Author Archives: Tom Terrific
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.
Note – one problem I have recently noticed is that the outside door locks have their finish starting to peel off and tarnish badly.
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.
All you have to do is go to Hoopladigital.com and Signup.
You choose the St.Louis County Library and setup your account.
It has ebooks, movies, comic books, audiobooks, and television (older shows). I’m listening to music as I write this, so that’s a nice feature.
To return any emedia, you have to look for a return near the bottom of the page.
While I’m using this program in St. Louis, Missouri, it is also available in other cities and states.
The library allows you to borrow 15 titles each month. On the first of each month, those borrows renew. They’ll be automatically returned when your lending period is over.
Note also that there are apps for this program which seem to work well with my Android phone. You can download books to your e-device.
Here’s a speech I did for Toastmasters on tips to keep your basement dry and how to be prepared if there is a problem. Gutter Guards are another topic I didn’t have time to go into, but I use them also.
I didn’t have time to cover sewer backups, but Ask This Old House did a great segment on this.
I’ve recently come across a concept called Yale University’s Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI) . It apparently has also been monetized into the NuVal.com website. The idea is that foods are rated on a scale of 1 to 100, with one hundred being the best and one being the worst. The idea is that consumers want to get the most nutrition in the least amount of calories. NuVal won’t post their list for some reason, but they do give ratings on Facebook. I’ve put together a list of both the ONQI from Wikipedia and the NuVal information that is posted on Facebook. Mostly they both agree, but in some cases they are different.
Here is their list.
Greek yogurt non fat 100
Green beans 100
Sweet Potato 100
Summer squash 98
Green cabbage 96
Red onions 93
Fresh figs 91
Milk (skimmed) 91
Atlantic salmon fillet 87
Atlantic halibut fillet 82
Catfish fillet 82
Cod fillet 82
Tilapia fillet 82
Swordfish steak 81
Monkfish fillet 64
Milk (whole) 52
Turbot fillet 51
Turkey breast (skinless) 48 – NuVal gives it a 73
Tinned peas 49
Chicken breast (boneless) 39 NuVal gives this a 57
Orange juice 39
Pork tenderloin 35
Flank steak (Beef) 34
Turkey breast 31
Veal chop 31
Veal leg cutlet 31
Beef tenderloin 30
Chicken drumstick 30
Pork chop (boneless centre cut) 28
Chicken wings 28
Lamb chops (loin) 28
Leg of lamb 28
Ham (whole) 27
Green olives 24
Peanut butter 23
Condensed cream of broccoli soup 21
Salted, dry-roasted peanuts 21
Fried egg 18
Swiss cheese 17
Diet fizzy drinks 15
Non-streaky bacon 13
Pretzel sticks 11
Dark chocolate 10
White bread 9
Hot dog 5
Cheese puffs 4
Milk chocolate 3
Apple pie 2
Fizzy drinks 1
I’ve been a big proponent of Lynda.com for many years and now I just noticed that it is Free for St. Louis County Library Users.
Lynda.com is a video resource and training company with a LARGE list of programs and skills which all of us need to learn and refresh.
You will need to setup what they call a Profile at Lynda – just your name and email address.
Note – normally this would cost $25/month.
Here’s the link to setup an account.
Since I’m always looking for ways to minimize my back pain, I ran across this woman and her approach to better posture.
I took a few notes from one of the programs she did.
- If you are sitting, get up and move ever fifteen minutes. She suggests rolling your shoulders in a circular motion.
- She says that your back and hips should be in a “J ” shape. Buttocks out – not tucked in.
- Don’t arch your back
- You want your knees angled down.
- She suggests having a wedge in your chair so that you are angled down.
Videos are below
Since the mold, pollen and air seems to be so bad this year, I was theorizing that if I used a very good air filter and attached it to a box fan, my air quality would get better. 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.
It’s interesting that my wife’s allergy symptoms have abated since using this filter setup.
I was reading the latest book from Dr. David Perlmutter, Grain Maker, where he makes the statement, “Chemicals, such as chlorine, that are added to many sources of water, to kill bad bacteria will also kill good bacteria, probiotic bacteria.”
Since I’ve been drinking chlorinated water my entire life, as most Americans have, I was disturbed by this statement so I thought I’d do some research.
First off, Dr. Perlmutter doesn’t offer any scientific research for this statement. I wish he had sited some sources.
On the other hand, it does seem to make some sense. I’ve learned from practical experience that putting gold fish in a bowl filled with tap water will kill them fairly quickly. My logic is, if it will kill a gold fish, wouldn’t tap water also kill bacteria in your gut?
In 1998, the magazine, Scientific American, asked the question, “How does chlorine added to drinking water kill bacteria and other harmful organisms? Why doesn’t it harm us?” Their answer back then was, “Food in our stomachs and the materials normally present in the intestinal tract quickly neutralize the chlorine. So chlorine concentrations along cell membranes in the gastrointestinal tract are probably too low to cause injury.”
