to learn to use them if you have them and you will learn to trust them.  Once you become familiar with the systems, start using them in congested, bumper=to-bumper traffic and you will discover just how relaxing it can make your drive in commute traffic so much more relaxing.  I engage my Adaptive Cruise Control about 80% to 90% of the time – even on neighborhood surface streets near home.
 
  • I continue to hear drivers say that they don’t want to give up any control of their vehicle in order to use the Adaptive Cruise Control.  THERE IS NO LOSS OF CONTROL WHEN THE SYSTEM IS ENGAGED!  You give up nothing!  You have full and total control and give up nothing.  The gas, brake and steering will still function exactly the same regardless of driving mode.  Your reaction time will even be improved when the system is engaged because you can allow your braking foot to hover just above the brake pedal if you are the least bit nervous about using the system as designed. 
Opening of rigid plastic blister packs Oct, 2018 Opening of rigid plastic blister packs can be a real problem.  Using a sharp knife can be dangerous.  Ordinary scissors requires a lot of hand strength that some do not have.   Try this – use your hand-held can opener that has a cutting wheel on a hand crank.  This will work only if the plastic welded seam is close to the edge of the blister pack.  Otherwise, use a pair of Tin Snips.  Another alternative is a cordless rechargeable cutter  - Worx ZipSnip Cutting Tool.  Here’s a link: https://tinyurl.com/y9jvbhwk.  It is very useful around the house – cuts carpet, breaks down cardboard boxes, cuts through thin plastics and is great on industrial packaging materials.
Connecting Extension Cords in your home: Oct, 2018 Remember the last time you plugged something into an extension cord, it pulled apart with the least amount of tension on the connection? Try looping the two ends of the cords together in a loose knot.  That way, the loose knot will hold the cords together to maintain a good electrical connection when tension is applied to the cords. 
Quickly cooling a beverage in the freezer: Oct, 2018 Instead of just throwing a bottle of soda or beer in the freezer to cool down, try soaking a paper towel with water and wrapping it around the bottle before placing in the freezer.  Just watch as it gets icy cold in mere minutes!
Using a plunger: Oct, 2018
You might not realize it, but there are actually two types of plungers. The one with what looks like an inverted cone attached to the top dome part is a flange plunger and should be used only to unclog toilets. The one that looks like an inverted rubber bowl on a stick is a cup plunger, and it’s only supposed to be used on clogged sinks and bathtub drains. The two different shapes allow for a better “seal” when used to move water/waste through the fixture.
Using Aluminum Foil, Plastic Shrink Wrap, Waxed Paper and other wraps on a roll:  Oct, 2018
No one likes having to wrap their leftovers, so they tend to do it super quickly and inefficiently. Often, the roll slides out, and you have to keep fitting it back inside the box. Next time, try using the “press here to lock roll” function on the side of the box and watch how much easier it is to preserve your famous meatloaf!
Your bathroom mirror: Oct, 2018 If you’re the type of person who likes to leave notes for themselves all around the house, try utilizing your bathroom mirror as a dry erase board! It seriously works! When you go to brush your teeth and comb your hair, you’ll see your plans and won’t forget.  This can also double as a note board for your partner.  The note is easily erased with a dry cloth or eraser
Buying chip clips:  Oct, 2018 You’ve undoubtedly had to fold a bag of chips to keep them fresh at some point all because you didn’t have a handy chip clip. Next time, try removing the clothing clips from an extra hanger, which work great as chip clips!  Old fashioned wooden/spring clothespins also work great.
Reheating leftover meals: Oct, 2018 There are few things more frustrating than the way a microwave unevenly reheats your cold food.  Often the middle is still cold while the perimeter food is hot.  Try making a void in the middle of the food – kinda like a donut, and you may quickly realize how much more efficiently and evenly it reheats.
Myth: Hair spray removes ballpoint-pen ink.  Oct, 2018
Fact: This may have been true years ago, when hair sprays were formulated with more alcohol (which does remove ink) than they are today, but not anymore. “Today’s hair sprays are full of stiffeners and hardeners that will just make the stain worse.  Instead, just use rubbing alcohol. It’s far less expensive than hairspray and doesn’t include any extra ingredients.
Myth: Newspaper works the best for cleaning glass. Oct, 2018
Fact: Wet newspaper tears easily, and the ink can transfer to the adjoining window trim, leaving more to clean. “We use microfiber cloths to clean glass,” says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids, a national franchise. “They’re the best at cleaning without streaking.”
Myth: Vinegar cleans everything. Oct, 2018
Fact: “Vinegar is an acid, so it can cut through dirt and can kill bacteria, but only if you use it at full or nearly full strength,” says Derek Christian, owner of My Maid Service, a home-cleaning service in Ohio and Texas. “Most people put a capful in a bucket of water, and that doesn’t do much.” The acids in vinegar can damage natural stone and wood surfaces.  Instead, use a commercial product like Windex.
A new retail store in Dublin you should check out Oct, 2018 DAISO is located between CVS Pharmacy and 99 Ranch Asian Market and across the street from Amakara Sushi.  It is a most interesting store with a lot of in inexpensive but not shoddy items.  Think of it as a Japanese Dollar Store except their standard price is $1.50, unless marked otherwise. They have a lot of house ware, kitchen ware, health and beauty aids, some automotive and hardware items along with clothing, sporting goods and toys.  I love their selection of standard, button, wafer/disk and miniature batteries – all at ridiculously low prices.  Most are carded with multiple batteries for $1.50.  At OSH or CVS or hardware stores, these same types would be priced from $8.99 to $12.99 for the same quantity.
A new Asian Fusion restaurant you should check out Oct, 2018 KOJA is located in the Persimmons Square Shopping Center (think the new Whole Foods Store).  KO JA stands for Korean – Japanese cuisine.  It’s very good and is relatively inexpensive and represents a really good value.  Like Plucked Chicken and Beer I mentioned last month, this is super casual with a similar format – order and pay at the counter and take a number to display on your table and the food is delivered to you.
A new Italian restaurant you should check out Oct, 2018 BEREVINO CUCINA AND WINE BAR is fairly new in Dublin.  I wanted to mention it because we had an amazingly good Dine Out event here just last week.  We had our own private patio outside and it was perfect.  We had a full house of 24 folks and I was really impressed at how good the service was and, of course, the food was terrific.  I can’t remember when so many have told me how much they liked it.  I can’t be sure but I believe every couple said something to that effect.  The food is better than “good.”  The service was truly outstanding and the prices were very reasonable for what we received!
POTS & PANS KITCHENWARE OUTLET located in the San Francisco Premium Outlets Center, Livermore, has just opened up. Oct, 2018
It is owned by Meyer Corp., the makers of Circulon and Analon Cookware.  This place is just a retail version of their famous annual warehouse sales near Christmas time at their Vallejo and Vacaville Distribution centers.  In addition to Circulon and Analon, they carry Ayesha Curry, Bonjour, Breville, Farberware, Paula Dean, Rachel Ray and Silverstone lines.  Yes, the prices are discounted from the list prices but not to the extent of their Annual Warehouse Sales.  Unless you need something right away, I suggest you wait until the next December sale coming up.
RESTAURANT HEALTH CODE CLOSURES  Oct, 2018
There seem to be a rash of restaurant closures in Contra Costa County due to Health Code violations.  These include China Wall Buffet, Concord (2 closings), New Lim’s, Concord (3 closings within 9 months), Old Spaghetti Factor, Concord, Tomi Sushi and Seafood Buffet, Sun Valley Mall, Concord, Freebirds, Walnut Creek, Cold Stone Creamery, Walnut Creek, American Kitchen, Lafayette, Modern China, Walnut Creek and Park Bistro, Lafayette.  This is not a complete listing.  If you want to know how your local or favorite place has fared, I suggest you do a online search using a specific restaurant name and location followed by “restaurant health code closures.”
Followup on recent cannabis item posted Oct, 2018 Last month I mentioned that I was using cannabis to help with sleeping issues.  I’ve received some queries about amounts and mix of active ingredients.  I use 5 mg to 8 mg of THC/CBD in equal parts (1/1) taken in chocolate candy, cookies, gummies or liquid tinctures 1.5 to 2 hours before bedtime.  The cost works out to be about $1.22 to $1.45 per night depending upon the form of the edible.  I’ve gotten these from dispensaries in Oregon and Harborside Dispensary, Oakland.  A fringe benefit seems to have emerged as a result of my using cannabis – the arthritic pain in both my hands seems to have lessened.  If you are interested in trying cannabis, I suggest you start by going online to learn more about the two active ingredients – THC and CBD.  Then go down to Harborside and talk to their Advisors.
Followup on recent knife item posted Oct, 2018 Last month, I recommended to anyone wanting to buy a good but inexpensive kitchen knife the Mercer Culinary Millennia 8” Chef’s Knife.  I’m happy to report that 3 people have purchased this knife online and have reported to me how happy and pleased they are with their purchase!
Followup on recent bluetooth earbud item posted Oct, 2018 In the June issue, I mentioned the JVC HAFX9BT Blue Tooth Earbuds ($19.95 at Best Buy) for use with smartphones, iPods, iPads, tablets and other portable audio devices.  I’ve received inquiries about sound quality, ease of use, fit/comfort and audio quality.  I like them because for the low price, they are sonically equal to other costing 3 and 4 times more.  They are a very simple unit with extremely easy ‘pairing’ function.  The rechargeable battery is very robust with 4.5 to 5 hours of continuous use with a single charge.  It comes with two sizes of silicone ear cushions to fit most ear canal sizes comfortably and securely.  They also do a good job of closing off outside sounds.  This is a real bargain and I don’t know of any other low cost blue tooth headphone or earbuds with this kind of performance.
Followup on recent leg cramps item posted Oct, 2018
Leg Cramps – several people have reported improvement of their leg cramps at night with the regular use of Smartwater.  Also, Karl Scheick reports good results in his use of Theraworx.  He highly recommends it.
Beware of gift cards and prepaid credit cards Oct, 2018 Almost all of these gift cards and preloaded credit cards charge a monthly account maintenance fee after a specific period following activation.  I subscribe to iDine, a program that offers rebates of up to 10% at specific restaurants.  When I reach a minimum level, they send me an American Express prepaid credit card loaded with my rebate balance.  I examined the fine print on the back and discovered that after 6 months following activation, they will charge $2/month maintenance fee.  My rebate was $21.25.  So, if I don’t use it up after the initial 6 months, I will lose $2 each month until the balance is exhausted.
Local Gas deals update Oct, 2018 Previously, a good deal for gas was the Exxon Station, Dublin, across the street from Big Lots and 99 Ranch Market.  They used to charge just 6¢ more for credit card purchases.  They have now joined the rest of the gas station world and now charge 10¢ more for credit card purchases.  Now, the best cheap gas is Costco in Concord or Livermore.  Another good buy is Rotten Robbie, Livermore, a couple of blocks from the Livermore Community Center on East Avenue.
Vehicle and Home Security:  Sep, 2018
If your vehicles do not have built-in garage door remote control, do not leave your, clip-on Garage Door Remote sender.  Anyone breaking into your vehicle can take the remote and enter your garage/home using your remote while you are away from home.  They can get your address from the mandated vehicle registration in the car.   Also, don’t leave your Owner’s Manual in the car.  Thieves can get your VIN number and use it to get keys or remote made by going to the dealer and pretending to be the owner.
Substantial Price Hikes Coming On Some New Cars:  Sep, 2018 Get ready for a Trump bump in car prices.  As U.S. negotiators close in on a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, they appear committed to new rules on car production that will require costlier components, which in turn would raise prices. Further provisions would allow for new tariffs on some imported cars that could boost sticker prices by thousands of dollars.  The new rules would require more American-made content in cars imported from Canada and Mexico, in exchange for allowing those products to enter the U.S. duty-free. Another measure would raise the portion of a car that must be built by workers earning relatively high wages. Cars coming from Mexico and Canada that don’t meet those requirements will be subject to a 2.5% tariff, while cars imported from other countries could face tariffs as high as 25%.  The protectionist measures are meant to safeguard U.S. manufacturing jobs. But they come at a cost to consumers.
New Safety Features Reduce Injury Accidents:  Sep, 2018 Per Subaru, EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, etc.) reduces rear-end crashes with injuries by 85%.  Honda, Toyota and Audi report similar results.
Vehicle Battery Replacement:  Sep, 2018 Newer vehicles have many more electronic features that use a lot of electrical power.  Do yourself a favor and buy a higher capacity battery than the O.E.M. battery to avoid battery drain and needing a jump start when using the vehicle accessories without the engine running.  Note:  Unless you are familiar with cars and electronics, have your new battery installed by a qualified technician.  Never disconnect the old battery without a temporary current applied to the vehicle to keep all the electronic components ‘alive’ and well.  The absence of a live current will delete all the memory stored in the various computers and settings and you will have to take the vehicle into a dealer facility for a system reboot.
Airport Travel Tip Sep, 2018 Carry gallon and quart Ziploc bags, preferably freezer grade.  Use these when you empty your pockets prior to going through TSA.  Put your Kindle and tablet into a single gallon-size bag.  Also use them to compartmentalize things in your bag for easy assembly or retrieval at TSA inspection points. 
Airport Travel Tip Sep, 2018 TSA requires all passengers to remove their shoes before going through the Metal Detector or Whole Body Scanner.  Consider wearing clogs or slip-on shoes for both ease and speed.  Sketcher Shoes have a line of casual, slip-on shoes that are both comfortable and stylish.  Note: Passengers 70+ years of age are exempt from this shoe removal detail.
Leg Cramps?   Sep, 2018 If you suffer from leg cramps at night and you already drink plenty of liquids, try drinking Smartwater.  That’s a term that covers plain and flavored waters with zero calories that are fortified with electrolytes.  They come in various brands.  Here are the typical ingredients: vapor distilled water, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate (electrolyte sources*) electrolytes added for taste.  This has proven to be effective in prevening night leg cramps for some people.
Sleep Without Prescription Sleeping Medication:  Sep, 2018
As we age, many of us have more and more trouble getting a good night’s sleep. A good sleep is extremely important to go health because it is the time in which the body recuperates and heals itself.  Poor sleeping experience is injurious to your health and will extend your recovery from illness or surgery.   Sleeping pills are not always a good solution for various reasons.  For a good many years I fought this constant battle almost every night.  Now that Cannabis is legally available without a prescription, I finally decided to try it.  The results have been excellent.  I talked to other users for advice and reports on their experiences.  Then we went a Cannabis Dispensary in Oakland, Harborside.  They are the largest and most well organized, professional dispensary in the Bay Area.  They also have a branch in San Jose.
 
