FTC Disclosure

Life is complicated enough without getting into hotwater with federal agencies so: TAKE NOTE Many things I review I got at no charge in exchange for an honest review. Consider this as informing you that ALL things I review may have been gotten at no charge. Realistically about 60% but in order to keep things above board just assume that I got the stuff free. Words like, “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad” or even just “ad” are clear ways to disclose that you’re being paid to share information and links so BE AWARE that some of what I write can be described as an AD by the government. BTW I will NEVER say a product is great, super or even acceptable if it isn't whether I got it free or NOT!

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Please check out my other blogs
Pick of the Literate 
or Azure Dwarf’s Horde
or visit my web site

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cash Gifts Burning A Hole in Your Pocket?Smart Phone Rationalization



Smart Phone Rationalization
Hey is all that money you got for gifts burning a hole in your pocket?  If so for those of you who have difficulty justifying the purchase of a smart phone I have a few suggestions.

A GPS with a 4.3” screen is generally at least $100.00 and you usually have to buy updates. Many smart phones have a GPS app built in and you do NOT have to purchase updates.

A tiny 8 megapixel digital camera will cost you at least $75.00. Many smart phones have an 8 megapixel camera today.

An iPod or other digital music player can cost over $200.00. Most smart phones can download and play your music and allow you to download movies too.

You can get an app for reading bar codes on your smart phone and then compare that barcode with online prices and save a bundle on many purchases.

You can check the market and the ball game scores where ever you may be.

I don’t sell smart phones but they do bring new meaning to want vs. need.

Bottom line is if you want one bad enough, you can find some need you need to meet.

Have fun picking it out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amazon Wireless,Invitation to Identity Theft, What Are You Thinking?



I looked at Amazon Wireless recently. I considered upgrading my phone through them. The phone was $299.00 with a hundred dollar rebate through Verizon but it was $119.00 through Amazon. I went as far as adding it to my cart, verifying my address and then they asked for my Social Security number.

The Social Security number was never intended to be used as a national identity card but it often is used as such. In today’s world though, it is paramount to asking to have your identity stolen by blithely handing out your social security number.

What, pray tell, are the people at Amazon Wireless thinking when they ask for your social security number?

I did not upgrade my phone there specifically because they asked for my social security#. I do not give that out to anyone and neither should you.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Zwilling JA Henckels International Fine Edge Synergy 13 Piece Block Cutlery Set

Zwilling JA Henckels International Fine Edge Synergy 13 Piece Block Cutlery Set - 15705-000

SKU #: JAH1456 at CNSstores
You can only be married so many years before you need to replace your knives. We have done this piece meal until now. After looking at the mishmash of knives I had to bite the bullet and go for a new set. I researched knives and found this set. It isn’t the cheapest nor is it anywhere near the most expensive. It had good and bad reviews. The biggest complaint seemed to be that it is recommended that you hand wash the knives and they may rust if you don’t dry them. Since I saw that concern on practically every decent knife set, I discounted those factors.

The knives are as advertised. They look good and the block isn’t enormous which is crucial for counter space. They cut the way they are suppose to cut and since I am hand washing and drying after each use I see no other issues. If I see an issue I will do an update 6 months down the road. At this point, I think the set is a very good value for the money.  ($59.95 with free shipping)

Set Includes:

•2.75" Paring Knife
•6" Utility Knife
•5.5" Boning Knife
•8" Bread Knife
•8" Chef's Knife
•Six 4.5" Steak Knives
•9" Steel
•Hardwood Block in Black
Features:
•Traditional 1 piece Hot Drop Forged
•Forged construction
•Stain resistant
•Handwash recommended

CNS Stores provided the knives for this review.  They did not make any attempt to influence the review.    They asked me to order anything on their site within a certain budget and to review it.   I respect a company that is willing to stick their neck out and invite an unbiased review. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flame King YSN-212 Propane Cylinder Gas Gauge Meter


How many times have you been in the middle of your grilling when the flames sputter and go out? It usually happens when you have a pool full of people and 20 burgers on the grill, the kids screaming for their food and you are busting your knuckles trying to get the new propane tank hooked up.

I finally broke down and researched propane tank gauges and found this one. It was more expensive them some and less expensive than others. It got some good reviews.

It installed easily and has clear instructions on how to check for leaks. I do use the Teflon tape designed for gas connections. That has worked great. I have yet to have a leak using that tape. The gauge is simplistic but it gives you an idea of how much gas you have available. I have never been good at gauging how much gas by picking up the tank. This is not precise but it will provide you with an early warning. The instructions say you should shelter the gauge from rain fall. I molded an aluminum foil bread pan over the entire assembly and that works fine.

I think this is a good gadget to save some aggravation and would make a great stocking stuffer.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Free Book and Free T-Shirt

A New Giveaway Thrall
a new heroic fantasy novel

Inter-Galatic First prize
is a copy of the book, a
poster and Thrall T-Shirt!
(Shipping is restricted to the
known universe and this
dimension only, alternate
worlds and universes
need not enter.)

