Sunday, December 29, 2013

Can a SSD deliver CPR to an old computer?

In a number of my prior tech posts, I have noted that my greatest discontent with laptops and computers in general is the boot up time.  In contrast, I can turn my iPad or Android phone on and in seconds be searching the internet to resolve my latest curiosity.  However, when it comes to any serious typing neither Android nor iPad can compete with a good old fashioned QWERTY keyboard.  My speedy dual core test computer died, leaving me with "old faithful" a single core, Vista operating system machine that I had purchased new from Walmart back when sub-$300 computers were beginning to be all the rage.  This particular model is the CQ60-410WM.  Some may be shocked to hear me say that it has been one of my best buys - the screen is nice and bright, the keyboard has a nice feel and is responsive with a separate number pad to the side and it even came with 3 GB of RAM, but it can be slow and boot ups and shut downs are particularly painful.  My boot up time on this machine into the original Vista operating system runs a little over a minute and the shut down sometimes runs even longer.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

4 Reasons to use Styles in Microsoft Word and a quick "how to"

Microsoft Word has many bells and whistles - sometimes I think too many.  Styles is one feature that I have found worthy to learn and use regularly.  Styles are simply pre-configured formats (such as font, size, color) for common elements (such as titles, bold / emphasis, headings, etc.) that are found in documents.  While you can customize styles, I tend to use the out of the box Styles within Word as this makes it very simple in environments where editing documents is often done by numerous individuals.  It is easy to use Styles in Word and you will find that it is a quick way to create very professional looking documents.  Here are my 4 reasons to use Styles:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merry Christmas to me...

The post Thanksgiving shopping binge has kicked off.  Did you pick yourself up something nice on Black Friday?  I hope you did.

Several years ago at our family Christmas, I (somewhat jokingly and somewhat not) suggested that instead of exchanging gifts each year, we should discontinue the practice and everybody should just buy themselves something nice and then at the get together we can all tell each other what we got.  Well this idea didn't exactly take off, but I'm pleased to report that we did restore some sanity to the madness and all agreed to limit gifting to buying gifts for the kids only.  I'm also pleased to report that since we've instituted the practice our Christmas joy has not diminished...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How NOT to sell a laptop on Craig's list

I've been in the market for a good used computer and Craig's list is the number one destination for this type of purchase.  I never cease to be amazed at some of the postings.  These "how not to" tips are based upon actual current postings in the Albany, NY Craig's list.

1. Find the craziest background to keep them guessing...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

4 Laptop buying tips and more

Tablets are great for browsing, but when it comes to working with data a computer with a keyboard is still essential and currently this is likely to be a laptop.  I have purchased and worked on a wide array of laptops and there have been both hits and misses.  The great news for those shopping for a laptop is that since tablets are now getting the spotlight, there are some great buying opportunities to get a great deal on a laptop.

1.  Determine your budget AND stick to it:  Unfortunately for many, the "budget" is a moving target and there are many obstacles that have the potential to sabotage your plans.  Maybe you think you will save some money and buy used, but then find out later that you really need more memory or a bigger hard drive and quickly climb back to where you would have been if you had just bought new.  Or maybe you decide to save money with a used laptop, but then find that you need to buy and install an operating system or other software.  On the other hand, you may decide going with a new laptop is for you and as you excitedly exit the check out line are hit with that standard "would you like to purchase the extended warranty" question...whoops there goes that budget!

2.  Write it down:  Think through your purchase.  What is important to you?  For me, I like a nice large screen for old fart eyes.  I also like a nice touch keyboard - no squishy pad for me, please.  I also have a camera that uses an SD card so a built in card reader would be a plus.  Some folks may travel in which case battery life, size and weight may be a priority.  If you have a current laptop, it might be worthwhile to write down what you like about it and what you don't.

3.  Research:  Use the Internet.  Get familiar with what the specs mean at least on a global level - know what RAM is, what are typical sizes for hard drives, which processors are better, etc.  Also, check on what buyers are saying about their experiences with the seller.  Check out those advertised computers, but use some caution.  Try to get the exact model number.  There are many laptops with variations and a slight difference in model number may be meaningful.  Also, some manufacturers, notably Dell, often build to order so there is much variance from one computer to another although the model number is the same.

While Internet research is important, you should also do some "hands on" research.  Go to the stores, lift the laptop, feel the keyboard, open and close the lid examine the screen resolution.  There is no substitute for feeling that the fit is right for you.

4.  New or Used:  As I indicated in my opening, due to tablets receiving a large spotlight, there are opportunities to find great deals on new laptops.  For new laptops, consider the vendor - not all are created equal.  Some are simply better to work with if issues arise.  If you are a laptop novice or just want a "guarantee," then new is the way for you to go.

