Why Fatty15 is a Scam

Have you seen this scam product Fatty15 and wondered about it? I’m going to explain exactly why it’s a scam. It is a “newly discovered” essential fatty acid (meaning one your body can’t make, but one that benefits you, so you must consume it as part of your diet). One capsule contains 424 mg of this fatty acid, which is 15:0, meaning it is a saturated medium-chain acid with 15 carbon atoms in it. It’s also called pentadecanoic acid, and its existence has long been known. The recent part is the discovery of its beneficial effect on cell flexibility and resilience. The cost is $1.66 per capsule! As a comparison, this fatty acid is part of dairy fat. One tablespoon of heavy cream contains 540 mg of pentadecanoic acid. A pint of heavy cream contains 32 tablespoons, at a cost of something like 8 cents per tablespoon. If you use heavy or regular cream or butter as part of your diet, you do not have any use for this supplement. The only possible use I can see for this very expensive supplement is for very strict vegans, as there are no plant sources of pentadecanoic acid. Science has known for some time now that humans should only consume full-fat dairy, and avoid lowfat or nonfat dairy products, so if you are still consuming those products, which (counter-intuitively) are known to contribute to obesity, switch to full-fat dairy (which is associated with reduced obesity) and skip this outrageously expensive product.

Should I Pay with Pesos or Dollars in Puerto Vallarta? Where Should I Exchange Currency?

You should pay in pesos, across the board in almost every situation. The only convincing point I have ever heard in favor of dollars is for one very specific situation: tipping strippers. But that was when the exchange rate was less favorable against the dollar. In that case, you may have wanted to bring a small stack of $1 bills (or a large stack—I have no idea how much/whether you love the strippers!). But now that 20 pesos equals almost exactly $1 USD, you can simply make sure you have a stack of 20 peso notes if you are visiting a strip club.

Paying in cash is preferable for all small transactions. The exchange rates are very high at the airport, and the fees at the airport ATMs are also quite high. I don’t like to waste money, so I prefer to get pesos at an ATM in town. For those who are staying in Zona Romantica (as all gay tourists should—see my advice on where to stay in Puerto Vallarta), the two most convenient ATMs that dispense pesos (be aware that some ATMs nearby only dispense dollars, so be sure to check the signage and messages carefully) are located at the Banorte at Olas Altas 246, one block south of the park (Parque Lazaro Cardenas), or the Intercam Banco at Ignacio L. Vallarta 130, which is the first block of Zona Romantica after you take the bridge over Rio Cuale from Centro Historico Puerto Vallarta. The Banorte ATM in particular can be quite busy, with a line forming on the sidewalk.

To use the ATM, you can first choose to use English or Spanish for your transaction. It will guide you through several steps, and at some point it will offer you the choice to accept an exchange rate set by the bank. DECLINE this exchange rate—many people accept thinking they must accept in order to continue, but that is not true. If you decline, you will get the daily best exchange rate rather than the somewhat inflated exchange rate they offer. My choice is to take out a large amount of money and then keep the bulk of it in the safe in my hotel, while carrying only enough for the day I have planned. I do this for convenience (fewer trips to the ATM) and also because the ATMs OFTEN RUN OUT OF MONEY, especially on very busy holidays or during events or celebrations. I have even found both of the usual ATMs out of money, in which case I walk over the bridge into Centro and visit the large Banco Azteca located one block north of the bridge.

At restaurants that cater to tourists or that are somewhat more expensive, you can usually use your credit card. A smart thing to do is to make sure your credit card does not charge a fee for international usage. And don’t forget to notify your credit card issuer that you will be traveling! There are few things less fun than being stuck in a foreign country with no way to pay for things!