Cannabis comes with two main components – CBD (produces no ‘high’) and THC, the ingredient that provides the ‘high’ effect).  While there are many ways to take Cannabis (smoke, vapor, tinctures, etc.).  I tried the easiest and simplest form of intake – ingesting edibles.  These come in the form of Chocolate Bars, Chocolate covered berries, gummies, cookies, etc.  All edibles come in dosages of 5 or 10 mg. (per California State law) of Cannabis in various combinations of THC/CBD.  For a sleep aid, a combination of 1:1 THC/CBD is frequently recommended.  5 mg. works well for me.  If you’re interested, I recommend that you go to Harborside and talk to their advisers.  There is no charge and no obligation.  You can also call me for my personal experience.  SIR John Kent is also knowledgeable on this subject and was helpful to me before I took the ‘plunge.’  I have found Cannabis to be safe, effective and quite economical.  I’ve used cookies, Gourmet Dark Chocolate Bars and Chocolate Covered Blueberries.
Home/Consumer Tip Sep, 2018 The following is a YouTube video of  37 creative tips for completing repairs or tasks around the house!  Here’s the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxviTLVjvDQ
Home/Consumer Tip Sep, 2018
Last month I listed information about knives.  Here’s another good tip.    An excellent buy is the Mercer Culinary Millennia 8" Chef's Knife.  It's a high-quality, Japanese Stainless Steel blade with a synthetic resin handle.  It's available from Amazon for just $15.79 and compares with quality knives costing 3X more.  This qualifies for free, 2-day shipping for Prime members.  Here's a link to Amazon for this item:
Home/Consumer Tip Sep, 2018 Fresh corn season has come to an end but consider the Oxo Good Grips Corn Stripper available from Amazon for $13.95 for quickly and easily stripping the kernels from freshly cooked corn on the cob.
Home/Consumer Tip Sep, 2018 For super easy husking of fresh corn, place in your microwave oven and ‘zap’ on high for 2.5 minutes for each ear of corn.  Cut the bottom/butt end of each ear about ½” beyond where the whole kernels start.  Grab the exposed silk and husk leaves at the pointed end and simply give it a good ‘shake’ and the inner cob should fall out free from the husks and silk.  This item ships free to Amazon Prime Members.
New Restaurant Tip Sep, 2018 There is a good, casual, new restaurant in Northern San Ramon – Plucked Chicken and Beer.  They offer just two things – fried chicken and 12 beers on tap.  The fried chicken is all dark meat and is offered in the form of various sandwiches and salads.  It’s all delicious and is a good value when considering quality, quantity and price.  The beers are self-serve.  When ordering your food, they will ‘run a tab’ for your beer.  You can have as much and as many beer selections as you want and you will be charged accordingly when you ‘close your tab.’ They are located in the Crow Canyon Commons Shopping Center between Sprouts and Big 5 Sporting Goods Store.
Smartphone Tip Sep, 2018 Smartphones with a user replaceable battery are a good thing.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4.  It is super simple for me to replace the Li-ion battery.  It can be done in less than 30 seconds and without tools!  The cost of replacement battery from Amazon runs from $9.95 to $13,95.  A separate, custom, compact charger is available for just $9.95.  Using this external charger, I can recharge a spare battery anytime I want and insert the spare battery when I have run the existing battery down.  It’s really nice not having to take it in for a battery replacement, not to mention the savings in cost.  There are a number of Droid Smartphones available with user replaceable batteries besides Samsung.
Kitchen Knives Primer Aug, 2018
Blade Construction and Material: 
High carbon Stainless Steel and ceramic are the main materials for blades.  For general, all around use, avoid the Ceramic Knives.  They are extremely brittle and can break if bent or shatter if dropped onto a hard surface.  Because they are so brittle, the blades are thicker and the cutting edge cannot be honed to super sharp condition.  They also cannot be used on hard food items.  Worst of all, while they do hold an edge longer than steel, they cannot be easily sharpened without special tools and technique.  Good Stainless Steel is the best material for general purpose use.  Blade shape/style is a personal choice issue.  Standard 5” – 7” Chef’s Knife is the most common but Santoku style blades have become very popular in recent years.  For general use, Japanese, German and Brazilian Stainless Steel continue to be better than the Japanese blades as a general rule.  For really heavy duty use, a forged blade is better than a stamped blade.  But, the trade off is that they are heavier and a bit less agile in use.  Stamped blades are thinner and are more agile and excellent for slicing work.  Handle material can be wood, plastic or metal.  The latter can be very slippery when your hands are wet or oily.  Japanese style knives tend to be sharper because they tend to use a finer blade angle of 12° - 15°.  European/American knives use the heftier 20° - 23° with thicker blades.
 