There are some great deals out there on used laptops as well.  Used laptops (or electronics in general) require some special consideration as there are some extra risks such as:
a.  It is likely an "as is" sale.  Some issues with electronics are not easy to spot.

b.  Cigarette or other smoking sellers.  Unfortunately, computers draw air through the components using fans and offensive smoke can and will be drawn into your computer.  This is something you may not think about until you get your bargain home and then end up dreading turning it on due to it spewing second hand air your way.

c.  Is it stolen?  Look for indicators - Is the seller too eager?  Is the deal too good to be true?  What is the motive for the seller to sell?

d. Ask for Restore Disks: I recommend this for two reasons. First, if the individual took the time to burn restore disks, it may suggest that they cared about the computer and took good care of it. Second, having restore disks will make your life much easier - there is no need to scramble for a legal copy of an operating system and it is a nice way to get rid of potential files (and even malware) that may be on the machine.
These are substantial risks so I look for the savings difference to be commensurate with these risks.  When calculating the savings, do your research to make sure you are paying today's prices.  A computer may have sold for $600 a year ago when it was new, but similar new computers may be selling for $500 this year.  If you buy it for $450, you didn't save $150, you only saved $50 and was that worth foregoing a warranty?  Maybe not.

Your laptop quest should be fun, but be careful not to get caught up in the excitement and be prepared to walk away from a deal if it doesn't feel right to you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dog pee etiquette

While dog poo etiquette is well established - if your dog poops in a public area, clean it up, dog pee etiquette isn't clear at all.  Mick the wonder dog loves his walks; they are a continuous series of going a few feet, sniff, pee, repeat.  Yes, Mick likes to pee about as often as a 60 year old diabetic.  But one needs to ask themselves, what is expected in regards to dog pee.  Are you expected to bend over and make a cursory motion to "clean it up"?  I experienced an incident about a year ago when a real butt head, who's home abuts (couldn't help myself) the Crossings Park off Knauf Lane continued to yell from his home in response to Mick squatting and marking his sniff points.  Either this individual needed better binoculars or felt that if your dog squats, the owner should squat as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

MTQ Cooking: Easy Turkey Soup

Here's a perfect solution for your leftover Turkey.  It is super easy - if you can cut potatoes and carrots, you can make this!  You can make this soup a day or two after you cook your Turkey or you can cut and freeze your Turkey to make this soup another day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Confusing Hiring Priorities at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

The MTQ All Star page has recognized several businesses for their commitment to veterans.  It would seem that similar praise would be in order for the VA based on the announcement by VA Secretary Shinseki to increase the percentage of veterans in the VA to 40%.  It was then somewhat disheartening to see a complete lack of acknowledgement of this goal in the VA's Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016.   As the ODI Strategic Plan reflects, the VA's inclusion goals are based on what the strategic plan refers to as the Relevant Civilian Labor Force (RCLF).  Allegedly this reflects a cross-section of the population who are available for employment.  This quip is not intended to disparage the good work of the VA, but rather is an illustration of the dangers of interpretation of data.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If I could only own 10 albums

I (mostly) missed the 8 track generation, but I did collect some vinyl 33s and then purchased some cassettes along the way to play in the car.  I realize that you can purchase singles for only a buck, but I like having the hard CD which gives me the peace of mind that I can easily burn a MP3 copy when I need to rather than being at the mercy of an online store to decide whether I can get a copy of my tunes to my newest device or not.  Also, there remains a degree of old fart syndrome in my music habits.  It used to be that albums represented a theme or collection of tunes and while singles mattered, the larger album counted as well and I still tend to shop based on "album" versus "single". Although I've long since sold the vinyl 33s and the cassettes have largely been trashed, I have accumulated a huge collection of CDs.  When I look at the numerous boxes of CDs, I wonder if I had to limit my collection to only 10 which 10 would it be.  In this post, I am going to force myself to identify the 10 must have albums for 50 somethings like me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Assessing Health Insurance Choices

It's open enrollment time for many employer sponsored health plans or better translated "pick and pray" time for healthcare in America.  And this year, Obamacare will pull in an entire new crop of victims (ur, I mean beneficiaries or is the politically correct term, "covered enrollees"?)  Welcome and good news, Affordable Healthcare Act enrollees, while this post references employee sponsored choices, you can apply this methodology in your healthcare quest as well.  This methodology considers risk and the interplay between objective and subjective.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

MTQ Easy Cooking - Squash Parmesan or Squash Lasagna

Well I warned you that this was an eclectic blog.  Maybe its the need to do penance for swearing in last week's post or perhaps the need to inject a coping mechanism for life stress.  Cooking can be relaxing and a dish like this is particularly good as a stress release as it does not require rigid adherence to a set recipe.  Feel free to experiment.

I have known this dish as Zucchini Parmesan, but perhaps "Lasagna" may be more palatable for young ears.  It is also a great cooking project if your kids enjoy learning to cook...if they help cook it, they are sometimes more likely to try it.  This dish is easy and delicious and a nice way to celebrate the harvest season.  An additional fun "something to do" is that you can incorporate a trip to a local farmer's market.  In selecting zucchini, I prefer the smaller, slender zucchini.  I find them to be tender and more flavorful and often have small or sometimes no seeds which I prefer.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Re-open the Statute of Liberty with a slur charge

Wow, I'm so relieved that the good taxpayers of New York are going to foot the bill to reopen the Statute of Liberty.  Its closure was having a huge impact everywhere in New York and for a mere $61,600 of taxpayer dollars per day, what a sweet deal.  I'm certain the tourist industry here in Albany will take off and Buffaloians are likely even more excited at the prospect of the returning droves of tourist dollars that will soon be filling their coffers.  I suppose that it should come as no surprise that the Cuomo model would follow the Obamacare model of redistributing the sweat of the middle class to the few... And I'm sure these tourists will be so grateful that they'll trade staying at nearby New Jersey and the opportunity for online gambling to support the Yankee funded home team.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Another look at Linux and 5 reasons Linux may be for you