See Details and Enter At
Azure Dwarf!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kodak C195 Point and Shoot Digital Camera


As much as I love the swivel screen on my Canon PowerShot A95, the camera is getting a bit long in the tooth. 5 mega pixels was a big deal, once. Now it is so so but I would keep on using it for that delightful swivel screen except that is getting a bit squirrelly. Not good squirrelly either. Sometimes the first picture or so isn’t even seen on screen and it doesn’t come out either.

So I did some research and found a great price and a camera that is just enough smaller that it fits into my jeans or my shirt pocket. Convenience size was my first consideration. The 14 megapixel and the 5X optical were nice bonuses. It has some very nice features that I will seldom use but are nice anyway. It has 22 scene settings for specific types of photos. Realistically I will leave it on auto most of the time but I liked both the scene settings and manual settings. I’ve only taken a couple hundred photos so far but I have been satisfied with the quality. Overall this is a darn good bang for the buck.

Documentation with the camera is succinct to the point of ludicrousness. Download the online manual to get the real skinny. It does suffer from the dreaded digital lag as well. I will continue to play with those extra features. The burst feature may be what I need for my quick moving grandchildren.

New Egg has had a special that gives a reduced price on the camera and includes a case and a 4gb Kingston SD Card. It is a limited time offer but is worth checking out.
Product Features

• 14 megapixels for high-quality pictures

• 5X optical zoom

• 3 in. bright LCD

• One-button upload to e-mail, Kodak Gallery, YouTube, Facebook, ORKUT, and FLICKR sites

• Kodak's Smart Capture feature

Technical Details

• Brand Name: Kodak

• Model: 8721664

• Optical Sensor Resolution: 14 MP

• Optical zoom: 3 x

• Display Size: 3.000 inches

• Width: 1.2 inches

• Height: 2.4 inches

• Weight: 0.4 pounds



Monday, December 6, 2010

Belkin MasterCube F9H120-CW 1-Outlet Wall-Mount Surge Protector

A good stocking stuffer!

I am anal about protecting my electronics from power problems. I always carry a single outlet surge with my laptop. As so many do, on a trip I left my single outlet surge in the wall socket. It was a Tripplite and it was tiny. It took up very little room in my notebook case. I ordered this unit without checking dimensions, primarily because of the low price ($5.88) and Belkin’s reputation.
I have no reason to believe the Belkin isn’t satisfactory as a surge protector. I do take umbrage with the fact that it just doesn’t pack well. My Sanyo battery charger has fold down prongs for the outlet. That enables it to fit quite nicely in the laptop case pocket. The surge however doubles it’s thickness due to the outlet prongs. Since this purchase I have found two that have folding prongs.
One is the  Fellowes 9904701 3-Outlet Surge Suppressor with a convenient little night light for $14.99 at Buy.com and $17.00 at Amazon.

The other is Belkin F9H220-TVL Travel Surge Protector with Hidden Swivel Plug For $9.00 at Amazon.

I will be getting one of those two the next time I leave my surge behind, you may want to get one for your significant others stocking.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Free Book Alert

A New Giveaway
Thrall
a new heroic fantasy novel
by Steven L. Shrewsbury
Inter-Galatic First prize is a copy of the book, a poster and Thrall T-Shirt!


Go to Azure Dwarf’s Horde of SciFi and Fantasy for details.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Riley Holliday 46" Corner TV Stand #88285 Review

This is a surprisingly nice piece of furniture for the price. $261.25 got this delivered to the door. Dynamic Home Décor offers free shipping and has been running a 5% off sale on orders over $249.00.

The color of this is much more red than the online photos showed. Assembly was astoundingly easy. The entire base comes assembled and is shipped folded. All you need to do is attach the top with the four screws provided and put a knob on the glass door. BTW you may want to put the knob on before you put the top on, in spite of what the directions say. Once the top is on, if you haven’t already put the door pull on the door, you may have difficulty getting the door open to put on the pull knob. It did provide me with a self depreciating laugh as I leaned over the back of the unit and pushed the door open by sticking a yard stick through the cable holes and pushing the door open from the back. I suspect I would not have been as amused at my self if I had missed the door frame and punched out the glass with the yard stick.

The unit looks good assembled and the workmanship is quite nice, again for the price. The joints could be tighter but then again if you are going to ship it folded perhaps you need a certain amount of flexibility in the joints.

Shipping is still a problem with furniture. The box came damaged and I did inspect it. Everything appeared to be fine but when I actually unfolded the unit, one of the joints had been broken. The way the top attaches allowed me to ignore the joint damage. I did need to use a q-tip and some stain to cover the area that had pulled out of the panel. It wasn’t a big area but it was still annoying.

