Corn on the Cob the Easy Way!

IT WORKS! I think it’s better than boiled or steamed, too. I hadn’t eaten corn on the cob for many years because it’s such a pain for one person, one ear of corn. I have two more corn ears and plan to buy more as long as it’s in season.

See: SFGlobe’s short 22-second video on Facebook.


If you can’t reach the link, or just want the bottom line:

  • Don’t husk the cob(s). They cook in the husk which preserves their moisture,
  • i.e. leave the cobs intact inside their husks.
  • Don’t wrap them in anything or put them in a microwave bag.
  • microwave for 4-4/1/2 minutes.
  • remove from microwave with a hot pad.
  • CUT the stalk and about 1″ of husk off with a sharp knife.
  • squeeze the pointy end and the cob will slide out of the husk.
  • this method removes the silk too.
  • ready to eat. Butter and serve. HOT!

I couldn’t get the cob to slide out as quickly as the lady in the video on my first try, but slide it did. I think the trick is to squeeze the husk right up at the tip and work your way down – with a hot pad, of course. Practice makes perfect. Delicious!


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Black and Decker Toaster Oven

I worked part-time in the Sears Electrical Department in my college years. We sold tons of earlier iterations of those popular kitchen appliances, 90% of them in the Christmas season on Saturday Specials. I developed a distaste for the whole category, and, in over 40 more years, never had one in the house or apartment.

A couple of weeks ago our 8 year old $100-plus Cuisinart four-slice toaster crapped out. What was particularly irritating was the way it died. Toasting regular bread, I pushed the plunger down and the whole mechanism just collapsed, as if made of tin foil. The outer shell had been made of plastic, and that had developed heat cracks over the years too. Repair it? I just threw it in the trash.

Now, I do a lot of microwaving, which is fast and energy efficient, but it doesn’t brown food dishes such as packaged casseroles. It makes no sense to fire up the oven for a single serving. So I began researching toaster ovens on the web!

As we’d expect, one can spend hundreds on these things, but I can’t. I loath digital displays and touch pads on home appliances anyway. They are harder to see and set than old-fashioned knobs, and all I want to to is cook the food, not program it. I have the same issue with digital camera menus, noting that one manufacturer, Fuji, even makes a full digital with retro manual controls imitating the film SLR’s of yore.

So I found Black and Decker made a toaster oven for only $39.99, and decided to buy it. I bought it at Ace Hardware, just down the street. How good could it be at that price?

Black and Decker Countertop Oven, Model TRO480BS, $39.99

The B&D model toasts, broils and bakes. It has mechanical knobs for all the settings and adjustments, two adjustable rack levels, a bake pan and a crumb tray, and a bell timer. At about 16″W x 9″H x 10″ deep, it requires little counter space. It will hold a 1 quart Corning Ware casserole dish with cover, about 7 inches square. It has a sturdy, solid feel in use, and is of all-metal construction except for the generous glass window door.

So far, I’ve used it for sliced french bread, bagels and a frozen turkey casserole tray. The toast and bagels come out perfectly in about 4 minutes, and you don’t have to worry about thick bagels as you do with toaster slots. In my opinion, my slices come out more evenly and consistently toasted than with the old Cuisinart.

For the frozen casserole, I precooked it with the microwave to save time over cooking instructions in an oven. I finished it off in the Black and Decker, giving a perfect browned crunchy top.

I really like being able to see the meal’s progress in the oven. In a toaster, the first sign is the smell or the smoke. But with the B&D I’m learning I can trust settings I’ve already used before.

You wouldn’t try to cook the Christmas bird in this device, or rotisserie a chicken. For one or two people, this does much more than a toaster, and it does it better. FIVE STARS in my book. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

View giving idea of size. The included baking pan is shown in front.


