Refresh Your First Aid Kit Today

As part of your emergency preparations, you may have noticed something about your medicines – they are expired. Most of the deluxe first aid kits have antibiotic medications, burn medications, and disposable thermometers. The bandages, tape, and other items are still good. What can you do?

Now you have two options – travel size containers and Amazon!

For some items, travel sizes make good sense. Neosporin, Advil, and other medications come in travel sizes. While some of these items will replenish your first aid kit, not all medications come in travel sizes.

The next solution for replenishing your first aid kit is Amazon. You can find poison ivy/oak/sumac medications, burn medications, and other medications that need to go into the first aid kit. Moist towelettes, cleaning pads, and other items can easily be found on Amazon.

Here’s the secret to replenishing your kit: You want to look for items that would resupply a first-aid kit usually found in businesses, manufacturing plants, and other commercial sites. These items can be bought between one and seven dollars based on the item and medication.

But what if the quantities offered are too much for your first aid kit? If you have friends or family members with first aid kits containing expired medications, offer to split up the items across several kits. For example, one 25-count box of moist towelettes can replace items in three to four kits. In other cases, the cost is so small that the whole box can replenish a single kit.

It’s a good idea to check the kit every six months to make sure that items used or expired can be replenished before the next emergency strikes.

So if you have items in your first aid kit that are expired, don’t rush out and buy a new first aid kit. For a lower cost, look for refills on Amazon first and then visit your favorite store for travel size items to complete your first aid kit.

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What is next for Greece?

Lately, the biggest news in the financial world is centered on Greece. What does the future hold for the country and the European Union? Let’s go through history and come to the present day.

Greece has been in some kind of financial straits for 90 of the past 200 years. It is a financial basket case. In 2002, the Greek government received a bailout. This bailout has kept the country afloat but some issues still remained. The issues are a) pensions and b) government wages. The Greek economy is heavily dependent on tourism. Without other industries, tourism can only carry the economy so far. When pensions and government wages are more than the country takes in taxes, any government will go broke at some point.

In short, pension payments are stripping the treasury. The pension beneficiaries want “their” money that is “owed” to them. The money was promised to them as part of government service. However, government promises can be broken. The Greek government wants to do two things – keep the pension payments to secure the pensioner votes and kick the can some more. But in order to keep the pension payments going and the banking system working, Greece needs an infusion of cash via bailouts.

Think of the pensioners as “creditors” and the government as the “debtor” as an example. The European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are providing income to Greece through loans. In this case, the debtor cannot pay its creditors without sufficient income. If there is not enough income, the debtor can borrow as much as possible but interest payments have to be made to the banks. Unlike the US, Greece can’t print money to pay its creditors and bankers.

Today, Greece technically defaulted on its debt to the IMF. While there is a call for a referendum on accepting creditors’ terms of extending the bailout. A “Yes” vote means that the Greek government will have to accept austerity measures. A “No” vote means that the people say no to austerity.

If the Greeks vote no on the referendum, it could mean that Greece decides to leave the European Union (EU). While some may think the EU is a monetary union by the use of a common currency, the EU is a political union first. This is a very important point. There are no formal mechanisms where a member can leave the union. But that will not stop Greece from leaving if that is the last resort.

I’m not concerned if Greece votes to accept austerity, but if the Greeks vote no and trigger a possible exit from the union, this action would be the first crack in the union. After Greece exits the union, the next 18 months would be tough on Greece. New drachmas would be printed and that would become the new currency in Greece with a floating exchange rate with the Euro.

What concerns Brussels and Germany after a Greek exit are the following countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. If these four countries follow Greece’s lead, then Europe becomes divided along North / South lines. Sounds familiar, right?

The referendum will be watched on both sides of the Atlantic. If Greece exits, I see a lot of turmoil ahead first in Europe, and then over here in the US. Be watchful.

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Musical Interlude

This is one of my favorite songs from 1991. While it came out in 1990, this song did not get big until after the failed Soviet Union coup that lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. If you watched “The Interview” at the end of 2014, this song is played at the end.

And now, here is “Wind of Change” by Scorpions.


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With Age Comes Wisdom…

As I’m getting older, while history doesn’t repeat, it does rhyme. But I have this feeling that we are undergoing a fundamental shift in this world and I had to write about it.

Is there a wind of change blowing right now? Some may feel anxiety that a shift has happened or will happen. Has an evil force been unleashed upon the world? What is happening out there in the world? All of us have this sixth sense or intuition, but each one of us may be tuned to something else or ignore it altogether.

Will it be a surprise like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the implosion of the Soviet Union?

Will it be a Supreme Court ruling that changes fundamental things in this country?

Will it be a man-made horror on a scale greater than 9/11 or 3/11/11 in Japan?

Will the Big One (earthquake) hit California?

Or will it be something that comes out of nowhere and affects every individual?

All I know is that something big is coming our way. I cannot tell if this event is foretold in the Holy Bible (Daniel, Ezekiel, the Gospels, or even the revelation), but I would not be surprised if this is an event foretold in the Holy Bible.