There is a lot of wasted space in this unit. Look at the diagram. If the center space is adequate for your equipment this unit is a good choice. Be aware that you are looking at a lot of wasted space though.

Overall this is a solid piece of furniture to hold your TV for a very reasonable price. Dynamic Home Décor was a good place to buy it.

This was not a paid blog and I did not get any compensation to write it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Standby IT Generators


Are your servers safe?
APC provides a white paper that explains the use and function of IT generators. I am not promoting APC or their generators but if you have an IT facility and are not protected you should read their white paper for general information. It is pretty good. BTW I do use a couple of APC products and have been satisfied but this is not a paid blog and I got no compensation for writing it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tip to Increase Car Sales


Have you noticed how many grey, white, silver and black cars there are on the dealer lots? I’m guessing dealers find those colors safe. They are bland, inoffensive and then hopefully easier to sell. My reaction to that is blahhh!

The only cars on dealer lots that seem to have exciting colors are the little midget cars for people under 5’4” and the muscle cars. I don’t want a weenie car and I don’t want a motor head gas guzzler, I want a sedan but I don’t want a sedate sedan. Is there some Detroit mind set that assumes that consumers are fond of blahhh?

I have a suggestion. In a world of on demand manufacturing and printing why is it impossible to order exactly what you want in a car? For all I know it may still be possible but every time I have asked a car salesman if I can order I car they tell me they can locate me a car. That is car talk for,“ I don’t want to wait months for the factory to ship me a car so I will find one close to what you want and maybe you will take it.”

It should be possible to order exactly what you want and very specifically in the exact color you want. If you are willing to put down a non-refundable deposit, why isn’t the manufacturer willing to build you the car you want. It seems like it could generate increased income. They already do an up-charge on some colors so tack on a custom color charge. I’d pay it to get the color I want. Plus think of all the people who will get tired of a bright color and trade in sooner. It is a win-win situation for Detroit or wherever it is that they make cars today.

All I know is that when I go in, pick out a car, tell the guy to talk to their in-house auto body shop and get back to me with a price to paint the new car the color I want, nobody ever calls me back with a price. Do you hear that Fred Beans? Nobody calls me back!

No wonder cars sales are slumping, they want to sell you what they have not what you want.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bissell ProHeat 2X Upright Deep Carpet Cleaner, 9200-T

Not being fond of cleaning in general, I wasn’t overly thrilled to shampoo the carpets recently. I have never tried any competing products but this one worked just fine. I have seen it referred to as a steam cleaner. I don’t think that is accurate. It has a built in heater but the water is definitely not steaming when applied to the carpet.

It is easy to use and not heavy which would be important to a lot of folks. I found it easy to clean and easy to empty the dirty water and refill. It is about as noisy as my Eureka vac. It does seem to leave drops of water if you leave it sit in one spot too long. The water was dirty when I emptied it so I am guessing my carpets are cleaner. For $199.00 it is decidedly cheaper than professional cleaning. The cleaner concentrate was $14.99 at Ace hardware. It doesn’t seem to go through it very quickly so a 24oz bottle should last you awhile. This unit has bad reviews at Amazon and great reviews at Target. My experience was positive and I feel it gave good value for the price. This was not a paid blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

HDTV Antenna, Cable Companies BEWARE!

This is a surprisingly cool product. If you are old enough, you may remember when we all had TV antennas on the roof and if you had a few bucks you had a electric rotor to turn it. Then came cable and satellite and Fios and suddenly the idea of getting your TV signal off of the air seemed archaic. Digital conversion drove the final nail in the over the air TV signal or so the cable type people would like you to believe.

Digital signals mean that if you have the appropriate TV or a digital conversion box and an antenna designed to pick up digital signals you can get a GREAT picture for FREE! Obviously Comcast, Verizon and the satellite folks would prefer you did not know this. You are led to believe that the only way to get a good TV picture is to pay someone to deliver it.

Keep in mind the broadcast signal is now digital so if you don’t have a fairly new TV equipped to receive a digital signal you will still need a conversion box. If you got one of the $40.00 off federal coupons and picked up a box, it will work.

My test was for the Terrestrial Digital DB4 antenna. CSN stores provided the product for my test. Assembly was two bolts and then mounting the antenna on a mast of some type. Terrestrial states that if you install the antenna in an attic you will lose 40%-50% of your signal strength. Not only did I not mount it outside, I didn’t even take it above the first floor. I mounted the antenna on a short mast (see photos) and set it on a stool in front of my TV. After letting the TV know that it was no longer on cable and did a new automatic channel finder, I got 31 channels! Say what?

That’s right, 31 channels with the antenna sitting on a stool at ground level. Hmm, how do you like those apples cable, fios and satellite monopolists?

