Sunday, December 28, 2014

SONY yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater

It has been more than a couple of years since my college days and there is much I don't remember.  Among the artifacts of memory is a course in Constitutional Law which included an analysis of the First Amendment (freedom of speech, et. al.) and one of the poignant points of that study was that free speech is not absolute and the classic example that it is not ok to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater.  It should come as no surprise to my regular readers that MyTurnQuips would offer a contrarian perspective from most Americans (including George Clooney and his merry band of privileged elites) in regards to SONY and the making of “The Interview” and the alleged actions of North Korea.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Memories and other ramblings

Well Happy Holidays.  For me and for many, holidays are a mixed bag.  I certainly enjoy the time off.  I even enjoy seeing family... in moderation that is.  I could do without the winter weather and some of the craziness that disrupts a normal trip to the store.

This season I was skimming electronics in the local Craig's listings and out jumped a combination DVD recorder and VHS player – plus the seller was nearby!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A first look at the FREE Online Microsoft Office

Since the introduction of Windows 8, I was aware that Microsoft had also rolled out an online subscription (pay) version of Office, but did not realize that there was also a scaled down free online version.  I consider myself tech savvy and close to current on tech offerings, but somewhere along the line I guess I was sleeping - "free" and "Microsoft Office" all in one sentence?  It's very possible that I read it and dismissed it outright as implausible.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Unequal healthcare for men

I've been overdue for a rant relating to the oppression of men and I know I may have shocked many of my readers when I recently largely agreed with Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In".  Yes, I continue to believe that when all things are considered, men in America are victimized by gender discrimination as severely (but in different dimensions) than women.  One dimension where I believe men are trailing is in healthcare and I was shocked when I stumbled upon a blatant example of healthcare inequity while reviewing my annual insurance choices.

I am one of the rare individuals who are perhaps gluttons for punishment in taking time to read the details relating to the insurance coverage.  I first spotted this inequity when reading a competitor's offering where I was surprised to find that if you are a woman, you can opt for voluntary sterilization for free while if you are a man, voluntary sterilization will cost you 15%.  I was even more surprised when I took a closer look at my existing plan to learn that this injustice was not a fluke, but appeared in my policy as well  I have pasted the specifics below:

Benefit Description You Pay
Voluntary sterilization for men (e.g., Vasectomy) In-network: 15% of the Plan allowance
Out-of-network: 40% of the Plan allowance and any difference between our allowance and the billed amount
Voluntary sterilization for women (e.g., Tubal ligation) In-network: Nothing
Out-of-network: 40% of the Plan allowance and any difference between our allowance and the billed amount

Now I realize that there is probably not hordes of men lining up to get sterilized.  This is likely why this injustice does not receive the focus that it deserves, but you can count on MyTurnQuips to bring this to focus.

My first path of inquiry to attempt to understand this inequity was in line with that truism from Watergate - "follow the money."  I performed a quick Google search to eyeball the costs of Vasectomy versus the cost of Tubal ligation, thinking maybe it costs more to sterilize men.  This line of reasoning was quickly disproved; with Google results indicating a vasectomy would likely cost much less than the cost of tubal ligation.  Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals has already provided a thorough and academic analysis of the importance of including men in the solution of reproductive planning.

This rant represents much more than some guy whining about possibly having to pay 15% for a vasectomy.   Women should be equally outraged by this inequity.  Most obvious is that if you want men to shoulder equal responsibility for reproductive choices, then men should be afforded the same benefits.  The Affordable Care Act did much to mandate contraceptive options for women.  If our goal is equality, why are contraceptive options not mandated for men?  Why shouldn't there be some level of coverage for the purchase of condoms?

One of the conclusions that I have reached in regards to equality is that equality should not be about female versus male or male versus female; it is not about "women's rights" or "men's rights".  Equality should be focused on gender neutrality and fairness.  I believe this is why I am so closely aligned to Sandberg's "Lean In" precepts.  However, equality cannot be constrained to selective dimensions such as earned income or child care.  True equality must take a hard look at all instances of inequity including disparities in health care, insurance (yes, men pay more for auto and life insurance) and selective service.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Race and Yellow Journalism

The opening lines of Wikipedia provides this definition of Yellow Journalism:
Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.  Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

APC UPS for the Suburban Power Outage

Each year around Thanksgiving time, I tend to start informally identifying a few items that I may want to pick up if the right sale should arise.  This year I had placed the purchase of an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) on my wish list.  APC is the leading manufacturer of these devices in the United States (or at least in my area).  I had long recommended these devices in my Amazon store, but shamefully had been too cheap to purchase one.  I was happy to find that for me, Black Friday came early this year with Staples offering the 600VA model for around $45 minus a 15% coupon (and plus tax) brought my actual price to around $41.  The battery for these devices is estimated at around 3 years so the simple math would put the annual cost at around $14.  (Strong argument could be made that it is much less than that as at the end of 3 years, there would be some residual value to the device as the battery is replaceable so it would not be entirely true to say the device itself is 100% valueless at 3 years).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Obi-Wan? No, Obihai

