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Monday, October 23, 2017

ICELAND: Private Super Jeep Tour of Northern Lights

We did the northern lights tour, on the Saturday we arrived in Iceland, with a company called Mountain Taxi. They picked us up in a modified Mercedes Sprinter. They take a standard Sprinter van and replace the standard suspension and tires.


Image: Courtesy Mountain Taxi

For northern lights, our Icelandic travel agent Auður Ösp of I Heart Reykjavik told us that it's always better to go with a smaller group and vehicle. The bus tours are the cheapest but you might end up with 400 people and it's just not as nice. She also likes the super jeep tours since they can take you to areas the buses can't (and therefore you won't be surrounded with the aforementioned 400 of your fellow travelers).

Auður was right, we had a private tour for eight, and that made it really special.



We drove outside the city and made a few stops, looking for the northern lights.



We caught a glimpse a few times, then stopped at a secluded lake, and started to see bands of green coming us from the horizon. We sampled some local schnapps called Brennevin, and they was a treat.



After the stop at the lake, as we were driving through the darkness, our driver, Gisli Pall, thought he saw something in the sky, safely pulled off the road, and told us to all get out quickly!

We did, and then the real show started.

The Northern Lights in all their glory. Dancing green and purple lights, going in and out, moving across the sky, and painting a ribbon above us.

Our group was exclaiming with joy about what we were seeing. It was a once in a lifetime experience.


Image: iPhone attempt at capturing a bit of the northern lights.


Image: Our driver, Gisli Pall

This video shows what it looked like:


ICELAND: Blue Lagoon



We visited the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. The transfer from Reykjavik was provided by Icelandic Taxi Tours.

The taxi was a nice big Mercedes van, and easily fit our party of eight, and all of our luggage. It was not a problem.

Taxis are able to pick up at hotels. We were picked up at 11:00 AM and arrived at Blue Lagoon at 11:45. Our reserved time was for 12:00 to 2:00 PM. The standard time for Blue Lagoon stops is 90 minutes but you can add extra time in the lagoon if you feel that’s not enough. The price for extra time in the lagoon is 5400 ISK for 30 minutes (2 hours total). That turned out to be a perfect amount of time.

On arrival at the Blue Lagoon, the driver parks in a waiting area and stays with your luggage for the duration of your visit.

The walk to the Blue Lagoon from the parking lot was windy on the day we arrived because of the remnants of a recent hurricane.







We sprung for Premium admission which included:
Entrance to Blue Lagoon
Silica Mud Mask
Use of Towel
1st Drink of your choice
Algae Mask
Use of Bathrobe
Slippers
Reservation at LAVA (optional)
Sparkling wine if dining at LAVA
Pre-booking is required and you can't just show up there an buy tickets. When we arrived, we heard that they were sold out. Make sure you book this in advance.

Here is some background on the Blue Lagoon:
Situated in a vast lava plain on the south coast of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, the Blue Lagoon holds nine million liters of geothermal seawater, covers an area of 8700 square meters, and has an average depth of 1.2 meters and a maximum depth of 1.6 meters. The lagoon’s water is sourced directly from the Svartsengí geothermal field and its recirculation interval is 40 hours.

The wellspring of the Blue Lagoon’s beneficial powers lies 2000 meters within the earth, at the boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. In this subterranean frontier of porous lava and searing heat, seawater and groundwater converge, giving rise to a hybrid fluid known as g eothermal seawater. Under immense pressure, this fluid surges to the earth’s surface, integrating the elements through which it passes and emerging enriched with unique concentrations of silica, algae, and minerals – the primary, rejuvenating components of geothermal seawater.


Image courtesy of Blue Lagoon

I wasn't able to take a photo like this because I don't own a drone.

Here are some details on what it's like when you arrive and the showering situation.
WRISTBANDS & LOCKERS

When you arrive you will be given a wristband, which acts as a key for your electronic changing room locker. You can also use your wristband to buy drinks and refreshments while you are in the spa. It works like an in-water credit card – you just pay for anything you charge to the wristband when you leave.

We recommend that you store all your valuables inside your locker, including jewellery, shoes, cameras, etc. Be sure to check that your locker is properly locked before you walk away. Blue Lagoon is not responsible for any lost valuables.