We have to be alert and be ready for anything. If you have made preparations, they should be rushed to completion now. Be watchful.

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Finally – Verizon Galaxy Note 3 has Android 5.0

It’s the day we pay the taxman and Andriod 5.0 for the Verizon Galaxy Note 3 has been released. It’s a 2-step upgrade which will take the better part of an hour. The first step only takes 6 minutes, but the second upgrade will take over 20 minutes depending on the number of apps. Like the Note 4 upgrade to 5.0, there will be an upgrade to Google Play Services. This upgrade to the Services took the longest time. Once the 33 Mb file was loaded, the warning was cleared.

I rebooted the two times and then I did a cold boot by removing the battery. So far, the upgrade looks good but I have to check to see if the iBolt apps are working under Android 5.0

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No dice on Google Wallet and Galaxy Note 3

It appears that the Galaxy Note 3 for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile has a different NFC chip than the Sprint version. This may explain why the Google Wallet tap to pay only works on the Sprint version and the rest of us had to use Softcard.

Now that Softcard is gone, what do we do? Since the Note 3 will be two years old, it may be time to move over to the Note 4, the Note 4 Edge, or even the Note 4 successor if it becomes available. While the Note 3 is going to be a good phone with the Android 5.0, it’s time to look forward.

It’s only a few more months until the successor is announced. Let’s see what happens. Unless Google Wallet incorporates the Softcard IP and enable the drivers for the oddball NFC chip, only a hardware swap will make the Google Wallet Tap to Pay work.

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Softcard is gone

If your smartphone rebooted today, check your apps. There’s a good chance that your carrier removed the Softcard app from your phone. Since the app was a system app, all the user could do is revert the app to its factory configuration. The carrier had to remove the app from the phone.

Adios Softcard. Hello Google Wallet.

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Mobile Payments – What’s Next?

Since Softcard is shutting down this month, we have to ask ourselves about the future of mobile payments. What is next?

Right now, there are several options. The main players are ApplePay, Google Wallet, PayPal, and CurrentC. While ApplePay has gathered the most publicity, Wallet and PayPal have been around a lot longer. How did we get here?

In 2011, Google introduced its Wallet app which you could use for contact-less payments if the terminal was NFC-capable. The problem with Wallet was the access to the “secure element” of the SIM card. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile would not allow Google to have its app access the secure element. Only Sprint allowed Wallet to work with tap-to-pay on its phones. Little did we know that the big 3 blocked Wallet so they could introduce ISIS as the tap-to-pay app. ISIS was a good idea, but with only Chase, Wells Fargo, and American Express on board, most people dismissed the idea of mobile payments.

The PayPal app is a good idea but requires a few steps to pay with PayPal at the terminal. PayPal could work with any phone on any provider, but the merchant had to support PayPal. CurrentC only came to the public knowledge because of ApplePay. Several large retailers like Best Buy, CVS, and others blocked all NFC-based payment methods within a week of Apple Pay coming out.

Apple Pay is relatively late to the party because NFC support wasn’t built-in to the iPhone until the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released. But because of the support from major banks including Bank of America and others, ApplePay has started to take off. At the same time, many retailers have to upgrade their terminals to be compliant with the new EMV regulations starting October of 2015.

We cannot forget Starbucks and their massively successful app which allows payments straight from the phone. While the Starbucks uses a similar technology as CurrentC, the combination of rewards and ease-of-use for payments makes the Starbucks app very successful as a mobile payments app.

Now that we know how we arrived here in the mobile payments space, where are we going? First, we have to acknowledge that any system will be insecure until proven otherwise. The recent Apple Pay breach shows that banks still have a long way to go before card not present (CNP) fraud is solved. The new chip cards (chip and pin / chip and signature) should reduce fraud once the cards get out in the public space.

Second, banks have to do a better job of tracking and validating stolen credit cards. If Apple Pay drops a bank because of lax approval practices, then this action or the threat of a suspension would get the bank’s attention. But there is a cost-benefit issue at play. The offending bank won’t change unless there is public pressure to change.

What would the ideal payment solution entail? The first step is to reduce the amount of information between the customer, the merchant, and the banks involved. If the information is encrypted between the customer and their bank, all the customer’s bank has to do is return the approval code and that’s it. This is what chip-and-pin is supposed to do with the one-time token. If the mobile payment solution can work in a similar manner as the new chip and pin, we could have the first steps to resolve credit card fraud. But until banks can resolve the issue of stolen credit cards, we will still have problems no matter the transmission method.

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Softcard says Goodbye

As of March 31, Softcard will no longer work. Their webpage and emails direct users to download the Google Wallet application.

After that date, the Google Wallet app may be updated to support tap-to-pay functionality. I think the carriers will allow the new functionality on most phones. But for those requiring the secure element like the Galaxy Note 3 and similar vintage, it may be a long wait.

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It’s official: RadioShack files for bankruptcy

RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this afternoon. We’ll know more once the first day orders go out. 2,000 stores could be closed a part of the initial filling but that is up to the bankruptcy court.

WARN notices have gone out in Texas for 1,000 layoffs at the corporate headquarters.

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