blood pressureA reader asked us to find her a blood pressure app for the iPhone. There are several of these for both iPhone and Android. Unlike the kind you see at the doctor’s office, the apps do not use a compression band that temporarily cuts off your circulation. They measure the slight pulsing from placing your finger on the phone.

We tried “Finger Blood Pressure! Free” on our Android phone, and compared it with the reading we got on the $35 Omron 3 Series Blood Pressure monitor with a pressure cuff. The Omron is battery operated, so you’re not tethered to the wall plug.

Omron said Joy’s systolic pressure was 118, her diastolic reading was 74 and her pulse was 46. (She exercises way too much.) The Finger Blood Pressure Free readings were similar but were way off on the pulse, which Joy has tested elsewhere. Still, it was better than nothing.  If you have an iPhone, there’s the “Blood Pressure Monitor Family Lite,” also free, which just keeps track of your readings. The “Finger Blood Pressure Calculator” for iPhone/iPad gave us systolic readings 14 points higher than our Omron monitor did.

Be prepared to be bombarded with ads and freebie offers. When we installed Finger Blood Pressure Free, it prompted us to download an app from our local grocery store. Joy went ahead, because she likes digital coupons anyway.

Getting Help From Apple

Apple storeWe have three friends who always go to the Apple store when they have a problem with their Apple equipment. But we said why not call up Apple and get an answer from them? (We can be so “know-it-all” sometimes.)

We recently suggested that to our friend Frieda when she couldn’t text or call her son or us, though she could text and call others. Somehow her iPhone settings had changed. We suggested she call Apple at 800-275-2273. (NOTE: THIS IS THE NUMBER FOR GETTING A REAL PERSON!) They told her how to fix it and all was working again.

Be Your Own Movie Director

Amazon has a new video service, “Amazon Video Direct,” for people who want to make their own.

gulch chroniclesBefore you can upload your first video, Amazon first asks for your bank’s routing number, Social Security number and other info. Are you a corporation or partnership, an individual? It certainly slows down the spontaneity of the service. But you only have to do that once and you’re in.

Amazon Video Direct movies are not found in a special section, so you probably won’t know which ones they are unless you know the creator. One already up is “Red Versus Blue Volume 1: The Blood Gulch Chronicles.”

Creators get 50 percent of any revenue collected. For movies included in the “Prime” video area, you get 15 cents an hour for every hour a U.S. viewer watches it, or six cents an hour in other countries, including Japan, the U.K., Germany and Austria. Amazon will distribute a share of one million dollars per month to the top100 titles included with Amazon’s “Prime” service.

Getting Game

The “Zepp 2” is a $150 motion sensor you attach to a baseball bat, tennis racket or golf glove. It analyzes your swing while a free app makes suggestions.

zepp golfThe app uses swing data analyzed by PGA and Major League Baseball p
ros such as John Malle, Mike Trout and Michelle Wie. It gives you a training plan, drills and 80 videos. The Zepp weighs a fifth of an ounce and is one inch around, with an eight-hour battery life.

If basketball is your thing, there’s the Wilson X Connected Basketball for $199. It analyzes all shots except lay-ups, and is good for 100,000 of them. There’s a tiny sensor inside the ball.


  • Search on “Xkcd Lakes and Oceans” to find a page on showing how deep lakes and oceans are relative to each other, and various depths for sunken ships, well drillings, mines and other things that go deep. The whole thing is shown in an easy to follow chart. Whales can go down about two miles; some turtles as low as a mile. The Titanic sank two and a half miles.


  • 10 New Trends of Logo Design for 2015.” Search on that phrase to find some elegant logos. (This year’s aren’t as good.) We especially like the use of lots of white space, shadows, polygons and metallic effects.

mary doodles


  • has cheap, gently-used phones that were only driven on Sundays. In the “unlocked” category, where you can choose your own phone plan, we saw several phones for about 25 percent off.


Gadget of the Week

kingii inflatable wearableWhen Joy was 10, an ocean wave knocked her off her raft near shore and the rope got tangled around her neck. She thought it was hilarious as she tried to walk ashore, wearing the raft and her hair obscuring her face. A new $90 gadget called the “Kingii” could prevent much scarier outcomes.

The Kingii is an air bag tucked into a wristband that pushes you to the water’s surface when inflated. You tug a lever to make the inflatable bag appear. It weighs five ounces. Around 372,000 around the world drown each year. The inventor says he created it because a good friend died from drowning.

The Numbers Report

People ages 18 to 29 are seven times more likely to use Uber, Lyft or another ride-sharing service compared to those 65 are older, according to a Pew Research Center study. The same study found that only 15 percent of Americans have tried one of these taxi alternatives, but 86 percent of those who have say it reduces stress and saves time.


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