So why should you pay in pesos? Out of respect for the local business people you are dealing with, and for your own benefit. It is an inconvenience (and an expense) for locals to convert dollars to pesos—they pay an exchange rate just like you do. Many restaurants will accept payment in dollars, but they set their own exchange rate, and across the board it will always be to their benefit, meaning they charge you extra for the inconvenience and expense they will incur when they in turn have to convert those dollars to pesos. It benefits everyone if you simply use pesos. And, a sidenote: there is a persistent myth that locals prefer to receive tips in the form of dollars. This is simply not true. Tip your waiters (and masseurs and taxi drivers and anyone else you may be tipping) with pesos.

My method for converting prices from pesos to dollars, so that I can better judge the expense of an item is to drop the last digit (rounding up or down to the zero or the next increment of 10), and then divide that result in half. This may require tweaking if you want an EXACT calculation, but for a quick-and-dirty estimate, it is useful. $100 pesos becomes 10 when the last digit is dropped, and divide 10 in half to get 5. So, 100 pesos is 5 USD. 750 pesosà75à$37.50. If it helps. You can also think of one peso as one US nickel. Ten pesos is 50 cents.

I try to judge my spending and my withdrawals to avoid having too many pesos left at the end of my trip. If I have more than I need to pay for the taxi to the airport, I prefer to exchange the pesos back to dollars in Zona Romantica, because the process at the airport is time consuming, tedious, and expensive—they charge something like a 13% fee. The place I have used is CIBanco at Olas Altas 513, just across from The Palm Cabaret and Bar, right in the heart of the gay area. They have always provided me with quick and convenient service.

Where Should I Stay in Gay Puerto Vallarta? Should I Do an All-Inclusive Resort?

NO. Most definitely, you should avoid doing all-inclusive when visiting Puerto Vallarta! That may be appropriate elsewhere, but it is a mistake most visitors to PV make only on their first visit. The city is charming and walkable, with many affordable and delicious restaurants and bars, and there are ZERO good options for all-inclusive resorts that cater to gay men.

The area where you will want to stay is known as Zona Romantica (sometimes also called the Pink Zone or La Zona Rosa, although that has been falling out of favor in recent years). It is the area on the far south end of the Bay of Banderas, south of the Rio Cuale. The gay beach is known as Playa de Los Muertos (or simply Los Muertos), and it is the section of beach south of the intersection of El Malecon and Abedul Street. A very handy landmark is Blue Chairs Hotel—but it is only to be used as a landmark! Do not stay at Blue Chairs (my strong opinion)! There are many good options nearby, and Blue Chairs is notorious for being an always-under-construction dump. Visit the rooftop bar if you want, but avoid the hotel. I also avoid the Blue Chairs section of the beach, as the only reason I could see to visit that spot would be the convenience of charging the food and drinks to your room. Since you won’t be staying there, you can simply skip it.

So, the question remains: Where SHOULD you stay?

My favorite options are to find a private condo via AirBNB, VRBO, or other such apps; or a gay-friendly private hotel with a liberal “guest” policy. Some specific suggestions and more info below:

Hotel Mercurio. Hotel Mercurio is a gay staple in the Romantic Zone. It is a specifically gay hotel with a private courtyard where they hold regular, weekly events. Those events do come with some liveliness and noise, so this is not the hotel for you if you require a silent and tranquil ambiance. The events take place in the central courtyard around the pool and bar area, and include weekend drag brunch and a Sunday afternoon event called Beers Boys & Burgers that includes go-go dancers and burgers and beer for a single affordable price. Unlike many hotels in Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Mercurio does not strictly monitor overnight guests or charge an extra fee for having such a guest.

Regarding bringing a guest to your room in Puerto Vallarta: many hotels simply do not allow this, while others charge an extra fee or have a strict check-in process for guests. Many visitors have been surprised to find that they can’t bring a friend to their room, and you can imagine their consternation. This is simply the way things are done in much of Latin America, and rather than causing a scene and having a bad experience, simply choose a different option: stay at a hotel with a liberal guest policy or at a private condominium that does not have a strict door policy and where the owner does not live on-site! Unfortunately, the economic inequality that exists between tourists and locals means that tourists are sometimes targeted for scams in all of their various various forms—robbing you in your hotel room, perhaps while you are in the bathroom; drugging you and robbing you; etc.—so I don’t mind a hotel that has a policy that requires guests to check in or leave their ID at the front desk. That helps to reassure you that the known scammers are kept out, and that the person has provided their name to the hotel and can be tracked later if there is a problem. So: strict check-in policy OK, “No Guests” policy not OK.