I was stunned with the clarity of the picture and the selection of channels. If I can get 31 channels at ground level inside, who knows how many you can get outside and (gasp) on the roof where the antenna is supposed to be mounted? Slowly turning the antenna I lost a couple of stations and picked up a couple more. A good old fashion rotor would probably make sense.

All in all this was an eye popping $69.00 with free shipping from CSN stores. Compare that to an average of $150.00 per month people are paying for cable type products and it may be time to go old fashion!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diamond Case Blu-Ray Buyers Guide

Who wouldn't trust this face?
The guys at Diamond Case have put together a comprehensive guide to purchasing a Blu-Ray DVD player. If you are in the market, it is worth checking out. In fact their web site is a wealth of Home Theatre information so it is worth checking out regardless of your need for a Blu-Ray DVD player.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CSN Preview HDTV Antenna Coming Soon

They have an amazing selection of things that seems to increase every time I log on to their site.   I saw a nice drop leaf table as I surfed as well as other assorted items.  I sometimes just seem to fall down the rabbit hole when I start surfing.

My plans are to review cordless phones, HDTV antennas, outdoor solar lights, a tire swing, pruning tools, sled, a lego set and an air compressor. Of course that may change if I see something else I would rather review. CSN is providing all of the items to review but the choices are mine and they have made no attempt to influence what I write. I will continue to try and post monthly.   I hope to have the HDTV antenna review up soon.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Barnes and Noble’s Color Nook May Not Have A Niche


Barnes and Noble have announced a color Nook for $249.00. ZDnet did a first look report.
The color nook sounds cool but if you recall my post on the Augen reader at $90.00 with a color screen and browsing ability, there is still a huge price differential. In addition, the Augen page turning is quite fast, no lag and that has been a complaint about the Nook. B&N claim that has been remedied in the color Nook but still a $160.00 differential is pretty dramatic.

Then you take into consideration the Vtech V.Reader has a color screen and nifty features for $59.95 and it seems like B&N might want to reevaluate their price point. I know the V.Reader is for kids but the technology is sophisticated so I think it is fair to compare.

Bottom line, B&N should take a look at their price point if they plan on selling many of the color Nooks.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Dell Gotcha! Very SCARY!


I was asked recently if I would look at a Dell laptop that was not recognizing a new battery. The new battery looked well made, fit perfectly in the Dell but was not recognized. I put the old battery in and got a message stating that the battery is at the end of it’s life cycle and buy a new battery. Here comes the gotcha!

If you buy a Dell brand battery it is three times as expensive as the off brand. Now I didn’t have a new Dell battery to test but my guess is that the Dell brand battery will be recognized by the Dell laptop. The 3rd party vendor insists the battery will work if you follow their instructions which involve updating the bios, the CMOS, yadda yadda.

Dell support simply said it isn’t our battery. Tsk Tsk.

Third party people provided a bunch of busy work that did nothing. I also found it interesting that the Dell bios upgrade could not be done with the third party battery installed. I had to put the old battery in before it would update the bios. Interesting.

Talk about locking in your market, if your end user wants to save more than a few bucks by getting a 3rd party battery, YOU CAN’T EVEN UPDATE YOUR BIOS!

Knowing full well no one at Dell cares but still..SHAME ON YOU!

I’m sure there is some way to make the battery work but I’m only willing to devote so much time to pro bono work. Is it any wonder that Dell and Despicable both start with D.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Politics of Vilification

I’ve never had much issue with dirt, the soil type anyway. Political dirt is another story. It must work or why would they all use it. I have strong doubts about its efficiency. In my own little straw poll I have determined that 99% of us are sick to our stomach over the attack ads. I say 99% because I am sure some demented soul must love the attack strategy.

It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation might be, as Flower put so succinctly, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.

It is a darn shame that so few people running for office have any inkling on how to present them selves. They seem dreadfully adept at vilifying their opponent and have so little to say about their own goals. The demagogues start throwing their lies about and in a downward, self replicating spiral the opponents respond and we have a continuous storm of defecation.

The health care bill is a good example. How many emails have you gotten that assure you with 100% confidence the health care bill is going to be detrimental to you. Odd, since those emails have no idea of your situation. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were both fond of the big lie. Shout it loud enough and with enough frequency and some gullible souls will begin to believe it.

I can’t believe how many friends of mine send me some kind of dire email that says it has been checked against one of the fraud sites and it is 100% TRUE. It takes all of 15 seconds to go to someplace like Snopes to determine that not one of the seemingly intelligent people who have forwarded that email have checked on it’s veracity.

I intend to cast my ballot for those who lie the least.
Is that not a sad commentary on the democratic process?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vtech’s V.Reader



A month or so ago I suggested the inevitability of the $29.99 eReader in an eReader discussion at BookBlogs. I said I thought that a price point at that level would entice parents into buying them for their kids. A reader took offense to my suggestion with the inference that I am nuts. The nuts part may or may not be true, opinions on that are mixed. However Vtech has just lowered the bar to $59.99 for an eReader.

