Learning about Online Learning

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For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, isn’t this weather terrible.

It may look beautiful from inside your warm home; however, it really discourages going out  routinely for classes and lectures.

No need to let you brain veg out.  The Internet offers you 1000s of courses and lectures.  The biggest problem is choosing one.

Let’s go search the web in a grand fashion.

Remember if you want to go to a mentioned site, run your mouse over the name.  If a red underline appears, click and open in a new tab.

iTunes/iTunes U

iTunes/iTunes U heralds itself as the world’s largest online catalog of free education content.  They claim that they have access to more than more than 500,000 free lectures, videos, books and other resources on what appears to be an endless variety of subjects.   Hundreds of college and universities including StanfordYaleOxford, and The Open University, and distinguished institutions such as MoMA, the New York Public Library, and the Royal Opera House.

Right now I’m studying  on my iPad…….

“Jerusalem: The Holy City” Lecturer. Dr. Robert Cargill at UCLA

“Science and Cooking” Harvard. Harvard Researchers and World Class Chefs

You don’t have to have an iPad to learn from iTuneU.  You can use it on your Windows computer and other devices using an Android operation system.

The downloading of an iTuneU app is required. To find the appropriate app search: 

iTunes u app for …..

Fill in whichever is your operating system: mac, android or windows.

YouTubeEDu

YouTube has much more than videos that go viral.  Its education content includes 1000s  of high quality videos for students from tots to our age. For us, there are videos of everything from academic lectures including top universities from around the world to speeches by individuals who are “global thought leaders”.

Being a geek, I had lots of mathematics courses but nothing about the history of mathematics.  Right now, I’m “going” to Gersham College in London, founded in 1597, to “Shaping Modern Mathematics: The 19th Century”.

On the other end of the spectrum are the short, entertaining lectures about an almost unending number of topics such as science, technology, psychology and even gaming. This popular channel, called Vsauce, is created by Internet personality Michael Stevens.  

Here is one of my favorites.

Other Learning Sites

In its grand fashion, the Internet is rich with learning opportunities.  Here are some more sources.

BBC Learning   The BBC offer learning on most any topic you choose.  They not only offer information from their own organization but also provide links to other online courses.  The quality is superb.  For example, take a look at its leaning languages, quickly.

Ted Talks  “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” Over 1400 relatively short videos from some of the most engaging speakers around the world on an endless variety topics, especially technology, entertainment and design (TED). You are urged to share these talks with your friends.  Here is one of my favorites: “Colin Powell: Kids need structure”.

 

So if you are suffering from a lingering head cold —- as I am and so many of my friends are — forget that  it is frigid and icy outside and you are bored.  Snuggle up with your iPad and watch a lecture of your choice.

What online courses and lectures have you enjoyed?  Just let us know in this comment box.

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In love with the fashion, finally, again.

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When I first starting writing this blog about a year and a half ago, I emoted  about how really weird fashion had become for both men and women.  Then, about a year ago, I remarked that fashion was making progress by moving away from the absurd.

I’m delight to announce that I’m in love with the current fashion for the whole family, finally, again.

Women

And, why not?  Look at these clean, classical lines of this trench-coat shown recently in the New York Times.

Red Leather Trench-coat. Right out of my 1960s closet.

Remember, if you want to go to one of the sites that are in red, just put your cursor over the red, click and open a new tab.

Men

My favorite men’s fashion blog, Grey Fox, recently featured the Best of Britain 2014 fashion. Here, he looks at Marks and Spencer collection. These styles are appropriate for men of all ages. Look at those wingtip shoes.

M&S. 2014

And, Even Children

Dashin Fashion, the online designer kids fashion news magazine, is featuring the return to style in children’s fashion. You can shop for these fashions from the site.

What could be more classical than this tuxedo-styled romper  and “that little black dress with pearls” (painted on, of course).

The Tiny Universe. 2013 Holiday Party Wear.

Dashin Fashion reports that designers, like Oscar de la Renta, are creating styles for Mommy and Daughter, which they call “Mini Me”.

For Mom, remember the shirtwaist dress with a wide belt.  Here it is again….with such style.

