Sites of the Week: May 3, 2015

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

– Annie Dillard, author

Factoid: About 28 percent of Americans were totally sedentary last year, failing to participate in even one physical activity, such as running, lifting weights, yoga, bowling, or even stretching, a new survey found. The Physical Activity Council said that roughly 83 million Americans ages 6 and over did nothing at all to maintain fitness—an increase of 18 percent over 2007.

The Wall Street Journal

This is unbelievable. I agree with former Texas State Rep. Todd Smith who wrote Gov. Abbott “Your letter pandering to idiots … has left me livid. I am horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to those who do.”

Texas Governor Deploys State Guard To Stave Off Obama Takeover:

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.


If you’re anything like me, typing proves a challenge even on a full-sized keyboard. I’ve tried both external keyboards and keyboard covers. These other solutions force you to accept compromises such as a thicker tablet or smaller keys. Most also will work only with your tablet. TextBlade delivers with full keys and great QWERTY touch-typing in a form factor that’s roughly the size of a pack of gum when folded closed. The TextBlade’s three pieces snap together magnetically.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital offers an easy way for you to organize, track, and analyze your investments. The core service is completely FREE with the option to enroll in their portfolio management service for less than 1% in management fees. If you don’t already have an investment portfolio, this article explains how to get started. However, this site is probably most helpful to those who have worked at multiple companies and never bothered to complete a 401K rollover. With Personal Capital, all of your investments can easily be monitored from a single site. After signing up for a Personal Capital account, you link your financial accounts and they are then shown on your dashboard.


About one mile from our home is a Chick-fil-A that is so popular that during the lunchtime rush they place cones and have an employee directing traffic. It made me wonder whether it’s so popular because people like it or they believe it’s a healthier alternative than other fast food restaurants. That led me to this site which, in addition to selling products and services, has several free features. Under Tools, you can look up the nutritional facts for a range of food items. Even better, you can compare items such as a Big Mac and a Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich. A complementary site is the Fast Food Nutrition Calculator.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”


Sites of the Week: April 25, 2015

“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”

– Voltaire

(Two weeks ago on a visit to Tucson and Saguaro National Park, Betty had a painful encounter with a Cholla Cactus. A friend sent me this quote which I believe also has a wider relevance.)

Tips for Better Writing

  1. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  2. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  3. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  4. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  6. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  7. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  8. One should never generalize.
  9. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  10. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  11. Don’t be redundant; don’t more use words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  12. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  13. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  14. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  15. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  16. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  17. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  18. Who needs rhetorical questions?


Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.


CareerHMO isn’t a free service, but if you feel your career could benefit from professional career assistance, this site may be for you. They offer coaching, tools and resources at a much lower cost than a private career coach. Like an HMO, they are able to do so because through your membership you share the cost of retaining coaches and career materials and tools. Plans are as low as $15/month and they have clients all over the world. If you are an executive, you may wish to instead check out their sister site, C-Suite Insider:

3D Clothing Designs

I came across this site by accident and liked their 3D T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. I especially liked some of their pet designs which you can see here. In addition to pets, they have many other designs including wild animals, zombies, skulls and monsters which you can see here.

Instructables: How to make a No-Sew T-Shirt Blanket

Continuing the clothing theme, this Instructables post shows you how to continue to get some remaining use from old t-shirts. This post caught my eye because I have a large number of old race shirt and neither I nor my wife sew. These instructions explain how you can create a No-Sew T-Shirt Blanket. As the post states, it’s “a great way to preserve memories and make use of your old t-shirts.”

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: April 19, 2015

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

– Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Factoid: Americans are five times more likely to commit suicide with a gun than to be shot by someone else.

The Washington Post

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

I recently learned I was one of millions affected by one of the many data breaches in the past year. Even if you have not been, it is important that if you don’t already have an account, you create one immediately. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes and can prove invaluable. Criminals are fraudulently creating accounts in taxpayers’ names to steal tax refunds. After creating an account, the thieves gain access to all of your earlier return data. With this information, it’s easy for them to create a fake bank account in your name and file a fraudulent return. You’re unaware anything is wrong until your return submission is rejected because the IRS records indicate your return has already been filed. An added benefit of creating an account is you’ll know now if anything is amiss. This happened to one of my wife’s co-workers who wrote “When I tried to create the IRS account I was told there was already an account for us. Clicking the link to reset the password should’ve sent a link to our email account to reset the password but we received no such email. I’m confident the criminals received it at the email they had registered the account with.”

To create your account, click the above link and select “Get Transcript Online.” Under Create a Login on the next page, click “Get Started.” You’ll then complete a 6-step process to create and verify your identity. You can then view your transcripts if you’d like, but the important part is simply creating the ID verified account with the IRS before a criminal does.

Ask Bob Rankin: Are Bluetooth Beacons Tracking You?

I’ve recommended this newsletter in the past. This column on Bluetooth beacons is a “must read”.