About a year ago, I took a foray into the world of Linux, trying to breathe new life into an old Dell desktop system.  I didn't do much with it, but noted in my post the improvement in boot up speed and also the surprising ease of installation.  So it was that my "test" dual boot Windows 7 & 8 laptop died leaving me with my slow "old faithful" laptop running Windows Vista.  Some may wonder why haven't I upgraded this machine, after all Windows 7 would likely improve my boot time.  That is certainly true, but unlike my test machine, my Vista machine is where the bodies are buried - yes, I have my iTunes / CD ripped MP3s, years of tax information, some special installs along the way like the developer's software for Android and the thought of a "do over" just doesn't thrill me.  While my test laptop officially fizzled, the hard drive was still good and in this present age of identity theft, that was the one an only piece that I salvaged before selling the remainder of the laptop on Craig's List for parts.  Having found myself with an extra SATA notebook hard drive presented an opportunity... maybe I could now tweak "old faithful" without having to risk the loss of my established data within Windows Vista.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mooove over

Cow, Constantine Farm, near the Crossings Park, Colonie, NYI was walking over a lunch break at work recently when I encountered 3 ladies coming from the other direction.  As the distance closed, I scrunched to the right and in fairness there may have been a slight scrunching on their behalf, but it was not enough and I clipped elbows with the nearest member of the trio.  Such encounters have always fascinated me as I've frequently wondered why there isn't more collisions.  As the sidewalk constricts space and as the distance closes between two opposite traveling parties someone needs to make a quick decision as to who will "slide over".  For example, does a member of the trio position themselves ahead or behind their cohorts to yield space or do they make an attempt to "scrunch" to make it work as in my encounter?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

MTQ 5 Recommended Reads

Sadly, summer is quickly coming to an end.  This was a great summer and as I indicated in my "Work like you're retired" post, I took many opportunities to take time off from work and soak up the sun and read.  I like to use the summer time to stock up on my books.  The Book Nook in Crossings Park of Colonie is a favorite summer time haunt and used books are cheap - 50 cents for any softcover and $1.00 for any hardcover.  I'll also acquire used books as the opportunity arises from the library, thrift stores or lawn sales.  As with any used purchase you need to be alert and balance your interest with the condition of the book - strong smoker's books or moldy books are generally a no go as they can infest your other books although I did pick up a pitiful copy of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln from the free bin this year and made it through a final read before permanently retiring it from circulation.  In this post I am going to identify 5 great reads that I have encountered over the years and would recommend to anyone.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why WordPad?

Buried in all Windows operating systems (including XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8) is a simple, easily forgotten word processor called WordPad.  I realize that power users would scoff at the suggestion of using this program; however, it is important to note that not everyone is a power user and not everyone needs the bells and whistles of Microsoft Word.  In this post, I am going to identify 4 reasons to use WordPad.  In the spirit of this post, I am drafting this post in WordPad and a screen shot of the drafting of this post is provided at the bottom of this post.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Oh, Kmart... some MTQ solutions for you.

If you're an old fart living in the great northeast and wish for some nostalgia, look no further than a trip to Kmart.  Before Target and Walmart arrived on the scene there was Kmart and other, now gone, discount stores such as Bradlees, Ames, Caldor, The Big N, and Montgomery Wards.  If I were to have bet on the survivors and casualties back 25 years ago, I don't know if I would have picked Kmart to be the living dinosaur among us.  To its credit, Kmart has never appeared on the MTQ Shit list, but that is because Kmart is not a regular MTQ destination and there are many other choices that make shopping at Kmart unnecessary.  So it was, that this MTQ author took a special journey to Kmart for this post.  Upon entering the parking lot of the Albany, NY Central Avenue Kmart, the first thing that strikes you is how vacant the parking lot is.  Unfortunately, this is normal and this parking lot is rather empty every day and I like many others often wonder, how does this store keep open?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

That bill is too much

This post specifically references the Albany, New York area, but the overall strategy is applicable anywhere you live.  It would be nice if you were truly rewarded for loyalty; however, the reality is that loyal customers get price increases while "new customers" get promotions.  I have saved hundreds of dollars over the past few years by not settling for the new price.  I will present the general strategy and then discuss specific bills where I have applied these strategies.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Phone Home - home phone alternatives

Even old farts like me realize that the world of phone service has changed substantially from the old days when there was typically one choice.  For many, particularly single individuals, a single cell phone may do it for both your home and mobile phone.  There are many reasons for some of us to cling to the traditional home phone.  Some families do not provide cell phones to every family member or for others, a cell phone may not provide the coverage that you want such as having a phone in a bedroom or kitchen, etc. so that you can easily put another family member on the phone rather than being stuck on a single cell phone.  Also, there are some of us who still have issues remembering to turn on a cell phone, charge a cell phone or bring the cell phone with us.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I’m not speaking to you