Oscar de la Renta. Fall 2013

And now for the mini.  I cannot remember what this style is called except that my daughter had a dress with the same lines.  It was pink with a white Peter Pan collar.  Notice that the fabric is just like one of the panels of Mom’s dress.

Oscar de la Renta. Fall 2013

Think. Don’t Panic over Your Electronics.

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My friends may believe that I’m knowledgeable of my various electronic gadgets, such as my mobile phone. But, every time something goes wrong, I PANIC.

I wouldn’t bother you with this story if I hadn’t PANICKED two other times over my mobile phone not working and dashed off to the tech office without thinking.

Well, more than twice.

This time, I had my phone on the charger. For some reason, I could not call out nor could a receive incoming calls. From my land-line phone, I telephoned the help desk of my mobile provider service.

Isn’t this neat! The ‘voice’ said, “Just hit #1 and we will call me back within ten minutes.”  Only, after thirty minutes, I got tired of waiting.

I should be able to figure this out.

In the past, the problem often was a loose SIM card.   I opened the back. Yes. Reconnected the SIM card.  Suddenly, the battery fell out.  PANIC. I  put it back in.

The phone was black. I went through the two steps to turn it on that I do so many times a day.  – then *   Black.  Still black, regardless of what I click on.

PANIC.   The problem must be the battery, right.

Just then, the land phone rang.  Finally, the help service.  They agreed it had to be the battery…just as I had told them was wrong.  I must go to the technical help office.

How can I go out without a working mobile phone.  (Forgetting that most of my life I managed without a mobile phone.) Even more PANIC.

I didn’t wait to think.

Instead, in my panic, I rushed to the shopping mall office. Waited and waited.  Finally, my turn.  I hope I don’t have to buy a new phone.

The tech opened the back of the phone. SIM card, right. Battery, right.

No problem.

I had NOT  turned on the phone’s power button to connect to my telephone service.

I forgot that almost all of the time my mobile phone power is on.  When I use the phone all I do is wake it up(- then *)  When I removed the battery, I disconnected the power.  Of course!!!!

I hope I  learned my lesson.  

I need to read the instructions especially when I am having a problem.   Most mobile phone instructions are on the Internet.

Read and Understand the instructions.

I need to look for this sign on the phone, often in red and very small, too. And remember to hold it down rather than just touch it.

Power Button Sign

I need to remember that on some of my electronic gadgets the power button is hidden on the side with no symbol identifying it.

I need to vow to Think before Panicking.

Life on an iPad: Emails

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I just got back from my annual migration to the other half of my family on the other side of the world.  Being computer and internet addicted, I was faced with making a choice of the best device to use for those five weeks.

My iPad won.

Beloved Toy

Normally, my iPad resides on my coffee table, posed to answer such pressing questions……as……What other films has the actor, in the film I’m currently viewing on TV, been in?  Or, tucked in bed with me, while I attend iTunes U with a series of lectures from UCLA on “Jerusalem:  The Holy City”.

(Want to know more about iTunes U. Move your mouse to the blue  iTunes U.   Right click and open in a new tab.)

Why did I choose an iPad instead of a laptop or a smart phone?

First of all, I may be old-fashioned, but I just don’t like using a laptop computer.  They are too heavy for me to tote around, especially while traveling.  When using one, I get a neck and back ache because my posture is all wrong for me.  Plus, even when using a mouse, I find that my laptop does all kinds of strange things.

Next confession.  When I’m out of the country, I use an old dumb phone….as opposed to a smart phone.  This means that I cannot use my phone to get my emails or surf the web.

Instead, I chose my iPad especially for emailing.

Gmail on the iPad

I use Gmail for PC.  However, I found that using the iPad original mail function, set for Gmail, is limited as compared to the Gmail program on my PC.

(If you use another email provider on both your PC and iPad and that provider has an iPad app, then the problem and the process for improving emailing on you iPad are the same as what I’m going to describe.)

Free Gmail App is Better

I discovered that Gmail has a free app for iPad that is more nearly complete.

Gmail for iPad app

To download Gmail for iPad, go to the App Store.

Tap on Featured at the left bottom of the screen.

Type in gmail in the search box at the upper right.

The Gmail app will be the first on the left.