Cost: 
German/European brands (Wusthof, Henckels, Mercer, Sabatier) tend to be very pricey.  Good Japanese brands (Shun, Global, Mac) are a little lower priced.  Two excellent brands that are very good values are Victorinox Fibrox and Mac with a Chef’s or Santoku Knife for less than $45.  Emeril, Rachel Ray, Calphalon and Zyliss with Japanese steel blades can be excellent buys at under $30.
 
Knife Sets:
Avoid buying a large set of knives.  All you need is 5” – 7” Chef or Santoku Knife, a paring knife and, maybe, a thin flexible knife for boning of fillet work.  A Sharpening Steel is a must to condition the cutting edge.  Consider a new blade shape that is gaining in popularity – 7” Vegetable Japanese Chef Knife.  I like it better than the standard Chef Knife shape.  It’s sharper, more maneuverable and precise.
 
Knife Care: 
Never place fine knives in the dishwasher.  Always hand wash knives and dry them before putting them away.   If stored in a drawer, always use a blade guard.  Use the Sharpening Steel frequently to keep the edge clean and tuned.  Sharpen them when they become dull.  Learn how to do this by looking at YouTube videos.  Tip: Chef’s Choice 4643 Pronto Pro Diamond Home Manual Knife Sharpener is a good tool for both Asian (15°) and Western (20°) blades.  Always use a wood or plastic cutting board.  Never use good knives on hard surfaces like tile, stone counters, ceramic plates, stainless steel counters, etc.
10 Highest and Lowest Car and Truck Recall Rates Aug, 2018
Most Recalled Per 100,000 Sold:
1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 5.77
2. GMC Sierra: 3.25
3. BMW 3 and 4 Series: 2.95
4. Dodge Durango: 2.71
5. Nissan Pathfinder: 2.00
6. Ram Pickup: 1.99
7. Toyota 4Runner: 1.99
8. Dodge Charger: 1.74
9. Chrysler 300: 1.71
10. Chevrolet Tahoe: 1.52    Industry Average: 0.79
 
Least Recalled Per 100,000 Sold:
1. Hyundai Accent: 0.10
2. Chevrolet Equinox: 0.11
3. Toyota Corolla: 0.12
4. Honda Civic: 0.14
5. Honda CR-V: 0.14
6. Honda Accord: 0.16
7. Subaru Crosstrek: 0.18
8. Toyota Camry: 0.23
9. Hyundai Elantra: 0.23
10. GMC Terrain: 0.26
Source: iSeeCars.com, based on NHTSA recall data from model years 2013-2017.
COSTCO Car Buying Program Aug, 2018
Sir Tony Fassiotto  sent this to me.  It’s a good article.  As confirmation, a number of Sirs in our chapter have used this program with great satisfaction.  I’m one of them.  John Kent has purchased 2 vehicles through the program. Dan Poulin just purchased his wife a new vehicle from Dublin Mazda at $1,700 below dealer invoice.  If you are in the market, check it out!: https://tinyurl.com/ybudk3v7
Mobile Phone Security Warning Aug, 2018

Mobile Phishing on the Rise: The bad guys are trying to trick you on your mobile device! Users are three times more likely to click on a suspicious link on their mobile device than on a desktop, and the bad guys are taking advantage of this. They will send you malicious links through email, social media (Facebook messenger), and text messages.

Don’t be their next target! If you’re using your mobile device and receive a suspicious message, or you cannot see where a link is taking you, don’t click! Instead, wait until you can view the message on a desktop, or delete the message altogether.  Let's stay safe out there!  Stop, Look, and Think. Don't be fooled.
Rental Car App Aug, 2018
Sir Larry Feigenbaum reports that he has successfully used autoslash. .. https://www.autoslash.com
 
They check several sites and ask for your memberships..Costco, AAA, etc. when booking. The best part, they constantly check for better rates and tell you when to cancel and rebook for savings. I have re-booked multiple times on several reservations and saved a meaningful amount! You can also book on any car rental site and then have Autoslash track your reservation for better rates by giving them the details of your reservation.
New Way to Kill Pesky Flies Aug, 2018
Say there is a fly in your kitchen and is bothering you immensely.  Or at an outdoor picnic and flies invade the picnic table.  How do you get rid of the pest without smashing with a fly swatter? 
 
Get yourself a Bug-A-Assault Fly Gun.  Go to Ace Hardware.  It sells for $42.  It shoots ordinary table salt using a single pump air piston and will not ‘splatter’ the flies or other insects into a big mess. One teaspoon loads the reservoir for about 80 shots! It’s fun, safe and efficient.  You can find it on Amazon but it is not legal for them to ship it into California.  Go to your local Ace Hdwe and look at it!  I have one as do both my grown sons and we can all testify that it works really well.
7 Super Reasons to Drink Coffee Aug, 2018
Coffee has suffered a ‘bad rap’ for many years.  Now, long term, large studies in various countries now debunk most of these negative ideas with important information about the following health issues – Liver, Heart, Type 2 Diabetes, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Depression and Overall Mortality.  See this link from Business Insider sent to me by Sir Ron Marguglio:  http://www.businessinsider.com/coffee-effects-on-health-include-reduced-disease-risk-2017-12
Costco Motion Sense Garbage Can Correction Aug, 2018
Last month I posted this item as a good item for the kitchen.  However, I was in error about the batteries.  It takes “AA” size batteries.  We got ours several years ago and ours uses the larger “D” size.  Costco or the manufacturer, apparently, has changed the battery type.  I can’t remember who it was that notified me via email.  Thank you for whoever that was!
Free shipping on Woot.com Aug, 2018
Did you know that Woot.com, the clearance Internet site that sells one item per day is owned by Amazon?  Because of this relationship, Amazon Prime members now enjoy free shipping for purchases on Woot.com.  Non-members will have to pay the $5 flat fee for shipping, regardless of size, weight or destination.
New RAMEN shop worth a visit Aug, 2018
There is, finally, a decent Ramen Shop in the Tri-Valley area for this traditional Japanese Soup Noodle.  The one in Ulfert Center, Dublin, is terrible.  The only decent one, Kane Ramen, Pleasanton, closed about a year ago.  Ramen 101 is in East Dublin across the parking lot from Dick’s Sporting Goods and the new California Lucky Store.  Service is super fast!
Muscle Cramping Jul, 2018
Coaches and training staff often recommend taking a spoonful or two of yellow mustard at the onset or signs of cramping. Muscle cramps may actually be triggered by misfiring nerves rather than dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.  Researchers hypothesized that strong flavors would trigger nerves in the mouth, throat and stomach. This neuronal stimulation might in turn overwhelm the misbehaving nerves that were causing muscle cramps.  If you are susceptible to cramping, keep some packets of mustard in your pocket or purse.  These are available as condiments at fast food places.
Free Travel Insurance Jul, 2018
If you have Costco Membership and use the Costco Citibank Visa Credit Card, you may be covered by travel insurance at no charge when booking travel via the Costco Travel Department and use the Citibank Credit Card for deposits and payments. Check with Costco Travel or Citibank for details.   This tip contributed by my friend Steve Benson.
No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases Jul, 2018

Many credit card companies charge an additional fee on foreign purchases that involve conversion of currency rates to USD.  Use your Costco Citibank Visa Card during foreign  travel.  There will be no Foreign Transaction Fee charged.

Buying Rotisserie Chicken Jul, 2018
Almost all supermarkets sell a whole, rotisserie chicken for $5 to $8, each.  When shopping for a cooked chicken, select the heaviest bird you can find.  Why?  The cooked chicken will lose up to 15% of its weight under the heat lamps while waiting to be sold.  The heavier birds would indicate or suggest a fresher product.
 
