translating prohibited“Google Translate” is a free app for Android and iPhones, that can now translate 52 languages, whether you are online or off.

For example: We tapped the microphone icon, then tapped “Spanish,” and said “Where is the bus station?” A voice from the phone then immediately said “Donde esta la estacio del bus?” If the person you directed this to, spoke the answer into the phone’s microphone, the phone would translate their answer into English. Joy tried Indonesian because she’s reading “Tales of a Female Nomad,” and the nomad spent most of her time there.

The app solves the worst problem with the old method of using foreign language phrase books: There’s usually little trouble in speaking the phrase so it can be understood by a native, the real problem is understanding their answer.

Using foreign phrase books produces some surprising turns. When Bob was a young man traveling in Spain, he bought a two-way English/Spanish phrase book. After about a dozen typical phrases came “I love you; will you marry me?” He thought that was moving pretty fast for a guy just off the boat. Many years later, his son, traveling through the countries of the former Yugoslavia, bought a small English/Albanian phrase book. One of the first phrases was “What are your country’s laws concerning blood feuds?” He was very careful not to offend anyone.

Up In the Air Junior Birdman

PowerUp 3First off, we have no intention of becoming one of the country’s first “drone” columnists. But we got a paper airplane in the mail recently.

This PowerUp 3 paper airplane, ready to fold, came with an electric motor about the size of a peanut and a thin six-inch drive shaft with a propeller and a rudder on the end. It was designed to be remote controlled from any smartphone. Retail cost: $50. Airplane replaceable at any paper folding station.

Now we have experience with destroying drones, having lost a $300 “Xtreem Gravity Pursuit 1080p” within a minute of take-off. Gravity, it turned out, was no problem; it was lost to sight several hundred feet up and never found again. The paper airplane, on the other hand, flew a dozen yards or so, banked into a turn, and landed in the grass. Unfortunately, the grass was wet. Wet paper airplanes don’t fly well and it needed to go into the shop for an airframe rebuild.

But what really amazed us was the size of the motor, battery and radio control mechanism. This could be used to build a drone smaller than a hummingbird or grasshopper, and we understand this has already been done somewhere in some experimental lab we are not allowed to enter. The ultimate range is considerable. So don’t go around indiscriminately swatting bugs.


uberpoolRecently we wrote that Uber carpooling was available only in California. Not so, said a reader. He used it in Miami. It turns out that Uber is now in nine places, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago and the whole state of New Jersey.

So how was our reader’s carpooling experience? He and his wife waited at the Miami airport for 25 minutes, while the driver was picking up two others. He wanted to tell his wife not to use Uberpool at the airport again, but kept his mouth shut and was glad he did. “It was fun riding with others to see what they were there for,” he said.

An Uberpool ride is about half the price of a regular Uber cab, which is cheaper than a regular taxi. But the trip might take twice as long, and you might stop a lot.


lemonade— “23 Food Hacks that Will Change Your Life.” Google those words for some great suggestions. For instance, make lemonade in a blender by washing and cutting an organic lemon in fourths. Throw the pieces in with sugar and water. To ripen an avocado, wrap it in foil and place it in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes. For perfectly-clear ice cubes, boil water, let it cool, then boil it again and cool. After pouring into ice trays, cover it with plastic wrap to prevent particles from getting in. The result is ice cubes as clear as crystal. has free and inexpensive sewing patterns for children and adult clothing. The dress pattern Joy looked at was $7.50 and nice enough to wear to her nephew’s wedding.

Free Music

We use the free version of the “Spotify” music service, as do 45 million other users. We used to pay $10 a month for the ad-free version, because the ads were obnoxious. Now, they’re not so bad and it’s easy to turn down the sound. Also, you can skip songs. Previously you had to upgrade for that.

musicSpotify lets you listen to almost any song or piece ever recorded, over 300 million of them. You can listen from your computer, phone, or tablet. To explore it from the web, go to Or you can download the free program from

Bob has two complaints: One is that in many recordings, particularly classical pieces, they seem use the cheapest, probably royalty-free versions, which sound like they are performed by a chain gang in Lower Slobovia.  The second complaint is if you want to listen to something like Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata, what they give you is one movement of it and then it’s over and out.

One way around this cheap-shot stuff is to copy someone else’s playlist, then prune the pieces you don’t want. Such lists are available at That’s how we got a great list of classical hits, and Joy discovered she loves cello concertos.

Another way is to click “Discover Weekly” from within Spotify. They automatically create playlists based on what you’ve already listened to. We have a rock list, a show tunes list, a Christmas list and a patriotic song list.  You can share songs with others by email, Facebook or text.




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