If you were to look at the list of programs recorded on our DVR you would see that most of them are shows from the Food Network. No surprise there, right? All of those programs have been promoting the Food Network Kitchen app for some months now. (Not to be confused with my favorite television program on the Food Network, The Kitchen, which airs on Saturday mornings.)
Rising above the cacophony of Black Friday sales was an offer of Food Network Kitchen at half price: $19.95 for a year, as opposed to $39.95. I couldn’t resist. The content is available across all of one’s devices, including the PC, where it is accessed from the Food Network web site. That means that I can save a recipe on my desktop and then access it from my laptop where my recipe software is. That’s a lot easier than the intermediary text file I have been using to save web address for quite a long time now.
The heart of Food Network Kitchen is classes: both live and recorded. These are real-time instructional videos. I believe that the original intent was that these classes be broadcast from the spacious Food Network kitchen facility in New York City. But COVID-19 and corresponding stay-at-home and social distancing orders made that unworkable. So what I have been watching is skilled chefs offering instruction from their own homes. These folks live in New York City (Brooklyn and Harlem, for example) where housing is expensive and apartments are small. A small apartment means a tiny kitchen and we get to peer into these tight spaces. (In two kitchens the toaster oven sat on top of the microwave. In another kitchen the refrigerator door hit up against the butcher block food prep island.) The chefs don’t apologize; they simply show us what great food one can cook in a small space.
There is much that I love about these classes, and at the top of the list is the fact that they are strictly cooking. There is no underlying plot point, as seems to be mandatory on most Food Network cooking (as opposed to competition) shows. (“Aunt Freida is coming over for dinner this evening, so I am making three of her favorite dishes.”)
The Food Network stars on The Kitchen, the Saturday morning television program, have been taping the program from their homes during the pandemic. Jeff Mauro, Katie Lee (Biegel), Geoffrey Zakarian, and Alex Guarnaschelli have let us see their large, fully equipped, to-die-for kitchens. (Sunny Anderson has not let us into her kitchen at home. We only see the outdoor grills on her deck. I’m not sure why.) But the rank-and-file staffers who bring us the live Food Network Kitchen classes from their cramped cooking spaces really know what they’re doing. I am impressed by their skills.
Food Network Kitchen is designed for a tablet. It needs more real estate than a smartphone offers, and the pause and rewind functionality doesn’t work on the PC when you watch a live class. But whatever platform you use, you can type in questions and have a good chance of getting an answer.
I received a generous thirty-day trial and have kept the subscription going. This is cool stuff.
I have two wireless earbud sets? Yep, two.
I wrote a while back about buying a set of wireless earbuds for my iPhone from a company called Letsfit and how much I liked them. As I expected, they are great for listening to my audiobooks when I’m doing yard work and I don’t want sweat to damage my expensive hearing aid.
But then there is my laptop, which I use for Sunday morning worship at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Hemet via Zoom. I had been using wired earbuds, but I decided that they were a bit too restrictive. Since we are unlikely to return to indoor in-person worship anytime soon, I thought a wireless solution would be better.
My hearing aid uses an Apple technology that allows it to connect to multiple devices. So I can use my hearing aid with both my iPhone and my iPad. But here’s the thing with Bluetooth. Bluetooth earbuds only connect with one device. My Letsfit Bluetooth earbuds are paired with my iPhone and if I want something similar for my laptop I need a separate pair.
I searched Amazon and found a set for $19.95. (Prices for all of these things seem to fluctuate frequently.) The average rating was 4+ stars with input from over seventeen thousand users. I ordered them and paired them with my laptop. They work great for Sunday morning Zoom worship.
Something interesting. When I fired up my laptop and put the new set of earbuds in my ears, the voice that said “Connected” was identical to the voice on my Letsfit earbuds.
I guess the underlying technology is the same on all of these products.
Stuff sometimes happens even when you’re minding your own business. Yesterday before I went grocery shopping I checked my email. All was well. When I got home I had no internet access. My router was non-functional. There were no lights lit up on it. None. Completely dark. He’s dead, Jim. It’s a dead parrot.