Tip:  Costco chickens have remained at $4.99, each, since 2009.  They are the biggest retailers of rotisserie chicken.  The turnover is so fast that cooked birds never stay in the heated display case for more than an hour.  These will be the biggest and freshest bargains you can buy.  They are more moist and flavorful because they are brined before being cooked
Kitchen Trash Can Bargain
Jul, 2018
Costco sells a “Touchless” (motion-sense), battery operated, rectangular; 13 gallon trash can in stainless steel for $39.99.  A wave of the hand near the top lid will cause the lid to automatically open and after a brief period, close, all without ever touching the appliance.  This is pretty handy.  It uses standard “D” size batteries and will run for more than a year before depleting the batteries.  Activated charcoal pouches can also be used for odor elimination.
Travel TIP - What is this REAL ID card, why do I need it, and how do I get it? Jul, 2018
Beginning October 1, 2020, the federal government will require your driver license or identification (ID) card to be “REAL ID Compliant,” if you wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities. The California DMV began offering a federal compliant REAL ID driver license or ID card as an option to customers on January 22, 2018.
 
If you have a valid U.S. passport, passport card, military ID, or another form of Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) approved identification, these documents will still be accepted to board a domestic flight. Federally compliant identification will also be required to access military bases and most federal facilities.

■  Do I Need a REAL ID?

The California DMV is offering two different types of cards, REAL ID Compliant DL/ID cards and Federal Non-Compliant DL/ID cards.
  • REAL ID Compliant DL/ID cards allow applicants to:
  • Use it as identification to board an airplane.
  • Enter military bases and most federal facilities.
Note: These requirements do not go into effect until October 1, 2020
 
■  How Do I Apply for a REAL ID Card?
A DMV field office visit is required to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card. Here is what else you need to do to apply:
  • Make an appointment (recommended) to visit a field office.
  • Provide proof of identity, such as a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, employment authorization document, permanent resident card or foreign passport with an approved form I-94.
  • Show a California residency document that includes your physical California residence address. Documents addressed to a PO Box must include the physical residence address on documents (for example utility bills).
  • Present proof of your Social Security number, such as a SSN card, W-2 or paystub with your name and full SSN.
Note: Name change documents, such as a certified copy of a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may be required if your identity document name (birth certificate) is different than the name on your application.
 
Tip:  Apply for your new Real ID at the same time of your next California Driver’s License renewal.  Simply bring the 3 pieces of required ID/documentation and indicate that you want the Real ID Driver’s License.  Processing for the Real ID is free when combined with license renewal.  If you get them separately, the license renewal will be $35 and the Real ID fee will be $38, not to mention the extra required visit and time.
 
Tip:  Make your DMV appointment via their website as soon as you receive your renewal notice.  You may even want to make the appointment even before you get your renewal notice.  Why?  Getting an appointment before the expiration date of your current license can be extremely difficult.  Joyce could not get an appointment until the date of  her license expiration.  I couldn’t get one until a day after my expiration date.  If we failed our written tests, it would be illegal for us to drive until we achieve a passing grade.  That could be weeks or even months later!
Another Reason to use Adaptive Cruise Control Jul, 2018
Ford recently completed a traffic study that concluded that if more people use this feature, commute traffic conditions would be improved.  They found that when a good number of vehicles use this feature, traffic flowed much more smoothly and accidents were reduced.  Traffic tended to bunch up when this feature is not in use by many vehicles.  This exaggerates the stop/go clogging characteristics resulting in longer commute times.
Canned Tomatoes Jun, 2018
You’re making a recipe calling for chopped or diced canned tomatoes and you only have whole tomatoes – what to do?  No worries, just use your kitchen shears to cut the whole tomatoes into smaller pieces right in the can with a vertical clipping motion.  It’s easy and no fuss or mess.
Special Symbols Jun, 2018
When writing text documents and you need a special symbol, simply ‘Google’ it.  Example:  Google “cent sign” for “¢” or “Euro sign” for “€.”  This is much faster than finding, printing out a chart of all the most common symbols and filing it away for future reference.
Wired Headphones or Earbuds Jun, 2018
If you are using these to listen to your iPad, Smartphone, tablet or other portable devices equipped with Bluetooth, you may want to free yourself from the cord (tangle, knots, getting caught on things, etc.) by going to a simple, inexpensive Bluetooth earbud set.  Try the JVC HAFX9BT, just $19.99 from Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics.  I access free music of my choice using the Pandora App on my Smartphone to help going to sleep.  I use the JVC Bluetooth earbuds to listen.  They are excellent for music or speech (podcasts), rugged and super easy to use.  Build-in microphone also allows you to take incoming phone calls.    Before, I used a wired earbud set but the cord would get tangled as I tossed and turned in bed!  Earbuds in the ear are comfortable and block out outside noises so they’re good for travel when you encounter noisy hotels/motels.
New Hearing Aids Jun, 2018
Some folks tend to believe that an investment in a pair of hearing aids is a single-purchase, lifetime investment.  Wrong - for a number of reasons!  Your hearing will continue to decline with age so new instruments may better suit your particular hearing deficit.  And the instruments have a limited life – typically 5 years.  Finally, every generation of instruments, like all electronics in our times, are better, cheaper and smaller than the previous generation.  I just got my 3rd pair and they are a major improvement over my first 2 pairs.  The new ones have Bluetooth included at no extra up charge, wireless controls using my Smartphone (change programs, focus microphones for better clarity in noisy environments and volume control).  BTW, you really should go into your provider to have your instruments cleaned/vacuumed and adjustments by your Audiologist for any changes in your hearing ability.  These services should be free from your reputable/professional provider.  I recommend seeing Vicki at Costco, Livermore.  She has taken care of over two dozen SIRs from our chapter with complete satisfaction – even ones that had a horrible experience with other providers.  The newest Kirkland brand, BTE (behind the ear) instruments are only $1699 and are made by Rexton, one of the major manufacturers of hearing instruments worldwide.  The same units under other brand names cost $2.5K - $3K, each, even when discounted.  The Costco margin markup is their standard 14%.  Typical markup at independent and chain providers is 200% to 350%.
Driver Safety Jun, 2018
When adjusting your driver seat, make sure you allow a minimum of 18” between your face and steering wheel.  This is especially important for small-framed, senior women.  This is to provide enough space for the air bag to safely inflate in the event of an accident.  Seniors with brittle bones can suffer severe injury if your face is forcefully pushed backwards by the sudden air bag deployment.  This could, potentially, result in a broken neck.  Fatalities have occurred in this exact scenario.  Don’t be a victim.
Vehicle Navigation Systems vs your Smartphone GPs
Jun, 2018
This applies to both rental cars and your own vehicle – even if the rental or your car is equipped with onboard navigation systems, use your Smartphone (iPhone or Android units) as an additional resource.  It is so much easier and more efficient to use your Smartphone search function to find specific restaurants, shops, retail centers and even neighborhoods.  We were able to get directions to “Nob Hill” and “Oldtown” areas in about 15 seconds using my Samsung Smartphone.  These neighborhoods were unrecognizable by the vehicle GPS.  You are also much more familiar at programming your own Smartphone than when forced to use a different or unfamiliar GPS system.  And the driving prompts will be different and require some mental adjustment on your part.  TIP: Do not rent the optional, portable GPS units – use your own Smartphone and learn to use it before your trip.
Disposible Thermal Cup Jun, 2018

Use a clear plastic cup often provided by fast food places for sodas, smoothies and shakes.  These come with a clear plastic cover with the X slot in the lid for a straw to go through it. Use this as the core vessel and then get two or three foam coffee cups and insert this core vessel into it. If you can choose the sizes close enough you will end up with a clear plastic cup, well-insulated with two layers or more of foam. This will hold iced drinks for quite a while you’re on-the-go.  TIP: Consider the purchase of a “reusable Starbucks” cup for $2.  They hold up quite well, are better insulated for hot coffee than the standard disposable paper cup with sleeve and it will pay for itself over time because Starbucks gives a 10¢ discount when you bring your own cup!

