Author Archives: Tom Terrific
Staying comfortable and safe when the electricity goes out.
Every year the electricity goes out in our house. In many cases it’s just for a couple of hours, but in some cases longer. Today the electricity went out at 2:30 a.m. and at 11 a.m. it’s still off.
The trick to staying comfortable and safe is to have the right backup amenities to keep things civilized.
Some of these recommendations may be expensive, but you will appreciate them in the long run.
Uninterruptible Power Supply
I use these on our computers so that when the power goes off, the computer will beep. It will also give you 30 minutes of backup power to keep your computer working for a short time. The beeping on the UPS is what woke us up, so it also serves as a warning bell that the electricity is off.
When you have bad storms, surge protectors will keep your electronics like TVs, computers etc. protected from electric surges. This is not 100% safe but better than nothing at all. Another tip is that when your electricity is off, unplug your big ticket electronics. This way when the electricity does come on it won’t burn out any electronic devices.
Flashlight with lots of batteries.
I like the inexpensive flashlights that use one AA battery. I put them on a lanyard and have them all over the house for emergencies. I also have extra large packs of batteries in case the emergency is a long one. I like to keep a flashlight on my bed stand so it’s easy to find in the dark.
Also remember that your phone has a flashlight function so learn how to use it.
Gas is a Must.
I see many houses and condos with just electricity and no gas connection. In an emergency having gas is a must.
As I write this my gas fireplace is on and is radiating heat into the living room. It’s keeping the room at a cozy 72 degrees although it is 38 degrees outside.
Gas Hot Water Heater
You still have hot water with gas.
With a BBQ lighter, it’s easy to cook and have a hot breakfast, dinner or lunch.
Percolator Coffee Pot
I have an old one from my camping days, but I’m going to upgrade to a new stainless steel model.
Sump Pump Backup
I use a water powered backup for my sump pump. It’s comforting to hear it run every few minutes and know that my basement will stay dry. If you have a battery backup, make sure you have it on your calendar to check on a regular basis. I have had neighbors on both sides of me have a water logged basement because their battery backup failed and they didn’t know it.
Garage Door Battery Backup
Buying a garage door which has a battery backup is a nice feature to have when you need to an appointment while the electricity is out. While you can open the garage door manually, it won’t be locked when you leave.
USB Backup Power
Having a usb power brick or two is handy for your phone. Without electricity, your phone is your only link to the outside world.
Car Battery Power Backup
While this is not a necessity, it will fill in as a usb power backup and a flashlight. I could have used one of these when my battery died. I now have one in my trunk.
It’s nice to have a gas BBQ you can use to cook outside when the electricity is out.
Phone Hotspot – wifi from your phone.
This is a feature that you may have on your phone so take some time to learn how to use it. On T-Mobile, the free hotspot is VERY SLOW, but it’s fast enough for email and writing this article.
Phone – keep it charged.
Have your phone charging overnight so it will be ready if you wake up without power in the middle of the night.
Computer with USB-C
While this is not strictly necessary, it’s nice to have a Chromebook which allows charging via a USB battery backup. Couple this with a fast hot spot and you can keep the kids entertained with Netflix. I’m writing this article on my computer linked to my phone’s hotspot.
Another somewhat expensive option, but it may be worth it if it keeps your pipes from freezing. The limiting factor is being able to buy gasoline to keep the generator running.
If you have any other tips to be prepared when the electricity goes out please share them with me.
Here is a tip from my favorite CPA, Brent, on a way to save taxes and still donate to your charity.
If you are 70 1/2 and have to take a Required Minimum Distribution, RMD, one way to give to your favorite church/charity is via this RMD.
Have the firm/trustee liquidate a specified dollar amount from your IRA and have them mail/wire the amount directly to the charity.
You will pay no taxes on those withdrawals and still benefit from your standard deduction.
Any amount processed as a QCD, Qualified Charitable Deduction, counts toward your RMD and reduces the amount of your IRA distribution.
You can only make the tax free transfer from an IRA, not a 401(k) or a 403 (b).
Here’s an option for the people affected by the smoke in California. I use this on a regular basis. I use a very good air filter and tape it to a box fan. I used the Filtrete Healthy Living Elite Allergen Reduction Filter, MPR 2200. These cost about $15 on Amazon.
As you can see from the picture, this simple setup is doing an excellent job at filtering our the small particles in the air.
While you could use this in your furnace, I’ve found that it reduces the air flow quite a bit. I ended up putting one of these filter fans upstairs and one downstairs.
There is a new lake/park in Waterloo Ill. which is being dedicated to veterans on Sunday November 11th.
It will start at 1:00 p.m.
5301 Kaskaskia Road Waterloo IL 62298
The featured speaker will be a rear admiral Lee Metcalf, retired. There will be a band, barbecue and free beverages for the afternoon.
The eagle will be there and available for photos. Bring your camera or cell phone for great pictures. A donation to World Bird Sanctuary would be appreciated.
