Quitting Facebook the Right Way

Are you thinking about quitting Facebook? Of course, it’s very easy: just don’t ever look at it again. I’ll get back to that later. The very first thing to do is make sure that quitting Facebook is what you want to do. Facebook is a bad thing; how much convincing do you need of that?

Why Quit Facebook?

First, it is a major distraction and a time suck. A half hour a day on FB is nearly half of a working day per week, every week. If you are watching your child play, are you really engaged if you are trying to take pictures and write a FB post? Real life is best experienced without being concerned about how it will look on your FB wall.

Quitting Facebook

Second, social comparison is bad for the spirit. I have a few friends (and they truly are my friends) whose relentless humblebragging has just gotten old. It’s human nature to wonder why YOU are not always standing at a podium receiving awards or watching your child hit grand slam home runs or seeing sunsets in tropical paradises. Finally, FB is a risk to your privacy – you are giving a lot of your personal information out for free.

Quitting Facebook, the Wrong Way

Actually, you can do whatever works for you. The advice you’ll get will range from cutting down the time you spend, either on your own or with software like FB Limiter, to deleting your Facebook account entirely. They have the drawbacks of being either not enough or too much. If you limit your time on Facebook, you will still waste time and continue to have FB’s other drawbacks. If your goal is to leave FB forever, it may seem like too drastic a step to actually take.

Quitting Facebook, the Right Way

Just stop going there. That’s it, that’s all you have to do and you won’t miss it. A few important suggestions, however:

  1. Download and save your Facebook data. That way, you won’t worry about losing anything. Here’s how.
  2. Start using email to keep in touch with your real friends.
  3. Use Instagram or Twitter to have an idea what’s going on in the world.
  4. Rely on other sites for news – your hometown newspaper page, the New York Times and the Huffington Post are all good places to stay current.
  5. Keep your pictures and video somewhere else in the cloud. Gmail and DropBox are good places with a lot of storage.
  6. Pick a date – a Monday or the first day of the month are good times to remember as the beginning of your new Facebook-free life. Or binge on Facebook in advance of your New Year’s resolution.

That’s it. How to quit Facebook. Try it out, see if you miss it and enjoy the hours you get back!

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The Steampunk Rain Barrel

Not so much the steampunk rain barrel, it’s the rain barrel itself that is the affordable luxury. Free water for your yard, your houseplants, cleaning and/or your iron with no chlorine. In fact, in some places, like the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you can get the rain barrel itself installed free of charge. They’ll come by your house, bring the rain barrel, drill into your downspout and hook everything up. Takes about fifteen minutes, but the only problem is the rain barrel is blue plastic and it doesn’t quite blend into the green, brown and gray garden setting.

Of course, you can paint them – faux wood barrels and flower scenes are especially popular. They look much better, but still look like painted plastic barrels. For our century old, Edwardian house, I imagined a top of the line rain barrel back in 1915 would be made of brass, to match the copper gutters and downspouts. The upside-down, sawed in half oak barrel makes a good stand to add a little water pressure.

Steampunk Rain BarrelOnce I got out the Rustoleum Antique Brass spray can, though, I got a little carried away. Some PVC pipe and fittings from Home Depot, real brass spigots to replace the plastic ones, bike gears and some random decorative objects and I was done – for now. Every old copper tank needs a gauge, so the barrel made a good place to mount the outdoor thermometer and humidity gauge. Here’s the general idea of what it’s supposed to look like:

Meccano Steam Engine

It’s still a work in progress (for example, might need some stronger glue for some of the pieces), and if you get tired of the old timey brass look, you can always paint over it. The only problem has been the lack of rain here over the last couple of months. I’m looking forward to catching some actual rain soon.

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Hose Quick Connectors Are So Much Easier (and More Fun)

Hose quick connectors just might be something you’ve never seen. I did not know about them, and when I found out about them, got some, and tried them out, it was almost life-changing …

It’s finally summer, and we’ve gone from chopping ice and shoveling snow to watering the lawn and washing the car. We unroll the hoses and attach them to the outside faucets. Attaching them means screwing the hose on to the faucet and then screwing the sprinkler or nozzle of your choice to the other end. It’s great that water is not ice outside anymore, but hoses can be a pain. The hose is invariably at an awkward angle to the tap, so it’s hard to screw it on without skinning your knuckles. You have to get them tight enough not to leak, but not too tight to unscrew the next time. Once the hose is on, you’re tempted to leave it there instead of unscrewing it and putting it away.