Pei Wei Jun, 2018
When traveling throughout the country, look for Pei Wei, a chain of Asian, fresh, wok-cooked menu items.  They are clean, fast, inexpensive and truly delicious.  They are a division of the famed P.F. Chang chain.  Try their Mongolian Beef or Orange Chicken over Brown Rice or Noodles.  Their Dan Dan Noodles are also great!  This chain is so much better than Panda Express.  Everything is made fresh and to order – not steam table or buffet format.  Fresh, unlimited, individually packaged Fortune Cookies come with your meal!
Fried Bread Dough Jun, 2018
During national travel keep an eye out for Beignets, Malasadas and Sopapillas.  These are all variations of fried bread dough.  Malasadas are of Portuguese origin found in Hawaii as a doughnut covered in granulated sugar.  Beignets are French origin found in New Orleans and are messy to eat because they are covered in powdered sugar.  Sopapillas can be found in Mexican and New Mexican restaurants in New Mexico.  They are served with honey.  All are light, airy and delightful.  Stuffed Sopapillas are also used as main dish entrees.
Southwest Airlines Early Boarding Jun, 2018
We did this on our recent trip to Albuquerque last month and it worked very well.  Normal check in can only be done 24 hours before flight time.  Your boarding position is then determined and your boarding passes can be printed out.  Early Boarding moves you to a 36-hour  check in status and is automatic – no computer or Smartphone connection is needed.  Anytime after the 36-hr. mark, you will have access to your boarding passes and you will be in the late “A” or early “B” boarding zones.  You can print them at kiosks at the airport.  This eliminates having to remember to check in at the 24-hr. mark or risk getting a later boarding zone.  When we did not buy the Early Boarding, we were not able to sit together and all that was left were middle seats for the flight.  When we bought Early Boarding for the return flight, we received “B-3” and “B-4” Boarding Zones.  The cost of this nice feature is $15/person/destination.  We thought it was well worth it as we were able to easily find overhead space and found aisle seats across from each other.
Rental Cars Jun, 2018
We like to use different rental companies offered by Costco Travel.  The Costco rates have proven to be lower than other online travel companies and there is no charge for Additional Driver, an instant savings of $25 - $50.  TIP: When arriving at the lot to pickup your rental car, there usually several available to pick from.  Make your selection based on the onboard optional features rather than make/model.  I was surprised to learn that some of the cars, even the newest model year, have no optional features – even safety features, such as blind spot warning or rear cross traffic warning.  All will come with rear view cameras as these are D.O.T. required on all 2017+ models.
Ordering Steak In Restaurants
May, 2018
Have you noticed that when you order a steak Medium Rare in many restaurants that it comes out too rare?  Bad cooks? Nope!  They’re doing that on purpose.  Why?  If it’s too well done and you complain, they have no recourse but to replace it with a new one.  But, if you send it back because it’s too rare, that ‘fix’ is super easy.  So, they ‘error’ on purpose toward the rare side.  It’s a form of internal cost control.  Tip: Try ordering your steak “Medium Rare Plus.”  The kitchen may do it that way because they may think you know what you are doing!  .  Tip #2: Never order “Well” or Well done.” Why? Because they use the worst, oldest steak cut they have because grilling well done masks/hides all the off flavors and texture is no longer an issue.
Kelly Blue Book 5-yr Lowest Cost Cars to Own May, 2018
The following is only a partial list.  For the complete listing go to their website.  Compact Car: Toyota Corolla iM, $30,856;  Sporty Compact Car: Honda Civic Si, $33, 484; Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata, $36,800; Full-Size Car, Chevrolet Impala, $46,067;  Luxury Car, Lexus GS, $60,012; Sports Car, Chevrolet Camaro, $43,629; Compact SUV, Subaru Crosstrek, $34, 724; Midsize SUV, Jeep Wrangler, $36,244; Full-Size, Chevrolet Tahoe, $62,167.  For the complete listing, go to the Kelly Blue Book Website.  The above figures include cost of acquisition, gas, maintenance, depreciation, etc. for a 5-year period.
Food Spoilage and Expiration Dates  May, 2018
According to a new report co-authored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. One key finding from an industry-conducted survey: More than 90 percent of Americans may be prematurely tossing food because they misinterpret food labels as indicators of food safety.

NRDC and Harvard Law’s study, The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America is a first-of-its-kind legal analysis of the tangle of loose federal and state laws related to date labels across all 50 states and presents recommendations for a new system for food date labeling. The report is a follow-up to NRDC’s 2012 Wasted report, which revealed that Americans trash up to 40 percent of our food supply every year, equivalent to $165 billion.

For the vast majority of food products, manufacturers are free to determine date shelf life according to their own methods.  The report finds that the confusion created by this range of poorly regulated and inconsistent labels leads to results that undermine the intent of the labeling, including:

  • False Notions that Food is Unsafe – 91 percent of consumers occasionally throw food away based on the “sell by” date out of a mistaken concern for food safety even though none of the date labels actually indicate food is unsafe to eat;
  • Consumer Confusion Costs – an estimated 20 percent of food wasted in U.K. households is due to misinterpretation of date labels. Extending the same estimate to the U.S., the average household of four is losing $275-455 per year on food needlessly trashed.

The above was from an article in our local paper.  Consumer Reports recommends using the ‘look and sniff’ test.  If it doesn’t smell bad or show evident signs of spoilage (slimy or moldy) it is safe to eat. View all “use by” or “expiration date” or “best by” or other phrases like that with suspicion.  Those are all arbitrary dates selected by the manufacturer and are not dictated nor governed by any laws or government agency.  Use your common sense.

Beware of Non-Fat and Low-Fat Processed Foods May, 2018
These processed foods are often loaded with salt, and/or sugar to make up for the loss of flavor since less fat used means less inherent flavor.  Read the labels to be sure you’re not being fooled into ingesting more salt or sugar than you really need.
An Excellent Topical Anti Inflammatory Medication May, 2018
While hiking the famed Milford Track, New Zealand, some 20 years ago, I injured my right knee in a fall in a rocky section of the trail.  That night, after dinner, the professional guide treated it with a topical anti-inflammatory, Voltaren.  By morning, the swelling was gone and it was no longer sore nor stiff!  I thought it was great and was super pleased when I learned that it was available OTC at very low cost – a 100 gram (large) tube for about $17 and widely available all over Europe and Asia at Pharmacies and drug stores – all without prescription.  It is produced by drug giant, Novartis.   Ever since then, I have always made it a point to have some on hand.  It is available in the U.S. but by prescription, only, and at about $90+.  I highly recommend its use but get it in Canada or from a friend that is traveling overseas.  I have no idea why it is not in widespread use in the U.S.  It works very very well!
Dress Up Your Fitbit May, 2018
It’s super easy to dress up your fitbit using a 3rd party band/bracelet.  My wife lovers her magnetic band with infinite adjustment for less than $10 on her Fitbit Alta!  She found it on Amazon.  It is so attractive that she can now wear it anywhere and everywhere, even for dressy occasions.  Here’s a link to the Amazon item:  https://tinyurl.com/ycp33bkp
Facebook Personal Data Security May, 2018
How to quickly deny third-party apps access to your Facebook data.  You’ve seen the news and know that you should protect your personal data online, especially Social Media.
  • Log into your Facebook, click on the drop down menu in the upper right corner of your screen (the little downward arrow), and click Settings.
  • Now click the Apps tab on the left-hand side menu. This opens the App settings screen, which shows you a list of the apps in which you’re “Logged in with Facebook”.
  • Click on the tick box next to any app you wish to deny (or go nuts and select all of them), and hit the blue Remove button
The above courtesy of SIR Bill Olmo!
Do You Have an Amazon Echo or Dot in Your Home? May, 2018
If so, beware of the app, “Drop-In.” Friends that you have given access to can silently eavesdrop on you.  Also any device in the house that has an active microphone (Google, Apple, baby monitors, wireless doorbell cams) can be hacked and you will lose your privacy. ‘Drop In’ is intended for two-way conversation but it can be used as an eavesdropper by your friend without you knowing.  Use the ‘do not disturb’ command to avoid anyone listening in on you.
Avoid use of “Green Compostable Plastic Bags May, 2018
Don’t bother with these compostable bags.  They don’t work.  They’re supposed to hold your discarded food until you add into your compost bin.  The trouble is they begin to breakdown at the first contact with food scraps.  By the time you are ready to use the bag to transport the accumulated food scraps to your Compost Pile, they’ve already begun to deteriorate – resulting in a terrible mess of things.
Shopping for a New Car? May, 2018
A good way to get things started is to ask if the dealer will meet ‘the Costco price.’  That will send an immediate signal that you are aware of internet pricing and that may save you time in getting to a good price for your new vehicle.
Conventional Warning signs of a stroke Apr, 2018
1. Ask the individual to SMILE. (symmetrical face)
2.  Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
3.  Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS. (equal movement)
If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call emergency number 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
4. New Sign of a Stroke---- Stick out Your Tongue
Ask the person to 'stick' out his tongue. If the tongue is 'crooked' or if it goes to one side or the other - that is also an indication of a stroke.
Choose your seating carefully! Apr, 2018 When dining at a sidewalk or indoor café, diner, bistro, or other public establishment at street level, be aware of the danger of potential vehicles crashing into your seating area due to a graying population that can easily mistake the gas pedal for the brake when parking head-in or diagonally in front of the establishment you are in!  It’s happening a lot more these days as the average population ages.  There have been fatalities in our local area in recent years.
Safety check your propane fuel Apr, 2018 Spring has sprung!  That means BBQ season is just around the corner.  Safety check your propane fuel connections for any leaks using soapy water on the connections (bubbles indicate a leak) before firing up your gas grill.  A thorough cleaning of accumulated grease and caked gunk would also be a good idea to prevent flare ups.  Refill your propane tank.  If you use an exchange service, be aware that all the pre-filled tanks at grocery stores and other retail stores are only ¾ full.  Go to Ace Hardware, Pleasanton for 100% full tanks for the same price
Be cautious about clicking on those unsolicited email links from banks or other institutions Apr, 2018 Web security has been in the news a lot, lately.  Be careful about email warnings from banks and other institutions asking you to log-on to update, reconfirm or change your passwords.  These are often bogus web links trying to steal your personal data.  These are called “Phishing” attempts.  Don’t ‘open’ these links.  A good practice if you suspect or do not believe it is a legitimate link, use your “copy and paste” function on the unknown URL link and ‘Google’ it and see what comes up!  If it’s bogus, you will likely see what other folks have reported.
Why you should consider purchasing and using new automotive safety features Apr, 2018
Eight good reasons to purchase and use the optional ‘Safety Suite’ of features on new cars if they are not ‘standard equipment’ on the vehicle of your choice. This should include Adaptive/Active Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Warning and Forward Collision Avoidance systems.
 