Find My Phone

If you have an Android phone, this should be of interest to you. This won’t replace Android Device Manager, but Google has made it easier to find your misplaced, lost or stolen phone. You just need to be signed in to Google with the same credentials as Android Device Manager on your device. See the article at the above link for details. Click the Google+ image in the article to see an animate gif demo.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: March 28, 2015

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’”

– Isaac Asimov

Factoid: Despite the fears of modern parents, children today are much safer than they were two decades ago. The physical abuse of children declined  by 55 percent between 1992 and 2011, while sexual abuse declined 64 percent. From 1997 to 2012, abductions by strangers also went down by 51 percent.

Now on to this week’s sites.  This week, I’m sending out two ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Google Flights

This site is cool. If you’re planning a flight, this should be your first stop.  Google Flights is an airfare advisor site only–you cannot book flights here. The site excels when your plans are flexible or you’re undecided.  Let’s say you know you want to go to Scandinavia, but you’re undecided on your destination. You can enter your departure city and for destination enter ‘Northern Europe’. The fares for destinations across that region are shown. Another nice feature is a calendar page that displays  prices for your trip on every day for the next month with the least expensive fare highlighted and a graph showing whether fares are likely to rise or fall.


Hotel rates change as often as airfares. Tingo promises to get you the lowest price.  If you find a lower price on another site, they will match it. But here’s where it gets good. Tingo continuously searches for better rates leading up to the day of your arrival, alerting you when the price drops. If a hotel drops its rate after you book, Tingo will automatically rebook you at the lower rate and refund the difference to your credit card. Tingo also provides a hotel’s rate history for the past 14 days. There are a couple of points worth noting. First, you must book rooms on their site that have “Best Price Guarantee” and “Price Drop Refunds”. Secondly, although reservations are fully refundable, you do have to prepay at the time of booking.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: March 15, 2015

“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”

– George Burns

Factoid: Around 35 percent of bandwidth usage in peak evening hours in North America is from Netflix use.

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Google Inbox

Have you heard of Google Inbox? Eventually, it’s expected to replace Gmail. Google states “Built on everything we learned from Gmail, Inbox is a fresh start that goes beyond email to help you get back to what matters.” Similar messages are “bundled” into default categories or ones you create. For example, purchases and travel emails would be grouped in corresponding bundles. (I’m not sure how this differs from folders.) An appealing “highlights” feature extracts key elements of an email and allows you to see the summary information such as order updates, flight status, reservation details, and pictures without having to open the message. You can also create reminders and then “snooze” both reminders and emails. If all of this sounds good to you, you’ll have to first request an invitation to join as it’s still in Beta—almost done, but still not officially released.


There’s no shortage of weather sites out there, but this is one of the best I’ve come across. It is absolutely loaded with features. There are too many features to mention them all, but I will highlight two that I especially like. The dashboard view is nicely laid out providing key current and forecast data. Another key feature is its Historical Weather data. When you’re planning a vacation, there’s nothing more useful when it comes to the weather than checking the average highs, lows and rainfall for the location and time of your visit. I relied on for this feature until recently when they inexplicably dropped it.

Should I Remove It?

If you’ve recently purchase a new computer, it’s likely bloated with unwanted software commonly referred to as crapware. Even if your computer isn’t new, it’s likely you have inadvertently downloaded adware, spyware, toolbars and unwanted applications. This issue was recently in the news because of the Superfish scandal involving several Lenovo models. This free utility is here to help. It identifies and removes all kinds of crapware and bloatware.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: February 28, 2015

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

– Leonard Nimoy

Factoid: One in four Americans agrees with the statement that “God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.” according to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

DuckDuckGo (DDG)

This site comes to you via my friend, Ralph. Google has become the undisputed search engine leader, but you may want to check out this alternative. DuckDuckGo (DDG) is a search engine that emphasizes protecting your privacy. DuckDuckGo distinguishes itself from other search engines by not profiling its users and by deliberately showing all users the same search results for a given search term. In addition, the interface is less cluttered with ads and you can configure it.


See whether you can correctly answer these 12 questions concerning common grammar errors.

National Parks Traveler

We love our national parks and monuments. If you do as well, then this site is for you. The site was launched 10 years ago and is dedicated to covering our national parks offering “…readers a unique multimedia blend of news, feature content, debate, and discussion all tied to America’s national parks.”

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: February 7, 2015

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

– John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
(19 year old American volunteer with the Royal Canadian Air Force killed in action December 11, 1941.)

Factoid: This Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend $700 million on Valentine’s Day presents for their pets.

National Retail Federation

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about Pets

Even if you don’t have a pet, you may find this video interesting. Mental Floss has a weekly debunking common misconceptions. In this edition, the host discusses 10 misconceptions about pets. If you enjoy this pet video, there are a number of recent episodes from which to choose at the conclusion. Another episode you might enjoy is ‘100 Amazing Facts’. For example, Fact #7 is the interesting but completely useless fact that the sum of the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.

File Converter

This British site offers an online file conversion service that can come in handy. It’s free and there’s no software to download or install. Just select your file and the format to convert. Zamzar supports over 1,200 file types including video, image, music, PDF and more.

