Archive for August 2014


August 29, 2014

Maybe you’ve heard of a device called “Coin” or maybe not. “Coin” is a device being developed by some folks in San Francisco. The concept is the device that will save account information of up to eight credit or debit cards and can be used like a credit or debit card at any Point of Sale credit card terminal or ATM. It works in conjunction with a mobile app to load the credit card information including account number, expiration date, security code and account owner’s name and so forth. Here’s the link to the “Coin” web site. And here is a picture of the device.


Okay, so far so good. I get it. I can carry one card instead of eight. Lightens up the amount of plastic I carry in my pocket. Sounds like a laudable goal.

So when I heard about it last fall, I bit the bullet and signed up. The company is partially funded by crowd source funding. Never heard of “Crowd Source Funding”? Click here for the wikipedia entry. That is, I send them my $50, and they promise to send one of the devices some time in the future. So a lot of people signed up. The company hasn’t said how much money was raised, but I believe it was significant.

So are there any drawbacks to the design? Two big ones that I can think of. First, it has a battery inside. Batteries go dead after a while. Coin website says the battery lasts for two years. Then you have to buy a new coin. By that time there ought to be a Coin 2.0 available. Perhaps it will support loading more cards, chip and pin, longer battery life? Who knows.

Second, the credit card technology used in the US is called “Chip and Signature”. The technology rapidly being adopted is called “Chip and Pin”. This technology is considered more secure. The “Coin” does not support “Chip and Pin”. So don’t expect it to work in Europe. Maybe some day it will be supported but not now

So back in November (November 15 to be exact) I forked over $50. The company said that the device would start shipping by the summer of 2014. Every once and a while, I would get an email with current status of development. So the summer has pretty much come and gone. The IOS app appeared as scheduled on 8/28. (The Android version is scheduled for 9/25) So I downloaded the app.  Actually it took a while to find. When you do a search for “Coin” you get about a couple of thousand hits. But never no mind.

I guess I should have known, when someone is vague about delivery dates using terms like spring or summer. I of course was hoping for June. Coin was obviously thinking end of summer. 

Recent emails from coin, have been telling me that delivery will be delayed as well as a second beta for 15,000 devices, with production quality devices shipping in Spring of 2015. Perhaps their idea of Spring is next September. I am not holding my breath. 

So the 2nd beta is for 15,000 devices going to the first 15,000 folks who signed up. The IOS app was to tell you when your device would ship (ie. are you in the beta or not?) The app says my coin would ship Spring 2015. I am not happy about that. And I fear that their scheduling is overly optimistic. I would not be surprise that additional delays could happen.

I could ask for my money back. My suspicion that would take quite a while. Besides, the money is already spent. I might as well settle down and wait.

One more thing. If after reading all of the above and you are still interested in pre-ordering one, use the following link to order. I get a $5 referral bonus credit. 

This ‘n That

August 28, 2014

Here are a few random short thoughts:
 So Burger King is buying out Tim Horton’s in Canada and moving corporate to Canada. By the way, Tim Horton’s is a coffee and donut franchise that is all over Canada. Apparently to avoid taxes in the US. I’ve gotta think that taxes would be higher in Canada. I think I’ll boycott Burger King. Oh wait, I haven’t eaten at a BK in 20 years.
 For my money, the best fast food joint for burgers on the west coast is In ‘n Out. Double-double with fries please. If you don’t know what a double-double is you haven’t lived.
 Surfs up in Malibu. 15-20′ waves today. Remains of hurricane Marie off the coast of California. There never seems to be a shortage of crazy MF’s who will take a surf board out into that madness. One surfer drowned today.
 Looks like we’re getting to the end of the Demoulas grocery debacle. If you’re on the west coast, you probably haven’t been reading about this. Arthur T agrees to buyout Arthur S for $1.5B. Click here for the story.
 This is important. Here are the results for the best pizza in the USA. If we do pizza, it is usually the frozen variety. Besides, Mary doesn’t like pizza, so we have to get something else for her. Here’s the link to the report.
 One last thing. The Boston Red Sox still suck. Last I checked, they were 18 games out of first place in the AL East in last place. For now, I will start rooting for the Dodgers. They won a couple of games against Toronto, but then went back to their losing ways. Football season starts pretty soon. Go Patriots.
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The New Old Age

August 27, 2014

I found an interesting article on the New York Times blog on aging today. The title is “Her Own Kind of Absence”

It was 8:30 a.m. Only weeks earlier, she would have been in the kitchen by 8:30, asking me what was on the agenda for the day. Now, she wouldn’t move, her thin, knobby fingers resting on the coverlet.