I was one of those optimists when President Obama was first elected.  Worn down by 8 too many years of George W and hopeful that a new administration would translate to new ways of doing things; and in fairness, some things have been new.  I’m sure paying much more for my health care than ever before, so that’s different.  Thinking back to that first election following the George W stint, I recall the Republican candidates all trying to avoid being painted as “Busch Lite”.  So it is with irony and chagrin, that in some ways, our Democratic president might have taken a sip of “Busch Lite” in his foreign policy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tips for Federal job seekers

I have discussed the topics of employment in the past and spoken of jobs I was happy that I didn't get and I have also discussed differences in employment between for profit, not for profit and government positions.  In this post I am going to hit on some tips specifically for Federal job seekers.  For all Federal job seekers, the search generally begins at USAJOBS.  This is the job site for the Federal government.  Creating an account is easy and I will forego the details in this posting.  Within USAJOBS, you can build a resume, create and save searches and upload related documentation.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

iPad 2 Music from the Cloud

I use my iPad 2 on nearly a daily basis and constantly look for new ways to get more enjoyment out of it.  I knew that I could sync music from iTunes on it by using the cable as is done with iPods, but I don't know if I would listen to music enough from my iPad to make it worthwhile.  Over the course of the years, I have converted my collection of around 100 CDs into the MP3 format using iTunes.  For those who may not be aware, MP3 is one of the most common music file formats, but you need to go into your iTunes settings and designate this choice as the default is Apple's proprietary music format.  I'm glad I read one of those "For Dummies" books early on to learn about this as it has paid off.  I have been able to copy this music onto a mini-SD so I can listen to it on my cheap Android phone at work and also onto a memory stick so that I can listen in my car.  I guess it would follow that at some point I would get to the iPad.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

MTQ hotel booking tips

One of the perks of Old Fart Syndrome (OFS) is that you pick up a few tricks and strategies for successful hotel and travel.  Yes, I appreciate that there are many "experts" who widely share their advice, often reflecting the latest wiz bang way to get the best price but I would venture to guess that many of these folks haven't planned travel for a family of 5 and may not be quite as vested in saving a buck.  Here is the strategy that I have found that seems to work well for me:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maybe its time that government exits the marriage business


I recently finished reading Joseph Ellis' Founding Brothers.  It is an excellent read and includes a large portion dedicated to the friendship and rivalry of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams including the growing debate in regards to Nationalism versus States rights.  This division of powers is well punctuated within the 10th Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fences, Lawsuits and Penes

I heard an audible, "harumph" from my daughter as I lifted the 2 x 4 barring the backyard gate.  She had just completed a long run, was tired and was frustrated with being unable to enter the backyard.  She was not pleased when I had identified my plan for securing the gate a few weeks prior.  Previous to this, we had always simply secured the gate with a large bungee cord that stretched from one side to the other to hold the gate closed.  Opening the gate was simply a matter of pushing the gate slightly, then reaching in and unhooking the bungee cord allowing for easy entry from either side of the gate.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Should I blog anonymously?

This post may be of interest to those who are considering a blog or those who have wondered why I have chosen to remain (mostly) anonymous as the author of MyTurnQuips.com.  First, I want to emphasize that if you choose to blog regularly, true anonymity is not likely.  A more reasonable expectation is that if you choose anonymity on your blog, your goal is more likely a moderate degree of privacy.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The use of bcc - blind carbon copy


When I first heard of blind carbon copy (bcc) many years ago, I thought that "blind" was the operative word as in "blind" side.  Typically, I thought its use was to send a message to perhaps a co-worker, but then bcc the boss to show that you really were working with a screwball who you may feel isn't pulling his or her weight.  In such a case, by "bccing" the boss, your co-worker has no idea that the message you sent is also being seen (and as a result) being monitored by the boss.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

iPad2 - 2 years later

Several days ago, I read a very interesting post by Dustin Earley who expressed his sentiments regarding Nexus 7 which in his opinion went from the best to the worst tablet he has ever owned over the course of a year.  I've always had an interest in the Nexus 7.  I have an Android phone and I definitely like the more affordable price.  I enjoyed the post as far too often product reviews are conducted during the honeymoon period.  Simply stated, the product is new and shiny and the the owner is often excited and pumped up so it is likely that you are getting a biased "new love" review without the benefit of time.  What is important to me isn't whether it works good for a month; I want to feel as though I will get my money's worth a year or several years out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Solving Problems - MTQ Solutions for the Armed Forces

This post will contain controversial proposals to difficult social issues.  It will certainly offend some readers and a jump break has been placed at this point to assist readers with avoiding contact with perspectives that they may not wish to read.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

More Yachting with G


Sooner or later, every blogger will experience a post that widely surprises expectations in terms of popularity.  So it is with my first posting of Yachting with G which has turned into one of my most popular posts.  I still do not understand why, but I'll take it.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amazon Associates: Pass on Flash

A while back, I enthusiastically referenced my adoption of Amazon Associates advertisements within my blog.  Indeed, I still like the idea of selecting what will be advertised within the space of my blog.  Contextual advertising such as Google's Adsense is quick and easy to implement, but a blog such as MyTurnQuips which has a very eclectic approach to subject matter is definitely a challenge to the logic used to choose the ads and frankly sometimes it just gets it wrong.  For example, I was a bit horrified to take a peak at my post regarding Long Term Care insurance in which I clearly expressed that this insurance is not for me only to find an advertisement for Long Term Care insurance... hmm, I've stated that commercial motivation is not my major reason for blogging, but I'd prefer not to look foolish.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day, Kansas, Meaningful Perks for Veterans and other ramblings