LINK to Black and Decker page for this item

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  • Site Outage Reminder: our web host provider is taking our site offline for a four-hour outage, sometime Sunday evening or the early hours of Monday morning.
  • Gasoline Taxes: according to the American Petroleum Institute, Californians pay the highest gasoline tax per gallon of any state in the nation, above even Hawaii and New York. In cents per gallon (selected states):  CA- 48.6, HI-45.1, ME-31.0, MA-23.5, AZ-19.0, MO-17.3, WYO-14.0.
  • Due Diligence: There’s a reason why professional pollsters don’t hire drunks in internet chat rooms to conduct their polls. The next time you receive an e-mail poll, petition or “statement”, you can certainly chuck it into the junk mail or trash. But what if you think you approve? Unless you make a habit of doing everything others tell you to do, don’t just “SEND THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW”. Research it yourself. Are the claims true? To debunk urban myths, is a good place to start. Don’t embarrass yourself by unwittingly forwarding internet trash mail!
  • Dark matter: Yep, astrophysicists think the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed it, and they think they know what it may be. You’ve seen photos of those squiggly lines in “bubble chambers” – the impact area of high energy particle colliders, cyclotrons and atom-smashers? This high-energy shower of subatomic sparks doesn’t just evaporate. Accumulated over the 13.7 billion year lifespan of our universe, from all of the collisions and supernovas that ever existed, we may have found the “smoking gun” responsible for an expanding universe.

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“Resealable Bag Inside”

"Resealbale Bag Inside"

Since I grew up in the ’50’s, we as a nation have progressed from cardboard boxes and wax paper to hi-tech plastics and ziplock bags. All of us except the food packaging industry, that is.

Now, I love raisins. Yep, I have always loved raisins since I was a kid. And I usually buy Sun-Maid, because that’s what my mom bought, 60 years ago. I’m a transplant from New England, new to California in 1950, but I’m a loyal transplant.

Needless to say, when I saw that Sun-Maid now packages our excellent California Raisins in a new, improved Resealable Bag”, I had to put a box in the old shopping cart.

And, when I opened the box for my after-dinner raisin snacks, here is what I found:

Here you go, "resealable"

Here you go, "resealable"

In other words, in case anyone else is as dense as I was, what you get to make your space-age bag “resealable” is the piece of yellow tape with the instructions:

  1. To open: pull apart bag at top
  2. To close: fold bag in toward tab and reseal

In case it looks to you like I just cut off the bag top with a pair of scissors, that’s exactly what I did. The new bags are NOT wax paper, they are a super-tough non-tearable plastic; in fact, they are the same plastic used to protect your Krispy Crackers, but without protecting them from crumbling into cracker meal. This kind of plastic is fabricated to protect the contents from the purchaser.

Not even Charles Atlas nor Mr. T could pull the walls of the raisin bag apart by hand. The heat-sealed crimp closure is designed to withstand nuclear attack. If an endorphine rush gave you the super-strength to open one of these bags, you’d be cleaning an explosion of sun-dried Natural California Raisins out from under the couch, washer and dryer for the next several months and beyond.

While I’m no longer exactly in the prime of my strength, I shudder to think what an 85-year-old granny would do. Actually, I know exactly what she’d do: she’d go straight for the scissors.

By now you are probably wondering why they would make these things this way. And of course you knew I was going to tell you why they do. That’s so the marketing and packaging jerks who sit at the long, polished zebra-wood conference table can boast: “THEIR product is just dumped into conventional packaging and loses its freshness. OUR product is resealable.”

Resealable, my ass. I am still waiting for the yellow plastic tape to fall off.

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CostCo Fixes a Flat

Back in September 2006, we posted a note called Boy Mechanic Changes A Flat, and CostCo’s excellent service when we replaced the tires all around.

This week we found the left front radial had gone almost flat, and so put some air in the tire and made our way to the local CostCo tire center to see what they would do for us.

I couldn’t find my receipt for the tires, but CostCo found the original transaction on their computer in about five seconds. My car’s turn for service came just as I had finished shopping inside. The mechanic pulled a nail out of the center of the tread and had it plugged and patched, with me on my way home, in less than half an hour more. No charge.

This kind of no-hassle service buys a lot of loyalty in my book. Think about CostCo next time you shop for tires.

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In Praise of BiC

I’ve spent more time recently noticing and thinking about the increasing invasiveness and irritability factor of corporate marketing in the USA. Proctor and Gamble spent $2.5 billion on television advertising last year. Is it possible U.S. consumers spent $2.5 billion too much on P&G consumer products last year? The ads themselves are insultingly mindless, but we pay for them again when we buy that box of laundry detergent.