SHOWER WITHOUT BATHING SUITS
Cleanliness is a fundamental aspect of a geothermal spa experience. Prior to entering Blue Lagoon, a full body shower - without a bathing suit - is absolutely essential. Everyone benefits when everyone is clean. This same aspect of spa culture is found at every pool in Iceland. Private shower cubicles are available in both man and women changing rooms.



We had a fun experience. Floating around the lagoon, putting on silica mud and algae masks, showering in the amazing Icelandic water, and stopping for a nice cold beer before going back to our taxi for the short ride to the airport.



This is the way to end your Icelandic vacation.

Everything was booked through Auður Ösp, owner, blogger, and photographer at iheartreykjavik.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Buying Decision Process for an Inkjet vs. a Laser Printer

My existing EPSON WF-3520 stopped working when I installed 3rd party EZ Ink. It was a lot less expensive than the ESPSON ink, but I should have believed one of the commenters who said that it made his printer useless.

Next up was the decision on what to get. This lead me on a journey from COLOR INKJET to a Black and White Laser Printer.

I asked my friends on Facebook what they liked, and they were helpful in guiding me to my final decision.

I kept notes!



I ruled out HP based on a poor experience with the life of a previous printer. I also ruled out Canon after deciding that I wanted to go with a FASTER BLACK AND WHITE LASER PRINTER.

I decided to get my photos printed out at CVS for now.

My neighbor has the Brother HL 2280 DW and likes it, so I narrowed in on that, and then saw the Brother HL-L2340DW reviewed on The Wirecutter.

My neighbor's HL 2280 DW supports a hard wired Ethernet connection and the new above model is wireless only. I don't think that it will be a problem.





I bought this one, Brother HLL2380DW Wireless Laser Printer (affiliate link) and Brother TN660 High Yield Toner. I liked the upgraded LCD display on it. The High Yield Toner is rated for 2,600 pages, so that should last a while.

I also noted thatt there is a way to allow the printer to continue past the page counter life of the ink cartridge, until it is actually empty by setting this up.

"For the HLL2380DW there is a continue mode in settings. Press X then Settings then All Settings then General Setup. Then scroll down to Replace Toner and change it to Continue."

Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SD card reader for iPhone

Just imported a photo from an SD card, into my iPhone, via an SD card reader for iPhone. Sweet!



GoldFox SD Card Camera Reader for iPhone iPad [Upgraded] Trail Game Camera Card Viewer Reader for iPhone 6/6s/6s Plus/5/5s/7/7 Plus/iPad Mini/Air, No App Needed

(affiliate link)


Image: Import screen

This is the screen you see on your iPhone when you insert the SD card into the reader.

Select the phones that you want to import, keep them on the card or delete them.

Then they are copied into your iPhone Camera Roll.


Image: Imported Photo

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The original Toll House cookie recipe

The original Toll House cookie recipe
via Maria Stephanos



3 1/8 cups of King Arthur all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of hot water to dissolve baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of Crisco shortening
1 1/8 cups of sugar
1 1/8 cups of brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

3 eggs

Chocolate chips
Walnuts optional

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-13 minutes

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat Crisco shortening, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Extending Xfinity Gigabit Internet Wi-Fi with Netgear Orbi

I just installed Xfinity Gigabit Internet at home. Disclosure: Upgrade cost for me is $17/month, difference between Blast! and Gigabit Internet today, covered by Xfinity for one year trial.



Initial wired speed tests show a big difference. 700 Mbps DOWN, 41 Mbps Up.


Image: Speed Test Results

Results vary depending on your hardware configuration. I have a MacBook Air circa 2011, which I am told cannot support 1 Gig speeds, with a Thunderbolt monitor that has a gigabit ethernet port.

The new modem comes with WiFi built in. I compared it's 5G network to extending the Wi-Fi with the Netgear Orbi System. (Orbi - Two free review units, one purchased)

Here's my earlier review of the Orbi system, Review: Installing Orbi Home WiFi System by NETGEAR, and one of it's competitors eero, eero 2nd Generation installation at Loring Greenough House.