I had discussed Obi and other home phone options in an earlier posting.  At the time, I did not follow through because there was concern that Google Voice support was ending which would have resulted in the need to pay for service through a VOIP provider.  Although this option may have yielded some savings over my Time Warner cable phone, the savings would not be as significant as being able to have free service through Google Voice.  Well good news!  Obihai has worked with Google Voice so that Google Voice is now a supported Obi service!  So one slow weekend day, I pulled the trigger and ordered an Obi100 from Amazon which included free shipping.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Linux and SSD revisited on a Lenova Thinkpad Edge

My 60gb SSD drive had been sitting idle on my stairs for about 9 months or so.  One of my biggest “lesson's learned” in regards to purchasing a SSD drive would be to purchase a 128gb or larger drive.  At the time, cost was a consideration (it still is) and I thought that a 60gb drive would be more than adequate to contain a bare bones operating system.  It sort of is - and that is fine for testing and playing, but when the novelty wears off you want a computer that you can use for daily use and this is where a small 60gb drive falls short.  I had initially tested my SSD on a very old Windows Vista machine that had a single core Celeron processor.  I thought that the SSD might resuscitate that old turtle.  It provided some juice, but not enough to warrant the squeeze.  I had tested the SSD with both a Windows install and a Linux install.  I was disappointed to find my boot times were not that much different between between the two operating systems, certainly not sufficient to convince me to give up my Cadillacesque Microsoft world of Microsoft Office tools, nor sufficient enough to convince me to abandon my larger SATA hard drive.  So my SSD gathered dust.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

MVNO Mooove over T-Mobile!

As reported in an earlier post, my misadventure with T-Mobile did have the fortuitous result of exposing 2 more under $20 options for light cell phone users.  These 2 options are Airvoice and P Tel.   As with all my service options, I always begin with a Google search for reviews.  I look for 2 important factors in the Google search results.  First, I check for reviews within the past 12 months or so.  This provides a picture of the current state of affairs with the service.  Secondly, I look for actual use of the service as experienced by a real customer (as opposed to an "online reviewer" who restates what is advertised).  I found a review for each that I felt was worth sharing here.  For Airvoice, I recommend reading this posting on Simple Cents.  For PTel, I recommend this posting on the Mr. Money Mustache forum.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

From Go Phone to T-Mobile No Phone

Good News – my divorce from AT&T was finalized upon receipt of a refund check from AT&T and it was time to make some decisions regarding my cell service.  I have been actively researching my options and much is reported in my 2 earlier posts relating to under $30 per month services for light data and cell phone users.  When it came my time to decide, I found myself looking at my 4 leading options:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Plus One

It’s closing in on open enrollment season for health insurance.  In the near future my employer will be offering a new option – plans for “self plus one.”  Self plus one is great for couples with no dependents or single parents with one child.  However, as with any policy change there is not only winners, but also losers.  For example, when the Affordable Health Care act raised the age for dependents on a family policy to 25, many young adults benefited; however, someone has to pay for the “extra” cost associated with this change and that would be the policy holders of the family plans.  Unfortunately, more bad news for family policy holders as adding a “self plus one” option is likely to raise family health insurance once again.  The reason for this expectation is mathematically simple – on the average it is likely to cost less to pay for the health care costs of 2 people than it would be to cover the health care costs of a family of say 19 such as the Duggars (or for that a family of 3 or a family of 5 and so forth).  Thus, when these units of 2 are removed from the pool of insured families, the remaining higher costing units must be divided amongst fewer policies.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to prepare a professional self-evaluation

Hopefully my initial post relating to “why” has convinced you of the importance of submitting a solid self-evaluation.  In this follow up post, I’m going to focus on how to create a self-evaluation and will start with the basic steps that I use to prepare my self-evaluation.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reasons why you should submit a self-evaluation at work

I have conceptualized this as a two part posting.  In this post, I plan to explain why it is in your best interest to submit a self-evaluation as part of your employee evaluation.  In a future post, I plan to discuss the “how to” of writing a winning self-evaluation.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Is this the best we can do?