Click on FREE, the INSTALL APP  and put in your password.

 After the app is installed (there is a moving bar at the bottom of the logo), click on OPEN.

I found that this version of Gmail is still not as complete as my PC version. For example, there are no calendar and contacts functions, but you can get into your “labels”. (I still call them folders.) Nevertheless, for general use, away from my PC, it is good enough.

Change Mail Setting on iPad

I discovered that email management was much easier if I changed my mail setting on my iPad. Instead of my Gmail account, I substituted my Yahoo account that I maintain as a secondary source for my email. This way all of the interconnected programs, like emailing a photo taken on my iPad, still function.

Click on this.

Click on Mail, Contacts, Calendar.

Now under Accounts….click on Mail. (under iCloud) Delete you Gmail account.

Next, add your alternative email account by tapping Add Account and selecting the appropriate email provider.

Opening an alternative account is really easy.  Just remember to use a different password for each account. 

Changing Countries in the App Store

I discovered that, in some cases, different countries have a different iPad (Apple) app store, which means that you must set your iPad  to that country.

Don’t worry Apple will be sure to let you know when you must to change stores.

Go to Settings and scroll down to iTunes & App Stores.

Tap on Apple ID. Tap on Country/Region.

Enter your new location.

Grand Travel Sanity Suggestion

Nothing, but nothing, can make me go nuts faster than, after all that packing and planning, arriving at my destination and finding that I cannot access my email addresses and telephone number and that I forgot my passwords.

I know there are ways of putting them in your SafeWallet, DropBox or even floating up there on an iCloud.  Personally, I  print out

          • All my contacts’ telephone numbers regardless of where they live
          • The email addresses of frequently visited sites.
          • My most important passwords.

I make two copies and put them in my carry-on and my suit case.

Low tech…..yes.  But, it always works…..as long as you remember where you put those copies.

And, don’t forget to pack the charger and an electrical plug adapter, if needed.

iPads Have Limitations.

I found the most apparent reality using an iPad is that it  is not a full size computer. It has its virtues, but I learned not to expect it to function the same way.

In many cases, apps are not as functional or as easy to understand how to use as the original internet site.  Remember you can get to the original site while you are still on your iPad by using a search engine.  I prefer to use Google, which I downloaded  as an iPad app.

Children’s Clothing for the Next Generation

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My grandkids love to wear hand-me-downs, not just from their older sibs but most of all from their parents….and even their grandparents. Wearing garments from past generations is popular. They are called heritage or vintage clothes.

When I saw it on her daughter…my granddaughter,  I was so glad that I saved a dress that my once four-year-old daughter loved to wear often.

My ten-year-old granddaughter looks adorable in her seventeen-year-old sister’s summer dress, which was worn at the same age.

Specially loved and beautifully designed clothing for children of all ages…not merely for newborns and babies….can be enjoyed for generations.  

What Not to Save?

You just cannot save everything so you really must be selective.

No matter who the designer, a shirt that was itchy-scratchy on your son won’t necessarily be any more comfortable on his son.

A very expensive dress, which never  was worn because your daughter hated it, doesn’t mean that she will like it any better on her own daughter.

Clothing, so dearly loved and so often worn that you can almost see through the fabric, may be cherished but are not good candidates for surviving another generation.

What to Save?

The clothing you decide to preserve must be liked by the child, comfortable to wear and in good condition. However, it also should have a special meaning for saving…..not just that it was worn at a memorable event.  Even more important, the original wearer liked this item most of alloften for the simplest reason…… “I felt strong when I wore it.”   or   “It made a beautiful noise when I walked.” or “I always had fun when I wore it.”

Preserving the Reason for Saving.    Along with saving the clothing item make up a packet explaining why you are preserving it.  A picture  of the child wearing the item is wonderful to include.  You can be creative technically  with voice and video messages.  However, also include the information on paper.  Technology does change over the years and you might not be able to play back that video a generation from now.  Look what happened to the wire-recorder of my teens.

If you want the clothing to survive in a wearable condition for future generations, the secret is in the preservation.

I learned from the web that, if you want to save the items for more than a couple of years, you cannot just give them a washing, zip  into a plastic storage bag, shove into the attic and hope for the best.