Another reasonably affordable option is the adults-only Hotel Amaca. This used to be one of the nicest gay hotels in PV, with a lovely rooftop pool and bar and a view of the entire bay—until the giant condominium project (and one of the tallest buildings in the Romantic Zone) Signature by Pinnacle was built directly in front of the hotel, completely blocking its view. The hotel still has a gay-friendly vibe and reputation, although it is not strictly gay any longer. It does allow visitors, and the rooms are comfortable and clean. Many rooms come with a balcony and/or in-room hammock.

Some of the other options that are centrally located and affordable include Amapas 115 (aka Amapas Apartments) and Villamercedes Petit Hotel. Hotels that have been known to cause difficulty if you want to bring a guest to your room include any of the super-cheap hotels (under $30 per night), Hotel Eloisa (guest policy inconsistently enforced), and these hotels that I would recommend all gay visitors avoid due to multiple reports of homophobic harassment: Emperador Vallarta, Hotel Tropicana, and Playa los Arcos.

If you decide to go the private condo route, it is best to read some previous reviews. You can usually glean from the description and the owner profile and previous reviews whether the place is gay-friendly or not. It is common for people who own buildings to rent out part of their building as guest units, and it is best to avoid that situation if the owner resides on-site, unless you know in advance that they cater to/accept gay guests and allow visitors. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are often scams set up to tempt you with a crazy-low price. If you see a listing for a cheap unit that has no reviews or only a single review, you may wish to choose a different option.

A few final tips:

  • Puerto Vallarta is hilly. The fact that your condo has multiple flights of stairs is not always obvious when looking at a map, so you may want to do some research into that if climbing stairs is a concern.
  • I always indicate 2 adult guests when making reservations even if I am traveling solo, so that the hotel doesn’t have any reason to complain if I bring a guest.
  • If you have a good experience at a private condo and you have a way to contact the owner, you may negotiate a better rate (and save both you and the owner some money) by contacting them directly rather than through the booking agency for a future stay. Of course, booking outside the formal system may make it harder to claim a loss on vacation insurance if you are forced to cancel a trip.
  • Always make sure your choice of habitation has all the things you consider essential: air conditioning, WiFi, etc. I accidentally booked a room without air conditioning once, and I had to pay more to move to a better room after spending a sleepless and sweaty first night.

If you have any of your own recommendations, or places to avoid, please feel free to comment below. I always appreciate hearing of options I haven’t tried before!

Prius aux jack replacement

How I replaced the aux jack in my Gen 2 Prius and added Bluetooth sound in two minutes using only one tool

I own a 2008 Prius, generation 2 model, and it’s a great car except that it has long suffered from a common issue, which is that the car stopped sensing when something was plugged into the auxiliary jack. Pushing the aux button on the radio did nothing, and the option to switch to auxiliary sound did not even appear on the audio screen, because it’s programmed to appear only when a sound source is plugged in. There’s a technical reason why this part wears out, and it is apparently something you can repair if you have the time and initiative and the ability to solder small parts, but that was beyond my ambition at this time, so I came up with a simpler solution: buy a new, cheap audio jack (much less than the $130+ for the OEM model, part number 86190-06010, from the dealer–it also works with many other vehicles; see list at the end) and install it myself.

Watching videos on YouTube and reading instructions meant that I was still going to have to take apart the center console (or so I thought at the time), and I started that process, removing eight different screws before realizing that there were some recessed bolts (hidden in the bottom of the console under a piece of fabric lining) that would require a ratchet to remove. But then I looked at the replacement aux port itself and realized that it should be removable without taking the entire console apart. And I was right. I grabbed an awl and had the thing out in less than a minute, and it conveniently pulled the attached cord along with it.