Well, it's election season and once again I'm plagued with dismay.  Remember, the last Presidential election?  Like most, I was among the disenchanted; having enthusiastically voted for Obama in round one I was receptive to a change in round 2... but Mitt Romney?  Really?  Who's idea was that?  At times, I get to feeling that King Obama is a bit aloof and out of touch, but when it comes to assessing which of the two were more in touch with the average American I don't think they could of handed President Obama a better contrast.  So, the best I could do was vote for Obama, again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More under $30 cell options for light data users

In a recent posting, I disappointingly identified 3 under $30 per month cell options for light data users.  Since that time, I have continued to meander on with AT&T where I am pre-paid for the next 3 months or so, but have also continued to investigate alternatives.  I am a very light cell phone user and consume primarily data with a very occasional voice or text message.  While wi-fi is becoming more and more the standard at retail locations, it is still not a given and I value the power that access to information via a smart phone provides.  Thus, having cell service that includes data is important to me and while cheap voice and text plans are abundant, cheap voice, text and data plans are few and far between.  In this post, I am going to identify 3 more under $30 per month plans that include data for light cell phone users.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

15 Android Apps Worth Keeping

As reflected in several recent posts, I have recently "upgraded" my phone to a used (new to me) Samsung Galaxy S3.  Prior to this, I had a LG Thrive which was the first Android Go Phone offered by AT&T.  The LG Thrive was a great phone, but unfortunately the version of Android is long outdated preventing many newer apps from installing (and space was also tight which also prohibited installation of some Apps).  In this posting, I am going to identify those apps that I thought worthwhile to install on my new, used phone including favorites from my LG Thrive experience as well as new findings.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A trip to the Market Bistro, Latham, New York

As fate would have it, I recently had an opportunity to visit the Market Bistro by Price Chopper and found many commonalities to my recent visit to Whole Foods Market.  As follows my habit, this visit was on a Monday at around 2pm.  I thought that perhaps this would be a slower time to visit.  As it turned out, business was brisk.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sex with Indians

Lately I've had perseverating thoughts about sex with Indians; no, not in a perverted way.  I consider my interest more as an innocent curiosity.  I anticipate that this posting may appear a bit tangential so I’m providing an advance warning for readers who want to ditch while they are ahead.  At times I think the only reason I don’t carry a mental health diagnosis is because I’m foolish enough to continue to show up for work and pay bills.  Yes, in America it seems that the most diagnosed are the poor who need public assistance or the wealthy who need something to whine about on the talk show circuit.  Anyway, back to the post…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taming the Battery Beast on the Samsung Galaxy S3

Overall I love my new (used) Samsung Galaxy S3, but if I were to be critical of one point it would be the battery life.  My initial impression was that this device would need a daily charge to ensure that it would provide sufficient service for a business day (and I’m a very light user).  Then I encountered my day of reckoning when I knew I had to do something.  I was traveling in an area not entirely familiar to me and I had ensured that my phone had a near full charge (over 90%) before leaving the house.  At about 10:30am I was at a neighborhood lawn sale and checking for directions when I spotted that my new (used) S3 was at about 18%... what the heck?  Fortunately I had a micro USB charger in the car that I was able to use to put my phone on life support, but that was my wakeup call that I needed to take drastic action.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Adventures in Unlocking Samsung Galaxy S3

I remember the thrill of unlocking my first smart phone – an AT&T Go Phone – the LG Thrive.  At that time, you could purchase unlock codes commercially and do it yourself.  I had purchased my code on eBay for 99 cents and although I never changed carriers or traveled abroad, I experienced the liberating feeling of becoming unlocked.  Since that time, a court ruling has made this practice illegal and you must go through the phone’s carrier to perform an unlock.  Each carrier has different policies that they apply in their decision to unlock your device.  For those not familiar with the practice, cell phones are commonly locked to a specific carrier which makes them unusable on other networks.  The justification for this practice has its roots in the past common practice of providing an expensive flashy phone for little to no upfront cost, but carrying an obligation to subscribe to a “plan” for a specified period of time.  Of course nothing is ever free and as should be expected the actual cost of that expensive flashy phone was subsidized by the anticipated payments under the obligated plan.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shopping for a new, used cell phone on Craig’s List

I've written my tales of woe relating to my disenchantment with AT&T.   In view of this one would wonder about my decision to move forward with purchasing a used (new to me) cell phone on Craig’s List.  I had been unhappy with my cell phone for quite some time.  It is extremely slow, frequently flashes low memory warnings, has an outdated version of Android that cannot be updated (many apps fail to download, citing an advisement that they are not compatible with my old version of Android) and my near vision has deteriorated to the point where I cannot easily read the screen.  Before my recent fall out with AT&T, I had stopped into an AT&T retail store and learned that I could purchase any AT&T phone or an unlocked GSM phone and they would be happy to provide a sim and transfer my existing plan to the new phone.  Similarly, the most likely plan that I may transition to at the end of my GoPhone service is Consumer Cellular and they use AT&T and also allow you to bring your AT&T or unlocked GSM.  Finally, whatever used phone I would purchase would have some value and I could re-sell it.  Thus, I felt I didn't have too much too loose by buying a used cell phone.

