Hornblower Champagne Brunch Cruise

DSC01840

There are a number of different cruise lines in NYC that tour the Hudson & East Rivers, with views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan bridge. If you are in NYC, definitely try one. The fares are reasonable, especially with a Groupon discount.

My family took a trip today on the Hornblower cruise line. The cruise included a champagne brunch, with unlimited champagne and orange juice, an unlimited and varied buffet, attentive waiter service, with food served on china and metal silverware. Each party had a table reserved for them, decked with linen and comfortable chairs, right in front of huge viewing windows.

As you can see from the image above the day was cloudy, but the cruise was wonderful. Altogether the trip lasted 2.5 hours, and with the Groupon discount was about $50 per person.

I would go again in a heartbeat.

How much does a cup of coffee cost

  1. Aeropress – Starbucks Columbia coffee – $.41/10 oz. mug
  2. Cold Brew – Starbucks Kenya coffee – $.58/tall glass with ice
  3. Nespresso – coffee – $1.10
  4. Nespresso – cappuccino (2 espresso capsules for a 10 oz. mug) – $1.95 including milk
  5. Starbucks retail – $2.75 for a Grande coffee
  6. Starbucks retail – $3.65 for a Grande Caffe Latte
  7. Dunkin’ Donuts retail – $2.45 for a Large coffee

If I had to rate them by taste, the Nespresso coffee and cappuccino is better than any hot coffee I can buy at retail, or make myself in the Aeropress. I still use the Aeropress because it makes good coffee and it’s so much more affordable than Nespresso. I usually won’t make more than one cup of Nespresso a day.

I don’t buy cold brew at a retail store because it’s so easy and so good, made at home with Starbucks’ Kenya beans. If you haven’t tried making cold brew you should give it a shot. You need a few pieces of equipment – 2 jars, filter cone, filter. A scale is handy as well.

  1. Buy Kenya beans at a Starbucks retail store. Have them grind it course, French Press grind.
  2. Pour 2.5oz. coffee grinds into a jar. Pour 2lb. 5oz. of water (about 4 cups) over the grounds, slowly to saturate them.
  3. Cover the jar and store in the fridge for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the coffee into the second jar, by pouring through a paper filter. The larger the filter the easier the process will be. I use a Melita #6 plastic cone and paper filter.

Really, really good.

Prius car sales

I need to turn in my leased Honda Fit in a few months and was considering different options. When I leased the Fit gas cost about $3.75/gallon in my area. Now it’s $2.50/gallon.

I priced out a lease for the Fit and the Prius, and the Prius wound up costing an extra $1,000 over 3 years, including the cost benefit for the Prius’s higher mileage. Since gas prices dropped immediately after that, I saved a lot of money by getting the Fit.

I just looked at Prius sales figures over the past 3 to 4 years. I am not the only one doing the math apparently. Prius sales are way down since 2014. For the 4 months ended April, Prius sales were 63,673 – 2014, 57,550 – 2015, 45,877 – 2016 and 38,359 – 2017. Sales this year are down 16.4% from last year, and 39.8% from 2014.

What I think this says about the Prius is that the ONLY reason people bought them was the car’s high mileage. If they liked the car they would have chosen it regardless of the gasoline cost. If people liked the car, sales wouldn’t be off by nearly 40% over the past 3 years. If they liked the car, sales wouldn’t be off by more than 16% since 2016, when gas prices have been relatively stable year-over-year.

This is why I think Tesla is going to succeed. They aren’t making electric cars to reduce fossil fuel consumption. They make electric cars because that’s the way great cars should be powered. If you set out to make a truly modern great car, you wouldn’t put a combustion engine in it.

And that’s why people want Teslas. Yeah, they can pat themselves on the back because they use electricity instead of fossil fuel. But really they buy them because they love the cars.

Long ago the auto industry figured out that people buy cars that inspire lust. A car buying decision shouldn’t be like deciding to take your medicine. Toyota and the rest of the car makers have failed to make hybrids a success because they don’t understand. Making a hybrid car that sucks to drive, or looks clunky, or is the exact same as a gas-powered car except that it’s slower and heavier, is dumb.

I hope the industry is looking at the Prius sales numbers and wakes up. People don’t want to punish themselves when they buy a car.

Wemo will support Homekit later this year

I mentioned in a previous post that I was concerned about Wemo’s long term commitment to home automation because:

  1. They announced they would not support Apple’s Homekit
  2. Belkin refers to Wemo as a “partner” on it’s website, not one of its product lines
  3. The product line has been stagnant over the past 2 years

However, Wemo just released a dimmer switch. This is the first truly new product they released in a couple of years. Their last “new” product was a smaller version of their old outlet switch, released earlier this year.

Now they also announced that they changed their mind about Homekit, and will release a new Wemo hub to connect all existing Wemo devices to Homekit. The price hasn’t been announced but it is supposed to be released later this year.

I am not sure why they didn’t do this upfront. By initially refusing to support Homekit they caused Apple users to buy competitors’ products, and raised questions about their longevity among non-Apple users.

I am not a fan of hubs as a home automation solution. Each manufacturer has it’s own hubs, and since no single company’s product line is broad enough to handle all possible needs, you can wind up with a bunch of expensive/incompatible hubs.

There are a few hubs (Wink, Smarthings, Harmony) that work with multiple manufacturers products, but I don’t think any of them support Homekit.

I have only one hub – from Philips – for the Hue lights. I don’t want any more. One of the attractive things about the Wemo product line was the absence of a hub. Since I use Alexa to control my devices rather than Siri, I don’t need the new Wemo hub.

These are still early days for home automation. The devices genuinely work, and little by little there are ways of integrating them together. But there is still a learning curve, and that is keeping people away from these products. People just want to bring them home, turn them on, and not have to figure them out. We are not close to that yet.

Tivo Premiere – no service

Further to this post I replaced the hard drive in my old Tivo Premiere with one from EBay. The EBay drive had the Tivo operating system on it. The Premiere won’t work without an OS on the drive. Unfortunately my original drive died, and I lost the OS as well. The replacement drive works fine.

Replacing the HD is easy. There are 5 screws in the back of the Premiere case, and then the cover slides off. There are 4 screws holding the drive to the motherboard. Just remove the SATA cable, the screws and an additional 4 screws holding the drive to the drive caddy, pop in the new drive, reverse everything, and you’re done. Takes 5 minutes.

I booted up the Tivo and went through the setup. First I reset and erased everything. I paired the cablecard to the Tivo via my cable company. Then chose the channels I want to see and that’s it. It took several hours to complete the process because the Tivo updates took a long time.

So what do you get if you don’t pay Tivo for its service? Not much. The Premiere has 2 tuners, but I can only use one. I can’t record anything – not live TV or manual recording of future TV. I can’t use any of the streaming services. I have no program guide.

But … I can watch live TV fine. The picture looks great, and I can pause, rewind and fast forward live TV. And I don’t have to pay the cable company for a cable box.

So, all in all I am happy with it. I don’t watch much TV so I am happy to give up my program guide in exchange for saving $100 a year on cable box rentals.