To do this, you can use a sharp tool like an awl or any thin tool (a small knife or a slim screwdriver would also work), insert it along the top edge above the audio jack (look at the replacement part if you need to check the dimensions or see what the edge looks like), and just press it down slightly and then pull it out. It worked for me quite easily on my very first try.

Once you pull out the old, broken jack, you can’t simply pull off the sound cable. There is a very thin clip at the bottom that serves to make sure the cable never falls off, which makes sense because this is a part that is not meant to ever need replacing. To see what I mean, turn the jack sideways and there is a flat flange on the bottom of the sound cable that hooks into the back of the aux jack. Push that lightly and the cable will pop right off. Be careful that the cable doesn’t disappear back into the hole, though! Mine was under some tension and it was almost pulled back through and under the console out of easy reach.

Once that was off, it was as simple as pushing it onto the new aux port and then feeding the cable back into the hole in the console, followed by the rear of the replacement audio jack, and snapping it gently into place. The sound worked again immediately without any problem as soon as I started the car–no need to reprogram the radio or anything like that!

To add Bluetooth audio capability, I bought a bluetooth audio receiver that plugs into a cigarette lighter hidden inside the console, and then attaches to the auxiliary audio port. I made sure to get one with a ground loop noise isolator, because my car has always had the issue of a buzzing noise in the background if I am charging the phone and using the aux jack for audio at the same time. The ground loop will prevent that buzzing noise. As a bonus, the bluetooth receiver comes with a magnetic button to allow easy hands-free Bluetooth phone conversations.

Additional info from Amazon, not verified by me: This same audio jack was used in many different Toyota models and it says that this will also work to replace the same part on the following vehicles (the location of the original audio aux jack may vary for the rest of these, so I can’t say whether the replacement will be as easy as it was for me, just that the manufacturer claims the part will work with these vehicles): 2005-2009 Toyota 4Runner, 2006-2008 Toyota RAV4, 2007-2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser, 2005-2009 Toyota Prius, 2007-2010 Toyota Camry, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350, 2008-2009 Toyota Yaris, 2007-2012 Lexus LS460

Brother Sewing Machine

My Favorite of the Cheap Modern Sewing Machines

You can spend truly large sums of money buying fancy machines like Bernina, but most people don’t need all the functions of those machines (which really are incredible, but that’s another post). Most people who want to do some quilting or sewing for fun or as a hobby, or even as a small home-based business, are fine with a cheaper machine that still has some of the nicer functions. My favorite of the cheap machines is a discontinued model from Brother. I purchased it on Amazon as a “renewed” product, which means it was returned, but it was obvious that this had never been used. The plastic and tape was still all over it. So I saved about 60 bucks by purchasing the renewed version.

Brother Sewing Machine
A great little sewing machine with several very nice features

The machine has some nice features, such as MANY built-in stitches. The arm and bed make a nice circle in case you want to quilt on a smallish quilt–you just have to roll it up as you go. It has a single-button needle up/down control, so if you want the needle to stop in the down position, you can just push the button and it will switch from up to down, and vice-versa. You can also program the machine to stop in your preferred position, up or down. It has an automatic needle threader (that of course takes a little bit of practice/getting used to). It has 130 stitches, including some “fancy” stitches, plus 55 letters, number, and other embroidery stitches. It has a free arm in case you actually need to sew shirt sleeves or something like that (I never do). It has over 10 different sewing feet with snap-on attachment. And, best of all, it comes with an extended table to give you a better sewing surface. I’m not an experienced sewer or quilter, but this machine does everything I could want in a basic machine, and more.

Equifax does not Owe You $125—Understanding the Data Breach Settlement

Many reputable news organizations have been freely informing people that Equifax has agreed to pay $125 to everyone affected by the scandalous data breach that they attempted to ignore/cover up back in July 2017 (when they delayed alerting the public for almost two months after discovering the breach). The fact is that the settlement does not include anything close to $125 for every affected person.