Wi-Fi SPEED TESTS:

OFFICE - 3rd Floor
ORBI (Wired Base orbi) 420 Mbps
Xfinity 5G (Modem sits here) 420 Mbps

LIVING ROOM - 2nd Floor
ORBI 210 Mbps
Xfinity 5G 170 Mbps

KITCHEN - 2nd Floor
ORBI (Wi-Fi Satellite Orbi) 310 Mbps
Xfinity 5G 86 Mbps

DEN - 2nd Floor
ORBI (WiFi Satellite Orbi) 330 Mbps
Xfinity 5G 120 Mbps

FRONT DOOR - 1st Floor
ORBI 250 Mbps
Xfinity 5G 26 Mbps

The new Xfinity Gigabit Internet modem/router coverage is impressive.

In Boston, a current 3 or 2 product customer could get it added to their current suite of services for an additional $15-30/month depending on their package or if they were Internet only it’s $79.99/month for 24 months.

Read more here: Comcast Introduces Gigabit Internet Service in Boston.

New and current customers can visit Xfinity.com/gig to learn about the new service and request additional information.

Later this year Xfinity will be coming out with their own mesh network, Comcast is trying to get in on the mesh router hype
Later this year, Comcast will put out mesh-creating “Wi-Fi pods” that were designed in collaboration with Plume. These pods will plug into customers’ home power sockets and auto-configure to the network, similar to how Plume’s own product works.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Use this trick to watch Google Play movies on your Amazon Fire TV Stick

Google Play just gave me a 99 cent promo to buy a movie. I clicked through and bought Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and then went to watch it on my Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Oops.

There's no Google Play app on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

I found this post explaining, Use this trick to watch Google Play movies on your Apple TV.

The tips work for the Amazon Fire TV Stick too.

1. Download the YouTube.com app.

2. Open the Amazon Fire TV Stick YouTube.com app.

3. Authorize via web.

4. Then go to the YouTube.com app menu and choose Library.

YouTube on Amazon Fire TV Stick
Image: YouTube.com menu - Library

5. Then scroll down to Purchases.

YouTube on Amazon Fire TV Stick
Image: YouTube.com menu - Purchases

There's your purchased Google Play movie!

Update:

It won't play!



Wait! What?

Is it just this movie?

Let me know your experience.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Some Emmy® nominations that I like

Some Emmy® nominations that I like (* is my vote):

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series:

The Americans
Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings

House Of Cards
*Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood

These are my top two. Of the two, Kevin Spacey's performance is more powerful, and surprising. Continually expanding his character, while staying in character.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series:

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
*Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt

Only one choice here for me, the role was written for Ellie Kemper, and she owns it. She also makes me smile, and we needs a lot more smiles.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series:

The Americans
*Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings

The Crown
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II

The Handmaid's Tale
Elisabeth Moss as Offred

House Of Cards
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

Westworld
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores

Lots of wonderful choices here for some powerful performances. I'm at a disadvantage because I have not seen The Handmaid's Tale yet. Keri Russell has the most multi-dimensional performance here, playing her character, and playing her character playing other characters.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie:

Big Little Lies
*Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright

Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon as Madeline MacKenzie

Both actors are excellent, but Nicole Kidman was compelling, and believable as the abused spouse. Raw and powerful.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series:

Saturday Night Live
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
*Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon

Alec Baldwin does a great job on SNL, but Tituss Burgess gave me a lot more laughs.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie:

Big Little Lies
*Alexander Skarsgård as Perry Webber

Totally scary.

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie:

Big Little Lies
Laura Dern as Renata Klein

Big Little Lies
*Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman

Powerful and complex performance.

Outstanding Comedy Series:

*Silicon Valley

The best.

Outstanding Drama Series:

The Crown
The Handmaid's Tale (Have not seen yet)
*House Of Cards
Stranger Things
Westworld

I look forward to every episode and an drawn right in to every story that they tell.

Outstanding Limited Series:

*Big Little Lies

Outstanding ensemble.

Outstanding Television Movie:

*Black Mirror: San Junipero

THIS is a fantastic choice. I love the show, and when this episode aired, I felt that it was the best one ever. Glad to see it nominated here.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ Ribs with Lord Hobo Brewing Company Glorious Pale Ale

Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ Ribs with Lord Hobo Brewing Company Glorious Pale Ale



Ribs
Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce
Lord Hobo Brewing Glorious beer

Place ribs in slow cooker
Cover ribs w/ Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce
Add 1/2 can Lord Hobo Brewing Glorious
Set Slow Cooker to 4 hours on High
Remove and place on foil lined baking tray
Baste w/ more sauce
Broil 5-15 minutes

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rosewood Tucker's Point Bermuda 2107

A good friend suggested that I visit ROSEWOOD TUCKER'S POINT while on vacation in Bermuda. She told me that it's, "The only place she stays." I could see why. It's a beautiful place to relax away from the city center. The beach is beautiful with an infinity pool at oceanside. Let's take a look.