I didn’t know if my 93-year-old mother was depressed or if her dementia had suddenly worsened. She had been living in my upstate New York home for a year and a half, ever since I had convinced her she could no longer live alone.


Whenever I see an article about either Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s it tend to click through to read it. The articles on the New York Times are always worth reading.

It is worth reading. Here is the link to the entire article.

I have also added the link to “The New Old Age” on my Blogroll list. See the lower right hand corner of the screen. The “Blog Roll” is my list of Blogs that I find interesting. I will be editing and updating over the next day or so.


Shameless Plug

August 27, 2014

I recently discovered that my good friend Bob Simington has written a book titled “My Stories: The Stories I Tell My Friends and Family”. It is available on Amazon Kindle for the outrageous price of $2.99 (or free is you have Kindle Unlimited). It’s a great read. Do not delay. Click here to get your copy from Amazon.


August 26, 2014

So I was reading an article in the New York Times this morning that hit close to home. It is an article about decluttering our lives and our homes. It reminded me of our attempt to get rid of stuff before we moved west to California.

THE amount of goods a couple can accumulate over 44 years living in the same house can be overwhelming. And that is what Wendel and Carolyn Thompson, of Columbia, Md., have been grappling with since January as they prepare to leave their split level and move to a retirement community this month.

Figuring out how to squeeze the contents of a house into a two-bedroom retirement unit nearby in Catonsville, Md., has taken most of their time in recent months. And they’ve had some help. “Declutter ladies,” or downsizing specialists, spend hours with them every week to sort through and pare down their belongings to a more manageable size.

Here’s the pointer to the complete article. We could have used the “Declutter ladies”

We had lived in our house since 1984. There was 28 years worth of stuff. The clutter was sizable. We started the project in January 2012 with the goal to have the house on the market by the beginning of April. We met with a contractor and did a walk-thru of the house as if he were a house inspector. Fix this, replace that etc. Then we got to the basement. We told him everything goes except for the stuff in the plastic bins. The stuff either goes in the 30 cu yd dumpster or the back of your pickups.  So we then had an empty basement that could be re-carpeted and painted. We asked ourselves, “Why didn’t we do this years ago?”.

So April 1 came and went. The house was on the market on time. We were shocked to have an offer by April 10. Add a couple of days to get to a signed P&S. Then the clock started ticking. We now had a move out date of June 22. Now what would we do?

We started by putting stuff on Craig’s List. Some stuff sold quickly, Some stuff we donated to our church. They have a homeless program that was in need of furniture. We gave a piano to the church. We gave some more furniture to friends. Then finally we talked with the buyers. We asked if they were interested in taking a few items.

Then three days before the closing we moved out and into a motel for the last three days. Packing completed into the POD. We probably could have filled the larger pod, but we made do. Finished loading the Jeep then off to the lawyer’s office for the closing.

We had stayed at our condo for a few weeks before our departure for LA. This allowed us to sort the stuff in the Jeep and ship it via UPS to our son Mike. Then finally we took our trip to Ireland before we left for LA. We figured that we wouldn’t be closer or have the money to do it (see earlier blog posts about Ireland),

Boston Cream Pie

August 25, 2014

In the Spring of 1978, we had bought our first house in Billerica. Paula and I were dating and we were pretty much thinking about marriage. So at that time, Paula was spending most of the time at our house in Billerica. But she still had her apartment in Brookline.

So in June or July, (I don’t quite remember which). I asked Paula if she would marry me. So she immediately said yes. Thence started the wedding plans.

So you’re thinking, what has this have to do with Boston Cream Pie? Read on. So Paula called home to Harold and Mary and broke the news. Lucky for us there was no Caller-ID at that time. If there were, the display would have displayed “Billerica, MA”.

So we set a date of October 7, 1978, the day after her birthday. That was good for me because, it would mean I could likely remember both dates.

Harold and Mary then made plans to come out to visit us in Boston. This meant that Paula decided to temporarily “move” back in to her place on Beacon St for the duration of their visit. I sort of think, that Harold knew what was going on but whatever. We allowed the charade to continue.

Paula acted as tour guide to Harold and Mary, while I went back to work at DEC.

So your saying, “What about the Boston Cream Pie?”. I’m getting to that. Well we decided to have a fancy dinner to celebrate our upcoming nuptials. We decide that the occasion called for going to a fancy-shmancy place. So we booked reservations for the Ritz Carlton dining room on Arlington St in down Boston. At the time, the Ritz required men to wear jacket and tie, women dresses. No T-shirts and jeans. Very fancy. Valet parking and all that.

My brother Rich and his wife Mary joined us for the occasion. So we had a total of six for the dinner. At this point it is important to understand the seating arrangement. Paula was NOT sitting next to Harold. Harold was on his own.

