Imagine cell phones in the days before electricity. They must have worked with a hand crank. And now they do again! Click here for a $26 pocket-sized hand-crank cell phone recharger. (I haven’t tried it myself, but will.)


I’ve written several times about how great Priceline.com is for getting cheap 4-star hotel rooms. Well, for a variety of reasons I decided to try Hotel.com for a recent three-day visit to Los Angeles (mainly: a friend is involved with Hotels.com). It suggested the Elan Hotel, a relatively new 50-room boutique hotel. It had only three stars, but was featured as a special, value. I clicked through to the hotel’s web site, and it looked fine. I decided it had been awarded just three stars because, as a ’boutique,’ it lacked restaurants and room service and all that – which was fine. (Do you know what hotels charge? Brunch for three at the Beverly Hills Hotel this morning on my way to Jet Blue was elegant and delicious and cost more than the flight from LA to New York. Literally.)

Hotels.com offered three nights at the Elan for $456, total, and I was all set to click when I realized that Elan itself was offering the same thing for $477. Hotels.com was not exactly saving me a fortune. I decided to book direct with the Elan. It just looked so nice, I figured I’d go all out.

And it is nice, in its cozy, thin-walled, motel-ish funky way. Certainly the staff works hard to do a great job. But upon checking in, I logged on to Priceline and, for about $50 a night less – $86 a night – moved to the Bel Age a few blocks away, at Sunset and San Vicente, which is 20 times nicer. For hotel rooms, Priceline.com rules. (As I’ve suggested before, the only two times not to use them are if you need to be in the same hotel as the rest of your conventioneers, say; or if you think you might have to change or cancel the trip. Once purchased, the rooms are not refundable.)


Long Beach airport is so easy! You just keep going south on the 405 past crowded, scary LAX and, maybe 20 miles later, get off at Long Beach Airport . . . drop off your rent-a-car across the street from the terminal . . . and hop on Jet Blue to New York for less than the cost of brunch. For travel to or from the New York area, at low cost and with minimum restrictions and penalties for changing your plans, check out Jet Blue.


A value investor I know, who really does his homework, thinks that PG&E (symbol: PCG), now $13.80, could be $22 in a couple of years. Not without risk! But if he turns out to be right, as he often does, it wouldn’t be half bad. I bought some.


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