What Equifax has actually agreed to do is to pay “up to” $125 to each person who files a valid claim…but no more than $31 million in total. $31 million dollars divided by 147 million people (the number of people whose data was exposed) leaves…21 cents per claimant. The total settlement is $700 million, but that includes only $425 million for consumers. The rest covers penalties paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ($100 million) and to states ($175 million). The remainder of the $425 million set aside for consumers is for those who are able to prove that they suffered identity theft as a result of the breach.

Breaking this down mathematically, if even 1 million consumers file the simplest claim, opting for the cash payout instead of the credit monitoring (based on the amount of publicity generated by the settlement, I think it is highly likely this has already occurred), they will each receive a check for approximately $3.00. Each additional claimant will reduce the total amount paid to each claimant–the pot is split evenly between everyone who files a valid claim. It may be worth it to opt for the credit monitoring instead.

What will you be giving up if you claim the money or the credit monitoring? Your right to sue Equifax in the future. To be clear, you will also be giving up your right to sue Equifax in the future if you DON’T file a claim. That’s how class action lawsuits work—the negotiated settlement covers the entire class of people (147 million people in this case), whether they file a claim or not. The only way to protect your right to sue Equifax now or in the future is to file an anti-claim. You must formally notify them that you opt out of the settlement. But then you also have to sue them, something which few people will have the energy to do.

Equifax did not agree to pay $700 million out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it forever puts behind them the possibility of even bigger losses. Taken as a whole, it is clear that giving up your right to sue in exchange for a few dollars does not make filing a claim against Equifax a moral obligation.

A (Seemingly Quite) Large Mystery Left Unexplained in Game of Thrones; or, What is up with Grey Worm’s Crotch?

The finale of Game of Thrones left many unanswered questions, but the one that has been occupying my thoughts is the obvious and distracting bulge in Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson’s pants. Quite impressive for a eunuch.

Grey Worm’s unmissable bulge

Although it was never revealed if the unsullied were fully “emasculated” (by removal of both penis and testes), that is exactly what happened to Lord Varys, as revealed during a scene when he describes his castration to Tyrion: “With a hooked blade, he sliced me, root and stem…”. There is no reason to believe the slavers who created the Unsullied would have been more gentle.

Unsullied crotch

Perhaps actor Jacob Anderson just has a lot to work with. And perhaps the producers of Game of Thrones should have hired Trinity the Tuck to make sure the cast was properly tucked. Actually, a Game of Thrones/RuPaul’s Drag Race crossover event sounds awesome.


This is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek post, but my slightly prurient affection for Grey Worm is widely shared. After the airing of episode 2 of season 7, in which Missandei and Grey Worm finally hook up, Merriam-Webster announced that the number one search on their website was for the word “eunuch.” Of course, a penis is not required for physical intimacy (ask any lesbian), but it’s fun to imagine all the fans trying to piece together exactly what went down between Grey Worm and Missandei.

I’ll leave you with this unexpected delight from Jacob Anderson’s Instagram (he’s also a singer/songwriter who performs as Raleigh Ritchie), featuring a cameo by Missandei actor Nathalie Emmanuel:


Craigslist shuts down personals section, not just in US, but WORLDWIDE

While planning a trip to another country, I was happy to see that Craigslist still had personals ads in other countries. They had shut down the personals section in the United States around six weeks ago, in response to legislation here. Five days ago, I took a look and contacted a few guys in anticipation of meeting them when I arrived in town, but when I looked this morning, the entire section had disappeared.

After doing some research, I was unable to find personals sections in any country. Every country I checked in Europe and in Central American and South America had the same disappointing result…no more personals ads. I tried to change my VPN settings to place my IP address in various foreign locales—Netherlands, Brazil, London—but the results were always the same, so it appears that this is a true worldwide change on the part of the people who run Craigslist, and not simply IP blocking/filtering by country.