Another memorial day and a time to reflect.  It's been a bit over two decades since I served a stint in the US Army.  It was a mostly uneventful stint as world politics were concerned although at the time, I had thought that far into the future when someone inquired, "were you in a war?" I would respond, "no, far worse, I served in the peace time army."  While I have since re-considered this opinion and would not wish to trade my peace time service for the war time service of recent years, my observation remains that a peace time army feeds on its own.   Indeed, in my role as legal clerk, there were many who were discharged due to lack of fit with a peace time, parade ready army.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Giving Back?

Opportunity is knocking; everywhere you go it seems there are opportunities to "give back."  One fund raiser after another trumpets that "this is your chance to give back."  Give back?  Give back, what?  If you are "giving back," does that mean you took?  Were you a "taker?"  If you weren't a "taker" then how can you give back?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Not for Profit, For Profit, Government and Entrepreneur

In my quest to pay the bills, I've been employed in positions with Not for Profit, For Profit, and Government.  I've also dipped my toes in Entrepreneur type ventures.  In reflection of these experiences, each had some aspects worth consideration for those beginning careers or considering career changes.  Please note that I am well aware that there are exceptions to some of the generalities that I express and certainly others will experience variations in their unique situation.

One commonality that I have found consistent across all environments is the human factor.  Simply stated, you will find co-workers and customers that you like and some that you can't stand (no, I'm not Roy Rogers).  Also, you will find nepotism in varying degrees everywhere you go.  (When I refer to "nepotism," I include both friends and relatives).  Relationships are likely the biggest understated ingredient of successful career building.  With that being said, I am going to turn the focus of this post toward differentiating these career paths.  In doing this, I am going to rank each  on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) on three axis:  1.  Job security, 2. Income potential and 3. Creativity and self expression.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Walk for your health...

I try to walk regularly on the job, but unfortunately I have some serious doubts whether it contributes to my health.  For starters, there's just getting out of the building.  It might be my paranoia, but I believe those elevators are a cesspool for germs.  I'd like to think all those elevator riders are all healthy, but is that sneeze that the guy next to you just blasted a case of allergies or is it a sinus infection that's headed your way?  So alas, the stairs... nothing like getting the heart going, but whoops, they've closed the stairwell I frequently used... apparently there was an asbestos issue.  So now I'm using the next stairwell; I hope that it has been treated.  I'm sure my employer would look out for my well being.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

MTQ's For Real Mother's Day Tribute


If you're looking for that sappy, crappy stuff, grab your tissue box and proceed to a different blog; you're definitely at the wrong place.  These "personal" posts are always the most difficult for me.  Maybe it's a guy thing - many of us are not inclined to share feelings and I'm not one to encourage my family to read my blog.  After all, the name of the blog is "My Turn," not "Family Turn" or "Wife's Turn" or "Your Turn".

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Root Canal: flickers of mental health and life

My dentist appoint is quickly approaching and, shockingly, I'm looking forward to it.  Yes, I need at least one root canal, maybe two and I've known this for over two years.  In 2011, my wife had her first hospitalization and unfortunately that was the year that I thought I'd save some money by taking out a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)... it was high deductible alright; it managed to highly deduct both our health and savings.  In 2012, we thought the worst was behind us and although I moved away from the HDHP, after 2 more hospitalizations and paying the 15% co-pay our savings and the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that I had set up intending to pay for my root canal and crown was quickly gone.  So now we advance to 2013 and my wife seems to be doing much better, being hospital-free for over a year, and once again a FSA was set up for root canal... here's to affordable health care...two years later!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Google Blogger Recommended Settings and Best Practices

Happy One Year Anniversary, MyTurnQuips.com!

For this post, I thought it might be worthwhile to identify and discuss some of the setting choices that I have gravitated to within Google Blogger.  These are choices that were not entirely apparent to me when I first established my blog.  This post may be of interest to folks who are considering a blog or who are using Blogger and are looking to find ways to improve their blog.  While these pointers are targeted to Google Blogger, the concepts may also apply to other blogging hosts such as Word Press.  I have noted in (parentheses) the tab on the left vertical Blogger Administration menu the corresponds to the topic discussed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More adventures in buying a used car through Craigslist

In a recent post, I exposed a common scam on Craigslist where the fictitious seller places an ad and attempts to lure an unsuspecting customer into sending money under the promise that the car will be shipped and if there is any problem the customer can obtain a refund through PayPal, Google, Western Union or some other intermediary.  I am saddened to report that our search continues for a reliable and affordable auto for our daughter who will need transportation when she takes on a summer internship with GE.  For better or for worse, I'm trying to behave myself this time and work in partnership with my spouse in this endeavor.  It has not been easy.  While we have not settled on a car, it will not stop me from rambling on about some lessons learned in the process, some of which may be of benefit to buyers and sellers of used cars.