Jeff Rossen Reports had some good information on the latest gas explosions and what the home owner should do if they smell gas. I will list them below, but noticed that he omitted what I would consider to be an obvious action to take.
Turn off the outside gas valve. This is something I learned in my CERT training and is fairly easy to do. There is a video below which shows how to do this. I’d recommend getting a LARGE wrench since the valve can be a bit hard to turn.
Here are the actions that are recommended by the show.
- Check the stove to make sure none of the knobs are on.
- Don’t use the light switch or any electric appliances. The spark could ignite the gas.
- Open the window/windows. They only vent one window and leave the door open.
- Don’t start your car. It might cause a spark.
- Get 350 feet away from the house.
- Call 911.
Brian Krebs did a great article on the change in fees for freezing and unfreezing your credit reports.
Starting Sept. 21st. the three large credit reporting agencies cannot charge for freezing your credit accounts.
Here is the entire article. https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/09/in-a-few-days-credit-freezes-will-be-fee-free/
Friend, author, speaker and expert on Climate Change, Brian Ettling, is coming back to St. Louis for a couple of weeks this fall.
He will be teaching his continuing adult ed Climate Change 101 class for St. Louis Community College at Meramec Campus on Saturday morning, October 13th.
NATR:734 | $19 | Age 60+: $17
F01 | Sa 9 am-12 pm | Brian Ettling | Oct 13 | MC – SO, 107
For additional information, contact the Office of Continuing Education at 314-984-7777.
He is also willing to give a couple more talks while he is back in his home state of Missouri in mid-October. You can message Brian through his Facebook page if you’d like him to talk to your group.
I have just come across a simple way to add some extra security to your garage door.
It’s a simple piece of metal which you add to your door and which slides out a metal bar to prevent the door from opening. I bought this one from Amazon, but probably any other brand would work.
The only problem I ran into was that I needed an assistant to hold the lock in place when I added the first sheet metal screw. The metal I was going into was also a bit thick so it took some pressure to get the screws to go in. You could pre-drill like the video shows.
I have a friend who was recently sued for $800,000.
Even though he ended up not having to pay, he suggested to me to check out Personal Liability Umbrella Insurance.
What I discovered was that while I do have some liability insurance with my auto and house, it’s not a lot.
With State Farm insurance, I found I could buy another million dollars of insurance for $10/month. That seems like a bargain to me.
Even though I hope I’ll never have to use it, this small expense is worth the potential benefits.
Here is an article from State Farm about this type of insurance.
This image was originally posted to Flickr by maveric2003 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/96149867/. It was reviewed on 10 February 2007 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.
I just saw an interesting story on NBC which shows how to save money on prescriptions.
- Your insurance may not give you the cheapest price on the drugs you need.
- Question the pharmacist and find out if the same prescription without insurance is cheaper. Apparently, the drug store can’t/won’t tell you if the non-insurance prescription is cheaper.
- Check out the website – https://www.goodrx.com/ It will show you the price of the same drug at different stores. It may also show coupons which could same you even more money.
With the recent hurricanes, one of the lessons learned is that the cell phone towers will be down and your phone is probably not going to work to make phone calls or text messages.
One thing however your phone might be capable of during an emergency is listen to FM broadcasts. Not all phones have this capability. My Moto G works fine and many Android phones still have the FM chip. Unfortunately the latest iPhones do not have the FM chip.
The app you will want to install is called NextRadio. It installs easily and does an immediate search of your local stations.
You will want to hook up a pair of headphones as these are your antennae. I did notice that when the headphones are not connected, the app will change and use you cell data or wireless access to stream the music.
This may be an app you will never have to use, but you will want it installed before an emergency.
T-Mobile has a great deal for couples over 55.
We just went over to the T-Mobile store and saved $299 over the next 12 months.
They are now charging $60 (includes charges and taxes) for two lines when you use AutoPay.
This plan includes unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE smartphone data.
I don’t see any “gotchas” so this could save you a lot of money.
Watch the Youtube video – it’s pretty funny.
After all the devastating floods in the Houston area, I got a bit nervous and thought I’d do some research and see what my flood risk might be.
Here’s a good story on why Houston is so prone to flooding.
I found a site – http://www.whatismyelevation.com/ that allows you to enter an address and it will give you it’s elevation.
An even easier elevation map can be found at
Type in an address to start and then you can compare your elevation to surrounding areas.
Here some general elevation figures from my area.
- My house is at an elevation of 636 feet.
- The elevation is 613 feet at one end of the street
- The elevation is 607 feet in the other direction.
- The elevation at Gravois Creek is 492 feet.
- The Meramec river is 391 feet
- The Mississippi River level is 383 feet
While the above won’t give you an absolute risk assessment, it will give you an idea of what your risk might be.
Since we just went through the process of buying a patio/french door, I’d thought I’d document the process and show what the options are.
We originally thought we wanted an outswing French door, but decided later to go with an inswing door. This does save some money. The prices are approximate and include $600 installation plus about 10% sales tax. They all have Low-E glass.