Vtech’s offering has animated stories with interactive games and learning tools. Featuring a color touch screen and a full qwerty keyboard their V.Reader also has both a USB port and an SD port. All of this for $59.99!

The down side is that you are going to be limited to what they offer to read which is the case from some of the main stream adult eReaders as well. The stories are $19.99 each which as grotesque as that seems is on a par with some of the best sellers coming out in eBooks. I think the price is too steep but compared to DS or Gameboy offerings they are reasonable.

I haven’t decided yet whether this will be something I want for my grandchildren. The unit’s suggested age range is 3-7 and Vtech’s products have proved to be pretty durable in the past. Anything that entices kids to read is a step in the right direction.


This is not a paid blog but… if you are overwhelmed with buyer fever and click on the Amazon link to purchase a V.Reader,  I will get a commission sufficient to purchase a partial cup of java at my local beanery. 



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deep See Wet Suit Review

First I am not a diver, have never been a diver and am not even sure that scuba is spelled correctly. Second if you think this is some kind of kinky thing, think again, it is a 3mm wet suit, scuba type, nothing kinky.

If I am not a diver, why you may wonder would I buy a wet suit? Well age plays a part. I am a tad bit older than when I first put in my pool and I am retired. The older part means that my tolerance for ice water has slipped a bit. The retired part means no income. No income means that when my pool heater died, I decided that $3,000.00 for a new heater and $1,500.00/season for propane was an expense I could avoid.

Initially this meant that I wasn’t swimming early or late in the season. Then one of my buddies jokingly suggested that he needed a wet suit for my pool because it was so cold. He has also suggested he has to break through the ice to get in and I vehemently deny that. I questioned him on wet suits and discovered that they can keep you warm. Who knew?

I ordered a Deep See Mens Shorty Front Zip from Austin Kayak. $89.00 and free shipping. It paid for itself big time! I swam on days with wind and cold water that the faint of heart would avoid like the plague. It worked great, was great quality and according to my diving buddy it was a very good price. One of the things I liked most about this wet suit was the zipper up the front. Most of the wet suits I looked at zipped up the back which is really annoying to try and zip when you are by yourself.

In case you ever watched Boston Legal and saw the episode were Shatner and Spader were wearing shorty wet suits, I DO NOT LOOK LIKE THAT!  

Please note that the photo of the wet suit is sans person due to my desire to preserve the myth of my manly physique.  That and I really don’t have the time to answer all the love/hate mail that a photo of me in the wet suit would generate. LOL

Friday, October 15, 2010

Purple Golf Tees



I’m always looking for things to review. This isn’t techy but it is kinda of cool. Someone close to me is a major purple fan. I tracked down purple golf tees on Amazon. They were Wilson brand and priced reasonably. Well, who knew a brand name golf tee would be so worthless. Great color, lousy tee! They broke with one swing. This is on a decent golfer, not a hacker like me. She blew threw two bags and was highly disappointed in the quality, loved the color though.

I found  Golf USA Manhattan and they had purple tees. My initial concern was Manhattan. I’ve had very mixed results buying from NYC companies. (Sorry you good ones but it is what it is.) Turns out the company is in Manhattan Kansas. Who knew there was a Manhattan in Kansas?

Turns out Kansas State’s color is purple and Golf USA Manhattan sells purple tees that do not have Kansas State printed on them. Even more surprising was they were priced $3.99 per bag of 65 tees. It cost $4.95 for shipping and handling. Two bags of tees and shipping were a whopping $12.93. Is that a cheap but very thoughtful gift, or What?

Quality is super and the color is a rich, vibrant, deep purple. What more can you ask, good quality, good price and great color? I’d try them if I thought they would improve my game as is I got a big smooch for an inexpensive but VERY thoughtful gift.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More Review Items from CSN Stores

I have mentioned before that CSN Stores have provided products to review. They do not dictate what products I chose or what I say in my review. I’m still pretty amazed at a company with that level of confidence in their products and service. I ran across console tables in my browsing of their site. My first thought was they were encouraging shop lifting. You have to click on the link to see what I mean.  
They have an amazing selection of things that seems to increase every time I log on to their site. My plans are to review cordless phones, HDTV antennas, outdoor solar lights, a tire swing, pruning tools, sled, a lego set and an air compressor. Of course that may change if I see something else I would rather review. CSN is providing all of the items to review but the choices are mine and they have made no attempt to influence what I write. I will try and post monthly.   This should be fun!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence is despicable. It is dismaying to contemplate anyone subjected to violence let alone the horrific aspect of having someone you love and trust hurting you. The Pixel Project is sponsoring a project called Paint it Purple. I’ve recorded a YouTube video as per their program to show support for the end of domestic violence.