Steps to Successful Preservation

Take a good look at the clothing.  Identify any stains.  Make any repairs now.  After the item is cleaned, you should handle it as little as possible so that the oils from you hands don’t get on the clothing.

Either launder or dry clean the clothing.  Be sure to treat the stains properly. The item must be throughly dried.  If dry cleaned, remove from the plastic bag and air out any lingering fumes.

Use special archival acid free tissue paper to protect the fabric and to support details such as puff sleeves and pleats.

Remove metal buttons and details such as buckles that can rust and spoil permanently the garment.  Wrap in tissue and store with the clothing.

Put the item in either archival boxes or  plastic storage boxes made of cast polypropylene (PP).

Include any special accessories worn with the clothes, your packet explaining why you saved it and even a sprig of lavender.

Store in a dry area such as under a bed or in a closet that is not near water pipes. Basement and attic areas are not recommended.

For more details, I think that the best website for learning how to preserve children’s clothing so that they can be passed to the next generation in good condition is on the mega website about.com.

  laundry.about.com/od/storage/ht/storebabyclothe.htm

(Remember to click on this address and open in a new tab.)

Honey Ice Cream Cake

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The title of this post could really be “How to Use the Internet When You are  Too Stingy and Lazy to Throw It Out”. But, that is too long.

Eventually, you will get to my original recipe for Honey Ice Cream Cake that you also can  use as a method for making your own original ice cream cakes.

This Saga Begins

As an aging multitasker, I think that I can still do many things and have everything come out well.  Like—-following up on my emails, cleaning the desk and baking a cake for company!

I had found online an awesome recipe for honey bourbon cake. The recipe said to bake in the middle of the oven, so I changed the rack from a lower position.  I  noticed that soon I had to charge my iPad on which I was following the recipe thus I forget that in my oven things burned when place in the middle position.

Made the cake, popped it in the oven and returned to my office. After a while, I wondered what my neighbor is burning now. 

Wait!!!! That is my cake……my aging multitasking brain finally kicked in.

Running, as best I can run, to the kitchen.

 Indeed the honey cake was a little burned on the top.  The rest tasted fine.

Then, I heard the voice of my mother Frugal Fran —– “YOU CAN’T THROW THAT OUT.  MAKE SOMETHING.”

So I went to the Internet.

“What to do when you burn the cake, slightly” I typed. Yes, I got a good answer.  Cut it off and use the cake bottom.

But how to use it?  I was panicking. The kitchen was getting too hot. (I also had forgotten to turn on the air conditioning.)  I suddenly was craving ice cream –my hot-weather comfort food.  Then, I remembered that a friend used to make ice cream cakes out of her leftover cakes.

Back to the Internet.  “Honey Ice Cream Cake”  NOTHING.

When searching on the Internet it is OK to start out specifically; however, you might have to simplify the search.

I had to be less specific just “Ice Cream Cake”.  Now, I had too much information, nothing of which was what I had in mind.

However, I was able to piece together ways of making an ice cream cake and getting it out of the pan without it falling into pieces. Plus, some ideas of various ingredients and how to combine them without melting the ice cream.

The Recipe for Honey Ice Cream Cake 

After putting all the information from the Internet together, I finally arrived at my recipe for Honey Ice Cream Cake or any other ice cream cake.

Obviously, this is not a picture of my Honey Ice Cream Cake.  With my guests waiting and my excitement that it came out of the pan OK and onto my servicing dish, I forgot to take a picture.

Nonetheless, you can see here that an ice cream cake is made up of a bottom cake, the middle ice cream with something dangerously delicious mixed into it and a decorous topping—all waiting for your own creativity.

Method

The biggest problem seems to be getting the cake out of the pan in a presentable form with no bits of foil or paper on the bottom of the cake. That doesn’t taste good and is embarrassing to the cook.  Here is what proved to be the best method that I found on the Internet.

Pan and Lining

1. Use a springform pan with a buckle on the side. Any size is fine.

2. Cover the bottom with strips of cling wrap or plastic wrap, whatever you call it. These strips must extend over the sides so that they can be used to cover the finished cake.