Hose Quick Connect

Hose quick connectors turn your hoses and fittings into the grown-up’s version of a child’s construction set – like Tinker Toy or LEGO. You break out the channel lock pliers to get them seriously tight and leakproof, then after that it’s suddenly fun to put the hose on, add fittings to the end, add another hose for more distance – you get the idea. With the water shut off, there is not a drop of water wasted when connecting or disconnecting.

You can get green plastic ones for cheap at your local hardware or big box home store, but I really like the look and feel of the brass ones. They have a ten year warranty, but that doesn’t matter much – they will last forever. The ones I got have a special gasket that might need to replace every other year or so, but your garden hose tasks will be so much easier and more enjoyable, you won’t mind.

Available from Amazon.

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A D-Core Pillow Can Save Your Neck

I’d never heard of a D-Core pillow until several years ago I visited the emergency room with an intolerable headache. I had never before suffered anything like this pain, which was so severe it nearly made me nauseous. After lots of tests, the ER doctor suggested that I visit — GASP! — a chiropractor, because the tests showed no organic dysfunction, and, to make a long story short, one of the remedies the chiropractor recommended was something called a D-Core Pillow that (surprise!) her office happened to sell. The headaches, she explained, were caused by neck strain, and the pillow (along with some chiropractic adjustment) would relieve that strain.
Needless to say, I was skeptical that a mere pillow could be part of the solution, and that THIS particular pillow (that the doctor herself was selling) could help, but after a single night’s sleep — no kidding, it took ONE night — my headache was barely noticeable. After several days, I was no longer experiencing headaches at all. They were caused, it seemed, by poor cervical alignment, which the shape of the pillow helped to correct as I slept.
How does it work? The pillow is shaped like this:
Shape of D Core Pillow
The core in the center of the pillow, which is shaped (obviously) like a “D,” cradles the back of your head, while the surrounding cushion support the natural curvature of your cervical spine. As I’ve learned the hard way, this curve can be disturbed, or your neck otherwise severely strained, if you sleep on your stomach (my favorite position) or on your side without adequate support for your neck, or if you spend too much time hunched and leaning over a computer keyboard, tablet, or mobile device (have you noticed that Bill Gates’ head leans precipitously forward even when he’s simply seated upright in an interview chair?). I have tried many (many!) other “cervical support” pillows over the years — memory foam, buckwheat hulls, side-sleeper shoulder-supporting — and each one of them has caused me to awaken with stiffness in my neck and shoulders. The D-Core is the only pillow that not only prevents that morning strain but relieves any strain I’ve accumulated in my neck or shoulders during the day.
The only bad news about the D-Core pillow is that it’s not really packable for travel. You can — as I do — stuff it into a suitcase and compress it to allow room for the rest of your belongings, or you could get the “mini” version that’s about half the size.
I’d be thrilled, though, if someone designed an inflatable version so I could more easily take my very necessary neck support on trips, and I’d be interested to know via comment whether anyone has found a comparable inflatable solution. In the meantime, you can get the D-Core Pillow or its smaller sibling fairly easily from Amazon.
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Spray Detailer – Have Your Car Look Just Washed Every Day

You get your car washed and waxed, or you spend time doing it yourself. It looks shiny and like new – until it starts to get smudged, or the worst thing: ugly, caustic bird droppings. Could be that an otherwise clean, detailed car with an unsightly dirty spot looks worse than a uniformly dingy car. In any event, you don’t want to have to wash 100% of the car when 99% still looks perfect. That’s why they invented spray detailer – a “secret” well known to celebrity chauffeurs and car show concours winners. Keep some in the trunk of your car, along with a fairly clean microfiber and you will be ready anytime for the 30 second touch-up.