If someone you know is abused or abusing, they can find help at NOVA. NOVA stands for the Network of Victim Assistance and although they are local to Bucks County Pennsylvania, they do not limit their toll free help line to local residents. If you are in trouble, afraid for yourself or others, find help. NOVA 24 hours a day hotline #800-675-6900
 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Clueless George Buys A Plasma TV Part 3

A Serial Saga Of the Horrifying Complexity of Purchasing A Plasma TV
As I leaned back intending to savor one more glass of fine wine, George called the Video and Audio Center to cancel and they were very obliging. They told him they would contact Manna to see if they could get an explanation. They called back and said that they didn’t get a convincing explanation from Manna and had planned to ship George one from California using another shipper but they were out of stock on the LG. They offered to refund the shipping costs if George wanted to cancel but if he agreed to take the TV that was lost somewhere in NJ they would credit his Visa a substantial refund. (He did not divulge that amount no matter how much Cabernet I poured him.) He said the substantial amount made him feel better and he agreed to accept the TV lost in NJ. I immediately smashed the Cabernet box on the table and tried to beat him with the broken box to no avail. (At least I thought about doing that. )


Friday rolled around and the delivery window was waning. We had already started on the vino when George called Manna to find out where the delivery guy was. Manna said they would call back and when they did, they admitted they had no idea where the TV was. I thought George was going to cardiac on the spot. Keep in mind, this was a large box. A box too big to fit into his Camry, a box so big he had planned on renting a van to pick up a local box.

George called the Video and Audio Center and they actually seemed as dismayed as George was. They told him they would call back after their manager called Manna. They called back and said they found an LG and they were shipping it overnight via UPS for Saturday delivery at their expense. George was skeptical but we put up a toast for luck and I staggered, uh, walked home. George called me later that night to say the tracking number indicated the TV was in transit.

Saturday morning I got a call and George said the UPS guy had helped him carry the TV in. It was there and could I come over. We did get the TV set up and it works. (Thank goodness! His words and mine.)

The Video and Audio Center expended a great deal of energy and money to see George got his TV. I’m guessing that their relationship with Manna may be under evaluation. Manna never did explain what part of NJ the TV may have fallen off the truck. The people from Manna were all very personable and polite, they just were unable to find the TV and deliver it.

Even though this eventually had a happy ending, my take on all this is that it would be worth whatever a local guy charged to have the TV delivered and pay the sales tax too. A week of aggravation, a strain on a friendship and a box of Cabernet seems much more expensive than saving a hundred bucks on a TV.

This story is reasonably true, some names are changed to protect the embarrassed. Keep in mind I owned a local computer business for 25 years and have a tendency to be a bit reactionary regarding purchasing local. Otherwise the basic players and situation occurred as noted.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Clueless George Buys A Plasma TV Part 2

A Serial Saga Of the Horrifying Complexity of Purchasing A Plasma TV
Buy local and avoid reading the rest of this tremulous tale of woe!


The next day George got a call from Manna who said they were the white glove delivery service for his TV vendor. (hah!) Turns out the actual seller of the TV was not Amazon but one of their third party vendors, Video and Audio Center in California. Manna scheduled a delivery and George asked me to come over to help set it up. I blocked off the day since I knew we would kill some time setting it up with his new home theater sound system and then drinking some Cabernet to celebrate. (Author’s note, neither George or myself are known to have a drinking disorder, we have no problem whatsoever drinking! Luckily walking between our domiciles can be accomplished with moderate effort.)

Now it gets entertaining! (again my word, not his) Manna calls the Monday night to say they have to reschedule the Tuesday delivery to Wednesday. George says ok and calls me to ask me if I can come over Wednesday. Then I block out the 12-4 window they gave him for delivery. Late Tuesday night Manna called and said they needed to reschedule. They wanted to deliver Thursday; the TV was incorrectly routed to Newark, NJ. (Isn’t that where the Sopranos took place?)

George said Thursday would work but then found out I couldn’t be there Thursday so he rescheduled them for Friday when I could be there. (lucky me) Now George was getting upset. The reason why he couldn’t buy the TV locally was he couldn’t get a free delivery from anyone local. He wanted me to borrow one of my kid’s SUVs and I politely said NO! So he called around and found that HH Gregg and PC Richards carried the LG. PC Richards had the TV but that wasn’t close and the van he was going to rent for picking up the TV cost him per mile. So he called HH Gregg and found out they really do honor their promise to match any of their local competitors. Best of all with the better price he got the van rental and sales tax wasn’t going to be more than $100 more than what he had already charged. So the decision was made and George was going to buy locally. Hah, believe that and I will buy you a box of the finest Cabernet. Tune in for more later.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Clueless George Buys A Plasma TV Part 1

A Slightly Fictionalized Serial Saga Of the Horrifying Complexity of Purchasing A Plasma TV

This is going to be posted over three posts as I don’t want to make anyone suffer through reading the grotesque length of this dismaying tale of how I love my buddy but hate his masochism.