1.  A reality check can be a good thing. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Voice Recognition and big fingers on the iPad 2

In a recent post, I voiced the biggest drawback to the iPad (particularly the pre-Siri versions) and early iPhones is the difficulty of data entry using the touch keyboard.  Unlike typing of old or even current computers, there is not a physical keyboard where one can feel the home row keys and quickly type text for their purpose.  I first started using voice recognition to offset this data entry challenge on my Android smart phone where voice recognition was built into most apps very early on.  Thereafter, I migrated somewhat to an iPad 2 and greatly missed (and still miss) the voice recognition features of the Android.  But, alas, all is not lost as there are some great apps that implement voice recognition on older versions of the iPad.  Three notable apps that I highly recommend and preview in this post are Dragon (Dictation), Google (Search) and Chrome (Browser) and are pictured below.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why Craigslist app for iPad

Several posts back, I compared a Windows 8 Craigslist app to using the generic Craigslist site and concluded that the Windows 8 app is just too clunky.  For today's post, I thought it may be worthwhile to expand this comparison to demonstrate the Craigslist app that I frequently use on my iPad and discuss the user experience for a better understanding of why this app is frequently used while the generic Craigslist site is sometimes used and the Windows 8 Craigslist app is seldom used.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Craigslist: Illustration of a scam

I'm happy to relate that my oldest daughter who is majoring in Engineering has accepted a summer internship with GE Aviation.  This will be a great opportunity for her and will certainly help towards the cost of her education (donations accepted).  It is likely that she will need a car for this experience and as such, we have started checking Craigslist.  As low cost reliable cars are always in demand, it is important to check frequently.  Recent postings are a ripe environment for scammers as sufficient time has not elapsed for Craigslist users to flag suspicious ads.  It was under these conditions that I received the response provided at the bottom of this post which I, undoubtedly, believe to be a scam.

So why am I convinced that this response is a scam?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reflections of Nursing Homes and more

It's been quite a few years since B and I were involved in traveling and oversight of many contracted nursing homes in the Albany, NY and outlying area.  B, an extraordinary master level's nurse is long retired and I have long since moved into an entirely different position (dabbling with data and technology).  Despite the lapse of time, I am taking this opportunity to share some thoughts and reflections in regards to nursing homes and related issues of aging.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Long Term Care (LTC) Insurance - not for me

Some time back, Kristi on her popular "On the Edge" blog asked readers the question, "Should I purchase long term care insurance".  I had commented at the time that I believed this question included a large philosophical decision in addition to the financial risk management analysis that is generally applied to the decision.  It occurred to me that I should elucidate this response in a full posting.  For many years, I served as a licensed social worker coordinating a contracted nursing program for a large organization.  In addition to this posting in regards to Long Term Care (LTC) insurance, I am also planning a future post in regards to nursing homes in general.

What is a nursing home?

While this question appears simplistic and unnecessary, I wish to dispel the notion that a nursing home is somewhere you go when you get old and need a "little" help.  The word "nursing" is key; in billing circles nursing homes are referred to as "skilled nursing" facilities which designates a "level of care."  Long past are the days of nursing equating to maid service and bed pans; today's nurses are highly skilled technicians.  When someone needs a nursing home, it is not because they need a "little" help; it is because they need "a lot" of help. Indeed, in order for one to "qualify" for this level of care, they must score appropriately on a formal assessment referred to as the Patient Review Instrument (PRI).

Monday, March 25, 2013

A review of grocery options in Albany, NY

Good news for Albanians, our grocery shopping options have exploded in the past few years.  In this post, I'm going to review my likes and dislikes of some of the most prominent choices.  It should be noted that the large players described below offer several shopping locations and it should be expected that your shopping experience may be different based on the location you choose and the time that you choose to shop.  I'll also comment up front that this may not be my most exciting post, but hey, at least I didn't tease you with any naked pictures of vegetables... so here is my naked truth regarding grocery shopping in Albany, NY:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Basics Beer and the return to the butt ugly

Ok, so maybe naked pictures wasn't my best idea, but this blog is meant to be a reflection of the author... after all the name is My Turn Quips and that includes both the twisted sense of humor and the imperfections along the way.  For those offended or still wavering whether they should sneak a peek, I say, "go for it".  I can't imagine these naked pictures offending many folks at all.  With that said, on to my next quip...

Recently, I was making pancakes for the kids and happened to notice the milk jug - it was ugly, real ugly.  We routinely purchase the store brand for many staples such as milk, but this time it gave me a bit of a flashback to the times when "Basics Beer" was found in the beer section and even toilet paper came in a "Basics" version.  The packaging for the Basics line was minimalist; simply stating "Basics Beer" in bold black letters and a white background.  Although money was tight during my stint as an enlisted person in the Army, I only stooped as low as "Meister Brau" and "Red, White and Blue" beer.  Without a doubt, you had reached bottom, if you were drinking "Basics Beer" and I suspect the packaging alone did much to turn off the consumer which is why I was surprised to see such an ugly milk carton.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Naked Pictures and thanks for the aid, Geneseo