Spray Detailer
Every company that makes car care products makes spray detailer: Turtle Wax, Mothers, Meguiars, etc., and they all do the same job. Personally, I prefer Armor All or other products made with carnauba wax. My attitude is the more carnauba wax on my car, the better (and maybe I can get away with going that much longer before I have to wax it again).

Even without some cosmetic catastrophe like a bird bombing attack, you can easily improve the overall look of the car by turning the dustiest part into the shiniest. I find that the little triangular space behind the wheels tends to get dusty and dirty much faster than the rest of the car, so treat those spots and the car looks freshly washed again. Do as little or as much as you feel like doing.

Spray detailer is the perfect product for when you need a little moisture for touch-up to avoid scratching and to add back some shine. Combine it with a California Duster and you just might find out your car looks cleaner than ever with hardly any actual water. What could be easier?

Posted in Gifts for Men, Transportation | Leave a comment

WAZE Is the Best GPS App (and It’s Free)

Full disclosure – I want you to start using the Waze app on your phone while you’re driving to get directions, because maybe someday I’ll be on the highway a little distance behind you and you’ll be adding to the crowd-sourced speed and traffic information provided to everyone.

WAZE GPS App screenshot

Waze harnesses the real-time location information from all its users and distributes it to everyone, so as soon as traffic begins to build up, the word gets out. It will start to route drivers around the jam, so the jam starts to shrink. Or you can be a little more hands-on – when you start to see the brake lights go on ahead, Waze will tell you whether you’ll be past it all soon or whether the road is blocked all the way to your destination. Get off the highway and Waze will direct you to the quickest new route.

To get the maximum benefit, it’s best to have a copilot/navigator handle the Wazing. There is too much information on the screen to digest while driving, and posting information is a little too distracting (although you can do it with voice commands). To just use navigation, the information is spoken through the Bluetooth connection, politely interrupting the music. The speech can be set on one of the voices that tells you everything: right, left and the full name of the exit or street. Or have the voice of Elvis tell you when to go left or right.

Waze also warns you of objects in the road, vehicles parked on the shoulder, red light cameras and police cars. Its maps are constantly being updated by the Waze user community.

We just priced a new car – the absolute top of the line loaded model differed from the next one down mostly because of the navigation system. That’s $3,500 worth of vehicle navigation that will ultimately be obsolete. We decided to go with Waze instead – it’s free.

Learn more and get it here.

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A Mallory Snow Brush, and You’ll Be Ready

If you don’t have a Mallory snow brush (or any snow brush) after it snows, that’s just too bad. You can’t drive to the local auto parts store right then and pick one up without brushing the snow off your windshield, and after that’s done, you don’t need the brush anymore. Until it snows again.

Mallory 532 Brush

A snow brush is a simple tool, but so much better than using just your (hopefully gloved ) hands. So get one now, before the next snow. They are cheap and light, and you can put one in your trunk or just on the floor in the back seat. There’s no predicting when it’s going to snow again – even the weather forecasters seem to get it wrong about half the time. All we know for sure is that it WILL snow again. Especially in Canada, where the Mallory snow brush company is located. A Canadian snow brush just makes sense, and things made in North America are usually better quality than things made in factories in the Far East. They don’t have to be shipped as far, either, so less fossil fuel is used. If you want something even more environmentally friendly, check out the Mallory 203, a sturdy wooden model that has probably looked the same since Eisenhower was President.

If you want something a little more modern, and/or one that will easily reach all the windows on your monster truck or Chevy Suburban, Mallory makes many different models of brushes with plastic handles, plus they have scrapers and shovels. There’s one only 16″ long to please the owners of Smart cars, and there’s one that extends to 53″, which seems like it would be long enough to reach just about anywhere.

They have the integrated ice scraper and the handle is padded and notched for that all-important hand comfort. The next time it snows on your car, you’ll be totally ready.

Available from Amazon.