It all started on a sun drenched day with a promise of being one of those low humidity, slightly warm fall days you wait for all year. When suddenly the phone rang, a little voice said, “don’t answer, don’t answer,” but much to my eventual dismay, I did.

George wanted my advice. An astute individual with a good heart and low technical skills, George always seeks my advice regarding any tech purchases. He even reads this blog!

I’ll save you a lot of reading right now. If you are considering purchasing a big screen TV on the web, you may wish to reconsider unless you have severe masochistic tendencies. There is no need to read the tawdry tale that follows unless you too, are masochistic.

My buddy George asked me for advice on a big screen purchase. Since I know Peter Putman , the renowned HDTV expert personally, I called him for advice. Pete told me definitely go 1080p and recommended plasma as all of the past negatives of plasma have been corrected and it is a better picture than LCD. He also suggested that the LED TVs are grossly overpriced. We did not discuss 3-D. My recollection is that he thought Samsung, LG and Panasonic products were all fine but he may have mentioned more.

I got together with George over an inexpensive box of Cabernet and we discussed TVs. We also discussed the Phillies, the Steelers and the Eagles but our purpose was TVs. I have discovered that copious quantities of Cabernet do tend to broaden the topic field though.

George decided on either a Samsung or an LG. He found the best price at Amazon on the LG 50PK550. Through a variety of humorous (my word, not his) setbacks in trying to use the Discover Card secure number software and both Amazon and Discover blaming the other for the process not working, he canceled the TV. He canceled the TV because at that point the Amazon online system would not accept any credit card for that order. Everyone at Discover and Amazon were very polite and both considered the other at fault.

George, learning from his mistake, then called a local TV dealer and got the TV. Don’t I wish! George had planned on reordering the TV from the same vendor but in a search of Amazon, he found a better deal from another vendor. Did I mention George’s masochistic tendencies? He ordered the TV and his credit card(Visa not Discover) went through. He thought he was done. Hah! We killed a whole 3 liter box of Cabernet through this saga. If you truly are interested in the rest of the tale, tune back into The Days of Tomorrow or Money Saving Tech Tips, your choice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Absurdity of Banning Books

I know this a tech blog mostly, but I still have to shout out something about Banned Books Week September 25−October 2, 2010


First, I went out and bought 8 books for my grandchildren today. None of them are banned. They were innocuous children’s books but it was my own little support of the book industry.
My stomach literally roils when I think of book banning. My first thoughts are of the Spanish Inquisition. Telling people don’t read that is akin to saying don’t look down when you are climbing. The first thing you do is look down. If the narrow minded idiots who seek to ban books really want to succeed, they should make whatever book they are trying to suppress required reading in the schools. This would curb the enthusiasm of the teens for whatever they are striving to ban.

My own recollection of restricted, not banned but restricted, books was in the town library. Children under 16 were not allowed to read books in the adult section. Of course that meant they must be better than the ones I was allowed to read. After I successfully read the children’s section of the Library my Dad got me dispensation to take out books from the ADULT section. Well, it wasn’t as adult as I had thought. This was long before the terminology of Adult was ascribed to porn so that wasn’t my surprise. My surprise was there was so little difference besides length of story. I never did figure out what they were protecting us from.
I do have to say that my love of reading and now writing must be laid at the feet of my father. He read constantly and encouraged all of us to read. Dad was the most well read person I ever met, ever! He graduated from high school but never had the opportunity to go further in his education so he made up for that by reading everything he could acquire. His love of reading has trickled down to great grandchildren who love books. All due to one very humble man’s love of reading.
He wasn’t perfect. Dad made a rash assumption years ago about the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. I was in a way, way,way, way off Broadway production of it and I asked him if he had listened to it. He shamefacedly admitted he hadn't, so I bought him a copy. He listened and he ended up using it to teach his Sunday school class of "young' adults. He generated a lot of controversy in that little church particularly when he was so outspoken about his own willingness to ban something before listening (reading) to it. I was always proud of my Dad but I truly busted my buttons when he dropped the needle on that LP and opened the eyes of his fellow parishioners.
So my love of reading led me to writing. Today I am writing to remind anyone who reads this that banning books is paramount to national suicide. If we let radicals of any stripe dictate what we read and how we then think our nation will perish. Succinctly it is patriotic to read!
Go out and buy a book!  Preferably go out and buy one of my books but if not mine, buy somebody’s book or get one out of the library.
Be proud to be a reader!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Uniden DECT1560 Cordless Phones

This is a very nice set of phones for a good value. The setup was easy, right from the menu button on the phone. Since I always read manuals, I read the manual anyway. The call clarity is good, even my mother-in-law was impressed and we all know how hard that can be. The different ringer option is nice. Since we are using both the phones in the same room it is easy to identify which phone is ringing. I also liked the ability to program incoming calls using caller ID with specific rings. Come to think of it, that may be how my kids are screening out my calls when I call them. Hmm!

