Archive for the 'Informational #s' Category

Warrantless search of cell phones

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

If you're up to no good in California, or even if you're just concerned about your personal privacy, a recent Supreme Court ruling may be of interest to you. In the case, People v. Diaz, 165 Cal. App. 4th 732, the Court ruled that the police could search the cell phone of the accused without a warrant. While authorities have always been able to check an accused's clothing and personal possessions for the presence of weapons or contraband, this decision takes that search to a new level. For many people, the contacts, documents, text messages, and other data held in their smart phone makes it more like a briefcase than just an instrument to make phone calls on.

The Court's decision was not unanimous, and there has been a great uproar in the legal community about how this authority to search these devices squares with Fourth Amendment protections. The decision is expected to be appealed to the US Supreme court. In the meantime, if you're worried about the data in your phone, you might want to make sure you've password protected your information.

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line

Monday, December 20th, 2010

What is it that makes the holidays special? For some, it's the sound of rosy-cheeked carolers in the yard. For others, it's the little packages secretly smuggled into the house. And then there's the turkey. While traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, there are an awful lot of households who just can't get enough of that bird and go back for seconds when Christmas rolls around. Good thing the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line people are still on the job.

Started nearly thirty years ago, this holiday tradition has been helping cooks make it through the sometimes agonizing process of getting that holiday feast on the table. Their trained experts can give you a hand when you call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372). If you don't have stuffing all over your hands yet, you can also send them an email asking for a little help or moral support. And if you're really planning ahead their website has all kinds of information, as well as an FAQ, to help you make this holiday season the best yet.

And remember to save us a drumstick.

Get paid to recycle your old electronics

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Did you ever notice that whenever you buy some high-tech do-dad, it becomes obsolete the moment you walk out the door? Shiny new computer? Now it's yesterday's news. Smartest new smart phone? Seems pretty dumb by the next day. So we go ahead and use the thing–after all, you did have to pay a pretty penny for it–but you know that within some relatively short period of time, maybe a year or two, you'll have to replace it.

Now we all know that there's all kinds of nasty, environment-unfriendly stuff inside these cool electronic goodies, so you don't want to just drop it in the trash along with the kitty litter. But it can be a pain to try to find an appropriate place to recycle it.

Gazelle is a service that will pay you to recycle your old electronics. How much you get back will depend on the make and model of your electronic goodies, with fancier items with all their accessories likely to score you a bigger payday. But in addition to that, they'll supply you with all the shipping materials you need, so it's not going to cost you anything. They'll make you an offer, which you can accept or reject. And once they've cut you a check, depending on your item, they'll turn around and re-sell it through their retail or wholesale channels, or if your device is really old or has no resale value, they'll responsibly recycle it.

Now you've done your bit for the environment and maybe put a few bucks in your pocket, that you can put toward your next purchase.

Email addresses for mobile phones

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Along with all the other things that make cell phones cool is the fact that you can send email to them. Communicating via SMS text messaging is pretty easy phone-to-phone: just enter the phone number you're sending to, write your message, and you're off to the races. But what if you need to ping them and you're not within reach of a cell phone yourself? Maybe you need that message to get through but you're sitting in front of, sigh, a computer. Great: use email. Oops; what's their email address?

Well, it turns out that's often pretty easy to figure out. Generally the phone number (with area code) is part of it, but what about the part that comes after the "@" symbol? For a list of email formats for the big deal carriers, check out the Mobile Phone Email Address Format page. They've listed many of the names you'd recognize. Some of them have separate addresses for MMS (media, like pictures) so double-check that you're getting the right one. Also, since these types of things can change over time, it might be handy to send a test message to your recipient before you really have to get in touch with them.

Haiti: Contact and Relief

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

We've all been touched by the scenes of the earthquake last week in Haiti. The devastation and carnage have been overwhelming; the stories of survivors plucked from the rubble even a week later are a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.

For a two-week period, Google is offering free calls to Haiti via their Google Voice service. If you've got family or friends in the affected area, this is an opportunity to touch base with them and make sure everybody's okay.

