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English: Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai'i Volcanoes...

English: Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Big Island of Hawai’i, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: Yosemite valley, Yosemite National Pa...

English: Yosemite valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Français : Vallée de Yosemite. Parc national de Yosemite, Californie (États-Unis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In their new book, The 10 Best Of Everything.”, National Geographic declares 10 of the hundreds of U.S. National Parks as the best. Read the Huffington Post article here. The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, as you might expect, is in the top 10.

There was, for me, some unexpected listings.  Like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii; New Orleans Jazz Historical Park, Louisiana.  

English: The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum at Hawaii...

English: The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the rim of the volcano Kilauea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether you take National Geographic’s picks or compile your own, the U.S. Parks are a great value. And, I don’t think you can overuse the word “majestic” when referring to most of them.  

Read 100+ Places to Park Free in the U.S. to get details on the bargains and workings of the parks.  This article details all the Entrance Free days, what “free” means, and details on many of the parks.


As a reminder:

Free entrance to over 100 National Parks and Historical Landmarks. See detailed coverage in Free U.S. Parking in September 2011.

June 9, 2011 is the next free entrance day for hundreds of U.S. Parks. Including National Geographic’s Top 10

These treasures belong to you, America, so go out and enjoy them. And, if you can make it on June 9, get in free.  If you can’t, no worries.  The National Park Service is still a bargain, especially if you check out the passes.  Senior citizens you can get a pass for life!  

©2012 DLewis


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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Consumer, Know this?


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 I once took a train just for the experience. Only a 6-8 hour trip. Romantic journey—not. The only thing I enjoyed was the dining car.  Not because of the food. Because there was no reserve seating.  We sat at first available and had opportunity to interact with strangers. In a relatively safe environment. We enjoyed a lively, enjoyable conversation with “train” people who were travelling across country. One of their many trips. is similar. A relatively new concept. Social networking plus a lively dining experience.  With strangers. Strangers with a commonality like love of Italian food. Or people wanting to network. This social dining network brings people together at great restaurants. In over 70 U.S. cities and Canada, Sydney, Tokyo and Seoul.

Public domain photo

New to a city? Traveling alone? Simply want to met new people? could be the answer. You choose appealing groups and join arranged meals. Or, if none set, suggest one and wait for like-minded diners to join. If you don’t get enough people, no harm, no foul. If it’s a go, you prepay for your meal, tax and gratuity online. Participants pay for any drinks, separately, at the end of the meal.

Meals like the Food Revolution @ Hillside Farmacy in Austin, TX. This event celebrates Food Revolution Day, highlighting the world’s food issues and conspiring to make a difference. They also raise funds to advance food education projects in the US through the work of the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

Join ones like the Westside LA Entrepreneurs at the Brick + Mortar in Santa Monica, CA. They share tips, information and life stories.

If you’re a fan of Ashton Kutcher’s Airbnb and live in Chicago, you might try the Unofficial Airbnb Supper Club. They all love to travel. And to share their adventures and tips.

All of these dining experiences cost less than $25.

There are a few non U.S. cities as well (i.e. Tokyo, Sidney, Vancouver).  

Check out Grubwithus’ FAQ page ( and their etiquette page ( for more info.

Grubwithus gets good reviews with NY Times, Daily Candy, Washington Post, and similar.

This could become a winning concept. At least you’ll get to check out some good restaurants without having to dine alone. And you might make worthwhile acquaintances who really become friends you can FB & Twitter with online. At the very least, the dinners should be interesting!


Happy grubbing!


© DLewis2011


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I got to thinking about inventions in the shower this morning.  What if no one had invented the shower head? The

The photo of Gleb Kotelnikov, the inventor of ...

Image via Wikipedia

thought of daily baths doesn’t appeal.  In fact, what is there was no plumbing system? Well, that thought just makes me nauseous. Small things like this should make us appreciate the inventors and innovators who keep striving with their ideas, sometimes in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  This thought made me wonder about what new ideas are in the near-future queue.

Gamers will be happy with a report in Popular Science.  It indicated that upcoming game systems will allow players to “start a game on their console, for example, but they’ll be able to pick it up again on their smartphone.”

The 2011 Popular Science Invention Awards yielded some remarkable inventions.  The Antenatal Screening Kit, developed by a dedicated group of students at John Hopkins University, screens for disease with a stroke of a pen. A drop of urine (or blood) on a line drawn with the special ink of this revolutionary pen singles out diseases. While cost-effective ways exist in the developed countries for these simple procedures, the pen will be revolutionary in developing nations where citizens, especially women, don’t have access to health care. Currently, the pen being tested is for preeclampsia. However, the developers work on creating pens for several diseases, such as diabetes. Medical organizations in the developing countries express excitement and hope about the widespread impact of the screening pen.