It’s that stressful time again.  Daughter #2 is preparing for college; she’d like to become a doctor and I hope she does.  The disappointment was palpable after receiving the most recent financial aid package from the State University of New York at Geneseo.  Geneseo was the “affordable” pick as it is a state college and as such it is understood that they do not have large private endowments to draw upon.  Regardless, I can’t help but being a bit offended by the verbiage which reflected that she was entitled to “aid” (no kidding, that is the word that is strewn throughout the letter).  This “aid” consisted of a parent loan of about $7500 per semester and student loans of about $4000 per semester and $0.00 in grants or scholarships.  This financial aid letter asked her to sign and indicate whether she would accept this “aid” in whole or in part (or not at all).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A look at Windows 8 Craigslist+ App

In my prior posting, "7 iPad Apps I like..." I note that there is a big difference between apps that I select and use for my Android phone versus the apps that I select and use for my iPad.  In particular apps that are based upon delivering features of an established website, such as ebay, Craig's List, your financial institution, etc must offer more than can be gleaned from the base site.  If the base site is great, then the compulsory question for any app is "What is the value added?"  On the small screen of a smart phone, the answer is often that the app delivers the content in a manner that is usable on the smaller screen.  However, for the iPad, screen size is not such a big issue, so the "value added" for an iPad app must be something other than to adjust the features of a site to the screen size of the device.

I have also discussed Windows 8 in a couple of prior postings.  As many know by now, Windows 8 heralds Microsoft's maiden voyage into moving their dominant operating system into the world of touch screens and apps.  Like the iPad, apps for Windows 8 on a laptop must be prepared to deliver more than a "resizing" function for users such as myself to adopt them.  For this posting, I selected one of my favorite sites, Craigslist, and will compare the user experience of the site itself to the Windows 8 Craigslist+ app.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

5 ways to make your blog better

My regular readers likely have spotted some of the recent changes to MyTurnQuips.  I hope you like the changes and look forward to making MyTurnQuips even better in the coming years.  These updates were made to improve the blog.  Unfortunately, it occurred to me after the fact that writing about this process would make for a great post.  Thus, I don't have "before" and "after" pictures.  These are some of the ingredients and enhancements that I have made to improve my blog:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Telework, Yahoo and throwing out the baby with the bathwater?


Well the wolves are howling at Yahoo after CEO Marissa Mayer announced the end of telework.

As I reported in my post, Jobs, Doctor's Notes and Modern Reality, my employer is a supporter of telework and as a result I have had a number of years of direct experience both good and bad with telework.  There are some obvious benefits to the employee; foremost a substantial reduction or elimination in time and costs for commuting.  Likewise, there are often benefits to the employer such as reducing or eliminating the size of the corporate "office".  Additionally, if the position is 100% telework, the employer opens the door to a much wider panel of talent than perhaps could be acquired by requiring a fixed geographical presence.

The root of any telework program is a two prong assessment:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Heads, butts, clouds and cyber security

It's been a busy few weeks with many allegations of hacking by the Chinese.  Indeed, I have noticed that my "Chinese" visitors outnumber my United States visitors in the past month.  Well I guess it would only make sense that hackers would go after the big three, Facebook, then Apple and then MyTurnQuips.  What I can't understand is why the most popular post for these visitors seems to be Yachting with G.  Is it my orange Crocs?  In all seriousness, I don't believe I was hacked, but would not be surprised if some of this traffic was generated from automated probes.  And for all my Chinese fans, if you like my posts, feel free to add a comment; I would love to hear that I have fans in China and not hackers.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reflections of an (Ex) Landlord

It's been quite a few years since I was a landlord.  I don't miss it a bit.  All "hands on" landlords will have their share of tales to be told.  There was the time when I was faced with pursuing an eviction after a tenant failed to pay for several months and when the eviction hearing day came, the tenant called me up for ride to the eviction hearing.  And then there was the ex-Marine and his wife and kids who turned out to be my best tenants ever, despite their choice of pets - a couple of very large pythons... In fairness, they told me about these pets well in advance and after gathering their very favorable references, I proceeded despite my fair share of skepticism.  What can I say, they turned out to be honest hard working people, and I never, ever received a phone call complaining about a barking python keeping someone up all night or a python pooping in the neighbors yard...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Office 2013 - searching for gold among the clouds

Success is sometimes your worst enemy and such may be the case in the world of Microsoft and software.  Why upgrade to Windows 8, when Windows 7 is entirely satisfactory or for that matter, Windows XP?  Similarly, for many users, just about any version of Office from the past ten years would likely provide more than ample utility for home use or even for a small business.  I am fortunate that I am able to take advantage of the latest version of Office through my employer's Home Use Program (HUP).  I recently received a notice from the HUP program that Office 2013 is now available for the nominal download cost of $9.95.  You can also purchase the back up DVDs for an additional cost.  When I last purchased Office 2010 through HUP, I noticed that I could create my own back up DVD so I thought I would skip the additional cost of the back up DVDs.  As Murphy's Law would have it, this is where I spotted the first difference as upon purchase and clicking of the "download" link, Office 2013 installation was off and running.  On the bright side, the installation proceeded without need for intervention and successfully installed without incident.  That being said, I prefer more control over the install; for example, I particularly like to be able to specify what Office components get installed on my computer.  I don't like bloat.  I suspect (maybe hope) that the installation back up DVDs probably give you this control.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A step down towards equality