Address:
ROSEWOOD TUCKER'S POINT
60 Tucker's Point Dr., Hamilton Parish, HS 02 Bermuda.

Website description:
Rosewood Tucker's Point® offers serene sophistication that eludes formality. A mere 90 minutes from most major U.S. East Coast cities, this Bermuda luxury resort is a tranquil island escape and a world apart.

I looked at a map to see if I could take a bus to the resort. The website says it's possible, but in the end I decided to take a cab from Hamilton town, which ended up costing just under $40.

Prior to visiting I contacted the resort to see if it was possible to visit, they said:
We are so excited for you to come to Bermuda! We love visitors, please feel free to visit our property. We may or may not have a surprise waiting for you when you arrive! Enjoy and see you soon!
Wow. That was nice.

When my wife and I arrived, we saw this view from the lobby:



Click for 360 view.

Then we were directed to the second pool and garden.

Second Pool:

Click for 360 view.

Gardens:





A view from one of the hallways:



BEACH CLUB

Website description:
An all-in-one facility dedicated to pleasure and leisure, the Beach Club not only includes Bermuda’s largest private beach, but also two freshwater swimming pools. The Horizon Pool is reserved for guests aged 13 and older, while the Fountain Pool is perfect for families with young children.

Diners will delight at the seasonal open-air restaurant Sur Mer, dining terrace and bar pavilion, which overlooks the picturesque South Shore and the Atlantic Ocean. With the shaded pergola perched above a pink sand beach, this offers a dramatic setting for lunch and dinner, offset by the casually elegant atmosphere and simple, sophisticated menus.

With Beach Club amenities available April through October, guests need not worry about the details. For guests’ comfort and convenience, beach attendants will be on hand to assist with towel service and chair set-up, along with food and beverages. In the fall and winter months, the beach remains open from sunrise to sunset, but only limited service is available. Special events can be arranged.

For fans of snorkeling, everything a guest might need is available for rental from Rosewood’s Watersports Hut, located at the entrance of the Beach Club. Visitors can rent a mask, a snorkel and fins, and explore the reefs just off the shores of the private beach. The Dive and Watersports Center, meanwhile, is located on the shores of Castle Harbour, just a short tram ride away.

One the best beach/pool experiences ever. Tucker's Point Beach Club infinity pool by the ocean.




Amazing beach. Our cab driver told us that this was one of the most beautiful beaches on Bermuda.

Click for 360 view.

We had quite the visit.

One our way to the airport, we told our cab driver about the experience. He said that Tucker's Point Beach Club did indeed have one of the most beautiful beaches on Bermuda. All beaches on Bermuda are public, up to the water line. In order for you to see this beach, you'd have to be a guest of the hotel, a member of the beach club, or have a boat to get you there. ;-)

He also told us that there were also two other beaches that you could get to by cab, beaches that are accessible by moped, cab or boat. They are by the airport and called Clearwater Beach & Turtle Bay. Read the reviews on TripAdvisor to get a feel for the area.

Looking at the map, also there is Cooper's Island Nature Reserve.
Explore 12 acres of pristine nature reserve to spot seabirds, giant land crabs and ancient Bermuda cedar trees on Cooper’s Island, at the southeastern tip of Bermuda. This secluded area was off-limits for decades: The U.S. military occupied the area and built a battery during WWII, and in the 1960s NASA operated a space tracking station here. It was reopened to the public in 2011, and now it has nature trails and shallow-water beaches perfect for a day trip or picnic. Climb the wildlife observation tower to see a sweeping panorama of the island.
Something we might check out on our next trip to Bermuda.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hamilton Princess Bermuda 2017

Boston to Bermuda is only 1 hour and 40 minutes my plane. A direct flight on JetBlue is always a pleasure.



Our flight was half-full, so after everyone boarded, the flight attendant told us that we could move anywhere we wanted, keeping in my the EXTRA SPACE rows would be charged extra.

We took advantage and moved to the back of the plane, the you could have a whole row to yourself.