G20 developing nations

Image via Wikipedia

In a similar vein, scientists at the University of Tennessee work to finalize a microchip for detecting disease. The microchip identifies antibodies in the blood placed on it and alerts medical staff if it detects infection.

Those who commute to work facing the rising sun will appreciate another 2011 Invention winner. Chris Mullin took eight years to create the Dynamic Eye. Sunglasses with a brain.They boast a small sensor on the nose bridge that detects glare, which trips a black square to block the glare. The liquid crystal Mullin used in the lenses still let the wearer see through the black square, so no worries about accidents. Not because of the glasses or sun glare anyway. And no more trying to adjust the visor because the special square moves as the wearer moves to combat glare.   A codicil: you will have to wait to get your pair for the morning commute.  The U. S. Air force have requisitioned Mullins’ initial units.

Once you get to the office, wouldn’t it be great to process through computing just as easily. Or imagine

IBM desktop 2

IBM desktop 2 (Photo credit: Jiri Brozovsky)

downloading several thousand movies to your smart phone. IBM Researcher Stuart Parkin has created the “racetrack memory”. It provides much faster data access than current hard drives; but without a price increase. IBM says that racetrack memory could potentially enable a personal storage device, no bigger than a lapel pin, to record every conversation the wearer encounters for years before the device reaches capacity.  Somehow, I imagine the CIA has already commissioned prototypes for their agents.

Wow, necessity–and sometimes just plain demand–is the mother of invention.  Have you heard of any great inventions that will improve our life experience?

©2012 DLewis

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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Know this?, Uncategorized


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AN APPLE EVERY DAY—Enjoying that Mark-up?

Cnet’s recent article on the likely cost to manufacture iPhone and iPads after Apple allowed ABC News into its Chinese factories.  Would it make you sick to know that  expers calculate that cost at less than 10% of the retail price? I understand R & D, but come on this is the 4th generation. And if I remember from my school courses (yes, I was listening professor), there’s a thing called amortization that should diminish that cost over time; and each generation seems to have fewer new bells and whistles. None of the creations were cheap. The  iPhone4S reportedly brought in four million dollars for Apple in the first few days of its release.  Even if you inflate the cost to 25% to take marketing, etc. into account, that’s still a 75% profit.

Per CNet, even adding in shipping from China and cost of potential warranties for Apple, it’s still seems a rather ridiculous mark-up. Especially, sin
ce Apple has a ravenous market in Asia, so shipping there would likely be pretty inexpensive. A mark-up, I think, that Apple knows they can get away with because of our need for the cache.  The latest and greatest.  As well, as the psychological: many of us think that (insert the name of any “high-end” product here) must be good, special if it’s really expensive.  And, it could be that many of you really, really, REALLY love that phone and find it indispensable.
Only the recent version of the iPhone held any interest to me. Still, the cost never matched up to its worth. But, then I’m a Frugalista. Also gadgets don’t make me salivate. If Siri and I ever get together, it will likely be after another generation comes out and the price drops to more Macy’s than Bergdorf Goodman. For those of you who have held out against purchasing the (whatever) new generation of Apple products, you might find this website helpful: iPhone Repair Services, Top Ten Reviews 2012.


As an iPhone owner if the markup info wounds you, here’s a bit of a salve. Cnet has a whole section dedicated to comprehensive coverage about your iPhone. It also answers questions, such as: “Why does my iPhone take upside down photos?  Go here to check it out.

©2012 DLewis

Thanks for reading – love to hear your comments, too!  LIKE THIS ARTICLE?  THANKS FOR SHARING BELOW  FYI, the subscribe button is in upper right corner.

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Consumer, Know this?, Uncategorized


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In light of the lopsided examples of greed and social misconduct, corporations doing good works may sound like an oxymoron. Unlike Santa and M & M’s with feet, corporations understanding their social responsibility do exist.

Corporate altruism can range from donating a percentage of product purchases, to corporate earmarks for community contributions, to matching employee charitable contributions, to charities selected by the company, to allowing employees to volunteer time to serve their communities.  However, there is no more ongoing tangible example of good works than restaurant programs feeding the financially challenged and the hungry.

Denise Cerreta pioneered the first pay-as-you-can restaurant in Salt Lake City, UT almost a decade ago. Her One World Everyone Eats Foundation mentors several other restaurants in this mission.

The Better World Café in Highland Park, NJ follows Cerreta’s example by feeding the hungry in a sustainable way—by using locally grown food, with an emphasis on healthy fare. Meal costs are still based upon what each patron can afford, with an encouragement to pay more than the suggested price if they can to help feed even more. Diners may also volunteer in exchange for a meal. If they cannot pay anything or volunteer, the café offer a complimentary dish of the day for free.

Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ provides two ways to pay also. The menus list no prices, as they only accept donations. If a customer can’t donate, the restaurant accepts volunteer work from patrons in exchange for a meal.

Three women in El Paso, TX work to open a similar venture.  At the Mustard Seed Community Cafépeople also pay what they can or work in the kitchen as payment.

Customers at a non-profit coffee shop in Knoxville, The Living Room, enjoy coffee and/or a meal for the suggested prices or nothing. Whatever they can, or cannot, afford.

Café 180 in Englewood, CO, a suburb of Denver, lets customers pay what they can for pizza, salads, soups, and similar. One of the owners also runs an organic dough company so this is no grocery store pizza. Similar restaurants in the Denver area include So All May Eat (SAME) Café and Comfort Café.

Every pay-as-you-can (PAYC) restaurant lists suggested prices; some accept whatever the customer decides to pay, while others take service in kind for all, or part, of the meal. It seems to work well at all the ventures. At the Panera Cares restaurants, for instance, they find that 60% of the customers at their three PAYC’s pay the full suggested price. 20% pay even more; and 20% pay less or nothing.  Panera Cares’ has three locations: Clayton, Missouri; Dearborn, Michigan; and Portland Oregon. They have donation boxes/baskets at these restaurant’s rather than cash registers. Overall, doing well enough to cover costs, with money left over for a job training program for at-risk youths.

Table Grace Cafe‘s <> mission for customers in Omaha, NE:  “foster a healthy community by offering great food prepared and served in a graceful manner to anyone who walks through the door.” They also serve gourmet pizza, salad and soup. This restaurant also has an internship program and job placement service.

Worth Our Weight, a cafe in Santa Rosa, CA, also offers a little extra. This cafe provides culinary apprenticeships to young people, aged 16-24 who have faced major challenges in their lives. Note it’s only open on weekends. Karma Kitchen franchises, such as Taste of Himalayas Restaurant in Berkeley, CA, serve a generous Sunday lunch and the check is always zero. Karma only requests patrons to pay it forward: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.” Karma Kitchen also operates locations in Washington, D.C. (White Tiger Restaurant)and Chicago, IL (Klay Oven Restaurant). 

While Potager’s in Arlington, TX doesn’t offer free meals, its philosophy: “ask for only as much as you can eat and pay what you feel it was worth”. They also specialize in sustainable and organic foods.  Check out how they’d like to change how America consumes and enjoys food here.

You can search for a PAYC restaurant near you on the OneWorld site here.

If you know someone in need in these locations, send them this post or tell them about the restaurant nearest to them. If you live in any of these areas, consider patronizing these restaurants and paying a little more than the suggested prices. Go there with a group.  Make it a bi-weekly event.

And if you temporarily need a hand,  these places will welcome you–with good food and a joyful spirit.

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.                                                        

If you’ve made some contribution to someone else, to improve their life, and make their life a little more livable, a little more happy, I think that’s what you should be doing.” Reagan, by contrast, argued, “Each man must find his own salvation . . . every man to be what God intended him to be.”  ― Robert F. Kennedy



©2012 DLewis

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Project Gutenberg has been around for many years and is still going strong.  It bills itself as the first producer of ebooks.This site makes books in the public domain, over 38,000, available for free. Free for Kindle. Free epub books. All of these books were originally published in the traditional sense. Classics like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  and The Crystal Crypt by Philip K. Dick 

You can download or read the books online. In no time, you’ll build a significant electronic library. There are even more books available through Gutenberg’s  Partners, Affiliates and Resources. Most of the works appear in English and several other languages.  


Although Gutenberg’s diligent volunteers continually digitize and proofread new offerings, the site welcomes donations to make sure that the benefit continues.  The site also gladly accepts more volunteers to proofread here

©2012 DLewis

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Consumer, Economic, Know this?


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You may have read about the free iPod classes in the Power of an iPod Education post. Well, some universities also offer free, open courses on-line.  Harvard is one of them. Open courses open to anyone with access to the Internet. That’s right–free instruction from Ivy-league professors.  You don’t earn credits with Harvard Extension School’s Open Learning Initiative , but you still get the knowledge. Harvard offers open classes such as Algebra, computer science, and  Shakespeare.

The university also has more credit and non-credit classes for a low tuition.  How about 16 weeks of being Harvard trained in the Economics of Business? For $1,025 for non-credit or undergrad credit?  In our current economic and business environment, this could be quite the illumination class.


Princeton, and some others, also offer similar courses; which I’ll cover in another post.  But do also check out the iPod offerings.

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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Economic, Know this?, Tips


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