All in all the phones are a good value for the dollar. The two phones combined footprint is smaller than one of the phones that were previously on our desks. Range from the base station was good as well. I don’t walk around the yard with my phone anyway but this got reception in the basement and in the garage which are all I am looking for in a cordless.

I chose this product from CSN stores with no input on choice of product from them. They then provided me with the product to review. There were no conditions as to what I could or couldn’t say. I plan on using the product because I like it and that was the basis for my review. I recommend the product.

PRODUCT DETAILS:
• Model Name/Number: DECT1560-2
• Caller ID/Type: Handset
• Telephone Type: Cordless
• Speakerphone: Handset
• Display: 3-line
• Multi-Handset Capability: Up to 6
• Telephone Special Features: Caller ID, Phonebook Transfer
• Intercom: Yes
• Additional Handsets Included [Nom]: 1
• Display Type(s): LCD
• Pre-Consumer Recycled Content Percent [Nom]: 0 %
• Speed Dial Memories [Nom]: 70
• Conferencing: 3-Way
• Paging: Yes
• Caller ID Features: Name/Number Display
• Total Recycled Content Percent [Nom]: 0 %
• Caller ID Locations: Handset
• Global Product Type: Telephones-Cordless
• Memory/Redial [Nom]: 5
• Compliance, Standards: ENERGY STAR Qualified
• Frequency: 1.9 GHz
• Color(s): Titanium

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Civility or Lack Thereof


I was recently offended on my drive to play golf last week. Two other drivers were courteous and I didn’t witness a single witless driver. I was offended because it is so annoying that courtesy is so rare that you notice it when it occurs.

This morning on the way to breakfast someone was courteous. Two were flat out rude. One portly young man in his large, tricked out SUV made sure he blocked the exit drive from the strip mall I was leaving. Considering the fact that my left signal was on, I wasn’t going to get in front of him or slow him down and he looked at me as he approached and then turned his head when he stopped directly in front of me, I surmise it was just rudeness. The other idiot felt obliged to blow his horn at the courteous driver who stopped her car and waved me, the pedestrian, to cross in front of her. I smiled and waved at him, in spite of my inclination to flip him the single digit salute.

In the interest of fairness I’ve tried to puzzle out what fuels the lack of civility that often seems rampant. I’m sure people have economic woes preying on their mind. I suspect that many are oblivious as opposed to rude. Some folks are so busy conversing on the cell phone, eating their lunch or putting on their makeup that secondary tasks such as driving courteously escape their notice.

The flip side is that yesterday several strangers assisted my wife in a parking issue. Albeit she is much, much more attractive than I am, they may have been just as courteous to me.

Where you might wonder is this tirade going?

Don’t know, wish I did. I try to be courteous in all things, let alone behind the wheel. I have made a conscious refrain from expressing my frequent outrage by sordid hand gestures due to both courteous restraint and the number of nuts with guns. I guess where this is going is that it would be great if we could all try harder to insert some civility into our daily life. It wouldn’t change the world but it would make it a much more civilized place to live.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Printmaster Platinum 2.0 Not So Masterful


Oh, the joys of Windows 7. My American Greeting Card CreateACard Platinum 7 is not happy with Windows 7. It isn’t flat out incompatible, it just is erratic. Sometimes it works just fine and others, no so much. So I did a search and found a site that claimed to have evaluated greeting card software. They rated Printmaster Platinum as number one.

Well, I have to wonder if they actually looked at the software. First I was lured by the 50% off price at Staples. I should have guessed that if they were selling it at 50% off it was not the best seller. Next it took forever to install, hug, chug, I think I can, I think I can. Luckily I have two computers on my desk so I wasn’t dead in the water during installation.

Upon starting the software I discovered that their idea of greeting cards and that of my old reliable American Greeting Card Create are radically different. My MS Publisher 2003 has better greeting card options than this package. It also was slowwww! I mean really, really slow.  It takes 56 seconds from when you click on the icon to open the program until the program actually opens. It took 20 seconds to open a greeting card template. That may seem like nit picking but for example it takes my old CreateACard software 5 seconds to open and less than 10 seconds to open a full fledge greeting card with message, not just a “start here” template and it isn't suppose to be Windows 7 compatible.

Bottom line, I bought a swiss army knife, do everything not so well, instead of a software package that specifically does greeting cards well. My bad! I can’t blame it on anyone else. I’d like to. I called Staples and got the old “there is NO return on software” policy. So I am stuck with a software package that claims to be Windows 7 compatible but is really, really slow and claims to have good greeting cards, not really.

So if you are looking for something to generate nice greeting cards, I can not recommend Printmaster Platinum. For me, I’m going to continue to use my erratic, out of date, old CreateACard software that is still better than my supposedly up to date new software.

I don't know that the Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe works any better but I'm guessing it can't be any worse.

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