As stated in a prior post regarding Craig’s List, my first move was to get the lay of the land by watching what was being posted and what seemed to be selling and for what price.  Additionally, I also visited Mr. Dealz and other local retailers to get a feel for what the device actually felt like in my hand.  Mr. Dealz merits specific note because others at AT&T had suggested this store and I found them to be very helpful.  I would definitely recommending them out for any electronic needs in the Albany or Schenectady area.  The right size cell phone is a very personal decision.  For visibility I love those Mega and Samsung Notes, but when I really thought about practicality neither of these devices would fit in my pocket plus are extremely expensive so these devices were quickly ruled out.  After getting some initial prospects, I did some general Google searches to read some user reviews as well as to explore common issues in regards to buying used cell phones.  My greatest concern in regards to purchasing a used cell phone was the possibility of getting a phone that was not able to be activated.  This could be due to the phone being reported as stolen or due to delinquent old accounts whereby one of the major service providers has identified the phone as one they will not allow on the network.  There are online sites that assist buyers in checking ESN or IMEI numbers.  I wasn't fully comfortable with this option so in my search I would also check the seller’s willingness to meet at an AT&T retail store (which is the route that I went when I made my purchase).

I also set a budget.  My budget was around $150 with a preference to stay closer to $100.  My research seemed to point to several options.  A Samsung AT&T Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate was listed for $40 on Craig’s list and after doing the research, this looked like it would have been a great option considering my very light use of the cell phone.  Unfortunately, this listing arose during my research stage and no other listings appeared for this model.  Thus, I moved on to options that had more regular postings for used devices.

As a heavy Google user, I would have loved to score an unlocked Nexus 4 or 5.  Unfortunately, while these devices occasionally appeared on Craig’s List, the few times that they did, they appeared with a rather high price and the legitimate postings did not last long so my chances of success did not appear good.

During my search, a Nokia 520 appeared very briefly on Craig’s List for $30 (it was removed within a couple of hours).  The AT&T store had pointed out this device, but I was a bit skeptical about jumping into a Windows phone.  After reading the on-line reviews I have reconsidered.  This option may be a great choice for light cell phone users as the price is very appealing and the phone includes decent hardware for the price.  (One thing noteworthy that is missing is the front facing camera, so “selfies” would be more challenging).   This phone is available for around $50 new on Amazon so this may also appeal to those who do not want to assume the risk and ordeal of searching for a used device.

The iPhone 4s was a strong possibility.  The familiarity, simplicity and quality of Apple was a given.  I definitely would want a device that includes Siri (see also my iPad 2 to 4 post) and this was the only Siri enabled used device where offerings fell within my budget.  There were some negatives to this option.  I enjoy playing music from my current cell phone and an 8mg sized iPhone would not work well for my needs here.  (Note, iPhones are not expandable – you cannot “add” memory so what you buy is what you get).  I was also somewhat concerned about the screen size due to my eyesight.  Lastly, although not a big consideration, the 4s still uses 3g so this phone would not be able to take advantage of AT&Ts faster 4g build out.  Currently, most of the iPhone 4s listed on Craig’s List tended to range from a low of around $140 to around $250.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 was the device that stuck with me most consistently.  It received very good reviews from users.  I was able to “feel” it in my hand and I like the feel – the screen was generous so that I could see even with my bad eyes (about 4.8” compared to about 3.5” for the 4s and 4.5” for the 5s).  I had spotted a used S3 for sale at Mr. Dealz for $199 and it was not there the following week so that established a baseline price.  In Craig’s List I would consistently spot sale postings with a price range similar to that of the iPhone 4s which suggested I may be able to find one within budget.

As it turned out, I was successful.  I had spotted an AT&T S3 initially advertised at $175 then on Sunday, I notice the ad was updated to $150.  Being the bargain hunter that I am, I emailed an offer of $125 and advised that I could meet at an AT&T retail store that same day with the cash (hoping that the prompt cash would appeal to the seller and the AT&T retail store would seem to be fair mutual meeting arrangement).  As it turned out, I heard from the seller promptly and the seller related that he recently began employment with AT&T.  We arranged to meet at an AT&T store that was reasonably close for both of us.  The store transferred my GoPhone account without issue.  In the midst of the transaction, the seller inquired as to whether I would be interested in purchasing a case (new in package) for $5.  I hadn't thought of this separate transaction, but the AT&T representative strongly recommended a case and remarked, “I was going to try to sell you one…”  The quality of this case was clearly better than I would find in a $5 Below store and seemed to be the sensible thing to do so I went for it as I considered getting the phone for $125 to be a great deal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cell data options for under $30 per month

Yes, I’ve lost that loving feeling with AT&T GoPhone.  We started off passionately at 10 cents a minute and a data package.  Then AT&T sent out their first “Dear John” letter to let me know that they didn't love me that much and could no longer add a data package… they needed more commitment.  Yes, they would “grandfather” me into their $1.00 per day plus 10 cents per minute plan so we could stay friends and they would be willing to offer a data package.  I guess they decided being friends wouldn't work because AT&T has now taken action to end this relationship and replace it with their “resolution” which is to place me on their flat $2.00 per day plan…they say it’s better for both of us that way.  The AT&T customer service rep told me they would restore the (over) 500mb of data that had stripped without notice; yes, they restored it right after they charged me $10 to purchase it.  Unfortunately, I prepaid for a full year so I am stuck in this one sided relationship until the end of this year, but I've decided it’s time for me to start dating again.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A trip to Whole Foods Market, Albany, NY