So the time came for us to order dessert. So Harold orders Boston Cream Pie. Harold loved pie. He didn’t care so much for cake. If Paula were to have sat next to Harold, she would not have let him order Boston Cream Pie. But order it he did. So then and there Harold discovered to his dismay that Boston Cream Pie was a cake, not a pie in the common understanding.

I wish I had a picture of Harold’s face when he saw the plate arrive. What’s this he says?

If you are not from around the Boston area, you might not know what “Boston Cream Pie” is. Here is the pointer to the article on Wilipedia. Next time you are in Boston, by all means try the Boston Cream Pie.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Good Gravy

August 23, 2014

Okay, this is part story about cooking for our family here in San Pedro and part how to make gravy.

Long ago before I met Paula, I learned how to cook a turkey. In 1973, I was working for Raytheon in Houston Texas as a sort of high-tech gypsy installing systems for the FAA. I was away from home for the first time and my room-mate and I thought we ought to have a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. So I called home and asked Mom how it was done. So from that day forward, I made the Turkey.

So many years later, our family had flown out to San Pedro for Thanksgiving one year. We were there a few days before Turkey day, and we were discussing what to do for Thanksgiving. Mary was all for making reservations. Paula and I told her that wasn’t going to happen. We said we don’t do Thanksgiving in a restaurant. We offered to do the cooking. And so it began.

Our first challenge was to find a liquor store that sold Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau hits the market every year in November. But most of the grocery store hadn’t a clue what we were talking about. Eventually we found a few bottles. Now we were ready to get properly medicated for the event.

The next challenge was to clear off the dining room table. Over the previous few months, mail had accumulated to the point of becoming a huge pile. Harold and Mary weren’t accustomed to having a large group for dinner. So we started on the table.

I don’t think that Mary had been doing much cooking in that kitchen. We discovered on Thursday morning that the kitchen sink was clogged. Just imagine for a minute how hard it might be to find a plumber on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Can’t be done. We eventually got the sink unclogged with a plunger and the meal went off without any further hitches.

Paula and I tend to cook together often. Sometimes, I do all the cooking. Usually she has me do the oven roasts (beef, turkey, lamb, etc.) One time, just after we had arrived here two years ago, Mary complemented Paula on a fine meal. Paula says, ahem, Joe cooked that. Oops. She now pays more attention to who is doing the cooking. So last night, she complemented me on the Shepherd’s Pie. She cleaned her plate and had more today reheated for lunch. There is no better complement than to see someone licking the plate after the meal.

Now on to the gravy. Last night I was working on my version of Shepherd’s Pie. I started with three different recipes and kept the parts of each recipe that I liked. One recipe called for brown gravy. Browned the ground beef and time to make gravy.

For Shepherd’s Pie you need about a cup of gravy. Start with two Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Not margarine, BUTTER. The real thing. Never mind the cardiologist who going into fits.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. When the butter is completely melted, slowly stir in 2 tablespoons of flour with a whisk, stirring constantly. At this point you should have a nice smooth concoction. Measure out about 1 cup of beef broth. (If you are making chicken gravy, use chicken broth). Add about 2/3 cup into the mixture, continue stirring. As it thickens you will likely need to add more liquid to get the right consistency thickness. One can always make thick gravy thinner. Making thin gravy thicker is a bit of a problem.

Need more gravy? Just start with proportionally more butter, flour, and liquid. Process is the same. Add whatever flavoring suits you. For the Shepherd’s pie, I added a couple of tbsp’s worcestershire sauce, and a couple of tbsp’s of ketchup. Sometimes, I use gravy master. Adds flavor and makes the gravy a bit browner.

Kindle Unlimited Isn’t

August 23, 2014

I wrote a few weeks ago about Amazon’s “Kindle Unlimited” subscription service for books. Well, yesterday I discovered a limitation of the service. It seems that you can only download 10 books at a time. When you try to download book number 11, Amazon tells you to delete one of the previous ten books.
 Now this limit is probably buried in the fine print of the terms and conditions document that you accepted and if you are anything like me didn’t bother to read.
 Also, my guess is that when you cancel, Amazon will reach into your Kindle or Kindle App on your iPad and delete all of the free books. I’ll find out when I cancel later after I finish the book about Ernest Shackleton’s adventure at the South Pole.
 The service is just not worth it. The book selection just sucks. in the two or three weeks I have had the service, I haven’t seen any improvement. Most of the books would normally be selling for under $5, some under $3. Just not worth it.
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Two Years in California

August 22, 2014

Today is our two year anniversary of our arrival in the great state of California. On Aug 22, 2012 we arrived after our trip across the country. We had stopped in Delaware, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

Our trip across the country took about 21 days. We had initially planned to take a little longer with a stop in Chicago, but decided to skip Chicago because we felt Paula’s mother needed us to be there,

We had visited friends in North Carolina. We visited Paula’s family in Houma, LA. We stopped for a couple of days to visit Graceland and Memphis.

