Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Office (DVD)

I love this show and I think NBC actually made one good decison this year by renewing it. Steve Carrell is genious as Michael Scott the manager with a little too much enthusiasm. The supporting cast is great and I'm glad that the bonus features are good because a 6 episode season of a half hour show is hardly worth twenty-two dollars but it's worth it. I didn't think the pilot was great but I tuned in again and I'm glad I did. I hope that if you don't watch this show that you decide to try it out because it is brillant. A lot of people say it isn't as good as the British version but it comes close. Check out Diversity Day it's the best in the set.

Discovery Planet Earth DVD

Planet Earth was filmed on Seven continents. It took Five years and included a $25 million budget. Planet Earth is such an epic, that it earns comparisons to some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. I think High Definition Digest said it best "It's the Titanic of television nature documentaries - a work of great majesty, high ambition and huge financial risk (after all, this isn't a genre known for generating huge profits)." David Attenborough's narrates the series and does a great job at it. Planet Earth first started airing as an eleven episode series on the BBC in England late last year, and more recently on the Discovery Channel and Discovery HD here in the United States. With Planet Earth you will see beautiful landscapes of our planet, and amazing animal scenes all which will leave you either breathless, or at times put you on the edge of your seat. How some of these things were even able to be photographed by humans often makes you wonder. If you have a 1080p HD TV I highly encourage you to get the blu-ray or HD-DVD of Planet Earth. Only then will you will really appreciate the beauty of this amazing series.

I had originally purchased the blu-ray of this, but ended up also buying the DVD version of this because of all the bonus material included on it. Sadly the bonus material is not included on the blu-ray or HD-DVD versions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

KitchenAid K45SS Classic 250-Watt 4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer

The mixer is good for doing an occasional bread recipe, and for other light tasks like whipping cream, mixing mashed potatoes, etc, but if you use it to make heavy or dry breads on a regular basis it isn't suitable. When I first received the machine I loved it. I liked the high quality metal construction, the provided attachments, and the reputation of the KitchenAid name.

Throughout the first year I had no trouble with it. I used the machine once every month or so; I tried a few of the loaves of bread from the included recipe book. I really enjoyed the machine, and it is quite powerful for its rated 250 watts.

Then I bought this wonderful book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Reinhart. Only then did I realize how woefully inadequate this machine is for medium use. I started baking bread once a week, from a lighter ciabatta to heavy whole wheat breads and bagels.

The machine vibrates so much while mixing breads that I am afraid it is going to fall on the floor. The pin holding the tilt head on also works its way out, one of these days I am afraid it will fall out and the mixer head will fall off. While mixing dry doughs, like bagels, the motor strains so hard that it sometimes stops for 1 second at a time and makes buzzing noises before it finally is able to knead the dough. This causes excess heat in the motor that I am sure will cause premature failure (it has the electrical burn smell afterwards).

In the last few months the machine has quickly declined, and it is on its last limb. It is only a matter of time before the motor burns up or the gearbox fails. When it does fail I will probably fix it and keep it around as a meat grinder since it has the power take off unit that can run the meat grinder attachment. One of the nice things about these mixers is they are completely serviceable, but I will replace it with a DeLonghi (Kenwood) DSM7 that is better suited for my kneads (pun intended).

As I said, this mixer is excellent for light use, and for a single loaf (or 2 small loaves) of bread at a time. If you intend to bake bread frequently, it would be wise to invest in something heavier duty.

Breadman TR875 2-Pound Breadmaker

This is truly the best breadmaker I have had in years. This is the seventh breadmaker I have bought. I have had Rival, Salton, Williams Sonoma and not to mention a very expensive one. This one tops all of them together. To start off with, it has a small size but makes a huge 2lb loaf. It is so quiet, that I had to keep looking if it was working. I have made 3 Cinnamon Raisin breads and 4 White breads and 1 French bread in the last two days. They all came out perfect. Also the body (exterior) of this one does not get as hot as the other ones so it can be put against a backsplash. This was the best purchase and I would recommend this machine to all who love a perfect loaf of bread.