As the relief effort ramps up, there are several agencies that are sending aid workers and relief supplies into the stricken area. As tempting as it might be to donate a blanket or a case of bottled water, what these folks really need is cash. You can donate online, via phone, and in some cases via text message to these or many other organizations:

Red Cross 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
or text Haiti to 90999 to donate $10

CARE 1-800-521-CARE (1-800-521-2273)

UNICEF 1-800-4UNICEF (1-800-486-4233)

Save the Children 1-800-728-3843

The Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)
or text HAITI to 52000 to donate $10

Donations should be tax deductible (check with your tax professional for details). Standard text messaging rates apply to text donations (check with your carrier for more information).

Recycle your old phone

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

All good things must come to an end. Whether it's a movie that's captured your attention, a job you love, or something else, you know the time will come when it's run its course and is done. The same is true for your mobile phone as well. No matter how much you love it, or how much it seems just a part of you, the day will come when it shuffles off this mortal coil and goes to its reward. So what do you plan to do with the leftovers? You know you can't just chuck it in the trash, without fouling your local landfill for the next ten thousand years. How about recycling it? is a project of Earthworks, an environmental protection group. Visit their site, print out a postage-paid mailing label, and send your old phone or PDA or pager (do they still have those?) in to them. You get a tax deduction and the knowledge that you've done your bit for the environment.

Do you suppose I could send them all the junk in my garage as well?

When you've got to go

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

We've all been there: you're out and about, doing your thing, when all of a sudden you realize that you've got to–you know, "go"–and you've got to go now! Unless you're out in the middle of the forest, that means you've got to find the closest publicly accessible restroom. Rest area? Gas station? Store with the sign "no public restrooms?" You've just found yourself in a bit of a pickle.

MizPee may be the solution for your pressing need. Using your smartphone, go to their website and enter your current city and state, and they'll give you a list of close-by facilities. Their list is pretty thin at this point, so they're eager to get your input on restrooms you know about. You can also give them feedback about facilities that they list.

They've also got a trivia section, so you can see how much you really know about "the necessarium."

MizPee is a free service.

Holiday Cooking Hotlines

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Everybody loves the holidays: festive decorations, time with family and friends, feelings of good cheer. It's also a time of no small amount of stress as well: travel in bad weather, too many people in the house, and then there's the cooking. While we all enjoy a great holiday feast, it's not so easy to put it on the table. It would be nice if we could get some extra help.

As it turns out, a lot of the folks who sell you the goodies that you incorporate into your cooking want to do just that. Many of them have telephone help lines, or websites that can give you a hand.

Crisco Pie Hotline


Butterball Turkey Help-Line

1-800-Butterball (800-288-8372) or

Fleischmann's Yeast Baker's Help Line

Foster Farms Turkey Helpline

800-255-7227 (November 19 through December 1) or

General Mills


King Arthur Flour Co. Bakers Hotline

802-649-3717 (not toll-free, but you get a live person) or

Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line


Ocean Spray consumer help line

800-662-3263 or

Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline

800-745-4000 or

USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline

888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or
"Ask Karen" automated response system

Keep abreast of heavenly events with Spaceweather Phone

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Spaceweather Phone is a fee-based service that helps keep you in the loop regarding all things astronomical. Available in two flavors, you can choose the focus more interesting to you.

Space Weather Alerts provide updates on Aurora- and solar activity. If you're interested in solar flares, sunspots, and all, you can sign up for these alerts for $4.95 per month.

If you're interested in more general celestial happenings, then you might want to try the $6.95 per month Backyard Astronomy Alerts. You'll get calls about satellite fly-bys, meteor showers, comets, and more.

Whether you're a photographer who wants to grab pictures of the next Aurora, a ham radio operator worried about getting knocked off the air by magnetic storms, or just somebody fascinated by the nighttime sky, you might just want to give one of these services a try. They also suggest that, of course, either of these services would make a swell gift.

US Forest Service Fall Color Hotline

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

For many of us, autumn is the favorite time of year. The heat of summer is waning, the days are getting shorter, and there's just a different quality to the light outdoors. And then there's the colors.

While New England and the northeast are famous for their fall colors, there is a wealth of wonderful fall foliage all over the country. To get the latest information on where things are happening, call the Forest Service Fall Foliage Hotline at 1-800-354-4595. Just follow the prompts for the region you're interested in and start planning your trip now. Information is updated weekly, so be sure to call back often.

You can also visit their website for more fall color resources.