We visited our son Neil in Salt Lake City. Neil had requested that we buy a case of Sam Adams Beer in Evanston, WY, before we crossed over the Zion curtain. (Utah doesn’t sell full strength beer in either grocery stores or state liquor stores.)

Here are some pictures:

This was our POD. It contained all of the stuff we were bringing to LA plus a few odds and ends in the back of the Jeep. It was pretty full.



Mississippi rest stop had WiFi. There was a young man there keeping track of where people were from. He was amazed to hear that we were from Mass. It made his day.



Graceland on the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death.



This is the Olympic Nordic training center in Park City, UT.




This was the hotel/casino we stayed on our last day on the road. What a dump. We’ve since learned of better places to stay on our way to visit Neil in UT.



Mojave desert. This was at a rest stop just after the NV-CA state line.



California Dreamin’

August 21, 2014

Okay, so everyone knows that I have been in California now for two years. So, what’s it like? What do you like about it? What do you not like?

So in no particular order, here’s my list:

Things I like about California:

  1. The weather. These days, I wear shorts most all of the time except for lodge and church. Same thing for socks. Come winter, I might have to go back to wearing long pants and socks. I still have an ice tool in the back of the Jeep that I haven’t used since we left MA. There are some winter gloves back there too. Ditto.
  2. I can buy beer, wine and liquor at the grocery store. None of the state run liquor stores here.
  3. I belong to the Masons and Eastern Star. Lodges and Chapters here are much more casual than the east coast variety. I seldom have to wear a tux. See number 1. I am truly thankful for our Masonic brothers and OES Sisters and brothers. We walked in the door two years ago and were welcomed as new found friends. It made the transition a lot easier.
  4. No Stairs – This is not so much do to California, but related to our living quarters. We live in a condo with no stairs. After knee replacement surgery and hip surgery it is nice to not have to deal with stairs.

Things that I don’t like about California:

  1. Speed Bumps. Every darn parking lot has speed bumps. Pain in the shocks.
  2. Traffic. You haven’t seen traffic until you’ve seen six lanes of bumper to bumper on the 405. Luckily for me, I don’t have to commute or deal with it very often.
  3. Price of Gas in LA. As of today, price of regular unleaded runs from $3.59 at Costco to $4.00 at local Shell station. Peak over the summer hit has high as $4.40.
  4. LAX. What a madhouse. Doesn’t matter what air line you pick, it’s a zoo. Worse around rush hour. Luckily I don’t need to fly very often. “The white zone is for loading and unloading passengers only”,  just spend and extra 30 second there and CHP will be on your ass to move.
  5. No Dunkin Donuts. (except for Barstow and San Diego). I’ve actually gotten used to Starbucks. Actually, the Starbuck’s at our local grocery store is pretty good. They know our names and know what I usually order. But alas, no chocolate glazed donuts. Bummer. (Like I need chocolate glazed donuts.) Starbuck’s is the only coffee place around here that knows how to make iced coffee properly. I hear that Dunkies is moving out west. Neil says they’re in SLC, but not yet in LA.
  6. No home made ice cream joints. Do a search for “home made ice cream” on YELP in Eastern MA and you get about 25 hits. Do the search in Los Angeles and you get hits but most are franchise joints. Not the same.
  7. Local News – One of the local news station (KNBC) spent 10-12 minutes of a 30 minute broadcast talking about a dog who was loose running along the 710 freeway. The KNBC news chopper was following the pooch running along the freeway along with the people stopping their cars in attempt to capture the pooch before it came to serious harm. This seems to be normal. They will follow a police chase when appropriate. Eventually someone caught the dog. Back to the usual stuff. Weather, sports, etc. This seems to be the normal way of doing local news. Blah blah blah.

Things that I neither like nor dislike. (ie. just different)

  1. Some grocery brands that you buy in New England, can’t be found here. eg. Pepperidge Farm Breads. I have yet to find an equivalent marble rye bread.
  2. Some brands have made it out here, like Cape Cod Potato Chips and Sam Adams Beer. For that we can be truly thankful.
  3. DMV – Dept of Motor Vehicles is pretty much the same everywhere. Try to do anything online. I loathe to actually go into the DMV. Same as in MA. Vehicle inspection is different. One has to do a “Smog Check” every two years. The smog check garages are hooked into the DMV computers. So if it passes, no problem. I still have the MA inspection sticker from 2011. The first time we had to register the Jeep and CA driver’s licenses it took all afternoon. Major PITA. No different than MA.