Magellan Maestro 3140 Portable Auto GPS System

I recently got the 3140 and have used it quite a bit. Overall, the device has really no significant downsides. The most important feature is the text to speech voice guidance. While the screen is small, the voice guidance keeps your eyes on the road and not on the gps unit. The routing engine is robust and has not given me any problems. Satellite lock is very fast and reliable. Obtaining position from a cold start reliably occurs in less than one minute. Route recalculation is very fast for local trips. This makes the device in many ways better than car-based navigation systems at a mere fraction of the price. I have not had problems with the device recommending U-turns when deviating from the recommended route.
Given the excellent performance, it is a close contender with Garmin. With the heavy discount on the price it should be a first choice.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Spiderman 3 - Widescreen DVD (2007)

Everybody's favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back and faces his greatest challenge yet in the exciting comic book smash hit "Spider-Man 3". Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is finally enjoying his life. The citizens of New York City honors Spider-Man for his heroic actions and he feels ready to ask sweetheart Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) to marry him. Unfortunately, new villains seek to destroy the web-slinging hero and an alien parasite has attached itself to Peter's costume and changes his personality for the worse. Though not the brightest in the popular comic book franchise, "Spider-Man 3" is a crowd-pleasing superhero adventure that delivers plenty of humor and thrills. There are several moments when its complex storyline and too many supporting characters make this third installment feel long and sluggish. The summer blockbuster features some remarkable special effects and terrific action sequences. "Spider-Man 3" also stars James Franco, Topher Grace, Thomas Hayden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris and James Cromwell.

If you've enjoyed the previous fully-loaded releases of the smash hit franchise, "Spider-Man 3" Special Edition is a well recommended purchase. The 2007 summer blockbuster is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen format. Its crystal clear picture quality contains some bright colors and fine resolution. Its 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is first-rate with great clarity and intense surround effects. Its special features include several behind-the-scenes and SFX featurettes, photo galleries, Snow Patrol "Signal fire" music video, trailers, TV spots, blooper reel and two informative audio commentaries by director Sam Raimi, cast members and production crew. Overall, "Spiderman 3" Special Edition scores "B+".

Citizen Men's Calibre 8700 Watch #BL8030-53A

I think this is a fine watch for the money. The directions appear to be a little more complex than they actually are. Pull out to the first click to set either alarm, time, local time, or calender. After you have moved the indicator to what you want to adjust, then pull out the rest of the way to actually adjust that item. On the con side the watch is a little heavy and the alarm is not very loud. So, unless you are a very light sleeper, it may not wake you up.

Lapinator Plus - Lap Desk Extra Wide - (Black) - Extra Wide

I use my laptop almost daily and needed a way to keep it off of my lap. As many people don't know, a laptop is not really made to be used on you lap but on any desk or table. It's supposed to be a portable computer. Your laptop can overheat if it cannot "breathe" properly. That being said, I needed a way to use my laptop on my lap. I love the Lapinator. It keeps the heat of the computer away from my legs and puts the computer keyboard at a more comfortable angle. It's lightweight and thin enought to slide into my computer bag.

HP Pavilion DV6626US 15.4" Entertainment Notebook PC

Having been a long time HP user, I researched other laptop brands but was lured right back in with (initially) this dv6660se's sleek appearance. The powerbook-esque keyboard and subtle design patterns on the glossy packaging is a joy to look at everyday. Easy to use, and even the built in software isn't as useless as stock programs usually are.

PROS: design, 2GB RAM, 250GB, Vista home premium (mine was 32-bit unlike above comment).
-Comes with 12-cell battery which is bulky but lasts at least 4 hours watching movies and listening to music. The battery also raises the laptop off the table, which helps with cooling.
-Roxio software for CD/DVD burning is sufficient, and its LightScribe software is easy to use.
-I wasn't too impressed with the LightScribe function as it prints light-medium gray text/images onto the CD - a little too light for my taste. But the technology is supposed to replace chemical damage your CDs would otherwise get from stickers and writing.
-I thought 14 inches would suffice, but 15.4 inches really make a difference in organizing my desktop and music folders, navigating through Excel spreadsheets, and obviously watching movies.