At various times, I have found Craigslist personals to be: frustrating, horrifying, interesting, laughable, and occasionally useful. Despite the mixed opinion, I am sad to see it go, especially since it was one of the more useful ways to make connections while traveling.

How I Combat Winter Depression, Even in Sunny Texas

I originally moved to Austin, Texas, in 2000 in an attempt to escape from SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. I had been living for almost 9 years in Olympia, Washington, and the seasonal depression grew worse for me every year. Even in sunny Texas, though, the combination of the overcast weather and staying indoors during the colder months can still lead to the winter blues. I have finally found something that works very well for me…I would say perfectly. And it is much easier and cheaper than the crazy bright, expensive, 4 foot long full-spectrum fluorescent lamp that I used in the 90s.

Philips GoLITE BLU

Philips GoLITE BLU

I use a blue light therapy lamp every morning, year-round, and it simply works. Scientists have discovered that it isn’t necessary to expose yourself to the full spectrum white light that people used to use. Simply exposing yourself to the blue part of the spectrum has the same benefits. What this means in the real-world is that the light is bright, but nothing like the old lamps that doctors used to recommend, which were blindingly bright. The blue light lamp is a small, portable device that you can easily throw into your luggage to take on a trip.

The way I use it is this: I get up 45 minutes before I need to shower and start getting ready for work. I grab my coffee, and then I sit down in front of the computer. The therapy lamp sits to the right of my computer monitor, directly next to the monitor, approximately 24 inches from my face. I turn on the blue light and spend 30 minutes checking email, browsing Facebook, or reading the news. The light is positioned so that it shines ON my face, but not directly into my eyes (you don’t have to stare into the light or anything like that). The lamp has a timer that I have set for 30 minutes. I simply push the on button and it turns on the light and counts down the 30 minutes, after which it shuts itself off.

The benefits I get from this daily regimen are clear: I have increased alertness in the early morning, so I am ready to work once I arrive at work (no slow start to the mornings). I experience a boost in mood. And my sleep/wake cycle is kept in check. This is perfect for those mornings after the spring time change, when you lose an hour of sleep. The blue light tells your body to reset its circadian cycle. I have no problem waking up in the morning, but beyond that, I also sleep better at night. I fall asleep easily now.

There are other blue lights available, but I don’t have experience with them. I have been using this therapy lamp for winter depression daily for over 6 years now, and I have no hesitation in giving it my highest recommendation.

Chase Freedom Card Disappoints with Its Most Recent 5% Bonus Categories–No Costco!

I carry and use the Chase Freedom card for occasional purchases, because I am an avid bonus points collector. In the past year, I have traveled from Chicago to: Mexico (four times); Oklahoma City (twice); Dallas; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (twice); and New Orleans (twice) ALL FOR FREE due to bonus points that I got from purchases or from signup bonuses (those signup bonuses were earned on three different CHASE cards). I still have over a thousand dollars in my point bank toward future travel. Each quarter, the Chase Freedom card offers a 5X bonus offer for purchases from certain types of stores. Last quarter was restaurants and movie theaters. The quarter before that, it was drugstores and grocery stores. Traditionally, the final quarter of the year is devoted to warehouse clubs such as Costco and Sam’s club. Disappointingly, the most recent quarter, which started yesterday, October 1, 2017 is Walmart and department stores.

For me, this is a big disappointment. Last year, I purchased gift cards at Costco. With the 5% bonus on those purchases, it was like getting a 7.5% refund on each and every purchase. That is because I transfer all the bonus points from the Chase Freedom card to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which gives a 50% bonus toward travel if you purchase your tickets using points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. So a $100 gift card at Costco (which could be used for anything at Costco, including gasoline), would earn me 500 bonus points (100 points times 5, because it was in the bonus category), which is worth $5.00…but when transferred to Chase Sapphire Reserve, that $5 would buy $7.50 in travel.

I predict many customers will be disappointed that warehouse clubs were not included in the bonus categories this Christmas. I don’t shop at Walmart and I honestly can’t remember the last time I visited a department store.