Note: The cling wrap  should extend somewhat farther from the edges than shown in this picture.

Freeze Solidly at Each Step.  You must plan to make this ice cream cake several days in advance.  To avoid any disasters, I suggest that. after each step, you allow at least a full day of freezing in the coldest part of the freezer.

Ingredients 

The Bottom.  

Not a picture of my actually cake.

I used the remains of a Honey Bourbon Cake from epicurious.com  Click on this link to get the recipe.

 (After removing the burnt top and checking on the taste–many times.)  I broke the remaining cake into large pieces and bushed them down solidly and evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan.  

I did not have to add anything to this bottom segment as the cake already had a distinctive taste.  

Put in the freezer for at least a day. Cover with the long pieces of cling wrap. 

You can substitute any cake, even leftovers and store-bought.  The flavor can be enhanced by adding something like fudge or butterscotch sauce or even slices of fresh fruit such as strawberries or peaches.

The Ice Cream.  

I used a middle-priced vanilla ice cream, which I froze hard when getting it home.

I also bought smaller Snicker Candy Bars that I also froze hard. I then was able to chop them easily into small bits that I returned to the freezer to again harden.

Next step is combining the ice cream and Snickers. 

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and put it into a chilled glass bowl. Using a silicone spatula, fold and stir the ice cream until it is slightly melted.  Take the Snickers from the freezer and add to the ice creams a small amount at a time.  But, to maintain a good texture, do not let the ice cream melt too much.  

Save some of the chopped Snickers to put on top of the cake.

Combining ice cream layer onto the cake. 

Remove the cake from the freezer and open up the cling wrap.

Quickly with the spatula evenly lift the ice cream mixture onto the cake and level.

Sprinkle the remaining Snickers on the cake and push gently and slightly into ice cream so that they will not fall off when you serve the cake.

Rewrap and cover the cake with another layer of cling wrap that seals down the sides.  Return to the freezer.

Remember you can use any kind of ice cream and additions.  You can make more than one layer.  Just remember to freeze solidly each layer before adding a new one.  Work rapidly so that they don’t melt.

To Plate and Serve.

Chill the service plate in the refrigerator until ready to plate the cake.

Take the cake from the freezer. Remove the buckle sides. Holding the cling wrapped solidly frozen cake lift from the pan and now place it on the plate. Gently remove the cling wrap.

The Topping

Because the flavours of the cake were already complex plus the Snickers, I chose to only drizzle a bit of plain honey around the top.

For other cakes you can go all out with hot fudge and butterscotch, cherries, miniature cookies—whatever your creative self can dream of.

The only problem is there will be no leftovers.

Great Recipe for Multitaskers

This is a great recipe for multitaskers because there are a lot of small steps with lots of time in between. Even if you forget something you can always improvise.  Just be sure to allow enough time and not to forget and leave the frozen things out to accidently melt!

So Frugal Fran, this is how you can use the Internet to make something out of your baking mistakes.

 

 

Oh Those Passwords

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Trying to remember all those passwords may be a good anti-senility exercise. However, given the magnitude of sites requiring passwords, always being able to remember them is just impossible, especially when we are now being told to change your passwords frequently.

Creating Passwords and Passphrases

I’ve become more and more aware that even my simple home computer used by only me is vulnerable to attack.  Creating a strong password is essential to protecting yourself.

(This discussion applies only to your own personal computer and internet usage. Business computers usually require the assurance of computer security technologists.)

I am not a password guru. So, I went to the web. As is frequently the case, I found many, even conflicting opinions about the best way to create an effective password.  In this situation, I choose the most recent information.

The best passwords  seem to be made up of  a combination of at least eight,  unrelated lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols that you put together randomly.  For example, a strong password could be bhOp3^*L2   Yes, hard to remember but not as easy to hack as your name and a few numbers.

Passphrases, which are made up of at least four, random, unrelated words, are considered to be somewhat safer than passwords.  You also can add numbers, symbols and capital letters.  For example, a strong passphrase could be whiteseriousdelaymoon — or evenwhiteSeriousdelayMoon#95    

You can check the strength of your proposed passwords and passphrases by using Online Domain Tools Password Checker.  Just click and open in a new tab.