As the locals are aware, a new player has entered the grocery market in Albany, NY opening their first store on the Sears end of the Colonie mall.  Many have eagerly awaited the arrival of Whole Foods Market although my perception was that the fanfare was not as intense as the welcome given to Trader Joe's a few years back.  The first and most striking thing about Whole Foods Market is

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Reinaldo Arenas

I have chronicled my penchant for reading and as is reflected within this blog, I steadily acquire books through the Book Nook at the Crossings, the Colonie library, Goodwill and the Salvation Army in addition to an occasional lawn sale.  The hunt for new material is often as much fun for me as the actual reading.  Oftentimes, I have some inclination to make a purchase such as having previously heard of the work through the New York Times book review or some other source.  Other times, I gamble with fate and pick up something I had never heard of based on interest piqued by a read of the covers.  Such was the case with Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas.  This book had piqued my interest as an autobiography of an individual who was severely impacted by Fidel Castro.  For us around 50ish who were not directly impacted and not students of Cuban history, Cuba and Fidel are generally given little thought.  Sure there are murky memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs and Cuban boat people, but it is hard for us to feel it and truly get it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My migration from iPad 2 to an iPad 4

I recently had the opportunity to pick up an iPad 4 for a great price ($250) through Craig’s List.  I was somewhat hesitant as I currently had an iPad 2 with 32gb and 3g whereas the “deal” iPad 4 was only 16gb and wifi only.  Losing the 3g was not a big deal for me.  As all should be aware, using this cellular feature is at an additional expense and I did not have a need for it and had never used this feature in the 2 years or so that I had owned the iPad 2.  I was a bit more concerned about giving up the 32gb of space.  My music collection is around 16gb alone and I did not want to be tight on space for apps and pictures.  While somewhat concerned, this too was not a big issue as I seldom listened to music using my iPad (unlike the iPod, it is simply too big to conveniently lug around and I never purchased a player for the iPad).  I found using a cheap USB drive in the car and my Android phone at work pretty much covered my music needs.  While I had loaded many apps onto the iPad 2, the reality was that most of them were infrequently being used (and some were never used… having been acquired during promotions as a free app).  Thus, when all things were considered, I saw little downside to parting with my 32gb 3g iPad 2 and I was able to sell my iPad 2 on Craig’s list for the same price ($250) that I bought my iPad 4.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cohoes Falls

I worked for many years in Cohoes, NY, a small river city north of Albany.  Cohoes is rich in history and at one time well known for its textile mills which had long been abandoned during the stretch of time that I was employed in Cohoes.  These looming giants have since been refurbished to upscale condos along the Mohawk and it is nice to see new interest in this charming city.  My position in Cohoes brought me through the city on a regular basis including Remsen Street, the main drag in Cohoes as well as trips up Mohawk Street along the (shocker) Mohawk River.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cleaning House: Donate, Lawn Sale or Craig’s List?

I've discussed my recent efforts to clean house using Craig’s List and my Craig’s List iPad app.  At various times, I've also cleaned house through donations and lawn sales as well.  It occurred to me that a comparison of these strategies may also make for an interesting post.  In this post, I will discuss some of the pros and cons of each of these approaches to shedding your home of some of your accumulated debris.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lean In For Men

It may surprise my readers to hear that I was thrilled to score a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.   After all, I am the politically incorrect (ex) social worker who posted, The Oppression of Men.  Sheryl’s book has been widely acclaimed and had created quite a buzz in the business community.  My readers may be further shocked to hear that I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and perhaps even more shocking would remark that I agree with almost all of what she has written.  Before you begin to think this is going to just be a nod and grunt posting, please recall that this is “My Turn Quips” so any nodding and grunting you read here is likely to be a bit atypical.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

iPads, iCloud security and a Craigslist near miss

I will state up front that I do not condone nor will I knowingly purchase stolen property.  If I think something might be stolen or sounds suspicious, it is not for me.  That being said, one can easily tell from my posts that I do enjoy Craigslist and I enjoy a great buy.  Despite what some living in ivory towers may proclaim, it is not easy sometimes to tell the difference between a scam and a great deal.  In this post, I will relate my “near miss.”