We did not anticipate how this would affect us later. Upon landing in Bermuda, we had to go though customs, So, we were at the end of the line. Luckily it moved along quickly.

Taxi to the hotel from the airport was about $35 Bermuda which had a 1-1 exchange rate with US dollars which were readily accepted.



We stayed at the Hamilton, Princess. The hotel recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and is now truly a 4-star hotel.
Hamilton Princess,
76 Pitts Bay Road,
HM08,
Bermuda.
+1-441-295-3000

Video Courtesy Hamilton Princess

Hamilton Princess in Legos.



There are two pools at the Hamilton Princess, one lap pool and one salt water infinity pool overlooking the harbor.





Pink hotel buildings made for a fun backdrop.



Harbor view from the hotel.



On the suggestion of a friend, we went to the Pickled Onion on Front Street. The restaurant/Bar is on the second floor. We got a table on the balcony overlooking the street and the harbor.

It was time to sample a beer from one of Bermuda's breweries, Dockyard Brewing Company.



Breakfast on the patio.



Hamilton Princess Beach Club. You can take a free jitney from the hotel to the beach club, which takes 20-25 minutes. There are actually three beaches there that you can use, two are calm and one is more ocean facing. That one looks like it's in someone's front yard, but beach club guests do have access.

It turns out that the Hamilton Princess bought the land where the former Sonesta hotel was. Same place we went on our honeymoon! There's a restaurant and tennis courts here too.

Down the road, about a 15-minute walk, is Horseshoe Bay beach.





Tea Time!



The forecast for the week we were there was for rain, but we only saw one rain shower.



Cocktail time. I don't usually like Heineken, but in Bermuda it tasted better.



Because of all the tea times and cocktail times, we only went to dinner one night, that was at one of the hotel's restaurants, MARCUS'.



Nice salmon.

We also had drinks and appetizers at the 1690 Bar and Restaurant. The two beers on tap were Sam Adams Summer and Honey Ale. I asked about the Honey Ale and the bartender told me it was local. I asked him to show me the tap handle, and saw that the name of the brewery was On De Rock. Here's their story"
The On De Rock Craft Brewery is the brainchild of friends Dave Jones and Simon Watkinson. Dave had been brewing craft beer in Bermuda as a passionate hobby and shared the 100% Bermuda made craft beer with Simon. Simon, a great fan of quality craft brewed beers loved every beer that Dave created. Similarly, everyone that tasted the craft beers Dave made, loved them. Naturally, discussion changed into turning Dave's hobby into a business and the On De Rock Craft Brewery was born.
Would have been nice if the bartender knew it.

The Bermuda Moongate.



Lap pool at night.



Some of the MANY pieces of art in the hotel. They spent millions. Guided tours are offered every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and by special appointment through the hotel.



It's art!

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Bermuda Tree Frogs whistling for a mate.



Another breakfast. The eggs were off off a buffet, but were nut loose and running, they were nice and fluffy. Also great smoked salmon and fresh fruit.



Thank you Bermuda.

Wine by the water. #thirstythursday #gotobermuda

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Friday, May 19, 2017

XFINITY TV anywhere in your home via WiFi

Xi5-P allows you to put XFINITY TV anywhere in your home via WiFi, without a a cable connection. Powered by USB-C and connects to TV via HDMI. Supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), but not 4K/UltraHD, that will come in a future device.

Requirements: "To have a Wireless TV box in your home, you'll need XFINITY TV service, at least one additional X1 TV box to act as the primary X1 device on your account and XFINITY Internet with a Wireless Gateway 3 (with RDK-B firmware) to stream video over the Xi5's WiFi connection."

Update: This mini box currently has a $9.95 monthly charge.

Xi5 TV Box FAQ

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Google Maps Send To Car for Mercedes-Benz is Gone

Google Maps 'Send To Car' for Mercedes-Benz is gone.

It used to work, but has been removed. 'Here' maps now supports Mercedes-Benz 'Send To Car.'

GOOGLE MAPS SEND to MERCEDES-BENZ doesn't work any more.







Here Maps 'Send to Car' supports Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. When it works. ;-)







Friday, April 28, 2017

My First Investment

My first investing advice came from message boards on the dial-up internet.

After I got my first job, it was a while before I felt like I had some extra money to invest.