Don’t forget that, to reduce the possibility of being hacked, you need a different, unique password or passphrase for each site. And, you should change these frequently.

How Do I Remember All Those Passwords and PassPhrases?

Most likely, you cannot.  You need a strategy to manage them easily and at a level that is appropriate to your own sense of security and comfort using your computer and the internet.

Wing It

One way to manage to remember your password is to wing it.  Don’t write it down, just try to remember.  Can’t remember, click on “Forgot your password?”   And follow the instructions.  You may end up changing your password a lot but that is good.

Paper and Pen

Personally, I think that the best way to manage your passwords is to write them down on paper.  I have a small notebook that I keep in a special secure place, known only to me. Cannot be erased, lost, forgotten or hacked.

Keep your records simple. I have a page for each website that requires a password.  I write in dark permanent ballpoint so that it cannot be erased accidentally.  When I change the password, I cross out the old password and enter the new one. However, don’t cross out the old password until you are sure the new one works.

I also keep any specific identification information that might be required by the site, such as my username for that site.

By the way, you also can use this notebook to record other non-internet passwords, such as how to get into the front door of your apartment building.

Password Management Programs and Applications

There are various computer-based and online password management programs and applications.  Their basic function is to store your passwords safely either on your computer or online; however, their individual capabilities vary depending on the platform such as phone, laptop and pc.

Some search engines have their own password saving programs.  Recently, the security of this feature on Google Chrome and Firefox has been question.  Click and open in a new tab.

Some of the free password management programs that you can review by clicking and opening in a new tab, are

I have SafeWallet on  my computer, which uses the most advanced encryption technologies that exists today.  Only you know the password,so don’t lose it.  (Save it in your notebook.) Not only can you save all your passwords but also your bank account details, passports, insurance policy numbers and even your clothing size (now that’s really a secret).   PCWorld has a good review of this product.  Click and open in a new tab.

Even if you use an online password management program or application, I strongly suggest that you also maintain an old-fashion (to some people) paper and pen system.  You never know what can happen to computer stored information—-or maybe you do know, from experience.

Phished by a Shark

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I think that I am rather knowledgeable about protecting myself from being phished but boy did I mess up.

What is a Phish?

Before I start my embarrassing saga, a phish is an email fraud that looks for-real and trustworthy but is actually fishing for your private information, such as your credit card or social security numbers, or to hijack your email account.

For more information:

http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/phishing

http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0003-phishing#how to deal with phishing scams

I could have titled this posting:  What Not to Do on Your Ipad in the Middle of the Night.

It was one of those nights that we all have.  I couldn’t sleep even though I was too tired to read in the dark from my Kindle. (That should have been my clue of danger ahead.)

Toss and turned—-and then got the not so bright idea of looking at my Ipad—without glasses—-in the dark without any light on.   After all , the Ipad gives of enough light—bright, glaring light.

I tried to read the NYT, watched a few YouTubes and then wondered if there were any emails especially from my kids on the other side of the world.  Off to Gmail.

There it was—–a message from ‘gmail team’.  Something about exceeding my limits. Click here for more information.  I clicked.  Still didn’t understand—or see too well.  Getting sleepy.  Clicked another place—UP POPPED AN APPLICATION FORM FOR YAHOO.  OH DEAR, A PHISH. 

The next morning, I booted my regular PC computer, opened my Gmail and right there was that message from the ‘gmaill team’ (which I now see is spelled ‘gmaill’—yes, two l’s —- (If I had seen that during the night, I immediately would have known that this was a phish.)

This time there was a great big red warning from the real Gmail.  DO NOT OPEN, DO NOT  CLICK ON ANYTHING.  I was right.  It is a phish, but too late, I had clicked. But, I had not entered any private information.

A big question is why didn’t Ipad display this great big red warning.

What to do?

I found that Gmail and Google Chrome are not user friendly when it comes to finding help for this kind of problem. At this point, I should have talked to my local tech professional.

Instead, I  did a search and came up with what I thought was a Gmail security online blog.  They told me where to look on the Gmail website and to change my password.  Done.

(I also notified my bank and brokerage of potential problems. Deleted any account information I had on other websites, such as Amazon.) 