I called Spectrum and the automated voice support was no help, so I enunciated very clearly rep-RE-sen-TATIVE. After twenty minutes on hold I got a real person who was very friendly, but finally agreed with me that I had a dead parrot, er, router.
While I was on hold I used my Spectrum iPhone app to make an appointment at the Spectrum store to swap out my router, but the first available appointment was the next day. The real person at Spectrum told me that I didn’t need an appointment; I could just head over to the store, which I did.
I had to wait a bit for my turn, but once someone came over to help me the equipment swap was very quick. I brought the new router home, connected everything, and waited. No internet access. Another call to that automated lady, a complete power cycle on both the modem and the router, then voilà, internet access!
I did a speed test and saw that I was getting almost twice the internet speed I had before, which is what Spectrum had been telling me for some months that I should be getting.
It’s a cliche, certainly, but it’s also true: all’s well that ends well.
I lost my hearing aid in the parking lot at Kaiser Riverside during the so-called storm of the decade a few years ago when I was taking Terry home from one of those routine but unpleasant procedures that we older folks must endure every five to ten years. When I went to replace it I asked for a hearing aid that would connect directly to my iPhone without an intermediate device. The clinic’s ReSound line did just that. I love it.
Sometimes, though, I want to use earbuds. The sound quality is better, and when I am doing yard work or exercising I worry that the sweat could damage my hearing aid. The wired earbuds that came with my iPhone 8 have good sound quality, but the frigging things don’t stay in my ear. Not only that, but if I’m doing yard work the cord gets in my way.
I have avoided wireless earbuds because of the price, but our morning news tech guy on KTLA channel 5, Rich DeMuro, reviewed a product from Letsfit that sold for only $26.99 on Amazon. I thought it was worth a try, and with the rewards points on my Amazon VISA credit card the earbuds cost me six dollars and change with tax. (The price, by the way, was $19.95 at last check on Amazon.)
They are really cool. There are four sizes of ear tips and the sound quality is excellent. When the weather allows me to do yard work I can listen to audiobooks without fighting with the cords or worrying that my hearing aid might be damaged by my sweat. The earbuds are advertised as waterproof and they seem to be. The left one fell into my leftover black beans from El Pollo Loco with no apparent damage. (The only time the seem to fall out is when I am using them while eating, which I probably shouldn’t do anyway.)
Practical, fun, and inexpensive. What more can you ask?
My first hearing aid required an intermediate device, called an iCom, to communicate with other devices, such as my iPod or phone. It was a pain to deal with I eventually stopped using it.
I lost that hearing aid during what was termed “the storm of the decade” in February 2017 when I was taking Terry out to the car after a routine procedure at Kaiser Riverside. That drive home is perhaps material for another blog entry. The point here is that I needed a new hearing aid.
When I went to the hearing aid shop I specifically asked for a hearing aid that communicated directly with my iPhone, without an intermediate device. I got one, and it has worked beautifully, both with my iPhone 5s and with my new iPhone 8, which I got in August. I use it not only for phone calls but with my Audible and podcast apps.
All was well until I installed iOS 13. Now I knew from reports I had read that iOS 13 was buggy, and I held off installing it until iOS 13.1.2 was released. That was the fourth release of iOS 13. Nonetheless, there were still a lot of bugs in 13.1.2, and my iPhone no longer wanted to talk to my hearing aid. Well, it thought it was, but it wasn’t. I had to turn off my hearing aid, open my Audible app, start playing a book, and then turn my hearing aid back on in order to get the two to communicate properly. Most frustrating.
The iOS 13.1.3 release did not solve the problem. 13.2 seems to have fixed the issue, knock on wood.
This is a first world problem, I am fully aware. Still, it is frustrating. We expect these things from Microsoft, but now Apple is doing it to us as well. We should be able to expect better from our tech companies.