CONS: no bluetooth (I didn't think I'd need it but found it would've been helpful for a wireless mouse or keyboard, etc), and a little heavy for everyday portability. Although Home Premium is equipped for TV recording, you need to buy a separate TV tuner for that to happen.

OVERALL: GREAT product for its price, especially if you can find it on sale like I did. It is in no way a high end laptop but pretty darn good for everyday use. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being a lay user and 10 being very tech savvy, this would be perfect for up to 8.5

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Private Parts (1997) - Howard Stern (DVD)

Yes, this watered-down pseudo-autobiography has some genuinely funny moments, but for the most part PRIVATE PARTS fails to deliver the same raunchy "shock" available daily by listening to Howard Stern's syndicated radio show or by watching his cable telecasts. If I--your humble reviewer--wish to get Mrs. Mikels upset in a New York minute all I need do is tune in to a Stern TV broadcast, then watch this normally tolerant woman start foaming at the mouth.

Yep, couch time again.

Unfortunately, Stern's outrageous, misogynistic persona is neutered in this film--no doubt to appeal to a mainstream audience. But by softening Stern the character becomes a superficial parody; a "kinder, gentler" Howard is unappealing to both his fans and his dissenters. Granted, the movie depicts some of Stern's famous (infamous?) radio spoofs, but only as a device to show Howard as a disc jockey trying to break free from the bondage of management nimrods rather than the broadcaster's true psychological inclination.

Kind of takes all the fun out of the man, if you ask me.

On the positive side (and the film, as I've said, does have its moments), Stern is surprisingly comfortable and believable in front of a camera, and his unwavering loyalty to fellow broadcaster Robin Quivers is fascinating. But if you're looking for a real dose of Howard Stern I suggest you bypass PRIVATE PARTS and tune in to his cable show. That is, if your wife will let you.

Rickles' Book: A Memoir (Hardcover)

Very entertaining and easy to read book! Each chapter is only a few pages in length and this book is full of so many interesting stories, that this becomes a real page turner! I laughed out loud many times! I especially enjoyed the stories about Mr. S. (Sinatra), the great Johnny Carson, and Don's friendship with Bob Newhart. I wish this book was longer because it is so enjoyable. I saw Don perform in Las Vegas about five years ago (great show!) and it was good to read and learn about his other side: his wonderful wife Barbara. This book is a real who's who of Hollywood. There just aren't performers like Don Rickles anymore. This is a very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it

Ocean's 13 - DVD (2007)

The plot centered on a business deal between Willy Banks (Al Pacino) and Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) going bad. Willy led Reuben to believe he would be his partner in Willy's new Las Vegas Casino. Willy double-crossed Reuben which caused Reuben to have a heart attack. Danny Ocean and the guys devised a plan to get back at Willy. The movie takes us through their plan to ruin Willy by bankrupting his casino. In the middle of this plan, they run short of money and go to Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia from the first movie) to ask for money. Terry doesn't like Willy so he agrees with one condition. The condition was Danny & the guys have to steal a diamond necklace that Willy has in a display case. Willy had received this necklace the year before as a prize for winning the Best Casino award. Terry Benedict wanted to get this necklace because he knew how much it meant to Willy. A sub-plot was that Danny didn't want Willy to win this year's "Best Casino" award so they set up a plan to make sure he wouldn't win. **Spoiler** In the end - Danny & the guys succeeded at bankrupting Willy and stealing the necklace. Terry Benedict tried to double cross Danny by stealing the necklace from Matt Damon but Danny was ready and the guy stole a fake necklace instead. Danny donated the real necklace to a charity in Terry's name. The movie was entertaining from start to finish !