Bios Urn: How To Turn Into A Tree After You Die

This subject may make some of you uncomfortable, but let’s face it—none of us is getting out of here alive. This site offers an alternative to traditional options: burial, cremation or donation to science. Bios Urn is made from biodegradable materials and contains a tree seed of your choice. The tree seed is nourished by and absorbs nutrients from the ashes of your body and transforms you into a tree. Bios urns are also available for your pets. The urns do not have an expiration date so they’re “ready when you are.” The cost of the Bios Urn is $145.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: January 31, 2015

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

– Vince Lombardi

Factoid: Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the public participated in a survey last fall. Eighty-seven percent of the scientists questioned said human activity was the main cause of global climate change, compared with 50 percent of the public. There was an even bigger chasm over genetically modified foods, with 88 percent of the scientists saying they were safe to eat, compared with 37 percent of the public. On evolution, 98 percent of scientists said humans had evolved over time, compared with 65 percent of the public.

Pew Research Center

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

SafeShare is a website that takes YouTube videos and removes the distractions and advertisements we’re all familiar with. SafeShare even removes the ads that are shown before many videos. Using SafeShare is simple. Just paste the YouTube link into and you are given a new link to use instead of the YouTube link. As an example of the clean, uncluttered video, check out this video forwarded by my friend Jack about a mechanic who built a unique truck. Click here.

Should You Cut the Cord?

Are you thinking of cutting the cord? Many people are switching from cable or satellite to streaming alternatives including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and now Sling TV. But how many of these services can you subscribe to before you’re paying more than you would for cable or satellite? Use Slate’s calculator to help you decide.

What Every State in the U.S. Is Worst at (Including North Dakota at Tourism)

We all recognize that each state in the U.S. is unique with its own strengths and weaknesses, but have you ever wonder what each state is worst at? I guess it’s not surprising that Hawaii has the highest homelessness rate (465 per 100,000) although you do wonder how they were able to travel there. Anyway, you may find some surprises in this Yahoo! Travel article.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: January 25, 2015

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

– Dolly Parton

Factoid: With 88.8 firearms per 100 citizens, the USA has 35 percent to 50 percent of the civilian-owned firearms in the world.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary

This site comes to you via my friend Ralph. In December 1968, Apollo 8 crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to leave Earth and travel to another body in space. This video commemorates the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8’s historic flight and the crew’s capture of the famous Earthrise photo by using photo mosaics and elevation data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and other sources to recreate the moment when the crew first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon. The video is accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts.

NPR: Tiny Desk Concerts

Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR’s All Songs Considered features live performances by musicians at Bob Boilen’s desk at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC. You can find likely a few of your favorite musicians as well as discover ones you’ve never heard before. For me, I enjoyed hearing Yusuf/Cat Stevens perform one of my favorites and hearing the Dublin Guitar Quartet for the first time. Each intimate concert consists of just a few songs with the videos 10 – 15 minutes in length.

Allstate Digital Locker

You don’t have to be an Allstate customer to download and use Allstate Digital Locker which is a FREE and easy-to-use household inventory application. The app enables you to create an inventory by room or category of your personal property and store your data securely in the cloud. You can include photos, descriptions, serial numbers, purchase prices and dates of your items. Unfortunately though, to date there’s only an iOS version.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”

Sites of the Week: January 10, 2015

“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

– Jim Rohn, Businessman and author (1930 – 2009)

Factoid: Texas’ State Board of Education has approved new history textbooks that say the U.S. Constitution was based on the Bible. A group of university professors complains that the textbooks are filled with “inventions and exaggerations” about Christianity’s influence on the Founding Fathers, but board chairwoman Barbara Cargill said students will now learn about the country’s “rich religious heritage.”

The Week

NOTE: On Jan. 13 mainstream support of Windows 7 ends and it begins its extended-support phase. This means that Microsoft will no longer offer free updates to the operating system. Under Extended support, Microsoft offers only essential fixes and security updates.

Now on to this week’s sites. This week, I’m sending out three ‘Site of the Week’ recommendations.

My Family Health Portrait

One of the best gifts you can provide your children or grandchildren is a record of your family’s medical tree. My Family Health Portrait enables you to do that easily. Enter your family health history and generate a diagram and table. Data can be electronically shared with family members and healthcare providers and can be saved for later updates. The site also includes a Diabetes Risk Calculator and a Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. My Family Health Portrait was developed in collaboration between the Office of the Surgeon General and the National Human Genome Research Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.

CFC: Let’s Make a Plan

It’s a new year. Regardless of your age, you should be planning for your future. This site can help. There are valuable articles and you can subscribe to their free newsletter. You can also find a local CPC (Certified Financial Planner) who can help you to achieve your financial goals.

Natural Gas Calculator

Most of the USA has been hit with record cold weather this winter. Ever wonder how much your furnace or that gas fireplace are costing you? Your gas rates may be different than Peoples Gas in Chicago, but their calculator will still give you an idea of what your gas appliances are costing you.

Ernie Orr sez “Check em out!”