1.  If you have and use Active/Adaptive Cruise Control in heavy traffic including slow, stop/go congestion, you can let the feature take care of your safe spacing to the car in front of you.  This allows you, the driver, to monitor more closely the vehicles behind you.  Watch to see if they are texting or distracted in another way or approaching in a menacing way and look for a possible escape route if they don't stop.  Watch for drivers behind you with head tilted downward or their face being illuminated by the screen of their cell phone at night.  This is an important part of Defensive Driving technique.
 
2.  I just recently took our 2015 Outback in for its 36K service interval and was amazed to be informed that it still has 70% of its brake pads remaining after 36K miles wear.  Per the Service Manager, vehicles in which owners use the Adaptive Cruise Control have shown to have much longer brake and tire life compared to the same vehicles not so equipped or the owners not using the feature. He attributes this longer mechanical and tire life as being due to the computer driving the vehicle much more efficiently (computer controlled rate of speed/gear/acceleration and braking in stop/go traffic).  At this rate, my first brake job will not be due until after 100K miles!  The tires look like they will go about 20K miles further than the 40K rating. That’s incredible and a true savings in ownership and operating costs!

3.  My wife tells me that the computer drives (accelerates and brakes) the vehicle much more smoothly!  There is no lurching or jerkiness in motion.

4.  These optional features are becoming more mainstream by the auto manufacturers and will soon be required by DOT by 2020.  Some 2017 and 2018 Toyota, Honda, BMW and other brand models are already including these features as standard.  This means any vehicle you buy today without these features will likely severely lower your resale value or salability on the used car market or for trade-in use.

5.  These features can help extend your own driving career before your relatives; friends or doctors require you to stop driving due to age related issues.  The following is an article from our local paper last Sunday:  “For those who still count on their cars and like to be able to drive themselves around, there are (early self-driving) technologies that are worth upgrading to now. We particularly recommend cars with city and highway-speed Adaptive/Active Cruise Control and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist. Those can be lifesavers, and then there are the mere fender savers, like rear cross-traffic alert and audible parking sensors,

               And while these technologies are great for everybody, they’re particularly helpful for older drivers, whose reflexes may have slowed down a bit.  Automatic emergency braking, in particular, is awesome.  If you don’t notice that a car has slowed or stopped, you'll get an audible warning. If you don't react and hit the brakes yourself, the car will then hit the brakes for you in order to prevent or lessen the severity of an accident.  It’s pretty amazing.

               What usually happens with older drivers is that at some point, there's an incident: You don't notice a stopped car, or you lose all common sense and try to brave a Trader Joe's parking lot on a Saturday morning, and bang-there's an accident.  At that point, the kids gang up and decide it’s time to confiscate your keys, and you lose a big piece of your independence.

               Well, these safety features can often delay that day of reckoning by helping you avoid certain accidents. Not every accident, but a lot of common ones.  So why not take advantage of them if you can?  Everybody should, but especially those whose lives and routines could be permanently disrupted by one unfortunate accident.”

6.  Use of these safety features, especially the Adaptive Cruise Control will allow you to relax and enjoy the drive.  You can arrive at your destination relaxed and happy instead of tense, crabby and tired.

7.  The statistics that are now coming in have confirmed to the insurance carriers that these features really do result in lower or less severe accidents.  This means lower rates that will, in the end, pay for the added costs of the optional safety features.  And, when they become standard on all vehicles when mandated by DOT in the not-too-distant future, we will see savings in our insurance premiums.

8.  And, of course, the avoidance of any accident, property or bodily injury is always a good thing in frayed nerves, money and time saved!

How to find the freshest bread at the market Mar, 2018
Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week? Each day uses a different color twist tie or plastic clip: Monday = Blue, Tuesday = Green, Thursday = Red, Friday = White, Saturday = Yellow.  So, if today was Thursday, you would want red twist tie; not white which is Fridays (almost a week old)! The colors go alphabetically by color Blue- Green - Red - White - Yellow, Monday through Saturday. Enjoy fresh bread when you buy bread with the right color on the day you are shopping.
If you want to avoid wood pulp in your diet Mar, 2018 What keeps pre-packaged shredded cheese from clumping, low-fat ice cream creamy, and pre-made milk shakes smooth? You guessed it! WOOD PULP. They call it “cellulose,” but it’s just powdered wood pulp. The industry loves this stuff. It’s cheap. It helps stabilize food, lowers fat content, increases fiber. As the prices of other food ingredients rise, food manufacturers are increasingly turning to cellulose so that they can keep production costs low. Even big organic brands like Organic Valley are not immune from the appeal
Are you a backyard "smoker"? Mar, 2018 A better way to smoke anything anywhere – use a Smoke Tube.  This is, typically, a stainless steel, octagonal-shaped tube that can be filled with various variety of wood pellets.  Once it is lit (using a propane torch) place it in your BBQ grill or smoker box and it will produce smoke, depending on size, for 2-4 hours.  It works better than a smoker box or foil pouch with wet wood chips.  These are available from Amazon Prime for $15 - $25.
Keeping your food items fresher longer Mar, 2018 Food stays fresh much longer if you remove the air from the bag or package.  Bacteria thrive on oxygen.  You don't need a vacuum machine and special sealing bags to remove the air.  Use the water displacement method and Ziploc bags.  Place your items in the bag and immerse it in a tub of water until just the top of the bag is out of the water.  The surrounding water pressure will force most of the air out.  Simply seal the Ziploc carefully to avoid water spilling into the bag and confirming a firm tight seal for the bag.
Unhappy with your hearing aids? Mar, 2018 I’ve talked a lot of people that are hard of hearing that have hearing aids but they choose not to wear them.  Why?  Their most common excuse it they “amplify everything to make things hard to understand someone talking.”  If that’s what has happened to you and your instruments are current models within the last few years – you need to go to a different Audiologist.  First, there is both a science and an art to a good, satisfactory fitting of these amazing instruments.  It often takes more than one or two tries to get the proper programming of your instruments.  Go back and get them adjusted.
Good Buys at Costco Mar, 2018
1. A motion sensing “Touchless,” 13 gallon Garbage Can.  It uses motion sensing to open the lid and automatically closes, afterwards.  It is battery operated so it is free standing.  It’s Stainless Steel construction so it looks nice and contemporary.  It also has a holder for Activated Charcoal for odor control but you’ll have to buy those separately.  The price is only $38.99.  We have one that we bought independently over 5 years ago and love it.  We paid about $60 back then from Amazon. 
 