Do companies that own a market share think they own the consumer, too? They act that way. The advertising cartels are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Their in-your-face tactics compete for our attentions and business in an increasingly busy and over-crowded consumer marketing landscape. Obnoxious TV ads for fast foods and financial services generally come close to the top my personal hit list. Annoying radio spots for loan companies and car dealerships have to weigh in a close second. Worst of all, unfortunately, are the pervasive spam and uninvited near-spam marketing messages that flood our mailboxes and web pages with hideous messages on the internet.

And it doesn’t stop when you click “MARK AS SPAM”, jump to a new website, or throw the junk mail in the shredder. If you carry a credit card, or recently bought a home appliance, or had your car serviced, you’re marked as a target for even more unwelcome solicitations. I am still getting regular mailings, disguised as “Official” mail, to remind me I didn’t buy the extended warranty on my Maytag dryer, two years ago.

So let us sing the praises of BiC.

BiC products always work, but never intrude.

For some reason I always thought “BiC” stood for “British Industries”, but Societe Bic is actually French, a contraction of the name of founder Marcel Bich, circa 1945. As you know, BiC makes disposable lighters, ballpoint pens, and a number of other indispensable but low-profile consumer items which, over the decades, have generally eclipsed the competition. BiC products are simple, cheap, and work exceptionally well.

BiC has its own website, and an entry on BiC can be found in Wikipedia. Every company has to have its own web page today. Unsurprisingly, BiC’s is relatively tasteful and informative.

Given my attraction to presentation-grade personal accessories, my loyalty to BiC is even more telling.

I have always had a compulsive weakness for really nice pens. Over the years, I’ve accumulated some stunning fountain pens and gift-set executive ball points. I gave up on fountain pens decades ago, after one ruined dress shirt too many. The ballpoints all sit in desk drawers, as beautiful as the day they came out of the gift box — and out if ink. If you’d have thought that Parker Pen and Cross might standardize the refills, even for self-survival, you’d be wrong.

I buy BiC ballpoints by the dozen. They write so well and last so long that a package lasts until next Christmas, when I buy new stocking stuffers. I ran a BiC through the washing machine the other day. It didn’t leak, but the cap was glued on, by what, I didn’t want to find out. I just threw it out, grabbing another cheap, reliable, disposable, ubiquitous BiC.

I’ve had an affection for Zippo lighters for decades, too. They always run out of fuel when I’m nowhere near a can of lighter fluid. If you overfill a Zippo, you risk a nasty chemical burn from raw Naptha, usually on your leg underneath the pants pocket. You have to remember to pack spare flints under the cotton batting inside the case. The fumes don’t smell great either. And, if you forget and have one confiscated at the airport, you’re out a fair chunk of money. Again, I carry BiC. The presentation-grade table lighter is also another one of those same cheap, reliable, disposable, ubiquitous BiC’s.

Others have tried to copy the BiC formula. Other brands of cheap ballpoints generally don’t write well, or for very long. And personally, I find other disposable lighters, even Scripto, to be pretty awful, awkward, unreliable inventions.

I suppose BiC advertises – their web site says they do. But I haven’t really noticed a BiC ad in decades. “Flick your BiC” (circa 1973) is all I need to remember, and it’s a slogan nobody is likely to forget. I like it like that, and I’m sure my loyalty has something to do with recognizing a company that seems to support my right not to be hounded when I buy a product or service.

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Electrocution: Copper-theft suspect in critical condition

Copper-theft suspect in critical condition
Brent Whiting
The Arizona Republic
May. 25, 2007 12:00 AM

A man suspected of trying to steal about $20 worth of copper remained in critical condition Thursday after being shocked by 12,000 volts of electricity, authorities said.

“The next 72 hours will be key to his survival,” said Firefighter Daniel Valenzuela, a Glendale Fire Department spokesman. He added, “To be honest, we don’t understand how this person is still living.”

I never met the individual, but I almost did. He’d been recommended to me for a home professional service. By the time I called for a quote, he was already in critical care in the burn unit. I later learned about the copper incident.

My strongest response remains best wishes for his family, none of whom I know, and my hope for a full recovery.

We’ve all heard on television how copper’s value as a commodity has made copper theft an increasing problem. This is the other side of the story. People sometimes think they know how to handle “live” wires, but utility wires carry hundreds of times the voltage of ordinary house wiring.

Not that anyone should steal copper at all, but I’d like to see future news coverage of copper theft that emphasizes the particularly terrible danger of live electrical wires.

