Friday, February 15, 2008

The Tastiest Kabobs in Sunnyvale

There are a number of Mediterranean and other restaurants that sell kabobs in Sunnyvale, but the one my family likes most is City Kabob ( -- a "hole in the wall" place in the Sunnyvale Tennis Center next to Las Palmas park. The proprietor is very friendly, you can dine outside with dogs or inside without them, and it's easy to bike to. The lamb, chicken, beef, and koobideh kabobs are all tasty as are the roasted tomatoes. For a low carb option you can get the kabobs with salad or 1/2 salad 1/2 rice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Toyota Prius -- an incredible car

The Toyota Prius is the best car I've yet purchased and owned. Here is why:
- excellent gas mileage (I'm getting about 50 mpg now, my previous car got just 21 mpg)
- it's a family sedan that holds 5 adults (pretty much the same size inside as the Toyota Camry)
- hatchback design allows it to hold lots of stuff too
- excellent product design all around (ergonomics, features, etc)
- networks seamlessly with my cell phone for hands free calling with excellent voice quality both ways
- direct power and audio inputs for iPods and other music devices
- well designed navigation system
- soft touch controls for most operations on center console
- most frequently used controls are right on the steering wheel under your thumbs so your hands rarely need to leave the steering wheel -- including phone controls, climate controls, radio controls, and more -- and they are clear and easy to use too
- lots (!) of places to stash stuff
- sturdy well designed cup holders
- comfortable seats with lots of leg room for rear seat passengers
- it just works correctly and is very reliable.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Consumer Reports

The magazine and web site provide the best independent expert advice for consumers in North America -- from money to health care to cars to consumer products. Their articles are not always perfect but they are far, far better than advice from just about any source (especially better than random anecdotes from friends). And when they make a mistake, they admit it and publish a correction.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Effective Charitable Giving

You should "spend" your charity dollars wisely so they are used as effectively and efficiently as possible on what you want to support. The following are a few simple tips to maximize the effectiveness of your charitable giving.


What are the best ways to help the world? Who do you want to help most? End world hunger? Promote peace? Educate people? Rescue refugees? Help children?

Write down your giving goals or areas first so you have a plan for where your charitable giving will be invested. Rank or weight each category if you wish as well.


How much do you want to give out in a year? Write down how much you can afford to give or want to give in total. Then divvy it up among your giving areas


What charities do the best job in the areas that you want to support? How effectively and efficiently do they use the money that people give them?

Research your charities to find the ones that best match your objectives, will use your money well, and won't line their own pockets with it. When you have a list, use your budget and goals to determine how much to give to each one.

By far the best charity research sources I've found are: (Better Business Bureau)


Figure out the most efficient way to transfer your money to your charities so the maximum amount possible goes to the programs you want to support and as little as possible goes to middlemen.

Give enough to each charity so your money is not eaten up in administrative expenses. There is an expense for each transaction. Giving at least $100 to a charity is a reasonable minimum amount as of 2008.

If you keep your charity list short, you will minimize return mail asking for more money. Such mail consumes more of what you give.

NEVER give out money to anyone who calls you. They are most likely a contracted firm that takes a significant cut of the money going to a charity. Or worse a scam artist is simply trying to steal your money.

Giving directly to your charity usually cuts out most middlemen. While a bit more work for the giver, writing a check usually maximizes the funds that the charity actually gets. Note however that the charity does incur some costs in handling checks. If you do online banking then you can often save a few steps and a stamp by having your bank send the charity a check. Plus then the bank helps you keep records of who you gave money to and when.

Giving by credit card is convenient but credit card companies typically take a 5%+ cut from donated funds as a transaction charge. Do you really want to make

One of the most efficient and convenient ways I've found to donate is through the Network for Good ( using their "TeleCheck" option. The Network For Good tells you exactly how much is going to the transaction processor. TeleCheck charges a simple flat fee -- so the larger the donation the smaller the percent that gets diverted. Plus the Network for Good returns a nice compact summary to you of how much you donated to whom.

Both and have "Donate Now" buttons that link directly from their charity reports to for those charities that can receive funds from the Network for Good. This way you can do your research and donate all at the same time.

For more information

If you would like more detailed tips, please read the Better Business Bureau's "Tips on Giving" at -- they are quite thorough.

You may send a copy of this to your friends!

Copyright 2008 Tim Oey
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.