Until then, I kept my money in a savings account in a bank, and let it sit there.

LEARNING ABOUT THE STOCK MARKET
When I was in high school I had a teacher that taught us about the stock market. I really enjoyed his class. He had me bring my copy of the Boston Globe into school each day. This was back when they printed stock tables in the newspaper. And yes, I walked to school every day, up a hill, both ways! ;-)

Each student picked a stock and we tracked it’s performance over time. I looked forward to tracking my stock’s performance each day.

GETTING ADVICE
When it came time to invest real money, I turned to online forums to help demystify the investing process. If I remember correctly, I dialed on to online services like Prodigy, and AOL, and joined finance discussions.


Image: Prodigy Online Service Login Page

One popular suggestion for investing was to invest in things that you knew about, that were to growing.

BUYING STOCKS ONLINE
I opened up an online brokerage account, and invested some money. It was a good way to learn about the stock market, and how to buy and sell stocks.

I ended up buying and selling a few stocks based on my online research and direct experience with the companies.

One stock that I ended up buying, after learning how, was Apple. That was a good stock to buy. ;-)

I bought Apple because I worked at a computer store, and was trained by Apple on the first Macintosh computer in 1984. I then became the local Macintosh expert, handling sales and doing demonstrations of the computer. I got to know it very well and decided that it would be a good investment.


Image: Apple Macintosh

There’s a cool website called InvestedInstead that shows you what your investment would be worth today, if you invested your money in a companies’ stock instead of their product.

As of 4/22/2017, if you had invested $2,495 in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock on 1/24/1984, that investment would have grown 347 times to $866,800. [See Macintosh Results as of today]

This experience gave me the step-by-step knowledge of HOW TO BUY A STOCK.

Investing in individual stocks like this is more risky than spreading out the risk in a mutual fund made up of many stocks.

FUTURESMART APP

Image: FutureSmart App

An app that you can use to learn about investing and personal finance is the MassMutual #FutureSmart App.

One lesson from the #FutureSmart App confirms what I learned: “Investing your money in a mix of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds can help reduce your risk."

Get the FutureSmart App for free.

WHAT I LEARNED
Online brokerage accounts make it easy to buy and sell stocks.

You can never know when a stock will got up or down. You can’t worry about it either. I take the long term approach of buy and hold.

I’m a long way off from that day that I bought my first stock. I am still holding on to some of those early stocks, and buying some other individual stocks, where I have direct experience with the companies, like Disney and Facebook.

I now also work with a financial planner to help me spread out my risk with investments in some professional managed funds, where the only decision I have to make is how much money to put into the fund.

Good luck with your own personal investing journey.

Disclosure: This has been a sponsored post for MassMutual.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mercedes-Benz connects to Amazon Echo: Alexa, ask Mercedes me to start the car.


Image: Alexa Mercedes Me Skill Page

Mercedes me for Amazon Alexa

This is cool, Mercedes-Benz just added an Amazon Echo skill to connect to your car, via mbrace.

Steps to connect your Mercedes (2016 and newer) to Amazon Alexa

1. Enable the Mercedes me for Amazon Alexa skill.
2. Connect the Amazon Alexa skill to Mercedes mbrace.


Image: Mercedes me iPhone App screen

Alexa Mercedes Me Skill Description
With Mercedes me for Amazon Alexa, you can access your Mercedes-Benz from the comfort of your couch. In order to effectively use the Mercedes me skill, you will need an active Mercedes me account and an active mbrace subscription.*

The Mercedes me skill allows you to:

Remotely lock the doors
Remotely start your engine**
Send an address or point of interest to your in-vehicle navigation
Manage multiple vehicles

After linking your Mercedes me account to the Mercedes me skill, you can ask questions or give commands, such as:

"Alexa, tell Mercedes me to lock the car."
"Alexa, ask Mercedes me to start the car." **
"Alexa, ask Mercedes me to send an address to the car."
"Alexa, ask Mercedes me to find Starcoffee near me."
"Alexa, tell Mercedes me to update my primary car."

* Select mbrace services are free for five years with any new Mercedes-Benz.
** Available on select 2016 and newer model lines. Check with dealer for details. Features subject to network coverage.