Posted in Gifts for Anyone, Outdoors, Tools, Transportation | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Luxury

Here’s a repost from two years ago:

Ten Best Examples of Thanksgiving Luxury

I live in the Northeastern United States for a reason:  I love the seasons (and I’m holding onto them as long as climate change will let me).  I especially love autumn, though — the colorful leaves, the comfort food, the football, the holidays.  All the best holidays occur in the fall; the winter Monday holidays are mostly for quick getaways or shopping bargains, and Memorial Day is a great excuse for a cookout . . . as is July 4th . . . and Labor Day . . . so you see my point?  Easter and Passover have their solemn traditions, but for three quarters of the year, nearly all of the holidays we celebrate are both redundant and fairly insignificant.  But Thanksgiving . . . Thanksgiving is the middle and best of three holidays that celebrate this part of the year:

Disney Scrooge Thanksgiving

1. You’ll Never See So Much Food (until next year) – Of course I started with the food!  What greater luxury could exist than a holiday dedicated to EATING?  Whether you roast your turkey or smoke it, serve mac-and-cheese or mashed potatoes, garnish with cranberry sauce or gravy, prefer Russets or yams, cornbread or Parker House rolls . . . see?  That’s eight options and I haven’t even reached actual vegetables, salad, soup or dessert.  The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it’s all about the meal.  You don’t even have to make these choices.  You can eat some of everything on the table, make Aunt Edythe happy that you like her cooking, and still have the weekend to work it all off, because Thanksgiving also offers . . .

2. You Have An Extra-Long Weekend – Stay up late watching holiday movies.  Go to Best Buy at 4 a.m. (why?  I don’t know . . .).  Spend your days and nights doing whatever you want.  You have three full days — literally 72 hours — to catch up on your sleep, make lots of cookies, overdose on college football, find endless ways to serve turkey and stuffing.  And that’s not including the actual holiday, which is, as I said, all about those things anyway.

3. No Presents – Can’t figure out what to get Cousin Martha to match her gingham wardrobe?  Don’t know Grandpa’s shirt size?  Save all that worry for . . . well, Friday, maybe, but you can put it off for the weekend if you want.  Thanksgiving requires no gifts.  Just show up with your appetite, good manners (please), and maybe a pie as a contribution to the National Day of Pot Luck.  No trees, no ribbons, no packages required.

4. There’s Football – If you’re a football fan, Thanksgiving is your weekend.  With two pro games on Thursday (and this year the Detroit Lions are actually winning), at least two college games on Friday, and the usual line-up of both on Saturday and Sunday, you’ll barely need to leave the couch except to refresh the snack bowl.  Even a sad Penn State fan might find something to cheer about.

5. It’s the Beginning of Extended Holiday Shopping Hours – I have never figured out why, but some people — including some I love dearly — like to line up at midnight to catch super-early holiday sales. Really, I don’t understand this desire on a weekend that is built around so much lazy luxuriating, but if dawn at Target is your thing, start napping to prepare.  The stores try to make this activity even more appealing by offering deals like plasma TVs for $1; if you go, try not to mow anyone down with your shopping cart. People have been trampled at these sales.  Be careful, and enjoy!

6. Black Friday – The original post-Thanksgiving shopping tradition, Black Friday is the shopping day on which retailers plan to return their ledgers to the black, hence the name, “Black Friday.”  In this endless recession (that allegedly ended in February of 2010), the stores need us more than ever, and who are we not to help them out?  After all, consumer confidence is a leading indicator of economic recovery.  So come on; it’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus!  Go out and get more stuff for those nice friends of yours who already have too much stuff.  They’ll thank you for it with some new stuff for you!

7. Santa is at the Mall – Okay, okay, he’s already been at some malls for two weeks.  But respect Thanksgiving, and treat the day AFTER as the start of the Christmas season.  Use the weekend to get those holiday photos of the kids — or you and your best friends — on Santa’s lap.

8. Holiday Movies and Animated Specials – As I said above, you can spend all weekend watching them, because they start now.  Cable television has an endless supply of channels with nothing to broadcast, and many of them start their holiday programming on Thanksgiving Day.  Check your local listings, and I bet you’ll find at least one showing of “The Christmas Story,” with Peter Billingsley.  I don’t know how or when it became a classic, but it did, and it really is funny.  There’ll be more.  Take a look.