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The VA, The Wiz and No Bad News

It’s been 5 or 6 years since I walked into my daughter’s middle school play, The Wiz, about an hour late.  Yes, I had jumbled up the time.  It was a mixed blessing as I really didn't enjoy the play.  In general I thought the play lacked originality and relied too much on flashy, gaudy costumes and lighting.  Maybe I just didn't get it.  Despite not enjoying the play at large, I do recall fondly one particular scene where there had been a failed attempt to apprehend Dorothy and the ruby slippers (and, of course, her little dog, too) and the wicked witch flew into a tizzy, singing, “no bad news, don't bring me no bad news” to the flying monkeys.  I've had many days where I have been so stressed out that I felt I couldn't take any more bad news and this song will always stir in my head.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

E-mail etiquette

I like email; don't text me, don't IM me, don't tweet me, don't write on my Facebook wall and don't call me... send me an email.  I like email because it's quick and you are not restricted in size like text message and it is not intrusive like the nagging ringing of a telephone.  Fortunately for me, much of my job is dependent on email (and perhaps it is no accident that I work the type of job that I do).  In a prior post, I discussed the appropriate use of the blind carbon copy (bcc).  In this post I am going to share thoughts and tips in regards to communication by email.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cleaning house with Craigslist, iPad and the Daily Craigslist App

It was a hard winter that seemed to last forever here in upstate New York.  Every winter, I have more than one, “why am I still in New York” moment and this winter I had many.  Unfortunately, I have not been successful in convincing the family members to move to a sunnier location, but the good news is that the resistance is getting less and such a move remains my goal.  We had moved to our new home about 6 years ago or so.  It was a local move and we were one of those fools who bought our new home before selling the old home so we had the luxury of taking several trips and the move was relatively easy.  Regardless, after living in our former house for nearly 20 years, there were many occasions where I spotted something and said to myself, “I don't want to move that again”.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

MTQ Travel tips and lessons learned

I recently returned from a terrific family road trip.  Most of our planning worked out well, but as with any trip we encountered some unavoidable bumps and lessons learned.  In this post I am going to identify what worked well as well as those areas where we might do something different the next time.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Man Bag Essentials

Ok, I admit it; I have a man purse.  I know it’s unmanly to call it a purse so it is commonly referred to as “the man bag”.  When it comes to purse carrying liberation, us men haven't quite leaned in enough to know that we need a purse.  All guys know that bulging pockets aren't cool and you just can't fit everything you need in that tiny wallet.  My man bag started off as a cheap sort of brief case for work, but has quickly moved beyond just work and has now become an essential companion for day trips and travel.  The reason for this is that I can rely on it to contain my most common daily staples and it also provides a container for as needed items as well.  In this post, I am going to review some of the treasures contained in my man bag.  Some will sound obvious and some not so obvious.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oh Sh##, my mute button was off?

I love that commercial with the girl who scores points with her colleagues by doing an impression of the client while the client is muted… “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”  I think we all have those clients and what is said and done while errant clients are on mute can be hilarious.  And depending on who it happens to, what is said and done when someone thinks they are on mute can be even funnier.

Sure enough I had another mute button misfire at work.  I was on a national training call and my 15 year old son had arrived home from school famished and was raiding the kitchen for food.  I thought I'd add some harassment so I yelled out, “Hey, Jabber, how about bringing your father some ice cream?”  Sure enough shortly following my query, a moderator chimed in, “someone out there has an open mike”.  (Ugh, who might that that be?)  Needless to say, I scurried to mute my phone.

Sadly, this wasn't my worst encounter bobbling the mute toggle.  A year or two back, I was once again on a National call and an email came in that immediately pushed my blood pressure up a few points.  Believing I was the only one in the office (and also believing that my phone was on mute), I let out a string of profanities only to hear the speaker who was announcing some upcoming change relate, “Oh come on now, it’s not that bad.”

Conversely, I have had the opposite experience as well where I have verbally articulated what I thought was an intelligent response only to hear nothing from my audience.  Eventually, someone catches on (either them or I) and aside from the embarrassment, there is not a great harm done by speaking with the mute button on.  You simply may feel silly for a second, but repeat the original message a second time with the mute button off so that you can be heard.

I know I am not alone in the business world.  One of the big bosses that I previously worked with related how he had been on a call with some power brokers from DC and thinking he was on mute, proceeded to remark to the local audience, “that is the stupidest idea I've ever heard.”  Unfortunately for him, they knew exactly who he was and let him know clearly that his comment was not appreciated.  From that day forward he had the contortions required to mute the phone carefully written out and he would also pound the desk next to the phone to verify that the mute was on.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Birthday MTQ (again)

I received my annual message from Google in regards to the renewal of my domain.  If you had asked me two years ago that I’d be writing a post to commemorate a second year blogging I would never have envisioned writing something so corny.  When I started blogging, I thought it looked easy.  What write a few paragraphs, no problem I thought?  Further, I had basic web skills so the technical aspect didn't rattle me.  Certainly, there was some learning in regards to the nuances of Blogger, but I reflect that was among the least of my blogging challenge.  What I found to be most challenging was trying to maintain enthusiasm and motivation so that I could consistently publish.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