I don’t personally feel comfortable moralizing just now on the value of finding ways to make ends meet that don’t involve theft, as investigators suspect was the case with the victim, who was wearing climbing gear when found dangling on the utility pole by firefighters arriving to put out a brush fire caused by arcing of the fallen electrical line. The fact that I disapprove seems beside the point at the moment. Second and third degree burns over most of one’s body is a horrible price to pay for twenty bucks of copper.

Thinking of yourself for a second, when a service provider is recommended by a friend, they can only tell you how their home service experience went. Do your own due diligence. Ask for and check customer references when getting quotes for professional services.

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60,000 Mile BeautyRest

No, I don’t sleep in my car, but after this 60,000 mile service on my 1999 Toyota, I probably won’t be buying that $2,000 mattress this year.

I had it all researched and picked out, too. I looked at European SleepWorks, Sheraton Sweet Dreams, Serta and others. The best sleep I ever had was in a “pillow-top” style hotel mattress in Las Vegas. I wanted one like that. I decided against Tempur-Pedic – “like sleeping on wet sand”, some reviews said – and the artsy-craftsy adjustable wooden slat foundation of the local European Sleepworks crossover product. I focused on Simmons BeautyRest pillowtops, and my next step was going to be the showroom.

Sometimes when you want to spend your tax refund all in one place, you need look no further than your own car.

I took the car in for a smog check and 60,000 mile checkup and front shocks this morning. Well, they’ll have it all day. I knew by the “klunk” sound the MacPherson front struts were going. Estimate: $900.00. And then there are the top mounting plates which wore out from the bad shock. Estimate: another $200. The 60,000 mile interval service comes with a LOT of work, including the tune-up that is so rare with newer cars nowadays; $499.95. Your car uses platinum spark plugs, $180 additional cost. Battery and hold-down – I’m not going to tell you. It’s almost time for the timing belt ($595-$695) but I declined it for now – I do need the car back today.

So much for the tax refund. Now, when I look at my car, believe me, I’ll again be able to say “Rest assured – it’s a Beauty.”

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Life Without Newspapers

As I told the Chronicle yesterday when they called to win me back with a half-price offer, “you know, I’m actually starting to enjoy life without a newspaper.”

She actually laughed. “Well, what about the fact that we delivered the news right to your front door; don’t you want that?”

No, even when deliveries were reliable, less and less of the paper was getting read, but all of it had to go out to the dumpster each week.

“Well, what about the coupons? Don’t you use the shoppers?”

Good God no! Two-thirds of the Sunday edition is ads and shoppers. It’s out of control! That’s what makes the frequent trips to the dumpster so loathsome!

I thanked her for her time and assured her that if I ever changed my mind I could always call them.

When I wrote my first article on this topic on January 22, I mentioned web bookmarks for news and comics. I am using this system – I’d actually developed the bookmarks a long time ago – and it’s working far better than I’d hoped.

What I always liked about the huge newsprint page was that the headlines jumped out at you. If you wanted to read more, the article was right there under the headline. Oh sure, you still always have to turn to page C-9 right in the middle of a critical sentence, but 40 years of conditioning minimize the irritation factor.

The web news page contains more links and much less actual text – you follow the link. What I didn’t sufficiently appreciate was exactly how little it puts you out to click a link and (if you like what you see) read the article found there. I open in a new window or tab so I can just dismiss it when done.

For my web news I still use BBC the most, but also MSNBC, Arizona Central, and only rarely, SFGate. With the index-style hyperlinks on a typical news page, I now believe I can read more news in less time than the old way of flipping and folding newsprint pages back and forth.

I have to admit I really hated carrying out weekly shopping bags of newsprint and circulars that weighed twice as much as my household garbage. It ticked me off to return from a week’s vacation to find half a dozen yellowed newspapers advertising no one had been home, when we’d taken out a vacation stop. Managing the newspaper account wasn’t just a household item, it was also a security concern and constant headache. And, it seemed that, as advertising encroached on larger and larger areas of the paper, actual news was reduced in coverage and quality.

Every Sunday I was reminded that the only part of the paper that had high-quality full-color printing, highly legible text and wrinkle-free glossy paper was the advertising circular. And I’ll bet you a nickel it wasn’t even printed at a Chronicle facility.

I like being without a newspaper.