9. It Has Parades – Macy’s is, of course, the Thanksgiving Day Parade to end all Thanksgiving Day Parades, but if you live in a major city, chances are yours has its own turkey trotting down the center of town, with bands, dancers and floats leading and trailing behind.  Your local high school glee club, cheerleading squad or marching band may even be participating.

10. It’s Ecumenical – Thanksgiving — thank goodness! — is the one holiday celebrated by all of us.  Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist; any racial or ethnic group; in America we all have something for which to be grateful to a higher power than our own. You can wish everyone “Happy Thanksgiving” with no fear of the PC police. Whether it’s for the opportunity to gather, the people with whom to gather, the food we’re overeating, or just the day off, Thanksgiving is the day when all of us, whoever we are, can take a breath and acknowledge that whatever else may be wrong, we at least have THIS.  And that’s enough.

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Joseph Joseph Index Advance Cutting Boards (MOMA Approved)

I love to cook.  I love to cook almost anything, in fact, so much so that we can’t eat the leftovers fast enough.  As a practical matter, what that means is that I spend a lot of time chopping things — garlic, onions, dried fruit, nuts, ginger, potatoes, bite-size pieces of chicken or beef . . . and that’s where the problem arises.  For years I have used the same wooden cutting board for everything, which means that after I chop, say, onions and garlic I have to wash it off and try to deodorize it (good luck with that) before cutting fruit for the same recipe, or scour and sanitize it after chopping chicken before chopping other ingredients to add to that.  All of this interim cleaning makes for very inefficient cooking, I’ve found, but recently I discovered a streamlined and organized solution: the Joseph Joseph Index Advance cutting boards.
MOMA Cutting Board Set
They’re both tabbed and color-coded, so there’s no confusion about which cutting board you’ll use for which task.  The boards are store in a stainless steel file bin, and the boards are tabbed — one each for vegetables, fish, meat, and hot foods — so you know at a glance which one to grab and can reach for a new one after you’ve chopped the smelly garlic, before you start slicing something sweet for dessert.  The non-slip feet at the corners on both sides keep the boards in place while you’re slicing and chopping. More importantly, you won’t have to worry that you’ve not sufficiently removed the potentially-germy chicken residue from a board you’ll need for other items.  The boards’ compact storage file is another advantage; they occupy no more than a couple inches of depth on your counter, so they minimize clutter and needn’t hog precious drawer capacity.
They are one of the products so stylish that they are offered in the New York Museum of Modern Art catalog, but they are also available from Amazon.
Posted in Gifts for Women, Kitchen | Leave a comment

Anco Winter Wiper Blades Will Help You Through Winter Storms

One thing I knew my winter beater needed was the best winter wiper blades – Anco winter wiper blades. I love to drive my vintage Mercedes convertible in warm weather, but in the winter, it’s a bad idea. Snow, salt on the roads, bad visibility, other cars skidding – it’s time to park it.

The winter beater (love that phrase – a “beater” for the winter, or a machine that beats the winter?) turned out to be a battered 1994 Honda Accord EX on Craigslist with very few miles and a remarkably clean interior. Four pretty new M+S tires, rubber floor mats and a newly repaired ABS braking system were a good start. Plus the heat and defrost were toasty. A few dents were already there, so any new dents would fit right in and not be lonely.

Anco 30 Winter Blade
Visibility was a prime consideration. There are few things more stressful than trying to drive on slick snowy or icy roads while more of the same stuff is falling down and accumulating on your windshield. Turn the defroster blower on high and have the washer fluid tank topped off with Rain-X, then you only need one more thing – wiper blades on the outside that won’t streak and don’t clog.

Anco winter wiper blades are formulated with rubber that will stay flexible at low temperatures. The most distinctive feature, though, is the rubber boot that covers up all the openings and moving parts that can get jammed up with ice too far from the windshield for the fluid or the defroster inside to do much. If the wiper is freezing up or just flopping an icy arm from side to side, your windshield will not stay clear.

Anco wiper blades have been around for nearly a hundred years, produced by the Michigan, USA -based Federal-Mogul Corporation. They cost less than twenty bucks a pair and right now there’s a mail-in rebate.

Available from Amazon.

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