End of an era – goodbye desktop PC

Folks of my vintage recall a world without computers.  Desktop computers were the first widely adopted computers in the home.  I recall guiltily slipping my first computer into the home past my wife, having spent around $1300 from the Montgomery Wards on a no interest if paid in 12 months deal for a 386 having a whopping 128mg (yes megabyte) hard drive and 1mg of memory.  From there, I read many “For Dummies” books, tinkered and became a rebate hound where I enthusiastically amassed computer paraphernalia.  At the height of operations, I had amassed 3 desktop computers in the home and a basement holding many parts and peripherals.  I had scaled back to only 2 remaining desktops in the home when the remaining family members agreed it was ok to divest of the desktop.  I had not used these computers in years; my son using one for XP based games and my wife (resisting learning to use a laptop) had used the other.  Regardless, it fell to dear old dad to get rid of them.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Misadventures in iTunes Land

Ok, I fess up.  I have iTunes on my laptop, but seldom make a purchase from the iTunes store.  Instead, I primarily use iTunes to rip my CDs into MP3 format so that I can play them on most digital devices.  I have converted my entire CD collection of about 100 or so CDs to MP3 format using iTunes.  It came as no surprise when I finally went to make a purchase to use up the $10 iTunes gift card that I've had for a couple of years that I was prompted to respond to security questions and had no idea what the answers would be.  (I don't believe I ever set security questions – yes, the account is that old).  Any who, the Apple prompts walked me to their help which had me enter my telephone number and I received a message that I would receive a call in 10 minutes.  Well apparently that message is not correct if you are calling on Sunday… no call back until Monday.  Being the impatient person that I am, I didn’t wait for a call back so I called the Apple help number and got through to a live person in a reasonable amount of time (honest, that is a compliment).  Without too much drama, my issue was resolved and I was on to purchasing my app (which was the paid version of my top (free) choice Craigslist app).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

50 Shades – a male perspective

Yes, I'm nearly through Volume II of the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy and family members have given me more than the usual number of strange looks.  Needless to say the reputation of this trilogy is well known; in case you're amongst the uninformed it is considered in the literary category of erotica which is another way of saying lots of kinky sex.  What may be most striking about this trilogy is that it is written by a woman, likely is most popular with female readers and has risen to a level of acceptance and popularity in mainstream reviews.  So finally, it can officially be proclaimed that when it comes to sex and porn, you ladies can be just as piggy as us guys… oink, oink, my fine ladies!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tax babble

As reflected by some recent posts, I have survived another year of income tax preparation.  In this post, I'm assembling some thoughts regarding taxes at all levels.  First, after discussing various tax preparation software and tax treatment of education expense, a common theme may be drawn – our current income tax process is just too complicated.  It should not take complex software to attempt to meet the requirements of tax law and it should not take extensive study to understand all of the nuances.  It would be a welcome relief if we could get rid of the present income tax centered form of taxation and move toward a sales tax on the Federal level.  Why not?  In most states, businesses are already adept at collecting sales tax and in others I have little doubt that if the businesses have been able to cope with the nightmare of income tax, they can certainly figure out sales tax.  Second, I would also argue that sales tax may be a fairer way to raise revenue.  Simply stated, what can simpler than the precept that if you can afford to spend money to buy something, you can also afford to pay a tax on that item?  While not perfect, sales tax would eliminate much “under the table” revenue that we all know exists, but has been hard to touch.  Further, sales tax would help to spread the cost of our government by all who partake – and this includes “illegal” immigrants, those on temporary “visas” as well as tourists – all can contribute to a degree proportionate to what they partake in the goods and services of the Nation.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Left, Right, Bush-lite, Red

I've been way overdue for a political quip.  The winter has been long and during winter months I tend to focus on hard covered books, leaving the paperbacks for summer outdoor reading.  In my case, most of the hard covered that I've hoarded during the warm months tend to be non-fiction, some history and some political.  Amongst the collection are finds that struck me as “a little different,” including David Horowitz’ “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left” and Bill Ayers, “Fugitive Days”.  (I suspect they may not appreciate sharing the same bookshelf).  And of course, political reading wouldn't be complete without some sort of political circus bantering in the background and my background was replete with the saber rattling of Bush-lite Obama and my favorite Red, Putin.  Instead of cracking jokes about the antics of leadership, this quip is going to focus on some of my political perceptions – some from the reading and some more general.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Flexible Spending Account (FSA) – A real life illustration

We have known for a couple of years that braces (orthodontia treatment) had been recommended for my son.  During 2013, my wife expressed the desire to obtain orthodontia treatment as well.  As we approached the close of 2013, we made an appointment for a consult with a local orthodontist to begin the process to obtain a guesstimate as to the cost.  I was well aware that there have been many changes to Flexible Spending Account (FSA) as a result of the Affordable Healthcare Act.  In retrospect, the need for a consult may have been a case of wishful thinking as we were reassured that the cost of orthodontia care would well exceed the $2500 maximum for FSA.  FSA (unlike a Health Savings Account), is “use or lose” – this drawback cannot be stressed enough.  FSA is not a good vehicle to plan for unexpected (emergency) health care as if you do not use the funds that you have budgeted for your FSA, you will lose this money.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

For a commercially successful blog, don't do what I do...