Now my story gets worse.  The Shark Attacks.

The next day, when I booted my computer, my Gmail hesitated for a while and then it would start. It did the same on the second day and again on the third day.   I finally figured out that this was not a coincidence.  Something indeed was fishy!

Time to Call in the Internet Security Expert

I already had tried to secure my computer myself through that Gmail security online blog.  Although I have been using a computer for almost forty years, I know very, very little of the technology behind the internet and the computer itself.  I only knew that I could get myself in deep trouble by deleting the wrong thing.  I had done that before.

I called in an Internet and computer security expert.  He dug deep into the structure of my computer—–and found the malware shark.  And, we were startled.

The very Gmail security online blog that I was using to secure my Gmail account had planted a “hook”, or technically called malware, into my computer that could steal information. For more detail click on malware

Moral of the Story

The moral of the story is obvious. Don’t look at emails in the dark on an Ipad when you are too tired to think clearly. I would have seen that the mail looked phishy.

However, there is a much more extensive problem. Even though I have been writing about the excellent online customer service of Amazon and AirFrance, Gmail and Google customer service is terrible.  It is not user-friendly.  It doesn’t exist.

What is really, truly missing is a website, aimed at us sauve,  clueless, users only, that can give understandable and trustworthy online help for technical problems, like recovering from being phished.

Grand Suggestion to Detect Malware

Download the free version of Malwarebytes.  Keep it updated and run at least once a week.  This is just as important as maintaining and running  anti-virus software.

 http://www.malwarebytes.org/

Online Customer Service: AirFrance

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Sometimes I think that my fixation with customer service came from my marketing background; however, more and more, I realize its importance to everyone, especially first-time online buyers.

The ability to contact a customer service agent has made me more confident in buying something online. The problem, though, is finding out how to reach these live gems.

Remember a while ago, I wrote about buying an airline ticket online for the first time.  Click here and open in a new tab if you want to read this posting again. What convinced me to buy an online ticket from AirFrance was both the positive experience of my daughters and the ability for me to talk with a real-live AirFrance customer agent.

The AirFrance website is a good airlines site.  In addition to selling you a ticket, it has lots of information that is relatively easy to find even if you are not so internet savvy.

This first page of airfrance.com is really a gateway to the world.  Click here. This is especially important because AirFrance customizes their service to each individual country.  Whether you live in the USA, France, Benin, Venezuela  or Pakistan, the AirFrance website offers you easy access to real live customer service, even though the airlines does not appear to offer real-time online chat.  Each country’s site follows the same pattern.

 

My AirFrance Online Real Live Customer Service Story

AirFrance  and KLM are partners. Therefore, my KLM frequent flier number should have worked in that grey FlyingBlue box on the upper left corner—right!!!.  But, after many tries — no go!

How will I ever be able to buy a ticket online, if I can’t even do this right? 

I went to my local site. Looked all over the site and finally found at the top line in sort of small letters Contact Us. I clicked.

My local office was closed for the day.  Oh, dear.  However, I was told to type in my question.

Help, please,  I have never bought an airline ticket online. I’m totally confused.  I couldn’t even get my frequent flier number to work.  My travel agent used to do everything for me.  Please call me…. I gave my telephone number.

The next morning a customer service agent called me.  She even spoke English.  Told me that my old number had expired. (It had been years since I used it.)  She said—-

First, I should  get a new number and told me exactly how to do it online.

Then, she gave me instruction on how to buy that ticket.

And, invited me to contact them again if I had any problems or questions. WOW

And that is exactly what I did.  Bought my ticket.  However, I discovered that, for one  leg of my trip, there was no place to reserve a seat.  And, just as upsetting, there was no place on the profile page of the frequent flyer to specify my special “mobility needs” and seat requirements.

I WAS IN A PANIC!!!

I had already bought my ticket.  I thought I had no way to let AirFrance know about my critical (at least to me) mobility needs.  I had no travel agent to solve the problem.

Back to Contact Us.  This time I got a real person, who not only answered my questions but also passed me on to a supervisor who made sure that the information was in my file. He also told me to contact Flying Blue, AirFrance’s frequent flier program.  Here, too, I typed in my special request.