It continues to be my contention that when it comes to oppression of the sexes, it's us men who are the ones who are oppressed.  So it was with a mixture of amusement and sadness when I learned of the announcement that women will be allowed in combat positions in the armed forces.  As expected, such an announcement brings all of the talking heads out of the woodwork with the usual banter about upper body strength and defecating in the foxhole.  I find this debate boorish as I have little doubt that women can cope with combat as well as men.  I don't think it takes too much upper body strength to pull a trigger and given my bad back, I think a wounded "comrade" would probably have a better chance of being pulled off the battlefield by a woman than by me.  As far as a woman watching me take a poo, well, I'd prefer that nobody watches me take a poo (they probably would too), but if bullets are flying I'm thinking it probably wouldn't matter too much whether the observer was a male or a female.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jobs, Doctor's Notes and Modern Reality

I've been sick; real sick.  It started when my wife and I were awoken about 2:30 AM one morning by our 14 year old son who was vomiting.  It is never the morning greeting that starts the day well.  By about 4:00 PM that day, I started my bout.  I had been experiencing a flair up of my diverticulitis a couple days prior and had upped my dosage of fiber.  I believe this may have compounded the impact of this stomach bug as the retching definitely exacerbated the stomach pain of the diverticulitis and I believe the fiber helped to set me up for uncontrollable diarrhea in addition to multiple episodes of vomiting.  I have no doubt that I became severely dehydrated and it was a huge struggle just to make my way from my chair to the bathroom.

Unfortunately, my employer has one of those arcane policies whereby if you are out sick for 3 days, you need to return with a doctor's note.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tax Comments and Saving a Fillable PDF form

It's circus time for the tax business.  This year, I have had a bit more pressure to complete my tax information quickly as I will have 2 children (should I still call them children?) attending college in the fall.

I have always been a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to completing the income tax forms.  In the (not so) old days, I would spend hours laboriously working through these convoluted forms often to find that I needed to call the 1-800 IRS number to request some other obscure and convoluted form with pages of instructions and then wait weeks for it to arrive in the mail.  I'm so glad those days are over; today, I can quickly grab any form or instructions over the internet.  Additionally, there are many electronic filing services that further simplify the process.  I have used Taxslayer for many years.  I started with this provider largely based on cost - it was the cheapest.  Overall, I would say that Taxslayer does an "ok, but not great" job.  Generally, I think the basics are there in Taxslayer, but it isn't always intuitive and it doesn't easily always lead you to forms or credits that you may need to be aware of.  As may be expected, Taxslayer does a much better job with its Federal forms than it does with individual state forms and so it was that upon a review of my first draft of this year's taxes, I spotted a line referring to "College Credit" on the New York State form.  I had done vigorous reading of the federal tax credit for education and I also am familiar with the benefits of a 529 savings account for education, but had never heard of a New York State College Credit.  It would have been nice if the Taxslayer software had picked up that I had submitted a credit for education on my federal return and in turn triggered a prompt... "hey, overwhelmed taxpayer, you might also be eligible for this credit in your state".  But alas, it did not and thus, I am now in the position of filing a "corrected tax form" with New York state.

To my pleasant surprise, filing an amended tax form doesn't appear to be the huge chore that I had envisioned.  I was quickly able to figure out what I needed to do from the on the New York state tax site.  New York provides what are known as "fillable" PDF forms.  Typically, most computer users utilize the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to handle PDF documents; however, while Acrobat Reader will open the "fillable" form and permit you to enter your tax information, this application does NOT permit you to save the form with the completed data (you have to print it out and once you exit, all of the information that you have entered is gone).  Although I was largely typing numbers in from last years state tax form, I estimated my chances of having zero typos in one try was about 0%.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

HIPAA - That bill is private, but pay it anyway!

Over the past several years, I have watched as HIPAA - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, has been rolled out.  It is good to see more emphasis on keeping your health information private.  Many months ago, I first encountered the down side of privacy - that is, lack of information.  I had received a bill and after contacting the health care provider was essentially informed that 1.  No, they could not provide me information about the service (due to HIPAA) and 2. Yes, I was responsible for payment.  I found this provider's conclusion very interesting and their logic flowed something like this:
1.  The family member who had been treated was of legal age, thus they could not disclose medical information without their consent AND
2.  The "guarantor" is the primary holder of the insurance who is ultimately responsible for ensuring payment.
In contrast, my logic flows something like this:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Duped Again - Middle Class Pushed off the Cliff

Wow, what a relief... I'm so glad they were able to work it out in DC.

This post may appear a bit disjointed.  I was cruising in the Civic the other day and the radio stations are so easy to change... landed on an AM station and whoopie a bit of nostalgia; enjoyed a full rendition of "How much is that Dogie in the Window?"

For those who haven't been blessed with all the wonderful changes to their paycheck in the new year let me clue you in... you've been pushed!  Most are already expecting their health insurance to jump (again) this year - no shocker there.  The real kick in pants is the restoration of 2% to Social Security deduction (aka OASDI -  Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance), but let's get real; it's a tax, pure and simple.  Granted I realize that this was intended to be "temporary" as a tax holiday to stimulate the economy; however, with all the talk of ensuring that the wealthy pay their share, this is the one tax that kicks the working middle class the hardest.

Why do I say this?