2, Fresh frozen Farmed Abalone from Australia.  It is still in the shell.  The package is $39.99.  You’ll have to look at the package to visualize the amount of real abalone you will get for $40!
Avoiding foreign Transaction fees Mar, 2018 Did you know that the Costco Visa Credit Card (included in your membership) charges no Foreign Transaction Fees on overseas or foreign purchases.  Most credit cards charge a small fee on each and every foreign transaction.  They claim that it is a fee to cover the cost of converting the sale from the foreign currency to the American USD.  This fee is usually 3%.
Avoid picking up someone else's germs Mar, 2018 Always wash the fruit, produce and all foods that have been touched by potential buyers as they select their purchases.  This includes melons, bananas and other items with a shell, rind or other coating.  Remember, people lick their fingers in order to separate the openings of the plastic bags in the produce sections.  Just handling the food items can/will contaminate your hands and when you open/clean/cut up your items, you transfer the contaminants.  And remember to wash your hands after handling money (bills or coins) before touching food or your eyes or mouth.
Battery Charge Maintenance Newer Cars Feb, 2018 Be aware that the newer cars of today have so much electronic/computer modules that must remain energized to maintain their memory that the days of being able to leave your vehicle for 3 and 4 weeks unattended and uncharged may be over.  All that electronic gear does drain the battery even when the vehicle is ‘turned off’ and in ‘standby’ mode.  So, it’s a good idea to plan for the possibility of experiencing a ‘dead battery’ situation.  No one wants to return from a long trip only to find that your car has a dead battery.  If you’re leaving it home in the garage or some other place that has an electrical outlet available near the vehicle, consider the use of a Trickle Charger Maintainer for $10 to $20.  If you’re using an outdoor public parking lot, the use of a Portable Solar Car Battery Charger would work (about $20).  Another alternative is to purchase a small, compact Lithium Ion Power Bank stowed in the glove compartment but remember to charge it every 6 to 12 months!
High Octane Gas May be Needed Feb, 2018 All automobile manufacturers are under intense pressure to increase the gas mileage of all the vehicles they make.  One way is to reduce the size of the engine and the use of Turbo or Super Chargers to make the smaller engines more powerful.  This trade-off comes at a price, however.  Small, powerful turbo-charged engines often require the use of high octane gasoline.  The savings gained by using this engine strategy may be reduced or even negated if the use of high octane gas is required.  So, when buying a new or used car, check to see what fuel grade is required and ‘do the math’ to be sure you won’t have to pay more to operate such a vehicle that might cancel your fuel cost savings.
Electronic Emergency/Parking Brake Operation Feb, 2018 Last month I tried to clarify the use of this feature now standard on all newer vehicles.  However, I’ve had calls complaining that once engaged, they had great difficulty disengaging this safety brake and were embarrassed because they couldn’t move the car once they engaged this brake.  They were under the impression that all they had to do is reverse the engaging procedure (push or pull on the button switch).  Most discovered how to do it simply by chance.  Here’s what you must do to disengage.  Push/pull the switch and touch the brake or gas pedal.  This is a safety interlock so the brake can’t be accidentally disengaged so there must be a specific procedure of ‘brake and brake or brake and gas’ to go back to a driving mode.  If your vehicle is not equipped with a “Hill Holder” feature, this interlock can mimic this feature.  When you come to a halt on an uphill attitude, engage the Emergency/Parking brake to keep you from rolling backwards without having to keep your foot on the service brake pedal.  Push/pull on the release switch of the Emergency/Parking Brake and when the light turns green or you want to drive forward, simply lightly step or tap the service brake pedal.  The Emergency/Parking brake will immediately release and you can drive normally.  I also use this technique when caught at a very complicated intersection with long signal holds.  I do this because I dislike having to keep the service brake pedal depressed for long periods of time.
Turn Headlights on in Rain – It’s the law Feb, 2018 This is just a reminder.  California State Law requires drivers to turn headlights on whenever the windshield wipers are in use.  This is a safety issue.  In previous years, new cars were required to have “Daylight Running Lights.”  Some cars still come equipped that way but if your vehicle is not, you might want to turn them on whenever you drive.  To be easily seen, even in bright sunlight, is always safer and headlights adds to your visibility at the cost of a few pennies in slightly more gas.  All manufacturers that stress safety still produce vehicles with the Daylight Driving Lights.
PG&E Energy Savings Assistance Program for seniors Feb, 2018
The following is from Sir Rich Vivrette: 
Are you aware of the new PG&E Energy Savings Assistance Program for seniors.  Some highlights:
Free weather-stripping, New attic insulation, Microwave replacement, Refrigerator replacement (if older than 2001), HVAC ducting repair, Free LED ceiling light bulbs, And much more. All free. 
 
Last June PG&E changed the parameters of the program from Low Income only to include seniors.  If you have a Medicare card, you qualify.  The program is paid for by PG&E using funds which have been collected for years from everybody’s PG&E Bill – a small fee called the PPP surcharge.  PPP = Public Purchase Program.    
 
One phone call to 925-417-9821.  A lady named Joy will answer, take your basic information (name, address, etc.) and set up an appointment for a representative to come out.  Our rep came today.  She ran through a list of services and will be scheduling a contractor to come out and do the detailed inspection and work.  She also told us that we will be getting a 20% to 30% reduction in our PG&E bill through what is called the CARE discount.  This will continue for two years and can be annually renewed thereafter. 
Removing Sweat Stains on Clothing Feb, 2018 Typically, golfers, tennis and pickleball players and other highly active sports or activities develop a sweat stain on their hats, sun visors or other headgear.  These can be difficult to get out.  I’ve tried putting them through the regular washer cycle and using the ‘hat form’ for washing in the dish washer.  The stain was never completely removed.  Here’s what I did find that works for me – spray the stained area liberally with undiluted Formula 409 Cleaner and set aside for a day.  Follow this with a laundry stain treatment (Shout Advanced Action Gel works well) and let it sit for another day.  Then hand wash with laundry detergent or add to your regular wash load.  If that doesn’t get the stain out, nothing else will!
Lower Cost Print Ink/Toner Supply Feb, 2018
If you are using an inkjet printer and have become tired of having to change the cartridge frequently and at relatively high cost, consider changing to a monochrome laser jet printer.  I have had a wireless Brother HL-2270 for the last 5 years and the cost for replacement toner cartridges is truly low cost.  During this use period, I just installed my third cartridge.  The cartridge cost me just $12 (free shipping on Amazon Prime) and I can’t tell any quality difference in the printing applications.  These high-yield cartridges are good for 5.2K sheets, each.  I don’t miss having a color printer.  On the few rare occasions I need color printing, I simply send it to a neighbor and he will print it for me or if is of any volume, I download the work to a Thumb Drive and take it to a FedEx or Xerox center for printing.  I believe the Big Box Office Supply Stores will also do this kind of work.
Working With Smartphone, Tablet, PC and Apple Devices Feb, 2018 Be careful about using all of the above devices to send/receive and manage your email traffic.  They’re not all compatible to one another and they don’t quickly or completely sync with each other.  Choose one device as your primary email instrument.  I’ve missed or lost emails when using multiple devices.  To avoid this problem, I now use my desktop PC as the primary and my Droid Cell phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 40) as my secondary instrument.  I no longer use my Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet or another Droid tablet for email activity.
Intelligible Sound Bar for Home TV Feb, 2018
For those that are hard of hearing but resist using hearing aid, there is a TV accessory that utilizes hearing aid technology incorporated into its consumer oriented Sound Bar for home televisions.  And the price is quite reasonable – only $200 with free shipping for Amazon Prime Members.  It will provide clarity to all dialogue in any and all television programs.  Hookup is very simple.  Go to ZVOX.COM or https://tinyurl.com/y83knumd.  Either way includes a 30 day free trial with full refund if returned.
Reheating Leftover Pizza Feb, 2018 I am constantly surprised at how the  simple task of reheating leftover pizza escapes many people.  Simply place the cold pizza in a medium-low heat frypan (cast iron, stainless, non-stick, anything will work) and cover with a lid.  In about 5 minutes it will be hot throughout and slightly crispy crust on the bottom.  Microwaving makes it limp and soggy.  A toaster oven takes much too long.  Try this and you’ll never do it another way.
Mattress Shopping Feb, 2018 This major purchase shopping exercise just got a little more complicated.  A new class of mattress has recently entered the marketplace and has been taking market share rapidly.  These are “Mattress In A Box.”  Yup, these are shipped direct to the customer in heavy, rectangular, cardboard box.  The mattress is a foam mattress that has been compressed and folded to fit into the box.  Once unboxed, the mattress will expand and take on it’s designed shape and function as a full service mattress.  Interestingly, some of these MINAB units were rated as being quite comfortable and serviceable.  The shopping for a mattress has so many factors to consider that it is far beyond the realm of this newsletter to adequately provide direction.  I recommend that you refer to the latest issue of Consumer Reports as they have an extensive section on this major purchase.
Cold Brew Coffee Feb, 2018 This is relatively new in popularity.  All the coffee chains offer it and it can be found in your local supermarket.  It features less acid and is much smoother and can be very strong but without any bitterness.  It is often sold in the supermarkets as a concentrate to be diluted 1:1 for drinking.  There are dedicated Cold Brew Makers but you can do your own without any special equipment.  Simply use a French Press, if you have one.    If not, use any container and after 'brewing' for 24+ hrs., simply pour off the resulting cold brew, being careful not to disturb the grounds settled on the bottom.  A paper filter can be used for further filtering if desired.  Start with 2 quarts water for 1 lb. grounds to yield concentrate suitable for dilution at 1 to 2 or 1 to 3 ratios.  Modify to suit your personal taste.
Electronic Parking/Emergency Brake Jan, 2018 Cars no long come with a manual emergency or parking brake.  Now, they are electronically operated.  Instead of pulling up on a long lever located next to the center console or stepping on a separate pedal far left of the gas pedal, you push/pull a small, innocuous switch located on the dash or console.  There are two misnomers about this safety feature – 1.That it is only a Parking Brake; 2. That engaging it while moving will tear apart the transmission.  Both are very wrong.  This braking feature is the same as your main braking system of rotors and calipers hydraulically operated on all four wheels.  It is not a part of your transmission.  Engaging it at 65 mph will simply bring the vehicle to a safe, albeit abrupt stop in almost the shortest stopping distance possible.  It is still, in fact, an emergency brake in the best sense of the word.  Get to know it!  Engaging it is easy.  But I’ll bet that you don’t know the various ways to disengage it.  This may vary somewhat from make/model but most work in the following ways: 1. Push/Pull on the switch while depressing the main brake pedal. 2. Push/Pull on the switch and gently touch the gas pedal to move forward or backwards.
New Car Purchase Jan, 2018 This whole exercise has changed drastically in the digital age of the Internet.  I remain convinced that the easiest and generally best way is use the Costco Auto Program.  Costco has pre-negotiated prices for you on a list of models at various local dealerships selling all the major brands.  Simply use the Costco website to contact Costco.  Costco or a participating dealership will call/contact you to initiate the shopping activity.  The Costco price will be a good one based on local competition.  You might be able to beat it but only with real time and effort and fortitude.  And the savings, in my opinion, won’t be big enough to justify it.  I’ve seen/heard of claims by others that they were able to beat the Costco price by a considerable amount.  The problem is upon further investigation, it is has been a ‘bait & switch’ situation’ or the non-Costco car was not equipped exactly the same.  Be very careful about this ‘options and add-ons game.  Take the Costco dealer quote and compare it item by item and word for word with the competitor’s printout quote.  A very small deviation can have a significant effect on the price.  Watch out for ‘factory installed’ versus ‘dealer installed’ options.  Tip: When shopping via Internet pricing (including Costco) don’t be afraid to ask for a better price.  Pre-negotiated prices are generally established at the beginning of the model year.  However, things change and the dealer may have more margin to work with than originally negotiated.
CR Owner Satisfaction Ratings Jan, 2018 Per the latest issue of Consumer Reports, Nissan has fallen to last or next to last of the ratings in many of the vehicle categories.  Excerpts – highest/lowest: Subcompact: Toyota Prius C = 75%/Nissan Versa Sedan =50%. Compact: Toyota Prius = 89%/Nissan Sentra =47%.  Midsized Cars: Kia Optima = 77%/Nissan Altima = 61%.   Subcompact SUVs: Honda HR-V = 63% /Nissan Juke =56%. Compact SUVs: Mazda CX5 = 82%/Nissan Rogue = 57%. Midsized SUVs: Mazda CX9 = 75%/ Nissan Pathfinder = 59%. Compact Pickups: Honda Ridgeline = 87%/Nissan Frontier =59%.  Ratings are based on Driving/Comfort/Value/Styling/Audio/Climate.  Figures shown are percent of owners that say they would buy this vehicle again.
Dealer Options: Jan, 2018 Chances are that you will be aggressively targeted to purchase Dealer Options regardless of where/how you purchase your new vehicle.  Here are some to avoid per Consumer Reports. VIN Etching – an anti-theft feature.  Dealers will charge about $200.  Independent shops will do for $50, or you can DIY with a $20 etching pen.  Fabric Protection – DIY Scotchguard for $10.  Paint Sealant – DIY for $15.  Extended Warranty – actual repairs for most cars will be less than cost of warranty over the period of coverage.
CVT Transmissions Jan, 2018 CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) are proving to be highly reliable and more efficient.  For the first time, an automatic transmission vehicle (Subaru Crosstrek) produced better mileage results than a manual transmission! The CVT produced 27/33 (city/hwy) while the manual version came in at 23/29.  That computes to a 15% improvement for the CVT equipped models.  The only possible negative is the sound a CVT transmission makes is different from a conventional gear-driven automatic transmission.
Refilling Liquid Dipenser/Spray Bottles Jan, 2018 Liquids in large, bulk containers intended for refilling smaller dispenser or spray bottles can be a challenge if the large container is not equipped with a small, dispenser spout.  You could use a small funnel to avoid spilling when pouring liquid from the large container into the smaller one.  Another technique is to use a ball point pen to punch a round hole near the edge of the screw spout the same size as the diameter of the pen in the foil seal.  Then carefully use the pen point to punch a small hole opposite the larger hole.  This is an air hole to allow the liquid to flow smoothly, under control, from the bulk container into your small dispenser bottle.
Microwave Tip Jan, 2018