This is not the end of my story.  

One Saturday afternoon, I got a call from the most reassuring woman calling from Flying Blue. She wanted me to know that she had all my information and is making sure that it is part of my permanent file.  She called me!!!  Now that is impressive.

I haven’t traveled yet so I cannot tell you if all of this real live online customer service resulted in a flawless trip.  I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, I do feel more relaxed about having bought online without the service a traditional travel agent.

Real Live Online Customer Service Does Exist

I have learned that more and more online merchants and services, like AirFrance and Amazon, are providing opportunities for real live online customer support.  

You just have to look for the smaller print, most often on the top or on the sides. And be persistent.

 

Summetime. Ice Cold, Please.

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Summer is here. It’s hot.  I’m thinking ice, ice and even more ice.

I remember that last summer I blogged about how to make that great ICED tea and coffee. However, I couldn’t remember how to make them.

So, I went to my blog inagrandfashion.wordpress.com.  In the upper right corner, there is a search box. I typed in ice tea  There it is …….22 June.  Iced Coffee, Tea and Lemonade: A Summer Necessity

Here is a summary of how to make iced coffee and tea from that blog.  If you want to see the whole blog just click on the red and open in a new tab.

Giant Ice Cubes for Drinks

One of the best and freshest way of really making cold, cold drinks is to make giant ice cubes. These great big ice cubes make the coldest drinks and they last a long time.  Wonderfully cooling.

  1. Thoroughly clean an empty small individual serving plastic cartons—-like yogurt cartons.  You might need to experiment to find out which size cartons best fit your glasses.

2.  Fill the empty carton with water.   I use filtered water from my Brita pitcher.  Remember that ice expands so fill no more than 3/4th full.

3. Put in the freezer.

4. To loosen the ice from the container,  run some cold water over the container bottom-side up.

Quick Fresh Iced Coffee 

The problem of making ice coffee is that you have to wait so long for it to get cold or you make it ahead of time, but it no longer tastes like good coffee. (I’m not a coffee connoisseur but I do love good coffee.)

Last year I wrote about finding a youTube demonstrating the Japanese method of making ice coffee.

Not being a barista, this video may seem too complicated. However, the basic Japanese method is dripping the freshly made hot coffee  directly on to the ice. 

1,  You can use this method with any type of filter, French press and even instant coffee as long as you use a high-quality coffee. 

2.  The key to coffee-tasting, iced coffee is to remember that the ice will dilute the coffee.  Therefore, you need to make the coffee  stronger than you would for regular coffee.   You might experiment to get it just right for you.

3.  Now, fill a glass with ice. I use one of my giant ice cubes,  If you are concerned with the glass breaking because of the contrast of the hot and cold temperatures, use a heat sensitive, not-plastic container, such as Pyrex or a ceramic cup, and then transfer to an attractive glass.

4.  Slowly drip the fresh coffee  on to the ice. That’s it!  Add more ice if needed and milk if you wish.

Simple Sugar Syrup

If you would like to make a simple sugar syrup for cold drinks, go to the original blog by clicking here.

Iced Tea

 I also love ice tea in the summer.  Brings me back home. However, I  never have been very successful at making iced tea even though I make a great cup of hot English tea.

I was delighted to find a posting on canadianliving.com “Six rules for the best iced tea plus recipes”  Click to see the original article.

  • Use enough tea bags, usually two tea bags for every 3 cups of water.
  • Don’t overstep. For tea stronger, use more tea bags rather than lengthening the steeping time. (Steeping time is about 5-10 minutes.) For weaker tea, reduce the steeping time rather than reducing the number tea bags.
  • Use filtered water.  I have found that this is the biggest difference in my general cooking and beverage making.
  • Add sugar to hot water only if all of the tea is to be sweeten your tea. If you prefer to sweeten your tea afterwards, use the simple sugar syrup.
  • Cool before refrigerating because putting hot tea into a cold fridge will it cloudy. If it does become cloudy, try adding a bit of boiling water to it.
  • Don’t use artificial lemon juice or other artificial flavors.
  • Fresh is best.  Make only what you will drink in two or three days.