I think many bloggers have fantasies of their blog going viral, making lots of money and enabling them to quit their mind numbing day job.  Although I share the fantasy, I continue to be crippled by reality - the greatest being that income from blogging probably won't allow me to quit my day job.  While the potential for income is alluring, it was not my primary motivation for blogging.  My motivation was and continues to be quite simple - I want a forum to run my mouth; a forum where I am accountable to myself and can express myself as I choose.  This includes choice of topic and expressing unpopular perspectives at times.  In this post, I am identifying some choices and illustrations of where this goal runs counter to a profit motive.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Qualified Education Expenses, Taxes and Whine

Ok, I confess, I probably haven't been as diligent as I should have been when it comes to calculating qualified education expenses.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Microsoft Office Picture Manager for Free

I have grown accustomed to using Microsoft Office Picture Manager as part of the Office Suite at both work and at home.  I find it's simplicity the most compelling reason as this application provides a quick and easy way to shrink the size of photos for this blog.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflections on Taxslayer, TaxACT and HRBlock

I've become the de facto tax preparer for the household and this year for the reason expressed in this post, I had the opportunity to sample 3 different online electronic tax services.  I will note upfront that this post is not an "apples to apples" clinical study.  Specifically, I did not enter the same return into all 3 systems.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Adams, Jefferson, John and Paul

As part of my winter in New York ritual, I select meatier books to read during the extreme cold.  In past years, I was able to work through some long Michener novels; this year, I am working through David McCullough’s “John Adams”.  Prior to this I had done some reading on Jefferson individually (I believe it was, “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History” by Fawn M Brodie) as well as collectively in Joseph Ellis’ “Founding Brothers”.  When considering John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, I find a striking resemblance to the relationship and personalities of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pictures, Privacy and iPads

The iPad is a great tool for grabbing a quick picture to spice up my posts.  It was such an occasion that I was authoring another hit post (I think it was the best dog poop bag), and to my distress, the picture kept being rotated 90 degrees whenever I uploaded it to my Blogger site.  Being the curious sort and wanting to get to the root of the issue, a Google search turned up the underlying cause being something called "EXIF" which is metadata (attributes pertaining to your photo).   My usual practice is to snap the photo with my iPad, email it to my Gmail account then save it to my computer and upload to Blogger.  Sometimes I may touch up the photo and sometimes not.  On this occasion, I had not.  In my investigation, I went to my computer and right clicked, "Properties" to view the properties related to my iPad picture.  It was here that I experienced my wake up call, as clearly reflected among the data pertaining to that picture was the GPS coordinates where that photo was taken...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best Free iPad Craigslist app

Well it happened again; support was discontinued for my favorite purchased Craigslist app, Craigslist+, by Escargot Studios, LLC.  What I find particularly galling is that I contacted customer support and was told that the version I purchased is no longer supported.  So much for the "free lifetime updates" that were promised.  If the app was no longer in existence that would be one thing, but instead it seems that Escargot has released a "new" version that looks amazingly like the "old" unsupported version.  This is the second time I've been burned by support ending (and being left with a non-working version) for a purchased app so for now I'm sticking to the free versions and this post is the result of my search for a new "go to" Craigslist app.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The best dog poop bag

Here at MyTurnQuips, I pride myself at interjecting original content.  Where else would one be able to learn Dog Pee Etiquette?  Alas, it should be no surprise that a dog poo topic would soon follow.  A recent trip to the nearby Subway to participate in the "JanuAny" $5.00 foot long special is the inspiration for this post.  On this occasion, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a lunch out with my daughter before her trek back to college and there it was... inspiration sitting right on the table - the Subway sub bag, a near perfect dog poop pick up bag... yes, my daughter was less than delighted with this lunchtime news.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A winter walk along Rensselaer Lake (Six Mile Waterworks)

I think every blogger has one or more posts that defy their understanding in regards to "commercial" success.  My post is "Yachting with G" a just for fun posting that I wrote reflecting on floating in my inflatable boat on Rensselaer Lake in Albany, NY.  Due to the surprise success of this initial posting, I posted a follow up the following year, "More Yachting with G" that never really took off.  This deepened the mystery as it would seem that similar topic material would yield similar results, but that was not the case.  Regardless, I had often thought it would be fun to visit the lake during winter to enjoy a fresh perspective of this local treasure and so with that thought in mind, I made a winter trek to Rensselaer Lake.