Towards the end, it seemed that the free “shopper” handouts, the kind stacked in apartment vestibules and office building lobbies, are catching up with the traditional newspaper. The shoppers have plenty of ads, of course, but the articles are more local, more interesting, and, in my opinion, better written. They use a better quality newsprint and recharge their ink supply on time. The text is attractive, high-contrast, and easy to read.

I think there will be a place for better quality newspapers with high editorial standards for decades to come. Those that don’t make it will blame the internet, TV, unions, the high cost of labor, and editorial resistance to guaranteeing the stockholder a competitive return on investment.

High cost of labor? The dozen or so carriers we’ve had over the last few years mostly drove jalopies whose doors wouldn’t even close – how overpaid could they have been?

Those newspapers that don’t make it will more likely fail for the same reason as most other businesses do that aren’t in a hi-tech squeeze: lousy service, and a poor quality product.

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Today’s Special: Positive Spins & Pyrrhic Victories

I was going to use today’s space to crow about the elections, but an inconsequential incident at the Deli led to this article instead.

Bad news is bad enough, but popular trends toward imparting dashed expectations with a “positive spin” seem now to be the rule, rather than the exception, an art form if you will, and all the more obnoxious for their in-your-face obviousness. The formula is: sure, this news is bad, but we’re going to explain why you will actually like it (delivered with the practiced smile that assures you’re the perfect idiot for even asking).

The public may not appreciate being patronized, but we’re already used to this treatment in a business or political context.

  • Yes, the job cuts will be painful, but the health and the future of the company will be assured (and so will the new BMW’s in the parking lot)
  • Prices and rates are going up, and services will be curtailed, but that’s the price we pay to be competitive in the global economy (and fund the stock options, perks and golden parachutes)
  • Nobody likes war, but Real Americans know that freedom requires sacrifice (for example your son or daughter, the health of the economy for the next 30 years, and your best shot at a liveable retirement income).

Earlier generations knew this kind of good news as the Pyrrhic Victory – “the victory which comes at a devastating cost to the victor”?(Wikipedia).

Our company used to have a Human Resources department, and if you had questions you would go to that person and ask your question. How old-fashioned! Nobody’s actually said whether we’ve outsourced or just automated the “Human” our of HR, but now we have web pages for everything. If you ask a question today, the answer will be delivered brightly, and with a smile, by any executive fielding it: “Oh, all you have to do now is go to the web site and you’ll find all the answers there!”

So, what exactly do we need the humans for?

At our Deli this morning, I saw the sign that said “Today’s Special: one tamale and salad, $6.50”. This sounded great to me, as I’m tired of egg salad sandwiches and was looking forward to something really different today. So, I asked for Today’s Special.

“Oh!” they said, “It’s not ready yet!”

OK. I can handle that. It’s happened before. I started trying to decide on an appetizing substitute. But it gets better.

One employee cheerfully started explaining how, yes, they know I come in early, so I always like to eat early, but most customers don’t eat lunch for another hour (it was 11AM), and if they prepared the Special for serving now, then it would be all spoiled for most of their customers! Horrors!

I just can’t recall the last time I was told so masterfully, and so cheerfully, that it was somehow my fault for trying to buy a featured offering.

Mind you, I was the only customer in the Deli, but any fool could see everybody was pretty busy preparing for when the customers come in.

As Woody in “Cheers” once said, I saw it right away. They didn’t have the advertised Special. There was nothing anybody could do about that. They returned to their chores, assured that I could now grasp that I simply needed time alone to think of something more reasonable.

I’m on pretty good speaking terms with everybody at the Deli, so I handled it this way. “OK”, I said, “perhaps we can try another day, then.”

And I walked down the block to the next Deli, which is not as convenient, but where they are always glad to see me, they always have a great selection of fresh ingredients and home-cooked entrees, and they always genuinely appreciate my business.

It’s not about punishing folks whose business needs don’t always play nicely with ours. After all my years in Retail, you’d think I’d be pretty good at helping businesses that stumble when they should be closing the sale. But, the truth is, I think it’s really all about rewarding those who help me get what I want when I’m ready to buy it.

We can further condense that syllogism down to globally universal terms: no matter what kind of a positive spin is put on failure, people are happy when they get what they want.

So maybe I am crowing about the elections, after all. When you ask for the Special, don’t settle for a speech and an egg salad sandwich.

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