I did find some interesting research as to how tap water affects garden plants and lawn. Their main conclusion was, “Researchers have found that chlorinated drinking water may kill a number of microorganisms in soil or a compost pile. However, their reproduction rate is so rapid that populations rebound in a short time.”
In the St. Louis area, they add ammonia to the chlorine to keep it more stable – they call this chloramination.
The EPA has lots of informaion on chloramines. It has been used for decades in some communities. Here is the link. Chloramines in Drinking Water.
Josh Harkinson did an article for Mother Jones which includes this quote, “Chlorination has done tremendous good, so the default is to continue as is,” Martin Blaser, the director of the Human Microbiome Project, told me, “but whether or not there are subtler effects needs to be studied.”
A friend of mine in the field told me, “Specifically about chloramine, it seems that many water districts have switched from chlorine to chloramine because (1) it has a longer-lasting disinfection effect which keeps down bacterial growth in holding tanks and pipes, and (2) it has fewer toxic disinfection byproducts than chlorine. Chloramine is considered safe (at <4 mg/L) by the EPA. I doubt that chloramine would kill off bacteria in your body and/or probiotics at the low levels present in drinking water – it can be broken down (metabolized) by your saliva and leave your body in your urine. But I haven’t seen any specific scientific studies on this.”
Thanks to J for pointing me to the SFWater.org site which has a lot of information on chloramines.
To summarize the SFWater.org information – Water with chloramines is safe to drink.
If you still decide to remove the chloramines, then for an investment of $23 plus the filter cost, a Brita pitcher filter is an easy way to remove the chloramines..
Here are some other resources.
- Pass the Microbes Please – very interesting story.
- Science Magazine – microbiome and obesity
- Mother Jones Story
- Martin Blaser – Youtube video
I got this from America’s Test Kitchen
2 Tab of honey in one cup of water – mix it up.
Put in your cut fruit/vegetables for a minute or two and it will keep them from browning for up to 24 hours.
It seems like one of the new frontiers in human biology is the role of the 100 trillion microbial cells that we all have in and on us. Microbes outnumber our human cells ten to one. How do they affect us and our biology?
Below is a good basic video which explains the concepts.
More Links and Resources
Dr. Mercola recommends:
- NO sugar or artificial sweetner
- Stay away from commercial yogurt and kefir.
- Un-pasteurized Sauerkraut, olives, pickles,
- Don’t drink chlorinated water !
- Don’t use anti-bacterial soap.
- Buy organic food.
- Take probiotics – Take them on an empty stomach – 20 minutes before a meal – don’t get enteric coated pills –
I don’t know if the below video has any validity, but it should be an interesting theory.
Low FODMAPS – Started – Feb. 23, 2015
Oil – Olive oil or butter
Fruits – banana, blueberry, cantaloupe, grape, orange, strawberry.
Vegetables – Bell Pepper – Carrot – Chives – Cucumber – Green Beans – Kale – Lettuce – Olives – Potato – Radish – Spinach – Squash – Tomato – Zucchini
Cheese – Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Feta. Mozzarella, Parmesan, Swiss, Hard Cheeses
Yogurt – Greek or lactose free
Milk – half and half, almond milk, Sherbert, whipping cream.
Grains – Arrowroot, Gluten Free Oats, Gluten Free Pasta, Polenta, Psyllium, Quinoa, Rice, popcorn
Protein – Chicken, Beef, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Pork
Alcohol – Beer, Gin, Vodka, Whisky, Wine
Nuts/Seeds – use in limited quantities – Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Walnuts.
Snacks – mozzarella cheese stick – rice cakes with peanut butter – banana almonds/nuts, lactose-free yogurt – Udi’s white bread BLT –
Moderate Fodmaps – below – use limited amounts
3 cherries – ¼ avocado, ¼ cup artichoke hearts, 3 asparagus spears, ½ cup broccoli, ½ cup brussels sprouts, ¼ cup butternut pumpkin, 1 cup cabbage (savoy), 1 celery stick, ½ cup green peas, 10 pods snow peas, ½ corn cob, ½ cup sweet potato, 10 almonds
Most sources also encourage a low lactose diet.
Sue Shepherd in her book Low-Fodmap Diet gives these figures below. She also says that most people can have up to 4 grams of lactose at one sitting.
|Hard Cheese 1 oz||.1|
|Butter 1 Tab||.1|
|Cream 1 Tab||.4|
|Cream Cheese 1 Tab||1|
|Cake small slice||1|
|Ice Cream 2 scoops||4|
|Low fat yogurt 6 oz||6|
Fodmap means – “fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols”
NIH – 1 – 2
Central Clinical School, Monash University