Typically, your microwave oven uses a metal or plastic turntable for placing your food items to be reheated or cooked.  Save yourself some cleanup time by adding a large ceramic/porcelain plate with a paper towel on the plate for use as a liner so that it will catch any boil-overs or small spills in the oven.  Cleaning this plate is a lot easier than washing the large, bulky turntable device.

Self Inking Security Blocking Stamper:  Jan, 2018 Some time ago, I had mentioned the importance of taking steps to avoid identify theft by shredding documents, mail or, at least, obliterating any sensitive or confidential information before discarding in your trash or garbage.  Here’s a device that is very handy for obliterating this printed info.  It’s a self-inking rolling stamp with a special pattern (scrambled indicia) for blocking printed text, bar codes, names/addresses, account numbers, etc.  Here’s a link to it on Amazon:  https://tinyurl.com/yby5brpn.  It works very well.  It’s inexpensive, small and very handly to use.
Diabetic Blood Glucose Management: Jan, 2018 Diabetic patients might benefit from drinking nightly an ounce of Unfiltered, Unpasteurized, and Unrefined Apple Cider Vinegar with “Mother,” a colony of beneficial bacteria, similar to a Kombucha.   One study of people with type 2 diabetes who weren't taking insulin found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed resulted in lower glucose levels by morning.  Sir Paul Vinella gave me the tip since he felt it helped him.  Similarly, my blood sugar readings seem to about 10 pts lower than without the Apple Cider Vinegar regimen.
Restaurant Review Tip: Jan, 2018 When using Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Trip Advisor, etc.,  to choose a place for a meal, do browse through the photos.  They can tell you an awful lot about the place that can’t be demonstrated or captured in the text of the reviews. You can tell what is popular, how big the place is, the ambiance, portion sizes, food presentation, etc.  Various photos along with some of the reviews should give you a better understanding of the establishment before you make a decision.
USPS Mail Security Tip: Jan, 2018
The following is from Sir Russ Teves.  The Poastal Service has introduced a new program for consumers, Informed Delivery® by USPS® .  Per USPS: Digitally preview your mail and manage your packages scheduled to arrive soon! Informed Delivery allows you to view greyscale images of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces and track packages in one convenient location.   Images are only provided for letter-sized mailpieces that are processed through USPS' automated equipment.  Per Russ: It lets you know what  mail you are going to receive. If you are not home for the day or on a short trip when mail arrives and someone steals mail from your curbside box you immediately know your mail has been stolen or miss-delivered.  If someone places a change of address without your knowledge all mail would be forwarded elsewhere, you would receive no mail but you would know that something was amiss!  Here’s the link:
2 Local DIY Restaurants: Jan, 2018
We recently tried two places where the diner actually does some or most of the cooking.  It’s a novel way to dine.  Both are Asian cuisine place.  In Asia, most cultures are food centric and one of the popular things to do is to sit around a table with other guests and leisurely cook your own food choices while socializing with friends.  In these kinds of places, diners order all the raw or cooked/assembled ingredients they want and cook them on a hot grill or in simmering liquid.  Seoul Jung Korean BBQ, Dublin, is relatively new to the area. It is located across the parking lot from Dick’s Sporting Goods.   Each table is equipped with a built-in grill with a drop-down exhaust hood to capture all the smoke and misting oil from the grilling food items.  The system works very well.  They have two “AYCE” (all you can eat) menus at set prices.  The two menus are $27 and $33.  The difference being additional choices for the higher price.  Simply tell the server what items your table wants to start with and add more as the dinner progresses.  Meats (beef, lamb, pork) are sliced very thinly and beautifully presented.  Vegetables and prepared foods are bite-sized for easy cooking and handling.  AYCE lunches are also available at lower cost with reduced selection choices.  It’s a fun way to dine.  We’ve already done a Dine Out event here and it was a good success.  Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot is also located in Dublin across from Lowe’s Home Improvement.  Again, the diners select whatever food items they want for their meal.  They also choose 1 or 2 of 5 different soup broths to cook these food items in.  Each table is equipped with a built-in Induction Stove element that allows the table to remain cool and only the steel vessel containing the broth gets hot.  Each dinner uses extra long chopsticks or small ladle to place the food in the broth for cooking.  Since the food items are small, bite-sized or in the case of meats, sliced very thinly – these cook fairly quickly.  As more of the food is cooked in the broth, diners can drink the resulting soup or use it as a broth in a small bowl and can make up their own noodle bowl of their choice.
The beauty of both places and this system of DIY is you can really enjoy the freshness and beauty of the food ingredients before cooking.  This is a very important feature for Asian cuisines where freshness and quality are so highly prized.  And, of course, the ability to socialize while ‘playing with your food’ is both novel and fun!
1 Local ‘Almost’ DIY Restaurants: Jan, 2018 Close to cooking your own meal in a restaurant is for you to select all the raw ingredients, put them in a bowl and hand it to a person to cook it for you on a large round, common grill.  That’s what Gobi Mongolian BBQ Grill is, located in Pleasanton.  Here, the diner goes down a cafeteria-like line of raw meats, seafood, veggies and condiments and selects what he/she wants and places them in a bowl.  At the end of the line is wide selection of pre-mixed sauces.  These are to be added to the bowl and then handed to the staff manning the large, round, communal grill for proper cooking.  It’s handed back to you when it is finished in a matter of a minute or two and you return to your table to eat.  It is AYCE, so you can return for seconds or thirds.  The price is - lunch @ $9.99 and dinner @ $11.99.  Tip: The bowls are not very large. If you are a big eater, use two bowls when traversing the line – one to hold proteins and the other for the veggies and sauces.  The cook will combine them at the grill.