Please note:
• The Mercedes me skill on Alexa currently only supports users in the United States;
• The Mercedes me skill on Alexa will send remote service commands to your vehicle, but will not currently confirm the completion of those commands. However, in the case of remote start, you will receive a remote start status text message to the phone number that is linked to your mbrace account. If you update your phone number linked to mbrace, you will also be required to update your primary car in Mercedes me in order to continue receiving text messages;
• You can manage multiple cars within Mercedes me. However, you can only operate one car at a time via Alexa i.e. the primary car that you set via the Mercedes me skill. In order to change/update your primary car, simply say "Alexa, ask Mercedes me to update my primary car.";
• For Mercedes me customer support, call +1 800-367-6372

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Weekend in Cleveland

Here's a fun itinerary for visiting Cleveland and seeing all the highlights.

Here goes!



TRAIN TO CITY CENTER


RTA Airport Service:
For a quick, convenient ride to and from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, ride RTA's Red Line. It's simple to catch the train, and it takes less than 30 minutes to ride to or from Downtown Cleveland’s Tower City Station.
SLYMAN'S DELI
This is a require taxi ride or moderate walk, to get Cleveland's best pastrami sandwich.








EAST 4th STREET
Closed off to traffic, East 4th Street has some great bars and restaurants.



We went to The Butcher and the Brewer twice!

Cheers!

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CLEVELAND!
Throughout the city, Cleveland has these photo spots that are the perfect size, and placed correctly for photo taking.





Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was the most fun! It was so engaging that we spent 5 1/2 hours there. There are FIVE LEVELS that take you through the history of Rock & Roll.

#RockHall

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Got it.

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Elvis Costello. 1977!

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Video killed the radio star. #Devo #RockHall

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After having gone through the museum, I realized what a pivotal part of my life, music has been.

CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART
One of the best museums in the world. A short train ride away.





The museum is as impressive as it's art.

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ArtLens.

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Cleveland Botanical Garden (Next to Museum)


20 restaurants to check out in Cleveland's Little Italy

Red Line to the Airport

The Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan

Press Release:

Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan: Herald of a new generation

Stuttgart/Shanghai. With the Concept A Sedan at Auto Shanghai Mercedes-Benz is providing an outlook of the next generation of compact vehicles and a potential, new body type.

The Concept A Sedan show car specifies the evolved Mercedes-Benz design language. Thanks to its purist, surface-focused design featuring reduced lines and gaps, the show car is hot and cool at the same time. The "Aesthetics A" sculpture already demonstrated that the upcoming compact class generation marks the dawn of an even more rigorous implementation of the design idiom of "sensual purity".



"Our Concept A Sedan shows, that the time of creases is over”, say Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG. “With its perfect proportions and a sensual treatment of surfaces with reduced lines, it is the next milestone of Sensual Purity and has the potential to introduce a new design era."

The current compact vehicle generation is crucially contributing to Mercedes‑Benz's most successful and rejuvenated appearance ever to make 2016 the sixth year of records in succession. More than two million compact vehicles have been sold around the globe since 2012. In addition to the contemporary design language, innovative assistance systems, connectivity, and driving pleasure, model variety is a crucial factor for success: with the A and B‑Class, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake, as well as the SUV crossover GLA five differently positioned variants are available on the market.

"Their success shows that our customers are absolutely delighted with the current generation of Mercedes-Benz compact cars", says Britta Seeger, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Mercedes‑Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. "We are therefore extremely confident that the planned expansion will lead to a continuation of this success story."

The Concept A Sedan: study of a compact premium sedan

The Concept A Sedan (length/width/height: 4570/1870/1462 mm) has been designed with the proportions of a dynamic, coupé-like and simultaneously compact, premium sedan. This aim is emphasized by the traditional three-box design featuring short overhangs, especially at the rear, as well as the slim greenhouse that has been offset towards the rear. Additional sedan characteristics are the relatively vertical C‑pillar, larger side windows and the higher beltline.

The muscular-seeming wheel arch design featuring a reduced arch dimension emphasize the exclusive 20‑inch wheels. The light alloy wheels radiate technical precision with their sporty aerowheel look featuring a structured surface between the spokes. The door handles of the show car are flush with the body, while the outside mirrors, in a contemporary reinterpretation, stand proud of the beltlines.