- $1500 – Tree Court Builders Supply. This is a basic steel door, that would be ok if you are on a budget. This does have blinds inside the door, which can be replaced if they go bad. They use a caulk that oozes out over time. Only one small piece of weather stripping. You have to get someone to install these. You will also need to paint these yourself.
- $3400 – Pella at Lowes. This is a price of Double Entry doors. For some reason, the Pella Patio Doors are a thousand dollars more. They don’t have steel doors for Pella at Lowes – just fiberglass and wood covered with vinyl. It only has one small weather stripping.
- $3600 – Anderson at Home Depot. These are not the same doors as the ones below. They use contractors to put in the door. They only have a few colors to choose from.
- $4400 – Pella in home presentation. This looks like the same door which is sold at Lowes. It’s a nice looking door, but only has a small weather strip.
- $5081 – Renewal by Anderson. They have their own installers and guarantee their work. They do have a A+ rating on the BBB. They actually install a Provia line of doors. They bring a cutaway section of the door for you to look at. The weather stripping is amazing – three sections, not just the one on all the other doors.
We went with the Renewal by Anderson. While it is the most expensive, it seems to be the best made and we might get back our money when we sell the house.
These tips come from JohnnyJet.com featured on the Tech Guy podcast.
If you have to cancel an airline flight, don’t do it right away. For most airlines, you can cancel up to right before the flight, but they charge you $200. Southwest doesn’t charge a change fee.
The trick is that if there are weather delays and a flight is delayed for an hour, you might be able to cancel and get reimbursed.
If an airline changes the flight times, you can call up and try to get them to change your routing or your times or even try and get a refund.
Here’s a speech I did about Leo Buscaglia many years ago.
I thought it might interest some of my friends.
If you’re never seen Leo speak, please take some time and look him up on YouTube.
He has passed away, but his message is still relevant.
We just had a dishwasher repaired and the things we learned may keep you from thousands of dollars of repairs down the road. (It was just a latch problem.)
- Don’t run your dishwasher when you go to bed. The inlet valve can stick and you will wake up to a wet first floor.
- When you go on vacation there is a valve under the sink to turn off the water to the dishwasher – turn off the water valve to the dishwasher.
- The above also applies to the washing machine and any water going to the refrigerator – turn them off when leaving for vacation.
- Good brands he recommends – Bosch, Kitchen Aid, Whirlpool, Maytag.
- The simpler the better – you don’t need all those fancy controls.
- St. Louis Appliance Repair Group did the repair.
For those of you unfamiliar with PH, it’s a test of acidity. On a scale of 0 to 14, seven is considered Neutral. Zero is very acidic and 14 would be very base or alkaline. The scale changes by a factor of ten for each number. Six is ten times more acidic than seven and five would be one hundred times more acidic than seven.
Here are my results.
- Beer – Schlafly Pale Ale – 5.36
- Coffee Costco – 4.6
- Coffee with cream – 5.2
- Coffee – Folgers – Med. Dark – 5.17
- Coffee – Folgers – Classic Medium Roast – Costco – 4.72
- Coffee Puroast – 5.75
- Coffee – Trader Joe’s cold brew – 5.24
- Tea from tap water – 6.9
- Water distilled – Essentials ShopnSave – 6.0
- Water distilled Blue Mountain – 6.78
- Water tap – 9.04. , 9.68
- Water – tap – filtered – 6.5
- Water bottled – 6.35
- Fruit compote – 3.8
- Kefir – 3.8
I decided to take a look at my two outside air conditioner units and see if they need cleaning. As you can see from the picture, they are totally clogged. I’m surprised that I’m getting any cooling at all. The fins are covered on the outside by a panel which makes it very hard to see what is going on inside.
While I initially took a shop vac to the fins, with a little testing I learned that a good stream of water will release the dirt. You could also spray it with a cleaner, but that may not even be necessary.
Taking apart the top of my unit is fairly easy. After turning off the electricity, I unscrewed the top. Unfortunately the unit is still held in by electrical wires. What I did was to use some garden pads to rest the top on and used the hose on the fins. If you don’t take off the sides, you can still clean the outside, but it’s not as easy. It’s hard to put the pieces back together, so just taking the top off is the easy option.
One option that I am going to try is put a screen around the outside of the unit. They have one available on Amazon, but some reviewers said that this is basically just a window screen, so that’s what I’m going to try.
RESULTS – gained two pounds.
I tried the probiotic below for a month and gained two pounds. Don’t waste your time if you want to lose weight.
While this is not definitive, I’m going to try Lactobacillus gasseri for thirty days and see what happens. Below are the links which seem to indicate this bacteria might help in weight maintenance.
Note – I gained two pounds in the last year taking some probiotics which were recommended.
Jan 8, 2016 – started taking two pills per day – 3 billion CFU per pill.
Weight at start is 183.
The video below talks about the role of bacteria in weight control.