I have a new iPhone 8. I love it.
My previous phone was an iPhone 5s which I have had, I want to say, for four years. I was trying to keep limping along with it, but I was getting squeezed for storage space. I was deleting both apps and photos (copying the photos to my PC) to free up space. And it was getting slower.
Terry’s iPhone 5c had flat out died, and she needs her smart phone for work. She went to the Verizon store and came home with an iPhone 8. I tried to resist, but reached the point where I was simply not productive with my 5s.
I ventured out to the Verizon store and came home with my new iPhone 8.
I’m very happy with it. I have 60 gigabytes of storage instead of 16. I can store my audiobooks and podcasts, and the screen is large enough to be able to read Kindle books as well. I was able to reinstall the apps I deleted.
Not only that, but I set up Apple Pay, which is amazingly convenient at the few places that accept it.
As part of the accessory package I got a protective case and cover and a wireless charger. I no longer have to plug my iPhone into the connector to charge it, but simply place it on the pad. And I got one for Terry as well.
It is more money on the monthly bill, but it’s such a pleasure.
“Some things are best not written down.” That’s how I started my speech at Toastmasters two weeks ago. And that is why I gave a speech instead of writing a blog about that particular topic. I pointed out that what you put out there on the internet is there forever—even if you think that you’ve deleted it.
The subject in question had to do with the behavior of a family member that was, well, inexplicable, and the repercussions that resulted from that behavior. It made for a good speech; I received the best speaker ribbon and people were visibly moved. But I made the speech and now it is lost to the ether. It was not recorded in any way.
Which makes me think of a pledge I made here some years ago. I was listening to a series from The Great Courses about writing nonfiction and I had read about works published as nonfiction that were in fact mostly fabricated. (Conversely, some novels are actually more memoir than fiction.)
My pledge was that everything I tell you is the truth. I will, not, however, tell you everything.
That pledge still stands.
Ever since the advent of the e-reader there has been a lot of discussion, sometimes coming close to religious fervor, about e-books vs. paper books. I owned two different early Kindle devices and now read almost all of my books on the Kindle app on my iPad. Terry reads paper books. Yet I love my library of physical books and have no intention of getting rid of them.
A friend of mine, who once upon a time blogged under the pseudonym Boston Pobble, wrote that both/and is a perfectly acceptable mode of behavior. More recently, in the “By the Book” interview in the New York Times Book Review, Janet Malcolm stated:
Why have a large library and not use it? Why keep books, if you are not going to read them more than once? For the décor? The answer isn’t entirely no. A book-lined room looks nice. I like walking into my living room and seeing the walls of books with faded spines that have accreted over many decades.
There you are. Who am I to argue with Janet Malcolm?
A couple of years back I sold my internet domain csquared.com which I had owned since about 1996. I wasn’t particularly interested in selling but finally, after some weeks of back and forth, the broker, with approval from his client, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I used some of the proceeds to buy a new iPad, as my old one was, well, getting old. As part of the package I had to get a new keyboard, as my old keyboard wasn’t compatible with the new iPad.
The new keyboard has worked out well. What impresses me is how often I have to recharge it. Once a year. That’s it. Really. Just once a year.
The LED starts blinking amber, I plug it into the USB port on my desktop, and I’m good for another year.
How very cool is that?
I wrote a while back about buying a second Roku for the bedroom so I could watch streaming programs while Terry was watching something else in the living room. I mentioned that the television in the bedroom is an inexpensive not-smart TV with only two HDMI ports. Since one port is connected to the cable box I had to disconnect the Blu-Ray to connect the Roku.
I didn’t like the idea of the Blu-Ray being disabled, however, and I thought that since there are USB hubs for computers there must be HDMI hubs for televisions. There are. And they’re not that expensive. The HDMI switch I found on Amazon was $9.98 and using my Amazon VISA points the device cost me $1.63.
That means I just punch the button on the HDMI switch to toggle between the Roku and the Blu-Ray.
How cool is that?