The striking front expresses self-confidence: this is crucially highlighted by the deep Panamericana grille tilted towards the front, featuring vertical chrome inserts and a star in the centre, as well as the stretched bonnet with Powerdomes. The large, lower air inlet featuring a diamond grid structure and a striking trim strip in dark chrome is also amongst the most eye-catching features.

The headlamps with their eyebrows as a typical feature of the brand as well as the striking grid structure on the inside guarantee a confident look – and a simultaneously high recognition value. The structural sculpture that has been broken down in detail represents a technically based counterpole to the sensual exterior - "stimulating contrast" is one of the six guiding principles of Mercedes-Benz design. The grid structure in the lamps has been coated with a UV paint and it is exposed to ultraviolet light. As a result, the headlamps "glow" in different colours, depending on the light medium – the daytime running lamps, for instance, are white.

This unusual lighting technology is also used at the rear: The striking tail light image has also been designed as a structural sculpture. In line with the evolved design philosophy the lines and gaps at the rear have been reduced. As a contrast to the paintwork the rear bumper features a diffuser-look lower part trimmed in black and a chrome trim strip that emphasises the width and underlines the car's premium appeal. The integrated exhaust deflectors are finished in dark chrome. Additional features of the roadworthy show car are dark privacy windows all-round as well as a large, panoramic glass roof.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My First Car

When I was in High School, I didn’t need a car. I took a city bus from across the street from my house, to school.

Some days, I was able to drive my father into work, and keep his car, a PONTIAC TEMPEST, for the day, then pick him up after work.

Pontiac Tempest
Image: Dad's Car. Pontiac Tempest.

After graduating High School, I went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The school is about an hour and a half from Boston. Undergraduates who lived on campus were not allowed to have cars at school.

BUYING A CAR
When I moved off campus in my Junior year, I was able to buy a car.

I had saved my own money and made the decision on what car I wanted on my own.

This was a poor decision.

I should have gotten some help in making my choice, but I didn’t.

I thought that a used car lot that advertised, “No Haggling,” was a great place to get a car.

So I like the looks of a FORD TORINO with low miles, 33,000.

Ford Torino
Image: My First Car. A Ford Torino.

I bought it and took it out to UMass.

CAR TROUBLE
Shortly after I bought it, it started to have engine trouble. It turned out that the car didn’t have 33,000 miles on it, it had 133,000 miles!

The dealer offered to take out the engine and install a new one for under $700.

For some reason that I don’t remember now, I agreed.

That actually did solve my engine problems, but that was just the beginning.

The car then needed new tires.

I shopped around, and the best deal was from a table in the Student Union, where they were selling some type of reconstituted tires that combined the shells from nuts.

I bought those tires.

I was probably nuts to do it!

The next thing that happened was that the car started having starter problems.

SPRING BREAK

I was working at K-Mart at the time, and had the K-Mart garage take a look. They did some work on the car in time for a Spring Break trip to Florida.

I’ll never forget planning the trip. I called my mom to tell her that we were going to Miami, Florida for Spring Break.

She asked, “What airline?”
I replied: “We’re driving.”

To this day we get a big laugh out of it.

The car still had starting problems, so on our trip from Amherst, MA to Miami, FL, we didn’t turn the car off that much!

We also had planned to leave first thing in the morning and drive straight through. We got excited, and decided to leave the night before.

Another bad decision, that meant that we lost TWO NIGHTS of sleep.

The car made it down and back.

GOODBYE TO MY FIRST CAR
After graduating UMass and getting my first full-time job, I was able to afford a better car.

This time I asked friends what cars they liked, and many of them owned a TOYOTA CELICA. They all said it was a good car. So I went to a local Toyota dealer and test drove a Toyota Celica with low miles. This time the odometer was accurate and I ended up with a more reliable car.

Toyota Celica
Image: My second Car. Toyota Celica.

FUTURE SMART
What made me think about sharing this story, was MassMutual's #FutureSmart app. It’s a new tool for teaching #kids about making life choices and being smart about #money.

One of the situations asks kids to decide if they want to buy a car.

This is one of those great life learning moments. In addition to deciding if you want, and can afford, to buy a new or used car, you also have to consider the added costs of owning a car:

INSURANCE
GAS
REGULAR MAINTENANCE
UNEXPECTED REPAIRS

In my case, I could have done a better job of listening to friends and family, and valuing their advice.

Disclosure: This has been a sponsored post for MassMutual.